Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 06.26.03

Hello again, and welcome back to the Thank God It’s Thursday News Report, the greatest news report in the entire world. Thanks for stopping by.

Unlike Lee, I don’t have any crazy reports on how my weekend was. However, I did lose $80 in Atlantic City on Monday. That sucked, especially when you consider that money’s really tight in this neck of the woods. It’s all good, though – today’s payday!

Anyway, onto the news. Enjoy!


Acclaim
As reported previously by 411’s own Sqoon and Lee, Acclaim has discontinued making games for the GameCube. Its reasoning for this decision is simply that GameCube games don’t sell, so it’s counterproductive to even put them out anymore.

It might not seem it, but this is a highly significant decision by Acclaim. It’s a situation that can be looked at from a number of angles, and here are a few of them:

Nintendo’s Standpoint: Obviously, this is a huge setback for Nintendo. It is the ultimate sign of the complete lack of confidence the gaming community has in the GameCube. This is just one of a few third-party developers to cease production on ports for the GameCube. And that’s really a sad thing for Nintendo. It’s just a matter of time until ALL companies follow Acclaim’s lead and kill the GameCube dead.

It’s also disappointing to see a company like Acclaim, who made Nintendo all kinds of money with Super Nintendo titles such as NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat, leave the side of a formerly successful business partner. A sad commentary on how the state of gaming has changed. Once the MVP, Nintendo is the aging veteran hanging on for one last run at the title that will never come.

Acclaim’s Ambitions: Could Acclaim have done more to make the GameCube a viable console? Probably. Then again, so could have EA and Infogrames, two companies who are no longer producing GameCube titles. The truth is, most companies are probably giving less than a complete effort when it comes to Nintendo’s home console. Everybody knows people buy GameCubes for Mario and Zelda, not for their version of BMX XXX.

On the subject of BMX XXX, it’s not as if Acclaim has been putting out earth-stopping games recently. Its games won’t be terribly missed by anybody; besides, everyone who wants to play them already has a PS2 or X-Box.

Where Does Nintendo Go From Here?
Clearly, Nintendo is in a state of disarray. Third-party companies are jumping off the GameCube ship as if it was the Titanic. The first-party games are good, but just aren’t getting it done in the big picture. Nintendo needs something, and fast. But what?

Nintendo really needs for a situation to develop like what happened with Grand Theft Auto and Playstation 2. A huge-selling game that was a hit all over the world and was exclusive to the PS2 resulted in insanely high sales for Sony. The odds of this happening for Nintendo are highly unlikely. Unfortunately, this is what it’s going to take for Nintendo to stay afloat in the home console battle against Microsoft and Sony.

The Video Game Law
St. Louis is challenging the Court of Appeals’ verdict on the video game law. The ruling reached by the Court of Appeals stated that video games are protected under the First Amendment and therefore cannot be regulated in terms of sales.

The motives of St. Louis are unclear, but at the very least, it shows the significance of the issue. It’s not something that’s going to die off slowly – instead, this will always be something that’s discussed. It’s difficult to say at this juncture who is right and who is wrong. Video games being relatively young, it might take a while to find a definitive solution to this problem, but it’s nice to see that a potential problem is being targeted and that people are caring more about the games kids are playing.

Nintendo
In an(other) effort to promote the GameCube as a “cool” system, Nintendo has announced the Fusion Tour. The tour will hit 25 American cities between August and September and will feature musical acts such as Evanescence (who will be headlining the tour), Cold, and Finger Eleven. Those in attendance will get the opportunity to play the newest GameCube and Game Boy Advance titles as well as hear some good tunes.

It’s no secret that Nintendo covets the 18-24 male demographic, and this is the latest attempt by the company to grab some of these people. The question is, will it work? My early guess is “no.” As I’ve said many times, if people haven’t bought the GameCube on its own, and if people haven’t bought the GameCube with tons of stuff packaged with it, people aren’t going to buy the GameCube just because a big-name band is playing songs in front of it. The only way to lock into this demographic is to release something nobody’s ever seen before that’s universally appealing, just as Sony did with GTA and Microsoft has done with X-Box Live. What does Nintendo have besides its first-party games? Nothing. That’s why it has to rely on rock bands to sell its systems. And when you get to that point, sometimes the thing to do is just walk away.

