Dale Dietrich
friedman: always supply your comparative advantage
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Sony’s E3 2009 Press Conference Summary

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sony e3 2009 - jack trenton

Sony’s 2009 E3 Press Conference can be viewed here.  See also my 2008 Sony E3 coverage. Click on images below for larger views.

Exclusive PS3 Games Shown

sony e3 2009 press conference - god of war demo God of War III:  (demo’d – coming March 2010 ) Looks terrific! Except, that is,  for Sony’s continued reliance on quick time events in boss battles. Grrr! But I still can’t wait GoW 1 and 2 were terrific games.

sony e3 2009 - gran turismao teaser trailer Gran Turismo 5 (polyphony – teaser trailer – still no ship date) – photo realistically gorgeous as you’d expect – first time cars show damage in this franchise – still a SIM that is likely only playable by extreme racing gamers.

e3 2009 sony - uncharted 2: among thevesUncharted 2: Among Thieves (demo’d – naughty dog – no ship date – multi-player beta starting immediately) I’m looking forward to this one! Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is still my favorite PS3 game to date. Demo looked terrific but the female lead has changed. Elena Fisher seems to be gone :( 

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Nintendo E3 2009 Press Conference Summary

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nintendo e3 2009 press conference

Nintendo’s 2009 E3 Press Conference can be viewed here. This has to be the most boring E3 conference I’ve ever watched.  See also: My 2008 Nintendo E3 coverage.

Announcements

  • Multiplayer Mario co-op: (holiday 2009 – yawn)
  • nintendo E3 2009 - wii fit plusWii Fit Plus: 6 new exercise modes, 15 new balance games, available as software-only (fall 2009)
  • User Generated Content: Some user generated DS content initiatives discussed:
    • FlipNotes Studio: animation drawing app (this summer)
    • WarioWare DIY: Microgame creator
    • Mario v. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again – level editor and online sharing (DSi – June 8, 2009).
    • Will be able to upload DSi pictures to Facebook this summer.
  • nintendo e3 2009 - wii vitality sensor Wii Vitality Sensor: Monitor health, pulse. Some kind of health / relaxation / stress diagnostics tool (no release date)
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2: New 3D Mario game

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Microsoft Games on Demand Service – One Step Away from Microsoft Points

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Microsoft Points Card

In my opinion, the biggest Microsoft announcement at E3 today was made after their press conference was over. They announced a new Games on Demand service (coming this August). It has two important features:

  1. Full Games Available for Purchase on Demand: Microsoft will start selling full games on-demand via download through the Xbox Live Service starting this fall. Following in the footsteps of Steam (and to some degree Sony), this may be a critical inflection point on the path away from retail game sales. The 30 announced games are all older games (eg: Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed and Bioshock). Games are to be sold at regular retail prices (no disk-free, Gamespot/E.B.; disintermediation discount). Nothing was said about the future availability of new titles day-and-date with retail releases. With the service in place there is, of course, no technological reason why this couldn’t happen. It’s just a matter of time.
  2. A Step Away from Microsoft Points: Anyone who is a regular reader of my blog knows that I am a critic of Microsoft Points (see this post, for example). Games purchased through the Games on Demand service will be purchasable with a credit card. No Microsoft Points required. Amen! Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end for Microsoft Points. 

For details see:

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Microsoft E3 2009 Press Conference Summary

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image

The Microsoft Press Conference can be viewed here. See also: My 2008 Microsoft E3 coverage.

Big Announcements:

  • halo reach logoHalo Reach: Bungie teased this new Halo game, set for a fall 2010 release. Whoo hoo! If its a Bungie shooter, and it has the name Halo on it, I’m in! Is ‘Noble 1’, Will Master Chief?
     
  • metal gear rising logoMetal Gear Rising: The next Kojima / Konami Metal Gear game is coming to the Xbox!!! Holy Cow! The final coup de gras against Sony.  Kojima seemed genuinely happy to appear on stage for the announcement.
  • lyons gate mylo demoProject Natal: A ‘controller free’ , full body motion capture, item scanning, facial and voice recognition. Will work on every 360. See demo here. I’ll believe it when I see it! I don’t believe the Lion’s Gate Milo demo pictured on right. It had to be heavily scripted (click for larger view).

