Xbox Live price increase is an insult

Microsoft announced today that there would be a price increase coming to Xbox Live Gold. Here in the United States it will be an extra $10 per year for Xbox Live Gold, making it $59.99 each time it renews. While it is common for the price of products to increase over time in many instances, there’s really no excuse for Microsoft to do it here, and it’s highly dubious given their statements back at E3 that ESPN would be coming to Xbox Live and that it would be free for Xbox Live Gold subscribers. Well now, ESPN hasn’t even hit yet and Microsoft is upping the price by $10 per year. Doesn’t it seem like we are indeed paying for ESPN, just through the back door rather than upfront?

What do we pay for when it comes to Xbox Live anyway? Let’s break it down.

Playing Games Online

When it comes to playing multiplayer games online, Xbox Live is nothing more than a matchmaking service. When you log into Xbox Live and go to play a FPS game or a racer, you’re not connecting to Microsoft servers, you’re actually being paired with other players and one of the gamers in your session will host the game on his Xbox. All the bandwidth during multiplayer gaming is being shouldered by the gamers through their own Internet connections, nothing passes through a Microsoft server. The expense for this part of the service isn’t even remotely near what we pay for Xbox Live.

Social Networks

You can use Twitter, Last.FM, and Facebook on you Xbox 360, but why should these be costing any money to either Microsoft or the end user? All three of those services are free ANYWHERE ELSE YOU CHOOSE TO USE THEM. I have all three on my cell phone, netbook, laptop, and desktop and I’ve never paid a cent for any of them. If these are part of the “value” Microsoft touts when talking about Xbox Live, the US Government should be talking about how much value they provide in the way of breathable oxygen in the atmosphere.

Access to Game Demos

Yeah, downloading these does use bandwidth on Microsoft’s end, but each one is basically a sales pitch to the gamer. The cost to Microsoft in bandwidth for a game demo is so minimal that if only 1 in 1,000 people that downloaded a demo bought the game, they still come out very much ahead in licensing fees to the 3rd party developer. You should not have to pay to be advertised to.

Netflix and ESPN (ESPN is coming soon)

Netflix on Xbox 360 is still using yours and Netflix’s bandwidth to stream the videos to you. Microsoft’s role is to act as a 3rd party application to browse videos, and it’s not even the full catalog! If Microsoft is factoring this into the cost of XBL, it’s another ridiculous claim as you get a lesser experience on the 360 than you do on the Netflix.com site. You also still have to pay for your Netflix subscription independently from the Xbox Live Gold account. Like the PS3, Netflix should be free to use for all 360 owners. ESPN on the 360 is the same thing you can get for free online right now at ESPN3.com. Also, that will be limited to the same people who can already use it now. Check ESPN3.com to see if you can already use it. Again, this isn’t anything that should be costing Microsoft much, if anything.

Friends Lists and Profile Management

This is basically all Xbox Live does for you that they’re not actually making you do for yourself. Yes, Microsoft maintains space for your profile and your friends list, but that’s such minimal content that it’s silly to think that it costs them anything worth passing along to the consumer.

Add up everything there and it doesn’t really make any sense why Microsoft charges the $50 they do for Live and why they need to up it to $60. Also, Microsoft serves up advertisements to subscribers that can’t be filtered out, so despite adopting a paid subscription model, you still get nagged with ads that generate money for Microsoft. It’s a shame that PSN is so far behind in regards to overall quality of experience, because Xbox Live’s pricing is out of control. It was always bad, but we’ve dealt with it. At this point I am extremely dissatisfied with the “value” of Xbox Live and really hope that going forward Sony and Nintendo (fat chance) can catch up in their online support and force Microsoft to reevaluate their pricing scam, er, scheme.

AMD retires the ATI brand name

In a decision based on market research and in an effort to strengthen the overall AMD brand, AMD has decided to do away with the ATi branding. The branding shift doesn’t just affect the ATi name, it’s a sweeping change across AMD’s products, but gamers are really only going to notice the ATi decision. AMD purchased ATi four years ago and has struggled to justify the cost of the investment ever since. AMD claims that their own brand is a more healthy and recognizable name than the ATi brand, so they hope that consolidating the names under a single umbrella will help grow the ATi technology going forward. The new logos that will be found on computer cases, laptops, and other packaging will look like this:

I don’t think that ATi has struggled against the competition due to branding. If anything AMD failed to properly use the ATi brand after acquiring it. Compare the marketing and partnership efforts of NVIDIA with ATi and immediately it becomes apparent that AMD was simply not aggressive enough in securing partnerships or creating a proper buzz within their target demographic’s community. AMD did a great job of making their CPUs “cool” in comparison to Intel, but it seems that they always struggled to do the same with ATi against NVIDIA.

