Author Archives: Gamejunkienz

Digital New Zealand 2020: The state of video games in New Zealand

Last week, the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA) released the latest of its Digital New Zealand reports and the findings reveal that two-thirds of New Zealanders play video games and nine out of 10 households own a video game device.

DNZ2020 studied 801 New Zealand households and 2,255 individuals and the research was undertaken by Bond University and shows that New Zealanders enjoy and engage with video games with a consistently positive outcome on their overall health, education and well-being.

The average age of a video game player in New Zealand has remained at 34 years old, the same age found in the DZ18 report released two years ago and around half of those playing video game players are women and girls. Older New Zealanders also continue to be attracted to games, with 42 per cent of those aged 65 and over self-identifying as gamers. In fact, 78 per cent of video game players are over the age of 18.

The study also exposes the perception of the true power of video games and how they affect the lives of New Zealanders.  A large percentage, 87 per cent, says it helps them keep up their general knowledge, 70 per cent say it helps them connect with others and 65 per cent say it improves their overall life satisfaction.

Dr Jeff Brand, Professor at Bond University and lead author of the report since its inception, says the reasons New Zealanders play games continues to broaden from their heritage of recreation and entertainment.

“With more than 10 years of research behind it, Digital New Zealand 2020 (DNZ20) gives us a gold standard into who plays video games, how they play, and why they play. Whereas in the early years, this longitudinal research helped overturn stereotypes of the average gamer, in recent years we have started to understand the deeper reasons why people play.”

“While fun is still first and foremost for New Zealand gamers, it is by no means the only reason. We found a diversity to how New Zealanders use games – from education and upskilling, to preserve social and emotional connections and as a powerful health and wellness tool in staying fit and reducing stress.”

The Digital New Zealand study also highlights how videos games are making an impact on New Zealand’s cultural footprint in the global technology ecosystem and the digital economy, with video game sales in New Zealand growing at a rate of 15% CAGR between 2013 and 2018. The latest report shows that 72% of adults believe making video games in New Zealand benefits the economy.

When it comes to training a workforce, video games are a very useful tool and 29 per cent have used video games to train workers with new skills. Interestingly, this year we saw New Zealanders of working age taking the lead in average time spent engaged with video games, with typical working age adults spending 90 minutes playing per day on average compared to the national average of all ages being 88 minutes per day.

Furthermore, the report shows the importance of video games on developing critical thinking skills. In fact, 65 per cent of parents see video games as a valuable teaching tool for STEM.

“We need to harness games as a powerful tool in building a strong and competitive future for New Zealand. The inherent problem-solving nature of interactive game play hones critical thinking and strategy skills,” said Dr Brand. “These skills can easily be applied in a professional environment, and in fact we found that New Zealanders of working age were more likely to spend longer on average playing games than those under 18 years of age.”

Ron Curry, CEO of IGEA, said, “Digital New Zealand 2020 showcases how important video games are for New Zealanders. Far from the stereotype of being a solitary pursuit, in fact we found that video games continue to facilitate a shared experience for families, friends and co-workers. Video games are a key influence on all aspects of society – at home, in the workplace, and in schools. The reasons New Zealanders are playing is becoming more nuanced – it’s not just for entertainment but also to learn and connect.”

Other key findings of the Digital New Zealand Report 2020 include:

  • New Zealand households mostly use PCs to play video games – The most popular way to play games is with a PC (72 per cent), while 65 per cent of households use a smart phone to play, and 19 per cent of households own a virtual reality headset.
  • The average New Zealander’s consumption of games has increased – The average total daily video game consumption is 88 minutes, up from 85 minutes in 2018. Breaking this down by demographic – working age adults play for the longest, averaging 90 minutes a day, whereas retirement age adults play for 79 minutes. Children sit in the middle, playing video games for an average of 84 minutes a day.
  • Video games play a vital role in ageing positively – Older New Zealanders cite the role video games play in positive ageing, with the main uses cited as being to keep the mind active, have fun and be challenged.
  • Video games play a critical role in connecting parents with their children – Parents increasingly place importance on the impact video games have on forging a connection with their children. The research shows that 42 per cent of parents play games with their children in the same room, and 33 per cent play online games with their children.
  • Parents are still cautious when it comes to ensuring safety online – 84 per cent indicate they have talked with their children about playing games safely online, with 91 per cent of parents aware of parental controls, up from 88 per cent in 2018.
  • Video games continue to educate – Games continue to play an important role in a teaching and training setting. Sixty per cent of the parents surveyed said that their children use video games for educational purposes in school and 48 per cent believe that games can imbue their children with greater confidence at school.

