Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What's in a name?

This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee takes a look at Prince of Persia. Hang on, didn't that game come out 1989? Shouldn't he be reviewing the newest game in the series, entitled Prince of Persia: Purple Rain, or something like that? Well, actually, Ubisoft decided to drop the subtitle with this installment, and simply go back to Prince of Persia, despite the confusion it may cause. It's similar to what Tecmo did when they re-started the Ninja Gaiden franchise, except where as they waited about 10 years before they felt it safe to re-use the name, Ubisoft have been consistently making PoP games for a while now, so it's a little weird to have them re-start the series at this point.

I suppose the reason is probably because of the fresh new story. Gone is the increasingly-moody Price of the last few games, to be replaced by a brand new Prince, who strangely enough has the same ridiculous acrobatic prowess as the last one. Well, maybe everyone did back in those days. Joining him is friend Elika, who as far as I can tell is your checkpoint system, bringing you back from the brink of death every time you miss a jump. This was handled in recent adventures with the Dagger of Time, but I guess the time rewinding mechanic can only be stretched so far, and besides, putting a shapely female form on my checkpoints can't possibly be a bad thing. Aside from this difference though, it sounds a lot like the other recent chapters of the series, with the main focus being on fun, parkour-style navigation.

I haven't had a chance to play Prince of Persia yet, but I feel that I should before announcing my games of the year, as I have heard many good things about it. Besides, if Yahtzee can get through a review without tearing a game limb from limb, then you know it must be good! So here it is. As always, it contains plenty of strong language, so is definitely NSFW:

Check out the rest of his videos here.

For your consideration

The end of 2008 is almost upon us. By the time you read this, it may have also passed, to become nothing more than another chapter in the pages of history. It was the year that Nintendo regained their title as king of the consoles, Harmonix showed us that episodic gaming can be done, and Activision proved that sometimes the best ideas are the ones you steal from someone else. But more importantly, it was a year that saw the release of a bunch of fantastic games, from big budget to indie, and from original to formulaic.

So which were the very best of all these titles? Gaming sites and magazines always take it upon themselves to crown one above all others, and this site is no exception. However, where as most outlets will have their game of the year lists ready before December has even come to a close, I'll admit that I haven't had a chance to play everything I wanted to, so it would be a little unfair to cast my vote yet. Instead, I'm going to leave it for a month or so, to ensure I've given everything a fair shot, in the same way the Academy Awards don't take place until Feburary.

Also, I'm not going to pronounce it best game of the year, but rather Oscar's favorite game of the year, as I realize that my opinion is no more important than anyone elses. To save time though, I think I'll shorten it down and just call it The Oscars. Aw, crap!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Home-a-phobia

It's taken quite a long time, but Home, PS3s virtual world and social networking tool is finally online. It's a place where gamers can gather for fun and chat, even engaging in mini-games such as bowling to occupy their time. Since I don't have a PS3 I can't join in, but in the weeks since launch I've heard a lot of complaints about various aspects of the service.

The first problem people were facing was simply an inability to connect at all. This has been mentioned on numerous sites and podcasts, with some folks trying for hours to jump in. A fix for this was soon issued by Sony, but the patch unfortunately blocked voice chat, which had to be re-added in later. However, in an attempt to stop filthy old men from perving over the one or two females on the service, chat has been limited to private areas only, with all public talking expressed by keyboard (ah, communicating with IM - that takes me back!).

Now, Home was never meant to be a game on it's own, but rather a place where people could gather to play other games. Of course, it would be nice to have something to do while you're tooling around the virtual world, but options are severely limited. Those who don't want to dance are confined to things like bowling or pool, but there are only a set number of tables and lanes for these things, so one must wait in line to play. That's right, wait in line! It's a virtual world with potentially limitless boundaries, yet they only include a small number of activities for the millions of people they hope to attract to the service? I guess that's why folks are inventing their own ways of amusing themselves instead!

In the last few days though, another big issue has presented itself: Namely, the incredibly strict profanity filter. Obviously, Sony doesn't want people running around calling each other bad names, so have blocked the use of anything they consider offensive, and they consider a lot of things offensive. Connecticut resident Michael Marsh ran into this problem when attempting to start a gay/straight alliance club, only to find that they words 'gay', 'lesbian', and 'bisexual' were all blocked, despite the fact that these are the preferred terms among the gay community. He worries that blocking these terms is basically calling them profanity, and lumps them in with much more offensive expressions. This is not the first time online gamers have been disallowed to discuss their sexual preference, but it's still a shame to see people running into these kind of issues.

Sexual words are not the only things blocked; any words considered religious, such as 'Christ' and 'Jew', will also find themselves asterisked out, so forget about trying to form any religious-based community within Home. In fact, just to show you how incredibly stupid the filter is, even the word 'Hello' can't be typed as it contains the word 'Hell' within it. Stop laughing, I'm not kidding. I've never heard of such a ridiculously strict chat environment, even in Nintendo's family-friendly world of Animal Crossing, and I hope they make some changes or I'm never going to be able to start my Shitzu appreciation society!

Of course, Home has only been up and running for a few weeks now, so they have plenty of time to iron out any problems and streamline the experience, but they haven't exactly had a good start. When I first heard about Home, it sounded like an excellent service that would separate the PS3 from it's competition, but the final result sounds very disappointing so far. It's especially apparent in the weeks following the launch of the New Xbox Experience, which added a lot of useful functionality to Microsoft's console, much of which cannot be done on Sony's box, despite the constant firmware updates. After they've had some time to make adjustments, Home may end up being fantastic and everyone will forget about the rough start it endured, but they had better do it soon before everyone writes-off the service altogether. Of course, they did just add in support for beards, so things are looking up; lets see where they can go from here.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Clubbed to death

Looking at my shelves, I see a lot of Nintendo games, just sitting there doing nothing. Some have been there for a number of years, having out-lived their usefulness and been condemned to a life as part of a collection. Well, they finally have a chance to give me another dose of joy, as the registration codes inside their boxes can now be put to use, thanks to Club Nintendo.

Yes, Club Nintendo US is up and running, after having been promised a few months ago. Or is it? The site was activated last week, only to be taken down again. This was soon rectified, and I had a chance to register a few games to test the service, but now it's been taken down again (this time for maintenance). What exactly is going on? They must have assumed that millions of people would be visiting Club Nintendo to get started on the registration process, but then again, it wouldn't be very Nintendo-like for them to actually keep up with public demand, would it?

