Meet The GANG: Gaming Death Podcast & EP 100 Party On June 12th 2014! #E32014 #E3Live #E3

Breaking News!

We have live coverage on the @GeekyAntics Twitter and GeekyAntics.net site.  Tonight, June 10th 2014, at around 9pm Eastern (6pm Pacific) we’ll be doing a special E3 show with the Gaming Death Podcast.

E3 - Electronic Entertainment Expo - E3 2014 #E3Live

Big things going on.  Come join the GANG for #E3Live fun.  So far, I’m most enjoying the small studio and indie releases.  I dig what Microsoft is doing with the ID@XBox program.  Any time us little guys have a chance to level the playing field, that is exciting news to me!

Project Spark is particularly intriguing.  This is a sandbox game that actually allows you to create your own games.  Will this be like RPG Maker Ace VX or will it be more akin to Sony’s Little Big Planet?  Competition is heating up and it’s GREAT!

More E3 Coverage Here

Special thanks to the Gaming Death Podcast and GamingDeath.com for keeping us updated on all the latest video game news.  Even if you’re not into gaming, this technology and the game mechanics of it all are worth checking out.  E3 is, after all, a marketer’s wet dream, no?

So, what have you enjoyed of the #E32014 reveals so far?

Meet The GANG: Gaming Death Podcast & EP 100 Party On June 12th 2014! #E32014.

XBox Or PS4? Why It Does Not Really Matter

Soooo… The burning question these days people have for me is this:

Are you or should I get? XBox One or PS4?

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For now, I say neither. That was my opinion months ago and it will be my stance a year from now. I originally drafted this article when we started to see real demos of the PS4 and XBox One.

I find the launch titles are uninspiring. Call of Duty is old hat and I want to milk Battlefield 3 Premium before upgrading. Racing games and sports? I will pass.

Not enough for you? Let’s go through it point by point.

Continue reading

Microsoft Brings Out SECRET WEAPON B: Premium Price Drops & XBox Elite

I have returned with more information about the rumored XBox 360 price drops and system reinvention. I think this topic alone has created much buzz, simply because everyone keeps waiting for the huge holiday sale, only to be disappointed with empty promises. I promised Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day sales for the XBox 360 and it happened, in spite of all the nay sayers trying to discredit the news bit (and spamming me on MySpace – thanks Brandon).

ZOMG - Halo 3 in HDMI? I can't wait for Christmas 2007!
[ If you are like many console gamers and Halo 3 really excites you, you may want to read on! ]

With the first quarter of 2007 being mostly quiet, we see the same trends carrying on from 2006’s year-end news: PS3 still suffers from supply issues, forcing Sony to focus on their PS2. This leaves the next-gen arena mostly to Microsoft. Many say that this is the reason for which they will not be pushing price drops for a while, but I still beg to differ as it is much more complex than that. In fact, my colleagues at YouNewb have been dubious for a while until we got some mixed signals from certain Microsoft representatives. It turns out that the folks at Microsoft were telling consumers one thing and certain press/PR contacts another, essentially pitting us against each other!

Continue reading

XBox Live and The Online Multiplayer Arena

In one of my previous articles , I discussed some of the distinctions of the current next-gen systems and how the rules are different now.  Roughly two generations back, console gaming was pretty balanced.  Every major system had a substantial market share (yes, Sega Saturn definitely drew the shortest straw), pricing made the experience open to almost anyone, technology was still very simple, and online multiplayer was not heard of.  This was a time when a hardcore PC gamer would likely laugh at you for suggesting they downgrade to a console.  Games like DOOM, Warcraft, Command & Conquer, Corridor 7, Terminator Rampage, Sam & Max: Hit the Road, Leisure Suit Larry, and Archon were amongst the many games that kept us enthralled; naturally, the elitist PC gamer wouldn’t see a need to purchase a game console.

Today, multiplayer gaming, especially the online variety, is huge.  Game developers have realized that not everyone is an only child, social recluse, or yama-sennin living the life of a hermit.  This market was probably just not profitable enough. Microsoft saw this opportunity and took their success on the PC gaming market (don’t laugh) and ported it over to the XBox.  Adopting a pay-to-play model was risky but they pulled it off and now boast around 2 million subscribers.

