More Than You May Ever Want To Read About The Nintendo GameCube

If you’re at all interested in the video game business you’ll want to take a look at this article about the design and business decisions that went into Nintendo’s GameCube, from hardware decisions, software developer acquisitions, marketing campaigns, and the approach to multi-platform games.

This was said over 10 years ago, but man it seems poignant now.

On February 7th, 2001, former Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi strongly criticized the industry for creating one game and then porting it to all three consoles.

“Now software companies are going multi-platform, running one game on lots of consoles, just to sell that little bit more. Even Sega. I can understand why the industry’s flowing this way, but, speaking for Nintendo, I can hardly welcome it,” said Yamauchi. ”When a user chooses a game, he always searches for something new and fun in a way he’s never seen before. If games on Nintendo machines are do-able on other companies’ consoles, then we’ll lose those users’ support. If we can’t succeed in separating ourselves, then we won’t win this battle. And that’s the reason why I’m not overjoyed about multi-platform tactics.”

IGN is full of videos comparing PS3 and Xbox 360 games. It’s beginning to happen with PS4 and Xbox One titles. Meanwhile, Wii-U is tanking.

Wired’s Profile on Mark Cerny

Reading this you get the feeling that this upcoming generation will feel just like the previous generation: it’s the exclusives where things will really matter, but it will matter even more because all the hardware is similar.

That’s why I originally bought a PS3. All other things equal, Sony had the advantage of exclusive titles developed by their own studios. All Microsoft had was Halo and Xbox Live…and if you’re an adult the dream of Xbox Live hits a brick wall because of racist pre-teens. Online gaming is the same as any gaming has ever been. You need to bring your own friends to have a good time.

20 years ago it was a big deal for Sony to steal Squaresoft from Nintendo. Now the big publishers almost HAVE to publish on both platforms, which is why the indie-game reachout is going to be very important this time around.

…reading through this before I hit the publish button I realize Nintendo hadn’t even crossed my mind.

The other thing to consider is the “east vs west” vibe of this. If you’re at all in a management role you’ll hear over and over again about Toyota’s assembly line practices, the Japanese management style, and how it’s superior to what we have in America.

And then this.

My PS3 Renaissance

250GB PS31

I haven’t been playing a lot this year, but all it took was me ordering another HDMI cable from Monoprice.

That’s how it started – me using my PS3 about 1000% more in the past week than I have in the past year. I only had two HDMI cables – one dedicated for the 360, another for the PS3. Then I got an AppleTV and used the PS3’s cable for that. I rarely used my PS3 after that.

But then Kevin sent me Uncharted 2 and suggested I get Playstation Plus, Sony’s version of XBOX Live, but you don’t need it to play online. It’s like buying in to Playstation Store sales and getting free games for the length of your subscription. Now I own almost every Resident Evil game. Now I can play Demon’s Souls, which I hear is good. But that stuff is on hold, because I’m still working through a backlog. Point is that I never not have something to play.

I know to many PS3 owners all this stuff is old news. It’s easy to see how much Sony is courting game players compared to Microsoft. Where Microsoft nickel and dimes you (MS points, ads on the dashboard, proprietary HDD), Sony doesn’t.

For example, here’s a quick table I came up with.

Xbox Live vs PSN
Feature Xbox Live Sony PSN
Dashboard covered with ads in yearly subscription Yes No
You can upgrade storage with standard 2.5 HDD No Yes
Free online play (that I never use) No Yes
Indie Game Selection Big Bigger

Sony, I believe, has realized its mistakes with the PS3. That’s why they’re going with X86 architecture with the PS4. That’s why they’re actively courting indie game developers.

But Playstation Plus put it over the top for me. Downloading gigs and gigs of stuff has been the main reason my PS3 has been on almost constantly since subscribing.

I still have a bunch of games I want to play on my 360, but I’m now catching up on the PS3 exclusives I missed. They’re good enough to overlook my complaints about the Dual Shock. And yes, the D-Pad is better on the Dual Shock than it is on the 360.

  1. Photo by pseudogil 

I Hate The Dual Shock

The original Xbox controller was huge…in size. If you listened to the Xbox Turns 10 Major Nelson show you would hear about how the Xbox team settled on the Duke Xbox controller. Settled is the important word here, because it’s clear that the people who worked on the controller knew that something was off about it.1 Microsoft later shipped the Controller S model for the original Xbox, a smaller Xbox controller made for human hands.

With the Xbox 360 Microsoft proved that they learned their lessons from Duke. In my opinion they surpassed both original Xbox controllers by leaps and bounds with the Xbox 360 controller. I’ve used video game controllers since I was a little kid and out of all the ones I’ve used the Xbox 360 controller is the closest to perfection.

Xbox 360 Grip

The layout and size of the 360 controller feels just right to me. All my fingers have a place to go. My thumbs naturally rest on the analog sticks. My index fingers rest just right on the triggers on top, which is important for Microsoft since Halo set the standard on how first person shooters should work on consoles.

