Fact or Fiction 1/12/2005

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posted 1/13/2005 by The GN Staff
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Welcome to our latest edition of Fact or Faction. Today we have five more topics that Charlie Sinhanseni, Charles Husemann, and John Yan discuss. And let's get started with...

1) EA’s 5 year exclusive rights to the NFL and NFLPA license is a good thing.

Charlie Sinhaseni: Fiction. You know how people complain about Microsoft and its anti-trust tactics? Well forget all about that, because what EA does is a hell of a lot worse. At least Microsoft has the decency to pay its employees for all of their hard work. Screwing over its employees wasn’t enough, now it’s decided to screw over the consumer as well. A market rife with alternatives is a healthy one as it allows for competition and selection. Just look at this year as an example; SEGA was able to rise up from the ashes and deliver an excellent football game that absolutely killed EA’s franchise in every respect. How does EA handle this? Does it go back to the drawing board and improve upon the weaker aspects of the game? Nope, it simply eliminates its competition so that it can beat consumers over the head with the same game, year after year.

I could accept this if EA had produced a high quality football game year after year but it doesn’t. It shoves the same game down player’s throats, every single year. EA also has exclusivity deals with NASCAR but the NASCAR Thunder franchise is simply at the top of its sport. The Madden franchise isn’t and the ESPN franchise is just the far superior title, at the smaller price point as well. Remember, EA only lowered the price point of Madden to $39.99 after SEGA’s $19.99 price point took a huge chunk out of its profits. That brings up another point, with no competition, EA is free to charge the consumer whatever it pleases. Let’s just say that it won’t be thinking about charging $19.99 for next year’s game.

Shame on EA and shame on the NFL. You both just put dollar signs before the consumer. I can tell you right now that there’s one game I won’t be playing next year and that game is Madden 2006. Forget them, I hope that Visual Concepts releases a football game without the NFL license anyway. People will still buy it and some of the true fans will come through and offer places to download the NFL rosters, just like in the old Front Page Football days. This way all of the profits will go to the right place, to the hardworking programming team and not to the greedy money hungry whores who run the NFL.

On that same note, it should be pointed out that Midway is now making Blitz: Playmakers, a football game that features everything that the NFL likes to pretend doesn’t exist in its league. According to IGN, it’s a collaboration between the guys at Midway and a head writer from the TV show that ran on ESPN. It gained high ratings and critical acclaim but was canned when NFL started pressuring ESPN by threatening to pull its programming from the network. Now that I think about, maybe this whole exclusive deal isn’t such a bad thing. It’ll at least allow developers to make a football game that’s more realistic and devoid of all of the politicking and problems brought forth by the NFL and EA.

Charles Husemann: Fiction. The only real winner in this deal is the NFL since they managed toe extract a huge sum of cash from EA to pay for the rights. This means that EA will have to find a way to cover the added cost of the license which means more advertising in the games and less innovation in the title.

John Yan: Fiction. When I read this news, my first thought was to the great effort that Sega produced this year and how we're probably not going to be treated to a quality football game for next year with real NFL players and teams. Yes, I can't see EA signing this exclusive agreement and churning out a Madden game that wasn't just like the year before only with a few tweaks that don't amount to much. I've always said competition is great and lets you work harder at producing a better product. EA has essentially eliminated the competition in NFL football games and I, for one, don't like it one bit. I haven't read any of it all positive responses from the community about this move so it'll be interesting to see how it's going to be for the next five years. I'm not getting my hopes up either way. I do hope Sega moves into the college football world and takes their great engine to that scene. Let's just hope EA isn't going to try and buy an exclusive deal with the NCAA on this one.


2) Half-Life 2 is the game of the year.

Charlie Sinhaseni: Fact. If you’ve played the game you know why this is quite possibly one of the greatest games ever made. The gravity gun is really enough to make this game special, but its intense battles, monolith boss battles and spectacular visuals really propel it over the competition. I’ve probably played every single first person shooter made after 1994 and I can’t think of one that has made a bigger impact on me than Half-Life 2. It’s brilliant, simply brilliant.

