Japan Video Games Blog


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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Rumor: 'PS3mote' controller spotted at focus test

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According to unconfirmed (but "exclusive") information on PlayStation LifeStyle, you can toss another waggle wand prototype on the increasingly large pile of potentially non-existent peripherals. The information, supposedly obtained during a PlayStation 3 focus test held in exotic "****** ****, California," describes motion-sensitive PlayStation 3 controllers that operated via a "mini-tripod that stood about 12 inches high."

Several mini-games, including fencing, paintball and the obligatory tennis are said to have been played with the "incredibly responsive and accurate" devices. PlayStation Lifestyle's "proof" comes in the form of a January e-mail inviting PS3 owners to participate in a focus group "discussing PlayStation 3 games." PlayStation forum chatter does seem to indicate that some Underground members were invited to focus tests in Chicago and Los Angeles during that month, but it lends no credence to the rest of the story.

Naturally, Sony told us, "We don't comment on rumors or speculation."

[Image: Not the real thing.]

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Ubisoft has $1.2 billion acquisition war chest

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Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, speaking with Les Echos, says the publisher has a $1.2 billion war chest for spending on acquisitions. The executive states the company needs to grow rapidly to keep pace with publishers like EA (which may, or may not, acquire Take-Two) and the other 800 lbs. gorilla on the block, Activision Blizzard.

Guillemot says acquisition isn't the only way Ubisoft is growing. The company is getting involved in films and licensing, along with opening up new studios and pushing into Asia. He also states that the company will begin working on CG movies, starting with mini films based on its franchises at first, and then moving on to feature films. Hopefully, any Ubi-produced CG film will fare better than Square's Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

[Via GameDaily, Develop]

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Sony introducing monthly 'Qore' episodes to US PSN on June 5

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Sony Computer Entertainment America has announced an exclusive development agreement with Future US, Inc., publisher of PlayStation: The Official Magazine, to introduce Qore, "a highly interactive, monthly original program that covers the world inside PlayStation," to the PlayStation 3 on June 5. The "interactive online magazine" term that was first trademarked by Sony a few weeks ago seems to be a fitting description of the program slash show, which will provide subscribers with a monthly dose of "exclusive multimedia news, developer interviews, in-depth game previews and behind-the-scene looks at the hottest PLAYSTATION games," as well as special game demos, betas, add-ons and other interactive tidbits.

Now, you'll have noted the word, "subscribers," in the previous paragraph. The first episode of Qore will be available on the PlayStation Store for the "introductory price" of $2.99, with annual subscriptions (providing 13 episodes) costing $24.99. For a limited time, annual subscribers will also receive a free copy of David Jaffe's Calling All Cars.

Sony labels Qore as "truly interactive," stating that members will be able to access and view the content as they wish, with multiple windows, picture-in-picture and other features altering the presentation. Oh, and it's hosted by our favorite high school detective and vampire slayer, Veronica Belmont. See for yourself in a preview video after the break.

The first episode of Qore will feature "exclusive and never-before released content" on several upcoming PS3 games, including SOCOM:US. Navy SEALs Confrontation, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Secret Agent Clank, Soul Calibur 4 and Afro Samurai. It will also include a SOCOM: Confrontation theme, art galleries and an invitation to the shooter's upcoming beta.

Update: A SCEE rep has told PS3 Fanboy that Qore "is an SCEA only initiative at this time."

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Wii Fit Review: An Identity Crisis [Review]

Following in the trailblazing footsteps of titles like Nintendogs and Brain Age, Wii Fit is another brainchild of Shigeru Miyamoto. The game was inspired by the practice of weighing oneself daily and, according to its creator, is more about self-awareness than it is about weight loss. The game that comes packed with a Balance Board peripheral doesn't worry about plot or graphics or even new concepts in play, instead it focuses intently on motivating gamers to get on that board.

Wii Fit is in many ways the next step in Wii Sports, a title that boils gaming down to it's most rudimentary elements of interaction and fun. But can even Miyamoto make tracking your BMI and doing Yoga interesting?


Fun Balance Games: I enjoyed testing out Yoga and I know that both Strength Training and Aerobics are probably the best for building muscle or endurance, but it's those Balance Games that were the biggest hit in my family. Who knew standing could be so much fun?

Excellent Balance Board Peripheral: For something that is essentially four sensors, the Balance Board can do an awful lot and it's ability to test movement is amazingly precise. The peripheral performed well in Wii Fit, but what really excites me is the potential of using it in games like Shaun White and Skate It.

