Archive for June 2006

Nintendo Wants to ‘Touch Generations’ with its New Line

June 25, 2006

Nintendo recently introduced Touch Generations, a sub-brand intended to reach an emerging market of older gamers.  Along with its DS Lite, Nintendo and Touch Generations want to snag an oft-ignored segment of consumers; non-gamers 40 and older.  Heavy advertising for one of its more recognized games, Brain Age, has already begun.  The ads feature more mature people, and they're exercising their brain, as opposed to merely playing a video game. 

BusinessWeek Online reports that by launching new titles and rebranding existing, older titles under the Touch Generations umbrella, Nintendo aims to reach former gamers who popularized classic arcade games of the early 80s. 

The idea behind the aggregation of games under the new brand is to lure in older nongamers by offering skill-building–or at least less violent, less fantasy-based–titles, like True Swing Golf, that might appeal to them more than, say, Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft. And Nintendo is also rebranding under the Touch Generations label golden oldies such as Tetris and the arcade game Puzzle Loop, now renamed Magnetica in its portable version. The company hopes the classic games will ring a bell with those who were around in the 1980s.

These consumers may have already been introduced to handheld games because they've probably purchased a Sony PSP or Nintendo DS for their kids.  Nintendo doesn't want them taking Jr.'s DS, however.  The launch of the slimmer, scaled down DS Lite should help Nintendo sell the new hardware to its target demographics.  The unit's all-white color and clean design echo that of Apple's ubiquitous iPod; something many of these would-be consumers already own.

Titles under Touch Generations include Brain Age, Big Brain Academy, and Sudoku GridmasterSudoku, one of the latest crazes sweeping the nation, is a numbers placement game played on a 9 x 9 grid.  It's addictive, and its popularity could help Touch Generations penetrate the hardcore Sudoku fan base that isn't opposed to portable gaming devices.  There are also classic titles available from Touch Generations, such as Tetris DS and Nintendogs.

Touch Generations' strategy for capturing the attention and buying power of this consumer-base includes pricing games at $20.  The DS Lite can be purchased for around $140 USD.  Games that are priced lower than Nintendo's more popular games, around $50, should be more attractive to older game players.  What will set this market apart from gamers will also be how they play the games:

"There's a dormant group of gamers out there, and it behooves us to keep enticing and exciting gamers as they age. We asked, 'How do we bring in people who have careers and families that take up their time?' " says Kaplan. The answer, she says, is games priced at $19.99 (most popular games cost around $50) that are designed to be played in small increments rather than long stretches of time—unlike hardcore or massively multiplayer online role-playing games. "They're more like a small part of life, not a major investment," Kaplan says. She adds that these games could appeal to younger gamers, too, and that the new brand isn't meant to be clubby, despite its demographic focus.

Nintendo, by spinning off Touch Generations, has demonstrated it is serious about developing a new generation of gamers–an older generation.  These gamers may not spend all night blasting virtual enemies and chatting with guild members halfway around the world, but they may find themselves gaming while they commute, take their car in for an oil change or wait for their kids to finish their martial arts lessons. 

TiVo Adds iPod Support – For a Price

June 21, 2006

BetaNews is reporting that TiVo's new version of their desktop software allows customers to transfer recorded programming from their boxes to their computers and, finally, to their iPods that support video playback.

The DVR maker also released a premium version of the software called TiVo Desktop Plus with support for transferring content to Apple's iPod, Sony's PSP, Treo and Nokia phones, along with other portable devices that support MPEG-4 or H.264 video. The Plus version is priced at $24.95 USD.

TiVo's basic desktop software, TiVo Desktop 2.3, is still free.  It allows you to schedule nightly transfers of your recorded programming from the TiVo box to your computer as well as view photos and listen to MP3s stored on your computer on your television.  To use TiVo Desktop 2.3, you'll need a Series2 TiVo (the software doesn't work with DIRECTV TiVo boxes) and Windows 2000 or XP.  Click here to view the full list of TiVo's Desktop 2.3 and Plus upgrade requirements and supported portable devices.

