Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sony Lost $3.32 BILLION Dollars Thanks To The Playstation 3


Much has a already been said about Microsoft losing over a billion dollars thanks to the 3 Red Lights of Death / RROD...this time Sony is in the news because they've lost even more money than Microsoft!

http://kotaku.com/5018899/sony-lost-331-billion-to-ps3-cost-pricing-imbalance

"Sony Lost Over $3 Billion To PS3 Cost, Pricing Imbalance

Pricing the PlayStation 3 below its production cost caused Sony to lose $2.16 billion in 2007 and $1.16 billion in 2008, the company revealed today.

Sony's fiscal 2008 annual report delineated potential risk factors to its investors, outlining that "the large-scale investment required during the development and introductory period of a new gaming platform may not be fully recovered." The loss figures were provided as an example of the "significant negative impact" introducing a new platform can cause at first.

"In the past, large-scale investment relating to capital expenditures and research and development for the manufacture of key components, including semiconductors supplied for [PlayStation 3] was also recorded within the Electronics segment," the company said.

In order to stay competitive, said Sony, it had to invest large amounts of money in research and development to introduce the PlayStation 3 into the market, and these sorts of expenditures don't always get recouped, especially if a platform "fail[s] to achieve such favorable market penetration... resulting in a significant negative impact on Sony's profitability."

Even if it can recoup its investment, Sony said, it's still possible to have lost large amounts of money on the platform's introductory period, and even a successful PS3 might take a while to replace what it cost to produce. These possible outcomes are currently a risk for the company, Sony said."

I'm sure a lot of gamers don't really care about this news or how it might affect them, they're only after the games, after all. But personally I see this as a huge loss for Sony; perhaps this might explain why they've been losing game exclusives left and right.

Was it worth it? I think a big reason why the PS3 is costing Sony so much is because they're more concerned about spreading the Blu-Ray format over actually competing in the games business with Microsoft or Nintendo. The attach rates for PS3 games shows that most people at this time buy PS3s to watch Blu-Ray movies with them and not really to play games, so in part, Sony's strategy has worked. But their position in the market is so confusing. Is their device a movie player? Or is it for playing games? Even on the development side, companies have complained that it is quite difficult to make games for the PS3, and companies that have managed to release games have taken a lot more delays than developers making games for the Xbox 360.

The only other thing Sony has going for them is their positive reputation with most of the games press, which never really points out the company's mistakes. On the other hand, Microsoft always gets called out for 3RL/RROD, despite the fact that it is a non-issue already in first-world markets, where MS provides a 3 year replacement warranty, and where you can easily just go back to the store, complain, and get your console replaced. Also, the Falcon revision of the Xbox 360 has significantly reduced failure rates, and yet 3RL is still cited by the mainstream game press as Microsoft's main crutch this generation.

The problem with ignoring Sony's mistakes this generation is that they may repeat them later on, or could ultimately put them out of the games business, much like what happened to Sega back in 2001. Sony's rival Microsoft is putting up a stronger fight against them now, with a much larger installed base, a much better lineup of games and exclusives already available in the market, and an overall more profitable business (because of Microsoft's higher game attach rate, where it is estimated each Xbox gamer has more than 6 games. Sony's ratio is far lower than that).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Codemasters Shows Their Racing Pedigree with GRID!


Pictures of Race Driver: Grid that I took with a DSLR:










(Note: the game has no photo mode and doesn't let you save race replays.)

- The graphics are so incredible when this game is in motion.....gave me the exact same feeling I got when I played PGR4 last year. It's just exhiliratingly fast!

- The best advantage of this game is the career mode, which feels more involved and interesting. I like the idea of having a racing teammate. Also, those 20 car races are just EPIC.

- It doesn't take too much of your time. Only a few menu screens to navigate before you get to the actual race.

- The racing itself is so exciting and intense. Those two words describe it perfectly. The game never feels as ridiculous as Burnout, but there's a lot more drama and fantastic moments that happen every race compared to racing sims like Forza 2 or Gran Turismo. As a result, you'll never fall asleep on the wheel. There's always something happening at every lap, be it an accident, spin-out, or battles for position. The AI is not cheap but it doesn't give you an easy time either....there will be moments that they will hit you to gain pole position, but I noticed it never gets as stupid as it does when you play racing games against human opponents online. I can't easily describe it other than to say the game just feels so 'balanced' as a racing experience. Never a dull moment!

Hardcore purist simulator fans should stay away from GRID because the game does take the occasional leap from reality when it comes to rendering things like crashes and car collisions....but ultimately, it's these deviations from realism that make the game so satisfying to play. GRID may not be a great racing simulator....but it sure is a great racing video game that delivers the excitement and intensity that you'll never find from other realistic racing simulations in the market today.

Dare I declare, Codemasters just showed both Microsoft Games Studio AND Polyphony Digital how racing games should be made.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Resident Evil 5 Timed Exclusive for 360? (Rumor)


http://playstationlifestyle.net/2008/06/18/rumor-industry-rumblings-regarding-resident-evil-5/

"RUMOR: Industry Rumblings Regarding Resident Evil 5

By now, you may have heard about the “Major RE5 Reveal at E3″ that Videogaming247 is reporting.

Some more information has made its way to PlayStationLifeStyle.net…

Whether or not this information is true is unknown. However we felt it is our duty to give fans a heads up on a HUGE announcement that MAY be coming @ E3.

Please take this as a rumor as that’s all it is at this point. No solid information on the subject yet.

From what I have been told, Microsoft is looking to pay Capcom an undisclosed amount, for timed exclusivity of Resident Evil 5. It is still not known if Capcom has accepted the offer… The information we got, was only that Microsoft has made the offer.

If this is going to be announced it will be @ E3. Similar to the GTAIV “showing of the tattoo” a couple of years ago.

If this is true, all of you petition fanatics out there better get to work.

Remember this is just a rumor, and nothing is known for sure at this time.

Personally I am hoping that this is NOT true."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why A Bit Of Fantasy in Your Driving Games Helps


One time I got to race on go-karts with some friends. It's been a long time since I last experienced the thrill of karting. I think the last time I went karting was when I was 12 or even younger, and that was during a trip to Australia a long, long time ago.

Going back to my story, so here I was eagerly awaiting my turn to race. I guess I couldn't help but think of driving in video games before I took the wheel. I thought to myself, how far are we, really, towards emulating the entire experience of driving?

After several minutes of laps around the circuit, I realized that the video game technology that exists today just isn't enough to really give you that thrill of real speed. Yes, I know I was on a go-kart and I probably wasn't going that fast....but the sensation of speed is something else. It isn't just visual--it's a full body experience. The one thing that may never be emulated in a video game is the strength of the G-forces on you when you take turns or when you're simply moving forward in a straight line.

When you're playing a simulation-style racing game on the couch, despite all the fancy physics calculations that are supposedly making the game even more realistic, at some point, at least in my experience, I get that sensation that I'm spacing out, getting hypnotized, and essentially nearly falling asleep. This usually happens after several laps when you're in the lead and the AI doesn't pose any real threat.

When I'm on forums I usually read about gamers asking for more and more realism in racing games. It does make me wonder....how many of these gamers can actually play racing games with every assist turned off, and still enjoy themselves in the process? At some point, extremely realistic racing games don't really have that much happening in them, particularly when you've mastered your driving style and can hold your own against A.I..

Of course, online multiplayer in a simulation racing game is a whole other matter entirely; but the problem I've always encountered (particularly in Forza 2) is that there will always be one or two other players in the online match that won't play by the rules or play the game as the racing simulator that it is. There will always be carnage at the first corner, I'd say 100% of the time. And most of the time, this happens because a player intentionally wanted to fool around or mess up the other drivers. This is simply because they don't want to take the game too seriously; and unfortunately, this ruins the game for everyone else.

