Monday, July 30, 2007

Comic-Con summary (UPDATED)

I've got an initial summary of Comic-Con over on my Acting / Ramblings blog, with more daily summaries to follow.

Those will be soup-to-nuts kind of things, covering acting, comic books, film, cartoons, toys, and video games.

A lot of stuff happened on that last front, and I had some great conversations with everyone from NCsoft to SEGA, and played stuff from the Cartoon Network MMO to TimeShift, and saw hands-off demos for things like Iron Man.

I'll post summaries as it makes sense, but you can also get a ton of Comic-Con content downloaded from Xbox Live (for a limited time), and hit up the following sites / posts for more Comic-Con video game goodness:

UPDATED: Added links for (Final Comic-Con content), IGN, and Newsarama.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Comic-Con games update ...

More later, but some neat things on the gaming front at Comic-Con.

"Demons of Mercy", a comic book that interacts with the 360, is unique.
It's almost a marketing answer to the PS3 interactive / Eye Toy successor /
card game gambit. We'll see.

Sierra has made "TimeShift" really slick, and it was playable in good form
on the show floor. Good testament to stopping a game and resetting -- but
not killing it (same, incidentally, for NCsoft's "Tabula Rasa").

SEGA showed off "Iron Man" (they played, I watched). It already looks good,
and still has a year of finishing and polish. So, in theory, it'll only get
better. The SEGA folks were super nice and helpful, too.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Comic-Con Halo panel ...

Check out my Twitter posts around this timestamp for blurbs on the
Comic-Con Halo panel:

Product recaps at the panel came from Wizkids (Halo actionClix), Topps
(trading card game), Eric Nyland (the novels), and Brian Michael Bendis
(comic book).

Any big news?

No. No Microsft folks. No Bungie folks. No new news. Painful Q&A ...

Gaming at Comic-Con

Comic-Con is da place to be for comic books, cartoons, films, ... and video

I haven't been able to get to SEGA's "Iron Man" for the hands-off demo, but
hope to prior to Saturday's film unveil.

Likewise, "Clive Barker's Undying" has been monopolized by horror game
fans, but I was able to watch them play. The game looks compelling, though
folks seemed to be getting stuck quite a bit.

Square Enix has a huge, classy booth, but no new footage and no new
playable games.

I did get to check out THQ's "Conan" (the hack-n-slash, not the MMO),
NCsoft's "Tabula Rasa" (and got an invite to the closed beta), and Cartoon
Network's upcoming MMO.

In particular, I spent some time with Rob and Matthew (technical director
and content owner) for CN Online, and this game is showing a ton of promise.

I also spent some time with LucasArts, and "Force Unleashed" is looking
amazing. Hopefully, there will be more in today's panel reveal.

Hopefully, more to come ...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wizkids Halo ActionClix reveal

I'm a half an hour away from the Wizkids Halo ActionClix reveal -- and
here's what it is:

A Covenant scarab -- "The largest miniature" Wizkids has ever scene, and
"fully playable" ...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Replacement" Xbox 360

So, tonight I received my Xbox 360 today, just like I predicted -- as I'm leaving for Comic-Con.

And more accurately, I didn't get my 360 back -- I received a "replacement console". Doesn't tell me whether it's new or refurbished. It's just a "replacement".

3.5 weeks, from support call to "replacement".

When I get back, I'll have to see if my purchased content works on this new box. That's been a problem for 36os in the past.

And I'm nervous, though. All I've done is fire it up and download the Transformers G1 Decepticon theme -- and my 'box is so s-l-u-g-g-i-s-h ...

Nice ...


  1. My Xbox 360 is dead ...
  2. "Off we go ..."
  3. "We have received your Xbox at our service center."
  4. Xbox 360 warranty extended to 3 years ...
  5. My Xbox 360: MIA ...
  6. She's coming home!

UPDATED: Crud, I just noticed this replacement box has the Toshiba / Samsung TS-H943A DVD drive -- not the (allegedly) quieter BENQ VAD6038 drive.

Going to Comic-Con

I'm going to Comic-Con starting tomorrow, and I hope to blog from the San Diego Convention Center.

I don't know what connection or my availability is going to be like (I am freaking stacked with opportunistic meetings while I'm out there), so if you're not seeing a lot of game-related updates here, you might want to check my acting blog, and follow my smaller, much more frequent updates on

By way of preview, lists sub-set of Comic-Con video game happenings, and the Comic-Con schedule has items tagged as "Gaming".

UPDATED: Looks like Xbox has got a poorly advertised "Bringing it Home" for Comic-Con. They're promising, "Go to Xbox LIVE Marketplace and watch the panels, see the footage and download themes and trailer. All for a limited time."

This is big and cool, so I don't know who dropped the ball on pimping it.

Activision bumps EA as #1 publisher

This is interesting.

For the first time in at least 10 years, Electronic Arts is not the #1 publisher of third-party titles.

The new king? Activision.

