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My Thoughts on the Console Wars

Just for the sake of argument let's take a look at all the systems, how they stack up.  (Note: All prices are in US dollars)

PS3:
Launch: (US+Japan) Nov 17 (Europe, rest of world) Q1 2007 estimated
Base Price: $499
Premium Price: $599
Format Of Choice: Blu-Ray (BD-ROM)
Special Features: 20GB HDD (base) 60GB HDD (premium) HDMI output (premium only) broadband internet capable (wired).  Reverse compatibility for all PS2 and PS1 games.  Wireless controllers with full motion sensing capability.  Free first-party online gaming (third party games may charge for access and/or content)
Game Cost (estimated): $60
Controller Cost (based on cost of X360 wireless controller): $50
Bare minimum cash outlay required to play: $460 (console plus one game) plus tax.

XBox360
Launch: Available Worldwide
Base Price: $299
Premium Price: $399
Format of Choice: DVD-ROM
Special Features: 20 GB external HDD (included with Premium, sold seperately in base package), broadband internet capable (wired) external flash memory drive (64 MB) available (sold seperately), wireless controllers (Premium package only--base package includes wired controller) Controllers feature force feedback but no motion sensor.  Online gaming network (free for limited access.  Online multiplayer requires $50/year subscription)
Game Cost: $60 for first-party titles
Controller Cost: $40 for wired.  $50 for wireless. (Note: Wired controller is PC-compatible, connects via USB)
Memory Unit: $30 (64MB)
Bare Minimum Cash Outlay Required: $389 (base console, memory unit, one game)

Nintendo Wii
Launch: (North/South America, Japan) Nov 19 (Europe) Dec 8
Price: $249
Format Of Choice: Proprietary 12-cm optical disc
Special Features: Reverse-compatible with Nintendo Gamecube 8-cm discs.  Available back catalogue of downloadable N64, SNES and NES games, with some Sega Genesis and Turbografx 16 titles also to be available. Special "Virtual Console" controller available for playing these games.  Wireless controllers with full motion sensing and a speaker built-in for added immersion.  512MB onboard flash memory.  4 Gamecube controller ports, plus 2 Gamecube memory card slots.  Wireless internet capable (802.11 wifi), wired internet access capable with USB adapter.  Can communicate wirelessly with Nintendo DS handheld.  Can access Internet and download updates and other content automatically.  No onboard region coding (first-party games will be region-free, meaning a Japanese Wii game will run on an American Wii with no modification.  Third-party games MAY be region-locked)  SD card slot for memory expansion.  Game included (Wii Sports--a compilation of several sports including golf, tennis, bowling and a few others)
Game Cost: $50
Virtual Console Game Cost: $5-10
Controller Cost (estimate): $30
Extra Nunchaku Cost: $15
Virtual Console Controller Cost (estimate): $15
Bare Minimum Cash Required: $249 plus tax (console only.  Game included with package, along with onboard memory to save games and other content)

Winner: Wii by a landslide.

Expected Availability
PS3: Poor.  Launch supply was recently cut to half a million in the US and Japan.  The rest of the world is getting the shaft until next year.  Shortages are expected, demand despite the high price is expected to be extreme, and the already high prices are expected to skyrocket on eBay.  If you don't have one pre-ordered by now, don't expect to get one until 2007.

XBox360: Good.  The system has been out for a year, so only the usual holiday rush is expected.  The early adopters have theirs and production is up to full steam, so you shouldn't have a problem finding one.  In fact, preowned systems are becoming available (and at deep discounts, more than 25% off new) so if you've been waiting for a price drop...

Wii: Good to fair.  The Wii's simpler architecture means there are fewer production hoops to jump through, which means fewer hangups on the assembly line.  Also, production began more than a month ago while PS3 production has only started in the last week or so.  There should be plenty of systems available.  However, the low price combined with the buzz of the early adopters could cause sellouts in some areas.  If you want one, it might be wise to call your local game store and order one now.  If you want one you SHOULD be able to find one before Christmas, if your local stores get adequate stock.

