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It's interesting, really, how much lives change. I just got back from a three-month overseas trip after five years at uni and with a law honours/media double degree under my belt. I am about to start hesitantly stepping out into real world for a proper job. Sliced Gaming (nee Gamebiz) has been a constant of mine for years, and while at times it was an effort I enjoyed having a place to put down thoughts on my hobby. It was a great distraction when needed and a great outlet for creativity.
Over the past few years, I sensed that all the staff here were increasingly busy with our lives, and I put aside the hope for a site redesign. I understood that we were never really in it compete for readership or audience. There were days where we truly were a presence on the Australian gaming landscape, but it required dedication and time that none of us could provide any longer. We lost a few staff members to that attrition, and when you're a small site with no pay incentives it's tough to find replacements who are interested in writing for its own sake; who have the passion for the industry to be able to maintain a commitment. We all fought that battle - I wrote over 1500 news articles on this backend alone and I'd be lying if I said some of those weren't a slog.
I'm trying to work out how long I've been doing this. I think I started writing when I was 14 or 15. I had frequented a forum called CubeAustralia, and when that shut down it merged with Gamebiz, which before then hadn't had a Nintendo presence. I'd been posting on those forums from about 13. That was ten years ago. I'd made a few suggestions to the mods there, and they asked if I'd be interested writing some content. When Gamebiz imploded on the discovery that a few staff members had been plagiarising content, we spun off Sliced Gaming without them.
It takes a certain degree of passion to keep at this industry day and night, and I greatly admire people like Vook who can achieve it. Of course, that comes at the cost of less time to focus on the rest of your life. Plus, I started to want to enjoy games, rather than analyse them. If you put your critic hat on it's sometimes hard to just relax. I needed games as a way to unwind, not as another chore. I never saw this site as more than a hobby, and that's probably why it faded. You need dedication to make it something bigger. I don't know if we all had it.
I want to thank all the great people on the publisher side who have been so gracious as to support a little site like ours far beyond when it was probably sensible to do so. The crew at EA, Activision, Nintendo and SEGA, and many more, which have over the years been a cross-pollinating, revolving door of PR staff, have always been far too liberal with their review copies and event invitations. It was with their support that we were able to cover as many of the big games as we did. And of course, all my thanks to the great friends on the staff and forums here who shared this fun little ride with me. I know I'll keep in touch with many of you.
Even as I type this I feel conflicted. It is the end of an era. I don't want the site to just disappear into the ether. The forums are functional, and our news and reviews archive will remain. As an end to day to day content, I think it's probably time. I am immensely proud of what we produced here. It will be hard to stop thinking about this industry, but when I do write something it will be at the new home for my sporadic musings, nickschaedel.com.
It's going to be tough letting go of this place.
E3 2011 Predictions
It's that time of year again. E3 2011 is just days away and it feels to me like it's going to be a hell of a show. Sony's got a new portable to debut, and Nintendo's got a new home console to reveal and a new handheld to show some proper support. These expos on the cusp of new generations are always exciting, and in anticipation I've made some predictions.
Nintendo Comes Out Swinging
Stream, or whatever it ends up being called, signifies a shift from Nintendo's blue ocean strategy back into the red seas of the fight for the hardcore gamer. The Wii will persist for years on the back of Wii Sports and Wii Fit regardless of its inferior graphics capabilities. As such, with slightly better than PS3 graphics, third party developers will again have three console of roughly equal capabilities to bring their games to. You can expect Nintendo to be stressing this aspect of the system, probably with some big name acquisitions. Resident Evil 6? Final Fantasy? Call of Duty? There'll be something.
That's not to forget the novelty of seeing your favourite Nintendo properties in HD. Chances are about 50/50 that Skyward Sword will get a Twilight Princess-esque upgrade to launch day. What else is on its way? Fingers crossed for a new Metroid game on either 3DS or Stream, and I'm dying to see what Retro Studios has up its sleeve. There'll be a ton of 3DS games on display too, and Mario will show his head in at least three different games.
Sony Would Like You Not To Mention The Whole PSN Thing, Please
Sony's always said it had a ten year plan for the PS3, so it's far too early to expect any news of its successor. This will be a year of consolidation for the company's home base, with the collapse of their entire infrastructure fresh in everyone's minds. It would be unwise to dwell too much on the subject, if at all - E3 is about looking forward. They have a strong lineup for this year, with inFamous 2 just hitting, Uncharted 3 and Resistance 3 on their way, and a new handheld system to name, date and price. Apologise, sure, but move on.
Sony is going to have to work hard to keep the focus on its games and message against its slip-ups in the past few months and the deluge of fierce competition from Nintendo and Microsoft. You can expect the NGP (aka PlayStation Vita?) to be the big push. Uncharted will be a big drawcard, but don't expect a price to be specified unless it's obscenely cheap. Sony could even pull a Nintendo and let retailers do the RRP announcement for them, and will quietly avoid mentioning battery life for as long as possible.
Microsoft Is Crazy. Don't Push Us. We'll Blow Your Mind To Smithereens If You Step Any Closer.
Microsoft, bizarrely, seems to be the wild card this year. As the first cab off the rank this generation, it's entirely possible that they'll reveal or start teasing their Xbox successor. You can bet they're well into prototyping it - the tactical choice to be made is whether or not to face Nintendo's onslaught head on, or wait for a quieter time post-E3 when they can have the spotlight all to themselves.
Their big focus, hardware-wise, will be the continued integration of Kinect into the Xbox system and into more traditional games. If the rumours of Xbox Live Diamond are to be believed, they'll have a PlayTV PVR equivalent to debut, which with Kinect will help push society further towards the hand waving face recognition AI houses we've been ogling in sci-fi films for the past thirty years. Otherwise, it'll just be about the games. You can expect big coverage of Mass Effect 3, Black Ops 2, Gears of Wars 3 and probably something from Bungie despite them now being an Activision Blizzard company. The next Alan Wake game will probably show up too, and I'm crossing my fingers for Shadow Complex 2.
Hey, Look At Me!
There will be plenty of other products clamouring for attention. PC gamers will be itching for more Diablo III, and I'm going to throw out that maybe we'll finally see a hint of Half-Life 2: Episode 3. Assassin's Creed: Revelations will be this year's Brotherhood, but I'd look for glimpse, or at least confirmation of the existence of, a true Assassin's Creed 3. Modern Warfare 3 will have a flashy trailer and demo that lots of people will get excited for but that I don't really care about.
Arkham City is going to impress, Mario on 3DS will blend Galaxy and Mario 64, BioShock: Infinite will blow minds, Prey 2 will garner attention and word of mouth, while Dead Island could underwhelm if the gameplay doesn't live up to the trailers. Battlefield 3 will fight to distinguish itself from Call of Duty, Call of Juarez will go unnoticed, Tomb Raider could actually impress with a flashy Uncharted-meets-Lord of The Flies revamp and OnLive will continue to almost exist.
Those are my predictions for this year's expo. What are you expecting and looking forward to?
My Top Five Games of 2010
So that was 2010, eh? A pretty good year all around, I think. What were my favourite games of the year, you ask?
Oh, you weren't speaking to me? Awkward.
Well, I've already written up my list. Sorry, it really did sound like you were speaking to me. You should be more specific next time. Anyway, note that I limited myself to games I had finished - there are others I enjoyed but didn't get around to completing. That may seem arbitrary but it feels weird to tout a game as one of the best of the year without knowing how it ends. I've also included some of the games I only got around to playing in 2010 but that didn't technically come out in those twelve months.
