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Monthly Archives: July 2007

No price cut, no Elite, and a whole lotta bubkes

Soon we’ll have a PSP design, Wii hard drive, and an Xbox 360 version of Metal Gear Solid 4. The video game industry does not seem to understand or respect the power of an internet rumor.

Last Thursday, a leaked Circuit City promo advertised the $599 Playstation 3 for $499 starting July 15th. Blogs began speculating on on an E3 announced price cut or a Circuit City exclusive sale. On Friday, Sony President and Electronics CEO Ryoji Chubachi told Reuters “At present we have no plans,” to cut the PS3 price.

Then, three days later, the exact $100 predicted price cut happened.

Fans of video games, movies, comics, and related media expect high levels of secrecy over the upcoming games, movies, comics, and related media. We even expect to be lied to. But in the age of blogs and average joe journalists, companies no longer get to write the rules.

Microsoft denied for an entire month how there was no new Xbox 360 even though blogs were publishing factory footage, box art, and a large assortment of circumstantial evidence. Finally, after about a week with leaked box art, Microsoft reveals their worst kept secret, the Elite.

Secrets are vital to many companies business strategies. Understandably, they want to control the story and flow of information. This is why so few journalists got such little time with the iPhone. Apple might have feared the phone’s flaws would be spotlighted and mulled over, drowning out the hype.

Video game companies seem to have less luck recently, lying repeatedly about updates that happen. Of course, the reasonable fear is people will hold off buying the system until the update comes. But maybe there’s a better way to handle these rumors. Cause denying them didn’t stop me from waiting for the Elite (and I’m still waiting for that PSP redesign).

In Sony’s case, the price cut was leaked shortly before the announcement (though they might have pushed up the announcement because of the leak). Instead of giving a blatant unquestioned, stick it to the fans “no imminent plans,” just keep quiet. Silence is golden, especially when you want to fuel rumors. Nothing gets rumors going more than a “No comment” quote. And while you may not want people waiting to buy the system, you do want them talking about the system. There’s no such thing as bad publicity.

For the longer run, like Microsoft, if you just can’t push up your announcement (like politicians). Or have some fun with the blogs. Play their game. Leak a little information at a time. Like the iPhone, give us a little information at a time. Then we can examine that over and over, debate whether we think it will be in the real version, how much extra does it cost, how will it really work? Speak in generalities, like “We really like HDMI output” so the blogs will starting thinking the Elite will have HDMI output (it does). And if you really play the game, maybe leak a little exaggerated information that is far from true (like 8 gb of flash memory of the PSP2, that’s so too good to be true).

I think the big thing video game, and other media companies, need to learn is the blog community and fans want to know as much as we can as soon as we can. You can put all the embargos, policies, and fake memos you want in the way, but in the end, there is a rabid fan base desperate for information. Use it.


E3’s big three’s make it or break it

With the next-gen races begun, this year’s E3 looks to be a major turning point for the Big Three, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. From exclusive games to price cuts to redesigns to new colors, each console (and handheld) has a lot of hype (Nintendo) and bad press (Sony and kinda Microsoft) to trounce. While everyone’s doing their predications (PSP redesign, I hope), I figure I’ll instead go over what each of the big three has on the line at this E3.

Nintendo

Everyone’s favorite underdog rules the roost (enough cliches?) this E3 with the best selling Wii and DS and massive profits perfect for game development and R&D.

Nintendo needs playable AAA games that finally show the Wii isn’t just a fad. Super Smash Brothers Brawl is out, but look for Metroid Prime 3 and maybe even Mario Galaxy. Announcing no more supply issues would, of course, make everyone happy, though who knows how realistic that is.

But the two biggies: online strategy and a hard drive. WiiWare, the upcoming Wii channel with original games, is the Wii’s answer to Xbox Live Marketplace, shows Nintendo isn’t just using digital distribution for milking their own library. And while their at it, Nintendo will reveal its Mii and online codes for 3rd party developers so we can finally start getting some multiplayer party games. And instead of keeping a library of twenty SD cards with WiiWare and inevitable Sega Saturn and NeoGeo games, let’s just have a hard drive peripheral.

Verdict: For all it’s hype, Nintendo will meet expectations with games, but the buzz with start moving to other places…

Microsoft

This slow and steady giant has a staggering fall line-up of exclusive must-have titles, Halo 3, Mass Effect, and Blue Dragon, plus its own editions of once-PS3 exclusive blockbusters like Grand Theft Auto IV and Devil May Cry 4. But Microsoft won’t let the past limit its future. They’ve still got tricks up their sleeve.

Aside from getting the glowing praise it’s AAA games deserve, Microsoft should and will already prep the future, either with a new game announcement or some new exclusive stolen from Playstation. Either way, Microsoft needs to hype its stellar holiday line up, and accent this with a small but headline generating price cut for the 360. Maybe even announce a Halo 3/360 bundle. And free Xbox Live would stick it to Sony’s anemic online presence.

Microsoft’s wild card will be the long-rumored gaming handheld. While the disappointing Zune may leave a sour taste in Microsoft’s…hands, the Xbox’s growing brand name is proven and soon to be profitable. A handheld puts Microsoft in the larger and cheaper end of the gaming market. Even the “failed” PSP, with 25 million units sold, has outsold all three next-gen consoles combined. Microsoft could again aim for third place in this handheld generation, offering more of a portable PC than a handheld Playstation.

Verdict: The games will impress. The announcements will generate buzz. And a new handheld could be the announcement of the year.

Sony

The PS3 has failed to meet the staggering expectations set by the PS2. Sony has the most to lose should their games and announcements not start showing why the PS3 is worth $600.

First things first, price cut. The free press alone could save Sony enough marketing cash to make this worth it. And with some playable Metal Gear Solid 4 and several top secret announcements, the value of the system will begin to make sense. Also, more information about HOME and a download service for the PSP and PS3 will reveal Sony’s elaborate and free online strategy. Rumbling gamepads and a PSP redesign are near certain announcements.

Unfortunately, the only hype Sony needs to generate is in games, and ones that come out this year. Microsoft and Nintendo have mega exclusives this holiday season but the PS3’s killer apps are months if not a year away. Heavenly Sword and Lair must meet and beat expectations, and hands-on at E3 need to support this. Some other AAA games, even if they’re original IPs, will make the PS3 worth buying before the new year.

Verdict: The PSP will generate huge buzz with its redesign and new download store, both out by the fall, but the PS3 will still suffer from being an inexpensive Blu-Ray player that also happens to play games.


Win $1,000,000 + $1,000,000

If your company isn’t paying you enough money, you can rat them out for using pirated software to the Business Software Alliance. The BSA is promising “up to $1 million” reward for reporting companies with pirated software, up from their previous payout limit of $200,000. Don’t get your hopes up for retirement as Techdirt reports the BSA has only paid out $15,000 to three people since announcing any reward. It’s not illegal since the BSA says they’ll pay “up to” and only they get to decide how much to give.

Now Techdirt is offering a $1 million reward for anyone who can prove the BSA will pay out the $1 million. Anyone wanna place bets (oh, I forgot, online gambling is illegal)?