Late Night Consoling: Wordy Edition

By Chris Remo, Oct 05, 2005 8:00pm PDT Warning: there are a lot of words in this LNC.

Last week, I picked up Indigo Prophecy at my local retailer. For those who aren't aware, when a game isn't the hypiest of the hyped, retail stores tend to only order as many copies of a game as they get pre-orders, and maybe a few extra if they expect stronger sales. This is partially because there are tons of games and the stores are generally small, and partially because profit margins on new games are so low that retailers only want to stock what they know they will sell.

So anyway, I'm at the local shop for Indigo Prophecy. "Oh, you were in here last week, weren't you?" the clerk asked. They just got their shipment in, and we started chatting about the game. He said how much he'd been looking forward to it, and that he'd pre-ordered a PS2 copy. As we talked, a guy was there to buy Madden 06. He heard us chatting, and seemed pretty intruigued. After I paid for my copy, Madden guy came to the counter and said, "Uh, so I can get that, uh, Indigo...Prophecy? I'll take it for Xbox." The clerk checked behind the counter and informed him that I had taken the only Xbox one. They only got one copy for Xbox. They had two for PS2, and both clerks had them on pre-order. This guy had clearly never heard of the game, and was willing to try out a genre he'd probably never played, but was foiled by the pre-order system. I'm certain he's not going to go out of his way to track down the game, so that's one less person who could have had a great adventure experience but won't. The same thing happened to Psychonauts. There were widespread reports of stores not having it in stock, or having only a couple copies. Even my friend, who is a longtime Schafer fan, had to wait about a month to pick up the game because he couldn't find it anywhere and doesn't buy things online. He was waiting for the game for years; is some random guy who might be interested in a crazy platformer really going to bother?

Publishers wonder why unique games often don't sell. There are many reasons, but one is that people can't find them.

  • DS Announcements: New Games, Online Details

    [ds]

    Though it's not quite the media hype event we're obviously seeing with X05, Nintendo held a conference today in Japan to discuss the future of the DS. There were some new game announcements and some details about previously mysterious games. And here they are:

    Mistwalker Studios, founded by Final Fantasy creator and former Square head of development Hironobu Sakagushi, announced an RPG for DS entitled ASH, short for Archaic Sealed Heart. Sakagushi explained that he wants to convey realism with the game's 3D graphics. ASH is the story of a flame whose touch would turn people to ash, leaving their bodies destroyed but their heart and memories intact. The flame was sealed away long ago, but as the game begins people who were turned to ash are being revived. The player must unravel the strange events, solve ancient mysteries, and meet supposed time travelers. It is a "simulation RPG", with character design by Final Fantasy veteran Hideo Minaba and music by FFXII's Hitoshi Sakimoto. Mistwalker is also developing two RPGs for Xbox 360.

    Nintendo of America also made some concrete announcements regarding Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Nintendo will be setting up thousands of hotspots around the country, and is also sponsoring the Free Spot Council, an organization which sets up free wireless access points in Japan and around the world. Obviously, other free wireless access points can be used as well. For those without a home wireless network, Nintendo will sell a small USB dongle which plugs into a computer with internet access and sends a wi-fi signal to the DS (or Revolution eventually). Anybody you've played against using the DS' local wireless will be added to your friends list. Every DS owner will also have a "Friend Code" which can be used to add others to your list. Most games, such as Mario Kart DS, will have several online options: create a game with friends, get put into a matchmade game, or join a random game with people from all over the world. In Animal Crossing: Wild World (DS), on the other hand, only your friends can visit your town (and vice versa) due to the game's more personal and open interactions. It seems that all games will be free to play online, even third-party games. Vicarious Visions' Tony Hawk's American Sk8land (DS) will ship alongside Nintendo's Mario Kart DS on November 14 as the first online-enabled games. Animal Crossing will follow a few weeks later, and Metroid Prime Hunters (DS) will ship in early 2006.

    Several upcoming Nintendo-published DS games were announced, most of which with few details:

    - Tingle, of Zelda fame, will be getting an RPG on DS. Go figure.
    - A new Wario Land game, entitled Kaitou Wario ("Thief Wario") is in development for the system.
    - Sakura Wars developer Red Entertainment is developing a 2D adventure game called Detect Hacker (DS), to be published by Nintendo. It has an anime style and is set in Tokyo.
    - Nintendo will be bringing the Custom Robo series to DS. The game is listed as an action-RPG.
    - Not too surprisingly given its enormous success in Japan, Brain Activity Software's Brain Training will be seeing another DS installment. The first "game" is speculated to be coming to North America and Europe at some point.
    - Nintendo also announced a puzzle game called Puzzeloop (DS) and an adventure game called Wish Room (DS).

