Wot I Think: Trials Evolution Gold Edition

By John Walker on April 16th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

Trials Evolution finally came to PC shores a couple of weeks back. Rebranding itself the Gold Edition, and adding in a bunch of features unique to the PC, RedLynx has once more returned to the platform that gave them life, that they so cruelly spurned. Has it been worth the wait? Does it survive Uplay integration? Here’s wot I think:

Trials Evolution is such a huge, overflowing bucket of fun to play. Utterly great. The most fun I’ve had with a game in ages. But wow, it’s also a mess. The PC conversion of the long-imprisoned Xbox version is described as being the “Gold Edition”, but I think it maybe should have awarded itself a Silver, and taken another run at it.

The core premise remains the same as its previous PC and XBLA incarnations – you’re on a motorbike, jumping ridiculous obstacle courses. Pure, perfect idea, delivered absolutely splendidly. Great physics, refined controls, and a quick ramp up (fnarr) to monstrous difficulty, the formula is followed once again, and yet again improved upon. Hurrah!

Inside such a clusterfuck of a maze of menus, options, types of play, unlocked levels, bike types and race information. It’s as if RedLynx had carefully built the game out of a tower intricate glass poles and playing cards, then calamitously tripped up when carrying it over to the PC, the resulting spilled disaster landing on our screens. Just getting to a race requires going through a ludicrous six menus, each spiralling off in multiple directions. Starting, you sort of guess your way to what is probably the beginning point, but eventually working your way through the simple – and absolutely fantastic – courses, you realise that’s not enough to unlock the next bits. So off you go hunting again for where the rest of the game is. And so on.

Which is all very silly, since it’s obfuscating an utterly brilliant time. As ever, Trials is wondrous in its execution, and this time out the courses are more brilliant than before.

What it gets so right – and never more so than in this edition – is recreating those childhood moments of building elaborate obstacle courses for toy cars and bikes out of books, plastic lids, spare bits of drainpipe, etc, and then seeing if your wind-back-and-let go playthings could make it across. Except here, as if the best fairy ever had visited, it’s come to life!

Everything is hyperbole-to-the-ultra-max. Things meaninglessly explode around you as you race – vast quantities of nothing blowing up behind you, and maybe the track you’re on disintegrating and exploding after you’ve ridden it. It’s Richard Donner directing Jean-Claude Van Damme starring in your imagination aged 6: THE GAME.

Enormous, improbable routes go through construction sites, factories, parks, forests and the sky. Your path through them is two-dimensional, but elaborately so. You accelerate, brake, and balance your man (and it’s only a man, for no discernable reason) on the bike, sitting back and leaning forward, intricately flicking and nudging your motion to pull off exquisite moves. Or more likely falling flat on your face into a landmine before screaming at the ceiling and stabbing ‘restart’ for the forty-seventh time, grimly determined that you’ll clear it this time without a single fall, elated when you do.

The enormous numbers of checkpoints on each track ensure that you can get back on your bike within the split-second, and continue to the end. But that’s never enough – you’ll want perfectly, to start over. And here there’s a small and enormously important change from Trials HD – it doesn’t insist on running the countdown each time any more, instead giving you a single beat before a new run. Perfect again.

The tracks are so much more involved and varied this time out. While all the previous factory tracks seem to be in there (I haven’t double-checked, but I certainly recognised a lot of them), there are dozens of completely new ones of a much greater scope. Longer, dafter, even taking enforced corners as you weave through the deranged courses, you’re now able to soar madly into the sky, plummet hundreds of feet, and ride the moving parts of a construction site’s machinery. There’s less emphasis on the tiniest, fiddliest details of movement for much longer, giving a very important greater stretch of ambling fun before it gets down to its feverish difficulty levels. Which is to say, it doesn’t get so hard, so quickly, meaning the average player is going to get a lot more out of it before they hit walls of frustration.

It’s also packed with so many more completely extraneous details, little set pieces taking place in the background, invariably involving pyrotechnics. One level is set hundreds of feet in the air, with the ground below laid out like a map. Falling from an obstacle, I was waiting for it to fade out, but it didn’t, my ragdoll avatar tumbling and tumbling and tumbling before hideously smacking into the field below. Not a texture, actually there.

