I can’t help but feel like we’re absolutely flying through 2013. We’re already 1/3rd of the way through, and we’ve experienced some amazing titles so far, including Tomb Raider and Bioshock Infinite. The rip tide keeps us moving through April, and hopefully Dead Island: Riptide can join the list of notables for the year when it releases tomorrow. 

Also, it’s Earth Day this week. Please think about electronic waste management, like when you ditch your old POS iPhone 4S for the shiny, new, completely novel iPhone 5. 

Friday, 8:39 am – Ricky

Well, we’re back at the rumor mill – IGN is reporting always-on connectivity for the next Xbox is happening. They’re also talking about the pricing, with the top SKU coming in at $499, and another version coming in at $299 with a 2-year commitment to Xbox Live Gold at $10 per month. No word on the differences between the two versions.

In terms of pricing, this isn’t a surprise. What IS a surprise is the new ad models that are popping up. matt just texted me about an Xbox Live message he received to check out some product, and I know that Xbox just launched a Pizza Hut app for it’s dashboard. Check out what Sony has in mind for “interactive commercials” that will interrupt your gaming:

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So, basically, you say “McDonald’s” to skip the commercial. Yeah, I’m not fucking tolerating that. Here’s the other part of the patent. I love that they mix-up McDonald’s and Burger King, and even then they mess up the Burger King slogan:

sonyadpatent_1-580x484

 

Make it your way indeed.

Based on what I know right now, I’m very firmly in the Sony camp at the moment, but that’s based solely on the gaming aspects of the system. I’d like to think this sort of commercial crap won’t make it to the public. I’m still interested in the Xbox reveal, but they’re going to have to do something big to get me on their side. That said, the more I think about the last gen’s launch, the more I realize I probably don’t want EITHER system at launch. Both had their issues, and neither was immune to dying within the first few weeks of use.

I’ve been slowly playing BioShock Infinite by the way. Very short bursts of play makes it tricky to get into a groove – this is the kind of game you want to sit down and play in one sessions without interruption, including eating or personal hygiene. I hope I get to finish it this weekend, but looks like I’ll be spending most of my gaming time with Gavin on Sunday checking out the WiiU. Yes, I love BioShock, but this is a fair trade IMO.

Thursday, 3:45 pm – matt

That’s… a lot of garbage trucks, EA is going to get destroyed for this game for years to come…

Im so sorry to hear about youCongratulations on buying the WiiU Gavin! Jokes aside I am glad I was a small influence in your decision to finally pick up the thing after our experiences in NintendoLand. Admittedly after receiving the Costco sale pics from Ricky regarding the 199.99 basic console I was tempted myself to pick one up but don’t have a costco membership or any actual evidence in order to perform a price match somewhere, so sadly I continue to wait.

My decision regarding the WiiU is certainly a tricky one, one hand I am certainly the personality type to want the new and shiny toy that is offered, the other hand I don’t have quite a robust social life as I would like to think and feel like I would be missing out on the key part of the system, “fun with friends”. Sure my girlfriend will play but how often can I kick her ass and it still be fun?

I feel like we are getting to the heart of the system though and able to see the merits for some and the downfall for others. Nintendo has rarely put any effort into online gaming, so someone like with friends out of town that I want to play games with, the playstation or xbox seem like the better choice. If I had a more robust social life im sure I would buy one of the new consoles AND a WiiU, im just not there yet…

Nintendo is in an interesting spot right now, their console has already launched and can now focus on delivering the promised titles to their fans, developers should be figuring out tricks to further optimize the system, and hopefully gain some ground in anticipation for the ‘big boys’. As much as we get excited for the release of new consoles, they rarely have great launch titles to actually play and most of the “system sellers” appear afterwards. many of the hype and games people are going to get excited for on the next gen systems will be on hold till next year, maybe even further. It seems like Nintendo has a small window to take advantage of a weaker market during the launch of the new systems.

And a side note, more lay-offs at EA. Who actually wants a job in gaming anymore with these volatile companies?

Thursday, 10:47 am – Gavin

Interesting news from IGN today – Nintendo is reporting that they will not be giving a large E3 presentation; instead, they’ll be focusing on delivering a series of smaller presentations.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing?  Nintendo doesn’t do bombastic presentations the way that Sony and Microsoft do.  Their corporate approach was never suited to that type of thing.  But is having no large presentation better than having a lackluster one?  The smaller presentations will be closed sessions delivered to distributors and media, and then to the public through Nintendo Direct announcements, which I must say I’ve really enjoyed so far.

They’ve announced they aren’t demonstrating any new hardware; it will just be a software show for them.  They know that they won’t have the kind of audience they would typically get for a hardware announcement.  Why not break it up?  I don’t know if this is a good idea or not.  It’s not the E3 presentation that is the defining factor for a company; it’s the press pickup of that event.  We all know that Microsoft will have most of the press’s attention this time around.  Meanwhile, in addition to these seminars for distributors and media, Nintendo gets to control the flow of information fully through rehearsed and produced Nintendo Direct announcements.  E3 is an exhausting event; oversaturation is an issue for sure.  Can Nintendo successfully control the narrative on this?  We also have to remember that E3 is primarily a North American thing; North America is a big audience, but Nintendo has a huge attachment rate in Japan/east Asia as well.  The Japanese market is one of the major reasons that the DS is the best-selling video game device of all time.

