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Monday, October 12, 2009

Upcoming games (through the end of the year)

OK, I meant to follow up fairly quickly from my basically Q3 list of upcoming games, and got distracted -- Largely because I've been playing several of those games, and some from the new list: Games from Q4 (I need sexier names for my lists).

To review from last time, I list the games I'm excited about as an armchair analyst, industry professional (?), and gamer -- particularly with an affinity for co-op games (so, L4D2, New Super Mario Bros., and Borderlands rise to the top.

Here are the games:

Dreamkiller (360, PC) -- There need to be more, frenetic, memorable PC first-person shooters, a la Painkiller (not related to this title, other than it looks like it's unofficially "inspired-by"). So, this title has my interest because of that, and because I've been carefully watching ASPYR and it its evolving business model over the years. I hope the game does well on PC, and while I hope for the same on 360, I expect it to falter as it goes up against top-notch FPS offerings like Modern Warfare 2, ODST, and even L4D2 -- but especially against Serious Sam HD on XBLA, which will provide that same super-frenetic action, with über polish and a fractional price point.

South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play! (XBLA) -- A South Park tower defense game? Brilliant!

Lucidity (XBLA) -- LucasArts brings a new platformer to the XBLA platform? Brilliant!

Magna Carta 2 (360) -- I'm always on the lookout for a gorgeous, accessible JRPG. Magna Carta 2, the sequel to the 2002 PC title, may just foot the bill.

A Boy and His Blob (Wii) -- I'm a big fan of the original, and the absolutely beautiful nature of this new one has me really excite. I own a Wii, but play very few games for myself, but Q42009 will likely change that.

Brütal Legend (360, PS3) -- It's Tim [bleeping] Schafer, ladies and gents! And while this game was on my "must get, but maybe not right away" list, the demo changed that for me. If it's representative, this game is the perfect mix of Shafer humor and gameplay, Jack Black is used appropriately (not overwhelmingly), and the game seems to be scratching every itch for me. I'm excited. Wicked excited.

Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition (360, PC, PS3) -- This single-player, first-person RPG is one of my all-time favorites, and now you can get the GOTY edition, which comes with the original game, and all five DLC expansion packs (The Pitt, Operation: Anchorage, Broken Steel, Point Lookout and Mothership Zeta). And you'll probably be able to find it for cheaper than full price or with purchase incentives. If you haven't bought this game before, you should. Both of you.

Marvel Super Hero Squad (Wii, PS2, NDS, PSP) -- I am such a fan of Marvel's cutified franchise, and while I worry about the possible rushed quality of this licensed brawler title, I'm likely to pick it up regardless for its scratching my multiplayer-plus-fanboy itch.

FIFA Soccer 2010 (360, PC, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, NDS) -- I'm not a big soccer fan, but I'm savvy enough to know this sport is the big dog 'round the world, and one of the biggest movers for EA (and therefore, biggest moments for sports-minded gamers). So it gets listed.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3) -- This Sony exclusive is arguably the big-dog for October, and probably the first of the genuine heavy hitters for the holiday. Taking a Tomb Raider formula that actually works, injecting top visuals and gameplay mechanics, story, and the introduction of multiplayer, this week's midnight launch will likely have people stacked up like cordwood throughout the nation.

Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time (PS3) -- You gotta respect the R&C, and this additional PS3-exclusive is (I think) going to make those console faithful happy with an updated take on the franchise.

Demon's Souls (PS3) -- YAPE (Yet Another PS3 Exclusive), this game is already garnering rave reviews, with people trumpeting the game's difficulty, but difficulty that makes you a far better gamer (akin to Ninja Gaiden, but with seemingly less profanity; slightly less). And the game looks slick.

DJ Hero (360, PS3, Wii) -- While it doesn't exactly float my boat, there are going to be a number of DJ-type games hitting shelves as the next wave of music-related games, so I'm curious to watch the trend. And peripherals make people lots of money. And it does look kind of nifty.

Borderlands (360, PC, PS3) -- (This one actually moved to Q4 after I did the original post) Teased for so long, with a relatively recent shiny new coat of paint, I have worked hard not to lose interest in this one. Gearbox has earned their place in the industry, so I'll likely pick up this game just to vote with my dollars as to how to do it right, and I'm guessing the game will live up to the studio that made it. This may be overselling it, but think "4-player co-op Fallout 3."

Tekken 6 (360, PS3) -- I've got a hankering for a new fighting game, and I like the marketing win of one of PlayStation's most venerable exclusive fighting franchises now bing on the 360 (starting with 5). That and I want to be able to pit a panda against a kangaroo. Over and over again.

Fairytale Fights (360, PS3) -- Twisted fairy tale trope at its best (and most violent). Think cutesy plus Kill Bill plus online multiplayer. Let's see if lands as expected.

Dragon Age Origins (360, PC, PS3) -- I think this Bioware RPG is going to be Oblivion / Fallout 3 awesome. Yes. That awesome.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (360, PC, PS3) -- I actually expect this game to be the big mover for the holiday season. It addresses all of the right markets -- it's not console exclusive, so it sells more individual units; it's an FPS, so it hits that crowd; It's not as hardcore as a simulation, but hardcore enough to get both casual and hardcore FPS fans on board; it's not niche-genre ("modern war" is much broader than "zombie"); etc. Members of my CoD clan are actually planning to take the day off to play this game. Seriously. (There will also be derivations of this game on Wii, PSP, and NDS, but they are differently titled, obviously have very different game mechanics.)

New Super Mario Bros. (Wii) -- It's Mario. On the Wii. With co-op (and adversarial, it looks like), a la classic Super Mario Bros. My hope is to be playing this all holiday long with my sweetie, which may cost me Xbox and NDS time (and will be well worth it).

Phantasy Star (NDS) -- This game (which would make my list just because of my love of the franchise) is allegedly an action RPG amalgam of the best of Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Universe. Sign me up!

Left 4 Dead 2 (360, PC) -- I should not be this addicted to the first game. It's short, it's too niche, etc. Instead, I'm like a social crackhead at a snow party. Every Tuesday night (every), I and 3 other guys get online and play and replay the same campaigns, go after insane achievements, and pull other peopleion for the online modes. And just a year after that game, the sequel is shipping, which makes me all sorts of happy. All sorts.

Assassin's Creed II (360, PC, PS3) -- This sequel to a great stealth title from two years ago looks to up the ante on quality, gameplay diversity, and historical tie-in significance.

Ok, that's what I have. Dates my change, I feel like I've missed some titles, etc.

But it's still more than I can play without being professionally paid to do so.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Nintendo E3 presser

Nintendo's E3 presser was geared toward toward "innovation and surprises", and "everyone's game".

