411MAX: News News Revolution 5.21.04

Greetings, salutations, and most importantly…hello. It is I, Alex Williams, back from a 1.5 month hiatus from the news column world, once again ready to ROCK YOUR SOCKS OFF WITH FRIDAY NEWS!

Or you’ll click here, read my goofy “salutations” line, and go read someone else. Like you ALWAYS do…*sniff*…

Anyways, I’m officially back to full-time status here in the great, great world of the 411. I had taken a slight reduction of duties as of late in order to devote more time to my schoolwork and prepare for final exams, which is THE reason 411MAX did not appear for the past several weeks. I was still around, of course, updating the News and Hints boards when I could get a free moment, but those don’t take NEARLY as long to do compared to columns.

The funny thing was I tried to come back at least TWICE before this week. I tried banging out a column in late April, but work on a class presentation left free time at minimal, and quality at complete zero. So that column was scrapped. Then I was going to come back LAST week so I could capitalize on the E3 rush. But, cooler heads prevailed when finals started THE DAY OF E3, so I put most of my energy into studying for them.

But now, I’m officially on my summer break. Therefore, it’s time to officially time to RESTART FRIDAY NEWS!

Look for my commentary on the PSP after the news bytes. Trust me, it’ll put a LOT of things in perspective.

So…(ahem)…ON WITH THE NEWS!


Sammy/Sega Part 1: Sammy To Buy Sega Completely

Well, it’s official now. Sega and Sammy have announced that they will officially be merging completely. And of course by MERGING, I mean Sammy’s buying up the remaining shares of Sega’s stock and fully controlling the company. The deal will cost Sammy 1.45 billion dollars, or 165 billion yen.

Still, this doesn’t mean that Sammy is going to completely dismantle Sega. When October rolls around, Sega and Sammy will be referred to as “Sega Sammy Holdings”. Shares of Sammy’s stock will be swapped for one share of SSH, while each of Sega’s shares will be worth about 28% of one SSH share.

Sammy has stated that the company will be reorganized into four separate divisions by the year 2007: pachinko and pachislot, amusement and consumer games, media content and network, and miscellaneous. However, the Sega and Sammy brand names will continue to exist even after the reorganization is completed.

Which of course brings about a big sigh of relief from Sega fans like me. When I first heard the story, I thought Sammy would buy the company, kill it, and gut it for their own, twisted needs. Thank goodness that isn’t the case. Having Sega develop what they’re known for developing, and having Sammy as the promotional arm behind it is probably the best thing to have happen. Especially if the “Sega” brand is still used. Destroying that would be a travesty to be sure.

(Credit goes to Gamespot


Sammy/Sega Part 2: The Resulting Stock Shift

You see, the beauty of having a news column at the END of the week is that not only do I cover the major stuff, but I ALSO cover the FALLOUT from the major stuff at the same time! Aren’t I LUCKY?

Anyways, after the joint Sega/Sammy “merger” announcement, there was some increased activity of each company’s stock. Sega’s shareholders were pretty happy as shares soared by 13.7 percent, closing at about $10.06 a share. However, Sammy’s shareholders became a bit skeptical, as their shares fell about 2.37%, closing at about $37.46 a share.

It all comes down to the question of “Will Sega be able to adjust to the new Sammy environment?” in the long run. As of now, most analysts are saying no, but I don’t see the problem. If Sega just develops their games, and leaves it to Sammy to adequately push them (as I said above), things will work out great.

(Credit goes to Gamespot


Sony PS1: 100 Million Served

Every game company likes to trumpet their horns now and then. And since we’re still around the E3 mark, horns are being tooted everywhere you look. And Sony is no different. Sony has announced that they’re 100 Millionth PS1 unit has been shipped from their Japanese factory.

So, hooray for them, I guess. Not much else to say here, other than a heart-felt congrats.

(Credit goes to Spong.com)


Namco: You’re Half A Century!

In another “milestone announcement”, Namco will be celebrating their 50th anniversary this June. And in more important news, I’ll be celebrating my 22nd birthday in June! GO ME!

…*cough*…

ANYWAY, Namco is going to celebrate with a special “50 Years” logo with a wooden horse in the center of the “0”. This is to signify their beginnings as a company that crafted wooden horse rides. They later moved on to bigger, and more extravagant rides before moving into the video game world in 1971.

