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Addicted to Games?

March 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Addicts exist in all forms of society, be it alcohol, gambling or video games. Video game addiction is the latest to pop up in the media as being a great concern for today's youth. According to some studies, nearly 10% of American youth (ages 8-18) are clinically addicted to playing video games.

Should you, parents and authorities be concerned?

According to one study, approximately 23% of youth felt they personally were addicted to video games, while 44% claiming their friends are addicted. Assuming that addiction is generally a negative phenomenon, these youth are concerned about themselves and their peers.

Potential negative eddects of video game addiction are:

Detachment from reality

Gamers who spend many hours playing games are by definition not paying attention to what is happening in the world around them. They can become interested in the fantasy or make-believe world inside the game than in the real world.

Violent Personality

Many adults have raised concerns about the violent nature of many video games. Indeed, at least a few cases exist of teens acting out the actions modeled in games, although hard data is hard to com by.

Games such as Grand Theft Auto include theft and sexual crimes. Parents obviously are concerned about their children taking part in these activities, even if it not "real".

More common is the "war" type of game where the gamer merely shoots another combatant.

Impact on Physical Fitness

Just as having a desk job often correlates with an overweight condition, so young adults who are heavily into video gaming have a tendency to be overweight. Clearly when sitting on a couch or the floor playing a game, one cannot be burning off many calories, although the Wii Sports and Wii Fit have addressed this issue to a degree. In addition, many gamers tend to snack on junk food and sugar-laden soft drinks while playing for long periods of time, which as a regular diet can cause obesity and diabetes in the future.

Mental development and thinking habits

Gamers addicted to playing video games may also suffer in their mental development, especially if homework and reading are neglected. While some gamers have argued that many games require critical thinking to play them successfully, others point out the nature of the typical game is quite limited in scope. In other words, one is limited by the world in which the game developer wished to create. Also, video games have been accused of reducing children's attention spans, both in and out of school.

Gamers' perspective

In response to claims of video gaming addiction, gamers point out several facts. First, addiction can take many forms, and video gaming addiction is much less harmful than say, alcohol or drug addiction.  Second, many adults have addictions such as to caffeine and sugar and they seem to function reasonably well in society.

Advancing video game technology means games are becoming more realistic and immersive. This may mean an increase in video game addiction. The debate as to whether video game addiction is truly harmful will continue to be hotly debates, as gaming is becoming one of the biggest forms of media to date. The industry is on par, even in front of, the movie industry in terms of revenue.

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Video Game Violence

March 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Controversy has surround video games for decades. Varying opinios are held on the issue of violence in video games. Since some studies indicate that as many as fifteen percent of gamers show signs of video game addiction, the presence of violence in games is equally troubling to some.

Parents

It's a parents right to be concerned about their childrend, and many parents are concerned about the influence games have over their children. They wonder whether certain games will cause their children to exhibit aggressive behaviors which they otherwise would not.

In fact, several instances exist of children who have, in fact, planned attacks on others based on specific gameplay. At least a handful of these have actually been carried out. Parents are rightly concerned that their children are not unduly influenced to display antisocial and criminal behavior.

Gamers

The opinion of gamers on this issue, as expected, is all over the map, but most serious gamers are content to let individual gamers make up their own minds. They acknowledge that a few isolated incidents exist where gamers appear to have been encouraged in taking violent actions based upon a specific game, but point out it was likely the individual would have found some other example to model, such as a movie, television show, or book.

Ministers and educators

Many influential people, such as ministers and educators, feel that the presence of violent video games is bad for society. Their existence provides a degree of legitimacy for the use of violence. Young people may get the idea that it perfectly acceptable to use violence to resolve personal conflicts rather than seek alternative methods.

Legislators

Our law makers have also become involved in the controversy. Many Congressional hearings have been held to debate this issue. Laws have been passed both at the national and local level, with many cities passing laws banning specific games. These cities' laws are often later overturned.

Gaming industry

In response to initial legislation during the 1990s, the video gaming industry created the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) which rates video games (similar to ratings for films). This was essentially a self-policing action designed to prevent further intrusion by various levels of government.

