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Nintendo and the Wii – A Crossroads

July 18, 2007

Wii-fit. Ok, yeah, it’s gonna sell millions. But seriously, how’s this a future of gaming when it’s a decades old idea anyway? Why didn’t it become a gigantic best-seller and change gaming forever back then? And who really make-believes it’s gonna somehow change gaming forever this time around? Why is Nintendo just scraping the bottom of the pre-N64 days to find ideas like these and try to brainwash the masses into thinking it’s something new and cool?

The unfortunate thing is that millions of people wouldn’t ever know about these really old failed games and add-ons, and mistakenly give Nintendo more credit than what they’re due with this “revolution”. We all thought it was gonna be some forward-moving leap into Virtual Reality. Instead, it’s mindless mini-games and pseudo-exercise gadgets. That’s all they got in the think-tank! This Wii-Fit idea dates back to the Atari days, who had the exact same board that you stand on and wriggle about. It was called the “Joyboard”.

Atari Joyboard

I’m angry with Nintendo because it’s all as shameless a grab for opportunistic dollars as Sony with their Bluray. I’m also angry because they’re helping to stagnate the video game industry. The more people who buy the Wii the more reason for 3rd party devs to support the Wii, the more ammunition for Nintendo to validate the whole direction of outdated hardware + old arcade games as a future-gen console.

In my opinion, this is the beginning of the end for Nintendo. The think-tank is running on empty. The cupboards are bare. There’s no revolution, just a recycling. Sure, standard power-console games are just releasing tweaked Madden and COD games, enhanced for Hi-Def 6th gen half-baked ports. But, there’s plenty of tech innovation coming soon with wondrous visions like Little Big Planet, or Killzone2’s push into cinemtic gameplay, destructible environments, and realistic physics. There’s far more replayability and sophistication and artistry involved in building COD4, for instance, versus what goes into building Wii-fit or the majority of Wii-mote centric games.

All they can develop around is finding different ways to use the Wii-mote, just like this video parodies…

C’mon, seriously, how long is that kind of ‘think-tank’ strategy gonna hold people’s attentions? How long is that gonna last before all the ideas are done and everyone (gamers and developers) wake up like they got so drunk the night before that they cant remember what the hell they did…until they spot that unattractive stranger passed out next to them in bed, and they yell, “Arggghhhh, what the hell was I thinking!” as they quickly run out the door before the other person wakes up.

 C’mon, you know I’m being harsh here, and deliberately trying to aggravate/provoke the Wii fans into lashing out. Ok, fair enough. But apart from the exaggerations, there’s some truth to what I’m writing. The real innovations like Little Big Planet, or the deep immersive enormous sandbox worlds of RPG’s with humanistic AI, or the blockbuster shoot’em-ups like Halo3 and Killzone2, with serious mayhemic online multiplayer replayability. That’s where it’s at.


True Next-Gen vs New-Gen

October 28, 2006

Wii is of the 7th generation of video game consoles, or, ‘next-gen’ as it’s called now.

There are many different areas that are all in their own way a generation advancement. There is the whole and the sum parts of the whole. 7.1 Dolby, Hi-Def, motion-sensing, multi-core, etc.

One of the reasons why BITS ceased to classify a generation was because the consoles all had different CPU/GPU bit counts. There was no longer a uniform structure. The parts of the whole started to vary widely. Some systems had DVD, others didn’t. Some had built-in HDD, others didn’t. Some had 32-bit CPU, others had 64-bit. Some had integrated online, others didn’t. Etc.

So, it could be argued that Wii is not ‘next-gen’ because it doesn’t have multi-cores or Hi-Def media. But it could also be argued that the PS3 and X360 aren’t ‘next-gen’ because neither has true 3d motion-sensing controls. This is where arguments concerning next-gen get hung up on. Isolating the parts of the whole is a subjective matter. For some multi-core means ‘next-gen’, for others control-mechanism means ‘next-gen’.

I’d like to stress that “next-gen” literally means the 7th generation of games consoles. However, what many people debate is that there’s a “true next-gen”. PS3 fans are arrogant about how powerful their console is and buying into all the hi-tech hype of Blu-Ray and, in wanting a boost of self-superiority (damn those nintendo fanboys gloating about their more popular Wii), as well as believing what Sony themselves say about the matter (next-gen starts when we say so), they therefore feel that the Wii is not TRUE next-gen.

They all know Wii is of the 7th generation (next-gen), but they believe it’s not TRUE next-gen purely because it does not match the massive leap from last-gen that the PS3 and X360 took. All due to multi-cores, to dvd playback, to hi-def capabilities. As a generation has always been classified by a CPU/GPU measurement (8-bit, 16-bit, etc) that’s how these people still think.

True Next-Gen, therefore, is just a subjective based on hardware capabilities.

They’re right in saying Wii is not true next-gen. Because Wii is far behind to the leap the PS3 and X360 made, it makes people think that such a large leap is the norm. However, Wii is still next-gen regardless…a) because it’s of a new time, b) it IS a 2x advancement from last gen.

Who said an advancement had to be 5 or 8 or 14 times more before it was allowed to be called “next-gen”? Consider last-gen. People could argue that only Xbox was TRUE last-gen because it’s GPU was double the power at 256-bit, as well as having a built-in HDD, and integrated Online multiplayer. These alone would, by the same logic, mean that all consoles were in a generation all their own due to the varying specs. But who said anything HAD TO BE a specific number of times more powerful? Meanwhile, people could argue that only the PS2 or the Dreamcast were TRUE last-gen because the CPU was better or some other technical factor. People can get stuck looking at the individual trees and not take in the whole forest.

My proposition is that true next-gen is not necessarily the most important thing anymore. The future is about new-gen, further advancements in motion-sensing, 3d immersion, augmented reality.

All three future consoles are signed on and will max-out using the Cell. So it will be all about furthering interactivity with the game itself, with other gamers in online multiplayer, and with devices such as mobile phones, Vista, and hand-helds. They’ll be identical, with identical free online, identical gamertags, identical gamerpoints for microtransactions, and identical cross-platform games. So there’s no longer a “next-gen”.

It ended the minute Sony won the next-gen technologial race against Microsoft BEFORE the X360 even released. Those two companies were in a cold war and the minute Nintendo revealed their Wii-mote it changed everything. Sony’s victory is somewhat hollow because they haven’t achieved anything! IBM won because it proved the Cell was superior. So much so that all three companies are signed on to use the Cell.

XBL showed the way for Sony and Nintendo to follow. Microsift won here even if Sony improves on the concept. The only other thing Sony could well win is making their Blu-Ray the standard media. The whole PS3 itself is just a front for them to make Blu-Ray standard.

The whole war has already ended. Next-gen is over. Sony wins (blu-ray). IBM wins (Cell). MS wins (XBL/Live Anywhere). Wii wins (establishing new-gen genre and market leader).

New-gen 2011 will be all about IBM’s Cell-powered, Sony Blu-Ray playing, Nintendo:ON/Wiimote capable system with an XBL/Live Anywhere integrated online service.

New-gen is real and now (Wii) all because of the Wii-mote.

Many argue that the Wii-mote is just another controller, like a steering wheel. That an older system released with any usual add-on controller would not make it “next-gen”.

But, steering wheels are standard controllers. There was only ONE possible advancement that could be made, only ONE possible revolution – 3D motion-sensing. The last frontier of controllers was the right thumbstick. Only the last year have developers finally innovated gameplay around more use of the thumbsticks and moving away from button-mashing. But the road ends there. It’s ended already. Steering wheels and other attachments are still standard.

The only new direction that controllers could take was motion-sensing. Motion-sensing in its earliest stage (Wii-mote) is what we have now. But by the time all these Cell-powered consoles launch in 5 or so years, it will be all about pushing onwards finding new frontiers in motion-sensing. The last 20 years ended on the final frontier being left-right thumbstick control replacing button-mashing. Similarly, this new-gen motion-sensing era will end on the final frontier being 3D augmented reality, with your body itself as the controller, with voice or even mind recognition controls. That could be 20 years from today. But, this is the NEW-gen diretion that just got opened up by Nintendo releasing the Wii-mote.

So, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo all using the Cell, will all push forward now into New-Gen. Exploring, advancing and innovating into motion-sensing, body/voice/mind control, and will no longer be about porting a previous years Madden with graphical enhancements.

This whole TRUE NEXT-GEN that is spoken of is already over before it even started! NEW-GEN is the path that even Sony is following with Sixaxis and Eyetoy. All companies are in development right now because they already know true-next-gen is over and true-new-gen has just begun.

