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12:11 PM on 09.09.2013

PlayStation Vita TV: A Great Idea



The PS Vita Tv is basically a Vita without buttons and screens. It will be able to play Psone classics, PSP and Vita games. At first, it sounds like an incredible bad idea, but when you start thinking about it, it can just be the greatest idea ever, one that will only help Sony and the Vita. Why? well, because several things.

First, it will come in two flavors, vanilla and gaming ready. The 100USD (approximate values) one is just the Vita TV, and it will allow video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, and probably any other video service available for Vita. It is unknown if it comes with a simple remote (which it should, but unknown if will). It is cheap and perfect for people who only wants a stream device. Also, if you already have a PS3 you can just sync your Dualshock 3, put a Vita game and play. It comes with 1GB of memory for saves or the small downloaded title. So anyone wanting a cheap way to play that Vita game you wanted but can't justify the 200USD of the Vita. Or if you just want to use Netflix on that other TV.

The second flavor, priced 150USD comes with 8GB and a DS3 is the perfect cheap console. It have enough space for games, specially the non-retail ones and PSone classics, and yet it allow for Vita and PSP games, giving it a huge catalog of games from the start. And still works for Netflix. So if you want a cheap console that do streaming stuff, the Vita TV makes sense. It have an extensive backlog of great titles, and if you are into indies, it have a lot of already released indies and more to come.

Not only that, it will allow Remote Play with the PS4. So you can have the PS4 in your bedroom, for example and Vita TV on the living room. So when friends come over, no need to move around and deal with cables. Plug the Vita TV and play away. Not only that, you can play Vita games on big screen and show your friends. And it is small enough to just go to a friend's house with it and play with him.

Sure, some stuff need to be sorted. Touch controls will be relegated to pressing L3 and R3(and I am guessing R2 and L2, buttons that aren't available on Vita) to simulate the touch controls. But probably many future games will come with full Dualshcok 3 support (and probably the DS4 when it launches) resolving those issues. And I hope Sony put even a small remote with it for streaming purposes. It will not work as well if you ask a DS3 to be used for stream only people.

Also, the memory cards are still too high priced. A second round of price cuts would help move devices to people wanting a cheap console and don't mind it almost be download only. If Sony can solve the controller issue and the price of its proprietary media, people interested would rise.

All that put OUYA and Gamestick (and any similar device) in a rough position. Those devices don't have the great game catalog Sony has to offer, and Sony is actively hunting great indies for it. Sony also have its own exclusives to push, and the Vita TV is not more expensive than the OUYA, but promises a way better device with way better games from the start. So I can see anyone who wants a cheaper device with a known brand preferring a Vita TV instead of the avalanche of Android consoles.

Another factor that will decide the Vita TV success is how Sony market it. Well done market could get people who only are interested in streaming on board, but also getting people who don't want a portable but want to try some Vita titles on board. And with a bigger user base, the Vita will very well get more games, meaning a win-win to everyone.

So, I believe the Vita TV have a great chance of success. All depending on marketing and support. Everything else is already there, so I am greatly interested to see how it goes.   read


2:32 PM on 09.04.2013

Is the Xbox One Being Rushed?




Microsoft's Xbox One, their newest console, haven't had an easy ride since its reveal back in May. And a lot of it is due to MS ineptitude to proper communicate what they wanted to achieve with the machine. So many things changed that the current Xbone and the one they revealed is vastly different now, from hardware specs to on-line policies to even what is in the box. But why is that?



To me, it smells too much that MS rushed the Xbone to fight Sony. Remember, Sony said before the PS4 reveal in February that they weren't going to announce before Microsoft. And then they revealed it to many people's surprise. Microsoft couldn't let them go freely, so they announced the Xbone a few months later. And that haven't gone as smoothly as MS wanted.



One of the problems that make me believe it was rushed is the lack of an unified message. MS main quote between the reveal and before the first 180° was 'more details coming in a later date'. Big companies usually don't do last time decisions. It takes a lot of meeting to do a decision. And the fact they couldn't answer a lot of question meant they just showed what was decided already, but it is apparent they haven't decided all that should have being decided before being ready for the reveal.



Then there was the now infamous 180°, where they changed the dreaded DRM policy. It was a victory for many, but the fact that they said they couldn't do it, to do it a week later, show me they weren't ready. Than there was the headset being not included, to be included later, the GPU and recently the CPU overclocking, the inclusion of FIFA 14 to European markets, the fact they reduced the number of markets the Xbone will be available in November 22nd from 21 to 13, all that pointing they were making decisions on the fly, instead of a careful laid strategy decided beforehand.




It comes with a PS2 tough... Wait, no, that is the damn power brick.



There are rumors, denied by MS, that there were problems with the production of their next gen console. It is not hard to believe when they have changed so many things. The most recent signs of rushed development is lack of support for many of the voice command features (including in English speaking countries like New Zealand, and no, the accent shouldn't be a problem when they will release it in UK, with Welsh and Scottish accents) and that external HDD support, a feature promised long time ago, will not be available at launch.



Of course, it doesn't mean the Xbone will be a failure, or that it will have a big failure rate for its hardware as the first 360. But all of those are worrying signs, and I believe that yes, Microsoft is rushing their new console to not let Sony gain any lead for being out longer. Maybe they can have a very finished product at launch, while Sony can still fuck it up badly.



