The latest supersized Mailbag discusses: Nintendo's marketing, PSO, game ports, linking Cubes together, R.O.B. the Robot, rear projection TVs, an Eternal Darkness sequel, Nintendo's "huge announcement," translating games, and a GBA-to-NGC adapter.
Angelos asks, I've heard from many people that PSO is great online.
However, in my current situation, I have no interest whatsoever in playing
online games. With that said, would Phantasy Star Online warrant a purchase for
its offline game?
Daniel Says: Playing it split-screen offline is really about
the same. The main difference is that you can actually talk to your teammates
and not get beat to death by some monster while you try to type. You might lose
some of the novelty of playing online, but the game is still pretty much the
Now if you're talking about playing by yourself, I'd rent it first if I were
you. PSO's main strength lies in teamwork, and I really haven't found that much
excitement in playing by myself.
Jonathan Says: Nathan has been playing two-player split-screen
PSO extensively with his wife, so I would advise you to read his imminent
If you're thinking of buying PSO just to play by yourself, well, don't.
Rom069 asks, Why is it that the GameCube versions of a number of
multi-platform games are inferior to that of the other systems? Why are some
versions inferior to others in general? Will this trend continue with future
titles and ports?
Daniel Says: This really comes down to the individual developer
and how they handle porting games. Rather than working on all three versions at
the same time, a developer may choose to put a title out on the lead platform
and then work on the other versions. This can be beneficial since new modes can
be added and some bugs might get ironed out.
However, if a developer wants to get the game on all systems at the same time,
they either have to push back the release date to work on all three
simultaneously or get another team to work on porting it to other systems.
That's where things usually go wrong. One team has gotten most of the game's
aspects together and another team has to figure out how they did things and move
the code over to work on the other system. In the meantime, the original team is
probably fixing things and adding new features at the last minute, and you end
up with two versions of the same product that look pretty different from each
Rick Says: Don't forget about the "money hat" factor, Dan! It's
not unusual for a key multiplatform game to get a little financial compensation
from a first party in order to include some unique feature for their system.
But yes, essentially, it comes down to what platform the game was originally
targeted for, how talented the port team is, and how much they honestly care.
Poor ports like the GameCube version of Spy Hunter should never have happened.
WindyMan Says: Of course, the fact that the GameCube is lacking
in a few areas is an issue, too. Most of EA's (and other big-name publishers')
games have a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff in there, and with the GC's 1.5
gig disc, a lot of the DVD extras that the PS2 games have get cut. Of course,
they'll get what they can on there, but not all of it. (Hopefully, that DivX on
GameCube thing will really help fix it.)
Other than that, most developers are either too lazy or don't have the time to
do a proper port. It's too bad. That's what happens when the PS2 is far and away
the superior system; games just are made for it first before the others. But
hey, at least we're getting these games unlike the N64 days.
J.D. asks, Will we ever be able to link multiple GameCube systems together
like we can with the Xbox? I am really big on multiplayer games, and I don't
think a 4-way split screen cuts it in this day and age.
Mike H. Says: The capability now exists to link GameCubes together
for multiplayer games, thanks to the broadband adapter that is finally
available. From what we heard, multiplayer gaming was one of the main benefits
of developing the portable LCD displays, which Nintendo still may or may not
release (but if not, there are displays from other manufacturers to choose
Surely Interact would be there to release the accessories to make networking
Cubes as easy as possible (cables, hub). It's in the hands of the game
developers at this point to actually take advantage of the capability. Will
they? I don't know, but it's a nice idea.
Daniel Says: Hopefully, the next wave of first-person shooters
will start taking advantage of the broadband adapter. Personally, I enjoy LAN
gaming a lot more than going fully online. There's nothing better than sniping
someone on your TV and hearing them scream, "What happened!" from the other
Adam Says: You do realize that you CAN go online, snipe
someone, and hear "WHAT HAPPENED!?!?" screamed in your ear on a certain other
But on the topic at hand, you wanna see me spend a LOT of money? Release Mario
Kart with LAN capabilities on TOP of online. Whew.
scola asks, I was just recently scanning through pictures of the new F-Zero.
