Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 05.29.03

Hello. You’ve stumbled upon the Thank God It’s Thursday News Report, the one-stop shop for all the latest and greatest in video game news. Hope you like what you see.

As you read this, I’m on the way to the Vet for the Mets-Phillies tilt I mentioned last week. Either that or I’m enjoying the Early Bird Special at Skydrive – 240 balls for $12. Thanks to those who sent in Vet tips, especially those whom I forgot to write back to.

Enough about me. On with the news!!!

On the heels of its’ announcement of the PSP, Sony has announced the release of the PSX in Japan. The PSX is a sort of modified PS2 with enough bells and whistles to stand on its own as not only a game system, but as a media center in and of itself.

What do you get with the PSX? You get what you’ve always gotten with the PS2, but so much more. The PSX features a 120 GB hard drive, built-in Ethernet, USB technology, DVD recorder, and Memory Stick compatibility. For gaming purposes, you won’t have to worry about memory cards anymore; for everything else, the PSX can handle it.

One can only imagine how much this is going to cost. Word is that Sony plans to market this as high-end electronics as opposed to simply a video game system, so it’ll probably cost an arm and a leg. The PSX will be released in Japan by the end of the year, and it’ll hit America and Europe sometime in 2004.

The question is, is there a market for the PSX when Sony is already selling more PS2s than any of the other home console developers? We shall see. But at the very least, the PSX gives Sony a chance to show off its technical prowess as it readies the PS3.

And I don’t think the PS3 is as far away as we previously thought. If history is any indicator, we shouldn’t get the PS3 any later than 2005. We’ve seen it with almost every other system – the current system gets repackaged to hold over gamers until the new system is ready, which is pretty close to the time of the repackaging. Refurbished versions of the Sega Master System, NES, Game Boy, Genesis, and PSOne all popped up around the time of the “sequel” to that system. Time will tell if the PS3 will be right behind the PSX as well.

You can see screenshots of the PSX here.

As reported last week, Nintendo created a demo disc to showcase the GameCube’s ability. As presumed last week, the disc will be used as part of a GameCube bundle.

The GameCube bundle now looks like this – you can get the demo disc, a free game (Zelda, Metroid, Mario Party, or StarFox), and the system for $149. In June, the options will be modified, as gamers are allowed to choose between getting the free game or a free Game Boy Advance Player.

Nintendo execs claim that the innovative bundling will translate into big GameCube sales over the summer. But let’s be realistic – all these bundles are REALLY saying are “We’re not doing a good job of selling our system, so let’s give away free stuff instead.” Look at the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo’s other big appliance. There’s no bundle for the GBA, and you can’t find an SP anywhere, but the demand is so strong for the GBA that it doesn’t need to rely on gimmicks to move units. On the other hand, we have the GameCube, who, in spite of ridiculous bundles which now give gamers about $60 worth of free material, can’t get people to buy their systems.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – the gaming world wants the GameCube to succeed. But it’s just not working out, and the bundles just illuminate this fact to the degree that it can’t be avoided. Nintendo’s really just drawing attention to its own flaws here, and it’s really a shame. The sooner they figure out that clever marketing isn’t the answer, the better off they’ll be.

Sega and EA?
Lee mentioned yesterday in his news report that Electronic Arts has made an offer to Sega which would involve Sega and EA forming a “North America Sales Alliance”. As we all know, last year Sega placed a ton of confidence in NFL 2K3, a game which many thought was better than Madden 2003. Of course, Madden went on to out-sell NFL 2K3 by something like 8 to 1.

Is this the ultimate white flag being waved by Sega? Is EA playing to role of WWF to Sega’s WCW? It’s hard to tell who really benefits from this. Sega stays alive, but at the hands of the company that nearly killed it. EA gains yet another asset, but loses some of its strongest competition in the Sega Sports series.

The situation that would result in the best games is the two sides staying independent of each other. Look at the case of EA’s NHL series – with no real competition from the previous year, EA put out a subpar NHL 2003. Now that NHL 2K3 has been critically acclaimed, EA realizes it has work to do in order to regain its credibility. EA needs the competition that Sega provides before it flounders like the WWF has with no competition.

Capcom has recently announced its projected sales for the upcoming year. Overall, it expects to move 7.6 million units of its’ 31 PS2 games, 800,000 copies of its 5 X-Box games, and 2.2 million of its 7 GameCube games.

What’s significant here is that Capcom is placing a lot of faith in its GameCube performance, the system that has been much maligned for its lack of quality third party games. While these figures are indeed worldwide and not just North America, it is surprising to see, especially since Resident Evil 4 is evidently not one of the seven GameCube games that are being projected.

