Since 2008, when I first began looking at NPD data and writing summaries, I started to gain interest in sales analysis. Numbers go up, numbers go down. Sometimes there are patterns, and sometimes those patterns make it possible for people to make predictions about what might happen next. It can be a lot of guesswork, and there are times when those predictions don’t verify or when they tend to irritate or anger a set of people.
There was a time when I used to be very critical of analysts like Michael Pachter or Jesse Divnich, but that all changed when I met them for the first time in June of 2011. Since then, I’ve been learning things on the fly. I’ve been steadily writing Armchair Analysis columns and monthly NPD breakdowns for Popzara Press for the last 12 months. I’ve been active on Twitter, making predictions and talking with others about what I think might happen. Some think I’m nuts (which is okay), and some think that I’m not. I’ve had a pretty decent track record over the past two years in terms of predictions and projections, mixing trends with retail experience and various sources of chatter. My interest has grown, but I’ve been too shy to pursue it.
After some discussion with Nate over at Popzara, and after some private deliberation, I’ve decided that analysis is a field that I want to pursue, and I’ll be approaching my coverage at E3 from that perspective. While I’ll be getting as much hands-on experience as I can, my focus will be to see what’s out there and how it will pertain to sales and successes over the coming months. Which games will be the biggest successes? Which ones will be the biggest surprises? How will they affect potential sales of hardware platforms– both old (PS3/360) and new (PS4/new Xbox)? These are the questions that I’m going to want to try to answer.
Of course, there is going to be an enthusiast perspective as well. I’ll be looking forward to meeting with Zen Studios staff to find out what’s on the horizon for pinball. I’m hoping to see what the future holds for the next generation of sports video games, as a fan. I’ll look forward to seeing how Call of Duty: Ghosts is shaping up. And, yes, I’m hoping to see the new hardware platforms close up. While we will know about the PS4 and the new Xbox well before this year’s event, this will be the first time that both will be at the same show and publishers will finally be able to shed some light in terms of what they’re working on. I’m also very curious to see what Nintendo will deliver; I’m confident that they’re going to be much more aggressive at this year’s event.
I’m a numbers guy. I have been for some time, and continue to be fascinated with trends and patterns. Analysis isn’t a field for everyone, but there’s a lot that can be learned from being an observer and understanding how forces both from outside of the industry and from within can affect sales strength on both hardware and software levels. It’s time for me to move on from simply talking about it as a hobby and expand upon it, whether it’s pitching columns to other websites or maybe pursuing a career path in analysis.
I will also continue to contribute video game reviews, as well as work on content here as well as for my Armchair Analysis blog. With school ending, I’ll have more free time to spend on writing and improving that skill. While sales analysis will be my main focus, I will be staying sharp by playing current titles when possible with the added benefit of experience to help determine how I think the game may fare on the whole in terms of sales success.
Indeed, it’s an exciting time. Time to take my own advice and see what happens. Time to step forward.
As I look back on nearly 41 years (the big day is April 22), I’ve been thinking about how cool it’s been to live through and experience certain events in their original contexts. In working to build my collection of older games and systems, I’m reminded of what I was doing and/or what life was like when I got and/or played them for the first time. In 1990, when I got my own NES, getting translations or ports of arcade games was a big deal. Having the arcade experience at home was always a dream of mine, growing up as an arcade rat… so seeing games like Arch-Rivals, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Cabal, and others as NES carts was one step closer to reality from that dream. Sure, the ports weren’t quite the same… they were compromised in many cases to fit the platforms they were on, but it was close enough where not having a lot of money for tokens wasn’t so bad when you could play the games at home.
Arcade ports continued in the 16-bit era. Super Smash TV was very close to the arcade on my SNES, and using the four face buttons for firing weapons became second nature. Capcom’s version of Street Fighter II in 1992 was close enough to the arcade original that I used it for practice and learning moves before going to arcades and trying my luck against live opponents. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time was (and still is) awesome; no tokens or quarters required and hours of fun for one price. Then there was NBA Jam, which consumed hours upon hours of my free time. I got this for my Genesis (which was the right call, considering that it had battery backup and the SNES version did not) and can recall spending no less than 6 hours in my first sitting, dunking and passing and stealing. Of course, the Genesis version was a technical underperformer compared to the coin-op. Fewer voice samples, washed out colors, tinny music, and weaker sound effects were easy to notice, but it was easy to make a compromise given that the coin-op was expensive ($1-$2 for a full four quarters of play) and neither the Genesis nor the SNES quite had the horsepower under the hood that coin-ops at that time had. Mortal Kombat II for the SNES was another example of a strong coin-op port. No disrespect meant to Genesis fans, but the SNES version was, to me, simply dominant with more colors, stronger sounds (though they were compressed), and it just felt closer to the arcade original overall. I am still impressed today when I look at video of the SNES version and compare it to the coin-op original. Sure, there were a few differences here and there… but it was a fair trade-off.