Apparently, Microsoft had some foresight this time.  They saw the threat of free online gaming services and decided to implement a baseline subscription that is free to XBox 360 gamers.  It doesn’t seem that the full XBox library is currently supported from what I hear but I guess we’ll see when curiousity finally gets (and the price drops) and I get my own XBox 360.  I’m all about the online multiplayer gaming simply because I don’t see the fun is in beating some games unless the story is really rich with substance and dynamic characters.  Maybe that’s just me but adding an alternate ending does not make for real replay value.

Microsoft apparently has some very auspicious plans and hopes to increase their user base by 50%.  If Gears of War is a sign of things to come, we should probably get excited.  I saw the Halo 3 trailer and, while it was cute and all, it didn’t make me feel particularly excited.  I hope they have some phenomenal gameplay updates for the online multiplayer action!  But that is besides the point.  I believe that more games have to be developed with online multiplayer at the core rather than an after-thought.  Sure, you may exclude those that don’t have broadband access but you can’t please everyone!

With an XBox Live Silver account, you get everything a Gold member gets except the enhanced matchmaking.  I think the average person will not care to have a gold account unless they want the extra stats and skill-based matchmaking.  Now people can no longer say that they refuse to get XBox Live and pay to play games online.  Playstation and PC gaming enthusiasts alike lost some ammo last year and, now that the games are really coming in, it looks like the XBox development team really has gotten into the trenches – they’re ready for war, boys!

I am a big fan of the Tom Clancy series so I hope to see comparable ports put over on the PS3 and Wii.  Without quality tactical online multiplayer action, I certainly will feel sad and I know I am not alone.  Excuse my tangent!  The real issue is this: until game developers wise up and start creating sexy online multiplayer games, I don’t see XBox Live losing it’s stronghold on the gaming industry.

I almost forgot the best part: Microsoft has copied Wii’s retro emulator idea by bringing back games like Street Fighter II, Smash TV, Contra, Defender, and Dig-Dug.  The games have been tweaked a bit in some cases.  There are parlor games and board games for the more traditional, casual gamers.  For the old-school PC gamers, there is even the original DOOM complete with multiplayer support.  It makes me wonder if there are any plans to port over GL DOOM and other fun conversions.  It’d be cool to see all the mods come back, including that kick-ass Batman mod!

Yes, Microsoft is a scary 500-pound gorilla .  They’ve copied good ideas so well that they even have a point system like the Nintendo Wii has for online purchases and now they’ve copied Playstation Online‘s FREE multiplayer gaming – what novel ideas!  The bastages thought of everything.  Even the Microsoft haters have to admit that these people are pretty darn smart.  XBox Live is going to be hard to battle so I have a feeling that Playstation will continue to focus on stellar, epic single-player content while Nintendo focuses on fun for the entire family and the not-so-hardcore gamers.  When will the insanity end?  Who knows, who cares, see you online.

For a list of games on XBox Live Arcade, visit http://www.xbox.com/en-US/games/livearcadexbox360/default.htm – don’t forget to bring extra Jolt and caffeine pills.  It’s time to relive some of gaming’s best times EVER!

Want to enhance your online gaming experience and take it to the next level? Check out my article on the power and pwnage of being in a social gaming clan!

The Gaming Console Wars: Marketing Analysis

Before I get into a deeper look at the systems, I want it to be known that I am basing my opinions here on very initial impressions as gathered by following trends, chatting with other folks on the subject, and just gathering my own data. I don’t care about third-party research or the so-called “facts”. I’m offering a somewhat different look for those that are willing to look at it.

If you are a fanboy/fangirl, this is probably not the post to read.

Now that formalities are out of the way, let’s get on with the fun stuff. I’d like to go through some quick points and then go through my usual stream-of-consciousness review afterwards. Here are the big players to be discussed further:

>>> Wii >>>

The Story: Old and new meet to bring gaming back to the masses. Whether you are a “core gamer” or newbie, Nintendo has something for you.

The Myth: The system is only for kids.

The Truth: While it could be said that the Wii is better for kids than, say, the PS3 and 360, such a statement does not do the system justice. The Wii experience is something that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and gamers of all kinds so long as you are open-minded and don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Segways: Wii owners probably like small, cute things and pretty colors. If they own iPods, they probably go for the mini or nanos. A matching iPod would be so slick. Nintendo really bundled in style with the sleek design of the Wii but they also “kept it real” by keeping their core gamers more than happy. Sleek design, throwback hits, strong returns, and Wi-Fi out of the box. It’s the DS Lite strategy on crack and I love it!

