Hookshot Inc: Your New Games Journo Supergroup

By Alec Meer on February 13th, 2012 at 12:49 pm.

Unlike another RPS rival that launched a while back, at least they didn't nick our design

Say a big, cheerful hello to Hookshot Inc, a new games journalism project from a UK journo supergroup. Will Porter (occasionally of this parish), world’s nicest man Christian Donlan (never of this parish, despite repeated requests to be so), the Guardian’s Keith Stuart and expert gaming curio-/story-finder Simon Parkin have ganged together to do what RPS has always hoped more of our peers would: found their own site, free from the agendas and interferences of any corporate overlords.

Hookshot Inc, which is unfortunately named after something from Zelda games but don’t hold that against it, aims to cover games that cost $15 or less, on any and all formats – phone, XBLA, those two-screened Nintendo thingies, PSN and, of course, PC. Wait a minute…

Sadly they immediately drop the ball by making their inaugural feature an interview with Tim Schafer about Double Fine’s Kickstarter success: no-one knows how much the resultant adventure game will cost, so they’re waaaaay out of their remit already. The big sillies! Nonetheless, it’s a great interview, and also covers his discussions with Notch about a possible Psychonauts sequel.

Also: lots of reviews of enormously interesting games, plus the odd retrospective or two. Hookshot Inc is a good thing, despite being A SHAMELESS CLONE OF RPS THAT EVEN HAS BLOODY ‘SHOT’ IN THE TITLE AND A THREE LETTER ACRONYM, staffed by excellent writers, and you should definitely be reading it. Welcome and good luck to them.

There is only way this can end, of course:

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59 Comments »

  1. DanPryce says:

    I cannot wait for Spanish Language RPS to arise.

    • pakoito says:

      The closest thing is GamesAjare, but their stuff is mostly circlejerk jokes and local stuff.

    • Tei says:

      @pakoito

      Well.. the subtitle say it all “tits, tastecrackas and videogames”.
      Still, I like this article. The misterious case of a nice Indie game that is not accepted in Steam. People on the comments say could be because contains mountains of culture pop references of other games, or perhaps grammar errors on the english translation. It could be. Other indie games had a hard time to enter Steam, like SPAZ. These posters also say that it was easier to enter other systems, like Desura.
      I can understand it all, but the creator of “The Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy is also the creator of “Bad Taste” movie. People has to start somewhere, you never know, maybe the dude that is tryiing to sell a game that looks like a piece of shit, is going to revolutionize gaming the next year (?!).

  2. Williz says:

    Brick, where’d you get a hand grenade?

    • Ergonomic Cat says:

      I killed a guy! With a trident!

      I ate your chocolate squirrel.

      I would like to extend to you an invitation to the pants party.

  3. TomSmizzle says:

    To be fair if you support the kickstarter for $15 you get the game when it comes out, so it’s kind of a $15 game?

  4. Meat Circus says:

    THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE.

  5. Meat Circus says:

    This will be like Oasis vs Blur all over again.

    PC Gamer are the Vengaboys.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      But then who is Pulp? Who was Suede? And, most importantly, who will be Gorillaz?

    • SiHy_ says:

      The Vengaboys had a profound effect on my formative years. Not sure why… ;D

  6. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    Their page seems to be broken. :(

    • Zorganist says:

      By directing visitors to the site, RPS have masterminded the world’s most subtle DDoS attack, ever. You are just a pawn in their game of internet conquest.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      But not visiting the page will also serve RPS’ nefarious plans… they’ve devised a plan with no losing outcome for them, the brilliant villains!

  7. Alexander Norris says:

    Well, anyone who pledged $15 to the Double Fine KS gets a copy of the game, so technically it’s $15!

    • Kaira- says:

      Technical truth is the best truth there is.

    • Jimbo says:

      The average pledged is about $35. So more like ROOKIESHOT Inc. if you ask me!! Up top!

    • Strange_guy says:

      ‘Hookshot Inc. is a website about downloadable video games that cost less than $15.’ I’m pretty sure that maths has proven that $15 is not less than $15. So technically they shouldn’t be covering it.

    • Ridnarhtim says:

      Oh yeah. Strange_guy just technicalitied your ass.

