If you were to march into your local Best Buy to purchase a non-refurbished modern gaming console for the least amount of skrilla, you'd have to decide between a $299 PlayStation 3, $299 Xbox 360, and $199 Wii. That doesn't include gimped systems, like the $199 Xbox 360 with the hard drive stripped out, but the core models from each of the big three. What's interesting about this is that the price is the same now as it was 18 months ago, and at least one analyst thinks something has to give.
I have a holiday tradition. Every December, I buy myself a present. That way I guarantee I will get at least one gift I actually want. (I have a closet full of sweaters and shirts that other relatives thought were “just perfect” for me. No. Just no.)
This year, I ended up standing in the aisles of Fry’s Electronics, debating with myself. I really wanted a new camera—the Sony DSC-F828 is 7 years old and I’ve been studying the specs on various high-end DSLRs. But there’s also this great new game from Disney called Epic Mickey. I don’t have a Wii, but Epic Mickey looks so good that I was tempted to buy a Wii just for Epic Mickey alone.
But … I hesitated.
One of my nephews has a Wii, and he got Epic Mickey for his birthday early in November. So I invited myself for dinner one Sunday and afterward he set up the game for me. He showed me where all the controls were and walked me through the first few moments of the game.
I’m a big Disney fan and Epic Mickey opens up with some great references to classic Disneyana: Mickey Through The Looking Glass, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, all those Disney anthologies with the animated paint brush creating whole landscapes with a stroke, early Disneyland, Night On Bald Mountain (and/or The Blot), and a calendar that acknowledges Mickey’s early films as the pages fall off.
After a spectacular setup, the game reveals Mickey in a place called The Wasteland. We meet Oswald the Rabbit, who Walt created before Mickey, in the laboratory of a mad scientist. This is an introductory level, a teaching level for the mechanics of the game. Your job, playing as Mickey, is to destroy one control console by spinning (shake the controller), leap across a broken platform and destroy a second control console. You leap by holding down the A button.
Like all platform and jumping games, it requires fast reflexes.
Those of you who have ever compared browser market share stats from various authoritative sources will know that their numbers seldom agree. But there is little to disagree on when it comes to Opera’s proven numerical mediocrity compared to other major desktop browsers. In much the same way, there is no gainsaying its numerical superiority in the mobile market. Now, the browser has another opportunity of redeeming itself in a non-desktop segment, with the announcement that Sony will soon begin shipping connected LCD TVs and Blu-ray players with Opera built into them.
According to the browser vendor, the Opera Devices Software Developer Kit (SDK), which helps ensure standards compliance across various platforms, will form the “backbone of Opera for connected TVs and Blu-ray Disc players.” It will deliver full web browsing, web apps and widgets while ensuring compliance with emerging web standards such as HTML5, HbbTV and OIPF.
"The Web as we know it is evolving, and we are committed to making it more accessible across diverse devices," said Christen Krogh, Chief Development Officer, Opera Software. "Our ability to address key hybrid broadcast-broadband initiatives in numerous markets makes us a natural fit with Sony. By delivering both a global viewpoint and the necessary technology, we are able to stay on the cutting edge of the industry."
But Opera isn’t entirely a newcomer to the world of TVs. Wii owners have already sampled the browser on their TV screens through the Opera-powered Internet Channel.
According to Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter's numbers, Nintendo moved around 2.6 million Wii consoles in December, edging ahead of Microsoft's Xbox 360 with 2.5 million units and way ahead of Sony's PlayStation 3 (1.2 million units), CNet reports.
Good for Nintendo, right? Not so fast. If those numbers are accurate, it means Nintendo Wii sales declined 32 percent compared to December 2009. PS3 sales also dropped (to the tune of 12 percent year-over-year), while the Xbox 360 exhibited a healthy 91 percent growth rate compared to one year prior.
There's more bad numbers for Nintendo. For the six month period ended September 2010, Nintendo posted a $24.6 million loss, the result of weak Wii and DS console sales. Going forward, Nintendo hopes to gain some ground with its upcoming 3DS handheld console, but with no living room consoles on the horizon, it will be interesting to see if Wii sales continue to decline or have simply leveled out.
Fancy yourself a tree-hugger? That doesn't mean you have to give up gaming on the console, you just have to choose your system wisely. So which one gets the nod? According to findings by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the Nintendo Wii consumes about a sixth of the power of Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 consoles.
"We included only a small sample of the many gaming systems available, but it reveals the differences in energy use can be significant," said Mark McGranaghan, vice president of Power Deliver & Utilization for EPRI. "With the holiday shopping season in full swing, now is a good time to consider this factor."
EPRI conducted its tests by playing EA's Madden 2011 football game for one hour on each system. In doing so, EPRI found that the Wii used an average of 13.7 watts, while the PS3 and Xbox 360 pulled 84.8 watts and 87.9 watts, respectively.
