Unity and Brand Awareness

When we talk about games we occasionally tend to talk about the graphics, the audio, gameplay, but we rarely think about what’s behind all of that: the engine. We hear about Frostbite, EA’s proprietary engine that’s been largely advertised and is responsible for most of their projects, Unreal, behind a lot of some of the biggest AAA releases, and the CryEngine, known for being the driving force behind Crysis.

 

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Battlefield 1 is an example of the power of Frostbite

 

But last week, a controversy surrounding Unity brought to the discussion the image of these engines. A consumer on steam claimed that he wouldn’t buy a game specifically because it was built using Unity. And many wondered why would anybody give up playing a title simply because of the engine used. The answer is brand awareness.

Every decision a company makes, from the color of the product, specs, sounds it does, to the strategy used to advertise it, all of that aims at brand awareness. That basically consists of the image that a company or a product has on the market. The sound the Xbox does when it boots wasn’t chosen by accident, after all, they use at E3, in trailers, all to create a connection with consumers, an identity, a sound that becomes synonymous with the brand, that it doesn’t matter where you are, you recognize it.

Apple is a master at that, from the aspect of the stores, with a clean look mainly composed of glass and a minimalistic approach to its layout, to the box, that according to Steve Jobs should be an experience when opened. The design of their products, focusing on round shapes, the OS that has a friendlier user experience, the integration of the systems, to create the idea of an ecosystem that works perfectly in conjunction. All of that to change or create the perception of the consumer.

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A clean and sophisticated design, a characteristic that Apple cherishes

And when it comes to brand awareness, Unity has a very negative reputation. In part because of poor decisions from management, but mainly because of the games that use the engine. The simplest of the most famous, Unity has made their name as the easiest to use, allowing a user without much game development experience to create a game with less technical hurdles than Unreal and CryEngine.

However, an irresponsible use of assets by developers and an association with low-quality early access games have tarnished the image of not only the engine, as well as the company.

The abusive use of assets from their store has also been responsible for their image problem, with many cases in which we can see the same models and problems in various different games that use Unity.

Developers have used them indiscriminately, with a lot of them using the free license, that requires users to attach their logo to the game, so whenever you start a horrible, poorly designed game and you see their main source of recognition in the splash screen, you relate it to a bad experience.

Many of these titles proliferated through Steam Early Access, and even though we can find many using CryEngine and Unreal, Unity has been the most linked to them.

Another factor is that whereas the other engines appear to be used mainly on AAA games, we rarely see that happening with Unity. The most high-profile project using it is Hearthstone, that is not the kind of game that feels like AAA. Just look at some famous games powered by these engines.

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Unreal

 

From what we’ve seen, this situation apparently won’t change that quickly, as the company doesn’t appear to be all that bothered about it. And that could quickly result in a bad ending for them, particularly after the backlash it has suffered recently.

If they are responsible, working on a rebranding focused on attaching their product with quality games, looking to sway the notion gamers have of them, everything can change quickly. If no action is taken, they can either accept that they will never be among the best engines or even worse, become another company that died due to irresponsible management, that didn’t take the market’s viewpoint seriously.

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E3 Conferences Impressions

This year’s E3 conferences were quite different than past years, despite being good, there wasn’t one who stood out as remarkable or unforgettable. Without many surprising moments that would make the audience go crazy, most of them felt lukewarm, as if companies were keeping their cards close to their chests, or didn’t really have many novelties to show.

Here I’ll talk about them from worst to best, in my opinion, and some things I noticed about how companies are changing some aspects of how they approach their conferences:

EA

As last year, EA came up with the worst presentation, even though it certainly has improved. Many strange and cringy moments happened, mainly because it feels that the company is striving to look cool, trying to talk with the millennial generation without completely understanding it.

Youtubers that had problems with teleprompters,  feet out of place in a presentation willing to appeal not only to customers but also to stakeholders. Sports games would have overly long presentations at times, and yes, it is an integral part of the company strategy and finance, however, a leaner, more dynamic segment would work better for them. Jokes, long introductions, a trailer focusing on eSports also didn’t help the presentation, making it feel longer than it really was.

Battlefront 2’s multiplayer demonstration felt out of place, especially after EA’s focus on the singleplayer campaign ever since its announcement. Revealing that it won’t have a season pass is nice, and the multiplayer does look interesting, but showing just a little bit of the story would feel like a reward after the unimpressive Battlefront.

A way out

Although there were some problems, not all was lost. Need for Speed Payback looked amazing, with a truly great demo, showing a little bit of its mechanics, characters, mission structure, appearing to be a better game than we expected. And the best moment was A Way Out, part of the EA Originals program, a game that shows real innovation, with an unusual and unique gameplay mechanic. Becoming one of the best games to show at the event, with an effective trailer, and a very enthusiastic developer.

Sony

I might be too harsh on them, but after last year’s stellar presentation, this year’s just felt underwhelming. A repetition of the games seen last year, many still remaining without any release dates, a lack of new and exciting titles, and a feeling that something was missing, marked the presentation. By the way, I’m not considering the sound issues, these things happen.

Starting with Naughty Dog and Guerrilla was a smart move, but an Uncharted stand alone game and Horizon DLC doesn’t really hype up the audience. Destiny and Call of Duty being part of it isn’t a surprise, after all, both are expected to be the biggest sellers of the year, but none had an exciting showing.

The same can be said of Monster Hunter World and Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, that looks very strange, with last-gen graphics, especially when compared with Street Fighter V and the superb Injustice 2. I have to say that I was surprised that they mentioned VR, with a good number of games, although they still feel more like tech demos than full-fledged games. Please, let’s stop releasing Skyrim on every platform, compared to more modern titles, it doesn’t look great, neither graphically, nor mechanically.

