Friday, August 29, 2014

The Potential of the New 3DS


If you haven't seen the news yet - or the Facebook feed where I apparently can't shut up about it - Nintendo announced a new 3DS, called the New 3DS.

And you thought I was crazy to liken Nintendo to Apple.

The system launches October 11th in Japan, with the European release to hit "sometime" in 2015 (it's assumed that NA will get it in 2015, as well). The regular 3DS and 3DS XL (LL in Japan) are both getting major revisions: a C-Stick nestled above the face buttons on the right, ZL/ZR buttons horizontally aligned with the exiting L/R buttons, micro SD card support, enhanced 3D that follows your face to reduce blur and enhance the "sweet spot" to view 3D, an ambient light sensor for auto-brightness, colored face buttons that mimic the Super Famicom controller (as opposed to the purple SNES buttons), a beefed-up CPU, and built-in NFC support into the lower touch screen. Yes, you read that right: four shoulder buttons and a second analogue stick.

Just...don't get too excited about the C-Stick. It is an itty-bitty nub that sits in the gap next to the touch screen, the hinge, and the Y/X buttons. Nintendo has even gone as far as comparing it to the GameCube's own C-Stick. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Yes, Pre-Orders are Bad for the Industry. Stop Telling Yourself Otherwise.

Image: Gawker

This started out as an "explain like I'm five" translation of a recent Polygon article on the same subject, but by the time I finished, it felt worthy of a blog entry. Enjoy the copy/pasta:

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Companies want to ensure they will get their money back from making the game. Instead of waiting until the game comes out for people to tell their friends about the game, they'll give you free stuff for pre-ordering. To them, waiting until release day to find out their return is sort of like you waiting until payday to know how much you're making for that period (this analogy really only works for hourly employees versus salaried). Unlike us, they are putting money into a product and may or may not get that money back, so they need to find a way to get a fix on what their return will look like.

This guarantees that you, the consumer, gets bonus content (or, rather, added value) to your purchase, and the company has a quasi-guarantee of ~$60 coming their way at a pre-determined time. I say "quasi-" because you can cancel the pre-order at any time (unlike Sony). $60 is a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people, and those people don't see value in the game at $60; that's why they'll wait for it go on sale, buy it used, or - like me - rent it. Adding value to the purchase by incentivizing it with bonus content is their goal, and hoping that, with that content, you will see the value in a $60 purchase, and not wait for a sale.

On the surface, it appears they're giving you free stuff for being a loyal fan. Deep down, this is their way of ensuring investors that the games they're investing millions of dollars into will be successful. Moar pre-orders == happy investors == happy CEOs. This also locks you into a particular retailer - Amazon, Best Buy, and GameStop - and makes you a loyal customer, because they'll dish out bonus reward points for pre-ordering. You'll have a pool of reward points, and you can only use them at that retailer. Here’s the important bit: you're not a “loyal customer” to that chain; your wallet has become a slave to that company.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

[E3 2014] Third-Party Predictions



I'll be breaking up my predictions into platform specific (Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony), along with a post dedicated to third-parties. I don't have a schedule, but expect all four posts to be published before E3's start. Check out the hub for other prediction posts as they're published.

While the Big Three will most likely have some third-party action on stage, every major player is going to have their own announcements to make, most of which will have their own press conference. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

[E3 2014] Sony Predictions


I'll be breaking up my predictions into platform specific (Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony), along with a post dedicated to third-parties. I don't have a schedule, but expect all four posts to be published before E3's start. Check out the hub for other prediction posts as they're published.

First things first, Sony is riding high into this year's E3, still rolling off of success after success. Their head is high, their horse is brushed pristinely, but it's going to be fairly easy for them to stumble this year; last year's E3 was a high point in the house of PlayStation.

