Category: News


By Max Neopikhanov

(The Article has been edited to correct the 116ms figure quoted from Eurogamer.)

Nintendo is poised to achieve another hit with its upcoming Wii U console, thanks in part to their banking on the consumer becoming enthralled by Wii U’s tablet-like game controller.  Likely due in part to the overwhelming success of tablets in the consumer electronics market and the growing interest in cloud based gaming; Nintendo wants to bring in these consumers to the console market in the same way that it brought new consumers with the original Wii’s motion controller.

Sony and Microsoft soon tried to emulate Nintendo’s success with their own version of motion gameplay.  This time around, it seems that Nintendo has taken a page out of Sony’s playbook and turned what was originally a novel, complementary remote play feature of Sony’s Playstation Portable, into a prime selling point.

The idea is simple enough: play all your favorite games straight through the controller.  No television required, just maintain close proximity to the console and all the content will be streamed directly to the controller’s screen.  This was the original promise of remote play when Sony released the service a few years ago.  With the expensive cost of the Playstation 3, the PSP’s lack of a second analog stick, additional trigger buttons and an underpowered wireless 802.11b wireless card, remote play never quite reached its potential as efficient local game streaming.

Nintendo has designed the Wii U to overcome all the issues Sony initially had with the PSP’s implementation of the technology with the gamepad controller being and important and ancillary peripheral as opposed to the PSP’s supplementary and inefficient function as a mobile screen.  It is a much more efficacious approach and also much more expensive and risky, and risky moves have become Nintendo’s forte over the past few years with the Wii and the 3DS.

That’s not to say that Sony has thrown in the towel and given up its technology.  Sony has taken steps to improve remote play capabilities in its latest PS Vita handheld, but is it too late?

The struggling electronics giant has, at least in theory, all the tools and hardware, in the form of the PS Vita and the PS3, to make the Wii U gamepad selling point moot if it can overcome a few hurdles.

The Technology

The PS Vita communicates with the PS3 through 802.11n over a 2.4 GHz band – effective at about 25-30 feet.

The tech behind the Wii U pad has not been revealed but a Nintendo representative has gone on record to say the controller will have optimum performance at less than 8 meters, about 26 feet, which is around the same ball park of a Vita using remote play.

The range at which the device can communicate is largely unimportant if the latency is so great as to make games unresponsive and ultimately unplayable.  How will the Vita and the Wii U pad stack up?

Based on preliminary tests done by Eurogamer, the Wii U has latency of about 116ms ahead of an HDTV when playing New Super Mario Brothers about three or four feet away from the console, which is quite frankly, incredible.

My personal tests with the Vita through playing God of War over remote play yielded approximate results that, while somewhat higher, still allow the game to be enjoyed fairly lag free with an occasional, very minor lag spike.

Ultimately, the Wii U edges out against the PS vita when it comes to input latency, but is closely tied in signal strength, at least according to preliminary reports.

With games actually being playable and enjoyable on both devices, the next important factor is the image quality.  After all, most gamers wouldn’t appreciate low bit rate content at a very low resolution on their brand new device in the year 2012 – especially when high definition video can be streamed through cellular broadband to pretty much any device.

The Wii U tablet has been reported to boast excellent image quality that appears free of artifacting or other eye-sores often associated with streaming video.

Picture quality on the Vita isn’t as great but is generally serviceable

The device has three options that range from near perfect, albeit bandwidth demanding image quality that effectively requires a 15-20 feet distance from the console, to  very low bitrate, early 2006 Youtube-ish quality for poor signal conditions or when playing at more than 35 feet.

The middle option is functionally ubiquitous enough to be selected when playing at different ranges from the console yet provides a nice balance in quality between the other options.  Fast moving scenes may show some artifacts but everything generally looks pleasing to the eye.

The Wii U gamepad has been reported by Nintendo representative to have three different power levels based on range from the console, although the exact specifics of their effect on image quality have not been revealed.

Superior image quality during optimal conditions goes to the Nintendo Wii U, based on empirical tests and preliminary reports.

