Gavin and I went to the Ontario Science Centre this weekend to check out their GameOn exhibition. We got to look at the innards and outsides of 10s of different consoles and computer systems, and we got to play a bunch of games both from systems long-gone and from those still on our shelves.

Touted as the “world’s largest celebration of video games”, Gavin and I immediately began to dissect what we saw, what we liked, and what we didn’t like. We’re probably more informed on games and the industry than the average attendee, and for that reason, we believe the show was good for all but the most involved and invested. It also got us thinking: What games would you want to see at a celebration for video games? How would you like to see a celebration like that organized? By theme? Time period? Console? Let’s see if we can curate our own hypothetical GameOn.

Friday, 9:11 am – Gavin

Brand dilution can become a problem when there isn’t sufficient difference between the brands being offered.  General Motors and Chrysler suffered heavily from that, releasing the exact same vehicle with a different badge across several brands (Dodge Stratus/Plymouth Breeze, Chevy Venture/Pontiac Montana immediately come to mind).  Releasing the same internals in a different chassis can work if there’s a reason to buy either of them.  One option can’t detract from the other, which is why the two-door Chevy Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire were both profitable – sufficiently different aesthetics.  The 4-door versions, however, were effectively identical.

The question is whether or not the 2DS will eat market share from the 3DS.  And if it does, will that affect Nintendo’s profitability?  As simple a question as it may seem, we can’t know the answer to either of them.  How many people who buy a 2DS would have otherwise bought a 3DS/XL?  If I’m a parent and I have two kids, and my kids want a DS system, I might well have a limit as to how much I can spend, and $260 for two kids is a hell of a lot better than $340 or $400.  If I’m a parent who has already bought one 3DS for my kid, and he broke it, am I inclined to buy another one for $170, or would that turn me off?  Where is the price point where I’d feel comfortable buying a second one?

But then, of course, there’s the question of those people who knew they were going to buy an (X)DS and hadn’t made up their minds which one, so they could be veered to the cheaper option.  But is that a bad thing?  We fundamentally don’t know Nintendo’s profit margins on these devices, so our questions are purely academic at this point.  If it costs them $100 per unit to assemble and distribute the 3DSXL to a retailer, and the retailer buys it for $150, they’re obviously netting a huge chunk.  But the 2DS has a slate design which means fewer parts – no manipulation of hinges.  It’s using a single touch screen rather than two separate screens.  It uses cheaper wire to connect its internals – ribbon wire is expensive and labour-intensive.  So if it costs them $60 to assemble, and the retailer buys it for $110, then they’re netting the exact same amount.  If it costs them $66 and the retailer buys it for $100, they’re clearing the same percentage as they were in my hypothetical 3DSXL scenario.  Or there’s another option – are they planning to sell it at a loss, like they currently are with the Wii U?

If I were in the market for a handheld, I’d still probably veer towards the 3DSXL simply by virtue of screen size.  Relative to the children for whom this is being marketed, I am a giant god-king.  As such, the screen real estate of the 3DSXL would be too tempting to turn down.

A fulsome, all-encompassing lineup from a single company can be very appealing in a marketplace.  Apple is doing great with various different versions of its products, from simple changes such as internal flash memory capacity to the changes in screen size and other internals found between models of the Macbook Air and Macbook Pro, which mean an entirely different assembly line.  A person who buys an 13 inch Macbook Pro may be significantly less likely to also buy  a 15 inch Macbook Pro, despite it having the same specs and being capable of the same things as the 13 inch model, but at the end of the day, that person still bought an Apple computer, and that’s what matters to Apple.

Thursday, 10:39 pm – Ricky

Looks like everyone is getting along here nicely, which makes me happy. I’m taking a hiatus, so I’ll leave the rest of the Gamentary family in charge for a few weeks. I’m sure they’ll keep you entertained.

In case you’re wondering, I’ll be back when GTA 5 gets released. I’m freezing myself like Cartman did to make the wait easier to bear.