Target Market: Core Gamers, Casual Gamers, New Gamers, Online Gamers

Availability: Limited but more abundant than Sony’s self-imposed supply shortages – damn them to heck!

YAY:

  • Classic games available for download, typically around $5-10. Hopefully that price will drop to make it more appealing but, regardless, it is a smart move. Imagine all your NES, SNES, Master System, and Genesis favorites available better than they were to begin with… It’s only the beginning!
  • The motion-sensitive controllers make way for new mechanics. It’s what Power Glove and U-Force should have been but now with far more third-party support, which is what really counts. Games are being designed specifically with Wii controls in mind, rather than just ported over in a Willy-Nilly fashion. PS3 has something similar but the combination of two separate motion-sensitive devices is far more accurate and allows for more creativity when developing games.
  • Nintendo is so confident that people will enjoy the Wii mechanics that there will be versions of games available on the Gamecube as well, providing distinctive experiences all on their own.
  • Some extra bells and whistles were dropped to make the price competitive. Nothing that is really needed has been left out so no worries.
  • The Wii sported what, to me, looked like the most diverse and impressive selection of launch titles but that is purely a subjective matter.
  • Integration of features with the DS will enhance gameplay but not restrict it for non-owners.
  • Nintendo seems to be the most sincere in their approach to the consumer. They have managed customer expectations brilliantly and I respect them for that. They do not care about next gen, they are all about the NEW GENERATION!
  • Accessories are cheaper and more available as a whole so you don’t need to invest a whole lot to be able to get friends up in the action or expand the functionality of the console.
  • If you love party games, minigames, and social gatherings, there’s really no better choice than the Wii. Time and again, you’ll see that Playstation fans will tell you that their favorite games are all single-player games whereas the XBox and Nintendo gamers are enjoying multiplayer settings. I also see a trend in the growing “only child” (recluse) Playstation gamer sector. Coincidence? I think not.

NAY :

  • Very little online multiplayer seems to be available right now when compared to the competition. The infrastructure is there but it’s not being leveraged. I hope they don’t botch it up like they did with the DS (i.e. an awkard friend management system).
  • Technology is lacking on the graphical and sound output side of things but this was intended. This means that Nintendo loses out on those that need to have eye candy and mere bragging rights over gameplay and fun.
  • If you are looking for a DVD player or complete multimedia center, this is not it. The Wii is pure gaming fun for the all; nothing more, nothing less.
  • The DS-enhanced features of the Wii have not been showcased and, really, most people that own a Wii at this point have a DS so it seems counter-productive for Nintendo to neglect this.
  • 480p does not seem very appealing to most people even though this is how we’ve seen TV for a looooooong time and it was fine until HDTV came along and told us that it was no good. If you do not have a REALLY good TV, this is merely something on the data sheet that will be leveraged by snobs or elitists to make the Wii seem like a lesser system.
  • The sensor bar, which is required for motion-sensitive mechanics, can be annoying for those that have little space and curious pets, especially the flying cats.
  • On a similar note, the games that depend upon the physical motion mechanics can be annoying when played with several people in tight quarters. I live in New York City so, as you can imagine, my living quarters are not much better than your typical shoebox.
  • If even a little physical activity wears you out, the Wii’s flagship games may be too much for you. The Surgeon General warns that too much Wii may cause heart attack or stroke – OH NOES! I’m kidding, BTW. Sadly, people complain about the need for actual motion because people do not want to exercise when gaming simply because gaming is meant to be a relaxing experience, unless you are playing DDR, but that’s different!
  • Many reports indicate that the battery life on the Wii-mote is not very good, especially if you are a hardcore gamer. Extended gaming sessions should only take place with plenty of alkaline batteries handy. Hopefully, Nintendo devises some sort of docking station to answer PS3’s sexy and simple USB-based recharging system.

>>> Playstation 3 >>>

The Story: The best graphics, the best game franchises, and the sleekest system. Sony sells raw power in a stylish package. If you are a true gamer, you have to get this system. These are the beliefs that the supporters of Playstation 3 repeat in their heads – and you better not argue otherwise!

