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U.S. Army combat veteran. OIF 06-08. Forward Observer. Purple Heart recipient. Husband. Father. Gamer. Writer. YouTuber.

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Brief History of Video Game Consoles from the Early 1970s to the Late 1990s


Author's Note

I wrote this research paper for my English 101 final (I received a 91, which I was happy with considering I lost a few points on APA formatting errors that OpenOffice caused). Gamers will notice there's a lot missing, but the idea was to fit it within the project's limitations and requirements while maintaining quality of content.




Aerith Gainsborough gazes upon the Highwind in Final Fantasy VII for PlayStation.
Aerith Gainsborough gazes upon the Highwind in Final Fantasy VII for PlayStation.

Video games have come a long way in a relatively short period of time. To this day, the term “video game” does not have a concrete definition, therefore ascertaining what the first video was is impossible. A popular misconception is that Pong, released in 1972, was the first video game. This is definitely incorrect, as even its creators (Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney) developed a game called Computer Space in 1971 (which isn't the first video game, either). While Pong may not have been the first video game, it was certainly the first commercially successful one and ushered the video game industry into existence.

This is a brief report on the journey of the video game industry from the early 1970s until the end of the 1990s. A strong focus will be centered around subjects such as how and why the video game crash of 1983 occurred, the importance of Nintendo in the video game industry, the rise of the PlayStation brand and Sega's struggle to compete.


The Video Game Crash of 1983


The legend itself!
The legend itself!

Released in 1972, Pong was the first commercially successful video game. Following its success, Atari's Atari 2600 became the console by which all others were to be measured. Unfortunately, Atari indulged in many practices that would lead to automatic shunning in today's gaming climate. This led to what is referred to as the video game crash of 1983.

There were many factors that played in to the collapse of the video game industry in the early 1980s, but perhaps the most important aspect to note is that the industry was new. Navigating one's way through uncharted territory is no easy task, and Atari's missteps laid the groundwork for console manufacturers of the future. While Atari almost entirely killed off the American console gaming industry (revenues peaked at $3.2 billion dollars in 1983 and were down to a mere $100 million in 1985, a decline of nearly 97%), they were also the fastest growing company in the history of the United States. Atari had captured lightning in a bottle, but they had no idea what to do with it.

At the height of their popularity and financial success, Atari invested in one of America's favorite arcade games: Pac-Man. Originally released in Japan by video game publisher Namco back on May 22, 1980, an American publisher, Midway, licensed it for release in North America a few months later in October. The title was ported to the Atari 2600 in 1982 at the pinnacle of Pac-Man Fever and Atari was so confident in its sales potential that 12 million copies were ordered, of which only 7 million were sold at $37.95 a pop. While 7 million units sold of anything is a respectable figure, 5 million unsold units is embarrassing.

Everyone knows about E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial the movie and at one time in 1982, everyone knew about E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial the video game. The rights were secured to make the game in July 1982, giving the game only 5 weeks of development time to be ready for the 1982 Christmas season. Unfortunately, it takes a lot longer than that to craft a fine video game, even with the limited technical capabilities of early consoles. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial became one of the worst commercial flops in the history of video games and stands a testament to poor game design and unfair publisher demands on game developers.

In September 1983, the Alamogordo Daily News of Alamogordo, New Mexico, reported several semi-trailer loads carrying unsold E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial cartridges, Atari consoles and boxes were destroyed and buried at a local landfill. The New York Times verified the report shortly afterward. Once widely regarded as a myth (even by the game's developers), Ottawa-based entertainment company Fuel Industries was given access to the landfill for six months in order to film a documentary and excavate the area in search of what Atari supposedly left under the desert 30 years prior. As of this writing (December 2013), their findings have not been made public. It just goes to show not only how passionate video game fans can be, but how critical E.T.'s failure was to the fall of Atari.


Nintendo Takes the Reins 

Look familiar?
Look familiar?

In 1949, Hiroshi Yamauchi's grandfather suffered a stroke, forcing Hiroshi to take over as the president of his grandfather's company, Nintendo. Founded on September 23, 1889, Nintendo began as a maker of playing cards, staying that way until 1963 when Hiroshi renamed the company from Nintendo Playing Card Company to Nintendo. After several failed ventures (which included a cab service and “love hotels”), Nintendo began experimenting with toys and electronics.

