The untimely death of Okami…

The original Okami was released back in 2005 just at the time when the PS2 was running out of steam and gamers were looking to move on to the next generation.  The timing of the release played an important part to the success of this game.  Commercially it failed and did not sell many copies around 600,000 both on Wii and PS2.

Critically, it was adored by all and remains a game with both iconic and cult status.  Most critics at the time rated it higher than Zelda: Twilight Princess.   I played this game from start to finish and it is one of the finest Action/Adventure games I have ever played.  Okami was not a commercial success and this forced the closure of Cloverfield studios.

Okami was later converted to the Wii by Capcom.  It kind of made sense as the paint brush mechanic would work well with the Wii remote and the demographic would run out and buy this game.  The Wii version enjoyed little success partly due to a quiet launch with no marketing campaign to back it up and partly it was lost on a casual audience who were content with Wii Sports, MarioKart and Wii Fit.

Not having learned their lesson with their past two failures; Capcom tried their luck with the Nintendo DS.  This was in development for roughly two years and again was released with little fan fare or marketing hype.  Secondly, to kill Okamiden’s chances of success even further the timing was completely off as the Nintendo 3DS was released a week later back in March 2011.  Granted that there are millions and millions of DS’s out there, together with 3DS being backwards compatible with the DS the timing was way off.  Maybe they should have held back and released a 3DS edition instead, we all know that the 3DS is starved of quality games at the moment and Okami would have shone brighter than others.

I feel sorry for Okami as the art direction, originality and gameplay mechanics should be experienced by all gamers.  Maybe a 3DS version would prove successful?

PSP Vita to be releases in Japan 2011 (why not)?

Back in early June 2011 at E3 Sony announced details for the PS Vita.  This is Sony’s successor to the original PSP introduced in 2005.  It boasts a 3 cell processor (similar to the PS3 which has 7), touch screen interface, 5inch screen, touch sensitive back panel and also, including the all important second analog stick.  Sony further announced that the PS Vita would be released in Japan December 2011.

This sounds daft to me.  Why you may ask?  At this current moment in time the PSP console is selling extremely well in Japan due to the many iterations of Monster Hunter which allows co-operative local play for up to four players.  The co-op feature is heavily used in Japan where gaming is more socially acceptable and played in public places such as Cafes.  The PSP, in Japan anyway, is in the best shape it has ever been where it is currently outselling the Nintendo 3DS and is constantly top of the hardware charts list in recent months.

Games that appeal to the Japanese hardcore such as Gundam, Arcane Slayer, Tactics Ogre, Dynasty Warriors and Final Fantasy Dissidia show that there is still a market for Japanese centric games which the PS3, 3DS and Wii are currently lacking.

Therefore, my suggestion to Sony would be to release in the US markets first then Europe where the original PSP is experiencing a downturn due to lack of developer support both first party and third party.  Secondly, consumer interest has peaked and the PSP is looking worse for wear as it is being superseded by newer technology such as mobile devices, tablets and of course the 3DS.

I think the Japanese market still has another year to run for the original PSP.  The PS Vita could suffer a similar fate to the PS3 whereas it was introduced too early and harmed its sales as the PS2 was still selling in high numbers.

Gaikai – a platform agnostic solution for the future gaming needs

I have just played the demo version of Mass Effect 2 on the Gaikai website; judging from the website it’s an impressive user of today’s technology for streaming a game in real time in your browser thus making it a platform agnostic solution.

I have just played the demo version of Mass Effect 2 on the Gaikai website; judging from the website it’s an impressive user of today’s technology for streaming a game in real time in your browser thus making it a platform agnostic solution.  Theoretically you should be able to play games using OSX, Linux or a Windows system using any choice of browser albeit Chrome, Firefox, IE, Opera or Safari.

All that was required was a visit to the website and install the Gaikai Java applet which is similar to most other plug-ins to play video or music such as Flash or Quicktime.  There is no need for special hardware such as excess RAM, dedicated graphics card or a powerful CPU.  Instead the Gaikai technology uses your PC as a thin client to stream the display data whilst the actual game is hosted and played on the Gaikai servers.

