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Online 2000

by Billy Berghammer - April 25, 1999, 10:00 pm PDT

Billy explores the importance and impact of online gaming on the industry...

I play a lot of online games. I love them. Ever since the first time I fragged someone over the Net with Quake, I was hooked. Quake, Quake 2, CTF, Half-Life, TCF, Jedi Knight, and X-Wing Alliance are a few of the games that have kept me up to the wee hours of the morning. It has turned to obsession really. Not only will you never have to play games alone again, but there is no artificial Intelligence! It’s fun to play against people that I know, and even people that I don’t. Because they are real people. The one major drawback of online gaming is, if you want to play against your friends, not only do they have to own the game, they need a decent computer and a good internet connection. This is why for a long time, I had dreamed I could do this with my Nintendo 64. But it looks like that dream, will never turn to reality.

The N64 was supposed to have it. A modem. Nintendo never confirmed it, but it was a pretty hardcore rumor. I was really hoping that with the N64 I could surf the Net, download game updates, and even play games online. I drooled over the possibility of being able to possibly have online gaming with the advent of the 64DD. It could have been really cool to play some of Nintendo’s finest over the Net. So what are we getting? Well since we aren’t getting the 64DD here in the states, all we have is an accessory so far…a 14.4 modem. Not very exciting at all. This is what IGN64 reported on February 24,1999.

If InterAct Accessories has its way, Nintendo 64 will become more than just a videogame console later this year. The well-known peripheral maker is currently in development with a Nintendo 64-based web-surfing add-on that, according to the company's vice president of marketing, Jason Herkowitz, will include a 14.4 modem, a keyboard and an unspecified web-browser. Called NetShark, the peripheral is currently scheduled for a third-quarter '99 release at a price-tag of $79 (possibly $69 before its final release). Interact will supply buyers with a custom Internet service at $10 a month. No specifics regarding web compatibility (including applications supported) have been announced, but if the device's 14.4 modem is any indication, expect the bare necessities.

Oh joy. 14.4 modem? First of all, I can get a 56k modem for less than $50 right now, and you want me to pay $80 to surf with a 14.4 modem on my N64? Yeah, this thing is going to sell great. It’ll take 2 hours just to download this website! I don’t think I need to explain my disappointment much more.

So all hopes is that the N2000 will come with some sort of way to do online gaming. When the N2000 ships, there will be many different ways people will be getting online. Outside of high speed modems, DSL, and cable modems should be rather prevalent across the country. This high speed access will do to online gaming what Miyamoto did to Nintendo. Make it great! Unfortunately there is no way to tell if there will be an online standard at the time, but there is a possibility Nintendo could have different components to connect to the N2000 to allow everyone to access gaming.

Nintendo has stated in the past that they have been investing time in an "online strategy". By the time the N2000 is released, Sega and Sony will both be online with their latest consoles. As far as Sony’s plans with the PSX2, there has been no official word as of yet of their online plans. I am sure you can plan on it. Already Sega has online compatibility with it’s Dreamcast in Japan, and will be explaining it’s online strategy during this years E3. Sega has also stated that they are interested in making most of their games online compatible. So far, rumor has it that Sega won’t be packaging along their modem with the console. Gamefan Online states 4/20/99.

Just when you thought they were on the right track, news from inside Sega indicates that we could be in for some depressing news at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. Sources deep inside Sega have indicated that they are not too sold on the idea of packing in the recently announced 56k modem with the Dreamcast and as a result, that it may not make it into the $199 package. This news comes in spite of recent announcements that led many to believe that would be the case.

I have one word for Sega at this point. Stupid. By not including the modem with the console, you are immediately splitting the consumer base. I feel consumers will be more likely to play games online if the modem is included with the system. The majority of people in the US (let alone the world) have never played a game online. If the modem was packed along with the console at the $199 price tag, I feel gamers will at least see what online gaming is all about. I am hoping when Nintendo releases their N2000, they will pack in, or somehow allow online gaming right "out of the box".

What I would really like to see is a complete online gaming environment from Nintendo. Picture this: Turning on your N2000, and dialing up your internet provider, and then going to Nintendo’s main website. From here you would access the main menu, where you could pick a game to play online, download patches, upgrades, new levels, or even send e-mail, chat with players, see high scores….Man, the possibilities are endless. What also would be nice is some sort of modem to modem compatibility where you could just dial up a friends house as well.

Granted, this is all speculation. But I feel Online Gaming is a very important part of the new batch of the next generation consoles. Giving gamers a chance to play games like Quake or even a (dare I say it) Perfect Dark hybrid with 30 other people over the net, without owning a computer would be incredible. By the time the N2000 is released, the online gaming community will be extremely large. It’s getting bigger everyday with the release of more games with online capabilities. Just looking at the popularity of games like Quake, and Half-Life, and programs like Gamespy and Kali, it’s obvious that Online Gaming is a money maker. This is the bottom line for companies like Nintendo. If Nintendo does enter the Online Gaming community, you can almost bet it’s going to be a big hit.

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