The one surprise of the presentation was the remake of Shadow of the Colossus, that looks incredible, but this one is on me, I can’t muster any excitement over a remake or remaster anymore. Detroit: Become Human is on the verge of saturation for me, it feels like I’ve seen this games more times than I needed too, and the lack of a release date doesn’t feel like a sign we’ll see it soon, probably next year.

God of War had a new trailer that highlighted the story and the relationship with Kratos and his son, what seems to be the part that the developers are giving the most attention to. The trailer itself was good, the story indeed looks intriguing, but the way it was cut was a little strange, I preferred last year’s gameplay chunk.

Days Gone

The best parts for me were the first gameplay reveal of Insomniac’s Spider-Man, and Days Gone, that after last year’s lukewarm presentation, they came out with an unexpected demo. Days Gone with a stunning demo finally gave us more on the background of the game, that may be very promising. God of War will be huge, but the prospect of a The Last of Us with an open world is something to look for. What looked like another zombie game that solely focused on action, now appears to one with a soul, highlighting human relationships, instead of waves of enemies. A game that I couldn’t care less about, became one I’ll keep my eye on, although Bend still hasn’t released anything that impressive.

Spider-Man is a beautiful title that based on the pedigree of the studio behind and what we saw, won’t disappoint. The combat is fluid, the world and the animations are beautiful, and the action set-piece was entertaining, reminding an Uncharted with a superhero as the main character. The high number of QTE’s can be troubling, but we’ll only find out next year, earlier than expected.

Bethesda

It started in a great way, with developers and their kids talking about what they did for a living and their excitement over games, something that was quite strange, as Bethesda’s game tend to be very violent, but it was fresh, funny and why not, cute. Then a video presentation started with great animation, showing the lineup of Bethesda, it was short, straight to the point, and very pleasant. However, the more I think about it, the less I like it.

Everything that was anticipated was there, Skyrim is coming out again, now in VR, Doom too, Elder Scrolls online, Legends were part of the presentation, but nothing that stood out. Quake legends appealed to the eSports side of the game. Dishonored DLC looked great, like every Dishonored trailer, with a very cool twist on the story, that may have some serious repercussion in the future of the franchise.

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The 2 surprises that ended up not surprising anybody, were the highlights. The Evil Within 2 had a very curious trailer that focused on the struggles of the leading character, the impact of his past on his life, and apparently, on his mind. With a beautiful soundtrack and a striking visual style, it showed great promise.

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus came with a long trailer that never ceased to amaze. The graphics are mesmerizing, the story fascinating. It’s nice to see that MachineGames appears to have improved on every area. The New Order was a great game, but The New Colossus may take the franchise a step further, with crazy characters, charismatic villains, and visceral action.

Microsoft

Unlike Bethesda, the more I think about Microsoft’s conference, the more I like it. When it ended I was completely deflated, mainly due to the lack of a massive AAA announcement of an exclusive for their new console, but pondering on what was presented, there were some very interesting games. Cuphead finally got a release date and a feature long awaited, OG Xbox backwards compatibility was announced.

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It started with the reveal of the Xbox One X, formerly known as Project Scorpio, that looks very slick in spite of being a lot more powerful than the original Xbox One, actually, it is smaller than the S model. The price is way too high, eliminating any chance to compete with the PS4 Pro, that may have fewer teraflops, but has better exclusives, let’s face it. Especially if multiplatform games don’t run that better on the X.

They promised to show more than 40 games, 22 exclusives, however many were timed exclusives, and others didn’t really impress the audience. Like The Newton Project and Lucky’s Tale, that felt generic and uninteresting. What was curious about the conference was that there were a significant number of good games, with a little bit for everybody, and that’s why I liked it.

First-party titles looked great, but nothing close to the size of a Halo or Gears. State of Decay 2 looks like an AAA title now, with many possibilities, although I would prefer a gameplay demo instead of the trailer shown, it felt a little long. Forza 7 is more beautiful than ever, it just didn’t make a lot of noise because everyone knew it would come out.

We saw Crackdown 3 after years of silence, bringing Terry Crews to the trailer, and the game, the letdown was that we didn’t see much of the title. Sea of Thieves had a much better showing than last year, with a mission that displayed the new features of the game, a little bit of the team aspect, finally revealing more about what it is all about.

Phil Spencer’s trip to Japan really worked out well for the company, a section was devoted to Japanese titles, with Dragon Ball Fighter Z standing out in a completely unexpected way.

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But the highlights for me were clearly The Last Night, an indie game that combines a beautiful world that resembles Blade Runner, using a pixel art aesthetic, attracting a lot of attention for its beauty and mysterious world. Assassin’s Creed Origins brought the franchise back to E3 after a year off, and it looked like that decision paid off, new features were shown, combat has changed, Egypt looks impressive, leaving some hope that the franchise might have a bright future ahead.

A Life is Strange prequel was revealed, and that was the moment in which I really got excited, in spite of the fact that Chloe’s voice actress has changed, it was nice to see the franchise being recognized on a big stage. And to finish things off, Anthem, the new Bioware IP had their gameplay reveal, and it looked amazing, maybe too beautiful at times. But the changes of gameplay that happened seamlessly were impressive, the world hypnotizing, it looked like a Destiny with a more fleshed out world and story.

Nintendo

I was baffled with how much I enjoyed Nintendo’s conference, given that I’m not somebody who really cares about their games or even consoles. The last one I had was a Super Nintendo, and for the first time since the SNES, I’m thinking about buying a console from them.

Their spotlight was short, effective, showed new games, and had a different feeling than the other companies had. The beginning was a little strange with a trailer focusing on the Switch, followed by Reggie Fils-Aime reflected on game and life, something that was funny, quickly proceeding to the games.

And here is where Nintendo always shines, their games don’t really have a story, but they have a trademark style. Starting with Xenoblade Chronicles 2, a huge RPG that is exclusive to the console, looking massive, diverse and beautiful. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle looks like XCOM for kids, with a stunning art style, and a gameplay that genuinely looks fun.

