Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lost Odyssey's Soundtrack is Nobuo Uematsu's Greatest Masterpiece Yet!

Nobuo Uematsu's Web Site: http://www.smileplease.co.jp/

Dear Nobuo Uematsu,

I really, really like this track from Lost Odyssey. It's a work of genius, a masterpiece!!! While the title of the track isn't really as fantastical as 'One Winged Angel' from Final Fantasy VII, the song itself is very memorable and it's stuck in my head; I can't stop playing it in my mind :D

I surely hope there will be more music like this from Mistwalker in future JRPGs. This, is a classic.

Regards,
Third World Gamer

The title of the track is "An Enemy Appears"....the title may be unimpressive but the track itself is quite beautiful, epic, and fitting for the game. Here it is, along with a short slideshow that Yahoosoda created just for it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

NOW PLAYING: Lost Odyssey.

Sakaguchi's latest masterpiece JRPG is here, and it's awesome. Currently Yahoosoda is playing (using the 'Tankblitzer' gamertag....long story, I'd rather not get into why she had to use a different gamertag). We took some pics....the art direction is very Japanese and is quite gorgeous.






Another thing that owners of the Asian-English version may not have noticed: Look carefully at the paper for the box art.


Look closer.

The box art paper is textured, giving the overall package a more artistic look and feel. Nice touch, Hironobu Sakaguchi.

Early impressions from Yahoosoda indicate that the game is much, much more difficult in comparison with Blue Dragon, and battles require a bit more strategy than before. She seems to be enjoying the story a lot. After seeing her play a couple of scenarios I've told myself that I'm going to play this game with my Scytherage gamertag...not just for the achievements, but because it looks like an overall worthwhile experience. I got to read some of the 'Thousand Years of Dreams' stories in the game. I think every gamer who appreciates good stories owes it to themselves to read those. They really add to your overall impression of the main character, Kaim.

Also, while she's playing, I'm surfing here on my laptop and when there's a story point I end up playing loud music so I can't hear the story spoilers. However.....occasionally I find myself not playing a track on my music player, and I end up hearing the music of this game. Man! I love the boss battle theme in Lost Odyssey! It's so catchy!!! For a game with dark themes, it does a good job of hitting on various emotional notes with the music. The game never feels or sounds monotonous at all.

Microsoft, if you're planning to buy a game studio anytime soon, here's a hearty recommendation: BUY MISTWALKER. Make them first party. There's talent in there that not only has experience, but amazing creativity and artistic sense. Sure, right now (and probably in the foreseeable future) they're not doing as well as their counterparts in Japan, but there's great talent in their company that deserves to be on Microsoft's payroll on a permanent basis. I've always dreamt that the greatest RPG ever made in the future will combine the artistic sensibilities and creative storytelling of Japanese RPGs with the complex and challenging gameplay systems from Western games. Perhaps that is where the next evolution of RPGs will occur....a merging of the two cultures in design and ideas....

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Third World Gamer's Guide to Jumping In to Xbox 360 gaming

Are you a 'third world gamer'? Well, the truth is I only coined the term because I live in a third world country, the Philippines, and here console gaming is not officially supported by anyone. Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft (USA). They don't recognize our country, they don't see us on the map other than being good for offering technical support services. I can't blame them, though. The perception is, people in the Philippines don't have the 'disposable income' to engage in an expensive hobby like video gaming. This argument is usually given in ignorance of the fact that Filipinos do have some technical savvy. They are familiar with computers and the Internet. They spend on lavishly expensive cellular phones costing upwards of $400 or more. Filipinos know what a 'video game' is, and don't live in a country where there's only coconut trees everywhere (the common perception).

Anyway, this post is really for Filipinos here in the general Manila area who are thinking about 'JUMPING IN' to Xbox 360 gaming. Because of the lack of 'official support', jumping in to Xbox 360 gaming is quite hard for a Filipino here in Manila. There's the risk of the 3 Red Lights of Death (3RL), there's no warranties offered in most of the electronics stores that sell Xbox 360s. For foreigners reading this who live in a luxurious First World country....would you believe, a lot of stores here give you a 1 week warranty for buying any game console. ONE. WEEK. Imagine that. If you think about the hassles of getting 3RL and having to work with Microsoft to resolve your problem....imagine what a 'third world gamer' has to go through. Once a Third World Gamer's console breaks, that's it, $400 down the tubes. And we can't simply call Microsoft and have it fixed. They'll just give us the usual, "Sorry, but the Xbox 360 is unsupported in your area." If a Third World Gamer wants to continue gaming on the Xbox 360 (or any other console, for that matter), he has to shell out $400 again. And worry about getting 3RL on that newer console, too.

The thing is, the Playstation 3 and the Wii don't really offer a better deal for third world gamers either. Aside from the fact that both the PS3 and Wii are also unsupported in the Philippines, both of them right now have other inherent disadvantages. The Playstation 3 has no games right now. And the games it does have----most of them are of genres that are offered on the Xbox 360 already. The Wii's games are great for parties....but you wouldn't spend too much time with its games. They're fairly simplistic and get tiresome very quickly. The Xbox 360 has the most balanced lineup in comparison to its peers, despite the hardware hassles.

Now on to the guide. This is mostly relevant for gamers in Manila. I don't have a 'correspondent' in other parts of the Philippines, so I apologize if this is unhelpful to Filipinos living in other parts of the country.

I'M A GAMER FROM MANILA, AND I WANT TO BUY AN XBOX 360 CONSOLE BUT I'M AFRAID OF THE 3 RED LIGHTS OF DEATH. WHAT DO I DO?

Try to buy a game console from a store that offers a 1 year warranty for the Xbox 360. Finding such a store out there is a very difficult challenge, as most stores only offer a 1 week or 1 month warranty. Some offer a 6 month warranty but they're really offering a SERVICE WARRANTY which is still extremely risky, considering that their 'service personnel' likely doesn't know what they're doing if they get your broken machine and try to fix it.

The alternative I always offer is to buy from PINOYXBOX's Buy/Sell forums. Currently there is one seller there named DETHRO who sells Asian Xbox 360s for a good price, with a 1 year warranty. If something goes wrong, DETHRO will help you in resolving the problem with Microsoft in Hong Kong. There used to be another seller of Xbox 360s in Pinoyxbox, his name is Servo101. Unfortunately, recently his supplier has stopped offering the Xbox 360. It's not known if he will sell xbox 360's again in the future. So right now, Dethro at PINOYXBOX is your best bet.

Another alternative is to buy from Data Blitz, which can be found in most malls in Metro Manila. They offer the US Xbox 360 and I think they have a 6 month warranty. The reason why I'd recommend their console is because I know that their consoles are sealed and have not undergone any kind of modifications. Most other electronics stores/game stores in Manila are selling modified Xbox 360s, meant to play PIRATED GAMES (Because of the lack of official support, the activity of these stores remains unchecked). The thing is, it is extremely risky to buy from these sellers because you do NOT know if they aren't selling you a game console that has already been returned previously because of the 3RL problem. Since they open up the Xbox 360 to modify it, it's very easy for them to get one of their returned units and resell them full price. Once 3RL hits that unit, the store will just blame Microsoft for their hardware problems and not admit that they simply resold you a unit that was already defective to begin with. In a nutshell, it's VERY VERY RISKY to buy a modified/flashed Xbox 360 console, because of the high incidence of the 3 Red Lights problem. It's much safer to go with a completely sealed, brand new unit. Even if 3RL can happen on a sealed machine, the probability is far less, and there are alternatives you can pursue in order to prevent 3RL for your brand new XBox 360 console.

WHERE CAN I BUY ORIGINAL XBOX 360 GAMES?

Original Xbox 360 games can be bought in stores in Greenhills like Virtual Station, Celtex and Rockfire. Note that these stores sell ASIAN VERSION GAMES. For US version games, you have to buy those from Data Blitz, which can be found in most malls.

