Monday, April 28, 2008

Wii & Fit : Shortage is Bliss

Here we go again.
One year and a half later, never tired of pretending unsolvable shortages (I emphasize on the “unsolvable”, like anyone’s still buying it these days), we’re getting another distress call from cool Nintendo of America’s President & COO Reginald Fils-Aime.

Pachter, from Wedbush Morgan, has an interesting explanation to this shortage issue.
He says that there’s not enough Wiis in the USA because the dollar is weak, and even selling trucks of Wiis doesn’t make as much money as it does when selling less of them elsewhere (this elsewhere most likely being Europe, home of the cash cows). Mr. Pachter believes that the European market will soon reach a point where it couldn’t absorb that many Wiis, and the excess will be redirected to the US.
Hmm, good.

Yes, the shortage is not a lie. However, the claim that these shortages were totally unexpected and can’t be corrected, 18 months later, is not really credible.

There are plenty of reasons why the product’s fine marketing balance (super juicy ROI) has to be maintained, which explain why Nintendo wouldn’t do something as stupid as actually meeting demand and then sell their consoles at cheaper prices than those of the competitors craving for more sales worldwide, then saturating the market and almost killing off their buzz machine in the process.

Maybe Reggie is genuinely pissed off about Mother Nintendo’s refusal to lay more units in the US, but really, doesn’t it make sense for the conservative house to act like this?
The Wii is not the best game seller out there apparently. The console sells a lot, but it appears that the new type of console buyers are not particularly loyal, a poor bet to boost games sales (oh the surprise)… hardcore players are not a problem here, as they’ll buy a lot of titles… well, only if titles there are.

So what’s better? Make the higher returns on console sales alone (including overpriced bundles and accessories), or sell more consoles at a lower price, lowering direct revenues, but planning on future games sales on the longer term (better attach rates than now)?

Well, the second option is going to be slightly hazardous at the moment, because some people, probably developers, seem to have a field day bashing the “plastic toy” when they’re asked about their opinions on the machine, which somehow fuels the current idea that behind the curtain, it’s not really such a successful console, as some of them seem more genuinely concerned about the algorithmic abilities of the machine than how much Wiiz Nintendo has sold throughout their whole carpet bombing campaign.

We remember Hecker’s rant at the GDC, which ended up, the next day or so, with the same man squealing in a big room full of Big N representatives, as he was forced to crawl with a big pain stick (wiimote) shoved up his arse, while begging for absolution for his sins.
Globally, this is not how the situation is seen from major publishers though, and frankly, if you want to make money at lower costs, the Wii’s rather a good choice.
Anyway, it’s not an elite’s secret that the newer and richer game catalogues aren’t found on the Wii, so it’s wise not to bet on unsure games sales.

Those explanations aside, you’d have thought that we’d be done with this. Shorter jokes are the best after all.

Well, apparently the farce seems to be so entertaining that it’s worth a spin-off… we’re going into Wii Fit shortages now.

“Sorry people, we couldn’t predict that our fadtastic interactive gaming balance would be such a success!”

Shortages of platform balances? …



That’s like saying there’s a shortage of doorknobs, toilets, toothpaste, cups or whatever mundane stuff you use at least twice a day.

But we all know the truth about the shortages.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day 2

They call it Earth.

Uurth... really, what a stupid name.

Anyway... each year, on this world, over the course of a single day, people unite and decide to declare war upon turd, grow pica and impersonate famous worms.

They call that day... Earth Day.

If... you don't buy it, there's still the other story:
It’s an event which started years ago, has evolved a bit since then, comes with both its good points and eventually less good points, and is scheduled to occur every 22nd of April, in the northern part of the world. The South people do it 6 months later, because they don’t live on the same planet.

So today is Earth Day. Well, in some parts of the world, since the rest of the planet doesn’t seem to give a flying duck about this forced eco party. Looks like it has turned into one of those “hey kids, let’s gather leaves in bags” kind of things, and this little adventure can eventually stretch over a whole week in certain places.

Earth Day is the absolutely perfect excuse I needed to talk about something I’ve been pondering, while sitting on the Throne of A Million Thoughts.
I wanted to nickname this particular train of reflection “Electronics and the Cost of Plastic” or “Nintendo, stop selling DS” (they’re such an easy target), or something just as inspiring as that.
Trying to picture the total mass of plastic produced thus far, across the planet, for the sheer construction and distribution of video games (consoles, cartridges, controllers), mobile phones and other stuff for PC… is something that is quite mind boggling… where are we going exactly?

