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January 20, 2006 1:07 PM   Subscribe

Dan Hsu's interview of Microsoft's Home Entertainment VP about the XBox 360 is far from the usual "Tell us how great everything is" found in games journalism. Hsu hammers the startled marketing exec with serious questions about the 360's build quality and heat issues, lack of quality launch games and backwards compatibility, questionable "next generation content," and more. Good to see at least ONE journalist with a little hair on his chest, even if it is just regarding games. Via Penny Arcade (today's comic... and yesterday's cause it was funny)
posted by BlackLeotardFront (40 comments total)

 
Most Asian males have very little chest hair. This Danny Hsu, however, must have massive gonads.
posted by Rawhide at 1:16 PM on January 20, 2006


And they glow in the dark, according to Gabe & Tycho.
posted by jlub at 1:17 PM on January 20, 2006


The exec gets some credit too. Because "no comment" is a good defense against hammer.
posted by smackfu at 1:25 PM on January 20, 2006


I don't think he startled Peter Moore. Peter Moore is an android marketing machine. He stayed perfectly on message.

Honestly, this "tough" gaming journalist thing is absurd geek bullshit. The world is falling apart and you're worried about the guy reviewing Madden?
posted by selfnoise at 1:25 PM on January 20, 2006


I couldn't care less about the xbox 360, but damnitt, I want to see more angles of Peter Moore holding it!
posted by tpl1212 at 1:40 PM on January 20, 2006


The world is falling apart and you're worried about the guy reviewing Madden?

The world is falling apart and you're posting to Metafilter?

In any case, the game industry brings in more money than the film industry or the television industry. It's big. To be so casually dismissive of gaming industry journalism as "absurd geek bullshit" is abjectly ignorant.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:42 PM on January 20, 2006


They don't just glow in the dark; he's got the goddamn Ark of Covenant in those pants
posted by boo_radley at 1:43 PM on January 20, 2006


tpl - only if he takes the shirt off.
posted by selfnoise at 1:44 PM on January 20, 2006


I've often been surprised by how a lot of US games journalism reads like a regurgitated press release. The UK does rather better, on the whole - the 'official' magazines and their peers are still sycophantic and toothless, but we've had Edge for years now, and they've got a well-deserved reputation for talking about the artistic and cultural significance of games beyond the number of levels or weapons on offer, and for bypassing an awful lot of corporate bollocks. They often get called pretentious by anti-intellectuals and bitter mecha fanboys, mind. And their site isn't loading right now, for some reason. Eurogamer is another good example - their interview with J Allard from before the 360 launched had a few mouths'-worth more teeth than the linked US piece.

selfnoise, does the world falling apart mean we can't appreciate good journalism in unrelated areas? I suppose music journalism and film journalism should all shut down too, then. Hell, let's declare all culture irrelevant until the world's declared officially Okay again, eh?
posted by terpsichoria at 2:01 PM on January 20, 2006


The world is falling apart and you're posting to Metafilter?

Thank you.
posted by NationalKato at 2:01 PM on January 20, 2006


My point wasn't that people can't write interesting things about games. I just meant that berating a marketing droid isn't exactly productive, and slapping yourself on the back for it is a bit silly.

If you're really that interested in "getting beyond the spin" or whatever the hell we're trying to accomplish here, why not try some actual investigative journalism? This just reads like the guy woke up cranky.
posted by selfnoise at 2:08 PM on January 20, 2006


The world is falling apart and you're worried about the guy reviewing Madden?

I can't recall a time in modern history when people weren't saying that the "world [was] falling apart" or that "the economy [was] tough".
posted by clevershark at 2:12 PM on January 20, 2006


solid-one-love: In any case, the game industry brings in more money than the film industry or the television industry.

FYI, that was definitely a myth/urban legend back in 2000 or 2001 when the meme got started, and I expect it still is.
posted by Western Infidels at 2:17 PM on January 20, 2006


Selfnoise, in an industry where the norm is to masturbate furiously to any marketing rep or developer's standard bullshit answers, the simple asking of aggressive questions is a change.

I don't agree with all the back-slapping going on, but I still like that someone asked these questions in a forum that demanded a bit more than 'No comment.'
posted by NationalKato at 2:18 PM on January 20, 2006


and I expect it still is.

My understanding is that 2005 finally saw the videogame industry surpass the film industry in next profits. I'll try to find where I read this...
posted by NationalKato at 2:19 PM on January 20, 2006


*next = net
posted by NationalKato at 2:20 PM on January 20, 2006


i kept waiting to get to the hammer part. i guess when anything short of obsequious buttock-smooching is considered hard-hitting, then hsu hammered him. meh. you kids spend to much time playing those stupid games.
posted by quonsar at 2:27 PM on January 20, 2006


I can't recall a time in modern history when people weren't saying that the "world [was] falling apart" or that "the economy [was] tough".

