November 28, 2006

Nintendo Wii Sells Out

Nintendo announced it has sold 600,000 Wiis in the first 8 days from its launch. Gamestop has said the software tie ratio has been 3 to 1 which is double the Playstation 3 (as most people are just flipping them for a quick profit on eBay). Zelda: Twilight Princess has a 75% attach rate to each Wii console.

Keyboard and Mouse Adapter for Xbox 360 in the Works

A keyboard and mouse adapter is in the works for the Xbox 360. This will be murder for online multiplayer. Link [Thx Arogan]

November 19, 2006

Review: Elite Beat Agents for Nintendo DS by Masem

The surprise success of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! as an import title for the Nintendo DS spurred into motion into getting a regional release of the game for the States as well as other regions around the world; unfortunately, the title, produced by iNiS (who have also produced Gitaroo Man), is rather solidly tied to Japan due to the music and story presented; even a translation would have been difficult to accomplish. Instead, they have decided to reversion Ouendan into "Elite Beat Agents", which provides new songs and new stories and visuals, while still keeping the same great gameplay and overall approach to the game.

Story: B+
Similar to Ouendan, the story is based on a group of elite government agents, called the Elite Beat Agents, which are sent out to assist people when they call for help by dancing to music and improving their motivation. The stories are more Americanized, such as a babysitter trying to score with her boyfriend while tending to kids, or a movie director trying to make the next great blockbuster, but there's still a hint of the Japanese background in the visuals (retaining the same stylings as they had back in Ouendan). Do well, and your story's protagonist will succeed, while poor performance will lead to failure. While the stories have their unique aspects, they're just a tad less quirky and witty than those from Ouendan, even though I now understand everything going on (nothing as funny as the old potter's story), but they're certainly not bad little tales.

Gameplay: A
The basic game of Elite Beat Agents is unchanged from Ouendan. As the music plays, spots will appear that require you to tap them with the stylus in order and in time with the music, You're scored on how synchronized you are with the music, which improved both your score (even more so with long combos) and keeps your beat meter high and running. Miss a beat, and you'll break your streak as well as take a hit on your beat meter, and if it drops low enough, you'll fail and have to restart the song. Besides the beats, there's tracks that you have to drag with your stylus in time to a marker and the music, as well as the spinning disk that requires a good number of spins to get the beat right. Each song has between 2 and 4 sections; after a section, you're given an intermission scene which will depend on how well you're done so far; if your beat meter is high enough, it's a good outcome. Once you've completed the song successfully and a final scene, you're given your stats and ranking for the song; you can now also save your performance (one save for any single song over all difficulty levels) to be used as 'ghost' data for yourself or that you can transfers to others. I did note that at least two of the stories have multiple endings depending on how well you were at the end of the song, which I do not believe was in Ouendan. A definite new feature is that when you fail, you have the option to replay the last section to see where you failed so that you know where to work at the next time.

While you play, you'll have the Elite Beat Agents dancing in time to the rhythm on the bottom screen, while the characters in the story working at a pace set by how well you're doing in the game. As with Ouendan, neither of these are distractions, but there's times I wish I could see what was actually happening there. Fortunately, the new replay feature does allow you to review the action at a later time.

Value/Replayability: A-
The game has 15 songs and 3 bonus songs across 4 difficulty levels. As with Ouendan, you have to work through 1 to 3 songs to unlock the next set, with one ultimate level actually having two songs to work through to complete. The bonus songs become unlocked once you have achieved enough total cumulative points from all successfully completed songs at any level. The first two difficulty levels are available from the start; the third and the fourth require you to complete all the non-bonus songs of the previous difficulty to unlock them; generally with higher difficulty, the song requires more hits and odd patterns than compared to easier difficulty levels, and also has a beat meter that drains faster compared. Compared to Ouendan, I would say that the difficulty is shifted about 1/2 level up in Elite Beat Agents; that is, the late songs in the 2nd difficulty level for EBA were as tough as the first handful of songs at the 3rd difficulty level of Ouendan, and the late 3rd level songs to be as incredibly hard as with the 4th level in Ouendan. This helps to make the game feel longer than Ouendan as you'll likely be replaying some songs a bit earlier. While still relatively short to go through all the songs once (less than 2 hours at the second difficulty level, for example), the game keeps your best scores and records and allows you to continue to work to improve them as to unlock all the bonus songs.

