Bit Age Times 
Issue #15 - January 30th, 2002

 

Table of Contents

  01. Say Goodbye to Video Game Rule #3
  02. Video Game Wish List
  03. Who Really Won?
  04. An Informed Consumer
  05. The Better Value
  06. Another Overlooked Gem
  07. How Do They Do It?
  08. Conclusion

 

Say Goodbye to Video Game Rule #3

One of the rules of the video game market is that the market will only support two systems.  Read any major publication when they talk about console wars and you will see this mentioned somewhere.  While it may have been true in the past, expect to see this rule come crashing down.  It is a myth and it is one that will be dispelled for good.  Remember, you heard it here first, when all those magazines start talking about how the market has changed in a few years.

I know that you have a few questions right now.  The first is probably, what are Video Game Rules #1 and #2?  Well, Rule #1 is in the process of being proven wrong by Sony.  It is the rule that no company will have the most popular system, for two generations (that is video game generations, which in the past were separated by the bits of the system, ie: 8 Bit era, 16 bit, 32 bit, whatever you want to call today's, the 128 bit?).  The general consensus was that Nintendo won the 8 Bit, Sega won the 16 Bit, Sony won the 32 Bit.  Well, it is looking like Sony will be winning two in a row, so say goodbye to that rule.  

The second rule was that no American company can be successful in the video game console market.  Since the days of the Nintendo, the Japanese companies have dominated the industry.  Nintendo, Sega and Sony have all ruled the roost and all are Japanese companies (I know that Sega was found by a Westerner, but it is still a Japanese company).  The one American company that has tried to break in was Atari, with the 7800, the Lynx and most recently, the Jaguar.  It failed miserably and the notion that the industry would be ruled by Japanese companies seemed to be a sure thing.  Then along came Microsoft.  While they may not win the war, not this generation, they do look to be both successful and have staying power.  They have the desire, the money and most importantly, they have the retail connections already in place.  They also had experience in developing games, with over a decade of creating games for the PC.  

Back to the original point of this article, the industry only supporting two systems.  Let me say it right here, not only will the industry support three systems, but all three will end up being quite profitable, when all is said and done.  Before you start throwing up nonsense from past console wars, see the reasons why I feel this will happen.

Reason #1-A Much Bigger Market-The video game industry has grown in the past few years, alot!  It is now in the 8 billion dollar range per year and growing fast!  Not only are video games popular, but they are becoming more and more a part of pop culture.  Characters are appearing in movies,  on toys and even commercials (some of which are not video game commercials, like Mario in the milk commercial).  The larger market means there is more money to go around.  Unlike the earlier generations, where video games were more of a novelty, than a proven entertainment industry.  I feel the industry is large enough to support three companies, especially if they all offer some different games.

Reason #2-No Weak Sisters-In the past, there was always some weaker, not well funded companies.  Atari with the Jaguar, Sega with the Dreamcast and others, these companies did not have enough money to properly fund the launch of a video game console.  They were usually saddled with debt or had limited funds and were hanging on for dear life.  This time there is no such company.  Sony is a huge conglomerate with billions and billions at their disposal.  Same with Microsoft that has an insane amount of money coming from their stranglehold on the computer industry.  Nintendo has zero debt, 7 billion in the bank and complete control of the handheld market.  They also are still raking in millions upon millions from licensing Pokemon, Mario and Donkey Kong.  Also, all three companies are well aware of the amount of money to be made in the industry and how it will continue to grow and have no desire to leave it.  This creates a very strong and a very competitive industry, which results in more games, better games and and better systems for game players.

Reason #3-Outside Income-In the past, video game companies made money from selling consoles, peripherals and games.  Also, console companies make most of their money from licensing fees from third party companies.  Sony made $15.00 per unit for games that were made for their Playstation system.  With the 70 million systems sold and an average of 5 games per unit (these are just estimates from various sources, I do not have an actual number), that equals over 5 billion in fees that Sony has made!  Talk about a major cash cow!  Then add in systems, joysticks, multitaps, memory cards and what have you and you see why the video game industry is so enticing.  But this money is only part of it.  There is more money that will be available to console makers than in the past.  One way is subscription fees for online service.  As Sega had shown, there is a demand for online games and with this demand will come monthly fees.  Just think if Sony can sign up 10% of their user base to a monthly online service.  That would be 2 million people a month, paying $10.00 or more per month.  That adds up to 20 million or more a month, going to Sony!  

