Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 02.05.04

What’s up! Welcome to a very special edition of TGIT! What makes it so special? Well, nothing really. Every TGIT is special in its own way, just like every Retrograding is special in its own way and every Gamer’s Hangover is special in its own way. In other words, no half-assing here, you’re getting the real deal!

I know I promised a mailbag this week, but, well, something happened at about 8:30 PM on Sunday that really pissed me off. And I need to vent about it. I went into my Super Bowl festivities full of optimism and football insight. I left emotionally drained, angry, and a lot lighter in the pocket than I should have been. You’ll find out more about this in the Commentary. For now, it’s news time!



Nintendo Lowers Expectations
For a long time now, we’ve been hearing about how Nintendo intended to sell six million GameCubes in the 2003 fiscal year. Even in lean times, this number was not changed. With the price cut, this number was guaranteed by Nintendo. And now, facing internal strife and the post-Christmas reality of their situation, Nintendo has backed off of the six million… in favor of five million.

Nintendo’s most recent financial statement calls for a 17 percent cut in Nintendo’s expected 2003 fiscal sales for the GameCube. And, believe it or not, the same has been done for the Game Boy Advance, chopping 2 million units off of the 2003 fiscal projections down to 18 million. That’s a 10 percent dropoff.

While it must be embarrassing for Nintendo to have to admit publicly that they will not meet their goals, the truth is that nobody should be surprised by this news. Remember way back when Nintendo announced the DS? That wasn’t too long ago. People are bound to be thinking that the GBA will be soon replaced – even if that’s not the DS’ true intention, Nintendo didn’t really do a great job of clarifying that. As for the GameCube… well, that’s a story unto itself. When the President of a company says something like “If we made another system, would it even sell?”, that’s not exactly a boost of confidence in the current product. And don’t think people haven’t noticed, either. There’s a reason why PR people exist, and it’s to put a positive spin on things. Nintendo could really use one of those right now.

Take-Two In Trouble
You may remember a story coming out of Take-Two Interactive where the company was under investigation by the SEC for its sketchy reporting of financial figures. Today, Take-Two’s problems get worse when Banc of America’s Gary Cooper asked Take-Two’s Chairman to resign.

How did we get to this point? Simply, Take-Two announced its financial figures this week, as many other companies have done. Take-Two, already the subject of much suspicion, declared that it would have to scale back its projections by a ridiculous 33 percent. This was coupled by the announcement that the company would go back and re-do its financials for the previous five years. This dubious bookkeeping is, of course, what got the SEC onto them in the first place.

Take-Two has tried to blame a portion of their money woes on the poor performance of Max Payne 2, the delay of Mafia, and the bankruptcy of KB Toys. But this has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with being honest with the public. Needless to say, Take-Two hasn’t exactly held up its end of the bargain here. The crazy part? Despite all of this, the company’s stock went UP yesterday.

Obviously, this story is far from over. We’ll have more here at 411 games as soon as it becomes available.

Games=Brands?
Ubisoft announced its earnings for their previous quarter. The numbers are way up. Certainly great news for Ubisoft. But this bit isn’t about their 20 percent increase in earnings. It’s about the way the company perceives their games.

When discussing the unfortunate fates of Beyond Good and Evil and XIII, two mega-hyped games that fell flat around the holidays, Ubisoft had this to say…

In a very competitive year-end market, sales of new brands such as Beyond Good and Evil and XIII, products which had been heavily marketed, were lower than the early-December forecasts.

Whoa… wait a minute. Games are now BRANDS? What is this, the movies, where anything that breaks $100 million is obligated to be made into a trilogy? What ever happened to making a game just to make a good game? Does everything NEED a sequel?

Ubisoft Chairman Yves Guillermot, went on to say the following…

We have learned from the launches of Beyond Good and Evil and XIII, two new brands launched in a very competitive market dominated by established brands.

So are you saying that Viewtiful Joe’s an “established brand”? Guillermot brings a good point to the table in that most of the so-called “big” titles had something going for it, usually a record of prior success in either the title, characters, or company behind it all. Ubisoft should know this better than anybody – its two big holiday hits, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3, were both “established brands”. This is why they both went over a million units sold. For Ubisoft to complain about the “very competitive market” while benefiting from having an “established brand” in the same “very competitive market”, it sounds like sour grapes to me.

What has Ubisoft learned from the failed releases of Beyond Good and Evil and XIII? Don’t make any more games that don’t have an “established brand” attached to them? That’s a heck of a lesson. I hope nobody heeds these words. How are you going to build a brand if nobody’s willing to take a risk on an unproven entity? Are we going to live in a world where the top games are sequels and spin-offs? Here’s hoping that this sentiment echoed by Ubisoft doesn’t catch on.