So when the site is up and running again, what will be offered? Well, it gives you points for every Nintendo system or game you register; points that can be redeemed for prizes. Prizes include DS and Wii accessories, like stylus sets and carrying cases, but saving up more points gets you access to better stuff, like the DS Game & Watch Collection (which is the one I want). Unfortunately, only games published by Nintendo contain the registration codes, or else I'd probably have enough points to get every prize I want, immediately. However, even games released at the start of the DS's life have the codes inside, so your already-established collection doesn't have to go to waste.

Every DS game you register gets you 30 points; every Wii game gets you 40. You can get another 10 points by either registering a game within 30 days of release, or by telling Club Nintendo which games you plan on buying in the future (assuming you do actually buy them, of course). Consoles also have a point value attached to them, but unfortunately I can't tell you how many, as the site is down right now. After typing the code into Club Nintendo, you will then be asked to complete a brief survey concerning how you heard about the game and what influenced you to buy it. The survey is actually really stupid as it contains virtually the same question 3 times in a row, and not much else. Oh well, it only takes a minute to fill out per game.

Looking through my collection and making note of which games are published by Nintendo, I count at least 670 points I can redeem once the site is up and running again. I also have a Wii system and two DSs to register (because my girlfriend has allowed me to merge our collections together for this purpose), so this will hopefully put me over the 800 point mark required to get the good prizes. I guess I'll find out once site maintenance is complete.

So don't let your collection go to waste; head on over to Club Nintendo and start earning points yourself. What's that you say? You don't have a collection because you just trade in games once you've finished with them? Well, sucks to be you!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

There's Noel in DLC

This week in Rock Band, we celebrate the holidays with a festive 3-pack of songs. Two Christmas tracks are joined by one Chanukah song (or Hanukkah, as it's also known). On top of these we also get another selection from the Foo Fighters, but it's just a 3-pack, not a whole album this time. The Foo Fighters pack goes for the usual 440 MSP ($5.50) or 160 MSP ($2) per song, but the holiday tracks are only 80 MSP ($1) each.
Here's this week's selection:

By Foo Fighters:
DOA
Times Like These
This is a Call

Barenaked Ladies - Hannukah Blessings
Billy Squier - Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You
The Pretenders - Blue Christmas
Note: Click on any song for expert drum videos.

So when the holiday tracks were announced, I was sure they would end up on my hard drive before too long. After all, my girlfriend loves Christmas music and loves the Barenaked Ladies so I was positive that she would insist I purchase them. However, with all the hectic holiday planning this week we never had the chance, and now it seems a little silly. She pointed out to me that releasing Christmas songs only 2 days before Christmas is a bit weird; it would make a lot more sense to have them come out a couple of weeks before, the same way that holiday movies are released around November. Now that the festivities are all over I'm not sure I want to re-live them, but that Barenaked ladies song will probably still end up being purchased when my girlfriend and I have a day off together. I'll give my opinions of it when that day comes. Oh, and in case you were wondering, no, I didn't buy any of the Foo Fighters tracks either. Maybe when I'm done with all my new games I'll play a little catch-up.

In other Rock Band news, Harmonix have confirmed that DLC will be making it's way to the recently-released Wii version of the game, but not until early 2009. The first things to be released will be the 20 free bonus songs, along with 30 songs from the existing DLC catalog. While it's nice that Wii players can finally experience Rock Band for real (as the DLC is what makes this game so great), it's a shame that they have to wait for the library to be slowly released. So for all the aspiring Rock Band drummers out there, here are 5 songs that I would highly recommend you purchase:

Wolfmother - Joker & the Thief
Smashing Pumpkins - Siva
Rush - Limelight (The cover version is actually more fun)
The Police - Truth Hits Everybody
The Who - Sea and Sand

These are five of my favorite songs in the game, and I hate to think that Wii players have been denied them for this long. They are all fun to play and fairly tricky (Limelight is the easiest; Siva is the hardest), but I abstained from recommending any of the super-tough ones (like The Perfect Drug or YYZ) as I don't imagine casual Wii players will be able to handle them. Wait! I'm only joking! The real reason I didn't recommend them because they're hard as hell, and it would be a lot better to get some practice in before you attempt anything so tough. I don't know when these tracks will actually become available, but you had better get your fill of the songs that shipped on the Rock band 2 disc now, because you won't be playing them much once the DLC hits.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Out of retirement

Well, Christmas is over; I hope you all got what you wanted. I don't think I've missed too much in the last few days, except for Zero Punctuation, but as it was only a clips show I don't think I'll bother posting it. Along with some nice clothes and fun toys to play with (I got a mini RC helicopter - Yay!), I also received a few video game related items which I can't wait to get home tonight and open (no time yesterday; Christmas turned out to be a little busier than I expected). I'll be sure to share my opinions of everything once I get a chance to play, but for now, here's what my girlfriend was nice enough to get me, so you know what to look forward to:

First of all, I got a copy of Mirror's Edge for 360. I know this game has received mixed reviews, but I still wanted to try it. I'm aiming to have it finished before too long as I want to buy the DLC that comes out in January, so expect a review fairly soon.

Next, I got My Japanese Coach for DS. It's funny; my girlfriend and I had both expressed an interest in this one, so bought a copy for each other. Oops! At least now we'll both have the chance to learn a little Japanese, at which point we'll be able to communicate with each other in our own secret language that no-one else can understand (no one speaks Japanese, right?). I don't know how well the software actually works, but I'll have my opinions on it once I find out. I can't promise a weekly update showing off my progress, but we'll see how it goes.

Now to answer the question as to what the title of this post is all about. Coming out of retirement will be my PS2, as I need it to play Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES, the final game I got. This is a re-release of the original Persona 3, which was a 2007 RPG for the PS2 that received plenty of critical praise. I've always had my eye on it, and it's re-issue seemed like the perfect time to ask for it and see what all the fuss is about. I know the game is really long (like, 100+ hours long), but since I have a PS2 in the bedroom I can play this one at night once I'm in bed, and should hopefully be able to make a dent in it.

On top of these, I got some Microsoft Points which I plan on spending on the XBLA game Braid, and a nice surprise in the form of a podcasting kit. Ever since I started this blog I've wanted to do a podcast but never had the right equipment for it. Now all I need is a co-host (because solo podcasts are usually boring), so maybe I'll send a kit off to Ed and we can record one together. Either that or I'll just start hassling major sites to include me as a special guest on their podasts.....