In 1977, Nintendo hired a student named Shigeru Miyamoto. He would go on to create the best-selling video game franchise of all, Mario, as well as Donkey Kong (in which Mario first appeared in 1981), The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, F-Zero, Pikmin, the Wii series and numerous others. Miyamoto helped save the American video game industry with titles like Super Mario Bros. (which would be packed in with Duck Hunt in 1988) and The Legend of Zelda.

Duck Hunt was based off of the Laser Clay Shooting System technology, developed by Hiroshi Yamauchi and Gunpei Yokoi in 1973. Yokoi would go on to create the Game & Watch, Game Boy, and the D-pad featured on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and every console controller since its inception. Perhaps the most popular game cartridge of all the time, the Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt 2-in-1 package helped solidify Mario as a household name in the United States and around the world.

In 1985, the Nintendo Entertainment System was released in North America. The console had seen highly successful in its native market of Japan since 1983. By 1987, Nintendo alone was raking in $1.5 billion dollars in revenue, a drastic turnaround compared to the dismal lows of 1985. By 1987, there was no question that Nintendo had not only saved the video game industry, but had transformed it into a venerable powerhouse of creativity, innovation and profits.


How Nintendo Created Their Greatest Competition


Essentially a SNES with a CD-ROM drive. This was the original PlayStation prototype.
Essentially a SNES with a CD-ROM drive. This was the original PlayStation prototype.

Sony, another Japanese consumer electronics company, entered into an agreement with Nintendo in 1988 to produce a CD-ROM based add-on to Nintendo's upcoming new console, the Super Nintendo (SNES). Well over 18 months from release, Sony began to work on what was then known as the Super Disc. However, the fine print stated that Sony would be the “sole worldwide licenser,” meaning the business relationship would be far more beneficial to Sony than for Nintendo.

At the 1991 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Nintendo would inadvertently create their biggest competition. Sony announced the Play Station (with a space) that would have a port to play Super Nintendo cartridges as well as Sony's Super Discs. With the release of the Philips CD-i (originally a joint venture between Sony and Philips), Nintendo saw an opportunity to hang Sony out to dry and took it.

The Super Nintendo's main audio chip was designed by Sony engineer Ken Kutaragi (who would soon become known as The Father of PlayStation). As such, Nintendo was already heavily involved with Sony. But Nintendo was willing to take an incredible risk.

The day after Sony announced the Play Station, it was Nintendo's turn to take the stage. They were expected to talk more about the Super Disc and what it meant for the SNES. Instead, Nintendo announced that they would be working with Philips. Though both Nintendo and Sony would later agree that it was best not to become too upset with each other given how important the SNES audio chip deal was, Sony was palpably irate.

Ken Kutaragi saw an opportunity of his own. He sought the support of Sony CEO Norio Ohga in developing Sony's own video game console. Sony executives gave Kutaragi the green light and the world was introduced to the CD-ROM based PlayStation in Japan in the December of 1994, and in North America and other territories in September, 1995.


The Rise of PlayStation


The "You Are Not Ready" marketing campaign.
The "You Are Not Ready" marketing campaign.

The Sony PlayStation ushered in the era of 3D gaming. Though the Super FX chip was put to use in a couple of Super Nintendo games (Star Fox and Vortex), the Super Nintendo was limited by its hardware to produce anything more sophisticated. The PlayStation was more powerful and powered by CD-ROMs that could house far greater amounts of data than cartridges.

Nintendo's successor to the Super Nintendo and direct competitor to the PlayStation was the Nintendo 64 (N64), released in 1996. While the N64 was technically superior to PlayStation, it was severely limited by its use of cartridges. PlayStation was able to utilize Full Motion Video cutscenes and CD-quality audio on top of allowing for a streamlined game development environment.

While Nintendo has been and likely always will be arguably the best first party developer, its lack of third party support has been a trend it has been unable to shake for the better part of two decades. Squaresoft, one of the most prolific third party developers of the 1990s, developed Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy IX exclusively for the PlayStation because their vision could not be executed on Nintendo's cartridge-based Nintendo 64. Meanwhile, Nintendo was perfectly capable of crafting genre-defining titles such as Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the N64.

Sony is credited with cementing CDs as the go-to console gaming medium and changing the public's perception of who gamers are. Accessibility became one of the PlayStation brand's greatest strengths, on both the developer and consumer fronts. Sony gathered insurmountable momentum that solidified its position in the video game industry.

