Archive for the ‘Nintendo Revolution’ Category

Wii and PS3 pipelines

so, i started to write this up as a comment, but seeing as i’m pretty much neglecting my blog until we announce our product (see raph?  no leaks here!), i figured i’d re-purpose it here.

from a representative of the “wii-haters club.”

I hope for the millions of Wii owners that there situation turns around.  The Wii is a “revolution” in the gaming industry but with little support backing it what do future generations hold?

i guess he’s just hoping for some backlash.  dunno.

however, i do know the games out for the wii right now are games that were in the pipe before it launched.  now that it’s the “hot” thing, expect the bandwagon to roll in and everyone to pile on.  that would be why every game company on the planet has reiterated their support for the wii and are announcing slews of games for it.  it starts with the ports as they already have a codebase, then, moves into exclusives.

of course, the opposite is true for the ps3.  the ps3 games working their way to market right now are games that were in development when the ps3 was hot.  now that it evidently has little public appeal, new projects for the ps3 are far and few between.  anyone seen a new third party exclusive announced for the ps3 lately?

m3mnoch.

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The Console Feedback Loop

just ran across this excellent piece over at the inquirer.

The three points of the triangle are cost, installed base and games. If you don’t have two of them, the third will never happen, and if you do have two, the third will come for free.

i’ve talked about it before, but it’s nice to see it articulated so well in the media.

m3mnoch.

We Now Have a Wii60

i finally have a wii.

well.  not yet, i suppose.  my wife has one and she’s on her way home with it.  i’m still technically here at the office.

here’s the story, tho:

so, my son had a dentist appointment today (he’s almost 3) and jocelyn (my wife) swung by target (in boise, idaho) on her way home to get him a special treat for being such a trooper at the dentist.  on her way back to the toy section, she stopped by the check on the wii status. 

they had 5 sitting there.

no extra controllers — damn disappointing.  so, of course she calls me.  “i thought these were hard to find.”  i said, “yep.  grab one.  now!”

so, she calmly has the clerk put one up by the front counter for her and proceeds back to the toys to get quentin a treat.  they decided on a fun puzzle for him and stopped back by the wii display on their way up to the front.

they only had 2 left. 

15 minutes.  3 wiis gone.  that’s a bit different than the 9 ps3s a week some stores are doing.

heh.  people that know me will certainly not have a hard time imagining me swinging my new wiimote like a toolbox, that’s for sure.

viva la wii60.

m3mnoch.

5 Dumb Reasons to Like the PS3

this’s dumb. it reminds me of a stupid ps3 top 10 list that hit right before the 360 launched last year.  you know — the list that catapulted me to blog.  i wouldn’t mind someone putting together a top 5 list of reasons to like a ps3, but, dammit, at least use good reasons. 

as in, none of your reasons should be formatted as follows:

[insert reason] is a great reason to get a ps3 if you [reason qualification].

for example, if you love sony.  or if you have a high definition setup.  or if you want high definition dvds.

no.  it should stop right after “ps3.”  as in:

[insert reason] is a great reason to get a ps3.

like, for example, “xbox live is a great reason to get an xbox.”  or “the wiimote is a great reason to get a wii.”

…anyway.  on to ric romero manning.

3 of his reasons are based on a set of unlikely prerequisites:

1) you actually care about high definition dvd because it requires…

2) actually having a big hdtv to go with it.

and 3) how many people actually have a psp?

the other two are just dumb.  there’s 4) you have a bunch of ps2 games, but no ps2 to play them on.  or even better, 5) “New games for a new box.” 

what the hell?

dammit!  i forgot!  the ps3 is the only console that’s going to have new games!  doh!  basically he’s saying, “if you’re a sony fan and you have a hi-def setup, you’ll want the ps3.”

no shit. really?

for the rest of us, with the same $600, if you don’t have/care about any of that, you can get a console with similar graphics AND a fistful of good AAA games AND some live arcade games. or a console that’s more fun (sony’s words, not mine) and an extra $350 worth of games….

yeah. you read that right.

for the price of the ps3, you can get a wii AND $350 in games.  seriously, are there any better reasons not to get a ps3 than that?

m3mnoch.

