Tuesday, December 26, 2006
For example, GameStop is doing a day after Christmas sale. One of their deals is an "Xbox 360 Pro Bundle", and at $399.99 (the price of the Pro SKU alone), it comes the with the Pro SKU of the console, a copy of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (fantastic tactical game), and a one-year GameStop product replacement plan. But keep in mind Microsoft just extended the Xbox 360 warranty from 90 days to one year, so it's not that great of a deal; still free stuff, though. And you can take a defective console to a local GameStop (though I've found the turnaround process from Microsoft to be absolutely amazing).
GameStop also has things like $10-off Xbox 360 Call of Duty 3, Tony Hawks Project 8, and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance -- making them $50.
But go over to Target. They've got select Xbox 360 games for $20-off -- Top-tier games like Gears of War, and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and Tony Hawks Project 8.
Enjoy your post-holiday shopping, ya greedy gamers. Buy me stuff.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
A couple of good options are Best Buy (where you get a free copy of Call of Duty 2 and a $20 gift card when you purchase an Xbox 360 Pro SKU), and Circuit City (where you get a free wireless controller with the purchase of an Xbox 360 Pro SKU).
I'm not seeing similar deals for other consoles, but I didn't get the Sunday paper today, so check your Wal-Marts and Targets, too.
And remember these two gems:
Saturday, December 23, 2006
First, read this post. Then, remember Sunday is a pretty full shopping day for most places.
Now, there are couple of items outside of this list for you to consider.
Seriously. Best Buy. Circuit City. GameStop/EBGames. All of them have gift cards. They fit in stockings. It's not as nice as something physical, but you did wait until the last minute, yo?
You can go with a platform-specific rag, like the Official Xbox Magazine (great periodical with a disc, and a subscription makes the price reasonable, rather than the $10 shelf price).
You can also go with something like Game Informer, a multiplatform (including PC) magazine. Best bet is to get a GameStop/EBGames card for something like $15, which gives you a year subscription cheaper than you can get it through the magazine, a card that gives you discounts on used games and higher trade-in on games, and access to the "Unlimited" section of Game Informer Online, with exclusive screenshots, videos, articles and interviews not in the magazine, and only available to Unlimited members. Not bad.
For the Xbox 360, you can buy Microsoft Points, either from your loved one's Xbox dashboard, or from brick-and-mortars like Best Buy. The game freak in your life can use the points to buy full Xbox Live Arcade titles, picture packs, customization themes, and now even TV shows and full-length movies through Xbox Live.
You can do the same for the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console, and they're claiming 32 games before the end of December -- including seminal classics like The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario 64, Mario Bros., Golden Axe, and Donkey Kong/Jr.
If you go the Wii route, just make sure you also buy them a Wii Classic Controller, too. In theory there is a Classic Controller package that also gives you a ton of Wii points, but I haven't seen that, yet.
In theory, the Sony PlayStation 3 has something for the PlayStation Network, but their site sucks, shows two games that may or may not be available, no details on how you pay, and PS3 owners are busy mugging each other in alleys for the hardware to care about virtual currency.
OK, that's good for now. I had a list of other stuff, but between this and the last post, you're good.
Friday, December 22, 2006
In the process, I came up with a bunch of the items that will feed into the design document and the TDD, and the more I work through this project, the more stoked I am about the possibilities and amazing applicability of this whole effort. It is great to work on a project that makes me feel like, "Why in the world has no one thought of this before?"
It's also nerve-wracking, because I keep worrying that someone will come up with the same idea, and beat me to the bunch. But since I'm a "glass-half-full-and-how-do-I-fill-the-other-half" kind of guy, I'm encouraged that I'm able to do this, so if it falls through, I can apply the idea to some other efforts and IP.
Understand, I do biz dev as part of my software/service/program management for BigHugeCorp, and the target dollars are waaaay larger. But this is a new vertical for me, exciting and challenging, and I am encouraged at how quickly I was able to pull together a truthful High Concept, ROI numbers, and the like, which builds an even more solid business case for the whole effort.