I still run an ATi card and I love it. I don’t think this spells doom for the ATi tech or anything, it simply just feels like the end of an era seeing such a household name in PC gaming fade away.

The Best Game Ever: F-Zero GX

Note: Best Game Ever is a series of posts I’ll be doing dedicated to the best games ever made. Each game I profile will be a game I’d accept as someone’s answer to the question, “what do you think the best game ever is?” So please, do not email me and tell me I’m stupid for posting about game X when game Y is clearly superior. And you never know, game Y might be the next game profiled. For more in the series, check out the “best game ever” category in the side bar.

F-Zero GX. Fast. Brutal. Amazing.

F-Zero GX released for the GameCube back in 2003 and brought a sense of speed that the GameCube had never seen before and that it would never see again. Developed by Amusement Vision (Sega), F-Zero GX is absolutely everything the series has always tried to be since it made its debut on the Super Nintendo. The tracks are well designed, the sense of speed is unmatched, the AI is ultra competitive, the graphics and sound are top notch, and the controls are tight and responsive. In my honest opinion, I don’t think there’s a better futuristic racer available anywhere.

So what made F-Zero GX so good? Was it just a case of the GameCube starving for a good racing experience? Before writing up this post I went back and put a couple of hours into the game to make sure I wasn’t viewing it through nostalgia goggles. After being humbled quite heavily by the computer for the first 20 minutes or so, I got my touch back and I started doing well and before I knew it I had invested the majority of my evening into the game.  In fact, it confirmed my opinion that the title is still tops in its genre; bettering even more recent titles such as WipEout HD.

The game sold well enough to be profitable, but it was in no way a big hit. Miyamoto went as far as to call the performance disappointing, but those that game the game a chance were quite happy with overall experience. In the end, Sega and Nintendo gave gamers a present that is definitely worth revisiting from time to time. I don’t know of any plans, but it would be fantastic to see this franchise get some sort of revitalization. To me, the 3DS is a no-brainer for an F-Zero game, but I’ll take it wherever I can get it at this point.

If you’ve never played F-Zero GX, you can pick it up used for under $10 online with shipping included, so there’s no excuse to not give the game a try. Be warned, however, the game is brutally difficult on harder difficulties and will take some commitment to mastery. Don’t blame me for any broken Wavebirds…

For these reasons, F-Zero GX is the Best. Game. Ever.

The Stupid Gamer Podcast #47

Back from Alaska, I’m back and ready to get rolling on the podcast once more. Joined by Brad we discuss the news of the past week, including the successful hacking of the PS3 by a group of, well, hackers. Other topics include BioShock Infinite, Metroid Other M’s trailer, what we’ve been playing, and other things of questionable quality. Enjoy!

Full Rock Band 3 setlist revealed

While it has been available online for a few days now, Harmonix finally officially unveiled the full Rock Band 3 setlist. Keep in mind that Rock Band 3 supports both keyboard support and 3 part vocals as you look over the tracks. After Rock Band 2 I was feeling the music game genre burnout, but Rock Band 3 has me excited once more with its Pro Mode and keyboard. Here’s the full list of songs.

