Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 09.04.03

Welcome to TGIT! Why waste time with a tedious, boring intro? Let’s dive right in!!!

Grand Theft Auto
The marketing geniuses at Rockstar Games have come up with a promotion that will knock your socks off! They’ll be packaging GTA 3 and Vice City in a two-pack that will be available on October 22. The Playstation 2 version will cost $39.99…

And the X-BOX version will cost $49.99 when it comes out on November 4! This is a surprise announcement from Rockstar, since it had planned to release Vice City without the GTA moniker due to its exclusive arrangement with Sony. With this news, one would have to imagine that some sort of deal has been worked out between the three parties.

It’s smart of Rockstar to charge X-Box owners $50 for this package. Since X-Box owners haven’t had the chance to play GTA yet, they’ll surely be chomping at the bit for the opportunity to do so. They’ll make a killing with this one, guaranteed. This is one of those deals where everybody benefits, and it’s great to see.

It was previously reported in an old TGIT that the Playstation 3 would not be backwards compatible with the PS One. In other words, it’d play PS2 games, but not the games of the original.

These reports have been put to rest by Ken Kutaragi, the head of Sony Computer Entertainment. In his statement, he promised that “The format will continue forever”, meaning that each future Playstation will be able to play ALL Playstation games.

This won’t help get sell PS3’s or even get people excited about the prospect of owning one someday. But it’s nice to see that they’re throwing this in. It’s always good to know that if you get tired of playing Madden 2008, you can always throw in Battle Arena Toshinden to change the pace. At the very least, it’s an excuse for you to hold on to the PS One games that you never play anymore, just incase you’ll want to with PS3.

Alex Lucard touched on something in Retrograding this week that hasn’t gotten too much attention from anybody – the rising cost of making games.

This is an issue that everybody should be concerned with. The article Lucard references states that games for the next-generation consoles may cost $20 to $30 million to make. This is a dollar amount that many companies just don’t have.

Perhaps the most significant portion of this story is that game prices will NOT be going up. So you have the cost to make a game going up while the cost to buy a game stays constant. This spells trouble for a lot of people. Who? Just about everybody.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a company who won’t be impacted by this growth, aside from Microsoft, who has seemingly unlimited assets. Small developers will be forced to merge with larger companies. These larger companies won’t be willing to take chances on a “fringe” game that may have an audience, but not a large one. The console makers don’t have as many games to market for their systems, so people don’t buy the systems. Furthermore, they’re less likely to pump funds into first-party titles since they’ll be so expensive to produce. And, inevitably, the home gamer is left with very little to choose from. Everybody takes a hit here.

That’s just ONE way to look at it. The paragraph above is very hard to ignore, and you’d only be practical to think in that way. But the real story here isn’t so bleak. It’s got some hope. And it’s pretty damn cool for anybody who’s been a gamer since the NES came out almost 20 years ago.

$30 million is considered a pretty low-budget movie nowadays. It’s also a very high-budget video game.

Every day, you look at video game news and see some big-name actor will be providing voice talent for an upcoming video game.

Do you see what’s happening here?

Movies that have become games haven’t been anything special. Now, movie studios are coming to the game companies for some of that Hollywood magic.

I think what we’re seeing is video gaming taking the next step into cultural prominence. What is a modern video game but a playable movie? Right before our very eyes, games are becoming very legitimate forms of entertainment. It’s worth it for a company to pump $20 million into a game to make sure it’s as good as can be. It’s becoming increasingly common to see video games turned into movies. Are these things bad?

For some people, yes. But when you look at the grand scheme of things, it’s okay. For a long time, gamers have been a sort of subculture that hasn’t been taken seriously by most people. Times are changing, my friends. It’s happening for video games. In ten years, they may very well be on the same level. If the Powers That Be in video gaming keep developing and getting better, and the motion picture industry keeps stagnating, the two will find common ground very soon. Then, we might be seeing the same kind of hype for a Grand Theft Auto game (or its equivalent a decade from now) as we see now for Terminator 3 (or whatever big-budget movie you have in mind).

And if that doesn’t happen, it’s not the worst thing. The gaming climate will take on a sort of Darwinian tone where only the best (and the ones with the deepest pockets) stick around. And if they can survive an era where money is so hard to come by, production costs are so high, and consumer prices aren’t changing, it’s because they’ve been making the best games possible with their means. Games, in general, can only improve as a result of this.

