Is There Room For A New Video Game Console?

2013 really is and will continue to be a turning point in the history of home consoles. With the Wii U taking hold as the first next gen system, and the expectant PS4 and Xbox Durango project being guaranteed for a Christmas release, is there room for another entry, or even 2?

The two most interesting options of the year seem to be the kick starter project, the Ouya, and the official Steam Box by Valve. Another notable entry is the Game Stick, but it is not your conventional console, so I’ll only briefly mention it. The Game Stick is meant to be portable and easily transferable, it features a full size controller, and an additional base station that also allows extra storage via SD card, much like the Wii.

The key point of the Ouya is its significantly lower cost in comparison to all the other systems. It will only cost $99USD for the console and one controller, with additional controllers costing $49USD. The OS of the console will be Android Jellybean and will give you access to all the great Android games on a free to try basis. More details on this free to try system will be released later on. Hopefully the use of the Android OS will lead to some interesting smartphone compatibility. But still, at $99USD its still worth buying at launch, even if its just to fiddle around with.

Now as for the Steam Box, the story is a lot more complicated. I will address the Xi3 Piston as well as the future suspected but not fully confirmed official Valve Steam Box. First comes the Xi3 Piston, which just does not look appealing for many reasons. First is the cost, $899!! Yes it is a mini PC with windows 8, but to even be able to use windows 8 as intended you’ll have to purchase a touchscreen monitor. I won’t get technical with the specs, but I will say that for the cost you just don’t get the best bang for your buck. Also, while it was never endorsed by Valve as an official Steam Box, there seems to have been a falling out between the two companies and this could lead to some future issues. But its just all speculation, much like the official Steam Box.

As Valve has its Big Picture established, and a large library of video game titles it seems like they are primed and ready for a console. It seems like it will be a great offering, but there still is no guaranteed list of specs for this device. It is a mystery, but definitely still very intriguing.

Just as games are delayed and pushed back, like the long anticipated GTA 5, without any set release dates or preliminary designs the Steam Box, Xbox Durango,and PS4 could possibly be delayed for another few months or even a few years. At least we do know that preorders for the Ouya, Game Stick, and Xi3 Piston will be available in the following few months.

Why Video Games Are So Expensive

While there are many factors towards the production costs of a video game, most new console and PC games are introduced at the price point of $59.99 CDN. While many people would rather wait for the price to drop, or to purchase it second hand, there still remains a portion of the market that supports this full MSRP value. This consumer paying full price is usually the hardcore gamer or a kid that can throw a good temper tantrum, the kind that can embarrass the sternest of parents.

Because of the immense production costs of these newer titles, rivaling and even surpassing major Hollywood movie production budgets, the set price is quite understandable. They require the higher price point because of the large debt sunk into the project.

I know that what I say most likely has been addressed thousands of times, but I still think its worth talking about. With the high volume of games being released these days, many are doom to fail, for multiple reasons, so the companies involved always have to stay competitive if they are to survive. If the initial price point could be reduced to the cost of a new blu-ray disc movie, the game in question would be made more easily accessible to a larger market of people. It is always a worry that the game will not surpass the debt it has produced, so out of fear the price is set high in hopes to at least gain back the cost from the hardcore gamers alone. More options on initial price need to be addressed.

Another point of interest is the increasing push towards downloading virtual copies of the games instead of physical copies. These downloaded copies cut down the cost put into the game significantly. They don’t require the cost of manufacturing the discs and cases, they don’t require any shipping costs, no need to cut a significant portion of sales for the sellers. While advertising does still remain an issue, virtual banner ads could be used to replace standard advertising. It just makes very little sense for the download version to cost the same as the physical version, but them this is an issue being faced by all types of media that is being made available in digital form, such as albums, movies, and books.

The question remains: why must digital versions cost nearly the same or exactly the same as physical copies? All we can do as consumers now is either hope for the best or abstain from purchasing new games until it is understood that something has to give. As for the time being, the game we all have to play is the waiting game. Just wait until the game has lost its place in the spotlight, and ends up in your local reused game store.
This way you can pick up yesterday’s gem for only a portion of the price, as exemplified with a recent purchase I made.

