Some of this information will be duplicated in my daily links post from del.icio.us tomorrow morning, but I find it irritating enough that I should say something about it.
What an… interesting day today in the format war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray Disc. I found out about it via a Twitter post from Microsoft’s Major Nelson , and followed the bread crumb trail to find more information on the situation, because it didn’t make much sense at first. (Major Nelson linked to this Excite News story first).
Since I was out of town on business and busy with many other things over a period of a few weeks recently, I found that I had somehow managed to “unplug” a little bit, and haven’t been doing much in the way of playing games since then. It’s actually been rather nice to not be playing games for a while, and I’ve been postponing it as long as I could.
Last night I finally fired up the 360 to catch up on a few things, and I thought I would share my experiences. Unfortunately, what I’ve been doing has basically just piqued my interest in several games that are arriving in stores within the next few weeks – games that I cannot realistically afford. I’ll start with the obviously awesome.
Behold! A look at what Microsoft is clearly missing out on with their online service right now!
I used to be OK with the fact that I was paying $50 per year for online console gaming. It costs money to run that kind of infrastructure, and to design the services that are so cohesive on a console like the Xbox or the 360. I get that; it’s cool.
It made sense, in a way. I even defended it a few times, because Xbox Live was unbelievably superior to the original PS2 online structure, and even the PlayStation Network when it debuted with the PS3. Those services were free, and they were horrible. Xbox Live cost some money, and it was really nice and did a lot of things very well.
But what am I looking at now as a customer?
Xbox Live still costs me $50 a year. Then, they charge me additional money for all kinds of download packs and other content that often isn’t worth the inflated costs they’re asking. You can’t play online against anyone for free, so I pretty much have to pay the money. I stare at advertisements (which are making MS money) all the time while I’m using this paid service. And they just announced that they are bringing over an exec from EA to be in charge of Live. Have you ever played an EA online-enabled game? I don’t want this guy in charge of my console online experience.
PlayStation network costs nothing. It’s free as long as you’ve ponied up the cash to buy a ridiculously expensive PS3. They’re beginning to host dedicated servers of their own to provide players with well-bandwidthed and non-client places to play, which eliminates lag and client-zero “cheating.” Their downloadable games are cheaper, and if Home is what the press made it sound after E3 this year, then I’m suddenly very interested in what Sony is doing from an online perspective. They don’t have a unified login system that works reliably (yet), and other key integration methods currently employed by Live just don’t exist on PS3, but I have a feeling that’s more of a temporary situation.
Really, the only thing that keeps me thinking that Live is better is the combination of its amazing integration on the system level and the completely Pavlovian draw of Achievements.
Realistically, Live needs to be free.
As I’m sure more of the Internet will soon discover, the pricing mistake mentioned earlier in this space that I had hoped to take advantage of is no more:
Dear Best Buy Customer,
Thank you for your recent Rock Band software order on BestBuy.com.
Unfortunately, our website incorrectly stated that the Rock Band accessories were included with your video game purchase. This is incorrect and we have updated the website to accurately reflect that the accessories are not included with this purchase. As a result, your order will be cancelled if you haven’t already cancelled it, and you will not be charged for this item. Additionally, if you would like to reorder the Rock Band software, please visit the following links…
We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you. Because you are a valued customer, we would like to offer you a $5 Digital Coupon* toward a future purchase at http://www.BestBuy.com.
Digital Coupons are easily redeemed when you shop online. Simply enter the 17-digit code listed above during checkout. We apply them to your purchases, up to the total purchase amount. The Digital Coupon must be used prior to the expiration date: October 28, 2007, at 11:59pm (CT). This offer is limited to one per customer, excludes gift cards, and is nontransferable. Please review full details below.
Thank you for your loyalty,The Customer Care Team
Bah on them. I didn’t really think I was going to get away with the freak pre-order, but there’s always a small bit of hope.
I doubt I’ll be paying the ridiculous amounts of money that Rock Band is going to cost, so I figure I won’t be playing it for a while.
The iMacs are coming!
Apple cut the smallest display out of the product loop, redesigned the enclosure in aluminum and glass – which may be part of their new environmental initiatives, and added a glossy display, new keyboard and a few smaller features to the iMac lienup today. Looks nice. Notice one thing, though:
The border around the display itself is now black. TV salesmanship 101 was that a black border around the display was always preferred by customers over a silver or white border, because the darker frame increases the perceived contrast and color definition of the display to the average eye. Many people will now say that the new display looks sharper or brighter, if only because there isn’t something light-colored hanging around the edge of the display.
The other thing that jumped out at me (and as part of the iLife demonstration as well) is that the redesign very deliberately looks a lot like the iPhone. Flat metal, black border, shiny Apple logo… if we get more changes like this, it will become only more apparent that we’re looking at a product family.