1995 brought the Sony PlayStation, and that’s when we started to see consoles really start to catch up to arcade technology. Namco led the charge with home versions of Ridge Racer, Tekken, and Cyber Sled that were extremely close to arcade perfect. While the PlayStation port of NBA Jam: Tournament Edition had its problems, NHL Open Ice was much closer to its token-taking counterpart– and it’s still fantastic today. Namco also introduced its Museum series, which spanned five volumes and used emulation technology to quite literally bring the arcade experience home. Unlike other arcade games for consoles, which had been ports or conversions, Namco Museum delivered the actual coin-op versions of some of the most famous arcade games of all time. Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Galaxian, Dig Dug, Xevious, Pac-Mania, and Pole Position were just a few of the 35 total arcade games that spanned five volumes over two years. Williams and Midway would later follow suit with the Arcade’s Greatest Hits series, which would see four volumes (plus the Arcade Party Pak, which was a fifth release) and offer more than 30 different games including Defender, Joust, Root Beer Tapper, Centipede, Asteroids, and others. It’s worth noting that the second Midway Collection has Moon Patrol and BurgerTime, two games that never saw re-release on later arcade compilations… so it’s worth adding to your collection if you don’t have it already. Konami also joined the arcade game emulation parade with its own release called Konami Arcade Classics, which offered ten games including Gyruss, Yie Ar Kung-Fu, Time Pilot, and Scramble.
As the 32/64-bit generation wore on, arcades began their period of decline in earnest. While there were still a few sporadic hits (NFL Blitz, for example), we started to see the migration of talent and development to consoles and handhelds. When the Dreamcast hit in 1999 and the 128-bit generation began, we got arcade-quality versions of popular games like NFL Blitz 2000, NBA Showtime, Hydro Thunder, Crazy Taxi, Virtua Tennis, and others. These games were as close to having the coin-ops in your home as you were going to get, and a major reason why I went all-in on the Dreamcast from the jump. Even after the Dreamcast’s unfortunate early death, arcade compilations hit the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube platforms. Midway released three volumes of arcade games, under that Arcade Treasures moniker. Capcom released two volumes of its coin-op games as part of its Classics Collection. Namco released a couple of Museum volumes, though they were strictly games and were lacking the “Museum” extras like exhibits and information. There were two discs full of Taito arcade games, too. For arcade rats like myself, that generation was arguably the best we’d ever see. I own all of those compilations and they are some of my favorite discs to break out for short gameplay sessions.
The last generation, which consisted of the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii, also had its fair share of arcade games to offer. Xbox LIVE Arcade (XBLA) gave us versions of TRON and Discs of TRON that we’d not widely seen before. We saw a high-definition remake of Double Dragon, too. HD versions of classics such as Frogger, Time Pilot, Smash TV, Tournament Cyberball 2072, and Contra turned the Xbox 360 into a virtual arcade… and then the ill-fated Game Room project hit in 2010, offering dozens of coin-ops, Atari 2600 games, and Intellivision games for download. It’s no secret that I loved this application. The games were fairly inexpensive, the leaderboards lent to being a more connected arcade experience than I’d ever seen, and I just felt like a kid in a candy store whenever I opened to application. Sadly, the application froze often and after a short period of consistent Game Pack releases, support slowed and then stopped when Krome Studios (the application’s development team) closed down. The end came just before the promised release of Konami’s Sunset Riders, which was very disappointing.
The PlayStation 3 had a few downloadable classic gems, as well. Seeing Q*Bert in high-definition was pretty cool, and I think I played that version more than I ever spent time with the coin-op. There were also versions of Championship Sprint and Mortal Kombat II. Championship Sprint played okay, while Mortal Kombat II had its issues. Overall, arcade games for the PS3 aren’t as prevalent as we see on the Xbox 360, but compilations from Warner Bros. (Midway Arcade Origins) and Capcom (Capcom Arcade Cabinet) exist for both platforms.
It’s been a pretty amazing run for video game technology. It was fun to dream as a youngster about being able to have the arcade experience at home, and technology did its best to deliver on that dream. As the years passed, the gap became narrower and narrower… until the streams eventually crossed and went in different directions. I got to watch the whole thing unfold and live through the cycle of progress, so it’s been more significant for me. Younger players may take these leaps of technology for granted, but as someone who started out with PONG, the Atari 2600, and coin-ops wherever he could find them… I will always marvel at just how far we have come.
The arcade is no longer at the mall, in a pool hall or bowling alley, or at an amusement park. It’s the same place as where I live. That’s awesome.
