Archive for January 10, 2009

The State of Home

Posted in Gaming Rant, PS3 on January 10, 2009 by richinjapan

Welcome Home

The gaming community has been, shall we say, a little bit down on PlayStation Home. The reactions range from tepid indifference to downright vitriolic anger. The complaints center the technical issues and a lack of purpose or utility. Having just purchased Sony’s Wireless Keypad today, I decided to spend some more time with Home. It was an excellent chance to reflect on the current situation, and how it got to be this way.

In a recent interview with developmag.com, Peter Edwards, director of PlayStation Home, stated that Sony announced Home “too early”.

Initially, there was real excitement from people, because we were showing something really different and that had a lot of potential. And then there’s the realisation that, well, we probably announced it too early – GDC 07 was a long time ago.

Indeed, when Home was initially announced by Phil Harrison at GDC 07, the projected public release was October of that same year. This stoked the coals of anticipation that fuel the gaming enthusiast community. But it quickly became apparent that Home was a troubled project, lacking the tools and support necessary to be given over to the public. And so at Tokyo Game Show 07, Home got its first of many delays, to the Q3 2008.

Home suffered another huge setback when Phil Harrison left Sony in February of 2008. It was widely known that Phil was a big proponent of Home. Still, it proceeded into closed beta, and invitations were sent out; first to loyal Playstation Underground members, and then wider through applications via the Playstation Network. I myself was accepted into the Japanese Home beta shortly before TGS 08.

My initial reaction was a mixture of disappointment and understanding. I certainly wasn’t expecting an overwhelming community, or even much utility, in an unreleased product. Nonetheless, at that point there really was nothing to do but create an avatar and walk around the environments. The re-creation of Sony’s TGS booth was exciting only in that it showed the promise of what Home could someday be; by all accounts, it was a very near-life re-creation. But any initial excitement was quickly extinguished by the lack of things to do. Demo kiosks were simple models — unplayable. The information booth was unmanned. The whole thing felt… hollow.

After several upgrades and some new areas, the open beta of PlayStation Home was released on December 11, 2008. The release was fraught with technical issues, and many users couldn’t even sign on. Even after a connection to Home was made, it was often unstable and users were kicked off. In Sony’s defense, it must have been an unprecedented tax on their servers and perhaps they were a bit surprised by the enthusiasm of the PlayStation 3 community to try out their product. Still, though, having been in closed beta for several months, there’s a certain expectation Sony’s part to anticipate and prepare for such a sever load.

The reaction to the open beta was overwhelmingly negative. Some people were calling it an “abortion”, and others were angry at Sony for wasting time and money on Home, when it could be spent on answering other, perhaps more pertinent, upgrades to the PS3 experience. The gaming community, having been promised the service over a year ago, only to see it delayed time and time again, was greatly disappointed.

However, I think the significance of one’s expectations should be considered here. I’m still not sure what these disappointed, and often angry, gamers were expecting. Home was positioned as a social gaming hub: a place to meet friends (old and new), to experience games in a new way. It’s not as if the service is mandatory, or in any way essential to the PlayStation experience. Sony doesn’t force you to use Home: it doesn’t replace to XMB, nor is it required to launch games. In fact, you can completely ignore Home and your Playstation experience will not change.I can’t understand why people complain about a product that is free and completely optional.

I also can’t understand the complaints of how there’s no reason to be in Home. In my brief soujourn into Home tonight, I saw many people dancing in the new Listen@Home booth in the Central Plaza, having conversations, and one friend asking another, “Hey, is Sully’s bar open today? Wanna go over there?” It may not be exactly what you wanted it to be, and it may be a little too much like Second Life for comfort, but there’s certainaly a community of people who are at least actively involved in it. With the news that over a million dollars has been spent in Home already on virtual goods, it’s obvious that there’s at least still some enthusiasm left.

I may be a fanboy, but I’ll be the first to admit that tonight was the first time in weeks that I had loaded up Home. There’s just not much reason for me to keep going back to it. But I’m always intruiged to see what’s new in Home, and I am interested to see where it’ll go from here.

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Square Enix Says Yes to Ubisoft Games in Japan

Posted in Japan, News, Nintendo DS, PS3, PSP, Wii, Xbox 360 with tags , , , on January 10, 2009 by Stephen

Japanese RPG powerhouse Square Enix  sent word today that the company has entered into an exclusive distribution agreement with French publisher Ubisoft that will allow Square Enix to distribute Ubisoft’s games exclusively in Japan starting this April.

“In the increasingly consolidated video game industry, Square Enix has been implementing strategic initiatives to expand its product lineup and strengthen its presence as a global game publisher,” commented the publisher in a statement. “In 2008, the company began publishing third-party titles in PAL territories, and in December 2008, published its first overseas-produced game in Japan with the launch of U.K.-based Frontier Developments Ltd’s LostWinds for WiiWare. This exclusive distribution agreement for Ubisoft Group games will be another key step to achieve the aforementioned goal.”

“The global video game market is expected to maintain sustainable growth thanks to geographical expansion and diversification of customer base,” said Yoichi Wada, president and representative director of Square Enix. “By partnering with the Ubisoft Group having a number of highly acclaimed titles, we can now work to provide high-quality overseas-produced games to Japan, thus invigorating the Japanese game market while strengthening our presence as a global leader in the video game industry.”

Square Enix and Ubisoft said that details on the games to be distributed under this new partnership in Japan will be provided at “a later time.”

Want to explode helicopters?

Posted in News, PS3, Video, Xbox 360 with tags , , , on January 10, 2009 by Stephen

With guys you throw at it? Then, don`t worry because Radical Entertainment got you covered with this new trailer for upcoming Action/Sandbox game Prototype stated to release on the summer of 2009.

Introduction and Snow on 360

Posted in Gaming Rant, Xbox 360 with tags , , on January 10, 2009 by emuriku

Stoked Screenshot

Hello everyone !

So, it seems we are slowly beginning our blog here on GaijinGamers, so I thought I could start with a short introduction:

Hi, I’m Aymeric, aka Aym, nice to meet you !

Ok, here we go:  I don’t for you, but I’ve seriously been missing a good Snowsports game since the N64-Rare’s 1080 Snowboarding. I got so desesperate that I actually found an emulator in order to play it again… funny how the definition of  “beautiful” about video games change in a few years.

Recently released was Shaun White, with unbalanced reviews, which didn’t quite charm me enough to buy it, yet. But have you heard about Stoked (here too) ? Now this sounds serious, maybe a bit late after Shaun’s sales, but still potentially good nonetheless.

What do you guys think, anyone of you even bought Shaun ?

Square Enix Opens Final Fantasy XIII Site

Posted in Japan, News, PS3, Xbox 360 with tags , , , , on January 10, 2009 by Stephen

King of JRPG Square Enix has a busy year ahead.  While company president Yoishi Wada love to criticizes and complaint every two months with Famitsu about his production team creating games they only love and like to play, those same team members are busy working at the Square Enix’s headquarters in the Shinjuku Bunka Quint Building in Shibuya to deliver another year full of JRPG delight for those hungry fans.

To start the year in great fashion, Square Enix just opened the official website for Final Fantasy XIII, with details regarding some of the characters, pictures and music…yes, dreamy music.

http://www.square-enix.co.jp/