Screw you, Activision/Blizzard

So yeah, one of my most anticipated games of all time is getting the money grubber’s treatment courtesty of Blizzard and Activision. In case you missed it, at BlizzCon this year Blizzard announced that StarCraft 2 was going to be split into three titles, one for each race. Yep, instead of paying $50 and getting all three campaigns in one package, like you did in StarCraft, you’ll now have to pay $50 for three seperate packages. In speaking with IGN, Rob Pardo, executive vice president of game design, said a few things about the decision. Here’s a direct quote from the IGN piece (bolded emphasis is mine):

We really wanted to emphasize player choice a lot more,” he said. “We really wanted to tackle more of a branching storyline, [a] branching campaign; allow players to choose things like their own technology. And as we kind of developed [the game], we had to figure out how all there? How many missions do we actually need to tell an interesting story and what’s the player’s critical path to it? We have to make all of these tough design decisions about how this was going to work for us?”

“What we realized that whenever we put in the similar amount of content that we put in our previous games–as far as missions, characters, cinematics, things like that–it never really felt like the player had enough choice; it wasn’t really living up to what our hopes and dreams were at first. That’s when we realized we’re kind of at this fork in the road. We really have to make a choice. Do we want to back away from those philosophies? Or do we maybe just delay the game a lot and kind of do a little bit more? Or do we go for it?”

The whole quote is pretty circular and sounds like some dodging away from the obvious fact that this is nothing more than an attempt to milk the teat for all it’s worth. Yeah, maybe the campaigns are each going to be a bit longer, but do we really expect that each campaign will be as long as the previous StarCraft? That would be impressive if that’s the case, but somehow I really doubt it. Maybe I’m starting up the whining a bit early, but there’s no hiding the fact that it will cost $150.00 to experience the entire StarCraft 2 storyline. In a struggling economy, that’s a really steep tag to ask. I kind of hope that the strategy falls flat and gamers wait until cheaper 3-packs are available a year or two down the line rather than giving Blizzard and Activision the full asking price.

Click to enlarge.

What I’m guessing is that piracy on StarCraft 2 is going to be extreme. Gamers will probably buy the first title and find a way to get the other two installments through less than ethical means. I’m not advocating that, but I’m starting to understand why piracy is so much on the rise. You’re doing it to yourself, developers/publishers.

This is why Kotaku sucks (hint: it’s Brian Crecente)

This whole issue has passed and at first I refrained from commenting on it, but I think it’s still worth commenting on. Last week, Cheap Ass Gamer ran a contest within their community to see who could make up the best and most believable rumor. A few bloggers, including Kotaku’s Brian Crecente, picked up one of the rumors and ran with it. I’m not going to name the rumor, because it doesn’t really deserve any more attention, but the fallout of these blogs running stories based on the competition merits a little discussion. Once the Internet’s finest detectives flushed out that the source for the rumor was indeed CAG’s little contest, Brian was backed into a corner and forced to admit that he posted an unconfirmed bit of (fake) news. Of course, rather than showing some good humor and admitting his mistake, Brian did what he always does; he lashed out and decided to push the blame back into CAG’s hands. Below is what Brian said when he updated his original rumor post:

UPDATE: It appears that this rumor story could be CAG throwing their credibility out the window as part of a contest. Kotaku”s decision to run rumors is always based on the credibility of the site and the information contained within it. In the past CAG has proven to be a reliable site, having broken a number of stories through apt reporting. It appears that may no longer be the case.

Well, jeez, Brian…can you really blame this on CheapyD and CAG? Is that really fair? You failed to fact check, you failed to follow up on a lead, and you made the decision to run with a rumor that had no credibility in the first place. All you had to do was a little bit of simple digging and you could have easily found out it was all part of a fun community contest put on by CAG. Don’t blame CheapyD and Wombat for trying to have some fun with their readers and podcast listeners. Your arrogance in these sort of matters is what turned me off of Kotaku years ago and is the same reason I don’t visit the site today. It’s ok to be wrong, but it’s not ok to throw a site under the bus simply because you failed to do a simple thing like fact checking before hitting the post button. And no, CAG wasn’t throwing their credibility out of the window by running the contest, you were when you ran with the rumor in a sad attempt to beat your competition to the scoop. Bravo, Brian, bravo. Here’s what your update is really saying to me:

UPDATE: It appears that this rumor story could be me throwing my credibility out the window as part of a premature reaction. Kotaku”s decision to run rumors is always based on the ridiculous need to get lots of hits to drive up our click count to appease our traffic-hungry superiors. In the past CAG has proven to be a reliable site, having broken a number of stories through apt reporting which we’ve hastily grabbed and slapped on our front page. It appears that we may either need to start fact checking like most reputable sites and blogs or risk continuing to look like total clowns and amatuers.

For the record, Joystiq, Kotaku’s biggest competitor, refrained from posting the rumor that they were very much well-aware of. Joystiq and CAG good. Kotaku bad.