The 'carnage' that happens on turn 1 is part of the 'simulation' aspect of simulation racing games, but at the same time, it's the thing that makes it un-fun. So the winner of the race will be determined by the guy who 'survives' that first turn? How ridiculous is that? Why is it that when I watch racing on TV, this first-turn carnage rarely happens? If I'm playing a sim-racer I'd want to experience racing in fancy, very expensive cars, and not simply worry about surviving the race....the moment an accident happens on Turn 1, on every single online race, the game ceases to feel like a simulation racing experience; instead, it feels like I'm racing against amateurs in bump cars.

Also, simulation racing can be heavily taxing. I think everyone knows about the phenomenon of restarting your race because of a mishap or two that happens on any particular lap. Imagine having this problem in an Endurance race. You're on your 38th lap and the race ends on the 40th lap...and then you screw up royally. Your car is destroyed. Do you really want to do this all over again? Is this realism or is this punishment? Video games are still video games....they're not going to reward you with real money or anything else significant at the end of the day after you play them. They do reward satisfaction....but having to redo routine over and over and over again; there's a limit to what I personally can tolerate (in terms of repetitiveness).

Now I recognize the technical achievements of simulators like Forza 2 or Gran Turismo, and they're interesting just for the extent that they go into all the details that make up the whole driving experience. I just question how long that fascination lasts....when the game ceases to be a science project and turns into a game, how much of it is a game and not an exercise in routine? I guess if my real life profession was race-car driver, Forza and GT would be really useful to practice off-track. But for players like me who have other things in life to deal with, sometimes the realism in simulators can take too much time investment to really appreciate. When I play racing games, I just want to get that rush, that sensation of speed...that thing that go-karting in real-life absolutely delivers on all levels. I just want to feel the intensity of competition, and the thrill of winning after a close battle on the track. I don't want to worry too much about the controls of the car, but I do appreciate a racing game that takes a bit of skill and doesn't feel like Mario Kart. I feel that the balance for racing games is somewhere between the extremes of arcade and simulation.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Race Driver: GRID - More Impressions


The Japan racing league is really interesting. If it hasn't been mentioned yet, there are three leagues in the game, one set in American street tracks (usually inside cities a'la PGR series; and there is also a destruction derby mode), another one set in European racing tracks (touring cars and F1000 - F3 cars), and a Japanese league (which feature touge races and drift races).


I'm really beginning to like the diversity of styles of racing in this game. It's practically several racing games rolled into one. The only type of racing not featured is RALLY racing, which I guess goes to the Codemasters' DIRT racing series.


Spent a bit more time with the Japanese league today. Drift racing has two types (that I've tried so far)....the regular 'Drifting' competition where you have to score points and score higher than everyone else....then there's the FREESTYLE drift competition, where the game puts you in an area that's wide open (though there are roads and obstacles) and you're supposed to drift as creatively as possible to score as many points as possible. Later on I think I can unlock other drifting modes, such as downhill drift (drifting down the mountain) and drift racing (which involves several drift-tuned cars together on one track, racing for 1st place)

Then there's pro touge, where it's a head to head race. It isn't as simple as getting first place, though. The car with the least total time wins the competition. In touge you go down the mountain first and then the game gets your times (and the difference between you and your opponent is displayed). Then you go up the mountain and again, the game gets your times. The person in front isn't necessarily the winner. The one who wins is the one with the least time. This happened to me in one race where I got first place down the mountain, then I got second place when I went up the mountain. I still came out the winner because I was driving very close to my opponent, who overtook me at some point while going up.

Another interesting bit about touge is contact....if you hit the other car, you will be penalized. Surprisingly, if the AI car hits you, the game can [to some extent] detect this and will penalize the AI.

That's new to me because last I remember (reading on Forza 2 forums) programming to determine whose fault an accident is, "just isn't possible". Well, granted there are only 2 cars on the track, so perhaps the programming for it is easier to do. On one occasion the AI hit me and it was penalized over 10 seconds because it was a major hit. On another occasion I hit the AI and I was penalized with 2 seconds (because it was just a small scratch). Overall I thought this was a really interesting feature in GRID....those guys at Codemasters really do know how to make great racing games.

After finishing the series of J League Rookie Races, a new mode was unlocked:

Midnight Touge - A one on one race down the mountain at night, with incoming traffic. Apparently this race type has no more rules...you just have to win, and avoid the civilian cars....I'll be giving this a try later today :D


This game goes absolutely nuts with the types of racing available. The purchase is well worth it....I still like the way the career mode progresses, I like how seasons are so short and you can get a shot at the 24 hour Le Mans every four races. This is the best pick-up-and-play racing game I know of, at this time. You put it in, and in less than a minute you're off racing, and it's [b]quality [/b]racing....with so many racing styles/disciplines, an incredible sensation of speed, great AI opposition and more. I know that it's been mentioned that there is 'catch-up' but it's hardly noticeable after playing several races in 'Serious' difficulty. I've had races where the AI could never catch up to me anymore by the third lap. Maybe on lower difficulty the 'catch-up' is more noticeable, but in 'Serious' difficulty whether you win or lose does make sense, and I haven't seen anything incredibly ridiculous happen yet.


I also love how a random accident or spin out happens during the course of some races. It doesn't happen every race, but it does keep you on your toes. Sometimes you'll see smoke billowing in the distance, and you know it's trouble (even before the announcer tells you there's an accident)...it just forces you to react quickly and drive differently, it forces you to change up your game and that's what makes the game not feel like routine. Normally most racing games can be very sterile and straightforward, and if you know your racing line extremely well, you can finish well and race with one hand tied behind your back. GRID's environment feels much more alive....again, since the other cars occasionally (but not always) make mistakes, and things like tire walls and obstacles can fly and break apart....did I mention that these things stay on the track for the duration of the race, and they can mess you up/damage your own car? The amount of "stuff" going on every time you race is simply fantastic. It keeps you awake on the wheel when you know that around every turn there could be a three car pile up.

Also, the AI drivers really do have their own human-like personality. In one race in Okutama I got to race against Youichi Iwamura (AI)...and man, that guy was really aggressive. During the race, my AI teammate, Eiji Matsuke, charged to 2nd place ahead of me...I was directly behind him and he was trying to overtake Iwamura to his left. On a straight in Okutama, I saw Iwamura intentionally try to run my teammate off the road. It was uncanny and eerily human-like behavior....it was near a bend but obviously Iwamura wasn't going for positioning at the racing line; he was really trying to take out my teammate. Luckily, he didn't....my teammate simply slowed down and simply turned to Iwamura's right, and overtook him.

Seeing that moment blew me away. Perhaps it was scripted, I dunno how Codemasters did it....but it did catch my attention, and it's something that I've never seen happen in other racing games that have been released for this gen of consoles. The AI's behavior can be human-like at times and it really adds to the immersiveness of the whole experience. It doesn't feel like you're racing against a bunch of lifeless bots. You could probably play GRID competely offline and still enjoy yourself because the AI is just so entertaining to play against. In a way, this game has a lot of moments that feel so 'cinematic' for a racing game.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

"This Game Is Only 10 Hours Long!"


I remember in my youth, I'd buy a game for a hefty price of about 2,500 - 4,000 pesos (60++ dollars), go home and rush through the entire thing in one afternoon. I'd see the end of most Sega Saturn games after around three or five hours of play. And to think that today's gamers complain that games are too short this generation.....ten hours of play is actually quite a lot of time.

Anyway, at some point, having used up nearly a fortune in game purchases, and staring at my library of titles, I realized, there must be something wrong with what I'm doing. I mean, think about it....it takes long enough to save up enough money to buy a single game....and I would beat these same games within an afternoon, or three hours or less, depending on the type of game.