And once you’ve worked out how the various groups of levels are so stupidly scattered about the menus, you can nip back and forth between them, garnering enough medals to unlock ‘driver’s licenses’, that earn you better bikes, perhaps something more suited to going back and turning a few earlier silvers to golds, to see that all-important “100%” written on the group of tracks. It’s always clumsy, but eventually less distracting.

Which cannot be said for the litany of bugs the game has shipped with. Even after a couple of weeks on sale, you’ll find any number of forums filled with huge numbers of issues, mostly involving lag or texture issues. I’ve had both. Loading the game for the first time, I was bemused by the horrendous textures, staircase edges to everything, and blurry, PS1-looking feel. I had all the graphics set to the max, and yet was looking at something that looked like it running on “software”. Eventually, hidden away on a RedLynx forum, I discovered that the current fix is to set the resolution to below 1280×1024, and then back up again to what you want. And idiotically, that works. And necessary every time I launch the game.

Worse, I simply can’t run it at my desktop’s native resolution of 2560×1440. After a few minutes of working fine, it will start to lag, only slightly, but instantly unplayably. Shifting things down to 1920×1080 sees it all running perfectly, but now of course in a smaller window on my monitor. That’s been fine, but obviously not good enough.

Both issues have clearly arisen in the port from the 360 version, but neither should have been allowed through, especially not in something calling itself “Gold”. Although neither is as egregious and arse-punchingly unacceptable as when bloody sodding Uplay put up an in-game message telling me my internet connection had dropped, midway through a run, completely obscuring the screen and meaning I obviously crashed. Never mind that my internet connection hadn’t dropped and Uplay itself was still happily connected in the background. I could choose to quit the game, or carry on offline. I obviously chose the latter. Next race the bastard-faced window popped up again. Every single person responsible for this needs to be forced to spend the rest of their life having someone poke them in the eyes at every crucial moment in every film, TV show and videogame they see.

There’s lots more on offer here too. There are “Skill Games”, which give you challenges such as seeing how far you can get on a course with minimal fuel, no brakes and permanent throttle, on skis, and so on. Each is a little gimmicky, but they’re a fun variation as you go along. There are tournaments, which string together a group of previous tracks in a row. There’s a track editor, with two version – simple and complicated, for generating your own routes. And there’s multiplayer, both local and online. I’d tell you what’s in the online, but Uplay, despite being connected, is still claiming to be offline in the game.

Harrumph. But it’s all worth it, because Trials Evolution is just raw, purest fun, freshly dug from the fun mines and shipped to your computer within the day. It’s all-you-can-eat fun, and if you can eat the 5lb funburger, you get a prize of a giant pile of fun. It’s a tour on the funbus around Funtown, Funopolis, Funtopia. It’s pick-your-own fun, where you’re allowed to eat as much fun as you like while you’re picking. What I’m saying is, it’s really fun. You should probably play it.

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51 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Lim-Dul says:

    All I want to know is though: Is it any fun? ;-)

    • trjp says:

      Trials is one of the greatest games ever made for ‘fun’ but the current state of the PC version makes that hard to find at times.

      Hope they do fix it, the fun mines may be empty for decades the amount they removed…

  2. Dominic White says:

    The PC version currently lacks the (excellent and huge) expansions that the 360 version has. The moment the PC version is the complete, definitive version, I’ll buy it. Until then, I’m sticking with the console version.

    The grand irony is that the console version is 100% playable offline.

  3. pupsikaso says:

    Did he say Uplay? Does anyone, honestly, buy any games from Ubisoft any more?

    • trjp says:

      Buying UBI games from anywhere else still means using uPLAY – if you use Steam it forces you into launching a special version of uPLAY from Steam in order to launch your game!!

      • pupsikaso says:

        Um, I actually meant to say buying Ubisoft games, not that you’re buying their games from them directly.

        • trjp says:

          Ah – then you’ll not be playing this game at all which would be a massive, massive shame…

          That and Driver: SF are unmissable UPLAY titles IMO

          Well – this will be if they sort-out the performance problems, texture problems, cheating in the leaderboards (unlikely) and resolution problems!?

          • alilsneaky says:

            For starters, ubisoft has never fixed resolution problems in their games/
            Driver SF, from dust, rayman origins etc never had them fixed either.