Ratings include: EC (Early Childhood), E (Everyone), Everyone 10+, Teen, Mature, Adults Only, and Rating Pending.

The ratings serve to guide parents and their children about the appropriateness of specific games to the child's age and maturity level.

In addition, video games contain "content descriptors" on the back of the game to further describe the game's content.

Conclusion

The controversy over video game violence will certainly not be resolved anytime soon. In fact, it will probably escalate along with the advances in graphics and gameplay with the major gaming consoles. The best approach is to stay informed and to make decisions based upon what is right for you and your family.

One of the main problems regarding video games is that many people believe they are aimed at children. Whilst this is true in some cases, most games are aimed at a much more mature audience. Children, teenages and young adults are naturally drawn to video games as they provide hours of fun and an escape from the real world, much like a book, but in a more involved and usually adrenaline packed way.

The controversy over video games, will certainly not be resolved anytime soon. More accurately, it will likely escalate due to the advances in graphics and gameplay with the major gaming consoles.

The best approach is to stay informed about the games industry, especially if your children are avid gamers. Make decisions that are right for you and your family. Also, don't forget game developers do all they can legally to make sure the game does not fall into the wrong hands. Games have an adult rating for a reason and this is the biggest indication of whether the game is appropriate or not.

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Games for your 360

March 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Looking back, 2008 had many great Xbox 360 games, from Gears of War 2 to Banjo-Kazooie to Braid. The flood of good games continues, here are two great games that are already out for the Xbox 360 and one well worth waiting for.

X-Blades

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Game developer, Gaijin, has been working on an anime-style action title for some time now. The game is called X Blades and stars tenacious treasure hunter Ayumi. Ayumi is an extremely powerful fighter with swords, guns, and magic all at her immediate disposal.

The story follows Ayumi as she attempts to find the ultimate artifact, whilst being under a deadly curse.

Gameplay sections are split up into what are called Dungeons. It's much like a role-playing game. As you kill enemies, you collect experience points and must decide which items, spells and/or gun and swords upgrades to spend them on. Guns, swords, and magic are all mapped to their own button, providing much potential for successful attack patterns and combinations, as each enemy has it's own weakness.

X-Blades provides fast and addictive action intertwined with an intriguing story. X-Blades is out now, so if you haven't got it grab it now!

Halo Wars

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The Halo franchise goes from fantastic shoot 'em up to masterful strategy game. Who would of known?

Halo Wars had been in development cycle for many years, and Ensemble Studio has create a game that is breath-taking. It is real-time strategy game based on races, federations and locations from the original Halo games, yet taking place 20 years before the events in Halo: Combat Evolved occur, so no Master Chief, but all is not lost.

The game appears to be much more story-based than you might think for an RTS. A gorgeous cutscene at the beginning of the game introduces key characters from the series and sets up the story.

Halo Wars makes excellent use of the Xbox controller, especially for an RTS. It's simple and convenient to select and order various troops, and the combat is exciting. Each unit has it's own secondary attack that must recharge after being used. This adds a whole new strategical depth to the genre.

Halo Wars is extremely popular. Not only is a great game, but, well, it's Halo, the Xbox's biggest franchise. It wouldn't make sense to have an Xbox and not have Halo Wars...

Splinter Cell: Conviction

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After four excellent Splinter Cell games, Conviction will take things to an entirely new level of realism and immersive stealth-action gameplay.

Protagonist Sam Fisher, after the events that took place in Double Agent, is now on the run from the government. This scenario opens up an entirely new style of gameplay. As the police force searches for you, you must blend into crowds and respond properly to certain situations that presents themselves. And due to advanced physics and AI, you can manipulate your environment in ways you never before dreamed of.

An example of this is the "grabbing" system. Anything that you think you should be able to manipulate, you can do. At a demo showing of the game, Sam Fisher snuck past a couple cops in a populated area by causing a ruckus to distract them. How did he do that? He snatched a laptop at a nearby table while a man was using it. It has also been shown that if you are being chased, you can dash inside a room you can block the door with objects and barricade yourself in.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction is yet to be released, but from what has been seen it will be a game worthwhile for the wait.

