Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Intel and Microsoft endorse HD-DVD

Intel and Microsoft have chosen to endorse Toshiba´s HD-DVD format over Sony´s Blu-Ray standard. CNet writes:
Intel and Microsoft are combining their industry power in an attempt to make the HD DVD format the victor in a battle over a standard to succeed DVD.

Typical DVDs today can hold 4.7GB of information, but two dueling camps are trying to establish a larger-capacity format that will allow for the recording of high-definition television and the backing up of more data. HD DVD, supported by a Toshiba-led consortium, is up against Blu-ray Disc, which is backed by Sony and others, including the two biggest personal-computer manufacturers, Dell and Hewlett-Packard.

Intel and Microsoft believe weighing in on the HD DVD side will be enough to tip the balance. "We have a high expectation of having a single format, and that format is HD DVD," said Intel spokesman Bill Kircos.

There are several reasons the two companies went with HD DVD, said Richard Doherty, Microsoft's program manager for media entertainment convergence. Among them: HD DVD requires that movies be copied to a consumer's hard drive, making it easier for people to send movies around home networks; the format supports regular DVD recordings on the flip side of the disc, letting people sell hybrid discs to consumers who have DVD players today but fear their discs will be obsolete; and the format offers more capacity.

Obviously, this spells big trouble for Sony and their PS3. The PS3 will feature a Blu-Ray drive. Sony has already rallied some support in the movie industry. But without Microsoft and Intel, what good is that? Perhaps Microsoft supports HD-DVD also to strike a blow at the PS3. Either way, this could be the decisive point in HD-DVD´s favour. And if so, the PS3 will almost definitely be delayed. Sony will have to seriously reconsider including Blu-Ray in their console, because the format may be dead by the time the console is meant to come out.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Revolution specs leaked?

The good people at Engadget have picked up on a story that has been going ´round the forums for a couple of days now. Beforehand I disregarded it as ´another one of those specs rumours´, but now I believe we actually got ourselves some substantiated stuff here. Here´s the rundown:

* a multithreaded PowerPC 2.5 GHz with 256 KB L1 cache and 1 MB of L2 cache

* a Physical Processing Chip (PPU) with 32MB of dedicated RAM, 512MB of system RAM

* a custom ATI “RN520” 600MHz CPU with 256MB of RAM

* the device will support external resolutions up to 2048 x 1268

* HD support is still as yet undecided

* 7.1 surround

Sounds good? So does the story of where these specs come from:

So apparently this dude who works at Factor 5 (they’ve done some Star Wars games) who goes by Han Solo has some supposedly leaked specs of the Revolution, which if they’re real might give the box a bit more of a fighting chance than we’d originally anticipated. Keep in mind this is the same person, we understand, who leaked some nearly dead on specs of the Xbox 360 before it was announced.

As I said before, I have ignored all spec leaks to this day. But if sites like Engadget and Joystiq are picking up on it and are willing to consider it as a possibility... well, so will I.

EDIT Here´s the original post by Han Solo as posted on this G4TV forum thread.
Nintendo has modified the System 1 specs. They have deleted the System 2 specs as it is obviously expensive and really powerful.

System 1 specs can be viewed on the first page of this thread, posted by White Wolf. Nintendo now has to choose between the System 1, that’s on the front page, or these Modified Specs.

System 1 Modified
1 IBM Custom PowerPC 2.5 GHz with 256 KB L1 cache and 1 MB of L2 cache (an L3 cache is rumored). It’s Dual Threaded

13 billion dot product operations per second

Revolution GPU

ATI Custom based RN520 core. The "N" stands for Nintendo, and is because the ArtX team is with them, that is why it’s an "N".

GPU core at 600 MHz. Will support up to 2048x1268 resolution, HD support is still being decided. Will have 256 MB’s of 1T-SRAM (the RAM is much better due to some tweaking, compared to GC’s RAM. The latency and Cells are much more efficient and faster. Around 1.2 ns is the latency, on average).

32 parallel floating-point dynamically scheduled shader pipelines.

