More on the 360 Fiasco

Yesterday’s post about the madness surrounding the 360 launch turned into one long diatribe against GAME, as many things can do, but it turns out it’s not only the independents who are getting a raw deal on this. I spent much of the day in my games proprietor of choice, the Video Game Centre, while my car was in for its MOT and got to see a surprising number of people looking for preorders (all were told that they’d be lucky to get one before February) and witness some of the existing orders being given the bad news. One was angry and all were disappointed, but most decided that their best chances were with the shop and decided to stay on the list.

Anyway, some of the more interesting titbits came from conversations with owners and managers of various other places. First of all, it appears that all small independents are getting the same package of two cores and two premium packs. They’re still getting fucked and it still sucks.

The other thing to note is that many of the big stores are getting fucked, so it seems that it’s Europe in general that Microsoft are bending over and violating. The manager of one of the GAME stores in Bournemouth (he’s a sound guy, even if the company isn’t) said that his store had taken 90 preorders and, although they don’t have exact numbers yet, have been told by head office that they’ll be lucky to get half that number. The other one was that even the huge Toys R Us superstore in Poole, a few miles away, can only get ten. Popular online retailer Play now has a message warning that they won’t be able to fulfill any more orders and, according to the SPOnG forums, have even emailed people who ordered months ago with the bad news.

Although I’m happy because I’m getting one on 2nd December, I saw how disappointed a lot of people were and you have to wonder why Microsoft have even bothered releasing it at this point when they can’t make enough to make it worthwhile. Surely it would have been better to have held off for a couple of months (they’d still have a head start on Sony) and then come here with 250,000-500,000 machines instead of the pitiful number that we’re currently looking forward to.

Xbox 360: Independents Get Fucked Again

The logistics of a project as massive as a near simultaneous worldwide launch for a major new piece of gaming hardware was obviously very much underestimated by Microsoft who themselves said that if they’d known what a huge operation it was going to be they simply wouldn’t have bothered, but the scale of the shortage is starting to become apparent as independent shops around the UK find out their allocations of machines. We’d heard that the UK was possibly going to get 100,000 units in total (for perspective: we had 250,000 PSPs for launch and it’s still suffering a chronic shortage) with rumours that there wouldn’t be a major restock until March. It doesn’t exactly give a huge head start on Sony when only a few hundred thousand will have 360s, does it?

Anyway, back to my original point. While the major chains like GAME are getting around a hundred each, the independents are getting…fifty?


Thirty? That’s the number of original Xboxes that the VGC got for launch, after all.

You wish…they’re getting four – two full systems and two core.

Is it any wonder that big business is suffocating the indies when they’re getting treated like that? They may not have the money to buy such vast numbers (although they’d actually pay more per unit) but they’re the heart and soul of the industry, filled with specialised knowledge and a genuine passion for games. Most GAME employees don’t know anything, and you could swap the games and consoles for pretty much anything else and find the knowledge of the staff was similarly lacking. I can remember going in there and being looked at like a madman when I asked for a DS case.

I’m lucky enough to be able to get one from an independent but only because I was first on the list (I ordered during E3), I had money down, and I’m friends with the owner. Everyone else is probably going to have to wait months or go and make a deal with the evil empire to get one, and possibly both, which frankly sucks.

I’m Such a Nerd

I ordered a T-shirt from Pure Pwnage (watch probably their most famous creation, FPS Doug, if you haven’t already) which arrived this morning, bearing nothing but the indubitable mantra, “I pwn n00bs”. You can see it here, being modelled by Dave from Pure Pwnage. I know the geekiness of even buying such a thing is off the chart but I had to laugh when the senders’ address on the package carried the name A Noob.

Land of the Dead Unrated Impressions

My Land of the Dead Unrated DVD arrived yesterday a during the week, almost a week ahead of the official release and I’ve had a chance to watch it as a huge fan of the original Dead trilogy. The genre seemed to be on the way back in with 28 Days Later (good, but not great) and the remake of Romero’s own seminal Dawn of the Dead (also good, but not great), but the only way to truly make one is to put the megaphone back in the hand of the man himself. He practically created the genre with Night of the Living Dead and so deserves to represent it, without running zombies and rawk soundtracks but with some old school “ban this filth” gore.

