Category Archives: Gaming

Nintendo is so crazy, it just might work (again)

I have to admit, I got this one wrong. Really wrong. I had no clue that Nintendo would even survive, much less thrive in the competitive market that is somewhat known as the “next-gen” console wars.

In case you’ve been living under a rock (or just don’t care), Nintendo was considered a distant third to the Microsoft Xbox (2nd) and the Sony PlayStation 2. Admitedly, the top 2 were debatable. Xbox had the better technology as it entered the market much later, but the PS2′s library and possession of more exclusive titles (which continue to excel even today, a la God of War II) I think edged it out. While this makes for a good debate, it was clear that the Nintendo Gamecube was clearly third – despite the quality exclusive titles that it possessed. I seem to recall that the Gamecube was also priced lower than the other consoles as well.

So when Nintendo announced their “next-gen” console would be cheaper than the Xbox 360 and the PS3, I thought they were like done like disco. Instead, they are now the reigning champs – in market share. While both the 360 and PS3 are almost equal in current graphics output (the subject of a previous post), more people are buying Nintendo Wii’s.

Here’s my anecdotal proof. Go into any gaming store and ask for a 360, PS3, and a Wii. Odds are, the Wii is Continue reading

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Marathon: Durandal, XBLA update

[UPDATED 19 Jul 07: Computer and Video Games reports that Durandal will be available on XBLA no later than 11 August 2007.]

For those of you “aged ones” in the gaming community (yes, I mean high school in the 80′s), interesting interview with Bungie posted HERE over the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of Marathon 2: XBLA.

Looks far better than Marathon ever has before: 60 fps, 720p, and up to 8 player online co-operative or competitive modes. It’s Halo’s granddaddy–imaginative baddies, an actual storyline (gasp!), the works. If you’re a Halo fan, you can’t help but love it. Enjoy the pics:

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Xbox 360 Chatpad, Pink/Blue Controllers, Halo SKU Release Dates

Xbox 360 Messenger KitXbox 360™ Halo 3 Special Edition Console

The 360 Chatpad is due out in the U.S. Thursday, September 6th, at the announced $29.99 price. It clips onto the bottom of your 360 controller and allows you to IM and send e-mails without using the on-screen keyboard. I was aware that the package included a wired headset (the original 360 wired headset won’t work with the keyboard), but apparently the keys are also backlit–a nice touch.

The wireless pink and light/dark blue 360 controllers will go on sale in October for $49.99.

And of coruse, the Halo 3 Special Edition SKU–olive green, HDMI, and a 20 gig–is due out in September.

If you aren’t aware, you already can bring-up the translucent mini-window for IM if you’ve got a USB keyboard by hitting Windows + M. This allows you to chat while watching movies, gaming, etc. More commands HERE.

Lime out

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$100 price cut on all Xbox 360 SKUs, 1 August? (RUMOR) [UPDATED 24 Jul 07]

I post this with a note of caution, I know nothing about the source. Nonetheless, Zero Iscariot over at Destructoid reports news today from

a very good source within a major Canadian retailer that guarantees that despite the lack of a cut at E3 this week, the Xbox 360 will drop $100 across all SKU’s. When? Sooner than you think. AUGUST 1ST.

Prices, the source says, will then be as follows:

-Xbox 360 core, $199 American (with pack-in memory unit!)

-Xbox 360 Premium, $299 American

-Xbox 360 Elite, $449 Canadian, possibly $399 American

This would be, as you’ll recall from my prediction, the “killer” move from Microsoft. Not only would the entry level Core undercut the $249 Wii price, but the Elite, if $399 or Continue reading

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E3 Live Blogging

It’s 11:30, EST, and Peter Moore’s on stage. Nice live rendition of the Halo music by a band from Illinois.

Montage of upcoming 360 games: Mass Effect still looks great–looking forward to it. BioShock also.

12:00 AM: Nice game montage of upcoming Arcade games: Marathon: Durandal! Finally, it’s official! All Halo/Bungie fans, rejoice–a little nostalgia online gaming wil be a nice break between Halo 3/Halo 2 matches.

Nice: 12:08, MS VP Jeff Bell announces an agreement with Disney to bring “their huge library” of past and current hits in HD to Xbox Live. Clips included: Tarzan, Hercules, Emperor’s New Groove, Armageddon, Sky High, Waterboy, Bad Company, Unbreakable, Brothers Grimm, Bringing, Venus. All available tonight in HD.

12:10, Bell announces that by end of 07, Canada and Europe will have Xbox Live Marketplace downloads. August 24th, the Elite will be launched in Europe.

12:15: PGR 4, coming Sep 07, looks very nice, great lighting and weather Continue reading

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MS/PS3 News Roundup PLUS a Prediction: a Xbox 360 Price Drop at Tuesday’s E3 (or soon, soon, soon!)

After the RROD/3 year warranty enhancement news, “other” news has just poured out of Redmond, or at least about the Redmond giant Microsoft.

