It’s weird to remember the time when “Assassin’s Creed” wasn’t relevant, but when the first title in the series was released, few found themselves enamored with the young series. That would change, of course, with “Assassin’s Creed II” which is widely considered to be one of the greatest games of its generation, and would propel the franchise into the stratosphere where it finally settled in the pantheon of true Triple-A caliber videogame series.
Even with the series more recent expansions (“Brotherhood” and “Revelations“) “Assassin’s Creed” is a series that doesn’t rest on its laurels and is constantly coming up with new ways to reinvent itself, and refresh the experience. With its new gameplay additions (like naval battles), the entirely unique American Revolution setting, a new protagonist, some fantastic ad campaigns, and enough E3 Awards and gushing hands on previews to make lesser games weep, the true next installment in the series looks to continue that tradition of excellence.
It also may be the only game left in the calendar year that has a shot of dethroning “Dishonored” for unanimous game of the year consideration (although, right now “XCOM“, “Journey“, or “Kingdoms of Amalur” has my personal vote), and I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one that can’t wait to find out if it will when it is released on October 30th.
As one MMO flies to incredible new heights, another that once promised players that very feature is coming to an end.
Recently the MMO world was hit with two big bits of news as “Guild Wars 2” developer ArenaNet posted on their Facebook page, that all first party digital downloads of the new mega hit MMO are suspended temporarily in order to insure server stability. While the game is still available through third party sites and retail stores, the developers themselves feel they have a responsibility to everyone in the game to hold off on new sales directly from them, so that play isn’t interrupted. Currently new methods to expand digital services are being looked at.
The reasons for these individual stories of success and untimely demise are both simple and complex, but ultimately revolve around each other.
First, in case you didn’t follow the insane pre-release hype, or immediately snatch up the product that finally launched, “Guild Wars 2″ is slowly taking the online world by storm in a way that no other MMO has done since “World of Warcraft” itself. It’s doing this through an incredible art style with a scope and integrity never before seen in a game like this, a PvP system that’s so brilliant and well executed it looks to make all other competitive systems irrelevant by the time it kicks into gear, and maybe best of all, a level of difficulty that rewards players for putting more time into it by actually making the game better as you go along, instead of creating more incentive for new players, and providing cold shoulders for veterans. Tying it all together, unlike “WoW,” “Guild Wars 2” is free to play, continuing one of the more welcome video game trends in some time.
I’ve had the privilege of playing the game recently, and I don’t think I could give you an honest critical review of it. That’s because despite some of its flaws, I have such a deep and abiding respect for the game that questions of review scores and likes or hates are irrelevant. It’s one of those stand up and take notice games that only come along once in a while, even if all of the specifics aren’t perfect.
Oddly though, it seems to achieve such lofts, a sacrifice of sorts had to be made. That seems to be the largest reason behind the cancellation of service for “City of Heroes,” as reports still have the game boasting a sizable player base, and even reporting some respectable sales figures as recently as last year for such an aging title. However, earlier this year NCsoft reported its first companywide loss in a while, and at the time “City of Heroes” was at the bottom of the sales list. With other ongoing projects to support, and bigger titles on the horizon, it would seem “City of Heroes” fell to the archvillian known as fiscal reports, and nothing more.
Unfortunately it’s not easy to look at this as a case of one door closing and another opening. As good as “Guild Wars 2” is, and as great as it promises to be, “City of Heroes” long stood as the somewhat appropriate icon of hope in the MMO world. It wasn’t a fantasy or sci-fi game, yet it produced a well built and, initially, successful MMO. Now that it has fallen to a, admittedly well worthy, challenger to the “WoW” crown of fantasy MMO dominance, I worry that the message will become more and more clear in developer’s minds that new entrants in the genre are unwelcome, especially if they are trying something different.
In a year’s time I feel that the MMO market will be hotly divided by “Guild Wars 2” players, and by “WoW” addicts, and with good reason. At that time, the mention of a title like “City of Heroes” won’t lead to tears, but rather fond memories. Still, I wish that it were possible for the game to continue in some capacity for as long as it can. Because while the game’s sales figures may have been mild mannered like reporter Clark Kent, beneath the corporate visage of numbers lied an idea of originality, individuality, and innovation in the American way.
Compared to the same time last year, sales are down 28% (from $718.9 million to $516.5 million) overall. This is being attributed to a number of factors, including the advantage May had last year with Nintendo’s 3DS price drop, and the rise of online free to play games as possible reasons for this drop off.
What’s even more disturbing is the follow up by the Seattle Times that reveals that this is merely the latest entry in a six month tailspin of sales figures the video game industry has posted.
While most of the time I would dismiss these figures as this is traditionally accepted as the slow time of the year for games, and a big release like the next “GTA” or the equivalent would quickly turn these numbers around, its troubling that in a month that included highly anticipated sequels (“Diablo 3″ and “Max Payne 3″) as well as exciting new projects (“Dragon’s Dogma”) that sales would still drop to such a degree.
The truly frightening part is that these numbers are following a weak E3 showing that was criticized for its lack of original properties and exciting ideas. If sales continue to plummet like this, we could be in for a long and frightening stretch of big developers playing it safe, and indie developers struggling for a chance, and the industry could begin to regress instead of using its unprecedented popularity as a platform to push forward on.
For the sake of all gamers, I hope that isn’t true.
During its first month at retail, Forza 3 sold through more than a million copies worldwide. To give a little something back this holiday season, Turn 10 is releasing the Hot Holidays pack with ten new cars to keep you busy.
With the DLC you’ll get the following:
1. 2010 Ferrari 599XX
2. 2010 Mercedes SLR Stirling Moss
3. 2010 Lamborghini LP6700-4 SV
4. 2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo
5. 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia
6. 2010 Jaguar XFR
7. 2010 Audi S4
8. 2009 Aston Martin #007 AMR Lola
9. 2009 Audi #2 Sport Team Joest R15 TDI
10. 2010 Nissan GT-R Spec V
The developer also released usage stats for the first month. Players logged a whopping 6.6 million man hours in the game, including 64 million player sessions over 590 million miles of track. Not too shabby considering the other titles released in the same quarter (*cough* Modern Warfare 2 *cough*).