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February 28, 2006

Pong Clock: Limited Run

Pong Clock: Limited Run

It looks like the makers of the Pong Clock have run into a few snags.

Buro Vormkrijgers, makers of the Pong Clock based in the Netherlands, are apparently sending out an email to those that pre-ordered the timepiece. The email unveils the fact that Atari contacted the team and pulled the ‘we own the rights to the name Pong’ game. After a bit of legal wrangling, the two sides have come to an agreement...

...Only 400 pong clocks will be created.

If you want one of these awesome timepieces, put in your pre-order now since once all 400 are gone - that’s it, no more will be created. To put it into perspective, the team aready produced 200 clocks that sold out instantly. These next 400 are sure to sell like gangbusters, and fetch a high price on ebay when no longer available to order.



Basically ATARI demanded we shut down our website immediately, and halt all production.

The reason for that; they stated they own the “Pong” name and game characteristics, on which we were infringing in their eyes. Needless to say we were unaware of such possible infringements when we started this endeavour.

On advise of our lawyer, we seconded those claims, and kept our website live.

However, in the meantime we halted all production and other investments, and cancelled our display-order from china, to prevent getting stuck with huge financial damage [these things are very expensive] and stocks that need to be destroyed, if these claims got confirmed. For us the Pong Clock started out as a fun project within our office, that got so much attention, that we then decided to produce and sell it to share the fun with you, not to get bankrupted by.

To see the clock, visit their site and click on Portfolio, Browse, Misc, Pong Clock.

Thanks to everyone that sent this in.

February 25, 2006

Got Some Time?

Thanks Joystiq.

February 24, 2006

Namco's DS Sales Suck - Why?

The good folks over at Kotaku are reporting that Namco is cutting back on its profit forecast for 2006 based on poorly selling Nintendo DS games.

Let's look at Namco’s Nintendo DS lineup. The games are listed along with their average review score (out of a possible 100) as listed by MetaCritic.

Dig Dug® Digging Strike - 65

Mr.DRILLER® Drill Spirits™ - 70

PAC'N ROLL™ - 72

PAC-PIX™ - 71

Real Time Conflict: Shogun Empires™ - 38

Ridge Racer® DS – 63

Hmm. Not a whole lot of reason to get excited. I wonder how much they were betting on this lineup to pull them through financially. I admit to owning Ridge Racer DS from the first few dry months of DS games. It wasn’t great. Since then, there has been a flood of great titles, not only from Nintendo, but from 3rd parties as well. In a competitive marketplace it is difficult to justify buying Dig Dug when you can get 3rd party games like:

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow


Tony Hawk

Age of Empires

Sonic Rush

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Here's a hint Namco, Stop making crappy games and expecting to swim in piles of money.

Maybe this year will be better with games like: Baten Kaitos™, Xenosaga® and Tales of the Tempest.

What I'd really pay top dollar for is Nintendo DS versions of Sigma Star Saga™, Rebelstar: Tactical Command™ or Soul Calibur (the original). These are all excellent titles that could stand reinvention or additional chapters of story. Rebelstar Tactical Command is a no-brainer for touch-screen control and Nintendo WiFi play.

Namco, you make some good games when you try. Honest! Why not open up a bit and make some of those great games on the DS instead of trying to foist another washout on DS users. Take a look at your strong points and go wild. After all, that's what the DS is all about: innovation and new ways of thinking. Letting us play Mr. Driller with a touch screen does not change the fact that Meteos kicks his sorry butt.

February 23, 2006

Mega Man Strategy

Did you know there was a strategy game built around Mega Man for the PC? No? Me neither. Apparently, Rock Man Strategy was only released in China and is now very difficult to find. Eleni put up a little article alerting me to its existence. Now if only I could give it a try.

1080p - Only Hype

Peter Putman of HDTVExpert.com has posted a great article about the mysteries and myths of the 1080p resolution HDTVs coming to market. The verdict? Right now, and for the foreseeable future, 1080p is a pipe dream used to hype the sale of the most expensive TVs possible.

First of all, no signal or content available plays in 1080p format. None. What about the upcoming HD-DVD and BluRay formats scheduled to launch in a few months?

If either format is used to store and play back live HD content, it will have to be 1920x1080i (interlaced again) to be compatible with the bulk of consumer TVs. And any progressive-scan content will also have to be interlaced for viewing on the majority of HDTV sets.

What about feature films or shows recorded in HDTV. Surely they are presented in 1080p, right?

There is a 1080p/24 production format in wide use for prime time TV shows and some feature films. But these programs must be converted to 1080i/30 (that’s interlaced, not progressive scan) before airing on any terrestrial, satellite, or cable TV network.