Cammie Dunaway started the event, and despite using very biz analytic language like "even Mario is not enough to attract all people to our category", she at least did lead with the company's major strengths, intro'ing a brief Mario retrospective, which was a lead-up to a new Super Mario Bros. for Wii. The game has four-player, drop-in co-op (or not, if you're petty), and is is coming Holiday 2009.

Wii Fit Plus -- An updated, configurable version of the company's hugely successful workout and strength training software. It will be will be available this fall, and ship with the Balance Board, or as a stand-alone title for those folks who were able to get their hands on a Balance Board.

Reggie Fils-Aime took the stage to (re-)announce the MotionPlus add-on hardware (he's a very polished, articulate Nintendo advocate). The precision-control nature of the MotionPlus is, I think, going to very much help with fine-grain, core game mechanics, and the cutesy sky diving demo was a very good way to introduce the Wii MotionPlus Resort pack-in (?). The game is a collection of mini games to demonstrate (and get experience with) the new Wii remote add-on.

the Wii MotionPlus Resort demo lagged a bit from sky diving to archery to basketball, but while the banter lagged in the last demo, at least Fils-Aime brought the smack talk to the mini-competition. (I want him to the bring that snark to Microsoft and Nintendo.) Wii MotionPlus Resort launches in July.

In the next few weeks, Electronic Arts is backing the MotionPlus technology with upcoming titles Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 and Grand Slam Tennis, and SEGA's Virtual Tennis 2009 will support the tech, as will Red Steel 2 from Ubisoft will only be playable with the Wii MotionPlus.

Square-Enix will be releasing Final Fantasy the Crystal Bearers exclusively for the Wii. They are also releasing an exclusive version of the Kingdom Hearts.

On the DS front, Mario & Luigi Bowser's Inside Story looks like a great RPG, and will finally be out in North America and Europe this fall.

More exciting for me, Nintendo announced Golden Sun is coming back to the DS.

Dunaway came back to the stage to push the low cost of Nintendo DS development, coupled with the the huge install base, as a lower-cost way to take risks. That was a subtle (and I think wise) message to slide in the presser -- "prototype innovative gameplay on the cheap, and if you hit, hit big!"

THQ will be releasing author James Patterson's Women's Murder Club: Games of Passion for the DS. Style looks to smack of the Phoenix Wright franchise, and is obviously going after an exclusive demographic. Interesting.

Ubisoft's Cop: The Recruit looks to be a very slick, stylized GTA China Wars-esque DS offering for core gamers.

There was also a tween / pre-teen girl's game for the DS that I missed, but it plus the THQ and Ubi titles were all about showing the platform demographic and genre diversity. Dunaway kind of hit people over the head with it, but it's a valid differentiator for the handheld.

Dunaway then provided a market update on the Nintendo DSi (surpassing 1M units, plus there were 400,000 DS Lites sold, etc.).

FlipNote -- That user-generated mini movie content software for the DSi -- will be available this summer. I likes.

Mario versus Donkey Kong: Minis March Again (think branded Lemmings) for DS will allow for creating custom , shareable levels, and is available next Monday.

WarioWare DIY -- Glad Cammie told us it was short for "Do It Yourself" :-, is a title that lets you create and share your own games. This one plus FlipNote may make me upgrade to a DSi.

Starting this summer, photos from DSi will let you update photos to Facebook. Facebook is doing well; wonder if they have something to announce with Sony at E3, not that they've covered Nintendo and Microsoft.

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks -- A DS gift for the franchise lovers and the Nintendo faithful hardcore.

Worldwide president Satoru Iwata took the stage, interestingly, to talk about Nintendo's research and market segmentation. He said Nintendo's research of North America, Japan, and 6 other countries showed an "Active gamers" (across all consoles) addressable market of 395M, and those that "Might Play" number ~149M -- his point being "for every two people actively playing games, there is a third, waiting to play").

Mr. Iwata said he has a goal to provide games that work for experienced and novice players at the same time. Lofty goal. I support it, as long as it doesn't suck for both.

He also announced the Wii Vitality Sensor, to expose "the inner world of your body". Think one of those pulse thingies you see at grocery story blood pressure stations. But, not as shared.

Dunaway re-took that stage to announce a new 3D Mario for the Wii -- Super Mario Galaxy 2 (another gift for the franchise and Nintendo faithful).

Fils-Aime re-took the stage to announce 3 exclusive titles for the Wii that are more targeted to the Core gamer:
  • The Conduit -- A great-looking FPS from one of my personal favorite devs, High Voltage Software (published by SEGA)
  • Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles
  • Dead Space: Extraction -- Zorsis's baby. Which looks super slick and scary.

From Nintendo itself (plus Project M and Team Ninja), came Metroid: Other M -- looks to be a great addition to the franchise (Metroid plus deeper story plus Ninja Gaiden-esque gameplay).

And that finished up the presser.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pre-E3 2009

E3 is coming, and hopes to nod more toward its glory days from before the past few years -- and it may just do that.

I'm looking forward to several things, and while there are lot of predictions out there, I'm keeping mine fairly small and fairly me-centric.

And while I'm going to comment on some of the rumors out there, I'm not going to chat up anything I may have knowledge about thanks to my day job -- that would be bad form, and this industry has enough problems with loose lips.

First up and close to home, I'm excited about four titles powered by Gamebryo tech from Emergent Game Technologies that will likely be making a big splash next week. Two will definitely be on the show floor, two are likely, and I'm not going to announce any of them until they make their debut. And we have some long-time and new licensees that will be doing some exciting pitch work at the show, but I won't talk about that, either.

See, I'm starting out as a tease.

Here's the big presser line-up:

  • Microsoft conference – 6/1, 10:30 a.m. Pacific
  • Electronic Arts conference - 6/1, 2 p.m. Pacific
  • Nintendo conference – 6/2, 9 a.m. Pacific
  • Sony conference – 6/2, 11 a.m. Pacific

On the big announcements front, I hope Microsoft or Sony do an announcement similar to Microsoft's disruptive Netflix announcement from last year. I hope Sony doesn't just announce they have Netflix, too -- because that would feel me-too(ish), and not as fun. It would take away from Microsoft's differentiation, though, so that would be a smart business move.

There are all sorts of rumors for peripherals or some other announcement from the Big M, which as a consumer I've been expecting for a while. Have you been paying attention to what feels like really liquid pricing on the current 360 camera, including dirt-cheap pick-ups for in-game bundles of it? Noticed the wireless headsets selling for nearly half of its MSP? Etc.

