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The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Gamer's Corner column [The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa :: ]
[January 26, 2014]

The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Gamer's Corner column [The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa :: ]

(Hawk Eye, The (Burlington, IA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 26--I've got to be honest. After spending the past year playing the best games I could get my hands on, I'm a little burned out.

Don't be alarmed. My burn-out is far from permanent. But January is a notoriously sluggish time for video game releases, and I've been using the downtime to catch up on life. In the meantime, I want to take a look at some video game headlines. Nothing ground-breaking, mind you, but enough interesting tidbits to perk your ears.

The console war rages The next-generation console war started when the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were released in November 2013, and I'm already growing tired of it. Both Microsoft and Sony are convinced they're winning the war, but there won't be a true victor for several years.

Needless to say, both companies have had a hard time keeping their systems on the shelf. According to NPD Group's retail sales numbers for the month of December, Xbox One was the top-selling console in the U.S., moving about 908,000 units. The Xbox 360 came in third with roughly 643,000 units sold.

That's good news for Microsoft, especially considering it is trailing behind Sony in overall sales. Earlier this month, Sony said its global sales of PS4 for 2013 were 4.2 million units, compared with 3 million sales for Xbox One.

After spending extensive time with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, I can safely say they're both worth the money. Though the PlayStation 4 likely will be my main gaming machine thanks to its edge in graphical horsepower, I still spend most of my time watching Netflix and YouTube videos on the Xbox One. Despite its inability to accept a satellite feed from Dish Network, the Xbox One still is an amazing media hub that can instantly switch between applications with a few simple words.

The real casualty of the console war is Nintendo's Wii U, which doesn't come as a surprise to anyone who follows the game industry. Nintendo has cut its predictions for the Wii U by nearly 70 percent, down to 2.8 million units from 9 million. Nintendo has lost about 80 percent of its market value since the introduction of the original Wii drove its share price to a record high of 72,100 yen in November 2007.

I purchased the Wii U on launch day, realizing it would probably be as big a flop as the Nintendo GameCube. But being right doesn't make me happy. Despite the system's limited processing power, the Wii U is a must own for true Nintendo fans, and two of its games made it into my Top 20 list for 2013. I wish Nintendo had the third-party support to make the Wii U a real contender, but the difficulty of programming for a system hardly anyone owns makes that highly unlikely.

The Steam Machines are coming Just when I think I'm done forking over hundreds of dollars for video game consoles, the Steam Machines come trolling for my wallet.

If you haven't heard of the upcoming console/PC hybrids, a bit of explanation is in order. Steam Machines are a line of pre-built PCs that will be constructed by various PC manufacturers starting this year. These PCs are designed to be hooked directly to your television, running a couch-friendly operating system (Steam OS) that provides easy access to the online Steam store, where users can buy just about any PC game imaginable.

Here's the rub. Since PC manufacturers can fill the inside of the Steam Machine with whatever components they like, there will be some wildly different products with some pretty wide price swings. While some PC makers are designing low-end Steam Machines that will supposedly compete with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 for the price of $500, some of the high-end Steam Machines will go for as much as $6,000.

My car isn't even worth $6,000.

Though many of the Steam Machines will be fully upgradable (just like a custom PC), the one produced by Alienware (the makers of my gaming laptop) will be extremely difficult to upgrade due to its small size. Alienware's solution is simple -- just release a newer, more powerful version of the Steam Machine on an annual basis.

That's a pretty pricey option for an everyday Joe like myself. My dreams of owning a Steam Machine quickly crumbled after seeing the price points, and to be honest, I don't really need one. While a bit underpowered compared to other high-end PCs, my Alienware laptop handles my gaming needs just fine, and I often plug into my LCD TV. The only thing that really has me salivating is the incredibly unique Steam controller, which I can just purchase separately.

It's a nice idea, but I doubt the Steam Machines are going to have a major impact on the gaming industry. They're just too darn expensive.

A film about game addiction While movie adaptations of video games tend to be universally awful, movies about video games and the gaming culture usually prove to be pretty fascinating.

A documentary about the ill effects of online game addiction in South Korea made its debut last weekend at the Sundance Film Festival. According to the festival's website, "Love Child" explores South Korea's online gaming culture, following the story of a couple whose 3-month-old daughter died of malnutrition while they played the massively multiplayer online game "Prius Online." The couple received a reduced sentence in 2010 after a South Korean court recognized that their online addiction was a mental disorder.

While many hardcore gamers may bristle at the idea of a film that examines the negative side of gaming, I think it's absolutely fascinating. Though online gaming and Internet addiction are not recognized by international mental health organizations as a real addiction, there is such a thing as obsession. Korea has had a particularly difficult time with the issue, as some gamers have died of exhaustion during gaming marathon sessions in Internet cafes.

If the film is done right, it might force gamers like me to question how many hours a day we spend behind a controller.

Michael Pachter predicts price cut for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 I have a lot of respect for Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter, even when his crystal ball isn't working properly. This time, I think it is.

In the latest edition of the GameTrailers show "Bonus Round," Pachter said Sony and Microsoft likely will slash the price of their last-generation consoles in February. Pachter went on to claim that publishers have threatened to stop supporting the last-generation consoles if platform holders didn't start cutting the price of their systems.

"The good news is Microsoft can cut to $199 in a heart beat and won't lose any money. I mean it'll cost their profit," said Pachter. "And Sony can do the same, they both have manufacturing down there, and I mean that's great for consumers." A price cut makes perfect sense now that the next-generation consoles are on the market, and will provide easy access to a hobby that is normally too pricey for average folks. Most of the games for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are dirt cheap, especially if you buy them used.

I'm always in favor of spreading video game addiction.

___ (c)2014 The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa) Visit The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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