There is also licensing the chip design for other applications.  Both the Playstation 2 and X-Box are being or in the process of being used in arcade machines.  Also, there is possibilities in other uses, many of which are not known to us at this time.

Reason #4-Why Can't the Market Support Three?-History is a funny thing.  There are certain patterns that seem to happen.  The stock market is a perfect example of how there seems to be trends.  But with the Video Game Industry, there isn't enough history for a set pattern.  Home consoles are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year (the Odyssey 1 came out in 1972).  The industry has grown alot in its short history.  So you cannot assume because in the past, the market only supported two systems, means that it will remain that way (actually if you look in the 1982-83 era, the Atari 2600, Intellivision and Colecovision were all selling very well).  Other such notions were put in other industries and proven wrong.  Remember when Fox launched a TV Network, back in the early 80's?  People said that there was no room for a fourth network.  The market would only support three networks.  Guess what?  Not only were they wrong, but now we have UPN and WB as well.  

So as you can see, there is plenty of money to go around.  What is even better is the amount of money to be made, will only get bigger.  So while the dream of one system that can play all the games may never going to happen, at least we can rest with the knowledge that with three very strong companies in the video game industry, the competition will force the companies to make better products, keep prices down and allow for lots of great games! 
 

Video Game Wish List

We all have video game wishes, you know the game you would love to see made.  For some it would be the racing game with every car available, including classics, for others it would be a fighting game with all the Marvel characters and I do mean all 1,000+ characters.  Still others want something completely different.  Well, here are a few of my wish games, ones that I would really like to see, but really don't expect to ever see them (unless I become incredibly rich and hire people to do them).

The Warriors
My all-time favorite movie is The Warriors.  You know, the movie about the gang from Coney Island, who have to fight their way back from the Bronx.  It is one of the only real gang movies, at least in the classic sense.  It featured some awesome gang fights and a cool soundtrack.  

Besides being a cool movie, it has the base for a really cool video game.  Imagine that you are leading the Warriors on their trip back to Coney and unlike the movie, you have choices where to go.  Do you fight the Turnbull AC or do you jump on the train?  Get off at any stop along the route and encounter different gangs.  Unlike the movie, you could face any of the gangs in the movie, even the ones that just made brief cameos at the start of the movie.  

The game would be part RPG, part beat-em up.  You have most of New York city that is alive with people, vehicles and more.  Want to steal a car to get home?  Go ahead.  Want to ride the subway or bus?  It is all possible.  As you moved along, pedestrians would run in fear and call for the police.  Stay in one area too long or cause too much trouble and the police would be on you.  You also have to watch for the advancing Gramercy Riffs, the main gang of New York City and the ones who think you killed their leader, Cyrus.  So you cannot just stop in one area or you will be dead.  You have to be on the run, constantly.

Besides gang members and police officers, there would be some NPCs.  Some would just run from you, others may offer you advice.  They could give you directions, offer to join you or possibly try to trick you.  With a reward on your head, many people would like to collect.  Same is true with the gangs.  Defeat them and you may get some advice or weapons.  A few members may want to join you.  Can they be trusted?

While the goal is to get to Coney Island, there would be numerous ways to get there and you could explore all of them.  There would be enough random events to keep things interesting.  Gangs would not always be in the same place, weather would change, even the police would be in different places.  That path you used in an earlier game, may be different this time.  For a great Warriors site, go to the following URL: http://members.aol.com/elasdray/

 

Dawn of the Dead/Night of the Living Dead
I know there are a ton of zombie games out there, especially the Resident Evil games, but I want a different type of game.  In this game, there is no set goal to achieve, no path that you have to follow.  You are dropped off in an area, that is teaming with zombies and it is up to you to stay alive as long as possible.  You have no weapons, no food and are alone.  Every night, you need to find shelter and hide for the night (at least until you find some light).  Ditto for food and water.  Go too long without either and you will get slow and weak.  You better get some weapons too.  Try fighting zombies with your hands.  One or two, maybe you have a chance.  But throw a few dozen at you and you will be dead soon.

