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Calendar Man – Week of 2/13

No High Scores

Welcome to the Vita release week! Sort of! If you bought the extra special Vita launch bundle, you get your shiny new console on Tuesday. Personally, I couldn’t see paying the $100 bucks over the WiFi only version, but given that they were giving you Little Deviants and a PSN game all sorts of free, I can sort of see the math working out. Sort of. The GameStop employee that took my preorder for the WiFi only version tried to get me to pay an extra $50 and upgrade to the 3G version with the reasoning that the 3G bundle came with an 8GB memory card. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that 8GB memory cards are only 30 bucks. Instead I told her I was cheap and I moved on with my day.

Given that the Vita is out on Tuesday there are a whole bunch of Vita games currently sitting on store shelves, just waiting for you to purchase them and stare longingly at them until next week when you get your hands on a Vita. Actually, I’d be very surprised if you couldn’t walk into a Best Buy or Walmart at any point this week and buy the more expensive bundle. Limited numbers my sweet patootie.

Also out this week is the new Twisted Metal game, notable because the studio that made it found the entire process so unbearable that they have ditched console development entirely and moved to iPad/iPhone games. It’s also notable in that David Jaffe said something stupid about it and offended a bunch of people. Oh wait, that’s not notable at all.

On to the games…

New Releases
I don’t have an Amazon link for it, but Crusader Kings II comes out this week, to the delight of crusading kings everywhere. There PC gamers, don’t say I never did anything for you.

UFC Undisputed (360, PS3) is one of the few franchises that THQ is sticking with in these troubling times. When in doubt, always bet on sweaty duded beating the piss out of each other, I guess.

I have never understood the appeal of vehicular combat games, such as Twisted Metal. I’m a terrible driver and a terrible shot, so the genre holds nothing for me. That being said, Interstate ’76 was pretty dang cool.

Tales of the Abyss is a PS2 JRPG brought to the 3DS thus continuing the trend of games released for other systems and then brought to the 3DS in the hopes of getting you to spend money just so you can play something new. Don’t fall for it! Be strong! What, Ghost Trick is on the iPad. ME WANT!

Zumba Fitness Rush came out on Sunday. When I was in the GameStop putting money down on the Vita, I saw someone picking up their pre-order of this game. I seriously do not have my finger on the pulse of gaming if people are paying money early to secure copies of Zumba Fitness Rush and I don’t know about it.

The Sims 3: Hidden Springs has a fountain of youth for your Sims. I don’t understand why you’d need this as if your Sims die, you can just make new ones. Kind of like real people but without all of the messy questions.

Nobody told Aksys that they don’t need to make PSP games any more. It’s all Vita, all the time, Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom Limited Edition! Come on!

Mario and Sonic made a game for the Beijing games. They made a game for the Vancouver games. They made a game for the London games. Now they’ve made a 3DS version of the London games games. Somehow, I don’t think this is what the ancient Greeks had in mind.

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND (PS3, 360), fighting game, blah blah blah.

Grand Slam Tennis 2 (360, PS3) has tennis and grand slams. Man, I haven’t had a grand slam in ages. That’s the price I pay for moving to a state resplendent with Waffle Houses but with nary a Denny’s in sight.

Below are a list of Vita games, if you’re so inclined. Reviews for many of them are starting to hit now so you can be all prepared for next week. As I’m a lazy bastard, it’s easier for me to do the list thing than come up with a pithy paragraph for each one. Professionalism rules around here.

There are no Vita deals to speak of this week, something that may or may not change next week. On the one hand, you need games to play on your new console, so retailers don’t really have to offer much of anything in the way of discounts. On the other hand, the Vita ain’t cheap and the economy is still in the crapper, so retailers will have to do something to help lessen the blow. If something comes up between now and next week, I’ll be sure to post about it so that you can get the best deal possible on the Vita.

Toys R Us – Buy a 3DS for $169.99 and get a free $20 gift card and a free lightsaber stylus three pack. Get a free $10 gift card with the purchase of UFC Undisputed, Twisted Metal or Mario and Sonic at the London Olympic Games. Get any Skylanders started pack for $39.99. Buy Just Dance 3 for $39.99 and get any game of equal or lesser value for 50% off.

