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GAMEstation

It was a headline that filled me with dread: GAME acquires Gamestation.

A cry rang out from my mouth at the horror; my favourite shop on the highstreet (and bastion for retreat when Ali goes shopping) is being enveloped by one of my least favourite shops on the highstreet.

I have always resented buying games from GAME. Even before Christmas when they were the only place in town to have the Wii accessories I wanted, I felt dirty handing over my cash to them.

With some shops I have an irrational disdain for them, Starbucks, Costa et al, for example, just because they are always there. With GAME, however, I think they are soulless places for people who don’t know better, who get ripped off on prices and who just bend over and take it when offered a ridiculously scant trade-in price. They are the ultimate, streamlined, capitalist vision of my preferred hobby, not only that but their all-caps name grinds my gears too.

This is not to say that Gamestation is not after my money too, let’s not pretend they too aren’t driven by the mighty pound, but they go about it in such a nice manner by comparison. Their shops have character, a great range of second-hand/retro games, good trade-in value and, more importantly, their staff appear to know what they are on about. This could be just my own personal impression, but the difference between the two businesses is as night is to day.

The one glimmer of hope I cling to is that they will, as the press release says, keep the two brands separate. For those of you who remember Electronic Boutique, you may also remember that GAME assimilated them pretty sharpish after an acquisition, but hopefully the demographic who use Gamestation (as it is now) as opposed to GAME will persuade the two identities to remain.

The odd thing is, though, that as much as I hate GAME’s retail face in towns, I cannot fault their online service. Upon their website, prices can almost be considered competitive and their delivery service is exceptional; if ever I want something on the day of release this is the place I will go. Quite the opposite to Gamestation’s own web presence, in fact, and quite the Jekyll & Hyde. Who knows, they may compliment each other after all.

They think it’s all over… thank God it is now

I was going to have a go at the Cricket World Cup for dragging on for an unbearable amount of time and with as much tension in it as a Radox-filled bath, but luckily the BBC have really summed it up for me: farce.

Different

Ali used to mock me because I liked “different” things: I like my hair blue, I’m an unashamed geek and I profess a love for Scotch Eggs. This mocking hasn’t stopped over the years, and I doubt it ever will, but I think that she now realises that this liking for “different” things is merely because I want to try something out of the ordinary and, maybe in the process, expand my mind.

When it comes to my leisure time this has manifested itself in a few ways; back-in-the-day I would turn my nose up at MMOs and RPGs, not even giving them the time of day, but since Pirate Steve tempted me into WoW all those months ago I haven’t look back and I am now more open to these and other genres that have previously escaped me. This month alone I’ve tried Battlestations: Midway and the console version of Command & Conquer, two areas of gaming that, whilst I’m not the biggest fan, I thought were worth a dabble in if nothing else. More importantly, I would have never tried Munchkin if I hadn’t decided to expand my scope a little and that has been a roaring success.

“Different” is probably the number one reason why I was looking forward to the Wii last year. Whilst everyone else crammed more of everything into their next-gen consoles, Nintendo took a slightly a different approach, a turn towards a different way of experiencing games, and one that has paid dividends. Admitedly, after the first wave of titles the Wii has been slightly lacking in depth but it’s still an experience I enjoy every time the sleek, white box is turned on.

All in all, this is my long winded introduction to me saying: I like the look of Eye of Judgement because it’s a bit different. It sees a card game where the Eye Toy can pick up the identity of every card and render on top of it an animated representation of it. In this case it sees monsters battling against each other and instead of a straight out “you’ve got more X than I do so you win”, the avatars will duke it out on screen for you.

Up until now I’ve considered the PlayStation 3 just uninspiring with lukewarm games and an unimpressive online experience. What Dr Mark Richards’s and his team have seemingly created something isn’t revolutionary in terms of technology, but they have utilised it in a way that could augment existing games and genres to give them an extra twist: why just play a card game when you can have a card game with real monsters? After all, augmented reality games are supposed to be the next big step in gaming.

Whilst motion sensing controls are great, realism and immersion are key; what is more immersive than you actually being in your game world and the game’s entities being rendered around you? After all this is only a stretch on what Eye of Judgement is doing, but you replace the cards and the game-world takes the place of the card’s monsters. I doubt the PS3 will embrace this but even if the platform is responsible for the mainstream’s first tentative steps into this area it will be welcome… and different.

For my this use of the next-gen Eye Toy isn’t something that is going to make me nip down to Woolworths and relieve them of one of their PlayStations, but it is good to see that Sony have their quirky side. What would make me do that is a Munchkin version. Oh, the mere thought of it…

I think I’ve rambled enough for a Friday afternoon. BIGsheep, out.