The Myth: This is the best and only system a hardcore gamer should have.

The Truth: The Playstation is only as good as it’s flagship games. I’m not sold on the controllers, the inflated price, or the big hype. Sony is notorious for bloating up their prices just because they have a strong brand. This is coming from a guy that has had everything Sony in the past. Right now, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, DMC, Dynasty Warriors, and the few other games that may appeal to me are not enough to make me want the system. I’m a PC gamer so I’ve seen all the other stuff already; moreover, single-player games don’t do it for me. If you feel the same way, look elsewhere. Even the most optimistic folks must concede: it’s going to be a while before Sony really makes even a spark in the online gaming arena. Final Fantasy Online is not enough – the PC has it!

Segways: You’re probably an artist or rebel of some sort. Many Playstation owners give a wholehearted middle finger to XBox and, sometimes, their supporters. I can understand why seeing how you’re often on one side of the fence or the other. Even the game libraries are very distinct, in spite of some overlapping offerings. Playstation games just tend to have more of an epic air to them. They are creative, spectacular, flashy, and content-rich. Microsoft tries to copy this but it doesn’t seem to work for them. The rebellious, often loner personalities of the Playstation purists often means that they only care to play solo. If you’re looking for a online multiplayer haven, Playstation, as a whole, is not there yet. No worries – your iPod works with your PS3! The fun doesn’t stop there: Anime lovers can enjoy a nice little niche of little-known, cult titles straight from Japan – another middle finger to the XBox!!

Target Market: Core Gamers, New Gamers

Availability: Less than 400K units in the US currently.

YAY:

  • Sony seems committed to keeping online multiplayer action free which is certainly very attractive to those that prefer human interaction over the often linear gameplay offered otherwise.
  • Sony has the core Final Fantasy games on their platform and that alone makes PS3 a system to have.
  • Playstation, historically, has offered some very unique titles that do not even get copycat versions on other systems. PS3 is naturally poised to offer some very distinctive games, as expected from the Sony line-up.
  • Backwards compatibility seems to be less selective and more robust as a whole for the PS3. Built-in PSOne and PS2 emulators means that the PS3 has a huge library of games, making the PS3 a very worthwhile entry system for those new to the Sony world of gaming.
  • Building upon the matter of backwards compatibility, PS3 is so committed to their products that they have made it so that each system improves the performance of former generations of products. Bless your souls. Microsoft should borrow some pages from Sony’s book on product loyalty.
  • The PSP adds to the features that the PS3 offers, including support as a wireless controller. People can finally get the most out of the PSP, which has seen a mostly ho-hum game library up until recently.
  • Partnerships put Sony in a good position. IBM’s Cell Technology alone really seems to overshadow SMP, Dual Core, or any comparable technologies.
  • Launch titles for the PS3 were far superior than they were for XBox 360 in it’s dawning moment.
  • The staples for the XBox 360 have, for the most part, been refined and moved to the PS3. New features, better gameplay, and overall “sexiness” will make it hard for people to choose the more watered-down versions on the XBox.
  • The PS3 versions of the 360 games seem to be cheaper or equally priced from what I’ve seen from my favorite vendors, both online and in retail outlets. You get a better experience for the same price or cheaper? Hmmm… Tough call!
  • The six-axis controller (United States Patent 5828813) design lends to true 360-degree control in 3D environments which will be great news for FPS and RPG fans alike as games become more immersive and interactive.
  • For those who have invested in creating a complete home theater environment, the PS3 offers a very powerful multimedia experience that shows what Hi-Def is really all about.
  • Though I do not like the feel and lay-out of the Playstation 3 controllers, I must say that I absolutely love the fact that you can recharge them via USB and a full charge lasts you quite a while. Pressure sensitivity, DualShock technology, and what is quite arguably the best analog implementation out there almost makes me covet a PS3 controller.
  • The Sony platform seems to have more power of presence than Microsoft can muster up.  The brand power and overall viral nature of the Playstation 3 seems to far exceed that of the 360 but supply chain issues are not meeting the demand fast enough.