Perhaps the one area where Sony’s handheld can outperform and outshine the dedicated streaming technology in Wii U’s gamepad is the Vita’s support for remote play over a wireless internet connection.  If the distance between the PS3 console transmitting the content and the Vita receiving it isn’t more than a few miles, to avoid high latency, and the internet connection for both is fast and stable, then remote play can offer a relatively smooth and enjoyable gaming experience when far away from your home console.

You may not get decent performance using public Wifi while having a coffee at Starbucks but a dedicated connection at a friend’s house can possibly eke out enough performance to enjoy a game or two while away from home.

Nintendo could in theory announce similar support for the Wii U gamepad but nothing has been mentioned or discussed yet.

The Software

Sony’s remote play may have been around since the middle of the Playstation Portable’s life cycle, yet it seems that the company has only just elevated the feature from the hazy clouds of “neat concept” into the burning stratosphere of potential “system seller” with the release of the PS Vita.

With that said, Sony largely abandoned the feature in the Vita’s early months on the market and has only recently released updates for the God of War and the Ico and Shadow of the Colossus collections.  The company initially demonstrated remote play support on other major titles like Killzone 3, yet none have been released.

With the already supported remote play titles released in the PSP era, such as Lair and LEGO Batman, this brings the total of remote play compatible titles to only a handful PS3 titles, and all Playstation Network PS1 titles – which can be downloaded on the PS3 and transferred to be played natively on the PS Vita, erasing the need to stream them wirelessly.

It may be the right start to a future of growing support and improvements or it could be the unfortunate reality of too-little-too-late.

Most if not all of Nintendo’s first party efforts and many third party titles on the Wii U will support gameplay through the gamepad alone, though some games, like ZombieU and Assassin’s Creed curiously will not. Original Wii games have been reported to not be playable exclusively through the gamepad.  Still, it’s much more support than what Sony’s remote play is currently offering.

Cost and Value

Nintendo recently revealed a $299.99-$349.99 price range for the Wii U, a price point that is higher than any other console they have yet produced.

The gamepad, which is slated to be sold in Japan for about $173 in after currency conversion to USD, will be the most expensive first party controller ever released in the console market.  Still, a Wifi only PS Vita will set you back $250 at major retailers and with the cheapest PS3 SKU available at $250, the total cost of a remote play set up, at least at face value, could cost the consumer nearly $500 USD.  That cost could be lowered to around $450 if Sony reveals the all but confirmed PS3 revision which is rumored to retail at $200, at this week’s Tokyo Game Show.

If playing games remotely on a controller is your primary goal, then the Wii U, which can be bought for as little as $300 is likely the more cost effective option.  The more expensive PS Vita and PS3 combo benefits from Sony’s cross-buy initiative, where purchasing certain titles on the PS3 will accord a download code for the PS Vita version of the game, and from the PS Vita’s own library of software and features that the Wii U gamepad doesn’t have and can’t replicate due to the lack of on-board hardware processing.

The Future

Having just finished God of War through remote play on the Vita, I must say that the feature afforded me an opportunity to play a game I probably wouldn’t have played otherwise. Not having to turn on the television – At least on the Vita, the remote play feature allows the user to remotely turn on their console – is a huge incentive for those who, like myself, don’t always want or even have the time to set everything up and enjoy games in the living room.  Such a feature is what Nintendo is hoping will galvanize its target audience to give its brand a chance.

Studies have shown that the majority of users of mobile gaming devices, Android tablets, and the Apple iPad use their devises at home more than they do outside.  The Wii U pad may never take the place of a dedicated tablet device as a premier mobile platform but it may fulfill similar functions within the home when near the wii U console at a relative fraction of the cost of a fully featured tablet.  With that said, Nintendo has to be adamant to explain the difference to the average consumer who may buy the console thinking that the gamepad is a complete and portable gaming tablet.

Come launch day, Wii U owners will be able to experience playing games remotely at a larger capacity than PS Vita owners can right now.  But a couple things should be kept in mind as Sony looks to the future of the PS Vita and their next home console.  Firstly, the much tooted and presently underutilized 3G feature in appropriately equipped PS Vitas can potentially be used to access a Playstation home console from anywhere you have good signal, so long as there is sufficient bandwidth and low latency – two considerations that admittedly pose a challenge with current cellular infrastructures but that can be resolved and improved in the future.

