Friday, January 13, 2006

The Future of the Game Industry

People are wondering how the industry will sustain itself with the rising costs of next gen development. The BIG G knows that most development costs aren't going to rise. I know what you are thinking: “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?” I'll tell you why: because they don't have to. Rather than make games that utilize the awesome power of the next gen platforms, just don't! “But The BIG G, WE won't buy them!” Maybe YOU won't, but people will. All you need to sell a game is a good license. All you have to do is attach your game to a popular TV show or movie, crap in a box, ship it, and you're guaranteed sales. More content? Who needs it! Better graphics? Just get something good enough so the pictures look good enough for the back of the box. There are good licensed games out there, but some don't sell because the license isn't popular enough, isn't gamey enough, or just uninteresting to the mass market consumer. There are many bad licensed games where the game is absolute crap, but it has a great license so it sells like hotcakes. Rather than spend the extra money, publishers should (and will) take the least amount of risk and make a bad licensed game for cheap. That way each game is less expensive to make, so if it happens to flop because no one cares about your license, then its not as much of a loss for the company. With that money you could have spent on quality you can diversify your licensed game roster to amortize the costs of the ones that flop. Also, the cost of a license can be the same as other game companies spend on marketing, so if you make a licensed game, you don't need nearly as much money spent on marketing. Licensed games are the future of the industry. That is, until the quality gets so low that people stop gaming all together, so another video game crash occurs like back in the Atari days. Man, I want to play E.T. for the 2600 right now! (I can't believe I actually paid $4 for that game... What a rip off!)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Next-Next Gen Preorders?

It seems with each subsequent generation, the consoles seem to be increasingly difficult to get at launch. I remember looking everywhere for an N64, but I found one at KMart. Playstation 2 was really hard (I had a Dreamcast, so I was content with waiting). I reserved my Xbox 360 about a month before it came out, and I still haven't gotten it. So, if you know any retailers taking preorders for Xbox 720s, Playstation 4s, or Virtual Boy 2s (my guess for what follows Revolution) please let me know because I think I need to put in my preorder right away!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Top 10 reasons GameCube Was Lame

Now, I've been accused of being a Nintendo fanboy on my message boards. This isn't the first time. (Although it is the first time I've been accused by a poem) I used to swear by Nintendo ever since receiving my NES. This generation though, it seems like Nintendo has been lagging a bit behind. It was the last console out of the three I got, and I have the least amount of games for it. Most of the games I do have for it are Mario Party, and frankly, by 7, I'm sick of them. What did Nintendo do wrong this generation? How does that reflect on next generation? Let's discuss!

10. No entertainment center features – This may be a minor point to some, but I don't have a real DVD player. I just used Xbox and/or PS2. That's pretty darn cool. Xbox has Windows Media Center Extender if you want movie playback from your PC, but you need a Media Center PC. You can mod your Xbox and get a pretty awesome Media Player that will do everything. Then you can finally watch all those TV shows you video captured or downloaded through legal means) on your TV (unless your computer is in the same room as your big screen TV and you have video out). Xbox 360 is supposed to let you stream videos off your PC if you have Media Center (which no one does) or Vista (which everyone soon will). Even the PSP makes a really bad ass movie player if you put MP4s on your memory stick. Sure, they are gaming platforms, but it's relatively easy to use the powerful hardware (unless you don't have powerful hardware *cough* Revolution *cough*) to do some cool video playback. I for one am looking forward to Blu-Ray on Playstation 3. (HD-DVD isn't as good of a format [15 GB per layer vs 25 GB], and buying a separate drive for Xbox 360 might not actually be much cheaper than buying a standalone player, but we'll see what wins the next gen video format wars. Sony lost with its superior BetaMax product way back when.)

9. DK: Jungle Beat – This game got really good reviews and a lot of praise, but I didn't like it at all. It seemed like a really lame game with a very awkward control scheme. It really should have been shipped as mini-games with Donkey Konga... Taiko Drum Master had more interesting mini-games that actually came with the main game rather than playing $40 for almost no content.