Yeah, but the world is much more falling apart then it was 10 years ago.
posted by delmoi at 2:33 PM on January 20, 2006


I think I missed out on the hammering. Where does he do any hammering, here?
posted by jimmy at 2:36 PM on January 20, 2006


Well, gee, nice of me to pretty much completely mirror quonsar's comment. Serves me right for not reading the thread.

But seriously, that was a total fluff piece.
posted by jimmy at 2:36 PM on January 20, 2006


My understanding is that 2005 finally saw the videogame industry surpass the film industry in next profits. I'll try to find where I read this...

That was my understanding as well, and I knew that five years ago it was an exaggeration. But even if it turns out to not be true, the nub of the truth still holds: that gaming is a great big money industry, and marginalizing it as "absurd geek bullshit" is absurd,
posted by solid-one-love at 2:40 PM on January 20, 2006


I don't know how many of the detractors are familiar with what constitutes most gaming "journalism" these days, but any game interview question more confrontational than "In what ways will (name of your product) be the best thing ever?" is pretty rare.

Asking a marketing shill to respond to criticism doesn't seem like much, it's true, but in a field in which game articles consist almost exclusively of previews, reviews, and top ten lists, it's a step in the right direction.
posted by Durhey at 2:43 PM on January 20, 2006


In short, game writing and interviews are typically so vapid that this, by comparison, is pretty remarkable.
posted by Durhey at 2:46 PM on January 20, 2006


An incredibly small step, sure. One hardly worth noting. I'll be interested once they actually get the marketing bots to flinch.
posted by jimmy at 2:47 PM on January 20, 2006


Actually, on a second read of the article, a lot of the 'hard-hitting' things Hsu says are pretty dodgy. The question about the 360 launch titles' graphics only being a short step up from the original Xbox should have been directed at an EA rep rather than the hardware manufacturer - as Kameo or PGR3 show, the hardware's more than capable of producing much prettier pictures than its predecessor. If EA choose to rush existing games onto the new format with a bit of spit and polish, it's their failing, and that of the customer for rushing out to buy the latest Madden or whatever without reading about it beforehand. It seems as if Hsu's (very gently) putting the boot in about things MS's console division really can't remedy, to make himself look the tough games journalist. Meh.
posted by terpsichoria at 2:51 PM on January 20, 2006


I liked the backwards-compatibility line of questioning, and yet, I can understand how it is probably easier to make some games compatible than others. So it's kind of a non-issue.
posted by graventy at 2:55 PM on January 20, 2006


The backwards compatibility thing is a bit of a non-starter - like the Playstation 1 games everyones going to forget about X-Box games once the 360 ones start rolling in.

As for graphics comparisons of ported games, well, meh... I'd be suprised if the 360 version of an existing game didn't use the same textures/models/lighting. Also how much can you actually tell from static screenshots these days?
posted by Artw at 3:03 PM on January 20, 2006


As someone who cares a lot about the games industry, this means almost nothing to me. It's just somebody complaining about a system launch. Any of us can do that. "It's too loud! I don't like the backwards compatibility! The games aren't pretty enough!" That isn't journalism. Why do the games not look so hot? Is it because the developers are lazy, or because Microsoft didn't give them ample tools? Or is everyone's expectation just too high? I suppose this could be considered a step in the right direction, but there are a lot of steps to go.
posted by Sibrax at 3:51 PM on January 20, 2006


Speaking of Playstation 1 and Xbox 360s crashing like mad, I had the same problem of overheating back in '94, where you had to turn the damn thing upside down. Taught me not to be an early adopter where consoles are concerned. Wait a year or so; the price will drop 20-30% and the quality of the games will improve 300-400%.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:00 PM on January 20, 2006


You really didn't need a Halo to launch the Xbox 360, did you?

Damn, he's tough!
posted by mrgrimm at 4:05 PM on January 20, 2006


I just meant that berating a marketing droid isn't exactly productive

Berating a marketing droid is always productive.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:16 PM on January 20, 2006


Just so long as they don't fuck up Shadowrun they can have my money.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 6:49 PM on January 20, 2006


My understanding is that 2005 finally saw the videogame industry surpass the film industry in net profits.

That's wrong. U.S. sales of videogames have surpassed Hollywood's box office ticket take for almost 10 years now, but when you add in DVD sales, it's not even close, and gets even more lopsided when other Hollywood revenue streams are counted. From the link:

There is a commonly repeated, mistaken belief that video game sales now exceed the revenues of the movie industry. This is untrue; in the United States, video game sales have exceeded the movies' total box office revenue each year since about 1996, but the movie studios trounce the video game publishers when the movies' "ancillary revenue" is counted, meaning sales of DVDs, sales to foreign distributors, and sales to cable TV, satellite TV, and broadcast television networks.