I can't say much more about the project, because it's using licensed IP that needs permission from the license holders. There's also this typical chicken-n-egg thing where I'm trying to get things solidified in the pipeline for the comfort of IP holders, but need the IP commitment to get the pipeline folks comfortable, etc. Not a big deal, and not unique to the game industry (though I'm finding they like to think everything is unique to them ;-) .
Right now, I've got my technical lead and some industry folks generously reviewing the doc, and then it'll be off to the IP folks for consideration.
This is a project I particularly hope comes to fruition. Neat, rewarding, challenging stuff...
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
And, yes, this is Christmas list. It's a holiday in this country. Deal with it.
PlayStation 3 ($500-$600) -- Good luck finding one, but Sony's behemoth has got hardware moxy -- and built in Blu-ray, if you want to spend $500-600 to get a game console and a Blu-ray player, rather than $1,000 for just a Blu-ray player. Realize, though, the PS3 Blue-ray is not going to be the same caliber of player as the $1,000 unit. And, there's a dearth of PS3 games (especially non-sucky ones), and all them are pretty much $60 a pop. But, you can play many PS2 titles on your PS3. I'd recommend the $600 SKU (what's an extra $100 at Christmas?).
Nintendo Wii ($250) -- Almost as hard to get as the PS3, but a bit better. Plus, it's got Nintendo innovation (in the form of the wireless "nunchuck" controller), a decent bevy of launch games, and a great back catalog (of Nintendo, Hudson, and Sega titles), largely via its Virtual Console ("VC") implementation. Also plays GameCube games. Check out my first impressions of the Wii here.
Xbox 360 ($300-$400) -- Here's a now-gen console you can actually buy (imagine!), and Microsoft has a great catalog of games, over 300 playable orginal Xbox titles, a proven, robust online service, and recently added movie and television purchase and downloads -- many in hi-def. Plus, you can get online even with the free version of the service, and download around 40 playable game demos, to whet your gaming whistle. Oh, and get the $400 "Pro" or "Premium" SKU -- don't waste your time with the $300 version Microsoft won't acknowledge was a bad idea.
Previous-Gen Consoles ($79-$149) -- You can save yourself a chunk of change on consoles and games by going with a last-gen system (Sony PS2, Nintendo GameCube, or Microsoft Xbox). Not only are the consoles cheaper, but most of the games run from $10 on up new (as opposed to $60 for now-gen titles), and there's a huge selection of cheap titles on the used market (GameStop/EB Games) as well. Check out used/refurbished consoles and used games from that chain for the biggest bang for the buck, and guaranteed product.
It's not the console or the brand that defines a winner, per se -- it's the content (which, I hear, is king). I'm going to focus on the Xbox titles, because I know those best.
Fighting ($10-$60) -- For the Xbox 360, go with Dead or Alive 4 -- especially if you're a Halo fan (unlocking a playable Xbox 360 Spartan is pretty wicked cool). But you can also get Soul Caliber II, a gorgeous original Xbox fighter, with Spawn as the Xbox-exclusive character. And, Soul Caliber II is now playable on the Xbox 360, too.
Shooter ($30-$70) -- Halo and Halo 2 are playable both on Xbox and the 360. I don't think you're allowed to own either Xbox without owning both games. Gears of War is the new Xbox 360 hotness, and is so incredibly well worth it it's not even funny. No, it's not perfection on a disc, but it's damn close. Both Halos and Gears have great online components. Also, BLACK is a loud, destructive, single-player guilty pleasure.
RPG ($20-$60) -- This is a diverse field. Keeping it simple, I recommend Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for the Xbox 360 and Fable for Xbox (and playable on the 360) for the single player experience, and Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes on the original Xbox (one of the most fun, gorgeous and under-rated games on the big black 'box; with better water than Gears of War).
