Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 05.20.04

Welcome to TGIT! It’s your favorite aging veteran, Bryan Berg, serving up the video game news that’s fit to print. This week features some gaming news and a significantly bitter Commentary from yours truly, so grab a chair, some Cheez Doodles, and a soda, and let’s see what’s cracking in the world of video games!

TOP STORY: Is The Apocalypse Near?
Note: This story was actually retracted by the people who started the rumor. Still, you never know. Denied rumors HAVE become reality before. So consider… this.

If you read TGIT a few weeks ago, you might remember my Commentary about the state of sports games. My main argument was that we need competition. Not only from the big guns, but from the smaller companies as well. This would ensure that everyone has a chance to get a really great idea into a game.

As the echoes ring out from that statement, rumor has it that EA is in the works to pay Players, Inc. (the NFL Players Association) $1 billion to get exclusive rights to the NFL players’ likenesses and names for four years. The NFLPA would get $250 million per year to allow only EA Sports to produce games with the real NFL players.

This deal, if it actually goes down, would pretty much kill any chance of any other football game competing with Madden. Maybe in 1991, a game with no real players could do well in the market. Not today. Not with fans expecting ridiculous amounts of realism. Anything less than the status quo wouldn’t cut it, and EA’s proposed deal would ensure that they’d have an untouchable asset in the NFL players.

Football gamers everywhere had better pray that this does not happen. Could you imagine having only ONE pro football game to “choose” from? This deal would be one of the biggest events in gaming history, not to mention the death toll for every EA competitor, not to mention the standard for future business dealings involving EA. In short, this deal would kill the competitive video sports market dead, and nobody wants that. Nobody.

April Sales Figures
The numbers are in for the month of April. The month saw an overall decrease in console sales of three percent, which could be due to the tax season cutting into gaming funds. GameCube and PS2 sales dropped with the trend, while X-Box sales jumped a whopping 135 percent.

Microsoft cut the price of the X-Box in April, and the move had the desired effect. The price cut may have also had some trickle-down effect, as the month’s top selling titles were Fight Night 2004 and NBA Ballers, two sports games that were available for multiple platforms. Maybe Microsoft knew more than I gave them credit for, eh?

Analysts correctly predict a big May for Sony, as it has just cut the PS2’s price to match the X-Box at $149. However, X-Box sales shouldn’t fall as much as those of the GameCube. Also, it will be interesting to see the effect of E3 on the May console sales. We’ll find out next month!

Sony Sells 100 Million Playstations
This was going to be a Quick Hit, but it was the only one…

Sony announced that it has moved 100 million Playstation units, combining the worldwide sales of the original PS and the newer PSOne model. Jesus. More big numbers: 7,300 games have been published for the system. And the PS2 isn’t far behind with 70 million sold worldwide! It’s a Sony world; we’re just living in it.

Read that again. Amazing. Congratulations to Sony for this great achievement!

News Reports
Cory Laflin – Gamer’s Hangover News Report. Cory’s quoting of yours truly is much appreciated – even I got a chuckle out of that one after reading it again. Unfortunately, the quote also highlighted a rare (hopefully) spelling error on my part! Sorry about that! When you have to type your reports in WordPad because Word is somehow missing from your computer, sometimes errors go undetected. My bad.
And either the class of the average EA Sports player will go up, or the class of the average Xbox Live player will go down. Either way, I’ll at least be able to bitch at them while I;m getting my ass kicked.

Misha – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Video Games. Misha, the BRIT, and Marvin, the BRIT’s partner in crime, discuss some news, including a game based on the Chronicles of Narnia. I read those books in 5th grade and they were great! Hopefully, this game will do them some justice.
Marvin: Well, you know they’re going all-out for the DS when they turn sound to The Shigster and say “Forget everything else. Just make us games”.

Matt Yeager – The Casual Gamers News Report. Matt stated in his LJ that he felt this column was “rushed”. Whatever it was, he delivered the goods this week! Great work from Matt, and give him credit for the GTA piece. You have no idea how much crap the rest of the Kliq probably gave him for it.
I’m a big story over gameplay person because quite frankly if you strip away the story from games that are available right now all you have left are a bunch of games that are slightly different clones of one another. Also, wouldn’t a good story affect the player later? Dumbass.

