Verizon Proves Net Neutrality is Necessary
The story today in the New York Times regarding Verizon's decision to allow NARAL to send pro-choice text messages underscores the importance of advocating for net neutrality to keep the internet and telecommunications networks out of corporate hands. Verizon originally denied NARAL's request on the grounds that the messages were "controversial or unsavory" proving that they were willing to stand ground on being judge, jury, and executioner for what happens on their network. While some people probably do not agree with the politics of the pro-choice group, it doesn't take much to see that Verizon basically is willing to enforce their own morality on their network and thus deny access to anyone whom they see fit. Their reversal indicates that they see the pitfalls that this could produce in the telecommunications companies' attempt to control the internet through tiered pricing or worse. If public opinion turns against them, then Congress won't give them what they want. It's imperative to hold this forth as a great example of what could happen if net neutrality is not enacted.
PS3Fanboy interviews PSN's Buchert
PS3Fanboy/Joystiq have an interview posted with Rusty Buchert, senior producer at Sony Santa Monica, which is in charge of incubating and developing games for the PS Store on PS3. My opinion is that these games are currently the most underrated part of the Playstation Platform right now, but I don't own a 360 or Wii so I have no idea how they shape up. My general impression of the Wii's offerings are SNES and NES rehashes, but I don't pay that much attention. I have no idea what the 360 has.
Sony, though, has done a great job of bringing some truy innovative and fun titles with high production values to PSN. Only one game, Super Rub Dub, really was a bomb, in my opinion. But I think they've done pretty well at putting out some really fun party titles, especially Calling All Cars. Piyotoma definitely would appeal to casual gamers, as would Flow. Most of them feature some form of multiplayer action which shows that Sony "gets" what the purpose of these small titles are - party titles to show off the fun of the PS3. Sure, you can play them alone, but they are great to have around when you have a group of people over and want to quickly fire up a game to play.
I think that Buchert reinforces that in this interview, talking about the PSN as the "Sundance Channel" for independent game studios and mentioning some of the more innovative titles they have coming, including Everyday Shooter and Pixel Junk Racers, which I'm really looking forward to.
Overall, I think that Sony is really kind of holding it's breath now for HOME to release and once that is out and stable, more of these games are going to show up on the network. I think their end goal is to release HOME and slowly eliminate the PSN interface because it really is just a glorified web page that doesn't always work very well.
Proof that the Wii will Boost the PS3
In a previous journal, I argued that the PS3 would be buoyed by the Wii due to the fact that both share a control mechanism that the 360 lacks. This makes it likely that games targeted at one system could easily ported to the other based on the fact that the game design would remain intact and only coding to architecture differences and possibly upscaling art for the PS3 would be necessary. Yesterday, there was a small confirmation that what I said will ring true. Developer System 3 announced Ferrari Challenge would be coming to the PS3, Wii, DS, and PSP. This is actually a pretty big announcement in that the 360 is left in the cold. Granted, this game probably will not be a blockbuster of kingmaking proportions, but it shows that game designers are taking the mechanic into account. Interestingly, there are no details that the PS3 would feature the Wii mechanics, but you have to assume the option would be available. Formula One Championship Edition allowed you to steer this way and I'd expect that this game will translate it as well. It might take a while for this idea to hold on, but I'm going on record predicting that a game like this will become the trend and not the outlier.
Will the Wii's Success help Playstation 3?
The Wii currently is the hottest item on the block. You can't find it in stores at all and it's all the rage on the internets. Early fanboy reports imply that the Wii is the king of the next generation, and that the 360 and the PS3 will just be afterthoughts. Obviously, it's way to early to tell this. However, a more important fact is pointed out by the success of the Wii. Third party developers will be listening and acting on this. The Wii will begin to gain momentum, and business sense would state that this will give the Wii a leg up in size of its games library.
The Wiimote has been sold by Nintendo as the best part of the system. Its motion sensing abilities are part of the number one draw to buy a Wii right now - the ability to play interactive fun games with your friend being the foremost point. It is so important to Nintendo to emphasize this element of the system that just about every game takes advantage of it. It's safe to say that without the Wiimote, the system wouldn't have the character it does. This isn't a knock against the Wii, it's just a point that the Wiimote makes the Wii what it is.
Since last spring, Nintendo fans have seethed over Sony's SIXAXIS controller and its motion sensing capabilities. The fact that it was announced after Wii made everyone suspicious that Sony was out to blunt the effect of Nintendo's Wiimote. This is definitely possible, but has yet to be confirmed. The release titles for the game really did not support the motion sensing capabilities of the SIXAXIS except for trivial game mechanics, such as shaking off an attacker in Resistance. In fact, the most obvious use of the motion sensor was in Fight Night 3, but wasn't used too much at all. The game really could have been an answer to WiiBoxing, but instead it decided to compete head to head with the 360 version, probably because there was less work involved.
And this is the point I want to make. The ability for the PS3 to have that motion sensing capabilities is what will help it succeed. The more developers that move to the Wii as a main platform, the easier it will be to port those games to the PS3. Why? Because the basic game mechanics won't have to change much. You have a boxing game with punches thrown by punching with the controller. You have a golf or baseball game that detects the swing. We are slowly moving towards this.
The PS3 already is starting to make plays in this territory. Flow actually is very fun and uses the SIXAXIS as the main mechanic for moving your character. The Rub-a-Dub game for PSN will also use the SIXAXIS as a main mechanic. Blazing Angels, originally released on the 360 and released in December for the PS3, allows you to enable SIXAXIS motion controls for steering your plane. It's not realistic, but it's a lot of fun. The biggest knock on this game was the fact that the motion sensing was delayed just a little bit. I think this was intentionally done by the developers to take away some of the arcade feel that you get from doing it. However, there's a great level late in the game where you have to fly the plane through a glacier with tight turns and low "doorways" of ice while being timed, and it's hard and a lot of fun.
Yesterday, I picked up MLB 2k7. I haven't played baseball on a console since Super Bases Loaded on SNES way back when. This game is a lot of fun, but I think the batting and motion sensing has fallen a little flat. Instead of swinging the controller like a bat, you thrust the controller forward when you want to start to swing. It's actually quite awkward, and I look forward to seeing what other games will do instead of this. If a game comes out that let's you swing the bat for real, then I'll be all over it.
The takeaway point here is that while Sony might have added on the motion sensing as an afterthought, it's in Sony's interest to focus on the SIXAXIS capabilities, particularly with the success of the Wii. Even though the hardware between the consoles is so different, the fact that the underlying mechanics may not have to be modified much from Wii to PS3 is definitely a point towards PS3's corner versus the 360. Some games just don't make sense using a controller, just like some games just don't do well with the Wiimote (Red Steel, we're all looking at you).
Sony's Harrison said "Rumble is a last generation feature" which was spun as a rejection of the lack of rumble on the SIXAXIS. But it's probably coming, and I don't miss it too much. Hell, does your keyboard and mouse rumble? I've played doom, quake, and half life for years without rumble, and I don't see it making a difference towards the way I play. Motion sensing, however, is the Next Big Thing (TM) and look for Harrison to touch on it in front of the GDC next month.