Slave to the Game

Filling you in on the oddball gaming news

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Following the revelation at Nintendo's recent press conference that the Wii will receive the next iteration of Capcom's hit action title Monster Hunter 3, the company's managing corporate officer has been quoted as saying the PS3's high development costs directly influenced the decision.

A report from Thompson Financial News quotes Capcom's Katsuhiko Ichii as saying, "Due to high development cost of titles for PS3, we have decided to switch the platform to which we release our Monster Hunter 3 title."

The game's release for the Wii was the final announcement at Nintendo's recent conference that also saw a number of new first party and WiiWare titles announced.

Although previously announced for the PlayStation 3, no media of the game has previously been shown, and its multiformat status is unclear.

Monster Hunter is one of the most popular franchises currently in Japan, with both PSP iterations having sold over a million units each, although the series has never enjoyed the same success in the West.


Microsoft didn’t want you to know about Falcon, and it certainly doesn’t want you to know about its successor Jasper. But that’s another secret we have to unveil.

Jasper is the code name for the next motherboard for the Xbox 360. It will becoming next August, in time for next year’s holiday season. Jasper is going to have a 65-nanometer graphics chip from ATI Technologies, as well as smaller memory chips. That isn’t much information, but it’s enough to tell us about their cost-reduction plan. If you ask me, it’s a bit of a slow pace.

I don’t know why it will take Microsoft essentially three years to cost reduce the size of the graphics chip through a manufacturing shrink. It doesn’t seem like they’re in a hurry to launch a redesigned Xbox 360 graphics chip, considering that Intel introduced its first 65-nm chips a long time ago. ATI uses TSMC to make its chips out of Taiwan, and TSMC hasn’t been the fastest at moving to 65-nm manufacturing. I understand these tasks are difficult and they take a lot of engineering resources. Microsoft has had to divert a lot of engineers to debugging problems with Xbox 360 reliability. Even so, you would think that they would have moved faster, since the move to 65-nm graphics chip will likely be one of the best things they can do to improve the reliability.

As readers of this blog know, Falcon is being used in Xbox 360s that are currently rolling off the production lines. It has a 65-nm IBM microprocessor on it, instead of the previous 90-nm version. It also has built-in HDMI. It carries lower costs than the previous motherboard, but not dramatically so. And Falcon has a 90-nm graphics chip on it.

Here’s something that Xbox 360 buyers will want to know. Both Falcon and its predecessor Zephyr (used in the Xbox 360 Elite) have different thermal solutions than the original Xbox 360. You’ve seen the heat sinks in the cut-out photos posted elsewhere. The Microsoft engineers believe those heat sinks will be sufficient as a solution for keeping Xbox 360s from overheating. From their point of view, you don’t have to wait until Jasper to get a reliable machine.

From a neutral point of view, I would guess that Jasper would be more reliable than Falcon on heat issues, and Falcon will be more reliable than its predecessors. The Falcon board has the same old 90-nm graphics chip on it. And many have pointed out that the big heat problem in the Xbox 360 is due to the graphics chip. The Falcon board will likely give off less heat. But the real serious heat saver looks like it will come with Jasper.

I’m sure that Jasper will carry lower costs than Falcon. That’s because it will have a smaller graphics chip and smaller memory chips as well. That translates into material savings, which means lower costs. If you’re wondering why you should care? Maybe you don’t need to care. But there are folks on the Falcon thread who want to know this kind of information and here it is. Certainly, Microsoft will be in a position to cut prices again by next August. If you recall, after it got Falcon out the door, Microsoft cut $50 off the price of the Xbox 360.

If I were Microsoft, I would try to pull in the date of Jasper as soon as possible. What they need right now is a lower cost so that they can be more competitive against the Wii and so they leave no openings for Sony. As of now, the 65-nm graphics chip isn’t done. They’re still working on it. Microsoft declined to comment, other than to say that it constantly updates the components in the Xbox 360 but doesn’t comment on them.


MAKUHARI, Japan (AFP) - Couch potatoes beware: Wii owners will be able to get an even more vigorous workout from December when Nintendo launches a new fitness balance board for its hit video game console.

The "Wii Fit" board and software can be used for exercising, sports and games including yoga, virtual snowboarding, ski-jumping and aerobics to help users battle the bulge in their living rooms.

The board, which looks like a set of bathroom scales, is the latest salvo in Nintendo's battle to widen the appeal of video games beyond just teenagers locked away in their bedrooms.

Nintendo announced Wednesday that the package would go on sale in Japan from December 1 for 8,800 yen (75 dollars). Launch dates for other countries were not announced.

Last year's launch of the Wii and its motion-sensitive controller -- which can be used like a tennis racket, golf club or bowling ball -- triggered a slew of reports of aching backs, sore shoulders and what has been dubbed "Wii elbow."

Nintendo said it discouraged players weighing more than 136 kilos (300 pounds) from using the new balance board.

The company also announced its would launch "Wii Ware" -- a new service to download games and other software via the Internet -- from next March.

"We know that any player will get bored with any type of game console," Nintendo president Satoru Iwata told a packed press conference near Tokyo.

"In order not to have the Wii end up as a temporary phenomenon, we need to enlarge the gaming population," he said.

Iwata said he wanted to expand the usage of the Wii beyond the home and into the online world.

Although 51 percent of Japanese households have broadband Internet access, only 40 percent of Wii users go online with their console, he said.

Nintendo is enjoying huge success with the Wii, far outselling rival Sony with its PlayStation 3.

While Sony put the emphasis on chip power and ultra-realistic graphics for the latest addition to the PlayStation series, Nintendo opted to develop an easy-to-use console that would appeal to a wider audience.

Kyoto-based Nintendo announced it would launch a total of 70 brand new software titles in the coming months for the Wii, including "Super Mario Galaxy" and "Mario and Sonic at Beijing Olympics."

But the long-awaited "Smash Brothers X" will be delayed by several months until January 24.

The price of Nintendo shares soared 2,600 yen or 4.1 percent to 65,700 as investors cheered news that the new fitness game would be available in time for the crucial year-end shopping period.

Nintendo, which started out in 1889 making playing cards, overtook Sony earlier this year in market value despite the fact that in terms of revenue it is about eight times smaller than the Japanese consumer electronics icon.

In an effort to catch up with Nintendo's Wii, Sony recently announced it would slash the PlayStation 3's price by 10 percent and launch a slimmed-down version in Japan and Europe this month.