Pixar goes hi-browPixar goes hi-brow

It’s one thing doing huge numbers at box office and another critical acclain. Pixar already has these and it’s going one step further with an endorsement from the art world. Cartoons and animation have often been frowned upon by the art establishment as lo-brow, but Pixar could be stepping away from the pack. It appears that Pixar’s work is now officially hi-brow, as next week, New York’s MOMA hosts a retrospective review of 20 years of the company’s work.. The show starts on December 14th.

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Who will rule the living room

Who will rule the living room?Who will rule the living room?

Following the over-hyped E3 announcements of PS3 and Xbox360, there is much debate amongst gamers on the processing power of the consoles and if the visuals shown at both presentations were pre-rendered or not. This being E3, it’s about gaming, but clearly both consoles are about far more than that or are they?

These consoles are supposed to represent the future of home entertainment and it’s interesting to see how Microsoft and Sony each has a very different visions of what that should be. These visions are essentially extensions of each company’s core competence.

Sony presented PS3 as a quantum leap in gaming as an experience. It offered up a compelling vision that was almost a sc-fi writers view of gaming’s future; a place inhabited by lifelike characters and massively imersive environments, where separating the real from the fake is almost impossible.

Add to this, PS3’s ability to play the next-level in DVD quality in Blu-Ray and you have a machine that is all about the enhancing the entertainment experience in the living room.

Microsoft is on a very different track. It is certainly highlighting the power of the console as a games machine, but they are also heavily pushing community, connectivity, customization and commerce. These are four attributes that the Internet has already brought to the PC and things that Microsoft knows quite a lot about. Microsoft’s living room is starting to look very different from Sony’s.

Ultimately, the consumer will decide which one they prefer, but it seems obvious that Microsoft has the biggest challenge ahead of them, not only to catch up with Sony, but also to sell their new vision. Microsoft desperately wants Xbox to expand beyond the current hard-core group of gaming users and reach a mass audience, but the trouble appears to be that much of what Microsoft is offering is already available for the masses on their PC.

Why would a consumer want to buy an additional machine, if the only benefit is doing what you do on your PC, in your living room?

For Microsoft, customization is a nice addition, but only if the machine performs and commerce is something of a double-edged sword; while it suggests flexibility and ease, it also shows how gaming could be an increasingly expensive pastime.

So to succeed, Microsoft must develop a single-minded positioning that focuses in on the Xbox360 as quantum leap in the gaming experience, because it combines both power and connectivity. This could be compelling enough to move non-gamers from their PC to an Xbox360 in their living room, where they can happily engage in commerce and customization.

So despite the hype over the future of the living room, the starting point for both companies has to be about the future of gaming. Both companies clearly have different visions of this; Sony is about power and Microsoft is about connectivity. If they start with gaming, it will be much easier to add in the other elements that have the potential to transform the living room experience.

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New videogame defies the rulesNew videogame defies the rules

Video games are becoming increasingly predictable and regimented, with their clearly defined genres and within them, it’s often just about launching sequels. This is understandable, as development costs skyrocket, there is so much money at stake and it’s often hard to take risks.

Once in a while a game comes along that takes a risk and defies category norms, such a game is Okami from Clover Studio.

In Okami, the game takes place in a three-dimensional brush painted Japanese landscape. The graphics look like ancient Japanese brush paintings and are a far cry from the hyper-reality of most of today’s games.

The game is based on a classic Japanese folk tale about a wolf with magical powers. The player’s goal is to help the Wolf obtain powers and protect him from spirits and enemies.

Interestingly the game’s inspiration came from the original watercolor character design sketches, the design team wondered if they could be turned into 3-D, and the idea started from there.

The artistic aspect is even used in the game-play. As a player, you have the power to stop the action and transform the world into a flat piece of paper. Here you can use a brush and draw certain marks that will impact the game when you bring back the action.

Although it Okami has a planned US release in November 2005, it’s obviously likely to fare better in Japan, but has the potential to become something of a cult classic over here.

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