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J_Dodson Blog

GTA IV Opening Puts EA-Take 2 Buyout in Perspective

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According to a recent GameSpot news story, Grand Theft Auto IV could have the biggest opening week in video game history, raking in approximately $400 million dollars.

And if you think about it, GTA IV should have the biggest opening yet, since it'll debut on both the PS3 and Xbox 360. Most big, must-have games are system exclusives (Halo, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, God of War, Gran Turismo, Zelda, Mario). Even the Grand Theft Auto series historically launched exclusively on PlayStation systems, whether it was the PS2 or PSP.

But that's over now, and Grand Theft Auto IV is not only launching on two platforms, but it's also one of the only games that is so notorious and mainstream that practically everyone will buy it. After this, you might even think Take 2 would be able to turn around and buy EA.

But wait, isn't there another franchise with ultra-powerful name recognition that's notorious for launching on every single video game system, and even some watches? One that's been hitting every single year since the early nineties? Oh that's right, Madden. In the time it has taken Rockstar to produce six Grand Theft Auto games, EA has released over 55 Madden titles. No wonder they're looking at the GTA publisher the way John Madden looks at a loose-meat sandwhich.

Gran Turismo 5 Prologue: A GameStop Tale

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I just deleted a 700 word blog post after getting back from GameStop. Originally, I planned to rant about my certainty that Gran Turismo 5 Prologue would sell like hotcakes, while Okami for the Wii sold like cow patties. This, I thought, would be ironic, since Okami is a huge, awesome game, and Prologue seems to me like an incomplete cash grab. I had broken the piece up into several parts, wherein I compared the hype, competition and content of the respective titles.

The final section was going to be called "Sales Pitches," and in it I was going to describe the efforts of GameStop employees to convince me to buy each one. I guessed they would try very hard to sell me a copy of Prologue, and probably wouldn't even mention Okami. Well, things didn't quite go according to plan. The following is an account of today's trip to GameStop.

I walked in the door and asked the two sales clerks what was new.

"Hmmm, not much," one of them said, "couple price drops."

I thought maybe he had misunderstood me, so I asked "No big new games?"

He said "No."

Surprised, I asked "Well, what about Gran Turismo 5 Prologue?"

"Oh, well that comes out tomorrow."

"Is it going to be pretty good? Do you think it'll be worth buying a PS3?"

He looked at me like I'd just eaten a live mouse and said "Are you crazy? It's practically a demo."

I LOL'd.

From Monday to Funday - GTA IV vs Iron Man Edition

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A big shot at EA named Riccitiello recently made a statement to the press. His insight?

Hollywood is "worried".

Says Riccitiello, "The buzz in Hollywood, which I heard from some Hollywood folks...is people are worried whether Iron Man the movie is going to get killed by Grand Theft Auto the game. I don't think I've ever heard of that before... There is more interest today from Hollywood to make movies out of our games than there is interest in our industry to make games out of their movies. There's a big reset happening now."

Or, in gamer diction: "I heard GTA IV was going to have sex with Iron Man, then run it over and take its money. Game over, b**ches."

In my opinion, Riccitiello has it backwards. If Iron Man fails at the box office, GTA IV won't be the problem, it'll be the solution. Or rather, scapegoat. Because as we all know, if anyone is going to drunkenly screw and kill Iron Man, that person is Robert Downey Jr.

Speaking of backwards:

Kaplan and Aspyr are making an SAT prep game. Look, kids don't need study devices that resemble video games; they get wrongfully accused of screwing around enough. What kids really need is a Nintendo DS model that looks just like a text book. Now that's serious gaming.

Also, what about prep games for older DS owners? Sure, the SATs are stressful, but compared to the crazy, soul staining stuff adults face, a standardized test is child's play. Here are some helpful preparatory games I'd like to see:

The Meaningless Existence Game - You have one boring life, and then it's over.

And for the female crowd:

So Your Husband Is Cheating - A first-person shooter.

Are there any helpful prep games you think would make responsible additions to this list? Make sure and leave 'em in the comments. ;)

This Week In Games

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Wow, a good week in late January? Must be global warming.

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin - Even though the series seems to be taking a more mature approach to its characters and plot, Advance Wars has always been serious, seriously awesome. And the DS juggernaut quietly rolls on. Gee, I wonder what's coming out for the PSP this week? Hmmm, Rainbow Islands Revolution. I bet that's not as lame as it sounds. (Sony paid me to say that)

No More Heroes - I admit, I was skeptical. I didn't think beating people to death with a fluorescent light bulb sounded all that fun. I was wrong. More No More Heroes!

