Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 06.17.04

What’s up y’all! Bryan Berg here with some more TGIT goodness, found exclusively on 411 Games! Thanks for stopping by on this fine Thursday.

Correction from last week: This one comes from the SubCultural Icon himself. According to Lucard, you CAN play one-player mode in River City Ransom EX without the help of the computer-controlled comrade. Which is nice. But it still doesn’t make this game worthy of a purchase in my opinion. Especially not when I have the original in my NES right now.

Anyway, enough rambling. Let’s do the news, eh? Lots to talk about this week, and even the stories that are small in stature here are huge in reality. Think about that as you read the news this week.

Nintendo To Support GameCube
With all the talk around Nintendo centering around the NES Classic GBA SP and the upcoming DS handheld and Revolution console, not a whole lot has been said about the GameCube and its immediate future. Fortunately, the extremely media-friendly President of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, was able to clear up the confusion about the GameCube’s fate.

According to Iwata, the Cube will be supported well into the Revolution’s cycle. In other words, Nintendo won’t forget all about the Cube – at least, not moreso than it already kind of has. Remember, this is the same company that publicly questioned whether it would be worth its while to create a new console after the GameCube.

Iwata’s ideal situation would be for the GameCube to have an afterlife similar to that of the PSOne, where the system becomes successful in its own right by offering a lower-cost alternative that allows gamers to play all the hits. However, there are a few flaws in this thinking…

– The original PlayStation was the most profitable video game system of all time. The GameCube, on the other hand, nearly bled Nintendo dry until a massive price cut saved the day.
– The appeal of the PSOne as a retro system was that anybody could find a classic game that they could play. From RPG fans to sports buffs, everyone was satisfied. With the Cube, if someone wants to play a fighting game, they’re stuck playing it on that asinine controller setup that everyone hates. In short, there’s a major lack of mainstream appeal that the PSOne had in spades.
– Along similar lines, Sony scored major hits from nearly every third-party developer, not to mention in every gaming category. Nintendo’s Cube hit list consists mainly of first-party titles starring Link and Mario, with a few other non-Nintendo games thrown in.
– The original Playstation went out on top, with only the Dreamcast to contend with at the end. The GameCube will retire having never been the Number One system on the market for a prolonged period of time. People aren’t going to take the GameCube seriously as a nostalgia machine for the simple fact that the machine was never being played in the majority of gaming households. Can you really fondly remember a game you never played?

Now that Iwata’s dream has been dashed, let’s tackle the “support” issue. Does this mean that GameCube owners can look forward to two more years’ worth of Mario Party sequels? Or will Nintendo, along with whatever third-party support it has left, try to innovate on older technology when it can do so on a cutting-edge system for a greater profit? Obviously not. While Nintendo would like you to believe that it cares (and will continue to care) about current Cube owners, the real story is hidden between the lines. Once the Revolution comes about, GameCubes will be as important to Nintendo’s business plan as Game Boy Pocket.

And before you brand me as a cynic, think about it. Where would you rather see Mario 128 – on the GameCube, or on a new system, with better graphics, better sound, and a better controller? There’s no need for Nintendo to channel resources into what appears to be a dead end when it can finally present a coherent argument for its “Innovation vs. Technology” crusade. This is when we’ll finally see the true worth of Nintendo. Nobody’s going to care about the GameCube’s future if the appetite of the masses can be whetted with the Revolution, which is exactly why the Revolution needs to make an appearance at E3 2005.

Quick Hits
Sony Swears Off Ports. Sony has made it known that it’s not looking for its PSP to be a “port system”. Instead, Sony is demanding original content for its new system. That’s not to say that we won’t see “Tony Hawk PSP” with new features somewhere down the line, but it’s looking like Sony wants its system to focus on original ideas. Which is a really good idea, since its competition – Nintendo DS – will be as original as they come. The proof will be in the pudding when the system is released next year.

PS3 Delayed Until 2007? Rumor has it that Sony might not get the PS3 out until 2007, one year later than anticipated. Meanwhile, it’s all but confirmed that the next Microsoft system (X-Box Next, X-Box 2, etc.) will be available for Christmas 2005. This might actually work to Sony’s advantage – with the system being out so late, it’s bound to have the technology in place to trump Microsoft AND Nintendo without even being different from the others. This one’s going to get really interesting…

EA To Offer Fantasy Football. EA Sports has teamed up with Stats, Inc. to form a Fantasy Football package for the upcoming season. You can choose a Public League ($9.99) or the Commissioner League ($99.99 per league), and a Pick ‘Em game will be available to all players free of charge. Sounds suspiciously like the offerings of Yahoo, whom EA partnered with to provide the simulated top players of each Fantasy week. This should be a good venture for EA, provided it’s able to provide enough incentive (i.e. some kind of link with Madden) to get people paying. Still won’t be able to touch CBS Sportsline’s uber-awesome Fantasy package, which dominates the competition.

New PSX On The Way. Sony isn’t changing the hardware, just what it can do. DVD menus will now be possible, as well as customizable formats on the recorded DVDs. The new model’s price will be slightly lower, and those who own the original PSX will be able to update the firmware for free starting 7/15. The PSX hasn’t had all that much success in Japan, so Sony is hoping that the changes will encourage new buyers. However, at the ridiculously high price Sony is asking for, not much will change. Which is pretty okay – the PSX is basically a test market for the features the PS3 may have.

X-Box Video Chat To Appear in Japan. For the equivalent of $60, Japanese gamers will be able to purchase an X-Box webcam, along with the Voice Communicator, Starter Kit disc, and a year’s subscription to X-Box Live. There’s a strong chance that this technology will be available in America by year’s end as well. Now, the question is – will Microsoft keep the webcam as a device for video chat, or will it be a legitimate competitor to Sony’s EyeToy?

