And Then There Were None

  • Reading time:25 mins read

by Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh

Part three of my ongoing culture column; originally published by Next Generation, under the title “Culture: Five that Fell”.

For all its immaturity, you can tell the videogame industry is getting on in years. With increasing, even alarming, frequency, the faces of our youth have begun to disappear – forced from the market, absorbed into conglomerates, restructured into oblivion, or simply retired from the grind.

The first big wave hit back in the mid ’90s, when increased development costs, the demise of the American arcade, and the shift from 2D development left dozens of small and mid-sized developers – from Toaplan to Technos – out in the cold. Those that didn’t die completely – Sunsoft, Vic Tokai – often pulled out of the US market, or even out of the videogame business. Western outfits braced for the storm by merging with larger and ever larger publishing conglomerates, rationalizing that it was the only way to survive in an uncertain market.

The second wave came only a few years ago, after the burst of the tech bubble. In effort to streamline costs, parent companies began to dump their holdings left and right, regardless of the legacy or talent involved. Those that didn’t often went bankrupt, pulling all of their precious acquisitions down with them. Sometimes the talent moved on and regrouped under a new game; still, when an era’s over, it’s over.

This Week’s Releases (Aug 22-26, 2005)

  • Reading time:21 mins read

by Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh

Week seven of my ongoing, irreverent news column; originally posted at Next Generation

Today (Monday, August 22nd)

Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS)
Intelligent Systems/Nintendo

Now, there’s nothing wrong with the Wars series. This is, what, the fourth Wars game announced in the West, after the two GBA iterations and the endlessly-delayed and frequently-renamed GameCube iteration. And it looks every bit as good as previous games. I understand it’s to make some decent use of the touchscreen with a real-time mode where you move things around with the stylus. Good and well; this is something the DS should excel at. I’m surprised we haven’t seen more strategy games and RPGs for the system.

The name, though – why is it still Advance Wars? The answer is the same as why Retro’s second Metroid game is called Metroid Prime 2, instead of just “Metroid: Echoes” and why Metal Gear Ghost Babel became simply “Metal Gear Solid”; it’s an issue of branding. The assumption, from a Western marketing perspective, is that you need “brand unity”. If you’ve got a successful product, you need to cash in on its name as far as you can. So if you’ve got a new cereal, you’re better off introducing it as, say, Cinna-Crunch Pebbles and putting Fred Flintsone in it, rather then letting it fend for itself, on its own merits.

The thing about the Wars series – well. It’s been around for a long time. Going on twenty years, actually. It began on the Famicom as Famicom Wars, then moved to the Super Famicom and Gameboy as Super Famicom Wars and Gameboy Wars. Thus we have Advance Wars. And since the GBA games were the first we were introduced to over here, every future game in the series must have the word “Advance” in it.

Well, to be fair, we’re to receive the GameCube one (called, inexplicably, “Famicom Wars”) as (even more inexplicably) “Battalion Wars”. I guess that complicates the theory right there. And the Western title for the DS game is no less arbitrary than the Japanese one (again, simply “Famicom Wars DS”). That doesn’t make this trend any less irritating.

The 2004 Game Developers Choice Awards

  • Reading time:1 mins read

by Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh

I watched the Academy Awards for the first time, a few weeks ago. The MPAA’s screener ban (instituted in part to cut down on indie competition, under the ruse of piracy prevention) had apparently backfired, as the 2003 nominees consisted of perhaps the most well-chosen bunch of the right movies, for the right awards, that the Academy had ever selected. I thought, hey. Why not.

After an hour and a half, three hundred commercials, Billy Crystal’s singing, Billy Crystal’s unfunny jokes, Billy Crystal’s just-this-side-of-unkind remarks to Clint Eastwood and others, endless Hobbit awards, and Billy Crystal, I wandered away. I now thought I understood, first-hand, the general antipathy for award ceremonies.

With this in mind, I was unsure what to expect when I walked into the IGDA Game Developers Choice Awards. I had read about the Gunpei Yokoi ceremony the year before; that had sounded unconventional and sincere. Yet: it was still an awards ceremony. How long could I tolerate the pomp, I wondered.

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )