Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Uwe Boll responds to slagging match over ´Postal´

There has been a slagging match going on between German movie director Uwe Boll (´House of the Dead´, ´Bloodrayne´, ´Alone in the Dark´) and Chris Kohler from Wired´s Game|Life.

In his review of Boll´s latest movie, ´Postal´, Kohler called the German a "bad movie director" and went on to transcribe a few of the gags, adding:

If this all sounds funny, it is because I am a pretty funny writer. The jokes, as seen in Postal all fall flat. I don't think it's the fault of the talented actors that Boll enlisted -- it's just all done with the same unavoidably ham-handed crafting that Baker so elegantly describes in his feature ("haphazardly scripted, sloppily edited, badly acted and, most crucially, brutally received"). (...)

I'm kind of sad I saw this for work, because maybe it would be awesome if I was blind drunk.

In return, Boll sent Kohler an E-Mail, which states:

your review shows me only that you dont understand anything about movies and that you are a untalented wanna bee filmmaker with no balls and no understanding what POSTAL is. you dont see courage because you are nothing. and no go to your mum and fuck her ...because she cooks for you now since 30 years she deserves it.

Well, I had the chance to interview Uwe Boll (who I found to be a kind and surprisingly low-key person) for my television station RTL II the day before yesterday and I asked him about his reaction. Watch the video in German or read the English translation below.

RTL II: Since you are aware of the fact that the movie is rather provocative, why are you disciplining your critics with such harsh language? Your reply to the Wired review got quite famous on the internet. I think it was Game|Life´s Chris Kohler?

Uwe Boll: That was an unusual situation. The film was showing in San Francisco, at the San Francisco festival. It was well received: 300 people, deafening applause. And Chris Kohler came up to me afterwards and congratulated me on a great movie. He then interviewed me and wrote a review in which he ripped the movie to bits, as personally insulting as it gets.

Then I lost it and I sent him that mail, which he decided to make public. Normally, I can deal with criticism. I can deal with negative feedback. But people have to put their money where their mouth is and not tell me they think the movie is great, suck up to me and then write a scathing review. That is what I resent and that is why I reacted in that way.

Kohler and Boll have been exchanging mails since then. Funnily, Kohler writes in his first reply that they "didn't get to meet at the Postal premiere", which seems to contradict what Boll was saying.

At any rate, I share some of Kohler´s criticism about the film losing momentum and direction after an hour or so. It is also quite gratuitious in parts and deliberately so. But, to be fair, ´Postal´ also contains a number of funny scenes alongside the cockpit one. So I guess it is worth watching, after all. The slagging match is more entertaining, though.

EDIT Chris Kohler linked to my clip and told me: "No, I didn't talk to Boll at the premiere. A friend of mine did introduce us while I was standing far away, and I waved and smiled." So Uwe Boll must have gotten something confused. Perhaps this is all a misunderstanding on his part.

EDIT Uwe Boll has just sent out an article entitled Why I produced & directed ‘POSTAL’. Here it is in its entirety:

After the September 11th. attacks, our world went through some dramatic changes. We have wars and terror in Afghanistan, Israel, Lebanon, Iraq and various states in Africa. The USA & Europe are scared to loose the leadership of the planet to China & India. Moslem fanatics & fundamentalists are gaining enough power to destroy our security and freedom.

The American & European people are heavily swayed by the mass media that is supporting the USA strategy of resolving these threats through war. We have quickly developed an innate self-censorship in order to survive this crazed and fragile state of existence. People are now afraid to speak their mind for fear of repercussions.

The world is in need of a film that is tougher in it's humorous mockery of the globe than "SOUTH PARK". The audience is ready to approach this type of satire with live actors rather than cartoons. "POSTAL" will not accept any form of censorship.

Our present political situation is intolerable. We have deranged religious fanatics on one hand and lobbyists from the oil & weapon industries on the other hand. Both sides are actively working at destroying the planet. This world is slowly dying due to global warming & pollution caused by man’s corporate greed and stupidity. If intelligent people do not stop this madness, then our grandchildren will not experience life.

