Gaming 2006: Episode 2

By bluemist on November 11th, 2006

image
The war begins.

Gaming 2006: Episode 1

It is a very, very exciting time to be a gamer now. We have new consoles, new graphics cards, and ultimately new directions on how we play games. But of course, you can’t have it all. Look at me, I’m pushing my financial limits to buy what would be my first console since… PlayStation 1. Yup, PS1. Did you enjoy the dc/ps2/xbox/gcn era? Good. Now I’m coming back for more.

If I regarded the previous generation as the same old with better graphics, you could argue that this PS3/X360/Wii generation isn’t any different. But alas, for me it is, because more than ever the new generation will be dependent on the ‘internet’. Online play, online updates, and online content. For me it’s exciting. Imagine, no… ‘know’ now that you can have better experiences using the medium. If a FPS game has multiplayer component, enjoy blasting away with people miles away. If some firmware or software needs updating, just fire your ethernet. And, if you want game previews or even full movies when you’re tired of playing, you only go to their online sites. Amazing. Gaming is not the only contention today, the overall entertainment experience is what they seem to be aiming.

This is especially the case with X360 and PS3. Both can now play HD movies/disc formats. Both have online components. Heck, even xbox live now plans to operate like the iTunes Store, with on-demand movies at your controller tips. So your fandom will extend further than games. Remember, you can buy anime on Bluray now too. And can you believe it, the HD-DVD vs. Bluray format war is even fought on these two consoles. It’s certainly exciting.

On the whole other side, the Wii is not alien on everything either despite its underpowered nature. Some reports say that DVD playback will be possible next year. The online component has some rather interesting stuff too, like news, weather, browser, and my personal favorite, Virtual Console. If you say Nintendo solely focuses on gaming, think again. Under the hood, the Wii channels bring entertainment other than gaming, and I would say that it’s no different from what the other two are doing.

With all this going on, the battle for the consumer’s money wages. Of course some spoiled brats and hard working folk would be able to afford at least 2 or all 3 of them, but then the majority of gamers would be owning only one. It’s a hard choice. ALL consoles have its merits and deficiencies. So let me just run down on my impressions on each system, and hopefully I can decide on what console I will buy…

…although I have already decided long ago. So take this article as my personal and factual view on the newest generation of console gaming.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
XBOX 360
I want to say I skimped on X360 because of hardware faults, or lack of Japanese support (shame). But alas, they’re slowly learning their game. Frequent updates give the X360 a more polished feel than… er… even Microsoft’s very own buggy software on the PC side of things. Giving players the option for hard disks and HD-DVD is also an added plus for those who don’t need specific functionalities. The Japanese are starting to take notice too, with some games from prolific names in the business. Oh, did I hear a sellout in some Japanese shops? Wow. I guess bringing boyband Tokio in had an effect? Fangirls will want their boyfriends to buy them XBOX 360 now. Wait till the shock of their lives when their boys go to play with bouncing B’s.

Ok, some person’s suggestion may not have been fulfilled, but we’re very close. Just a little more push.

XBOX 360 also has a new killer app, and if they can’t turn the tide away from Apple in the music download industry, they will in the movies. This is such a great deal with huge implications. XBOX 360 has really become a media center, and unless Sony moves, Microsoft will have the upper hand. They already have a built-in library and over 1 year of existence. Supplies are ample too.

Despite all the positive press though, I’d still be hesitant to buy one. While Microsoft is slowly gaining my trust again (Vista is going nicely, for instance), I still have qualms about the game selection and the machine itself. In many game demos I saw in TGS, what kills me were the slowdowns, slow frames per second, and long load times of the console. It doesn’t look like it’s any better than the PS3, and it should not be. My opinion is that they should focus more on the smoothness of the graphics rather than the beauty. I don’t care if its 720p or 1080i, or whether it runs at 30fps or 60fps… just keep it ‘consistent’. I don’t want stutters in my gaming.

The HD-DVD and online movie content is rather excellent though. If MS can find a way to make the movie service available worldwide, then definitely I’d lay my money on them in the long run.

PLAYSTATION 3
The perfect definition of disaster on rails. Sony started with a bang. They have the two highest selling consoles ever made. The biggest games of their generation. The widest third-party support. All of that despite their consoles being the least powerful of their respective generation (N64 > PS1, XBOX > PS2). But what the hell are they thinking now? They upped the ante, creating the most powerful console so far. 8 cores. 1080p. Bluray. All seems soo exciting, but wait till you see mistake… after mistake… after mistake.

So many conflicting reports about the capabilities and limitations of the PS3 keeps everyone confused. They made two models, with the lower one missing functionalities. Production and manufacturing problems also surface, until eventually they reduced their launch units to lower than a million… worldwide.

