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State of gaming in Japan

As a long time gamer and a person who has lived in Japan for a few years being from America let me say this: who gives a **** about what Japanese gamers think?! Their gaming industry is in a state of decay when it comes to the international stage. Most gamers in Japan do not play games that are produced outside Japan borders and they are just fine with that. What is popular in Japan is in stark contrast with what is popular elsewhere in the world, even in Australia. Their game industry is not dead, it is just very fine tuned to Japanese tastes and sensibilities. With the exception of great hardware, nobody really cares about the Japanese gaming industry anymore like they did back in the day when getting to TGS was just as cool as getting to E3 or PAX. Back when the industry was in its infancy and JRPGs ruled the most wanted import list, they could be a major player on the international stage. Now that RPG's in the rest of the world and all other genres have grown up and beyond dating simulators and focussed on realism and high tech, Japan is definitely lacking.

Taking Stock

In updating my games collection list since I just got new games I noticed a huge contrast. I do not own any Xbox 360 downloadable games while on my PS3 I won more downloadable games than I do physical copies. Playstation Plus is worth more than what I paid for it.

My shiny new PS3

So, I got my first PS3 a few weeks ago and so far it has not disappointed. Well maybe with that one game Heavy Rain, but I am just in the beginning and the beginning is so boring. After the new console fascination wore off I tapered off to a rough schedule of playing about 3-4 nights a week. That machine along with all the others (not including the PC) only get a few days a week game play time but with the PS3 there is something more. It folds at home twice a day. When I get ready for bed I turn it on and go to sleep and before I go to work I turn it on and leave the house. So far, it gets more folding time than anything, not saying it is not a good gaming machine.

Lazy Bastards

I know it is not just me when I say things like Wii developers are lazy. I just saw a preview clip of the new NFS game for Wii and man does it look assy. I just cannot beleive that developers have gotten so lazy as not to even try to put any effort into making the games on Wii pretty, run smoothly or figure out good control schemes rather than just plain waggle. If this is the best racing games can come up with for Wii, which look worse than Dreamcast racing games, then why even bother? Sega GT an MSR need to be ported to Wii so we can have at least some sort of decent racing games for Wii, also add in a little online functionality and it would be better than what we get now.

Tech Edition

I wish I worked in a marketing department for major electronics manufacturers, more specifically Sony as I am sure my ideas would net them huge profits. I just read an article in regards to their UMD business. In case you do not know, UMD disks are the mini DVD's used to store movies and play games on the PSP gaming device. It wa a disastrous failure for a couple of reasons. The biggest culprit was the 10-15$ price premium over regular DVD offerings which had all the extra content that is just not possible to put on a UMD. So in essence, it was a mini DVD minus all the bonus features for a higher price of a standard edition DVD with all the extras. And the UMD was only playable on PSP's. Were I in charge of marketing and development for that platform firstly, to increase the appeal of UMD as a potential buying option, I would make it so it played on standard DVD players also. Now, in an effort to make sure the PSP was the focal platform of playing the UMD's and not just buying a UMD and playing it on a DVD player instead of the device, I would make it so UMD's could only be played on Sony branded DVD players. To further the appeal of the UMD as the potential equal of DVD's, I would have instituted from the beginning, something just recently made capable on the UMD, the ability to hook the UMD player to a television and play content on the PSP on a TV. UMD support has been ended from all major motion picture studios with the exception of Sony of course and now they are retooling the UMD for a second potential revival of the format. Will any of the studios jump onboard again or will the UMD movie remain a niche? I say niche.