Actioner -- This is kind of vague, overlapish category, but my recommendations are Hunter:The Reckoning (original Xbox), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (playable on both), Ninja Gaiden/Black (playable on both), Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel without a Pulse (both), Max Payne/2 (both), and Chromehounds (360).
Comic Book -- Good stuff for comic fanboys here. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance has Xbox and 360 versions, and is arguably the best comic book game out there, with single player and online/offline multiplayer. X-Men Legends and X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse on the original Xbox are fantastic, and Ultimate Spider-Man (an Xbox game now playable on the 360) and The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (ditto), are under-rated, fun romps. And there's some cool stuff on this front coming out in 2007 ...
Platformer -- Just original Xbox games, but both are playable on the Xbox 360: Psychonauts and Metal Arms: Glitch in the System. And Maybe Kameo: Elements of Power (Xbox 360). But I would play those first two, first.
Racing -- Project Gotham 3 (360), Project Gotham 2 (Xbox), or Forza Motorsport (Xbox, but playable on 360).
Sports -- Um, go outside and play them for real. But if you must play on a console, I'd recommend Fight Night: Round 3 on the Xbox 360 or PS3, or the Wii Sports title packaged with the Nintenod Wii (at least you're getting a workout with that one).
Honestly, I don't think I'd buy a TV right now. If this article is any indication, Hi-Def TVs are going to drop 40% in price in 2007 (and sooner than later). The article doesn't go into detail, but big reasons for the drops include Wal-Mart-instigated price wars (where they dropped ~$500 per HDTV), new technologies competing with LCD and Plasma, innovations in DLP technology, the availability of 1080p droping 720p- and 1080i-"only" displays, and the general availability of cheap consumer projectors.
($200-$10,000) --Speaking of projectors, if you've got the space, projectors have become really affordable. Gaming at 107" in Gears of War or Dead Rising (at 1080i) is a sight to behold. You can get deals on SVGA projectors sometimes for as low as $400 (Fry's, Best Buy, Circuit City and CompUSA). I recommend at least an SVGA (800x600), that scales to more, and at least supports 720p, if not 1080i (I don't think 1080p on a projector is cost efficient yet). I'd also recommend at least 1000 lumesn for light output, a contrast ration of 2000:1 (on DLP proejctors), and flexibility to do standard (4:3) or widescreen (16:9) projection. ProjectorCentral.com does a far better job of comparing technologies and projectors than I can do here, so check that out.
An interesting option is Hasbro's Zoombox, an ultra-low end DVD/projector combo, that you can get on sale for under $200. It works OK at night or super controlled low-light rooms. Given the price, easy 8-foot throw for a 60" image, built-in speakers, RCA video/audio ports, and a DVD player, it's not a bad option. Given Wal-Mart's generous return policies, I'm demoing a unit now to see if it's usable or not. More later.
Surround sound systems -- Seriously, if you're gaming without one, your missing out. Dead Rising has one of the best (and often missed) surround sound mixes out there, and if you're playing Halo without surround sound, you're missing out.
Like projectors, do your research, because there are a lot of options. I'm a fan of the Spherex Xbox 5.1 Surround Sound System (the one I use), because the omnipolar design is way less picky than other setups, the built-in amplifier rocks, the subwoofer thumbs decently and is robust enough to double as a second seat, and it has a ton of input and tuning options for its price. And you should hear BLACK on this thing ...
Headphones -- The set I wish I had is the Tritton Audio Xtreme 360 Headphones. These give you true 5.1 surround sound, and built-in Xbox Live microphone capability. These things list for $130, so I'm bummed I didn't take advantage of the accidental Fry's one-day sale of $70. Live and learn.
OK, I don't have these, but stuff from Pyramat is pretty nifty, and I'd like a couple. They've now got two wireless offerings -- the S2500w ($149.99) and the PM440w ($199.99). But get this: You can get these two items at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club (respectively) for the same price -- $130. Obviously, the PM440w is a better deal, but I sat in both, and the PM440w is markedly more comfy. Plus you can daisy chain up to 4 of these things. And they fold in half to make a nice ottoman. Which I also need. "Need".