First off, though, the PS3 news: for those of you in caves, be aware that on July 9th, Sony confirmed rumors of an upcoming new price structure for the glossy box. Effective immediately, Sony announced the PS3 60 gig model would be sold for $100 less than the current price, bringing to $499. Sony also announced an 80 gig version, to be released in August, that would be sold for $599. Apart from the hard drive size, the units apparently are otherwise indistinguishable.

Beautiful quote from an unnamed MS rep in response to the Sony price cut:

We’ll see if it makes a difference. It’s interesting to note that they’ve significantly dropped their price in the first eight months while Xbox 360 has continued to sell well at our launch price for more than a year and a half. We’re right where we want to be right now — it’s all about choice and bringing the best games and entertainment to homes around the world.

Second, Darren Huston, President of MS’ Japan unit, stated that despite the PS3′s recent Continue reading

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Microsoft’s Savvy or Setback? The $1 billion writeoff, 3-year “Red Ring of Death” Warranty Enhancement

[UPDATED 8 Jul 07: Transcript of MS' conference call on 5 Jul 06 with Robbie Bach is HERE.  "Open Letter" from MS' Peter Moore to the Xbox 360 community explaning the new warranty terms HERE.]

By now the news has coursed across the globe, Microsoft Corp. announced on Thursday, 5 July 07, that it would take a $1.05-$1,15 billion earnings charge, reported in fiscal year 2007, to repair and replace consumers’ consoles suffering “red ring of death” (“RROD”) problems with the Xbox 360 console, retroactive to the console’s release in December 2005. The console’s now one-year warranty, with respect to RROD problems, is now extended to three years from date of purchase (again, retroactive to Dec 05). MS games chief Peter Moore released a letter on Thursday to Microsoft employees, available HERE, explaining the move.

For those of you not “in the know,” the RROD is a defect affecting some Xbox 360 units that renders some systems non-functional, and requires return to Microsoft for repair or replacement. Microsoft has now announced it will reimburse customers who have already paid for repairs related to the RROD problem, as well. Microsoft cited “an unacceptable number of repairs to Xbox 360 consoles” as impetus for the latest move.

There’s been much debate as to the meaning of this over at Dean Takahashi‘s and Mike Antonucci‘s blogs. Good question: just what does it mean?

As you know, I suspect the putative “30% failure rate” is overblown, though that same “anecdotal evidence” leads me to suspect also that the actual failure rate is still likely higher than the 5% Continue reading

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iPhone, Xbox, PS3/2, Zune, and Saving Earth: Not All at the Same Time

According to recent reports the increased popularity of electronic gadgets threatens to undo attempts to lower carbon emissions. According to a report entitled The Ampere Strikes Back, household appliances consume 1/3 of the energy use for the average UK home. The graph below represents the increased energy consumption of various television sets. So, when you are downloading the podcast of Live Earth, it seems that you may be undoing the benefits you thought you were trying to accomplish.

Comparison of energy costs per type of TV

Similarly, as you drive along in your Prius with your laptop, cell, digital camera, on the way home to game on your Xbox attached to your flat screen it may all be for naught. Moreover, the carbon footprint of the PS3 and Xbox 360 is considerably higher than the carbon footprint of the previous generations’ consoles. (Note, however, that LCD screens consume far less power than Plasma screens–the average LCD consumes 193 watts, vs. a whopping 328 watts for plasma screens.)

Even on idle mode, the PS3 saps 177 watts (and 194 watts when gaming), and the Xbox 360 consumes 157 watts (185 watts when gaming). The PS2, in contrast, consumed only 38.3 watts, and the original Xbox consumed 70 watts.

yojoe out

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PS3′s Hardwired Programming Bottleneck

At the end of the day it’s just a multi-processor architecture. If you can get something running on eight threads of a PC CPU, you can get it running on eight processors on a PS3 – it’s not massively different. There is a small ‘gotcha’ in there though. The main processor can access all the machine’s video memory, but each of the seven SPE chips has access only to its own 256k of onboard memory – so if you have, say, a big mesh to process, it’ll be necessary to stream it through a small amount of memory – you’d have to DMA it up to your cell chip and then process a little chunk, then DMA the next chunk, so you won’t be able to jump around the memory as easily, which I guess you will be able to do on the Xbox 360.

Volatile‘s lead PS3 Programmer, Lyndon Homewood, from the Guardian UK’s article “Possession and the art of PS3 programming.” (emphasis added)


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Sid Meier’s Civilization for next-gen consoles

If you’ve ever played Civilization and also ever been addicted to the game (usually, these two go hand in hand), you’ll be happy to know that Take 2 Games has just announced that Civ is coming to “next generation consoles and handhelds” in Spring 2008. (I recall hours wasted playing Civ during both high school and college, and I know the family will be none too happy about the release.)

And it doesn’t sound like a dumbed-down version, but rather, along the lines of the original, a “strategy game,” with the addition of “auto-matching, ranked games, leaderboards, achievements, downloadable extra content and integrated video and voice chat.”

