Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 02.12.04

Hey guys. This is the 53rd time I’m welcoming you to Thank God It’s Thursday. How crazy is that?

In any event, thanks for stopping by. This one is going to be a special one for me, and hopefully for everybody that reads it. There’s a LOT to say in regard to this occasion, but it’ll come later. In spite of all of the other goodies that you may have enjoyed in this column or any of the miscellaneous stuff that I’ve written about, game news will ALWAYS come first here and this week is no different.

So let’s get it on!

The Nintendo Fiasco
Kinda fitting that the only big news story of today has about 1,000 twists and turns. You may have heard most of this before, but let’s get it all onto one page so everybody can see how insanely stupid this whole controversy is.

If you’ve read TGIT over the past month or so, you might have seen Nintendo’s President Satoru Iwata basically damn any future console efforts by his own company. With the head of operations saying things like “If we made a new system, would it sell?”, many naturally began to question Nintendo’s commitment to the next generation of hardware. This is just the beginning.

Earlier this week, a Japanese magazine article printed a quote from Iwata saying something along the lines of people being satisfied with the GameCube as it stands right now. As an extension of this, a new system wouldn’t be needed for a few years. Of course, the media took this as absolute truth and began speculating about the next Nintendo system and how it wouldn’t be out until 2007 at the earliest. Were these claims backed by any facts? Of course not! But hey, rumors sell, right?

In any event, Nintendo sought to quell this speculation by issuing a statement. It hit the following points…

– The comments by Iwata were taken out of context.
– Nintendo will issue new peripherals to the GameCube to extend the enjoyment of the system.
– The new Nintendo console will be unveiled at E3 2005.
– The new Nintendo console will be released in either 2005 or 2006 in order to compete with PS3 and X-Box Next.

Let’s break these down point-by-point and see what Nintendo’s REALLY saying…

The comments by Iwata were taken out of context. Of course they were! What controversial quote isn’t? Iwata’s got a point – nobody’s really begging for a new GameCube. Then again, the system’s only been out for just over two years. So has the X-Box, and nobody’s begging for a new X-Box either. In other words, “Gamers are satisfied with the current model” means nothing more than “The system just came out two years ago. It hasn’t been topped by a new system. People have nothing to complain about.”

Nintendo will issue new peripherals to the GameCube to extend the enjoyment of the system. Supposedly, these new peripherals will be used extensively by upcoming games, which means you’ll pretty much have to buy these items in order to play the games that will be coming out later this year and in 2005. And if these peripherals are so great, doesn’t that kind of contradict the supposed overall quality of the “current model”? Shouldn’t a system that’s just two years old be self-sufficient?

The new Nintendo console will be unveiled at E3 2005. Bad news, Nintendo – so will X-Box Next. People know that’s coming out in 2005. They don’t know when Nintendo’s new system is coming out. They should have a release date – or even release month – set by E3 2005. And they’d better have a solid launch title playing at E3 as well.

The new Nintendo console will be released in either 2005 or 2006 in order to compete with PS3 and X-Box Next. If they’re unveiling this thing at E3 2005, it had better be out by the end of 2005. Any longer and people will think of the delays behind the N64 and GameCube, get tired of waiting for Nintendo’s latest, and buy a PS3 instead. Remember the Dreamcast? It could happen to Nintendo as well.

So what have we learned from all of this? Basically, we’ve got nothing to work with here. All we know is that they are making a next-generation system that will replace a two-year old GameCube that already needs peripheral enhancement. It’s up to Nintendo to deliver this time or face a future of dealing exclusively with handhelds.

A Plea To Game Developers
I was given a great gift this week by my girlfriend – The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection. Ric Flair is my favorite all-time wrestler, and I’ve wanted this set for months. Watching these classic matches and storylines, I remembered why I loved wrestling as a child. I still enjoy wrestling greatly, but it’s not the same.