Why is this interesting to me? Because it ostensibly means sales of the Activision's Guitar Hero franchise have outsold the Madden franchise.

I think that's a gaming cultural shift to which we should all pay attention. And perhaps fear ...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Broken Xbox 360 poll

Actually, to be grammatically non-ambiguous, I should probably label this post "Poll for determining the number of broken Xbox 360s", to avoid any confusion about the poll itself being broken.

But despite my propensity for proper grammar (and alliteration), it doesn't make for snappy post headlines, and it's really boring in everyday conversation. Vernacular (outside of ebonics) rulez, Kidz.

Anyway, is running a poll to determine how many Xbox 360 owners have lost a loved one console to red rings o' death, DVD failures, general freezes, or other giving up of the ghost in the machine (staff writer Brian Crecente has had nine die on him). Since I've got a dead box in transit somewhere, I voted. If you own a 360, you should, too. (And don't be a putz and try to screw up the poll results. Lying is lying, and you will burn.)

The poll's clever in including an option for "I don\'t [sic]own one, but love to vote", to weed out the yutz's. But it should also have a "more than ten" option. That would be interesting.

Advertisers, marketers, and business development should seriously take note of the poll, too. Why? Because in under 13 minutes of the poll being posted, there were 174 responses. And Xbox 360 owners are only a small subset of the gaming demographic. (And as I'm about hit "publish", in the 17 minutes it's taken me to write this post, get coffee, and pet the dog, we're looking at 729 votes.)

In "old speak": "They got eyeballs."

More power to 'em.

Own an Xbox 360? What are you waiting for? Rock da vote!

Friday, July 20, 2007

"Gears of War" comics?

Maybe, if a news post on the comic book publisher Boom! Studios is any hint:
"Boom! Studios has an exciting new publishing plan for the rest of 2007 and 2008. Panelists talk about Boom!'s new partnerships with Disney, Paramount, and Epic Games, their existing partnerships, and the many exciting new projects coming out from Boom! Studios. Ross Richie, Adam Fortier, and Andrew Crosby
(creator of the hit SCI FI series Eureka) talk about all things Boom!"
I'll let you know from San Diego next week.

She's coming home!

Or he is. Not sure of the gender o' my Xbox 360. I guess I think of it as an androgynous, pissy version of HAL. With an eye problem.

Any way, I got an Email this evening saying my Xbox had shipped from the repair center, and I "can expect to receive it in 3-5 business days."

Awesome! So I can expect to get it ... JUST AS I'M LEAVING FOR FREAKIN' COMIC-CON!

Not that I'm blaming the repair center --it's not like I expect them to base their repair process on my calendar. I just feel like the Xbox old gods are conspiring against the 360 now gods, and winning.

Except they have to also have to compete with the Comic-Con gods, who are powerful, fickle, and sooo compelling.

Mheh. Maybe I'll play stuff on the show floor in San Diego, I guess....

  1. My Xbox 360 is dead ...
  2. "Off we go ..."
  3. "We have received your Xbox at our service center."
  4. Xbox 360 warranty extended to 3 years ...
  5. My Xbox 360: MIA ...

Transformers G1 themes ...

Oh, the world is set to remind me that I still don't have my Xbox 360.

It's not enough that I can't play any of my games, or the new ones like Overlord or The Darkness (which just released a demo today).

No, they have to go and release Transformers Generation 1 Xbox themes.

Hey, I like the new movie. But Old School -- that's where my heart is (I've got the original series on DVD, and the original toys).

And there are two themes available -- one each for the Autobots and Decepticons.

The latter is actually the better theme, with Shockwave, Megatron, Soundwave, Starscream, and a usable guide mini-blade. The Autobot theme has Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, Jazz, and Ironhide, but with no Jetfire / Skyfire and an unusable guide blade, it falls short of the Decepticon pack.

I typically don't buy themes for my 360, but if my truant box ever gets back, I'm picking up the Decepticon theme.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

No Halo 3 Live co-op ...

So, I'm pretty miffed. Commence pissy post.

In an interview with Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM), Bungie's Frank O'Conner said online co-op (via Xbox Live) isn't likely to make it into the shipped Halo 3 in September:
"We know that people want it and we're trying to make it happen. I think the biggest problem for us for online co-op is that we have a situation where you can be in a Warthog with five troops, almost a mile away from the other player. That's a significant challenge. And there's lots of design things you could do to prevent that from happening, but they would make it not feel like Halo anymore. If we can make it happen in a way that works well, we will - and if it works badly, we won't."
So, I'm not working on the game, but brass tacks is it sounds like they didn't design this from the get-go, and they're making the decision now to short the feature.

Think of the original Halo, where you can co-op, and if you get behind, the lagging player is teleported to the same location as the lead player. Not ideal, but it is pretty smooth.

Now think of games like Doom 3 (also on the old Xbox) and Gears of War (on the Xbox 360) that do support online co-op. So, Halo 3, coming out a year (or years) after these other titles, not supporting the feature, is a bit of a setback, and arguably provides a stumbling block for the "king of the now-gen shooters" for which I'm sure Bungie is angling.