I also spoke to Dr Brand last week about some of his findings and I’ll post that interview once I’ve got a spare moment to write it up.

Win with Gamejunkie & PriceSpy

 

If PriceSpy’s latest data insights are anything to go by, Kiwi gamers appear to be steering more towards driving games, with CTR Crash Team Racing – Nitro Fueled Edition (PS4) and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch) proving to be amongst the most popular games for the month of July.

Accelerating to poll-position for a second month running is CTR Crash Team Racing – Nitro Fueled Edition (PS4), followed by Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4), which despite receiving an overall price increase of $17 since last month, the game has consistently been well-placed since first launching in September last year.  Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch) and Days Gone (PS4) placed as third, fourth and fifth most popular games.

Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett, New Zealand country manager for PriceSpy, says “The most popular games for July certainly appear to be driven by the two racing games, CTR Crash Team Racing – Nitro Fueled Edition and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

“Interestingly, all five of the most popular games were also priced under the $100 mark, which goes to show just how important price is to consumers in driving overall interest in a game,” she says.

WIN WIN WIN

PriceSpy has teamed up with GamejunkieNZ to give away the top two most searched for games for the month of July, CTR Crash Team Racing – Nitro Fueled Edition (ps4) and Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4).

To enter the draw to win these two games, leave a comment on this post telling me what your most anticipated game is. The competition closes September 4.

Competition rules: 1) The competition is only open to NZ residents 2) You must comment on this post to enter the draw 3) The prize is two (2) games for the PlayStation 4: Crash Team Racing – Nitro Fueled Edition & Marvel’s Spider-Man. 4) A PlayStation 4 is not included in the prize. You must already own the console 5) The winner will be contacted by email.

The Witcher on Switch: What is this magic?

I have to admit I was sceptical when I first heard that CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher Wild Hunt was coming to Nintendo’s hybrid console.

Well, colour me surprised and intrigued as it’s on the Switch and by all accounts, isn’t too bad, at least if this hands-on from Digital Foundry is anything to go by.

And if that analysis isn’t enough, BandaiNamco has released a 40+minute gameplay overview featuring commentary from CDPR community manager Paweł Burza and senior quest designer Paweł Sasko, Senior Quest Designer about Wild Hunt and the Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine expansions.

Go have a watch.

The Witcher Wild Hunt releases on Nintendo Switch in October. 

Industry plan could create a billion dollar interactive games sector, report predicts

I’m a strong supporter of the New Zealand video games industry: We’re a small country but have some superb development talent on our shores up and down the country.

Well, a new report says that an industry development plan for New Zealand’s interactive media and games sector could create a billion dollar export industry by 2024. Introducing a coordinated plan that invests in emerging talent and allows interactive media to access existing screen industry programmes would create hundreds of hi-tech and creative industry jobs.

Produced by the New Zealand Game Developers Association with support from NZTech, WeCreate and government agencies, the report looks at the social, educational and economic benefits of interactive media such as games, apps, simulations and virtual reality.

“Interactive media combines two of New Zealand’s strengths – our tech sector and creative industries,” says Cassandra Gray, chairperson of the New Zealand Game Developers Association. “Our aspirational, yet achievable, goal is to see New Zealand become a billion dollar exporter of interactive media, sitting alongside our successful film and software sectors. We’ve made a strong start, but our sector is still young and growing.”

The report identified interactive games as the greatest potential creator of new jobs and export earnings. While New Zealand’s games industry earned over $143 million in 2018, the global market is worth $258 billion. Gaining one percent of the global video games market would generate $258 million in new exports. The sector has grown 39 per cent annually for the last six years, and if an industry plan and government support maintained this growth rate then the industry would be worth one billion dollars in 2024.

“Forty years ago our film industry partnered with the Government and we now have a multi-billion dollar screen industry. Twenty years ago our music industry did the same. Our interactive and games industry has reached the stage where it has the capability, skills and international opportunity to similarly contribute significant jobs, exports and social benefits,” says Gray.

The skills developed in interactive entertainment are also being applied to education, mental health and business apps. For instance, fifty nine percent of New Zealand children have used educational games at school.

The report also covers the rise of esports, indie games, virtual and augmented reality, serious games, and Māori and indigenous interactive storytelling.

Interactive media currently slips through the cracks of Government culture, media and innovation policy. To coordinate the industry plan the report calls for the establishment of the New Zealand Interactive Commission, modelled on existing creative industries agencies the music and film commissions, and an interactive innovation fund. The report also recommends that Government screen and cultural programmes be modernised to include interactive media.

