Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 05.27.04

Hello, and welcome to this week’s Thank God It’s Thursday News Report. I’m Bryan Berg, and if you’re looking for gaming news, we’ve got you covered right here. There’s a lot to discuss today, including a news bit that was so long that it became a Commentary, so no sense wasting time on an intro that nobody cares about! News time!

Warner Bros. Takes A Stand…
And it’s about time.

The movie studio has had it with sub-standard games based on movies, and has decided to do something about it. From now on, Warner Bros. will be looking at the reviews that these games get. If the median score is below 70 percent for any of these games, the studio will increase their royalty rates to the publisher that created the game. The lower the median score, the more WB will charge.

There’s a LOT that goes into this. First, and most obviously, what took so long? An announcement like this has been long overdue, and give credit to Warner Bros. for admitting how important these games are to the overall movie packages that are released today. Look for other studios to follow the lead of the WB once they see how well this works.

The next piece is the publishers and developers. These people will be under such stress to please WB that they might forget to innovate and instead pander to the masses. Will Warner be okay with a total sellout game for a movie where that kind of game isn’t really justified? There’s a chance that this edict will backfire on the WB because companies might try too hard. But that’s not likely.

The third, last, and perhaps most important element here – and this is one that the Kliq have been kicking around all day – is the integrity of reviewers. Anyone who visits 411 Games regularly know that we consider 5 the average, so a 7 rating for a game is something that’s considerably above average. And these people also know that this is not how business is conducted elsewhere. At the big (i.e. on the take) sites and in the big (i.e. on the take) publications, 7 is average and a game has to really blow to rank below a 7.

First, how will a game ever dip below a 7 if enough pockets are lined to offset those reviewers with integrity who will call it like it is? Second, how many more companies will grease the palms of those with the opinions who matter if thousands of dollars are on the line? We could be headed toward a total state of chaos when it comes to honest reviewing. Chances are that some companies won’t improve their games at all, instead relying on payouts to big-name magazines and websites to heap praise upon praise on an average game.

This is one very real weakness of Warner Bros. relying on sites like GameRankings to make decisions for them. WB needs to hire some people to test these games out and determine if they’re of a good enough quality. Because, as we all know, some reviews, reviewers, and the sites that host these reviews and reviewers, simply cannot be trusted.

I think we’ll see a few things happen in the aftermath of this announcement. First, we’ll see a ton of other movie studios implement similar plans. Secondly, we’ll see a decent – but not spectacular – improvement in the quality of the games. Lastly, we’ll see some unscrupulous companies attempt to buy a better ranking rather than create a better game. And this won’t be the worst thing. At least we’ll see who’s got integrity and who’s selling out. Thanks to the WB for making this happen.

GTA Is The Bomb
As if you haven’t already had your fill of “People Who React Negatively To Grand Theft Auto Games” stories…

This one’s kinda funny, actually. This guy was playing GTA with a kid (yup, you read right) and was on the phone with a co-worker at the same time. As his story goes, he informed the kid of a bomb in the game, saying “There’s a bomb n the building. Everyone needs to get out!” The co-worker, of course, doesn’t know he’s talking about the game and assumes a bomb threat is being called in! No, I’m not making this up.

So the co-worker alerts his manager, who lets the police know of the “threat”, and now this guy is being charged with a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of fifteen years in prison! All this over a video game!

This is the kind of story you hear at like 10:59 during the 10 PM news, right before “Seinfeld” re-runs air. There’s nothing that can be said about this that can make us any smarter. The only thing to do, I suppose, is to point and laugh.

Quick Hits
GTA Movie Rumor Squashed. The Internet was abuzz this week due to a rumor that Rockstar had sold the movie rights to GTA: San Andreas. However, this proved to be mere speculation – for now. With movies being a destination for many successful game franchises, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a GTA movie somewhere down the line.

Smaller PSX In The Works? Ken Kutaragi, the man behind Playstation, has hinted at the possibility of a smaller version of Sony’s PSX uber-system. He cited the shrinking nature of technology (i.e. flat-panel TV’s) as the reason why this might be feasible and beneficial. Kutaragi also stated that while his family owns another DVD recorder, they “end up using the PSX.” Good for them.

E3 Coverage
If you haven’t been to the E3 page of 411 Games, you need to get there. New stuff is still being posted – that’s how much we have. There’s some amazing stuff here, and it is definitely worth your attention. Tons of previews and screenshots to whet your appetite for what’s to come in 2004, courtesy of 411 Games’ finest!

News Reports
Alex Williams – 411MAX: News News Revolution. Look who’s back! AW has returned from a long news reporting hiatus! The red carpet has been rolled out for his welcome, and he’s back with a heck of a commentary that actually inspired my own this week. Check it out.
The Game Boy line was always about 10 years behind the consoles, and yet they’ve sold 160 million units combined.

Cory Laflin – Gamer’s Hangover News Report. Cory does a lot of ranting about baseball, and it’s really interesting to hear his small-market perspective. And he’s right, too – why would you go to an Expos game, knowing that any great players you see will be traded or lost to free agency within three years? The economic system is all out of whack, and unfortunately, the same applies for my beloved NHL.
If I had to watch a hundred and sixty-two baseball games every summer I’d be divorced by the All-Star Break, and there’s no way I’d give up sex for baseball.

