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October 2, 2007

Matt Demers - 20:13 EST

SO, I'VE COME DOWN with a horrible, horrible status ailment over the week, and I feel like hell. I took my first "sick day" in a long time yesterday and used it to plough through Metroid Prime 3 in a serious way. I'm now 55% complete, whatever that means. A mixed blessing, being sick is.

Even with my lowered HP and compromised status window, I'll do my best to give you a good column. I only have three to do this week, after all, since I'm going home for Canadian Thanksgiving weekend early on Friday. Indulging in family, turkey, and all-around slothfulness? Yes, please.

I hope everyone else out there is doing better than I! On that note, I'll move on to some letters.

Tease, tease, with some cheese.

This is incredible! Have you heard? Lucas from Mother 3 is going to be in Super Smash Bros. Brawl! Check it out:

If we're lucky, this may lead to a North American release of Mother 3!! :D

-Strawberry Eggs


Oh Strawberry Eggs, ye with the same initials of everyone's favourite RPG producers...

I wish I were as optimistic as you.

I hate to be a giant pessimist, but I fear that this is nothing more than a big tease from Nintendo. There's no way that they'll release their last big Game Boy Advance hit now. Our only hope somehow lies in a DS remake of some kind. Man, that would make me happy. But I'm not holding my breath.

Barring that, we can "play vicariously" somehow by instead living with what the big N decides to dish out for we Westerners. Meanies.

More on Console Wars

The console race is a mess this gen. I miss the days of the PS2. Clear winner, and I could be set for gaming with only one system. While it won't be anything like the PS2 days, I think either the PS3 will win or we will have some sort of tie. I'm not going to spout any of that "4D gaming" crap, and I only think the PS3 will win by process of elimination. The Wii has been doing really well in moving hardware, but I think it's going to have a lot of problems moving software, other than Nintendo games. Attach rates are good for now, but I don't think many of the casual gamers that Nintendo brought into the market are going to be buying a lot of games. They may be buying right now, but they are more likely than other gamers to let their Wiis gather dust when the newness wears off. Also, a lot of Wii owners are people who couldn't decide or didn't want to spend a pile of cash on a 360 or PS3. These systems are going to go down in price and get some games, and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people "move on" from the Wii and only dust it off for the new Mario or Zelda game.


It's quite possible, Slashlen. It concerns me a bit that fewer "hardcore" gamers have bought into the Wii as of yet. At the same time, though, I think there's a danger to judging system success by attach rates. A system could be super-expensive and only appeal to the SUPER-hardcore, yet not appeal to anybody else at all: In that case, the people that do have the console will be likely to buy a lot of stuff, pushing the attach rate up extremely high- even though the console doesn't sell well at all. A really high attach rate could be a sign that too few people are just picking up the system to give it a try- that ONLY the hardcore are really interested, which is poor for sales. I guess that's the opposite problem the Wii is having right now, but the question is: Will the good games that are coming out make the system seem like a win for everyone and not just old grannies and little kids? (I'm not saying that I don't think it's a winner- it's just that this is the public perception by some right now, and perhaps there is some rhyme to their reasoning.)

And despite the Wii's success, we haven't seen much in good 3rd party games. Whenever I see a Wii owner rattle off the games that they like/want to get, I swear 85-90% is Nintendo games. I don't think a system can "win" without good 3rd party support. If you look at 3rd party games only, the Wii has the weakest lineup of the 3, and there is no sign of that changing. I don't think Nintendo's worried about it though. They don't sell the console at a loss, so if a lot of people buy a Wii and only grab a couple Nintendo games a year, they will be making money hand over fist. They don't need 3rd parties. A success, but not a win, is my prediction for the Wii. I don't think they care about winning.


Oh, I won't argue with you there. The games that Nintendo-owners look forward to most are the Marios, the Metroids, the Zeldas, no question. I don't think it's that bleak, though. Dragon Quest Swords is a game I have my eye on, and Tales of Symphonia's sequel looks great too. It's a start, but things will improve over time, I think... and the third-party Virtual Console support has been really awesome. Still, I agree wholeheartedly that Nintendo would do well to find some developers that can make some decent games for their systems. With solid third-party support, that system could go so far.