Polygon Performance: 500 million triangles per second theoretical, average in game would be around <100 Million/sec>

Shader Performance: ~50 billion shader operations per second

Revolution memory

512 MB of 700 MHz 1T-SRAM

Other bits and pieces
Revolution will support a PPU chip (Physical Processing Chip). There will be 32 MB’s of its own RAM, which will link to the CPU and GPU and the Controller.

There will also be a separate sound card that will support only DD 5.1 – DTS 7.1, rumors has it will have 16 MB’s, like the Cube DSP

So there’s the modified version. I think this would be on par with Xbox360, though PS3 could have an edge in the CPU area. In the GPU area the Revolution beats PS3, and technically would match Xbox 360.

And here´s Julian Eggebrecht´s reply, head of Factor 5, courtesy of Gizmodo:
“Han Solo is a scoundrel, we all know that, but in this case he isn´t a very clever scoundrel. That so-called employee of ours posting on message boards under the Han Solo name certainly isn´t employed at Factor 5 or working in any way for us. He isn´t speaking for the company and he better change his story as to where he has his information from, or we will be forced to take legal action against him.”

Monday, September 19, 2005

Is the cat out of the bag?

Just when we thought the cat was out the bag, the bag starts to meow. At least there is a suggestion of some details about the Revolution controller that have not yet been revealed. Look at the following picture taken from this IGN gallery. Kudos to Robert Wydra, who drew my attention to this in the last post´s comments.

Look closely at the reflection of the controller at the bottom and you will find that the reflection differs from the actual controller. Instead of the ´a´ button, there is a ´Y´ button next to what appears to be a square hole (probably housing an LED). You can just about guess that there is an ´X´ button above. Let us look at this in detail. I have copied and pasted the reflection, mirrored and flipped it accordingly and intensified the contrast. Compare the reflection with the actual controller.

As I have always made clear, I don´t believe in any N-game. There never was one and there isn´t one starting now. This may not even be Nintendo´s doing. It could be IGN knowing more than I had guessed, after all. The same image on Nintendo´s site is significantly smaller and it´s very hard to make out that exact detail. I have treated that part of the picture the same way I did IGN´s (without flipping and mirroring though) and the result is somewhat inconclusive. There does seem to be a dark spot right where that LED hole is in the larger IGN picture, but I can´t be sure. See for yourself:

I have formally requested the larger images from Nintendo (why they don´t simply post the large ones on their own site is beyond me anyway) and will post news as soon as I receive them. In the meantime, I am undecided. If the fake reflection is Nintendo´s doing I would regard this as very weird. If it was done by IGN it would be another hidden message that they know something we don´t, just like they did with the console design back in May. In that case, I may have been too hasty to dismiss IGN in my last post. It would be nothing unusual, though. If Nintendo issued the picture with the fake reflection, however, it may indeed mean that there could be another cat in that bag. A mistake during the production of the picture seems highly unlikely.

EDIT Nintendo of Europe just called me back saying they themselves did not have the high-res version yet. They expect to get them towards the end of the week. I´ll keep you posted.

EDIT Thank you for all your comments. You have correctly pointed out that there are two controller layouts that were still decided on at the time. Also, that dark blob next to the ´Y´ is actually the letter ´a´, not an LED housing. You can see this quite clearly in the demo video that was part of Iwata´s speech. I just hadn´t seen the entire clip by the time I posted this. In my opinion, it seems more likely now that the wrong reflection is indeed a mistake. But, given that, it would still be a weird coincidence.

Controlling the revolution

I am back from Egypt, where I witnessed Nintendo´s Revolution from my new PDA cell phone. My first thought about the controller was this: Isn´t it ironic how we all knew what technology would be the focus point of the controller? Yet the actual revolution is in the shape. Like a TV remote, it is a one-handed controller with possible add-ons. So apart from the gyroscopic technology, the only other rumour that somehow fitted the truth turns out to be that of a controller that breaks apart. I never really took this one all too seriously, I must admit. In fact, most of us still imagined a shape that would be held by both hands. But Gyroscopes track your movement in three dimensions, so a gyroscopic controller can be a simple shape with buttons on it, held in one hand. And Nintendo was after simplicity. It should have been easy to come to that conclusion, yet noone did. Me neither.