Globally, several countries have recently introduced interactive industry programmes. Finland, with a population similar to New Zealand, has an interactive sector worth $3.8 billion annually – 25 times the size of ours – as the result of government support.

Many of the report’s recommendations are already being implemented and will be discussed at the New Zealand Game Developers Conference next month at Te Papa. The Game Developers Association has already increased the support package for its Kiwi Game Starter startup challenge and is introducing a student day, mentoring programme and an industry skills working group.

You can download the Interactive Aotearoa report from www.nzgda.com.

Oppo Reno 10x zoom: Serious smartphone competition

Colour me stupid but it took me a little bit to actually cotton on to where the front facing camera was on Oppo’s new Reno 10 x zoom smartphone ($NZ1299), one of the latest handsets from the Chinese manufacturer.

I’m no fan of selfies but, you know, for the sake of a thorough review,  I had to test of the phone’s forward-facing camera, right? But try as I might I couldn’t see an obvious camera lens in the screen, like other phones. “Where the heck is it?” I thought to myself.

Then I had a light bulb moment: I pressed the on-screen camera rotate button – and voila, the front facing camera glided out of the top edge of the phone, just like magic. Here’s a video showing it in action.

OK, stupidity on my behalf out of the way, Oppo’s Reno 10x zoom is an impressive phone from a manufacturer that isn’t as well known as Samsung or Huawei – but it deserves to be.

The selling point of the 10x zoom is the phone’s three lens set up which features a 48MP Sony camera, a 13MP telephoto lens and a 8MP wide angle lens, which in layman’s terms means it can take pretty damn good photos and you can zoom in on things really far away.

I did find the camera rather good, especially when I used it to zoom in on objects in the distance, but confusingly, the Reno 10x zoom doesn’t actually have a 10x optical zoom as the name suggests: It has a 5x optical zoom backed up by a digital zoom. It’s a little confusing, to be honest, but the end result is a top-notch camera on Oppo’s flagship smartphone.

As an example, the two photos below were taken from exactly the same spot near my Christchurch home as I photographed the city’s hills from the roadside, which were a good 5km away. In the zoomed shot (on the right) you can clearly see a television broadcasting antenna as clear as day. You can zoom in set increments ie 1x, 2x, 6x & 60x but I actually found pictures more blurry at the 60x zoom.

Oh, and remember how I said the front facing camera pops up from the top edge? It means that the 10x zoom doesn’t have a notch like other smartphones to house the front camera so the front of the phone is all screen [I did notice, though, that the pop up camera  did get a little bit of dust on it that I’d have to wipe off].

The 10x zoom sports a 4065mAh battery, Dolby Atmos audio playback, packs 8Gb of memory and has up to 256Mb of storage space. It’s a big phone, too, with a 6.6-inch AMOLED screen and it has a good weight to it. As you’d expect, it features all the bells and whistles you’d expect in a modern smartphone, including a blazingly-fast fingerprint scanner that unlocked almost instantly using my thumb. I found battery life to be really good.

One thing I was especially keen to test out, though, was the phone’s gaming-specific functionality which  Oppo boasts about. The phone comes pre-installed with Oppo’s Game Space software which is said to boost gaming performance by doing things like predicting in-game lag and adjusting in-game frame rates accordingly.

So I put the phone to the test with some of my favourite mobile games: Deus Ex Go, Lara Croft Go, Alto’s Adventure & racing game Asphalt 9: Legends, as well as benchmarking tools 3D Mark and Antutu, which tests 3D gaming performance, memory performance, CPU performance and the user experience using a variety of real-world tests.

It scored a respectable 5673 using the OpenGL API with the Sling Shot Extreme demo [3D Mark actually told me the Reno 10 x zoom was too powerful for the Ice Storm Extreme benchmark so pointed me back to the Sling Shot Extreme demo] and managed 35,2371 in the Antutu benchmark, beating out phones like the Sony Xperia 1, the Samsung Galaxy S10 and the Huawei P30 Pro. Most impressive.

Deus Ex, Lara Croft Go & Alto’s adventure all played well, but then all three are relatively undemanding games. The true test would be with Asphalt 9: Legends, a graphically demanding racing game that boosts console-quality visuals and fast-paced action. Legends looked eye-wateringly beautiful on the Reno’s AMOLED screen and I didn’t not any stutter or lag during my sessions playing it. Clearly, the Reno 10x zoom has the hardware chops to make it a great gaming smartphone [it would be wasted on Candy Crush, though].

