The Thursday Inbox considers a new theory for why Microsoft is buying Activision Blizzard, as one reader hopes for a River Raid reboot.
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Hopefully this is not the end of Sony PlayStation, it would be tragic to see a company that’s given us so many great games and memories down the years swallowed up by Microsoft’s bullish business tactics.
Other than the legion of 12-year-old Xbox fanboys that plague social media, I don’t see how anyone could possibly be happy about this?
Glass half full
RE: Microsoft and Activision. I appreciate people do have valid concerns about this but it’s far too early to say it’s the beginning of the complete takeover of gaming by Microsoft. Playing devil’s advocate here, it could be a really positive move, perhaps Microsoft will relent on the yearly Call Of Duty releases to allow the studios to innovate more with future entries and/or free up the studios to make games that aren’t Call Of Duty.
It’s too early to tell, either way is all I’m saying, because unlike Bethesda, Activision don’t put out many games but they do have some very experienced studios that I’m sure could be really good if they were allowed to get off the Call Of Duty treadmill and make something else.
I promise I will take it all back if they end up acquiring EA or Ubisoft or someone like that next though.
GC: That’s not likely to help PlayStation owners much though, is it?
The rich get richer
It’s difficult to get excited about Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard – a huge multinational conglomerate buying a vastly profitable games publisher for an obscene amount of money, no doubt making all involved even more wealthy, isn’t exactly something for the normal punter to celebrate.
The ZeniMax Media purchase enabled Xbox Game Pass to be bolstered with games which were well regarded but didn’t always sell as well as they should have and gave the developers the stability to hopefully go out and make more great games in future.
Call Of Duty is obviously one of the biggest names in console gaming. However, it strikes me that the revenue from the subscription services (e.g. World Of Warcraft), online multiplayer (Overwatch), and free-to-play (the King mobile games, Warzone) is probably the main reason for the purchase, rather than necessarily bolstering their first party console line-up.
Xbox will be expected to start turning a profit at some point, and as good value as Game Pass is it operates at a loss. Subscribers were pretty vocal in their opposition to a price increase when it was last mooted, so it makes sense for Microsoft to look at other ways of improving the Xbox division’s bottom line.
Time will tell I suppose, but my suspicion is that Microsoft will probably be aiming for a cut of sales across multiple platforms rather than trying to drive everyone en masse to Xbox.
PS: Guardians Of The Galaxy was excellent, hope they get a chance to make more.
GC: Activision Blizzard already being highly profitable does make it much easier for Microsoft to justify the purchase, even if it was done with ulterior motives. A new theory, which makes sense to us, is that Microsoft didn’t buy them to make Call Of Duty exclusive – because they knew that would bring too much bad press/regulatory intervention – but to get it on Game Pass.
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Just one game
RE: Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard – very big news indeed. Makes the purchase of ZeniMax seem like chicken feed.
This acquisition is huge and undoubtedly bad news for Microsoft’s competitors, especially Sony, but a quick look at the biggest selling games in the US and UK shows that only Call Of Duty featured from Activision Blizzard’s stable, something this article mentions. There’s no doubt it’s a system seller but if we consider the other biggest traditional game franchises, namely FIFA, Madden, and GTA, it’s clear that while the prospect of Xbox exclusivity will scare PlayStation, it isn’t going to decimate its library or userbase.
A more interesting takeaway, besides the mobile element (as we saw already this month with Take-Two and Zynga) is the return of console exclusivity wars. Games being ‘released on everything’ might become less and less frequent in the future.
Last point: someone joked on Twitter that Sony should buy CD Projekt, which was funny at first but was the sort of acquisition that seemed to make more sense the more you thought about it. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do with the PlayStation 5 version of Cyberpunk and how it performs. I also think that it’s only a matter of time before they look into a possible acquisition of Square Enix.
In any case, I’m not sure Sony needs to follow Microsoft in buying its way to success; it already has vast expertise in AAA game development and the PlayStation brand is as strong as ever. How long it can continue to punch above its weight, in generations to come, remains to be seen.
Owen Pile (NongWen – PSN ID)
GC: We’d imagine Microsoft would like nothing more than to buy Square Enix, or another big Japanese publisher, but what we understand of Japanese law makes this very difficult – if not impossible.