Conceding Defeat

How an electronics leader such as Sony can have fallen from grace over the years is beyond me. Lemme rephrase it, it is simply a failure on their part to forsee the future and capitalize on emerging trends. CD player murdered by the MP3 player. More specifically, murdered by the Ipod. The CD player is not dead just yet but as more and more automakers and automobile aftermarket parts maker begin to shift away from in dash multidisk changers in favor of MP3 player docks, again more specifically Ipod docks and other MP3 player variants, you will see the eventual demise of the CD player as a primary or even secondary media player. Instead it will fall to the wayside as a media delivery tool until something much better than the optical drive emerges. And no, solid state memory will not be that mdia delivery tool for those wondering. If I were the electronics giant Sony, with all my divisions and businesses and seemingly bottomless money purse, I would begin making convergence devices that combine its combined strengths. More to the point I would combine the Walkman/Diskman brand, Playstation brand,Bravia brand and Erricson brand. It would seem as if it would be a nobrainer to combine the awesomeness of the Bravia television brand with a built in Playstation 3. The Bravia branded televisions are some of the best performing and looking flat panel televisions out there and combining them with the solution of a build in, full featured (think first generation hardware PS3 with full backward compatibility) PS3 (BD drive included) and my friends you have a legitimate reason for people to seriously go buy a large expensive television, expensive Blue Ray movies and expensive Blue Ray PS3 titles. Am I the only person to see the logic in a move like this? Flat panel television prices steadlily come down and yet, even thought the tv's are still expensive, people are still going out and buying them. When they get to the point where they are no more expensive than standard definition CRT's, what harm could adding more value to them by releasing a much more featured set that costs what current flat tv's cost. I own nothing Sony and never have but I would buy a Bravia PS3 version TV as it would save me the need to buy more devices to clutter up my entertainemnt area. Now lets talk portable devices. The easiest way to spur sales of these devices is to combine features/ The Erricson line of phones is solid and pretty good when it comes to quality. But when compared to its competitors it pales in comparison in terms of features, design and functionality. Instead of just making redesigned and more powerful phones which cannot hope to stand up to the behemoths such as LG, Nokia, Motorola, etc., why not seriously merge two of their best know brans into one and advertise the hell out of them; I am of course talking about merging the Erricson and Diskman. The Erricson Diskman or whatever sony calls their MP3 players would be an instant threat to any music phone. If you take it one step further and include the very small success that is the PSP and incorporate it into the design you have a superthreat to all portable devices. People have shown that they are not to concerned with the size of their media devices so long as you pack tons of features into the smallest form factor you can. The N-Gage failed primarily because it tried to do something it was il-equiped to do, namely portable gaming. Their is no future/profit to be had in cell phone games when there are much better alternatives such as the DS for gaming and a cell phone such as the Iphone for music and phone. Imagine if the Iphone had screens on both sides and opened up like a DS and played DS games? You could take the previous size of a DS, which was not at all to large, smooth it out, add phone capabilities and media playback (lets not forget capacity for storing the music/movies) and you have a device that is what everybody wants. I see the demise of their position as a world leader in electronics without clear vision.

Gaming reality

Lots of people would have you believe that gaming in Japan is not relavent in the grand scheme of things since more games are sold in the US. For the past year I have been following closely the developments of several games and the state of game hardware sales and have come to the following conclusion. It should be noted that I have had the opportunity to live in Japan for the past year. My conclusion is as follows: If a game does well in Japan, it probably will do well in all other territories. A systems spec sheet does not make a system a best seller, innovation and fun do. Any kind of game, with the right amount of development time and care, can work on any system, don't beleive me, look at all the top selling titles on each system and while there are games that sell huge initially, their sales fall off dramatically after the first month or two while conversely, games just as great on systems that supposedly do not matter in the grand scheme of huge hardware specs sell very very well over time and eventually sell more units than titles with bigger marketing push (looking at Halo vs. lots of other franchises). My conclusion is simply this, games that are fun and innovative sell systems, and such innovation can often be found integral with some systems more so than others.

Sega keeps kicking us in the nuts, and we keep taking it...

So the house that Sonic built is contemplating bringing Nights into Dreams to the VC. As excited about this prospect as I am, my response to the rumor is WHO CARES! Anybody that wanted to play that game all those years ago already played it and I can guarantee that they kept it in their closets with a still functioning Saturn. I guess this company does not fully understand how to make money anymore like they did in the Genesis era. This is a company that very nearly brought the biggest and baddest of all gaming companies to its knees, I am refering to Nintendo of course, in the late 80's early 90's. Somebody should remind them that it is about the games, something it appeared they had learned with the Dreamcast, and yet they still failed to capitalize on the success of launching ahead of the competition. They may wanna flex their creative muscles and creat all new great IP's but without money, whats the point. I guess what I am trying to get at here is simply this, if they wanna ever even dream of returning to the greatness they once had they need to stop being so stupid and go after the millions of fans they abandoned so many times. And go after them with a vengeance. Night's on the Wii VC will be a good start but what they really should do, while the time is right, is develop a sequel to that game using the innovative controller like the Wiimote that only makes sense. Anybody that wanted to play that game, I guarantee, already has a copy and a working Saturn to play it on. What advice could a lowly gamer like me possibly have for Sega? SImple, develop some sequels to the games that made you the company you are today. And I do not mean develop a game that has the name of one of your old franchises (Project Altered Beast, PS2), how about an Altered Beast 2. How about a new vigilante game, heres an idea Streets of Rage, New York. Oh my god, even a Mystic Defender 2 would be awesome. Hey now, Last Battle 2 would even be welcome. Oh boy, here is an idea, how about making a sequel to the Grandaddy of all RTS games, I of course am speaking of Herzog Zwei. Seriously, who comes up with the ideas for games from that company? By not making sequels to games that should have had sequels, you simply alienate your fanbase. Oh crap, heres one ESWAT 2. I could go on naming hundreds of games from my memories of my golden era of gaming that I would buy, hell, anybody with fond memories of playing these games, would buy sequels for. Look at the crap that people buy sequels to these days, Spiderman 3 for gods sake. They continue to milk Virtua Fighter and Sonic but neglect the rest. Heres a given fighting game that deserved many a sequel, Fighting Vipers. Another fihting game from their past that would have excellent value today if updated to todays 3D standard would be Eternal Champions. They game Shinobi new life a few years ago and where is he now, long since forgotten because of a lack of a sequel. And his return was short lived because when his main competitor came back they hid that series away like a scare ddog. I am of course talking Ninja Gaiden. I remember a time when Shinobi would have slapped the **** out of that series with a sequel that would bury all the competition and leave the fans salivating like Pavlovs dog wanting more. Hell, there are even more than a dozen games for the Saturn and Dreamcast that a few sequels would make them the respected game company they once were. They need only look to companies they once fought fiercly with to know that sequels do sell. Companies like EA, Nintendo, Capcom, Tecmo, Namco, etc. I don't know if I can take much more neglect from this company and still remain a loyal fan.

