Monday, February 28, 2011

The Future Of Harmonix

With the fall of Guitar Hero, and Viacom selling Harmonix, it's been a rocky few months for the studios of music games. And while the future is uncertain, Alex Rigopulos (CEO) sees opportunity.

Of course they talked about Guitar Hero. That was their competition. Rigopulos was candid that it would be a difficult group to tap. Fans of that series are use to a certain play-style and setup that swapping them over isn't as easy as it sounds. Instead of releasing another Rock Band this year, Harmonix is going to refine and enhance the Rock Band 3 experience. Which I support. We really don't need to see a new music game every holiday season. They plan to reach out to new audiences, add more music content, and provide variety. And I'm glad to see that the CEO understands that the genre is in need of an update.

It's a long read. But the basics are they are committed to the Rock Band franchise, they will be adding new content this year, they wish to evolve the music game genre, and Dance Central is still doing pretty well.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Already Out of 3DS Systems!

Retailers have already sold the first 400,000 units of the Nintendo 3DS. On the day of launch.

First, only 400k units? Nintendo seems to always seriously underscore their staying power. Yes it's a good marketing tool "if we look like we don't have many, they'll want it even more!" But we've been through this mess with the Wii. Just make more systems and stop goofing around. Though receiving fresh supplies rather quickly, for an uneventful release day.

Second, I'm surprised it sold out that fast. But retailers made it clear to their consumers this time around. They only had enough to fulfill pre-orders. If you didn't order the system, don't show up. For pre-orders on a system, 400k isn't a bad number at all. And with Amazon Japan starting shipment, with more to order next week, the masses will have the 3DS soon.

Still...only 400k? If that's what you want to do Nintendo.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Child of Eden, Release Date and PS3?

When Child of Eden was announced at E3 2010, it was showcased as an Xbox Kinect only game. And it looked really, really pretty. It is slowly creeping up on a year and they have announced a release date of sometime in the second quarter, aka April-June, or this year. Hurray! Though still not happy that it is Xbox only.

But what's this? According to the article, it'll be on the PS3 and Move compatible? After doing some searching, apparently the PS3 version was announced under the table by Ubisoft. They have a better stance with Microsoft then with Sony, so I can kind of see why showcasing it with the Kinect meant better opportunities for them. But great for me! I can play it now without needing to buy it for the 360. Did I mention that it is pretty?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Smithsonian Showcasing Video Games

The Smithsonian American Art Museum will hold a special exhibit from March 16-September 30th. The Art of Video Games. They even have a FAQ about it.

What's interesting is that the website is asking for help on selecting 80 games to show at the exhibit. There are 5 main characters based on era and gaming platforms when you can whittled down your selection. It appears that they narrowed the genres down to 4 of the most dominate categories in American gaming history, so not as many RPG's, Racing, and Fighting games. There are also no arcade or handheld games mentioned. So strictly a U.S. console only business. But it's nice to see that there is some rationale for their decisions, and a clear focus.

The comments are amusing. "Why did you leave out Red Dead Redemption?" "Where's Myst?!?" ZOMG WTF! I do enjoy when people just gloss over the directions. It would be impossible, even for a museum of Smithsonian magnitude, to accommodate every single video game that has been made. Even says in the FAQ that they apologize for not having your favorite game. It's an art exhibit people. They're not going to have everything and anything and it's not a giant arcade. It's art. >.> Recommend checking out the website, but don't make any stupid comments. Please.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Will Wright Moves To TV

First off, this is a pretty crappy article from CNN. I think the writer was trying everything in his power to make sure that every single angle was covered so as not to provide a biased point of view. In doing so, he was asking for quotes and comments from people where it had nothing to do with the content that was being focused on.

Anyway, to skip the stupid stuff, scroll to the bottom of the article at On TV, a different type of interactivity.

Wright enjoys his games, but feels that the television medium is best for telling stories. And if you've been living under a rock Wright's games don't really tell stories. They allow the user to make their own. He's done this with other games as well, such as Grand Theft Auto by bypassing the main plot points and making his own story. Hurray for open-world games.