MY TOP FIVE (in no particular order):
LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias (WiiWare)
Of the few downloadable games I played in 2010 (which includes Limbo, a game that didn't make the list simply because I haven't yet finished it), the second LostWinds game is a standout. Embellishing the simple platforming tropes of the first game with a clever summer/winter weather dynamic and more variety made for an elegant update to the formula. Even as the Wii as a system grows a bit tired, it's hard to deny it was home to some great games this year.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
Another of those games was Super Mario Galaxy 2, a game that was both unoriginal and original at the same time. The first straight up sequel to a console Mario platformer, Nintendo threw everything they had at making an even more varied and difficult game than the first time out. Some of the levels get quite difficult, which is a good thing, and there is truly too much to do.
Heavy Rain (PS3)
If there was one game that stuck with me long after I played it this year, this was it. Heavy Rain has plenty of problems, yes, but man does it make up for it with a killer (pun) story. Sure, navigating your character feels like driving a particularly thick tank, but for true immersion, fantastic music and forcing you to make awful moral choices, Heavy Rain stands out.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3)
I'd heard good worth of mouth about Batman when it was released, but it was a description of it as vaguely like Metroid that finally made me pick it up. Boy, was I glad I had. A fantastic atmosphere, great visuals and top notch exploration and battle gameplay really make the game something special. Arkham City, coming this year, looks even better.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)
Another title I only got to in 2010, the Uncharted franchise lived up to its reputation as a standout PS3 series with this fantastic sequel. Truly beautiful, and with unforgettable setpiece moments across a variety of exciting landscapes, Among Thieves is the best kind of sequel: not just bigger, but better. Reliving the helicopter fight or jeep chase with other fans is almost as exciting as playing it again yourself.
Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii) is a stunning, and bloody hard platformer from Retro Studios. It'll be on my best-of list in 2012 when I finally beat it.
DJ Hero 2 (Xbox 360) revitalised the music game genre for me with its emphasis on personal creativity and expression over mechanical precision.
Metroid: Other M (Wii) is a flawed game that no one could really call 'great', but delivered this fan of the series a cinematic experience like no title prior.
inFamous (PS3) is the first open world game I've really sunk my teeth into. It's a pity it gets a bit repetitive and the trophy glitch killed my shard collection count.
What about you? What did you think of the year's lineup, and what were your favourites?
Uptime (with Game Impressions)
And by 'uptime' I mean the opposite of the figurative meaning of 'downtime' - a period of inactivity. Which is a roundabout way of saying 'holy crap, a lot of stuff is happening right now'.
The major time suck right now is exams. Two and a half to three and a half hours long, these bastards (and associated revision) cannot be over soon enough. I had one on Saturday morning at 9am. Seriously? Saturday morning. That's just cruel.
The upshot of this uptime is that I've been struggling to fit in time for playing games, meaning a few reviews are well overdue. I thought I'd give some quick thoughts here about what's coming down the pipeline.
EA Sports Active - Better than Wii Fit. The included stretchy band provides resistance, so there's a point to doing bicep curls. Plus, the leg strap for housing the nunchuk is genius too.
Flock - This XBLA game annoys me. You have to herd animals towards a spacecraft for abduction, but they are scared of the smaller ship you control. They get stuck in bushes and in corners, so you have to go around behind them to shoo them out. ARRGH. I'm getting frustrated right now just typing about it. (A better game would have been playing as a flock and trying to make it through a level without being abducted by aliens. Someone get on that.)
PixelJunk Eden - Love it. Super chilled out, but with increasing depth, gorgeous visuals and a funky soundtrack. Great fun with multiple players too.
Bit. Trip Beat - This is like the Wii's version of the PixelJunk series (there are six different Bit. Trip games planned for release). It's like Pong meets Space Invaders meets Guitar Hero. Addictive, but not a huge amount of depth. Best played in fifteen minute instalments.
Prince of Persia: Epilogue - I downloaded the DLC pack for $15 or $20 a few weeks ago and haven't even had the chance to boot it up. I'm sure it will be just as much fun as the underrated main game.
Anyway, in about a week's time I'll be free, and then you'll see some content from me appear on the site. I did a lot during E3, so I think I've got a bit of leeway anyway.
A quick tip
Of the various news and reviews articles I put up here on Sliced Gaming, many contain links. Sometimes it's to videos we've uploaded for your downloading pleasure, while other times it's to other websites that have exclusive news or content worth eyeballing.
What you may not know is that I like to add little easter eggs into my links in the form of tooltips. If you hover over the link for a second, a little text box will pop up with some additional information. Try it out. I've been doing it for years.
How to spend your stimulus money
Odds are you'll have a paycheck from the government winging its way to you soon. You might even be stimulated already. But how can you support the local Australians this money is meant to be for, while still playing videogames? By buying Australian-made products, that's how.
Wait! Come back! I know it's hard to believe, but the Australian gaming industry really has matured in the last few years. Want proof? Here:
Receiving international praise and recognition, BioShock is a game we're lucky to be able to call our own. Developed by 2K Australia (formerly Irrational Games), the game takes place in the underwater city of Rapture. Saying more would spoil the surprise. You can pick this one up on PS3 if you'd like, though the port was done by 2K Marin, not the original studio.
de Blob (Wii):
Developed by Melbourne's Blue Tongue studios, de Blob is a great platformer with a twist. You have to bring colour back to the world by splashing around in paint and then scampering around the environment. Unlike much of the crap on the Wii, it's gorgeous, deep, has a great dynamic soundtrack, and will sustain your interest for longer than five minutes. If you've completed Mario Galaxy and are starved for more adventuring, don't overlook this one.
Empire: Total War (PC):
You can thank The Creative Assembly for the Total War franchise, and you can thank them a second time for having an Australian base. The latest game in the series kicks the setting up to the colonial era, and, as if that wasn't enough, throws in marine warfare and a host of other new features. If you're after an epic turn-based strategy game (with real-time tactics), it would be rude to buy anything else.
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (DS, PSP)
The ingenious twist to the RPG genre that is guaranteed to get you hooked on Puzzle Quest is its Bejeweled-esque fights. Yes, the battles in this RPG are a crazy mash-up of gem-swapping, spells and hit points. The game has been released on basically every platform known to man, including XBLA, PSN, Wii, PS2, PC, iPhone and iPod Touch - though whether all of them got local releases is a different question. Hunt down either of the portable versions, as they were created by the Aussies at Infinite Interactive, or give it a few weeks and then pick up the sequel, Puzzle Quest: Galactrix. It's in space!
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Wii, PS2, PSP):
The versions of Force Unleashed to hit the Wii, PS2 and PSP were all the work of local developer Krome Studios, whose previous work includes the Ty the Tasmanian Tiger series, some Spyro games, and Viva Piñata: Party Animals. If you want more lightsaber battles, you should pick up Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels for Wii, which they also developed.
Stormrise (PS3, Xbox 360, PC):
Wait, The Creative Assembly gets two mentions? Yep - partly because I wanted to highlight an option for all you PS3 owners out there, and partly because Stormrise looks really cool. In a week's time, you'll be able to experience a console RTS that actually seems to have put serious thought into reimagining both the control scheme and the gameplay of the genre for your living room. Plus, you can look forward to making tactical decisions in three dimensions, thanks to someone finally making use of the vertical plane when designing environments.
So there you go. There is a growing pile of Australian-made games that we as a nation can truly be proud of. If you're looking to spend those stimulus dollars on games, why not think about why you're getting the money in the first place, and then invest it back into the system? If you buy these products, then not only do you help support the economy, but you ensure that we'll be getting even better Australian games in the future. That's something we should all be able to get behind.
Games and the recession
You hear a lot of people saying that the games industry will ride out the current economic downturn. I disagree.
The argument goes that the big three are riding a way of popularity at the moment, with the industry constantly expanding. In a recession, people lose their jobs, or get their shift work decreased. This means that a whole stack of people have less weekly income, and thus less disposable income. With less disposable income, you have to cut back on luxury purchases, be it going to the movies, going out to dinner, or buying games. Obviously, you're going to see less units of games sold.
