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Monthly Archives: November 2006

Disney vs. Target – ceasefire

Disney and Target appear to have made nice before anyone even knew they were fighting. The Associated Press reported Target reconsidered plans to remove all in-store advertising, an move it originally announced as a response to Disney selling movies on iTunes for less than the price of a DVD. Target has agreed to promote these movies after Disney threatened to not ship DVDs of “Cars” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” two major holiday titles.

The stand-off, however short lived, was inevitable. Target and other retailers have been pushing movie companies to price online movie downloads at the same price as DVDs or not at all. The result means you pay the same price online for lower quality with no extras. Thus retailers keep your business.

I have brought up before, retailers are the only ones with something to lose. Movie companies have thus far let themselves be bullied into mediocre online services. Disney, of course, is the only movie company on iTunes because of their new friend and largest stockholder, Steve Jobs.

Thankfully, Disney stood up to Target, proving, at least for now, who has the power in this relationship. Yes Target gets to sell an exclusive collection of Winnie the Pooh items, but that can hardly be see as a loss for Disney. Disney’s muscle through its movie blockbusters showed movie companies can decide where to release movies and retailers should be happy with their piece of the pie as long as it lasts.

Now let’s hope movie companies decide to take advantage of this power and start charging reasonable amounts for online downloads. It’s unlikely, but one can dream.

Most unsolved mysteries ever

IGN.com has ranked the Top 50 Lost Loose Ends, from the meaning of the numbers to the four-toed statue. With a three month break until season three continues, reading this massive list makes the two year investment in Lost depressing. How many loose ends has Lost answered? The few answers we’ve gotten are only partial and lead to more loose ends. This list helps by offering theories for each loose end, more than we get from the actual show.

Of course, I still can’t wait for February. All-new episodes. Maybe something will happen in one of them.

My first impressions: PS3

While working at Boston.com, I got to test the Boston Globe’s preview PS3 this weekend. We compared Resistance: Fall of Man on the PS3 to upcoming first-person shooter Gears of War on the Xbox 360.

Without question, the PS3 looked better (Sony also sent us a 40-inch HD TV to get the real effect). The textures were far crisper; the lighting and particle effects had far more detail. Gears of War, with extremely complex controls, had subtly better gameplay and AI, but for the supposed killer-app of the Xbox’s holiday season, little shocked and amazed.

Most interestingly, we tested some PS2 games on the new system. Set up took a bit, trying to figure out the virtual cards on the hard drive. I tested Okami (cause it’s one of the best looking games on the PS2). Once in high-definition, the pixils became gigantic and saturated. Nevertheless, the game went wide-screen without effort, a real treat.

The mounting challenge

The dynamic of group video games has changed. In elementary school, I loved playing Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog with a big group. We would trade off after a person beat a level or lost a life. Kids not playing would cheer (or jeer) the player along, giving simple suggestions, most often “Go that way” or “Get that power-up.”

I find the current evolution of games fights this style of social gaming.

Street Fighter II from Capcom Today’s video games take longer to play, involve more complex environments, characters, abilities, and stories. Finding the 1UP or collecting 100 rings has given way to unlocking extra features and more powerful combos. The quintessential social game, the fighting game, has forgone the down-forward-punch moves for lengthy combo moves involving dozens up to one hundred different characters.

When teenage friends who never played a video game tried to play to Street Fighter, the learning curve took a few minutes. Mario took even less. Side-scrolling games like Final Fight or Double Dragon were even more fun with two people.

The complexity of today’s games can scare away non-gamers. I bought Lego Star Wars to have an easy, collaborative game, but the variety of characters, each with different moves, proves too challenging, even more so when you throw in puzzles to solve. This isn’t just run to the right.

Even playing with talent gamers, collaborative play is not much fun, mostly due to camera issues (the television screen only gets so big). Online play is the real future, but this feels like a step backward, keeping people in their own homes. Playing games with people in the flesh has the rare appeal of allowing you to heckle them to their face.

Unfortunately, the next-generation of systems appears to continue this push. Even the novelty of the Wii’s nunchuck, which should provide ample party fodder, might not lend itself to large groups (how many people can be swinging their tennis arms next to each other).

Still, as the younger generation grows up more and more playing video games, kids will have an easier time jump from game to game. Additionally, new technology, most simply in larger television screens, could allow for improved cooperative gameplay. For now, online seems the future to allay criticisms of video games being anti-social behavior. Unfortunately for me and my aging friends, that is what seems to be happening.