Misha – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Video Games. So, is the “Rumour Monkey” the genuine article, or an English version? Like, the inverse of how America stole “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” Just wondering. On a more serious note, there’s a great commentary here on nostalgia when it’s not the best thing. Read it.
One of the most crushing experiences a gamer can have is when they come back to a game they used to love, play it, and think “Why did I *ever* like this game??” or “I remember the game being *so* much better than this”. It’s iconoclastic: it’s like a little piece of your soul dies with the memories.

Alex Lucard – Retrograding. Alex claims that this is the last time he’ll talk about Shining Force for a long time. I want to believe him, but I somehow doubt it. When I think Shining Force, I think Lucard. I think a lot of people are like that, actually.
From a Rat Ninja to a Golem to an Undead Bi-Polar Vampire to Gamera. Yes, Gamera. Okay, they call him Kiwi, but damn, he’s a giant flying firebreathing Turtle! What else would you call him?

Liquidcross – The Angry Gamer. LC does a great comparison between the DS and the PSP – it’s the kind of job I wish I had done when I tried it during E3 week. Check his out if you want a really good comparison with everything we know so far.
So who’s going to “win” this fight? Personally, I hope neither one does.

Alex Lucard – Retrograding. So the #2 game is… TWO games? Read this one at your own risk – there are spoilers!
If any of you are getting a PhD in History or Anthropology, consider the Persona 2 games as your dissertation. ;-)

Alex Williams – Samurai Jack: The Shadow of Aku (GameCube). Final Score: 7.0

Matt Yeager – UFC: Sudden Impact (Playstation 2). Final Score: 4.0

Liquidcross – Transformers (Playstation 2). Final Score: 7.0

Alex Williams – Wario Ware, Inc.: Mega Party Game$ (GameCube). Final Score: 8.0

Commentary of the Week
Alex Williams devoted a whole commentary to the prospects of the PSP; more specifically, why the system is destined to fail. Before the column debuted, I didn’t think the system would do all that poorly. Once I read the column, I was more toward the middle – that is, the system could go either way. Today, I side with Alex Williams.

Why the sudden change? While scouring the sites for news today, I came across a doozy – a Sony higher-up talking about the PSP. His thoughts, paraphrased,

I believe most usage of the PSP will occur inside the home.

Right away, you raise the red flag on your new “portable” system. If I’m just going to be using the PSP at home, why should I even bother buying one? After all, I already have a PS2 and a lot of the games that are being put out on the PSP are games that I have already played countless times. Do I really need a new system to play the same games I’ve played already? Does the ability to play these games on a handheld – albeit, one that I’m playing right next to the wall adapter – really warrant a $299 purchase? No.

If I’m just going to be using the PSP at home, do I really need its ability to play music and videos? After all, I already have a working computer, television set, and DVD player. Do I really need a new appliance to run these applications? Is it worthwhile to transfer these MP3 files and movies over to a handheld device that I’m not going to be taking anywhere, since I’m just using it for home purposes only? Aren’t I better off spending the money on 299 legal MP3’s through iTunes and downloading them to my computer, which is staying in the same place as the PSP?

If I’m just going to be using the PSP at home, then isn’t Sony seriously misleading its audience by calling it the PlayStation PORTABLE? After all, isn’t a portable device supposed to be taken places? Isn’t a portable device one that doesn’t have its creator claiming that it’s not even worth carrying around? Does the Nintendo DS not have a double screen? Did the Game Boy Color not feature a color screen? You can answer those in the positive. But when you’re marketing a system with the word “portable” in the title and you’re competiting against other portable systems, don’t say that your system’s best left at home.

And this brings us back to Alex Williams. If you read his N-Gage commentary months ago, you know that he hit the nail on the head with that one. His main point – the N-Gage was so user-unfriendly that the system barely functioned as a handheld video game unit. He’s leading toward the same point with the PSP, and he’s right. You can’t have a portable system with a battery life that couldn’t even support a 60-minute game of Madden. Here’s another one – what, exactly, is the PSP? Is it a video game system or a digital media player? Does Sony even know?

And that’s where the quote you read a few paragraphs ago comes into play. Sony doesn’t really seem to have a grasp on what they’re doing with this PSP of theirs. It’s almost as if they threw it together, put a bunch of classic ports together, and figured that people would buy it because it’s got a Sony nametag on it. Let’s face it – Nintendo has been in the portable market for 15 years now. They stuck around by innovating and giving the people what they want. And what did they want? PORTABILITY. That’s why Game Boy Pocket was created. That’s a major reason why Nintendo introduced the GBA SP. Nintendo knows that if people can carry their systems around, other people will see them and maybe, just maybe, they’ll want one as well.

If you’ve got a portable system, but it’s not at all portable, who’s going to see it? How is that any different from a console system, aside from the inferior hardware and smaller screen?

Nintendo knows the difference. Sony doesn’t. And when Sony unveils the highest-priced system – console, portable, whatever it is – on the market, which will be followed up by the PS3 a year later, they’ll figure it out. A portable system is supposed to be exactly that. In this case, innovation does outweigh technology.

Thanks for reading TGIT this week! See you next Thursday!