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FIFA 13 vs. PES 2013 The Debate Continues

To avoid any arguments or confrontation, there are three subjects to avoid in conversation: religion, politics, and the big FIFA vs. PES debate that rages each year and divides gaming football fans whilst raising tensions in a heartbeat.

Before this debate gets underway, I feel compelled briefly explain my history with the biggest football games in Europe before a barrage of abuse is aimed in my general direction.

Way back in 2005 before This Is My Joystick existed in this world, fans of arcade-style football games played FIFA whilst real football fans scoffed and played what many considered to be the best football game ever made, which was Pro Evolution Soccer 5. Rather than beating someone 6-0, gamers had to play tactically like the beautiful game and grind out a 1-0 win.

It was around this time that I became acquainted with our editor Andy Corrigan on a website called Pro Evo Network, where a full league quickly became Nirvana for footy fans and my management of the French side Rennes will stay with me forever (which is not something I should probably admit in the public domain).

PES 6 came along the following year and although the game had a few issues, it was probably my most played football title ever. Yet after this glory period, a wind of change swirled through the traditional football games as PES quite frankly went to shit and was riddled with lag and strange glitches. Meanwhile, back in EA headquarters, FIFA was changing things and ironically becoming a thinking man’s football game, whilst PES started to have an arcade-like feel in a bizarre switch-around. The rest, as they say, is history.

Enough of the past. This is 2012 and we have two brand new games to play, but the age-old argument of ‘which is better: PES or FIFA’ rages on as it always has.

Although I am guilty of switching to FIFA in recent years, I still play with PES controls and zoom the camera out when putting my game head on, so maybe this is where my heart lies.

PES comes to life on the pitch.

With great excitement and a hint of nostalgia I opened my review copy of PES on the 13thSeptember after being genuinely impressed by the demo, but my excitement quickly turned to disappointment to see that the Man Utd squad contained Berbatov but Van Persie was nowhere to be seen. I’m sure this will be corrected in an update, but this is mid September; it can’t be that difficult to have something like this ready.

Enough of my complaining. I’m a sucker for a David vs. Goliath story, so let’s resist being shallow by mocking the fact that FIFA have so much money that they can own the vast majority of licenses, forcing PES to include made-up names of players and team names such as West London Whites. Gaming is not all about names and labels, so let’s take a look at what the game itself has to offer.

PES fans will be familiar with the Become a Legend, Master League and licensed Champions League modes, but the true strength of PES has always been the gameplay which takes time to master but brings great rewards to those that invest a little time.

If you think football games just consist of a sprint, pass, through-ball, cross, tackle and shoot button then this is probably not the game for you. To get the most out of this game you need to master a control system known as ‘PES Full Control’. A quick look at the manual illustrates that this is no arcade game.

PES players have unbelievable tekkers.

Once again this feels like the PES that we all fell in love with so many years ago, despite us drifting away and becoming spoilt by EA with their shiny bells and whistles. The gameplay and controls that PES offers feels like being reunited with an old friend that you could talk with for hours.

Many aspects of the game may look a little too old school on the surface to gain any new adopters, but I can still promise great rewards for those that are willing to give this underdog a chance. This is the best offering from Konami in many years.

FIFA is quite the opposite of PES and is all about more bang for your buck in an unashamed Jerry Bruckheimer movie kind of way; some might say that it is shallow with no heart and soul, but it will entertain the hell out of you whether you like it or not.

EA continue their strong partnership with Sky Sports and footy fans will giggle with delight when a player pulls up limping only to hear the commentator say “Now we go down to our sideline reporter, Geoff Shreeves”.

There is no escape from this attempt at authenticity. If you head over to Career mode, you get Sky’s Alan McInally announcing other goals from games around you with boundless amounts of enthusiasm and lines such as “Michael Owen with a long-range screamer”, not to mention talking you through penalties as they happen. This genuinely gives you the feeling you are actually being featured on Sky Sports.

There are negatives to FIFA though. Ultimate Team is probably in need of an overhaul and appears to be little more than a Vegas Casino. The only purpose is to empty your wallet as quickly as possible before you get bored of the game and look back thinking: “did I really spend £50 on virtual items?”

With so many game modes at your disposal (over 50 tournaments for starters), the menu system can be darn right confusing sometimes and has been neglected by EA; it desperately needs some attention.