In one of the pictures, I saw the NES peripheral R.O.B. making a cameo as a
giant loading dock robot. I am sure many people are unaware of who or what
R.O.B. is. Could you enlighten them to his pure history of bad-assness?
Rick Says: R.O.B. was the "Robotic Operating Buddy", an
attachment for the NES that you could use to play a couple of games, including
Gyromite. Basically, you put the second controller in a slot, and pointed R.O.B.
at the screen. Certain actions you'd make in the game would cause the screen to
flash in a specific way, which R.O.B. would see and use to either start a
gyroscope spinning, or pick it up and move it to a platform (which would press a
button on the controller).
It worked very much like a lightgun in reverse. But it was very cumbersome, and
considering that all it did was press either A or B on the second controller ...
most people never bothered to play games with R.O.B.
Adam Says: I remember seeing commercials of R.O.B. and thinking
I had seen the absolute FUTURE of gaming!!! Then of course I played it at a
friend's house and realized it was pretty worthless. Oh well - it's an antique
Mike Suzuki Says: Ah yes, R.O.B. I believe Rick and Adam
covered the general idea of this useless 'peripheral'. I believe the main reason
why Nintendo showcased it back in the day was to help create the idea that the
NES was more than a videogame system. They were trying to distance themselves
from the image of the failed Atari VCS so they used R.O.B. and the Zapper to go
with the console to create the Nintendo Entertainment System (no videogames
here!) (your parents help you put it together). How do I know all this? Thank
you Mr. Steven Kent and his wonderful book, The First Quarter (now known as, The
Ultimate History of Videogames). Feel the PGC love, Steven.
Ngamer4life asks, Is the warning pamphlet that accompanies every GameCube
game, which cautions about using gaming consoles with rear projection TVs,
relevant to today's fast-paced, quick frame rate games (i.e. Star Wars: Rogue
Leader, Resident Evil, Eternal Darkness, SSBM, SM Sunshine, etc)? I can
understand if you left MS. Pac Man on the screen for hours, but how pertinent is
it in present day?
Mike H. Says: Even with fast-paced games like those, there are
often still things like control schemes weapon icons around the top, bottom, and
sides of the screen that are fixed in one place.
The issue has declined in importance because TVs have improved over time, but it
has not completely dissipated. In general, it's safe to use rear projection
sets. Some even have "Game" settings that lower the screen's brightness to avoid
the burn-in effect. If you're just having a regular afternoon gaming session,
the TV set will be fine. If you really need to keep a game paused for a long
period of time (because you'll loose your spot or something), it's still a good
idea to play it safe, so turn the TV's power off.
Adam Says: I own a 62" Rear Projection HDTV, and have had zero
problems with it. You should always calibrate TVs such as this with DVDs like
"Video Essentials" or "Avia" and it'll keep your contrast and brightness
settings low enough to make burn-in almost a complete non-issue.
But treat it like a baby just to be safe...
Mike Suzuki Says: Yeah, I often used my parents 50"
rear-projection TV for gaming back when I had my N64. As long as you're careful
about your brightness settings and make sure static images are not projected for
too long, you should be fine. I just adjusted the brightness a little and made
sure to switch to TV for a minute or two every hour and the TV was fine
throughout the life on my N64 (and now my GameCube).
Ted asks, Does Eternal Darkness' initial sales warrant the production of a
possible sequel? Or will it's relatively lackluster sales prevent a sequel of
this game from being made?
Rick Says: Nintendo is expecting ED sales to pick up after the
launch of Metroid and Resident Evil 0, as more mature gamers take another look
at the system.
That said, Denis Dyack has said that if the gamers want it, there will likely be
a sequel. How can you best tell Nintendo and Silicon Knights that you want a
sequel? BUY ETERNAL DARKNESS.
Mike Suzuki Says: Well, as things stand now, I wouldn't expect
to see a sequel to Eternal Darkness any time soon even if sales pick up. Silicon
Knights should be knee deep in Too Human development by now so an ED sequel
would be on the back burner. Honestly, while I definitely enjoyed Eternal
Darkness, I'm not sure there's a need to do a direct sequel anyway. I think the
story works well by itself and didn't leave too many loose ends (if you fully
completed the game). And while some of the characters were interesting enough to
explore further in a sequel, um, their fates seemed pretty final at the end of
ED. True, an active imagination could work around some of the details, but I'd
rather Silicon Knights pursue something new and different.