Since launch, the PlayStation 4 has outsold the Xbox One month after month, even during March when Titanfall launched. They launched Infamous: Second Son to very solid reviews (and even better sales, even though it's here in software sales that Titanfall won), they have the - purported - best version of Watch Dogs to play, The Last of Us: Remastered is up for a summer release - as is PlayStation Now - and it's only May.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

[E3 2014] Microsoft Predictions


I'll be breaking up my predictions into platform specific (Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony), along with a post dedicated to third-parties. I don't have a schedule, but expect all four posts to be published before E3's start. Check out the hub for other prediction posts as they're published.

Microsoft has to run a marathon next month. They've teased the future, but haven't shown anything tangible. They've announced two key pieces for their future: offering the Xbox One without Kinect for $100 less (which I've covered in great detail), and Halo 5: Guardians is a real thing, but not until next year. The hype train is about to leave the station for Microsoft, so all aboard.

The Expected


We should be getting (in the very least) a proper trailer for Halo 5: Guardians on stage at E3, but how is Microsoft going to go two years without Halo on the Xbox One? Frankly, they're not. That's why Halo 2 Anniversary Edition will be announced for a 2014 release. This isn't speculation, this is grounded in reality; 2014 is the ten year anniversary of Halo 2. Bonnie Ross, GM of 343, had said last year "in 2014, Halo combat will truly evolve and your journey with Halo on Xbox One begins." Yes, that was last year, but she remained adamant during the Halo 5: Guardians announcement that Halo on Xbox One starts this year, and it's good to know; this would come to be the second holiday season without Master Chief. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

[E3 2014] Nintendo Predictions


I'll be breaking up my predictions into platform specific (Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony), along with a post dedicated to third-parties. I don't have a schedule, but expect all four posts to be published before E3's start. Check out the hub for other prediction posts as they're published.

I've already said my peace on what I expect from Nintendo. While it was a bit outlandish, at the core, it speaks the truth: new franchise entries (Metroid, Zelda, Star Fox), exclusive titles, both new and old (Bayonetta 2, for starters), Majora's Mask 3D (just so that corner of the internet can shut the fuck up), overhaul of what Nintendo Network is capable of doing, and a massive Virtual Console flood of titles, with better pricing. Despite my wet dream being outlandish, there's a lot grounded in reality, and quite a bit of it is what I fully expect from Nintendo next month.

They need to show they're not fucking around anymore. They keep saying they're not directly competing with Microsoft and Sony, but you're in the same business. You cannot rest on your laurels, because those achievements - while respected industry wide - are not doing shit for you now. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

[E3 2014] Your Speculation Destination


I'll be breaking up my predictions into platform specific (Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony), along with a post dedicated to third-parties. I don't have a schedule, but expect all four posts to be published before E3's start. Keep your eyes here on the hub for each prediction post as it's published.

[UPDATE 4] Your final update is here; third-party predictions are live, and not a moment to spare!

[UPDATE 3] Well, shit, that was fast. Sony predictions are up!

[UPDATE 2] Microsoft predictions are live!

[UPDATE] Nintendo speculations are now live! Check the link at the bottom of the post.

We're just a few weeks away from the start of E3, the first of the eighth generation where all three major players - Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony - have their newest systems out in full force. While the Xbox One and PS4 are not even a year old, Nintendo is in the second year of the Wii U, but has the most work to do. The PS4 has already over taken Nintendo in sales by a million and a half, but Microsoft is still trailing behind. Way behind.

And here you thought that Titanfall was going to help.
Even two months after Titanfall and Microsoft giving it away, they are still trailing behind Sony by 3 million units. Nintendo is in a stride, clocking in a respectable 6.2 million units, two and a half years after it's release. While several million sounds nice, they're going at about 350,000 a month, whereas Microsoft is more than double that, and Sony adding a "1" to the front of that number. 

E3 has always been a time where the big boys show off what they have in store. We've seen some promises of some key franchises, or at least them alluding to them, but nothing has been concrete. 

