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About GameSetWatch

GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Seven Years Of World Of Warcraft

November 27, 2011 3:00 PM |

Seven years ago today, Blizzard Entertainment launched World of Warcraft, the company's most successful game to date and one of the most influential online games of all time.

The MMORPG, with 10.3 million current global subscribers, has seen tremendous success since its launch in late 2004, and still serves as the gold standard by which the industry judges the commercial success of an MMORPG.

Of course, the game has gone through quite a bit over the last few years. It has seen three major expansions, broken numerous sales and activity records, and has certainly been the focus of its fair share of controversies. Yet despite how the game or the industry may have changed since 2004, World of Warcraft remains a highly relevant force in the games business.

To celebrate the game's latest anniversary, Gamasutra's Tom Curtis took a look back at the history of World of Warcraft, recalling its most pertinent developments, its significant milestones, and the most memorable moments from throughout its development.

The story starts to take root even further than seven years ago, as it was in 1994 when Blizzard introduced us to the world of Warcraft with the real-time strategy game Warcraft: Orcs and Humans.

The company officially announced World of Warcraft in 2001 at the European Computer Trade Show in London. Shortly after that announcement, DFC Intelligence analyst David Cole, years before the game's launch, was quoted as saying, "I expect World of Warcraft to reach 300,000 to 400,000 users very quickly--three to six months would not be unreasonable. The question will probably be: Can it keep those subscribers?"

The analyst's comment exemplifies just how no one could have expected Blizzard's first MMORPG to become such a worldwide phenomenon. Here are the past seven years of World of Warcraft:

In-Depth: PlayStation Network Analysis, October 2011

November 25, 2011 6:00 PM |

[Console digital editor Ryan Langley examines PlayStation Network's debuts and successes during October 2011, using leaderboard and chart data to analyze their sales and downloads.]

This October saw a ton of new prerogatives -- a new "PSN exclusives" selection, which attempts to promote games that are exclusive to the service, as well as PS2 Classics, a selection of classic titles from the pervious era of games.

But how have these new titles, alongside a myriad of other new releases, stacked up alongside Xbox Live Arcade, and how have they done against one of the busiest retail months of the year? We intend to find out. Thanks to the help from our friends over at PSNStores.com, we're able to give much more data than we could have done alone.

We've looked at the Leaderboards for the games we could follow (noting how they may fare against their Xbox Live Arcade cousins) and the officially released Top 20 games in North America. We've also determined how well the games have performed with reviewers using the Metacritic rating system.

He's On Fire!

In the first week of October, we got a complete glut of titles. For the standard PSN fare, we received Eufloria, Sega Bass Fishing, Space Channel 5 Part 2, Crysis, and NBA Jam: On Fire Edition. We could only follow Sega Bass Fishing unfortunately, which ended up being one of the worst reviewed titles for the month. It also only added 6,650 players for the month.

Indie Developer Daniel Remar Lets His Games Do The Talking

November 25, 2011 3:00 PM |

You'd be forgiven for throwing back a blank stare at the news that indie developer Daniel Remar is due to release his next game in just a couple of week's time.

Well-known and well-loved by most hardcore indie gamers, his presence is definitely less felt outside of the 'indie circle', especially compared to some of the big hitters of recent years.

"I'm a shy guy, and my childhood has left me uneasy about large groups of people," explains Remar to Gamasutra's Mike Rose. "I think it reflects in how I'd rather just read people's comments without replying, or throw my games out there without wanting to enter competitions with them, since that might lead to public performances and more focus on me as a person rather than on my games."

The Swedish developer is not completely opposed to a bit of fame and glory however. "Of course I like to be recognized, everyone does, but I'm happiest with my games doing the talking."

With Remar's upcoming offering, Hyper Princess Pitch, it appears that he may well be receiving a little more attention than he usually craves. The trailer, released earlier this month, has gathered plenty of attention, and forums are buzzing with excitement for the December 1 release date.

"[My email intake has] increased after the release of the Hyper Princess Pitch trailer already, and it's stressful since I try to answer them all," he explains.

"I've never thought much about hyping my games, so I end up short in that department when it's time for release. I've depended on my friends to spread the word to indie gaming sites instead. The Internet is great for word-of-mouth information."

