During the Xbox TGS2022 event, I was very surprised and delighted to find out that a remastered version of the acclaimed Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was not only released for Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and Xbox One, but also it was immediately on Xbox Game Pass (XGP)!
Officially titled as Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered, I went online with my Xbox Series X to download the game via Xbox Game Pass. The entire experience was quiet jarring as the lightning launch of Ni no Kuni on Xbox consoles and XGP was something I never ever anticipated would happen. Regardless, this sudden release is a bonus for Xbox gamers who want to play more JRPGs as well as XGP subscribers who want new content to enjoy.
For the newcomers reading this, Ni no Kuni was a hit game released only on PlayStation 3 (PS3) in 2011-2013, followed by a remastered version in 2019 for PlayStation 4 (PS4), Nintendo Switch and PC. The game was developed by long-time JRPG developer Level-5 (which is often identified with PlayStation and Nintendo platforms) and published by Bandai Namco. Ni no Kuni is also notable for having lots of anime cutscenes produced by animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli as well as music by Joe Hisaishi.
As I’m writing this, I got to play the game and I am having fun discovering its fantasy world, learning how the game functions and the Studio Ghibli-animated scenes really look nice! I’ve got a long way to go before completing the game.
As far as Xbox gaming for 2022 is concerned, the sudden addition of the remastered Ni no Kuni into the Xbox ecosystem and XGP is helpful in relation to the lack of big-budget Xbox-exclusive games in the 4th quarter. It should be noted that RPG heavy hitters Starfield and Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes plus the remastered versions of two certain classic JRPGs (note: here’s a hint) are scheduled for release in 2023. When it comes RPG gaming on Xbox, the Level-5-developed game is a very welcome addition given the commercial and critical achievements, fun gameplay and the nice value of having Studio Ghibli-produced animation sequences that helped emphasize the game’s fantasy concepts.
For those of you Xbox and JRPG gamers who wish to buy Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered online, click right here. If you are already an Xbox Game Pass subscriber eager for new experiences or JRPG fun, go download the game now.
In closing this piece, posted below are Xbox-related videos plus a few ones related to Tokyo Game Show 2022 for your viewing pleasure.
Take note of Spencer’s words “existing agreements” and “our desire to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation.” Existing agreements most likely refer to what Activision Blizzard made with Sony which I believe are years-long deals on games with regards to platform releases, marketing, post-release downloadable content, etc. Of course, such agreements can last long but NOT FOREVER. The business benefit for PlayStation from Activision Blizzard will someday come to an end.
As for Microsoft’s desire for keeping Call of Duty on PlayStation, that clearly means that the corporation of Xbox is technically in-charge of not just the COD franchise but on the decision making, marketing and releasing its games on specific platforms. Sony and its PlayStation team are not in the driver’s seat here anymore. Whatever deals Activision signed with PlayStation before the acquisition will expire and they certainly will not be renewed once Microsoft and its Xbox team takes over. In due time, future COD games as well as other upcoming games and new intellectual properties of Activision Blizzard will become Xbox-exclusive in accordance to what Spencer declared before…
“We have games that exist on other platforms, and we’re going to support those games on the platforms they’re on. There are communities of players. We love those communities and will continue to invest in them. And even in the future, there might be things that have either contractual things, or legacy on different platforms, that we’ll go do. But if you’re an Xbox customer, the thing I want you to know is this is about delivering great exclusive games for you that ship on platforms where Game Pass exists, and that’s our goal, that’s why we are doing this,”
This brings me to my next point – Sony as a global business entity is way behind Microsoft, Apple, Google and Amazon when it comes to establishing ecosystems that result tremendous business growth and reaching billions of customers worldwide respectively. The decades-old console-focused approach by Sony with PlayStation was indeed successful but not great enough to help it grow big time. Not even their Hollywood business nor Spider-Man could lift them up greatly. The weird thing was that Sony in previous decades had established an old ecosystem before PlayStation began.
To put things in perspective, posted below is a long excerpt from a recent Nikkei Asia article. Some parts in boldface…
The 10% drop in Sony’s stock price this week following Microsoft’s announcement that it will buy game content developer Activision Blizzard shows the market has belatedly awakened to an existential flaw in Sony’s kingdom. It lacks an ecosystem.
In terrifying contrast, Microsoft is a formidable ecosystem whose component elements, such as devices, operating system, browser, search engine, applications, content, cloud memory, work hand in glove to suck in captive users and never let them go. The ecosystem effect is all too familiar to owners of PCs that run on the Windows OS, which maddeningly redirects users to Microsoft’s Edge browser and Bing search engine against their will.
