Op-Ed

Op-Ed
PS3 Online Misses the Boat

Russ Pitts | 9 Nov 2006 14:54
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It's a hard time to be a laid-back gamer. I don't mean "casual" gamer - that's a whole different beast altogether. Casual gamers play casual games, pick-up-and-put-down titles like you find on your mobile phone, or bundled with your new PC. Casual gamers are a huge, possibly industry-bending and definitely underrated class, but I am not among them.

Instead, I'm a laid-back gamer. I play hard core games, own four consoles, plan to buy at least one more this holiday season and game with most of my available free time. But there's a whole lot about our industry that I just couldn't care less about.

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Like, for example, every minute detail about the two impending console launches. Don't get me wrong, I think it's fascinating that there's a chart bouncing around describing in detail all of the major retailers' plans for unleashing these products on the suspecting masses. In fact, if I'd ever though about it, I'd have already assumed such a thing existed. After all, how else are they going to track their stock? But I didn't think about it.

Nor did I think about whether or not N64 titles released for the Nintendo Wii over the online Virtual Console service would support rumble features. Apparently they won't, which, again, if I'd thought about it, I would have already assumed. But I didn't think about it. Didn't care to, really. Still don't, even after knowing. These trivial details, like so many others flooding news blogs and fansites, just don't matter to me.

I recognize that this is simply a matter of perspective, and that everything is relative. Believe me, I know. I can recite almost word-for-word every recent news announcement concerning Red Octane's hit game Guitar Hero II, for example. Including those about the brouhaha surrounding it's legal disputer with third-party guitar controller manufacturer TAC (TAC guitars sold after October 1st, 2006 are compatible with both Guitar Hero games, by the way). Also, Trogdor rocks. And a controller signed by Dave Navarro might be cool, sure, but hook me up with Jimmy Page and then we'll talk (I'm radioactive dur dur dur dah). But in a vast sea of things about which I could care two figs, this game is but one (albeit an awesome one).

The problem at this time of year is that the industry demands almost unflinching attention to every minute detail of an overwhelming number of products making their debuts. We do have two major consoles coming out this month, after all, and the attendant launch games, launch details, online services, third-party partnerships, shortages, parties, camp outs, Ebay auctions, gunfights, panic attacks and broken relationships all but demand that one pay attention. Although, at the risk of appearing blas?I have to say that even most of that hype fails to get a rise out of me.

What I can't resist, however, is kicking Sony when they're down.

According to IGN, Sony's PS3 console will be shipping minus one rather important accessory a working operating system. Word had leaked a while back that the PS3 OS was still being tweaked, even as production units were struggling off the assembly line, and into mostly-empty cargo containers for their long journey into Ebay listings this month, but now it's clear that the software necessary to connect to Sony's fledgling online service didn't make the boat.

imageIf you happen to be one of the lucky few to welcome a PS3 into your home this month, your first order of business will be to head online and download the patch. And if you'd hoped to immediately hook your shiny, black PS3 up with it's shiny, black, PSP cousin, you may have to wait a bit longer. Apparently the PSP won't support that union until rev 3 of its firmware comes out, and there's no word yet on when that will be.

You know what we call it around here when products ship, minus advertised features and requiring an immediate patch? We call that a broken product, and we usually frown on paying money for those. Unless it's a space shuttle, in which case, the cool factor wins out in the end. Maybe if the PS3 could break orbit, I'd lay off Sony a bit. Until then I'm going to keep kicking, and daydreaming about the possibility of JP on GH3.

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