Square Enix’s Insane iPhone Pricing

Earlier this summer, I upgraded to an iPhone 4S not only because I wanted a smartphone, but so I could play a few games that were either iPhone exclusive or Playstation ports (I’ve never owned a Sony console). I ended up buying Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions after some debate, mostly because I felt that, at $17, it was a tad overpriced. It’s hard to say whether it was worth it, because I did enjoy the game very much (definitely one of the deepest games on iPhone), but it was also quite glitchy, the controls were brutal, and, well, most iPhone games aren’t $17.

It’s very likely that I’m spoiled by Steam and its deep discounts, as well as the general $0-$5 range of most iPhone games, but I still have a hard time justifying paying that much for an iPhone game. I’ve heard that the game is $10 on PSN, which would have been hella more reasonable, and it would’ve been a no-brainer purchase for sure. $10 for Chrono Trigger is a fair price considering how fantastic that game is, but $8 for the incredibly dated Final Fantasy? $16 for Final Fantasy III (a DS port)? $32 for the full version of Final Fantasy Dimensions? $20 for a gimped version of The World Ends With You? Yikes.

I got burned on the atrocious Final Fantasy IV: The After Years for WiiWare a few years back, where the main game was $8 and subsequent episodes were $3 apiece, with the full game totaling 32 frickin’ dollars. The game’s pricing structure seems to have been the inspiration for that of Final Fantasy Dimensions, which is…disappointing, to say the least. $32 for a cell phone game. What gives, Squeenix?

In my opinion, Capcom got episodic pricing right with the Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective iOS port. The first two chapters are free, and the rest of the game can be bought in $5 bundles, with $10 being the cost of the complete game. Like The World Ends With You, Ghost Trick is a DS port from only a few years back. Like TWEWY, it was pretty good. Unlike TWEWY, the iOS version of Ghost Trick is discounted to fit in with conventional App Store pricing, albeit marked up a bit from the typical $0-$5 range since it’s a meatier game than Dragon Fantasy or Jetpack Joyride.

I’d like to play pretty much every game Square Enix has ported to iOS because the general opinion is that they’re all pretty decent RPGs, something the iPhone could use much more of. The ass-crazy pricing is what’s keeping me away, though. Unfortunately, Dragon Fantasy looks like the only iOS RPG really worth my time (and at $3 for ALL the episodes, it’s an incredible steal of a price). I still have a shit-ton of games that I want (the Steam version of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Pokemon Conquest, Borderlands 2, the Mass Effect 3 Leviathan DLC, FEZ, and Pokemon Black 2, just to name a few), so it will probably be some time until I purchase another Square Enix iPhone game. Hell, I’d even buy the recently-rereleased Final Fantasy VII PC port before a Squeenix iOS game since it’s so reasonably priced ($10 for a legendary RPG that I’ve never played before…sounds good to me).

Co-Op Gaming Part I: Gaming With My Sisters

You could walk up to me with the shittiest game in the world in your hand, and I’d still play it with you if it had co-op. I could only be considered a brogamer in the vaguest of senses (I think Halo‘s all right, but Gears of War and Call of Duty aren’t really my cup of tea), but I get this irrepressible urge to bump fist and five the highs whenever I see a new game that allows me to team up and kick some ass. More and more games are including it these days (which is good), although we’ve seen a shift from local to online co-op since the advent of Xbox Live (which is…well, both good and bad, depending on your preference). Despite this, most of my co-op experiences these days continue to be local splitscreen affairs.

My younger sisters were the earliest people I can remember playing games with. I broke into gaming pretty late compared to my friends (who all had Super Nintendos and Game Boys), with my parents buying me an N64 in fall 1999. My sisters were strictly passive observers of my burgeoning gaming explorations; they loved watching me play Majora’s Mask and Kirby 64, but they shied away from trying it themselves. We did play a few of the minigames in Kirby 64 and Pok√©mon Stadium together, but beyond that, I didn’t really get to enjoy the real meat of a game with my sisters until fall 2002.

In the months preceding the release of Animal Crossing, my sisters and I followed the pre-release coverage in Nintendo Power. They ran a great story where a few of their editors played it in separate towns and recorded journals while they visited each others’ homes. My sisters took to the game quite readily, and we spent about a full year taking turns playing Animal Crossing (I had a town for me and my friends, and they had a separate town for themselves). We loved visiting each other and leaving presents. If it had simultaneous multiplayer, it would’ve been the perfect game for us.