NAY:

  • The online multiplayer community seems pretty weak so far, even after considering that it was only recently launched, and the focus still seems to be on epic/rich single-player content.
  • If you are tired of the typical single-player grind, PS3 may not be the system for you, especially if the flagship games do not appeal to you.
  • Limiting the launch supply of core systems was not cool, no matter what the driving force behind it was. It would have been better to delay the launch than create a crazy which had people literally killing others to get their hands on the system.
  • Lowering the price of the PS3 in Japan and not the US really sent out some mixed signals, regardless of what crap the marketing people try to feed us.
  • If you are like many gamers that have found the PSP library to be weak, the PSP support may not really thrill you, especially if certain features are restricted to only PSP users in the future. Besides, what are the chances that you’ll run into PSP owners that have all the games you have? Single-card download play is the way to go – PWNT!
  • The high-tech overkill of PS3 makes the price point a bit too lofty. Even if you can afford to spend the cash, it almost seems like a waste knowing that the price will inevitably drop and a PC with better specs can be purchased for the same price, which is clearly a far better investment (unless all you care to do is game, of course). Maybe it’s just me but, if I buy a gaming console, I just want to game. For other entertainment, I have other venues.
  • The lack of supply in the US has fed black market junkies as they realize how much people are fiending for this item. PS3 units are selling for upwards of $15,000 (yes, 15K USD) – RIDICULOUS!
  • The level of control offered by the six-axis controllers pales in comparison when placed alongside the formidable Wii-mote and Nunchuk combination. Don’t worry: PS3 has better graphics!

>>> XBox 360 >>>

The Story: Microsoft doesn’t do story telling. They offer the ubiquitous gaming console that provides a PC-like experience with similar offerings as the Playstation and things like this and that. Basically, it’s no secret that Microsoft jumps on top of every trend in their efforts to extend their monopoly/empire. The XBox is a solid system but it doesn’t really excel in anything other than having some sexy specs on the data sheet. Heck, while the other systems focus on those broke 20 and 30-somethings, XBox goes straight for the middle-aged. “Hey Bob, want to play a few rounds of Madden on XBox Live?” “Sure John!”

The Myth: Microsoft has the biggest budget and can thus produce the best quality.

The Truth: While Microsoft may have a bottomless pit of money to draw upon, they seem to be investing this capital in all the wrong places. In terms of exclusive titles, the XBox has always had little to offer. Multiplayer is their big advantage and perhaps that extra cash may help out in that arena. They should consider expanding the XBox Arcade and free offerings if they plan to push that pay-to-play model much longer.

Target Market: Online Gamers, Core Gamers

Segways: Those that buy into the Media Center approach (integrate everything and force our standards upon everyone with an iron fist) to things and generally like the Microsoft way stand behind their faceless an short-lived products. It’s not all bad news. Microsoft offers loose integration and support of their own products cross-platform and even natively. If you jumped on the Zune without reservation, you more than likely have no complaint about the XBox 360 or are at least looking to get one, if you don’t already own one. XBox Live is the big thing for XBox and XBox 360 owners alike. Computer geeks and techies tend to like the XBox and consider it blasphemous to not own one or prefer another system over it; heck, I experienced this in my last (and final) full-time job in Corporate America, where everyone looked at me funny for owning a Gamecube and Playstation 2.

Availability: In a gaming store or multimedia megastore near you, if you care!

YAY:

  • Though it is clear that both Sony and Nintendo plan to jump on the online multiplayer bandwagon en-masse, Microsoft still holds the trump card with XBox Live.
  • Backwards compatibility is reliable and supports key titles. DOOM 3 is amongst these titles so, if you’re like me and you don’t play games to beat them, you can pick up where you left off on a brand-new XBox 360.
  • Games like Gears of War and Dead Rising will remain exclusive for the foreseeable future. These exclusive games are tempting and quite unique in themselves.
  • I find that the controllers on the XBox 360 are the most comfortable out of the latest batch of gaming consoles. They are intuitive and familiar for long-time gamers, whereas the Playstation controllers are only better in the eyes of the fanboys and fangirls, or those that liked the cramp-your-hand style of the SNES controllers. Of course, this is a matter of personal preference.
  • For those that can’t afford the more expensive XBox 360, there is the core system option. It has no hard drive and apparently comes with a wired controller instead of the wireless but it still does everything else, apparently.
  • Halo fans cannot live without the XBox.  Halo 3 is the game almost every XBox owner wants and needs.  Halo has become so viral on it’s own that it has almost single-handedly kept the XBox platform thriving.

