Tuesday, August 20, 2013

From the Collection #2: Pokémon NFC Figures

It's been a while since the last instalment of this series about all the gaming kipple we've collected over the years that fills cupboards and boxes away from the disapproving glances of partners. We started this series with some stuff that predates our video gaming 'lifestyle' choice and now we jump to the latest additions to the collection, which we frequently get out and lick, these ADOWABLE Pokémon near field communication (NFC) figures, designed to be used with the Wii-U game pad. Following on from the outlandish success of the Skylander's series Ninty are trying to cash in with this technology. Simply, you pop one of these figures on your Wii-U game pad and they pop up on the screen in the latest Pokémon Rumble game, one of the lesser Pokémon spin-off series. No doubt about it, it's a cash in (in previous Pokémon rumble games a similar feat was achieved through simple passwords alone) but we're huge fans of My Pokémon Ranch (153 hours 'playing' a screensaver essentially) which also uses these chibisised Pokémon so as soon as we saw them announced for Japan back in 1985, we knew we'd pick them up if they ever hit these shores. 

But here's where the happy bit ends. I'm going to use these figures as a jump off point to further bemoan the ongoing idiocy at the heart of today's video game high street retail sector. Firstly, this series of 18 figures are being sold blind so you have to buy multiple of them to.. ahem Catch 'em All(tm). In addition, there are two limited edition figures only one of which you get with special versions of the Wii-U game and a couple of alternate colour ones hidden out there. This is fine. I don't have a problem with this, a number of toy manufacturers from Lego to Power Rangers have realised that blind selling cheap toys is a lucrative initaitve, but I can see why some people (parents) might be peeved. Our issue is that as far as I can tell these figures, and the special edition of the game, are only available in the UK at GAME stores. I honestly don't know why somebody at Nintendo Europe things GAME exclusives are a good thing, especially since their stores started closing down en masse. Take London as an example, England's capital city, a metropolis of some 8 million people. Now, I understand that not all of them are fans of the Pokémon series but by making these figures a GAME exclusive, you instantly reduce the visibility of these figures by excluding the hundreds (thousands) of gadget retailers, toy stores, supermarkets and department stores and making them available in essentially two places in central London (GAME in Camden and one in Hamleys. The flagship Oxford Street store closed down last year. There is one in Westfield but that's a day trip and hardly central). Fair enough you might say, you don't want your product everywhere but two places in London. This would have been fine at least if there was any kind of marketing campaign (assuming Nintendo want to sell these things) but there was nothing that I saw. In fact the first I heard that these would be available in the UK was last week on Serebii. The day before launch. Now Serebii is an excellent website but it's a fan-run affair, yet they scooped this 'news' before the Official Nintendo Magazine (in fact ONM regularly source news from this website) and a lot of other sites didn't even run the story. Way to build up a market for your product Ninty, who by the way, still seem to think that news only reaches our shores when trading merchants bring back tales of the New Worlde. 

Another problem I have with these GAME exclusives is that you have to go to GAME. We've posted many times before about the consistently awful customer experience and service in these stores but then another fucking Pokémon promotion comes along and we end up enduring this kind of stuff (word for word quoted):

In the Hamleys branch of GAME on Sunday (Launch day +2 for these figures and the new game)
TGAM: (nervously after scouring the store) Um, hey do you have any of those NFC figures for the new Pokémon Rumble game?
GAME: No. [pause] What figures?
TGAM: The ones with the near field communication for the Wii U Pokémon rumble game (resists saying that came out two days ago and is exclusive to the store you work in). 

Spotting an empty box on the shelf we point

TGAM: Those ones.
GAME: Let me check.
GAME: No. We're sold out.

