Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Please no Panthers on Madden 08

I've got some advice for Steve Smith or Jake Delhomme or Julius Peppers or Keyshawn Johnson or any Carolina Panther who might be offered the cover for the 2008 John Madden NFL Football videogame.

To borrow a phrase for a famous shoe company: Just (don't) do it.

There is a Madden curse.

This year's Madden videogame cover boy, Shaun Alexander now has a broken foot. The three players on the cover before him had similar problems: Donovan McNabb missed seven games last year with a sports hernia, Ray Lewis missed the final game of 2004 with a broken wrist and Michael Vick broke his leg in the 2003 pre- season.

The game is phenomenal every year but what happens to the cover boys is not. Perhaps it's time for EA Sports to go with a generic cover. Just so long as it doesn't feature anything about the Panthers, right?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

DirecTV to be sold? Wii On Tour

It looks like Rupert Murdoch may be wanting to sell his 38 percent controlling interest in the DirecTV satellite service. According to one media outlet, Murdoch labeled DirecTV a "turd bird" and may sell to Liberty Media, which is buying larger and larger shares of his News Corp.

Murdoch wants to buy back his News Corp stocks and wants apparently to divest of satellite TV, which he views as having a poor future going against cablecos who are offering the triple play of phone/cable/high speed internet services.

I think satellite can prosper but it's going to have to focus on what it can do: deliver all digital signals at affordable prices. I'm not sure satellite is going to be able to compete any other way.

If I were Time Warner cable, I'd be signing a deal with TiVo like Comcast has done. That would lure thousands of local DirecTV customers frustrated by flagging customer services, poor DVR units and lack of HD channels. One reason many DirecTV customers are loathe to switch, however, is because of cable's rising costs and poor receiving equipment.

As for DirecTV, it's hurt itself in the marketplace by being slow to implement HD channels, though it promises to have the largest HD capacity next year. DirecTV has also gotten away from one of its biggest draws -- and biggest advantages over cable -- its TiVo-based receiver.

DirecTV is now offering an receiver based on News Corp technology that reportedly is not working nearly as well as advertised. A new HD model was recently released. But if NewsCorp sells, DirecTV would be smart to go back to TiVo, which had helped the satcaster scores literally millions of of loyal custumers.

There's been a lot of speculation already that DirecTV may again try to merge with DISH network, but FCC cthhairman Kevin Martin said regulators still would be reluctant to greenlight a mergee sat providers, who tried a similar merger in 2002.

-- Want to catch an early glimpse of Nintendo's new Wii console? The company is launching a 35-city tour starting Sept. 27. At each tour stop, more than 35 Wii units will be hooked up for play.

The tour stops in Winston-Salem Oct. 10 and Myrtle Beach Oct. 11. No Charlotte stop is scheduled.

Gamers can pick up the unique Wii Remote controller and start playing, regardless of their video game experience. Some of the Wii titles scheduled to make the rounds on the tour include Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Wii Sports and WarioWare

-- NAMCO BANDAI Games America announced today that The Fast & The Furious has gone gold for the PS2. Inspired by the film from Universal Pictures, The Fast & The Furious allows fans to race in their own highly customizable cars. Players will have more than 100 cars with over 300 body kits to choose from. The Fast & The Furious will be released Sept 26

-- SEGA of America, SEGA Europe and Deep Fried Entertainment have partnered to create game content for the PSP. Based in Vancouver, Canada, Deep Fried Entertainment is an independent development studio launched in June 2005 by five industry veterans who have been key team members on such titles as Need for Speed: Underground 1 & 2, NFL Gameday, and Baldur's Gate.

"SEGA understands the handheld market like few other publishers," said Deep Fried Entertainment Chief Operating Officer Brenda Bailey. "This understanding of the market, coupled with SEGA's deep respect for creativity and innovation, makes the company an ideal partner for our team."

-- Norcent's LT -2090WPL and LT-2090WBK LCD TVs are aimed at college students with dorm rooms wired for Internet and cable access. To take advantage of the easy accessibility and to conserve space, the LT-2090 can be used as a television or computer monitor. The SRS audio enhancement can be used to clearly play back lectures, MP3 files and more.
Available in black or pearl white, the LT-2090 has a bright, high definition panel that will display crisp clear HD content with the addition of an HDTV tuner. The panel resolution is 1366 X 768 with a 16:9 aspect ratio, built-in NTSC tuner; high contrast ratio of 1000:1; and a brightness level of at least 500 Cd/m. Composite, Component, S-video, and PC inputs add to its versatility and multi-media functionality.
Other features include wall mounting capability (wall mount not included); V-Chip technology; parental control; sleep timer; and three on-screen menu languages. The estimated street price is $469.99.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Nintendo's Wii clobbers PlayStation 3 on price

Let the video console wars officially begin.