The game would be a RPG of sorts.  As you go along, you would level up.  With more running and surviving, you would get stronger and take more damage.  You would learn new skills as you go along.  Stuff like the ability to fortify a house and marksmanship.  You could also save other people and they may join your group.  You may even find a place that offers you the shelter and essentials you need to survive a long time.

The game would not have an ending and in the end, you would lose.  But you would have a huge world to explore and tons of zombies to kill.  Sorry, but there would be no happy ending, no special place to go.  But it would be survival at its best and if you were real good, you could last a long time. 

 

Sega Amazon Fishing
I never even thought about fishing games, until I bought a Sega Dreamcast.  Then with Sega Bass Fishing and especially Sega Marine Fishing, I got hooked on fishing games!  I could not wait for the next one (which turned out to be the less than exciting Bass Fishing 2).  In the meantime, I thought up my own game.  It would follow the Sega Marine Fishing, but would be different in some aspects.

When you think of the Amazon, you may not think of great fishing, but you could not be farther from the truth.  The world's mightiest river is teeming with some very interesting fish.  From the small, but vicious Piranha to its  much larger cousin, the 30+ pound Pacu to catfish that reach over 200 pounds (some say they can get all the way up to 400 pounds), you have plenty of fish to go after.  Here is a partial list of the regular fish and then a list of some special fish and animals that you could catch:

Regular Fish
Catfish
(said to be the best fighting fish in the freshwater)
Piranha (weighing in at five pounds and mean)
Pacu (30 plus pounds)
Payara (40 pounds and teeth like a vampire)
Ararwanas (big, ugly and downright mean)
Peacock Bass (Not a real bass, but fights like one)
Matrincha (up to 12 pounds and a great fighter)
Traíra (Interesting fish with round fins and a cylinder like body)
Freshwater Barracuda (just as mean as it's ocean cousin)
Freshwater Stingrays (they get quite large)
Plecos (these very primitive fish have bony plates and get quite large)
Discus (there are a ton of different ones and some can be decent size)
Oscar (this cichlid family member gets quite large and aggressive)

Special Fish and Animals
Electric Eel
(watch as your fisherman hurries to cut the line)
Caiman (smaller cousin of the alligator)
Snapping Turtle (will bite off your fingers and toes if you let it aboard)
Alligator (can reach over 20 feet in length and quite mean)
Anaconda (imagine pulling in a 30 foot snake, try holding onto that one)
The Creature (remember the black lagoon, well creatures like that live in the Amazon, really!)

Besides fishing, you could also drive your boat up and down the river and go to different villages to trade in fish for supplies, tips on where to find bigger fish and other stuff.  Also, as you look around as you either are driving of fishing, you would see all kinds of different wildlife, like parrots and toucans flying overhead to jaguars and tapirs coming up for a drink to the beautiful pink river dolphins as they swim past you.  There would also be some mini games like navigating some rapids and fishing tournaments against other boats.  You could see who can catch the most fish in a given time or who can get one of each fish on a list, a scavenger hunt of sorts.  Also, there would be the aquarium that you could fill with fish and other items, just like in Marine Fishing.
 

Who Really Won?

One of the closest video game wars ever came in the 16 Bit era.  The Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis went head to head for supremacy in what was probably the closest video game battle ever.  But who really won the battle?

