Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 06.24.04

What it look like! Welcome to Thank God It’s Thursday, your one-stop shop for strong and opinionated commentary that’s not under the influence of bribery! This week’s going to be a good one, so sit tight and we’ll start the show soon.

A word about last week’s column. I got a lot of really good feedback about the column (that I’m still responding to – sorry), which was totally appreciated. It’s rare that I interject such personal subject matter into a column, so when it gets a good response, it’s nice. Thanks for being a part of that, and I’m very glad that so many people could relate to it.

Not a lot of news this week, but a lot of opinion, so time to get started! This week is devoted to responding to Kliq members who have offered news and opinions that have provoked thought over the past week. Sit back, relax, and enjoy!

To Alex Lucard…
Situation: Lucard posted in his LJ that he’s not purchasing any of the upcoming Sony gaming devices – namely, PSP and PS3. This is based on the ridiculously high prices of the systems.

Response: Can’t blame Alex here. Sony appears to have let its dominance get to its head, and this is just one example of this.

I’ve accused Sony in the past for acting as if people will buy anything with the Playstation logo on it simply because Sony manufactured it. And it’s been well-documented that Sony has pretty much destroyed the old model of system launches (i.e. no game, no memory card, no second controller). So you have to wonder – instead of “What is Sony going to provide for me with their next offering?”, it’s “How is Sony going to screw me this time?”

The fascinating part is that so many people continue to line up to take it up the ass from Sony each time it launches a system. The number has grown to the point where Sony’s leadership among the gaming industry is unquestioned. And this is exactly why Sony thinks people will pay anything for their new systems.

How much are they asking? It’s pretty well-known by now that Sony will be offering its PSP for $250. Which is, of course, way too much money. Now, when it comes to the PS3, Sony goes from unaffordable to completely blasphemous. Industry reports state that the system will go for around $500 at launch. Did you EVER think you’d pay $500 for a video game system? Do you think you ever will?

Of course not. Even if has the almighty Sony logo on it.

So why would Sony charge way too much for the PS3? Simply, it thinks of the system as more than a system. The word is that Sony plans on adding many of the PSX’s prominent features onto the PS3’s package. You’ve read it here before – the PSX is nothing more than a test version of the PS3, and now we can see that. The difference is that the later release date of the PS3 enables Sony to capture this technology (i.e. DVD recording, digital video recording, etc.) for cheaper. In other words, rather than $700, the system will cost $500.

Sony thinks it’s doing the world a huge favor by making the PS3 this all-in-one uber-system that will do anything and everything. But Sony is overlooking one significant fact that it has no business overlooking.

When CD-R’s became big in the late 90’s, they started as stand-alone units that could be hooked up to computers. By 2001, they were standard in every computer sold. DVD recorders have followed a very similar path. They’re gaining in popularity and while not standard yet, they will be by 2006-2007, when Sony plans to launch the PS3. Nobody will need the added functionality the PS3 will offer – they’ll already have it.

And there you have it – instead off offering us $500 worth of technology we don’t have, instead we’ll get a ton of pointless technology with a new video game system wrapped around it. NOT worth the money.

As for the PSP? It makes no sense to announce that you’re charging $250 for a system before you even introduce ONE game that would make someone pay $250 for the system to play it. All we’ve seen for the PSP is ports and new versions of big-name series (this despite Sony’s no-port policy), not to mention MP3 technology many people already have through other sources. Combine this with the pathetic battery life the PSP will offer and its utter un-portability, and you have no reason to buy a PSP.

Alex Williams compared the PSP to the N-Gage in the most unflattering light of all, and he wasn’t far off. This system appears to be a thrown-together attempt to capitalize on the growing handheld market, which is a far cry from the huge mark the two Playstations have left on the industry. A portable PS2 with no battery life for $250? NOT worth the money.

Bottom Line: Agreed with Lucard. Unless those numbers change – and significantly – no PS3s or PSPs in the Berg household.

To Cory Laflin…
Situation: Cory took me to task on my take that Sony pushing the PS3 back to 2007 might actually serve to benefit the system’s welfare.

