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Saturday, 23 November 2013

How changing gaming habits may dampen the party for Xbox One and PS4?

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Xbox One and PS4 are here and looking at the look of things, they don’t seem to be going away in a hurry. Both the consoles are selling like hot cakes with each able to rack up sales of 1 million units in just 24 hours. Those are impressive numbers for any consumer device. There have been estimates that both the consoles would be easily able to outsell their predecessor. Going by that estimation, the newly launched consoles are going to be huge hits considering the fact that both Xbox 360 and PS3 have managed to sell around 80 million units individually. Those are big numbers.

All seem to be rosy for MS and Sony but is it really so? I mean, yes the new consoles have got a rousing reception but is that not also due to the huge pent up demand that has been building for the last 3 years. This has been the longest console cycle ever, extending well over 3 years from the generally accepted norm. That has resulted in a huge demand for new hardware for the devoted fan boys. Considering these theories, it was almost certain that whenever a new console is launched, it would be greeted with open arms. And that has happened. So what’s next?

A lot has changed over the last 8 years when the Xbox 360 was launched. For one, a certain Apple along with its quarreling sibling, the Android, has captured and ruled over the attention of the masses. Gaming has evolved from being confined to the living room to be present on train, stations, offices, shopping malls and practically everywhere humans have been. Simply put, the gaming habit of the average gamer has evolved. The smartphone and the tablet along with the consoles have become the main gaming machines. Yes, it is true that the level of engagement or the kind of games is not the same when mobile gaming is compared to consoles. But that does not take away from the fact that people are getting their compulsory doses of gaming away from their consoles. Also mobile games are doing an increasingly good job at delivering nearly the same kind of experience as got from a console game. Not same but nearly. Games like Reptide GP or Prince of Persia Shadows & Flames allow me to have a deep gaming experience without switching on my console.

A lot may say that mobiles would never be able to catch up to the kind of games that consoles deliver
and I would agree with them. But the question is that are we really concerned about the hardcore devoted gamer who crave for that kind of experience? He will anyway play on his console. But what about the not so devoted gamer? If he is getting nearly the same kind of experience at a fraction of the cost and at his choice of convenience, it would be tough ask to compel him to invest hundreds of dollars on a new gaming device. Many gamers game because it allows them to escape their routine life and get into a world of fantasy. If their phones are allowing them to do just that whenever they please to, would they be willing to go back to their consoles? The answer is not absolute but it’s a “Maybe No”.

It’s not all gloomy for consoles. I think that they would survive and grow as well but maybe not at the same pace at which they have grown over the past generations. They would need to do things differently this time around. For one, they would need to integrate the different mobile devices as second screens in their platforms. The mobile devices need to be an important integrated part of the consoles. Games need to designed and developed in such a way that they would make use of both the consoles as well as the user’s smartphone. The experience needs to be connected. For Microsoft, the Surface and Windows 8 phones become so much more important. The same goes for Sony’s PS Vita. If they can find some way to meaningfully integrate the mobile devices in their whole ecosystem, gamers may see a lot of added value in buying the new consoles.

While doing so, both Xbox One and PS4 need to deliver better & more of what they have been known for: great quality games. They need to up the ante so much that the gamers would find the difference in quality between the mobile and console games big enough. That would make it much harder for them to ignore the consoles. Bigger better games should be a huge help for the consoles. They would also need to give a lot of space to the Indies as that’s where the real innovation lies. Again care would need to balance the price point with the value offering so as not to dilute the value of their bigger brother, the AAA games.

With so much going on in the industry, so many new developments almost everyday, it would be very difficult for anyone to guess one clear-cut winner. The whole ecosystem is changing, and changing fast. The one who would be able to adjust and adapt would be the one who is more likely to succeed. Change is here and its forever. In the famous words of Friedrich Nietzsche: “The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.” 

Siddharth has been playing games since forever and loves it so much so he decided to make a profession out of it. After completing his MBA, he decided to join EA to learn the ropes of the industry. A Game Producer and Game Designer by profession, while not playing games, he loves to read about them, watch movies and spend quality time with his family. His passion for writing led to the creation of this blog.

To know more about the latest in games, reviews and news, please visit http://www.facebook.com/videogamesunlimited


Monday, 11 November 2013

Why do we need PS4 and Xbox One to succeed?


We are on the doorstep of the next generation of consoles. Both Xbox One and PS4 would be launched within a month to eagerly awaiting gamers. Massive number of both the consoles has been preordered. The estimate is that the number of preorder is at least 2 times more than the last generation. Going by the media hype, the coming generation promises to get a huge launch, with both the consoles selling millions of units.

However, this success would continue for a long term is another question all together. A lot would depend on how the consoles can differentiate from one another in terms of feature sets, the kind of games and software that they are going to make available and the overall value they can provide. I am sure that both the companies with their extensive marketing and research teams would have figured these points out, at least in their strategies.



Personally, I believe that it’s really important for both the consoles to succeed in the coming generation. There are multitudes of reasons for believing so. One of the major reason why I want the generation to succeed is that it has the capacity to really expand the revenue potential of the industry. Along with increasing the revenue of the industry, it also stands to bring new kinds of integrations between software and hardware, especially considering the fact that both the consoles are being touted as entertainment devices fit for the living room. The last boom enjoyed by the industry was when the last console generation was launched, back in 2005. The upcoming generation promises to bring the good times again.

A host of platforms have emerged since the launch of the last generation of consoles. Companies, which were primarily developing for consoles are now also developing for all kinds of platforms, like IOS, Android and Social. The success enjoyed by the upcoming generation would bring in a lot more money, which can be invested in developing great games for these platforms. The whole industry would benefit from the success of one segment just like the success of mobile gaming has allowed companies to sustain in consoles during the last 2 years. It’s a win-win situation for all the different segments of the industry.

What more could the success of Xbox One and PS4 bring to the industry? Mobile gaming can learn a lot from console gaming like AAA production values, the different ways in which player engagement
can be implemented which allows console games to hook on the players for hours, the art of story telling. There are a lot of things that can be learnt from consoles. Consoles could also learn a lot from mobile gaming, especially in the way the games can be socially integrated along with adoption of different business models. The only way this learning process can continue is if the two very different segments co-exist.

As a gamer, I would really love for Xbox One and PS4 to succeed. They are the epitome of gaming and allow me to have and play games that are just not possible on any other platform. It keeps the gamer inside me alive and kicking. Don’t get me wrong. I love mobile gaming. Clash of clans, Deer Hunter, Dead Trigger, Cut the Rope are some of my favorite games of all time. I love playing them. But they are not Call of Duty, GTA, Battlefield and they would never be. These are the games that top everything else I would want to do in my spare time. And I would want to keep on having them forever. Mobile gaming, though brilliant, still doesn’t have the legs or the shoulders to carry the industry. For the sake of diversity that allows so many different kinds of experiences for the same player, lets just hope that both Xbox One and PS4 are a huge success, endearing us for many more years to come. Looking forward to the good times again.

Siddharth has been playing games since forever and loves it so much so he decided to make a profession out of it. After completing his MBA, he decided to join EA to learn the ropes of the industry. A Game Producer and Game Designer by profession, while not playing games, he loves to read about them, watch movies and spend quality time with his family. His passion for writing led to the creation of this blog.
To know more about the latest in games, reviews and news, please visit http://www.facebook.com/videogamesunlimited


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Xbox One DVR feature: Possibilities and Pitfalls


Xbox One will be launching on November 22, right at the doorstep of Christmas. However it would be facing stiff competition from Sony’s PS4 which would be launching a week before on November 15th in US. This is going to be one hell of a battle where each would be trying to outdo the other in the bid to garner as much attention as possible. Each would be bringing along their own set of amazing features with a hope that they are able to bring some amount of differentiation in the minds of the player. Armed with a host of launch titles, both Microsoft and Sony are bullish that this is going to be the biggest console launch in history.

There is no doubt that both the consoles have some amazing features and capabilities that allow the player to have amazing new experiences. One such feature that Xbox One brings is the DVR. The new Game DVR feature keeps a rolling video of the last five minutes of gameplay, so you can share it online or with your friends. Some games come complete with an Upload Studio feature that lets you edit clips and add effects or voice over before uploading. What would this possibly mean for the individual gamer as well as the industry on the whole?



For starters, it allows gamers to capture and share their gameplay footage with a lot more ease. There would be no more requirement for gamers to get additional software and hardware to capture their gaming clips. It becomes much easier for the not too tech savvy player to capture video game footage and share with friends and family. This would increase the number of player uploading game footage to websites like youtube. How would this help the gaming industry? Increased exposure to gaming clips and the ability to share would definitely increase the chances that people may pick up a lot of games that their friends are playing.

It also allows the gamers to do a lot more with their games and increases the engagement factor. People can play tutor and load multiple walkthroughs of the difficult portions of the game. A lot of people would do so to either help their fellow gamers or boast of their incredible gaming skill. Either way, it would mean a higher engagement level with their game. The ability to share video clips would be specially helpful in games where there are multiplayer modes. I for one would love to upload a video of me getting the better of my friend in our favorite Battlefield game. It is just so much more fun.

The ability to record and share video also does a lot of good for the console as well as the industry on the whole. It would make the console a much more socially integrated device, something which has been a bone of contention for a lot of people in the current generation. It would also give a lot of freedom to game designers to come up with scenarios where the player can share video content with his peers. Different gameplay scenarios can be designed keeping in mind this particular feature. That being said, care would need to be taken while designing the game to keep the action balanced or else too many over the top action sequences would creep into the game just to cater to this feature.

The feature to capture and share video clips would also put a lot of pressure on game developers to really improve the cinematic quality of their games. Some games don’t actually require a heavy emphasis on graphics but this feature may tempt a lot of developers, especially the ones working under the influence of a traditional publisher to go that way, considering the marketing potential of social sharing. A delicate balance would need to be maintained while developing games keeping the video sharing feature in mind or else there lies a danger of skewing the gameplay.

The feature has a lot of potential to do good. It not only allows player to get more engaged with their games but also give the developers the opportunity to bring a lot more in their game. The scope it provides for marketing, word of mouth and social interaction is immense. The final piece in this puzzle can be the kind of  integration it can have with the different social networks. The success of this feature would also depend on one factor, its ease of use and manageability. If Microsoft is able to nail down these factor, it would be a huge boost for their console as well as for the industry as a whole.

Siddharth has been playing games since forever and loves it so much so he decided to make a profession out of it. After completing his MBA, he decided to join EA to learn the ropes of the industry. A Game Producer and Game Designer by profession, while not playing games, he loves to read about them, watch movies and spend quality time with his family. His passion for writing led to the creation of this blog.

To know more about the latest in games, reviews and news, please visit

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Importance of balancing your Game for Monetization

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I read a recent article, which talked about the newly released IOS game, Batman Arkham Origins. The main focus of the article was the monetization of the game and how even when the game is well appreciated & free, it is not among the top grossing games in the market. That article brought a lot of my attention to the tricky subject of designing the monetization model of your game.

Free to play has been hugely instrumental in bringing a lot of new players in the ecosystem. It has also allowed developers to get more revenue for their games just on the basis of huge number of downloads. However, if not done right, the free to play model can have a damaging effect on the developer’s revenue. Care should be taken to design the monetization model in such a way that it allows the player to play & enjoy the game as it is supposed to be while also giving him incentive to spend money in the game.

The primary target for any game designer should be to make his game as fun as possible. The attention should never deviate from this aspect of game development. Too many times in the pursuit for increasing the spending of the player, designers put a lot of restrictions in front of the player hence eroding the fun factor. This should never be the case. Once the game is made fun to play, the next step should invariably be to develop the monetization model around the game.

There are different ways in which the monetization model can be designed. A lot of free to play games are often Pay to Win games where the only way for the player to win the game or remain competitive is to spend money in the game. This often leads to frustrated players who leave the game before it has a chance to impress them. Pay to Win takes away the competitive factor based on skill which has always been one of the most important factors in games. May the best man win just doesn’t apply in this scenario. I have always believed that monetization model should be designed in such a way that it allows the player to enjoy the game uninhibited, just based on skill. There can be other ways to increase player spending which would allow the player to have more of the fun he is having rather than restricting his progress. This can surely be in the terms of buying better weapons or powers but they should not be definitely required if the player is skilled enough to win without them.


Advertisements are another way in which developers can successfully monetize their games. There are multiple different ways in which advertisements can be implemented in games. The way in which advertisement is implemented should be dependent on the kind of gameplay. Again, gameplay & fun is the most important factor to be considered here. Advertisements should not be intrusive to the game. For example, in a game where the player has to play with a lot of concentration, banner ads may not be the most profitable option, as the player would seldom pay attention to them. Also it may appear intrusive to the gameplay. In this case, full-page ads can be much more viable. Banner ads should best be used in games where on the main game screen; there is a lot of free space, which can be utilized. The frequency of ads would also be important, especially when full-page ads are concerned. It would appear common sense that full-page ads should not appear in the main game but you would be surprised to know that’s not always the case. I have played numerous games where after starting the game, a full-page ad pops up in the middle of the game, disrupting my experience. It’s very annoying to say the least.

There are a lot of free games in the market that are extremely fun to play but don’t earn enough money for their developers just because the monetization model was weak. On the other hand, a lot of very high potential games are killed just when the journey with the player has started because of the frequent insistence to spend money. The most successful games are those who are successful in forming an efficient partnership between fun and monetization, without one coming in the way of another. This however is easier said than done but if some games can do it, so can others. 

Siddharth has been playing games since forever and loves it so much so he decided to make a profession out of it. After completing his MBA, he decided to join EA to learn the ropes of the industry. A Game Producer and Game Designer by profession, while not playing games, he loves to read about them, watch movies and spend quality time with his family. His passion for writing led to the creation of this blog.
To know more about the latest in games, reviews and news, please visit http://www.facebook.com/videogamesunlimited

Friday, 25 October 2013

Gaming on the Go: How connected experiences would shape this industry


EA announced recently that it’s working on a high end Battlefield game for mobile. As per a report on Polygon: "We are working on a mobile game of Battlefield that will be high-end and high performance," Gibeau said. "It's our bet that we can successfully pull that off. But we're embarking on something no one has ever done before — to get these games to inter-operate between platforms. Will it work? It already has in some cases. Will it work for all franchises? Not all franchises will make the transition. Battlefield might be a little harder." What does it mean for gaming? Is it the advent of something new or just an announcement to create the hype?



With the evolution of games, the increase in the number of gamers & the proliferation of the variety of devices, I believe that the next possible step in evolution should be the games that people can play across the different platforms available. What would be awesome is that I can stop playing my favorite game on my console, switch it off and then on the way to my office, I can pick the game up again on my iphone. That would be completely awesome. It would allow me the chance to keep on playing my favorite game without the breaks enforced by the platform restrictions. “The player should never stop playing”, this is the dream of every game developer. Making the game functional across different platforms would be a huge step in this direction.



How would this be beneficial to the developer? I think the answer is obvious that it would allow the players to have a continuous experience. But is the extra effort required to make the game cross platform justified? I think so. The biggest problem that most games face is the number of competition for the limited gaming time of the player. This holds true especially for console games which is facing huge amount of competition from mobile games that offer great affordable experience. If the console games can somehow manage to take up the time spent by its player on mobile in playing their own games, I guess they would be in a much better situation as far as competing for the game time is concerned.

The benefit for making games cross platform are huge but they should not be forced for all kinds of games. I think the mobile counterpart of the console games should be able to offer quality experience & value addition to the overall game. If not then it would appear forced and would be quickly shunted by the community. It would work best where there is a lot of social interaction or where the player can decide on some strategy for the upcoming mission. Lets take an example to elaborate this point. Consider making a first person shooter where the player has to go through the different missions. While the main game would be played on the console at home which would involve most of the action, the player can take up various other parts of the game like procuring ammo, training the character to acquire different skills or getting help from allies (could be a social component) on their smart phones. This would allow a continuous experience & hence be involved with their favorite game longer. A win-win situation for both the developer & the player.

