Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 03.06.03

Welcome to the first edition of the Thank God It’s Thursday News Report under the 411 Mania banner. Bryan Berg here.

The site has really improved a whole lot since the Monday relaunch. The layout is very impressive, and the new additions (i.e. the Flash games) are more than welcome. The site, as a whole, can only improve as a result of the changes made. The Games Zone is constantly getting better, so be sure to stop back here every day for the latest in gaming news.

With that in mind, let’s see what’s cooking.

Nintendo has entered into a technology development agreement with ATI, the graphics chip maker. While it is unknown what the agreement entails, the general belief is that ATI will be developing a graphics chip that will be used on Nintendo’s next console. ATI was also responsible for the “Flipper” chip that is being used in the GameCube.

This news is significant for two reasons. First, it shows that they are making plans for life after the GameCube. While it’s not uncommon for companies to begin development in the so-called “prime” of their current system’s life, the timing of this news becomes important, as many are questioning Nintendo’s position as a hardware developer.

The other piece also has to do with Nintendo’s hardware future. If ATI really is developing a chip for Nintendo’s next home system, it shows that Nintendo is here to stay as a hardware maker. It will not become a strictly third party game developer in this case, something that critics are urging Nintendo to do. Give them credit for being bold, but sometimes there’s a fine line between being bold and being stupid. I’m not sure where this one lies.

Prince of Persia
Ubi Soft has announced that it will be developing a Prince of Persia game for all major platforms. The game should be available in time for the holidays. It is a sequel of the first Prince of Persia game and will be subtitled “The Sands of Time”. The creator of the original Prince of Persia, Jordan Mechner, will be assisting Ubi Soft in working on the game.

If you’ve ever played the first one, you know how great Prince of Persia is. This one will hopefully keep all of the excellent gameplay intact while providing a now-needed graphical overload. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time should be a classic when it is (hopefully) released at the end of this year.

The Movies
The Movies is a game that was announced by Activision earlier this week. The game allows players to run their own Hollywood movie studio, choosing what pictures to be produced and the actors and scripts to go with those movies. The Movies will be developed by Peter Molyneux’s Lionhead Studios and will be released in 2004 for all console platforms, as well as the PC.

An interesting idea from Molyneux, who has also made Theme Park and Populous, but can it work? Will the movies and actors be real? If so, it will require a tremendous amount of effort on the part of Activision, given the amount of movie stars that have been seen in the past eighty years of cinema. With fake movies, the game loses its luster a little. It goes from being the motion picture version of EWR to just a game with a cool premise. In any event, this game is sure to make a sizable splash in the gaming market. In the case that it does, Activision has the rights to make add-ons and sequels, cash cows if they ever existed.

Microsoft announced this week that the subscriber base for its X-Box Live service has reached 350,000. Of gamers asked in a survey, the overwhelming majority claimed that downloadable content was what they liked best about X-Box Live. The sales of the X-Box Live Starter Kit are over the Playstation 2 Network Adapter by a whopping 44 percent. Microsoft also announced that it will be making an additional level of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell available for the launch of X-Box Live in Europe on March 14.

It seems like every week, there’s a new press release about how great Microsoft is doing in the gaming market. And every week, the press releases get more smug. For example:

And with peak gaming times coming during television prime time, it’s apparent that consumers are fulfilling their desire for reality-based entertainment on Xbox Live, today’s true reality program.

Ugh. With that said, though, one can’t help but be impressed with the proliferation of X-Box Live. It has given the X-Box a purpose and a niche in the ultra-competitive video game market. Microsoft’s service is doing amazing things by providing gamers with free downloads of additional levels and other goodies, things that will promote the longevity of their games. If Nintendo is going to go online, it should look to X-Box Live as a model to strive for.

This week’s plugs go to the new format.

