Where is that positive Battlefield 3 buzz coming from?

I would really love to know that. Granted - every single time there is one overwhelming ruler, more and more people would love to see him fall. So, naturally, it became cool and trendy to hate on Call of Duty games, especially on this year’s Modern Warfare 3. I understand that, but what I don’t understand is that obscene amount of extremely positive Battlefield 3 buzz.

Where is it coming from? Do people just need some good looking shooter to position it as THE Call of Duty contender? Probably. And there are no other really big, really ambitious and awesome looking modern military first person shooters coming out this Q4. But why position it as the Call of Duty killer?

I was especially confused after E3. People where mostly blown away by Battlefield 3 and mostly like “yeah, ok, whatever” by Modern Warfare 3. I mean, look at the stage demos for both games. Battlefield 3 stage demo couldn’t be possibly more boring than this:

And now, look at Modern Warfare 3 stage demo:

Now don’t look at Modern Warfare 3 stage demo with that “Oh it is just another Michael Bay-like stupid on rails scripted roller coaster” attitude. Sure it is, in some ways. But that is not the point right now. Point is, that the Battlefield 3 stage demo is absolutely boring, plain and it doesn’t show us almost anything. Bare desert, couple tanks, a lot of dust and smoke. Very bad stage demo for such a big game on the biggest expo in the industry.

Sure it looks absolutely amazing, there is no question about that. Simply judging by visuals, Battlefield 3 already killed Modern Warfare 3. Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer are trying to sell you the “scope”, which is good, because they can’t sell you outdated graphics.

But aside from graphics, it is apparently just another Battlefield game. Which is not bad, it is great, but is it enough to position it as the contender to Modern Warfare 3? And is it enough for all that hugely positive buzz? I don’t think so.

I’m not sure we’ve seen anything from Battlefield 3 that is worth the buzz. It is mostly just the technical stuff - Frostbite 2 engine, graphics, 64 players in multiplayer on PC and other things. But what about the game? You know, the game. Now I’m not saying that Modern Warfare 3 should have all that Battlefield’s buzz.And I'm certainly not hating on Battlefiled, I loved previous ones, even more than Call of Duty games. I just don’t understand where is that buzz coming from.

Do you?


More and more Giant Bomb videos are corrupted :( [UPDATE: Fixed!]

I get this video corruption bug more often lately and it is really annoying. It happens only to HD videos. I tried watching the same videos at lower quality settings (high and low) and it is ok, no corruption at all.

I got that nasty corruption in the latest Quick Look of MotorStorm: Apocalypse too. I took a screenshot, check it out:

 In MotorStorm: Apocalypse Quick Look it starts at 18:16 and goes away at 35:20.
 In MotorStorm: Apocalypse Quick Look it starts at 18:16 and goes away at 35:20.

This thing at the bottom third of the screen appears exactly at 18 minutes and 16 seconds mark. And it stays there until 35 minutes and 20 seconds. Then it disappears. Some HD videos are ok, but I get this corruption bug lately more often than before. In some videos it pops up, stays a while, disappears and then pops up back again and ussually stays to the end. It happens mostly only once in the video. No video ever starts with it though - videos start ok, then it appers and stays for a long time, sometimes to the very end. I only rarely get this thing twice in one video and never three times. It pops up and disappears at random times, it is never the same time.

It started appearing couple monts ago and it was really rare, but now it feels like it is in every third video I watch. I don't remember exactly when it started appearing, but in the old days (when there was no HD video here), I didn't get that and videos were ok. When HD videos came to the site, it was still ok and started appearing couple weeks after that. And like I said, it was rare couple months back, but now it is really annoying as it pops up very often. Very unpleasant thing.

 Starts at 18:14 in the Mortal Kombat Scrub League Invitational.
 Starts at 18:14 in the Mortal Kombat Scrub League Invitational.

I can't see any connection to anything on my end - it happend to me in multiple browsers (I use the latest stable release of Chrome, but I tried it in Firefox 3.5 and Firefox 4 and in latest Safari as well), on multiple PCs and notebooks and on multiple ISPs. I don't get this or any other video corruption from any other site, gaming or non gaming, whether it is flash or html5 or whatever. It is just Giant Bomb. :( Which makes me super sad, because I love Giant Bomb's videos.