Then it occured to me, in my simple minded adolescent brain----"Sayang pera." [What a waste of money....] Was it the game's fault? It didn't matter. All I knew was that I was blowing through money that took months to make, in a matter of minutes whenever I finished these games in a single afternoon.

So at some point in my gaming hobby I started to intentionally play my games slower. I knew I was too good for some games and I knew I could beat them so easily, so in a way I had to slow myself down. I did other things.....like, only finishing exactly one stage/level per day for each game. Only devoting an hour or two per day to playing a brand new title, no matter how much I enjoyed the game. Or alternating between two games, one level per game, per day....so I was able to extend the life of my expensive video game purchases to weeks or [at most] an entire month.

This made me buy less games but it made me enjoy the hobby all the more, because I savored completing each level/each boss conquest. And arriving at the end of a game became all the more satisfying.

At some point, this has become a habit of mine....and it's still there. Perhaps I took longer than most people to beat Lost Odyssey or Call of Duty 4 or Gears of War....I recall a lot of comments on forums complaining that Gears' campaign was only 10 hours long. But I don't remember finishing Gears in a day. In fact, I do remember finishing Gears in about two whole weeks. That's me playing Gears each day, alternating between single player and multiplayer....so that's around 14 days. Maybe if I totalled all the hours that I did play Gears single-player during that week that I beat it, maybe it would total 10 hours, but I don't care. All I remember is that it took me two weeks to beat the game, so finishing it felt all the more satisfying. I don't have a clock beside me when I'm playing the campaign of any game. What's the point of that....I'm playing these games, not filling out a checklist of flaws.

In today's connected world, we can easily find out if a game can be finished in a day, and we can even accelerate the process by getting hints/tips easily online. Another incentive to some people completing their games so quickly is online bragging rights. It seems to me that everyone's rushing to be able to say '5 HOURS LOL' when commenting on a game.

I think this is such a self-defeating practice. Playing games no longer becomes something that you enjoy for yourself as a personal experience. You have to gain the approval of your peers [of complete online strangers who probably don't really care what you think]...you go after the 'right' to post or criticize a game ahead of everyone else, to gain that 'cred' that comes with your thirty seconds of Internet-fame.

And essentially, you'd be doing what I used to do when I was an adolescent....blowing through your 2,500 pesos (60+ dollars) which you likely saved up for in months....in a matter of minutes. What a waste.

It doesn't help that the game press promotes the practice. Rushing through games is part and parcel of the entire review process. And you wonder why something like GTAIV got away with all those 10's. Granted, the game industry loves it, because they can get away with releasing sub-par product and cover for their shortcomings with hype, marketing, and freebies. It works both ways.

The next time you pick up a game and feel like setting it on EASY mode so you can finish it in a single afternoon---remember that, once it's all said and done, and you've finished the game, the thrill and the newness of it will be gone. And given today's games with their 2-5 years of development time...that's an awful long time to wait for your next 60 dollar, three-hour roller-coaster ride.

Online Bigotry is serious business

Today, I came across this video from Adam Sessler.

Sessler's Soapbox is Tired of the Bigots on Xbox Live

It's a good thing that its being discussed. But Adam Sessler and a good portion of the people reporting this news seems to have missed point that these things exists in the real world.

In a nutshell, we have Adam Sessler, one of the hosts of G4 TV's X-Play, getting fed up with the kids he claimed was calling him names. Now I'm not sure if Sessler's gamer tag is already public knowledge or if these kids even know who he was. Sessler claims that this is ruining his XBOX Live experience and issues out a challnge to anyone who can explain to him why 'trash talk' is necessary. Although one has to question Sessler himself for throwing the 'F' word all over his Soapbox video when he is asking for a reason why trash talking exists.

This has been today's topic of discussion for me and my husband. And I'd like to put in this blog what we have posted in other forums and other opinions we thought were worthwhile just so when we look back 10 years from now, we remember our opinion regarding this matter.



Wuffy's Comment:

"There is hate everywhere. There is hate for consoles. Hate for operating systems. Hate for sports teams. Hate for car manufacturers. Hate for war. Hate for hippies. Hate for practically everything and anything.

And this hate is amplified by the anonymity.

These kinds of inappropriate behavior can be seen in the Internet since there are no faces to attach avatar names to. No real names to call when things get heated. Anonymity breeds this hatred but that's not where it came from.There has been numerous debates regarding anonymity and regulation and all of it has been heavily critisized by the 'netizens'. People want anonymity because it makes then get away with things they normally can't do in real life. With anonymity there is no race or sexual orientation...what is left is just the individual.

Yes, we have to stand up against these kinds of individuals but at the same time let's keep our goals realistic. It is IMPOSSIBLE for Microsoft to take a stand in this without being critisized and as it stands MS gets critisized for anything and everything. Going as far as setting restrictions on language and speech on XBOX Live is sure to catch the attention of a lot of people. The only ones who will applaud MS are the gamers within circle but for everyone else you can bet that the moment MS pushes censorship and regulation, it will be viewed as a difficult thing and people will be waving nazi flags all over the MS compound.

For Microsoft to begin banning people like this it will require them to monitor all XBOX Live communications and when that happens people will be quoting George Orwell. The word of a gamer isn't proof enough. There was to be something more concrete. That's the real dilema when it comes to banning people for these reasons.

And putting more censorship and regulation in XBOX Live will not help solve the overall problem in the real world.

The best that we can do is to ignore these people. First we should not take it seriously. So what if someone calls you with inappropriate language...(I had my share of these things over the Internet), why should I give them the pleasure of knowing that they affected me with that remark? The gamers are already armed with a certain level of protection...to ignore those remarks completely. Does not hearing what other people have to say diminish my experience online? The answer is no. If they have something good to say, I'm sure the online experience is better but if its crap, it doesn't change a thing.

The most that we can do to fight this is to inform those people close to us as to why these things are wrong. Let our children realize that the world isn't the internet and that people there sometimes don't even know what they are talking about. It is when we understand that the context of these remarks are in many ways baseless and we are confident about ourselves, can we trully move on and stop the hate within our own circle.

Oh and another thing...

This sort of crap doesn't just happen in XBOX Live. Adam Sessler talks on and on about how its ruining XBOX Live experience...but lets be realistic it is everywhere. Its on the PC, Wii, PS3 online experiences. XBOX Live is a a big target because it has a big community.

I applaud Sessler for talking about it but at the same time he completely misses the problem that exists in the real world."



Scytherage's comment:

"When I play online with strangers, I don't put on the headset at all, and redirect all voice chat to the headset so it doesn't come off on the speakers.

This won't go away, and sadly it's part of the whole internet/gamer culture. One look at the humor that gamers usually enjoy (Penny-Arcade) and you'll get the idea why the language online is so dirty. While PA isn't bigoted it does lead people to be more 'brutally honest' about everything. In the end, it's the gamer culture (that Adam Sessler is a part of) that's pretty much damaged. People can't talk about games without throwing the 'F' word in there, and that's how they try to sound 'mature' and 'brutally honest'.

Again, I know that isn't bigotry or racism, but it opens the door to that kind of mindset.

Now lest we all become prudes online, but that's looked down upon, too.

So just take off the headset, there's no way you can change the way others think, particularly strangers. Add the anonymity of online interactions and you've got a formula for tomfoolery. It's just the way it goes. Nobody takes things they do online seriously; nobody thinks it affects anyone. In the end people consider what they put online/say online to be just bits, and when they leave the computer they pretend like they never did anything wrong. There's no way to make people accountable for their actions online because people don't consider what they do online as "REAL". They think it's a persona that they can leave behind at the end of the day. It's a mindset that isn't going to go away, again because everything is anonymous online, so you can act all straightforward and honest and think that you're doing the right thing.

