Thursday, March 29, 2012

Microsoft's Future

The Xbox 360 debuted late in 2005 and offered two different packages for consumers, a pro console and a core console. The pro bundle came with a twenty gigabyte hard drive and one wireless controller while the core console only came with a wired controller. The only aesthetic difference that I know of is that the pro console had a chrome plated DVD tray while the core console’s DVD tray was white. What is so important about selling two slightly different packages of the console? Well it showed that Microsoft knew that there was a market for people who only needed a basic version of the console. This two product segment approach allows for an increase in sales since people who normally would wait for a price drop have a cheaper alternative from the start. However Microsoft didn’t need any incentive in selling their console since it was sold out for a few months after launch. According to rumors it seems like Microsoft might try something similar to this strategy again with the next generation of consoles.

Supposedly Microsoft plans on releasing a compact version of its current Xbox 360 that will focus on arcade games, Kinect apps and media apps. According to the same rumor the next Xbox will launch a year after this mini version and will play all the same arcade games and apps.  It seems apparent that Microsoft has created an all-in-one entertainment hub with its Xbox 360 at the center. Microsoft has been inching its way to this media focused console ever since the introduction of the Xbox 360. From the start the Xbox 360 was able to stream audio and videos from computers connected to the same network. Eventually through Xbox Live, Microsoft was able to secure a type of On Demand movie service that was eventually incorporated into Microsoft’s Zune Media network and Netflix. With the latest dashboard upgrade Microsoft has updated the user interface to match the Windows 7 Mobile phone interface (which is also the style used in Windows 8) and allowed for various media firms to develop apps to run on the Xbox 360. Apps include things like Facebook, HBO, Netflix, SYFY, Hulu and ESPN. Microsoft understands that customers want the convenience of having all your favorite television programs, music and games in one simple package. Consumers are going to be demanding this sort of device because Xbox Live users are spending more than 50% of the time on Xbox Live watching videos and listening to music
Well what should Microsoft focus on doing in the future for this compact Xbox 360? I think they should price the device somewhere around $100 to $150 to compete with Apple TV. Microsoft should also try obtaining more Cable Television Networks to display their content on the 360 eventually allowing the device to be a substitute for cable television boxes. The gaming aspect of the device should not be limited to Kinect apps or arcade games but should embrace new technology. They can essentially use this device to enter the cloud gaming market and compete against OnLive for a part of their market share. Cloud gaming allows the consumer the option to play traditional games if the demand ever arises and lets the customer have a sense of safety if their future demands are uncertain.

It seems that Microsoft has a first mover advantage over Sony and Nintendo in providing an all-in-one media package. It is quite odd to find that Sony hasn’t tried to embrace all these media apps considering the Playstation 3 slogan was “It only does everything.” Sony has however begun using these various apps within its latest handheld, the PS Vita, which indicates that Sony may incorporate apps into future Playsation 3 firmware or the next Sony home console. Nintendo has always been cautious in approaching a media centered device and has tried to keep its consoles strictly as a gaming medium. Microsoft’s future in the gaming industry is going to be determined on how well they can balance providing quality gaming content while still maintaining their advantage in a convenient all-in-one media device. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

About Me

I'll continue with the theme of the last post and describe a little about myself and the types of games I enjoy.

The name of this blog comes actually from something a friend called me in freshmen year of college. One of our friends asked if I was some sort of hardcore/professional gamer type of person and my other friend responded "No hes more of a video game connoisseur" and I guess that thought really stuck with me years later. I believe my skills in playing video games vary somewhere between average and slightly above average. The only games that I'm confident in saying that I'm significantly above average would be the Splinter Cell series and the Batman Arkham Asylum/City games. The earliest console I can remember playing and owning was the NES with games like Super Mario Bros., Batman (1989), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Little Ninja Brothers.  Turn based RPGs are one of my favorite types of games to play but it seems that these types of RPGs are not in popular demand. First person shooters are great but I've gotten to the point where I've played so many that I haven't found any that set themselves apart by innovating the franchises. I enjoy watching and playing survival horror games and I hope one day firms will return to what made the original Resident Evil and Silent Hill so popular and avoid this rush to create games that are heavily action based. I have been a fan of stealth games since I've first played Splinter Cell back in 2002. Most people like to compare Splinter Cell to the Metal Gear Solid series but I feel that both are stealth games that approach the genre differently. Splinter Cell really focuses on using the shadows to remain invisible while the Metal Gear series is more about avoiding line of sight of enemies along with camouflage to blend in the user's surroundings. I will probably write a piece on the differences between the two series and their strengths and weaknesses some time in the future. I try to keep an open mind about new games and will usually try any game that has seemed to have thought out the game mechanics.  Well that's all for now. I'll leave you with some Batman NES music which had an awesome soundtrack but was probably one of the hardest games I've ever tried to play (keyword is tried to play, I don't think I have ever beaten this game).


Thursday, March 15, 2012

I am alpha and omega....

Well I guess the first post I make should be less about video games and more about why I am writing in this blog and what I might end up writing about.

The reason I am writing about the video game industry is to keep a coherent document of all the ideas and thoughts I have of video games. It will also help me to see how my thoughts have changed over time and what I've learned from the past. Its always interesting to see how things have changed over the years by keeping some sort of log or journal entry. Another reason is to gain some feedback on the ideas I have about game design. The feedback will help me when I begin to develop games because I will have already hammered out some of the flaws that people may point out.

I plan to write mainly about various video games and the design behind them. Game design in my opinion includes things such as level design, character design, story layout, user interfaces and game play. I will also discuss my thoughts on new information released such as the specs for the new generation of consoles, cloud gaming, and other related business decisions that firms make. I am a little skeptical about writing reviews since they usually end up being subjective but I'll try to be objective when I do write a review (Batman games are usually going to be heavily skewed to the right, just a little warning ahead of time...). One of the reasons I do not like writing reviews is because my feelings for a game can change with subsequent play through and as the years go on my rating of a game can change drastically. Thus I will most likely forgo the use of a numbered system to avoid putting any superficial number that will probably change by the end of the week. Another topic I will write about is video game music. I've been listening to video game soundtracks as far back as I can remember and I believe they are a large part of developing a game. A soundtrack can make or break the mood for a game and can set an emotional theme. On that note I'll end this entry off with one of the opening songs from Xenogears (the title of the post is the opening lines for this game).