Cybernaut 

Nintendo throws twist into console war

The next generation of Sony Playstation and Microsoft xBox technically debuted back in May, and then again at the E3 electronics show in early June. However, as numerous blog and tech sites have pointed out, neither debut was honest: The Cell, a special processor created for the PS3, was not ready for release just yet, so Sony cobbled together a presentation using other processors to give people an approximate idea how the games will look; Microsoft reportedly ran its xBox demo using a pair of Apple G5s hidden behind the kiosk.

Nintendo Revolution was probably the furthest back in console production of the big three companies at the beginning of the summer and couldn’t even fake a convincing demo – even if Revolution stuck to the Nintendo formula of zombies, Mario, and more zombies, the future didn’t look good.

How quickly things can change.

All three consoles had a heavy presence at the Tokyo Game Show, this time using actual consoles, but it was Nintendo that drew the most attention.

The Nintendo Revolution will not have the computing or graphics power of either the PS3 or Xbox, and it won’t come with a next generation high definition DVD player or a built-in hard drive.

While some worry about the Revolution’s graphics and playability, keep in mind that the underpowered Nintendo GameCube did a more than adequate job running and rendering the same games as the PS2 and Xbox.

Besides, Nintendo Revolution appears to be focusing on its strengths – solid, playable games; a library of simple but great games designed for kids and teens; and a solid multiplayer experience.

The exact hardware specifications are still a secret at this point, but after the controllers were unveiled in Japan I don’t think anybody will really care.

The new controllers look like remote controls, with a trigger on the bottom, a D-pad and ‘A’ button on top. There’s no joystick – you control the movement by moving the controller in different directions. In first person shooter games, movements direct your crosshairs around the screen. In a fishing game, you flick the control to cast and toggle your lure, as well as to hook fish when your controller starts to nibble. In baseball games, you can swing the controller like a bat. In a Zelda game, you’ll slash the controller back and forth like a sword.

You can also turn the controller sideways and use it like a normal controller, and another piece snaps on with more buttons and an analog controller that will make it easier to play certain types of games.

Like GameCube, up to four players will be able to play at once, sometimes using the same screen and sometimes dividing the screen in half or into quarters.

So far the controller is getting rave reviews, and game companies will now have the option of building more interactive games that work with the new motion sensing technology. The possibilities are endless.

The Xbox 360 will be the first new console to market, in November, while the PS3 is slated for "early 2006." Revolution is hoping to be available by next summer.

The big question for the console makers is whether there is any such thing as brand loyalty in the video game business. Consumers have gone from Atari, to Coleco, to Intellivision, to Commodore 64, to Nintendo, to Sega, back to Nintendo, to Sony, and own either a GameCube, xBox or PS2. PS2, which was in first in the latest generation, owns the world market with more than 91 million consoles in play, compared to about 21 million for Xbox and 18 million for GameCube.

Yoshihiro Maruyama, the head of Xbox in Japan, says loyalty means nothing. "For players, it’s all about the games. No one buys a game machine for its features."

Good news for Nintendo.

Last stand for P2Ps

WinMX.com is no longer in operation, eDonkey’s offices are closed, while Grokster, Morpheus and LimeWire are apparently in talks to go legit – possibly forming a company that offers subscription access to Mashboxx music library. Bearshare, Gnutella, Napster and other services are already charging fees and otherwise protecting content.

The reason for the closures and attempts to go legal stem from a June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that Grokster was knowingly facilitating the theft of legally copyrighted materials.

Not only did that open the window for lawsuits against Grokster, it also set a precedent that applies to all companies offering peer-to-peer software and services.

The Recording Industry Association of America hinted that it would consider dropping suits against Grokster and other companies if they agreed to go legitimate and charge for content.

Think you know sports?

If you’re an armchair quarterback, it’s time to put some money where your mouth is. A new website called ProTrade ( www.protrade.com ) is being launched next week that allows sports fans to use limited virtual money to pick a team of football players they think are going to do well.

That money will increase or decrease in value, like the stock market, based on the real world performance of those athletes. You can buy and sell athletes as much as you want, and as always the goal is to buy low and sell high. It works kind of like the Hollywood Stock Exchange, which does the same thing except for movies, actors, directors, studios and musicians.

While ProTrade is being launched with football, there are plans to expand into other sports as well.

And while you’re playing with fake money, at least for now, the top virtual earners will get a chance to win prizes.

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