But for now, there is worrying signs that Microsoft isn't taking the needed time to deliver a well made, finished product, and that they may use their early adopters to beta test their console. So, I would wait before buying it. And people waiting to see could do more harm than good to Microsoft new machine.
  read


11:08 AM on 07.24.2013

Digital Game Rentals may be what the industry needs (short blog)




Game rentals was a past of my gaming habits when I had my Sega Master System (shut up, Nintendo only really started to invest in Brazil with the N64) and I would always rent some games on weekends. But nowadays rentals in my country is pretty much dead. I haven't rented something like movies or games since forever. And here it is something that publishers and platform makers are losing a huge opportunity with. Allowing digital rentals.

Imagine you can rent a game via digital stores like PSN or Steam? In a perfect world, you would pay 3.99(24 hours), 6.99(48 hours) and 9.99(72 hours, games whose buying price is lower than rental prices couldn't be rented). Download the game (the clock only starts to count when you load the game for the first time), play the game and when the time is up, get offered to buy the game.

Again, if companies where smart, they would allow you to buy rented games at a discount, maybe even the total value of the rental. PS+ (and other similar services) would give you discount on rentals. It would be a win for everyone involved.

Players could try out games without losing time and money. Like the game, buy at discount, don't like it, let the discount expire. You could rent multiplayer games for just a weekend party (and party games for parties) and save money. The publisher, developers and stores would receive a bit of money anyway, cutting out middleman like GameStop out of the equation and profiting more. New IPs and mid-tier games would have a better chance to sell.

So, in my opinion, I can't see how digital rentals would be a bad idea. More money for game makers, players can save money to buy the games worth keeping(and maybe developers would try harder to make games worth keeping). That is why I defend digital rentals.   read


3:49 PM on 07.20.2013

Nintendo is not doomed, but the WiiU is not well either







Let’s put this out of the way first. No, Nintendo is not doomed. The company will not disappear due to one of their hardware not pushing as many units as would be desirable.  Nintendo itself holds a lot of value due to their worldwide famous IPs like Mario and Zelda. Nintendo have a lot of money in the bank, so they can survive years (some say decades) before being in financial trouble. But all that doesn’t mean that their home console, the hilariously named WiiU isn’t in trouble right now, or that the perspective of it turning around this situation is actually good. On contrary, Nintendo is doing close to nothing to safe its next gen console.

First, the WiiU itself is not a bad machine. It doesn’t have any inherent design flaw, or some kind of stupid component that make gaming harder. The gamepad may not be the best controller ever in my opinion, but it is not making gaming harder. It is not fully utilized, even by Nintendo, but it offers some cool tricks like off-TV gameplay. And except by the big screen in the middle, it is pretty much like Sony’s or MS’ pads. The problem Nintendo is suffering is lack of compelling content.

Why should anyone buy a WiiU instead of a Playstation or an Xbox? That is the question that Nintendo is failing to answer. Sure, the biggest Nintendo fans will answer that Mario and Zelda is reason enough, but that is only reason enough for fans of the traditional Nintendo games. And that may be a big surprise, but there aren’t as many Mario fans as the fans might think. And it is easier to back it up by numbers.


The bestselling Nintendo console is the Wii. So, how many Mario Galaxy sold in it? The first sold 12 million units, and the second 7 million. In a 100 million Wii sold, only a tenth of its buyers bough a Mario game. It means that Nintendo’s biggest franchise can move, at best, 12 million WiiUs. But of course, not all Nintendo fans are Mario fans. So, how big is the Nintendo fandom? 22 million people, as that are the people that bought the least successful Nintendo home console, the GameCube.

Nintendo fans love to say nobody buy Nintendo consoles for 3rd party games. It is a lie. The Super Nintendo, the 16 bit console from Nintendo, was filled with great 3rd party games like Chrono Trigger and Street Fighter. In fact, the SNES sold 50 million units worldwide. Saying 3[sup]rd[/sup] party doesn’t matter is a lie. Also, it makes clear that not everyone will buy a WiiU and another console or a gaming PC. In fact, the majority of people will buy only one console. We must remember that the main consumers for consoles aren’t the ‘hardcore’ gamers who visit sites and post blogs like us, neither that they see value in buying all consoles.

Nintendo fans also love to use ‘if’ and ‘can’ in defense of the WiiU. Nintendo can price cut. If they release more games they will be fine. They can use the vast money reserve to save the WiiU. If they start an ad campaign, people will know the console exist. But what Nintendo is actually doing? What is Nintendo actively doing to help its console to sell? I haven’t seen any movement from them to make the WiiU a more appealing console.


Nintendo Directs are great for the people who already have WiiUs and for Nintendo fans that plan to buy one. It assures them that the games they bought a WiiU for are coming, like Smash, Zelda and Mario. But it does nothing for people who aren’t on the internet actively seeking information on the console. There is no mass, main stream media campaign to tell consumers worldwide why they should buy a WiiU. Nintendo is right saying that games move consoles, but outside the internet and it and dedicated gaming fans, people are unaware of that.




It doesn't help when people doesn't understand this is not just another Wii accessory.