Response: It’s certainly no guarantee that a 2007 release would fare better than a 2006 release for the PS3. But can you really say that a 2006 release would fare better than a 2007 one?

Think about it. Sony plans on putting all this “advanced technology” crap into the PS3, and the system’s price is highly dependent on how much this technology will cost. Therefore, Sony’s better served to wait out the technology wave and THEN plan a release date for the system. This way, Sony doesn’t have to screw itself by charging $500 for its system.

Can the current PS2 survive until 2007? Of course not. But that’s what the PSP is for – to whet the appetites of the general public (i.e. “Hey, it’s a new Sony system! Let’s buy it, no matter how worthless it is!”) until the PS3 is ready for release. After all, Sony DID say that the PSP would be played mostly inside the home. Besides, don’t forget that this is the same company that made the PS One look like something special some seven years after release.

As for the competition, they will definitely pose a threat. This is where buying power – or Sony’s perceived buying power – will be put to the test. Make no mistake about the potential of X-Box Next, because it will be a top-selling system… as long as it comes out in 2005 (or very early 2006) AND it has backwards compatibility. And while Nintendo’s Revolution sounds promising, can you really count on Nintendo to deliver the goods in a timely fashion? If someone’s got their heart set on a Revolution and Nintendo delays it until 2007, odds are good that this person will get fed up and just buy a PS3 instead.

The other side of the equation is if both competitors get their systems out on time. The average gamer has more than one system today. This is a trend that will continue into the future. Two years is a long time for a gamer to play one system exclusively. X-Box Next gamers might be looking for something new 18-24 months after purchasing their system, and the PS3 would do just the trick.

All of this depends, of course, on the price. If the system costs $500, Sony’s in trouble whether the system is released in 2005, 2007, or 2027. With odds increasing that Sony will not, as Cory says, “keep the price point of the PS3 reasonable”, it’s looking like the public will have a big decision to make – one that’s going to be placed ahead of a release date.

Bottom Line: The biggest knock on the PS3 right now is its price, not its release date. That said, Sony WILL have the most technologically advanced system on the market in 2007, which will sway the hardcore Sony fans and technologically-savvy gamers. From there, it’s up to Sony to put out the most technologically-advanced GAMES to go with the system. And, of course, keep the price down!

To Misha…
Situation: Misha openly questioned Nintendo for announcing the GBA’s “true successor” while simultaneously trying to hype the DS. He thought maybe I could find some “marketing sense” in it.

Response: I can’t.

What a way to devalue a system that hasn’t even been released yet! Nintendo, masters of destroying systems through press, has done it again. Great job, Nintendo!

So let me get this straight – Nintendo stole the show at E3 with this new, innovative system that has games that EVERYBODY is looking forward to playing. Many have said that this system has what it takes to really take it to Sony. So you follow that up by announcing the “true successor” to the GBA?

What does that make the DS? Just a random system Nintendo decided to put out for its own amusement? Will it be made obsolete by this “true successor”? And what happens once this “true successor” (now to be known as True Successor) comes out? Does Nintendo take on Nintendo in the high-stakes Handheld war? What Happens?!?!?

Fortunately, Nintendo answered this question for us – if the DS flops, the system will be rushed out. If the DS performs favorably against the PSP, the True Successor will be delayed until 2007. Thanks for clarifying that, Nintendo.

Again – what does this mean for the DS? It seems like the DS is that friend that you only call when you want something. You don’t particularly like the person and don’t even want to be friends, but the friend has some sort of hookup that you need, so you keep him or her around. The DS is that friend now. It’s sort of like a bridge between the SP and the True Successor, which is appropriate – it’s being walked all over, and by the very company that swore by its innovative aspects just one month ago at E3.

