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PS3: The New 3DO?

People are still making games for mid-90s console failures the 3DO and Jaguar. That's not the interesting part. The interesting part is a comment on that post that offers a quote from the 3DO's Wikipedia page:

The success and quality of subsequent next generation systems which began coming onto the market in the mid-90's, the limited library of titles, the lack of third-party support, and a refusal to reduce pricing till almost the end of the products life were among the many issues that led to the platform's demise. For a significant period of the products life cycle, 3DO's official stance on pricing was that the 3DO was not a video game console, it was a high-end audio-visual system and was priced accordingly, so no price adjustment was needed (emphasis mine).

Sound familiar?

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Wii Initial Impressions

I was in New York today not following Steve Pavlina's advice, and I had a chance to stop by the Nintendo World Store (Flash mandatory, ugh) in Rockefeller Center and spend some minutes with the Wii. After braving the "crowd" (~15-20 people playing on about 10 Wiis), I finally got my hands on the Wiimote.

The first game I played was Excite Truck. This is your typical off-road arcade racer controlled by holding the Wiimote horizontally and tilting it to steer. Aside from it being a touch sensitive, it was very intuitive and the new control style made what I would have otherwise considered a standard racing game a lot of fun. The graphics were noticeably subpar (below even my lowered expectations), and were only made worse by the beautiful ~37" HDTV I was playing on.

After one race, I stepped over to the next Wii and played Madden. Again, after playing Madden on the XBox 360, the graphics failed to impress. The controls, however, made the game really fun. Snapping the ball and passing it with motion were a lot more fun than simply pushing "A". The run game also becomes much more interesting and intuitive when I can shake the nunchuk or Wiimote left or right to juke/stiff arm instead of having to remember whether it's "X" or "LB". The only trouble I had was getting the kicking motion down. Luckily the tutorial available from the pause menu helped me a bit (though it still took me 8 tries).

Finally, I got a few minutes on Call of Duty 3. I'm sorry to say that this was a complete disaster. I just couldn't hold the Wiimote at the right position in order to get the controls to respond the way I wanted. I was often spinning around in circles or looking at the floor or sky. I eventually turned to sensitivity down but that just made it impossible to respond to enemy attacks. Of the three games, this was the only one where I was completely disappointed.

It's well-known that the Wii isn't a graphical powerhouse. I didn't think this would bother me that much, but I've gotten really used to pretty visuals (or mediocre visuals in standard def). The motion-sensing part of the controls works perfectly, but the pointing aspect needs some work. Also, even though some controls seem intuitive once you learn them, because of all the hidden motions that are possible, you're gonna have to pop out the instruction manual or run through the tutorials. For better or for worse, button mashing is over.

Still, I think that the awe of the new controller will keep me interested in the Wii for far longer than great graphics and shallow gameplay ever could. See you all in line Sunday morning!

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First Wii Kiosk Is In South Florida

Well how about that! A Gamestop in practically my backyard (well, some 20 miles from my backyard) is the first Gamestop in the country to set up their Wii Kiosk. It's too bad I won't be back in Miami until Thanksgiving, after the Wii comes out, or else I'd go check it out.

Now to convince myself that taking the Wii home for Thanksgiving is a good idea, despite the hassle TSA might give me ("Uh, sorry, sir, this is a, uh, banned substance. We're gonna have to confiscate it." Five minutes later: "Hey, Bob! I just scored a Wii! It'll go great with my collection of 50,000 lighters and 20,000 bottles of shampoo!"). Although it would be great to get some impressions from my family - who are far from being even casual gamers (well, except my mom, who loves FreeCell).

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Wii Launch Lineup of 62 Games Announced

Joystiq is reporting that the Wii launch lineup has been announced, and it includes a whopping 62 games (32 Wii games and 30 Virtual Console games). This is a far cry from the Nintendo 64's launch lineup of 2 games (which I played into the ground until another decent game finally came out).

I wonder what's keeping them from releasing everything in all three regions (except translations in Japan-only games). The US missing out on classics such as Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario World, and Zelda: LttP. Closely mirroring the N64 release 10 years ago, the sole N64 game coming out is Super Mario 64 (which I've played recently on the DS and have no intention of buying a third time).

While I do think the Virtual Console will give the XBox Live Arcade a run for it's money, personally, I find the lineup in XBLA is much more compelling. Nothing on the VC list screams "casual game" (although I guess that's what the Wii itself is for), except Super Mario Picross, a great game in it's own right that I don't think saw release here in the US (I played it in an emulator). Maybe I've just been burned by nostalgia too many times (Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers and Inspecter Gadget just don't have the same attraction 15 years later), but I'd rather play simpler, more novel games on XBLA than pay for old classics a second or third time on the Wii.