Similar thing happened over the weekend regarding hockey. I was watching a bunch of old All-Star games on ESPN Classic and the quality of the play was far beyond what it appears to be today. Again, I was reminded of the initial spark that led me to develop such a passion for the game. And just as with wrestling, the spark is still there, but not as fervent.

These situations got me thinking about gaming. As a child, I was the biggest gamer in the class. I was the only person to own a Sega Master System. I was the first to own Super Nintendo and Genesis at the same time. I had all the games and knew them inside and out. Now, that’s all changed. Games are still great, but I’m nowhere near the same gamer. Maybe it’s because I have to see things from a different standpoint as a reviewer and news reporter, but I felt the same way before I joined up with 411.

My plea to game developers is simply this. Take me back to the old days one more time. Create the perfect game that reminds me of the reason why I became a gamer to begin with. Give us all a reason to be kids again. That’s all I ask. A lot of gamers would be grateful for this as well.

To my knowledge, this game doesn’t exist. Maybe Viewtiful Joe was that game, but my Cube is broken and I haven’t played it anywhere near extensively. Gaming is becoming more and more of a business, and that endearing quality is fading fast. Let’s try to capture it, if only once, before it’s all gone. Before gaming turns into the movie business, how about one last stab at reminding us all why we love games?

A generation of gamers sends their hopes that this can happen.

Quick Hits
Ms. PacMan Coming To TV Games. Frederick Badlissi’s favorite incest participant, Ms. PacMan, will be available shortly in the TV Games format. Basically, just plug the controller device into your TV’s AV output and you’ve got a game. This selection will also include versions of Xevious and Mappy.

Take-Two and Cartoon Network Agree to Terms. Take-Two will now make games based on the characters and shows of the Cartoon Network. This is nice for Take-Two, as it allows the company to show its “softer” side in contrast to the GTA-type games that give Take-Two a bad name to some media.

Baseball Game Release Dates. Not necessarily news, but nice to have regardless. All-Star Baseball 2005 and MVP Baseball 2005 available March 9; ESPN MLB Baseball comes out March 23. No sign of High Heat anywhere. Will this finally be the year where one of these franchises takes a commanding lead over the others?

EA To Publish Marvel-Licensed Fighting Games. Marvel vs. Capcom? More like Marvel vs. EA, as Electronic Arts plans to create a legion of superheroes all its own. This could be bad.

Mega Man Mania No More. GBA compilation will now be called “Mega Man Anniversary Collection” to go along with its console counterparts. No changes besides the name, which is a good thing, even if the original name was far superior and the new name will only serve to confuse uninformed parents/very casual gamers.

A little different from the usual this week. And maybe none of you will get anything out of this, but what the hey. See, I’ve always thought of the Kliq as a team. A group of guys working together for a common goal. We’ve compared ourselves to some of our favorite wrestlers in the past, and now I continue the comparing to a completely different region of stereotypes – hockey players. Not the actual players, mind you – just the stereotypes. You’ll see what I mean, and if you’re a hockey fan, you’ll get a kick out of it. And if you’re not, the normal plugs will be back next week. Cool? Cool.

Chris PankoninCoach. Chris is another guy who’s one of us, but who has the power to do what he wants. Still, he lets us make our own mistakes and encourages us to do our best. It’s because of Chris that I’m writing this, and a huge debt of gratitude is owed for that.

Bebito JacksonThe Goalie. Don’t know why Bebito’s a goalie; I just always pictured him as one. Reliable guy who’s always around to give support. Without Bebito, 411 Games would be a far less enjoyable place to read and to write for.

Lee BaxleyThe Stay-at-Home Defenseman. Stay-at-Home Defensemen don’t score many points at all, but a team’s lost without a good one. Lee, for some reason, doesn’t get the hits that the rest of us do, but his work and personality are absolutely essential to the 411 Games machine. He’s also produced some of the finest work 411 Games has ever seen.