(Credit goes to Gamespot


And there be your news this week. A little small, yes. But coming out of the news bonanza that was E3, this is VERY decently sized. Now for my first commentary in ages:


COMMENTARY: What Sony Is Doing Wrong With The PSP

It’s official. The Sony PSP has been unveiled to the public, and its already creating quite a buzz in the gaming community. The graphics are on par with your typical PS2 game, the screen is large enough where you can see all you need to see, the unit can play movies, and above all, it will be the most “advanced” handheld on the market come March 2005 when its released.

So why do I feel like this is the biggest marketing blunder Sony could be doing right now?

There are so many things wrong with the PSP that I can’t even begin to fathom it. So, lets go through them one by one, shall we?

The Price

If you want to pick up a SINGLE PSP system, you’re going to need to shell out $300. That’s as much as TWO Nintendo DS systems (approximately). That’s as much as THREE Game Boy Advance SPs, and as much as FOUR original model GBAs with change to spare. Hell, that’s as much as TWO PS2s right now! And worst of all, that’s the same price the Nokia N-Gage started at. Look how THAT turned out…

Now don’t get me wrong. The PSP is (thank all that is holy) NOTHING like the N-Gage. The N-Gage contained several different technologies and threw them together in an unfriendly interface, calling itself a game system. The PSP is more of a shrunken-down PS2, with only a few things lost in the process. In fact, I was quite interested with what the PS2 could do…until I read the price tag.

I’m sorry, I don’t care HOW powerful a video game system is. I don’t care if it has the power of a PS2, OR the ability to play movies released in the same format. Tacking on a $300 price tag to a PORTABLE system is downright highway robbery., especially if you can buy a GBA SP, and headphone adaptor, and six popular games for the same price. And if you want to compare it to it’s main competition, I could probably get a Nintendo DS with two-to-three new games on launch day for LESS than a single PSP. That, and the fact is that Sony is charging this double their current console, AND they expect us to make another huge investment in the coming months when the PS3 is announced and released. That’ll be approximately $600 I’d be spending on Sony-brand systems ALONE within eighteen months of both releases (I’m guessing, anyway). For most of us, it will be a major choice between one new technology, or the other. And I don’t have that kind of money to spend on one company, thank you very much.

The Battery Life

As pointed out by LC himself, the battery life of the PSP will last about 2.5 hours before needing a recharge. Again, I find myself bringing up an argument I made nearly a year ago when I took a look at the N-Gage before the official launch: the battery life of a handheld HAS to last a good, long time before needing replacement batteries / recharging. The Game Boy line had that going for it in spades, with the first three models lasting a good 10 hours a piece, the GBA lasting 15-18 hours, and the SP lasting 10 hours with the backlight on, and close to 18 without.

The point here is that with my GBA SP, I can take it practically anywhere and know that I can play it during long stretches of time. With the PSP, in order to use it the game way, I’m going to end up chained to the wall as it recharges for the fifth time in the same week. If I wanted to stay in one spot in my house and play a fully 3D Metal Gear game, I’d pop in MGS2 in my PS2 or X-Box. That way, I know the power will stay on, unless there’s a blackout of some kind.

And this system is supposed to be PORTABLE? Sorry, low battery life does not make this thing portable. Look at the Game Gear and the N-Gage’s battery life. How long have YOU been chained to the wall at a time to enjoy those games to the fullest?

The Games

Speaking of the games, there’s…really not that much that isn’t a port out there. You see all the same names: Metal Gear, Tony Hawk, Viewtiful Joe, etc, etc. Most of all the games listed are either ports, or concepts I’ve already seen before. The only real “unique” game on that list is Death Jr., and so far, I’m not that impressed by it.

But it’s not really what the games are that bother me. I mean, the ports are probably going to play well on the PSP. It’s the PRICE of these games that just annoy me to no end. The games will be $50 dollars each, just like the consoles for the most part.

Now, in all fairness, do you see yourself paying FIFTY DOLLARS for a SINGLE handheld game?

Up until now, all handheld games have been reasonably priced between $20-$40 a piece. Not just with the Game Boy games, but with ALL handheld games. Games for the Game Gear, Lynx, and NGPC were NEVER this overpriced, unless I’m missing something. Hell, N-GAGE games aren’t that expensive! And this doesn’t even take into account that Sony wants you to buy MOVIES for this thing as well. I swear, this unit could drain your wallet faster than filling the gas tank on your standard SUV.

