DLC: A Fight For Fortune

When the PlayStation Vita launched some nine and a half months ago there was one game, for me at least, that really stood out as a system seller – Bend Studio’s take on Naughty Dog’s epic Uncharted franchise – Golden Abyss.

Sure enough, that game was, and still is, one of the finest examples of mobile doing big budget gaming ‘properly’, rivaling it’s home console counterparts. I devoted many hours to innumerous play-throughs, and was sure to soak up every last piece of the action. As far as I’m concerned, PlayStation gamers really did strike gold on Drake’s first portable expedition.

After an early screenshot leak, followed by the wild speculation of it pointing towards Golden Abyss DLC, the Uncharted trail went cold – until a month or so ago when an official, yet rather subdued, PlayStation blog posting announced Uncharted: Fight For Fortune. Fight For Fortune, it turns out, is a full PSN game with optional benefits for Golden Abyss players, rather than the locked down DLC we’d all been expecting.

Fight For Fortune is a million miles away from anything the Uncharted world has seen before. A turn-based card game, bringing together all the characters, weapons, environments and oddly, somehow still retaining the excitement, from the previous games. It’s a curious idea, certainly, but coming from the same studio as Golden Abyss, and at a rather affordable entry price of £3.19, a nice little card game for my Vita seemed like a no brainer; Thankfully, I was right – It’s fantastic.

There’s enough going on to ensure Fight For Fortune is both interesting and challenging, but not painfully so, and the single player Fortune Hunter mode is a delight. A comfortable learning curve aids even the most inexperienced players of card-based strategy, steadily teaching you how to play each card best, and how to spend your accrued fortune to obtain the tactical advantage. A complete novice can be toppling a whole range of familiar faces within a few short rounds.

Of course, with each fight you win you’ll be able to unlock goodies for your deck – these range from the purely decorative card backings and character avatars, to entirely new cards which power up your hand for the next battle. Interestingly, since day one Fight For Fortune has also had in game purchases – The first two of which appear to be card packs themed around the characters and resources made famous by Nate Drake’s previous PlayStation 3 outings, Uncharted 2: Among Theives and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.

I’ve spent a week now playing Fight For Fortune on-and-off, and at multiple points have tried to buy these add-ons, but couldn’t – the links didn’t work. Tapping through from the game’s prompts, or the LiveScreen area simply directed me to an empty page on the PSN. Disappointing, and somewhat strange, I thought; Why would a game launch with an obvious link to DLC and then remove the revenue stream at the end of the trail? The completely empty page was bizarre. I wasn’t even presented with a placeholder to describe what exactly these expansion packs would feature.

Like I say, strange – at the very least it gives an otherwise well presented and polished game an odd UI quirk that just stands out like a sore thumb. Oh well, not the end of the world, I thought, making the assumption that for whatever reason the extra content was not ready for release, and would be available in a forthcoming patch. Today’s that day.

The Uncharted 2 & 3 card packs are now both available from the Playstation Store, and the existing in-game links now lead where they should. Great. Super news for those who jumped in last week, and have been trying in vain to unearth those extras, right? Perhaps not so much.

Along with the pair of £2.39 expansions launched today, an Uncharted Fight For Fortune “Complete Edition” also appeared, priced at £7.29.

It’s not unusual for games with DLC or expansion packs to see a separate release with the extras bundled, nor is it unusual for these packages to launch ‘day one’ alongside the stand alone title at a reduced price-point. The likes of season passes are becoming ever more prevalent and bundling DLC in this way ensures the developer added income based on the game’s launch, and the hype surrounding that, rather than it’s longevity.

What Bend & SCEE have done here however is a little unusual. The “Complete Edition” launching a week after the stand alone game means that if I want the DLC, as an early adopter, I actually end up penalised, rather than rewarded.

I haven’t fully completed the single player portion of the game yet, nor have I really delved into the multiplayer aspect, so I’m not purchasing these packs as a way to revisit Fight For Fortune, or to find new enjoyment or value within a long forgotten purchase, so why am I being charged more than somebody who buys the game today, a week after release? Why are those of us who support developers and get excited about new content being financially shafted as a reward? I wanted these packs from the start, and would have bought them day-one had I been given the option – not only to give myself more content, but also to show my appreciation to the developers of what has been, to date, my favourite Vita title.

On launch day I was presented with the “Complete” package, yet unable to access all it had to offer, and now I’m being asked to pay more then someone turning up late to the party?

My complete Edition of Uncharted: Fight For Fortune will end up costing me 68p more than it had if I’d bought it today. I know that many will say a week’s worth of play for 68p is great value, and you’re not wrong, but when the content is so openly advertised from launch, yet unable to be purchased, it stings a little when it pops up a mere seven days later – at a reduced cost.

This 68p’s not a real gripe, honest. It just got me thinking.

At the time of writing the stand alone version of Fight For Fortune has received 273 ratings on the PlayStation store – you’ll have to excuse my assumptions and fag-packet maths here, but I believe these figures, however loosely applied, are somewhat significant.