This isn’t the first time Nintendo has served to kill the momentum of a Nintendo system. Just when the GameCube was beginning to pick up steam last year, a series of Nintendo announcements regarding the industry (i.e. questioning the public support of a new Nintendo system, the promise of multiple peripherals to inject life into the Cube, so on and so forth) made it hard to feel good about the GameCube’s rebirth. The same has just occurred with the DS. Once a system with a world of potential, Nintendo has squashed the spark of the DS and replaced it with the cold reality – the DS is nothing but a pawn in Nintendo’s plans for the True Successor.

Bottom Line: Agreed with Misha. Nintendo creates some great handhelds, but it needs to slow the hell down and stop being so honest with the media. Let the public enjoy the DS for what it is, and let the True Successor be under wraps until it’s ready for release.

And check out LC’s column today for a far more angry description of the situation.

To Alex Williams…
Situation: Alex has questioned Ubisoft’s unusually high expectations for its 2004-2005 profit.

Response: Alex has every right to question such an absurd claim as a video game company that plans to profit anywhere from $46-$52 million in one year. This isn’t EA we’re talking about here. It’s Ubisoft. Never forget that.

Ubisoft has the Tom Clancy games, but what else? Prince of Persia got rave reviews, but the game didn’t exactly set the world on fire from a sales standpoint. And let’s not even get into the Beyond Good and Evil fiasco.

The point is, it’s awful hard for a company to turn such a substantial profit. Look for Sega and Nintendo for proof of this. Even with a dominant franchise, for Ubisoft to expect a profit of around $50 million this year is to sow the seeds for a whole lot of disappointment come year’s end.

Let’s go back to the EA comparison for a second, since EA had a ridiculous year last year. That year was the result of a number of successful franchises – Madden, NCAA Football, Tiger Woods, NHL Hockey. The list goes on and on for EA, and this isn’t even going past sports games. Ubisoft has one top-selling franchise under its belt, and it can’t be a very cheap one to keep, either.

Even Take-Two, whose dubious accounting practices have kept them under the ever-watchful eye of the SEC, knows you can’t keep your eggs in one basket. Hence, Max Payne 2, Manhunt, and the rest of the heavily-promoted games we’ve seen from Rockstar in the past year. Ubisoft seems to be following the same path – that is, creating franchises that can be built on each year for profit, if nothing else. Unfortunately, most of these franchises fell flat at the gate last year. That’s not to say that Prince of Persia 2 won’t be a best-seller or that a sequel to Beyond Good and Evil wouldn’t do well. But doing well isn’t what’s going to make Ubisoft $50 million this year. These games need to become huge hits, which isn’t all that likely.

Bottom Line: Either Ubisoft is going to Enron Accounting School, or Ubisoft is going to perform FAR under expectations this year. Either way, happy financial times are not in the near future for this company.

Quick Hits
Video Game Hockey Notes. Vancouver Canucks star Markus Naslund will be the cover boy of EA’s NHL 2005, which might be the best way to experience hockey this fall. At least Naslund won’t have to worry about the EA curse (which appears to have extended into the NHL series now) with the very real possibility of no “real” hockey this year. Thank heaven for EA! On a side note, NHL Faceoff 2005 is scheduled for an August release, which is odd, but it’s not as if people actually PLAY 989 Sports games, anyway…

No GTA Online. Confirmed by Rockstar – GTA: San Andreas will not feature online play in any sense. Not that it really matters since GTA fans are used to playing the series alone, but it would have been neat to have a sort of interactive community, given that so much emphasis is placed on the surrounding environment. I guess downloadable content is out of the question. Argh.

News Reports
Alex Williams – 411MAX: News News Revolution. AAAlex makes his long-awaited return! And it’s a stellar effort from the Norwegian Athlete. He’s doing away with Kliq Reward Points, which is totally fine by me – they are retired with ME as the leader!
In an interesting move, Nintendo has a survey up on their website regarding future editions of their NES Classic series on the Game Boy Advance. They want YOU to help them choose which new NES games they’ll convert into GBA cartridges and overcharge to you next! Huzzah!

Cory Laflin – Gamer’s Hangover News Report. Cory spoofs on Wong this week, which is long anticipated and much deserved. And he pimps Wiley, who deserves a good read from everyone who loves sports.
Environmentalists will be the first to initiate a scorched earth campaign if you piss them off.

