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July 2010

IS-NITRO-CAPTURE? Yes, It Is.

IS-NITRO-CAPTUREEver wonder how direct-feed screenshots and video of Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance titles make their way to magazines and the Internet?  The magic happens thanks to a little piece of $3,000 hardware made by Intelligent Systems called the IS-NITRO-CAPTURE that outputs DS signals to either two standard televisions or one widescreen television turned on its side.  Now that you know about it, are you wondering how it works?  For the answer you'd best check out this sleepily-voiced explanation courtesy of ASSEMblerEX.  It's interesting stuff to be sure, but, dude, wake up!

I've played DS games on these units at E3s over the years.  They work very well and allow me to focus on a large, vivid television (or pair of televisions) without having to squint at tiny screens in oddly-lit areas.  I end up concentrating more on the early version of the game I'm playing and not the hardware setup which, in the end, benefits both the publisher and myself.  As Tiny Cartridge notes, this model of the device is obsolete thanks to the Nintendo DSi's existence, and even that is about to be drummed out by the Nintendo 3DS.  Progress marches on.


Learn From Your Mistakes!

Sega 32X The video game industry isn't perfect.  It makes mistakes.  Provided one learns from mistakes, then the experience isn't completely in vain.  On the other hand, failing to learn from mistakes again and again isn't good for business.  Heck, it isn't good for anybody.  GamesRadar proves that point with an interesting list of six mistakes from which the industry failed to learn anything.  All of the major players are represented, and I bet you can guess some of their sins already.  Releasing expensive add-on hardware that's promptly forgotten?  Check.  Chasing the wrong demographic?  Double-check.  Forgetting that third-party developers are friends?  Ooh, you'd better believe that's a check.

When the Wii started selling exactly that shit-ton of consoles, it seemed for a while like Nintendo was going to eat the whole industry. It was back on top like it had been with NESes both normal and Super. It had a new experience everyone wanted to get in on. Game development costs on its machine were way lower than the trouser-troubling budgets devs were already suffering with the HD machines. Finally, Nintendo had the full package. It was actually going to get it right this time. Look! Look, can you see it happening!

Well 30 seconds later, no, no you couldn’t see it any more. Because Nintendo pushed its entire market towards grannies, and suddenly it had even less of a haven for hardcore devs than ever. And with low development costs and absolutely no Nintendo quality control, that market was immediately flooded with enough low-grade pap to choke Godzilla. With a lack of hardcore gamers and a glut of rubbish competition, developers once again headed to the safe hills of Nintendo’s rivals, and the situation still hasn’t righted itself.

Granted that while Nintendo laughed all the way to the bank while committing that particular mistake, it seems now that with announcements for games such as Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby's Epic Yarn, GoldenEye 007, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and other core-oriented titles, the company is swinging back away from its over-reliance on the casual market.  It's almost like it's Nintendo's way of sending out invitations to third-parties that it's OK to develop interesting games for the Wii again.  Maybe this time they'll sell.  Maybe.


Kombo Relaunch Waiting In The Wings

Kombo Big changes are in the air over at Kombo as we prepare to relaunch the entire site.  We have a completely new design in the works along with new features such as an upgraded comment system, RSS feeds for each game we cover, new color schemes, and much more.  Here's my pal, Kombo Editor-in-Chief and Power Button co-host Joey Davidson, to explain all about what's ahead in the coming... well, that would be giving it away.

We've done our best to ramp up our opinionated coverage style over the last few months. Our reviews have been retooled, our features and editorials have been re-emphasized and the way we handle news has been re-approached.  Kombo's getting some new duds to go along with the reshaped editorial style. Call it the Elegant Suit if you've been overdosing on Red Dead Redemption.

Kombo will feature fully customizable RSS feeds. For those out their that ingest the net through larger readers, you'll be able to filter exactly what type of content you get from our site. You'll be able to pick specific games, writers, genres, styles and more. We'll also be abandoning our current, often broken, commenting system. Users will register for accounts on the site, edit profiles and comment that way. User pages will also, eventually, feature blogs capable of landing on Kombo's main page.

Here's the thing... those features barely scratch the surface of the new Kombo. Stay tuned for more...

When he says that we've retooled the reviews, he's not kidding around.  Last week I was promoted to Assistant Director of Reviews over at Kombo, so now each and every review we publish passes through me for revisions, critiques, and approval before it's ready for the spotlight.  I'm very proud of the work we've been doing and believe that you're going to be pleased with what we have on the way.