The original PlayStation would go on to sell over 104 million units by the time it was discontinued in 2006. The PlayStation 2 launched worldwide on March 4, 2000, and would go on to be the best-selling video game console of all time, selling over 154 million units before it was discontinued on January 4, 2013. The PlayStation 3 was released in November 2006 and has since sold over 80 million units. The PlayStation 4 launched on November 15, 2013, becoming the fastest selling console of all times, with 1 million units sold in well under 24 hours.

The Nintendo 64 would sell only 33 million units before its discontinuation in 2003. The Nintendo GameCube, released in November 2001, would sell only 21 million units before being discontinued six short years later in 2007. The Wii marked Nintendo's return to explosive console sales with over 100 million units sold and counting. However, Nintendo's newest home console, the Wii U, has been on the shelves since November 2012 and has only sold 4 million units, though some of the highest rated games of the last year have been exclusive to Nintendo.

The third party support that PlayStation began to rally with their original PlayStation is stronger than ever with the PlayStation 4. Nintendo's third party support is nearly nonexistent, leading to a wider variety of games on the PlayStation 4, allowing games to be more accessible to a wider audience, just as they had done with the original PlayStation.


The Saga of Sega


The iconic Sonic the Hedgehog
The iconic Sonic the Hedgehog.

Another console manufacturer was on the scene from the late 1980s up until the late 1990s. Sega was responsible for the Sega Master System, Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn and Sega Dreamcast. Unfortunately, Sega was never quite able to match the commercial success of their competitors and was forced out of console manufacturing in the late 1990s.

The Sega Master System competed with the Nintendo Entertainment System and sold anywhere between 10 and 14.8 million units. The Sega Genesis was Sega's most successful piece of hardware, selling nearly 30 million units but still well short of Nintendo's SNES sales of The Sega Saturn went up against the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, selling nearly 9 million units before the console was abandoned by Sega in a desperate bid to beat their competition to the punch on the next generation of consoles.

The Sega Dreamcast was a revolutionary game console. For the first time, a home console was able to connect directly to the internet via an attached 56k modem. Online console gaming had been born on the most powerful and relatively affordable console on the market.

However, Sega would inevitably be crushed by the PlayStation 2. Sony's platform had more developers, more games and was simply the most refined game console the world had ever seen. Sega, ever the underdog, had put up a good fight, leaving gamers with classics like Crazy Taxi, Shenmue, and the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog. Sega lives on as a third party developer.




Traveling through time in Chrono Trigger on SNES.
Traveling through time in Chrono Trigger on SNES.

In conclusion, the video game industry evolved from a niche market into a multi-billion dollar a year industry in a short period of time. There was incredible triumph, epic failure, corporate betrayal and revenge served cold. But more than anything, there was undying passion for an industry that most mistakenly believe began as two rectangles knocking a square back and forth. This passion persists in all gamers and continues to spread throughout the world.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Are AAA Layoffs an Opportunity for OUYA?

I'd like to quickly thank all of those who pitched in on the OUYA fund!
It was YOUR idea and YOU made it happen. Thank you so much!

Near the end of a console generation, we tend to see a lot of layoffs from AAA studios. I daresay that as we near the inevitable release of PlayStation 4 and the next Xbox, the gaming industry has seen more layoffs than usual. Every single time layoffs are reported, the same reason is listed: corporate restructuring. Basically, it means that talented individuals are now jobless. More on this in a minute.

Today, High Moon Studios (Transformers, Deadpool) and Square Enix LA (Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider, Hitman) were hit with a wave of lay offs. Let's take a look at Activision's statement regarding the layoffs at High Moon Studios.

"Activision Publishing consistently works to align its costs with its revenues – this is an ongoing process. With the completion of development on Deadpool, we are taking a reduction in staff at High Moon Studios to better align our development talent against our slate. Approximately, 40 full-time employees will be impacted globally. We are offering those employees who are impacted outplacement counseling services."

Just last month, Activision (also the parent company of High Moon Studios) laid off numerous employees of Treyarch, now that Black Ops II is essentially in a DLC cycle. Let's take a look at Activision's statement regarding these layoffs.

"Like any successful business, Activision Publishing consistently works to align its costs with its revenues – this is an ongoing process. In 2013, we expect to release fewer games based on license properties and as a result are realigning our structure to better reflect the market opportunities and our slate. Approximately, 30 full-time employees have been impacted globally, which represents approximately one half of one percent of Activision Blizzard’s employee population. We are offering those employees who are impacted outplacement counseling services."

I've taken the liberty of highlighting the soullessness of the AAA gaming business. Hire a lot of people, make a game, fire a lot of people. That's how it works.

