Obviously, there is a notable disparity going on. Take-Two released “Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, the newest game in the series about a month ago for Nintendo DS. The game has sold fewer than 90,000 units per the recent sales stats. For people unfamiliar with the gradation of game sales numbers, I will simplify: the game bombed big!
It has been intriguing to observe the many theories on why the game failed. It’s largely believed that it was a mistake to release a game with so much adult content, such as “GTA: Chinatown Wars”, on a primarily youth based platform, such as the Nintendo DS. I don’t know if I am in agreement. By looking at the numbers we can assume there at least a few million DS systems out amongst the people. There would still be a group of “core” gamers in excess of 6 million in the U.S. even if we say that they account for only 20% of the Nintendo DS audience. I believe it comes down to an issue of incompatible brands.
Consider, for instance, that Coca-Cola ventured into the wine producing industry. And imagine if Coca-Cola actually turned out a magnificent wine that was lauded by scores of wine judges to be one of the best wines in recent years. This wine would still be a failure considering that the brand characteristics for Coca-Cola lie on the opposite end of the spectrum from an expensive cabernet sauvignon. I believe it is much the same thing that is happening in this case. “GTA” fans love the feel of gaming in the video city, the amazing graphics, the edgy dialogue and quick action gun scenes. The Nintendo DS appeals to fans of inventive strategy and gameplay for convenient, portable gaming. The two just don’t match up.
If Take-Two would have not relied upon the already established brand power of “GTA”, it would not have been so simple for consumers to decide their opinion of the game without ever playing it. If the company would have taken some time to develop a clean palate for the game instead of just plugging back into what everyone already imagined, results would have quite different. To further complicate things, there was very little opportunity to demo the DS version of the game thus making consumers preconceived perception of the game that much stronger. With this in mind, it is very possible that Nintendo DSi will attempt to remedy this for future game releases.
Unfortunately, a possible result of the failure of Nintendo DS’s version of “GTA” may be continued pressure on game companies to think inside the box. This incident can stand alone and need not continue the call for conformity. It is indeed disturbing how at ease the gaming industry has become with separating its users into the two “core” and “casual” camps.
It’s that time of year again! No, not the time of year when last minute shopping rushes to find rare and valuable Elmo dolls bring grown men to tears (although I’m sure that happens all the time.) That’s right, the Christmas holidays are list time!
I’m not very big on making objective lists of the best things of the year though. It’s all too wishy-washy to go ahead and say that your list has identified the undeniably best whatevers of the year, implying that God himself would agree with your selection. (Oh man! God exclaimed, You guys put Start Wars: The Force Unleashed at number 7! I would have done the exact same thing!)
So instead I’ll just be giving a personal list of the 5 games from this year that threatened to destroy any free time I had, leaving me an unproductive shell of my former self. If you’re looking for a gift for a friend, or think you might have missed out on some great games this year, or you just want to ruin somebody’s life by getting them hopelessly addicted to a video game, then check out This Year’s Top 5 Games That Consumed an Unhealthy Amount of My Time!
5) NHL 09, for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
What is it? Well, it’s a hockey game. Two teams skate around on the ice wearing loads of protective gear, trying to hit a piece of vulcanized rubber into a net with a piece of wood, pausing occasionally to punch one another in the face.
And it has all the official NHL teams!
Why is it so great? First of all I am required by law to enjoy this game due to my Canadian citizenship. Second of all, NHL 09 is probably the best sports game ever made. I’m not even really a fan of sports games, but NHL 09′s attention to detail and smooth gameplay are fun to play whether or not you know what a Zamboni is. (PS: I have no idea what a Zamboni is.)
From the fantastic Skill Stick mechanics, which allow you to control every movement of your stick with the analog controller, to the realistic physics and player movements, NHL 09 is a gem.
Why it will destroy your life: Based on the amount of time I’ve spent playing this game online it should almost be number 1, except that I don’t consider time spent screaming at my TV with my roommates to be misspent; no my friends, that is quality bonding time.
Seriously though, losing another game to the Penguins even though you outshot them 15 to 1 will test your nerves. Finding out that the person who just beat you is a 12 year-old kid from Wisconsin will make you furious. Finding out he just sent you a message deriding ur playing abilities and questioning your sexuality will make you want to snap your controller in half over your knee like a pool cue.