Next-Gen Into New-Gen: The Defining Moment

October 27, 2006

Next-gen isn’t an opinion-based judgment. It isn’t about sales. It isn’t about graphics per se. It isn’t about controllers either.

Next-gen, point #1 – Gen means generation. A generation is of time. Your father is one generation, you being his son, are the next generation. Consoles come out in 5 year spans roughly, spawn of a previous console.

Next-gen, point #2 – Each gen was actually classed on not graphics per se, but the CPU/GPU capability of the hardware. 8-bit generation, 16-bit generation, 32-bit generation, 64-bit generation, 128-bit generation, etc.

So, whatever system fell into 16-bit it became next-gen. Even if a lot of games actual graphics didn’t look much different across some games, it doesn’t matter. Even if a funky new controller was added or not. It doesn’t matter. It’s about the capabilities. Which means more processing power for better graphics, but also better gameplay (things added inside a game like more levels, more AI, etc). Even if the graphics/gameplay at first didn’t make a huge leap, they were still next-gen.

The last-gen officially represents Dreamcast, Gamecube, PS2 and Xbox. They all had different bits. The Dreamcast was 32-bit CPU, but it had dual 64-bit GPU performing at 128-bits. The PS2 had a 128-bit emotion engine but had a dual 64-bit CPU. The Xbox, meanwhile, had only 32-bit CPU but 256-bit GPU.

Due to all these varying bit capabilities within each system, the whole bit-rating thing has since lost its meaning. But at the time, that’s what was used to define that generation. That is partly why the term “next” was used for this generation. Because there was no longer a clearly defined bit rating to classify a generation.
So, officially, if last-gen was DC, GC, PS2, XB….and they all roughly worked on the same bits and bytes, which defined their generation, which defined the hardware capabilities….THEN….the X360 and PS3 are all NEXT-gen because they are a further advancement from the hardware capabilities of last-gen.

Even if the Wii might be a smaller jump compared the X360. It’s still using a generational advance that sees it at least 2 times more powerful than the GC. The Wii-mote doesn’t even factor in. It has nothing to do with the controller. It’s just that the X360 and PS3 made such a large leap in CPU/GPU that that now defines the benchmark of what is “Next-Gen”.

A truer definition of the Wii is NEW-gen, a “new” revolutionary type of gaming rather than a “next” evolutionary advancement in CPU/GPU from the previous GC. That CPU/GPU benchmark which PS3 and X360 define as ‘next’-gen, the Wii doesn’t reach. But, the Wii is definately not last-gen either. It has a big enough generational leap in CPU/GPU from the GC to have been a next-gen if the PS3 and X360 didn’t exist. It’s just the PS3 and X360 saw the Wii’s bet and then raised it plenty.


PS3 and X360 are next-gen.
Wii is new-gen.

Does it matter? Not really. Because consumers will buy and love what they determine to be the ‘best’ system, or more fun system, with the most ‘best/fun’ games.

The Wii-mote, while not factoring into ‘next-gen’ CPU/GPU, is an advancement in control-mechanism that in a way defines a NEW generation of gaming. This definition means that the Wii is several generations ahead of the X360, and a generation ahead of the PS3.

Nintendo literally established a new type of generation of gaming. Motion-sensing generation. In the future, this is what will matter more than sheer graphics. Sheer graphics are VERY important and it is just now expected from consumers and reviewers that all consoles attain a level of graphics/AI/Environment and nothing less.

Because the Wii’s graphics/AI/Environment are not up to par, yet their motion-sensing gameplay is so advanced and has created a new type of generation in gaming, then the Wii is just the forefather of future new-gen consoles. Which the X720 and PS4 will follow.

Remember, all three companies are now signed up with Cell. This means that Nintendo’s next console will keep up to speed with the graphics/AI ‘next’-gen advancements, but their motion-sensing control-mechanism will further refine/advance and be the benchmark for all consoles to be like. The X720 and PS4 will both by that stage TRY to follow this ‘new’-gen evolution and incorporate motion-sensing controls. They will literally get off from the Next-Gen train and jump aboard the New-Gen train.

In other words, with all three future-gen consoles powered by Cell, and therefore a uniformity of CPU/GPU capability across all three consoles, expect to see an emphasis on motion-sensing and augmented-reality functionality, a generational technological war fought developing towards that end. With Microsoft and Sony learning the tough billion-dollar lessons of losses made in upping the processing power cold war, and the rising costs and time of developing games, and the consumers bound to make the CPU/GPU-challenged Wii the most sought after console, the direction of gaming is already heading towards the ‘new’-gen pathway. In many ways, X360 and PS3 have already lost to the Wii because they are fighting on a ‘next’-gen battlefront when the war has already shifted to ‘new’-gen. Sony has somewhat awakened enough to implement the ‘Sixaxis’ controller, as they realize the changes happening underfoot.

So, yes, PS3 and X360 are next-gen, but that in many ways is not such a great thing to boast about. Next-gen is already a gen behind what the Wii has instigated, which to many analysts and consumers, is the future of gaming. Expect Sony and Microsoft to follow suit as they will be chasing what the consumer decides is worthwhile. This dawn of a new era should also greatly benefit the games development companies. Opening the door to many mid and low range developers with imaginations bigger than their finances. ‘Next’-gen has effectively hurt the industry, allowing only the biggest studios to afford developing for the higher-end X360 and PS3. As often noted, some of these large developers tend to be conservative and not too innovative, pumping out their regular yearly updated ports.

Console Androgyny: The End Is Nigh

October 26, 2006

“He said the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Ninetendo Wii all had tremendous innovation – and all three game console makers have signed up to use the new Power-based Cell CPU.”

“They told our reporter Roman that if necessary, they can easily develop a Blu-Ray player that is compatible with the Xbox360.”

With these words, a war has ended and a new war has begun. This now is the dawn of an even more pointless future-gen video gaming console situation.

As much as the X360 has a common-sense advantage of not being lumbered with expensive built-in technology, not forcing the consumer to buy anything they don’t need, left as add-ons, their announcement about Blu-Ray is terrible news for the X360.

If Blu-Ray does beat out HD-DVD and Microsoft decide to bring out a Blu-Ray add-on, it immediately makes the X360 pointless to own. The PS3 will have Blu-Ray built-in which is also being used for games. Whereas, the Microsoft Blu-Ray add-on would only be for movie playback.

There’d be no competition. Microsoft would have to start selling new X360’s that have a built-in Blu-ray, a built-in HDD for core and premium consoles, built-in HDMI, and require games developers to start building games on Blu-Ray.

The problem with this, as you might notice, is that THIS IS WHAT THE PS3 IS!

Microsoft going down this path would have dire consequences for the X360. Especially in light of the other breaking announcement that Microsoft have signed on with IBM and the Cell CPU for future consoles.

A few weeks ago, an MS executive said that Microsoft were not prepared to give up on the console market, that they were here for the long-haul, if the X360 failed. Given the latest news developments regarding Blu-Ray and the Cell, this comment, in hindsight, seems to suggest that even Microsoft are almost resigned to an inevitable defeat.

The X360 has a slew of great games coming, but there’s no point in the X360 ending up offering the same technology as the PS3 but in a more half-assed and less streamlined and functional manner.

Purely the act of Microsoft bringing out a Blu-Ray add-on would be the death of the X360. It wouldn’t be utilizing it as a game disc like the PS3. It wouldn’t be part of a packaged system that includes HDMI and HDD like the PS3. There would be no point doing any of that because it would make the PS3 immediately a stronger consumer product. Microsoft might as well not release a Blu-Ray add-on and it would be the same result. They’d be fighting a losing battle and throwing good money after bad in the process.

If Microsoft bit the bullet and re-designed a “slim-X360” that had built-in Blu-Ray, HDD, and HDMI, it would only anger and alienate all current X360 owners. It would also mean there’d be no difference between the X360 and PS3, therefore what’s the point?

Considering Microsoft have now officially bought into the Cell, their future-gen Xbox would end up being a Cell powered, Blu-Ray playing, built-in HDD console. Sounds like a PS3 and PS4! D’oh!

All this breaking news suggests that Microsoft is on uncertain ground now. They have some great games coming, but they can always end up being cross-platform further reducing its appeal.

However, a course of attack for Microsoft could be in reducing it’s premium console price. The PS3, with all its built-in technology, is $600. Sony are losing roughly $300+ per console. The X360, with the built-in technology that it has, is $400. They might only be losing $100+ per console. The Wii, with even less built-in technology, is $250. They might be profiting roughly $50+ per console.

