Some really exciting videos from E3 2012

Medal of Honor Warfighter (PS3/X360/PC)

This video of the New Medal of Honor is a huge slap in the face! Kicking ass like never, you see several of the elite units features in the game such as the US Seals, the Russian Spetznaz, etc. The non-stop action is reinforced by the world’s best game engine : Frosbite2. Snipers won’t fail to notice that the first ever kill shown of MoH Warfighter multiplayer is a neat quickscope done with a MacMillan Tac-338 in the right part of the torso. The good guys of Danger Close, unlike DICE, care a little about what the community says and listened to the pledges of dispirited recon players. Medal of Honor Warfighter actually looks like Modern Warfare 2 running on Frostbite2.

Assassin’s Creed III (PS3/X360/WiiU/PC)

I stopped playing Assassin’s Creed after the second episode. I found that Brotherhood and Revelations weren’t innovating enough. No complain though with AC3, which brings a new hero with a new gameplay, as well as a more open and lively world. In the wilderness or at sea, Assassin’s Creed 3 will make you experience the American Revolution like you’ve never seen it!

Watchdogs (PS3/X360/PC)

Another game from Ubisoft, Watchdogs has been unanimously declared the best game of E3 2012. Partly because it hadn’t been leaked and appeared as a real surprise, a rare thing in today’s connected world. Connected, the main character certainly is : he can hack almost any electronic device within range (tablets, traffic lights), promising a innovative gameplay. But it’s in graphics where Watchdogs strikes the most.The first day when it was revealed, it looked so realistic that many observers thought it would be running on Xbox3 and PS4. It was later revealed that the game would release for PS3, X360 and PC in 2013, so it won’t be long before we can throw ourselves in this dark near-future atmosphere.  

Agni’s Philosophy (PS4?)

I know it’s just a tech demo, but Agni’s Philosophy made the buzz so loud that the rest of the SquareEnix line-up went right under the radar (pretty bad line-up by the way, so serves them right). Build on an architecture supposed to be used by next-gen consoles, this real time cutscene was realized by the Japanese division of SquareEnix (which at least proves they work on something) and depicts the misfortune of a young lady called Agni, who could very well become the heroine of the first Final Fantasy on PS4 (provided the series still exists by then. If not, sha can always be a James Bond girl in a later Hitman game…). 1080p strongly recommended.

Sim City (PC)

This title may let you think that Sim City fell into the “reboot” hype, but the video tells different. What we can see a Sim City in which management features have been detailed to the extreme : the roads are no longer straight, the zoom allows you to observe the Sims in a most precise way, etc. But the biggest change in the series is the add of multiplayer features, which will connects the players’ cities and turning them into a real “Sim Country”.

Crysis 3 (PS3/X360/PC)

3rd iteration of the famous science-fiction shooter series, Crysis 3 impresses by its fierce gameplay and the classy design of its weapons. Even though I’m not a big fan of non-military shooters, the futurisc bow alone makes me want to play…

NamcoBandai recovers from record lows with soaring profits in FY 2011-2012

ToX party

NamcoBandai can uncork the champagne, they just had a wonderful year : net sales rose 15% from 394’178 million yens to 454’210 million yens, while profit increased tenfold to 19’303 millions yens. Those excellent results shouldn’t be exaggerated tough : as you can see on their earning sheet, the Japanese publisher actually went through dismal years in 2008, 2009, 2010. Sales abruptly fell in 2008-2009 when they decided to make games like Tales of Vesperia, Ace Combat 6 or The Idolm@ster exclusive to Xbox360.

As for the best performers, Dark Souls and Ace Combat Assault Horizon cracked 1 million units each, but the jackpot lies in Japan-only titles like One Piece Pirate Warriors and Tales of Xillia, which sold respectively 940’000 and 770’000 units. SoulCaliburV performed correctly, but lags far behind the previous iteration.

Such bump year may seem a huge blow for Operation Blackhole, but it is not : in this flurry of positive figures and despite a line-up of high-profile games, NamcoBandai’s Western operations contracted 12% to 57,6 billion yens. Operating income goes deeper in the red, after collapsing around the time when Tales of Vesperia was denied to PS3 owners.

NamcoBandai paid the price of this shameful alliance with Microsoft and now has to atone for this sin if they want to quell the deep-rooted distrust of PS3 fans. One Piece Pirate Warriors and Ni no Kuni should hit our shores in a few months, but we would be ill-advised to drop to fight.