How many viewers are experiencing the same thing? Is this video corruption bug widely spread or is just a couple of people? Are Vinny and Drew aware of it?

EDIT: Fixed! Thanks to DarkHeroZark in the comments! It actually worked:

The solution is to disable hardware acceleration of Adobe Flash, by right-clicking on the video then click Settings and unchecking the box on the Display settings tab.

Thanks again dude, I really appreciate it!

Regenerating health restricts gameplay

Don't be scared or alarmed by that oversimplified headline. I don’t want to go broad here and examine every pros and cons of regenerating health/shields versus health pick ups. I just want to give you one simple example that happened to me. And because of this example, I think that regenerating health might be restricting and “unhealthy” to gameplay. Not every time in every game, that’s for sure, but sometimes definitely yes.

 Wanna search for something in this? Well, after you...
 Wanna search for something in this? Well, after you...
It came to my mind while I was playing Half-Life 2: Episode One - the elevator scene to be exact. For those of you who didn’t play it: you are waiting for the elevator (and it is taking its time), while you are being attacked by zombies. Oh and it’s completely dark, so you can’t see thing. And your flashlight can last only a short while, so you have to go dark couple times for couple seconds. There is a tiny bit of light in front the elevator shaft, so you stick around it.

Some zombies will drop grenades near you and one grenade did hurt me pretty bad - I was almost dead. Elevator was still on its way and zombies kept coming. I knew I just can’t survive much longer in front of the elevator shaft. So I had to sprint down into the darkness to look for some health packs. Now sprinting drains the same power that my flashlight uses, so I was either sprinting in complete darkness or I was using my flashlight. Using both at the same time would drain my suit’s power too fast and I would be dead.

So here came the frantic sprinting in the darkness with occasional uses of flashlight to reveal zombies and to search for health packs. I finally got it and I ran as fast as I can to the elevator with pack of zombies behind me. I just barely made it and my heart was racing.

Well, what’s the lesson? If I had regenerating health or shields, I would just sit tight in front of the elevator shaft, shooting zombies. No running in pitch black, no heart racing, no frantic searching for the little thing that can save you. If I had regenerating health, I simple wouldn’t experience that wonderfully intense gameplay moment. Absence of any kind of regeneration forced me to leave my “cover” (shaft behind me and Alyx covering one side) and burst into the darkness to save myself.

I’m not saying that all games should abandon regenerating health or shield system and replace it with old school health packs. I’m just saying that sometimes classic health system may give you some wonderful and almost forgotten gameplay elements that regenerating health system simply can’t offer. And it’s a little shame that you just can’t choose the system you like more in the options or to have regeneration on the lower difficulty settings and classic health on harder difficulties. That would be nice.

Is Star Wars: The Old Republic doomed?

Will Star Wars: The Old Republic be the first misstep for BioWare in a long time? Seems so. While considered a strong World of WarCraft contender by many gamers, it might not be so bright on the press side of things. BioWare let some press play recent version of the game and guess what - it doesn’t seem to be that great.

There is a nice summary in Mike Nelson’s preview over at 1UP: 

“Great ideas wrapped in an aging design.” 

Great ideas are not enough 

 Embrace the other side!
 Embrace the other side!
If it turns out Nelson is right, BioWare and EA might be in trouble. And that is not good. That’s definitely not good if you going against juggernaut like World of WarCraft, which is updated like hell, most recently by Cataclysm. I assume it’s safe to say that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be targeted at pretty much similar audience that World of WarCraft is. And this audience will be expecting something much more than “great ideas” and “aging design.” Star Wars: The Old Republic must be bursting with great content and plenty of options for players - good PvP, end-game content, battle grounds, and tons and tons of other things. Great ideas are just not enough. Not these days.

Look at Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa. That game was packed with great and innovative ideas and it totally flopped. It may be possible that BioWare saw this failure and they decided not to be bold, but to just copy Blizzard’s money machine. I know, Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa may have flopped for a hundred different reasons, but the big innovations were certainly a factor in it’s demise.

I don’t think you can compete with World of WarCraft using “the old MMO model” - and by that I mean rushed buggy release of a largely broken game with only fifth of promised content. Almost every big MMO was released more or less like this. Even World of WarCraft’s launch was far from perfect. But now? Now you just can’t afford to do that. You get couple hundred thousand subscribers at launch, then half of them will get back to World of WarCraft after first month and the others will leave at some point anyway. And what’s left after one or two years? Only a few subscribers and very angry publisher. 

