Words about games

The Collective Follow Up: Q&A With Square-Enix’s Phil Elliott

After publishing this article on Square-Enix’s crowd-funding programme, Phil Elliott, who is heading up the programme reached out to me to see if we could discuss it further. I had a few key questions to put to him, which he has kindly replied to.

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The Collective Sigh: Questions Over Square-Enix’s Crowd-funding Programme

In October last year, Square-Enix was the first of the old giants of video game publishing to dip their toe into the murky waters of crowd-funding. Their programme titled “The Collective” is, in their words, intended to give consumers a chance “to shape games development and champion ideas that you’d like to become reality”. Developers can participate in the programme either with an original IP which they retain ownership of, or with a pitch for a game using an existing S-E IP. Full details of the programme can be read here, but it seems to me that there’s some pretty significant scope for things to go wrong.

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On Serial Resellers, and SavyGamer’s Role In Their Use

Recently there has been much discussion of the business model of serial key resellers, and I figured it might be best for me to chime in with my position on this process. How these business operate is that they acquire serial keys for games from somewhere, and then sell those serial keys without explicit permission to do so from the developer/publisher. It is my strongly held belief that this serves to benefit consumers, and it is a pretty fundamental aspect of how markets function. I’ve linked to serial resellers regularly on SavyGamer in the past, I do so whenever I see a serial reseller offering a game at a price that constitutes a good deal, and I fully plan to continue to do so.

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Steam Tags: How Valve Are Controlling The Discussion Of Games On Their Storefront

The information presented on a store listing for any item available to buy is critical to purchasers. People base their purchasing decisions on a range of information, and “The things that the shop I am buying them from tell me” is a key source that informs purchasing decisions. It seems that Valve are aware of this, and as such have taken steps to present games for sale in the best light possible, in a way that I would argue is concealing important information from their users.

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Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare’s Post Release Microtransactions Are Asking For Customer Disapointment

Do you remember when games were just games? It seems so long ago now. These days games are constantly updated services, with chunks of the components making up the constituent parts of the “game” split between local devices and storage media, and rows and rows of servers off in a warehouse somewhere. This somewhat undermines the concept of a traditional video game review, where there is no single complete thing that can be reviewed, and distilling an ongoing service into a buyer’s guide or critique isn’t really possible when it represents a moving target. But this does not absolve reviewers of responsibility to provide accurate information on how they can expect services to work. Enter Garden Warfare, EA’s attempt at turning Plants vs Zombies into a third person shooter of all things. EA haven’t clearly outlined their plans for the business model of Garden Warfare. Whilst they’ve confirmed that they want people to fork over £24.99 to £34.99 for the game, they are being cagey about the future implementation of any microtransactions. Not that you’d be aware of this if you read most reviews.

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When Free To Play Isn’t Free To Play: A Steam Early Access Conundrum

Two business models which have been increasing in popularity in recent times have now collided together on Steam, and in my mind there is a problematic aspect of how they’ve been implemented. Free To Play and Early Access have the potential to radically alter how games and made, sold and played, but currently there is a lack of transparency in how Valve have implemented them, that is potentially misleading customers, and the onus is on Valve to fix this.

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PlayStation Meeting: Sony are lending me an ear

Here’s an interesting turn of events.

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The Broken Age Embargo Is A Bit Of A Joke

Update: Common sense has prevailed, and Double Fine have decided to drop the embargo. Full email update at the bottom of the article.

Double Fine’s Kickstarter rippled throughout the industry when in February 2012 they managed to raise a big boatload of money in order to develop a traditional 2D point & click adventure (At the time only known as “Double Fine Adventure”), and to finance a documentary of the development process. They asked for $400,000, but ended up receiving more than eight times that.

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Revengeance Now Available To Buy On Steam In Ireland

As a quick update to this report on the region availability of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance on Steam, it seems Konami have now made it so that Irish gamers will be able to buy the PC version of Revengeance.

Previously, when attempting to buy Revengeance from Steam, if you were accessing Steam from an Irish ip address, you would have been greeted with this message:


But as of today, the store page should be working properly.

This decision does not extend to other regions, with Japan and many other Asian countries still unable to buy it from Steam. Also of note, the region locking of serials from other distributors is still in place, and as is the cross-region gifting block, but this is great news for customers residing in The Republic.