Take note of region compatibility before buying a game for your console. If your console is NTSC-J, it is Asian/Japanese and will work with NTSC-J games. If your console is NTSC-U it is a US console and will work with NTSC-U games. I don't know if any store here sells PAL systems, but if you happened to buy a PAL system, you have to buy PAL region games.

Another note: Some games for the Xbox 360 are region free. Consult these region compatibility guides for more information:



AS A GENERAL RULE (if you don't have time for searching through region guides)

These devs make usually region free games:
Activision
Capcom
Ubisoft

These devs usually region lock their games:
EA
Microsoft (though recently, games after Halo 3 are region free)
Namco
Sega
Konami

Consult the region compatibility guides to be sure.

Another place to buy games is from Pinoyxbox's very own SERVO101. He has a thread where he gets orders from gamers and then proceeds to deliver the games or make the games available for pick up. He sells Asian Version titles, though I think you can ask if he will offer a certain US version game up for pre-order. Here's his thread on PINOYXBOX:


I WANT TO SAVE SOME MONEY AND BUY A MODIFIED/FLASHED XBOX 360. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I think that's a bad idea. There are a lot of disadvantages to buying a modified Xbox 360:

1.
You WILL BE BANNED FROM XBOX LIVE. This makes you ineligible to download online content, updates and play online multiplayer. This is a huge disadvantage and practically ruins the value of your Xbox 360, considering most of the games on the console are best played BOTH offline and online. Even if you never plan on going online, it's still a wasted opportunity considering that broadband costs are going down in the Philippines, and you never know when you'll want to try online functionality on your Xbox 360.

2.
To modify your 360, you have to ask someone to tamper with your console. If the technician screws up, you may shorten the life of your system and get 3RL. If you do it yourself....well, if you really trust your ability then maybe you could pull it off. But the risk is definitely still there. The system is already quite prone to hardware problems; that fact is well documented. Don't make it worse than it already is by tampering with the software firmware on the DVD drive! You don't even know who wrote the code that is used to flash the system to play pirated games. How do you know that it isn't going to cause problems for you later on?

3.
You lose whatever warranty you have. I'm one of the crazies who believes that official support will come here to the Philippines eventually, in one form or the other. Once it does come, hopefully Microsoft can honor the 3 year extended warranty that they provide for the Xbox 360. Official support or not, you lose the warranty that comes with your system from the store/supplier you bought it from, if you tamper with it.

I'M REALLY AFRAID OF 3RL. IS THERE SOME OTHER WAY TO COMBAT THIS PROBLEM?

Actually, there is. While I do not condone modification of the system to play pirated games, I'm not against adding modifications to the cooling system on the Xbox 360 so that it doesn't overheat. In PINOYXBOX there is a person who offers a 3RL PREVENTION PACKAGE for Xbox 360s. His name is 360repair, and not only does he fix consoles with 3RL, he also modifies the cooling system so that the system will run less hot and thus be less prone to problems. According to his signature at Pinoyxbox, he has already helped repair over 140 Xbox 360s and protect them from 3RL. He can be contacted via this thread:


360repair has also fixed my brother's system and it's still working very well to this day, thanks to the improvements on the cooling system.

So there you have it, my short FAQ on how to "Jump In" to 360 gaming if you're a Third World Gamer from Manila. These questions usually get asked on our forums in http://www.pinoyxbox.com/, so I thought that writing up an FAQ like this might be more helpful in case more people in the future ask these same questions. Pursuing the video game hobby here in Manila isn't easy, but it isn't impossible either. It also helps that Xbox 360 gamers here have a very good community to turn to when it comes to learning more about the hardware and the games. The community also has a good sense of camaraderie when it comes to online battles. Just add up our members to your friends lists and you don't have to go into combat alone :D

Monday, January 28, 2008

We picked up LOST ODYSSEY today!


Pictured above: Servo101, Totoy Troso, Mystique QA, TeeJay, Scytherage, Yahoosoda, and Shinobi_ from PINOYXBOX.COM

Today we picked up Lost Odyssey from Pinoyxbox's Servo101 :D Met a couple of the other Pinoyxbox gamers and chatted up a bit about various things. Overall it seems everyone's really excited to give the game a shot!

A lot of the online feedback for LOST ODYSSEY has been very positive thus far, and right now I'm watching yahoosoda play it. The game looks quite impressive and well-polished. The thing that stood out for me at the start was the music....it sounds very grand/epic and really gives the game an epic feel right from the very beginning.

To see our progress with Lost Odyssey, check the TANKBLITZER gamertag below for achievements.

Are you a Pinoy gamer who is looking for the ASIAN VERSION (ENGLISH) for Lost Odyssey? I highly recommend buying from SERVO101 from Pinoyxbox. He offers very good prices for his original titles and is also a very friendly merchant to buy from. He definitely knows his games and even plays with PXB'ers in various multiplayer games like Kingdom Under Fire or Call of Duty 4.

Click this link and try to contact him if you'd like to buy LOST ODYSSEY or other upcoming titles, like NINJA GAIDEN, DEVIL MAY CRY 4, VIRTUA FIGHTER 5 or RAINBOW SIX VEGAS 2:

http://www.pinoyxbox.com/phpnuke/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=11826&start=2040

Recently released RESISTANCE 2 Screens were PHOTOSHOPPED - proof here.

The original screen from Sony's site:
"Sony is reaching in their bag of dirty 'ole tricks again. Remember the Killzone 2 screenshot scandal? Well, click on the link to see another failure. (You'd think that the first set of promo screens would've actually been looked after a bit more. Oh well. )"

My opinion? Why am I NOT surprised.... they've done this before, and it always works on their own fanboys. They will do this again, and they'll keep on doing it for so long as they never get called out for it. I say to Sony fanboys---it's your responsibility to KEEP SONY HONEST. Don't let them give you false promises. Your anger shouldn't be directed to the 'Xbox fans' who found this. It should be directed at Sony for letting them deceive you time and time again.

Remember Killzone 2? Remember those videos of Tekken 6 that never looked like the actual game? I think it's about time that Sony gets called out by its own fans. Unfortunately some fans will think that it's all about overwhelming the other fanbase---when the fact is, it's all about getting better products from these game companies and not letting ourselves be deluded by their marketing.

Let's keep them honest.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

REVIEW - VIRTUA FIGHTER 5 LIVE ARENA (XBOX 360)


Rating: GO BUY IT!

[Note: My writing style for this post is....I'm just writing like crazy, not really checking coherence and grammar, so bear with me. If you want to go straight to the 'review', look for the three asterisks “***”]

The Dead or Alive franchise by Team Ninja/Tecmo is the fighting game series that is usually associated with the Xbox platform. When DOA4 was released for the Xbox 360, I picked up a copy and was quite amazed with its efforts to incorporate a semi-realistic environment for the combat. Your characters fight in a variety of locations and the environments are highly interactive; you can kick players off bridges, smash them against fruit stands, knock over room walls in a Japanese styled house, and so on.



I guess the one thing that I never liked about Dead or Alive 4 was the learning curve. You could play the game casually and just mash the buttons and pray that you hit something. But if you wanted to explore the depth of the game, it was quite difficult. Some of the combinations were really, really long, elaborate strings of arrows and keypresses. And the scheme for reversing throws or other moves---I found it practically impossible to learn. Perhaps the biggest factor why I never got into Dead or Alive 4 is the online mode. Compared to other games on the Xbox 360, Dead or Alive's online mode was extremely laggy. I tried playing against players both from Asia, the United States and Europe....there's a timing issue with the way that it would capture your moves and translate them onscreen. I then came up with the personal conclusion that perhaps online modes for fighting games are impossible to implement, because of the precision and split second timing that most fighting games required.

