Things were simpler a year ago. My original launch 360, bless its soul, had RROD’d on me, I had a decently powerful C2D GTX 260 combo in good working order and I’d recently picked up a cheap Slim PS3 from Japan. My PC had become my primarily platform, thanks mostly to Steam, and the PS3 served as backup for those pesky console-only titles. I thought I had the best possible setup. I was wrong.
I’d tried to live without it for the longest time but now I realise that this last year or so I’ve really been missing Xbox Live. Missing my friends, one button invites, achievements with APIs that can follow me around the net. There was a measure of substitute with Steamworks, although only some games used it, and barely anything cohesive on PSN. In fact my year of Super Street Fighter IV on the PlayStation was one of the most frustrating experiences ever. Getting people into a game and accepting invitations from others… could it have been any more convoluted? Even though the PS3 version of the now-banned Mortal Kombat is getting fighting games favourite cameo with the inclusion of Kratos, my gut would feel yucky buying a multiplayer fighter for Sony’s mess of a machine.
And on a completely unrelated note, Forza Motorsport 3 is absolutely a better game than Gran Turismo 5 although I fear that argument warrents its own article.
So starting to think that the Xbox 360, as a platform, offers a better overall experience is an interesting conclusion. I’d previously considered PC to hold that accolade, and comparing Dead Space 2 on console to PC there really is no discussion about technical proficiency. Textures and resolution are paltry by comparison. However if you take matchmaking and DLC into consideration, I wonder how much weight that extra visual fidelity actually caries?
Against the sheer fragmentation of platforms and standards on PC – EA friends list, I’m looking at you – I’m beginning to see the graphics as less and less of a consideration. Not that its mode was worthwhile to begin with, I never once played DS2 online on the PC. And, by pure arrogance on the publisher’s part, I’ll never play the ‘Severed’ DLC. Thanks a lot guys. Even Steam seems to now show contempt for its customers – again most likely by publishers’ edict – by charging ludicrous prices for games. Ozgameshop.com can now match day-and-date better prices for 360 versions of new releases than Steam can despite being exempt from printing and licensing overheads.
Half the fact that the cohesive nature of the Xbox platform feels so good is undoubtedly that the situation on the PC is so broken. Nevertheless I’m switching over to the 360 as my primary, despite it costing me a new console, some visual bells & whistles and despite costing me a yearly subscription to boot. Certainly wouldn’t have anticipated declaring this a year ago, but for the bunch of reasons I’ve mentioned – and no doubt a bunch more – I’m not regretting a thing.
So come on friends, add my Gamertag Ichorid4.
Whether it boils down to appeasing retailers or just criminal half-arsedness, a lot of digital storefronts are content to let themselves look stupid. I recently wrote about Steam’s Australia tax and generally clueless pricing. Today, I look at Microsoft’s offering; the newly revamped ‘Games for Windows Marketplace’ and it is no less silly.
Take a look at the above screenshot. That’s right. You can get Batman: Arkham Asylum for $49.99USD, or the Game of the Year Edition, which comes with more stuff, for $39.99. This tells me two things, first of which is that Microsoft doesn’t give enough of a shit to curate what’s chucked onto the store and check for obvious pricing curiosities like this.\
Secondly, it seems Microsoft has no interest in pricing competitively. The GOTY version of Arkham goes for $29 on Steam, arguably this service’s chief competition. It also goes for $29 on retailers like Play-Asia and considering those boxed versions come with 3D specs to boot, it’s not half bad a deal. Other titles like Age of Empires III for $39 and Fallout 3 (without any DLC- they come at the original $9.99 a piece) for $49 are terribly overpriced and handly beaten at retail and most other digital storefronts that sell them.
Speaking of Fallout, Fallout: New Vegas is nowhere to be seen. Nor are last year’s bestseller Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 or current record-breaker Black Ops. That’s because these games are tied up with Steam via Steamworks. However Microsoft is cutting off its nose to spite its face here if they exclude games using Steam’s overlay and DRM- Direct2Drive learned this lesson last year and quickly added Modern Warfare 2 to its library after initially refusing to on these same grounds. What makes these notable omissions from the GFW Marketplace even more apparent though is that older instalments in each franchise are not only available, but are present on the store’s ‘Featured’ tab. Oh dear…
So what draws does Marketplace have? Daily deals for a start, but then the prices aren’t that great. Exclusive titles like Gears of War but little else- Halo and Halo 2 are inexplicably absent. Steam has auto-updates, Steamcloud and a vast library, GoG.com has its app compatibility patches and ‘no DRM’ policy and D2D has its no-nonsense approach. What does GFW Marketplace have to set it apart from the crowd? Nothing that I can think of.
I like the layout of the Games for Windows Marketplace, but entering the market now, it is essentially asking me to convert over from Steam and I think that’s how most people in a position to buy and download games online will see it too. That said, it doesn’t seem very interested in competing on price, on the strength of its library or bringing anything else to the table. I see little reason to buy into this store and Microsoft needs to step things up right quick if it doesn’t want to see this venture dift into obscurity.
Visit the [Games for Windows Marketplace] if you dare…
The guys over at PC World published an article a few months ago outlining why Windows 7 shouldn’t go on tablets. I paid little mind to that, considering Steve Ballmer confirmed tablets with Microsoft’s desktop OS would be releasing before Christmas. However it seems like the software giant has since decided to cede to this curious contingent of the tech-o-sphere and release Windows Embedded 7 Compact as MS’s de facto tablet OS. Umm… can I say no thanks?
What’s really wrong with the iPad and the Android based tablets coming out now is that they aren’t fully fledged OS’s. iOS’ hidden filesystem takes the cake but there are a million more little things that hamper productivity and make basic tasks beyond looking at web pages more of a pain than they should be. Grabbing an image, cropping it, throwing it in a blog post like this and then publishing the thing is a trial. Then there’s the issue of file type compatibility, needing separate native apps to make the web usable.. etc etc.
Then there’s actual application compatibility. Think of the suites of programs; full versions of CS5 and Office, libraries of games and so forth that can run on Windows. They could all run on a tablet with Windows 7. They currently cannot on iOS or Android, and, from the sounds of things, won’t on WE7C either. A cut down OS is even more limiting when you start to think of the situation in these terms.