I've said that Nintendo has the most to earn at E3: a lot of their key franchises have yet to hit the system after this long (or even be announced), their online infrastructure sucks, and their DRM is pathetic. They need to earn gamers and consumers back to the Wii brand by educating them on what the system does, prove it has games to play by actually showing games - ones that people will want to play - and by overhauling what the system is capable of. They need Santa giving out blowjobs again (yes, the link is SFW). 

Sony, on the other hand, has the most to lose: they're in the lead, still running off of Jack Tretton's E3 2013 steam, with a 3 million unit lead on Microsoft. They need to come out swinging, again, with reveals of new IPs and new entries in established franchise. Not only that, but show the future of what the PlayStation systems (both the 4 and Vita) can do, and what they can do together.

Microsoft, however, has the most to prove: they're in the biggest rut, still making repairs from Don Mattrick's horrible attempt to make repairs since last year. They need to prove that they've been listening to gamers - those they lost to Sony - by showing off what the Xbox One is capable of, and what experiences they've been working on. 

What do I expect from everyone? A lot, actually.

Nintendo - Now Available
Microsoft - Now Available
Sony - Now Available
Third-Parties - Now Available

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Microsoft Disconnects Xbox One and Kinect, Drops the Price by $100, and That's a Bad Thing


Microsoft finally did what the gaming community asked it to do since E3 last year, and have removed Kinect from the Xbox One system bundle, and dropped the price by $100. While this doesn't begin until June 9th, it's happening.



Phil Spencer came out and announced it all in video form (also announcing that media streaming apps are no longer locked behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall). The June 9th date is a prominent one - being the first day of E3, and Microsoft's press conference - and removing the Kinect from the bundle to drop the price was the last thing that needed to be done.

The Kinect is a vital selling tool of the system. It's also a development tool for the system. While I am not a fan of the Kinect and what it does - I would go as far as saying "I hate the Kinect" - it's important to the experience of what the system is. I hate the voice control aspect, and my initial issues during my limited time of using the system - unresponsive, unrecognized commands, unable to focus on me, the only person in front of it - are shared by others in the industry (Note: for the record, no, I do not own an Xbox One. There's not a game on the system that I want to play, and it's something I simply cannot afford at this point. It's just a matter of when I will own one.)


That's John Drake, director of publishing and PR at Harmonix. He doesn't sound thrilled. At all.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

[REVIEW] Knack

Release Date: November 15, 2013
System Reviewed: PS4
Plays Like: Jak & Daxter, Your Worst Nightmare

Ed. Note: Reviews aren't back (seeing as the last one I did was November of 2012). It's just...goddamn, this fucking game.

Holy fucking hell, one game should not be this infuriating, this difficult, this...insanely designed to the point of making me want to shout from the roof tops: 

"Mark Cerny should be forbidden from making games forever."

Knack is exactly that. It's one game that has so many flaws, it's remarkable to believe it came from the same man who worked on franchises known industry wide. Where Knack falls apart is the horrible combat and platforming segments; essentially, what you do as the player in this game.

The controller uses only three buttons: cross, square, and circle. Jump, attack, and invoking your special attack, respectively, are the only things you are allowed to do in this game. Your special attack is merely a modifier, in that it opens up to use square, circle, and triangle for some pretty devastating attacks (whirlwind, shockwave, and ranged attacks, in that order). While Knack's attacks are simple and straight forward, the actual "fighting enemies" bit is disastrously broken.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How PlayStation Now Could be the Game Changer For This Generation


When it was announced Sony acquired Gaikai, we knew immediately how it would turn out: streaming PlayStation games. What we didn't know is how and to what. With Sony finally announcing it as the PlayStation Now service, and that we can stream PlayStation 1, 2, and 3 games, all to your PS4 (and the collective to your Vita), it blew open what was originally conceived as "being backwards compatible," something that we've taken for granted since the PS2, and have lost with the newest generation of consoles.

What PSNow offers is to make the catalogue of PlayStation games available anywhere, on your two main devices. What we've yet to learn is pricing, and structure. This is where Sony can take their mistakes - Microsoft and Nintendo's, included - and completely shit on everyone.