Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On this day, two years ago...

Two years ago, I made a post on this blog stating “Next Gen: Sony has won...”. And what a difference two years can make!

In two years time, its quite interesting to note that Ken Kutaragi has 'resigned' from Sony altogether. The father of the Playstation and the man who vowed that he shall crush Microsoft, Ken Kutaragi has finally entered a life of retirements. Although chances are this has more than enough retirement pay to live quite well for the rest of his days.

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Do you need to have a degree to be a videogame analyst?

Now if we are going to follow some analyst predictions from 2 years ago, the 360 should be lagging behind the console race as of this time. Ironically, those analysts modified their statements just recently stating that by 2011 the PS3 shall reign supreme. That's fine and dandy should the XBOX 360 and the Wii have no good games coming out but sadly for the PS3, they do have some interesting titles coming out. More notably, the new XBOX 360 franchise trilogies shall be nearing their second installment release with Gears of War and Mass Effect. Too Human is slated for a 2008 release and Hironobu Sakaguchi ain't calling it quits either with the pre-eminent release of Cry On, most likely for the holidays 2008 season in Japan, and the rumored Blue Dragon 2.

After two years, we have seen a lot of once exclusive Playstation titles shift and began supporting multi platform support with the XBOX 360. The most popular of these titles is Devil May Cry 4, which was stated to be a new game for a new audience' and Virtua Fighter 5. Ahhh...I remember those days when the die hard Playstation fanboys bombarded XBOX sites gloating about the exclusivity of VF5 which will guarantee their success worldwide and in Japan. Well, at the same time the Sega developers were pleading to their executives to let them port this game on the XBOX 360 so it will be capable of utilizing the XBOX Live online code.

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Don't Panic loyal Sony fans for Solid Snake will save the day in 2008...provided you all go out and buy 1 million copies of his game.

After two years, the biggest titles Sony has left is Metal Gear Solid 4 and Final Fantasy 13. However, strangely enough, while continuing to pledge allegiance to Sony, Hideo Kojima's team stated that the game needs to sell 1 million copies on day one just to break even!!! Wow talk about an extremely hard objective. Should this game fail to sell the said number of copies on day 1, chances are the Konami executives will force Kojima and his team to screw allegiances and just port this game to the XBOX 360. Square Enix on the other hand, continues to show CG trailers of FF13, with no particular release date in sight, while continuing to milk the Nintendo DS with old and newer titles.

After two years, the laughing stock of the earlier E3 events, Nintendo turned out on top with the worldwide console sales. The Wii was a hit with kids, parents and grand parents everywhere. In Japan, its clearly a Nintendo country bolstered by the success of both the DS and the Wii. The Wii continue to sell out across the world and makes an easy gift for anyone to enjoy. And finally, the next generation of Super Mario has come out with Super Mario Galaxy.

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In Master Chief we trust.


But despite all that, after two years, we are still gaming solely on the XBOX 360.

Of course, it wasn't all smooth sailing for an XBOX 360 gamer living in an unsupported territory. As we have mentioned before, our first Japanese launch XBOX 360 has succumbed to the 3 red lights of death after one year of service. This prompted us to get an Asian XBOX 360 with a full 1 year replacement warranty in case of failure. Although, I am happy to say that our original Japanese launch console has been revived completely. While its current state is not as appealing, the additional internal fans and the 'bare' look has ensured that this unit shall not be over heating anymore.

Apart from continuing to improve the console and XBOX Live with the dashboard updates, the continuous stream of great games available to the XBOX 360 is the main reason why we continue to be sole 360 gamers. Of course, the exclusives like Halo 3, Mass Effect and the upcoming Lost Odyssey bolster the sales of the console. It's interesting to note that a good number of multi platform titles perform and look better on the XBOX 360 compared to the PS3. While we were quite aware of this years ago, many people who bought into Sony's Blu-Ray / Cell Processor hype are scratching their heads as to why this is so.

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Modern Computing 101: The more RAM, the better.

The answer is relatively simple. While Blu-Ray can store tons of data, the data has to filtered to the system bus and fed to the PS3's 256 MB memory. Now before anyone calls foul here, the PS3 has two different kinds of memory. The first 256 MB is applicable for video memory only while the other 256 MB is used for the rest of the system computations. This is in contrast with the 360 which has 512 MB that can be allocated to whatever the developer pleases and an additional 10MB embedded ram on the GPU to provide simple anti-aliasing techniques. Of course, lets not forget the software development tools, which is what Microsoft is really known for in the industry.

But in the end, we stay on the XBOX 360 simply because that's where all the games are at. Yes, I understand that the PS3 has its own share of relatively good titles. In fact, we were considering purchasing a PS3 this Christmas season just for the heck of it. But as we stood in the store looking at the PS3 game selection, we remembered our XBOX 360 library and the backlog of titles that we wanted to play but simply can't because there are waaaaay too many games to play already.

I won't say that the PS3 has no games. It does. The more notable PS3 titles are all those that came from Sony based game studios like Resistance: Fall of Man, Warhawk. Motostorm, Lair, Heavenly Sword and Uncharted: Drakes Fortune. If you line them all up together like that, its quite impressive....IF you don't have anything else to play. Unfortunately for Sony, Microsoft has made it a point to bombard 360 owners with tons of games. In fact, among all 3 next generation consoles the XBOX 360 has the biggest software attach rate per console user...even in Japan where the console hardware sales has bombed compared to its Japanese based competitors. Now that's really something. Microsoft is dominating in the area that they want to dominate and that is software.

Should we buy a PS3 now its going to be wasted investment. Why? If we buy it now, we will most likely turn back to our 'older' XBOX 360 games just to finish Mass Effect, Naruto, Eternal Sonata before the next round of 360 game spending should come up by February 2008. I'm all for getting a PS3 one day, just not now. And who knows perhaps another year down the the line, the PS3 might 25% cheaper than what it is today.

As for the Wii, while it remains to be a worldwide seller...the platform doesn't have the impressive software attach rate. The only game that sell well is Wii Sports, which is already bundled with the Wii hardware by default, and the rest of the Nintendo made titles. For us, the Wii remains to be an interesting gadget but once again, we don't see ourselves spending so much time with it when Mass Effect is looming on our entertainment display.

To sum things up, in two years so many things has happened in the gaming industry. 2008 will prove to be yet another interesting year in gaming. I laugh at all of those 'PAID' analyst who predicted that the 360 will be the next 'Dreamcast' of the console wars by this point in time. It certainly makes you wonder where the heck do these people get their supporting figures? From the trends 7 years ago? Hmmm...come to think of it, I should go check up on my fund managers to make sure they aren't making the same boneheaded mistake into thinking that data from 7 years ago is valid without looking at the current trends in the industry.


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