Lies in print: EA’s “misprint” on the Spore manual

Spore has received its share of anger from the gaming community due to its ridiculous DRM restrictions, and I think they rightly deserve the backlash, despite the fact that I’m playing the game (and enjoying it immensely) with my wife right now. Heck, even after the bellyaching over the DRM, I still picked up the game, simply because I refuse to pirate anything. Anyway, it CLEARLY states in the manual that you can have more than one account on a single install. It couldn’t be more obviously stated, in fact. However, when you go to create a second account (something useful for families with multiple users or couples), it’s simply not an option. When the issue was raised in the Official Spore Forums, EA gave a half-hearted explanation. Here’s the post made by EA_Violet on page 1 of the thread discussing the issue:

That section in the manual was a misprint and will be corrected in future printings of the manual. There is one Spore registration/account per game/serial code so you are correct in that you cannot make multiple accounts at this time. I have sent your guys’ feedback to the game team though since I can understand the desire to share a game on a system that you entire family uses.

~Violet

The thread has now grown to 28 pages of replies by angry and confused users. My contribution is as follows:

You know, I just can’t swallow this one. I bought the game because my wife isn’t much of a gamer but she’s been excited for Spore since I brought back footage from two E3 shows ago. We were told that we could each have our own account on the game, and the text in the manual confirmed it. Now we’re being told it was a misprint? Why can’t you guys just be upfront and honest and tell us that you pulled that feature but forgot to amend the manual? It’s obvious that’s what happened.

The DRM is a nightmare, but the flat out lying to your consumers is what is really inexcusable. Yes, the game is great and I’m enjoying it, but definitely at a diminished level due to my wife and I having to share an account. Inexcusable, EA, simply inexcusable.

So, Spore fans, even if you’re fully satisfied with the game, I don’t think it’s ok to allow this stuff to go on without at least voicing your concern for this sort of consumer robbing. You know who is avoiding these issues? The pirates. Yes, the pirates are playing the game DRM-free and loving it, while those that were considerate enough of Maxis’ work end up having to deal with harsh DRM and bold-faced lies. Thanks, a lot EA! This right here is why your PR is always right down in the toilet.

The growing thread over at the Spore forums can be found here: http://forum.spore.com/jforum/posts/list/103.page. As of the time of writing, there still has only been the single response from EA.

Feebay, Greedbay, ePay, etc.

eBay is changing some policies in October, and they really, really, suck. Ripped right from their notification, it says (bolding is mine),

“Paper payments end this October

Beginning late October 2008, all items listed on eBay.com must be paid for using one of the following approved payment options:
Direct credit or debit card payment via a merchant credit card account
PayPal
ProPay
Payment on pick-up
Paper payment methods such as checks and money orders will no longer be accepted on eBay.com.

By January 2009, all approved electronic payment methods will be integrated into eBay checkout. For example, buyers will be able to enter their credit card number directly into eBay checkout, and the payment will be routed to the seller’s Internet merchant account or to their PayPal account.”

Basically eBay is forcing everybody to pay through a method where they can skim off a transaction fee, which screws the seller just a little bit more. Whe you use PayPal to accept payment, eBay takes something like 4% of the transaction, which is already in addition to the seller fees. When it’s all said and done, eBay usually takes around a 10% commission on your sale. Now, I think eBay is entitled to some sort of money for each item sold, but do they really have to ding you twice if you’re only planning on using one of their services? eBay shouldn’t be interfering with the money transfer if the buyer and seller want to work out their own payment.

I’ve already stopped selling stuff on eBay if I could avoid it, but this is just another reason why gamers who are looking to unload their games online for cash should look to Amazon.com or Chase the Chuckwagon. eBay is getting greedier and greedier; but the tighter they squeeze those sellers for extra pennies, the more the dollars are going to slip by and into the pockets of sites that provide a better service.

Oh please…somebody just bomb EA Sports already

Ok, I’ll admit it. I have many EA Sports games sitting on my game shelves. From current and past years I have iterations of NCAA Football, Madden, Tiger Woods, and more. However, I really feel like EA goes out of their way to give me a solid nut punch whenever they can. NCAA 09 and Madden 09 both have their share of inexcusable issues, and FIFA 08 was pretty much broken in comparison to 07, but I was having very high hopes for FIFA 09 based on gameplay videos and early previews of the game. Now EA has announced Adidas Live Season for FIFA 09 that will “dynamically update player form in-game to mirror real world performance.” Sounds great, right? Well, it is, except for that EA is making you pay a premium for the service. In a recent press release, EA Sports said the following (emphasis is my own):

EA UNVEILS NEW ADIDAS LIVE SEASON FOR FIFA 09 THAT WILL DYNAMICALLY UPDATE PLAYER FORM IN-GAME TO MIRROR REAL WORLD PERFORMANCE

EA Secures Exclusive Licensing Agreement with Spanish La Liga BBVA; FIFA 09 Demo Available World Wide on Sept. 11

GUILDFORD, UK. – August 20, 2008 – Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS) today announced a new premium service for EA SPORTS™ FIFA 09 called adidas Live Season that will redefine the football videogame experience by dynamically updating player form in-game on a weekly basis so that player attributes mirror real-world performances. FIFA 09 will now feel and play differently throughout the entire 2008-2009 season matching the weekly rhythm of football. The new service will be available for Barclay’s Premier League, La Liga BBVA, Ligue 1, Bundesliga, Serie A and Mexican Primera Division on the PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system, the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system and PC.