Wireless goodies ($40-$150) -- The Xbox 360 makes for a wireless world. At the least, you should have wireless controllers, but there's a bunch of other stuff you should get. Like the wireless Xbox Live headset ($50) (though beware, they're having issues with up to half the product. I haven't had any problems, and the thing is suh-weet). The wireless network adapter ($100) -- cut that Cat-5/6. Or the new, wireless, force feedback enabled racing wheel ($150) (with a specially enabled copy of PGR3).
But the biggest in this category is probably the reasonably priced Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver ($19.99), which lets you use your wireless controllers, headsets, and racing wheel -- on your PC. Snazzy, thought these things are hard to find.
Xbox Live Vision Camera ($40) -- Yeah, now you can video chat over live. Better? Take pict of your face and get it mapped to your guy in Rainbow Six: Vegas. And hopefully more inovation is coming. And I don't have this. Yet.
Xbox 360 HD DVD Player ($200) -- The Format Wars (HD DVD versus Blu-ray) are far from over, but Microsoft is backing HD DVD, and in smart way -- with an add-on for the Xbox 360. Thanks to a dashboard update, it supports 1080p, comes with an HD DVD version of Peter Jackson's King Kong, and a full media remote. I really want this. And if Blu-ray wins out later, you won't have to throw away your 360.
Quick Charge Kit ($30) -- This has become my favorite accessory. Keep charged batteries on hand at all times, and don't worry about flaky alkalines, rechargables, or that rediculously tempermental Play & Charge Kit. I have one, but could use another; I have 4 controllers.
Logitech Harmony Advanced Universal Remote for Xbox 360 ($130) -- This is number one on my "I-don't-have-it" accessory list. I have 6 separate remotes for my gaming setup. This programmable from the Web jobby works with all 6 of my components -- including my projector. Somebody buy this for me. Oh, and it's $130 with a $30 mail-in rebate, but you can find it at Circuit City and other places discounted to $100, because that stock has an expire coupon on it.
That's it for now. I'll add items if I think about them, but this'll give you a bunch to start on for the gaming addict in your circle or giftage.
Monday, December 18, 2006
It's quite a Christmas present for the "Emulation Ninjas" to release 37 additional titles (and one update) to the list, and many of them you can get new for $10-$20.
Here are my particular favorites from the new list:
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer (The original Xbox-exclusive title lacks multiplayer, but is far superior to the multiplatform sequel)
- Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy
- Mortal Kombat: Armageddon
- Psychonauts (go buy this game! Buy it now!)
- Soul Calibur 2 (Best. Fighting Game. Ever.)
- Ultimate Spider-Man
This brings it up to more than 300 games, so what's still missing?
Um, TimeSplitters 2, which I would think would net them that title, AND TimeSplitters: Future Perfect, AND Second Sight. Oh, and Hunter: The Reckoning, and Hunter: the Reckoning -- Wayward. And both X-Men Legends games.
Here's the full list of recent updates, and you can get the complete list at XBox.com:
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Burnout 3: Takedown UPDATED
- Conker: Live and Reloaded
- Dead Or Alive Ultimate
- Destroy All Humans!
- Dynasty Warriors 4 / Shin Sangokumuso3
- Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick
- Ex Chaser (Japan Only)
- Family Guy
- Far Cry: Instincts
- Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy
- Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude
- Mortal Kombat: Armageddon
- Incredibles/ Mr. Incredible (J)
- Muzzle Flash (Japan Only)
- MX Unleashed
- Open Season
- Plus Plumb 2 (Japan Only)
- Psyvariar2 Extend Edition (Japan Only)
- Rainbow Six: Lockdown
- Rapala Pro Fishing
- Rent-A-Hero No. 1
- (Japan Only)
- Shark Tale
- Shenmue II
- Soul Calibur 2 North America only
- Splinter Cell: Double Agent
- Tenerezza (Japan Only)
- The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
- Ultimate Spider-Man
- Wakeboarding Unleashed: Featuring Sean Murray
- Winback 2: Project Poseidon
- Xiaolin Showdown
Friday, December 15, 2006
I'm pretty excited to see what these top-tier folks can do with the license (and the bar's set pretty high, considering the critical and popular success of the Aliens vs. Predator games).