While creating these kind of connected experiences, some more points would need to be taken care of. The mobile experiences should be designed in such a way that it would be run on different kind of devices. It should not be too process intensive that it is compatible with only a few high-end configurations else it runs the danger of not being mass adopted. Also it should not given an undue advantage to a gamer with a high-end mobile device as compared to someone with a simpler smartphone. If the platform or the OS is the same, it should provide the same experience.
Connected experiences would be a huge step forward for gaming. I would love to play a game or enjoy a universe that doesn’t make me stop just because I am not at home or not connected to a particular system. I would love to keep on playing, only stopping when I want to & I believe there are many more like me. Hopefully the great minds in this industry would manage to come up with something that fulfills just that & take the giant leap forward.

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Siddharth has been playing games since forever and loves it so much so he decided to make a profession out of it. After completing his MBA, he decided to join EA to learn the ropes of the industry. A Game Producer and Game Designer by profession, while not playing games, he loves to read about them, watch movies and spend quality time with his family. His passion for writing led to the creation of this blog.

To know more about the latest in games, reviews and news, please visit http://www.facebook.com/videogamesunlimited

Friday, 18 October 2013

Why Free to Play is not always a solution?

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The date was June 29th, 2007 when the future of gaming was changed forever. One guy by the name of Steve Jobs with a vision & the backing of an incredible team gave to the world the iphone. The phone changed the landscape of handheld devices forever. It was revolutionary, it was inspired and it brought high quality games in the hands of millions of people.

Gaming changed forever and for the good. It brought the masses to an industry, which has always been considered niche when compared to other mass entertainment mediums. It made gaming mainstream. The industry grew leaps and bounds and a new set of developers and gamers emerged. There is no doubt that iphone and subsequently Android have played a huge role in bringing the gaming industry to where it is today.



There was however one more catalyst that increased the pace of change. The introduction of Free to Play. Free to Play games has been the single biggest factor that has helped to increase the number of people playing more and more games on their mobile devices. It has reduced the barrier to entry to mobile games. True that Free to Play is not a new concept and has been in games for ages. But it has been adopted whole-heartedly by the masses in the form of mobile free to play games.
Where mobile has made gaming casual, Free to Play has made the process of getting new games casual as well. Now players don’t think twice before downloading a game if it is free, as he has nothing to lose. This has led to huge download numbers for games and coupled up with unique business models like In-App Purchases and Advertisement, it has allowed developers to rack huge amount of revenue. This burgeoning success of the Free to Play model has led to almost everyone believe that Free to Play is the only model of success to be followed, specially on platforms like Android. Some major publishers like EA have actually gone to lengths to say that Free to Play would be their major strategy going forward for all games to be released on mobile.

But is Free to Play the solution to all kind of games? I don’t think so. Games are experiences, very unique ones where the gamer not only accepts stimulus but also actively responds to it hence altering the whole environment, which produces the stimulus in the first place. This kind of highly evolved entertainment cannot be restricted to a single medium of presentation. If it were done, it would seriously limit the way the medium is enjoyed by the players. Also Free to Play is suited for those kinds of games, which can go on for a long period of time. Games, which rely a lot on storytelling, for example would not be best suited to Free to Play model. How can a story keep on going forever? There has to be an ending. And if the story ends, which in turn means the end of the game; it would not be the ideal situation for a Free to Play game.



Free to Play has also come under a lot of criticism by people saying that it is necessarily evil that it wants to extort money out of people by all different means. Well, I don’t completely buy into this argument as it also allows people to try a lot more games and then pay for those games that sit nicely with their likings. However, a lot of developers have been guilty to producing games that are undercooked or don’t offer the whole feature package with the intent of making players to pay money. This is unwarranted as players should be willing to pay money to get more of the awesome experience they are already getting, rather than pay money to just taste the whole experience. This shouldn’t be the case and if this persists, it would just erode value in the eyes of gamers.

A lot of developers have credited Free to Play as the single biggest factor for the increase in their revenue. This is true for most of the cases. But lets not forget the point that Free to Play also brings along with it different requirements like the requirement to support the game for a long period of time with constant updates and bug fixes. With the whole ecosystem changing so frequently, it is a herculean task to keep on updating your game. This becomes that much more difficult and financially unviable if the number of DAUs is not big enough to warrant the investment in terms of ROI. But then if you don’t provide the constant updates & the bug fixes, you tend to unnerve your current player base. This seems to be a precarious situation for many developers.

