Tuesday, September 26, 2006

One Thing I Forgot (PS3 Related)

I forgot something in my post last night when talking about missteps. I think a major one is that Sony has decided to not put a rumble feature in their controller. They say that the motion wireless controller wouldn't work with a rumble mechanic, but we all know that's hogwash. The truth of the matter is they don't want to pay Immersion Technologies any more money to use their patented rumble technology. Last time I checked the case between them was still in court with Sony attempting again to overturn the lower court(s) decisions toward Immersion.

Bottom line is Sony doesn't want to lose the lawsuit and they don't want to take the way that Microsoft decided upon (which was $26 million and a stake in Immersion). In the end, should Sony lose the lawsuit (which they eventually will probably) they will end up paying a lot more than Microsoft did. In fact, via the last court document Sony would have to pay Immersion over $90 million to settle their lawsuit.

Sony is once again arrogant about the whole thing. I truly believe they think they will win this lawsuit, but chances are they won't. The fact that the PS3 won't use rumble technology should pretty much a be a sign that Sony agrees that the technology is not their own in the first place. Rumble has been a part of console gaming for a while now (probably going close to 10 years) and I would not be surprised if some casual game players get their PS3 and start playing games and wonder where the rumble feature is.

This could come back to bite Sony in the ass, but given time I figure people will get used to the non-rumble feature and everything will be fine. I do think there will be an initial shock of it not being there though. Whether that effects sales or not remains to be seen.

The PS3 Could Still End Up on Top

You've probably read my prior posts where I've ripped the PS3 up and down for the decisions Sony made. I'm still not in full agreement with Sony going toward the Blu-Ray platform so early in the PS3's life. The Playstation had a CD-ROM drive (Compact Discs were introduced in 1982, 7th Guest was one of the first CD-ROM games in 1992) when it came out in 1994 in Japan (1995 in the US). The Playstation 2 had a DVD drive in it (DVD players were first sold in 1997 in the US) and came out in late 2000, over 3 years after the format had begun. In the case of Blu-Ray, the players just recently came out and now they are going to unload a ton of Blu-Ray players in the PS3. It's not a very good idea to unload a new format onto a game system, but Sony will try it anyway.

In the end though I don't think any negative aspect is going to push people away from the Playstation 3. Just tonight I put a post up in Evil Avatar that I would like to duplicate here and talk a bit more about it. Here is my post:

I've always argued that Sony has had a static mindset since they first announced the PS3. They personally believe the PS3 will survive and thrive just on the Playstation name alone. To many people, given the price and what they feel are missteps by Sony, this mindset is seen as arrogant. However, history shows that Sony may just be right and know that no matter the price people will pick the system up just because of the trusted Playstation name.

You may ask me what I mean by historically, well let's use Wikipedia and spell it out purely in system sales.

We'll start with the system many of the late 20s to 30s+ people played with growing up, the Atari 2600. The Atari 2600 sold 25 million systems.

Nintendo owned the land for a long time after Atari and here are their numbers:

NES: 60 million units
GameBoy: 69.52 million units
Super NES: 49 million units
Nintendo 64: 32.93 million units
GameBoy Color: 49.27 million units
GameBoy Advance: 75.81 million units
GameBoy Advance SP: 38.84 million units
DS: over 22 million units
GameBoy Micro: 1.86 million units
DS Lite: 4.15 million units (June 2006)

With Sony, things went like this:

Playstation: 102 million (shipped, which is different than sold)
Playstation 2: 106.23 million (shipped)
PSP: 20.02 million (shipped)

Of the actual consoles Nintendo racked up ~142 million sold. With the handheld GameBoy in various iterations (including DS) they have racked up ~262 million sold. The original GameBoy and its iterations account for ~119 million of that and the Advance iterations account for ~117 million.

Moral of the story here is that Nintendo's main consoles have sold less as they went along. With Sony, the Playstation 2 has overtaken the original in units sold and even the original PS sold 40+ million more than the original NES. Playstation is a brand name that many people are interested in. I'm not sure Xbox 360 or Wii can penetrate the bias people have with the Playstation brand whether the PS3 is more expensive or not. We live in a Playstation world and it is indeed an uphill battle for both Microsoft and Nintendo.

I personally think Sony is crazy with the price and I hope people won't pick up the PS3 in massive quantities. I am also a realist though and know the Playstation brand will probably live and thrive through another generation, especially if they keep some major franchises as exclusive (FF, MGS, etc.).