Thursday, 3:22 pm – matt

well the general population has had time to weigh in on the new Nintendo 2DS, and while opinions are mixed there is generally a positive outlook on the system, but its not like too many systems get universally panned except from fanboys so not seeing much negative press doesn’t really surprise me. Im sure sales will be strong heading into the holiday season despite them seemingly eating into the full size 3DS and XL sales but im sure they’ve figured it out.

…even if they don’t im sure Gavin will still stick up for them! 🙂

Wednesday, 7:18 pm – Gavin

The Basic model was doomed from the start. I’m convinced it was simply a marketing ploy to get people to buy the deluxe model. Even 32gb of flash storage isn’t that hot these days, but compared to 8gb, it looks fantastic. Glad I picked up the deluxe, anyway.

The more I read about the 2DS, the more it’s making sense. Apparently a well-known issue with the DS was the fact that the hinges routinely broke under stress. The clamshell is a great design when it’s not abused, but the hinges were just kept in place with pins, and it was very costly to run ribbon wire through the hinges to the top screen. Enter the slate design.

The 2DS is explicitly marketed as a device for children, and it does actually make sense when you think about it that way. While the screen is exposed, a screen protector has a negligible cost. There are no hinged parts that can snap and it can be bought for a relative song, which is great for parents with multiple children. Plus, the 3D was difficult on children’s eyes. As adults, we have to remember that the 2DS is not being marketed towards us and it’s not replacing any existing handset. If you still want a 3DSXL, it’s still there. Same with a regular 3DS. This is just a cheaper device with a different design available at the same time, and marketed exclusively for children. It’s also being released the same day as Pokemon X & Y, Nintendo’s next money factory. Again, another game not marketed to us adults. Plus, while it’s not exactly pocket friendly, the 3DS wasn’t svelte like a smartphone either. Kids aren’t going to put this in their pocket, but they weren’t doing that with the 3DS either. It was going into backpacks and bags.

I am hopeful that it’s successful and that it gets more people into Nintendo’s insanely good (X)DS games library.

And researching more about the Wii U price drop, it’s a $50 price drop and includes a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, and a digital copy of the book Hyrule Historia. If I didn’t already have one, I would literally line up to buy that bundle.

Wednesday, 5:19 pm – matt

whenever a new entry to the family arrives theres always bound to be some envy, but when it REPLACES a member of the family, well, it can get ugly…

wii-u

Wednesday, 12:10 pm – Gavin

Well, the price drop was inevitable. I wish they’d implemented an ambassador program like they did with the 3DS, but there’s still time. This situates it nicely. $300 for the Wii U, $400 for the PS4, $500 for the Xbox One. Not dissimilar to the pricing structure from the previous generation, so hopefully this spurs some success.

The other big news from Nintendo today is the announcement of the 2DS. Yep, no typo there, the 2DS. It’s a pure-2D version of the 3DS (the 3D was optional for every game anyway) selling for $130. The biggest change is the form factor – it’s the first handheld from Nintendo not to have a clamshell design in ages (Super Game Boy, I think?). I don’t know how to feel about it. It’s the right price point to get me into portable gaming, but a) I’m not sure that I want to, and b) the clamshell design was one of the things that set it apart from the PS Vita – it had built-in protection that helped ensure durability of the system.

Stephen Totilo of Kotaku reviewed it in a hands-on demo and said that while the screen is smaller than what he’s used to (same screen size as 3DS, not 3DS XL), it actually does feel good in his hands. It has a wedge design like a Sony tablet, and I have to admit, I wouldn’t guess that the ergonomics were that great, but as Totilo said, it’s quite comfortable.

The form factor is something that will get me though. That clamshell design was perfect for protecting the screen and the controls when not in use. When closed, it took up less real estate so it could travel more easily. I don’t know how this one will go.