I found myself guilty of taking DLC updates for Rock Band for granted after reading the news that Harmonix will be ending its run of more than five consecutive years doing so. I don’t know… I just never really considered that the run would end, despite the obvious decline of the Plastic Instrument Era. The truth is that the end is very much near, and I feel compelled at this point to write a few words about not only Rock Band… but about Harmonix and the impact that this development company has had on my gaming life.
My experience with Harmonix games started with Frequency back in 2001. As a singer and fan of music, I was fascinated by music/rhythm games, and Frequency took a different approach than Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution did. Playing separate tracks of a song in the correct rhythm to activate them was instantly addicting, and the game opened my ears to new kinds of music that I ordinarily wouldn’t listen to. In fact, I would wind up buying some of that music to play as bumper tracks in-between singers during karaoke shows that I ran. I was never great at Frequency; I struggled with note inputs on the PlayStation 2 controller as the difficulty cranked up, but that never stopped me from trying. My enjoyment of Frequency led to an instant purchase of Amplitude, the game’s sequel, when it was released in 2003.
Karaoke Revolution was the next series project for Harmonix, and as a singer, this series was near and dear to me. While I wasn’t necessarily a fan of not being able to ad-lib a little bit, like I do when I sing out at karaoke shows, the fact that the game understood and graded proper pitch was pretty amazing. It was also a major plus having a karaoke game at home, since I didn’t own a karaoke machine and computer-based karaoke was still in the early stages at the time. It was a little weird singing at home, in my bedroom, rather than out at a bar or club… but these games made for decent practice and I had fun playing them.
In 2005, Guitar Hero blew me away. $70 got me the game and the guitar controller, and it took one song– Thunder Kiss ’65– to hook me. I’d never played a guitar before, so simplifying it with color-coded keys and using my Frequency skill of hitting notes in rhythm became addictive in a major hurry. It was kind of like playing air guitar in the sense that I was “playing along” with some really great music. I felt like a rock star, playing chords and solos, hearing the crowd cheering, and getting that rush which comes with performing. As with Frequency and Amplitude, I struggled with higher difficulties. Adding extra frets and notes confused my fingers… and when the harder songs like Bark At The Moon and Cowboys From Hell came up? Oh, heck no. It was sure fun to try, though.
From that point on, the Plastic Instrument Era had begun.
Harmonix would deliver one more full-fledged Guitar Hero sequel in Guitar Hero II, followed by what was more of an expansion pak in Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s, before moving on from the franchise– and from Activision, who had taken over as publisher from MTV Games. Guitar Hero II was memorable for me because of certain songs, like John the Fisherman, YYZ, and Hangar 18. Hangar 18 was the big one… one of the last songs of the game, and getting through that– even on the easier settings– was no small feat. Rocks the 80s wasn’t as great, but the inclusion of Extreme’s Play With Me was brilliant and alone justified my purchase. Of course, it was the final song of the game, but that was okay.
As I played through each of these three Guitar Hero games, my fret and button work gradually improved. I went from being a pretty nervous Easy mode player to adding a fourth fret on Medium and feeling pretty comfortable. I wasn’t prepared for what the next Harmonix project would deliver, though… it changed music games completely and it changed my own approach from what it was then to what it is today.
Rock Band opened up the music performance game genre to more than just guitar. Drums, vocals, and bass guitar became options and the experience felt more like a band than a guitarist playing with a band behind him or her. The song lists were great, but what stood out to me was my playing preference. I gradually moved away from lead guitar and developed an affinity towards bass guitar instead. Playing bass was generally a bit easier with fewer chords to worry about and allowed me to finally tackle the harder difficulty levels for songs that I couldn’t ordinarily play. By the time the Rock Band sequels arrived, I had become a pretty good bass player and could play through most tracks on the Expert difficulty. I wasn’t necessarily getting five-star ratings, but I could at least get to the end of each track and progress. My favorite Rock Band accomplishment– for any of the games– is being proud to say that I can play through Yngwie Malmsteen’s Caprici di Diablo without failing. It isn’t pretty, but I consider it a big deal. Here’s some video of much better player nailing the bass guitar part down:
Looking back, I’ve been playing Harmonix games for more than 11 years. Their games have fused music, performance, and gameplay into addictive combinations and have supplied me with literally hundreds of hours of enjoyment and memories. It’s been interesting watching Guitar Hero and Rock Band emerge from the basic concepts that Frequency and Karaoke Revolution introduced. As the company prepares to embark on a new journey, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone at Harmonix who worked on these games that have been so special through the years. I was fortunate enough to meet a few members of the team last year during E3, but never got the chance to extend my gratitude.