Winner: X360 by virtue of its head start.

Game Libraries
PS3: About two dozen titles from both first and third party--most of which look thoroughly mediocre.  The usual sports games, a Ridge Racer title, and MotorStorm (which last I heard was a launch title) which actually looks promising.  I'm not expecting great things from the PS3 until the second wave of software hits.

Xbox360: Over a hundred titles to be available by the holiday season--the X360 is in its second major wave of software and the publishers are beginning to hit their stride.  Titles like Dead Rising and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion are getting rave reviews, and the amount of content on Xbox Live is large and growing quickly.  This is all thanks to the 360 getting a year head start.

Wii: About two dozen Wii titles are expected to be available at launch, with Zelda being the key franchise to represent.  Metroid and Mario titles are in the wings but will not be ready by launch time.  Some of the remaining Wii launch titles could be fun (Excite Truck looks interesting).  There are also expected to be around 30 Virtual Console titles available for purchase and download at a relatively low cost, all from Nintendo's previous consoles.

Winner: X360, again by virtue of its head start.

Other Advantages

PS3: Power, and lots OF it.  In the console world, the PS3 is the 800-lb gorilla.  It's got more raw processing speed than the other two systems combined.  It has the new Blu-Ray media format which could take off or could flop.  Stand-alone Blu-Ray players are going for close to a thousand bucks, which makes the PS3 look like a bargain in comparison.  It's the only console with native HDMI support and the only console capable of outputting a true 1080p HD signal for the highest possible picture quality.  This is the system of choice for videophiles who insist on the best possible appearance.  The PS3 comes standard with wireless controllers and a 20GB HDD--to get both on the 360 you have to pay for the premium package.  Having licenses like Gran Turismo and Metal Gear Solid at your beck and call will drive a lot of sales.  Plus there are some truly class-A looking games on the horizon that, while not available at launch, should make the second wave a lot of fun.

X360: Its biggest advantage that it's been out for a year already.  The tech is a little more basic than the PS3 which helps bring the price down.  It was the first system to include wireless controllers.  There are loads of games to choose from with plenty of top-notch titles in the mix.  MS' Xbox Live online service is a known entity--by establishing a native service that's fully integrated with the system they ensure the best online play quality, and a free Silver membership is included with each system.

Wii: Cheapest of the three by a WIDE margin.  Should be more widely available than the PS3.  First system to show fully motion-sensitive controller (this feature was copied by the PS3).  The motion-sensing controller is integral to gameplay in many games, which should allow for some really unique gameplay for people who aren't too self-conscious.  (Oughta be fun to watch, too)  Whereas the other two systems focus on raw computing horsepower, the Wii is focused more on gameplay--which should hopefully result in more fun games.  Memory slot takes standard SD cards, which are relatively cheap and hold a lot of stuff.  Nintendo's stable of franchises gives it a distinct leg up on the competition and many will buy Nintendo just so they can play Zelda, Metroid and Mario games.

Disadvantages

PS3: Price.  At $499 for the base system (which doesn't include a game) it's the steepest by far.  All that technology costs money, and even though having a Blu-Ray player may be a bargain it's still not a cheap one.  Availability is going to be SEVERELY limited at launch.  Game selection at launch doesn't look to be anything special either, and the really good stuff is still several months to a year off.  Then there's the Blu-Ray format.  It's competing with HD-DVD, and if it loses the current format war PS3 buyers are in trouble (as is anyone else that bought a stand-alone Blu-Ray player.  The lack of force feedback in the PS3's wireless controllers is a glaring omission (the official word is it interfered with the motion sensors--in reality Sony is losing a legal battle and had to remove the feature to avoid getting sued).  Sony is also taking a HUGE loss on these consoles, so don't expect a price drop for a couple of years at least--if the system even lasts that long.  Even Sony execs themselves have gone on record saying they may lose this round of the console wars.