This Week In Video Game Criticism: From Kotaku To Content Degradation

November 22, 2011 6:00 PM |

[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including Kotaku's recent defense of its content, content degradation in Modern Warfare 3, and more.]

Do you believe in life after Ben Abraham? I hope you do, because it's time for This Week in Video Game Criticism!

As Ben wrote last week, I have taken on his role as the new senior editor of TWIVGC. Let's all give Ben another hearty round of thanks for the 2.5 years he's devoted to our little project and the fantastic things it's done for the discourse of game criticism and commentary. Then thank yourselves as well – because like always, these roundups could not exist without YOUR important contributions each week.

We start out this gorgeous Sunday with Kate Cox, who has been giving Dragon Age: Origins another try. Her latest entry is a commentary on the sheer diversity of possible stories and the unexpected ways players are able to fill in the blanks in the game, referring in particular to her own noble character's class privilege.

Speaking of Dragon Age developer BioWare, Tadhg Kelly of What Games Are has a piece up on them as well, arguing that the RPG genre is defeated by its own emphasis on systems:

"The roleplaying game profoundly struggles with its ambition toward art because its play is full of this sort of generalized mechanical play. It is pretty bad at evoking intended emotions within players (as Tolstoy would say it perhaps) because it's so busy being a giant accounting exercise. So supposedly significant moments in the narrative and the actions of gameplay are in conflict with one another."

A Decade Of Xbox

November 20, 2011 9:00 PM |

["The fact that the Xbox was even able to survive in such a competitive environment was a victory in itself," says Gamasutra EIC Kris Graft in this retrospective on Xbox's 10th birthday.]

"Xbox is our next-generation video game console that is going to produce games that people have never seen before."

"It'll have the most intense graphics, the most amazing audio, and it'll take the WWF and The Rock and make them look absolutely awesome."

That was Robbie Bach, one of the masterminds behind the original Xbox, speaking from the Consumer Electronics Show, 2001, where pro wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson participated in some scripted on-stage banter with then-Microsoft CEO Bill Gates about his company's much-scrutinized entry into the video game console business.

Thursday marked the 10th anniversary of the launch of the original Xbox, which hit North American shelves on November 15, 2001 for $299. It was a complicated time of transition for the games industry, and the fact that the Xbox was even able to survive in such a competitive environment was a victory in itself.

Scrutiny In An Uncertain Time

In late 2001, Sony's PlayStation 2, its successor to the massively-popular PlayStation, had already been on shelves for a year in the United States. It was enjoying a nice head start, established developer support and an audience loyal to the PlayStation brand.

GDC China: Capy's Vella To Indies: 'Risk Is A Critical Step To Making Money'

November 20, 2011 3:00 PM |

Sword and Sworcery EP was a massive success on iOS, especially by indie standards, selling over 300,000 units in the first 6 months, almost all at full price. But on the face of it, one might not have expected it to succeed, said Nathan Vella, president of Capy Games.

"This was an extremely risky project," he said during his talk at the Independent Games Summit during GDC China 2011 in Shanghai. "What we did was do exactly the opposite of what you're supposed to do when you make an iOS game."

The game is long-form, took over a year, targets a very specific niche, and "the budget was around $200,000, which when dealing with an iOS project is nothing to sneeze at." But at the same time, Vella says the risks helped Sworcery stand out, and "had everything to do with the success of our game."

"When you're making a risky game, a game that sets out to do something different, you need to know it, accept it, and embrace it throughout the project," he adds. You should target that niche directly, and go for it aggressively. "I believe that iOS development, and specifically the scariest component of the massive success of iOS, is that it's taught everyone, especially independent developers, that you should target everyone," says Vella.

"I believe that when you're targeting everyone, you're really targeting no-one. You're not making it for anyone specific, so your target group is no-one." In this case, you're targeting a lottery, not a group of people, he argues.

Zach Gage Tackles A Genre He Hates With SpellTower

November 19, 2011 9:00 PM |

Success on the App Store is far from a science. Even independent designers lauded by awards committees like the Independent Games Festival and experienced in developing for Apple's iPhone and iPad have plenty to learn in that changeable and high-stakes environment. Yet for indie designer Zach Gage, the challenge is what's appealing.

Today, Gage launches SpellTower, on iPad, his first-ever endeavor into word puzzle games on the App Store. Although he arrived at the title partially "by accident," as he tells Gamasutra's Leigh Alexander, he has learned a number of valuable lessons along the way.