In looking for a story to tell, Wright went down a different path from most TV shows. "Bar Karma" which airs on Current TV started out on a website. People submitted ideas for a show on a website and voted on their favorite concepts. The winner was a drama about a mystical bar (Cheers anyone?) where characters have to deal with "real life" issues. So far there is a built in audience of 20-30 somethings, those who voted and participated on the website. Because they put time into making the choice of the show, they have more investment to stick around. But it doesn't stop there. Viewers can still interact with the show and determine future plot-points on the website. While I approve of the audience being involved, I have to wonder how long this will last. Hopefully they are not providing pivotal plot-points for everyone to see before an episode airs. Might turn people off from being surprised by outcomes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Randomness Until Monday

Sega is offering a Dreamcast Vinyl limited Australia. Luckies. But not to worry! The Sega America team will be giving away a few copies in the US and Europe. The album will contain songs from Sonic Adventure, Space Channel 5 Part 2, and Crazy Taxi. The Dreamcast Collection game will be out on the 360 later this month.

A 17 year old has been charged with murdering his mother...over an argument involving a Playstation. Yeah, this is one of those kids that had a problem. Clearly. The teenager had an argument with his mother, which resulted in his Playstation being taken away. And he responded with bludgeoning her to death. And attempted to bake her in the oven. Really? Over an argument? He says he's remorseful and would take it back, but when you think about it for a few hours before doing it, it's hard to believe you. Thanks for making gamers look psycho.

The PSN awards are coming and Sony is offering an incentive for people to vote. Discount games! Starting February 22nd on the PSN you can vote in a series of categories for online content. The winner of each category will be discounted 30% (50% if you are a Playstation Plus member). The PSP Downloadable Game category seems the most interesting. Any one of those games at a discount would be worth the purchase.

See you all next week!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Another Developer Going Under

Bizarre Creations isn't the most well known name to gamers, but it's been around in the business for Activision and other, larger names, to take notice. (FYI, Activision bought the company in 2007.) But as of this Friday, they will be closing their doors. The company is best known for their racing games, such as Formula 1 for the Playstation, Project Gotham, Blur, and Metropolis Street Racer for the Dreamcast (still considered a great work for the genre).

Unfortunately for the company, Blur, which was hoped to be a great achievement, fell through on sales due to poor marketing and a badly timed release (Red Dead Redemption). Many people have noted in the article that the group at Bizarre are more like a family then a company and letting them go was difficult. Not that difficult if Activision threw out Guitar Hero in the same breath. >.> But for anyone who's a fan of the racing genre, these guys were up there with Gran Turismo.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Musing - Why Are They Trying To Make Geek Culture Popular?

It builds character to be an outcast in school. >.>

I remember when TokyoPop announced they would be bringing a bus to the area for anime geeks and nerds alike. I thought it was just them promoting something. And I was sort of right.

America's Greatest Otaku!

If you too want to feel like your culture and fandom should be made fun of by millions, or probably thousands based on the low number of members/viewers on the website, feel free to join in on this madness. >.>

On HULU later this month, they will air an 8 episode mini-"documentary" series about the "otaku" culture in the U.S. I was hoping The Social Network "everyone has to wear glasses now because they're cool!" thing would be done, but they're just starting. All the little niches that were nice and safe to hide in where the world won't touch and now becoming noticed by television. So not geek. Here's why.

Aside: The term "otaku" in the U.S. is an individual who is very passionate about Japanese culture, in particular anime and/or manga. In Japan, the term means a fan of a particular theme or hobby and is not limited to anime and/or manga (such as cooking otaku). It originally was an honorific second-person pronoun meant for another house/family before the slang became popular. For this particular piece I'm writing, it's in reference to the U.S. interpretation of the word.

The first motivation for any form of "reality" television or movie is entertainment. The concept of reality hasn't existed since the first season of The Real World back in 1992. Even then there were at least a few writers on staff to help create a story out of the thousands of hours of tape they had collected. Just take a look at the credits since the series began after the "cast members". The number of directors, producers, writers, and editors outnumbers the "cast members". Why? Because it's about making a story for entertainment purposes. No one wants to see 7 people doing normal, everyday things. They cut out all that and create a story based on the parts that draw interest. The "otaku" show won't be about the process of making costumes and living in a fan's real, everyday life. It'll be about 3 or 4 people who are crazed and need to be brought back down to reality.

