Issue #61
September 9, 2007
Front Page

It's been far too long, I know. A mix of crazy personal time, lack of internet, and completely moving everything I own 380 miles south leads to a horrendously late column. Add that to a newfound fascination with Rune Factory that reopened my heart to my DS, and you have a perfect recipe for columning disaster. As the school year starts up, who knows what will happen to this column. :( Senior year is already kicking me in the pants, and I'll just have to let things sort themselves out as always.

Regardless, let's catch up on the last few weeks and mix it up with some current news as well. Things have been slow (as usual), but that doesn't mean things have been bad. Let's get it done!

PSP "Unbricking" And Super-Downgrading Utility Finally Released To Public
"Pandora's Battery" opened; treasures await!

To a handful of PSP homebrewers out there, the terrifying fear of accidentally turning their $150-$200 system into a stylish paperweight has become a grim reality. With more and more people looking into homebrew to unlock their consoles to run applications, emulators, and install custom themes, it's inevitable that things will occasionally muck up and result in the owner's extreme anger and dissapointment. Until last week there was little that potential homebrewers could do to remedy their situation; Sony (of course) wont fix any system that looks like it has been tampered with and hackers couldn't seem to fix something that's hardly bootable. The bricked PSPs seemed to be doomed, left to sit in many a top drawer awaiting the day that they could be salvaged for parts or utilized as fodder for target practice.

Now before you grab your rifle and throw your PSP in the air, take a glance over at the hard working folks over at Noobz who may have just solved your problem. A hacking dreamteam of sorts has come together over the last two years to create a universal de-bricking and downgrading application that will not only make ANY firmware downgrade to 1.50, but can also bring your bricked systems back from the dead! Take that, Noobz. For a group to release something early to save people from being ripped off (instead of just holding out or making a tidy profit themselves) is a wonderful thing you don't see many places nowadays. Now go and save that expensive paperweight of yours!

Sources: NoobZ | DCemu
The Love Affair's Over: No PS3 Price Cut For Europe
Love reincarnated through bundle packs and fixed prices

Europe, Sony doesn't really like you. Contrary to last week's belief that they had secretly reconciled their long lost love for you through product debuts and special deals, Sony Europe's President David Reeves announced that their handheld generosity would not be extending to their home consoles. You know those very special price breaks and bundle packs that Sony was gracious enough to give us Americans? Reeves noted to GamesIndustry that Sony is "happy with the way that things are [currently] going for the PAL business," and as such will not be dropping the price overseas anytime soon.

Instead of making the system more affordable at checkout, Sony plans to continue making their systems seem like a value with various bundle packs this holiday season. Reeves noted that Sony does have plans to continue putting out more "hard bundles" like the starter pack (with one or two games, ala the current 80gb bundle), but they have no current plans to drop the price or announce more than "four or five titles a month". Whether this is simply a bluff on Sony's part for a big holiday push, or a more likely statement of what's to come, Europeans should feel a little more comfortable plunking down their hard earned currency of choice for a gaming system that probably won't get much cheaper anytime soon.

Source: GamesIndustry
Xbox 360 Cores Around The Corner And Under The Tree
Xbox insider notes that smaller 65nm processors out by end of year

Many Xbox 360 fans across the globe have been clamoring for a smaller processing core for their oft red-ringed systems, noting that their personal equation of "smaller processors + less heat = less overheating and dead systems" will solve many of the 360's problems. While Xbox scholar Dean Takahashi is skeptical about the validity of that equation (as it's still yet to be seen), he's gone on the record with the San Jose Mercury News stating that the smaller cores will be part of the codename "Falcon" motherboards that will be making their way to store shelves sometime around the holiday season.

According to Takahashi, if your in the market for a Xbox 360 and want the most reliable version out there, look towards the newer "Falcon" based 360s. For the people like me who just kind of took fansite explanations without looking into the actual mathematics of the smaller cores, Takahashi explains how the 65nm cores will work and their bevy of advantages.

With smaller circuitry [in the 65 nanometer chips], they take the same number of transistors that they had on the earlier chips and put the transistors on a chip with a smaller physical area. Hence, the console makers can get smaller chips. Those chips generate less heat (as long as they deal with the leakage, or standby heat, properly), and they operate more reliably. What’s more, smaller chips require fewer materials so the smaller chips carry lower costs.

As you can see, the smaller chips have the potential to be a cooler and more reliable chip, but until people actually get their hands on them and stress test them we can't say so with absolute certainty. So how can you tell whether or not you're getting a Xbox 360 with the falcon motherboard? Well, quite simply, you can't. There is no cosmetic note; no giant red stripe or sticker on the hopefully more efficient consoles that allow consumers to know exactly what they're getting. The truth is that you have your best chance of getting one this holiday season, so if you're waiting for a (hopefully) more reliable system, wait until the holidays for a bundle without a brick.

