Weekend Short-Takes: 12/7/12

Steam's TV-friendly Big Picture mode comes out of beta, Valve holds week-long sale to celebrate‏

Simon Wu:

Wonderful news as Valve’s relentless march towards its own hardware advances yet another step. This news has really been coming fast and furious for the past few weeks, and it really shows that Valve is a tremendously creative and dedicated company to whatever direction they turn. The week long sale, while always great, isn’t the big news. This new initiative is the software side of Valve’s “console”, with the hardware being DIY “Steamboxes.” This way Valve can make Linux their base of operations and finally allows PC gaming to more easily transcend that gap between monitor and TV. But it’s worth remembering that the “catastrophe” Gabe Newell predicted in Windows 8 has already surpassed all Mac versions in user share in just one month.

Alex Miller:

This is indeed wonderful news. I have always wanted to hook my PC up to my beautiful tv and use it as a monitor and now I can. As Simon says, this gives the PC mindset to a console: if you can build it, cram in whatever you can, and hook it all together to get it running, then valve will take care of the software side of things. A welcome addition to the Steam service, and one that will be further catered to in the future (I’ll bet anyone it will). Also interesting is the sale. Unlike most Steam sales (like the one that will probably in two or so weeks) this one did not have any flash or daily deals, the things that add to the excitement of the sale in their own little way. Instead they just laid out a spread of pleasantly discounted titles that all followed the theme of controller/gamepad support. This raises an interesting question: will this pave the way for more themed “mini-sales” to fill the holes in between the bigger sales as well as to allow Valve to empty our wallets on a more regular basis?

PlayStation 3 was the world’s No.1 Netflix streaming device this year

Simon Wu:

Whoa. I didn’t see that coming. Evidently the PS3 even gave the PC a run for its money at times. I didn’t expect the Xbox to win this, namely because of that one most ridiculous prerequisite for all these amazing services: that annual $60 Gold subscription. I wonder, though, because the PS3 really has only Netflix and the Xbox has a veritable multitude of choices, whether Netflix was diluted as a result? I know that Netflix is often lacking in movies, forcing me elsewhere on my search for entertainment. Still, this above all is a sign of where consoles have moved and where the future for a viable set of gaming consoles lays.

Alex Miller:

I have a Roku box at home for a TV I don’t have a console on. This system runs the same Sony operating system that runs on Playstation, and I can tell you, besides perhaps trying the youtube or the Crackle video app once or twice, I have never use anything other than Netflix on it. Meanwhile, on my Xbox, I regularly use other services like ESPN for Xbox, Last.fm, Zune movies, etc etc. When I look at the competition between the Xbox 360 and the PS3, which we learned last week have both sold similar numbers, the lack of content on Sony devices means that just because Xbox owners can be distracted by other services means that Sony will always take the prize here, just like a starving man will always win an eating contest against a man who has just had lunch. However, I'd still take the regularly full belly any day.

Photo Credit: bgr.com

Nintendo uses low price to explain away Wii Mini's missing features‏

Simon Wu:

No, this is not a low price. This is actually quite high for what little you are actually getting. As I said before, $50 is a more reasonable price to demand for this, seeing as it does nothing besides play Wii games and only Wii games. You can get the Xbox 360 for $100 as well, and I don’t even need to start talking about the exponentially greater possibilities of the latter. Let me tell you, taking out the SD card reader and the ethernet card is not going to make the price skyrocket. There is no conceivable reason why anyone to buy this. But then, that’s what Nintendo’s always been good at defying.