Second, Nintendo games will sell only to its fans. There are no new franchises, and the only game Nintendo have that is outside their traditional franchise is Bayonetta 2, whose first game sold something akin to 1.5 million units. Not what Nintendo need to move hardware. There is no movement from Nintendo to bring more games. No incentives for 3rd parties, no buying of new studios (they bought Monolith, but that is one studio whose game, Xenoblade, sold less than a million copies.

Nintendo is doing good to lure indie devs to its machine, as it can help to realize the full potential of the gamepad and fill some niches on the consoles, but I doubt anyone would buy a WiiU for titles they can buy in other platforms like the PC, PS4 and their tablets and phones. So, while indie push helps, it is not the WiiU salvation.

I expected the WiiU to be price cut during E3. Moving the Premium edition to the 300 bucks bracket and getting rid of the basic would have helped. As it stands now, the WiiU is not cheap enough to be competitive against a PS4. They can price cut later, but the longer they take to do it, the shorter time will be to them to capitalize before having to fight directly against the PS4 and Xbone.

‘Ifs’ and ‘cans’ will not save the WiiU. Nintendo need to stop asking people to wait for the day that the WiiU will magically become a great console. That huge amount of cash in the bank is useless if they just let it sit. When Sony was struggling to gain 3rd party support on the PS3, they started making games themselves to fill the niches. It gave us Killzone and Uncharted. Nintendo need to fill those niches themselves and stop hoping that a benevolent 3rd party will save their console for them.




'Please help us by buying three WiiUs. You love us, so go and do it!'


The WiiU tried to use the same formula the Wii used. Cheap, unusual controller and Nintendo franchises. But the Wii was a fad, which was left to gather dust after a few years. Nintendo failed to realize that and used the same formula expecting that lightning would strike twice, but ignored that the same formula that worked seven years ago could not work again, in a completely different scenario that Nintendo doesn’t want to accept is reality.

So, no, Nintendo will not die if the WiiU fails. They have enough resources and the 3DS to keep them afloat to try again. But Nintendo, right now, is doing nothing of the ‘ifs’ and ‘cans’ that could save their console. And if they keep waiting, the WiiU could replace the GameCube as the worst home console in Nintendo’s otherwise brilliant story.   read


9:45 AM on 06.24.2013

The Delusion of Microsoft Old DRM Benefits (Short Blog)

I will be short here. Many people started complaining on the benefits of Microsoft forcing its DRM on us would have. While some policies like being able to access your games on any XboX One as long as you log your account were detailed, others like the Family Sharing, cloud computing stuff and the Steam like cheaper prices are far from being thing Microsoft promised or/and detailed.

Microsoft never detailed the Family Sharing plans beyond saying ten people would be your 'family', no need to them to be actual family or live in the same address. But they never said what strings they were attaching except that only one person would be able to play the shared game at any time. Rumor says that the person on the shared family would only be able to play one hour tops before the game stopping and a store prompt appears.

If you think Microsoft would kill used games and just allow ten people to pay 60 bucks and play a game in full, you are lying to yourself. Microsoft would never lose money selling less copies of a game when their old DRM was made to sell more copies. MS didn't detailed the plan before because they likely knew the details would make the feature less appealing.

Second, cloud computing. Microsoft is saying how much better games will be with it, failing to tell people all the bad things about it, like lag, the fact that it needs big servers to do it(way more than to just handle on-line matches). Also, the fact that all this benefits only work as long as their servers are online. What happens if they go down? Or that they decided that your old game doesn't deserve space on the servers?

Last, people say Microsoft would push gaming prices down going the route they were going. Why? What reasons we have to believe MS would low their prices, when they would have total control over the games? The only digital store in the Xbone is the MS one, and they could as well say the retailers that want to participate on their trading program would need to follow their rules on pricing. Steam prices only get cheaper on sales and promotions, and because there is several other online stores you can go to.

So, any attempt into making Microsoft dropped DRM seeing good is by wishful thinking. Nothing in their announced policies state any of the benefits many people want to believe they could get. I am glad MS dropped their policies, but in no way they would take a hit for the benefit of the customer.   read


8:43 AM on 06.20.2013

The Xbox One Uphill Battle Will Continue




Microsoft, in the last few months, was the bad, bad guy of gaming. Its obscure, confusing and certainly anti-consumer DRM gained the rage of gamers. The fact the Xbone(how I will always call their new console) is more expensive, less focused on games, region locked and it comes with the Eye of Sauron AKA Kinect 2 didn't help it to gain consumer's trust.

During the few weeks after their reveal of the Xbone till yesterday, Microsoft defended that all their decisions would benefit the customer and would make everything better for us. They utterly failed to make this message being heard. Instead, they garnered more hate, and every time Microsoft executives(specially Don 'Chipmunk' Mattrick) opened their mouths they made their product seeing worse.


'Oh, crap...'

Here is the first thing. MS actually believed that their decisions would be more profitable to them. No company is there to be your friends (Sony, Nintendo and any other big company doesn't care about you, they care about money) but no company likes to lose a sale. MS probably expend a lot of time in meetings discussing how to make more profit, and of course they put in the equation how many customers they might lose due to their decisions. And in the end, they decided the Xbone and all its policies would be more profitable.