Jonathan Says: What Denis Dyack has implied in the past, and I
think he'll hold to it, is that the Eternal Darkness universe is very big, and
Sanity's Requiem (the first game) covers only a piece of that universe. So while
you'll never see a true sequel in the narrative sense, we probably will
eventually be playing other Eternal Darkness games...side-stories, if you like.
I kind of doubt there will be anymore games in the series released on GameCube,
but perhaps on the next system.
emilio1316 asks, With the recent speech by MacDougall, what do you believe is
the front runner for this so-called "Huge Announcement" by Nintendo in December?
First of all, is there any merit to the rumor? Second, do you believe it has
anything to do with MacDougall's announcement that we will soon see a exclusive
Final Fantasy game on Nintendo (other than Chronicle which seems more like a
side note)? Or perhaps online gaming, or a new exclusive?
Rick Says: We can't claim to know what this "huge announcement"
is supposed to be, nor has Nintendo ever claimed one was imminent (it was a
rumor printed in a magazine overseas).
However, if it does happen, I think anything short of full disclosure of their
online plans is likely to leave a lot of people disillusioned. Nintendo is the
only company that hasn't announced (and implemented!) some sort of online
strategy, and when you're coming in third, you really don't have any reasons
left to be coy.
Mike Suzuki Says: I don't put much stock into the rumor. Sure
there may be something in the works, but the rumor was so vague that it could
cover many things without really saying anything at all. Still, it is fun to
speculate. After all, we all have things we'd like to see Nintendo do better.
As for this relating to Peter MacDougall's comments about Final Fantasy
appearing on Nintendo...well, that's just it, he didn't specify what platform.
When I didn't see Mr. MacDougall specify the GameCube, I assumed it'd be the
GBA. Until Nintendo shows otherwise, I'm only counting on Crystal Chronicles for
the GameCube and nothing else. So, no, I don't expect an announcement about more
GameCube Final Fantasy in the future. And the possibility of a new game
announcement or online gaming plans? That could happen, but neither of those
seems as earth shattering as the rumor implied. Revealing their online plans or
announcing a new exclusive game would be nice, but I'd hardly consider that
something 'huge'. It'd be more like something that's expected and long overdue.
Jonathan Says: I'm not sure if you're referring to the "GBA
successor" rumors, but I definitely don't think an announcement would pertain to
the successors to GameCube and GBA. Nintendo announced Project Dolphin too soon
last generation, and they'll be smarter about it this time around. The next Game
Boy is probably closer to happening, but I still don't see it in the near
future. Many people, myself included, believe that the recent Edge article on
"GBA 2" was either mostly or completely wrong. Nintendo may well announce a
backlit GBA within the next year or so, but it won't have extra buttons or more
RAM, as that article suggested.
Dolphin64X (sort of) asks, How much of an investment is translating an
average title from Japan? Is there more to it than simply translating text? It
seems like it wouldn't be much effort on the surface. Am I missing something?
Daniel Says: That really depends on what kind of game you're
talking about. An action or racing game isn't going to have a lot to translate,
but something like Zelda is going to take a lot of work. Then you have games
like Animal Crossing which not only has a lot of text to translate, but seasons,
holidays, fish, and all kinds of other things that need to be changed in order
to properly localize it.
Let's not minimize the translation process either. English and Japanese have
drastically different sentence structures, and particles like "a" "the" or "an"
don't exist in Japanese. Plus a word in Japanese might have certain connotations
that a similar word in English doesn't have. It takes a lot of work to properly
translate a game, and the more text there is, the longer it's going to take.
Mike H. Says: It's not a simple matter of someone reading
Japanese text and just retyping it into English/Spanish/etc. There are technical
issues that can fall into play... one of my favorite stories about this is
(believe it or not) from a former Square programmer. They misspelled words and
made grammatical mistakes in some games in order to get the English text to
correctly fit on the screen in the space allowed. To make the text and grammar
fit properly would have involved serious code rewriting and subsequent beta
testing that they simply didn't have the time to do. So they had to compromise
and get creative. However, some developers will go through the task of re-coding
and testing if feasible.