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Games Wii Look Forward to

March 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

2008 was a rather underwhelming year in terms of the Wii games that were released, things are going to get better in 2009. Or at least, it's looking that way. Here are three three games that hopes are will take true advantage of the Wii's hardware this.

Punch-Out!

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What is it about revivals? The film industry are doing it and so is the game industry. But we can let Punch-Out off, as it is well worthy of a remake. The last time Punch-Out!! was released was in the form of Super Punch-Out on the Super Nintendo.

The games thrive off of action involving well-timely executed attacks. The older games sent you through a series of fights and boss battles, where each person had their own timing you had to figure out. An obvious upgrade in the graphics is present with a cartoony, cell-shade look that is not only sure to please fans of the franchise, but also hook outsiders who will soon want to give it a try.

The original Punch-Out remains both unique and fun to this day, so how can a remake by the best of developers go wrong?

MadWorld

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MadWorld is one of the most unique games to appear on any system this generation. It is also one of the most violent, but that's a good thing. One of the most unique aspects of MadWorld is its graphics, everything is in Black and White, except for the blood and guts. Yes, it's that kind of game...

When your character can make a chainsaw come out of his arm, you know that a gore fest is what's in store. The action is very stylized and combo-oriented. Whilst battling it out with enemies in urban areas, you can deal all kinds of damage, from shoving stop signs through enemies' heads, to reaching inside someone's chest and ripping his heart out. Meanwhile, a humorous voice announces each move as you perform it, commentating as if it were some kind of football game.

Definitely not for the faint hearted, but MadWorld's presentation and gameplay has us curious...

The Conduit

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Not many developers' would argue that the Wii is, technologically, inferior to the PS3 and the Xbox 360. The Conduit developers, High Voltage, believe differently. they believe the Wii is the better and want to prove it with The Conduit.

The Conduit is a first-person sci-fi shooter, with gorgeous detail. High Voltage has put a lot into this game, and it's showing. The game will not only have an extended singleplayer campaign, but a 16-player multiplayer online mode.

The Conduit is certainly taking the Wii to the limit and is definitely worth checking out.

Games for your Brains!

March 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Educational games are rare. However, Nintendo, who are trying to capture casual gamers have released a few that meet the the definition of an eductional game. Here are a few to get you started.

Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure

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Zack & Wiki Quest for Barbaros' Treasure is one such game. Zack is a boy with a dream of becoming the greatest pirate in the world. To reach his goal, he must solve 24 puzzles. In each one, Zack must manipulate the environment in some way to finish that portion of his Quest. He is helped by his sidekick Wiki.

Whilst not being a eductional game at first sight, Zack and Wiki employ problem-solving skills in order to meet their objective. An important skill.

Arcamedic Builders

The developer Arcamedic Builders sells many Wii games which focus on math and word skills. In Grand Prix Multiplication, the performance of the player's cars depends on answering math problems correctly. With Word Frog, the player must choose antonyms, synonyms, or homonyms for specific words

Arcamedic Builders games are online games that are optimized for play on the Wii. Over one dozen games are available.

Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree

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The Brain games from Nintendo have had huge success, especially on the DS. This game is based on a Nintendo DS game. The game begins with a test, in which you are rated in 5 categories. These scores are used as a baseline for future tests. One can compete with up to seven other players.

In contrast to similar games available for home computers, Wii Degree makes extensive use of the WiiMote.

Cranium Kabookii

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Cranium Kabookii is a new kind of Wii game that takes advantage of the unique features of the Wii. The game utilizes the Wii Remote and the "Kabookii Decoder Glasses". Cranium Kabookii creates a living canvas on the TV screen in which teams jam together, exercise drawing ability, act, solves puzzles and even crack codes to win games.

The activities include:

* Getting players to spraypaint the entire solar system on a wall. Believe it or not, you can hear the can shaking in your hand!

* Turn the Wiimote into a hammer to play "Auld Lang Syne" on a xylophone

*Solve word puzzles

The Kabookii Decoder Glasses are an added bonus, as they let only one player at a time to individually see the hidden clues on the TV screen. Cranium Kabookii is a wonderful educational game for all the family, and one that will keep kids entertained for hours.