"POSTAL" will insult all cultures, religions, political groups and leaders. No one will be spared. The film is intended to provoke thought, laughter and open debate. Our world is out of balance and "POSTAL" will reflect just how fucked up we are.

I see myself as a member of the world community. I have no religious affiliation. Religion has often been a catalyst for the many crimes and wars throughout history. Religion allows people the opportunity to blame their actions on a higher source. We live in a world that is sensitive to people's religious beliefs. How ironic that non-religious groups fail to receive the same level of sensitivity from the establishment. I have nothing against religion and tolerate religious feelings - but religion should be part of the private lifes and driving political decisions.

Apart from the firemen and rescuers of 911, how about the victims of the September 11th. attacks that are now being labeled as heroes? I say that they were not heroes at all. They died in a terrorist attack. They were normal people and did nothing heroic; they died an unfortunate death.

Since September 11th, more than ONE MILLION AFRICANS, JEWS and ARABS have died in terrorist's attacks, civil wars and wars. Their lives and deaths were not featured by the mass media. Does this mean that their lives had less value than the life of a NY stockbroker dying in the World Trade Center?

It's time to wake up!

May "POSTAL" shock, stir, offend and entertain you !!!!! All theaters should play POSTAL - whoever is not showing POSTAL shows exactly what POSTAL is critizising: selfcensorship. The MPAA liked POSTAL and gave it an R RATING - there is no reason anymore not to make POSTAL available to everybody in all cities. The audience is tired of every week the same formular movies - and a movie like BORAT showed that people want from time to time something special: POSTAL.

Source: Game|Life, Game|Life
Thanks to: NeoGAF

Monday, August 27, 2007

´Metroid Prime 3: Corruption´ earns massive praise

First reviews of ´Metroid Prime 3: Corruption´ are full of praise for what is emerging as the must-have title for the Wii console. Metacritic notes a score of 95. And check the Gametrailers review, who awarded the game a 96:

Here are some of the comments from the above review:

"The four or five hours leading up to this [the finale] are some of the greatest moments in gaming ever burnt onto a disc."

"It [the game] proves that there is no better control option on any console."

"You´ll never want to play another shooter with dual analogue sticks ever again. It´s that good."

"Playing Metroid Prime 3 can be a near-religious experience."

"It can hold its own against any title on any other platform."

"The original Metroid Prime is one of the highest rated games in existence. But ´Metroid Prime 3: Corruption´ is easily superior."

Also, here is IGN´s video review (including some spoilers), which is only slightly more critical with a score of 95.

Finally, while Gamespot´s review is due next week the site offers plenty of gameplay videos. So does 1UP, who gave the game 90 marks.

I have already given you some brief impressions from my hands-on last week. I guess there is little to add to the above reviews.

EDIT Actually, Gamespot just published their review. They did write that it was forthcoming next week, but that was last week, so here it is. They are even more critical than IGN and awarded the game an 85.

GamePro also gave the game an 85, dragging the Metacritic average down to 91.

Sources: Gametrailers, IGN, Gamespot, 1UP

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Games Convention 2007

I am just returning from three very busy days in Leipzig and can finally give you some impressions. First of all, I spent the last few hours playing Metroid and Mario and both titles look and feel great, with Mario perhaps the most convincing offering. The graphics are clearly a step up from current titles and the gameplay mechanics and control scheme hint at what Miyamoto said: 'Super Mario Galaxy' will be the true sequel to Mario 64.

Metroid is much darker in colour and offers far less contrast, obviously. But this creates a tense atmosphere and the playable level could easily have been mistaken for 'Halo' or 'Mass Effect' in parts. There was no options menu implemented and the controls were slow, but this will be adjustable in the final game, no doubt. All in all, it looks set to become a solid title, but its graphics are not quite as impressive as the ones in Mario.

In terms of announcements, I already hinted at Track and Field being announced for DS with a Wii version possibly in the works (well done to those of you who guessed it). Sony's big announcement turned out to be a DVB-T receiver (wich will allow Europeans to watch digital terrestrial television programmes and record them via the PS3). A nice bonus, but this was less than I and my colleagues at RTL expected, given how much Sony had hyped their announcement prior to the press conference. We did not include it in our reports.