They likely decided their new target audience (hint, not us who like games a lot) would be more profitable and wouldn't mind all their restrictions. They also decided that us, people who love games, would buy an Xbone as long as great games were available only there. They also believed that Sony, the one that they likely consider their main rival, would use similar policies.

Let's not be naive here. 3rd party publishers probably was putting pressure on both Sony and MS for anti-used measures. Maybe they didn't give an ultimatum, but they certainly send messages on how they would benefit of it. MS decided it was worth to conquer the 3rd parties and made their system with them in mind.

On E3, they showed lots of good games, that actually would make many interested in giving MS a chance. All depended on Sony being similar in their proposition. Sony instead killed Microsoft at the show. No DRM, no always connected and a smaller price tag by not adding an accessory most wasn't interested. MS expected Sony to be similar enough to make everyone stop and think. Sony make it easy to most to choose. Or better yet, MS make their main competitor looks better by mostly just keeping the status quo.

Even after that, MS still believed their target audience would love them and would ignore their flaws. Until yesterday, they were adamant their DRM policy would benefit the customer. But them the pre-order numbers starts coming in. Sony was leading pre-order interest. An Amazon poll showed that 93% of customers where interested in the PS4 instead of the Xbone. GameStop employees said that MS put only 10 pre-order units per store, while Sony put 30. Even the mainstream media was aware and unhappy with their policies.

The internet complaining may not being the only factor that made MS change its policies. But it helped. That combined with bad PR, Sony policies being less draconian and the fact that they was becoming the bad guys at the public eyes made them do the now infamous U turn.


'Thanks for making our console looks better, Microsoft!'

While this is going to help the Xbone to sell a bit better at pre-orders, by making Xbox fans more happy with he console, the uphill battle will continue. MS needs to fix all the PR damage they made to themselves (gagging Don 'Big Mouth' would help) and they still need to prove to the public their machine is better than the PS4. It will be hard and long.

Even after the DRM drop, MS still have the most expensive machine, they still have the never-blinking Kinect 2 (it is up to you to thrust Microsoft will not spy on you, no matter how much they promise they won't) that must be connected all the times and we must remember if they could just flip the switch to turn DRM off (something they promised they couldn't do, so here is your thrust) they could just turn it on again later if they want to.

Microsoft did a good thing by dropping the DRM and the region lock. They reacted to the bad reception of its audience. But remember it was them that created the problem for themselves in first place and until yesterday they utterly believed they were right.

Microsoft made the first step to have a chance in the console wars. Now their machine is not an undesirable piece of shit, but a console many will take in consideration. But they are still in the uphill battle. They still need to fight against a lot of bad will they created in their possible customers. They still need to make their most expensive machine, Indie unfriendly, with a camera that needs to be connected all the time seems a better option than its competitor. Games can help that.

But for now, Microsoft and its Xbone is the underdog, and not the likable kind.   read


6:40 PM on 06.15.2013

E3 2013: The Next Gen Battle Started, Who is Winning?




So, E3 came and is now over. After finally watching the conferences of the Big Three, I decided to cast some thoughts on the matter. Of course, they all wanted to be the best, with the biggest games, the best offer. A new generation of the console wars starts later this year, so, I was thinking: who is better positioned to win? So let’s start with…




Nintendo

Nintendo was the first one to make its move, with the ridiculous named successor of the Wii, the WiiU (hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…ha!). I really wonder how they decided the name was the best choice. Wii 2 at least would convey the feeling of a successor. WiiU, and the fact they put the gamepad, their tablet controller on front and prominent in its, box, sounds like an accessory. And we all may have heard at least one retailer story about consumers confuse if the WiiU is a new machine or an accessory.  So…

What were they thinking?

Nintendo arrogantly decided that the 100 million Wiis sold since 2006 made every one of those people a loyal fan. They also decided the cheap pricing and different control schemes were another reason for their success, and that people wanted an all new different form to play. It does make sense on a superficial analysis. What they failed to see is that the Wii was a one hit wonder, just another fad that people have gone in droves to be in the trend and forget as soon. Wii sold most in its short first half lifespan and then become almost forgotten after.

Nintendo wished to repeat its success, and invested heavily in the gamepad, but not great came from it. It is neither intuitive nor easy to show off as the Wii is. We don’t have many games where using that second screen show how better it is to have it there. Most WiiU owners I know love it just so they can play games on the screen and keep the TV free for others.

Nintendo WiiU have being selling poorly and many 3[sup]rd[/sup] party publishers are just ignoring it, and heavy hitters like FIFA are going to be absent on the console later this year. Nintendo is looking to be turning the WiiU a box that only play their own games, and while it will not kill Nintendo itself, it may put the WiiU in a very bad position.

What they did at E3?

Not much. They made no press conference this year, and with good reason. Their 40 minutes Nintendo Direct showed they only had a handful of Nintendo games to show. They didn’t even price cut the system or revealed a surprise new IP. While the new Mario looks a fun, good game as most Mario games are and Bayonetta 2 sounds interesting, most games they show were actually expected, like Mario Kart and Smash Bros. Those Nintendo Directs are great to reassure WiiU owners that the great Nintendo games they likely bought a WiiU to play in first place will come, but it makes neither previous Wii owners nor people who aren’t huge fans of Nintendo games wanting one.

