Bigredcoat

Videogames, politics, science, all the important things in life.

Archive for August, 2007

Upcoming August 14th

Posted by nfinit on August 14, 2007

In a startling turn of events, this actually turns out to be a decent week of gaming, even in the face (or perhaps because of) of legions of slavering Madden fans descending upon stores come Wednesday morning. Also, Persona 3 pops back up again, after what Atlus will only describe as a “printing error” leading to a three week delay. If nothing else, this should prove a fascinating social experiment as okatu and jocks mingle in the same annoying, stress-inducing line at the local EBStop.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance (PS2)

Apparently Raven’s kept the visuals up to par with the 360 version (Which sounds impressive until you remember everything in this genre is zoomed out to something just under low Earth orbit) and it’s a third of the asking price for the next-gen versions of this game. If this is your thing and you haven’t picked it up yet, it looks to be a decent diversion. Even if this isn’t your thing, you have to figure it’s at least twice as good as The Red Star, and doesn’t feature a minute and a half of unstoppable credit screens every time you want to start the game.

The timing on this is actually rather remarkable, as it gives dads something to keep their kids shut up about while huddling in the living room with Madden.

Fatal Fury Battle Archive (PS2)

Pay attention. This is something incredibly rare in gaming, a package that’s so brilliantly fucking fantastic and priced so low that hardcore gamers cannot justify not owning it. Game companies simply don’t do this sort of thing anymore, and as much as I hate the whole “reward consumerism” mindset, it’s something that’s deserving of our retail dollars. Herein you will find Fatal Fury, Fatal Fury 2, Fatal Fury Special and Fatal Fury 3, on one disc, for fifteen fucking dollars. And okay, yeah, while you’re probably either going to wind up playing FF Special or FF 3 and not touch the rest of the disc, it’s still a rather incredible event to witness, especially if you’re of the generation that can remember calculating exactly how much overtime they’d need to work to justify a Neo Geo purchase. Fifteen years ago this package would have cost you something along the lines of eight hundred dollars to collect, and that’s not counting the price of the console itself. I could not possibly recommend this enough. Now if there was just some way to convince SNK to release a disc consisting of their non-fighter, non-Metal Slug Neo Geo stuff. There’s an entire generation of gamers out there who’ve never played Magician Lord!

Madden ’08 (PS2/PSP/360/PS3/Wii/DS)

The yearly event that exposes the rest of America to the dank, filthy halls of EBStop is upon us again, causing us to both recoil in horror at what we may one day become and begrudgingly admit that without stuff like this it’d be impossible to justify Shadow of the Colossus and Bioshock.

A quick rundown of what each version features:

  • The 360 version runs at 60fps, and is thus considered the “full” version. It is unknown exactly how much money traded hands for Microsoft to pull this off, but safe to say there’s been an alarming amount of trade happening between EA and MS, including advertising rights, PR Marketing heads trading places between companies, and of course Microsoft’s compliance in EA’s continued destruction of the integrity of Xbox Live. I’m not saying that Madden ’08 is better on the 360 simply because EA and MS are in bed, but it sure looks weird.
  • The PS3 version runs at 30fps. Rumors as to virulent mold spores being packaged in each Blu-Ray case remain wholly unconfirmed.
  • The PS2 version is the one people will wind up actually buying
  • The Wii version is like the PS2 version, only a pain in the ass to actually get anything done with
  • The DS version is further proof of the lack of a kind or loving God
  • The PSP version is there because hey, PSP owners are sorta dumb anyway.

Persona 3 (PS2)

And now, presenting the case for Persona 3:

Well, I mean, if you insist

Also, apparently you contact the spirit world via repeated ritualistic suicide. That’s kinda different. And as always, the Last Great Hurrah of the PS2 until something comes along next month to further justify never buying a next-gen system. I swear, this generation isn’t going to end until we wind up with seventeen million unsold copies of Toy Story 4 buried somewhere in Utah.

