Clouds Of War

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Alas the time is almost upon us all. My fellow game citizens, be prepared. Take shelter while you still can. These are no longer times of peace, and rumors of war are being heard of more and more each day. Here in the closeout months of the year 2000 going on into 2001 my gamers intuition leads me to believe that something big, something great, something like the gaming world has never seen before is about to happen.

History is about to be made. A "Clash of the Titans" if you will is upon us. A clash whose rumbles will be felt with such a great force that the very face of the gaming industry as we know it will crumble and a new face be forged anew. What am I talking about? I’ll tell you what I’m talking about. D-Day right on our own home front. Believe the hype game fans. It’s real. The Console War is coming. There’s nothing we can do to stop it. It’s gonna happen. It’s gonna be big. And rest assured it’s impact will change the world of home entertainment forever.

Four console systems. Three are seasoned and battle-hardened. One is a new comer threatening to rule over all. The Sega Dreamcast A.K.A the "bastard system" disowned by its forefathers is hell-bent and determined to restore the honor of its family heritage. The Sony Playstation 2 A.K.A the "the people’s system" is fighting to retain its reign on the market and rule with an even stronger upper hand. The Nintendo GameCube A.K.A the "the re-forged system" is a formidable long time standing army of the game world forged anew and seeking to reclaim its rightful throne lost not too long ago. And finally the Microsoft X-box A.K.A "the abyss system" whose secrets seem well kept but rumors of might spread far and wide. Let’s take a further in-depth look at the stands of these systems and how they may fare during the "Console War."

On the Sega home front, they said DC wouldn’t make it. They said DC wouldn’t be here today. They said DC would never amount to anything. But not only did Sega overcome all the "negative stereotypes" and "prophecies of doom," it set out to make gaming history. The forsaken system sold more units than any console in history in its first four days of release. Its first 24 hours in retail generated a whopping 97 million dollars. That’s 372,000 units sold, surpassing the previous record holder N64 at 350,000 units sold, and that took six days to accomplish.

But it didn’t stop there. Less than a week after launch, 410,000 total Sega Dreamcast consoles had found a new home across America and in just another week’s time the "500,000 units sold marker" had been reached. The Dreamcast was an instant success. With a superior line up of games from all genres including "Sonic Adventure," the highest selling launch title for DC, the super-res arcade boxer "Ready to Rumble," the perfect ten fighter "Soul Calibur," and the Almighty King of the Gridiron, "NFL2K" Sega had made it known that it was a system that was and still is here to stay for a long, long time.

Now here in it’s sophomore year of the next generation console industry, Sega has successfully launched a new campaign. The Dreamcast is the first "internet ready console" to successfully trod foot on this new ground. "NFL2K1" was the first Dreamcast title to reach the gaming market with "online capabilities." And anyone whose had the privilege to own this pigskin brawler and run up the score on opponents from all parts of the nation will tell you online console gaming rocks! Man, the PC gamers have had it this good all along. With this new found success Sega is gearing all it’s efforts toward online gaming, bringing a slew of heavy hitters to the table by the end of the year including Quake III, Ferrari 355 Challenge, NBA2K1, and Phantasy Star Online to name a few. To anyone who said Sega is not a threat in this console war: go suck your thumb you pansies ’cause you’re in for a long fight.

Enter the Sony Playstation 2. Make no mistake about it people. The hype is real. Sony means business with its new console. The PS2 boasts a 128-bit "Emotion Engine" and a nasty Graphic Synthesizer, and it’s said to be capable of creating human emotion’s on characters as well as built in behavior patterns allowing programmers to create gorgeous life-like animal motions and reactions. All this at a potential 75 million polygons per second? Add to that the PS2’s backwards compatibility allowing you to continue playing your original PlayStation games on your next generation system and the fact that you’ll be able to play all your favorite DVD movies and you can clearly see that Sony has direct intentions of being the next best thing in home entertainment. Oh, and yes Sony has already expressed its intentions to support online gaming. The Playstation 2 Console will be Internet capable via a modem add-on. There are over 270 PS2 games in development as we speak and 301 content developers and publishers to date.

With a backing as strong as this, it’s no wonder Sony is predicting that it will surpass the record launch of the Dreamcast by selling all 500,000 units released on its day of launch. Sony forecasts that three million consoles will be marketed in the USA by the end of the fiscal year (March 31, 2001) and 10 million consoles will be sold worldwide. PS2 fans will be treated to an arguably strong line up of 26 titles at launch including Dead or Alive 2:Hardcore, Dynasty Warriors, Kessen, Ridge Racer, Tekken Tag, Street Fighter EX3, and the highly anticipated Madden 2001, plus Sony’s commitment to push out another 24 titles before the end of they year. With that said, barring the big "Availability Factor" Sony has all the ammo it needs to be "Thee Force to be Reckoned With" in the war of next generation consoles.

Look out though, the Big N is surely not be counted out of this match up of bits and bytes. The very tight-lipped Nintendo wowed the gaming audience when they unveiled their next generation console, "The Nintendo Game Cube," at Space World 2000. Mr. Genyo Takeda stated in his opening speech that, "The Nintendo GameCube focuses on gameplay and is the ultimate TV game machine and the first of it’s kind. Unlike the common philosophy of popularizing the hardware using games and then trying to dominate in other fields, our goal is to create the ultimate system for playing games."

Apparently while Nintendo indicates that their system will be "internet ready" and have even gone as far as to unveil some their online technology. They made it specifically clear that their main focus for GameCube would be on "gameplay."

And judging by the latest release of screenshots and videos of their new system in action, they’re planning on bringing the house down when they make their big launch Fall 2001. Expect to see some of those all time great Big N titles at launch including, Metroid, Luigi’s Mansion, Star Wars, Wave Race, Perfect Dark, Pokemon and….brace yourself….Zelda Cubed!!