Every report I saw included Wii Fit, though, as did mine. After turning a remote into a game controller, Nintendo managed to utilize another household object in the same way: scales. And the strategy worked again, as plenty of people were eager to try it out. I played it briefly and it felt pretty accurate. I am seriously wondering, though, if developers will be able to put the balance board to as many uses as the remote. It seems far less versatile in terms of gaming applications. Nevertheless, I was a member of the 'Best of GC' jury again and we did give it the innovation award.

It was obvious that the Wii was also the focal point of developers. Sega was pushing 'Mario & Sonic', Konami was proudly showing off 'Dewy's Adventure' and Vivendi prominently displayed 'Geometry Wars' for Wii. But some developers were concerned that Nintendo's great success with those casual titles would become an incentive to cut budgets for the hardcore games.

Julian Eggebrecht, head of 'Lair' developer Factor 5, seemed genuinely keen to work with the platform, but was highly sceptical of Nintendo's seemingly lacklustre marketing for 'Metroid Prime 3'. From a business point of view it would even make sense to prioritize casual games. A title like 'Brain Training' costs a pittance to develop when compared to the Retro Studios shooter, but has sold more units than most titles will ever achieve. Let us hope that Nintendo will not simply act out good business sense but realises the advantages of a broad portfolio that is broad enough to include the hardcore crowd.

As far as other consoles go, I was very impressed with the PS3 offering at the show. 'Lair' looked spectacular and, perhaps most of all, 'Eye of Judgement' is set to become a killer app. The game's graphics could not possibly be any better, it seems. And the interaction with the monsters (you can slap them and they react) is tremendous fun. Trading cards are a huge market and this game may prove to be the first real revolution in this field. With Hasbro on board, I have no doubt that this game will be a system seller like no other PS3 game on the horizon. It has mass appeal and shows off the technological advantages of the pricey hardware. Dear Sony, I would like to see more PS3 games like that.

Of course, the Xbox360 also had a huge showfloor which was well populated. But with me having attended both the 'Halo 3' and 'Bioshock' events, there were was nothing new for me, at least nothing of a magnitude that would necessitate a mention here. Microsoft did some great marketing, though, with an entire ferris wheel set up behind one of the halls.

Next to that was the 'Rock Band' stage. And while I fear that the product may cost as much as $200, the fun I had playing it would justify that price point. A great title that will take multiplayer gaming on consoles into a whole new dimension.

In terms of interviews, I talked to dozens of developers, from ex-LucasArts staff to the head of Running with Scissors. I will update you on some of the more interesting interviews in the coming days. On a final note, though, I have spoken to a reliable source about the Wii-exclusive Star Wars game I learnt about last year. This source has seriously questioned whether LucasArts would consider exclusives at all with their current titles being strictly multi-platform. The person I spoke to also questioned my original source. To me, though, such a game would make perfect sense, business-wise, since pretty much every Wii owner would gobble it up. Either way, we will find out the truth about this soon enough, since the game would have to be announced this year, I guess, if it really exists.

EDIT Undoubtedly, you have come across some early impressions of the upcoming Wii title ´Rockstar presents Table Tennis´ complaining about the control scheme. I have played the game as well and did not find the controls problematic at all. While it takes a few minutes to get the timing of the motion right, it is great fun once you got the hang of it. I only thought the graphics were very sobering. But in my opinion, gameplay mechanics work a treat.

EDIT My new source on the Star Wars lightsaber action game for Wii may have been too hasty. Australian site Gameplayer writes:

"LucasArts’ Mark Montuya commented today that [Lego Star War´s] motion-sensitive lightsaber action is “just a taster” for a future release involving motion-sensitive lightsaber combat."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Nintendo becomes market leader in Germany

Nintendo has claimed market leadership of the home console market in Germany. The German financial newspaper €uro am Sonntag cites industry insiders who in turn cite the following sales figures from the ´Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung (GfK)´:

Wii: 291.000

Xbox360: 281.000

PS3: 99.500

Monthly sales in July paint a clear picture of the current trend:

Wii: 26.000

Xbox360: 5.000

PS3: 8.000

I recently estimated on the basis of current Videogame Charts figures that Nintendo also just snatched worlwide market leadership in the home console market. The GfK figures should be regarded as more reliable, though.