If Blu-Ray wins the Hi-Def optical media war, and Microsoft intend on releasing a Blu-Ray add-on, dropping the price of their console to a figure around $200 or $250 may well still be an option up their sleeve. That would make Microsoft lose about the same as what Sony are losing, but it would force consumers to reconsider the X360 as a PS3-like system – missing the HDMI, built-in HDD and Hi-Def drive, but whose processing power is right up there with the PS3. That would then put a lot of pressure on the Wii. Consumers would suddenly perceive the Wii as being overpriced for what it’s offering tech-wise, and Microsoft could then take some of the appeal off the PS3. Forcing consumers to be even more tempted to purchase an X360 instead. Beyond that, Microsoft would have to consider offering free XBL services. Whether all this would still be sufficient is hypothetical. The X360 can also be seen as a bits-and-bobs system lacking the overall uniformity of the PS3.

Of course, a lot still depends on whether even Blu-Ray beats out HD-DVD. If HD-DVD wins hands-down, it would surely spell disaster for the all-purpose, ‘built-in around Blu-Ray’ PS3. However, what adds strength to the PS3 is that the Blu-Ray drive is not only a Hi-Def movie player, but is being used for Hi-Def gaming. If the popularity of the Playstation brand continues, then the sheer volume of gaming content available on Blu-Ray coupled with the movie content available, would almost surely make Blu-Ray a more versatile media for the consumer. HD-DVD not involved in gaming, so no ‘hands-down’ dominance.

Considering the delays, expenses, and manufacturing problems that the Blu-Ray diodes are causing, perhaps a built-in Blu-Ray for a new X360 or a future-gen Xbox would result in all the same problems.

Last-gen consoles basically offer DVD as standard. It was up to the consoles to offer different services, software, and exclusive games to convince the consumer to buy their console instead of a rivals. It’s now feasible that future-gen Xbox and PS consoles will have standard Blu-Ray, with the only thing different about them being the services, software and exclusive games.

It’s also feasible that even Nintendo’s Cell-powered future-gen console will offer built in Blu-Ray. In the end, Microsoft and Sony will end up incorporating the Wii-mote idea. We’ll end up with all three systems being essentially the same as each other! The madness!

It’s now apparent to me that all three companies are like three bachelors living in the same house – all paranoid and fighting each other over the same girl. All getting in each others way, wearing the same clothes, geting on each others nerves, behaving like brats, arguing loudly, and embarrassing themselves to their next-door neighbors.

It’s not their fault, they’re all forced to follow the standards that each of them innovate in their own way. However, competition ends up turning these three distinct companies, with their three distinct core philosophies, and turns them all into the same basic console manufacturer offering the same basic cross-platform games.

Consumers have the power. Consumers will make the Wii-mote a must-have for future-gen consoles. Cell is now officially the same CPU for all three future-gen consoles. Blu-ray, if it too becomes the standard media choice, will become standard for all three future-gen consoles. They all have no choice but to do so.

It’s clearly the potential rewards, the increased stakes, that is in many ways turning into a farce. They’re all clearly desperately greedy to be the King of the ever-increasing multi-billion dollar gaming industry. They’re all not going down without a fight. They’re all setting themselves up for billions of dollars of losses and manufacturing headaches in copying each other.

Now, more than ever, the future-gen picture is becoming clearer. This next-gen cycle is already officially dead before it has even begun. It seems clear now that the war was a cold war of technological ideas only, of three companies jockeying and fighting each other like the Three Stooges. They may as well all just merge and save us, the consumer, all this expense and devisiveness.

Nintendo, in building this secret Wii-mote weapon, and having MS and Sony clamor to discover it, will succeed in positioning the concept of the Wii-mote as a future standard. The Wii itself will probably end up dying out in a handful of years because Nintendo themselves now acknowledge that the Cell CPU is the direction to take with hardware. Microsoft, in building up this streamlined multi-device compatibility of Live Anywhere, will succeed in positioning itself as the mainstay of PC-Console-Handheld compatibiltity and Online services. Sony, in building up the Blu-Ray and with its huge catalog of movie/music, will succeed in positioning itself as the standard for optical media and content download services.

They all warred over the hardware solution, Microsoft offering a powerful PC-compatible architecture. Nintendo offering an efficient but inferior architecture. Sony offering the more powerful Cell. The Cell and the Wii-mote won. All this before an innings has even been completed in next-gen gaming. All this occuring behind the scenes, the jockeying of technological announcements.

What does this mean for the current next-gen? It means, once again, that all three companies focus will be on the future-gen. The developers will hone their skills on games that will in the most part be only enhancements from what we saw last-gen. The graphics, AI, physics, and environment interactivity/destructability will all increase proportionately once again. No wondrous leap. Not yet anyway. The consumer will go along for the ride and be sucked of as much money as possible. Then in 5 years we will see all three consoles offering the same devices and peripherals, the same media, the same online services, the same cross-platform games. Competition and the greed to be king of a multi-billion-dollar industry is resulting in console androgyny that will see all three companies wounding each other like the Three Stooges, and the consumers pining for that promised land.

Perhaps, more than ever, we may be on the threshold of a future-gen where all three companies finally merge resources and learn to share the pie? But not before another pointless round of Cell-powered, motion-sensing, cross-platform gaming.

True Next-Gen – The Debate Continued

October 18, 2006

The debate continues to rage. Which console is truly next-gen? Is the definition of ‘next-gen’ purely the next evolution of a generation of console gaming? Or is the definition meaning a huge leap forward, more ‘new-gen’?

I believe that both definitions are correct and that all consoles and their advances apply to ‘new-gen’ as well.

Innovation is not a singular thing. It incorporates a spectrum of areas – hardware, controller-mechanism, graphics, AI, interactivity, storyline, animation, sound, etc.

The bottom-line is that all those advances are directly and indirectly entwined in ‘new-gen’ just as they are simplistically an evolution of previous generation.

The Wii, in its control-mechanism, allows for ‘never-before-seen’ interactivity. You are now literally swinging a bat, a racquet, a sword, aiming a gun, flexing a fishing rod, throwing a bowling ball, your hands actual boxing fists.

There is no doubt the Wii in its Wii-mote innovations is truly ground-breaking.

The Wii’s hardware may not be powerful, but there are processes within it that also make it ground-beaking – 24connect, efficiency of chip, ‘new way’ of graphics rendering, etc.

The PS3 is also ground-breaking. It’s Cell processing power enables developers to push gaming standards in regards to AI, graphics, destructable environments, physics, etc. Individual technologies like Blu-Ray are ground-breaking in themselves only as pieces of hardware (Hi-Def media format), but that is all. SIXAXIS is not ground-breaking as that particular tilt-motion idea has been developed before.

Specific individual things that Sony are adding to its Online system will be ground-breaking in regards to what XBL currently has.

In turn, X360 is ground-breaking in that when it launched it had a wealth of ground-breaking online services/processes never done before, that not only greatly improved upon last-gen but are the first stages of a future multi-device Online capability. Live Anywhere.

X360’s hardware architecture is also ground-breaking for a console. First to release, so first to break ground in multi-core gaming. Like the PS3, it will also allow developers to push gaming standards to allow for innovations in storyline, graphics, AI, physics, etc.

X360 controller broke ground too in being wireless, incorporating headset, and guide button.

Overall, both the power-consoles (PS3 and X360) feature individual bits of hardware/technology that are ground-breaking (eye-toy, blu-ray, wireless adaptor, multi-core/thread gaming, wireless controllers, etc). As systems, they are both breaking ground in enabling developers to push the boundaries of gaming in regards to graphics, AI, physics, storyline, destructability, MMO, sandboxing, etc.

It is up to the developers to reach that potential.

A thing to remember is that innovation, true next-gen, and interactivity are like stories…it is up to the developers (as writers/artists) to dream up new ideas, games, processes, and styles. A story can be told or written in many ways. Via singular interactive Wii-mote control-mechanism, and/or via enhanced processing power.

Therefore, it is wrong to say only the Wii, or only the PS3 is true next-gen. Instead, they all push that idea to differing degrees of “true next-gen”, to varying depths of “true next-gen”.

Nintendo’s idea of reducing hardware power in order to advance controller-mechanism is in itself also a ground-breaking idea – in a time when more power is the standard thinking. I’m not sure whether I agree with this theory, but it has its merits and its drawbacks in regards to “true next-gen”.

