SPIRALING PRICES AND OTHER WOES…

As we look forward to the great new games coming out this fall, there is a worrying trend that is becoming apparent — the increasing prices of upcoming games (and, in many cases, the stagnant prices of games beyond their peak!).

So we did some research to figure out what was going wrong.  What we found was interesting. Spiralling prices are only the tip of a somewhat large iceberg — the disorganized state of the market and the lack of market intelligence are more pressing challenges, which are hopefully more in our control to fix.

Prices: The Government
How can there be a negative market trend and the government be not to blame, right? In this case, there are actually two ways, not one, that the government has managed to impact us gamers.  The easiest one to spot is, of course, the nose-diving rupee which seems like it is heading downward in an extreme bungee jump (we can only hope there is a rope tied to the ankle)! While release prices of most games worldwide have remained the same–in rupee terms, they have become more expensive.

There has always been a 27% duty on importing the great stuff we love.  Now, unconfirmed reports say that there is a “clarification” that this 27% does not depend on the price at which Indian suppliers import but on the MRP at which suppliers plan to sell.  This clearly makes the 27% have a much hire impact on prices than earlier.  We sure hope the importer community begins to push back on such practices and looks for workarounds to such inefficiencies.

Pirated Games and Prices: The Chicken Or The Egg?
The ease of access to hacked games and gaming consoles in India has undoubtedly been driven by the high prices of games. The appeal of drastically reduced prices coupled with the Indian approach to jugaad has made the pirated game market rampant. But what was originally driven by high prices could now be keeping prices high. When someone buys a pirated game, they don’t buy an original one:   this reduces the size of the Indian market in the eyes of game producers/distributors.  This means we get less attention (see the Unavailability arguments below) but also potentially higher prices for those who buy legitimate games.

Unavailability: The Nascent Market

Diablo III: Better Late than Never

When B+ games are released in the US and UK and don’t make their way into the subcontinent, we don’t really mind.  But when an obvious blockbuster like Diablo III doesn’t make it way here on Day 1, then that is a cause for worry.  Clearly, the market in India is not developed enough to make publishers take note.  Thankfully, some retailers have managed to now get the Diablo III franchise into India–and (shameless plug) we have a wide suite of Diablo III products from Steelseries to choose from!  The reason that the market is still nascent compared to other nations is that gaming was actively discouraged as a hobby until very recently thanks to parents’ obsession with raising the world’s next Sheldon Cooper.  And also, the high cost of gaming… but we have already established that!

So What’s Next?
Recent trends in the gaming information segment, such as the new MCV India website and the annual E-xpress conference of retailers, are welcome improvements that will hopefully play an important role in the maturing of the market.  Further, the naturally maturing market base (college students playing  PC games 10 years ago are playing original console games today) will contribute to more serious consideration from publishers worldwide.  So what if we got Sniper Elite V2 at a jaw-dropping, eye-bulging, expletive-inspiring price of Rs.3,499 (also available for Rs.3,135 on our store).

FIFA13: Raised quite a few shackles in the gaming world with its pricing!

The future looks mixed. FIFA 13 was announced at Rs.3,499 on PS3 until the distributor for the the XBOX version announced it at Rs.2,999.  The PS3 price was then revised immediately to Rs.2,999.  We have also seen some price cuts on last year’s Activision titles.  Analysts believe most distributors will be forced to increase the already-high prices in the future due to the change in import duties.  But there is also potential good news with Sony looking to manufacture games in India as the head of Sony India stated in a recent MCV article. That should drive some of the prices down – with the aim to get PS3 platinum games to the Rs.999 mark.

If you are a gamer, developer, retailer, or supplier, we want to know what you think!  Let us know in the comments section below!

WELCOME TO THE FUTURE: THANK YOU, E3 2012

This article comes to us from our guest writer, Anish Kataria. Anish is a passionate gamer, a car and bike enthusiast, and a generally happy guy. He can be reached on twitter @AnishKataria.

Gamers in India have never had it easy!  Trying to find a little bit of gaming nirvana has always been a difficult task in our country, and has led countless gamers to tread cautiously across narrow by-lanes and deal with vendors whose products left a lot to be desired.  The delayed software/hardware launches, freakishly high import tariffs, inaccessible network services (thank you, Sony!), and the overall apathy of the international gaming community toward us.

Sony-E3-Never-Stop-Playing

E3 is the annual carnival for the computer and video games industry.

But lamentations aside, let’s get to the reason why I am writing this article.  The Electronic Entertainment Expo (better known as E3) is the annual carnival for the computer and video games industry and is presented by the Entertainment Software Association.  E3 2012 was held between June 5th and 7th in Los Angeles.  So, here’s my take on the 5 titles that gamers should look forward to.  Unfortunately, some of them are tied down to certain platforms but that just means that we’ll have to call upon our brethren for access, unless you’re one of the lucky few who have both the PS3 and the Xbox 360!

Crysis 3

Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Expected Release:  Q2 2013

The Crysis series of games has always been the top of any list that I’ve created as a result of the exhilarating game-play, brilliant graphics, and well-written storyline.  Initial trailer reveals that Crytek (the game developer) has another ace up its sleeve and ‘Prophet’ (the main protagonist) looks amazingly cool handling the killer composite bow with 4 different arrow tips (remember John Rambo facing the Russians in Afghanistan?). The trailer shows that the developers have made it easier for gamers to use multiple paths/ways to plan your attack before each mission!  Other interesting bits include being able to control alien weaponry for the first time in the series and multiple pre-scripted settings for the nanosuit.