    Many third-party games were also announced at the conference, likewise with few details given:

    - Namco announced that the long-running Tales series of RPGs will be coming to DS in 2006.
    - From Software is working on a Tenchu title for DS. The game is in 3D with an overhead perspective.
    - Capcom is working on the next game in the Gyakuten Saiban series. The upcoming Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS) is the first time that series has made it out of Japan, and if it does well we should expect to see the followup localized worldwide as well.
    - As anyone might expect, Konami will develop another Castlevania title for DS. The very well-received Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS) was released this week in North America.
    - Hudson Soft announced Bomberman Story (DS), apparently an RPG based on Bomberman.
    - Longtime anime game developer Banpresto is making a new SD Gundam simulation RPG for DS.
    - Taito announced a DS version of its classic Rainbow Islands series.
    - Koei's 16th century Japan simulation franchise Nobunaga no Yabou will be coming to DS.
    - Marvelous confirmed the existence of Ys Strategy (DS), which was unofficially uncovered last week.
    - There are also all sorts of board games and puzzle games which seem unlikely to make it out of Japan.
  • Square on Nintendo

    [ds] [gba]

    I initially had all of this Square Enix news in the above story, but the developer/publisher had so much Nintendo-related stuff to say that I figured it justified its own story. Read on:

    The main topic for Square Enix was the Final Fantasy III remake on DS. It was first mentioned almost a year ago, and finally has some concrete details. Apparently the game has changed quite a bit in that time. For one thing, it will be in 3D, both the character models and backgrounds, which explains why it's not appearing on GBA. Mana veteran Koichi Ishii and Chrono Trigger producer Kazuhiko Aoki, both also FFIII team members, will be supervising the project. FFXI's Ryoskusuke Aiba will be handling art direction and Xenogears/FFXII's Akihiko Yoshida will do character design.

    The company released some updated information regarding Children of Mana (DS). The game's release date has been moved from the end of 2006 to this coming winter. It will also feature wireless multiplayer cooperative mode, though it was not specified whether this will be available through the upcoming Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection or just local wi-fi. Fans of the series should be pleasd to hear that multiplayer is considered a crucial aspect of the game. The game will employing an item-based customization system in order to allow players to better suit themselves on the fly to their multiplayer partners. Finally, it was noted that the stylus will be used, but all the main action will be controlled with the d-pad and face buttons.

    Square Enix also announced Final Fantasy V and VI for Game Boy Advance. It was noted that as expected the games will receive visual and other upgrades along the way. Along with Final Fantasy I+II: Dawn of Souls (GBA) and Final Fantasy IV (GBA), which will be released this year in Japan, today's announcements ensure that all pre-PlayStation Final Fantasy console titles will have made it to current Nintendo portable platforms.

    Somewhat surprisingly, Square Enix is also currently developing Mario Basket 3 on 3 (DS), which is of course a Mario basketball title. According to Square Enix president Youichi Wada, his company actually approached Nintendo with the proposal, and Nintendo agreed. The game is rendered in real-time 3D and promises to feature a deep ball handling system made possible with the stylus. It will feature a variety of courts themed around the Mushroom Kingdom. This will mark Mario's first basketball title, not counting the appearance of Mario, Luigi, and Peach in NBA Street. The game is set for release next year, and it seems likely it will make it out of Japan.

  • Possible 360 Shortages?

    [xbox]

    Joystiq has uncovered a research report filed by Deutsche Bank employees suggesting that Microsoft may be concerned about Xbox 360 shortages. This would explain why Japan is not getting a stripped down version of the console; once supply is at an optimal level, Microsoft may introduce the hard drive-less version in that country. The manufacturer is already planning to offer the premium bundle at an approximate discount of $50 in Japan as compared to the North American price point.

    If true, this would run contrary to Microsoft's stated goal to have no problems supplying sufficient quantities of the console come launch.

  • The Cost of the Next Generation

    [xbox]

    Forbes has a comprehensive look at the pricing plans and strategies for Xbox 360 consoles and software. The article seems to indicate that Microsoft is actually requiring retailers to "to sell only bundles for the Xbox [360]", which would explain why you can't seem to find anything online that's just the boxed console itself.

