Archive for February, 2012

Why People Will Buy the Vita and 3DS

February 22, 2012

The Playstation Vita launched yesterday and already articles like this one are coming out:

“It almost feels like Sony designed a product for a world where smartphones and tablets don’t exist,” said Gartner Research Director Michael Gartenberg. “It costs more than most phones and the same as most gaming consoles. It is hard to say who is the market for this.”

Somebody go tell Gartner, the market is consumers who want to play the best AAA games out there, not bored housewives.   Somebody also tell them that an iPad costs $500-$900, an iPhone costs $300-500, and an iPod Touch costs about the same as a Vita and you still have a ton of people who fork out their money to replace one or more of these devices every year.  Contrast this with a  $170 3DS or $250 Vita that won’t have to be replaced for half a decade and suddenly the pricing is not that big a deal.

If the Vita doesn’t click with consumers, it would not be the first handheld device to disappoint.

Consumers shrugged off Nintendo’s last handheld, the 3DS, when it came out last March. Less than four months later, the company had to cut the price by $80 from $249.99 because of disappointing sales.

Over the holiday season, the 3DS became a success.  It is now the best selling console of all time in Japan and has outsold the DS in its first 12 months to market.  The writer must’ve been asleep for the last 6 months.

Here’s another one.

Sony tried this once before. People had serious doubts about the Playstation 4, a bulky, expensive piece of powerful hardware that powered through early lackluster sales and established itself as a viable and dominant home console.

The fact the guy thinks the Playstation 4 actually exists makes me scratch my head.  That he put a picture of the original PSP instead of the Vita makes me scratch it again.

 Even as Sony attempts to position the Vita as the only mobile gaming device worth having, the hardware seems self-conscious of its own relationship to modern handhelds. It looks like an Apple device, with its rounded edges and shiny black finish. And it’s loaded down with all manner of gizmos that the core gaming audience they’re aiming at usually spurns: tilt controls, front and rear cameras, not one but two touchscreens.

Piano black is not an Apple attribute.  The DS came in piano black.  So did the first PSP.  The one industrial design attribute that’s strictly Apple is a gorilla glass encasing.  But the Vita doesn’t use that.  It uses a plastic bezel.  So what is he talking about?  Who knows.

And there’s a difference between shunning the core gaming audience and supplementing a core gaming device with features to capture other markets.  I don’t feel like explaining it right now.

You don’t buy hardware just to marvel at hardware specs.  You buy it because serves a purpose.  The one that serves this purpose better than the others wins.   For gaming hardware, the purpose is to play games.  If both smartphones and dedicated devices lacked games worth playing, they would both fail at their purpose.  Thus the software becomes as definitive a factor as hardware specs, if not more, in everything from customer satisfaction to profitability.   Thus it makes more sense to scrutinize the gaming experience on these devices than to talk something as derivative as industrial design.  Which analysts and journalists are not doing.  The “in” thing to do nowadays is conflate $1 minigames with $50 console games.

Bottomline, for tablets/smartphones to make dedicated gaming devices obsolete, they have to have games that are as good as the ones on these devices.  But they don’t, due to reasons I talked about in a previous post.  Because of this and because mobile developers have no way/plans to remedy this, dedicated devices will continue to have a market and the 3DS and Vita will do quite well.

Other thoughts:

  • You know how you go to Fry’s and next to the AAA PC games they have a shelf full of cheap $5 games in cardboard sleeves?  App store games are the portable equivalent.  Budget software galore.
  • The rule on mobile is the minigame and Freemium pricing that degrades quality.  The rule on dedicated handhelds are AAA games with a price point that mandates quality.
  • The smartphone/tablet is a launching point for minigames.  Every single one of these minigames can be ported to the Vita without a loss in user experience.  Yet, on a Vita, these games are now second tier to exclusive AAA gameplay, just extra diversions on the side.
  • The opposite doesn’t work.  You can’t take a Vita game or 3DS game and port it to iOS without loss – both because of hardware limitations and because of pricing.
  • There’s conflation about the direction the gaming market is headed because of Apple and Android’s success as platforms and the influx of tablets.  Reality is, while the platforms and their accompanying hardware are successful, the app store business model sitting on these platforms is flawed.
  • The 3DS is a launching point for beloved Nintendo IP that can’t be found anywhere else.  Nintendo is a company that has proven it knows how to make games and is all about innovation.  Gamers will buy and have been buying the 3DS for these reasons.
  • The Vita is the closest thing on the market to having a AAA console experience in your hands.  It’s the device best suited to porting best selling AAA console IP such as FPS’s and sports games.  Gamers will buy a Vita for this reason.

Why Jeremy Lin is good

February 8, 2012

Couple things first.