            Secondly, driver SF is not an unmissable game, it’s an ok game gameplay wise (I’d gladly go back to never having played it and never playing it) crippled by horrible technical issues and lack of wheel support.

          • KenTWOu says:

            @alilsneaky
            Driver:SF has limited wheel support. Apparently it doesn’t support your wheel.

        • webwielder says:

          Are you honestly asking whether anyone buys games from Ubisoft, the developers of Assassin’s Creed, Rayman, Splinter Cell, and many other very popular, well-regarded game series?

          • Premium User Badge

            DrollRemark says:

            Yeah, but apart from all that, what have the Romans actually done for us?

          • KillahMate says:

            Rayman, blessedly and incredibly, has no DRM.

          • Universal Quitter says:

            Are you seriously listing must-have Ubi titles and not mentioning Far Cry 3?

            Say what you want about tired tropes and magical [REDACTED]s, the game sold WELL because it was very fun to play for most people.

          • KenTWOu says:

            @Universal Quitter
            Are you seriously mentioning Far Cry 3 and not mentioning Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon? : )

          • pupsikaso says:

            Am I honestly asking whether people buy games from a giant, heartless coorporation whose only goal is to rip as much money from people’s hands as possible, who have for the past decade released mostly risned and repeated sequels of tiresome formulas (and butchered some well-loved ones), who have ushered in a dark and illogical age of “always-on”, who have before that forced innocent consumers to install the StarForce DRM known to damage consumer’s hardware, who have denied journalists with copies of their games because of critical reviews, who have consistently spat on consumers preferring the PC platform by providing only the bear-minimal port of console versions with many problems that have never been addressed, who have bought out competing small studios and closed them down only a few years later, who have decided to delay a completed game (whose developers have worked long and hard overtime hours to meet the deadline) denying the developers their rightful dues?

            Yes, I think I am.
            The real question is, why aren’t you asking such questions? Is the prospect of a few hours of easily replaceable entertainment worth it for you? Are you so ignorant of the world around you and have you no balls or an opinion to your name that you can’t stand up and do something for something you believe in, whatever your notion of right and justice might be? Are you so weak willed that you would just as willingly buy products from a company that uses chinese children for labour without batting an eyelid? Do you not care about your own rights and conveniences as a consumer and would gladly throw it all away because OH LOOK SHINEY AND EXPLOSIONS!

            You, as a consumer in the games industry, do not only have an impact on yourself any time you buy a game, you have an impact on the whole industry. By purchasing a game you tell the baboons in their stiff suits looking at their bottom lines that whatever they are doing is good, because you bought it. I urge you to be a bit more considerate in your purchases, if not for your own sake then for the sake of others.

          • Flavioli says:

            @pupsikaso

            No… I bought Rayman: Origins from Ubi because 1) it was the best game I played in 2011, meaning it wasn’t “easily replaceable entertainment” and 2) because I figure it would be nice to reinforce Ubi’s good decision to *not* package the game with DRM. Yknow, positive reinforcement… the whole “vote with your wallet” thing everyone keeps encouraging.

            If anything, the comparatively low sales of Rayman: Origins is the real shameful thing here, as the average player made it pretty clear that 1) they don’t actually care that much about DRM and 2) that the name of the franchise is significantly more important than the quality of the game, explained by the fact the vastly inferior New Mario Bros platformer sold so many more copies than Rayman: Origins. And then people become surprised that there are so many damn Assassin’s Creed games…

            The problem here is not Ubisoft… it’s the damn consumer, sending out all the wrong messages to the publishers.

    • Premium User Badge

      JiminyJickers says:

      Yeah, plenty. The last one was Far Cry 3.

    • drvoke says:

      Sadly, they do. They’re currently holding a lot of great IPs hostage to their bullshit DRM schemes. I don’t buy them (got burned with Driver:SF, forgot to check publisher, had massive problems from uplay, uninstalled), but I understand why many do.

  4. trjp says:

    I was so pumped for this, I bought-in early and had the beta and there were many, many issues…

    As weeks went by, NONE of those issues were resolved – it went live with the same code we’d had for 2 weeks…

    I raised a ticket with UBI who told me my system was ‘below spec’ (it’s not) and then that I had the ‘wrong drivers’ (I have the latest one – they say there’s a newer one and AMD disagree) – then they stopped responding.