EBA features wireless play as well. Two players can co-op on songs (as long as both have the game), trading off tracks much like Guitar Hero co-op with a common beat meter. Alternatively, you can do a verses mode with 2 or 4 people (playing 2-on-2) with special stages set for 2 team action. In this mode, only one player needs to have the game, and others can download the information needed to play.

Audio: A-
The songs vary from some older rock ballads ("YMCA", "September", "Jumpin' Jack Flash") to pop songs of the last few decades ("Material Girl", "Sk8ter Boi"), and while most are suited for the game, "Canned Heat" by Jamaroquai (aka that song from Napoleon Dynamite) and "Lets Dance" from David Bowie really stand out as capturing the unique j-pop stylings that Ouendan had and fit the playstyle well. Technically, these songs all are covers, but the limited speaker quality of the DS makes these songs sound as good as if they're off FM radio. While some of the newer songs aren't as familiar to me, I think the selection works here, though if they were to make a sequel, I'd definitely stick to Jamaroquai/Bowie type stylings as they really were good selections and some of the harder songs to complete. The only other nit in songs is that some of them seemed shorter than the j-pop tunes in Oeundan; just a few measures of note tapping then I was back at an intermission. However, these were generally only for the easier songs, and so it may just be the lack of difficulty clouding my perception.

Graphics: A
Graphically, the game looks just as good as Ouendan - the same artists are used for the characters and animation, and the story is told in the same comic book style. There's also a few Ouendan characters that show up here if you watch carefully.

Overall: A-
If you've had the chance to play Ouendan, you'll know exactly what to expect out of Elite Beat Agents - the gameplay is unchanged, and while the songs may not be exactly to your liking, it's a great title. If you haven't had the chance to experience Ouendan but like music games, you'll definitely want to grab this now that it's stateside - it's a great portable music game that presents a good challenge. [Discuss]

Review: Guitar Hero II for PS2 by Masem

There's very little to say about Guitar Hero 2, produced and distributed by Harmonix and Red Octane, beyond that it a truly outstanding sequel, exceeding the original title by having a better selection of guitar-ripping tracks, tightening up gameplay in favor of the player, and adding more multiplayer modes.

Gameplay: A+
The game plays, for the most part, exactly as it's predecessor. You're the lead guitar in a band trying to earn money and better gigs. For each song, notes come at you along a guitar fret, including held notes and chords, and using the special guitar controller (which you can buy with this game, or you can get the game without the controller if you already have it) with 5 fret buttons, a strum bar, and a whammie bar, you attempt to keep pace with the music. You also can use hammer-ups and pull-offs to hit fast sequences of notes which is a key tactic needed to beat the higher difficulty levels Keep a good job, and the audience cheers and hollers as you rock out, while they'll boo you off the stage if you make too many mistakes. Selected phrases will be marked with stars as to build up your Star meter; once filled, tilting the controller up will activate the Star power and double your score for a short time.

The game has improved to help the player more. For one, the hammer-downs and pull-offs are a bit looser and easier to pull off, which makes them more usable in actual gameplay in order to hit fast rifts. You can now practice any song you've unlocked at 4 different speeds to help with fingering and finding where the hammer-downs and pull-offs should be used. You can also practice, if they exist for the song, the bass and rhythm lines, either to get used to them for the music, or to be ready for co-op play - unfortunately, you can't go through career mode playing these parts. These are all necessary as the difficulty of the game seems to be a bit tougher; I found Medium to be a very tough challenge - not that I had to repeat any of the songs, but my left hand was aching after even a few songs near the end with the amount of fingering needed for these songs. Many of the medium songs had a lot of fast fingering, with the blue fret key (4th one) used a lot more often than I remember in Medium difficulty songs from the first Guitar Hero. A few shots at the Hard songs were laughably failures, though I'm sure I'm out of practice for these. Despite it being more difficult, I found it to also be a lot more fun, in particular due to the familiarity of the tunes and excitement of the guitar riffs. Even though some riffs are simplified for the Medium level, there's still a sense of accomplishment being able to pull off some of the most well known guitar solos yourself.