Metropolismania 2 (PS2)

No reviews for this thing exist, and every preview site googled up regurgitates the exact same PR boilerplate. But it looks like SimCity for people who order pocky online– since Natsume is involved, I can only assume there’s cows and an awkward dating game involved somewhere. So yeah, imagine Harvest Moon, only you’re a city planner, and instead of crops you’ve gotta harvest crack rocks and manage prostitutes. Only everyone’s got enormous fucking doe eyes, so it’s even creepier than what I just described.

Dungeons and Dragons Tactics (PSP)

What the hell is this and why is it on the PSP instead of a system I want to actually own? It’s a tactical RPG using D&D 3.5 rules, and if you’re the sort of mutant like I am and actually enjoy D&D 3.5 combat, you’re a tad dumbstruck at the thoughts of a videogame appearing on the PSP that may just justify removing your firmware hack in order to play.

Seriously Wizards, fuck you. Aren’t you guys aware that PSP owners don’t buy videogames?

Pile o’ DS Crap: High School Musical and Operation Vietnam.

I’m almost positive I’ve seen High School Musical: Making the Grade here before. What possible quality control issues can be involved with a High School Musical game that could even remotely justify a delay? Was the text replaced with nothing but anti-Semitic slurs? Did someone screw up the order form and buy a half million blank Game.com carts? Was AIDS found lurking in the staples binding the instruction manual together?

As far as Operation: Vietnam goes, just imagine. This is how Vietnam vets think our generation views the sacrifice of their youth:

With any luck our nation will refuse to go to war ever again under the fear that game developers will make shitty games about the experience.

Finally, a trio of shockingly good DS games by way of Japan.

Heroes of Mana (DS)

It took the better part of three years, but someone finally built a quality RTS entirely around the DS, and it’s coming from Squeenix of all people. To confound matters, it’s coming under the guise of a “* of Mana” game that doesn’t suck the will to live out of anyone attempting to play it.

Rune Factory (DS)

Natsume has plastered IGN with banner ads labeling this as a “Fantasy Harvest Moon”, which I guess tells you everything you really need to know about this. Of the one recent review to come of this to show up on Gamerankings Nintendo Power docent seem to like it much, bestowing a 70%. But then, Nintendo Power gave Puzzle Quest DS a 40%, so what do they know?

Luminous Arc (DS)

And to compliment Heroes of Mana, someone remembered the DS ought to have a lot more Strategy RPGs on it than it does by now, and thus we have Luminous Arc– Which by all appearances is your bog-standard SRPG affair with your demons and fallen gods and all that noise, but hey, it’s gotta beat playing through Tactics Advance for the seventeenth time… So you know, you can play this to death until Tactics Advance 2 comes out. And since it’s published by Atlus, you get to stare at stuff like this for sixty hours.

Also, apparently it comes with a dating sim minigame. So this is pretty much the greatest “I’m a social pariah yet I still need to go to work everyday” videogame ever created.

NEXT WEEK! I Spy Treehouse for the DS! Brunswick Bowling for the PS2! Something called Bioshock for the 360!

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Bigredcoat Summer Gaming Blowout: The Red Star Doesn’t Suck!

Posted by nfinit on August 10, 2007

I’m going to let you into a dirty little secret of mine, one that’s even more perverse than my Lucy Lawless as an English nanny fetish.

I collect videogames.

Yeah, okay, so we all “collect” videogames, but when I say I “collect videogames” I mean in the way that some people “collect comics” and other people “collect comics“. I mean buying Valkyrie Profile for $120 and only playing it long enough to see if it boots up. Or buying copies of Zone of the Enders 2, simply because every so often I catch it selling for five bucks at Blockbuster. Or owning a copy of the Dungeons and Dragons Arcade Collection for the Saturn despite having no earthly idea what’s going on, seeing as how the entire thing is presented in unsubtitled Japanese. So when I saw Archangel Studios selling The Red Star for The PS2 off their website for twenty bucks, I figured it’d be worth hitting up on the off chance that it may suffer from a low print run, what with it being a fairly niche game produced by a small publisher released at the end of a console’s life, a combination that saw many a hundred dollar Ebay special for the Saturn and PS1.