The game starts with the Prophet returning to New York City in 2047 and finding the city enclosed by a nanodome that turns most of the city into a rainforest.  The corrupt Cell Corporation (Yes, every cool game must have one evil corporation!) is trying to grab both land and technology, while Prophet battles wicked aliens and Cell’s thugs for payback!

Medal of Honor:  Warfighter

Platform(s):  PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Expected Release:  End October 2012

Medal of Honor:  Warfighter (also called Medal of Honor: 2) builds on, and is a direct sequel to, the critically acclaimed series reboot Medal of Honor from 2010.  Expect some breathtaking visuals and immersive surroundings from this game as it’s based on an evolved version of DICE’s Frostbite 2.0 engine (the one used in Battlefield 3!).  The single player mode will continue to follow the story of Tier 1 operators who are the most precise, aggressive, and disciplined (make sense?) warrior in the US arsenal.  Every single mission in this game is aligned to an actual historical event or a real world hotspot (e.g. Somalia).

The game’s stage-debut at E3 provided a great insight into the vast number of preferences on offer in the single player campaign.  This includes taking out entire buildings with air support, using a remote-controlled robot that offers grenade launchers and Gatling guns, and engaging in firefights in different ways.  To top it off, the multiplayer mode features 13 playable Tier 1 special force units from 10 countries!

Watch Dogs

Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Expected Release: 2013

You are no longer an individual; you’re a data cluster bound to a global network—so says the trailer (woah!). Storyline, good storyline, the most awesome storyline! This game from Ubisoft Montreal has unleashed a torrent of tweets across cyberspace, left the gaming community stunned, and is undoubtedly the most anticipated game coming out of E3.

The game takes you to Chicago of the near future, one of many cities controlled by a supercomputer called ctOS (Central Operating System).  ctOS controls almost every piece of technology in the windy city and collates/processes information on all its residents.  In the game, you’ll play Aiden Pearce, a highly skilled hacker who can kick ass in the physical domain as well.  Gameplay demo from E3 showed Aiden jam cellphones to serve as a quick distraction, access personal information from the central hub to start conversations, tapping phone calls to retrieve critical information, and manipulate traffic lights to cause massive damage.  The game seemed a bit GTAish when the gameplay demo was demonstrated but slowly started revealing the strategic insight and behavioral tendencies of our antihero (?).

Overall, cyberpunk comes back with a bang!

Tomb Raider

Platforms:  PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Expected Release:  Early March 2013

Guess who’s back?  Yes, she’s back—the fantasy of every teenage boy at the turn of the century.  Tomb Raider became a household name (Angelina Jolie may have played a small part) because of the way Lara Croft was designed (sexy, suave, intelligent, and dangerous), the depth and multiplicity of plot (first 3 titles mostly?), and the ever changing game environments.

This new game is a fresh start for the franchise and is a prequel to the original series.  In this game, a young naïve Lara Croft gets stranded on a tropical island in the dragon’s triangle after the ship she was travelling in is hit by a storm and shattered in two.  The game shows how Lara developed her tomb raiding skills because of chance and not by choice (she’s really scared of tombs in the beginning of the game).  Further, it makes Lara more human, more believable, and develops her character/her physical presence slowly as the game progresses.  More so, it makes you forget the cold icy Lara of the past and gives her a heart (she apologizes to a deer she had to kill in order to get some much needed nutrition!).

It looks like the developers have done a really good job of adding some RPG elements to the game, making it a wee bit more open-world rather than the linear (reach-your-objective games of the past), and making her physical movements more authentic.

Halo 4

Platform(s):  Xbox 360

Expected Release:  Early November 2012

Personally, I’m not looking forward to this game since I feel this franchise is over-rated (and I don’t have an XBOX 360) but since this is the highest selling game on the Xbox platform, I just had to include it (yes, double standards!).  On second thoughts, the new game actually looks pretty cool.  Graphically, the engine in Halo 4 seems to be doing a better job than the one in Halo 3 as the lighting effects feel better and Master Chief’s character model looks a bit more detailed.

The game continues 5 years after Halo 3 ends and marks the return of Master Chief and his best friend Cortana after they were lost in space.  Action in the game takes place on an unknown Forerunner (race of ancient beings) planet.  Other game elements highlighted across gaming discussion boards include Cortana’s insanity, increased emphasis on exploration/discovery, and aligning the multiplayer campaign with single player story elements.

Other notable mentions from the event include:

The Last of Us (only PS3)

This game is going to be awesome! Check out this discussion from the great guys at http://www.ign.com.

God of War Ascension  (only PS3)

Epic series comes back with a bang and also adds a multiplayer mode!

Assassin’s Creed 3 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360, and WiiU) 

Shows potential.

Call of Duty Black Ops 2 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

I feel that the series is over hyped (especially after the last one) and I’m not really looking forward to it!

Dead Space 3 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

Scary, very scary!

In other gaming news – DICE has just launched Battlefield 3 premium.  This membership service costs a one-time fee of USD 49.99 (Rs 1899 in India, if I remember correctly from the figure I saw late last night!).  This service is a must have for any BF3 aficionado as it offers all five expansion packs (Back to Karkland, Close Quarters, Armored Kill, Aftermath, and Endgame), exclusive in-game items, online double XP events, and insider tips/tricks from DICE.  I really want to get this but I’m wondering how to bypass Sony’s hackable payment structure. Sigh!

Till we meet again, may the force be with you!

GAME OVER: IS THIS THE END OF THE GAMING DVD?

Gamers worldwide have been following stories of Game UK’s demise with increasing curiosity.  A lot of Indian gamers were disappointed to see the store go into administration.  Admittedly, most of us based our best wishes for The Game Group based on our experiences (and cheap prices) with their website.  Those closer to the erstwhile retail giant’s physical stores felt otherwise.  For instance, here is a comment from a reader from the Guardian’s coverage  of the event that sums up a lot of what customers in the UK are feeling:

“Ask any gamer why they don’t shop at Game anymore. Price. Range. Poor Customer Service.”