About 80000 units in Japan at launch. This is horrible. Tomorrow is LAUNCH DAY (11/11), and rich game otaku all around are lamenting… few units, few launch games. Unless you are really good at camping overnight in front of the shops, you won’t get a PS3. I expect a hurrah from Sony celebrating their selling out. 80000 PS3s, of course they’ll sell out. Heck, Nintendo DS Lite has been selling like that ever since it came out, “every week”. Multiple trips in Akihabara, and still I see no DS Lite to buy.

Aah what else is wrong? Delays? Game launch date confusions? Game cancellations? Heat issues?

Ah I quit, let’s move to its merits. I must say that PS3 is the cheapest Bluray player available, plus with the American and Japanese region merger, no doubt this is as close to being region-free as we get. I can have a US PS3 and enjoy anime on Bluray, or a Japanese PS3 and buy English US games. A VERY BIG PLUS for me. Also, the graphics are simply mind-boggling. There’s little slowdown and fps troubles. Moreover, the leading game franchises still belong to this camp. Certainly the next years will be PS3’s highlight, because it seems very future-proof. I won’t argue with them blabbering about how PS3 can last 10 years instead of the traditional 5, but since HDTVs are still in infancy today, the PS3’s power seems to be enough until HDTV becomes standard, and it will still be a long time before that happens.

All in all though, despite the shortcomings. PS3 really got me thinking. I shouldn’t worry about the nitpicks as long as Sony gives me quality hardware. While everyone’s main complaint about the PS3 is the hefty price tag, it shouldn’t be a roadblock. Just think of it this way… it’s a one-time-big-time purchase. You can accumulate the same $500/600 when you buy about 10 games right? Gaming is expensive (in the long run) no matter what kind of system you buy.

Alternatively, don’t be an early adopter and wait until it reduces price. Also, think of it as future-proof investment for a Media Center (same with X360). You get Bluray for your movies, then high-res games to enjoy with your upcoming HDTV (if you still don’t have one). Just wish that the disc format isn’t the dead one (same with HD-DVD on X360). Not to mention that Sony said PS3 is a “computer”. You may think it’s bull back when they said the same thing as the PS2, but think again.

Wii
Incredible hype… is it credible? Everybody’s talking, and almost everybody’s saying that Wii will win, giving back to Nintendo the crown. Sad part is I’m not calling it done yet. Even if Nintendo has Cartman trying to muster patience, or online pre-orders by the thousands, or positive press from all over the internet tubes, it’s still not a done deal. Nintendo won battles but not the war, and the war is not over until it’s over.

But with all things coming into place, Wii is slowly emerging to become a winner no matter what. The internet people proclaim Wii on the positive, PS3 on the negative, and X360 somewhere in between. Wii seems to answer for all the other competitors’ shortcomings. Only have an SDTV? Wii lets you enjoy no matter what TV you have. XBOX Live has not enough classic games? Wii’s Virtual Console gives you all the great ‘backlog’ you want. PS3 too bulky? Wii is just 3 DVD covers thick! More important though, if you want a different experience, look no further than Wii’s motion sensing technology through the Wii Remote.

Wait, there’s also the ‘most important’ thing… Wii is cheap! Again, a moot point for a gamer like me, but the mainstream would absolutely love it. Wii has the potential to be the iPod of gaming, trying to give everyone, young or old, gamer or not, a piece of the action. With all these features at a reasonable price, it’s all but certain that Wii will be #1…

…for a little while though. Wii does have some negatives that can pull it down in the long run. Firstly, support for SDTV, having a maximum of 480p resolution isn’t exactly future-proof. Someday all people will have HDTVs, and will realize that the Wii’s graphics are quite grainy and blocky. Some say that graphics are not the point, and so point taken, but the video game market is so volatile all these years, who knows what exactly the gamers want in a couple of years. Another one is the region locking. I’m absolutely BIG over this issue, imagine my shock when Nintendo announced Wii to be region-free, only to debunk it a day later. See, I’m a English-literate guy in Japan, and by doing locks on me, it limits my options. I still need to import Wii and its games, which is totally frustrating. The last one is whether the novelty will run off. Sure, the controls are innovative, but you can only take it too far. And not only that, this early in the game, Wii suffers from having “too many controllers”. Wiimote, nunchuck, classic controller, and GameCube controller. Consumers may be confused on which to use for which game.

The saving grace for the Wii is the fact that they are trying to market it not only to gamers, but to non-gamers as well. Umm… also “returning gamers” like me, as they offer one of the best deals I’ve ever seen since emulators came out. Virtual Console is IMO really the best idea yet. Imagine peeking at the entire history of gaming (at the Nintendo side at least) and milking me of my money all over again. I don’t care, because surely there must be some game I wanted to play again after all these years. If indications (the massive success of Nintendo DS) hold true, Wii will really rock the house.

