Archive | February 2012

Eyes on Sony: They Can Do It All

This past week, Sony released the Playstation Vita, the successor to its successful, but often gunned down handheld gaming device. Never heard of it? That’s not surprising, since Sony decided not to launch its marketing campaign until the day the system launched.

With the Vita, Sony is, for better or worse, continuing its video game legacy on the same path it has stormed for nearly two decades. Producing systems with cutting edge graphics at high cost; sacrificing sanity for quality. As a long time Sony customer, and gamer, I like this kind of strategy, but I am also realistic. Sony is in deep waters along the ocean it has chosen to set sail on, and its time for a course correction. Sony insists that the iPhone and Android phones are not the Vita’s competition, instead focusing on Nintendo and its 3DS, which is now the fastest selling system of all time (To 5 million units).

While Nintendo is the king of handheld gaming, and weathered the storm its stockbrokers rained, demanding they make iPhone games, Sony does not have three decades of loyal fans to fall back on. Nintendo survived on the selling power of its first party name brands. Brands like Mario and Zelda that people buy just because of what they are. Sony has no long lasting brand names in its title library. Its first party games have almost always been trilogies, with some getting 4th installments years later on newer consoles. Most of its Playstation One brands did not make it deep into the Playstation 2 era, let alone into the 3, or the Vita. So while the Vita may offer bleeding edge portable power for home console quality, it lacks a lot of the brand appeal Nintendo feasts on.

So, what can Sony do? With the PSP, they did something no one else had ever done before; stood up to Nintendo. While Nintendo purists will still insist that the PSP was a failure and ask “Where are the games?”, the PSP has sold 71 million units world wide to the DS’s 151 million. About half, yes, but no other hand held had ever come so close, or lasted so long. With that, Sony has kept the same focus with the Vita. Offer more power, and keep the guns aimed at Nintendo, but Nintendo is no longer its biggest threat.

Like Microsoft and Blackberry, Sony was late to the smartphone 2.0 party started by the iPhone. So late, I wonder why they even bothered. Not only did they not learn from this lesson by releasing their Tablets super late, but they didn’t seem to think it would have any effect on the Vita. The message should have come in loud and clear that consumers love their smart phones, and find it sufficient to not have the need for a dedicated portable gaming device like the Vita. Again, the 3DS can survive on the strength of its brand name titles. The children love them, and the 3DS is priced for that market. Speaking of price, I forgot to mention that the Vita is 250-300 dollars, and you can’t get a cellular contract discount.

So Sony has managed to plunge itself into a very grim battle with two powerful forces. On one side, there are the young gamers that sucker their parents into getting them a portable. Faced with that choice, most parents will opt for the 170 dollar 3DS, with its colorful box and friendly cartoon character art. A 250 dollar box with guns and explosions isn’t going to sell to a parent. On the other side, is the ever growing smart phone market, and its plague like app stores filled with dollar games. Nest to that, who wants to spend $40 on a single portable game, even if it is home console quality?

The Vita and smart phones are rarely being used to play the exact same games, and in the cases they are, the Vita is playing phone ports. Right now, the only existing example is Plants vs Zombies, which is a steep $15. If you were to make a game for both systems now, and best utilize their resources, the difference would truly be shocking, but I doubt we’ll ever see such a thing, which is why Sony can’t leverage on the Vita’s power.

I think for the Vita to remain relevant, it will have to sleep with the enemy, and build an app store within the Playstation Network (PSN). The second step would be to make that PSN app store usable on some phones, and Sony has its own phone making division for that. The reason being is the Vita is a toy that looks like a toy. Smart phones are widely called expensive toys, but they are at least incognito. They allow us to be kids without appearing truly kiddy. An adult playing Plants Vs Zombies on the Vita is going to look silly next to someone doing the same on an iPhone. For all we know, they could just be texting or browsing the net. Sony could even create that same disguise by making Sony Vita phones, like they did with the Playstation Phone. A full blown PSV phone is out of the question, but a line of phones named Vita running on the system’s OS could help expand the app store, and even play the PSP titles offered on the PSN. They may be late, but they can finish strong.

Sony has a very big opportunity to make the Vita something great. It can offer all of the cheap phone games that have become so popular with just a fraction of its power, and then its big gun library. I just hope Sony is smart enough to adopt a two prong strategy, because I want something like the Vita to be successful.

While I’m not into portable gaming anymore, a device like the Vita that allows me to take home console quality games anywhere I travel in my pocket is very attractive. The fact that the Vita has been so slow to start with what is arguably the strongest launch line-up ever raises concerns that Sony must adjust to. All told, I don’t view the Vita as a failure in technology or intent. It simply is not properly positioned in the market, and needs a new strategy. It can do it all, Sony. Don’t keep it on the one way street.

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Sports and Nicknames: We Need to Stop

Nicknames are a big thing for sports. They give tag lines to the big name players, and allow for creative wit. In the past, nicknames were derived from personas and personal flair when playing. Such names as Wilt the Stilt, for his freakish height and long legs; or his Airness, for Michael Jordan’s ability to “fly”. I can think of many old sports greats with long lasting legacies rooted by their nicknames. While I think nicknames are a good thing to come from greatness in sports, that simply is not so anymore. These days, the news world has become so obsessed with tagging players for the sake of story writing, something has been lost in the transition.

