Controversial EA Online Pass Program to be Phased Out

In an effort to discourage used game sales, publishers like Activision and EA have implemented an online pass system for their most popular titles in recent years. The plan was to make $10-15 off of pre-owned customers by charging them for online game access after the one-use code included with new copies of the game had been redeemed. Obviously, fans were understandably upset about this “used game tax”. Today, EA surprised us all by announcing an end to online passes for all EA-published games.

From GamesBeat:

“Yes, we’re discontinuing Online Pass,” EA senior director of corporate communications John Reseburg confirmed to GamesBeat in an e-mail. “None of our new EA titles will include that feature.”

 

“Initially launched as an effort to package a full menu of online content and services, many players didn’t respond to the format,” Reseburg said. “We’ve listened to the feedback and decided to do away with it moving forward.”

Additionally, EA plans to focus more on post-release content, which should have been their goal all around. When trying to sell to a customer, your product should be all about “yes, and” and not “no, but.” Gating content, or offering more? What’s more of a motivator for purchases? Clearly, the fans have spoken. Hopefully Activision will follow suit soon and help bring back the age of the game as a product, not as a service.

Google Play Game Services to Add Google Plus Integration

Google announced today that they’re bringing a new suite of services to Google Play that will allow Google+ integration for mobile games, including leaderboards, achievements, cloud-saving, and matchmaking. The free SDK will allow developers to add these services to games released on Android, iOS, and web platforms, save the matchmaking system, which is Android-only for the time being.

Via Polygon:

Greg Hartrell, lead product manager for the Google Play game services, told us that the strategy was both user and developer focused. “It’s user focused in the sense that we’re trying to reach out to the largest number of users,” Hartrell said. “And for developers, they want to maximize the size of the audience and the quality of the audience. Both of those things drove that decision.” They also drove the decision to offer the services outside of the company’s Android ecosystem.

If you read any of my posts, you know that I’m a big fan of making good things widely available. Nobody I know uses Google+, but the fact that these services will be available on Apple devices through downloaded apps is intriguing. It’s the equivalent of Sony finding a way for the next Xbox to somehow include Blu-Ray support without Microsoft okay’ing it. Apple doesn’t have a stake in Facebook, sure, but having your mobile competitor’s social network potentially be featured in your proprietary game offerings is amusing, at least.

MinoMonsters Seeking Expansion to Multiple Platforms

MinoMonsters

Ever hear about MinoMonsters? It’s one of the top 50 grossing apps available for iOS, but its Pokemon-style antics haven’t quite reached its full potential audience due to only being available on Apple devices.

That could all change, as GamesBeat reports that MinoMonsters (the company that named itself after its flagship game) has acquired Playcraft Labs in an effort to bring MinoMonsters to multiple platforms.

This means that we could very well see Minomonsters on Android in the near future. While it’s odd to think of the mobile platform as mobile platforms, it’s now the reality of the marketplace, and releasing games on Android as well as iOS is all but necessary to see full market penetration. I say this as someone who recently picked up and spent money purchasing items for Punch Quest after its Android release last week. Had it stayed solely on Apple devices, I never would have bought into it, and wouldn’t be enjoying myself so much.

Making your game available to more people is just good business, and with Playcraft’s help, more people might know what a MinoMonster is before the year is out.

Obscure Games on Tumblr

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While there’s nothing wrong with mainstream hits, I always find that you can learn the most about a medium by delving into its untapped annals. This is especially true with video games, and why I enjoy the Obscure Video Games tumblr so much.

Half the fun is seeing how many games you recognize or have played in the past. The rest is learning just how many titles have passed most of us by. No matter how deep you think you are into games, there’s something out there that you haven’t played, guaranteed, and this tumblr is a great collection of “lost” game experiences.

I recently went on a trip to find archived copies of games available through an old cable download service. Only one of them was remade for DOS; the rest are lost forever, as the service is long gone. It makes you wonder: How many games do we lose? How many experiences will we never get to share? It’s a little evangelistic, but I think celebrating the obscure in games is less hipster and more curatorial. That’s why I’m glad that a tumblr like this exists. Propagation of knowledge is how it survives, and while video games are a relatively unimportant part of the big picture, they’ve helped shape our popular culture, and are therefore worthy of protection and preservation.

Seth Meyers to Succeed Fallon on ‘Late Night’

Seth Meyers to Succeed Fallon on ‘Late Night’ – NYTimes.com:

Seth Meyers will be the next host of NBC’s “Late Night,” the network announced on Sunday. Enlarge This Image

[…]

The assignment will keep Mr. Meyers under the production leadership of Lorne Michaels, who will continue to serve as executive producer of “Late Night” as well as serving in the same position on Mr. Fallon’s “Tonight Show” as it moves to New York.

[…]

Mr. Michaels said: “The thing that’s staggering to me is that since 1982 there have been only three hosts, and Seth will be the fourth. And when you look at the company, it’s all pretty good company.”

Yay, more Seth Meyers! Weekend Update with Meyers has been my favorite part of SNL since I started watching it years ago.

Joss Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. coming to ABC this fall

It’s Official: Joss Whedon and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Ordered to Series by ABC – IGN:

We all assumed it was a sure thing, but it’s now finally official – ABC has picked up Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a series, debuting this fall.