PS3 == Minidisc

so, i’m just sitting here, working, and a strange analogy just struck me. it’s the similarity in music media and game consoles.

for the geeks out there:
ps3 : minidisc :: xbox 360 : cd :: wii : itunes :: pc : cd-r

a bit of explanation.

ps3 : minidisc

xbox 360 : cd

  • both are unmaleable. (compared to the original xbox or the ps3, for example)
  • both work well with your current supporting technology. (i.e. pc, mce, ALL tvs and audio outs, ALL plug and play devices — all kinds of tertiary tech — it still doesn’t play those damn cassette tapes tho!)
  • both have relatively uneditable content from a delivery perspective.  (once you get it out of context tho, it’s a different story)

wii : itunes

  • both are radically unlike the others.
  • many people will play both, but not very deep.
  • both have strong “everyman” support but not a lot of supergeek support.
  • well… apple and nintendo. peas in a pod.

pc : cd-r

  • both play, hold, run whatever you want them too.
  • both are applicable outside of the industry.
  • it’s the wild, wild west where anything goes.

m3mnoch.

When High Attach Rates are Evil

the excellently brilliant guys over at susquehanna financial group — jason kraft and chris kwak — have just published a paper on how high attach rates show weakness in hardware sales.

makes total sense. they nail it:

It doesn’t take effort to see that a console with an attach rate of 8 and an installed base of 50 million is superior to a console with an attach rate of 12 with an installed base of 20 mln.

what does that mean for the xbox 360 with its 5.2 game attach rate?

well. to me, it means the games are good. it’s not just a market flop *cough* psp *cough* with a crap hardware run rate AND a crappy attach rate.

so, why are hardware sales so… well… meh? they’re not bad. everyone agrees on that, tho, they certainly aren’t stellar.

it’s the “wait and see” tactic. now that they are “software entrenched” microsoft was right to want to hurry along the launch of the ps3 and the wii. from microsoft’s point of view, it’ll be nice to see the marketplace recognize hype when they finally see it. and, it’s always good to compare apples to apples — not apples to photos of apples you may get some day.

that being said, it’s the end of the wait and see period. everything is on the table now. so, expect the 360’s tie ratio to drop and the ps3’s to rise. (the wii will always have a terrible tie ratio. that’s just the kind of console it is. tho, for nintendo, it doesn’t matter — they make money on the hardware.)

and, in their conclusion, they posit this:

The only metric worth focusing on is the console installed base, as this metric drives all others.

which, is absolutely true.

that’s why i get soooooooo goddamn irritated when i see uneducated comments in forums where people say they are going to get a ps3 because it’s about the “games.”

folks. i hate to break this to you, but, there are a few truths coming out about this generation of consoles vs. the last:

  1. sony is pissing on software partners.
  2. microsoft is wooing and loving on software partners.
  3. last generation, sony had “all the games” because they had the install-base. this generation, the 360 has the install-base.

sony’s saving grace is old, established franchises like final fantasy, mgs and gran turismo. however, those are NOT games that the mainstream plays.

these are the top games of the last 12 months: madden, cars (yes, from the movie), need for speed, tony hawk, wwe, pro evo, fifa, lego star wars, gta….

seeing the trend? yep. all cross-platform.

the large majority of people can play the same game on hardware that costs 60% of the playstation 3. not only that, but the third fastest-selling game on the planet right now (behind the soccer … er… football games) is gears of war — an exclusive.

so, yeah. in the past, sony had the games. that’s because they had the install-base. this time around, they guaranteed themselves a tiny install-base by pricing their console at $600.

thank god sony’s got blu-ray, tho. john madden will totally thank them.

m3mnoch.

Silly "Wishing and Hoping" Opinions on the Console War

no.  not my opinions — james brightman’s.  there are only two rational reasons i can think of for him to write such a bizarre piece.

  1. he’s an attention whore.
  2. he’s been paid by sony.

i’m voting number one, tho, i wouldn’t be surprised about the other.

now, on to why his opinions are stupid.

we’ll start with the most sensical one:

Microsoft (somewhat) Squandered its Lead

this, i can actually somewhat agree with.  especially with the “somewhat” qualifier.  i understand the circumstances of why they purposfully squandered it, but that doesn’t negate the fact.  here’s the scenario with their squandered lead.

you do what you can with your launch titles.  how early you can get the dev kit in people’s hands directly affects the launch title number and quality.  microsoft did merely okay with that.  not terrible.  not fantastic.  enough to get by.

so, you’ve got a year before the competition’s systems come out.  what do you do with that year?

