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by Ethos

Sunday Soapbox: Dear PlayStation Phone, You Make No Sense

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Well, in classic Riddlethos form once again, we’ve written/done/played absolutely nothing that coincides with the theme week. I even said I was going to bite the bullet and play some Fable this week, but I didn’t! You can always count on us to never follow through on anything, ever. We’re consistent like that.

But, while I may not have anything to say about Fable, I’m here to bring you the Sunday Soapbox in spite of this. Today, boys and girls, we’re going to be discussing the recently-leaked PlayStation Phone, and how it will fit into the portable gaming market, as well as the overcrowded Smartphone market of today. As you can gather by the title of this article, my view on it is just a tad cynical.

The PlayStation Phone is a smartphone made by Sony’s struggling Sony Ericsson branch. It’s design is similar to the PSPGo, with a sliding top screen revealing a set of PlayStation-branded buttons and a D-pad. Instead of an analog nub there’s a touch-sensitive track pad. It’s rumored to be about as powerful as the PSP, and while it still hasn’t been officially confirmed, it’s practically a given –  original proprietors of the leak, Endgadget, swear by it – and they’ve got quite the track record when it comes to stuff like this. Among other things, they were the first to leak information on the iPad and the Nexus One .

The leak comes at a time when there’s actually quite a bit of buzz taking place in the portable gaming sector. For one, the Nintendo 3DS has been getting quite a bit of attention lately, with its glasses-less 3D technology and impressive lineup of titles set for launch. Given the hype surrounding it, and given that it actually looks like a solid, interesting device, I’m willing to bet that the 3DS will only fuel the fire behind Nintendo’s lifelong dominance of the handheld arena. (Excluding the iPhone, that is.)

That’s not all, though. Apparently Sony is hard at work on a true successor to the PSP, and some lucky people were able to hear about it at a private meeting during the Tokyo Game Show. Known across the internets as the “PSP2,” the device is said to be quite a bit more powerful than the original PSP and the PlayStation Phone; word on the street is that it will pack 1 GB of RAM. To illustrate, that’s twice the amount of RAM in an Xbox 360 console. Further word on the street is that the device will feature an HD display, a touch screen, and dual analog sticks. Oh, and there’s no UMD drive – which, in this case, I am all for.  In all, it sounds like an impressive device – a device poised to compete not only with Nintendo, but with Apple. Y’know, kinda like what the PSPGo was supposed to do.

So, to summarize: we have Nintendo, set to release an exciting new handheld gaming system featuring technology that we’ve never seen utilized in such a way. We have Sony, working hard on a powerful, UMD-less gaming system that could make the impact that the PSPGo didn’t – and then some.

We have Apple. Apple’s iPhone and iPads have more units in the hands of the public than any handheld system. What’s amazing to me is that even the iPad has taken off in such a way – which is a lesson to be learned that size, apparently doesn’t matter if you market your shit correctly. (Sony, perhaps, has picked up on this – the PSP2’s screen is said to be at least an inch larger than that of the original PSP.)

So. In the midst of all this, what possible piece can a PlayStation Phone cut for itself? A bit of a stumper, isn’t it? The handheld gaming space is well-populated right now, and if people need anything, it isn’t necessarily more options.

As a PSP owner, have you ever fondled your PSP gently in your hands and breathed, “if you could only make phone calls.”

No? Yes? If you said “yes,” then you’re probably a gamer, and a fairly devoted one at that. (Otherwise you wouldn’t be on this site.) But while Sony may be able to sell this thing to a select demographic of gamers, they’re gonna have to do more than that if they want the PlayStation Phone to make a serious impact in the portable marketplace.

And here’s part two of why the PlayStation Phone makes no sense: not only will Sony be releasing this thing into an overpopulated handheld gaming market, they’ll be dumping the PlayStation Phone smack dab into an even more overpopulated Smartphone market.

