It isn't easy to spend time researching game industry news when all I really want to do is smack various monsters around with my chakrams in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Fortunately, a good news story featuring Tim Schafer's Double Fine has roused me from my action RPG coma, and thus will be the star of this installment of The Weekly Dish. We've also got some positive financial news out of Japan, and a quick discussion of an interesting rumor about the next Xbox.
Double Fine Productions Has a Double Fine Week
Veteran game developer Tim Schafer has been shaking things up in the gaming world lately. His Double Fine studio has most recently made news by developing some of the best Kinect games out there. Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster reminded us that kids games don't have to be bad, and Happy Action Theater looks like a great deal of fun at parties. This week, however, Schafer and his company have been all about the kinds of classic games that his fans remember with fondness.
Fans of the cult hit Psychonauts have clamored for a sequel for years, but the critically acclaimed yet poorly selling title isn't the type of thing most publishers are willing to fund. Schafer recently mentioned in an interview that he's pitched Psychonauts 2 to several publishers, but nobody has bitten, and said that he just needs a few million dollars in funding to make the game. Enter Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson, who Tweeted Schafer, saying, "Let's make Psychonauts 2 happen." Persson is now reportedly in talks with Double Fine about the proposed project, so we'll see what happens.
Overshadowing the Psychonauts 2 news, however, is the Kickstarter project that Double Fine posted on Wednesday. Schafer was one of the main creators of the famous Monkey Island adventure game series, and many fans have hoped to see him develop that kind of game again. Knowing that point-and-click adventure games are no more popular with publishers than cult hit platformers, Double Fine decided to experiment with Kickstarter, a site designed to allow the public to fund projects in which it is interested. They put up a month-long Kickstarter campaign for a traditional point-and-click adventure plus making-of documentary yesterday. The goal was to raise $400,000 dollars, a modest amount for a modest downloadable project.
The result set a record for the most money made in twenty-four hours for a Kickstarter project, and as of this writing, almost one million dollars have been pledged. Funders who spend at least $15 will receive a copy of the game and beta access, and larger pledged amounts earn backers various kinds of swag from Double Fine. A very happy Schafer has stated that all money over the $400,000 goal will be used to make the game available on more platforms, in more languages, have better visuals and sound, etc. Will this rousing success inspire more well-known game companies to fund projects with Kickstarter? Can such projects succeed without the involvement of a beloved game industry figure like Schafer? It will be interesting to watch and see what happens next!
Last week, we focused on a few companies whose fortunes have been going down lately. This week we have news from a couple companies that are doing better than expected, although the news might not be so good for hardcore gamers. Square Enix, which lost money in the last fiscal year, reports that it expects to make a reasonable profit in this fiscal year (which ends in March). Although best-known for its Japanese RPGs, Square Enix's current profitability is largely due to the success of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and from revenues made via social and mobile gaming.
Fellow Japanese game company Konami also reports rising profits, with a major increase of net income in the last nine months that mostly came from the success of the company's social games in Japan. Although some of Konami's traditional games like the Metal Gear Solid series saw success this year, I wouldn't be surprised to see even fewer console games from Konami in the near future.
It's nice to see struggling companies like Square Enix and Konami find success, but is relying on the notorious social gaming sector a good long-term plan for any game company? There are already signs that the social gaming bubble could burst in North America, as players become weary of games that have been scientifically designed to get players hooked, then reel them in by making gameplay tiresome without cash expenditures. I don't know if social games have been similarly designed in Japan, but I wouldn't be surprised. Hopefully these companies won't lose sight of the game genres that made them what they are today, and will make some of the chances they'll need to produce successful traditional games once again.
No Used Games for You (No Soup Either)
There's been a rumor going around for the last couple weeks that the next Xbox won't allow gamers to play used games. As far as we can tell, this rumor has no grounding in reality, but used games are becoming an increasingly controversial topic around the industry. As GameStop and other brick and mortar stores increasingly push used game sales over new, game developers and publishers worry about losing revenue. The publishers don't make any money off used games, and orders of new games become reduced as stores aim to buy as few new games as possible and rely on higher-profit used game sales.
It wouldn't be technologically difficult for Microsoft to disallow used games by requiring an online key activation before a game would work on the next Xbox. That strategy has been in use in the PC gaming market for quite a while, and has basically killed off used game sales for PC. There are a lot fewer internet-connected consoles than PCs in North America, however, so requiring an online activation could be bad for sales of the next Xbox, especially if the next PlayStation doesn't follow suit. I'm going to guess that this "no used games" rumor is untrue for now, but don't doubt that game publishers will continue to look for ways to get players to buy their games new as much as possible.
Date: February 10, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*