SPIRALING PRICES AND OTHER WOES…

As we look forward to the great new games coming out this fall, there is a worrying trend that is becoming apparent — the increasing prices of upcoming games (and, in many cases, the stagnant prices of games beyond their peak!).

So we did some research to figure out what was going wrong.  What we found was interesting. Spiralling prices are only the tip of a somewhat large iceberg — the disorganized state of the market and the lack of market intelligence are more pressing challenges, which are hopefully more in our control to fix.

Prices: The Government
How can there be a negative market trend and the government be not to blame, right? In this case, there are actually two ways, not one, that the government has managed to impact us gamers.  The easiest one to spot is, of course, the nose-diving rupee which seems like it is heading downward in an extreme bungee jump (we can only hope there is a rope tied to the ankle)! While release prices of most games worldwide have remained the same–in rupee terms, they have become more expensive.

There has always been a 27% duty on importing the great stuff we love.  Now, unconfirmed reports say that there is a “clarification” that this 27% does not depend on the price at which Indian suppliers import but on the MRP at which suppliers plan to sell.  This clearly makes the 27% have a much hire impact on prices than earlier.  We sure hope the importer community begins to push back on such practices and looks for workarounds to such inefficiencies.

Pirated Games and Prices: The Chicken Or The Egg?
The ease of access to hacked games and gaming consoles in India has undoubtedly been driven by the high prices of games. The appeal of drastically reduced prices coupled with the Indian approach to jugaad has made the pirated game market rampant. But what was originally driven by high prices could now be keeping prices high. When someone buys a pirated game, they don’t buy an original one:   this reduces the size of the Indian market in the eyes of game producers/distributors.  This means we get less attention (see the Unavailability arguments below) but also potentially higher prices for those who buy legitimate games.

Unavailability: The Nascent Market

Diablo III: Better Late than Never

When B+ games are released in the US and UK and don’t make their way into the subcontinent, we don’t really mind.  But when an obvious blockbuster like Diablo III doesn’t make it way here on Day 1, then that is a cause for worry.  Clearly, the market in India is not developed enough to make publishers take note.  Thankfully, some retailers have managed to now get the Diablo III franchise into India–and (shameless plug) we have a wide suite of Diablo III products from Steelseries to choose from!  The reason that the market is still nascent compared to other nations is that gaming was actively discouraged as a hobby until very recently thanks to parents’ obsession with raising the world’s next Sheldon Cooper.  And also, the high cost of gaming… but we have already established that!

So What’s Next?
Recent trends in the gaming information segment, such as the new MCV India website and the annual E-xpress conference of retailers, are welcome improvements that will hopefully play an important role in the maturing of the market.  Further, the naturally maturing market base (college students playing  PC games 10 years ago are playing original console games today) will contribute to more serious consideration from publishers worldwide.  So what if we got Sniper Elite V2 at a jaw-dropping, eye-bulging, expletive-inspiring price of Rs.3,499 (also available for Rs.3,135 on our store).

FIFA13: Raised quite a few shackles in the gaming world with its pricing!

The future looks mixed. FIFA 13 was announced at Rs.3,499 on PS3 until the distributor for the the XBOX version announced it at Rs.2,999.  The PS3 price was then revised immediately to Rs.2,999.  We have also seen some price cuts on last year’s Activision titles.  Analysts believe most distributors will be forced to increase the already-high prices in the future due to the change in import duties.  But there is also potential good news with Sony looking to manufacture games in India as the head of Sony India stated in a recent MCV article. That should drive some of the prices down – with the aim to get PS3 platinum games to the Rs.999 mark.

If you are a gamer, developer, retailer, or supplier, we want to know what you think!  Let us know in the comments section below!

SILENT HILL: YOU CAN CHECK OUT, BUT YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE

Our post today comes from our newest guest author, Ravi Hansda.  Ravi is an ex-Game Advisor and a current avid-gamer, with a penchant for game development.  He is trying out Unity’s free game development engine to “see what he makes of it”. 

