OOC: Oh for Dust’s Sake!

JUNE 6, 2011
REYKJAVIK, ICELAND and LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
CCP and Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) today announced an agreement to bring the groundbreaking persistent shooter DUST 514® exclusively to PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system in Summer 2012. DUST 514 is the first console game to link players in real time with a multiplayer universe on the PC, CCP’s award winning sci-fi MMO EVE Online.

My first reaction? Shit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to waste time being an “Xbox Fanboi”, one of those diehards who thinks that the particular console they own is the only one that should be owned. If that were true, and others agreed, then other consoles wouldn’t exist, yet they do. Go figure.

But I am a geek. A huge geek. A huge geek that can probably put you into the ground in real life, and has no need to hide behind the anonymity of the internet to put my opinions out there. I’m not going to resort to calling people “XBox fags”, or use other infantile terms, because my intelligence, my maturity, my character, are greater than that.

So back to being a geek. I develop software. I tinker with hardware. My close circle of friends builds automated drones, tractors, self-monitoring houses, and other fun things to occupy our minds.

Even if I didn’t think so highly of myself, I would still be entitled to my opinion, and this is it.

PS3 only is the wrong choice for DUST 514.

Of course, saying it doesn’t make it true, so let’s dig deeper.

  1. PS3 hardware is superior to XBox hardware. It really is. Games like Uncharted, Infamous, God of War, Heavenly Sword and more are all beautiful games. Hell, even Mass Effect renders and plays better on PS3 than it does on XBox. For offline gaming, PS3 wins hands down in my books. I can completely understand why CCP liked this aspect of the console. CCP loves shiny. We all know that. But DUST 514 isn’t an offline game, is it? It’s supposed to be a MMO for the console. I’m sure CCP has done some preliminary testing. Maybe even with as many as 40 people. But it’s doubtful to me, given my experience with any form of large scale online play over the PlayStation Network, that the PlayStation platform simply cannot sustain the numbers online to make DUST 514 a success. Shiny won’t matter at less than 1 frame per second. Don’t believe me? Try playing a game like Need for Speed against other players in a full race and you’ll see why the PS3 fails online.
  2. XBox hardware is outdated some say. Yet wasn’t it just last year they released a new box? No more ring of death? No more overheating? Yes, yes they did. What has PS3 done lately for its hardware? Oh right. Nothing.
  3. Blu Ray player. You know, I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie on a physical Blu Ray. Can you? This used to be a great selling point back in the day. Remember Blu Ray vs HD DVD? Yeah, Microsoft would like to forget as well. My point is, with Netflix, Zune, home media networks, and other mechanisms for viewing everything digitally, that having one of the best Blu Ray players on the market isn’t really a strong selling point anymore for PS3, and has absolutely nothing to do with DUST 514 anyway. As an aside, I still can’t believe that all of us as consumers find it acceptable to wait 30+ seconds for a Blu Ray to load; no wonder we all went digital so quickly.
  4. Free online play via the PlayStation network. My account iz hackd! There’s been a lot of crying about the recent attack and subsequent closure of the PlayStation Network. Personally, I don’t think this will still be an issue by the time DUST is released in 2012. Many recent PS3 titles have suffered from this, notably Mortal Kombat for me, but I am confident Sony is doing everything in their power to implement the correct solution in a timely manner. I expect they will fully recover from this fiasco. If they don’t, DUST is the least of their concerns. Of course, XBox Live has a free online service as well, and offers paid content in a very similar manner to the PlayStation network. I’m going to give the edge to XBox Live simply because Microsoft continues to make great releases/updates to it every few months; something that can’t be said for Sony.
  5. Kinect. I really don’t need to say anything more there, but for you PS3 owners reading this, I will. Kinect has been, and will continue to be a game changer; literally. The hardware is far superior to any other gaming hardware out there, and there have been countless innovative uses of it. It’s an affordable robotics kit really, and many tinkerers have torn it apart and done amazing things. As far as gaming goes, according to E3 2011 (coincidentally on June 6), there is a slew of upcoming games that leverage more of the power of Kinect than any of the released titles to date. Mass Effect 3, for example, allows full voice commands for squad actions. Could that be useful in DUST? You better believe it. Or the next Ghost Recon that lets you use your hand to customize your gun in real time? Nah, that couldn’t be useful at all in a space shooter. Simply put, PS3 can’t compete with Kinect. Period.
  6. Market Share. According to Wikipedia, as of June 2011, XBox has a greater market share than PS3 by over 5 million; a substantial number of potential DUST customers being ignored.

There are other factors at play of course. Some say that Microsoft is too strict with the way things work within their marketplace, yet somehow games like Halo, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Mortal Kombat and others have always managed to get by just fine. In fact, many of those titles are even cross platform, being sold for XBox and PS3 alike. So why not DUST?

  • We all know CCP is not a behemoth in the gaming industry. Not yet anyway. Sure, EVE Online continues to do well, but as a veteran player of that game I can tell you its mostly reactive bursts of initiative to quell rising user complaints than anything ongoing and proactive to make the game better. CCP itself has made it clear that the majority of their development efforts are being spent on the upcoming World of Darkness, to honour their committed launch date to partner White Wolf Publishing. Where’s the rest of their resources going? DUST 514.
  • I am confident they have neither the manpower nor the finances to develop DUST 514 for both PS3 and XBox. At the end of the day, they had to choose whom to get in bed with. They chose Sony. This was probably done before Kinect was even a buzzword. This was probably done because CCP is new at console development and saw the PS3 as the easier platform to develop their product on. I don’t honestly know. I’m basing this on my own personal and professional experiences with CCP from a business standpoint, having been a co-developer of the now defunct Capsuleer iPhone application for EVE Online.

CCP is great at ideas. They aren’t so good at business.

There has been some debate on Twitter amongst EVE Online’s #tweetfleet about the wording of the announcement; particularly the part about “premiering exclusively” on the PS3. Some seem to think this indicates there will be a follow up release for the XBox shortly thereafter.

Doubtful.

As I mentioned, CCP has neither the money nor expertise to pull this off on both platforms successfully for initial launch. But, if the microtransactions of DUST go well on PS3, I could see CCP developing for XBox as well in the distant future. Having said that, if I look at their track record for developing new ideas for EVE Online and actually implementing them, I would expect to see DUST 514 on XBox as early as 2016.

Do I think DUST will be successful? Yes, I do. Do I think it work well with EVE Online? Yes, I do. Do I think it’s a brilliant idea? Yes, I do. Do I think I will be playing it? No, I definitely won’t be.

The only game on my PC is EVE Online. I only own a XBox 360. While I could afford it, I can’t justify spending that kind of money to play one game. No thanks.

Am I annoyed by this announcement? I would hope that’s obvious by now.

What is your opinion? Your thoughts? Please share them in the comments below, and if you come across any other good rants about this topic, please link them as well in your comment.