The playsets is much better this time around; the bulk of the songs contain really strong guitar parts with at least one significant solo section, with a much heavier emphasis on classic hard rock bands. The most significant song this time around is the full length version of "Free Bird", a perennial rock anthem and the last song in the normal game. and fully treated with the respect within the game; the last song you play prior to it will leave the audience chanting for "Free Bird", and the game makes sure that you really want to play it as, at more than 10 minutes long, it's a rather long haul. Add in some Rush, Motley Crue, Guns N' Roses, Nirvana, Megadeth, and Van Halen, and the setlist contains some of the best guitar-thrashing songs in existence. There's even some tracks specifically made for Guitar Hero 2 riding on the success of the first, such as the near-impossible "Jordan" by Buckethead, and a handful of fun tracks, including Spinal Tap and "Trogdor" from the Strongbad Emails. With a lot more classic tracks, it makes it easier to anticipate the guitar riffs that you need to make to succeed, and in generally, the tracks I hadn't heard of were the hardest to make it through.

Value/Replayability: A
There's 40 songs in the main playlist across 8 different venues, set up similar to Amplitude; you need to complete 3 of 4 songs in the set, and the play the encore in order to unlock the next set. There's also 4 difficulty levels to try to complete, with much tougher riffs to hit with increasing difficulty. Depending on how well you play, you'll earn money that you can spend to unlock new characters, guitars, videos, and 24 additional songs. There's also a lot more stats to look at after a song, including a section-by-section breakdown so that you can practice only the tougher sections as to improve your scores. Playing once through the Medium difficulty took me about 3-4 hours, but even trying my hand at some Hard songs, I figure I'd need 10s of hours just to be able to complete that difficulty, much less the Expert one. Of course, you'll also want to go back and aim for 5 star ratings on each song to unlock special guitars, and that's just a matter of continuing to train yourself.

Multiplayer (on the same console, sadly) has been expanded to include two new modes beyond the original 'dueling' face-off format. There's the Pro face-off, where instead of sharing some of the notes at a time, you play the song at the same difficulty at the same time, making it harder to hear where your part is compared to your opponent's. Alternatively, you and a friend can co-op on a song, with one playing the lead guitar, the other playing either the bass or rhythm line, in order to make sweet music together, though the overall performance and star power meters are shared by both players.

Graphics: A
As you play, the lights, stage, and crowd will respond to the music as well as to your performance, with a bit more additions than from the first game. The stage venues are a bit more fleshed out with a lot of active stage elements to try to keep track of if you're an observer. There's nice little details, like the crowd with lighters during the first half of "Freebird", or the exploding drummer at the end of the Spinal Tap song. Some of the loading screens for specific songs are also cute little references to the original material you're about to play. Unfortunately, as the player, you're likely too engrossed in the actual play sequence to see most of this, but this was also the same problem with the first game as well. The graphics seem a bit tighter and a tad less cartoony from the first game, for the most part, but otherwise there's little change in the general appearence and artwork.

Audio: A
The audio, needless to say, is excellent. While these songs are covers (all are presented "as made famous by" their original band), there's little problem with either the instrumental parts or the vocals. The environmental sounds for the crowd and other effects are also nicely done, and give you subtle hints to how well you're doing without having to take away from the fret bar.

Overall: A
There's little to say wrong about Guitar Hero 2 - like it's predecessor, it's an outstanding music game with little wrong, and even better this time around due to a rather impressing playlist set and improved support for learning the tracks before playing it. For a game that has almost no fundamental changes to the gameplay, Guitar Hero 2 is a sequel that may even exceed the popularity of the first, and shows that the series has legs for the anticipated follow-ups into genre-specific releases. It's doubtful that if you've gotten the first Guitar Hero that you already don't have that, but if you've yet to experience. [Discuss]

Brands You Trust

I was thinking how I have come to trust different brands for specific product categories. The following are mine that I've bought more than one of their products from over the years in their respective categories and will probably do so again in the future.

Computer cases - Antec
Headphone - Sennheiser
PVR Card - Hauppauge
Cellphone Service (not great service, but good value for data plans) - Sprint
Handheld gaming - Nintendo
Hard-drives - Seagate
Sneakers - New Balance
Shoes - Rockport
MP3 Player - Apple
Mouse - Microsoft
Pants - Dockers
Soda - Canda Dry Gingerale
Floss - J&J Easy Slide
Toothbrush - GUM
Toothpaste - Colgate
Deodorant, Aftershave - Gillette
Hair Gel - Biolage
Smartphone - Treo

Please share your favorite brands in their categories on our discussion thread.