The 360 seems to have the opposite problem. It's too hardcore. It's done a very good job of appealing to the original Xbox's fanbase, the hardcore FPS fan. These people are hardcore, and they buy a lot of games, explaining the large attach rate for the 360. The problem is that the 360 hasn't been able to break out of that base. The problem is twofold: their image and their base. MS can't just release a few token games to show that they appeal to a wider audience, they have to work to change the perception that the 360 is more than a shooter box, and they haven't. As long as people see it as a shooter box, only shooter fans will get one. The flip side is that because the 360 owners are shooter fans, genres that shooter fans typically don't like(like JRPGs) will not do well on that system. I don't hear 360 fans talking about Blue Dragon or Eternal Sonata. As far as I know, they haven't sold that well either.


See, this is what's funny- it's a bit of a Catch-22 when you try to redefine a system by releasing new types of games for it, but nobody buys them because no one has the system BECAUSE "those games are rarely released." I'm glad to see that developers are taking chances with the 360 in this respect, but they won't for long if Blue Dragon goes on to sell, you know, 50,000 copies or something drab like that. Over time, though, if similar games continue to come out, things will change. You can see it happening right here in this column: Last year, if I had asked, no one would have considered buying a 360. Now, with a few interesting releases coming out, tunes have changed. A few people are slowly latching onto the idea, but it'll take awhile to get that snowball rolling.

To win, the 360 needs to convert PS2 owners. One thing that IMHO really hurt them was that GTAIV was delayed. A lot of PS2 owners are GTA fans, and GTAIV would knock a lot of people off the fence. It would have been better for the 360 if that happened this fall when all of its big games are coming out. This fall, the lineup between the 360 and PS3 strongly favors the 360. The 360 could have converted some PS2 gamers who simply have to play GTA when it comes out. It's coming out in April at the earliest, but more than likely it's next fall. By then we should have MGS4, WKS, Killzone 2,and some idea of when FFXIII will come out. The PS3 will look stronger, but I don't know about the 360, which is my next point. What is coming out for the 360 next fall? I get the feeling that the 360 may have peaked this year, I can't think of the killer FPS for next year. What exactly is on the horizon for the average 360 owner?


I have a couple for you: There are a few really great looking RPGs on the way with release dates that are nebulous at best, though some of them are multiplatform (with the other being the PS3). The Last Remnant and Fallout 3 could very well be big titles sometime about a year from now. Other than that, I'm not sure. I don't pay a ton of attention to games outside of my little RPG world, so that's part of my problem. And so for the "average" 360 owner? I haven't got a clue.

Between Halo 3 forcing FPS fans to buy in, a weaker lineup next year, and the inability to widen its base, I think the 360 is going to saturate its corner of the market and will have difficulty selling a lot of hardware. MS at the moment seems more concerned with appealing to its base than expanding it, so they should do well and turn a profit by selling lots of FPS to its base, another case of successful, but not the winner.


It's possible. I have to admit that even IF a fair number of people convert for the promise of RPGs, the number will never be that substantial. Why? RPGs are, like it or not, a bit of a niche market.

The PS3's problems are simple, and well known: Price and Games. The PS3 is slowly making progress. They are about to release the $400 PS3, which will put it at the same price as the original non-neutered 360. They may not have a lot of games now, but we know they have games on the way. I think the PS3 will eventually win because they are the only one that really seems to be working on the things that are preventing them from winning. They are lowering the price. They are trying to get the games out. I know everyone likes to bash it, but look at how well it's sold without any good games. What would it sell like if it had games? For a lot of the PS2 owners, the PS3 seems to be the default choice, unless they are convinced to switch. They're just waiting. If the good games eventually arrive, the PS3 should win. It's just going to take a long, long time.

If the PS3 continues to struggle, I don't see a winner. I see a 3-way tie.


