Samuel Roberts: Gamescom blues
Gamescom is like the local/mid-term elections in the realm of trade shows. If you're a journalist or one of the thousands of people being squashed in Cologne, I'm sure it's delightful, as the show is notably better for access than it is for news – but from the outside looking in, it felt like a bit of a non-starter for announcements outside of the great news about Metal Gear (I also share Tim's love of The End, MGS3's astonishing boss battle), the reveal of Shadow Realms from BioWare and the Tomb Raider thing that pissed absolutely everyone off (even though the whole thing might be a timed exclusive – it's pretty hard to work that bit out). A bunch of EA titles that probably should've made an appearance – Star Wars: Battlefront, Mirror's Edge, any of the other BioWare games in production – didn't, meaning it'll likely be another ten months before we get even a whisper out of them again. If you're at home watching out for Gamescom announcements, I can't imagine it was nearly as exciting as the E3 shows were. There's plenty to look forward to in the rest of 2014 and early 2015, but for actual new things, it was kind of quiet.
Tom Senior: Gamescom attendees deserve a little more
Three hundred thousand people bought tickets and stormed the Koelnmesse this week, and many queue for a long time to be ushered into a theatre and shown some trailers at ear splitting volume. Ticket holders deserve a chance to catch some advanced access for their cash, so here's a shout-out to the developers who put playable builds on the show floor this year. Often games aren't ready for mass consumption in the wild conditions of a conference hall, but when you walk past rows and rows of packed-out Fifa kiosks every day it's clear how much that exclusive access matters to people. People were even enjoying a few battles in PIllars of Eternity in one noisy corner of Hall 9. I can only admire their powers of concentration.
Tyler Wilde: Rise of the Tomb Raider is an Xbox exclusive
I don't care much about exclusivity deals that keep games off the Xbox One or PS4 (though I'm sure I would if I owned one or the other), but when the PC gets lumped in? And by Microsoft? It makes me feel unwanted, alienated. Why can't you just be an Xbox gamer?
As I argued earlier this week , Square Enix might be getting a good deal by making Rise of the Tomb Raider a timed Xbox exclusive, but I'm still disappointed whenever risk abatement involves withholding games. I get it, though. Developing games is expensive and any way to help ensure success is welcome. But for the brave, a lot of money can be made on the PC, and I fear console-focused publishers will never have a chance to figure it out amid their exclusivity deals and pre-order bonuses. The response to making less money on PC, where there are no discs to print, no used games, and long-term promotion, should be to solve it.
Oh, also, hey Microsoft, I'd buy a PS4 before an Xbox One, so seriously, don't worry about keeping games off the PC. It won't help anyway.
Phil Savage: Exclusively empty
I get that words change their meaning over time. This is a natural and healthy part of the evolution of language. But sometimes evolution goes wrong. This has happened to the word “exclusive”. It hasn't changed its meaning; it's lost its meaning. It is meaningless—a carcass of a word that rots the sentence that it's dumped in.
I watched Gamescom's console press conferences in a state of constant confusion. The word exclusive was deployed in so many ways, for so many scenarios, and none of them applied to what the word should mean. Even worse was the phrase “first on console for Xbox/Playstation,” which was liberally spat out for games already on PC . The phrasing is deliberately ambiguous. It can be read in multiple ways, but specifically applies to one. If a core part of your business strategy is to mislead your customers through empty phrasing, you are doing something wrong.
Tim Clark: A beastly problem
Just when I thought I couldn't QQ any harder about the seemingly endless stream of Zoo players in Hearthstone—this week's highlight: queuing into five straight Zoos in casual —back come the bloody Hunters. Between the Webspinner and Haunted Creeper, the Hunter class already had its early game bolstered by the new Naxxramas cards, but with the arrival of the secret-spawning Mad Scientist this week the class is now likely out of control again. Hey, you like playing against secrets right? Wait and see how much you like playing against opponents who don't even have to pay any Mana for them. The salt is strong with me.
Evan Lahti: Steam needs an overhaul
Steam updates constantly, but the design of the client itself has remained almost untouched for at least a few years. SteamDB sniffed out an upcoming update to Steam, but it only seems to address a few piecemeal issues rather than being a skin-to-bones reimagining of the program, which I think Steam desperately needs. The glut of indie games, DLC, Workshop content, and software that's flooded Steam in the past few years has rendered the store page and other corners of the program less useful; it's unlikely that tweaking Steam's lame tags system or adding a “discovery queue” will address Steam's fundamental problem: there's too much stuff, and it isn't meaningfully organized.