Smarty Pants

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Do you have a craving for trivia? Smarty Pants: Trivia for Everyone is just such a game that will quench your appetite for trivia! It cleverly alters the questions to what is most appropriate for each individual player. The way it works is this: players reveal their ages (they do this when they create their Mii) and then the game only asks questions suitable for that age of player.

Smarty Pants is a good choice for ages eight and over, and is also an excellent choice for a family party game.

The Wii is an excellent platform for eductional games, and regardless of you age or interests, there is always an educational game for your Nintendo Wii.

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Take Control!

March 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Everybody knows about the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii. It's often that people compare each consoles graphics power and stability, but rarely do they consider the pros and cons of the controllers themselves. It is the controller that links you to the game, with out it gamers would be lost. A lot of work can go into making a good, accessibly comfortable controller. So, overall, how does each controller compare?

Microsoft Xbox Controller

When the original Xbox released in 2001, it came with the initial controller now known as the Duke Controller. As Microsoft soon discovered, the Duke was way to big and bulky, and hurt people's hands. So the Controller S was released, a model that is very similar to the current Xbox 360 controller, only the Xbox 360 version is the most comfortable and easy to use model by far.

Yes, the Xbox 360 has a great controller overall, but you may be surprised to know that the one thing that gamers have never forgiven Microsoft for is the absolutely abysmal control pad. There is no excuse for it. Every other current-gen console has implemented the pad perfectly. Microsoft apparently wanted to stand out as different by having a control pad that does not work, but it is a huge price to pay for such decidedly unprofessional behaviour. If such a flaw were to be fixed, the Xbox 360's controller would be near perfect.

Sony Playstation 3 Controller

The current Playstation 3 controller is not as new to the game as you might think. It is basically the PS2's, only with certain internal modifications. The original PS3 controller, which had a new look, sort of a boomerang shaped thing, and control scheme, was cancelled. The reasons for this are clear: the controller didn't work as well as the time-tested PS2's did. Perhaps it was a good decision, but I doubt that Sony will get away with doing the same thing over come the next generation of gaming. One feature that was, and still is, lacking from the PS3 controllers is the combination of the six-axis controller and the DualShock 3 controller. We all know Sony thought that having a rumble function was not the future, but we gamers demanded it. So, why could they not combine the two together? Who knows, maybe in the future.

The PS3's controller works as well as ever, even if we can't have both six-axis and DualShock together, but gamers are going to start wanting something less familiar and more original soon enough. Truth is, the way Sony is now, I doubt gamers will get what they want.

Nintendo Wii Controller

Lastly there is the Wii. The Wii's Wiimote is hard to compare to the controllers of other consoles. It pushes the boundaries of controllers far beyond what Microsoft or Sony have ever done. It is more innovative, original, and advanced than any controller that has come out in almost two decades. Perhaps longer.

It is an amazing piece of technology that has all the potential to take gaming to a whole new level. With all the hate towards the Wii's lack of powerful hardware, at least the console has it's Wiimote going for it.

Gamers everywhere should look forward to what the eighth generation of gaming controllers will bring.  Who knows what innovations will be brought to the table and take gaming to the next level?

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Old School Gaming, Give it a Go!

March 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Games have changed dramatically over the decades that have been around. Older games do not have the advanced gameplay and pleasing graphics of today's games. However, some of them are monumental in the history of video games, like Space Invaders or Pac-Man. They can still provide hours of fun for nostalgia's sake - to relive the glory days of one's youth. Even todays youth can enjoy the older games as a welcome diversion to today's fare.

Here are four options to explore for those wanting to play classic games.

Online Games

Not many people would think to look on the internet for old video games, but with the massive uptake of Flash and Java, old video games have had a rejuvination. There are many sites which offer Flash or Java based games. You can find almost anything you want: Frogger, Donkey Kong, Centipede, and on it goes. There are hundreds of games available online. Many of these sites are advertising supported, that is how they offer these games for free. Just be careful as some sites falsly advertise these games, and instead send viruses or even trojan horses. Therefore, make sure you have good virus protection loaded onto your system and keep it up to date.