Company of Heroes $20

I bought this game. It's the best RTS ever. Best Buy has the CD version and DVD version for $20 right now. What are you waiting for? I am totally confused on why this great game which was just released a few months ago is selling for $20 already.

14 Children Book Classics for $22 Shipped

If you have young kids that love "story time", this is a great deal. I just ordered it myself. You get 14 children books (10 hardcover classics) for $22 shipped. Use priority code 125553 (125554 in CT). Source

The last time they did this, people received:

  • Curious George at the Parade
  • The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Friends
  • Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears (a West African Tale)
  • Seven Simeons (A Russian Tale)
  • Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
  • The Best Christmas PResent Ever!
  • Richard Scarry's Bedtime Stories
  • Babar and His Children
  • Elmer and the Lost Teddy
  • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
  • 4 Animals Are Fun books (frogs, dolphins, kangaroos, koalas) - replaced with Corteous Kids books this time.

November 18, 2006

What will the Gaming Professionals Buy?

Gamasutra asks the developers themselves on which next-gen console they will buy.

Already got my Wii, through the company we got it on the launch date. And I'm not planning on buying a PS3. I worked on two Wii titles (and helped a lot of other projects), PS3 is too expensive and I love the Wiimote! - Joel Tremblay, Ubi Soft

Definitely a Wii (already pwii-ordered). The price point of the PS3 and the lack of enticing launch titles makes me as interested in a PS3 as I am interested in getting a root canal. - Ryan Conlon, Gearbox Software

Wii - pre-ordered. I applaud the attempt to expand and explore game interaction with the Wii. I will not be purchasing a ps3. - Jim Perkins, EA Canada

Neither, I'm happy with my 360. The supposed benefit of a Blu-Ray player in the PS3 isn't enough to make me break the bank to buy it. And despite the weak graphics and lack of HD support, I was tempted to buy the Wii. But then Nintendo packed in a game I didn't want and vied to charge me fifty bucks for it. I've already bought the 360, and there's more games for it than I have time to play, so getting another system would just be gluttonous. - Dale Mulcahy, Activision

New Mass Effect Gameplay Trailer

Top 20 Best Selling PC Games of October

1. The Sims 2 Pets- Electronic Arts
2. World Of Warcraft - Blizzard
3. Battlefield 2142 - Electronic Arts
4. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn Of War Dark Crusade - THQ
5. Flight Simulator X Deluxe - Microsoft
6. The Sims Glamor Life Stuff - Electronic Arts
7. Company of Heroes - THQ
8. Paws & Claws Pet Vet - Valusoft
9. The Sims 2 - Electronic Arts
10. Flight Simulator X - Microsoft
11. Guild Wars Nightfall - NCSoft
12. Seaworld Adventure Parks Tycoon 2 - Activision
13. Desperate Housewives - Buena Vista Games
14. Civilization IV - 2K Games
15. Age Of Empires III: The WarChiefs - Microsoft
16. Guild Wars Nightfall: Collectors Edition - NCSoft
17. Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy - LucasArts
18. Age Of Empires III - Microsoft
19. Sim City 4: Deluxe - Electronic Arts
20. The Sims 2 Nightlife - Electronic Arts

The Sims continues to dominate the charts after all these years. I can't believe people still buy Microsoft Simulator.

Yahoo Executive Strategy Internal Memo

The following was written by Brad Garlinghouse, a senior VP at Yahoo. He basically says they are spread out too thinly like peanut butter. He also says the company needs to fire 15-20% of their employee to eliminate redundancies. He's sure going to be a popular guy around the office. Just in case Yahoo employees get upset, this memo was found on Yahoo Finance on their ticker page. The irony is hilarious.

Three and half years ago, I enthusiastically joined Yahoo! The magnitude of the opportunity was only matched by the magnitude of the assets. And an amazing team has been responsible for rebuilding Yahoo!

It has been a profound experience. I am fortunate to have been a part of dramatic change for the Company. And our successes speak for themselves. More users than ever, more engaging than ever and more profitable than ever!

