Comic courtesy of Fat Gamers.
The beast is unleashed
Unless your head has been firmly entrenched in the sunny Scarborough sands this past week, you'll be aware that Sony released their handheld phenomenon the PSP Midnight Wednesday. Many queued on Oxford Street to get their hands on the shiny Game Boy killer. Many seem very happy.
All this week you couldn't step off a train in London without being slapped in the face by one of the many PSP advertisement posters mostly depicting ordinary people cornered by giant symbols. One shows a screaming brat of a girl faced with the four symbols that have sprouted from the soil of her garden. Another depicts a suited businessman, a reflection of many of the people who would witness the ad, almost being crushed by the symbols. Add to this, posters of the most high profile games - Virtua Tennis etc - and you can see Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and others have gone big-guns on getting general tech-savvy consumers excited about the PSP.
But one thing the posters reveal is what Sony marketing and sales people feel the PSP is all about - and that is the multimedia functions. Sony see it as a hub for everyone's entertainment needs first, a handheld gaming console second. That's not to say they will neglect the gaming side of the PSP, but they feel it's so much more.
Look at the four symbols - you have the game pad, an obvious one there. Then you have the film reel symbol, clearly highlighting the movie capabilities of the console. Next is the music symbol, a no-brainer. Last but not least is the camera (meaning it can display pictures, not take them). All four symbols are presented to the consumer as equal features. Gaming isn't more predominant. Sony is giving a message to the gadget buying world: 'the PSP will combine your entire entertainment spectrum in one single, utopian portable device'.
This marketing campaign, while effective to the casual user (perhaps one not familiar with the term 'homebrew' or the nuances of file transfers), is one you and I can perhaps condemn as a fallacy. Sony would have you believe watching movies, browsing the Internet and listening to music on your PSP is as easy as one, two, three. Well, it is if you stick to the program and do things the way Sony want you to, but as soon as you start tinkering - as soon as you start putting your own movies on the PSP rather than buying them all over again on UMD, as soon as you start clamouring for more games than officially released - things get tricky. Not impossible, but tricky.
So while this utopian connected entertainment hub isn't quite as utopian as it might first appear, it's a fantastic start. One question still remains though: are consumers ready for it? Will the great British public think handheld game console first, movies and music second? Or will those thousands of posters across Britain convince them that it's a portable PC instead? Only time will tell.
Katrina humbles all
The games industry can seem very important to those involved in it. To MMO gamers, the game itself can often melt away reality so that real-world events slip by unnoticed. But this week, hurricane Katrina reminded us all about the fragile nature of human life, buildings and the necessity of food and water. There are no magical spells that can conjure life replenishing supplies, nor any axe, staff or sword powerful enough to combat the unstoppable force of nature. Any gamer on the south coast of America this week had to put down their joypad, unplug their mouse and keyboard and deal with real life.
For those unaffected, gaming continues. Consoles continue to be released and online fragging goes on apace. But while the US political system has been sluggish in its response to the natural disaster, the videogame industry has been quick to offer support to those trapped in hellish conditions.
Sony Online Europe has made it possible for players of MMO Everquest II to donate to the Red Cross through a new command line /donate. It will automatically direct players to the American Red Cross' Hurricane 2005 relief page.
Halo developer Bungie has also urged its fans to help. They have encouraged members of the 'Bungie Underground Army' to either volunteer or donate to the Red Cross. They've also made available a 'Fight the Flood' T-Shirt (see what they did there?) with proceeds going to those in need. EA has also stepped in to offer support, matching staff contributions to the Red Cross 2:1. Expect more videogame initiatives to filter out over the next few weeks as the relief effort and the full extent of the devastation kicks in.
What is does show is a concerted effort from the games industry to emerge from the bubble it so often surrounds itself in and engage in reality. Some games have millions of fans - and publishers realise they have an active fan-base of people they can target to raise awareness of certain events. In the future, perhaps we'll see fundraisers become part of the very fabric of the games industry itself.