So there's my Christmas; I hope yours were just as fruitful. Now I have plenty of stuff to keep me occupied for a long time, and I promise to start writing up some reviews after the holiday season is over and I get a chance to sit down and try everything out.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wow, is it Christmas already?

Just popped in to wish you all a merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, and jolly anything else you happen to celebrate at this time of year. I doubt if anyone will be reading this anyway; I'm sure you'll all be off unwrapping presents, eating, drinking, making merry, and watching A Christmas Story non-stop (yeah, it's on here right now).

Like many others, I've had a lot to do at the last minute whilst preparing for the holidays, but I think most everything is done now; I can just sit back and wait for the festivities to begin. So sorry I haven't posted anything today, and sorry in advance for not posting anything tomorrow; I actually managed to get the day off and I'm going to enjoy it. I'll probably have to work a little more than usual after Christmas, but I promise to be back in a couple of days, maybe even with a shiny new game or two to discuss with you.

So have fun, stay warm, and feel free to leave a comment telling us what you got for Christmas, or to share any fun holiday stories!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

PS3D

2009 may see the next huge evolution in gaming, according to Neil Schneider, President and CEO of Meant to be Seen (MTBS). He recently told Game Informer that Blitz Game Studios are working on 3D titles that they hope will see release next year. But haven't we been playing 3D games for sometime now, ever since we said goodbye to the 16-bit era and ushered in the age of disc-based games? Yeah, but he's talking about true stereoscopic 3D, the kind that pops out of your screen at you.

“The best part is console support will only need a bios upgrade to work,” Schneider writes. “We are told that the ability to add this capability via bios may be unique to Sony PS3 versus the other console solutions.” Since MTBS are a stereoscopic 3D certification and advocacy group, they probably know what they're talking about. Having noticed the increased revenue recent 3D films have made in theaters, they want to bring some of that profit over to the world of video games. But how will it work? Lets consider that for a moment.

3D movies work by delevering two pictures from slightly different angles; one of which is seen by your right eye, one by your left. The easiest way of doing this is by projecting one image in red and one in green, then wearing glasses with one red and one green lens. The red eye won't see the red image and the green eye won't see the green one. Simple. Of course, no one wants to sit for hours with these glasses on, so a better method is to use polarized lenses for projecting movies. One hotizontally polarized, one vertically polarized, and glasses that match. This method works the same as red and green glasses, but can be in full color, and requires special lenses to project.

Ok, so since we don't have TVs designed to display 3D, and we don't wan't all of our games to be in red and green, how will they pull this off? The only way I can think of is to have glasses with little shutters inside. The picture on screen will rapidly switch between left and right images, and the glasses will sync up in order to ensure each image is only seen by the correct eye. Of course, this will essentially half the frame rate of games, but I suppose they could still look good. In fact, 3D glasses for PC have been around for a while, and I imagine they work in a similar way. Unfortunately, I don't know anyone who owns a pair, so I can't see for myself.

But all this talk of how it could be done, draws attention from whether or not it should be done. We all know what happened to Nintendo when they tried to bring 3D gaming to the mass market, but I suppose it's a little different when the feature can be added to an existing console. I'm sure there are none among you who haven't dreamed about this idea at one point or another, but the sad fact is that it will require an additional peripheral (the glasses), and Sony don't exactly have the best track record when it comes to supporting such things. The other thing to consider is, if a game is made specificaly with 3D in mind, will it even be playable in 2D? This is a worry I have with all these 3D animated movies being released these days; once they leave theaters, do you lose a big part of the experience?

None of these questions can really be answered until more details are given about Blitz Games' 3D engine, so I guess we'll have to wait until 2009 to find out. If they do manage to pull it off though, and we get major titles being released in true 3D, then Sony may have finally found something they can do that the 360 can't. That is, until Microsoft announce similar plans of their own....

Monday, December 22, 2008

Is that punctuation I hear?

As a child, only one thing came close to the awesomeness of playing my favorite video games, and that was watching shows about my favorite video games. I used to get so excited as I tuned into classic programs like GamesMaster, hoping to get a glimpse of some elusive title that I was looking forward to. This was, of course, before the internet, when the only way to see a video of a game in action was on television.

These days, things have changed a little. With so much info easily accessible, video game television really has nothing to offer, much like print magazines. Enthusiasts who wish to catch up on all the latest news on their TV are forced to watch crap like G4, the channel that one day decided no-one wants to watch shows about video games unless they're being talked about by hot women, and people would rather hear about which game character has the nicest boobs than, say, which game you should be spending your money on this week.

Enter Yahtzee. You know him; he's the one whose alter-ego is a little mouthless guy on a yellow background who has a lot to say about the poor quality of games. Joining together with Australian friends Matt and Yug, he brings us Game Damage, a new show that has info on all the goings on in the world of our favorite pass time, with sketches and funny parts to help keep things lighthearted. They are hoping to pick up a spot on network TV, so have released an online pilot to show broadcasters what they can do.

So how is it? Well, it's a nice attempt, but I think they need a little more practice before it becomes anything spectacular. I'm sure lots of people have been looking for the opportunity to rip on Yahtzee (for a change), and now they may have it. I'm not going to be too cruel, but if I can offer one piece of creative criticism, it's that Yahtzee just seems to be trying too hard. I think that after spending so much time in character for his Zero Punctuation reviews, he's forgotten how to talk about games normally, so comes off as a little forced during most of the show; I'm sure this will improve in subsequent episodes though. Also, the sketches aren't as funny as I would have expected, considering they came from the man who brought us this.

Anyway, it's still worth a watch if you have half an hour to kill and want some game info. I haven't decided if I'm going to post these weekly (or whenever they're released), as this factor will depend on the quality of future episodes, but here's the pilot anyway. It may not quite be the same as watching Sir Patrick Moore's disembodied head handing out challenges to hopeful youngsters, but then again, what is?

Meta is better

Stuck at work? Bored? Looking for a flash game to play, but don't have the patience for anything too tough? Well, Armor Games may have the solution for you, with a fun title that doesn't require a great deal of thought or finger dexterity, but is still fun to play. It's called Achievement Unlocked, and offers us the chance not to find keys or defeat bosses, but rather waste our time with meaningless tasks.