Lee Baxley – Hump Day Otaku News Report. Lee called my news section from last week “minimalist”. I wouldn’t say it was minimalist so much as there was nothing really to talk about. Anyway, Lee’s report is NEVER minimalist, so read it!
It is a sad week. It is a week where Bandai and ADV conspire together to make me want to kill myself.

Frederick Badlissi – The Gamer’s Conscience. The recent string of The Gamer’s Conscience columns has been some of the most consistently inspired and thought-provoking work since Alex Lucard debuted here at 411. You’re seriously missing out if you’re not reading Fred’s stuff.
Street Fighter II taught me all I needed to know about world politics better than any Southern California public school system could ever have.

Chuck Platt – A Thumb to the Eye. Chuck bashes every type of “hardcore” gamer, and I think he has fun doing so.
. Like Cosplay to anime and people in crotchless Disney character costumes to furries, we have fools who insist on getting themselves attention through their gaming in completely inane and harmful ways.

Best of the Rest
Alex Lucard – Retrograding. Alex will tell you that this column wasn’t his best… but I think we can all agree that it was still great.
. People, I know I’m preaching to the converted, but a game does NOT f*ck you up. You have to be f*cked up already and then find an outlet.

Rest of the Best
Liquidcross – The Angry Gamer. This week, LC takes a look at what Japan has seen that we haven’t (aside from importing, that is).
Niche markets work well in Japan, but in America, it’s all about forcing out competition by any means necessary. It’s a shame, but welcome to the world of capitalist economics.

Cory Laflin – Gamer’s Hangover. Remember when Romo did that bit in the NFL Draft about the special mouthpiece? That was really funny, even though it probably wasn’t supposed to be.
Anyway, I’m none too fond of Bill Romanowski. Because of him, I not only wish EA would put the ability to injure players after the play back into Madden, but let offensive players do it to defensive players too.

Bebito Jackson – 411 Games Rumor Down-Lo. Bebito returns from his weekend of “spanky” to provide some rumors and other nonsense for all of us to enjoy.
When they tell you to freeze the top of your wedding cake to save for your first year anniversary, they don’t actually mean for you to EAT the thing after you do so. It’s just to have as memento. Don’t be an idiot and actually try to consume the thing like me.

James Renick – Freaky Flyers. This one line makes this game almost worth buying just by itself…
The game is hosted by a Don Pardo sound-alike who intros each level and insults you when you botch a race.

Chris Pankonin – NCAA Gamebreaker 2004. 411’s “Head of Games” ranks #1 in my book!
Playing as my school, the legendary Nebraska dynasty, I expect to hear the Husker fight song after scoring a touchdown! Unfortunately, I do believe I once heard the Texas fight song at one point, or another obscure song that I couldn’t even recognize.

Alex Williams – Cheat!. 411’s favorite cheater doesn’t cut any corners in bringing you the latest ways to get ahead.
I just signed into the X-Box Live network. I’m probably completely insane for taking part in something that will not even be around three years from now, but I’ve signed up nonetheless.

Non-411 Games Link of the Week is where you want to go if you’re looking for all things related to the Halloween movies. I saw Halloween 4 for the first time this weekend. The movie itself was pretty okay, but the ending… WOW. This is one that you’ve GOT to see. Anyway, they’re evidently making a 9th installment of Halloween, so they have some information on that. Go there!

CD of the Week
This week’s winner is the self-titled debut from the Offspring. Before they hit it big with the mainstream, the Offspring were a neat little punk band. They were hugely influenced by former CD of the Week winners TSOL, and it shows on this CD. Here, you’ll find some intricate guitar work, superb drumming, and a level of adventure the Offspring never quite found again. If you’re a fan of their more “punk” stuff, definitely give this one a whirl. But if you just like the radio hits, you still might get something out of it.

Commentary of the Week
In lieu of an actual Commentary this week, I’ll actually be reviving The Box Score (remember that one?) to commemorate the Jets-Skins game tonight. Definitely check it out if you’re a football fan, or if you just like to see how exciting a Madden sim can be. This was seriously one of the best games I’ve ever seen, video game or not, so I felt that it deserved its own column. Hopefully, you’ll agree.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s column. As always, thanks for reading it. Make sure to read The Box Score as well! See you next week.