The Tokyo Game Show is on this week, showing us how the U.S. and Japanese game industries are following similar trends, yet growing further apart. Just like over here, social and mobile gaming are very popular in Japan. At the same time, few of those games are crossing borders, and it seems like fewer core Japanese games are being translated lately as well. For instance, for the past couple generations, almost all major games from Square Enix could be guaranteed to come over here, but that's no longer the case. We'll take a look at that trend later, but first, it's time for wacky hardware patents!
Microsoft Patents Muscular Game Control
Microsoft's Kinect system has proven that controller-less gaming is quite possible, but it has its limitations in terms of precise gaming control. It appears that Microsoft is exploring solutions to that issue, as the company has patented a wearable sensor system that allows a player's facial, arm, leg, and even chest muscles to control a game. The company calls this system a "Wearable Electromyography-Based Controller," and it aims to use the electrical signals generated by muscle movement to send information to the attached sensors.
Of course, many of these kinds of patents never turn into actual technology, but it's nice to see Microsoft looking into ways to make a controller-less experience more accurate and responsive. Of course, attaching sensors all over one's body seems like a bit of an onerous task; one not quite compatible with the "pick up and play" philosophy behind the Kinect. Perhaps the company can find a way to make this kind of system convenient, though. It will be interesting to see!
There's No Escaping Politics
Up here in Canada, we're able to watch the United States election campaign without having to deal with the accompanying barrage of ads. Those of you living south of the border certainly don't need to be told that political ads are everywhere, and it seems that even games aren't safe from them anymore. President Obama bought in-game advertisements during his 2008 campaign, and he's doing so again this year. Gamers in several states are geared to see Obama ads in Madden NFL 13 and on several of EA's casual and mobile gaming portals.
It appears that Republican candidate Romney hasn't yet hooked into games as a method of getting his message out, but that could always change. As games become an ever-more-important part of popular culture, they're going to be targeted by more companies and groups who hope to get their message out to gamers.
It's no surprise that Microsoft is hooked on the Halo franchise, which remains hugely popular despite Bungie's departure as the developer of the franchise. In fact, Microsoft is so confident in Halo's future that it has now registered domains for Halo 7, 8, and 9. 343 Games, the current franchise developer, is dedicated to creating Halos 4-6, but it looks like Microsoft hopes to see a third Halo trilogy. It looks like our children won't have to worry about living in a dystopian future bereft of the heroics of Master Chief III, Son of Son of Master Chief.
Big Publishers Want to Get Their Grubby Mitts on Kickstarter
So far, Kickstarter has been used as an outlet for game developers to get funding for projects that major publishers refuse to back. Many of these projects are from game genres that are no longer deemed popular enough to make major bank, like point-and-click adventure games and turn-based RPGs.
With the major success of projects like the Double Fine Adventure and the Ouya Kickstarter, big publishers are starting to notice the potential of crowd-funding. Of course, the "crowd" wouldn't look terribly kindly on a giant corporation going on Kickstarter and begging for funds for a project. So, apparently, these corporations are attempting to use small game developers as a front.
In a Q&A on its Project Eternity Kickstarter page, Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart noted that several publishers had approached his company, wanting to use it to post a Kickstarter. Urquhart stated that the publishers wanted Obsidian to post a Kickstarter that would fund the development of a game, but the publisher would then publish the game, keep the rights to the IP, and only give Obsidian a portion of the profits. Obsidian declined these offers, opting to run its own Kickstarter and keep full rights to (and profits from) its upcoming game—but if these companies have approached Obsidian, they've surely approached other small companies as well.
Will any small companies take this bait? Could we unwittingly be crowd-funding projects that are going to be published by a company that has plenty of money to fund those projects itself, but decided to take our money and make pure profit instead? Do we care if this happens? Kickstarter is still a grand experiment, and we're only likely to find out the answer to these questions a few years down the road, when all these projects start to actually come out.
BioWare Doctors Step Down
In the world of Western RPGs, BioWare experienced a major change this week as its two founders, Doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, announced that they were stepping down to pursue interests outside of game development. These two industry vets have been steering the company for almost twenty years, which is an impressive amount of time in this industry.
While Muzyka is pursuing a new career as a mentor for young entrepreneurs, Zeschuk has stated that (among other things) he'll be spending time pursuing his passion for craft beer, including making a web-based interview show called The Beer Diaries. Pretty neat on both accounts. As gamers and co-workers alike wish the Doctors all the best and thank them for their many contributions to gaming, BioWare is busy assuring fans that this change won't fundamentally alter the company's direction for the future. Along with making Dragon Age III: Inquisition, which is scheduled to be released late next year, BioWare is pursuing a new Mass Effect game and launching an entirely new core gaming franchise.
As someone who has enjoyed many BioWare games over the years, I offer my personal best wishes to the Doctors, and look forward to seeing what BioWare delivers in the future.
Date: September 21, 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.*