The loss for Sony this round will probably come from the fact that they won't see a massive buy-in for Blu-Ray movies (much like UMD movies have all but died out) which is an integral part of their decisions with the PS3. I'm not sure the mainstream public is ready to move into the next generation of optical movie media and it may take several years before DVD falls out of favor toward a new format.

In the end I have to believe the PS3 is going to turn out just fine and sell well. I'd love to pick one up, but I'm not sure I'll be going after it first day like I did with the Xbox 360. Chances are good that many people will stand in line to get one and then they'll sell it on eBay for a tidy profit. I think you'll have a far greater chance at getting a Nintendo Wii two days later if you need a new game system.

I think the weakest parts of the launch kind of mirror the Xbox 360 launch. There really isn't any game that has been announced that will blow us away. Most of the games are ports and, much like Penny Arcade noted today in their comic, I'm not too excited about Resistance even though Insomniac is making it. Maybe something will pop out, but who knows.

A weak spot where the PS3 does not mirror the Xbox 360 launch is in online play. It's already been noted that Tony Hawk Project 8 won't have an online component like it's 360 cousin. There are rumors of other non-Sony games not having online play either. Sony's own games will though, that being Resistance and Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom.

No matter the negatives I think the PS3 is going to sell well and could possibly take over the Xbox 360 in system sales. The price will be a deterrent, but once Sony gets into 2007 and starts bringing out high profile exclusive games, the allure of the PS3 might be too strong for many people. Sony will continue to have the mindset that the Playstation brand name sells until they are proven wrong. The consumers would have to prove them wrong here, but somehow I don't see it happening.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Quality "Old School" Adventure Games This Week

Thanks to Evil Avatar and their weekly roundup I found out that some quality adventure games are coming this week. I'd say late last year these were rumored to be coming and now they've snuck up on me. Each one is $19.99 and here they are:

The King's Quest Collection (KQ 1-7, I am guessing Mask of Eternity is the one left out)
The Space Quest Collection (SQ 1-6)
The Leisure Suit Larry Collection (LSL 1-4 + 6...remember there was no 5)
The Police Quest Collection (1-3 and Open Season)

I put them in that order simply because if you had to choose only one or two I'd pick KQ and then SQ. These new collections also run in Windows XP (and I can only guess Vista when it comes out) which was a hit-or-miss trial with the original versions of these games. No clue on whether they have the redone #1s for each game (the VGA versions) or whether the later versions include the original CD-ROM release voiceovers. I hope both are the case.

These games will of course feel ancient today. I think the latest release is Space Quest VI: The Spinal Frontier, which came out in 1995. It was a sad day when Sierra stopped making adventure games and it was an even sadder day when adventure games pretty much died. I wish LucasArts would bring out collections of their old Adventure games, especially the CD-ROM talkie versions.

Anyway, these are great pickups at $20 a piece and I can't recommend them enough.

Game Informer Wii Article

I'm sure many of you have read Billy Berghammer's "Will Wii Be Disappointed Again?" article on Game Informer this weekend. Before I get into it I would like to point out today's post on Penny Arcade. In the last paragraph, Tycho talks about the article and points out something that many people may not know: Billy used to run Planet GameCube.

I've met Billy on a few occasions, but I doubt he remembers me much. I used to know a few people from Game Informer since it is a magazine based here in Minneapolis (I think it is the only major gaming magazine not located on a coast once EGM left Chicago for San Francisco). The last time I remember seeing Billy was at the Cube Party I covered for Console Gold in 2002.

Anyway, I don't want to get too off-track. Much like Tycho I have to believe this was pretty hard for Billy to write. He is one of the biggest pro-Nintendo people I know, but in the end his words do ring true. Nintendo will have only 2 launch titles at release, one of which is a GameCube title that has been re-jiggered on the Wii (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess). There is also no Mario game and I was disappointed to hear there wouldn't be a Metroid game either, no matter how much I hated the scanning needs in the previous 2 games on GameCube.

There is also a good chance that 3rd parties could go the way of the dodo bird a while after launch. Billy also makes a good point that if multi-platform games start to take on the "portability" factor and are not built ground-up on the Wii that the versions of those games will pale in comparison to the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. It takes less money to make a port than it takes to build the game separate from the other versions. Will companies take the cheap way out or will they continue with what they're doing here at launch? We'll just have to see.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wii: 11/19, $250 w/Game...is it Enough?

I'm really sitting on the fence about the Wii news today (and by the way, welcome back; I know I've been gone for a bit). The system comes out on Sunday, November 19th, which is 2 days after the Playstation 3 release (more on this in another post) and it will come packaged with the Wii Sports games that now include Boxing and Bowling along with Tennis, Golf and Baseball. The price will be $250 in North America and roughly $215 in Japan minus the game on December 2nd.