8. Legend of Zelda: Windwaker – What a let down. I liked the cell shading, but it was exactly like playing the other Zelda games except with a grappling hook, and the horribly annoying sailing and conducting. It took like a minute to pull out the baton and conduct the wind changing song, so usually when I teleported into an area, I tried to wiggle the stick back and forth to get to land without playing the darn song. Sailing was annoying, and when you almost beat the game, they extended the game with more sailing and finding stuff. I hate looking for things in real life, so naturally, I hate looking for them in video games... I wish I could get people to pay me to look for missing papers and stuff in my apartment.

8. Mario Sunshine – I LOVED Mario 64. I was anxiously awaiting a successor... I'm still waiting. Mario Sunshine just didn't do it for me. The levels weren't as fun, and I don't like cleaning. I wish I could get people to pay me to wash my car.

7. Poor HDTV support – Nintendo thinks that HD isn't important. The FCC disagrees since it is regulating that by May of this year, all broadcasters must broadcast in HD. GameCube actually supported component 480p out, but they removed the jacks on newer GameCubes... The component cable was really hard to find. I had to order mine direct from NOA, which was a pain. Very few games actually support progressive scan on the GameCube, which is quite lame. If you've played it on an HDTV, you'd be disappointed too, especially because some Xbox games actually support 1080i, which looks excellent. (Last I heard, it was only 6 games though)

6. Weak hardware – GameCube has the weakest hardware of the bunch. Debate it all you want, it can't compare to Xbox, and there are many PS2 games that look much better than any GameCube game (Ratchet & Clank series, God of War, etc).

5. No shaders – Shaders are awesome. Play “Panzer Dragoon Orta” and you'll agree!

4. Bad third party support – GameCube didn't get all the ports because of the worse hardware and small market, so that sucked. Also, they didn't get very many good 3rd party exclusives except Capcom (Viewtiful Joe, Resident Evil 4), but then they went ahead and released those for Playstation 2.

2. Crappy controller – Anyone who says they like the GameCube controller is a liar. Not only do the X, Y and Z buttons suck a lot, but it doesn't have enough buttons for cross-plat games. The other two have 12, but GameCube only has 8.

1. Not enough RAM – And the number one thing is, there isn't enough RAM. I suppose I should be specific. There isn't enough main memory. It features 40 MB total if you include the A-RAM, but only 24 MB is main memory. (Less than the PS2's 32 MB) Main memory can be used for optimizations, effects, better AI, higher res textures, larger environments, etc. GameCube is missing out!

So, there you have it. The funny part is, Nintendo didn't learn from their mistakes, and the Revolution suffers from all of these (except it MAY have shaders, but unlikely) if they port Windwaker, Sunshine and DK: Jungle Beat. It looks like Nintendo wants to repeat being last place!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Katana: The Soul Controller vs. The Revolution Controller

Since I'm a peripheral whore, when I found out that they were releasing the Katana Soul Controller in the US (about a year after it came out in Japan), I just HAD to get it! And judging from the amount of feedback I've received, it seems that my Revolution controller comparisons are the most popular, so why don't I compare the two?

Katana: The Soul Controller, has everything a Dual Shock controller has (two joysticks, a d pad, and 12 buttons). The Revolution controller only has 6 buttons (A,B,X,Y, select and start) and one d-pad. I think it's clear that The Soul Controller is victorious!

Game Support
The Soul Controller works out of the box with EVERY PS2/PS1, and that includes its awesome gyroscopic controls. The Revolution controller can double as an NES controller, but it doesn't use the gyroscopic controls. It doesn't have enough buttons to work with any of the other platforms the virtual console is supposed to emulate, so you need an add on or separate controller. The Soul Controller wins since there is a ton more PS1/PS2 games than there will be for Revolution. (I'm discounting Virtual Console games that require add ons! The Soul Controller works out of the box!)