It is no accident that five of the world’s seven largest companies by market capitalization — Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet/Google, Amazon and Meta/Facebook — are ecosystems. Every consumer decision to buy a device, be it a PC, smartphone, Kindle reader, or game console, entails a surrender to an interconnected ecosystem. Promiscuity among ecosystems is possible but, by design, not easy. The ecosystems are at war and want to make you their captive.
Ironically, Sony was early to recognize the strategic significance of the ecosystem effect. Its decision to acquire CBS Records and Columbia Pictures in the late 1980s was inspired by the notion that controlling entertainment content could somehow push device sales, such as Betamax VCRs and Sony Walkman.
What Sony overlooked was that it would be self-defeating to make its controlled content exclusively available on Sony devices. Very few consumers would buy a Walkman just because it was the only way to listen to Michael Jackson. And Sony’s refusal to license Michael Jackson to non-Sony device users would perversely shut down third-party royalty revenue from the controlled content. Sony saw, but misunderstood and misapplied, the ecosystem effect between devices and content.
Sony’s next, more costly, wrong turn was its failure to anticipate and keep up with the morphing of portable audio devices like the Walkman launched in 1979 and iPod in 2001 into the iPhone debuted in 2007. The iPhone integrated, in a single handheld device, all of the functions formerly provided by the multiple discrete products in Sony’s consumer electronics lineup: phone, TV, camera, video and audio player and recorder, clock, calculator, and so on.
Sony’s stock price plunged from 30,000 yen ($260) per share in 2000 to 1,668 yen in 2009. Sony and the entire Japanese consumer electronics industry are still in disarray from the iPhone paradigm shift.
Unlike Sony, Apple founder Steve Jobs was a master at creating and orchestrating an ecosystem. In particular, he understood when to link content exclusively to a device and, just as important, when not to. Even now, Apple’s iOS is available only on Apple devices, unlike Microsoft’s device-agnostic Windows OS.Initially, Apple’s iTunes music store platform was available only on Apple’s own devices. Then, in October 2003, “the day that hell froze over,” Jobs made the strategic decision to make iTunes compatible with and freely downloadable by non-Apple devices.
The result was not only to massively increase the audience and revenues of the iTunes platform. Non-Apple device users discovered how great iTunes was and that it worked even better on an iPod, leading to a surge in new iPod owners conveniently prepped for the coming transfiguration of the iPod into the iPhone.
The same interplay between devices and content is at the center of intense competition in the $180 billion global PC gaming industry. Dedicated gamers have a choice among three game-specific consoles — Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo’s Switch.
The choice of device, in turn, entails a menu of device-specific exclusive content. Xbox and PlayStation each offer about 2,000 titles, but the bestselling 200-300 games for each tend to be exclusive to one or the other. A gamer’s choice of console implies a decision about preferred content.
But the relationship between game devices and content is evolving rapidly, tracking changes elsewhere in the internet universe. Games today can be played on any device, PCs and smartphones, not just a dedicated game console.
Gaming is now mobile. Game content is increasingly being streamed, just like Netflix and Amazon Prime. You can play games on YouTube. And an Xbox can be used as a PC to surf the Internet and do your homework.
The immediate threat to Sony posed by Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is that Microsoft will make the content it is acquiring — global blockbusters like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft — exclusive to Xbox users and invite defections from PlayStation users who want to keep playing their favorite games.
But this is just one element of the multifaceted ecosystem effects Microsoft can deploy to squeeze Sony. Sony should be nervous, for example, that it has no cloud or streaming capability of its own and relies on Microsoft’s own Azure platform to deliver streaming content to Sony users.
Sony’s game and network services segment now accounts for 30% of its revenues. It is hard to see how Sony can compete in the long-term in a narrow game-specific segment without credibly competing with the likes of Microsoft, Alphabet/Google and Amazon across the board in all segments of the device-content spectrum.
From a financial point of view, Sony is not only behind the tech giants with ecosystems. Sony simply does not have the major financial muscle needed to pull off massive acquisitions of game publishers (massive meaning more than $5 billion per each acquisition) that each have lots of game developers, intellectual properties and technologies. The Japanese giant does have a business ecosystem but it’s too small and too narrow compared to its Western competitors. This also means Sony reaches much less customers worldwide.
In a possible response to Xbox-Activision-Blizzard deal, Sony can try to acquire its fellow Japanese gaming entities like Capcom, SEGA or Square Enix and integrate the entity(s) into PlayStation, but that will require not just a whole bunch of money but also willingness to not just make big offers the other party cannot turn down, but also the willingness to overcome all the legal obstacles, solve all the complications, absorb all the employees, fund future projects already in development, etc. If the PlayStation team is willing on building up its very own exclusive properties, they could expand the work forces as well as the projects of their very own game studios.
