Video Games


I hope you’ll forgive me as I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus with this little gem of a blog. The holidays, combined with building a new house, and resurrecting my opera career (yes, I’m a classical/opera singer) has left me less than motivated to keep the NIRV up and operating.

Also, in speaking with occasional NIRV contributor and Aiepathy for Technology blogger Wolfman, I’ve thought that perhaps my focus has been too broad. Covering all of entertainment is a daunting task for one guy, especially when I’m not particularly interested in ALL aspects of entertainment. Nor are you, I should think.

So, the idea here will be to focus. Dwindle the topics down to those I am truly interested, in the hopes of attracting readers and commenters of similar stripe. Simply put, entertainment geeks.

So, I’m gonna attempt to be your one-stop blog for the following subject areas and topics:

Movies: Sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero films
TV: “Lost”, “Battlestar Galactica”, and “Heroes”
Games: XBOX 360 news and reviews
Books: Sci-fi/fantasy genre

Along the way, I hope to add to this list (depending upon your interests), as well as occasionally talk about my personal life down here in sunny Houston.

I welcome and cherish each and every hit and comment I get here at E-NIRV. I think it has the potential to be a little something special, a filled niche for the genre lover in all of you.

Thanks for listening!

— RebRob, Editor-in-Chief

“Halo 3” sells $170 million in units in its first day on the market, easily outpacing the former record holder, one “Halo 2”, which sold $125 million the first day.

Now, if I could only get my copy to arrive.

Valve Software, famous for its Half-Life and Team Fortress first person shooter franchises, announced this week that it is actively pursuing a project that will be designed for Nintendo’s hit new console, the Wii.

Said Mike Newell, chairman of Valve:
“I think we’ll bring [console projects] in house more for licensees issues than our own,” he said. “Just for our own priorities, that puts the Wii at a much higher priority. … I think the Wii represents more of a challenge because of its input. … You can’t think of it as graphics, CPU, texture bandwidth scaling, you have to think of it as more fundamentally, and I think it’s more valuable. I think it’s more interesting than just graphics chip-CPU combination. It’s the machine I have at home.”

Not only is that a huge potential boost for the already highly touted system in terms of game development, that should be an indication of just how good the Wii is. I mean, it’s the preferred console of choice for a video game developer. He sees the Wii not just for what it is, but where he thinks it can go.

The downside is, don’t look for anything on the Wii from Valve anytime soon.

I wonder if Micro$oft and $ony are listening. I know $ony is, for its console is lagging in sales and interest behind the Wii and the 360 in every nation other than its native Japan. And the 360 better think twice before it just rests on the Halo 3 laurels. They’ll need to innovate, and innovate quick.

My hunch is they both are.

Cheers to the Wii!

Ah, my favorite subject…the 360.

The 360 has done many things right…not all, but many.

First person, third person shooters? EXCELLENT. Gears of War and Rainbow Vegas are classics.

Role-playing games? Phenomenal. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a masterpiece.

X-Box Live? Fantastic. Great selection of games with more coming online all the time. Downloadable TV shows, movies, music.

Real-Time strategy? Pretty good. They took some huge leaps forward with Middle Earth and especially Command & Conquer. They work just about as well as you could expect an RTS to work on a console. That said, it still lacks the fluidity of the PC version. The scrolling and cursor positioning, combined with macro button capabilities just seem to make RTS’s lack a bit.

However, that too…may be a thing of the past.

I give you Tom Clancy’s “Endwar”.

What does Endwar have? Voice Recognition built in. But not just any voice recognition. Check out this article on Gamespot:

Endwar First Impressions

According to Gamespot, Endwar will feature a system so complex, you’ll barely need your controller. To boot, it will feature a continuing XBox Live war that people can take a part in.

They’re really pushing all of my buttons…in a good way.

You’ve heard me wax poetically about the XBOX 360, the best game console on the market (with all due respect to the Wii).

For those unfamiliar, the 360’s parent company, Micro$oft, has had issues with the system’s hardware, causing many machines to crash and give a solid red ring light around the power button (known affectionately as “the ring of death”).

The reported reasons for the “bricking” (crashing) are varied. From games that tax the system causing overheating to faulty system updates to just general defects, the XBOX forums are full of sob stories and rants of gamers having to send their beloved Boxes in. Both Wolfman and I have had to send ours in.

Initially, every XBOX had a 90 day warranty, which allowed the user to have their Box replaced if the console was defective. However, when the mega-hit “Gears of War” came out, reports of bricking became much more widespread. Complaints were rampant that Micro$oft was screwing the public, turning its back on its customers. Personally, my XBOX return story was quite the opposite. I encountered nothing but politeness from Micro$oft support, received my shipping materials for my Brick, and received my new XBOX back in less than 2 weeks.

Micro$oft seemed to address the problem with the gaming community at large, too. It announced last winter that it was extending the warranty to a full year. Those that had paid to have their XBOX fixed would be reimbursed. It was a nice move by the software giant, and proof that they sometimes considered public opinion and word of mouth more valuble than the quick buck.

Flash forward about six months, and brick reports are now coming in fast and furious again, this seemingly around the release of Forza 2, reportedly their best racing game to date.

Place your bets, place your bets. What will Micro$oft do this time? Give in and extend the warranty or say enough is enough.

If you chose “A”, you’d be right.

Check out this article from the AP: XBOX 360 repairs will cost Microsoft $1B

Microsoft (notice the spelling change) announced yesterday that it would extend the warranty to a full 3 years and repair, for free, any failures. Again those that had paid would be reimbursed. Also in the article are financial reports for Microsoft, that not only will the repairs cost over a billion dollars, but that the entertainment and devices division (aka gaming) has lost $6 billion since 2002. In addition, they’ve lost $315 million in the first quarter of 2007 alone.

First off, cheers to Microsoft. Plain and simple. They’ve stepped up to the plate and delivered in, I think, a big way.

Secondly, are the big losses cause for concern? Should we be worried about the 360 going out of business? Not likely.

From what I’ve read, it takes a video gaming system about 3 years to start turning a profit (the 360 will have been out for 2 years this November). That’s about how long it takes to work out the kinks, and for the system to catch up with the quality of the games. But even those aren’t the real reason not to be worried.

Video game console makers NEVER EVER EVER make significant money on the console itself. For a console that you paid $399 for, it probably cost 75% of that just to make it. The makers turn their profits on the games themselves. New XBOX games usually retail for $59.99, costing $10 or less to make. That’s a 400% profit.

In my XBOX ownership tenure, I of course spent $399 on the console (or rather my wife did…merry Christmas to me!), but I’ve bought about 8 new games at retail prices.

That’s about $480 just in games. I’ve also spent about $100 buying points on XBOX Live for games on their online arcade. That’s close to $600.

And we’re not even close to what most experts think will be the beginning of the XBOX turnaround, and what I think is the real reason behind this extended warranty.

Think hard. Microsoft has to have a more immediate purpose for extending this warranty.

If game sales are the most important commodity they have in trying to turn a profit, then would it not make sense to announce this extension before the release of say a big game, to insure that sales will be as big and brisk as possible.

Still haven’t figured it out?

Halo 3. It’s ALL about Halo.

The sequel to the BIGGEST seller in Microsoft history is due out on September 25, just two months away.

They’re hoping to dwarf “Gears of War” sales numbers, meaning more than 3 million copies, to say nothing of the deluxe editions, manuals, and merchandise they’ll inevitably sell.

Not only will they reap the benefits of the game sales, but more consoles will be bought by people interested just in getting Halo 3, thereby creating a bigger consumer base to market future games to (Gears of War 2 in 2008, anyone?).

It’s the way of the drug dealer, in a sense. You give the user some for free to get him hooked. Fix his 360 for free so he’ll want to keep buying games, and you’ve got him hooked.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m as hooked as the next guy. Halo 3 will be on my shelf in Texas (yep, I’m moving folks) within the first couple days it’s out. I’ll get the Gears of War 2 when that comes out. And probably 3 or 4 games in between. I’m a good little addict that way.

Microsoft did the right thing, but don’t FOR A SECOND think they’re motives were totally benevolent.

A Miami-Dade County teen was home alone with his sister when his home was broken into by burgars looking to steal their Playstation 3. While his sister hid in the closet, Damian crept down the hall and waited, Samurai sword in hand.

Teen Scare Off Burglar With Samurai Sword – News Story – WGPL Miami

When one of the burglars grabbed the (empty) box for the Playstation 3 console and ran back into the hall Damian was there waiting. He stabbed the burglar in the chest once, after which the burglar “freaked out” and took off down the street being chased by teenage Damian with his sword.

One of the two burglars was later picked up by a K-9 unit, the other is still at large.

DON’T MESS WITH GAMERS!!

You think we can’t put to use the knowledge and cat like reflexes we have been practicing with for years?

WRONG!

Way to go Damian! Oh by the way Damian is also a Brown Belt in Karate.

This month, XBOX Live will release a multiplayer map pack for one of their most popular games, Gears of War. This pack will cost 800 XBL points (about $10) and will feature four new settings for multiplayer mayhem.

Epic Games, creator of the smash hit, has a history of releasing new content for existing games for free; and they did so two months ago with Gears, adding new maps and new modes for play. The current pack was to have been gratis also; however, Micro$oft balked at the idea and wanted a charge put on the new content. Epic fought back and forth with them and finally agreed on a compromise: the maps would have a fee attached initially, then would be free after a certain period. In this case, that’s September….four months down the line, when all talk will then be focused on the mega-release of Halo 3.

I will not be purchasing the new maps. Further, I will not be talking up Gears to any acquaintances on XBOX or elsewhere, as I had done for the last 5 months since its release. In September, I’ll pick up the maps for free, then resume my stance that GOW is the best game currently on the 360.

Microsoft, have some brains. Cultivate the LONG TERM gamer. Stop nickle and diming us to death. I for one, am glad that these games are not self-contained. They allow for updates and new formats and glitch fixes and so on. But these items SHOULD BE FREE. We’re already paying almost $70 for a new game, throw some good feeling our way. Follow Epic’s lead. They were already pretty much assured a fan base with gamers, who’ll follow them to the inevitable Gears 2. But they engender just that much more positive buzz by taking care of their customers.

So, for now, I’m on a Gears self-imposed gag order….

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