4) Final Fantasy Tactics A2, for Nintendo DS
What is it? Like all games with Tactics in their name, FFT is a game entirely composed of combat. Get a quest and travel on the map to an area where you kill a bunch of monsters on an isometric, turn-based playing field. It’s like a real Final Fantasy game, except with all that boring story stuff taken out.
Why is it so great? FFT is as massive, tightly-designed and addictive a strategic RPG you can ever hope to find, with more quests to complete, items to find, characters to level, and classes to strive for than you can shake a stylus at. How do they fit so much game into such a tiny little cartridge, you ask? The answer: magic. Black Magic, I believe.
Why it will destroy your life: Scrolling through a list of 400 different Medium-sized Gilded Shortswords to find the one that will give your fighter the Clammy Strike ability is a surefire way to risk your sanity. Getting to the bottom of the list and realizing that the weapon you’re looking for is actually in the Medium-sized Non-Gilded Shortswords list will definitely put you over the edge. Worst of all: FFT makes you like it.
3) GTA IV, for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
What is it? To hear some of the media talk about it, GTA IV is a game in which a key strategy for success is setting hookers on fire, and reaching the next level requires you to commit vehicular homicide on a minimum quota of hobos.
In reality GTA IV is a game about Nico Bellic, an immigrant looking for a break in the land of dreams, but who instead gets mixed up with some shady characters and dangerous situations. The game has developed a great deal from its predecessors, making the actual grand theft of autos less of a focus, and putting storyline and gameplay at the forefront.
Why is it so great? GTA IV has brought a new level of detail to gaming. Liberty City, the game’s setting, is a vibrant environment with tons of believable pedestrians, landmarks and sights. On top of that, the physics in GTA IV are truly fantastic: car wrecks look incredible and exciting, and every object in the game reacts convincingly to your character. Plus, the single player campaign never gets boring, as GTA IV is always throwing you curveballs and surprising you, giving you new things to do throughout the entire game.
But most important is GTA IV’s story. The trials and troubles of Nico and his cousin are told in a truly cinematic style that is captivating and interesting. GTA IV could easily be turned into a movie without any modification to the plot and it would be entertaining. It shows what can really be done with a video game, proving that games aren’t just a shallow form of entertainment.
Why it will destroy your life: Beat the single player campaign? Why not drive around the city trying to drive your car off a jump into a flying helicopter? Done that already? Maybe it’s time to launch your car across the city with a swingset. Bored of that? Time to set your car on fire and drive it off a ramp, diving out of it just before it explodes, or jump out of a helicopter at maximum altitude into somebody’s swimming pool.
GTA IV has that combination of neat physics, amazing environment and tons of toys to play with that just begs to be experimented with for hours upon hours.
Oh, and there’s multiplayer too.
2) Rock Band 2, for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
What is it? The sequel to the ground-breaking first Rock Band game, which was the first musical rhythm game to incorportate guitar, bass, vocals and drums, making it into an automatic party catalyst. Rock Band 2 brings some new features, like online challenges and a no-fail mode, but really all we care is all the new songs, right?
Why is it so great? Um, Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer, anyone? No? How about the entire 1976 self-titled classic from Boston, aptly named Boston? I don’t care who you are, drinking a six-pack and belting out the lyrics to More Than a Feeling while your buddies wail on the guitar, bass and drums ain’t nothing but a good time.
Plus, owning Rock Band 2 means your neighbours will consistently get fantastic 3AM lessons in classic rock that they will never forget.
Why it will destroy your life: Let me just put it this way: if there was a column for Rock Band 2 DLC expenditures next to the Living Expenses section on my credit card statement, its total might just dwarf my spending on groceries. My song selection is great, but my food selection is down to Mr. Noodle and peanut butter.
1) Fallout 3, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC
What is it? I’ve written about Fallout 3 before, but it’s worth talking about it again. Fallout 3 is the latest instalment of the classic series of post-apocalyptic RPGs, this time pitting you as a vault dweller who ventures out of the safety of his home out into the wastes in search of his father. Adventures ensue, raiders are shot up, and irradiated beasts try to eat you.
