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September 2013

EvilCast Recap - Episode 193

EvilCastHot off recording Episode 192 of the EvilCast podcast a few days ago, I was invited back to appear on Episode 193 alongside the usual crew of Blake Grundman, Ross Polly, and Chris Nitz to discuss the industry happenings of the past few week such as Microsoft announcing a release date for the Xbox One, Madden NFL 25 selling a million units, and developer WayForward launching a Kickstarter campaign for a new Shantae sequel that looks downright adorable.  Ross has a Top 5 list for us that unexpectedly derails into completely inappropriate jokes about the Holocaust after which I make everyone else feel very guilty and awkward by reminding them that not only am I Jewish, but it was Rosh Hashanah when this episode was recorded.  There's some discussion of the games that everyone has played lately, but since I didn't play anything this week, I lead a discussion on the series finale of Futurama instead.  Want to go around again?  Head over to Games Are Evil to download this week's show.

New PlayStation Vita Model, Memory Card Announced

PlayStation VitaIt's common for hardware manufacturers to redesign gadgets over the life of a product to make production more cost-effective and to drive down the retail price.  Nintendo is seemingly the master at the practice in the gaming world, but Sony is making a run for the crown with its newly announced slimmer version of the PlayStation Vita.  Sporting a new LCD screen over the original Vita's OLED screen, this new Vita is also 20% smaller and 15% lighter than the current model.  It boasts an extra hour of battery life and comes with a 1 GB memory card.  It'll be available in Japan in October for ¥19,929 (about $200).  Here's Joystiq with a few more details:

Sony Computer Entertainment's press release also notes a new micro USB slot for data backup and charging, along with a new power indicator and notification indicator at the top of the portable.  The new model will come in black, white, lime green, light blue, pink and khaki.

While lighter and smaller are always nice features in a redesigned handheld device, seeing that OLED screen go is a heartbreaker.  The current Vita's screen is gorgeous and I'm not sure that a regular LCD screen can stand up to what the OLED can do in this instance.  Using LCD surely brings costs and battery usage down, so it's an obvious change in hindsight, but that doesn't make it easier to take.  If these reductions help sell Vitas though, in the end it'll be seen as a smart move on Sony's part.  However, just based on the spec sheet for the new model, I'd say to pick up a current model if you have the option. 

And speaking of spending money, there's also a 64 GB Vita memory card on the way as reported by Kotaku that will cost ¥10,479 (about $105).  No matter how much Sony drives Vita pricing down, those memory cards are still the largest hidden cost associated with the system. 

Sony Announces Vita TV

Vita TVNot content to allow its PlayStation Vita handheld system to slip away under the tide of competition and market forces, Sony has come up with a way to expand the Vita's audience with a new mini-console that bridges the gap between the handheld's library and the home entertainment center.  Announced earlier today, the Vita TV is on the way and will allow players to enjoy PlayStation Portable, PSOne, and a selection of PS Vita titles on television as controlled by a DualShock 3 controller.  The little box includes 1 GB of built-in storage and has slots for Vita game cards and memory cards as well as HDMI output and Wi-Fi capabilities.  A future firmware update will even add PlayStation 4 Remote Play to the device, and video streaming services are already on the table.  Vita TV launches in Japan in November for ¥9,954 (about $100) for the base model and slightly more for a bundle which includes a controller and a 8 GB memory card.   Wired and Joystiq have more details.  Here's Wired:

Sony points out that the device will play, at launch, about 1,300 games. That’s because it can play all of the PSP and PSone games that are currently available to download via the PlayStation Network digital games service, plus many of the games that have been released so far for the PlayStation Vita platform. Sony said in a press release that the PS Vita TV cannot play all PS Vita games, since many of them use the touchscreen, motion sensors, camera and other inputs that are only available on the handheld unit.

Sony is positioning Vita TV as a great device for video streaming; at the Tokyo media briefing it stressed that you would be able to use the device to stream video content a wide variety of services.

The Vita TV seems like the Apple TV of the PlayStation family.  It's a great way to bring a large library of fun and affordable games to the living room, and for those who already own a Vita or a PS3, it's likely that one already have a decent selection of titles from which to choose (particularly for PS Plus members without a Vita who have been hording handheld titles with a future expectation of playing them someday).  There is some duplicated functionality here for those who already have a full suite of modern PlayStation devices, but for those who are not prepared to make a full, expensive investment in the PlayStation ecosystem, the Vita TV sounds like a great way to dip a toe into the water, as it were.  Of course, if you just want to play your Vita games on a big screen, that's fine too.  $100 is even a very sweet and almost impulse-buy of a price point.  I bet the Vita TV does very well and hopefully we'll see it outside of Japan before too long.  There's some nice potential here for Sony to beef up its Vita audience and for players to enjoy great games without spending too much money.