I'm still not convinced how well it would do with a large number of good titles. Surely, you're right: It would be doing a lot better than it is right now, since there are close to zero must-buys out there. In fact, the two most promising games, Lair and Heavenly Sword, have been a complete flop and a ten-minute wonder respectively. I worry that my prophecy is coming true, at least for these earlier games: Games are nothing more shallow graphics-shows, because that's where the emphasis is with that system. It might change, for sure.

Anyway, my point is that every RPG under the sun could come out for the system, and I'd still be extremely wary of putting down $600 to get one. In fact, I wouldn't- especially when I know that it's likely that the price will come down someday. Sony's problem is this: By the time that "someday" gets here, the lead that the other consoles will have established might just be too large to make up for.

Plus, it totally needs some more RPGs besides FFXIII and White Knight Story. In fact, every single console would do well to have more, since the list of releases-to-come seems awfully sparse right across the board. Damn.

A mountain and a molehill, side by side.

Hi Matt! How goes?

So I pre-ordered the Growlanser game and picked it up (a week late :D) on Tuesday. It took the guy a while to find all those goodies, during which I watched no less than five late-teen boys come in and claim their copy of Halo 3 . (I didn't know it was the release of Halo 3 until I walked into the store and saw the place was plastered in Halo stuff.) So my brother and I ridiculed them mercilessly while we waited. Heh heh. Good times.

Apparently I am the only person in the entire south end of the valley who bought Growlanser? This is kind of humorous and also kind of sad.



You're probably right. But apparently, it's not just another FPS: It's the best just another FPS that the world has ever seen!

This is the reality of our genre. One has to wonder what Growlanser's developer was thinking, though, choosing a release so close to that of the year's biggest title. The game would have been lost in the shuffle as it is, let alone be eclipsed by something so enormous. Poor thing!

Thanks, Carabbit!

Whoa, that is NOT cool.

Hey-o Matt,

I knew that you liked Xenosaga(at least the third one anyway). But truly I found the first abhorrent. Part of that is deffinetly related to the fact that Xenogears is the best rpg from the PS1 era. I couldn't even try to convince myself to play anymore after that one. I defend my hate of that game with this comment.

How do you justify the countless panty shots of Momo, who looks like a 12 year old girl in a leather one piece? You give me a good reason for all those panty shots and I'll withdraw all complaints about Xenosaga. Except of course for all the other justified problems I had with it.


Oog, I never took notice. Maybe it's because I was too busy looking at chaos instead.

No, really. That is kind of gross, but I didn't find it to be too bad. The things that I liked about Xenosaga were a) the detail in the setting, evidenced through that kick-ass fully-stocked database; b) the interestingly challenging battle system, which came at a time when every RPG was on the verge of becoming "too easy"; and c) Shion was such a unique and likable heroine, as far as I was concerned. Different from the typical stupid clothing-free female main characters, Shion was nerdy, shy, and was played extremely well by a talented voice actress. Yeah, I really did like the game (all three of them, though the subsequent ones betrayed the likable-Shion-looks somewhat).

I feel that games are getting overpriced, but that's what we get for wanting HD realism. Games could still be cheaper, but they make games for the mass audience, which is generally has the mentality of a park squirrel. "Oooo, shiny!" Now I like shiny, it happens to be my favorite color. But not always needed.


Yup- and look, as I mentioned above to Slashlen, what the PS3 has produced so far: Lair and Heavenly Sword. I'm sure that there will be games released, some day, with more to them than meets the eye, tongue in cheek. Right now, though? Not so much. This is exactly the reason why I applaud Nintendo for taking a different path this generation. For people who like to whine about its graphical sub-parness, look no further than Metroid Prime 3- that game is proof that the Wii is capable of delivering its own dose of shininess if need be. My point is, though, that you're right: This shiny layer ISN'T always necessary to make a great game, and this aim to make games huge and movie-like in presentation means that a single game might take the majority of a console's lifespan to develop. How can a developer learn from past mistakes and make better games? How, then, can any system reach its full potential? I'll bet that if we had let the last generation continue to grow for even a couple more years, we would see some stunning things. But, the drive to introduce has shoved things along...