Being a vocalist does (usually) require some talent, but I don’t have the talent for the other instruments. Harmonix, through Guitar Hero and Rock Band, enabled me to bridge that gap and let me become the lead or bass guitarist that I never thought that I could be. I may not be a real rock star outside of my own home, but when I’m here? I’m a rock legend… and that’s a gift that I’ll always cherish.
I’ve learned a few things after reading about what’s happened during the DICE Summit and Awards event that’s taken place this week:
For starters, the industry seems to be crying out desperately for maturity. David Cage (Heavy Rain) says that games need to grow up. Warren Spector (Epic Mickey) says that games like Lollipop Chainsaw shouldn’t be made. The industry wants more Journey and The Walking Dead experiences, as evidenced by these games winning 99.5% of the awards given out. The definition of “fun” is changing, and we apparently need to start accepting that maturity is the next logical step for video games. We’ve heard similar gripes from luminaries like Jonathan Blow and Phil Fish within the last year, too.
For me, personally, I’ve learned that I need to get the heck away from modern gaming given this new direction. I don’t want this at all, a homogenized and sanitized version of video games that rely more on how they make you feel or generating some sort of emotional response. To me, that’s never been what video games have been about. They’ve been about getting away from growing up, from dealing with the pressures and stresses that life brings with it. They’ve been (and continue to be) an escape mechanism. Now these experiences that I’ve enjoyed are frowned upon, not acceptable, and considered immature or juvenile. I’m being told by the same people who I’ve relied on for this escapism that the party is over and that it’s time to grow up in order to be taken seriously.
Luckily for me, I don’t have to do that. Retro games don’t adhere to this new line of thinking. If I want to mindlessly shoot aliens or beat up thugs with my favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, I can still have those experiences. I can be reminded of a time before this era of hyper-analysis and reading about how Game A is awful for us because it engages in Theme B or doesn’t include enough of Theme C, which is just unfair and insensitive. Much of today’s “new games journalism” works to go to depths that I’ve never really cared about– because they’re games. Distractions. Methods of escape. Sure, I’ve written a fair amount of game reviews in my life, but they’re primarily technical… talking about frame rates, sound quality, and whether I found the gameplay to be engaging and easy to learn. I’ve never been interested in finding out what makes this character tick or why the character wasn’t a woman instead of a man, or why it’s yet another shooting game because we should be embarrassed to see so many of them. With the retro experience, I’m able to go back to when “games journalism” was “enthusiast press”, and how writers really were enthusiastic about what they covered.
It’s not my place to say that this new, mature direction is right or wrong for the industry. If this is what they want, all power to them and I wish them the best of luck in their transition. I do, however, have the ability to divorce myself from this trend and go my own way because I refuse to conform to it. I’ll stick with my NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, my Genesis, and even my PlayStation 2. I’ll still talk about my own experiences, to anyone who wants to listen. I’ll go my way, modern gaming will go its way, and an amicable split– much like we saw recently between SuperBot and Sony– will result.
I think I’ve learned this week that this is really the best possible outcome. I’m disappointed, but not angry. It’s been a tremendous 30+ year relationship, but all good things come to an end. As I mentioned last year, it’s a case of irreconcilable differences.
It’s been a long and painful six days.
Apparently there was truth to what I had been told on my 40th birthday about the body breaking down and showing signs of age. Of course, these things had to wait until now to show up. First, I’d been dealing with some numbness in my right arm over the past 2-3 weeks, which is due to arthritis. I found out that arthritis runs strongly on both sides of my family. Then, on January 6th, I was rushed to the emergency room and diagnosed with a 3.5 millimeter kidney stone, which took a couple of days to pass and has wreaked havoc with my lower body. I didn’t eat for three days, and couldn’t keep anything in for five days.
As of today, January 13th, I’m still recovering from passing the stone. The wicked pain has been gone for a a couple of days, but I’m still fairly uncomfortable and not sleeping too well. All things considered, though, after what I went through a week ago, I’m in a better condition than I was.
I apologize for not being able to update over the past week. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to update a couple of times this coming week, which is my last before the next semester of school begins. I certainly have things to write about, including some new additions to my collection and some personal thoughts on December 2012 NPD results. I will be submitting a column to Popzara Press with more NPD detail in the next couple of days, too. I haven’t yet decided what my long-term course of action will be, in terms of analysis work.