--- A Common Practice ---

As I cruised Twitter this evening, a couple of tweets echoed my thoughts.

These guys have been around the block a few times. They know what's up.

And so it begs the question: Is OUYA paying attention? It is disgusting to see so many technically skilled individuals floating around from one AAA dead end to the next. Sadly, this mass displacement of personnel is a common and accepted practice. Nature of the business. And the fact that such a ridiculous business practice is considered normal is, to me, a clear indicator of how desperately the gaming industry is in need of reform.

I hope that OUYA is watching. Liz Stewart, who will be laid off of Square Enix on June 28th according to this tweet, is an excellent PR Manager. OUYA should definitely look in to hiring her. Just saying.

Thanks for reading. Fall out.

I also uploaded a video to my YouTube channel talking mostly about the OUYA. Check it out if you like.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

My two cents on the Sandy Hook shooting

Note: I posted this in the comments section of a CNN story on Sandy Hook and it has been down-voted more than up-voted. This is why intelligent people don't speak up -- because there are too many FUCKING MORONS out there.

I'm not refuting the deaths of children, because I simply do not personally have the evidence to state that "nothing happened". However, I really want to know why NBC explicitly stated that ONLY FOUR HANDGUNS were found inside the school (read: no AR-15) and, as far as I'm aware, has never recanted this report yet other news agencies, including NBC, have continued on as if the AR-15 was the only weapon used (which coincides with the supposed coroner's evaluation that all wounds were caused by an AR-15).

As far as Robbie Parker is concerned, there's something going on there. I actually like Anderson Cooper, but his choice to label anyone who raises legitimate concerns about what was reported to the public about Sandy Hook as insane, nutty conspiracy theorists just didn't sit well with me. I've seen people grieve, too, Anderson. Never have I seen reactions or mannerisms like those I saw from Robbie Parker or Veronique Pozner.

Ah, yes. Veronique Pozner. You all thought Robbie Parker was bad, but the Pozner interview was red flag after red flag. The biggest of which, at least for me, was this line spoken by Pozner: "It takes 9 months to create a human being and it takes seconds for an AR-15 to take that away from the surface of this Earth."

Was this interview Chroma Keyed? At 3:00, AC's nose disappears. Uh... awkward.

Her voice did not tremble. She spoke as if it was rehearsed. Her tone did not in ANY WAY match that of a grieving mother. And, perhaps most notably, she named the AR-15 specifically.

"... Because that weapon fell in to the hands of a tormented soul." There was a shotgun in the trunk. There were at least 2 handguns found (let's just ignore the NBC report for a moment). He could have brought a Louisville Slugger to recess and start batting kids around like wiffle balls. He could have taken a basic Chemistry class and tossed bleach and ammonia in to a classroom and locked the door. He could have went online and in 5 minutes learned how to create a crude explosive device. But he didn't. He took his mother's firearms and used those instead.

Oh, yeah. They were his mother's firearms. The mother, who was evidently not a psychopath, who attained the weapons legally as far as I know. So, what now, parents with mentally challenged children can't have firearms? Should we extend this to autism? What about children who are chronic sleepwalkers? These are all potentially dangerous factors!

Pozner spoke only of the AR-15 as if the AR-15 woke up that morning, decided to shoot Adam Lanza's mother and then forced him to drive to Sandy Hook Elementary where the AR-15 just went off on its own and then framed Adam Lanza for what it just did.

The Pozner interview was the biggest, brightest red flag of the Sandy Hook media frenzy. Yet because normal people, not crazy people, but normal, intelligent, totally sane people ask questions, we are all lumped together under the wackadoodle banner and scolded.

Know what the best part is? I don't even own a gun because I don't have the money. But as a combat veteran, I know how to use one and yes, I'd like to own multiple firearms. And I will, someday. People who break the law aren't going to care what rules you put in place. All you're doing is allowing law abiding citizens to be outgunned in their own home because they chose to follow the law and go through the proper channels to acquire a firearm that could not stand up to what criminals would be bringing to the table.

I'll be damned that if when my wife gives birth next week to our first son and we move to the city in a year or so that I will not have trained my wife how to properly operate a handgun, bolt-action rifle, assault rifle and shotgun. I'm going to be at college all day. I will NOT allow my family to be victims in a dangerous world because we had to get a peashooter with a 5 round magazine whereas the criminals stuck to the tried-and-true AK-47s with 30+ rounds and high capacity Glocks, all due to some garbage about how firearms are pure evil and that the mind of a spree killer is not the most dangerous weapon in the scenario.


