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GamePro's Letter Writing Campaign
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on March 22, 2006   |   Episode 97 (Show Archive)  

   

Watching where you're going when walking up stairs is so last season!
The PSP's first year has certainly been a rollercoaster ride full of high highs and low lows, including a few months where it seemed like Sony had forgotten about the system. But this is the kind of thing that is to be expected, especially with a new system. When it comes to the mainstream video game media, most magazines and websites took an optimistic stance, hoping that things would eventually get better. The journalists spoke honestly about the game drought, high prices and system shortcomings. This is the kind of thing you expect from video game journalists, objectivity and the ability to keep things in perspective.

But lately things have improved. In March alone there were more than a half dozen games worth buying for Sony's portable PlayStation. Suddenly the mainstream video game websites are being more optimistic, they sense a

It's obvious that this woman isn't going to take GamePro's crap!
momentum building thanks in large part to the good games out now and just around the corner. But don't tell that to GamePro, because they don't want any part of that.

Apparently 2006 is GamePro's year to drag the PSP through the mud. With all the negativity coming from the last four issues you might think that Sony's portable system had no good games in 2005. Is GamePro being too harsh on Sony's first stab at the portable arena? Is this magazine purposely omitting important information about the future PSP line-up on purpose? Or is this even their fault?

To answer these questions I started to document the different letters GamePro was publishing to see if I could find a pattern. In the past four issues alone GamePro has featured three different letters that essentially say the same

Can Sam Fischer finally complete a successful mission on a portable?
thing, that the PSP has no good games and that it's not worth getting. Never before have I seen so many negative letters about one system in such a short amount of time, you would think that GamePro would get tired of running what amounts to the same letter every month.

What troubled me about these GamePro issues is no that they featured people complaining about the PSP, but rather how GamePro responded. In most cases GamePro decided not to argue some of the points the people were making, and in the most recent example it seems like they are agreeing with the person's misinformed letter. Their letter section may be called Head 2 Head, but I assure you that there was no argument coming from GamePro about the PSP.

In the April issue one writer has this to say: "Sony just launched a great TV ad campaign for the PSP, in one of the commercials, the voice-over says of the PSP, "It's like a nut you can play with outside." People

Surprise! The best portable 3D platformer isn't on the Nintendo DS!
already have nuts or PlayStations at home so when they go on the road, I would think that they would demand a more unique game experience. GTA: Liberty City Stories is the best PSP game to date, but not exactly original or groundbreaking. Given the choice between the DS or PSP, to me, it's easy: the DS."

This is a fine letter; it's a perfect example of the type of correspondence you would see in the last four months. It's the type of letter that feels like it's written by somebody who doesn't intend to buy a PSP, hasn't really played many of the PSP games, and is only going off of the limited coverage GamePro has been offering Sony's portable. GamePro's reaction? "Hells yes!"

Hells yes?? Where was their comment about Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories being a good game, but not the BEST game on the system? Why didn't they bring up Lumines and how original and fun that

Liberty City Stories is a great game, but it's not the best PSP title!
game is? Or Exit? Or Loco Roco? How about the fact that in March alone there are a half dozen games worth picking up? Hells yes?

Two months earlier GamePro printed a letter that was almost identical, except that it came from a crazy person that admitted that he traded everything in (and I mean everything) at my local game store to purchase [a PSP]." He continues by saying that his "PSP has been sitting on the shelf for three months, and I haven't even touched it." His question to GamePro is, "Will there be any more good games in the future? Should I trade this thing in for an Xbox 360? I know plenty of gamers who are having this problem. Tell us there's some freaking hope in the future and that I did not trade in all my stuff for some worthless piece of technology."

So here's your chance GamePro, tell this guy what some of the good games are recently. He obviously hasn't been

It's hard to beat wipEout's 12 downloadable levels!
to the game store in a few months; tell him what he's missing. "There is always freaking hope, but you're correct that stellar PSP games have been few and far between so far." What kind of weak response is that? This was your chance, GamePro. This was the time you should have stepped up and talked about Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror, Daxter, Pursuit Force, Splinter Cell: Essentials, Exit, or any of the other great PSP games that came out recently. Now that there are a lot of big games coming out it's time for the media to speaking as though we are still in a drought. Not only does it give off the wrong impression, but it's a downright lie.

To GamePro's credit they did put up more of a fight when the exact same type of letter was featured in January. In response to a letter complaining about the lack of role-playing games, GamePro decided to rattle off a bunch of good games, including Lumines, Hot Shots Golf: Open Teen, Burnout Legends, wipEout Pure. After naming a mere four good games, GamePro runs out of ideas

Oh my, don't remind me of those painful summer months!
and concedes that the point is "well taken." The system had four good games at launch, at this point there are at least a dozen games on the PSP worth owning (or at least playing for an extended amount of time).

GamePro is quick to publish the bad; the trouble comes when you try to get them to publish the good things. When the rest of the media was raving about the PSP's strong showing at the 2005 Tokyo Game Show, GamePro was mysteriously absent. GamePro has yet to spend much time looking at some of Sony's stand out titles, a few of which are the small quirky titles you often see on Nintendo's systems. Yet even though games like Loco Roco have been announced (and embraced) GamePro still insists that the system is all ports and features nothing new.

But the thing that troubles me most about these letters is that they come in the January through April 2006 issues of GamePro. These are the types of letters you might expect to see last August, around the time when nothing was being released. But here we are post-Christmas, a time that produced a number of games worth paying full price for. Right now there are all kinds of great titles available for Sony's portable, something for just about every type of gamer. Oh sure, there are things about the system you can complain

GamePro is not in the habit of publishing letters critical of Nintendo!
about, but at this point in time talking about a drought doesn't seem as valid. Certainly there are more important letters and conversations we could be having.

Intrigued by my findings I decided to go back in time even further and see what GamePro was saying about the Nintendo DS during its drought. Despite the fact that the Nintendo DS plays home to some of the best games of last year, it started its life with a whimper. The launch -- a big Nintendo-style affair done right in the middle of the holiday shopping season -- failed to feature any must-own games. It took Nintendo nearly half a year before they started delivering the high-quality games they were known for. By the one year mark they were on a roll, finally unloading all of those games people had been waiting for all along.

So what kind of nasty letters did GamePro feature during those first painful six months? Not a single one. Oh sure there was a letter from

It's probably better if you just don't ask!
a guy who complained about the DS' graphics, and another letter that voiced their concern about the lack of a traditional Pokemon game, but nothing in the way of people complaining that the games weren't there. Instead we got letters praising Nintendo, talking about how they had high hopes for a system that didn't have a good game for half a year. Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but surely there must have been at least a few people that were disappointed that the big games (the Advance Wars, Castelvania, etc.) didn't show up until the year was almost over.

It's important to note that four months does not prove that GamePro has a portable preference; it merely shows their interest in beating one point home even after it's no longer an issue. Whether they are doing it on purpose or not, GamePro has missed previewing some of the biggest PSP games coming out of Japan (and Europe). I'm not going to say it's malicious, but it seems unfair for them to brow beat Sony without offering all of the facts.
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