NAY:

  • XBox Live is pay-to-play which kinda stinks when you consider that you also have to buy the games and the price model is pretty rigid. I am still trying to convince friends to buy certain games AND get on Live, simply because XBC and other tunneling services have been made almost completely useless.
  • Backwards compatibility only applies to certain titles which, once again, resounds Microsoft’s incessant insistence to abandon product lines whenever they have a new pet project on-hand.
  • Game performance for the XBox titles does not seem to be improved on the XBox 360, for the most part, whereas the PS3 and PS2 both provide noticeable improvements on PSOne games.
  • With over around a year as a headstart on the marketplace, Microsoft has failed to build a very attractive game library for the XBox 360. Promises of better things on the horizon aren’t enough. Halo 2, to me, was good but did not live up to the hype. I, for one, do not like empty promises.
  • There are reported issues of overheating, system lock-up, and other bugs which require third-party upgrades to support extended play. Again, for this, get yourself a PC with a built-in cooling system and temperature monitoring!
  • Microsoft seems to have completely abandoned local network play so now the LAN party appeal is gone.
  • Overall, this quote shows how Microsoft’s marketing effort has been received by the hardcore gamers: “seriously, nobody cares about the XBox 360”. Check out any hardcore gamer discussion online, in a magazine, or on a show and you’ll see that this is the rule, not the exception.
  • Why Microsoft even offers their core system is beyond me. They should just bite the bullet and offer the next-step-up at the entry price. Why? Hard drives are dirt cheap these days so, really, the tech-savvy folks will find a cheap after-market solution if you do not give people a readily-available solution. DO IT!
  • A lack of variety really hurts Microsoft. XBox was mostly focused on FPS, hack-and-slash, and sports games. So far, there is little to show me that they are changing this. Supposedly, Microsoft is appealing to the more mature gamer yet they renig on their approach before offering the occassional non-mainstream (and sometimes kiddyish) game. Fable was supposed to be the answer to Final Fantasy (or something like that); it definitely fell short of expectations!

The term “core gamer” is used a lot by the marketing folks at these major companies. For our purposes, we’ll make it an all-encompassing container group that covers brand loyalists and fanboys/fangirls, as well as those that are serious gamers. The antithesis of the core gamer would be the casual or new gamers. When I discuss the target market here, I am referring to the markets that really seem to respond to the system, rather than whom the systems were intended for. The intentions of Sony and Microsoft are harder to mention beyond wanting to sell as much product as possible (which is what everyone wants) but I can honestly say that Nintendo is the only major player that has set their positioning for mass appeal, rather than appealing to the elitists, snobs, and fanboys/fangirls.

I know that even after all this analysis, some may be torn regarding what systems they want. Maybe each system has a game or two that really appeal to you. Personal preferences like controller types, physical appeal, system dimensions, and environmental accentuation are things that no one can choose for you. Personally, I find that the Sony controllers are my least favorite. I think they tried too hard to be stylish and do something different that, in effect, they got rid of the intuitive nature of gaming and made the system more for hardcore gamers. If you are a long-time Playstation person or a gaming veteran, it’s fine, but it’s still there.

Really, looking at launch titles generally tells you what type of gamer the companies are looking to focus on, even if they have targeted other consumers. XBox 360 is still doing the maulers and FPS games, trying to get some sort of online multiplayer action wherever possible. PS3 appeals to those that love the killer franchises which, according to many hardcore gamers (including myself), are pretty much untouchable. Wii comes in and offers a very distinct experience. I honestly cannot put this system in the same arena; not because it’s not as good but because it is so different that you can’t really draw comparisons. Wii’s appeal is that Nintendo is trying to break away from the snobbery of gaming and focus on the fun instead.

Snobbery of gaming, you say? Yes, there’s tons of it. Though many of us gamers are rebels in our own ways, we’ve fallen into a vast mainstream here: people now compare gaming systems as if they were luxury sports cars, focusing mostly on the labels, aesthetics, and hype. Just look at how people over-reacted when the Smash My Console folks took out the PS3. The fanboys spoke out by the masses, dismissing the social experiment as childish, wasteful, and pathetic. OH NOES – one less PS3 in the US until Sony decides to release more units. We better get them soon cause surviving on water and air alone is not enough!!