Maybe Microsoft will do something with convergence -- what can they do to leverage the PC, Console, Zune, and windows mobile platform across each other? We've gotten a bit of this with the announcement of Zune HD and the Zune Store being made available to 360 owners. That's good convergence, and the Zune is seriously under-rated. Maybe there's a Windows Mobile 6.5 or Windows Mobile Microsoft - says - it - doesn't - exist - but - get - real version 7 crossover opportunity? Microsoft's exciting challenge there is to not cannibalize any of those platforms (for example, intro'ing an iPhone competitor would hurt both Zune and Windows Mobile)

But really, I'd like to know: Where the #### is Live Anywhere?

Sony needs to do something. I can't get my head around Microsoft doing so well on the media catalogue / media convergence thing against Sony -- They have a freaking extra-dimensional monster closet vault of music and video, so why aren't they doing something with it? Is there some mistaken notion that it will undercut the value-add of the PS3 as a Blu-ray player?

I'd like to hear some big announcements on Sony convergence, and maybe that'll be PS3 / PSP (or rumored PSP Go) or PS3 / Sony Ericsson phone or -- dare I dream -- an announcement for a massive, unified Sony device synergy that is real and awesome. I don't think the "PS3 Slim" will be there, and I don't think it would be wise -- I think it would hurt PS3 sales, and unless they've done power and heat dissipation magicks, I don't think it would be a full-featured PS3, which could cause consumer confusion (and raise gamer ire).

Nintendo is going to be Nintendo, which you can take as you will. They will be innovative, their handhelds and Wii own the commercial consumer non-core space, and the company is still printing money, if a little slower than they were. I hope they surprise everyone with yet another new peripheral. And by surprise, I mean something that makes people say, "Wii remotes and nunchucks and Balance Boards and MotionPlus and Wii Speak, and everything else -- those are cool, but this, this I must have!"

I do expect some game coolness for Nintendo, but think it may come uncharacteristically from 3rd parties (I'm hoping the High Voltage Software Wii FPS The Conduit does as well as that developer and SEGA hope it does).

Despite a ridiculous amount of pre-E3 leakage, Microsoft is uncharacteristically under wraps, so I'm hoping for bigness, because they're talking a big game.

And I honestly am hoping for a bit of competitive rodeo, because Microsoft's presser goes first this year, and if you're Sony or Nintendo, how do you head off the under-wraps Microsoft?

Traditionally (besides having big stuff of your own) you take away the differentiators -- take away Netflix, or something. Maybe do more with Miis on the Wii than Xbox Avatars are doing -- but watch out, because I don't expect Microsoft to keep those still). Better, leapfrog the differentiators by announcing Netflix, and something like an XM exclusivity.

And someone needs to add a social networking component. (In a way that matters.)

Yeah, but it's all about the games, right?

Right! (I'm lying, but the games are cool.)

What am I stoked about?

Besides the Gamebryo titles I hint at above (and genuinely, as I'm off the clock and out of shill mode), here are some of the titles or rumors I'm looking forward to.

Modern Warfare 2. Infinity War is top-notch. The previous game was fantastic, and this one continues on. And despite the reveal in Game Informer Magazine, they claim "big surprises" are still in store for this title. I hope we learn those at E3.

Crackdown 2. I don't think this is on anyone's radar for E3, but a sequel to one of the better games on the 360, after a premium theme randomly popped up for purchase? C'Mon, show me some super-cop love.

Dead Rising 2. Sure, the games not going to be shown, but the US arm of Capcom will likely be in attendance, so maybe it will. I so dug the first game, despite hating the save and escort mechanics. I really thought it was an indicator of what next-gen gaming could be, and it sounds like the sequel -- as long as gameplay is pushed as hard as raw polys -- could build on and explode that legacy. Plus we should all be practicing for the inevitable.

BioShock 2. If you don't know why, you haven't played the former. Go do that then come back and apologize.

Assassin's Creed 2. Sure, it was a bit of a super-polished more intricate period-piece Crackdown, but it was a rocking super-polished more intricate period-piece Crackdown.

New Splinter Cell. Ironically, wetworks dude Sam Fisher has gone dark in the real world, too. Ubi says he's back, so show him to us, and make us uncomfortable. Very.

God of War III. We need next-gen sacrilege on the PS3. It will move consoles.

Halo ODST will be there (it's not E3 without Halo), but I hope there's more excitement about it then announcing an attractive female actress as part of the voice cast. Maybe also give us an update on the Peter Jackson Halo effort (or tell us it's dead, so the mourning can begin).

Capcom could surprise and delight me with a new Marvel vs. Capcom (it's my fantasy, dammit), I wish Epic would update us on what People Can Fly are doing, they may announce Cliff's horror game (though the rumored PS3-exclusivity seems like an ungrateful thumbing at Microsoft for the the Gears and Gears 2 successes).

I still hold out hope that the 3D Realms is doing a masterful Duke Nukem feint, thought that's feeling less and less likely.

Shooters Singularity and Brink have me intrigued, given Raven's and Bethesda's / Splash Damage's pedigree (respectively).

I'm losing interest in Borderlands, and I want them to change my mind. Lost Planet 2 doesn't have to do much pwn me, because while I can't articulate it, the first game pwned me too.

Aliens vs Predator will be there. And it will rock. I listen to my gut on this one (just before it's used as a footstool for a chestburster).

And while the cinematics and roster aren't as big as the previous title, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 will be in my library, so I'm excited for more info that shows me this is doing comic books right again.

Mini Ninjas from Eidos looks cute and fun.

From EA, I don't think Brütal Legend can fail, so I hope it doesn't. Dante's Inferno is interesting, and I want my spiritual successor Dead Space Extraction to do well. Because I'm that kind of dad. Dragon Age: Origins needs to show me gameplay, I'm fanboy nervous about G.I.Joe, and I'm curious about Spore Hero. I go back and forth on The Saboteur.

I'm hoping Painkiller: Resurrection fits my previous guilty pleasure, but it'll probably make me upgrade my PC to do it.

I want A Boy and His Blob and Flip's Twisted World to be good for Majesco and for platformers.

Maybe the last 4 years have been good to Huxley?

Marvel Super Hero Squad may make me buy a personal Wii this fall. Wish they'd hire me for voice work.

I want Valve to wow me. I've got an itch in the back of my brain about a team that is using their tech that had some promising stuff, and it escapes me now. The itch tells me I'm mildly iterested if it's them.

On the more dark-horse(ish) front, BlActivision's been teasing an "all-new" game -- what if it was exclusive to one console? Square-Enix has teed up new games -- exclusives?

What about a 360 MMO?

And I want Heavy Rain to cross the uncanny valley. And build a bridge so others can follow.