Secondly, Sony will likely include the remote play feature with the PS3’s successor, allowing the next generation of Playstation content to be played remotely.  Cost to the consumer will likely be even more prohibitive in such a combination but improved encoding and transmission algorithms and better wireless hardware could make for a better experience.   Not to mention the prospect of experiencing next generation graphics over a wireless connection.

Sony is currently in a precarious situation where they have the technology and the means to disrupt Nintendo’s primary selling point of its upcoming console but don’t want to brand the Vita as a cloud gaming device at a time when publishers are having trouble moving software on the system.

Ultimately, the Wii U is set to become biggest and most comprehensive example of local wireless remote gameplay. It features a controller designed specifically to stream content as efficiently as possible and has the support of several high profile developers and publishers to provide content truly worth experiencing.

But if Sony continues to invest in and expand its technology and software support, like it has these past few weeks with updates of two PS3 titles for use with remote play, it may sway consumers to experience cloud gaming using Playstation hardware.

And with the future of cloud gaming services like the beleaguered Onlive in purgatory, support for “local cloud gaming” from major console manufacturers couldn’t be more welcome.

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By Max Neopikhanov:

‘Arcades are dead.’ Those words have echoed throughout the video game industry since the early ’90s, when video game giants Nintendo and Sega brought  games out of the small niche of arcade halls and Atari consoles, and into the living rooms of millions of ordinary people who were enthralled with Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. Arcade vendors did not know it yet, but home video game consoles would not only become more popular than arcade halls, they would supplant them almost entirely.

Industry experts say arcade games just a novelty, a nostalgic link to a bygone era, and that home consoles have completely replaced cabinets just as online gaming has all but eradicated local gaming communities. They say the virtual has trumped the real because the virtual is easier and quicker. But in a busy metropolis that’s home to every sort of gamer imaginable, one arcade has become a stronghold that promotes the survival of a community, a community that relishes the golden age of arcades, a community that is home to some of the most competitive gamers on the east coast.

Just a few streets away from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, amidst a quiet and unassuming residential neighborhood, stands the last link to the glory days of the 90s arcade scene. Transcending the boundaries of business and community, Next Level arcade, which opened last march under Henry Cen, former manager of the legendary Chinatown Fair arcade, is currently the premier proving grounds for die hard fighting game fanatics in the city. “If they’re hardcore, they’re gonna come here,” boasted Cen. “If they have something to prove, they’re gonna come here.”

The small storefront is very Spartan and unassuming.  There is no glamorous sign, no neon lights, in fact not much to differentiate it from any other mom and pop video game shop.  However, step inside, and the story becomes quite different.   The cacophony of sound is near deafening.  It is almost impossible to tell which is louder: the high tempo dance music, the sound of grunts and punches from the games, or the chattering of the 30 or so gamers tightly packed in the small space. “You have ten minutes if you want to register for the tournament,” a booming voice announces over the loudspeaker.  Walk up to the front counter and you’ll see the tell tale signs of an arcade, several music and dance arcade games and a few arcade cabinets, but walk past them, and suddenly everything seems remarkably different.

Instead of more traditional arcade cabinets found in the front,  numerous Xbox 360 video game consoles hooked up to large high definition LCD screens line both sides of the corridor – in front of which sit a row of gamers, arcade sticks in their lap.  There are no slots for quarters here.  Next Level charges three dollars per hour of play, ten dollars for an entire day, and an additional three dollars if one wants to rent an arcade stick.  In comparison, Dave & Buster’s, the restaurant, bar and arcade chain, charges up to $2 per individual play for certain games.

Rather than having to pay per play as is fairly standard in the industry, at gamers at Next Level say the goal is not to make quarters last but rather to learn from and study their opponents and make friends.  “People are more social here,” explained Cen.  “In a [traditional] arcade setting, people can look aggressive or passive and you may not want to approach them.”