Each year EA puts out another edition of each of their sports games with only the most minor changes (many times taking a step back in the process), and yet they still charge the full $60. Games like Madden are usually receiving a roster update and a new gimmick, with this year it being the ridiculously stupid Madden IQ. Now when they actually come up with something worthwhile, they decide to rake their fans over the coals. Haven’t we given you enough, EA? To those of us that are stupid enough to buy your marginally updated crap from year to year, don’t you think we deserve a returned favor or some acknowledgment of appreciation? Nah, I guess you’d rather squeeze each and every one of us for every penny we’ve got.

You already sold the naming of the feature to Adidas, shouldn’t that pretty much cover any costs incurred to run the service? Do you really need to turn us upside down and shake us? Thanks, EA, you’re awesome!

Probably the worst gaming article ever written

Now, this is bad. I mean, this is real bad. Either this is some serious moneyhatting or, well, can it really be anything else? Jane Wells, whom we all respect as a leading gaming journalist, has written a story for CNBC entitled, “The Ultimate Proof Sony is Winning”. This article is full of fun, so I’m going to post it and we’ll carve out a few select bits. Here we go:

Forget the analysts. Forget the NPD sales figures. Forget the CEO’s. I live with the ultimate expert on the video game industry—my 16-year-old son.

He not only plays video games, he watches every show about them on G4, he participates in chat rooms about them on the internet, he competes in a variety of games on a variety of platforms. He always tells me the latest trend three months before I read about it in the media.

But he’s never been a PlayStation fan. Sure, he had a PS1, but as soon as the Xbox came out, it was game over. He loved the Xbox graphics, and once he was old enough to play “Halo,” he loved the games. He graduated to the Xbox 360, Xbox Live, “Gears of War,” etc. He even hung in there during the overheating Xbox “red ring of death” phase. Other than a two-year detour/obsession playing “World of Warcraft” on his computer, he has always been an Xbox fanboy. Sony just didn’t have great games.

Last week he recorded all of G4’s E3 coverage so he could watch it after work (he’s got a summer job to save money to buy gas and videogames, in that order). He was very excited after Microsoft had its news conference. “You can stream Netflix movies onto the Xbox 360!” he exclaimed.

Then he watched the Sony press conference, and the world as we know it changed. After hearing about “Metal Gear Solid 4”, as well as other PlayStation exclusives in the pipeline and the awesomeness of Blu-ray, he promptly packed up his Xbox 360 and all his games and went down to Game Stop to trade them in. He bought a PS3 and “Metal Gear Solid 4.” I had to be there to approve the purchase of the M-rated game since he’s not yet 17, and I was surprised at how rapturous the Game Stop employees were about Sony. They then sold him a USED copy of “Metal Gear Solid 4.” “How can the game already be used?” my son asked. “Because some people get frustrated if they don’t have ‘cheats’,” he was told. But the cashier assured him that the game “was just as good as new.” My son asked, “How can that be?” “Because PlayStation players are ninjas!” was the response.

I’m happy to say my son didn’t accept this answer. Perhaps that’s because he’s now spending his own hard-earned money to purchase these games. He said, “Seriously, how does that work?” And the Game Stop fanboys explained that Sony now has a special coating on Blu-ray game discs which makes them virtually scratch-proof. We shall see.

One thing we do know. We may not be able to stream Netflix movies onto the console (yet) but now we can start ordering them on Blu-ray.

As we left the store, I said to him, “I never thought I’d see you with a PlayStation.” “Neither did I,” he replied.

Ok, so in the first line she claims that she lives with the “ultimate expert on the video game industry”, who happens to be her 16-yr. old son. That’s nice, but how does this so called expert not even know about Metal Gear Solid 4 before E3? After all, she says that he spends his time on message boards, watches “every show about them on G4”, and informs his mom of the latest trends months before the media picks up on them. So she states this, but we’re supposed to believe that E3 2008 was the first time he’d heard of the game? Strike 1!

She claims that he’s always been an Xbox fanboy and that “Sony just didn’t have great games” is the reason why her son picked the 360 over the PS3. Ok…so what did each company show at E3? Sequels! If Sony never had great games (and they most definitely have), why is he all of a sudden excited about their sequels, but not about the sequels on the 360? Fishy. Strike 2!

The conversation in Game Stop…I don’t I really need to point out the improbabilities there. Strike 3!

Seriously, what a load of garbage. I don’t care if this article had been about Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, the PC, or the Phantom; there’s absolutely no way this is anything but fiction. We might be geeks and nerds, but we’re not naive idiots.

Link to the original story: http://www.cnbc.com/id/25782540

Oh, and she looks a little old to have a 16 yr. old kid…I’d be worried about that kid.

Site issues

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Until then, do the world a favor and punch a hacker in the face (if he ever leaves his mom’s basement, that is).