Cleverly hidden bad graphics aside, you will be chillingly shocked at what the game throws at you. The darkness in the game is foreboding and comparisons with Resident Evil will seem unfair after just a single playthrough.

Capcom got the first salvo in the survival horror genre that we can all relate to with the popular Resident Evil games. True, you can say that they

Silent Hill takes you back to a simpler era when the survival horror genre was just seeing its light of day. Pic Courtesy: http://bit.ly/ImOTsr

invented the genre but do they own it? Yes and no. For starters when playing a Resident Evil game, it always felt like it was an action/platformer than a game that should scare you. Yes, you do get scared a bit when those zombie dogs attack you in the corridor but such instances are few and far between. Other monsters were entertaining to fight off but it didn’t evoke a scared reaction. The gauntlet has now passed to Konami who have come up with what I call ‘the definitive Survival-Horror game” from that time. It is so cool that even now, 13 years later, its pretty cool to play.

Konami developers, in an interview with Official Playstation Magazine (OPM), said that what they wanted to do was to frighten people on an instinctive level. This is done more convincingly then any other similar themed game from that time. Released back in Jan 31, 1999 in the US and Mar 4, 1999 in Japan it seems unbelievable that, although late to the party, Silent Hill may have just owned and shaped all future games and movies as far as survival-horror is concerned.

Picture this. You are Harry Mason, a regular American guy who is going someplace with his daughter in his car in a mid western locale in the US. He takes a wrong turn and crashes his car. When he comes to, he discovers that his daughter is gone and he is on the outskirts of a seemingly deserted town. So begins a journey into the unknown and that’s where the fun really begins.

The game is visualized brilliantly. The first of these that you will encounter is the all encompassing mist reminiscent of Stephen King’s “The Mist”. It carries a character all of its own. It engrosses you and but doesn’t let you on about the dangers hidden within it.  It spreads an almost deafening quietness which lulls you into a false sense of security.

Then there are the strategically mounted camera angles in the alleys of Silent Hill you see Harry traverse through. They give

Old school graphics don't hamper your experience in any way.

you a sense of how vulnerable Harry really is in this weird town. Another element which adds to this is the lighting which in majority of the game is produced by a flashlight leaving everything else in the dark. Its glare illuminates parts of the surrounding while hiding other things which bring a good (dark?) ambience to the horror. The visualization of a mid western US town is spot on with no buildings looking amiss at all. The decrepit hospital and bloody mess that it is or was comes straight out of a deranged fantasy.

The sound is another big draw in the game. From the scary background theme which makes you think of rattling chains in a dark dungeon whenever something horrible of note is about to happen to the weird noises the monsters in the game make, all set you on edge. There are instances in the game where you hear a snarl and you frantically search around with your flashlight to see where it came from. The flashlight’s light is your true best friend as it literally becomes too dark to see anything else. Weapon hits on monster also sound convincingly real enough for you to wince.

It’s the little things that make the game seem somewhat believable. Modern ghost hunters say that ghosts (if that is even possible) emit a strong disturbance in the electrical/magnetic field of an area. Parts of this are reflected in the game.  For instance, we have a radio in the game that doesn’t pick up a station but apparently picks up monsters in the vicinity.

Then there is Harry himself. He is your average Joe. If he runs too fast he will start to wheeze and will have to slow down even if he is being

followed. He can’t do kung fu but he knows how to handle a gun wherever there is one and he can whack a monster with a crowbar. He is animated well and his movements look believable.

The flashlight illuminates the eerie surroundings just right.

The gameplay is thankfully forgiving. When you have to aim your weapon, you just aim in the direction (using the direction keys) where you want to hit and hit the action button with the equipped weapon. Harry himself moves fairly quickly. The design of Silent Hill is made such that even though vast to cover on foot, its scaled so you don’t get lost. There are also a few puzzle solving bits in the game which do not take a long time to figure out and are embedded well into the storyline of the game.

