Remember when the Xbox One had plans to have an always-online connection and everyone freaked out? Some pundits claimed the consumer backlash was making a mountain out of a molehill, but this week’s release of GTA Online shows the gaming industry really does have a lot of work to do in the IT department.
GTA Online Unplayable
We’re not knocking Rockstar for the awful experience so far though. The company went out of its way in the days leading up to release to say there might be problems. Still, it’s a bit disheartening that no company can seem to pull off an online launch in 2013. Blizzard was slow to get Diablo 3 up and running last year, Electronic Arts’ SimCity failure from earlier this year is well documented, and now we can officially add GTA Online to the list. Some gamers think Rockstar should have been better prepared knowing that the game made $1 billion in three days, $800 million of that in the first 24 hours, but I personally chalk this up to the fact that the technology just isn’t there yet–no matter how much money a company has.
Errors include getting stuck on the “joining session” screen, getting stuck on the first tutorial mission, freezing while waiting for other players and other random bugs. The company stopped in-game microtransactions while it fixes the game. Rockstar has said its working around the clock, so I guess we’ll just have wait a little bit longer. Gamer backlash has not been nearly as bad as it was for SimCity earlier this year, probably because players can still play the excellent single-player title while they wait to go online and start their crew.
R.I.P. Tom Clancy
There was some very sad news out of Hollywood this week. Best-selling author Tom Clancy passed away October 1 at the age of 66. Clancy was best known for writing international thrillers that touched on military and espionage themes. His works have been adapted for many popular movies, including The Hunt for Red October in 1989 and The Sum of All Fears in 2002.
Gamers know Clancy best for lending his name to several popular franchises throughout gaming history. It started in 1998 with Rainbow Six, a book he wrote that he cross promoted with a video game of the same name. It saw release on Nintendo 64 and Playstation and the franchise went on to become one of the most popular first person shooters of its time, long before the days of Call of Duty or Halo. Other writers were eventually allowed to ghostwrite under the Clancy brand and the partnership with the games industry continued. This led to the release of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, written by Raymond Benson and adapted in a 2004 video game of the same name. Splinter Cell remains one of the more influential titles in gaming from the last 10 years. Its stealth-based and tactical gameplay inspired many other prominent titles in the industry.
Gamers can expect the Clancy brand to remain strong for many years to come. Tom Clancy’s The Division, an open world shooter with MMO elements, is a hotly anticipated title for next generation consoles.
Destiny Trailer and Beta
Speaking of open-world shooters, Bungie fans received some welcome news this week as the company released a new trailer and announced details on the upcoming beta.
The new trailer features gameplay on the moon and is one of the most action-packed videos released so far. The intro is a tad spooky and may bring back memories of Hoth for some, but then quickly cuts to the alien-smashing.
The best part of the video for most however is the news at the very end. “Pre-order for Beta Access.” That’s right, anyone who preorders Destiny will get their hands on it earlier than the spring 2014 release date. Bungie has said it expects the beta to start in early 2014. Like a lot of gamers, I can’t wait to play this title and the beta news was definitely the most exciting news of the week.
Half-Life 3 LIVES
While not an official announcement, Valve had some big news of its own this week. Coming on the heels of the company’s debut of its SteamOS concept, it was discovered that the company has filed a trademark for Half-Life 3. It’s been nine years since the release of Half-Life 2, still considered by some to be one of the best games of all-time, winning 39 Game of the Year awards. The news is particularly interesting given the reveal last week of Valve’s new controller and Steam Machine, both designed to bring PC gaming to the living room. Half-Life 3 could very well be one of the first major games designed from the ground up to work natively with the new controller. There’s even some speculation online that Valve could make the title a Steam Machine exclusive in order to drive hardware sales, but I feel like that’s off the mark.
It’s a funny thing what Valve has accomplished over the last year. While most industry observers fixated on the Microsoft/Sony arms race, Valve quietly established itself as a major force to be reckoned with. Its Steam platform is responsible for an ever-increasing percentage of sales as well as being one of the leading ways outside of Kickstarter to get a new title developed. DOTA 2 has exploded in popularity over the last few months, giving everyone who downloads Steam an in-house, free-to-play killer app. With the news surrounding SteamOS and the future development of games like Half-Life 3, Valve suddenly has a lot of people, including Microsoft and Sony, paying close attention.
Warcraft Movie Gets Date
Coming one week after casting rumors leaked, the Duncan Jones movie based on Blizzard Entertainment’s Warcraft franchise now has a tentative release date. Universal Pictures announced the film will arrive in theaters on December 18, 2015. Production is set to begin early next year.
Even if we assume Duncan Jones will pull off a critically acclaimed masterpiece, it’ll be interesting to see just how much of audience there is for this film. Blizzard Entertainment’s popularity shows no signs of slowing down, but a winter 2015 release might put this film at the end of World of Warcraft’s next expansion cycle. With WoW’s numbers gradually declining and Blizzard’s flagship title facing more competition in the next two years, you have to wonder how many players will still be invested in the world of the movie by the time the premiere gets here.