Sales and trophies, the missing link

miku sensei

You might have noticed, I am obsessed with game sales. I know it would be easier to enjoy gaming without watching the market all the time, but I can’t. And for digital-only games, the blackout is total. How to find out? One day I came up with partial, but interesting method.

Since PSVita and PS4, the unlocking ratio of trophies is public. You just have to open your trophy list to check how the Playstation Nation performs on any trophy. The PSN tells you what percentage of the game’s owners has unlocked a trophy. Nice info, but a percentage alone don’t lead us anywhere. Wouldn’t there be some actual figure to calculate from out there?

Yes, there is. PSN Profiles publishes the actual number of players having unlocked a trophy! Then we reason like this : people who have unlocked a trophy on PSN Profiles also have unlocked it on the PSN, so they necessarily belong to the percentage displayed on the PSN. Therefore, we can make a connection between this percentage and PSN Profiles members, since they are the same persons. In order to have the most precise calculation, we have to pick the rarest trophy, which is the platinum since it supposes to have unlocked all the others. Please look at Neptune-sensei’s formula.

Neptune sensei

Before analyzing it, let’s define some variables

S = Total number of owners of a game. In case of a digital only title, the total sales since it can neither be lent, nor traded.

Smin = Minimum but certain sales of a game

P = Number of platinum obtained for one game

Pp = Number of platinum on PSN Profiles for one game

tP = Unlocking rate of a platinum

The platinum rate is calculated by dividing the number of platinums by the total number of players, so tP = S/P. Then S = P/tP

Here we need to exercise extreme caution, because not everyone is registered on PSN Profiles. The website has some 2.5m members on several dozens of millions of PSN accounts worldwide. Here’s the snag : the error margin dramatically increases depending on how many platinums are NOT registered on PSN Profiles. We can therefore only calculate the minimum number of owners of the game. Mathematically, P > Pp, so Smin = Pp/tP < S

Let’s take Hatsune Miku Project Diva f, very interesting example since this Vita version has a distinct trophy list from the PS3 one. Platinum rate is 8.1% as SonicDX indicates, and there are 1574 platinums on PSN Profiles. Project Diva f PSVita has thus sold a minimum amount of 1574/0,081 = 19432 units.

As for Sword Art Online Hollow Fragment (216 platinums and an abysmal 0.2% rate), we get 108’000 sales at least. This is quite under its actual sales, because BandaiNamco had stated it sold 570’000 copies worldwide, including some 300’000 in the West by subtracting the Japanese sales. The error margin is therefore quite large and we must consider the fact that actual sales are several times higher than the figure we have.

With Ichikyo57’s data, we can establish the following minima.

Hyperdimension Neptune ReBirth1 → 1818/0,084 = 21643

Atelier Rorona Plus → 258/0,042 = 6143

Atelier Totori Plus → 478/0,031 = 15419

Atelier Meruru Plus → 169/0,025 = 6760

Quite a good score for Hatsune Miku, the Vita version having been released much mater than the PS3 one and being identical by the way. Nice performance also for ReBirth1, the minimum sales suggesting final figures close to the Japanese ones. Atelier is bearish, but Atelier Totori had triggered an unusual hype by its unexpected arival on the Playstation Store.

That’s the deal. True, the reliability of the formula is limited but it’s a good indication to assess the situation of digital-only games in the economic environment.

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Review – Drakengard 3

spider

The story goes straight to the point : Zero, one of the singing maidens supposed to bring peace and prosperity, wants to kill. No one knows why, but she’s firmly decided to decimate all her sisters in the most brutal possible manner. She will be helped by her faithful Dragon Mikael in her wicked plan.

I don’t know why, before starting Drakengard 3 I was convinced that it would be an open-world RPG. I quickly realized it was the contrary : most of the stages go straight without junctions, although with treasure chests here and there to make the player search a little. Most of the job is to slay the armies of monsters and bosses that get in your way by chaining combos and dodging in style, all of this in real time. Yes, I just described a BTA. Because Drakengard 3 is much closer to a BTA than a JRPG or even an A-RPG like Kingdom Hearts given that no menu ever show up in battle. That said, it keeps a few elements of that lineage, mainly weapon customization and experience points. Those are still very important, because the difficulty increases gradually during the main story but very quickly in the postgame chapters. You will then have to grind in previous chapters so as to keep up with the adversity. In parallel, it will be crucial to improve your weapons because top gear is required too.

So if you take it as a BTA, Drakengard 3 ends up fairly good : the gameplay which relies on weapon-switching is pretty hooking, enemies are tough but the difficulty is very progressive as I already said. It’s actually up to you to establish your own attack strategy by choosing the weapon you see fit depending on the situation. You have the choice between 4 types of weapons : spears, swords, gauntlets and chakrams. Like in all good BTAs, you’ll have to carefully analyze the enemies’ moves if you want to survive, and it’s quite fast-paced too. Many sequences will have you ride the dragon. Those ones are far from gimmicky as there’s a whole gameplay behind it. I can fly and keep onto the ground, in both cases the dragon’s attacks vary. Surprisingly, when flying you have to manage your altitude with X. Every boss fight is done on the dragon’s back and each one involve a new strategy. You also have a bunch of sidequests that are actually mini-challenges that put you against the clock. Others consist in some series of colosseum fights in which you’ll need serious knowledge of the bestiary.

