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Game Spin: Daika-X-Box
by Mark Asher
March 10, 2000, 04:00 PM PT

Another week, another gold master candidate rejected by Eidos, or so it seems. Time for a new episode of The Daikatana Follies. This week: What if John Romero had been an Impressionist painter?

"Dear Theo: Once again I write to you in need of funds. The painting is not going well. I have had to scrap a whole series of paintings done under the Pointillist manner, and redo them as Pointillist 2 paintings, which use smaller dots. I tried eating the original paintings to save a few francs, but they were quite unpalatable, even when smeared with peanut butter and anchovies. About the hair, which I know you have always wondered about, here is my dark and painful secret: In a fit of jealous rage over my girlfriend's appearance in Favorite Girls of the Impressionists, I attempted to cut off one of my ears with a daikatana knife. Why an ear? I don't know, but I had a lot of espresso that day and I was hearing this annoying high-pitched whine. I know, blood pressure you say, but then how can you explain the mysterious, disembodied voice that kept offering to shampoo my rugs? Strange. Anyway, being afraid of knives, I botched the ear job and just sliced off one of my earlobes. As a result, my head tilts to one side, so I compensated for it by wearing my hair long to both counterbalance the weight and hide my shameful secret. For, as the saying goes, to be lobeless in Paris is to be branded a lunatic, which makes it very difficult to catch a cab. So can you continue to fund my development as a painter? I feel I am on the verge of something--a collapse, perhaps--but that is still something. Just a few billion francs more, and I should deliver to you a painting that is sure to sell like no other.
Yours, Vincent Van John Romero."

X-Box? We don't need no stinkin' X-Box! One of the worst-kept secrets in the industry is now official: Microsoft is making a console system that will debut in 2001 and run a version of Windows. The big difference between the X-Box and the PlayStation2, which will have nearly a one-year lead in the marketplace over the X-Box, is that Microsoft's console system will come with ample built-in storage via a hard drive. Microsoft will have to figure out how to leverage that aspect of the X-Box to really make inroads against Sony, in my opinion. I don't see console gamers flocking to the X-Box unless Microsoft figures out a way to offer them a unique gaming experience they won't get on the PlayStation2, which is off to a wildly successful start in Japan. Sony sold nearly one million units the first day the system went on sale. It has just about buried the valiant Dreamcast in Japan, which has never really sold well over there.

In Thief II: The Metal Age, our antihero Garrett is again trying to eke out a meager existence as a thief. But there's a new sheriff in town--Gorman Truart--who is cracking down on thieves and anyone who makes jokes about his first name. This, then, is the setting of Thief II, which should be done pretty soon. It's a bit eerie how closely it resembles my own life. I once tried to eke out a meager existence as a mime, but had to quit after I repeatedly failed to get a promotion when I kept bumping into a glass ceiling.

As their husbands and sons went off to war, the Spartan women encouraged them by shouting sweet nothings such as, "Come home carrying your shields or carried on them. And don't lollygag. The trash needs to be taken out." Those dears knew a thing or two about the resale value of shields, I guess. In gaming we encounter this hard-nosed attitude from time to time, as gamers pick their favorite game and argue its relative merits versus the competition (OK, "argue" is a nice way of putting it). Nowhere is this more evident than in two genres: first-person shooters and online role-playing games. PC Data was kind enough to furnish me its figures for how well these games were doing relative to one another as far as sales went. PC Data covers nearly half of the retail market in North America, so though these figures aren't comprehensive, they are an excellent indicator. First up, Quake III Arena vs. Unreal Tournament. UT was clearly the critical winner, but at the box office Quake III was the champ. According to PC Data, Quake III sold 222,840 units for a total revenue of $10,187,953. Unreal Tournament clocked in with sales of 128,766 units and revenue of $5,426,274. I did see that in PC Data's recent top 10 list, Unreal Tournament had crept back to the tenth slot, outselling Quake III for at least one week.

On now to the online role-playing games, and note that this doesn't factor in monthly fees: Ultima Online and The Second Age expansion nosed out EverQuest in sales revenue. Combined sales tallies of UO and The Second Age amounted to 249,610 units, with revenues of $11,393,259. Add in its current subscriber base of 150,000 players at $10 per month, and you can see the appeal of online, fee-based games. EverQuest, meanwhile, sold 231,093 units for revenues of $10,628,755. Its current subscriber base is nearly 200,000 players, and a hot-looking expansion for the game due is out next month. Asheron's Call brought up the rear with sales of 57,143 units for revenues of $2,646,978. I don't have any figures on its subscriber base, but it's obviously no more than 57,000 subscribers. It should be noted that UO has been out since June '97, EverQuest was released in March '99, and Asheron's Call debuted this past November. Thanks for the information, PC Data!

And the Lord spaketh. "Spaketh? Get me a new writer. That is so 'L7' as the teenagers like to say. Anyway, my peoples, I hear your cries and lamentations, or at least they sound like cries--my hearing's not what it used to be. Come forth ye who would lament, and tell unto me your troubles, but try not to whine too much, as I have a headache. You there, in the plaid shirt, whazzup?"

"My Lord, can you tell me where to find an honest mechanic?"

"Sorry. I've been looking for one myself ever since my fiery chariot broke an axle. Next!"

"Lord, have you heard about this new game that Kalisto Entertainment is working on?"

"No, lay it on me, brother."

"Well, it's based on that Pamela Anderson Lee show VIP. Have you seen it?"

"That's the one where they are always in bikinis and frequently handcuffed, right? Yeah, I might have seen it once or twice."

"Correct, oh, my Lord. You really know your syndicated TV series. Anyway, I fear for my gaming soul if this actually gets made. Can you work some of your mysterious magic and ensure that this won't be the lamest game ever created?"

"Uh, sorry, pal. Usually I work wonders with the lame, but this is beyond even my powers."

And that's it for this week. Be sure to send your news and rumors my way!

Mark Asher will probably never admit it, but he watches his copy of Barb Wire because he loves the, uh, plot. Game Spin is his weekly examination of the news in the gaming industry, as well as a collection of his own insights.

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