I proudly bleed purple and, yellow everyday! And like so many people here, I love this company

But all is not well. Last Thursday's NY Times article was a blessing in the disguise of a painful public flogging. While it lacked accurate details, its conclusions rang true, and thus was a much needed wake up call. But also a call to action. A clear statement with which I, and far too many Yahoo's, agreed. And thankfully a reminder. A reminder that the measure of any person is not in how many times he or she falls down - but rather the spirit and resolve used to get back up. The same is now true of our Company.

It's time for us to get back up.

I believe we must embrace our problems and challenges and that we must take decisive action. We have the opportunity - in fact the invitation - to send a strong, clear and powerful message to our shareholders and Wall Street, to our advertisers and our partners, to our employees (both current and future), and to our users. They are all begging for a signal that we recognize and understand our problems, and that we are charting a course for fundamental change, Our current course and speed simply will not get us there. Short-term band-aids will not get us there.

It's time for us to get back up and seize this invitation.

I imagine there's much discussion amongst the Company's senior most leadership around the challenges we face. At the risk of being redundant, I wanted to share my take on our current situation and offer a recommended path forward, an attempt to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. [Read More]

Recognizing Our Problems

We lack a focused, cohesive vision for our company. We want to do everything and be everything -- to everyone. We've known this for years, talk about it incessantly, but do nothing to fundamentally address it. We are scared to be left out. We are reactive instead of charting an unwavering course. We are separated into silos that far too frequently don't talk to each other. And when we do talk, it isn't to collaborate on a clearly focused strategy, but rather to argue and fight about ownership, strategies and tactics.

Our inclination and proclivity to repeatedly hire leaders from outside the company results in disparate visions of what winning looks like -- rather than a leadership team rallying around a single cohesive strategy.

I've heard our strategy described as spreading peanut butter across the myriad opportunities that continue to evolve in the online world. The result: a thin layer of investment spread across everything we do and thus we focus on nothing in particular.

I hate peanut butter. We all should.

We lack clarity of ownership and accountability. The most painful manifestation of this is the massive redundancy that exists throughout the organization. We now operate in an organizational structure -- admittedly created with the best of intentions -- that has become overly bureaucratic. For far too many employees, there is another person with dramatically similar and overlapping responsibilities. This slows us down and burdens the company with unnecessary costs.

Equally problematic, at what point in the organization does someone really OWN the success of their product or service or feature? Product, marketing, engineering, corporate strategy, financial operations... there are so many people in charge (or believe that they are in charge) that it's not clear if anyone is in charge. This forces decisions to be pushed up - rather than down. It forces decisions by committee or consensus and discourages the innovators from breaking the mold... thinking outside the box.

There's a reason why a centerfielder and a left fielder have clear areas of ownership. Pursuing die same ball repeatedly results in either collisions or dropped balls. Knowing that someone else is pursuing the ball and hoping to avoid that collision - we have become timid in our pursuit. Again, the ball drops.

We lack decisiveness. Combine a lack of focus with unclear ownership, and the result is that decisions are either not made or are made when it is already too late. Without a clear and focused vision, and without complete clarity of ownership, we lack a macro perspective to guide our decisions and visibility into who should make those decisions. We are repeatedly stymied by challenging and hairy decisions. We are held hostage by our analysis paralysis.

We end up with competing (or redundant) initiatives and synergistic opportunities living in the different silos of our company.

-YME vs. Musicmatch

-Flickr vs. Photos

-YMG video vs. Search video vs. myweb

-Messenger and plug-ins vs. Sidebar and widgets

-Social media vs. 360 and Groups

-Front page vs. YMG

- Global strategy from BU'vs. Global strategy from Int'l

We have lost our passion to win. Far too many employees are "phoning" it in, lacking the passion and commitment to be a part of the solution. We sit idly by while -- at all levels -- employees are enabled to "hang around". Where is the accountability? Moreover, our compensation systems don't align to our overall success. Weak performers that have been around for years are rewarded. And many of our top performers aren't adequately recognized for their efforts.

As a result, the employees that we really need to stay (leaders, risk-takers, innovators, passionate) become discouraged and leave. Unfortunately many who opt to stay are not the ones who will lead us through the dramatic change that is needed.

Solving our Problems

We have awesome assets. Nearly every media and communications company is painfully jealous of our position. We have the largest audience, they are highly engaged and our brand is synonymous with the Internet.

