Rapid Fire: Mailbag

They are bundling a UMD Copy of Spider-Man 2 the FILM, not the game. This is Sony’s attempt to make the system multifunctional.
– Myles McNutt

The “Spiderman 2” they are throwing in with the PSP is not a game, but the movie on the UMD media. Just wanted to point it out to you, since you seemed confused.
– Brian Blottie

From all the news stories I have read on the launch details, they say that the first million to purchase a PSP receive a UMD copy of Spiderman 2, not the PSP game Spiderman 2.
– Jeff Patterson

Sony isnt giving away the game Spider-man 2 they are giving away the MOVIE Spider-man 2.
– Michael O’Reilly

From what I’ve read, the Spider-Man 2 pack-in is actually the MOVIE in UMD format, not the game.
– Christopher Alden


It would appear that I made a pretty significant boo-boo last week. You’d think that after reading a bunch of articles on the PSP’s launch, I could have figured that one out. Apparently, that’s not the case. Thanks to the legion of readers who pointed out the error of my ways, as nothing is quite as painful as feeling great about a column, only to find out hours later that you royally screwed up.

My fellow Kliq comrades can tell you that mistakes of this kind (or any kind, for that matter) are not taken lightly at Rapid Fire Headquarters. I’m not kidding when I say that this ruined my week. I think my head almost exploded when I realized the mistake, and with each subsequent e-mail correcting me, I became increasingly furious with myself. It got to the point where I dreaded checking my e-mail.

It wasn’t a fun time. But I’ve come to realize that mistakes happen. They happen in magazines where people get paid tons of money to write one article a month. They happen in newspapers where writers and editors work on a daily basis. Hell, they even happen in our beloved video games. Only thing is, I don’t have a sequel in the works to correct all the things that I should have gotten right in the first place.

The funny thing about it is that in spite of getting it wrong, the pack-in is still a pretty bold move by Sony. Sure, it’s not a game, but people haven’t been all that upset about the game choices. What they’ve been upset about is the lack of quality battery life during movie playback. By bundling a movie with the system, Sony encourages its audience to try its PSP as a portable movie player. Once they see how well it performs (remember, this is a confidence-exhibiting maneuver, not a sweating-bullets one), they’ll want to watch more movies on it, not to mention play games and listen to music as well.

You might even say that throwing a movie in there might actually be a better move than including a game. Why? Because people are going to play games on their PSP anyway. They might not want to try buying a movie right away, especially with the bad rap the battery life has gotten. Besides, the PSP immediately has an edge on the DS because it can play a movie whereas the DS cannot. So now, because a movie is included, people can’t help but try out the movie playback function. Assuming Sony has worked out the battery kinks, it’s a great move by Sony.

Now that we’ve tackled what should have been addressed seven days ago, let’s delve into the good old mailbag. We’ll pull a letter regarding each of the columns prior to last week’s and give the readers a chance to speak their minds!

Let’s go all the way back to the first “real” column of Rapid Fire’s second tenure, subtitled “Money Talks.” It dealt with EA’s spending spree; namely, that EA shouldn’t be villified for their actions just yet, and if people are that unhappy, they should let their dollars do the talking. The lucky winner here is Myles McNutt, who wrote a really long letter. This is just one piece of it…

This choice and competition is integral in video game. With such creativity and development put into the title, there is a competitive market based not purely on ratings as television is, but instead on quality, features and basic development. This competition is integral to the VIDEO GAMES industry, and that is the key here. Electronic Arts and the NFL are totally making business sense on the surface, but if you take into account the way the video game industry works there is no question in my mind that the NFL is doing more harm than good by facilitating EA’s move here.

This got me thinking about the notion of exclusive games, which most people would say are good for the industry. When you could only play GTA on Playstation 2, the PS2 was the hottest system available. Many X-Boxes were sold because only on an X-Box could you play Halo 2. Those who want the classic Nintendo characters stick to the GameCube. Each system has strengths and weaknesses from a hardware standpoint, but the games end up making the system.

Let’s go a little deeper and consider the EA Sports line of games. EA has recently indulged into the world of exclusives, and I don’t mean with the NFL. You may remember the PS2-only Madden 2005 Collector’s Edition, which was a concession by EA to make up for the appeal of the X-Box Live-ready version of Madden 2005 that made many favor the X-Box version of the game. Now, EA has begun adding Nintendo characters into their more recent games like Fight Night Round 2 and NBA Street Vol. 3. No longer is the game the same on each system; instead, each one has an edge on the other. It’s almost like a checks and balances system to ensure that everyone who buys the game feels like they’re getting something extra.

Now, I’ll agree that EA bought the NFL license so that it could box out its competition, not so it could make the ultimate NFL game. But if Madden 2006 ends up being a killer game that becomes the standard for future football games, will competition matter? Let’s be honest, if Sega decided to put NFL 2K6 on the market for $50, EA would have destroyed Sega, just like in the past. Yeah, it’s nice to have a choice, but many people have made their choice by remaining loyal to Madden and, therefore, showing their support for EA by putting the company in a position where it was able to force out its more potent competitors.

