Gamer’s Hangover News Report 09.22.03

Quasi-random thoughts:

Driving around, running errands at lunch, I’m flipping between Rush Limbaugh and Jim Rome. You know, if you’re judging based purely on rudeness and arrogance, I have to say that Rome is the worse of the two. That’s without even considering good radio practice. I could drive a Mack truck through some of the holes of dead air that Rome leaves on his show.

The Chiefs are 3-0. My honest hope is that the Broncos and Raiders tie tonight on Monday Night Football. That way, the Broncos would be 2-0-1, the Raiders would be 1-1-1, I wouldn’t have to root for a Raiders win, and the Chiefs would still lead the division outright.

The Royals, on the other hand, are all but done; save for the unforeseen tactical nuke in downtown Minnesota (stand down, Mr. Lucard). However, as of Sunday night, the Mike Sweeney Suicide Watch is teetering at 0 games. The Royals have won 81. They have secured at least a 0.500 win percentage. All they need is one more win to push them over and make Mike Sweeney an indentured servant of the Royals organization for, basically, the rest of his career.

The most evil thing I’ve seen all week: You can buy cheesecake in 1 inch cube servings at Sam’s. That checks-and-balances feeling of fullness after eating one slice of cheesecake? Gone. Grazing to the tune of 10,000 calories? Check. Sometimes I hate supply and demand.

Woo. Guess what? The Sopranos won Emmys. What. A. Surprise. (Yawn)

Hack gets another season, but shows like Greg The Bunny and Firefly get cancelled. I hate TV.

NEWS

Pray For All You Hold Dear, My Little Pony Is Back
As predicted in Revelations, the Apocrypha, the Necromanicon, and The X-Files, the unholy terror will be unleashed on an unsuspecting and complacent public once again. Yes, Hasbro is bringing back My Little Pony. Hasbro claims that they’re relaunching the brand to once again give girls an opportunity to “create their own magical world where fun and friendship reign.” Oh, those poor, poor souls.

The brand will feature a whole line of products (“the mark of the beast”) including books, toys, and clothes, along with “a line” of videogames from Atari, Inc; who should know better than align with the forces of darkness.

For a fun little diversion, check out the classic quiz from the old Brunching Shuttlecocks website (survived by The Self-Made Critic and The Book of Ratings, Porn Star or My Little Pony.

Microsoft To Increase Japanese Market Share By Catering To Cultural Stereotype
Microsoft has inked a deal with Eatsleepmusic Corporation to provide downloadable karaoke songs for the upcoming Xbox Music Mixer.

To do this, you’ll have to download the songs from xboxkaraoke.com to a PC, THEN transfer them to an Xbox with the Music Mixer. The Mixer launches October 14 for an MSRP of $39.99, and will include a microphone and some on-screen 2D and 3D effects to accompanying that glorious bouncing ball. Soon after, ten packs of songs, five songs to a pack, will be sold at the website for around $10 each. Worry not, young file sharers, the Music Mixer will also rip vocal tracks from standard music CD-ROMs and audio files also.

Another Video Game Movie?! Somebody Pinch Me!!
Adding to the wave of smoldering hot video game movies, Konami’s Silent Hill horror game will soon grace the silver screen”¦.that is, if it doesn’t go straight to video.

Davis Films is planning to produce the film. Christopher Gans will direct, and Samuel Hadida will produce. Konami also addid that it is “currently pursuing film production deals for it’s other blockbuster franchises.”

What would be Good: Castlevania.
What would be Bad: Metal Gear.
What would be ugly, and thus most likely: Yu-Gi-Oh.

Rentals, Rentals Everywhere; And Of Course I Mail It In
The Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA), on behalf of Home Video Essentials and Rentrak Corp., has announced a preliminary list of the top renting games for the week ending September 14, 2003.
Here are the top 10:
1. Madden NFL 2004—PS2
2. Soul Calibur II—PS2
3. NCAA Football 2004—PS2
4. Soul Calibur II—Xbox
5. Soul Calibur II—GameCube
6. ESPN NFL Football 2K4—PS2
7. Enter the Natrix—PS2
8. Madden NFL 2004—Xbox
9. Midnight Club II—PS2
10. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic—Xbox

I think we can rename Chuck Platt UP-Chuck for this week. Once again, this Midnight Club II beats out newer, more well publicized games. I must investigate.

And, just because I haven’t said it in a while, there’s still NO HALO.

Doing Their Bit To Close The Trade Deficit; Or, They Couldn’t Do This Already?
Microsoft has announced that Xbox Live will go active in western Europe countries next month. Of course, since it’s a bleeding online service, why the hell haven’t they been able to join already? Do they filter stuff from outside the U.S.? Huh?

The service will be available in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway, and Switzerland starting October 30th. According to Microsoft and/or Reuters, by June of this year 50,000 European users had already signed up for Xbox Live, which leads us back to the argument in the preceding paragraph. Unless, of course, you can already get it in England, France, Germany, Spain, and some of those other countries not mentioned. What about Russia? Wouldn’t it be cool to play a military game online against Russians? Do I just remember the Cold War too well?

