#158: Performance review

If you drop your screen resolution to 480p, this newsletter contains more jokes.

Welcome, Hit Points crew! Here’s this week’s free edition.

Before we get started, did you know that the full Hit Points experience costs just £4 per month? Over the last few weeks paid subscribers have been treated to pieces on the state of videogame marketing, the implications for voice actors of the Bayonetta 3 Bayonetta 3 farrago, the perils of Wordle-style retention mechanics and the ominous closure of Ubisoft’s central creative team. Oh, and a longform interview with Rez legend Tetsuya Mizuguchi, looking back on his incredible career.

Not a bad return, I reckon, for four quid. If you’d like to join the ever-growing band of industry professionals and committed videogame enthusiasts that comprise the fully paid-up Hit Points crew — and help support my ad-free, SEO-ignorant, fully independent work — kindly hit the below button as if your very life depended on it. There’s a seven-day free trial on offer, if that swings it.

Videogame promotion used to be a simple business, I reckon, back in the old days. You announced a game, and put out a few screenshots now and then. Maybe you lined up the odd press interview or held a hands-on event at what would, today, be considered a spectacularly inappropriate venue. You took out some ads, made sure the media of the day got review code in good time. Job done. (Apologies to readers and friends who were in PR, marketing and communications back in the day for simplifying what I am sure was not the easiest job in the world, despite the overwhelming volume of evidence to the contrary. Love you!)

Over time, as games have grown more complex, so has the PR operation required to support them. Today there’s a lot to keep on top of. Trailer drops! DLC launches, post-launch roadmaps and those infographics showing what content and extras are available in each of a game’s many flavours of special physical and digital editions! Weird tie-ins, like we discussed the other day, and special press kits to send to influencer types. I’ve recently noticed a trend for infographics showing a game’s unlock times around the world, which I think are a bit like those electronic signs on motorways showing how many minutes are left until the next major exit. You need not turn off early to try and save time on local A-roads, just as you need not change your console region to New Zealand to get into a game early.

Which brings me to the latest development, the newest arrival on the scene: the infographic — I am using that word a lot! Is there a good synonym for it? — detailing some new big-budget console darling’s litany of graphics and performance options. I am talking, of course, about this:

Fuck about.

Now look, I am as excited for Ragnarok as anyone. [Skims Resetera review thread] Okay, maybe not anyone, but I’m very much looking forward to settling down to an extravagantly overlong adventure with Big Graphics as the nights draw in, as is (or used to be) tradition at this time of year. However, I do think this is getting a bit much. Nine graphics modes! Come on.

I suppose this has been coming, though I am surprised at the speed of its onset. I came to think of the previous generation’s performance and quality modes as analogous to PC’s minimum and recommended settings, giving players a basic idea of what they could expect come launch day. Sure, once you started playing the game, things were different: console players could merely toggle between two fixed specs, while those on PC could tweak and refine dozens of settings according to taste and their rig’s capabilities. I guess Ragnarok, with its ennead of holy presets, brings console gaming closer than ever to the PC experience.

I have always found the level of flexibility on offer on PC a bit intimidating, because of the way my stupid brain works. While the sensible part of it understands that this degree of customisation is necessary given the vast diversity of hardware specs on PC, the dominant, irrational, obsessive-compulsive part sees it as an invitation to spend more time in the menus tweaking settings than actually playing the game. Part of the reason I am still holding off on a Steam Deck purchase is that there is at least a small part of me that sees it as, essentially, a portable anxiety generator. Sure, spending half an hour fiddling with post-processing sliders to try and eke out another couple of frames might make a train journey go a bit faster, but do I really want to pay £400 for the privilege? I could just have myself a little sleep instead, and that would be free.

Consoles aren’t quite there yet, no, but I do worry a little about the direction of travel, and in the short term I am quite frustrated at how these things dictate the conversation. Yesterday the ever-cordial, increasingly chatty Hit Points Discord saw the Ragnarok infographic and was sent briefly down the rabbit hole, reheating the old debates about screen size and viewing distance, of perceptions of resolutions and framerates, and all that. (We then returned to our usual business of dissecting the news of the day and talking about games, lunches and the new Phoenix album, so please don’t be put off. It is rapidly becoming one of my favourite places on the internet.)

