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Like Christmas morning for gamers

by Kenny Lindsay

Gamers across the globe have anxiously been awaiting the release of Sony’s next- generation game console, the PlayStation 3, and Nintendo’s Wii (pronounced we). In the United States Sony’s big day took place on Nov. 17 and Nintendo’s occurred on Nov. 19. It’s no surprise that our fellow American PS3 fans nearly caused a riot in California at a Best Buy on Sony’s release day.

Will Sony be able to deliver what they’ve promised? Has Nintendo taken a big risk creating a console unlike any other next-generation system?

First, lets take a look at the PlayStation 3. Instead of boring you with a bunch of tech specs like its flaming PowerPC-base cell processor that clocks out at 3.2 GHz (flaming may be an understatement, I’ll explain later) and its high-definition capabilities of up to 1080p with two channels (that’s short for “looks great on a really expensive television”) I’ll break it down for a typical consumer. There are two different versions available: basic and premium. The basic includes a 20-gig hard drive with a couple less features and priced at $500. The premium edition includes a 60-gig hard drive, Wi-Fi, four USB ports, SD and Compact Flash ports and is currently running at $600. Smart, but not a very nice thing to do to buyers in getting them to shell out an extra benjamin, not to mention the HDMI device is not included, costing another hundred to experience the high-def capabilities. The PS3 also includes a Blu-ray drive that does add a fairly nice incentive.

Sounds like a pretty serious machine, but is it really worth $600? Luckily I was able to catch up with Mark Steinberg and Justin Nixon of Digital Lifestyle Center in Quaker Village of Greensboro to ask a few questions. Justin, a wealth of information, began sharing a couple drawbacks and reports he’s read about what appears to be a phenomenal game console. He stated that there have been problems with the Blu-ray’s optical device, the SixAxis controller frequently needs to be reset and that flaming hot processor has on occasion been overheating. He also said that the manufacturers of the core processor are having a hard time keeping up with the demand, leading to its lack of availability.

So all of the hoopla has led to a bit of a disappointment for some PlayStation fans, myself and Justin included, but hopefully we won’t be at a complete loss. Nixon also went on to say: “It frustrates me how people can blindly follow the hype for something like a PS3. Will it be a great system in the future? Perhaps. Is it a great system now? Not by any means and it bothers me that so many people have just listened to Sony’s hyperbole with the system instead of doing a little research to see if the system is worth the six hundred dollars their being asked to drop on it.”

It wasn’t long before Mark and Justin began to talk about the Wii. I could tell by the way Mark’s face lit up that he was enthusiastic about the topic.

So what is this Wii thingy? It’s Nintendo’s latest contribution to next-generation game consoles except with a twist’… literally. The system is controlled by a motion sensor, and to say it’s fun would be an understatement. At first it sounds like it might be awkward trying to learn how to use a new set of devices after using the common game pad for so many years. Mark reassured me.

“You don’t even have to think about it it’s so easy,” he said. “There’s no concept of overdoing it and the response is extremely accurate.” He also went on to say how family-oriented the game is. Nixon added, “It was a smart move for them to release it before Thanksgiving so that families that got together for the holidays could have a chance to try it.” He mentioned a few stories of grandparents playing games golf and tennis with their grandchildren.

The Wii comes with 512 megabytes of internal flash memory, two USB 2.0 ports and built-in Wi-Fi capability, and although not much of a powerhouse compared to the PS3 still offers enough to keep next-generation console seekers intrigued. The virtual console allows the user complete internet access, options such as weather and news, and the availability of old classic titles from the SNES, NES, N64, TurboGrafix 16 and the Sega Genesis at prices ranging from five to ten bucks each. GameCube disks are also compatible.

Another cool feature is the customized player profile called Mii, letting a player save their stats and experience level to his remote and take it with him to a friend’s house.

Now down to the biggest perks: price and availability. At around $260 and not in such high demand,the Wii is readily available on the market. At release Nintendo shipped 600,000 compared to Sony’s meager 200,000; by the end of the year the Wii is expected to have hit 4 million, the PS3 2 million and developers are not expecting Sony to hit its mark.

So what does all this mean? Is the PlayStation 3 doomed? Hopefully not. They still have a chance to fix some of the bugs and I recommend waiting for them to do it and hope that the price comes down. Honestly, if you don’t already have one I’d still go with the Xbox 360, as it has some of the hottest titles out right now.

The Wii is definitely getting a thumbs-up as it gets people up off the couch and is very kid and family friendly. No bugs have been reported and, as the overzealous player having a few mishaps notwithstanding, no serious injuries have occurred either.

To comment on this column, e-mail Kenny at kenny@yesweekly.com

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