Power Button - Episode 105: Handheld Futures

Power ButtonNintendo is shaking things up with the upcoming release of its new non-3D handheld system dubbed the Nintendo 2DS and a $50 price cut on new deluxe model Wii U consoles, so it's only right that Blake Grundman and I discuss what this means for Nintendo and its customers on this week's episode of the Power Button podcast.  That discussion leads into a broader look at where handheld gaming is going in a market increasingly dominated by mobile games for phones and tablets that are built around a free-to-play formula packed with microtransactions and charges for consumable items.  Is there a way back from $100 packs of in-game currency?  How much are virtual fish really worth?  Who will invest in our proposed mobile free-to-play game about building an aquarium tower?  There are no easy answers, but we do have some surprisingly affordable options for you.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Power Button - Episode 105: Handheld Futures

During the show I mentioned a segment of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart regarding the rise of free-to-play mobile games and expensive virtual fish.  If you've never seen that report, it's embedded below.

Continue reading "Power Button - Episode 105: Handheld Futures" »

Microsoft Planning Three More Years Of Xbox 360 Releases

Xbox 360Just because Microsoft is gearing up to release its new Xbox One console in November doesn't mean that the Xbox 360 is being shown the door just yet.  While the company killed the original Xbox stone dead when the Xbox 360 launched in 2005, there are plans to support the X360 for another three years with another one hundred new releases in the pipeline.  It looks like Microsoft has learned something from Sony's success with the PlayStation 2 in a PlayStation 3 world.  Here's GameSpot with the details:

Microsoft chief marketing and strategy officer Yusuf Mehdi said this week that the platform will be supported through at least 2016. 

"If you look at [Xbox 360], that platform lasted for seven to eight years and it's going to go for another three years," Mehdi said this week during the Citi Global Technology Conference. "It's incredibly profitable now in the tail."  

Mehdi explained that the arrival of the Xbox One is not a death knell for the Xbox 360 by any stretch, noting that Microsoft plans to ship over 100 new games for the system.

There was an eager need to move on from the original Xbox to the Xbox 360, but the X360 has enjoyed enough success that it can co-exist with the Xbox One for a while without cannibalizing either console's sales.  There are just too many X360s out there for publishers to cut bait on the platform.  Better yet, Microsoft can start to reposition the X360 as its budget warhorse console that's cheaper than the Xbox One, but still plenty of fun with a large library of proven content behind it.  Sony is certainly going to reposition the PlayStation 3 in a similar role once the PlayStation 4 catches on.  Why kill a good thing when there's still new money to be made from it?

EvilCast Recap - Episode 192

EvilCastWhenever my friends at the EvilCast podcast over at Games Are Evil need a long-time Super Mario fan to chime in on important Nintendo news, they come for me and invite me to sit in as a guest, so in a week that brought us the Nintendo 2DS and a price cut for the Wii U it should not be a surprise that I appear on Episode 192 of the show.  I join Blake Grundman and Ross Polly to discuss not only Nintendo matters, but also the rise of the Mighty No. 9 KickStarter campaign, the success of Plants vs Zombies 2, and important matters related to Mario and Luigi: Dream Team and Saints Row IV.  I even share some secrets that will help you tackle Saints Row IV's virtual Steelport with ease and guide you to a secret, unmarked room on the map which hides a hidden exclusive weapon.  Blake has a lot to say about DiveKick and KickBeat, while Ross loves his League of Legends.  Spend a few hours with us and we'll have some fun.  Head over to GrE to download or stream this week's episode.

Weekly Poll: 2DS Temptation

Weekly Poll for 7-29-2013Most of you who are playing EarthBound on the Wii U are experiencing it all over again as a replay, but I'm glad to see that some people are diving into it for the very first time.  It's a superb game that everyone needs to play, and I really hope that those of you who don't have a Wii U who someday end up with one will check it out.  I'm not replaying it as I also do not yet have a Wii U, but I'm sure I'll get back to it once I have the console and need something to fill a lull in my gaming schedule.  In the meantime, I always have my original Super NES game pak on which to rely.

Speaking of Nintendo, last week the company announced a curious addition to its 3DS line of products: the Nintendo 2DS, a tablet-like, hinge-less take on the 3DS that lacks the actual 3D visual element.  Sporting a cheaper price tag and a child-friendly design, the 2DS has been hailed as everything from a great idea to a solution in search of a problem.  What's your take on the 2DS?  Are you interested in buying one?  Or are you just shaking your head?  Let's hear your thoughts.