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Used Games Are Not Evil

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The following is my response to this article:

http://www.gamespot.com/news/6333786/heavy-rain-dev-says-used-sales-cost-studio-millions?tag=updates%3Beditor%3Ball%3Btitle%3B7

Dear Game Devs & Publishers,

Please separate yourselves from this backwards notion that used game sales equate to lost sales. No other thriving industry in the world -- automotive, books, movies, news / magazines, clothing and textiles, sports equipment, furniture, etc. -- would make such a claim. Yet, I have bought second-hand products from each of these industries before without some greedy business rep insinuating that I am thief.

Now if you are attempting to sell us an imaginary imperative to justify shoving another DRM down the consumers' throats, you are actually more of the problem than people who buy games. Not every game released is worth the full $60 price tag, especially ones packed with DRM or online passes; the moment you lose that perspective, you've lost touch with gamers. You are just burying your own grave with that attitude.

Sincerely,

Your Consumer

Face of Mainstream?

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I just realized that I have not blogged for 4 years due to my military obligations. So without further ado...

It's no secret that geek culture -- board games, comic books, anime, fantasy and science fiction, and video games -- is rapidly becoming more and more mainstream. While its growing popularity is a wonderful thing as it changes the mainstream, conversely, the mainstream unfortunately also changes geek culture.

Back when I was a teen, I used to play Quake 3 and Halo (via GameSpy software) online. It was a different time then as gamers appear more cordial with occasional friendly rants and insults. Talking about video games in high school was a selection process: you just knew which friend you could talk to about your virtual hobby. Popular and self-conscious friends would brush you off as a "nerd" the moment you engage in a serious conversation about video games that did not relate to Madden Sports or any machismo-inducing subject. Those who shared in my video game obsession, however, tended to be the most generous, tolerant, and well-adjusted individuals I have ever met; they didn't care about mainstream or the stigma of being a part of their niche counter culture.

Fast-forward to today, hop onto any Call of Duty session and 1 out of 4 times there will be some little kid spouting racist or homophobic slurs, attempting to rack up a high score on the tool board. Even in mod-free video game forums, the concentration of douche-baggery is staggering. Keyboard warriors have sprouted everywhere. Could it be that the new generation of gamers have become more and more ignorant? Or is this the result of the geek culture gates being swung wide open for the masses? Whatever it is, the bigoted insults from new gamers seem to be a product of mainstream projection and self-conscious attitude. These attitudes go against the very nature of what geek culture has always been about: acceptance and connection through geek hobbies.

Why PlayStation 3 Needs to Live

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It has been one year since my last blog entry.  And, since then, we have seen the launch of the PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii.  While both systems are technically (and mechanically in Wii's case) impressive, the Sony launch was pretty much botched due to the lack of shipped units, substandard launch titles, and a hefty price point.  According to Bloomberg, Sony only managed to launch with 180,000 units in North America rather than the already low estimate of 400,000.  In addition, according to Gamestop and BestBuy, Wii was the system of choice over the Holiday season, selling out per shipment.

The news gets worse for Sony.  Sega has recently announced that the once thought-to-be exclusive PlayStation 3 title "Virtua Fighter 5" will be released for the Xbox 360 this summer.  Add this to the loss column of exclusive titles alongside "Assassin's Creed," a killer app in the last two E3's, the next "Grand Theft Auto," "Dragonquest 8," and "Resident Evil 5."  According to G4TV, one Ubisoft honcho has gone on record to saying that Sony should just scrap the PlayStation 3 and relaunch a new and less expensive system.

Because of these events, my outlook on the PlayStation 3 looks rather grim.  I cannot say I am willing to scour the earth to get my hands on one of these consoles anymore -- at least not at the moment.

With that said, the industry -- especially the consumers -- cannot afford to have the PlayStation brand fold.  Although I own an Xbox 360 and religiously spit shine it like a prized-possession, I believe that if Microsoft controls 50% of the console consumer market, it may bring about unhealthy gaming practices (see Microsoft's business history).  And, these practices, such as false microtransactions (where you pay to unlock what was already programmed into the game, e.g. The Godfather) will become the norm.  Sure, Microsoft did not produce The Godfather, but their business strategy seems to promote and harbor these shady practices. 