I do appreciate the kind and thoughtful words that some of you have passed on either via comments or on Twitter. It really comes down to enjoying what I do. Perhaps I’m a bit thin-skinned when it comes to trolls, but again… after five years in this line of work, with no real future professional prospects, I’m at a point where I wonder if it’s worth the effort. It’s hard to do this kind of writing “for fun”, because it can be perceived as nonsense without some sort of credentialing or legitimate experience. When I was fortunate enough to have access to actual NPD data for a time, there was some legitimacy to what I was doing. I wasn’t fudging numbers, scrambling for leaks, and having to trust ranges and extrapolations like I do now. Prefacing discussion with “According to anonymous sources” and “Based on what I’ve heard” makes analysis a challenge. To me, proper analysis is based on raw data and trends. Otherwise, it’s a game of speculation and guesswork, with gut instinct guiding the way and a rather large margin of error.
The other thing to consider is that sales analysis is no longer a niche of the gaming press. Monthly sales data is broken down by other journalists now, and there’s a lot of chatter and noise in the field. My voice has gone from being fairly unique and pointed to becoming another in the cacophony of people who all think they know what’s going on. I have no expertise; I’ve relied on my retail background, my years of gaming experience and seeing trends first-hand for generations, and gut instinct. As much as I’ve wanted to be up there with the Pachters, Divniches, Sebastions, and Matthewses of the analysis arena… I’m not there. With so many others talking about analysis and data, I’ve lost much of my competitive edge.
I’ll be thinking on this some more over the next week or so. I’ll still be writing in some way, and Consoleation is going to see a fair amount of attention this year… provided my health doesn’t continue to deteriorate. I do have to consider how much school will affect my availability, once I settle back into a regular routine; this semester looks to be twice as difficult as the last, and it’s top priority as I continue to work towards my degree. The questions revolve more around what kinds of material that I’ll be working on and where I want to go with it.
I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things this week. It’s good to be back.
2012 has been a tough year for me. It’s the first time since 1991 that I haven’t held a job for an entire year. My self-confidence has been wavering most of the year. I’ve had to sell off a lot of my belongings to make ends meet. Fighting my battles with anxiety and depression this year has largely gone against me, though I’ve managed to crawl to the finish line and see the year end and another one begin.
It’s important to note that 2012 wasn’t all terrible. Turning 40 wasn’t as bad as I feared, though it got tougher after the first few months. After nearly giving up on writing for good, I found an opportunity to get back into the fold and had a decent year of output. I returned to Los Angeles and E3 for the second year in a row, and met up with people that I have great admiration of and respect for… people like Andy Eddy, Dan Ryckert and some members of the Game Informer editorial team, Marcus Beer, Kevin Dent, Dan Hevia, Jesse Divnich, Michael Pachter, members of Zen Studios, and many others. I got to review some good games this year and got to enjoy lots of pinball experiences. I returned to college for the first time in more than 20 years and wound up with a 4.0 GPA in my first semester back.
I think the most important thing, to me, is that I realized some things about myself.
When I was preparing for my 40th birthday, I found out about some videos from a personality known as Pat The NES Punk (Pat Contri). I was really big on the NES at the time, and watching Pat’s video series not only brought smiles to my face but they also began what’s become a personal transformation as 2012 went on. I found myself wanting to focus my time and attention less on today’s video game scene and more on what I found was a growing and close-knit retrogaming community. When a surprise gift of a Nintendo Entertainment System arrived just prior to my birthday, the dominoes began to fall. My mom’s gift to me was to help me build a small collection of NES games to start with, and I slowly built that collection over the remaining 7 months of the year. My retro collection had started to build a month prior with a Super Nintendo Entertainment System that I’d purchased thanks to a great deal from a relative, but the NES really sealed things… and I got a Genesis with birthday money soon after.
Even though E3 was a very exciting and unforgettable event in June, I kept feeling myself drawn back to my older stuff. I pulled my collection of NES manuals out and sorted them, sharing pictures online occasionally. I began talking more and more about my collection and older games, pointing out memories and what used to be. I wrote a lot about it here and used Twitter to share my enthusiasm quite a bit.
I was realizing that I could still have a passion for writing or sharing content. I was just changing my focus. It was probably overdue, since I’d been spending way too much time on Twitter and here on Consoleation complaining about everything that I disliked about modern console gaming. I could have been spending that energy on more positive things and maybe making a bit of a name for myself… maybe not to the extent that Pat Contri has worked so hard to get to, (or any of the personalities from Retroware TV, which has become one of my go-to websites this year) but instead just present myself as a knowledgeable, passionate, and decent writer. That’s where the decision for my top 2013 resolution comes in.
I’m likely never going to make a living as a writer, but writing for me has never been about the money. It’s been about sharing my knowledge and experience, networking with like-minded people, and maybe being in the same conversation as some of those who worked hard to become professionals. When I met the people I mentioned at E3 and they knew who I was… it made for a humbling and special experience. It was a dream scenario for a guy who’s played games for most of his life and who has been given the opportunity to write a few things to know that his work and words have been read by people that he looks up to and has been inspired by.