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Given I'd argue Halo 2 has the best integrated online (outside of co-op) experience out there (on now-gen or last-gen systems), this is a big deal.
It looks like Certain Affinity has kept a good relationship with Bungie, and they'll actually be the ones creating the new multiplayer maps for Halo 2 announced as being released this spring.
And they'll be working on new Xbox 360 stuff, to be announced later.
On the rumor front, I've now heard from a number of places Electronic Arts is looking to open an Austin studio. A large Austin studio. That would be cool, and they'd certainly have access to a large pool of technical, managerial, and artistic folks.
And people like me, who are an amazingly freakish mix of all three.
Interesting, since EA bought -- then shuttered -- Origin in Austin.
Anyway, good for Austin ...
I mean, Nintendo isn't even trying to be "next-gen", being all cutesy by throwing around "new-gen".
But given the systems are all here, and there's no "next" on the horizon, I'm going with "now-gen" to collectively describe the three new consoles, and I'll stick with "last-gen" for the previous generation's consoles (or equivalents, like "Big Black Behemoth" for the old Xbox, and "I think I lost it on my bookshelf" for the slimline PS2).
So, for the Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3, it's "Now-gen".
"Now-gen" and all variations (c) & tm & (R) 2006 Adam Creighton.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The SEC just proposed a rules relaxation -- primarily of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley law.
This basically gives corporate managers of small companies flexibility in assessing the strength of their internal financial controls. Before, this was a time suck, sucked cycles from development and management resources that could be doing other stuff, and just generally sucked.
In addition, there were a bunch of publically traded game companies on notice for Section 404 -- so it's good to see the insanity relaxed. The SEC changes basically let small companies "to scale and tailor" their procedures for assessing their internal controls.
Bob Greifeld (prez and CEO of the Nasdaq Stock Market) said the revisions "will allow companies to focus on the most important aspects of internal controls and financial reporting, while removing unnecessary expense."
Of course, this doesn't help me at BigHugeCorp, but it will hopefully help small, publically traded game companies in that other vertical market I know and love.
Yesterday, among the recent game licensing activities, I called out the SEGA/20th Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising deal to bring the Aliens franchise to next-gen consoles, including an RPG treatment.
Today, SEGA announced Obsidian Entertainment (Neverwinter Nights 2; Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II) will develop the role-playing game.
Very cool, and let's hope as a RPG license treatment, it's more KotOR, and less Justice League Heroes.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
My excitement about license treatments is tempered by the inarguable fact that most license treatments suck (Traveller's Tales, please reverse the curse of the Batman).
But for shortcomings like Aquaman, at least there are things like Marvel: Ultimate Alliance -- proving the rule doesn't have to be sucky license treatments.
I'm curious to see how Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment's Stargate Worlds turns out, and it's good that Funcom's Age of Conan has just been greenlighted for Xbox 360.
And now SEGA, who is producing some top-notch software lately, has announced they'll be giving the Fox Aliens franchise the silicon screen treatment. "[T]itles, including a first-person shooter and a role playing game, are currently in pre-production" -- though I'm a little bummed that (1) the first title won't be be released until 2009, and (2) the licensing doesn't include the Aliens versus Predator (or just Predator) licenses.
20th Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising has been busy, and I'm probably most excited about Joss Whedon's cult classic Firefly (canceled before its time) moving beyond the feature film and comic books into gaming. The Multiverse Network announced it's attained the rights to develop an MMO game based on Firefly, and is targeting a 2008 release, pending a developer being named.