    Forbes also quoted Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, who indicated that $60 standard pricing for next-generation games should hold true. When Activision set this pricing scheme for their products, other publishers followed suit. Said Kotick:

    "We've said we're to going sell those products at higher price points until ... the market forces us to sell them at lower price points, which we don't think is likely. We don't really think that there's a lot of price sensitivity on the part of the consumer, if you're delivering value."

    First-party Microsoft titles will be priced at $50; first-party console publishers frequently sell their software for cheaper than third-party publishers because they are already receiving console rights royalties on all software for the system.

  • Eidos Confirms Tomb Raider Delay

    [ps2] [xbox]

    Eidos has confirmed that Crystal Dynamics' upcoming Tomb Raider: Legend (PS2, Xbox, PSP, PC) has in fact slipped to 2006, both for Xbox 360 and Xbox. Presumably, this also applies to the other console versions. The fact that the confirmation was made at X05 explains why they were not mentioned.

  • Misc. Q&As/Features

    WarCry's Shannon Drake compares Nintendo's next-gen strategy to Muhammad Ali's Rope-A-Dope ploy.

Misc. Media/Previews

Xbox

GameSpot takes updated looks at Rare's Kameo: Elements of Power (X360), Eden Studios' Test Drive Unlimited (X360), Realtime Worlds' Crackdown (X360), Epic's Gears of War (X360), EA Tiburon's Madden NFL 06 (X360, also PS2, Xbox, GCN, DS, PSP, GBA, PC) and Superman Returns: The Videogame (X360, also PS2, Xbox, GCN, PC), and EA Sports' Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 (X360, also PS2, Xbox, GCN, PSP, PC). IGN checks out Relic's The Outfit (X360), Q Entertainment's Ninety-Nine Nights (X360), Epic's Gears of War (X360), Realtime Worlds' Crackdown (X360), Bioware's Mass Effect (X360), Silicon Knights' Too Human (X360), From Software's Chromehounds (X360), and Square Enix's Final Fantasy XI (X360, also PS2, PC). 1UP previews Bizarre's Project Gotham Racing 3 (X360), Red Storm's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (X360), Epic's Gears of War (X360), and Silicon Knights' Too Human (X360).

Screenshots: Saint's Row (X360). TimeShift (X360). Amped 3 (X360).

GameCube

1UP checks out Capcom's Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble (GCN).

Portable

GameSpot goes hands on with Capcom's Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS).

Multi

GameSpot previews Midway's Blitz: The League (PS2, Xbox).

Screenshots: Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (PS2, Xbox, GCN, X360). Alone in the Dark (PS3, X360).

Movies: Resident Evil 5 (PS3, X360).

Console Game Of The Evening [Submit Yours!]

Rushin' Attack for the NES. "Great old school platformer. I wasted hours on this one. I could beat the entire game in one sitting without dying once!" (submitted by PerfectCr)

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Comments

43 Threads | 151 Comments



















  • The retails system for games is pretty messed up and a big reason why so many games fail. People can only buy what is available.

    I remember the retail situation for NES- games were coveted when released and stayed on shelves for years. Years. Genesis and Super NES was like this, as well.

    As it stands now, retailers just don't make enough money on games to take the risk, and publishers piss all the money away and huge corporate structures and executives. They have to show new SKU's every quarter or wall street says "don't buy the stock". And then they lose money.

    Games need to slow the hell down- there are too many of them and they come out and are off shelves way too fast. They need more retail outlets- publishers should sell games (especially back catalogue) direct. Developers should try to sell their games direct to their fans. The whole "release a new sequel / follow up every year" needs to get toned down- it burns people out (especially when it is bumped to $60 a pop). Here's an idea- publishers and developers should make rental versions of the game. Make the cost of game rentals go down a bit and stuff extras in the game for when the player buys the full game (maybe extra weapons / cars / online, etc). Some incentive to buy the game if they like it (not to neuter the rental version).

    Basically...publishers and retailers don't know how to set optimal conditions to sell product. They only know how to keep their risk low, right now.




















  • That's pretty sad that stores will only stock up a few copies of games that don't get much publicity, but it's also not unexpected.

    I hope that with the push towards digital distribution (a la Steam) will give a better chance to those developers that want to try to put out new genres.

    I think this will alleviate the problem probably in the short term. I can see in maybe 5 - 10 years when most games have moved to digital distribution that there will be so many games available online that distributors might start to face the same problem as retailers today.