  8. The white guar says:

    Have we DDoSed them already?

  9. Was Neurotic says:

    Hai! Loved the Anchorman video. Also, I’ve just spent 15 minutes watching news reporter accidental cleavage videos from right here in the comfort of my own RPS. ALEC IS KING!

  10. Zeewolf says:

    So they won’t cover Minecraft, the Cryptic Comet games or Frozen Synapse? That $15 thing is just nonsense.

    • Craig Stern says:

      Right. What point could there possibly be to only covering $15-and-under games? All that accomplishes is setting the site up to ignore interesting niche titles that require a higher price to be financially viable. I don’t get it.

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      Craig, your argument could lend itself to anything, yeah? “What could possibly be the point of setting up a site that only deals with PC games?”. I dunno, man, to give coverage to things *within* the remit, yeah? That’s the point.

      There’s already generalist indie games blogs that are fairly popular and can and will cover games of -any- price. There’s plenty of niche-specific news sites for niche games. There’s RPS, which covers PC games not covered by the price cap. Not every blog has to cover everything, right?

      I’m happy that there’s one more blog out there covering downloadable games and extra happy that the words are from some of the best word-combiners we’ve got and it’s one that opens up more avenues of exposure for more people than it limits. That’s pretty cool.

      With this, RPS and with Venus Patrol on the horizon… 2012 is looking pretty great for people who want to get the word out about their games and for people who want to read good words and discover new games.

    • Vinraith says:

      There are only two kinds of games that are priced under $15: Fluff, and games that are being underpriced.

    • Craig Stern says:

      RobF, so far as I can tell, the vast majority of indie games already are below $15 at this point. Imposing a $14.99 cap does little to constrict the number of games within their remit; it only ensures that games which cannot survive at that price point (unusual, niche titles) go uncovered.

      You’re certainly right that they are under no obligation to cover all games (I’m reminded of the reader who got upset that I didn’t talk about indie strategy games on IndieRPGs.com), but I see this as part of an unwelcome trend exerting pressure on indie developers to offer their games at very low prices. Many distributors already impose a price cap; I do not like the thought of games journalists joining in and imposing a price cap on what they will cover.

    • Zeewolf says:

      RobF: Yeah, but what does price have to do with anything and what makes $15 the magic number that determines if a game is worthy of coverage on their site or not?

      Surely a site about downloadable games would be doing a pretty rotten job if it excluded stuff like Minecraft? Or pretty much the entire area of indie strategy & rpg games?

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      @craig

      Except it’s not exerting any pressure on anyone. That’s a big paranoid silly, man.

      Does Lewie’s site put pressure on indies to have a sale every day because it only covers stuff on sale? Does Touch Arcade existing mean you have to write for an iThing? Does the $15 cap say INDIES ONLY? Does it even say “you’re charging too much, charge lower?”

      Or does it just cover games that cost less than that and in fact, no-one gets hurt by it existing but many people benefit?

      @zeewolf

      “Yeah, but what does price have to do with anything and what makes $15 the magic number that determines if a game is worthy of coverage on their site or not? ”

      Does it really matter? It’s a blog for a specific niche of downloadable titles. You go there if you’re interested in coverage of games that cost $15 or lower. If you want a review of something that isn’t that, you go elsewhere on the internet.

    • Craig Stern says:

      It would be paranoid to assume that a new, major gaming news site intentionally chose a price restriction to exert pressure on developers to charge less; that does not mean that their choice to do so doesn’t contribute to the trend. Intent and effect are two different things, after all.

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      If the majority of downloadable titles are already priced at $15 or below then anyone who charges above that is already an exception or working within a niche, right?

      So at this point, starting a blog up to deal with downloadable titles for a reasonably affordable budget range isn’t going to go pushing any prices down. They’re already there.

      I realise some people can’t survive at certain prices, this, clearly, isn’t going to be the site for them. But that’s fine, y’know?

    • Craig Stern says:

      Games on the Apple App Store already have to be $0.99 to get noticed. Clearly it’s not the end of the world if a single website decides, similarly, to only give attention to cheap-o games–I just don’t want that dynamic bleeding over into games journalism generally. That’s all I’m saying.

