Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I sing in the shower. Don't tell my wife.

For weeks I've been meaning to write write about the so-called "next generation" of gaming, and in particular, the fate of Nintendo's Wii.
But what with my Cineworld pass tugging me silver screen-ward, and games themselves demanding to be played I've never found the time, so rather than perpetually putting it off I present a Frankenstein's monster of half-formed opinion and hyperbole that I've written hither and thither over the past months.

I took a picture a while ago, to better exemplify the wonder of Wii in my imagined little article:

Not quite on a par with Nintendo's own shiny, happy, metrosexual marketing, but I had a go. It probably doesn't help that I've never had any of my friends visit. Imagine a group of scrubbed and breathless twenty somethings squashed together on the bed behind me, grinning. Now stop being dirty.

From an e-mail I wrote to a collective of 360 owners, having one of those archetypal platform debates of the kind that you may remember if you were around for those fabled SNES vs. Meagadrive days:

"Watch out, this is a long one!

Mmmm...Sony are getting a lot of stick at the moment, and they aren't helping themselves any.
Microsoft have already built up a massive user base with the 360 and have a ton of stonking games out, whilst Sony have had to perpetually delay their system because they thought it necessary that they offer more of a games console, and keep backtracking on the stellar specs that they first offered.
They were probably banking on the success of the PS3 making the Blu Ray drive the HD player of choice, but it looks like they have misread the market - people would prefer to see how the HD 'war' plays out before they take a plunge and possibly back the loser.

The issue of the price appears again and again all over the internet and it shouldn't be ignored. Don't get me wrong, the PS3 will sell out on launch in Europe and will initially be a 'success', but I think Sony are in danger of resting on their laurels.
They expect the PS3 to be the Daddy because the PS2 totally slaughtered the competition. The Gamecube died a death (though maybe not as savagely as the N64) and the Xbox put up a good fight, but obviously could not compete with the sheer amount of PS2s (is it snide to slip in a suggestion that a lot of those were repeat buys due to the notoriously faulty PS2 drive?). But why was it so successful? It received overwhelming support from the developers and publishers, with more games than there are Welsh people, but it only received this support because of the numbers of machines sold. So if the machines sold first, and the games followed, why won't the PS3 be the automatic Daddy?
The main reason that the PS2 was so successful was that it traded on the Playstation name. The original Playstation was the machine that launched gaming into the media spotlight it enjoys today, that got more girls into gaming before the DS was invented and ruled the games market thanks to the weak competition - Sega just didn't have the power to back the Dreamcast and the N64 was killed by the outdated cart tech - £60 for a game was nuts when you could pick up blockbusters for £20 on the Playstation, and like Busby said the few top-notch Nintendo games couldn't keep the console afloat without third party backup, who flee any machine that won't guarantee enough of an audience to make their money back.

But now the PS3 is up against the 360 which has a massive and possibly fatal head-start. Plus this time the Nintendo option looks a little stronger - this time around Nintendo are offering something that you can't get anywhere else. This is why the DS has been wiping the floor with the PSP - whilst the PSP mainly offers what amount to home console games, and multimedia options that are usually better served by dedicated machines (or even mobiles!), the DS allows you to play games that are unique, that give you a reason to own the handheld even if you already own a home console. As long as Nintendo don't drop the ball, and third party companies make an effort to differentiate their Wii games from their PS360 ones, the Wii might well be the main rival to the 360 with the PS3 running as the outsider.

The fact that in the media Sony continues to be cocky seems to only damage it's reputation: clicky

Remember that at the end of the day a console is only as good as it's games. Sony must have been mental the day they let Genji out."

The group of 360 players are people I used to play Xbox Live games with, back before the 360 launched. The question of me owning a 360 is an inevitability, a when not if as I salivate at the prospect of Halo 3, but I've been waiting partly because I need to whittle down my game library rather than add to it, and partly for a price drop. £280 still loooks like a hell of a lot in my book, PS3 or no, but the upcoming release of the turbo-bastard 360 Elite should hopefully knock the price down. Hopefully.

This brief slip of an e-mail was a reaction the Elite release announcement and the uncoincidentally simultaneous UK PS3 launch:

"See? Now it makes sense that I've waited so long!
Now I need a date and a price.

Also: PS3 breaks sales records:

BUT! There are still plenty of consoles out there. Sony claim to have shipped 220,000 to the UK, and sold 165,000 in two days. This is all well and good, but we all know that the Wii and 360 sold out way before launch - they would have sold a lot more if the consoles had actually been available to pick up off the shelves. As far as I have seen there are still stock problems with the Wii months after launch, so who knows how many it would have shifted if demand could be met?