EDIT At the Games Convention, I confronted SCED´s head of PR, Uwe Bassendowski, with the above figures. He gave me the GfK´s weekly figures (13th - 19th of August):

Wii: 8.000

Xbox360: 1.300

PS3: 5.500

PS2: 7.500

He insisted on adding the PS2 numbers, saying that in overall hardware sales Sony was the clear market leader and sold the most consoles right now.

Source: €uro am Sonntag (German)
Thanks to: MaxConsole

Paramount and Dreamworks withdraw ´Blu-ray´ support

Sony´s next-generation DVD format ´Blu-ray´ has suffered a huge blow with both Paramount and Dreamworks withdrawing their support and committing their library exclusively to rival format ´HD-DVD´. Viacom, Paramount´s parent company, explains the move:

The exclusive HD DVD commitment will include all movies distributed by Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Nickelodeon Movies and MTV Films, as well as movies from DreamWorks Animation, which are distributed exclusively by Paramount Home Entertainment. (...)

"We decided to release "Shrek the Third" and other DreamWorks Animation titles exclusively on HD DVD because we believe it is the best format to bring high quality home entertainment to a key segment of our audience -- families," stated DreamWorks Animation CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg. "We believe the combination of this year's low-priced HD DVD players and the commitment to release a significant number of hit titles in the fall makes HD DVD the best way to view movies at home." (...)

Today's announcement does not include films directed by Steven Spielberg as his films are not exclusive to either format.

Only in late July, a number of retailers appeared to switch exclusively to ´Blu-ray´. But two major studios pledging exclusive support to ´HD-DVD´ reverses Sony´s fortune.

This move represents a huge blow to the ´Blu-ray´ format, Sony in general and the PlayStation3 in particular. If you want to watch blockbuster titles like ´Transformers´, ´Shrek the Third´ or ´Blades of Glory´, a PS3 will be no good. What I recently applauded as the consoles´s only unique selling point has just become pretty much void.

But let us look at the current tally. Wikipedia counts up current ´HD-DVD´ studio support thus:

In terms of major studios in North America, HD DVD is currently exclusively backed by Universal Studios (including subsidiaries Rogue Pictures, Focus Features and Polygram Filmed Entertainment), Paramount Pictures (including Paramount Vantage, Nickelodeon Movies, MTV Films, DreamWorks Pictures and DreamWorks Animation), The Weinstein Company (including Dimension Films), and First Look Studios. The format is non-exclusively backed by Warner Bros. Pictures (it should be noted that a number of Warner's titles—Batman Begins, Constantine, Troy (excluding Troy: Director's Cut), V for Vendetta, The Perfect Storm, Poseidon, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, The Matrix Trilogy—are HD DVD exclusive at the present), Warner Music Group, New Line Cinema, HBO, Studio Canal, and Image Entertainment (including the Discovery Channel), Magnolia Pictures, Brentwood Home Video, Ryko, Koch/Goldhil Entertainment.

Compare this to Wikipedia´s entry on ´Blu-ray´ studio support:

Currently, Blu-ray Disc is exclusively supported by Sony Pictures Entertainment and MGM (both owned by Sony) as well as Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Lionsgate. It is non-exclusively supported by Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema. Several members of the Blu-ray organization's Board of Directors, such as Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, and LG, pledged support to Blu-ray Disc, and later, also supported HD DVD.

Essentially, we have Universal, Paramount and Dreamworks exclusively backing ´HD-DVD´ now while Sony Pictures, MGM, Disney and 20th Century Fox have exclusively sided with ´Blu-ray´. That seems like a stalemate. But it is obvious that the momentum is certainly in favour of ´HD-DVD´.

Source: Viacom
Thanks to: Engadget, Joystiq

Saturday, August 18, 2007

More ´last secret´ hints?