Viable Prices

  So here we are, two full months removed from Christmas holiday shopping beginning tax preparation season, and time to buy things you may have missd out in during the holidays due to not being in stock. It has been a common occurance since January to walk into a store and see PS3's on the shelf for purchase in limited numbers, Wii's, being scarce, and 360's being very abundant. Now, I only noticed this this week, PS3's are available for purchase online for the first time withou having to be purchased as a part of a bundle. I thought to myself that this is awesome for me. Then in typical fashion I began looking at the angle and pondered, this may spell trouble for the Sony company. Its a given that American consumers with disposable income will buy one if they see one on a shelf, in regards to electronics buying we tend to be mindless sheep that find shiny new toys irresistable. At the same time, looking at its competition and its continued availability issues and continued lining up of consumers trying to get a Wii, this may spell out a bigger issue for the Playstation company. While it is true that people with disposable income will purchase a PS3, how will the general American consumer, I.S. the holiday shopper and bargain shopper, reactto this abundance? I am guessing that unless PS3 has some super stellar, exclusive, titles in the works for the notoriously slow period of game sales between the yearly holiday spending spree most consumers participate in, their sales will be very soft this spring, summer and early fall. Its a given that when I allign my moneys correctly I will be buying one but not for the reason most of the Playstation faithful will be buying one. I never owned a PS2 so I always played other peples PS2's and I see this as a golden opportunity for me to get the shiny new machine and puchase CHEAP new and used PS2 and Playstation games I never played but always wanted to. I will probably only buy the must have PS3 games when they become available because I am not a big fan of te new game prices, so used games will be a norm for me. Also, I am not gonna purchase any HD DVD or Blue Ray movies as I donot have a HDTV nor will I until prices for the TV's come way down and the prices for the new media formats come down to normal, current DVD prices. And I am sure the average American will be very slow to adopt the new format of DVD also when they can get a perfectly good, very high quallity, super clear clarity, standard and widescreen DVD for 20 dollars or less, new. And I still refuse to purchase a Xbox 360 until the backwards compatibiluy issue has been solved in its entirety. My Xbox was a huge investmentn in my entertainment so I will not be getting rid of any of the games and will never purchase a360 until I can play all my games from my Xbox on it. Then there is the Wii. I am not a huge fan of the soft looking lineup of games from 3rd party developers yet but the 1st party titles look and play amazingly, which is why that will be my system of choice, plus it plays all my Gamecube games, another significant investment in my entertainment, which is a selling point for me. All the unique features of the system, motion sensing, WiiConnect 24, are just added bonuses for me. And this machine seems to be the heir apparent to the Playstation, not PS2, era or popularity as it price point, uniqueness, and general fun to play focus point are gonna be hard to beat. And if anybody quotes the US sales figures of the 360 as gospel or a reference point then obviously they are not real game trend researchers. In its initial two months to market it appears to have sold, not shipped, 2 million units. Which means they are well near their goal of having the 4 millin sold in their own self imposed time frame. Which will also be nearly half the amount of 360 units SOLD, not shipped, worldwide. That means that even with all its fancy gadgetry built in, the 360 has a real chance of being the other console come this holiday season while the PS3 and Wii rule the roost. I say PS3 because come the next holiday season of sales, their manufacturing process will be fully operational and their immense brand popularity and loyalty will once again see them atop of the sales charts when compared to their competitors. Plus, as I am living in Japan, I can see first hand that the 360, is not a very popular machine and will never really take off here no matter how much money they spend on it. So, thats my two cents of the recent abundance of available PS3's, the Wii's eventual beating of the 360, and the 360 needing to kick itself in =to high gear to keep up.

Firmware Update

There have been firmware updates left and right for home consoles and the PSP. My big question has to be this, now that the Wii has received its first firmware update, how long will it be before the DS gets one as it no doubtedly will need one for the eventual connection between it and the Wii as has been promised. As a DS owner I am a little curious as to when I should expect it.