The Unspoken Argument for Used Games...

After reading post after post regarding the controversy over used games on Xbox One and hearing the same arguments made over and over, I find it increasingly disturbing that both sides appear to be missing the bigger picture.

Games are in their infancy compared to other entertainment mediums, yet despite the relative lack of titles when compared to the sheer number of films, books, and music available, it seems crazy to me that for an industry where supposedly the people who make the content are just as passionate as the people who consume it there's little to no effort made in preserving games.

Films, books, and music are routinely reissued or republished every couple of years. Games that are released on discs however, go out of print within a couple of years and rarely get rereleased, and so the only option for people who wish to revisit or discover older games is to buy them used. Even digital alternatives such as Microsoft's Games On Demand service are poorly managed and don't contain every title that has been released on the Xbox 360.

To offer an example: I have no doubt that I could go to the local HMV and buy a new Blu-Ray copy of X-Men: The Last Stand. However, could I buy the tie-in game that was released at the same time? Could I even buy a new copy of Halo Reach? Why is it I could easily buy any bad movie that was released in the last twenty years, but not a good game that was released in the last five

The above is an issue that isn't even solved by the inevitable move to digital distribution systems. It stands to reason right now that in five years, you won't be able to play a game like Shadow Complex, because the hardware it is played on is no longer in production and the servers you were supposed to download it from have long been switched off. Even services like Steam aren't infallible, because the plethora of content already on there is only a Windows generation from now longer working.

This is especially distressing considering good games that used licensed content. We already saw Vice City get removed from Steam for a brief period last year over some of the music contained, whereas XIII was pulled from GOG not so long ago. Goldeneye, as you know, will likely never be released on Virtual Console. This is a problem that is only going to get worse over the next decade.

It's insulting to me to be told the reason I want used games to work is because I'm desperate to save a meagre £5 on something that's supposed to cost £50. I haven't bought a game used during its Zeitgeist since 2004. Yes, games are an expensive hobby, but it's made manageable by the fact that I simply don't have time to play every game that interests me. Am I supposed to buy it under the assumption that I may get around to it in a few years time? Sorry, but I already have cupboards full of sealed Amaray cases and a Steam account with more than 80 uninstalled games as it is. Ultimately it's not my responsibility to look after all this stuff.

Publishers and developers need to stop treating a game sold used like it's a sale lost, especially considering how franchise-driven the industry has become. Sure, you won't make any money if I buy a used copy of the first Gears of War now, but that sale might just garner enough interest in me that I'm first in line when you release another one. Isn't that worth something? Did you really think I'd buy Hitman: Absolution when I didn't play the previous ones? I don't jump on a film franchise five instalments in, so why bet I'd do that with games?

It's ironic, because both fans and creators of games want to argue it as an artform, but ultimately miss one of the key differences. Art is respected by all sides of the community, it's preserved, made easily available, and people talk about it for decades or even centuries to come.

Right now, video games are none of those things. And until this issue is sorted out they never will be.

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Xbox One reveal

Figure I may as well get my thoughts down for the sake of venting and it's too long for Twitter and something I don't want to put on my 'real' blog.

Don't know about you guys, but the last few years of Microsoft keynotes at E3 have left me disappointed. I wanted things to be different today, but I can't say I'm surprised at the outcome.

Elsewhere I said I expected three things from this evening:

  • Dancing six-year-olds
  • Dumb cable tv shit
  • The Call of Duty bit

Two of three isn't bad.

If you asked me what I found liked about the Sony presser, I'd tell you that it was reassuring. Sony have identified a bunch of things they did wrong, and they're working to correct them. To top it off, everything was related to the key reason I'd consider buying that console: THE GAMES (you're probably going to hear that sentiment a lot).

As much as I value the sense of platform agnosticism I've finally managed to garner over the last few cycles, it pains me to see Microsoft dismiss Sony's effort in the interests of doubling-down on a bunch of things I couldn't care less about.

Kinect has been out for three years and I still don't want it. Now Microsoft are insistent that I'll care about it for the wrong reasons: not because I'll *want* to, but because the system apparently won't function without it plugged in. So now I'll have to deal with the space it takes up and the extra power it draws just for the sake of something I'll be doing my best to skirt around in whatever way possible.