All your favorite game heroes have gotten "cube-a-sized" and trust me you’ve never, eeeeEEEVER seen them looking this good. From first impressions it looks like Nintendo has all the right elements in place to reclaim the throne of the gaming empire.

And then there was X-box. Up until the recent month, people have taken Bill Gate’s "PC Gaming Machine" a bit lightly. The truth known though, Microsoft could perhaps be a greater adversary in this console war than most would expect. We do know one thing’s for sure. It’s definitely the most powerful system on the market. Yeah, you heard it right. Here are the specs: it’s got a huge 733 MHz CPU. It has a Graphics Processor consisting of a 300 MHz custom "X Chip" developed by Microsoft and NVIDIA. Its maximum resolution is a whopping 1920×1080. We said the Playstation 2’s polygon capabilities were around 75 million per second. The X-box? Ooooh, how does 300 million polygons per second strike ya? The system also has 64 audio channels, 3D Audio Support, it is broad band enabled, modem enabled, and same as the PS2 it can also play DVD movies.

More and more each day game developers are making commitments with the mighty X-box console. Some of the bigwigs thus far include, Infograms, Konami, Capcom, Rage Software, Eidos, Red Storm, Bungie (they were bought) and Hudson Soft. Also rumored to be coming aboard soon are Square and EA Sports. As a result, don’t be surprised when you see some familiar hit titles come to the X-machine including Spiderman X, Crash Bandicoot X, Silent Hill X, Ultimate Fighting Championship, and even PS2’s highly praised Metal Gear Solid 2. Rest assured game fans that the X-box’s influence over the game industry grows by the day, and by the time it hits shelves in the fall of 2001 it could have grown into one hell of a monster foe in the ongoing war.

So the big question is who will come out on top at the end of this console war and who will be licking their wounds for a long time to come? Well, let’s add up the pro’s and con’s. Sega has a jumpstart on the entire next-generation market and believes online gaming is going be the key to their success in this war. However, could the absence of some major first party developers be the deciding factor in the longevity of this system or can the little dog developers show the big dog developers that "Every Dog Has It’s Day?"

Sony is the current reigning champ on the gaming market and rightfully so. A popularity vote suggests they win, no contest. But lately their reputation has fallen under much scrutiny. First off, the lack of availability of the system at launch has a lot of gamers pissed off including GIN’s own Ken Urben of Ken’s Corner fame. Believe me he is not a happy camper, and I’ve made it my personal mission to avoid him in his vulnerable state until Sony finally makes enough systems to fill all those PS2 pre-orders.

Secondly, lets take a nice long look at the price tag on the system. Yes gamers have paid this price tag before. But, even though there are tons of people out there who put $10 down on their system, how many will come up with the dough plus tax to bring their new package home. I mean when you break it down you are looking at a $450 to $500 price tag when you add tax, memory cards, controllers, games, etc. Suddenly $10 doesn’t seem that significant. Could Dreamcast, with similar capabilities and a line of games, "readily available" for $149 in stores for half the price of a PS2 system play a factor? We’ll find out.

The Game Cube is sort of an enigma at this point. One thing we do know is that Nintendo didn’t just come to the gaming market yesterday, and they have a reputation for consistency and success. In fact they’ve been the immovable force behind the console side of the gaming industry for some years now. Their experience of the market and its consumers could most definitely play a huge factor in their success. But, as there are cons for every pro, Nintendo has been deemed the "kiddie’s system."

Scrutinized for targeting the younger generation market, Nintendo has lost some clout when it comes to putting out games for the "mature audience." However, in their defense, Nintendo has stated that it intends to appeal to the older target market this time around, much more than it did in the past, and it looks so far as if their latest line-up of launch titles coincides with their story.

The X-Box is big, bad and powerful, but it’s not that well known to be honest. How well-accepted will a new system like this, in spite of its power, fare against three well-established game systems? Will it be welcomed as a breath of fresh air on the console voting poll? It’s also been called the "PC Gaming" system no doubt due to the Microsoft banner it carries. For hardcore PC gamers, a target market definitely not to be underestimated in this war, this system could be a dream come true. Still though, Microsoft proclaims that their X-box is more than just a "PC Gaming" system. With the huge list of potential titles slated for their machine, it’s obvious that Microsoft intends to be versatile in the gaming market while feathering the line between PC and console games. It could be exactly what the hardcore gamers are looking for.

So with all that said who wins? There looks to be a lot of room for possibilities on the horizon, that’s for sure. But let me add this food for thought my fellow gamers. We all know that when this is all over, life as we know it will never be the same again. I mean think about it, we are heading into the 21st Century with the privilege of having some of the most powerful technology to date right at our fingertips. This is technology so powerful it could take us to new horizons once thought to be unreachable, let alone conceivable. And to think it is all being used for gaming.

I say to you this: Is it not time for us to evolve? No, I haven’t been playing too much Pokemon Stadium but I see so many possibilities about the future of the gaming industry and the big question I have to ask myself is this: Can I own any one system and be fully able to pursue all these new possibilities or moments of opportune? Can I find the contentment remaining segregated as I have before in the past, or would I be a missing out on new horizons by excluding myself to just one system?

Perhaps its not so important who wins, but that as gamers we not limit ourselves from taking full advantage of the numerous possibilities that the gaming industry will offer us in the coming days. Just a thought.

Either way in the coming months the answers to our questions will slowly begin to unravel and the face of the gaming industry no doubt will forever be changed from what know it as now. From the trenches in Virginia, I and the crew here at GiN will see you all on a new horizon, game fans.

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