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March 30, 2006

PSP Movies Bomb - Like Blu-ray

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has completely stopped producing UMD movies, according to executives who asked not to be identified by name. Said one high-ranking exec: "It's awful. Sales are near zilch. It's another Sony bomb -- like Blu-ray."

March 29, 2006

EA Snatches Your Privates

When you load up Unreal Tournament, Metroid Prime Hunters, Mario Kart, Counter Strike, Halo 2 or any other online action game, do you expect to be required to give up your email address to the publisher so they can spam you? Get ready kids. Electronic Arts is getting’ ready to rape your personal info.

From the moment you load the Battlefield 2: Modern Combat demo on the Xbox 360, the game sends your email address to Electronic Arts. Within moments, emails are sent out to fill your mailbox with crap.

Remember, your EA Member Account automatically stores your information, making the game registration process quick and easy. Even better, you could receive a free cheat code or game hint, or an opportunity to receive special offers on EA games with each game you register.

Look EA. I didn’t want to be part of your community. I wanted to try out your game. I don’t like the way you wrangle my email address out of me. It isn’t fair.

Perhaps if you spent more time creating compelling games, you could spend less time trying to trick people into giving up their personal information. It is rude, sneaky and dirty.

Thanks for playing on Xbox Live. The EA and Xbox Live partnership gives you an even deeper and richer experience on the ea.com website, including access to your personal stats, rankings and more.

And shame on you Microsoft. Your Live service has been great so far. Not once have I been bombarded with an advertisement or newsletter telling me how I can spend my money on your stuff. It is great, a no-pressure approach. But this ‘partnership’ with Electronic Arts is shady. It stinks. Is this what Live is going to become, a sell out to any company that puts up a demo or arcade game?

The slope is slippery. You have a great opportunity here; you are currently the greatest online gaming service of all time. Do you maintain that title by shafting over customers, giving their private details out to any publisher with a bit of cash?

Electronic Arts, you suck.

March 14, 2006

Sony's PS3 Ark

Sony is building an ark.

All around, the flood waters are rising. Sony no longer is the dominant name in portable music, televisions or stereo equipment. Their namesake is sinking in a torrential sea of small, nimble companies. What is Sony to do?

All eyes fall on the Playstation, the only division of Sony to be profitable in quite some time. Once the laughingstock of the company, the unlikely bastard child of all things Sony; the Playstation name is now the company’s life preserver, and all divisions want to hold on for dear life.

Sony has created the Playstation 3 (PS3), not as a game machine, but as a vessel to float the company into new lands. They are burdening the system with a new movie format (BluRay) unheard of levels of digital rights management for music and video, Memory Sticks and more.

The results are already starting to show. A year ago, Sony promised to launch the PS3 in Spring 2006. Instead, they waited till Spring 2006 to announce that they won’t be launching the system until November 2006, in Japan, with other regions perhaps as soon as Spring 2007. Why? Digital Rights Management issues with the upcoming BluRay format.

The other divisions of Sony are dragging the PS3 down. The Playstation Portable (PSP) suffers from the same illness; too many hands in the basket. The PSP was designed around a slow-loading UMD format for distribution of movies which makes the machine less than ideal for game playing. Compared to ROM cartridges, UMDs are too slow loading and consume too much battery time. They make the machine more fragile and introduce problems with additional moving parts. In short, they are a sacrifice to the movie industry arm of Sony; giving up on the optimal game experience for the opportunity to sell you movies you probably already own on DVD.

Sony hopes that the PS3 will carry their formats of movie and music distribution will become the de-facto standard by attaching them to the PS3. 100 million PS2s have been sold in the last 6 years. One would think that using the Playstation’s success to launch a new standard format may be a good plan. The problem isn’t in the plan, it is in the execution. Delays and compromises will push the PS3 back while consumers looking for a game system will pick up another available option, such as an Xbox 360 or Nintendo Revolution; systems designed to play games first and foremost. Consumers looking for some of the other features the PS3 is to include, such as High Definition movie playback, will pick up more readily available and cheaper options, such as HD-DVD.

The delays brought about by making compromises to the core functions of the system will put a great strain on Sony. Currently, their ark is full of holes and loaded with baggage. The flood waters rise. How many gamers will wait until this time next year in order to pick up a PS3 when Xbox 360 games are available today and are getting excellent review scores? How many will pass up the Revolution this holiday season when it is affordable and fun? How high will the waters rise before Sony can launch the ark?