Xbox360: While the price is lower than the PS3, EVERYTHING is extra.  The base console is a stock stripper--no hard drive, no wireless controllers, no game, no nothing.  It comes with one wired controller and an XBL Silver membership (which is useless if you don't have any way to save content).  The Premium package is basically essential if you want to use the system as it was designed, and all the nickel and diming MS is doing to base system buyers is really wrong.  Then there's XBL.  While a Silver membership is included with every system, if you want to play multiplayer games online you need to pony up for XBL Gold--which costs $50 per year.  More nickel and diming.  Most content available on XBL costs money as well--and the only way to purchase it is to first buy Microsoft Points--essentially locking your cash into MS' coffers.  MS is also reportedly taking a loss on 360 systems of both flavors, so while a price drop is rumored, don't count on it until the system begins to make a profit.

Wii: It's technical capbability is nowhere near the other two systems, and is actually closer to current-gen systems in terms of graphics quality and presentation.  HD is not supported in any form on the Wii, and the system is not even capable of playing DVD movies.  If you don't have a wireless network at home you'll have to buy a seperate adapter to hook your console up to the internet.  Game selection at launch appears to be fairly limited, but there could be some fun games in there depending on what you like.  The system's onboard storage is paltry compared to the other two at only 512 MB.

Final Thoughts

The PS3 is the system for technophiles.  It's the most powerful, most capable and unfortunately the most expensive.  It's not a system I'd buy at launch--instead I'd wait a year for the really good stuff to hit shelves and make a decision. (Of course, if you haven't pre-ordered the system, you will end up waiting whether you like it or not)

The X360 is the one to get if you want a next-gen system NOW.  Get the Premium package because despite its higher price it's actually a better value than the base package (which really isn't worth paying for). 

The Wii is the cheapest and quirkiest of the three.  Unlike the other two, everything you need to set up and play is included--even a game.  Availability should be good, and its native Wifi support will be an advantage to those who have wireless networks in their homes.  Familiar franchises will also make a return, though not many of them at launch.  If you're on a tight budget this year--or just tired of the console arms race--the Wii is probably your best bet.

Thoughts on the PS3

While this is fresh in my mind, I'd like to say a couple things.

First, finally--a price point.  $499 for the PS3 with a 20GB HDD, and $599 for the 60GB model.  ...This concerns me.  That's a LOT of money.  I already pretty much knew the system wasn't gonna go for less than 500 bucks, but a $100 premium for a lousy 40 GB?  There'd better be a lot more stuff included in the package to justify that level of a price hike.  Seriously. 

Then there's the games shown...my god.  I mean, assuming I get this it's a given the next Gran Turismo is gonna be on my list.  Then there's Ridge Racer (obviously--hope it's better than R: Evolution).  Warhawk still looks pretty sweet, and the new stuff from Insomniac and Naughty Dog is also looking good.  Metal Gear...doesn't interest me.  I'm not one for stealth.

Overall?  I'm going to wait and see how the games develop over time, as well as what launch titles to expect.  I certainly won't be pre-ordering one to have it at launch.  Instead, I'm going to put the money aside now (thank you IRS for giving me my money back!) into a savings account--that way when it does come around, I can have the money and some extra for a couple games when I'm ready to buy.

Of course, there's still the W--Revolution to see.  (I'm sorry.  I refuse to refer to Nintendo's new console by that ridiculous moniker)

Looks promising.  I look forward to more coverage.

The long, lonely wait

You know, I really don't get it.  Some games seem to crank out a new version every year or so, often with significant changes.  Look at Ratchet and Clank for example--there's been a new game in that series about every 12 months or so (the most recent Ratchet: Deadlocked, a fine platformer if I ever saw one).  So why is it some games take so gorram LONG?