New games of Kirby, Yoshi were shown, with different mechanics that work around the genre they’re in. They talked more about Breath of the Wild’s DLC, shedding some light on what could be expected from now on. Two projects stole the show, a Pokémon RPG is coming to Switch, and we expect for it to be a massive game, and Metroid Prime 4, that appears to be at the very beginning of its development cycle.

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The grand finale was the bizarre Super Mario Odyssey, and how crazy is that game. Taking the approach of bigger worlds, we managed to see the game running for the first time, and it reminds 64 and Sunshine, with open landscapes, a looser experience. And the hat, that we finally understand why was highlighted, allowing you to possess the body of any character in the world, creating endless possibilities for puzzles, representing something new to the genre. As I said, it was short, there weren’t dozens of games, but the ones that were shown were meaningful projects, in an E3 that felt lukewarm.

Ubisoft

I might be biased as I tend to enjoy their conferences, and the company as a whole, they make mistakes but they look honest, and I feel that this year they showed that. What an improvement when compared to last year, instead of overly long demonstrations, we saw a much better-structured show, if it was sports, it would’ve gotten the most improved player award.

Just Dance didn’t have a long dance routine that would bore everybody, it was short and swift. The way it started was brilliant, bringing Shigeru Miyamoto to the stage to talk about Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, and to see the emotion and the passion of the developers was truly remarkable. Although the Rabbids can be very annoying at times, the presence of Mario balances that, in a game that looks delightful to play.

Assassin’s Creed Origins had a smaller presence, after appearing with an extended gameplay on Microsoft’s stage. Here was the strangest moment, when we were shown someone playing on a screen announcing a gameplay that would air after the conference, it just didn’t make any sense.

The Crew 2 was impressive, with many different styles of racing, planes, boats, cars, a beautiful world, and an Inception style effect. It feels like a much-improved title, looking like another case of Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs 2 syndrome.

Some moments didn’t land, South Park appeared again, an Elijah Wood project didn’t have a lot of details revealed, Steep has DLC, and a toys-to-life game was announced, long after the genre died.

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A new game based on pirate life, Skull & Bones, surprised the audience, looking like the Black Flag spin-off we were all waiting for. Naval battles with a multiplayer focus, in a beautiful world, and the possibility of creating a pirate squad, that’s not bad. Far Cry 5 continues to look like a significant improvement over Far Cry 4, that felt tired. More options to use NPC’s as part of the missions, hiring friends to help you, a world that responds to your actions, it appears to be a real sequel.

To end things off, they brought Beyond Good & Evil 2 back from the dead. With a new look, characters, feel, working as a prequel to Jade’s adventure. To see Michel Ansel tearing up on stage was truly special, it was nice to see that in such a rich industry you can see love for what they do. Whether we’ll actually play it we’re not sure, but it was great to see such a beloved franchise making a comeback, let’s hope that for good now.

A few things that caught my attention:

  • Every company is crazy to get their share of eSports.
  • Long gameplay demos became more scarce, it feels that companies are preferring gameplay trailers.
  • Microsoft didn’t talk about new features and Game Pass.
  • Companies are looking to make open worlds more responsive, reacting to your actions, like in GTA V.
  • Some are taking the Nintendo approach, making the conferences shorter, usually lasting less than one hour, with minimal presence from executives, like Bethesda and Sony did.
  • Speaking of Sony, it was strange to see that Hidden Agenda, the new Supermassive project, was part of the pre-show, especially when their VR projects, that looked much worse, took the main stage. And it is intriguing to see the downfall of Gran Turismo, that was too a part of the pre-show. We’re talking about the highest-selling franchise Sony has, and it is astonishing that it wasn’t part of the main show.

 

E3 Expectations: EA

This week E3 kicks off, with many expectations and a surprisingly low number of leaks, at least so far. The first company to take the stage will be EA, Saturday afternoon, with an apparent stronger lineup than last year, which was a very weak presentation, that had no surprises and little content. But what can we expect from them this year?

Bioware’s New IP and Maybe Something Mass Effect Related

Bioware

The Canadian studio has a tough road ahead of them. After the backlash suffered with Mass Effect Andromeda’s release, they need to try to take that bad taste of their consumers’ mouth, while working out a way to reveal their new IP.

And here they face a conundrum, since we’re talking about something completely new, they can’t wait that much to unveil their next project. If we were talking about a game based on a well-known franchise they could postpone the announcement. Being released next year, they need enough time for marketing to present it to the audience, having a least one year to do it. 6 months may work with Assassin’s Creed, Fallout, famous brands, but that won’t for something nobody never heard about before. Gamescom may be the last acceptable date for the reveal, but leaving the biggest show in the industry behind may be a very risky choice.

Mass Effect Andromeda’s lukewarm reception and subpar performance makes it much harder, creating a need to compensate for their mistakes, given that their name is a little tainted to fans. I’ll guess that they might announce that they are creating something for their fans, like for example a free story DLC revolving around a character from the old trilogy, like Wrex, to gain some goodwill.

It’s in the Game

As always, that’s a safe bet, there will be a segment focused on EA Sports and their profitable franchises. We may hear more about the continuation of Alex Hunter’s story in the Journey season 2, and how Madden is changing with the choice to use the Frostbite engine, and get a sneak peek of the story mode hinted at the reveal trailer of this year’s iteration.

Other than that, they’ll use the time to talk about their connection with eSports, how Ultimate Team is successful, more about NHL, NBA Live, and UFC 3, unveiling their cover athletes. Speaking of athletes, we can assume we’ll see some on stage talking a little about the game, maybe on NBA Live or UFC.

Need for Speed: Payback or Family (Your Choice)

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We’ll probably see the first gameplay, or a trailer that will talk about the story and the characters. There’s no doubt that the game will look simply incredible, but it needs to go beyond that to regain some of the love lost for the franchise. Leaving the always-online feature is a step in the right direction, but there needs to be more improvements, especially after the release of Forza Horizon 3 last year, possibly one of the best racing games ever.