The biggest lie right now (propagated by the aforementioned snobbery) is that Wii is yet another system geared towards kids but anyone that played GameCube enough saw that Nintendo finally broke down and said “violence is fine, let the ESRB handle the dirty details.” The gaming industry has become like everything else: hype wins over quality. Clearly, this discussion is beyond the scope of any single post or thread so I’ll be expanding upon this as time progresses. >>> STAY TUNED! >>>

The Gaming Console Wars: Initial Thoughts

The latest next-gen gaming consoles are all the buzz this holiday season but is there really anything new here other than more of the same stuff in nicer packaging? Perhaps. My simple response to this question is that, for generations beyond 16-bit, the console wars have been all about marketing hype and aesthetics. This time is no different.

Ask a gamer what they feel about a system and their response is rarely about the features provided by each system, it’s not even about the tech specs. The first thing most people will say is “wow, that game LOOKS amazing”. It’s all a big show and, this year, we’ve seen quite the circus. The PS3 launch alone was ugly as people practically mauled each other to get their hands on a box.

Old-school gamers, especially us purists, feel that nothing much has changed. The games are uninspiring and, for the most part, just rehash the same tired mechanics. Cynicism aside, I think the major players on the console market are realizing that they can no longer rely on long-time favorites, powerful brands, and strong franchises to hold on to their market share. In reality, you’re either expanding or shrinking. Franchises are part of the power of presence equation but shouldn’t be your only strategy. Believe me, I love my Mario, Zelda, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, and all that good stuff but these well-established franchises, powerful brands in themselves, will not be enough. We need something fresh and new.

Right now, Nintendo seems to be the most devoted to making gaming more accessible. Aiming to the masses is risky but, really, I think it’s what the console market needs. You see, PC gaming has long ago pushed the envelope on gaming but, since not everyone is technologically savvy nor can they afford the equipment, consoles stand to benefit while computers still create a facade of elitism, as if computer gamers belong to some sort of exclusive club. This holds true in spite of the fact that computers have a greater product cycle (life span assurance and overall product longevity beats the pants off of the short-lived consoles), endless third-party support, far more expandability, and a huge library of games.

If you look closely at the market now, the XBox line of products tries to offer a PC experience at an entry price. Playstation is more focused on those that love the epic single-player experience and don’t care too much about multiplayer (though Sony Home will change this.. maybe) or socializing, beyond water cooler discussions about the latest Silent Hill, DMC, Final Fantasy, or Dynasty Warriors. Nintendo’s systems, since day one, have focused more on family gaming, gaming for all, but has earned the rep of making purely “kiddy” games. The snobbery of those that are loyal to the Microsoft or Sony brands keeps them from experiencing a diverse world of gaming on the Nintendo side of things.

Truth be told, each system caters to a very specific gamer, for the most part, but Wii really is trying to welcome all by making games that are as intuitive as they are fun. When you’re not worried about cumbersome controls or technical issues, it’s much easier to get into a game and encounter something called replay value. I tell you: it’s a beautiful thing. To me, when you buy a game, it should be an investment. It should do one of the following:

  • Give you a truly immersive gameplay-focused experience worth repeating again in the future.
  • Provide a story and content so rich that you truly fall in love with the characters and essence of it all.
  • Focus on multiplayer rather than throw this in as a mere after-thought.
  • Be dynamic enough that you are not merely using cookie-cutter moldings or doing the “grind”.

In my eyes, those are the things that make a game memorable and highly replayable. My standards for gaming have gone up greatly once I got heavily involved in the development of games myself. I have seen just how many corners these big brands cut just to get product out. Quality controls essentially fly out the window, if you ask me.

In spite of the ugly trends that we’ve seen in the past, I am optimistic and believe that folks really see the urgency in doing things right and sticking it out for the long haul (a’la product longevity). My hopes are that, instead of trying to make the NEXT next-gen system, developers will stop slacking and learn how to program properly; that is, take advantage of each system’s strengths and create quality content, optimized for the specific platform. The software is where the money is made, not the hardware. Heck, Microsoft always makes sure people know that they are selling XBox units practically at cost. BOO HOO.. You make up for it elsewhere, M$!