The Game UK Website wore a "down for maintenance" notice as well.

Those are probably the three most important things that drive any business — it doesn’t matter whether the business is a brick and mortar store or an online site.  While our assessment of the coverage shows that Game’s outcome was driven by a series of incorrect business decisions, it does belie the question: what about the gaming market?  Will all stores eventually close?  We have seen how the music industry has been taken over by online (legal and illegal) downloads and no-one ever buys CDs anymore — is that what will happen to gaming as well? Considering how we are investing our lives savings into the GamesINC franchise, you can imagine how important this was for us.

But like what any business should do before they launch, this is one of the considerations we took into account early on.  And it is being supported by those in the industry sharing their opinions in the wake of Game’s demise.

Our take is that we are still between five and ten years away from going completely digital (more infrastructurally advanced countries may see the change in five years and we expect India to make the shift in 7-10 years).  So here is our no-numbers (well almost) quick assessment of the future (we can’t share all our IP on our blog now, can we?):

Software Requirements

Video graphics have come a long way in the last decade.

The top reasons why we love the console — the graphics, sounds, and features — eventually translate into massive software storage requirements.  An XBOX game can take up to 8GB in storage whereas a PS3 game can go beyond 15GB.  A digital download that size is still a nascent possibility in the UK and U.S., and a near impossibility in “fair” usage policy afflicted India.  Even without fup, I’d feel a tinge of guilt spending all my bandwidth on games — sort of like the guilt you feel when you print out a hundred pages on your work printer.  With time, the size of games will only increase, not decrease.  That said, there is a distinct possibility that — if the XBOX720(?) and the PS4(?) allow — the market moves to SD cards as an alternative to DVDs.  That will possibly be a step in the right direction and will enhance the lives of our consoles significantly.  In either case, there will be no impact on online and physical retail stores who will still have something to sell.

Internet Infrastructure

The biggest bane of online downloads is not fup, but overall infrastructure support in the country.  Downloading a 8GB game is hardly the same as downloading a 100MB music album.  Chances are high that even before games are delivered online-only, movies will take the plunge.  If a large proportion of the customer base moves to streaming videos, DVD and BluRay downloads, and game downloads, free bandwidth will become scarce.  Our Airtels, BSNLs, and Reliances will hardly be able to keep pace with the upgrades required. Of course, not all of these scenarios will come to pass all at the same time, so I am admittedly being more catastrophic than the situation demands.  However, if you look at how our ISPs have taken a reactive, almost regressive, stand toward business and have focused on acquiring customers that they know they won’t be able to sustainably serve with the current infrastructure, we see a lot of pain in the coming days — with or without massive digital downloads.

Compare your speed to those around the world and you can see that we are not nearly ready. Source: http://bit.ly/GYWiAs

Business Sense

The most important factor that will determine whether the gaming world goes digital is the amount of business sense it makes.  When Microsoft launched the XBOX, it was estimated to be losing $125 per box just on cost of goods.  It takes a lot of time, effort, and R&D money to design a new console — 10 years is a completely legitimate timeframe for such companies to ride the tide.  Companies will still make money through online sales of passes, DLCs, and (some) games.  It was only about 4 years ago that Microsoft started to make money off its console business and followed it up with about $1Billion in profit in early 2011 thanks to the Kinect.   It is too early to try to change the entire gaming environment by moving to digital downloads.  Remember the first XBOX and the red ring of death?  If Microsoft tries to change its hardware in a way that goes beyond extracting more performance, then it might well run into another couple of years of technical nightmares.  Its not that they can’t build a great system, but that it is unreasonable to expect that the first attempt will be perfect.

Beyond the technical aspects, there is also an entire logistical and delivery system associated with ensuring that a game DVD reaches the end-user.  A new delivery channel — technical and server upgrades for every publisher wishing to offer digital downloads, for instance — will need to be built. That does not come overnight.  We can speculate all we want on what the new XBOX720(?) or the PS4(?) will bring, but one thing that new consoles will not bring is automated upgrades for all service providers in the value chain.  It is still possible, but this will not be the revolution everyone expects — it will in fact push back innovation by a couple of years while we transition to the next infrastructure and game publishers themselves understand the new platform.

The change from physical media to online digital downloads cannot be avoided and will happen, whether some of us want it or not.  Companies, suppliers, and retailers will have to innovate or die.  But it is still a few years out in the future.  In the meantime though, it is not business as usual.  In India, we have a lot of work to do.  Unlike most other ventures — online and offline — the gaming market itself is nascent here.  We can’t sit back, look at those burgeoning numbers that consultants share with us, and expect the money to keep flowing in.  India is still not taken seriously as a gaming market.  We retailers, developers, and gamers have to build the market together.  But that is a story for another time.

How far out do you think the digital media revolution is?  Do you think Indian infrastructure and gaming market is ready for it?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Research and articles sourced from:

THE CALM AFTER THE STORM: A RATIONAL GUIDE TO BATTLEFIELD 3 AND MODERN WARFARE 3

This article comes to us from our guest writer, Anish Kataria. Anish is a passionate gamer, a car and bike enthusiast, and a generally happy guy. He can be reached on twitter @AnishKataria.

The gaming world’s ultimate showdown took place in the latter half of 2011, when Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 were launched within a month of each other.  Most gamers (including this particular MW fan-boy) were blown over and confused by the blitzkrieg of marketing offenses and pre-launch videos offered by Electronic Arts and Activision.  Most gamers reading this article might have already purchased a copy of one of these games.  That said, for the few who are still undecided/waiting for prices to reduce/thinking about getting a multiplayer pass, this review might help you make an informed decision.