But it goes beyond the layout and how big the buttons are. The remaining three fingers on each hand don’t just dangle around in the air—Microsoft made the Xbox 360 Controller big enough so that all three of those fingers would naturally lay where they could firmly grip the controller. The analog sticks are concave, so your thumbs can stay inside the sticks, rather than merely sitting on top of them. The trigger buttons have an upward slant so that your index fingers can’t stray far from where they should be. The 360 controller weighs 9.35 ounces, so it doesn’t feel like it’s going to go anywhere. All of these design choices let the 360 controller feel secure in your hands.

Since my 360 died I haven’t used this controller much since I got a PS3. But every time I use the PS3 controller I appreciate how good the 360 controller is and for a moment consider sacrificing my principles to go back into the 360 fold.

PS3 Grip - Natural

My biggest criticism of the Dual Shock 3 is that it’s pretty much the same controller as the original Playstation controller, minus the addition of rumble and analog sticks.2 Sony didn’t add analog sticks to their controller until the Dual Shock debuted in November 1997, two years after it launched in North America. In 1999 they released Ape Escape which was the first Playstation title to require a Dual Shock controller.

I mention this only to put the Dual Shock 3 into its proper place in time, because the currently shipping PS3 controller is essentially a controller from 1997. The Dual Shock 3 controller still gives the D-Pad the left thumb sweet spot in the age of Battlefield and Call of Duty. The D-Pad is a priority on the Dual Shock, but how often do games use the D-Pad these days? D-Pads get used for secondary actions like selecting weapons, not for primary actions like moving, which is what analog sticks are used for.

Yet, the analog sticks on the Dual Shock 3 are demoted. It’s apparent which one should get priority. Using an analog stick on a Dual Shock 3, to me, feels awkward because I have to stretch my thumb out to do those common things.

PS3 Grip - Stretch

The placement of the analog sticks is the most immediate flaw on the Dual Shock, but after that it’s death by a thousand cuts. The shape of the analog sticks are convex, not concave, so your thumbs don’t get a sense of security when using the analog sticks. A small PS button is placed awkwardly in the center of the controller. Pressing that brings up the PS3 cross media bar, similar to how pressing the Xbox button brings up the Xbox Guide, but the Xbox guide button is at the top out of the way, whereas the PS button is dwarfed by the analog sticks.

The trigger and bumper buttons are little bumps at the top. The curves that are on the 360 controller’s triggers aren’t present here. The Dual Shock triggers haven’t changed at all since 1997, before the deluge of FPS games that came out for consoles after Halo proved it could be done without feeling weird. Dual Shock 3 weighs less than the Xbox 360 controller, which makes it feel cheap. And the three fingers that had a sense of place on the Xbox 360 controller? They just dangle from your hands because they have no place to go.

The result is a control experience that makes it easy to mistake one button for another. I always feel like the controller is going to slip out of my hands.

I’m hopeful that Sony creates something new for the PS4, but it appears that they’re going to try milking Dual Shock for all it’s worth.

  1. They even tested Duke with focus groups against the other controllers of the time. Duke was an excellent controller on paper. Also see Meeting the Original Xbox Controller

  2. With the PS3 they added Sixaxis motion control. Killzone 3 used this feature and it felt like a gimmick for turning valves that I didn’t understand until I was almost finished with the campaign. 

Sony Bans Class Action Lawsuits in new PSN Terms

The relevant bit:

“Any dispute resolution proceedings, whether in arbitration or court, will be conducted only on an individual basis and not in a class or representative action or as a named or unnamed member in a class, consolidated, representative, or private attorney general action unless you and [Sony] agree to do so in writing,” according to the updated terms.

I hastily accepted them last night because I wanted to watch Breaking Bad from Netflix streaming on my PS3.

Konami’s HD Remakes

Konami has announced HD remakes of Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 and Silent Hill 2 and 3.

I wondered why they took backwards compatibility out of the PS3 in later models, but then I actually got a PS3 and saw the classic titles on their store. Now I see these HD remakes.

When DVDs came out people upgraded to them from VHS, and the same happened when BluRay came out. Now we’re doing it with video games.

I’ll at least buy the MGS collection.

Link: Sony Adding All Songs Over Two Years Old To EMusic; EMusic Raising Prices [Cheap Music]

Sony is coming to eMusic, and eMusic will raise prices.

This is the first I’m reading about the price increase. I haven’t received an email about my plan changing – I’m on an annual plan so I’m not sure they can do much until I resubscribe in the fall.

Today eMusic will announce that Sony is adding its back catalog of songs to eMusic’s library. The bad news is that eMusic also plans to slightly raise prices and/or drop the number of downloads per month. Even if it works out to between 50-60 cents per track, though, that’s still far less than iTunes Music Store or Amazon, and probably the cheapest way to grab music from Sony artists without resorting to piracy.

Having been grandfathered in to eMusic’s 90 downloads per month plan at $20 (which is a really sweet deal) I suppose I should’ve known that it wouldn’t last forever.