If you look at sheer numbers, the Super Nintendo would be the winner.  But if you look at who dominated during the 16 Bit era, then the crown would go to Sega.  The Genesis came out first and dominated the 16 bit market for a few years before the Super Nintendo was finally released.  It also continued to sell well, even after the SNES (tired of typing Super Nintendo) was released.  The big difference is that Sega shifted from the Genesis to the Saturn, but Nintendo kept with the SNES, even after the next generation of systems came out.  So it remained on the market longer and was a very affordable alternative to the $300.00 Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation.  Plus, Nintendo kept coming out with games, some of the best games for the system came out during the end.  The Donkey Kong Country series, Mario RPG and others were still coming out, while releases for the Genesis were few and far between.

I bring this up because I have seen numerous people post about how Sega won the 16 bit war.  I have also seen just as many posts that give the title to Nintendo.  Who do you think won the 16 Bit war?  Was it Nintendo, was it Sega or was it a tie?  Just curious to what others think about the first real console war.
 

An Informed Consumer

You are itching for a new video game, but with prices at $50.00 a pop, you are leery to drop the money and end up with a dog.  Even with the state of the art systems out there, there are plenty of bad games.  How do you protect yourself from such stuff?  Well, research is the key.  The more information you have, the better your decision.  So I am here this month to give you a few places to check out for information.

Possibly the best site for any system reviews is Video Game Review (http://www.videogamereview.com/), a great site that allows anyone to write a review for a video game.  While there are some bad reviews, you can generally get an idea if a game is good or not.  Plus, consumers are usually more honest than most review sites or at least they tend to give it to you straight.  If a game is terrible, you will know it.

Another similar site is called Consumer Review (http://www.consumerreview.com).  They also allow consumers to write their own reviews.  

If you are a Playstation 2 fan, an excellent site for reviews is Firefox (http://users.pandora.be/firefox/).  This site has links to all the Playstation 2 reviews on all the major sites.  Instead of having to dig through IGN, Playstation Nation and other sites, you can go right here and click right to the review you want.  

I find it best to get as many different opinions as possible, before buying a game.  The one thing to remember is that reviewers are humans and have different tastes.  Just because they like or dislike a game, does not necessarily mean you will.  That is why it is best to get a variety of opinions to get a better idea of the quality (or lack of) of a game.  
 

The Better Value

Once upon a time, I was a huge baseball fan.  Being in Cleveland, it was hard to be an Indians fan before 1994, but I was.  I would go to at least 15 games a year.  Tickets for a very good seat were $7.00.  Parking was free, with a short walk and a hot dog and a pop was not out of reach.  But then something happened.  The team became a contender, the salaries soared and the ticket prices are now insane.  For a comparable ticket today, I would have to pay $28.00.  Add another $5.00 for parking (unless you get there very early or walk a good half hour) and hot dogs and pop are both over $3.00 each.  So where I used to spend about $15.00 (ticket, two hot dogs and two drinks), now costs me about $47.00.

Why do I do this math for you?  To prove a point.  Once upon a time, I used to attend 15 games a year.  It cost me about $250 a year for the entertainment.  Now it would cost me over $700.00.  Let us do some different math.  Back in the late 1980's to early 1990's, it cost anywhere from $40.00-$50.00 for a video game.  Back then the systems were the Nintendo 8 Bit and later the Super Nintendo, the Genesis and the Turbo Grafx.  For what I spent at baseball games, I could buy about 5 new games, possibly 6.  Fast forward to today.  Games for the Playstation 2, Gamecube and X-Box are still $50.00 each, despite the increase in size (you can fit a ton of carts on a single DVD, possibly every 8 Bit and 16 Bit game ever made), the improvement in graphics and sound, it still is the same price as it was 15 years ago.  For the money I would have to spend on baseball today (going to 15 games, with the same two hot dogs and drinks), I could buy 14 new games for the system of my choice!  That is almost a one to one ratio.  Go to a baseball game for 4 hours or buy a new video game that will give me 15+ hours of entertainment.  I do not know about you, but the choice is pretty easy for me.

I am not saying that you should not attend sports games, rather I am trying to point out that while people complain about the high costs of video games, when you look at the big picture, the prices are not that high.  As long as you don't buy a bad title, you should easily get your money worth.  By they way, I attended a total of one baseball game last year and it was because I received a free ticket.  I did not miss it at all.
 

