Games Inbox: Starfield vs. Skyrim, Elden Ring at E3 2021, and the true cost of Game Pass Ultimate
The Tuesday Inbox tries to predict the E3 2021 Nintendo Direct, as a reader argues Sony is just as bad as Microsoft when buying developers.
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Needs more scum and villainy
So… the unveiling of Starfield has been really weird, hasn’t it? Surely I’m not the only wondering why they showed so little and made such an unexciting trailer? I thought at least there’d be some good previews and interviews to make up for it but there’s been two in the entire world? One for the New York Post and one for The Telegraph? Is the game aimed only at right wing conservatives or something? What weird choices.
Then we have the descriptions of what the game actually is from Bethesda. One calls it Skyrim in space, which is fine – pretty much what you’d expect and not exactly detailed but okay. Then another calls it a Han Solo simulator. Which is the last thing I would’ve thought from watching the trailer. When I think Han Solo I think scoundrel, I think pirates and bounty hunters, I think swashbuckling romance and weird looking aliens, I think seedy bars and dumpy looking spaceships. Where was any of that in the trailer?
If anything, the trailer looked fairly grounded, with a sort of future NASA look and absolutely no sign of seediness, action, or anything Han Solo-ery. Not that it has to have that stuff but that was their description not mine!
It makes me think of an assertion people have made before, that I never really paid much attention to, that Microsoft is really bad at marketing. I don’t know how they can be with all that money, but they are. We just have to hope that Bethesda are still good at making games because it’s been a long, long time since Skyrim and I have severe doubts that they can make anything that good again.
I hope they do, but they’re going to need a lot more than that boring trailer to convince me.
Time hides the truth when wearing rose-tinted glasses. To say Sony built up its first party studios is so factually incorrect it’s embarrassing. It took till the PlayStation 3 for these first party studios to get to the level they have.
But here is the kicker, Naughty Dog was bought by Sony, not created. Same with Insomniac and Psygnosis (WipEout, Colony Wars, G-Police, and Destruction Derby), aka Sony Liverpool. Again, the same with Sucker Punch and almost all their first party studios.
That isn’t just a Sony and Microsoft thing either. So to think that Sony didn’t throw their financial weight around in the 90s and early 00s like Microsoft are now is deluded.
GC: While you make a fair point there’s no need to be so aggressive about it. And besides, none of Sony’s purchases were as disruptive to the industry, or as outside the financial reach of their competitors, as Microsoft’s purchase of Bethesda.
So it’s Nintendo’s big E3 event on Tuesday but do we really think they’re going to have anything much to show? I have literally idea. It could be absolutely nothing like Ubisoft and most others or it could be decent-but-not-amazing like Microsoft. I could even be actually amazing, in theory, although I don’t really think it will be.
That Donkey Kong 40th anniversary leak was pretty believable, but then so was the one about the Switch Pro being announced before E3 and that never happened. The only thing I’d be willing to put money on is a Smash Bros. fighter being revealed, but even then I wouldn’t put much on, because it’s Nintendo and who knows.
I hope it’s good though. Seeing E3 reduced to this is kind of depressing to be honest and this is our last chance for a big surprise.
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Maybe next time
While this E3 has obviously been better than any other recent one for Microsoft I still don’t feel they’ve exactly hit out of the park. Forza Horizon 5’s graphics do look impressive but as a racing game, and a very familiar one given it’s the fifth in the series, I don’t have any interest in it. I feel the same about Halo Infinite and I don’t even know what to think about Skyrim given they’ve shown so little about it – to the point where I’m not even sure why they showed what they did.
I know, I know… give it time, wait till next year (or maybe the year after that). I have a lot of sympathy for the reader who wrote in saying that Microsoft have an unfair advantage and I think they kind of skimmed over the most obvious example: that they can shrug off repeated failure that would sink any other company.
In terms of sales compared to their competitors the original Xbox actually did the best, by narrowly outselling the GameCube, then after that the Xbox 360 came dead last in its generation, the Xbox One came dead last in its generation, and now the Xbox Series X/S… well, it’s far too early to call that one but by all reports Sony is well ahead at the moment.
To any normal business that is a sure sign that things are not working out and you should maybe go back to selling spreadsheets but no, Microsoft’s answer to failure is to just throw even more money at the wall until something sticks. I mean, if I get some good games out of it and Game Pass continues to be cheap then great but I can’t pretend it doesn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth.
