Steam has been experimenting, and nobody is paying attention

Steam remains one of the best services in the world, and I’ve always enjoyed their attempts to innovate. But it wasn’t until this week that I noticed they have a “Labs” division showing off experiments. The work they’re doing is rather fascinating.

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The Eternal Abyss of Services

E3 2019 happened less than 20 days ago but has already been forgotten. It was overlooked by the gaming world and proved to be a disaster. Not only did PlayStation dodge the whole event out of embarrassment for their lack of offerings, but Microsoft may as well have done the same. It was the worst E3 ever, and it’s especially grim when we see it as a forecast of what’s to come: that is to say, services and mediocrity.

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Buying Cyberpunk 2077 on GOG is the right thing to do

Like many others, I’m slowly becoming convinced that Cyberpunk 2077 is going to be a must-buy game. But it occurred to me just how amazing CD Projekt Red is becoming, and how important it is to support not only their games, but their platform.

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UPDATED: Death Stranding tries (and fails) to shrug off labels

Hideo Kojima has once again taken to Twitter to defend Death Stranding as a new genre of game, impossible to categorize into existing terms. This hasn’t gone very smoothly.

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My Thoughts on Death Stranding Release Date Trailer

Sony uploaded the trailer May 29, 2019

I was pleasantly surprised by the Death Stranding trailer released today because it finally established in more clear terms what the main plot and game structure will be about, and showed off more genuine gameplay, including gunfights, fight fights, and motorcycle riding. If Kojima had continued to delay and tease without revealing the core of the game, it would have been a massive red flag for me, and a sign that the game itself isn’t worth advertising. Unlike Metal Gear Solid games, Death Stranding has no established fan base or legacy to fall back on, so it needs to attract people. This trailer showed that they have confidence in the core game, if nothing else.

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Switch’s online service becomes fatally flawed

I love my Switch, but Nintendo’s online service has quickly gone from “acceptable” to “lousy” with the announcement that crucial games will prevent cloud saving.

I’ve come to terms with paid multiplayer to some extent. Withholding multiplayer behind a paywall is arguably worth the effect it has: reducing annoying casual/kid players you meet online and increasing server quality, in theory. It can pressure gamers into coming back and playing more often because they know that they’re subscribed to the service, too, which means a more active player base. But the other features are lackluster to begin with. Old NES games with hacked in multiplayer components, online save storage, and unspecified discounts. If they included SNES games in that list it would be a different story. No virtual console? No universal purchase library? No voice chat (except through your smartphone)? These are not easy to overlook.

But now, with the bizarre decision to disable online save storage for Dark Souls and Pokemon Let’s Go, Nintendo has officially dropped the ball. Their explanation makes no sense, claiming that it can theoretically be abused. Regarding the non-exclusive titles being affected, look at this quote from the Game Informer article:

It is worth noting that all of these games support cloud saves on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live.

While Pokémon Let’s Go can be explained away as The Pokémon Company’s often overbearing paranoia and a desire to drive business to the cloud-based Pokémon Bank subscription service, the other included examples do not make much sense.

A couple of assholes are going to exploit your online save functionality (if you don’t structure it in a way that prevents this) so now everybody has to suffer? Online saves are 100% about increasing the value of your Switch purchase by making it a little less painful to replace one if it breaks, and having your whole library’s progress backed up is essential, especially for something as in-depth and time consuming as Pokemon or Dark Souls.

Those NES ROMs had better be amazing.

First Impression: Octopath Traveler

Few games have caught my attention the way that Octopath Traveler did when it was announced. Coming from any other studio, for any other system, it may have been different. But a Square Enix RPG exclusively for the Nintendo Switch sounds to me like the Promised Land I was hoping we would see. The best case scenario for the Switch is exactly this: a blurring of console and handheld, where scale and scope don’t matter nearly as much as variety and purpose. From the moment you see it, Octopath Traveler assures you that the Switch will uphold Nintendo’s tradition of supporting colorful, unique, mid-sized games (mostly from Japan) that would be lost in the shuffle if they were released on a regular console. Yes you can have Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for the Switch in all of its 3D glory, but you can also have a text-menu-sprite-turn-and-grind JRPG that feels like the 1990’s again. These kinds of games don’t need to break the mold. They need to satisfy an appetite that very few people are catering to.

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The Next-Gen Half-Step Streaming War Begins (New podcasts!)

Despite putting up my E3 2018 podcast just two days ago, I decided that I wanted to do another one to talk about the Steam Link App, my next-gen industry analysis article, and the hilarious ways that VR is trying to create a killer app. As you’ll hear when you listen to it, I go further into the reason why I predicted that the next generation of consoles were going to use streaming game services as their big selling point. However, I could never have predicted that this morning — right as I was preparing to upload the episode and publish this article — news broke that PlayStation Now is gearing up for a major rehaul.

Listen to the E3 podcast now (Episode 004)

Listen to the streaming/VR podcast now (Episode 005)

Read on for more discussion and proof that my prediction was dead-on correct…

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