The owner and chief operator of Next level, Cen entered the arcade industry in 1996 when he began working at Chinatown Fair Arcade on 8 Mott Street for its then current owner, Samuel Palmer.  He himself being no stranger to competitive gaming, Cen helped modernize the arcade and bring it up to date with the tastes of arcade gamers. “I asked my boss at that time to invest in generally fighting games because they were popular, and music games because they generated the most revenue in the 90s,” Cen explained.

A link to the Past

Chinatown Fair, which originally opened in the 1920s and has gone through several owners and was at one point called the Golden Princess before Palmer moved it across the street and re-named it.  According to Cen, Palmer, who is now in his 80s, had a financial dispute with the building landlord, and unable to come to a resolution, closed Chinatown Fair in February 2011. Cen thinks that the folding of Chinatown Fair is indicative of the recent trend of shuttered businesses in Chinatown, and Palmer wasn’t the only store owner forced to close up shop. “There are a lot of stores in Chinatown now, and if you go down Mott Street they are all vacant,” he said. “It’s just absurd to charge that crazy amount of rent.”

With its open free-for-all gaming environment and location in a busy shopping district, accessibility and diversity was sometimes a double edged sword at the Mott street arcade.  Chinatown Fair was inviting to all sorts of players; casual gamers, hardcore gamers, and sometimes those just looking for trouble.   Mark Robson, a 28 year old graphic designer who has been playing fighting games a since he was a teenager said, “Back in the day when there were more traditional arcades in the early 1990s those audiences clashed. People would get into fist fights over dumb stuff.”

A mountain of a man and himself an avid gamer since he could hold a controller, Akuma Hokoru worked security at Chinatown Fair before joining Cen at Next Level, and often had to break up fights.  Though still responsible for security, Hokoru has since focused more on the additional responsibilities of being the Next Level’s announcer and tournament organizer.  He hasn’t had to stop any violence yet and feels that Next Level’s dedicated crowd is too mature to get into any physical altercations.

When the venerable Chinatown Fair shuttered last February, Cen came to the rescue and created a community for the dedicated regulars who frequented the failed arcade;  a community that, unlike Chinatown Fair, catered specifically to those serious about competitive gaming.  Himself a professional gamer, Cen says he understands the competitive gaming culture and his customers. “I’m not just an owner,” Cen explained.  “I’m a competitor, I go majors, regionals; I know what the players want because I’ve been playing professional gaming for so long.”

Cen often lends his expertise to the regular live broadcasts of tournaments on the e-sports websiteTwitch.tv, where he sometimes provides commentary and play by play analysis with other veteran gamers and Next Level employees.  Like their professional sports counterparts the commentators aim to break down some of the technical gameplay in popular fighting games like Street Fighter IV and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and provide insights into the gaming scene – and give an occasional humorous anecdote.

Though it has received more attention in recent years, professional gaming remains a generally esoteric concept even to those familiar with video games.  “The general public often plays games on a very elementary level, but some people play the game and take it to an analytical level,” said Robson.  “A lot of people don’t understand that there is an academic way to look at games, in the same way like looking at strategy and applying it.”

Go for Broke

Tournaments are perhaps the bread and butter at Next Level, explained Cen.  Held several times a week and attracting an upwards of forty people, these three to four hour long marathons allow gamers who have painstakingly honed their skills to show their chops to not only the local community, but also the national, professional fighting game scene.  There is also a chance to walk out with some prize money.  “We generally have a pot to which players contribute the entry fee to the tournament, which is sometimes $5, sometimes $10,” said Cen.  “Victors can win anywhere from $10 to $70 to depending on their placing.”

Making a few dollars playing your favorite games is nice, say Next Level’s patrons, but it’s not the sole driving force for many competitors. To them, even losing is an experience worth having. “I like meeting new players that change the boundaries of how I think the game is,” explained Robson. “If I go home, even if I lose, I learn something and that’s important for me.”