Let's put things in another light: the PS3 will probably do well, if not as well as Sony hope.
The DS has sold 3 million units in the UK so far.
In the UK.
So far.

DS wins."

As I said, DS wins.

This nugget I wrote today as a comment to yet another article damning Wii graphics in comparison to the 360's, on the Computer & Video Games (C&VG) website.

"This has been bugging me for months so I have to add my tuppence worth:

1. Reviews and previews and such on this site, in GamesTM, Edge and other places regularly bring attention to the graphics of Wii games - of course looking at the progress of any game on any system will involve judging it's look, but in this case it's often a comparitive measure against the other home systems, how the Wii compares against the 360 or PS3.

You could argue they share the same level, but I struggle to find similar comparisons between DS visuals and those of the PSP when looking at their respective games' articles. It seems that Wii is unfairly bearing the brunt of the 'graphics question'.

2. There is no doubting what the Wii is capable of: seeing as it runs Gamecube games, it is at worst as good as a Gamecube, which arguably has Resident Evil 4 as it's benchmark. There's no question that in the case of the shoddy graphics of many Wii games out thus far, it's lazy development at fault wherever the graphics are shoddy, especially when they can't match the Cube launch title, Rogue Leader.

3. Having said this, the few bastions of Wii capabilities to date are Nintendo titles, and many unreleased ones at that, which doesn't exactly inspire hope.
The N64 and Cube both had first-rate first-party titles, shining examples of the respective generation's gaming, but both consoles died a slow death due to lack of third party support.
If the third party support at this early stage of the Wii's life is so half-hearted that developers can't produce the goods from a system that is comparitively easy to code for, the public won't buy, the third party support will dry up and people won't wait out the arid deserts between Nintendo releases.

That's the pessimism - for the optimistic outlook you take the DS. Underpowered in the handheld market, a unique control system that forces developers to make an effort, but massive software support and king of it's hill.
The question is, which path will the Wii end up on?"

As an aside, it was the C&VG magazine, followed by Mean Machines, that inspired my love of the caption. Something about the type of humour, the non-sequiter or surreal idea used to livenup the screenshots had me in stitches month after month.
No magazine I've read since has ever managed to match those giddy heights of picture captioning, an art unto itself, but it's something I feel like reaching for.
Halcyon days...

To summise, the PS3 launch wasn't as spectacular as Sony have attempted to spin, bearing in mind the year they had to build up stocks and the year punters had to build up savings, and with their price handicap along with a poor software showing, it will be an uphill struggle to gain anything like the momentum they had with the PS2 (which has still been outselling the PS3 in Japan).
The Wii will live or die by it's games, and the jury's is still out as Nintendo has still to launch a "killer app" and the third party developer releases are bitty to say the least. Whilst the Nintendo track record for home consoles is far from rosy, the Wii is different enough to come up with something no-one expected and pull a DS.
The 360, whether it finishes this latest console war in first, second or third place, will still continue to do well thanks to it's large user base and wealth of decent games both already released and in the planning stages.

But whatever happens, the DS wins.

What's your favourite Wii joke?


  1. You look demented in the picture.

    Interesting piece, though. I turn off at the mere mention of consoles at the moment - work-related, obviously - but it still penetrates by osmosis. Can't they all be winners? PS3 seems pretty successful from my perspective,Wii obviously is, ditto 360 and DS. I see more PSPs on the toob than DS, but thats not exactly a scientific method of determining success.

    What constitutes success anyway? Total market dominance? Surely they all have slightly varying demographic spreads.

    Congrats on two posts in a week, by the way. Never thought I'd see you manage that.

  2. First blog comment (is that rare these days)?
    Thanks for the views on the Wii versus XBOX versus PS3.
    I need to get my 2 teenage girls a games console, so your insight w.r.t. the number of games is significant

  3. I only play my DS now, I've all but lost interest in my PS2 and I'm one of those horrible fence sitters concerning the next gen consoles...It's looking more and more likely I'm just gonna stay on the fence...it's getting comfortable.

    At the moment the 360 is the only one that appeals games-wise, with Lost Planet and Dead Rising looking like lots of healthy fun. Of all the people who forked out for Wii's theres only a couple who I think haven't gotten bored of it's cute tricks already, everytime I ask them they haven't played it for weeks.

    PS3? I'd need to get a bank loan and then lower my quality standards considerably, and also get a much better telly.

    The length of your thumb makes it look like it's full moon or something.