Separating the online pro and offline pro can only be a good move which will hopefully stop offline boosters and mods ruining the online aspect of the game. The shoehorned Kinect aspect is fun, but only resulted in my wife laughing at me sat in my pants with a controller frantically shouting “Substitution” several times, only for nothing to happen.

FIFA has evolved into much more than just a football game. When starting up your console it can be quite difficult choosing exactly what to play. For example, do you continue with your offline or online career?  Simply play a season’s match? Or settle down and tweak your Ultimate Team? These are just a few of the many options available to you which will guarantee you won’t be getting bored anytime soon.

In truth, no matter what I or anyone else will tell you, your mind as to which football title you will purchase this year and which camp you belong to is a decision that has probably been made before the demos even came out. Make no mistake, though; this one particular argument will be the subject of many a heated debate in the pub and terraces over the next few weeks.

If you are a real football fan, it would be unforgivable to not give PES 2013 a try this autumn for just how far the game has improved. Sure there is the cheesy Euro pop soundtrack, dated-looking menus, lack of licensed teams, strips and players, but this has never been Konami’s strong point. You could argue that these things are just gift wrapping anyway, and their true success lies in concentrating on the most important aspect of any sports title: the gameplay itself. This season, PES fans will not be disappointed.

As for FIFA, with maybe a hint of arrogance, EA must realise they are on top of their game. Although they have tweaked rather than revolutionised their franchise, football fans have something that can only be described as “everything under one roof”. There are so many authentic football experiences to play through, even the hardcore fan will be kept very busy until the end of the season. In that respect, it represents better value for money.

Konami have improved PES immensely this year and edge a step closer to regaining their former glory. Yet rather than sit back on their throne, EA have raised the bar yet again with FIFA 13, which is proof that competition is good for consumers and presents gamers with a pleasant dilemma of what good football game to buy.

So although this year’s PES vs. FIFA fixture is a very tight match, I think FIFA just snatches a 1-0 win deep into injury time. Just don’t ever underestimate the underdog, because as Jimmy Greaves once said, football is a funny old game.

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The GAME Fiasco And The Future Of Buying Games Is In The UK

Since “that” big announcement from GAME last week, internet forums across the land have been full of gamers saying “I told you so”. The general opinion appeared to be that the struggling group and its chain of stores were ultimately responsible for their own demise.

For years publishers have watched on helplessly as high street stores sold second-hand games for £30 without seeing a penny, and maybe the final straw was when cunning GAME bosses allegedly ordered their own staff to buy the Nintendo 3DS on launch for £175 to sell in their own store for £219.99.

However MCV pointed out that GAME and Gamestation accounted for nearly 50% of the Vita’s launch-week sales and warned their readers not to write them off just yet. This proves to some degree how important the high street chain still is to gaming.

Ironically, though, on the GAME website they proudly show a tag cloud containing the most searched games on their website, but several of the titles near the top of the list, which include the now infamous Mass Effect 3, will not be available for punters to buy at any of their stores.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, Capcom announced the following:

“Unfortunately Capcom must confirm that Street Fighter x Tekken for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and Asura’s Wrath, both scheduled for release on Friday March 9, will not be stocked by GAME or Gamestation either in their retail outlets or on their online stores operating in the UK and Ireland.”

The harsh reality of all this, is that the biggest gaming stores on the high street will be unable to stock future titles from Ubisoft, EA, Nintendo, and now Capcom. This is simply not sustainable for any company, never mind one that is £200 million in debt and have lost their credit insurance, so it would be fair to assume a very messy breakup of the GAME Group will be imminent.

The only question that needs answering is who will actually announce game over? The bosses or the banks? I would imagine that anyone with a sensible head on their shoulders would be foolish to even contemplate buying the brand that is GAME; I fear that the business, banks, employees and gamers will all be losers.

EA have eventually replied with a brief statement on the saga saying:

“It’s unfortunate that GAME is having challenges with its suppliers, however consumers have many alternatives both in-store and online. Our first priority is to inform our consumers of the many other retailers carrying our games. We don’t anticipate any delay in getting our titles to market.”

This was followed by links to many stores that are selling the game, but they neglected to say that the majority of stores listed were already sold out, turning this whole episode into one big fiasco.