Misha – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Video Games. “Top Story” Misha strikes again with some Brit fun. And he bashes both Nintendo AND Sony! Hating is fun.
Marvin: Agreed. PSP more likely to be carried around? With THAT sort of size??
Misha: Only if someone wants to indulge in weight-training as well as gaming.

Alex Lucard – Retrograding Mailbag. It’s a mailbag from Alex this week, with a wide range of topics from the RPG Countdown to Van Helsing to Henry Rollins to, of course, 411 Games vs. The World. Which is always my favorite part!
We’re willing to lose the free shit here at 411 in order to keep our integrity. We feel that’s a wee nip more important.

Liquidcross – The Angry Gamer. This is the aforementioned LC column that bashes Nintendo for announcing two handhelds at virtually the same time. Idiots. He also wonders about the possibility of an industry crash and what the ramifications would be. Interesting stuff.
They claim that the DS isn’t meant to replace the GBA, but that’s complete bullshit; why else would it be fully backwards compatible? That’s like saying the GBA wasn’t meant to replace the GBC. Sheesh.

Alex Lucard – Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy (X-Box). Final Score: 6.5

411 Games Staff – Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords.

411 Games Staff – Rumble Roses.

Commentary of the Week
The news section ended up being a LOT longer than I planned, so I’m pretty much fried at this point. So I’ll instead offer Random Questions instead. This is not stealing Cory’s gimmick; instead, I’ll just offer some questions to things I don’t understand and if anyone wants to attempt to answer them, they are more than welcome to do so.

Some Random Questions for today…
– How on Earth do movies like “White Chicks” get conceived? From there, how does someone convince themselves that it’s actually not a stupid idea for long enough to write the movie? Then, why does a studio actually devote tens of millions of dollars to see it to fruition? THEN, why do people actually pay to see crap movies like “White Chicks”?

– Why do women always complain about how they want to see the “real” side of men when their hair is dyed and they’re wearing colored contacts, makeup, push-up bras, press-on nails, and perfume? And why doesn’t anybody question this?

– Here’s one I stole from Bill Simmons – how is it that a collegiate athlete can have three mediocre years (because you know nobody stays around for a fourth mediocre year) and yet be a lottery pick because his stock rose at the pre-draft workouts? That’s like when Zach Morris underachieved throughout high school, then got a 1520 on his SAT and set off to attend Harvard. Why are GMs this stupid?

– How is it that in a country of 270 million people, America is destined to hate their next President? Would you rather vote for Bush and have an idiot in office for four more years, or would you rather vote Kerry just because he’s not Bush and have a different idiot in office for four years? Either way, do you really benefit?

– Why did they put “Bad Santa” out on DVD in the middle of June? Why wouldn’t they go for November or December, when people actually want to see Christmas movies? As unbelievably hilarious as “Bad Santa” was, wouldn’t it do better if it were released later in the year?

– Why is it okay for people to piss away $15 on a movie ticket, popcorn, and soda; yet, when I lose $15 at the OTB, people say I have a gambling problem? And why is it that if I win $12 while I’m on the phone with my girlfriend at the time my horse wins, I’m obligated to use that $12 to buy her something?

– Here’s a practical one – if you buy someone a gift with a rechargeable battery, and you open up the gift to charge the battery so that it’s ready to go when you present the gift, is that against the rules of society? Because aren’t you really kinda screwing the other person if you give them the gift and they have to charge it afterward, thereby limiting their immediate enjoyment of the gift?

– Think about that last one and let me know.

Before we wrap up today, I need to let everyone know that this Saturday marks four years with my lovely girlfriend Cory. If you want to be a real sport, you can e-mail her and wish her a Happy Anniversary, or you can not. Either way, I’ll be getting some Saturday night, and you might not be. HA!

In any event, I’ll be back next Thursday for more news, ranting, and whatever else the report calls for. Thanks for reading. See you next week!