Co-written by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen and directed by Joss Whedon, the S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot was filmed back in January – one of the earliest pilots to go into production this year. It was obviously a high profile project, both as an offshoot of the uber-successful Marvel movie series and specifically as a follow-up/spinoff of Whedon’s amazingly huge Avengers movie, the third highest grossing film ever. Along the way, ABC cautioned they had not given the greenlight to the project beyond the pilot stage, but it would have been shocking if it hadn’t been picked up, given all the factors involved. The massive success of Iron Man 3 only cemented the fact that a Marvel-centric TV series was a highly desirable commodity at this point.

This will probably be a really fun show. Now, cross your fingers and start hoping that ABC gives it a big enough effects budget.

Bioshock Infinite’s First DLC May Lack Elizabeth

During their two-part interview interview with Courtnee Draper, the voice of Bioshock Infinite‘s Elizabeth, Gameranx asked the actor about any upcoming DLC, as nothing has been announced yet in terms of what the Season Pass will contain.

Her reply:

Honestly, I know as much as you do. I know that there is going to be some DLCs that come out, but I honestly don’t know whem [sic] we’re going to record it, let alone the actual content! I’m sure they are starting to get back into it now but I haven’t heard anything yet. So, your guess is as good as mine!

This points to the possibility of Elizabeth being largely absent from the first DLC, and is supported by a 2k artist’s CV that hinted at the employee working on animation and R&D for a different AI companion. Not contacting her about voice sessions at a time when this DLC is most assuredly in development could mean we’ll be seeing another companion help Booker through his trials.

Like Doctor Who, but with more shooting.

What’s good about this bit of info is that it largely points to the Bioshock team holding off on producing the DLC until post-release. While DLC created during the end of a dev cycle isn’t inherently evil, and stands as a good way to use dev dollars and time to squeeze the most out of a project, DLC formed during this time tends to feel very much like the core game. More of the same, with little in the way of creative license. Look at the DLC for Dead Space 2 and Dead Space 3 for a good taste of how little you can change and still charge for it.

By waiting, as the case seems to be, Irrational Games has a chance to address player concerns and provide something totally new to flesh out the Infinite universe. Given how Infinite ends (no spoilers!) they could really go any number of ways, as the title suggests, and not including Elizabeth in the first — or all — of the DLC episodes may be the shot in the arm needed to bring players who have shelved Booker’s adventure back into the fold.

 

Capcom to Beef Up Online, DLC Development

Capcom’s recently released Overview of Strategies and Plans for the 2014 fiscal year reveals that the company is keen on making more revenue off of online games and downloadable content. Key points include a desire to “sell social games for many types of platforms” and “add more titles that are sold exclusively as downloads like ‘Dungeons and Dragons‘” (which I am personally very excited for).

To this end, Capcom will be releasing titles such as Monster Hunter Online in China, as well as browser games like Onimusha Soul in Taiwan to better reach the global market. There are also plans in place to promote their Beeline mobile brand more heavily by opening a fourth studio in Thailand.

Amongst all of Capcom’s plans and projections for the fiscal year, this makes the most sense. I’ve been playing mobile and online games almost exclusively these past few weeks, due solely to how quick, simple, and cheap they are. I also download way too many games off of the Xbox Live Arcade due to how cheap they seem compared to full retail games, and I love DLC extensions to my favorite titles. I know I’m not unique in either of these respects, either. So long as Capcom can focus on producing quality mobile, online,  and downloadable content, they might be able to keep a toehold in the market when everything shifts with the new console launches this Fall.

Of course, Capcom still has Monster Hunter 4 up its sleeve for the Japanese market, with expected total sales of 2.8 million units from its Fall/Winter release up to the end of the fiscal year.

Sony Removes Mobile Development Fee for Indies

While Nintendo is actively giving developers conversion kits to coax them into bringing their mobile titles to the WiiU, Sony is taking a very different approach by removing the $99 publisher licensing fee necessary to create games for the PS Vita. Word comes from Ars Technica that anyone can now download the SDK and produce games for the Vita, provided their efforts don’t contain any objectionable content.

Some Ars Technica insight:

It’s no surprise that Sony is doing everything it can to attract more developers to its portable. Sony has sold about five million Vita units worldwide, according to analyst estimates, a sales stall that has fallen well below Sony’s expectations. (Not to mention, there are roughly 30 million 3DS units out there.) Opening the system up even further to independent developers could help expand a mobile-phone style long tail market for Vita games while improving the system’s reputation for software selection.

This paragraph perfectly sums up why this is a great move. Do I want to convert my already-existing mobile game to the WiiU, or do I want the ability to craft a totally new exclusive experience and sell it to Sony and make some money right away? This is an excellent chance for small developers to get their games out there, and makes the whole market a lot more accessible. It doesn’t personally convince me to go get a Vita, due to a lack of games, but this is a step in the right direction.

Zachary Braff’s Kickstarter motives

Michael Schreiber at Boing Boing:

Maybe Braff and other independent filmmakers should be selling shares in their movies, not tickets to the after party. If they did that, those 35,000 investors would almost certainly act as guerilla marketers too. They’d have a real, tangible incentive to get the word out. In the end, the public would almost certainly get to see a lot more different types of movies… and a few of them might actually be pretty good.

As a backer of Braff’s Wish I Was Here, reading this article makes me feel an ounce of regret. I backed the movie because it sounded cool and had a funny pledge video, but I didn’t stop to think why Braff was using Kickstarter other than his proclaimed reason of editorial independence. But as stated in the article, Braff is not a villain, he’s a genius for trying something that works. I just wish there was a way for film makers to use the system laid out in the above quote.