Charles Husemann: Fact. Half-Life 2 was the first game I’ve played in years that I missed when I finished it. I know I’m the resident HL2 fan boy but I’ve actually already started playing it again to find everything I missed the first time through which is something I haven’t done with a game since Eternal Darkness came out.

John Yan: Fact There were delays, lies, theft, and other various factors that worked against Valve. In the end, they delivered an awesome single player experience. The story wasn't that deep but the action and pacing was perfect. It's like playing the best parts of several movies and the mixture of genre types provided a very diverse experience. There wasn't a game this year where I rushed down to the computer room immedietly after it was released and I didn't emerge from there for many hours afterwards. Half-Life 2 provided Valve with two hits in their pocket and while it was a year late, it's well worth the wait. The engine just makes MOD makers salivate and I can't wait to see what the community will do with it.

3) The PSP’s hot start will be mimicked in the US when it’s released next year..

Charlie Sinhaseni: Fact. It’ll be hard to tell but I think that the developers will use the months leading up to the US launch to tinker and improve their titles. Right now the big issue seems to revolve around battery life, but you have to wonder how many people actually play their portable units for more than four hours straight. Even then, how often is it that they’re not near an electrical outlet? The fact that the PSP is portable is an added bonus, not the main selling point. It’s like a laptop, you enjoy the portability of the unit but you don’t realistically expect the battery to last more than a couple of hours.

Charles Husemann: Fact. While it missed the big holiday shopping season, the PSP is going to be a pretty big hit here in the States if Sony prices it right. Since you will be able to play MP3’s and rip DVD’s to memory sticks, this is going to be a killer device.

John Yan: Fact. Personally, I think you can take a crap in a box, stamp the words Sony console on it, and it'll sell a few million. The PSP looks like a winner and there's already been a few titles announced that has gamers excited. Hell, a new Grand Theft Auto game for the PSP will surely make it sell like hotcakes. I'm not one for portables but this one has me intrigued. Once released, the battle between Sony and Nintendo in the handheld arena will be a battle that's going to be watched closely by many. Can Sony do it to Nintendo twice? I think there's a good shot with the PSP.


4) For the Xbox Next to really succeed, it has to come out before the PS3.


Charlie Sinhaseni: Fact. The Xbox marketing platform has revolved around its superior hardware ever since it launched a couple of years ago, look where that got it. The main selling point of a system isn’t its graphics and technology, it’s the quality of the games. For Microsoft to really contend in the next generation it’ll need to blindside consumers by establishing a solid set of titles before the PS3 even hits the market. That way, when the PS3 does hit retail people might be more enticed to buy a console that’s already well established.

Charles Husemann: Fiction. Being first helps but not always (*cough*Dreamcast*cough*). What the Xbox2 is going to need is a killer set of launch titles and some new innovations (built in WiFi support, wireless controllers would be a good start).

John Yan: Fiction. For this, I don't think timing is everything. In the end, titles are what sells consoles and if the next Xbox has some killer launch titles, it will sell itself. This time though, Sony will probably have the luxery of sitting back and seeing how the next Xbox does so that they may tweak their design a bit to compete. But as far as coming out before the PS3 to succeed, I don't think that's a factor.

5) 2005 will not be as good of a year for gamers as 2004 was.

Charles Husemann: Fact. With the recent glut of killer titles and ground breaking games it’s going to be hard for 2005 to be as great of a year as 2004. Sure there are a few killer games on the horizon but it’s going to be hard to beat the killer trio of Halo 2, Half-Life 2, and GTA:San Andreas.

John Yan: Fact. It's going to be hard to topple last year with the release of Valve's masterpiece and some great console games. Will it be as good or better than 2004? My take as I quickly glance through the schedule is no. It will still be a great year but I don't think it will be as big. But the release of the Xbox Next will make it a damn good year. I'm still excited for a few titles but disappointed with EA's deal so we might not see a Sega football game. That alone, makes it worse than last year.