When a new game comes out, there is a defined amount of money that a company needs to make to break even on a project. A recession makes that profit thinner, or even nonexistent. If that doesn't hurt the company straight away, it at least affects the way it produces its next game. You have less capital, and a shaky track record that is less attractive to investors.
So then you have less money to make your next project, which means you might have to scale back your ambitions and create a more run-of-the-mill title at a quicker pace. This then gets lost in the crowd of other similar titles from other developers in the same position, and sales are again questionable.
After a couple of shaky projects, you've eaten into your bank account and are finding it difficult to get support for this fantastic new idea you've had. You have to start shopping around the company to potential buyers. This has already started happening. Every other week we see news that EA has acquired another developer. Of course, if you still don't perform, you parent company, now itself struggling with underperformance of its brands, is forced to consolidate and close the doors of the studios that just haven't been producing hits. They greenlight less risky, original games and rely on their key franchises to carry them through the storm.
The other problem faced by many companies is that exchange rates are destroying profits. Nintendo slashed its forecasted returns because the strengthening Japanese yen makes their products more expensive overseas, slowing demand. And poor Sony reported a 95% drop in quarterly net profits across all of its businesses, and expecting a record operating loss in the quarter ending in March.
So what does this mean for you? Well, for starters, prices are going to be more ludicrous than ever down here in Australia. In order to make money, prices are going up way above what they should as companies try to keep making a profit. Unfortunately, the higher price turns off a greater portion of the potential market, who then turns to used goods - and, obviously, none of the money from those sales makes it up to the company.
Depending on where you stand, one slight upside might be the dependence on beloved franchises. If Nintendo wasn't making Super Mario Galaxy 2 already, you can be sure they are now. All the hits of the last two or three years has a sequel in development. All of them. If a game saw great sales, the company is going to cash in on a safe bet while the market is up in the air.
There's a rough patch ahead, folks, and we can only hope that the industry is able to get through without too many closures and irrevocable changes. Buckle up.
My Five Favourites of 2008
It would be nice to think that we are so dedicated here at Sliced Gaming that we refused to discuss our favourite games of 2008 until we were actually in 2009, but really we all just went on holiday. With neither numerical rankings, nor further ado:
A great Australian effort, de Blob is one of the few platformers to hit the Wii in 2008. Thankfully, aside from a few control niggles, the game plays really well. It's not a short game, and the twist of having to paint the environment is addictive. Plus, the music and visuals are top-notch.
WiiWare could be the system's ace in the hole for hardcore gamers. While Nintendo is off doing Wii Music, there has been a steady stream of original, well-made games on the store. Sure, there's some crap to wade through too. But more people should take a look at what the service (and the Virtual Console) has to offer. Case in point: LostWinds, a gorgeous, relaxing, elegant platformer that hands you control of the wind. It's only $15, too.
Prince of Persia
I was a little uncertain about this one. Did I only want to put this game on the list because I've been playing it lately? Is there a game earlier in the year that I'd be overlooking? I suppose this year has made me realise that I love a good platformer, and Prince of Persia is a really good platformer. The feeling of joy you get from long chains of acrobatics is really second to none. The duel combat is questionable, as is the game's story (though I must be the only person on Earth who doesn't care that the Prince is American), but the platforming is just so satisfying.
Super Smash Bros.: Brawl
It was the one truly hardcore game released by Nintendo last year - how could it not make the list? Yes, the Subspace Emissary, while kind of interesting plot-wise, was pretty repetitive. Yes, it would have been nice if the character roster was more balanced across the franchises, and if returning characters' movesets had seen a bit of a refresh. But that doesn't matter, because you know you'll keep playing the multiplayer (locally, at least) for years. It's just so much fun.
Zack & Wiki: Make A Porno Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
It's a game that I almost forgot about. Then again, at least I played it in the first place, unlike 99.9% of the gamer population. The game featured classic point-and-click puzzles that actually required you to think and then experiment (though often with brutal results). The gratification you get for finally solving a difficult stage is addictive, which is a pity because it's seems highly unlikely that we'll ever see a sequel.
Wario Land: The Shake Dimension, the Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People series, Boom Blox.
Wii Turns Two
Two years ago today, Nintendo released the Wii onto Australian shelves, but I'm not sure if they could have predicted the success it has been both here and worldwide. More than 750,000 consoles have been sold in the region, and nearly 35 million internationally.
The first year of the system's life was characterised by new iterations of some big name franchises like Mario, Zelda and Metroid, and a ton of poorly-made cash-in efforts made to cater to the so called "casual audience". Things seemed mostly positive. However, in the Wii's second year Nintendo's focus on the easy money of the non-gamer seemed to come at the expense of the hardcore. There have been few noteworthy games, an empty Christmas line-up and some lazy updates of existing franchises like Mario Kart and Animal Crossing. The storage solution saga has dragged on for far too long, and the Wii Speak peripheral for voice chat is not exactly what everyone was asking for.
The novelty of waggle has worn off, and gamers are looking for deep titles to sink their teeth into. While there has been the odd light in the darkness, like some excellent WiiWare titles, and smaller efforts like de Blob, Okami and Boom Blox, for the most part developers are not willing to build games for the system with their A-team.
Will 2009 be any different? Hopefully, yes. At their October press event, Nintendo unveiled a stack of titles that show promise - Sin & Punishment 2, MadWorld, Punch-Out!!, The Conduit etc. - and we got confirmation that the Mario and Zelda teams were hard at work. There's a new Pikmin on the way, and rumours of a Factor 5 Kid Icarus update are not dissipating.
The question is, will Nintendo be able to acknowledge and identify that it has isolated the core gamer and then make efforts to fix the problem? Will the estranged Wii owners be willing to return to the system if new hardcore titles arrive? While the line-up of games in 2009 already seems to trump this year, I can't help but look at the announcement of 'Wii-makes' of Gamecube games and wonder if they are still taking the easy way out.
It has begun
Okay, it's now edging towards October and all of a sudden we have games coming out of our ears. While there has been a bit of improvement in the last few years with distributors trying to stagger the release of their titles, there is still an undeniable glut of games that appear at the end of each year. It's not necessarily a bad thing, either - there's something enjoyable about the million different aspects of your life all getting a little more hectic in the race towards December. Spring has definitely begun, and when you can feel the warmth in the air and realise there are lots of things you should be doing (but aren't), you know it's heading getting towards the end of the year.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to not writing the two essays due tomorrow and play either Wario Land or de Blob. Two new games... which to play first!?
It's that time of year again. Not many releases of note, at least from my perspective. It's mostly waiting for August to be over and all the games to start arriving. Well, I mean, obviously not for Nintendo consoles - we've had that discussion already.
Well, okay, we haven't really talked DS yet. DS has been practically dead for about a year. There are no games of interest on that system either. Where is New Super Mario Bros. 2? Where is the Super Metroid port, or the long rumoured Metroid Dread? Mario Kart 2? I mean, come on people! I can only guess that this is a sign that the focus has switched to the DS's successor. A proper successor, not the rumoured second redesign.
We're talking late 2009 here, maybe early 2010. Two screens, both touch. Tighter hinge for minimal gap between them. Gyroscope is a given, while rumble is a possibility. I'm pretty sure they'll use some form of SD cards, possibly with their own style of encription to make sure it's completely safe. Backwards compatible with DS, but I'm guessing the GBA slot is going bye-bye. In-built storage of 4-8GB, and a bigger range of features in the OS - calendar, diary, contacts etc. - to make it a more universal device. Launching with the DS2 will be the portable section of the Virtual Console, allowing for download and transfer of Gameboy and other pocket system games for emulation on the go. While it would be nice to see an aluminium unit, something sleek and a bit industrial, inoffensive plastic hues are more likely. Plays music and movie files off of SD cards.
