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Weekly News & Notes (4/19)

WNN makes it triumphant return! Come and enjoy the creamy goodness inside.
Author: Jeff Reimers
Published: April 19, 2002
+ Top Story - The big word on everyone's lips these days in the World that is Sony's is "online". President of Sony Computer Entertainment America and Sony's COO Kaz Hirai recently showed off the company's big guns and let the cat out of the bag concerning Sony's and the PS2's next big step in this, the next generation consoles wars. Hirai laid out the official plans for Sony's ventures into online gaming and what that would in tale. It has now been a full 5 months since November 2001, Sony's original launch date for it's online gaming and since the delay almost half a year ago, mum has been the word when anyone dared ask Sony what the dealio was. Speculation ran rampant, especially when Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 was released and the manual (approved by SCEI) stated, "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 will support the (Sony) Network Adapter when it is available in Spring 2002."

"August 2002" Sony said and this time, it looks to be for keeps. Come this August (another 4 months), you will be able to purchase Sony's narrowband/broadband Network Adapter for $40, but understand that this is only the Network Adapter and not the bundled Network Adapter/Hard Disc Drive combo that was released in Japan for over $100. Along side the NA, you will have your choice of 12 promised online titles to purchase and jump online to compete. But why the secrecy when Sony had its plan for evidently some time, you ask? Hirai gave two major reasons - (1) SCEA wanted that extra 10 months to allow broadband internet access to penetrate the market further and reach an acceptable level and (2) to give their internal developers more time to polish the primary batch of online titles. What is Sony promising us game-wise now that it has had an extra 10 months? SOCOM: Navy Seals, Twisted Metal: Online and Frequency from Sony, plus an additional batch of third-party titles including Tribes Aerial Assault from Sierra.
While August is the magic month for online gaming, Sony is making it clear that it will not be releasing the Hard Disc Drive for some time, even up to a year from now. [A moment of silence will be held for Final Fantasy XI...thank you] Hirai was quick to point out that none of the online titles being released in August and after will require the HDD to work. "Once games require the hard drive, we will launch that unit," Hirai stated. Fair enough in this gamer's mind. Don't expect to be able to do anything beyond playing games online until the HDD is available either, as web surfing and instant messaging will require the HDD.
Expect the other details, including the release date and price of the Hard Disc Drive, to be revealed at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo in May.

+ Headlines - Okay, so Sony has finally told us when we will be able to play SOCOM (ooooooh SOCOM... sooooo hot, want to play the game...), but what about all the third-party titles? Well, while any game has yet to be shown in playable format, a handful of third-party developers have stated that yes, in fact, they do have online titles in development. Capcom has announced a PS2-exclusive online Resident Evil adventure, as well as their cell-shaded racer Auto Modellista, From Software has announced Armored Core Sigma and Genki is bringing Tokyo Xtreme Racer online. Outside of Sony, Namco has announced the biggest support with 5 titles including Ace Combat, Namco Sports, Clockwork Online, Project Venus and a yet to be titled adventure game. Don't expect to be picking up Square's Final Fantasy XI any time soon, as Sony isn't releasing the Hard Disc Drive for a full year (in part to let Square iron out as many details as possible while the game is in beta form).

+ Other News - In other news, Sony has officially unveiled the US Greatest Hits line for the PlayStation 2. In a wise move for all sides, Sony has abandoned the hideous lime green "Greatest Hits" tag on the left side of the packaging for a much more appealing red marquee-style "Greatest Hits" tag on the top of the DVD box. The primary batch of games will only be first-party titles, but expect the third-party titles to start rolling out within the next month or two. The first batch of games includes Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, Dark Cloud, Twisted Metal: Black and ATV Offroad Fury. The first third-party titles expected to go GH includes Onimusha from Capcom and Red Faction from THQ. For the PS one line of GH titles, a game must sell one million copies in it's first year on the shelves, but for the PS2 line, Sony has trimmed back the requirements. This time around, a game must sell 400,000 copies in 9 months. Reactions to a more competitive market or just trying to get as many games out there as possible? Your call. All Greatest Hits titles will retail for $19.99.

+ Financial News - Microsoft will try to jump-start disappointing sales of its Xbox console - launched a month ago in Europe - by slashing the product's recommended unit price 38% to 299 euros (just more the $260 US) from 479 euros throughout the continent in a bid to compete more aggressively with Sony's Playstation 2. The new price, which will take effect April 26, will be in line with Sony's pricing strategy for Playstation 2. Sony cut the game unit's price at the end of 2001, which was succeeded by a rapid surge in sales. Sony said it has sold 850,000 of its units in Germany alone and analysts expect that number to at least double in the next 12 months. With 25 million units sold worldwide, Sony leads the global game-console market. Microsoft declined to provide concrete sales figures for the Xbox's Europe launch. But the start was widely seen as rocky from day one, when German retailers offered the console at a big discount to lure buyers.

+ Otaku News - The weekly hardware sales numbers from Japan have just arrived for the week of April 8th to the 14th and Sony's Big Black Machine is steamrolling the competition (if you can even call it that anymore). The PlayStation 2 is outselling the GameCube at a ratio of more than 5:1 and the Xbox at a ratio of over 30:1! Egads! For those who are obsessive compulsive about needing the actual numbers, here they are:
Platform | weekly sales | year-to-date sales
PlayStation2 55.000 1.323.000
Game Boy Advance 31.000 969.000
Gamecube 10.000 510.000
PSone 3.000 86.000
WonderSwan Color 2.000 74.000
Xbox 1.800 169.000
Dreamcast 1.500 12.000
Game Boy Color 1.500 38.200
Nintendo 64 200 3.300
Game Boy 40 3.000
WonderSwan 30 2.800
Sony Pocket Station 10 600

Congrats to Sony!

+ Pick of the Week - In homage to my Editor-In-Chief and hetero-lifemate Sam Bishop, I recommend everyone go out and pick up a copy of System Shock 2 for the PC. If you were scared by Silent Hill/Silent Hill 2, you will be in a pile of your own feces within 30 minutes of playing this game. Sam cannot play this game for more than 20 minutes at a time and even then he's jumpy about everything for a couple hours afterwards.