But then, that price point. $130 for a brand new device that gets you access to the absolutely insane library of amazing games for the 3DS? I will have a hard time NOT justifying that.

Do I like it? I don’t know yet!

Wednesday, 12:00 pm – matt

two things, 1: that video is amazing, I don’t think I would ever play that game, but holy crap to have that playing a room with a bunch of people and you got yourself a party!

B: Nintendo is cutting the price of the deluxe wii-u to 299 and phasing out the basic edition like the unknown extra’s cast in old star trek episodes.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/gaming/2013/08/28/nintendo-wii-u-price-cut/2715755/

Tuesday, 6:53 pm – Ricky

Still not ready to share my opinion/thoughts on what I’d do differently. I AM, however, ready to share this:

Yeah. I want this game.

Tuesday, 5:50 pm – matt

Jeez that’s absolutely infuriating. this seemed like it could have been a really amazing exhibition showcasing some amazing
history behind gaming or at least the science side behind it, sadly it appears they missed the mark on both occasions. The facts
are barely even those, but vague sentences pertaining to information about the system; “Sony made a game system,
it did
stuff, it also did other stuff” – The Ontario Science
Centre
And they could hire a formatter? someone to look over the sentences pouring into another line and abruptly ending? was
this copy and pasted from Japanese texts verbatim? Shit after reading that plaque I WOULD HAVE LOVED to see them
try
and dissect the actual and technology and science behind games.
“DUUUUUH, you touch buttons on this small box thingy with a wire. thaaaaaa wire then sends electrocutions down into
the
bigger box where it makes your guy jumps around the screen” – Ontario Science Centre.

I don’t understand how they could have so many glaring inconsistencies and still charge people for this? how do they
have
a wii-u but not update the highest selling platform of all time? Why include pieces that are easily broken,
not
replaceable, and therefore make the exhibit look like shit and incomplete?
The
pinball hall of fame in Vegas had more videogame history than this P.O.S. And they actually
worked…

not to mention no windows and LOTS of kids…. hmmm hmm hmm hmmmm hmmmmm YEAH!

Monday, 3:46 pm – Gavin

I can only speak through the lens of my own experience, but I was disappointed with GameOn. Before I get too negative, I’ll speak about the positives:

  1. Very diverse range of consoles and systems. They had just about everything there, if not playable then at least visible.
  2. Very diverse range of games. There was something for everyone there, including several genres that I’d simply never had the chance to play before, like Bullet Hell. There were lots of fantastic, influential, and important games available for all to see and experience, including plenty out of the norm. There were tons of really obscure games as well.
  3. General engagement. Kids were trying all kinds of stuff from our days and before, and generally seemed to be enjoying the old stuff.

But enough of that. You want to know why I didn’t like a gigantic room filled with 150 video games?

  1. A significant portion of the games cabinets weren’t working. I get that it’s fairly far enough into the exhibit that some of the interactive elements could have some wear and tear, but you need to be prepared for that. Spare controllers, spare consoles (if available), even so much as putting up videos of the rare consoles so that you don’t leave them prone to damage. Alas, the Atari Jaguar was unusable, as were plenty of other systems.
  2. Lots of controllers weren’t wired down, so some multiplayer options couldn’t be employed because the controllers had gone missing.
  3. Factual inaccuracies. The Game Boy was listed as the best-selling portable console of all time with 113.9 million sold. That hasn’t been true since 2009. Who’s fact-checking this stuff?
  4. More so than units not working, the exhibit just didn’t feel like it was assembled with any flow or a love of games. There was very little organization to the exhibit. There are so many ways they could have organized it, too:
    1. Chronologically. Obviously, you’d have all of the kids at the new end of the hall, but it would have at least made sense
    2. By genre
    3. By manufacturer
    4. By topic
    5. By console

Basically, there are a ton of themes that they could have picked to organize this exhibit, but they didn’t. It was a mess. Games were everywhere with no flow, no category, no sense of evolution, none of that. For example, they had two Zelda games there, but they weren’t side by side. Mario 1, Super Mario World, Mario 64, New Super Mario Brothers, all four of those games were there, on opposite corners of the building. Sports games were limited to Wii Sports, Virtua Tennis 4, FIFA something, and NBA Jam: Tournament Edition.