The price and the included items (along with some other key components) are what have me on the fence. The price would be nice if an extra Wiimote (the controller) was in the box. Why would you put Wii Sports as a pack-in and not have a second controller along with the system? Wouldn't you be interested in playing the game with your family? I know I would, so I'd have to spend an extra $40 to get another Wiimote (and add $20 more for the nunchuck's add-on). For those that have larger families (such as children), you may have to spend another $80 on top of that (and another $40 for the nunchucks) to have the full complement of 4 controllers in order to play 2-on-2 tennis for instance. The absence of a second controller is a huge thing in my mind, especially with a pack-in game that screams multiplayer play.

At $250 with a game and one controller it seems a bit bare compared to even the Xbox 360 core system. I don't know how much the SD cards will cost for the Wii, but I do know the 64MB memory card for 360 costs $40, so those are addition costs just to save a game on either system. It does show the Wii as a cheaper value, but we once again fall back on the idea that the Wii is just a glorified GameCube at its core. The hardware power is not up to snuff against either the 360 or PS3, and for many people that will be a big thing to them. This doesn't speak about the games created for the systems, but it is tough to swallow $250 when there is a $300 more powerful system option out there.

Nintendo has made other mistakes with the Wii release as well. The first one is the fact that the Wii will drop 2 days after the PS3. Why not bring it out before even if there are lower numbers of systems available? For those that want all 3 systems and don't want to pre-order the 2 new systems, that means standing in line in the middle of November for 2 days in the same week. For people in the upper Midwest (like myself), things can get quite nippy that time of year. Many will decide between one or the other or they may decide to buy neither.

The second mistake is that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess will be available on the Wii at launch, but Nintendo has PUSHED BACK the GameCube release of the game to December 12th?!?!?! What in the hell is up with that? I hate when Nintendo backs out of what they said. Reggie said at E3 that both copies would be out at launch, but now the GameCube version comes out weeks down the line? The dirty thing is that this may push some people to pick up the Wii version simply to have the game first, but many of us have been waiting years for the GameCube version (such as myself). I personally am not too excited about the Wii version of Zelda because I think the Wii controller aspects were added way down the line and may not be as fully implemented as they could be. I think there will be a bunch of tired arms out there after playing this new Zelda game that will supposedly be very long. The only thing I was excited about with the Wii version was that it was in widescreen while the GameCube version is not. However you will NOT be able to play the Wii version with the old GameCube controller, so you're stuck with Wii controls for the game, which is a mistake in my opinion.

The third mistake is that they announced Metroid Prime 3: Corruption won't be out until 2007. I'm not necessarily surprised by the announcement, but I think it would have been a strong signal if that game was available at the launch of the Wii. We all knew that Mario Galaxy wasn't going to be out at launch, but Nintendo did leave the door open for Metroid.

The fourth mistake can be interpreted as not being a mistake. Nintendo announced the prices of the NES, SNES and N64 games via the Virtual Console. They will rely on Wii points in at least North America, which means it will be much like the Microsoft Marketplace points. You go the store and pick up 2000 points for $20. Here is the breakdown of prices (they did not announce TG16 prices for games like Bonk's Adventure which comes out at launch):

NES: 500 points (or $5)
SNES: 800 points (or $8)
N64: 1000 points (or $10)

They expect to have 30 games at launch and 10 games every month thereafter. When taking the Xbox Live Arcade titles into account I see no problem with the prices, but this is also a double-edged sword because chances are high there will be far more people interested in the games released for the Wii than the ones on Xbox Live Arcade. Live Arcade has had its share of old titles (Gauntlet, Smash TV, Pac-Man, Frogger), but it has also been home to some great original games like Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved and Wik. In the case of the old titles, many have been given High-Definition updates and run for about the same price as the NES games above. I think a lot of people are not too giddy about the prices, but I think Nintendo is standing up to Microsoft quite well. Microsoft will be the leader in original Arcade things, but I think the Nintendo library is going to be huge on the Wii; especially for those of us that played those old games.

In the end I doubt I'll be picking up a Wii at launch. The lack of a 2nd controller and the whole Zelda fiasco is enough to put me in that camp. I am interested in seeing an actual live demo of the Wii as well. The system sounds excellent in concept, but actually sitting/standing and moving your hands in order to control the game may not work in practice. There may be a lot of tired arms out there, but the concept is certainly innovative.