By all accounts Sony had a fairly strong showing for Gamescom. In fact it is no stretch to say that they easily outdid their efforts for E3, partly due to the fact that their surprises did not leak early this time around. Obviously Sony’s Gamescom conference was always going to be used, in part, to show off previously announced games, and to this end they wowed onlookers with graphically impressive gameplay footage from PS4 exclusives Bloodborne and The Order: 1886. Sony also used their conference to unveil several new Playstation exclusives, including Volume, WiLD, and the imaginatively titled Hellblade. Volume is a stealth game being produced by Mike Bithell, the creator of Thomas was Alone, and is set to release in 2015 for the PS4 and Vita. WiLD is the first project undertaken by Rayman creator Michel Ancel’s new independent studio, Wild Sheep – it appears to be a fantastical hunting game in the style of Monster Hunter. Hellblade is a hack and slash adventure game being worked on by the hopelessly mediocre Ninja Theory – the game looks virtually indistinguishable from Heavenly Sword, and is probably awful.
Beyond game reveals, Sony also used their conference to divulge several choice pieces of information, such at the fact the PS4 has now sold over ten million consoles and thirty million games – giving it a 3:1 attach-rate, which sounds like a fairly enviable figure eight months into a console’s life-cycle. Then there was the announcement of a truly forward-looking new policy called Share Play, which will allow PS4 owners to jump into a friend’s multiplayer game and play along-side them for up to an hour even if they do not own that particular game. Not only does this measure add value to Sony’s Playstation Plus for multiplayer requirement, but to one’s way of thinking it also stands to convince developers to perhaps put a little more effort into their single-player experiences, seeing as gamers will no longer need to purchase the game in order to experience the multiplayer.
Finally, Sony announced that a PS4 exclusive playable teaser from 7780s studios was now available to download from PSN. The title, simply called P.T., is a first-person horror puzzler, which sees gamers repeatedly cycle through the same stretch of increasingly demented hallway, and upon completion the gamer finds out that the teaser was not produced by 7780s at all, but rather by Kojima Productions as a prototype for their forthcoming game, Silent Hills. The names attached to the project include Kojima himself and Hollywood filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro, who directed such films as Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy. The trailer does not mention whether the two will share directorial duties [for instance, one as creative director and one as gameplay director], or whether Kojima is simply acting as producer for the project, but if one thing is certain it is that any arrangement would have to be better than the previous handful of Silent Hill games that have been farmed out to mediocre western developers. While this playable teaser was exclusive to the PS4, nothing further has been mentioned about the project’s PS4 exclusivity, meaning that it is probably in development for the Xbone and perhaps the PC as well.
In many ways Microsoft’s conference was far less noteworthy than Sony’s, but in one key way it was probably more so – at least in terms of entertainment and scandal the latter holds true. Microsoft showed off the first extended footage that the public has seen of Quantum Break, which looks amazing, and also announced that Goat Simulator was heading to the Xbone, which is cool. Other than that Microsoft’s presser was quite dull save for one particular announcement: Square Enix’s Rise of the Tomb Raider will be an Xbox exclusive when it launches during the holiday period of 2015.
Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to Tomb Raider (2013), was already in development for the PS3, PS4, and PC – so when it became clear that Microsoft had paid for the other versions of the game to either be delayed or cancelled, fans of the series were understandably furious at both Microsoft and Square Enix. Crystal Dynamics’ own fumbled account of the decision certainly could not have helped matters:
“Dear Tomb Raider Community,
As you may have seen, we’ve just announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox. We consider all of you to be the lifeblood of Tomb Raider and the work we do at Crystal. I’d like to give you some insight into this decision, and why we feel this is the very best thing for the Tomb Raider sequel we’re creating at the studio.
Tomb Raider in 2013 was a success due in large part to your continued support. Our goal has always been to deliver something truly special with Rise of the Tomb Raider. Today’s announcement with Microsoft is one step to help us put Tomb Raider on top of action adventure gaming. Our friends at Microsoft have always seen huge potential in Tomb Raider and have believed in our vision since our first unveil with them on their stage at E3 2011. We know they will get behind this game more than any support we have had from them in the past – we believe this will be a step to really forging the Tomb Raider brand as one of the biggest in gaming, with the help, belief and backing of a major partner like Microsoft.
This doesn’t mean that we’re walking away from our fans who only play on PlayStation or on PC. Those are great systems, with great partners, and amazing communities. We have Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris coming to those platforms this December, and Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition is available on PS4.”
One sincerely hopes that Crystal Dynamics is not too disappointed when releasing on a console with half the install-base of the PS4 fails to put Tomb Raider at the “top of action adventure gaming“. Tomb Raider (2013) saw the Xbox 360 version dramatically outsold by the PS3 version, 1.71 million to 2.22 million. Similarly, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition did significantly better on PS4, selling 460,000 copies to the Xbone’s 170,000 copies. Thus, by taking Microsoft’s money Square Enix are essentially burning a large portion of their game’s existing market. That said, it does make a certain kind of sense for them to take the money and go the timed-exclusive route, as doing so will spare them from having to compete directly with the 2015 release of Uncharted 4, which is certain to be a much flashier affair. The only problem with holding back a theoretical PS4 version of Rise of the Tomb Raider for a 2016 release, is that after all that time spent waiting it becomes very easy to continue waiting until the game becomes cheaper. Put another way, it would be very difficult for PS4 owners to justify paying full price for the game when it has already been heavily discounted on Xbone. Also, good luck selling the game in Europe!
Zynga Continues Its Downward Spiral
The quarterly earnings period is always a fun time to be reporting on Zynga, and it would seem that the man who sunk the Xbox One’s reveal and subsequent launch has kept to form in his tenure as Zynga’s CEO. Zynga’s second quarter results see the company’s losses increase by nearly four-hundred percent in comparison to the same period in 2013. Losses have skyrocketed from 15.8 million dollars in 2013 to 62.5 million dollars in 2014. Meanwhile revenue for the quarter dropped by thirty-four percent, to 153.2 million dollars, and net income dropped from 6.1 million dollars to 2.8 million dollars. So what is Don Mattrick’s plan to turn Zynga around?
“While our quarterly financial results were in line with our guidance range, we aspire to do better and improve execution across our business. Inside Zynga, we recognize that our products have the potential to live for multiple years and with nurturing, refinement and investment, they can grow and scale. We are purposefully competing, and while we would like to be further along, we believe we are making the right decisions to grow our business and unlock long term shareholder value.”
Looks like we can all look forward to Farmville sticking around for many years to come then, fantastic! As has been stated before, Zynga is a company that grew too far too fast, and has suffered severe growing pains as a result. The Zynga float saw company shares debut at a price of eleven dollars – they are now valued at under three dollars. Now we hear talk that King has had its Zynga moment, and that the revenue-base for its one popular game [upon which the company's entire success was founded], Candy Crush, has begun to decline in profitability. When will investors learn? These games only become successful by accident, and are usually just clones of other games that already exist. It is all but impossible for these companies to manufacture another hit like the one that put them on the map.