Which comes to point number two, shows will pick the person that is the loudest, most obnoxious, outgoing, crazy person that they can find; aka the extreme. Those are the individuals who make for good television, whether we like it or not. That's why people watch Jersey Shore. How many people are actually from the shore on that show? One. Everyone else is just loud and obnoxious and fits the profile they needed. Imagine that for anime/video game fans. We're either going to get the 12 year olds swearing their heads off on Xbox Live or the epitome of stereotypical U.S. anime convention fan. I hate for this to be the case, but that's how it is. Those are the people that will bring in viewers because they are the extremes. While the 97% (throwing a figure out there, but it's probably more like 90-95) of us sit in the middle of the road, that 3% on the right or left of the bell curve will be the ones people are going to be drawn to. And it sucks because it won't be an accurate portrayal of the fandom. The 97% in the middle are pretty normal. They have jobs, go to school, have kids and bills to pay. They have a social life outside of internet forums. But people don't watch television to see what's normal. They want to see the extremes.

Which leads into my next concern, copying the fad. Again using Jersey Shore as an example. Have you seen the number of people attempting to emulate the "characters" on that show as of late? It's crazy! Do you really want to see people go on an otaku craze? Do we need to have more annoyances on forums and conventions of people claiming to be something that they're not just because it's the "cool new fad"? Just the thought makes me want to avoid all conventions, gaming and comic alike. One or two of the extremes are easy to ignore. But get an army and I'll keep my ass at home.

And that turns into my major concern, over-generalization of the culture. We know what the popularity of Star Wars and Star Trek did to it's fans. They are always going to be portrayed as overweight, pimple-faced, loveless nerds who sit in their parents basement all day everyday. The anime and gaming fans are stereotyped in the same way, but because of the limited number in our circle, we don't see the extremes as often. And when we do, we try to smack them down before it becomes a problem. Now gaming has been branching off to try and get the "cool" people into it. We have a good portfolio of male celebrities in their 20's-30's that play video games that aren't trying to fit into the group. They've always been a part of the group. That's fine. Funny enough, they give a more accurate portrayal of the gaming crowd then most others about how normal gaming people are. Since the anime group is still fairly small, it'll be easy to pick out the stereotypes and showcase those individuals. And that's where we'll run into trouble. I don't want to be associated with the stereotypes because I don't fit that mold, but that's the entertainment business. It's about entertainment first. "Reality" comes in much later.

So for all the people who are trying to make the geek culture popular, please stop. I'm quite happy with how things are and not having the masses drop down on it. I like being unique. I like not fitting in with the rest of the world. It doesn't mean I'm not normal because I do a lot of normal things. But I like having something that I can say "I'm a part of this" without it being observed by the watchful eye of the media. I enjoy being in something that feels like I can be myself without having to put up barriers and play pretend. Chances of this "otaku" mini-show doing well? Probably pretty low. Again, premiering at the end of the month and already a low turnout on the website and promo video. But just the thought of someone trying to make "otaku" popular is poking at my brain and telling me that this could get worse.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Musing - A Break From Superheroes

This will be mostly aimed at movies, so bare with me. After 3 trailers shown at the Super Bowl, all for Superhero movies, all being released this summer, I think it's time that we took a break from the genre before we go into overkill. Or at least bring a completely new point of view that hasn't been done, or rarely seen, yet.

This year we're getting Captain America, Thor, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, X-Men First Class, Silver Surfer, AntMan, Flash, Wonder Woman, with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance tying it all up in February of 2012. That is a lot of f*ing superhero movies for one year. >.> Last year it was Iron Man 2. Before that The Dark Knight. We were getting 1-2 a year. This year, we're going to be smacked with at least 6 over a 2 month time frame. Superhero overkill.

But it's not limited to movies. We have the Spiderman broadway show that we can't seem to keep out of the news with all of the injuries and postponed openings. And then there's the DC MMO, and Activision offering new marketing deals for X-Men and a new Spiderman game. We're inundated with superhero info on a daily basis.

