Is there going to be that breakout title for Kinect?

After the dust has settled at E3 with the Kinect announcements, I am left wondering if I am even interested in buying this product.  Thinking about the new 360 Slim, the question becomes do you wait until Kinect is out and get a bundle or do you spring for one now.  While I have two 360's now after having 5 machines fail on me already, the thought of being able to trade in one for a much quieter system is quite appealing.  Add that to the fact that the storage capacity is much greater and Wireless-N WiFi out of the box it is a compelling product.  At this point I am just wondering if I should wait for Kinect to come out. 
After watching much of the video that Giant Bomb has provided on MS's Kinect, I have not seen any game beyond Harmonix's dance game and possibly EA's fitness title that intrigues me in the least.  The truth is, neither of these titles is really high on my list right now as well.  This brings up a major question for this new peripheral.  If we as gamers are not interested in the product right now, I am still trying to figure out how it is going to be interesting for the mass market that does not already own a 360.  Herein lies the crux, because I have the sneaking suspicion that this is going to end up like the Vision Camera.  While it is great to use to see my family down south, there is not a single product on the market beyond this that makes it worthwhile.  I got it used.... cheap. 
I am really wondering if there is going to be anything in the next year or so that is going to be anything more than tech-demo games.  Right now, the Move looks a lot more interesting, and this is something that even surprises me there.  In the end, I think this new 360 being launched now is confusing the marketing that they are trying to get out for Kinect itself.  It seems like there is going to be a lot of SKU's out there, and I am really wondering what caused them to release the system now instead of waiting a while for the launch in November.  It would seem to me that having it as a pack-in in every system being sold after the Kinect launch, the market penetration would be much more substantial. 
I think I am going to pass on it entirely.  Just a thought....


Nintendo Press Conference Thoughts

I am really starting to wonder if Zelda just isn't for me, and that I do not have the same type of nostalgia for it as many people my age have.  Sure, I remember the first one, and it is something that I played for countless hours, but it is not a game that takes me back to a specific time and place in memory.  I guess I am just much more of a Mario person, and that is why I have not really gotten into a Zelda game since the first one.  So, being the show opener, the new Zelda on Wii was not this earth-shattering announcement that I think it was for many. 
What really got me interested in Nintendo's press conference was the reveal of what the 3DS is.  They genuinely seem to be listening to what gamers want out of a portable system, and they are taking note of what is gaining momentum in the portable space - but not just in handheld gaming systems.  What is interesting is that you can tell that they have been paying attention to the popularity of the iPhone and what it has done to mobile gaming.  Nintendo has managed to create a system that I am excited for right away, and that is saying a lot since I have not been a day one adopter, if at all, for a new system of theres since the SNES. 
The tone of this conference was markedly different from what they have had in the past 4 years, and you could tell that they purposely did this.  It really was not pandering to the casual market and the mass media, but rather there was something there for everyone.  There was not a feeling of alienation, and it was a pleasure to watch it in its entirety.  That is something that has been hard to say in recent memory unless you are a die-hard Nintendo fan. 
While there may not have been that one game announcement that got me really excited, I am excited for what developers will be able to create with the 3DS.  There have been some beloved titles on the DS, and I am looking forward to being able to be surprised by many more in the future on the new system.  It is nice to see them bringout a new system instead of rehashing the DS over and over again with slight improvements.  Kirby looks phenominal on the Wii, and it looks like this fall is going to have some interesting titles.  In the end, this was a very strong presentation backed with some strong announcements and exciting new tech.  I am truly hopeful that the 3D ends up being something game changing and brings in some new ways to interact with the titles that we have come to love in the Nintendo pantheon.