CONCLUSION
The main point of my article is for me to decide which console to buy… but then again, I had my eye locked at the Wii from long ago. However, with all the new information coming out of the other camps, it took me into a dilemma. You know, I wanted the whole Wii package, but with XBOX 360-like movie/online content, and the PS3-like region-freedom (and Linux OS potential?) I guess I can’t really have it all.

With Wii, it will be the very first time that I am able to become an early adopter. That is saying something, because with my NES, SNES, and PS1, I looked at “killer apps” first (Mario 3, Final Fantasy VI, and Metal Gear Solid respectively). I guess the real killer app now is Virtual Console (are you tired of me mentioning that?). In any case, I really can’t wait now. I really hope my folks over there at North America would be able to buy the Wii for me without any fuss. Don’t buy it all off gamers, leave one for me.

Tags:
8 Comments

Posted By: Matte On: November 11, 2006 At: 4:03 am

I’ll be getting a PS3 for Final Fantasy alone. I consider all the other games to be just a bonus. ^^

Posted By: piyo On: November 11, 2006 At: 8:34 am

Judging your spending habits (last gen, etc) it seems that getting all three consoles is not an option, so in that case, I would recommend the Wii first because of the controller and “new gaming experience”. I’m not so sure about the download gaming thing, though. Is that stuff still going to work when you leave Japan?

Are you going to Nintendo World 2006 in Tokyo? (11/25 and 11/26, free) Try all the Wii games before Japan launch.
http://www.nintendo.co.jp/n10/nww/index.html

Posted By: bluemist On: November 11, 2006 At: 5:38 pm

@piyo

In the first place, I’m getting the North American version of Wii, so I’m not sure if I can access the US site and its Virtual Console downloads… it would piss me off if they do IP restrictions on that.

Interesting, a Nintendo event eh? Unfortunately, I can’t read Japanese, can anyone help me with that?

Posted By: piyo On: November 11, 2006 At: 8:00 pm

Regarding that Nintendo World 2006 in Tokyo, here’s the info you need to know on how to get there.

Cost: Free
Date: 11/25 Sat and 11/26 Sun
Time: 9:00 to 16:00 (both days)
Where: Makuhari Messe International Exhibition Halls 9, 10 and 11
How to get there: http://www.nintendo.co.jp/n10/nww/access_tokyo.html
It is “7 minutes on foot from JR Keiyou Line Kaihin Makuhari Station”
(I use this train station search engine in English: http://www.jorudan.co.jp/english/
Put in your train station and “Kaihin Makuhari” for the destination, to get best cost and time)

Obviously the event is in Japanese, but you seem to have braved the Tokyo Game Show, so no problems right? Kotaku did a on-site photo-expose on it:
http://www.kotaku.com/gaming/feature/feature-big-day-out-at-nintendo-world-212545.php

I forgot to say thanks for your roundup review. I am planning to get all the consoles, for the games not for the multimedia. (Wii -> new TV -> Xbox 360 -> PS3) I am not planning to buy these new consoles in 2006, maybe later, in 2007.

As far as future proof is concerned, when the PS2 first debuted, it had the i.Link (IEEE1394) interface which was deleted in later revisions. The only memorable game that used that hardware was the Gran Turismo 3, IIRC. So Sony can and should be expected to make breaking changes.

Regarding the Virtual Console, I have a tendancy to like owning software-on-hardware (a physical copy of a CD instead of a virtual copy, etc), so I am merely considering it as a “useless function” right now. Also, I grew up with NA localized games, so I would like to get most games from the NA, not Japan. I’ll let the first adopters give me the straight dope.

I haven’t said anything about the Xbox 360, but I am looking forward to some games on it (Lost Planet, Idolm@ster, Gears of War) and I already have 1 game. Plus I gotta finish that Halo series, I really like it.

How does your anime hobby affect your console purchasing decision?

Posted By: bluemist On: November 12, 2006 At: 8:44 am

Oh, same venue as TGS, thanks.

Anime hobby affecting? Not particularly. I don’t even care about anime games except the bishoujo games which are on PC anyway.

Posted By: Vadoff On: November 12, 2006 At: 2:01 pm

Get a Wii. Then get a PS3 once MGS4 and FFXIII come out.
Skip the 360 entirely… unless you’re a die-hard Halo fan.

Posted By: Pikawil On: November 13, 2006 At: 3:13 am

Posted By: Computer Game News and Game Reviews On: November 07, 2007 At: 9:43 pm

Computer Game News and Game Reviews…

Sorry, it just sounds like a crazy idea for me :)…

-->