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Konami’s Consumer Hostile Region Locking Is A Bad Thing

Update: The ban in Ireland has now been lifted. Details here.

In recent years, a number of the old giants of Japanese Video Game publishing have been increasingly turning their attention to the PC gaming. It seems to me that this is part of a general trend of seeking to become less insular, diversifying their output to be less dependent on the handful of console platforms available to them, and a recognition that there is a strong business case for catering to PC gamers. Whether it’s Sega’s transition to a PC publishing powerhouse, Namco Bandai’s eventual capitulation to the hoards of petitioners and bringing Dark Souls to PC (making a boatload of money in the process), or Capcom’s shift towards cross platform development with their in house tech and their outsourced projects, it’s clear that there’s gold in them thar hills.

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Short stretch of downtime on SavyGamer

It’s all just been a bit much recently.

In the interest of looking after my mental well being, and just to recharge a bit, I’ve decided to go for a short holiday, and spend next week chilling the fuck out on a beach somewhere warm.

I’ve not actually taken any proper time off from running SavyGamer for over six years, and I think I probably need it now more than ever.

I’ll be back at the helm at some point when I return next weekend, but until then, my henchman Tony has said that he’ll do what he can to keep things ticking over. He has a proper job though, so anything he does get posted he’ll be fitting in around that. Huge thanks to him for stepping up at such short notice.

In the meantime, take care, and don’t do anything drastic like buying a game for full price.

I’m going to pack my bag.

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Goodbye to Rock Paper Shotgun

All buckets eventually run dry.

Sadly, earlier this week the editors of Rock Paper Shotgun informed me that they no longer require me to write my weekly discount column, or any other freelance work. I have written the Bargain Bucket for RPS almost every single weekend since March 2009, and sporadic other freelance pieces at various times, but not any more.

As for what happened, the RPS editors and I had a disagreement over a policy decision. I feel that I was acting in the best interests of the readers, but it could be that there’s aspects of the disagreement that I don’t fully understand. I believe that the proposed changes would have impacted my ability to do the job properly, so I couldn’t agree to them. Given that, they have decided that they no longer want me writing for their site in any capacity.

I’ll certainly miss it. I took a great deal of pride in my work for RPS, and I put a lot into those columns. It’s a shame that it had to end like this, but I’ll never forget how much I owe RPS for taking a chance on me all those years ago. Writing for RPS has had an incalculable impact on my personal and professional life. Thank you to all the former and current RPS editors and writers for everything you did for me, I wish you all the best in future.

I would also like to say a huge thank you to all of the readers of RPS. You’re the most enjoyable audience that I have had the pleasure of writing for. You’ve always been polite, friendly, and fair to me. It’s been a real privilege to serve you.

Finally, I’d like to thank the developers of any games that I ever featured in the Bargain Bucket. You all gave me something to actually write about.

I’m not sure exactly what my future plans are. I currently have no ongoing obligations except for running SavyGamer, which I am absolutely committed to. I’m not too worried about money, although things might be a little tight now. I have a few ideas for other projects that I might engage in, and if anybody reading this would like to employ me to do something interesting in the games industry, please get in touch. If it’s something genuinely interesting, my rates will probably be pretty reasonable.

You can keep up with whatever I’m doing by following me on twitter.

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The SavyGamer Bundle is now over

Death Ray Manta Derrick the Deathfin Frozen Synapse
Richard & Alice SpaceChem

The SavyGamer bundle is now finished, thanks to everyone who bought it.

If you’d like to access your downloads again, head over to this page to get your download links resent.

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SavyGamer Downtime: I’m off to Glastonbury

Greetings SavyGamers. I think I’m overdue some time off, what do you reckon?

I’m going to Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts. I’ll be away from the 21st of June until the 1st of July, and I’ll probably need a day or two to properly recover after that. There won’t be many updates on SavyGamer during this period, although Will and Tony have very graciously said that they will try to fill in for me when they have spare time.

Otherwise, consider this a good time to play all of the games that you’ve already bought for not very much money, and normal service will resume shortly.

I will probably tweet (drunk) from the festival here.

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Notice: A Request Regarding Adblockers

Hello SavyGamers.

I hate browsing the internet with adverts, that’s why I use an adblocker. I don’t think I am under any obligation to allow websites to display adverts on my computer.