If you think about how long and costly it will now take developers to produce interesting games, the Wii’s approach makes it simpler, cheaper. Putting the focus of developers onto the control-mechanism and therefore freeing up their minds to dream up ideas beyond standard controllers allow.

However, a console with enormous processing capabilities means that games can innovate in graphics, AI, physics, sandboxing, and MMO ways that the Wii cannot utilize.

I believe a truly next-gen console would’ve been a Cell processor utilizing a Wii-mote and featuring XBL/Live Anywhere capabilities all done in a Wii processing-efficient manner.

I.e., they all are pushing various areas of true next-gen.

In saying all that, it is significant that the Wii-mote alone is an important true next-gen development because it may well become the future standard, or at least the forerunner to an enhanced future control-mechanism, like one’s own body used in more immersive gaming.

Open Letter to all gamers and fanboys.

October 6, 2006

So much has been written and argued about the three consoles themselves, so much analysis, so much debate focused on the specific hardware or software issues, that one particular area has not yet been touched on. The war and analysis between the fanboys and fangirls itself.

Playstation (PS) fans main talking points are the power of the PS3 and the extra tech stuff like HDMI, 1080p, Blu-Ray. They assume that Xbox (XB) and Nintendo fans are jealous of it. Their main attitude is a daily boasting and gloating about the systems power and tech.

Last-gen…They couldn’t admit that the PS2 was inferior in power and features to the Xbox. They couldn’t admit that the Gamecube could output better graphics. They couldn’t admit that of all three consoles the PS2 was the most buggy and prone to breaking down. Sure, some people never had a problem, but outside of one’s little world, the problems were there, and far outnumbered the amount of problems the Xbox or Gamecube had.

Whether they admitted it or not, the main debates they had, when XB fans would boast about the power, they would retort, “So what, it’s all about the games, we have a far bigger and better library. Even if the extra power of the Xbox meant that games run a little better, the bottom line is Xbox suffered from a lack of titles and therefore owning a PS2 was better, and sold 100 million consoles. So, haha.”

Next-Gen…The thing now is that due to their experiences last-gen, XB fans have matured a little more and accepted that winning the power race isn’t everything. In fact, it isn’t the race itself. Power can and can’t be good, but that raw extra power difference isn’t so important to a better gaming experience. XB fans have realized that games library is more important.

However, PS fans have degraded in time. After years of knowing deep down that the Xbox was more powerful and that Gamecube had the better graphics, it’s like they secretly were jealous all along. It’s become their main focus in next-gen. Both to Sony itself and PS fans. They have veered away from the games topic because their attitude has gone backwards to the power issue. Now, the XB and Nintendo fans are like, “So what, grow up, didn’t you learn anything from last-gen? It is not about the extra power, you were right, it is about the games.”

Yet, each day they are feverishly fixated on information and specifications about HDMI, 1080p, Blu-Ray, and that small percentage better performance in the Cell. XB and Nintendo fans laugh and/or tire of this because PS fans (and Sony) have become crazed obsessional types, like kids in a candy store, over anything to do with performance or hardware issues. PS fans now mistakenly think that what makes a game better or more enjoyable is purely graphical or power orientated.

They diss the ‘gameplay’ argument like they still don’t get it, or like they think Nintendo fans are playing some sly flame wars game. To them, it seems more important and the reason why a game is better is because the extra power means shirts and shorts can flap around, that instead of 100 twins in the crowd there can be 50, that textures on arms and clothing are rendered marginally or fairly better. Or, at best, they think that having these extra things can only be a good thing. Not realizing that this whole graphics focus forces developers to invest more time and money on coding for that than on actually making enjoyable or innovative gameplay.

The whole debate about which console is more powerful, or more efficient, is arguable anyway. Most of the info is theoritical. There are experts on both sides who say this or that. Sure, the consensus is that PS3 is slightly more powerful. However, mainly in an overall sense. There are specific things here and there which the X360 can do better, and things here and there that PS3 can do better. There are specific things here and there that the Wii is more efficient at.

The argument is still raging since E3 2005 only because PS fans cannot give and take. They cannot rest on the idea that the two consoles are fairly equal overall, or that the X360 is better at doing some things. They’re crazed and obsessional about these minor power topics that they have to keep debating it, keep denying any article/comment that says X360 is better at doing something than the PS3, or that Wii gameplay innovations might be more popular than raw PS3 graphics. Due to this, they’ve slowly but surely lost touch with the most essential topic – games, games library, gameplay.

It has become so bad that if X360 or Wii shows off some cool looking/playing game the PS fans have to jump in and quickly put it down – flaming the graphics compared to PS3, the shirts of players don’t billow as good as they do on PS3, the rendering capabilities are 3% worse than compared to PS3. They can’t seem to praise anything else because they have this inferiority/superiority complex now.

If a great game comes out on X360 and there’s a lot of praise/hype going around on the internet about it, they take it like a direct put down was made to the PS3 and to PS fans that they all rally together needing to throw water on the game, calling the developers liars, saying Microsoft paid them to tell lies, that the game will look better on PS3. They just can’t seem to give credit where credit is due because it’s all about boasting.

Meanwhile, most Nintendo and XB fans are more objective and can actually praise PS3 games that are good. If those fans aren’t overly impressed with a PS3 game, they take it like they’re lying, they’re jealous, it’s all some sly fanboyistic flame war. They refuse to acknowledge that it might just be an honest opinion or that the more popular opinion might be turning away from a graphics-centric attitude to a gameplay-centric attitude.

To be a PS fan means that power is everything, tech specs are very important, and graphics is the focus, and it’s all about every single game being better on the PS3 than any game on Wii or X360. They need to feel superior in every little way otherwise they feel inferior completely.

To be an XB fan means that you like a lot of power but ultimately it’s all about the games and the services – like XBL, Live Anywhere, etc.

To be a Nintendo fan means that it’s all about gameplay and innovation, fun and change, away from the whole power-centric focus. You do have graphic whoring appreciation, but not to the point where it starts detrimenting gameplay and in-game features/modes.

So, when Nintendo or XB fans talk about how good a particular game on their console is, PS fans automatically assume that everyone thinks like them, that power and graphics is everything, that tech specs are very important and that anything that Nintendo or XB fans judge to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is wrong because they’re not looking at it all like PS fans do. Seemingly, only the PS/Sony point of view is right.

PS fans just can’t seem to accept that perhaps more people are starting to not care anymore or as much about Hi-Def optical media, about HDMI, about Bluetooth, about a .5 ghz performance difference, etc. They seemingly cannot believe that the global consumer might be more inclined towards gameplay and services, not on sheer graphics.

PS fans think that when others mention the price and extranneous tech features as bad aspects about the PS3, or factors why they dont want one, that they’re only saying that because they’re jealous or because they hate Sony or the PS3. In reality, people are just starting to not care so much anymore, they’ve changed, grown, matured in their outlook about gaming, especially awoken to the scams and costs that ‘next-gen’ has meant already and will only grow to mean.

While Microsoft itself is determined to incorporate HDMI, 1080p, etc, it doesn’t mean that the XB fans themselves are overly impressed by them. Especially as it all means more cost to them. They’re thankful at least that they’re not being ‘forced’ into getting all those things, due to the design of the X360 meaning such things are add-ons, not built-in. They feel that if they had to have them, they will reasonably hope and wait for overall price cuts before they do – because while it’s good, it’s still not the important thing, so they can live and game quite happily without all that extra gadgetry.

Absurdly, the war rages in whatever industry where there is a product. Console gamers will take the same sides in an MP3 player debate. In a hand-held debate. In an OS debate. All done almost automatically. As though by very allegiance to one product it means an allegiance to brand name as well. Of course, not everyone is like this, and not everyone is so biased and brand-loyal. But it only takes a handful of these types in any forum around the world for matters to escalate and sides taken by the neutral ones.

In forums around the world, every day there are thousands of people aggravated and addicted to fanboyistic flame wars. While even rabid debate is a good thing, there are certain areas where the very Fanboy Wars have reached absurdity. At the center of it all is a need for all fans to give and take (or PWN and be PWNED) sincerely, not egotistically. As in, not continuing to assert something and fuel the flaming if one is proven wrong about something, or a consensus of agreement is reached about a particular topic.

Let’s all move on a bit from the attitude that at heart is some literal war or hatred among gamers with loyalties to other console manufacturers. The only reason at times there is a wave of anti-Sony, anti-PS3 or anti-PS fan sentiment is because the self-superiority, mockery, prejudice or flaming starts on the Sony or PS side of things. Or the obsessional tech-centric focus gets out of hand.

