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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Forward 2008: Personal Commenatries ++

Personal commentaries on each console, predictions, more on what to expect, juicy tidbits and speculations.

Xbox 360

Suffice it to say that the Xbox 360 will remain comfortably in its current position through 2008. While I wouldn’t dare say this 2 years ago when Devil May Cry 4, Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War, Grand Theft Auto 4 and the like are still PS3 exclusives, they are not now, and there is even a chance that the Xbox 360 versions of these games may even better their PS3 counterparts – think extra downloadable content and you will know what I mean. The launch of Home on the PS3 may change this, but that will take some time for details to be worked out and for that period of transition, the Xbox 360 will have that all-important edge.

Microsoft needs Final Fantasy 13 on the Xbox 360 to increase Japan sales.

Meanwhile, in Japan, the Xbox 360 is still not doing well, though Japanese favorites like Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, Ninety-Nine Nights (N3), Eternal Sonata and Blue Dragon are already out on the system. The truth is harsh, but what Microsoft really needs is a heavyweight like Final Fantasy 13 to go multiplatform for its Xbox 360 to even stand a chance of grabbing more market share in Japan. Creating some casual games for the Japanese market would go some way to help the console too, as demonstrated by the phenomenal success of the Wii and its casual games.

Microsoft is targeting casual gamers. Could we see another such SKU in 2008?

Speaking of casual games, Microsoft has been making an effort to capture mainstream audience. Viva Piñata, released in 2006, is one example, while its follow-up, Viva Piñata: Party Animals, a party game, made it through just this holiday season. Those games, coupled with the launch of the Xbox 360 Arcade SKU and Scene it?, further elucidate its side aim. With the launch of the Xbox 360 Arcade SKU, which is essentially a souped-up Xbox 360 Core system, Microsoft wants to make the Xbox 360 a part of the living room, perhaps as far as to being placed alongside the Wii. By packing in a 256MB memory unit together with a disc containing some Xbox Live Arcade games into the Arcade bundle, Microsoft is assaying to position the Xbox 360 as a family console. It will not be a surprise to see more of such casual games or even another family-friendly (and price-friendly) Xbox 360 SKU coming in 2008. As much as I like Microsoft’s strategy, I have to say that I am not a casual gamer afterall and I am not a fan of Xbox Live Arcade games either.

Prediction: 2008's system seller for the Xbox 360.

In the previous Forward 2008 article, it was mentioned that more RTS games are arriving next year for the console. One of the games that I am most interested is Supreme Commander, simply because I didn’t get to complete the game when it came out on the PC earlier this year, but yet, I wanted to finish the game so much – and that’s why I wouldn’t mind buying the Xbox 360 version when it hits the store in February 2008. The action on the LCD monitor appeared to me like a PowerPoint presentation when I played Supreme Commander on PC earlier this year, especially in the last few missions of the game. Well, that’s just my weak rig, isn’t it? I haven’t played any Xbox 360 RTS games before, but I sure hope that the console Supreme Commander works out well (*Fingers-crossed*). I will also feel compelled to try out World in Conflict and Universe at War. Gamers who don’t own a strong PC, but yet want to play RTS games in their full glory, will prefer a Xbox 360 over a PS3 and that’s another area where I feel that the Xbox 360 will edge out the PS3. Before I forget, Halo Wars, an RTS based in the Halo universe (duh!), is also calling by in 2008, and to some extent, yes, Halo Wars will be a system seller for the Xbox 360 next year since the Halo franchise has done a good job in establishing a huge fan base, which will undeniably be tapped by Halo Wars.

All in all, Xbox 360 should see another blazing year in 2008. It helps that numerous exclusives are coming, including Alan Wake and Fable 2, not mentioning more downloadable Xbox 1 games (well, isn’t that similar to the Wii’s Virtual Console and the PlayStation Network’s downloadable PSP and PS1 games). Is there a chance that Gears of War 2 will get announced? Well, why not?


A year ago, Sony said that its mighty PS3 will sell like hotcakes based on its cutting-edge hardware alone, with the internal blu-ray player being the leader of the pack. For once, I thought that that was going to be true – that the PS3 will indeed outsell the Xbox 360 and the Wii. But fast forward to the present and the said proclamation seems more like a facile remark. How will PS3 comport itself in its new, albeit unwanted, position in 2008?

