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What is it about party games that we Aussies just can't get enough of?
Here at GameSpot AU, we've been tracking game sales charts for Australia for a little while now, and for the past few months there have been three constant entries in the top 10: SingStar, Buzz and Brain Training. Compare that to the US charts and there seems to be a world of difference. US gamers still tend to lap up racers, shooters and action games, with nary a 'non-traditional' genre in sight. And when I say non-traditional, I mean titles that don't fall into what most people would typically consider as games -- such as karaoke, quiz, music, puzzle or fitness-type titles. The most popular of these non-traditional titles down under are, of course, party games such as Sony's extremely successful SingStar or Buzz series.
Sony, for its part, obviously doesn't think US gamers like these types of titles that much, having not released many Buzz or SingStar games stateside. Australians, on the flipside, are lapping these games up. Is it because Aussies just aren't as "hardcore" as US gamers? Or do we just have a natural affinity for making fools of ourselves at karaoke?
Here's a controversial thought: maybe the Australian games market is actually a little more mature than the US. Before you howl me down with stats and figures on how huge and advanced the US games market is, let me assure you that I'm not trying to compare size here. In pure dollar terms, the US is a behemoth, and Australia in comparison is miniscule. And I don't mean mature in the sense of being more adult or dignified. What I mean is the shape of the Australian market -- the people who game, those who own consoles and use them regularly -- may actually be what the US will be like in a few years' time. The three big players in gaming -- Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo -- have all acknowledged the need to expand past the "core" audience of gamers in order for the industry to prosper and grow. The big three are planning to expand the market by developing new titles to attract people who aren't interested in shooting Nazis, or going on mythical quests, or killing aliens in a post-apocalyptic future. Sony's already produced these type of games in their party series, while Microsoft is about to test the waters with Viva Pinata. Nintendo's entire philosophy with the Wii is to attract as many people back to gaming as possible.
It's clear that with SingStar, Buzz and Brain Training such Top 10 stalwarts in Australia, our market may already include plenty of these new types of gamers the major games companies are trying to attract. Who knows? Maybe our Top 10 charts are a sneak peek into the future of US gaming.
While most Australians can only look on in envy as Japanese and US gamers get their hands on Sony's PlayStation 3 next week, we lucky GameSpot AU staffers have been fortunate enough to have spent some quality time with the new console this week. Of course, we're not as lucky as Greg and the gang over in GameSpot US, who have already been playing with the console for a while--check out our Launch Centre for everything you need to know.
Up close with the PS3 at Sony PlayStation's AU HQ.
The Australian launch of the PS3 isn't until March 2007, but Sony took us deep inside PlayStation AU HQ this week to give us an extended play session with the next-gen behemoth. And behemoth it was--our first impression upon laying eyes on the shiny black PS3 was that it was a pretty hefty unit. Looking more like a small bar fridge than a gaming console, the PS3 is certainly far removed from the petite slimline PS2. If you're planning on buying one of these babies next year, better start making room for it now.
The games themselves, as you'd probably expect, looked stunning. We played Ridge Racer 7 (amazingly detailed cars and tracks), Genji: Days of the Blade (impressive use of colours), Motor Storm (excellent rag doll animations on the riders) and Lair (you get to ride dragons--'nuff said). The standout was Resistance: Fall of Man. This first-person shooter looked gorgeous, with realistic locations and enemies linked with some decent gameplay.
There's a caveat to all this positive eye candy, of course. We viewed all of these games at Sony HQ through a high definition projector--the 1080p capable Sony VPL-VW100, which retails for a hefty AU$15,000. Right now, it's probably safe to assume that most gamers who shell out the cash for a PS3 won't have an AU$15,000 projector in the house, let alone a 1080p-capable display that would make full use of the PS3's visual capabilities. And as with the Xbox 360, this could potentially lead to disappointment if the console is hooked up to a normal old CRT television, or even an SD-only flatscreen. In Australia, 1080p-capable screens are just beginning to hit the consumer space in decent numbers, so it might be a while before the majority of gamers can get the most out of their PS3s.
But there is a positive. Our PS3 launch delay gives us Aussies until March next year to save up for a new HD screen. It looks like 2007 is going to be a pretty expensive year for gamers.
5Nov 06GameSpot AU visited the first GAME1 Electronic Gaming Expo and Tournament held in Melbourne's Convention Centre last weekend (4-5 November), and yours truly had the chance to get up on stage and talk with some key developers in front of a very enthusiastic audience.
Hundreds of Melbourne gamers attended GAME1 to check out the latest games from Microsoft, Activision, THQ, Ubisoft, EA and more. On display where such anticipated games like Guitar Hero II, Rainbow Six Vegas, Need for Speed Carbon, Fury (from Aussie developers Auran), Call of Duty 3, Splinter Cell Double Agent and more.
But by far the most popular stand on the day belonged to Nintendo, who was showcasing the brand new Nintendo Wii. Gamers were lined up all day to get a chance to play the new console, and were extremely enthusiastic during Nintendo's on-stage presentation to explain the Wii's capabilities.
Consumer game shows are pretty thin on the ground for the average Aussie consumer, so it was great to be at a show where gamers could come along and sample upcoming titles weeks ahead of their official release.
GameSpot AU will also be at the Sydney leg of GAME1 (2-3 December, Sydney Olympic Park), so come along if you want to say hi to the team.
Nintendo's Wii stand was by far the most popular.
Gamers patiently lined up for their chance at the Wii.
I was lucky enough to chat with Irrational Games' Jay Kyburz about their upcoming game, Bioshock.
Next up on stage with me was Activision's Joel Graham, who spoke at length about Guitar Hero II.
Joel and I shredding it to the Foo Fighters on stage.
And yes, booth babes were present at the show.
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