Microsoft Kinect Priced At $150; $300 With New Xbox 360

Kinect bundle If you've been saving your pennies to buy a Kinect for your Microsoft Xbox 360 when it launches in November but are tired of chasing a moving price tag target, then you can relax.  The announcement came today that Kinect will set you back $150.  If you're currently Xboxless and want to get in on the action, then $300 will get you a newly redesigned console with 4 GB of onboard flash memory and a Kinect.  Both retail packages come with a copy of Kinect AdventuresWired GameLife has the news.  Here's a bit of their coverage regarding the new bundle and how it relates to the existing Xbox 360 Arcade model that is currently on the way out.

Introducing a $200 version of the Xbox 360, the price point at which analysts believe most consoles are sold, is important to Microsoft’s appeal to the mass market. Xbox 360 saw high sales in June, thanks in part to the new console design but mostly because Microsoft is clearing older models from retail stores at heavy discounts. The Arcade Xbox 360 model, which the new low-end version will replace, is currently selling for $150.

Microsoft direct of product management Aaron Greenberg says the stock of Arcade models won’t last long. “They’re moving quite quickly,” he said. “We always have that transition overlap time period, but doing it over the summer should leave us pretty clean well in advance of the holiday.”

The only disadvantage to the new Xbox model is that Microsoft won’t be selling standalone hard drives yet. The 4-GB console includes a slot for a hard drive, but none will be on shelves. Greenberg pointed out that users can expand their storage by using USB sticks of up to 32 GB.  Microsoft doesn’t imagine customers will buy the 4-GB unit and then immediately want to add a 250-GB hard drive.  “You’d have to be pretty bad at making decisions”  to do that, Greenberg said.

Considering the technology at work in the Kinect and all of the time and money spent developing it, $150 is probably a fair price.  However, will the market go for it?  Expensive aftermarket console add-ons traditionally don't sell very well, although most of my reference points are from console generations long gone by.  Does the fact that the Sega CD and 32X left underwhelming marks in sales history mean anything almost twenty years later?  Probably not.  We'll all be watching to see how well Kinect performs at retail, but keep this in mind: if the industry discovers that the market is open and enthusiastic about a $150 add-on, expect to see more such costly accessories in the future across all consoles.  That's a dark cloud for a future day, however.  In the short term, here's hoping that the Kinect finds its audience.  Anything that introduces video games into the lives of more people is always a good thing.


Capcom And Namco Supposedly Planning Two Different Fighting Games

Mega Man vs Pac-man Rumor has it that Capcom isn't content to rest on its Marvel vs Capcom 3 crossover laurels.  Kotaku has word via Game Informer that the company is teaming up with Namco Bandai to develop not one, but two fighting games.  First up is Capcom vs Namco, a Street Fighter IV-type 2D fighting game developed by Capcom featuring characters from both companies.  Then there's a different project, Namco vs Capcom, which is being created in the 3D Tekken 6 style by Namco starring characters from... well, you get the idea.

As fighting game fans are already no doubt coming to grips with, this would mean two significantly different games, Street Fighter IV's 2D arenas contrasted nicely with Tekken's more three-dimensional combat.  GI say that Street Fighter IV producer Yoshinori Ono is handling Capcom's side of the deal, while it's expected Namco Bandai's Katsuhiro Harada will be in charge of the opposing project.  If this information is good - and there have certainly been strong hints to suggest it is - then the two games' debut trailers will be shown this weekend at the San Diego Comic-Con.

This matches some rumblings I heard a while ago about a "Tekken vs Street Fighter" project, so as a Capcom fighting fan I'm glad to see there's apparently some validity to this after all.  I'm hoping for some legendarily epic match-ups: Mega Man vs Pac-Man!  Ken Masters vs The Prince of All Cosmos!  Nathan Spencer vs Fygar!  Oh yes; this could be good.


Hulu Plus On PS3 Offers Mixed Bag

Hulu PlusHow much disposable income do you have?  If you sprang for Sony's PlayStation Plus service for either $50 or $18 (depending on how much of a commitment you wanted to make), then you're currently eligible to download a special preview version of Hulu's premium offering, Hulu Plus, for the PlayStation 3.  For an additional $10 per month, you can watch some Hulu programming via the PS3 on your TV, but is it actually worth the extra cost?  I'm not kicking in for this one, so instead I'll point you to Gizmodo for an answer.

[T]he process is just like using Hulu in a browser. Click on one of their highlighted shows. Pan through episodes. Subscribe. Rate. Etc. I didn't notice any feature (that I wanted) missing from Hulu on PS3 that made me long for the web interface. And as a bonus, if you choose to look around the menus while watching a show, the video will just shrink down into the corner of your screen...a miracle to those of us used to Netflix.