So my plea to the entertainment community. Can we back off please? We're turning the geeky fandom into an overdone cultural fad. We hit a pinnacle of comic book art with The Dark Knight and we're probably not going to reach it again for a while. It's time to back off, not over-saturate the market, and give it a couple of years before we start spamming mainstream again. Why? Because we are going to get really sick of superheroes after this summer. It's not going to matter that you have more "A-list celebrities" taking on these projects. The public can only stand so much of the same thing before it becomes stale.

Unfortunately, superhero movies (as any fad genre) have a life cycle, and it's going to hit it's end pretty soon. Unless all 10 of the movies I've listed above bring new, good, and unique materials to the genre and respective franchises. I have hopes for Thor. I really, really do. And I'm not against superhero movies. But it's time we start backing off. The market is going to dry up really quick and we're going to see a lot more crap thrown at us. Do we really want to see a another crappy Batman movie (i.e. Batman and Robin)? Need I remind you all of Superman Returns? It's going to happen. Bring us innovation and a new perspective or we're going to see the shit come back sooner then we'd like.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

End of Guitar Hero

At a recent conference to discuss Activision's 4th quarter earnings, the publisher dropped some big news. No more Guitar Hero. No more DJ Hero. And True Crime: Hong Kong has been canceled. That's a lot of stuff to drop.

The long and short of it is Activision feels that the music genre field that they have dominated for so long is declining. DJ Hero didn't take off as well as expected. So best to cut the losses on the 2011 GH rendition and get out while they can. Still, that's a pretty big leap of faith to be taking. In regards to True Crime, the company felt that the return on the product would not yield as much as what would need to be invested into it to make it a good game.

While the music genre has been in a decline, it hasn't been at the rapid pace Activision has made it out to be. At least, in my opinion. Is it in decline? Yes. But there are a number of dancing and singing games for the Wii that have been doing quite well. What really needs to be done is a revitalization of the instrument game with new material. Guitar Hero and Rock Band titles are always a big sell during the holiday season. It's always out of stock at my local electronic stores from November-February. But what I think started the decline was the over-saturation of the market. Guitar Hero and Rock Band were fine as they were. But then Activision introduced DJ Hero. Then there was Band Hero. And Rock God. And there are probably 10 other games that I haven't mentioned that follow the same formula. There are just too many of the same game that there is very little to distinguish one from another. Keith Stuart on the UK's Guardian hits this point quite well. Coupled with high bundle prices and lack of new content is causing this particular sub-genre to fall.

If there's one thing that GH did well was their guitar peripheral. They were the first and they managed to get the guitar just right. What they lacked was originality. Every game is the same set of songs and it took them 4 games before you could put a band together. Rock Band only took one, and I think that's why it managed to overtake GH in the end. Rock Band gave you more genre choices, more music updates, and better online play options. While I'm a fan of the GH guitar, Rock Band is, overall, a better game. Not to mention exclusivity of Beatles music? Win right there. GH did a poor attempt with Green Day and Aerosmith. If Rock Band can do an amazing followup to the Beatles, they'll secure themselves in this genre for a while without having to back down like Activision. (Hint, hint Led Zepplin please!) But truthfully, Rock Band and Activision need to open up their music games to more then just rock, "punk", and alternative. Put that new keytar to use and give us a rush of 80's, pop, and dance. It seems silly, but it'll be necessary to stay up to day with today's market.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Panama Might Want To Take A Chill Pill

Or at least politician Alcibiades Vasquez Velasquez. He has proposed a bill to ban all violent video games in Panama. And this isn't just a ban on GTAesque games. This would be a ban on any video game that uses any form of violence in any fashion. So...basically 90% of the video games that are in existence. Even as something as harmless as Epic Mickey would be banned because you have to use a paint brush to color objects, which is some form of violence But that would include Mario too. He jumps on turtles for points. That's pretty violent.

Icing on the cake. This is the same man who attempted to ban Halloween last year because it's an "American" holiday, and by American I think he meant U.S.A. not North/South American, that tempted children to dress up like demons.

Extreme? You bet. But nearby Venezuela added 3-5 years of jail time if you are caught selling or distributing violent video games. I think Mercenaries 2 didn't sit well with them. Hard to believe that the bill in Panama would pass. But if Venezuela did it, it's not stretch of the imagination that someone else will too.