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      I don’t understand what you want from them, then. Because choosing to cover a certain niche of games on a website doesn’t shape the market in the way you’re trying to claim it might and they can’t buck the trend by just being generalist.

      Comparisons with an entire ecosystem that’s built upon low prices is just weird. I’m not sure why you did that.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      It’s okay. They’ll do a retrospective on all the AAA games when those titles are on a Steam sale fnarr fnarr fnarr.

    • Craig Stern says:

      “choosing to cover a certain niche of games on a website doesn’t shape the market in the way you’re trying to claim it might”

      A) Less-than-$15 is not a niche in the games market, in much the same way that four wheels is not a niche in automobiles. It’s the rule, not the exception. Definitionally, it’s not a niche.
      B) I am not claiming that this website will single-handedly shape the market. I do think it’s a waste to go generalist (see A above), yet systematically exclude interesting titles based on arbitrary pricing criteria–and at the same time, I am concerned that other games blogs will decide that doing this is a good idea, particularly if Hookshot becomes popular.

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      It’s not a waste because people will visit the site knowing that no game covered on it will cost more than $15. That’s a hook in and of itself. So there’s plenty to be gained from doing it. It sets the site apart. People will visit there because of that, right? “Good place to find out news about cheap downloadable games, that”

      Price criteria isn’t something that should be out of bounds. Why should it? Why should it be any more of a no go than PC only, iThing only, bargains only or whatever?

      If the answer is “because it’ll miss out on some good games” then that’s a calculated risk but they’ll still have plenty of games *to* cover and those that aren’t covered can get coverage elsewhere.

      If the answer is because “It’ll miss out on all the games I personally prefer” then that’s a calculated risk that people like you who converge more towards over $15 games are in a minority compared to those who don’t. Chances are, you’re already catered for though as much as it’s always good to get more exposure for things.

      If the answer is “well, that means they won’t cover MY games” then neither will however many sites with their own criteria (better?) and coverage rules. You deal with the ones that will.

      If it’s just because you don’t like that people charge less money than you think they should, well, that’s tough.

      If you’re afraid it might be contagious then I don’t know what to say to that. That *is* paranoid.

    • Craig Stern says:

      Ideas are influential; there’s nothing paranoid about that. Everything you just said, you could have said about BigFishGames back when they decided to enforce a price ceiling on all of their games. And now we live in an ecosystem where a large number of distribution platforms make it very difficult (if not impossible) to sell games at a reasonable price. (I just visited BFG, and a splash screen came up saying that every game on the site is now $2.99 for the rest of the day.)

      I hope that you are right, Rob, and that my concerns turn out to be baseless.

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      No you couldn’t have said that at all about Big Fish – that was an obvious and deliberate squeeze to move further into dominating the game portal market and it continues to be so.

      There’s absolutely no comparison with a site reviewing games and what BigFish did, nor what the App Store do or Amazon pricing terms or any of that. They’re ecosystems *designed* to put the squeeze on developers and to shape pricing aggressively. They’re about treating games as commodities and corporate interest and corporate profiteering first and foremost (and you have a choice as to whether to play in that particular garden still, yes?)

      Bigfish, Amazon and the App Store are not websites reviewing games that exist or writing articles about games that exist. Or doing interviews and writing articles about people who make these games. And celebrating games and stuff like that. And promoting the work people do. They’re not even close, are they?

    • Craig Stern says:

      You’re talking about intent again; I’m talking about effect. If journalists ignore games above a certain price point, fewer people will learn of higher-priced games and buy them. If distributors bury more expensive games, or simply don’t sell them, fewer people will learn of those games and buy them. Different means, different intent, similar effect.

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      How is that different, in this case, from a site being PC only, being indie only, being app store only though? Paranoia about price-o-geddon aside, yeah?

      Did RPS close down all the console game specific blogs when it chose its corner and ignored console games? Did everyone suddenly rush to cover -only- PC games or did it just complement and improve the gaming landscape for everyone by providing another voice and outlet for a segment of the market? And on with insert any gaming news or review site here, man.

      Some people are going to get some lovely words about their games now from some people who write brilliant things. That’s fab not a reason to get all gripey.