Just Google "classic games" or something similar to find these sites.

Console Emulators

Another option is console emulators, which are programs one can run on their computer that mimic video game consoles.

As with the online games, many options are available for emulators and games. In most cases, the games are not exact clones but do fairly closely mimic the gameplay of certain games. The Nintendo Super Mario franchise is one which has many cloned games available. When dealing with emulators, there is a legal issue to be aware of. When downloading the games to play on the emulator you have to actually own the a copy of the game, otherwise you are breaking the copyright laws.

Multi-Game Consoles

There are many variations of this, and the idea is that you can purchase a new console that has one, five, ten or more games preloaded onto it. These units have been available for years and continue to sell well. Check Amazon our your local stores and see what goodies they have.

Buy Older Video Game Machines

This last tip is an activity that could consume a great deal of time if you choose. But ultimately is the best way. Not only does it bring back the full nostalger of playing the consoles again, but you can play the games the way they were meant to be played. You can simply buy used consoles, games, and controllers and hook them up to your television.

Popular choices include the Atari 2600 and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

The first place you should check is eBay, where you can often find an entire package including the console, controllers, and ten or more games for under $50. This would be everything you need until you decide to purchase more games, and hundreds or even thousands are available for sale at any given time.

If you would rather not buy your used video game equipment online, many people have good luck locally. You can try the following:

* Craigslist (if you know how to use RSS feeds, these searches can be automated).
* Nickel-type papers.
* Yard sales (don't be afraid to offer less than the asking price).
* Second hand stores.

Here's a tip about the last item, second hand stores. These types of stores get inventory in all the time, especially non-profit stores where individuals make donations of goods. What you want is someone on the "inside" who will call you when specific items arrive that you might want. If you can get this kind of help, it will save you a lot of time. Otherwise, you will need to check back with the stores on a fairly regular basis. Also, when buying from a second hand store, they only accept consoles or games that work, so when buying from these places your almost certain to have a product that works.

No matter which option you choose, you can find classic games for free or for the fraction of what you pay for games these days, and enjoy them almost as much as today's games!

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Bionic Commando Returns!

March 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Those veteran gamers amongst us may remember a title for the NES named Bionic Commando. In this action platformer, the player utilized the titular character's impressive stretching abilities through his bionic arm, leading to a gameplay reminiscent of certain early Spider-man games, as you swing through the cities. However, Bionic Commando also utilized a host of heavy artillery with which to dispatch your foes. Well, Bionic Commando is set to return to Next Gen and PC in a big budget extravaganza.

This time around we join Nathan Spencer (Bionic Commando) ready to await his execution for a crime he (obviously) didn't commit, but not before the city has been completely ravaged by a terrorist attack. It's upto you to foil this deadly occurance using your trusty bionic arm and just a bit of righteous fury. When Nathan encounters enemies, he has many abilities at his disposal with which to eliminate such threats. The game's physics are advanced enough that you can tug a chunk of building down on top of an enemy, or throw large boulders at them, sometimes even simply punching at large boulders in a way that sends them flying the direction of your enemies. These are all abilities that utilize the bionic arm however, and alternatively there's a whole host of new weaponry and firepower to make use of.

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As befits this day and age, Capcom have added a multiplayer function to this reboot. Not only that, they have added a number of little quirks which work extremely well in-game, such as characters shooting over their shoulders when pursued, the ability to fire at people in midair as they are swinging around, and even use sniper rifles to take people out from a distance. Therefore multiplayer cans can be as fun and varied as ever.

Bionic Commando is slated for release summer of 2009, and has been in development for a few years now, showing that Capcom are lovingly crafting this title to perfection. Fans of all action platformers, this could be just the thing for you!

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Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Athena

March 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is a new videogame causing quite a storm in the community, with some claiming it just may well be the best videogame adaptation of movie material of all time. This title is the sequel to Escape From Butcher Bay, which was a first-person action game originally released on the Xbox, then later ported to the PC with additional content and features. There are many reasons the game was so well received, the first being that it carefully balanced it's action between shooting, stealth, and exploration to perfection. The breathtakingly detailed visuals married with an in depth and involving storyline made for a great game. However, one major flaw was present- no multiplayer, and in a first person shooter that is almost unforgivable. Suffice to say, Dark Athena is set to right this wrong.