But so much has been said about the controller itself. Let me turn to some bigger issues. Who is a winner of the revolution that we witnessed? Well, Nintendo undoubtedly is. They managed to keep the controller a secret until Iwata´s speech. No leaks, not even hints surfaced. Yet publishers were quick to comment on the controller after the revelation, proving that they had known for some time. Nintendo exercised complete control. Unlike Microsoft, whose Xbox360 had its debut on the internet days before the official unveiling on MTV.

What makes Nintendo´s feat even more amazing is that they exercised complete control while the internet was abuzz with theories, rumours and fakes. We were eating up any apparent information, no matter how ridiculous, and still asked for seconds. People who were in the know must have been itching all the more to spill the beans. Yet the last four months went exactly according to Nintendo´s plans: maximum hype, no leaks.

Of course, such a hype is a volatile state that can easily turn to frustration if the truth does not live up to the people´s often wild expectations. Most punters seem to be more than satisfied with what they got, though. These fan-made add-ons prove both the flexibility of the controller design, as well as the imagination of the community, which Nintendo seems to have captured. The bottom line is: It all turned out beautiful for Nintendo.

But there are also losers of the revolution. To some extent, IGN is one of them. Many people believed that IGN was exclusively partnered with Nintendo and knew far more than any other medium. In fact, they fueled this kind of speculation themselves, cryptically showing off the basic console design before its unveiling at the E3 press conference. They may have seen ´Teh Nitedo Revolution´ beforehand. But in the last few days, they appeared more and more clueless. It became obvious that IGN was not in on the secret. They even seemed to downplay expectations that Iwata would show the controller during the TGS keynote, which really makes me wonder. Even I knew this would happen, because someone at Nintendo told me. Of course, I could not post this information here. But I certainly never tried to downplay expectations. Strongly hinting at having seen the console beforehand was a smart move that put IGN in the pole position back in May and for months to come. But they were unable to repeat this PR stunt for the controller - when it really mattered. So they ended up shooting themselves in the foot.

Naturally, the biggest losers are those infantile idiots like Seriousgamer007, Osoko Tanaka and Aries - as well as the people who believed them. It is perhaps only now that most people realise that any such leaks would have been tremendously harmful to Nintendo. Only by being exercising full control over the unveiling of the revolution controller, Nintendo was perceived as a force to be reckoned with. They have finally delivered on their promise of a revolution. And they controlled it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The final word

I am going to be on holiday this week - just when the Revolution will be presented. Talk about perfect timing, eh? Anyway, I´m leaving the day after tomorrow - and no, it´s not to Tokyo, if you are asking - so I guess this will be the final word before the Revolution will be revealed, most likely during Iwata´s speech before the TGS. This is why I want to use this post to summarize all key points we have been discussing here during the last three and a half months. As it´s a summary, I won´t back up everything I write or link to sites. You can find all the details in the relevant posts below. I will also finally abandon all fine journalistic tradition and plainly state my opinion and pure belief in this piece. It´s just a few days until we all get to see who was right, so I might as well ;P


* The console stand: It´s slanted, which must be more than a mere design feature, because it makes the console more likely to be knocked over. In my mind, this would suggest that the console is ´pointing up´ at the player. This would in turn suggest some kind of direct interaction, more specifically a data exchange, between console and controller, e.g. some kind of projection method.

* The size: The console will be tiny. This could point towards the plain hardware being not much more powerful than the GameCube. If so, the method of viewing could be the revolutionary ingredient. In fact, there has been a reliable source stating recently that a portable GameCube was at least considered by Nintendo a few years back. The Revolution could be that. At the size of three DVD cases stacked, it will be a fairly portable device anyway. And given some kind of 3D projection, even a portable Revolution would still compete with the other home consoles.

* The GCN controller ports: This is one of the weirdest details about the Revolution. The console would only need the old controller if the new controller was something completely different. Either you can only use the new controller only with some games, or the new controller utilizes a technology that some people might want to get a rest from.

* Nintendo quotes: There will be fewer buttons, games will be cheaper and easier to develop. Again, this would suggest less hardware power and some kind of new input technology.


* "Nintendo is waking up."

* "You will be very pleasantly surprised."

* "Never underestimate Nintendo."