Let the market decide they say, and if the market decides wrong just do it again and again until they give the right answer.
The one Ring
This might be a boring E3 but the fact that we got to see Elden Ring and it’s out sooner than expected is still a win for me. I wasn’t counting on either before E3 started and now what we’ve got a look at the game and know it’s coming relatively soon I couldn’t be happier.
Although hopefully next E3 will be better I think we’ve just got to accept that with fewer but bigger games being made we’re always going to have less news and less surprises than we used to. The important thing is that the games are worth the wait and the hype and I have every reason to think Elden Ring will be.
Flogging the warthog
What on earth was the point of having a Halo Infinite multiplayer preview on Monday, when it was only 12 minutes long and had no new footage? I have to agree that not only is Halo Infinite not looking impressive but Microsoft seems to have very little faith in it. I really do feel they should cut their loses and focus on other title. With all their new companies they don’t need it.
I was wondering if it was just me that was feeling it was looking outdated, even after people seemed to feel the same way on the Inbox, but then I noticed the views on YouTube. Halo Infinite has just 348,000 on the Xbox channel and 777,000 on the dedicated Halo one. And yet Battlefield 2042, which was shown just minutes earlier on the same showcase, has 510,000 on the Xbox channel and 5.1 million on the dedicated Battlefield one!
Whether or not Battlefield is a direct competitor or not the point is there is not the hype for Halo that there used to be. The problem nowadays is nothing is allowed to fade away so Microsoft will keeping flogging a dead horse, but I really do feel that if not dead Halo is on its last legs.
PS: Why do Microsoft suddenly have another showcase on Thursday as well? Are they making this up as they go along?
Hellpoint is currently free on GOG, here is the link.
PS: I have installed Final Fantasy 7 Remake PlayStation 4 disc version on my PlayStation 5 and I have installed it on the SSD but I can’t seem to find any option about the PlayStation 5 version. When I go into the menu on the Final Fantasy 7 icon it says game version and in there it lists Final Fantasy 7 Remake (PS4) and Final Fantasy 7 Remake Demo (PS4) but no PS5. Do you or a GameCentral reader know the correct procedure to get the PlayStation 5 version of Final Fantasy 7 Remake?
GC: We think you have to do it via the PlayStation Store. Try this link and we think that will work.
There was an interesting article on the pricing of Game Pass Ultimate to buy the equivalent games off Sony. Let’s say you want to play 12 Xbox Series X first party games over three years, and 12 first party PlayStation 5 games over three years.
All those games are coming to Xbox Game Pass, so you will be paying $10 a month, barring any special deals, for 12 months, time three years. So $360.
Assuming all those Sony games are $70 each, you are instead paying $840. So the difference between the cost savings is quite literally almost the price of an Xbox Series X and the longer this goes on, the wider this gets. Simply double that, $720 for Game Pass for six years of games, and then 24 $70 PS5 games, and that’s $1,680 – a gap of almost a thousand dollars over the course of most of a console generation.
And even if you’re doing Game Pass Ultimate at $15 a month, that’s $1,080, still $600 less than purchasing those 24 PlayStation 5 games. And of course, ignoring that you’re not just getting 24 Xbox Series X games, but a ton of other games you can play that you probably wouldn’t have purchased otherwise and, with Ultimate, access to PC and mobile and streaming copies too.
GC: It’s not really a question of numbers but of names, given none of the first party games are the same between formats and so you’re not comparing like with like. The real issue is how much would you be willing to pay to play God Of War: Ragnarök, Horizon Forbidden West, and the other Sony exclusives?
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is currently £59 at Tesco. You’d be losing money not buying it. Happy gaming.
GC: You’d be what?
The Guardians of the Galaxy game looks fun, but the messaging is very confusing: ‘Here is a single-player game with no microtransactions or DLC! Pre-order now to get this cosmetic DLC!’
GC: That made us laugh too. ‘But that’s the good kind of DLC!’ we can imagine them saying.
This week’s Hot Topic
With E3 2021 carrying on until Tuesday the obvious subject for this weekend’s Inbox is what you think of it and the various announcements.
Which games have impressed you and which do you feel were a let-down? What has been your favourite surprise and what were you hoping for but never got announced? Which company do you feel put on the best show and who was a disappointment?
How much do you care about E3 and what do you think about this year’s format, forced upon it by the pandemic, compared to previous years?
E-mail your comments to: [email protected]
The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.
You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.
You can also leave your comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.
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