As for watching clips, the experience, again, is akin to the PC. Click whatever you'd like, then prepare for a 30-second ad. Personally, I'm fearful of mankind deciding, like we did in the days of cable, that we'll pay for a monthly service that also has unskippable ads. But sidestepping that debate, I'll just complain that ads need to be audio balanced with their respective content. While watching Modern Family, a show that tends to be quieter than most, I encountered an ad that blared through my speaker system at more than uncomfortable levels. Sony and Hulu, please remember that I have neighbors and a soft spot for my hearing. Fix this tiny issue.

As for the video quality of the actual content...it's decent if you consider that we're talking about streaming media, but objectively, it's mediocre at best. You can actually toggle 3-4 bitrate settings depending on the particular media content—a handy feature that will allow you to get the best possible signal every time. Cranked all the way to 3.4Mbps HD (max), I thought the image was a bit worse than HD on my DirecTV...which is in itself so lousy that I don't really consider it HD despite the "HD" moniker.

Between all of the digital cable channels I get, my Netflix subscription, and my video gaming to-do list, I have more than enough entertainment content to explore and enjoy as it is.  I just can't justify paying another subscription fee to a service that offers the same content I can get elsewhere for fees I already pay.  I'm glad to see Hulu on a console, but it's a shame that it has to be the premium Plus service exclusively.


Big Xbox 360 Sale At Amazon.com Today Only

Buy somethin' will ya!

UPDATE: Time's up!

Amazon.com is holding one of its game-centric Gold Box daily deals again where a new game or accessory goes on sale at a major discount every few hours all day long.  Today's focus is on the Microsoft Xbox 360 with deals promised for Transformers: War for Cybertron for $42.98 (Sony PlayStation 3 version as well) and what appears to be Red Dead Redemption, a Street Fighter IV fightstick, Alpha Protocol, Metro 2033, Assassin's Creed II, and more.  You needed more to play this month anyway, right?  Purchases made via the green link above help keep things at Press The Buttons, so your support is appreciated.  As they say in the Microsoft marketing department, Jump In!


Mini-Review: Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse - Episode 3: "They Stole Max's Brain!"

SalThe end of the previous Sam & Max episode concluded with the revelation that someone had carved Max's brain out of his rabbity skull and absconded with it, leaving poor Sam in the company of a hollowed-out lifeless shell.  What's a freelance police dog to do?  The third episode of The Devil's Playhouse — "They Stole Max's Brain!" for the PC, Mac, iPad, and Sony PlayStation 3 from Telltale Games — mixes up the formula again as Sam acts solo to recover his buddy's missing gray matter and take revenge against whomever took off with it in the first place.  There are some interesting twists in this episode that set it apart from the last two installments, several clever puzzles that are very satisfying to solve, and, of course, a healthy dose of subversive humor.

Continue reading "Mini-Review: Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse - Episode 3: "They Stole Max's Brain!"" »


Power Button - Episode 15: You're Not Buying Games Fast Enough!

Power ButtonDon't you just hate it when you buy a video game and intend to play it over the course of several months only to be told by the video game industry that you need to continue buying new games in the interim because they've come to enjoy your money?  That's essentially the issue facing us on Power Button this week as Joey Davidson, Brad Hilderbrand, and I react to analyst Michael Pachter's statements regarding steady influxes of revenue for game publishers.  Pachter seems to believe that publishers should continue being paid for products long after the customer has purchased them.  Naturally we don't agree.  That discussion ties nicely with our thoughts on the June 2010 NPD sales figures, plus we also ponder Ron Gilbert's latest Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 creation from Hothead Games, DeathSpank.  Join us for forty-eight minutes of solving the problems of the video game industry (or, at least, raising and then dismissing them). Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via  and you can even follow on Twitter at @PressTheButtons or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.


Power Button - Episode 15: You're Not Buying Games Fast Enough!


Weekly Poll: Needs More Crossovers

Weekly Poll for 7-12-2010I'm pleasantly surprised by the fact that most all of you out there listen to some form of video game music recreationally.  You're my kind of people.  I love a good remix or arrangement, but I also love a solid original soundtrack.  I even listen to old Nintendo Entertainment System beeps and bleeps sometimes under the right circumstances when the mood strikes me.  I'm honestly unsure why more developers and publishers don't release arrangement CDs of their best music.  Companies such as Capcom, Konami, and even Nintendo "get it", but when it comes to this sort of thing, I'm greedy.  I can never have enough video game music.

Speaking of remixes, have you seen the trailer and announcement for Capcom's upcoming Mega Man Universe?  It looks like Mega Man will be joined by guest stars from other Capcom properties such as Street Fighter and Ghouls 'n' Ghosts in his next adventure.  Which other Capcom properties would you like to see make an appearance in the battle against Dr. Wily?  Bionic CommandoDarkstalkersResident Evil?  I've put together a list of ten options for this week's poll, but feel free to suggest something else if you don't see your favorite franchise included.  Let's hear your thoughts.