Gamers gear up for busy year in gear


Posted: Thursday, June 01, 2006

Last month brought big news for tech enthusiasts from the E3 technology conference, held in Los Angeles in early May.

With the conference came the announcement that Sony, the console gaming market leader with its PlayStation 2 machine, would unveil its PlayStation 3 in November.

According to Brain Hawkins, owner of Hawk’s Games in Soldotna, his customers were talking about the console, meant to be an answer the Microsoft Xbox 360 introduced last November, but the talk wasn’t so much about impressive game-play or the draw of the ultra high-resolution discs the system will use. The talk was of the unit’s $600 price tag.

“It does look really exciting, but I think that $600 price tag will scare some people off,” Hawkins said.

The PlayStation 3 will use Blu-ray technology for its high definition DVD games, which is one of two competing technologies vying to become the industry standard for the next generation of video and video games. Blu-ray, which allows the playback of movies at a resolution nearly as high as a film on a movie screen, is why the new machine will cost so much initially.

The Xbox will offer an add-on device for its 360 that will allow users to use HD DVD, the competing high-resolution format, although Microsoft has yet to announce the price of the item.

Nintendo also kept its mouth shut at E3 on the price of its new machine, Wii (pronounced “we”). Bloggers and industry-watchers at Web sites like expect the price to be about $150, however.

The Wii won’t be a high-definition machine with an enormous hard drive or wireless online capabilities, but it does have a motion sensitive controller that lets players mimic golf swings or sword battles. That, and the bargain price, Hawkins said, should make the system a hit. As far as he can tell, however,

“The peninsula is more of an Xbox community.”

Hawkins pre-sold his first run of Xbox 360 units months before the machine’s November 2005 debut and has since sold many more, despite the $400 price tag. Players are drawn to the online game-play that allows live chatting with other players, he said.

The intense graphics offered by the 360 help, too, but one title in particular stands out for his customers: “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.” Incidentally, the game also is’s top seller.

“It’s just such an epic game,” Hawkins said. “The environment is huge.”

The game sends players on a role-playing adventure that pushes players to find the assassin of the Emperor of the fictional land of Cryodiil. “Oblivion,” which is the fantasy land’s version of hell, has opened up, too, which makes the mission a bit more difficult, to say the least.

PlayStation 2 is still a popular console, despite the Xbox the abundance of Xbox fans in the area, and Hawkins pointed to another role-playing title as a hit for his PS2 customers: “Kingdom Hearts III.”

Trevor Johnson, a Funny River resident and Play Station2 gamer is a fan of the Sony-exclusive “Final Fantasy” series, upon which “Kingdom Hearts III” is based. Johnson has focused much of his recent gaming time on finishing his Kingdom Hearts mission.

“The actual game only took about 25 hours, but there were a lot of extra things I did, so I really put in about 40 hours,” Johnson said.

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