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!

WHY VIDEO GAMES AREN’T ALL THAT BAD

As true gamers, I bet you have been judged more than once in the typical gamer stereotypes that people hold — that you are a socially-challenged and entitled brat who has nothing productive to do.  So, the next time you face such discrimination, tell them off with these facts we gathered from global research on how gaming is good for you.

Increased Health Benefits

Not all of us fit this stereotype.

Gaming isn’t all that bad for your health, as we always feared.  After all, a lot of people tend to be couch potatoes that spend endless hours on their controllers (oh wait, that’s a stereotype!).  According to a recent research by the University of Rochester, gamers playing action-based video and computer games made decisions 25% faster than others without sacrificing accuracy.  The same study also concludes that champion gamers  can pay attention to more than six things at once without getting confused, compared with the four that someone can normally keep in mind — in a work environment that realistically needs its employees to juggle multiple complicated tasks, we see this as a fun way to build a pipeline of employable talent.

Increased Dexterity in Real World Situations

Its funny how people will yell sexist at any insinuation you make on women’s driving skills — and yet, will stand by their long-held beliefs that gamers could never get a date, implying that all gamers are overweight potato couches with a bottle of beer and a packet of chips on the side.  That was until now when the research above found that 42% of computer and video game players are women!  Getting back to the benefits, it seems female gamers were “better able to mentally manipulate 3D objects, a skill at which men are generally more adept” (quoting verbatim from the study, lest someone scream sexist again!).  I can see how this might be helpful in some situations like, say, parking a car?

Crowdsolving Social Problems

FoldIt uses social collaboration with a competitive edge to decipher proteins.

It wasn’t too long ago when Seth Cooper from the University of Washington, decided to tap into efforts of  thousands of gamers to solve scientific problems.  His coworker  Firas Khatib and his army of gamers cracked a critical AIDS research problem — determining the three-dimensional structures of different proteins — in just three weeks.  They used FoldIt, a social gaming experiment that brought together thousands of gamers to solve this longstanding issue.  It is interesting to note that two-thirds of the top scorers in this game have no biochemistry experience beyond statutory high school.  You learn more about the FoldIt project here and about its application to AIDS research here.

Making Work Fun

Using gaming concepts to make business processes smoother and solving critical organizational challenges is fast becoming popular — although the only thing we want to see changed about this is the term “gamification”.  For instance, with the popularity of Facebook as a marketing tool, companies are turning to gaming concepts — such as reward for progress achieved — into branding and sales tools.  Starbucks rewards (and attracts) visitors who check in to outlets on Foursquare with a Barista badge, and their most loyal customers with a $1 off.  Nike+ lets you save runs, set goals and challenge friends while you exercise.  All successful examples of how organizations have adopted gaming concepts.

But last, and definitely not the least, simple games put smiles on people — and that counts more than all else.  If you haven’t seen this already, check out how fondly this 100-yr old grandmom talks about her Nintendo:

Research and articles sourced from:

INDIE REVIEW: AND YET IT MOVES

We have reviewed popular titles such as Gears of War and Battlefield in the past, ignoring some great indie games that our audience may benefit from.  This first indie game review comes from our guest author, Vasu Chaturvedi.  Vasu is a game designer, movie buff, and a script writer. He can be found on Twitter at @1starArchie.

And Yet It Moves is the debut title from Indie developers Broken Rules. In this unique platformer, the developers throw aside the regular approach of appealing to their players; they get rid of the storyline completely and just maintain their focus on giving the players an impressive gameplay and brilliance in art style. Surely, the name itself feels very odd and it does not make sense even while discovering how the game progresses.

