Wherein I discuss the looming disaster, layaway console purchases, a direct speck of joy, and the consolidation of another industry.
November 3rd, 2020 is election day for those living in the United States, and despite having already voted and had my results processed… I am dreading that day like no other. The past four years in America have been exceptionally poor due to the repugnant being who was elected as the nation’s president. And while most metrics indicate that he will not return for a second term, the powers that control the government have been doing everything they could to suppress individuals from voting out of fear that their current regime will be usurped.
It is a woeful and piteous state for any nation to be in, when elections cannot be held orderly and the ruling powers have no qualms with doing immoral acts, but if 2020 has been any indication, the world is a worse place than you thought it was. Human society, and America in particular, keeps finding ways to push the envelope as deplorable and heinous things keep happening, due principally to the failure of the governments of the world to pave the way for a better future for humanity.
It all seems to be so simple, but a mix of greed, hate, avarice, and general selfishness prevent humanity from reaching its ideal state, and stems from broad systemic issues that I am becoming increasingly jaded towards, as I am becoming dubious that even the most extreme option (indiscriminate genocide of 99% of the human race) would truly fix the problem, as humans just kinda suck when they’re put into a large society.
…Now that my venting is done, let’s talk about incidental stories related to the escapist entertainment medium known as video games.
Three weeks ago, I talked about how Microsoft and GameStop formed a strategic partnership where GameStop will offer and promote Microsoft’s Xbox All Access pay-as-you-go plan as part of a broader push and marketing stunt by Microsoft to sell more Xbox Series consoles. Well, that evidentially is not the only pay-as-you-go plan that GameStop is looking into, as the retailer is also offering a new service known as FlexPay.
FlexPay will allow customers to take their products home while paying recurring payments over a set amount of time. While the pricing structure was not detailed, some fees will likely apply, because the profit margin on new games and systems is already so low that they’ll need to recoup the costs of maintaining this program somehow. I’m assuming this will mostly serve as a way for individuals to purchase consoles or high-price peripherals, take them home, and pay for it over time, which, as a concept, I am a bit mixed on.
As a person with a good deal of money in her savings account, zero debt, and a growing income, the idea of needing to take out a loan, no matter how small, on a piece of frivolous entertainment media will always strike me as foolish, unless it has virtually no interest. Taking out any liability lowers one’s credit, which makes it harder to get money when you need money, and acquire higher-value fixed assets such as automobiles and real estate.
I would need to see the numbers and at least do some “dinosaur math” in order to gauge whether this program is worth engaging with, but hey, it’s an option, and if it works well for some people, then that’s cool. I am always for options in… just about every facet of life, and that includes the ability to purchase your video games via layaway. It sounds frivolous to me, but whatever.
Moving on, this week was home to another Nintendo Direct Partners Showcase, which brought with it a few announcements and some new trailers for previously announced titles. Nothing groundbreaking, but it was a nice injection of stuff to get excited for.
This included a new trailer for, and one of the first good look at, No More Heroes III, where it was clarified that the game is effectively Travis Touchdown versus the galaxy, and is reprising the same character action lite gameplay of prior titles, but with less motion controls and general rigidness. The trailer also broke the narrative to tell the viewer that they don’t need to play the prior titles to follow this, seemingly, loosely connected story, but it did conclude with the announcement that 2007’s No More Heroes and 2010’s No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle are both now available on the Switch. But these are mostly straight ports, rather than proper remasters, boasting higher resolutions, better frame rates, and more traditional controls, but that’s really all I, and most other series fans, wanted and expected.
However, that was not the most curious inclusion, as there were also announcements for IO Interactive’s upcoming Hitman III and Remedy’s 2019 title Control. Two titles that are boasting graphical capabilities well beyond that of the Switch, and would need to be significantly downscaled to run on the thing. But as it turns out, both titles are merely being released as Cloud Versions, meaning that players would pay to acquire a license to stream this title via their Switch… for about as long as the servers remain active.
This isn’t a new thing, as both Resident Evil VII: Biohazard and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey received Japan-exclusive cloud versions for Switch, but this is the first time this service is being offered in the west. Which I’m okay with, as it is just another option, though it does leave me wondering whether the Switch will be receiving other streaming services in the future. I mean, I’m sure Google, Amazon, and Xbox would all love to get their streaming services on the platform, but Nintendo is weird about what they will and will not allow on the Switch. I mean, Netflix still isn’t on the blasted thing, and that’s some pastrami-tier hogwash, I’ll tell you that much.