"I'm trying to change the way I'm developing games," he tells us. "When I first started developing for the App Store, it was a very different period -- everyone was just making stuff and putting it out as fast as possible."

Although that was an exciting proving ground for game designers, many of whom got to enjoy the sense of participating in one another's prototypes, it "sucked for consumers," as Gage describes. "You'd buy something, and it'd be like, a beta."

"In retrospect, you really got to look into the sketchbooks of the developers you were interested in," he enthuses. "Back then, you got to see a lot of experiments. Now, you have to polish and polish on the App Store. The whole community has changed."

For Gage, this creates a complex proposition, as he feels there are a lot of ideas kicking around his mind at various stages of completion -- yet without the optimal polish time, he knows they have no shot on the App Store. Intuitively, his design mind migrated toward a potential solution to precisely this type of problem: How do you compete among the App Store's higher standards, yet develop a game at the same light-speed at which a concept formulates in the designer's mind?

GDC China: Canabalt's Saltsman On Why PC, Mac Rules For Indies

November 19, 2011 3:00 PM |

Talking at GDC China 2011's Indie Games Summit, Canabalt and Flixel creator Adam Saltsman took attendees through an in-depth tour of opportunities for independent game developers.

In particular, he highlighted PC and Mac development as, in his view, "the most indie-friendly platforms currently available", praising the platforms' openness and multiple revenue stream opportunities.

Of course, Saltsman noted at his lecture in Shanghai, Steam is an extremely dominant player in this space. In fact, he put up a joke photo 'elephant in the room' slide to discuss the service.

But Valve's download service wouldn't work if it wasn't so popular, and Saltsman recommended them since they aren't shy about promoting indies on the service.

He also highlighted that above all, Steam works because of "the fact that they have a huge audience", even if "there's still a gatekeeper" out there to get your game onto the service.

Interestingly, Saltsman suggested that a number of prominent indies are now seeing Steam/overall PC sales total more than 50% of their total revenue, even if they "also have their game on [other platforms like] Xbox Live Arcade."

This Week In Video Game Criticism: From Dragons To Virtual Death

November 15, 2011 4:30 PM |

[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Ben Abraham, as he's assailed by Skyrim's dragons, on topics including the meaning and import of virtual death in Demon's and Dark Souls.]

A Nordic tundra. A distant figure is spotted running with great haste, all arms flailing and apparently trying to shout over the sound of the howling wind. As the figure approaches you make out "The dragon is coming! The dragon is coming!"

As the figure approaches you see it is none other than your trusty host of This Week In Video Game Criticism! Clearly something serious is going on. The figure arrives in a near-breathless state:

"The dragons are here! There's no time for a full run-down of the week's best blogging, writing and about videogames – we've got to get back to fighting the dragons!

Brendan Keogh writing for GameRanx talks about Dark Souls in 'A time to grind'.

Jonathan McCalmont's regularly irregular column at Futurismic is also about the Demon's/Dark Souls series, talking about the meaning and import of virtual death.

Martin Falder at Oh no Videogames! describes "the fascist politics of infinite respawn"!

Opinion: Who Will Survive The Digital Tsunami?

November 13, 2011 9:00 PM |

[For as much as digital channels have changed the games industry, the biggest changes are yet to come. Gamasutra contributor Nicholas Lovell asks whether the industry is ready for the "impending tsunami."]

Games have, so far, ignored the digital tsunami that has engulfed music and is about to engulf the book world. The enormous file sizes of our boxed products together with the proprietary physical DRM systems (or, in other words, a console) has meant that filesharing has not been a major threat to the industry in the way it decimated music.

Digital innovation in our sector has happened around the edges of the core traditional games industry, such as in social, free-to-play, and mobile. It has largely been additive, although with boxed product revenues peaking in 2008, that is no longer the case.

All this is about to come to an end. While I still believe that AAA games have a future, the threat from new business models, enabled by and optimized for the internet, is growing. So what does it take to succeed?

Embrace The Internet

There are two things that that the internet does to digital content: it makes distributing it so cheap as to be almost free, and it makes it possible for companies to talk to their biggest fans and find ways to charge them lots of money in return for giving them things that they value.

It amazes me how often traditional companies focus on the fear of the former without getting excited about the prospects for a vastly more exciting business based on the latter.