Rundown (6/16-6/19) Formatting Frustrations

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Wherein I discuss an accepted mundanity, ample cash left on the table, the next generation in gacha tech, and a leak for a DOPE collection.

As a hobbyist writer and novelist, you might expect me to do my fair share of book reading, but that’s not really the case. This is not because I dislike the act of reading or am simply not interested in learning about history, society, or seeing what other creators have rattling around in their heads. I love all of those things. However, there are two things that always prevented me from truly loving reading.

The first is the formatting. I genuinely hate the way most novels are formatted, as they prioritize fitting on as few pages as possible rather than readability. Online writing makes use of frequent line breaks and often has shorter paragraphs, but when reading something formatted to print, that is not the case. The lack of spaces makes each new page feel like a wall of text to me, and I find myself getting lost in the sea of words. When reading an online article, there is blank space, there are images, and you have other things to focus on.

But when print formatting gets really bad, when it gets egregious, is when they use columns. My reading speed is subpar, but it gets halved when I need to read these overly narrow columns and instead of reading left to right, I need to read up to down, up to down, and up to down. Reading articles like this was easily the worst part of writing my college research papers, and it makes researching tax instructions a goldarn chore.

While my second issue is simply focusing on a text. I don’t know if it’s due to my upbringing or autism, but it can be difficult for me to focus on reading something long or expansive. When reading plain text, there are no sounds, no colors, and nothing to keep one stimulated beyond words. Because of this, I tend to listen to ‘background’ music while I read, or write for that matter, but this is also a sometimes rule. Sometimes I can only really focus on a text with music in the background, sometimes I cannot focus when listening to music, and it all depends on the environment, as I never listened to music while doing stuff at school.

I also should note that, in school, I was notorious for never reading my textbooks unless explicitly required to, and I would often just read the PowerPoint presentations instead. Simply because they were easier to read and got to the point without any extraneous fluff. And somehow that was enough for me to skirt on by with a 3.6 GPA and a Master’s degree!

Something I missed when talking about the E3 2021 Nintendo Direct was how The Legend of Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma claimed that, beyond a chic Zelda themed Game & Watch and the underwhelming re-release of Skyward Sword, Nintendo is not planning any other Switch games or campaigns for Zelda’s 35th anniversary, which I think is an utter shame, and very questionable.

Nintendo already went through the trouble of making HD remasters for Wind Waker and Twilight Princess on the Wii U, and due to Nintendo’s extensive familiarity with porting over Wii U games to Switch, you’d think it would only take a small team a few months to bring over both titles. This is yet another example where I need to question the business mentality of Nintendo executives and ask why Nintendo is so cagey about their legacy and doing things to make a quick buck.

Re-releases, ports, and bringing titles over to other platforms takes work. But it does not take a lot of work and is often a very safe investment. There’s a reason why remasters and re-releases are so common within the games industry, and it’s because they sell, they keep an IP relevant, and help go to make new fans by making older titles relevant again. And with Nintendo… with Nintendo, they can make SO much money off of these titles that it’s insane.

Take Super Mario 3D All-Stars. A re-release of some of the most celebrated 3D platformers of all time, which was only made available for about 6 months before it was delisted. At an MSRP of $60, the game sold 9 million units. But how does that translate to dollars? Well, no information of this sort has been made available publicly, but I have some very conservative guess figures that we can use to get an idea of where the floor of profitability for this title was. 

Switch physical games do not have the best profit margin due to their proprietary cards, and while many of these sales were digital, I am going to say that Nintendo, on average and as the platform holder, saw an average gross revenue of $35 per unit, or $315 million in total. But what about development costs and marketing? Well, as bare-bones re-releases, I think a development budget of $10 million sounds like a safe estimate, and for marketing… I cannot imagine that Nintendo spent more than $60 million on promoting this title. Meaning, for re-releasing three old games sitting in their vault, Nintendo made at least $240 million.

