The Tail that Wags the Dog: Video Game Pre-Orders

Video game marketing is often pretty cringe-inducing. So much so that a google search of “worst video game marketing” brings up about two million results…the first few pages of which are packed with countdown and “worst-of” articles. That having been said, most traditional marketing can be ignored by those with a general awareness of the PR process. Much like advertisements for pretty much anything else, those of us who play a variety of games know that video game commercials and ads play to the lowest common denominator, casting a wide net to catch as much attention as possible. For the market savvy who seek out games criticism and watch gameplay clips on YouTube and Twitch, video game marketing is essentially a net neutral.

But what about the part of games marketing that isn’t about widening the appeal of the product? The ugly side of pre-release marketing focused on driving up pre-order numbers at all costs? Sure, pre-order bonuses are annoying, especially when varied by retailer or region, but this ever-growing business practice has a much larger implication than free cosmetic DLC.

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XBOX 360: A Look in the Rearview

In the fall of 2005, I was just two months into college. As a full-time student without a job, large gaming expenses weren’t in the cards for me. So, when the XBOX 360 came out that November, I watched from the sidelines through sites like IGN and GameSpot. Over the next year, more 360s started to make their way into the dorms and my envy continued to grow.

My first memory of the XBOX 360 was in a friend’s dorm room at the start of my sophomore year, just a little under a year after the console launched. I remember being absolutely blown away as he played the Normandy beach level in the hyped up sequel to Call of Duty (not the Big Red One). From that point on, I had to have one. That Christmas, I was lucky enough to get my 360, Call of Duty 2, and a spare controller from my parents. For the rest of my time in college, the 360 played a critical role.

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Is Open World the New Multiplayer?

Earlier today, 2K released an incredible trailer for its upcoming Fall 2016 game, Mafia 3. In just two minutes the trailer manages to set a strong tone with it’s incredible camera work and voice acting. Through gameplay previews, we learn that the game will follow Lincoln Clay through a tale of personal revenge set in an open world 1960’s New Orleans…and therein lies the rub. Another open world game.

Don’t get me wrong, open world games are often fantastic, and Mafia 3 is shaping up to be just that. The level of immersion you can get from a dense open world, like the hugely successful Grand Theft Auto 5, can easily take a game from good to great. However, as gaming hardware gets more powerful and open worlds get larger, the resources required to populate an open world game seem to increase exponentially. Despite these increased cost and time requirements, this console generation has seen a huge push from publishers towards open world games and, with Grand Theft Auto 5‘s lifetime sales recently passing 60 million units, who could blame them? But is it always the right creative choice for developers?

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Most Anticipated Games of 2016

A few days ago I was scrolling through GameInformer’s list of upcoming releases to help plan out the games (and hardware) that I’ll be buying throughout the rest of the year. The first thing I was shocked to find was just how many titles were on the list. Starting with tomorrow’s releases, there are 418 more releases confirmed for 2016. Here are some of my most anticipated games on that list and why I’m excited for them.

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PS4K – Will an Updated PS4 Damage the Brand?

Update 2 (4/19/16): Last night, Eurogamer confirmed Giant Bomb’s information, stating that they have access to the same documentation. Eurogamer confirms in the article that the PS4 and PS4K/Neo SKUs will coexist in the market and play all of the same games. Their analysis shows a 1.3x CPU boost, a 2.3x GPU boost, and a 24% increase in memory bandwidth. One curious part of Eurogamer’s story is that the dev kits will be shipping with the same, Blu-Ray drive rather than a UHD-Compatible drive. If this limits the console’s ability to play 4K Blu Ray discs, it takes away one of the biggest selling points for me. With development kits heading out to studios and Sony riding into E3 like Jack Sparrow, hopefully we won’t have to wait much longer for a full reveal.

Update (4/18/16): Giant Bomb has confirmed some new details about the “PS4K” through its sources. First of all, the console is code named “Neo.” Some leaked specs show that Neo will have a faster CPU clock speed and a significantly improved GPU. Although the Neo doesn’t require 4K native rendering for games, Sony will encourage developers to aim for it. The hardware will upscale to a 4K display resolution for games that aren’t able to hit it natively. The leaked documents also show that Neo will exist alongside the original PS4 and that Sony will place limits on developers to prevent Neo-only games or features. All games must reside within the same space on PSN as well. In other words, no special Neo-only game modes or multiplayer servers. Based on this leak, it sounds like Sony’s path will align with at least some of my must-haves below. Do these leaks help to sell you on the PS4K? Let us know in the comments below!

Original Post (4/15/16): Over the past month, rumors of a mid-cycle hardware upgrade to the PS4 have been popping up all over the internet. It all started at GDC when Kotaku started hearing from their sources about the potential hardware revision. At the time, much of the story focused around better performance for PlayStation VR games as well as displaying games in 4K resolution. As a result, the hardware became dubbed the “PS4K.”

Since the story initially broke, gamers have been hungry for more info on the mysterious new PlayStation. Many current PS4 owners feel like this will force them to upgrade hardware earlier than the typical console cycle would mandate. Others are excited by the thought of buying into a premium PS4 experience. Among the divisive forum discussions between these groups, one question seems to be coming up more often than the rest: Can Sony release a mid-cycle hardware refresh without destroying the good will it has built under the PS4 brand?

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Gaming into Adulthood

A lot of people say that college is “the best for years of your life” and, in many ways, it is! That first taste of independence coupled with unprecedented access to friends who live in the same building as you is, for many, a perfect recipe for a good time. In fact, it looks so great in hindsight that college graduates will often look back longingly at those years well into their twenties. Although the independence and social factors are certainly worthy reasons to long for the good old days of college, there’s one thing that’s not always quite as apparent in hindsight. Free time.

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Getting Nostalgic with The Pokemon TCG Online

With all of the hype built up around the Pokémon 20th Anniversary celebrations this year, I recently discovered the Pokémon Training Card Game Online while looking for games to play on my iPad. After poking around the app for a bit, I quickly started to find myself in that all-too-familiar hook of buying booster packs and hoping to get the next great card that will propel me to victory. Amid the confusion of the many different expansions and about four hundred Pokémon I don’t recognize is the heart of a game that hooked me back in the late 90’s. Since then, new additions have been implemented that keep the game fresh and help you get some of the Pokémon you know and love off of your bench, into the battle, and mega-evolved quicker than ever.

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