As I’m unable to acquire sales figures for the title, let us assume that 5% of users decided to rate their purchase. (I personally expect even a 2% voter uptake is wildly ambitious, but I may well be wrong.)

(273/5)*100 = 5,460
(273/2)*100 = 13,650

Okay, that’s quite a difference, but let’s go with the ambitious rating, and slightly less ambitious sales, figures – 5,460 downloads in week one.

A 2011 study by Electronic Entertainment Design and Research reported that within North America, 51% of gamers bought DLC of some kind. Obviously, specific game figures aren’t set in stone, and with my quick straw-polls online proving less than useful, I’m once again calling on assumptions and personal experience when I suggest that, of those 51% that do open their wallet, perhaps 1/5 of game purchases are followed up by an additional associated purchase of some kind. Very roughly, this would mean 10% of all sales lead to a future DLC up-sale.

So, as long as Uncharted: Fight For Fortune follows this undeniably fool-proof, set-in-stone & scientifically-proven pattern 10% of the apparent 5,460 early adopters – 546 people, wanted that DLC already. Working with these figures any further, for all their worth, would be painful – It’s interesting however that my ‘sample’ of 500 odd DLC sales will now theoretically each pull in 68p of additional revenue for Bend & Sony, or £317 within a week. That’s certainly no big budget, by any stretch of the imagination, but like I said, should we extrapolate these figures further over the years, that will soon add up to a tidy sum – all off the back of people who buy the 3 items separately, rather than in the “Complete” bundle.

I don’t begrudge any developer earning a crust from expansions or DLC like the Fight For Fortune card packs, after all, it’s a consumer’s market – if you don’t want to spend your pennies here, you really don’t have to, it won’t affect your experience significantly. Trouble is, I did want to spend a little more – I did want to pay upfront, and potentially, so did many hundreds of others, and now we’re effectively being asked to pay a premium for being in-the-queue before the doors opened?

Not an entirely Uncharted path to take, but it’s most definitely a Fight For (a small) Fortune.

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DLC: A Fight For Fortune

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Bankruptcy

My dad’s always been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and all things Middle Earth – I remember him giving me his well worn 1969 edition of The Lord Of The Rings to read when I was a child, on the strict proviso I took great care of it.

I’m not sure that at this early age I ever fully relished the wonder of the stories as much as my dad so obviously did – I wasn’t big on reading, especially when it involved looking after old books – however back in 2001, older and wiser, we started on our own unexpected journey and went to see Peter Jackson’s epic retelling of those tales on the big screen; We both loved it equally. I, like many millions of others, experienced the story of Frodo, Sam, Gollum and friends properly for the first time, and became enthralled in its magic.

Two more LOTR films followed, and I have since used a Christmas or Birthday as an excuse to purchase the DVDs for Dad. This year, with The Hobbit just around the corner, I thought we could do it all again.

No fucking chance.

Well, not at my local on a Thursday night as I’d anticipated, anyway.

I want to make it clear I’m not adverse to funding the creative arts, be that music, videogames, cinema or anything else. What I am adverse to is all the nonsensical extras and money making guffaw that surrounds a visit to the cinema.

If I go on the night I want, one week after release, this one showing may very easily end costing me upwards of £40. No thank you.

Perhaps we’re spoilt by the high-street price wars and quick release of our favourite movies on Blu-ray and DVD, or the modern uptake of HD television at home, but I really don’t see three hours in an uncomfortable seat, drinking flat Coke whilst some moron lights up my peripheral vision with their inane Facebook updates as the best value for money, nor does it seem to me the way a film like this should be viewed.

A single adult ticket to see The Hobbit is £12. This includes a £2.10 premium because it’s a 3D screening. Again, I understand that the 3D showing has apparently increased costs, but I’d be just as comfortable watching in 2D, in fact probably more-so – that is, of course, if there were any 2D showings at this cinema during the week I want to visit.
Oh, and for some reason that £2.10 gets me a 3D film, but not the glasses I need to watch it. Would you like those? That’s another 80p.

Two tickets, and two pairs of glasses; £25.60.

To me that’s already a bit pricey, but acceptable, just, so long as the auditorium isn’t full of the aforementioned local orcs – using their mobile phones and throwing popcorn at the back of your head.
God only knows how they afford popcorn though. That’s another £4 a head, and naturally, doused in so much salt you’ll be after a drink to wash it down – another £3.50.

Forty pounds.

Well, at least my pockets are lighter for the walk back downstairs to the pay-and-display car park.

Anyway, I think you get my point.

(Note: I’ll still be going. It’s The Hobbit, ain’t it? They’ve got me over a barrel.)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Bankruptcy

Review: Jetpack Joyride (PS3, Mini)

Better late than never, (assumingly after stopping off to refuel his machine gun Jetpack), Barry Steakfries has smashed his way onto PlayStation systems.