I’ve been gaming for a long time now. In fact, I’m probably considered a dinosaur these days to most gamers.
Companies have been flexing their muscles at each other for years regarding graphical power and to be honest they’ve been willing to make a loss on the sale of their consoles just to get themselves in your front room on the back of that. It’s a story as old as time and consumers have bought in. Why wouldn’t they? They’re getting a great deal for their money.
I always asked myself what gaming would be like once graphics and raw power got to a point where it was no longer impressive? I knew it would come down to the games in the end, but I didn’t guess console makers buying out large companies for exclusivity was an inevitability.
Still, I’m not here to argue whether it’s a good or a bad thing and if I was in charge of Microsoft Xbox right now, I would seriously be looking at looking EA’s sports games, although I can’t stand them personally. I suspect the whole FIFA licence being up in the air at the moment wouldn’t make it the best financial deal and that’s best left for the businessmen who know what they’re doing to decide.
I’m not saying it’s right but console manufacturers throwing money at their platforms to get your attention is far from a new thing. It just so happens Microsoft have a lot of disposable income to do so and are now playing very aggressive.
It really does come down to the games in the end and what you like to play. I lean more towards Nintendo but I do own an Xbox Series S. I could give or take Call Of Duty and the likes if I’m honest, which is exactly what I’ll do once they’re up on Game Pass.
The end of gaming
After thinking about the Xbox + Activision buyout I think it’s going to mess up Sony’s plans and totally mess up Game Pass. In two buyouts Xbox has spent $77+ billion and could buy more. They have 25 million signed up for Game Pass and are hoping more will now sign up. With Call Of Duty, Crash Bandicoot, and all the others now going on Game Pass the price of it must be going up, it has to. That’s where Xbox owners will moan and start saying I’m not paying that.
It won’t be long till all the developers are owned by Sony and Xbox, and that’s the end of gaming for me. Two companies will have so much power they can charge what they like, when they like, and all they will say is, ‘Well, look what you’re getting.
I remember Phil saying he’s a gamer and he thinks every gamer should be able to play any game no matter what platform (not an exact quote). Got a feeling he’ll be going back on his word now Call Of Duty will be an Xbox-only title and because it’s Xbox they will make the games worse than what they are now. And before you know it Call Of Duty will be like flares.
Ye olde Activision
Forget Call of Duty, you’ve all missed something. Microsoft now owns all of the games that Activision released on the Atari 2600, such as River Raid, Pitfall, Spider Fighter, Chopper Command, and Kaboom!
Imagine new versions of Plaque Attack and Oink running at 60fps with ray traced graphics!
GC: It’s a little known fact that that was essentially a completely different company. Bobby Kotick bought the name and back catalogue to start the modern Activision in the early 90s, sacking all but eight of the original 150 employees.
In response to Andrew J’s letter RE: the Hyperkin Dreamcast HDMI cable: hoo boy! I said in a previous letter the topic of hooking pre-HDMI consoles up to modern TVs was a rabbit hole topic, but I’ll try to make this brief. Partly because I don’t want to send other readers to sleep and also because I am by no means an expert.
Short answer is that of the budget HDMI options for the Dreamcast the Hyperkin does seem to be regarded as a touch better than others. But there are caveats. So, in Europe the Dreamcast would put out an RGB signal over SCART cable to a CRT television, but it you had a VGA monitor and bought the appropriate cable it would put out a 480p signal.
I never had that kit back in the day but by all accounts it provided a cracking image compared to the 480i (or rather 576i for PAL) over RGB SCART and was the gold standard of getting the best picture out of the Dreamcast. The majority of Dreamcast games supported VGA and by using a cheat or boot loader disc you could trick most of the remaining games that didn’t support VGA into doing so.
The opposite is true for PlayStation 2 in that most of its library only outputted at 480i and a minority supported 480p (over a component cable). The really cheap HDMI adaptors for PlayStation 2 send the same 480i image as a SCART cable would and apparently doesn’t look great on HDTVs.
The Hyperkin cable essentially outputs the Dreamcast’s VGA mode to your TV’s HDMI socket. The problem is that the Dreamcast would output a VGA resolution of 720×480 and modern TVs tend to interpret that as 640×480, so you’re losing some pixel columns resulting in a slightly incorrect aspect ratio and a fuzzier image.