Later on, Street Fighter II was released on Xbox Live Arcade; I purchased the game hoping it would have improved on DOA4's shortcomings online, but, unfortunately, that didn't happen.


By that point, it was solidified in my mind that fighting games are best enjoyed offline, with a party of friends over. I thought, no wonder the fighting game genre is dying....not everyone knows that many people who are really into fighting games these days. And since, I thought, online play was impossible to implement, I thought that fighting games were really on their way out.

Later on in 2007, it was announced that Virtua Fighter 5 was coming out for the Xbox 360. With online play.



Originally, I was really disappointed with SEGA when they saw fit to make the VF series exclusive on the PS3 platform. I didn't really have plans to buy a Playstation 3 because the console didn't have enough games, and I didn't like the way it handled achievements, friends lists and online play. So I thought that I'd never get the chance to enjoy the latest in the Virtua Fighter series.

I was really surprised when SEGA announced the Xbox 360 version. I was even more surprised later on when they decided to include an online mode. I thought to myself, this is SEGA we're talking about. Their recent releases for the Xbox 360 haven't really been stellar, so I was quite pessimistic about how VF5's online mode was going to work. The past Japanese fighting games I've played for the Xbox 360 didn't really improve my confidence in SEGA either. Perhaps it can be said that the SEGA now is only a shadow of the company that they used to be, and their major franchises are no longer the draw that they used to be.

***


When the demo for the Xbox 360 version of Virtua Fighter 5 was released, I was amazed with its graphics and the gameplay. It's noticeably slower than Dead or Alive 4, and it feels more like the original Street Fighter II games because of the pacing. Even the moves are easier to pull off, and they're easier to remember because they're 'Street Fighter' style moves, where one or two arrow presses plus a button or two would launch a move. That's in contrast to DOA4's set of moves, which were mostly long strings of arrows and keypresses. I was hyped to get the game...couple that with a bit of nostalgia, though; because I enjoyed the original Virtua Fighter arcade game and its sequel on the Sega Saturn.



Upon getting the game, the first thing I tried was the online mode. And I was very pleasantly surprised. This has got to be the best online fighting game I've played. The netcode in VF5 is superior to any other fighting game I've tried on the Xbox 360. Most of the online matches I've played since I bought this game last month have been lag-free. Of course there are a few exceptions, but for the most part, online implementation in VF5 is practically perfect, with your moves getting proper execution and timing the moment you want them to. I'm not exactly sure how SEGA did this; I recall reading an article early on for the Playstation 3 version that online mode for VF5 was impossible to pull off. The developer back then said something about the difficulty in having the precise movements of VF5 get reflected in the gameplay of an online environment. It was essentially a lengthy apology for Playstation fans, and most of them believed it. I can't imagine how frustrating it must be to find out later on that SEGA figured out how to implement online mode for the Xbox 360. I think Microsoft's superior development tools must have been a factor towards convincing SEGA that online mode for Virtua Fighter 5 can work.

The fighting game system in Virtua Fighter 5 is extremely deep. Compared to DOA4, where button mashing can let any amateur get away with a win or two, in VF5 the control scheme starts out simple but has a better learning curve if you want to be more skilled. Some special moves are fairly easy to pull off, while others take a bit more work. There also seem to be a set of moves for each character that are really hard to do, and in some cases, I think there are one or two moves which look practically impossible without a fighting stick of some kind. But for some reason I found myself more comfortable with Virtua Fighter 5's challenging control system compared to Dead or Alive 4. For me it seems there's more skill involved in playing VF5, and more satisfaction to be gained from winning. In DOA4 the problem was that half the time I didn't really know what I was doing, and whenever I won or lost, I wasn't exactly sure of the reason why. With VF5 the gameplay is more rewarding; the action is noticeably slower but it felt more 'understandable' to me, in the sense that I had some idea of why I was winning or losing some matches. You can really feel your gameplay skill improving each time you go online to challenge real opponents. At the time of this writing I've attained 3RD DAN with about 82 wins and 59 losses and Jacky as my main character. With the recent inclusion of the replay feature, online matches are even more enjoyable, since you can save your best online ownage, or even save the matches that you simply want to review and learn from when you lose.



From what I've read on Virtuafighter.com, many of the fans say that the A.I. in the Xbox 360 version is better and far more creative than the A.I. in the PS3 version. That's because you'll see the AI do a lot more creative combinations and occasionally they'll even do some of the lame tactics that some online players employ (using throws over and over, using the same move over and over....more or less that makes the AI feel 'human'). Don't worry, not all the AI players do lame tactics. I'm referring to the Quest Mode of the game, where you go from arcade to arcade to advance in skill as a Virtua Fighter player. Some AI will really test your mettle, while others will help you learn a thing or two about how real players might try to steal a win from you. Quest mode is really well implemented even if it doesn't offer the usual fighting game plot (“fighters from all over the globe gather for some world championship and on the side if you lose the bad guys will take over the world....”). VF5 does have an arcade mode but for the most part there isn't really a plot and there is no real 'ending' for the characters once you finish a run through of arcade mode. Players who crave some kind of side-plot for each character will definitely be disappointed by this. VF5 is really focused on competitive play, and getting better with each match provides a unique kind of satisfaction that you can't get anywhere else.

The fighting itself in Virtua Fighter 5 has less flash than Tekken or DOA4. You won't see explosions bursting from your fists and kicks or fireballs getting released from your characters palms. Probably the most 'unrealistic' aspect of Virtua Fighter 5 is the jumping and floating of the characters. Despite the lack of flash, watching fights in Virtua Fighter 5 can be intense and very entertaining. The addition of offensive moves, defensive moves and reversals can allow a player who seems to be seriously beaten to suddenly come back into the fight and take the win; and this doesn't happen so often that it becomes lame. The fighters in the game are all fairly balanced; and it seems to me that they all have unique moves that aren't similar to each other. Take Sarah and Jacky for example; they're supposedly brother and sister in the game but you don't see them having exactly the same kind of fighting style. The characters might have moves common to all of them but there are only really a few of those (mid kicks, knee attacks etc.); for the most part, each character has a set of moves unique to them that gives them some advantage in a certain area but not others. (For example, Jacky doesn't have that many low attack combinations and low throws, but he does have a great number of mid attacks that can be devastating if they aren't blocked or countered).



Overall, Virtua Fighter 5 for the Xbox 360 provides quite a universe of gameplay experience, despite the lack of any real 'game plot/storyline' to bring the characters together. If you want to know the 'supposed' plot of VF5, visit viruafighter.com's wiki page for the game. Personally I think the plot that SEGA wrote is just in place for those looking for it; the focus is really on competitive play, and the satisfaction one can get from getting better each time one plays against another player. With the inclusion of online play, Virtua Fighter 5 for the Xbox 360 offers the most complete, authentic Virtua Fighter experience. On a side note, in my country there are absolutely no VF5 machines to be found anywhere. I'm probably out of luck when it comes to finding fellow VF5 communities here in the Philippines. Even on Pinoyxbox, Virtua Fighter 5 doesn't really have a solid following, so I can't expect that many players that I can meet in real life to play against. So the ONLINE MODE of the Xbox 360 version is a real godsend! Now I can find other players who enjoy the VF5 fighting system as much as I do, and enjoy lag-free competitive online fighting. With the recent inclusion of the ability to save online replays and some bug fixes to combat players that disconnect from matches, Virtua Fighter 5 is shaping itself to be one of the best fighting series for this generation of consoles. I'm sure that even more improvements will be made for the inevitable upgrade for VF5 (rumored to be VF5: Evolution which is due out later in 2008).