Sounds promising. If you haven’t taken the leap yet to consoles, read the reviews of Battle for Middle Earth II and Command and Conquer for the 360, each of which proved that strategy games had indeed come into their own on consoles, and that the PC could no longer claim dominion over the strategy market.

Link to the video trailer is HERE.

Lime

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June 07 Comparison: XBox 360 Graphics vs. PS3 Graphics

Gamespot editors have just published a second iteration of their comparison of XBox 360 and PS3 graphics, wherein they post photos from identical games from each of the two systems. In December 2006, one year post-360 release and just after the November 06 PS3 release, Gamespot conducted a similar comparison. The December 06 comparison concluded:

  1. “The Xbox 360 had better graphics in almost all the games we examined.”
  2. “[T]he Xbox 360 games generally offered better framerates.”

The result of Gamespot’s June 07 comparison? While the PS3′s game graphics have improved, the 360 still offers the better graphics of the two systems. In detail, after the jump.

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2007 Global Markets Forecast: Gaming Industry Set to Outpace Music Industry

ArsTechnica today releases some results from Price Waterhouse Cooper’s “Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2007-2011: Industry previews“. Global spending on video games is forecast to, as early as during 2007, surpass global spending on music.

Among the factors influencing this prediction:

  • music’s continual struggle with DRM (digital rights management) issues;
  • ripe field of in-game advertising (which revenues could increase tenfold by 2011)
  • the increasing penetration of both broadband and consoles with online capabilities
  • cell phones capable of downloading games
  • increasing penetration of “next gen”/technologically advanced consoles

PwC predicts the global gaming industry to experience a compound annual growth rate of 9.1 percent from 2007-2011, increasing the market from $37.5 billion today, to $48.9 billion in 2011.

Lime

Thanks to ArsTechnica

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Xbox 360 sales increase 300% in Japan (June 11-17)

 On a second notable occasion, the Xbox 360 has now seen a significant rise in hardware sales in Japan tied to releases of Japanese-friendly software titles. Signs and portents of further good fortune or another blip on the radar?

Media Create Company reports today that, last week, the 360 sold three times the number of units from June 11-17 (7,583 units) over the previous week (2,533). The PS3, from June 11-17, sold 9,481 units. Punchjump reports the sales were buoyed by both debuts of Namco Bandai’s RPG Trusy Bell, and Capcom Co.’s Dead Rising Platinum Collection, which each ranked in the top 50 of software sales.

This pales in comparison to the temporary leap to 35,000 units sold in Blue Dragon’s debut week in December 2006, but represents a significant temporary increase in sales in the Japanese market, which has perpetually challenged Microsoft.

Keep tabs on Media Create’s weekly report to see if this spells a glimmer of hope for MS in the Japanese market, or it, as with the Blue Dragon release, represents only a temporary blip.

While MS has much more diligently courted the Japanese market with its Xbox 360 than with the previous Xbox console, the Japanese market has proved stubborn. Time will tell if the courtship results in a match.

Lime

[UPDATE 28 June 07: For the week 18-24 June 07, the 360 dropped to 3,369 units.  Looks like the 300% increase was temporary.  HL]

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Xbox 360 gains, PS3 falls, after release of Elite

This new interactive chart released at Swivel indicates that the release of the Xbox 360 Elite coincided with a both a steep pickup of Xbox 360 sales, and a gradual drop in PS3 sales. The Wii saw a simultaneous increase in sales, lending credence to Microsoft’s line that the Wii and 360 are “complementary to each other” and are not in competition, but rather their successes would each draw from Sony’s user/potential userbase.

[Orange: Wii sales; Purple: Xbox 360 sales; Blue: PS3 sales ]

I don’t see any causal connection here with the Elite and the steep Wii pickup in sales, but the graph is telling: from January 2007 to June 2007, the 360 numbers have dipped and then surged back, while the PS3 numbers are still declining. The many recent business reports calling for Sony to drop the PS3 price very soon to remain competitive are gaining urgency, but how a PS3 price drop will interact with the likely upcoming 360 price drop, and whether it can buoy Sony’s prospects, are unclear.

An interactive graph depecting life-to-date total sales data of the Xbox 360, Wii, and Sony’s PS3 is located HERE.

Stay tuned to the charts and data for how the second half of 2007 pans-out.

Lime

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Wednesday, June 13th: Prince of Persia Renaissance

For all you children of the 90′s, you’ll know what I’m talking about: Prince of Persia was da bomb. It’s back, on Xbox Live Arcade this coming Wednesday, and the graphics are entirely revamped–the same classic game I wasted hours and hours over on my Mac SE/30 back at undergrad on my measly greyscale built-in monitor. Those were the days.

For those of you unfamiliar: this is much more of the traditional puzzler than the newer Prince of Persia titles: sequences, puzzles reign supreme. It’s a great game, and the graphics, although only nominally 3D, are brand-spanking new.

Check out the improvements here:

Lime

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