Here's my is it going to be enforced? Same question that I have with the California law. No government is going to expend more money on their police force to hunt down video game sales. I'm sure the illegal drugs and murder take a much higher priority. So what's going to stop sales? This is where the ESRB has a leg up over everyone. The gaming industry took the initiative to create their own rating system to provide consumers a way to make better informed decisions about what they were buying. Also, to not fall into the same trap as movies. Gaming retailers have fired employees for selling M rated products to those under 17 and many locations require that everyone provide an ID before purchase. So really, it's up to the parents to decide. And I know I've said it a billion times, and so has everyone else. It's not the retailers fault. It's not the publishers fault. It's not the game designer's fault. So why fine them? It's the parents. Start parenting and stop blaming everyone else!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Fox News Always Finds The "Special" Commentators

The title of the article I'll be referring to is just the start of the silliness. Is Bulletstorm the Worst Video Game in the World? If it's a CoD clone, yes. If you're just saying that because it's violent, then you should probably rethink your title.

With Bulletstorm releasing on February 22nd, of course Fox News felt like it was their duty to warn/scare parents away from buying this game. Or it's a great marketing tool to make more people aware of the game. Your call.

But the "experts" are the most amusing pieces to review. First there's Carol Lieberman, a psychologist, who claims that the increase in sexual assault can be highly attributed to video games.

And that's it. That's all she said. Nothing to back up that claim. She just said it. And I'm sure at least half of the people who have read the article and/or watched Fox News will take her word because she is a psychologist.

Then there is Dr. Jerry Weichman, a clinical psychologist at the Hoag Neurosciences Institute in Southern California. He sounds a tad bit more credible then Lieberman. His logic was more directed at younger children that playing Bulletstorm with the vast amount of violence and sexual innuendo can be harmful. Again, nothing to back up the claim, but if you're a parent that gives Bulletstorm to anyone under 17, you should rethink your parenting techniques.

While Fox News does provide the ESRB rating info and a response from at the Hal Levy with the National Youth Rights Association that plenty of "emotional unstable adults" can play the game and nothing will happen. I giggled at that too because really, who isn't emotionally unstable these days?

But what's Fox's shining beacong of light to resolve all problems? Why it's the Supreme Court! They are, of course, backing the law that California has been attempting to enforce. Not deliberately, but when you spend half of the article praising the law and getting "experts" to comment on it, you're basically saying you love it. And I love how they add at the bottom that they praise innovation and creativity, but they're willing to squander it all in the same breath.

So if you're in need for a smile, this article will cheer you up. If anything, the artist rendition of "Bulletstorm" is worth a chuckle.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

What A Wonderful Week

Apologies for not posting. Between the no power and no heat, I'm way behind on the things I meant to accomplish last week. So this took a back seat. So, onto some news bits that caught my attention.

Rovio is bringing Angry Birds to the 3DS. And why wouldn't they? They're already making a board game, plushies, tshirts, and a movie. Bringing them to a game console other then a phone app is just logical. >.> When asked, Rovio was looking towards bringing the current 3 games out as digital distribution for the 3DS and not in a cartridge form. But we'll see where that goes.

Sega seems to be having a good month with their ties to Platinum Games. Vanquish has sold around 800 thousand units since release and Sonic Colors is sitting at 1.85 million sold. Good for them. Their slump in sales and the imminent death of Sonic, this was a nice thing to see. Maybe they'll finally be able to give a good comeback to the blue hedgehog.

Oh and today is the Super Bowl. Where if you pay $200 you can get an outdoor, standing room only, watching on a paper screen spot at the stadium. But hey! You can say you were AT the Super Bowl. Just not IN the stadium with the nice seats. Happy Sunday everyone!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Original or Profit. Video Games Are A Business.

Unfortunately, that’s the fact. Or rather, I believe that’s the fact.

A friend showed me a game he was interested called Brink and wanted my opinion on if he should get the PS3 or PC version. My first question was “what’s Brink?” Followed by a wiki lookup. My response was, “so it's APB for ps3 >.>”

“No, it's not an mmo, max is 8v8 online. It’s an fps too.”