Prior to TiVo's release of their Desktop Plus, if you wanted to view your recorded TiVo programming on your iPod or other portable multimedia device, you needed a third-party file format converter such as Video-2-iPod.  If you want to transfer your recorded programming from your TiVo box to some non-iPod portable devices, you may still need a third-party software file converter; Kinoma Player.

While iTunes does offer TV programs, the selection is limited to more popular series.  With TiVo's new capabilities, your selection is limited only to what you can record.  If you enjoy less popular shows, such as Animal Planet's Breed All About It, the TiVo Desktop Plus software could be your best friend.  Additionally, you can purchase single episodes from iTunes for $1.99 per episode or you can purchase a Season Pass, which is the entire season of your favorite series.  TiVo Desktop Plus's one-time price pays for itself with one season of a TV series or roughly twelve individual episodes.  If the series or programming you want to see isn't available on iTunes, purchasing the Plus upgrade for TiVo's desktop service is extremely tempting.

One of the best things about TV episodes downloaded from iTunes is they're commercial free.  Obviously, if you record network programming on your TiVo, those episodes will be punctuated with commercials.  Watching a recorded TV show on your DVR and skipping the commercials is good.  Watching a commercial-free episode is even better.  So what's a cutting-edge techno geek to do?

The obvious solution is to use both iTunes and the TiVo Desktop Plus software!  If the episodes you want to see are available on iTunes, purchase and download them from there.  If they're not, use TiVo's software to transfer them to your iPod.

Happy 'podding! 

Mobile Phone Technology: CDMA, GSM, 3G? Huh?

June 20, 2006

Here's a brief, yet informative article on CNet's Ask the Editors about the differences between CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) mobile phone technologies.  Here are the pros and cons in a nutshell:

CDMA

Pros: excellent national coverage (larger coverage area than GSM), calls can be placed in lower-signal strength situations, better reception/coverage in tunnels and rural areas, quicker to offer 3G services.

Cons: poor international coverage, will eventually go the way of the dodo bird, not as easy to switch devices.

GSM

Pros: excellent international coverage, super easy to switch devices because of SIM (subscriber identity module) cards, easy to port data such as contacts and phone numbers from device to device due to, you guessed it, SIM cards.

Cons: coverage in rural areas can be spotty, little to no coverage in tunnels, slower to deploy 3G services.

So, what is this 3G business, anyway?  3G (Third Generation) technology delivers broadband data services wirelessly to your mobile phone.  It allows you to take advantage of higher speed connections (up to speeds comparable to cable-modem speeds) to browse Web pages, stream music and video, view on-demand programming, play games online, use instant messaging and even videoconference with others.  These services are usually offered at a premium and were pioneered in the U.S. by Verizon and Sprint, respectively.  Today, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and Cingular all offer 3G services.  T-Mobile will deploy such services by late 2006, early 2007.

Are you interested in learning more?  Here's some suggested reading:

* Wikipedia's entry for 3G

* CNet's Quick Guide to 3G Cell Phone Service

* Wikipedia's Comparison of Mobile Phone Standards (CDMA to GSM)

* BetaNew's T-Mobile Plans for Growth, 3G in 2006

U.S. Military Deserters in Canada Watched Office Space One Too Many Times

June 19, 2006

Peter Gibbons: I don't like my job, and I don't think I'm going to go anymore.

Take a gander at this article in the Washington Post, titled Sheehan Supports U.S. Deserters in Canada.  Cindy Sheehan, who takes grief to levels heretofore unknown to man, supports these people.  These are people who enlisted in the armed services to serve their country.  When the going gets tough, however, they hightail it Canada. 

The Canadian government has so far denied political asylum to U.S. soldiers who have sought it but appeals are pending.