If we get back up, embrace dramatic change, we will win.

I don't pretend there is only one path forward available to us. However, at a minimum, I want to be pad of the solution and thus have outlined a plan here that I believe can work. It is my strong belief that we need to act very quickly or risk going further down a slippery slope, The plan here is not perfect; it is, however, FAR better than no action at all.

There are three pillars to my plan:

1. Focus the vision.

2. Restore accountability and clarity of ownership.

3. Execute a radical reorganization.

1. Focus the vision

a) We need to boldly and definitively declare what we are and what we are not.

b) We need to exit (sell?) non core businesses and eliminate duplicative projects and businesses.

My belief is that the smoothly spread peanut butter needs to turn into a deliberately sculpted strategy -- that is narrowly focused.

We can't simply ask each BU to figure out what they should stop doing. The result will continue to be a non-cohesive strategy. The direction needs to come decisively from the top. We need to place our bets and not second guess. If we believe Media will maximize our ROI -- then let's not be bashful about reducing our investment in other areas. We need to make the tough decisions, articulate them and stick with them -- acknowledging that some people (users / partners / employees) will not like it. Change is hard.

2. Restore accountability and clarity of ownership

a) Existing business owners must be held accountable for where we find ourselves today -- heads must roll,

b) We must thoughtfully create senior roles that have holistic accountability for a particular line of business (a variant of a GM structure that will work with Yahoo!'s new focus)

c) We must redesign our performance and incentive systems.

I believe there are too many BU leaders who have gotten away with unacceptable results and worse -- unacceptable leadership. Too often they (we!) are the worst offenders of the problems outlined here. We must signal to both the employees and to our shareholders that we will hold these leaders (ourselves) accountable and implement change.

By building around a strong and unequivocal GM structure, we will not only empower those leaders, we will eliminate significant overhead throughout our multi-headed matrix. It must be very clear to everyone in the organization who is empowered to make a decision and ownership must be transparent. With that empowerment comes increased accountability -- leaders make decisions, the rest of the company supports those decisions, and the leaders ultimately live/die by the results of those decisions.

My view is that far too often our compensation and rewards are just spreading more peanut butter. We need to be much more aggressive about performance based compensation. This will only help accelerate our ability to weed out our lowest performers and better reward our hungry, motivated and productive employees.

3. Execute a radical reorganization

a) The current business unit structure must go away.

b) We must dramatically decentralize and eliminate as much of the matrix as possible.

c) We must reduce our headcount by 15-20%.

I emphatically believe we simply must eliminate the redundancies we have created and the first step in doing this is by restructuring our organization. We can be more efficient with fewer people and we can get more done, more quickly. We need to return more decision making to a new set of business units and their leadership. But we can't achieve this with baby step changes, We need to fundamentally rethink how we organize to win.

Independent of specific proposals of what this reorganization should look like, two key principles must be represented:

Blow up the matrix. Empower a new generation and model of General Managers to be true general managers. Product, marketing, user experience & design, engineering, business development & operations all report into a small number of focused General Managers. Leave no doubt as to where accountability lies.

Kill the redundancies. Align a set of new BU's so that they are not competing against each other. Search focuses on search. Social media aligns with community and communications. No competing owners for Video, Photos, etc. And Front Page becomes Switzerland. This will be a delicate exercise -- decentralization can create inefficiencies, but I believe we can find the right balance.

I love Yahoo! I'm proud to admit that I bleed purple and yellow. I'm proud to admit that I shaved a Y in the back of my head.

My motivation for this memo is the adamant belief that, as before, we have a tremendous opportunity ahead. I don't pretend that I have the only available answers, but we need to get the discussion going; change is needed and it is needed soon. We can be a stronger and faster company - a company with a clearer vision and clearer ownership and clearer accountability.

We may have fallen down, but the race is a marathon and not a sprint. I don't pretend that this will be easy. It will take courage, conviction, insight and tremendous commitment. I very much look forward to the challenge.

So let's get back up. Catch the balls. And stop eating peanut butter. [Discuss]

November 17, 2006

Playstation 3 Going for $2500 on eBay

What more can I say. People are willing to pay a $1900 premium to the $600 to have the Playstation 3 today. Never mind there really isn't a game worth playing the console.

