Ben's Week In Review: October 25
The big games are basically here, so I hope you've got some free time on your hands this holiday season!
It's the silence surrounding the Vita that's so depressing
I'm well aware that PlayStation Vita fans hate to always hear about how the console is "dead" or at least "dying." I think it's an excellent gaming device myself but I'm not afraid to notice the handwriting on the wall.
And you have to understand, I'm coming at this from more of an insider viewpoint. I see all the press releases and a lot of the investor notes; I hear various things on any given day that probably aren't being made public. And I can tell you this: The reason so many journalists have written about the Vita's premature demise is because Sony basically never talks about it. Not ever. It's omitted from any mention of updated PlayStation brand sales (only numbers for the PS4 are revealed), Sony executives rarely bring it up in interviews unless they're prompted to do so, and the Vita is awfully inconspicuous at most trade events. You may recall Sony's E3 presentation; the handheld was barely mentioned. And the only time Sony talks about the Vita now is to admit that it's not really doing well.
They say there are no first-party games in development and they concede that the environment right now is very "unhealthy." But beyond that, not a peep. There are no press releases with any mention of any Vita games, unless it's from a third-party publisher and even those are rare. This just isn't normal, people. Even when the PSP wasn't doing so hot, Sony was never afraid to talk about it, primarily because they had plans to continue supporting it. Right now, there's zero evidence on the back end in the gaming industry that Vita will continue to receive Sony's support. And it's really too bad, but that's the way things are.
Obviously, Black Ops III is going to fuel console sales
It's almost as if they only made a last-gen version of Call of Duty: Black Ops III to convince people to upgrade.
So, not only is the PS3/360 version lacking a campaign, but it will also only manage 30 fps. For a first-person shooter in this day and age, that's borderline unacceptable and I think both Activision and the hardware manufacturers know it. Very often, we look to exclusives to give hardware sales a boost - and I'm sure Halo 5: Guardians and Rise of the Tomb Raider will help Xbox One - but in certain cases, huge multiplatform titles can have a significant impact as well. If there is a marked difference between the last-gen and next-gen versions of a new installment in a massive franchise, it will indeed compel some hold-outs to finally upgrade. And it's a further reminder that most big new games aren't even coming out for PS3 and 360, anymore; Fallout 4, Star Wars: Battlefront, Need for Speed, Assassin's Creed Syndicate are only available on the new systems, for example.
Of course, because CoD is so huge, and also because it often caters some casual gamers who haven't bothered to buy a new game console yet, Activision still benefits from those last-gen versions. Even though it stands to reason that some of the 165 million purchasers of PS3 and 360 don't still have the old system(s), there are surely enough left to make the last-gen Black Ops III iterations worthwhile for the publisher. They wouldn't do it if they stood to lose. That being said, it's such a big technical gap that it almost acts like a red flag: "Hey! You haven't upgraded yet? Why?!"
Personal gaming update
I'm playing Assassin's Creed Syndicate but it's going to be a while before I deliver a review. Big games are like that. I'm basically at the end of the Hearts of Stone expansion for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt; just have a few more question marks to clean up. It really is a fantastic add-on and I can't wait to get my hands on Blood and Wine next year. I played as much as I could of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection but as amazing as those games are, I have played them all before. It's nice to revisit some of the best interactive productions ever made, though, and it definitely deserves a spot in my collection. I'm thinking the Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition might as well.
I don't have a heck of a lot of time this week (I'll be in NYC on Tuesday so no updates that morning) but obviously, the Syndicate review will be done ASAP. Then it's the NFS reboot, Black Ops III, Fallout 4 and Battlefront all in a row between now and November 17. Grand.
10/24/2015 Ben Dutka