*me reading the website* “Let's see. it's got 2 sides of resistance and security. it's got them fighting in one city for control. You have to use weapons and vehicles in a GTAesque style. And it kinda looks like [APB]. Doesn't have to be an mmo to have the same ideas >.>”

The conversation delineated into talking about sporks.

But before that point, I began to have some slight concern for the gaming industry. I’ve had them before. But now it’s more prevalent. What happened to the originality of gaming? Every year we get a slew of the same sports games from EA, some Call of Duty, Halo-though it’s been said after every game since Halo 3 that it’ll be the last. And then we have the massive amounts of copycat titles. Because we really need 5 different variations of Call of Duty on a yearly basis.

And why not? People continually buy them. They’re a guaranteed sale.

So while we complain about seeing the same games over and over again on the store shelves, we still buy them. I’ve heard some say that it’s because there are no other options. There’s always an option. There’s the option to NOT BUY the game on the shelf. You can always use the internet to find another alternative. You could make your own game (flash, LBP, or other). You could try something else that is completely outside of your normal gaming, even a lesser known title.

Gaming companies will produce products based on what sells. If we stop buying a particular product, they’ll stop making it and shift their focus onto something else. Will it be a new idea? Probably not. But if we, the consumers, show favoritism towards games that are not the same, different stories, different gameplay, different styles, etc., companies will start to look towards more original ideas.

Does it seem too easy? Yes. But I’m going to use an example from the documentary Food Inc, which basically tells us where our food comes from and how the American public can influence prices and what’s being bought. There’s a segment in the film about why organic foods are not seen in conventional super markets and are crazy expensive. Go to whatever non-Whole Foods or Central Market store that is in your area. What do you see? Isles and isles of pre-packaged, processed food, and maybe one isle or corner of fruits and vegetables. Why? Because the consumer population spends vast amounts of money on packaged foods and very little on fruits and vegetables. So it’s of better use of the store’s space to have loads of the packaged foods and few fruits and veggies. Why do we buy so much packaged food? Marketing, advertising, loads of money spent on making those products look more appealing over the organic goods. Even government money backs up packaged foods and very little goes towards organic. Because so few people buy organic, prices on fruits and veggies go up, which allows for packaged foods to be at a better value and easier selection for those on a budget. And it’s not that making organic foods is more expensive (picking an apple off the tree so expensive!!) Rather, the prices are up to help recoup any losses for having low sales.

It’s all about supply and demand. If we demand it, they’ll supply it. So think about the games you buy. What do you have in your collection? Are you content with spending $59.99 on the same item with the same story and the same interface? Do you see a row of Call of Duty followed by 20 other war related FPS dealing with similar subjects?

Always good to think before you buy. Might be surprised at what your purchases say.

Aside: Apologies if you haven't seen your comments showing up immediately in the blog. I only JUST received a notification from Blogger that some were flagged for spam. Not sure why. No links. Nothing regarding buying/selling. Just...comments. lol But they've been released now. Silly Blogger.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Why PS1 Games Are A Pain To Remake

Ross McGrath, a member of the Playstation Store Team, gave a candid posting on the Sony Blog about why PS1 games are not appearing like crazy on the Playstation Network when we've all been begging for them. It's one of those where very little bs is thrown around.

Here are the two major problems, one I already guessed at. Legal and QA. Legal in the sense that some of the games, such as sports games, used brand-name products within the games as advertisement. Well it's been quite a while and some of those licenses to use the ads have expired. So it's a mess of back and forth between Sony, the publisher, and the company that owns the product. In some cases, the publisher and/or company of said product may no longer exist. It also explains why some of the PS1 games are only available in Japan or the US or Europe and no where else. Publishing rights. I bet Sony's lawyers make a ton of money.

The QA one is interesting. It's not simply porting a PS1 game to the PS3. They need to achieve a certain standard level before allowing the product to be released. Granted there are some games that have funny glitches, such as getting Snake's head stuck in a wall in MGS1. I only did it once, and boy did it make me laugh. But in some of these games, the glitches are so bad that moving them to the PS3 makes them virtually unplayable. All about the coding. >.>

On a positive, PSN is releasing Crash Bandicoot 2 on Wednesday. Not a bad game to dink around with.