I've been interested in Starcraft: Ghost for some time now.  I remember hearing about it at E3.  TWO YEARS AGO.  It's still not released.  Gamespot says its release date is "Q2 2006" which means sometime between April 1 and June 30.  Admittedly this isn't far off, but it's been pushed off before, and probably will again--EBGames is saying the projected release date is now early October.

This doesn't look good for Ghost.  Games with these kinds of excessively long development cycles typically don't do very well.  Examples?  OK.  First, the infamous Daikatana.  Hyped up for years, then eventually ignored.  Four years in development, and when it released it was universally panned because of poor graphics, a subpar story and poor mechanics.

Then there's DRIV3R--a game anticipated since right after DRIVER2.  It was in development for several years as well, released about a year after GTA: Vice City.  Eventually they shoved it out the door half-finished.  On-foot controls were terrible, the story sucked hard and it was also universally panned by all but the most hardcore fan.

Then there's Duke Nukem: Forever...  My nephew was born after this game went into development.  He's in the first grade.  If it takes longer to raise a child to school age than it takes you to release a game, maybe you oughta pull the plug.  I can guarantee that if Nukem is ever released it'll tank.

So where does that put Starcraft: Ghost?  Well, the most recent preview on GameSpot's site looks promising, but that was written several months ago.  There's been no real news for quite some time, and when the game shows up at E3, AGAIN, because it isn't finished yet, I wonder what people will be saying about it.

Folks, I'm all about getting it right.  You HAVE to get it right, or the game will suck.  But you gotta at least try to stick to deadlines too.  If you say it'll be done in 18 months, you can't just blow right through that and release it 3 years later, obsessing over every last detail.  There has to be a time where you step back and say "It's DONE" and release it.

Got tools?

I have the desire to build something.

I don't really care what it is. I wanna build something. A new PC would be nice. Maybe an entertainment center. Or a desk. I dunno, I just wanna build something dammit!

Some random stuff not in any way related to gaming.

OK, so if you're a car guy like I am, you've probably heard about the Pontiac Solstice and its platform-mate, the Saturn Sky. These two cars interest me quite a bit. GM hasn't built a car like this in...well..I don't think they've ever built cars quite like this. OK, maybe the Fiero, but that doesn't really count. as it's not a convertible. Seriously though, these are pretty sweet looking little roadsters. High-output engines, solid suspension, sexy looks and a bargain pricetag. Seriously, what's not to like?

Oh yeah, I forgot. GM's building them.

If you listened to the press you'd think General Motors invented Satan with all the bad press they've gotten recently. Now I'm not saying they don't deserve a few rotten apples for some of the rotten apples they've dumped on the unwitting American buying public, but sometimes I really wish they'd stuff their bias down their pieholes and take an honest look at what GM's offering these days. They keep getting better and better, and while they may not yet be the best, if they continue to improve it'll only be a matter of time.

I just wanted to say that.

E3 Thoughts

I saw a lot of stuff covered this year that at least piqued my interest. Full Auto, for one, looks like it'll be fun--sort of a cross between Wipeout and Burnout, and you can't go wrong there (as Wipeout XL and Burnout 3 are two of my all-time favorite racing games). I'll be looking forward to sampling that on the Xbox360 when it hits retail later this year.

Speaking of the Xbox360, I want one. I'll probably get the base console first, and get a HDD upgrade if they're available seperately. Personally I think they will--and SHOULD. Not only would it allow you to basically have unlimited storage space (in a usable size..not like some dinky 8MB memory card) but it would easily allow multiple users to keep their save games totally seperate from each other. So I'm probably going to get one of those sooner or later.

Same with the PS3. As it'll also have a detachable HDD (along with--about damn time--an SD card slot!) you can expect the same thing here. If the hard drive is a reasonable price I'll get that. If not, I'll just use SD cards for save games (I can get some really big ones cheap). I'll admit right now the PS3 is a lower priority. I haven't seen anything that's coming out for it that I feel I HAVE to have right now. Sure, there's the next Gran Turismo, maybe Killzone 2, probably a few other Sony franchises (like Grand Theft Auto) but most of that hasn't even been technically confirmed--just assumed to happen.

