Facing Changes, Choosing None
Posted on Tuesday, July 21 2009 @ 15:28:24 Eastern
They say that you are often harsher on the ones you love. When a family member did something stupid, or a girlfriend said something nasty, people push back because they have a deep affection for them, and eventually work out their problems through various means. True love and passion comes from solving differences, and accepting changes and compromises from others.
But, sometimes it is very hard to accept change. Hell, it is natural almost to reject it after you become comfortable in your routines. And it is also hard to compromise and stay true to those compromises, something many have attempted to and failed to do over the years, from politicians to athletes, entertainers to editors.
Why all of this sentimental stuff? As a long time gamer, one company has often stood out over the rest due to their innovation and their quality of work, and that company was Nintendo. The Japanese giant not only saved video games, but is arguably the pioneers of commercial video game playing today, thanks in part of the Nintendo Entertainment System, or the Famicon in Japan. With the help of visionaries such as Shigeru Miyamoto and Gunpei Ioki, Nintendo created some the most memorable franchises in video game history, from the Legendary Zelda series to the iconic Mario Bros. series. It goes without question that Nintendo is the most celebrated and adored video game publisher in the world.
But that was then. For all of Nintendo’s achievements, therein lies one, fundamental problem, and that is Nintendo’s adversary to change. Nintendo as a company has been a leader in video game consoles since 1984, but it was during the past decade, in the onset of the 3-D era, that the golden age of video game makers began to falter, leading to both positive and negative innovations in today’s video game market.
Nintendo’s problem is that with each new generation of consoles, there is a major adherence to do things their own way. While commendable, negative aspects often emerge and prove somewhat fatal to the consoles created. The 64 bit era brought Nintendo’s final cartridge console, the Nintendo 64. While the console was powerful, small, and very efficient, the limitations of cartridges were showing, thanks to poor musical qualities, use of static pictures, and graphical slowdown (until the expansion pack came out, which became required for some high-end games like Perfect Dark and Donkey Kong 64.) plagued many games on the system. While most of these are aesthetic problems, the hardware unable to match the larger capacity for disc and DVD games being put forth by the Playstation and Playstation 2, created by Sony.
It is worth mentioning that Nintendo had a deal with Sony to create a system that would have been produced by the company, but the deal fell flat in 1995. This lead to Sony going solo, creating the Playstation one system and the rest is basically history. While it is still unclear why Nintendo refused to use discs, the overall impact of that decision changed the landscape of video games forever.
While the Nintendo 64 was still a successful system, it was the lack of conformity that doomed the next project, the Nintendo Gamecube. A system again, was at best mediocre in graphics but had some astonishing gameplay advances, put forth some great products. The problems again were the formats of the discs, which Nintendo embraced, in a mini format. These discs lead to a lack of DVD usage again, and more importantly online support and connectivity, which was experimented on in the Playstation 2 and fully implemented on the Microsoft X-Box, the new competitor in the market. Once again, Nintendo offered connectivity between their hand-held games and the Gamecube only, using game link cables as the connector to consoles. While Nintendo-published games essentially pimped this idea, 3rd party support, already waning, was almost non-existent on the console.
With the advent of the 7th generation, Nintendo’s trump card was the Nintendo Wii, a console which uses the motion control scheme to play games. While innovative, charming, and capable of taking games to new territory, once again Nintendo drops the ball on many aspects that would solidify their position today. For one, online connectivity is available, but through the use of friend codes, instead of a service that connects all such as X-box Live or the Playstation Network. These cumbersome codes make friend making on the system very difficult and at best offer short, quick online matches for specific games only.
Nintendo, in an attempt to focus on their new control scheme with the Nintendo Wii, decided to change their market strategy, one that has proved to be successful if only initially. Casual gaming is a mainstream industry, thanks to cheap flash games like Peggle and Bejeweled, “casual” gamers have drifted towards the console for quick fixes and simple minded fun. Also thanks to this market, however, are rampant shovelware titles that are created for quick cash in’s, flooding the Wii’s market with game after game filled with poor control implementation, mini-games and cheap gameplay value. This also leaves good games in Nintendo’s library, such as Capcom’s “Zack and Wiki”, or THQ’s “De Blob”, with low sales despite utilizing the controls of the system to their benefit.
