Blog Archives

Building (Critical) Consensus: Call of Duty: Ghosts (PS3 / 360)

call-of-duty-ghosts-xbox-360-box-artIf there’s a franchise that’s used as a metaphor for everything that people see as wrong with gaming today, it’s Call of Duty. People are using racial, ethnic, homophobic and misogynistic slurs online? Damn CoD kids. Effectively recycling last year’s game for a big profit this year? Old CoD trick. The death of the single-player campaign at the expense of getting everyone into and spending money on multiplayer? You better believe that’s a CoD’ing.

So with the release of the transitional Call of Duty: Ghosts on current generation consoles yesterday, one had to wonder if the reviews would be a referendum on the franchise as a whole.

The answer is that I’m not entirely sure. I’ve never played a CoD game so I won’t be able to tell you how Ghosts this stacks up. (Sorry, I’m just not a big FPS fan.) Many reviewers noted that this was remarkably similar to Infinity Ward’s last effort, CoD: Modern Warfare 3, and marked it down as a result. Others noted that but gave it a high mark because it was still fun. So if you loved MW3, there’s nothing to turn you off here.

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Building (Critical) Consensus: Skylanders: Swap Force

skylanders-swap-force-starter-boxDisney Infinity learned an important lesson this summer: When you come at the king, you best not miss. When they released the game this summer, while it was praised for the sandbox mode, it was criticized for technical issues and campaigns that didn’t allow crossover of characters between franchises which made the whole thing a bit of a cynical cash grab. Now, Skylanders is back with the third installment in the franchise.

With the third installment of Skylanders in as many years, many reviewers were concerned that the franchise would be tired and repetitive. However, Vicarious Visions’ new additions to the franchise with the character creation was a fun addition to the game, even if it seemed a bit simple to snap two figure pieces together. Young or old, the critics say that you’ll have fun with Skylanders: Swap Force. Your wallet, on the other hand, may end up in agony.

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Activision Buys Out Vivendi For $5.83 Billion

activision-blizzard-vivendi-bannerLast week, we reported that Activision’s parent company (and majority owner) Vivendi was going to make the publisher pay out a massive dividend that would nearly tap all of Activision’s cash reserves.

Just days later, Activision decided that it wasn’t going to pay the dividend and indicated such by buying back Vivendi’s majority stake in the company in a deal with $5.83 billion.

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Reports Say Vivendi to Take $2 Billion From Activision

activision-blizzard-bannerIt looks like Activision Blizzard’s plan to whether any unexpected costs for the upcoming console launches and possible sales shortfalls as a result of economic uncertainty by leveraging a mountain of money may require a rethink.

A report in the Wall Street Journal suggests that Activision’s parent company Vivendi is planning to take a $2 billion cash dividend from the publisher to pay down its own debt.

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Building (Critical) Consensus: Deadpool

deadpool-box-art-xbox-360Superhero games tend not to be terribly good. Off the top of my head, the last great licensed superhero/comic book game was Spider-man 2, though that might have been down to the web-swinging. Then again, licensed games, in general, tend to have a reputation for being poor.

Yesterday’s release of Deadpool wasn’t among this year’s worst games but it doesn’t sound like the sort of game that’s likely to get much traction outside of Deadpool fans and the Marvel crowd. The reviews indicate that this game is a good piece of fan service but nothing particularly fresh or innovative.

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Building (Critical) Consensus: The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

I warned you about The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct back in January. That footage that Terminal Reality gave IGN at the end of December wasn’t going to get any better by a March release date. And if you followed me on Twitter, I gave you advance warning that Activision and Terminal Reality weren’t taking review copy requests for the game.

The problem isn’t solely with the graphics and animations though. The levels are repetitive  The survivor group management mechanics are effectively pointless. Basically, every review about this game says that TWD: Survival Instinct is little more than a cash grab using a popular license.

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Bungie’s Destiny: Much Ado About Nothing (Yet)

destiny-teaser-posterNot surprisingly, Bungie’s unveiling of their in-development Destiny to an assembled group of gaming press was massive news. After all, Bungie developed the Halo franchise, produced five well-received games in the series and have moved on to a much-anticipated new IP that will be published by Activision.

If you checked any of the major gaming blogs or news sites, Destiny’s unveiling wasn’t a one post piece of news. Writers dedicated multiple posts to news about the game but all those posts had one thing in common. Bungie didn’t unveil anything of substance about Destiny. Read the rest of this entry

Should We Be Worried About The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct?

When Telltale Games first released 2012’s The Walking Dead, I don’t think anyone was expecting the GOTY-worthy game that they produced given their earlier efforts. It easily set the bar for story writing in video games. Naturally, you could understand why we would keep a close eye on Terminal Reality’s take on The Walking Dead TV series. The game, called The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, is a first-person shooter starring TV series characters Daryl and Merle Dixon.

While previews of the game’s plot and gameplay seem promising, the first gameplay footage has me worried that this is another publisher (Activision) trying to cash in on a hot license and the result will be another terrible TV licensed game. Read the rest of this entry

The Economics of Video Game Development

call-of-duty-black-ops-2-wallpaperA few weeks back, one of the hot stories in the video game world was that Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 reached gross sales of $1 billion in only 15 days. What sounded like good news for publisher Activision was quickly reigned in by writers pointing out that CoD: Blops 2 sold fewer copies to reach $1 billion of gross sales than 2011’s CoD: Modern Warfare 3.

This raised an interesting question in my mind: How profitable are video games to make? Even if Blops2 sold fewer copies, shouldn’t Activision still have covered the sunk costs of development and marketing after paying for the variable costs of each unit sold? Read the rest of this entry

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