What am I talking about? Well, any 360 players should understand the concept right away. It's like a game with everything removed except for the achievements. It's set all on one screen and you have infinite lives and no enemies to defeat or collectibles to er.... collect; all you're tasked to do is jump around the platforms unlocking achievements. They could be things like, "Stay in the air for 10 seconds" or "Go from the top of the screen to the bottom without stopping". In fact, there are achievements for just about every imaginable thing you could do, from muting the sound to accidentally pressing two buttons at once.

Obviously, this title isn't supposed to be a fantastic game that keeps you engaged for hours, but is really more of a joke about our love for achievements, which many people see as meaningless. The funny thing is, a co-worker saw the game and couldn't stop playing it. He thought it was a great idea and wanted to unlock everything before he finished work. I told him that for me, every Xbox 360 game becomes like this after a while, where I forget about the story and instead spend hours doing random crap in hopes of boosting my Gamerscore a little. I have a feeling he'll be picking up a 360 pretty soon......

You can play Achievement Unlocked here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Entertainment Weakly

It's that time of year again. The time when all entertainment outlets take it upon themselves to name the best games/movies/books from the last 12 months. Popular magazine Entertainment Weekly is no exception, offering top ten lists for all of these ways of spending your time. I have a subscription at home, but rarely use it for anything other than bathroom reading material, and never take anything it says as gospel. After skimming through it yesterday though, I feel that something needs to be said about their top ten video games of 2008 list.

Let me start by telling you that the top ten game list is after the movie and book lists, so I had a chance to look at those first. After seeing WALL-E in the number one movie spot, I figured that these guys must know what they're talking about (because I completely agree with that choice), but I can't say whether or not the top book list was accurate as I rarely buy books until they come out in paperback. Then I got to the top ten games list. Before I start discussing it, I'll print it here, so you can all see for yourself:

10 - iPod Touch (various games)
9 - Dead Space

8 - Pure
7 - Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures
6 - Madden NFL '09: All Play
5 - Rock Band 2
4 - Braid

3 - Grand Theft Auto IV
2 - LittleBigPlanet
1 - Wii Fit

Okay, so I'm not even sure where to begin with this utterly ridiculous list. Well okay, lets start from the bottom, shall we? First of all, the iPod Touch is not a game. Sure, it may have games on it, but doesn't that make it a console? I mean, we wouldn't expect to see "Nintendo DS" on the list, despite the fact that it had many more great games this year than the iPod. Besides, I don't remember any real game journalists talking about the iPod Touch games as anything other than quick time-wasters; certainly not game of the year material.

Dead Space and Pure are also weird choices. It's not that I've heard a lot of bad stuff about these titles, but I haven't exactly heard a lot of good stuff either. The next two are just baffling. Lego Indiana Jones, seriously? You mean the title that was universally recognized as a re-skinned version of Lego Star Wars? And what about Madden '09? Just because they added in a dumbed-down control scheme for kids, does this really make up for the fact that it's yet another version of a game that's been around for 20 years?

Now we get to Rock Band 2. I'm sure you're all aware that I love this game, but I don't think it deserves a spot on the top ten list. Why? Well, because it's basically just an expansion pack for the original Rock Band. While I feel that the first one was the best game of last year, the sequel adds little except for new songs. In fact, I feel that all the downloadable content released this year was better than the music that shipped with Rock Band 2, so if anything, that's what needs to be on this list.

The next game, Braid, is probably the only choice I agree with. I haven't actually played it yet (it's on my pile of shame), but I've heard many game journalists praise it's innovation and mention it as a possible game of the year. This is partially why the rest of the list is weird; I listen to a bunch of video game podcasts, and always hear a lot about all the excellent games. When the hosts cannot stop talking about a title, even when it's months old, then I know it must be fantastic. However, when they only mention a game briefly in one episode, I find it a little strange to see it turning up on any top ten lists.

Okay, so it's time for the big three. GTA IV is an obvious choice. It got many perfect scores, and sold through the roof, so I guess I can understand it's placement. However, most critics agree that it was overrated, and there wasn't much mention of it as little as a month after release. LittleBigPlanet is another semi-understandable one. This title had the potential to be the best game ever, but has been quickly forgotten about by the majority of the press, with the exception of certain die-hard fans of course. I think a non-gamer looking at LittleBigPlanet might think it was fantastic, but many people found the pre-made levels a little boring, and realized that making your own levels requires a lot of time and energy. Once again, I think it probably had the potential to be great, but ended up falling a little short.

Now we get to number one. I'm trying really hard to keep this blog clean and non-offensive, so I'm going to have to be really careful about what I say, but whoever it was that decided Wii Fit was the best game of 2008 is completely and utterly, well, lets just say it's a word that begins with "R" and ends with "etarded". Since I own this game, I feel totally justifies in saying Wii Fit sucks! Sure, as a weight loss tool it's alright, but try and find one single gamer who didn't get bored of it in less that a few hours. Go on, try. It may have sold a whole bunch, but most of those were probably to housewives and families, not real gamers, and this is supposed to be the best video games of the year list, not the best ways of getting your mum to pick up a controller list. Anyone who says that Wii Fit is the best game of the year, over all the other excellent titles, clearly does not play video games, so shouldn't be writing in a magazine as though he does. I know that Entertainment Weekly isn't really a hardcore-gaming publication, but if they're going to try, couldn't they at least pick someone with a little experience?

Of course, this list doesn't really mean much on it's own. You have to consider all the games that didn't make the cut, to see how crazy some of the choices that did are. Where the hell is Fallout 3? It may not be everyone's favorite game of the year, but it certainly deserves a spot in the top ten. And what about Metal Gear Solid 4 and Left 4 Dead? These were both critically acclaimed and talked about for a long time, yet apparently neither of them is as good as Madden '09 or Lego Indy. It's also strange to see no handheld titles on the list. In a year when we saw games like Patapon, Professor Layton, and The World Ends with You, I would have expected to see some portable titles somewhere in the top ten, but once again, the writer clearly has no idea what he's talking about.