Despite all of my personal trials and tribulations, I have a lot to be grateful for when I look back on 2012 in its waning hours. I’m grateful to my family for keeping me afloat despite having zero income and for supporting me in my quest for a college degree. I’m grateful to Nathan at Popzara Press for affording me the opportunity to contribute work as an aspiring analyst, going on gut instinct and retail experience rather than professional experience and a business degree. I’m also grateful to Nathan (and to Chris Mitchell) for getting me out to Los Angeles and into E3 this year, making a dream come true yet again. I’m grateful to all of the people who took the time to meet and talk to me while I was at the show and strengthening my belief in myself. I’m grateful to all of my followers and readers on social media who sifted through all of my complaining and railing this past year, offering their support, insight, and conversation.
Finally, I owe all of you who have taken the time to read Consoleation at any point this past year a debt of thanks. 2012 was this blog’s best year ever, with 8,100 page views and 600 unique visitors. Consoleation is on the cusp of breaking 24,000 page views in its lifetime, which is a big deal to me. When I started it back in 2008, I didn’t know what direction it would go in and basically used it as a supplement to my writing work elsewhere… but now it’s an independent entity and I’m humbled that a blog from a relative unknown could see nearly 25,000 page views. That is thanks to you, and it means more than any words could possibly express.
As I ring in 2013, there will be changes, as I alluded to with my 2013 resolutions. I’m looking forward to my new direction.
I wish you and yours the very best in 2013: success, health, and all good things. I hope that you enjoy closing the door on 2012 and opening a new one for 2013.
I hope that everyone had a great holiday and that you got gifts that you were hoping for. I do have some things coming, but most of my gifts this year were largely practical. I’ll be getting food thanks to a Wal-Mart gift card and might be able to get a game or two with a gift card to the local shopping mall here. The Nintendo 64 will have to wait, which is okay given that I have quite the gaggle of consoles already. My power strip in my bedroom looks like a docking station with all of the plugs and wires.
Here are the items coming:
- High Speed (NES): YES. I’m finally completing my NES pinball game collection. I’m looking forward to playing this over my semester break and seeing what kind of scores that I can pull off. It’s been awhile since I’ve played.
- Dragon’s Revenge (Genesis): Yes, another pinball game. I picked this one over Dragon’s Fury (the Genesis port of Devil’s Crush) because it’s a new table and the visuals are a little cleaner. Dragon’s Fury is still on my wish list, though. Soon.
- Gex 2: Enter The Gecko (PlayStation): I have the first and third games digitally downloaded on my PS3, so this was the missing piece. I love the Gex games for their humor, and the second and third games are underrated platformers.
- Dawn of Mana (PlayStation 2): I’m taking a chance on this game, but since I liked Legend of Mana (unlike many other people), I’m willing to give this game a try. I’m aware that it’s flawed, but I do have a soft side for games like this one.
I also did manage to get a couple of new Pinball Arcade tables for iOS: Twilight Zone and Star Trek: The Next Generation. I can’t wait to play these on the big screen in early 2013. They’re that good. Really.
I’m certainly grateful for what I got this year.
I’ve been putting lots of thought into 2013 after posting my last entry. I’m trying to get any negativity out of my system before January 1st, and am seeing myself focusing largely on retrogaming moving forward. While it’s been a fun tour of duty in the analysis field, I think that I’ve gone as far as I can go with it. I don’t think that there’s a whole lot of interest from readers at large in that field of writing and research, and it’s generally served as a focal point for personal attacks and dismissal of my work. I may stay on at Popzara to write monthly NPD pieces, but that’s still something I’m considering. I’ve covered that beat pretty regularly since 2008, and haven’t really made many professional moves forward while doing so. I’m left to consider if it’s worth the effort.
On the plus side, I do plan to be more active here in 2013. Unfortunately, my new laptop has to go in for service and won’t be back until mid-January, so new videos won’t be up for awhile… but features like Retail Reviews, WedNESdays, NES Manuals, PlayStation 2sDays, and others will be a bit more common here and on Twitter. I will post pieces relating to modern gaming in terms of Retail Reviews and some impressions pieces for games on the PlayStation 3 and/or Xbox 360, but the more negative opinion pieces are going to be much more limited. I’ll be working on biting my tongue a lot more this year rather than speaking out loud and instead focusing that energy elsewhere.
I’ve recently begun using Pinterest to post some gaming-related pictures on. Since the Instagram debacle, it seemed like a good time to start using this service. I also share quite a few images via Twitter, if you follow me there. I share a lot of images of NES game manuals, as well as still images of games displayed on my GxTV and other related photos of my collection and library.