In the end it does promote more hatred in real life. What you 'think' in your mind inevitably affects what you 'do' in real life. Unfortunately this idea is too complex for most to understand, so they'll continue to be lamers on the Internet anyway.

Again, just take off the headset. Play with people you know. If you play with strangers, enjoy it but don't bother making new friends with strangers on the 'net; don't worry about what they think or feel about society or other races or any of those things. The best way to shield yourself from bigotry online is to have the same mindset as the bigots: don't care about what they say. Don't give them any more attention than the attention that they're already getting.

Can Microsoft ever do anything about this? This is NOT an XBOX LIVE only problem. It's the problem of the Internet and its rooted in its anonymity. Sessler can say all he wants about this being an Xbox Live issue, but it isn't. At worse, again, part of the reason why people act this way is because the media promotes it. Brutal honesty is one way to gain cred with gamers, and the only way to get your point across and have people listen is to say "I F***** MEAN BUSINESS!" Try to be eloquent and your point will be lost entirely.

Again, this is a cultural problem, rooted in the anonymity of the Internet. It isn't an Xbox Live-only problem. And it won't go away unless anonymity goes away. And we all know that won't go away either....."


Or we everthing is just as simple as this comment:

"if some one says the "n word" on a game and everyone freaks out about it, that just gives them more reason to do it…you people are the ones who give these "biggots" power by reacting so excessively to these words….most of the time there not even "biggots" they are just kids trying to get a rise out of people. "

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sony Fanboy for a day :D


So my friend had some problems getting a Playstation 3 and Metal Gear Solid 4 this week. We both decided to help him out. We got the system and the game today after a bit of searching in V-Mall, Greenhills.

These stores are pretty good places to get brand new Xbox 360/PS3 games because they seem to get new titles on time:

Mr. Dynamic in V-Mall
ITECH in Market Market


It was an interesting day because we had to haggle and ask around at some stores to get the best deal for a PS3. Seems the best place we found was E-Stop in V-mall. So we got MGS4 at Mr. Dynamic and the PS3 itself at E-Stop.

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The Playstation 3 isn't mine....but I always find it fun to buy one of these things [a brand new game console]. :D My friend was nice enough to let me play MGS4 on it even before he gets his hands on the console and the game itself. I've never played on the PS3 extensively, so you could say this was a more complete introduction for me to the platform.

Impressions on MGS4: They spend a lot of time on focusing on the characters. Fans of the series will probably pick up on more details than I did....this game is really meant for them. Perhaps this is the Playstation 3's first great game.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

JRPG BLOWOUT ON AN FPS BOX

Guess how many times do XBOX 360 fans like me read these kinds of comments?

“Uh...any JRPG will sell more on the PS3 since there are more JRPG fans on the PS3”
Why should developers put JRPGs on the 360 when its going to have multiple disks”
"The Playstation is the home of JRPGs!”
“The XBOX is an FPS BOX!”


Sometimes I forget that in the Internet I can be reading the comment of a 10 year old that I get frustrated whenever I read such ill-informed opinions. Some people can't seem to get their heads out of the year 2000 when the first XBOX was dead last in the console race with only Halo 3 as its saving grace. Fast forward to 2008 and look at the platform that has the most diverse game line-up in its generation...it's the XBOX 360.

The moment Star Ocean 4 was announced, the JRPG fan in me was happy but I expected the news. I laughed when I remembered one of the threads in the Playstation forums urging members to 'pray' that Star Ocean 4 is exclusive. I laughed back then when I first heard it and I laugh harder now considering the game looking like a timed exclusive release for the XBOX 360. Exclusivity is a thing of the past and is the true reason why console wars were waged years ago. These days, I don't really care about exclusivity from third party developers, all I want is the opportunity to play their games without resorting to buying another console.

A few weeks ago the news was Square Enix was loosing marketshare in the west. Granted they too were at fault for releasing one remake after the other, the news was further supplemented by a statement claiming that Square Enix President Wada threatened to fire employees and wanted to focus on titles with a more mainstream appeal. Add that to the fact that Square Enix has been looking for a western partner.

So what is Square Enix so unhappy about that they decided to 'grace' the gaijin XBOX 360 with 3 games which are either an exclusive or timed exclusive? Apart from Metal Gear Solid 4, Square Enix titles, particularly Final Fantasy, is the best reason to actually get a PS3. Given that high acclaim from the Sony fans, isn't that enough for Square Enix?

Bottom line, the answer is a resounding NO.

It has been years since Square Enix released a proper Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest game. It has been two years since they announced Final Fantasy 13 (and its numerous iterations). In that span of time, the only thing Square Enix seemed to release are DS games and every conceivable Final Fantasy / Final Fantasy related remake, prequel, sequel and whatnot. The DS releases were meant only for the Japanese audiences since the DS is the KING in Japan. But outside Japan, I think people won't bother playing a remake of a game that they already played. And in some case, they were also let down by the 'graphics' in these remakes. Although I have to admit that the graphics are quite good looking for a DS title, Square Enix is known to innovate more on a console rather than a handheld...hence the disappointment.

Sure some of the Square Enix games had decent worldwide sales but this isn't enough. Their biggest game is hanging at the edge of vaporware...God knows Square Enix has spread themselves too thin in announcing 3 (or 4?) Final Fantasy 13 titles. Yes folks Final Fantasy shall now be referred to as: Final Fantasy .

Now that that intro is over...allow me to share with you my fangirling moments (proof that I have too much time in my hands or I'm just too lazy to actually get some work done) over some interesting posts and counter arguments I've read over the Internet regarding the whole JRPG issue and how the XBOX 360 sucks as a JRPG platform.


A comment from Gamersyde:


“The guys at Square are really shooting themselves in the foot by making all these 360 exclusive games. Look at Enchanted Arms and Eternal Sonata. Those publishers realized they made a horrible mistake, and both games went to PS3 eventually. I mean even Ninja Gaiden 2 sold only 20,000 copies in Japan on day one. That's pathetic.“
A comment from TeamXBOX :
"funny how the 360 has gotten the majority of the jrpgs yet they all flopped..."

To that I answer this...

This is the one for Lost Odyssey from the Feb 2008 NPD US Sales Data: http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost...38&postcount=1

360 CALL OF DUTY 4: MODERN WARFARE* ACTIVISION 7-Nov 296.2K 1
360 DEVIL MAY CRY 4* CAPCOM USA 8-Feb 295.2K 2
WII PLAY W/ REMOTE NINTENDO OF AMERICA 7-Feb 289.7K 3
PS3 DEVIL MAY CRY 4* CAPCOM USA 8-Feb 233.5K 4
WII GUITAR HERO III: LEGENDS OF ROCK* ACTIVISION 7-Oct 222.9K 5
NDS MARIO AND SONIC: OLYMPIC GAMES SEGA OF AMERICA 8-Jan 205.6K 6
360 LOST ODYSSEY MICROSOFT 8-Feb 203.6K 7
360 TUROK TOUCHSTONE 8-Jan 197.7K 8
PS2 GUITAR HERO III: LEGENDS OF ROCK* ACTIVISION 7-Oct 183.8K 9
360 ROCK BAND* MTV GAMES/ELECTRONIC ARTS 7-Nov 161.8K 10

Now how many JRPGs achieved that status without being called a Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest? And that's just first month of sales...I'm pretty sure other people bought the game after its initial release.

Another thing I'd like to point out for that is despite LO being within the same month as Devil May Cry, it still got pretty good sales.

While I cannot find the other statistics right now, Blue Dragon and Eternal Sonata have at least gotten 50,000 sales which is the default average sale of a JRPG title in the US.

