We Want Our Tea Back! 12.25.03

Well, here we are. The festive season is upon us (and, since I’m in England, I’m not going to hold with any of that “Happy Holidays” politically correct nonsense) and I’m here again. Since I’m off on holiday (vacation) with the family in (literally) a few minutes, I’m not going to be able to write anything next week (total lack of computer access) so this week, I’m going to jump the gun and pull the trigger on a new-year mini-special.

First off, I spoke to an old friend a few days ago, who asked me to mention her. So here goes… Merry Christmas, Emma!

UK Gaming News

Upcoming stuff!

Following on from last week’s Big List, here’s a look at a few games worth watching out for in 2004. GTA 4 is going to be interesting, and Alex Lucard will be buying the new Harvest Moon game (UK release due February). Oh, and a new Harry Potter game is on the way.

Final Fantasy XII!

A new summoner? And a Viera one at that? Intriguing… Check it out here!

Commentary: The UK’s Year In Gaming

So, this year is just about gone. Let’s look back and see what happened. Here’s a quick list of some of the Important Stuff

1) Console price drops

All of the major consoles had their prices slashed at least twice this year. This is, as they say, good, since not only does it mean that those who have yet to buy a console, but want to, can pick one up for less (the more gamers in the scene, the better), but it also lets gamers who already have one or more machines to expand their collection and broaden their horizons. What’s really needed now, though, is for game prices to drop too… We over here pay way too much for them.

2) Market expansion

The exact nature of the shift depends on whose figures you read, but what all the stats agree on is that the PS2’s seemingly-insurmountable lead is being slowly eroded by GameCube and XBox. Gaming history lesson: Competition is a good thing, since it forces programmers to raise their game (no pun intended) and release the best products they can, as well as put pressure on prices (if we can get cheaper games out of it, it’s a victory for everyone concerned).

3) Very little negative press

Unlike in the USA, where the whole GTA vs Haiti thing has kicked off (along with any number of other fairly major stories), the UK press has been thankfully free of major scare mongering, with the only hitches coming in the form of very minor (usually faked) tabloid filler pieces which are soon forgotten. It’s a very nice change from the past few years, where all sorts of negativity has been aimed at video gaming.

4) Slightly better release dates.

Yes, we have a far-from-optimal situation in terms of what games we get, and when. But it could be a heck of a lot worse; certainly, this year has seen a sharp improvement in the closeness of US and UK release dates. Theoretically, there’s nothing to stop simultaneous worldwide releases, of course (though the practicality is that companies will prioritise US versions because there’s more money there), and it would be nice to see that…. However, I’m not going to pretend it’s likely to happen, except occasionally when someone’s REALLY trying.

5) XBox Live

Credit where it’s due, XBox Live is one of the biggest advances in console tech to hit these shores in a while. And it seems to be taking off, too. As I’ve said before, I myself prefer playing games in traditional “everyone in front of the TV” style, but I will respect what Microsoft are trying to do, especially since I’ll never be able to take on any of the other Kliq members without resorting to online play. And hey, if it takes off, perhaps it’ll convince other companies that online gaming is a good idea (I want online Pokemon Battles, dammit!)

Now for a few UK games-related End-Of-Year awards

Best Thing of 2003: Price Drops

More gear, less cash needed. This is a Good Thing. Unless you’re like me, and have no cash spare whatsoever.

Worst Thing of 2003: Rare sold to Microsoft

It just won’t be the same. Hopefully Microsoft know enough to leave Rare alone, and let them do whatever they want; But I have my doubts.

Thing that most needs to change from 2003: Game prices

We pay too much, dammit!

Biggest turkey: N-Gage

It’ll never work. At the moment, N-Gage is riding the fumes of Nokia’s popularity in the phone market (I don’t like Nokias, though; Never have). But a system that bad can’t last, Certainly not without an American user base….

Most arrogant git: Dave “The Games Animal” Perry
As usual.

Most off-the-wall video gaming content: UK resistance

Raving loons, the lot of them. Well, they are mad, rabid Sega fans, so it’s only to be expected; I mean, look at Bebito… ;)

Final word

And I think that’s me done for the year. I’d just like to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas, with best wishes for the new year. Thanks for stopping by every week, and I’ll see you in 2004!