For the uninitiated, MW3 builds on the success of the original MW, MW2, and related title Black Ops which dominated the gaming industry with unmatched gamer experience (both visually and game design).  BF3 comes from a slightly different genealogy that started in 2002 with Battlefield 1942 and primarily aimed at the PC gamer.  Its last iteration, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was critically acclaimed—but a moderate success commercially when compared to the Modern Warfare titles.

So how do these games stack up against each other?  Modern Warfare 3 (to a large extent the series) makes you feel like Superman.  It’s relatively simple, unabashed arcade shooting style which focuses on the ability of one man to change the world provides the gamer a fast-paced ego rush that in itself is a highly-entertaining gaming experience.  Battlefield 3, on the other hand, makes you feel like Batman.  The learning curve is steep—some parts of the game almost force you to give up the controller, while others require you need to change the way you play—and you don’t have any superpowers that make you invincible.  Working effectively with your squad, selecting the right weapons, mastering key tactics, and being nimble on your feet are some of the aspects of the game that any gamer needs to master.

Let’s see how these games compare across categories.

Graphics

Frostbite 2: Sometimes you just want to take a break and enjoy the surroundings

Battlefield 3 leverages the brutal computing power of the Frostbite 2 engine (Link).  This translates into smooth animations, immersive yet destructible environments, dynamic lighting and real-world visual effects (e.g., shadows, water droplets, smoke, and other textures).  The wide range and high quality of visuals present in all different game modes are astonishing but they can overwhelm the gamer at times.  Sometimes finding that critical piece in the jigsaw puzzle can be taxing due to overwhelming visual input.

Modern Warfare 3 is based on an evolved/tweaked version of the I-Ward/MW2 engine.  The lack of innovation/investment results in the graphics in MW3 feeling a little dated when compared to BF3.  The lighting and animations seem to have been enhanced in comparison to MW2 but is nowhere near the realism of BF3.  That said, the speed and build quality will keep gamers engaged.

Advantage:  Battlefield 3

Single Player Campaign

Makarov is back.

Captain Soap MacTavish, Captain John Price, and their evil nemesis Makarov return to light the world on fire in Modern Warfare 3.  MW3 continues from where MW2 left off.  It feels like a high on adrenaline, big budget Hollywood movie but sadly backed by a flat storyline.  It does have ‘scripted’ plot twists but I bet those of us used to the franchise see most of them coming.  I still love the characters, the transitions between missions, and the amazing superhero type quests in exotics locales.  It gets you high on the familiar, keeps you away from everything that you hold dear, and makes you beg for more.  That said, I would have preferred if the storyline hadn’t been carried over from MW2.

I had high expectations of the campaign mode in Battlefield 3 as a result of the incredible storyline of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and the pre-launch teaser videos provided by EA.  BF3 puts you in the shoes of Staff Sergeant Henry Blackburn fighting the evil PLR held together by the main antagonist, Solomon.  The single player mode is based on a storyline that has been seen before, boring scripting, an AI that knows all and kills all.  It does have a couple of over-the-top moments where it feels awesome (but these are limited to the cut scenes between missions/introductions to mission).  The campaign seems like a bunch of cool ideas which were over cooked and poorly executed.  Further, sometimes it seems that the developers consciously designed the single player mode to be frustrating and painful.

Advantage:  Modern Warfare 3.  It’s moronic but I still associate with the characters.

Multi Player Modes

Aerial dogfights on BF3: You should play the multiplayer just for that!

Realism, different abilities for different solider classes, huge maps, insane graphics, vast magnitude of weapons… phew!  Multiplayer is what Battlefield 3 was designed for.  24 console players (or 64 PC players) can collaborate and overrun/capture/annihilate enemy positions in the immersive multiplayer maps.  The author of this article wasn’t a big multiplayer fan (apart from the customary FIFA sessions online) until he came across this game.  The multiplayer of this game is addictive beyond comparison and will turn you into ‘Level-Up’ junkie who only cares about when he can fire a Stinger missile, drive an Abrams Tank, or fly a Sukhoi-25 Frogfoot.  The most critical differentiator here is that the maps turn into huge battlefields with different types of gamers (infantry soldiers, tank commanders, and combat aircraft pilots) fighting against each other at the same time.

Modern Warfare 3 builds on and enhances the multiplayer experience from MW2.  It’s fast, addictive, and you will not get bored playing it over and over again.  Infinity Ward has added the ability to set up streak rewards for support play rather than the aggressive over-the-top one man army style antics (gamers who focus on maintaining a high kill-to-death ratio over supporting the team).  Overall, it’s a great package that’ll make you log on and play because of the large number/experience/quality of gamers using the multiplayer functionality.  That said, I’m disappointed that Infinity Ward hasn’t pushed the envelope over here.  They seem to be happy with just sticking with what has worked in the past.

Advantage:  Battlefield 3

My Choice

It comes down to choosing between a glamorous supermodel for a single encounter vs. the girl who you truly love (is that even possible?) for the rest of your life.  I choose Battlefield 3.  What do you choose?

Where to Pick One Up?

Why, at GamesINC of course.  At the time of writing, we have copies of Battlefield 3 pre-owned and Modern Warfare 3 both new and pre-owned on PS3.  If Xbox is your platform, then we only have Modern Warfare 3 new – but we should getting BF3 new, as well as pre-owned versions of both in the near future.