Nintendo's new Wii console will debut Nov. 19, two days after Sony's PS3, at a price of $249.99. The price includes one wireless Wii Remote controller, one Nunchuk controller and a collection of five different Wii Sports games on one disc, which anyone can play using simple movements.

Every Wii console includes a series of on-screen "channels" that make up the Wii Channel Menu, the starting point for all of the console's functions.

When connected to a TV, the Wii Channel Menu offers a simple interface, letting users pick games to play, get news or weather, view and send photos or even create playable caricatures of themselves to use in actual games.

Wii's new controller allows users to pinpoint targets in games or move through the Wii Channel Menu with precision and ease. For example, in the Wii Sports tennis game, players swing the Wii Remote like a racket to hit the ball, as in real life. They can add topspin or slice the ball just by angling their hands and wrist like they would in a real match.

"Wii reinvents games for the devoted player," says Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. "But more importantly, Wii breaks the wall separating players from non-players by delivering the best game experiences for the most affordable price. We believe the next leap is games for the masses -- young and old, gamer or non, alone, with a friend or with the whole family."

By Dec. 31, Nintendo will have 30 software titles available, including several big names at launch: Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and EXCITE TRUCK.

Nintendo titles will sell for $49.99, about $10 cheaper than Xbox 360. Third party companies, such as EA, will set their own pricing for Nintendo titles.

Other key features? Wii's self-loading media bay can play the entire library of more than 530 Nintendo GameCube titles from day one.

"I believe the Wii will attract new and casual gamers to the world of interactive entertainment," says Larry Probst, Chairman and CEO, Electronic Arts. "It's a fun, easy and economical system that will become a bridge to gaming for mainstream audiences. At EA, we are putting more support behind the Wii than any Nintendo hardware launch since the Super NES."

The key strategy here, of course, is price. Wii is not the technical powerhouse that Xbox 360 and PS3 are, but you'll be able to buy it when it launches. PS3 will be in limited supply, much like 360 was when it launched late last year.

And at $250, Wii will be less than half the cost for the PlayStation 3. The XBox 360, currently, is $399 with a hard drive or $299 without. And you pretty much need the hard drive to really enjoy the unit.

Only 400,000 PS3s are scheduled to be available in the U.S. Nintendo plans to ship four million Wiis worldwide, about double what Sony is projecting for the PS3s. So when you go to Wal-Mart and can't find PS3, guess what will be sitting there waiting? Plus, according to published reports, you'll be able to surf the Internet on your TV with your Wii console, display digital photos and play DVDs.

A New York Times report said that classic Nintendo games will be downloadable to Wii for a cost of $5 to $10 per game and there will be 30 at launch.

I wonder if Microsoft will lower prices for its Xbox to compete. If so, PS3 would really be a heavy gorilla at $500 or more if the competition is all $300 or less. This could get interesting.

I keep wondering, though, if it would be better for Sony to drop two PS3s, much like Microsoft has done. Create one with all the bells and whistles, including the HD DVD player, and charge $575 or whatever for it. Then create a leaner version that doesn't have the more expensive parts and compete with the competition pricewise.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Is PlayStation 3 in trouble?

Throughout the internet, reports are that Sony's going to have some trouble with its new PlayStation 3 unit.

Just what the videogame world needs to hear, right?

Merrill Lynch reported this week that the PS3 may not launch in Japan until the fall and late 2006 or early 2007 here in the U.S., and then in limited supply. The holdup appears to be money.

For Sony to put in an HD-DVD player and the powerful new processor, the costs reportedly would rise to nearly $900 per unit and the machine is expected to go for $500. That's too much money to lose per unit. Spectulation is rampant that the PS3 we see this year (or next) may not be the PS3 we were expecting.

Thursday, Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi announced that a half million PS3s would be available at launch in the US and Japan, but no Euro sales would occur until 2007. Japan will get 100,000 units and the US the remaining 400,000.

Sony reps still say they hope to get as many as 1.4 million units into the U.S. by year's end. That would still be more than double the amount Microsoft sold when it debuted Xbox 360 late last year, with problems -- mainly because there were not enough 360s available for sale.

Meanwhile, one website, GameKlip, has uploaded a funny anime depicting a mock trial over whether Sony has lied to customers.

Should be interesting. I just hope the system is as good as promised.