12th December 2009 - Welcome readers to this 22nd instalment of “The Week That Was.” Christmas is inching closer and closer. I hope you’ve all got plenty of games on your wish-lists. Another quiet week in game releases this week as most of the blockbusters have allowed plenty of time for the Christmas rush. The only console release was Blood Bowl on the 360, a Warhammer board game mashed with gridiron or something. Otherwise, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for DS is a notable release this week.
In PS3 news this week, Sony Computer Entertainment has patented a new “Expandable Control Device Via Hardware Attachment”. The patent appears to be for the upcoming PS3 motion controller, but with a whole bunch of different attachments. Combinations detailed in the patent includes an option to join the motion controllers together lengthwise, or in an H-shape, as well as attachments shaped like a baseball bat, a flashlight attachment and a sphere-like attachment. But perhaps the most interesting attachment is one that is a biometric reader. This involves a thumb reader that “validates the identity of the person holding the controller by analysing the biometric data provided by the attachment.”
Meanwhile, over in New York City, it had appeared that EA CEO John Riccitiello accidentally revealed the official name for the motion controller. Riccitiello said, “In the coming year, both Sony and Microsoft have announced new controllers. Motion sensor controls, Natal and Gem, these are likely to bring new consumers into the marketplace.” Sony were quick to deny this, stating that the name Gem was an early code name for the product and that they have yet to reveal the official name.
Sony’s newest firmware update, version 3.15, went live this week. The highlight of the non-mandatory update was the PlayStation “minis” compatibility. As mentioned last week, the PS minis are bite-sized downloadable games available for the PSP and via the update are now available for the PS3. Those that have already purchased minis for their PSPs can also play them on PS3 for no extra cost. Another major component of the firmware update is the ability to hook two PS3s together and transfer content such as photos, music and videos between the two.
And after being on the market for three years now, the production cost of the PS3 is almost breaking even. When first launched, it cost Sony around US$800 to build with the highest-priced version selling for US$599 ($1000 in Australia if anyone remembers). But with a constant reduction in component costs, a 120gb PS3 Slim now comes in at around US$336, which is still $37 more than the $299 price-tag it has in the US. Costs are still reducing though, so expect Sony to finally be making a profit on each unit sometime next year.
Despite all the recent criticisms and concerns over the Wii’s future, EEDAR analyst Jesse Divnich is pretty much guaranteeing a win for the Wii this generation. Divnich sees a “worst-case scenario” of the Wii experiencing yearly declines of 25% up to 50% in three years time, and in this time having the 360 and PS3 experience an increase next year before a maximum decline of 30% in 3 years. With this scenario, which is highly unlikely, the Wii would still be the victor and have sold similar numbers to last generation’s king, the PS2. But as stated, this scenario is unlikely, and the advent of the PS3 and 360 motion controllers could really shake things up.
Over in Japan, New Super Mario Bros. Wii sold 936,734 units in its first week making it the biggest debut for a Wii game so far in Japan. The previous Wii record holder was Super Smash Bros. Brawl which sold 816,000 units. And just like Reggie Fils-Aime had predicted previously, industry analysts are also backing the game to topple Modern Warfare 2. Jesse Divnich points out that due to the regular new instalments for games such as MW2, as opposed to the relatively infrequent updates to the Mario games, NSMB Wii could sell 15 million units in its lifetime (I personally would expect more considering Mario Kart Wii has sold over 17 million).
EA CEO John Riccitiello also spoke about Nintendo this week, saying that EA is disappointed with the console’s sector performance. He reiterated what everyone has been saying, in that Nintendo can do a lot better with third-party support which “they’re learning how to do”. He also believes that the Wii isn’t “gone” but will need to innovate to stay competitive with Sony and Microsoft’s upcoming innovations.
And Ubisoft have announced a new game that will support MotionPlus. Titled “Racquet Sports”, the game will feature five different games: tennis, ping-pong, badminton, squash and beach tennis (what is beach tennis???). Game modes will include a career mode, a “party mode” featuring special rules and “random teams”. The trailer for the game also shows it to be compatible with the camera that will ship with “Your Shape”, Ubisoft’s new fitness game. Just how the camera will work hasn’t been revealed at this point.
The Xbox 360 dashboard, the New Xbox Experience (NXE) is still relatively new. However, rumours are now circulating that an update to the NXE may appear in the near future. The rumour comes via a job posting, with Superannuation finding a Linkedin account of a recently hired developer to work on the 360 dashboard. The developer was hired in November as a user interface animator for the 360 dashboard development. There is speculation that the redesign is for Natal purposes, which makes sense if you’ve seen the clips of people controlling the 360 via Natal.
Something already added to the NXE is the Facebook and Twitter applications. Outside of North America, people of all ages are allowed to access these applications, but US users had to be over eighteen. However, come December 15, a new update will bring the US in line with the rest of the world and allow for minors to access these apps provided they have parental permission. Good to see that Australia wasn’t backwards for once!
You may remember that last week we mentioned a new iPhone app that connects you to your Xbox Live account. Well the 360 Live app is no more as Microsoft asked Apple to remove the program, citing the non-commercial usage restriction. Basically this means that they weren’t happy with the app’s cost (Microsoft feels that all 360 related apps should be free of charge, unlike their usual policy of charging for everything!). For those that have downloaded the app already, no need to fear as the app will continue to work.
And we also mentioned last week that Microsoft were banning anyone using the “Javelin” glitch in Modern Warfare 2. Microsoft have spoken about their policy regarding cheating, with Xbox Live’s Director of Policy and Enforcement, Stephen Toulouse, saying that the Javelin exploit is illegitimate, and can ruin the game experience for others as it cannot be countered. Only those that constantly exploit the glitch would be suspended. What do you think? Is exploiting a glitch fair game, or warrant Live suspension?
And now for the usual look at this week’s other news:
God of War creator David Jaffe has labelled the Australian classification board’s methods as “utter BS”
These industry veterans believe Michael Atkinson’s “misinformed” comments are designed to stir “moral panic”. Former deputy director of the OFLC was also disappointed by Atkinson’s claims that they try to “get games in under the radar”, saying only a small handful of their thousands of decisions are appealed.
An example of Atkinson’s shock tactics, “I accept that 98%, 99% of gamers will tell the difference between fantasy and reality, but the 1% to 2% could go on to be motivated by these games to commit horrible acts of violence. You don’t need to be playing a game in which you impale, decapitate and dismember people.” The one to two percent could be influenced by R-rated movies as well though couldn’t they Mr. Atkinson?
Staying on the game ratings topic, only 26% of Australian parents are aware of the controls to limit play time on the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii, whilst 49% were unaware of the built-in classification locks. The ratings aren’t the problem Mr. Atkinson, it’s the lack of education.
And the Gamers 4 Croydon membership drive was a huge success, with the party easily accumulating the 150 members required.
Activision are countersuing No Doubt over their Band Hero fiasco, stating the band has breached contract for refusing to perform promotional services for the game.
According to Metacritic, the Wii had the worst games in 2009. However, don’t take this as a bad thing, as this just means it’s the most popular console and more developers are producing poor games in the hope of making a quick buck.