Always Bet On Poo

Always bet on Catholic schoolgirls.

Duke Nukem Forever is out. No, really! It only took 15 years. So now people can talk about the game as opposed to the development drama.

Surprisingly, a shooter that took 15 years to make about a foul-mouthed Schwarzenegger clone did not address the same target market as, say, Shadow of the Colossus or Braid. To quote Ars Technica:

In the first few moments of Duke Nukem Forever, your character pees in a urinal and then earns an achievement for reaching into a toilet and extracting a piece of human excrement. Why does the game reward you for doing this? I have no idea. It’s not part of a joke or important to the story; the designers of the game apparently feel that you would miss out by not holding some poo in your virtual hand.

So, this is not a game that is not going to make you feel deeply about life, unless to you life is poo (in which case, Blizzard’s World of Warcraft has entire quest lines that will bring you fulfillment). This is a game where… well, here, look at the cover.

WHAT WERE YOU EXPECTING, PEOPLE. This is not subtle! Look, there’s a nuclear explosion, and Vegas, and aliens, and covering all of that is some big guy who is waiting patiently for you to give his pistol a blowjob. This is not Shakespeare! Well, except for the plays we don’t talk about. This is the very epitome of embarrassing low brow entertainment. This is, to put not too fine a point on it, the gaming equivalent of a strip club. Which is fine! The fact that strip clubs exist do not prevent you from going to a sushi bar for a nice dinner. It’s a big world, and they coexist peacefully. Plus, if you do want to go to a strip club (and I’m totally not judging you here, really) you’re not going to consult the reviews first. “Oh, I’m not going to Spearmint Rhino tonight, the review in Friday’s Times said it was loud and overrated.” NO! You just go! You just buy the game, and you play it, and you maybe giggle slightly nervously as you blow pregnant rape victims apart with your shotgun. You just DO, OK?

This is why reviewers exist, really. They exist to have FUN with games like these. Such as the above-mentioned Ars Technica review:

I have to install and play this piece of garbage on the PC to see how that version holds up, and make sure there’s nothing to be salvaged from the multiplayer.

Or Destructoid:

A festering irrelevance with nothing to offer the world.

Or Gamespot:

While much of Duke Nukem Forever is embarrassingly bad–the kind of game you point and laugh at–its biggest problem is that it’s so tedious…This game takes an icon and turns him into a laughingstock. Except, no one’s laughing.

Or the Escapist:

A deeply flawed game that I would have stopped playing after five minutes were it not a requirement of my job to play longer.

This is what reviewers pray for nightly. A game that is so awfully, joyously unreviewable that every drop of snark they can muster can just masterfully splatter all over the virtual page. Reviewers are grateful for things like this. Such as this review of the movie aimed at the identical target market for DNF, Sucker Punch.

The first is its complete failure to create any sort of meaningful narrative. To be blunt: This movie is dumb and doesn’t make sense and appears to have been written by sleeping frogs.

Now come on. Admit it. The reviewer loved writing this. I mean, you can’t use “appears to have been written by sleeping frogs” for, say, the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Sometimes a movie, or a game, is just so gloriously off the rails that you rejoice at being able to bust out the metaphors you never, ever get away with.

Which makes the hamfisted attempts at ‘damage control’ by Jim Redner, until-very-recently-2K’s public relations rep, even more odd.

too many went too far with their reviews…we r reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t based on today’s venom

What? No! You don’t threaten people with access to content management publishing systems to stop using content management publishing systems! Much like DNF wallows in the joy of its own affection for poo, its PR team should wallow in the joy of the reviews that point out it’s poo. Link to them! Celebrate them! Give DukePoints to whomever uses the most spittle-flecked metaphors! You’re poo, you like poo, roll around in the poo and smile while you show everyone your poo!

And then, announce Duke Nukem Forever After. 2012 release.

A (Lack Of) Programming Note

I’ve gone ahead and switched the internal blog commenting system back on. The forums will stick around in their current woefully ignored state (I’ll probably need them for something else eventually) but I haven’t had the time to integrate them fully into WordPress as I planned to, so they tend to be more of a hindrance to commenting on things for all save the hardest of core.

We meant to do better, but it came out as always.” – Viktor Chernomyrdin, typically cheerful Russian politician

Call Of Booty: We’re So Money

"I just made $12 million while you were laughing at this picture."

Modern Warfare 3 to ship with a subscription service called Call of Duty: Elite. Well, then.

This is so industry-asploding money-printing what-were-movies-again big that some news sources you don’t expect to see linked to on my silly little blog dedicated to amusing EA executives commented on this. Such as, oh:

Wall Street Journal:

First of all, it’s important to keep something in mind: People don’t like to give up more of their money. This is just a general rule.

But in addition to the expected “gaming companies are greedy” comments, there is a lot of confusion about exactly what the new service will involve – and just what people will get for their money.

That disconnect is coming in large part because “Call of Duty” maker Activision doesn’t seem to have ironed out all the details yet. Activision executives told The Wall Street Journal’s Nick Wingfield that they haven’t yet figured out how much to charge for the service – although the Journal reports that it will likely be $7.99 or less. They have said parts of the service will be free, but there are conflicting reports about what exactly those free parts will include.

Forbes:

…like yet another company trying to overcapitalize on social networking BS, as I can speak for the majority of Call of Duty players when I say I don’t give a shit about the interests of the people I’m virtually shooting. And how can portions of a monthly paid subscription service be free? That sentence doesn’t even make sense.

The Guardian:

The driving force behind Elite is clear – the desire to gain revenue from the vast numbers of gamers who regularly play Call of Duty titles online for free. According to Activision, 20 million people play Call of Duty online every month – more than seven million every day.

This number represents a vast source of untapped income – and in an era of declining retail sales for games, identifying new streams of digital revenue is becoming vitally important. The problem is, attempting to install a subscription charge on online multiplayer activity would meet with massive resistance from gamers, who have always enjoyed free access to online functionality with shooter games.

Gamasutra (ok, I link to them all the time but it’s a good instanalysis):

While he’s something of a lightning rod among gamers, it’s worth noting that Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter was the first to forecast this service last year. And while he says he’s still sussing out the particulars, he doesn’t expect Activision to shove Elite down players’ throats out of the gate.

“I think Activision hopes to get up to 1 million subscribers this year,” says Pachter. “From there, they hope to get it up to 3 million next year, then up to 5 million. Over time, they’d like to migrate everyone over to it.”

One million subscribers isn’t exactly pocket change, but with a player base of 7 million users, it’s achievable – and it’s something that would be more than a blip on the company’s earnings.

“I think they’re in this for the long run,” he says. “For their next [fiscal] year, 1 million subscribers [to Elite] is about an added 3 cents per share. It’s meaningful, but who knows ultimately if they’ll end up with 1 million or 10 million.”

If those numbers do start to increase, look for the company to expand the Elite model to other notable franchises. And the most obvious places to do so are StarCraft and Bungie’s upcoming title.

So while the mainstream media ties itself up in knots over OMG WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN, those of us who have followed the game industry follies for a while, including Activision treating the people who actually made Call of Duty a billion-dollar franchise with all the gratitude due the indentured servants they clearly believe them to be, this isn’t exactly a surprise. After all, here’s Bobby Kotick from a few years ago:

[The games we passed on] don’t have the potential to be exploited every year on every platform with clear sequel potential and have the potential to become $100 million dollar franchises. … I think, generally, our strategy has been to focus… on the products that have those attributes and characteristics, the products that we know [that] if we release them today, we’ll be working on them 10 years from now.

How do you exploit people playing your game online for free? Well, charge them, duh.