The onus is on you.

Correlation between PSP vs DS and PS3 vs Wii

October 5, 2006

The reasons given by commentators, analysts, and gamers why the PSP is losing so badly to the DS are the same reasons given for why the PS3 is more likely to lose out to X360 and the Wii. Emphasis – more likely than not.

The reasons (not game focused, new risky media format, trying to cram in too much non-game related tech/features, buggy hardware/software, games just ports most of the time, far more expensive than its rival, etc.)

The huge popularity of the DS, and it’s similarities with the Wii, bodes well that the Wii and Nintendo will again re-emerge in the console market. The whole argument of (gameplay > graphics, affordability > unneccessary features, innovation > ports) is very sound. Not to be under-estimated.

The dynamics of next-gen console might or might not have changed in the eyes of the consumer, we don’t know if they for sure want Wii-like affordability and innovations at a graphical expense over Ps3-like expensive multimedia features at a gameplay/game-innovation expense. But one thing is for sure, the threat/challenge is there than most anticipate.

Fun is always the over-riding factor in anything. Especially cheap carefree fun, kid-like. People have more fun sitting around a table chatting, playing cards, and getting drunk than they would on expensive fun. How many car owners do you know, with very expensive prestige cars or pimped rides that cost a fortune, and the car spends 90% of the time locked in the garage? Yet these same people would have more fun driving around in a cheap older model car with some buddies laughing and being silly. Not the best analogy, but you get the drift.

Sheer fun is most fun when it’s cheap, easy, carefree and involves interaction with others on a person-to-person basis. Online multiplayer is so much more fun than single-player mode. Due to that interactivity. In a gaming sense, interactivity (between gamer and game, between gamer and gamer) is where the whole next-gen is heading.

Financial Commonsense: PS3 or X360?

October 3, 2006

Let me make this short and to the point.

The comparison between the PS3 and X360 can be summarized using the fashion world as an example. It’s like the designer label apparel versus non-designer label apparel.

You see girls and guys walking around wearing flimsily-made $80 T-Shirts and $120 Jeans that look just as good as a $10 T-Shirt and $40 Jeans from a non-designer label….and they don’t fall apart as quickly as the designer label apparel either. There will always be superficial rich people, or people who truly value using prestige-items as a means to advancing in life, love, etc.

However, it’s still just bad financial commonsense that’s not even worth the ‘prestige’ of owning clothing that expensive. Most people look at a person like that and piss themselves laughing.

No matter how superior or fast loading Blu-ray can be, it wont matter if the games in general are boring and mediocre, or as graphically similar as a less expensive rival console. All that extra expense for the PS3 console and blu-ray disc’d games just so an identical game can load faster.

For a $200 cheaper X360 console, $10+ cheaper DVD9 games, a person can wait an extra 1-5 seconds of loading time for essentially the same graphical/AI/physics standard game.

But that’s not it. You also get a suprerior online platform, direct compatibility with Windows Vista, and for the most part, the exact same cross-platform titles. Plus…you get some MS exclusives worth getting (halo, forza, pgr, bioshock, mass effect, etc).

I don’t intend speaking for the world here, but as a financial investment into a gaming console, it makes a lot more sense than what you get for $200 more in the PS3. The advantages of the PS3 (HDMI, 1080p, Bluetooth, Blu-Ray, 60gb, Linux, etc) are definately nice but definately unnecessary. Stuff one could do without in regards to gaming. After all, isn’t that really the only reason to all these consoles? You get a lot more bang for your buck in gaming terms with the X360 than you would with the PS3. XBL itself is a living breathing aspect that the Playstation World just won’t be able to touch. Live Anywhere. Need I elaborate?

This is not fanboy talk tho. Be sure of that. I am speaking from an objective POV here. If the PS3 was $200 cheaper and had the superior online service, didn’t have built-in Blu-Ray, didn’t have HDMI, had only 20gb HDD, etc, and the X360 had all those extraneous built-in features at $600, I would likewise declare that the hypothetical PS3 was the better investment. It’s not just the raw money difference, it’s all those other benefits too – XBL, Vista, cross-platform.

I am not certain, but I suspect that most of the global gaming community will also weigh such things up and come to the same conclusion, for the most part. This is why PS3, in my opinion, is going to struggle to top market share. It might take a few more years and a few more hundred dollars in price cuts before PS3 starts making headway. However, by this time, the X360 will be price cutting each step of the way, and should always remain significantly cheaper than the PS3. So, quite likely, the PS3 may never make up ground. Especially if the library for X360 (and Wii) continues to outgrow the PS3’s. All that Sony could possibly do is make a larger loss by matching whatever price the X360 falls to. Which would ultimately see Sony’s gaming arm crumble into ruin.

The big hope for the PS3 is in proving very soon or soon enough, that it can output far superior graphics/AI/physics than the X360. If it can do that, and the 360 cannot match it due to an inferior CPU-GPU architecture, then it would make more sense to spend the extra $200 and getting an all-in-one console with built-in HDMI, 1080p, Hi-Def media format, and 60gb HDD.

Only THEN would it justify the asking price, because in that scenario the X360 would be a mess of add-ons that end up costing the same or more. However, I do stress that all this hi-tech gadgetry is unnecessary still. Microsoft is kind of forced to try to match the PS3 with all those features, and it ends up forcing the consumer to mistakenly think all that gadgetry is even desirable. Forces the consumer to end up saying, “Oh what the heck! Fine, I’ll get all that hi-tech gadgetry. Might as well.”

Put it this way, if Sony tried to cram as much hi-tech into the PS3 as possible, like built in cell phone, built in TV digital decoder, built in digital camera, etc, and then said, “The PS3 will be selling for $2,500. But don’t complain, look what you get extra in it – a camera, a tv tuner, a cell phone, a computer, a hi-def optical media drive, etc. So, it’s definately worth it. We should be charging more! Because if you paid for all those things separately it would cost you an extra $1,000.”

It wouldn’t make the PS3 a must-buy suddenly. Sony are basically forcing you to spend more than you ever intend or need to. It’s a cunning sharkish strategy, but it’s not something most people will appeal to. Why? It’s just a gaming console, that’s what it’s intended use is for. The Wii at $250 still, offering inferior graphics and none of those features, wouldn’t suddenly be NOT next-gen. Nor would the Wii fail to out-sell this hypothetical PS3.

Sony has taken this strategy with the PS3 and it forced Microsoft to unfortunately try to match it, offering add-on features to it just so that they could say to the consumer, “Hey! But we also offer all this stuff too. Don’t forget us.” Microsoft is just being reactionary here. It probably had no intention of going as far as what the PS3 has been pushing for. But at least it leaves itself flexible to adapt. It still allows the consumer to pick up an X360 purely as a gaming console, cheaply, and only add-on at their own pace. However, both of them are stabbing themselves in the neck in this Gaming Cold War arms race.

Next-Gen: To Wii Or Not To Wii…Or, The Malaise Of Hi-Def Multi-Core Gaming.

October 3, 2006

Gaming articles and gaming forums around the world have been rife with heated debate and discussion about the technical specification differences and similarities between the Wii, the PS3, and the X360 in regards to what is truly next-gen and what is not. Or, what is good and what is bad. Or, what is worth the money and what is not. Essentially, this is what the tag “next-gen” has come to mean. The worthiness of a console. The very market share itself.

The same debate is also being fought by Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft in the media. This debate has been raging since Microsoft initiated development of the then-named Xenos and announced to the world the emergence of a Next-Gen in gaming.

Many years later, and it seems to me that the whole era spoken of as Next-Gen is more of a delusion than it is a reality. It is a spin-doctor’s turn of phrase. It is a politician’s false promise. It is a marketing Utopia. It is a consumer nightmare. A multi-corporation allegiance in creating a range of new devices for sale. The very stock exchange itself at the center of the whirpool.

Next-gen, what is it really? It could be defined as meaning simply the generation following the previous one. If this were the case, then all three consoles are next-gen and there is nothing further to be added by way of a future direction in games and gaming philosophy. There is nothing intrinsically ‘good’ or ‘bad’ about motion-sensing controllers, or Hi-Definition graphics, or advanced CPU architecture. However, this of course over-simplifies the years of angry debate. Makes it all meaningless.

It could be defined, as Sony themselves do, in that it’s a purely technological thing. HDMI, HD, 1080p, Blu-Ray, Bluetooth, Cell architecture, etc. However, while these particular specifications and advances are nice, they really have little to do with advancing GAMING towards a new frontier. It’s just gadgetry. Just gadgetry designed to coerce consumers into spending more money.

