pjm.jpgOver the last few weeks I've been asking top people at Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony about game demos for the downloadable games offered via Xbox Live Arcade, WiiWare and PlayStation Network.

I can't get the same answer twice.

Microsoft -- yes, demos are a must
Nintendo -- no, demos are not required
Sony -- sometimes demos are good, sometimes bad.

Keep reading to find out why they feel differently.

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Bionic CommandoSan Francisco -- Ben Judd, a producer at Capcom, is sympathetic to many an online complaint about the two "Bionic Commando" games he is producing -- the first major new ones in 20 years -- perhaps because he too can be a pest.

In fact, if Ben Judd wasn't good at being a pest, there probably wouldn't be anything for anyone to complain about. When I asked him last week at the Game Developers Conference why the "Bionic Commando" series was coming back after so many years on hiatus, he told me it was because he kept nagging his bosses about it, for the last four years.

So, those "BC" fans complaining about the new PS3/Xbox360 game's hot dog arm?

Judd has nagged worse, but does feel bad enough about the complaint that the color of the tubes on the hero's arm are now "more like snake skin."

Those "BC" fans not happy with the main character's hair cut?

He's impervious, saying "when you try to re-do a game that's 20 years old, that nostalgia has crystallized." The crew cut isn't coming back, though maybe it could be an unlockable.

Those Nintendo fans feeling left out and aggressively petitioning Capcom to bring some sort of "Bionic Commando" to the Wii?

He's reasonable, saying, "I understand where they're coming from." But he's also realistic about the suggestion that it should involve swinging the remote to make the game's hero swing his bionic arm: "If we did a Wii version it would not be with one-to-one swinging… you couldn't do [that] for more than 10 minutes."

So what about Judd's own nagging? And how does the PSP -- a system the new "Bionic Commando" is not being released on -- play two key roles? You read about one of them earlier today.

For the rest, read on...

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Bionic Commando San Francisco -- "Bionic Commando: Rearmed," a re-make of the original "Bionic Commando," is coming to a PSP near you -- but isn't going to be released on PSP.

Say what?

Capcom producer Ben Judd told me last week that the PS3 version of "Bionic Commando: Rearmed" for the console's PlayStation Network will be playable on PSPs using the PS3's Remote Play feature.

Remote Play allows a PSP user to access content on their PS3 theoretically from any location where they can get a WiFi signal. The feature was implemented in limited fashion for last fall's PS3 dragon-combat game "Lair" and then delivered in full for the PSN game "PixelJunk Monsters."

If Capcom gets Remote Play to work properly, the game may well be one of the first to use the service well and among the first, if not the first, third-party game to use it.

The end result: "Bionic Commando: Rearmed" playable on PSPs, even without the game being released on PSP.

Like I said.

The Xbox 360 and PC versions of "Rearmed" won't support this, obviously. Could this added feature be the differentiator between other upcoming XBLA/PSN cross-platform releases?

I spoke with Judd about some other "BC" matters, including why it's taken so long for a sequel. Look for a full interview at the end of the day right here at the Multiplayer blog.

Phil Harrison And MeSo that's why Phil Harrison wasn't doing interviews at GDC.

Sony announced today that Harrison, head of worldwide studios for Sony Computer Entertainment, will be leaving the company he's been a part of since 1992 at the end of this week.

Kaz Hirai, current head of Sony Computer Entertainment, will now assume Harrison's role.

Quotes from today's press release:

"As one of the founding members of SCE, Phil played a key role in the development and growth of the PlayStation business and our industry," said Kazuo Hirai. "It is sad to see him departing from SCE, but I wish to express my gratitude for his many invaluable contributions and also wish Phil the very best of luck in his future endeavors."

"The past 15 years at Sony Computer Entertainment has been the defining journey of my life so far," said Phil Harrison. "I am grateful to all the PlayStation family for their incredible support, guidance and friendship. It has been a privilege to serve as part of the team and be inspired by them on a daily basis. I am so proud of everything PlayStation has achieved and will continue to support its future in every way I can."

On a personal note, I will miss chatting with Phil about all things Sony. Furthermore, a friend of my wife's recently mistook Phil for me, because when you do a Google image search for my name, you get... THIS.

GamesIndustry.biz reports that Harrison may wind up at Atari to boost that struggling company. I've reached out to Atari for comment.