Lastly, occasionally I read on forums that there are some Xbox 360 players who did not buy Virtua Fighter 5 because they hold a grudge against SEGA for originally going exclusive with Sony. I think they're being ridiculous for doing so. Not only are these fans missing out on a great fighting system, they're also missing out on the first practically lag-free online fighting game on the Xbox 360. At the very least, these fans should also recognize that SEGA did give the Xbox 360 the BEST version of Virtua Fighter 5, with lag-free online play, online replays, the latest revision of VF5 from the arcades, and great AI which plays like human players more often than it should. From what I've read online, SEGA did really want to make VF5 multiplatform; at the last minute, Sony was looking to complete their portfolio of games, and thus bought out VF5 exclusivity, at the behest of SEGA's developers. Once SEGA executives saw the sales numbers for the Xbox 360, they realized their mistake, and approved the release of the Xbox 360 version. Is it not unusual that SEGA released VF5 for the 360 so quickly, and with more improvements, in such a short time frame? I've reason to believe they've always had the 360 version, even before the announcement of PS3 exclusivity. It's just that Sony jumped on them first. Also, the lack of support from Xbox 360 gamers for Virtua Fighter 5 is disturbing...I just wonder, do Xbox 360 fans not want to try a more diverse set of games? Every so often you'll see a post on a forum complaining that the Xbox 360's games are all shooters and racing games; and then you have games like VF5, Ace Combat 6 or PGR4 come out---and they don't sell! Or, they don't sell as much as their First Person Shooter counterparts. It's as if Xbox 360 fans want to keep the Xbox as the first person shooter platform. I'm of a different persuasion. I want to see more diverse games on Microsoft's platforms, and that's why I'm supporting games like this, Ace Combat 6, and eventually Devil May Cry 4 and Lost Odyssey. If Xbox 360 gamers stop supporting games like this, eventually we'll be stuck with military styled shooters again, and that's a blow to expecting more diversity for the Xbox 360's lineup of titles.

SEGA isn't really what they used to be, but Virtua Fighter 5 shows the glory that they once had---they've still got it. They just have to figure out their place in today's highly competitive next-generation gaming space.


********

For Pinoys shopping around looking for the Asian version of Virtua Fighter 5, I saw copies in ROCKFIRE, V-mall Greenhills. They're selling copies there for only PHP 2,000. You'll notice that the Asian version has a JAPANESE BOX and a JAPANESE manual; however, note that the entire game can be played in ENGLISH if you set the language on your XBOX 360 to ENGLISH. If you'd like to read the contents of the JAPANESE manual, simply go to http://www.virtuafighter.com/ and visit their Virtua Fighter 5 WIKI. The contents of the manual are practically translated on their wiki, and the wiki also has a lot of information that can help you become a better Virtua Fighter player.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Eternal Sonata - Cutscene Galore

By Monday, next week, I will have my most anticipated JRPG for the XBOX 360, Lost Odyssey. A month ago, after the release of the Japanese version, I was so tempted to spoil myself silly by watching all the event cutscenes in the game in NicoVideo. I was so close to ordering the Japanese version in Play-Asia when I remembered that my Japanese skills are extremely rusty.

Luckily, I picked up Eternal Sonata which help ease the pain of not having Lost Odyssey at the moment. So in commemoration of my pending Lost Odyssey copy and a big kudos to Namco for actually making a spectacular looking JRPG, here are the cutscenes from Eternal Sonata, sans the super long introduction and the final chapter of the story.

Photobucket


Chapter 1: Raindrops
Part 1:
http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/149081.html

Part 2: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/149099.html

Part 3: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/149393.html

Part 4: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/149407.html
Part 5: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/149432.html

Chapter 2: Revolution
Part 1: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/149478.html
Part 2: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/149502.html
Part 3: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/149617.html
Part 4: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/149842.html

Chapter 3: Fantaisie Impromptu
Part 1: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/149880.html
Part 2: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/149935.html

Chapter 4: Grande Valse Brillante
Part 1: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/150598.html
Part 2: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/151264.html

Chapter 5: Nocturne
Part 1: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/151347.html
Part 2: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/151646.html
Part 3: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/154076.html

Chapter 6: Tristesse
Part 1: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/154566.html
Part 2: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/154619.html

Anecdote(s) from NEOGAF: is Sony stuffing the channels?

To be fair, no, this isn't really a news item at all; it just piqued my curiousity as I was looking through NEOGAF. This is a forum thread entitled "Did Sony stuff the channels?":

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=231409

And the thread starts with two photos from one Best Buy (that's why this isn't really news; it's more of an interesting set of pics). One is of a shelf with a lot of unsold Playstation 3's:

And the other picture is of a shelf where the same Best Buy was displaying Xbox 360s. There were only two units on the shelf and they were both Xbox 360 Arcade units (the most inexpensive SKU). The poster who took the photos insists that these were the only Xbox 360s left in the store:


Of course, in the same NEOGAF thread, bickering commences over how this one set of pictures for one store should be representative of how PS3/Xbox 360 sales are in the United States. Later on, another poster posts another picture of overstocked Playstation 3s, to further insist on the point that the damn things aren't selling in the USA:

Based on the recent December NPD figures, Sony really is far behind Microsoft in console sales; so while these pictures aren't objective nor indicative of sales in the United States, taken together with the information given by the NPD, one can see that Sony has a serious uphill battle to face against their rivals Microsoft and Nintendo.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

February issue of EGM says Ninja Gaiden 2 will be available on the Playstation 3.


Apparently Ninja Gaiden 2 is coming out for the Playstation 3. This is from the February issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM).

Taken from this forum thread:
http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=230678

For the slow ones in the audience---before you start jumping for joy at this news, remember that Ninja Gaiden 2 is being published by Microsoft Game Studios....so technically, this one is impossible.

Misprint or sneaky Sony propaganda?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Oh look, more FANFICTION in video game writing!

http://www.next-gen.biz/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8734&Itemid=2

It's blanket statements like this that make me LOL. No, wait....statements like this make me LOVVLAROTFLMAO:

"But the PlayStation brand and the Sony brand have survived. They have clung on. They are still here. And now they are going to come back into play. The battle against Xbox 360 (let’s leave Wii aside for now) is not over. In fact, it’s only just beginning. And PlayStation will be the ultimate winner, although what that actually means is something I reckon is worth analysing in its own right."

Oh my goodness. So funny!!!

The craziness never ceases in paid advertising game journalism.

More delusionary video game writing here....including all my arguments against it. Why reiterate what's already been said before?

This generation's console battle (between Sony and Microsoft) is already over. Sony should be looking towards the next generation (2010 and beyond) for any chance of success, because the hole they've dug themselves into is far, far too deep:

1. Sony has lost too many third-parties to Microsoft (in the USA and in Japan. Japan sales are lackluster for the Xbox 360 but Japanese developer support for the Xbox 360 is unparalleled in the history of the platform).

2. Sony's installed base won't ever catch up with the 360 given the incredible sales in the United States (the only market which really matters to third party software makers worldwide)

3. In terms of looking at their business, Sony's hurting pretty badly considering their dismal console software sales (a key part of making money in the console business is to sell a lot of software---which Sony has never accomplished at all, since launch). The Playstation 3 is burning a hole in Sony's bottom line. The press never covers this fact because it's just beyond their level of understanding to see the significance of it for their future performance (less profits means less marketing for future games, less big exclusives in the future, etc etc...)

4. As a hardware device, the Playstation 3 may be more reliable, but time and again it's been stated (by third parties in various interviews) that developing games on the PS3 is far more complex than for the Xbox 360, and that may explain the weak support that the machine is getting from developers worldwide. The delays for key games like Final Fantasy 13 and Metal Gear Solid 4 attest to this assertion. The complexity of the Playstation 3 hardware may be great on paper, but because of this, developers are unable to deliver games for the platform in a timely manner, and in my opinion, this is what hurts the Playstation 3 the most. Games sell consoles. Software sells hardware. And until Sony can establish a very solid library of titles for the PS3 that comes out with some regularity throughout the year, it will be difficult to convince console gamers who already own the Xbox 360 or the Wii to invest in a third machine for their gaming needs.