2000s
  • Amy Winehouse, “Rehab”
  • At the Drive-In, “One Armed Scissor”
  • Avenged Sevenfold, “The Beast & the Harlot”
  • Dover, “King George”
  • The Bronx, “False Alarm”
  • The Flaming Lips, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1”
  • HIM (His Infernal Majesty), “Killing Loneliness”
  • Hypernova, “Viva La Resistance”
  • Ida Maria, “Oh My God”*
  • Juanes, “Me Enamora”
  • Metric, “Combat Baby”*
  • Paramore, “Misery Business”*
  • Phoenix, “Lasso”*
  • Poni Hoax, “Antibodies”
  • Pretty Girls Make Graves, “Something Bigger, Something Brighter”
  • Queens of the Stone Age, “No One Knows”
  • The Ravonettes, “Last Dance”
  • Rilo Kiley, “Portions for Foxes”*
  • Riverboat Gamblers, “Don’t Bury Me…I’m Still Not Dead”
  • Slipknot, “Before I Forget”
  • The Sounds, “Living in America”
  • Tegan & Sara, “The Con”
  • Them Crooked Vultures, “Dead End Friends”
  • Tokio Hotel, “Humanoid”*
  • The Vines, “Get Free”*
  • The White Stripes, “The Hardest Button to Button”*
1990s
  • Faith No More, “Midlife Crisis”*
  • Filter, “Hey Man, Nice Shot”
  • Jane’s Addiction, “Been Caught Stealing”*
  • Maná, “Oye Mi Amor”
  • Marilyn Manson, “The Beautiful People”
  • The Muffs, “Outer Space”
  • Phish, “Llama”
  • Primus, “Jerry Was a Racecar Driver”
  • Rammstein, “Du Hast”
  • Smash Mouth, “Walkin’ On The Sun”*
  • Spacehog, “In the Meantime”
  • Stone Temple Pilots, “Plush”
  • Swingin’ Utters, “This Bastard’s Life”
1980s
  • Anthrax, “Caught in a Mosh”
  • Big Country, “In a Big Country”
  • The Cure, “Just Like Heaven”*
  • Def Leppard, “Foolin’”
  • Devo, “Whip It”
  • Dio, “Rainbow in the Dark”
  • Dire Straits, “Walk of Life”
  • Echo & the Bunnymen, “The Killing Moon”
  • Huey Lewis and the News, “The Power of Love”
  • INXS, “Need You Tonight”*
  • J. Geils Band, “Centerfold”
  • Joan Jett, “I Love Rock N’ Roll”*
  • Night Ranger, “Sister Christian”*
  • Ozzy Osbourne, “Crazy Train”*
  • The Police, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”
  • Roxette, “The Look”*
  • The Smiths, “Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before”
  • Tears for Fears, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”
  • Whitesnake, “Here I Go Again”*
1970s
  • The B-52’s, “Rock Lobster”*
  • Blondie, “Heart of Glass”
  • Bob Marley, “Get Up, Stand Up”
  • Chicago, “25 or 6 to 4”
  • Deep Purple, “Smoke on the Water”
  • Doobie Brothers, “China Grove”*
  • Elton John, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”
  • Foreigner, “Cold As Ice”*
  • Golden Earring, “Radar Love”
  • John Lennon, “Imagine”
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Free Bird”
  • Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody”*
  • Ramones, “I Wanna Be Sedated”
  • Steve Miller Band, “Fly Like an Eagle”
  • T. Rex, “20th Century Boy”
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “I Need to Know”
  • War, “Low Rider”
  • Warren Zevon, “Werewolves of London”
  • Yes, “Roundabout”*
1960s
  • Beach Boys, “Good Vibrations (Live)”
  • David Bowie, “Space Oddity”
  • The Doors, “Break on Through (To the Other Side)”*
  • James Brown, “I Got You” (I Feel Good) – Alternate Studio Version*
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Crosstown Traffic”*
  • The Who, “I Can See for Miles”

Songs with an asterisk will also be on the Nintendo DS version of Rock Band 3.

Obviously DLC tracks will be announced later, but it looks like a strong start with the songs already on the retail disc.

NES game collecting after day 1

So yesterday I posted about how I was going to try to collect all the North American NES games. Well, things kind of got out of hand from there. A few hours later I went from a decent stash to owning 1/3 of the releases. Some of the games I picked up are unofficial releases, so I’m debating whether or not I want to keep them or to sell them to fun the purchase of official releases. I’ll make that decision later, but for now here’s a pic of the day 1 haul, which came in at just under 250 games.

It’s becoming more and more apparent that I might have issues.

Also, anybody interested in donating to my noble cause should feel free to contact me. I’m also interested in purchasing. Email me at jar155 [at] gmail.com.

Win more free stuff! $25 and $10 Amazon gift cards

A couple of weeks ago a contest wrapped up that gave one of the blog readers a 500 Nintendo points card. Now I’m running a couple of new contests over at the Gamer Theory Forums. Each contest is extremely simple and takes just a few seconds to enter. With $70 in Amazon gift cards (2 $25 and 2 $10 cards) up for grabs, it’s worth your time to check out the forums and get yourself entered.

Link to contest details: http://forums.gamertheory.com/index.php?topic=216.msg1596#msg1596

I’m going to buy every NES (NA release) game ever made

Yeah, it’s a stupid thing to try and do, but dang it, I’m going to try. Over the next few years I’m going to try to collect the entire run of NES cartridges that were officially licensed and released in North America. By my count that is 731 games that I’ll need to collect, though I already have around 100 of them. I’ve done some looking around and there are some rare ones that might give me trouble, but for the most part it isn’t too hard to do this sort of thing. The real challenge is just staying focused enough on it to make it happen. Obviously I’m not concerned about tracking down the games that only saw 4 or 5 copies leak to market, I’m talking about full scale releases.

I’m not aiming to do this as quickly as possible, so I’ll be pretty casual about picking stuff up. But be on notice used game stores of Utah, I’m going to be like a bloodhound each time I see NES carts for sale. Obviously resources like eBay will be a big help as I go about this, so if you have anything particularly hard to find, let me know.

Over time I’ll post updates about how this little project goes. I might set up a site to allow people to more easily track my progress, but we’ll see about that. I wonder how my wife is going to feel about this one…