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Friday, January 09, 2009

The Thing Is, Sony Has A Point

Sony recently put out a press release about value versus cost when it comes to the big three and naturally it's turned into a source of fanboy napalm and some blog snarkdom. Course, we've seen how well the blogs handle Sony at times.

And the other factor is quite simply - Sony's right.

I know 360 owners probably don't want to hear this - but $99 for a wifi adaptor is just this side of highway robbery. Especially for a console that relies on the network for so much value. The hard drive is sort of a take or leave it affair. Depending on what you want from the console, you might not really care about - but if you do care, Microsoft is again raking over the coals here. In this day and age, if you're paying $100 for a $120GB - you're getting robbed. And with the Pro, you get a lousy 60Gb for the same price.

And that the Elite goes for $399 and still doesn't manage to drop in wifi is just baffling.

Sony's hard drive setup really should be commended. It's dead easy to upgrade and it won't void your warranty.

That the Wii has wifi and no hard drive is a testament to Nintendo's concept - give them only what they really need for a simple plug and play experience. The lack of a HDD has hobbled the console somewhat, limiting what can and can't be done with WiiWare, for instance. But this is sort of a moot point - the Wii doesn't have a hard drive. It has no hard drive upgrade, it's never going to have a hard drive upgrade. The Wii isn't going to be downloading movies - where the PS3 and 360 have clearly gotten into the game. Sony and Microsoft want to be your digital hub, Nintendo just wants to sell you games.

As a digital hub, I think the PlayStation 3 is pretty top notch. I wish they'd get a Netflix deal going, because the Mini won't do streaming (Intel only) so we have to hook a laptop up to get that done. Since both console have downloadable content and upscale DVD's - the deciding factor is Blu-Ray.

Which is Sony's real problem. The PlayStation brand doesn't have an identity crisis, Blu-Ray does. For $399, you are really getting a great deal from Sony ... if you include Blu-Ray into the formula. Otherwise, even quibbling over wifi adaptors becomes somewhat academic. Without adding Blu-Ray into the equation, the question of value gets lost in the fog of debating between Microsoft's game library, Red Rings of Death and (*sigh*) the cost of cables (seriously people, I got my HDMI cable for $6 off Amazon. Get over it.), the cost of going online, etc.

Personally, I love Blu-Ray. Yes, I download movies - have from nearly every possible source. There's something to be said, though, for being able to put in a disc and have a high quality picture with no worries about compression, when is it going to be done downloading, etc. And the picture and sound is hands down the best you are going to get on the fancy HD set you paid so much for...

So I think Sony's right. I just don't think, especially in the middle of a recession, that it matters a lot. The Wii is outselling everyone for being neat and cheap. The 360 is doing well because Microsoft took the effort to score a good game library. If Sony wants to sell people on their console, they'll need to sell them on Blu-Ray first.

It was the cost of tying the two technologies together.

My suggestion to Sony? Play nice with Netflix. Get the streaming service on the console, and get it in HD. Get Blu-Ray prominently displayed as a rental option and get Netflix to clean up any oddness with putting Blu-Ray titles into your queue.

The chart is nice and all, but value is perception.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Game Play: Animal Crossing, City Folk

The latest iteration of Animal Crossing, which has migrated from the GameCube, to the DS and now to the Wii, is more or less an epitome of what is right and wrong with Nintendo right now.

On one hand, the game is fun and lighthearted little romp. You care for your town, do your chores, talk to your animal buds and wait for the in-game events. As with the previous versions, you basically have a kid friendly version of the grind mechanic at the heart of every MMO on the planet.

On the other - it's a wasted opportunity for networking with other Wii players. Biggest case in point? There's an auction house in the game. I feel pretty confident in suggesting that if this was a Sony or Microsoft title, the auction house would be networked so that nearly any other player could bid on some other player's fossil or rare piece of furniture. This would, among other things, make the auction house actually functional. Instead, Nintendo assumes you personally know enough people who play the game to make it functional, as the auction only works for people on your friend list. The game does, apparently, use the system's list for a change - which is something of an improvement.