See, Nintendo? If you decided to release some games this year, I wouldn't have to resort to making your announcement of the DS's successor seem so bitterly disappointing.
Nintendo's Amazing New Project Leaked
Sources close to the company today confirmed to Sliced Gaming that Nintendo's big push this holiday season will be Wii Screensaver (RRP AUD$99.95), a revolutionary new title for the system already in huge demand following the success of Wii Fit and inevitable success of Wii Music.
Wii Screensaver consists of many breathtaking landscapes, several colourful lightshows and over three different music tracks that are all guaranteed to make your TV look less boring when it's not in use. It takes gaming controls to a whole new level, by not giving them to the player at all. All control has been taken out of the hands of the gamer, making it impossible for anyone to know what feels like to be sad at losing, and therefore, rather ironically, making it impossible for anyone to know what it feels like to be happy too. Nintendo is continuing with its revolutionary 'blue ocean' strategy of making sure the hardcore supporters that kept them afloat during the Gamecube era feel completely alienated.
Word has it that Wii Screensaver will be targeted at the previously untapped comatose market. "We feel that vegetables have to date been unfairly ignored by videogame companies," Nintendo America President Reggie Fils-Aime didn't say yesterday. "Wii Screensaver will keep their screens from suffering burn-in in the months or years until they wake up, or until the plug is pulled and the next patient is wheeled in." Fils-Aime did not seem concerned that the target market is unlikely to buy more than one game, hinting that the company was already thinking about targeting conscious terminally ill patients with a 'You've Had A Good Life' Wii bundle containing the long-awaited black Wii system.
Released alongside the game will be the Wii Remote Stand (RRP AUD$39.95), which lets players neatly hang up their Wii Remotes when they are playing the game. Never again will you have to put up with simply putting them on the table or in a drawer. Nintendo did quietly mention that the the Wii Remote Stand was not compatible with Wii MotionPlus, though whispers suggest we may be seeing a Wii Remote Stand Wii MotionPlus Stand Adapter (RRP AUD$39.95) to enable this in the future.
Wii Screensaver is compatible with up to infinite players, though Nintendo's advice to keep an arm's width of space between players limits this practical application of this functionality. While Fils-Aime was hesitant to guarantee that it would help comatose players, he made clear that it would not call them fat and, besides, they were "basically dead anyway."
Nintendo Co., Ltd., of Kyoto, Japan, is the acknowledged worldwide leader in the creation of interactive entertainment. To date, Nintendo has sold more than one billion video games worldwide, created such industry icons as Mario and Donkey Kong and launched franchises like The Legend of Zelda and Pokémon. Lately, they have shunned their longtime fans in favour of shallow appeals to a wider audience that can only last for so long before the fickle public move on to the next big thing. Nintendo has clearly never seen one of those college movies where a geek abandons his friends to hang out with the jocks, who ditch him at the end of the second act, and the geek then has to crawl back to his nerdy pals with the realisation that all along they were his true supporters who only wanted what was best for him, and he was a real douchebag to them.
I was halfway through writing this in a news story when I decided it was more suited to a blog post. I was sifting through the millions of zips, pdfs and movies I'd hurriedly downloaded into a folder on my desktop ready for uploading during E3, when I found Zubo. I read the fact sheet, realised it was a kid's game and found myself dismissing the title as another example of EA churning out a new IP.
Just as I was about to delete the files, I paused.
I suddenly realised that Zubo was hugely significant. Three or four years ago, EA was in a rut, churning out (the verb is actually applicable here) sports game after sports game in established franchises. Who would have thought that CEO John Riccitiello would turn the company around so quickly and so successfully. Think about all the new IPs launched in the last few years: Boogie, MySims, Crysis, Rock Band, Skate, EA Playground, Dead Space, Zubo, Mirror's Edge, Spore... I mean, seriously, that's at least ten brand new franchises in the last two years.
There is no other gaming company on the planet right now with so much faith in so many new projects. That being said, they're the second biggest gaming company on the planet with the resources to do so, but the point stands. It's crazy that EA has turned its image around from churning out crap year after year to actually having the balls to go out and create a ton of new IPs. Perhaps even too many IPs.So I spent the time resizing and formatting all the images out of a weird type of respect, and then posted the news article.
Man, there's a lot of stuff going on in the next few weeks. We've got our biggest feature ever on Sliced Gaming - the Battlefield feature week - which has taken quite a bit of effort to get going. We're pretty proud of the competition system too. With such a big comp going doing, we're all going to try and get as much news and as many reviews as we can up to bolster the site.
However, this week is conveniently also my exam week - yes, I only have two, but it's still a huge time suck. Thankfully, in a week's time I'll be free and ready to pick up Smash Bros., which is finally out this Thursday.
Oh, and did I mention that we moved house? Yeah, we moved house, and so we had no phone for three days, no TV for four, and we still don't have internet. In fact, the local exchange is completely full, so we have to wait for there to be a free port to get connected. We may have to suffer with regular ADSL instead of ADSL2+, because the wait the could be months.
Plus, in the second week of July I'm going to Germany to see Radiohead. As you do. Guess what this overlaps with? Yep, E3 - probably the last E3 ever, from every indication. Last year's trial at a smaller convention in scattered hotels across the city didn't exactly go down well, and now that they're back in the LA Convention Centre in basically a small corridor next to the kitchen, I think the future doesn't look too bright. Most of the major developers have realised that they can hold their own spotlight days throughout the year and get better coverage than everyone crowding the newswire for one week in May/July.
On top of all of that, there are so many games I'm trying to get through. My Boom Blox review is drafted and ready to go once I confirm my suspicion that all Wi-Fi features have been removed for Australian audiences (ring any bells... cough Medal of Honour Heroes 2? cough). Pity that the Wii's in a box and the TV's on the floor. And we have no internet. I've got Guitar Hero DS, which is pretty sweet, as well as Phantom Hourglass to get to, so I think those will come on the plane. And I barely had a chance to sink any time into Wii Fit. And until yesterday I hadn't even booted up the copy of Stuntman Igntion for PS3 that I bought new for a measly $45 bucks from JB.
That being said, I actually love the pressure and buzz of everything happening on top of each other. Just when you finish something, you barely have time to pause before something else exciting is upon you. So, yeah, we have some fun times ahead.
An Open Letter to the Australian Family Association
I sent this email to the Australian Family Association a few days ago, and didn't receive any response, so I thought I'd post it here.
My name is Nick Schaedel, and I run an Australian-based videogame website called Sliced Gaming. Your association recently raised alarms about the content of Grand Theft Auto IV, which will soon be available worldwide. I take issue with of the claims you have made regarding the effects of videogame violence on teens as detailed in articles such as this.
First, I do not disagree that violent or disturbing material should not be shown to children. This applies to all media content, including films, DVDs and games. However, parents and families need to accept some responsibility for what their children are viewing. Grand Theft Auto IV was rated MA15+, which means that its content is not suitable for children under 15 (though a child can still see an MA15+ rated movie if accompanied by a parent). Stores cannot sell this game to children under 15. Advertisements for this game will not be shown at times when children could reasonably be watching TV. The average age of videogamers in Australia, according to the research body IEAA, is 28. There are mature players in this country that have the right to play this game.
If a minor gains access to Grand Theft Auto, it is therefore through the actions (or inaction) of an adult.
Secondly, I encourage you to read the (very) recent book 'Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do', by psychologists Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson. The book is based on a study about video games and youth violence performed on 1250 kids commissioned by the United States Department of Justice that they did at the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media. They also went back and did an analysis of earlier research into the subject, and on the whole found it to be poorly performed or not applicable to real-world situations. I encourage you to visit their website, which includes a comparison of common myths and the facts, as well as the results of their research. It can be found here.