Will it float?

March 07, 2006

360 - First Impressions

I dont mean to be negative, but right now i fail to be compeled towards the 360. If nothing else, it's the best VGA box for xbox 1 titles I've ever seen.
Microsoft made a real console this time. The original Xbox is a kludge of PC parts + clunky controller + poopy interface spun in the marketing machine. The 360, by comparison, shows such a serious design initiative from the team, so much so that the difference is shocking. The dashboard, the online component, the marketplace, the music collection, the PC connection, the downloadable demos are all handled better on the 360 than they will be on either the Revolution or the PS3. The controller has, in some regards, become my favorite controller of all time in just 2 days. I'm amazed at how much I like it.

The 360 is an excellent piece of hardware with so much thought placed into the interface (something dear to me) that it is difficult not to be impressed. The games though, are games we've already played to death. The Nintendo Revolution will be home to favorite franchises and unique, new, innovative games. I'm not expecting that on the 360, but I'll be very happy if it happens.

It'll be a while before games I really want come out for the 360. We picked up the 360 to cover the types of 3rd party games from this generation that won't work well on the Revolution; titles like Prince of Persia, Xtreme G (and XGRA), Sega Soccer Slam, Resident Evil 4 and others. While 'traditional' cross-platform titles may not work well on the Revolution, they will shine on the 360.

Perfect Dark is total crap. Some of the issues with the sound and level design encountered in the single player mode are downright embarrassing. The development team included transparent blue arrows on the ground that materialize in order to lead players to the next destination. Why? Because the level and mission design is so bad, pointlessly confusing and dark, that it is impossible to tell what one is supposed to do next.

Kameo does have some control issues that are very frustrating until learned. What is most frustrating about them is that they could have been ironed out with testing and polish. The title does have a lot of interesting game mechanics that are downright fun yet the learning curve to get to the point where it is enjoyable will turn off many. The art direction is best described as 'fantastic plastic' a fantasy world made of plastic, which will also turn off a large portion of players. The game will be nice to play through in a week or two, but not one that will be the most memorable of experiences. It could turn into a very nice sequel if provided more attention.

On the flip side, I REALLY like Ridge Racer 6. I like the arcade play, I like the smooth controls, I like the clean gameplay. I could easily while away the hours drifting around and having a blast! It isn't revolutionary, but it is clean, arcade fun.

I would have a difficult time recommending the 360 at this point. Perhaps if you enjoyed playing online, sports, racing, or World War II themed shooters, it would be a great time to pick up a 360. I don't like sports, my tastes in shooters and racing are limited and eclectic. I don't particularly care for dark games. I don't particularly care for playing online with strangers. For the love of all that is holy, there aren't any 360 games thet utilize a grappling hook!

I am looking forward to a few games for the 360, and hope they rock. With the 360's ability to download demos, I also think I'll get a good chance to try games before paying full price for them. I'll buy less but try more; a fair trade off.

Here's a list of games that I'll be keeping my eye on. They are in no particular order.

N3: Ninety-Nine Nights

Star Trek: Legacy

Resident Evil 5

Too Human

Top Spin 2

Tokyo Xtreme Racer

Sonic the Hedgehog


After Burner

Blue Dragon


Gears of War


Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII

Lost Odyssey

Mass Effect


NeoGeo Battle Coliseum

Shadowrun [next-gen]


Unreal Tournament 2007


Overall, I'm happy with the box, the controller, the interface and the online component. The games aren't any better than current games though. PS3 is going to be the same thing, only without an excellent controller, interface and online component. Not only will I bet my hat on that, but I just bet $650 in Xbox hardware/software. I've been around for all of Sony's console launches and seen the vast difference between the reality of the console and promises (lies) made before the launch. I’ve also has the misfortune of attempting to use their various pieces of software and now understand they won’t ever have a service that rivals Live in usability or features. Sony’s attitude towards controller symmetry ensures us that they will forego ergonomics and proper control placement to create a controller that is more beautiful than functional.

For the time being, I'll spend more time on my DS than on the Xbox 360. The DS has a long list of must-have titles already available and a very bright future lineup as well. I'll be playing Metroid Prine: Hunters on the 20th along with some Tetris Online as well.