The third major takeaway for me from this showing was another trailer and a demo release for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, the Omega Force developed Musou prequel to Breath of the Wild. The demo established that, despite seeming like it could be yet another Musou title, the developers are treating this like another Zelda title, boasting a lot of story, cinematics, and carryover from BOTW to make it feel like the prequel it canonically is. It looks like BOTW despite being a very different game on a different engine, and while the combat is easy, flashy, and simple with regards to player’s inputs, it also rewards players who make use of the mechanics with faster clear times and the visual flair that comes with a stylish performance.
At the risk of sounding like a culture-deprived simpleton, this title is honestly far more my jam than what BOTW was, primarily because I feel like I can actually do what I want in combat without feeling like I’m wasting my resources. My only real problem with the demo was how there appears to be no way to remap controls in-game, and the developers bizarrely decided to use the A button for the super move. Which I think is a terrible placement, as A is the confirm button, and I honestly think super moves are best relegated to a button combination, like pressing R and L simultaneously. That way you are less likely to press them by accident, like when you want to interact with a Korok.
Still, I think the characters are fun to play, the environments are lovely looking, albeit a bit more rigid than I expected, and I like how there is an RPG underbelly to this game with weapon fusion and material gathering, as it gives the gameplay greater purpose. I could see myself giving this game a proper whirl after it releases, but I have like 25 games in my review-queue at the moment, and I don’t know if I’ll even get around to all of them in 2021.
Next up is not necessarily a gaming story, but it’s close enough. Following its inception, Crunchyroll has become something of the de facto distributor of anime in much of the west, and by offering an official and affordable way to watch anime online, they have without question played a big role in the western resurgence of popularity anime has seen over the past decade or so. But public reception on them recently soured as it became known that they do not pay their translators a livable wage for their work, offering flat fees and giving them short deadlines. A trend that is unfortunately common in the world of Japanese-to-English translations, as the entire industry is still pretty niche and the ones who pay the cost for this are often the people on the ground floor.
This continued even after Crunchyroll was acquired by AT&T in 2018, and since then, AT&T has been looking to sell them because conglomerates like this sometimes like to trade around companies like they’re securities, and are filled with people who get massive bonuses when they negotiate acquisitions or sales. And who would want to buy Crunchyroll? Well, based on a recent Nikkei article, Sony Pictures is close to acquiring the anime distributor and may end up spending upwards of $957 million in the purchase. This initially struck me as an almost random acquisition, before I remembered that Sony is a multi-faceted company with its hands in every gosh darn good in the whole bakery. This includes the anime industry, where they are the owners of both Aniplex and, as of 2017, licensing powerhouse Funimation.
As such, this would be a move to increase Sony’s clout and share in both the anime and video streaming industries, while likely consolidating Crunchyroll and Funimation’s streaming services under one banner, which would be pretty good for subscribers, but represent a consolidation of the industry. …Which I want to talk about as its own issue for the moment.
Consolidation is something that I really want to like, as it causes companies to become bigger and more powerful. In theory, it is a great thing that grants companies more resources, more negotiating power, and allows them to be both more competitive and treat employees better. This is what I learned in college when studying for my Master’s in accounting, and it is a concept I think is quite logically sound.
Unfortunately, there are few institutions or nations that require corporations to uphold standards, and while business textbooks advise companies of all shapes and sizes to practice self-regulation and always consider ethics, that is not how things work in real-life business. The people who run and make decisions in conglomerates can be fickle, greedy, amoral, immoral, or just disregard ethics or other people as unimportant next to them getting a big bonus. In many cases, these traits are actually what allowed them to get where they are today.
This is the unfortunate reality we are living in, one of the later stages of capitalism, and as such, I cannot be enthused about hearing news about an industry being controlled by fewer people and the rise in monopolistic services.
…Darn, I just went full circle with my ‘communist catgirl’ schtick, now didn’t I?
Anyways, that’s all I have to say for this week. Here’s hoping that the nation I live in isn’t a burning pile of trash come Wednesday.
Header image comes from Juurin no Ame by Kizuki Rei. Which is a manga I read due to a tag mishap, but found compelling due to how rampantly revolting yet deliciously detailed its art is and how dismal yet mundane its pre-dystopian sex-crazed setting was.