I don’t even know how we started playing Tales of Symphonia together, but it was arguably the first “hardcore” game we played together from start to finish. Unlike other games, which they usually only enjoyed for the story or the minigames, they loved Symphonia for the same reasons I did: the character interplay, the setting, and above all, the combat. I’d take the lead as Lloyd, and we had one sister in the back casting spells as Genis, with the other helping me out up front as Colette (and occasionally hanging back to cast). They were really good at it; they understood the sometimes-complicated battle strategy of certain bosses, and they knew which sequence of attacks would lead to the best combos. We’ve played it about three times now, and each time, we start off pretty rusty, but we always manage to utterly destroy Abyssion by the end of it.

Since then, their gaming tastes have been erratic and unpredictable. We played a lot of Pikmin 2 multiplayer (interestingly, the versus mode, not the co-op mode) and Mario Kart: Double Dash!! We toyed with Jedi Outcast and even Halo 2 for a while, although we had a unique way of playing it: I would roleplay a “commander” figure and give them “missions” to carry out within the Jedi Temple or Coagulation, with the winner receiving a point toward promotion, and the loser usually receiving a shotgun blast to the face (but also a point toward promotion…I didn’t really have it in me to favour one sister over the other). I bought them two Harvest Moon games which they played entirely without me (A Wonderful Life and Magical Melody); to date, they remain the only games in our library that they’ve played and I haven’t.

We haven’t been able to play together as much in recent years, mostly because we’re attending three different universities. Still, we try to game together whenever we can. They watched me finish Skyward Sword this summer and Portal 2 a year earlier, and they’re currently watching me play Majora’s Mask for old times’ sake. Four years after I first bought it, I’ve finally managed to get them to sit down and play Tales of Vesperia with me, and we’re about 2/3rds of the way through it (they love it!). Sure, we’re all pretty busy now, but that just means we’re even more grateful for what little time we can spend on playing a few games together.

My Favourite Games Journalism Sites

As you may have guessed from reading my hyperlink-saturated posts, I like to get my gaming news from a couple different sources. Sometimes it’s because I like to get a different slant on the same story. Other times it’s because a certain site specializes in a certain section of the industry that others usually gloss over. Still other times I frequent a site solely because I like the writing style of a particular journalist. So herein I present my favourite sites for games journalism and my thoughts on them.

Kotaku – Probably my most frequently checked site, thanks to the mostly up-to-the-minute nature of its stories. Problem is, they’ve been heavily mired in sensationalist journalism for the past year or two, and it’s only getting worse with each passing week. Of their current editors and contributors, only Owen Good and Jason Schreier are worth reading, Good for his witty sense of humour and above-average writing skills, and Schreier for his “Random Encounters” JRPG column and his mostly level-headed approach (although he recently wrote an ill-conceived article on why developers refuse to talk to the media and got absolutely ripped for it). Unfortunately, I’ve been reading Kotaku for so long that I just can’t stop now.

Gamasutra – Whenever I want to read exclusively about the business side of the games industry, I go to Gamasutra. They have a ton of insider articles about how such-and-such company got off the ground, why this company went under, how much it took to make this game from scratch, etc. Really interesting stuff if you’re intrigued by the cogs and underlying machinery of the industry. And the commenters are fairly intelligent (most of them seem to be developers and industry personnel).

The Penny Arcade Report – A one-man operation run by Ben Kuchera. I like this site because it’s almost a 50-50 mix of editorials and long expository articles. If Kotaku is ADD-fueled blip journalism, with everything packaged into bite-sized paragraphs (nothing wrong with that), then PAR requires an attention span and a tolerance for long stories you might not necessarily care about (and you only get one a day, so unlike Kotaku, where there’s a good chance you’ll find at least one piece of news you’re interested in on a daily basis, you’re SOL until tomorrow with PAR). Still, I like the amount of thought that goes into each PAR story, and how each one is an original piece (whereas at Kotaku, Destructoid, and Gamespot, you’ll often see the same press release reposted at each site).

Polygon – If there’s ever a site that could be considered a “games journalism supergroup,” it’s this one. I started reading it when I learned that Brian Crecente and Michael McWhertor (my two favourite ex-Kotakuites) would be writing for it. It’s still very young and doesn’t seem to have found its angle yet, but it’s absolutely brimming with potential. Right now, it seems to be an equal mix of press release blips and longer articles, but I’m hoping the latter becomes more prevalent in the future.

I’ve noticed that many gamers tend to be partial to certain sites (my friend, for example, is a Gamespot kinda guy, whereas I’ve probably checked them out less than ten times in my life), so I’d love to hear what sites are your favourites. For better or for worse, games journalism is an incredibly important aspect of the games industry, so where its core audience chooses to go for information makes for an interesting topic of discussion.