Good for Canada.  I hope appeals are denied and these people are sent back to the U.S. to face the charges they so richly deserve.  It may be easy for me to type this from my cushy job in an air-conditioned office, but, you know what?  I'm not the one who enlisted in the armed services. 

"They're trying to deport me," said Darrell Anderson of Lexington, Ky., who arrived in Canada by way of Niagara Falls in January 2005.

And rightfully so! 

When you desert the armed services, you are committing a crime.  You knew this when you enlisted; it wasn't sprung on you or written in small print, either.  If you're so passionate about your reasons for deserting, man up and face the charges.  Do the jail time and while you're incarcerated, you can protest and campaign your little heart out.

No one held a gun to these soldiers' heads when they enlisted.  They weren't drafted either.  You can't just quit because you feel like it, and they knew this going in.  There are many brave service men and women who want nothing more than to come home right now.  They're toughing it out, however, because they made a commitment and are man and woman enough to see it through.

A Mini?

June 18, 2006

I want a new car.  Maybe a Mini Cooper.  They're cute, small and zippy; just the way I like 'em.

Today, I received a postcard from a dead guy. . .

June 17, 2006

I received a note in the mail today.  It read as follows:

Dear Random Broad,

I found the postcard I am sending while looking through my brother's things.  I found your address (the last one in the book) in the funeral directory.  I thought I should send it to you.

Sincerely,

Dead Guy's Sister

The postcard read:

Dear Random Broad,

Our vacation is great fun.  This is a lovely and passionate place.  Love it.

Dead Guy

So Dead Guy's a dude I used to work with.  We became really good friends.  He was older (nearing 60, I think).  He was the rockin'est dead guy I've ever known.  He was witty, smart, well-traveled, spoke four languages, well-read, a snappy dresser and fun.  He was a bit of a Luddite, so I often helped him with computer-related tasks.  I helped him file his taxes electronically, plan and make the necessary purchases for his vacations, save and print his files, etc.  He'd stop by my office and regale me with his various adventures of yore.  He really brightened my day and I looked forward to seeing him. 

Dead Guy was also very sickly.  He lost a lung to cancer way before I ever met him.  Every time he got sick, I'd be a little worried.  When I left that company, we promised we'd keep in touch.  But just like most people whose friendships blossomed in the workplace, we didn't.  More time went by between email messages, calls and cards.  When a mutual friend told me he was sick and in the hospital, I immediately went out and bought a card.  I was too busy to actually take the time out and send him a note.  I told myself I'd take the time out to write to him next week and send it to him at home, after his inevitable release from the hospital.

He died the next week.

I attended his funeral, told his siblings how much he meant to me, signed the death book (or whatever it's called) and went on with my life.  That was months ago.Today's surprise was bittersweet.  I mean, I remember asking our mutual friend to make sure she helped Dead Guy plan his vacation.  You see, dead guy went on an annual vacation to the Continent.  Since I left the company before it was time to plan for 2005's, it was important to me that he be taken care of.  When I helped him plan his excursions, we always referred to them as 'our vacations'.  He'd always bring me back a little something.  While the souvenirs were small, they were always purchased with me in mind. 

I don't believe in an afterlife, but it is times like this when I wish I did.  I'd like to think my friend's out there making some other person's afterlife as fabulous as he made currentlife.

I miss you, Dead Guy.  I'm sorry I never sent you a card while you were in the hospital.  I still have that card and will keep until I forget where I put it, which, thank goodness, hasn't happened yet.

Random Brain Dump I

June 15, 2006

* Pee Wee's Playhouse is coming to Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup starting July 10.

* These will be mine.

* I want some johnny cakes.  Ever since I saw that guy from the diner on, well, you know what show, making some, I've had a hankering for a stack.  Johnny cakes, for the uninitiated, are pancakes with cornmeal in the batter.  Yum.

* I'm out of beer.  I need to make a beer run. . .maybe tomorrow.  I guess I'll be falling asleep sans alcohol tonight.  Fuck.

* I need a new book to read.  I'm currently taking suggestions.