“The Joy of Physical Product”
I’ve enjoyed just about everything Insonmiac Games has released, but Song of the Deep was not on my radar. It’s a small game set in the ocean, mixing Metroid-style exploration with the charm and narration of Bastion. The game was released physically as well as digitally, published by GameStop. Being able to buy a retail game from a celebrated developer for $15 is something I’ve always dreamed of… I’m used to spending $60, and I’m happy to do so, but $15 puts the purchase more in line with buying a Blu-Ray or a music CD. There’s something deeply satisfying about adding a new game box to your collection in alphabetical order. The feeling of ownership is stronger when you have a silver disc that you can slide into your machine. And the value is better, because you never have to worry about the game being de-listed… it’s in your permanent collection.
At the start the current console generation, I thought I would go all digital. I know some friends who have, and they seem happy with the decision. It is certainly convenient to be able to switch from game to game without removing and inserting a disc or memory card. But…
I have experienced the digital de-listing of titles that I loved, due to licensing issues. A high profile example of this was Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It got yanked from the VITA digital store when Capcom lost the rights to use the Marvel brand. If UMVC3 was a digital-only release, I’d never have been able to purchase it. But fortunately, it was released as a physical product as well, so I was able to hunt it down at a GameStop.
On top of that, I started to become aware of what is called “sunsetting” in the video game industry. This is when a digital game that requires an online connection is made completely inoperable. It’s shut down because it has stopped driving enough revenue for its publisher, and they no longer see a business rationale for keeping it running. Games you love, gone forever. I will never accept that as a consumer. I still play games that were released three decades ago! My Legend of Zelda NES cartridge still has my sixth-grade save stored on it! When I spend money on a game, I need to know that the game can never be taken away from me. As far as I’m concerned, that is part of the deal.
Limited Run Games has built a successful business out of taking digital indie games like Octodad and Breach & Clear and making physical copies of the games available to collectors (on VITA and PS4). Their production runs are always small, and they always sell out. This, to me, is noble work. It’s important, because the games that tell the history of the industry will be the ones you can still play one hundred years from now.With physical goods, there is also the benefit of being able to trade in games that you don’t want to collect for store credit at GameStop or Best Buy. When I was working at a publisher, I disliked this practice, but as a consumer, I’ve come to embrace it. It tends to cut the price of purchasing games in half. Buy a game for $60, beat it in two weeks, and then trade it in for $30 store credit, which gets applied to a new game.
I was surprised to hear that the NX (according to leaked info) is going to use physical media. It makes me very, very happy. I am already planning to target that platform as one to collect for. It is a move that will ensure that NX games never become “data-driven, games-as-a-service” skinner boxes.“Comparing Three Mobile Batman Games”
I haven’t been spending much time playing smartphone games lately, but in anticipation for Suicide Squad, I decided to try a trio of Warner Bros. mobile releases.
Teeny Titans – A ($3.99)Teeny Titans looks terrific and plays more like a real Pokemon game than Pokemon GO does. It’s fast-paced, funny, and crafted by people who love games more than they love monetization design. Paying up-front eliminates the need for timers and blind packs, letting you focus on mastering a deep combat system while collecting lots of Teeny Titans action figures. Even city navigation is intuitive and painless. It’s a benefit if you know who the Teen Titans are (and I do, because I have a six-year-old son who loves ‘em). But even if you only know who Robin is, you’ll get something out of this game.
Suicide Squad – C (Free)
This game is actually free, not “free-to-play” free.. There are no IAPs, and no incentivized ads. A button will take you to the newest Suicide Squad movie trailer, but that’s it. Otherwise, this is just a product meant to create visibility for the film. The game is very good looking; it’s easy to forget that your phone can pump out visuals at this level of detail. You control a trio of villains – Harley Quinn, Deadshot, El Diablo – from a first-person perspective, taking on waves of enemies for a high score. There’s not much lasting value, but it’s entertaining for a few runs, and it manages to easily surpass everything in the Top Ranked Games chart in quality (beyond Hearthstone).
Batman: Arkham City Underworld – D ($4.99 – $99.99 IAPS)
Apple selected this one as an “Editor’s Choice”. It’s the worst of the trio of Batman games, by far. Similar to Clash of Clans, you wait more than you play. Calling it Batman: Arkham City Timers would have been more appropriate. WB will press you hard to spend – the pressure starts with “deals” being pushed at you every time you open the app. The game promises “75% off!”, ignoring the fact the lowest-priced IAP ($4.99) is more expensive than Lara Croft Go. Then, they begin stalking you with emails, if you were dumb enough to give that information to them (I was). The aesthetic is faithful to the console game series, but don’t spend your money on this one.
- Song of the Deep (Xbox One): $14.99
- Ratchet & Clank Trilogy (Vita): $6.99
- Song of the Deep – 1h 15m
- Teeny Titans – 2h 28m
- Suicide Squad – 40m
- Arkham City Underworld – 2h 10m