What they likely will achieve with their showing?

A 3rd place, with likely GameCube numbers at the end of the generation. The GameCube sold almost 22 million units, which shows how big the actual Nintendo biggest fans community really is. With its price of US$350 for the premium package, the one most people would want, it is dangerously close of the PlayStation 4, and dangerously far of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 prices. Coming the Holidays, people will have both cheaper options with a big library of games and a not that much more expensive option of more powerful hardware that have better multimedia and online capabilities. Without a mass media marketing campaign, Nintendo have very little hope that their wait and see strategy will work.

What they should do?

Price cut. Stop selling the basic package that nobody wants and sell the premium one at that price, while bundling a game like Mario Kart to it. Also, stop sitting in the pile of money they made with Wii and DS sales and start using it to make the WiiU more desirable. When Sony had little 3rd party support with the PS3, they didn’t sit in their asses hoping things would change. They made the games themselves.

Nintendo could also use that money to pay for 3[sup]rd[/sup] party support, so spending a little money now to be able to get a lot later would do wonders for them. Nintendo can’t just release a new, more powerful WiiU. So they need to stop waiting and do something. Otherwise they will likely be at the bottom, and while Nintendo will not die, the WiiU can.



Microsoft

Microsoft went to E3 with an uphill battle. They needed to get away the bad taste they left in the mouth of their most loyal consumers, the people who bought a 360 to play games, after showing the Xbox One (which goes up there with Nintendo for worst name ever) and concentrating too much on the non-gaming side. Their DRM policies and need for online connection to access your legitimately bought games also was a bad move for them. They needed to get the love of their fans back.

What were they thinking?

That showing game after game after game would fix it. And in a way, they were right.  Games make the system, any system. And they had a strong showing. Metal Gear Soli V, Dead Rising 3 and TitanFall were all great showings. For a second, their stupid DRM and Kinect and TV would look worth it if you could play those games.

To be fair, Microsoft probably researched a lot about how to please their fans and yet trying to gather new consumers. They probably concluded that most of their consumers, the ones who bought a 360, where always connected anyway, love TV and had plenty of money to buy their new box. And in a way, nothing they did is actually wrong in a business side and could reward them in the long term.

What they did at E3?

That price tag was too much. After being vilified for months even before their reveal of the box due to the DRM, Kinect and almost everything else, they asked a whole US$500 from gamers to enjoy the machine they were asking to always have a connection to give their permission to you to play the games you paid money to play. They also made a lot of stupid statements after, who only made them looking worse.

They also showed a lot of 3[sup]rd[/sup] party games, and if anything we all learned that 3[sup]rd[/sup] party game exclusives don’t remain exclusives forever. TitanFall is already rumored to not really be a Xbone exclusive forever, and it will be available on PC, so no real need to buy the new Xbox for it. And they yet had to show a single benefit of their policies for the consumer, which they failed and keep failing. Oh, and remember, the Xbone is region locked, will be available only in 21 selected countries and if you can’t mask your IP, you will not be able to play games even if you import one.

What they likely will achieve with their showing?

Hard to tell, actually. Many 360 fans will justify accepting the higher price tag and the online policies so they can play their favorite Microsoft games. Others, specially the mass market MS wants, are likely to not even know why those policies are bad for them. The Xbone will likely sell well at the holidays, but after that their high price will be hard to swallow. Not only that, when all the problems their DRM policy starts, and they will, it can damage the brand.

I can’t see Microsoft getting always with it at that price tag. If the console was cheap, or the games were cheaper, they could have being in a better position. As they are, I can see it selling well in the United States, the market they likely based their whole decisions, but all that TV stuff will make them no favors outside the US.

What they should do?

Microsoft put them in a hard place. They probably can’t simple scrap the Kinect to cut costs and sell the Xbone cheaper, and they likely made a lot of 3[sup]rd[/sup] party deals for exclusives on the promise of killing the used game market. So, their only options is to make their executives to stop damaging the brand every time they open their mouths to defend it and to make a huge marketing push to make it seems the bad things will work in favor of the consumer.

Another thing they can do is making the deal with a cable provider to make the Xbone a US$99 machine through subscription, making it seems like a great deal since you could have all you need in a subscription, like LIVE Gold and an internet connection. But that depends of deals in every country they want to sell it, so the Xbone is likely to succeed in its homeland, but not everywhere else.














Sony

Sony has being riding in the good graces of their fans and gaming fans since February. They showed lots of games coming, the specs, and they shut their mouths about DRM, making people wonder, but not damaging them in the process. And after Microsoft made them a hug favor of shooting their feet, Sony had the easiest way to impress the audience and conquer the show.

They could also have killed themselves if they made all the wrong announcements, like a DRM policy, bigger price point and unwanted features. Sony was in the position to win, but the question was would they use the opportunity?

What were they thinking?

That after messing up badly with the PlayStation 3, they needed to make everything right. They listened to the developers and their needs, they asked them to help plan the PS4, they wanted to have more games so they courted the Indies and they wanted to keep costs down, so no new expensive tech.

Also, they held the console final design and many details for E3, so they had a lot of information to share, and their show was one of the most waited of the show. They knew they needed a good showing to keep the entire positive buzz afloat.