From Tython with love 

Now back to Nelson’s preview. Let’s elaborate on that “aging design.” By that Nelson meant bad quest design. Here’s the quote: 

Let me reintroduce you two: Flesh Raider meet Jedi, Jedi meet Flesh Raider. 
Let me reintroduce you two: Flesh Raider meet Jedi, Jedi meet Flesh Raider. 

“From the opening moments of the starting zone on Tython (the Jedi's starting area for SWTOR) as a Jedi Knight, my first couple of quests revolve around killing x-number of Flesh Raiders (hulking slimy beasts resembling something out of The Last Starfighter ), or tracking down a series of Padawans who are trapped by said Flesh Raiders in the surrounding area. After some experience progression and then grinding through some similar quests, it all culminates with a showdown against an evil Sith apprentice who has taken up a residence in the nearby Gnarls Cavern. After dispatching more Flesh Raiders and eventually the Sith apprentice, I report my findings to a nearby Jedi Master Orgus -- who senses great promise in me and decides to take me under his wing to teach me more about the ways of the Force. Thus the adventure of my character begins, but not before I continue to carry out a series of rudimentary quests in the surrounding areas of Tython."

Seriously BioWare? I know it must be probably very hard to fill huge MMORPG game with hundreds or thousands quests and keep them unique and interesting. Hell, it is probably impossible. But to make early game questing so boring, unimaginative and grindy is really very bad idea. The rest of the game might be super awesome and the end-game might be brilliantly original, but everybody will have to do these starting quests. And I can’t imagine how many players will be turned off by that. It’s not 2004 again, when these quests did get a pass from the press and players in World of Warcraft. Since then, World of WarCraft has evolved.

Of course it’s just a starting area for one class, so the press saw very small portion of the game. But it doesn’t make any sense. Why would BioWare show such thing to the press? We all know they can do great quests, so what better place in the new hyped Star Wars MMO would be for them, than in the very beginning? True, other starting areas might have awesome quests and Tython starting area might get reworked. But it’s definetly not a good sign. I know there might be million different reasons why developers should include some sort of grind in the game (good podcast on this subject here), but it should be at least covered in some clever way, especially in starting areas. 

Size matters... Not! 

If that wouldn’t be truth, nothing would ever beat World of WarCraft. I just want to be crystal clear - I’m not saying that Star Wars: The Old Republic (or anything else) must beat World of WarCraft to be successful. No way. World of WarCraft can be taken down by time and by a ton of other games, probably. In time. It doesn’t matter how big The Old Republic will be, but it absolutely must have things gamers expect from AAA MMO these days. And it must be polished. And above all, it must be great game in general. And that might not be truth, not just according to Nelson’s preview.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with EA Louse. If you are not, read this. Sadly, EA Louse might have been right. Lets just quickly recap his main quotes about Star Wars: The Old Republic:

“They’ve spent more money making the Old Republic than James Cameron spent on Avatar. Shit you not. More than $ 300 million! Can you believe that?”

And this one:
 Like this, but with sound. A lot of sound.
 Like this, but with sound. A lot of sound.

“And you know what they’re most proud of? This is the kicker. They are most proud of the sound. No seriously. Something like a 20Gig installation, and most of it is voiceover work. That’s the best they have. The rest of the game is a joke. EA knows it and so does George Lucas, they’re panicking, and so most of Mythic has already been cannibalized to work in Austin on it because they can’t keep pushing back launch.”

It is not confirmed if this is true, but we know that Star Wars: The Old Republic is EA’s largest project ever. EA’s CFO Eric Brown confirmed that, as reported by Eurogamer. It’s also nice to know the publisher is aware of competition. Eric Brown again, this time reported by MCV:

“Our assumptions for break-even and profitability are not seven-digit subscribers. We think we can run and operate a very successful and profitable MMO at different levels.”

Ok, they don’t need millions of subscribers, good for them. But can they really operate this game for years and have e.g. 500k subscribers? Now bear in mind that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be probably micro-transactions based MMO, although it wasn’t officially announced yet (EA’s CEO John Riccitiello hinted that, but according to ShackNews, he might have been misunderstood. Poor John.).