With strong competition between Sony and Microsoft, games will reduce in price, lame microtransactions will be less frequent, and online pricing would be more consumer-friendly.  Competition is a form of checks-and-balances: it reduces the ability of any given company to rip off the common people.  Thus, it is imperative that Sony scratches and claws its way back to life.  They must lock in Metal Gear as an exclusive, offer their own money if they have too, and rev up on the first-party titles such as the beautiful Heavenly Sword and some original IPs.  For the sake of the industry, the PlayStation 3 must live.

Whoa, You a Soldier?

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Yesterday, I stopped by the mall to buy my girlfriend a gift for the first money-draining holiday -- Valentine's Day -- but I somehow wandered into EB Games. Sad, but true. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to go home first and change into my civilian clothes, usually a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Thus, at the mall, I was greeted by so many well-intended folks 'thanking' me for serving. I appreciated the gesture and loved every minute of it, but I wanted to be left alone that day. But, that was not to be so. Inside the game store, the game clerk greeted me with "Whoa, you a soldier?" I pointed to my chest and replied, "Marine." Now for those who do not know, many Marines are offended by being referred as "soldiers." Similar to how one would not call a soldier an airman or a sailor. We are not the same. While we fight for the same cause, we have different approaches, roles, and objectives. Even though I normally get irritated by this mistake, I was in good spirits because I was surrounded by video games. I politely asked him what was a "popular game among females," thinking that I could get away with giving a gaming gift for my lady on Valentine's Day. The clerk said, "The Sims, but you don't want that, right? You probably want some 'Battlefield' or 'Counterstrike' action." Thanks for the stereotype, scrub. The game clerk went on for another 10 minutes about how Counterstrike is so realistic cause they feature real "guns." I smirked and chuckled a bit inside. Thankfully, I was saved by a round kid who looked like a 1st grader. The kid yanked on my blouse and said, "Are you a real Marine?" I looked at the game clerk and said, "He can tell the difference." The clerk walked away. Thank you, Matt, wherever you are.

Nintendo Versus Cost of Gaming

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The word on the street is that Sony's upcoming PS3 will be priced at $399, which is similar to the price point of a full Xbox 360. If you ask me, that's just plain bananas, if not suicide. While it is true that the average age of a gamer is getting older -- I am in my early 20s -- it must be said that most gamers cannot afford a $400+ plus system. And, because of this, these systems, while they may produce brisk sales in the first quarter of their existence, will taper off dramatically in the long haul. Remember the Sega Saturn? 3DO anybody? Sure, some may say these failed systems did not have the luxury of Microsoft's and Sony's marketing machine, but I say you cannot market something people cannot afford and expect long-term success. With that said, I predict that Nintendo's Revolution can lead the pack of next-gen systems with their projected low-cost price point, provided they shake off their gimmicky image (see lame controllers, Dream Team developers, and string of Mario spinoffs) and start making decisions that don't come back to haunt them. If Nintendo can shed its fruity philosophy -- honestly, it is incredibly uncomfortable being with my buddies and handing them a purple controller -- it will be king. It is certainly Nintendo's to claim.

Lumines Junkie

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I received a PSP in May 2005 as a present. I did not buy a single game for the system (being that everything looks crappy especially given the $40-$50 price tag), until three weeks ago when I bought Lumines. Being that I am on military pay, I had to be picky. So, I read up on the reviews, asked around -- I even summoned the advice of my civilian buddies (one of which is a geek extraordinaire... he's an engineer that watches Star Trek, fixes computers as a side job, and collects video game machines). They all said the same thing: "Buy Lumines!" One even exclaimed that it is "Tetris on crack." And, boy, were they right. I cannot seem to put this game down; even the damn annoying music is getting into my head... even when I am not awake. I must have heard the first skin's background music a hundred times since I bought the game. This addiction has also brought on awful habits: I have become one of those nasty types -- the ones that talk on the phone in the bathroom -- but instead of talking, I am playing on my PSP while sitting on the john. That's just wrong. If only I could quit this game, I would I have my life back. Discipline. Discipline. Ah, screw it! Give me more.