Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 11.20.03

Hey! Welcome to this week’s “Term Papers Suck” edition of the Thank God It’s Thursday News Report! Bryan Berg here to report on the latest video gaming news and, of course, throw in my own two cents whenever necessary.

So the Jets lost another one. How surprising. But at 3-7, there’s opportunity for some of the young guys to rise. Guys like Jonathan Carter, who might turn into the next Chad Morton. Guys like Dewayne Robinson, who started off slow and still have time to turn things around. Guys like Santana Moss, who’s playing like an All-Pro after two inconsistent seasons. Perhaps the Jets should hire a doctor to examine why Curtis Martin rushes for 100 yards total in his first four games and 100 yards in each of his final 10 games each year. This team is so weird.

How about that Keyshawn Johnson? From “Give Me The Damn Ball” to Pro Bowler to Tampa Bay to deactivated for the rest of the season. You know, he’s gone on record saying he wanted to come back to New York to finish his career (imagine the Jets WR core of Moss and Keyshawn with Pennington throwing them the ball?)… but logic says he’ll end up in Dallas with Bill Parcells. Even though Tuna’s already got three solid receivers, you know they’ll make room for Keyshawn if he’s available – and he will be.

And with that, it’s onto the gaming news. Enjoy!



X-Box
With the holidays right around the corner, Microsoft has slashed X-Box prices yet again. No, not the system itself, but some of the featured titles for the system. Microsoft has expanded the X-Box Platinum Series to include some more games. The chosen few are…
– Conflict Desert Storm
– Dave Mirra’s Freestyle BMX 2
– MechAssault
– Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
– Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon
– Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
– WWE RAW
Each of these games will be priced at $19.99 and should be available in a week or so. This is a decent hits lineup that stacks up pretty nicely with that of Playstation 2. However, there’s one area where the PS2 has a great lead: Grand Theft Auto for $19.99. But then again, exclusive X-Box owners have never played it before, so they certainly aren’t envious. So, all in all, this price cut provides incentive for people to consider the X-Box, and should appease the appetites of current owners. The overall packages of the X-Box and the PS2 are pretty much neck-and-neck at this point; still, both lag behind the GameCube as the “hot” system this holiday season.

X-Box Live
The most popular console online service has hit the one-year mark, and Microsoft issued a press release detailing some of the accomplishments of X-Box Live in the past 12 months. The press release, of course, makes X-Box Live sound like a phenomenon even greater than Jesus Christ himself. So let’s break it down a little and objectively evaluate X-Box Live.

Well, you can’t argue with the success the service has had. X-Box Live has turned the X-Box from potentially being the N-Gage of the consoles to an essential gaming experience. X-Box Live is obviously the main advantage that Microsoft’s system possesses over its competition, and its current holiday promotion (2 months free of X-Box Live) will only help to increase exposure to this service.

Here are some of the numbers from the press conference:
– 25 percent of X-Box owners are likely to go online this holiday season. This is more than the 15 percent of PS2 owners who will do so.
– By the end of 2003, there will be over 70 X-Box titles utilizing X-Box Live.
– Microsoft’s holiday promotion resulted in a 54 percent increase in sales.
– X-Box Live’s projections were to gain 1 million subscribers by June 2004. Current numbers reveal that this figure is very likely to become reality.

And here’s the big one…
– 92 percent of X-Box Live subscribers said they would recommend the service to a friend.

Stop to consider that one for a second. Out of 25 X-Box Live users, 23 were impressed enough to pass along the good word to others. Forget billboards in Times Square, X-shaped pizzas, or any other kind of promotion you could dream up, THIS is the best kind of advertising possible. Users who create other users. This is why X-Box Live has been so successful and will remain at the forefront of online play as long as Microsoft deems it so. And with EA getting on board, who knows where X-Box Live can go in the coming years?

Sony and Nintendo had better take notice of what Microsoft is doing with X-Box Live. In a few years, the next X-Box could be the hottest system out there, while PS3 and Nintendo’s new creation could be left behind in the dust.

N-Gage
This week, some new bundles were announced for the N-Gage, each of which provides cost incentive to purchase the system, but still doesn’t answer the question of why anybody would actually want an N-Gage.

EB and GameStop have added to their $199 deal, which has been going on for almost a month now (kinda long for a “Halloween special”, eh?). Now, gamers will be able to select three games, each of which will be free with the purchase of a new N-Gage. The price will remain at $199. Target has created their own bundle which nets gamers a $100 gift card if they purchase the N-Gage and a game, and Wal-Mart has thrown their hat into the ring with their own unique bundle. Wal-Mart offers the system, three games, a 64 MB memory card, and a carrying case for $299.

