Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 09.25.03

If you’re looking for game news, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to the Thank God It’s Thursday News Report!

In case you weren’t sure if the Jets were for real (as in, they really suck), you’ve got your proof now. This weekend, Parcells comes back to the Meadowlands and will give the Jets all they want. Hopefully, the Jets win and Troy Hambrick has a big game, as he’s my Fantasy running back…

Speaking of Fantasy Football, I won this week! 92-83, and Ashley Lelie (my opponent’s last remaining player) gave me a hell of a scare with his performance Monday Night. Still, I prevailed, a major victory indeed. Lost in the 411 League… can’t win ’em all, I guess.

Enough about football! More about games!!! Here we go…

Nintendo
In last week’s Gamer’s Conscience, Frederick Badlissi suggested that the creators of extinct consoles should provide the means for homebrew developers to create their own games for said consoles. Perhaps Nintendo was listening.

Nintendo has announced that it has struck a deal with four universities in England to place GameCube development into their syllabus. The universities – University of Hull, University of Abertay, University of Northumbria, and the Liverpool John Moores University – will receive GameCube development kits, which will be used by students. While it’s unclear as to whether the items worked on will ever be seen by Nintendo, it provides college students a hands-on look at exactly what goes on in the process of developing games.

The GameCube, obviously, is not an extinct system. But this could be the first step in the creation of an evironment detailed in Fred’s article. And this move by Nintendo is one that affects everybody involved. Both the universities and Nintendo get good PR, and the students gain valuable experience that will help get them jobs. That the students are learning earlier means that they will become better developers, which yields better games for all of us.

The next question is, will Sony and Microsoft follow suit? We shall see!

Nokia
While we’re on the topic of game development, Nokia has come up with a unique way of getting not only some good games, but some publicity as well. Or you could view this as a very early sign of desperation. It’s up to you.

Nokia is running a contest – create a game for the N-Gage emphasizing the handheld system’s portability and connectivity features, and win some money for doing so. Nokia will provide propsective developers with the tools they’ll need, and it’s up to the contestants from there. The games most likely to succeed will be the ones that heavily feature the aspects of the N-Gage with Nokia would most like to market (i.e. multi-player games that can be played over a network). First prize gets 15,000 Euros, second 10,000, third 5,000. More than that, though, the winners will get the chance to attend the Game Developer’s Conference and pitch their ideas to the N-Gage publishing group.

To the naked eye, it’s a good promotion for Nokia. It gives people the feeling of jumping on the N-Gage bandwagon and offers them a chance to have their game become a real N-Gage title.

And that’s where the good vibes end.

If you look a little deeper, you might see that this is just another marketing ploy. Nokia’s just a beginner in the video game industry. It doesn’t have a whole lot of third-party support. It doesn’t really know what gamers want, in other words. So, what better way to figure it out than to have developers (and that could mean anybody from a major company’s lead developer to a college student with a Computer Science major) figure it out for them? The genre doesn’t matter, so the developers will be sending in all kinds of titles. This way, Nokia can figure out what works on the N-Gage and what doesn’t, all with very little cost (compare 30,000 Euros to the cost of real, professionally-done market research).

Now, when you apply, you basically turn over the rights of your game to Nokia. Which means that you could finish in 4th place, Nokia could still make your game, and you’d be out of luck. Basically, Nokia is turning to the community to work on the N-Gage instead of doing it themselves. This is smart from a business perspective, but it also shows an underlying lack of knowledge of the industry, who their target market is, and what their target market wants. And, in spite of all the neat things the N-Gage can do, in spite of EA’s third-party support, who wants to buy a system when the manufacturers can’t even figure out what to do with it?

Again, it’s all based on your point of view. You could see it as a chance for someone to get their big break. Or you could see it as a glorified market research survey. The contest ends January 31, but we may know the answer long before then.

Arcade Games
As we all know, the arcade game is quickly becoming a lost art. Their extinction has been hastened by those who won’t put arcade games in their establishments anymore. This week, our beloved arcade games received yet another blow.

The Regal Entertainment Group, owners of the largest movie theater chain in the United States (Regal/United Artists/Edwards Theaters), has decided not to have any “foul” arcade games (i.e. graphically violent, sexual, or obscene) in their theater lobbies anymore. The loss of these games at such a traffic-garnering venue such as a movie theater is terrible news for the entire arcade industry. What’s even more interesting, though, is Regal’s rationale for pulling the arcade machines. The company claims that it has received a staggering number of complaints from parents and adults to remove the arcade games, reasoning that arcade games have become too violent and their constant exposure to children could be harmful.

Two things here are important. First, the next time someone gives you the “Parents need to monitor their children’s activities more carefully” argument, cite this story to show them that some parents DO care. Secondly, if you don’t have a Jillian’s-type establishment nearby, odds are pretty good that you might not be playing these designated arcade games anytime soon. Once the bastion of the entire gaming industry, arcades have become nearly obsolete in recent years. This move by Regal puts a huge cloud over the current state of arcade games.

GameCube
Nintendo finally executed a move that’s been rumored for months – the GameCube is now available for $99.99.

The only bad part is that you don’t get the free game anymore. But does it really matter? You can now own a brand new console for under $100. How awesome is that? At this price, you can’t really go wrong. You can go out, buy a Cube and two Player’s Choice games, and still spend less than you would have spent on an X-Box or PS2.

Nintendo has positioned itself as the system to watch this holiday season. With games like Mario Kart: Double Dash and Mario Party 5 on the horizon, the time is now to pick up a Cube.

You don’t know how hard it is for me not to gloat about being “right”.