Getting a bit more focused here, this war depends on something more than a killer app. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo need to stick to their positioning and really hone in on their focus. Microsoft seems to be leveraging online multiplayer mostly and Halo 3 is their killer app, supposedly. I’m not holding my breath. I felt from the beginning that Halo was all the hype and, since I’ve seen games like and better than Halo on PC way before it came around, I am definitely not swayed so easily.

XBox has some exclusive titles to their credit which will help but, currently, they share a lot of the same titles as the Playstation. Interestingly enough, there are barely any shared titles on the Wii except for those that have their own flavor on every major platform. Games like Call of Duty 3 and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance are two of the few games that are being offered in different packages on each system. Undoubtedly, the PS3 versions have the best graphics while the WII versions offer some unique and fun mechanics. To me, the XBox 360 just doesn’t have enough appealing titles. I mean, I am tempted by games like Gears of War and Rainbow Six: Las Vegas but those are the exceptions, not the rule.

In all fairness, I realize that there’s still many things in the works and we’ve only begun to see what each of the three “big ones” can do right now. I really like Nintendo’s approach to the online gaming community. Their allegiance with former rival Sega is brilliant and, at the same time, surreal for a gaming veteran like myself. Throw in some retro gaming offerings and it is gaming euphoria. This could be the last console needed for a long time. The backwards compatibility makes me very happy because I HATE when people abandon products – that’s just bad business!

Even with my connections, I am not particularly interested in jumping on any system and, if you want some good advice, I recommend this: don’t be an early adopter unless you have a good reason. Being the cool kid on the block will lose it’s novelty when your system’s bugs come to surface and you see your friends buying the same system for much cheaper months later. I make it a point not to get on-board with anything that is overly-hyped or first generation. Too much risk. Of course, there will always be early adopters and bless their brave souls. The ones that count the most are the unbiased folks, the non-fanboys, that can deliver the hard facts to us.

I know I seem biased but, believe me, at this point I like all the home gaming consoles equally, each for very distinct reasons. I am ranting here because I am seeing this all from two perspectives: that of a gamer and that of a developer. This battle in the ongoing console wars is certainly one of the most interesting in the last ten years. There have been many great fallen soldiers, like the Sega Dreamcast (one of my personal all-time faves) and hopefully things won’t get so ugly now. For the most part, the technology has been pioneered as much as it can be as the manufacturers borrow pages from the PC gaming market and the lost cookbooks of the little systems that could-have-been.

In the end, it’s all about marketing. We’ve all been told stories and, depending on what we choose to absorb and what we want to believe, these stories will be hit or miss in our minds. Microsoft seems to have the least marketing power right now. They’re essentially strong-arming things by locking down some exclusive content and buying out the competition, as they always do. Nintendo and Sony have carved out strong niches. The Wii seems to be untouchable because, really, they’re not even in the same playing field. It’s interesting stuff indeed.

More on the gaming console wars to come – don’t forget to send me your feedback – also available (scarcely) via Google Chat!

Related Links:
* The Gaming Console Wars: Initial Thoughts
* The Gaming Console Wars: Marketing Analysis
* XBox Dominates the Multiplayer Arerna (For Consoles)
* Dirty Selling Tactics, Price Drop Nay-Saying, and Project “Zephyr”
* Price Drop Considerations – Aggravated Gamers

Microsoft Brings Out SECRET WEAPON A: Holiday 2006 Price Drop

If you have been to any gaming site or checked out gaming-related videos online recently, the big word on the street was that XBox 360 units were going to sell for a super low $100 on Black Friday. The reality is that this sale is in actuality going to be in a few hours (Thanksgiving Day) so I hope I can help those looking for a good Christmas gift out by letting you know this is VERY much real and not a scam in any way. In fact, this item was so popular that it was voted the #1 deal on Amazon and is the very reason it is one of a few select items to be sold at a dramatically lower price tomorrow.

Heavy Weapon (Xbox 360) by PopCap Games
[ About this random Xbox 360 screenshot: this is Heavy Weapon for the XBox 360. A game developed in the spirit of games such as Contra, Tank Wars, Scorched Earth, Gunbound, and Worms Armageddon. The folks at PopCap Games have another winner there – yay for retro-style games that focus on replay value! Hello to John Vechey, Brian Fiete, and Dave Pardon, old buddies of mine over at PopCap. =o) ]

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