Different

Ali used to mock me because I liked “different” things: I like my hair blue, I’m an unashamed geek and I profess a love for Scotch Eggs. This mocking hasn’t stopped over the years, and I doubt it ever will, but I think that she now realises that this liking for “different” things is merely because I want to try something out of the ordinary and, maybe in the process, expand my mind.

When it comes to my leisure time this has manifested itself in a few ways; back-in-the-day I would turn my nose up at MMOs and RPGs, not even giving them the time of day, but since Pirate Steve tempted me into WoW all those months ago I haven’t look back and I am now more open to these and other genres that have previously escaped me. This month alone I’ve tried Battlestations: Midway and the console version of Command & Conquer, two areas of gaming that, whilst I’m not the biggest fan, I thought were worth a dabble in if nothing else. More importantly, I would have never tried Munchkin if I hadn’t decided to expand my scope a little and that has been a roaring success.

“Different” is probably the number one reason why I was looking forward to the Wii last year. Whilst everyone else crammed more of everything into their next-gen consoles, Nintendo took a slightly a different approach, a turn towards a different way of experiencing games, and one that has paid dividends. Admitedly, after the first wave of titles the Wii has been slightly lacking in depth but it’s still an experience I enjoy every time the sleek, white box is turned on.

All in all, this is my long winded introduction to me saying: I like the look of Eye of Judgement because it’s a bit different. It sees a card game where the Eye Toy can pick up the identity of every card and render on top of it an animated representation of it. In this case it sees monsters battling against each other and instead of a straight out “you’ve got more X than I do so you win”, the avatars will duke it out on screen for you.

Up until now I’ve considered the PlayStation 3 just uninspiring with lukewarm games and an unimpressive online experience. What Dr Mark Richards’s and his team have seemingly created something isn’t revolutionary in terms of technology, but they have utilised it in a way that could augment existing games and genres to give them an extra twist: why just play a card game when you can have a card game with real monsters? After all, augmented reality games are supposed to be the next big step in gaming.

Whilst motion sensing controls are great, realism and immersion are key; what is more immersive than you actually being in your game world and the game’s entities being rendered around you? After all this is only a stretch on what Eye of Judgement is doing, but you replace the cards and the game-world takes the place of the card’s monsters. I doubt the PS3 will embrace this but even if the platform is responsible for the mainstream’s first tentative steps into this area it will be welcome… and different.

For my this use of the next-gen Eye Toy isn’t something that is going to make me nip down to Woolworths and relieve them of one of their PlayStations, but it is good to see that Sony have their quirky side. What would make me do that is a Munchkin version. Oh, the mere thought of it…

I think I’ve rambled enough for a Friday afternoon. BIGsheep, out.

Pinata Hero

For those of you with Guitar Hero, did you ever think that the guitar peripheral was missing a certain something?

I did. I started sticking and just forgot to stop.

Pinata Hero

For those of you with Guitar Hero, did you ever think that the guitar peripheral was missing a certain something?

I did. I started sticking and just forgot to stop.

Token effort

Nothing much exciting is going on at the moment: good friends from back home have got engaged; Guitar Hero is as amazing as ever; Ali’s Irish best friend is having a baby as I type; I’m getting back into WoW; our house move is slowly but surely going through. All noteworthy events, true, but nothing that really warrants a post on its own.

To make up for the silence, though, I’ve found the following. If you watch one video from the internet this year, watch Master Chief verses Samus. Take two gaming icons, add a touch of the Matrix and let it simmer.

I have one complaint, though, which can be seen during the last quarter of this creation: Master Chief’s name is John. John! Where is the scope of ambiguity in that?

Crowd control

It’s a shame to write about Spurs in circumstances such as these, not so much the admirable performance on the pitch last night but more the behaviour of the travelling support off it. I am angry not only at the behaviour of those who travelled to see the game but also towards those who were there to police it.

Watching the pictures on TV last night I couldn’t help but feel totally ashamed that supporters of the same club as my own were capable of such acts; police were being taunted, chairs were thrown and generally it was an ugly scene in the away section of the ground. Especially after Manchester United’s foray into Italy the night before, I’m sure Spurs’ fans weren’t alone in shaking their heads at a culture that they thought had been quashed during the nineties.

As the match wore on, though, reports started drifting back through both the radio and TV coverage. Fans had called in, tapes were analysed and a picture began to emerge that there was absolutely no fan-on-fan violence, not one Spurs fan had acted aggressively towards a single Sevilla supporter: so what had sparked those violence scenes?