With a new year comes new beginnings. I think that I’ve finally found my niche, where negativity is limited, community is tight, and knowledge and experience are fun to share. It’s time to share more of what makes me happiest and cut back on what makes me not so happy. I know that griping and being angry are what tends to attract traffic, but the success of Consoleation isn’t measured so much by hits as it is the legacy that I build for myself as a writer, as an aging fan of video games, and hopefully as someone who will leave his mark as an individual who really does consider video games to be a huge part of his life. I hope that you’ll join me on that journey. It’ll be fun for me, and I sincerely hope that it’ll be enjoyable for you as well.
As we turn the calendar to 2013, I’m faced with a rather significant decision to think on over the next couple of weeks.
While I’ve enjoyed my tenure as Popzara‘s resident video game industry analyst, I don’t know that I’ve managed to make much impact– if any. Dealing with incomplete and leaked sales data makes things super-difficult, and I can’t say that I’ve done anything to further myself either as an analyst or as a writer over the last 8 months. The only thing that I’ve noticed is that fanboys don’t like it when you say anything even remotely negative and love to take shots at me. When you’re paid to do a job, the heckling comes with the territory. When you do it for fun, especially when there’s little or no chance of the experience translating into anything substantial, it becomes difficult to deal with… especially given health challenges that I’m facing.
I’ve dealt with this a bit with Game Critics syndication of some of my thoughts here, too. It’s become a lot to bear, and I ask myself repeatedly what it’s all for. Speaking my mind suddenly becomes incendiary, and it’s that “you versus the world” feeling that takes a lot of the enjoyment or worthwhile feeling out of work that I share.
At this point, my gut feeling is telling me that my free time should be spent on the retrogaming sector. I seem to have a lot less controversial thoughts when I’m talking about older games and systems, and I have considerable knowledge and experience in this area. It’s about sharing memories, enlightening others on things that they might have missed, and I can say that I have a lot less that I disagree with or complain about when it comes to this area. Retroware.TV does some great things with the retro community, for example. I think that I’d be keeping a lot of content here, though, and working on trying to expand this blog’s readership if I can.
I have ideas, like expanding my Retail Reviews series by visiting some other stores and locations and covering them. With my college schedule changing to Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays this semester, bringing PlayStation 2sDay back with weekly reviews or impressions is another thing I’m considering. I want to do more videos, either on their own or to complement my work here with a component aside from the written word. There are a few other things that I’m considering, as well.
So… while I’m not toying with the idea of abandoning writing completely, I am having serious thoughts about changing direction. My analysis work, while enjoyable, has not gotten me anywhere and I don’t know that many care to even read it. Covering modern games is difficult because I’m not working and have little money to afford staying active in terms of reviews. I can add to that the widening divergence between where the industry is going and the games that I prefer to play or enjoy playing. Games like Journey and The Walking Dead are so immensely popular, but I won’t touch them with a ten-meter caliprod because I have zero interest (or less) in them. There are still some games out there that I look forward to, but it’s become increasingly apparent that modern console gaming and I are on two different wavelengths– which is more than okay. Games want to be art, and I don’t want that. Hence, the divergence.
I’ll be thinking on this over the holiday break. It’s a difficult decision to make, but one that I think needs to be made. I’m spinning my wheels currently, and if I don’t see a future or any kind of gain in what I’m doing now, then I need to rethink how my free time is spent.
I also want to take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones and friends best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season, and the best of success in 2013. If the Mayans couldn’t take us out this year, there’s a lot of open field and running room ahead for us… I think. Thanks to all of you for having visited my little corner of the Web this year and during the years past. 2013 will be Consoleation’s fifth year, and it’s humbling to see that a few people have given it a bit of their time over the years. This is my proudest and most successful project, and I look forward to continuing and even building on that in the weeks and months to come.
The Internet is a blessing– and a curse.
When I think back to my 20-something self, during the 16-bit era, I remember how starved for video game information I was. We had monthly magazines to keep us in the loop back then, and information was relatively limited. “Oh, this game looks cool!” I would think to myself, but after reading a few paragraphs and seeing a couple of images, that was it. I either had to read a different magazine (and I often did) or wait with great anticipation until the game hit stores and until reviews hit magazines to advise as to whether the game came out great or not. The idea of learning new information every day was far-fetched, so I talked about what I knew with friends and waited as the months went by and more and more info slowly leaked out.
Now, my 40-something self is overloaded. There’s too much information out there, and it’s almost completely engulfed the ideas of anticipation and discovery leading up to when a game comes out. We’ve gone from a few paragraphs and a couple of images to ten-minute videos showing entire levels of play and new info weekly or even more often. Video game reviews used to be relevant tools for helping with buying decisions, but now we can see games played in their entirety without spending a dime and use those– along with word of mouth– to influence our buying decisions. Reviews have been relegated to purchase justification devices, hence the “This reviewer should be fired because he/she only gave Game X a 9″ trend.