5. From the very beginning, Sony's Playstation 3 has suffered from an identity crisis. Is it a blu-ray player or a gaming device? This lack of focus is one of the things that has hurt the platform severely. For one thing, it made the console incredibly expensive at the outset, ruining its reputation with gamers early on in the race. Blu ray also does nothing for game developers, considering the machine only has 256MB of video RAM and 256MB of system RAM. The massive storage media is meaningless from a game design standpoint, considering that one is still limited by the available RAM. If the PS3 had upwards of 2GB of RAM or better, the massive storage space of blu-ray media would have been well justified.

What video game writers could do for Sony, instead of giving them even more false hope for this generation, is to encourage the company to jump the gun on Microsoft. Release the next Playstation earlier than the next Xbox, with a Final Fantasy/Metal Gear Solid sequel bundled with the hardware on launch. For this generation, Sony should just content itself with third place, try to sell as much hardware as it can, but they shouldn't waste their resources on impossible ambitions.

And video game writers like Colin Campbell should stick to posting fanboy dreamz on http://www.neogaf.com/forums . His "Editor's View" is no different from the usual Sony fanboy tripe that you'll find there every day.

Friday, January 18, 2008

December NPD Video Game Sales Figures

The latest sales figures for the US gaming market have been released by the NPD Group:

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=229157

HW Sales
System December 2007 Annual 2007
PlayStation 2 1.1 million 3.97 million
PlayStation 3 797.6 K 2.56 million
PlayStation Portable 1.06 million 3.82 million
Xbox 360 1.26 million 4.62 million
Wii 1.35 million 6.29 million
Nintendo DS 2.47 million 8.50 million

Top 10 SW Sales
360 CALL OF DUTY 4: MODERN WARFARE ACTIVISION (CORP) NOV 2007 MATURE (M) *1 1.47 million
WII SUPER MARIO GALAXY NINTENDO OF AMERICA NOV 2007 EVERYONE (E) 2 1.40 million
PS2 GUITAR HERO III: LEGENDS OF ROCK ACTIVISION (CORP) OCT 2007 TEEN (T) *3 1.25 million
WII PLAY W/ REMOTE NINTENDO OF AMERICA FEB 2007 EVERYONE (E) 4 1.08 million
360 ASSASSIN'S CREED UBISOFT NOV 2007 MATURE (M) *5 893.7 K
360 HALO 3 MICROSOFT (CORP) SEP 2007 MATURE (M) *6 742.7 K
NDS BRAIN AGE 2: MORE TRAINING IN MINUTES A NINTENDO OF AMERICA AUG 2007 EVERYONE (E) 7 659.5 K
PS2 MADDEN NFL 08 ELECTRONIC ARTS AUG 2007 EVERYONE (E) 8 655.2 K
360 GUITAR HERO III: LEGENDS OF ROCK ACTIVISION (CORP) OCT 2007 TEEN (T) 9 624.6 K
WII MARIO AND SONIC: OLYMPIC GAMES SEGA OF AMERICA NOV 2007 EVERYONE (E) 10 613.0 K

Top 10 SW Annaul
360 HALO 3 MICROSOFT (CORP) SEP 2007 MATURE (M) *1 4.82 million
WII PLAY W/ REMOTE NINTENDO OF AMERICA FEB 2007 EVERYONE (E) 2 4.12 million
360 CALL OF DUTY 4: MODERN WARFARE ACTIVISION (CORP) NOV 2007 MATURE (M) *3 3.04 million
PS2 GUITAR HERO III: LEGENDS OF ROCK ACTIVISION (CORP) OCT 2007 TEEN (T) *4 2.72 million
WII SUPER MARIO GALAXY NINTENDO OF AMERICA NOV 2007 EVERYONE (E) 5 2.52 million
NDS POKEMON DIAMOND VERSION NINTENDO OF AMERICA APR 2007 EVERYONE (E) 6 2.48 million
PS2 MADDEN NFL 08 ELECTRONIC ARTS AUG 2007 EVERYONE (E) 7 1.90 million
PS2 GUITAR HERO 2 ACTIVISION (CORP) NOV 2006 TEEN (T) *8 1.89 million
360 ASSASSIN'S CREED UBISOFT NOV 2007 MATURE (M) *9 1.87 million
WII MARIO PARTY 8 NINTENDO OF AMERICA MAY 2007 EVERYONE (E) 10 1.82 million

*Includes Collector's, Limited, Legendary, Bundles (Guitars) Editions

Industry Totals
Dec-07 CHG
Video Games $4.82 billion 28%
Video Games Hardware $1.83 billion 17%
Console Hardware $1.3 billion 21%
Portable Game Hardware $525.7K 7%
Video Games Software $2.37 billion 36%
Console Software $1.8 billion 47%
Portable Game Software $574.9K 11%

Video Game Accessories $621.6K 37%


"The U.S. Video Games industry rose an astounding 43% in 2007 bolstered by strong performance in every product category, to achieve a record-shattering $17.9B in sales. While hardware sales realized the greatest percentage growth over 2006 due to the closely scrutinized console hardware transition, each category under the video games industry umbrella reached their own "personal bests" in terms of annual sales."

"While I wouldn't count on similar growth in 2008, I would expect to see 2008 increase over 2007, with more growth (proportionately) coming from software sales. While we will continue to see strong hardware sales, particularly if prices come down again, the spotlight now turns from hardware to software."


The following graphs show the big picture (posted by Bildi at Neogaf)





Thursday, January 17, 2008

Virtua Fighter 5 gets a free, major update from SEGA


SEGA just released a free, major update for the Xbox 360 version of Virtua Fighter 5. Here are the details:

"VIRTUA FIGHTER 5 (XBOX 360) UPDATE NOW AVAILABLE

Subtle Changes Improves the Perfect Fighting Game

LONDON (16th January, 2008) – SEGA Europe Ltd. today announced it has released a new downloadable patch for Virtua Fighter™ 5, the critically acclaimed arcade fighting game now available for the Xbox 360™ video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. The patch will include a number of gameplay additions and enhancements including:

*Some characters will now be able to select costume-specific pants in alternate costumes, for example equipping Costume A pants in Costume B.
*Replays of online battles can now be saved.
*One additional item per character (appear as "Downloaded item" in Costume settings/Item edit dialog).
*Gamer pictures will now be shown in online battles.
*After winning the World Tournament Final, it's now more likely that rivals you have not defeated will be playing in arcades.
*When someone joins an online match, you can now see their connection quality.
*Various fixes for minor bugs, including a texture bug.
*Easier sorting of rankings.
*Rematches in Online VS. Player Matches now possible even when the players haven't added their opponent to their friend list "


Kudos to SEGA for adding even more improvements to the Xbox 360 version, which now not only benefits from online play, but the addition of the ability to record replays of your online matches!

Source: http://virtuafighter.com/forums/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/189999

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

DELUSIONARY Game Journalism 101 - Rob Fahey from Gameindustry.biz

The following article is a great example of the DELUSIONARY writing that often goes on in the gaming industry.


Read the article above first, and then, read what I have to say below.

Rob Fahey, I'm sure Microsoft-bashing will win you a Pulitzer. It just never goes out of style.

That was probably the worst gaming-related article I've ever read recently...just another example of game journalism written with heavy, nostalgic anchors to the past of console gaming, and some delusionary ideas of how console gaming is today.

That said, I will say this: To believe that Sony is in a position to take the lead from the Xbox 360 is a completely crazy idea nestled in the belief that "they've succeeded before, they're likely to succeed again!". When have we heard that said before? I recall E3 2005 and these same 'game journalists' were saying the same thing. "The Xbox 360 won't win. It doesn't have a next-gen optical disc drive. It's too expensive. The Playstation 3 can render photorealistic sweat....just check out the real time videos of Tekken 6!"