So much in City Folk is exactly the same as the rest of the series, that it makes these half-hearted attempts at innovation even more glaring. Would have killed Nintendo to spend a little time figuring out a safe way to network villages? Or to at least allow strangers trade with each easily? Early rumors of a MMO style game, dedicated Wii channels and the like had a lot of people very, very excited. City Folk sticks to a strategy Nintendo knows far to well, though: play it safe.

Don't get me wrong, we're still happy citizens of our cartoonish town, but the lost potential here is just glaring.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

FEAR 2 Screenshots

I've got some posts backlogged, but probably won't get them out. Thankfully, I was handed a secret file with something spooky scrawled on it containing some screens from the upcoming FEAR sequel. Here's a few choice ones:

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

2009 Gaming Resolutions

Because like Thomas, they're the only ones I'm likely to follow.

Finish up any remaining PS2 games
Because if I don't finish them by the end of next year, it is probably a safe bet I never will.

Be Wii Fitter
We've got the darn thing, and hopefully I can maintain using it 3-5 times a week through most of the year. I'm not going to say "every day" because that's already failed...

Play online more often with friends
One of my working assumptions about consoles is that they would be more friend oriented online and less often just a group of random strangers. That hasn't worked out so much, but part of that is my own fault for not trying to organize more games.

Find some way to properly store, play or sell old consoles
I've got the Dreamcast, Sega CD, Intellivision, Atari, etc. They were fun to trot out last year, and they might be again - but if I can't find a decent way to box them up, they might need a home on eBay.

Finish a follow up to Randolph Carter
I still get the occasional email about The Case Of Randolph Carter, and I'd like to make something similar. I've been toying with some things off and on, I don't know if I'll do something for AIR or the iPhone right now. (Or both).

Monday, January 05, 2009

Wishlist, 2009 Edition

What would I like from a broken turkey bone this year? In some ways this is follow up to the 2008 in review post, but that is kinda the idea, right?

Nintendo to get a real friends service
I defended Nintendo's "friend code" for some time, having played some successful games with Metroid Hunters without too much peril - but you know what? No more. I've seen how Sony handles it. I've seen how Microsoft handles it. Nintendo handles it like an inbred stepchild and says it does it to protect the children.

I don't, honestly, care about the children. Especially when the children are perfectly capable of writing down the pervert's friend code off an email just as I can, so really the defense defies logic. The children are a front for Nintendo's laziness here. I played Battlefield: Bad Company with a friend without even trying. Yet as The Girl and I play Animal Crossing: City Folk the game keeps telling us how we should visit other people's places, invite people into our home and generally network the hell out the thing. Which would be fine if we knew who we knew had a Wii, had the game and might actually be online. Same goes with Civilization Revolution for the DS and Mario Kart. I'd love to jump into game with friends, but the overhead of find non-random opponents is just overbearing.

Sony to acquire better exclusive deals and DLC
The most painful part of choosing to play games like GTA IV and Fallout 3 on the PS3 is knowing that the 360 owners can look forward to proper DLC when they're done. Back in the days when DLC was largely horse armor, that wasn't so bad. Now they're adding new missions and storylines - it sucks a bit more.

From the exclusive front, I think there's a slim sliver of light. Resistance 2 has been well reviewed and Little Big Planet is just insane. It's barely a foothold for 2009, though.

Microsoft to beat the Red Rings Of Death
'Nuff said.

Revivals or sequels to the following games

X-Com: I say it every year, but this a turn-based combat's fan dream. Don't make the now continous mistake of adding any kind of real-time nonsense, just revamp the core.

Zork: Yeah, I know, every revival of Zork from old days of text adventures has been a bit of a sore. While I'd love to see an interactive fiction version, I wouldn't mind seeing Uncharted: The Great Underground Empire either.

Ultima: While Ultima Online keeps the flame lit, I'd love to see something using the console Baldur's Gate engine. In a pinch, I'll take a proper Norrath sequel as well.

Populous: A god game with next gen graphics? The whole game probably needs an overhaul, mechanic wise, but still...

Games based on the following franchises

Stargate: I know the MMO is coming out, but my hopes are slim there. I'll take a combo of Stargate and X-Com, if you will.

Princess Mononoke: Warring factions, a nature god and a ninja wolf girl? If that's not a backdrop for an excellent sandbox title, I don't know what is...

Nausicaa: Yeah, so maybe I was catching up on my Miyazaki lately. Still, this would be a flight sim I could get behind...