As for the TV stuff, this has been a staple of Microsoft conference's far the past few years, and I could see it coming from a mile off. They even made a point of circling back around to it several times. Yet I still don't understand it. Why, for what's supposedly an international product, do Microsoft continue to dedicate a fair chunk of these things to lauded deals with cable companies that even be available to people outside the US?

To be fair, the instantaneous switching from game to TV and the number of ports on the back suggest that some of this stuff will be passthrough. That's kind of cool, I wouldn't mind saving an HDMI port (I have a DVD player I got in 2000 that I continue to use merely because it has a spare SCART socket on the back). But I wasn't that eager to rush out and buy a cable box anyway.

Truth is, I simply don't watch a lot of TV. Not because it's "too challenging", but because I find games more stimulating. I don't need watching TV to be "easier", because sitting there staring at a screen is as easy as it gets. Furthermore, it's not MS's responsibility to make television "more immersive", nor will they achieve that goal by mandating that I look at my phone every two minutes.

Finally, the Call of Duty bit. As predictable as the yearly sports franchises that we knew would be on this thing anyway, and yet again another substantial chunk dedicated to something I knew was coming but haven't cared about since 2009. Or the ten years before that when I bought my last FIFA game.

Sure, there was some new IP announced at this thing. But the problem is, the same developer announced a game the last time around and we didn't see it for five years. Do they really want to try that strategy again?

So, in closing, they hit the same beats that I didn't want them to. Again. And more often than not, anything new I hear about this console makes me want it less, whether it's the ambiguity of what "always on" really means or the flip-flopping over the subject of how used games will work (not because I really need to get my games cheaper, but because no one will address the problem of games going out of print after a year). Yeah, it's easy to say that conference wasn't for us, and we should just wait for the 'proper' unveil at E3, but what do we do if they haven't learned anything by then either?

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Prince of Persia HD Classics -- Initial Thoughts...

Not really sure if this is even on other peoples radar, but I may as well post my thoughts on the game thus far. It's worth noting that I hold all three games in this package in pretty high regard, so my opinions may not be the most objective.

Thus far I've played a couple of hours of Sands of Time through this thing (I was tempted to start with Warrior Within just to spite common opinion). The first thing that happens when you insert the disc is that you're taken straight to a mandatory install. The game doesn't tell you how much data it's installing or how long it's going to take (looking it up in the XMB later on it's nearly 4GB). Game installs on PS3 bother me less and less these days ever since I started installing pretty much every 360 game, but this game doesn't make a great case for it.

Once the install is over you're taken to the game selection screen, reminiscent of those old Mega Games collections for the MegaDrive/Genesis. When you've selected one, you're irrevocably in that game. There's no way to get back to this thing without quitting back to the XMB and rerunning the disc. The game then continues as it would if you were playing the original on PS2; the intro movies play in their original sub-hd state (understandable maybe), and then the title screen comes up. For those who don't remember, the title screen shows a section of a palace in 3d for the background, with the menu GUI laid over it. Only the assets for the menu (even the basic text) are the original sub-HD assets with no attempts to up-res them. It's like you're playing it in an emulator almost.

That unfortunately starts setting a trend for the rest of the experience it seems. Everything just seems so lazy. The HUD has the same issue as the title screen, and seen that God of War Collection was the game that started this trend maybe Ubisoft should have taken a few more cues from that release. The character models don't look all that bad because of the stylised look perhaps and the level geometry is fine. However, the graphics stutter way too often and the audio is mixed as badly as it was in the original, with ambient tracks kicking in abruptly and the narration trying to force itself over loud music and effects.

I can't comment on the stereoscopic 3D but I'm wondering if that's really the major enhancement here. Obviously I haven't sampled the whole package yet, but I'm beginning to think that if you hold these games in the same regard as I do then this collection may not be the best way to replay them. Maybe you would be better off getting the games from Steam (a cheaper option at least), or digging out your original Xbox or PS2. Given that all three games supported progressive scan on both consoles I don't think you'd really be losing anything that this collection pretends to offer.

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