Whoa. Talk about quitting while you're ahead. It is true, Bioshock Infinite's development was very difficult, but the series continues to be regarded as a true hallmark of video games as art. In a way, Ken move marks an attempt to get back to the roots of the philosophy that started Irrational. Multiplayer was forcibly thrown into Bioshock 2 and was widely panned. More action was thrown into Bioshock Infinite and it was criticized for breaking the entire premise of the tears by simply playing around with them willy nilly by the end. A lot of it was done to conform to the market needs of a AAA budget. By moving to smaller, narrative-heavy games like Bioshock, distributed on the Internet to avoid publisher demands, Levine can refocus on his original vision.
Ken Levine is nothing if not a master at gaming storytelling and world building. Between Rapture and Columbia, he created two of the most intriguing and intellectually stimulating worlds in gaming in the last ten years. While downsizing is awful at any time since it means someone is losing their job, hopefully those who were unfortunate enough to end up on the bread line where from the gameplay department and not the story writing crow. if so it would be interesting to see what form Mr. Levine's next narrative heavy game takes the form of.
It's sad to see a studio that's made some of the PC's finest games shut down. Since System Shock 2 put them on the map back in 1999, fans clamored for a sequel. When Irrational was acquired by 2K Games, many worried they might just have been scooping them up for the rights to System Shock, but instead they let Irrational create two breathtaking games. We'll have to wait and see what 2K will do with the IP now.
Speaking of someone who decided to leave it all behind to work on something new... it's great that these two articles happened to occur in the same week because it lets us see these titans of the gaming industry begin to reject the microtransactions, the DLC season passes, and the preorder bonuses. It is true that the console space is where most of this is occurring, and I certainly believe that the PC allows for closer communication with the developers, not least because PCs allow for mods and are more conducive to forums and greater fan support.
First I have to agree with everything Simon said. When a titan of the gaming industry is coming forward and saying that his first focus is the community it is incredibly gratifying, especially in a time when most studios are run with profit as the first, second, and third aims. Now don't get me wrong, I don't expect Mr. Bleszinski to open up a game studio with the goal of not making any money, I just think he is one of those developers that understands what Valve figured out with hats in Team Fortress 2: make a fun game, a fun experience for your community, keep them up to date and involved, and lo and behold they will reward you for your efforts. Add on the mention of an Arena shooter from the guy who helped create Unreal Tournament and I am definitely looking forward to seeing what Cliffy B has for us next.
It's interesting to see Cliffy talk about the advent of Youtube Let's Plays, and how they're shaping how games are being made these days. Since the explosion of Minecraft videos fuelling its success, developers and game designers are clearly clueing in to how a strong community makes good business sense. They should be wary, though - a strong community can quickly turn against you.
To my knowledge, Gears of War: Judgment did have cooler reception than the original trilogy, but it wasn't fundamentally flawed in any way. Rather, it was an uninspiring prequel that brought in a lot of new mechanics which upset some long time fans. It may not have been such a big deal for the franchise's swan song on the 360, but you bet it matters for the One. With tech blogs churning out fresh articles daily about this developer or that studio saying the PS4 clearly beats the One in graphics or speed, Microsoft needs to deliver hit after hit and continuously improve the software experience, all while improving the resource management for developers. That's a tall order. Oh, and there's still the pesky detail of the extra $100.
As Simon says, Microsoft are certainly facing an uphill battle at the minute. Their best bet was always going to be delivering the best exclusive content, and this should remain their goal. With the TitanFall beta getting great reviews, a renewed and revitalized Gears of War game could be another fantastic chance for Microsoft to get the Xbox One back in the fight. Obviously a lot has to be done when trying to make a game feel fresh to bring in new fans without pissing off the current ones, but it’s a tightrope Microsoft and new studio Black Tusk will have to walk expertly if they don't want a repeat of Gears of War Judgment's less than stellar reviews.
I actually had a conversation with a Microsoft Store employee about this sale and discussed my skepticism and frustrations with digital sales at length. I suppose if one were looking at the cost-benefit as brutally cynically as possible, I might waste more time looking for deals (and therefore money), and money on Amazon Prime, but there are several undeniable benefits of physical media. When I'm well and truly done with it, I can easily flip it over to either Gamestop or a friend. This week as well, Major Nelson announced the Xbox Ultimate Sale. Dishonored is a title that I've been looking to add to my collection for some time. It's 67% off! Great! Combined with the DLC, though, it's still more expensive than the Game of the Year edition on Amazon. Sigh.
This is certainly frustrating to see. I am definitely a big fan of digital sales, and while I would never argue that they should totally replace physical media, I would say that digital sales should at least be on par with physical ones in terms of availability. Anyone who has ever used Steam understands it can work, and as the article says, "growing pains are to be expected." As such they should not be used as an excuse to crucify the idea of digital sales. More promising, however, is the fact that Microsoft set a precedent of selling a digital game for less than its physical counterpart. The fact that we might get a marketplace with the convenience of digital sales and that is competitive with other distributors is certainly something to be happy about.