Well, surely, if the TVs coming out now can support 1080p, then the content can’t be far behind, can it? I’m sure lots of companies are recording their shows and movies right now using 1080p in 60 frames/second just waiting for the TVs sold to catch up, right?

At present, there are no off-the-shelf broadcast cameras that can handle 1080p/60, a true progressive format with fast picture refresh rates. It’s just too much digital data to handle and requires way too much bandwidth or severe MPEG compression. (Consider that uncompressed 1920x1080i requires about 1.3 gigabits per second to move around. 1080p/60 would double that data rate.)

Armed with this information, it looks like BluRay data transfer speeds aren't fast enough to even playback a 1080p movie.

We are settling into an HDTV era of 720p for high speed action and videogames at 60 frames / second, and 1080i for film. The HDTV change has been a long-time coming; it takes everyone to buy into the new standards for them to work. That includes broadcasters, producers, the film industry and consumers. Attempting to force another new non-standard down everyone’s throat before the current standard is even adopted is a bad move precipitated by TV manufacturers in an attempt to extract the greatest cost margin possible from consumers.

If you were on the fence about getting an HDTV because you were waiting to hold out for a 1080p set, just forget about it. Pick up a good TV that you can afford today knowing that 720p and 1080i are all you will need for a long time to come.

Doggie Dip Day

I finally got around to posting the video of the Doggie Dip Day that Montgomery County, MD held last September. If you don't remember the original post, Doggie Dip Day is a day in which the county opens all of the outdoor pools to our canine friends. The pools are prepared without chemicals that would harm the dog. I brought along the camcorder to record the day's events.

Thanks Eleni!

February 22, 2006

High Definition Gaming - Best Resolution?

With all the talk of HDTV and the next round of upcoming consoles, one has to wonder what the best resolution for gaming is.

HDBeat.com has a great article up about the different resolutions and what it means for gamers.

They state that higher resolutions such as 1080i and 1080p only run in 30 framer-per-second while 720p and 480p both run in 60 frames-per-second. 30 frames a second is just fine for movies, but as gamers we usually require the fastest possible systems for our action and twitch-based games.

The article also calls into question the PS3's required HDMI connection, pointing out that even TV's manufactured by Sony often don't support 1080P. With Sony's track record of over-promising and under delivering and the confusion of resolutions and formats, the article remains skeptical until Sony can show off the goods. Even then, what good is 1080P gaming if it is twice as jerky as 720P or even 480P?

What do you have or plan on getting for your gaming setup? Is HDTV worth it at this point in the game before we know about all 3 consoles and their capabilities?

February 21, 2006

Children of Mana RPG for Nintendo DS

I like a nice long game with a great story that I can really sink my teeth into. RPGs typically fit this bill, and there's a real doozy of one coming to the Nintendo DS.

Children of Mana is the latest entry into the Secret of Mana games. Like other entries in the series, it supports wireless cooperative multiplayer; a great way to play with friends and family.

Click Here to download the video. It shows not only gameplay footage, but spectacular cutscenes that highlight the fantastic sense of art and style the game contains.

February 16, 2006

Portable Movie Sales Dry Up

Sony is running into some problems with the sale of portable movies on the Universal Media Disc (UMD) format for the PlayStation Portable (PSP). Movie companies are pulling many of their future releases for a variety of reasons including:

Many movies do not sell well for the portable device; comedy does fairly well, but the audience isn’t very wide or deep.

People can’t play the PSP version of the movie on their TV and don’t like purchasing the same movie more than once, one time to watch at home and again to watch on the PSP.

With new high-definition versions of movies scheduled to hit store shelves later this year, retailers will require room to stock and sell these new formats. As such, something has to give, and that would be the poorly performing UMDs.

Here's what Sony SHOULD have done from the get-go:

Never imagined the UMD
The PSP should run games off of ROM chips (not Flash ROM for those claiming it would be too expensive). The PSP would have had faster loading times, better battery life, greater durability/reliability, and could be smaller. Instead, we are stuck with the already outdated UMD format and all the drawbacks of optical discs. The only advantage of the UMDs are the amount of storage space they provide, important for movies, not as much for games. This one is kind of hard to undo since the PSP has already been available for a year. It isn’t beyond the realm of possibility with a redesign akin to the Nintendo DS Lite.

Downloadable Video
The PSP should have launched with a video download service where users could buy movies online and save them to Memory Stick. Sony would make a killing on Memory Stick sales. Instead, they let Apple and Google beat them to the punch. Now sales of UMDs dwindle.

Make the PS3 a Recorder
The PS3 will come with the ability to playback DVDs. Why not embed the ability to copy the contents of a DVD to a Memory Stick for viewing on the PSP? Sony could control the fair-rights copyright within the PS3 and PSP since they create the hardware for both. They could enforce that your are only allowed to copy the DVD to a PSP a set number of times, much like iTunes handles digitally rights managed music.