The grass isn’t necessarily greener on this side of the timeline. It’s fantastic that there’s such an abundance of information available readily and instantly; however, magazines are relics now, despite the best efforts of stalwarts like Game Informer and @GAMER. There’s no more anticipation involved. People aren’t content to wait a month and see what new tidbits are unveiled; the info stream is a lot more steady and a heck of a lot wider. By the time a game hits stores, we already know almost every single thing about it. There’s little to discover.
Some people like this better. I get that. Things change over time. I’m not here to convince you that too much information is a bad thing. For me, though, there are some things that have been sacrificed along the way onto the information superhighway. I think about the days before games were spoiled months in advance. I think back to when there was a genuine element of surprise when I went to pick up a game at the store. I think back to the monthly anticipation of getting magazines in the mail and absorbing the knowledge and insight that they gave. And, honestly, I miss reading about legitimate gaming news instead of seemingly constant controversy that tends to drive gaming press these days. (That’s more personal preference than anything, of course.)
To me, things were better back then in many ways… and this is just another item on a still-increasing list of reasons why modern gaming and I will be parting ways after this console generation. Of course things will never be the same as they once were, and maybe that’s for the greater good… but I’ll always be of the mindset that the rise of the Internet has been as much of a hindrance to the hobby that I hold so dearly as it has been considered a help.
With two weeks left in this year, it’s time to look back at some personal high points over the first 50 weeks of 2012. While this has certainly been a very difficult year for me from a personal standpoint, there are a few gaming-related highlights that stand out:
Going retro: Thanks to a couple of awesome gifts and spending money when I had it this year, I’ve been fortunate enough to begin building a library of older games and consoles. Getting a Nintendo Entertainment System for my 40th birthday was a huge deal to me, and I’ve managed to cobble together a library of more than 50 games. I bought a Super Nintendo from an awesome relative, bought a SEGA Genesis shortly after my birthday, and got a Nintendo Gamecube as a gift back in August. It’s been great to relive a lot of memories and experiences, and this has helped during some really tough times. I hope to expand this library in 2013, with my sights set on getting a Nintendo 64 and maybe an original Xbox in the coming 12 months.
Breaking the 300 mark: My library of PlayStation 2 games eclipsed 300 titles this year, marking the largest library of games for one platform that I’ve ever owned. I’m not sure when or if I’ll get to 400 games, but I know that I’m not at a loss for games to play. The PlayStation 2 arguably has one of the most varied libraries of games ever, and my collection is representative of that. RPGs, racing games, action games, FPS titles, arcade compilations, flight games, and many more are all part of the library of games that I’ve managed to put together over the last 2 years.
Return to writing: After having all but given up on writing earlier this year, a chance discussion with Nate from Popzara Press put me in a position to return to writing on my own terms. This removed a lot of pressure that I’d been feeling and gave me a chance to still be a part of the enthusiast press community for video games. Unfortunately, not working at all in 2012 led to an all-time low in terms of buying new games for review and staying current, but I did receive several review opportunities and am certainly grateful for them. I don’t churn out a ton of content, but monthly sales analysis pieces and a few reviews kept me busy… especially once I went back to school starting in September.
E3 2012: My relationship with Popzara Press also led to a second straight trip to E3 this year, which was an honor. It was certainly a challenge covering the event on my own, and I still owe money back that I borrowed to survive while out there, but the experience was tremendous. Being on my own gave me a lot more freedom this year, which meant that I got to meet a few more outstanding people while taking in the best that the industry had to offer. I met people that I am a huge fan of, got to share my industry insights with others, and learned that I can turn out a ton of work if need be. It’s an exhausting and overwhelming experience, but it’s also an experience that I wouldn’t give back for anything in the world. Attending for two straight years is one of the highlights of my entire 40+ years of life, let alone of just 1-2 years.
The continued rise of pinball games: Zen Studios and Farsight Studios have combined to give players one of the best years of video game pinball that I can recall. The arrival of Pinball Arcade delivered familiar and not-so-familiar licensed tables for play on multiple platforms while Zen Studios delivered an updated pinball platform for the PlayStation 3 in Zen Pinball 2 and further expanded its partnership with Marvel Comics to create some very cool themed tables. As a fan of pinball games in general, I’m constantly excited by new offerings and have good reason to believe that this rise of pinball games is nowhere near over. In fact, look for a pretty epic announcement from Zen Studios in 2013 that will undoubtedly be its most popular project ever. That’s not hyperbole, either; it’s a guarantee.
Here’s to more highlights in 2013– whether they’re retro or modern, video games will continue to be a big part of my life moving forward.