The Setup

Explore the odd landscapes and the mysterious world around you

In AYIM, you play a pencil-sketch cut-out character that is traversing the odd landscapes and the mysterious world around you. Your objective is to overcome numerous obstacles to reach a darkened door at the end of the world. But here is where the game’s real premise begins — in order to counter these obstacles, you have to use the primary mechanic of rotating the world around you. Your character has the ability to rotate the world around you by 90 or 180 degrees at any time in the direction. This in reality is what really sets the game on a different note, it creates a unique experience that forces you to look at the puzzles in front of you in a different manner, think and re-think your approach — one wrong move and you may be a victim of a fall down an endless abyss. The game has a unique way to guide you: on the way you shall encounter versions of yourself i.e your cut-out character, standing still as a checkpoint and once activated, this cut-out points towards a direction that you should go for in order to reach the next checkpoint and lead you across the mysterious world that AYIM presents before you. Usually in a platformer where you need to reach from one point to another, the focus is on giving you difficult terrains to traverse, unknown hostiles splurging on you, but what really sets this one apart is the fact that the developers give you the freedom to openly change the world as you like. AYIM presents you a world which you can turn with the click of a button, it’s times like these when you can proudly say that gravity is my friend. Use gravity as a weapon and you shall make good use of your environment as a weapon to take down anything that comes your way, needless to say you can even use the weapon on its own master, although it’s advisable to make sure that you do not twist and turn a lot since it can easily plunge you to your death. Gravity is your friend, but you shall not take (undue) advantage of it.

Visuals and Sounds
The game presents you with so many interesting things, and it’s impossible to forget them. The visuals immediately draw your attention and create a different mind-set, the artwork is beautiful. It works well with the theme and the developers have utilized it superbly, even the characters animations and movements feel fluid with plenty of ambient animations in the background to create a better effect. The sound design in itself is very different, it is not a combination of huge background scores that inspire awe, instead the music gives you an air of eeriness that might seem wrong in some games, but goes well with this one. Heck if it were any different, it would have been quite awkward.

Gameplay

Move the world around you to get around!

The puzzles in the game are fairly easy to solve. They revolve around the premise that you use the rotation mechanics in the game and get from one point to another, as easy as it may sound. The developers have made it quite tough on you, the camera cannot be adjusted by the player, the puzzle difficulties grows by each level you clear and they make you really think before you move. It is a great combination of unique design and difficulty that create a vivid experience for the users. The camera zooms in and out at different intervals to make the players explore more regions in the map. If there was a way to adjust and interact with the camera, I do believe that it would have reduced the overall level of puzzles in the game and would not create the sense of accomplishment players now get on completion of each level. The camera movements in itself create a difficulty. It may beat you a few times, you may find yourself relying on ‘trial and error’ but in the end, each puzzle is designed in a unique way.
Finally, I would like to conclude that And Yet It Moves creates its own style and class among other platformers. Incredible visuals, sound and design backed up by solid gameplay and difficult puzzles make this game a unique blend of art and design and a definite play for all the fans of the genre as well as others who want to experience something different and intriguing for once.  If I have convinced you enough, head over to the And Yet It Moves website to download a demo (and hopefully, the full game too!).  

The good:

  • Amazing art and sound design
  • Solid gameplay and controls
  • Unique puzzles

The bad:

  • Short length
  • Lack of story

Rating 9/10

GAMES FROM 2011 YOU SHOULD NOT MISS: PART II

The second in our three part review of the best games of 2011 features one of the best games of all time, and two games that pleasantly surprised us. With such a fantastic line up of games hitting our consoles last year, the three games listed below really focus on a great single-player experience.

Pick one of these up new or pre-owned, you will not be disappointed!

Unchartered 3: Drake’s Deception

A rollercoaster story, visuals with beauty and depth, intuitive and riveting game play, and great character build ups makes Unchartered 3 the best single-player game of the year, and dare I say all time? If you play games for great single-player modes, then you just cannot miss Unchartered 3. Actually, if you have a pulse you shouldn’t miss Unchartered 3 (however faint the pulse) – it is one of the ultimate entertainment experiences (across all forms of entertainment). Naughty Dog have done the impossible and improved on Unchatered 2 (voted best PS3 game of all time by Play magazine).