I will, however, quote one finding of significant importance:
"Video game popularity and real-world youth violence have been moving in opposite directions. Violent juvenile crime in the United States reached a peak in 1993 and has been declining ever since. School violence has also gone down. Between 1994 and 2001, arrests for murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assaults fell 44 percent, resulting in the lowest juvenile arrest rate for violent crimes since 1983. Murder arrests, which reached a high of 3,800 in 1993, plummeted to 1400 by 2001."
In an interview with the videogame news and review show X-Play (which can be viewed here), the two researchers explain how they found that children that exclusively played more than 15 hours per week of M rated games were at statistically greater risk of getting into trouble or fights. However, this was generally a reflection of other behavioural problems. In other words, the teenagers didn't have aggressive tendencies because they played violent video games, they played violent video games because they had pre-existing aggressive tendencies.
Additionally, they point out a surprising discovery they made: not only was it was normal for teenage guys to play these sorts of videogames together, but those who didn't play them were statistically at a greater risk of getting into trouble and getting into fights.
I hope that you take the time to follow up on this and examine the real, scientific evidence about the issue of a correlation between video game violence and real-world violence. The needless media bashing of video games is simply the latest in a long line of "bad influences" including film and rock and roll. The sooner we as a society recognise that developers have the right to design games for any demographic they choose, and that parents and families need to accept some responsibility for the actions of their children, the better.
What's happening to me?
Okay. So my friend and I had planned to watch Transformers on Blu-Ray today on my PS3, since I wanted to try out a Blu-Ray and he was bored. Unfortunately, Transformers was only out on HD-DVD (gah!) and we ran out of time to watch the whole movie on DVD (and he didn't want to start watching the movie and then stop - not that big a deal to me, but meh).
So, this was the first time that I had turned the system on in at least a month, and there was a system update there for the new Playstation store. So, I got it downloading, only to realise it would take for fricking ever. It took over twenty-five minutes to download 230ish MB. Annoying. And then it had to install too.
So, with that killing our time, I decided to show him the Super Stardust HD demo I'd downloaded. There was apparently a new version available, and all I had to do to get it was hit OK, and then the game would quit and I'd be prompted to install the new one. Easy, theoretically. What actually happened was that my PS3 reset itself. Twice. So I downloaded the demo again from the store (another 150MB), overwrote the old one, booted it up expecting it to be ready to go. But no, that would be too simple. No, I didn't download the new version. They still had up the old one. So that meant I had to do the upgrade process a third time, but it worked (another 100MB later).
While I was in the store, I felt like getting a game with a bit more meat, so I downloaded the Lost Planet Online Demo as well. Background downloading is awesome, but it seemed like you could only download one thing at once, which is a little silly in my book. So, after a quick round of Super Stardust HD, we booted up Lost Planet.
So, I got into the lobby and tried to connect to a match. It wouldn't let me. I couldn't connect. I kep trying. Sometimes I'd get into the match, but then would be booted or couldn't play. It happened something like five times before I gave up. Wasn't really impressed by this point.
Tonight, after Lost had finished (it's finally back on, woot!), I figured I'd turn on Folding@Home, but when I booted it up I decided to give Lost Planet another go. This time, it worked (mostly). I got into games. Now, here's the scary bit.
I kinda had fun.
I mean, sure, I sucked hard than a Hoover playing chess, but I actually enjoyed myself. The options were extremely limited, and there was only one map, and I had my first encounter with some douchebags who were getting pissed off that I was hiding in a corner and sniping at them and wasn't playing "like a man", but when it came time to hit the hay, I didn't really want to turn it off.
What's happening to me? I never thought I'd find myself enjoying a shooter. Maybe it was because it was a little slower, with a few unique quirks, and it wasn't mayhem. You had to use cover, and play a bit of cat and mouse with your opponents.
The worst part is that I'm vaguely considering buying Warhawk. If there was a demo up, I'd try it out, but since one of my mates has the game (as well as a couple of the Sliced staff), it would seem like a safe buy.
P.S. It seems like I like anything with the word 'lost' in its name - the TV shows 'Lost' and 'The Lost Room', and obviously 'Lost Planet' too.
If you're going to ask whether I want to do something, let me have a choice.
Thanks for asking. I appreciate the gesture, but no, this time I will give it a miss.
For a while, Nintendo Australia was well known amongst gaming circles as being stingy to online publications in terms of providing review materials to sites like ours. Print publications ran weekly gaming columns of a couple of hundred words each week, and received games to review, while gaming sites that provided multiple articles each week, often many pages and thousands of words in length, were shunned. I suppose the question was whether the small fraction of readers of a newspaper that are interested gaming outnumbered the number that contributed thousands of page views. Nintendo, not that long ago, seemed to think it did. I don't know either way.
However, times are changing. From a very personal standpoint, I was intensely proud that late last year, Nintendo Australia sent us our first game for review in over four years (we're going back into the Gamebiz days here). I'm not sure what changed at Nintendo - or maybe it was my charm and boyish good looks - but all of a sudden we had achieved the impossible. And they've sent us more games, too! I have since heard that other Australian gaming sites have been receiving titles for review too, which is great.
Last week, we were invited an exclusive, press-only "feet-on" with Wii Fit in Melbourne. According to Adam, who went along, there were only about thirty to forty people there. Apparently, there were a few reporters there who were a little anxious about taking off their shoes and getting stuck into the game, who I can only assume were from the mass media. I couldn't help but smile when he told me that there were a few young guys, himself included, who leapt straight into it, appreciated the opportunity to see this game two month early, and had a great time. Internet journalism FTW.
The Australian gaming industry has become predominately online-based. Magazines are losing steam and will inevitably disappear over the coming year. The Internet allows for literally up to the minute updates and content, and it is great to see that finally companies down here are recognising it as the new home of the hardcore.
So cheers to Nintendo, for removing the prejudice, jumping on board and treating us all as equals.
Get thee to an internet
I remember this weblog thing. Now they pop up on the mainpage, so I can look like an authority on things! That can only be good...right?
So Wii Fit was priced recently at AUD$150, which seems like a lot for a game of basically the same depth as Wii Sports. What I want to talk about today is something that comes as a result of that announcement - the price of Rock Band.
We've already seen in Australia that the average consumer is very price-conscious. The mass appeal of the PS2 and the recent success of the Wii reflect a society that appreciates value for money. Nintendo's move to include the Wii Wheel (sigh) with Mario Kart Wii for the same price of $99, and the fact that the Wiimote/Wii Play combo has sold like four million copies worldwide despite being a shitty game, reflects this. So at what price will Rock Band try and market itself? I'll bet that the press release announcing its eventual release date will hold off on announcing the price until the very last paragraph.
In America, the price sits at US$169, which equates to about $184 in Australian dollars. So it could feasibly sit nicely at $199, but considering that the Guitar Hero III with a guitar itself cost AUD$170, that seems unlikely. So is it $250, then? And if yes, will the Australian consumer be willing to fork out that amount of money for one game? I'm sure EA is carefully thinking all this over, and it really can't be too long to wait for the news. The question remains, though - will EA keep the price low to lure in the mass market, or put it at $250 and risk alienating consumers?
Wii - One Year On
Okay. Long time, no blog. Sorry.
Anyway, I just put together a big Wii feature about the Wii's first year in Australia - you can check it out here. After reading some of the other responses, I was itching to
leap to the Wii's defense reply to some of the points raised.
First, the criticism that there have been few worthwhile titles to hit the system. Let's flash back to a year and a half ago. Nintendo was a wildcard. The GameCube had basically failed at bringing Sony down, and third parties were abandoning the system in droves. The gradual announcement of the Wii and its features were acknowledged with interest, but uncertainty. It was a risky move. A big move. And it would take a brave third party (Ubisoft, as it turns out) to jump onboard when the system's failure could potentially be the end of Nintendo. Hence, Nintendo started the Wii's life where they ended the GameCube's - alone.