I was walking around the store and since I only recently got my PS3 I am still building up a collection of classic titles. I see Mass Effect 2 for only $9.99 used and I jump at the opportunity. Take it home to play later and inside I find the receipt from its original purchase, made 2 years prior, for the full price of $59.99. Now I’m not saying to wait 2 years to purchase your games, but instead I just want to say, do you really want to spend several times more on something that will just depreciate in value, only until the next cycle of nostalgia kicks in and kids that are playing games today try to pick up the same titles for $40 or more?

Timing is everything when you’re hoping for the best pricing on video games. Hopefully these issues will be addressed in approximately 10 years when the 9th generation of video game consoles will be hitting the stores.

Solid State Drives: What You Need to Know

I am by no means a computer expert and in writing this blog I only hope to make technology a little less overwhelming for everyone. We shouldn’t be afraid to fiddle around with our tech and see how things work. In this post I’ll be talking about what an SSD is and what makes them different from the standard storage medium of the Hard Disk Drive.

First of all the most important thing to note is that when thinking of an SSD, it works much like your standard SD or micro SD card that exists inside most smart phones and handhelds. To simply put it, the SSD uses flash based memory while the standard HDD contains a spinning disc inside with a thin metal arm above it that is used to read and write information. SSD’s have faster read and write speeds because they don’t require the mechanical movement of the HDD. SSD’s are also much more durable and less prone to damage due to physical shock.

Currently, SSD’s are still pretty new so they can be pricey. It might not always be the best investment, but it sure can help you out if you are working with large files on your computer constantly. The other new factor is whether your current HDD is connected via SATA 2 or SATA 3. It isn’t really important to know what that is though. The gist of it is that SATA is an internal connector port that connects the storage medium to the motherboard. SATA 2 and SATA 3 are compatible with each other so it isn’t that big of an issue. The difference between 2 and 3 though is that SATA 2 works at a maximum 3GB/s and SATA 3 works at a maximum 6GB/s. If your laptop has a SATA 2 connector all that means is that if you connect a SATA 3 SSD then it will only work at the SATA 2 speeds.

Sorry for losing some of you on that slightly technical part. In summation, if you are looking to update your HDD to an SSD, all you need to be aware of is the SATA connector and that any SATA SSD will be compatible, but at reduced speed if you are using non matching SATA.

With most laptops being very simply put together these days its easy for the user to upgrade things like storage and ram. As long as you know what type is compatible with your system, then you shouldn’t have a problem. Always remember this one thing though, REMEMBER TO NOTE WHERE EVERY SINGLE SCREW GOES, cause its not so much fun trying to figure it out after their fact! Oh, and be really careful, have a backup of your computer ready for a worst case scenario and know that you probably spent a lot of money on your computer and you better be delicate with it.

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Review- Tech- PS Vita ***Rating 3.5/5***

I bought the Vita about 1 week before I got my Nintendo 3DS XL, and up until that day I spent every day on this device. It was just so much better than my old fat PSP from 2006 and I just could not believe it.

The new UI is much simpler and cleaner, and just easier to use altogether. It is easy to access games, and reorganize the layout of all the different apps. The display is just massive and features front and back touch capable surfaces. Now I still haven’t fully realized the use of the touch surface on the back of the Vita, but it does add an extra level of input for different games, so it could be both helpful and a bother.

If you have seen my proprietary memory card rant on youtube then you will know how I feel about that. Simply put, it costs 99$ for a 32GB card, when a micro SD card of the same capacity will cost sometimes even under 30$ on sale! just so damn expensive, but completely necessary to back up save files and download digital copies of games.

Another issue was the lack of games available for the Vita. Although the games that are available are loads of fun and challenging enough, I still wish that there could be more.

Playstation Plus is also a great feature. you only need to purchase this service once from Sony to be able to download some games for free on both the PS Vita and the PS3. The games available change, some are good like Gravity Rush, and others are negligible.

With the Vita and certain PS3 titles, you can use the Vita to play the same game, in a similar fashion to the Wii U and its game tablet, but not exactly. But in all honesty I haven’t been able to fully explore this feature quite yet.

In the end I rate this lower than the 3DS XL, but only slightly, at 3.5/5. The reason for this decision really came down to the facts that expensive proprietary memory cards and lack of games available are factors that just kill the longevity of a device and its market appeal. Those are two huge factors that just cannot be forgiven.