I think what this really comes down to is, Entertainment Weekly isn't a gaming magazine. The list they made was clearly not written for gamers, but more for the general non-gaming public. However, since it is a long running and well respected publication, I don't like to hear them talking out of their ass about something I feel so passionately about. So to the editor of Entertainment Weekly, how about hiring some real gamers for the 2009 list? Either that, or just forget about video games and stick to what you know. Don't worry; the next time I want to see a picture of Nicole Kidman's favorite cocktail dress, I'll open your magazine. The next time I want to hear about video games though, I think I'll look somewhere else.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Download the Road I Go

This week in Rock Band, America's favorite genre of music finally makes an appearance. That's right, I mean country. Coming to us is a 5-pack from various artists, including Brad Paisley and The Dixie Chicks. Fortunately, I live in the northern part of the US, so don't have to hear this style of music every time I walk into my local diner for a nice plate of grits. In fact, so out of touch with country music am I, that I can't even think of a decent joke to introduce this post, so lets just get on with it, shall we? The tracks are the usual price of 160 MSP ($2) each, but the whole pack can be acquired for 680 MSP ($8.50).
Here's this weeks selection:

Brad Paisley - Mud on the Tires
Brooks & Dunn - Hillbilly Deluxe
Dierks Bentley - Free & Easy (Down the Road I Go)
Dixie Chicks - Sin Wagon
Miranda Lambert - Gunpowder & Lead
Note: Click on any song for expert drum videos.

Wow! I have a hard time even listening to these tracks, so obviously I didn't buy any of them. Unfortunately, my girlfriend is a fan of country music, so I may end up with some of these in my library in the future. Hopefully I'll be able to distract her with next week's holiday songs instead....

So since there is isn't really any other exciting Rock Band news, this is going to be the shortest weekly post for a while. Don't worry though, I'll be back next week for a Christmas Special Extravaganza (er... don't hold me to that). See you then.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hog of War

This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee takes a look at Sonic Unleashed, Sega's latest attempt at reviving the status of their beloved mascot. Now Sonic and I have a bit of history together. Having grown up with a Megadrive/Genesis under my TV, the blue hedgehog with a 'tude provided me with hours of fun and entertainment. Of course, I'm only referring to the first two games; it was sort of downhill after that. Sonic was a character, like Lara Croft, who managed to remain iconic despite the fact that the majority of his games were garbage.

So what about Sonic Unleashed then? Yahtzee isn't the only one who's been discussing it recently, but everyone seems to be pretty unanimous in their opinion about it. No, that's not a good thing. Rather than sticking to the formula that made Sonic great so long ago, the developers have chosen to go the Zelda: Twilight Princess route, by having sonic transform into a wolf by night. Sorry, I mean Werehog. These wannabe-God-of-War sections are the parts that most reviewers disliked, but Yahtzee seemed to enjoy these parts more than the other bits, so now I don't know what to believe! Oh well, it's not like I was going to buy it anyway; I'd rather just keep my pleasant memories of Sonic as they are. Besides, I already played one semi-decent game staring the blue hog this year, and if there were more than one of those, well, the Earth just might implode!

Here's the review. As always, it contains plenty of strong language so is definitely NSFW.

Check out the rest of his reviews here.

Free-Rex

Last year, Doritos held a competition called Unlock Xbox, in which thousands of people submitted their ideas for an original XBLA game that brought to life the bold spirit of the Doritos brand. The winner would have his or her idea made by Ninja Bee (creators of XBLA titles Band of Bugs and A Kingdom for Keflings), to be released for download. Well, it looks as though the game is ready, as checking the Live Marketplace reveals a free title called Dash of Destruction, which I discovered upon it's release yesterday.

Of course I couldn't pass up a free game, so I downloaded it and checked it out. It's a simple premise: You play as a T-Rex with an insatiable appetite for, you guessed it, Doritos. Thankfully there are delivery trucks racing around the city dropping off shipments of the popular corn chip, and it's your job to chase them down and eat them. Apart from simply steering your dinosaur, you have a dash button which will help you close the gap between you and your lunch, but it slows you down after it's use, so it isn't an unfair advantage. Buildings can be knocked down, but these also reduce your speed as you crash through them, and you will soon get competition from another T-Rex; can you chase down your share of trucks before they complete their deliveries and before your rival has eaten his fill?

That's about all there is too it, and I quickly found myself progressing through the game's 6 levels. It's actually fairly fun, but the real motivator came after beating the first stage and unlocking a couple of achievements. Oh yes, of course: Free Achievements! It turns out that they can all be unlocked by simply progressing through the game, and by the end of level 6 I had about half of them. That's when I got the option to play as the truck instead (I think it's actually available right from the start), driving around and making deliveries while trying to avoid the dinosaurs. The truck levels are quite fun too, giving you a shot of turbo to help you on your way; this is upgraded as the stages progress.

It turns out that the truck levels are even easier than the T-Rex levels, so I once again found myself at the end within about 10 minutes. Now I had 11 out of 12 Achievements; what could I have missed? Muliplayer, that's what. I had to beat a multiplayer game to get the last Achievement, so I plugged in my headset and selected the option from the main menu. After a few minutes of wondering why I couldn't connect to a lobby, it hit me: This game as no online multiplayer. Oops. So since I have only one controller in the house and I wanted those final Gamerscore points, I signed in a second player on my Rock Band drums and proceeded to kick his ass. Yeah, I know it's cheating, but I wasn't going to finish without getting 100%.

It's a shame that the muliplayer is offline only, as it seemed like it might be quite fun: Everyone starts off as a T-Rex, and there's one delivery truck racing around. Whoever eats it becomes the truck and has to start making deliveries. Anyone else who can eat the truck takes over instead, and that's how it progresses until someone has made enough deliveries to win. There's also a traditional mode where one person plays as the truck and one as the dinosuar, but I didn't try it out.

So that's all there really is to Dash of Destruction. What it comes down to is, I got 200 free Gamerscore points in about half an hour yesterday, so I'm not going to complain. That, plus the fact that the game is actually quite fun, and I could see myself firing it up when company is round. As for how I feel about playing a commercial for Doritos, well, I have absolutely no problem with it. People say that product placement could kill gaming, but if it absorbs the entire cost of a title then what's the big deal? I'd love to see more games that are brought to us completely free because they are paid for by sponsorship. Plus, it's always funny to see consumer products being shamelessly shilled to you in games (Global Gladiators anyone?)

So go and download Dash of Destruction. It's low budget, it's short, but it's entertaining and provides free Achievement Points. Oh, and for anyone wondering, yes, it's better than Yaris!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Guitarded

As I was out shopping last night, I found myself in the cereal aisle of my local supermarket and decided to pick up a nice box of Kellogg's Mini-Wheats. Why? Because they're delicious! But that's not all; I wanted another of the free Guitar Hero toys that are being given away inside. Last week I was lucky to receive a fun music making amp with my box of breakfasty goodness, but the prize that caught my eye was a mini LCD version of the full-sized Guitar Hero game, something that sounds really awesome and really terrible at the same time.

So was I lucky in my search? Well, lucky in the sense that I didn't get the same toy as last time; unlucky in the sense that having two of the same toy would have been more fun that the piece of utter crap I did find in my box. So what is it? Well, it's a mini guitar with three fret buttons and a little whammy bar. Pressing one of the fret buttons starts a power chord playing, and pressing the whammy bar adds a cheesy wailing effect. That's really all there is to it. With only three chords to choose from, it's tough to make any kind of recognizable tune, or really any tune at all for that matter.

That's when I noticed a little note in the instructions that says "Rock on with your friends". Hang on a sec.... Does this mean I should be using my new toy in tandem with the mini amp I got last week? That would make sense: The amp would provide the background tune, and I could wail power chords over the top of it. Unfortunately, whoever designed these toys clearly didn't have this idea in mind, as the tunes that play from them are at completely different speeds. Idiots.

I'm still going to keep buying Kellogg's cereal until the get the prize that I seek, but I'll be a bit more wary from now on. Oh, and by the way, I eat these cereals all the time regardless of promotions, so I'm not just a total sucker for a free toy. In the meantime, here's another video, this one showing off the utter crapness of my latest piece of schwag:

Monday, December 15, 2008

A team effort

With all the excitement over Left 4 Dead, it's easy to forget that Valve have another excellent multiplayer shooter that's currently being enjoyed by many. I'm talking about Team Fortress 2, which is part of The Orange Box. It's a shame that many people I know have never even tried this fantastic part of the package, but for those who have, an increase in fun is on the way, in the form of a free update.

Valve have been pretty good about releasing regular content to keep their game fresh and this lot adds some new functionality to the Engineer and Spy, two of my favorite classes even though I suck at both of them (they require a lot of practice). Here's the list of features we can expect to see, taken from their official blog:

  • Teleporters will be upgradeable to level 3. As the teleporter is upgraded, the cooldown will decrease.
  • Dispensers will be upgradeable to level 3. They will heal faster and generate metal faster as they are upgraded.
  • Spies will be able to recharge their cloaking ability by picking up ammo off of the ground.
  • We've made a bunch of minor changes by adding particle systems and upgrading the HUD to show things like deaths by critical hits, players that are overhealed, and giving more information to medics when people are calling for them.
Of course, these updates will only apply to PC gamers, as sadly, 360 fans are passed over again. Or are they? Whatever the reason for the PC-only upgrades, it sounds as though Valve are finally going to show some love to console gamers, with the announcement that "We are actively working on a massive XBox 360 update, which will include pretty much everything we've shipped on the PC in the last year. We'll provide you with a rough date when we have one."

This is great news for all 360 fans, despite the fact that it's been over a year since TF2 first released. Now we will have access to all the new maps, weapons, and game modes that PC players have been enjoying for some time. I hope this encourages people to re-visit the title, as I know I will and I'll be looking for some matches. I even remember fellow writer Ed telling me that he was just about ready to go out and buy the PC version, in order to play with all the additional content not available on consoles. Hopefully this announcement will save him some money and give us both something we can play together again. I just hope we don't have to wait this long when Left 4 Dead starts getting new stuff......

The TF2 PC update should be live now, but 360 fans will just have to sit tight until an official date is given for that version.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What, you never heard a swear word before?

Just a quick post to mention something amusing that happened last week. As you should know, Animal Crossing: City Folk was recently released for the Wii. In order to show off the Wii/DS connectivity, Nintendo sent out 14 copies of Animal Crossing: Wild World (the DS game) to major gaming sites. Upon firing them up, they were treated to something wholly un-Nintendo, in the form of a rather gangsta sheep. Apparently, the copies in question had been pre-used, and whoever had tested them decided to teach Baabara to say the N-word after every sentence.

The amusing part, as far as I'm concerned, is the fact that every major blog site ran stories about it; Kotaku, Joystiq, MTV Multiplayer, and Destructoid all had stories showing off the apparent racism. I realize that it's funny, but I thought teaching your Animal Crossing characters to swear was a part of the game that everyone enjoyed. In fact, this is one of the more family friendly aspects, when you consider that it also allows you to customize clothing (guess what I drew), and make your own constellations out of stars; my girlfriend was quite surprised when she looked into her virtual sky to see The Big Dicker floating by (yeah, I'm only 6 years old really).

Needless to say, Nintendo quickly issued an apology, but like I said, the "incident" itself wasn't what amused me, but rather the coverage the game got because of it. Actually, I suppose it's possible that Nintendo did know about the swearing character, but figured that it would get them some extra publicity, which it did. I even feel that Nintendo's apology was unnecessary, because I doubt if parents buying the game for their kids have ever even heard of these video game sites, let alone visited them. Regardless, the family friendly company is going to have to be a little more careful in future when they choose playtesters......

Oh, and by the way, you don't have to use an ñ to write unsavory things; an upside down exclamation mark instead of an i does the trick. Enjoy!

November NPD - What is it good for?

It's time for another month of sales data, courtesy of NPD Group. Nintendo absolutely dominates November, with over 3.5 million units of hardware moved. This is surely a sign that Wii shortages aren't what they used to be, and retailers are finally starting to meet demand. Microsoft must be fairly pleased as well, with over 800,000 Xbox 360s making their way into the hands of consumers; I guess September's price drop probably has something to do with this. Unfortunately for Sony, sales of their systems have increased, but not by nearly as much as their competitors.

Here are November's numbers:
• Wii - 2,040,000
• Nintendo DS - 1,570,000
• Xbox 360 - 836,000
• PSP - 421,000
• PlayStation 3 - 378,000
• PlayStation 2 - 206,000

As far as software sales go, they help answer the age-old question: War - what is it good for? Selling millions of video games, that's what! Gears of War 2 takes the top spot, but Call of Duty: World at War is a close second, and actually sold more if you add 360 and PS3 sales together. The usual Wii games make the list, with Wii Play fairly high due to an increase in people needing second controlers, and Wii Music even sqeaks in right at the bottom. Newcomers Left 4 Dead and Resistance 2 have respectable numbers (although I'm sure Sony would have liked a few more Resistance sales to compete with Gears 2), but the biggest surprise, as far as I'm concerned, is Guitar Hero: World Tour. It didn't make the list in October, but jumps into the number 7 spot this month on the Wii. That's right, neither the 360 or PS3 version hit the top 10, but the casual Wii users can't seem to get enough. I guess all the serious gamers have moved on to Rock Band......