Flash forward six months. To the surprise of many, the Wii was a hit. In fact, it's not just selling - it's selling well, and it's selling out. Developers who had stood on the sidelines and focussed on Xbox 360 and PS3 development looked around and suddenly realised that there was a large, untapped market in the Wii. There was money to be made. Cue the quick ports and shallow minigame compilations that hit the system in the third quarter. However, it takes time to make a game, and a lot of time to make a great game. That's why we'll be seeing far more quality third party titles hitting the system in 2008. Games like Zack and Wiki, No More Heroes, Red Steel 2, NiGHTS, Medal of Honor Heroes 2, Nitro Bike, We Love Golf!, and it's rumoured that Call of Duty 5 might be Wii-bound too. Of course, that's on top of big first party titles like Super Smash Bros.: Brawl, Mario Kart, Wii Fit, Endless Ocean, Disaster: Day of Crisis and the expected Pikmin and Animal Crossing sequels. The games are coming.
Okay, let's get nasty and start analysing some actual quotes.
"Fans were distraught when they found out Guitar Hero III featured only stereo sound..." Okay, for starters it was mono sound, and Activision has just announced they are producing replacement discs that will be available in the new year. Barely worth mentioning.
"To me the 2nd and 3rd generation games that have appeared on the Xbox 360 this year can put many Wii games to shame." Well, duh. They've been in development longer. Teams have got used to the system with earlier releases and are now more familiar with the architecture. The question is whether first generation 360 games put to shame first generation Wii titles. Anyone here still playing Perfect Dark Zero? How about Wii Sports?
"The wireless is actually rather useless in a wireless free household." The HDMI is also rather useless in an HDTV-less household. The memory card slots are also rather useless in a PS2-less household. Seriously, this is pretty ridiculous. You'd prefer to have to buy an extra adaptor for wireless rather than have it built in? You can plug in a USB ethernet port for a wired connection to the Wii anyway. Next.
"Over in the States, you can already download movies on demand to the Xbox 360, and this is now starting to be offered overseas. The Wii doesn't look like it will offer this..." a) Get back to me when you can download movies to your 360 here in Australia. b) The 360 and PS3 are marketed as multimedia devices - "supercomputers", even. On the other hand, the Wii has always been billed as a gaming system first, with a couple of simple lifestyle tools on the side. If you're expecting the Wii to be anything more, no wonder you're so disappointed.
So, to clarify: I don't think the Wii is perfect. Indeed, my contribution to the feature was focussed primarily on all the things it's done wrong - and it's a pretty long piece. However, the problems raised in the article (outside of the issue of quantity and quality of releases, which I covered above) tend to critique the system with regards to the foci and features of the Xbox 360 and PS3. In reality, the Wii is simply different. It's not a media centre. It's not a high definition cinema experience. It's not a beast, it's not built around online and, most importantly, it's not a traditional console. By all means, compare the systems' common interests - the games - but otherwise critique it by itself.
Excite Truck, Elebits and Trauma Centre: Second Opinion were launch titles for the Wii in America. On the shelf, day one. We got Excite Truck on February 22 – two and a half months after the system’s launch in Australia and about three since the US launch. We’re getting Elebits on May 7th – exactly five months since launch and around six months since the system was first available. And guess what? There’s been no release date announced for Trauma Centre: Second Opinion. In fact, we still haven’t even got the original DS version – subtitled ‘Under The Knife’ - that the game is based on! That game was released in America nearly eighteen months ago – and DS games aren’t region locked anyway! What’s stopping its release!?! We only just got a local release of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney for DS - eighteen months after its release in North America and a staggering one year after its European release. Typically, once a game gets converted for Europe, we get the distribution as well, but not this time.
What’s the freaking problem, here?
Why are Australian gamers second-class citizens? We’re ripped off already on prices – though thankfully the Wii does have some first party games at a RRP of $79.95 – why kick us when we’re down by delaying it by months or, worse, not even announcing a release date to look forward to?
Want another example?
Super Paper Mario came out last week in North America, and has a release in Japan in a couple of days. This game is probably the best-reviewed game to come out for the Wii since Zelda (I guess we’re lucky we got that one when we did). It’s the beginning of the second generation of titles. We’re out of launch territory now – here come the big guns.
Australian release date: TBC.
By the way, it’s not just Nintendo - they’re just who I know best. All the consoles in Australia seem to suffer from the same problem. Maybe they’re shipping the games in groups of three by hot air balloon from China.
Some general negativity
OK, I like the Wii. Quite a lot. However, there are still niggles.
I set it so that whenever my Wii Connect24 does something, the disc slot lights up blue. This is a sweet feature both aesthetically and functionally. However, when I do turn on the system to see what’s new, I can’t see what’s new. So, basically, it’s telling you that something has changed, but damn it, find it yourself. Is it a new Mii in the Mii Parade? Have you got a message (why does Nintendo keep telling me the News Channel is available? I downloaded it, like, a week ago)? Do I need to do a system update? Maybe the Forecast Channel has got the latest data, or a new headline has hit the News Channel? How hard is it to inform me of what’s happened? Stick a memo on the message board and log that at 2:13am Jesus arrived in my Mii Parade.
Speaking of messages, can we please label which messages are new or old? I don’t want to know how many messages are up on the board, I want to know if there are any I haven’t read. Every time I log on, I see the flashing number, head in, and realise it’s just the play log or another useless reminder to download the News Channel. Again.
Also, stick in a Download Channel to store our VC games, cache the Wii Shop so that we never have to see the ‘connecting’ screen again on our ‘always-on’ console, and let developers stick their new content on the system. Oh, and why isn’t there an optimised version of the Nintendo site for when you access it through the Opera browser? Which reminds me, I hope they let the Opera team stick in their Mail program, so we can check proper emails (not email@example.com) from the couch.
Oh, I think that’s about it.
No, wait, that’s right. Notice that Nintendo Australia is selling some Wii games at $79.95? Smart move. Reminds me of that time when Julian suggested RRPs of $79.95, and I explained the ramifications (third from bottom post in this blog). Result: I can’t find WarioWare: Smooth Moves anywhere. Oh, and it’s good to see two ads for the game on Channel Ten during one show (the right audience, the right time). And the ads only featured girls too.
By the way, my sister told me the other day that her friend has a Wii. Not her friend’s brother. Or father. Her female friend. Score one: Nintendo. Actually, I’m not good at keeping scores. It’s probably higher than that.
Speaking of segues, Sony isn’t going to launch a 20GB model of the PS3 in Australia? I reckon that's just asking for trouble. Nintendo only managed 30,000 units of the Wii on launch – will Sony do any better? At the same time, is there demand for, say, 50,000 systems here? I don’t even think the eBay frenzy will happen. It’s just not appealing to the average Australian. Sure, the graphics look nice, but to the casual eye, they’re inseparable from the 360 – which is at least $350 cheaper. So yeah, it will be worth keeping an eye on the launch this March.
Oh yeah, and Twilight Princess is good. I don’t know if it’s quite great yet, but I’m certainly enjoying most of it. Some of the cutscenes are really effective – the exploding house for one, and the one straight after the third temple. It’s also nice not to be pressured to write the review – RJ did that a while ago. So I’m just chilling and enjoying the game at my own pace. The only real disappointment was those twilight zones. I really HATED collecting those fucking bugs. Stupid, stupid bugs. Though the boss was neat. Unfortunately, I can’t shake the thought at the back of my mind that there’s a lot of collecting – bugs, Fused Shadows, and some certain fragments of something I won’t name in case you’re not quite there yet – despite thoroughly enjoying the dungeons, cart escort missions and other varied types of gameplay. Still, we’ll see how it goes.