O'Conner does say the feature could show up later as a downloadable update, and that they know people want it ("We're not dumb").

I'm a manager and lead for development, projects, teams, and services, so I understand the prioritization of features, and some things need to get dropped to make dates.

Halo 3 has a high bar, though. Three years in development, and the stigma of a roughly ended Halo 2 and the missing (and badly stubbed out ) online co-op that seriously irked fans in that title. And they have new high bars to reach in the form of Epic's Gears of War, and their upcoming Unreal Tournament 3. Not to mention Ubisoft's upcoming Haze, which (according to their Website) will feature 4-player online co-op.

So, for a lot of gamers, September and Halo 3 isn't just about "finishing the fight"; as a trilogy ender, it's the expectation that Bungie "finishes the game."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Peter Moore leaving Microsoft ... (UPDATED)

There are times I wish I was more on the ball.

I was actually writing a post about Peter Moore, and how accessible and capable I think he is as a corporate executive.

And, in the post, I was ruminating on his E3 video appearances, and how he looked tired, distracted, and uncharacteristically off his game. Like he was delivering the party line (capably) because that was his job, but not his passion (hence, the uncharacteristic).

But then this news blurb came across the wire today -- Petey's leaving Microsoft.

He's heading over to Electronic Arts as President of their sports division, and "has decided to move his family back to the Bay Area for personal reasons".

In an interesting parallel, Don Mattrick (a former president at EA), will take over the Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB), which is the umbrella division which includes the Xbox and Games for Windows business lanes.

Moore has inarguably been a power in pushing the Xbox brand, and despite the Xbox 360 hiccups, there are huge successes there. And since I'm a "family-first" kind of guy, kudos to him for making a move for family first, and congrats on his being able to stay in the business. Stay very lucratively in the business.

Other coverage:

Monday, July 16, 2007

Game testing brutality ...

There's a great article over on about an mini-expose on video game testing.

It's long, but a good read, and gives some insight into this important chunk of the game and console development process.

A QA process like this isn't totally unique to video games, but for those who like to think the video game industry is nothing like other IT industries, this article may help you feel like you're right.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

E3 summaries ...

Good stuff on the E3 front, even for all of the complaints about it being a "mini" event.

A couple of good recap resources:

I was Best Manning it in Houston for the latter half of the conference, so while I was following the blow-by-blows on my mobile, I've held off posting my own thoughts. I may do a recap or impressions or two this week, but I have some other, more important columns I want to get out first.

My Xbox 360: MIA ...

I've taken a few days to cool down.

So I called the 1-800-4MyXbox last Wednesday to get the status on my dead Xbox 360. Because they told me to call them Wednesday, when I called previously. They told me to call and get my shipping confirmation. On Wednesday.

So I called them (on Wednesday) and got Carla (who was reticent to repeat her name when I asked her to), and she told me about an additional change in the process for the new, three-year extended warranty.

Mainly, that my Xbox was not shipping on Wednesday, but that it would be shipped -- in an additional 2-4 weeks.

So, according to Carla, they've got such a backlog of 360s from the new extended warranty, that I'm out my Xbox for possibly a month. So I missed the Bungie Day downloads. I'm missing all of the "Bringing it Home" content. I can't play The Darkness or Overlord. I can't do some XNA stuff I wanted to do. That sucks.

I think I'll spin the time playing Xbox and SNES stuff. And maybe do some XNA Stuff for Windows. And probably Dungeon Runners on the PC. Kinda digging that MMO ....

  1. My Xbox 360 is dead ...
  2. "Off we go ..."
  3. "We have received your Xbox at our service center."
  4. Xbox 360 warranty extended to 3 years ...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Nintendo and Sony E3 press conferences ...

I'm on my way to Houston, so I can't do a blow-by-blow of the Nintendo and Sony press conferences like I did for the Microsoft conference.

Check out for the Sony and Nintendo live blogging recaps.

Nintendo left me a little "mheh", from the recaps. But they're sitting pretty, and the just-announced Wii Fit concept looks very cool.

Sony's tossing down the gauntlet (ostensibly to Microsoft), with some of the big stuff being a new PSP this September (smaller, slimmer, lighter, with better battery and video output).

Oh, and Haze and Metal Gear Solid 4 are PS3 exclusives (the former at least probably just time-bound).

As far as partnerships, according to Kotaku, "Very soon [NCsoft] will be bringing there expertise to the PS3 exclusively. The games will be based on both new and current IP." They will be the Sony MMO dawgs. That's a big deal, and interesting. Both NCsoft and Sony Studios Austin are in (wait for it!) Austin.

More on the PS3 front, Folk Lore continues to intrigue me, as does the (I'm sure) deceptively simple brilliance of LittleBigPlanet. And the just-announced Echochrome looks phenomenal. Honestly, these last two games, to me, speak volumes to Sony's innovation.