I take back half of what I said about Mike D’Antoni needing to be fired.  His defense is better than I thought, as long as his guys are playing smart.  He’s able to use guys like Landry and Jeffries to shut down all stars, as long as they know when to help and when to switch.  His offense is also stellar, granted he has a guard who knows how to run the pick and roll.  Why he waited so long to go to an actual point guard is another question. But now that he has an actual pg, the ball movement is a lot of fun to watch and the floor spacing is great.

Second, I was wrong in my post about Lin not being able to finish or be a scoring threat.  The guy can finish and even if he doesn’t, the fouls he draws makes up for the bricks.  And the guy is not a sharpshooter and his form needs work, but once he gets going, he can hit them.  And if he bricks 3’s, he’s smart enough to look for other shots closer to the basket instead of chucking.

Now, back to the topic – here’s why he’s good.  The guy runs the pick and roll like a genius.

1:01 – Humphries hedges off the screen.  Lin catches the roller (Jefferies) with a bounce pass

1:08 – Lin uses a Chandler screen to beat Farmar with a floater

1:30 – Chandler screen, Sheldon Williams hedges, Lin catches the roller with an alley oop

2:21 – Deron Williams thinks Lin is gonna try to lose him on the pick and gets ready to fight through the pick. Instead Lin drives away from the pick and blows right past him

3:06 – STAT pick, Lin notices D-Will is going under the screen.  So he has STAT set up a second pick.  When D-Will goes under the pick again, Lin punishes him by shooting a jumper

3:50 – Lin does the same thing to Farmar.  Farmar goes under the screen (even though he’s like 10 feet in front of Lin), so Lin uses the space to get inside the key and shoot a jumper

4:55 – Chandler pick, big man hedges, Lin splits the hedge and gets to the hole.

5:50 – Another head fake on Deron, driving away from the screen to the hole

0:51 – This is funny.  Lin brings the ball down while reading the defense.  Lin notices the weak D on the strong side, changes speed to make the strong side D hesitate.  Once they hesitate, Lin drives to the basket.  Defense collapses, including Kanter who abandons Chandler.  Lin lobs it to Chandler.

1:14 – Chandler pick, Kanter hedges off the screen, Lin lobs it to Chandler again

1:36 – This one is funny too.  Jefferies pick, Kanter hedges, Lin uses Kanter to block off Devin Harris and actually makes Harris run into him (lol).  Kanter is slow and fouls him.  And the best part, even if Kanter had played good D and Lin had no shot, the roller (Jefferies) is still wide open

2:24 – Again Lin drives away from the screen, and scores.

3:17 – Jefferies screen, Jefferson hedges, Lin finds the roller again.  So much good stuff happens every time the defense stops guarding the roller.

3:29 – Jefferies screen, Jefferson hedges, Lin splits the hedge, fuckin draws everybody into the paint, and kicks it out to Novak

4:25 – Jefferies pick, Jefferson hedges again, Lin splits the hedge again because I think by now he realizes Jefferson is slow as fuck.  Millsap is almost in position to guard the paint.  Instead he watches and is like, oh he’s not gonna make it through…. oh wait he did WOW!  By then it’s too late

5:42 – At this point of the game, the Jazz thought he couldn’t go left and tried to block off his right.  Kanter hedges and stops him but then remembers those Chandler lobs and goes back to D up Chandler.  Lin changes speeds but sees Kanter running away, leaving an open lane, so Lin drives left past Earl Watson to the hole

6:00 – Chandler pick.  Harris and Jefferson switch.  Lin attacks Jefferson and gets a sick finish.  I think by this time he realizes he can blow by Jefferson every time.  So he does

In general, I think it’s safe to say that Lin will make the right play once he initiates the pick and roll.  He’ll drive if he beats his defender.  If the screener defender hedges, he can pass the rock to the roll man using a myriad of bounce passes, lobs, and alley oops.  If he knows he has an advantage over the screener defender, he’ll attack him and draw the foul.  If his defender goes under the screen, he’ll pull up for a jumper.  If the defender goes over the screen and is too slow, he’ll beat him on the drive.  And he can keep the defense guessing with hesitation moves, quick drives to his right away from the screen, quick kick outs to the open man, and the ability to capitalize dynamically on defensive mistakes.

So how do you stop Lin?

  1. Get a quick defender who can stay in front of him and anticipate the screen better so he can go over it
  2. Get a defender who can play close physical defense on him to try and force him to lose his handle.
  3. Trap him before he can get in position to initiate a pick and roll and force a turnover or pass.
  4. Make him use his left hand on the dribble and on his layups.  Most of his missed layups come from either his weaker hand or overcompensating for the weak hand by using the right hand at a bad angle

Far as Mike Brown needing to be fired though, I’m not taking that back.  The guy is clueless.

And now, a Short Break

February 5, 2012

from my usual complaining to commemorate Jeremy Lin’s breakout game

Credit goes to Knicks fans at RealGM for most of these pics