The problems with shovelware aside, the technical capabilities of the Nintendo Wii are blown out of the water by the two major competitors’, this time the X-Box 360 and the Playstation 3. Both boost a stronger game library, more third party support options that do not fit a “casual” market only, and arguably better first party game experiences. Nintendo, in an attempt to focus on the non-gamers, has alienated the gamers themselves, and what’s more, Microsoft and Sony are now attempting to cash into the “casual” crowd their motion controller schemes and emerging casual gaming markets.
So where does this leave Nintendo? Many fanboys would let the big N go on these missed opportunities out of support for their great franchises, despite great titles by Mario and Zelda every now and then, it seems that Nintendo is quick to embrace nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. Their primary first party games, while often the best games created, as many would attest to, are based off of their previous achievements. The only new franchises that can be considered a success for gamers is the Pikmin series, developed for the Nintendo Gamecube, while other series such as Nintendogs, and the Wii series, are viewed as by-products of the “casual” push by many hardcore gamers. Even major series, such as Mario and Metroid, have suffered a bit due to the lack of innovation put forth from previous efforts by Nintendo, and sometimes rightfully so.
But this is just the tip of the iceburg for the company. With the eventual onset of digital downloads, where can Nintendo go from here? The world of video games is changing again after almost twelve years of using discs and 3-D graphics. Nintendo has shown it is ardent to follow its own path, but the choices made along the way have been at best questionable, and at worst disastrous. While the Nintendo Wii is the top selling console right now, many believe that it has reached it’s peak in sales, and will suffer a major decline in the coming two years. The casual market is becoming stagnant and now it’s competitors plan to one-up what Nintendo has essentially pioneered, and chances are they will create a better overall experience for the video game population.
It is hard to be a fan of a company like Nintendo and notice the faults that have held it back for years, but only a true fan would acknowledge these faults in the end. Nintendo is facing a questionable future by not letting go of its past, by blazing a new trail that, for every positive aspect that is brought out from it, several negatives one easily counter. The future of games will change again, and for Nintendo to survive it must not choose to do nothing.
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Digital Download Saga: Why it Will Initially Fail
Posted on Monday, May 4 2009 @ 10:22:43 Eastern
In the month of May, the game Patapon 2 will be released for the Sonly PSP. This is a game that will be very critical in shaping the future of gaming, even if it doesn’t know it. It’s not due to some innovative gameplay mechanic or a new game design either. It is actually due to its distribution, which will in turn be a forerunner for the probable future of video games. That is digital distribution.
Digital distribution is the selling of full games through downloads, similar to add-ons and arcade games on X-box live, the Wii virtual console, and the PSN, for example. The difference is that they are fully fledged games, such as a full version of Halo or Bioshock, a complete series of Elder Scrolls and Final Fantasy, or even a fully updated roster for Madden and NHL. Digital downloads will give access to full, current-gen games to be downloaded for a fee at your own home. No longer will hard copies be the norm of attaining video games, when everything is downloadable, sales and distribution will be all done on the net, and it will happen.
This is the future of gaming, no doubt about it. And it is a natural progression as well. You have the current trend of game add-ons and full, retro games online already available, as well as custom new games that have been created by small, independent companies. Hell, the upcoming version of the PSP will feature only digital downloadable games, eliminating the use of Hard USB disks for the future.
But sadly, I feel it will fail now, at first, at least. It is not because I love hard copies of games, which I do because owning a hard copy of a game is so ingrained in my psyche it’s almost impossible to not enjoy these hard copies. But I feel like we may be jumping the gun in making Patapon 2 the first ever digital download title for the PSP, for a couple of reasons.
First and foremost, Patapon 2 is a very niche game. Not to detract from the game at all, but it’s not a blockbuster like Final Fantasy or Madden. It’s a great title for a limited audience, namely the hardcore gamer crowd and those who know a good game from a bad one. But for the average consumer, Patapon 2 will be a very hard sale for what is not familiar, especially since its quirky design and very unorthodox gameplay mechanics make it look exotic.
Another aspect that might lead to this failure is the fact that this is being done with little fanfare. Retailers like Gamestop and GameCrazy are promoting the game for the PSP, but the fact that it is a downloadable game is not being mentioned, nor is part of the official press kit for retailers. Granted, some employers will be mentioning the game to the interested parties, but learning that the game is fully downloadable might detract from that.
