Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Strategy For Buying Next-Gen Games

There are those out there who can afford to buy multiple consoles and every game release. But there are many out there who, like me, are not necessarily rich or poor, but who are more circumspect when choosing which games to buy. This then is a guide to saving as much money as possible for the best possible game purchases and bypassing as much non-essentials as possible. Given the rising cost of manufacturing hence retail prices for video games, then being more cautious in your spending is necessary. Not many will agree with me here, but I offer this strategy for those interested. Basically, at all times, rent and download demos before you buy anything. So many games will excel in one or two areas but fail miserably in a couple of others that they just end up collecting dust on your shelf. Table Tennis is an example of such a title. The two key factors are playability of a title long after its Single Player mode has been completed, and a diversity of games. Ideally, if you own 10 games, make sure you have an equal mix of FPSers, sports, rpg, racing and platform games. The other factor is buying the games that will always have the most populated lobbies months and years after release. Topspin 2, for instance, barely has anyone at all online anymore while the Single Player mode is far too tedious and monotonous to keep it playable. With the amount of FPSers being released on all consoles and PC's, personally they are all pretty much the same game experience. Most of the PC versions will outshine the console versions too. Almost every FPSer now is about Alien races in a war with mankind. Beyond this, there are minor changes in storyline. Prey, for instance, puts the main character as an American Indian who can acquire magic spells and adds gravity boots to the game mechanics. Honestly, there's nothing exciting about all these little differences. Essentially, you can box all these FPSers into one big pile of mediocrity as far as I am concerned. Every good console needs a good FPSer or two. The genre is definately an Online Multiplayer experience not to miss. However, the sheer proliferation of FPSer titles, most of which are mediocre, is a bad thing, and will require you to wisely choose the worthwhile ones. On the Xbox360, already there are far too many of them and many more coming soon. When choosing which one(s) to invest in, I recommend keeping your head out of the clouds and waiting for rentals, demos and reviews. There is no benefit whatsoever in owning 10 FPSers at the moment, when the Killer Apps like Halo 3 are looming near. Most of those games will cease to provide you with enough online players once the Killer App FPSers arrive. Most of them are not utilizing the multi-core horsepower of the system like the Killer Apps will. 2007 will be a landmark year for overall next-gen gameplay/graphics/AI utilizing the system's horsepower. It would be better to find that one or two 2006-release FPSer that definately has long-term playability to see you thru till 2007 when the higher grade 2nd-gen games start releasing. Buying willy-nilly will only aggravate and discourage the next-gen console owner, no matter the genre. With a game like Gears Of War reaching such high levels of hype, often the expectation or final product falls short of the hype. Chromehounds, for instance, had been much hyped, but as most would already be aware, the demo was a letdown. I don't want to offend anyone's own perceptions, but there have been a lot of demos already released that in my impartial opinion are a letdown to the hype and the expectations of what "next-gen" is supposed to represent. Games like MotoGP, Lost Planet, King Kong, NCAA 07, Prey, Chromehounds, etc, are not captivating or worth the bother. Most of them will lack enough online players to keep the game playable. Most of them are only minor graphical/gameplay advancements on current-gen games. With FPSers, there are a number of games gaining worldwide hype and awards. Gears Of War, Halo 3, Brothers In Arms, COD3, Huxley, Assassins Creed, Crysis. There are also many more out there released or soon to be released like Prey, Lost Planet, Hitman, GRAW, Mass Effect, Too Human, Timeshift, Stranglehold, etc. The likelihood is that most of the latter ones will not stand up to the former ones in overall quality, features, and playability. Bypassing all those latter ones and waiting for the demos/reviews/previews of the former ones is probably a better bet. By that time, there is a good chance that even some of the former games are disappointments, leaving only a definite few worth the wait. Only a handful of all those games will truly become Killer Apps anyway. Of all the Alien vs Human type FPSers planned, the only ones probably worth waiting for are Gears Of War, Halo 3, Huxley and Crysis (if/when it arrives). To me, a game like Mass Effect, while visually stunning in the RPG sense, leaves a lot to be desired in the FPSer stakes. It essentially is NOT a FPSers, while GOW is essentially a FPSer. So, online multiplayer playability and graphics/gameplay will most likely favor GOW and not Mass Effect. A game like GRAW was visually stunning and deep, but does not have the same fun/playability as COD2 does online. It wasn't such a difficult thing to have to choose one over the other. Both are great games, but only one really retains online fun and populated lobby factors. This sort of hard decision-making is required to avoid those costly purchases that you will only rue in hindsight. Sometime in 2007 the lobbies of GOW, Halo 3 and Huxley will be full of thousands of people while games like Mass Effect, Prey, Lost Planet, Hitman, Battlefield2, etc, will be barren. There is only a certain amount of times you can pick up a game and be excited about killing another horde of Aliens or squad-based shooter. A lack of realism and fun in either game mechanics, graphics, or control will also kill off an interest in those games in you and in thousands of other online players. It's an overkill in my opinion, so choose only the very best. COD2, for instance, has been a highly popular game for finding players online. It has retained its playability long after January 2006 when most people defeated the Single Player mode. It has just the right balance of realism, fun, graphics, mechanics and control, while GRAW suffers from being too much or too less in the same categories. With so many FPSers (and alien v human FPSers) out there and to be released, it would be better to own just the very best handful of titles as you will probably be so addictively attached to a game or two for many many months that you won't have the time to spend on other FPSers, let alone all the other top titles from all the other genres of racing, rpg, sports, and platform. Of the other War games, based on mankind vs mankind, games like COD3 and Brothers In Arms are a sure-bet. With Sports, and other genres, the same principle applies. Why waste time/money on NCAA 07 when Madden 07 will be the main online game with the most Single Player features and better gameplay? Usually, with sports games, there are only the same titles once a year for each new season of NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL. So this is an easier genre to choose from. Again, though, with 2K and EA competing in all but the NFL titles, it will be better to choose the very best title from each sport and not both. Pay close attention to the demos and rentals of those titles and the online/single player features that each developer is offering. Games like WWE, Dead Rising, Saints Row, etc, might be better to skip also. The reason is that with so many games now reaching Sandbox capabilities, the easy mistake is to be excited about that. But, the reality is that the gameplay/AI/mechanics/graphics are still very much last-gen for most if not all of these games. A game having 100% interactive environments and/or MMO capabilities is not enough in itself to justify buying. Almost every game in this next-gen will have 100% interactive environments and/or MMO capabilities. It will become standard essential features in a game. But the gameplay/graphics/AI can and will still hit or miss as always. There will be a few games that will deliver more next-gen graphics/AI and playability than many other games that feature 100% interactive environments and MMO capabilities, whether they're in the same genre or not. The buying trap here and always is that a person could be too easily convinced to buy a game for being touted as having 100% environment interaction, for having MMO, for having next-gen graphics, or for having plenty of online multiplayer features. This has been the most hyped up aspect about the whole next-gen era. So almost every game now will seem to possess one or more of these features. Merely possessing them is very different from excelling in them, or innovating within them. The next-gen console owner should always remain vigilant so as to discriminate between the worthwhile titles and those which will only disappoint. Rent, download demos, scan the reviews/previews, make tough decisions, pick and choose wisely between games that are all similarly themed FPSers, choose only those that definately will become killer apps that will provide long-lasting playability online and Single Player, make sure you have an equal variety of different genres in your library, steer clear of buying those games that you know will only provide a month or two of playability before that better similar other game releases, and take it for granted that the hype of next-gen will be touting features like sandbox and MMO, so look beyond that or behind that. With games retailing for generally $60 now, a too hasty purchase will mean your game is worth half that in a trade-in. Considering the Xbox360 does tend to scratch the disc quite a bit with minimal usage, then it only decreases the second-hand value of that game in a trade-in or eBay. This will apply even more to PS3 owners with Blu-Ray games rumored to be anything from $10 to $30 more costly, and the unconfirmed rumored software licensing on games. For the Wii, so far, most of these sorts of hi-tech costs and concerns are not saddled with it. With the console rumored to be no greater than $250 itself, then games will almost certainly be cheaper than current Xbox360 titles. Anyone purchasing the Wii will probably have a greater financial pool devoted towards games, and will have a greater leeway to make the odd mistake or two in choosing games they ended up wishing they hadn't bought.