The best deal would have to be the EB/GameStop one, as you gain three games just by waiting till now to pick up an N-Gage. Wal-Mart’s deal is pretty lame, actually, as you pay $100 more than you’d pay at EB or GameStop just to get a memory card and a carrying case. Target’s doesn’t really offer much, and you’re still paying for one game as opposed to getting three for free. Still, even with all of these deals, nobody’s going to be begging for an N-Gage this holiday season. There just isn’t enough of a reason to want one, and it’s going to take Nokia to realize that before sales figures increase.

Another Video Game Study
There’s nothing more annoying than the stating-the-obvious study that didn’t really need to be done, but gets done anyway and causes the pontificators in the industry to suddenly realize something that they’ve probably known for a very long time.
Yet, these studies are routinely done. Look at Yahoo’s main newsboard. At least once a week, there’s a link to some study done that’s completely ridiculous. You might find a link saying “Study: Obesity rising in America” or “Study: Driving while tired is dangerous”. And every time, these studies garner way too much publicity and tend to influence opinion more than they have any right to.

Recently, a study was conducted by US Bancorp Piper Jaffray, who claims that console sales have peaked. The study claims that 2003 marks the midpoint of the current console cycle, which will yield a downfall in the sales of each of the Big 3. However, all the news is not bad, as the study also states that game sales will increase.

OK. This is obviously a very flawed survey. Maybe it wouldn’t have been last year or even next year, but right now it sure is. Why? Well, it’s completely obvious that console sales would hit their peak after two (or 3 in the case of the PS2) – by this point, everyone has one!!! Everybody who would own a console has already purchased at least one. The price cuts you see now are the attempts of the console makers to get gamers to buy a second system. Let’s face it, if you’re any kind of gamer, you bought the system of your choice in 2002 at the latest. So it’s abundantly clear that consoles are going to experience a dropoff after two years in the market.

Also, on the same train of thought, anybody could figure out that game sales will increase now. If everyone’s already got their systems, what are they going to spend their money on? Games, of course! What groundbreaking work! It’s as if the general public expected gamers to buy systems, then go purchase encyclopedias. Some websites are treating this as good news; they should realize that it’s a basic assumption that could be made by anybody with a brain. See what happens when you get over your by-the-book objectivity and actually THINK?

The second inconsistency is that there’s no proof for the supposed decline in console popularity. The study points out that sales have actually increased between 2002 and 2003. That probably has more to do with consumer indecision and the slowly-but-steadily improving economy. But to say that consoles will drop off just because it’s the midpoint of their cycle is as absurd as Dan Duquette’s proclamation that Roger Clemens was in the “twilight of his career” in 1996. Clemens went on to win 3 more Cy Young awards. There are still a LOT more consoles to be sold. If not, nobody would be dropping prices. Instead, they’d be putting all of their efforts into PS3, X-Box 2, and whatever Nintendo comes up with next. This isn’t the case.
And with online play becoming more important to gamers all the time, who’s to say that consoles won’t become even more popular in 2004? If a GameCube owner wants to play online, he’s got to know that it’ll never happen with the Cube, so he might consider the X-Box. Same goes for the PS2 owner who wants to play Mario Kart – he’ll check out the GameCube. Just saying the industry’s due for a dropoff isn’t enough evidence to be the thesis for a significant study.

There are a bunch of numbers that go with this that can be found here, but they’re sort of irrelevant. The truth is, this study is hardly groundbreaking and the results could be deduced by anybody who gave the matter some thought. It would be nice to see a study about something more important, such as the type of influence the rating system and recent crackdown on violent games have actually had on the game industry. THAT would be interesting to read.



Plugs
This is (most likely) a one-shot deal. Do not read anything into this. This is simply a way to pay tribute to one of the all-time greats here at 411, one who deserves a huge amount of praise for the work he’s done. Give it up for…
Chuck Platt’s Greatest Hits!
Gold
Video Game Soundtracks to Score To. The essence of Chuck Platt lies in his second column. An instant classic that describes the kinds of things you’ve always thought about, but were too afraid to mention out of fear of being ridiculed. Chuck’s not afraid of anything!

Silver
Where Are They Now? Great, great stuff here. If you’ve ever wondered what happened to Peter Pepper from BurgerTime, this column is for you. And if you’re a gamer, surely you’ve inquired as to Mr. Pepper’s whereabouts.

Bronze
The Cel Shading Column. Tired of hearing about cel shading as the next big gaming phenomenon? You’ll definitely get a kick out of this great column! Look for puppet-shading to become next year’s big thing, mark my words.