The top gamers at Next Level don’t stop at participating and winning local tournaments, a few gamers at venuel have the claim to fame as top competitors in their field, often sometimes traveling across the country and winning tournaments at other venues.  Nathel Florez is a 20 year old student who has been in the arcade fighting game scene for more than a year and a half and started playing Street Fighter IV at Chinatown Fair a few months before it closed.  He has won several tournaments at Next Level and even claimed top honors in the form of a Samsung Galaxy phone at a tournament hosted by the tech giant Samsung.  “It’s so hard to even get top five.  People distinguish higher and lower level by how they place,” Florez explained. “You have to really put a lot of time into it.  It takes a lot of work, a lot of mental preparation.”

Other players take gaming even further and make a career of the skills honed at Next Level.  Christopher Gonzales has just recently reached the legal drinking age of 21 but already holds the status of professional gamer, making his living primarily through endorsements and prize money. “I’ve played video games my whole life,” explained Gonzales in a tone eerily similar to a professional athlete. “One day, my uncle brought me to Chinatown Fair and that’s pretty much when I decided that I wanted to do it for a living.”   It doesn’t pay an exuberant salary and Gonzales isn’t rich, but he has travelled throughout the country to attend prominent tournaments in several states like Nevada, Florida, New Jersey – and even had a flight scheduled the next day for a sponsored tournament in Georgia.

Worlds Apart

Because of Next Level’s somewhat more inaccessible location than its Chinatown predecessor, and perhaps due to the proliferation of online gaming, gamers say that the tournament scene has diminished in New York.   All of the games played at Next Level can be purchased and be played on a home console such as Xbox 360 or Playstation 3, with internet play making it possible to get into a virtual ring against thousands of other players over a broadband connection.  Why then play at an arcade venue at all?

There is something “psychological,” about competing face to face with another gamer, said Cen; something that can never be replicated in a virtual environment.  Many gamers at Next Level feel that there is a disconnection in playing online games, both literally in terms of internet lag and unreliable connections, and the anonymity of playing with a complete stranger who may say or do things that they may not if they were playing against a human being in an interpersonal setting. “There’s definitely something more immediate about playing someone face to face,” said Robson.

Those who casually play fighting games at home and online may be ill equipped play competitively at Next Level, say a few of the gamers.  “If this is the first time someone has seen competitive gaming it can either go one of two ways,” Gonzales said. “One, they’re either very interested; or two, they are very,” he paused for a moment, “de-motivated.”

Expert or novice, casual or professional, Next Level offers something noticeably absent from many modern video games, a chance to hang our with friends and rivals, to play until your wrist are sore and your thumbs callused, without having to worry about exchanging dollar bills for quarters to feed the hungry arcade machines.

Cen is happy with the small cove he created for New York’s community of competitive gamers to whom the difference between the two is paramount.  And so long as there is demand for a competitive arcade in this constantly changing and evolving gaming scene, Cen says is willing to take it to it the next level.

BY MAX NEOPIKHANOV

In what is one of the first award shows of its kind in New York City, the NY videogame Critics circle, which is made up of more than 20 writers in the video game industry, hosted its first annual game of the year award show on February 2 at the NYU Game Center in downtown Manhattan.

Notable winners in the New-York-City-centric award categories included Bethesda Softworks’ industry lauded fantasy role playing game, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim for the Big Apple Award for Best Game, Crytek’s sci-fi first person shooter set in NYC, Crysis 2 for the Manhattan Award for Most NY Centric Game, and independent developer Supergiant games’ role-playing game Bastion for both the Tin Pan Award For Best Music in a Game and the Off-Broadway Award for Best Indie Game.

Among the assemblage of award presenters and guest speakers was Emmy Award winning Daily Show writer Dan Radosh, whose jocular speech lampooned the past year of events within the video game industry; the Academy Award nominated animator, Bill Plympton; and Darren Korb and Ashley Barrett, the musician duo who performed music from their game, Bastion.

“NYU’s Game Center was really gracious in giving us the Cantor Film Center for the night,” said NY Videogame Critics circle founder, Harold Goldberg. “I’m glad that game developers from around the country flew into town for it.”

Goldberg, a veteran journalist who has written for various publications including the New York Times, GQ, and NPR, and author of the recently released book chronicling the history of video games, All Your Base are Belong to Us: How Fifty Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture, said that he “started the group because I felt we (journalists) were given short shrift by the videogame industry. They’re based on the West Coast and we live here in the New York City area… we need better communication between those who market games, those who make games and those who write about games here.”