EA
With the NBA Draft set for tonight, EA has taken advantage of a major opportunity. It has recruited Carmelo Anthony, Kirk Hinrich, and Chris Bosh, three of the draft’s top prospects, to film commercials for NBA Live 2004 that will be shows extensively throughout the draft. If you watched any of the NFL Draft, you saw EA do the same thing to promote Madden 2004.

Kudos to EA for grabbing the brass ring and getting an early start on promoting their game with the NBA Draft, something every NBA buff watches. Forget the right analog stick control and throwback jerseys, THIS is why EA sells so many copies each and every year. They are masters of the promotional game, and when you think sports games, you think EA.

So you must wonder, where is Sega? For Christ’s sake, ESPN is showing the draft! Wouldn’t it be nice if you could see a commercial for ESPN’s basketball game? Sure, but it appears that’s too much to ask for Sega/ESPN. This draft is going to be a ratings HIT, guaranteed. Why wouldn’t ESPN devote some of its commercial time to its own game?

The answer shouldn’t be surprising to anybody – ESPN’s motivation is profit. It’s not in increasing Sega’s profile, and it’s not selling a million copies of ESPN NBA Basketball. It already got its money when Sega agreed to slap ESPN’s name on its games. ESPN’s main concern is making sure SportsCenter gets plugged in the games. Aside from that, they could really care less.

What ESPN DOES care about, though, is advertising dollars. That’s why they’re letting EA run the table with all of their spots, while anything Sega does will pale in comparison. Forget the lack of name recognition and confusing menus, THIS is why Madden killed NFL 2K3 last year in sales by a 10-1 ratio. Shame, SHAME on ESPN for acting as the greedy, money-hungry capitalists we all know they are. And Sega’s not innocent here, either. Not only did they sell out their franchise, they refuse to put any real energy into promoting a game that critics loved and will only improve with time.

People say I’m too negative sometimes, but when things like this happen, how can you not take people to task for their actions? Sega will find some way to blame the war or the name change for their troubles, but the real culprit is themselves. That’s a terrible way to go down.


Plugs
The Gold belongs to Bebito this week for an awesome column. The stuff on Tomb Raider was really great. Fans of corporate double-speak will get a huge kick out of this one.

The Silver – Alex Lucard. Alex’s interview with Adam Ryland of EWR was excellent as well as informative. Best of all, Alex is going to be in the game! Be sure to e-mail him your ideas for his character, because I forgot to. Whoops.

This week’s Bronze is Lee’s because he’s shooting from the hip now and the results are outstanding. The focus this week is less on anime and more on games, which is good or bad depending on what you like. But it’s a great read, as always, and let Lee know if you approve of his new direction.

As for the rest of our fine staff, we have a ton of new content. Cory Laflin has proved to be a proficient and punctual writer in his short tenure at 411, and he has another winner with his review of Colin McRae Rally 3. Retrograding cameoist Alex Williams provides a review of Sonic Adventure DX for GameCube. We also have a review of Star Wars: The Clone Wars courtesy of The Scotsman, and Chris Pankonin contributes his take on Brute Force for the X-Box.

I wanted to take this time to thank everyone who sent in feedback regarding The Silent Majority from last week. It generated a lot of responses, all of which were very well thought out, and all of which were greatly appreciated. I’ve got something really heavy in the works for the next one, so hopefully that should be ready in a few weeks or so. Till then, thanks again!

Non-411 Link of the Week
I’m out of links! So what I will do is plug pieces from other sections of 411. Yeah, it’s supposed to be the Non-411 Link of the Week, but for the time being, it’ll be the Non-411 Games Link of the Week.

