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April 2005

March 2005

Xbox 2 In 2005 A Wise Idea?

XboxXbox Advanced has an editorial discussing whether or not launching the next Xbox this year is a wise idea.  XBA's Ken Nelson discusses the parallels shared with the early launches of the Sega Dreamcast and Sony PlayStation 2 and compares their accomplishments and failings to what Microsoft may decide to do with the Xbox 2 (or Xenon as it is referred to in this article).

"As history clearly shows, there is both the opportunity for gain and loss when risking an early launch. You can either do it right, or you can do it wrong. So the greater question is, how can Microsoft ensure that the Xenon does not dig itself a shallow grave to be filled come 2006?"

My opinion on the matter is that it doesn't matter who launches first or when they launch.  What I care about is squeezing all of the power and potential out of the current generation of consoles before the next generation arrives.   Yes, backwards compatability is the keyword of the next set of consoles, but I want to see every last drop of power sucked out of the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and GameCube before we move on.  I want a true must-have game for the PS2's Eye Toy.  I want Rare to release an Xbox game on par with their Nintendo 64 smash hits.  I want Nintendo to open the curtain and finally give us Super Mario 128.  Once we accomplish all of that, then we can move on.

DS Online Dev Kits Coming Soon is reporting that the first development kits for the Nintendo DS's online functions will be sent out to developers prior to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in May.  This was bound to happen sooner or later, but personally I'm glad to see that it's happening sooner.  Nintendo has been touting the DS's online capabilities since it was first introduced at last year's E3, but it was just this month that the company officially announced the first games to take advantage of Wi-Fi hotspots.   So far Animal Crossing DS is the title that most fans seem to be looking forward to and the potential for online DS games is very high.  With well-known online purveyor GameSpy handling the networking aspects and providing free connections, something tells me that interest in the DS is about to skyrocket.  Here's hoping for global online multiplayer Metroid someday.

Micropayments Mean Microfun has an article today explaining how Microsoft wants to work "virtual storefronts" into as many Xbox 2 games as they can.  The idea is that the best weapons in games cost actual real additional money, so if you want the grenade launcher it'll cost you $2, or if you want additional body armor it'll cost $1, or the decals for the Tony Hawk sequels could run you fifty cents each.  The whole idea is called "micropayments".  Microsoft's Xbox guru J Allard says "If you don't believe in the self-expression thing, so be it. Let's let it play out in the market."  Microsoft, Sony, Electronic Arts, and anyone else thinking of implementing this: please don't.

Continue reading "Micropayments Mean Microfun" »

N-Gage Rises Again

NgageGameSpot is reporting that Nokia is planning yet another redesign/upgrade to the N-Gage phone/game device.  Although the original N-Gage was reborn as the QD model last July, the gadget still hasn't broken two millions sales.  Nokia is persistent, however, and is preparing a new model of QD that comes in various colors and may eventually support the CDMA standard.  All Nokia cellular phones currently operate on the GSM standard, but the director and general manager of the games business program at Nokia, Gerard Wiener, stated "There's no question addressing the CDMA market is something we'd like to be doing."  An official announcement regarding the new N-Gage QD is expected this week.

You have to hand it to Nokia; they aren't going away.  Despite lackluster sales and the lack of a "must have" game, they keep tweaking and pushing the N-Gage.  Persistence is important in the gaming industry, but one has to wonder how much longer the company will stay in the N-Gage business before deciding that funding is better spent elsewhere.  Nokia needs to organize their N-Gage plans and actually try to attract top notch game developers because tossing out new models and colors of the same basic gadget obviously isn't bringing in much success.

Katamari, Baten Kaitos, and Xenosaga Stay In Japan

DsOne has to wonder just what Namco is thinking these days.  The day after word comes out that Katamari Damacy is in the works for the Nintendo DS, a new list of upcoming DS games has hit the Internet courtesy of where it is revealed that Katamari is not scheduled for a North American release.  Neither are the DS versions of Xenosaga and Baten Kaitos.  All three of these games have very vocal fanbases in North America, so it's puzzling why Namco would choose to leave these games in Japan.  It's not the first time a popular game has skipped North America (Final Fantasy sequels are practically the poster child for this kind of thing), but it just strikes me as odd that 75% of Namco's announced DS game schedule will not go international.  The one game that will?  Pac 'n Roll featuring Pac-Man.

