Games Inbox: Fantasy vs. sci-fi video games

Starfield – are you a sci-fi or a fantasy fan? (Picture: Bethesda)

The Friday letters page tries to guess what the Nintendo Switch 2 launch will be like, as one reader enjoys the Diofield Chronicles.

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The rivals
I’ve been following the Baldursfield chatter with some interest, as I’m currently stuck, unable to really root for either game. I have a PlayStation 5, but not an Xbox, and yet I can’t stand fantasy settings and so have no interest in Baldur’s Gate 3. I’ll give it a look when the reviews come in but the whole Dungeons & Dragons theme is not my thing at all.

Clearly not everyone feels that way, but it makes me wonder whether fantasy is generally more popular than sci-fi or is it the other way? It’s clearly sci-fi that rules for movies but what about games? I was always surprised to find that Dragon Age apparently sold better than Mass Effect, despite the space game seeming to get talked about a lot more, so is there just a secret underclass of fantasy fans that buy everything?

Personally, I find the lack of sensible rules for magic and most other fantasy to be very off-putting, with even the most talked about worlds seeming to be very poorly thought out. Sci-fi can get like that too, which is why I always hate when magic is added to it as well. I hate to say, but the grounded action of Starfield seems much more up alley, but I have no way to play it.

The full line-up
Although these Switch rumours are interesting but when it comes to Nintendo I don’t believe anything until they themselves announce it. Does a new Super Mario make sense as a launch title? Yes. Have they had enough time to make a really good one? Super Mario Odyssey came out in 2017, so yes. Is it likely to be as simple as that? I doubt it.

What I’m most interested in is how backwards compatibility will work and if there will be upgrades to existing games and how much Nintendo will charge for them (I can guarantee they won’t be free). Is that how they’ll fill out the launch line-up? Or will they have other big games as well? A Mario and Metroid combo?

I really have no idea but I’m definitely interested in finding out that yet again Nintendo has not done what everyone expected.

Different customers
Although I agree with points made by Focus, I believe the only people who haven’t already got a Switch are the type of people who wouldn’t buy a Switch 2 at launch anyway. Most sales will be from the early adopters who would already have owned the Switch.

An announcement of new hardware would lead to a price drop for the current model where all those who haven’t already done so maybe tempted to get one, therefore increasing sales and also drumming up excitement.

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Boring answer
It makes sense that Nintendo wouldn’t want to upset people who just bought a Switch at Christmas, by announcing its successor early in 2024. And also that they wouldn’t want to undermine potential for strong Switch sales at Christmas by announcing a Switch 2 before the end of this year.

But what about the other possibility that they’d be compromising sales of the Switch 2 by not announcing it before lots of people buy a Switch at Christmas?

I totally see how the transition from Wii U was completely different and nothing was lost by announcing the Switch in October 2016. But do they really want to see millions spend their money on the old machine when they might otherwise have held off to buy a Switch 2 a few months later?

To me it partly comes down to how strongly the Switch continues to sell. I imagine they’ve forecast the usual decline, so there’s only so much they’ll want to do to keep renewing interest if that means compromising a good start to the next machine.

On the other hand, early adopters will buy the Switch 2 unconditionally anyway, likely to the point there are stock issues regardless of how strong the supply is. So, missing out on additional sales because they’re competing with their own previous generation might be less of a concern.

The way I see it, though, they could leverage the old Switch as the modern equivalent to the 2DS. Give all old models a decent price cut, push those as the ‘multiple consoles per household’ options and make customers aware of the choice between those right now and the more expensive new machine shortly afterwards.

It’s not even wishful thinking on my part, as the longer it takes for the new one to be announced and released, the more likely I feel it’ll be powerful enough and sensibly priced. But either the market is the same for both generations of machine and Nintendo will want to choose which console to favour at this stage, or they’re currently aimed at slightly different markets so there’s not as big a risk of conflict as we might assume.

GC: We suspect the primary factor is merely component and stock availability. There’s a good chance the rumours of an early 2024 launch were accurate and then Nintendo realised they couldn’t build enough in time.

In and out
Been playing Diofield Chronicles, following on from Final Fantasy 16. Quite enjoying the game, as a tactical role-player it’s certainly a niche game,

You guys gave it a 4/10 which I thought was a bit harsh, then the plot fell off a cliff in the second half. And it is a bit repetitive. That said, I’ve had a blast, worth it for £25 but if I had paid full price I’d have felt ripped off.

Quite enjoyed the minimalist plot and scenes that lasted around a minute, quite nice to just get into the game in short shape bursts, rather than have to dedicate a significant amount of time (most maps last around six minutes).
Michael, Crawley

Audience disconnect
There has been a lot of negative PlayStation 5 coverage this gen – a lot of it down to price hikes, lacklustre showcases, live service direction, acquisition talk, etc. – even here on GameCentral, there are valid complaints about PlayStation as a whole, that crop up each week.