The general atmosphere of the game is terrific : chapter 0 begins very intensely and the game in general gives adrenaline rushes. Zero and Mikael are constantly making fun of each other, despite the massacre they do. It’s purely funny, there is nothing serious in the story. It looks like some long-running manzai in which Zero keeps complaining about everything and everyone while the others make fun of her. Drakengard 3 is equally efficient as an action game than as a comedy. It’s still extremely violent, as limbs fly and Zero is drenched in blood. It’s precisely after a sea of blood that she can unleash her fury.

Drakengard 3 has unfortunately two sad drawbacks, that are its technical and sound performance. Level-design is ultra poor the characters’ 3D models reminds you of 10 years ago. I almost wondered whether the Access Games re-used the 3D engine of Drakengard 2. I could understand if it was one of the first PS3 games, but it’s kinda one of the last… and the framerate sinks horribly on quite some occasions. The OST is good, no doubt. But you actually enjoy it more or less only outside battle because there is zero emphasis during the game in itself.

A quick word on DLC : those invite you to play as Zero’s sisters during one chapter focused on their own story/personality (there’s also one on Zero for some reason). There are not very important in regard of the story in general, and the gameplay is the same as Zero’s most of the time (only Three has the exclusivity of her scissors and associated skills). However, Two’s chapter felt a little more interesting and emotional than the others. Whether you buy these or not depends on your liking of the various characters or if you just can’t get enough of the game’s bizarre direction. Let’s stress that there are quite a few trophies to be earned here.

Although it’s nothing like a Ninja Gaiden or a Bayonetta, Drakengard 3 is a very good third way to enjoy an action game. The irresistible personality that springs from it makes it a fine choice for Japanese games fans. 

Why I will go full digital on PSVita

I’m not a supporter of Microsoft nor do I back their policies, far from it. However, when they detailed their original plans for XboxOne, I couldn’t help seeing a little something that would define tomorrow’s gaming industry. Without going to extremes like always online or no used games, I do reckon that digital games are going to play a greater rôle in the future, to everyone’s benefit.

Actually, digital games are redifining our industry right now, but in an soft and invisibile way. Nintendo no longer provides hard copies in bundles, Indies are coming en masse in digital stores, numerous digital-only games are worldwide hits, Microsoft is going to offer a digital copy of FIFA 14 fr XboxOne preorders and there’s already a cross-buy-like offer for blockbusters as CoD Ghosts, ACIV, Watchdogs and BF4. We haven’t noticed but have already entered a new era in which Blu-Rays and boxes become a thing of the past.

Talking about this, it is extremely difficult for me to consider no longer be able to take a game from the shelf, this glorious moment rewarding months of wait. I feel uneasy at the idea that material stuff is gone and that I wouldn’t have pretty boxarts to look at. But reality is reality, I live in a rather cramped place, and there’s no more space to cram the newest releases. I no longer see benefit to take around hard copies of games, as I hardly resell them. The boxarts, I can look at them on my PC, anytime on my phone, so the point isn’t there either. Everything can be stocked on PS3, PC or moved up in the cloudy sky. There are no more objections. True, I’ll do a few exceptions for collector’s editions like Idol Netpune PP or for super precious JRPGs like Legend of Heroes – Trails in the Flash, but digital will be the priority. The main factors for this are both ideologic and economic.

I’m generally pretty quick to militate for or against thing whe it comes to video games. For example, I decided two years ago never to buy a Bandai Namco game again (I wait until I find a used one) since the publisher has constantly turned down demands for the localisation of PS3 Tales of Vesperia. On the other hand, and if I want to be coherent with myself, I must support virtuous publishers by buying their games new, a refrain to wait just for saving a little money. For games I throughully enjoy, I wish to reward directly those who made it possible. Digital games are perfect to achieve this, because the publisher avoids distribution costs. I must stress that this is a personal approach and not a call to end game trading (I will keep using this system for PS4).

The second reason is price. If you have a Vita and like me aren’t that much in indie games, there’s… not really much to play in the West. And given the huge indie talk during the Sony conference at Gamescom, it’s probably not gonna change very soon… I therefore have to look East, in Japan where exciting Vita games are multiplying at breakneck pace. In the coming 6 months, I plan to import a least a dozen of PSVita games. Here in Paris, those ones cost between 70 and 80€ : it is looking pretty difficult for my wallet. Meanwhile, a 10’000¥ prepaid card for the Japanese PSN costs 118$, which is 80€. Knowing that a digital game costs at least 10 to 15% less that the retail version (between 5000 and 6000¥), the benefit is clear : almost two games at the price of one.

There is no more doubt. I’ve started recently with Conception II, ma Vita was ready to receive it. Another advantage is that I’m guaranteed to play my games on day one, without risk of a package being delayed (I recently had quite a bad experience with Atelier Esch&Logy, which I only got one month after release). I’m not going against physical format, I just withdraw from it for PSVita because in those circonstances it became an outdated model.