How I laughed later on when we saw the REAL screens for Tekken 6. What was funny wasn't Namco's work, though...it was remembering how stupid and easily gullible these game journalists can get when it comes to Sony's hype train. And the fanboys who also fell for it were equallly as laughable (if not, more so, because of their inability to think for themselves and realize that they were being taken for a ride).

Now the mantra is different: "Because of the 3 Red Lights of Death, the Xbox 360 is destined to fail....Because Microsoft didn't show [us important gaming journalists] anything at CES [which, *I'M SURE* is *SUPPOSED TO BE* a video gaming convention [/sarcasm]], Microsoft is destined to fail in 2008. Because Microsoft doesn't have a cute plumber or appeal to ages 7 and below, they are already a failure and can't beat the Nintendo Wii."

I'm SURE Microsoft cares what you think, Rob Fahey. Meanwhile, right now, they're swimming in console software sales like Scrooge McDuck, are practically overwhelmed on a daily basis with more subscriptions to Xbox Live, and are scrambling to take care of the 3RL problem thanks to the newer Falcon units.

Month after month for the past year, Microsoft has dominated the software charts, and I won't be surprised when December NPD figures get released, Microsoft's first party and third party games will surpass the competition yet again. It's not only a determinant of success for today; it practically guarantees success in the future because it will convince third parties to stay with the platform, which is what really matters in any console race. With consoles, software sells hardware. It's never the other way around.

Regarding the increasing number of subscriptions to Xbox Live, as a gamer I've definitely felt this because whenever I log in, it's noticeably slower than in previous months. Xbox Live has never encountered this many users, and while others may see this as a disaster, I see it more as a triumph. Because Microsoft has finally achieved the goals that they were aiming for with Xbox Live, which is mass acceptance. They've finally done it. Over the years I've read (again from these self-proclaimed 'professional game journalists') that Xbox Live will never gain mass acceptance because it's a paid service. Fast forward to today, and Sony's free online gaming service for the Playstation 3 is lagging behind Xbox Live, not just in subscriber base but also in terms of overall services and features. Over time, I've seen the network become better able to cope with the massive traffic; and in recent days, the issues have practically disappeared. So begins the new era for Microsoft's gaming console.

As for the 3 Red Lights of Death (also known as 'the last best hope for Microsoft bashing'), while it is true that it remains to be seen if Falcon will fix their issues, at least some steps have been taken, and with the better warranty that Microsoft is offering in officially supported territories, I don't even understand why this Fahey guy is complaining.

Microsoft has a 17.7 million unit lead against Sony. Shipped or sold? Does it matter? Would a retailer buy a console to sell from Microsoft if they were only planning to put it in the basement? Slower console sales compared to previous years? Is that bad news, or is that simply a case of spin? 17 million consoles out there is no joke. Show that to any third-party worth their salt and they just KNOW they have to make games for your platform.

Furthermore, regarding Microsoft not showing much at CES...do they really have to show anything? Personally, I applaud the fact that they're being more careful with releasing news and information on new games. Because there's nothing worse than to show off a 40% complete game and have it written off by these 'intelligent' game journalists for 'framerate issues' (with their obligatory 'this game sucks ass' canned paragraphs.).

Then there's the 'cars and guns' argument. Is Rob Fahey talking about the games industry and its market, or is he talking about himself and his own tastes? The fact is, those games do sell, and they do have a market. The software figures for the past few months tell the whole story. Interest in first-person shooters and racing games is at an all-time high; that's just the way it is whether he likes it or not. Even his beloved Playstation 3 only has 'cars and guns' to show for. Resistance, Unreal Tournament 3, Motorstorm, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue....yep, cars and guns. Even the much heralded Metal Gear Solid 4 due to arrive some time this year, involves guns in some way. So I don't understand, what's with the hate for 'cars and guns'? Is it a matter of personal taste? Why should anyone take Rob Fahey seriously when he's obviously only writing about himself? He writes:

"On the software front, Microsoft seemingly remains convinced that there is a single "mass market" which can be attracted by building a handful of games in key areas. The reality is very different; the "mass market" is merely a collection of a huge number of niches, and it's this vast diaspora of tastes which Sony has been excellent at providing for. The PlayStation consoles have played host to a bewildering variety of software for different gaming tastes, and that's why they achieved mass market success - simply funding a few JRPGs and deliberately "quirky" titles isn't going to emulate this. An overhaul of how Microsoft approaches software development for its platforms as a whole may be required to nurture that kind of game library. "

And yet, the existing (and future) lineup for the Playstation 3 does not really deliver 'a bewildering variety of software for different gaming tastes'. Most of its games right now are also First Person Shooters and Racing games, and it also has only a handful of JRPGs in existence and in development. Is Rob Fahey writing for 2008 or is he writing for 1998?

Oh right, the Playstation 3 has Final Fantasy 13. Which is considered the impregnable fortress of the Playstation fandom. And yet, Final Fantasy 13 doesn't even exist except in concept videos/CG. I will never understand why most game journalists keep on falling for it. An RPG that does exist today, Mass Effect, doesn't get enough recognition (and instead only gets called out for its two sex scenes), while a game that only exists as a non-playable video gets heralded time and again as the second coming of RPGs. I wouldn't be surprised if FF13 gets 10s all over the place, only because it makes a game journalists' job easier (do they really have to play the game? They just have to give it a perfect score, no one will check whether they really played it.)

The problem with Rob Fahey and with most game journalists I've read articles from these days is that they're living in the past and cater to older fans who sometimes stare wistfully to the Far East all the time. I think people like Fahey and the rest of his ilk should realize that there's an entire market out there that has probably never even played a previous Final Fantasy game, whose first RPG will be something like Mass Effect or Lost Odyssey. If the writing was less about the game journalists themselves and their own ridiculous fandoms and about what gaming is today and where it's going, then maybe I'd respect them more and listen to what they have to say.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

OFF TOPIC: Starting out with Photography :D

We live in a condominium unit in AIC Gold Tower, a building in Ortigas Center, Pasig City. The unit we live in has a balcony which has this absolutely fantastic view overlooking the rest of Ortigas and faces the sunrise every morning.

A year ago we found out that one of the resident famed billionaires in this third world country, Lucio Tan, bought off the land in front of our building, and is now going to build his own condominium, called Eton Emerald Lofts. They're constructing the building right in front of our own building, and because of this, we are going to eventually lose the majestic view of the city that we currently have.

That said, there isn't really much we can do about that one. Perhaps if I had a truckload of money I'd buy some units from Eton Emerald Lofts (the unit we live in right now is nice, but the truth is I don't own it....I'm just renting it). So one day [with full knowledge that I probably won't be able to afford it] we visited the sales office for Eton Emerald Lofts nearby. What we saw was astonishingly....

...disappointing.

Sometimes I wonder to myself, with all the condominium projects ongoing in Manila, do these ultra-rich tycoons even think about the living conditions that they're subjecting people to? In a nutshell, I was disappointed because the living space in Eton Emerald Lofts is small.

Really, really small. The claustrophobic would probably kill themselves after spending a night in one of their units.

I mean, here's some pics of the unit we were able to rent at AIC Gold Tower:

Notice for the ones with attention deficit disorder: The picture above is NOT a model unit of Eton Emerald Lofts. It's a picture of a unit in AIC Gold Tower. That's just the living room. There are other rooms in there as well. Without going into specifics, here's the hallway leading to the other rooms at our unit in AIC.


If you live in a unit like that, would you buy any of those tiny lofts being offered at Eton Emerald Lofts? If you offered the units at Eton up for rent, who'd be crazy enough to rent from you?