It's also not unheard of for elements of the stories to be partially rewritten
for different markets. And that can easily involve yellow tape to go through for
So the moral of the story is to also consider the technical and "political"
hurdles that developers can come across.
Mike Suzuki Says: Ah yes, there's more to localizing a game
than simply translating the text, especially when dealing with Japanese to
English localization. Actually, the task of translating can be tricky by itself
(as Bloodworth mentioned). Besides creating text that properly captures the idea
behind the original text, screen space often needs to be considered. If you were
to simply cut and paste the translated English with the original Japanese, you'd
likely run across quite a few ugly spacing issues. Furthermore, font differences
lead to different sizes of the actual text data, so there's a bit of
reprogramming that needs to be done; which can lead to more bugs; which leads to
more testing; which means more time/money spent on the game. Another factor to
consider is that just because a game has been approved by Nintendo in Japan does
not mean that it can ship in North America without Nintendo of America first
reviewing/testing the new localized version. Each local branch of Nintendo (or
Sony or Microsoft for that matter) needs to approve of a game before it ships in
their local market. So, yes, there can definitely be a significant investment to
bring a game to a different market.
Dragon asks, What are the chances of Nintendo making a disc for the GameCube
that reads GBA games through the Game Boy Advanced so you can play them on the
Mike H. Says: From your fingers to God's ears. Nintendo doesn't
have any plans that we know of. I'm unsure whether they would WANT to, as it
could open doors they'd rather keep locked, such as more potential for piracy.
If they did it as all, my guess is that they would wait until such a time that
the GBA needed some stimulation to boost sales.
But I know for sure that my GBA playing (and purchasing) would easily double if
there was an accessory like this that was available (and I'm not talking about
the whack mods that are out there).
Daniel Says: I know that I would play a lot more GBA if I could
hook it up to my TV, but it would be a lot more difficult with the GC since it's
a disc-based system. Super Game Boy hooked right in to the cartridge slot on
SNES. There's little chance of having a hardware adapter like that on GameCube,
and I doubt that the link port on GBA can handle transferring the game info
while you play.
The only solution I can think of is something similar to Animal Crossing's NES
games. You would have to upload the entire GBA game to the GC and then somehow
download any changes in the save data back to the system. Even if it's possible,
it would be a serious undertaking, and probably isn't worth the niche audience
that Nintendo might gain from it.
Adam Says: There are products right now that will allow you to
hook up your GBA to your TV just like it is at E3. My friend just got one
actually. He was a bit bummed of course because the GBA is a lower resolution
than even the SNES, but it's still completely playable and worth a look if
you're jonesin' for GBA action on the tube.
TYP Says: Dan has the right idea, but I don't think you'd
necessarily need to download the save data back into the GBA cart. The GC could
run a copy of the GBA game, reading input from the GBA unit via the GC-GBA link
cable. Multi-player games could get messy, but separate screens are often better
for those anyway.
But even if Nintendo IS interested in such a product, it probably won't happen.
Downloading 256 Kb of information into the GBA's RAM takes a fair amount of
time. Uploading 32, 64, 128 or 256 Megabits of information every time you sit
down to play could get downright nasty!
Mike Suzuki Says: As much as I'd like to be able to play GBA
games through my Cube, I wouldn't count on it happening any time soon. If this
did happen, I'd think Nintendo would release a new peripheral as I'm pretty sure
the current link cable just can't handle the data well enough. Perhaps Nintendo
could make use of one of the expansion bays on the bottom of the GameCube?
As much as Nintendo wants GBA games to be portable, I know of many gamer friends
that would love to be able to play GBA games on the TV. There are a few
solutions offered right now, but none of them are too easy to do. A peripheral
for the GameCube would do nicely. Hell, I'd even settle for the release of the
WideBoy Advance to the general public. For those who don't know, this is an N64
cart that developers can use to test play GBA software on TV's . Nintendo, are
Brian asks, On the
Planet GameCube E3 2002 DVD, Peter MacDougall said
Nintendo will, "successfully compete for all gamers." Well, I was just
wondering when they actually planned on doing that. I was at somewhat of a
"party" recently and had the TV and stereo going. Here comes a PS2 commercial.