And compare that with this...

Here's the March 2008 NPD Sales Data:
http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=279520


WII SUPER SMASH BROS: BRAWL NINTENDO OF AMERICA Mar-08 2.7M
360 *TOM CLANCY'S RAINBOW SIX: VEGAS 2 UBISOFT Mar-08 752.3K
360 ARMY OF TWO ELECTRONIC ARTS Mar-08 606.1K
WII PLAY W/ REMOTE NINTENDO OF AMERICA Feb-07 409.8K
PSP GOD OF WAR: CHAINS OF OLYMPUS SONY Mar-08 340.5K
PSP CRISIS CORE: FINAL FANTASY VII SQUARE ENIX INC Mar-08 301.6K
WII GUITAR HERO III: LEGENDS OF ROCK ACTIVISION Oct-07 264.1K
360 MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL 2K8 TAKE 2 INTERACTIVE Mar-08 237.1K
360 *CALL OF DUTY 4: MODERN WARFARE ACTIVISION Nov-07 237K
PS3 ARMY OF TWO ELECTRONIC ARTS Mar-08 224.9K

While its not for a major platform check out the sales of Final Fantasy Crisis Core. Interesting eh? While its definitely higher than Lost Odyssey, its surprising that a no-name game (with no franchise origins) got decent sales in a platform that is considered to be an FPS box and is more expensive than a PSP.

Of course lets see the much anticipated sales of a Final Fantasy title (a prequel to the most popular FF series...FF7) did against an FPS title. I haven't played FF Crisis Core but I've heard a lot of positive rave about it from my friends who also follow JRPGs. It's not a bad title but looking at the sales data below:

360 TOM CLANCY'S RAINBOW SIX: VEGAS 2 UBISOFT Mar-08 752.3K
PSP CRISIS CORE: FINAL FANTASY VII SQUARE ENIX INC Mar-08 301.6K
Wow...that's quite a lead for Rainbox Six Vegas there. And considering the platform 360 is much expensive than the PSP that is certainly impressive and to some extent shows a hint of the extent of the JRPG 'dream' influence.


Another comment from TeamXBOX:

"All you can do, is look at the previous Sony user base and the games they bought. for 15 years or something, Sony has had the most and best RPGs. you can only guess that there are millions of sony fans waiting to purchase a PS3 when there are RPGs on it or there are tons of PS3 owners that bought a PS3 thinking it would have RPGs."


If we are going to look at historical evidence then the 360 shouldn't be around right now, neither should it have a high attach rate of games.

That's where most analyst fail with their assumptions. They look so much in the past and keep on thinking that the past will happen again and console will reign supreme because for the last 10 years or so they were.

The problem with that assumption is people think gamers buy consoles out of loyalty to a platform. They also assume that developers are also platform loyal (and to some extent they are, with Hideo Kojima and Tomonobu Itagaki being examples of this, but most of them do not adhere to this.) No one bothered to figure out why in the world was some consoles heavily supported than the others because in the end what makes a gamer pick up a console are the number of games available regardless of them playing it or not.

Gamers want a wide selection to choose from, its a simple as that. No console loyalty or whatsoever. While its logical to expect that the trend for the PS1/PS2 will carry over to the PS3, over the years this idea has been proven to be wrong by Sega and Nintendo.

For me the decision to support the XBOX 360 by Square Enix is a logical one...specially if they want to make money. I can't deny that Japan is a strong market but these days its not enough and its loaded with cheap casual games. The true videogaming market lies in the west and that is something that MS has covered for now.

MS also has the benefit of having developer tools something that isn't discussed so much in forums but remain as one of the biggest deciding factors to support a platofrm and also something that Sony doesn't have at the moment. What Sony has is a stronger hold on Japanese developers since they are Japanese and there is no cultural/language barrier but for everyone else MS holds the advantage.



And another comment from TeamXBOX (yes I'm a glutton for punishment considering I keep on going to that place when I'm bored.):

"What does PS3 have to do with Persona 3? It's a PS2 game...
You asked how many games outside of FF / DQ have sold a million
Shin Megami Tensei Nocturnal has also sold over 1 million
Kingdom Hearts if that counts as an RPG
Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song has sold over 500,000k in Japan alone

We got people saying lulz enchanted Arms didn't sell on PS3, well no ****, it didn't sell on 360 either, the game sucked. jRPG fans aren't dumb, they're not going to buy crap JUST because it's a jRPG"


When I made that list there were two things I considered:

1) I did not factor in the Japan sales because I wanted to focus on the growing market outside Japan. If we are going to talk about Japan, then all games should just remain on Japanese platforms for their sake.

2) I did not focus established franchises like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest and their related titles (i.e. Kingdom Hearts)

Taking those things into consideration, outside Japan, an average JRPG does not sell a million copies on its first month of release. When it does reach a million this happens over a span of time.
Why am I bringing this up?

When people say that JRPGs do not sell on the XBOX 360, they always highlight two things...

1) XBOX 360 games does not sell well in Japan.
2) They compare the sales of a JRPG to an FPS (Lost Odyssey vs Halo)

For the first reason, I don't care about Japan anymore and the bigger Japanese development houses seem to agree that there is a bigger market for games outside Japan. That is why Namco and Capcom are still making games for the 360 even if in Japan, their 360 release don't do as well as the western market. And that is the real reason why Square Enix has finally decided to support the XBOX 360 with Star Ocean 4.

People always look at Japan sales when talking about a JRPG, they don't bother with figures outside Japan but at the same time they are going to highlight certain facts about the wetsern market wherein they pit the western sales of a JRPG to an FPS. Isn't that odd? People can go on and on about sales of Japan then highlight a different sales figure when it comes down to arguments if XBOX 360 gamers (assumably western ones) play JRPGs.

For me when it comes to the XBOX 360, its the western sales figures that are more relevant than the Japanese ones.

And as for Enchanted Arms...it wasn't that bad. Sure it was average (with some nice moments) but people are quick to label it as garbage simply because it didn't sell like Final Fantasy.

Last but not the least...another hilarious comment by one of the certified TeamXBOX Playstation fanboys with my husband offering a comment:



"Do you have a gif of someone giving Bill Gates the finger? Cuz that's the one I'd like. The only thing MS is doing is paying developers to keep their games away from the people who will actually buy them. They can kiss my ass. They've done nothing this gen but invent achievements and screw the status quo by throwing around money. Maybe they should spend more money fixing their **** hardware instead of blowing wads of dough to convince the Japanese audience that the 360 exists. I'm sick of MS deciding what people on other platforms get to play."


They already did fix the hardware....the Falcon is pretty reliable, and it's been out since late 2007. Any complaints about the hardware can be made by early adopters; but anyone considering to buy an Xbox 360 now has no reason not to. The Falcon hardware really is more reliable and you can easily have the system replaced by Microsoft if something goes wrong.

As for Bill Gates supposedly buying out all these exclusives....in the end we'll never really know if that's what happened. Surprisingly you could hurl this same accusation at Sony. Maybe the Xbox fans should curse Sony for 'buying' out FF13 and MGS4 because they too are paying for exclusivity. But in the end, nobody really knows who paid for what and how much. I think they could have paid for some exclusive games but the real reason why these games are all 360 bound is probably for a simpler reason:

It's just harder to develop these same games on the PS3, in a short time frame. Time and again it has been mentioned by various developers during interviews that it's much harder to squeeze performance out of the PS3; perhaps some of the Japanese developers just decided to move on to the 360 for this very reason. They need profits TODAY and not after 5-7 years of development. Console game sales are more profitable if games can get released quickly.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Race Driver: Grid - lives up to its promises and more :D



I've got nothing but love for this racing game.