What I’m saying here, I suppose, is that this is all a question of timing. I do not dispute that this information is useful; I do, however, wonder why it was released on the same day that the Ragnarok review embargo lifted. Doing so dilutes the conversation, abruptly pulling the brake on the hype train when it should be hurtling along at top speed. Instead of poring excitedly over reviews yesterday I spent a solid hour reading Reddit, Resetera and the Digital Foundry archives, and WhatsApping my fellow LG OLED wankers, in an attempt to work out which of the half-dozen PS5 graphics settings I ought to be picking come launch.

I appreciate the opportunity to frontload my anxiety, or at least most of it, getting the headaches out of the way in the run-up to Ragnarok’s arrival. But I implore my PR and marketing pals to maybe reconsider the optimal place in the schedule for something so unutterably tedious. This, surely, was not the day for it.


It returns! I’ve wrestled a bit with how to handle the still-young Hit Points MAILBAG now that a substantial chunk of my #content lives behind a paywall. Can I really ask free readers to pick up the threads of conversations they weren’t there for the start of? I have decided that yes, yes I can. On we go.

  • Here’s David Knight responding to a MORE note the other day on the PSVR 2 announcement. “Do you reckon VR will really go anywhere? I’m no industry insider or developer, but to me it seems inherently limited to being a niche product. It consumes a lot of physical space that you can’t share with others. That isn’t a situation a lot of people are in, and that number isn’t increasing. Products that can only be sold to a niche market usually get taken out back and shot once a new gimmick arrives. Who would spend the effort of developing a VR game that only a tiny fraction of the addressable market could experience?” I nodded along to this, and Sony’s pricing of PSVR 2 suggests it probably agrees too. The lack of exclusive software alongside the announcement suggests the development community is also hedging its bets a bit. I’m hearing positive whispers about Meta Quest 3, but it’s starting to feel like the final roll of the dice for VR gaming, at least as a mainstream pursuit.
  • “I think 2023 will be the defining year for whether Game Pass goes the way of the Dodo,” offers KL in response to last week’s sounding of the alarm at the state of Microsoft’s subscription service. “Phil has promised at least five Microsoft-owned studio games that we already know about so there could be more. Providing at least a few of these exclusives are top-quality games, I think there will be a good surge in new and returning subscribers who might stick around long term if the output continues to be good. If not, then it’s hard to imagine Game Pass continuing in its current guise.” Agree with this too. What a smart bunch you all are.

Leave a comment, hop in the Discord, or simply reply to this email to weigh in on today’s edition, or whatever else preoccupies you.


  • A new pay-transparency law in New York means we now know which of the state’s videogame companies pays the best (it’s Epic Games, much as it is everywhere else, as far as I can tell). Much more of this is in the pipeline: similar laws will come into effect in the game-industry hotbeds of California and Washington in the new year. Lovely stuff.
  • The mysterious Square Enix project that the internet convinced itself was a new Parasite Eve is in fact something called Symbiogenesis, which the publisher describes as its “first digital collectible art project designed for the ground up for Web3 fans.” Ah.
  • There was some lovely stuff in yesterday’s Day Of The Devs. The Discord seems quite taken with Dead Pets Unleashed; I am all-in on Terra Nil, which will be free for Netflix subscribers.
  • AMD announced its new generation of graphics cards yesterday. The catchily named RX 7900 XT and XTX will both retail for under $1,000, just, which suddenly seems reasonable given Nvidia’s recent manoeuvres.
  • As a follow-up to Wednesday’s missive about weird videogame marketing tie-ins, here’s a $250 Minecraft-themed Burberry scarf. Sold out, alas.

There we go. I normally spend this bit pimping paid subscriptions, but since I’ve done that up top, let’s do something different. Game developers, publishers and assorted industry folks! Did you know that Hit Points has an increasingly busy side-hustle as a consultancy? If you’d like the rule run over your game, regardless of its current stage of development, by someone with a finger on the pulse of current trends who has reviewed over 300 games in the course of his career — I am talking about me, for the avoidance of any doubt — drop me a line at nathan@hitpoints.uk. Clients on three continents are delighted with the service they’ve received, and I would love for you to be next.

Right! Happy weekends, all. I will spend mine at the local fireworks display, sorting out my disaster of a home now the kitchen refit is almost complete, pretending to forget the gutters still need doing, and remaining astounded at the news that Daniel Radcliffe stans The Hold Steady. Always liked the fella, and now I know why. See you next week!