Pay attention to risk-taking Nintendo, Microsoft and Bethesda

Weekly Roundup: Industry reacts to Switch, Microsoft offers a taste of the future while Bethesda upsets the media

There's a quote in our exclusive interview with David Cage this week that reads: "We could all make first-person shooters, but we have a much more exciting industry with people exploring different routes."

It actually speaks to a few things that has happened in the games business over the last seven days.

Take for instance the Nintendo Switch. This past week has been beset with opinion and counter-opinion over the new machine. Judging by the reaction, it will either sell millions to time-poor adults who cannot dedicated themselves to consoles, but is looking for something a little deeper than what's on offer on smartphones. Or, it will satisfy no-one by being another under-powered Nintendo device that doesn't provide the ease of use of an Apple product.

Whatever your opinion of it, Switch represents Nintendo doing what Cage is seeing across the business - companies experimenting with new ideas, learning from them and pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

"We could all make first-person shooters, but we have a much more exciting industry with people exploring different routes."

David Cage, Quantic Dream

Take Microsoft, for instance, which has just detailed the experimental new technology it is using to push Windows 10. The firm unveiled plans to launch five VR headsets with third-party partners (including one for $299) and highlighted the potential of combining it with its AR device HoloLens. The mixed reality concept is interesting, and it's also an area that both Oculus and HTC are looking to push into. Yet it's expensive and - at this point at least - looks unrealistic as a serious consumer proposition.

However, by putting the technology out there in the B2B space, Microsoft is potentially opening the door to an entirely new area for the video games industry. Something that it also hopes to do with its Beam streaming video service, which wants to ape Twitch by allowing viewers to interact directly with the game.

All of it is unproven and faces serious competition, and is therefore easy to dismiss, yet Microsoft is just doing what the big players in the industry always have - finding alternative paths to success.

Other businesses that are walking different (and more controversial paths) this week is GAME and Bethesda. GAME has decided to charge its customers to play on PlayStation VR. It has provoked a negative reaction, but ultimately the success or failure of this experiment is down to the consumer and their willingness to pay £15 for 30 minutes of VR. Whatever the outcome, we'll all learn something about what consumers are, or are not, willing to pay for.

"We want everyone, including those in the media, to experience our games at the same time."

Bethesda statement

Bethesda, meanwhile, announced it will hold off sending copies of Skyrim Special Edition and Dishonored 2 to critics until a day before release - effectively giving reviewers no time to get their articles out before the games hit shelves.

The firm said it wanted to ensure that the press and the fans enjoy its games at the same time. Bethesda has often, and understandably, prioritised its users ahead of the media, even its big E3 conferences are designed more for its fanbase than journalists. Yet it's hard to see what the pro-consumer angle is here.

This move doesn't particularly harm the media, which has become accustomed to reviewing games after they're released due to the prevalence of Day One patches and multiplayer games that can't be accurately tested until everyone is online. In fact, the only person that loses out is the customer, who is now forced to gamble on pre-ordering Dishonored 2 (and getting that free copy of the first Dishonored) or waiting to see what the critics say (and missing out on the freebie).

Regardless of my thoughts, it'll be interesting to see what happens with this experiment. Will the delayed reviews have a positive or negative impact upon the commercial performance of these games? And in an age of Let's Play videos, does critical analysis even play that big a role in the buying decisions of consumers these days? We'll soon find out.

As Cage observes, all of this experimentation and exploration is what makes video games a 'much more exciting industry'.

Other news on††this week

The New is here

Sale of Seattle Mariners stake keeps Nintendo in profit

SAG-AFTRA strike draws more than 250 to EA offices

Keywords Studios acquires Player Research in deal worth £1.3m

Layoffs strike Gameforge as publisher abandons mobile

Related stories

Nintendo reveals best-selling indie Switch games

Celeste triumphs as platform holder pledges to improve eShop discoverability

By Ben Parfitt

Nintendo Switch breaks records for first-year US sales

Meanwhile, NPD reports spending on games products neared $1 billion in February

By James Batchelor

Latest comments

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.