Numbers like these do more for gamers than simple sales numbers, as they reflect the attitudes of those in the industry about those whom they do business with. In other words, perhaps there is some hope for the GameCube after all.

As just about the only 411 Games member to contribute original content on a consistent basis, Lee Baxley has the lockdown on Gold until someone else challenges him for it. His Hump Day Otaku News Report never fails to please, and this week’s edition is no different. Hopefully you’ve read it already, but if not, do so now!

It’s rare that you’ll find a preview in the Plugs section – no fault of the previewers, just that so many are usually posted that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Just one this week, though, so it gets a Medal. We have Derek Durham‘s preview of Tiger Woods 2004, and the preview is good. That the preview is of Tiger Woods 2004 is even better! Check this one out if you can.

The Bronze for this week goes to Bryan Berg for his Thank God It’s Thursday News Report. When you’ve got nothing to plug, it’s okay to plug yourself. So that’s what I’m doing. Even though last week’s column sucked – you’d be surprised how skipping one week can totally throw you off.

Non-411 Link of the Week
Check out if you’re into quizzes, personality tests, and that sort of thing. The site features an IQ test that I “only” got 118 on, whereas my previous test scored me at 146. I nearly burst into tears. Anyway, the site’s got a load of great stuff, so stop on by.

CD of the Week
I picked up The Cure’s Greatest Hits this week on blind faith, basically. Prior to making this purchase, all I’d heard from the Cure was “Friday I’m In Love”, which I hated when it came out in 5th grade, and “Love Song”, which is one of the better songs I’ve ever heard. So far, the CD is proving to be a worthy selection, so thanks to Jason Harr for turning me onto this stuff.

On the same Best Buy run, I picked up “Comedian” on DVD. It’s a documentary-type job featuring Jerry Seinfeld attempting to resume his stand-up career after the conclusion of his TV show. It’s really fascinating. It’s amazing how much work goes into something that seems as simple as telling a joke. “Comedian” is definitely recommended, especially if you’re a Seinfeld buff (odds are good that you are).

Commentary of the Week
On Monday, my best friend John and a few buddies convened around John’s huge flat-screen TV to watch Commando. For those not in the know, Commando is a 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger flick that is the epitome of the “so bad it’s good” movie. The dad from Clueless appears sporting a (presumably) Colombian accent, and 96 people die in the movie. It’s terrible, which of course makes it great.

The “so bad it’s good” phenomenon has really come on strong recently, what with the 80’s resurgence and all. We’re seeing it everywhere – cheesy 80’s movies, cheesy 80’s music, and cheesy 80’s clothing styles, aka the throwback jerseys you see in every rap video. What you don’t see so much of is the “so bad it’s good” video game.

We all have our “Guilty Pleasure” games, and that’s all well and good. But you’re not going to go into your local GameStop and pick up a game just because it sucks so much that it has some redeeming value. Which begs the question – why must this be so? Why is it okay to go out and buy Bananarama’s Greatest Hits, but you wouldn’t be caught dead with a copy of Superman for N64?

Two answers immediately come to mind, the first being price. It’s unfathomable to spend the going rate for a new game, $50, for something that’s just going to provide some goofy fun. Fifty bucks is a lot of money, and that kind of investment requires a return beyond the “stupid laughs” category. This explains why you see so many old crappy games in everyone’s collection – they’re cheap, even today. Who among us hasn’t bought a copy of Shaq-Fu just for the hell of it?

The second answer is a bit more complicated. See, you can watch Commando, not think about it, and have a good time with it. You can put on your New Order MP3s and make them background music for your game of Snood. But if you intend to relish in the cheesiness of, say, Fester’s Quest, you’d have to put some mind into it. Gaming is a cerebral exercise, and you have to process information and utilize it in your gameplaying. This means that you’ll get bored of Fester’s Quest real quickly.

There’s a reason games like this cost $.49 at GameStop – they suck. They suck even worse than the worst 80’s movie (The Last Dragon) or the worst 80’s music (Winger) or the worst 80’s clothes (Hypercolor shirts) because you’re forced to think about how much they suck. Don’t let this stop you from picking up a cheap copy of whatever cheesy game you’d like. Just realize that it might not live up to your expectations.

It’s been a fun one. I hope it’s been as fun for you as it has been for me. But we must part for the rest of the week. I’ll be back next Thursday and in the mean time, enjoy Lee and the others if they get around to posting anything. Till then, have a great week!