Multiverse is a little different in that they create MMO middleware, which they then license to developers who use the technology to make games. Multiverse makes money off of revenue sharing with the developers. They've got about 15 games claiming development, and when I saw their stuff at the 2006 Austin Game Conference, I was impressed by how polished stuff built on the middleware can look.
No word yet on a Transformers MMO, unfortunately.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
This game still looks (graphics, gameplay, fluidity) to be amazing, and I'm struck by how hard it must be to time the release of something like this video.
Arguably, the game was delayed from the end of this year to the first part of next year. And there's been nary a peep since X06.
But think about it.
Second, if your release date gets pushed out, you need to dribble out assets in a spaced-out manner (no pun intended) to keep interest up (Bungie does this for Halo to a maddening degree).
Third, if you're innovating in big ways in a game, or setting new bars in a genre, writing, dialog, interface, or mechanics, you don't want to show stuff too far in advance of your game's release, or someone may scalp what you did. Sure, it may be obvious to many that they took your idea, but if they're first to market, they get recognized for the feature first -- especially in the mass market.
So, check out the game, enjoy the walkthrough description. Gasp in amazement at the still-slick dialogue tree. Shake your head in pleasant puzzlement at the robustified yet simplified Star Wars Republic Commando / Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (esque) squad interface. Be dazzled by the customization options for your weapons and buildout, for you and your squadmates.
Good stuff, and I'm even more stoked for this game next year.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
It's live action and CGI, so don't get excited that this is what the game is going to look like.
But it is a cool presentation of the Halo mythos, humanizes our favorite cyborg, and introduces some new Covenant baddies.
Check out this pict -- it's like Master Chief landing in the middle of a scene from Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings; coincidental, considering Jackson's recent deal with Microsoft?
I so hope the forcefield grenade is in Halo 3 multiplayer.
And you'll notice if you download the clip from Xbox Live Marketplace, it's labeled something like "Halo 3 1st football ad".
"First" football ad?
Saturday, December 02, 2006
(OK, that line is comedy gold, kids.)
Anyway, regular reader and new Xbox 360 convert Headcrab brought his Nintendo Wii into the office this week, and with 3 extra remotes (yeah, he's an addict, too), we had a four-way Wii-fest.
Tennis, that is. A la the Wii Sports pack-in title. There was also some boxing.
I gotta say, the Wii is a pretty compelling little console. Seeing it in person (and it's immensely portable), made me realize it's small, slick, easy to set up, the avatar function is really cool (I jope a ton of games and chatting utilize it), and the sensor bar is much smaller than I thought it would be.
It still won't work with my projector set up, but I'm hearing some people are in my same boat, and working on workarounds. Should be a no brainer, since the motion sensing is relative (not absolute), and only has infrared LEDs (and sends no signal between the Wii and the bar). And, at least according to IGN.com:
If you'd rather not make due with a homemade solution, though, you won't have to wait long for something more official. Now that the cat is out of the bag, third party hardware makers will soon have what for many is the sensor bar equivalent of the holy grail: a wireless, battery-powered device that emits larger IR fields than Nintendo's bar.
The "larger IR fields" is important, because currently the range gets dodgy after 9 feet -- way to short of a distance. But Nintendo needs to step up and pack-in their own wireless sensor bar. I don't need to pay $250 for a secondary console, and not have 100% of it usable.
I'm not rushing out to get a Wii, but I've gone from mildly interested (and grateful for Nintendo's innovative boldness) to mildly considerate.
But that depends on the Wii-exclusive games in the next few months. Right now, Zelda is the only interesting title for me, with Wii Sports being a good diversion. And I need to see more traction on the Virtual Console front. And that classic controller needs to be wireless. I am so done with wires.
And Nintendo should be acknowledged for releasing a portable console that's so family accessible. One guy told me he took it while traveling for Thanksgiving, and had a "somewhat unsettling" boxing match with his mom. That'd be a poster video for the new console.(Oh, and I'm not going to apologize for any Wii puns; they're all on Nintendo's head, as far as I'm concerned.)