Archive for December, 2008

newspaper-2Over the last few weeks, mainstream news outlets large and small have contributed plenty of page space to pondering “will the video games industry manage to thrive through the recession?”  For the most part, pundits and columnists are answering that with various flavors of “yes.”  But it’s still a kick to see a newspaper as established and respected (at least in finance circles) as the Financial Times give the industry a clean bill of health during these very uncertain times.

Unfortunately, it’s not all rosy for Sony.  The fact is, Sony has its hands in a lot of businesses that AREN’T doing as well as our favorite pastime.  And just like every other big corporation right now, they’ll have to trim quite a bit to stay competitive.  That said, I think we’d all like to see them get a winner on the PSP in the ‘States this year, and give us all a reason to keep that system charged again.

On a similar note, EA indicated there will be further layoffs on the horizon, and put the brakes on their new Vancouver studio development today.  I’m interpreting that as more of a cautionary move to protect the bottom line than a white flag.  After all, they just announced they’ll be publishing Brutal Legend.

So EA at least has 2 nickels to rub together and deliver Tim Shaefer’s latest… and God bless them for it.  The fact that they’re taking a flier on Legend, a new IP from an awesome-but-not-guaranteed-blockbuster developer, shows me that Legend must be worth it.  Here’ hoping…

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As longtime readers of the blog will recall, Liquid Architecture is for the children (not unlike Wu Tang).  With that in mind, I’d like to invite all the NYC-area readers to this year’s edition of Funde Razor.

For the fourth year in a row, Joel Johnson (of Boing Boing and the very awesome Offworld) has put together an event that combines rocking, drinking, and helping out some very sick, scared children.  This year’s Funde Razor will be held on Wednesday, December 10 and once again feature the most impressive pretend rock stars in the tri-state area, along with the door prizes and good times that have combined to raise over $12,000 in the last three years.  Participants will be judged on style points (a first), so this year WILL be awesome, without a doubt.

Where: Village Pourhouse
Address: 64 Third Avenue at 11th Street, New York, NY [Google Map]
When: Wednesday, 7PM to Midnight. (The raffle and prizes should be wrapped up earlier.)
Age: 21 and over.
Price: Free, but bring money for raffle tickets and donations!
Hosts:: Joel Johnson of Boing Boing and Offworld, Miguel “Smeeguel” Molinari and Jennifer Boere of RockGamer.com

Of course, readers in the Denver and Bay areas will want to check out simultaneous events in their locales.  If you can’t make it to an event on the tri-city tour, please consider a donation at Child’s Play .  As you’re no doubt aware, it’s been a tough year across the board for not-for-profits.  For the price of two new games, you could help one of Child’s Play’s network hospitals put one more DS into a patient’s hands, or put some new games and controllers into their library.

Thanks and have a terrific holiday!

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In case you missed it, Sony announced their first official corporate partner in Home – and it’s none other than Red Bull.  For the uninitiated, Home is Sony’s oft-delayed avatar based virtual world that (theoretically) connects every PS3 owner, so they can meet up, chat, and play together.

It’s not the worst idea ever, but I’m not entirely sure all the infrastructure and planning will be worth it in the end.  I can’t imagine anyone buying a PS3 exclusively to get access to Home, and Second Life already showed us just how fickle tastes can be when it comes to virtual real estate.  Sony definitely needs a more cohesive, end-to-end online environment to even have a shot at Xbox Live.  No argument there.  But will the audience really want to commit so much time to non-gaming during their gaming sessions?

Red Bull’s no stranger to edgy marketing tactics, and I honestly hope this venture proves as worthwhile to them as Flugtag and their other experimental pursuits.  We’ll see…

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Early estimates from Black Friday 2008 are slowly trickling in, and it would appear that Nintendo is off to a third straight killer year for the Wii.  Impressive, considering they’re working with a sparse holiday software lineup and their only first-party offering is the tepidly received Wii Music. By all indications, Wii Fit is flying off shelves, and likely keeping the hardware a hot commodity almost by itself.  

This really demonstrates Nintendo’s Blue Ocean strategy working well.  Wii Fit launched nearly seven months ago.  Under normal circumstances, it would be rocking the discount bin this Christmas with a sequel on the way.  But that’s just it: hardcore gamers that would run out to get a game on launch day aren’t fueling the Wii’s swollen installed base, and they certainly aren’t the target audience for Wii Fit.

Microsoft had a good weekend as well, handily outselling the PS3 and last year’s Xbox 360 number.  Sony’s no doubt up on year-over-year sales, but I can’t help wondering how their numbers would have looked if they had put out a LittleBigPlanet bundle in the US, like they did in the UKLBP is getting some decent ad support now, and Sackboy appeals to a family that could really only afford to spend $400 on a box if it’s going to keep their entire family entertained for the better part of this year.  As much as I love Metal Gear Solid 4, I just don’t think Snake has the same appeal to that audience.

In theory, the PS3’s Blu-ray player helps on the family entertainment front, but I’m not sure that’s a real value add for that type of consumer.  Disney is just beginning to put animated features out on Blu-ray, and those discs aren’t compatible with the portable and in-minivan DVD players that parents already bought.  Between the Netflix addition, price drop, and Kung Fu Panda/Lego Indiana Jones bundle, the Xbox 360 deserves to be on their radars.

Beyond that, Pricegrabber shows Sony’s own budget-priced Blu-ray player (the BDP-S350 1080p) as one of the top 3 searches over the weekend.  Did they cannibalize PS3 sales with their own player in a similar price range?  I think we’re seeing a case of what’s good for Sony the company not necessarily benefitting the games division.

Obviously holiday sales are a much longer battle than one weekend, but it looks like the industry may just be as resilient as we had all hoped.  I’ve long held that Wii Fit will be the best software seller this season (hardly a bold prediction), and it looks like the very deserving Gears of War 2 will pull in second.  Weren’t single console exclusives supposed to be go away?

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