May the Force be with you 

I was extremely excited for Star Wars: The Old Republic. But now, after the most recent wave of hands on articles on the web, I lowered my expectations from super-excited to very cautious levels. I hate to admit this, but I’m pretty disappointed. I know it might change and the rest of the game might be super awesome, but you know... I somehow doubt that now.

It is fair to say that those previews confirmed the strengths of Star Wars: The Old Republic - the dialogue wheel, choices, music, impressive audio, funny instances, etc. That’s great. And I’m still looking forward to it. Just more cautiously now. Because this is not what I would expect from BioWare.

Mass Effect is fucking awesome!

I know, I’m very, very late to the party here, but hey, better late than never. And I’m absolutely blown away. But I don’t want to drool here about every aspect of the game, because everybody (except me) already finished it probably several times.

I think I will try to do a different approach - I will try to tell you why I like things that most players didn’t like and most reviewers criticised. It’s basically three simple things:

  1. Mako
  2. Elevators
  3. Inventory


 Just breathtaking.
 Just breathtaking.
 Well, what can I tell you - I love it. Love it love it love it! And I’m sad that it isn’t in Mass Effect 2. I really don’t see any problem in Mako. I can handle it well and I can use jets when I need to do something harder (gaps, etc.). And it has nice zoom and even nicer canon.

I actually love using Mako to get over rough terrain and I really enjoy it. I know, part of the problem are planets - abandoned and very similar, except for colors. Well, I admit that this ain’t perfectly ideal, but I didn’t mind it that much. I thought of it as a nice downtime from all that shooting and intense dialogues. Just riding on some forbidden planet, discovering minerals and crashed probes. Just chilling out.


 Are we there yet?
 Are we there yet?
 Now I know that probably every player hated elevators, but I think this is actually really awesome feature. What would you like more - some in-game thing that you can stare at Liara’s butt and listen to a radio, or just some fancy looking wallpaper with little “Loading, please wait...” text in the bottom?

Who doesn’t hate loading screens? So why don’t cover it with actual game environment where you can look around and listen to radio or your companions? I really don’t understand this hate towards elevators. Fair to say I didn’t play the Xbox 360 version of Mass Effect so I don’t know if the elevators where too long there. But hey, it’s still better then just blank loading screen.


Only thing that pisses me off is when I have too much stuff and I need to get rid of it - it takes forever to reduce everything to omni-gel one item per time. This is really evil. But I don’t mind anything else about the inventory or the interface/HUD in general. It might not be perfect, but it gets the job done and it doesn't get in your way (except for that omni-gel-ing everything).

One last thing...

Oh I don’t know why everybody praised shooting in Mass Effect 2 saying that it is vastly improved over the first Mass Effect and that it is finally game with a good shooting mechanics. I haven’t play Mass Effect 2 yet so I don’t know, but nothing seems wrong about combat mechanics to me - shooting is fine, cover system is working, everything is pretty good. I guess it’s not perfect, but it’s really good and enjoyable.  
I’m very much looking forward to playing Mass Effect 2, because if Mass Effect 1 is this fucking awesome, I can’t imagine that gloriousness the second one is supposed to be!  

Can Uncharted 3 exceed the new Tomb Raider?

I don’t think so. And I think that Tomb Raider: Underworld is a better video game than Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Right. I said that. And now, before you kill me, let me explain myself. 

A little bit of background 

Tomb Raider


But for starters, a small disclaimer of what I played - I enjoyed the very first Tomb Raider immensely. Second one was great too and third one was acceptable. Then the whole Tomb Raider franchise went down to hell and Tomb Raider was over for me. Even positive reviews of Tomb Raider: Legend didn’t convince me to play it. I picked up Tomb Raider: Anniversary (mostly because memories and nostalgia) and I thought it was very good. And then came Tomb Raider: Underworld, one of the best Tomb Raider games in the whole series.
      I wonder if that in-game self advertising on that bow will make it to the final game.
      I wonder if that in-game self advertising on that bow will make it to the final game.


