Sony’s PS4 scam at E3 and new Nintendo titles

ps4So, apparently, Sony pulled a fast one over the public in its E3 keynote address introducing the PS4. During the keynote, they stated that there would be no DRM and no restrictions on used games. What they FAILED to mention, however, was, like Microsoft, that third party publishers were free to place restrictions upto and including the prevention of resale of used games.

What appeared to be a slam dunk for Sony’s PS4 is now a ‘oh really? Huh.’ This bait and switch tactic is old, tired and Sony should be ashamed.

During an interview, Jack Tretton, President of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, stated that they (Sony) would provide the platform and publishers were free to impose any business model they wish. Meaning, Electronic Arts could, theoretically, only allow certain games to be resold or otherwise transferred from one person to another, all or none.  Strike 1. (And, for the record, EA has publicly stated that they have no immediate plans to do so on either the XBox ONE or the PS4.)

And, that $399 price? Well, it does not include the Sony Eye, which is the motion tracking piece of the pie. So, for the PS4 to be feature complete with the XBox One, you have to purchase the Eye for $69 US, which brings the PS4 right in line with Microsoft’s offering. Strike 2.

Lastly, Sony last big advantage over Microsoft, the free online multiplayer component, is now going to be a paid service. You must buy Sony’s equivalent of XBox Live Gold in order to play multiplayer games online.  Strike 3, your out!

So, why would I want either of these consoles?

Nintendo announced a bevy of games for both Wii U and 3DS.  Included in those titles are a new Mario Kart for the Wii U, Super Mario Brothers for the Wii U, two new Zelda games and a new Smash Brothers title.  The Wii U online play is free, it is now an HD console and it is cheaper than the other consoles. It’s looking better and better…

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E3 2012: The year of ho hum

The E3 Video Games expo was held in Las Vegas this past week.  The big three, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony all held their respective conferences on upcoming games and hardware.  Microsoft showed off more Kinect games and showcased its SmartGlass technology.  Nintendo held three press conferences to spotlight the upcoming Wii U hardware, Wii and Wii U games and 3DS games.  Sony, with no new hardware and few standout games spent an ungodly amount of time talking up some higher profile and ultra violent games.

Nintendo was first out of the gate with press conference number 1, which was about the Wii U.  Details like the new controller, resolution (720p, sadly) and other details were given.  The Wii U will, contrary to earlier speculation, handle two of the new game controllers. The new controller features an LCD display, stylus, dual analog sticks, standard controller buttons and the ability to stream the currently playing game to the panel.  The panel can also act as a secondary screen, forming a DS like experience.

Microsoft was next with its presser about new Kinect games and SmartGlass.  I’ll skip the games and talk about the SmartGlass.  SmartGlass is, seemingly, Microsoft’s answer to the Wii U’s new controller. The big difference:  the secondary screen can be a tablet or smartphone. Microsoft announced support for, of course, Windows Phone, but also Android and iOS, meaning iPad and iPhone will be welcomed into the XBOX family.  Among the uses for said screen:  ability to show secondary information about a television show being watched via XBOX and something like Xfinity or HBO Go. The example they showed was Game of Thrones. The show was being watched on a big screen while a map of the current location of the on screen characters was on the secondary screen along with other information.  When playing SmartGlass enabled games, the secondary screen can do things like allow the player to map out their next move (Madden NFL was used as an example).  The technology looks fantastic and is tightly integrated with Kinect for voice.  Microsoft is, clearly, leveraging Kinect for a multitude of uses.  The early stuff is looking very promising.

Sony was up next with its lackluster presentation. Try as they may, the games were mediocre with one or two exceptions.  God of War whatever looks great.  Last of Us looks good too, it is another, rather violent, shooter featuring zombies. And, really, you can never have too much zombie action.  Right?  Sony also unveiled WonderBook.  WonderBook is a peripheral (OK, so they DID have SOME hardware) that is used with its silly ‘MOVE’ Wii mocking controller.  The idea is get you immersed in a book. The book they demoed was by JK Rowling and is an extension of the Harry Potter universe. You have to learn spells and potions.  While the idea is novel, the implementation looked rather embarrassing as the software failed to properly read the MOVE a few times.  I don’t really see why they bothered with WonderBook, but they did, which is a wonder to me. Sony did highlight the tight interaction of Vita, its latest attempt in the handheld market, and the PS3.  I have to admit, that was pretty impressive. However, it is, yet again, a take on the Wii U console and tablet integration, so not much new here.