  4. I hadn't played my Wii in about 5 or 6 weeks. Not even switched it on. True, I've been to see lots of films and things, but I've played my Xbox, DS and GBA since then.
    But a week or so ago, I bought the Wii Godfather game on a whim as I'd read a convincing review somewhere on the web. I decided to boot it up this evening and I've just stopped playing it nearly 5 and a half hours later.
    Aside from some camera issues and some of the textures feeling a little sterile, it's lots of fun, reminding me of some of the best bits of San Andreas, but drenched in the Godfather world and including the ability to strangle people by grabbign them with the controllers and shaking them.

    So now I'm going to get 5 hours sleep, hurrah for the bank holiday.

    Latest news is that the Wii has outsold the PS3 two to one in Japan, where the PS3 was released first by about 3 weeks.
    If nothing else the wider user base should ensure developers keep releasing for the Wii, so the issue may come down to quality - will they utilise the Wii's technology and interface well, or will they roll out PG film cash-ins?

    Davey, I'd wait for the 360 to drop in price when the Elite comes out before getting one, the Wii won't change much so there's no reason not to get one, and it would be worth holding off on the PS3 for at least 6 months to see if a) the price drops and b) the quality of releases picks up.

    Thanks for your views Talyessin, it'd be nice to know which console you went for and why. To be honest I'd plump for two DS's.

    David, that is me at my least demented, you know this.
    PS3 is not successful yet - I think it's fair to measure success through breadth of sales. Enough sales to keep enough developers interested in releasing on your console so that you have a wide enough range of games to continue to appeal to the punters.

    I think that 360 and Wii will have the fight with PS3 trailing in a possibly close 3rd. Worldwide the Wii could possibly be the champ by a sliver, though it won't seem like that in Europe as global sales are skewed by the Japanese sales of many Wii's and no 360s.

    I don't believe that the PS3 and 360 have different demographics, they are competing for pretty much the same market where the only difference may split among the die-hard Sony/Xbox fanboys, or the fans of the few exclusive titles who can't afford both machines. Otherwise both markets are the 18-35 male into the same games as always, but prettier and with more oomph.

  5. I would've thought that the 360 target market is mainly hardcore gamers and geeks. Like you, me, most of the people reading this blog.
    Whereas the PS3 is aimed more at - and will be bought by - your average Joe. Because of the Sony recognition factor and the PS2s success, and the fact that it'll eventually be seen as the natural home of GTA and Pro Evo etc.
    Don't know who the target market is for the Wii.

  6. I just got a GTA IV trailer from the XBOX Live email, so it looks like the only geek card Sony still holds is Metal Gear Solid. GTA IV looks sweet, by the way. If those are indeed in game graphics.

    I'm considering a 360 as an option, but less against the competition, and more against will I bother getting another games machine? Kane and Lynch looks solid as fuck, but stuff like Gears of War and that one set on the ice planet just look like pretty versions of old hat. I don't want to shoot giant insects anymore.

    Read stuff about Brutes taking over from the rebellious Elites as the brunt of the Covenant Infantry. They'll fight differently too. But I've only twice gone back to Halo 2. I'm sorta bored by it. I feel cheated.

    My only Wii joke is one I'm going to make up as I write it.

    'I took a pee on my console last night.'


    'No man, you mean Wii.'

    'No I mean why?'

    'Wii, dickhead.'


    'I was compelled to, for the sake of some joke some guy is going to attempt to write.'

    'Was it your Wii?'

    'Who elses wee is it going to be, man? It came out of my cock.'

    'No. Was it the Wii you peed on.'

    'No. It was my Atari Jaguar.'

  7. Thats a good joke.

    I only care about Mario in space and Nights2 right now. I just want to fly or be magnetically guided between very small planets. This is all I want.
    Oh and Pokemon.

  8. Looking back at what I actually wrote in those bits, I noticed this: "Don't get me wrong, the PS3 will sell out on launch in Europe and will initially be a 'success', but I think Sony are in danger of resting on their laurels."

    I admit I'm wrong, the PS3 didn't sell out.

    I also realise that my thumb appears abnormal in length - it is, in fact, as long as my little finger.

    The main 360 market is for the people who buy racing, shooting and sports games. As the PS3 continues to sell relatively poorly, games aren't staying exclusive and are shifting to also release on 360 and ensure a better return.
    The developers recognise that the same kind of people, in the main, would be buying a 360 and/or PS3. It's not just 'hardcore' gamers who have made Texas hold 'em one of the most successful downloads on the Live Arcade service. But a lot of those people served by both machines are holding off on the PS3 due to the price.
    This price is one of the main factors that have contributed to the slow PS3 uptake thus far, and that willinevitably lead to the Playstation no longer being synonomous with GTA and Pro Evo.