This is actually similar to Grand Theft Auto, The Lost and the Damned for the 360. When it came out, both as a digital download and a hard copy, there was some confusion by consumers who thought it was a stand-alone game in retail stores, and squandered $20.00 without having a copy of GTA IV. It was a good experiment by Microsoft, but without letting people know of the digital download or that you needed the GTA IV game to play Lost and the Damned probably made the hard copy of the disk less desirable in stores, and maybe detracted from sales overall of the add-on.
One final piece that makes a digital copy of Patapon 2 a bad idea in terms of sales and profitability is the fact that it’s on the Sony PSP. The system has a turbulent history, with three incarnations and a fourth one ready to be released. The sales of the system though are not as solid, paling in comparison of the Nintendo DS. Over $50 million PSP systems have been sold worldwide, compared to $96 million DS systems, a margin of nearly 2-1. Respectable sales for a handheld to be sure, but the switch to digital downloads only might again confuse many consumers who are not kept abreast to the changes in the video game market, and again this might deter people from purchasing a PSP and other PSP games.
For digital downloads to work, retailers and game companies need to work together to actually educate people in the downloadable features of games. Many parents and gamers don’t know about Microsoft Point cards, for example. Telling them what the cards do will probably alleviate the confusion somewhat, and may even grant parents and casual gamers the curiosity to look at digital downloads in a new way, and research it themselves. Hardcore gamers know this is coming, and perhaps preparation is in order for us, but we also need to prepare everyone in the process.
So Patapon 2 will be a great experiment, but it will not speed up the process of digital downloadable games. But it will also not deter the ongoing change from hard copies to digital downloads. While I personally feel that a mixture of both hard and digital copies is what will ultimately be successful (and I’ll save that for another article.) the future of gaming is coming hard and fast, and we are able to see the bits and pieces of it manifesting today.
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A Gay Old Time
Posted on Thursday, March 26 2009 @ 11:25:43 Eastern
As a gamer, you sometimes forget about the differences that people may have from each other. The stereotypes of gamer geeks and manchildren are somewhat eradicated now, because of am emerging casual market, and a lot of different groups of gamers are coming into the fold. Recently though, the LGBT gaming community has hit a speedbump, thanks to a ridiculous Microsoft policy.
Now as a bisexual, I have had a fair share of discrimination from people (New York is liberal, but not THAT liberal, at least where I live.) but on an online forum, where everyone is anonymous, I usually don’t put out my sexual preferences. Plus, I have a plethora of gay friends online, and we have done countless rounds of Soul Calibur, Left 4 Dead, and Rock Band together without incident. But since the whole scandal between Microsoft’s really somewhat intolerable policies on posting your sexuality over X-box live, it’s become somewhat sticky for the company to keep their public image.
What happened is a woman playing on live had her account banned because she had said she was a lesbian in her profile. The woman was harassed online for a while, until Microsoft banned her name, saying that it was a violation of terms of service. Microsoft went on to say that saying anything about your sexuality, whether it be “straight” “bi” or “gay”, is essentially a bannable offense, if deemed by the higher powers of the company.
The policy is, frankly, too zero tolerance. While I can understand Microsoft trying to avoid conflicts, because anonymity online leads to thousands saying things they normally wouldn’t say, I personally think this is just pushing off a rather important issue. People will always be, for a lack of a better word, *******s online. Hell, any game where I get called “gay” for winning is proof of that. When someone is actually gay, and he or she gets harassed doubly so because of identifying themselves as such, it should be expected that there would be some intolerant and close-minded idiots out there.
But is it right to do punish the victim over it? Microsoft is asking them this question, and has recently tried to apologize for this, claiming that their own banning policies are “inelegant” and is looking to revamp the system to make it friendlier for online interaction. One idea was to implement symbols that would denote your orientation, according to Stephen Toulouse, the program manager for policy and enforcement on X-Box live.
But if Microsoft really wants to change their policies, they may have to look inward first, and deal with their own issues. Recently, Microsoft is under fire once again, this time being sued by an employee of their subsidiary, Lionhead Studios. Lionhead, as you know, is the creator of games such as Black and White, the Fable series and The Movies. Microsoft purchased the English studio two years ago, and that is when the trouble began for Jamie Durrant, an 11-year vet of the company and a senior game designer. At his work studio in England, the human resources department has, since last January, been harassing Durrant due to his sexual orientation, sending defamatory emails and posting homophobic messages in his office.