Everything stemmed from the highly contentious* penalty decision the referee had awarded 17 minutes into the first half. Tottenham’s fans reacted in a way that any fans would have reacted, barracking the ref from afar and jeering the officials. At this point, the club’s own travelling stewards tried to calm the situation as they would on any Saturday afternoon, but instead of letting them handle the situation the Seville riot police waded in over these stewards and tried to calm things in their own special way.

Now I really can’t condone the way the Spurs’ fans reacted to the overly aggressive measures that the police chose to employ on them, but it seems that continental policing of football matches is absolute light-years behind that of Britain. Crowd trouble is now a relic of a bygone age in this country and a lot of it is down to the way that our own police force know who to handle crowds without aggravating a situation. From the incidents we’ve seen in this and past season, and not just involving British clubs, I hasten to add, the Spanish and Italian police just do not have a clue at times about successfully managing football crowds. The ongoing troubles in Italian football highlight this dramatically.

I think to emphasise this point yet further, as soon as the police left the away section in the second half then there were no further troubles. Even though there was then no segregation between fans and the two sets were able to stand side-by-side.

Spurs have travelled throughout Europe this season, having played well over a dozen games with absolute no sign of crowd trouble. The behaviour has been impeccable during trips to Germany, Portugal, Romania and even to the cauldrons of Turkey. I have no doubt in my mind that over half-a-dozen Spurs fans were taken to hospital and our wheelchair-bound supporters beaten because of something that started due to mismanaged security and overreaction by the authorities.

At the end of the day, though, and I want to finish on this point, I cannot excuse the reaction of Tottenham supporters in any way shape of form but from what I understand they should not have been put in that position. Here’s hoping that UEFA and/or the Foreign Office step in because this cannot continue.

 

*just plain wrong, but that’s another post altogether.

Ok, now the next-gen can begin: Part II

Well, the second week isn’t quite as promising. Cue Sony statements involving the words “marathon”, “not” and “sprint”.

Ok, now the next-gen can begin

On Friday I left work early, house paperwork needed to be signed off at the solicitors and what-not, and I ended up having a quick stroll through Hinckley. Now, the more technologically savvy of you out there will realise exactly what Friday was and just why I couldn’t resist sticking my head into every Woolworths and Currys that I passed. For those of you who aren’t: the PlayStation 3 was released into Europe.

I was genuinely curious about how the PS3 would do on its opening day, what with its huge £425 price tag. With a barrier such as that getting in the way of casual purchasers, I knew that it would really only be the dedicated hardcore picking up the sleek, black box on day-one and so it was no surprise that everywhere I saw last week proclaimed loudly that PS3 stock was “NOW IN!!!”, with as many exclamation marks as their Berol would allow.

While my inner-fanboy did take some evil glee in the fact that, unlike every other console in living memory, they hadn’t all been snapped up within minutes, the PS3 launch was actually unlike any in history. Despite coming late to the European party, Sony had actually lived up to their promise and delivered enough consoles to satiate demand, plus, in the process, outsold both the Xbox 360’s and Wii’s launch weekend.

There has since been some debate in the office about what that actually means: does this mean that Sony has a greater success on its hands compared to its two rivals or, on the contrary, does the stock lining the shelves in fact mean that they are not actually producing a machine the massed ranks of gamers actually want? You can spin the facts either way and it has generally been argued as such, too.

The one definite thing you can say is that despite a perceived failure of the launch with low turn outs and Microsoft boats getting in the way of the celebrations, it actually turned into quite a success for the suits at Sony. Ultimately, Sony did sell more in their opening weekend of the next-gen console wars and that’s that. Who’s actually to say that if Xbox and Wii had produced more that they too wouldn’t have peaked and had consoles sitting unloved in shops?

Personally, I’m of the opinion that it’s far too early to tell the importance of PS3’s good start and that you can only hypothesise only so much before you start going round and round in circles. It’s going to take harder numbers than those provided during the boom of a launch window to prove how well the new PlayStation is going down with consumers. Until the weekly sales figures start appearing, just sit back and admire Sony’s production department for getting so many of those pieces of kit out into the real world. I think currently Nintendo could take some lessons.

Update: I’ve had a quick trawl around and managed to find February’s NPD numbers. These are basically the sales figures for America’s video games market.

  • DS – 485,000
  • Wii – 335,000
  • PS2 – 295,000
  • Xbox 360 – 228,000
  • PSP – 176,000
  • GBA – 136,000
  • PS3 – 127,000
  • GameCube – 24,000

Not healthy reading considering the abundance of PS3s that are now available; they are being outsold by every console except the GameCube. The consolation for Sony, at least, is that the PS2 is outselling the Xbox 360 by a healthy margin.