Irrational Closes Its Doors
This week the video game industry was shocked and irretrievably altered by the surprise news that Irrational Games was to be closed effective immediately. In recent years we have seen an increase in studios crying poor despite selling multiple millions of copies of their games – yet the shuttering of Irrational has come as such a shock due to a general lack of the theatrics typically exhibited by companies like Square Enix when their game sales do not match their inflated projections. Ken Levine is set to remain at 2k, and has been allowed to keep fifteen core members of his Irrational staff, yet he has been drastically demoted to producing download-only titles.
“Seventeen years is a long time to do any job, even the best one. And working with the incredible team at Irrational Games is indeed the best job I’ve ever had. While I’m deeply proud of what we’ve accomplished together, my passion has turned to making a different kind of game than we’ve done before. To meet the challenge ahead, I need to refocus my energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure and a more direct relationship with gamers. In many ways, it will be a return to how we started: a small team making games for the core gaming audience.”
To listen to Levine this was all his idea, as he only wants to work on small downloadable titles going forward – yet it is a bit much to believe that he voluntarily opted to gut the studio that he has invested the last seventeen years of his life into, were it not a necessity brought about by the studio’s financially untenable situation. Irrational’s latest game release, Bioshock Infinite, sold 3.35 million units all up, which is quite a lot, yet comes off as a disappointment in relation to the original Bioshock, which managed to sell 2.72 million units on Xbox 360 alone. This is a problem when it seems apparent that far more money has been lavished upon the sequel. Then of course there are accounts of the game featuring two different working multi-player modes, both of which were ultimately stripped out and abandoned due to the fact that they did not meet the quality of the rest of the project. At any rate, it comes as a huge blow to lose the studio behind the critically adored System Shock and Bioshock games. 2k has stated that they will continue to produce the series, yet further entries are likely to be abysmal like Bioshock 2.
On a more positive note, the cosmic scales of video game industry karma are fickle things, and as one cherished studio crumples into a heap, another is to be put back together by Sega of all publishers! Following their acquisition of Atlus, many gamers became concerned when Index Holdings absorbed them into their own operations, worrying that the strong Atlus identity would become diluted from operating within such a context. Happily, this week Sega has announced that they are splitting the company back up into two separate entities in order to maximise synergies within the organisation.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Fails to Save the Wii U
The numbers for the Western release of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze are not in as of yet, but if they are anything like the game’s Japanese sales figures then they will not be troubling VG Chartz overmuch. The Japanese launch of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze saw sales of a mere 35,717 in contrast to Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, both of which sold over 100,000 units in Japan. This was perhaps not unexpected given the vastly smaller install-base of the Wii U, yet worse still is the fact that the release of one of Nintendo’s flagship IPs failed to have any sort of appreciable effect on hardware sales – with the Wii U only selling an additional 1,600 units in comparison to the week before.
Fear not however, Nintendo enthusiasts, as Nintendo this week announced a title that is sure to save the Wii U in Japan: Famicom Remix 1 + 2. That is right – Nintendo’s awful Wii Ware inspired dross, NES Remix, is getting a full retail release in the land of the rising sun, presumably because they do not have anything else to release in the first six months of 2014! But forget Nes Remix, perhaps this is what Nintendo have been saving all their Virtual Console titles for!
This month Microsoft’s Phil Harrison elected to poo poo claims that the reason that the Xbone struggles to get anything more complex than downloadable titles to run at 1080p is because of the console’s very small quantity of 32mb of ESRAM. Never mind that this is something that has been consistently claimed by developers since before the Xbone was even released, and never mind that in this instance Harrison is specifically contradicting the claims of Rebellion, who are developing Sniper Elite III for Xbone, among other platforms.
It was the considered opinion of Rebellion Games senior producer Jean-Baptiste Bolcato that:
“I think eSRAM is easy to use. The only problem is…Part of the problem is that it’s just a little bit too small to output 1080p within that size,” he said. “It’s such a small size within there that we can’t do everything in 1080p with that little buffer of super-fast RAM.”
And yet Phil Harrison regards this frank comment as utterly wrongheaded:
“clearly not the case. Forza V runs at 1080p. Kinect Sports Rivals also 1080p…”
Fine. So a racing title that was heavily degraded ahead of launch, and a Kinect game that looks like it should be running on the OG Wii are enough to debunk the experience of a FPS developer who is actively working on the hardware. Sure. In that case, due to absolutely no fault of the Xbone’s ESRAM this month has seen Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes confirmed to run at 720p on the Xbone in contrast to the 1080p PS4 version. Similarly, the ESRAM has had absolutely no baring in this week’s revelation that Square Enix’s Theif reboot will run at 1080p on Sony’s PS4, but will only display at 900p on the Xbone. And one is utterly convinced that the Xbone’s small pool of ESRAM has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the mediocre graphics of the Xbone exclusive Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare will only run at 900p! No, the ESRAM has had absolutely nothing to do with the failing fidelity of the Xbone, suggesting that the machine’s poor graphics processing capabilities must be blamed in its stead!