Well, I don’t have a clue. However, my little finger tells me it’s not going anywhere called “reasonable”.
So I suggest that next gen consoles be made out of hardened cheese crust.

Just how much plastic has been produced and wasted thus far? Can we keep going on like that?
I wonder how far stuff gets recycled. We’d really need to think hard about waste plants.

While I’m on it, I’d like to send my warmest gratitude to all the poor and weak people who spend their useless time starving to death and killing each other, mysteriously oblivious to the daily and much enjoyable grace of consumerism.

On this note, offers a diagram. Well, let’s assume it’s correct.

Let’s imagine that all of these people lived in a developed country, didn’t die, and eventually had enough money to buy goods, like consoles, games, TVs, mobile phones, PCs and all that stuff for example.
Let’s start from 1990, up to 2008. I pick 1990 because… I always associate it to a kind of idealized prosperous video gaming era. Anyone who’s played games back then would still be tech savvy to some degree today (fact of mine), and therefore own a couple of electronic trinkets.

So, with 365 days per year, over 18 years, that’s 6,570 days.
The chart says that an average number of 23,468 persons die everyday.
I’ll give you one minute to think about that number… that’s about 9 pairs of Twin Towers demolished per day. Boom boom boom.

This brings us to a total of 154,184,760 nameless women, men and kids who died over those latest 18 years … well, mainly kids I suppose.

Okay, if I read this correctly, just imagine now if these 154 million more guys and gals were still alive, on this cramped planet, and had been eating, drinking, buying goods and driving cars like… like… us!

“Experts” are already talking about how there’s not enough food on Earth right now for everyone, and how, thanks to the miracle of technology, we can now send huge nuclear powered ice breakers to go fishing around the north pole and bring back tons of shrimps, cause they’re full of proteins, and we like that (proteins).

How could we think about feeding them if we can barely feed ourselves?
And then what about oil, and therefore plastic?
They cannot be allowed to survive!
The less for them, the more for us. Again, thanks guys, whoever manages to maintain this status-quo.
Then you wonder why certain countries hardly take off, prevented to even get a glimpse of what Spock may have called prosperity. Forced to hold back?

This cynical babble brings me to another point about the future of classic retail, and people downloading stuff (games, music, porn, etc.).

Since today, the topic is about Earth and its resources, the effects of massive industries on the planet’s biosphere, we could eventually wonder what would be the best option for Earth.
Would it be better to keep buying discs of various types, or on the contrary adopt mass networked retail?

Just by the name, one sounds primitive, while the other one seems to be inspired by one of Shirow’s universes.
I’m torn between both, and I think I still prefer the first one in some aspects. I like to keep my things solid.
Emotion and all that, sometimes there’s a sort of aura of importance that emanates from an object. That’s very materialistic, but I like to know that my games boxes are there, with the precious discs inside. But is it wise?

On that note, I own the collector editions of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. The boxes are made of a sort of cardboard.
I’d rather have them made out of real wood actually, because the only thing that makes that cardboard look cool is because it’s used for rare editions. Other than that, it’s cheap and shit (same system applies to Magic’s rare cards, and how people spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to buy torn out cardboard play cards).
But the advantage of this is that it’s a plus for the environment.
It has some bits of plastic in it, but it’s obviously less intrusive than all those 100% plastic boxes used for the vast majority of games.

So, back to the question of which is the most environment friendly option.

Store retail or download?

Which one has, on the average, the highest consumption of energy and matter per link of its respective chain of design, production and retail?

Is it better to keep your PC running for hours to download large applications, and consume electricity (generated by various types of plants, many still using elements damaging the environment) or get in your car and drive to your nearest store and buy the solid stuff?
Photovoltaic technologies are fine and all, but not efficient enough, and still a wee bit too expensive (check out Howstuffworks’ article on solar energy).
Don’t get me wrong, it keeps getting improved, but we’re not there yet. With patience and by the time download will be more popular, both could conceivably walk hand in hand.

Among the thousands of other questions you could ask yourself, is how much electricity a factory spends on pressing discs? What about the chemicals needed to maintain the machines? What about the quantity of matter spent and wasted per disc?
A server, used to host the files, will require materials for construction, but once it’s there, well, it’s small and can contain a lot of information. It still needs energy to run, people to maintain it (along the ones needed to maintain the data network), but all in all, even if you consider all the elements of the download chain, would energy consumption be that high?
Of course, the server runs constantly and you need several of them, while factories usually don’t. But when factories wake up, their energy consumption breaks through the roof.