Nintendo has "more surprises" in store for Wii owners, NOA´s Perrin Kaplan told IGN in an interview about the marketing campaign for the upcoming blockbuster title ´Metroid Prime 3´:

We still have a lot of our more traditional marketing efforts planned. People will see it all shortly, from ads to many of the usual tactics we use to support our key products. Plus: a few more surprises like the Metroid Prime 3 Preview. And no, I'm still not going to spoil the fun and tell you about it ahead of time!

Those surprises seem to be directly related to ´Metroid Prime 3´, but while they may be used to market the game over the next few weeks, the mere mention is reason enough to believe that they will become permanent channels or other features in their own right.

I know that this seems like a never-ending story, but this blog was founded to unravel the Wii´s secrets and, in fact, Nintendo execs themselves have made sure that their company´s latest home console remains shrouded in mysteries and rumours. Is it just good marketing or is there more to it? You decide, but read on before making up your mind.

Only last month, Kaplan´s boss, NOA president Fils-Aime, hinted at a surprise coming to Wii in September. And, of course, Perrin Kaplan hinted at more surprises way back in October, which never seemed to materialize.

In May, I found that a Ubisoft trailer contained a visual representation of a holographic projection add-on for the Wii. Ubisoft claimed that this was no concrete product, but rumours about a VR attachment for Wii are older than the Nintendo ON clip, so it deserved to be mentioned.

For a thorough summary of all theories, hints and mentions regarding a last secret, check the commentary to this post. Please appreciate that the post was written before the console´s launch and has not been updated.

All in all, I have become cautious to believe in a ´last secret´ big enough in scale to overshadow the revolutionary controller design (as I have originally been told by a very reliable source). But I still firmly believe that Nintendo is about to announce some new feature that will somehow extend or improve the Wii´s hardware or online functions.

Source: IGN
Thanks to: GamePro, Sickr

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sony to "take Rockstar under its wing"?

There is a pretty wild rumour that Sony Computer Entertainment is looking into some kind of permanent exclusivity deal with ´Grand Theft Auto´ developer Rockstar Games, possibly even a takeover. Source of the rumour is UK gaming site PlayStation Universe (PSU) who overheard journalists and developers discussing the topic at a press dinner in Los Angeles.

The exact phrase cited is that Sony wants to "take Rockstar under its wing", which, other sources claim, originates from a Sony developer. Albeit an unlikely scenario for various reasons, this would give the rumour some credibility. The article has since been removed. Here is the relevant excerpt, courtesy of the Gamespot forums:

(...) We sat merrily eating dinner with developers and journalists from around the industry at the Tengu Restaurant in Hollywood, California. (...) The discussion at Tengu was fairly simple in its scope: various sources in the press and development team state that Sony is looking to take Rockstar "under their wings".

While we learned that any agreement Sony and Take Two entered into would not affect the upcoming Grand Theft Auto IV, such an agreement would presumably affect any future releases from Rockstar, including the new franchise Sony has been discussing and L.A. Noire, which looks likely to be a PS3 exclusive at this point as well.

Since then, PSU member Justin Pinter, who was present at the event, has sought to clarify how the article came about and why it was removed, posting in the NeoGAF forums.

The article was posted on PSU Thursday morning by one of our new writers who took the liberty of posting the "rumor" as news without going by our editors first.

Not only was it incorrect to the actual rumor I heard at the Sony event, but PSU has no intention of posting rumors of that proportion without having good and reliable sources to back it up.

The real story. (...) The talk lead to someone stating that they knew that not only was the rumor correct but there was more to it. Basically from what I heard, Sony was taking Rockstar under its wing. Now I don't know if that means they are buying them or if they are supporting them as if they were someone like Naughty Dog or Insomniac.

Only recently, Sony announced that a new Rockstar IP was coming exclusively to PS3 (as well as ´L.A. Noire´). But with ´Table Tennis´, ´Bully´ and, eventually, ´Manhunt 2´ coming to Wii, the developer has also eyed up Nintendo platforms.

I just spoke to the website´s owner and he stated that the rumour probably had some merit to it, but they still decided to take the article down after a wave of criticism directed at PSU. The comments were made, it seems. It is simply left up to us to interpret just what Sony "taking Rockstar under its wing" would involve.