Looking Forward To

The Last of Us

BUILDING YOUR OWN RIG FOR UNENDING HOURS OF GAMING FUN

Since it is Christmas season and many of you will be looking to make big-ticket purchases to pamper yourself, we figured it might be the right time to start talking about building your own rig.  Imagine your room complete with that drool-worthy console, perfect display monitor, and the right sound system. Exciting?  If that brings a smile to your face, read on:

1.  THE DROOL-WORTHY CONSOLE

Wow, this one is a biggie, isn’t it?  Luckily, our guest blogger Anish Kataria, put together some good pointers that I can direct you to right away.  So, go ahead and read that article at your leisure (remember to open it on another tab, so you don’t actually stop reading this post):  Console Wars: Sony Playstation 3 or XBOX360.

2a. THE PERFECT DISPLAY MONITOR

For gaming, you just absolutely need a generously large TV that allows you to notice all the subtle messages new-gen games use (if you have tried to shoot an enemy soldier behind a wall a 100m away without a sniper rifle, waiting for his head to pop out just a little bit — you know what I mean).  Unfortunately, a good TV in the Indian market costs a lot more than what it does anywhere else.  It has always been a bit difficult to digest how something can be shipped from China all the way to the U.S. and still cost less than half of what it costs here — but that is a story for another blog post.  With that in mind, lets choose a price you are willing to spend and go with it.  Assuming you are decently loaded (or have saved every penny excruciatingly over the last year), let’s go with 40,000INR.  We chose that because it is roughly what you would pay for a decent laptop (you do have a laptop, right?).

Now, the key thing you have to choose is the kind of panel you need — a Plasma, LCD, or LED?  Now this isn’t a tech review by any means, and we aren’t going into specifics — except the ones that matter.  Now, Plasma is a technology that dates back a little but, is by no means outdated.  LCDs and LEDs are sort of like cousins, usually with only the backlights being different (not exceedingly advanced).

The Plasma TV is our preferred beast for gaming.  The reasons are simple.  First, I am sure you have heard a lot of burn-in issues with plasma TVs, but unless you are buying a used 6-yr old TV, put your mind at ease.  Those are issues of the past that you are unlikely to experience anymore.  In our opinion, it is just a tact used by inexperienced and uninformed salesmen to push the more expensive LCD/LEDs to you.  But hey, you are a gamer and you can’t be easily fooled (right?).  Second, refresh rates are better on the plasma.  This means that the panel will flash the same picture more number of times per second compared to an LCD or an LED.  This matters to you when you play fast-paced games like Need for Speed or Call of Duty, and don’t want those rapid moves to get blurred.  Third, plasmas manage to render near-perfect blacks that LCDs just can’t.  Most plasma TVs these days also sport a Game Mode that bypasses all the fancy-shancy filtering it typically does and lets your console take over the screen completely.  This means better blacks and better response for your Crysis 2 by letting the XBOX/PS3 do what it does best.

Plasma TVs tend to render black tones better

Now there are two valid downsides to plasma TVs though: First, the panels are reflective, not matt.  So you have to be very conscious about lighting in the room.  Make sure that there isn’t any strong light falling on the screen and you should be fine.  Second, plasma TVs usually come in sizes of 42″ and above.  This means if you don’t have a room that can give you about a 4-6 feet distance from the screen, you will be at a bit of a disadvantage.  We still recommend the Plasma TV for gaming mainly because we are looking at a sub-40,000INR expense.  Now if you have double that money to spare, choose the LED.  LEDs are slimmer (making it easier to hang on a wall), render good blacks, and consume less energy than plasma TVs.

Next, keep in mind which resolution you want for your gaming needs.  All flat screen TVs these days are at least HD-ready, if not full-HD.  The difference? — HR-ready gives a native resolution of 720p  where as full-HD provides you will a resolution of 1080p.  Now, some HD-ready screens will let you upscale to 1080i (not 1080p) which really doesn’t make that much of a difference.  Both of them are “technically” HD, but 1080i (where i is for interlaced) scans 1080 horizontal lines on your TV alternately whereas 1080p (where p is for progressive) scans the same number of lines simultaneously.  That is just technical mumbo-jumbo for “1080p is better”.  That said, if you choose the XBOX for your console, then you don’t really need 1080p (full-HD) because the maximum resolution that the 360 can do is 720p.  If you choose the PS3 and would like to watch some HD Blu Ray movies, then 1080p may be the best bet for you.

2b.  THE RIGHT CABLE

Assuming you chose a plasma TV (or still went with an LCD, or could afford an LED), chances are about 99.98% that it has an HDMI connection (if it doesn’t and it is new, go return it right now… no, stop reading — go return it!).  The first thing you need to do once you get your TV is to ditch the component cable that comes with your console and get yourself an HDMI cable.  Due to the lack of information people have on cables in general, the HDMI market has become a huge scam for manufacturers and retailers.  Do remind yourself this before you go out shopping for an HDMI cable — expensive does not mean better!  There are a lot of HDMI cables out there from as low as 500INR to as high as 4,000INR, so don’t fall for it.  There are two things you should look out for:

Step 1: Ditch this!

– High Speed vs. Standard.  Some HDMI cables claim to be high-speed.  If it is a reputed company, such as Belkin, it probably is.  High speed cables transmit more digital data without lag to your screen.  We recommend this if you are on a PS3 and are playing Blu Rays.

– Length.  Yes, this seems like a no brainer, but we can still ignore the most obvious things (ever zoom past a red light, anyone?).  HDMI cables come from a short length of 3 feet all the way up to 6 feet (maybe more too, but we didn’t go about checking every HDMI packaging we could lay our hands on).  Just make sure you have enough.

If a standard HDMI works for you, we suggest a Belkin.  A 3 feet one should cost you around 700INR.