And Killzone 2 might be the title to beat next year, but it should be, given how long we've waited since E3 2005.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Microsoft E3 2007 press conference ...

A lot of stuff came out of tonight's E3 press conference from Microsoft.

You can catch live blogs over at and, and I'm sure more coherent summaries and analyses are on the way soon.

After frustrating efforts to get online, with / G4 (never connected); (never advanced past commercial); and GameTap (un-usable audio and video) all striking out, came through (after a several repeated efforts).

And, honestly, I'm amazingly stoked that Golden Axe from SEGA is downloadable right now from Xbox Live Arcade (remember my XBLA list?). And I am amazingly pissed my Xbox is still in a service center somewhere in Southern Texas.

Anyway, Naruta is an exclusive to the 360, which was a surprise, and the video shown has got me hyped for the game.

And some live gameplay of Call of Duty 4 (prefaced with an unfortunately unintended double entendre) looks more stealthish than previous entries. But the big news is there's going to be an Xbox 360 exclusive beta. Go to for details. The site is traffic (carpet) bombed right now, so good luck. And there are not details yet.

On the other surprise, big-guns exclusives front, it sounds like the new Splinter Cell is hitting the 360 first, and possibly by a big spread. On the Grand Theft Auto front, there will be two new episodes for GTA IV exclusive to the 360 in spring 2008 (though this has been discussed before).

It sounded like they said Virtua Fighter 5 is only online on Xbox 360. That's surprising to me, so I need to verify.

I'm curious as to whether Capcom's 360 / zombie love is going to make Resident Evil 5 an at least timed exclusive (it's the one game shown tonight that's post this holiday season).

Assassin's Creed look and plays stunningly. It was showcased by Ubisoft producer Jade Raymond, who (while also stunning) makes me want to slap game geeks and tell them to grow up. But I'm the sure the game will rock. Y'know, because she's pretty.

And despite the Rah-rah, Games for Windows has been struggling, and creating kiosks and store fronts is a far cry from creating market share. But the announcement of new partners (SEGA, Eidos, etc.) gives the efforts wings, but nowhere near as much as the (badly kept secret) announcement of Gears of War for Windows Live (XP and Vista), which will include 5 new single player chapters, and new multiplayer maps (and at least one new gametype). No word on crossplay between Windows and Xbox 360.

People, of course, want Halo news. And we got a few of neat versions of it.

First, there was the unexpected live action short from Neill Blomkamp, with props from Studio Weta. Think a teaser trailer that hints at a "we're-taking-on-the-Deathstar" army preparation.

Second, in addition to Halo 3, September will see the release of a Halo 3-themed Xbox 360 and related accessories. How much trouble will I get in if I buy that one? Y'know, after I buy one of the 100 Simpsons limited editions off of eBay? (I think the green and the yellow will go nicely together.)

Then there was new Halo 3 campaign video and gameplay. It looks like the Arbiter is back, but is he playable (I'm OK with "no"; make him an AI squadmate, if you must)? And was that Brute wearing a jetpack before he got sniped? Can I do that (wear and jetpack; and probably get sniped)? Please?

E3 is a weird beast, and even weirder in its stripped down, more industry-internal focused state. But some of the big announcements seem to have been lightly received, which has got to be maddening for Microsoft.

Take, for example, that Disney (all studios -- Miramax, etc.) are making their films available in Hi-Def on Xbox Live Marketplace as of right now. Content is King, and if Sony isn't soiling themselves right now, it's probably because they hired someone to do it for them (I don't know what that means, either). But they have a huge library as well (especially from the MGM acquisition), so if they can get out from behind the eight ball, and the E3 PlayStation Service outage heralds something big (and not just a big screw up), they could be fine.

The second huge announcement is Games for Windows functionality will be built into the Unreal Engine 3 technology. That's right, now it's even easier for devs to make their code work on that platform, when they use the middleware that everyone and they're grandma is using (I mean that in a good way).

That's the brief skinny. Fallout should be hitting soon, and it's only 10.5 hours to Nintendo's press conference, and 12.5 until Sony's.

Pre-E3 videos

Courtesy of, there's a round up of 10 of the E3 videos released so far.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  • Dead or Alive: Deformed
  • Dungeon Hero
  • NHL '08
  • Fury
  • Need for Speed ProStreet
  • SpaceForce: RU
  • European Street Racing
  • TimeShift
  • Legendary: The Box

Interesting -- 10 vids, and 3 are from Austin upstart "we-don't-need-the-stinkin'-man" publisher GameCock Media.

My favorite video?

Probably GameCock's Legendary: The Box. I've said it before: "Anything mythology. Anything."

And Dungeon Hero. Because I likes my dungeon crawling.

Oh, and "like-a-phoenix-from-the-ashes" TimeShift.

Halo ActionClix update ...

I'm a big fan of toys, video games, and gaming, and I've even mentioned the Halo ActionClix announcement, but somehow missed this interview between Bungie and Senior Game Designer Mike Elliott from Wizkids a few days ago.

