Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 03.18.04

Welcome to TGIT! If you clicked this link looking for top-notch gaming news and commentary, you won’t be disappointed. I’m Bryan Berg, and I run the show here at the TGIT Main Office, which is the third door on the right at Kliq Headquarters. Thanks for joining us today.

So I signed onto AIM Tuesday night, and immediately…

Darquefyr: Holy shit. What are you doing on Berg?
Tuxedo Alex 3333: Bryan Berg? Sweet!
ArabRabbi: The Berg-man! During a rare AIM appearance!

Lucard, Williams, and Badlissi (in that order) bring the truth. I’m back on AIM! It’s been a long while, but I’m back on for the time being. The screen name is TheRhombus626 and I should be on as you read this. Feel free to hit me up about this column, video games in general, the Mets, the NCAA tournament, or anything you’d like. Give me a reason to stay online!

As for the aforementioned NCAA Tournament… I wish I had more to say about it. This is the time of year where I follow college basketball vehemently, even without the knowledge of even a casual fan regarding who’s hot that year. The first two days are, by far, the most exciting two days in the entire sports year. Better than the Final Four, the Super Bowl, or any other championship event. My bracket focuses on upsets first, big winners second. I think everyone’s that way too – nobody has a pick for the Final Four until they see who they don’t have going out early, then hypothesizing from there. In any event, it’s an awesome time to be a sports fan, so enjoy!

And enjoy the news! Here we go!

Microsoft = Spies?
Rumors floating around the world and picked up by Gamespot indicate that Microsoft may be scanning X-Box hard drives to see if the respective X-Box units have been modded by system owners. This is a rumor that is believed to be true not only by Gamespot, but by many cynical X-Box owners who figure that this sort of behavior is right up Microsoft’s alley.

These people, of course, would be right. While some might be appalled by this apparent invasion of privacy, these people should not be so naive as to be surprised by the rumor. After all, Microsoft is the same company that puts a “unique identifier” on your Windows Media Player so a record can be kept (and presumably accessed by Microsoft) of what kind of videos you’re watching. Is it really such a stretch for the company to scan the hard drive (which it provides for free, unline Sony) on an X-Box to see what kinds of files end up there?

I’ll do you one better. Suppose Microsoft IS looking through X-Box hard drives as we speak. I would argue that they have been doing so for some time, and not to see if they’re modded, either. Rather, hard drive scans, and perhaps the entire purpose of the hard drive being built into the X-Box, is simply a way for Microsoft to do market research. Through these examinations, Microsoft can see what games people are playing, how many saves they utilize per game, and how many CD’s they’ve ripped onto their hard drives. Remember, this is Microsoft’s first attempt at a system. What did they know about console memory usage before the X-Box came out? Compare that to what they know now, and then think about how they got that information.

If you’re looking for a reason as to why Microsoft is taking the hard drive out of X-Box Next (aside from the obvious), this might be a good one. Maybe people weren’t using the hard drive enough to warrant its inclusion in the next Microsoft console. Or perhaps a memory card could be created that would hold all the information that sits on the hard drive amidst 500 megs of unused space. I’m not saying that this is definitely why they’re leaving out the hard drive, or even that Microsoft is looking at these drives to plan future business. But could you really blame them if they did?

Along that line of thinking, Microsoft shouldn’t be made out as hackers if they’re looking to see if X-Boxes are modded. Wouldn’t you like security on your investment? Microsoft feels the same way, only it’s hard to see that when the company is a multi-billion dollar corporation with more resources than every third-world country combined. Again, it’s doubtful that Microsoft would threaten anybody with a modded system; instead, they’re probably just trying to see how big the mod problem is so that they can rectify it with X-Box Next.

And all along, you thought the hard drive was for YOUR benefit. HA!

More GameCube Price Cuts
On software, that is…

Nintendo has announced some new additions to its Player’s Choice series. Debuting in the series at the end of April are Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour ($29.99), Wario World ($29.99), and F-Zero GX ($19.99). Also, Metroid Prime will drop to $19.99 as well. Finally, while not a Player’s Choice title, Viewtiful Joe has already dropped (or will drop shortly) to the $29.99 area.

As if you needed more reasons to pick up a GameCube! You can now pick up a Cube, Mario Golf, F-Zero GX, and Metroid Prime for the same price as a PS2 or an X-Box with nothing included! That is, if you can find one, which depends on if Nintendo has taken the proper measures to fix their inventory problems. They must have something up their sleeves if they’re going to provide all this incentive to purchase a system… we shall see.

Step Into The Joyspot
Over in Japan, things happen at a more accelerated pace than in America. Look no further than the latest development for Game Boy Advance in Japan. Not only has a Wireless Adapter been released overseas, but Nintendo has embarked on an excellent promotion for this device which will make a lot of people happy.

Nintendo has introduced the Joyspot to Japanese retail stores. What is the Joyspot, you ask? The Joyspot is a wireless hotspot where gamers can bring their Game Boy Advances (equipped with Wireless Adapters) and engage in multi-player gaming and data sharing. The Joyspot being in video game stores, it provides a great opportunity for gamers to discuss games, meet new people, and really feel like part of a community. Retailers obviously benefit because the Joyspot will drum up some serious business from participating gamers. Lastly, Nitnendo benefits from this free service because people will be discussing Nintendo products first and foremost at Joyspot gatherings.