There is no doubt that Free to Play is an amazing model as it allows both the player as well as the developer a lot of freedom. It has taken the industry to unseen heights in terms of player engagement. But is it the answer to all kind of games. Highly unlikely. This industry would be best served if the different models co-exist together so that they can serve their requirement as & when required. I would like to end this with a quote from George R.R. Martin (A Game of Thrones): “Different roads sometimes lead to the same Castle” which perfectly explains the differences in business models yet the common ground sought by them.

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Siddharth has been playing games since forever and loves it so much so he decided to make a profession out of it. After completing his MBA, he decided to join EA to learn the ropes of the industry. A Game Producer and Game Designer by profession, while not playing games, he loves to read about them, watch movies and spend quality time with his family. His passion for writing led to the creation of this blog.
To know more about the latest in games, reviews and news, please visit http://www.facebook.com/videogamesunlimited

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Look Mama: No Gate!!


Closed market or Open, the debate about which is better for the gamer as well as the publishers has been a long-standing one in the gaming domain. Its one topic that brings out the strongest emotions in their supporters who often have never ending points to prove their case. It is one debate that has picked up pace again with Valve coming up with their own apparently open system in Steam Box. Set to go one-on-one against the next generation consoles like Xbox One & PS4 to compete for space in the living room, Valve’s Steam Box has a lot to prove before it can be proclaimed as the decisive winner.




Each has their own benefits, both for the gamer as well as the developers. Each has their own merits and is suited to succeed, depending on the needs. Open systems are generally more open to new and innovative ideas. Since there are no gatekeepers that can prevent radical ideas from getting into the system, it allows for people to implement their ideas, which are often rejected at the doors of closed systems. It allows developers to move away from the proven formula and dwell into something more unknown. Yes it may result into very weird ideas, but often gems come out of these so-called experiments. This kind of result is often more difficult to achieve in closed systems where every idea is evaluated by the owners of the market for conformity to their own set of rule. Needless to mention that Open markets grow at speeds often unmatched by closed markets.

The freedom to come up with new kind of ideas often comes with their own cost in the form of games, which are nothing, more that trash. Games, which appear extraordinary in the minds of the developers don’t necessarily come out in the same way. With no gatekeepers, there is no way to stop these games from getting in the hands of the gamers. This doesn’t help the reputation of the market. Not only gamers but also this is not helpful to the developers as the huge amount of unregulated games often make it difficult for the deserving ones to be easily discoverable. This in turn affects the profitability of the games, which results in discouraged developers. This is where closed markets have a distinctive advantage as they are better equipped to monitor the quality of their games as well as their discoverability, which gives more financial motivation to professional developers.



Closed markets often have lesser amount of games, but have better average quality. This draws in more players as they are more assured of the games they spend their money on. Since the discover ability of the games is better & only better quality games are entertained, these kinds of markets are more attractive to the professional developers. This leads to an ecosystem, which is supportive of the development community as well as the gamers.

Closed markets also allow for much more control over how the market shapes up in the long run as compared to open markets. It is mainly because bringing change in the way of functioning of the market keeping in mind the ever-changing landscape is much easier in closed markets as compared to open markets because of inertia. It also allows for better development of business models & practices, which in turn helps the whole community.


Practically speaking, completely open markets are more of an ideal as compared to reality. Take Steam Box for instance. Yes the hardware is very open in nature that allows the players to install any OS of their choice or even configure their own Steam Boxes. But is the Steam marketplace truly open in nature. The recent struggles and disappointments of a lot of Indie developers point out otherwise. For gaming to really succeed, there need to be a balanced mix of properties of open and closed markets so that the community can benefit from both. Hopefully with time, Valve will get the heady mixture just right for the sake of us all. Until then, let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Siddharth has been playing games since forever and loves it so much so he decided to make a profession out of it. After completing his MBA, he decided to join EA to learn the ropes of the industry. A Game Producer and Game Designer by profession, while not playing games, he loves to read about them, watch movies and spend quality time with his family. His passion for writing led to the creation of this blog.
To know more about the latest in games, reviews and news, please visit http://www.facebook.com/videogamesunlimited