Like I said, it´s a matter of interpretation. If you understand the statement to involve Sony buying Rockstar, then there are plenty of reasons for rejecting this rumour as false. To me, the most convincing argument is that Sony simply does not have the financial muscle to make such a huge acquisition or, at the very least, to finance a permanent exclusivity deal with such a high-profile studio.

The intention on Sony´s part is undoubtedly there, I am sure. But the company is struggling to get out of the reds and, more importantly, Rockstar will not be keen to commit their multi-million dollar projects to the least successful console in this three-way race.

Source: PlayStation Universe
Thanks to: knicknut17 & RoganSarine, Keesie

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

10 million Wiis sold, top console by next week

Nintendo´s Wii has broken through the significant barrier of 10 million units sold worldwide, according to Videogame Charts. At the current pace, Wii will become the top console by August 19th. Let me talk you through it.

Currently, Wii is a mere 290.000 units away from claiming the top spot. In Japan, Wii has sold 70.765 units more than the Xbox360 last week. In the US, the number was 56.941 and in Europe we are looking at a weekly surplus of 46.855 units.

Add those figures up and you find that Wii is closing the gap on Xbox360 by 174.561 units every week. At that pace, it will take 1,66 weeks for Wii to level with its competitor. That would be around the end of next week, say Sunday, 19th of August.

EDIT Actually, the current sales figures have already gone down to a difference of only 220.000, reducing the time span to 1,26 weeks. This equates to one week and around 1,75 days - so expect Nintendo to claim the throne between Friday 17th and Saturday 18th.

EDIT By the way, according to the NexGenWars figures, the difference between Wii and Xbox360 is still 1,20 million units. Hence Nintendo would be market leader within 6,89 weeks - around the first week of October.

Source: Videogame Charts

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

´My Nintendo´ at German Games Convention

I just received Nintendo´s invitation to their press tours at the German Games Convention. Press day is Wednesday, 22nd of August. The motto of the event appears to be ´My Nintendo´:

The text on the invitation reads:

Games Convention Leipzig 2007

Nintendo is offering more than games. Wii and Nintendo DS are offering experiences for life - for every age, for every gender, for every need. Experiences for body and mind - and, of course: fun. Experience Nintendo yourself. We promise moving moments and invite you to our press tour on August 22nd at the Nintendo booth A22 in Hall 2, as well as to an individual appointment in the Business Center, Floor +1, B12.

We are looking forward to meeting you.

So is ´My Nintendo´ poised to become a new label, similar to ´Touch Generations´? I will, of course, attend one of the press tours on that day. So expect that question to be answered in two weeks, right here.

Source: Nintendo of Europe

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The state of gaming news blogs today

MaxConsole: Copy-and-paste journalism

Now, I´ve had a bone to pick with gaming news site MaxConsole before. But it seems they have not read my open letter to them. At any rate, not much has changed there. If you head on over to their site today, you will find plenty of mind-boggling errors, omissions and other products of shoddy copy-and-paste journalism.

There´s the most amusing use of an apostrophe ever ("Who care's"), slightly unintelligible sentences ("Some of the ones to look at for include all the exclusive Shenmue titles"), completely unintelligible sentences ("The rumor never remains firmly put in its place") and interesting new terminology ("real life gameplay").

QJ: Fanboyism and dilettantism in disguise

But another strong contender has entered the race for the least reliable gaming news site. QJ has, in the past, written stories like the one about a Japanese brand of barbecue sauce mocking Ken Kutaragi which bore the sulky headline "Can't people just leave Sony alone?" and urged us to celebrate "the European launch, the growing developer support, and the worth-every-penny platform that this the PS3", throwing any kind of critical approach and journalistic integrity overboard.

Today, they have posted more fun. They celebrate Crossbeam Studios opening its new website when, in reality, the guys have just uploaded an interim page announcing their new site is in development. QJ also managed to misspell one of the two projects allegedly in development by them. A particularly great effort since the title is monosyllabic.