Instead, the most genuine defintion of Next-Gen is more in line with the term New-Gen. As in, a whole new leap in gaming. A new experience. A new frontier. Like the massive jump from 2D to 3D. This has always been the gist of the debates – whether it was between MS and Sony fighting in the media, or fanboys and gamers fighting in online forums. In this regard, the only console which comes close to making such a leap is the Wii. Entirely for its motion-sensing capabilities, and the philosophy to increase the interactivity between gamer and game, to bring gaming to the masses like never before, making it a part of everyday life for people of all ages – much like watching TV is.

In some ways, the PS3 aims to follow suit. The vision of the PS3 is as the hub of loungerooms around the world. The “interactivity” angle, however, is more in the sense of multimedia than pure gaming. Sony wants to connect the world to Sony, thru Hi-Def optical media movies, Hi-Def TVs, 3D real-world sensing EyeToy technology, MySpace-like global community of digital media sharing, re-invigorating profit margins thru enhanced interactivity between PSP and PS3, between Sony Movies, Sony Music, Sony Electronics, and Sony Gaming arms.

Microsoft’s vision of New-Gen is much like Sony’s, but geared more towards their Vista OS, Zune, and X360. Live Anywhere. A competiting hub of the loungeroom, but with unsurpassed enhanced interactivity with the world of general purpose computing alongside their already established Xbox Live online service. Unlike Sony, however, Microsoft’s vision does have a more focused attention towards pure gaming itself. But it’s new-gen angle is more towards interactivity between gamers around the world, than between a gamer and the game itself.

When comparing the visions and philosophies of all three companies, Nintendo’s is more visionary directly towards games themselves. The other companies are still more focused on selling devices and gadgets. Whereas Nintendo are taking it upon themselves to actually reshape how games are made and how they play.

The vehemence of mockery towards the Nintendo idealogy is startling. The whole concept is a gimmick. Super powerful processors and graphics are always considered as being the most important thing. However, Nintendo would probably make the analogy, “Well, are picture-books a better experience than books? Is not imagination itself the Highest Definition graphics possible?”

To date, only the X360 has actually launched. It’s technological twin, the PS3, has for the majority of 2006 been devoid of showcasing the graphical potential it boasts. This state has allowed gamers and game-reviewers to continue pumping air into the whole ‘Next-Gen’ balloon and believing the hype that games developers have been propogating about their games. There is still this anticipation that the next-to-release big game title on either the PS3 or both the X360 and the PS3 will contain wondrous photorealistic graphics, human-like AI and physics. However, it is apparent to me and many others that so far every ‘next-gen’ game either released or demo’d has been a letdown to the hype that the developers have been feeding us. There are only a rare few games to date that have demonstrated ‘next-gen’ advances. Nothing has yet proven to be true next-gen. Only incremental advances. Evolutions, not revolutions. The games have instead proven to be mere ports at best. Almost every game in development to date is purely a last-gen IP given its sequential name and refined for Hi-Def graphical tweaking, slight physics advancement, and increased AI. If anything has advanced markedly to date, and sure to advance even further in the future, it is AI. Physics and graphics are still very much last-gen. Supposed ‘next-gen’ games are sequels of popular last-gen IPs. Devil May Cry 4, PGR3, Halo 3, Forza 2, Call Of Duty 3, etc etc. Where are the innovations and exciting new frontiers? What we have is a malaise.

Again, the consumer looks towards the horizon, towards games like Mass Effect and Bioshock. Games which continue to hype the promise of breaking ground in gaming. But are they really? The trailers and screens always look promising, but the recent past has a litany of games that let us down. Read back on all the hype, all the ‘hands-on’ reviews, all the screens and trailers, of games that were bound for release on the X360 and the PS3 and compare them to the final product. The developers themselves and the paid respected reviewers are at fault. Are they seriously deluded to have witnessed these games in development and seen something that they were not? Or is this evidence of marketing trickery at hand? Strangely, when the game releases, the reviewers suddenly rate these games a 7 or 8 and claim them to be a let down.

At TGS, we again heard, read, and saw a lot of these touted ‘next-gen’ PS3 games….and quite frankly, none of them really impressed or indicated they were ‘next-gen’. Yet, the reviewers and developers spoke at length, driving the hype machine at top gear, convincing us it was ‘next-gen’. We also saw this at X06, where Gears Of War quite honestly failed to live up to the hype that was generated between E3 2005 and E3 2006. Sure, there were enhanced graphics and AI, but at the same time from what was shown, it was far from being the next-gen that it was promised to be. The fervor that the Halo Wars trailer generated was startling to me, as it seemed no one had learnt anything from the trickery that happened at E3 2005 with the Killzone 2 trailer. The forums all lit up with gamers rabidly declaring how incredible and real it was. But it was CGI. One of the sequences shown that wasn’t was the birds-eye view of the buggies racing along the ground….and that showed just what the game will end up looking like, and how still last-gen the physics are going to be. There were so many games at TGS and X06 that were finally shown in-game footage of, and yet the gamers and reviewers continued to see something there that was not there. The enhanced background detail, lighting and effects are advances, but the essential physics, explosions, AI etc were still so last-gen. On top of that, we discover that “next-gen” games like these will be lacking a range of features, gameplay options, multiplayer modes, online capabilities, etc. There’s all this increased focus on graphical tweaking by the developers, in porting over last-gen IPs, and therefore a neglect in actually making those games interesting, captivating, with better control schemes, plot, etc. The list of next-gen games released or soon to be released that have been scaled down of gameplay features to enhance the graphics is too long to name here. What we have is a malaise.

The amazing thing to me is that so many thousands of people believe in “next-gen” immediately upon seeing any footage of a game that has long been in development and shrouded in mystery. It is like a Virgin Mary vision in the sky. Someone yells “next-gen” and the faithful gamers all hysterically fall to their knees. They have been teased and tortured for over a year now with delays, promises, and CGI trailers to the point of starvation that the minute a game releases they rush to the stores throwing their money away at games they immediately believe are next-gen. But it doesn’t take too long before you start hearing all the negative feedback. The news is, they’re all finding the games boring. Much quicker reaching boredom than they ever used to be last-gen. Is this a new phenomenom? A literal malaise? Have Sony and MS over-reached in painting this Utopian world of “next-gen” gaming so much that it’s actually made the consumer expect far more now, thereby hurting the repute and the sales of the games in question? Or are next-gen games actually becoming more boring? I believe it is the latter. What we have is a malaise.

I believe that in the coming year or two, that this malaise will continue. Much like the music industry which broke out into a Punk Rock revolution. Much like where modern pop-music is currently at. I believe that Gaming itself has hurriedly reached this threshold, and that in the coming year or two we will see a marked drop in console sales, game sales, and great financial losses from developers and console companies. Meanwhile, the DS and the Wii, tho largely overlooked and underpowered, will be the impetus for what will eventually come to pass at the back end of this current next-gen console cycle.

The whole New-Gen revolution began with Peter Moore and his vision of a unified online gaming community with the Dreamcast. That vision was ahead of its time, but has since found its time under the Xbox brand. Coupled with Bill Gates’ own vision, the XBL idea has refined into an all-encompassing community of direct interactivity not only between devices but between gamers around the world. Not just games, but messenging, chat, vision, groups, etc. The second phase of New-Gen is now upon us in the guise of the Wii, with its focus on bringing the gamer and the game into direct interactivity thru the Wii-mote. The third phase of New-Gen will come from Iwata’s vision of in-game innovation. Games like Brain-Age, etc, are the ideas that will start future games down this path. The fourth phase of New-Gen will come in the form of EyeToy-like technology of bringing the gamer into the game itself. Creating a cyber world where a real person can be ‘ported’ into. The final phase of New-Gen will be a synergy of all those phases into every game as a standard game….something akin to a Star Trek holograph room but in a home-console kind of way.

Console Wars, Copy-Cat Debates, and The Future “PSWii60”

August 17, 2006

At the aftermath of the E3 2006 conferences, much debate circulated criticizing Sony for looking over the shoulder of other companies.

With the latest news that Microsoft will be continuing to analyze the possibility of implementing a new motion-sensing controller, the topic has once again reared its ugly head. This time, it is Microsoft who is in the firing line.

I am here to try to bring calm to the debate. Firstly, Microsoft originated the motion-sensing idea themselves anyway in the 1990’s, so they do have some ‘right’ to analyzing the idea again. It’s clear though to me that Microsoft will intentionally wait and see what the consumer response is to the Nintendo Wii-mote before they come to any conclusion.