Target – Get a free $20 gift card with the purchase of either a Wii bundle or a 3DS system.

Best Buy – Get Rayman Origins or Assassins Creed: Revelations for $29.99. Get MW3, Batman: Arkham City or Ace Combat Assault Horizon for $39.99.

Are Used Games Really Killing the Game Industry?

We love to pound on tables and shake our collective fists when a DRM story pops up online. Usually a big company says that it needs DRM to protect its IP from thieves, and we counter with “Wow, that’s some Grade A bullshit!” or something equally witty. Pirating is bad. DRM isn’t the answer. That’s my position, anyway.

The other push button issue is the idea that used games are killing the game industry. Between used games and DRM it’s a wonder we have any games to play at all.

The latest “salvo” of sorts comes from Volition — developer of the totally straight laced and conformist Saints Row series.  Here’s an interesting series of quotes from Volition design director Jameson Durall writing at  #AltDevBlogADay

“Most Game Developers will agree that the Used Games market is significantly impacting the revenue we receive.   I think what most consumers don’t realize is that every time they buy a used game, there is ZERO money making it back to the Game Developers.  All of those profits are going directly to the re-seller and making it more and more difficult for us to continue making higher quality products.”

I think most consumers very much understand that. We’re not idiots. We just don’t care.  I think that’s also secondary to the fact that most new games cost $59.99 and people are looking to save a little cash whenever they can. Does Durall actually think that the number of people buying used games give a damn about anything else other than saving 10 bucks on a game–one that if it’s buggy or just plain sucks cannot be returned for a refund? $59.99 for Homefront is some bullshit, no? We’re just supposed to take a company’s word that a game is super special?

Here’s where things really go off the rails:

“There’s another big rumor about the next Xbox console that could really start to shake things up…it won’t play used games at all!  Personally I think this would be a fantastic change for our business and even though the consumers would be up in arms about it at first…they will grow to understand why and that it won’t kill them.”

It won’t kill them? Well, no, it won’t do that. But it will piss off a legion of gamers and I was always taught that riling up your retail base was never a terribly good idea. Those same gamers who are selling games used are also buying games new.  How about this? How about instead of trying to figure out a way to screw a gamer out of saving 5 or 10 bucks – why not stop spending a gabillion dollars advertising shitty games and trying to pawn them off to the public as being more than what they really are? How about lowering the price of these 60 dollar time wasters?

“In the end, I fully believe that we have to do something about these issues or our industry is going to fall apart.  People often don’t understand the cost that goes into creating these huge experiences that we put on the shelves for only $60.”

Only $60. Yeah, ok. Must be nice living in that world – a world where rolling the dice on a $60 piece of software is no big deal. Let’s call that “Durall World”. The game industry is not dying due to used games. There are companies dying due to bad business decisions and sinking crazy development money into bad projects and advertising gaffes.

It’s not the guy buying Madden for $45 at GameStop.

Anyway, why should games be held to a different standard than any other industry? Used cars?  Ford didn’t get jack squat when I sold my old Tempo. Books? Music? Movies? What makes Saints Row special? If I buy a game for $60 (or $20 or whatever) I should be able to sell that game to whomever I wish – and developers should stay the hell out of my business. Speaking of that — didn’t GameStop also buy those copies from THQ?

 At that point, isn’t it sort of fair game?

Calendar Man – Week of 2/6

No High Scores

Finally some new games!

Honestly, I don’t know why I’m complaining about a lack of new games. I mean, I still have a ton of stuff to do in Skyrim and Assassins Creed: Revelations is sitting there, unplayed, staring at me all mopey-eyed. What do I care if there’s nothing new to play?

