Nintendo Markets Wii
To Non-Traditional Video Gamers
Japan’s Nintendo has been on a mission to expand the $30 billion global video game market far beyond the children and young males who make up its core consumers. And the company, a former underdog best known for fun, high-quality games based on off-beat characters like plumbers — think Mario Bros. — has sent shock waves through game industry with the unexpected and runaway success of the Wii.
That $250 console has been stealing the show from Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360 and Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 3, higher-powered consoles that are much more expensive than the Wii. While those rivals focused on cutting-edge graphics and high-tech bells and whistles, Nintendo focused on making game play easier, more intuitive and more appealing to a mass market.
The Wii outsold the new Microsoft and Sony consoles in January and February and is generating its own buzz with everyone from nuns to cancer patients to toddlers. There are Wii parties and Wii bowling contests. Players, who often look quite silly and occasionally injure themselves in fits of overzealous play, upload video of their Wii antics to a variety of technology Web sites like GameTrailers.com and Google’s YouTube.
Europe-Wide Weather Alarm?
With climate change set to bring ever more frequent storms, floods and natural disasters, 21 European countries have created a unified weather alert system, its creators said on Friday. Meteoalarm, launched on Friday at the end of a week-long meteorological conference in Madrid, provides simple icon-based information on severe weather in 17 languages from a single web page, www.meteoalarm.eu.
“Our job is to save lives and goods, and this project was needed in Europe,” Tomas Molina, chairman of the International Association of Broadcast Meteorology, told a news conference. The new system should be simple and credible, so that on the rare occasions there is a red alert people will take it seriously, its backers said.
Part of the reason the death toll from hurricane Katrina was so high in New Orleans was because people refused to leave their homes, the technical manager of Meteoalarm, Michael Staudinger said.
“Warnings are only useful if they are believed, understood and acted on,” said Dieter Schiessl of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Forecasting is becoming ever more accurate, but often countries lack a reliable means of warning the population.
“The problem lies in alert systems, not in forecasting systems. That was the big lesson of the tsunami,” Francisco Cadarso, director general of the Spanish National Meteorological Institute, said during the WMO conference this week. Technical advances and improvements in satellite images will steadily extend the range of reliable forecasting, said Miguel Angel Rabiolo, director of Argentina’s meteorological service
“Today our forecasting is not more than five or seven days, but an experiment organized by the WMO will extend that to 15 days,” he said.
Europe Sees the
New Playstation 3 Amongst Rivalries
Midnight sales under the Eiffel Tower and at Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz were aimed at blitzing Sony’s PlayStation 3 onto the European stage on Friday, but the console faces tough rivals with headstarts.
A handful of gamers showed up at a midnight store opening at Schiphol Amsterdam, including Sony fan Nomey, 24, who said the Blu-ray drive for new, high-density disks that can also play high-definition movies is reason enough to buy a PS3.
“I’m not a fanatic gamer. But if I would have to buy a standalone Blu-ray player it cost me 1,000 euros,” he said. A new high-definition flat-screen TV would complement his home entertainment by next week, he added.
Sony Corp. will rely on customers like Nomey to make PS3 the same success as its PS2 predecessor, since few gamers are as determined as student Ritatsu Thomas, 17, who already owns the other main consoles: Wii, Xbox 360, PS2 and GameCube.
He arrived for a launch event at the Virgin Megastore in central London at 5 a.m. on Wednesday with his own sleeping bag and passed the time playing computer games in the store’s basement, since police were advised to let customers indoors to protect them against the cold and PS3-targeted muggings.
Most of his friends want one of the new consoles, but have been put off by its 425-pound ($836) price, he said.
“They want to buy it but don’t have the money,” he said, adding that his pals had instead bought the cheaper Wii, made by rival Nintendo Co. Ltd.
Apple TV Getting Good Reviews
from Analists and Consumers
For years, companies such as Sony, Microsoft, and others have been trying to find a way to link the PC with television sets, seeing the combination of computing-based entertainment and TV as a compelling proposition. But on the whole, results have met with limited success. Microsoft has generated the largest push in putting together a networked living room, and has been eager to offer its Xbox gaming console to consumers who have not been wowed by its Media Center OS.
The newest salvo in the quest for the living room, Apple TV, might have a chance to change the landscape, though. Unlike previous efforts that focused so strongly on putting Web surfing and e-mail checking onto a TV, Apple’s play is more limited. Consumers do not replicate their computer activities on a big screen with Apple TV; rather, they are given the ability to view or play Web-garnered content.
This is a big gain for people who have been downloading movies and TV shows from iTunes, said Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg. But it is also a boon for those who want to play their music through a TV’s stereo system, or do a slide show of their iPhoto pictures.
“Apple is allowing consumers to import content onto the most important screen in the home,” he said. “It really bridges the gap between the personal computer and TV in terms of content.”
Not surprisingly, Apple will also be a big beneficiary if the model pays off. Success with Apple TV will give the company a way to synchronize all of its properties, such as iTunes, the iPod video and music player, and the forthcoming iPhone.
“This isn’t about computing,” Gartenberg said. “It’s about being able to access content in multiple areas, whether it’s on your phone, your iPod, or your TV. In that regard, it’s a very important product because it makes content more portable.”
One aspect of Apple TV that might irk some buyers is that the device provides content that is near-DVD quality, but not quite up to that high-resolution quite yet, said Gartenberg, who has seen Apple TV content firsthand.
“Like everything else, it’s in the eye of the beholder,” he said. “Everything that Apple has encoded since last fall has been updated, and for most TV shows, near-DVD quality is perfectly watchable. It’ll be a tradeoff in the near term for more portability.”
High-definition content providers have been less inclined to make their movies and TV shows as portable, he added. In general, the device has gotten some positive initial reviews, with reviewers praising the wireless box’s ease of use and simple installation. Others have appreciated that the usability is similar to that of iPods and iTunes, making navigation more intuitive for Apple fans in particular.