What they did at E3?

They passed quickly on the PS Vita and PS3 new and upcoming games, so they could reveal the final hardware for the PS4. It wasn’t vastly different from the Xbone, more like a PS2 made love to a PS3. But they knew the plastic wasn’t important. They showed plenty of games, including a heavy emphasis in the Indie developers. They showed some new IPs too, something all the fans of games love. Then they started all the good news.

Sony will keep their DRM policy the same as the PS3, so if publishers want to keep the online passes or make online only games like MMOs, they could. Sadly, multiplayer will be paid, which is bad news. But them they announced the price, US$399, and all seemed well.

Cheaper than the Xbone, no problematic DRM policy, no region lock. Sony did all the right moves they needed and showed plenty of games while avoiding the pitfalls Microsoft made for them and fell in.

What they likely will achieve with their showing?

More positive buzz, the preference of the gaming fans and a competitive edge over the Xbone. Sony has the cheapest machine without many of the hooks Microsoft created.  They also have a plethora of first party titles, 3[sup]rd[/sup] party support and Indie support. Meanwhile, they still have the media capabilities to avoid seem to offer less than the Xbone.

Sony is in the best position ever, and all they needed was to listen to the people who matters: the game makers and the players. All those factors make them likely to come on top and if they don’t screw anything up in the way, to keep them there.

What they should do?

If Sony wasn’t hiding any bad surprises at E3, they just need to invest in market, specially to show off why they are better than their adversaries and keep making games coming, avoiding anything like the drought the PS Vita and the WiiU suffers.

Sony did everything right and if that doesn’t goes over their heads, they can return as the number one again.   read


6:27 AM on 01.19.2013

Arcade: Social Experience



Arcades are dead.

I will not deal here trying to figure out why, since there is way too many factors here. But they died long ago, and now we all play games in the comfort of our homes. We play with people from all over the world thanks to our broadband internet. Sometimes we even reunite our friends for a night of games and giggles. But the arcade was not only a place to play games, it was a great opportunity to socialize.

We would met people we didn't know, but because we shared a common interest, we would talk with them sometimes, maybe even befriend them. We would reunite our friends and go there just to mess around or even do a little competition between ourselves. We would laugh, get angry, laugh again and see our quarters being eaten by those machines. Some of those games weren't even that good, but trying to beat it with a friend by your side was great part of the fun.

And that I think was one big mistake that many arcades made. They didn't explored the social aspect.



Imagine if an arcade today was also a place of socialization. Plenty of machines, specially the ones geared toward co-op play or competitive play. Not only that, but all is geared towards the social aspect. You would have a restaurant inside, with waitresses going around the machine serving the people and lounge areas where people could talk and rest.

Not only that, but the arcade would be a connected club of sorts. You would have your personal card, and all machines would be connected to the internet. Insert the card in the machine and it would load your scores, your friends scores and even connect to social services like Twitter and Facebook. And even if you are in a different arcade, all the machines would be connected, allowing you to keep all information up to date. If the game had a console version, it could even connect the accounts.

Of course, someone could point that we could do all that from our homes. But guess what? You can see movies in your home, yet we still go to the theaters. Why? Because it is a social event in our lives. We still take our friends, lovers and family to the movies. Not because it is more convenient, but because it is an opportunity to socialize. To be with people you like, sometimes even meeting new people. If arcades had explored this, turned it into a place where people have gone not just to play games but to meet people, I believe many would be around today.

I don't know if it would be possible to apply this idea today. Arcades, specially in the West, are pretty much gone.But I will always wonder if the arcades could have being as much of a program as going to a bar or to the movies.

I bet they would.

  read


5:37 AM on 12.23.2012

The Brazilian Grey Market of Games



We have a particular kind of market here, maybe not unique to Brazil, when we talk about games. We call it the Grey Market. The Grey Market is an interesting case, and it is a constant to most Brazilian gamers wanting to buy games with better pricing than white market, but don't want to go the way of the pirates.

See, we pay a lot of taxes over games here, so, original games bought in the white market can cost up to US$100(200 BRL) for console games. It is quite a lot of money for games. You can go to Black Markets and buy bootleg copies for 5-10 bucks(10-20 BRL) but you have no guarantees and those bootleg copies can and likely will damage the expensive console you have. And of course, the guys that made the game will not see a dime of this money.

Enter the Grey Market.



Grey Market stores usually sell original copies of games, usually 15-20% cheaper than White Market stories. And different from the Black Market, they give you a receipt, meaning any problem with the game they will replace it. And those are original copies, meaning the developers receive money for them. For all intents and purposes, the buyer is acquiring a legitimate product and following the law.

The store? Well, not quite. The store is not an illegal store. They have all the permissions needed to operate, pay taxes and sell legitimate, legal products. It is how they acquire the products that aren't so much legit. What they usually do is buying legitimate copies of games overseas, in markets where the taxes aren't as absurd as Brazilian taxes. Usually, a 100% legitimate business would need to declare the products entering in the country to the Federal government and pay any applicable taxes. Except they don't do it.