  1. get your console manufacturing in order.  check.
  2. get your marketing team out and hit the streets.  check.
  3. get quality titles out for the system.  somewhat check.

they typical cycle for a console launch is, necessarily, blow your wad for launch, struggle with the next 12 months of titles, then, in comes the love.  it’s happened with every single console in the history of the world.

it takes a year before any killer titles for a system come out.  the original halo was the exception, but, microsoft bought a quality title that had been in development for years and lucked out.  they tried to rekindle the same success with rare — not to much success.  don’t get me wrong.  kameo is a great game, but, it’s not an evangelist game.

anyway.

they needed to break that “great game dearth.”  they kinda-sorta have supplimented it with oblivion (non-exclusive) and dead rising (great, but not “must have”).  so, because they couldn’t truly, successfully get done what they needed to get done, i’d call it “somewhat squandered.”  but, only because they didn’t do anything wrong, they just couldn’t get done what they needed to — and, what they needed to do was something noone else had really done before.

they did “alright” but not necessarily bad enough to call it “squandered.”

Japan is Ripe for the Taking

a few things here.  the first one is my opinion on who cares about winning japan?  spend your time in china and south korea instead.

second?  japan is more about the games.  and, when james is talking about games like “Metal Gear Solid 4, Final Fantasy XIII, Virtua Fighter 5, Devil May Cry 4, Gran Turismo, etc.” let’s see what he’s really saying.

  • metal gear solid 4.  kojima said it would run on a 360.  tho, he’s also said it will be a ps3 exclusive.  that being said, the studio has several new ips coming out for the 360.  the developer supports the 360 with their other games, just not mgs4.  verdict?  likely only ps3 exclusive — but not certainly.  it’s not like kojima is david jaffe or anything.  (whether or not david jaffe is the modern day john romero is a whole ‘nuther question tho.)
  • virtua fighter 5.  originally announced as coming to next-gen platforms, now exclusive to the ps3.  that sounds like a purchased limited exclusivity to me.  especially considering this line: “The game will be exclusive to the PlayStation 3 when it is released in North America in Spring 2007.”  not exclusive forever, just when it’s released.
  • final fantasy xiii.  heh.  as if there are no other final fantasy games on the xbox 360.  again, originally announced cross-platform.  now exclusive.  verdict?  limited-time exclusivity.
  • devil may cry 4.  already finding reports telling of it coming to xbox 360.  and why not?  capcom is already finding success with resident evil and a multiplatform strategy.  it’s about money folks — not brand loyalty.
  • gran turismo.  first party.  certainly exclusive.

how do all his “critical” games pan out?  a whole lotta “maybe” punctuated by a single absolute.  not exactly the sort of thing i’d pin my “exclusivity” hopes on.  relying on third party developers to be exclusive these days is like successfully pissing in the wind — more based on luck than hope or skill.

oh, and the 360 doesn’t need to really fear xenophobia in japan.  the ipod has seen to that.  and, the 360 certainly won’t beat out the wii.  the ps3, tho?  that will be a lot closer.

Blu-ray Will Matter

this one right here is funny — blu-ray matters for size.  everyone already knows my opinion on that.  consoles have finally caught up to pc based development abilities.  pc games have stagnated in “size” for the last few years.  pc games are high def.  pc games are still delivered on a single dvd.

why?

because it costs money to generate that extra fidelity.  everything in a game can be automated — meaning an increase in quality with a decrease in cost — physics engines, game engines, ai, authoring software, mapping techniques. 

what’s the one thing that can’t be automated?  art.

what’s the most expensive part of developing a game?  art.

what’s the most file-size heavy part of a game?  art.

what can you do to help alleviate this art dependence?  abstract it out to it’s furthest layer with something like procedural synthesis.  that can basically gets you the details for free and simplifies the artists process.

what’s a side benefit of procedural synthesis?  dramatic — and i mean dramatic — decreases in file size.

why do we need blu-ray again?  oh yeah, so sony can push their movie format.  judging by their recent earnings statement, i’d push some new revenue streams as hard as i could too.

Sony’s movie business also fared poorly, seeing its operating loss grow to 15.3 billion yen ($129 million) partly on flops such as “Zoom” and “All the King’s Men,” it said. Faring better were “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” “Monster House” and “Click.

an even bigger operating loss for the movie business?  so.  gaming business is down.  their movie business is down.  their hardware business is down.

wow.  that sucks.

yeah.  the only people pushing blu-ray are the people who are invested in blu-ray.

