Tuesday, May 11, 2004


Ah, E3. The video game industry's orgy of, well, pretty much everything. Orgy of new games, orgy of news, orgy of drinking, orgy of ogling... even orgy of orgies, probably. Try not to think about that last one too much. Coders, game journalists, marketing guys, and hookers, all in a big pink pile in Vegas. I apologize to those of you who've just eaten.
Oh, and an orgy of stupidity. For every announcement of, say, Prince of Persia 2, there's three announcements of shit nobody wants, sequels to shit nobody wanted in the first place *, and bold new concepts that nobody will want in the future.
Like XBox Live Arcade, the latest attempt to overprice nostalgia. It's bad enough that this summer, Nintendo thinks we'll shell out $20 for a single old NES game stuck onto a Game Boy Advance cartridge. They're wrong, of course. We'll all shell out $5.44 for them when they go on clearance in October. They'll be mixed in with the "GBA Video" cartridges from Majesco that let you watch crappy versions of crappy Nicktoons for $20 a pop, but we'll manage.
Thanks to XBox Live Arcade, a new service for, well, XBox Live, you can download versions of classic board, card, puzzle, and old arcade games to the XBox. Which is a great idea. Except for the $10 per game price point.
But look at the lineup! Galaxian! Dig Dug! Bejeweled! The target market is "casual gamers". Who are these casual users that have an XBox, a $50/yr XBox Live account, a broadband Net connection, the savvy to hook everything up to a router, and aren't already sick of Be-fucking-JEWELED?! We all played it for two weeks at work a couple of years ago. We're done. Thanks.
And Dig Dug? Nobody respects the classics more than me. The Namco 80's games are great. I know they're great. They're so great, I've already bought and downloaded them half a dozen times, and could buy them half a dozen times more if I wanted to. I've got 'em on Playstation, I've got 'em on MAME, I've got 'em on Dreamcast, I've got 'em on Game Boy, I've got 'em as freebies in other games, I've bought them as a gift in a self-contained joystick that plugs into the TV.... I've got so many versions of these games I have to be careful not to play them by ACCIDENT. And Microsoft thinks I'll be psyched to shell out $10 for another copy?
Perhaps someone should have mentioned Namco Museum to Microsoft before they worked up their business plan. You know, the $20 XBox disc that has Galaxian, Dig Dug, Pole Position, and SEVEN OTHER GAMES ON IT. But hey, they've got Bejeweled.
And then there's the Phantom. Now, the Phantom's been mocked a lot since it was announced last year, but that was mainly because everyone was sure it didn't and wouldn't ever exist. But it seems to exist, and it's still stupid.
It's basically Yet Another Set Top Box, or "game receiver". You plug it into (presumably) your TV, your broadband connection, and some kind of controller, and then you start giving the Infinium people money. In return for this money, they will let you play PC games on the Infinium. It's a "game receiver", you see. It receives games.
So it's $200 for the box (unless you sign up for two years of the service), plus $29.95 a month, plus they still charge you for the games on top of that, either as $5 three-day "rentals" or as full-retail purchases. It's like cable, only you have to buy the box and your monthly bill goes straight into the coke-and-hookers account at Infinium without, as yet, actually getting you anything in return except the ability to spend more money.
I hope, for Infinium's sake, that there's some really great service they just forgot to mention to the gaming press. Because frankly, I'd rather spend that $30 bucks on Dig Dug over and over again. At least in Dig Dug, you can POP the over-inflated bastards that surround you.
* Ty The Tazmanian Tiger 2, this means YOU.