    Then the developers posted on their own forum, admitting there were issues and promising a fix. That was 4 weeks ago – they finally posted on the 9th to say a patch was in certification (erm?) so I’m guessing we might get it soon??

    http://forum.redlynx.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=92&t=13911&p=242662#p246605

    It’s really not good enough tho – it should have been sorted before release…

    p.s. on the resolution issue, you can hack-in any resolution you like but it only affects ‘in game’ – menus etc. will resolutely stick to something entirely different…

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      I absolutely dread having to contact Ubisoft’s support. Worst than Steam’s or EA’s by a country mile. They flat out refuse to support older games they label “legacy titles’ — good luck getting any help with trying to install that digital copy of King Kong you just bought.

    • realitysconcierge says:

      For a game that runs fine on the 360, the performance issues are dreadful :/

  5. Caiman says:

    Blah blah blah blah Uplay bl-

    *screeeeee*

    No sale.

  6. King_Rocket says:

    As great fun this game is is it’s not quite worth the $25 they are asking for it on steam, wait for a sale.

    • trjp says:

      I wonder how you can tell people what money is worth to them?

      It may not be worth it to YOU but judging other people’s value is rather arrogant? I mean how can you even being to do that?

      Do you stop people in the real world and check they bought their car used, chastise their choice of a premium model, check-over their clothing for sale tags etc? :)

      • arccos says:

        Oh, knock it off. You know how this “comments” thing works by now.

        Don’t pretend anyone here is proclaiming universal truth when they’re personal opinions.

  7. Spoon Of Doom says:

    I’ve played this a lot on XBox, and even there it’s kind of buggy. Especially when you play online – my console completely freezes every couple of online races, turning the console off and on again as the only option. Support was basically non-existant, and at some point I gave up trying to contact them.

    But when it works, boy is it fun! One of the most fun games I’ve played, which makes the bugs even more infuriating as they pull you out of having a great time.

  8. grundus says:

    Further evidence to support my theory that Ubisoft holds some of the very best IPs in gaming, most of which are extremely fun to play when they work, but they just can’t seem to get their developers to actually make the fucking things work as well as any other game in all areas. It’s absolutely infuriating because I genuinely enjoy their games, even the ones most people regard as terrible (Rainbow Six Vegas, Splinter Cell: Conviction, etc), but there’s usually something that puts me right off.

    As such, I’ll pick this up when it hits 75% off or something. I want to play it but I don’t want to put up with their amateur bullshit.

  9. jama says:

    I know this post is about Trials Evolution, but I want to recommend that you try another game about motorcycles which is (imo) more fun:

    http://elastomania.com/

    Fans are keeping it alive and well thanks to all kinds of hacks (better resolutions! online play!): http://elmaonline.net/
    http://elmaonline.net/dl/EOL.zip

    Btw, John: May I kindly request a WIT (or at least an Impressions feature) on Elasto Mania?

    • Cunning Linguist says:

      Their site doesn’t even have any images other than some eastern european flag.

  10. Premium User Badge

    DrollRemark says:

    Funnily enough, I had just downloaded the demo of this on the 360 today, and the first thing that struck me is how unnecessarily complex the menus are. It reminded me of the Burnout series for that.

  11. roryok says:

    I know its a little off topic, but this sponsored link bit on the site needs to go away. I’ve paid a donation / subscription to read RPS. Despite that, I still put up with the fact that the site is basically a giant fucking ad for some AAA title with stories in a small column in the middle. I’m happy to ignore these ads because they don’t mess up my experience. I’m happy to ignore the spam comments even though little is done to prevent them from being posted.

    But this? This is not even related to gaming in general, never mind PC gaming. This is just the same vacuous, spammy bullshit that seems to be invading the rest of the internet, one site at a time. I am not OK with it. Not even a little bit.

    I realise you all have to earn a living, but have some bloody standards. That’s what made us love RPS to start with.

    • realitysconcierge says:

      Try Adblock https://code.google.com/p/adblockforchrome/. It works wonders and even gets rid of those exact ads you are referring to :) I’m sure firefox has a similar extension if that’s your browser of choice

    • OfficerMeatbeef says:

      There were some statements regarding this stuff from an RPS gent (Jim I think?) in the comments of a story a few days ago, though I unfortunately cannot remember which it might be. In any case, if I recall correctly, the gist of it is that giving subscribers the ability to go ad-free is very much something the team considers pretty much essential and hopes to implement soon, but is not exactly trivial to do so.