And now I'm rambly.

It's going to be noisy, and I am concerned publishers will try to take advantage of the eyeballs to push everything -- not just their top-tier offerings. Think movie tie-ins, other licensed fare, and non-AAA sequels. That may take away from the good stuff, and the sleepers (who can ill-afford it).

I think E3 still suffers from an identity crisis (is it a consumer or industry show?) but maybe this year will help it suss out what it wants to be when it grows up.

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thoughts on Nintendo's fiscal report

Nintendo gave their Q3 financial report to investors yesterday for their current fiscal year, which runs from last April through this March. The presentation was made by Nintendo president Satoru Iwata.

It's not a bad read, with some interesting data from one of the big playas in the industry.

Several points (or omissions) were of particular interest to me:
  1. Teh Global Ekonomies Sux
  2. What We's Done is not What We's Gonna
  3. DS Will Make PS2 Its Be-otch
  4. Reading This? They're After You
  5. Philosophy as Applied to World Domination
  6. Wii Hotness at E3
  7. Wait -- It Ain't All About Us?
  8. Japan -- Not the Center of the Universe
  9. Hey, Number Two!

Teh Global Ekonomies Sux
The global economic downturn is affecting everyone -- Nintendo included. They have been arguably significantly less hit to date, but they set expectations in the report that the boom could lower further, and they have some interesting year-to-year and quarter-to-quarter comparisons where they factor in recent and historical appreciation impacts to the euro and yen.

What We's Done is not What We's Gonna
Interestingly, due to their increased market install base, Mr. Iwata said Nintendo will be changing the rapid business model nature for their hardware cycles, for which they've previously been known.

This is at least true for the DS family, but the implication is that it is across the board (including the Wii).

"Since technology continues to evolve, I do not think any hardware can enjoy eternal life. Someday, we will need a new platform for sure, and of course, Nintendo is always preparing for that. However, now that our customer base has expanded this drastically, we do not think it appropriate to conclude that past platform lifecycle theory can and should be applied to the current generation."

I re-state this as, "Investors, don't plan on new products from us as often as you're used to."

DS Will Make PS2 Its Be-otch
Nintendo is continuing its positioning of the DS -- not the Wii -- against the PS2 for household penetration (and while not stated as such, this is their beachhead strategy).

Reading This? They're After You
Nintendo is growing their "installed base in accordance with the total population, [where] the ultimate business potential should be decided by how many people populate the market". This is tempered by the fact that "they are theoretical potentials and not the actual demands of today" (smart folks ;-) .

This factors into Nintendo's strategy change from a "one DS per household" to their "one DS per person". They have to do this in Japan (see below), and makes sense as a strategy across the board to grow addressable market worldwide.

Philosophy as Applied to World Domination
"... what matters most in our business is not necessarily the effects of the changing economic conditions, but whether or not we are able to provide customers with new proposals and services that are hard to resist one after another before they bore of the old ones. The former president of Nintendo, Mr. Hiroshi Yamauchi, often told us, 'In the entertainment business, there are only heaven and hell, and nothing in between,' and 'as soon as our customers bore of our products, we will crash.'"

Wii Hotness at E3
Innovation is going to be needed to continue growth of the Wii, and Iwata said E3 will see some innovative software for the Wii (bring back the glory days of E3!).

Wait -- It Ain't All About Us?
Nintendo is finally thawing on the importance of third-party development, citing the significant increase in those titles selling million units plus (for both Wii and DS), and forecasting the trend to increase. Good thing there's middleware for those folks. ;-)

Japan -- Not the Center of the Universe
Japan has nominally been the nucleus of the gaming industry for years. Has been.

Lately, that part of the world has had a tough time holding onto that particular gaming crown, with big-gun Japanese creative directors and producers saying there is more innovation in the West, Microsoft being the first major platform vendor to basically eschew the Japanese gaming market (even as a beachhead), and Sony focusing tremendously more effort on the U.S. and EU markets (and even third-country developer markets with their legacy PS2 tech).

Add to that Nintendo's "Nintendo Japan First" perception, and you have a global business situation the company needs to address quickly and, thankfully, looks like it is (or it at least it acknowledges it).

I don't have any particular insight, but my sense is Nintendo's various regional headquarters cooperate as well as at least pre-public payments company Visa (made up of its various Visa territories) did.

That is, they don't.

I would be surprised if NOA, Nintendo EU, etc. had as much pull as Japanese-headquartered NOJ. I would be shocked if Nintendo employees of a senior title in the EU had has much influence or information as a person of the same title working for the corporate headquarters. I would be overjoyed if worldwide companies like Nintendo (because this isn't endemic to just to the House that Mario Built) acted like one company, and empowered their peer regions to break open their respective markets with third-party developers, publishers, and retail channels?

Don't think it's a problem? Take the one retail example of slowdown in Wii sales for Japan due to significant overstock, with a stalling of Wii sales in the U.S. and EU due to massive understock (compounded by not being able to just swap localized stock)?

But, like I said, Nintendo at least seems aware of the problem, acknowledging quicker saturation of the addressable market there, and recognizing the downside of quicker brand / retail dissemination being quicker commodity fatigue. they also point out the business significance of things like the DS "showing a rather unique development in each territory". (The biz dev weenie in me likes these numbers and charts.)

Also as a biz dev guy, at the very least, I'd like to see Nintendo not repeat mistakes made in the last console iteration (mistakes arguably being repeated by Sony this generation). But at most, I'd like to see them (and all of the platform makers) knock it out of the park.

Hey, Number Two!
I laugh at "Positioning 101" stuff like this.

Making another comparison to Visa, keep in mind their "but they don't take American Express" campaign wasn't aimed at #2 competitor MasterCard, but #3 American Express. They didn't acknowledge #2, implicitly training their addressable market that you shouldn't either. (Sure, there are other factors for their targeted campaign, like Visa wanted more of that lucrative travel and corporate market, and MasterCard's "Priceless" campaign is tough to do a competitive response campaign.)

Who's not mentioned in Nintendo's fiscal report? They've got freaking graphs showing them compared to Sony's PS2 and PS3, but they don't acknowledge Microsoft -- intentionally, I'm sure.

Microsoft wasn't even supposed to be a contender in the last generation, when they launched their first console offering. And independent of their arguable Perot-affect on Nintendo during that round, they nonetheless established themselves as a contender in and of themselves. This round, they were first out of the gate, have a robust install base and first- and third-party catalogue, have weathered their self-induced hardware failure challenges, and have the premiere online service to beat -- especially when put up against the comparatively non-existent services offered by their competitors.

