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June 2006

The Shaming Of Ken Kutaragi

Ken KutaragiIt's the law of the jungle that publications must create lists, and today's list comes to us from Business 2.0.  The magazine has crafted a list of fifty people who "matter" in the world of technology business as well as ten people who do not.  Landing square on the "does not matter" list is Sony's own Ken Kutaragi.  Sony's made some missteps lately, but to count him (and by extension the PlayStation 3, which this piece seems to do) out is a mistake.

Under Kutaragi, who is the power behind Sony's PlayStation videogame consoles, the company is launching another format war with its Blu-Ray high-definition videodisc, the successor to the venerable DVD. Unfortunately, the PlayStation 3, which was supposed to put Blu-Ray into millions of living rooms, is months late and hundreds of dollars more expensive than competing consoles from Microsoft and Nintendo - largely because it includes one-of-a-kind technologies like Blu-Ray. The delays and cost overruns are likely to make both the PS3 and Blu-Ray nonstarters.

While I do believe that the PS3 has plenty of issues that need to be handled before launch if the system is going to be successful, it's not right to say that he doesn't matter.  It's my opinion that while Nintendo makes better games, it's the Sony PlayStation line that has made gaming more and more mainstream.  Whether or not that is a good thing is up for debate, but even if we're coming to the end of Sony's gaming dominance, the company and Kutaragi still definitely matter in the industry.

(via MetaFilter)

Weekly Poll: On The Move

Weekly Poll for 6-13-2006It would seem that Pokemon is due for a rest if you all are calling the shots.  I have to wonder if that's a charge leveled more at all of the marketing surrounding the games that have spawned the TV cartoons, plush toys, and other related merchandise.  As for me, I voted for Final Fantasy.  I know a crowd of you will probably rush to defend the series, but it really seems to have become a series of pretentious animations with a little menu-based fighting thrown in for good measure.  I just don't get the appeal of it.

As for this week, the time has come to consider portable gaming.  So many of us have talked about the great games available on the go, but I'm curious as to just how many of us actually take these games around day to day.  Do you take your DS to the office to sneak game breaks?  Is your PSP a fixture in your backpack?  Is your GBA a well-traveled device?  Vote in the poll and leave some comments.  Note that I'm more interested in hearing about dedicated game devices than I am mobile phones that play Tetris or gaming hacks for iPods.

Nintendo Says A Lot, Tells Us Nothing

Nintendo logoI must admit that I really admire the ability of Nintendo's top brass to talk to the media and say a whole bunch of stuff, yet they never actually really seem to tell us anything.  If you want proof of that statement then check out Next Generation's summary of a recent Nintendo marketing release which contains twenty points related to the Wii and the DS.  There's a lot of text there.  Do we learn anything new or useful from it?  Not so much.

Iwata:  The real value of the software must be judged by its content, not by the medium on which the software is stored. Our business has been based upon the fact that we are asking consumers to appreciate the value of the content, not the material cost of the optical discs, which are much cheaper. If we put the low price tag for software, the value of which are much more, or if we were lowering the price soon after the launch of the software regardless of its inherent value, I said it was unhealthy. We believe that each software should have its own price point depending on its volume, theme, contents or energies and time spent for the development, namely, the development costs.

Did you learn anything of value from that quote?  Anything amazing revealed?  I didn't think so.  It's an enviable skill to be able to say so much and not actually say anything worth repeating elsewhere.  I really should practice working on that skill in my own writing.  For instance, after reading this PTB entry did you really learn anything useful?  Again, I didn't think so.

New Wii Trademarks Draw Speculation

Wii controllers Word has been spiraling around the Internet that Nintendo has filed for new trademarks (or patents; the story changes with each website it hits) for a bunch of new terms related to the Wii.  I followed the maze of links back to what seems to be the source for this news, and of course it's in German.  Rumors are born whenever new gaming news is presented in a language other than English.  Let's turn to Google's translation service to get an English translation, shall we?