Alex Miller:

As I said in last week’s Short-takes, the Wii mini is honestly not worth the price that Canadians might be pay for it. The fact that Nintendo is playing this like they have been gracious enough to give us something as useful as an online-less/sd reader-less/gamepad-less/backwards compatibility-less Wii rather frustrates me, as it would suggest to me that they are not putting in their fair share. Nintendo fanatics buy there new system time after time, new game reboot after reboot, and what does Nintendo with this “hard earned” capital? They give them a device that represents terrible value for money and try and say it is their way of making their console accessible. The Wii used to be the most accessible console around, a two year old or a 99 year old could be taught to use a Wii with little trouble, and the reason such people were in a position to learn was because it was the relative cheapest. Not anymore apparently. The fact that you can get a much better value from the Xbox 360 as Simon mentioned, or even from the new slimmer slim PS3 we talked about in September, means that the Wii has lost that once vital throne and now who knows where they sit. Certainly not at the top, at least with this halfbreed model.

Photo Credit: polygon.com

Nintendo's Wii Fit U to launch early 2013, adds pack-in pedometer for fuller lifestyle tracking

Simon Wu:

Some podcasts ago one of the topics was titled “Round up the Usual Gimmicks.” Nintendo is doing exactly that. First the idea of a smaller product (see above), and now trying to get a guilt rush out of those going through a health swing during the holidays/ new year’s resolution season. However, just as above, this will sell quite well, quite inexplicably well. The original Wii Fit was criticized for breaking the flow of the workout by including complex menus and Wii-mote movements, will it now be the swipe on the Gamepad to select your yoga position?


Alex Miller:

What's a Nintendo product without cheap, useless, or unnecessary accessories. From the famous/infamous Powerglove to this newest Wii U addition, Nintendo will always be the first to cash in on a gimmick. Without going into the obviously cynical timing of the products release (tuned to catch people at their most vulnerable when it comes to exercise) I would just like to point out how this would continue to suggest that Nintendo’s interest continues to lie with cashing in on their more casual, less hardcore/mainstream, “gaming” audience. However, I do find the idea of the pedometer at least somewhat interesting. I’ll reserve final judgement on this particular addition to the Nintendo accessories Pantheon.

Photo Credit: engadget.com

Minecraft sells almost 4.5 million copies on Xbox 360 as other indie games continue to struggle

Simon Wu:

I am troubled by this stat, mainly for what it means to the indie developer crowd. I almost feel like it is a puppet, held up to show rare successes like Braid or Minecraft, but then otherwise not acknowledged or promoted. You’d think that the new Xbox dashboard where all the tiles are now ads would help, but I went through and found only promotion for the big AAA titles, no indie spotlight or anything related easily in sight. I really hope that in future dashboards and the next Xbox would help them come to the surface more easily.

Alex Miller:

This news doesn’t particularly surprise me. Given the following Minecraft had on the PC before it even made the move to Xbox it was always (almost) guaranteed some form of success on the console. However, while agreeing with Simon’s wish that indie games get more of a focus in the next console, I also wonder if the poor sales numbers might be a result of Microsoft’s pricing scheme. Setting all games at very standard, unflinching, unwavering price structures means people are less likely to experience indie games because the initial cost is too high or too much of a barrier. Maybe if a Steam Sale like mechanic (I know there is Summer of Arcade, but its not quite the same) to generate interest in indie games might lead to more trust in the genre by the average consumer, leading to further sales down the line.

Photo Credit: gamasutra.com 

Solifluktion's picture

Big Picture is pretty sweet. However since I don't own a TV I don't have much use for it. Still, for those who like to build themselves a "Steamconsole" this is pretty awesome. Especially the Gamepadtyping works awesome. Now people won't have to call their Savegames "AAAA" anymore.

disgruntledavians's picture

@solifluktion

My personal favorite, GAME001 or SAVE 001 "some date".

Also, it will be easier to input codes, and type messages, because I know that is a struggle and a half on the Xbox. Until I listened to Simon and actually got a cheap $5 USB keyboard for the Xbox. It's dedicated, so I just keep it plugged in there all the time.

Considering I use Netflix and other services a ton, I don't even know if I can quantify how much time it has saved me.

Solifluktion's picture

@disgruntled

Even on the PC I try to make the names fast and simple. Usually something like "Mission1".

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