Great Motivator: Before Wii Fit my parents had no interest in the Wii, now they're one of those countless prospects cruising the local Best Buy and Target daily in hopes of landing a Wii. My wife, an avid non-gamer, is even intrigued and my son and I actually take turns to see who can make it the furthest down the river in Balance Bubble. If nothing else, Wii Fit is an amazing motivator and a fun way to track your progress when doing other exercises. It sure beats weighing yourself on a bathroom scale.


Idiotic Unlocking Method:I have come to terms with the fact that games, almost all 40 or so of the games it seems, force you to do stuff to actually get to the whole game. Unlocking content through gameplay isn't that big a deal to me, usually. But when you release a collection of mini-games and then make most of them unlockable by measuring the time spent playing, well that's bad design. What makes it worse is that many of the games in Wii Fit take less than three minutes to play, some less than two and a few less than a minute. The games can be fun, but I just don't want to play Hula Hoop THAT many times.

No Online Support: I really dig how you can compare your progress in a non-demeaning way (aka no weight shown) with your family and friends who also play Wii Fit. But why limit it to just those who play on your machine. It would have made a lot of sense to let me, for instance, use those abysmal friend codes to share my scores with my mom and step-dad who just bought the game, but live two states away. Heck, I'd even settle for using the Wii's messaging system.

Lack of Modes: Why can't my son hop onto the Wii Fit board and play a Balance Game right after I do? Sure he can try to use my profile, but it seems that the Balance Board compensates for weight, making it nearly impossible for him to get a reaction. Instead he has to back all the way out of the game and choose his own profile. It seems that the developers should have included a multiplayer mode. The same is true for those who want to use Wii Fit for actual health reasons. While the game suggests workout combinations that include different mini-games, you cant pre-select them and then run through them back to back, like a real workout. Instead you're forced to go through the tedium of moving around in a menu to select the games.

Last week I had a chance to sit down and talk with Nintendo's Cammie Dunaway about Wii Fit. I was convinced it was a game that was doomed to a week of play and then lots of dust. While Dunaway disagreed, I've come to realize that it probably doesn't matter. Wii Fit may be a game enjoyed or one tested and put away, but more importantly, it's a way for Nintendo to sneak a Balance Board into millions of homes. Already several developers have new games in the works for it, and I suspect that may have been the plan all along.

While the Wii Fit kit is intriguing, the software suffers from a pretty big identity crisis: Does it want to be a game or does it want to be something used to improve a person's health? This indecision on the developer's part led to a game that is more interesting than it is fulfilling. I want to like Wii Fit. I want to use it everyday to help obtain physical balance and keep an eye on my weight, but the frustrations of play, the tedium of menus prevents me. I'll still use it and enjoy it, but these slight design flaws have relegated the game to curiosity rather than crown jewel.

Wii Fit was developed by Nintendo Entertainment, Analysis and Development and published by Nintendo. Retails for $90. Available on Wii. Played single player for a week, daily for 30 minutes to an hour. Watched son, wife, mother and step-father all play it over a week.

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Analyst: Wii To Lead Hardware, PS3 To Lead Software By 2012 [Console War Forecast]

The Wii is set to break console sales records in 2008, says analyst group DFC Intelligence - but the PlayStation 3 will beat the Wii's software sales by 2012.

Worldwide console sales can pass the $180 million benchmark by 2011 even in an economic slowdown, said the analyst group, since high gas prices encourage people to entertain themselves at home. While the report sees Wii as the likely overall install base leader, it is critical of Microsoft, stating that "for the 80 percent-plus of game consumers that do not play FPS games, the Xbox 360 is not the system of choice."

The sales performance of the PlayStation 3 has been less than stellar, but Sony has survived. The Xbox 360 was unable to take advantage of Sony’s struggles to build the type of large lead needed to maintain a long-term advantage. The PS3 survived the onslaught of AAA Xbox 360 titles that hit the market from late 2006 through 2007.

Halo 3 had great sales, but it did very little to enhance the Xbox 360’s overall position in the marketplace.

Full report and more stats than you can shake a Wii remote at:

Led by the PlayStation 2 (PS2), the “128-bit” generation of video game systems has reached a record global installed base that is expected to exceed 180 million units. Of course, the PS2 was the best-selling game system ever.

With high hardware prices and a slow start for most of the current generation of game systems (Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3), DFC Intelligence had originally forecasted that it would not be until 2012 that the installed base for the current generation started to match that of the 128-bit systems.

However, 2007 was a record year on all fronts, as sales of PC and video games reached an all-time high and overall worldwide industry sales soared over the $50 billion mark. DFC Intelligence forecasts that sales for the current generation of systems will pass the $180 million mark in 2011.