3.  THE RIGHT SOUND SYSTEM

Now if you are an audiophile, you already know which 5.1 Dolby Digital you want to get.  If not, we still suggest that you do get a surround sound system to hear those bullets whiz past you as you duck for cover.  If you have a budget of about 10,000INR, we suggest not going for an entry-level 5.1 system: instead invest in a Bose headgear.  Bose’s On-Ear Headphones have a nice cushioning pad that sits tight on your ears and provides a very high degree of clarity. That said, they may not be the best option for extended hours of gaming.  Your ears may start sweating and your head could start to feel heavy with all the booming bass.  In such cases, we suggest Bose’s AE2.  They are more comfortable on the ear and never really sit on your ear, relieving some of the pressure.  You may, however, lose a bit of bass on this model.  Now a limitation of using traditional headphones for gaming is that you will probably need to plug this into your TV — not the best solution for a gaming headset.  In case you don’t want to be bogged down by this, we suggest also checking out brands such as Razer, Steel Series, Logitech (especially if you can get this one), and Astro Gaming (especially this one rated highly by the folks at IGN).

Bose On Ear Headphones, great for gaming too!

If you have a budget of about 30,000INR or so, we suggest walking over to your nearest Harman Kardon/JBL and Onkyo stores.  Why only those two?  Because we say so.  Well, actually, there are just too many options and too many specific models out there to go by online research.  This is one buy you just have to drag your behinds to the retail store and let the sound decide.  Very often, the base model comes around the 25,000INR to 30,000INR range, but the next model is available for only a few thousands more — with a world of difference in the sound.  Now this is not common across all brands, so you do still have to listen to them.  When you go to the showroom, carry a 5.1 channel DVD of music that you listen to the most, preferably one that has many instruments playing simultaneously (we suggest Dream Theater’s Home).  Sit at a distance of about 6 feet away from the base, set the volume really low, make sure the output and input are both set to 5.1 channels, take a deep breath, and let it play.  Now let it play for a while so you can make out all the different instruments playing at different pitches.  Try to buy the best one you can afford that also separates out all the different instruments individually.  Do not raise the volume too much while testing because every sound system manages to trash out all the instruments when loud, it is really the lows that matter.  Speaking of lows, double-check the bass performance of the woofer by setting the crossover value in the receiver to 80Hz (even go down to 60Hz if you can still hear the bass).  If you get heart-pounding bass by reducing the crossover frequency while increasing the volume just a tiny bit, you are good! Crossover is the frequency below which the receiver sends all sound signals to the woofer.

Some receivers also have HDMI switching, which basically means you can hook up your console to the receiver and the receiver sends the output to the TV through another HDMI cable.  This maximizes your convenience by connecting all your other gizmos into one receiver and allowing you to switch between them through your remote.

Now, having read all that and hopefully having done some online review, please head over to the retail outlets for some hands on experience.  I can’t stress this enough, you just have to experience the sound first hand before you decide.

So there you have it, folks.  Very soon, you will have your own gaming rig set up and ready to go!  Let us know what you eventually buy (on the comments below or on our Facebook page) and why!

JOIN OUR BETA GROUP WHEN WE LAUNCH

Our Coming Soon page is now live, so head over to signup.gamesinc.in to sign up! If you are one of the first 100 to sign up, you will be invited to a beta run of our store before we go live! What is more, if you are one of the first 50 to sign up, you could receive a 500INR discount on your first purchase.

FIFA 12 FOR IPAD: WASTE OF SPACE OR NEXT-GENERATION GAMING?

So when GamesInc was sitting in its Ivory Tower deciding the theme of it’s next blog post, something really strange happened. A conversation which involved armies taking over Europe, human baseball, treasure hunting across the world, ice skating for old people, an Elephant called Minimus and a Mouse called Gigantus, and whether chopsticks could be good game controllers (think about it, really!) led us to – a review of FIFA 12 for iPad. There is method to the madness – we wanted to see how iPad gaming had evolved and what it meant for the PS Vita coming out next year.

I was not enthused with the idea as I had to spend hours playing FIFA on my ipad. This sounded as appealing as counting frozen chickens in a deep freezer. But boy was I mistaken.

Positives
I must admit my preconceptions were broken as I played FIFA 12. The graphics, whilst nowhere near the console equivalents, are surprisingly good. You get a good sense of space on the pitch, and play build-up is enjoyable. Although the close up of players is pathetic – they look like they’re built of Lego – but you can live with it as it doesn’t take away from the game.

Player characteristics are surprisingly realistic – Messi is god, Rooney is unnervingly quick, strong, and accurate, Benzema will score from anywhere with the ugliest shots ever, and Zoolander can turn in one more direction than Walcott (right).

The iPad touch-screen controls work surprisingly well.

The touch screen playing which was my biggest fear turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable. You have three touch screen buttons, and by pressing, double-tapping, or sliding them you get nearly all the options of the console.  There are some nice innovations too, you slide your finger over the screen in the direction you are aiming for free kicks and corners, meaning you can curve the ball away or towards goal easily. The ability to give directions to players off the ball by tapping them onscreen is interesting, although good luck doing it when you’re sprinting down the field. You can also use your iPod touch or iPhone as controllers which means it takes more of a console feel to the game.

Negatives

Manager Mode tends to crash randomly.