Very cool how they updated the Clix gameplay to address dual wielding (which as a side benefit, makes all of your pieces available), and respawning.

Best part?

"At this year’s San Diego Comic Con, Wizkids will be unveiling something pretty incredible for Halo fans and ActionClix players alike. We’re not telling you what it is, though; you’ll just have to wait until the Comic Con which runs from July 26-29 this summer."
I am going to be there this year! Whoot!

Monday, July 09, 2007

PS3 price drop and fallout ...

There are no secrets anymore.

Sony announced yesterday they're dropping the price of the 60GB PS3 -- from $599 to $499 -- and introducing a new 80GB SKU at the old $599 price point. The 20GB model, which was at the $499 price point, was discontinued some time ago.

Everyone from Forbes to Business Week to Bloomberg Worldwide is carrying the story today, and while there's some interesting analysis, it's not real deep, and (from the mainstream press), not very historied.

All of these things had been out on the Net for a while, so this was no real surprise.

Discontinuing the 20GB model? Check.

The creation of the 80GB model? Check.

The $100 price drop? Check. Check. Check.

This last one ties into this post's opening statement -- There are no secrets anymore.

Rumors started sprouting up on this at least on July 5th, with leaks from Circuit City, Best Buy, and Target. There was confirmation that at least two Target stores broke the street date of the $100 price drop starting Friday.

The bigger deal is Sony was forced to announce the price drop yesterday (July 8th), rather than as part of their E3 press conference (scheduled for Wednesday, July 11th) -- That's a 3-4 day push. Power to the InterWeb Peeps. Or something.

(And not to overly badmouth Sony on this front; Microsoft's hand was similarly forced on the reveal of the Xbox 360 Elite.)

So, what does this mean, from a business perspective, and to gamers?

Sony thinks it'll mean they'll double their PS3 shipping estimates. Analysts (like Michael Pachter) think they'll at best increase them by 50%.

Me? I think the other consoles will benefit.

First off, at $250, I don't think Nintedo's Wii is impacted at all. If they become impacted, Nintendo has room to drop the console to $225 or $199. They're in a sweet spot -- if they could just keep up with demand.

Let's look at the PS3's new high-end SKU (hey, anyone else remember Sony saying "no" to multiple SKUs?). For $100 more you get 20GB more and a copy of MotorStorm. Not bad, but not a great deal, by any stretch.

For $20 less, you get the Xbox 360 Elite, which has 40GB more hard drive space than Sony's new high-end -- and HDMI output and everything else. I can't tell whether the Elite's been in demand or short-supplied (if so, why? To increase the perception of demand?), but starting last week, I saw in-stock Elite's at GameStops, Targets, and Wal-Marts. Something's up.

But what you do get for $20 more paid to Sony is Blu-ray DVD. That's a $200 external (HD DVD) add-on from Microsoft.

But let's just look at the console portion, since it looks like people aren't buying the PS3 for the Blu-ray.

What if Microsoft drops the price of the Xbox 360? Currently, there are 3 Xbox 360 SKUs:
  • Core -- $299, wired controller, and no hard drive (aka, "The useless SKU", IMHO)
  • Premium (or "Pro") -- $399, wireless controller, headset, and 20GB hard drive
  • Elite -- $479 -- $479, wireless controller, headset, 120GB hard drive, 120GB hard drive, and sexy black

If you go to, you'll see something pretty interesting. While the "Core" is stilled called "Core", the "Premium" is now simply listed as the "Xbox 360 System". This is huge, as it implies this is the mainstream SKU, and the Elite is the upper SKU.

Conceivably, this means "goodbye" to the Core (please), and a price drop on both the mid-range and Elite SKUs. Or, on the outside, reduction in product line to just the Elite, and a price drop.

Microsoft has said they're working to shrink their 90nm Xbox 360 CPU chipset down to the 65nm scale, which are (obviously) smaller components, but they also use less electricity, run cooler (a boon to 360 owners and the alleged 33-502% failure rate), and most importantly to the above argument, are cheaper to mass-produce. What hasn't seemed to make general news is they're also looking to do the same to the GPU chipset, further reducing cost.

Analyst projections have set an Xbox 360 price drop for this fall, but if Microsoft's chip roadmap is on track, they have room to do an early price drop, if the Sony announcement forces their hand.

Most likely though, in the face of their financials hit related to the "Red Ring of Death" 3-year warranty announcement, Microsoft may choose to tough it out until this fall, and announce a price drop at the Halo 3 launch, or (honestly) afterwards, if that game drives high console purchases at the current price points (why drop prices if people are buying your product at a higher margin?).

As an aside, people shouldn't badmouth Sony too much for dropping the price of the PS3 as being indicative of their backs being against the wall. As they'll tell you, they've moved more PS3s in the same time period than they did PS2s. Now, that's positive spin, as that's shipped units (not necessarily purchased); the PS2 was selling to a less game-available market; they didn't have the competition of a resurrected Nintendo they helped almost kill (or the lack of SEGA competition, which they did kill); and they didn't have to deal with the upstart Xbox (which wasn't even supposed to be a contender, and now dominates in some ways). And, percentage-wise, PS3 sales suck compared to the PS2 sales.

