Monday, August 30, 2010
04:54 AM - August 30, 2010. Written by Steve_OS
If any of these links interest you, talk about them.QOTD: Does the Move or Kinect interest you at all?

Happy Birthday to the following OS'ers!

stargazer830 (38), rockchisler (36), Easton (34), ATrainIU24 (28)
Blog: Steve_OS
Friday, August 27, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
04:42 PM - August 26, 2010. Written by ChaseB
Game reviews are odd. Generally speaking, reviewers get a game a bit before it is released to the public, they play the crap out of it, and then they post a review near or on the release date so other people can read about what they thought about a game. Sometimes people use reviews to influence their own decisions, and other times people read reviews to see if the reviewer agrees or disagrees with their own thoughts on a game.

Either way, the process of writing a game review is not normal. And, on top of that, it's not how any sane person would play a game in the first place.

Reviews can also be a touchy subject. If someone writes a review that someone else does not agree with, that person will sometimes act like the reviewer insulted him or her in some way. Other times people will simply sum up their disagreement with a review by saying something like "there's no way this game should get anything over a 7.3 out of 10" -- two other favorites of mine are "this reviewer is biased" and "very objective review."

Again, game reviews are odd.

Honestly though, the score is not the issue I have with game reviews. I know I don't sit down with a game and say to myself "man this game is totally a 7.4 out of 10." But to be fair, what people actually mean when they say something like that is that in their own mind the experience fit a description, and they simply matched a score to that feeling. For example, when something here at OS gets a 7.5, all that really means is that, according to the review guidelines, the game fit into a certain criteria and therefore received the score that it did. It does not mean the reviewer was converting his experience straight to a number. Instead, the reviewer had a certain experience and matched it up to what is defined as a 7.5 according to the review rubric.

However, I guess I am talking about semantics in the example above because people still helped to define what number fit a certain experience -- in the case of OS, I was one of the people who helped re-define the review guidelines here at the site a while back.

Ha, terrible graphics. The game is only worthy of a 5.2 out of 10.

I am certainly just as odd as the game reviews themselves. I have lots of opinions about reviews, I edit every game review before it goes on the site, and I helped to define our current review guidelines. But I do not write game reviews at this point on the site.

(As a quick aside, when I first got to OS, I did write reviews. I did not do many "major" games, but I still did some relatively high-profile games). However, my co-workers at OS allowed me to remove reviews from my to-do list quite some time ago.)

But even if I don't write game reviews here, I know they are important. So my main issue with game reviews has to do with what I touched on at the beginning: Game reviews are not grounded in reality. Game reviewers are a unique bunch who play games under time constraints and have to play games under unique settings. I respect that, and I would have no issue being one of those people. But beyond that, they have to talk about games in an odd way as well. For example, I can't envision there being too many gamers out there who examine each and every game mode and talk about everything that is new in a game. I can't envision there being too many gamers out there who judge each element of a game and then think about what it all means.

As an example, I know when I play MLB: The Show, I don't even touch Road to the Show mode. I know people like the mode, but it does not interest me, and it's not what I am looking for in a baseball game. Now I could still talk about the mode intelligently, and I follow what it's about, but I don't play it. That being said, I still think The Show is amazing. However, I'm certain I would be criticized if I did not talk about RttS in a review of the game, and I think in certain contexts that's unfair.

People play games to enjoy them, not to analyze and decipher each game mode in them. The totality of the experience is what is important to most gamers when they actually play a game, and most probably do not weigh each positive and negative before deciding if they like the game or not.

Of course some would also say that a job of reviewers is to be informative first and foremost. I don't necessarily agree with that, but I do get that point. Many people do want to know if they will get the proper "bang for their buck," and they turn to game reviews for that answer. Nevertheless, I also think another job of reviewers is to explain why a game is good or bad. Basically, they don't need to advocate for a game, but they have to make a strong argument for why a game is good or bad.