Hell, I don’t even own a SmartPhone, and I’ve spent the last six months or so going back and forth on what to (eventually) buy. People (myself included) were just starting to wrap their head around this whole Android vs. iPhone thing, and then BAM, Windows Phones. (Fuck you, Windows Phones. But god damn, do you look beautiful.)

Word has it that the PlayStation Phone will run the Gingerbread OS (that being Android 3.0) by Google. This, of course, makes one wonder how Sony can effectively brand the device as “PlayStation” if it’s, y’know… running on different software. If I don’t see the Xcross Media Bar when I boot the device up, it won’t feel like a PlayStation device to me. Or anyone, I’d presume. It’s said that the phone will feature a specialized Sony marketplace that will allow you to purchase games and other products from the PlayStation Store. That sort of brand licensing doesn’t seem like something Sony would be privy to doing. But, if the phone is indeed running the Android OS, I don’t see how else they could approach it.

Oh, and I’d be remiss not to mention: Sony Ericsson isn’t exactly the most respected or, uh, profitable branch Sony has right now. They’ve lost most of the share they had in the smartphone market, and one has to wonder why Sony would even want to put their PlayStation brand name on a Sony Ericsson phone.

So. I ask again: what market is this identity-confused phone meant for?

Soon after the leak, Sony’s VP of Marketing was quoted  in an interview with CNN as saying that gamers were unsatisfied with the current software offerings in Apple’s iPhone/iPad library. “These are largely time-killers. Gamers aren’t satisfied with that.”

Okay! So… you want to offer more hardcore on-the-go experiences? Because, y’know, I’d really like to pull out my smartphone and complete a few quests in Dragon Age during my 15 at work. Point being, I don’t think there’s many hardcore gamers in the world screaming out for hardcore experiences on their smartphones.

Care to guess why?

Because hardcore gamers play hardcore games on consoles. And handheld gaming systems. That’s why.

Am I making sense? I feel like I’m making perfect sense here. As a hardcore gamer, my smartphone needs and my hardcore gaming needs are two entirely different things. If Sony makes a phone that can play God of War, I’m not going to give a rat’s ass, because I’d much rather play God of War on my PS3. Or hell, my PSP even.

Maybe I’m judging to harshly, too quickly, or both. Sony still hasn’t “officially” revealed anything. But this much is clear: whatever the PlayStation phone ends up being, whatever tech it packs, and whatever demographic Sony is aiming for, they’ve got a hell of an uphill battle from here.

Lazy Saturdays #05 – Not So Lazy

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Well, for a change, this particular Saturday has been anything but lazy. Why? Because I worked from 7 a.m. till noon. It was all overtime, too, which is very nice. Waking up at 6 a.m.? Not so nice. But, I’ve been doing it for the last two weeks. Last night I passed out at seven fucking p.m. No, I’m not kidding. I was exhausted. Why was I exhausted? Because I can’t adjust to this early morning bullshit, that’s why. I’m a NIGHT person, goddammit.

But, while I might prefer the hours of my previous job, my current job doesn’t make me hate my life on a regular basis. So. I suppose it’s a good tradeoff.

Anyway, um, yeah. It’s still Alan Wake week. I actually haven’t managed to play much more of the game. (Working 47 hours in a week tends to limit one’s playtime.) But, I’m hoping to get some more time in today, and I have tomorrow completely off, so you’ll hear some more about it for sure. And who knows, maybe Ethan will find the time to write more about it than an obligatory paragraph at the end of Scatter Storming.

Well, while I have your attention, can I interest you in some links?

Freakin’ Sweet: original BioShock pitch posted online for the reading pleasure of allnow this is just really fucking cool. If you have any interest in BioShock, and even if you don’t, you should hit the link above. Eight years after Irrational Games pitched the idea of BioShock, the nine-page document has been made available to the public. Instead of explaining to you how cool that is, I suggest you hit the link and see for yourself.

Well, actually, I will explain how cool it is. I’ve never actually seen or read a videogame pitch before, so it was definitely an interesting look into what it takes to get a publisher to back your project. Also, given the ambitious nature of BioShock both as a game and a concept, it’s obviously quite interesting to see how all the many ideas behind the game originated. Some of them remained intact, many of them changed, and some of them actually ended up in BioShock 2, as it were.

