Thursday, August 23, 2007

Proof that the Wii is not the true Market Leader?

This week we may have finally gotten proof of what I've been saying all along that the Wii is only going to have 1st party games that sell well. Everyone and their mother (and grandmother) are picking up a Wii in order to play things like Wii Sports, Wii Play and Mario Party 8. The 3rd party offerings have not been great and I don't expect many of the people who own the Wii to buy them. This is where Nintendo being the market leader in Worldwide sales (they passed the 360 recently) isn't really telling the whole story. So, what game do I feel is proof of this concept? Madden 08.

Thanks to VGCharts, we have a good handle on how well Madden 08 sold last week. Here are the sales numbers (with rank):

1. Xbox 360: 889,072
2. PS2: 546,403
3. PS3: 204,025
7. Wii: 57,247
8. Xbox: 56,841
13. PSP: 39,170

If you note, the Xbox version only sold 406 less copies of Madden 08 than the Wii version. That's pretty bad if you ask me. It's also bad that the PS2 version outsold the PS3 version by over 300,000 copies, but that's for another post. Those are pretty bad sales for a major 3rd party title on the Wii. By all accounts, the game itself is better than last year's version on the Wii. I personally don't know because I don't own a Wii.

Other sales on the Wii also tell the tale that the Wii is going to live and die by its 1st party offerings:

4. Wii Sports: 89,280 (4,242,200 total; note: this equals total Wii Sales in US)
6. Wii Play: 59,006 (1,932,191 total; note: a controller is included)
10. Mario Strikers Charged: 44,601 (233,517 total)
14. Mario Party 8: 37,521 (990,672 total)
21. Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition: 21,777 (304,570 total)

There are others on there, but the rest are 1st party as well. The only 3rd party game to hit "big" is the one above. 300k+ is respectable and is the exception to what I was talking about. I still stand by my idea that the Wii software sales will be poor for the most part outside of 1st party games whereas the 360 and PS3 will have 3rd party games that sell really well. It is a mirror image of the GameCube except that everyone loves Wii Sports and Wii Play. It would behoove Nintendo to continue making those types of niche games because it is the only way they'll be able to push respectable sales numbers in my opinion.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Good News/Bad News

I was going to post this last weekend, but the weather was pretty traumatic up here in the Great White North (Minnesota). Power went out twice for 4 hours each time (early Saturday morning and Monday Night) and we've had quite a bit of rain. I ended up having to replace my router because the WAN port was sketchy at best (although I can't corroborate it, this could have been part of the Xbox Live problem weeks earlier). Everything is working at the regular speed now, so everything's great.

First the good news. I was lucky enough to get an offer from Bill Abner (the sport's reviewer and part owner of the Sports Gamer Blog) to review for GameShark. It is sounding like EA's skate (check out the website) will be the first game I'll be reviewing. Bad news is that I'm getting the 360 version and may not have mine back in time, so I may have to venture 40 miles to where my brother-in-law lives and play there. There are other games I might review, but I don't want to give any information away in case I'm not chosen to do them. I'm excited about skate, although I think you have to get into the mindset that this is like real-life skateboarding and not Tony Hawk moon physics where you can pull off impossible moves. It will be interesting to see if it is a good first effort, because then there is a possible challenger to the crown the Hawk games have worn for many a year.

Being a reviewer again is awesome, but the writing style is a bit different. It's more free form and is more about how you feel about the game instead of talking about features and all that like I used to do. I am no longer bound by sections as I was before. The best news is that the GameShark position allows me to fulfill a dream I've had since I began writing...getting paid for it. With that fact and the fact that GameShark doesn't have a lot of PS3 reviewers, I picked one up for the $500 price point and my first reviews will go to pay that off. So, I'm now a (proud?) owner of a PS3. I still don't own a game for it yet, but if Heavenly Sword isn't the first one, Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction will definitely be.