Quick Hits
The next game in the Tony Hawk series will be THUG 2, according to an Activision statement. I kind of miss the old days where you could just do a ton of tricks and not have to do all this other junk, don’t you?

Killer 7 is coming to PS2. Capcom announced that its upcoming title, previously a GameCube exclusive, will be released on the PS2 when the game comes out later this year. Nintendo loses another exclusive – that hurts.

A sequel to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has been announced out of Ubisoft camp today. This follows up the excellent first next-gen installment of the series, which should be reviewed by yours truly in the coming weeks.

Ninja Gaiden has been delayed – again. However, this time it’s only a week or so. Instead of coming out the 13th, it’ll be available on either the 19th or 23rd. Rather, it’s going to SHIP one of those days, so you’ll have to play the waiting/calling game on the 20th and 24th.



Plugs
News Reports
Alex Williams – 411MAX: News News Revolution. Best business eye on the gaming world you’ve ever seen? Wow! Flattery will get you EVERYWHERE, my friend. 100000000 Gold Medals for Alex Williams!
Boy, if this is my definition of a week off, Pankonin’s never gonna give me one again!

Cory Laflin – Gamer’s Hangover News Report. Funny that Cory’s being anal about his diet. My girlfriend (also named Cory) is driving me crazy with questions like “How many carbs are in a stick of gum?” It’s driving me crazy!!
I really f*cking hate the Patriots now.
BTW Cory: It’s on whenever you want it to be. Terms of a friendly wager are negotiable.

Misha – The HitchHiker’s Guide to Video Games. Misha’s news report finally has a name! And a new sidekick in Marvin! Look for Badlissi to write a column exposing Marvin’s troubled (and perhaps incestuous?) past in the coming weeks.
It may have taken a few save-spots, and more than a couple of Continues, but the objective is achieved; the Great Evil Power has been beaten, His/Her/Its forces annihilated by the “L33T S|<1LLZ" of the Forces Of Goodness And Light(TM).

Lee Baxley – Mid-Week Mid-Boss News Report. Lee lucks out this week, as his column was posted just as I was about to fire this off and head to work. And I’m glad to plug his work – Lee rules!
Oh, and Microsoft, quit shafting us Americans. Since the Xbox is popular here, you should reward us by releasing limited edition versions here, rather than trying to entice more European and Japanese gamers.

Columns
Liquidcross – The Angry Gamer. LC’s column this week is about an important topic that most people avoid – the growing staleness of online play. And, unlike many columnists, he offers a solution to the problem. That’s good writing.
I can’t see Mega Man or Mario fighting off hordes of enemy goons, only to disappear suddenly because someone’s cable modem shit the bed.

Chuck Platt – A Thumb To The Eye. Chuck’s back. Thank goodness! If you’re new to 411 Games, this is the kind of quality stuff to expect from Platt on a weekly basis. And any column that references each member of the Kliq individually gets props from me.
NINJA! is Alex Lucard’s system for making your life better. Follow his five rules of NINJA! and you too will be sexy, good-looking, and smell like pudding. What do you have to lose? Nothing, because you suck!

Frederick Badlissi – The Gamer’s Conscience. It’s a mailbag this week for Fred, and it’s a reminder of how much awesome stuff he’s put up in the past month or so. A job truly well done.
Feedback on a mailbag? Yeah, I remain optimistic.

Reviews
Matthew Yeager – Mario Party 5 (GC). Matt’s first effort on 411 is a strong one, as he dissects Mario Party 5. Who else thinks Mario Party no longer warrants a yearly update?
The single player game remains not much fun to play, but the multiplayer is a blast with friends(and very possibly the best video game to play drinking games with).

Bryan Berg – NFL Street (PS2). That’s right! I reviewed this one, so you must read it! I shelled out $7 at Blockbuster for YOU! You know, when I first heard about NFL Street, I felt it would be a contrived effort to replicate NBA Street. Having played the game fairly extensively, I don’t entirely disagree with my original sentiment.

I could never quote myself. So instead, just read the review and scroll over the pictures – ALT tags, baby! Check ’em out!

Bebito Jackson – Sonic Heroes (GC). Bebito’s favorite franchise hits the next-gen systems in a multi-platform format for the first time! You can totally see Bebito’s love for the franchise in this review, which is why it’s a great one – he’s honest about the game’s flaws and the areas where it excels. I wish more of the “big” review sites were more like this.
In the case of Sonic Heroes, there are several problems afoot. A broken camera. Problems with bugs and collision detection. Some balance issues. Many, many things. But the rush, the ambiance, the sheer coolness of the entire experience carries so much weight that it easily eclipses said imperfections.

Alex Lucard – Baldur’s Gate 2: Dark Alliance (X-Box). Lucard, the RPG guru, is a big fan of this game. He even compares it to crack! Hopefully, nobody out there tries crack in order to test the accuracy of the correlation.
This is by far the best Action RPG I’ve played in a very long time. I’d put it almost on par with Guardian Heroes and River City Ransom.