Free Online

huh?  where the blu-ray argument was funny, this one is just dumb.  all i really need to say is: because it did so well last time.

no.  they need a unified service.  unified service means paying for one.  while i’m sure they hope to float their marketplace with downloadable content sales, what are they doing about the game servers?  are they going to let outside companies access their “secure” operating system?  and everyone is hoping that this always on infrastructure is going to stay sane?  they are crazy.

the more money you put into a system, the more features and security you can get out of it.  it’s stupid to not acknowledge this from any angle.

a subscription-based unified service:

  1. pays for itself.
  2. is inherently more secure.
  3. is capable of more features.

dumb.  dumb.  dumb.

they’ve never had an always on network before.  they are about to learn in a big, big way what that means.

Final Thoughts

there is no way in hell that sony is going to “win” this next-gen console war.

m3mnoch.

UPDATE: i should actually qualify that last statement.  there’s no way in hell — not because james’s laundry list of hogwash is grossly inaccurate — but for the simple reason their console costs $600.

end of story.

Interesting Timing

so.  there has been some hullaballoo about microsoft offering free repairs on the original batches of of xbox 360’s.  most folks are thinking “duh!”  and a lot of other people are saying things like “better late than never.”

i’m a little skeptical tho.  maybe it’s the marketing guy in me, but, timing anyone?  hello?

here’s the skinny:

i don’t buy the “analyzing recent repair data” line.  recent?  it’s been almost a year.  there was a flood of overheating requests at the beginning.  they didn’t need a year to figure this one out.

so, what do they do?  well.  instead of a price drop, they are keeping the same “value” price, but using incentive techniques like bundling to add value to the 360’s on shelves.  (stay with me, here.  i’m getting there.)  so, what is another subsidized “value-add” they can come up with?  fixing (rightfully) busted xbox 360’s.

“all goodwill,” you say.

“exactly,” i say.

they know (as well as anyone with half a brain) that sony’s ps3 is going to have huge, huge manufacturing problems coming out of the gate.  and, similar to “bundling” strategies employed by nintendo and microsoft, sony also has to deal with “free replacements” for this first batch.  why?  because microsoft is offering it on their xbox 360’s.

however, the difference is that microsoft is starting to break even on the hardware, so, it’s not that big of a deal to them.  it just adds more cost pressures to sony who’s already taking a gigantic loss on the console itself.

so, it comes out as a win-win for microsoft.  foster goodwill with the market.  put another nail in the coffin of a competitor.

m3mnoch.

Would a Delay Actually Hurt Sony?

human kevlar posted a question over in his comment wondering what i thought of a particular article. it was a pretty interesting read, so i thought i’d post my thoughts here.

i agree with the article from thestreet.com (stupid multipage warning) that missing a spring delay really won’t hurt the ps3’s chances much. there will be a pretty substantial stock drop, but that’s about it. as long as they actually launch by the holiday season, in north america, it’ll be fine.

a few things are at stake tho.

where to launch
what if they miss spring and summer? what happens if they don’t want to do a multi-territory launch? they saw microsoft get hammered on supply issues. i’m not thinking they want to suffer through the same thing.

the problem is where to launch first.

if they pass up the u.s. to launch in japan, they are missing the mighty black-friday-ensuing-madness that is the north american shopping season. that’d be bad. however, if they don’t launch in japan, how many will buy 360’s in protest? prolly none. but, they’d buy the shit out of the revolution.

irritating publishers
publishers will really only buy the ‘holy grail of gaming hardware’ thing for so long. for every month the ps3 isn’t out, that’s another month of losing cross platform sales. why devote resources to building a game for the ps3 when they are just going to sit there? (witness fight night)

publishers may be evil, but they aren’t dumb. if the ps3 misses the holiday season, the 360 is going to have a huge advantage for installed base. and they know that the ps3 will have similar shortages as the 360. maybe not as bad. maybe worse. but, it’ll be about the same. i’m sure i’m not the only one who remembers them blaming the whole sorry state of holiday game sales on 360 shortages.

all of that just says to me “get it out. even if it’s just for the 360. we can always port it later.” that’s basically the definition of an xbox 360 ‘exclusive’ right there. and, it’s just another game that won’t make it into the ps3 launch ‘window’ library.

i think any publishers that arean’t contractually committed are looking hard at that. especially come e3.