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November 2008 NPDs – Nintendo Blowout

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Nintendo Wii Console It’s time to create a whole new category for the Wii phenomena. Holy cow– more than 2 MILLION in sales in North America in November is crazy. Yet, to this day there still isn’t a single game on the Wii I’d want to play – not one. Yet you can’t deny those sales numbers.

Video game industry sales are UP 10% year over year. Terrific given the economic downturn.

I was happy to see the 360 outsell the PS3 and PSP combined. Though I’m starting to worry about the PS3’s long-term prospects given its continued poor results. Despite the industry upturn, the PS3’s sale’s numbers are LOWER than its November 2007 numbers.  The PS2 results show its time is coming to an end. I wonder how many months before Sony kills it?  But, it still hasn’t reached the $99 price point. Perhaps it can grasp a few more months of breathe with a price drop before Sony puts it out of its misery.

gears of war 2 cover art Meanwhile my copy of November’s top selling Gears of War 2  is collecting dust as I finish Resistance 2 for my review. Gears 2 sold 1.56 million sold – trouncing Resistance 2’s comparatively meagre 385K unit sales. I’m really looking forward to Gears when I get the time – especially online co-op.

November 2008 Console and Game sales results after the break.

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Replacement Xbox 360 Arrives

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xbox 360 red ring of death

On November 3, I wrote about my Xbox 360 experiencing the Red-Ring-of-Death (RRoD) (original post here). Today, twenty-five days after shipping my unit out for repair/replacement, I received a replacement unit.

  • Replacement Unit: The manufacture date of the replacement unit is 2008-05-29. I presume it is a Falcon. I did not receive a new power supply with the unit. It appears to be brand new (not refurbished).
  • Much Quieter: The first thing I noticed was that the replacement unit was much quieter than the jet-engine sound coming out of my older unit. This is terrific. I can barely hear the replacement 360 when it is turned on. A welcome change indeed.
  • 1 Month Xbox Live Free: In the box was a card that gave me one free month of Xbox Live. Not much of a bonus given that my box was gone for almost a full month of my current subscription.
  • 3 Months Warranty: The replacement unit came with an additional three month warranty beyond the original 3 year warranty period that had just ended. The extended warranty ends on February 26, 2009 – 3 months from the ship date of the replacement unit.

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Yeah! My 360 Experienced the Red-Ring-of-Death – Just on Time!

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xbox 360 red ring of death - rrod Yeah! My Xbox 360 finally experienced the dreaded Red-Ring-of-Death (RRoD). Over the last few weeks my 360 experienced random freezing-up while playing “Dead Space”. It crashed/froze more and more frequently until I couldn’t run the 360 for more than 10 minutes without a freeze. Many times it froze on the boot screen. Initially, I didn’t get the classic Red-Ring-of-Death.

[For an Interesting read on the causes of the RRoD see: The Truth about the Xbox 360]

[Update: On November 28, 2008 I received a replacement Xbox – see details below]

I called Microsoft support (1-800-4-My-Xbox – 1.800.469.9269), expecting to have to pay for a warranty repair.  Happily, while the support rep walked me through his trouble-shooting script, I experienced the Red-Ring-of-Death for the first time (see picture below – yes, that’s a Halo face plate on my 360 – sorry for the fuzzy picture). I was able to boot the 360 a couple more times after the first RRoD, but it inevitably failed to the Red-Ring-of-Death state within minutes or seconds.

Dale's xbox 360 with the dreaded Red Ring of Death (rrod) - just before 3 year warranty expired The reason I say “Yeah!” in the title, and why I’m happy about this, is because I was one of the ‘lucky’ one’s that purchased my 360 on launch day – November 22, 2005. Microsoft’s extended RRoD warranty lasts for three years from the date of purchase. My 360 RRoD’d just 19 days before the third anniversary of my purchase date. As a result, I qualified for the free replacement (see details below).