Here are the numbers:
01. Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360) - 1.56 million
02. Call of Duty: World at War (Xbox 360) - 1.41 million
03. Wii Play (Wii) - 796,000
04. Wii Fit (Wii) - 697,000
05. Mario Kart Wii (Wii) - 637,000
06: Call of Duty: World at War (PS3) - 597,000
07. Guitar Hero World Tour (Wii) - 475,0000
08. Left 4 Dead (Xbox 360) - 410,000
09. Resistance 2 (PS3) - 385,000
10. Wii Music (Wii) - 297,000

Gamasutra actually managed to get hold of numbers 11-20 if anyone's interested. Otherwise, I'll see you back here next month when we find out December's totals.

New DLC? No doubt

This week in Rock Band, we are treated to a selection of songs from the band No Doubt. The tracks are taken from an album that compiles all their singles from 1992-2003. Well, not quite all of them; New and Trapped in a Box are mysteriously absent. Not that I would have noticed; I only remember a couple of these tracks, including the heavily-overplayed Don't Speak, which I'm sure many people got sick of when it was popular. As usual, the songs are 160 MSP ($2) each, but the entire 13-track collection can acquired for only 1600 MSP ($20).
Here's this weeks' selection:

Just a Girl
It's My Life
Hey Baby
Bathwater
Sunday Morning
Hella Good
Underneath It All
Excuse Me Mr.
Running
Spiderwebs
Simple Kind of Life
Don't Speak
Ex-Girlfriend
Note: Click on any song for expert drum videos.

Now I'm not exactly a fan of No Doubt. As I said before, I got rather sick of hearing Don't Speak back when they played it on the radio once every 5 minutes, but I couldn't resist picking up Just a Girl. It may not be a great song, but it's catchy and I'm always looking for new stuff to play, so lets have a look at it shall we?

Just a Girl is in Tier 3 for drums, but is actually rather easy. Maybe it's just me getting better, but there are definitely other tracks in this tier that provide challenge. The beginning isn't bad, with an interesting beat between both hands, but it quickly leads to a rather simple, repetitive rhythm that continues for the rest of the song. There are some fun little fills, but these are few and far between. Overall, I can't really recommend it, unless you're a huge fan of the band.

In other news, Rock Band 2 will finally be making it's way to the Wii and PS2, on December 18th. While Wii owners will find a complete version of the game, including DLC (which goes onto an SD card), PS2 users will sadly be receiving a gimped edition (no DLC), much like they did with the first one. As good as Rock Band is on it's own, I just couldn't recommend it to anyone on this system, as the downloadable content is a huge feature (as if you couldn't tell from my weekly post). However, Wii player should run out as fast as they can in order to buy it, but make sure you save some money for additional tracks, as there's a very large selection of them by this point. Check the official Rock Band site for pricing details on all the bundles.

Harmonix also revealed this week that the Rock Band store has now surpassed over 30 million paid downloads since the first game launched in November 2007. The last time they revealed sales figures was back in March, when they hit the 6 million mark. It just goes to show that their plan to make Rock Band into a gaming platform, rather than a game itself, seems to be working nicely. So, 30 million sold, at $2 a song; that equals..... well..... it's some incalculable number, so lets just say a lot.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Selling out can be good

Do you remember, as a child, tearing open a brand new box of cereal in order to claim whatever prize lay inside. It usually consisted of some crappy plastic toy, but that didn't matter, it was simply the fact that it was free that made it great. Then cereal companies started to get stingy, offering only tokens that must be saved up, or codes that must be redeemed online. That's why I was surprised when I came home last night to find a box of Kellogg's Mini-Wheats in the kitchen with a free toy inside. But not just any toy; a Guitar Hero toy.

That's right, not content with whoring out their franchise for belt buckles and LCD games, Activision have decided to jump on the cereal bandwagon with a selection of four different toys. Two of them are little games, while the other two are music makers; it was one of the latter that I found in my box. The thing is, it's actually pretty cool. It a little amp with three "knobs" on it (they're actually just buttons, but are meant to look like knobs, and they all go to 11!), each of which start a loop playing; by turning them on and off you can make your own, slightly limited, music mix. Although I'd pretty much exhausted all the possible combinations within five minutes, it's still as cool as those little boxes that make gun noises when you press the different buttons. You know the ones I mean.

Out of the four toys, there's really only one other that I want: It's a little LCD Guitar Hero game, with three fret buttons and a strum bar. I don't know how fun it will be to play, but I just have to try it, which means eating through this whole box of Mini-Wheats real quick so I can get another. Not that I need any more incentive to eat cereal......

I'll be sure to give my opinions of any of the other toys that I get. For now, here's a video showing off my music maker in action (sorry about the poor quality - I don't have a proper video camera):

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Review 4 You

This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee takes a look at Left 4 Dead, Valve's excellent co-op zombie shooter. Unsurprisingly, he seemed to really enjoy it. Unsurprising to me anyway, having played plenty of the game, and seen enough of Yahtzee's reviews to get an idea of what he likes. With no pretense of story, and thrills that are all moment to moment, Left 4 Dead is certainly an instant-gratification type of experience that doesn't require hours of play time in order to get fun. Since I've already reviewed it, there's not much point putting my opinions here, but I'd like to take a moment to discuss just one small aspect that I think should be mentioned.

I've heard people say that they don't want Left 4 Dead, because they don't have any friends to play with. We all know that jumping into random matches on Xbox Live can lead to disaster, but that's how I've spent most of my time with the game in the last few weeks. So far, all I've met is pretty cool people who are friendly and eager to play. I know this sounds weird, but maybe it's the cooperative nature of the gameplay, rather than competitive, that is attracting these types. That, or it's just that the kids all have to wait for Christmas before they get their copies. Either way, I've had lots of fun, and have made a bunch of new friends in the process. So anyone out there who's on the fence, just get started and see who you meet, and if that fails, send me over a friend invite and we'll play together instead.

Here's the review. As always, it contains plenty of strong language and is NSFW.

Check out the rest of his videos here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cook smarts - Beef-and-potato gratin

Okay, so if you weren't aware, my girlfriend picked up a copy of Personal Trainer: Cooking for the DS last week; go back and check out my impressions if you haven't, then come back here. Anyway, I decided to make some of the meals featured in the product and give a brief review of the process and finished result. This week I decided to make beef-and-potato gratin, which is in the French food section, and looked like a nice easy one that didn't require any weird ingredients to be found. It's actually a lot like a cottage pie, which is ground beef with mashed potatoes on top, except it's mashed potatoes with ground beef on top instead. Oh, and cheese.