Despite the lack of equilibrium in the video game industry between the east and west coasts, Goldberg thinks that the industry is growing and thriving here in the city.  “I think it’s a small but vibrant industry, explained Goldberg. “Rockstar Games [publisher of the Grand Theft Auto Series] is based here, one of a handful of truly great videogame developers and publishers. So are some small indie developers.”

New York University is amongst those on the forefront of expanding the industry in the City, currently offering a degree minor in game design at the Tisch School of the Arts in downtown Manhattan.  They are expanding their program to include a Masters of Fine Arts degree in game design and development starting this upcoming fall 2012.

“Our goal is to incubate new ideas, create partnerships, and establish a multi-school curriculum to explore new directions for the creative development and critical understanding of games,” writes Frank Lantz, interim director of the program, on NYU’s website. “We are also active supporters of the New York City game development scene and seek to help establish New York as a place of innovation and creativity within this important field.”

As for the Videogame Critics Circle, Goldberg said that they will get together and discuss the group’s inevitable sophomore award show next year.

Image taken from NYGamecritics.com

BY MAX NEOPIKHANOV

Several gaming news sites have recently released the first footage of NeverRealm Studios’ upcoming PS Vita port of Mortal Kombat.  The rather poor looking footage shows off some of Mortal Kombat’s gameplay, including 150 new challenges and various motion controls used in the game’s challenge tower mode.

At a glance, the demo featured graphics largely reminiscent of its console big brothers; albeit without persistent blood splatter or global lighting.  Upon further inspection, particularly during the up close and personal fatalities, Mortal Kombat on the Vita loses its semblance to the current gen systems and instead appears more akin to the last generation and the Nintendo 3DS.

It’s expected for the PS Vita to have downgraded graphics from its bigger sibling, the PS3, considering it reportedly has half the pixel fill rate and a much slower, albeit still relatively speedy CPU.  The PS3 drives the differential wedge in performance even further with its ability to use the Cell processor for post processing and shading effects – a feature that has allowed it to keep up with the Xbox 360 which has considerably more raw performance potential. Polygon and fill rate counts aside, the PS Vita should be able to support most if not all the shaders and lighting techniques used in home consoles by virtue of the now industry standard shader model 3 support and a multi-core CPU.

Why then is Mortal Kombat on the Vita using hardly any of these DX9 functions?  Instead of the gorgeous skin shaders complete with specular highlights and global lighting in the console version , the Vita appears to be using  fixed function non programmable shaders similar to those used on the PS2, Nintendo Wii, and most recently the Nintendo 3DS.

Fixed function shaders can look pretty good, even imitating the look of real programmable shaders as is demonstrated by Nintendo’s gorgeous Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii and Capcom’s Super Street Fighter IV on the 3DS.  The vita doesn’t need to utilize these shaders; just look at how great Uncharted: Golden Abyss looks.  Of course that title is developed under supervision of Sony and with the aim of making their hardware look damn good, in effect putting pretty much every other demonstrated Vita game to shame aesthetically.

The problem of nearly nonexistent shaders in Mortal Kombat is further compounded by the much lower polygon count, lack of lighting effects or permanent blood, and much lower texture quality.  If anything positive can be said about the game’s visual presentation, it’s that the backgrounds have retained much of their quality from the home version; each stage is an animated vista with captivating atmosphere to boot. It’s just a shame that the primary focal point of a fighting game – the characters – hasn’t been fully realized.

With all said and done it is important to point out that…it isn’t all said and done. The game has a few months before release for NetherRealm Studios to tighten up the graphics engine and fix some of these visual shortcomings; though in all likelihood, and especially considering the game has been in development since 2010, the preview shown is fairly close to the retail product.

The most important thing is of course the gameplay. And judging from the demonstrated footage, Mortal Kombat sure plays the part, even if it doesn’t quite look it yet.

Image credit to IGN.com

According to a Youtube video uploaded on September the 14th by ‘Eric from the Crown3DS team’, the 3DS has been hacked with a flash cart that can run 3DS software.

the Crown3DS, a large and obviously not for retail device is seen plugged into the 3DS’ cartridge slot and loading Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell 3D.