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E3 2008 Sony: Movie-TV Service Launch – Not Much More

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 E3 2008 Sony Press Briefing - Jack

Sony Movie and TV Service: The biggest ‘news’ of the Sony press event was the U.S. launch, today, of the previously announced (see here) video service. Sony, Fox, MGM, Lion’s Gate, Warner, Disney, Paramount and Turner Entertainment have partnered with Sony to provide movie and TV content for the on-demand download service. The system uses progressive downloads so users can watch as a movie/TV show as it downloads. Sony says, content is playable a minute or so after ordering. Purchased content only plays on PS3 and PSP. No PC, iPod, iPhone or other device support was announced. No official word yet on how long rentals will be available for viewing – one site mentioned that it will be the usual 24 hours and 14 days to start.

E3 2008 Sony Press Briefing - New Movie-TV Service

Note: While the previous announcement stated that a service like this would be made available ‘world-wide’, I checked my PS3 in Canada and there was no such content available. Note the "video" button circled in red in the picture above (click for larger view). If it isn’t there, no movies for you!

E3 2008 Sony Press Briefing - Resistance 2 Resistance 2: They showed a little of Resistance 2. It’s looking good and includes 8 player online co-op support (probably only for certain missions). I quite enjoyed Resistance 1 so I’m looking forward to this one. What is it with the ‘brown’ colour in all the PS3 and 360 games this year?

E3 2008 Sony Press Briefing - Massive Action Game (MAG)Massive Action Game ("MAG"): This massively multiplayer shooter looked interesting. MAG supports up to 256 simultaneous players with 8 player squads, ongoing faction campaigns and character growth. The trailer looked great. It’s hard to imagine that 255 players will follow a command hierarchy that goes up to one or two generals. In my experience 8 players will rarely ever co-operate in an online shooter battle. I’ll have to see this one to believe it. See the blatantly pre-rendered trailer below.

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E3 2008 Nintendo: Wii Music, Wii Speak, MotionPlus, Wii Speak

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E3 2008 Nintendto Press Briefing - Reggie

And nothing happened. Nothing captured my interest and certainly nothing was announced to satisfy the hard-core gamers.

New Products

Wii Speak Wii Speak: A microphone that sits atop the TV that picks up all the sounds and voices from a room. This will be used in games in lieu of a headset. But the Wii doesn’t have a system-wide voice system (let alone a decent online game strategy). This will need to be supported from game to game.

Wii Motion PlusWii MotionPlus: An add-on that plugs into the WiMote to add wrist based twisting motions to its repertoire of recognized real-time movements. One wonders how developers are going to appreciate the burden of developing titles that work with both the WiiMote alone and with the MotionPlus adapter.[gizmodo review here]

 

E3 2008 Nintendto Press Briefing - Wii Sports Resort Wii Sports Resort: A new game, similar to Wii Sports, but situated at a beach resort. They demoed Frisbee throwing (with a cute dog catching it), sword fighting and lumber chopping. This game uses the new Wii Motion Plus for accuracy. Coming March 2009.

E3 2008 Nintendto Press Briefing - Wii Music Virtual BandWii Music:  A new music game featuring 50 virtual instruments was announced. A virtual piano, violin, sax and drum kit were demonstrated. Unlike Rock Band and Guitar Hero, the user doesn’t need to purchase physical plastic instruments. Nor do they follow note patterns on a screen to play. The instruments are ‘virtual’. Waiving/moving the WiiMote around in a manner similar to the instrument being played simulates the instrument. The virtual drum kit (see picture below) that uses the WiiMote and Numchuk as the drumsticks and a WiiFit board as the drum peddle was clever. But the other instruments looked like little more than air-instruments where regardless of what the user does some facsimile of music will be produced. Lame. And it sounded pretty awful. [more info here]

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E3 2008 Microsoft: New Dashboard, Netflix, Final Fantasy XIII

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E3 2008 Microsoft Press Briefing

(Click image to watch abridged version of Microsoft’s 2008 E3 press briefing)

[Full Microsoft E3 2008 coverage is here]

E3 2008 Microsoft Press Briefing - New Dashboard Interface A new Dashboard Interface for the 360: It’s coming this fall. [ Watch demo here]It’s nicer than, but seems influenced by, the PS3 ribbon. It looks like it will be easier to use than the current blade system. I question whether people will want to learn a whole new interface.

