Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 03.25.04

Welcome to Thank God It’s Thursday! I’m Bryan Berg, and I run the TGIT show, which means that I’ll be bringing the latest and greatest gaming news that you need to know about. Thanks for stopping by 411 Games today.

Today’s column is more than just an ordinary news report – it’s the first part of a three-part series that will look ahead to the next generation of consoles and shed some insight as to what to expect. Sony’s up today, and if this system is made as I suggest it COULD be made, it’s going to be one heck of a system.

On the subject of this feature, thanks to everybody who wrote in to express excitement about it or even to wish me luck with this project. It’s all much appreciated, and I can only hope it’s worthy of the buzz it’s generated.

We’ll get back to this later. For now, gaming news is the ticket. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot going on. In any event, let’s roll!

NES Games On GBA?
For months, American gamers have been envying Japanese GBA owners who have enjoyed the Famicom Mini GBA series. This series, released only overseas, consists of a Famicom-style GBA unit and GBA ports of NES classics. By “port”, I mean the real thing, with no souped-up graphics or sounds. How it played on the NES is how it plays on the GBA.

Rumor coming out of Gameland is that Nintendo is planning on bring this series to the States. The rumors have been backed up by a scan of a document provided to Electronics Boutique employees, which can be found here. The IGN report whines about the box art; the optimist in me simply thinks it’s awesome that we’ll get to play these games in portable form this year!

Say what you want about the GBA being a “port system” rather than a system that strives to revolutionize gaming. The truth is, we’ve been treated to a number of great titles on this system, and the ports let us appreciate the past while looking forward to the future of handheld gaming. That’s what has made the Game Boy the most successful system in gaming history, and that’s why the GBA isn’t necessarily dead once Sony debuts its PSP next year.

X-Box Registers As A Republican
While it’s no secret that Microsoft would embrace the Republican lifestyle (rich get richer, poor fund the rich getting richer), the same may not necessarily be true for gamers. Regardless, the Republican National Committee has announced that Reggie The Registration Rig, the RNC’s vehicle (HA!) for voter registration, will be equipped with X-Boxes to attract young voters. The RNC hopes to register three million voters before the November elections.

You know, usually when organizations try to get people to vote, it’s a good thing. Take “Smackdown Your Vote!”, for example. This one seems a little different, mainly because it’s a PARTY going for a vote as opposed to a company encouraging voting for altruistic reasons. What’s more is that I really can’t seeing these kids voting Republican. Young people, particularly the game-playing, money-lacking type, tend to side with the Democrats. This is a risk that the Republicans must be aware of on some level, so maybe the party has some tricks up its sleeve…

Quick Hits
GameCube Redesigned. Nintendo has announced that it plans to resign the GameCube in an effort to cut costs. Nintendo plans to remove high-cost features (Digital AV outputs, Progressive Scan mode), but keep available a number of systems with these options. Nintendo really had no choice but to do this, with aggressive price cuts bleeding Nintendo’s profits dry.

GameOn NY Hits November 12-14. Not unlike the 2002 “People’s Open” at Bethpage Black, GameOn NY (held at Madison Square Garden) is promoting itself as a sort of “People’s E3”. The convention will allow game fans to view unreleased titles and take a closer look at what’s on the horizon for 2005.

Online Games Top $1 Billion. The sale of online console games has increased 182 percent since 2002, according to the NPD Group. Sports titles account for 69 percent of the $1 billion, while shooters comprise 22 percent. Of course, this data doesn’t mention how much these games are actually PLAYED online…

Wind Waker 2 News. Coming out of the Game Developers Conference in San Jose, Zelda: Wind Waker 2 is in the works. No word on when it will be available, or even for what system to expect it on. Still, it’ll be nice to see a true sequel to the Wind Waker, one of the GC’s finest titles.

News Reports
Alex Williams – 411MAX: News News Revolution. Alex continues his hot streak by writing his second news report of the week! This time, he’s got rewards for some very special people! And believe it or not, I’m one of them! But the real reason to click the link this week is for the awesome Commentary, which is very well-written and thought-provoking.
What happened to the times when you can pop in a game, lie back on your couch, and RELAX?

Cory Laflin – Gamer’s Hangover News Report. Cory talks tourney this week – not the NCAA, but the NIT! The only good thing about the NIT is that the finals are played at the Garden. Aside from that, can someone really take pride in winning a tournament to become the #66 team in the country?
I say this from experience: don’t worry about the kid that listens to metal. Worry about the kid that listens to show tunes 24/7. They’re the ones most likely to call for the check early.

Misha – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Video Games. This week, Misha skips the commentary, but there’s plenty of Misha-Marvin banter to keep the masses entertained. Another solid effort from Misha.
What is it with single-screenshot press releases? I know they want to keep the suspense up, but this is ridiculous…

Lee Baxley – Mid-Week Mid-Boss News Report. This one saddens me. It really does. Lee’s done some awesome news reporting for over a year now, and this column may be his final one. While Lee’s news work will definitely be missed, it’s great to know he’ll stick around as a reviewer. Still, a sad day at 411 Games.
I mean, I’m not a outward asshole, but I’m the type that wishes it were a GTA game and I could just shoot some of these people.

More lazy review plugs this week… I’ll think of something better, trust me…
Alex Lucard – Dead Man’s Hand (X-Box). Final Score: 7.5
Alex Williams – Scooby Doo: Mystery Mayhem (Playstation 2. Final Score: 4.5
Alex Lucard – Pokemon Colosseum (GameCube). Final Score: 8.5
Cory Laflin – ESPN College Hoops 2K4 (X-Box). Final Score: 7.0
Michael O’Reilly – Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (GameCube). Final Score: 6.0
Liquidcross – R-Type III: The Third Lightning (GBA). Final Score: 7.5

Commentary of the Week
If you didn’t catch last week’s report, the Commentary section will be taken over by a three-part series of predictions for the next while. This series consists of a look ahead at each of the “Big 3” console developers and what might come out of their efforts to create next-generation systems. Note that these are predictions; nothing has been announced about any of these systems yet. Enjoy!