Pirates of the Burning Sea - Even though I'm more of a ninja guy, the opportunity to plunder peoples' booties as That Scallywag Dick The Butcher does sound like fun. Speaking of Pirates vs Ninjas, isn't it funny that more brands of banditry aren't in on the debate? Maybe we need to open this thing up to:

Desperados - What the hell happened to these bad buckaroos? When did they ride off into the sunsets of our imaginations, and when will they return?

Vikings - Got their chance to plunder our fancies in Beowulf, failed. Back to your longships, heathens.

Cultists - These guys had serious cultural cache in the 70s. I mean, think about it, what's cooler, a band full of stinky guys on a boat? A disciplined cast of assassins? Or a psycho hippy visionary and his murderous band of LSD fueled teenage girls? That's some tasty Kool-Aid! Unfortunately, more contemporary cultists have ruined things for this subgroup of villainy, including David Koresh, whose two accomplishments (embarrassing the ATF and dying in a fire) are only impressive when compared to those of Marshall Applewhite, whose Heaven's Gate cult got together and committed mass suicide. That Kool-Aid sucked.

Mafia: I'm using Mafia here as an umbrella term for all family oriented organized crime syndicates, because I don't have time to research and list every different one. Be that as it may, the Cosa Nostra is obviously awesome. Depp's Jack Sparrow may have been cooler than Tony Soprano, but was he cooler than Al Pacino's Michael Corleone? Fuggedaboudit!

Agents: We aren't just talking about The Matrix, Mr. Anderson, although that movie did tap into a cultural fear factor of men in black that I didn't even realize was there. This group also includes James Bond, who probably kills a ninja before he does his hair in the morning, and has sent more pirates to Davy Jones' locker than the Bermuda Triangle. There's a historical dark side to government agents, too, especially when you refer to them by their other name, secret police. It's a good sign that these guys are mostly out of the public conscious - may they stay that way.

Socially Conscientious Misfits - Also known as vigilantes, this group includes Robin Hood and his Merry Men, as well as Batman (is it a coincidence then, that Batman's sidekick is Robin?). The beauty of these characters is that they're so certain they know what is right and what is wrong, that they're willing to become criminals to uphold justice. You'd think they'd just capture themselves and call it a job well done.

In conclusion, I think this list makes it perfectly clear that we shouldn't get hung up on one or two types of banditry, but rather to embrace a wider spectrum of misanthropy, mischief and mayhem, while admitting that ninjas are way cooler than pirates.

Anyway, back to games:

Endless Ocean - Two interesting things happen to scuba divers: They get eaten by sharks, or they surface too fast and their lungs come out of their bodies. Pretty sure neither one is in here. Boo.

Burnout Paradise - Oh, wow. That completes a good game hat trick!

But for every good game there's something like this week's Ship Simulator 2008, offering you "the chance to pilot an oil rig." Shouldn't that read "the chance to crash an oil rig"?

Wow, that's a lot of writing. I will have more for you later.

This Week In Gaming

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Prediction: You will remember this week as one you completely forgot. Onto the games!

FlatOut: Head On is coming to the PC and PSP. The week's biggest releases! This is like hearing Donny Osmond will be performing in Reno and Sacramento. What, no Mac version?

Carrier Strike Force - Okay, okay, so imagine that someone working on an actual aircraft carrier buys an aircraft carrier sim, and like a normal person, they play it at work, alt + tabbing between the game and their work applications when their boss walks by. They think they've tabbed back into the game, where they're waiting to launch a hellish rain of shark-faced rockets into the backyard of evil terrorists with bad teeth, but when they push the big red button (Aircraft carriers use those, right?), they accidentally use real weapons to obliterate:

A) Abacus Software's Offices (makers of Carrier Strike Force)

B) Bin Laden's hiding place, killing him and Elvis

C) A farm run by kittens

I'm not sure which of those would be funnier, however, I should mention at this point that Carrier Strike Force is not an aircraft carrier sim. It is an add-on for Microsoft Flight Simulator X that lets you take off from, and land on, aircraft carriers. Kitten farmers everywhere breathe tiny sighs of relief.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Hard Evidence - a.k.a. Where's Waldo's Semen?