Then last week at Best Buy I saw The Red Star in the budget rack alongside Ford Extreme Racing, so I went and broke open my copy.

And surprisingly, it doesn’t suck! Now I’m not going to say it’s a great game, because man, it’s not great. Not at all. Or even particularly good. I mean, if I’d spent fifty bucks for the thing, I’d be pretty pissed. At best, you can say The Red Star is pleasantly UN-horrible. But at twenty dollars, it’s just right, and you can even order the game directly from the studio and get a warm fuzzy feeling from sending money directly to the publisher and bypassing the bloated retail apparatus.

As far as the gameplay, the best I could say is that it’s something like a 3d beat ’em up combined with portions of a bullet-hell shump. Which sounds fantastic, (and in all honestly, it plays good enough) but it’s the details where things start to come apart– details such as Dreamcast-level graphics, or the lack of a lock-on system that actually works, or a difficulty curve that resembles a hockey stick. It’s that last bit that’s most frustrating, as for the first dozen or so levels of the game you’re presented with an enjoyable, if a tad easygoing beat ’em up where you can safely take on a screen full of enemies at once, but then at around the eleventh level the game presents you with enemies that roll/phase out of every attack, are capable of removing a quarter of a life bar with every hit, forcing you to creep along the screen not daring to take on more than a couple at a time. It’s also around this same time that the game suddenly becomes very stingy with it’s life-sustaining halliburton briefcases.

But it gets the important things(or it’s “core competencies” if I were the sort of hack to use techy buzzwords like “core competency”) right, as the gameplay is solid if a tad banal. Rush up to soldier, pound crap out of soldier, toss soldier into the air, pound crap out of soldier some more, slam soldier into the ground, repeat. In between crazed melee rushes you’re allowed to whip out a pair of guns and blast at enemies from range, although this is mainly a boss-fight sort of thing and is where the bullet-hell shump portions of the gameplay come into light. There’s even a couple of levels where you board a jet plane and take to the enemy shoot-em-up style, and while a bit clumsy and certainly inelegant they serve to nicely break up what would otherwise be a monotony. And while the storyline and atmosphere are good, they’re almost entirely irrelevant, as you’ll find yourself skipping the mission briefings without any repercussions whatsoever. Not to sound like a dick, but I don’t play beat ’em ups for the story– if it was Archangel’s intent to get the Red Star storyline out to a wider audience, they should have done so in something more resembling an RPG. (For that matter, with it’s high-magic, steampunk tech and alternate universe USSR universe, this would have made for an excellent RPG experience.)

While it seems harsh to call a game with decent gameplay “surprisingly un-awful”, it’s not like we’re talking God of War here– or even Final Fight. Think more along the lines of Golden Axe, but with better enemies. Which isn’t bad mind you, but it’s not the sort of thing you can really justify purchasing in this day and age at other than it’s budget price point. In fact, I wonder if it shouldn’t have been cut down to fit on Live Arcade instead, as I’m positive Castle Crashers will wind up outclassing it on every level.

Mild recommendation to buy, as long as you come in not expecting anything mind-blowing or unique– and sometimes, that’s just fine.


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Do the 360 shuffle

Posted by nfinit on August 7, 2007

With official word of the oncoming price drop of 360 consoles come this Wednesday, it has come to my attention that Microsoft will now feature no less than four distinct SKUs, staggered at price points that defy any attempts at rationalizatinon. Some would call this an embarrassment of riches. Other people, who are not slavering Xbox 360 fanboys, would call it goddamned retarded. In any case, it’s all very confusing, so I, humble servant to the gaming community that I am, will provide the public a breakdown of each SKU, along with the associated pros and cons.