      In the meantime, it was a tough decision but they went with those things because they really want to hire another writer soon and need the extra income, and the network apparently makes it very easy for them to weed out the particularly dumb/objectionable stuff, especially if people send them a quick note indicating the troublesome item in question.

      I hope I got that generally right?

    • Stochastic says:

      I feel like intrusive ads are the worst way to increase the site’s income, unless it’s only being done a as a temporary measure. Honestly, I think what RPS needs most is a site redesign. WordPress has served them well, but it might be time to move on. While there’s something endearing about the blog format, given the prolificness of the site I think they should consider an alternate layout. I read RPS because of the WITs, in-depth interviews, and fantastic longform pieces. The barrage of minor news and trailer announcement posts gets in the way of that, so I think they should be blocked separately.

      Here’s an example of the type of layout that might serve RPS well: http://www.anandtech.com/ Anandtech recently did a redesign, and while I don’t like everything about it, there are some very nice aspects to it:
      1. News pieces (“Pipeline stories”) are kept separate from major articles.
      2. Wide layout for easy reading.
      3. Photo-centric design with graphic design elements that group and delineate different parts of the site.
      4. Ads aren’t overly intrusive yet still prominent.
      5. Lots of older articles can be accessed on a single page.
      6. Headers at top of page help organize content for easy access.

      Having a subscription option that would eliminate ads and perhaps offer a few others perks would also be nice.

      • Kieron Gillen says:

        While I wouldn’t deny RPS could probably do with a lick of paint and a ceremonial burning to the ground, if you’re only into the features and reviews, there’s channels for each at the top of the site to access each individually.

        • Stochastic says:

          Thanks for pointing that out! It’s funny how after reading RPS for years I never noticed that.

    • Cunning Linguist says:

      All gaming sites are sold out, probably becuase it’s better to make money playing and pushing video games than most other jobs, and the AAA companies have more money than indies. The online gaming press is probably the major (free) promotional outlet for game publishers, and their affiliates.

      I imagine any website that sticks to old-fashioned principles is quickly buried and finds itself with zero readers through the magic of Google.

  12. OfficerMeatbeef says:

    Yep, nailed it on all counts with this one. An amazingly fun, brilliant game with a shockingly fancy and adaptable engine for what is, at its core, basically a 2d platformer on a bike, stuck with an unfortunate bit of mess around a few of the PC porting corners.

    The nutty part of some of the menu wonkiness with regards to “wait, so how do I continue to progress?” is that a good portion of it comes about because they actually went to the effort of integrating the original Trials HD (“HD Warehouse”) stuff with the progression of the Evolution (“Crash Course”) stuff, which is actually rather cool as I expected they’d be completely divorced from one another. Unfortunately, the way it was “integrated” does lead to the rather unintuitive “back and forth” menu business brought up here, particularly as the HD and Evolution levels each have their own complete difficulty curves since they were originally stand alone.

    I would suggest the best way to handle it for those starting up is to begin on Crash Course and be aware that once you seem to be having trouble getting medals to progress, you should just switch over to the HD Warehouse set where you should find the first couple groups of levels there very simple to rack up your medals in.

    Other than that, although I haven’t had the resolution troubles or issues with Uplay experienced here, I definitely run into some occasional rather inexplicable performances hitches when the game otherwise runs smooth as silk otherwise. Sometimes it’s the framerate just dying randomly on a level restart when it’s been fine the previous 15 -50 starts, other times it’s a somewhat more predictable stuttering that seems to set in for me whenever a fire effect is being played. Whatever the cause, a bit of sudden inexplicable herky-jerky can very easily mess up a really good run; let’s hope they do make good on the patches for this one. It really deserves it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Craig Pearson says:

      This is pretty much my experience, too. I’ve had no issues with Uplay, and a couple of framerate hitches. It’s painful others have, because I’ve wanted to recommend it to people for weeks, but can’t guarantee it’ll work for them.

