Michael Pachter Predicts $50 Project Natal and $100 Sony Wand

Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter has given his price guesstimates on Microsoft’s Project Natal and Sony’s wave motion sex toy EyeWand. He recently told IndustryGamers:

I think that Natal will cost $50, as it only really involves a camera (a three-lensed camera, but a camera nonetheless). The EyeWand, on the other hand, involves a camera and two controllers, so it may be slightly more expensive. I would be surprised if the EyeWand retails for more than $100. Neither impacts the other, as neither is intended to compete with the other.

That last sentence sounded like Professor Trelawney’s prophecy on Voldemort and Harry Potter…but I digress. I’m surprised Pachter doesn’t feel that these are competing products. Am I missing something here? Both are aimed at expanding the audience for their respective consoles. Both will be used to attract more mainstream gamers. Seems like competition to me, but I’m not some highly paid analyst, so what do I know?

Sony Motion Controller

What do you think of Pachter’s price estimates for these motion-control add-ons? Do you agree with him that they’re not competing products?

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Analyst Says GameStop Safe From Digital Distribution Until 2017

GameStop logo

Everyone knows that digital distribution is the future of gaming, but nobody can agree on when it will hit. Specialty retailer GameStop and its shareholders would like to know, since digital distribution would make things difficult for the company. The latest guess comes from Broadpoint Amtech analyst Ben Schachter. He told IndustryGamers that the bell will toll in 2017:

There is little doubt that over time more and more media content will be delivered digitally to the home. However, the question of the timing of this trend is critically important as it relates to GME’s stock. In our view, it is unlikely that digital downloads will have any meaningful impact to GME’s business this console cycle (which we think will run through at least 2014). Technologically, full game downloads to a console are feasible already (and there is already a small library of full-games available on Xbox Live), but limited hard drive space (we estimate approximately 70% of current-generation consoles have no hard drives) and bandwidth limitations (full games can be 20GB+) create significant barriers.

These barriers will obviously change over time, but the timing of the replacement cycle is key. Even if one assumes that by 2014 all new consoles have capabilities that eliminate storage and bandwidth concerns (which we believe is unlikely), it will still take several more years before these consoles have significant household penetration.

Hard drive space is a small issues. Storage gets cheaper and cheaper all the time and I have no doubt that the next generation of consoles will have significantly larger HDDs than this generation. I found it curious that Schachter bothered to point out that 70 percent of current-gen systems to not have hard drives. That’s a bit misleading; the Wii is obviously the best-selling system this generation, but its customers are less likely to download full retail games in the future than PS3 or Xbox 360 owners. Hell, a lot of Wii owners can’t be bothered to buy more than one game. I don’t really see a point in him bringing it up.

Continue reading “Analyst Says GameStop Safe From Digital Distribution Until 2017”

250GB PlayStation 3 Slim Official — Landing 11/3 for $349.99

Sony has officially announced details on the 250GB PS3 Slim that everyone knew was coming. Here are some tidbits from the press release:

Following the successful launch of the slimmer and lighter PlayStation 3 system with 120GB hard disk drive (HDD), Sony Computer Entertainment America today announced that a new PS3 system with a 250GB HDD will be available on November 3 for $349.99 (MSRP).

The 250GB PS3 system offers the same form factor and functionality as the current 120GB system, which achieved retail sales of 1 million units worldwide in the three weeks since its launch on September 1. Both models will be available at retail this holiday, providing both gamers and gift-givers with the opportunity to choose the PS3 system that’s right for them.

While it’s not as exciting as the GameCom 2009 announcement of the PS3 Slim and price cut, the 250GB model is pretty important. In addition to giving consumers (that don’t know how to replace a hard drive themselves — duh!) more choice, it allows Sony some wiggle room in the future. With two models, price cuts can be manipulated in a clever way. Besides, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has multiple models, so Sony can use two models to compete for different customers (the differences will be more pronounced as future price cuts occur).

PS3 Slim 3

What do you think of the 250GB PS3 Slim’s price? Any of you plan on picking one up in November?

Microsoft Expects to be Outsold by Sony, Brushes it Off

With the recent price cut to the PlayStation 3, Microsoft expects that it will be behind Sony when the September 2009 NPD console sales figures are released later today. Ultimately, Microsoft feels that it doesn’t matter. Company director of project management Aaron Greenberg told Game Informer:

I can tell you to that when NPD releases September sales later today, we fully expect PlayStation 3 will come in as the console with the most units sold for the month. This is frankly not a real surprise to us or the analysts that follow this industry, as it is typical to see a short term bump following the introduction of new hardware and pricing into the marketplace. What I can tell you is we remain confident that Xbox 360 will not only outsell PS3 for the full calendar year, but for this entire generation. It is similar to a game of baseball, it is not about just winning one inning, but instead being able to win the game by consistently delivering across all nine innings.