Nintendo let protect new label names with the Japanese patent office. Some to 26.05.06 was already registered in the USA (e.g. WiiActive24 and WiiAlive24), therefore only the new ones in the overview: WiiPointer, WiiCulture, and !!M.

No wonder this story has mutated so much as it travels along.  Everyone who touches this story seems to speculate that WiiPointer is related to the freehand controller or an onscreen mouse pointer and that WiiCulture has something to do with either an online hub or a new Nintendo fan club.  As long as we're just speculating wildly I'll toss in my two cents that these new names are for products we've already seen.  We'll probably all look back and laugh at this idea in six months, but I'm going to brazenly declare that "WiiPointer" is the official name for the Wii's Zapper prototype that was on display at E3 (because Nintendo can't expect to call it anything related to a gun and expect to pass soccer mom muster) and that WiiCulture is the name of the Wii's "retro" gamepad (because it brings together many years worth of gaming culture from different consoles).  Now, go forth and twist this story far and wide once more!

UMD Lives On Thanks To BBC

The Doctor While North American film and TV producers have declared Sony's UMD movie format for the PlayStation Portable dead and buried, someone apparently didn't cc: that memo to the United Kingdom.  For some reason the BBC has decided to release some of their more popular programs from recent years for UMD in the United States.  Folks hungry for fresh UMD content should clear room on the shelf for Doctor Who, The Office, and Little BritainTVShowsOnDVD has the story.

The Doctor Who releases are the Christopher Eccleston/Billie Piper revival series from 2005, with the 13 episodes from that first season broken up into 4 different UMD releases for the PSP.  Then there is Ricky Gervais's original UK version of The Office, the inspiration for NBC's American version starring Steve Carell:  now you can take the hilarity of paper company Wernham Hogg with you wherever you go!  Finally there are also two seasons (or, we should say, series) of Little Britain, a small and surreal parallel universe peopled by over-the-top eccentrics, lunatics and social's called by the BBC as "the reigning king of UK comedy".

I don't understand why the BBC is offering these UMD sets.  How large is the demographic crossover between PSP owners and fans of BBC programming in the United States?  The BBC can't say that the industry (and the market) didn't warn them if these releases gather dust on store shelves at a $27.95/each price point.

Putting The "Forever" In Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Nukem Forever One of the longest running jokes in video gaming is the development window of the upcoming (hehehe, "upcoming"... I'm too funny) PC title Duke Nukem Forever.  In case you're joining us late, the gag is that the game has been in development since April of 1997.  Nine years later we're still waiting, as the development team has supposedly discarded their work and restarted the project over and over again in the name of making the game perfect.

The original release date was in 1998.  How long does it take to develop a video game?  Thanks to The Duke Nukem Forever List we now have a running tab of projects that have been conceived, announced, developed, and released in the time that Duke Nukem Forever has been in development.  For instance, since the game was announced in 1997:

  • The Voyager 1 spacecraft has traveled 8.8 billion miles from Earth.
  • The two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity were proposed, authorized, announced, designed, launched and successfully landed upon Mars where they have been exploring the surface for over 2.5 years.
  • NASA's Deep Impact program also went full circle.
  • The International Space Station was assembled and has been orbiting Earth for over 8 years.

Humanity's progress seems vast measured in Duke Nukem Forever development time.  In April 1997 I was finishing my second year of high school.  In the time that the game has been in the works I've graduated from both high school and college.  After all that build up and anticipation I can't imagine how the game can live up to the hype when (if?) it's finally finished and released. 