What a waste of a fence

LOTD certainly doesn’t disappoint on the gore front. I don’t know how much of this made it into the 15-rated UK theatrical version but this unrated version has bodies being torn apart, faces torn off, heads ripped off, limbs eaten, countless chunks bitten out of people, and that’s just off the top of my head. Nothing quite as creative as the helicopter blades in Dawn or funny as the “choke on ’em” from Day, but it does a decent job. Those who saw the hardcore online only trailer with the tongue eating should know that there’s even more graphic goodness than that.

I guess even Romero has to make some attempt to evolve the concept without making corpses that run like Linford fucking Christie, and he makes zombies that are more than idiots by taking the idea of Bub from Day and running with it, making the whole zombie population start to become more intelligent. There’s only really one that does the thinking, but the rest are still able to understand and follow him while he concentrates on feeling remorse over zombies that are killed (again?), firing a gun randomly, teaching others to fire guns, and not being mesmerised by fireworks. It’s not badly done and he does, to his credit, have Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright in his entourage, but I kind of like the brainless zombies that overpower us purely by weight of numbers and the fact that they’re tough to kill. There are plenty of other intelligent enemies in other genres and sub-genres, so do we need to evolve the zombie?

As a film, LOTD isn’t bad. Once you get past the fast and furious beginning it slows rapidly, before taking you into a third act which just assaults you on several fronts and reminds you why zombies are cool. It’s the slow middle section which is the weakest, not just for being slow (Dawn was hardly action-packed, after all) but because the story just isn’t that strong. It’s not bad but it’s very much secondary to the action and blood, which makes it a weaker movie than Dawn. Perhaps falling short of Dawn was inevitable, but the action was fun enough that I prefer it to Day of the Dead.

In short: Dawn > Night > Land > Day. Worth watching but don’t expect something as classic as the first two instalments of the series.

Fahrenheit Review

I’ve just gotten around to finishing the review of Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in the States) which you can find here. I enjoyed it and think that it deserves attention and I think the review reflects that, so give it a look if you have some interest in the game. Of course it can be found permanently in the review index.

BBFC Ratings for Games

Sonic Gems Collection

Giving a handful of games BBFC ratings is nothing new as any games with significant violent or sexual content will usually lead to the publisher paying to get one by choice, both to protect themselves from angry right-wing newspapers and because it’s something of a badge of honour to anyone under 18 to get their smelly little hands on them. Obviously the Manhunts and Grand Theft Autos of the world get those big red 18 ratings on the front covers but the kiddie platformers stuck with the unenforced PEGI ratings (the European equivalent of the American ELSPA ratings). Over the last few weeks, however, I’ve seen this changing.

You can probably see from the attached picture that Sonic Gems Collection, obviously not the most adult game in the world (although Sonic is clearly punching violently and Metal Sonic is gesturing aggressively with his frightening claws), has the big green “U” triangle, the same as a “G” rating. It obviously wouldn’t require it since it’s exempt from classification, so why would Sega pay to get it rated when they don’t need to?

I should also point out that Sonic Gems Collection isn’t the only game to do this, but it’s the only one I could find with its cover art on Amazon. I know that today I saw a new classic arcade compilation (I forget which one since they’re all identical and similarly overpriced) which carried a “U” rating, and although I can’t remember specifics there were several more which had “U” and “PG” ratings, neither of which would have warranted a BBFC rating.

A game can actually be as violent and depraved as it wants without being forced to get a rating (video games are exempt from classification under the Video Recordings Act 1984, as amended in 1993, at the moment), but the companies go for them anyway to cover their ass in case a kid gets hold of it and does something stupid. That way they can say that the 18 rating makes it illegal for someone under 18 to buy it and so it wasn’t their fault since they did everything they could have legally done to keep it out of underage hands.

The reason for this odd phenomenon with games aimed at a younger audience is almost certainly the same reason that they choose to go for the ratings on adult games – parents don’t know what PEGI is but they’ve grown up with BBFC ratings, and having them on some games and not others just seems to devalue them. By slapping those ratings (and oversized ones at that) on there they’re hoping that people will actually take notice and not be confused by them. If the industry is to stop people jumping on them whenever a kid does something bad, it’s important that they do what they can to help people understand that games aren’t a thing only for kids to play anymore and that nowadays your wholesome platform hero is just as likely to swear profusely and pull out a bazooka as he is to pick up magic flowers on his way to rescue the princess. Until the public get this into their thick skulls it’s important that the industry does what it can to raise awareness.