The story picks up where Butcher Bay left off, as Riddick and bounty hunter Johns drift across space in cryostasis. Eventually Riddick's vessel is captured by the pirate ship Dark Athena. Riddick awakens and escapes, but Johns is taken aboard and held captive. With only a makeshift weapon in the form of the captain's hairpin, Riddick must use stealth and intelligence in order to escape.

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At this point, a few gameplay elements are introduced. The first is that of puzzle solving, as the firearms on Dark Athena feature ID tags, as in Metal Gear Solid 2, so that they will only fire for their official owner. In order to eliminate certain obstacles, such as windows, Riddick can drag bodies and use them to fire the gun. This can also be done for the purpose of a gunfight.

Speaking of gunfights, Dark Athena places a much larger emphasis on this element of gameplay than Butcher Bay. Several new functions have been introduced ranging from simultaneous use of cover and firepower, a number of contextual weapons to use, and the ability to control various mechs.

Dark Athena improves on the original game in every conceivable way, providing a much more controlled and polished title. For fans of the Riddick films and character, this title is a must, expanding the franchise with stylish and involving gameplay and storylines.

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The Developer Conundrum

February 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

In the games industry there are three distinct development parties. These are third-party developers, second-party developers and first-party developers. Third-party developers are not generally associated with any particular console or corporation other than themselves, whereas second-party developers have signed contracts with a console manufacturing company and release platform exclusives. First-party developers, however, are different all together. They are part of the console manufacturing company and often carry the company's name.

With the different types of development companies out there, games have been developed for various platforms. This provides another dilemma for gamers when choosing a console. We not only have to decide on the quality of the console itself but also the franchise that are available on that console.

Microsoft: Halo is undoubtedly Microsoft's main attraction, with Halo 1 and 2 released for the original Xbox. It was one of the main reasons people bought the Xbox and for many current Xbox 360 owners, Halo 3 is one of the main reasons they bought the 360 as well. There are many other fantastic games for the Xbox 360, but without Halo, there would have been much less Xbox 360s sold.

Halo is not the only franchise exclusive to Microsoft's platform, Epic's Gears of War series and Bizarre Creation's Project Gotham series are both exclusive to Microsoft.

Sony: One of Sony's biggest and loyalist second-party developer has been Insomniac. They have been a second-party developer for Sony for more than ten years, and have released a gamer, almost every year for their platforms. Even today, for the PS3, the company releases games annually, and on the odd occasion twice yearly. Insomniac is an extremely reliable company for producing quality games, and would be proud to own the console they develop on. This generation, Insomniac is best known for the Resistance series, a highly acclaimed first-person-shooter) and the Ratchet and Clank series (a brilliant third-person platformer / shooter).

Naughty Dog are also a primary second-party developer for Sony, with the Jak and Daxter series, and most recently the Uncharted franchise for the PS3. Also it is worth mentioning that for a decade, up until recently, every core Final Fantasy game released was exclusive to Sony platforms. Final Fantasy developers, Square Enix, continue to dedicate itself to the PS3 with exclusive game rights.

Nintendo: For the Nintendo Wii, first-party exclusives include Mario games, such as Mario Galaxy and Paper Mario, and Wii Sports. Wii Sports is a very popular game for the platform and best exploits the innotive features of the Wii Remote, or Wiimote. Many more first-party games have been created for the Wii, such as Excite Truck and Disaster: Day of Crisis. One first-party developer for Nintendo, Intelligent Systems, was founded by former employees of Nintendo's Research and Development division. Intelligent Systems is responsible for great games like Metroid and Famicon Wars.

This kind of information in most likely lost on casual gamers, but for those who are interested in the games industry and are serious gamers it is important to keep track of where games fit in with the developer hierarchy. This knowledge sets the level of expectation for each game and ultimately the success of a console system.

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