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April 2009

Weekly Poll: Beloved Brick

Weekly Poll for 4-20-2009I'd never have guessed that most of your have your television displayed on a stand.  I'm a shelf kind of guy with an appreciation for a solid home entertainment center unit with lots of storage space.  What can I say?  It's the way I was raised. 

Moving on, the Internet is wild right now with the twentieth anniversary of the original Nintendo Game Boy.  What was the first model of Game Boy that you owned (assuming you actually owned one)?  The original gray brick?  The Pocket redesign?  Maybe you imported a Light model from Japan or held out for the Color addition.  Were you late to the product line with the Game Boy Advance?  Or did you start catching up for lost time with Slot 2 on the Nintendo DS?  Let's hear about your memories.

Jimmy Fallon, Madden All-Star

Jimmy Fallon in Madden NFL 10 When the cover athlete for the next edition of Madden NFL, Larry Fitzgerald, Jr., visited Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last week, he brought some video footage of the game to share as well as a special clip for the host himself.  The clip's not exceeding funny, but it's a nice example of video game-related celebrities getting some equal time on a late night talk show along with actors, musicians, and other pop culture personalities.

I think we still have a ways to go before Shigeru Miyamoto comes out of the green room to be interviewed, but at least we're finally on our way. I've been watching late night talk shows since I was old enough to sneak out of bed in the middle of the night (getting my start with Johnny Carson and the old 12:30 David Letterman), so I'm glad to finally see the gaming industry start to gain parity with Hollywood when it comes to bedtime comedy entertainment.

Also, this is where I brag that I have tickets to see The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien the week that I'm in Los Angeles for E3.

Dinosaur Land On Parade

Super Mario World Last week I shared some really horrendously early off-model Super Mario artwork with you.  This week I thought it was only appropriate to shift the other way and show you some of my favorite Nintendo-produced Super Mario artwork.  Personally, my favorite era of Super Mario art comes from the images created for 1991's Super Mario World.  Let's take a walk down memory lane to a time when 16-bits was a lot, games came in big boxes stuffed with plastic, and all one needed to fly was a cape (or a blue turtle shell and a Yoshi).

Continue reading "Dinosaur Land On Parade" »

Kombo Breaker - Episode 25: Controlled Response

Kombo BreakerKombo Breaker cuts to the chase this week, doing away with our rotating guest slot and settling some long-standing issues amongst the four of us regular panelists.  This week's episode includes a heated debate on control stick placement, a discussion on how I never learn when it comes to Sonic Unleashed and its recently released downloadable content, whether or not Stephen Totilo joining Kotaku will impact that organization, and if Sony is starting to head down Nintendo's casual road among other spirited topics.  Download the show directly from Kombo or subscribe via iTunes.

Ghostbusters Opening Cinematic Is Promising

Ghostbusters: The Video Game More and more Ghostbusters: The Video Game media is beginning to trickle out to the Internet, and this morning came the official release of the opening cinematic scene that sets up the game's story.  Watch as someone does something she  probably shouldn't in the Gozer museum exhibit, seemingly releasing a supernatural force across the city as the familiar theme song kicks up, taking us into the opening credits with the Ecto-1B.  See for yourself via GameTrailers.

I like how well this scene mirrors the structure of the opening of both Ghostbusters films in that a paranormal event leads into the theme song and appearance of the "no ghosts" logo as well as the idea that even after several years of producing their own television commercials, the Ghostbusters are still wooden and awkward on camera.  And if I may let my inner fanboy peek out for a moment, I have to admit that I did get a chill when the museum guard shined his flashlight on the GOZER sign at the museum exhibit.  I can't get my hands on this game soon enough.

Where You Gonna Preorder? Another Ghostbusters Bonus Materializes

Ghostbusters II jumpsuit I'm going to stick with my Slimer Edition preorder of Ghostbusters: The Video Game, but this alternative goodie package that comes with preordering the game from GameStop has one item that has me jealous.  Yeah, there's a t-shirt, but that's not what I have my eye on.  Behold, Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 owners: the Ghostbusters II in-game jumpsuit variant!  Yes, now you, the rookie, can don the darker color scheme and logo associated with the revamped costumes from the second Ghostbusters film.  Kombo has me slime-green with envy.

In that regard, there's sort of a trade-off-- at least for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners, as they are the only ones who can get the exclusive in-game Ghostbusters 2 Flight Suit. "The new suit updates your ghost busting look for the rigorous fashion standards of 1991, is more breathable than ever, and makes a statement of individuality without saying a word," GameStop says, adding "This feature is available in single player and multiplayer modes."

The original jumpsuits are a timeless classic, but I have a soft spot for the sequel's costumes (fine, I have a soft spot for just about everything Ghostbusters).  I know that it's such a little thing that it shouldn't matter, but I think it's fantastic that the developers made the effort to include such a neat little useless-yet-stylish addition to the game (even if it's kept under GameStop's lock and key).  Any chance the rest of us can pick this up as downloadable content?  I'm in for a dollar...

Marketing Costs Increase As Publishers Reach Out To Casual Gamers

Mario Kart Wii Producing video games aimed at the casual market as opposed to the core market may be more profitable, but publishers are learning that the trade-off involves an increase in marketing costs in order to reach those casual gamers.  AdvertisingAge has an interesting article about how publishers such as Nintendo, Electronic Arts, and Activision have had to increase the amount of money spend on advertising and other attention-getting methods in order to alert the casuals that a new game is ready for purchase.