Compared to ETON's supposed 'Lofts'....their units are barely the size of our kitchen! And they're selling those tiny condominium units for some ridiculously expensive prices, too. Ah, the glory of real estate value and speculation....

The size of Eton Emerald Lofts will be impressive, however....over 41 floors, so it will clearly overshadow our own building.

There goes our view :(

Now, since investing in a unit at Eton Emerald Lofts is now completely out of the question (considering the price, size, and quality of the units that they're offering), me and my wife decided that the best way to preserve the majestic view of our condo unit is to take pictures. Lots and lots and LOTS of pictures. We invested in an Olympus E510 10.0 Megapixel DSLR camera with two lenses, proceeded to learn a bit of photography, and then took a truckload of photos.

Yeah, it's quite bulky compared to a point-and-click digital camera...but the pictures it takes are simply stunning!

So, yeah, we're starting out with photography. I don't think we're going to be that deep into it, though....but we are having a lot of fun with it. Reading up online, I just found out how expensive photography can get....it's even more expensive than gaming! But there's better official support for taking up photography in the Philippines than for buying a video game console.

Here's a link to some of our photos from the majestic view in AIC Gold Tower.

And here's some samples, too:







Don't worry, we'll get back to console gaming again....just blogging a little bit about real life. We will continue to upload interesting photos at flickr.com....check every so often for more :D There's also a link to our flickr site on the right column of this blog.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Game Companies Pull Support for EGM --- A GOOD thing

I'm posting my reaction to this...

http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=8568051&publicUserId=5379799

Now, I'm pretty sure that some of the fans of these sites will be crying foul for what has happened but I agree with the course of action that Ubisoft and the other companies have undertaken. Why?

Because game reviews are taking a different landscape these days. 10 years ago, gamers only had access to gaming information through print magazines such as EGM. Back then, they wrote well and whatever biases that they had for certain products was pretty much oblivious. These days, its different. EGM / 1UP, appears at the forefront of the fanboy wars instigating rabid forum discussions with baseless rumors and pathetic reviews / impressions. This trend is not seen on EGM/1UP alone, other publications and major gaming sites like IGN and Gamespot are also at fault.

Why are these 'journalist' resorting to sensationalism? It's simple really...

The Internet.

These days, thousands of gaming sites/blogs have mushroomed all over the internet. Gaming news is spread all over the world in a matter of seconds with fanboys anticipating every second by repeated browser refresh clicks. Pictures, reviews, impressions, scans and even translations of Japanese, German, Chinese, Korean, etc etc news become available in a blink of an eye. By the time these publications publish their magazine, the news is old by the standards of the internet savvy gamer.

So publications like EGM, promote their online presence to make up for the lateness of their magazine. But how can they compete with the rest of the gaming sites/blogs is the reason why I think their site has lost credibility. EGM/1UP has put a lot of stock in their podcasts and web articles wherein much of the content happen to be baseless rumors or 'fanboy' heavy opinion/impressions. While there are gamers who still believe that the stuff EGM/1UP says holds more credibility than other small-time gaming sites, their recent streak of 'wrong' predictions and fanboy laced comments has disappointed several gamers, including me.

I am sick of reading comments, reviews, impressions of 'PAID' writers that mimic the writings of a grade schooler. I am sick of having to read comments that do nothing but fuel the console fanboy war like crazy. I am sick of reading a game preview that does nothing but project sarcasm. It's bad enough that you pay for a magazine where the news is a month old, its even worse that readers are subjected to unprofessional writing wherein bulk of the content is a matter of personal opinion.

Granted, there are some bad games and back then game companies turned to magazines such as EGM to gauge the impressions of its readers and staff after the preview article has been published. But these days, game companies need to just surf the internet and check out gaming blogs and forums just to see what the public thinks. The Internet also allowed the distribution of promotional media to be much easier than before and to some extent its completely free. We also see the rise of downloadable video game playable demos, where the actual gamer can sit there, play the game before purchasing it before making up his own mind.

The times have certainly changed for gaming publications. EGM/1UP blew an opportunity to raise their publication's standards in this day and age. These guys have contacts, they know people from all over the industry and yet they settle for subpar writing and lame opinion publication. As a gamer, I would rather they talked about the industry in a more objective manner, discuss the trends in game development and education rather than looking wistfully to the East towards Japan and its daydream game capital of the 80s.

It's very unfortunate but it just shows everyone the videogame industry continues to evolve.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Microsoft memo reveals more Xbox 360 exclusives to come in 2008

Dean Takahashi received this interesting memo from Microsoft:
http://www.mercextra.com/blogs/takahashi/2008/01/06/meanwhile-this-xbox-360-memo-showed-up-in-my-inbox/

"Team,

These are truly exciting times for us in the Interactive Entertainment Business.

Tonight Bill Gates and Robbie Bach will take the stage in Las Vegas to kick off the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where it will be announced that according to US NPD data through November, Xbox 360 is on track to register the biggest year in video game history.

While final sales numbers are still being collected, consumers in North America have spent over $3.5 billion dollars on Xbox 360 hardware, software and accessories. That’s $1 billion more than consumers spent on the Wii, and $2 billion more than the PS3. When December data is added, we expect Xbox 360 in 2007 to have generated more calendar year revenue than any other gaming platform ever, including PS2 at its peak.

Thank you all for your hard work. It’s because of your efforts this holiday and throughout the previous year that we’ve been able to drive this historic growth and sell over 17.7 million consoles worldwide. Our growth also continues online, where I’m proud to announce we have surpassed the 10 million member mark on Xbox LIVE, over six months ahead of schedule.

This growth, however, is not limited to just Microsoft and Xbox 360. The work that you do is also driving growth throughout our industry’s entire ecosystem. History has shown that the eventual winner of each console generation was the console that generated the most 3rd party revenue, and according to the most recent NPD data, Xbox 360 generated more 3rd party revenue in 2007 than Nintendo and Sony combined.

In 2007 the best games in our industry were on our platform, driving better-than-expected sales results for both first and third party games:

· “Halo 3” sold 8.1 million units worldwide and logged over 1.5 billion multiplayer matches since launch – that’s an average of 14 million matches a day

· “Mass Effect” sold 1.6 million units worldwide, after just five weeks on the market

· We expect at least seven different franchise titles to have sold in excess of one million units on Xbox 360, including “Halo 3,” “Mass Effect,” “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare,” “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock,” “BioShock,” “Assassin’s Creed” and “Madden NFL 08”

· “Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action” has already achieved its total FY08 revenue budget in just two months, helping establish a new franchise for the Xbox 360 that reaches out to a broad audience of social gamers

· Xbox 360 titles have received the highest average review scores this generation according to Metacritic, with the majority of cross-platform titles posting higher review scores on Xbox 360 than PS3

At CES Robbie will announce new content and partnerships that cement our position as the clear leader in delivering digital entertainment to the living room. Right now Xbox LIVE Marketplace features over 3,500 total hours of downloadable content and has hosted more than 380 million downloads, along with the largest library of on-demand, high definition content in the US. Now, Xbox LIVE Marketplace will add TV and movie content from the Disney-ABC Television Group and MGM Studios, bringing hits to our platform including TV shows Lost and Grey’s Anatomy and movies including Legally Blonde, Silence of the Lambs and Barbershop.

Robbie will also announce an exciting new partnership with BT to offer a first-of-its kind complete entertainment experience to all BT broadband customers by making Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) available through Xbox 360 through BT’s service BT Vision. This groundbreaking partnership will bring BT’s extensive library of on-demand content to the Xbox 360 and give consumers yet another option to get high definition content on our platform.

This year’s CES also proves to be exciting for Microsoft as a whole, with Bill Gates introducing a new wave of software-based services for TV, online, mobile phones and automobiles.