RPGs were effectively ignored except for Pokemon and WoW (which wasn’t working).

First-person shooters? Halo Reach and DOOM, which wasn’t working.

It’s hard to tell what the actual point of the exhibit was. It was on at the Ontario Science Centre, but discussions of technology or science in the development of games or consoles was notably absent. There was one small booth with the innards of a NES, a Playstation, and a GameCube. That was literally it on the hardware side of things.

It didn’t touch on the art, politics, or storytelling in gaming (that would be understandably more suited to an art gallery). It seemed to be mostly focused on history, as there were some plaques around with some facts on them. But it never once talked about how games work as technological feats. How do computers work? How do consoles work? How are images displayed on a screen? NONE OF THAT. And those plaques were terrible. Here’s an example of one:

There were several like this.  I had an aneurysm.

There were several like this. I had an aneurysm. Note the verb tense disagreements and PLENTY OF PROCESSING

The whole thing felt like it wasn’t put together by curators. Surely the developers of the exhibit love games – there were some fantastically obscure games in there, and some of the more contemporary choices were amazing. But even then, the newest game for the PS3 was Uncharted 2 (2009), and for the 360, it was Virtua Tennis 4 (2011). Yet, they had the Wii-U and some of its games out, so the most recent revision of the exhibit had to have been late 2012 at the earliest. But there are so many other great games that could have been included! So where were they? And why do they think that the Game Boy is still the best-selling handheld console of all time?

So again, I’m back at my point. What was the point of the exhibit? To show the best games of all time? To show the most influential games of all time? Nope, neither of those can be true, because of all of the notable omissions. Was it to show the landmarks in gaming development? Arguably, but that only held true until about 1987 or so. The website for the exhibit, http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/calendar/112/, tries to explain how it was broken down, but I strongly disagree with that based on the implementation of it. The cinema section was perhaps the most egregious; it was literally just a line of movie posters whose origins were gaming. There was no talk of games based on movies (or other cultural media), of which we have many examples, including some phenomenal ones, like Batman: Arkham Asylum or any of the countless Star Wars games that have gotten good reviews.

A glance at the exhibit’s website suggests that it tried to do too much and, quite frankly, failed at almost all of it. There were so many better ways to organize that exhibit than what they did. With the exception of the handheld section, the early games section, and the making/marketing section (but really, who in their right mind considers Spore, Jak and Daxter, and Uncharted 2 three of the most important games of all time?), you couldn’t tell that there was any logical breakdown at all.

We sadly missed out on getting to try the Virtusphere. It’s a 10′ sphere that lets you run omnidirectionally, while wearing a wireless headset similar to an Oculus Rift. The goal of the game appeared to be to navigate your digital sphere a la Marble Madness through a relatively level surface. The lineup was crazy though, so we skipped out on it in favour of going to play ExciteBike.

The ExciteBike cabinet didn’t work.

Monday, 2:10 pm – matt

Having been on the Gamentary P.U.P list (Physically Unable to Perform) for the GameOn 2.0 event, ill reserve my commentary on a system that achieved very little love during its playday but certainly has a long standing inspiration on consoles being released today, Sega’s final videogame system; The DREAMCAST. Touted as the first internet connected home console, the Dreamcast featured HD graphics, an optical CD drive, 56k fax modem, 4 on board controller ports for multiplayer, a keyboard and mouse, and last but not least, the VMU (Virtual Memory Unit). Ricky and I stumbled across a used system that was returned to microplay after a careless young adult bought one instead of paying his rent, and we subsequently traded in stacks of games to bring that puppy home. I cannot mention enough how much I loved that system, due the popularity of the PS2 and Xbox, many triple A titles never made it to the system, but the games that did I loved for being there. The 2K sports franchises, PSO, Power Stone, Tony Hawk, Resident Evil, Jet Grind Radio, SHEN-MUE, CRAAAAAAAAAZY Taxi (has to be spelt like that, sorry.) …

…But Im talking legacy here right, so what did it bring?