Here’s why it would be successful:
Many movies do not sell well on UMDs, and producing a movie on UMD is a fairly expensive affair. Discs have to be duplicated, packaging printed, UMDs shipped to retailers, etc. Stocking movies online would remove the production form the costs of the movie, allowing Sony and the movie studio to reap more of the cost of the sale. The online store could be tailored to suggest new movies to PSP owners based on their previous viewing habits.

PSP owners would buy more movies if they were cheaper. This increases the value of the device to the consumer, ensuring they utilize the PSP more often, for longer and in public. Public use of the PSP is free advertising for Sony. Sony should think of the PSP as a long-term relationship rather than trying to gouge consumers with each $20+ UMD sale.

If people could buy a DVD and use the PS3 to watch it on their TV as well as use it to copy the DVD to the PSP, people would see a greater value in both the PSP and the PS3. It would solve the problem consumers have with buying two copies of the same movie, an understandable complaint.

High Definition movies wouldn’t compete with UMDs in retail if there was a good digital distribution method for acquiring movies or creating portable versions of DVDs. Sony is already fighting to make sure their Bluray formay is the HD movie format of choice, why would they want to battle against themselves for shelf-space? It essentially cuts into either their HD-movie retail space OR their UMD movie shelf space. Either way, Sony loses.

February 10, 2006

Analysis Of System Expectations-2006

Famitsu, the Japanese gaming magazine, recently released the results of a survey they undertook concerning which game console is likely to be the leader in 2006. Famitsu polled retailers (113), developers (47) and gamers (370). The results showed some interesting things on the surface, but point to much larger issues and trends when examined in detail.

Ganers were asked which system they think will be the most successful in 2006, not which system they plan on purchasing.

Click chart for larger version.

The Xbox 360 results are no real shocker since Japanese gamers never really acquired the taste of Microsoft’s console last generation, and it looks like this generation is no different. The PS3 hype pulls out with a nice lead and gamers have a good feeling for the DS as well, no doubt being based on 2005’s stellar lineup in Japan for the handheld. The real shocker is the PSP, obtaining fewer predictions of success from the average gamer in Japan than the Xbox 360. This statistic is a painful wakeup call for Sony whose handheld has all but fallen off of the mindshare radar of gamers in their own home country.


Click chart for larger version.

Retailers, like gamers, also responded favorably to the pre-PS3 hype, probably due to years of PS2 retail success. The Nintendo DS’s future looks bright to retailers as well. Retailer’s expectation of the PSP this year is better than that of the gamer, but it is still rock-bottom overall, tied evenly with the niche Xbox 360.

Something to keep in mind is that retailers have the least amount of influence when it comes to the success of a game console. Gamers are the ones that come in to purchase the systems, so their opinions about what consoles will be successful are more likely to create reality. Why do gamers buy consoles? For games! Which is where developers come into the picture.

Developers are a key portion of the equation since they actually develop the games that retailers sell and gamers buy. It takes a series of successful games to launch a game system into the stratosphere of the people's mindshare. Keeping an eye on where developers are focusing their efforts leads to a fairly accurate prediction of where the gamer’s excitement will eventually be focused and where the retailer will see success as well.

Click chart for larger version.

The developer survey results show a much better outlook for the future of Sony’s PSP, with almost 3x the number of developers responding favorably than did so for the Xbox 360. Developer interest is strangely close between the Nintendo Revolution and the PS3. This could possibly indicate that while retailers and gamers both have high expectations for Sony’s upcoming console, the actual developers making games have less interest in developing for the platform. As a result, PS3 titles may suffer in quantity or quality, altering gamer and retailer reactions. Another thing to note about the PS3 is that neither gamers or retailers have any real-world experience with the console. Only developers have had the opportunity to run games on the PS3. Could this abnormally low response to the PS3 indicate developer’s unhappiness with the PS3 as a development environment?

Developers are clearly in love with the Nintendo DS. The largest spread between any two adjacent systems can be found between the Nintendo DS’ 49.9% developer response and the PS3’s 16.7% response. In the Nintendo DS, developers have found a platform that requires fewer development resources to create a game, a rapidly growing installed base, and a system that allows unprecedented creative freedom with the innovative new feature set.

Note: The gamers response also had an entry for PS2 for those gamers who thought the PS2 will be the leading system in 2006. I did not include this information in the charts since it was not available for all groups polled.
Source: Gamasutra

February 08, 2006

The new Samsung A920 is here. First impressions are important. It is a solidly constructed phone brimming with features and two color screens, one on the inside of the clamshell design and one outside. I'll provide more detailed impressions as time goes on. Today, I'm testing the streaming Sirius radio stations at work using the included headphones.

If you have any questions about the phone, the features or multimedia aspects of it, leave a comment and I'll try and respond.