I've gotten off topic a bit. Unfortunately, none of that really matters anyway: Nintendo's emphasis on other things hasn't brought the prices down any. For some reason, it suddenly became okay this generation to jack prices up by 15% across the board. And don't get me started on controller costs... damn.

But really if we want game prices to come down we need a few things to happen. One that needs to happen is people need to stop supporting used game sales. Either stop selling them your old games, or only buy new ones. The amount of influence that the used game market has on prices is obscene. And Publishers can't not sell at these outlets because they are currently entrenched in the mindset of gamers. Used stores want new games to cost a lot so they can turn more profit on used games. If new games cost $10 less then they have to sell $10 less than that. That's just unacceptable. I cannot confirm that it's happened, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least to learn that Gamestop has told publishers to up their prices or they won't carry their games.


Amen. It's so true! The used-games industry passes on meager savings to consumers while stealing sales away from producers, all in the name of padding the middleman's pockets. NOT cool. I've been pleading this case with little success for the entirety that I've been in this Q&A host position, but it's hard to make people listen. And besides, what am I going to do with my little column here which a few hundred people read every day? It's hardly industry-changing. How hopeless. *sigh*

That's the big one. The other big one is to not buy crap. Hard possibly, but if we drive the crap games out we're left with only the good games. I'm willing to pay $60 for a good game, like Bioshock. Not so much for the newest minigame iteration on the Wii. If we aas consumers refuse to fork out top dollar for crap then we'll be moving in the right direction. Maybe then we can get some appropriately priced games.

Take it easy


That's true too, to an extent. The problem is that the loads of crap on the Wii might be someone else's gold. I could argue the same thing about every single sports game that has ever graced ANY system ever- it's all the same, useless, garbage to me. But, since people buy them excessively, the standard is there.

Here's the problem, Ken: We live in a world that has more people in it than we'd prefer. If it were just you, me, the few million RPGamers out there, and the game companies, the world would be a much different place. Unfortunately, we have to play with what we've got.

Thanks for your letter, Ken, as always! Don't go play Xenosaga now, or you'll be a big ol' hypocrite.



I'm kind of "BLAH" with current rpgs and lack of money to spend for new ones. So I decided to start Fatal Frame for the XBOX. I think I had to change my shorts like 5 times and I'm only 2 hours in. This game is creepy as hell (especially with surround sound) and I LOVE IT!!!!!! Have you or any other rpgamers out there played this game?




Depend: Because you have a lot of living to do.

Nope, I've never played it. You might just scare me into it, though, if ever I accidentally on-purpose impulse-buy a 360.


Favourite rare ability? Two words.

Bum Rush.


(What's this I hear about surgery?)


Ah yes, the Bum Rush- the biggest cheapo attack of the entirety of FFVI. Gotta love Sabin!

And yeah, a Q&A columnist has to stay in top form! Even if it means a little bit of slicing and dicing from time to time. (It was nothing major.)


I want to get better. I want to see Lola!

Blah. New hot topic: Have you ever taken advantage of the misfortunes of illness to get some extra gaming in? Tell me your stories, and I'll respond to them if I'm still alive tomorrow.

Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: 44 - blech
Matt's abs are getting a serious workout from the constant coughing!

Truly, they hurt as if I spent half my life yesterday at the gym. Waahhh...

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On my Wishlist:

1. Dragon Quest IX

2. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn

3. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

4. Dragon Quest IV DS

5. Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

On my Portable/VC Playlist:

1. Etrian Odyssey/Metroid Original

2. Shining Force

3. The Legend of Zelda (NES)

On my Console Roster:

1. Metroid Prime 3

2. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance/Valkyrie Profile 2(?)

3. Tales of Symphonia

Hot Topics:

1. Nearly a year into the console race, who do you think is gonna "win"?

2. What is your favourite unique RPG ability (like Runic, for example)?

3. Have you ever taken advantage of illness to play excessive video games?

4. What's the most exciting piece of news to come from TGS '07?

5. Are new video games and consoles overpriced?

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