One way to do that is through the traditional means of explaining each positive and negative and basically clinically dissecting a game. But I think the more compelling way to do this is a bit more nontraditional. I always point to podcasts as something that flies in the face of traditional game reviews. I have talked with more than a couple people who have said they went out and bought a game after hearing about it on a podcast. I've also heard numerous times that hundreds and hundreds of words in a game review did not sell them on a game the same way a five-minute segment on a podcast did. I mostly agree with that sentiment. I have heard a reviewer gush about a game on a podcast -- in turn this got me excited to play it -- only to come away languid and dispassionate after reading the reviewer's written review of the same game.

I think part of the reason why this occurs is because people on podcasts are not being as calculated as they would be in written form. They are simply relaying experiences they had with the game rather than carefully planning out each word. They're talking on a personal level rather than worrying about leaving something about the game out of their review. Simply talking about a game like it's a game can be much more compelling than churning out line after line about new feature X in a game. Oddly enough, on a podcast people get away with this experiential type of discussion, and yet it's something most outlets will not actually do for the review itself.

Game reviews sometimes make me a sad panda.

When people talk about games to friends -- and I mean in situations where they are really into a game (or really hate one) -- it boils down to talking about the game in anecdotal form. They will talk about strategies or bite-sized moments that made them angry or exuberant. They will mention the awe-inspiring graphics or crappy physics as well, but they will talk about those things by explaining something that happened to them in the game.

Those types of strong emotions are too often left out of game reviews. There is such a focus on mentioning each and every positive and negative in a game -- rightfully so in some people's minds because Joe Commenter might shred the reviewer for not mentioning new feature X or gameplay flaw Y -- that the actual playing of the game becomes a side note.

Would it be so bad if a review was simply made up of a reviewer's experience with the game? Would it be so bad if the main focus was not mentioning all the positives and negatives or incremental improvements in the title? Certainly the graphics and modes would still be mentioned, but the review itself would not be so structured, regimented and forced.

Sports games are especially unique in all of this. It's one thing to write about your experience in a Call of Duty campaign that lasts six hours. It's another thing entirely to talk about how a sports game holds up to you after hundreds of games. Sports games, though, are a perfect area to be different. These are usually yearly titles that many times get denounced as being roster updates or are unfortunately summed up by just a new feature. However, it does not have to be that way.

Some people like the standard format most reviews have taken on at most outlets, which is fine. But it does not mean there is only one way to do things, and it does not mean there is only one right way to write a review. Many people have trouble handling that idea, but it does not make it any less true. I really hope more people learn to realize that in the future.
Blog: ChaseB
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
You may have heard the old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Well, after spending about a decade within the sports gaming community, I can safely say that so is realism in sports video games.

So I submit this idea to sports gaming developers to give their games the leg up on their competition: make them customizable. Give your customers the power to define their experience as they see fit.

Think about the concept of sliders, then apply that to every nook and cranny of the game. You'd have sliders from simulation results to player progression to the most intricate aspects of the on the field gameplay. And what about fully customizable controls?

I know giving customers more control is a scary proposition to developers because let's face it -- when customers are given the option to mod a game so thoroughly, they typically succeed in ways developers never thought they could.

So I suppose there is always that risk that users could create a game so good that there is no longer any need to buy another edition of the series.

And sure, that's a definite possibility for developers. It's a quandary really. You'll never see another truly great sports game again without it being more open and customizable again, and you might ruin your business model by doing just that.

However, there are things which you can save as aces in the hole. New features, new modes, updated rosters, better graphics, commentary, and animations.

Those are all things that customers would still pay money for. Ask Giants and Jets fans how hard it'd be to get into a game in the old Meadowlands stadium. Ask Heat fans if they want to play a game without Lebron and Bosh on their roster.

There is still year to year marketability here. 2K Sports has provided a great blueprint for sports gaming developers with the Jordan Challenge -- giving sports games themes to honor their sports' legacy is a great step towards giving customers something different each year.