I am a long-standing critic of GAME, but I don’t see why publishers should be sitting pretty, looking holy than thou in these difficult times either. Before Activision were everyone’s favourite villains of the gaming world, EA held the title successfully for some time with their greedy ways, with regular situations where there were three FIFA games in twelve months that were essentially the same game. Somehow, they managed to redeem themselves over the years, but I can’t help but wonder if they too are drifting back to their old ways.

If you are lucky enough to pick up Mass Effect 3 on release day for £40, you will also be able to purchase premium DLC. This DLC has managed to piss off the entire gaming community, as they quickly realised that maybe they are buying an incomplete game. Visions arises that somewhere, there is a man stroking a cat laughing in a disturbing way but at their expense.

Even if we are to believe that the game was locked down, and that the hundreds of people working on the game simply got started on the DLC early, it doesn’t take a genius that this would ultimately cause bad publicity. Would it really have hurt to release it after two-three months and save the negative stories about your product?

Tempers are already running high with the disaster that is EA Origins, which appears to be a desperate attempt to copy the Stream Community. Do you really need yet another gaming account to store your credit card details on? Especially considering that Anonymous is everyone and everywhere.

In EA’s defence, PC gamers are a volatile group at the best of times. They often feel that they are neglected, but equally ready to complain when a company tries to offer something different. In this instance, though, you cannot help but feel it’s all about the money (I fight the urge to start singing). EA have essentially taken their games from Steam so they can sell them on Origin, but without offering anything different from their rivals other than inflated prices.

Although we could be forgiven for thinking that the outlook for gamers is generally quite grim at the moment, for every hard luck story there is a very positive one too. On this occasion I am, of course, talking about the online store ShopTo.

They have been steadily building a reputation over the last few years with new games at very reasonable prices, and tt seems this could be the time that they step up to the challenge of becoming a major player for the UK games market. They’ve begun a massive TV advertising promotion, not to mention a two-month promotional campaign on the London Underground, in what must be perfectly timed from a marketing prospective, considering the imminent demise of the UK’s biggest gaming stores.

Since the dawn of time, there have been good guys and bad guys, winners and losers. The only thing that remains constant is that magic word; change. Fasten your seat belts, because I got a feeling that things are about to get a lot more interesting.

SOPA Blackout And Why The Internet Is Angry

stop-sopa

Unless you’ve been locked in a dark room playing Skyrim shouting “Fus Ro Dah” repeatedly for the last few weeks, you will know that SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is the talk of the internet at the moment. The global online community have gathered together to fight the controversial act that seems intent on following the political trend of criminalising modern society.

The bill, introduced in the United States House of Representatives last autumn by Texas Republican Lamar Smith (who seemingly breaks his own rules), is already is losing the support of many of the game industry companies its supposed to protect as they fear becoming the bad guy, with people joining together on social media websites to make their voices heard loud and clear.

If passed, the bill would allow the American government and individual copyright holders to take legal action against websites that facilitate piracy, and this does not just mean the Pirate Bay’s of the world, but even a site such as This Is My Joystick could find itself being shut down or blocked to US audiences for showing an image, video, trailer or music from a game that a publisher took offence to.

It is astounding to think that in 2012 the grey people in control still have little understanding of how the internet works or how important that an online reputation is, in an age dominated by people power. The first company to learn this valuable lesson the hard way was GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain name registrar, who publicly backed SOPA only to see 50,000 domains transferred away from them in a few days (including Destructiod.com) as tech savvy customers showed their feelings on the subject in the most effective way possible over Christmas.

GoDaddy quickly made a dramatic and apologetic u-turn after a massive backlash from their angry user base, but it was too late as the damage was already done and was met with nothing but scepticism from the online community.

The scary aspect of SOPA is suddenly sites that we all like to express ourselves with, such as Tumblr, YouTube, Sound Cloud, Reddit, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+ etc could all land you with a five year jail term for uploading a TV, music or movie clip. This is a move that could not only curb creativity but also stifle free speech as governments begin attempts to censor the world to protect the interests of a few people who are not making as much money as they used to.

There is hope though, and yet again inspirational proof that it is the age of people power when less than 24-hours after promising not to yield, the Texas congressman and author of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) Lamar Smith is yielding on the bill’s controversial language that would allow the government to censor the Internet:

“After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision,” Smith, one of SOPA’s chief backers, The lead sponsor of the U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act, a controversial copyright enforcement bill, will remove a much-debated provision that would require Internet service providers to block their subscribers from accessing foreign websites accused of infringing the copyrights of U.S. companies.”