Nintendo, maker of the ultimate family gaming machine, Wii, and a plethora of "E for everyone" titles, has led the way, boosting its ad spending from less than $13 million in 2006, the first year of Wii, to $57 million in 2007 and $41 million through November of last year across all Wii hardware and games, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

And it seems to have worked. The top four games for 2008, according to NPD Group, were Nintendo Wii titles "Wii Play" and "Mario Kart" ($5 million in ad spending, according to TNS);Wii Fit ($12 million); and "Super Smash Bros. Brawl" ($1.5 million).

It makes sense that ad spending would increase.  The core gamers will hungrily come to the publishers for new game information, but the casual market typically will not.  We count down the days until games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Killzone 2 hit stores, but they won't find out about, say, Wii Sports Resort or MySims unless an advertisement tells them that it exists.  I'd imagine that the increased marketing costs are worth it if it results in a sales boost of comparatively cheaper to produce titles, but I believe that the increase in advertising for casual games can make the core games look better in the eyes of the mainstream.  If the only gaming advertising were for violent and controversial games, then it appears that all games are bloody and horrible in the court of mainstream public opinion.  Flood the airwaves and print with friendly, harmless titles and suddenly gaming as a whole doesn't seem so bad to Grandma and Mr. Congressman.

You Didn't Notice The PS3 Price Drop

Fancy chart Put on your economics hat and prepare for some interesting information on how the global economic collapse and the exchange rate of the US dollar and Japanese yen influences the ongoing price of the Sony PlayStation 3 and how the cost of the console did decrease, but you just didn't notice.  Kombo's Casey Ayers takes us to school with the hard facts and plenty of charts and graphs.

[B]ased on what a customer's dollars are actually worth to Sony, they are receiving 14.8% less in real value today than they would have at launch, and at its lowest point just prior to Christmas, they were receiving an astounding 25.9% less than they would have at launch. This is why it's so important to understand how the currency markets have tied Sony's hands when it comes to product pricing outside of Japan. That 25% off figure, remember, is based on a static price of $400, and doesn't even account for the fact that Sony had to charge around $600 at launch to simply break even. So Sony is, in fact, receiving far less value in return for each PS3sold than they did when the system was first released. Indeed, if that 25% had been kept in Dollar terms, it would have accounted for lowering the price of the PS3 to $300 just prior to Christmas. That's the problem: as far as Sony's bottom line is concerned, they did cut prices for the holiday season.

So how about that?  A stealth price drop.  At least the value of what you get for your money in the PS3 box is improving.  PlayStation 2 backward compatibility and the extra media slots have been sacrificed in the current model of PS3 console, but now the system comes a larger capacity hard drive, a game or two, and a DualShock 3 controller.  Compare that to the launch options of just the bare console (which, admittedly, had more hardware in it for a higher price) and a SixAxis controller included.  We're definitely getting the better deal these days even if the retail price is still financially out of reach for plenty of people.  What's the old saying?  The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single stealth price drop.

Ocarina Of Time Link Statue Still Exists, Promised Soon

Link Let's play the Song of Time on our ocarinas and travel back to late 2006 when collectible figure seller First 4 Figures announced a statue of the heroic Link of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time fame.  As a Link fan, I knew I had to have this piece of Nintendo memorabilia for my collection, so I preordered one.  Two and a half years later, I'm still waiting for the company to finish creating the damn thing.  This morning I received an e-mail updating me on Link's progress.  He's finally supposedly apparently really shipping in May.  Yes, May of this year.  I've thought about my preorder sporadically over the past few years and have considered canceling and getting my deposit back, but I've just never made the time to do it.  I've waited this long though, and I do still want the statue, so I'll see this through to the end and hope that by this time next month I'll have a displayable Link to showcase in my media room. 

Game Boy Twentieth Anniversary Round-up

MattG's Game Boy1UP's Retro Gaming Blog is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the original Nintendo Game Boy this week with a series of personal reflection articles that are soaked in nostalgia and warm fuzzy memories.  Longtime PTB readers know that I love that sort of game-related writing, as everybody has their own unique story to tell.  Do yourself a favor and read through the 1UP crew's happy recollections and rediscoveries.

And as long as I'm pointing you at Game Boy love, let me direct you to an article I wrote for GameCube Advanced nearly five years ago in which I dig into the little system's library and hold up the ten best and five worst games in Game Boy history based on my own experiences.  It's Game Boy: Best of the Best.  There's also a piece I wrote about the bulletproof case that my father turned into a fantastic complete one-of-a-kind Game Boy carrying case.  It's part of the A Boy's Memories roundtable discussion also from the old GameCube Advanced days.  Then there's The Handheld Games of Summer in which I reminisce about the annual tradition of choosing a new Game Boy game to accompany me in the backseat of the car during childhood family road trips.  Finally, there's the Secret Origin tale of the day I bought Gremlins 2: The New Batch and faced a difficult decision.  I loved that little gray Nintendo brick as a kid and young teen, wonky Light Boy magnifier peripheral and all.  I only wish it still worked as well today as the day I first slipped Super Mario Land into it in 1989.  The LCD screen suffers from an excess of vertical columns of dark dead pixels that make gameplay a crushingly difficult task.  Nevertheless, there's no way that I'm giving it up or disposing of it.  That Game Boy has been to more places than some people ever have.