The game starts in the wet streets of London where you end up in a pub brawl. Your journey propels you to an abandoned Chateau in France, a crusader castle in Syria, a pirate lair, and an abandoned city in the desert of Yemenon to trace Sir Francis Drake’s mysterious voyage in the Middle East. Mind blowingly beautiful sceneries often force you to slow down and admire the view. The game itself builds on the previous versions of running, climbing, hand to hand combat, and shoot offs with groups of bad guys. The hand to hand combat is seriously improved and shooting mode works seamlessly – while not at the level of a BF3, it is very enjoyable nonetheless.

Riveting Action, Stunning Landscapes, and Great Characters - Unchartered 3 Delivers

Riveting Action, Stunning Landscapes, and Great Characters - Unchartered 3 Delivers

The character building and story line immerse you so deeply in the game that it is nearly impossible to put down. The cut scenes work so seamlessly with the game and often lead to rollercoaster game sequences (whether it is escaping a burning down castle or hanging onto the ropes of a cargo plane). In fact, the character building and action are so good they are looking at turning the franchise into a movie. There is also a great coop mode and the online multiplayer is surprisingly good. This game is the answer to the prayers in our blog post (How to Ruin a Video Game in Five Simple Steps). Unchartered 3 is the one game you should not to miss from 2011 (and that is saying something with the quality of the competition), so go and buy it NOW!!!

Deus Ex : Human Revolution

Deus Ex was the surprise of the year for us. While it’s predecessor, Deus Ex, lies in the Hall of Fame, we were expecting another Duke Nukem; but boy were we wrong! Human Revolution does not have the multiplayer modes of Battlefield 3, it is not the complete package of Unchartered 3 – but it is a really deep single-player experience. Picture Metal Gear Solid meets Red Dead Redemption meets Infamous meets L.A. Noire. The game is set in a futuristic cyberpunk style world where humans can be augmented by humans. You play Adam Jensen, who (yes, you’ve guessed it), is seriously augmented as a result of a terrorist attack leaving him in near death status. Your aim is to track down the perpetrators of the attack and as you progress, you go deeper into a global conspiracy theory revolving around your lost ex-wife and your current employer.

Multifunctional Augments - The Arm Blade: Useful for Killing Enemies and Slicing Your Morning Bread

As you progress through the game, you can augment your character with some interesting features: a 360 degree grenade, the ability to jump ten meters in the air, become invisible for short periods of time or punch through walls. Human Revolution gives you the freedom to decide the style of play you want: depending on how you choose to augment your character, you can take a stealth approach, a brute force approach, or a mixture of both – and these apply also to the open world of each city. There are also a number of side missions on offer which tie in very nicely with the main story line, and don’t feel pointless like is so often the case. We preferred the stealth approach, as the brute force approach seemed to less intuitively go with the game. Though we did get a surprise when the first boss required a brutal set up…

If you like deep one player experiences with strong story line, then Deus Ex is a game you can’t miss.

L.A. Noire

Mmm - That Is A Strange Place To Fall Asleep

L.A. Noire is a bit like Shah Ruh Khan as in you either love it or hate it. You play a cop in post WW2 LA, traumatized by the war and the decisions our man had to make. This is a sleuth game with a straight story line coupled with a free world environment where you can pursue additional cases. You solve cases by finding clues and interrogating characters (using both the innovative face reading feature and the clues you have gathered). You also get involved in tailing suspects, or more hardcore car chases and full on shoot outs with gangsters.

The game play is intuitive as you’d expect from a 2011 release, and the story line is well written and keeps you hooked onto your haunted character. How you perform on each case will also modify the story line and how quickly you rise through the ranks of the police force.

If you’re looking for a very different game or love crime shows and solving crimes, then L.A. Noire is well worth the investment.

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….

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