And finally, two of my favorite interviews with Phil:

PSN LogoOn the eve of the Game Developers Conference, John Hight, director of product development, Santa Monica
Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment America, spent 40 minutes on the phone with me talking about the past and future of Sony's downloadable games service for PS3.

Why?

Maybe because Sony wants to counteract whatever message will be sent from Microsoft's John Schappert, when the Xbox 360 exec deliver a GDC keynote on Wednesday entitled: "A Future Wide Open: Unleashing the Creative Community"? No, Hight said, he doesn't know what Microsoft has planned.

Because now is a good time to re-tell the story of PSN and explain how it's different from not just Xbox Live Arcade but the downloadable WiiWare service that Nintendo will be showcasing later this week ?

Getting warmer.

So we talked about that -- about what PSN is and why its line-up has included some very unusual games.

And we talked about some of the PSN's biggest issues: pricing, size of games (a 2Gig on is coming!) and the availability -- or lack thereof -- of demos for every game on the service.

If you own a PS3 or if you're a young or aspiring game developer, this interview is for you.
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What we learned in "Calling All Cars" is that right now on console we're not interested in doing what we thought we were going to be doing entirely as a company.
-- David Jaffe, San Diego, January 31, 2008

david_jaffe.jpgDavid Jaffe would keep making PS2 games if he could. He's done with $10 PS3 games. And he's got some ideas for PC. And he's not making a Nintendo or Xbox game any time soon. Those are his plans.

So if David Jaffe was on your fantasy game development team, which console would you assign him to?

He has overseen hit PlayStation 2 games, and made a return to the platform this week with his new studio Eat Sleep Play's "Twisted Metal: Head On: Extra Twisted Edition." But he's also already dabbled in small downloadable PS3 games, with "Calling All Cars," flirted with PSP development, and now that he's not a Sony employee anymore, maybe he could start making games for the Wii or Xbox 360?

Jaffe and I talked through the possibilities last week, as he confirmed that Eat Sleep Play just started development a few weeks ago with the first of three contracted PS3 titles -- coming late 2009 at the earliest -- and that he won't be making games for any other console any time soon. "We would love to be with Sony as long as they'll have us," he told me from his home in San Diego. "We have no interest in going anywhere else."

Nevertheless, Jaffe had some surprising things to say about his future on PS2, PS3 and PC, including a complete about-face on what he thought Eat Sleep Play was really going to be focusing on.

Read on and see what you think of his plans.

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untitled-1.jpgI like to collect things. Lots of things. Video games are at the top of that list, and Achievement points are a solid second. However, for the past 21 weeks or so, that list has been a bit flip-flopped - clouded by my anticipation for "Super Smash Bros. Brawl" (which, coincidently, has a ton of things to collect in it).

This past week I collected another 1,415 achievement points, which, put me past my secondary target goal of 20,000 points before February 11 - "Smash Bros.'" second pre-delay release date. I've now collected a total of 20,595 points since mid-September, and am well on pace to hit 25,000 points by March 9. I've been furiously obsessing over Xbox 360 titles for almost six months now, but, as some of you readers have pointed out, at what cost to my other game systems?

Great games on other systems have come and gone since I started, and I have barely touched them. I've been too busy playing games like "Open Season," "Cars," and this week's 1,000 point-getter "NHL 2K6." I haven’t stopped collecting games, filling in my back catalog of titles that I missed when they were first released. In an attempt to demonstrate just how much I am actually missing out on, I now present a list of games that I have added to my collection since I started this quest back in September.

Atari 2600
"Spider-Man"

Famicom
"Kirby's Adventure"
"Pac-Man 2"

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everydayshooter_281×211.jpgThis is the seventh in a series of posts about the games I played and/or finished for fun for the first time in 2007. For comparisons' sake, see my 2006 list. My previous post in the series was about the Xbox Live Arcade games I played.

As a gamer, my favorite aspect of the PS3 in 2007 was the PlayStation Network. Also, it's the only platform on which I paid for most of my games.

I'm not trying to show off, but to emphasize that even though I had plenty of games that video games companies sent to me for free, Sony's inability to release a Sony PlayStation Network points card in the first year of the PS3's existence forced me to have to make decisions I used to make all the time: do I want X game enough to pay Y dollars for it? And given that Sony still doesn't bother to put demos out for all of these games, I was buying some of them before I even tried.