The Flash Games get the Gold this week. If you have access to a computer in a boring class you’re taking, the Flash games will save you. There’s some really good stuff over there, including…
The Copter Game – Way too addictive. Simple, fun, and REALLY frusturating.
Super Hacky Sack – This game isn’t that fun, but it works. Give it a go anyway.
Bugz – Probably the weakest of all the games. You’re supposed to run over the green things while avoiding the red things, just so you know ahead of time.
Alien Invasion – This is a good one. You’ll want to learn how to steer your missiles while they’re in air once the going gets rough.
Mosquito Blaster – Play it, have fun, but be careful! It might suck your will to live. (HA!) If one of these bad boys gets on you, it’s sayonara.
Watchout! – The good old “Get the hell out of the way” game. Also quite addictive.

A word of caution, though. These games have sounds, so make sure you’ve muted your computer before you open up the Flash games in your Computer Science class. And if you fail the test, or your teacher catches you and gives you a hard time, don’t blame me.

The Silver goes to the new Previews section. Chris has been hard at work doing these previews, complete with screen shots and everything. They’re good, and they’re new, so please do give the Previews section a look.

It’s not anything new, but the entire Reviews section gets the Bronze. They’ve been pumping out work non-stop, all of which is quite good. Lee Baxley even pulls double duty this week with two reviews. Give the reviews a read, won’t you? Especially Dark Cloud 2.

News reports, evidently, aren’t cool to do anymore. Still, our guys plug away (HA!). The Weekend Wipe-Up returns, except it’s written by some hack called Joe Reid. What the hell? Ron Yip does his sim-thing with the SimColumn, and Bebito dishes out rumours in the Rumor Down-Lo. Jason Masters has defected to The Next Level, where he will face tougher opponents and a new boss.

Non-411 Link of the Week
Batman Sucks Forever. Perhaps the funniest thing I’ve ever read. If you hated Batman and Robin, thought the 60’s series was hilarious, or are just a Bat-fan in general, you’ll get a huge kick out of this.

Commentary of the Week
With the criticism on Michael Jackson coming in from all sides, you’d think at least SOMEBODY would come to his defense. It hasn’t happened.

Until now.

Now, let me admit that you won’t find a more f*cked up person anywhere than Michael Jackson. The way he carries himself and the things he does simply make you scratch your head and wonder. And at this point in his life, he’s beyond control or reason. However, if this is all you’re looking at, I think you’re missing the point.

Let’s take it from Michael’s perspective. He’s born and almost immediately, he’s taken from the crib to the stage. The kid’s performing and is a public figure before he’s even ten years old. Just imagine the kind of childhood this must be. School? Nope. Instead, you live on the road and spend most of your time in recording studios. Instead of developing people skills, you’re dealing with managers and record execs who mold you in the image of what’s going to sell the most records. If you so much as breathe the wrong way, you know you’re going to get it from your dad. Hardly the ideal childhood, eh?

This doesn’t even mention his solo career, which absolutely dominated the 80’s. Go through his albums and you’ll see hit after hit after hit, most of which he wrote himself, and ALL of which are just as great today as they were 20 years ago. He was obviously a man who loved what he did and strove to get better. And the people loved him for it. Everything he touched was gold. Hell, all he had to do was sing one line to give Rockwell a #1 hit.

So, where did it all go wrong?

It didn’t. It never started out right.

If Michael had learned some of life’s lessons early on, as opposed to carrying the Jackson Five on his shoulders before he was even a teenager, he wouldn’t have had the problems he had. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the detrimental effect the media had on Michael’s life as well. With all of the scrutiny that a public figure with the magnitude of Michael has, it takes a lot of savvy to deal with that. Michael, obviously, never got the chance to develop the skills necessary to handle his fame. That’s why he became a recluse. Do you want to know why he loves little kids? Because he never got to be one, that’s why. Sure, he shouldn’t be sleeping with them, but he just doesn’t know any better.

That’s a shame. And that’s the price of fame.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed this edition of the Thank God It’s Thursday News Report. Don’t forget to check out all of the many sections 411 Mania has to offer. The site is just full of the information you need to know. Read Stanley (Joe Reid?!?) over the weekend and Chris tomorrow, should he get around to posting a news report. Thanks for reading, and Thank God It’s Thursday.