And you could always do the usual upgrades to online modes and franchise/dynasty modes as well.

To quote Michael Scott, "It's a win-win-win."
Chris is the Executive Editor of Operation Sports and maintains this blog on the site. He is also a native Oklahoman and avid storm chaser. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisSnr.
Blog: MMChrisS
Monday, August 23, 2010
01:57 PM - August 23, 2010. Written by MMChrisS
You may recall the news story last week from CNBC which declaratively stated that Madden sales were weak this year. The evidence used was early price drops from retailers and weak pre-orders for the title. Not the most concrete evidence for sure, but far from the worst you could use.

I initially wrote a blog post last week on Madden and NCAA sales but pulled it since I thought I might be breaking some copyright laws -- so I had to double check. I found myself to be in the clear, but decided to wait until today to repost this article, reworked and streamlined to eliminate any doubt so it can stay live.

So with that said, let's take a look at the best evidence we have and figure out where both Madden and NCAA are when it comes to sales.

NCAA Football

Depending on which data set you use, you will find that NCAA Football sales are somewhere in between 8% up over last years through the end of July or 8% below last years through the end of last week. That's quite the range in data. I've done some data analysis of my own via both sources and have found that NCAA sales are hovering around flat, starting off relatively strong but weakening as time has gone on.


Using just VGChartz as our barometer for Madden sales numbers wise, we see Madden sales are actually up 5% in the VGChartz numbers this year. However, XBox 360 sales are down and Playstation 3 sales are way up -- more on that later. Given the discounted price of admission for Madden, and the anticipated statistical deviance, it's definitely too early to say Madden has slipped in sales, but there are warning signs indicating that retailers have had to really push to get Madden off of store shelves compared to previous years.

Rising Console Base -- Falling or Flat Software Sales

Compared to this time last year, the base of console users has risen from 24 million users to 34 million users. However, software sales industrywide are down 30% from their peak!!! What this means is that people are buying and replacing consoles, but they aren't buying many titles. From a business perspective, when a yearly title's sales are hovering around flat when the base of users is rising, that's a bad sign and in a lot of ways, pretty much what falling sales would be like. For a yearly title to actually lose sales in this environment would be quite the failure.

Prognosticating Where Sales End Up

I'm far from THE authority to predict where sales end up with both titles considering the lack of reliable data on this side of the corporate rooms. However, it is important because sales are a referendum on the direction of the product. However, after doing a few days of analysis -- or rather parts of a few days in analysis, I'm not a total geek here people -- I think we will ultimately see sales which disappoint investors. Expect ERTS to get hammered a bit in the Sept/Oct timeframe. Given the very real possibility of more economic trouble into the fall, along with the continued secular shifts in the economy moving dollars away from gaming, I think we'll see Madden and NCAA sales ultimately end up lower than last year, perhaps by a sizeable margin (5-10%). I don't think the suits hit the panic button too quickly, but it'll be a bad thing for hardcore gamers if they do, trust me on that.
Chris is the Executive Editor of Operation Sports and maintains this blog on the site. He is also a native Oklahoman and avid storm chaser. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisSnr.
Blog: MMChrisS
Friday, August 20, 2010
06:04 AM - August 20, 2010. Written by Steve_OS
If any of these links interest you, talk about them.QOTD: The weekend is finally almost here, what are your plans, what games will you be playing?

Happy Birthday to the following OS'ers!

moemoe24 (35), Dante_X (30), triplej96 (28), Tyrell-PMC (25), cha0ss0ldier (23), Wazzup36 (22), wsboan11 (20), chestnutz6
Blog: Steve_OS
Thursday, August 19, 2010
06:31 AM - August 19, 2010. Written by Steve_OS
If any of these links interest you, talk about them.QOTD: Are you the type of person that needs the latest and greatest stuff, or do you wait it out?

Happy Birthday to the following OS'ers!