However, there are some things that are amiss. The whole point of this little journey is to find Harry’s daughter but you get enveloped in the town so much you want to explore every part accessible to you. This makes you deviate from the plot a bit. It seems that the developers wanted to show the dynamics of a father–daughter relationship and the loss you feel when you lose someone very close to you. This doesn’t translate well into the game somehow. Also, the developers in order to hide any graphic glitches seem to have just hidden it by covering it full of shadows. The graphics look grainy and dated but they match the theme of the game so it shouldn’t bother the average gamer that much.

There are also important plot elements in the game which you may miss because you are running through the level to complete it so it would be well advised to play carefully to get all the plot twists dialed down. On that note there are side missions which you can access but only if you look for them.

Silent Hill makes for itself a place in the collections of all old and new generation of gamers who look for something more than the hype. Despite the age of the game, as soon as you enter the game there is creepiness, a chill in the air that just seems to get to you always. There is a constant fear that something is watching you constantly from the shadows, something you just can’t feel in Resident Evil. This game relies less on gore and more on psychological terror. There are multiple endings in the game shown through great looking FMV sequences as well as in various cutscenes throughout the game. It’s a game that won’t necessarily give you bad dreams but will definitely make you unsettled in the same sense as watching a Japanese horror film (I’m talking Ringu and Ju On: The Grudge).

All in all it’s a great start to a series. Oh and Cybil Bennet is one of the hottest animated biker cops ever in a game. Just so you know.

What golden oldie would you like us to play?  Is there a game you love going back to, years after release?  Let us know!

NOSTALGIC DISORDER: GAMESINC’s TOP TEN GAMES OF YESTERYEARS

As GamesINC was locked in it’s dark room for days playing the latest and greatest in Video Games, we started day-dreaming (or hallucinating, probably induced by more than 18 hours of constant machine gun firing). The dream took us back to a time where music did not all sound the same, reality TV had not dumbed down the world, there were actually four seasons, and I had launched my first game magazine at the age of 11 (no, really, it happened – first review was Starwing on the NES), and video games were…not as good. In a teary-eyed, nostalgic, and combat overdose induced hallucinogenic dream, here are my top 10 favorite video games of all time. They are in nostalgic order (read chronological) – and qualify using some very strict criteria – I really liked them!

Communism launches the gaming industry

1. Tetris – GameBoy
Beautifully simple – the premise was to rotate different tetrads (blocks of different shapes) in order to form horizontal lines and avoid the tetrads taking up your playing field. As a young boy this was countless of hours of fun (and for the parents, peace and quiet). It even made me like those family friends we could never stand, as they also had a GameBoy with a multiplayer link so we could play together (well, annihilate them–nobody beats me at Tetris!). Tetris was developed by the Soviet Academy of Sciences, meaning that communism was partly responsible for the popularity of gaming. Tetris – a true legend!

 

Defining the racing genre

2. Super Mario Kart – SuperNES
The game that defined the racing genre. The Mario Bros had already made gaming popular (Mario 3 loses out to Sonic if you’re wondering where it is), but this game was probably the best racing multiplayer game ever. Yes, ever! The death matches would last for hours and hours, and some sore losers would endure hours, days, or years of taunting. Although there were other racing classics at the time (Wipeout and Starwing were great games in their own right), all the different modes of Mario Kart were unbeatable. And nothing beats knocking your opponent out of the race with a nicely aimed turtle! In college, one of my friends turned up at my dorm and brought his Super NES and Mario Kart – no one left the dorm room for two days. This was ten years after its release – a timeless classic!

Are You Ken?