Sony Press Conference Thoughts

Sony is the second press conference that I watched, and I will be watching Nintendo's tonight as everyone is saying that it was the best one.  What is clear is that Sony is behind the tech of the PS3, and is really making an effort to become the market leader of games in 3D.  While I am not sure if this is something that I really want, at least it is something that is not taking away from the regular experience as both versions are on the disc.  The question will be is if the 3D version will be given the attention that it needs to really make people want to invest in the costly upgrades. 
The thing that surprised me the most is that there were no real bombshells besides Portal 2 with Steam support for the PS3.  What seemed lacking is a mega-blockbuster title coming in the fall.  After seeing GT5 for 4-5 years now, I am not sure if that is going to be able to hold that weight like a new Uncharted would be able to.  I was really hoping to see something from the ICO and Shadow of the Colossus developers, but alas there was no news on that front.  I know that there is going to be some wonderful 3rd party titles, but for both Sony and MS, it is clear that the Spring of 2011 is going to be where a lot of the exclusives are going to come out.  Maybe this is a smart shift for both companies, as it allows for some great content to come out practically year-round instead of the insane 4th quarter of years past. 
We would be remiss not to talk about Move, and at least it seemed better than the Kinect games that were shown in Microsoft's press conference.  Neither product really has convinced me to spend the money on upgrading to them, but it seems like the Move has more real tangible influence on major games being produced.  The inclusion of Dead Space Extraction with Dead Space 2 makes for a really interesting and strong package, and it is going to be interesting if more companies start to do this.  In the end, I am not sure if there is a killer app for either platform on the horizon, but I am hopeful that eventually there will be something.  I just won't be upgrading on either platform until that happens.  All the waving and voice recognition in the world will not make me spend the rumored $150 on Kinect.  At least the Move is a bit more affordable, but that is if you don't need to buy several remotes and sub-controllers.  Like the Wii proved, that can become an expensive proposition. 
It was nice to see Kevin Butler deliver a great performance as I was not sure if this would translate in a live show, and the feel of the show was much better than the fake fun that was included in the Kinect demos.  A solid performance for Sony, but we will have to wait and see what comes out in the next couple of months.

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Microsoft E3 Press Conference Thoughts

Having watched the vast majority of the conference now, I am not sure if I am more excited for Kinetic than my "meh" feeling about it before.  While some of the stuff looks great in theory, I am not convinced that It is going to be able to have much of a market penetration enough to make it worthwhile for developers to really utilize the device.  This is the problem that I have talked about before, and it is still the largest hurdle for the device.  The voice recognition seems to be the best thing that they have going for it, and even this does not excite me all that much.  The thought that I would not want to press two buttons on a remote is a bit far-fetched.  I have not been bemoaning the annoyance of having to control games and electronic devices through a remote for the past 30 years. 
I was just very underwhelmed by nearly all of the software announced, and especially the 1st-party games that MS announced.  Those titles seem thrown together, and if they are going to ask $60 for those titles I really don't see them selling.  The main problem that I see is that there is not that killer app that the mass market can really attach itself to.  Then there is the fact that the market that MS seems to be going for is the casual Wii owner, and I the cost associated to get into these games are quite prohibitive.  I may change my mind if there is something mind-blowing at the end of the conference, but the whole conference comes across as canned and quite fake.  None of these MS exec.'s are able to connect to me, with the only person so far doing a good job being the gentleman presenting the Kinetic movie/music support and the ESPN presenters.