As Microsoft themselves discovered, and many predicted elsewhere, there is a possibility that the Wii-mote will cause physical fatigue and won’t be as precise as standard thumbstick analog controls. The wrist not as intricate or as strong as the fingers are. So, a certain amount of honesty can be afforded here to Microsoft if they are in a wait-and-see mode.

However, I think Sony rubbed many people up the wrong way during E3 2006. Just the manner in which they did it. They appeared to be without their own ideas between E3 2005 and E3 2006. It made them look like they had not only been waiting but DEPENDING on the other companies to show their hands first, unable to think for themselves.

Case in point #1…Xbox Live was a huge success for Xbox. A unified online. Sony were well aware of its success and its potential throughout the PS2 life-cycle. So that by E3 2005, there was no reason that Sony should have continued to ignore offering a unified online service. Instead, they announced at the time that there would be no unified service. Only during early-to-mid 2006, after much critical acclaim for the Xbox 360’s further improved XBL unified service, did Sony rethink their “no-strategy” situation. Only then, only when the Xbox 360 was launched and freely testable, did they jump on the bandwagon. Definately a lack of creative sincerity. If they had been sincere, towards gaming at all, they would have leaped on the idea from the outset.

Case in point #2…Motion-sensing control. Microsoft developed the idea in the 1990’s and discarded it eventually. Not a peep for over a decade. Come E3 2005, Sony unveils its “next-gen” controller. The horrifically designed and feature-lacking Boomerang controller. The only thing they developed in all that time was a superficial design, trying to make it look ‘space-age’. As the Nintendo-Sony console war heats up over 2006, with rumors and patent leaks flying across the internet, with the Boomerang control getting such rabid negative response, only then does Sony suddenly decide to claim the Boomerang was only a concept. With so much interest and adoration directed towards Nintendo’s “secret weapon”, Sony decides to take a peek over their shoulder. It makes you wonder what kind of literal ‘war-time’ Spy games that all these companies must resort to. Only a month out from E3 2006 did Nintendo unveil its Wii-mote. When E3 2006 arrived and went, we discovered that Sony had only implemented their tilt-motion-sensing controller a couple of weeks prior. A clear case of lacking ideas.

Microsoft had never seriously considered the motion-sensing controller themselves. During all this time, they had already tested and concluded it had its flaws that they weren’t prepared to implement. But, with all the hype and love that the Wii-mote is still generating, it would be negligent of Microsoft NOT to revisit the motion-sensing idea in the near future.

Let us also consider a few other things that all three companies have copied from each other. Xbox 360 controllers Guide Button. Now standard feature on the other controllers. Sony’s Eye Toy 3D world generating webcam. Microsoft also implementing that now. Perhaps even Nintendo in a variation of what is known of Nintendo:ON. PS3 controller’s precision trigger shoulder buttons, which is a copy of Nintendo Gamecube’s controller. Which is probably all that the “advanced” Xbox 360 controller will probably implement. It is supposedly for more precise FPSer action etc. Which seems to indicate a revamped more precise thumbstick and shoulder button clickability. Sony’s premium PS3 having chrome finishing just like the Xbox 360. Sony copying XBL’s achievments, gamertags, etc. Nintendo Virtual Console sharing or copying ideas from Microsoft’s Arcade. In turn, Sony now copying it too. The list could go on and on.

The point is, no one is really ignorant. Everyone knows that ALL companies copy and borrow good ideas from other companies. In gaming, in cars, in fashion, in whatever. It’s standard practice in order for the overall quality of the product and industry to improve and for companies to continue to grow (monetarily as well as reputation).

It’s not like Microsoft are innocent of pure sharking either. Vista itself intends to brazenly copy a whole range of innovative ideas and designs that Apple originated. The Zune itself a close imitation to the Ipod, as are so many other Mp3 players out there from other companies. The interface, the design, the colors, the scroll wheels.

Let’s not forget that the Xbox 360, XBL, and the controller are such close imitations to the Sega Dreamcast some 10 years earlier. This, however, is excusable, considering that Peter Moore of Microsoft was Peter Moore of Sega. His influence, vision and belief in the Dreamcast are bound to be part of the package that Peter Moore brings to Microsoft, given a next-gen make-over.

Are not Nintendo copying the very glossy ivory-white and ebony-black look and feel of the Apple Imacs and Ipods with the Wii? Are not Sony with the PS3? I don’t think Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is at all an intention to do the same. The off-white grainy texture with dark gray splashes of both the 360 and the controller are actually imitations of the age-old Microsoft mouse.

Overall, you’d have to put Sony and MS right up there as the biggest culprits in the gaming industry. Nintendo are actually the opposite – usually doing things AGAINST the grain, against the standards. Like the N64 and GC, having so many things about them that many people said they should have actually tried to copy Sega, Sony and MS a bit more. They resisted the move to CD, to DVD, they resisted online, etc. They’re doing it again with the Wii, but this time, they’re also trying to copy a few good essential Sony/MS ideas as well – multimedia functionality, online, DVD, web-browsers, more mature content, etc.

Whereas last-gen the criticism was that Nintendo SHOULD HAVE copied MS and Sony with certain things, it saw Nintendo this gen actually copying MS and Sony with certain things. The overall Wii system, then, the more popular it becomes, will see MS and Sony in turn copying parts of it – namely the motion-sensing; and, inevitably, the gen after this gen, when perhaps all three consoles release with a replica Wii-mote device and WiiConnect 24:7.

The conclusion is that really every company does it, even Nintendo, even Nintendo would do it sometimes to the extent that Sony does it if it meant staying profitable etc. Sony attracts a lot of unfair criticism for it, as though they were the only ones. But Microsoft is just as bad at times. Even Apple are known to do it and will do it. As gamers we can all thank them for the copying, because it helps lift the overall product and services. Especially when you consider how many fanboys there are for each system that will REFUSE to touch a console from another company, then all this copying back and forward helps them not miss out on some of the cool features of other systems implemented into the system they want.

It’s often been wished that if only all three companies could join forces and create just ONE kick-ass console, allowing developers to bring their games to just one console, no annoying killer-app exlusives forcing people to buy all three consoles. Perhaps all this copying and sharing, and the rising costs and losses of console manufacturing, and the rising costs of developers porting between mutiple systems….perhaps all these factors will indeed result in a “PSWii60” type of joint-venture after this cycle of next-gen is done and dusted. With all three being so evenly split in market share, they’ll count their losses, lick their wounds, and do the most innovative thing ever – actually join forces.

While there is much animosity between the three main companies, there have been recent moves towards PS3 and Xbox 360 sharing services, online cross-platform game features. With Microsoft once trying to buy out Nintendo too. Now Toshiba and Sony talking compromize peace talks about HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray. Rising costs. Etc. There is a trend slowly developing here. The market is perhaps congested or suffering with three big companies bashing their heads against each other. The market would not be able to sustain a fourth company entering the console wars. I think in the next console cycle or two we will see companies merge forces. Perhaps a Nintendo-Apple vs Sony-MS console war. A two console market. Which could very easily keep all four companies more profitable and maintain the sense of needed competition.

PS3 EyeToy Upgrade

August 16, 2006

Israeli start-up company, PrimeSense, has been developing a smarter, more functional Eye Toy for the PS3.

According to their website, “Prime Sense’s concept is a device, which allows a computer to perceive the world in 3D and derive an understanding of the world based on sight, just the way humans do. The device includes a sensor, which sees a user (including their complete surroundings), and a digital component, or “brain” which learns and understands user movement within those surroundings. Prime Sense’s interactive device can see, track and react to user movements outside the computer, all without change of environment or wearable equipment for the end user. The closed device is plug and play and platform independent.”

The potential of what this would mean for the gaming world is astronomical.

Sony has yet to comment on this, and the two companies have only been linked by based on a post on a forum. Hopefully, Sony will embrace this device.

Of side interest is the quoted reference about no “wearable equipment for the end user”. Is this a masked reference to any potential Nintendo:ON plans?? Time, as they say, shall reveal all.

Very interesting. Though both the Wii and the PS3 are only a matter of mere months away from launch, the race towards some sort of VR capabilities between the two continues to heat up. Which just goes to show that competition is indeed a good thing.


Voice Actor Lets Slip Two Working Titles

August 16, 2006

Video-game voice actor, Robert Atkin Downes, has let slip on his resume that he has currently been involved with two working titles. Among the many titles on his resume: Halo 2, Prince of Persia, and Gears of War; to name a few, the two of most interest are the titles “Big” and “Parable.”