Seeking inspiration from the Fast and Furious franchise is an interesting choice, after all, it is insanely successful, being very profitable. But focusing on amazing set pieces and a beautiful world isn’t enough, the gameplay must be finely tuned, leaving that drift camera, improving the feel of the cars, the map can’t be flooded with other cars who seem to aim yours all the time, and some landscape variety would be nice. Of course, they must create charismatic characters, something that racing games rarely do, and that the Fast and Furious franchise understood a long time ago.

Star Wars

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Most likely Star Wars Battlefront II will be the star of the show, and I’ll guess that they will start the show with a sneak peek of the campaign, showing a part of a mission, highlighting the main character, Iden Versio. They announced that 30 minutes before the press conference they will premiere a battle with 40 players, but that looks like multiplayer, and they have focused a lot on the campaign lately.

They might also talk about the state of the other games based on the franchise. Show a little glimpse of the Respawn project, but it would be interesting to finish the presentation with a teaser trailer of the project from Visceral, helmed by Amy Hennig, who is scheduled to be released between April 2018 – March 2019, probably in the Fall of 2018.

Some Predictions and 1 Crazy Thing I’d Like to See

  • Announcement of Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1 and backwards compatible titles coming to EA Access soon.
  • More EA Originals titles, Fe and Unravel 2 release date.
  • Teaser trailer for Motive’s new action IP.
  • Dragon Age 4 revealed on stage.
  • 1 Crazy Thing I’d Like: Skate 4 being shown on stage by the Hawkman, Tony Hawk, announcing a partnership with EA.

 

Nintendo Switch Reveal Impressions

Last night Nintendo held a conference in Tokyo to properly introduce the Nintendo Switch to the world, after a trailer that had a great reception in October. It had some cringeworthy moments, with producers talking about their games in a very excited, and strange way at times. The translation was confusing in some situations, such as when Suda took the stage. And the production value felt a lot smaller compared to what Sony and Microsoft did when they announced the PS4 and the Xbox One.

When it comes to the console, there weren’t a lot of surprises, except for the release date, March 3rd, sooner than expected. The price point is good, $299, but it feels expensive if we consider that you can buy a PS4 or an Xbox One, more powerful machines, for a much lower price. There were a lot of ups and downs, and even though the reception seems positive, there were some yellow lights and some reasons for concern, and we’ll talk about the good and the bad.

The Presentation of the Machine

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This time Nintendo explained the concept of the console in a much clearer way than when they presented the Wii U. When a lot of people didn’t even know it was a new console and thought it was an expansion of the Wii, in part because of the horrible name choice.

All modes of playing were well displayed, in videos that only expanded what we saw in the trailer, and it looks like a great design from Mario’s company. It seems easy to use, allowing you to use it as a home console and a portable device, with an acceptable battery life, that can go from 2,5 to 6 hours.

But they ended up spending too much time on the Joycon, that is very surprising because of the high technology it has. It works as motion control, has the NFC technology, but after seeing a bizarre video showing its vibration using a glass of water filled with ice cubes, it felt like they wasted precious time over-explaining its controller.

A Lack of Third-Party Support

A good number of games were presented, but the stars were the already known Zelda: Breath of the Wild, that will be a launch title, and Super Mario Odyssey, that will come in the Holiday of this year. Splatoon 2, Arms, and others were announced, but without the impact expected for a new console. And with all titles releasing months after launch, except for 1,2 Switch and Zelda, and ports coming out later, such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, that will come in April, the lineup for the first few months feels empty.

When it comes to third-party studios, unfortunately, it felt like the Wii U all over again. Many JRP’s being ported and created to the console, but as we all know, it’s nothing more than a niche nowadays, and if the Vita is an example, it doesn’t move units. Some stage presences felt weird, like the one from Sega, that didn’t show anything, and Suda that announced that he was working in a new No More Heroes.

On the Western side, we saw a clear lack of support. With EA’s presence revealing a Fifa, that may end up being an inferior game to the PS4 and XONE iteration. Also, nothing was talked about Mass Effect Andromeda, Battlefield, Madden or Star Wars coming to Switch. Bethesda’s 6 year-old Skyrim being confirmed to a brand new console. Ubisoft was a no-show, what surprised many, given that they were the first company to talk about the console, and the relationship they had during the Wii U generation, releasing exclusives such as ZombiU.

Despite their image that shows many studios working on projects for Switch, very few companies appear to be really interested in doing that. It can change, but it doesn’t look like huge franchises will make an appearance, like COD, Red Dead Redemption, GTA. Showing that maybe Nintendo didn’t learn from its past mistakes, alienating third-party studios, something that has proved to be extremely negative to any company. But in E3 that can change, as we can expect announcements for the Holiday Season.

What To Expect From Switch

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It’s still very early to tell, but in spite of having of having one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises in its release, there are some worrisome signs that this may be another failure from Big N. It doesn’t mean a lot, but the company’s stocks fell more than 5% after the announcement, exhibiting a concern from the market.

Zelda may be adored by hardcore gamers, but it doesn’t drive as many sales as gamers may believe. The biggest one was Twilight Princess, with more than 8 million copies in 2 consoles, the Wii and the Gamecube, less than Halo 3, that was available only on the 360 and moved 15 million. Their last big title, Skyward Sword, sold less than 4 million copies in a console with more than 100 million consumers, with an attachment rate of less than 4%.

It will drive units, but it’s not a system seller, as Super Mario Odyssey would be, that will only come out more than 6 months after the release. Pokemon, another massive franchise of the company, didn’t have any news, another waste of an opportunity of creating an AAA console game that could become a signature game for Switch.