* Nintendo ON: I will finally come out and admit that I have never been convinced that the Nintendo ON clip was fake after all. My interview with Pablo threw up more questions than it answered, the same must be said about the 1up feature. The clip was just too well produced to have been done by one guy in a week. And even if it was done in a week, why did the otherwise excellent clip end so amateurishly? Why does the ON logo resemble a logo Nintendo trademarked in the late eighties and renewed since then? I believe that it´s likely that Nintendo was somehow involved in the clip. I don´t think the ON helmet is a final product - or was ever intended to be one. For that, its looks are just too far off from the console. But I do think this was meant to be an indicator of what the Rev would deliver. It was meant to generate hype and it worked a treat.

* Adverts: All fake.

* Seriousgamer007: Completely fake. No affiliation to anything. Not even to puberty, I guess.

* Pictures of the console in people´s living rooms: All fake. Iwata most likely won´t even show a working prototype during his speech. Games will most likely be running off a dev kit.


* Pressure-sensitive pads: An interesting idea, but nothing huge. Also, there was no conrete evidence fo this technology. I don´t think so.

* Gyroscopes: I treat this technology as a given. Nintendo´s deal with Gyration, Inc. is a pretty good indicator here, though the full amount of involvement has not been disclosed.

* Heat pads: A nice idea, but nothing revolutionary. Again, no concrete evidence.

* Haptics: A patent found in early July suggests haptic feedback. But believing in gyroscopes makes me think that haptics would just be too much. Nintendo cannot include everything. The standard controller can cost no more than $40, I guess.

* Augmented Reality (AR): A real possibility in my opinion. And contrary to popular opinion, this technology is not too expensive to be implemented. While prototypes cost up to $10.000, low-level implementation for the mass-market could cost well below $100 per controller.

* Virtual Reality / Stereoscopic 3D projection: This technology is similar to AR. So the above point about costs is equally valid with regard to this technology. There is no cooperation between Nintendo and eMagin, but there may very well be a cooperation with P.O.C. I rate stereoscopic 3D a likely contender. It´s revolutionary, it allows for gaming with fewer buttons and need not put off newcomers, depending on the implementation.

* Neural input / Brainwave controller: The mood sensor, as developed by Neurosky is a possibility and could be quite fun: Relax before you cross a narrow bridge. Stuff like that. If you are thinking of actually steering objects with your thoughts, I must disappoint you. There is no way this could be implemented in a competitive videogame console.


From all controller mock-ups that have been floated on the net, not a single one convinced me. The most likely contender is the one pictured below, though I strongly believe the Cyrillic writing gives this away as a fake, too. It is the only controller we saw that actually fits the console, though, as well as Nintendo´s hints about fewer buttons and the like.


Finally, I expect a gyroscopic controller but I also strongly believe in the possibility of some kind of projection method as an optional extra, most likely stereoscopic 3D projection. In particular, I don´t think that goggles would be Nintendo´s weapon of choice. I think that there will be some kind of plate of glass the visuals will appear on, either integrated into the controller or, more likely, the console itself. Haptics, mood sensors, heat or pressure-sensitive pads are all a possibility, but the basic controller can only feature a maximum of two of these. I vote for gyroscopes. Haptics are the second most likely option, I guess.

I expect the release date will be later than some rumours have made us believe. Dev kits went out in June or July. Some developers were still not in the know until August. I know this for a fact. Hence, I don´t see any way the Revolution could launch before autumn 2006. Most likely we are looking at a release between August and December. I expect the console to be priced at $299 because the actual hardware will not need to be very powerful by comparison (given that there will be some kind of 3D projection). An additional stereoscopic projection system would be around $100. It´s certainly a possibility. Now let´s wait and see if I´m right.

Friday, September 09, 2005

THQ president: "Nintendo is waking up."

IGN has interviewed THQ´s president and asked them about the Rev. Good stuff, read on!
IGNcube caught up with company president Brian Farrell and quizzed him on Revolution plans. Farrell did confirm that THQ is developing "games for Revolution." Providing more details than that, Farrell indicated wide support for all the next-generation consoles including Revolution, saying, "THQ's plan is to serve gamers no matter what platform they are on." Backing that up, he also firmly stated, "We are commited to Nintendo's [Revolution]."