"Obviously there are many considerations when looking at a gaming system and we're only about energy use," said McGranaghan. "There are also trade-offs associated with graphics and speed that drive higher energy use and consumers will need to factor those elements in as well. The more graphically intensive systems will, by design, require more energy."
Or you could say the hell with it and build a dual- or tri-videocard gaming PC, power consumption be damned.
The Xbox 360 was first released on November 22, 2005 in the U.S. and Canada, just over five years ago today (by a week). As CNet notes, the coming and passing of the Xbox 360's fifth birthday without a successor in sight could very well mark the end of the 5-year console cycle that's been in place for three decades, give or take a couple of years between releases. Check it out:
Nintendo Entertainment System: 1985
Super NES: 1991
Nintendo 64: 1996
Nintendo GameCube: 2001
Nintendo Wii: 2006
Sony has kept the same cycle, releasing the original PlayStation console in 1995 followed by the PlayStation 2 in 2000 and the PlayStation 3 in 2006. Microsoft's first Xbox showed up in 2001.
Looking ahead, there aren't any new consoles on the horizon from any of the big three (Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony). Instead, each company has found other ways to extend the shelf-life of their existing consoles. Sony, for example, added 3D support, while both Sony and Microsoft recently launched their own take on motion controlled gaming. Nintendo hasn't been as active, but did add disc-less Netflix to the mix as well as various add-ons, like the Wii Balance Board and Wii Draw tablet.
On top of it, all three current-generation consoles are more adept than ever as serving as viable home theater media centers.
Which console(s) do you own, and do you plan on purchasing one before the end of 2010?
If you pay attention to technology in any way whatsoever, you've heard of Angry Birds. This smash hit mobile game is available on Android, iPhone, Symbian, and WebOS. But developer Rovio has announced that the game will be arriving on full game consoles in the near future, the BBC reports. The game will be distributed through the online markets on the Wii, Xbox, and PS3.
The shift from touchscreen input to controller input will be interesting for Angry Birds. In the game, players pull back a slingshot to launch birds at villainous, egg-stealing pigs. We imagine the game will have support for the motion control accessories on the various consoles. That would only make sense, and might end up a bazaar selling point of the Kinect. Would you play Angry Birds on your console?
With the holiday shopping season right around the corner, you can expect plenty of juicy deals and promotions in a bid to secure your gift-giving (or self-splurging) dollars. But if you're hoping to score a scintillating deal on the Nintendo Wii, well, prepare to be disappointed.
According to Yahoo News, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said he only plans on offering limited deals with retailers this year, focusing mostly on special package bundles that add games or other accessories rather than temporary price cuts.
"Of course, we cannot say it will never happen, but we are not thinking of it for the near future," Iwata said when pinged about a possible price cut.
Price cut or not, Iwata reckons his company will sell 17.5 million Wii consoles in the fiscal year ending March 2011, and 23.5 million handheld DS consoles, including the upcoming 3DS.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Super Mario Bros. game on the original NES, Nintendo is offering limited edition runs of its Wii and DSi XL consoles dressed in red, as well as a new Wii Remote Plus with Wii MotionPlus built-in.
"Whether shoppers want to add a cool new look to their gaming setup or expand their supply of controllers with an exciting game, Nintendo offers a great value for the holidays," said Marc Franklin, Nintendo of America’s director of Public Relations. "For anyone who is still on the fence about whether to join the world of video games, we’re offering many fun, easy, economical ways to get involved."
The red Wii bundle ($200) includes New Super Bros. Wii, a red Wii Remote Plus controller, Wii Sports, and a red Nunchuck. The red DSi XL bundle ($180) comes with Mario Kart DS, as well as some pre-loaded software, including Brain Age Express: Arts & Letters, Brain Age Express: Math, and Photo Clock. And finally, Nintendo is offering a FlingSmash bundle ($50), which includes the FlingSmash game and the new Wii Remote Plus controller.
Nintendo's new products are slated to launch on November 7, 2010.
YouTube earlier this month launched its Leanback UI, which is sort of like Pandora for videos. In sort, Leanback serves up videos based on your settings, preferences, subscriptions, and friends on YouTube, all wrapped in a slick interface ideal for couch potatoes with a wireless keyboard.
As it turns out, the Leanback interface is also pretty well suited for remote control with Wii remotes. To prove it, Android Technologies on Monday released its WiiLeanback software, a free download that maps the buttons on the Wii controller to YouTube's Leanback buttons.
"The arrow buttons on the Wiimote take the place of the arrow buttons on the keyboard," the project's author describes in a YouTube video. "The 'A' button pauses and unpauses the video while the 'B' button or trigger button on the back of the Wiimote acts as the enter key."
You don't need to own a Wii console to take advantage of WiiLeanback, just a Wii remote and a Bluetooth dongle.