Still, the Wii brings a much-needed shakeup to the video game industry, which has been riding on rehashed formulas and prettier graphics for far too long. It appears that Nintendo will finally have the perfect launch they've always vied for, with plenty of units on shelves and a strong library to match.

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DigitalLife 06

I attended the DigitalLife show this past Saturday. I got a chance to see some interesting little toys, get some hands-on time with the PS3 and got a chance to hang with Robert Heron, Patrick Norton and Jim Lauderback of dl.tv/PCMag. Here are some of my impressions:

  • The new Treo 680 is a nice (but incremental) improvement over the 650. It definitely does not reflect the two year gap between the 650 and the 680. It loses the antenna, but keeps the awful VGA camera and same processor.
  • Dell was everywhere. I didn't see many non-Dell/Alienware machine on the floor.
  • The 20" Dell notebook is a hoss. I can't imagine anyone buying it and actually taking it anywhere. If it would actually fit on an airplane tray table, I can see the table just snapping off under the sheer weight of this machine. Even for LAN parties, I think a Shuttle box and separate display might be easier to manage, and would be a whole lot more upgradeable.
  • While I didn't get to hold the controller, I did see the Wii on display. The system is about the size I expected, but the controller looks a lot smaller than I thought it would be. Elebits was the game on display, and while it didn't look particularly fun, it did do a good job of showing off the Wiimote.
  • The PS3 controller is a nice incremental improvement over the PS2 controller. I like the way R2/L2 were converted to semi-trigger buttons and the slightlly smaller grip felt a bit better.
  • Sonic on the PS3, although 70% complete, was pretty buggy. Lots of clipping issues were apparent and the 360 version (85% complete) felt a lot faster. The graphics on the PS3 were great, although they didn't seem that much better than the 360.

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Monday Links

Some from last week:

A map of soda/pop/coke popularity by county. Some interesting little pockets of "soda" in the mid-West and I didn't know most of Florida preferred Coke, but with only 120k respondents across the U.S., maybe it's not too accurate.

A McDonald's billboard features a sundial. Too bad it's McDonald's because the ad is pretty cool. Total calories consumed before 1pm according to the ad: over 3000.

Pacman for Excel. For some reason I have had this page open for a few days and have yet to download it. Weird.

The Wiimote retail box unveiled. Nintendo's Apple-like design approach has extended to the Wiimote box, which looks a lot like the new iPod nano enclosure.

Interesting coincidences while watching the 6 Star Wars movies simultaneously. Some are a bit of stretch and I doubt that any of them were planned.

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The DP Makes the Big Leagues

The Daily Pennsylvanian, or DP, our school newspaper, had a front page article (with an N64 controller pictured, no less) on how video games are no longer just for nerds. Now, Wharton MBA student and Joystiq blogger Vlad Cole writes a short piece linking to the article. It was only a matter of time before the editorial quality of the DP pissed someone off in the blogosphere. Comments fall into two camps: "games haven't been nerdy for a while now" and "nerds (i.e., Penn students) are telling us what's nerdy and what's not".

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First Flickr, Now MySpace

There's been a power outage at the MySpace data center. To keep our minds off of it, they've included a Pacman game for us to play in the meantime.

So who wins? Flickr's coloring contest or MySpace's Pacman?

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DS Lite Success "Hinges" on QA

It seems that the Apple-inspired Nintendo DS Lite is having quality assurance problems that also seem to be inspired by Apple.

Reports are coming in that the hinge on the new DS Lite is all its cracked up to be (man is this post too punny or what?). Worse yet, Nintendo is claiming that this isn't covered under warranty and is charging users the standard $50 fee (~$40 of the cost of the system) to repair it. This series of events eerily echoes Apple's stance when there were early reports of MacBook Pro and MacBook QA issues (though they've since changed their stance).

Both the DS Lite and the Apple laptops are considered by many to be the pinnacle of industrial design. Is this the unifying factor between the two that is causing these QA problems? Is it still possible to design something aesthetically-pleasing and have it last until at least the end of the warranty period? How much longer will consumers be willing to brave these issues to have something pretty to look at in their hands/laps/desks?

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Apple and Sony: Sitting in a Tree?

Joystiq reports on a strange Apple logo appearing on the U.S. Sony PS3 site. At first it was brushed off as Sony penny-pinching, as some readers reported that the Apple logo appears when using the trial verison of Apple's Shake compositing app. That is, until someone else reported that the Shake trial also has the Save feature disabled.

A poster on ps3forum decompiled the Flash file and discovered a white Apple logo on a mysterious black silhouette with smoke blowing on it. Joystiq has been unable to get a comment from Apple or Sony as of yet, but Sony's PR firm stated that Sony will be making an official statement soon.

Speculation is running rampant and all bets are off as to what this tiny little message could mean. Will Apple play some integral part in the PS3's development (perhaps in the OS realm)? Or is this merely going to be an announcement that the PS3 will support iPods? We will soon find out.

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