However, when asked about what plans Nintendo has laid out for THQ, Brian was hush-hush on the matter. But he claims that based on his discussions with the hardware giant, he feels that "Nintendo is waking up."

Finally, when confronted with the question of whether or not THQ was in possession of development hardware, Mr. Farrell declined to provide specifics due to non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). All he would say was that "We're seeing more from Nintendo now [for Revolution] than we have an any other Nintendo platform."

Good news. All developers that have said something about the Rev have only been very positive about it. I have full confidence in the company now. So much so that I bought a dozen Nintendo shares. I do expect the Revolution to be a groundbreaking console and I do ecpect their shares to rise significantly. If any of you have any spare money to invest - I would suggest you look seriously at buying their stock, too.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Miyamoto interviewed by Japanese radio

Thanks to GameCube Europe for the translation.

Why wait so long to release a new installment of Mario? The wait is frustrating players everywhere...

Mario is and always has been a concept title from his birth. We are always looking for new ways of playing with him, manipulating him, to create something new and unique. We're in the midst of preparing something special for his future, something never before seen. You'll understand when you see it that we can't quite release it right away. The new Mario game will surprise many people. Give us the benefit of the doubt. I think we'll present you with a new way to have fun. There's even a new character by his side.

Mario 128 will be released for Revolution then?

Yes, of course! It's no surprise, but of course we will rename it, obviously. That won't be the only surprise of next year though. We based the Revolution around this new type of game. Mario 128 played a large role in the Revolution's conception, much like Mario 64 in it's time. But we won't just be focusing on Mario. We're working on some very impressive games which push interactivity to the max. Games of a new era.

The new Zelda, it's not really good news that...

Please allow me to interrupt you by saying that you will have to be patient, really. This will be, without a doubt, the last Zelda game as you know it in its present form. I worked on it personally, moreso than Wind Waker! I haven't invested as much into any game as I have this one. Our goal was to make the best Zelda game ever. The most rich/satisfying and melancholy. We've really improved it in just a few months. Everything's coming together much quicker. We may have some last minute ideas...

You're going to move it to Revolution?

No, it is a Gamecube title.

In any case, you want to preserve the air of mystery around Nintendo?

We will be revealing many details soon. It's true, we do like surprises (laughs). While our gamers are sleeping, we're busy thinking up new ideas. But while they're playing - we're playing as well.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Countdown to Iwata´s TGS keynote speech

With so little time I feel I can hardly keep up with the forums. But I still want to continue to post helpful and interesting stuff here. So I have had another look at the Tokyo Game Show event page, which specifies that Satoru Iwata will hold a 50-minute keynote speech at 11am. I then fed the time and date into this timezone converter and came up with these times for the speech:

Tokyo, Japan: 11:00, 16.9.2005

Berlin, Germany: 04:00, 16.9.2005

London, UK: 03:00, 16.9.2005

New York, USA: 22:00, 15.9.2005

Los Angeles, USA: 19:00, 15.9.2005

Just so you know what time you should be watching the skies, wherever you are.

EDIT Here is a list of sites that are likely to host streams of the speech:

The Gamespot TGS 2005 site promises ´tons of news, videos, and impressions of everything you want to know about.´ I will ask them about whether they will stream the keynote live. But I expect they will.

EDIT No, they will not. Here´s a message I received from GameSpot´s executive editor:
Hi Andreas,

Unfortunately we will not be providing a live streaming version of Mr. Iwata's keynote at the Tokyo Game Show. We'll provide as much coverage of the keynote as we can, however. Thank you for your interest,

Greg Kasavin
Executive Editor, GameSpot

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A PDF document reveals all?

If the Revolution will indeed be revealed at the TGS, there´s only two more weeks to go until then. It seems as if the fakers have begun their last push. There is a 21-page PDF document out there on the net. Kudos to TheAxemanCometh on this GameFAQs forum thread. See the document here. It is not only lengthy, but contains many diagrams like the one shown. They are of poor quality - and so is the grammar sometimes: ´Additional equipment can be load via USB´ can be read on page 20. Also, the detailed text is blurred out. See for yourself, but I declare it a faker´s last effort.