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E3 2017 - What to Expect

Super Mario Odyssey

E3 2017 starts early this year with EA scheduling their E3 press conference for Saturday, June 10th. A once three-day event of presentations now spreads across five straight days. Companies race to present first, hoping to set or survive expectations for a great conference.

The theme of new hardware echoed throughout E3 in 2016, even if Nintendo refused to reveal the Switch. This year, hardware talk continues, but with the spotlight on Microsoft. Their 6-teraflop Xbox affects the whole market. Whether it fails or succeeds doesn’t matter - it will change the console space. 

Even as stores struggle to meet the Switch demand, Nintendo can’t relax. PlayStation’s early onslaught of game releases left the rest of 2017 open. Nintendo needs their Direct video stream to carry momentum. And with more competition in a new Xbox console, no company wants a slow holiday season.

 

Microsoft – Xbox Scorpio and the Games Library

Microsoft needs a successful E3 – more than any other company. The Scorpio marks a huge milestone for the gaming industry. A significant, mid-generation console upgrade gives buyers options never offered before. With Xbox One accessories, games and communities accessible and functional on both platforms, the Scorpio’s success depends on price.

Existing Xbox One owners and new buyers need a reason to upgrade. Given the specifications, a $400-$499 USD price range sounds realistic, although the $499 price hurts other markets. In Canada, a $499 USD Scorpio means a price around $650 CAD before taxes. The Scorpio’s power will improve game performance and visuals, but the cost might outweigh the improvements. The Scorpio’s virtual reality capabilities won’t matter if both release for absurd prices.

PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio not Upgrading Consoles as Expected [UPDATE]

[UPDATE: 2017-03-20] PS4 Pro adds "Boost Mode" for older PS4 games

The PlayStation 4 Pro launched with clear benefits for people who owned 4K HDR televisions. For those without a 4K HDR TV, some games still performed better because of Pro developer patches. While titles like Titanfall 2 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided performed better with Pro patches, the hardware didn’t improve all games. Patch 4.50 for the PS4 Pro adds a “Boost Mode,” which aims to improve performance for all games in the PS4 library.

The Pro’s small hardware upgrade also means a small upgrade in performance. While we won’t see games jump from 30 frames per second (FPS) to 60FPS, we will see steadier, smoother games. Although the Boost Mode tries to take advantage of the CPU and GPU, the PlayStation Blog does not guarantee improvement. Not all titles will work with the Boost Mode.

Top 5 Games of 2016

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Each year I play an unhealthy amount of familiar and different games. By now, I know what another Battlefield or Gears of War offers, so I avoid them. I acknowledge their quality, but I find more enjoyment from weirder, new games. I don’t hate shooters; it means one game fills the void for the duration of year. Until something knocks Halo 5: Guardians out of my Xbox, I bounce off other multiplayer shooters.

The exploration of new genres leads to unknown, uncomfortable experiences. Experimentation led me to games like Deus Ex and Mirror’s Edge, so finding their sequels on my 2016 list makes sense. My top five of 2016 lists some well known games in an unorthodox order.

2016 brought us Overwatch, Watch_Dogs 2 and other awesome games throughout the year, but you won’t find those games on my list. You’ll find what I played and loved, and games that left me disappointed.

 

Five Favourite Games from 2016

5. Inside

Insidewon’t challenge or confuse you with its puzzles, but it leaves you thinking at the end of it all. Inside’s short journey from, well, the inside, pushes you to escape from the pit of a prisonlike complex. Without any dialogue or direction, the platformer’s familiarity of “move right” provides all the information needed.

Inside

The manipulation of walking, jumping and grabbing brings the depth to exploring the dystopic world. While Inside expands on simple ideas, your character limitations stay the same. As a little boy, dogs hurt, bullets kill and falls paralyze. The controllable character stays vulnerable despite the surrounding conditions worsening closer to the outside. Inside aims for a minimalistic platformer with a predefined ruleset, yet it surprises with every new area until the very end.

 

Video Games Journalism Isn't Worth It, Especially for Canadians

The video games press operates in a doomed state. As the video game industry grows, the rate for writers shrinks. On average, a writer earns $150 per article. A feature length article with interviews takes days or weeks to complete. Interview transcription alone takes hours to sift through. If a writer somehow manages to publish one feature article every other business day, the rate means an annual salary of $19,500. You can compare the near poverty rates of many press outlets with this crowdsourced Google Doc spreadsheet.

One well edited spreadsheet later, I've decided to abandon a career in games press. It's a scary, uncomfortable decision I never wanted to make. I worked for years to become a permanent member of the press, yet industry circumstance forces me to adapt. Writers accept the criminal rates for the experience and hope for a better opportunity. But as the spreadsheet shows, a better opportunity doesn't mean a sustainable career choice. 

Ontario atop Leaderboards for Independent Video Game Development

On August 29, 2012, just after 1 p.m., Miguel Sternberg stared obsessively at his computer in his Toronto home office. He had not slept in days. Sleepless and exhausted, Sternberg finally completed the final touches for the launch of his PC video game, They Bleed Pixels. After submitting the final game build, he watched in haze as the sales figures refreshed throughout the afternoon. He waited to find out if the countless hours, savings and government funds would pay off.

 

Years later, things aren't much calmer for the independent developer as he juggles a new They Bleed Pixels update with two other projects.  Sternberg works alongside programmer Andrij Pilkiw under the studio name, Spooky Squid Games Inc. They hope to hire another employee this year and dedicate time to working on newer projects. "I think at this point we'd like to grow a bit," Sternberg says, "and that takes more money than we have."

Spooky Squid Games and other Canadian developers can expand studios with help from government tax credits and creative grants. Canada's early establishment of video game tax credits helped it become the third largest country for video game development. Quebec and British Columbia now house the world's largest studios and created multimillion dollar franchises such Assassin's Creed and FIFA soccer. Each of Canada's successful video games combined to contribute $2.3 billion to Canada's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014. With most of the large studios in other provinces, Ontario's grants and business incentives transformed the province into the destination for independent game development.

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