Onto the bad news. I am not very excited that Irrational Games was turned into 2K Boston and 2K Austrailia. I figured for sure if BioShock hit it big that Irrational would be bought up by a more "cash happy" publisher than 2K Games. 2K Games is in a world of hurt currently in my mind. Grand Theft Auto IV was pushed back and BioShock becomes its only big game this year I believe. I am still thinking BioShock is not going to sell as much as everyone thinks it will. Remember, System Shock 2 sold pretty badly (well under 100k sold) and that was a critically lauded game like BioShock currently is. It could sell well and I hope it does, but this game may not be for everyone.

That's it for the bad news except for the post below this one.

Xbox 360 Died

Yep, my launch unit finally died. I was hoping it would last through BioShock's release, but it was not to be. I just sent it off today to be replaced and I don't know how long it will be before I get one (hopefully with the extra heatsink and a quiet DVD drive) back.

I had been noticing over the last few weeks that Xbox Live would log in slower and some games like Guitar Hero II would lock up after a while. It worked fine with NCAA Football 08 though, never locking up. Once I started to download the BioShock demo things started to go south.

I am likely to miss BioShock (but am downloading the PC version to see how well it runs to see if I can pick that up) and Stranglehold, but hopefully it will be back in time for Halo 3. I will probably also miss Medal of Honor: Airborne, although much like BioShock I may be able to play it on PC.

It's just not a good time to have an Xbox 360 down, is it? It makes the Halo 3 Xbox 360 look more enticing though. It does look cool as well.

Thanks to my brother-in-law for letting me play the BioShock demo over the weekend. That game is HOT, but I always though it was HOT. He even though it was HOT and was thinking about getting it.

So, I'll be tracking my UPS shipment of the 360. Hopefully it won't take too long, but who knows.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Demo Thoughts: Eternal Sonata and Stranglehold (360)

Like many of you I downloaded both the Eternal Sonata and John Woo's Stranglehold demos and I thought I'd give my thoughts on them.

First up is Eternal Sonata, a game I have been looking forward to playing. The demo takes you through a section of the game and face a boss monster at the end. The battle sequence is pretty different in that you are given a certain amount of time to move and do actions before the next participant, whether friend or foe, begins their active time. There is a bit of strategy involved because the best option is to rush in to attack and then start to backtrack before your time is up so the enemy doesn't have an easy shot at you.

The graphics were really good in this game, but they really didn't make me feel like I was playing a next-gen caliber of game. It seems like a much sharper version of the Final Fantasy games from the original Playstation. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because the colors are vibrant, but anyone looking for a graphical explosion is probably going to be disappointed.

The other thing I wonder is how much speech there will be in the game. Talking to NPCs was like the FF games of old where you read the information instead of a game like Oblivion where almost everything is spoken. This game is very old school in how it is presented. I am looking forward to this game and I will at least rent it depending on how long of a game it actually is.

I was really excited to play John Woo's Stranglehold to see whether the fears I outlined in my August Games Preview were true or not. After the demo, which actually is a pretty lengthy one, I am still worried about this game being too Max Payne for its own good. The graphics are impressive, but there are times where the character graphics actually look worse than those in Max Payne 2 which was released almost 4 years ago. I would expect some more realistic looking people from a next-gen game like this.

The gameplay itself was pretty fun, but I still think it is treading a bit too much on the Max Payne blueprint for my liking. The destructible environment is certainly a new thing. You can shoot at objects above enemy heads to kill them (they are highlighted with a shiny spot to show you can use it) and there is even a couple cool points where you are facing 3+ people at once and you go into a mini-game kind of section. You can move Tequila to the left or right to dodge bullets and then you can shoot the person (or an object to take them out) and you go to the next enemy. The other cool thing is when you get the precision aim ability and you can aim a shot and you watch the bullet go directly to where you aimed on the enemy. Those kinds of things certainly aren't in Max Payne and makes this game stand out a bit.

For what I played I was impressed by the game (I am a big Max Payne fan) and will at least rent it for the 360 (or the PS3 if I ever get one in order to get the Hard Boiled Blu-Ray disc). The cool montage after the demo is done shows some of the rest of the game and it does look good. Midway may push this into at least the good category, but I reserve judgment on whether they can deliver a great game or not.