Durrant, who became under stress from this, appealed to the HR department chair, which promised to send emails reminding the staff on how to behave in an office that is diverse. Sadly, the emails never went out, and when Durrant inquired why, he was told that the firm “would have to draw up new policies before an email could be sent.”
This is significant, because, Microsoft, back in 1989, was one of the first companies to already HAVE policies of non-discrimination in regards to sexual orientation.
Durrant “was allegedly asked to sign a document agreeing not to raise a formal grievance and confirming that he was happy his complaint was being dealt with. He said that he refused but it was agreed that Microsoft would post its anti-discrimination policy on the firm's intranet for staff to see.”
Durrant’s grievance is probably blown out of proportion, but it does make you scratch your head for a second. Why would a company blatantly lie to an employee who is being harassed? Of course, Microsoft is denying this ever happened, and the whole he said she said back and forth will likely follow, but it’s somewhat interesting to see Microsoft being called hypocritical, especially on the heels of a very unpopular policy action one month ago.
Maybe it’s just the timing of the two events being so close that makes this more important, but all the same, it’s fairly bad publicity for Microsoft. Perhaps if they would enact a stricter policy of tolerance, this might have blowed over. Maybe if Microsoft would just accept that there are tons of homosexuals playing Halo 3 as much as heterosexuals, then this will become a non-issue. Be that as it may, controlling a workforce is one thing, controlling the internet is another.
But as gamers, we need to recognize differences of others. I may be a bisexual, but so what? It doesn't make me less of a gamer. I can probably shred faster than you in Rock Band, just as much as you can snipe me in Halo. Sexuality never should be an issue when playing a game, or making one for that matter. Gamers are just as diverse as any other social group, and embracing that diversity, be it tolerance or acceptance, should be step one in solving these issues of discrimination. This is, perhaps, the true lesson that Microsoft needs to learn, not just for the sake of one employee, but for the sake of their clients, who just want to have a good time.
Links to the articles:
Xbox Designer Accuses Microsoft of Homophobia
Xbox Live Bans Lesbian Gamer, Microsoft Apologizes
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Winter and the Wii, Low Risks and No Rewards
Posted on Thursday, January 22 2009 @ 17:27:05 Eastern
Recently, IGN just did a little piece on this Survival Horror game called Winter, that was made exclusively for the Nintendo Wii by developer n-Space. The game is essentially a Survival Horror game more akin to Silent Hill than t... read more...
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Posted on Monday, January 12 2009 @ 12:31:18 Eastern
I have to put the Retro-Review series I have been doing on hold, mainly because I don't have time anymore to write a review every week (which is sad, because since October I feel like I have been pumping out some of my best stuff in terms of reviews.... read more...
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Thank you, Duke.
Posted on Monday, December 22 2008 @ 13:17:53 Eastern
Thank you, Duke.
Thank you so much for mentioning obscure games like “Personal Trainer Cooking” on the podcast. Yeah, it does seem kind of weird that the editor in chief of Game Revolution is... read more...
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A Chance at Something More
Posted on Monday, November 24 2008 @ 15:37:07 Eastern
Well, after deliberating for over a week, asking the advice of people I know and respect, and who have read and even critiqued my own ramblings on paper, I decided to do it. Gaygamer.net has put a call in for contributing writers... read more...
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Red Rings of Death
Posted on Monday, November 17 2008 @ 13:52:51 Eastern
While playing Fallout 3, my X-Box 360 froze one me. Normally I think this is something wrong with the game, and I have one minor scratch on my Fallout 3 disc, but after attempting to restart my system, it froze again, this time on the first boot up s... read more...
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Confessions of a Pokemaniac
Posted on Friday, November 7 2008 @ 11:28:11 Eastern
Today on Serebii.net I was browsing through they’re in-depth pokedex and I suddenly realized something, something that has not crossed my mind in years. Pokemon is pretty damn old now. Maybe not as ancient as most game fran... read more...
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History has been made
Posted on Tuesday, November 4 2008 @ 20:30:53 Eastern
As of right now, the projections for the presidency say Barack Obama has become the 44th president of the United States.
This is a time for jubilation for some, doubt for others, and hopefully, the promises of change that will occur. This... read more...
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