“Big” is being produced by Naughty Dog. The specualtion is that this name refers to Naughty Dog’s current project set in the jungles of the Carribean. When contacted by, Sony replied, “Big is an internal name for the Naughty Dog Playstation 3 title. We will be announcing the official name in the near future”.

The other title, “Parable,” is being produced by Vivendi, who could not be reached for more information. But what is known are the names of the three characters Downes voices: Gaius Cassius, Goliath, and Narrator. ‘Narrorator’ doesn’t give much insight, but the other two do. Cassius was one of the assassins of Julius Caesar along with Brutus. The assassination took place on the Ides of March, 44 BC, a possible timeframe in which the game takes place. However, Goliath gives us a different timeframe of nearly 1,000 years previous. An interesting game indeed.

No platforms are known for the game “Parable,” but if “Big” is the game we think it is then it is planned to release on the PS3 and Xbox 360.

That untitled Naughty Dog game revealed during Sony’s E3 2006 conference seems headed for the Xbox 360 as well, if this rumor is true. Very interesting.


Gamefest 2006: The Future of Xbox Live’s Marketplace

August 16, 2006

Of the top ten most downloaded demos on Xbox Live Marketplace, nine were released before the game. The recently released Dead or Alive 4, which came many months after the game’s release, didn’t fit into Microsoft’s model for success on the XBL Marketplace. That model going forward will now insist on demos being released ahead of the game and downloadable content (called ‘add-ons’ by Microsoft) within a recommended 60 to 90 day window after a game’s release.

With Fight Night 3, Microsoft saw a 40% conversion rate from users downloading the demo to users purchasing the game. A success rate which Microsoft is encouraging other developers to ensure their demos arrive before the game.

The full article can be read here.

Ian Livingstone predicts a close race between next-gen consoles.

August 16, 2006

Ian Livingstone’s career history, which now spans more than three decades, has been well documented. From Games Workshop and Fighting Fantasy to Eidos, Tomb Raider, a BAFTA and an OBE, he’s not just an industry veteran, but something of an industry legend.

In this recent interview, Ian Livingstone discusses Eidos’ plans for the Leipzig GCDC, the next-gen console battle, and why game development is a riskier business than ever.


Wii60 + HD-DVD = More expensive than the PS3. BUT…

August 16, 2006

A recent rumor that Microsoft’s upcoming HD-DVD add-on was to be priced at $500, placing the total system at an absurd $900, have been proven bogus.

Microsoft quashed that rumor by confirming that the HD-DVD add-on will retail for only $200. However, considering that a $400 console + HD-DVD + plus wireless comes to $700. This is still $100 more than the $600 PS3 which includes Blu-Ray, built-in wireless, and an additional 40gb of HDD space.

However, if HD-DVD wins the next-generation format war, then Microsoft would be in a strong position. Importantly, the key difference between the two systems is that the 360’s add-on components are optional, allowing the consumer to make the decision as to when and what components are desirable for their entertainment.

Therefore, the whole Wii60 notion is still a viable and truthful phenomenon for gamers at heart. Despite all the side debates about next-generation HD formats, the essence of next-generation consoles is gaming. With that, the Wii60 promises to give gamers a 2 for the price of 1 deal that will sure to challenge Sony’s $600 PS3. 


Microsoft says, “1080p doesn’t matter”.

August 16, 2006

While not an unbiased source, Andre Vrignaud of Microsoft makes the argument that having 1080p output, possible on the PS3, just doesn’t matter yet. Games, he says, will mostly be made for the 720p resolution and that 1080i signals are indistinguishable from 1080p.

The full article can be read here.

Microsoft Testing New Controller, Analyzing Motion Sensor

August 16, 2006

In a presentation at the Gamefest event in Seattle, Microsoft’s product unit manager for hardware, Robert S. Walker, confirmed that the company may release a more advanced optional Xbox 360 controller at some point in the future.

Asked about future support for motion-sensing controllers for the Xbox 360, Walker was open about the fact that Microsoft had already done testing and prototypes of a motion-sensing controller.

Interestingly, Walker said that people who tested the motion-sensing prototypes for an extended period of time complained of fatigue. He also said that playing with such controllers in FPS games didn’t give them the precise control as they’d expect with standard controllers or a PC mouse and keyboard combination. However, Walker indicated that Microsoft is still considering adding a motion-sensing feature to future controllers, but are still experimenting with prototypes. They haven’t written off those features just yet.

Perhaps Microsoft will first assess the feedback from the Wii-mote when the Wii launches in 2006.


PS3 Games and Release Dates Revealed by Best Buy

August 15, 2006

– Marvel: Ultimate Alliance : Release Date: 12/01/2006
– Devil May Cry 4 : Release Date: 11/19/2006
– Indiana Jones : Release Date: 06/01/2007
– Medal of Honor: Airborne : Release Date: 11/19/2006
– Tekken 6 : Release Date: 11/19/2006
– Scarface: The World is Yours : Release Date: 11/16/2006
– Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Double Agent : Release Date: 11/18/2006
– Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway : Release Date: 11/19/2006
– Warhawk : Release Date: 11/16/2006
– Motorstorm : Release Date: 11/16/2006
– Killzone 2 : Release Date: 11/16/2006
– Virtua Fighter 5 : Release Date: 11/16/2006
– Resident Evil 5 : Release Date: 11/16/2006
– Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom : Release Date: 11/19/2006
– Madden NFL 07 : Release Date: 11/19/2006
– Heavenly Sword : Release Date: 11/17/2006
– Fight Night: Round 3 : Release Date: 11/17/2006
– Call of Duty 3 : Release Date: 11/17/2006
– Tony Hawk’s Project 8 : Release Date: 11/17/2006
– Assassin’s Creed : Release Date: 11/17/2006
– Monster Kingdom : Release Date: 11/17/2006
– Sonic the Hedgehog : Release Date: 01/16/2006
– Full Auto 2: Battlelines : Release Date: 11/16/2006
– Hot Shots Golf 5 : Release Date: 11/16/2006
– Vision Gran Turismo : Release Date: 11/16/2006
– Final Fantasy Versus XIII : Release Date: 11/16/2006
– Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas : Release Date: 11/17/2006
– John Woo Presents Stranglehold : Release Date: 11/17/2006
– Army of Two : Release Date: 11/16/2006

We can assume that these dates will change, as they were just announced. Also note that the price tag on these games is at US$59.99.


Blu-Ray Drives Won’t Play Blu-Ray Movies

August 15, 2006

In an interview with CNET, Sony product manager Vincent Bautista has stated that the first Blu-ray drives will only play user recorded content from a digital camcorder, and would not play commerical movies released under the Blu-ray format. The reason given is due to the copy-protection issues and software development problems.


Rumor Control – Xbox360 + HD-DVD Drive = $900??

August 15, 2006

Wesbite is running a story that purportedly claims an unnamed Microsoft insider revealing the HD-DVD drive for the Xbox360 to be $500. The reasoning given is that current HD-DVD drives are retailing for $500 and that Microsoft will therefore set the price at this too.

If true, this would make the PS3 with in-built Blu-Ray drive a whopping $300 cheaper!

However, this is one rumor that sounds completely illogical.

Firstly, Microsoft has been bragging and touting for months now how expensive the PS3 is, how a consumer could buy a Wii and a 360 for the cost of a PS3.

Secondly, Microsoft would undo all their good work if this was at all true. It would utterly cripple the sales of the Xbox360 and remove any advantage it currently has.

Thirdly, the rumor is being sprouted by a pro-PS3 website, to drum up consumer fear once again.

There would be absolutely no chance, in my opinion, that Microsoft would sell their HD-DVD drive for anything more than $200. Their big hope this year lies in detracting consumers away from the PS3 by offering an overall 360+hd-dvd package that would at worse equal the $600 price of the PS3. Microsoft would definately aim for this in order to compete with the expected strong sales of the PS3 on its launch.

The full article can be found here

Assassins Creed for Xbox360 To Be Announced Soon

August 15, 2006

Rumors are building that at the Leipzig Games Show, Ubisoft will officially announce Assassins Creed to release on the Xbox360 on the same day as for the PS3. A PC version is also expected to be announced too.

The rumor gained extra steam lately when’s Dana Jongewaard insisted that not only will there be an Xbox360 version, but to be launched on the same day.

So strong are these rumors of a non-exlusive Assassins Creed, that even a PSP version is being predicted.