Also, some of the third party Wii launch titles were actually quite respectable. Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam was quite a deep game, Rayman gets you laughing every single time, from the sounds of it, Marvel and Call of Duty are enjoyable too (look for those reviews soon). Keep it coming, guys. Dewy’s Adventure looks fun, too, by the way. If only we had Eledees…
So yeah, I think that’s about it for my unnecessarily long blog post. I might edit this later with a picture or something.
So, I'm back from my trip. You won't really hear much from me for the next month or so because I'll be catching up on Wii time. I took Clubhouse Games away with me, and it turned out to be an okay choice. I'll be doing reviews of Rayman, Open Season, Wii Play and Zelda, too.
I also picked up It's Mr Pants in Barcelona. It's funny. Need to do that review too. Sigh.
Back to work...after I'm done hugging my Mr Resetti doll:
So here we are
Okay. So it's been a while. Since my last post, I've:
1. Started final year 12 exams
2. Finished final year 12 exams
3. Gone to schoolies
4. Played an...um...oh, whatcha callit?....a VIDEOGAME! Gosh!
5. Purchased a Wii and two games, with two more forthcoming when the stock arrives.
6. Abandoned my Wii after three days for an around the world trip.
So, here we are. Sitting in the Melbourne International Airport, waiting for my midnight flight to London (24 hours long, apparently). Thankfully, I'm blessed to be in the holy business class. Movies on demand for the win! Wireless Internet and my laptop for the win! Heck, even you for the win! (I'm feeling nice today)
I'm probably gonna go out and grab an SD card duty free. Works for Wii. I might also see if they have any earphones. Mine have stopped working unexpectedly. It's a pity, because they're inner ear bud thingos, which are always nice on noisy airplane flights. Darn.
If you're interested, I'll be updating my blog at http://nshady.blogspot.com periodically (i.e. whenever my laptop discovers a wireless network).
So yeah. My Wii and Zelda has been abandoned, one temple in. How frustrating. I'm not sure whether I like the SPOILER! SPOILER! tears of light collection thing. I hope you don't have to do it every time you enter a twilit place. I get the feeling you have to, though. And also, it can be hard to get all those bastard creatures in your wolf radius thing. I guess I just need more practice. END SPOILER! END SPOILER!
And that concludes my blog post. By the way, I wish my Wii was more blue more often. A flash every now and then is not as cool as I want.
Second Rate Citizens: Websites
I'd love for anyone to send photos of mistakes they've found in their papers around the country. Just fire me an email by clicking my name in any of the news articles or reviews I've written.
So here it is: edition one of the Gaming Media Watch. Click on the thumbnails to see the full picture.
A Nintendo IP makes an appearance on another system
Yep, The Adelaide Advertiser's Connect magazine on 18/10/06 seems to have broken some surprising news.
A completely reworked game!
In the same edition of the Adelaide Advertiser's Connect magazine (18/10/06), the reshuffle of Nintendogs so that you can play with a Dalmatian straight away seems more significant than originally thought.
Nintendo and Sony team up
What an exclusive! The Sunday Mail (29/10/06-4/10/06) tv guide reveals that Nintendo's whoring out of the Mario license has perhaps gone a bit too far.
For starters, the Wii already has two microphones - one in the DS, and the Gamecube mic. Both are compatible, and hence could be used in games if necessary. No doubt Nintendo has a few spare Gamecube microphones lying around anyway. You could even make a GC-to-Wiimote adapter to plug into the bottom of your controller, if people don't want to be tethered to the system.
I've been replaying Zelda: Four Swords Adventures recently - partly because it's a gorgeous top-down Zelda, partly because I can't remember whether or not I beat it, and partly because I want to get into the Twilight Princess mood without playing a true 3D Zelda for fear of getting tired of it. I'm playing it through my GBA, and it's absolutely true that hearing sound effects (like the collection of force gems, the throbbing pulse when low on health and the classic Zelda chime) is awesome when it comes from something you're holding. It's more immersive.
So yeah, despite its low quality, give the Wiimote speaker a chance.
Wii Little Things Volume 5: Wii Points
Don't stinge your retailers like Apple did with their iTunes Music Cards. If you didn't know, Apple wouldn't let their official distributors have the iTunes Store cards in their shops. It's at petrol stations, and supermarkets, but not Apple dealers. So Nintendo, make it easy to pick up Wii Points at multiple gaming and non-gaming retailers.
And if the rumours are true, online credit card purchases of points through the Wii Shop Channel is a good move.
Oh, and show people having fun with the system or whatever, but don't - DO NOT - advertise "just $399". You can't have "just $399". Just fade out to the Wii logo.
We're less than a month away from the Wii's launch in the US...and zip. Come on, ramp it up.
Wii Little Things Volume 5: Trailers
The Wii Store Channel needs to offer trailers of upcoming games. Yes, I can accept not being able to download demos of things due to limited space, because I have the VC at my disposal. But show us trailers. Launch trailers on the system before they hit the net. Not just Wii games, either - DS too. It's a no-brainer. Stream it, if you have to.
(Slightly less) Crazy (than originally thought)
So, Michael Ephraim of Sony Australia was interviewed in The Age. He dismissed claims that the delay of the PS3 PAL launch would impact sales in the long term. Presumably he believes it'll be the exorbitant price that does that. And I quote:
"Even though it's affordable, at AUD $400 plus whatever you need to buy accessories-wise, I'm guessing you need to spend about AUD $500 to take home a Wii and enjoy it."
"The DS really appeals to a lot younger, very female skewed [audience], and the DS has done a fabulous job. PSP is a product that if you go back to the analogy of PlayStation and PlayStation 2, they are leaders in their field as far as the consumer offering. Price points, perceptions, or consumers coming to grips with what the device truly offers and the value that it offers, does take time."
"What we've done on PlayStation 2 with social gaming has broadened the audience and we're glad that [Nintendo is] attempting to do similar things to open up the market to families and never-before gamers. Time will tell."
I don't understand what Sony gains from this. Can anyone explain to me what he's getting at? Are they trying to get people to buy a PSP this Christmas rather than a 360 or Wii (or DS)? Are they saying, well, if you're already paying $500 (which is a bit of a stretch, since Wii comes with a game packed in for $400, and you could happily play that with no extra cost) for a Wii or 360, why not wait for a PS3 next year? I just don't get it.
Wii Little Things Volume 4: Friend Codes
Okay, so it seems like there will be one unified Friend Code for your system. Hopefully it's all tied up in the Miis, too. Anyways, since most people will get the Opera browser during the free period, I hope Nintendo sets up an official Friend Code swapping webpage to make things easier. If not, I hope someone takes the initiative and starts one up.
This pisses me off. It's obvious that they got him to say 'I'm gonna kill you' and to swear repeatedly just for the story.
Yes, gaming addiction is an issue. Let's not trivialise that.
It's when videogames get blamed for violence or changes in personality that things get out of hand. There is no scientific evidence to suggest videogames cause more violent behaviour.
This kid dropped out of school, so no wonder he can play for 16 hours per day. He's a teenager - of course his personality is going to change. He's growing up. People swear more as they get older. Kids watch lots of violent TV, too. But as usual, it's videogames that get the blame.
Woman, if life is so tough now, why not unplug the frickin' computer! Stop paying the monthly fee for his account! Push him out the door! Get him outside! It's lax parenting like this which let him get addicted in the first place!
It just gets me so frustrated...
I feel like a 360
I just watched the Banjo-Kazooie 3 teaser and now I think I want a 360.
I'm not exactly sure why this is.
For starters, no gameplay footage was shown. It was all pre-rendered stuff - pretty to look at, but not necessarily representative of the real thing. Plus, I know that the Rare of Banjo-Tooie fame is not the Rare of Grabbed By The Ghoulies infamy.