Why is it so great? Fallout 3 is the perfect modern incarnation of the classic Fallout games. It keeps everything that we know and love about Fallout, like the violence, gore, humour, irony, compelling atmosphere, interesting characters, and so on, while updating it with fantastic graphics and a massive, fully-explorable world. It even managed to hang on to Fallout’s combat system, now in a feature called V.A.T.S. (Vault Assisted Targeting System,) which means you still have the option of shooting that super mutant’s arm off with your shotgun. (No kicking people in the eyes any more though, unfortunately.)
Why it will destroy your life: I’ve never been to the actual DC area, but if Fallout 3 is any indication I will definitely get lost in the massive subway system trying to find Penn. Avenue East station, only to end up on the other side of the city, where I will be killed by a mole rat. Expect to miss a lot of important meals due to spending time exploring the world of Fallout 3. But be assured, it is super-fun, ghoul-killing exploration.
And the exploration is only going to get more intense with the release of Fallout 3 DLC in the near future.
Well, that’s it for This Year’s Top 5 Games That Consumed an Unhealthy Amount of My Time! Tune in next year, if you have the free time. (if you play these games you won’t.)
Today EA announced the release of the classic game SimCity for the iPhone and iPod touch.
SimCity, a game of city construction and management, is one of the first significant games made by Will Wright, creator of the imaginative, and highly hyped, Spore. As the name suggests, SimCity was also among the first in the line of “Sim” games, made widely famous by Wright’s game The Sims.
The iPhone and iPod touch version hasn’t been stripped down for this touch-based version, and brings all the features that players would expect in a SimCity game. From the looks of it, SimCity for the iPhone bears many similarities to SimCity 3000, the third game in the series.
There seems to be a trend lately of developers re-releasing old games on portable hardware, and SimCity seems like the perfect choice for this sort of thing. SimCity is an old favourite of mine, even though whenever I play it I always end up with massive debt and a stagnant slum, so the chance to play it on the go is pretty neat. Especially nice are the touch controls, which in my opinion are well-suited for the type of game SimCity is.
SimCity costs $10 and is available at the iPhone app store.
I was glad to get the opportunity to interview the professionals at Best Buy about gifts for the holiday season. I suppose I could write about the experience, but personally, I think you should just watch the video of it below. In case you don’t have the 20 minutes to spare, here are the highlights.
First of all, the biggest gadgets this year are the video game systems, GPS units, digital cameras, digital frames, web-cams, and photo-printers.
When I asked about video game systems, I was not surprised when they told me that the Nintendo Wii is hard to keep in stock. PS3 is also popular since many people want Blu-ray for their home theaters.
Speaking of Blu-ray, I asked if the resolution of the format wars this year affected sales of the X-box 360. Oddly enough, it does not, because X-box 360 has the ability to download HD-quality movies. I feel sort of silly for not knowing that.
Video games that Best Buy has to stock daily are the WiiFit, Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead, Resistance, Madden, NBA 2K, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band 2.
I asked the Best Buy guys what GPS devices that they would recommend, and they didn’t really give me any particular brand. They discussed that Garmin and TomTom are the big brands, and you can hear about the technical differences as to why some GPS devices are more expensive than others.
I also talked to them about digital cameras, and what makes Sony different from others. They talked about why Casio is getting popular, especially amongst YouTubers. Since I’ve tried out the Nikon, I had to bring up the COOLPIX and its ability to take a shot and email it.
My interviewees also told me that Home Theater is beginning to take off, and Blu-ray is slowly gaining popularity. The Vudu allows you to get Blu-Ray quality movies. Best Buy also recommended their in-home consultation services for setting up a home theatre.
By the way, since I had someone from Geek Squad on the phone, there was a question I had to ask: If Geek Squad and the Nerd Heard from TV’s Chuck ever got into a fight, who would win? Find out the answer in the video.
Ziibii fuses a number of social networking sites in one stylish iPhone application. It’s RSS meets communication.
Ziibii combines Facebook, Flickr, Youtube, RSS, Twitter and more into one convenient and pretty application. We almost depend on social networking sites to stay in touch with many of our friends today, and this little app helps you stay close to them no matter where you go. You are teased with status updates, brief news feeds, newly uploaded pictures, and videos that float down a river on your iPhone (Ziibii is a term for “river” Native Americans according to Zumobi, the creators of the app).