While I doubt that Sony can sell enough PS3s to overtake Microsoft for the year, it has a strong chance at outselling its rival for the remainder of 2009, which includes the lucrative holiday-shopping season. Considering the recent economy and the immediate financial future, this console generation will probably be longer than either company expected. This bodes well for Sony; the more time it has to catch up, the better.

Console Wars!!!
Console Wars!!!

What do you think of Aaron’s comments? Do you think the PS3 will outsell the Xbox 360 for the rest of the year? What do you think Sony’s chances are of catching up to Microsoft this generation?

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Pokepark Officially Announced for Nintendo Wii

Pokepark Wii

Japanese retailers have been blogging about the upcoming Pokepark for Wii, but Nintendo Japan has been mum on the game…until now. Andriasang reported:

In Pokepark Wii, you take control of Pikachu and work through mini games with other Pokemon. After making friends with Pokemon through tag, battle, and quiz mini-games, you can cooperate with your new friends in more advanced events.

If you’ve been reading my stuff then you know that I’m a giant Pokemon nerd. While the game doesn’t sound as if it will offer the rich experience of the Pokemon role-playing games, I’m still psyched for it. Plus, it kind of mimics my real life in that you make friends “through tag, battle, and quiz mini-games”.

Anyone else down for some more Pokemon action on Wii?

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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)!

New FFXIII Character Revealed: Oerba Yun Fang

New information has been revealed on the unnamed character shown in the Final Fantasy XIII TGS 2009 trailer — ladies and gentlemen, I give you Oerba Yun Fang! Kotaku pieced together some information off of this Famitsu scan posted by FinalFantasy-XIII.net. The site’s Brian Ashcraft deduced:

Her name is Oerba Yun Fang — she’s a mysterious L’Cie lady with a nifty tattoo. Her summon is “The Dragon King”, Bahamut.

FFXIII Oerba screen

A few questions for you:

– What do you think of the Australian voices being used in FFXIII? One of my friends finds them disturbing and weird. Personally, I find it hot in that Olivia Newton John way.

– Any guesses as to what Bahamut’s gestalt mode will be? The whole concept of gestalt mode is bugging me and I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned into a toilet bowl or something.

– What do you think of Oerba Yun Fang?

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German Advocacy Group to Hold Protest Against Violent Games

Killer Games

A German group called Aktionsbündnis Amoklauf Winnenden is holding a protest against violent games on October 17. The country has had its issues with violent videogames over the last few years and things appear to be escalating. According to Game Politics:

A German advocacy group has organized an event designed to get participants to bring their “killer games” to in order to dispose of them in a trash can.

Aktionsbündnis Amoklauf Winnenden, or Action Alliance (loosely translated), has setup the event for this Saturday, October 17 in front of the Stuttgart State Opera. One game tosser will win a signed jersey from the German national soccer team. No word on what will be done with the “donated” games, but presumably they will be smashed or discarded in some way.

I hate these kinds of protests. They’re stupid. Is the group holding a similar event so that people can trash their violent DVDs en masse? I thought it was lame when people protested The Beatles and The Dixie Chicks with mass album burnings or silly gatherings to destroy CDs. On a side note, I think it’s funny that the above quote says “game tosser”. That sounds like a phrase British gamers would use over Xbox Live.

What do you think of this protest?

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PSA: Amazon Having a Buy 2 Get 1 Free Sale

Amazon logo

Ignition Entertainment’s Shane Bettenhausen reminded me that Amazon.com is having a buy 2 get 1 free sale (just like Toys ‘R Us). Of course he also reminded me that his game, Muramasa, is included in the deal. Ha!

If you’re like me, then you greatly prefer shopping through Amazon than a retail store. Are you guys picking anything during Amazon’s sale? Or do you prefer going to Toys ‘R Us?

Xbox Live Preview Program: Zune, Facebook, and Twitter

Xbox Live logo

Microsoft has announced a preview program revolving around the Zune, Facebook, and Twitter functionality of Xbox 360. Here are the official bullet points:

  • We’re looking for multiple thousands of participants, so your chances of making it in are good
  • This opportunity is open to all Xbox LIVE Members in regions where Xbox LIVE is available
  • Just completing the survey does not automatically get you access to the Preview Program. We’ll be making final selections from the completed surveys and send you an email if you are selected.
  • While both Xbox LIVE Gold and Silver members can sign up, Priority will be given to Gold members in the selection process.

Click here for the signup page.

Anyone giving this a try? What are expectations for Zune, Facebook, and Twitter on Xbox 360?