Friday, March 1, 2013

"Big boy indies" support Ouya only because they're paid to, claims Tiswaz Entertainment CEO Kevin Dent

Note: I submitted this article to GamesBeat, but changed the tone a little bit. You can view it here.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Kevin Dent is the CEO of Tiswaz Entertainment, COO of P4RC, Inc. and Chairperson for IGDA Mobile SIG. Never heard of any of these things? Neither have I. But it's okay - his page lists him as a "Video Game Executive" and "a 14 year veteran from the digital video games space". He is also the Business Development Partner and Strategist for Rekoil, a run-of-the-mill, bare-bones military FPS currently in beta. Kevin was interviewed by Polygon on August 29th, 2012, in regards to getting Rekoil on Steam Greenlight. It's been 6 months since the article was written and the game appears to be as close to Steam Greenlight now as it was then.
With these illustrious credentials, one would think that this man would be capable of defending his opinions eloquently and with a measure of maturity. Enter Kevin Dent's Twitter feed.

I asked him to put it in writing (i.e. stake the professional reputation of himself and his sources on it by providing proof of these claims) but he ignored my request. Kevin unsurprisingly doesn't define who the "big boy indies" are. And he's not done!

It is clear that Kevin Dent has no faith in the Ouya. It is also clear that Kevin Dent is full of fun pseudo-facts that no one knows but him. Perhaps Ouya did ask if Rekoil would be interested in porting to the Android-based console due for retail release this June but there's no way to know how that conversation went or if it even took place. In fact, there's no way to verify any of what this "video game executive" is saying. So why does he bother tweeting it? I wonder what happens if you dare to question his opinions...

Oh, I see. The "big boy indies" that he talks to all post on "closed industry forums with the thread topics called 'wow the Ouya is a terrible business proposition'". Every single one of them! Not just a couple, but ALL of them! Wow! It's like a secret society for the elite that no one has ever heard of and likely doesn't even exist. Some real video game Illuminati stuff going on here, folks.

Actually, Kevin, I am a combat veteran, a husband and a father. Those are my life accomplishments. Nothing fancy, like being a "video game executive". Sure, I've been playing video games for as long as I can remember - literally, my earliest memory is playing Super Street Fighter II when I was 4 or 5 years old - but I am a mere consumer.

However, I am an informed, unbiased consumer. If my opinion is shaped by something, I share that something with others. What I don't do is attempt to personally attack those who respectfully raise legitimate thoughts on a subject that conflict with my own and I most definitely do not play the "I'm a member of a cool kids club and I can't talk about it!" card.

By the very definition of his various job titles, Kevin Dent is a professional. He's connected. Kind of. Supposedly. Whatever.

I am just not buying what he's selling. Apparently, neither is anyone else.

I found this character by searching "Ouya" on Twitter to see who was talking about it. Perhaps there was some new information I wasn't aware of. Sometimes I search for "Final Fantasy VII" or "Legend of Legaia" or any number of cool things to see what people may have tweeted about them recently. It's fun and you can contact people who share similar interests that way. It's called networking.

The bottom line is that this "video game executive" claims THE reason for "big boy indies" supporting the Ouya is because they're being paid off. This is an accusation that could use some clearing up. I have reached out to Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman via Twitter in an attempt to ascertain the truth. I imagine she is rather busy so who knows if she'll even see the tweet. I am not a member of the press. I don't have a list of credentials that may or may not be of any importance to anyone but myself.

I'm just a gamer who believes that people, including pompous "video game executives", should be held accountable for what they say. Especially when they're throwing around allegations of shady behavior.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

PlayStation 4: Price and Execution

These are the two aspects that will be huge, at least for me.

A whole lot of promises and the idea that this streamlined architecture saved Sony a ton of money on research and development costs which in turn will allow for a not-so-monstrous launch price.

However, to maximize the potential of the PlayStation 4 philosophy, a Vita is necessary. I fully expect a $200 Vita price tag by the time PlayStation 4 is released, but geez.

The launch of the PlayStation 3 was so abysmal that my preferred progression got all messed up. I was totally content with Sony until PS3 came around with the infamous "you'll need two jobs to pay for it and you'll do it because you want it so bad!" philosophy.