Review – Project Diva f (PS3 DLC)

While the PS3 version called «F» has just been released in Japan, the PSVita version called «f» gets a new DLC including everything that has been added to the PS3 Project Diva. It’s called おおもじパック (or «capital letter pack»), has got 6 new songs, 13 additional outfits, 4 AR live and a bunch of accessories, all this for 3000¥.

Tell Your World

Pretty classic song in the long history of emotional compositions, but very well supported by a good rhythm and a charming clip. The «linkage» costume for Miku (which comes from the subject of the song, connectivity) is nice as well.

Verdict : Good

Sweet Devil

This track tells the whims of a frivolous woman. Rather well written and musically entertaining, it unfortunately suffers from a weird clip that totally misses the point of the lyrics.

Verdict : Meh

Tokyo Teddy Bear

Splendid message that echoes a diseased society which no longer cares for its children. It tells the uneasiness a young girl (or a boy, for that matters…) who, unloved by her family decides to self-mutilate. The variations in rhythm and the uncompromising clip fully translates this beautiful lament.

Verdict : Masterpiece

夢喰い白黒バク (yumekui shirokuro baku)

Strange tale about a trickster who manipulates dreams. The (baku) originally is a legendary animal that eats dreams, but here it is presented as magician to fit with the game. The trickster is asked from a young lady to free her from a nightmare, which he does. He then provides her some torrid dreams before eating everyone she has, leaving her a boring monochrome world. The Victorian style of the clip is well adapted to this song.

Verdict : Excellent

リンちゃんなう!(Rin-chan now)

Poor excuse for a music. The goofy clip doesn’t really help this apocalyptic chain of repetitive sounds. It is even terrible to play since it lacks any form of rhythm. The only positive thing about it is that the adult Rin module comes with it.

Verdict : noise

千本桜 (Senbonzakura)

The lyrics of this song are extremely difficult, making it tricky to interpret. The clip seem to refer to the period just before WWII, so we could imagine it as an anti-war protest. But it could actually be a tribute the Japanese culture (materialized by the cherry-blossom) as opposed to the growing western influence in the beginning of the 20th century. In any case, it’s a truly moving song, with tailored clip & costumes. This music is the pinnacle of this DLC and by itself is worth the mere 3000 yens.

Verdict : Great masterpiece

Given the tremendous quality of this DLC, it’s safe to say it’s worth several times the cost. Consequently, the full PS3 game is a golden opportunity as it becomes the most complete and intense Project Diva game to date. Good timing, Sega is currently thinking about delivering it to you.

Review – Journey

It’s not easy to apply to Journey the traditional criteria of a game review. No one can deny is it beautiful. But this beautifulness doesn’t come from technological prowess : backgrounds and characters are bare. Besides the astonishing rendering of sand and snow, Journey won’t break any record in techs. This more from a philosophical point of view that you can see the game’s true beauty, whitout ever having to wonder whether it’s native 1080p or not.

What can we say about gameplay? Again, Journey is pretty limited in that field. No tutorial nor options, Journey spares you unless chit-chat and throws you right in the middle of the desert whithout telling you anything. It’s cool to learn how to play by oneself and this makes Journey even more immersive. You’ll be fine though : your traveler can only jump (and not always) and communicate by a strange glyph, but it’s easy to find your way. Too easy maybe, since there’s little innovation or difficulty in gameplay. Even the coop features doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. It’s somewhat a short game, but trophies do add a replay value.

Music and sound remain discreet but great, as they support the narrative. The storytelling seemed rather vague : there isn’t a single word, and or real story to begin with. Journey actually looks like this old Disney movie, Fantasia. That said, Journey is moving from back to front. I can’t tell you why, it cannot be demonstrated. I can’t say it’s the game of the year, because I don’t see it as a game to begin with. We have to think out of the box : not really a movie, not totally a game, much more than a painting, Journey is sailing within the Bermuda Triangle of those three.

I have a personal attachment to Journey. Solitary tale supported by an amazing art direction. Your traveler advances tirelessly against the elements towards a mountain emitting some holy light. Why? No one knows. Even I, after having seen the end credits, can’t tell you. However, I do want to continue the journey. That mountain stands like the never ending quest towards the truth that I can never grasp in my own life of solitude. Journey might actually the story you tell to yourself. Those you have already written it may think Journey empty.

Review – The Unfinished Swan

The Unfinished Swan (TUS), what is it? The game starts off with a blank screen. I thought the game had frozen and tried all the buttons. I fired an ink ball. Black on white, but what more? It’s after hitting a corner that I understood. From this first-person view, the goal is simply to advance. I hereby introduces you the first Mirror’s Edge like in history!

Unlike its model, TUS is more about thinking than running. The title is full of crazy and innovative puzzles (creating platforms, use of light to progress…). It also benefits from an amazing art direction with unique and beautiful sceneries like the one above. The story is entertaining as well, almost moving, and reinforces the mysterious and fascinating aura that springs from TUS.

True, it’s quite short and the controls are a pain sometimes. But it does have a few challenges that add to the overall value for completionists. And think about it : you enter a paint shop and see a masterpiece at 7€, what do you do?