Developer Halfbrick Studios, who’re possibly best known to console gamers for the super addictive fun that is Fruit Ninja Kinect on XBLA, have finally brought multi-award winning mobile blockbuster Jetpack Joyride to PlayStation; But does this latest version, ported over to PS Minis by Beatshapers, sky rocket like its mobile counterparts, or fall flat on it’s face?

This isn’t the first PlayStation outing for Halfbrick mascot Barry, the gun-totting undead-hunting everyman-come-unexpected hero, has previously featured in Age Of Zombies, a top down shooter which quite successfully made the transition from mobile to Minis whilst that distribution platform was still in it’s infancy, nearly 3 years ago now.

So, Jetpack Joyride – a trusted format of simple yet insanely addictive gameplay, fresh out of the hands of a time proven and award winning development house – is now available on multiple PlayStation formats. That’s only good news, right?
Unfortunately, as a huge fan of the previous versions of the game, not for me.

Gamers play as the aforementioned Barry Steakfries, a down on his luck door-to-door salesman, who just happens to stumble upon a secret laboratory. As you do.
After commandeering a jetpack and with heady dreams of become a modern day superhero, Barry has first to escape the laboratory before he can escape his mundane day-to-day life, and that’s where things get interesting.

You travel left to right, navigating what is, unfortunately for our Hero, an infinite corridor of lasers, electrified fences and missiles, with the sole aim of setting a new distance record.
In the traditional sense of the word, there is only one “level” in Jetpack Joyride, but with the placement of obstacles and collectables randomised on each run, you never really know what to expect, and have to keep your wits about you if you’re to react quickly enough to avoid the inevitable crash and burn for any prolonged period of time.

Gameplay is a one button affair, holding X fires your jetpack, sending Barry airborne – the skill involved in timing your blasts and carefully lifting off the gas when required is much more refined than it first seems though, and the ever-increasing speed of each playthrough means you’ll be dying to have just one more attempt at perfecting your technique and reaching that elusive high score, time after time.

Like Age of Zombies before it, launching on the PlayStation Minis platform means Jetpack Joyride is available to download on PlayStation 3, PSP & PS Vita systems, and being a direct port of a mobile game, it’s definitely best suited to the pick up and play quick fix that Sony’s handhelds provide. With it now being available in a whole myriad of portable formats, I really can’t see why anyone would want to play this Mini on their PlayStation 3.

The game’s charm is in it’s simplicity, and the way that’s presented. Unfortunately, it’s big screen appeal is hindered furthermore by stretched low-res graphics rather than the crisp HD sprites the likes of Jetpack Joyride on iPad feature;
The developers knew their market, and it’s quite clear by the way they play that Halfbrick’s games were, and continue to be, targeted at players on the move, who – Those looking for a quick burst of escapist fun on a commute, not those sat in front of a home console.

This only leaves me questioning why Jetpack Joyride is a Minis title and not a PlayStation Mobile frontrunner?

I absolutely love Jetpack Joyride on my Xperia phone, and highly recommend it to everyone with an Android or iOS device alike , unfortunately, the PlayStation Minis port brings nothing new to the table, and actually manages to strip away some of the features which gave the original it’s replayability, depth and longevity.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with introducing the new market of PlayStation gamers to a tried and tested formula – Jetpack Joyride didn’t need anything adding, it doesn’t need any tinkering, but, and here’s my first major qualm with the new release as a whole, if you’re going to re-launch a game which has been available to the mass market for a year and downloaded well over 50,000 times, you really need to be some sort of mad-scientist to justify the sudden inclusion of a £3.49 price tag to what was previously a free game, albeit supported by optional in-app-purchases.

The limitations set upon Jetpack Joyride by it’s being a Mini, rather than a fully fledged PSN store release or a PlayStation Mobile title, mean that it really does suffer in this re-release, rather than shine as it should.

Lack of network connectivity mean the aspect of social competitivity found within previous iterations has all but vanished; There are no leaderboards to be found, something which has been in the iOS version from the start and is promised in an upcoming Android update, and although Jetpack Joyride features it’s own achievement system, these are purely internal, and again, unlike its mobile equivalent, there is no social aspect to these at all – it’s impossible to compare with other players, even on your friendlist, for example.

I think it’s fair to say Jetpack Joyride would be a much better game had Halfbrick & Beatshapers brought it to PlayStation Mobile. The touchscreen features, network connectivity and trophy system are all screaming out to be utilised by what is an otherwise fantastic game.

Jetpack Joyride’s arcade style of bitesized fun means that it’s a rocket you should most definitely have in your pocket – and really is worth grabbing on your iDevice or Android for a game or three right now, but personally, I can’t even begin to recommend the inferior gameplay and ludicrously unjust price tag attached to this new PlayStation port – not when it’s costing you for what equates, in the long term, to a less enjoyable gaming experience.

PlayStation Minis have taken my money, and the result feels like a hijacking, rather than a Joyride.

Jetpack Joyride is available now via the PSN store for £3.49.

Review: Jetpack Joyride (PS3, Mini)