It sucks you in with the first race, which is just incredibly exciting and straightforward.

The controls are simplified compared to something like Forza 2, but the benefit is that your mind is focused on the race and not struggling with simulation controls on a gamepad.

The cars move and feel fantastic. Each race feels different and it's quite an experience to have a car that can tumble around and flip over!

The damage modeling is insane. What did other devs say about car manufacturers not allowing damage? Clearly, those devs must have been lying....because Codemasters gets away with it, and wonderfully so. Damage is a huge factor in your races. You can get totalled and be removed from the race completely. Your car's performance will suffer with each kind of damage that you can get (engine, steering, suspension, transmission---each part can get damaged pretty severely if you aren't careful).

And it's pretty disheartening to see your shiny, beautiful car reduced to junk after a few bumps here and there. Adds all the more reason to race cleanly if you can :D

This game has even more layers of depth....you can't simply stick any sponsor logo on your car. That's because those sponsors pay you money for winning races, and choosing a good set of sponsors is key to getting money consistently in the game. Other racing games should have done this before...I'm glad that Codemasters figured out the proper way to make sense out of sticking all those logos on your car ;)

Later on you even get a racing team mate, which makes races even more interesting. Your teammate will talk to you every so often and help you out during races, doing blocking for you and letting you pass if the situation calls for it. Overall I like how the atmosphere is established while you're playing the game....it provides a good enough level of immersion even without Forza 2-styled heavy car customization.

I really like Grid. It's fun without being too much like Burnout; it's challenging without being too much like Forza 2, and it's got more personality than Project Gotham Racing 4---which is saying a lot because I initially thought PGR4 was the last racing game with the most 'personality'. Codemasters did a fine job with Grid; I can't wait to get my hands on their next, most important game, for the Xbox 360:

Formula 1.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Oh wow....


http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/880/880407p1.html

Star Ocean 4 just got announced for the Xbox 360!

Along with this, MS Japan revealed more on Tales of Vesperia, Infinite Undiscovery, Last Remnant and Fable 2.

Yet another great year of great games on the Xbox 360 :D

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Microsoft Japan Unveiling Even More JRPGs for the Xbox 360 This Tuesday


Microsoft is having a press conference this Tuesday to talk about their lineup of JRPGs:

Link:
http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=8762178&publicUserId=4549175

"It's been a while since I've written one of these types of blogs. But yeah, I'm off to Japan for over a week to do that thing I do. What am I going to see? Well, the only thing I can disclose right now is that Microsoft is having a press conference in Shibuya next Tuesday, to show off its line-up of role-playing games. Yeah, on Xbox 360. Go figure. At least two of those will be
Last Remnant and Infinite Undiscovery, but they apparently have some surprises up their sleeve."

There's speculation that the new RPGs will be Cry On and Star Ocean 4. The SO4 rumor has been around for a long time; it would be an important victory for Microsoft if this rumor turned out to be true.

While I'm not sure if more JRPGs will improve sales for the Xbox 360 in Japan, it will improve its reputation for game diversity in the countries where the game console is successful. This is likely the message Microsoft uses when speaking with Japanese developers, and it is true: the market for video games outside of Japan continues to grow with each passing year, and they shouldn't pass up the opportunity to have access to that market, which has embraced the Xbox 360 wholeheartedly.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Virtua Fighter 5 Philippine Championship Ends...



And I won!

Wow, I don't quite know what to say. To be honest I've never won anything like this.

In a nutshell, I, Scytherage, have won the Virtua Fighter 5 Live Arena ACG Preliminaries. I won out at the end after a series of matches against 9 other players. So I'm going to be the representative for the Philippines at the Asian Cyber Games in Singapore some time August this year :D

Today E-Sports had the preliminaries for VF5 and while they weren't as EPIC as the Guitar Hero prelims (which were held over a series of weekends), they were still quite exciting and enjoyable for all the players involved. Players from Pinoyxbox were on-hand and showed their VF5 skills, which were really enhanced thanks to the online fighting experience we all had playing VF on Xbox Live.

There were a couple of players who I think joined in thinking VF would be like Tekken. They seemed to be a bit frustrated with the controls....VF is really different from Tekken and takes an entirely different mindset to play. I noticed they were trying to string together any attack, and it just doesn't work that way in VF5.

Then there were also other players, who played the game on the Playstation 2 (Virtua Fighter 4). Some of them played quite well and I was impressed by the skills of some of them. In particular, Ismael Salvador, the second placer, was extremely knowledgeable of the game and gave me quite a lot of surprises when he played as Akira. My final match with him was very memorable because he gave me quite a challenge.

I posted earlier on Pinoyxbox and I think my description of the match there is much better, so I'll post it here again:


*****

The Final Match: Akira Vs. Jacky on Kage's Stage (low wall)


In the end I faced off against Ismael Salvador ....when I checked the list of players, he was actually the very first player to sign up for the VF5 tourney. I was talking with him on the sideline [before the final match] and he said he was playing VF since VF1...so he was definitely familiar with the game and posed a real challenge to me. I actually lost in the initial practice match (I won 2, lost 3) because he was able to beat my 'beat knuckle' strike and grab Jacky's fist. I was surprised at this because I don't recall a single Akira match on Xbox Live where an Akira player used this specific deflect/counter-attack (I've been playing VF since December last year; I've seen Akira deflects/counters but not like this one). I figured it must have been a counter-attack from the PS2 version (VF4); and noticed most of the attacks he did use were attacks I don't see being used on Xbox Live. VF5 players on Live seem to be using Akira's newer move set, which focus more on power, and take you down very quickly.

In the actual championship match, I decided to focus less on using the beat knuckle and went for more kicks and long range strikes. In the end it took Jacky's slide-shuffle-back fist (which I never used throughout the entire day during the tournament!) to take him down. Now this picture here is really cool because it captures that exact moment when I won the championship!

Final Combo: Beat Spin Kick, Slide Shuffle, Dragon Back Knuckle
Jacky's Last Combo
Big pictures of the last moment:
Picture 1
Picture 2

Notice how Akira was likely going in for a big elbow strike or back strike ... if he nailed me here I would have lost the round, but the back fist got him first! What an ending!

Later on, after the championship match we did a little exhibition round and I let the Ismael, the Akira pro-player/2nd place winner, show off Akira's SPOD (Stun Palm of Doom) for the crowd....it was pretty cool that he was able to execute it, and it shows that the guy I faced was no cakewalk, he definitely knew the ins-and-outs of the game. I told him, "Get an Xbox 360! Join us!" I hope he considers it because next year's WCG will surely have the 360 again, and he said he hopes to join another local VF tourney next year.

Hmm, come to think of it, this was the only Virtua Fighter tourney in the Philippines....ever! Man, SEGA....bring in VF5:R to the local arcades!!!

*****

So there you have it. I'll never forget the sensation I had during the final match. My mouth and throat literally dried up during the practice match up to the very end! I don't recall ever getting that kind of experience in my life. I guess this is the first time I've ever entered something really competitive and won. So it's a new experience for me....cool :D It's something I'll surely never forget!