I can't remember the name of the game, but it was obviously aimed toward the
older audience. A few seconds pass, another PS2 commercial, this time its for
TEKKEN 4, well if that isn't adult themed I don't what is. Minutes pass, same
thing. Then again. etc. People who watch TV must not even know what a GameCube
is, let alone know or even care what adult games are out and coming out for
it. "How is Nintendo going to compete for all gamers?" I thought. Then just when
I thought I couldn't get any worse, I see the GameCube logo on the screen. Oh
Unholy Mother of God! A GameCube commercial!
When the atrocity on the tube FINALLY ended 60 seconds later (far longer that
any of the PS2 commercials), almost everyone in the room began laughing at the
Cube. Does Nintendo have any idea what they are doing? If they want to compete
for all gamers, this is not the way to do it.
My question to you is, do you believe Nintendo will ever try to butt heads with
Sony instead of sticking their heads in the dirt? I am well aware of Resident
Evil 0 and Metroid Prime. But these are just 2 games. Where are all the other
adult games? Can't Nintendo see that they NEED to make more games like this. Why
don't they try being aggressive?
Mike H. Says: Aggressive advertising has officially begun with
the major Metroid Prime push. The promo looks terrific. As for other games....
uh... wait, give me a minute. I'll think of something...
Ah, never mind. In an effort to avoid the tired and overdone "kiddy" argument,
I'll just say that I agree that Nintendo has not been aggressive enough. The
ugly human costume marketing shtick never sold me on anything, but I suppose
we're not part of their target audience with those games either. I also think
that the multi-game compilation ads are not very effective. And I certainly
don't see nearly as many advertisements for GameCube games as I do PS2 titles,
although the "multi-platform" game commercials seem to be picking up.
The Metroid spot is very effective. I'd love to see more of that kind of
Daniel Says: Well as far as mature content on the GameCube
goes, there's plenty of it now and more coming. Jedi Knight II, Medal of Honor,
Need for Speed, Die Hard: Vendetta, Mace Griffen, Hitman 2, and quite a few
other games are all planned for the GameCube.
As far as marketing goes, Nintendo has really just begun the new marketing push
with Metroid which is only the first of several games that will be getting
attention in theaters.
I agree that Nintendo doesn't get as much mindshare though. When you go down the
street and see Xbox and PS2 billboards everywhere, you get the feeling that
Nintendo's not really even a presence. The same goes for the majority of TV
time. Nintendo does a great job with events like the Cube Clubs, but they need
to advertise more frequently through traditional means - and burn some of those
Mike Orlando Says: NOA has been getting a lot of flack for
their marketing (specifically GameCube television commercials) of late, which is
surprising, considering how well they did with the N64 in so many gamers' eyes.
There are certain ways to approach some games, in my opinion, and they just
haven't done a good job at selecting what's right for a specific game. A perfect
example would be the Super Mario Sunshine commercial featuring a guy in a Mario
costume hop, skip, and jump, while singing with children about cleaning. It was
With a top game like Super Mario Sunshine, and your older demographic
questioning whether or not this game will be for kids or not, this is NOT what
you want to do in an advertisement. Why they decided to create some sleek and
somewhat edgy ad for Luigi's Mansion, yet distribute this abomination to our
sets for the more important game, is beyond me. That slant of advertising works
for some games (the original Smash Brothers commercial was great, and the recent
Mario Party 4 commercial works too), but some they need to do something
different. A good example is the Metroid Prime commercial, which many of you
will see a lot this month.
There are MANY facets in regards to marketing, and while TV spots may be the
most apparent, there are many other areas where NOA has to focus their
marketing. Whether they're sponsoring events with the system or a game, creating
print ads, or entering partnerships with establishments for contests, marketing
is no simple job. The Tekken 4 ad that you mentioned features some skinny kid
talking to his eggs as if he were some Japanese fighter, and it's pretty silly.
On the other hand, the Metroid Prime commercial is entirely focused on conveying
the nature and maturity of the title, yet people still complain about the lack
of CG used in the commercial, or some other frivolous element. If Nintendo had
made that Tekken ad, and Namco the Metroid ad, we'd be hearing about how NOA
screwed things up once more, while Namco made the coolest videogame commercial
this year. Many will say that a large portion of gamers simply hold a bias in
regards to viewing Nintendo as a children-centric developer, but you know what?