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Nintendo has garnered a lot of goodwill in the past few months from gamers, with an effective trailer that even stole Red Dead’s thunder. But a lineup that looks pale in new titles could create another Wii U situation. And Nintendo can’t afford another failure, or it might become the next Sega, releasing only software.

Especially since the Switch is coming to replace not only the Wii U, but also the 3DS. And the most important distinction, if the market will it as a consider it as a portable that can be used as a console, or a console that can be used as a portable, might define its fate.

If the former happens, there’s a great chance of success, after all, there are no real competitors, and it can work very well as a strong portable with AAA games on the go. If the latter happens, we might witness Nintendo’s last hardware. It is a lot less powerful than its competitors, with a lot more unappealing lineup, and a shortcoming of important franchises that are vital to the success of any console, even if it’s perceived as the second option.

And it can represent its death, as what happened with the Gamecube and the Wii U, unless there’s a consistent stream of attractive games being released and a significant support from third-party studios.

The Smart Marketing of Mass Effect Andromeda

Usually when AAA titles are announced nowadays, a flood of trailers, clips, an infinite amount of gameplays and usually a significant part of plot is revealed. With the return of a huge franchise of the last generation, we expected a similar MO when it came to the promotion, but EA has been using a different approach to Mass Effect Andromeda’s marketing strategy.

The sequel to the revered trilogy, Mass Effect Andromeda is expected to be released in Spring 2017, working as well as a quasi-reboot to the franchise. Despite being announced a few years ago, we still don’t really know a lot about the project, with Bioware controlling information in a very interesting way.

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Some images have been shown, but in a very limited way, with most images revealing very few about the plot of the game or about the new characters. Showing planets, races that were part of the original trilogy, and a little about the main cast. The trailers followed suit, with those of E3 showing very few about the world, and the first gameplay being short, debuting the new jetpack that expects to be part of the gameplay overhaul.

The basic plot has already been announced, you take control of either Scott or Sara Ryder, a brother/sister duo, who are part of a military family. Your father is Alec Ryder, and you assume his role as the Pathfinder, an initiative that was established during Mass Effect 2. In that role, you’ll be responsible for discovering and exploring new planets in the Andromeda galaxy, with the return of the Mako as well as the loyalty missions.

In the last 2 N7 days (11/07) 2 trailers were released, last year’s was very simple and cryptic. This year’s was very different, with a whole lot more information, a take of the new ship, the revamped Mako, a little throwback to the original trilogy. What caught my eye was that even though the enemies were part of it, their faces weren’t shown, with the main villain only from behind, creating a nice feeling of mystery that we rarely see.

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To create awareness they used a more hands-on approach, announcing a multiplayer beta, that in spite of being seen as a side feature, seems to be receiving a great deal of attention, being part of the single player, with a 4-player campaign mode. All 3 titles became backwards compatible on the Xbox One, with all being added to the vault of EA Access, allowing new players to test the games that originated the franchise, and old players to reminisce on it.

A contest was revealed that allowed fans to voice smaller characters, being open to anybody, without any need to be a professional, making players a part of it. The Andromeda Initiative is a program focusing on bringing a lot of material about the title to their fans, working as Battlefield Insider does, but from what it looks like, expecting to bring even more information about the history behind this universe, the vehicles, races, amongst other things.

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This more low-key way of handling marketing feels like the best one, given that it has years since we’ve known about it, but no sign of a negative reaction has sparkled, as what happened to Watch Dogs. More news about its features, characters, are coming out as Game Informer’s story unveils, but no release date has been confirmed, showing a bigger concern of EA with this franchise, a strategy that can really pay off to the company.

Expectations for Fall Season

Fall Season has arrived upon us with the release of the acclaimed Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Batman: The Telltale Series, amongst other games, the best time of the year has come to destroy our wallets and our savings, and warm our hearts, and I’ll talk about some of my personal expectations regarding some releases from September to December, a few major titles may not appear here, but after all it’s my most expected, so…

September

Recore

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To kick things off, a game that had an enticing reveal trailer that left gamers intrigued with the concept of a heroine being assisted by robots that could evolve, and the relationship dynamic around it, Recore, will be released on the 13th, with concerns surrounding the title due to a lack of a marketing push from Microsoft, mixed reception from previews, however the team behind it is composed of industry veterans, known for the Metroid Prime and Megaman series, and from what it has been shown that’s a title that may not have the most complex story or amazing graphics, but a fun and interesting gameplay.

Forza Horizon 3

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One of my favorite franchises, and one that has maintained a steady level of quality throughout its iterations, showing great and considerable improvements, Forza Horizon 3, out on the 27th, seems to elevate the level of the franchise, that will premiere on PC, and spin the story, from an unknown driver fighting for recognition, now you are the man or woman behind the Horizon Festival, organizing the events, hiring your friends and firing them if they don’t perform, all with one of the most beautiful settings anyone could ask, Australia, from the coast to jungles, with breathtaking vistas, and the stunning graphics and great gameplay we’ve come to expect from the franchise.

Destiny: Rise of Iron

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A game that has transformed a lot from the troubled release, with terrible reviews and expectations being shattered, to last year’s The Taken King expansion, that I have to admit I enjoyed a lot more that I’d expected, Destiny: Rise of Iron, out on the 20th, is a new promising expansion with new missions that will expand on the franchise’s lore and improve the story in meaningful ways, multiplayer changes, a raid, all while leaving last generation behind, what looks like a great move, bringing new gameplay and graphical possibilities, preparing the market for next year’s Destiny 2 expected release.

October

Mafia 3

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This is a surprise for me,  especially since I’ve never played any game of this franchise, Mafia 3, out on the 7th, has turned into my most expected for the entire year, with the promise of a grueling and mature story, of a former soldier, Lincoln Clay, coming back from war to find his family and city, New Bordeaux, torn apart by crime, displaying his climb through the ranks, tackling tough themes that we hardly see in any games, such as racism, prostitution, and the dark side of crime and America, all with a soundtrack that has everything to be one of the best ever and a concern on world-building that looks into enhancing the atmosphere of the US in the 60’s, that if done properly, can create a remarkable experience.

