Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 12.25.03

Merry Christmas! You’ve come to the news report that doesn’t take off for Christmas, Thank God It’s Thursday! Welcome to this extra-special holiday edition, and thanks for taking some time on this day to read this report.

Basically, there’s not much going on at all, but a couple of things to touch on. Then it’s on to the TWO Commentaries this week, which hopefully you’ll get something out of. And then you’re free to go enjoy whatever games you received for Christmas or Hanukkah!

Enough of the jibber-jabber! On with the news!

Take-Two News
Take-Two Interactive has announced its numbers for the third quarter of 2003. Most of the important numbers represent increases over the same time period last year, which is good. But what is bad is that the same day as this was announced, the Take-Two stock plunged by two dollars a share. That’s a lot.

Why would the stock take such a dive when positive figures were announced? Well, in 2001, Take-Two decided to revise the financial numbers it had for seven prior months. This got the SEC intrigued and an investigation was launched, leading to the SEC threatening legal action. This is what got the stock to fall. And this is the kind of thing that can mean serious trouble for a company.

Take-Two also made some announcement regarding its released games. The company claims that Manhunt is selling in line with expectations, contrary to previous reports, and that the PS2 version of the GTA Double Pack is performing below expectations. What a surprise – EVERYONE WHO OWNS A PS2 ALREADY HAS GTA3 AND VICE CITY. Take-Two also mentioned that it has a GTA game for Game Boy Advance in the works. Could the GameCube be far behind?

PSX vs. Sony?
The Japanese release of the PSX has been well-documented, from half of the stuff missing from the system to its surprisingly strong sales. Now, a article claims that the PSX’s strongest competition has come from other Sony products that perform similar functions to the PSX. There are other DVD recorders that don’t play PS2 games that come for a heck of a lot cheaper than the PSX, which could spell trouble for Sony.

We’ve seen, through the N-Gage, what happens when a company puts out a product and just assumes it’ll sell because of the name on it or because of some other reason that nobody really understands. Sony might be in the same boat here. Obviously, they could never top the N-Gage debacle, but they may be guilty of producing a system and putting it on the market before truly defining who they want to go after with said product. If the PSX fails, and it might at the price it’s at, that’s why.

Commentary of the Week
If you’re a baseball fan, you know that Hall of Fame balloting is one of the most exciting parts of the offseason. Throughout the late fall and early winter, players’ Hall of Fame chances are debated, both current and retired, and tons of people offer their definitions as to what a Hall of Famer really is.

What does this have to do with this column? Here it is. If you follow the Hall of Fame proceedings, you’ll read approximately 150 “My Hall of Fame Ballot” columns with explanations for why the player is/isn’t a Hall of Famer, and maybe some projections for next year’s class. As a huge baseball fan, I’ve always wanted to do a column like this. And with year-end awards being the topic du jour everywhere, I would like to offer my ballot for the 411 Year-End awards here.

Note that the ballot that the 411 guys and I voted on differs from the ballot Pankonin posted yesterday. That one is a composite of all the different points we made and games we discussed in the voting process. This is very skewed by my sports-gamer preferences, as well as the unfortunate fact that I simply haven’t played a whole lot of games this year. Hope you enjoy it!

System of the Year: Nintendo GameCube. This is a system that had a rough go of it in the first half of the year, only to finish VERY strongly. You could say that its success toward the end of 2003 is a direct result of the drastic price cutting, but that’s missing the point. The truth is, Nintendo made sure the Cube had the best 4th quarter line-up possible, with games like Viewtiful Joe, Mario Party 5, and Mario Kart: Double Dash geared for the holidays. Add that to the Zelda collection bundle, and you’ve got a system that, overall, had a very impressive 2003.
Honorable Mention: Microsoft X-Box

Game of the Year: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Here’s a game that my brother picked up the day we bought X-Box just a month ago. I haven’t really gotten a chance to get my hands on it because he’s played it that much. It’s an awesome blend of action and strategy that combines the new technology with some old-school style gameplay. A must-have for anyone who played the original Prince of Persia games, and for anyone else too.
Honorable Mention: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Best Playstation 2 Game: NCAA Football 2004. Yes, it’s a sports game. But it’s the best I played this year on the PS2. Faster than Madden and far more involved than any professional game’s career mode, nothing is more fun than creating your own school and watching it succeed in NCAA Football 2004.
Honorable Mention: Madden NFL 2004

Best Nintendo Gamecube Game: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Remember how everyone thought this game was going to blow? Boy, were they wrong. Again, a new Zelda experience on a new system, and a new instant classic. Next time you hear the word “Cel-Da”, bash someone over the head.
Honorable Mention: Viewtiful Joe

Best Microsoft Xbox Game: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. This is not an X-Box exclusive, but it’s definitely awesome on the X-Box, so it deserves mention here. All the hyperbole given in the “Game of the Year” section definitely applies here.
Honorable Mention: Top Spin

Best Game Boy Advance Game: Wario Ware: Mega Microgame$. The ultimate game for someone with a short attention span. What an awesome concept for a game – 200 minigames! Nothing more, nothing less. Throw in a few hidden features like Dr. Wario and you’ve got a GBA Game of the Year!
Honorable Mention: Super Mario Advance 4

