Archive for October, 2008

LittleBigPlanet

Games are usually designed around a fundamental challenge of completing objectives, whether it’s defeating enemies, building an empire, or escaping from danger. Great games engross the player in the challenge and get them hooked and poor games usually try to do this, but fail because the challenge feels too repetitive, or too frustrating, or the game just fails to draw them in.

LittleBigPlanet has that core element of challenge as a traditional platforming game but that’s really not what the game is about. The basic platforming elements are generally very easy. Merely beating the levels or getting points isn’t very satisfying by itself. The fun part about this game is discovering all the cool designs, and tricks, and ideas that go into each level. Even with the pre-packaged levels, I’m constantly surprised and amused with what I discover. And, obviously, with the user-created levels, it’s a ton of fun to see all the different concepts that people were able to execute.

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Already, there are a ton of completely entertaining user levels. A good example is a level that someone recreated from the first level of the classic NES game, Super Mario Brothers. The level isn’t challenging and I definitely wouldn’t want to play a whole Mario Brothers game like that, but it was fully entertaining to play the level, and see how many little touches they were able pull off and how they did it. And that level isn’t even close to the best user level I played (Touch of Color is an easy favorite level so far).

The other fun part of this game is using the level editor itself. Most regular players probably won’t take it so far that they are making polished, prize-winning levels, but plenty of people will have a ton of fun making simpler goofy levels and just having a blast while doing it.

Most gamers remember the previous era of user-created content for games like Lode Runner, Eamon, Wolf 3D, Doom, Quake, and Marathon. One big difference between that era of user-created content and something like LittleBigPlanet is that previously, there was a big lack of professsionally made games. Today, there is just so much more content on the market and it’s so much easier for regular gamers to get. Previously, user created content generally aimed to fulfill the lack of games to play, while today, user-created content is more about providing community expression that is missing from more traditional games.

Everyone is wondering, will this game be a commercial hit? Will this title unleash tons of entertaining ideas and concepts from the community? Is this title going to start a new a new genre of gaming? No one knows, but this game delivers the most novelty we’ve seen all year and this title is clearly the first to usher in a distinctively new era of user-created game content.

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Japan is Hesitant to Adopt PS3/360

Have you been watching Media Create’s top 30 software sales charts in Japan? From a platform/publisher perspective, it’s consistently populated by mostly DS games and slightly fewer PS2, PSP, and Wii games. PS3 titles are very sparse on the list and 360 games are even rarer.

It’s surprising that even today there are so many more PS2 releases and software sales than those on the PS3 and 360 combined. In the west, developers and the media completely lost any interest in the PS2 many years ago. I remember in late 2004, most of the western media outlets started to proclaim the PS2 era as over and many new game development was being started on next-gen systems. The media definitely jumped the gun by at least a year or two, but in the west, there was such an eagerness and excitement to move on the next generation of hardware back then. But in Japan, here we are in late 2008, and the PS2 is still far more popular in terms of software sales and quantity of popular new game releases than the PS3 and 360 combined.

Anyone have any good theories for why this difference may be? Is it a consumer issue such as cost or size of the hardware or fancy graphics and online features that are perceived as adding more complexity than entertainment value? Or is it a developer issue? Are the developers slow to change production practices, slow to invest in new technology, or hesitant to jump to a newer and financially riskier platform?

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Home Beta only Available to Annual Qore Subscribers

That’s pretty lame Sony …. at the very least the open beta is still set for 2008.

As an update to the PLAYSTATION(R)3 News email sent on Friday, October 24th, the special invitation to PlayStation(R)Home’s closed beta is available only to Qore annual subscribers who purchased subscriptions by 10/29. Qore Episode 06 purchasers will not be eligible for the special PlayStation(R)Home beta invitation at this time. We apologize for the miscommunication.

Qore Episode 6 Home Beta Update

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Sony Fiscal Q2 Financials

Sony’s Fiscal Q2 2008 = Calendar Q3 2008. Here is the game division overview:

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(official report here)

Noteworthy points:

  • Sony, as a company overall, is still making a profit. Overall net income was 20.8 billion yen. This is way down from last year’s 73.7 billion yen, but the company is definitely still in the black. Sony’s biggest division in terms of both expenses, revenues, and profits is consumer electronics (HDTVs, cameras, laptops, DVD/Blu-Ray players, etc).
  • Game business is losing money, 39.5 billion yen, but loses are way down from last year’s 96.7 billion yen.
  • It’s easy to forget, but Sony still sells both more PS2 hardware and software than PS3 software and hardware. I wonder if or how they are counting PSN purchases.
  • Overall software sales are down slightly since PS2 sales dropped more than PS3 sales rose.
  • Overall R&D spending is slightly up for 2008. I’m hoping some of this is increased investment in PS3 game development, although there public statements don’t give this detail.

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