November 15, 2006

Apple iPhone 12 Million Units in 2007

According to press reports, Apple has ordered 12 million iPhones from Hon Hai, a contract electronic manufacturer in Taiwan. The iPod phone is slated to come out in the first half of 2007. An analyst expects it to go for $300 per unit and add $1.5 billion in revenue to Apple. There is conjecture that it will allow more than the 100 songs that crippled the Motorola Rokr iTunes integration last year. - Source

Apple Video iPod Deal with Airlines

Apple has announced a deal with Continental, Delta, and United Airlines to let iPod users connect their video iPods to the seat-back displays. This lets you watch the movies on your iPod on the screen in front of you when you are flying. Good stuff. - Source

Nintendo Wii Review

PC Magazine raves over the Nintendo Wii. The summary is although graphics are weak, the gameplay of the Wii controller rules. At least you will be able to buy a Wii it seems vs. the Playstation 3, which is going to be in shortage.

Fans of in-depth, pixel-popping twitch games will be disappointed, as will big-screen HDTV owners. But for everyone else—from kids to casual gamers to families—the Wii will deliver twice as much fun for half the price of the others." - Source

Analyst Says only 150,000 to 200,000 PS3 Units at Launch

The analyst at Lazard said that he expects only 150,000 to 200,000 PS3 units at launch according to his retail channel checks. Sony previously had promised 400,000 units at launch and 1 to 1.2 million units by the end of 2006. Even Electronic Arts has been skeptical and said they expect only 500,000 to 800,000 by the end of the year. The Lazard analyst expects Nintendo to sell 1.2 million units by year end. - Source

November 14, 2006

Sony Cutting U.S. PS3 Launch Numbers

Gamestop was expecting to sell 8 PS3s per store and even took in $100 pre-order down payments. Gamestop however told Gamespot that Sony will not be able to fulfill pre-existing pre-orders. To appease upset customers, Gamestop will give them a free used game or DVD that is $19.99 or lower.

"We are beginning to notify our customers that our initial shipment of PS3 systems will not be what we expected," the representative said. "As this is not an ideal situation, we are asking employees to wait to purchase systems until the second shipment. We are anticipating having systems to cover reservations before Christmas."

November 13, 2006

Japanese Playstation 3 Launch

Due to a production problems of the blue lazer diode, Sony had to scale back its launch of the Playstation 3 to only 100,000 units. Media reports that Sony sold 88,400 units in the first two days with Ridge Racer and Mobile Suit Gundam being the biggest software winners at 30,000 each. Auction sites are reportedly seeing PS3s go for 4 times the launch price. If I was a software developer, I would be very upset at these meager launch volumes. Software guys need at least 1 million units to be considered a success and at these hardware launch numbers, that simple isn't going to happen.

Cingular Announces Samsung Blackjack

Cingular announced the Samsung Blackjack smartphone. With the advent of the Motorola Q pushed hard by Verizon, Cingular launches their offering. It has Quad-band GSM, EDGE broadband access, Windows Mobile 5.0, microSD flash memory slot, and is only 12mm thick. It will be sold for $199 after rebate.

November 04, 2006

Crysis and Army of Two Pushed Out

During the EA's latest financial conference call, the company announced that both Crysis and Army of Two would come out in their 2008 fiscal year. This means we won't see either until after April 1st, 2007 to March 31st, 2008. This news may be a good thing as many of us don't have DX10 graphics cards, which Crysis is supposedly the killer app for.

November 01, 2006

Best Wireless Router

I bought a 802.11b wireless router last year from Linksys for about $5 after rebate. I know I shouldn't be expecting too much at that price, but now it is crashing 3-4 times a day. This requires me re-booting the router each time by taking out the power cable. Normally it wouldn't be that bad, other than the fact we use Vonage as our phone service. So every time it crashes, our phone goes down.

So yesterday I went out to Staples and bought a Netgear WPN824 v2 Rangemax Wireless Router for $80 with free 512mb USB flash key. I'm pretty happy with it thus far. No crashes yet, the range for wireless connections seems improved. Moreover for whatever reason the wired internet connection on my desktop seems 2-3Xs faster. My only conclusion is the firmware and circuit board on the Linksys was dying causing the problems. You can read and discuss more about routers on our discussion thread.