The Bulletin is a roundup of a few game-related news stories from the previous week.
Microsoft celebrates summer by putting on a flashy open-toed sandal
It would have been interesting to listen in on the conversations happening at Microsoft’s headquarters during Sony’s spectacular E3 press conference a couple of weeks ago. “We’ve got this in the bag,” the Microsoft executives would say with a laugh, as they adjusted their top hats and puffed their cigars. “People are a little upset that buying used games for the Xbox One is going to be unnecessarily complicated, that they’ll have to jump through hoops to give a game to a friend, that the system needs to connect to the internet every 24 hours, and that it’s going to cost $500, but that’s all going to be fine. Sony will do all of the same stuff, and then nobody will have any reason to be mad at us. It’s a perfect plan!”
Of course, it didn’t work out like that. Sony smugly announced at E3 that the PlayStation 4 won’t have the elaborate restrictions of the Xbox One, and it will cost $100 less. It was such a definitive victory for Sony that it seemed like Microsoft would never recover and the massive tech company would soon shrivel up and die. But then something crazy happened: As we reported on Thursday, Microsoft listened to all of the negative feedback and decided to eliminate the stuff people didn’t like about the Xbox One (most of it, anyway). Namely, the console will not need to connect to the internet every day, and there won’t be any new, bizarre limitations on what you can do with the games you own. Good work, internet. You convinced a giant corporation that it was doing something stupid and saved video games from a bleak and restrictive future.
But at what cost? Not everyone is happy with Microsoft’s decision to flip-flop on its Xbox One policies, because no matter what basic human rights we’re keeping (I think “ability to buy used games” is somewhere on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), we are losing a few features that sounded pretty cool. Gizmodo’s Kyle Wagner wrote a strongly worded article explaining why he thinks the Xbox One “just got way worse,” and it basically boils down to us losing the ability to trade and resell digital games. Wagner believes this and the used game restrictions would’ve made Xbone games cheaper, because publishers wouldn’t have to account for used sales in the initial price of a game. This seems like a particularly optimistic view of game studios and how much they love to take money from people, and I find it hard to believe that, after selling games for $60 for so many years, publishers would suddenly be OK with making less money (especially since Microsoft has already confirmed that the Xbox One games it publishes will cost $60).
Either way, it’s a moot point. Both upcoming game consoles will work a lot like the last ones did, much to the delight of GameStop, which said, “we applaud Microsoft for understanding consumers and the importance of the pre-owned market” in a statement posted on Joystiq. It’s an odd day when the internet and GameStop are on the same side of an issue, but such is the mess that Microsoft made. Also, that video where Microsoft’s Don Mattrick told people to buy an Xbox 360 if they don’t like the Xbox One’s internet requirements is even funnier now.
Nintendo goes free-to-play, will soon control all money
There’s a line in the Book Of Revelation that I think is relevant for today: “And lo, a red oval shall descend unto your coin purse, and it shall demand $1.99 in exchange for five Super Mushrooms.” It’s right after that part that talks about ordering pizza with your Xbox. In any case, Nintendo has fulfilled ancient prophecy by announcing that it will publish free-to-play games that include in-game microtransactions, as reported by IGN. The details are light for now, but we do know that the first free-to-play title from Nintendo will be some sort of sequel to Steel Diver, a submarine-based 3DS game that didn’t make much of a splash on its initial release. Nintendo doesn’t know exactly what its free-to-play model will look like yet, but it’s a pretty safe bet that we’ll eventually see the nickel-and-diming make its way into a more popular series if Steel Diver takes off. Exchanging coins for an extra life is already a staple of the Mario games, so it’s not such a big jump for Nintendo to ask players to cough up some actual coin.
Apple does it again, adds controller support to next iOS update
For the past decade or so, Apple has maintained a reputation as a company that is always on the bleeding edge of whatever’s cool. Before it released the iPod, you had to listen to music on enormous vinyl records or go to live performances called “concerts.” Before the iPad Mini, you could only check Twitter while sitting on the toilet with a slightly larger tablet computer. It was crazy. Well, it looks like Apple has come up with another great idea that will totally blow your mind: Using a controller to play video games. As announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference—and reported by Touch Arcade—the upcoming iOS 7 will introduce controller support for iPhones, iPads, and iPods. This initiative appears to be intended to ease the way for third-party developers, rather than signaling that Apple will make controllers of its own, but it’s still exciting news. I mean, imagine playing iPhone hits like Minecraft or XCOM: Enemy Unknown with a controller. It’s like we’re living in the future!