Is “Confusinger” a Word?

Some of this information will be duplicated in my daily links post from del.icio.us tomorrow morning, but I find it irritating enough that I should say something about it.

What an… interesting day today in the format war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray Disc. I found out about it via a Twitter post from Microsoft’s Major Nelson , and followed the bread crumb trail to find more information on the situation, because it didn’t make much sense at first. (Major Nelson linked to this Excite News story first).

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This Fall Is Going to Be Very Expensive. I Suppose It’s a Good Thing I Don’t Have Any Money.

Since I was out of town on business and busy with many other things over a period of a few weeks recently, I found that I had somehow managed to “unplug” a little bit, and haven’t been doing much in the way of playing games since then. It’s actually been rather nice to not be playing games for a while, and I’ve been postponing it as long as I could.

Last night I finally fired up the 360 to catch up on a few things, and I thought I would share my experiences. Unfortunately, what I’ve been doing has basically just piqued my interest in several games that are arriving in stores within the next few weeks – games that I cannot realistically afford. I’ll start with the obviously awesome.

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They Make Me Question My Brand Loyalty. I’m Not Sure I Like That.

Behold! A look at what Microsoft is clearly missing out on with their online service right now!

I used to be OK with the fact that I was paying $50 per year for online console gaming. It costs money to run that kind of infrastructure, and to design the services that are so cohesive on a console like the Xbox or the 360. I get that; it’s cool.

It made sense, in a way. I even defended it a few times, because Xbox Live was unbelievably superior to the original PS2 online structure, and even the PlayStation Network when it debuted with the PS3. Those services were free, and they were horrible. Xbox Live cost some money, and it was really nice and did a lot of things very well.

But what am I looking at now as a customer?

Xbox Live still costs me $50 a year. Then, they charge me additional money for all kinds of download packs and other content that often isn’t worth the inflated costs they’re asking. You can’t play online against anyone for free, so I pretty much have to pay the money. I stare at advertisements (which are making MS money) all the time while I’m using this paid service. And they just announced that they are bringing over an exec from EA to be in charge of Live. Have you ever played an EA online-enabled game? I don’t want this guy in charge of my console online experience.

PlayStation network costs nothing. It’s free as long as you’ve ponied up the cash to buy a ridiculously expensive PS3. They’re beginning to host dedicated servers of their own to provide players with well-bandwidthed and non-client places to play, which eliminates lag and client-zero “cheating.” Their downloadable games are cheaper, and if Home is what the press made it sound after E3 this year, then I’m suddenly very interested in what Sony is doing from an online perspective. They don’t have a unified login system that works reliably (yet), and other key integration methods currently employed by Live just don’t exist on PS3, but I have a feeling that’s more of a temporary situation.

Really, the only thing that keeps me thinking that Live is better is the combination of its amazing integration on the system level and the completely Pavlovian draw of Achievements.

Realistically, Live needs to be free.

UPDATE: Best Buy Not As Stupid As I Hoped They Would Be.

As I’m sure more of the Internet will soon discover, the pricing mistake mentioned earlier in this space that I had hoped to take advantage of is no more:

Dear Best Buy Customer,

Thank you for your recent Rock Band software order on BestBuy.com.

Unfortunately, our website incorrectly stated that the Rock Band accessories were included with your video game purchase. This is incorrect and we have updated the website to accurately reflect that the accessories are not included with this purchase. As a result, your order will be cancelled if you haven’t already cancelled it, and you will not be charged for this item. Additionally, if you would like to reorder the Rock Band software, please visit the following links…

We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you. Because you are a valued customer, we would like to offer you a $5 Digital Coupon* toward a future purchase at www.BestBuy.com.

Digital Coupons are easily redeemed when you shop online. Simply enter the 17-digit code listed above during checkout. We apply them to your purchases, up to the total purchase amount. The Digital Coupon must be used prior to the expiration date: October 28, 2007, at 11:59pm (CT). This offer is limited to one per customer, excludes gift cards, and is nontransferable. Please review full details below.

Thank you for your loyalty,The Customer Care Team

Bah on them. I didn’t really think I was going to get away with the freak pre-order, but there’s always a small bit of hope.

I doubt I’ll be paying the ridiculous amounts of money that Rock Band is going to cost, so I figure I won’t be playing it for a while.

I’d Of Course Be Lying If I Said I Didn’t Want One for Myself.

The iMacs are coming!

Apple cut the smallest display out of the product loop, redesigned the enclosure in aluminum and glass – which may be part of their new environmental initiatives, and added a glossy display, new keyboard and a few smaller features to the iMac lienup today. Looks nice. Notice one thing, though:

imackeyboard_3_20070807

The border around the display itself is now black. TV salesmanship 101 was that a black border around the display was always preferred by customers over a silver or white border, because the darker frame increases the perceived contrast and color definition of the display to the average eye. Many people will now say that the new display looks sharper or brighter, if only because there isn’t something light-colored hanging around the edge of the display.