Both are wireless, so they are evenly matched here.

The Katana wins hands down. Not only does it come with a sheath, but it comes with a display stand. Now that IS a cool controller. I feel like a samurai just because I own it. The only thing that weakens the appearance is the blade is pretty darn fat, so it can't really mask for a real sword. (Also, this isn't necessarily related to appearance but when you draw the sword from its sheath, it makes a hollow “FOOP” noise, which isn't very samurai-esque...)

Katana: The Soul Controller is an awesome name. I don't care what they call the Revolution controller, it's not better than “Katana: The Soul Controller”. Katana wins!

The only motion sensing the Katana does is swinging the sword registers as square. This is not configurable. A vertical swing doesn't register as anything different. On top of that, the buttons are quite difficult to press. I'd like to give this to “The Soul Controller”, but I just can't in good conscience... It's functionally horrid. The buttons are difficult to press and it doesn't register every swing, thus making it the fourth worst controller I've ever used. (The worst was that gyroscopic gun that played Halo at E3 that I mentioned in a previous article, the second worst is the Atari 7800 controller because it hurts your hands after 2 minutes of gameplay, and the third worst is EyeToy specifically in the game Sega All Stars. I was so excited about playing another Nights game only to discover that it was unplayable... Also, I wasted like half an hour at a party trying to show off my EyeToy only to realize that the person's house was impossible to light in such a way that any of the games were playable...) Revolution wins!

Katana is the winner 4-1. Sorry Revolution! You lose again!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Top 10 Reasons You Should Run Out to the Store Right Now and Purchase a Gizmondo

You may not have heard of the Gizmondo. You may not even know of any stores that carry it. There certainly aren't very many. But after researching what little information I could find on the greatest handheld ever, I have discovered 10 reasons why you are morally obligated to purchase one immediately, if not several!

10. It has a cool name – Gizmondo! See how that rolls right off of your tongue? It is too cool to have a three letter acronym to abbreviate its greatness. Gizmondo! Say it loud and say it proud! Gizmondo boldly proclaims the future of handheld gaming!

9. Huge selection of awesome games – Well, maybe not quite a HUGE selection... Actually, there are only 14 games available... But, they have a mean Checkers game, which is featured in “Classics Compendium”... Isn't it quality over quantity anyway?

8. Pocket Ping Pong 2005 – According to the Gizmondo site: “If you liked Dead or Alive Xtreme Volleyball, you'll love Pocket Ping Pong 2005. It's table tennis set to a sandy, sexy backdrop. You'll love the competitors' minimalist beachwear, the sunny atmosphere and the fast-as-lightning action, complete with totally accurate ball physics.” Ball physics? I think the only thing people who played Dead or Alive Xtreme Volleyball were interested in was boob physics. I figured I'd write this article before going out and purchasing it myself, so I haven't seen the boob physics, but maybe they put their effort into that instead of gameplay because it got horrible reviews according to here.

7. Momma Can I Mow the Lawn? - A game with a name that stupid, has to be good, right? From the Gizmondo site: “In his leafy hometown, grass is abundant, and many people are grateful for Kurt's offer to mow their lawns, often rewarding him with extra cash if he does a good job. The real fun begins when he forgets to ask permission or enters prohibited areas such as parks and sports grounds.” Now, I'd much rather mow the lawn in a video game for video game money than mow the lawn in real life for real money! Gizmondo has really hit upon a winner here!

6. GPS – Sure, the only current use is Navigator 2006, which costs $250. You can get a stand alone GPS unit for less than that, so I have no idea where all the money is going if it already has GPS built in, but the best part is the car stand for the Gizmondo costs $60!! What a steal for a piece of plastic! Games can use it too! The game “Colors” is going to use it so you can battle gangs based on real world turf... That's a feature that all avid gamers have been yearning for!