I don't think it's incidental that they're omitted from Nintendo's presentation.

I'm wicked impressed with Nintendo, both in terms of the creative legacy they've given me and the industry, and in their smart, non-standard business practices (rapid cycling of handheld hardware, Wii as a blue ocean offering not directly competing with Microsoft and Sony, etc.).

I also like how they seem to be adjusting to changes in the global economy, geographic industry power shifts, and challenges brought about their own install base and related scalability successes. I just hope their agile in their response.

And things are going to get more competitive, at the same time that they get more nebulous. Everybody's scrapping to hold onto their place, and/or be #1, at the same time that we enter this "bubble" in preparation for the next iteration of consoles, which many believe to be 2011 or 2012.

It's interesting now. But the ride's about to get a lot more fun ...

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Greeting Cards from the Industry

While just a year into formally being in the games industry, I have reached an unlooked-for measure of success: I'm getting video game holiday cards.

I got a bunch, and I particularly enjoy the company-themed offerings.

Below are a few of my current favorites. Of course, these are the outsides of the cards; I'm not going to share the insides, because those are besmirching personal.

Cards and lightweight opining below.

("Understated. Tastefully branded. Tastes good with cheese.")

("It's Nintendo! It's Animal Crossing! It's cute!")

BottleRocket Entertainment:
("Kicks ####ing ###.")

My Card for 2008:
("Edgy because it's Christmas, and gutsy in hoping 'game-theme' will win out over 'Santa-hating'.")

No, I didn't make my holiday cards (this year), but I really dig this card with art from Charlie Podrebarac. And, yes, Sony and Nintendo are not getting this particular card. They get different cards. Obviously.

Though I think they like cookies.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Fill your back catalog at GameStop

So this is kind of cool.

GameStop is doing "Buy 2, Get 1 Free Sale" on all used games and accessories (you can use coupon code GSB2G1 if you're ordering online).

If you have an Edge Card, you get an extra 10% off. What makes this particularly cool is if you're not inappropriately fixated on "next-gen" graphics, there are a bunch of original Xbox, Gameboy Advance, GameCube, etc. titles you can get for peanuts, that all play on their now-gen successors.

For example, print out the Xbox backwards compatibility list (from, once it's back online), and pick up things like Project Snowblind for $2.49, Hunter: The Reckoning (a personal fav) for $2.99, etc. (if you're looking online, I just sorted used Xbox games by price). And this is all before discounts.

Of course, the discount applies to current-gen games too, so it makes GameStop's not-discounted-enough titles more palatable, if you're looking for new or recent titles.

(I'm not affiliated with or paid by GameStop / EBGames. ;-)

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Monday, July 14, 2008

E3 Preview(ish)

E3 starts Monday, with the console pressers on Monday and Tuesday.

I'm excited to see what shakes out, but there are a number of titles and rumors that have me pumped.

On the titles front, I'm going to miss something I dig, but Borderlands (Gearbox Software) just looks fun; I'm hoping Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization continues the great stuff from Civilization: Revolution; Capcom's got me jonesing for Resident Evil 5 and Dark Void, Flock has me intrigued, and I'm hoping "New games from Capcom Interactive" include Dead Rising 2; from D3 Publisher, I think Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers looks to be the video game version of wonderfully trashy camp; Dead Space looks be a brown trousers equivent to 28 Days Later; Mirror’s Edge may improve on the Breakdown formula for "first-person thing"; Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning may be the MMO that gets me on board with the genre (and it's Gamebryo-powered); I'm hoping The Lord of the Rings: Conquest successfully merges the Tolkien IP with the Star Wars Battlefront gameplay; Left 4 Dead could be the shot in the rotting arm the zombie genre needs (like it needs anything); Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe may be a great expression of the component IPs; and SquEnix's The Last Remnant and Infinite Undiscovery look like uber-epic super-production value offerings.

As far as console rumors, I'm hoping they all do something actually phenomenal with media intersection. Brass tacks, Microsoft owns the show with Xbox Live, Sony should have exploded a long time ago (since it has the media and video content six ways to Sunday), and Nintendo could get so much more addressable market if they would get into that space (by way of focused online).

For Sony, it's probably a bit stupid of me that the most exciting thing for me would be a Twisted Metal follow up, (a la Black). Oh, and Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain looks closest to bridging the uncanny valley -- and tugging the heart strings to boot. On the hardware front, I wonder if Sony will drop the price of the PS2; seems like a win/lose, because it'll bring revenue, but feels like it'll cannibalize PS3 adoption (unless there's an equivalent PS3 drop, which I don't expect).

For Microsoft, I wonder if there'll be any motion controller announcement, to add to the news of the price drop for the Pro SKU. I'm a Halo be-otch, so Halo Wars, Peter Jackson's project, or whatever the #### Bungie is working on would be keen. Aside from that, I'd really love "Live Anywhere" to materialize (or even "Live Somewhere") -- like some big E3 presser announcement, simultaneous dashboard download and Windows Mobile update. That'd be sweet.

Nintendo? They say they haven't abandoned the "core gamer", so I hope that means some unexpected announcements from them. A Nintendo DS more akin to the Wii, or integrated with the Wii, or something, with content that matches the stereotypical gaming demographic. Franchise wise, I'm thinking Donkey Kong. What about the Wii? I'd love for Nintendo to do something disruptive -- a "Wii 1.25", or something -- with basics like DVD, a focused network initiative, etc.

So that's my quick-and-dirty preview -- more in a few hours.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Games of 2008: Q3, Q4, and TBD

See also:

Lotta good games coming in 2008. Quarter three's typically the slow one of the year as publisher's lose their audience to summer, and feel out where they fall in the holiday onslaught.

Quarter four is tough to predict with any accuracy, and a lot of the "to be scheduled" games get shunted into the last two quarters as placeholders for fiscal forecasting.

So I'm lumping the two quarters and uncommitted titles together.

Happy Tree Friends False Alarm -- Cutesy crude IP, of which I'm already a fan. I'm in.

Battlefield: Bad Company -- Interest in the Battlefield franchise for a lot of folks is like interest in the Victoria's Secret network fashion show -- it's their if you happen to stumble upon it. This iteration will add a single-player campaign and deepens the online component, and hopefully removes some of the concessions they've made to enable massive online play in the FPS space.

Ninja Gaiden II -- Itagaki-san has a rock star mentality, and that entertains me. Ninja Gaiden made me curse. I play it to make me think I can handle "games made for gamers".

Fable 2 -- Action RPG from the master of video game visionary promises. As long as the dog makes it in, I'm playing.