I mean, I was in Iraq when PlayStation 3 dropped and was gone for the next 15 months, so I could've afforded it, but to have it sent to Iraq would have been totally pointless. By the time I got back, I got caught up in the Xbox 360 hype that the rest of North America was caught up in, was medically discharged due to injuries received impacting my ability to perform my duties in a combat arms MOS of the U.S. Army, and have been on a low fixed income ever since.

I'm trying to find ways to generate more revenue. I've got AdSense on a blog, I've recently started doing YouTube again after my partnership with Machinima went sour on a separate channel (went sour for a lot of people in the past few months), I've started contributing to GamesBeat which allows you to link your AdSense there, as well. Trying to get my foot in the door of this industry, basically. It's not easy and there are no conveniently laid out paths to success.

Wow, rant much. Anyway, here was my system progression from birth till now:

Xbox 360

I love - I ABSOUTELY LOVE - the idea of taking ALL of my favorite games of all time (FFVII, FFIX, Xenogears, etc. - I wonder if the PSN version of Chrono Trigger will have its notoriously long loading times sped up on the PS4) is incredibly enticing.

The Share feature is okay... but they kind of forgot that commentary is just as if not more important than the gameplay, depending on the game and content you are trying to create. Uploading raw gameplay will only be good for... well, I dunno. Showing people how you beat a boss or something, I suppose. But with no editing? How dull. It's such an elementary approach. The importance of capture cards and general editing will not be dismissed. I guess people who just wanna upload clips to YouTube so all of 12 people will ever see it will enjoy the Share feature, but everyone else won't make much use of it unless it's a genuinely funny or entertaining clip. They failed to mention how this Share feature would interact with online multiplayer, though I can't imagine it wouldn't work properly.

I recently got in to PC gaming to some extent. XFX Radeon HD 7770, i5-3570 (no k, don't really need to OC beyond that my No-K OC can already do), 8 GB RAM, not bad. But I'll be using it for exclusives only. I'm a console gamer at heart, always have been - though my favorite games are old enough to where they can be easily emulated on my laptop with an i5-3210m and Intel HD 4000. Just saying.

Point is, getting in to PC gaming required me to get up to speed on what goes in to a PC. With this knowledge, I understand the power of the PS4 and where the power is coming from. It definitely has me excited, but as much as I love Sony's legacy aside from the awkward missteps taken by the PS3, I can't yet dedicate myself to the PlayStation cause even with the prospect of having all of my favorite games of all time easily accessible no matter where I am at any given time (assuming I have the correct device in hand).

And I'm the kind of sentimental secret nerd that is relaxed by listening to '90s era Nobuo Uematsu on Spotify. I mean, I love the offer on the table. I really do! The pricing and execution will be everything, at least to me and probably everyone else who has limited funds and things like a wife and newborn child to provide for.

The bottom line is that some people have to make a choice for an entire console generation and they need to stick to it because that is what circumstances demand. I'm ready to be won over by Sony. I want them to sweep me up in their next-gen awesomeness. Now all we can do is wait for Microsoft to unveil their master plan. The power of what many perceive as home court advantage cannot be underestimated and Microsoft does have a lot of North American momentum heading in to the next generation.

The competition for our dollars will be greater than ever. It's 2013, and it's a great time to be a gamer.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Something to keep in mind heading in to next-gen

PlayStation 4 is likely to be announced at the PlayStation Meeting taking place in New York City at 6 PM EST tonight. We probably won't see a release date (November 2013?) or price range for various models ($399-$499?) but we're definitely most likely probably in all likelihood going to see some gameplay.

I do not expect to be blown away by the graphics of next-gen and neither should you.

Take Ubisoft's Watch Dogs, for example. An epic gameplay video came out of E3 2012 and it was only later confirmed that this title would be making its way to next-gen consoles (as well as PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360). You can tell that it looks better than what's currently available on consoles, but when compared to PC, I can't say that I'm totally blown away like the jump from SD to HD, or 16-bit to 32-bit.

I suppose as time goes on, more and more people will become aware of PC gaming and how it relates to console development. I'm definitely not saying PC gaming is better than console gaming because of graphics or whatever. I'm just saying, when viewing the next-gen gameplay that we will probably be seeing tonight, don't expect anything too crazy.

Keep your hopes reasonable. Don't break your own heart and stuff.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

#PlayStation2013. Sony's time to shine?

About 3 weeks ago, on January 31, 2013, Sony uploaded a video to YouTube that has sparked unfathomable buzz heading in to the PlayStation Meeting on February 20. That's tomorrow, people. Tomorrow, PlayStation 4 *should* be announced.