Overall Profile
Sony is a recognized leader in the worldwide electronics industry. Sony has made significant headway into many new industries in recent years, including computers and portable gaming entertainment. Sony’s ultimate goal seems to be to integrate many different technological mediums into one’s home entertainment system.

Console History
1995 – Playstation. The first Playstation was released in September 1995 and was an immediate hit. Due to the failure of the Sega Saturn and late release date of Nintendo’s N64, Sony was able to generate market share with its Playstation. In short order, Sony transformed from a beginner in the gaming industry to console leader.

Important Features
– Black-bottomed CDs attempt to prevent privacy
– Controller layout – remains unchanged for PS2
– Introduction of memory card to gaming industry
– Came packaged without game
– Price at launch: $299

2000 – Playstation 2. The buzz on Playstation 2 was enough to kill Sega’s Dreamcast dead before that system was launched in 1999. Sony’s October 2000 launch of Playstation, while successful, left many gamers without the chance to play the new system due to a shortage of hardware. Playstation 2 has owned the market since release, with Dreamcast on the way out by the time X-Box and GameCube were released in November 2001.

Important Features
– Backwards compatibility with original Playstation
– Full utilization of Dual Shock controller
– Network compability with Network Adapter
– Compability with USB technology
– Built-in DVD player
– Horizontal/vertical stand
– Optional hard drive

Other Important Appliances
Sony VAIO Computers. Sony’s VAIO line of computers has been the central area of Sony’s efforts to create an integrated system that can accomplish anything. VAIO computers enable users to record live TV, burn CDs and DVDs, and develop pictures. Newer models even include RCA jacks to hook up an external appliance such as Playstation 2 or VCR.

Sony PSX. Sony’s PSX debuted last year in Japan and was presented as a DVD recorder that is able to play Playstation 2 games. Like the VAIO, the PSX attemps to integrate other technological mediums into the game playing experience via the addition of a hard drive and DVD writing. Unfortunately, the system’s pricing point leaves it out of the reach of many.

A Look Ahead: Playstation 3
Playstation 3 will attempt to further Sony’s efforts for electronic integration by offering technological enhancements over the PS2 as well as making the PS3 compatible with other Sony devices. The PS3 will not only serve as a great video game system, but an essential portion of the entertainment system of the consumer who keeps abreast of current technological trends. Also, the PS3 will serve as a starting point for new customers to build their Sony appliance library, resulting in entire households filled with Sony products.

Important Features
DVD Recording. Having already tried combining video gaming with a DVD writer on the PSX, Sony will adapt that technology to appear on the PS3. Sony is already well-versed in working with DVD recording, meaning that research and development costs are minimized. This is a feature that would work best with an optional hard drive or by hooking up the PS3 with a Sony VAIO computer.
Memory Stick Compatibility. Not even four years after the release of PS2, 8 MB memory cards are already obsolete. Sony will incorporate its Memory Stick technology as a medium for game storage. Memory Sticks are available everywhere, range from 16-512 MB, and are used in Sony digital cameras and camcorders. Their use with Playstation 3 will enable gamers to view pictures and movies on the system. Furthermore, this increases the likelihood of a gamer purchasing a Sony digital imaging device, as that gamer already has a memory unit for the device.
Online Subscription Service. Sony’s current online solution, the PS2 Network Adapter, enables any gamer with an Internet connection to take his or her game online. With the PS3, however, Sony will use Microsoft’s model for online gaming. Broadband connections will be required, as will a subscription to Sony’s online service. Instead of a separate Network Adapter, gamers will be able to hook their Broadband connection to their PS3 via Ethernet cable or USB.
Wireless Controller. While it won’t be packaged with the PS3 in all likelihood, look for a first-party Sony wireless controller to be available for PS3. With technology moving toward wireless in many areas, Sony will take the initiative and deliver a Wavebird-type device for its new system. The controller, it should be noted, will be the same in design as the PS2 controller.
Backwards Compatibility. Like the PS2, Sony will allow gamers to play the previous generation of games on next-gen systems. PS3 will be able to play PS2 games, but not those of the original Playstation. Similarly, Playstation controllers without DualShock technology will not be compatible with the PS3.

We won’t see or hear anything out of Sony regarding the PS3’s specs until E3 2005. A big splash here will steal some of Microsoft’s thunder as they promote X-Box Next for a 2005 release. Playstation 3 will appear mid-to-late 2006 and will be given the standard release price of $299 with no game, no memory, and one controller.

Sony doesn’t need to do anything more than this to do huge numbers, so it won’t. However, much will be made of the PS3’s ability to function as more than a game system, which will lure in non-gamers. By doing this and attempting to get gamers to extend their Sony library beyond gaming, the entire company benefits. Because of this, Sony needs to ensure that there will not be a shortage of units at launch. The sheer amount of time that Sony has to work with should be sufficient to prevent a PS2-type scenario.

Sony’s PS3 will revolutionize gaming for reasons that have nothing to do with gaming. Consumers will realize that when they purchase a PS3, they are getting more than a game system. They are getting a portal to a new world of integrated technology, where the limits are endless and the interactivity between units exceeds imagination. Sony’s ability to get great third-party support ensures that the gaming end will be more than taken care of. In short, the PS3 is a guaranteed hit, and the Sony juggernaut will roll on for one more generation.

That wraps it up for this week. Please let me know what you thought of this one, especially the Sony stuff at the end. Next week, more news and fearless predictions for Microsoft! See you then!