Green Day: Rock Band first impressions

After playing GD:RB for a couple of hours tonight I have to say that I am impressed with the title as a whole.   After reading the review on GB about it, I was a bit unsure if I was going to be a fan of the game as I am not a die-hard fan of Green Day.  Let's just say that I have had a passing relationship with the band, and that is nothing to do with the quality of the songs that they have produced, just the fact that I have been out of the loop of much of music in the past 7 years or so.  Sure, I loved Dookie as a teenager, but that is about the only album that I really have of theirs. 
All I can say is that Harmonix really takes care in making all of their games.  I am a die-hard fan of Rock Band, and have put in hundreds of hours on guitar and drums - I have purchased the ION kit, so you know I am a fan of the series - and have dropped hundreds of dollars on DLC.  They really did not disappoint here, and I have to say that the interface that they made in RB:B was perfect for this type of game, and that has translated very well here.  I am hoping that they do some type of variation of this on RB3, as this is one of the games that I am always saying "just one more challenge or achievement" because it is so easy to see how close you are to all of them.  For me, this adds quite a bit of replay value even after completing the game once through, which is more than I can say for much of the Guitar Hero series before GH5. 
The song selection is perfect, and really manages to encompass the vast majority of their career, and I have to admit that I forgot about how much I loved so many of the songs.  It has just been a long time since I have listened to a lot of them, and it really managed to bring back a lot of memories.  I really wish that some of the perennial 70's bands would do something like this.  I would really love to play a Pink Floyd version of this game, but it really seems like the band specific games are going to become less and less as the music genre is shrinking quite a bit after last year's onslaught of Hero titles.  Harmonix just oozes attention to detail, and the polish on their games that they make are stellar.  This really makes me hopeful for RB3, and I look forward to playing a lot more of this game in the coming months.

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Here's hoping E3 brings some surprises

With the lead up to E3 coming to a fever pitch over the next week, it begs the question what are going to be the standouts and surprises.  More than the big blockbusters that we know about, it seems like I am always intrigued with the smaller titles that come out of nowhere.  Last year, it seemed like Shadow Complex was what really hit home for me when it was announced for the Summer of Arcade, and it delivered in spades.  It seems like the majority of the titles are known quantities for this years SoA, but I am holding out hope that there is going to be a standout surprise. 
It genuinely feels like the leaks are better contained this year, but it seems like it is because the studios are coming out in front of the titles before they are spread across Kotaku and Joystiq.  In reality the most unknowns are coming from Microsoft this year, as there are not the same amount of known blockbusters in the mix as in previous years.  This seems to be because of Natal, and here is hoping that they give a good reason to own the tech - much less justify the rumoured $150 price point.  I am hoping to be blown away by that one game, but in the end I know I will be happy if Civ 5 turns out to be as stellar as it looks to be right now.


Project Natal and the possible $150 price tag

With all of the rumors surrounding Project Natal being released for $150 I have heard many arguments on both sides.  What seems to stand out the most is the attach rate that this product is going to be able to obtain.  After hearing this price, I really thought about the prospect of paying this for this add-on.  While everything about the device is pretty much rumor and speculation at this point, it really does beg the question of what apps and games are going to motivate the mass market to pick this up, much less the hardcore following that is not looking for another Wii Sports retread.  I am still a bit confused by the message that MS is trying to put out there with this product, and I am still not convinced that it is going to be able to really make a dent in the user base. 
The main problem that has been brought up by several people, and it is the most glaring one that I can see, is that developers - 3rd party that is - are not going to invest a great deal of money into a product for a peripheral that is only in a fraction of the households.  This has been the problem with all add-ons after launch.  In what should have been a slam-dunk for Nintendo, the Motion Plus add-on is in several million households, but there are only two games that were built around this.  The reason seems that the studios do not want to prevent a large part of Wii owners from being able to play the game, and making two different versions is simply not practical.  In the end, all you get is a muddied version for the add-on. 
Herein lies the same problem for MS, and I am wondering if they really think that this is going to be able to extend the life cycle of the console.  By all accounts, this is exactly what it seems like they are trying to do, and I am not sure if it is going to be able to make any noticeable effect.  If the price-point is real, it really seems like Natal is DOA.  I am all for having an open mind for what they will present in their MTV showcase, but I am not convinced that they are going to show much beyond mini-game collections and interface additions to the XBOX NXE.  While the idea of swiping your arms to move around the UI is intriguing, and the thought of voice recognition is neat, it is simply a novelty that will quickly pass. 
It will be interesting to see what MS does, and to see if they really are believing in all of the hyperbole that they have been putting out to the public so far.  In the end, I am not sure if games really need to get rid of the controller, and for Natal this really is a problem if the mass majority of gamers feel the same way.  These are, after all, the people that buy 95% of the games that are sold.   While the casual audience may be appealing, the reality is that history with the Wii has shown that very few games are purchased after Wii Sports and a couple of 1st party Nintendo titles, if any.