Miami Nights: Singles in the City - It's rated T. So you will probably not use the microphone to snort drugs off a prostitute's posterior. I suspect you will use the stylus, instead.

Rail Simulator - where trains either stop, or go.

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Today in the news, and by today, I mean last week (one of these is fake, see if you can tell):

Another conservative blog's condemnation of the Mass Effect sex scene is ironically more sexually explicit than the scene itself.

There is another video game coming out!

A big company is acquiring a smaller one (Rumor)

Financial reports show the Nintendo DS is popular in Japan!

Studies show that playing video games can make you write blogs good

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Responses to your comments before you post them:

Yes, I agree, totally.

No, I have not played any of the above games, though I am OUTRAGED by the sex scenes in Miami Nights: Singles in the City.

No, as far as I know, there are no sex scenes in Miami Nights: Singles in the City. Outrageous!

Yes, I am totally a fanboy of that system.

Totally.

The Real Jeff Gerstmann

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As you know by now, Jeff Gerstmann has left GameSpot. As I cope with the loss, I can't help but wonder, where will he go next? What quests await him? What scores will he settle honestly and unflinchingly? For answers to these questions, I will delve not into Craigslist, but into the little known past of Jeff Gerstmann - critic at large.

Born in South Africa to a sharp-eyed jeweler named Hank and his wife, Sally, Jeff seemed a normal child until one day, his 11th birthday, Jeff and his friends found a cobra in a field. The other boys, all visibly afraid, beseeched Jeff to attack and kill the beast. Jeff, unphased, stepped toward the snake, and declared:

"I shall not fight this cobra, though I will tell you, as far as cobras go, the one before me is most unimpressive. Its pattern is mottled, its hiss grainy, and it brings nothing new to the species. Its spread hood and angry stare are both cobra clichés. I give it a 5.5."

Awed by his brave words in the face of danger, the other boys cast disparaging looks at the snake and turned to find more interesting playthings, such as rocks and empty bottles. The cobra, dejected, began to slither away before Jeff stopped it and said, "Be not depressed, gentle creature, but rather strive to be more than an average serpent. With my guidance, you could someday be a 10."

And so the snake joined him and learned to think outside the box of instinct. It set aside the things it new to do easily, and began to learn behaviors that would set it apart. One day, as Jeff was eating grapes ("6.0", "6.5", "Mm! 8.5") and Megatron (so Jeff named the snake) was playing dead, Jeff spat a grape seed many feet, at which point Megatron sat up spreading only half a hood, which in the cobra world is the sign of epiphany.

Megatron reared back and attempted to spit, but the loogie stuck to his bottom lip and hung venomously as the snake wiggled its head back and forth in shame and disgust.

"2.0," said Gerstmann, "but a 9.0 for trying."

Inspired by his master's praise, the snake practiced his technique day and night in between his other chores which included cleaning, sweeping, and procuring Doritos and Mountain Dew...until one fateful day.

Jeff and Megatron were walking through the bush, when a full grown lion crossed their path. Jeff chastised the beast. "What kind of lion shows itself before attacking? And is that a squirrel tail between your teeth? You probably stole that from a house cat. You are not the king of beasts. You are the 4.0 of beasts."

The lion, perfectly aware of his sub-average status, didn't even flinch, but rather thought "I may be a 4.0, but he'll taste like an 8.5." As the lion prepared to pounce, a miracle happened. Megatron reared up, and meowed. Caught by surprise, the lion's eyes opened wide, presenting the perfect targets to the cobra, who spit twin torpedoes of venom right into them. The lion bellowed with fury, rolled onto his back and clutched at his burning eyes.

"Holy hand grenades, Megatron! That was incredible! Truly, you are now a king among cobras, a true ten-point-oh. Go now, and teach your brood what you have learned, for I can teach you no more."

With that, the snake bowed low, and slithered off into the bush. And that is how Jeff Gerstmann created the first African Spitting Cobra. After Megatron had left on his own journey, Jeff regarded the lion, now looking dejected through bloodshot eyes, and said "Be not depressed, gentle creature, but rather strive to be more than an average lion. With my guidance, you could someday be a 10. I shall call you Mufasa." The story of Jeff and the Lion King is also an excellent tale, but one for another time.

So what does this mean for the future of Jeff Gerstmann? Only this, dear reader: That it is not the destination that matters, but the way. For wherever Gerstmann goes, he shall walk the path of the 10.0.