And all this high pricing leads me to my final, and most crucial point…

The Technology

Here is Sony’s biggest mistake. They chose to create a portable system with all the graphical power of their current console. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but if you’re going to make something THAT powerful in this day and age, it’s going to cost quite a bit of money to make it a reality.

Sony believes that the world is ready for a handheld that can play highly advanced games, as well as play movies made specifically for that format. The truth is, the world is NOT ready for such an endeavor. And if you think about it, even SONY isn’t ready for it.

What’s worked for handheld gaming in the past is the direct contrast in technology when compared to the current market. The Game Boy was inferior to the NES and Super Nintendo, but still sold well thanks to an affordable price, and an extensive library of games. Then the jump was made to the GB Color during the N64’s time, and that had the power equivalent to the NES. (It wasn’t THAT big of a jump, but a jump is a jump.) Then came the GC, and with that, the GBA. And the technology had advanced enough by then to create a portable SNES that was affordable, and fun. The Game Boy line was always about 10 years behind the consoles, and yet they’ve sold 160 million units combined.

Nintendo has always been smart in regards to their handhelds. They follow a certain “order” to their technology enhancements when it is cost effective enough. What Sony is doing is seemly ignoring this fact, and going gung-ho on their first attempt by making their handheld the equivalent of their console. And the truth is, it ISN’T cost effective. That’s why you’re seeing a $300 price tag right now, because the technology that goes into a PSP is not cheap in the slightest. And even at $300, Sony is going to take a hit with each PSP sold. So we’re most likely not going to see any price cuts before its release, unless Sony goes completely crazy.

This ties in with the battery life as well, now that I think of it. As of now, a portable PS2 would take a LOT of power to function correctly. With today’s technology, a battery in a PSP can only last between 2-3 hours.

And perhaps the worst thing about this price is the fact that it now officially creates competition with the PS3. You may not think it, but Sony expects the gaming public to not only buy a $300 handheld with X number of $50 games and $20+ movies, but they also expect us to make ANOTHER $300 or so investment (including $50 games and who knows WHAT else we need) when the PS3 launches between 12-18 months later (a conservative estimate). Now is it just me, or is a minimum of $600 a bit much to pay for all of Sony’s latest technology? Even for Sony diehards who will buy anything with the Sony label slapped on it?

Now, if Sony shrunk down the technology of the Playstation ONE, then things would be a hell of a lot different. You’d have a system with graphics on par with Nintendo’s new unit, an extensive library of games that could be ported (more so than the PS2), and a price that could match or be LESS THAN the DS. And people would be happy. VERY happy. Instead, Sony set the bar too high. Yes, they’ll have the best handheld on the market, but at what cost?

The Conclusion

Hey, I’m all for a portable PS2. I’d love to play games like Jack & Daxter and Disgaea (or the equivalence thereof) on the go. But the way Sony is going about it is all wrong. It’s too much, too soon. And this is the main reason I’ll either be (a) sticking with my GBA, or (b) buying a Nintendo DS later this year. I’m sorry Sony, but this just isn’t going to work.


PLUGS & SHILLS THAT PAY THE BILLS

And in my FIRST WEEK BACK…I get lazy and skip the Plugs section!

Seriously, there’s so much to plug this week, I can’t possibly cover it all. There are E3 previews up the wazoo, and lots of news reports and columns that cover this stuff in-depth. So, here’s a simplistic version of plugs. Read them all, because we RULE, and there’s nothing else to the contrary:

E3 Previews

News Reports

Columns

Kliq Points will officially return next week. Until then, if you’re a member of the staff, take your last Points total, and add 750 to it. That’s your NEW number, and I’ll be giving out a whole new crop of awards out then. GOOD FOR YOU! YOU ALL RULE!


PARTING THOUGHTS

Ah, it feels good to be back in the saddle. I hope you enjoyed my journey back as much as I rushed to get this thing posted before midnight. (KIDDING! I’m kidding!)

Feedback is very much appreciated. If it’s negative…please do without (a) intelligible speech and (b) the idiotic “gay” and “retarded” comments. Those get laughed at, ignored, and deleted. (Or posted here for all to ridicule. Depends on what mood I’m in.)

In any case, I’ll see you here next week with a new crop of bulletins and perhaps another education lesson for jaded DDR veterans.

So until next week, behold the future of handheld gaming: 3D, expensive, and weird. I’ll still buy it, though. I’m a sucker like that.


Alex Williams, The Norwegian Athlete