Anyway. Seriously. Click the link. It’s the most interesting thing you’ll read this weekend.

Rockstar: If you buy our games for your kids, you’re a “terrible parent”I’m not sure why this strikes me as odd, but… it just does. While speaking to the BBC about the recently-released Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar’s Lazlow Jones had this to say about the violent and/or questionable content that’s become a trademark of Rockstar’s software:

Our games are not designed for young people. If you’re a parent and buy one of our games for your child you’re a terrible parent. We design games for adults because we’re adults. There’s a lot of kids games out there that we’re not interested in playing. Just like you enjoy watching movies and TV shows with adult themes and language and violence that’s the kind of thing we seek to produce.

Well, the dude hits the nail on the head, I can’t deny that. But to me, there’s just something distinctly suck-up-ish about a Rockstar rep blasting parents who purchase violent games for their children; especially given the rather colorful, controversial past the company has had. (Hot Coffee, anyone?) Still, though, he’s totally right. Parents who buy that stuff for their 6-year-olds are the reason we have the controversy in the first place.

I stole this from Gizmodo because I thought it was funny.

AT&T jacks up early termination fees, offers stupid explanation – I’m positive that there’s more to this than meets the eye. Don’t know what I’m implying? Well, give me a moment.

AT&T, the sole provider (currently) of the iPhone in North America, is raising the early service termination fee for smartphones from $175 to a whopping $325. Nope, that’s not a typo; they really are giving their customers 150 more reasons to stay with them. (At least for the initial two years.)

So, if you were hoping to get out of that expensive iPhone contract sometime soon, you might wanna think again. However, if you’re the owner of an AT&T feature phone or messaging phone, your ETF just got lowered by $25. What could the reason be for all this? Here’s AT&T’s explanation:

The idea is, and we think that it’s fair approach, that if you spend less on a device, your early termination fee should be less. If you spend more, your early termination fee should be more.

Okay, while I agree that entirely arbitrary termination fees should be done away with, this does not explain why AT&T decided that it should cost an extra hundred-and-fifty-fucking dollars.

So. Since they won’t explain it, I will.

It’s quite simple. For some time now, it’s been rumored that Verizon, AT&T’s biggest competitor, is working on an iPhone deal with Apple. It’s a rumor that hasn’t been squashed (which is a de facto confirmation in my eyes) and if it’s true, it means that AT&T’s about to lose the lucrative exclusivity they’ve enjoyed for three years now.

On top of that, it’s common knowledge that Verizon’s 3G coverage is a hell of a lot more reliable than AT&T’s. Also, people just like Verizon more, generally speaking. (I’m too lazy to go dig up info on actual market shares.) So, if and when Verizon lands this deal, I guarantee you that there will be a) a lot of new iPhone users, and b) a lot of people jumping ship.

Starting to see where I’m going with this?

If not, here it is: I think AT&T is raising the ETF on their smartphones because Verizon is very close to landing the aforementioned deal with Apple, and they’re afraid of people terminating contracts and jumping ship. So, they’re very aggressively discouraging it.

Good things do come to those who wait, I suppose. And ridiculous termination fees come to those who don’t. Remember that.

Killzone 3 is coming… in 3D, no lesswe knew Killzone 3 was coming, just not when. And…well, I guess we still don’t know when. But, we know for sure that it’s coming, because the latest issue of GamePro says so. Subscribers already have the issue in their grubby little hands, and it’s packed with details on the game. Now, I don’t know or care much about Killzone, but the juiciest details seem to be:

-The game will be playable in 3D

-The game will have jetpacks. Awesome jetpacks, too, not the lame jetpacks you see in “other games.”

-The game will… be like Inglourious Basterds? What?

