: Arnold's Press Pause and Rewind: March 17th

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Arnold's Press Pause and Rewind: March 17th

Good week in gaming, yet again. Sales numbers always make me happy, even though sometimes they aren't always that great. Ben and I have begun preliminary E3 planning, and we're certainly excited about what's to come.

More E3 Rambling...

I know I spoke about this new E3 last week, but this past week we got our invitation and so our attendance is looking promising. With the invite reserved, I was thinking about how this new E3 is going to be so radically different than the previous E3 that being there will likely leave me a bit shocked. It's going to be in a hangar, as opposed to an enormous convention center. It's going to be in Santa Monica, where the population of the homeless sleeping in rows on the floor is marginally less than that of L.A. On top of that, at least Santa Monica also has a bit of night life to enjoy, unlike Downtown L.A. where you're better off just keeping your nose inside your hotel past 7PM.

The ability to calmly talk to each individual public relations representative without having to scream is a dream come true. What's more, having instant access to the games on the floor without having to wait or ask someone to give up the controller will be something to look forward to. But, as great as having an intimate experience is, limiting the showroom to only about 4000 media attendees is quite, err....limiting. Going from 35,000 attendees to 4000 is definitely going to feel different, and perhaps even hollow.

But my problem with the restriction is that publications are limited to send whoever was invited. So, for instance, if a publication has a staff of six and only two of those people were on the invite list, the other four can't go. This creates a bit of a bottleneck, because two people simply won't be able to cover the entire show on their own. In any case, we hope some adjustments are made to the summit next year...but in the meantime, I'm very excited about going.

Sony Confused? Hmm, cast Esuna or use Smelling Salts?

Have you read Ben's recap entry yet? Well, if you didn't...him and I are both pretty annoyed at this whole Warhawk thing. How in the hell is one game causing so much freaking confusion? It is on Blu-Ray. It isn't on Blu-Ray. No, no it is. Damnit, no, it's a downloa---SHUT UP! The hands on talk about the game has been extremely positive so far, and I, for one, am looking forward to the game quite a bit. But how much does it say about Sony, as a whole, when internally they don't even know what's going with a single game? Whatever. I'll try to ignore the drama for now, but I'm serious, we'd better get one final confirmation and never hear about it ever again.

Industry Balloons

I like talking sales. Sales interest me, because they are a direct reflection of this industry that employs us. It is absolutely remarkable that the market has grown 53% as opposed to the same frame last year. Nearly $1B in sales, and in February? It's stupendous. Videogames have seriously become more than just child's play, as Ben put it, and the market will continue to cater to adults moreso than children as time moves on. The industry is evolving into a serious art-form, and the biggest reason is because people are finally experiencing cinematic visual content that they have full control over.

Games are giving us so much freedom, that we end up being immersed into a whole other world. It's essentially why massively-multiplayer online RPGs became so popular; because people created an entire second life dedicated specifically for the game. Now a lot of games are moving towards the open-ended scale, and God only knows the scale that Grand Theft Auto IV is going to bring us. And hey, we already have Test Drive Unlimited, a game that features 1000 realistic miles of Hawaiian road this early in the generation, imagine what's to come? The next evolutionary step for gaming is to put that experience into a handheld....mmmmmm.

Hot Shots Part Cinq...err, Five

Ben said he's ultra-tempted to create a fake Japanese PlayStation Network account to download the Hot Shots Golf 5 demo. Well, he'll be giving into temptations after he reads this...I created a fake account specifically for the game, and man am I happy that I did. Ok, visually, you can still tell bits and pieces of the graphics are still early -- after all, this is a demo -- but so much of the game looks gorgeous. The water, the trees, the grass, and the lighting is beautiful. The shadowing is jaggy, but don't forget...thus far demos of Sony games have not accurately represented the aesthetic caliber of the final product.

I thoughtthe Formula One demo looked good, until I played the final game - and the final game makes the demo look *terrible*! MotorStorm is another example; the demo pales in comparison to the actual game. In any case, on top of looking good, Hot Shots 5 plays like an ace. Everything about the controls just feel so natural, and the new swing mechanics are also pretty cool. You have the option of choosing either the classic swing with the double tap, or the new swing mechanics which feature no bar to load and are quite a bit more realistic. Look for a hands-on preview soon, I'll explain it there.

Gossip. New PSP? New Xbox 360?

Heard some rumors going around lately? Some good. Some bad. The good: a NiGHTS game for the Nintendo Wii? Well, Official Nintendo Magazine is hinting at that, so we'll see. It could just be a Virtual Console download that utilizes the Wiimote's motion sensing, which is cool - but not a new game. Then there's talk of the PSP getting a redesign sometime in the next couple of months. It'll probably receive no more than a minor facelift, and Sony will then unlock the full potential of the unit by releasing a firmware that'll make the handheld run at 333MHZ, as opposed to 222MHZ.

This firmware will not just unlock a clock-speed, but also features for developers to utilize in their games -- meaning we could potentially be seeing a completely different visual scale of games with the PSP's second wave. It's also worth mentioning that there are hacked firmware updates that let the user run his PSP at 333MHZ, and the benefits result in much better framerates (Grand Theft Auto games, etc.) and even better loading times. So this means that when Sony finally makes it available legitimately, your old PSP games will also run better. Cool, eh?

The bad: The third rumor is GameInformer announcing that a black Xbox 360 with HDMI will be available at the end of April. This alleged console is very well the previously dubbed "Zephyr", but black. On top of that, because the issue hasn't hit yet, there has been some confusion regarding the price. Apparently GameInformer says that the price for this new X360 will be $479. But then it says that there will also be a stand-alone 120GB HDD available for less than $200. First off, anywhere near $200 for a 120GB is disgustingly expensive...in fact, anything more than $120 is a rip-off. Second, is the new X360 going to come bundled with the 120GB HDD or without?

If Microsoft does indeed release this X360 without the HDD and price it for $479, they've shot themselves in the foot. One of the X360's biggest draws is that it's a moderately priced HD-gaming console. And if you're going to bring the price up to nearly $500 and not even offer HD-DVD playback, people are going to start looking at the PlayStation 3 a lot more. The right move would be to not have 3 different Xbox 360s; price this alleged console at $399, bundle it with the 120GB HDD, phase out the core pack and replace it with the premium for $299 instead.

See ya' next week, guys.

3/17/2007 Arnold Katayev

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