Those stores smug the products in the country, and usually only declare a small percentage of them, normally the number of games that will be exposed in the store. The rest is stored in another location. If the police or any governmental agent goes to the store, all the products in exhibition have a legal receipt confirming its legal status and that all taxes where paid. Meanwhile, the rest of the stock, that is in a 'secret' location, is safe from any form of penalty.



When a displayed game is sold, they just go to the secret stock and replace the sold game and use the same receipt used before to present to anyone questioning the legality of the product. To the buyer, all seems legit, and he is acquiring a legal product in a legal way. To the developers and publishers, those games were legally sold in their country of origin and they receive their share. The ones getting screwed is the local publishers, selling a more expensive game and the government, that don't receive their taxes.

Of course, if the government wasn't so greed as it is here in Brazil, the White Market would have a more fair chance against the Grey Market. But it isn't the case. Us, Brazilian gamers wanting to not resort to piracy to acquire their games, will gladly use a Grey Market store, even knowing that those games aren't as 'clean' as it seems, to save some money.

So, that is how many Brazilian gamers buy original games here. I know it is not the ideal situation, but as I said, from the buyer's part, we aren't doing nothing illegal, even knowing those games aren't exactly 'legal' and you can't blame someone doing everything under the law to save money. Maybe when our government stop being greed, we will see some change.   read


10:33 AM on 12.22.2012

Expecting Bad Things



It seems that every time a new game is announced, people fastly goes to find something to complain about. I don't care why they do that. If it is for attention, if it is because they aren't loved back home, it doesn't really matter. I am, by nature, a cautiously optimistic. I don't look at a new game searching for things to hate. Neither I close my eyes to the obvious problems I may see. But when a new game is announced, I always expect it to be good and hope the developers can make it so.

Maybe third is a charm. And I really dig her new outfit.

Many times I saw people complaining about a new game when all they know is that a new game is being made. They will complain about the name chosen, the studio developing it, the publisher. And that is with not seeing anything of the game itself. And when the first screenshots appear, a new wave of complaints happens. About the art style, the characters, the setting. When people want to say something is bad, they will grab anything they can to justify their wishes.

I dislike this kind of attitude because it generate prejudice towards the game. As soon as those person put in their heads a game is bad, based solely in the minimum amount of information the game creators released, it is harder and harder to make those first impressions, no matter how wrong they are, go away. people don't like to be wrong, and they like even less admitting they were wrong. Once they decided with that bare minimum information that a game is bad, no matter how the new videos, demos and even the game itself turns out, they already desire it to be bad. And instead of assuming they weren't right, they will cling in the tiniest of things that can make then say 'I told you this game was bad. I was right.'

I still feel this is more Kingdom Hearts gameplay than Assassin's Creed

I feel a bit sorry for those people with this kind of mentality. This usually make it hard to them to have a good time playing games, since they already go there with a predisposition in taking every minor issue and make it seems as a game breaking problem. They will never be able to fully enjoy games that they decided it as bad and were never disposition to give the a chance.

So, I will keep hoping games turn out good, no matter how much the initial signs shows otherwise. I will let to pass final judgement only when I finally able to play it, be it on demo form or final form. And by doing so, I know the chance of being disappointed is bigger, but also is the chance of being gladly surprised with a good game, while being all negative means the chances of enjoying a game will decrease severely.

Well, that is it. Just a bit of ranting before the holidays. Hope you all have a great time. Till next year.

It looks like, Lightning can strike twice. YEEEEAAAAAHHHHH!!!!   read


5:50 AM on 12.19.2012

What Exactly Are You Relating To?



It is a quite common thing I read about games, specially about games people didn't like, that they couldn't relate to the characters. And then I started wondered: exactly what they mean with that? What it means to relate to? In my head, being able to relate means that you and the characters have something in common. Something in the story of such character resonate with your situation in particular and you feel 'closer to home' with the character situation.

But when people start saying they don't like a character because they can't relate to it, I always wonder if they really need a character to 'relate' with them so they can like it. Because, honestly, there is not a great number of characters you can 'relate' to, if you go with the definition I have in my head. To have relationship or connection with a character.

For example, how do you relate with Nathan Drake, for example? How many people have the archaeological knowledge he have? Or the climbing skills? Or was an orphan raised by a treasure hunter? How many people have gone in search of lost treasures while having to deal with others shooting at you? You can't relate with Drake's situation at all. Or better, there isn't many people that can relate with Drake's circumstances.

Yet a lot of people like him. You don't need to relate to someone to like him/her. The same goes for other characters like Mario. Mario have the personality of... well, he don't really have one and yet people like him. You can't relate to Mario, because aren't a Italian plumber trying to save a princes from a dragon/turtle guy. Yet you can like him.

Even more reality grounded game characters are hard to relate too. Take GTA IV Niko Bellic. How you can relate with a former Serbian soldier that migrated to America and got involved with organized crime? Or any first person military shooter out there? Most of people that play those games never served in military, making it hard to relate to it and its characters. Yet millions of people love those games.

If you say you can relate with this guy, either you are a dangerous criminal or you are delusional.

I could understand, for example, relating to characters in more real life situations. For example, it would be easier to someone relate to Junpei from Persona 3 because like him you grow up with an abusive, alcoholic father. Or Kanji of Persona 4 because like him you were made fun for not having hobbies that fit the gender stereotype society expect of you. But the fact you can relate to the characters doesn't mean you will like them.