Best Sports Game: NCAA Football 2004. Again, simply awesome. I’m trying to think of ways they could improve this for next year, and I can’t think of any.
Honorable Mention: Madden NFL 2004

Best RPG: The Legend of Zelda – The Wind Waker. Hardly a traditional RPG; however, it is RPG-like. And to be honest, I haven’t really played any RPG’s very much this year. Rather than abstain, I put the capable Wind Waker in the Best RPG slot.
Honorable Mention: Final Fantasy Origins

Best Shooter: Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War. The PS2 version was awesome enough. Then the X-Box version let you play online AND access the original game! Definitely worthy of best shooter of the year, first person or otherwise.
Honorable Mention: Ikaruga

Best Platformer: Viewtiful Joe. I wanted to hate this game SO badly… too bad it didn’t work out that way. Awesome game. For the old-school and the new-school alike. Definitely the only candidate for Platformer of the Year in my opinion.
Honorable Mention: n/a

Best Racing Title: F-Zero GX. This game is INSANELY fast!!!! But fun to play. It gets the nod over Mario Kart because, well, it’s just so damn fast!
Honorable Mention: Mario Kart: Double Dash

Best Extreme Sports: Tony Hawk’s Underground. Some of the story stuff is kinda goofy, but the Tony Hawk name has always stood for quality. This year’s version is no different.
Honorable Mention: SSX 3

Most Improved Franchise: EA’s NHL Hockey series. NHL 2003 sucked. NHL 2004 was great. This is a series that rebuilt itself from the ground up, and it showed. Excellent job by EA here.
Honorable Mention: Simpsons Hit & Run

Best Fighting Game: WWE Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain. This is basically the default winner, being the only one I’ve actually played. Fortunately, it’s pretty good.
Honorable Mention: Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution

Best Story: True Crime: Streets of LA. Probably the best story that I’ve heard about, and it’s better than any one I’ve been able to play. The story is said to be non-linear in that failing a mission changes the plot, which is awesome.
Honorable Mention: n/a

Best Online Game: Top Spin. I’ve only had Live for a few weeks now, but this one has an awesome online mode that lets you take your created player Live against your opponent’s created player. Truly awesome.
Honorable Mention: NBA Inside Drive 2004

Best New Feature: XSN Sports. In a few years, XSN will be credited with changing the face of sports games. XSN truly is the future of sports gaming, and the only thing holding it back is the quality of the first-party Microsoft games, which is improving all the time.
Honorable Mention: Game Boy Player

Biggest News Story: “Kill All the Haitians!” This GTA-Haitians controversy we’re seeing right now is all the proof we need that gaming has become mainstream. And that’s worthy of the year’s biggest news story.
Honorable Mention: Sega for Sale

Gaming Lowlight of the Year: Nokia’s N-Gage. Ah, here’s one we could all agree on! It’d be hard to top the N-Gage’s bungled release, and odds are good that 2004’s worst moment won’t be as bad as the N-Gage.
Honorable Mention: 5,000 suckers actually purchased this thing in its first week of release

Commentary of the Week #2
Today is Christmas, and I just wanted to say a few things about this great day. By far, Christmas is my favorite day of the year. But even better than the day itself is the holiday season. For a month, the nights are filled with light and the stores are filled with people trying their best to get the perfect gift that will make their loved one smile. In the right set of circumstances, it’s perfect.

To a lot of people, though, Christmas is a depressing time. And everyone has their reasons for this, many of which are quite acceptable. But a lot of people choose to blame Christmas for their problems because they can’t afford the gifts they want to buy for others, or they miss someone they care deeply for, or some other reason. And the obvious fact is, Christmas has nothing to do with any of these things.

In reality, most people are happier with the $5 gift that someone put a lot of thought into than the $100 gift that means nothing to the recipient. And they’re more than happy with a phone call or an e-mail bearing holiday wishes. In other words, there’s no reason to be depressed today. So today’s TGIT wish is this – have a very merry Christmas! Enjoy the day and cherish it, because you’ll have to wait 366 more days till the next one.

To top this off, here are some Christmas songs we’ve all grown up with. You might want to give some of them a spin today. You can find most of these on “Now That’s What I Call Christmas! Volume 1”, but not all of them.

Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song
Bing Crosby – White Christmas
Elvis Presley – Blue Christmas
Elmer Fudd – Blue Christmas (this needs to be heard to be believed – HILARIOUS)
Burl Ives – A Holly, Jolly Christmas
Gene Autry – Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Beach Boys – Little Saint Nick
Bing Crosby/David Bowie – Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy
John Lennon/Yoko Ono – Happy Xmas
Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas
Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmastime
Elton John – Step Into Christmas
Boris Karloff – You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
Vince Guaraldi – Christmas Time is Here (Charlie Brown Christmas)
Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)
Trans-Siberian Orchestra – O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night
Alvin and the Chipmunks – Chipmunk Song

And there you have it. Merry Christmas!