Titanfall 2

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The open multiplayer beta didn’t really help creating any hype, actually going on the opposite direction, tampering players expectations, mainly due to the pace, that is slower than Titanfall 1, and modes that didn’t feel right with the gameplay, Titanfall 2, out on the 28th, has the difficult task of bringing the franchise to a whole new level, with the a single player campaign that looks like a buddy story between the soldier and his titan, and I still can’t wrap my head around how they’ll be able to bring the multiplayer speed to the campaign, while telling a compelling story, but team behind it has professionals responsible for the revered COD: MW 1 campaign, so let’s give it a chance.

Battlefield 1

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After an entire generation of modern and future war games, the Battlefield franchise returns to historical wars, focusing on one that doesn’t have enough representation on video games, WWI that was the background for the excellent Valiant Hearts, with Battlefield 1, out on the 21st, displaying a combat focused on closer interactions, old airplanes, more rudimentary tanks, weapons that don’t have a lot of range, making the battle more intense, and less dependant on technology, and promising to present a single player that will tell different stories with varied POV’s.

The Last Guardian

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This one is more due to pure morbid curiosity, after approximately 10 years of an arduous development, the team behind the classics Ico and Shadow of the Colossus will finally release The Last Guardian, out on the 25th, being the spiritual successor of the aforementioned titles, with years and years of hype, being announced originally for the PS3, it will be released on PS4 with worries regarding the graphics that look outdated, and the problem of a project that’s been through a long development cycle, the possibility of a game that comes out feeling old, with gameplay systems that don’t belong in this generation, chances are that the hype was too big to achieve but maybe a new classic is upon us.

November

Final Fantasy XV

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Speaking of morbid curiosity, I’ve never played a game of this franchise, a few hours of FF7 doesn’t count, Final Fantasy XV, out on the 29th, is another example of a game plagued by a long development cycle, will be released after several delays and name changes, being announced originally as FF Versus XIII in 2006, boosted by an aggressive marketing campaign that culminated in an event, called Uncovered, unveiling a multimedia strategy, with an anime series, a movie, Kingslaive, and demos, that brought the project back to the media in grand fashion, promising hours of a grandiose experience that will be fulfilling for novices as well as for veterans of the franchise, being influenced by western games such as Last of Us.

Watch Dogs 2

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The sequel of one of the most successful new IP’s of this generation, Watch Dogs 2, out on the 15th, aims to improve on the first title, that despite selling very well, failed to meet expectations, and had a release that tarnished Ubisoft’s brand due to the general feeling of deception, because of a downgrade and a final game that didn’t reflect the reveal trailer, however Watch Dogs 2 has been well received so far by the media, with previews presenting a sequel that heard the complaints and worked on them improving on every area, from driving to customization, and a new and beautiful setting, in San Francisco, with everybody expecting an improvement on the level of AC to AC2.

Dishonored 2

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After the rousing success of Dishonored, that despite being a new IP, had rave reviews being considered one of the best games of the year, Dishonored 2, out on the 11th, has 2 protagonists, Corvo, and his daughter Emily, both returning from the first game, with Emily being playable for the first time, presenting a world that will react to the player’s actions, with new possibilities of stealth, areas shifting physically, changing the perspective of the gameplay, new powers and a big focus on the story, that looks very interesting, with the city being an important part of it.

December

Steep

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Another surprise for me was Steep, out on the 2nd, that during the Ubisoft E3 press conference I was surprised they finished the presentation with this game, that looked so boring, and even though I’ve always loved extreme sports games, such as SSX and THPS, I couldn’t muster any excitement for Steep, but after watching a gameplay released during Gamescom, introducing the possibility to use 1st and 3rd person views, and embracing different styles like snowboard, ski, a sign of hope erupted that it may be an interesting game, not groundbreaking, but fun, and that’s why we play games.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

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Talking about fun, this may be the most fun and one of the funniest games of the year, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, out on the 6th, is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Stick of Truth, and now they poke fun of the superhero genre, with the hilarious E3 trailer demonstrating how the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe and no DC Universe will be torn apart, with the characters leaving the RPG stereotypes from the previous entry to dress up as heroes creating their own Universe, and being a worthy addition to a genre that hasn’t exploded on games yet.

As we can see there’s a plethora of games to play for the rest of year with some that weren’t mentioned here, like Gravity Rush 2, Dead Rising 4 and Bioshock remasters, COD: Infinite Warfare, just to name a few, and Indie games like Cuphead, do you remember another game? Leave it in the comments

 

 

 

 

How Evolve’s F2P Model and Star Wars BF’s offline mode are connected

In the past month, 2 news arrived that may not seem to have anything in common on the surface, the business model change of Evolve on PC, becoming a free-to-play (F2P), and a new offline mode that allows you to play matches of Star Wars Battlefront with bots, but these are different approaches to a problem that has been troubling developers everywhere as well as publishers, how to maintain a steady flow of players, something that has plagued not only these games as other multiplayer focused titles, but we’ll talk more about them in another moment.

Evolve, formerly known as Metamorphosis, was bought by Take-Two from THQ after the company filed for bankruptcy, was released in February hoping to be the biggest example of a genre that looked like had everything to take off, the asymmetrical multiplayer, where 5 players (1 as the monster and 4 as the hunters), received universal praise ahead of its release, previewing very well, but as we know their post-release was very turbulent.

Star Wars Battlefront was released in November 2015, to an amazing amount of hype, for being the first Star Wars game under EA’s licensing deal, and the imminent release of The Force Awakens, promising to be the perfect FPS for casual gamers, presenting incredible graphics, a special attention to sound, recreating iconic environments, battles and sounds from one of the most regarded franchises ever.