Xbox 360 Core

Price: $279

Pros:

  • Removes money from bank account that may otherwise have accidentally found it’s way to the Church of Scientology
  • Memory card (not included) will one day be shown to your children as a curiosity, much like Sony Betamax videotapes, or Sony PSP videogames.

Cons:

  • No memory card
  • No hard disc drive
  • Wired controller
  • Fumes emanating from back of unit known to cause cancer in lab rats
  • Will make your children cry should you purchase it for them
  • Will make you wonder why you didn’t spend the money on a Wii
  • Instills gnawing feeling of doom as you realize you need to spend an extra hundred dollars on a hard disc drive to get anything done with the stupid thing
  • Really, what the hell are you thinking?
  • Just give me your money, I’ll buy you a nice coat instead. Or maybe one of those official Lord of the Rings Swords.

In one of the more baffling maneuvers Microsoft’s pulled off thus far in the console wars, they’ve managed to release a 360 at a price point that not only is still not competitive with the Wii, but in neglecting to include a savegame card, they’ve managed to produce the only next-gen console on the market today that lacks any form whatsoever of standard game storage or wireless controls. Feature-wise, it is actually a step backwards from the original Xbox, where at least you never had to worry about buying a memory card.

Xbox 360 Pro (nee Premium)

Price: $349

Pros:

  • Actually comes with a goddamned hard drive
  • You can play games with this one
  • Not to mention download stuff
  • Doesn’t lead to a long, awkward pause as you try to justify to your friends why you bought a 360 Core
  • Free headset!
  • Swank dual use composite/component AV input cords
  • As with all 360 units, superheated air emanating from the rear of the unit may be used to power a small hydroponic garden
  • Comes with a free copy of Rockstar’s Table Tennis

Cons:

  • Comes with a free copy of Rockstar’s Table Tennis
  • 20gb hard drive instead of the Elite’s 120gb
  • No HDMI video input
  • As with all 360 units, will eventually melt into a puddle of semisolid plastic and silicone, possibly lighting house and/or small pets on fire

For the most part, the Pro remains the best value of the lot, despite it’s rather tiny hdd drive. Still, 20 gigs is more than large enough if you intend to do nothing more than save games, XBLA downloads and game demos. The choice of free game here seems odd to me– Yeah, there’s a market for Table Tennis, and people other than me seem to think it’s a good game and all, but I have to wonder why they decided to lowball the pack-in here and not include something really enticing, like a Kameo/Perfect Dark Zero double pack. The XB1 Sega GT 2000/Jet Set Radio Future pack was what finally convinced me to buy the first Xbox, and I can’t help but imagine two quality, hyped release titles that have more than served their useful purpose would be a better fit here than an overly complicated Pong update that’s more at home on the Wii anyway.

Xbox 360 Halo 3 Edition

Price: $399

Pros:

  • Features an HDMI a/v port not found on the Core or Pro
  • Comes with a free controller recharge kit
  • Looks… different

Cons:

  • Seriously, we’re talking pea soup and copper here
  • Despite being labeled the “Halo 3 edition” and being plastered in Halo imagery, comes with no actual Halo games.
  • Still has the 20gb hard drive
  • Space beetles, attracted by it’s color and prodigious heat output, may attempt to mate with your system, ruining your Dead Rising save file
  • Will cause one to yearn for the simple dignity of previous game-specific special edition consoles, such as the Pokemon Yellow N64.

I… dunno. I mean, I guess if you’re a big Halo guy and you don’t yet own a 360, this may be tempting, but I can’t help but imagine that in addition to Table Tennis, you can actually buy a full-fledged 360 game using the price difference between this and the Pro. Even if this shipped with nothing more than a double disc of the previous Halo games and their respective map packs I could understand the need for this thing to exist, but as it stands it’s main advantage over every other non-Core 360 is that it’s garish.