Anger towards the Stop Online Piracy Act is growing rapidly as thousands of people are changing their Twitter and Facebook avatars to include a Blackout SOPA badge across their face in protest. There is even a plug-in for Google chrome that will inform you of every SOPA supporting site that you visit.

A growing number of websites such as Reddit have announced a blackout on January 18th in protest to SOPA by replacing all site content with educational resources about SOPA to create awareness. Wikipedia are considering joining them, but all eyes are on Google, You Tube, Facebook to see if they are brave enough to make a stand too.

A petition from 120,000 gamers has been handed to EA requesting that they publicly stand up to the ESA and oppose SOPA. Even though EA stated that they are not supporting the act, this is simply not enough for members of the gaming community who are demanding action as tempers begin to rise.

Brett Greene summed people’s feelings in a report for the Huffington Post by saying:

The bottom line and main question to ask yourself is, “Do I trust the U.S. government to censor the Internet and protect free expression of its people? And if I do, do I trust other governments who will probably follow suit?” The next question to ask yourself is, “Is it worth the potential of creating a censored internet that is less innovative and stable in order to possibly help the RIAA and MPAA sell more music and movies?”

The last 12 months has been revolutionary, 12 months in which the internet has assumed the role of a highly effective, yet uncensored, news agency. One from which every broadcaster and news corporation have been able to source events live from the scene when governments have historically kept tight control on the media and where almost no platform is available for opinions critical of the political elite.

While many may be of the opinion that this is simply an American problem, you have to realise that if this Bill passes, the UK, and others, will likely follow suit. Our government has already showcased their hypocrisy when they condemned countries like Egypt for shutting down the internet. When the UK faced riots on the streets, there was talk of shutting down social media sites, rather than focussing on the fact that there were more good people than bad using such to organise cleanups and inform friends and family of their own personal safety.

Ultimately, the simple idea of democracy, in my eyes, is that citizens are not accountable to the government but the government is accountable to the people. The people elect the politicians to represent them, not criminalise society at every opportunity in favour of businesses who finance their political campaigns.

Whatever your opinion on the controversial SOPA act, the internet is gearing up for a very big fight, and it will be very interesting to see just how many sites and people will stand up and be counted this week, so make sure you put January 18th in your diary as what may or may not happen next will affect each and everyone of us and how we use the internet.

With SOPA being compared to China’s system of national censorship by blocking content for its citizens, maybe we should all repeat the late Bill Hicks quote “You are free to do as we tell you! You are free to do what we tell you!”.

Ubisoft and the growing ‘online pass’ trend

Ubisoft have announced that they will be following fellow publishers EA, Codemasters, THQ, Sony and Warner Bros in a vain attempt to tap into the elusive second-hand sales market.

The Ubisoft online pass will be coming our way in the form of the Uplay Passport, which will be a one-time code that will come with new Ubisoft games. Second-hand buyers will be able to purchase codes for £7.99 or 800 Microsoft Points. The first game to require the new pass will be the upcoming Driver: San Francisco and it will go on to be included in other big titles from the publisher, in what is for some an unpopular but unsurprising move. As a business model it is very similar to the online pass offered by EA, but as more companies try to regain some income from second-hand sales, can Microsoft continue to charge for the Xbox Live service?

In the defence of the publishers, they are defending their business from High Street stores such as GAME, who are selling pre-owned games and the publisher receives no income from this. GAME in particular have pushed their luck further by instructing staff to buy products on offer at Tesco and then marking up in their own stores. It could be argued that the Publishers and the High Street are involved in a big fight and you, the gamer, are going to be the one that gets hit hardest.

Typically, you could buy a game on release day for £39.99, which includes your online pass. If, after two months and a few items of DLC purchased for around £8, you then decide to part with the game by selling it on an auction site or by trade-in on the high street, you will get a hugely deflated price due to the slowing demand of pre-owned games; all because of the added online pass required to play it online.

So I need a passport to play a game…

High Street stores already struggling to compete with cheaper online stores will slowly lose their more profitable business of selling pre-owned games at marked up prices, and will slowly disappear. Gamers will be out-of-pocket too as the publishers re-gain control.