Oh right, because I have to write something every week telling you about the new games coming out this week. This week has supernatural shooting in two flavors, courtesy of Darkness II and Resident Evil: Revelations as well as some open-world RPGing courtesy of Amalur. There are some other nuggets in there too, so let’s get to it…

New Releases
First up is The Darkness II (360, PS3, PC), a game I’ve been playing since last week. The embargo is still in effect so I don’t know how much I can go into it, but I can tell you that I am enjoying my time with it immensely.  I have to figure out how much of that is due to it being a good game and not the general enjoyment that comes from rending a man asunder but that’s not something I have to worry about until I go to write the review. Speaking of which, I probably should do that.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (360, PS3, PC) is a game that intrigues me, even if my interest in it doesn’t extend to getting off of my fat ass and playing the demo. I’m interested to see how it reviews. New IPs are a hard sell in this business, especially something as generically named as Amalur and folks seem to be evenly split on the demo.

Resident Evil: Revelations provides a reason to play my 3DS but that would also require me to play a Resident Evil game and that’s not going to happen. There are too many RE-specific conventions that I just don’t like and I’ve played enough RE games to know it. I did play this one at E3 last year and it was pretty, but it’s also Resident Evil which, as I understand it, is kind of the point. I can’t blame a game for being what it’s supposed to be. I can just choose not to play it.

The Jak & Daxter Collection comes out this week, continuing the tradition of remastering popular PS2 games, bundling them up and selling them for a steal. I’d love to see how Naughty Dog made games in the pre-Uncharted era so I’ll definitely keep this game on the list of games to grab when I hit the summer doldrums. The Sly collection filled that gap nicely last year.

Finally, the Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition is out (360, PS3, PC), brimming with all of the various DLC bits and bobs. I tried playing this game, put in about 8 hours and then quit because it was boring and I didn’t care about who shot my character. I assuming he’s still wandering the desert, searching for a courier or a can of beans or whatever stupid quest I left him on.

Toys R Us – Get a free $10 gift card with purchase of Darkness II or RE: Revelations. Get a free $20 gift card with the purchase of a Wii. Get a free $25 gift card with purchase of a 360 4GB Kinect Bundle. Buy Just Dance 3 for the Wii and get any $49.99 Wii game at 40% off. Get Once Upon A Monster for $14.99. Get LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean (360, PS3) for $19.99. Get Minute to Win It, Spiderman: Edge of Time or Kinectimals with FAO Schwarz Bear for $29.99. Get Goldeneye 007 Reloaded or The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for $39.99. Get Batman: Arkham City for $44.99. Get Battlefield 3 or AC: Revelations for $49.99.

Target – Get a free $50 gift card with purchase of 250GB Kinect bundle. Get a free DualShock controller with purchase of 160GB PS3. Get MW3 for $49.99.

Best Buy – Get Just Dance 3, The Black Eyed Peas Experience, Kinect Sports or Dance Central for $29.99. Get Gears of War 3 or CoD: Black Ops for $39.99. Get a 12 month Xbox Live Gold subscription for $39.99.

KMart – Get Halo Anniversary Edition or Disney Universe for $29.99. Get Batman: AC, AC: Revelations, NBA 2K12 or WWE 12 for $39.99. Get MW3 for $49.99.

The Game Press: The Sinkering

A few disclaimers:

First off I stole that title from the Qt3 forum.

I’m not a huge Mass Effect guy. I’ve played both games. I enjoyed them. In fact, I played ME2 twice which something I rarely do with RPGs. When ME3 drops I will eventually play it but I’m not going to be chomping at the proverbial bit to fire it up day one. I’ll read about some stuff here as I know most of the NHS team will be in Shep-Land soon enough. I’ll get there eventually. I usually do.

I also don’t care about voice casting. Martin Sheen. Cool. The dude from Platoon. Cool. That guy from the Wing Commander movie. How can you go wrong there?

I must admit that I had no clue who Jessica Chobot was until a few days ago. Savvy game press guy that I am, I’m sure most of you know more names of the people in the game media than I do.  That pic up there? That’s her.  Giant Bomb writes this about her in its database:

During this time, she had started modeling to support her gaming and anime habit, and coincidentally had a photoshoot on release day for the PSP. She picked up her PSP on the way, and during the shoot took her now infamous photo. She jokingly sent it to a friend who worked in video game product placement, who encouraged her to send it to Kotaku. She did, but expected nothing of it. Kotaku posted it however, and was deluged by emails asking about her. Encouraged by the photo’s success, she accepted an offer from the Kotaku’s editor to write game reviews for a partner site.