The cooking process is really easy, with the beef and potatoes prepared separately, then just layered in a big dish. I had to make just a couple of small changes to the recipe, as it turns out that Gruyère cheese (which goes on top) is super expensive, so was replaced with provolone, and the white wine was just left out because I'm not buying a whole bottle just to use a third of a cup of it (I won't drink the rest). Apart from these though, the rest of the steps were followed precisely, and turned out how I expected.

So how did it taste? Well..... Not so good, to be honest. I though it was okay, but my girlfriend felt it was bland. This is true, it was definitely kind of low on taste. If I was making a shepherd's pie or cottage pie I would usually use some curry powder, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and maybe a few more vegetables for flavor. Without those things, it was a little boring, tasting like ground beef and potatoes, which is basically all that it was. Oh well, it was worth a try, but I don't think I'll be making it again in future. Oh, and that's an actual picture of it at the top of this post, so you can see how it looks.

Since I'm working evening for the rest of the week, I probably won't be cooking anything else for a few days, but I'll be sure to give you my opinions when I do. Hopefully the next meal will have a little more flavor than this week's attempt.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

No thanks, I'll buy new

Do you trade in games? I understand if you do; after all, trading in and reselling video games is a big part of the industry, and has been for some time. As a child, this was the only way I could get new titles without having to wait for Christmas or my birthday to come around. However, once I got to the point where I could afford to buy new, I stopped trading in my old ones, and built up a collection instead. I feel like I'm in the minority though, with so many people beating games then bringing them back to Gamestop to get minimal credit towards another.

So why don't I trade them back in once I've beaten them? Well, I guess I just realized that the used game market is a bit of a rip off, and I'd rather not support it. For a start, the only time a game has decent trade in value is when it's brand new, and even then you'll be lucky to get 40% of the cost back, even if it was bought just two days ago. Gamestop then turns around and sells it for over 90% of the price of a new game; typically a $60 new title will sell for $55 used - not much of a saving really. Of course, wait too long and your games' value will drop, until you need to bring in a big stack of them just to get enough credit towards something new. Again, I'd rather just hold onto these titles, on the off chance I may want to revisit them at some point.

Then you have to think about where the money is going. Companies spend millions of dollars and years of time developing these games, and I'd like to think that I'm supporting them. Buying used supports only the shop selling the game; the creators get nothing. This is true of any used industry, but most entertainment retailers don't have the same mentality as Gamestop, who practically force used copies upon you if they have any in stock. I understand why they do it: They probably make only a few dollars of profit for each new game they sell, where as a used one could bring in $30 more than they paid for it - over 100% profit. Unfortunately, this means that the number of new copies sold is drastically reduced, and for a smaller developer could be the difference between saying in business, and having to shut their doors permanently.

Of course, there are other things that should be factored in. On a recent episode of 1up Yours, Shane Bettenhausen mentioned that other forms of entertainment, such as DVDs, books, and CDs, are generally not sold used by major retailers, such as Best Buy, Walmart or Borders; used sales for these items are more common in smaller outlets, and places like comic book stores. So why should the video game industry be any different, with it's most major retailer happily selling pre-owned product and denying the creators any profit? Well, I personally think the main reason is shelf life. You see, where as movies, music and books continue to be published indefinitely, video games are usually only available for a few months, before space must be made for the next big thing. Where as I could walk into a store and buy a new copy of a ten year old movie, I'd have a hard time finding even a two year old game, with the exception of big titles such as Halo, or anything published by Nintendo. Therefore, the used game industry is essential for anyone who wants classic titles, and while retailers are selling those, what's to stop them from selling a few recent titles too?......

Marty O'Donnell, Bungie Studio's audio director, recently told GamesIndustry.biz that he feels like studios should get a cut of the profit made from used sales. Of course, this would totally destroy the concept of free-market, and would make the reselling of any product very difficult if every previous owner needed to be compensated. The only way a studio could hope to get some of this profit would be to open up stores themselves, much in the same way car dealerships have "certified pre-owned" vehicles as well as new ones. If the studio who made the game was also selling it then they would always get all the money, whether new or used. Of course, this idea is ridiculous as most game developers don't have physical stores set up at all, and must rely on retailers to move their products.

So what's the solution then? Well, thanks to the internet, developers have some new tools to help them fight against used sales. Online play is a big factor in many titles these days, which stops people from trading games in. Titles like Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 are still being played over a year after release, but if they were single-player only people would have been done with them inside of a week, and we would have seen a lot more used copies on shelves. Then developers have downloadable content: If you promise gamers something new after a few months, such as the upcoming GTA4 DLC, then it may encourage them to hold onto their games for longer (or maybe not....).

Some companies are going one step further, offering content that can only be downloaded once, using an activation code that comes with the game. For instance, buying Rock Band 2 new will get you 20 free bonus songs, where as a new copy of Gears of War 2 will get you five free maps unavailable anywhere else. Anyone who buys pre-owned copies of these titles will find the activation code already used, and the content is not for sale any other way. While I personally think $5 is a small price to pay for 20 songs or 5 maps, I just can't imagine Gamestop employees putting it this way to potential buyers. In fact, I doubt whether they'll even tell their customers what they're missing out on by buying used, if they're even aware themselves. Of course, this technique only works if gamers are online, but if not, what are they even doing with a 360 to begin with?

The biggest weapon developers have in the fight against used sales though, is digital distribution. If all games were sold online and downloaded, rather than being printed onto physical discs, then used game sales would completely disappear. I'm not going to go into all the benefits and problems of digital distribution right now, as I've done it before, but I'm sure you can all see why the idea would be appealing to those manufacturing games.

In the end though, it's down to people like you and me. We're the ones who make the decision whether or not to buy new, so we have to live with the potential consequences of our actions. I personally only buy used games if they're unavailable any other way, and don't trade them back in again afterwards. Since I don't want all games to go online only, I do what I can to support the companies who made them. I understand that not everyone can afford to do this though (not that I make a lot of money), so for many the pre-owned game market is a blessing. But the next time you're standing in Gamestop with a new new game in one hand and a used copy in the other, just ask yourself "Is denying the developers all of their profit, as well as ultimately changing the way games are made and distributed, really worth a saving of $5?". I hope you see that it isn't.