How will this help the Wii-U’s popularity?  Marketing has been pretty poor in North America.  Do you think that Nintendo’s software can make up for that?  I’ve always typically said yes, because Nintendo’s first party exclusives obliterate anything that any other company can put up, but I’d be lying if I said that a first party exclusive would absolutely steal attention away from the first hands-on of the PS4 and the Nextbox.    Still, we’ve been told to expect announcements of a new Mario Kart, 3D Mario, and Super Smash Brothers, so if that’s enough to pique your interest, check your pulse.  Because you’re probably dead.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the Nextbox has to offer.  Not buying it, but always good to know what’s out there.  Just for the lulz, I hope there’s something absolutely ridiculous, like always-on or no physical media.

Wednesday, 2:31 pm – Ricky

In other news, Maxis and EA have been touting the latest patch for SimCity, calling it “2.0”, either because that’s the next logical leap in the sequence, or because they truly believe they’ve made this game that much better.

Watch this video and decide for yourself.

Yeah….

Wednesday, 2:24 pm – Ricky

FINALLY! We still have a few more weeks, but man, at least we have a date when we can put (some) rumors to rest.

Wednesday, 1:45 pm – matt

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Tuesday, 7:55 pm – Ricky

The hard cut (where it takes Ricky a week and a half to put the podcast up, so he doesn’t mess around)

Gamentary Podcast – Round 21 (right click and “Save As” to download the mp3, or use the player below)

Monday, 3:58 pm – Ricky

Great write-up Gavin! Happy that matt and I played our part in busting your Challenge, and that my Backlog Challenge will remain intact now that I get to play NSMBU at your place!

While I might have saved myself with Dead Island: Riptide, I now have my eye on Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine – it’s an intriguing indie game, where you’re part of a heist squad robbing casinos, yachts and mansions in Monaco. Also, Konami has just announced Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection. I’ve only played a couple of the Metal Gear games, so this would be a whackload of new content for me to go through. Of course, I already have a whackload of new content to go through… #firstworldproblems.

Monday, 3:35 pm – Gavin

Well, it looks like I failed my own challenge for 2013.

I had one goal, and that was not to buy a Wii-U until a 3D Mario was released.  Sadly, I failed.  After our experiences with the Wii-U at Ricky’s birthday party, I simply couldn’t contain my excitement for the system.  Strangely enough, my wife was the one who encouraged us to get one.  So I popped out to the local Target and picked up the deluxe set, and scored a $50 gift card in the process, which I used to buy a new Wii-mote (with the WiiMotionPlus built into it) and nunchuk – no point in having three Wii-motes if you won’t also have three nunchuks.

I grabbed the deluxe set because that was the one that had the offer for the gift card, effectively making it the same price as the basic set.  I was never overly fussed about the storage capacity of the basic set – it’s not like 32gb is a huge amount either, when games are running upwards of 20gb.  I figured if I was going to grab one, I’d get the basic set because I didn’t care about the optional extras.  “Didn’t” obviously being past tense, because now that I have them, I realize that they are pretty nice.  Maybe not worth the extra $50 once you realize how cheap external storage is these days, but since I basically paid the basic set price for the deluxe set…

The charging cradle is the big one.  It feels light and not desperately substantial, but it definitely keeps things neater, rather than just having loose cords everywhere.  It has two circular guides at the base so that you always put the remote on properly, rather than off to the side.  The metal tines that make contact with the charging leads don’t look too tough, but I doubt they’ll see much lateral stress, if any.  Downside?  It uses AC power, not USB, so it takes up a separate outlet on my power bar.

There’s also a gamepad cradle that doesn’t charge.  It’s a 1-cent piece of black plastic, but it’s great.  The gamepad is large, as we know.  It takes up a lot of real estate.  So what do you do with the gamepad when it’s not in use or being charged?  You put it in the cradle and set it upright, rather than on its back.  Takes up less space on my coffee table, and also keeps it slightly off the ground in case of fluid spills.

There’s also a couple of 1-cent pieces of plastic for keeping the console upright.  I just prefer this look to laying it down.  The stand pieces are small and significantly more discreet than the Wii’s stand.  I liked the look of the Wii’s stand, holding it on an angle.  The Wii-U is simply vertical and not angled.  I preferred that, but since it’s black and my TV stand is black glass and black steel, I barely notice it except for the power light on the front.

I had to go through the day-1 patch process.  It took about an hour and a half to download and install, so I just occupied myself for a bit.  I was curious as to why it took so long, considering I downloaded and installed Max Payne 3, a 30gb game, in about half that time.  No hard answers, but rather a theory that there’s serious server throttling on Nintendo’s side.  I couldn’t verify anything beyond that – I downloaded a couple of applications and demos, and they were done in less than ten seconds a piece.  Perhaps it wasn’t the downloading that took long, but rather the installation process.  Oh well, hardly a bother.