Xbox 360 Elite

Price: $449

Pros:

  • It’s black!
  • 120gb hard drive vs the 20 gig drive found in the Pro and Halo 2 units

Cons:

  • You’re paying four hundred and fifty dollars for a system that you’re still expected to buy a separate wireless adapter for
  • No free game
  • Not even the controller recharge kit found on the Halo 3 system
  • Upon learning that you purchased a 360 Elite, an annoyed, sweat-drenched beer truck driver will invade your home, inform you you’ve lost your right to sell Miller High Life and remove all cheap, flavorless beer from the premises. Ordinarily I’d list this as a “Pro”, but the hand trucks will make an utter ruin of your linoleum floor.

Unless you find yourself greatly enamored with the color black and/or find yourself tempted by the thoughts of downloading TV shows off of Live Marketplace and thus need that extra hard drive space, I really can’t see much reason to buy the 360 Elite, even with the price drop. Not many 360 games will make use of the extra resolution brought forth by the built-in HDMI port. This thing only ever really existed to take advantage of the three month gap that the market was without a $500 PS3 option, and now that Sony’s resumed the $500 SKU, it’s hard to find a reason to justify this thing’s existence.

Overall, this price juggling is typical Microsoft– confusing, slightly disappointing, likely ultimately meaningless once all is said and done. If Microsoft was going to keep the Core around, it needed to be dropped to $250 with a memory card– that could have provided Microsoft with a real weapon against the Wii. The 20gb hdd shouldn’t even exist anymore, and the $120gb hdd should take it’s place. The Pro sports an incredibly weak pack-in game– SKUs should at least feature Perfect Dark and/or Kameo at this point– Or any of the other multitude of Xbox 360 launch titles that have long since served their useful purpose. The “advantages” of the Halo 3 SKU amounts to a fifty dollar sticker set; the Elite should, at the very least, include a bundled HD-DVD drive, and there’s no logical reason for all the SKUs not to include wireless controllers and wireless internet adapters.

Of course, any need for any of this juggling exists the moment Microsoft comes to it’s senses and simply releases a 360 w/hard drive at $300, with maybe a stripped down, no-frills Core at $200. This is the only way Microsoft will ever start to catch up with sales of even the original Xbox, not to mention the juggernaut that the Wii is starting to become. Microsoft came out of E3 with the best hype and the best games on the market, and could have parlayed this price drop into some actual momentum– and in typical fashion, they half-assed everything and made the whole affair an even bigger mess.


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Upcoming August 7th

Posted by nfinit on August 6, 2007

This week gamers saw an enormous setback as Daisenryaku 7 Exceed (and with it it’s whomp-ass cover art) had it’s release pushed back over a month, presumably to allow Crave Entertainment to explain exactly what it is they’re trying to sell to retailers. Until then, gaze upon the wonder that might have been–

They could sell this game for $170 and wrap it in hepatitis-encrusted razor wire, and I’d still buy it. In other news, this week’s real, honest-to-god released videogame selection is pretty goddamned horrendous.

Tomb Raider Anniversary (PSP) (80%)

I know what you’re worried about, PSP owners. Sure, Anniversary may bring the classic gameplay of the original Tomb Raider to the PSP with prettified graphics and modern game design elements, but what you really want to know is how well Lara’s ass has handled the translation to the handheld medium.

And it saddens me to report, not well. Not well at all.

Blurry, grainy, distorted, ill-defined– This is not an ass worth losing your firmware update for. Yes, yes, the gameplay has largely come across unharmed– but at what cost?

Boogie (Wii) (N/A)

Remember when EA said it was going to focus on the Wii and more unique, non-franchise titles? And all the Nintendo guys suddenly forgot that EA is condensed, tangible evil and started to chow down on EA’s theoretical corporate manhood? Yeah, well–

Admittedly, that comes with a mic (which, according to Game|Life’s Chris Kholer, is apparently junk) but you know EA is feeling the water here, seeing exactly how far they can get with the Wii audience. Which will probably be a lot, considering this title pretty much screams HEY, WII PLAY GUYS, BUY ME! At least when Nintendo tries to sell a marginal videogame to the Wii Play set, they do so by bribing them with a free controller.