Floating headline snippets stream across your iPhone, full of all the information you have subscribed to and customized. You control the pace at which these travel and can pause it whenever you like. Clicking on one of the floating selections will bring you to an extended view where you can choose to see the full version on the web.
The app is fun to use, but improvements can be made. The current release has problems with twitter, and it feels like you do not have enough control over choosing the Flickr photos and Youtube videos you want to access. I would also like to see more social networks supported by the app, including MySpace, Vimeo, Hulu, Vox, and Bebo.
Ziibii is a fun time waster and great for taking a peek at what your friends and family are up to while you’re on the go. The version from the initial release is a little clunky, but a few minor improvements could make this app a must have for any iPhone owner.
What are your thoughts?
Shoppers who love a good deal will find it hard to pass up visiting woot.com on a daily basis.
Woot.com is an Internet retailer that sells one item per day at one low price until the product sells out or the day ends (it rarely ends before the item sells out). Once it hits 11:59pm central time, the previous day’s item is replaced by a new deal, anything from tech gadgets to TVs to hammers. Items are often from recognizable brands and cannot be found at a cheaper price.
Some items are refurbished, but many are brand new and often times released on the website before they are available anywhere else in the marketplace. You cannot purchase items from previous days and you will never find out what products will be released in future days. It’s a day by day thing.
Woot offers witty and informative product reviews and descriptions that are fun to read and sometimes brutally honest, usually poking fun at the item being sold. As soon as a new item is posted on the website, the Woot community will contribute opinions on the product, reviews, and other relevant information.
The company holds a policy to where they are not directly responsible for the products sold. There is no customer support (unless you can get help from the community on the forums), and all returns must be sent directly to the manufacturer of whatever product you purchased. The products being sold are held to high standards and they will not knowingly send you faulty products, but they are not your typical retailer with warranties and a return policy, in fact they discourage returns.
Woot keeps tracks of stats as well, in case you want to know how fast something sold, where it sold best, or what didn’t sell at all. Items sell fastest between 12am and 1am, as soon as a new item is released on the website. You never know how many of an item there will be, so many stay up until midnight to see what new item is on sale just in case the deal is so absolutely amazing that their life would be ruined if they missed it.
The site also offers specials and surprises. A Woot-Off is when a number of products will be on sale for an unannounced period of time. The Bag O’ Crap is sold for $1 and is a random selection usually offering nothing but crap, but once in awhile a person will be awarded with something as grand as a flat-screen TV. “2-for-Tuesdays” is an event every Tuesday where the site sells two or more products at once, and product launches are special events where Woot partners with other companies for a special pre-release of a product.
This is a warning, do not check out Woot.com if you despise glorious deals and interesting products caressed with enjoyable commentary and informative description.
The classic gaming site Good Old Games has added two free games to their collection of downloadable oldies.
This week Good Old Games released Beneath a Steel Sky, the classic post-apocalyptic point-and-click adventure game, to their catalogue as a completely free download.
Beneath a Steel Sky puts the player in the shoes of the main character Foster as he makes his way through the dystopian Union City in a quest to save his tribe.
Lure of the Temptress, another classic adventure game, was also released for free by Good Old Games.
Besides these two free games, Good Old Games also offers a host of other vintage games available for a fee. Every game is completely DRM free, meaning you don’t have to hassle with copy protection, and is compatible with Windows XP and Vista, removing the need to mess around with DOS emulators and virtual memory and all those headaches.
Each game costs either $5.99 or $9.99, which is a small price to pay for such high-quality, hassle-free classic gaming.
Some other titles in Good Old Games’ catalogue include some personal favourites of mine, such as Simon the Sorcerer, the Jagged Alliance series of strategy games, and the original Fallout series of RPGs.
It’s always a pain navigating seedy abandonware sites trying to track down a copy of a game I loved as a kid but can’t play because my old floppies have become corrupt. And it’s always made worse when I find that they don’t work on my modern computer, or that they can’t be downloaded for legal reasons, but also aren’t available for purchase due to their age.
Good Old Games looks to remove all that hassle for a price that is well worth the admission. As a fan of old games it is nice to see a site like Good Old Games give classic video games the attention they deserve with a professional distribution system, comprehensive support and a slick website.
