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Monthly Archives: August 2009

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Microsoft and Sony Announce Negative Price Cuts on XBox 360 and PS3

Deepening their competition over the future of the gaming console, both Microsoft and Sony have announced a new generation of price cuts for the XBox 360 and the PS3. After Sony’s announcement last week that the price of the PS3 would now be lowered to negative -150 dollars, meaning that Sony will pay customers 150 dollars to take home a PS3 and do something with it, Microsoft countered by offering a negative -200 dollar price cut on the XBox 360, pricing their console at minus two hundred dollars, and additionally promising to teach customers how to use the ring of death to destroy their enemies. Microsoft’s price cut has raised further worries at Sony, which has barely managed to sell 900,000 PS3 consoles, and with its latest price cuts now loses over a 1000 dollars for every PS3 “sold”. However Sony was able to point to the vast numbers of crickets chirping in Microsoft’s retail outlets, as customers showed no interest in buying Zunes or the 12 flavors of Windows 7 (Professional, Supremely Professional, Amateur Ultimate, Mocha Java ActiveX, Professional for Stupid People, Slightly Gay Ultimate, Home Professional Ultimate, Ultimate Blue Screen Special 64 and Professional Bob ME 7). Nevertheless Sony which has not sold a single game console outside of Japan this month, has completely lost its grip on the portable music players market, and is being terrorized by a giant radioactive lizard; could take small comfort in Microsoft’s woes. Nevertheless Sony executives gathered together in secret talks planning a rumored -250 price cut to the Sony PS3. Meanwhile Nintendo announced its 100 millionth Wii sold.

Has Apple Picked the Wrong Time to Go Tablet?

It’s no secret at this point that Apple seems to be pushing forward with an internet tablet, a seemingly reasonable halfway point between the Macbook and the iTouch. But do people really want internet tablets? Sure we’ve all seen them carried around by crewmembers on the Enterprise, and as a linear descendant of the PDA and the laptop crossbred and shrunk down, the tablet is supposed to be perfect for the new mobile environment. But that might be exactly the problem. Internet tablets are great in concept, but they’re not exactly big sellers. Now why would that be? Tablets give you way less functionality than an actual laptop, often at a higher price, and they’re not all that superior to the new generation of smartphones and genuine portables, which you can tuck away in your pocket. That may be one reason why Nokia which helped push the tablet, is bucking the tablet trend, by shrinking down to smart phone size and avoiding the internet tablet label. Apple is obviously hoping to tap into its trendy mass consumption market, but deploying an expensive item during a recession that people aren’t so sure they need, may not be the smartest move yet.

Latest Claim: Avatar Trailer Sucked on Purpose

No it’s not a joke, it’s Sam Worthington’s claim that Cameron brilliantly made the Avatar trailer suck, so people would go see it in theaters in 3D. Confused? That’s okay, you’re obviously not brilliant enough to get how blowing the marketing on a 237 million dollar movie, the third most expensive film ever made, is actually a cunning plan to get people into movie theaters again. Sam also misses addressing the bottom line that plenty of people who did see it in 3D are also not happy with the whole Dances with Thundersmurfs thing. Cameron promised photorealism that would be impossible to tell apart from real life, a new generation of 3D and an epic moviegoing experience, so far we’re seeing Delgo 2 with cartoonish graphics that aren’t that far ahead of Final Fantasy the Spirits Within, and a predictable Dances with Wolves storyline. At this point Avatar is dancing around the Waterworld, Postman rim. I’m sure Avatar will still have a big opening and pull in money, but it will be a battle to even make back its budget domestically, because Avatar may use 3D better, but it’s nothing all that special. Oh and someone ask Sam Worthington whether Terminator Salvation sucked on purpose too.

Judd Apatow Fails with Funny People

Funny People, Apatow’s third directed film, which feels more like his 200th because his fingerprints have been on so many other movies, is set to slip out of the top 20 by next weekend with a take of 50 million dollars. That’s 25 million below its budget, which is confusingly too much for a movie that consists of the main cast hanging around rooms and making dick jokes, but a lot of that was probably Sandler, Apatow and Rogen’s piece of the pie. And so Funny People is a disaster for Sandler, whose career has been slipping into Jim Carrey and Eddie Murphy territory, and for Apatow who was supposed to be a sure thing. The marketing for Funny People, with a bland poster that made it look like a romantic comedy didn’t help. But Apatow’s success was based on low budget and gross out appeal to teens. Funny People has everything that makes it toxic to that crowd, a serious story, middle aged whining about the meaning of life that feels like it should star Albert Brooks, and on top of that it cost way too much. If Zohan, Apatow and Sandler’s last collaboration, at least made some effort to pander to its audience, Funny People expects them to show up for the jokes while sitting through Spanglish 2. And it was never going to happen.

Avatar gives us Dances with Wolves in Space

For some people Avatar was that mysterious amazing project that was supposed to change film-making as we know it. Unlike District 9, the hype didn’t seem quite as empty, since after all it was James Cameron’s long delayed comeback, and the man is impressive on the technical side of things. Well after long last, the Avatar trailer is here and on the technical side, it looks like a bunch of video game cut scenes, on the story side, it kinda looks like a video game with the plot of Dances with Wolves in space. The moment I saw all the “evil” military technocrats blowing stuff up vs the natives, who will naturally turn out to have more land centered spiritual values to offer the main character, I groaned internally, because I realized that all Cameron had done, was remake Dances with Wolves in outer space, something more than a few reviewers are likely to mention too. And while Avatar might be shiny in 3D, the aliens themselves look like CGI, which is to say shiny, artificial and basically unreal. If Avatar hadn’t been hyped as such a gamechanger, the reaction might not be as bad, but this is not the trailer for a gamechanger movie, it’s just another trailer for another movie.