Over time people will buy fewer games, meaning we will see less innovation and the norm will become the Call of Duty, Battlefield and FIFA cash cows with little else on offer. For those of you that think I am overacting, a quick look at this year’s game market is already showing how quickly games are losing their value.

I remember being at the Eurogamer Expo last October and there was a huge amount of hype for Brink. There was a queue of over an hour-long wait just to get your hands on this hugely anticipated title, and people were walking away very excited. Fast forward to its release in May and a string of poor reviews ensured that the price had fallen to £14.99 within two months. Homefront was another game heavily marketed for months, but is now under a tenner.

All is not lost though, we can fight back. After all, only a huge fan (or some would say ‘fool’) would spend £40 on a game on a second-hand game, when after only two months later, you could buy the game brand new, complete with online pass for between £14.99 and £17.99.

If this happens neither the publisher nor the high street come out of this well and the savvy gamer will be the champion of champions. I fear that even this victory will be short-lived as the next generation of consoles could surely be digital download only, which would allow them to sell games at inflated prices. A quick look at Microsoft’s Games on Demand takes the smile off your face when you see games such as Crackdown 2 can be purchased for £19.99 but can be found for only £5 at an online store.

Will the future see you paying big money for old games?

The biggest fear among gamers is that we are all being treated as mugs and are rapidly being fleeced. We are wise to the fact that despite paying £39.99 a year to Microsoft for Xbox Live, we then could pay £39.99 for a game that is half-completed because several hours of content is held back, just so it can be released as DLC for £9.99. To announce more charges for online passes and bonus material as well? It takes a very mild-mannered person to not get pissed off.

It appears we are caught in the middle of a war that we cannot win. This is a complex issue that is not going to go away, but who is to blame? Are you angry at the High Street stores for encroaching on the publisher’s income? Are the publishers getting greedy? Do you support the publisher’s move?

We would love to hear your thoughts on this hot potato so please post your comments!

Virtual products for real money

Imagine for a few moments that you are a budding entrepreneur and you are about to deliver your big sales pitch on a TV show like Dragons Den, in what could be the biggest day of your life. Your product can reach the entire world’s population and be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and three hundred and sixty-five days a year and there are no shipping or delivery issues to worry about. Here comes the clincher your product does not actually exist, because you are selling virtual items.

A few years ago you would have been laughed off the stage with nothing but the words “I’m sorry, but I’m out!” ringing in your ears, but the virtual goods market is expected to break $2.1 billion in America alone this year. Between 2007 and 2010, virtual goods revenue increased 245 percent, according to a study released from market-research firm In-Stat and by 2014 the company also reported that providers will generate more than $14 billion.

Although virtual goods have been common place in South Korea for more than a decade, my first memory of this phenomenon was way back when virtual cards were all the rage, but for me the virtual world of Second Life was where this madness all began. Just how quickly masses of people handed over their hard-earned cash in return for virtual furniture and clothes for their virtual selves in the online world. Whilst many looked on and scoffed at what was happening, canny businesses quickly realised the true potential that was on offer. (more…)

Moms will hate Dead Space 2

On numerous occasions at This Is My Joystick, I have defended the gaming industry from what seems like wave after wave of attacks from the media that are intent on blaming much of societies ills on our beloved pastime. Sure, there are violent games on sale but they carry an 18 certification so the only issue up for discussion should be that of parental responsibility. With all this in mind it was somewhat of a surprise to see EA appear to be marketing their new 18 certificate game Dead Space 2 at underage children as #yourmomhatesthis became the top trend on twitter recently.

The games website your mom hates this features what I can only describe as mature mum-like ladies being asked to watch video footage of Dead Space 2, followed by their horrified reactions of how nasty the game is and their declarations that people shouldn’t play games like this. You can almost visualise the media types that we all know and love in Starbucks with their low-cut vests and roll-up cigarettes saying “let’s make it go viral” but isn’t it all a little irresponsible?

“It’s Revolting, it’s Violent, it’s everything you want in a game… and your Moms going to hate it!” is what the trailer tells us, and although it is mildly amusing I cannot help but think that behind the fun lurks a sinister campaign to market an adult game to under-age children. Slightly irresponsible and not to mention frustrating when I have been saying ”adult games are for adult gamers” until I am blue in the face for what seems like forever. I wonder how long we get the Daily Mail type headlines of “ban this sick filth” and the same tiresome debate in return again. (more…)