Halo Wars -- The CGI trailer has nothing to do with the gameplay, and I don't like RTS games. But the gameplay footage (available via Xbox Live) does look compelling, and may get me into the genre. Plus, it's Halo, so it'll print money.

Too Human -- I can't wait for this thing to get out of the fog of game engine heartburn. I think this has the potential to be a brilliant take on my Norse mythology love.

Fallout 3 -- I'm Fallout fiend (maybe just a Fallout fan; or just an alliteration amateur). I suspect this'll be a fun, immersive, time-suck of an RPG.

Brutal Legend -- Jack Black marries Tim Schafer and they birth a spiritual success to KISS's under-rated Psycho Circus. Tell me why you won't be playing this gem.

Alan Wake -- I'm trying to stay interested in this survival horror title. Knock off the delays and keep this thing funded on the publisher front.

Saboteur -- I think this stealth game with an innovative colorization game mechanic looks amazing. Can't wait, though I'm torn that I may be rescuing France.

LEGO Batman -- Have you played LEGO Star Wars? Have you seen the LEGO Batman toys? I am going to own this game, and my be-otches will play LEGO Robin online by my side.

LEGO Indiana Jones: The Videogame -- See above. Minus Robin.

LEGO Universe -- A LEGO MMO. A. LEGO. MMO.

Borderlands -- Hundreds of gun combos. Everything else is gravy, but I'm expecting a lot of gravy.

Fracture -- Real-time terrain deformation as a gameplay (and multi-play) mechanic. From LucasArts.

Mushroom Men -- I miss the Oddworld franchise. Mushroom Men looks to be that foot that bill. Again, from publisher Gamecock.

Dead Space -- Electronic Arts bucks behind a team that wants to create a survival horror title, inspired by the likes of Alien. A potential brown trouser excursion.

Ghostbusters The Video Game -- This game wants to be Ghosbusters 3. If they pull it off, it should rock. I hate Slimer.

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The Games of 2008: Q2

(See also, "The Games of 2008: Q1".)

The further out we go into the year, the more sketchy things get on the release front.

But here are the games that ring my bell to one degree or another for the second quarter of this year.

Grand Theft Auto IV (X360, PS3) -- Dunno about you, but this iteration of the GTA franchise (with its displaced, unwilling Russian anti-hero) might actually pull me in. If I don't play it, it's because all of the meta stuff irritates me -- namely, "Hot Coffee" and Manhunt irresponsibility.

Rez HD (XBLA) -- Weird(ish), on-rails(ish), shooter(ish) game from Q Entertainment / Hexa Drive.

PlayStation Home (PS3) -- Sony is late -- but ambitious -- to the console online party dominated by Xbox Live. I'm curious to see how this Second Life / Xbox Achievements mashup thing either innovates, or looks like a late, console(ish), poor man's Second Life / Xbox Achievements ripoff.

Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution (X360, PS3, DS) -- This strategy games been on the PC forever, and now it's bringing its hard-coreness to the console and handheld space.

de Blob (Wii) -- Painting stuff in games as a game mechanic is the New Hotness, and THQ's jumping in with new IP.

Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball (X360) -- It's "Pirates vs. Ninjas", and published by Gamecock. Golden!

LittleBigPlanet (PS3) -- This game looks artsy and stylish and fun. How cool would it be if this became the PS3 console-seller?

Brothers In Arms Hell's Highway (X360, PC) -- Gearbox Software keeps revisiting WWII, and not only does it not feel tired, it feels important.

Iron Man (PS2, PC, X360, PS3, PSP, WII, DS) -- Yes, it's a movie tie-in, but it's a comic book tie-in. Yes, a lot of comic book games suck beyond belief, but I like comic books, and this title looked good at Comic-Con last year. So they're going to have had ten months to finish, tune, and polish the game.

Spore (PC) -- If this ever comes out, its modern incarnation of a god game may be one of the most innovative titles released this decade.

Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy (X360, PS3) -- I like the folks at High Moon Studios, and the time they're taking with title -- which will launch well outside of the film vehicle -- keeps me interested. I wish they'd rename it, though; I'm tired of the whole "[bigNameIwantToSeeInLights] + [longTitle]" formula.

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (PC) -- It is so time for this MMO.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3) -- Hideo Kojima wants to do something important with games. This is going to probably be his best something important.

Left 4 Dead (X360, PC) -- More zombie games. Always need more zombie games.

Hellboy: Science of Evil (X360, PS3, PSP) -- The footage and grabs from one of my favorite comic book franchises gives me the warm fuzzies.

Legendary: The Box (X360, PS3, PC) -- Hate the game name, but I dig the Pandora's Box device to populate the world with the mythological beasties I love. Then kill them, FPS-style.

Hail to the Chimp (X360, PS3) -- Wideload Games rocks (go play Stubbs the Zombie), and Hail to the Chimp looks to be a funny, politically themed brawler with the same trademark humor. And it's published by Gamecock Media.

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The Games of 2008: Q1

2007 is now a distant memory, and while I've still got to finish The Orange Box, Assassin's Creed, and Mass Effect (and, um, Viva Piñata), I'm already looking to the games of 2008.

So what's up for the next year of gaming after arguably the most prolific and quality-high year in the industry? Did the industry peak in 2007? Does life after Halo 3 and Portal seem a letdown?

Here are my picks -- and don't get your Underoos in a knot if your favorite game isn't here. I'm a PC and 360 gamer, so those titles are a priority for me, as are those titles on other platforms that look compelling for artistic or commercial reasons.

So "your" game may not be here, I may have forgotten some, dates may change, the game may suck, blah blah blah, wah wah wah.

Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom (X360) -- Hey, an action RPG brawler retake on an action RTS mainstay, playable co-op over Xbox Live? I'm in (even if the demo was less than accessible).

Pirates of the Burning Sea (PC) -- An MMO that's not orcs 'n' elves?Let's see how it does. I probably won't play until the ninja community mod expansion pack kicks in.

Devil May Cry 4 (X360, PS3)-- I'm a franchise fan, and even if it's more of the same (but bigger, faster, more insane), it being available out of the gate on the 360 makes it a grabber for me.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) -- If I can get a Wii, this and Super Mario Galaxy are the two boxed titles I'm likely to buy.

Lost Odyssey (X360) -- This may be the JRPG that gets me into JRPGs (sorry, Blue Dragon). Yeah, it's Mistwalker Studios, but it's from Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of the original Final Fantasy series), composed by FF music creator Nobuo Uematsu, art by manga creator Takehiko Inoue, and written by Japanese novelist Kiyoshi Shigematsu.

The Club (PC, PS3, X360) -- Take a top-notch racing game developer and throw them at a stylistic, Running Man-esqu thinking man's FPS? I'm in.

