Coffee Talk #7: PS3 vs. Xbox 360 — The Race to #2

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, Joe Girardi’s interesting bullpen management, the sexy Motorola Droid for Verizon, or what games you’ll be buying this week, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

By now, most of you will have had time to think about the September 2009 NPD Group console sales figures. Sony did very well for itself, selling loads of systems thanks to the PS3 price cut and the introduction of the PlayStation 3 Slim. While the Nintendo Wii will end up being the sales winner this console generation (barring some catastrophe like Romulans attacking Earth to steal every Wii on the planet), some feel that second place is up for grabs.

PS3 vs Xbox 360

Xbots will argue that the 360 has way too big a lead in North America. The company will continue to sell its exclusives and sell more third-party games thanks to a larger installed base. Improvements to Xbox Live will cement the console’s position of having the best online console-gaming experience.

Members of the Sony Defense Force will point out that this is a marathon, not a sprint. This console generation is far from over and Sony has superior first-party games lined up for 2010. With the console’s price cut, the PS3’s capabilities — Blu-ray playback, built-in Wifi, etc. — clearly make it a better value than the 360. With better games and better hardware that’s now at a competitive price, it’s only a matter of time until the PS3 surpasses the Xbox 360.

Certainly there are still too many variables, too many years, and too many unannounced games that will shape the remaining years of this generation, but it’s still fun to play analyst. So pretend for a few minutes that you’re Wedbush Morgan’s Michael Pachter or EEDAR’s Jesse Divnich. I want to know which console you think will end up grabbing the silver medal this console generation. Do you think it’ll be Microsoft’s Xbox 360 or Sony’s PlayStation 3? Pick a side and state your case (please!).

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Coffee Talk #6: What’s Your Dream Game?

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, the Anaheim Angels forgetting how to play baseball, fun with Google Wave, or how you’re going to utterly conquer this week, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

Drizzt 2Is there a movie, comic book, or novel that you think would make a fantastic game? I’m sure there is. All of us have “dream games” that have yet to be made. Some of our visions are outlandish and unrealistic. Others seem so obvious that it’s dumbfounding as to why they haven’t been made.

One of my dream games has been teased, but never fully delivered. I want to play an action-adventure as Drizzt Do’Urden from R.A. Salvatore’s novels. Drizzt has made cameos in Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate II, and Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone. You could play as him in the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance series, but he was merely a bonus character set in an adventure that had nothing to do with his storied exploits.

I want the full-on Drizzt treatment. I want an adventure that takes advantage of his history in Menzoberranzan and his adventures with the Companions of the Hall. I want cameos by Jarlaxle and Artemis Entreri. I want dynamic action that’s full of twirling scimitars and impossible acrobatics. Just for the hell of it, I want a “dog button” like the one in Dead to Rights, but instead of some lame-ass canine, Drizzt’s magical panther, Guenhwyvar, appears.

RPad.tv reader Ieyke recently wrote about one of the games he wishes for, saying, “Assassin’s Creed+MGS4-guns-white robes=awesome stealthy ninja.” Let’s use his formula to talk about our dream games. I guess mine would be:

Drizzt Do’Urden + Prince of Persia – Gimmicky Time Shifting = Awesome Drow Ranger Action-Adventure.

Using the Ieyke formula, tell me about your dream game. (Hit the break for some inspirational music that will help you write about your dreams.)

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Coffee Talk #5: What’s Up With All the Wii Hate?

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, balloon boy, the new info on that FFXIII chick, or advanced sock-organization techniques, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

For many enthusiast gamers, Nintendo has gone from a lovable loser to a disdained winner. Longtime gamers professed their love for the company while it was struggling during the Nintendo 64 and GameCube eras. Now that the Wii has Nintendo enjoying record success, a lot of the same people have turned their backs on it. Why is that? Is it an abandonment thing? Sure, the company has had tremendous success with the mainstream audience, but it’s still serving up Marios and Zeldas and Metroids for enthusiasts.

Wind Waker

As someone that follows the business, I’m all for the Nintendo Renaissance. It was unexpected and made the market really interesting. As a gamer, I’m happy that the company is enjoying great success. The millions of casual gamers that bought Wii consoles will help make sure that I get new Pokemons, Zeldas, etc. I seem to be in the minority though. A lot of the comments I read at TheFeed (and a few that I’ve seen here) were full of anti-Wii and anti-Nintendo venom. Perhaps it’s entirely fueled by nostalgia, but I don’t see how anyone can hate Nintendo. All I have to do is think about a game like The Wind Waker to get warm fuzzies (of the gaming variety).

On this wonderful Friday, I want to know why you feel that way you to about the Wii. Has the console changed you opinion of Nintendo? Do you feel like the company abandoned you? Or did you just outgrow it?

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Coffee Talk #4: Game Review Scores and You

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, whether the Motorola Cliq will turn the company around, why the hell it’s raining in Los Angeles, or bellybutton lint, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

In Coffee Talk #2, reader rbee90 brought up the topic of game reviews, which led to a conversation about review scores. The discussion started to get interesting and reader RRODisHere suggested that I write about the topic in Coffee Talk. Well here it is!

I have a ton of problems with the way most — not all — game reviews work. Scoring is a huge pet peeve of mine. 100-point scales are just stupid. I’d love for someone to (intelligently) explain the one-point difference between a game that gets an 87 and one that gets an 88. Five-point scales — which I like a whole lot better — are a problem because of the way the business uses scores and how some consumers interpret them. Here’s a pro tip for you — three stars out of five is not the same as 60 percent. Yet that’s the way a three-out-of-five is treated by review aggregators (most of the time). What’s worse is that some publishers base royalties on aggregate review scores, which is completely unfair to developers.

