Monday, September 19, 2011

The Digital Revolution: Count Me Out.

The PlayStation Vita is coming to a store near you very soon, and with it Sony is saying goodbye to the UMD format. Taking a page from the failed PSP GO, the PlayStation Vita will make all games available through digital distribution, with an additional option to purchase titles on physical Vita game cards. All games can be downloaded from the PlayStation Network store, where they are then saved to proprietary flash memory cards.

There are many reasons why the PSP Go failed, and the existence of the Vita means that Sony doesn't think it has much to do with the digital-only distribution. Sony is putting a lot of money into the hybrid PlayStation Vita, and that means they really believe in it as a viable product. More importantly, it means they are testing the waters to see if a future console that solely features digital distribution can succeed.

The only way to make a portable console even more portable is to eliminate the need to carry around games. Testing the waters of digital distribution with a handheld console is appropriate, but it's likely not going to end there. With the recent rise in sales on the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, the message being sent by consumers is that they enjoy having software made available to them on demand. It's very possible that the next generation of home consoles will be digital only, or at the very least feature a much larger digital library than we see currently.

If you're like me, your multimedia life is digital already: my music library is on my PC, I stream movies more often than I watch DVDs, and I have bought my fair share of games from Xbox Live Arcade. The inevitable conquest of the virtual console is at hand, and your game discs will soon sit next to cartridges in a museum display. While this may please some of you, I will be dragged into this dark age of gaming kicking and screaming.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pikmin and Philosophy

"This game is so cute!" That was the reaction my ex-girlfriend had when she played the 2001 GameCube hit Pikmin. On the surface she is absolutely correct. Pikmin is a game that stars tiny little plant creatures, each with their own silly flower hat.

The art direction for the game is as colorful as the pikmin themselves, with a design that makes even vicious monsters seem like desirable household pets. The protagonist of the game, Captain Olimar, flew in on a miniature spaceship while wearing an antenna on his head. Basically, your simple minded ex-girlfriend has every reason to call Pikmin a "cute" game.

I ask that you stop giggling for just a moment. Remove your mind from those happy Pikmin memories, and take just a few minutes to really think about the events that transpired during the game. As I sit here taking my own advice, I begin to feel cold chills when I remember all those pikmin who died by my hand. I can still hear them scream as they fell to their death in water, or became the meal of a giant bug.

I even remember controlling Captain Olimar as he threw pikmin purposely into harm's way, just to occupy a monster in hopes of creating safe passage. Suddenly Pikmin doesn't seem like such a cute game anymore. Below the cuddly surface, this is a dark game seeping with brilliant social commentary.