That year, she used her EB Games employment to get into E3, where she coincidentally stayed in the same hotel as Kotaku. She accompanied them to the IGN E3 party, where she met an IGN representative who encouraged her to talk to their entertainment editor as a potential booth model. Impressed with her gaming experience and fascination with Japanese culture, the editor instead offered her freelance work for their insider channel. So she left her old life, including her husband, to move to California to take her dream job.

I am kicking myself for not trying this. My career path might have been very different had I decided to get kinky with a Rock Band microphone.

She’s done work for IGN as well as G4. In fact, just last month, G4 posted a video preview of the Kinect tools for Mass Effect 3 with Jessica as the reporter on the scene, interviewing team members and showing gamers how the Kinect features work. By no fault of her own, the preview made the Kinect version of M3 look about as absurd as it sounds. You can watch that here:

A couple of days ago we linked a Cast Announcement Trailer for ME3. But then a funny thing happend on the way to the cast party. Jessica Chobot was revealed as a member of the voice casting team.

Wait, what?

Jessica Chobot of the game press? She’s previewing ME3 a couple of weeks ago and now is …IN the game?

Yep. Here’s an article ON G4 talking about it.

“It’s a dream come true. I’m excited, stoked and honored. I’m seriously in 7th heaven,” Chobot said. “It’s cool just because it’s in a video game, but it’s also for one of my favorite companies of all time, Bioware, and in one of the most epic series of all time, Mass Effect 3.”

“Last I heard, I am one of the ‘romanceable’ characters in the game,” Chobot said. “I think you can bring me on the Normandy, I think you have the option of kicking me off too. I’m not sure if that’s before or after you romance me, so we might have a Jersey Shore moment. I think you can romance me with a man or a woman. We’ll see when the game comes out,” Chobot added.

When asked whether she planned to “romance” herself, Chobot said, “Oh, I’m gonna give it to me so hard.”


It’s good to know that Maxim has finally infiltrated the game press and BioWare continues to fuel the repressed sexual angst of both teenagers and lonely adults.  Never fear, now you’ll get a chance to nail a virtual Jessica Chobot! Maybe she’ll even do a Fem-Shep scene! Dream come true, indeed. All of this is so slimy, so juvenile, and so…profitable.

Truth is, I don’t care if Jessica Chobot is in Mass Effect 3 or not. I mean look, if I don’t care that Martin Sheen is in it I really don’t care that someone who licks PSPs makes a cameo.

G4 should care, though.

They should care a lot.

We have discussed the “close” relationship between the media and game publishers before here on NHS — not as much of late but we have driven down that road a few times. It frustrates me to see stuff like this because it goes against the very heart of what we should be trying to do as members of the media. If BioWare/EA want to pay this woman good coin for appearing in a role-playing game and shaking her money maker, godspeed. But how can anyone really expect her to be taken seriously as a game reporter? Is she just a pretty face? Is she just a gaming “personality”?

It seems somewhat difficult to look at G4’s coverage of Mass Effect 3 in any other light other than “compromised”. (Not sure if light can be compromised but you get what I mean.)

Jessica loves ME3. She totally loves BioWare. She’s told you as much. She’s also in the game—and on the EA payroll. Part of me feels sort of bad for her. She’s clearly stepped into something that perhaps she didn’t anticipate, as I’m hardly the only person to feel a bit perturbed about this. Then again, Jessica has used her sex appeal from the get go. She doesn’t get a job via Kotaku if she licks a PSP but looks like Ernest Borgnine.

I’m not a terribly naive person. I know that this sort of thing only matters inside a small vacuum occupied by an even smaller number of people. Mass Effect 3 will come out, people will play it, the galaxy will be saved and all will be right with the world. No one is really going to care if she’s in the game or not or if she shilled for EA while working for G4.

But this is just one more example of how we’re supposed to all be under the same umbrella — the enthusiast press.

We Heart Games.

No matter what.