3. Street Fighter 2 – Sega MegaDrive
If you were a gamer in the early 90s, then odds are you played SFII for hours on end. It is the ultimate fighting game of all time – all other games since then are building off it, but none defined the fighting game genre as SFII. As with Mario Kart, this game ensured endless hours of gaming fun at friends houses. Being unbeaten on SFII ensures hero-like status at school and a permanent and non-refundable membership of the cool club for ever. The super moves such as Ryu’s Hadouken (or Are You Ken? as was the myth), Honda’s Thousand Fists, Guile’s Sonic Boom to name a few are timeless and still vivid in memory. SFII – the ultimate fighting game of all time.

The only time Sonic is not running in the whole game

4. Sonic the Hedgehog – Sega MegaDrive

Platform games were one of the most popular gaming genres on the 1990s, and no game brought innovation, speed, and pure fun as Sonic the Hedgehog. While other games such as Mario 3, Megaman, Rayman, Donkey Kong were great platform games, Sonic was another genre defining game (ok, the Mario Bros did their bit too). Zooming at a gazillion miles an hour through levels, the lush country sides, the evil bosses – this game was simple, bright, and a bucketload of fun. A game that made the most of the 2D mode and the MegaDrive’s processor – it was one of the rare games that parents approved of and kids love. And after hours of playing it, you didn’t have sore ears through excessive gun fire, depression through hours of gloomy surrounding, and a disturbed psyche through having butchered thousands of enemies.

FF7 - Immerse Yourself In The Tale

5. Final Fantasy VII – Playstation

In the summer of 1998, I had fallen out of love with gaming. Sports, girls, studies (yes, I actually got a college degree – shocker!) and the lack of a game that captured our imagination had pushed gaming just above cooking as a preferred activity.  A chance purchase of FF7 changed this forever. The groundbreaking graphics and movie-like cut scenes, the story (the most engrossing story ever), the deep and immersive world, the combat modes, the accumulation of the most amazing attacks ever (you could unleash dragons, tidlewaves, and all sorts of mayhem on your enemies), the endless hours of gameplay makes this probably my favorite game ever. If you have hours of free time and a small budget, getting a PS1 or 2 and playing FF7 will be worth it, even 13 years later. The RPG game by excellence!

Stealth + movie experience + great game play = MGS

6. Metal Gear Solid – Playstation
After FF7 revived my love of gaming, Metal Gear Solid ensured I was  hooked forever. As with GTA (we’re not there yet, keep your pants on), this game defined a new genre – stealth. The great story, the cut scenes, the random radio conversations made you feel immersed in a movie. The gameplay was also addictive, the continuous search for that perfect stealth level, ensured that you played it over and over again. The bonuses with finishing the game were also incredibly worth it (you could play the whole game over again in a tux a la James Bond or with an invisibility cloak meaning you could walk up to guards and plant C4 on their back – you get the rest…). A legendary game by legendary Konami studios.

Setting up the shooter segment

7. GoldenEye 007 – Nintendo 64
Another game that defined a genre, this time the shoot ’em up genre (old school I know). Both the single-player and multiplayer game modes in modern shooters are legacies of this absolute icon on the N64. The single player game brought in variety as different levels required different approach (snipe your way through on some levels, blast them to hell with a shotgun on other levels), and the multiplayer game would capture whole floors of our college dorm. Little Andy might have not been the biggest guy (it’s all in the name) or smoothest talker around, but he was a hero as no one could defeat him. Plus, you get to play James Bond – what more could you want? (Izabella Scorupco was hardly going to come with the game)

Perfect accompaniment for beer and college buddies

8. Pro Evolution Soccer – Playstation
FIFA vs PES – the battle that will continue for generations of soccer games. But when Pro Evo (as we knew it) came out in 2001, it was the bees knees and forced FIFA to up it’s game. You could build up play properly or launch devastating counter attacks, the game was finally realistic, the one-on-ones with the keeper was tricky (and chipping the keeper was the ultimate In Your Face). The gameplay and graphics are still the foundation for football games ten years later. Being a college student with a lot spare time, not a lot of money, and four male roommates – this game got more time than our studies or girlfriends. After 4 days of neglect and threat of nuclear attack from the girlfriend, the evening with her was spent checking the watch and bailing at 10:30 pm under the lame excuse “My Roommates will be worried” (and no, there was no good response to the perfectly valid question – “they’re not worried when you’re out partying until 5 am”). A game that made you break up with a girlfriend – doesn’t say much for my priorities, but says a lot about the game. (The girlfriend is now happily married to a banker and drives a BMW if you were wondering…)