There are more games though that look to be really good for all the consoles. Burnout: Revenge DEFINITELY has my attention, after how good Burnout 3 was I'm definitely getting THIS one. Starcraft Ghost also looks like it'll be a blast, although stealth action isn't really my speed. I'm sure it'll be fun in its own way though. I'm not sure about 2 Days to Vegas. While it looks like a GTA knockoff, from the descriptions I've read it sounds like it's not going to be totally open-ended, instead playing out from one mission to the next. I find that kind of disappointing, but none of this has actually been confirmed so I'll have to wait and see. If I had a Gamecube the new Zelda would probably be on my shopping list. But since I don't have one, I'm not really paying attention. Halo 3, however, is certainly on my radar. I enjoyed Halo thoroughly, I enjoy Halo 2 thoroughly (but the ending left something serious to be desired) and I'm sure I'll enjoy Halo 3 thoroughly. My main concern with it, however, is time. From now they have less than one year to complete the game and ship it to release it on their target date. I'm predicting now that they will either A: miss their target or B: produce some half-assed, barely-playable pile of garbage. Considering how Bungie handles their projects, I'm predicting A. Halo 3 at PS3 launch is NOT going to happen, unless the game is already a large part of the way finished (ie they started work on it almost as soon as Halo 2 shipped). It took them more than 2 years to build Halo 2. I don't see them building its sequel in less than half that time, especially for a brand-new console.

That's the long and short of it basically. That's what I saw I wanted, and eventually what I plan to wind up with.

It's a Thug's Life

I'm currently waiting for the June 7 release of GTA: San Andreas. Yes, I already own this title for PS2. Yes, I'm going to buy it again. Why? Well, for as much as I enjoyed SA, it had problems. For one, I really wish the textures were better. I also was rather annoyed at all the slowdown whenever things got a little too hectic. I know it isn't the developer's fault. The PS2 just isn't powerful enough to do any better. My PC, on the other hand, is more than capable of running that game at full speed.

I'm also looking forward to what the mod community has to offer. Vice City spawned some pretty interesting modifications (cars, characters, new map areas, all kinds of good stuff) and I can't wait to see what they do with San Andreas.

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year....*dodges rotten fruit*

Ack! Okay, okay, sorry, I know, bad impression, sorry.

So here it is. E3 is upon us here at Gamespot. Much like the full moon, this event seems to draw every nut on the planet out of the woodwork to descend upon the community and wreak havoc upon the moderators and level-headed individuals like myself. You have the MS fanboys on one side, the Sony fanboys on another side, and the poor Nintendo fanboys caught in the middle. The first salvo is fired, usually an MS fanboy first. "Teh Xbox 360 iz guna totally kick sonys ass!" The battle is joined as the Sony milita responds in kind. "O no it isnt cuz the ps3 has more tflops then the suckbox so its bettar!!!" Thus they go back and forth, back and forth, launching crudely-phrased insults, homosexual references and disparaging comments about each others' parental relations, often implying their opponent's family tree doesn't fork. Occasionally one of the Nintendo loyal will wander into the fray and say something supremely stupid like "O YAH WELL TEH NINTENDO REVOLUTION IZ BETER THEN YUR ST00PID S***BOX AND SUCKSTATION AND IF U DONT THINK SO UR GHEY!!". For a brief moment the MS and Sony fanboys will join in pounding upon the hapless, though loudmouthed combatant.

The truly frightening aspect of all this is that this is merely the beginning. The war has just begun anew. We won't see the end of this until sometime near the end of the decade, when the next Xbox and Playstation emerge from the inky shadows onto the market at E3 2010. Then the PS3 and XBox360 and Nintendo..whatever it is..will be forgotten in favor of the new systems...and once again the battle will be rejoined by a new crowd of eager 14-year-old prepubescent jerkwads with the collective IQ of a bar of soap.

But that's just how I see it.