That's Nintendo's fault. At their pre-E3 conference back in May, they announced
that Nintendo "hasn't forgotten about the mature audience," and then promptly
showed Eternal Darkness and Resident Evil 0. That was it. While there are many
more mature titles heading to the system, they're just not focused on enough.
Nintendo truly does have to either make more deals like the Resident Evil series
exclusivity contract (or the purchase of more development houses like Silicon
Knights who focus on making mature titles), or lead the way and create more than
one title (Metroid) that would appeal mainly to a group older than 15.
Adam Says: I'm surprised you guys liked the Metroid commercial
so much. Could it be cause you've all already played it and didn't need to see
the actual gameplay? I really think it's misleading to those who haven't been
privileged enough to play it. As a gamer, I want to see the game, not some guy
in a suit.
But that's just me.
As far as marketing goes in general, they just seem to constantly be out of
touch with today's gamers. I really, hope Nintendo gets it in gear soon as it's
really tough to constantly defend some of their choices.
Mike H. Says: I haven't touched Metroid Prime yet. I'm not even
really a fan of Metroid at all. However, the commercial was by far Nintendo's
best effort in some time. As a non-fan, I thought it was compelling. (Granted,
Nintendo lowered the bar so low that I could be impressed by anything not
involving people dressed up in ridiculous costumes. But I digress.) If I WAS a
fan, I would be so out there in line on release day. As it is, I'll rent MP and
see what the fuss is about first.
Mike Suzuki Says: Well Brian, I wish I had some good answers
but I don't see the situation changing any time soon. Yes the large Metroid push
is nice and the increased marketing budget is a small step, but Nintendo just
doesn't seem desperate enough to be as aggressive as you and many other older
Nintendo gamers would like them to be.
Sure there's Metroid and RE: Zero, but as you mentioned, that's only 2 games.
Yes, the 3rd party line-up isn't too bad but the majority of these games can be
found on other systems. Until Nintendo gets many more exclusive 3rd party
content that skews towards an older audience, or if they start cranking out many
more 1st party games geared towards that older audience (75% of all 1st party
games), then I'll genuinely believe Nintendo when they say they're going after
an older market. That would be a very aggressive stance and that would make me
believe that Nintendo is serious about staying around.
I remember hearing similar things about Nintendo catering to an older audience
at E3 2000 with the lineup of Eternal Darkness, Conker, and Perfect Dark. The 2
Rare games were too little, too late (and now Rare's gone, but that's another
topic), Eternal Darkness only came out a few months ago, and Nintendo is still
struggling with the older market. How's that old Texas saying go? "Fool me once,
shame on...shame on you. Fool me... (long pause) ...you can't get fooled again".
WindyMan Says: I believe Nintendo's biggest problem is that it
simply doesn't spend enough money on its advertising. If Nintendo really wants
to push a game, it'll put some serious cash behind it. If Nintendo goes as far
as to make movie theater spots for games like Majora's Mask and Metroid Prime,
you'll sell a lot of games. It seems that Nintendo is still relying on its name
to sell its games, which it can't continue to do for long. The Nintendo name
sure as hell isn't as powerful as it was 10 years ago. (Of course, Animal
Crossing is a slightly different case, since that game will probably sell
millions via word-of-mouth alone.)
As for the GameCube's other "mature" games, realize that they're almost all
third-party games. That means Nintendo has very little say into how their
respective publishers push them. A game like Resident Evil 0, since it's
exclusive for GameCube, will probably get a big push from Capcom since it's not
going to sell on its own without some help. All the other games are going
multi-platform, so publishers push them in which ever way they feel necessary.
But as for Nintendo, the advertising it does do is effective in most cases. The
Animal Crossing commercials are perfect, the Mario Party 4 commercial is exactly
the way it should be (let's face it, MP4 isn't a top-tier Nintendo title), and
the Metroid Prime commercial and movie trailers will help promote the game
big-time. The simple fact of the matter is, it doesn't do enough for the
rest of its games or its systems for that matter. (That goes for third parties
too. Where are the Phantasy Star Online commercials?)