      There’s still room for other sites to open up and cover things and grow too.

    • Craig Stern says:

      A site can contribute to a negative trend even if its prose is lovely and even if there are other sites that do not contribute to that same trend.

      I’ll probably read Hookshot and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. Insofar as it reinforces current pricing trends, however, I think it merits a critique. (I think we can agree that it’s possible for something to be good and for something to need improvement simultaneously.)

    • Zeewolf says:

      RobF: “Does it really matter? It’s a blog for a specific niche of downloadable titles. You go there if you’re interested in coverage of games that cost $15 or lower. If you want a review of something that isn’t that, you go elsewhere on the internet. ”

      Sure, it’s a blog for “specific” downloadable titles, but the factor that decides what games they cover makes no sense. That’s my problem with it. From my point of view, as a customer and as someone who likes to read reviews of good games, it’s completely random. I need to know the price of a game to know if they will cover it or not. If it was based on genres or platforms or whatever… it’d be predictable. But it’s not. It’s based on a mystical, magical price threshold that they might as well have decided by throwing dice.

      Edit: The fact that they mention SpaceChem in the intro post just makes the whole randomness more apparent. When that game came out, it was $20. So they couldn’t cover it then, but they can now that it’s $10. Baffling. Utterly baffling.

      But. The debate is pointless.

      It doesn’t matter, because if you make a site about downloadable games and add a rule that excludes Minecraft, you’ve failed. It’s as simple as that.

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      @craig

      Well, yeah. If you approach everything from the opinion that the widening of game prices is crushing us all rather than broadening the market then yes, I’m sure it won’t help. Unfortunately, there’s not much evidence to back up that it is crushing everyone at all, quite the opposite in fact.

      It’s troubling if you’re unable to separate different services with different markets and different prices from each other and bundle them up as one horrible downward trend because it makes for an awkward conflation, as we’ve seen when you end up comparing storefronts with blogs or assuming a news site can contribute in the same way as a storefront does.

      The app store is a market based on cheap on the go convenience and is priced to suit. If you have a game of more substance, you can still command more (Eufloria HD is $4.99, a shard of the PC gaming price but high by app store standards and still charts highly post launch) – as most people aren’t buying iThing games for anything other than convenience, that’s a risky venture but it can pay off still. Despite price-o-geddon. Big Fish is commodity gaming, it’s churn and earn or as Cliff would have it, selling potatoes. Enter that market at your own risk, right?

      If you make HO games, you might be in with a problem but if you don’t? Fuck ‘em. They’re never going to make deep RPG games or neon shooters or whatever else because that’s not their market. They don’t worry about you so don’t fret them. If, on the off chance they do, we’ll deal with that when we get to it but it’s not likely, right? Even if they do, are they going to be making what -you- make?

      If you’re making a product in a niche, then it’s up to you to convince your audience that you are not commodity gaming, you’re not convenience gaming and that the price you choose is worth paying. That many still manage to do this is testament to the fact that you -can- duck out of the race entirely. No, the sales won’t compare with commodity gaming but they never will. But there’s also more ways to inform people of a niche product than ever before so there’s a sort of balance-y thing going on always.

      Given there’s now more ways to make (and money on) games, more outlets to advertise your games and more choices of how to push, promote and market your game, it’s natural to have diversity. It’s also fairly natural to jealously guard what you might have had before this but it doesn’t make the trend “negative”, yeah? It’s hardly negative when videogames are better, more copious and easier to sell and niches easier to reach than ever before. That we’re also seeing a slight turn around in the promotion of these niches thanks to sites like here, we’re good, yeah?

      The thing is man, whatever ship you’re railing against with regards to pricing has long since sailed by your own admission. What we have now is a broad range of games that can command a broad range of prices. Covering only a subset of these does not do any harm but widening the promotional avenues to a tier that’s not your tier benefits everyone because it’s all good videogame exposure and who knows where a path of discovery might lead.

      @zeewolf

      “But. The debate is pointless.

      It doesn’t matter, because if you make a site about downloadable games and add a rule that excludes Minecraft, you’ve failed. It’s as simple as that. ”

      What, even if I made a blog about downloadable neon shooters? There’s plenty of places MC can get publicity, it’ll do fine, I’m sure.