See, to relate and to like aren't the same thing, nor they are a requirement to each other. I for example love Garrus from Mass Effect and no one can say they can really relate to him. You like him because he is fun, a badass and are always there covering your back. But if you say you can relate to him, you don't know what 'to relate' means. Or that I have a completely different meaning of what to relate mean in my head than you do.

Can I relate to Garrus? In no way at all. This doesn't stop me from liking him.

I think many people are using 'I can't relate to them' just as an excuse to not outright say 'I don't like them'. When you say you don't like someone, be it a real person or a character, it is something somewhat abstract and that doesn't have a logical explanation. By saying you can't relate to, it is something you can try to explain, so it sounds more logical and not open to argument than just 'I don't like them'. And yet, it make it seems that you can only like something if this something can, somehow, have some kind of link with your own circumstances, which is stupid.

Yes, of course there is things that sound more closer to you than others and it is easier to like them because of it. But it is not always the case, and definitely you don't need to relate to like. People use the 'I can't relate to them' too easy, in situations where there is no way to relate as exchangeable with 'I don't like them'. They are wrong.

So, before saying 'I don't like that character in that game because I can't relate to', stop and think: are you really disliking him because his/her circumstances doesn't have anything in common with yours or you just dislike him/her? Saying you just dislike a character is easier and way more honest than trying to relate with someone whose situation is unlikely yours no matter what.   read


9:51 AM on 12.17.2012

Far Cry 3: How Its Story Negatively Affected Gameplay



Gameplay is the most important aspect on any game. A game with poor graphics, sound and lack of story can still be an awesome game if it have fun gameplay. That is how many indie games and some old games become famous. Tetris need no story, no fancy graphics to be fun. If its addicting gameplay is there, you enjoy it. The same goes for the first Mario games, that are still famous for its great gameplay.

Far Cry 3 have great gameplay. And fancy graphics. And it is a lot of fun to play it. Except its story sucks. It is one of the biggest disappointments I had with the game. the problem, you see, is that the story drags in some points and move too fast in others. And that really hurt this game to me, since I love a good story.

Spoilers ahead!

See, you are parachuting with your friends and land in a island full of pirates, slave traders and a local tribe fighting each other. How the guy flying the plane didn't warn the group of 20-somethings about it is a mystery never solved in the game. Anyway, you land, pirates capture you and your friends and after killing your military trained brother, you are rescued by the local tribe, who helps you train to rescue your other brother and friends.

Training, unfortunately, resumes to giving you a tattoo, that automatically train you in hunting and shooting with a varied arsenal of weapons. If they spent a bit more time making sure you felt an untrained guy turning into a warrior would have helped. Nope, you just magically become a hardened veteran better than most pirates and privateers in the island.

As you rescue your friends, you spend zero time with them, knowing them, discovering why you should care about them. They are just generic 20-somethings, with generic personalities. You have no reason to care about their fate, because the game didn't made you care. They don't help you, they rarely call, they make their presence as forgettable as they could. And they should being the driving force of the story. They just aren't.

The other group of friends are the natives trying to get their island back to themselves. But the only two natives with major roles aren't likable at all. Dennis, the guy who should being your mentor, pass too much time being 'wise' and 'mysterious' that you feel no connection with him. The other one, Citra, the leader of the tribe, is another character you spend little time with and while she is beautiful and all, she is empty of real character. She is as much of an eye candy than your girlfriend, and is as must as useful as her.

Of course, all this would be excused if the villains of the game were memorable. They really aren't. While Vaas, the pirate leader and local psycho is well portrayed, he is just another obstacle, and after passing half the game trying to kill the guy, he dies in a very anti-climatic way. He is crazy, yes, and he overflow with craziness, but you, as what is common with the game, spent too little time interacting with him to care. It is something that happens with all the other two main villains. you hate them more because they annoy you to no end than anything else. They are all obstacles in you having fun with the game.

FUCK YOU! Stop bothering me! I have Komodo dragons to skin!

By the end, you are presented with the only choice of the game story. The locals kidnap that bunch of 20 somethings you are supposed to care about and make you choose between saving them and leave the island or kill them and become the king of the tribe. That tribe you don't really care about. Because the only person who showed concern with the main character well being is his girlfriend, I choose to save them.

But in reality, the game made nothing to make your decision hard. You don't find yourself torn between Citra and your friends. You don't care about both. Your decisions is more out of curiosity to see how it ends than because you develop any special connection with the characters. and that is a shame.

She is just pretty. That is all.

And all the story missions do something I hate. They take away all the freedom you have during the game and lashes you to do what they want you to. Forcing you to go stealth in missions you could otherwise do different, or making you doing menial jobs for the sake of its weak story frustrated me to no end. And while most missions taking away your freedom is justified story wise, I hate it, because this game is a game made with freedom to do lots of things your way in mind.

Gameplay wise, Far Cry 3 was one of the best games this year. All you do is fun and you can do a lot of things. But that is outside the main story, which is a shame. This is one case of weak story making a game worse than it is. Of getting in the way of the great game. and that is why while Far Cry 3 is incredibly fun, it is not one of my favorites this year.

Weeee!   read





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