High School Musical: Making the Cut (DS)

At first I was disappointed to see no reviews of Making the Cut exist, but then I realized there’s no real point to reviewing this sort of thing as the target audience isn’t really the sort to peruse IGN. Matter of fact, if you’re the sort who may be in the market for Making the Cut, or any game produced by Disney and/or Nickelodeon I’d prefer you not read this site either. Seriously. Chris Hansen scares me!

Megaman Starforce Pegasus/Leo/Dragon (DS)

Speaking of games where the target audience shouldn’t even be registered for Myspace yet, there is this, a blatant moneygrab for gamers whom don’t find playing Pokeman in public quite socially damming enough.

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Steve Allison: Warden of a Legacy of Mediocrity

Posted by nfinit on August 3, 2007

Anyone else remember Midway?

Nice little arcade company, made Joust, Cruis’n USA, SCUD Race, a couple of really awesome retro compilation discs? Yeah, those guys. Midway. Most recently known for giving John Romero a job for a few months until he decided to fuck off and make MMORPGs instead.

Midway has been trying to claw it’s way back into the public eye and it’s upcoming John Woo Presents:Stranglehold may represent a turning point for the company. After all, it’s presented as a “sequel” to Hard Boiled (Thus the “John Woo Presents: of Stranglehold) and movie franchise aside, the game looks genuinely intriguing, what with the team from the well-regarded Psi-Ops behind the project.

Fortunately for gamers already despairing over their abused wallets this upcoming holiday season, any concerns that Midway should somehow screw up and turn JWP:S into a decent game are readily dispelled by Midway’s chief marketing officer Steve Allison, who wants to let everyone know that under no circumstance shall he allow gameplay get in the way of his company’s commitment to mediocrity.

(From an interview shamelessly stolen from N’gai Croal’s blog, Level Up.)

Execution is Only The Third Most Important Factor In A Game’s Success. Yes, Third

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to make great games. Nor does it mean that a great concept gives developers the license to make a crappy game. It simply means that execution alone is no guarantee of commercial success. The developers who understand this will thrive in the next generation home console business. The ones who don’t will fall victim to the realities of the shifting marketplace.

The average reader of this piece, especially one working in the gaming business will say, “Wait a minute. A great game whose review scores average 90 or higher can ship when it’s done and it’ll still be a great game.” Or they’ll say, “Whatever the concept may be, a great title is all about the game mechanics.” Unfortunately, this is not true.

A great game is one that is a commercial success. Period.

Well, so much for the preorders.

In a way, he’s right. Shareholders don’t give a shit about level design, learning curves or anything else representing a quality gaming experience. But as far as gamers are concerned– especially those of us who would be interested in a videogame sequel to a John Woo movie to begin with– hearing a marketing guy basically say that Hannah Montana was a “great game” sorta makes us wince and want to curl up in a corner to play Ninja Gaiden until the pain goes away.

(I should take this moment to note that Steve Allison’s last gig was as VP of Marketing for Infogrames– a company that had so throughly trashed it’s own reputation among gamers that it decided it’d be better to dredge up the old Atari name instead. Mull on that for a bit.)

Continuing on…

Consumers review games with their wallet, and you don’t get to sell them a million units at full price unless a bunch of people love your work–especially at $59 a pop. Sure, your craftsmanship may be amazing. But if your concept is not a powerful and relevant male fantasy, executed in a timely fashion, at a level that delivers on the promise of your core idea, you’ve probably just delivered the videogame equivalent of an art house film.

An art house game certainly proves that your development team is really talented but it also demonstrates you’re really not in tune with the audience. This kind of creativity is only fine as long as your art house game was built on an art house budget. But an art house game made on a blockbuster budget–especially the sums of money required to be competitive on Xbox 360, PS3 and high end PCs–is fiscally irresponsible.