Another Overlooked Gem


Time once again to pay homage to an overlooked gem from the Bit Age.  This time the game is Master of Monsters, a strategy game for the Sega Genesis (and a remake for the Playstation).  The game involved controlling a wide variety of mythical monsters as you battled the computer or another player.  

The game was played on a hex map, much like most war games of the era.  You would move your armies along as you advanced on your opponent.  Different creatures had different abilities and moved at different speeds.  Also, monsters would evolve as they won more battles.  This would encourage you to not sacrifice monsters as you could improve them.  As with any war game, different pieces also had different hit points, so a dragon was much stronger than a lowly creature.  You wanted to create mismatches, so that you could wipe out their creatures, while not losing your own.  This involved quite a bit of strategy.  

There were different masters you could control and each one had different creatures under their command.  This added some replay value as you wanted to try each of them out.

On the Genesis version, the computer played a mean game.  He was no slouch.  I found the Playstation version a bit easier, but still an enjoyable game.  It stayed very true to the original, with most of the enhancements being in graphics.  The one good thing is that either version is quite affordable and I do recommend finding this overlooked gem.  
 

How Do They Do It?

One of the most contrasting companies in the history of video games has to be the 3DO Corporation.  What once was a hardware company has now turned into a software developer.  But that is not the interesting part about them, it is more their night and day selection of titles.  I am still to this day amazed that the same company that has created the best baseball game of all time, High Heat Baseball (which keeps getting better and better), also creates nothing else that is worthwhile.

If you ever have the pleasure of playing High Heat Baseball, you will find that 3DO is the first company ever to accurately capture the hitter/pitcher battle that is such a huge part of baseball.  Play against the computer and you will not find the usual stupid AI that is so much a part of everyone else's baseball game.  If a pitcher is up on you by two strikes to zero balls, you will not see a juicy fastball coming down the middle of the plate, like I have seen in many games.  The pitcher will either throw you intentional balls to get you to chase the ball or will try to nip the corner with a breaking ball.  This kind of realism makes you have to pay attention.  You cannot just go up and hack away, like in any other game.  If you do, you will find your score at a big fat zero.

Ditto for pitching.  You cannot just blow smoke past the hitter.  Throw too many fastballs and he will be all over it.  You need to change speeds and change locations to be successful.  You must also vary your pitch selection.  If your out pitch is always the curveball, they will figure it out by the later innings and you will get clobbered.  

While 3DO has made the best baseball game of all-time, they have also made some of the worst games of all-time.  How many bad Army Men games alone have they produced?  Sure, the first and possibly the second one have some redeeming value, but the dozen sequels after that are all pure dreck.  Then add in the abysmal Portal Runner (the one time that a demo of a game was so bad that it completely turned me off from the game) to the equally lame World Destruction League and the most recent debacles, Dragon Rage (I recently saw this game for $18.00 at Sam's Club and did not even think about it), John Mosely Mad Trix and Godai (which has an average rating of 25 out of 100, ouch).  

How is it that this company can be so polar opposite?  I guess part of it could be the programming teams.  But even more of it is the rushed games that they push out the door.  Games that are dull in appearance, have choppy framerates, terrible cameras and full of problems.  Is the quality control at 3DO only at their baseball games?  I just ask this as it still amazes me how one company can get one game so right, but be so wrong on almost every other game they release.  Please someone, explain this to me as it boggles my mind.  If you want to go to the 3DO website, just go to the following URL:  http://www.3DO.com.  
 

Conclusion

How about that, I did two issues in consecutive months?  Well, there was a huge outpouring of support for the newsletter and many people took the time to thank me for the past issue and to ask for a more frequent schedule.  So I put my nose to the grindstone and worked on this issue.  I did have a few people email me about doing articles for BAT, but none ever came.  So I did my one man show for another issue.  

Have a good Valentine's Day and put down your games for awhile and spend some quality time with your significant other.

-Tom Zjaba