This week, I’d like to give mention to Rhett Walker‘s excellent piece about Metallica. It’s a sort of conclusion to a few other pieces he’s done on them, and it is very well-written, comprehensive, and thought-provoking. Do check it out.

CD of the Week
The winner is Boston’s self-titled CD. This is one of those CD’s that EVERYBODY should own. Yeah, it’s over 25 years old, sort of cheesy, and very representative of some of the 70’s worst moments. But their music is awesome and the production still stands up today. This is one of the rare albums where EVERY song ended up on the radio at one point. Granted, there are only eight songs, but that’s a heck of an achievement, and all the songs are great. Don’t bother with Boston’s Greatest Hits, just get this CD – everything is on here (except for “Don’t Look Back,” perhaps their best track, but that’s about it).


Commentary of the Week
The results are in! Nobody has been able to top Cory Laflin’s numbers, so he is the winner of the Ultimate Sports Game Quote Challenge. Congrats, Cory! You’re almost as big of a dork as I am.

For this week’s Commentary, I’d like to address an issue that’s always bothered me about other gaming sites – the notion of a pay site. Sites like GameSpot and IGN provide top-notch news to everybody, but have arranged their content so that you have to be a “member” to access the really good stuff. To become a member, you have to give a certain amount each month.

Why must this be so? We’re talking about VIDEO GAMES here, not porn. There’s nothing at those sites you can’t find elsewhere at other sites (like 411), so why charge? It’s this kind of ripping off of the consumer that has placed today’s market in such a dreadful state.

The way these sites do business, I’ve got to pay a sum of money just to see what THEY thought of a game. Why would I do this when there are plenty of other sites offering the same content, and there are magazines that cost the same amount of money, but are better-written, more convenient, and don’t throw pop-ups in my face every second? The easy answer is that I don’t and stick to the other stuff.

When money is involved, things change. Not to slander the integrity of the writers of these pay sites, but when you’re paying to read something, it had better be good. The quality of doing something for fun, like what we do with these news reports, reviews, and columns you read, is lost when you add money to the equation. The end result can end up being disastrous for all parties involved.

So, how can this problem be solved? Simple – make the stuff free! I’m a game fan, but I’m sure as hell not going to pay just for game news and reviews. I pay $30 a year for a Mets newsletter that comes 3 times a week, and that’s with no regrets because the content is fresh and original and I can’t get that anywhere else. It’s an excellent read and I look forward to it. What GameSpot and IGN do is restrict material that has shouldn’t be restricted.

Yes, part of this sentiment comes from working for the biggest independent wrestling site on the Internet. But it’s also about what’s right. If 411 ever became a pay site, you wouldn’t be reading my column, because I’d be gone. The notion of being forced to pay for this stuff is ridiculous, and all sites that employ similar business policies need a reality check. Why does the New York Times’ website need monetary compensation if I browse the site when I can just pick up a paper for a dollar in the morning?

In the end, it just doesn’t add up. I’d love to see things change for the better. Unfortunately, people WILL pay IGN for extras, so that will inspire other sites to do the same. What we’ll end up with is a world where just surfing the net can become an expensive proposition. And I’m not just talking about game sites here – this is the trend EVERYWHERE. It’s sickening, but it’s the way the world works. Just like ESPN’s more worried about ad revenue than promoting its game, everyone wants money wherever they can get it.

What has happened to our integrity? Such a shame to see.


Good Day
Thanks again for reading this filled-with-venom news report. Maybe my brother’s right – I AM bitter.

Today’s my three-year anniversary with my girlfriend Cory. She doesn’t read the column, but happy anniversary anyway!

Tomorrow you may or may not be welcoming Jeff Watson to the news reports staff. The same goes for Monday when Cory Laflin (hopefully) makes his debut. These two guys have been excellent reviewers, and their news reports should be great as well. Remember, the last person to jump from reviewer to news reporter was Lee Baxley, and he’s turned out to be an outstanding news reporter. Enjoy the new guys, as well as the regulars, and I’ll see you next week, same time, same place. Don’t be late!