Rand Miller shuts down Myst
Cyan Worlds, Rand Miller's studio, shut its doors this week. Seems like the bubbly Mr Miller, creator of the huge selling Myst games, couldn't find anyone to give him money to make new games. It's sad news - when I interviewed Rand not long ago, he spoke of ideas he hoped would redefine what it meant to play narrative based games. It seems no-one was quite as enthusiastic about his dreams as he was. Let's hope he finds a new home to express his ideas. Some hardcore gamers have derided the Myst series over the years, but the franchise has been home to some of the best storytelling and character development in gaming history. The gaming landscape is distinctly less inspiring without Rand Miller's insight. We wish the Cyan team all the best.
Nintendogs sell thousands in first week... considers running for president
Nintendogs has sold a quarter of a million copies in the US in its first week of release. It's the US' best-selling new game franchise ever for a portable system, and nearly 15% of all DS owners bought a copy.
Pretty impressive stuff. Evidence perhaps that despite the fanfare of the PSP, Nintendo and the DS are still the ones to beat in the handheld console market. Sony has recently said the DS isn't even a consideration. When you compare how the two are marketed, you can see a clear difference, but at the end of the day it always comes down to results, and right now the DS and Nintendogs are doing some pretty amazing numbers. Don't count Nintendo out just yet.
Bet on soldier is the best game ever
Small, basic, addictive games are like gems. It's not often that you see one, but when you do you have to treasure it like it's the last one in the world. This week, I came across a little mini-game that has given me more enjoyment than any of the Â£40 triple-A titles gathering dust in my collection.
But it's not Bet on Soldier, it's Mini Bet on Soldier - a ridiculously addictive shooter that demands head shots to enemies who pop out from a static background. Check it out here and try and beat $62,270. It's all about accuracy, speed and tactics. It might even be better than the full game it's promoting turns out to be.
This week on Pro-G
If you haven't been keeping up with the latest articles on the site, we've had reviews for Virtua Tennis: World Tour and Wipeout Pure on the PSP - two games that should make the PSP look rather tempting to anyone holding out for a price drop. Of course, you could win a copy of Virtua Tennis by entering our competition.
We also had a look at TOCA Race Driver 3 from Codemasters and picked ten videogames that should never be made into movies. Why not stop by our forum to let us know what you think.
This week's new releases
You can come out of hibernation now. It's been a hard few months, but new games are back in force. This week in particular was pretty insane, with over twenty new releases hitting store shelves, with far too many of them good enough to warrant a purchase. The PSP launch line-up has far more quality than it has probably been credited with, with at least fifteen good to great titles available from day one. Add in the release of MotoGP: URT 3 for Xbox and PC and Dungeon Siege II for the PC and you've got a recipe for severe debt.
- Aquanox - The Angel's Tears (PS2, Xbox)
- Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer (PS2)
- Delta Force - Black Hawk Down (PS2, Xbox)
- Digimon World 4 (PS2)
- Dungeon Siege II (PC)
- Earth 2160 (PC)
- MotoGP: Ultimate Racing Championship 3 (PC, Xbox)
PSP Launch Titles
- Ape Academy
- Archer Maclean's Mercury
- Colin McRae Rally 2005 Plus
- Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower
- Dynasty Warriors
- Everybody's Golf
- F1 Grand Prix
- Fired Up
- MediEvil: Resurrection
- Metal Gear Acid
- Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition
- NBA Street: Showdown
- Need For Speed Underground Rivals
- Ridge Racer
- Spider-Man 2
- TOCA Race Driver 2
- Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix
- Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade
- Virtua Tennis World Tour
- WipEout Pure
- World Snooker Challenge
- World Tour Soccer: Challenge Edition
Things aren't going to get any easier either, with almost every week till Christmas seeing a couple of high-profile releases fighting over your spending money. Next week alone sees the release of The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction from Vivendi and Rainbow Six: Lockdown from Ubisoft, so that's another Â£70 you're down.
Of course, if you want to get your hands on a nice new PSP and some games without spending a penny you could enter our fabulous PSP competition. Even if you don't win the first prize you could still receive some PSP games from Codemasters.
Next week on Pro-G
Expect reviews of TOCA Race Driver 2 on the PSP, Delta Force Black Hawk Down on PS2 and Xbox and Untold Legends on the PSP, plus a preview of Far Cry Instincts on Xbox and a summary of what happened at this week's Games Market Europe event in London.