Oh and, again, no hint of criticism or caution regarding the professionalism of said studio. My own research found that these guys were happily developing ´Orb´ four years ago, have not managed to produce a single screenshot since (or ever, for that matter) and all they have on their professional record are a minimum of four cancelled projects and some unimpressive artwork.

Tom Hollensend, meet David Dayack

As far as misspelling names is concerned, QJ is also on the ball: id Software´s CEO Todd Hollenshead becomes Tom Hollensend. That rivals MaxConsole calling Silicon Knights president Denis Dyack David Dayack. Getting both first and surname wrong is an achievement, particularly when these are key industry figures.

What´s the fuss about?

So why am I complaining so loudly? After all, some might say, most of the above examples are no big deal. Well, the thing that really bugs me is that it is so easy to double-check the little things.

And if you are looking for examples of complete disinformation, consider the following. In early July, I wrote:

Europe´s biggest computer and videogame trade show, the German Games Convention, will relocate for 2008, several industry insiders have told me in confidence.

And Codename Revolution turns that into:

No Leipzig Games Convention this year? (...) Apparently rumour has it that this year’s Leipzig Games Convention may move to 2008 instead

The only possible response to the above is a hearty ´What the fuck?´

A few bad apples...

I simply believe that the community deserves better. Regrettably, most of the authors on these sites have never received any formal training or have never written for anything but gaming news sites and blogs. While that´s an explanation, it does not constitute an excuse.

So I would like to urge all those people writing for those sites to please double-check the content you are posting by finding the original source and studying it in detail, check words whose correct spelling you are unsure about on Microsoft´s Encarta dictionary or likewise. And please refrain from blind endorsements (or condemnations) of any product.

Unless this happens, all gaming news blogs will be associated with the shoddy journalistic practises of a few sites and everyone will suffer. Most of all, of course, the readers.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Microsoft´s Shane Kim and Chris Lewis interviewed

Here are exclusive interviews with Microsoft executives Shane Kim and Chris Lewis regarding ´Halo 3´ and the Xbox360´s hardware faults.

First up is a brief interview with Shane Kim, corporate vice president of Microsoft Game Studios, recorded at the company´s recent European ´Halo 3´ preview event in Amsterdam.

Secondly, here is an interview I conducted via mail with Chris Lewis, vice president, EMEA, Entertainment & Devices Division.

Reports about an unacceptable number of hardware defects with the Xbox360 are as old as the console itself. Why was Microsoft in denial for so long and owed up to the problems so late? Why did Microsoft maintain for so long that the rate of failure was around three percent?

This is a complicated problem. It took us a while through testing to isolate certain things and determine patterns, as more consoles entered the marketplace and we were able to identify trends as statistically relevant. As our understanding of the hardware issues has increased through on-going testing, we want to make sure we address them and stand by our product. We have already made improvements to the Xbox 360 console and we’re committed to our customers’ long-term experience with the Xbox 360

Microsoft is not commenting even on the general type of hardware defects encountered and the respective solutions they are implementing to avoid them. That seems to me an extremely bad service to the consumer. Because, obviously, there are hardware changes being made to at least some Xbox360 units during repair (like the extra heatsink) and there is no transparency whatsoever for a new consumer, which consoles sitting on a store shelf are prone to fail and which ones may have been fixed. Why do you continue to allow consumers to purchase a product that you yourself admit has an unacceptable failure rate?

Based on our ongoing testing, we have identified a complex set of factors and interactions that can cause general hardware failures indicated by a three flashing red lights error message on the console. We cannot go into detail, but I can tell you that we have already made improvements to the console to address the situation – the replacement of component parts and other improvements are a usual practice in the consumer electronics industry. We continuously work to improve the cost, manufacturability, design and performance of the console, and updating components and moving to advanced silicon technologies is commonplace within the industry in achieving that.

The majority of our Xbox 360 owners report having a terrific experience with their consoles – we have taken the action to extend the warranty because we stand behind our products and are taking responsibility to ensure a great customer experience for all of our customers.