Plugs
Gold
As if there was ever any doubt! The biggest piece on the entire site this week has been the Ten Reasons to Own a GameCube feature, done by much of the Games staff. The guys did a TREMENDOUS job, and I’m really proud of all of them for the work they did. If you read any of my GameCube stuff, you only saw one side of the story. Make sure you see the positive side of the Cube by reading this excellent feature!

The entire four-part series should be put together into one by the time you read this. If it’s not, start with Part One and go on from there. Enjoy!

Silver
Alex Williams – 411MAX: News News Revolution. The great Alex Williams makes his debut as a news reporter, and his first effort is certainly no slouch. He also provides a proper farewell to Bebito Jackson, who has given Alex his Tuesday spot. You da man, Bebito.
Lee’s got a huge one this week.

Bronze
Chuck Platt – A Thumb to the Eye. Chuck – there’s cowbell all over GNR’s “Appetite for Destruction”. I believe it to be the crowning moment of the cowbell.
To write off the metaphysical and spiritual meanings of Pac- Man as merely a game is to ignore an artful parable for mankind’s existence. In the world of Pac- Man, and, by extrapolation, Ms. Pac- Man and Baby Pac- Man, good and evil are non- existent, replaced by the amorality of Social Darwinism.

Best of the Rest
Alex Lucard – Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Nothing is funnier than watching someone who hates Final Fantasy review a Final Fantasy game. I love it.
Then of course we have the 34 different types of jobs. Again, it’s nice to see an expansion of jobs. But holy hell people 34? It’s quantity over quality here folks, with actual job classes like juggler. Yes, JUGGLER. Behold how the black Dragon trembles in fear of your many plastic rings and foam balls.

Rest of the Best
Alex Williams – Cheat! Alex’s final Cheat! never got plugged last week for some reason, so it gets its final kudos here.
I’m really just stealing from GameFAQs. In all honest, I’m just copying and pasting from that site.

Liquidcross – The Angry Gamer. Our angriest gamer is pissed that Capcom is making another SF2 game. I say, why not? With everything being retro nowadays, it’s not the worst thing they could have done.
They should be up to Street Fighter 14 by now.

Cory Laflin – Gamer’s Hangover News Report. Cory would be glad to know that I picked up the Chiefs’ defense/special teams for last Sunday’s game. Their 25 points led me to victory!
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.

Frederick Badlissi – The Gamer’s Conscience. Fred raises a damn good point – RPG’s take a LONG time. How the heck do people play so many of these things and maintain any semblance of a social life?
One RPG after another is completed, with the hours mounting like tax bills on MC Hammer’s desk.

Alex Lucard – Wrestlemania XIX. Nineteen is the world’s greatest number. Evidently, Wrestlemania XIX doesn’t live up to the number’s lofty expectations.
I applaud WMXIX for taking a chance and trying something new with Revenge Mode. EVERY video game company should take risks and try something innovative. But the downside to the risk-taking, is that sometimes, the risks end up sucking wang.

Lee Baxley – Hump Day Otaku News Report. Lee, trooper that he is, sinks his teeth into this week’s news like a rabid dog.
You know when you’re a kid, and you accidentally cut yourself and lick the wound and say, “Hey, blood doesn’t taste bad after all. Maybe I COULD be a vampire!” Well, f*ck that. I’ve swallowed so much blood in the past week that I could have started my own blood bank.

Chris Pankonin – NFL Fever 2004. I saw some guys playing this at Best Buy the other day. It looked pretty sweet. The NFL Films music sounds like an awesome inclusion, by the way.
The distinguishing feature of Fever is the XSN Sports network, and any Fantasy Football fans or those who love to compete on Xbox Live will want to pick this game up for XSN alone.

You may have noticed the lack of Non-411 Games Link of the Week and CD of the Week last time, and you definitely notice it this time. These two items will be on the shelf for a while, as I’m out of “material”. They’ll be back, though.


Commentary of the Week
Last week, I posed the question of how the Dreamcast ended up crapping out so quickly, only to be held in high regard by gamers everywhere shortly after. This is a question nobody was able to answer because, to be honest, I didn’t get any e-mail about it. Oh well.

So, with a week to sleep on it, here’s my take. The Dreamcast is the video game equivalent of a cult movie. Sega fans clamored over the Dreamcast when it was first announced. Some among us even believed that it could topple the Sony giant. When the Dreamcast came out, it did well, but not extraordinarly well. People soon forgot about it and games were no longer made for it. Soon after, the Dreamcast went “straight to video”, and new DC’s were available for $50.

This was rockbottom for the Dreamcast. Much like everything else ever created, people began to see the merits of the Dreamcast once it was pronounced “dead” by most people. And maybe this is where we all caught ourselves on a mistake we made – instead of analyzing the Dreamcast’s features and seeing how it stacked up to the PS2, we were now able to see the Dreamcast for exactly what it is and how much fun the games are to play. This playability puts the Dreamcast in the enviable “cool” portion of the gaming spectrum, along with the other “classic” systems that we can buy $5 games for at GameStop. The Dreamcast’s transition from big gun to cult movie is now complete.

Alex Lucard broke the story that one more Dreamcast game will be made in Japan. Could this spark some interest in the Dreamcast and make it relevant again, similar to the way the mass discovery of Pinkerton 5 years later made Weezer popular again? Probably not. But I think we can all live with the Dreamcast in its current form – something that’s not dated in terms of hardware, but can still provide us with great games at cheap prices. I don’t think any of the “Big 3” today will be able to match the shelf life of the Dreamcast, and that’s a testament to the power of the Dreamcast.


Bye
Guys, it’s been real. So I’ll definitely be here next week with some more news! Read everyone else’s stuff, especially the GameCube feature – I promise you that you’ll love it! Till next week, thanks for reading.