The Rest of the Idiots
Liquidcross – The Angry Gamer. My partner on Thursdays adds a third part to his Mega Man retrospective. Who knew there was anything more than Mega Man, Rush, and Dr. Wiley?
In The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, you take control of Tron as she uses every resource at her disposal to loot and pillage. Hey, ya gotta earn money somehow! This game will also make you respect those annoying little Servbots.

Alex Lucard – Retrograding. Alex – thanks for the vote of confidence (again). Much needed and much appreciated.
Do any of you even remember when SF2 came out? Half the fun was finding broken shit.

Alex Williams – Encore Extra Stage News Report. AW’s exceeded my burnout prediction, and he’s still pumping out awesome content! Is Alex human? Or is he something greater? Like a poet?
This means that in a meeting about 18 months ago, Nokia sat down and said “Lets take one of our phones, modify it a bit, let it play game cartridges, and charge suckers $300 for it!” I swear, that’s probably the business proposal they worked with. It’s that damn bad.

Cory Laflin – Gamer’s Hangover News Report. Sorry to see it end, Cory. Even sorrier that the Chiefs’ D sucked this week.
Just because the violent side of our ids go nuts when we see another guy doing it doesn’t mean our egos can’t tell the difference between an actual homosexual relationship and some well-done ‘adult entertainment.’

Alex Williams – 411MAX: News News Revolution. Alex is feeling the Term Paper Blues, not unlike yours truly. The difference is I’m graduating, while AW is toiling at Towson for much longer! HAHAHAHA! (sorry)
Why do game companies think they can add a fresh coat of paint to something and call it a sequel? (I’m looking at YOU, Madden…)

Alex Lucard – Retrograding Mailbag. According to Lucard’s memegen, I’ll survive for almost two years after the dead rise to eat the living. Sounds about right.
Sometimes I wish our demographic didn’t also overlap with the percentages of illiterates or severely mentally handicapped on the web.

Alex Lucard – Double Dragon Advance. Even after posting two other pieces this week, Alex finds time for the Double Dragon review. And he proves once again why he’s our best reviewer.
It would be nice to think this is the beginning of a Double Dragon Revival, but in truth it’s going to most likely be a one shot. I’m hoping I’m wrong though, as this game has enough meat in it to warrant a purchase.



Commentary of the Week
Fantasy Football to start! Here’s the team I fielded last week…

QB: Matt Hasselbeck, Brad Johnson
RB: Marshall Faulk, Warrick Dunn, James Jackson, Michael Pittman, Troy Hambrick
WR: Anquan Boldin, Rod Gardner, Peerless Price, Jerry Porter, Drew Bennett
TE: Todd Heap
K: Mike Vanderjagt
DST: Kansas City Chiefs, Carolina Panthers

With this weekend’s win, I’m 3-6-2. Just 1.5 games back of first place (somehow) and with divisional games starting this weekend, it’s going to be close. I proposed a trade of Rod Gardner for Kevin Johnson straight-up and that’s pending the acceptance of the other team. I cut Brian Westbrook last week to make room for Pittman (traded a 2nd rounder for him), and he repaid me by scoring 3 TD’s while Pittman did nothing on my bench. I’m playing the division leader this weekend, and SportsLine has him favored by 16. He’s definitely got the edge in RB’s (Ricky Williams, Jamal Lewis, Domanick Davis) and we’re pretty even in QB’s (Trent Green, who he got from me) and receivers (Laveranues Coles, Andre Johnson). I’ve got him licked in TE (Freddie Jones) and K (Aaron Elling). His DST (St. Louis) plays to my advantage because I’ve got Boldin and he has Jones, both of whom play for Arizona. It should go down to the wire, and it’s a toss-up at this point. If I lose, my season’s over, so wish me luck!

Aside from Fantasy Football, there’s not a whole lot to talk about. With school in high gear, the majority of my life is consumed by school, work, football, and this site. Sadly, there’s little time for much else. This is the plight of the college student during Term Paper Season. It’s rough, but it’s very rewarding once it’s all done. Term Paper Season is almost over, and thankfully, this will be the last one. Graduation is just over one month away, and time can’t fly by fast enough.

If this Commentary is a little weak, please forgive me. I’ve got a few things in mind for next week that I think will work pretty well. You’ll see.



Bye
This week was a good one. I really enjoyed writing it, and I hope everybody enjoyed reading it. Check back tomorrow for Alex Williams’ excellent Encore Extra Stage News Report, which will tell you how to Cheat! Till next week, guys. If you work at a grocery store, heaven help you this week. Everybody else, have a great week!