By way of comparison, Sony has said that 25,000 had signed onto the PS2 online network from Europe SINCE June. What does this mean? Hell if I know.

Even More Reason To Hate Them
According to the Wall Street Journal, there are rumblings that rental megalith Blockbuster, Inc. may be seeking a merger with direct-marketing retailer, and pyramid schemer of Satan himself, Columbia House.

The story says that discussions are “in the early stages” It also says that a merger could help parent company Viacom (another leading candidate for The Beast’, if you read Revelations), get rid of it’s 80 percent share of the company, possibly proving that they AREN’T evil after all. Way to go, Viacom!!

This reporter’s opinion of Blockbuster is well documented, but it isn’t as well known that I used to belong to Columbia House. Ah, the first real feeling I ever had of selling my soul”¦.or maybe just leasing it out for a while. With the advent of file sharing, I have to wonder how Columbia House can even still be in business? Gullible teenagers like I was, I suppose.

Atari To Eliminate Debt, Finance League With Devi”¦.uh”¦.My Little Pony
I have a lot of Apocolypse/Satan type jokes in this week’s report, huh? Of course, with MLP, Microsoft, and Blockbuster stories, can ya blame me? All we need is another dose of Bill Romanowski to round it off. Anyway, Atari, Inc. is planning to pay off its debt to Infogrames Entertainment through the issuance of Atari shares.

Infogrames will sell over 17 million shares of Atari at $4.25 a piece to pay off the $166 million debt. Atari will also sell almost 10 million shares at the same price to raise $35 million for undisclosed reasons.

From Atari, “upon completion of the public offering and these recapitalization transactions, Atari will have eliminated all of its long-term debt, and IESA’s ownership stake in Atari will be reduced to 71% from approximately 88%.”

Bravo, Atari. Whether it’s personal or corporate finance, eliminating debt is good. What’s a little dividend between friends?

And They Mean It Damn”¦I Mean DARN It!
I’m mailing this one in too, just because, as I’ve said before, you can’t improve on absurdity:

Regal Entertainment Group, which owns and operates the largest theatre circuit in the U.S., has adopted a way for determining what is “appropriate content” in vide arcade games installed in its theatres.

The company will use a six-part guideline to determine what titles will be installed in its Regal Cinemas, United Artists Theatre and Edward Theatres locations. “Regal Entertainment Group will also prominently display material from the Parental Advisory System in our game areas. This voluntary rating system includes color-coded labels to further describe game content to parents and potential players.”

Games that include any of the content mentioned below, will be “excluded from placement” at Regal locations:

1. Human-like characters suffering bloodshed and/or dismemberment.
2. Graphic depictions of sexual behavior or nudity.
3. Violence toward law enforcement officers or figures of authority.
4. Graphically violent character deaths of any kind.
5. Obscene or foul language of any kind.
6. The promotion or glorification of illegal activity.

So no Narc or Mortal Kombat in Regal Theatres, I guess. I hope Lucard was right last week that arcade games aren’t dead yet; because, with the possible exception of DDR, they sure seem to be to me.

Video Game Developer Really IS Dork; Or, Hedging His Bets On The Phantom
Check out the new season of Survivor. Burton Roberts it the Chief Marketing Officer for Infinium Labs; a.k.a. the people bringing us the Phantom console. I could make a joke about getting voted off, but it’s just too damn easy.

NON-GAME NEWS

I’m mailing this one in too, for the same reasons as above. Courtesy of CNN.com.

REDMOND, Washington (Reuters) — Microsoft, which is trying to drive growth by investing in everything from small business software to video games, has quietly set its sights on a new industry — searching the Web.

Chairman Bill Gates, Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and a handful of other executives sat down in February to answer a question asked countless times before in the world’s largest software maker’s 28-year history. Should Microsoft build or buy?

What they decided was to build technology that would eventually surpass Google Inc.’s ability to sift through the Web and return results relevant enough to make it the top Internet search destination.
“The decision to build or buy came down to our ability to innovate,” said Kirk Koenigsbauer, strategy manager at Microsoft’s MSN Internet portal.

“Our ability to innovate is predicated on our ability to own the platform,” he added, a clear sign that Microsoft thinks it can only beat Google if it owns the technology.

Company-wide effort
For now, however, Microsoft won’t comment on how widely it plans to use search technology. While it is a company-wide effort, Koenigsbauer said that any developments will be led by MSN and used to enhance the portal.

But analysts have interpreted the decision to build as a sign that Microsoft has greater ambitions for search, including plans to make it part of the Windows operating system, the company’s main cash cow.
“Any time Microsoft builds something into the operating system, they don’t want to get that from anyone else,” said analyst Matt Rosoff of Directions on Microsoft, an independent research group based in Kirkland, Washington.

Koenigsbauer, who attended the February meeting, declined to discuss Microsoft’s plans for search beyond MSN. Nor did he disclose the number of people or amount of money the company will invest in the project.
Can Microsoft pull it off?

Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox, however, said that with its large concentration of software talent and nearly $50 billion in cash, Microsoft could out-invest any competitor for years.