From this lovely experience we're filled with confidence in GAME as a retailer. First, their staff clearly aren't given much in the way of a head's up about what's new out or they just don't care. Gamers across the pond regularly complain about retailers trying to push bundles and product on customers. We are blessed with the opposite problem. Alarm bells are also ringing because they're sold out on day two. You might think that selling out is a good thing but it means that a product has been under ordered. For a product with little to no marketing enough people (or maybe one hardcore collector) made the effort to hunt them down and for every person who wanted them or would have opportunsitically picked some up after they'd sold out is lost sales. And because they aren't available elsewhere that means tough shit basically. Which equals poor sales figures, product invisibility and frustrated customers (hi!) some of which may make Ninty think twice about bringing these kinds of products to the EU market. A market which until recently, already gets the short shrift in temrs of games and merchandise that just isn't thought to be 'viable' here. Why do we care about GAME's business model? I honestly don't know but we wish someone in their management group would pay attention to this shit. Also, we still think that having game retailers is a good thing for the wider recognition and enjoyment of gaming. 

Camden GAME (Launch day +3)
Having made a special effort in our lunch break (we share one) to travel across the city to Camden in the hope they have some in stock (the automated product stock option on the answerphone didn't recognise 'Pokémon' nor did anyone pick up the phone). Fortunately, there's a box of gatchas on the side and we pick up 3, resisting to buy them all in case this is the last chance we get to ever get any. We wait at the counter nervously because there's a grotty yoof hanging around and eyeballing us and nobody behind the counter. He then steps around the counter. Turns out it must be non school uniform day at GAME.

TGAM: (Proudly in as much as 30 something year old sweaty and out of breath man can buy Pokémon products) Just these three please.
GAME: I was saying to my friend earlier, I used to collect these when I was younger. I can't believe how much of a rip off they are.
TGAM: But..... yeah... they use the Wii U near field stuff though.
GAME: Yeah Wii U.

So some excellent customer service there insulting the customer and then complaining about your own prices. Excellent. I don't even care about the NFC stuff I just want pretty things but it's clear that he didn't know a) What these things were b) The sales pitch I imagine in my really boring fantasy world that GAME managers train their staff with with new products c) That these are new. Or basic customer service. Or where his work shirt was. 

So all in all a pretty awful retail experience all around. Funny seeing as the unexpected success of Skylanders ,and the subsequent acreage of space allocated to these figures in GAME stores, has somewhat saved GAME from total closure. You'd assume they'd be all over the next opportunity to make money hand over fist. Instead they seem content on not letting their staff know about the new product they have exclusively, how it works, or for that matter doing any marketing. This is what gets my goat the most. How is it that going to buy a brand new product in a capital city from one of the best loved video game companies based on one of the top selling video games franchises ever still feels harder than sourcing a bootleg CD from a local band that occasionally plays down the local pub? And I'm not even the target fucking demographic. God knows how kids know about or get their hands on these things. We found out from a fan site, dragged our partner all over London, took a long lunch break and caught two buses to get our hands on these. 

So there we have it. That's the story behind these. The ongoing saga of the business of video games barely managing the business side of things. Who knows if these will be available after next week or if we'll ever see a second or third series? I've got enough for now to get on with- arranging them in a line, choosing a favourite, smelling them etc. So catch 'em all. Whilst you still can.....

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Next Gen, The Inside Story

Sick of hearing about the Xboxone and the PS4 through constant RUMOUR and drip, drip of unconfirmed screenshots of a next gen game taken with a shaky cam from a brown paper bag? Bored of the Official PlayStation magazine tweeting about the number of USB ports on the PS4? Tired of the never ending whine of fanboys who miss the good old days when you had to get cheat codes from the back of a mag and you could only play the latest games at your mates house on all those illegally ripped disks?  You want to hear the facts? You've come to the right place, because we my friends have a source. ON THE INSIDE.

It's Alcamoth citizen from inside Xenoblade Chronicles. Here's what she has to say about next gen. 

You heard it here first. EXCLUSIVE.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

In addendum:

One thing we would like to add to this post: Is that while getting my ass handed to me by all those legendaries, I was able to experience the other side of the pokemon games. Namely what it felt like to be an NPC. All these over powered super speedy pokemon, and here was me with a fucking stunfisk.
I felt the pain of those stupid fucking team rocket grunts, making their grandiose claims of world domination with a fucking level 9 Zubat.

These comics know what I mean:
VGCats Super Effective 63
VGCats Super Effective 64
Dorkly, the fate of all NPC Trainers

Fuck 'em, now those NPC's will feel my wrath with a furious vengeance!