Namco's not the only one leaving the big guns at home.  Marvelous Interactive (the folks behind the Harvest Moon series) is working on a new Lunar game for the DS, but it won't be coming to the USA.  Neither is Konami's new Goemon (Mystical Ninja) game, although that's hardly a surprise considering that only one of the nearly dozen games in that series crossed the Pacific.  What do all of these Japan-only games have in common?  They're not for Nintendo of America's target audience for the DS: non-gamers.

Continue reading "Katamari, Baten Kaitos, and Xenosaga Stay In Japan" »

Star Fox Speculation has a look at the past and future of the Star Fox franchise in this article, giving readers a brief history lesson of the series and speculating on where future games could take Fox McCloud and his team members.  There are some good ideas in there (most notably involving a more free environment than Star Fox Assault had to offer), but I still maintain that the series needs to continue to evolve in order to remain relevant.  Space shooters are loads of fun, yes, but Fox needs to be able to step outside of his Arwing from time to time.

Continue reading "Star Fox Speculation" »

Inside The PSP Box

PspGameSpy has a look at just what comes inside the box when you buy a North American PlayStation Portable.  There's plenty of pictures of the PSP and its accessories, including a trilingual user manual, little carrying pouch, sampler disc, Spider-Man 2 UMD (in a little cardboard sleeve; what's the deal with that?), and other such goodies.  I know that pack-in games are a thing of the past, but would it have killed Sony to at least include some playable demos on that sampler disc instead of just video clips?  I'll admit that it's a very sleek-looking package, but I'm eager to see just what it can do.

Xbox Is Watching You Feel Good

XboxXbox Advanced is reporting that Microsoft has plans to include an camera similar to the PlayStation 2's Eye Toy in the Xbox Next/2/360/etc.  If true, current plans involve mounting the camera to the top of the television to capture player gestures and movements.  "We're trying to take some learning’s from what our competition has done with cameras that let players control games" is the quote from J Allard of Microsoft's Xbox division, keeping a consistent behavior with how Microsoft sometimes finds success in the market: take a competitor's idea and make it better.   Microsoft Japan already has a video conference application for the current Xbox, so it makes sense that the company would want to continue to develop camera accessories.

Continue reading "Xbox Is Watching You Feel Good" »

PSP After Dark

PspSony's planning to hold a midnight launch sale for the PlayStation Portable's North American debut, but the catch is that it's only at the PlayStation Store in San Francisco, California.  The doors open at 12:01am on Thursday morning where PSP Value Packs and individual games will be sold off on a first come, first served basis.  For those not in the California area nationwide retailer GameStop is planning a midnight madness sale of their own.  Personally, I've always been wary of these midnight launches.  Sure, you get to be the first person on your block to own the latest gadget, but my worry is that some pickpocket or street gang would be waiting down the block to thwack me in the legs with a steel pipe and run off with my new prize.  The only time I've ever braved the stores for a major release on launch day was in 1998 when Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  When I left the store I hid the golden game pak under my jacket to pass by the crowd of people without reservation tickets without incident.  Enjoy those new PSPs, folks, but watch your back on the way home.

Yoshi Download & Go

YoshiNintendo has opened the little mini website for the Nintendo DS title Yoshi Touch & Go.  There's not much to it, unfortunately.  There's just a few gameplay videos, some downloadable wallpapers, and a brief description of the game.  The site does have a neat gimmick though.  Users have to click and drag the onscreen stylus around menu selections to activate them instead of just clicking on them, mirroring how the game itself is played.  Just for fun even Yoshi himself can be circled, causing him to toss an egg at a nearby Fly Guy.  The biggest disappointment is that there isn't a small Flash mini game based on the actual DS title.  A lot of players seem to view Yoshi as little more than a $30 tech demo, so providing a little free taste of the gameplay would have been nice to get players hooked on the concept.  Maybe next time.