Sources: Joystiq | GamesIndustry
NPD Released: Nintendo Soars And Scores
Pictures! Charts! Nintendo News!

Per usual, the NPD results for the past month are out and Nintendo is sitting firmly atop of the multiplatform pile. While I could just go on to do the usual "it prints money!" joke and congratulate Nintendo for a job well done, GamaSutra had to go ahead and make us all rethink the current charts through pretty visuals and interesting juxtapositions.

As this chart clearly shows, high weekly sales led to a simply wonderful July for all consoles.

Both Nintendo and Sony enjoyed growth of over 20,000 more units than previously sold, while the Xbox 360 slid into third with a measly 3,000 more consoles than last month (most likely stunted by the hopefully fixed Red Ring problems). Nintendo had a record breaking month due to increased availability of the console and (maybe?) the upcoming Metroid VC and Wii onslaught.

This month's totals seemed interesting enough, but what happens when you look at total consoles sold in the US thus far? Looking over at this line chart shows how the big three are holding up:

As you can see, the 360's mammoth head start has led to a formidable user base that won't be passed up for quite some time. Even with the Wii's seemingly unstoppable warpath of consoles sold it still has a bit of work ahead of it; if my amateur graph-reading skills are any indication of actual numerical values, the 360 still has somewhere around a 2.5 billion unit lead on the Wii that won't be passed up (in the US) anytime soon. Unless Nintendo stumbles upon some sort of Wii-spawning fountain that helps them to exceed consumer demand, the Xbox 360 should be firmly in the lead until well past Christmas.

While the Nintendo DS's lead and sales figures are almost comical at this point, it's worth mentioning the potential jump that may come with the newly redesigned PSP Slim/Light/Lite. After all; the DS didn't really take off until it's radical redesign, and the amount of interest in Sony products is still high. If a price drop could double the PS3's monthly sales, imagine what a whole new design could do for their powerful little portable. Be sure to keep an eye out for future changes to the NPD update and sales in the Currents section; you never know when titles and redesigns might make the tides turn!

Source: GamaSutra

Every month, I'm in the wonderful position of spreading console sale knowledge across the RPG land. Here are this month's (just mentioned) NPD reports of consoles sold in the U.S., along with the top ten games sold! You can use this to further examine the pretty pictures posted above.

March NPD Reports of Consoles Sold in the US
Nintendo Wii
Nintendo DS
PlayStation 2
PlayStation Portable
Xbox 360
PlayStation 3
Game Boy Advance

Top 10 Selling Games of March '07
1. NCAA Football '08 (360)
2. Guitar Hero Encore: 80's (PS2)
3. Wii Play (w/ Wiimote) (Wii)
4. NCAA Football '08 (PS2)
5. Mario Party 8 (Wii)
6. NCAA Football '08 (PS3)
7. Pokemon Diamond (DS)
8. Transformers: The Game (PS2)
9. Guiitar Hero II w/guitar (PS2)
10. Guiitar Hero II w/guitar (360)
Source: GameSpot
RANDOM: Things worthy of a quick mention for their obscurity, or sheer awesomeness
  • Have a Xbox 360? Then you probably have Gears of War, arguably the only disc utilized by many to kill aliens and online foe alike until Halo 3 comes our way in a few weeks. Well, in order to better pass your time until picking up your game and slurpee, head onto Xbox Live and pick up your FREE map pack! While downloadable content will continue to cost a pretty penny here in the age of our next generation, online savvy consoles, every once in a while a free trinket comes our way. At least it's a little something the people who aren't playing Skate entertained.

  • It's that time of the month again! The Playstation 3 has just recieved it's latest minor firmware update! While little has been uncovered by the sleuthiest of NeoGaffers, the update seems to be a pretty minor backwards compatibility update that makes many of the 80GB PS3 owners a step closer to competing with their emotion-engine equipped bretheren.

  • European gaming fans that are looking for next-generation movie playback will have a little bit to be excited about after Sony's dissapointing news, as the Xbox 360's HD-DVD add on will be dropping €20 down to €180 this week. The movie player is still significantly more expensive in Europe than in the US (about $65), but at least those that don't like importing (or purchasing a new PSP Slim) will have a little something to smile about. Every little bit helps, right Europe?

That wraps it up, and that seals the deal. I'll be bringing it back to you next week for even more column-y goodness than you can stand. Let's just hope that both training and the impending doom known as college don't beat me into submission. Either way, RPGamer is always my true love. Here's to next weel.

Cole Jones (Email Me!)


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