E3 2008 Microsoft Press Briefing - New Avatar System Avatars coming on 360: Looks like Microsoft is trying to bring a bit of the Wii and Playstation Home to the 360. I’m not sure if my adult friends will take the time to create their own avatars.

E3 2008 Microsoft Press Briefing - Netflix Coming to 360 Integrated Netflix coming to the 360: Netflix users will be able to queue up their Internet ordered videos to be played on the 360. This probably won’t be available outside of the U.S. for years (if ever). Regrettably, it appears that movies will only be streamed through the Netflix service and not downloaded. This means (i) fastforwarding and rewinding will janky; and (ii) the quality of the picture will vary depending on your Internet connection speed.

E3 2008 Microsoft Press Briefing - Final Fantasy XIII Coming to 360 Final Fantasy XIII Coming to the 360! The hitherto PS3 exclusive franchise is coming to the 360 on the same day and date as the PS3. Final Fantasy XIII coming to the 360 is another Microsoft coup. Other than Sony Studios first party games and Metal Gear Solid, I can’t think of any major game franchise that is a PS3 exclusive any more. Interestingly there will be no Japanese 360 version.

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Are the Days of Microsoft Points Numbered?

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Microsoft Points Card I recently listened to the March 31, 2008 EGM Live Podcast (download) where Garnett Lee interviewed Aaron Greenberg, Microsoft’s Director of Product Management for the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live. Among other topics, Aaron had the unenviable job of defending the concept of Microsoft Points (time index 17:40).

[Update: June 1, 2009: Today Microsoft announced ‘Games on Demand’. A feature to be launched in fall 2009 where full games can be purchased with credit cards. Finally, one small step away from Microsoft Points! See Gamasutra article.]

Reading several articles today on Sony’s pending PS3 on-demand service (see here, here and here) and Sony’s pending Playstation cards, to be denominated in local currency (here), it occurred to me that Microsoft’s use of points alone is going to become increasingly untenable as Microsoft’s key game/movie/TV show download competitors all offer competing products denominated and purchasable in local currencies.

Below I discuss Aaron’s arguments for Microsoft Points and what, to me, are overwhelming competitive arguments against them.

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How to get the Dual Shock 3 to Work with Resistance Fall of Man?

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dual shock 3 Grrr…..  Why does Sony make simple things so complicated?

I’ll start with the answer to the titular question. After firing up the PS3 with your new Dual Shock 3 (DS3) controller:

  • Reistance Fall of Man Cover start Resistance Fall of Man (RFoM)
  • choose “Multiplayer”
  • choose “online game” – the following notice will appear:

“An update to Resistance: Fall of Man is available. This update is required for online play. Download update?

  • choose ‘yes’
  • exit the game when the download is complete
  • start it up again.

You’ll finally have 10 year old technology in your sparkly new PS3 – yeah!!!

Who came up with this clever idea? How are people that want to play the single player campaign offline supposed to know this?

Now for the back-story.

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The New Playstation Store

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playstation store logo 2.5-rating (2.5/5)

The new PS3 Playstation store is a much needed improvement over the older store.

The Old Playstation Store:

old playstation store The old store (pictured to the left) booted slowly, was unresponsive, had tiny print and was almost unusable. It relied on a ‘mouse’ like interface with a pointer that needed to be moved around the screen with the PS3 controller’s analogue stick. It was very difficult to use and imprecise.

The New Playstation Store:

  • new playststation store main menu The new store boots up faster
  • Thankfully, the mouse-pointer interface is gone
  • The main menu now presents a grouped items column on the left
  • Selecting an item group brings up a much easier to read sub-menu (see the “New Releases” submenu below).
  • The submenu has a navigable list of possible selections on the right
  • Selection details show up in a big, easier to read, panel on the left.

new playststation store - new releases menu

  • Everything is faster and crisper (more pics on joystiq here).

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