E3 next week and expectations heating up

Now that E3 is almost back to its glory, all kinds of speculations and expectations started coming out. Even new trailers for games started showing up already (Check the Bayonetta trailer below). Although, I would rather wait until the big three conferences actually announce what they are working on, I can’t help ignore all the media buzz around the conference.

In previous posts, I wrote about what I would like to see in a potential new PSP, and the next gen of video game consoles.

So here is a summary of the hot potential news:

Hardware
Sony:
– New UMD-less PSP or even a whole new PSP
– A new PS3 redesign and/or price cut and/or new bundles

Microsoft:
– Potential new bundles with Xbox Live accounts, Games, new peripherals …etc

Nintendo:
– Nothing new?

Motion Control:

Both Sony and Microsoft are expected to announce a new motion controller that could be camera based. Recent media buzz talked about Microsoft potentially using the motion control technology developed by Canesta, a company that develops 3-D sensors that allow consumer electronic devices to see your gestures. Microsoft also has a definitive agreement to buy a company called 3DV Systems which has been working on a 3-D depth camera that can detect motion and position which is much more accurate than the Wii game controller. There are rumors that Microsoft is also talking to Prime Sense about licensing their 3D-Depth Camera. The funny thing is that Microsoft had an internal team try to develop their own tech but it decided not to go with it.

Nintendo obviously has the lead in this field but would better technology from Sony or Microsoft affect them? Well, after 50+ Million Wii units sold, I doubt it. Sony and Microsoft lost this round at least in terms of numbers sold.


Games:

Sony: God of War III, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, MAG, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer, and Pixeljunk Shooter. Pushing more PSN titles
Microsoft: Alan Wake, Halo 3: ODST, Forza Motorsport 3, and a potential new Peter Molyneux game. ???Maybe MGS4 for the Xbox360???. Other new DLC
Nintendo: Metroid Prime Trilogy, Sin and Punishment 2, and Wii Sports Resort. Other new Mario and/or Zelda games. New DSi titles?

Stocks worth buying

Sony

SNE 24.68 -0.21(-0.84%) 24.71B

Intel

INTC 15.28 -0.84(-5.21%) 84.93B

Nvidia

NVDA 8.76 -0.22(-2.51%) 4.85B

Nintendo

NTDOY 43.30 +0.60(1.41%) 48.97B

Visa

V 57.74 -2.07(-3.46%) 48.68B

Amazon

AMZN 53.25 -5.20(-8.90%) 22.87B

EA

ERTS 22.66 -0.74(-3.16%) 7.20B

The problem is finding the right time to buy. I’m happy I did not buy yesterday cause I thought the market would react to Obama’s election. Here are the indicators from Google Finance:

9,295.06 -330.22 (-3.43%)
970.87 -34.88 (-3.47%)
1,714.98 -65.14 (-3.66%)

The Dow, Nasdaq, and S&P are all down. We might be heading to worse times. So hold your cash for now and don’t buy. The sweet point where you should buy is close though. We have to keep a lookout. If anyone has any insights, please let me know. The world’s best investors make their wealth by buying when times are bad and selling when times are good. Thats how you milk the market. The worst thing happens to people who sell in bad times and buy in good times. It takes a lot of discipline and understanding of the market dynamics to make the right decision. Unfortunately, I do not have that information and I don’t have the time to learn the ins and outs of the market.

The one console future

Silicon Knights founder and president Denis Dyack is talking about an open standard for gaming consoles on gamasutra today. EA’s head of international distribution Gerhard Florin told the BBC he wants.

We want an open, standard platform which is much easier than having five which are not compatible. You don’t need an Xbox 360, PS3 or Wii — the consumer won’t even realise the platform it is being played on.

There is already an organization called Gamix, Inc that offers a PC based open platform. I don’t think Gamiz’s approach will ever work. You need to offer the main hardware console makers a reason to believe in this. Sony and Microsoft already own many studios. Why would they ever create games for a PC-only based platform? Microsoft could benefit from this if Windows is used, but then the platform would not be “open” anymore.

So the big question here, how can we consolidate the interests of companies like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo to push to support one standard. A standard that allows a game developer to build once and deploy anywhere. Thats a really hard question. But we can start somewhere. First of all, even though its an open standard, there needs to be room for differentiation. The standard should include a hardware and software spec that manufacturers need to comply with. In terms of Hardware, a multi-core Power PC based architecture is a safe bet since all the consoles use Power PC based processors now. As for Software, an Operating System API is all that is needed. Vendors like Sony and MS can compete by trying to build a better system that complies to the standard.

Network Equipment vendors have been competing in the same way for years. In Networking, you had to comply to a standard, otherwise devices would not be able to talk to each other. Now the same needs to happen in gaming.

A distribution medium like Blu-Ray or HD-DVD will need to be picked for this open standard as well … another big problem!! Hardware distribution will not die anytime soon. Most publishers will try to push their games online. Even if you had a 200GB hard drive, its only got room for 4-7 multi-lingual HD games. So downloading the whole game is just not that sexy yet.

There are several factors that need to be considered in defining this open standard:
1- Timing
2- Publisher and Developer Commitment
3- Manufacturing issues
4- Fairness

Now how can console vendors differentiate their products:
1- Hardware: manufacture your own chip and focus on making certain aspects better than the others.
2- System Software: optimize your OS to be better. Provide an easy to use API. Make it easy for end user to plug in their own applications without sacrificing system integrity. Make it easy for people to use the console for other purposes.
3- Creative input/output devices. The Wii controller is not the end!! There are many other cool ways to interact with games. Look at Guitar Hero and Rock Band. The rumble was considered a next generation input device. What about 3D glasses? Special lighting effects, anything that immerses the gamer in the experience. Whether its a movie or a game.
4- Application Software = Games mostly but just like Sony and MS are doing with the XLive and PSN. Provide a market place and a community (think Home).

There are a lot of things that still can be done. If you compare the quality of offline rendered animations and runtime animations, you will notice that games tech is still lagging behind. Physics has not been really utilized enough in gameplay elements. Open worlds are not so open. Characters are not as responsive as you would want them to be. AI is still progressing and rendering is only getting better. Lighting, textures, and effects are all things that can be improved dramatically.

Hopefully a successful initiative for an open standard console will get started.

Activision and Vivendi

What a huge deal?? I did not see that coming. Interestingly enough, although Vivendi will own 52% of the merged company, the CEO of Activision Robert Kotick will be President and Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard, and Vivendi Games’ Bruce Hack will be CCO of the combined company.

EA recently acquired Bioware and Pandemic and Mythic/Warhammer so they are still bigger. Huge companies with many studios are rising in the industry. Sony is also acquiring studios. Microsoft is also expanding their game studios and trying to offer more exclusives for their systems. Nintendo on the other hand has been laying low in terms of expansion, publishers are choosing to make Wii exclusives based on numbers. Besides, given the Wii’s limited horse power, it can’t handle the same quality expected from next-gen games. It will be very interesting to see what strategy the new Activision Blizzard will take. Personally, I do not think they will change much on the outside. There will be quite a bit of internal structuring. I wonder if we might see the death/rise of a couple of studios.