Microsoft Stuffs Santa’s Sack with Gore

i took some time out of my schedule to hit X09, Microsoft’s annual holiday preview event for the Xbox 360 and related platforms. This is the nth year i’ve attended as a journalist, although truth be told my game journalism days ended when i woke up to the fact that i couldn’t make an honest buck from it. (So, too, ended my volunteer work, my origami hobby, my devotion to fatherhood, and my patriotism … if it wasn’t profitable, i decided to cut it out of my life.)

Crying little girl

Sorry, sweetie – you’re not economically viable.

Microsoft usually wears its heart on its sleeve at the X events. You can tell by looking around the room where they’re hedging their bets for the holidays, how they’re hanging their hopes. One quick glance around the room at this year’s events spoke volumes about the company’s holiday strategy: no kids, no families, and no casual gamers: just pure, unbridled core players with a penchant for blood n’ tits. God help us.

Generic First Person Shooter

Where have i seen this game before? Oh yeah – EVERYWHERE.

In the past, i’ve written for Whoa! Magazine and GamePad, two Corus Entertainment kids’ properties, and The Magazine Not For Adults (formerly Disney Adventure magazine), so my kid-dar is pretty finely honed at this point. i’m pretty adept at sussing out which titles will be M-rated at launch, and which ones will be T-rated but still inappropriate for the audience (realistic war games never made the cut, by my insistence). i strolled down one wall of the This is London night club in Toronto dismissing each game in turn: first-person shooter, first-person shooter, South Park-themed tower defense game, first-person shooter, third person stealth espionage, first-person shooter, first person shooter. And so on.

And sequels! i caught a glimpse of Splinter Cell: Enough Already, and Grand Theft Auto: Repeatedly-Sodomizing-a-Dead-Horse City. And the game landscape was the blandest, most unoriginal i’ve ever seen it.

Variety Doesn’t Sell

In previous years, there had been Xbox Live Community Games (now Indie Games). There had been friendly characters like Spongebob Squarepants and Banjo Kazooie. There had been Scene It! and You’re in the Movies and Viva Piñata. It’s not that any of these more accessible titles were necessarily any good, but at the very least i got a sense that Microsoft was trying to court a broader audience, trying to sell a system that everyone could enjoy.

Viva Pinata

Viva Piñata: obviously, since it is brightly coloured and features neither blood nor tits, only children are allowed to play it. Or fags – it also appeals to fags.

Well, we now see where that strategy has led them. Whether it’s because Microsoft itself has abandoned all hope, or whether the third party publishers saw abysmal financial returns on their family-oriented products (or indeed, whether the PR company wanted to look cool in front of the members of the gaming public who were invited for the first time this year), Xbox Live is no place for kids, families, or guys like me who don’t go in for blood n’ tits games.

Innovation Schminnovation

i counted on one hand the number of non-FPS, non-M-rated titles, and i had fingers left over:

  1. Tony Hawk: Ride, the one with the skateboard peripheral
  2. DJ Hero, the one with the turntable peripheral
  3. Rock Band: The Beatles, the one with the guitar and drum peripherals

Aaaaaaaand … that’s about it.

Rock Band: The Beatles

Not into first-person shooters? Good news: we’ve got all this extra crap you can buy.

So to you gamers who are slow to take a chance on innovative new franchises – you who want only more of the same, and who are happy with seeing a bigger number next for your favourite game’s title, you’re in for a real Christmas miracle this year.

You’ll run downstairs and slide on your knees to the foot of that tree, soft naked bottom peeping out of the bum flap on your pyjamas, and gaze with wonder at the gifts upon gifts that Santa left you. You’ll tear open the wrapping on each one in turn, eyes wide and mouth agape, imagining the thrills and unbridled delight each title will offer. And when the shredded paper has all been tossed to one side and the shrink-wrapped cases of your new Xbox 360 games sit glistening in the warm glow of the Christmas tree lights, you’ll marvel at the spectacle of a dozen or more new games to play for your Xbox 360 video game system.

And they’ll all be exactly the same game.

19 thoughts on “Microsoft Stuffs Santa’s Sack with Gore

  1. James

    Have to agree. I almost picked up a PS3 but there ain’t much out there that doesn’t look like it’s on the 360. Getting Halo: ODST for my birthday as I’m a Halo fan but I don’t expect too much from it. A bit of entertainment at least. They all do start to feel the same don’t they? I find the Indie games to be at least refreshing if not always original.

    1. Ryan

      James – i grabbed a PS3 when they finally dropped the price so i could play Little Big Planet, but i don’t think i’ll have much use for it otherwise. Ratchet & Clank, flOw, maybe Calling All Cars and a few other PSN-only titles, but my hopes aren’t high.

      – Ryan

  2. Brennon Williams

    Haha, Viva Pinata was a favorite among some kids I knew a few years ago, then they grew up and discovered Halo. Unfortunately games like Halo sell really well so the game companies reproduce them over and over with new skins to maximize profit, just like zombie flash games.

    1. Ryan

      Brennon – no, you don’t “grow up and discover Halo”. i was 29 years old when i started playing Viva Pinata. Did i regress and discover it? Halo appeals to a certain kind of gamer – the blood n’ tits gamer, a category that knows no age restriction. Eight-year-olds play and enjoy Halo, so it’s obviously not tailored to adults in the same way that, say, a movie like The Constant Gardener is geared to adults. Eight-year-olds wouldn’t have such a swell time watching that movie.

      “M for Mature” is the biggest misnomer in our industry. There’s nothing “mature” about the games that bear that rating.

    1. Ryan

      Brennon – i thought you meant “discover” as in “when i turned thirteen, i discovered that my penis made funny noises when i rubbed it.”

  3. Bwakathaboom

    Welcome to my world! I love strategy games. Even worse, I love historically accurate strategy games. Even worse, I love turn-based historically accurate strategy games. I’m the loneliest, most under-served gamer in the world And I own no consoles.

    1. Ryan

      Bwakathaboom – i recommend that you move to Germany and don’t look back. Germans corner the market on dry, strategic turn-based strategy games.

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  6. Jalex

    I object to you use of AssaultCube as a “generic FPS” screenshot. Do you have any idea what that engine can do and what it has spawned?

      1. Jalex

        Actually it’s one of the most creatively available engines there is. It’s based off the Cube 2 engine, a cube based engine with an in game editor that is more impressive than a lot of mainstream titles these days. It’s a free game with a small community behind it, bigger it it’s parent game Sauerbraten, also free which is one of the most creative games I have had the pleasure to play. So yes. Cuddly and fluffy things have and will continue to be created.

          1. Ryan Henson Creighton Post author

            i can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic? When i search “AssaultCube” – that’s right, ASSAULTCube – on Google Image Search, all i see are guns, bricks, sand, splatter, and headshots. It looks like the most insufferably generic shooter in existence.

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