Turning Point: Fall of Liberty (PC, PS3, X360) -- An FPS in alternative 1950s America where the Nazis won? Of course it's on my list.

Insecticide (DS, PC) -- "Insecticide is a film noir action adventure game set in a decaying world run by bugs. " Plus it's published by Gamecock Media. Who are in Austin, TX, and make me laugh.

Condemned 2: Bloodshot (X360, PS3) -- The first Condemned is one of the strongest launch games on the 360, and it still stands up. Add a more polished version of one of my favorite other vertical game engines (Lithtech) and multiplayer, and I'm ready for another "brown trouser" excursion (thank you, Brits, for that expression).

Bully: Scholarship Edition (X360, Wii) -- Bully for Rockstar for doing something different with this game. Sure, it came out the PS2 a while ago, but this version will have new classes, new content, and achievements (on the 360). Plus, the 360 version is being built using Emergent Game Technologies's Gamebryo game engine.

Viking: Battle for Asgard (PS3, X360) -- I'm a big fan of Norse mythology, action brawlers, and SEGA. It's a lock.

Destroy All Humans! Path of the Furon (PS3, X360) -- I know the writer for this, so I would suck if I didn't list it. Plus the franchise genuinely rocks on all fronts.

Haze (PS3) -- Free Radical has my eternal love for the TimeSplitters franchise (bring me TS 4!). Haze looks smart and subversive. Just bring it to 360, kids -- I'd hate to see a sales shortfall for the potential franchise by limiting yourselves to a PS3 SKU.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Contradicting fall game sales predictions debunked

OK, it's not that I don't like the guy, but I when he does video gaming analysis, this guy at CNet falls flatter than me.

Below is a version of the comments I left on his blog. Last time I did this, he wrote a defensive response post, aimed at "people", and never referencing my comments. Let's see if we get a repeat infraction.

Like I said, I don't have an issue with him. He's got a good gig (more power to him). But folks like him (and I) need to recognize (and acknowledge) where we're stepping out of "analysis" and into "opinion".

Anyway, read his whole post for context, but he basically says this is his projection for each of the consoles this holiday:
  • Overall Xbox 360 outlook for the holiday season: mediocre.
  • Overall Nintendo Wii outlook for the holiday season: strong
  • Overall Sony Playstation 3 outlook: moderate to strong

And he says parents not able to find a $250 Wii will buy a $400 Ps3. Why they would do that rather than a $280 or $350 Xbox 360 feels a bit off to me. Maybe he's thinking parents will recognize the Sony brand over the Microsoft brand?

It's an interesting analysis, but it is lacking (and not accurate) in so many areas.

Many of the comments in response to his post point out the major misses in the article.

In addition, I'd say his analysis neglects basic market factors, and doesn't even address things like the recently released NPD numbers, which paint a very different picture than he does. And while every company is going to have their spin on these numbers, Sony's "forward-looking" take is pretty telling.

He's also inconsistent in pointing to bundles as being factors (or non-factors) in holiday sales, but doesn't mention things like the recently released Xbox 360 bundles (the Arcade bundle and the Forza 2 / Marvel Ultimate Alliance bundle).

On the PS3 side, you doesn't go into any detail about the brief history of (and differences between) the price-dropped 80GB, 20 GB, phased-out 60 GB, and recently-released (but feature reduced) 40 GB models.

And he says with Halo 3 out and Mass Effect the only exclusive this holiday, the 360 won't see enough of an upswing from those titles.

Seriously? Does he think the Halo 3 tailing occurred that fast?

I would argue that console exclusives (like Halo 3 or Gears of War) are console sellers, Mass Effect will likely do far better than for which he credits it (the Electronic Arts acquisition by itself is arguably indicative of this market confidence). And I don't think the "BioShock boost" is over yet, either.

And I would argue the non-exclusives are huge console draws (they are for me; I'm looking for a console's total gaming portfolio which is why Microsoft is first for me for its retail offerings; Nintendo is second because of its great Virtual Console offerings, and Sony is last).

For example, "Oh, I can also play Call of Duty 4 on Xbox 360, which is a better FPS platform? Oh, Madden '08 looks and plays ridiculously better on the 360 than the PS3? I don't need to buy a PS3 to get Devil May Cry 4? I can play Orange Box (definitely) and Assassin's Creed (probably) earlier on the 360 than the PS3? Etc.

Again, the guy has some interesting commentary, but it's super lightweight, and way behind (both in terms of time and depth) industry analyst professionals like Michael Pachter or Colin Sebastian.

He also trumpets a previous forward-looking post he did as pseudo credentials for his analysis. Avoiding a rebuttal to the idea of "Why 'Halo 3' will decide the Xbox 360's fate", I'm not sure I'd recommend trumpeting a September Halo 3 post written the day before the game was released -- when industry analysts like Pachter and Sebastian had posted deeper, more accurate predictions weeks (in some cases, months) before. And those guys, as storied as they are in their dedicated vertical market, are only "right" around 60% of the time (in a non-representative, but random, and repeated, an non-overlapping personal sampling).

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Looking at comments written in response to his post while I was writing this one, though, looks like I'm not alone in my grousing.

Hey, for those of you who have been writing to complain about me not having done a "Crotchety Gamer" post in a while ... you're welcome.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Nintendo and Sony E3 press conferences ...

I'm on my way to Houston, so I can't do a blow-by-blow of the Nintendo and Sony press conferences like I did for the Microsoft conference.

Check out for the Sony and Nintendo live blogging recaps.

Nintendo left me a little "mheh", from the recaps. But they're sitting pretty, and the just-announced Wii Fit concept looks very cool.

Sony's tossing down the gauntlet (ostensibly to Microsoft), with some of the big stuff being a new PSP this September (smaller, slimmer, lighter, with better battery and video output).

Oh, and Haze and Metal Gear Solid 4 are PS3 exclusives (the former at least probably just time-bound).

As far as partnerships, according to Kotaku, "Very soon [NCsoft] will be bringing there expertise to the PS3 exclusively. The games will be based on both new and current IP." They will be the Sony MMO dawgs. That's a big deal, and interesting. Both NCsoft and Sony Studios Austin are in (wait for it!) Austin.

More on the PS3 front, Folk Lore continues to intrigue me, as does the (I'm sure) deceptively simple brilliance of LittleBigPlanet. And the just-announced Echochrome looks phenomenal. Honestly, these last two games, to me, speak volumes to Sony's innovation.

And Killzone 2 might be the title to beat next year, but it should be, given how long we've waited since E3 2005.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

PS3 price drop and fallout ...

There are no secrets anymore.