Is the NFL doing the right thing by allowing EA to run a virtual monopoly on football gaming? That’s tough to say, but it was probably the smartest move the NFL could have made if it was indeed set on having an exclusive deal with one company. The NFL is extremely image-conscious and likes to be aligned with winners, and it obviously liked what it saw in EA. If, say, XSN Sports wanted to make NFL Fever the only pro football game in town, Paul Tagliabue wouldn’t have signed off on it. By going with the most popular game out there, the NFL has ensured that a minimal amount of people will be upset about the exclusive deal.

Again, EA should silence the critics and come out with a top-notch version of Madden this year. The NFL probably has some kind of quality clause whereby if the games start to decrease in quality, the NFL could void the deal. Just like in the real game, where players can be cut if they don’t perform up to their salary, the NFL would be wise to keep EA on their toes to ensure the best product possible.

Next up, we had “Now You’re Playing With Power!“, which might have been the first column about the Power Player on any video game site. Basically, I ripped Nintendo for letting a no-name toy company beat them to the punch on what could have been the greatest video game compilation of all-time. Jason Mis agrees with Nintendo’s strategy, but only because the people are buying.

Nintendo, like any company, is mainly interested in profit. Regardless of what it is, if people are willing to buy something at an inflated price Nintendo would be stupid not to sell it that way. Ten years ago I started complaining about their lack of innovation, and seemed to stand alone. What we’re seeing now is the end result. In short, don’t blame the supplier, blame the demand. These $20 re-releases should have gone the way of Virtual Boy, but instead Nintendo’s laziness and greed are rewarded. It’s just Mario, Zelda, Metroid over and over, and nobody objects. Why would they bother making anything new or cheaper?

This is another instance of money talking. So if you want to see a Nintendo’s Greatest Hits compilation for the GameCube, stop blowing $20 every time Nintendo decides to re-release Bomberman or some other classic game for Game Boy Advance.

Jason’s right. Why would Nintendo cease the sale of the Classics series if it’s doing well? There’s obviously money to be made off of these games, enough that it’s worth it to slightly taint their collective legacy. And if a maximum profit can be made off of minimum effort, then more power to Nintendo.

The same goes for the parade of rehashes we see Nintendo banging out for a quick buck. Mario Tennis is fun, sure, but wouldn’t you rather see something new? After all, Nintendo hasn’t come up with a hit character (or series of characters) since the Pokemon craze of six or so years ago. So again, if you want to push Nintendo’s creative envelope, stop buying the games the company is putting out at this time. Consumers should never underestimate the power they have.

The next column in the can after that one was “The Dichotomy.” This was one of those columns where the main idea was to give people a bunch of stuff to think about, some of which they’ve never considered before. One of the things I mentioned was that musicians get slammed (by both critics and the record-buying public) if they don’t change enough, while the gaming world is content to see formulaic sequels that barely change from their originals. Dan Belenkov writes his thoughts on the comparison…

Unlike games or films, musicians do not put out “sequels” to their records. (Well some do, I guess) I would compare it more to a director rather than the finished film. All Kubrick’s movie are different, yet they all have the unmistakable Kubrick touch. Look at how many (college students) people got pissed at U2 when they went “Pop” They wanted that old sound with a new context, not a new sound. Then again, looking at a band like Soul Coughing, their 3 albums sound distinctly different, while being true to the band’s sound.

I think that anyone who takes himself or herself seriously as an artist has a desire to challenge his or her audience as well as themselves. When U2 put out “Pop”, their fans clearly weren’t ready for it. It was probably the most radical thing they’ve done, and it was a departure from classic U2. But I bet that some U2 fans really dig that album.

But it’s not like U2 has remained the same over the last 20 years. “Vertigo” and “New Year’s Day” are quite different, although they have the same glue holding it together. Compare that to a band like AC/DC, where everything they’ve ever done seems interchangeable.

Natural change isn’t a bad thing. Look at AFI. They went from a relatively non-descript punk band to an extremely angry punk band to a goth-punk band to a mainstream rock band in an eight-year period. And yet, when you listen to any of their songs, you know it’s AFI. That’s a bit of a rarity, but it is possible.

You don’t see that a lot in games, mainly because developers are afraid of changing too much and losing that certain something that made the game a hit. It’s apparent that gaming isn’t seen as art, even by the people who are the creative forces in gaming. That’s not fair. The best video games indeed are art and should be treated as such. Top creative minds should be paid as such and should be encouraged to innovate rather than stick to a formula that sells for one year and is forgotten the next. Maybe then, gaming could get the mainstream attention that it deserves and be considered as a creative force instead of a medium for killing fake people.

People forget that before the Beatles, rock was considered as nothing more than noise. Slowly, it became art. Gaming is on its way to the same destination – provided the focus is put back on the game and not the revenue that the game yields.

Thanks to everyone who’s written, even those who didn’t get printed this time! There’s always next month!

See you next week!