Cutting edge graphics and gameplay - and cop cars on 2 wheels

9. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – PS2
Everyone has their favorite GTA, San Andreas is often regarded as the best one. I for no reason apparent preferred Vice City. Regardless of your favorite GTA, this game series created a new genre in itself – and for that, we thank you Rockstar. Despite all the controversies and the dubious moral standards, these games were an absolute blast and let out your darker side (from randomly beating up strangers, to stealing cars and helicopters, and driving around cities in a tank destroying all that came your way including the ferocious men in black). The graphics (well apart from the first 2D games  which were still a lot of fun) and the game play were cutting edge too, and some of the in games features such as the hilarious radio stations, ridiculous dialogues were more than just nice touches, they really added to the game. Most of the games on this list defined a genre, this one created one!

Keeping you on the edge a la Jason Bourne

10. XIII – PS2
This one is going to seem odd to a lot of people, but bear with me. Have you seen the Bourne series? Picture it in a comic book style with a richer plot. This was the XIII comic books released in Belgium in the early 1980s (same country that produced Tintin). Some genius decided to make a video game out of it, and it has one of the richest stories and most innovative graphics of any shooter. While the game admittedly had some playing floors, the story and graphics made the whole experience incredibly addictive! Why can’t more games keep you on the edge of your seat as XIII did?

You’ll have noticed that all these games are pre-PS3/Xbox/Wii and exclude PC games. PC games deserve a whole other post in our book, as some of the games are so fantastically different to the console ones (games such as Civilization, Indiana Jones and the Fate of the Atlantis, the Day of the Tentacle, Command and Conquer, Warcraft require their own list).

With all the new games coming out, the one thing that saddens us is all the 3s and 4s and 5s in the titles. Developers and producers all too often run to a formula that will make then money (MW3, 6.5 Million on day 1). While there is merit in improving a series, you’ll notice that very few of the top 10 games were further down than number one in the series (FF7 being the shining exception). So a message to developers – innovate!!  Give us new genres, new graphic styles, new game plays. And we know that you run to where the money is, but have a quick look at the games above if you want to calculate the risk/reward. Did they sell well? You bet they did!!! Because brilliant games will get brilliant sales.

This is my nostalgic list – so no argument allowed! But feel free to post your list…Would you have put Wipeout instead of Mario Kart? Zelda or Secret of Mana instead of Final Fantasy? Or the beautiful Lara Croft?

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and on WordPress (here!).

HOW TO RUIN A VIDEO GAME IN FIVE SIMPLE STEPS

As my chainsaw was splattering the entrails of an Ork all over the floor in Space Marines, I was left with a hollow feeling. I’m a big Warhammer 40k fan, I love action games, and the action and violence in Space Marines is a lot of fun. So why this hollow feeling? Why the urge to put the mighty chainsaw and bolter away, and swap to Deus Ex or LA Noire? Surely killing orks and fighting the forces of chaos were better than wandering the streets of Detroit or looking for clues in the dark alleyways of 1940’s LA. Then it hit me, the story in Space Marines is absolutely rubbish! The Warhammer 40k world is so rich in potential stories of betrayal, mighty fights between legions of space marines and conquests of alien worlds (plagiarizing the horus heresy could make for an amazing story line), and you end up having to rescue a manufacturing plant. Seriously? A bloody manufacturing plant? What next, space marines save the local chai walla from the evil forces of Chaos?

And this is is the first of my top 5 ways to ruin a video game in 5 simple steps. I’m not going to bother with some of the basics such as poor gameplay, terrible visuals as these are so blindingly obvious. Games that don’t get the basics right are worth less than a broken clay pot from the Roman empire.