Blogger Zucas said...

Wonderful analysis. Many people I know could definetly need this. Most people are continuously getting caught up in the pretty picture or one extra feature you can do but really that is all just a gimmick to last gen and will still be just an average game. Devs are trying to take the easy way out by making all these little gimmicks off of next gen hype and really afterwards the game will be terrible. I've said it with Prey before and no one believed me but as you can see I was right.

It makes you wonder about how necessary the Nintendo Wii will be. I mean people throw it off as a gimmick but with developers for the 1st time ever with the Wii looking more into the game of how it will be controlled and how you can incorporate that in old, new, and different games makes them think about something other than pretty visuals or other gimmicks of next gen. I mean of course Wii games will have their supposed next gen ups but I think the wiimote will get more than any could ever imagine. Maybe this is what the industry really needs as you can see from just early X360 games. How about turning mediocre games into wonderful games just through a simple intuitive immersive control.

7/18/2006 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger gg said...

Well, what's on offer so far leaves a lot to be desired. People, including myself, have gotten overly excitable at all the info and previews of upcoming games, but when they release they are just the same-old rehash with a few extra bells & whistles.

I read somewhere that with the escalating costs of development, that developers will probably focus on rehashing proven titles into multiple sequels...meaning, there's not much freedom to explore new IP's with innovations beyond the normal. Just little updates of past proven successful titles.

There is only so far an IP can go thru sequels. Sure, sports games need them, but how many Halo's or MSG's can it go before the story gets tired and the innovations get stagnated inside that IP with what a developer can do.

However, there still can be killer apps for the likes of Xbox360 or PS3 that will be breathtaking in graphical/gameplay sense. But there will be far too many mediocre games. We won't know what the Wii will truly deliver until later this year, but there is far more scope with the Wii in 'forcing' developers to think outside the box, to innovate around the Wiimote, and to come up with whole new IP's.

So, I am always keeping a close eye on Wii developments as it may end up being the better gaming console.

7/18/2006 12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous liberty wrestler said...

good analysis, i've found myself making tough decicions on games as well even last gen

with the wii that is one of the many perks having games being cheaper with a last gen price

7/18/2006 05:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7/21/2006 01:59:00 AM  
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7/22/2006 08:48:00 PM  

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