  13. Jarenth says:

    Oh, Uplay. Why do you ruin everything you touch, forever? Still, I’ve been hoping for a chance to play Trials at some point… I’ll likely just take your advice and attempt to power through the nonsense. I’ve gotten used to worse.

    If the best fairy ever did visit your childhood obstacle courses, there’d probably be more poison and bad guy guts all over the place.

  14. GreatUncleBaal says:

    The UPlay integration is bloody awful. I bought it via Steam, not realising I still had to set up UPlay. It made me install another version of Uplay (I already have it on my PC), creating a kind of alternate universe where the only game I have on there is Trials.

    Yes, I cannot actually launch Trials from my Uplay account, as it doesn’t appear there unless I launch through Steam, which then launches its own weird version of my UPlay. My main Uplay account doesn’t show me as owning the game, despite all my other titles being there. Absolutely obnoxious.

    Curiously it’s the only game that’s ever managed to give me motion sickness, probably due to the rotten jerkiness unless I scale the graphics right down. I’ve stepped away from it for now in the hopes a patch fixes some performance issues. The core game, once you’re on track, still feels fun, but overall I’ve found it to be massively disappointing.

    • Kobest says:

      I know how you feel about the “Steam-only Uplay account.” I remember getting Driver: San Frasisco on sale from Steam and the exact same thing happened. I tried to launch it directly from Uplay, but according to the non-Steam Uplay, I didn’t even have the game!

      Why would anyone design a launch program this way, is beyond me.

      • trjp says:

        Steam UBI games all have their ‘own’ versions of UPLAY – it’s so that Steam can update the game instead of UPLAY doing it.

        It means you have need a launcher (Steam) to launch a launcher (UPLAY) to launch a game – it’s annoying-as-hell.

        UBI reps have said that’s how it’s meant to be and they won’t give access to ‘Steam’ UBI games in normal UPLAY because they’re not quite the same versions – apparently.

        It means I never buy UBI games from Steam – is all – tho the 2 I have (PoP:TFS and Trials) are bad enough.

      • KenTWOu says:

        Why would anyone design a launch program this way, is beyond me.

        Cause Steam has its own SteamApps folder and its own update system, that’s why! Otherwise you will have constant conflicts between Uplay and Steam. Do you really want this? I don’t.

  15. lamzor says:

    i bought this game in preorder because i love trials like games since elastomania.
    i couldnt start the game at first because of uplay problems. when i did i noticed nasty lags or drops in FPS when FPS went lower than 58-53(max FPS is locked to 60). without v-sync ofc. really poor xbox port. additionaly, multiplayer didnt work for first 3-4 days at all – everyone just crashed to windows. i have contacted steam support and they kindly refunded me for this shitty sale.

    most anoying was to find out that all this problems were in the game since early alfa/beta versions. im NEVER buying a game without checking steam forum first(stupid me, bought this game for its stellar xbox reviews). i also think that biggest engine problems wont be fixed, because it wasnt fixed since alfa/beta.

  16. Michael Fogg says:

    >>>You accelerate, brake, and balance your man (and it’s only a man, for no discernable reason) on the bike

    Definitely a missed opportunity here, just think of the possible jiggle physics on a female biker model!

  17. clippa says:

    Yeah, it’s a pretty crappy port. Framerate is capped at 60fps, the games speed is tied to the framerate, so, for example, if you cap the framerate to 30fps, the game will run at half speed so I wouldn’t try running it on a netbook or anything.
    The game doesn’t like any refresh rate other than 60hz. I have a 120hz monitor and have to use a custom resolution to force 60hz in order for the game to run smoothly.
    Vsync, even at 60hz, is broken, even turning it off in game and forcing it on via nvidia control panel results in the game stuttering at times.
    Same ridiculous texture pop in as the console version. Optimised and enhanced for the pc platform, my arse.
    On top of that, there’s a weird shadow flickering issues.

    The game is great regardless but if like me, you played the 360 demo and waited for the pc version, I’d advise you to just buy the console version. It’s, sadly, the better version.

    Version.

  18. Todor Pichurov says:

    You just had to make a point that there is no female bike rider in an arcade game that features a faceless doll on a bike, didn’t you?

    • Cunning Linguist says:

      Women have money to spend on games too, it’s a huge market waiting to be tapped! Just look at facebook!