Ironically, a slowing economy can actually help the game industry. Video games provide a high rate of entertainment return and high gas prices actually encourage people to stay home and play games. The latest DFC Intelligence forecasts predict that all three systems (360, Wii, PS3) will have a solid installed base. Nevertheless, it looks like the Nintendo Wii will be the overall installed base leader. The Wii has enormous momentum and appeals to the broadest audience.

In doing retail checks over Memorial Day weekend, the item that everyone was asking about was the just launched Wii Fit. However, none of the retailers we visited had any in stock. It is because of this type of demand that DFC believes in 2008, the Wii could set a record for most console systems sold in a single year.

Of course, many of the biggest games are not even coming out for the Wii. Halo 3 and Gears of War were exclusive to the Xbox 360. The upcoming Metal Gear Solid 4 is only going to be on the PlayStation 3. The biggest title of 2008, Grand Theft Auto IV, is only available for the PS3 and Xbox 360. In other words, for many third-party publishers the more important race is between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Two years ago about this time, DFC Intelligence asked the question, “Could Sony Go From First to Worst?” At the time, our less than definitive answer was: maybe. We argued that much would depend on the execution of Sony and its competitors over the next few years. Two years later, DFC can say with more confidence that we do not think the PlayStation 3 will be the third place system. DFC forecasts that the PS3 will overtake the Xbox 360 in 2009 and finish in a strong second place behind the Wii.

The price of the PlayStation 3 has come down to a reasonable level and the software lineup is finally starting to look fairly strong. Most importantly, Sony was able to keep the PlayStation 2 installed base active. For its recently ended fiscal year, Sony Corp. reported that hardware unit sales of the PS2 were down by 7%. From our perspective we would say they were ONLY down by 7%. This is amazing for a system that launched in 2000. The PS2 managed to outsell both the PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2007.

The sales performance of the PlayStation 3 has been less than stellar, but Sony has survived. The Xbox 360 was unable to take advantage of Sony’s struggles to build the type of large lead needed to maintain a long-term advantage. The PS3 survived the onslaught of AAA Xbox 360 titles that hit the market from late 2006 through 2007.

Halo 3 had great sales, but it did very little to enhance the Xbox 360’s overall position in the marketplace. The Xbox 360 is the system of choice for fans of high-action first-person shooter (FPS) games. However, for the 80%-plus of game consumers that DO NOT play FPS games, the Xbox 360 is not the system of choice.

In our upcoming Genre Forecasting report, we look at expected sales by platform based on genre. While the Wii may have the highest installed base, there are not expected to be any mega-hit FPS titles on the platform. The average FPS title is expected to have 60% higher sales on the Xbox 360 over the PS3 and over three times the sales of the average Wii FPS game.

The biggest uncertainty in forecasting the market five years from now is estimating the impact future, unannounced systems will have. In building our forecasts, DFC Intelligence has assumed that some new systems will launch in the 2011 to 2013 time frame.

However, these forecasts are very hypothetical and are made under the assumption that a new generation of console systems will look very much like the past generation of game systems. This may not be the case, and right now we do not even know who the major players will be.

How soon will Nintendo want to launch a new system with the Wii being so successful? Will Microsoft still want to stay in the game business given their losses? Is Sony really serious about pushing the PS3 to a ten year plus life cycle? Will new game systems just be an extension of the current game systems with some enhanced features and services? These are questions we are currently unable to answer.

One thing that is worth noting is that DFC has built in different models for how fast the current systems will be retired and how heavy consumer purchasing of software will be for each system. We call these factors respectively the active installed base and software tie ratio.

The Xbox 360 has a high software tie ratio, but given technical problems among many early units it also has a fairly high retirement factor. The Wii has both a lower software tie-ratio and a higher than average retirement factor. On the other hand, one advantage with the PS3 is its durability and what is expected to be a fairly strong software tie-ratio in the long-term.

For this reason, the DFC Intelligence forecasting model indicates that software sales for the PlayStation 3 will surpass software sales for the Wii in 2012. Of course, by this time, software sales for all systems are expected to be on the decline.

The biggest story over the next few years may be the declining overall importance of the console systems. Last year Sony’s biggest selling game system was the portable PSP. Meanwhile, the Nintendo DS blew out all records for game system hardware unit sales (portable or console) in a single year.

From a pure revenue perspective, the biggest system for software sales in 2007 was the PC, if you include revenue generated from online services. Like we said, 2007 blew away sales records on all fronts. Right now it looks like 2008 will be even better.

Record Game Sales in 2007 Are Just the Start for the Soaring Video Game Business [DFC Intelligence]

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