I dislike it when websites make needy pleas to their users to disable adblockers. “Because that’s how we make our money”, as if the users of adblockers weren’t aware of the revenue stream they are opting to bypass. If you run a business, the onus is on you to find a model that works, not the customers.

I also dislike it that there are adverts everywhere. I live in London, and my eyeballs are bombarded with corporate propaganda whenever I leave the house. If I could wear a pair of magic glasses that blocked these adverts, or if I could make them disappear with the point of a finger, I would.

In my capacity as a freelance writer for other websites, I do accept money that has come from advertisers, so perhaps I am sometimes part of the problem. I did decide a long time ago, however, not to have any adverts on SavyGamer. I think it would be hypocritical to impose on users of my website something that I am unwilling to do for other websites. SavyGamer has been ad free for almost forever, and I can categorically state that there are no plans whatsoever to add adverts at any time in the future. Perhaps circumstances will change, but I can’t see how.

Why am I telling you all these things? It’s recently come to my attention that adblockers, depending on how they have been configured, can interfere with Google analytics, and potentially some affiliate services. The impact this has on SavyGamer is that I am missing out on useful (anonymous) data that helps me track which deals are most popular, or just how people are using the site. I tailor the service around this data, so your usage is not being represented here if you have an adblocker that is preventing Google Analytics from working correctly. Secondly, and probably far more importantly for me, if an adblocker is preventing my affiliate stuff from working (where I get a small cut on sales from the retailer for users I direct to purchase from them), I’m missing out on potential earnings. Those earnings are what let me keep working on SavyGamer full time whilst keeping it ad free, and they’re the only source of revenue I get from SavyGamer (aside from the generosity of SavyGamer subscribers), so it is pretty important to me.

I’d like to ask that if you are using an adblocker on your browser, you consider doing me a favour and disabling your adblocker for SavyGamer. There will be zero impact to your experience of using SavyGamer, and it will make my job easier.

Obviously if you consider blocking Google Analytics and affiliate services to be a desirable functionality, then by all means please continue to browse SavyGamer that way. I respect your right to browse the web in whatever way is preferable to you, and you will always be welcome here no matter how your browser is configured. This notice should only be relevant to people that were unaware that adblockers could behave in this way, as I was until just now.

How to disable adblockers for a specific website varies between adblockers, please post in the comments if you have any trouble with it.

Thanks.

TL DR
Please disable your adblocker on SavyGamer if you use one. There are no adverts anyway. Bill Hicks was right.

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Savy Market Share: Retailers 2012

Here’s a dose of data gleaned by monitoring the spending habits of SavyGamer users throughout 2012. This chart shows what proportion of the total spend SavyGamer users spent at each retailer. This is only for retailers that I have an affiliate contract with, so there are some places missing (notably Steam), and some of these retailers operate internationally, whereas some are UK only.

1. Amazon US – 23.02%
2. GamersGate – 17.24%
3. Amazon UK – 15.94%
4. Green Man Gaming – 10.02%
5. Tesco – 7.57%
6. GAME – 6.10%
7. Gamefly – 4.01%
8. Zavvi – 3.37%
9. ShopTo.Net – 1.97%
10. iTunes – 1.84%
11. Gamestation – 1.67%
12. Simply Games – 1.63%
13. The Hut – 1.26%
14. Microsoft Store – 0.90%
15. Play.com – 0.58%
16. Gameplay – 0.51%
17. Argos – 0.47%
18. Coolshop – 0.41%
19. HMV – 0.38%
20. The Game Collection – 0.31%
21. Origin – 0.29%
22. Asda – 0.21%
23. Currys – 0.12%
24. PC World – 0.0641%
25. Bee.com – 0.0607%
26. WOW HD – 0.0298%
27. Dixons – 0.0129%
28. Sainsbury’s – 0.005%

Here’s last year‘s if you’d like to compare the two.

Tesco have certainly been less competitive on prices compared to 2011, whereas Amazon’s expansion into digital games on Amazon US has been incredibly aggressive. Pretty much across the board digital is increasingly getting a larger share of your spend, although EA’s Origin isn’t showing much traction yet.

Do you notice any interesting trends?

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Wanted: PC Hardware Specialist

SavyGamer has pretty much been a one man show since its inception, although I’ve had plenty of help from other people along the way. That’s possibly about to change though, as I’m looking for a PC Hardware specialist to take responsibility of covering the best discounts on PC hardware on SavyGamer.