I had to fiddle with my settings to get everything looking right on the TV – I had a strange zoom setting chosen, for some stupid reason.  Anyway, it’s all set up, and now it operates smoothly and looks great.

I transferred over all of my old save information from the old Wii.  This was my biggest complaint about the setup process.  The instructions for how to do this are painfully vague.  I had to resort to watching an independent internet video before I finally got it done.  Once I watched the video, it took practically no time at all, but finding clear instructions was more difficult than it should have been.  You have to download a system transfer application on the Wii-U, but the instructions don’t tell you if you’re supposed to download it to the Wii-U’s hard drive, or to the clean SD card you need.  I downloaded it to the SD card, downloaded the second transfer application to the Wii, and inserted my SD card, but it wouldn’t recognize it as having been set up.  I thought that when you’re supposed to insert the SD card into the Wii and run the Wii transfer application, it would recognize the Wii-U application on the SD card.  Sadly, it doesn’t do that.  You are supposed to download the Wii-U system transfer application to the Wii-U’s hard drive, and then run it (I thought downloading the first transfer application to the SD card would work, as you’d be running the first application directly from the SD card).  It will prompt you to put the SD card in, and then it transfers a few essential files and creates a folder structure on your card.  Then, leaving the Wii-U on and the system transfer application running, you turn on the Wii, download the Wii system transfer application, and run it.  It prompts you for the SD card, you put it in, and it populates that folder structure with your save games, your WiiWare applications, etc.  You then go back to the Wii-U, reinsert the SD card, and it brings over the necessary files, and after it’s done, it clears your SD card.  So, while you’re doing this, you need to switch video inputs on your TV back and forth, while also plugging/unplugging the sensor bar into the right console.  You also need two remotes, one paired with each system.  This process was an enormous pain, but I got it finished and I’ll never do it again.

I played around with a few applications:
– Internet browser
– Netflix
– Nintendo eShop
– Google Street View

The browser is an Opera-based browser, no Flash but runs HTML5, which the internet was supposed to adopt four years ago but never got around to doing.  It’s really smooth, but I did find that some text boxes simply wouldn’t let me enter text, like Google Maps.  I don’t know what the deal is, and nobody else on the internet seems to be having this problem, so I assume I did something wrong.  You use the gamepad to browse and it duplicates it on the television, so it’s like a duplicated tablet.  However, you can “private browse” by pressing the X button on the gamepad, and it turns off the TV display.  I struggle to think of a super-practical use for this, but it’s great for internet parties and “hey, check out this website I found!”, only to re-engage the TV display, directing your friends to pictures of goatse or tubgirl or whatever.  A neat feature for sure.

Netflix is spectacular.  The speed difference for the application between this and the Wii is tremendous.  It’s clean and clear and the interface is super-easy.  Choose on the little screen, play on the big screen.  It also includes gamepad viewing support, so you can just turn it into a portable TV viewer.  I’m not certain I’ll take too much advantage of that, as we don’t have cable, so anything I watch, my wife will watch, and vice versa.  But for those with cable and Netflix?  Absolutely invaluable.

The eShop is pretty straightforward.  Hook it up to a Nintendo account (or create one) and it works basically exactly like Steam.  I only downloaded a couple of free applications, but you can download full games, trailers, demos, etc.  The virtual console for the Wii-U launches tomorrow, and every game for the VC has gamepad support.  There’s been a VC pilot program going on, with one game a month being released for 30 cents.  This month, it’s Kirby’s Adventure, but in May?  IT’S SUPER GODDAMN METROID.  30 cents for Super Metroid is practically stealing.

The Google street view application is GREAT.  It’s blazing fast and totally neat.  Google maps displays on the TV, while the street view displays on the gamepad, but you can obviously duplicate the gamepad view on the TV as well.  Move the gamepad around to move the street view around.  It’s 1:1 and totally user-friendly.  I spent at least half an hour just exploring different parts of the world.  They’ve got pre-installed “tour” locations, so you can head to some exotic spots without moving your lazy ass, you disgusting fat slob.

I found myself using the built-in stylus for most of the gamepad use.  Nothing really of note there except that it really helps with screen-touching.  The gamepad is not an iPad, so don’t expect it to perform like one. It does attract fingerprints and skin oils like a goddamn magnet though.

Sadly, I didn’t have time to actually try out any of the games this weekend.  I got Nintendoland with the system, and also picked up New Super Mario Bros. U with an EB Games gift card.  I look forward to having some time to really explore Nintendoland, and obviously to dive headfirst into New Super Mario Bros. U.   More impressions later!

Oh, and I’m just about finished Skyrim.  I am a barbarian goddess of death, and about 100 of my 315 carrying capacity is taken up by my enormous potion collection, as I prepare for the final battle against Alduin.  Yee-haw.

Monday, 9:34 am – Ricky

I wrote the above before I had a chance to see the first round of Dead Island: Riptide reviews published today. Looks like we may have to wait a while longer for our next GOTY contender… On the plus side, I still have 2 games left to buy this year!

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