You obviously don’t get the same multiplayer joy from the iPad as you do for it’s console cousins, even with two players on iPhone controllers. Despite the playability being good, it’s no PS3 or Xbox version.  There are also some irritating in game habits. In the manager mode, the game would crash at random game moments meaning I had to replay or simulate the game–which, when you’re crushing Chelski 3-0 at half-time, is very annoying!  The commentaries can also be ridiculous and after blocking a clear goal scoring opportunity for your opponents at the expense of a corner, your team look distraught as if someone had just told them that Nestle had decided to stop producing Maggi noodles. And if you have quick wingers you can guarantee that they’ll be able to sprint the length of the pitch and get into the box nearly unopposed.

Overall impressions and what it means for PS Vita
Despite all the positives, FIFA 12 on iPad is nowhere near it’s console equivalents – but then it’s not supposed to be. Buying an iPad for it’s gaming offerings is like buying a PS3 for it’s Internet browsing – a silly idea. Having said that – I throughly enjoyed playing it and I still whack out my iPad randomly to continue my managerial career (although the amount of in-game crashes has curbed my enthusiasm).  It’s also been significantly less powerful for picking up chicks in coffee shops than reading a Tolstoy, Steinbeck, or Proust, but that’s hardly surprising!  Picking up chicks in India is a tough task anyway.

So what does it mean for Vita and gaming more broadly?  Well first of all, I’m not sure I’ll buy a Vita. I’m guilty of having bought a PSP and given up on it early, not really getting the gaming joy out of it, and finding my need for a portable gaming device not as big as I needed. Despite the Vita promising some innovations such as the rear touch pad, and two joysticks – it’ll need to deliver significantly more than the PSP for me to consider getting one in addition to my iPad. Having said that, there are 26 launch titles (including Wipeout and Unchartered) and another 100 games in the works. Having all the benefits of Internet access on the go and my media files, means that the media offerings of Vita are not going to sway me (the PSP ones were interesting but failed to deliver). So all in all, I will need to be convinced by the Vita before I get one – at the moment, my limited on-the-go gaming needs are well fulfilled by my iPad.

PS Vita and Wii U integrate touch screen functionalities.

The one thing that did occur to me while playing FIFA 12 is how well the touch screen can work, and hopefully console makers will take note. Nintendo seems to have already taken note with WiiU where there will be a touch screen included in the remote controller. Sony also promises that the Vita will integrate effectively with the PS3. But if you think beyond that, the development of Move and Kinect could integrate with a sort of touch screen option (or even a virtual touch a la virtual reality).  We’re not there yet – but surely the development of different types of gaming platforms will take to whole new realities of gaming in the future, which can only be a good thing!

What are you’re experiences of gaming with your iPad or iPhone? Do you agree that these types of development will push gaming forward? Want us to tackle new topics in our blog – just let us know!

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CONSOLE WARS: SONY PLAYSTATION 3 OR XBOX 360?

This article comes to us from our guest writer, Anish Kataria. Anish is a passionate gamer, a car and bike enthusiast, and a generally happy guy. He can be reached on twitter @AnishKataria.

Choosing between the PS3 and Xbox 360 is for most gamers one of the most difficult decisions they’ll ever have to make.
You might compare it to deciding between Alexandra Ambrosia and Adriana Lima (did you ever really have a choice?). The following guide is meant for gamers who don’t have the privilege of being gifted a console or a lot of money lying around in the bank.

Decision Point One: The Basics

Factor

PS3

Xbox 360

Price in India 160 GB – Rs. 16,990320 GB – Rs 18,990

320 GB + Move Starter Kit – Rs 19,990

4 GB – Rs 14,990250 GB Elite – Rs 20,889
The CPU 3.2 GHz Cell Processor, 7 Single Threaded Cores ( +1 Backup core), Maximum 230 GFlops 3.2 GHz Xenon Processor, 3 dual-threaded cores, Maximum 77 GFlops
The GPU NVIDIA RSX “Reality Synthesizer, 256 MB GDDR 3RAM ((additional 224 MB can be shared w/ system RAM), 22.4 GBps bandwidth ATI Xenos, Up to 512 MB GDDR3 RAM (shared w/ system RAM), 21.6 GBps bandwidth (256 GBps via eDRAM)
RAM 256 MB XDR RAM 512 MB GDDR3 RAM (shared with GPU)
The Hard Drive 160 or 320 GB HDD, 5400 rpm, User replaceable with standard HDD 250 GB HDD or 4 GB SSD, 5400 rpm, User replaceable w/ proprietary HDD
The Disc Drive 8x read speed (DVD), 2x read speed (Blu-ray), 25 GB disc space 12x read speed (DVD), 7 GB disc space
Video Support Up to 1080p resolution Native 720p resolution, OS supports up to 1080p
Audio Support Analog – Stereo, Digital – 5.1 Dolby Digital & 7.1 LPCM Analog – Dolby Pro-Logic II, Digital – 5.1 Dolby Digital
Connectivity 2 USB ports, Bluetooth 2.0, 7 controllers max 5 USB ports, Kinect port, 7 max controllers (3 wired and 4 wireless)

Decision Point Two: Which console do most of your friends have?

Who are you going to share games, play online and offline, and compare scores with? Enough said.

Decision Point Three: Which genre of games do you prefer? Developers?

In most cases (FIFA, Call of Duty, Crysis 2 etc) this is an inconsequential point since developers offer their games on multiple platforms. That said you do have certain exclusive titles for each of the consoles. Gamers need to consider what sort of games they usually prefer and would enjoy playing long after getting them.