So there, looks like the next stop is the Asian Cyber Games in Singapore this August. I'm taking a short break from Virtua Fighter 5 but of course I'll get back to it again shortly in preparation for the games. (Hey, I gotta play other games too!) That said, it's an honor to be able to represent the Philippines in this unique way and I hope that our Philippine players win some games this year. I'll do my best! :D

Player List for Virtua Fighter 5 Preliminaries

Note: I didn't get to know everyone by name, and some 3 players didn't show up for the games, so here's the entire list I got from WCG in the past. I'm posting it here for history's sake. Names in GREEN are the ones I know are from Pinoyxbox:

1. Ismael Salvador - Akira Yuki - 2nd Place Winner
2. Adrian Gabrentina
3. Philip Erwin Ortiz - scytherage - Jacky Bryant - 1st Place Winner
4. Papu Javalera
5. Mark Anthony Huertas
6. Johnasis Kalugdan
7. Paolo Felipe Neri
8. Alden Balili
9. Ryan Casanova
10. Mark Reyno - Totoy Troso - Vanessa Lewis
11. Mickey Fojas - gxblitzkrieg - Vanessa Lewis
12. Alexander Villafania

The other players present used the following characters; since I wasn't able to get everyone's name I can't recall which person used which character:

Pai Chan
Shun Di
Akira Yuki (another player used this, I found out later this was shopao, also from Pinoyxbox)
Sarah Bryant

Had a great time playing VF with you guys :D Will VF be the game for WCG again next year? Who knows....maybe we'll meet again ;)

Acknowledgement: Thanks to this website for the fantastic Virtua Fighter 5 Wallpapers!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Join the VIRTUA FIGHTER 5 WCG Preliminaries This Weekend!


Join the Virtua Fighter 5 WCG Preliminaries this weekend, June 7 & 8 at SM Megamall, and get a chance to win prizes from the PINOYXBOX Community just by joining! Remember, you don't have to win the tournament or be a finalist to be eligible for the raffle. Just participate at the games and join in the fun :D


These are the prizes that are up for grabs:

You can win one of the following games/items!

2 GUITAR HERO III: LEGENDS OF ROCK with XBOX 360 WIRELESS GUITAR
2 UNIVERSE AT WAR: EARTH ASSAULT
1 GRAND THEFT AUTO IV
1 RAINBOW SIX VEGAS 2
1 GHOST RECON ADVANCED WARFIGHTER 2
1 VIRTUA FIGHTER 5 LIVE ARENA
1 PROJECT GOTHAM RACING 4
1 HDMI Cable

Just some reminders:

The games will be held on June 7 and 8 at the at the Villman Gaming Area at SM Megamall Cyberzone, 4th Floor Bldg B. The preliminary matches begin at 1:30PM. Player registrations take place before 1:30PM.

For VF5 players, please be reminded that WCG is extremely strict with the registration. You MUST SIGN UP AT THE REGISTRATION AREA AT THE VENUE BEFORE 1:30PM. You will not be able to sign up later than 1:30PM because the marshals will close the registration by then. Late registrations won't be allowed. They won't allow you to sign up late even if you signed up on their website, ph.worldcybergames.com. So it's highly advisable that you sign up at the registration area earlier than 1:30PM.

Big Games for June: NINJA GAIDEN II and RACE DRIVER: GRID


Based on my impressions from their respective demos, both of these games will be big hits with gamers everywhere.

Now I couldn't buy both because of budget constraints, and I ordered GRID first and I don't want to cancel that order even if the Ninja Gaiden II demo which came out later on was so incredibly awesome. I really, REALLY want to buy NGII but real life demands that I eat and pay the bills, hehehe. Eventually I will pick up NGII...with the announcement that it's the last in the series, Ninja Gaiden II is now officially an interesting piece of video game history.

Tons of CAPCOM News from CAPTIVATE 2008

CAPTIVATE 2008 is Capcom's showcase of their latest and upcoming titles. I found a ton of news, videos and previews and posted it over on the Pinoyxbox forums (since normally we just post opinion articles or other things here on the blog).

Pinoyxbox Forum Threads for Capcom games updated with the latest from CAPTIVATE '08


STREET FIGHTER IV



RESIDENT EVIL 5


DARK VOID - New Game from Capcom



BIONIC COMMANDO

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Microsoft Issues Statement on Itagaki-Tecmo Lawsuit

Microsoft has issued a statement on the Itagaki-Tecmo lawsuit:
http://news.teamxbox.com/xbox/16687/Microsoft-Issues-Itagaki-Statement/

"Microsoft Issues Itagaki Statement
By: TeamXbox Staff - "TeamXbox"

Though TeamXbox hasn't received an official confirmation to our previous story regarding statements reportedly from Tomonobu Itagaki and his English-language translator, Andrew Szymanski, that Itagaki has left Tecmo and is suing the company, a spokesperson with Microsoft's Japan office did pass on a statement from his company that certainly eliminates any doubts as to the authenticity of the original e-mail:

"Tomonobu Itagaki has decided to leave Tecmo and Team NINJA to pursue other opportunities. We thank Tomonobu Itagaki for the many years he has supported Xbox as he has contributed immensely to the success of the videogame industry as a whole."

You can expect more details to come out regarding this stunning development, and count on TeamXbox to report them as they're received. "

Breaking News: Tomonobu Itagaki Leaves Tecmo, then sues Tecmo President

http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3168056

"Itagaki Leaving Team Ninja, Suing Tecmo
Ninja Gaiden mastermind quits on the eve of new game's release.
By Philip Kollar, 06/02/2008

Last month, Team Ninja head and Ninja Gaiden director Tomonobu Itagaki suggested in an interview that he would be done with the franchise after the upcoming release of Ninja Gaiden 2. On Monday night we received a clearer picture of just what he meant with the announcement that Itagaki is leaving Team Ninja and suing Tecmo.

1UP received the following confirmation of this news from Itagaki aide Andrew Szymanski:

"At approximately 2:30 PM Japan Standard Time today, June 3 2008, an official statement from Tomonobu Itagaki was sent by fax to major Japanese news outlets. In the interest of fair and expedient reporting of this story throughout the English-speaking world, I have been asked by Itagaki to convey this statement to you. Herein find attached Itagaki's official statement, in English, for the benefit of your readers.
"...You will likely have questions regarding the content of the statement, or about Itagaki's future plans. I am afraid that I will be unable to answer such questions for the time being; however, rest assured that more information will be forthcoming as soon as it is deemed appropriate to do so."

The full text of the letter from Itagaki follows:


"I, Tomonobu Itagaki, hereby announce that on the 14th of May 2008 I filed a complaint in the Tokyo District Court against Tecmo Co., Ltd. for unpaid completion bonuses, and against the President of Tecmo, Yoshimi Yasuda, for such unlawful acts as unreasonable and disingenuous statements made towards me, claiming damages in total of 148 million yen. I also announce that this complaint was delivered to the defendants on May 22nd of the same year. In addition, I hereby announce that I have today submitted a letter of resignation to Tecmo Co., Ltd. stating that I will resign as of the 1st of July, 2008.
"Before the start of development on Dead or Alive 4, Tecmo Co., Ltd. had agreed to pay a completion bonus to me for this Xbox 360 title, which I produced. However, when the time came for the actual payment, Tecmo Co., Ltd. went against its previous agreement and refused payment. President Yoshimi Yasuda chose not only to violate this agreement, but also turned defiant, telling me 'if you are dissatisfied with the decision not to pay the bonuses, either quit the company or sue it.' In addition, he made demeaning remarks about me to my subordinates and colleagues, causing me significant emotional distress and worsening my personal relationships and work environment. Thus, I have no choice but to resign from Tecmo Co., Ltd.

"The conduct of Tecmo Co., Ltd. and its president Yoshimi Yasuda towards me has been unbefitting of a publicly-listed company. I have filed this lawsuit with a strong intent to question the social responsibility of Tecmo Co., Ltd. and its President Yoshimi Yasuda, as well as condemning them for their unjust acts. Today, in addition to announcing the reasons for this lawsuit, I make clear my reasons for resigning.