The company is “very, very serious about search,” he said.

At the core of Microsoft’s decision is a belief that search technology is still in its infancy.

“Search engines are doing a good job but not a perfect job,” said Koenigsbauer, adding most search results today “don’t deliver the results people are looking for.”

Part of Longhorn
Search results tailored to individual users based on a history of their interests and searches is one area that Microsoft is looking at, Koenigsbauer said.

Analysts said such a service would be ideal for Microsoft since it could leverage its control over the Windows operating system, which runs on more than 95 percent of the world’s PCs.

Moreover, they said Microsoft’s real motive is to build search into its various software products and most likely into the next Windows version, which is code-named Longhorn.

Gates has promised that Longhorn, which is expected to launch in 2005 or 2006, will include database technology to make it easier for users to track and find information on their computers.

“Long-term, all roads lead to Longhorn,” Wilcox said.

Targetting users
This isn’t the first time that Microsoft has put the search market in its crosshairs.
In 1997, the company looked into developing search for MSN, but decided to team up with Inktomi instead.

“We’ll continue to partner with Inktomi in the near-term but at some point we’ll go on our own,” Koenigsbauer said.

That also brings into question MSN’s alliance with Overture Services Inc., a leader in search-based advertising.

Koenigsbauer said the partnership is continuing for the “medium-term,” and Microsoft is happy with its relationships with both companies, which are set to become part of Yahoo Inc., an MSN competitor.
Yahoo, under pressure from Google, has been buying search technologies and marketing its services in television commercials to attract visitors to its site.

I don’t even know what to say here. I am so incredibly pissed off at Microsoft’s business practices that I want to spit, but I know that there is no way in hell that they’re going to be able to create something themselves that will even come close to the search engine goodness of Google. I mean, who here has actually searched through the Windows help database for something? Did you find it? No, I didn’t think so. I didn’t either.

I guess my opinion is this: They can try to compete with it all they want, as long as they don’t freakin’ buy it.

NOT-SO-DAMN-SERIOUS-NON-GAME NEWS

Holding off on the Chiefs road diary for another week; maybe indefinitely. I don’t know. I’ll have to pare down what I have. Three pages of exposition on just the tailgating is a little much”¦.yet, not nearly enough on one level.

RAW 2 Pre-review: Toothless Aggression

Haven’t put it a lot of time on it yet, just enough to create my character and run through one year of season. The controls are improved from its predecessor, or maybe I’m just better at it. Reverses aren’t so obnoxious, graphics are better, create-a-wrestler graphics are MUCH better, and the moveset includes a thinly veiled Styles Clash.

Still there are some A.I. issues I have issue with, as well as the amorphous and ultimately confusing season mode, which really should go off better than it does, but the lack of instruction and documentation for it leaves you wondering what the hell you’re supposed to do. Oh, and in this game, just like on the real life RAW, Triple H jobs to NO ONE. It took 30 straight minutes of 2-1 beatdown for me and Cris to get H to the point where we could pin him. We played Hell in the Cell and I DDT’d him through the roof, got him back up, and then hit a German Suplex through the roof (FOUR section of roof to break!) and he STILL kicked out.

Okay, I just read the news. Maybe H CAN job, when he has a honeymoon to go off too.

My full RAW 2 review will hit sometime this week. Stay tuned.

PLUGS, PIMPS, AND THANKS

Some e-mails this week, but mostly quickie shout-outs for my reviews. I’ll save time and space by leaving them out, but I will give props to Jason, Scotty, JD, and my regular James. Word Life, yo.

As for the week’s pimps, there is a correction to make regarding last week’s distribution. I was under the false impression that Bebito is from Colorado. He is actually from”¦.somewhere much further east. Not quite sure where, but he was having issues with Hurricane Isabel, so that narrows it down a little.

I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Now, I don’t know if I should even pimp anybody this week. I mean, we had TWO days without news reports of any kind. While I appreciated the extra time for my own column, and I know that Bebito was busy with the GameCube feature, so he’s forgiven, but it still just felt a little”¦..higgledy piggledy, to lift a term from Bloom County.

You should already be reading Freddie, L.C., and Up-Chuck, so I’ll just pimp the news guys this week”¦.including our newest one”¦.

Alex Williams moves his genius over to Tuesdays. Don’t worry, Bebito isn’t leaving, he’s just retiring the Down-Lo”¦.for now. The over-under is two months. I’m taking the over.

Lee Baxley still gives us tons and TONS of stuff on Wednesdays. Seriously, if you need to kill time mid-week, just open up Lee’s column. It’ll be lunchtime before you can get to the anime reviews, THAT’S how full he stuff his stuff.

Bryan Berg gets all the love on Thursdays. It is my sincere hope for Mr. Berg that the Isles season goes better than the Jets season is going. Also that the Jets season goes better than the Jets season is going. (Bryan, if it comes to that, I’ll swear you in as a Chiefs fan. You can get in as a friend of a die-hard fan under Temporary Fan status.)

Watson wasn’t around on Friday. Hmm.

Anyway, next week: Stuff.

Until next time, get some sleep.

-Cory