In its software charts, the publisher clearly states it will develop less games in 2012-2013 than it did in 2011-2012. The U.S. will have half of those, which leaves 40 Japan-only titles, and those are clearly portable games, so be prepared to bash them very hard if you want to see Project X Zone come to your 3DS. The good news is that NamcoBandai will release 30 home console games in Japan and 33 in the US, meaning that Tales of Xillia is clearly in those and that all home console games should cross the Pacific. However, Europe will get only 26, which will probably leave some people behind. Let’s just hope it’s not going to be us…

Final Fantasy XIII-2 falls short in the West

What the hell are they doing on Vgchartz? After weeks showing insane pre-order figures that had passed 500’000, Final Fantasy XIII-2 PS3 launch sales now stands at 295’000 units sold in 2 days in the US. Last Friday, the site had announced 425’000, but sales were readjusted down on the following Tuesday. Europe is in the same case : the initial UK sales were cut by 50%, French sales were also down and the German ones just plummeted. In the end, Final Fantasy XIII-2 launch sales in the West were 576’000 on PS3 and 248’000 on Xbox360. The first Final Fantasy XIII had sold more than 1 million on PS3 and 500’000 on 360 (in 4 days though). Sales halved, which is a huge blow to the series.

Like I was saying before, it shouldn’t be a miss for SquareEnix. The publisher has yet to disclose any comment on the performances of FFXIII-2 (probably in the yearly report due for Spring), but I bet they anticipated that. FFXIII-2 should hit the profitability threshold all the more easily that DLCs will keep coming in the following months. Final Fantasy XIII-2 actually looks like a crash test to assess the faithfulness of the FF fanbase, as if the company was about to conduct deep changes in the strategy surrounding Final Fantasy.

Which changes? That is the question. The polemic around FFXIII casts shadows over the series and many former FF players have migrated to Skyrim and the likes. SquareEnix might choose to address only a limited fanbase of diehard fanatics and inflate prices by releasing shorter games and more DLCs. But they could also think themselves unable to avert the fall in sales and thus drop the series to begin something entirely new. And in that case, the end of Final Fantasy XIII-2 couldn’t possibly have been more accurate…

2011, a year in games sales

That’s it guys, 2011 is finally over with the publication today of the final figures. Which games were on top? Which system won? Find out below.

/!\WARNING/!\ These charts are based on games released in 2011 ONLY, and due to changes on Vgchartz I had to browse through the entire software database so mistakes are possible. Tell me in the comments if you see one!

Japan (in millions)

  1. Mario Kart 7 (3DS) – 1.08
  2. Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) – 1.04
  3. Monster Hunter 3G (3DS) – 1.02
  4. Final Fantasy Type-0 (PSP) – 0.75
  5. Final Fantasy XIII-2 (PS3) – 0.72
  6. Rhythm Heaven Fever (Wii) – 0.63
  7. Tales of Xilia (PS3) – 0.62
  8. Final Fantasy Dissidia Duodecim (PSP) – 0.46
  9. Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS) – 0.45
  10. Monster Hunter Freedom 3rd HD (PS3) – 0.43
  1. 3DS – 4.13
  2. PSP – 1.96
  3. PS3 – 1.47
  4. Wii – 0.94
  5. DS – 0.71
  6. PSVita – 0.4
  7. X360 – 0.11

Highlights :

  • 3DS flattened the competition

  • PS3 tops Wii for the first time

  • RPGs were dominant over others genres
  • No Western game charted
  • Ni no Kuni PS3 failed to sell
Despite falling quickly after launch, 3DS ruled the Japanese market this year thanks to its price cut, Monster Hunter and Mario games. However, Nintendo already dominant position on its new system leaves little room for 3rd party games. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues in 2012, which would sadly make 3DS as irrelevant as Wii by 2013. PS3 was the top home system and outsold a collapsing Wii by 50%. PSVita sales plummeted in 2nd and 3rd week, leaving an uncertain future looming ahead for Sony’s new handheld. Of course, Xbox360 was non-existent.

United States (in millions)

  1. Modern Warfare 3 (X360) – 7.37
  2. Modern Warfare 3 (PS3) – 4.26
  3. Pokemon Black&White (DS) – 3.83
  4. Just Dance 3 (Wii) – 3.81
  5. Gears of Wars 3 (X360) – 3.3
  6. Battlefield 3 (X360) – 2.89
  7. Elder Scrolls V Skyrim (X360) – 2.6
  8. Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) – 2.44
  9. Battlefield 3 (PS3) – 1.67
  10. Mario Kart 7 (3DS) – 1.63

No hardware figures yet :(

Highlights :

  • Modern Warfare 3 flattened the competition

  • HD systems were dominant

  • Shooters were dominant over others genres

Crushing victory for X360 in the US this year : already strong among gamers in its home market, Microsoft’s system is also starting to crunch aggressively in the casual market. X360 knew its biggest month ever last November and Kinect Adventures is the best-selling title of the system. Wii was almost invisible in its last year and surfaced only thanks to Just Dance 3 and Skyward Sword.