This is similar to the Onlive solution however this will require you to purchase a special box and controller to access it unlike Gaikai which will support your mouse and keyboard as standard.  I am sure in time there will be controllers that will be made compatible with this system.  The closest example I can think of is Facebook which currently offers only the most basic arcade/console games and takes up minimum hardware power.

At the moment the Gaikai platform headed by (Dave Perry) is marketed as an advertising platform for accessing game demos but this has been downplayed somewhat.  The potential for this technology in the coming years, due to the trend in an ever increasing oversaturated OS market, seems to make sense.  As the internet browser is common place and a powerful application among all devices; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this is where we are heading for PC and mobile gaming in the future this is why HTC have invested heavily in OnLive.  Similar to streaming media platforms such as Netflix, Napster, Spotify and Qriocity all games will be available in a large library ready for the gamer to play.

The only question remains is how to generate sufficient revenue and profits from such a platform?  Personally, I think games 3-5 years old should be available as part of your monthly subscription with each publisher getting a share based on how much their games are played and you pay extra for any new release games.

I don’t think it will put out Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft anytime soon (let’s face it they are great at what they do and have a very successful business model) but Gaikai will be a great platform to provide accessible gaming and help grow the gaming community further whether it is farmed out on a publisher by publisher basis or becomes a competitor to Steam.

Game saves – save anywhere is the future

I trade in my old XBOX 360 for a new slim model ensuring that I have copied all of my game saves and content to an external drive.  Copy version seems ok with all game saves intact.  I copy the content and game saves to my new XBOX 360 slim.  I fire up Forza 3.  I look for my game save.  No game save available.  Dissapointment sets in…

I am not a happy bunny after spending around 15 hours Forza 3 prior to this and losing my game save is not on.  I will not be touching Forza 3 anytime soon.  A similar thing happened with my PS3 where I was unable to copy over my Uncharted 2 content.  Why do hardware manufacturers make it so difficult to retrieve your game saves?

This brings me to cloud gaming profiles.  Imagine a world where you play a game and the saved game is automatically uploaded as part of your profile.  Wherever you are you can access your game save and profile.  It is a simple idea and in this hi-tech day and age I am surprised it hasn’t been thought of already?

Granted we are not going to see Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo hold hands and share user profiles.  However, all three should be able to implement a cloud game save solution.  The amount of hours I have poured into various games over the years only to find that I can no longer revive my scores or game states.

We are stepping in the right direction with Apple and it’s Game Center where your game saves are backed up as part of the App to re-sync later.  However, this is locally via PC and your Iphone/Ipod Touch.  As gamers we need a better solution.  Please Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo listen!!!

Nintendo e3 2010

I made the ballsy move and purchased an IPAD. I fell in love with this device straightaway. I have owned various PC’s, MAC’s and portable touch screen devices over the years and I will try to justify what makes this essential and different. This is not just an oversized Iphone which many have stamped this with.

After streaming the Nintendo e3 I was left feeling elated. The past few years Nintendo have been dismissive of the hardcore gamers and chasing after the casual crowd. This year changed all that. There were no new franchises announced which is good and bad.

Nintendo unveiled the latest demo of Zelda skyward sword using the motion plus. Granted this didn’t look like nothing ground breaking but I am hopefully nonetheless. Also, Nintendo unveiled kirby’s epic yarn and confirmed that 2d gaming is truly back. Graphically Kirby looks amazing using fabric type textures. A remake of goldeneye by activation was also announced. I remain sceptical on this one and don’t they will be able to reinvigorate this title bearing in mind there are some great first person shooters currently out there.

The unveiling of the 3ds with no glasses required had people puzzled but post keynote the response was positive. Once people got a chance to experience it for themselves however the hype went sky high. I am not impressed with the appearance of the unit and in my eyes looks slightly ugly compared to the Nintendo dsi’s sleek lines. A bunch of games were announced for the system such as a remake of Zelda ocarina of time, pilotwings, final fantasy, dragon quest, metals gear snake eater among others. I am sure there will be a Mario game as well.

Overall Nintendo did well this time and won many more gamers who are looking for the next gen portable device.