No other details are available right now but this does come as bad news for Nintendo, who have been struggling with poor 3DS sales and disenchanted and rapidly bailing stockholders.

Nintendo DS piracy was facilitated through similar, albeit commercial flashcarts, and has affected both the sale of software on the system and stock price.

Nintendo will likely patch any vulnerabilities through a system update before the Crown3DS is fully functional and ready for commercial – read illegal – sale.

Video games and radical political ideologies certainly aren’t strangers. Several video games have pitted players against the ‘evil ruskies and their Anti-American way of life’; some note worthy ones include Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater and 007 Goldeneye.

But since when do ideological and sociopolitical experiments seem like they come straight out of a video game rather than vice-versa? Peter Thiel, billionaire and founder of Paypal, has reportedly donated a large sum of money – in the tune of 1.25 million dollars – to help the Seasteading Institute fund an experiment of creating an uninhibited and libertarian country in the middle of the ocean that would do away with pretty much all socialism in favor of complete and total de-regulation.   In other words Andrew Ryan is finally building his Rapture, complete with lax building codes, no minimum wage, and the most important of all: light regulation of weapons.  Better stock up on ’em while you can boys and girls, if BioShock is anything to go by you’re gonna need them soon enough.

Source: Yahoo News

Sony has just announced at their E3 conference that the NGP – now known as the PS Vita – will debut bu the end of 2011 for under $250 bucks (or 250 Euros) for the wifi version and $299/299 Euros for the 3G one.   Planned launch titles include Uncharted, Little Big Planet, Ruin, and Mod Nation Racers. Capcom have also gone on stage to reveal that their latest fighting game, Capcom X Tekken, will make a debut on Sony’s handheld with the protagonist of the Infamous franchise, Cole, as a playable character.

Sony is promising that over 80 titles are in development from big publishers such as EA, Ubisoft, Activision and THQ. Previously shown tech demos of Lost Planet 2 and Metal Gear solid 4, and Yakuza 4 were not announced or shown to be upcoming games.


Nintendo is looking to have some stiff competition come this holiday season, and a price cut to the 3DS seems to be inevitable considering Sony’s bold pricing of the Vita. Nintendo’s conference is slated for tomorrow and we shall see what they have in store for the handheld market.

According to sources, revealed IGN.com today, Nintendo is planning on unveiling it’s new console during this June at the e3 entertainment expo.  The sources have speculated that the Wii’s successor could be released at the end of 2012.

So there you have it folks, we might be seeing the end of the world, but at least we’ll be doing so with the net gen Nintendo console firmly in hand.  It’s about time really; Nintendo needs to capitalize on their momentum and their competitors supposed ’10 year plan’, to get a good head start in the next generation.

The sources aren’t unanimously agreeing on the Wii successor’s graphical capability, though some claim that it will be significantly more powerful than the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3.

Given Nintendo’s track record in their past few releases – including their recent 3ds – I seriously doubt that their new console will be ‘significantly’ more powerful than the current HD machines.   The 3DS for an instance, is a great little machine capable of outputting some good looking graphics,  yet it’s still relatively in the same ball park as the PSP.  That’s not to say it isn’t better, but I am saying that the 3DS games shown thus far could certainly work on the PSP sans the 3D effect.

In the same way Nintendo’s next console – which will not likely include 3D TV capability – will most likely set the visual bar slightly above the current HD consoles.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it included something along the lines of a mid ranged ATI Radeon 6570 (i.e. a little above xbox 360 quality) and a quad core next gen ARM processor. The speculation that the system will be backwards compatible does make it a possibility that Nintendo might choose to partner with IBM and ATI again – unless of course the backwards compatibility will be achieved through emulation.  Totally plausible, yet somewhat unlikely considering the poor jobs both Sony and Microsoft have done with backwards compatibility on their current systems.

Given the graphic fidelity of Sony’s upcoming NGP, Nintendo certainly won’t want their flagship console to be out shined by a handheld.  The Wii successor will almost certainly have better graphical capabilities than the NGP.