The other thing that jumped out at me (and as part of the iLife demonstration as well) is that the redesign very deliberately looks a lot like the iPhone. Flat metal, black border, shiny Apple logo… if we get more changes like this, it will become only more apparent that we’re looking at a product family.

I Doubt I’m the “Target Demographic” for This Advertisement.

Can anyone please clue me in on what I just watched here?

I’ve seen some weird Japanese video game advertisements in the past, but this one’s a touch beyond. A touch.

Don’t Forget to Bring a Towel.

I’m hoping that some kind of bizarre copyright lawsuit doesn’t bring this thing down, but for the time being, you too can experience gaming the way it once was in the day of monochrome displays and before modern graphics (or even ancient tile-based graphics systems really existed).

It looks a lot like this, updated with a nice look by Adium:

prakbot

You can see the Jabber address used in the screenshot above. Don’t know what a Jabber client is? If you already use Google Talk, Trillian, or Pidgin, you’ve got one installed on your system.

You should also be able to send the appropriate message by clicking this link if you have a client installed and an active account.

(from Mind Candy Design, via Kotaku)

I Have a Serious Need to Play This Game.

I don’t think I could explain things any better than this video can.

An introduction to Faceball from Face Ball and Vimeo.

I’ve also added an article to my wiki for Faceball and am looking forward to hosting the eventual First Annual Markel Invitational Faceball Tournament.

A Gruberian Translation from PR-Speak to English of Peter Moore’s Open Letter Re: Xbox 360 Failures

To our Xbox Community:You’ve spoken, and we’ve heard you. Good service and a good customer experience are areas of the business that we care deeply about. And frankly, we’ve not been doing a good enough job.

Seriously, stop flooding our forums and our employees’ blogs with comments. Anyone with a pulse knows we’ve been providing horrible customer service for almost two years now.

Some of you have expressed frustration with the customer experiences you have had with Xbox 360; frustration with having to return your console for service after receiving the general hardware error message on the console.

That “11 failed 360s” guy really gave us a PR black eye. In addition, the office in Bangalore keeps complaining to us that they’re not going to take our customer service calls if we keep handing them angry people.

The majority of customers who own Xbox 360 consoles have had a terrific experience from their first day, and continue to, day in and day out. But when anyone questions the reliability of our product, or our commitment to our customers, it’s something I take very seriously.

The Xbox 360 is awesomesauce. We have a market lead, and we’re not about to let mass awareness of our console failures cost us the upper-hand.

We have been following this issue closely, and with on-going testing have identified several factors that can cause a general hardware failure indicated by three flashing red lights on the console. To address this issue, and as part of our ongoing work, we have already made certain improvements to the console.

Our engineers have made guarded statements that they are beginning to reach a conclusion that they might know what’s wrong with the 360. Even if we do know, we’re certainly not going to be telling you.

And please ignore the statements we’ve made denying that we added more cooling to the 360. Clearly, you didn’t buy it.

Those red lights are really starting to irritate us.

We are also implementing some important policy changes intended to keep you in the game, worry-free.

We know that the PS3 is headed for a price break, and we’d like to make sure that people keep buying 360s.

As of today, all Xbox 360 consoles are covered by an enhanced warranty program to address specifically the general hardware failures indicated by the three flashing red lights on the console. This applies to new and previously-sold consoles. While we will still have a general one year console warranty (two years in some countries), we are announcing today a three-year warranty that covers any console that displays a three flashing red lights error message. If a customer has an issue indicated by the three flashing red lights, Microsoft will repair the console free of charge—including shipping—for three years from the console’s purchase date. We will also retroactively reimburse any of you who paid for repairs related to problems indicated by this error message in the past. In doing so, Microsoft stands behind its products and takes responsibility to ensure that every Xbox 360 console owner continues to have a fantastic gaming experience.

This is costing us a fortune, and we hope you appreciate that.

Three years give us just enough time to implement hidden hardware changes in the consoles we send back to you to make sure the red lights go away.

If we have let any of you down in the experience you have had with your Xbox 360, we sincerely apologize. We are taking responsibility and are making these changes to ensure that every Xbox 360 owner continues to have a great experience.

This will take a few days to roll out globally, and I appreciate your continued patience as we launch this program. I’ve posted an FAQ that should address some additional questions, and we’ll update it over the next few days.

I want to thank you, on behalf of all us at Microsoft, for your loyalty.

We can’t believe that so many of you continue to buy and use the 360 even with all the hardware problems, but we’re thankful for your loyalty and we want to do you right as customers.

Seriously:

There’s no negative way to spin this. I can barely come up with any humor in it, either. It’s an amazing customer service move by a company not always renowned for their customer service. It’s going to cost them anywhere between 1 and 1.5 billion (that’s with a “b”) dollars to implement this program, and they’re even making an effort to roll it out worldwide.

Announcing this pre-E3 is a great move and will give them some goodwill momentum even before they make their software announcements.

Very impressive.