Today, players are tagged well before they go pro. These aren’t clever nicknames either; they’re bland numbers and letters. Things like CP3 for Chris Paul 3, which I was accepting of, because it was almost a Star Wars C3P0 pun. That, however, is just one of the dozens, if not hundreds of “nicknames” now derived purely from initials and jersey numbers. So congratulations to all the sports players out there. You’re nothing more than ID numbers. Reading about the NFL draft combine already has several players tagged by this system.

What’s disturbing is these IDs are for the good players too, and not the average or bench warmers. The greats come out a little better, but are still hampered by premature nicknaming, and given names that really don’t fit with their current accomplishments. The biggest example has got to be Lebron James. He was hyped as the next Jordan when he entered the NBA, and given the nickname “King James” before he ever put on an NBA jersey.

Ten years later, “The King” has yet to win a championship, and has even gone so far as to leave his home town team to join what was once his biggest rival, Dwayne Wade (DW3), in Miami. I’m not here to argue over what he did being right or wrong, but I will say this, his nickname does not follow his path. Why do we call him “The King”? He is the King of nothing, except maybe ill advised premature nicknames.

Maybe that’s why people have taken so much to Linsanity. His is a nickname derived from the event that sparked the sports madness. A name that people say with emotion, because it expresses just how insane his performance, and story is. What would he be had he been tagged when he entered the NBA? J17, a far cry from Linsanity, and really boring.

So, I think its time to stop. Nicknames are great, but we need to let the stories create the names, instead of trying to come up with them to predict the stories. Let Linsanity serve as the shining example of a sports nickname done right in sharp contrast to King James.

What Linsanity means to me, an Asian American

For two weeks, the sports news has been flooded by a cinderalla story sensation occuring in New York. Jeremy Lin, the first taiwanese american NBA player ever, and first chinese american player since like, the 50s, has been putting up all star numbers.

As a sports fan, I’ve always enjoyed watching the NFL and NBA, despite their problems. There’s nothing like a good underdog story, and the sportswriters are calling this a Disney movie in the making. They’re saying we’ve never seen the likes of this since the days of “Rudy”. A true, out of nowhere underdog. And he’s Asian!

As an Asian American, I am accustomed to not seeing Asian players in the NBA. Sure, there was Yao Ming, and Yi Janglian, but those were China imports bred to play the sport, and both were highly publicized before ever touching our soil. I went back to my hometown of Milwaukee to see Yao and the Rockets play against Yi and the Bucks four years ago. It was chinese new year. The atmosphere was insane. It still doesn’t come close to Jeremy Lin.

Asian Americans loved watching Yao, and to some extent, Yi, but they were not one of us. We knew they came from a communist regime that had hand picked them when they were three, and trained for this specific purpose. Lin is different. As an Asian American, he is living our dream, and we want to live vicariously through him. At last, our time has come.

I have been following Lin since last year, before Linsanity had ever begun. Back then, he was just a hometown hero story; a San Fransisco native playing for the Golden State Warriors. While he didn’t wow anyone, I was already lost to Linsanity. An Asian American Harvard graduate playing in the NBA? To me, he may as well have been Superman. He was satisfying his parents’ lofty hopes while achieving his athletic dreams, and trust me, such a thought for an Asian American is the biggest pipe dream.

So call me crazy, but I’m riding this Linsanity Train all the way to the end. Even if he fizzles to a much more modest standing, I’ll be as amazed. For us Asian Americans, our Michael Jordan has come.

One man’s selfishness points to weakness of the system

CNN reported on the possible murder suicide of Josh Powell and his two sons. This is another piece of an investigation involving the 2009 disappearance of his wife, and stands as evidence of his unyielding selfishness.

Under the pressure of being the primary suspect of his wife’s disappearance and possible murder, Powell felt the need to end his own life because he was “not able to go on anymore.” It is sickening that he would try to play the victim, and extract sympathy from his friends and family from beyond the grave, but that was a small drop in the bucket of his selfishness. Killing himself for attention wasn’t enough; he also had to take his two sons with him, chopping their necks and burning them alive with him in their home.

This kind of tragedy is the worst outcome for a criminal case, and it screams loudly for a change in the system. In two years of investigation and custody battles, the legal system didn’t see this coming. As CNN’s report shows, there were troubling signs, but the custody battle had not been concluded, and Powell was never formerly accused of the suspected crime.

Our legal system is bogged down with thousands of regulations, clauses, and technicalities, and we’re aware of that. Our country stands for liberty above all, with justice taking a back seat at times. Strong arm laws just aren’t accepted here, but I think this cause forms an argument for one. In a case such as this, where a parent is the primary suspect of the disappearance and/or murder of the other, the children should be taken care of by a third party until the outcome of that case is met.

People make argue for their rights to have their kids, but the country, by law, puts the rights of others before the rights of the individual. This is to insure safety from threat and harm, and that is exactly what happened here. Endangerment of these children was plainly obvious, and I can’t help but blame our system for this oversight.