Borat Thumbs Up

Personally, I think there should only be three review scores — buy it, rent it, eff it, symbolized by thumbs up, thumbs in the middle, and a thumbs down (or Megan Fox’s thumbs). Isn’t purchasing, renting, or passing what it all comes down to anyway? I pushed for this system when I worked at GameSpy, but nobody was buying it. Oddly enough, my boss at GameSpy eventually went to Crispy Gamer, which uses a scale like the one I suggested. Anyway, the bottom line is that scores have become so important that the words behind them are often overlooked and sometimes ignored.

Then there’s the way some games are reviewed. Some publishers send code to reviewers days before they’re allowed to publish their reviews. For competitive reasons, everyone wants to get the review up the second the embargo lifts. This has the reviewer cramming a pint glass of gameplay into a shot glass of time. Another practice that bugs the hell out of me is when publishers have reviewers play the game off site. In these cases, a reviewer has to commute to a hotel suite or a conference room to play the game for a few days before writing the review. Again, the short amount of time introduces a problem, but it’s compounded by having to play the game in a completely unnatural setting. My issue here is that reviewers have to play games in a way that few consumers would. Do most people play 50-hour games in three days? Of course not. Do most people make daily commutes to play games in a conference room? No.

Okay, I’m getting angry about the whole deal. What I’d like to know from you is what you expect from game reviews. Do you like like 100-point scales or do you prefer five-star systems? What information is most important to you in a game review? Do you think that the unnatural way reviewers have to play games leads to an unnatural view of the game? Leave a comment and let me know (please)!

Coffee Talk #3: Gaming Guilty Pleasures

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, celebrating Rocktober, when you expect to win a Nobel Peace Prize, Manny Pacquiao vs. Miguel Cotto, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

Yesterday, I was incredibly pleased to have R.A. Salvatore’s The Ghost King arrive at my doorstep. His books about Drizzt Do’Urden and friends are one of my guilty pleasures. Some of them are pretty good (The Dark Elf Trilogy and Jarlaxle’s books are my favorite), but a lot of them…aren’t the best. Still, I read all of them — sometimes over and over again — and thoroughly enjoy them.

Britney's Dance Beat

This got me thinking about my gaming guilty pleasures. I’m sure you know what I mean — games that you know aren’t great (or sometimes not even good), but can’t stop playing. The two biggest offenders in my collection are Britney’s Dance Beat for PlayStation 2 and Wakeboarding Unleashed for Xbox. For the former, I should really just be playing Bust-a-Groove, but I love how corny the game is with Britney’s music. As for Wakeboarding Unleashed, it’s certainly not in the same league as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, but I may or may not have dated one of the girls in the game and it was always amazingly amusing to play as her.

Today I’d like to know about your gaming guilty pleasures. Are there any mediocre or bad games you can’t stop playing? Why can’t you shake them?

Coffee Talk #2: Fantasy Games vs. SciFi Games

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, the Toy Story 3 trailer, the upcoming “Super 6” middleweight tournament, or Rob Schneider’s birthday, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

Fantasy vs. SciFi — it’s a debate that will last an eternity. Most gamers I know enjoy both settings, but strongly lean towards one or the other. Some folks dig games with swords and sorcery, others prefer laser rifles and warp drives. Personally, I’m way more of a fantasy guy than a sci-fi guy. Space battles are cool and all, but I rather jump into an adventure filled with mystical spells, magic weapons, and cool frickin’ dragons. I liked Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, but I loved Baldur’s Gate.

Dragon Age Origins chicky

My reasoning is simple; fantasy settings are more ridiculous, ergo more imaginative. Science fiction — good science fiction anyway — is often based on…(get this) science. Sure, it might be theoretical, but in many cases it’s plausible and not a huge leap from reality. Even though a lot of sci-fi features alien races and futuristic weaponry, it’s just too “real” for me. At the end of the day I see science as cold and clinical (I’m sure a psychiatrist would tell me that I’m just afraid of death).

Fantasy is more fun for me. A sword of sharpness? Ludicrous. A bag of holding? Preposterous. A race of miniature creatures that live inside trees and bake cookies? Waitaminute…those actually exist. So many elements in fantasy games, books, etc. are just impossible. Call me a romantic, but I enjoy dreaming about the impossible.

I’d love to hear about your preference. Are you SciFi or fantasy? Pick a side and explain your choice (please)!

Coffee Talk #1: Does Replay Value Impact Your Gaming Purchases?

Welcome to the first edition of Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, the return of Barry Allen, Chris Jericho carrying the WWE for two years running, or how awesome the NY Yankees are, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

Today I want to talk about replay value. It’s mentioned in practically every videogame review you see and many critics use it as a scoring factor, but does it really have a role in your purchasing decisions? For me, it’s not really an issue when it comes time to plop down cash on a new game. It’s more of an added bonus that I enjoy after I’ve beaten a game.

Final Fantasy Tactics

Don’t get me wrong — I appreciate games that have extraordinary replay value, but that’s not why I buy (or pass) on a title. I’ll pick up every game in the Final Fantasy Tactics series because I love the world of Ivalice and the gameplay style. The fact that I’ll play it for dozens of hours after I’ve beaten it isn’t the point. That said, I completely understand that I’m not a normal customer since I get to play a ton of games for free and can be picky with the ones I buy.

My question for you on this fine Monday is whether replay value impacts your purchases. Are you more likely to buy games that you can play over and over again? Will you skip on a game because it’s not really worth playing after the initial 10 to 15 hours? Or is it a case-by-case basis? Leave a comment and let me know (please)!