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Review- Tech- Nintendo 3DS XL Mario Kart 7 Bundle ***Rating 4/5***

I picked up this version of the Nintendo 3DS XL last month and have been putting it to lots of use. It included the game Mario Kart 7 as a digital version that was already installed on the device. I have yet to purchase an physical 3DS game cards, but i did get to test out the 3D features.

I enjoyed using the 3D on the Nintendo, but after a while it started to give me a headache so I would usually turn it off after about 10 minutes of gaming. Its a nice gimmick but I still don’t see the benefit of 3D in gaming, or even really in movies.

It played DS games just as good, except for not allowing 3D or even a full screen mode. you play with small black bars along the sides of the screen, but its all good. The screen resolution is not that great, but it is still much better than the older versions of the Nintendo DS. Movie viewing on Netflix was great, but it did feel a little awkward at some times, but at least you could set up the 3DS XL in a sort of laptop viewing configuration.

It comes with a browser that is a little awkward to use, but it still does the job if you are in a pinch, and the 3DS XL is all you have.

I like that the memory card expansion is just your basic SD card, and it does not require some proprietary memory card. just like how Nintendo included an HDMI cable with the Wii U, this was just a great move on the part of Nintendo!

The button configuration at moments was a little awkward, especially when the d-pad and joystick pad were used for the same function in the game being played. sometimes having these buttons too close became problematic, but that could just be with the games I’ve been playing.

I give it a rating of 4/5 because it really is a fun, easy and portable device to use. It came with a game already installed that was actually a game that you would be likely to purchase. I like that it folds shut so as to not damage the dual screens and all the other positive features were long existing features in the family of Nintendo DS handhelds as well. As for the setbacks that prevented me from rating the 3DS XL any higher are still factors such as its low resolution displays and its still burgeoning online store, but only with time will these issues be addressed.

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Review- PS3 uDraw Game Tablet ***Rating 1.5/5***

Review- PS3 uDraw Game Tablet ***Rating 1.5/5***

I know this is kinda old, but it was dirt cheap to pick up (it was only 14.95) and now I know why… IT SUCKS!!! At least it was at a price that warranted its testing out. If a variety of games was made available when the device was first put on sale, this game tablet would have been a great idea, but instead to date there are only 2 games from what I have read, the included uDraw studio Instant Artist and Pictionary. With the inclusion of shoulder buttons and more games this would have been a great concept, so I give it only a 1.5/5

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Review- Tech- PS3 Super Slim 500GB ***Rating 3.5/5***

So… It’s been a while since my last post. Sorry for the time off but school gets busy and everything else falls to the wakes.

Getting on back to this, I decided to do an unboxing video of my new PS3 that I just purchased last month. To watch my unboxing of the device just look at the video attached to this posting.

Now lets get into the review! I’ve been using the PS3 now for just over a month. It is the first PS3 I have purchased so I can not truly compare it to the older fat and slim models. The only comparisons I can make are that the device is smaller overall, it features a slide out top loader design for installing dvdd and blu ray discs. The physical appearance is pleasing and falls in line with the other models, but it does make a moderate amount of sound when playing discs, since the disc spins relatively close to the surface of the device.

This version of the PS3 is an upgrade from the older version that featured 60-250GB HDD. This version features a HDD of 500GB so it is great if you are planning on downloading a lot of content from the PSN (Playstation Network). If you have a PS Vita, you can also use the PS3 to store its backups. This is great considering how much of a hassle it is to backup the PS Vita on a PC or Mac.

Next comes the selection of games. I like that they offer a wide range of games on the online store, but also because the PS3 has been around since 2006, you can buy loads of games for next to nothing! With the inclusion of the 1 year of Playstation plus in the bundle, you get to download a wide selection of ever changing titles for free as well. Not only do you get a bunch of free games, you also get discounted prices for a couple of major games available for the console.

Overall I quite liked this console, but there were some features I just did not like. Here is just a brief list:
-the UI (User Interface) is old and outdated, and barely customizable
-the price for necessary accessories is still high, like the 60$ wireless controllers
-when connected wirelessly to the internet, it took far too long to download games
-load screens for the games at some times were just unbearable, especially at moments when you are strung out by the content of the game.

In the end I rate this bundle at 3.5/5 because although it does offer a large selection of games, plays blu-ray, it has 1 year of playstation plus included, has a large HDD and HDMI 1080p output, it still is a minor upgrade to a long existing system. It offered no real advancement to the system here on the verge of the next console gaming generation.