The untimely death of Okami…

The original Okami was released back in 2005 just at the time when the PS2 was running out of steam and gamers were looking to move on to the next generation.  The timing of the release played an important part to the success of this game.  Commercially it failed and did not sell many copies around 600,000 both on Wii and PS2.

Critically, it was adored by all and remains a game with both iconic and cult status.  Most critics at the time rated it higher than Zelda: Twilight Princess.   I played this game from start to finish and it is one of the finest Action/Adventure games I have ever played.  Okami was not a commercial success and this forced the closure of Cloverfield studios.

Okami was later converted to the Wii by Capcom.  It kind of made sense as the paint brush mechanic would work well with the Wii remote and the demographic would run out and buy this game.  The Wii version enjoyed little success partly due to a quiet launch with no marketing campaign to back it up and partly it was lost on a casual audience who were content with Wii Sports, MarioKart and Wii Fit.

Not having learned their lesson with their past two failures; Capcom tried their luck with the Nintendo DS.  This was in development for roughly two years and again was released with little fan fare or marketing hype.  Secondly, to kill Okamiden’s chances of success even further the timing was completely off as the Nintendo 3DS was released a week later back in March 2011.  Granted that there are millions and millions of DS’s out there, together with 3DS being backwards compatible with the DS the timing was way off.  Maybe they should have held back and released a 3DS edition instead, we all know that the 3DS is starved of quality games at the moment and Okami would have shone brighter than others.

I feel sorry for Okami as the art direction, originality and gameplay mechanics should be experienced by all gamers.  Maybe a 3DS version would prove successful?

PSP Vita to be releases in Japan 2011 (why not)?

Back in early June 2011 at E3 Sony announced details for the PS Vita.  This is Sony’s successor to the original PSP introduced in 2005.  It boasts a 3 cell processor (similar to the PS3 which has 7), touch screen interface, 5inch screen, touch sensitive back panel and also, including the all important second analog stick.  Sony further announced that the PS Vita would be released in Japan December 2011.

This sounds daft to me.  Why you may ask?  At this current moment in time the PSP console is selling extremely well in Japan due to the many iterations of Monster Hunter which allows co-operative local play for up to four players.  The co-op feature is heavily used in Japan where gaming is more socially acceptable and played in public places such as Cafes.  The PSP, in Japan anyway, is in the best shape it has ever been where it is currently outselling the Nintendo 3DS and is constantly top of the hardware charts list in recent months.

Games that appeal to the Japanese hardcore such as Gundam, Arcane Slayer, Tactics Ogre, Dynasty Warriors and Final Fantasy Dissidia show that there is still a market for Japanese centric games which the PS3, 3DS and Wii are currently lacking.

Therefore, my suggestion to Sony would be to release in the US markets first then Europe where the original PSP is experiencing a downturn due to lack of developer support both first party and third party.  Secondly, consumer interest has peaked and the PSP is looking worse for wear as it is being superseded by newer technology such as mobile devices, tablets and of course the 3DS.

I think the Japanese market still has another year to run for the original PSP.  The PS Vita could suffer a similar fate to the PS3 whereas it was introduced too early and harmed its sales as the PS2 was still selling in high numbers.

Arcade revival (in handheld form)

All hail the mobile gaming revolution. As the dwindling figures started occurring circa ‘92 for the local arcades due to the 16 bit era matching the performance of arcade quality games such as Street fighter 2 (ok near arcade quality). The gaming industry thought this was the end of the arcade business as we know it. Initially, during the period of 1994-2000 we experienced a lot of arcade ports onto consoles this was primarily driven by Capcom, Namco and Sega with games such as Tekken, Soul Calibur, Sega Rally and Final Fight to name a few. This was mainly due to a backlog of (over the last 10 years) arcade games that were easily transferrable for the console experience. This missed out on the key factors for me such as the price, accessibility, competitiveness and social element of arcade gaming. It didn’t feel quite the same. However, once the arcade scene was deemed not to be profitable outside of Japan a shift occurred for all developers and publishers to concentrate on console gaming. As we have observed it takes a lot of investment of time and money to produce a console game with longevity, great graphics and mass appeal. This marked the end of the so called ‘arcade experience’ as it could not compete with traditional gaming. Granted the introduction of the Xbox 360 back in 1996 introduced arcade games back into the fold. However, mostly these were games of yesteryear and were more of a novelty serving the already present gaming audience. Games such as Geometry Wars proved there was a market still for arcade games. Once the Iphone (and later Android) was introduced with throwaway priced games starting from ‘FREE’, back in 2008, we experienced smaller developers reigniting the arcade experience all over again. I would describe the arcade experience as being: • Accessible • Anyone can play • Chuckable games • Little investment needed in time and money • Gimmicky • Short games • One more go factor • Socialising with fellow arcaders • Competitiveness • Unique interface When you look at the above list you can see that this transfers over very well to mobile gaming. Games are cheap; require little investment time and for the most part little money as well. They have the social element buttoned down such as competing against friend’s high scores and sharing. Lastly, they are accessible due to the wide adoption of mobile smartphones. I can name a few games true to this formula such as Cut the rope, angry birds, Jenga, Doodle Jump, Bejewelled and Tiny wings. I enjoy console gaming but sometimes it is nice to know while sitting on the train or waiting for someone you can quickly fire up a quick game of Angry birds. Long live arcade gaming.