While Sony has wised-up in recent months with the introduction of the 40GB PS3 and price cuts of higher-end models, as well as the re-induction of the rumble functionality into the controller, the fact stands that the PS3 has lost many third-party exclusives to the Xbox 360 in 2007. It is no longer appropriate for Sony to depend on third-party exclusives to aid in selling the PS3 and that’s why there has never been a better time for first-party development and publishing to pull up. The signs have been encouraging so far with a host or great first-party stuff already released, including Warhawk, Folklore, Heavenly Sword, Ratchet and Clank: Future Tools of Destruction and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. The release of Eye of Judgment is nothing short of a bold step, to say the least. It is innovative, creative and original and it is exactly the type of game that Sony will need more of in 2008, but do keep the tried-and-tested games coming too. Keep it up and there’s no doubt that Sony will at least close the gap between the PS3 and Xbox 360. The launch of Home and Little Big Planet is entirely crucial to the PS3 and all the more important that they deliver.

A price cut on the day of the release of MGS 4 could sell more PS3s.

Sony’s big guns will be unleashed this year with Metal Gear Solid 4: Gun of the Patriots coming out first before … … Final Fantasy 13? Well, hopefully so. And imagine how much of an impact the release of MGS4 will have if coupled with another price drop of the PS3 (no matter how minor). That may not be the elixir of the PS3’s woes, but I believe that that would be a great opportunity for non-PS3 owners to get into the bandwagon and for the PS3 to pull even closer to the Xbox 360.

Wondering why RTS games aren’t on the PS3? I am wondering too.


2007 is a huge year for the Wii, but 2008 is going to be even bigger. 2007’s just the beginning, isn’t it? As highlighted in the previous Forward 2008 article, the 2 epic casual games, Wii Fit and Endless Ocean are coming out – in the same year! But neglecting the hardcore crowd has never been on the mind of Nintendo and 2008 is going to be a very special year for the hardcore followers. Another hardcore game of equally epic proportions, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, will be making its way to the store shelves in February and I don’t know how the Wii could have a better start to the New Year than that. As if that wasn’t enough, 2008 will also see the release of both Mario Kart Wii and Mario Superstar Baseball. If you aren’t an owner of the Wii yet, then 2008 would be the best year to jump right into all the Wii-ness. All these games will more than ensure that the Wii will stay firmly in the pole position through the year.

Pick a color for your Wii.

Also in 2008, there could be a possibility of a new Wii peripheral arriving. A Wii headset for voice chat – if I would say. The piece of small gadget is long overdue and would certainly enhance the online experience for Wii owners, especially in the face of the impending release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Meanwhile, there are also speculations making their rounds on the Internet that new colors for the Wii are coming. Um, fancy a pink Wii, or a crimson Wii, or a green Wii? While these are purely speculations, it doesn’t hurt to predict that these new colors for the Wii will be coming out in 2008, does it? Ultimately, these will propel the Wii to greater heights (*ahem* if Nintendo can sort out the shortage of Wii in some countries). Recent news reports revealed another interesting tidbit to chew on. Nintendo is aiming to launch the Wii in China by year-end 2008. So, what does that mean to you? That Nintendo will build another production facility? That there will be no more shortages of Wii? Regardless, this piece of news should be seen as something positive and one that signifies Nintendo’s aim to produce more Wiis.

Nintendo is playing catch-up with Xbox Live Arcade.

Nintendo is finally realizing that downloadable smaller (or newly-made smaller) games play a nig part in the console war too. All one needs to do is take a look at the Xbox 360 camp and see what Microsoft is doing with its Xbox Live Arcade. Sony has got some downloadable games as well, including Calling all Cars! and flOw. Wii Ware is Nintendo’s answer to all these and we may well see better days for the new Wii Channel.

In a nutshell, the 2008’s going to be Wii’s year again. But I do hope that there will be more hardcore games for the console.

NEXT on Forward 2008: DS Gaming in 2008


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