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Red Dead's Morality

There seems to be something afoot the more I get into Red Dead Redemption.  Rockstar always manage to put some smart social commentary into their games, but it seems with this game the lines are not so black and white as in their Grand Theft Auto series.  While Niko managed to turn a lot people off with his unrepentant killing, John Marston really seems to embody a much deeper morality code that is a bit surprising to me.  I am not sure what I was really expecting for this game, but the writing has been top-notch, and in a really believable way.  It is very different than the GTA series, and I must admit that I was not expecting this. 
What has managed to surprise me the most is the morality that is put into the game.  Sure, you could go around killing hundreds of people, but there seems to be a much deeper weight attached to such actions, and the game turns into a very different sandbox than GTA always seems to devolve into for me.  While GTA 4 had a respectable storyline, the first thing that I would do when I got into the game was activate the cheats for all of the weapons and create mass havok before starting any of the story missions.   That whole concept is still there in in Red Dead, but in a very different form.  I find myself spending a lot of time in the open desert hunting and doing what would originally seem like mundane tasks.  Here, they all are quite interesting, and it really begs the question why such a different take on the game. 
It really seems that it is the character of John Marston that is the real reason for this.  Rockstar did not create him to embody several cliches as with the majority of their games, and ultimately it seems like the studio as a whole took a very different approach to this game.  I can believe the morality of this character, and in the end it is because they have really created a wonderful character that is quite nuanced.  So far, 10-12 hours in, I am amazed that I have become so attached to the game and the story that it is telling.  Not to mention that all the main characters surrounding Marston are all equally believable.

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Deftones new album "Diamond Eyes"

After several listens of this new album now, I have to admit that it is coming close to the genius of White Pony.  It has been a while since an album from a band like this has even managed to cross my radar.  Korn has long since passed their prime, and Deftones where integral to this burgeoning scene as well.  They managed to really go into a much different direction with White Pony, and it always felt like they never managed to regain the same magic again.  It is nice to hear a band really interest me again, as I have taken a 4-5 year hiatus from much of music as a whole.  The adage from Almost Famous is quite true as you will listen to the music of your early 20's for the rest of your life as it really has a lot of emotional significance.  Also, I have not found that many bands to really care about in the past decade.  Sad really, when much of my early 20's was spent inside record shops immersing myself in any bands CD that caught my eye.

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Project 10 Dollar and EA

After listening to last Tuesday's podcast, I was struck most by what EA is doing with their sports games and the coverage that it is receiving.  I am having a hard time finding a bad way to look at this, even as someone that buys used games from time to time to save on money.  I am not sure if it is the fact that I come from an older generation, or the fact that I can understand the economics on the side of the publisher.  What I am not understanding is the argument that it is taking away choice or freedoms from the consumer.
In many ways, I think the problem is not as simple as saying that used games are the enemy.  I have always been a staunch defender of choice for the consumer, and if it means saving $20-$30 on a game buying used I am all for it.  I know that there are several bad practices that are employed by retailers to entice buyers into purchasing used copies on day 1 for $5 less when the chance of that many copies of the game being traded in already is next to nothing.  What is more important here is the combination of used games and torrents of games.  This initiative that EA has introduced essentially protects them from a portion of the cost that they would not be able to get at all, albeit $10.
It is important for consumers to realize that the makers and publishers of games have to be able to make money as well, and to be honest this plan seems to be quite ingenious.  Not only does it change the used game market and the values that are going to be able to be received - as it will probably be lowered to compensate for the $10 cost to purchase the on-line DLC - but it builds in a reason to purchase new.   I do not get the vilification of EA for this, it is miles better than the DRM fiasco that Ubisoft has instituted on their PC games, which has become pretty crippling, and only hurts legitimate buyers of the content.

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