On the Ball

On the Ball: AAA Extinction

Jordan Deam | 24 Mar 2010 21:00
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God of War III is a special kind of spectacle. Plowing through it in a couple unbroken four-hour sessions last week, I experienced big-budget game design at its finest: incredible graphics, enormous set-pieces and the computing horsepower to make these pyrotechnics seem effortless. You literally leap from one cavernous environment to the next without so much as a hiccup in the frame rate, and if you never have the misfortune of dying, you could count the number of loading screens you're forced to sit through on one hand. It's eight hours of some of the finest single-player gameplay of this console generation, coupled with the most impressive programming the PS3 has seen to date.

But as ferocious and epic as Sony's latest system seller is, it's also obsolete, a relic of an ancient design philosophy that is simply too big and too cumbersome to dominate the gaming landscape as it once had.

At least that's the message you could take away from Michael Pachter's comments regarding his meeting with EA's Visceral Studios head honcho Nick Earl, in which Earl enunciated EA's strategy of "premium downloadable content." In this case, "premium DLC" doesn't refer to a $15 map pack, but an ongoing strategy wherein EA sells shorter versions of their games for $10 to $15 as a precursor to their full-price, boxed retail releases. Apparently, Earl's presentation was strong enough that Pachter completely reversed his view of the company's dismal financials, including its unprecedented billion dollar loss in 2009. "We've been wrong about this stock for five years," Pachter wrote. "This time, we think the company is on the right path."

I'm not normally one to take Pachter's opinion at face value - in fact, I'd argue his near constant presence in gaming blog newsreels is more a result of shrewd self-promotion than the accuracy of his predictions. And for all that he purports to know about the inner-workings of the game industry, it seems like he has a ways to go when it comes to understanding the actual process of game design. (Case in point: his facepalm-worthy prognostications about how the firings of Jason West and Vince Zampella, Infinity Ward's CEO and Chief Technical Officer/President, respectively, could affect the studio's future development efforts.)

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