Two weeks ago, the video game Defiance launched on PC and consoles. Today (April 15th), the accompanying TV premieres on the Syfy network, and we get our second taste at a TV show/video game blend. Syfy network has tried this before – but with way less coordination – when they launched Red Faction: Origins in 2011 to mixed reviews. I have high hopes for this kind of media cross-over, so I’m hoping they get it right this time. While I haven’t purchased the game (and reviews are slowly trickling out, many of which are neutral or negative), Syfy is saying that the show can be enjoyed on its own.

What do you think? Is there room for this kind media cross-over or should each medium stick to their respective strengths?

Friday, 8:07 am – Ricky

Oh hi there, Internet! It’s Friday!

Not much to share with you today – gaming has been at a minimum this week for me, but lots planned for the weekend. BOARD gaming that is! We have folks popping in and out over the weekend, all of whom are known board game fanatics, so I’m looking forward to playing some favourites as well as some of the new stuff I received for my birthday.

I’m also hoping to dive back in to BioShock Infinite. The extended time in between sessions may start impacting my enjoyment of the game – it’s not to say the “world” isn’t engrossing, because it is, but it still takes a bit of time to get in to the game each time you pick it up. If you’re gaming in fits and spurts, this could mean you’re always teetering on the brink of investment. It’s been tough for me to find more than half an hour to play at a time lately. Gavin has suggested (as my new Life Sherpa®) that I start scheduling a regular time to game. A time where I know I’ll have finished any work or chores I need to get done, and where scheduling something else over top of the time means I miss out on gaming. I’m going to have to work on that.

Wednesday, 2:32 pm – matt

Dear Electronic Arts/Money Grubbing Studio: Please take note.

My game of the year just got a little better with the 1000 Car Challenge being released by Microsoft Studios yesterday for the open world driving simulation Forza Horizon. Adding an entire new mode to the single player campaign, the developers have taken the very popular online challenges that could be completed with friends and brought them offline and expanded upon them with over 5 vehicle-specific challenges for each ride. Challenges are broken up among manufacturers, and once completed will unlock a series of all new achievements that were also included in the update. The challenges are different for each ride but fall under the same guidelines, performing a cool racing maneuver, breaking speed traps at certain speeds, and even venturing from one random point in the map to another is set time, and even re-entering previous races while driving that specific ride. Its an impressive piece of DLC from studio Turn 10 and adds a significant amount of play time to an already stacked game.

Wait, did I mention it was completely free?

Wednesday, 8:28 am – Ricky

BioShock Infinite. I think I love you.

I love your look. Your environments are stylized, but not cartoony, and your colours are super sharp in all of the right place. Your weapons and vigors are very satisfying to use – each feels different and unique. But your story and characters are where you really shine. I feel sucked in to your world every time I boot you up, and all I want to do is learn, explore and discover more of what you have to offer.

Thank you for the opportunity to experience you.

Tuesday, 11:49 am – Ricky

Well, the reviews are in for the TV show – pretty mixed so far, with a glowing review from the Huffington post and a couple good user reviews.

Great points on the cross-overs from years gone by – this is definitely not new ground. But Syfy and Trion’s approach at building 1 single world, with characters coming over from the show to the game and vice-versa, is pretty novel. I hope it succeeds, or at least provides other companies with a road map for how to approach this kind of cross-media opportunity in the future.

Monday, 9:26 am – Gavin

Media crossovers can work well, but I think that serious effort needs to go into the video-game segment.  However, before I get into that, let me just say that we shouldn’t expect people to give a crap about Defiance.  It airs on SyFy, which most people forget exists unless they accidentally come across it while browsing through the channels.  I’d be surprised if viewership was desperately high.  It’s not like Dr. Who or something that has a large international fan base/historical legacy.  I’d be surprised if it lasts two seasons.

Media-crossovers have existed for generations – video game versions of movies and TV shows, and even books.  They’ve sucked (E.T., 007: Quantum of Solace, the 24 video game), and they’ve been awesome (Batman: Arkham Asylum, Spec Ops: The Line [digitization of Heart of Darkness, effectively], 007: Goldeneye, the Looney Tunes and Disney games that came out for the SNES/Genesis in the 90s).  If you’re going to do a crossover, or at least a video game representation of your IP, you need to put serious effort into the video game side of things.  Disney is notorious for cashing in wherever they can, and that’s what plenty of their games were, especially for the most recent console cycle.  Dreamworks is not better.  Did you know that there’s a video game that was released in conjunction with The Croods?   WALL-E and Up had their own games as well.  We can rationalize investing a bit of time in a bad TV show by saying that we didn’t pay exclusively for that TV show; “I paid $80 this month for TV and I get my $80 worth.  This TV show was worth the risk because I already get my return on investment.”  It’s much harder to say that for a video game, where you’re investing a set amount of money in one specific thing.  Defiance costs $60 brand new!  That’s way too much for me to risk, if my enjoyment is tied to a television show that may be good or may stink to high heaven.

I guess I don’t want to say “don’t try to cross over”, because we could be missing out on some awesome games.  I think what I’d rather say is that if you’re going to try to develop a cross-over into the video game medium, understand that it takes a ton of effort for a video game to be successful, and that effort is different (though not necessarily more difficult) than developing a successful television show.  The competition is different – a television show asks for one hour of my life every week, but against more substantial competition.  A video game asks for more than an hour of my life (practicably), against less-substantial new competition, but it’s also harder to play a game (technically) than it is to watch a show.  Anyone with a TV show and a cable package can watch a show, but I can’t necessarily play your game – you could release it on a console I don’t have, or my PC might not be up to snuff.

This brings me to a larger point.  How hard is it for new IP to be released these days?  I think to all of the games I’ve purchased and enjoyed recently.  My games of the year 2011 were all parts of franchises.  This year, I’ve played Spec Ops: The Line (new game), Max Payne 3 (franchise), Half-Life 2, Episode 2 (franchise), and I’m currently in Skyrim (franchise).  Game of the year 2010?  Super Mario Galaxy 2, a franchise game.  The Call of Duty games and Madden games explode with sales, and they’re huge franchises.  I’m a pretty average gamer in my tastes, and I wonder if I’m making it difficult for developers to release new games.  My next console will be the Wii-U, and what am I waiting for?  A new 3D Mario, a new Metroid, a new Donkey Kong, and a new Zelda.  The best-reviewed games out for the Wii-U right now are NSMBU, Lego City: Undercover, and Need For Speed: Most Wanted.  Two of those three are franchises, and Lego City has a ton of similar mechanics found in other Lego games, plus it has the Lego name supporting it.

Groups like Disney, Dreamworks, and in historical context, LucasArts, could have potentially poisoned the well for these kinds of crossovers.  We’ve all seen lazy video-game adaptations of television shows and movies, and I will admit, I’m inherently biased against them, because I’ve seen so many bad ones that I tend to think they’re just attempts at cashing in on a franchise/IP’s fame.  Disney, Dreamworks, and LucasArts have (had) the money to do those things without too much concern, whereas a group like 2K games or ID Software is operating with much less capital.  A big game means a windfall, but a bad game can mean the death of an entire company.  Final Fantasy XIV effectively killed a huge portion of Square Enix, as we discussed a few weeks ago; never mind the successes of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Tomb Raider, or Hitman: Absolution.

Monday, 8:00 am – Ricky

Need. Coffee.