Commentary of the Week
Super Bowl XXXVIII.

One of the finest Super Bowls ever.

And what are we discussing around the water cooler? Janet Jackson?

What is WRONG with America? Can’t anybody take the blinders off and see what’s going on here? This is EXACTLY what MTV wants, this is exactly what Janet Jackson’s label wants, and it’s exactly what the NFL doesn’t want. For the first time in a long time, people remember halftime more than they remember the Super Bowl.

When the game came on and CBS advertised their halftime show, I remarked to a group of friends, “Why the hell is Janet Jackson the star of the halftime show? She hasn’t had a hit in years!” I immediately knew that something was up. Still, the halftime was replaced by my buddy Travis playing Counter Strike on X-Box Live and me, with my head down, on the verge of tears because I had 7 and 7 in the box pool at work and with less than 20 seconds left, the dream of winning $100 was shattered by a Tom Brady touchdown pass.

We caught the end of the halftime show. At the end of the performance, Travis informed us all that Janet’s breast was just exposed. I didn’t care, and I wouldn’t have even if I hadn’t just been screwed out of $100. The two girls we were with felt the same. Travis and I enjoyed the rest of the great game, while the two girls begged and pleaded for the game not to go into overtime (a possibility Travis and I were more than welcome to).

Anyway, the next day, all the major media outlets were outraged by Janet’s “wardrobe malfunction”. Everybody apologized, as they’re required to do. Phil Mushnick expressed outrage in the New York Post. So did all the other pundits and defenders of morality. They saw the exposure as indecent and offensive to the average American. Truth be told, I doubt the average American was at all surprised by the events of the Super Bowl halftime show. It was a matter of time before somebody pulled this stunt (and don’t even give me that “it was unintentional” crap. These people knew what they were doing), and it’s not like MTV has the reputation of being family-friendly.

But I didn’t care about the breast. I was far more concerned with Carolina’s offense, which was finally gaining life in the hurry-up offense (which I called for about five minutes into the game). I was itching to see if Adam Vinatieri was really going to end this Super Bowl a goat after being a hero two years ago. I could give a crap about commercials or stupid halftime showcases. The GAME was, is, and always will be the attraction.

Janet Jackson didn’t even register in me until long after Vinatieri redeemed himself, which occurred after Carolina’s offense finally got going. It was later that night when it all became clear. It was all a marketing stunt!

Think it was a coincidence that Janet’s new single hit the radio on Monday? Of course not! Janet’s marketing people knew that people were going to be talking about her and her TV escapade, so what better time to get her music on the airwaves? And incase you haven’t heard yet, her new CD is coming out in March, a fact that has been mentioned more times than it needs to be.

So what’s next for Janet Jackson? Tons of replays of the incident to keep her name in the papers. A sit-down, tear-filled interview in March with Barbara Walters where Janet informs a curious nation about the mental anguish the exposure has caused her. This, coupled with a few “I support Michael 100 percent” quotes will get the public on her side from an emotional standpoint. And then, the CD drops and goes straight to #1. Genius. Absolute genius.

And you all thought I was a genius for calling Nintendo’s marketing plan months in advance. I’ve got nothing on Janet Jackson’s people!

To answer a question that you may be pondering, no, I don’t have anything against Janet Jackson. She’s just a pawn. That could have been anybody up there. It could have been Mariah Carey’s breast exposed on CBS for the world to see. Could have been any of the stars of the early 90’s who once got by on talent, but now rely on looks and sexual overtones to sell records. But it wasn’t any of them. It was Janet.

Why? Janet Jackson’s the one with the record coming out. And the record, and marketing thereof, has ruined the aftermath of one of the greatest football games ever played. That is NOT a fair tradeoff. That wouldn’t be a fair tradeoff if John Lennon dropped his pants while the Beatles were promoting Sgt. Pepper at Super Bowl I. The point of the halftime show is to give your girlfriend a reason to watch the Super Bowl. It’s not for the football fan. It’s a diversion, not unlike the commercial breaks in a game provide a respite from the action. In other words, the diversion should not take center stage over that which it is diverting attention from.

What’s the point of all this ranting? To be truthful, I’m not totally sure. But I do know that this Commentary should have been dedicated to the game. It should have made a coherent argument for Antowain Smith as Super Bowl MVP. It should have extolled the virtues of Jake Delhomme as a legitimate star QB. And it should have compared Tom Brady with the greats of Super Bowl history. Instead, it dealt with a marketing stunt. And if this is the future of marketing, then I’m sorry that I wasted four and a half years of my life earning a degree in this field.



That’s it for this week’s TGIT. Hope you enjoyed reading, and thanks for doing so. Next week – a celebration of one year of Thank God It’s Thursday. See you then!