Friday, December 28, 2007

Microsoft planning motion sensitivity for Xbox360?

Microsoft is planning to introduce motion sensitivity to the Xbox360 "by the end of next year", XboxFamily has learnt.

The details are still sketchy, but it appears a first-party add-on to existing controllers may be the delivery method of the technology. (...) It appears Microsoft has contracted the Saratoga, California firm, Gyration to handle the peripheral.

Gyration developed the original Wii controller prototypes, as the company claims on their site:

Gyration developed the first motion sensing Nintendo game controller prototype in 2001 and developed much of the interaction concepts between motion controllers and game play.

Now, you may not have heard of the news site at the source of this rumour since they are fairly new. Registered to an address in Cincinnati, Ohio, they are "comprised of several original members of which originally launched in the fall of 2000", according to their own history.

The new site was founded this year and initially off to a shaky start. But they seemed to have turned a corner within the last few months.

What lends them some credibility in my books is the fact that they dispel some myths about the rumour they started. In a second article, they claim that a number of prototype designs "going around the net" are unrelated to the Xbox360. Unfortunately, they do not name any source. Here they are:

We’re positive the images going around the net are not of the new hardware. (...) [They] are images of the original motion-sensing prototypes that Gyration had designed for the Wii in 2001.

I would not rule out that the people over at XboxFamily are trustworthy. If they have indeed worked as game editors for more than seven years, it is possible that they may have good enough sources to break a story like this one.

But please bear in mind that motion sensitivity for the Xbox360 can only ever come in the form of an optional peripheral. And the rumour claims no more. So such a peripheral can achieve no more than the ´Eye Toy´ camera achieved for the PlayStation2. Sure, that peripheral was a small revolution in gaming. But since it was a peripheral, only a dozen games or so actually made use of it, although ´Eye Toy´ sold very well.

Also, bear in mind that Microsoft, at least until recently, appeared highly sceptical of motion sensitivity. At the E3 2006, Robbie Bach snubbed at the idea of motion sensitive controls, in an interview with me.

There are two things to know. One: we did gyroscopic controls in a controller six years ago. We know exactly how interesting it is. And it is useful for a very narrow segment of the games. So it is interesting as an add-on. It's not at all interesting as the main controller for your game console and we know that from experience.

We also know that Sony took out of their controller the ability to get rumble feedback and tactile feedback. And that is the number one requested feature for people as an add-on to their controller. So we think their controller actually went down in capability, not up.

EDIT Respected Xbox news site TeamXbox has thrown their weight behind this rumour. It appears that XboxFamily really were onto something.

Source: XboxFamily
Thanks to: Game-Spectrum

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wii is king of exclusives

The Wii is continuing to claim the top spot in the number of exclusive titles, both in terms of the games already available and those yet to come. In fact, Nintendo has been able to widen the gap further, new data by the good people over at Gaming Target has shown.

While only three and two more exclusive titles have been announced for Xbox360 and PlayStation3, respectively, since the site´s last count in July, the Wii can boast about another 17 exclusives. The data was compiled at the end of November. Here are the numbers in detail.

Xbox360: 100 (+3 from last count: 63 released, 37 announced)

PS3: 52 (+2 from last count: 16 released, 36 announced)

Wii: 135 (+17 from last count: 75 released, 59 announced)

The increment differs slightly when compared to the numbers in my last post about Gaming Target´s count. This is due to the fact that they have removed a number of titles from the three lists, like the would-be Wii games ´Orb´ and ´Thorn´, a move which I argued for way back in May.

Here is their graph showing total numbers of exclusive titles, both released and announced:

This is the second time that Gaming Target data has shown that Wii is both king of the exclusives and gaining at an impressive pace which is leaving the competition far behind. In fact, within weeks, Wii should boast more exclusives than the other two consoles combined. As in July, though, Gaming Target wisely comments on the need to balance quantity with quality.

In light of the latest exclusive lists, ease of development and console power are the prime reasons why a game is exclusive to one platform or the other.

The Wii has as many exclusives as it does because it doesn't cost $10-50 million to develop a good Wii game. But most of these companies are not interested in creating good Wii games. They're interesting in creating any Wii games they can because it has the highest install base and lowest barrier to entry. So that's why the system has been flooded with such stellar titles as Balls of Fury (which scored a 14 on Metacritic) and Anubis II (which scored a 19).

But this flood of titles is also producing a mountain of titles that many people find pretty good and a mountain more in development which show some promise. And this was the secret to the PS2's success. It had a lot of games, of which many were terrible, but it also had a mountain of classics and a bigger mountain of games that were just OK. And their ridiculous number fueled system sales. But completely aside from this, other developer are interested in using the tools of the Wii to create some truly unique games (for example, Will Wright's Spore). The Wii is clearly carving its own niche.

I absolutely agree. Many people who bought a PlayStation2 last-gen did so pointing to the sheer amount of games available. However, if they had not found the games they actually bought satisfactory, they would not have recommended the system to others.

This very mechanic - a tightrope walk between quantity and quality - seems to be working for the Wii in this console generation. From ´Carnival Games´ to ´Resident Evil 4´ and from ´Dewy's Adventure´ to ´Metroid Prime 3: Corruption´, the Wii boasts the biggest and most diverse portfolio of exclusives, with a few rotten eggs, but enough games that are sufficient and some which are outstanding.

The Xbox360 may come a close second in terms of quantity and quality. But, as this Reuters article suggests, the same certainly cannot be said about the PlayStation3.