Now for Uncharted, I honestly don’t think that Drake’s Fortune was particularly great. Sure it wasn’t bad, but in my opinion it was just mediocre action adventure with a handful of wow moments and nice presentation. And mainly because of boring design and bad shooting, I didn’t finish it. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was a different story. Developers at Naughty Dog really learned their lesson with Drake’s Fortune and fine tuned a lot of things for Among Thieves, which was a drastically better game, than the first one. I finished Among Thieves and I was really confused by those perfect scores in reviews. No way that game deserved that. 

What's wrong with Uncharted?  

Let me focus on the second game for a while, because I think that Drake’s Deception will be very similar. What’s wrong about the second one? A lot of things. But mainly diversity in game design. There were moments when I really didn’t understand designer’s decisions. For every single great, awesome and jaw-dropping moment Among Thieves had, there were at least two horrible and not so greatly designed sections. Everything in between was just a little bit above standard triple A video game stuff - sometimes nice, sometimes boring, but always looking good.


 Super fingers!
 Super fingers!
Let me give you few examples. When some friends came over and wanted to see what PlayStation 3 could do, I would boot up Locomotion every single time. And my friend’s jaws were down every single time. Or I would show them some sections in the early jungle levels (“Dude, those wet clothes look cool!”), or something in snow (“Dude, look at those foot steppes!”). Or that awesome hotel view with pool on the roof and collapsing building (“Dude, that’s sick!”). Or... Oh, wait! That’s about it. Those things I remember. The rest of the game? Forgettable.

Not so wow...

 According to this design document, no Yeti should attack us for the next 30 seconds.
 According to this design document, no Yeti should attack us for the next 30 seconds.
Well, I didn’t forget the rest of the game, but these aren’t the nicest video game memories I have. For example, why there had to be those Yeti-like monsters? Why, Naughty Dog, why? Oh I know - you had to extend the game time somehow and the schedule was tight, so just throw there some imbalanced things like that. Sure, why not. Oh God, what would I give for more realistic enemies? Give me bears or some tough Himalayan tribe any day.

Almost every shooting passage dragged Among Thieves in my eyes down. And closer I was getting to the end, the worse it got. I absolutely loved characters (Chloe and Sully were great, the rest didn't impress me), cut scenes, climbing and stuff like that. But more and more shooting towards the end didn’t make things better, despite much better shooting and cover mechanics compared with Drake’s Fortune. 

Pen > Sword 

So, how should Naughty Dog improve that in the future? In short: make it much shorter and more like Tomb Raider. I think that (well, at least some) Tomb Raider games knew their strength very well. And no, I’m not talking about Lara’s chest. I’m talking about less shooting, more tomb raiding. And I belive that is exactly what we need to see in future Uncharted titles. And of course more story with more cut scenes, because acting in Uncharted is really great.

I love all Uncharted’s characters and I would love to see them interacting more with each other. I don’t want to crouch with Drake behind some badly arranged wall/fridge/car, shooting waves of enemies. And I’m afraid we are getting there, according to this quote from Naughty Dog’s co-president Evan Wells for Entertainment Weekly:  

Who doesn't hate campers? 
Who doesn't hate campers? 

“We want to take on the big boys of the multi-player genre. It has become something here at Naughty Dog that will become an important part to all our games.”

And guess what - you have to have awesome shooting mechanics in multiplayer, if you want to approach the big boys (Call of Duty, Halo and others). And if you have those great mechanics in multiplayer, it would be foolish not to use them in singleplayer. More shooting in Uncharted equals less fun. At least for me. I don’t want Uncharted to became another shooter franchise. We have got plenty of shooters out there. 

Are we there yet? 

Ok, we got rid of shooting. See? That wasn’t too bad. It’s been done (again, some Tomb Raider games had very little shooting). Now, we need to do something more radical. Something, that has never been done before. At least not in the blockbuster triple A game sector. Let’s cut game’s length by a half. Surely you don’t want to play eight or ten hour game, do you? I bet you don’t. Now I don’t want to play the smart one here so I’ll give you another quote, by someone much smarter than me - Randy Smith from his Edge column:

"Why is the 12-hour-or-longer game the industry standard? Because consumers demand it. They would rather have a company expend their effort unnaturally stretching a three-hour concept over a dozen hours than have them really focus on making those first three pre-exhaustion hours, the ones you are actually going to play, as perfect as they can be. Isn't that weird?”