This service kicks off on March 25th in Japan with Pokemon Fire Red/Leaf Green, and will add Mario Golf: Advance Tour when that ships at the end of April. It could go one of two ways for Nintendo – a feature that is quickly forgotten, or one that is maintained regularly and tweaked to meet the needs of gamers. Count on the latter for the Joyspot. This is such a great idea, you must wonder how nobody has thought of something like this before. This, by far, trumps the NBA Jam tournament you played in at your local Blockbuster as a kid. This is way better. Gamers could be introduced to new games in an instant at the Joyspot. Friends could be made just as easily. And if gamers feel like they belong to a community, they’ll be that much more likely to support Nintendo and the retailers that feature the Joyspot. In short, it’s going to take a lot to screw this up for Nitnendo. I only wish this kind of thing happened in America, as everybody deserves to be part of this.

Quick Hits
Kingdom Hearts Goes Quadruple Platinum. The Square-Disney collaboration has shipped four million units wordwide since its release in September 2002. The title’s current standing as a Greatest Hit only helps the game to move more impressive numbers. A well-deserved milestone for this great game.

PSX Headed to Europe. The uber-console is on its way to Europe with all the trimmings and a PAL-compatible DVD writer. The system will debut in Germany in March and will be available in stores by the end of the year.

“Game Sound Music: Famicom Edition”. A company called Mega House is releasing a CD with 20 classic video game themes, ranging from Super Mario Bros. to Hogan’s Alley. Why does all the good stuff come out in Japan and not America?

Back after the infamous Site Crash!
News Reports
Alex Williams – 411MAX: News News Revolution. Alex returns from his one-week respite to… give Lucard the lead in Kliq Reward Points?!? NOOOO!!!!
Then again, the new model COULD sell double what the original sold! That would make…hmm, let’s see…carry the four…add the cosine…SIX UNITS!

Cory Laflin – Gamer’s Hangover News Report. Congrats to Cory, the MASTER! Man deserves major props for passing his presentation – read his column for the most bizarre tale you’re heard in 2004!
And who knew that the stable that would clean up Wrestlemania XX wouldn’t be Evolution, but The Radicalz?

Misha – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Video Games. Misha quote: “I don’t really care about football.” What kind of Brit are you then, anyway?
It should be a good enough game. But I’m still bitter that Tekken beat out Toshinden as the flagship Playstation Beat-‘Em-Up

Alex Williams – Mid-Week Mid-Boss News Report? The newest Kliq trend – covering for someone else, but using the other person’s column name. Awesome! AW dips into his double-duty past and delivers a Lee-style Mid-Week. Funnily enough, we’ve all taked about doing each other’s formats as a joke, and here it is actually being done!
So now Benoit is the World Champion. He wins a promotion’s title belt, and shows up on TV in the SAME promotion the next night with the SAME belt.

Liquidcross – The Angry Gamer. It’s a mailbag this week, with readers responding to last week’s column about crazy-hard NES games. Glad to see that the original TMNT got some love (hate?) here – I could never get past that rooftop level myself!
Electrified seaweed everywhere! Who the hell stocks a reservoir with that shit, anyway?! It’s a testament to the Foot Clan’s skills that they could successfully place those bombs. I think that dam deserved to be blown up.

Picking out quotes and things to say about reviews has always been really hard. Most times, I feel like the review is not done justice with the quote. So, until I come up with a new way to give reviews good plugs, I’ll keep ’em simple. Just so you know.
Alex Williams – Intellivision Lives! – X-Box. Score: 5.0
Liquidcross – Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. – GameCube. Score: 8.0
Misha – Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles – GameCube. Score: 6.5
Matt Yeager – Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – X-Box. Score: 7.5
Bebito Jackson – Wallace & Gromit Project Zoo – Playstation 2. Score: 5.5
Lee Baxley – Drakengard – Playstation 2. Score: 7.0

Commentary of the Week
If you’ve read TGIT fairly regularly over the past while, you may have seen a number of “industry analyst reports” ripped to shreds by yours truly. Why? Because they’re fairly useless. Why else? Because I think I can do better.

Well, here’s my chance to put that to the test. Thus, we begin the most ambitious project I’ve undertaken here at 411… a look at the future.

A new generation of hardware is coming in the next two to three years. And we know next to nothing about it. What you’ll read in this space over the next 3 or 4 weeks is a look at what features these systems might include. This will be a highly detailed look at the possibilities that might become reality in a few years. It will take a number of criteria into account, including (but certainly not limited to)…

Company History. What has this company done in the past? How has the company changed its vision and hardware capabilities from system to system? What kind of package is this company trying to create with each system?
Current System Status. What things could be added to the company’s current system that should have come years ago? What things need to be added to give the new system an edge not only over other new systems, but the current ones? What things should NOT be removed from the current system?
Expectations. Tastes change from one console generation to the next. What will people demand out of the different systems that will be released? Will these expectations match the vision of the company producing the system?

These questions are merely a sampling of the areas that will be considered. The goal of this exercise – to provide a complete analysis of each console producer and draw conclusions as to what to expect from a console released by each company in the coming years. This is not an attempt to “be right” about anything; merely, it is an attempt to intelligently ponder the future of gaming without stating the usual obvious “Online play will be big on next-gen consoles” drivel you’ve read elsewhere.

The planned iteniary for this project, which will be drawn up by company…

– March 25, 2004 – Sony
– April 1, 2004 – Microsoft
– April 8, 2004 – Nintendo

There’s a possibility of tackling the handhelds as well; that will be left up to reader demand. For now, we’ll look at the three major consoles. I’ve got high hopes for this, and I hope that it will meet your expectations as well.

So that does it for this week. Remember to come back tomorrow for Alex Williams’ 411MAX report – he promises good things this week. Also, don’t forget to check back here next Thursday for the first part of the next-gen console series. Thanks for reading today’s TGIT. See you next week!