There are a lot--and I mean a great many--potential pitfalls that have me worried this round, but nonetheless there are a great many positives heading into the near future as well, not least of which is quite simply the very divergent paths being taken by the big three. That kind of thing is always beneficial to consumers and I am excited about the breadth of gaming experiences we're looking to have in the upcoming months and years. This holiday season will turn out however it turns out, with Xbox 360 already having launched and PS3 and Wii getting systems out there, but 2007 is looking to be a massive year for games and gamers.
So, what are you playing? My new console recommendations would have to be Riiiidge Racer 7 and Resistance: Fall of Man for PS3, and Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, Trauma Center: Second Opinion, and (of course) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for Wii. I haven't picked up Rayman Raving Rabbids yet, but I hear it's good stuff.
Wii launches, rings in PS3/X360/Wii generation[ps3] [xbox360] [nintendo]
After years of the PS2/Xbox/GCN generation, this Sunday marked the date when all three current home consoles from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are available at retail, beginning what will be abbreviated countless times here in LNC and elsewhere as the PS3/X360/Wii generation. Wii's official launch in North America, its first territory of availability, took place in New York City's Times Square at the Toys 'R Us flagship store. Shacknews was not on hand as we were for Sony's PlayStation 3 launch in San Francisco, but online reports paint a similar picture of lines hundreds of people long. In comparison to those queuing up for the rare and pricey PlayStation 3, fewer people seemed to be lined up for scalping purposes; with more units available and a cheaper price point, sellers would be unlikely to earn as much of a return on their investment. A cursory glance of the eBay-based Wii resale market seems to agree.
Wii facing firmware update problems? Call Nintendo[nintendo]
Along with a console launch come launch console issues, and it seems that some new Wii owners are facing problems cropping up when attempting to update their systems' firmware through Nintendo's WiiConnect24 service. The problem appears to be a software issue rather than a hardware issue. One Shacker who sadly relayed that his system died during an update, reported back several hours later that it came back to life. "I left it the [fudge] alone, came back hours later and it was a okay," he said.
For those with problems that persist even hours later, Nintendo recommends contacting support. Depending on whether you have crucial personal content on your machine (such as Virtual Console games), you can choose to have Nintendo send you a new unit, or to send yours back with a Nintendo-provided shipping label. The former option is significantly speedier than the second, with an expected turnaround time of 3-4 business days as opposed to 8-12. Nintendo is also working on a fix that can be applied by users directly.
Sony dropped ball on exclusivity agreements?[ps3] [xbox360]
Sony scored big last generation with timed exclusivity agreements that had Rockstar's acclaimed Grand Theft Auto III and its spinoff successors appear on Sony's PlayStation 2 months before they arrived on PC and, in some cases, years before they arrived on Microsoft's Xbox platform. With the current generation Xbox 360 and PS3, Microsoft announced at this year's E3 that no such agreement would exist; both platforms would receive the game the same day. Sony seemed to have had a new exclusive agreement with Ubisoft to launch Ubisoft Montreal's action title Assassin's Creed exclusively on PlayStation 3, but within months, the company confirmed a flurry of rumors claiming that the game would come to Xbox and PC as well.
Now, Newsweek technology correspondent N'Gai Croal reports that both Ubisoft and Rockstar parent Take-Two sought out exclusivity agreements with Sony, but negotiations were effectively stalemated by way of a lack of response from Sony Computer Entertainment head Ken Kutaragi, who failed to come to an agreement with overseas PlayStation divisions. Unsurprisingly, Sony Computer Entertainment America and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe supported such publisher arrangements, but lacked the authority to progress.
Meanwhile, Microsoft, which has come into the current generation with a stronger industry presence this time around than it did with its previous machine, has been using its year-long head start to aggressively pursue publisher relationships. "I do have to give Microsoft a lot of credit for going after titles and doing whatever they can to generate third-party support," said an unnamed source presumably connected to a third party publisher. "They've been magnificent in this generation."
Speaking on the matter, SCEA executive VP Jack Tretton downplayed the importance of third party exclusives in the context of Sony's increasingly strong first party development. "We're the only company in this industry that's got development resources and talent that have established Number [sic] one hits on all three continents," he said. "We're not dependent on third-party community to the degree that a Microsoft would be. That being said, you would be crazy to say that you would never entertain or not welcome exclusives. It's just a question of how deep into your pockets do you have to reach to secure that? Desperation breeds deep pockets. Confidence breeds the opposite."
Sony acknowledges PS3 BC issues, provides search tool for gamers[ps2] [ps3]
Following widely publicized reports that PlayStation 3's backwards compatibility with PlayStation and PlayStation 2 titles is facing various types of errors with a list of about 200 titles (out of a library of several thousand), Sony has launched an official backwards compatibility search engine that will state the specific issues, if any, of a given game. The tool goes so far as to list different releases of games--for example, the original release and the Greatest Hits release--and is quite detailed in its error descriptions. Gran Turismo 4's entry for PlayStation 2 reads, "When the title is left inactive on the Main menu, the title hangs on a black screen at a random time," while the Greatest Hits entry for the same game reads, "No major problems for this title."
Some of the titles initially affected have already been patched via the first patch, but many still suffer from problems. Speaking to Shacknews, a Sony representative confirmed that the company plans to continue releasing such updates until PS3 has reached 100% backwards compatibility with the other two PlayStation home consoles.
Gears of War to Halo 2: "Owned."[xbox360]
According to Xbox Live's Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb, longstanding Xbox Live champion Halo 2 (Xbox) has been dethroned by newcomer Gears of War (Xbox). Though Hryb did not disclose specific player numbers for the two games, he did state that, for the week of November 13, 2006, Epic's third person shooter had more unique users play online than Bungie's FPS. Roll on, Halo 3.
Small Arms to grab onto your Microsoft Points this week[xbox360]
Gastronaut Studios' multiplayer brawler Small Arms (see Shack's hands on report) will be this week's Xbox Live Arcade release, Microsoft announced today. The game will be available on Wednesday, November 22 at 1:00am Pacific time, and will run 800 Microsoft Points ($10). The firearm-based game supports up to four players on Xbox Live as well as same-screen. Microsoft also promises "premium downloadable content" for Small Arms in the future, consisting of "new game play elements and unique challenges."
Gamasutra has a great interview with Dr. Wei Yen of AiLive, the company behind the LiveMove development tools for the Wii remote. Yen speaks on AiLive's relationship to Nintendo, what went into LiveMove, and why he "believes in Wii."
Movies: Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (PS3, also PS2, Xbox, X360, Wii, PSP, GBA, PC) launch trailer.
Movies: Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (X360) gameplay movie.
Our own David Craddock has impressions of EA Tiburon/EA Canada's Wii version of Madden NFL 07 (Wii, also PS2, Xbox, GCN, PS3, X360, NDS, PSP, GBA, PC) and Treyarch's Wii version of Call of Duty 3 (Wii, also PS2, Xbox, PS3, X360).
Screenshots: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz (Wii): World 1, World 2, World 3. Wii interface shots: Disc Channel, Wii Message Board, Mii Channel, Shop Channel, Forecast Channel (coming Dec. 20, 2006), News Channel (coming Jan. 27, 2007).
Console Game Of The Evening [Submit Yours!]
Pikmin for the GameCube. "To me this game still shows that Nintendo knows exactly what they are doing. This little "cutesy" game made me feel so very bad for every little pikmin I let die, I dont ever remeber another game making me feel that way." (submitted by slicerd)