Gaming thoughts... 4/12/11

The importance of internet in gaming.

That's the topic on my mind tonight. It's prompted by me staring at 'loading asset' in Dragon Age Legends on Facebook, while downloading a game demo and blogging about it all. As I type this out I just go: Wow... it's become such an integrated part of the gaming community. I remember when I picked up a network adapter for my PS2. I was so excited to be able to hop online and play Madden against people I didn't know or play Twisted Metal Black. It opened up a world of accessibility. I beat hundreds of games through the years, and often found that the only time I got a good challenge was when I played against one of my buddies.

I've spent a lot of time building franchises and playing them with friends - one in particular would come over almost every weekend and we'd play a handful of games on our franchise. The PS2 network adapter promised me live competition whenever I wanted it. Sure, back then you were connecting via phone lines, and the game stuttered horribly and people found tricks to exploit the system because rank/achievement meant more than playing the actual game (that's a topic for another time in and of itself) - whether it was pausing a match and walking away or rapidly unplugging and plugging in their connection - rumors and glitches abounded. But it was an exciting new era.

I've been waiting for the Mortal Kombat game to release. It's a known IP and I would have been excited anyway. But seeing the videos, pouring over images and being able to download the demo makes it all just that much more exciting, doesn't it? It puts a lot of pressure on the game developers now. Remember on the NES you just waited for your favorite developer to release something new, or maybe got excited when a sequel to a beloved gaming franchise came out? Now there's reviews on IGN two days before you even have a chance to shell out money for the game. Developers have to spend more and more time selling you on their game before it even can be physically purchased, by making demos and trailers. And 'physically purchased' opens up its own can of worms now as companies are pushing digital download, trying to sell it as a convenience to the gamer who doesn't have to leave their sofa now, but has no physical game to trade in to a Gamestop if they want. And then you wind up with issues like my recent one where I was buying a bunch of digital games and using Netflix a ton and my ISP carrier, Broadband, had a conniption.

Computer gaming has always been a bit ahead of the curve here compared to console gaming, but now it's all on the table. We made huge leaps and bounds with this generation of consoles, whether it's playing Halo with friends online, or getting the latest game patches for a buggy game like Fallout: New Vegas. It's also been interesting to see the other side of things. Hackers really gummed up the works for Sony this week, and a lot of players were up in arms over their loss of connectivity. The flip side of that coin is while people who play Wii games primarily do so offline would not be as affected by something like this, does Nintendo's limited online approach hurt them? Does it impact game sales? What about games like Metroid: Other M that can have huge bugs like the 'red door' bug that can wreck an entire adventure. On the 360 the company would push a patch and the matter would be fixed in a week. For owners of Other M, they have to save out their data to a card and send it to Nintendo to get fixed and then wait for it to come back. Almost seems archaic now, doesn't it?

Gaming has become a much more social hobby. A lot of kids I knew in junior high had NES systems, but they didn't play them regularly. They would beat a game and often be done with it. Now you beat the campaign mode and play the online for months longer. And then there's games like World of Warcraft that build their entire premise on social interaction.

Even my blog reflects this now to a small degree as I recently added some 'gamer cards' for my 360, PS3 and Steam accounts on the left side. It'll be interesting to see where it all goes in the future. I thought the Dragon Age 2 marketing push was impressive. And based on the high sales despite many people feeling the sequel was inferior to the first game, I would say it largely worked. They integrated with Facebook, with their own website's newsletter, other games EA sold, and then as a 'thank you' for such impressive sales, they offered a free download to Mass Effect 2 on the PC. If other companies see this as having been a success, will they try to follow-suit? Gues time will tell.

Now, my asset is loaded. Back to Dragon Age Legends on Facebook.
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