A year after its release, only two PS3 games have sold more than 1 million copies, a benchmark of financial success for a big-budget game. The 7-year-old PlayStation 2 had nearly 100 games sell more than a million copies.

Top next-generation video games cost between $10 million and $50 million, according to IDC videogame analyst Billy Pidgeon. That means publishers must hedge their bets by going onto as many platforms as possible.

"You might be able to weather one title coming in at 500,000 in sales," said Pidgeon. "But two or three failures like that and even big publishers are going to be hurting."

The article entitled ´"Metal Gear Solid 4" last of the great exclusives?´ suggests that publishers are increasingly reluctant to commit their resources to exclusives for any system. I disagree with regard to the Wii and I believe the above data clearly proves my point.

As far as ´Metal Gear Solid 4´ is concerned, though, I would like to go on record again stating that the game is sure to be released for Xbox360. And don´t just take my word for it. From Konami executives to Hideo Kojima himself, there have been unambiguous signs that Konami cannot afford to publish their most prized asset on a system that is trailing the competition.

As far as exclusives are concerned, the PS3 is stuck in a downward spiral of lagging hardware sales causing less exclusives causing lagging hardware sales. For the Wii, the opposite is true.

Source: Gaming Target

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Take 2: GTA IV "not suited" for Wii

Benjamin Feder, CEO of Take 2 Games, has ruled out a Wii version of ´Grand Theft Auto IV´. Feder spoke in the company´s Fourth Quarter Fiscal 2007 Results Conference Call, answering a question by Citigroup analyst Brent Thill.

Brent Thill (Analyst, Citigroup): Just a follow-up on Grand Theft Auto, can you just give us your conviction level for the Q2 ship and have you thought about putting GTA on the Wii?

Strauss Zelnick (Chairman): We wouldn’t say it if we weren’t convicted.

Benjamin Feder (CEO): (laughs) We have a high conviction level and right now I think, no disrespect meant for the platform, but I think there are other titles that are better suited to the Wii than Grand Theft Auto IV.

In terms of publishing platform revenue, Wii was Take 2´s fourth biggest platform from August to October at 11 percent of revenue, after the Xbox360 (44%), PC (19%) and PlayStation2 (14%).

The financial report makes specific note of a "robust demand for Wii products" as a major cause for a rise in revenue. The company shipped more than half a million units of its Wii exclusive ´Carnival Games´ since its debut in late August.

Earlier in the same call, Feder addressed a question by Hudson Square analyst Daniel Ernst about its commitment to the Wii platform.

Daniel Ernst (Analyst, Hudson Square Research): Just looking at the pipeline for fiscal ’08, you commented about what you might have on the Wii front, given the success there. It looks like your Wii space is a little light relative to other titles you’ve announced so far. (...)

Benjamin Feder (CEO): We have seven titles on Wii. We’re pretty proud of that, actually. We’ve turned this company from a non-Nintendo shop into a shop that’s focused as much on Nintendo as it is on every other platform. Just to name a few, Bully is coming out on Wii, Prizefighter will be coming out on Wii. And actually, we think prizefighter as a boxing game is actually a pretty compelling game on the Wii.

And it’s not just the Wii. We are also focused on the DS. As we said, Carnival Games will be coming out on DS and so we are pretty excited about that and as I said, we have a pretty good track record on the Wii and we tend to exploit that.

So I wouldn’t characterize it as light. I would characterize it as perfectly appropriate.

On a sidenote, the company´s support for Sony platforms seems to be diminishing strongly. Revenue from PlayStation3 titles for the financial year ending October was 10 percent. For the last three months, however, that figure was down to 5. For the Wii platform, that figure was 5 percent for the entire year and 11 percent for the last three months - the exact opposite.

Revenue from PSP titles was down from 18 percent in 2006 to 10 percent this financial year.

Source: Take 2 Games
Thanks to: Seeking Alpha, Codename Revolution

Monday, December 17, 2007

Intel: Wii 2 may have no controllers

Justin Rattner, chief technology officer with chip manufacturer Intel, has speculated that Wii 2 may do away with controllers altogether. Rattner spoke to Business Week.

Please bear in mind that Intel is not privy to any inside information. Instead, the company is keen on re-entering the videogame industry after IBM snatched the contracts to supply the CPUs for all three current-gen machines.

Intel has talked to console video game makers about using chips that can perform in excess of 1 trillion calculations per second (, 2/12/07) in future products that use cameras to track body motion to control the action, instead of using buttons or joysticks.

"We imagine some future generation of [Nintendo's] Wii won't have hand controllers," says Justin Rattner, Intel's chief technology officer. "You just set up the cameras around the room and wave your hand like you're playing tennis." Intel missed out on supplying chips for the current generation of game systems, and is trying to gain a foothold there.

To me, that does sound awfully familiar to the PlayStation2´s ´Eye Toy´ line of products. But, I guess, that "1 trillion calculations per second" may be some improvement to that technology. However, positioning a camera in my room sounds like a bit of a hassle. Plus I actually prefer holding onto something.

Source: Business Week
Thanks to: Codename Revolution

Monday, December 10, 2007

My history of Super Mario in 4 minutes

If you are interested in what has kept me from posting recently, please view my history of Super Mario in 4 minutes or read the text version. Both the video and online text are in German, but the amazing work of our graphics department is worth checking it out even if you do not speak it.

On a personal note, please stick by this blog. I am preparing a very comprehensive study of one of the so-called indie development studios that have been rumoured to be developing for Wii. Will we ever play their games on a Nintendo system? I have compiled weeks of research and hope to be able to answer that question. The post will be up soon. Please stay tuned.

Source: 3sat