Good Old Games updates their catalogue every week, and you can click here to check it out.
Today Toshiba released details of the world’s first 512GB flash drive.
The solid-state drive, which is part of a new line of 43 nanometer multi-level cell drives that includes 64, 128, and 256GB models, will come in a 2.5 inch format and is designed mainly for use with notebook computers.
Other technical details include a 280MB per second read speed and a maximum 200MB per second write speed.
With this announcement, Toshiba has become the first company to make a 512GB flash drive. I have to admit, this blows my mind just a teeny bit, since when I got my 512 megabyte flash drive a couple years ago it was the biggest available, and also wasn’t cheap. I look forward to the future, when, seeing someone combing through the carpet, I will ask, Can I help you find your contact lense? and they will respond, Oh, I didn’t lose my contact. I’m looking for my 4,000 terabyte flash drive. It slipped through the fabric of my jeans.
No price has been announced yet, but Toshiba plans to showcase the new 512GB flash drive at the next Consumer Electronics Show, January 2009, in Las Vegas before its April 2009 release.
Remember back when eBay first hit it big, and now there are a plethora of Internet auction sites? This next website, Stuff2Send.com, could be the next big thing on the Internet when it comes to shipping goods.
Stuff2Send is a simple concept to help a user find a courier. So if you are in need of someone to deliver some goods (perhaps stuff that someone brought from you on eBay), go ahead and post your need on the site. With any luck, someone who lives in your neighborhood will be going to where you need your goods delivered.
It also might be a good way to get some extra money if you want to be a courier. Let’s say you work downtown, and if you plan it right, you can deliver someone’s goods during your lunch hour and make some extra money.
Of course, there is a matter of how can someone trust the courier, but there is apparently some sort of safeguard procedure so this doesn’t take place. Things like feedback ratings and criminal record checks, for example.
Unfortunately, this service is currently available only in England. However, I think this is a service whose success will be seen by its number of imitators, and it will be available worldwide. The signup isn’t free, as it costs about £5-£15 a year.
Nintendo has quietly released their North American Club Nintendo service, allowing customers to earn coins for purchasing Nintendo products.
These coins can be earned by purchasing and registering your Wii games for 50 coins, DS games for 30 coins, and Wii Shop games for 10 coins (after linking your Wii Shop account to your Club Nintendo account through the settings tab in your Wii Shop channel). More coins can be earned by completing surveys, purchasing new releases, or indicating games you’re going to purchase before you actually purchase them.
Prizes range from 300 to 800 coins for items such as Wii remote holders, DS cartridge holders, and exclusive games (such as a Game & Watch Collection for the DS that is going for 800 points). The full list of prizes can be seen here.
The initial offerings are swell, but the Japensese Club Nintendo selection is full of popular DS games, music CDs, and more. The Japanese club has been up and running for some time now and has built its collection of offerings over this period of time. Hopefully this means that the North American club will see an increase in offerings over time as well.
The current state of the website is clunky at best. Right now if you go on the Club Nintendo website, you are going to run into error pages, timeouts, and issues with log-ins and switching accounts over from My Nintendo. This may be why Nintendo hasn’t made a big deal of the site yet, it’s more like a beta version than a finalized website. The constant interruptions are extremely frustrating, I am grinding my teeth to dust while trying to fill out these surveys.
Registrations are not retroactive either. If you’ve already registered games with Nintendo, you will not be able to get your coins for those games, and of course you cannot register them again. This is almost like a punishment for users who registered their games for the extended warranty Nintendo offers and is a slap in the face. I’ve heard from a couple of users that they received coins for their previous Wii and DS registrations, but most say they can’t and I am unable to test it out right now because of how buggy the site is.
But at least we do finally have a North American version. Purchasing Wii and DS games now is a little tastier since Nintendo is offering us some nice rewards for being loyal customers. Even with the current technical problems and non-retroactive registrations, I am a fan of this new service. The North American offerings are slim right now, but they are quality goods which would be nice to own or fetch a decent price on eBay with since many of the items are not offered anywhere else. If’ I’m going to purchase a game, this service isn’t going to convince me to buy anymore than I would otherwise, I’m glad I can add to my stockpile of coins and get some free swag. It really won’t take that many games to rack up enough coins to buy things anyway. Free swag for me!