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SavyCharts: May 2012

Well here’s a bit of an anomaly. Usually it’s hotly anticipated new releases, or popular games receiving their first big discount, at the top of the SavyCharts. It’s a different story this month, as ArmA 2: Combined Operations takes the top spot, owing largely to the much talked about zombie survival mod, DayZ. Read on to see what else has been in demand from SavyGamers during the month of May.

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SavyGamer Is Five: Anniversary Sale

Five whole years. I can’t quite believe it. Five years ago to this day I mistyped “Savvy” into a domain name registration form, and the rest is history.

Initially conceived as an experiment in eradicating information asymmetry between people buying games and people selling games, and a way of countering the small army of marketing men and advertisers telling you that they are the best value, regardless of reality, SavyGamer has grown to be far bigger than I ever imagined it could be. That’s largely down to you, the wonderful users of SavyGamer, who day in and day out choose to trust me to find you the best prices on games. You’ll probably never know quite how much gratitude I have for you.

I’ve been chronicling the cheapest games across all formats for half a decade now, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself. It’s also been a successful endeavour for me financially, I don’t quite earn enough from SavyGamer to not have to do other work, but I think that I might be there in another year or two. You could always subscribe for just £1 a month to help me on my way.

Whether you’ve been here since day one, or if this is your first time visiting SavyGamer (make yourself at home), or somewhere in-between, thank you ever so much for your patronage. I intend for SavyGamer to be a service that you can rely on long long into the future.

To celebrate the earth having successful orbited the sun five times since SavyGamer’s inception, I’ve roped in a bunch of developers to put their games on sale all at once. Here’s a boatload of fantastic games all reduced:

A.Typical RPG – 64p
AI War: Alien Bundle – £3.89 (and similar discounts on individual items, apply coupon “SavyGamer5″)
Blue Toad Murder Files – £2.99 on PSN
Bundle of Wrong – Pay What You Want
Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land – £1.99
Democracy 2 – £7.66 (apply coupon “SavyGamer5″)
Eufloria – £3.74 (apply coupon “SavyGamer5″)
Eufloria HD – £1.49
Fate of the World – £2.50 (and similar discounts on individual items, apply coupon “SavyGamer5″)
Frozen Synapse x2 – £15.19 (apply coupon “SavyGamer5″)
Gratuitous Space Battles: Collectors Edition – £5.66 (apply coupon “SavyGamer5″)
helicoid – Free
Inzectoids – Pay what you want
Leave Home + fren-ze – £3.18
lilt line – 69p
Planet Stronghold – £7.19 (apply coupon “SavyGamer5″)
Scoregasm – £1.91
Swift*Stitch – £2.23
These Robotic Hearts of Mine, iOS – Free for one day, half price for the rest of the sale. /Android – 50p
Tidalis – 99p (apply coupon “SavyGamer5″)
Time Gentlemen, Please! – £1.79 (apply coupon “SavyGamer5″)
VVVVVV – £1.59
Waves – £3.43
Will Fight for Food – £2.38

Also the lovely folks at Get Games let me pick some games from their library to put on sale. Apply coupon “SavyGamer5″ to get these prices. Here they are:
The Club – £2
Civilization 5 – £4.99
The Oddboxx – £4.41
Renegops – £3.39
Serious Sam: The First Encounter HD – £2.59
Serious Sam 3: BFE – £7.49
Super Meat Boy – £3.39

Enjoy!

If you’ve got a game you want to put on sale to be part of the celebrations. Please do get in touch.

Much love.

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SavyCharts: April 2012

As we fast approach SavyGamer’s 5th anniversary (it’s tomorrow!), lets take a look back at the last month of SavyGamer activity, and see which games have been the most popular. Here’s the April SavyCharts, a glimpse behind the curtain of what deals you lot have been clicking on the most:

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Hey! You should come to the SavyGamer 5th Anniversary Party!

Can you believe it? SavyGamer dot co dot uk is going to be exactly five years old next week. To mark the occasion, I’m having a party! Would you like to come? If you’re local to the London area, and free on the 4th of May, why not join me and various other games people to drink some alcohol in a pub.

Details are here. Tickets are required because the venue has a limited capacity. Please don’t get a ticket unless you can definitely make it.

Hope to see you there!