Chuck PlattThe Offensive Defenseman. Platt’s got a great shot from the point, at least as far as insights about games go. A Thumb to the Eye is a consistently great read, and Chuck has definitely found his niche in video game journalism. What’s more is that he’s received his deserved kudos and has still remained the same Chuck, which is an excellent thing.

Alex LucardThe Superstar Forward. A guy who has taken the mantle and carried it to the top of the video game journalism profession. And, in true hockey player fashion, he is still one of us despite being more talented than all of us combined. How often do you see that?

MishaThe Soft European. Every team has to have a European player who is totally lost in a physical game. Misha could probably whoop some, but he’s our only European, so he’s soft by default. But he’d probably own a non-checking league. Thankfully, 411 Games does not promote violence!

Alex WilliamsThe Norwegian Athlete. I don’t think any hockey teams have ever had a Norwegian Athlete on their team, but 411 Games can now stake that claim! Seriously, AW took us all by surprise when he assumed TWO days of news reporting a week. And each one has gotten better than the previous one. 2003 was a great year for Alex Williams, 2004 should be an awesome year, and 2005 will be even better!

LiquidcrossThe Enforcer. Could somebody who writes a column called “The Angry Gamer” be anything but the Enforcer? On the proverbial 411 hockey team, LC would bring the same intensity he brings to his hard-hitting columns. Again, you need that strong opinion to contrast our unbiased news reporting, and The Angry Gamer definitely brings that.

Bryan BergThe Defensive Forward. The kind of guy who doesn’t get a lot of praise, but is respected among his peers. Quietly gets the job done without boasting a whole lot. This is how I see myself fitting in, and I hope it’s not too bold (or non-bold) an assessment.

Cory LaflinThe Aging Veteran. Much like teams need a softy, each team needs a grizzled vet hanging on for one last run at the Cup. Cory’s our senior member in terms of age, so he gets the nod here. And if you’ve seen his picture, he kinda fits the part. The Aging Veteran must also be a good locker-room guy, and Cory’s been instrumental in keeping things going when times have been rough behind the scenes.

Frederick BadlissiMr. Clutch. Once or twice in a generation, there are guys who are MIA for some time, then show up in the playoffs and become superstars (see Lemieux, Claude). Fred’s a lot like that. When school’s not in session and Fred’s up for it, and the Conscience is all that it can be, it’s by far the best item on ALL of 411. UCLA should be burned to the ground for keeping Fred from his excellent work at 411 Games.

Two other areas deserve mention. First, the Hints section that Alex Williams has singlehandedly taken and made into a relevant section of the site. Second, Chris Biscuiti’s Black column, as he gave me a plug which I am greatly appreciative of.

Commentary of the Week
As somebody without even a semblance of ego, the following section is difficult for me to write. Bear with me.

Last February, I was at a crossroads in my 411 career. At the time, all we were was news reports, some reviews, and Retrograding. Despite being a Games writer, I wasn’t playing a whole lot of games, which was in large part due to a lack of funds and an apathy towards most of the PS2 titles around at that time. I wrote a column here and there, but that was about it. In other words, I was in, but not of, the 411 Games community.

So when Chris Pankonin e-mailed me and offered me the opportunity to write Thursday news reports, I think I initially said no. It was sort of like in the first Rocky movie, when Rocky initially has doubts about the task at hand. Chris convinced me that I’d be okay, and the first Thank God It’s Thursday News Report was posted on February 13, 2003. And it pretty much sucked. But the response wasn’t so bad. Bebito Jackson and a guy named Ron Yip sort of took me under their collective wing and helped me get better. I started to find a voice, which was almost silenced when a joke went too far and I ended up in deep trouble at my real-life job because of this column. For a while, I was afraid to speak my mind, push the envelope if you will, on 411. Not that the Games section was anything special at that time – Bebito was on hiatus, as was Alex Lucard, and the only people writing ANYTHING were myself and Lee Baxley. Things looked bleak. But then, something incredible happened.