And keep in mind Sony dropped the price of the PS2 eight months after launch, and they're dropping the PS3 seven months after launch. Know you're history, kids.

Speaking of which, what about Sony's still market-dominating PS2? Did you miss that a slimmer, lighter (900 to 600 grams for the base unit, and 350 to 250 grams for the AC adapter) version is creeping into the marketplace? This smaller unit is cheaper to produce, so there could be a fall or holiday drop (from $139 to $99), should Sony want to further muddy the waters.

So what's the net-net?

Expect an interesting E3 this week, as Sony tries to sell how big their price drop and new SKU is, and the other console makers do (or don't) react to it.

More telling will be sales of all consoles in the next several weeks (the price drop for the 60GB PS3 is rumored to be effective July 12th, but the 80GB SKU won't be available until August, which may cause potential buyers to not act on the price drop, as they wait for the upper-end SKU's availability).

And what comes out of E3 this week will be telling. What's gamers' perception of the console of choice, based on games introduced at the show? For example, if Microsoft's biggest announcement is Gears of War on PC, that doesn't really help the 360, per se.

This fall and holiday will be even more interesting, as the Xbox 360 install base is re-assessed on the basis of Halo 3 sales and Sony competition; Sony reassess based on the price cut and new SKU, and Nintendo re-assess based on catching up to demand, and any impact to a possibly reduced PS2.

For analysts, a lot of fodder for ivory tower theories. For business folks, a lot of data and trends to assess, and and for gamers, just good times ahead as all of the console makers try to drive price down and increase the quality and content of service and product offerings to get you to buy their consoles.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Things I'd like to see in "Halo 3" ...

The Halo 3 beta has come and gone, and it was a blast.

There are a lot of folks complaining the graphics and gameplay weren't "revolutionary", but keep in mind, this was a "beta".

The purpose of a software beta is to kick the tires and shake out the bugs, usually on a scale and load that internal QA is able to approximate, but not replicate.

Bungie, I'm sure, is making good use of the multiplayer data they received. Network (packet, lag, etc.) and other technical data, to be sure, but I'm guessing they also listen to folks' feedback on gametypes (seriously, "shotty snipers" sucks; and it wasn't just me saying it each night).

Also, it's a beta -- and this is Halo 3. I'm thinking there's a bunch more for us to get excited about come September. Some of this has already been revealed, like the Brute Chopper, flyable Pelican, and customizable armor.

All that said, for me the beta was a ton of fun. If that was the sum of the multiplayer component for the game, plus the reveals above, plus the additional "X button equipment" that's been promised, plus more maps? I'd be happy. But I expect there will be more.

Not that there aren't other things I want in the game. Here's my short list (I haven't checked online to see if any of these have been confirmed / nixed as of yet):


First and foremost, give me 4 player split screen same box. This is a staple for Monday nights on Halo 2, and I'm a bit concerned at the trend among 360 games to -- by design -- nix the in-room social appeal of gaming. I like to get four folks together and play in the same room on a projector. Good times. I will be angry if you take my good times away.

As far as co-op, I want online (not removed and badly stubbed, a la Halo 2), offline (same box), System Link (LAN), and drop-in / drop-out (the new hotness). The rumored 4-way co-op through campaign mode is appealing, and would be above and beyond. But give me two player co-op in all of the above flavors, por favor.

Movie replay:

This is a cool feature. For those not familiar with it, it saves a data file of what happened from the host machine's perspective, so you can replay the greatness (or embarrassment). The beta version was bare bones (yet solid), but we're promised more feature richness in September.

And since this is a data file, and given some of the ways the Xbox 360 works (in theory, for all games), I think there ways to expand the functionality in cool directions.

For example, how about an option to view the film from a "My Kills", "My Deaths", "My Medals", etc. perspective? I think this would be a great way to meet the sadists, masochists, and egomaniacs where they're at. (And let's not forget the sado-masochist egomaniacs.)

Also, given the 360's custom soundtrack option, it seems like you could play a "My Kills" montage with your track of choice, with auto fade in/out (not customizable audio, as that's probably too onerous and not really needed).

Licensing aside, it seems like a chance for some Bungie staff fun, too (say, Vivian Green's "Just One Of Those Days" or Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff", or other Bungie-selected tracks).

Or licensing not aside: What if the Microsoft "Xbox Live Artist of the Month" is the auto track for recorded films? There's a cross-promotional opportunity some portfolio manager should be investigating (or did that go away?).

Regardless, it's a great feature as-is, and I'm grateful for it.


Shotty Snipers -- I hate it. It needs to be said again. And again.

Gameplay mechanics:

Crouching should be toggle-able. That would be nice. A lot of games let you set whether it's toggle-able or not. They have for a long time.