Both games were financially successful with Evolve selling over 2,5 million copies, a respectable number for a new IP, and Battlefront selling over 13 million worldwide, being one of the best-selling games of 2015, critically they received mixed to positive reviews, with 77 (PC) and 75(XOne) respectively.

But post-release the reception of gamers worldwide was far from receptive, with both games being criticized for being incredibly light on content, with Evolve having most of it locked under a predatory DLC strategy, with 2 season passes, feeling like a pay-to-win at times, repetitive maps, lack of game modes, whereas Battlefront for having only 4 maps, generic modes, lack of characters, and an insanely expensive season pass of $50,00, that created an uproar online for being a game that cost $110,00 to be fully played.

With this debacle bringing repercussions such as a quick drop in the price to Evolve, with the game being on sale weeks after its release, like Battleborn, and for both games, which are multiplayer-only, the worst scenario possible, empty servers despite millions of copies being sold. With PC players in both titles having difficulty to find matches, and a piffling number of players on consoles, with Battlefront losing to BF4, a game that has been released 3 years ago.

And these news show studios that are looking to bring back players that left their games long ago, or keep the few that still are there, with Turtle Rock celebrating 1,000,000 players since their model change, but as steam stats show on the 1st August, 12,931 actively played it, and DICE looking to fulfill a long-requested featured, even though it’s not the one we expected, aligned with free trials, with both examples showing different ways to tackle the same situation that in an age of great competition has yet to be resolved, the difficulty of maintaining a healthy player base.

Branding and games: EA – How the change of leadership affected the brand

Both in 2012 and 2013 EA was voted as the worst company in America mainly due to practices like day-one DLC’s, purchases followed by the closure of smaller studios, mandatory use of online passes, microtransactions in their games and the troubled launch of SimCity’s reboot, that required an online connection and didn’t feature any offline modes.

But in September 2013, Andrew Wilson, former head of EA Sports was named the company’s new CEO, what triggered a change of strategy looking to modify the market and consumer’s POV regarding the company, with a focus on the four vectors of brand tangibility: product, environment, communication and behaviour.

When it comes to product, their approach to the way they released games, content suffered adjustments, for example the end of online passes that affected customers that really bought their games, not those who pirated it, the revival of highly praised franchises like Mirror’s Edge, please bring back Skate, inclusion of an offline mode to The Sims 4, an attention to indie games with Unravel’s release, announcement of Fe and EA Originals, a program that looks to invest on indie studios, with the sales going directly to them.

On environment, since we are talking about a company with digital products the manner it is handled is a little bit different, and EA Access is an example of that, instead of trying a game inside a physical space, you can obtain extended demos of the full product, with a nice, modern app which presents games that are about to be added to the vault, demos, when they’ll be available, another case was when during Playstation Experience games were offered free charge, and a modification of their PC platform Origin, offering classic games as gateways to experience their catalogue.

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Their style of communication was transformed, with a far more jovial, contemporary attitude and closer to consumers, with a small change to the logo, possessing a more streamlined visual, a unification of the company with the use of only one engine, being the best example EA Play, that represented a departure from E3’s show floor, to a separate event that allowed gamers that otherwise wouldn’t have access to their titles to demo them, bringing them closer diminishing their dependence on media’s opinion, as well as insider programs to games yet to be released, with news from betas and features.

Last but not least, EA’s communication went through an overhaul, going from a stronger bravado to a friendlier company, that cares about eSports, releases surveys about their products and services, targeting on listening to players opinions and a better use of charismatic executives,  bringing them upfront, like former Xbox head, Peter Moore, Andrew Wilson and EA studios head Patrick Söderlund, becoming the faces of the company, creating a bigger connection to gamers, like Playstation did successfully.

All these decisions led to a change of vision towards the company, that still makes mistakes like Star Wars Battlefront season pass, but they appear to be on the right track on to becoming a respected and who knows a beloved company to gamers, the catalogue they have, with EA’s sports titles, the Star Wars license and relevant franchises, along with a management that has made the right decisions with satisfying results.

 

 

 

Branding and games: EA – What Battlefield 4 meant for EA

On this second text focusing on EA, I’ll talk about how the troubled release of Battlefield 4, the company’s biggest franchise, represented the beginning of a turning point for the company, that was going through a transitional moment, amidst a change of leadership, the arrival of a new generation of consoles  and a recently announced partnership with Disney regarding the Star Wars Franchise.

Released on October of 2013, Battlefield 4 was the first entry of the renowned franchise on the PS4/Xone generation, and it was received by positive reviews being recognized by the great multiplayer, but feeling as a small step forward after the incredible success of Battlefield 3, being of one of the most played titles til this day.

But despite the good reception, the title presented an incredible amount of problems during its release, with a myriad of issues such as bugs, glitches and crashes across all platforms, taking more than one year to be completely functional, causing a stop to the development of DICE’s projects, like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Star Wars Battlefront, in order to fix the game.

From that moment on EA decided to have a different approach towards its titles, concentrating their attention on quality over quantity, especially due to the damage the Battlefield franchise image suffered, and we clearly saw some signs of the way they treated their latest releases.

Like for example, an increase on the number of delays, like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst that went through several delays to improve various aspects of the title, the spin-off Battlefield Hardline, that surprisingly was postponed from the Fall of 2014 to March of 2015, representing a change of pace to the franchise, that was on its way to becoming annual, being that a move that surprised the industry.

Another modification was the way betas happened, with an increase in the number of tests to measure the stress on servers, the state of titles, with some having multiple betas, like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, BF: Hardline, and titles you wouldn’t expect like Need for Speed, with a very successful Star Wars: Battlefront beta, and it has presented good results with EA’s titles having smooth releases, with minor problems but nothing close to BF 4 fiasco.

Despite being one of the most successful title of the company, BF 4 started a transformation in the company, that helped developing the corporate brand improving the market’s point of view, by managing their assets well, with quality coming first, a mindset that has fortunately spread through the industry when it comes to big companies.

