Friday, March 09, 2007

Console Post of the Week: The Empire Strikes Back

Okay, Sony isn't really the Dark Side, even when they act like it, and they didn't really "strike back," but I'm tired and I'm going to shoehorn it in because I like how it sounds.

You're probably aware of the GDC announcements, which I'll discuss briefly later, but the news from Japan, to me, is more interesting. First, Gundam Musou (a mech game, I believe) sold 170,000 units in its debut week.

I love Mechs. That's what Crackdown is missing. How cool would it be to be if, instead of piloting the "Agency supercar," you piloted a mech as it stomped around the city? Two words: bad ass.

See, I don't need a car. I need something that can walk on cars. Hey Microsoft, make me a downloadable Mech that I can buy on the Live Marketplace, bitches!

But I digress.

Sales of Gundam Musou more than doubled PS3 sales this week--the console moved 44,000 units this week. That number's not great, by any means, but it beats the hell out of 20,000. That's the best week Sony has had in two months.

The Wii? With nothing new, it sold 57,000 units. Oh, and a prediction: Paper Mario is going to absolutely kill. I watched some of the GDC videos and I think it is going to get great reviews and sell a ton of Wii's.

Sony's other "big" news of the week was their presentation at the Game Developer's Conference. They announced "Sony Home," an online environment that rips off The Sims, Second Life, Pogo, Nintendo, Microsoft, and just about everyone else.

Does that matter? Absolutely not. What matters is if the conglomeration of ripoffs is actually compelling. For me, the answer is "no," but that doesn't matter if enough other people find it interesting. I believe that some people will.

Look, this is a positive step for Sony, no matter what they announced. It's the first time in months that they haven't been on the defensive about something. It's a low bar right now, but for Sony, it's still good news.

However, and please remember this however: I believe the actual execution of this online, social world is going to be heavily monetized, and the manner in which it is monetized will compromise its attractiveness. Sony is already losting $200+ per console on the hardware, and their online service is free. They can't afford to do anything at this point that isn't heavily monetized. So expect giant amounts of advertising and sponsor placement (think online mall in a 3D world), and everything even vaguely interesting that you can use to decorate your online apartment (or your online self) is going to cost you.

Still, like I said, at least it's something.

Sony also announced a game called LittleBigPlanet. Is this the title that is going to blow people away with the "incredible" power of the PS3? No. But it is quite charming, with Viva Pinata-esque graphics (that's an oversimplification, but it's in the ballpark), and physics-based gameplay that could be very fun. Here's a link, and you can also watch a trailer on the same page. I don't think it's going to move many $599 consoles, but it could make existing PS3 owners more satisfied with their purchase, and that's very important.

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