News Reports
Gamer’s Hangover News Report. Cory’s back from an absence caused by the Big Bad Real World. Welcome back, Cory. Glad to have you back on duty.
Re: Reagan. Liar? Probably. Bastard? Definitely. But he scared the sh*t out of the Russians, and I don’t think that was entirely a bad thing.

Misha – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Video Games. Misha, being a BRIT, was the first 411-ite to use a Beatles lyric in reference to Nintendo’s Revolution system. I’d say that’s appropriate, no?
Additionally, Iwata went on record as saying that the thinks the “crisis” facing gaming in general is “too many sequels”. There is no word on the rumoured Mario Party 6, but it’s thought to be compatible with a new Nintendo peripheral, which will be a camera similar to the EyeToy.

Matt Yeager – Casual Gamers News Report. Matt tells me that he threw this column together in under an hour. Which kills my speed record. That the report is actually quite good is an indication of the phenomenon that is Matt Yeager.
411games, we’re not afraid to say that the PSP will likely bomb.

Liquidcross – The Angry Gamer. LC is perhaps 411’s most prompt columnist, and this week he dissects Super Mario 3. Not in an angry fashion, mind you, but it’s definitely Liquidcross behind the controls.
I’ve seen recent games that don’t have near the amount of hidden crap found in a single SMB3 world!

Michael Donahoe – Mario vs. Donkey Kong (Game Boy Advance). Final Score: 8.0

A.J. Angeloni – Custom Robo (GameCube). Final Score: 4.0

Commentary of the Week
This might be new to some of you, so bear with me. For those young enough, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Father’s Day is this Sunday. For some, it’s a day to appreciate what has been taken for granted for the previous 365 days. For others, it’s a day to buy the first Champion t-shirt on the discount rack at JC Penney and call it a Father’s Day present. And for other still, it’s a day to reflect on the formative times in one’s life; the bonds that can never be broken.

The last group is the one I want to focus on, because it’s the group that gets what I’m saying. The father-son bond is a sacred one – it goes deeper than the mother-daughter bond, more permanent than the husband-wife bond, and is most identifiable with the best friend-best friend bond. The roots that tie down the father-son bond aren’t built in short order; instead, time builds this relationship. Time spent tossing the ball around in the backyard. Time cooking hamburgers on the grill and knocking back cold ones. Time where the only two things in the world that matter are a father and his son.

As the world has changed over the years, many have argued that the notion of “quality time” is an obsolete one. Work and more work have deteriorated the chance to bring these bonds to a new age, some say. Still, some haven’t given up hope entirely. And there’s an entire group of people that nobody devotes an ounce of time to studying, yet comprises what people should aspire to be – The Video Game Dad.

The Video Game Dad isn’t the prick who watches the World Series with you and complains about how Bud Selig sold out the game. He isn’t the guy who yelled at you when you tried buying him a DVD player for his birthday. And he isn’t a stuck-in-the-past conservative who’s out to ruin your fun. Instead, The Video Game Dad wants to share your fun with you. That’s why he jumped on the video game bandwagon to begin with. And with the games that are out there now, he’s not getting off anytime soon.

The Video Game Dad flies in the face of that silly notion about quality time being a thing of the past. Rather than spending hours at home going over paperwork or going out on romantic liasons with secretaries, The Video Game Dad is a major part of your life. When he’s not playing you in Madden, he’s playing the computer in Madden – for the sole purpose of giving you a run for your money.

Incase you couldn’t figure it out, my dad was The Video Game Dad. It all started on a cold, blustery day in February 1992 when Dad got me the original NHL Hockey for Sega Genesis. It was love at first sight. Dad wanted to experience what I was experiencing, and he got hooked just the same. From then on, it was Video Game Night every night at the Berg household. Every October, we got the new NHL game for Genesis. Once hockey season ended, it was Ken Griffey Presents Major League Baseball for Super Nintendo. Then, Joe Montana’s Sports Talk Football for Genesis for football season, if only to hear Harry Kalas exclaim “He didn’t make it!” after Dad botched yet another 4th-and-47.

This wasn’t a phase of our lives – it consumed them. Dad would get mad at me if I did something like pull the goalie in the first period of an NHL ’94 rout. I would do the same if I was getting beat badly in Ken Griffey and Dad felt the need to play every single player in his lineup “so they could get some playing time”. This went on well into my college years, and would probably still be going on today if not for the intervention of the Big Bad Real World.

Unfortunately, Dad’s not around to see the new crop of video games. I’d like to think he’d be impressed with the ability to charge $20 for a beer in Madden 2004, along with the other countless innovations we’ve seen over the years. But that’s not the point.

The point is, there’s a whole new medium that we can use to create memories. It’s one that’s totally overlooked, and it’s one that’s right in our living rooms. For every dad that can’t be bothered to spring for a cable connection, there’s a Video Game Dad waiting in the wings. Hell, he paid for your damn PS2, let him play it! Let him try his hand in whatever games you like to play. The worst that happens is he calls your entire generation “trash” and walks out of the room.

The more likely scenario is that you create a new video game fan. One that wants nothing more than to spend quality time with you while using the medium of your choice. If you’ve ever gone fishing against your will with your dad, force him to try a game of NHL 2004. See how it goes. Maybe your dad is a Video Game Dad after all.

And if he’s not, he’s still Dad. So wish him a Happy Father’s Day for me.

That’s all we’ve got for today. Thanks for reading. See you next week!