Anyway. Hit the link above for a long, easy-to-read list concerning the game’s new features, courtesy of VG247. And while you’re at it, maybe check out this other VG247 for an additional fun fact: apparently Guerilla Games has been working with Naughty Dog, the creators of Uncharted, to build Killzone 3’s graphics engine. Given the fact that Uncharted 2 is far and away the best-looking console game ever made, that can only be a good thing.

Well, I’m dangerously close to my 1000 word limit, so I guess we’d better wrap this up.

Actually, I don’t have a 1000 word limit. I just wanna wrap this up.

-Riddles

Lazy Saturdays

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

And what a lazy, lazy Saturday it is.

The hour is 2:29 p.m. CST. I’m alone in my apartment with all the blinds drawn. The place is an absolute wreck, truth be told – covered in boxes, bottles, cans, plates… ah… you name it.

I’m at my computer typing this. To accompany this scene, I have the soundtrack to Brick playing. It fits oddly well.

And that’s been my life for the last four weeks or so!

UGH.

Something has to give, eventually. Right? Right. Enough of that. I suppose as long as I’m here, we might as well talk about something interesting.

Wii Fit Turns Woman into Sex Addict – okay, I’m pretty sure that this isn’t for real. Regardless, it’s a story on Yahoo! News. And… it’s been there for a few days. Apparently, after falling off her Wii Fit board and damaging a nerve, Amanda Flowers is now a victim of persistent sexual arousal syndrome. And yes, that’s a real thing. So, why don’t I think this is for real? Try the closing quote from Flowers: “With no cure I just have to try to control my passion by breathing deeply. Hopefully one day I’ll find a superstud who can satisfy me.”

Who says something like that? Nobody, that’s who. Nobody.

Apple Blocks Political Cartoonist from App Store, Quickly Regrets Decision – y’know, for quite some time now, it’s been my plan to ditch Verizon and purchase an iPhone this coming November when my contract is up. But stories like this one are what make me consider alternative (read: Droid OS) options.

Mark Fiore is an accomplished political cartoonist. In fact, he made a little history recently by becoming the first web-exclusive journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize for his work. However, because his cartoons “ridicule public figures,” Apple refused to feature his work on the App store. So, essentially, Apple has begun making judgments on editorial content.

Obviously, this enraged more than a few, so Apple quickly backpedaled and asked Fiore to resubmit his app. Good for them, but that Google Nexus One phone is looking sweeter all the time…

Four Year-Old Kid Gets Free Weed with Game

Ba-hahahaha. Ahem. Ah, anyway. Some dad in the UK bought is kid Fight Night Round 3 for Xbox 360. The kid opened up the box to find tobacco laced with weed. He showed it to his father, who, reportedly became “horrified” and “took it off him straight away.” (The bag, I’m assuming.)

“But what if he’d thought it was sweets, and started munching away?” The dad said. “It doesn’t bear thinking about.”

No, actually, it doesn’t; because I’m pretty sure the worst thing that would have happened to the kid would be a nasty aftertaste.

When I think about the number of gamers who likely would have been thrilled to receive such a perk, the fact that it ended up in the hands of a four year-old becomes even funnier.

And that’s all. Enjoy the rest of your Saturday.

-Riddles

Hey! Look! Listen!

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

HLLfinal

Day #2 of unemployment. So far, it’s not all bad. That is, aside from the stunning lack of money being made.

Oh well. I remain optimistic. And, on the bright side, I have all kinds of time in the world for Riddlethos now! So, let’s HLL like we’ve never HLL-ed before, eh?

EH?

I know I’m not Canadian, but I can dream. Eh.

dsiNintendo Announces DS Successor in Form of “3DS”

In a surprise move (to me, at least) Nintendo president Satoru Iwata announced that his company will be releasing the “Nintendo 3DS” (working title) sometime during the “fiscal year ending March 2011.” Reportedly, the 3DS will display three-dimensional graphics without the necessity of glasses.

It’s worth noting that Nintendo is specifically calling this thing the “successor” to the massively popular DS. That’s reason to believe that it’ll be more than just a regular DSi spruced with 3D capabilities.