Look, I was really impressed with the Oppo Reno 10x zoom. It’s a high-end smartphone that deserves attention from consumers who are eyeing up top-end handsets from the more well-known manufacturers.

Judgment’s Komurocho in selfies

Judgment might have its roots based on Sega’s wonderful Yakuza series (games I’ve been playing since the days of the PlayStation 2 & with the purchase of Yakuza Kiwami 2 last night, my collection is growing even more) and lawyer Takayuki Yamagi might not be as well known as the Dragon of Dojima Kazuma Kiryu , but Ryu Ga Gotaku Studio’s legal thriller is the perfect reason to revist Komurocho.

The game follows Yamagi, a former lawyer turned private detective, as he investigates a serial murder involved a high-profile Yakuza captain.

This isn’t a review of Judgment – I haven’t played it for enough hours yet to justify a review – but I thought I’d document my journey through Kamorucho using Yamagi’s mobile phone, in a series of selfies. That’s the modern way to document life, right?

Enjoy.

Observation review: “I’m sorry, Emma, I’m afraid I can’t do that” [PC]

It wouldn’t surprise me if the team behind sci-fi thriller Observation – were fans of movies Alien, Event Horizon and 2001 A Space Odyssey.

The game opens aboard the international space station Observation which is above Earth’s orbit after suffering a catastrophic event. The ship’s medical officer Dr Emma Fisher eventually manages to reboot the ship’s AI Sam [System Administration Maintenance] but Sam receives a strange transmission telling him to “BRING HER”. Fast forward a bit and after a second event, the Observation finds itself above Saturn, Sam’s core functions compromised and the rest of Observation’s crew missing. Emma tasks Sam with finding out what has happened.

Sam reminded me a lot of HAL 2000, the ship board AI from Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke’s 2001 A Space Odyssey [a movie from 1968  that most young gamers, sadly, will know nothing about]. In that movie, HAL 9000 is the sentient AI on a spaceship heading to Jupiter [there’s also a mysterious black monolith discovered by apes, but that’s a story for another day]. HAL turns rogue, responsible for uttering the chilling line “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that”.

Controlling Sam, you’re initially tasked by Fisher to assess any damage the ship has suffered, accessing the on board cameras to survey for problems. Sam opens hatches, when requested, provides feedback on ship-wide alerts and can possess remotely controlled drones which give a rather satisfying degree of movement around the ship’s tight confines.

Hints of Event Horizon started to appear for me early in the game when it became clear that all wasn’t as it seemed and Sam started becoming self-aware. When the words “BRING HER” flashed on the screen and a strange floating artifact appeared, I got chills down my spine. For some reason, the Observation itself reminded me a lot of Alien’s Nostromo and while there are no jump scares and it’s not scary, Observation’s atmosphere is tense enough to keep you on your toes.

I started playing Observation with mouse and keyboard but soon realised it would be easier using a controller, especially when it came to some of the puzzles requiring inputting codes using the left stick. The puzzles tend to be either drawing schematic patterns of the Observation’s old-school wiring so Sam can unlock hatches between the four arms of the space station or are inputting “Simple Simon” type patterns to rectify hardware issues such as jammed external clamps or to activate ship-wide protocols.

Despite being set in a futuristic space ship, Observation actually made me go old school, again, and I found myself falling back to my old trusty red notebook, scribbling down patterns and notes and the schematics needed to unlock and lock hatches [hey, my memory isn’t what it used to be]. I took photos of things I considered important. I scribbled down words like “launch codes”, “strange artifact”, “protocol” and “space station”. I sketched weird symbols and patterns that flashed up throughout the game. Observation is one of those games that you may well find yourself jotting down schematics on a piece of paper.

Look, I loved Observation from start to finish, eager to find out what the strange alien artifact was all about and intrigued to see whether Sam would go full HAL 9000 by the game’s conclusion [I actually stayed up till 1am on a school night to finish the game].

I thought the ending was a little too cliched but a twist about the 3/4 mark was a nice touch that turned things on its head for the better. The ending also leaves the door open for a potential sequel. Maybe.

Observation is a great first effort from a new studio. I’m interested to see where developer No Code goes from here with its next game.

Late in the piece while writing this review I learned that some of the members of developer No Code were actually on the team that made The Creative Assembly’s Alien Isolation so, yeah, I guess they are fans of the movie Alien. 

Thanks to Devolver Digital’s Australian distributor for the review code.

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