The Xbox-Activision-Blizzard deal is very hard to match not just because of the financial value and organizational weights involved, but also because the said deal covers consoles, Windows PC, mobile devices, cloud gaming, browser gaming and much more. The PlayStation ecosystem is still console-focused and so far team PlayStation released only a few of its games on PC. Is Sony even working to improve PlayStation Now? Are the PlayStation executives realizing that their 3rd party marketing deals won’t lift up their corporation and consumer base anymore? Has it occurred to the PlayStation executives that future games of the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon franchises (both of which are permanently identified with Sony’s gaming brand due to exclusive games released on the first PlayStation console) will be released only on Xbox platforms?
As mentioned in the Nikkei Asia article above, business ecosystems are not perfect and they have their flaws that affect customers in bad ways. As such, the ecosystem powers and organizers should do their work to be more user-friendly and be more consumer-oriented. Still, the ecosystem approach to business has proven to be very effective with regards to reaching the widest number of consumers worldwide as well as driving business growth to new heights, not to mention generating economic benefits for business partners involved (example: credit card companies whose users buy on Amazon, Xbox network, Google, etc.) No amount of sales of Final Fantasy games and Street Fighter games exclusive to PlayStation consoles will ever match that.
As for the console fanboys who still hate Xbox, they should learn to stop living with fantasy and wake up to reality. Time to grow up.
In ending this piece, posted below are videos related to Xbox and the Activision Blizzard deal…
For your excitement, watch this official announcement video…
The next video below is about the production of the game which includes words from varied creators at Volition plus actual gameplay footage. Watch closely and pay attention.
Now to put things in perspective, posted below is the excerpt from the Xbox.com article written by Deep Silver Volition chief creative officer Jim Boone. Some parts in boldface…
Saints Row is back and better than ever! We’ve completely rebooted the game, with a brand-new setting, new characters, and new tone, bringing the Saints franchise up to date for today’s gamer.
The game is set in Santo Ileso, a vibrant fictional city set in the American Southwest with nine unique districts and two deserts, currently controlled by three enemy factions: Los Panteros, The Idols, and Marshall Defense Industries.
You start out as the future Boss, our charismatic murder machine, and you get to decide who you want to be, with extensive customization options; you literally get to be Self Made. You team up with your three best friends, Neenah, Eli, and Kevin and begin your mission to rise to the top and build your criminal empire.
However, as this is Saints Row, it’s not an easy ride. You must defeat the three enemy factions and take Santo Ileso as your own. Experience epic gunfights and highspeed chases as you explore the biggest and best Saints Row playground ever, laced with the signature humor the series is known for.
An arsenal of extensive, customizable weapons is all available to you, with cars, bikes, VTOLs, helicopters, and wingsuits all adding to the enormous fun. And two-player co-op means you can enjoy all this with a friend.
I am personally very interested with this brand-new Saints Row game. I first got to play the original Saints Row on Xbox 360 way back in 2006 and it was one of my first games on the console. That original game was developed by Volition and published by THQ. I had even more fun with Saints Row 2 and I had the best and most fun-filled gaming sessions with Saints Row: The Third. Saints Row IV turned me off, however, as it was way too outlandish and it was made at a time of uncertainty.
Going back to the Saints Row reboot, based on the above details and the short gameplay clip, I still see some traces of the key gameplay features that defined the Saints Row franchise’s first three games. Players will get to lead a gang and gain respect as they build themselves up in the presence of rival gangs within a fictional city that is divided into sections. The feature of customizing your weapons and vehicles is also back. Also it has been confirmed that character customization is back.
Here is hoping that more updates about the features and setting of the new Saints Row game will be released over the next few months heading towards the February 2021 launch. I am hoping that the game developers will seriously pay attention to the features that made the Saints Row: The Third so much fun such as owning properties, cyber blazing and the signature activities like Mayhem, Snatch, Insurance Fraud, Trafficking, Heli Assault, Tank Mayhem and Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax.
As the new Saints Row is a reboot and has a very brand new setting as well as an obvious Millennial-inspired cast of characters (it looks like there are some woke, politically correct and diversity-obsessed people inside Volition), it is uncertain if most of the above-mentioned gameplay features will be included.
The connection between the Saints Row and Xbox brands is notable and real even though it is not obvious enough to be noticed. In my experience, I played the first SR games on my Xbox 360 and by the time I played the 3rd game, my console was already aging. Fortunately my Xbox 360’s problems did not prevent me from fully enjoying Saints Row: The Third.
Will the Saints Row reboot be a fun and engaging game to play once it finally comes out? We will only find out on February 25, 2021.
In ending this piece, here are some Xbox and Saints Row-related videos for your enjoyment.
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