E3 Highlights

This was a very fascinating year for E3, with many leaks diminishing the excitement regarding some conferences, but with some great surprises and rumours confirmed but sometimes not as reported before, here are some of my personal highlights and low points of the show.

What was great

The orchestra at Sony conference

Even though most of the games didn’t have a proper release date as some complained, it was a real show for fans, being considered by many as the best one, and the orchestra was a big part of that, creating an environment of an event, of something really grandiose, enhancing  the gameplays and showing that to make a great conference you don’t need to focus on the technology but on putting on a show for the viewers, and they were extremely successful at it.

Horizon Zero Dawn

My most anticipated game prior to E3, Guerrilla Games presented us a demo of Horizon that only made my confidence in the quality of this game bigger, giving a sneak peek of the world, the wildlife, the way the robots are seen as corrupted, and a little bit about the leading character, Aloy, played by Ashly Burch, that did an amazing job as Chloe in Life is Strange, showing a strong, fearless woman on a quest for her origin, with amazing graphics and a world that seems to have some very enticing secrets.

Forza Horizon 3

One of my favorite franchises, with Forza Horizon 2 being my favorite racing game in years, Forza Horizon 3 had an amazing showing in the Microsoft conference, with a beautiful environment, using Australia as the setting, with a huge variety of landscapes, from beaches to forests, with breathtaking graphics and some very interesting innovations with off-road racing, co-op, and a world that seems more lively and even more relaxed.

Prey

A long rumoured return happened in Bethesda conference, with the revival of Prey, being a complete reboot of the franchise, with a Groundhog Day style trailer, that started very mysteriously, and with so many questions, such as the red-eye, the what it seems to be the leading character’s Doppelganger, turning Prey into a modern FPS with horror elements.

Spider-man PS4

Confirming rumours an exclusive PS4 game of the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man is coming, but unlike reported it will come from Insomniac Games, the studio behind Ratchet & Clank franchise and the amazing Sunset Overdrive, with a trailer that made every Spidey fan around the world go crazy and happy to know that the character is in good hands after years of mediocre games.

Crash

Crash

After years of expectation and requests by the Bandicoot fans, Crash returned in great fashion in Sony conference, and I have to say when that song started playing I had a smile on my face, with the announcement of his participation in Skylanders and the best one, a complete remaster, from the ground up, of the first 3 titles of the franchise to the PS4.

Resident Evil 7

Another confirmed rumour was of Resident Evil 7, at Sony stage, but as it turns out it surprised everybody with a trailer that was surprising, especially because it didn’t show any characters, places, nothing that reminded the franchise, with a release date announcement, a demo, the surprise that Capcom’s Kitchen Demo that was highly praise was a concept test to the game, and the biggest one, the fact that it’s compatible with VR and is now in first-person.

We Happy Few

An indie game that has garnered attention for a while received a demo as the biggest title in the ID@Xbox program, with a look that reminds of Bioshock, in a presentation that perfectly displayed the world of the game, and a little bit more of the story, in which pills that were supposed to make the characters happy, seem to make them “blind” to the horrors of the world, being regarded in the media as one of the best games, stealing the show.

Gears of War 4

The biggest title this year in Microsoft’s lineup, Gears of War 4 did a great job with a demo that successfully showed the game’s innovations, the use of Xbox One power with stunning visuals and a weather effect that really affected the battlefield, a different use of the co-op, a better look on Kait Diaz, played by the brilliant Laura Bailey, and served as a statement that the franchise is in good hands.

Kojima

Kojima

After the tumultuous departure from Konami, and the announcement of the partnership with Sony, legendary designer, Hideo Kojima, took the stage lauded by the audience, showing he was back presenting the trailer of his first project with the company, Death Stranding, full of symbolism, and the unexpected reunion with Norman Reedus after the debacle of the Silent Hills project.

Watch Dogs 2

Part of the amazing but overly long Ubisoft presentation, Watch Dogs 2 showed a gameplay demo that showed that Ubisoft’s second entry improvement happened here, with a leading character having an appealing character, instead of Aiden Pierce, a world better realized, beautiful but believable graphics, and a mission that seemed like a real upgrade from Watch Dogs stale structure.

What was horrible

Since I don’t hate people, I won’t put any videos of the worst moments of the event.

EA’s conference

What an anticlimactic way of beginning E3, a presentation that was a real snoozefest, with the long esports segment taking precious time and not appealing to the audience, the lack of real games, with projects we’ll only see 2018, 2019, the infamous developers mini documentaries, and no real news of much-anticipated games and almost no gameplays.

Lack of gameplays

Speaking of gameplays, a worrying trend that happened during EA’s and Bethesda’s conferences was the lack of gameplays, with both companies favouring concept and CGI trailers to real gameplay, creating presentations that seemed like a look at the future and that had some very underwhelming moments in part due to no real exciting gameplay of anticipated games like Mass Effect Andromeda and Amy Hennig’s Star Wars.

So Much Talking

One of the reasons why Sony was so successful was the fact that they only focused on games, whilst some conferences focused on talking, on an event in which we want to see games and games only, from Ubisoft’s long interviews, the long Assassin’s Creed movie conversation, behind the scenes footage, EA’s talking of future projects, esports, the specifications of console and Xbox Live new features talk at Microsoft, moments that could have been used to display new projects were used to moments when viewers lost attentions.

Boring and overly long demos

One of my favorite conferences was the one from Ubisoft, but one thing that everybody agreed was the fact that their demos were too long, clocking over 2 hours, with more than 10 minutes at times, and moment that didn’t appear to work well together as in South Park demo, the disconnected Dishonored 2 demo, that seemed that drag the duration of the conference, creating an underwhelming ending for a good show, and the demos of FF XV, Scalebound, that didn’t create any excitement during the demos despite of the grandiose set pieces or as in Minecraft, that seemed too forced.