My brand is better than your brand

EA boss John Riccitiello has always been an outspoken chap with his views covering all manner of video game subjects. Today is the turn of the HD console war with Riccitiello claiming the PlayStation brand is still vastly superior to the Xbox. Them fighting words right?! Well, no. Despite Microsoft leaping head first into this generation of consoles and producing a system that has somewhat stolen the thunder from Sony, in terms of brand awareness and popularity outside of the US, PlayStation wins. Sony has managed to keep a healthy flow of brand loyalty from players upgrading from their PS2s. And the iconography that goes with PlayStation, namely its controller’s face buttons, goes beyond the gaming public.

Speaking with Industry Gamers, Riccitiello was asked whether Microsoft has blown its impressive lead or has Sony just been too strong. His response was: “I don’t think it’s either of those things. Honestly, I think that Microsoft has done great work the last couple of years, and they’ve made a lot of smart moves: hitting pricing when they needed to, the right combination of hitting price points and disk drive sizes that allow them to hit price points that matter, and they’ve done a great job with Xbox Live. At the same time, the Xbox brand, the Microsoft brand, doesn’t carry anywhere near as much sway as the Sony and PlayStation brand do outside the United States, and so I think the reality is the international marketplace is just so important and it’s a natural advantage that no matter how good Microsoft is at growing their business, Sony has an almost-impossible-to-supersede head start.” He adds that Sony’s marketing message has greatly improved – not a hard task after the terrible ‘this is living’ campaign – and that Home is helping their online presence though Xbox Live still beats them on features and support.

Quick to not burn any bridges with Microsoft who have still sold more consoles worldwide than Sony, Riccitiello said he wasn’t taking sides and that both have done “a pretty good job,” adding: “The big disadvantage Sony carries is they have an expensive platform because of Blu-ray, so they have a harder time hitting price points. Microsoft has taken advantage of that and their online service, which really is the gold standard. Sony has [leveraged] their limited amount of unique content really well. They’ve done a nice job promoting the Blu-ray, their advertising and marketing campaigns have been stronger, and they’ve done a nice job of supporting some EA content to their own advantage.”

Out of the two, especially this year in terms of XBLA titles, I prefer the Xbox 360 and all that comes with the name but can’t argue with the strength of the PS brand. However I do think that that brand has taken a few knocks over the years allowing MS to close the gap. Most cross-platform games still use the Xbox 360 as their lead SKU meaning ports to the PS3 don’t often make full use of the hardware resulting in a weaker performance. On top of that, Sony seem reluctant to secure exclusive downloadable content so gamers can arguably get a fuller experience quicker on the Xbox 360. And while Microsoft has fought with the RROD persona, the PS3 has been nicknamed the PlayStation Update due to the constant patches and bizarre process of downloading content then waiting to have it installed. Without chickening out and taking the diplomatic route, I own consoles to play games and everything else is secondary to that. As long as those games are of a quality and deliver an experience worthy of my money, I couldn’t care less which system I play it on.

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Heavy Rain demo ready for download

Would you like to play Heavy Rain? Of course you would. But the faintly announced demo won’t be out for another six days, so how can we play it now? Easy! Tied into online promo Four Days, a website called Precinct 52 allows for clues to be pieced together with the pay off being access to the demo – now. But thanks to Kotaku, sweating over what to pick won’t be necessary as they posted the four correct clues nullifying any chance of missing out. Hooray! Here’s just what you need to choose in order to get that all important PSN download code:

Short cigarette – Click the cigarette and choose the butt (117b)
Origami bird
Coffee shop C ( towards the bottom of the screen which says “diner”)
Tyre tracks – Choose the one marked 117h

Good luck!

Home gets a spell of heavy rain

Sony‘s Home is doing what it can to prove its worth to entrants (it already has to Sony since it’s making profit) with the latest offering being Heavy Rain: Evidence Analysis, a puzzle solving minigame. SCEE are keeping their lips firmly sealed as to what the pay off will be for completing the challenge but have admitted that it’s a must for budding Heavy Rain fans. To access the minigame, head through the blast doors behind the jumbo screen. There we must find a way past the next security door to claim our prize. I just hope it’s good and not another avatar t-shirt

A slice of sorrow with Heavy Rain demo

With a lack of grandeur expected for such an announcement, Sony revealed yesterday that the Heavy Rain demo will be available from February 11th on PSN. Rather than a post on the European PlayStation blog, the news was outed (via Kotaku) by answering a comment about this week’s PSN update – all the way down on page four. Instead of dwelling on this bizarre treatment, I’m just pleased we’ll be getting a taster before its February 26th release date. The main article included news to make the special edition a tad less special due to its free dynamic theme for sale now on the store. Nothing major but still a bit silly.

David Cage spoke of his concern about producing a demo back in November saying:

“The problem is that each scene of the game offers contextual game play, which is something very difficult to explain and convey in a single demo.”

So it’ll be interesting which aspects he decides to show off. The demo’s release ties in almost perfectly with the end of online adventure, Four Days, found on the official Heavy Rain site so possibly the two will be connected somehow…hmmmm…

Home user calls for virtual jail

MMOs are not without their fair share of cretins and sadly most gamers have come across a large number who revel in annoying others. A player of Sony’s online gathering, Home, has allegedly been sexually assaulted. The claim was posted on the official PlayStation forums by Whoef – roommate of the assaulted – saying how her friend attracted some unwanted attention by another user who then followed her around trying to get behind and use the crouch gesture. Whoef is rallying for action to be taken in the form of a virtual restraining order or even for Sony to create a Home Jail.

“There is no reason Home can’t make money on future rapists. After losing all their items, like a real jail, Home can sell them orange jumpsuits, flip-flops and they can decorate their jail cells with a few items such as bunk bed, toilet and a bed roll. They might as well get use to it, that’s where they are headed if they don’t change their criminal behaviour,” suggested Whoef.

Calling online idiots “future rapists” is a little extreme but I agree that Sony should have some form of monitoring for this type of thing. The idea of making money off them is a little troubling and almost excepting of the behaviour rather than punishing it – banning the user for a period of time should suffice unless they’re a continuing pest where a total ban is more appropriate. Another solution is for Sony to implement a system where users can block those who are a potential pest meaning their paths would never cross again. Sadly it’s doubtful this kind of thing will ever go away and only adds fuel to the fires of journalists who spend far too much time criticising the videogame industry. 

{Thanks Videogamer}

Four Days of Heavy Rain

If like me you’re chomping at the bit for some Heavy Rain action, then the official website may offer some relief. After registering visitors can “join the hunt” in an exclusive online adventure called Four Days. From January 26th, lasting three weeks and taking place in real time between Tuesdays and Fridays, Four Days will have us interacting with other characters, solving puzzles and unlocking content all while tracking down a murderer – much like Heavy Rain will have us doing. According to VG247, Sony hinted that there could be “more than meets the eyes” when speaking of the official site so I’ll take that as confirmation that Optimus Prime is the killer – I joke of course. Another incentive to sign up is the reward of a Heavy Rain: Access All Areas shirt for your Home avatar, whose in-site picture sits above the sentence “Who knows wat doors it may open…” – Secret areas in Home perchance? Before the game is released we’re already being drawn into the dark and seedy world of Heavy Rain and I must say, I rather like it.