1. Rubbish Story Line
There’s nothing like a terrible story line to ruin a potentially great game. The Space Marines example is typical, you end up running

Illogical actions and loose storyline encourage you to give Space Marines a wide miss.

through a manufacturing plant pressing buttons to activate different boring options, and when you do hit the button, you have to go find another button to make the previous button work. Another great game ruined by the lack of a story is Modern Warfare 2 – MW 1 is one of my favorite games ever, so I felt like an alcoholic in a whiskey factory when I got my hands on the next installment. However, the terrible and incomprehensible story line just ruined it. A mid-level American officer partners with a low life terrorist to destroy the world. And you’re a UK special forces op working for the Americans? Come on guys – make a bit more of an effort with the 3rd installment or you’re going to ruin all the great work you did with all the previous installments of the series. It doesn’t need to be complicated (although scenarios full of suspense like Deus Ex are great), it just has to make sense and have some variety. There’s nothing more irritating than when you get to the objective and you are awaiting the next part of the story, that you find out you need to go and do something else before you move on.

2. Nothing New
I would like to tip my hat off to games such as LA Noire, GTA (when it first came out), Metal Gear Solid, Mario Kart, Prince of Persia, Final Fantasy and all the other games that brought innovation to our consoles. I’m a big fan of shoot ’em ups but how many third party shooters are coming soon or have been released recently? They’re a lot of fun and give me good mileage for my PS3. But there’s no feeling like getting immersed into something completely different. All my favorite games have brought innovation in story lines, graphics, playability and pushed the boundaries of gaming forward (Prince of Persia, MW, MGS, Mario Kart, Red Dead, Halo, etc.).

3. Multiplayer Options Only On-line

FIFA always ensures long hours of fun when you are playing with friends.

Why, oh why, do I have to log online to play multiplayer games? I’m chilling at home with friends, whack in a Crysis 2 or a Space Marine, and all we want to do is kill the living daylights out of each other. But no, we have to log-in online to play, and some games you can’t even split screens!!!! I know that online gaming brings the money in, but it doesn’t mean I like it. That’s why I prefer the PS3 to the Xbox. So what happens to me and my friends? Well, it generally ends up being a FIFA session which is no bad thing – and that’s why I always get my hands on the latest FIFA or PES (but that’s another argument).

4. Short Game Play
Picture the scenario. You’ve just bought you’re latest game. You’ve decided to save some money and you’re spending Friday night at home (come on, it happens to do the best of us), you’ve got your delivery guy on speed dial, your fridge is stocked with your favorite tipple, and your phone is off so the world cannot reach you. And 4 hours later, the game is finished…what???? I ruined my Friday night and spend more than 2000 bucks for that! The latest Prince of Persia is the classic example of that. I know this has happened to me way too many times (yeah, cool quotient down the drain). As I was writing this, I was trying to remember the name of the games where this happened. I couldn’t. Nuff said.

5. No Bugs Please
I do feel bad writing this as I know it’s nearly impossible for a games developer to eliminate bugs completely, but there are some bugs that just drive you crazy. Enemies stuck in walls you can’t kill and have to commit suicide before starting again, I can live with. But pressing the button to enter my car in LA Noire and getting run over, or being stuck at a level of Black Ops and not being able to get through because the screen went dark – drives me crazy! I know developers already doing a better job with Beta launches of filtering for bugs, but what about an option to report a bug in the game directly (and maybe even skipping the place you’re stuck at). Too much to ask?

You’ll have noticed that some of the great games of our time make one of these 5 basic errors. Making one isn’t going to completely ruin the game, but steering away from this can transform a good game into a fantastic one. I know some of you might be reading this saying “What about x? How about y?” These are the 5 things that irritate me the most. But feel free to add yours, I’ll most likely agree or learn something new. So put your money where your, err, keyboard is….

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and on WordPress (here!).