I've seen trailers for Halo 3, Assassin's Creed, Gears of War and a full demo of Bioshock. I've played 360s in store and at friends' houses, enjoyed the sophistication of the Xbox Live experience, but not until now have I thought, yep, that's quite an alluring overall package.
Even the price, which I'm sure will drop in the near(ish) future, doesn't seem so bad against the minimum $830+game price of the PS3.
So why Banjo-Threeie? I don't know. Maybe Rare's twisted humour still gets me. Maybe it's nostalgia. I don't think I even finished BK or BT anyway, but I did own both of them. Perhaps the retro sound effects did it for me.
Still, since it won't be out until 2008 (I bet you...just wait and see), that gives me plenty of Wii time and also plenty of time for Microsoft to get units out worldwide, fix the bugs and drop the price.
Sounds like a plan.
Final Hardware Secret
We all know that Wii games don't look as flashy as 360/PS3 titles, and the hardware is less powerful. Could this be to free up space on the discs themselves? So, you don't need a huge hard-drive because any downloaded patches/new levels/items etc. are burnt straight onto the disk?
And we know how many VC games will fit into the 512k internal memory, too...
December 7th is good. I didn't expect before Japan, but I did expect before the end of the year. It's a pretty reasonable date, but it's gonna be mad getting hold of one unless you preorder.
$399. Hmm... One one hand:
US$250 = Console + Wii Sports.
Wii Sports = US$50.
Therefore console = US$200.
US$200 = AUD$265
AUD$265 + Wii Sports = $365 (with Aussie RRP of $100)
On the other hand:
AUD$400 - Wii Sports = $300 console
Plus bundle includes controller, nunchuk, stand, sensor bar and a neat cable something like this:
I can live with it. It's what I expected. I just don't think it's an "affordable, mass-consumer" price.
By the way, more Aussies should hit up Digg.com. It's a sweet site.
Exams still suck - WLT3
Wii Little Things Volume 3: Computer?
I remember one of the first things we knew about the Wii (or Revolution, as we knew it) was that it would hook up to a computer monitor. I hope this is still the case. Because that could suggest further support for backing up your game saves/VC games to your computer.
That being said, I think Iwata confirmed that you can plug in a USB hard drive and back stuff up....
Wii Little Things Volume 2: Force Feedback
Everyone has complained for a while about how when swinging the sword in Zelda or whatever, you might hit against an enemy and stop (on screen) but in real life you'll keep following through with your slash. Now, anyone who's played WarioWare: Twisted! will excitedly tell you that it has a rumble pack built into the gyroscope in the cartridge. The main menu is circular, and you rotate through the options by twisting the remote. Best yet, as you select each option, it feels as if your GBA is 'clicking' into place. The rumble throbs slightly. It offers resistance. It feels amazing.
To me, this is enough evidence that you'll be able to play your light saber games or whatever and know when you've made contact. Similarly, if you're, say, picking a lock (as has been confirmed for Splinter Cell: Double Agent by Ubisoft), can you imagine just gently forcing it until you feel it click? Awesome.
The Wii Little Things: Volume 1
Volume 1: Ping!
The Wiimote has a speaker. I always lose remotes. I want a button the system that you can press to 'ping' all your remotes. It's not that hard. The controllers are wirelessly connected regardless of where they are (see Wavebird for proof), so just make them beep when I need to find them. Easy.
Stop giving sting-rays such a bad name. We know who's really to blame for Steve Irwin's death.
We're already seeing a huge future in downloadable content on Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii, and I can't help but think that this is the direction gaming is headed. I'd be surprised that by the time the NEXT next-gen stuff comes around they were still pushing a physical medium.
To an extent I can understand having a HD-capable disc on the market, for things like renting, portability and since not everyone has broadband, but stilll...
They'll also suck harder in November when the real things happen (I'm in year 12, if you didn't know). The extra suck comes from the Wii release, which I put down as being on the exact day that I have an exam, or some such thing. Which rules out any midnight coverage from me. I'll presumably pick it up, but then won't be able to play it! ARRGH!
Yes, we know it's kind of slow at the moment. Don't worry - it'll pick up at the end of the week when I have time to write and stuff.
Further Pricing Thoughts
There is a set amount that it costs Nintendo Australia to get a game from the ship it arrives in to our grubby little hands. Let's say it costs them $1,000,000 to get a container here, regardless of how many Super Mario Galaxy games there are inside (just pulling numbers here - it's example and in no way real). Because there aren't 1 million Wii owners in Australia, they've only shipped out 200,000 copies, but thanks to petrol prices and whatever happened at the other end of the line, where the container left, it still costs them $1 million. This price also includes some of the physical stuff that's done, like transporting units and factory work etc., as well as the business side of things, like getting an OFLC rating and taxes. It's $1 million they have to pay, regardless of what it is, where it's being distributed, how many units they have and the rest.
That means it costs Nintendo Australia $5 just to put it in stores and in our hands. That goes straight on to the RRP. In the US, it might still cost them $1 million, but due to the larger market, they've put in 1,000,000 units, so it only costs them $1 on the MSRP. The circular logic of this is that with a lower price more people would buy more units, cutting down on the cost per game when more are shipped out per container. However, without more games shipped out there's no chance of the price going down. It takes a conscious decision to break the cycle.
Now, if we did as Julian suggested and dropped game prices to $80, that's $20 off Nintendo Australia's profit. And it is profit - I highly doubt that the production of games cost more than $80 a unit. DVDs cost cents now (unlike Blu-Ray, but that's another column). I don't know what it costs Nintendo (the overall company) to have an Australian branch, or to run the website, pay its people and PR, organise Connection Tours and competitions or whatever, but I can understand that dropping the RRP to $80 could feasibly put Nintendo Australia into the red. But let's just stop for a moment and consider what this could do.
For starters, Nintendo (the overarching company) is extremely profitable. You've seen the news I've posted about the billions of dollars profit, mainly due to the success of the DS. With the same philosophy for the Wii, and the interest in the system many gamers are already showing, things are looking better this generation than for the Gamecube, and the Gamecube, while maybe putting up a poor fight (again, another column) still made money, right from the start. That's more profits off the back of Wii, pretty much hands down. So, a loss in Australia - a small market - can be easily accounted for by the overall profitability of the company worldwide.
What would this do to the Australian industry? Well, for starters, 360 titles are selling at $120, and the Blu-Ray discs and high production costs for the PS3 can only boost the RRP for games to at least that, if not more (if Sony wants to make a profit off the software, which they need to do). Coming in at $80 is a statement. It's a message to the competition that 'we don't play by your rules'. Can you see people buying two Wii launch at $80 a pop, compared with one PS3 title at $120+? Even though they might end up paying $160, as opposed to $120, the conscious thought is 'hey, this is cheaper than last generation titles - awesome!' And in the end, if we buy more games, the loss of $20 is made up for.
Plus, as games are more than likely to remain at US$49.95 in the States, we'll all feel less ripped off. Happy times.
I know that I previously discussed game prices as a multiplatform Australian problem, but I couldn't help bounce off Julian's discussion and onto the Wii at the end. Still, I think the first bit holds for every console.
We could do it
Importing is a feasible option. We could literally boycott the Australian market.
Second Rate Citizens: Australians
Okay, so maybe they need to convert to PAL format. Does that cost $35 or $40? Maybe they need to add some other languages. Is it the shipping? A hidden videogame tax someone forgot to mention? Maybe they need money for all those great Australian videogame advertisements. Please, someone give me a reason to believe it's not just a blatant ripoff.
The Wii is not going to be region free. You know why? Because then I'd import all my games from America for less than it cost me to buy a Gamecube (and even N64) game here. None of the divisions here want that to happen. If I find that the Virtual Console prices for Wii are no equivalents of their US price points, I'm gonna be pissed off. It doesn't need other languages, a PAL format (I think) or shipping.
It's just ludicrous. It's going to be the death of the industry here in Australia.