Various Japanese publications have leaked some specs for the device. Japanese newspaper Nikkei reports that the screens will size in at approximately 4 inches diagonally; 2 inches smaller than the DSiXL. (Not that anyone cares about the DSiXL). Fellow newspaper Asahi states that the screens will be a “parallex barrier LCD” manufactured by Sharp.

This strikes me as both an odd and predictable move from Nintendo. That may not make sense at the moment, but allow me to explain: It’s odd that they would announce plans to develop a system based entirely around a cutting-edge technology – that doesn’t seem like their style. But then I recall that, 95% of the time, 3D is still little more than a gimmick. And gimmicks are absolutely Nintendo’s style.

But, I’ll wait until I see the actual software, and how titles will utilize the 3D capabilities before I pass judgment. (VG247)

iPhone’s Share in Handheld Market Grows

…at the expense of both the DS and the PSP. Especially the PSP. According to a Flurry report, the iPhone’s share in the handheld gaming market went from 5% to 19% in the year 2009.

As a result, the DS dropped from 75% to 70%, and the PSP dropped from 20% to a mere 11%. Ouch!

iphoneus

This is a trend that I’m fairly sure will continue. I’m not ready to call it the “future of handheld gaming,” but the iPhone has its place in the handheld market. Speaking personally, the iPhone is where I do all of my portable gaming these days. I almost never play my DS or PSP, but it’s just so easy to whip out my iPod touch and, for example, play Final Fantasy I for ten minutes, five minutes, or 30 seconds. I mean, I guess I could do the same with my DS, but I’m not in the habit of bringing it with me everywhere. I think my example could be applied to a lot of iPhone gamers out there. (VG247 via Flurry)

The Witcher 2 Trailer Debuts

“Hey! It looks just like Dragon Age!”

Now, boys and girls, it’s important to recall that The Witcher actually came before Dragon Age. Years before, in fact, but it didn’t quite get the recognition it deserved, because it was a PC exclusive. Even so, it sold well over a million copies, and received rave reviews across the board. A console port was in development for a time, but much to the chagrin of myself and many RPG fans, it was canned.

I don’t play PC games, but I actually downloaded and played a demo for The Witcher. It ran like shit, but it was actually a lot of fun. The Witcher 2 will be coming to consoles, so watch this trailer and get excited.

ff13_agito_logo

Yes, Final Fantasy Agito XIII Still Exists

This is according to the game’s art director, Yusuke Naora. Speaking on Square Enix’s Japanese Twitter account, Naora didn’t say much – he essentially just confirmed that the game still exists, but it will probably be a while before we see any new information on the game, or any game in the Fabula Nova Crystallis compilation.

Final Fantasy Agito XIII was originally intended to be released on Japanese cellphones, but has been re-tooled as a PSP game.

I have no problems waiting. I’m still only twelve hours into Final Fantasy XIII. (VG247)

Holy Shit: See Heavy Rain’s Scott Shelby in Real Life

So apparently there was some 2005 movie with Clive Own called Derail. Also in this movie was Sam Douglas, the man who provided the voice and face of Heavy Rain’s private investigator, Scott Shelby. Now, in this movie, for the thirty seconds or so that he appears, he played the exact same character. Like… down to the grey trench coat and haircut. It’s fucking weird as hell. And strangely awesome at the same time. Take a look and see what I mean.

QUICKIE: Little Big Planet 2 Confirmed, With PlayStation Move Support

Huh? Oh, PlayStation Move? It’s their new-fangled motion controller. Or whatever. And according to some Dutch site called Tweakers, it’ll be used for Little Big Planet 2. I don’t really care, but I figured some of you people might. (VG247 via Tweakers)

That Tweakers link is in all Dutch, by the way.

Well that’s enough for now. Look for some God of War III stuff later today, and if you’re unlucky, some more Pokeyman-related garbage from Ethos, since everyone REALLY wants to hear about what monsters he has in his little band. Of monsters.

Ahem. Goodbye for now.