Consider

PS3

Xbox 360

Games released and reviewed in 2011

164 titles (86.6% average review score) 155 titles (86.1% average review score)
Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive Titles in 2011

103/61

103/52

Motion Control Titles in 2011

13

11

Major Multiplatform Titles

Portal 2, Dead Space 2,Deus Ex: Human Revolution,L.A. Noire, Crysis 2, Portal 2, Dead Space 2,Deus Ex: Human Revolution,L.A. Noire, Dirt 3

Major Exclusive Titles

LIMBO, Killzone 3, Infamous 2,Resistance 3, Uncharted 3 Bastion, Child of Eden,Gears of War, Torchlight

Game Prices

FIFA 11 – Rs 1599
Crysis 2 – Rs 2499
Portal 2 – Rs 2499
L.A. Noire – Rs 2499
Call of Duty: Black Ops – Rs 3499
Uncharted 3 – Rs 2499
FIFA 11 – Rs 1299
Crysis 2 – Rs 1999
Portal 2 – Rs 1999
L.A.Noire – Rs 2499
Call of Duty: Black Ops – Rs 3499
Gears of War 3 – Rs 2499

Source: Link


Decision Point Four: Which controller do you prefer?

Controller preference is a very subjective choice and depends on the amount of playing time that a gamer gets on a particular console.

Decision Point Five: Console Life

With the upcoming launch of the next generation Wii U in the first half of 2012, both Microsoft and Sony will be forced to upgrade the current generation of consoles. Conservative estimates predict Xbox 360 to be replaced by the Xbox NG/720 by mid-to-end 2013 followed by the next generation PS sometime in mid 2014.

Decision Point Six: Media Player and Online Gaming

A couple of other factors that you may consider:

Factor

PS3

Xbox 360

The Disc Drive

Blu-ray. This is the optical storage medium which will supersede the DVD format globally. Can be used to watch HD media in the future.

HD-DVD. This medium lost the high definition optical disc format war to Blu-ray.

Online Gaming

Free but Sony is planning to charge gamers for additional features. Overall online gaming experience inferior to that of Xbox Live.

Microsoft charges gamers a fixed amount to access online features and gaming. Overall experience better than that of PS3.

Did that Help?

Did all this information confuse you ever further? If so, go to a retail store and try out both the consoles. Remember, if it feels right, it is right! Have fun!

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GAMING IN INDIA: WHEN WILL IT TAKE OFF?

Depends on how you define gaming–if you are referring to Angry Birds on iPhone, Android, or Chrome, the “gaming” industry is set to take off very soon.  If you are a hard core gamer and are offended by Angry Birds players calling themselves “gamers”, then I am afraid the Indian gaming industry is still a few years away from taking the mainstage.  For the purpose of this article, I am referring to the latter group (and yes, I am offended by Angry Birds players calling themselves “gamers”).

The Sony Playstation 3 and the Microsoft XBOX S are both very popular worldwide and have great potential in India, considering how they tend to be more attractive to the geeky kids in school–and there are millions of those in India.  The problem though is whether the average Indian parent is ok with spending about 15,000-20,000INR on a console and then splurge on 2,500INR games every month?  Most likely, the answer is no.  Companies seem to realize that though, with both Sony and Microsoft introducing stripped down versions of their popular PS3 and XBOX consoles in India.

While most newspapers and Internet articles focus on how much potential the mobile gaming market has, they tend to ignore the potential of the console gaming market.  Contrary to popular biases, KPMG estimates shows that console gaming market had 4.5B INR in revenues back in 2008 and is expected to grow to 9.4B INR in 2013.  Considering the small demographic segment that consoles are aimed at, this is pretty big money.

In our opinion, there are a few things that Indian industry and government will need to get right to really allow this market to grow:

Reduce entry-load:  Consoles, especially those with current generation hardware, cost a lot.  A lot more than what dollar-earning Americans pay for them.  Does it not sound surprising that consoles manufactured in China cost less when imported to the U.S.  than to neighboring India?  Yes, it is the government to blame.  There is about a 27% tax on gaming consoles shipped to India.  Considering that there is no Indian company that manufactures consoles (for itself or for Microsoft/Sony), it is hardly justified for the government to charge this hefty tax–who is it protecting anyway?  That said, it does lead to an interesting situation–if the current trend of reducing console prices continues, and companies manage to get enough loyal gamers in India, then they can start manufacturing in India and reduce costs as well as tax liabilities and pass on some of those benefits to consumers.

Reduce ongoing expenses for gamers: A key reason why gaming has not taken off is because gamers–typically students and young professionals–don’t always have the disposable income required to buy the newest games.  In a month, you can probably buy Crysis 2 (~2,000INR), Homefront (~2,500INR), or Dirt 3 (~2,500INR) but not all.  So gamers are forced to choose one, and typically don’t end up buying the other two altogether for a variety of reasons (reviews didn’t speak highly of the others, they chose to borrow from a friend, or a new game piqued their interest instead).  This leaves a lot of money on the table that companies are unable to capitalize on.  Companies must therefore look not at how much they are gaining from a specific game, but how much their portfolio of games is earning them in all.

The tax on imported game DVDs is about 15% (if you believe this article).  While at some point, companies may move to manufacturing DVDs in India, it still has to make business sense.  Also, console DVDs will always cost more than PC DVDs.  Check out what the good folks at Indianvideogamer.com teach us about this.

Involve the family: This one is for manufacturers and marketers.  More often than not, the decision to buy the console (and sometimes, games) is taken by a parent, not by the consumer.  So, it is essential to attract them as well.  It is obvious that our kids will have an easier time getting their consoles than we did!  The XBOX Kinect, the PS3 Move, and the Wii are all steps in the right direction as they help the family get together for some fun times together.  There hasn’t been any conclusive evidence collected in India, but Kinect definitely turned around XBOX’s feeble position in the gaming market.

The above is hardly exhaustive and there are numerous other steps companies can take to establish a console market in India.  What are your suggestions?  Use the comments below to share your opinions.  And don’t forget to follow us on facebook and twitter.