Sony announced yesterday they're dropping the price of the 60GB PS3 -- from $599 to $499 -- and introducing a new 80GB SKU at the old $599 price point. The 20GB model, which was at the $499 price point, was discontinued some time ago.

Everyone from Forbes to Business Week to Bloomberg Worldwide is carrying the story today, and while there's some interesting analysis, it's not real deep, and (from the mainstream press), not very historied.

All of these things had been out on the Net for a while, so this was no real surprise.

Discontinuing the 20GB model? Check.

The creation of the 80GB model? Check.

The $100 price drop? Check. Check. Check.

This last one ties into this post's opening statement -- There are no secrets anymore.

Rumors started sprouting up on this at least on July 5th, with leaks from Circuit City, Best Buy, and Target. There was confirmation that at least two Target stores broke the street date of the $100 price drop starting Friday.

The bigger deal is Sony was forced to announce the price drop yesterday (July 8th), rather than as part of their E3 press conference (scheduled for Wednesday, July 11th) -- That's a 3-4 day push. Power to the InterWeb Peeps. Or something.

(And not to overly badmouth Sony on this front; Microsoft's hand was similarly forced on the reveal of the Xbox 360 Elite.)

So, what does this mean, from a business perspective, and to gamers?

Sony thinks it'll mean they'll double their PS3 shipping estimates. Analysts (like Michael Pachter) think they'll at best increase them by 50%.

Me? I think the other consoles will benefit.

First off, at $250, I don't think Nintedo's Wii is impacted at all. If they become impacted, Nintendo has room to drop the console to $225 or $199. They're in a sweet spot -- if they could just keep up with demand.

Let's look at the PS3's new high-end SKU (hey, anyone else remember Sony saying "no" to multiple SKUs?). For $100 more you get 20GB more and a copy of MotorStorm. Not bad, but not a great deal, by any stretch.

For $20 less, you get the Xbox 360 Elite, which has 40GB more hard drive space than Sony's new high-end -- and HDMI output and everything else. I can't tell whether the Elite's been in demand or short-supplied (if so, why? To increase the perception of demand?), but starting last week, I saw in-stock Elite's at GameStops, Targets, and Wal-Marts. Something's up.

But what you do get for $20 more paid to Sony is Blu-ray DVD. That's a $200 external (HD DVD) add-on from Microsoft.

But let's just look at the console portion, since it looks like people aren't buying the PS3 for the Blu-ray.

What if Microsoft drops the price of the Xbox 360? Currently, there are 3 Xbox 360 SKUs:
  • Core -- $299, wired controller, and no hard drive (aka, "The useless SKU", IMHO)
  • Premium (or "Pro") -- $399, wireless controller, headset, and 20GB hard drive
  • Elite -- $479 -- $479, wireless controller, headset, 120GB hard drive, 120GB hard drive, and sexy black

If you go to, you'll see something pretty interesting. While the "Core" is stilled called "Core", the "Premium" is now simply listed as the "Xbox 360 System". This is huge, as it implies this is the mainstream SKU, and the Elite is the upper SKU.

Conceivably, this means "goodbye" to the Core (please), and a price drop on both the mid-range and Elite SKUs. Or, on the outside, reduction in product line to just the Elite, and a price drop.

Microsoft has said they're working to shrink their 90nm Xbox 360 CPU chipset down to the 65nm scale, which are (obviously) smaller components, but they also use less electricity, run cooler (a boon to 360 owners and the alleged 33-502% failure rate), and most importantly to the above argument, are cheaper to mass-produce. What hasn't seemed to make general news is they're also looking to do the same to the GPU chipset, further reducing cost.

Analyst projections have set an Xbox 360 price drop for this fall, but if Microsoft's chip roadmap is on track, they have room to do an early price drop, if the Sony announcement forces their hand.

Most likely though, in the face of their financials hit related to the "Red Ring of Death" 3-year warranty announcement, Microsoft may choose to tough it out until this fall, and announce a price drop at the Halo 3 launch, or (honestly) afterwards, if that game drives high console purchases at the current price points (why drop prices if people are buying your product at a higher margin?).

As an aside, people shouldn't badmouth Sony too much for dropping the price of the PS3 as being indicative of their backs being against the wall. As they'll tell you, they've moved more PS3s in the same time period than they did PS2s. Now, that's positive spin, as that's shipped units (not necessarily purchased); the PS2 was selling to a less game-available market; they didn't have the competition of a resurrected Nintendo they helped almost kill (or the lack of SEGA competition, which they did kill); and they didn't have to deal with the upstart Xbox (which wasn't even supposed to be a contender, and now dominates in some ways). And, percentage-wise, PS3 sales suck compared to the PS2 sales.

And keep in mind Sony dropped the price of the PS2 eight months after launch, and they're dropping the PS3 seven months after launch. Know you're history, kids.

Speaking of which, what about Sony's still market-dominating PS2? Did you miss that a slimmer, lighter (900 to 600 grams for the base unit, and 350 to 250 grams for the AC adapter) version is creeping into the marketplace? This smaller unit is cheaper to produce, so there could be a fall or holiday drop (from $139 to $99), should Sony want to further muddy the waters.

So what's the net-net?

Expect an interesting E3 this week, as Sony tries to sell how big their price drop and new SKU is, and the other console makers do (or don't) react to it.

More telling will be sales of all consoles in the next several weeks (the price drop for the 60GB PS3 is rumored to be effective July 12th, but the 80GB SKU won't be available until August, which may cause potential buyers to not act on the price drop, as they wait for the upper-end SKU's availability).

And what comes out of E3 this week will be telling. What's gamers' perception of the console of choice, based on games introduced at the show? For example, if Microsoft's biggest announcement is Gears of War on PC, that doesn't really help the 360, per se.

This fall and holiday will be even more interesting, as the Xbox 360 install base is re-assessed on the basis of Halo 3 sales and Sony competition; Sony reassess based on the price cut and new SKU, and Nintendo re-assess based on catching up to demand, and any impact to a possibly reduced PS2.

For analysts, a lot of fodder for ivory tower theories. For business folks, a lot of data and trends to assess, and and for gamers, just good times ahead as all of the console makers try to drive price down and increase the quality and content of service and product offerings to get you to buy their consoles.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

BioWare + Sonic = SONIC RPG

So, BioWare just announced they'll be partnering with SEGA to bring a Sonic The Hedgehog RPG to the Nintendo DS.

While I didn't see this coming, it's not that weird to me. I mean, there's a Mario RPG for the DS, and it's pretty good. And if you want someone to do an RPG, I think you want it to be BioWare.

Michael Fahey over at is having trouble with it, though.

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