360 hitting its price stride
another bummer about missing the holiday season is the timing for a 360 price drop. we already know that the revolution is going to be really cheap inexpensive (comparitively). with the 360 hitting a price drop when the ps3 hits the market? well. that just brings down the mean average cost of a gaming console.

and, of course, exaggerates just how expensive the ps3 would be. in western cultures, price drives adoption.

they could delay forever in japan
i’m sticking hard to this one: japan doesn’t matter.

sure, it’d be nice for microsoft if the xbox 360 sold well in japan. tho, really, i don’t think they care. if they did, there’d be some japanese-style rpgs. instead, microsoft is courting japanese developers to build western style games. *cough* ninety-nine nights *cough*

their politically correct ‘it’s a marathon’ statements they’ve made on penetrating the japanese market are just that — a politically correct way of saying ‘we don’t really care about japan.’

me? i’ve never really been politically correct.

m3mnoch.

Nintendo’s Secret Strategy: Games

of the big three console manufacturers, sony, microsoft and nintendo, it’s nintendo’s vision for the future that is the most interesting and innovative from a business strategy perspective. peter moore recently noted that nintendo is evolving into less and less of a competitor to sony and microsoft every day. i was actually was thinking that too, peter.

microsoft and sony are both trying the ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ approach to game consoles. they are using games to stage a beachhead assault in the living room war. they want to be the center of your entertainment experience.

nintendo, however, really is just about making games.

the revolution promises to be less flash, and more substance. they are leaning heavily on their longtime reputation of brilliant game design execution. well. that, and they have a few tricks up their sleeve too.

innovative ideas
the big one is that fancy controller. i have to admit i was skeptical about the dual screen approach when they first announced the nintendo ds. i’ve since come around tho. nintendo’s strong first party games really helped push that out to get it adopted. if there’s one thing nintendo is really good at, it’s first party games with mass appeal.

i suspect they’re going to do the same thing with that ‘remote’ controller. some strong first party support and some innovative non-fishing titles will really help to cement it into the marketplace. the one little niggling i still have, tho, is their reliance on this mysterious casual gamer who is too afraid of a controller to pick one up? no one under 40 that i know (and, that makes up myself and most of my friends…. wow, i feel old.) is afraid of a playstation or xbox controller. (that gamecube controller is a universal steaming pile, however. everyone should be afraid of it.)

however, where i’m just so excited i could pee is getting the 50+ crowd into console gaming. aside from that crazy ‘hardcore grandma,’ most of the, ahem… ‘older’ crowd is fairly video game console phobic. growing the audience is always a good thing. that, and maybe they’ll start playing halo so i can stop getting pwned by 12-year-olds and start getting whacked by 62-year-olds.

*sigh*

personally, i’m just excited to use the controller as a ‘lazy man’ approach. i’m lazy like that, tho.

the second console strategy
another key differentiator is nintendo’s crazy low price points. they really stuck out in the last generation as being the low cost alternative to the other two. this time around, i think that’ll be more exaggerated.

in the last generation, they essentially had harware similar to the ps2 and xbox in terms of raw technology. this time around, they are actually pretty far behind on the technology curve. they are REALLY leaving out the optional stuff. that’s going to save them huge dollars in pricing their machine.

i’m thinking about $150 will just own the low cost market.

they will be a second console for everyone. with a super low pricepoint and great first party games, there’s really no reason why people wouldn’t buy a revolution the second year along with their ps3 or xbox 360.

with that strategy, they are going to push a crap-ton more units than either microsoft or sony. their revenue won’t be as great, of course, but unit sales should lead this next generation of consoles.

the next disney?
finally, nintendo has a huge investment in ip. they own some of the most recognized and leveragable characters in the world. their intellectual property looks more like a disney portfolio than a sony portfolio. that’s been one of their key pillars in staying relevant throughout their gaming history.

is it just sequelitis? maybe zelda. sort of.

not really, tho, i guess. take mario for example. he’s been in platform games, racing games, sports games. hell. all kinds of stuff. donkey kong is the same way. even zelda to a lesser extent.

team ninja is really the only other company to really push that kind of “multi-genre with the same ip” gaming concept successfully. and, they are coming to the revolution now? (hmmm. suspicious….)

i’m thinking nintendo is turning more into the next generation’s (as in children, not consoles) disney — putting all of their eggs into the content basket while still throwing out a few innovative and interesting concepts on gameplay to go with it. just to keep things fresh. then, they just wrap it up in some solid, yet fun, gameplay mechanics.

they’ve certainly said it’s all about the games and not technology enough, huh? hmm. maybe it’s not a secret?

m3mnoch.