Nintendo was back up with more on the games for Wii U and 3DS. The standard fare will be released…new Mario Brothers, a Luigi Mansion sequel, a few more adult oriented games (or, as some say, ‘hardcore’) and others.  Once again, Nintendo proved just how clueless it is when it comes to E3 presentations. They really need to look at Sony and Microsoft for these things.  Sony had zero to show, but the crowd went wild.  Why, I have no idea.  Anyway, the lack of a Mario Kart title was puzzling.

The last Nintendo presser focused more on the Wii U and a game called NintendoLand, which is really a bunch of tech demos wrapped up in a theme park theme. Included mini games are an Animal Crossing game, Zelda and a Donkey Kong mini game.

Companies like Activision and UBISoft also presented. The only game the interested me was, of course, Call of Duty: Black Ops II.  An impressive and lengthy trailer was shown at the end of the Microsoft presser that showed off part of the single player campaign mode.  The President of the USA is a female who bore more than a striking resemblance to former First Lady and current Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton. While not much of the back story was given, the game is a continuation of the original Black Ops and, seemingly, does not incorporate the events in either of the Modern Warfare games. It looks great, though.

All in all, this years Expo was lackluster.  Disappointing, actually.  With the PS3 and the XBOX 360 both maturing and nearing end of life, there was lots of speculation that replacement consoles would either be announced or actually shown. Neither was. And Wii U? Well, let’s just say it is not overly impressive either. Of course, it will sell, since it is compatible with current Wii games. No announced date or price, but speculation has mid-November as the date and $299 as the price.  We will see.

Until next time, happy gaming! 

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Hot Wheels, Nintendo 3DS and InnoTab…ahh, to be a kid again

English: A Nintendo 3DS in Aqua Blue, photo ta...

Image via Wikipedia

One of the joys of being a parent is that you get to play with toys that you would not others get by with playing.  And, today is a good time to be a parent as the toys are super cool.  Take, for example, today’s Hot Wheels.

hotwheelswalltracksHot Wheels has a cool set of tracks that use the Command Strips to fasten connectors to the wall and mount tracks there. These things are really cool and solve the ages old space problem of where to store the tracks. With these, you just leave them on the wall, provided, of course, you have a room where you don’t mind them hanging around.  For us, it is in our game room.

There are several sets, including a starter set. Each set comes with the hangers, Command Strips, track pieces and one Hot Wheels car. Note, not all Hot Wheels will work on the various pieces parts. For example, one set has a launcher mechanism shaped like a motorcycle engine. Only a certain type of car will go through it, some boxier shapes and those with oversize wheels will, likely, not work.

Each set is designed to be interchangeable and reconfigurable.  They vary in price but you should be able to get two to four sets for under a hundred dollars.

Another cool toy this season is the Innotab from VTech. This is a children’s tablet.  Although similar to the VReader, it is, of course, not compatible with any of the VReader software.  The device has a small touchscreen with vibrant colors and is fairly responsive. While is resembles (to a four year old) an iPad like device, it is no iPad. Or even a crappy assed Android tablet, but, this is OK. Those devices tend to confuse whereas the Innotab (and the LeapPad Explorer) are designed to be used by children.  The built in software is simple yet functional and most things you would expect from a tablet are there, including an accelerometer. There’s no web browser as the device lacks any kind of connectivity. Again, this is not a problem since it is a device for young children.  It costs $79.95.

Lastly, the Nintendo 3DS is, by far, the coolest toy on the market. It is a standard DS that plays 3D games and takes 3D photos and video.  The software is mostly well done and the ability to turn off the 3D is a huge plus. I found the effect pleasing until I moved either my head or the device . Once that happened, I could not get it quite right and ended up turning off 3D.

Mario Kart 7 for 3DS is, quite simple, a great game.  Almost perfect.  The only problem I had was the wonky control pad on the device itself.  This might be the 3DS’ achilles heal. It just did not feel overly responsive.  The game, however, has much going for it, including the return of 16 mostly great tracks and 16 brand new ones.  All versions of the game have at least one track, though most of them are redone versions and contain new elements, like underwater sections.  Overall, though, MK7 is one great game.

Now, the 3DS is one device that anyone who is just a kid at heart can actually own and not feel like a moron. It is priced right too: just $169 for the device.  Oh, it has a browser built in and a virtual console to play older Gameboy games.

I guess I am still just a kid heart as I found the Hot Wheels tracks to be quite a bit of fun and our kids did too.  Who says you need to be between 4 and 12 to enjoy them? I’ve been accused of acting like a five year old from time to time…maybe there is something to that after all!

Cheers!