Again, no other game could ever top the profitability of Super Mario 3D All-Stars because it’s a Mario title that appeals to over a decade’s worth of fans. But at the same time, it is worth viewing this rousing success as an indicator that people will buy bare bones re-releases of classic and nostalgic titles. So why not do the same thing for Zelda, for Metroid, and for all of Nintendo’s other big franchises? Hell, if they branded them as “Nintendo Classics Volume X” and gave each title a shelf-life of a few months, they could have a steady revenue stream for years upon years while rehashing their old stuff.

I would bitch about this practice for being anti-consumer and for encouraging people to get a full collection to prove their worth as disciples of Nintendo, but it’s better than nothing, and it would make them millions upon millions. Besides, by volume 5, people would get used to it. The customer dog would be trained to accept what their master tells them and any criticisms about the unfriendly nature of this practice will fall on deaf ears. Because Nintendo would have already won! 

On the subject of bad consumer practices being normalized, let’s talk about loot boxes. Over the years, EA has been widely criticized for their use of loot boxes across their titles, especially sports titles that are marketed as appropriate for children. But with legislation cooking in the background, it appears that EA is considering a legal workaround that will allow them to stay in the green, without giving up to their ethically dubious cash cow. 

In FIFA 21’s Ultimate Team mode, EA is currently running the Festival of FUTball event, which comes with unique monetization options in the form of Ultimate Team Preview Packs. Promotional limited time loot boxes where players can preview what is inside of the loot box, or rather pack, before they decide to make their purchase. Meaning that players can make an informed decision before making a purchase, instead of relying on sheer chance. However, there is a catch.

Once a pack is previewed, the player has a time window to purchase the loot box, likely 24 hours if I had to guess. After which, the pack’s contents are reset and the player can preview another pack again to see what’s inside. This means that in order to make an informed purchase, players need to keep going back to the game on a (likely) daily basis to refresh their previews and decide if it is worth making a purchase.

I think that this is a more honest and transparent way to handle the concept of loot boxes, as it allows players to see what they are getting, but it is also clearly designed to evoke a sense of FOMO to keep players coming back and checking their (likely) daily free preview to see if they’ll get anything good. I think it is a great way to ‘turn players into payers’ and while it is not especially clean or ethical, I think it is a net positive over sheer randomness.

Based on the patch notes, or ‘pitch notes,’ I am not 100% sure how the monetization for FIFA Ultimate Team works, but it appears that this change will be in effect during the entire Festival of FUTball event, which ends on July 16th. However, they also make note of how certain loot box packs have a global limit which… is a concept so wild that I would have never even considered it. The idea of digital scarcity is wretched enough, but making the act of monetization, possibly with more favorable rates, a limited privilege is… well, it’s brilliant, but it’s only brilliant because of how horrible it is.

I was going to end this bit by talking about how I like this preview system and would enjoy seeing it become a part of most live services that rely on a gacha or loot box system. It has plenty of dubious applications, yet I think it makes the randomized transaction pill a lot easier to swallow. But the idea of a global limit on loot boxes is… just the worst. You should not have a global limit on anything in your gosh darn live service, you dirty little bastards! I know you don’t have empathy, but how can you even rationalize something like this? Because I don’t think you can!

Guh. Now I’m all pissy and full of vinegar. I need something to help brighten my mood… and I just found the perfect thing! I have previously mentioned that rating board leaks are among the most trustworthy premature announcements there are, and this past week the Australian Classification Board put out a rating for Castlevania Advance Collection.

To me, this cleanly translates to a repackaged ROM dump of the GameBoy Advance Castlevania titles, including Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. Three beloved metroidvania romps that I have considered revisiting over the past few years, as it has been a full decade since I touched any of them, and I have only fond memories of all of them.Really, I have nothing more to say other than “thank you for releasing your old games, Konami” and “I hope this doesn’t cost more than $20 because that was the MSRP for the last compilation.”

That’s it for this week. I’m going to edit a 13,000 word article and jam out to the Guilty Gear Strive soundtrack. Because while I do not care about the game itself, its soundtrack is positively stellar.  

Header image comes from Otaku and the Struggle for Imagination in Japan by Patrick W. Galbraith, which I started reading earlier this week.

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