Europe (in millions)

  1. Modern Warfare 3 (PS3) – 3.41
  2. Modern Warfare 3 (X360) – 3.21
  3. Pokemon Black&White (DS) – 2.5
  4. Just Dance 3 (Wii) – 2.36
  5. Elder Scrolls V Skyrim (X360) – 1.48
  6. Battlefield 3 (PS3) – 1.45
  7. Battlefield 3 (X360) – 1.32
  8. Gears of Wars 3 (X360) – 1.26
  9. Uncharted 3 (PS3) – 1.24
  10. Professor Layton and the Last Specter (DS) – 1.16

No hardware figures yet :(

Highlights :

  • Modern Warfare 3 flattened the competition

  • HD systems were dominant

  • Shooters were dominant over others genres

  • No Mario game charted :)

Roughly the same as in the US, save that PS3 mattered more. 3DS was strong but had less success than elsewhere and, more than anywhere else, relied on Mario games to sell. With a low proportion of core gamers buying the system, 3DS may be weak until the next holiday season kicks off. Xenoblade was acclaimed by the critics and made the news, but failed to move important volumes (160K, which is nevertheless outstanding for a JRPG in Europe).

Worldwide (in millions)

  1. Modern Warfare 3 (X360) – 11.95
  2. Modern Warfare 3 (PS3) – 9.72
  3. Just Dance 3 (Wii) – 6.76
  4. Gears of Wars 3 (X360) – 5.16
  5. Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) – 5.14
  6. Battlefield 3 (X360) – 5.0
  7. Elder Scrolls V Skyrim (X360) – 4.95
  8. Mario Kart 7 (3DS) – 4.46
  9. Battlefield 3 (PS3) – 4.1
  10. Uncharted 3 (PS3) – 3.29

No hardware figures yet :(

Highlights :

  • Modern Warfare 3 flattened the competition

  • HD systems were dominant

  • Shooters were dominant over others genres

Nintendo showed that they can achieve nothing without their licenses : they rushed the development of 3DS Mario games to make them ready for Xmas and lift the alarming sales of their new handheld. There dependency on casual gaming lead to a software drought on Wii. Meanwhile, innovation, variety and new IPs have been almost exclusively delivered by PS3 and X360, which logically lead throughout the year. However, Sony is also recycling games on Vita, so they share a part of the blame. 2011 also shows casual gamers starting to shift from Wii to Kinect (at least in the US).

2012 should see the release of WiiU, but Nintendo’s eerie silence on their new system doesn’t bode well : the manufacturer is probably having a hard time convincing 3rd parties to develop for it. With no significant evolution from Wii and a higher price, casual gamers might also ignore it to turn themselves towards a cheaper X360+Kinect or an already (too) much casualised 3DS. WiiU is the only question mark this year : Vita will fail in the West and X360/PS3 should continue to be the leading systems in pretty much every aspect.

Did Final Fantasy XIII-2 fail in Japan?

Final Fantasy XIII-2 sold 538’774 in two days on the market. This figure is both good and bad : while being the biggest launch this year in Japan, it is far below the 1’500’000 achieved by the first Final Fantasy XIII. Second week sales were not bad (118’000), but reaching the million will be a struggle. There’s no denying it : FFXIII dealt a huge blow to the series at home. The Japanese are unforgiving and were quick to shift to other series.

However, the vile crows who are already celebrating the collapse of the series shouldn’t rush themselves. The Japanese market is known to be the Sick Man of the industry. On the top of ever decreasing software sales volumes, many players are favoring handhelds as mobile hardware (such 3DS and Vita) gets more powerful. I’m not trying to justify Final Fantasy XIII-2 sales, but the worst that can happen would be that Final Fantasy become a strong licence among others. From the beginning of this generation, a balance is surfacing with competing RPGs like Monster Hunter, Tales of or Atelier. 

It is not even sure that SquareEnix cancelled the party : the publisher had shipped 850’000 copies and thus foreseen this decline. Developped in far less time than Final Fantasy XIII, in which it inherits the graphical engine, the battle system, the enemies and most of the characters, Final Fantasy XIII-2 should have no problem to profit. All the more easily that the Japanese frim has scheduled an extensive DLC campaign, a tad strange, but it should help make quick cash (especially with 300¥ costumes, I can’t imagine how much optional bosses will be). It might even be SquareEnix’s strategy from the very beginning : rather than releasing a big game every 2 or years hoping to interest as many gamers as possible (risky in a fast-changing industry like gaming), the company might want to address the fanbase more often, which means less but more faithful consumers who won’t hesitate to preorder the most lavish edition in advance and buy a lot of DLCs after. The producer Kitase-san has recently said that he wanted one Final Fantasy released every year, like series such as Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty (let’s just hope FF won’t end up like those two).