There’s not much I could add to this. I would love to play three or four hour games. Think how much time you lost in all those Bethesda’s games or in MMOs doing nothing or traveling. A ton. And now, how much time did you lose doing nothing or traveling in Portal? None. But that’s for another discussion. I think that Uncharted is absolutely perfect game for this three hour games idea. And if you would cut out all those boring, annoying and mediocre passages in Among Thieves and keep those awesome ones, I think it would be truly phenomenal video game. 

Let's raid some tombs! 

So yeah, like I said in the beginning, I think Tomb Raider Underworld is a better video game than Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. I am perfectly aware that Uncharted 2 has absolutely exceptional animation, graphics, set pieces, acting, voice acting and better production values. I wouldn’t show any past Tomb Raider to my friends or my family. They wouldn’t be impressed. Uncharted 2 beats Underworld in almost every aspect. But for me, personally, Underworld was a better video game. Uncharted 2 was years ahead in presentation, staged action and in overall cinematic experience. But it wasn’t a better video game.

I’m absolutely looking forward to Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and I truly belive it will be awesome and jaw dropping. But I’m afraid that it will be too much shooter heavy than I would like it to be. That’s probably fine for most players and that’s perfectly ok. But my excitement for the new Tomb Raider is much, much bigger than it is for Uncharted 3.

Come get some!      
Come get some!      

I realize that we know next to nothing about either game, but just from that basic premise of both games, I know my pick. If I’d have to choose which one would I want to play first, I’d pick the new Tomb Raider. And after finishing that, I would jump to Uncharted 3 right away.   God, I'm looking forward to that choice.

Why should StarCraft 2 expansions cost 60 bucks?

Simply because they can get away with it. 
That wasn't joke, but let's elaborate on that a bit. Blizzard said that the expansions will be out no early than a year after Wings of Liberty/Heart of the Swarm. Ok, we know Blizzard - no way this will be true. My personal guess is that both of them (HotS and Legacy of the Void) will take at least two years to make. I would guess that Legacy of the Void will take two years at maximum, but Heart of the Swarm at least two years. 

Heart of the Swarm 

No Caption Provided
Dustin Browder and Chris Sigaty said in 14th edition of BlizzCast, that they will be making not only balance and bug fixing patches, but also content patches for the game. And that there is one really huge content patch in the works and will be released later this year. Of course that not everyone on StarCraft 2 development team will work only on content patches, but those will take a lot of people and a lot of time and testing. And Wings of Liberty needs a lot of balance patches. 
So I wouldn't put my money on a really heavy development of Heart of the Swarm in this second half of 2010. Preproduction yes, beginning of production yes, but nothing heavy. 2011 will be the heavy duty year for Heart of the Swarm. Internal testing and public beta will take place in first half of 2012 and it will be probably released in the second half of 2012. That's two and half years. 
2 and a half years is a plenty of time to hype this expansion like hell. After that, it won't be approached as expansion, but as whole new full retail release. And there goes your sixty bucks. It will be talked as full retail release, it will be promoted as one and at the end of the day, you will be convinced. There goes you sixty. 

Legacy of the Void 

No Caption Provided
After the release of Heart of the Swarm in second half of 2012, the real serious work on this third expansion will be taking place in 2013. And I'm confident that Blizzard can manage to finish and release this one in 2014. No doubt about it. Again, enough time to hype this one as full retail release that is worth you hard earned sixty bucks.  
But that's not all. They will make you to buy Heart of the Swarm. They have to. So you will buy it and than only crazy gamer wouldn't buy the last one. The story will end in Legacy of the Void, everything will conclude and there will be of course new units, maps and so on. So you will have to have this one. 

That's 180 bucks, thank you 

Epic campaings of same length, new units, new maps, new features, conclusion of story and best of all - only by owning all three will you have the "complete" and final StarCraft 2 with everything in it. And don't forget that those two expansions will keep developers busy for at least 4 years, so it just can't cost 30 bucks. Try count Call of Duty titles in the last 4 years. See? 

One last thought

It just crossed my mind and there might be something about it - you probably know, that in some countries (Russia, Latin America etc.) StarCraft 2 multiplayer is "sold" via subscriptions, like MMO games. StarCraft 2 itself is a bit cheaper and than you pay some low amount of money every month to play the game over Battle.net. Of course you can buy a bit more expensive version of SC2 with unlimited free Battle.net. But you know - maybe, just maybe it will be 60 bucks, so Battle.net doesn't have to be subscription service with monthly fees. So maybe those full prices can be looked at as some kind of compensation. Or maybe not. 
Either way you have plenty of time to save the remaining 120 bucks for those two expansions.