It’s been put on record now that the Kliq was “created” by Alex Lucard, but I don’t really believe that. I’d say that it was more of a spark that was created by all of us together. Pretty quickly, we all realized that we had a lot more in common than just games and working for 411. Deep, close friendships were formed instantly. And not surprisingly, our output increased significantly, in terms of both quality and quantity. I’d like to think that we all inspired – and still inspire – one another to do the best work we possibly can do. To me, the Kliq has been one of the two really important things to happen to me in the 12-month history of TGIT.

The second one is one that only the other Kliq members know about, but they’d all agree that it’s maybe the best thing I’ve ever done. Over the summer, a few of us were confused about the direction of our news reports. See, news is news, but there are certain areas each of us like to cover, while we may choose to leave some bits for other guys, as said bits might fit their tastes better. So I went ahead and created my own “Mission Statement” to state what I’d like to cover. And, wouldn’t you know it, my columns were better than they’ve ever been. My personal favorite column, the GameCube business plan, was directly inspired by this “Mission Statement”. Since the summer, my columns have been more focused and, hopefully, better.

So here we are, a year later. TGIT has changed some over the past year, mostly for the better I think. We’ve seen some sections go without a tear shed, while others have been warmly embraced. But one thing that’s been constant is that it’s never been boring, at least not to me anyway. I’ve always felt of myself as “boring” compared to our other funnier and more exciting writers, but hey – people called Bill Bradley boring, but he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Senator, and legitimate Presidential candidate. And if I was really that “boring”, I never would have stuck around for a year to begin with.

At the same time, though, I hope that TGIT has done more than simply report the news. I think that it’s changed the way some people see the gaming industry. The feedback I get is more intelligent and more thought-out each week. And that’s one of the things I’m most proud of in regard to this run. Like I said, I’m a pretty modest guy, so that says a lot. I’m also proud of the consistency of this column. This is the 53rd Thank God It’s Thursday column in the past 53 weeks. Just about all of our other news reports have the same level of consistency. This isn’t IGN or GameSpot where people just take a month off around the holidays. The level of commitment to excellence at 411 is probably the thing that I take the most pride in out of everything. Last May or so, I had to plug MYSELF just so the Plugs section would consist of more than one plug. Look at us now. Every writer on our staff is at the top of his game. I only hope that I’ve been able to inspire them as much as they have inspired me.

Before I wrap this up, I just want to say thanks to two groups of very special people.

The Kliq. Looking back on all the features and work we’ve done this past year, I realize now that it was a LOT of work. But it hasn’t felt like it all. Here’s to a great past 12 months, and many more to follow. You guys have done more for me than you know. My best work has been done when I have approached it with the mentality of “Wait till the guys read this, it’ll knock their socks off!”. When we all share this mentality, as we so often do, we’re the best games site out there.

The Readers. To every person who ever clicked the link to this column, whether it be because you cared about what I had to say or because the word “Smackdown” was in the teaser. To everyone who sent in feedback, shared this column with a friend, or posted a link on a message board. There’s no point in writing if nobody’s there to read it, correct you when you’re wrong, praise you when you’re right, or just offer another strong opinion. That’s what I’ve gotten out of being read by so many great people, and it’s appreciated, even if it’s taken me two weeks to get back to your letter.

What’s in store for the next year of TGIT? Who knows? More of the same, I suppose. Hopefully, bigger stories and a better overall quality. Not only live up to the 411 standard, but exceed it. These are the goals for the second year of this column, and I can assure you that they will be met.

And to anybody I might have forgotten, thanks!

Thanks for reading this week’s Thank God It’s Thursday. Hopefully you got something out of it. I know I definitely did.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all! I’ll be spending the weekend in Atlantic City with my girlfriend Cory, whom I promised I’d send a V-Day greeting in this column. Hope you all have just as much fun as I plan to! See you next Thursday!