But, when figures come out we find the PlayStation 5 is selling extremely, extremely well; nearly 2:1 to Xbox systems globally (and with the Xbox Series S priced so much cheaper as well). 40 million consoles in three years means that it has already outsold some of the most important consoles ever made (Xbox, N64, Mega Drive). It is solidly on track to be in the top five best-selling consoles historically, despite tough competition (the Switch, strong Xbox hardware/software and the pandemic).

Even much criticised accessories like the DualSense Edge are doing well (this was the highest selling gaming accessory in June 2023). PlayStation VR2 is outpacing the original PlayStation VR in sales and PS Plus is much improved (and making more cash). And ultimately, Sony continue to deliver on the software front regularly, with positive critical feedback and millions of game sales each quarter. Even the Twisted Metal TV show (which looked naff!) somehow did okay.

It makes me wonder: what is going on here? Why is the discourse around Sony PlayStation sometimes so negative yet the reality-on-the-ground is so much more positive? Is this to do with being the market leader? Is it down to worries over the overall direction? Are the complaints an indication that Sony are slipping up a little despite all the clear success?

I don’t know, I wonder if, simply put: enthusiast discourse is super disconnected from where casual gamers are sometimes? Many increasingly see PlayStation like Apple iPhones – this is what you buy if you want a console that is high quality, premium and does the job. This is probably why Sony are so interested in live service models and do so many third party marketing deals, i.e. Harry Potter and Call Of Duty.

It is this audience who come back to PlayStation each gen, because of their historical success in the industry. It delivers the goods, ultimately.

GC: There’s definitely a disconnect but most of the serious criticism has only come in the last year or so, after Sony went radio silent around the time Microsoft announced it was buying Activision Blizzard. Everything was a lot more positive before that.

Worthy successor
It really is incredible how well the Nintendo Switch has done. I remember when it catching up with the PlayStation 4 seemed impossible and now it’s got a good chance of becoming the best-selling console of all time.

It’s thoroughly deserved as well, as far as I’m concerned: a great concept that’s been ripped off a dozen times by now (hello, Steam Deck!) and a fantastic line-up of games where I don’t think a single Nintendo franchise got done dirty.

The PlayStation 2 was legendary but if it’s going to be beaten by anything, I’m glad it’s the Switch.

Global userbase
Interesting numbers on the article about Nintendo Switch, 129 million Switches sold is an impressive number.

But it got me wondering about the global audience of video games. So a bit of number crunching from Internet searches:

The global population is in excess of 8 billion, meaning the Switch has reached 1.6% of the global population.

To take it further, the PlayStation 5 has reached 40 million, but according to Sony half of those people also own a Switch, so let’s call it 20 million unique customers. Xbox has maybe half of PlayStation 5 sales, and assuming a similar number own a Switch that’s another 10 million unique customers. So 159 million gamers in the world on current consoles, a measly 2% of the global population.

For contrast to other medium, the MPAA estimates 12% of the USA population goes to the cinema more than once a month, the UKCA say 117 million people went to the cinema last year (can’t find a similar stat, but effectively everyone went about twice last year based on UK population). If that trend is worldwide, you can see games are such a small part of the entertainment sector, such a small percentage of people are actively involved (I’m not crunching the financials of this just now, just the userbase).

Or are they? Because 2.6 billion people played mobiles games last year. Yes, you read that right. More than a quarter of the world population are mobile gamers. So clearly there are people out there who want to play games, but don’t want to outright buy consoles.

Got me wondering why consoles haven’t been able to make a bigger impact on the entertainment industry, and the only logical conclusion is: the upfront costs of getting the consoles themselves. It begs the question: could consoles increase their user numbers if they went to a subscription models such as mobile phones do?

Nintendo could certainly have made a killing doing it, the Switch is so popular because it’s the best of mobile while having more versatility (aka painless docking and Joy-Cons for party games).

Anyway, sorry for the boring numbers.

GC: We liked your numbers. Although we’d suggest mobile games are played as much out of convenience as desire. There’s also issues like controllers being very off-putting and confusing to non-gamers, especially the idea of controlling the camera with the right stick.

Inbox also-rans
I can confirm with my girlfriend that we would absolutely be interested in Lego Animal Crossing. Start printing that money, Nintendo!

I wonder why there’s never any call to remake the first two The Elder Scrolls games? In fact, I never hear anyone talk about them at all, any yet they must’ve been popular or we wouldn’t be here. The second one is free but it’s so old it’s kind of unplayable, which seems the perfect reason for a remake to me.

This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Gain2, who asks what is your favourite game that does not have a sequel?

Even if they’re not that that successful, most games get sequels at some point, but which is your favourite that never did? Why do you think it never got a follow-up and does it at least have a spiritual sequel or something similar?

Do you feel it’s too late for a sequel now and if not, how would you like it to look and play? If it’s a game with its first sequel coming up soon, how do you hope it will have evolved from the original?

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The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time via email or our Submit Stuff page, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

You can also leave your comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

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