"To All Game Fans

"I truly feel sorry to all the fans of the games I have made. Ninja Gaiden 2, which will launch on the 3rd of June will be the last Ninja Gaiden I will create. I will also never be able to make Dead or Alive 5. I regret the circumstances that have forced me to leave Tecmo, where I had worked for so many years, and I regret the disappointment this will cause my fans. However, I can no longer continue to work with President Yoshimi Yasuda, a man who chooses not to honor promises even when he is able to do so. I truly hope that nothing like this happens again in the future."

In addition to the allegations made in the letter, we've heard rumblings that Itagaki believes that Yasuda has focused too much on making a profit without a regard for quality. While Itagaki's official announcement does not point to any specific releases, recent Tecmo ports such as Rygar for the Wii and Ninja Gaiden Sigma for the PS3 are possible targets of Itagaki's anger, which would also explain recent interviews where Itagaki has been especially negative toward Sigma and has said that a PS3 port of Ninja Gaiden 2 would not be good. We've even heard rumors that Yasuda wanted to port Ninja Gaiden Sigma (a PS3 port of a rerelease of an Xbox title) to the Xbox 360 before he was talked out of it by Itagaki and others at Tecmo.

In the same interview we linked to above, Itagaki mentions that he intends for his next game to be "a brand new action game" that will be violent like Ninja Gaiden. It's safe to assume that this game will not be with Tecmo and probably that Itagaki knew that already when he started discussing it. We cannot speculate further as to what Itagaki might be up to next, but considering the timing, there's clearly some very bad blood between Itagaki and Tecmo. The outspoken game maker waited until the evening before Ninja Gaiden 2's release to make this announcement, which is sure to leave a slightly bitter taste in the mouths of many fans picking up their next dose of blood-soaked action.

We'll update with further details on Itagaki's departure and lawsuit as they are uncovered.

Additional reporting in this story by James Mielke."


This is really sad news and it's clear that it spells the end of the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive franchises. :(

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Gametrailers' Ninja Gaiden II Review is SO WHINY.

http://www.gametrailers.com/player/34662.html

I tried the demo. Is the camera that hard to control? When the camera isn't facing the right direction, simply make Ryu face the direction you want, then press RT.

Simple. What's so hard about that?

Enemies shooting from blind spots. Half the time, if you're running, they'll miss anyway. And yes you can sometimes shoot at the enemies firing from hidden areas. I didn't have a problem with this.

Platforming bits. When Mario has platforming bits that are challenging you'll easily find phrases like 'innovation!' and 'gameplay!' but put it in a game like Ninja Gaiden where the lead character isn't a cute plumber, and the phrase changes to 'FRUSTRATING!'

I'll never understand that really, really stupid double standard.

"Not accessible to casuals" Why does everything have to be like Wii Sports or Wii Fit? Isn't it obvious that the game itself was never meant for that crowd of gamers?

I swear, the more they put in this phrase, "Not accessible to casuals", in their reviews, the worse games are going to get. These game journalists might get exactly what they wish for, and every single game after this one will be so easy. Oh wait, I know....the next series of complaints will be "the game is too short! 6 hours long? Lame!!!" and then we're back to square one.

Why is the game industry so obssessed with winning 'casual gamers'? Do they hate their jobs that much? Maybe its a simple matter of being unable to brag to their non-gamer buddies about their jobs, which involves playing video games. Kid stuff, that's what most people think of this hobby. It's the truth....that's how non-gamers see it. And to get some kind of respect out of non-gamers, these game journalists trumpet games like Wii Fit and Wii Sports because its easy for non-gamers to make sense of these types of games. At the same time, it's these types of games that can cause another video game crash, because once these casual gamers get bored with Wii and move on to whatever is the next cool thing, what's left for the game industry? The hardcore gamers that it's trying so desperately to disassociate itself with. And if they're pushing hardcore gamers away with stupidly easy Wii games, the market can only shrink further.

My point being, games like Ninja Gaiden can't be reviewed like Wii Fit or Wii Sports or Super Mario Galaxy. It's retarded. Seriously, stupidly retarded. The audience this game wants is the hardcore gamer---it's MADE FOR THEM; so as such it should be reviewed FOR THESE GAMERS and not for casual gamers. The more game journalists apply stupid standards in their reviews like this, the more they're sending the wrong message to game developers. They're essentially telling Itagaki and Co., "Guys, your game isn't going to be played by Cindy over in Accounting, it's just too hard and unfriendly to her. Make more exercise simulators or bunny-catching-one-button-distractions....that's what the gamers want!". And if Itagaki and Co will listen to these types of reviews, you can just say goodbye to quality games that push the limits of gameplay to meet the expectations of gamers who know how to play these types of games.

I have nothing against introducing new audiences to video games. Just don't forget about the ones who made the game industry the billion dollar industry that it is today. As it stands, the Wii's impact on gaming is significant but not enough time has passed to see if it will really make a long-term impact. Already there are reports of Wiis gathering dust/not being used by gamers who bought them. It may sell like hotcakes but its lasting power is not yet certain.

Trailers for Resident Evil 5, Street Fighter 4 Unveiled

PINOYXBOX is currently down, so I'm not able to post these :( Hopefully the site will be back up soon.

Now here's some news. The newest trailer for Resident Evil 5 is now available on gametrailers.com:

Surprisingly there's a new character in the game. I recall N'Gai Croal from Newsweek was complaining about blatant racist imagery in the original RE5 trailer. Will this new one make him shut up now? With the female sidekick of Leon now established as another black character, people shouldn't complain anymore that the game is 'racist'. I doubt N'gai will shut up, though, knowing his penchant for putting sensationalism into gaming news. Resident Evil 5 is what it is....it's set in Africa so most of the zombified enemies are going to be black. I don't think Capcom picked black people to be zombies just to show them being picked off by a white lead character (as N'Gai was saying in his write up before). It's clear that that was never the intent....the lead character in RE was always Caucasian so I don't see why it's such an issue. Surprisingly I never see any complaints about lead characters in video games usually being Caucasian even if they're sometimes made by Asian developers like Capcom. Does that mean that Capcom looks down on their own race? In my humble opinion, it's ridiculous to even bring up race at all. Anyway, I'll never understand why some press including N'Gai made a big deal out of this. It seems more to me that they're hunting for a good story to get people all riled up about something to get their attention. Simply put, it's all sensationalism.

RE5 is a game about fighting zombies, and it's set in Africa. That's it. No racist message there.

Also released was the newest trailer for Street Fighter 4, featuring Chun-Li and a new character named Crimson Viper:
New Screenshots for SF4:

The trailer looks fantastic....but I wonder, why does the game look nothing like these trailers? It would be cool if Street Fighter 4's gameplay looked like this....watercolor style. The actual game, artwise, doesn't really look very appealing. The characters' faces look all distorted and I really hate what they did to Ryu. He used to be this bad-ass Japanese Shotokan Karate master, and for SF4....he looks more like some big, burly, angry guy. I miss the old art style. The best art style SF ever had was for the Alpha series of game. That was just spot on, perfect. This new style....looks great in trailers, but in actual gameplay....looks very Western styled, with strange proportions on the character designs. I'm not really sure why Capcom approved this. Couldn't they get the older teams to contribute art for this new game? With other companies like Namco able to make anime-styled art for their next gen games (DBZ: Burst Limit is a good example), I'm not exactly sure why Capcom is having trouble in this area.

But then, maybe the game will play well... maybe the controls will be tight. Maybe it will pull me away from Virtua Fighter 5. There is an appeal to being able to hurl fireballs at your enemies and to pulling off seemingly impossible super-moves.

The gameplay of Street Fighter IV is its only hope now, at least for me.

Oddly enough, notice how there's now a pre-order for the console versions of SF4 (Xbox 360 and Playstation 3). Is this game going straight to consoles? I thought it was coming out in Arcades first. According to the Gamestop pre-order page, the game will be out in February 3, 2009. That's a long, long wait....