A dedicated retro gaming device like the open source scan convertor can be configured to display the correct VGA aspect ratio and upscale that 480p signal to high definition to boot. It can also convert PlayStation 2 480i to 480p for a better image, much like RetroTINK devices.
If money is no object then you can have your Dreamcast modded with a DC HDMI kit, but that ain’t cheap.
Chances are the more casual retro gamer won’t be bothered by all this and if Andrews friend doesn’t care about such compromises then sure, they should buy the Hyperkin. Even with the above considerations it will likely still look better than the 480i/576i picture they’re getting over the original Dreamcast SCART cable.
As I said, I’m no expert and if I’ve made huge gaffs in the above no doubt other more competent readers can correct me.
When I saw that the Bayonetta amiibo was in stock before Christmas I had stock alerts set up for it on Nintendo’s store to let me know when it came in to stock but I actually didn’t get any notifications or emails
to say it was in stock, I just happened to go on the store and saw it was there.
So just be wary of that if you put notifications for the amiibos. The notifications worked for other items like the Metroid Dread game but for some reason not some amiibos. I will let GameCentral know if I see the other Bayonetta amiibo come into stock in future.
PS: The free game on Epic Games Store, from 4pm, is Relicta, never heard of it before but its usual price is £14.99.
GC: Thanks, we did get the one you altered us to. And a Terry Bogard one.
Good, not great
Any news on when the DLC for Resident Evil Village is supposed to come out, GC? The game is not without its faults, but Village is still a very good entry in the series in my opinion, with some solid combat, great atmosphere and level design, gorgeously rendered environments, and tense, memorable enemy/boss encounters.
It was quite refreshing how intuitive and frustration free the puzzle designs were. Although to be honest I did kind of miss the more obscure, even bewildering, puzzles from earlier Resident Evils. The Atelier bells and piano puzzle stood out for me, the labyrinth puzzles where you’re guiding the balls through the models were engaging distractions too.
Resident Evil Village peaked with House Beneviento for me, such a subversive, compelling segment that really ramped up the psychological horror. I really hope to see more of this underutilised, especially in the triple-A scene, style of horror in Resident Evil 9 and beyond.
Lady Demitriscu is such a well acted, aesthetically unforgettable character. The stalking sections with the towering, voluminous vampire certainly delivered the desired effect, watching her bend slightly to enter a room for the first time was rather spine chilling! Top notch animation.
It’s however, undeniable that the second half of the game loses some steam and couldn’t quite match the impactful, enthralling design of what preceded it. If you ask me Lady Dimitrescu should’ve played a more significant part in the story and her battle could’ve benefited from being much more challenging than it was on the default difficulty setting.
The final act also felt so tonally incongruent and, dread ahead, Resident Evil 6 esque in spirit. Furthermore, I would’ve liked more variety in the enemy design, it was a step up from the paltry selection of enemies in Resident Evil 7 in this regard, however.
Thankfully it was book ended by an excellent final boss fight and a pretty sombre, but not hopeless, ending. The Duke was also an interesting character with more personality than Resident Evil 4’s merchant, in my opinion. And the soundscape does a superb job in conveying the tension, disorientation, and harrowing/horrific sequences in the game.
So a very good Resident Evil but not quite a great one like Resident Evil remake 1 and 2, and Resident Evil 4, for me. And I’d rank Resident Evil 7 higher than Village, although I have yet to play that triumphant series reboot without VR, as my experiences with it have been inextricably tied to the immersion enhancing tech. Fingers crossed Village gets the VR treatment too some day!
GC: There’s been no news on the DLC since it was announced.
In the most reductive way possible, what would you say is the difference between Western made and Japanese games?
Just wondering if anyone knows if the performance issues with the N64 games on Nintendo Switch Online have been resolved? I’m a hopeless nostalgic and would subscribe, and buy the N64 controller, if it was!
This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Rackham, who asks what was the last physical game you bought and why?
Digital game sales are now in the majority, but do you still buy physical copies as well? And if you do, what was the last one? If you’re now 100% digital, then what was the last physical game you bought and did that have anything to do with your decision?
If you’re a mix of the two methods, what is it that decides which you’ll go for? Are you generally happy with digital sales taking over and what would be your concerns if physical copies went away entirely?
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The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.
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