I have spent the entirety of this hardware generation on the Xbox 360. I've played a few games on the PlayStation 3 here and there but never owned the system. I can't say I regret it.

I grew up on the Super Nintendo and original PlayStation. I will never... EVER - do you hear me? - NEVER EVER EVER stop playing the games I love on those systems. It's not just nostalgia, though I admit that I have a ton of older video game music on Spotify and listening to the main theme of Final Fantasy VII takes me to a happy place.

PlayStation 2 has sold a whopping 153.68 million units and reigns supreme as the top selling console of all time. The Nintendo DS has sold 154.33 million units, but you know what I'm saying. The PS2 was a phenomenon. PlayStation 2 up in the ride and is that Lorenzo-kitted? I don't really like rap either, but still.

PlayStation 3. What happened?

It wasn't for lack of great exclusives or raw hardware power. Microsoft's Xbox 360 dropped 5 days off a full year earlier than the PlayStation 3 and everyone got cozy with the new hotness. Especially in North America.

North America - Europe - Japan - Rest of World - Global
Sales from left to right, courtesy of VGChartz

As you can see, the PlayStation 3 sold 1.41 million units less than the Xbox 360 in total but was outsold by Microsoft's console by an absurd 16.28 million units here in North America. That's a telling figure. To me, it suggests that the full year that Microsoft had on Sony was time enough to establish a devoted fan base for the system, but first year global sales for the Xbox 360 came in at just under 6 million units whereas the PlayStation 3 sold just over 6 million units.

So what the hell does this all mean? Obviously, the Xbox 360 sold very well in the North America but was outsold by the PlayStation 3 everywhere else. That is the only concrete data you can extrapolate from that because there are so many variables to consider. Marketing, pricing, first impressions, games, included hardware, etc.

The main event of Sony's PlayStation Meeting tomorrow is the likely announcement of the PlayStation 4. We will most likely not be told anything about a release date or pricing. Why? Because Sony wants to see what Microsoft is bringing to the table before they show their entire hand. Plus, I'm not sure even Sony knows how much the PS4 will be launching at.

Here are the things Sony needs to get right this time around:

1) E3 2006. Sony CEO Kaz Hirai comes up on stage and tells us the PlayStation 3 is going to set us back $599 for the 60GB version and $499 for 20GB. Remember, the Xbox 360 was already available for $399. I realize you're trying to make up for research and development costs and all that, but this is the nature of the business you are in. You want people to buy your product, don't put an absurd sticker price on it.

2) With a new generation comes new controllers. No one cared about the Sixaxis. Make the controller all-PlayStation and make other companies want to emulate YOU.

3) Shortly after launch, PlayStation 3 had a plethora of available models to choose from. Roll out a strong lineup and stick to it for a while. You ever stood in GameStop for a few minutes and just listen to the dumb questions people ask? "Does this play my old games? Can I go on the internet with this? How many controllers come with it? What games do I get?" Most consumers are too lazy and stupid (sorry, but it's true) to do their own 60 seconds worth of research, so make it as easy as possible for them.

4) If you're going to show games tomorrow, lay on the next-generation coating as thick as possible. Let people say "so THIS is what next-gen console gaming is going to look like". First impressions are everything. First impressions from PlayStation 3 was "this costs a lot more than the Xbox 360 and even though the PS3 may be technically superior, I can't really tell the difference, so hell with it". Don't make that mistake again. Sony needs to show that they are the face of next-gen consoles.

5) While was using that terrible headset that comes with the Xbox 360 to chat with each other, PlayStation 3 choose to pretty much ignore that entire aspect of online gaming. The new PlayStation 4 controller appears to be rectifying the issue, but it's still worth mentioning because it was a big deal for the Xbox 360 and PS3.

6) The launch lineup needs to not be all sports games and maybe 2 other titles worth a second look. For real. It's 2013. Hit the ground running or just slam face first in to it. It's your choice, Sony.

7) Sony is already making great strides in improving PlayStation Network and I'm sure this progress will continue with the PS4.

I have high hopes for PlayStation 4

If they want to be really awesome, they'll launch with a Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy IX HD remaster that is exclusive to Sony consoles. THAT WOULD DRIVE SALES, I GUARANTEE IT. But that will probably never happen because it's what fans actually want and it's not really up to Sony. I'm just saying, it'd be nice...