I'd like to be able to hand weapons and objects to teammates (the flag, the skull, "X button equipment", etc.). In the beta, one screenshot seemed to indicate you can pass the oddball to each other in Team Oddball. That would rock. I want to play team rocketball and try handing off the ball. Or I want someone else to ("Double Kill" + "Carrier Kill" + "Stick-It" = hilarity.)

These are all wish list kinds of items. But I think all doable in the remaining time frame, or already done. We'll check back on these things in September, and expect a rant if my four-way splitscreen needs aren't met.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Get yer free Halo stuff today only!

(Oh, this beyond sucks for those of us with our 360s locked in "Red-Ring-of-Death Repair Land".)

For the rest of you lucky S.O.B.s, log onto Xbox Live and tool around to find free new Halo / Bungie Gamer Pics and a Dashboard theme.

July 7th has been "Bungie Day" for a while, so these goodies are available today only. -- so get them before midnight. Otherwise, they're gone forever, Brigadoon style. (Don't make me start singing.)

You can also head over to to get a wallpaper of the full painting partially shown in Gamepro magazine, and some Quicktime 3D shots of the Brute Chopper and a Spartan variant or two.

Enjoy, and think of your 360-less brethren whose 'boxes have fallen in the field ...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Pre-E3 coverage ...

Next week is E3, and even though it's a scaled-down, arguably insiders affair, the pre-coverage is pretty hefty, and pretty exciting. now has their E3 microsite up, and is tracking a wealth of E3, and tertiarilly E3 happenings, as is

Also, Eurogamer has (an at least current for now) list of the games of E3.

Not everything at E3 will be playable, but I'm looking forward to the playable, new announcements (a la Electronic Arts), and if anything anecdotally interesting comes out of the parties (mostly because I like the slant alliteration of the phrase "anecdotally interesting").

So what am I excited about? (List scalped from, who scalped it from Eurogamer, who really should have just pointed to
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PS3, Xbox 360) -- CoD is a stellar franchise, and I want to see what they do to the modern world.
  • Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- Battlefield, but with a cooler mythos. Hope it runs better than Quake IV.
  • Spiderman: Friend or Foe -- Anything comic book related for me. Anything.
  • The Witcher (PC) -- Dark, twisted, adult-themed RPG with moral ambiguity? Sounds like my toy job!
  • Fallout 3 -- Middlingly. I'm a big Fallout franchise fan, but this one's a ways out.
  • Devil May Cry 4 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- You seriously don't need me to explain, do you?
  • Rocketmen: Axis of Evil (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- "The game is a top-down action title that is something of a mix of an old-school stage crawler with Robotron controls.... you advance through levels while plowing through countless numbers of unnamed soldiers."
  • Talisman (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- I think online board games are the New Hotness. Or the new flash-in-the-pan. Which still makes them hot. And this one is a fantasy-themed boardgame with 4-way play.
  • Cliver Barker's Jericho (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- Cliver Barker's Undying has some of the best audio on a game to date. And it had good gameplay. And Clive Barker's a talented storyteller. Twisted, but talented.
  • Rise of the Argonauts (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- Like comic books, anything mythology related. Please don't suck.
  • Turning Point: Fall of Liberty (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- In this alternate history FPS, the cab that hit Winston Churchill kills him, and the Nazis take over Europe. Now, it's 1952, and they're invading America.
  • Age of Conan (PC, Xbox 360) -- Bloody good fun.
  • Hellgate: London (PC) -- Just because I still like the premise, have been rooting for it for a long time, and want to see how the free-versus-subscribtion thing works out for them (and us).
  • Medal of Honor Airborne (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- Gameplay videos have been me excited about the franchise again.
  • The Simpsons (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS) -- Hey, Matt Groening is the final boss!
  • Dungeon Hero (PC, Xbox 360) -- I have this unnatural attachment to all things GameCock (even if they don't return my Emails). But this is a dungeon crawler without the boredom. Sign me up!
  • Fury (PC) -- MMO without the grinding? PvP? Maybe I'll see you in the demo this weekend.
  • Hail to the Chimp (PS3, Xbox 360) -- Love this game. Man crush on Wideload and Alexander Seropian. 'Nuff said.
  • Mushroom Men (Wii, DS) -- Oddworld aesthetic. 'Shrooms. Need I go on?
  • Two unannounced titles from GameCock (One's probably Section 8)
  • Metal Gear Solid 4 -- I'd love an Xbox 360 announcement on this next week, but the game alone, with its hopefully challenging moral mechanics and deep storytelling, has got my attention.
  • Fracture -- This "terra-deforming-as-weapon" from LucasArts has be sweaty palmed. No new news on The Force Unleashed, though?
  • Kengo: Legend of the 9 (Xbox 360) -- I think this is Majesco's first next-gen game (it's at least their first 360 game). Looking for more info, but looks like a Dynasty Warriors-esque take with 9 historical Japanese figures.
  • Blue Dragon (Xbox 360) -- Really want to play this bad boy ...
  • Fable 2 (xbox 360) -- The single-player RPG to beat on the original Xbox, let's see what the former Lionheads do under Microsoft's watch.
  • Halo 3 (Xbox 360) -- You think this wouldn't make the list?
  • Halo Wars (Xbox 360) -- Just for the trailer. Fortunately, leaks about the RTS gameplay have been positive. But they have to go up against Tom Clancy's Endwar.
  • Lost Odyssey (Xbox 360) -- Gorgeous. Just brutal and gorgeous. "We are the Knights Who Say Ne -- Oh SWEET MOTHER! MY EYES! MY EYES!" [*gushing blood*]
  • Mass Effect (Xbox 360) -- RPG of the century? Mayhap.
  • Unannounced XBLA titles (Xbox 360) -- Knock my socks off. You keep dissing my proposals, but you keep giving me stuff I like. So we're good.
  • John Woo's Stranglehold (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- I'm excited about this. More I see, I'm excited.
  • Unreal Tournament 3 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- Unreal Championship II was under-appreciated, maybe because it was a gamers game. This looks to be that and more.
  • Beautiful Katamari (Xbox 360) -- We've suffered long enough without beauty, thank you very much.
  • Dynasty Warriors: GUNDAM (PS3) -- Honestly, I just want to see if they can take this Artichoke and jelly mix and make it work.
  • AION (PC) -- An MMO without grinding, and a leveling system "not like you'd expect"? Demons versus angels (ish)? Wings for both factions (no @#$%^&! earning mounts crap)?
  • Dungeon Runners (PC) -- I'm playing the free version of this MMO from NCsoft, and really enjoying it.
  • Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa (PC) -- He gets to put his name on it. I want to support that.
  • Condemned 2 (PS3, Xbox 360) -- Sequel to the early Xbox 360 sleeper hit, now bloodier, with a revamped combat system and (wait for it!) multiplayer!
  • Gas Powered Games' RPG (PC) -- I respect GPG, so I'm waiting to see this.
  • Iron Man -- Anything. Comic book. Related. (Anything.)
  • TimeShift (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- Rescued from the steaming pile of crap not being all it could be, the revamp looks to wow.
  • Heavenly Sword (PS3) -- This could be a console seller for Sony. Hey, it got teased on Heroes.
  • Killzone 2 (PS3) -- C'mon, show me something to wash the tast of the lied about "not-prerendered" debacle.
  • LittleBigPlanet (PS3) -- Have you seen the videos? How fun is this?
  • The Agency -- An MMO from Sony that's not fantasy-themed, and not half-baked sci-fi license. Just don't be stealing from the DC MMO talent pool, kids.
  • BioShock (PC, Xbox 360) -- I want to play this game. And struggle with the choices I've made.
  • De Blob -- THQ is a savvy publisher. And I really like the art aesthetic.
  • Assassin's Creed (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- I think they're hiding the full awesomeness that is this game.
  • FEAR sequel (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- The first made me almost soil myself. Raise the bar, Warner.