5. Commodore 64 Remakes – The best games on the system are the Commodore 64 remakes “Trailblazer” and “Point of Destruction”. When I spend a ton of money on a handheld with fancy 3D hardware, I want 2D things that I can play on my Commodore 64.

4. It's out of stock on their website – That clearly means it's a hot commodity! They definitely aren't out of stock to conceal the fact that they don't have any since there is no demand.

3. Trustworthy business – After reading about the dismal financial outlook of the company, and the very honest directors, how can you not want to invest in their product? Hey, they may always be in legal trouble, but at least they own a modeling agency. That's what's really important in a hardware vendor, right?

2. Free advertising! - If you want the reasonably priced Gizmondo, you have to sign up for an ad service. Your Gizmondo gets three ads delivered it to it per day that it's turned on. Whoo hoo! I don't get enough ads on TV, radio, billboards, movie trailers, magazines, the internet, in the front and back of books, planes pulling sky banners, blimps, on taxis (including on the hubcaps), and I even saw a new advertising medium last weekend where they have people drive around on mopeds that pull billboards.

1. It's soon be obsolete – You have to be quick to get your regular Gizmondo because the much improved Gizmondo Widescreen will be out soon thus rendering the current Gizmondo obsolete! It's been on the market for less than three months in the US, and they are already replacing it! That's clever business!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

GameCube Exclusive Mario?

Apparently, if you make a game on all three platforms, you can put Mario in the GameCube version to try and give people a reason to buy what usually works out to be the weakest version. Mario appears in NBA Street V3, Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix, and probably many more upcoming Nintendo ports (also, Link appeared in Soul Caliber 3 for GameCube). No one bought “Hotel Mario” for the Philips CD-i, or “Mario is Missing” for SNES so maybe we shouldn't tell Nintendo marketing that Mario isn't enough to sell a game, but now that Nintendo is giving away their precious character, it's lead me to think about what games we should put Mario in.

True Crime: Streets of the Mushroom Kingdom
The next GameCube installment of the True Crime franchise should show the urban crime drama of the Mushroom Kingdom. The mushroom people can be cops and civilians, which you can start on fire with fireballs, or beat them to a bloody pulp with your Raccoon Tail. You can do some drug deals for Bowser by selling 'shrooms to school children. And don't forget the "Hot Coffee"! You can finally collect your reward from the Princess for saving her all the time!

Mario Xtreme Beach Volleyball
This game only features the ladies of the Mario Universe: Peach, Daisy, Toadette, ummm... Maybe Birdo? I don't know if the transvestite counts as a woman though... They could bring back Wendy Koopa and Koopas other Daughters from Mario 3 and Mario World. Yeah, they all don really REALLY small bikinis (which you can remove if you hack the game) and play some volleyball, go shopping and all the other killer gameplay DOA: Xtreme Beach Volleyball is known for.

Leisure Suit Mario
Leisure Suit Larry made a comeback courtesy of High Voltage Studios. Rather that the racy, naughty humor that the old games had, the new one had gross out humor ala' American Pie (and boy was LSL: MCL gross...) Unfortunately for GameCube owners, it was PS2/Xbox/PC only, so you guys REALLY missed out... Well, they should make the GameCube version with Mario as the horny college student. He can score with Peach, Daisy, Todette or if he gets really drunk, Birdo. Finally a game about Mario getting some action! I was beginning to think that maybe he and Luigi were more than just brothers, if you know what I mean.

Mario Kombat
Yes, the bloody fighting franchise that made so many waves way back when is still around and kicking. If they can put Link in Soul Caliber 3, they can put Mario in Mortal Kombat whatever number they are on. (I think the world stopped caring after 3) Mario can throw fireballs, summon pipes from the ground to teleport elsewhere, and morph into raccoon form. He can have a fatality where he tears the ribcage out of the other character's chest and plays it like a xylophone using the other character's eyeballs mounted on shards of his/her collar bone for mallets. He could play the Super Mario Bros 1 theme song!