Well the first internet connected console being probably the biggest considering how much videogames have evolved into multiplayer experiences. I remember communicating with Japanese gamers while playing Phantasy Star Online and literally not believing what was happening was possible. Sony and Xbox were looming, Microsoft added an internal modem while Sony had a network adapter that was purchased separately, I believe when Final Fantasy 11 came out, but I could be wrong and someone else can check that. With that it also became the first console to feature Downloadable Content, so we can thank Sega for publisher not completing games like they used to…

Dual Screens! The VMU unit acted as an onboard HUD for gamers, displaying vital information in the controller while playing certain games, not only that but the unit had a watch battery indie which allowed you to pay mini games while on the go with the D-Pad and face buttons. Like a tamagotchi but much cooler.

Peripherals! Of course with a Japanese company like Sega there are going to be some unique videogame experience, but they truly mastered the “BONUS” controller with the Dreamcast. Twin fighter stick? Check. Fishing Controller? Check. Camera, karaoke microphones, Maracas? Check, Check, CHECK! There was even a Dreamcast videocam for chatting. Honestly how did Sega not patent all this shit and just sue Nintendo and Microsoft and Sony like Apple and Android do?

And the fuck can forget Seaman?

Monday, 8:30 am – Ricky

I’m going to let some others chime in before contributing my opinion on the topic this week. Until then, I did finish off Dishonored last week and didn’t talk about it.

It’s on OK game.

I know a lot of folks got really into it when it released last year. I’d categorize it as part of the rebirth of “stealth-by-choice” games, with Mark of the Ninja and a new Hitman releasing in the same year, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution the year before. It was also known as a call-back to Thief, just as Thief is being rebooted. I guess I should qualify my opinion: After playing Dishonored and Mark of the Ninja recently, I can determine that I’m not a huge fan of purely sneaking around a map and not being seen. Luckily, both games gave me the option to let loose and take people out if I need/want to. The tools and powers they give you in Dishonored definitely play into this: There’s a “high chaos” and “low chaos” route in each level, and your choice of what path to follow will influence your upgrade decisions. Naturally, I caused a lot of chaos. This killing-spree approach affected the world and story in a pretty satisfying way, and I got to experience some great moments in combat.

The animations are silky smooth, and the art style is colourful and cartoonish without being silly. Coupled with the interesting combat mechanics provided by the weapons and powers, and you have a pretty fun game on your hands. Still, there’s just something about the game that didn’t grab me.

Was it the world? No, I really enjoyed the “whalepunk” universe, where whale oil is the main energy and material source, but whales have gone extinct.

Was it the story? Possibly. I definitely did as much searching and reading as I could, finding audio logs and reading “books”. I get the story. I understood the background.

So what was it then? I honestly can’t say, but if you were to ask me whether or not you should play the game, I’d probably tell you to give it a shot and see for yourself. Don’t expect any great leaps in storytelling or first person combat. And don’t expect to be blown away by world, though it’s arguably the best part about the game. Maybe I’ve been spoiled from playing Walking Dead, Bioshock: Infinite and Tomb Raider all this year, but Dishonored just wasn’t on the same level for me despite it receiving near equal levels of critical acclaim.

Just goes to show you that it’s to each their own. Not every game is right for every gamer. Maybe you’re a hardcore stealth-game junkie, or you love mixing stealth and combat. Or maybe you’re like me and you just want to play all of the critical darlings. If so, give Dishonored a shot and see for yourself! It’s often on sale, so the risk is pretty low. Maybe you’ll see it differently than I did!

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