Alex Lucard – Retrograding. Number five on the Alex countdown is – you guessed it – a Pokemon game. Incase you forgot why Pokemon caused people to commit murder in 1999, read this column to refresh your memory. The games were AWESOME first; the cards just capitalized on the games.
I’ve even got the old sourpuss Liquidcross playing Pokemon Crystal now. And Pokemon Snap. And Pokemon Stadium 2. And he hates anything not called Mega Man!

Liquidcross – The Angry Gamer. Speaking of the “old sourpuss”, LC is back this week with a hilarious – yet totally true – rant about one of gaming’s most ridiculous phenomenons. You gotta read this one!
Today it’s gotten so bad, we even have a damn console with the letter “X” in it…the insidious Xbox. Love it or hate it, the damn “X” is there, and thanks to Microsoft’s considerable influence (read: money), it’s not going anywhere.

Alex Lucard – Retrograding. Here’s one of those games that I had never heard of before Lucard came to 411 that I now know the name of pretty well. With this column, we’ve got the reason why Sakura Taisen, an import, is #4 on the countdown. Enjoy!
In battles for example, Ohgami can protect a girl in battle from damage and gain a point towards their love bond, or whatever you’d like to call it. Consider it taking a bullet so you can cock and load your own love gun later that evening. Giggidygiggidygiggidy!

Alex Lucard – Shining Force (Game Boy Advance). Final Score: 9.0

Matt Yeager – Manhunt (X-Box). Final Score: 6.5

Commentary of the Week
I like to think that I’m a writer who always offers a solution in addition to addressing a problem. This time, however, I simply throw my hands in the air.

Not unlike the dreaded “low-carb lifestyle”, the phenomenon known as Spyware has spread like wildfire in recent months. Spyware started by being bundled with popular file-sharing programs or via download from various web sites. At this point in time, nobody really cared. Remember when you saw Gator as a great password-remembering tool? When SaveNow was annoying and useless, but harmless? These were the salad days of what experts would call “targeted marketing”.

Sometime between then and now, Spyware companies have felt the need to take action. Rather than observe your web browsing patterns, Spyware now takes over your entire system, while still operating under the guise of something beneficial to you. Your homepage, your toolbar, your computer’s functionability, and your Internet security are all at the hands of Spyware.

So the obvious question is, why do we need to be controlled to this extent? We all know that advertising is everything, and people will do anything to get an idea of what people want. That’s fine. When you go to the grocery store and you use your savings card, you do so knowing that the only reason you’re getting the savings is so that a company can track what you buy and use that data to create future promotions. People accept this because there’s no harm done to them and they actually benefit at the end of the day. That’s marketing done well.

When have you ever benefited from Spyware? Have you ever actually looked at anything on the home page your browser mysteriously redirected you to? How about that toolbar you never installed? Or even the myriad pop-ups touting false “tools” to remove the very Spyware you’ve been invested with? These things don’t benefit anybody; in fact, the result is quite the contrary.

And once you decide you’re done with the Spyware, you can’t remove it yourself. Try it and see what happens. You might end up disabling important system components. You might even end up with more spyware! Bottom line, you can never be sure. And all of this to get rid of something that’s supposed to be helping you out.

The worst part is, this is just the beginning. Spyware is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to “targeted marketing”, and you have to cringe at the possibility of what’s the come. Right now, nobody knows what the next Spyware will be. But you can be sure it’s in the works, with plenty of companies already on board to bring it to the area where you least expect. And when they do, there won’t be an Ad-Aware to bail you out.

Again, wasn’t all this advertising supposed to be a GOOD thing for us?

Two things before we wrap up here…

1. Best wishes to Mike Castillo, aka drummer for Corpsicle, aka my band. Mike’s in the hospital right now and we’re all a bit worried, so I wanted to send a public shout-out with best wishes intended. Get well soon, bro.

2. Congrats to the rest of the Kliq for the AWESOME E3 coverage all last week! If I had eight hours, I’d plug it all. But their efforts were certainly appreciated by all who visited 411 Games recently, and huge props are in order for the guys responsible. Great work!

That’s all from TGIT land this week. Rumor has it that we’ll have a Friday news report this week! If we do, remember who displays his banner each and every week…

Thanks for reading! See you next Thursday!!