Last but not least, it may be too early the write-off Serah’s adventures yet, because FFXIII-2 has currently more preorders than FFXIII in its time in the US. In France, the Cristal edition has been sold out since a while, and the Collector’s edition already knows shortages, that is… on PS3 at least.

Catch-up post – 歴史知識の溢れた東京博物館 (History lectures at Tokyo National Museum)

Back to Tokyo, our glorious capital. We began by getting a bit lost in Shibuya – we cut trough what appears to be a love hotel area – but managed to reach the famous crossroad. I was recording while crossing, to show my relatives how many people there were, when I suddenly spotted a guy doing the same thing from the other side! We actually spotted each other yelling a big ‘yeah!’ to mark the coincidence.

Nothing thrilling the following day, as we went to Shinjuku to visit the city hall and the SquareEnix shop – a got a classy FFXIII thermos, featuring Vanille. I went to Kichijoji in the evening to have a drink with Chiyomi-san and Haru-san. The latter had brought some of his students’ answer sheets – he is lecturer of law at Meiji university. It was a big laugh, as half of the sheets were nearly blank, and some had appalling kanji mistakes – 裁く (sabaku – to judge) was written (which is wa – I), and (chigau – different) lacked strokes.

I was unlucky enough to spot hideous advertising boards above Shinjuku’s Yodobashi camera, a tremendous anger filled my body and soul at the reminder that Star Ocean 4 was X360 exclusive (one month later, this nightmare would be finally over). Honestly, I didn’t believe that a Japanese shop staff could have authorized such outrageous publicity for Xbox360. Those people are more like scum, because this kind of behaviour is filthy beyond recognition.

The day we spent in Ueno was the opportunity to visit one of the numerous museums the park counts. I chose the Tokyo National Museum which, despite being divided between four buildings, is not that big. True, I strolled only in the principal one, that’s called 本館 (honkan – main building). It was destroyed during the 1923 earthquake and was reconstructed to what it is today in 1938. The second-largest building called 表慶館 (hyokeikan) was originally constructed as a wedding gift for the prince (not the Half-Blood Prince) and resisted in 1923.

The first hall is dedicated to the introduction of Buddhism in Japan. The museum reckons that Buddhism must have spread in India during 2 or 3 centuries before Christ, having for origin the achievement of Enlightenment by Siddhartha around 450 BC. Few centuries after, many Chinese emperors chose Buddhism as official religion, spreading it further eastward to Korea. The museum shows that Buddhism in Japan came directly from Korea, which at that time was divided between three kingdoms. The kingdom of Baekje seems to be the one that influenced Japan most, therefore many think that it brought Buddhism to the archipelago. Although there is no historical evidence liking Prince Shotoku to Beakje, there was a military alliance between this Korean kingdom and Japan around 500-600. If you consider that Prince Shotoku was regent of Empress Suiko around that time, and that Shotoku strongly favored ideals from the continent, he might have been the one who welcomed the emissaries from Beakje. The museum also refers to Nara’s Gangoji, a temple dedicated to Shotoku that regards the Prince as the pioneer of Buddhism in Japan. Moreover, Nara became the first capital of centralized Japan in 710. I therefore reckon that it is safe to think that Shotoku was based in Kansai (there is historical evidence he founded Tennoji in Osaka) and from there inspired a sense of unity thanks to the teachings brought by Baekje, which made Nara the religious center and therefore capital of Japan a hundred years later. The impact of Buddhism was then so important that Shotoku became known not only in Kansai but as far as Nagano.

The first floor features an interesting collection of swords (although less impressive than the Tokyo sword museum or the one in Osaka castle) in which you can see two Osafune. For reference, osafune is a katana featured in Final Fantasy Ivalice Alliance. Historically speaking, Osafune represents a lineage of sword smiths from Kamakura era to Nanbokucho era (1185 to 1392). The museum also tells us about (shitsu – lacquer). Lacquer trees are found in Asia and when the first Europeans saw the variety of lacquer ware manufactured in Japan around the 16thcentury, it was the beginning of a huge export business. Lacquer was so strongly associated with Japan that the word Japan itself was synonym of lacquer, as China still means Chinese ceramics, as it was fashioned originally.

As we were making a small diversion for me to find a 包丁 (hocho – keen (?) kitchen knife), we realized that nearly all kitchenware shops were closed. They seem to have taken their summer vacation all at the same time, knowing I’d come. They probably didn’t want me to make additional cheap sashimi. But so it happens, a nice retailer was still open, and I got get hands on a shiny one for the reasonable price of 10.000.

Originally published in august 2009.