Badgun (51), mlblover15 (40), jersey07103, Boilerup700, lightningducks30
Blog: Steve_OS
02:35 AM - August 19, 2010. Written by DustinT
I reference to the Seattle Supersonics in a large percent of my articles here on the site. I have received plenty of PMs saying either "Save our Sonics" or "**** Seattle, get over it. OKC!!!!"

I don't respond to many of them, I find them amusing. I'm glad OKC is enjoying an NBA team, every city should. It just shouldn't be my team, Seattle's team. So now I will answer a question that has been asked many times:

Why do you want Sonics jerseys?

It's simple. I want to be able to see the Sonics again. Playing NBA games is my way of controlling a team from every angle. I used to rebuild the Sonics every year, and then we got Durant and it became a reality. Then Clay Bennett swooped down and jacked them.

Last year in NBA Live the jerseys were available, and I loved it. It wasn't the best since you still saw the OKC warm-ups and the commentary kept saying OKC, but it was a step in the right direction. Now both games need to take it a step further. Let myself and other suicidal fans create the Sonics. Give us al our jerseys, give us the city and team name over the commentary. Let us live the dream that we should be living right now. Let us save our Sonics.
Blog: DustinT
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
In case you missed it, Recovery Summer has turned into Realization Summer with stimulus waning and economic indicators all pointing rather solidly downwards. People in every corner of the economy are shuddering at the thought of another downtick (or was that a continuation of the current one?)| but that might just be the new normal for awhile.

Video game publishers, developers, journalists, players, and semi-interested patrons should shudder at that.

Video game sales have effectively collapsed for anything but AAA titles in the past 24 months, and with the prospect of another meaningful contraction in the economy very real -- it could have dire impacts upon the gaming industry as a whole. Here are three things to look for in the next 12 months from video game publishers and specific impacts on sports gaming:
  1. Belt tightening -- We already saw an early example of this with Visual Concepts cutting 30 jobs to "increase efficiency". Don't fool yourselves, this is a direct result of a weakening economic picture and trying to get ready for tougher times and not a result of yearly layoffs. It's also most likely another in a series staff cuts in the gaming realm. I'm pretty glad I'm not an employee at any gaming firm at the present time, because I can only imagine what a fresh 10%+ drop in overall industry sales will do to it.
  2. More focus on money makers -- Look for gaming companies to move towards more profitable projects. The big sellers such as Madden and NBA 2K might get a boost, but the real profits are to be made on the small screen. App Store apps and internet based games are the real winners here. These projects are so efficient to produce and profitable, there's little doubt gaming companies are going to chase after these types of projects to maximize profits. AAA Titles will be a main focus of gaming companies as well, which might leave those titles which made some but not much money in a position where they are no longer making money. That's not a good place to be, for the record.
  3. Give me quality...or a cancellation -- NCAA Basketball was a early death in this philosophy. But look out for any game which isn't extremely profitable, because those games will be the first to go in a fresh round of title cuts by companies such as EA and Take Two. Weakening sales industrywide would place several bigger named titles in a place where they might not be making much money anymore, if any. NBA Elite, NHL 2K, MLB 2K -- you've all been warned.

The outlook isn't all doom and gloom for sports games though, the one good thing a tightening economy will do is force titles which do make it to the shelf to increase in quality since consumers aren't spending their money in a constrained economy. Let's face it, $60 is a lot to spend on something in an uneasy economy, so games will either have to prove themselves to be worthy of the price of entry or the price of entry has to drop. Indeed, it's very possible new games could see a price drop in the coming years if the economic situation continues to be anemic to spur sales. Don't forget that Madden was $40 at a lot of retailers at launch -- if that's not a sign that publishers are trying to spur on sales, I don't know what is.
Chris is the Executive Editor of Operation Sports and maintains this blog on the site. He is also a native Oklahoman and avid storm chaser. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisSnr.
Blog: MMChrisS