Moving Forward

Looking ahead, I believe we will close 2008 with Xbox 360 being the leader of this generation of consoles.

We’ve led our industry in developing and publishing great games on a platform that is equal parts hardware, software and services. We’ve led in driving growth for our partners at record rates. Now, it is our mission to fully deliver on our promise for Xbox 360 to be the console of choice for everyone in the family.

This year will be judged by which console will best capture core gamers and captivate the masses with both exciting new gaming content and access to great movie and TV content online. By this measurement, I feel confident that we are best positioned for success.

Games

We have the big blockbuster hits that everyone wanted to play. Of the top 20 best-selling titles in 2007 this generation, 13 were on Xbox 360, compared to seven on the Wii and zero on the PS3 according to NPD.

Games sell better on Xbox 360 because they play better on Xbox 360. From “Halo 3” to “Mass Effect” to “Bioshock,” Xbox 360 has the highest-rated and hottest games. In fact, Xbox 360 has 6 of the top 10 highest-ranked games this generation according to Metacritic, the world-wide authority in entertainment reviews.

When you look at the best-reviewed games, consumers will find that Xbox 360 has more than double the number of titles (81) with a Metacritic score of 80 or higher than PS3 (40), and six times more than the Wii (13).

In 2008 the hits will continue to come with exclusives including “Halo Wars,” “Too Human,” “Fable 2,” Alan Wake,” “Splinter Cell: Conviction,” and several exciting yet-to-be-announced titles. Xbox 360 will be home to the next versions of great franchises like Grand Theft Auto and Resident Evil, and we will continue to be the leading choice for sports fans, with the next editions of Madden and FIFA looking and playing better on our platform.

Consumers also get a more complete experience from their games on our platform, with many of 2007’s biggest hits coming back in 2008 with additional downloadable content through Xbox LIVE. It’s our ability to keep titles fresh for consumers with new content and new experiences that will keep Xbox 360 as the console of choice for multi-platform titles. In fact, Xbox 360 will be home to the complete version of “Grand Theft Auto IV,” with two exclusive episodes available only through Xbox LIVE.

This year we will continue to make great strides towards improving our brand appeal to consumers interested in more physical game play. With titles like “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock,” Rock Band” and “Scene It: Lights, Camera, Action” we’re opening people’s minds to new kinds of experiences that can be found on Xbox 360.

As the year progresses, we’ll offer even more experiences with a lineup that will appeal to a broader audience than ever with new, imaginative content.

Xbox LIVE

This holiday, Xbox LIVE blew past expectations and eclipsed the 10 million member mark, over six months before our stated goal of July 2008 announced at E3 last year.

I want to congratulate everyone who has worked to build this incredible service over the years. You have changed gaming forever by delivering to consumers a unified gaming and entertainment network that has become a true cultural phenomenon. Since its launch, Xbox LIVE has hosted over 4.9 billion hours on the network – that’s equal to 204 million days or more than 560,000 years of gaming.

With Xbox LIVE we’ve shown that gaming is better when it’s shared with others, and with a lineup of games, movie and TV content that’s growing by the day, we’re in position to continue to drive online innovation for years to come.

At 10 million members Xbox LIVE is by far the largest social network connected to the TV, and in the months and years to come we’ll look offer even more ways to connect and share experiences with your friends.

Movie and TV Content

We’ll begin 2008 by adding even more high definition content to the video store on Xbox LIVE, which is already the largest on-demand library of HD content on the market.

Under our new agreement with the Disney-ABC Television Group, Xbox LIVE members in the US will get access to more than 500 hours of content from the ABC Television Network, ABC Family, ABC News, Disney Channel and Toon Disney, including hits like Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives. Past and current seasons will be available on-demand, with new episodes hitting the service the day after they air on television.

With new content from MGM Studios, the video store will be home to legendary hits including Rocky and Terminator, United Artists, an MGM sister company, will also make select content available.

As the year progresses, we will look to add even more TV and movie content to further solidify our lead as the preeminent destination in the living room for on-demand high definition entertainment. It took many long hours and a team of extremely talented people to build this service that is now the model for not just for gaming, but for the entertainment space as a whole.

Games for Windows

I am especially excited to continue the progress we have made with Games for Windows. In our first year, we’ve delivered to consumers a recognizable brand that communicates quality, fun, consistency and safety, growing from two titles in 2006 to over 60 at CES 2008. Games for Windows also played a crucial role in the launch of Windows Vista with great titles that take advantage of the new features Windows Vista offers for gamers.

We’ve brought many of the best games to our platform, and laid the foundation for great things in the coming years. In November alone, Games for Windows titles accounted for over 20% of all PC game sales at retail in the US.

In 2008, we will focus on expanding our brand presence even more, bringing more publishers and titles into Games for Windows, and building Games for Windows – LIVE into the best gaming service for Windows gamers worldwide.

IEB All Hands

I’m excited to be able to bring us all together on January 23rd for our first All Hands meeting of the year. With our third holiday season just wrapping up and our fiscal year more than half over, we have quite a bit to talk about. Joining us will be members of my executive team for a conversation about where we are and where we’re headed as an organization.

Plus, we’ll have a special guest … Robbie Bach! Robbie will present to us on what’s happening in the Entertainment and Devices Division as a whole and will take any questions you may have. Look for more details to arrive later this week.

I want to close by thanking all of you for everything that you do. You are driving the innovation that is driving growth for both Microsoft and the interactive entertainment industry.

Don"

Friday, January 04, 2008

Microsoft: Xbox 360 sells 17.7 million consoles worldwide.

According to Major Nelson of Xbox Live, their PR team recently released this statement:

"The PR team has just released some interesting numbers on where we are with the Xbox 360 that I thought you would enjoy discussing:

We have sold more than 17.7 million Xbox 360 consoles worldwide
More than 8.1 million copies of "Halo 3" have been sold since its launch (September 25, 2007)
Mass Effect" reached 1.6 million units sold, in just six weeks (on sale November 20, 2007)"


17.7 Million Xbox 360s sold worldwide. That's NOT a typo.

Of course, some might contest that Microsoft might be making up these figures, or that these figures reflect consoles shipped and not sold. Two things:

1. Is Microsoft making this stuff up? I disagree. Microsoft's a publicly traded company and if they were to lie about something as big as this, they can (and WILL) get in trouble. I'm sure that a lot of people are waiting for a reason to sue Microsoft to get some of their billions.

2. Shipped versus sold. The truth is, the numbers given out by Microsoft are SHIPPED. However; note that Microsoft would *only* ship consoles to retailers if retailers ordered the consoles from them. If there were no demand for Xbox 360s (and if those Xbox 360s that retailers already had weren't selling), retailers wouldn't order that many systems from Microsoft. But they did. And whether or not those retailers sold those systems is already irrelevant to Microsoft. They've made their money already. The retailers problem now is to sell the consoles that they had shipped to them. Now, they wouldn't have that many consoles shipped to them if they weren't confident that they couldn't sell those things, would they?

Now the other big argument against this is the NPD figures...which I already saw coming because I've seen arguments like this rage on Teamxbox for pages and pages without end. NPD figures provide a good idea of sales but they don't give the entire picture because they don't consider some outlets like Wal-mart. Read these articles for more information:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PJQ/is_19_2/ai_n6227089

http://kotaku.com/gaming/npd/npd-how-it-works-229825.php

So while NPD is a great guide on who's doing well in the games business, they aren't the absolute when it comes to determining the overall sales of each of these console makers and game developers. I'm NOT saying NPD is totally irrelevant---I'm just saying they provide part of the whole picture, but not the complete picture. So Microsoft's claim of 17.7 million sold is not entirely improbable; in fact, if they were to lie about it, again, they can get in trouble for it because they're publicly traded, and sooner or later the truth will come out (if they're lying) and that would hurt their company reputation in the end.