I couldn’t make any estimation, but wouldn’t it be obvious that download would be better?

Ok, let’s say it is. Well, how do you store stuff then? Hard drives? Memory cards? CD-ROMs?

The first two options are relevant and noble. You may not have a HD with Guitar Hero pasted on these supports (you could still buy stickers), but you’ll sure have a good load of games on them, along other things.

Notice that in the last case, you precisely nullifying the point of download, even to the point where you could actually use CD-ROMs which would be of lesser quality than the retail ones.
Now consider how much of the content you may already download per month, you actually end burning on CDs (and think about the extra energy used by the laser to burn those discs).

It seems that CD-ROMs degrade over years, much faster than previously thought. I’m not sure they suck at outliving red fishes, but a recent documentary I saw had some scientists sweating a lot at the prospect that so many archives would soon be lost if they weren’t transferred to better supports instead of being kept on CDs.
Now, were they honest about their conclusions, and not trying to force the consumers into new habits, who knows?
Unfortunately, I don’t remember if their conclusions also covered Blu-Ray or HD-DVD, but I'd doubt it.
But if this holds a nugget of truth, we may have to reconsider the idea of storing stuff on CDs.
Memory cards, or anything similar, starts to sound like the soon-to-be-trivial solution. Maybe the cartridge circle is coming close to completion, from a certain point of view.

It’s rather obvious that the more our industries rely on electricity obtained from renewable energies, as well as the less they have to consume energy and matter, the less we use solids to store content, all the better.
The longer the supports survive the tides of time, the better as well.

Maybe that's an idea worth exploration for a quick sim game?

I hope I won’t be too old and conservative the day we’ll have to make the jump. Still, I believe that the old ways won’t be totally phased out.
Live shopping won’t die.
Same for Disco.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

First pillars

This is it. My first blog.
Name: Stone Bytes.
Took me a while to get it finished, even if it's been in the box for quite some time, and yet it's very light in content and functionalities at the moment (still looking for neat plugins).

I could celebrate its inception with a million of happy things, but instead, I think I'm going to stick with ruins (oh noes). :D

So, with the doom and gloom topic settled, I needed something appropriate to look for, something with substance and style.
Like nice looking lithographs. Cool ones. Hokuto No Ken sort of cool, with all its leveled cityscapes.

The picture below is part of the Neo-Ruins series, by Motoda Hisaharu: Prints mostly featuring post-apocalyptic renditions of Tokyo.
Here, we observe the aftermath of an hypothetical cataclysm, which resulted in the urban death of Ginza Crossing.

Here's what the author has to say about his work:

If you think of Japan, you may have a strong image of beautiful nature and oriental culture. However, after experiencing the period of the high growth of economy, Japan now suffers environmental disruption everywhere. When you come to Japan, you might not even find it beautiful. It is a pity, but it is true. Recently, the government and local government took it seriously, and started to consider creating a nature-friendly-environment. The awareness of people is not enough yet, though.

Japan was defeated in the World War? Then, the Japanese culture and the way of thinking of Japanese people became more westernised. The Majority of young people in Japan don't know much about their own culture. I was born and grown up right in middle of the period of high economic growth.

As far as art is concerned, I believe that an expression of an artist will be different depending on the environment the artist has been living in, or has grown up. I have been searching for the way of expressing myself with Printing.
My work always has something to do with Wabi and Sabi which are the concept of the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Wabi means ‘austere refinement’ and Sabi means ‘quiet simplicity’.

There is a Japanese saying ‘anything is impermanent’. Perhaps, I want to send a message “Anything is impermanent” through my work. And, I feel beauty on such fragile things, and would like to express it in my work.

This speaks to me. As a whole, there are many aspects of cities which just put me off. Sure, they're great centers of socialization and awareness, shaping our societies, and still remain most appreciable for catching the latest gossip and technotoys, but many of them are extremely filthy and noisy. I am assured to get a headache if I wander too long down their streets and their pedestrian hallways. We just never get enough greenery.
And blue skies.

Sympathetic derailing aside, this blog will be a place I’ll use to drop comments about video games and related topics. Most will be nonsense and not particularily highbrow, but who gives?

/me out.