    A key indicator for the PS3's immediate future is whether/how long Metal Gear remains exclusive.
    Especially as Microsoft are finally seeing some small result in their effort to shorten the gap in the Japanese console race.

    The target market for the Wii is everyone. Say that in the voice of Gary Oldman in Leon.

    Can't speak for Lost Planet, but Gears of War is exactly those old hats encrusted in rhinestones. Those hats are still good hats, but you know them well.
    In a way much of the games industry has just been a gradual recycling of hats, and it's only with the Wii that everyone has suddenly and openly come out to say that games like GOW are ones they've played before. It's not necessarily a bad thing - Super Mario Bros is damn old and New Super Mario Bros is great.

    I'm in two minds about this issue - on the one hand I see the 'next gen games' and all I see is the usual plus HD, even Oblivion which keeps getting touted all over the shop is just a larger and prettier sequel, just as thousands of games before it were larger and prettier sequels of the games before them.
    On the other hand this is no bad thing, as the truly great games are still playable years later, evident in the success of the 'retro' market - the downloadable services available on all three consoles and the spate of retro collections (mostly on the fucking PSP. Why hasn't Capcom Classics 2 come out on the fucking Xbox? Utter, utter bastards. I don't want ot have to buy a bloody PS2 for it (though God of War 1 and 2 leave me sorely tempted. Sorely.))

    Halo 2 just wasn't finished in any proper way, it's generally accepted, so Halo 3 shouldn't be tarred on the basis of 2. If the proper effort has been spent on it, it will be godly. Godly.

    I never had the opportunity to play Nights, but I've read a lot about it and it crops up regularly in articles. I feel like I'm missing out, so I'm hoping for a Virtual Console release to coincide with 2, or better, both included on the same disc.
    Mario Galaxy I'm not sold on just yet, it's more about Smash Bros for me. If they take that online and it works, Christ. I'll never sleep properly again.
    If the release of Halo 3 coincides with it then I'll never eat, either.

    At the end of the day, I'm a gamer. Back when David was trawling the local newsagents for funnybooks, I was listening to the tape player hooked up to my Spectrum screaming, or taking the Legend of Zelda cart out of the NES on a Sunday afternoon nearly melting because it was so hot, or trawling a market in Wembley looking to pick up an imported Japanese Megadrive with a copy of Hellfire.
    Atomic Robo Kid!

    Looking back I'm amazed at how many games I played and on how many systems. I guess it's in my blood.

    After a brief dalliance with having friends in my teens, I found myself at uni in halls, without a TV. I bought a playstation and left it at home, travelling a couple of hours to sit in the front room playing Resident Evil 2. Back in the saddle.
    Playstation brought me back to the fold, with big hitters like Tekken 3 and Final Fantasy VII, along with all the cool little titles like Rollcage that I loved. But when the next lot came around I badly wanted a Cube, and caved in to an Xbox after playing Halo at friends' for hours, and I could never justify three consoles to myself.

  9. Maybe that freakish thumb/little finger ratio you've got going is some sort of mutation.

    Maybe you're some sort of evolutionary leap.

    A new species, made for playing games. Or just the owner of a freakishly long thumb.

  10. Is a thumb of equal length to a little finger abnormal?

  11. I don't think there's any chance of Nights on VC before they do this add-on hard disk thing because CD games are just too big for that tiny Wii memory and you can't play them off SD cards for some crazy reason.
    I like the idea of them packaging it with the new one though. Mmm. Yeah.

    It's a great game but mostly for the control method. The way it FEELS to play it. it's up there with shell surfing in Mario 64 and dropping into deep powder in 1080 Snowboarding.

  12. Oh yeah, my game geek thing of the week is that (by chance) I'm going to be in America for the launch of the new DS pokemon games and will be playing that on my 11 hour flight back. Super nurdy. I'm not even down with the kids any more cos kids don't play pokemon. It's all 20 year old cosplaying gender-confused manga fans. Damn.

    So David was trawling for comics, you were trawling for video games, I think the problem with my childhood is that I liked everything and never specialised until later. I guess music is the constant but still... I feel split between too many interests/diversions.

  13. You're okay Beezer, kids still play Pokemon in Japan, and probably a couple of thousand 20-something B-boy types.

    The 'feel' of Nights sounds good, especially if they use the controller well.
    I don't see why they couldn't release it on the VC, if they manage to stick N64 carts on there, but freely bundled on the new Nights disc would be preferable.

    I think it's fair to say that you're split as anything, but you still manage to have an in-depth nerdiness about numerous geeky subjects. Congratulations!