(via Waxy)

Gaming Obstacles In The Real World

Rampage 911 The Photoshop mavens of Fark are at it again, this time with a look at video game obstacles in real-life situations.  There's the usual brand of hilarity to be found, such as Donkey Kong tossing barrels down a wheelchair ramp and this picture created by "Kitwilly" that offensively but effectively combines Rampage with the horrific events of September 11, 2001.  Relevant quotes from Fark members:

"Kitwilly is the winner.  I've never felt so guilty for laughing at something." - haleon

"I shouldn't have laughed at that, but I did. Thank you for having the guts to go where few dare to tread." - Tropical Itch

"It would be nice if 911 was caused by monsters that were easily identified." - Pro Zack

I know that they say that tragedy plus time equals comedy, but somehow I don't think this is quite what "they" had in mind.  I think the same joke could have worked just as well on a non-horrifying city skyline backdrop.

(Yes, I laughed.  I'll see you in Hell with everyone else.)

Something New For Street Fighter 2

Street Fighter 2 The release of a newly rejiggered Street Fighter 2 for the Microsoft Xbox Live Arcade is coming up and Retrogaming has a bundle of information on the release.  200 Gamerpoints are up for grabs in this new edition/variation of the game, too.  From the look of things this game will be huge all over again.

"You're initially presented with the option of either viewing your stats, entering a ranked match, or jumping into a non-ranked player match. You can dive straight into a game, search for a custom game, or create your own match and wait for a challenger. Creating a custom match allows you to pre-set how many rounds you wish to play. If you've chosen a unranked game your stats won't be updated at the end of the match, you will have the option however to replay the match and discuss the fight in the lobby system. "

My childhood Street Fighter 2 time was spent on the original Super NES version of the game when I played against a friend who seemed to have been born with a fireball in his hand.  He knew all the special moves and could reach Vega with ease, whereas I was only skilled enough to rapidly fire off fierce punches randomly.  Surprisingly, our win/loss records were about the same.

More Gaming Prototype Goodies Revealed

Prototype Super Famicom Turn back the clock for a moment to the days of 1989 and 1990 when Nintendo was first making plans for its second generation of home video game console.  The Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) was starting to pick up speed and the time had come for Nintendo to make the next move in what was becoming quite the business rivalry.  At the same time NEC had lofty dreams about its PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16) console.  Early prototype images of these consoles and their respective software libraries began to appear in the Japanese gaming press of the time, and thankfully these images have been preserved for those of us reading in the twenty-first century.

Chris Covell (the same gamer who brought us a look at the beta version of Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge) has put together a great collection of "vintage" scans from Japanese gaming magazine Famicom Tsushin from the dawn of the 16-bit era including images of a very early Super Famicom, the Dragonfly flight demo that would become Pilotwings, and what some have speculated are the very first images of Super Mario World released to the public.  If all of that isn't enough for you, don't miss the other images in the collection.  There are some early pictures of popular games such as Mega Man 3 and Super Castlevania IV in there plus looks at several unreleased games including the Bonk RPG, the Famicom version of Sim City, a Batman title for the TurboGrafx-16, and a modem accessory for the PC Engine.  Looking at all of these images has me pining for my old Electronic Gaming Monthly collection.

Irresponsible Journalism Strikes Again

GTA AOIf there's one thing we can rely on the local news media to do, it's get the details about video games downright wrong.  The latest offender comes to us from KUTV in Salt Lake City, UT.  According to GamePolitics, the local investigative reporter, Bill Gephardt, filed a report about the Hot Coffee incident regarding Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and managed to completely bungle the details surrounding the controversy.  Here's a text snippet from the news report.

The government reprimands makers of a popular video game. Bill Gephardt says there's a loophole in this kid’s game that allows players to see porn. Oops!  The Federal Trade Commission says that the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has a tricky back door area and with the click of the code word 'hot coffee' players can view nudity and play sex games.

Shall we count the errors?  Let's see... GTA isn't a kids game since it's rated M, it's not a loophole so much as a third-party modification, there is no "hot coffee" codeword on which to click (and how do you click a codeword?), and the nudity isn't so much bare skin as blocky textured polygons.  I'll give him the "sex games" part of the quote, but even that is debatable.  I'll even overlook the fact that this story is a year old at this point, yet it is presented as breaking news.  These errors are a symptom of a larger problem in the media.

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