Cost will also be an important factor as Nintendo favors having the cheapest hardware on the market.   I can’t see Nintendo  developing a proprietary powerhouse CPU like Sony’s cell; we should see their next console go for relatively less than what the HD consoles went for, about $300 at launch.

I’m guessing Nintendo will not drop the wildly successful motion controls from it’s next system in the same way they did not exclude the touch screen from the 3DS.  They will obliviously expand on the technology somehow, though it will likely not be an imitation of Microsoft’s Kinect.

Nintendo of America released a statement today claiming that the launch 3DS is the most successful one in its history.  I visited a few brick and mortar Gamestops and browsed various online retailers such as Amazon and eBay, all of which had plenty of 3DS systems in stock.  Without actual numbers it is difficult to gauge the accuracy of their claim though if ebay prices are anything to go by, the supply is certainly greater than the demand.

At release the Nintendo Wii sold for an identical price point as the 3DS, $250.  Either the demand was much greater for the home console or supply was lacking; either way the system was sold out everywhere and ebay prices neared $400 and up.  While it is true that the current crisis in Japan has no physical impact on the production of the 3DS due to the factories being located in China, one can assume that the disaster has no impact on 3DS production at all whatsoever.

Some Retailers such as Amazon and Kmart, have realized the lackluster quality – based on aggregate reviews of the 18 launch tittles –  of most of the games released on the system at launch, and are offering $25 off of the purchase of a 3DS game when purchasing a 3DS system.  It is rare for retailers to offer such large a discount on software to sell a launching system.

Only time will tell if the 3DS can maintain it’s momentum, especially considering it’s current lack of well received titles.

U.S. day-one sales numbers for Nintendo 3DS were the highest of any Nintendo hand-held system in our history. More details about U.S. sales numbers will be made public on April 14, when first-week U.S. sales figures will be tallied by the independent NPD Group. Nintendo worked hard to get as much product as possible to retailers on day one to meet demand, and we will continue with these efforts moving forward.

-Nintendo of America


On February 18th President Obama toured Intel’s Oregon R&D and Manufacturing plant and sat down with several big wigs for dinner to discuss America’s future in technology.  Intel CEO Paul Otellini pledged to invest 5 billion in a new semiconductor plant in Arizona, a plan that will hopefully create over 4,000 new jobs.  It seems like a no-brainer, Arizona is in desperate need of jobs, and Intel is in desperate need of innovation.  According to their press release, Intel has donated over a billion dollars for education in Oregon in the hopes of finding talent in what has since transformed from a center of agriculture to a major manufacturing power. Its worth noting that the company employs 15,000 people, the most for any private company in Oregon.  Hobnobbing with the president and making promises is one thing but fundamental company dogma is something else altogether.

Intel has released some of the most powerful and power hungry processors available, yet has also released some fairly weak and inefficient ones as well.  The growing mobile market is being seized up by ARM holdings.  Luckily for Intel, the ARM brand is decentralized and has less revenue for R&D, at least as of right now.  AMD is in the same boat as Intel at the moment, their acquisition of ATI certainly helping to keep the company competitive on the market.  The PC architecture is certainly different from the ARM powering smart phones and other embedded devices yet there is much to learn from the efficiency in ARM chips.  Donating money to education is certainly a great way to improve company image yet hosting the president goes a long way to remind us of how huge Intel really is. Intel should really take heed to the old – if not directly comparable – adage; its not the size, its how you use it.

ARM is on the brink of releasing quad core processors that run on a very small amount of energy. AMD, while not breaking any ground in the micro processor department,has been running a very successful graphics card business the past few years. What of intel then?  Are we to expect needing nuclear energy to power our new Nucli-Core i1000 processors 10-15 years down the road? The president has been strong (in speech at least!) on weening America off of oil dependence and switching to alternative energy sources, why then do we not hear anything about reducing energy consumption in our consumer space?  Intel, along with AMD, still have scores of hurdles to overcome before they can be truly considered green and innovative companies.  Perhaps Intel will finally put the sharks with laser beams development on the back burner and put its planned facility to good use.