Ignoring the bit where Steve Allison says “art house games” do not fulfill a “powerful and relevant male fantasy”, there’s a way around the problem of high-concept games not selling at the full $59.99 price point. Stop selling games for sixty dollars, you fucking loons. Katamari Damacy sold well enough to develop into a franchise, and it did so in large part by being sold for $40, an impulse buy for the hardcore and temping enough for adventurous mainstream gamers to take the risk.

The concept of selling hardcore-targeted games at full MSRP is doubly absurd when you consider Midway, EA, Ubisoft the like place most games in settings where it’s easy for them to sell in-game advertising, the sort of thing that a person could expect be used to help “art-house games” sell cheaper. Then you have tools such as downloadable content and digital delivery, both of which could readily be used to price “art-house games” competitive instead of the current practice of expecting things like Senko no Ronde to sell at the same price point as NCAA ’08.

But hey, Katamari. That shit’s for girls.

And the hits keep on coming…

The truth is that there is no correlation between review scores and commercial success. If there were, “great” games Beyond Good & Evil, Ico, Okami, Psychonauts, Shadow of the Colossus, Freedom Fighters, Prey and Midway’s own Psi-Ops would all have been multi-million unit sellers. The aforementioned games are all games that average review scores of nearly 90 percent out of 100, some even higher. The reality is none has sold more than 300,000 units at full price in the U.S. and a couple of these less than 250,000 units lifetime even with bargain pricing. In today’s home console business, a true next generation game costs between $12 and $25 million dollars to produce, which sets the breakeven point at 1 million units and in some cases even 2 million units, depending on how high the budget has gotten.

The implication is clear- Midway has no intention of creating a great gaming experience. They instead wish to create games that are good enough while while selling to the broadest market possible. Which I suppose is a noble effort on behalf of the shareholders, but one wonders how far Pixar would have made it under the same philosophy. This is the same thinking that gives us tripe like Chicken Little, or reality TV programming, or Midway’s latest affront to good gameplay, Hour of Victory.

And while Steve Allison lists some notable commercial failures, he fails to recognize games like God of War, Halo, Gears of War and Twilight Princess, games that are not only grand and epic experiences, but have gameplay to match their lofty aspirations.

Let’s be clear: it is not the amount spent on marketing that determines how many units of these games are sold. A game’s sales potential is entirely determined by the strength of its overall concept, while the difference between its sales potential and its final tally is determined by its execution. And given the phenomenal execution of Psychonauts, Ico, Psi-Ops and the other art house games listed above, their failure can be ascribed to a misguided concept, poor timing or both.

Beyond the obvious implication that Midway expects JWP:S to sell on the tired old concept of videogames as movies instead of it’s merits as, you know– a good video game--It should be noted of those games listed, two if them, Psychonauts and Ico, were advertised so poorly that it was impossible for the mainstream gamer to know of their existence. I don’t know if he was trying to equate either game to a large marketing campaign, but if that campaign was there, apparently all the commercial broadcast time was purchased to air in Bolivia, or Nepal, or perhaps Christmas Island. Aside from the usual gamer magazine marketing blitz (an effort wholly wasted on anyone outside the hardcore community), there simply was no noticeable marketing effort present for either title. Then there’s the bit where Psychonauts was a pretty lousy video game, but that’s for another post.

To give Steve Allison credit, he is right on one count– Midway’s timing for Psi-Ops was abysmal. Not only was it a new shooter franchise being released amid the likes of Far Cry, Painkiller, Doom 3, Unreal Tournament 2004 and Chronicles of Riddick, it had to do so saddled with the yoke of being published by a company no gamer, hardcore or mainstream, was willing to trust to provide a quality gaming experience.

Thus Stranglehold’s greatest obstacle, a hurdle marketing suits like Steve Allison are blind to avoid– Even if Stranglehold turns out to be a good game, no one trusts the company producing it. Little wonder people are more interested in the free Blu-Ray copy of Hard Boiled than they are anything regarding the gameplay itself.

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