Friday, December 14, 2012

The Steam box is real, Crysis 3 a console crusher and advertising to voyeurs

The Midaged Gamer report for 12-14-2012         

This Week...

Steam Box...confirmed, ME4 and Crysis 3 news, how to spot a lousy game review and voyeurs are  making advertisers drool...

Well it's kinda confirmed.  As if the "Big Picture" option in your Steam client wasn't a big enough hint.   Valve's GabeNewell grudgingly admitted at this year's VGA's that his company was  indeed working on the rumored "Steam Box."   The device will likely have a static hardware platform similar to existing consoles but based on the PC architecture.

We don't know much more than it's guts are going to be some kind of PC.  The real question is, what  OS will it'll be running?  Of course there's speculation that it will be Linux but considering the bulk of Steam Games are Windows titles that may not be the best option.  Considering the heavy reliance most popular games have on DirectX (which only shows up on Windows and Xbox) that would be asking non-Valve developers to develop for a new Operating System.  One that is in addition to their development for the Steam on Windows (and to a lesser degree Mac) platform. 

The last I checked nobody really cared about OpenGL anymore.
Let's also not forget that one of  the world's largest game publishers, EA, started its own portal expressly to compete with Steam and does quite well on the PC, Xbox and PS3 platforms.  None of which is a threat to their core revenue stream the way Valve's Steam is.  While EA has made overtures to the Linux community there's been no suggestion of developing their own hardware.

Click Here for Gaming Deals!This begs the question of whether the world needs another console.  PC gaming has been experiencing a minor renaissance in the past few years with Triple-A titles being optimized if not available exclusively on the PC platform.  PC's, especially gaming and enthusiast models are not static beasts either.  Memory, Storage, CPU and graphics are at the discretion of their owners and can support at least one round of upgrades before being retired.

Consoles don't share that trait and to base a console like device on static PC hardware with similar limitations seems wasteful.  Not to mention the versatility a PC platform enjoys that a console could never offer.  It's one thing to watch a Blu-Ray movie on a device for example but quite another to produce one.
Newell also mused about Living Room PC's which sounded eerily like just another HTPC with a better video card.   A form factor quickly losing ground to appliances like Apple TV and Roku by the way.

Newell seems to think otherwise, however...

"Well certainly our hardware will be a very controlled environment," he said. "If you want more flexibility, you can always buy a more general purpose PC. For people who want a more turnkey solution, that's what some people are really gonna want for their living room."

Valve has also been trying to expand Steam to include productivity software on the platform.  That doesn't lend itself to the "squishy" interface of "Big Picture," however, even if the underlying hardware is more capable. It seems like the Steam Box's biggest problem at this point may be multiple personality disorder.

If you're a fan of the Mass Effect series the news this week of Mass Effect 4 probably has you searching for new Commander Shepard wallpaper.  Expected out in late 2014 to early 2015 the game will be based on the Frostbite 2 game engine with goodies lifted from Dragon Age 3.  The new game will come from Bioware's Montreal studio instead of Edmonton but with a lot of support from the ME3 development team.

In our continuing Crysis 3 coverage... As if I cared...
You're going to get Crysis 3 on a console but expect it to use more than 99% of your resources when you play it.  Yeah, it's that bad.  I wonder what that will do to the multiplayer?

If you're someone who cares about gaming news it's best to choose your sources carefully.  CNET games tech writer Jeff Bakalar offered up his 6 most disappointing games and game trends of 2012 His list included this year's "lackluster" E3 convention, the WiiU's launch woes as well as occupying two of his picks with the PSVITA.

The PSVITA?  Wow, like anybody cares anymore?  The WiiU? It's DOA, what else is there to say?  Nowhere to be found was anything about the overpriced and underperforming Medal of Honor: Warfighter.  Nor did we find any mention of the ridiculous requirement of Diablo 3 to have a constant Internet connection. 

What about the "trend" to alienate players who opt out of "premium" memberships like Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty by limiting server access and upgrades?  I'd think that anyone who cares about gaming would recognize the injustice of basically asking a gamer to pay twice for the same game in the hopes of "free" DLC. 

Lest we forget the "trend" of rushing out titles before they're ready thus wasting hours of prime gaming time waiting for patches to download and install.  In the worst example EA forcing everyone to download DLC files whether they want them or not!

Or companies like Zynga that just need to die instead of stinking up the mobile gaming space.
Oh but that's right, gaming only happens on consoles and handhelds.  PC's, Smartphones and tablets don't count. 
 Here's some advice, get your gaming news from people who actually care about gaming like CVG, Joystiq or Kotaku. Leave the hacks covering pop culture and tech on your Yahoo start page.

From our, "This came out of left field department..."

Adweek reported this week that according to an IAB report, over 80 million people visited gaming sites in July of this year.  That number is bigger than the total visitors to porn sites in the same period.  So why does an advertising publication care about such things?  Because buried in those numbers were a noticeable tendency for visitors to watch... gamers that is.  It seems watching other people play games is at least as interesting as watching an episode of a sitcom.  23 minutes as interesting in fact which has advertisers drooling.  With gaming sites like IGN and streaming live gameplay there's a real opportunity, according to Adweek, to tap a new market.  

In response developers are trying to accommodate the trend by tweaking their games to offer a better voyeuristic experience.  Hopefully that doesn't mean we'll see more of those annoying cinematic sequences every time your character meets an untimely demise. 
So the next time you go online don't be surprised if you have an audience. Video games have evolved past being just the simple time sink of our youth.   A triple-A title today is an experience more akin to a  Hollywood blockbuster than Mario Kart. 

So is it any surprise that people want to watch?

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