Sony, your inability to make life easy for me, forced me to work a little harder to experience your games. And you know what? It was actually worth it. On with the list:

My PSN Games I Played For Fun 2007 Playlist
(Games I finished are in italics)

1) "Calling All Cars"

Just a few weeks after this game's release, I was disturbed and dismayed by how few people I could find online to compete with. I don't even like online multiplayer games that much, yet this one, a quirky combination of bumper cars, basketball and capture the flag, clicked with me.

2) "Everyday Shooter"

One man makes one of the best games of the year. It's fun, it's beautiful to look at and listen to, and most interesting to me, it feels personal.

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I made some people angry this year. Let's reflect on that.

When the year nears its end and the holidays loom, everyone starts publishing year-end overviews. Top Games. Big News Stories. Etcetera. I thought it would be interesting to look back on the things I wrote on the Multiplayer blog that generated the most heat.

In other words: these are the things that made people call me an idiot. Were the people right?

What follows are selective quotes from the most controversial stuff from the Multiplayer blog. Most of this involves posts in which I gave my opinion. It seems people didn't yell at me for my reporting. Thanks for that!

Onward...

I had said: It sure does look like Nintendo may stop making games that can only be played by one person.

A Multiplayer reader said: "So now it’s Nintendo’s fault that games are leaning towards multiplayer? WTF? Where is your scathing article on Microsoft and their forcing of online gaming and micropayments down gamer’s throats? I know that there are a lot of Wiiphobes out there, but all of this biased anti-nintendo garbage that gets pumped out everyday by the gaming media needs to stop."

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Call Of Duty 4It is over. Another Vs. Mode. Well, unofficially a Vs. Mode. Throughout the week Slate.com posted an exchange between four gaming reporters, myself included, about the year in video games.

And they posted a 20-minute podcast, which I'm really happy with.

Participants of the 12-part written exchange and the podcast were:

Slate's Chris Suellentrop:

I hope that "Wii Play" does not become an Important Game that other companies copy. It's a fun enough little game, but its minigames don't have the exhilarating "virtual reality" feel of "Wii Sports," a game in which you actually feel like you're playing tennis, golf, and bowling. I haven't touched a Wii title that's lived up to the promise of "Wii Sports."

The New York Times' Seth Schiesel:

For pure adrenaline, nothing this year compared to my first solo battle against another player in "Eve Online." So there I was, minding my own business, flying my Rupture-class cruiser in a low-security star system called Klogori. All of a sudden, a Thorax blastership flown by a pilot from the then-powerful RISE alliance appears on my heads-up display. His railguns rip into my shields as I fumble to launch my attack drones and target my autocannons. We circle one another, dodging the asteroids tumbling about, as my ship's Nosferatu modules relentlessly suck away the energy stored in his ship's batteries and add it to mine. Soon, he can no longer power his repair systems, and I blow the Thorax to high-tech splinters. And none too soon. A few more seconds and it would have been me waking up in a cloning station.

Newsweek's N'Gai Croal (who?):

We agreed that it was difficult because of the amount of time that it takes to play a game as compared with watching a movie, not to mention the fact that games also require a certain amount of skill to progress. That's why the DS and the PSP have been a godsend for us New Yorkers. I would probably never have made it through all but the last level of Rockstar's disappointing "Manhunt 2"—sheepishly tilting the screen away from underage subway seatmates, of course—if there hadn't been a PSP version.

And me, Multiplayer's Stephen Something-or-other:

So, how odd am I for spending 18 hours playing through "BioShock" this year? For going through "Metroid Prime 3" in 15? For spending far more than four hours each finishing "Ratchet & Clank Future," "God of War II," "Heavenly Sword," "Call of Duty 4," "Lair," "Super Paper Mario"? How far into the frontier am I? And are the people who got turned on to games this year by quick-play champs such as "Wii Sports," "Guitar Hero," and, yes, "Desktop Tower Defense" ever going to get to these hinterlands with me?

All of the above is excerpted from the full Slate exchange. Plus, there's the podcast, which will auto play at the link or can be downloaded through this one.

Wow, do these guys ever shut up?

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