Ahh, the weekend. You're here, I'm here, and that means Worth Reading, our weekly collection of the best games writing that's not on Kotaku, is back.
Hey, You Should Read These
It's wild to imagine a world where PlayStation wasn't so dominant over Saturn, but Keith Stuart makes a compelling argument for how Sega could have made a few tweaks -- primarily, not launching absurdly early -- and been more competitive. Maybe Sony would have stomped the floor with everyone no matter what, but it's clear Sega's goal of catching everyone off guard was the biggest error made for the poor Saturn. I'm still waiting on a port of Panzer Dragoon Saga!
Sega had an autumn US release for the Saturn all planned out; its production line was in motion, retailers were ready. But Japan panicked. Nakayama believed that Sega had to get into the US market early and establish a presence before Sony. So on 11 May, at the E3 event, Tom Kalinske went on stage and announced that the Saturn was not only launching early in the US, it was already on the shelves -- at the basic price of $US399.
"Many Americans have gone to the extent of paying $US800 and more for Sega Saturn units from Japan," said Kalinske in the resulting press release. "We've decided to bring the product to market earlier than scheduled to meet the high consumer demand, to refine our marketing strategy over the summer, prior to the important fall season, and to get a head start on the competition."
But it was a shambles. The machines were expensive and in short supply; only a handful of major retailers got them, alienating the rest of the market. There was only a small selection of games, including an OK port of the arcade hit Virtua Fighter, with few new titles expected until later in the year. All that was to come, but the big blow was only minutes after Kalinske's announcement.
During Sony's own E3 press event, Sony America chief Olaf Olafsson called head of development Steve Race on to the stage to make a brief announcement. In a piece of theatre that foreshadowed the cruelly funny PlayStation 4 game-sharing video produced by Shuhei Yoshida in 2013, Race calmly approached the lectern, put his notes down and said "$US299". Then left the stage. If he'd had a hand mic, he would have dropped it. The audience went wild.
It used to be cool and hip for a game to feature pixel art. Now, it's likely to earn you eyerolls, as people get fed up with games endlessly feasting on nostalgia. That's not true for every game, of course, and lots of games are using pixel art (hey, Shovel Knight!) in wonderful ways, but artist Blake Reynolds, a renowned pixel artist himself, has decided his studio is moving on from pixels. His essays explains some of the marketing rationale behind this -- lots of people don't even know what pixel art means anymore -- but also argued there's a "pixel tax" levied against games with pixel art, as though pixel art is somehow easier to pull off than complicated 3D.
Sometimes the word "pixelated" is used in a derogatory sense, and sometimes not. Either way, anyone who uses the word clearly doesn't grasp the concept that pixel art is a deliberate, predetermined art style. And it's not just with us. The Reviewer of the SNK fighter King of Fighters XIII over at IGN had this to say about the sprite work:
"While they look a bit pixelated, the character models look quite good" -- IGN review of KOF XIII
This sprite is not "quite good." It's among the best 2D animation ever made in a video game. However good it is, it's good in spite of it being "pixelated" according to many.
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Oh, And This Other Stuff
- Soha Kareem investigated games literally centered around cleaning.
- Leigh Alexander wondered why games have such trouble telling good stories.
- John Riccitiello, former head of EA, argued consoles are getting boring and stale.
- Matt Leone followed Koji Igarashi around for a day, prior to announcing his Kickstarter.
- Cara Ellison isn't so happy with how Black Widow was used in Age of Ultron.
- Joe Bernardo reflected on the different ways video games convey death.
- Christian Nutt went down memory lane, triggered by the reveal of a new Igavania.
- Raffi Khatchadourian profiled No Man's Sky, one of this year's big mysteries.
- Simon Prefontaine said Steam Greenlight is a test of a developer's marketing muscle.
- Robert Khoo explained why so many people aren't able to get PAX tickets.