Love and almost a Pulp Fiction quote,

Richie X

Pokémon 2013 Global Showdown: Team TGAM's story

Right now until Midnight on Monday, it's the 2013 Global Showdown International Pokémon tournament. For non-Pokémon aficionados, every now and then there are international tournaments that are run over Wi-fi. The tournament are broken into a number of categories depending upon the age information with your Pokémon game; Junior Division, Senior Division and Master Division for old farts like us.  Each tournament has an open registration period, places are normally limited to 50,000 (from a community of 3 million according to the Pokémon Global Link) and tournament rules sometimes vary. For a short time the registered trainers can take part in as many battles as they wish winning and losing adding or taking away ranking points which everyone starts of with 1500 of. You get to register six Pokémon and then going into each battle you see the six Pokémon your opponent has, both of you choose three trying to weigh up the strategic combinations. This is the first International tournament that Richie and I have both signed up to and we've spent this weekend battling trainers from around the world. HOWEVER, despite both being Pokémon nuts, the excuses for poor performance need to be fore-fronted. Richie, didn't have the pick of his best and brightest because he's still in mourning for the properly trained and honed Pokémon that got lost in the washing machine. In addition neither of us read the tournament rules, which oddly allowed the use of virtually every Pokémon, including some which are normally restricted because they are too powerful ('Uber' in the horrible horrible jargon of the 'community'). But we're taking part in the Master category right so surely veterans of the game, including a large proportion of honour-bound Japanese would understand that even if it's allowed you don't use the highly unfair cheaty cheaty legendary Pokémon so that battling is a bit more diverse right? RIGHT? Turns out not.

Cunzy's Team
Not bothering to check spotting the open rules for this tournament I went with a selection of the guys in my team who are properly EV trained and frankly some of the ones I like. Very briefly, mamoswine is just a heavy hitter, crustle and bastiodon are defensive annoyers, gardevoir and carracosta are vicious after a turn of setting up and ninjask was just part of the selection to put trainers on edge I guess. More often than not I lead with crustle who would set up entry hazards with mamoswine and carracosta as backup. Ninjask got virtually no play at all, never getting to use substitute to the super fast legendaries that were kicking about.

Richie's Team

After my horrible ordeal of losing everything I have spent all of my time completing the game, and trying to "Collect 'em all". Kingdra, Omastar and Gyrados are remnants from the old Water team, they didn't get transferred across the first time because they all had HM moves and it meant going to the Move deleter. My Laziness saved them. Muk, was actually not properly trained in any way, he was just a pokemon I used through my original playthrough, and the guy (actually girl) is a trooper one of the most fun movesets I have used. Druddigon is an experiment, based on Lapras from before, and Stunfisk is just cool, but completely useless in Legendary tiers. Everyone got a Look in, but Omastar needed to be part of a 6 Man team, and is so shit-weak without backup.

Cunzy: So how was it for you?
Richie: It was noting short of a painful round of butt-hurt, after all my chaos with Gen V, I though this could turn it round. instead it was rushing to EV some random pokemon, followed by generic legendaries fucking me up.
C: Yep, I saw a lot of Specially Defensive Jirachi, Palkia, Kyurem and Lugia. The community should be ashamed of itself.
R: All contrition types I had created were just nullified with Super speedy Mewtwos using the same move over and over, I mean fuck that shit, no set-up, no tactics. Just: A Button, A Button, A Button, Win. At least I know what I'll be leveling next time.
C: At one point, I was just happy to get a KO in at all.
R: Yeah, just wish that the ratings reflected that.
C: Another thing people, mamoswine is ground and ice. But thanks to the five trainers who tried to fusion bolt it.
R: Next time (Gen VI) we know not to enter the free-for-all typings. Or do we? We are elitist fucks who think that using cheaty legendaries are for the plebian masses. We'll see you on the battle field, Fairy pokemon in hand. Fear the might of the revenge of Queefman!
C: I fantasize about Caterpie and Wurmples crawling over me while I touch myself.
R: Love and bring on Gen VI!

Richie and Cunzy X