by Ken Gagne

As Santa prepared for his annual trip, he reviewed his lists. It's been a busy year for the video game industry, and while many publishers had been nice, the business had a few naughty players as well. Here's what they can expect from Kriss Kringle this holiday:

Nice

Naughty

  • Nintendo, for pursuing a mature gaming demographic with titles such as Eternal Darkness and Resident Evil.
  • Nintendo again, for renewing their legendary hallmarks with games like Super Mario Sunshine and the incredible Metroid Prime.
  • Sony, for the PlayStation 2 Network Adaptor that supports dial-up, allowing the majority of gamers to get online.
  • Microsoft, for including Internet connectivity in their Xbox, and implementing it with a simple, annual service package.
  • All three hardware developers, for engaging in a competitive price war that benefitted all consumers this holiday season.
  • Sega, for being fruitful and multiplying their franchises with their "platform agnostic" publishing scheme, allowing Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft fans alike to enjoy such popular icons as Sonic, Shinobi, and Shenmue.
  • Square and Enix. The merging of these two powerhouses of role-playing games (RPGs) was unexpected, with more surprises sure to come from the joint teams.
  • Capcom, for pledging five GameCube-exclusive games — four original titles in 2003, and Resident Evil 4. It's a positive step away from the rampant gluttony that produces the same game for every system.
  • Any publisher with plans to feed the retrogaming craze with new games, be they Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Spy vs. Spy, or TRON.
  • Microsoft, for buying development team Rare.
  • Nintendo, for selling Rare. Even if Rareware accounted for a only a small percentage of Nintendo's sales, those are now sales Microsoft will have. Hello, Perfect Dark X…
  • Nintendo again, for delivering their online adaptors in such scarcity that not even fans of the GameCube's only online game, Phantasy Star Online, could enjoy it.
  • Enix, for cancelling the PlayStation remix of the best RPG ever, Dragon Warrior IV. Sure, sales of the series' seventh installment were poor last year, but that's what happens when you release a game that's old before it even hits store shelves.
  • Companies who practiced layoffs this year: Infogrames (60% of their European staff) and Konami (the dissolution of their West Coast operations, as well as subsidies in Kobe in Nagoya). Santa owes these worthy, but unemployed, developers something special this year.
  • Parents who ignored ESRB ratings on video games, only to be shocked to find their children playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Be actively aware of what games are available and what they're about: your presence (and dollars) will speak louder to both publishers and gamers than your protests ever will.
  • Acclaim, for spoiling their once-excellent Turok series; for their silly promotions that defaced gravestones and renamed children; and for BMX XXX. All this could've been avoided.
  • Australia, for banning BMX XXX. This commercial venture cannot be accurately lauded or ridiculed if consumers and retailers aren't given the opportunity to sell, or not sell, it.
  • Japan, for getting exclusives like Final Fantasy X International which will never be seen in the USA, and for titles they get before the rest of the world, like the new Zelda. True that it's not necessarily Japan's fault, but coal all around, just the same.
  • Greece, for outlawing gaming in all forms, be it in arcades or on cell phones. The ban lasted only a few months, but remains as an outrage — and the height of ludicrousness.

This article is copyright (c) 2002, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 23-Dec-02