Even if you drop out sales to foreign distributors, U.S. sales of videogames don't come close to U.S. sales of Hollywood products.
posted by mediareport at 10:41 PM on January 20, 2006


Terpsichoria: They (Edge) often get called pretentious by anti-intellectuals

Oh come now: They get called pretentious because their reviewers have an absurdly overrated sense of their own importance, and their reviews are often po-faced and humorless.

I do like the fact that they try and review games on a more serious and critical level than the other mags, but having worked on quite a few games, and seen the press releases which were submitted to the mags, and the resulting previews and reviews, they can be just as prone to press-release regurgitation and sycophancy as the other mags.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:25 AM on January 21, 2006


Sibrax: Why do the (360) games not look so hot?

It's not laziness, it's competing to get titles out for launch/near launch, and the technology ramp up to make use of the new multi-core architecture.

The dev tools for the Xbox and 360 are very nice, MS are actually incredibly developer friendly in terms of tools, development environment (all perfectly integrated into Visual Studio .NET, with support for Incredibuild ) and libraries, especially when compared to the tools for PS2/PS3.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:32 AM on January 21, 2006


They get called pretentious because their reviewers have an absurdly overrated sense of their own importance

Not really. The "house style" of Edge aspires to a level of intellectualism that not all the writers are capable of living up to, and an incapable person trying to sound learned often comes across as pretentious. But to say the reviewers have an "absurdly overrated sense of their own importance" is to ignore the fact that they don't get to put their names to anything. The inflated head is a style decision, not a conceit on the part of the writers.

If some of Edge wasn't pretentious, it's likely that other parts wouldn't be genuinely interesting. Certainly it's the only games mag that can keep me reading for more than about ten minutes.

That said, I wish they'd return the definite article to games consoles: "The Playstation 2 is..." implies an object that can be used; "Playstation 2 is..." implies an experience, and may as well be marketing bollocks.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:05 PM on January 21, 2006


The "house style" of Edge aspires to a level of intellectualism that not all the writers are capable of living up to,

You may have hit on something, there. It is largely the "house style" that I find irritating. The constant references to a third person gestalt Edge is ridiculous and overly precious, especially as some of the writers seem to have clear preferences for genre, which would be better served by allowing the writers to write under their own names, with a more individual tone. It would make for more entertaining reading, too - the RedEye columns were a good step in that direction, but too often he fell into the trap of writing barely disguised creative fiction rather than anything genuinely insightful.

They also have a few other irritating tics, like inventing industry insider terms which simply do not exist, rather like Variety magazine. For example, no one within the industry has ever, so far as I know, referred to a developer as a "codeshop", or a "devco".

I haven't read the magazine since I moved to Canada, though, it may well have improved, and even at it's worst - yes, a lot more enjoyable than pretty much any other games mag.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:58 PM on January 21, 2006


Well, I didn't mean to be patting Hsu on the ass here - I never meant to imply that this is some kind of revolution, I just thought it was interesting that he did what he did, however much credit there is actually due to him, and how much to marketing, next gen, blah blah etc. Glad you all have things to say.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:11 PM on January 21, 2006


I haven't read the magazine since I moved to Canada, though, it may well have improved

Last year (or possibly the year before; I don't remember), after becoming quite crap (a two-page spread with a single column of meandering text and an arty photo? three times in the mag? stop it!) they hit a crisis. If I remember correctly, and I probably don't, they slated some EA game or games and refused to take it back. Management leant on them, and the entire staff quit. Except for an art editor, who had just joined. Or something.

Anyway, since then, with new writers -- or the same writers; I've never been quite sure -- it's got a lot better. They did a complete redesign, redefined their personality somewhat, stopped referring to themselves in the third person (they mostly say "we" now), and started writing about games again, instead of writing what they thought they should be writing about games. Since then, the mag's been steadily improving, although they still do the definite article thing, which annoys me.

I wanted to check my hazy memory of these events against someone else's, but wikipedia's entry on Edge is shorter than its entry on Digitiser, and only slightly longer than its entry on Mr Biffo, which says it all.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:59 AM on January 22, 2006


they slated some EA game or games and refused to take it back

On this, then, Edge and I agree. Except for SSX, which is actually good.

although they still do the definite article thing

Blame the U.S. and Canada. It's common practice here to say "Playing PS2 / Xbox" or "I have Xbox/PS2" rather than "I have an/the Xbox PS2" or similar, I think they're just aping.

W.r.t the respective lengths of Edge/Digitiser/Biffo : Yes, that's fine. All is as it should be.

Sounds like they've improved some, anyhow - I shall check it out on the offchance I stumble across an import copy.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 4:00 AM on January 22, 2006


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