Not Another X-Files Movie

But yes another X-Files movie is apparently on the way around 2012. The first X-Files movie sold because the X-Files TV show was still a phenomenon culturally and some fans were still delusional enough to think the show would answer their questions about what was going on. (Battlestar Galactica fans would go on to show that they’re just as delusional.) The second recent attempt to do another X-Files movie bombed badly. The question is why do another movie. Yes X-Files 2 or X-Files I Still Want to Believe, effectively bombed, taking in 68 million worldwide. Of course it was made dirt cheap with only a 30 million dollar budget, but it couldn’t even make that much back domestically, finishing at 20 million. That is a very bad sign and when a movie depends on most of its box office take on foreign receipts, that is not a neon sign saying, “Make another sequel”. When you account for distribution on the minus and DVD sales on the plus, X-Files I Want to Believe probably made some money, but not much. But it might be time to face the fact that the series’ appeal has mostly run out. Carter has blamed the lack of aliens and talked about going alien for a 3rd movie. That might work, it might not. Or they could just bring in J.J. Abrams and Ron Moore to reboot the whole thing and fill it with heaps of lens flares and angst. That should do it.

Maybe it’s Time to Leave Doom and Wolfenstein Behind

With the release of yet another Wolfenstein game that is basically being greeted with a round of “Well it’s all right for a generic First Person Shooter I guess”, maybe it’s time to lay Doom and Wolfenstein, the games with which ID pioneered the first person shooter, to rest. The new Wolfenstein game, like the previous Wolfenstein game, is visually gorgeous but is once again being damned with the nothing innovative label. Just the way Doom 3 did before it. What Doom 3 and the Wolfenstein sequels have in common is that they work on a purely visual level and they give audiences lots of Nazi, Demons from another dimension, killing abilities but not a whole lot else. They’re games with 2009 engines and yet play like they’ve been designed in the time before Half Life or Gears of War. The latest Wolfenstein game makes some effort to borrow elements from Grand Theft Auto, Just Cause and Metal Gear Solid, but they’re only there as window dressing. The thing is that Wolfenstein 3D and Doom were innovative for their time, not just for being 3D first person shooters, but in gameplay. In some ways firing up Wolfenstein 3D and the original Doom and playing them makes for a better gameplay experience than their modern sequels. Maybe it’s time to put the sequels to rest and create something equally solid and innovative for today.

McCain Libya Twitter Fail

On a week when millions of Americans watched in disgust as the Lockerbie bombing terrorist was released by the UK (can you smell the BNP Libyan oil contracts? I bet you can) and greeted with celebrations as if he had just won the World Cup instead of getting wrongfully released from jail for his part in the mass murder of innocent airline passengers, McCain had to go and tweet, “Late evening with Col. Qadhafi at his “ranch” in Libya – interesting meeting with an interesting man.” Now this happened a few days before the final decision on the case of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was made, but the process had already begin, quietly coordinated with Libya to time Abdel Basset al-Megrahi’s release for the celebration of the Libyan revolution. McCain might have been ignorant of the details and on the 20th he did tweet, “I strongly oppose the decision to release Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the only person ever convicted in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103.” But when McCain met with Qadhafi, he certainly wasn’t ignorant of his involvement in the Lockerbie bombing. It’s not out of line for McCain to meet with Qadhafi, but treating the meeting with the kind of Tweet that Kerry might have given after meeting with Castro, the sort of thing liberals are justly condemned for, is still disgusting.

Should Microsoft be in the Phone Business?

With the Zune HD set to get a generally positive if shrugworthy reception, the question becomes what Microsoft’s next step will be. Microsoft may not have many grown up fans in the hardware crowd, but they’ve demonstrated that they can produce passable technology with the XBox 360 and the Zune HD. Apple has made the next step very obvious, a mobile phone. But that temptation may be a very bad idea. Microsoft’s strength has been selling operating systems, not selling hardware. Apple on the other hand has always been the fancy upsold hardware company. But with the Zune, Microsoft tried to grab the market from Apple, and arguably went the wrong route. Microsoft sabotaged its own efforts to sell an MP3 OS to rival manufacturers that could have posed a serious threat to iTunes and done to Apple’s iPod, what the Windows PC did to the Mac. Instead Microsoft tried to compete on hardware and lost. Now if Microsoft goes down the rumored Pink road to a Zune phone or a Windows phone, Microsoft will not only alienate manufacturers, already looking toward Google, and uneasy with Microsoft peddling Windows Mobile 6.5 while toying with Windows Mobile 7, it will take another step away from its core OS sales, to peddling hardware. Which is not a smart or safe business model for Microsoft at all.

Darkfield Mice for CEO’s from the 80’s and Evil Mad Scientists

Who really needs a mouse that can track on glass? You’d have to assume it’s someone who has a glass table, and who really has clear glass computer tables anyway except CEO’s from the 80’s and mad scientists. Well if you happen to meet that demographic of mad scientists, CEO’s from the 80’s or Mad Scientist CEO’s from the 80’s, Logitech has good news for you. Logitech whose product quality has been slipping lately, will bring you the Darkfield Mouse for only a 100 bucks. The appropriately ominous sounding Darkfield Mouse will help crazy evil geniuses track the mouse across their glass desk. Sure they could get a mousepad or a trackball, but when you’re out to destroy the world, you need to be able to see your knees while you’re typing. Microsoft, which would normally be an ideal market for optical mice that can track on glass what with all those commercials in which everything in the future is made of glass and children from India and America exchange obscene gestures through giant video screens, has responded with something called BlueTrack, which is surprisingly not a way to track Windows Blue Screen crashes, but is an optical mouse that glows blue instead of red, and can work on just about any surface… except glass.

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