(In)ActiveSteve Invests in Next-Gen Gaming

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Well, since many of you may also follow Kev’s blog, you’d already be aware that he made the jump and actually stood in line to buy a new iPhone. Of course, he’s already written up a post about that, and you can read it in all its glory, should you be inclined. I myself chose not to make that leap. I’ll be holding off on either buying an iPhone or a BlackBerry until my employer opts to make it part of my everyday life. This may surprise some of you, and it was indeed a conscious decision and thought, but I just can’t justify spending $1000+ a year on that kind of service. Why? Well, I’ve got lots of computers already. I have a couple iPods already. I have a cell phone, a work phone, and a home phone. I have several GPS devices (car, wrist, computer, handheld). Do I need to bring them all together just so that I can use them on a whim while walking or in the bus or car? Nope. I decided I don’t. As exciting as the new tech may be, I think I still ascribe to the belief that dedicated units are better. Surely Kev will disagree, and I respect that, but I decided it isn’t for me. However, that didn’t stop me from jumping on a bandwagon just the same, and forking over the same amount of money. What did I get? Well, the XBOX 360 of course! When the price for the 20Gb model dropped to $299, I couldn’t resist any longer. Read on for a little story about that if you’d care to.

Upon returning from New Zealand, most of you know that I wasted no time in upgrading to a new HD LCD TV, and investing in HD cable and a PVR. I haven’t regretted that one bit, and my entertainment experience has improved remarkably. However, I’m also a gaming lover at heart as well, and that was a missing piece of my system. Like the iPhone, I don’t really need it, but I did want it 😉 I have plenty of XBOX games that I haven’t even played through yet, but I just wanted to enrich my experience with HD gaming, and online play, so I decided to treat myself. However, I didn’t go alone. I picked up Matt, and we both marched into Future Shop to get hooked up. We got the system, and it included 2 games: Gears of War, and DOA Extreme 2. I additionally picked up Rainbow Six Vegas, as it was only $20 and had an excellent review online. At the time, we paid $350 for the console, but I assured Matt the price was dropping the next day, and figured this way, we’d be assured of getting it before the masses picked them up, leading to a shortage (hasn’t happened, but it was still a good plan).

In the end, it looks like the price drop was due to the fact that they are replacing the 20Gb model with a 60Gb model for the same price. Whatever. I can upgrade the hard drive later if I really need to. Unless I start downloading a ton of content, including HD videos and trailers and demos, I should be fine for a while. These machines also included headsets, and free membership to Xbox Live, allowing multiplayer action over the Inter-Webs. Pretty fun stuff. So why a 360 and not a PS3? Good question. I hemmed and hawed over that for a while. Basically, the PS3 would have been for the Blu-Ray player, but was $100 more, and wouldn’t have included the games. Also, I’ve given a lot of thought to the future of entertainment, and decided that Blu-Ray is never really going to take off, and wasn’t worth the extra price. I think the future lies in downloadable HD content, rather than renting. Xbox Live already offers downloadable HD movies, and even PS3 is offering HD content for download, so they’re obviously not putting all their eggs into the Blu-Ray basket. The other reason for the Xbox was that it is more mature in the development stage, and has a ton of great titles already, even starting at $20-$30. There are a lot of articles pointing to the fact that game designers prefer to program for the Xbox due to the tools and simplicity. In fact, most games are developed on the Xbox, then simply ported to the PS3, therefore not even taking advantage of the PS3 capabilities.

Blah blah blah, right? Does anyone really care about all that? Well, I did. My purchases may seem impulsive to some people at times, but rest assured, something like this is examined from all angles by me before making that ‘spontaneous’ purchase. It was awesome that Matt jumped on that bandwagon too, since now we can play online together. In fact, last Friday, we played through the entire Gears of War game on Easy mode in one sitting. It was great fun, each of us in our respective basements, drinking beers and playing a co-operative video game while chatting on the headsets. Sure, it’s not exactly like gaming together in person, but this way we each had a full screen to play on, rather than a cramped split-screen.

I’ve had the console for less than 2 weeks now, and have already done a number of additional purchases. I bought BioShock, an awesome game that I knew I’d want. I picked that up when I got refunded the price difference after the price drop. In addition, last weekend, on my way to a BBQ, I also bought a 1-year Xbox Live membership, as well as 1400 Microsoft Points (the Xbox Live Marketplace currency). Finally, I topped that off with buying Grand Theft Auto IV, which Matt had also bought, and which is pretty much the only game I’ve seen with across-the-board ratings of 10/10. How could I not pick it up?

The icing on the cake? Well, last night, Matt told me that when he was at FutureShop, he noticed the bundle was now Gears of War and Unreal Tournament 3, a brand new game!! Way better than DOA2 boring Volleyball game. After several online forum chats, and phone calls, I decided to head to the Future Shop in Kanata to see if they could help me out. Now, generally, once a game is opened, they won’t take it back (it’s illegal for them to sell an opened game, as it may have already been copied). However, the nice fellow I dealt with knew that DOA2 was completely crap, and that no one in their right mind would ever think of copying it. In the end, he swapped it out for me with the new Unreal Tournament 3 (for free), and took the DOA2 game back in as ‘defective’. They didn’t have to do that for me, so I was really appreciative, and now have another great game for my 360! Woo hoo. Now, if only I could convince Jody that I should be gaming more 😉 Matt has the advantage there. Since they don’t have cable, he can pretty much game whenever he wants, whereas I have only small windows of opportunity. Guess I’ll just have to buy another 46″ TV, right?

Well, I’ll just leave it at that, since this story has grown longer than it needs to be. Long story short, I now have my Xbox 360, and I’m connected (GamerTag: stephanrm) and am loving it! You should all run out and buy them now!

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