Poor sales of Alan Wake - really?

Alan Wake didn't have a very good launch. Instead of great marking behind his back, there were Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Red Dead Redemption. Both sold incredibly well, so much better than Alan Wake. Why? Not that those two are bad games, they are amazing. But Alan Wake is great too. 
Game did just a little above half a million units worldwide since it launched May 18 2010. That's bad. Or is it? Well, it is considered to be quite bad. Especially in the contrast of Red Dead Redmption, Super Mario Galaxy 2 or any other big game. But let me offer you another point of view. The good one. 
I belive, that Alan Wake should be considered a very successful title. Why? Well, consider this these factors: 
  • New IP
  • Almost no marketing
  • Serious horror/thriller story
  • Tough competition
  • Not exactly super mainstream
Let me elaborate on these a bit. 

New IP

You know it's always easier to sell something that players are already familiar with. Ask Mr. Kotick. Yes, Remedy are quite well known, but mainly among PC gamers, for their Max Payne series. And that has been quite a while since Max Payne 2 was in stores. So it was relatively unknown. 
Also, their way of comunication during development wasn't exactly the best one. Game was announced in 2005 and since 2008 we heard almost nothing. And it wasn't much better even after that. Just a couple of monts before release Remedy started properly comunicate with gaming media. That was too late in my opinion. 
Game also changed a bit and many player expected Alan Wake to be something pretty different than it turned out. Remeber it was supposed to be open world? Big scenes with cars? Almost GTA - like? Not that it is bad to be linear third person shooter, but they comunicated that change a bit late. And for a new IP, this approach isn't exactly perfect. 

Almost no marketing 

Yeah, there were some cool trailers and that Bright Falls live action shorts were pretty awesome. But almost no ads, no tv ads, no big marketing push. C'mon Microsoft! That was a big exclusive you had there! This is not the right way to treat an exclusive title. Especially one, that si so unique. Bad move by Microsoft indeed. Were they scared of Red Red Redemption? Maybe. But I really think that Alan Wake deserved at least moderate amount of ads and marketing money. And maybe, just maybe a bundle. That wouldn't hurt the sales of either thing. 

Serious horror/thriller story 

Not exactly something masses go for. Who wants seriousness in their games? Who wants horror story that is not a parody? Who wants to be scared not by jumps, but by the story itself? Well, not enough gamers than Remedy would like. Story in Alan Wake is great, don't get me wrong. Not many videogames have better story. But you know, it's not that appealing to average Joe. And not every average gamer chooses his game mainly based on it's story. 

Tough competition 

Like i said before - there were a lot of games close to Alan Wake release, but two of them really stood out - Red Red Redemption and Super Mario Galaxy 2. Yeah, Mario isn't exactly the one thing that may cross your mind when talking about competing with serious thriller action title, but you know... It"s for hardcore gamers, it's awesome beyond Bright Falls and it's a new Mario. What else do gamers need? Well, they may need something a bit mature, a bit open and a bit big. That"s Red Dead Redemption. It delivered so much it suprises me. And it absolutely deserves all it's glory and all it's sales. And poor Alan was smacked from both sides right when he launched. Not a very comforting position to be in, let me tell you. But still better than Q4. 

Not exactly super mainstream 

Dark horror/thriller singleplayer only game with writer who has problems with writing as main hero? That is most definetly not a mainstream thing. No multipalyer, no co-op, pretty much no replayability. That makes it a "must rent" game, right? Or at least that make you wait for a discount. 

So where is the success? 

Well, if you consider everyting I wrote above, all the reasons, all the chances Alan Wake had, I think it is pretty succesfull. A little over half million units in just two monts with all those obstacles is quite successful. And Mr. Hakkinen from Remedy just said that interest in Alan Wake is growing. He belives that Alan will have legs and will sell good in coming monts. I belive that. 
Shame we don't know where is the break even point and how much did Alan cost. And how much money, if any, Microsoft poured into this thing. But these things aside. Alan Wake is a great game. And I personally think it is a successful one too. Hope there will be sequel.