A release date and pricing options will likely not be available at tomorrow's PlayStation Meeting. For all we know, there won't even be any hands-on models for people to mess with. We'll see. Oh, and I expect they'll announce a price drop for the PS Vita, settling around $199. Long overdue.

I'm excited and you should be, too. These are exciting times.

Monday, February 18, 2013

"Pay more, get faster internet!" It's not that simple

I live in Maine. For most of us up here, our internet speeds are just plain crap. Here's an example of what my connection looks like with no one else in the house online. This is not a joke.

Yeah. That's supposed to be a 3 MBPS download (I've never seen it spike above 605 KBPS; usually it's around 350 KBPS) and a 768 KBPS upload. This costs $35.99/month.

Now take a look at what my ISP offers for my area. By the way, this is the only ISP in town.

Apparently, I have the Standard plan. Looks like all I have to do is pay $14 more a month for Ultra, right? Simple as that, right? Too easy, right? Yeah, no, wrong. Just because an ISP offers you something on the website doesn't mean you can get it in your area.

Circled in blue is my neck of the woods. The fastest speed you can get here (and yes, this is a residential area, not a log cabin in the middle of nowhere) is what I already have. And just to rub it in, my ISP also offers this on their website:


TL;DR - If you're fortunate enough to live in an area with fast and fairly priced internet, congratulations. But if you are one of those people who sit around on Xbox Live or PlayStation Network or Steam or whatever and die because someone other than you lags about from time to time and your comeback is "well, just get a better internet connection", you are an idiot. It very likely has nothing to do with that person being "poor" and everything to do with location, location, location.

Deal with it.

Man dies saving son in a snowmobile accident

I woke up this morning to find a tweet from the Bangor Daily News with a link to a story that deserves national recognition. If you click the link, you will be taken to it.

Keith Ryan Jr. had his 9 year old son Aden Ryan sitting in front of him on a snowmobile when apparently the "throttle stuck and it just took off".

Just before the vehicle went airborne and crashed into a brook, Keith Ryan Jr. grabbed his son and threw him from the snowmobile. In doing so, he saved his son's life. Both were wearing helmets.

I never met Keith. I don't know who he is or what he does other than what I read in the article. But I do know that his actions deserve to be recognized. Not by exploiting a grieving son and family for ratings, but by bringing attention to the fact that, as sad as this is, there are still good people and more specifically good parents in the world.

It raises a few questions, but one I will address is "why snowmobile?" Personally, I don't bother. I've lived in Maine most of my life and can't stand snow and ice and all this winter nonsense. But a lot of people do enjoy it and if you die doing what you enjoy, who is anyone else to question it? He was doing a perfectly normal recreational activity with his children and tragedy struck. It happens. It's terribly unfortunate, but things happen.

The news is full of bad people doing bad things. Could we change the tune for a moment? This is a story the nation needs to be aware of.

I greatly commend Keith Ryan Jr.'s actions as a man and as a father. My condolences to the Ryan family.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bungie unveils Destiny


I could go on and on about all of the amazing things that Bungie showed today, but there are already plenty of great write-ups from sites like IGN and Polygon, not to mention Adam Sessler's YouTube video over at Rev3Games, that cover those aspects in great detail. I want to quickly talk about a couple of things that I'm pretty excited about in regards to Destiny.


1) It may not be released in 2013 and I don't really care if it is. I want Bungie to take their time and produce the most polished product they can. I expect a release date some time in the first half of 2014. 

2) Destiny will not be released on PC. It will be coming to next-gen Sony and Microsoft consoles. Will Xbox players be able to mix it up with PlayStation folk? The safe bet is yes, but nothing has been confirmed at this time. Oh, and no subscription fee is AMAZING! But how about micro-transactions? No word as of yet but it would seem reasonable to assume they will be a major revenue source for Destiny. However, I have full confidence in Bungie that they will not turn it in to a Pay2Win pile of crap. 

3) An open, persistent, incredibly vast "shared" world. Class based. Factions. You can only play as humans, which I don't mind. Competitive multiplayer. Science fiction. A 10 year journey. And so much more. How can you not be excited for Destiny? 

4) I love a good story. There is no doubt in my mind that Destiny will immerse us in a rich and vibrant galaxy of lore and I can't wait to get in to it!

5) One thing to be very mindful of. We haven't seen much actual gameplay yet so all we have at this time are promises. The gaming industry is full of false hopes and shattered dreams...


Halo is often referred to as our generation's Star Wars...

Destiny just might be something we have never experienced before.