Microsoft's Take on Take Two

Rumours are swirling through web pipelines that Microsoft’s in talks with Grand Theft Auto publisher Take Two Interactive for an outright takeover right smack in the middle of a takeover bid by third party giant, Electronic Arts (EA). Although this news may wet any fanboy’s bacon gartered underwear, it’s highly unlikely. As Microsoft’s top honcho Shane Kim mentioned in an interview last year regarding such an acquisition, “Take-Two is platform agnostic”.

If they’ll be buying T2 for $2.5B, it makes business sense since margins from large volumes of sales from different IPs would translate to a fast ROI for Microsoft. Wrong. Take note that Take 2 (yes , that was intentional), gets their ballooned sales from having a multi plat approach. Most of their titles are released on 3 platforms. If Microsoft purchases T2, the sales figures would massively decrease since T2 releases would be exclusive to a single platform.

This purchase just doesn’t make sense for Microsoft. What does make sense is an acquisition of Epic Games with its so far exclusive high octane franchise, Gears of War. Plus the caveat of owning the Unreal Engine which most current gen games utilizes.

EA may have T2, let Microsoft have Epic.

Sony: "360 irrelevant."

A brand spanking fresh interview of Sony’s Peter Dille from the oh-so-lately exclusive laden online gaming pub, MTV Multiplayer. Mr Dille mentioned the viability and advantage of developing for the PS3.

"... if you look at the global footprint, PlayStation 3 dominates in Japan where the 360 is really irrelevant. In Europe, the PlayStation 3 is already past the 360. And in the United States you have a dogfight. You've got PlayStation 3 and 360 going at it and we've swung the momentum our way outselling the 360 during the first half of the year," said Dille. "So back to the third-party community, they're looking at what's going on, they're realigning their development resources to exploit PS3 and I think they understand that if they want to have a global return on their investment, PlayStation 3 is the only place they're going to get it."

360 irrelevant in Japan? MS must've felt a pinch. The PS3, arguably, is catching up with 360’s hardware figures in the US since the better half of the year due to Live issues late last year, bad PR, and hardware unreliability issues plagued the system and adding insult to injury, mediocre and pockets of below average game releases. However, post-E3 that’s just not the case. Microsoft seems to be ready for a fight for consumer dollar this busy holiday season with big changes, big games, and big marketing.

Having a revamped dashboard, games for the core and casual, peripherals targeting the novices and veterans, the 360 has become a jack of all trades, covering as much consumer ground as it can. No, it doesn’t translate to an identity crisis but merely an evolved system marketed to the masses and an ambitious move on Microsoft’s end to massively expand its consumer base.

The harsh reality is, the core market’s saturated. That’s what Sony’s currently after, due to its price, and Sony knows this, the 360 has covered that ground. Microsoft’s challenge is to expand its demographic and consumer profile through an aggressive diversification of their product offerings. They’ve executed quite well on numerous fronts although one consistent thorn is the 360’s price. The temporary price cut just won’t do and a $349 SRP for a 360 with a 60GB seems overvalued in contrast to the features a $399 PS3 offers out of the box.

For Mr. Dille to claim PS3’s viability in significantly improving returns of respective third party investments, is short of saying “Develop for PS3, you win, develop for 360, you lose.” One can’t ignore the fact that the core consumers 360 has is a generous bunch –repeat purchasers translating to record attach rates for a console. Plus the fact that it’s still less costly to develop for compared to Sony’s system. Publishers and developers are aware of this, and if there was so much value as Mr. Dille claims then why did a long time third party exclusive developer go multi? (Yes, SquareEnix, you and you’re money making FF franchise)

It’s a tight race, for either side to proclaim victory is an outright reckless and irresponsible message to its investors, partners, and most of all gamers.

The Price to Pay

Metal Gear fans are in a rut these past few days. Unable to log in, access reward shops, and the most painful of all, online payments were ‘wrongly processed’ by Konami's servers.

Ludicrous as it is, Konami issued an official press release stating that there’s no permanent solution to the current conundrum their servers are experiencing.

Baffling as it may seem, and this writer ain’t a ‘high-level -triple-A techie’, could it be possible that they simply lack servers to accommodate multiple users? The question is, is Konami willing to shell out on more servers? As this online disaster develops, they’ll figure out a workaround for this issue, perhaps wait out the storm of users logging in and hope that a massive decrease of users occur?

This incident gives everyone a preview on how unreliable and unsustainable the online model Sony’s implementing. A centralized infrastructure (Xbox Live, rejoice) translates to a much more reliable and controlled model that finds workarounds for the sole reason that you're paying for it, and they’re obligated as a service profit oriented entity to fulfill that role.

PS3 owners would be subject to the whims of developers and publishers on what they view as a priority. Why on earth would publishers inject more money on servers when they can hardly recoup their investments for a single next-gen game? Unless there’s this unique and innovative model that could rake in millions of revenue, free online gaming, regrettably, isn’t one of their priorities.

Profit > Loyalty

E3 is done and everyone knows FF13 is on its way to Xbox 360. A complete surprise, though there have been signs in the past that SquareEnix was leaning to a multiplatform approach since its announcement of its much hyped Crystal Engine, designed to run on multiple platforms from the get-go. Rumors abound that titles from this Japanese giant were expected to be released for 360, but few could have predicted the recent twist of FF13's exclusivity.

It is, as they say, just business.

3rdworld Mini Review

Went through a voluntary MIA for the past month and a half for reasons known to any writer, the tool and medium for which this writer oh so often used was liquidated and squeezed for all its worth – yes the Macbook Air, sold to the highest bidder. In exchange, a new, smaller and a slightly lighter entity emerged from this writer’s desk of awesomeness (to remedy what is inherently boring, exaggerate).

A petite HP 2133 Mini Note was what brushed off the tears on a sour break up. Less than half the price of the Air. Its screen size dwarfed in comparison to the real estate provided by the Air. Everything the online tech gurus highlighted and emphasized whether it be the notebook’s pros or cons seems to be quite accurate.

Although the common rant regarding the performance of the VIA chip's a significant complaint amongst reviewers, the processor handles a writer’s task quite well and running VISTA with Aero on, with its fancy animations, is quite intuitive and hassle free for such a small and minimalist tech. Coming from Windows XP then OS X (from 10.3 to 10.5) then to Windows VISTA – transition has been seamless and experience, satisfying.

Overall, the HP Mini’s a winner, well, except for the charger, it’s a brick. It weighs down on your shoulder after walking a good 10mins or so. Ala X360’s power brick, the size ratio is similar – yes, gigantic.

The Mini Note's a certified road warrior, just get used to its colossal charger that adds nearly a pound to the whole package.