    • Craig Stern says:

      That “widening” you refer to in pricing is only happening on one end, though: the bottom. (Unless you count Gary Grigsby’s War in the East.) Jeff Vogel, whom I consider a sort of a canary for niche pricing purposes, has written recently about dropping his prices because of market realities (here, if you’re curious: http://jeff-vogel.blogspot.com/2011/10/why-all-our-games-are-now-cheaper.html). If there’s any niche developer out there who can afford to duck out of the race, it’s him–and yet he found it necessary to cave.

      I don’t think it’s all gloom and doom, mind you: the market for indie games has grown hugely in size, which is obviously great for everyone. Price drops, however, are really only good for people whose games are in a position to make up the difference in volume of sales. That’s just math. And niche games often aren’t in a position to do that. (See Vogel again, on the results of dropping his price to $4.99: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/6698/principles_of_an_indie_game_bottom_.php?page=3 )

      Diverse pricing survives for the time being, and a smart, talented niche game developer can still do very well for him/herself. Of course. I’m not disputing any of that. I just want to ensure that avenues for higher-priced games to be (a) seen and (b) purchased don’t dry up. So when I see a new games blog with major names attached to it choose to (seemingly arbitrarily) deny coverage to all games priced below $15, it concerns me a bit.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    I like the sound of this, that’s a bunch of writers whose scribblings I’ve enjoyed in the past, should nicely supplement RPS.

    Oh sorry, that wasn’t what I was meant to write was it? Clearly I meant; BURN THEM BURN THE HEATHENS!

  12. Skusey says:

    Well that doesn’t look very jaunty.

  13. Baboonanza says:

    It looks like they have reviews with scores! SCORES!

    It’s like they never heard of [DON'T MENTION THE WAR]!

  14. Auspex says:

    Anyone know what the “RPS Rival” referred to in the alt text is/was?

  15. Treebard says:

    Choosing which games to cover based on price, rather than quality, definitely makes sense to me. I hope they do a break down of how much content I get per dollar.

    • trjp says:

      Oh for Mr Snarky…

      Why would someone choose to review games based on quality – you surely HAVE to review them to discover that??

      Oh you’re not feeling so clever now eh? :)

  16. Ridnarhtim says:

    Hookshots are so 1991. It’s all about clawshots now.

  17. Vagrant says:

    But how can I respect a journalistic enterprise that respects Zelda? Clearly, RPS is the last bastion of good taste!

  18. phenom_x8 says:

    honestly. I love their web interface (and VG247 reface a while back) more than this ‘wordpress common template’ here at RPS. Please guys, its time for RPS reface.

    Anyone agree with me ?? ( maybe we should start some petition or forum post like HL 3 fans did, because RPS seems to ignore this matter for five years already)

    • Ridnarhtim says:

      Tell you what I hate: not getting notifications when someone replies to a post of mine. Unless I’ve missed something blatantly obvious?

      I have no issues with the site layout itself. It’s a blog; you have posts and comments. Don’t really care about the rest, and it works a heck of a lot better than the Gawker blogs.

  19. Craig Stern says:

    Posted this in the wrong spot–please delete. :)

  20. RagingLion says:

    Hmm, this might be good for getting some thoughtful opinions on non-PC games that you guys don’t cover then.

    Been looking for a good interview with Schafer since all this stuff so that was a good read – lucky timing for Mr Parkin..

  21. Kerbobotat says:

    Im really happy about this actually. RPS is the major source of all my PC-gaming related news, and I need something that covers portable games for things like Android. Its impossible to find decent games on the Android market because they are hidden amongst thousands of bad clones. Tell me though, is the site formatted for viewing on smarphones? because that would be really helpful.

  22. DiamondDog says:

    If they’re all rotten toothed Britishers why is it in dollars?

  23. dethtoll says:

    Nothing wrong with the name :|

  24. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Went to the site, and the first article I saw was them mocking Syndicate’s writer for having the audacity to say that mobile games are more shallow. Their tone is really weird and I’m not sure whether they really mean it or not.