If you can’t make it, don’t worry, there’s something else special coming up as part of the anniversary festivities. Something that everyone can get involved with. Stay tuned to SavyGamer next week.

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PSA: GAME Group Sale

You might have noticed that we’ve been posting a lot of deals from GAME and Gamestation recently. We’ve been going through and picking out what we think are the best deals, but there are many more on the website itself – far too many for us to list.

This sale is also going on in-store as GAME Group attempt to clear stock in light of their recent troubles. You’ll find many of the same deals as are online, although in some cases (as always), there will be differences.

If you have any credit with GAME or GameStation, either in the form of Reward Card/Elite points or gift/trade-in cards, I would strongly suggest that you use that allowance as soon as possible.

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SavyCharts: February 2012

After the slow start to the year, the games industry really started to kick back into gear this February. We had the launch of Sony’s hot new portable console, the PS Vita, and then the trickle of new releases like Syndicate, Binary Domain, Tekken 3DS, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and The Darkness II. But which games were most in demand amongst SavyGamers like yourself? Here’s my monthly charge of the most popular posts, and rank of most searched for games on SavyGamer from Feburary 2012.

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PS Vita launch lineup 17% more expensive from PSN than retail

Despite claims from Sony that “there will be a discount on the downloadable PS Vita titles from PSN”, it seems that comparing the recently revealed PSN prices for PS Vita games for UK customers are actually on average 17% more expensive than the retail equivalent prices.

Everybody’s Golf – £29.99 on PSN, £27.95 at The Hut.
Little Deviants – £19.99 on PSN, £17.99 at Play.com.
Modnation Racers: Road Trip £29.99 on PSN, £27.95 at Zavvi.
Reality Fighters – £19.99 on PSN, £17.99 at Play.com.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss – £39.99 on PSN, £34.85 at Shopto.
Wipeout 2048 – £29.99 on PSN, £28.95 at Zavvi.
Army Corps Of Hell – £34.99 on PSN, £19.85 at Shopto.
Virtua Tennis 4 – £34.99 on PSN, £24.85 at Shopto.
Asphalt: Injection – £19.99 on PSN, £17.99 at Play.com.
Lumines Electronic Symphony – £29.99 on PSN, £22.97 at Coolshop.
Rayman Origins – £29.99 on PSN, £23.98 at Coolshop.
FIFA 2012 – £44.99 on PSN, £34.95 at The Hut.
Shinobido 2 – £34.99 on PSN, £24.95 at The Hut.
Touch My Katamari – £24.99 on PSN, £19.95 at Zavvi.
Blazblue Continuum Shift Extend – £34.99 on PSN, £25.85 at Zavvi.
Michael Jackson The Experience HD – £24.99 on PSN, £17.99 at Amazon.
Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3 – £39.99 on PSN, £29.95 at The Game Collection.
Dynasty Warriors Next – £29.99 on PSN, £29.95 at Zavvi.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus – £29.99 on PSN, £24.99 at Sainsbury’s.
Ridge Racer – £16.99 on PSN, £14.95 at Zavvi.
Dungeon Hunter: Alliance – £29.99 on PSN, £29.86 at Shopto.
F1 2011 – £44.99 on PSN, £29.86 at Shopto.

This is only comparing prices at release, clearly the retail versions prices will drop over time in conjunction with market forces, whereas the PSN prices will only drop when Sony and/or the publishers decide it is time for them to drop.

What do you reckon to that? It seems crazy to me that they are making the download versions (which are better for the environment, encourage people to buy more of Sony’s expensive needlessly proprietary memory cards, and can’t be traded in) more expensive than the version that come in a plastic box, particularly after their claims that PSN versions would be cheaper.

It seems to me that Sony are more interested in keeping retailers happy than letting their customers access games in the most convenient way without compromising on value.

Will this impact your plans regarding getting a PS Vita?

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More inconsistencies from EA

As a quick follow up to the previous SavyGamer post about EA confusing myself and their customers with contradictory communication from different channels, it looks like despite telling me that the offer for a free copy of Battlefield 3 with Mass Effect 3 preorders would be available until the 5th of March in an email, they are now telling their customers that the offer is already over via twitter.

It seems like getting a straight answer out of EA regarding Origin promotions is simply not possible.

Cheers @Jam_sponge for bringing this to my attention.

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