GamePro agrees and comments: „The company's unwillingness to fully disclose what's causing the problem undermines the solution. Gamers don't want to risk $300-400 at the chance to play games on 360, they want to make sure it can and will play games for years to come.“

If not by transparency regarding the hardware defects and their respective solutions, how are you dealing with this problem? Do you not think that the recent 60% drop in Xbox360 sales can be blamed on the lack of transparency?

The warranty extension was driven by customer feedback and our top-to-bottom review of our policies. This is the right thing to do to ensure a great consumer experience and to give consumers confidence that we are standing behind our products over the long term. The majority of Xbox owners continue to have a great time with their consoles.

To clarify the above point, please state whether the changes to the hardware are being made as repairs only or whether Microsoft has introduced them to the regular production lines. If not, why not? If so, and in the absence of being able to identify the fixed consoles from the old units, buying an Xbox360 these days becomes a big gamble.

As mentioned before, the replacement of component parts and other improvements are a usual practice in the consumer electronics industry. We continuously work to improve the cost, manufacturability, design and performance of the console. Updating components and moving to advanced silicon technologies is commonplace within the industry in achieving that.

Will the 65nm hardware architecture resolve the problems entirely? When will this version go up on store shelves? Is this upcoming revision the real reason why you refuse to inform consumers about the models currently being produced, so you don´t have to implement changes to the production lines twice?

It is not related to the warranty extension. We are taking these actions because we believe it is the right thing to do to reassure customers that we are standing behind our product and will take care of customers as appropriate should they experience problems with their consoles. We don’t disclose our silicon technology roadmap for competitive reasons.

Microsoft is being hit with at least four lawsuits regarding another alleged hardware fault: disc scratching. How widespread is this problem according to your information? Will this issue snowball the same way the "red ring of death" did? If not, how can you be sure of that, seeing the scope of that early problem only became apparent to you recently?

Unfortunately we cannot comment on current litigation matters. While we’ve received some calls on issues with discs being scratched, and have worked with the affected individuals to find a solution, that hasn’t been a driver of significant call volume from our customers. The majority of Xbox 360 owners continue to have a great experience with their consoles.

Footage source: RTL II
Thanks to: Felix

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sports game in the works for DS, maybe Wii

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games will get some strong competition, at least on the DS. An announcement regarding a big sports title will be made at the Leipzig Games Convention in three weeks. A Wii version may also be in the works.

I know this is cryptic. Just work it out yourselves and remember that my last prediction came true.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

´Halo 3´ hands-on

I just returned from Microsoft´s ´Halo 3´ European preview event in Amsterdam and want to share some brief impressions with you. I won´t bore you with the details of the activities, ranging from laser battles to pellet gun shooting, and move on to the game.

Being no huge ´Halo´ fan myself, I had few expectations. Graphically, I was expecting a stunner, though, and I was disappointed on that count. ´Halo 3´ looks better than its predecessors, but not by a big enough margin, I must say. In fact, Bungie and Microsoft reps openly admitted that, visually speaking, it does not compare to a ´Gears of War´.

However, that point does not matter primarily. In terms of gameplay, Bungie seems to have hit the nail on the head. The balancing of the level we played is excellent. Like I said, I was never a fan and played the first two games only a bit. But even with very little practice, I was raking in some okay kills within half an hour. It plays great and looks decent.

I also like the announcements regarding replays. You are able to save entire replays, make snapshots and share the content online. The screenshots look really good, by the way. If I understood the presentation correctly, they are tweaked somehow.

You have heard the news about four player co-op, I take it. Unfortunately, I only tested the singleplayer mission, so I cannot add any of my own impressions here.

Yesterday, I and a few other journalists had lunch with Bungie´s Frank O´Connor and he was kind enough to share some insider information with us. According to him, Bungie had no problems fitting all the content onto one disc, as Bizzare Creations had with ´Project Gotham Racing 4´ (although they later denied such problems).

O´Connor also said that the Peter Jackson ´Halo´ projects are not yet beyond concept phase. It seems that they have merely thrown around ideas and they are still in pre-production.

Later in the evening, I interviewed the head of Microsoft Game Studios, Shane Kim. I hope to be able to upload the brief exchange in a few days.

Thanks to: Areagames (German)