This is just the stuff we know about. I'm hoping we get some surprises from folks not yet announced. Certain Affinity. Junction Point. More GameCock than you can shake a stick at. And so on.

Xbox 360 warranty extended to 3 years ...

So, this is impressive.

Microsoft, in the face of mounting anecdotal evidence about the massive failure rates for Xbox 360s, has extended the warranty for all 360s (since launch) that suffer from the "Red Ring of Death" to 3 years:
"If a customer has an issue indicated by the three flashing red lights, Microsoft will repair the console free of charge—including shipping—for three years from the console’s purchase date. We will also retroactively reimburse any of you who paid for repairs related to problems indicated by this error message in the past."
This 180 delivered by Microsoft VP Peter Moore, who's previous stance was, "Y'know, things break."

Moore allegedly told the warrant "needs to be above and beyond because we haven't done what we need to do to take care of our consumers."

Pretty stand-up stuff, especially since there's a hefty cost associated -- about $1 billion against Microsoft's last quarter.

Three years is a long time for an electronics warranty, and I'm impressed. The warranty does seem limited to the "Red Ring of Death", so it better cover my dead 360. I was wondering why the support agents were working so hard to get me to say the "screen hangs" issue was the primary issue warranting repair, even though I also got the Red Ring of Death. But I've suffered the Ring o' Death myself, and told you about it. Repeatedly.

Hey, at least the 360 didn't catch on fire.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

"We have received your Xbox at our service center."

I just received an Email saying my Xbox 360 was received this morning at (I'm assuming) the Texas repair center.

Not bad, considering it went out late day before yesterday.

Just please get it repaired and back to me before the E3 goodness stars ...

  1. My Xbox 360 is dead ...
  2. "Off we go ..."

Monday, July 02, 2007

"Off we go ..."

Just got my shipping box for my dead Xbox 360.

I'm off now to drop it at a UPS pick up, and we'll see how fast this bad boy gets spun around.

Hopefully, in time for E3.