A Sony PlayStation 4 (L) and Microsoft Xbox One home video game console, taken on January 22, 2016. (Photo by Olly Curtis/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Why have only two or three formats when you can have six?

The morning Inbox wonders how much a hit video game usually sells in the UK, as a reader discovers Phoenix Point has become an Epic exclusive.

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Secret PC games

So with this Google annoucement coming up, and perhaps Amazon and Apple after it, we could have six completely separate formats within a couple of years. And that’s not even counting PC. I’m not saying this is a good or a bad thing until I see what they’re offering but it does seem like the idea of a single format future is dead and buried.

That’s not even a concept I’ve heard about for a long time – the idea that one console maker would become so dominant that the others would give up, so we’d only have Sony or Microsoft or whatever, just like we only had DVD and Blu-ray.

I realise we’ve gone beyond that now with digital downloads but the fact that we could end up with six formats that all have their own exclusive games is actually worse. Unless these new ones are all going to be secret PC games underneath and it’s just the streaming service that’s different it sounds like a nightmare.

Cross-play would help to a degree, but it’s still not exactly common and that’s not going to give you access to a game that’s not exclusive. I hope there’s something I’m missing here because it just seems like it’s going to make gaming more fractured, more confusing, and more expensive.


Low barrier for entry

So you don’t even have to sell a thousand copies of a game to get into the UK top 40? That is a real eye-opener. I realise it’s a quite time of year and Left Alive is apparently really bad but I’m still kind of shocked at the numbers.

The Devil May Cry 5 figures don’t seem great either. Am I just naïve to think that games sold a lot more in the UK than this? I was imagining numbers in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Not just 20,000 or so.

Is this normal, GC? How much does a big game like FIFA or Call Of Duty sell? All these stories of millions of kids playing Fortnite and apparently there’s barely anyone playing anything they actually have to pay for. I’m beginning to understand why publishers are so keen on microtransactions and all those other horrible microtransaction scams.

GC: Here’s a list of the top 20 sellers of 2018, where you can see the top three games sold over a million and then that quickly deflates to less than a quarter of that by the time you get to number 20. Although, as ever, that’s physical only.


Subscription sequel

The thing I don’t understand about The Division 2 is why did it have to be a sequel if there’s so little meaningful difference between it and the last one? I like the original, don’t get me wrong, but why take the Destiny 2 route and just start everyone from scratch? Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to just have this as a big new area in the same game that you can visit and stuff goes on between the two and maybe even some areas in-between.

I assume the reason is that people are more likely to pay full price for a sequel than an expansion, and that’s the end of the story. But for these online-only games it really does seem to be undercutting the whole idea. I get that they have to make their money but I’d be happy to go back to MMO subscriptions rather than this. If companies knew they were getting a guaranteed income I imagine we’d get even more new content on a more regular basis.

But, again, I guess less people are likely to go for a subscription than a sequel so… this is what we got. It’s a shame because judging by the open beta The Division 2’s not doing anything wrong other than being a sequel.


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Exclusive scramble

It’s a shame this is the first I’ve heard of the game in a while but I just saw that Phoenix Point has become another Epic Games store exclusive. Phoenix Point is the new game from the creator of X-COM (and the excellent Chaos Reborn) and, especially with no sign of a new official game, looks to be the perfect spiritual sequel.

I looked to see if there was any new footage but all there was was this video from four months ago, but it looks properly amazing to me and I am totally sold. Except… I’ll have to buy it from Epic Games store.

So what, you may ask. And to be honest it probably doesn’t matter at this point but this is the future we’ve already been worrying about this week: companies grabbing every random exclusive for their own to make their service/console unique. That doesn’t matter with PC games much because switching stores doesn’t make much difference. But imagine if this was a different console or a subscription service you had to pay an extra £8 a month to get so you could play the one game you were interested in. It could easily happen and I fear we’ve already taken the first steps.


War stories

I don’t know how many people would be interested in this here but a new Gears Of War novel has just been announced that will bridge the gap between Gears 4 and 5. It’s called Gears Of War: Ascendance and… I’m probably going to get it.

It’s probably not a series that people thinking of having much in the way of backstory but I was really into the originals and felt a bit let down that Gears Of War 4 was almost a soft reboot. It wasn’t though so I’m hoping that the next thing will move thing forward and actually have some proper storytelling, a decent bad guy, and move away from the older characters.

I liked all the cameos in 4 but I think they kind over overwhelmed the game in the end and became a bit like the new Star Wars, where they’re there to attract old school fans but end up dominating so much that there’s no time to build up the new characters. That’s definitely something the novel could help with too.


Ultimate extreme

In response to Gifford, I wouldn’t say expecting easier unlockables so you don’t have to play a game properly is the madness of modern gaming taken to the extreme.

I’d say paying full price for a game, then being encouraged to pay more to relieve you of the burden of really playing it is the madness of modern gaming taken to the extreme.

Once we get to that stage, and games are being designed so they’re not enjoyable to play for that very reason, we’ll really be in trouble…

* Reads countless publisher spiels about giving gamers the option of progressing if they don’t have time to play the game they’ve paid for *

* Dies *


Game of the show of the game

For those saying that the Netflix series never led to a new Castlevania, that is technically true but I’m pretty sure that PlayStation 4 port of Symphony Of The Night wouldn’t have happened without it and it sounds like a new collection is coming too, according to this rumour. Maybe the characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate wouldn’t have happened too.

In my view these Netflix shows are a lot better form than movies for games as the budgets are lower and there’s no problem appealing to a niche audience. I bet Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a dead cert now and that’s probably partly due to Netflix. All of which means one obvious thing: Dino Crisis should get a TV show!


Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here


Only on 3DS

Sad to think the 3DS is ending soon but I agree it’s had a good run and there’s no realistic way it can go on much longer, especially with the success of the Switch.

In terms of what the best games are I would say (ignoring the Zelda remasters) that my favourite is definitely Fire Emblem: Awakening. I wasn’t really aware of the series outside of the Smash Bros. cameos before this but absolutely fell in love with the mix of role-playing and strategy. It seems to me a game that can only work on a portable and I’d be very surprised if Nintendo can make it a hit on Switch.

It’s games like that which are the biggest loss from the end of portables, as I really don’t see a game like Zelda: A Link Between Worlds being made on Switch either. Not without the considerably larger budget that the Link’s Awakening remake seems to have.

But with Pokémon, Fire Emblem, and Animal Crossing all coming up that’s three games that you’d normally say work best on a portable so if they can get all them working and selling like before I guess there really is no need for the 3DS anymore.

Oh and quick shout out for Kid Icarus: Uprising. I know the controls are awful but even with that it still ends up being great, and I think there’s a real danger it’ll never be re-released on any other format.


Inbox also-rans

Just in case you needed more reason to love FromSoftware the file size for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is apparently less than 13GB. That’s less than most day one patches for other games.
Bentley Bear

I think that reader is leaving out an important little detail about the Sonic The Hedgehog movie. Jim Carrey is playing Dr Robotnik. I don’t think there are any pics yet but… I’ve got a feeling this is going to be pretty special.


This week’s Hot Topic

The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Ishi, who asks what is your favourite video game soundtrack of the current generation?

That means anything on the Wii U, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, 3DS, or PS Vita – or any new PC game from early 2011 onwards. You can recommend a single song or a whole soundtrack, but we want to know what you think has been the best video game music for the modern formats?

What do you think of current trends in video game music and do you think this generation has been better or worse, in general, for video game music? And do you own any recent soundtracks separately, either as downloads or on CD or vinyl?

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