MAY 1996: And the award for the most obnoxious cover goes to ...
The look, logo, staff, and consoles may have changed, but there's one thing that has remained the same since the very first issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly nearly 17 years ago. And that is Quartermann, the man you call on when you want rumors, gossip, and speculation. Although his write up has gone under a number of different titles, a rumor section has appeared in every one of EGM's almost 200 issues. But what if I were to tell you that this rumor monger's facts were spotty, at best? What if I were to tell you that the rumors, while juicy, are often incorrect? Well ... that's precisely what I'm about to tell you, and to prove it we're prepared to look at his rumors one magazine at a time.
Here's what you need to know: In each episode we are going to take a different issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly and go through every single rumor the Q-Mann talked brought up. I'm going to write them up EXACTLY as they are in the magazine, and then explain the truth ... knowing what we know all these years later. We're not here to pull any punches, we're just curious to see how well the magazine holds up over the years. In our fifth episode we decided to look at EGM issue 82, May 1996.
Rumor #1 - Price Drops in Our Future?
Sega's Saturn: The Official Game System of Coneheads!
"... As previously published, look for Sega to bring out its new Saturn in the $200 range over in The Land of the Rising Sun, and although they've officially commented to the contrary, the Q hears that a similar low-ball machine could hit these shores later this year. I'm hearing that Sega is concerned about the reaction a new, lower price would have among Saturn's earliest supporters, but the shirts are eager to trump the PlayStation on the price issue ASAP -- at least in Japan." The Q has also learned from reps on this side of the Pacific who says that they're investigating the feasibility of matching a possible Sega price drop. Take it to the bank: If Sega slashes, so will Sony ..."
We begin this episode of They Said WHAT?!? with the Quartermann talking about some Saturn price cut or something. I would care, but this is 1996 and we're about to witness the Nintendo 64 launch. The Saturn and the PlayStation have already been released and Sega and Sony are hard at work on their second generation games. Everything is still new; your Saturn still has that new system smell. But apparently Quartermann thinks that the system will drop in price to $200 just one year after it launched.
Sega first released the Saturn in 1995, offering four stores the chance to sell the system early for the price of $400. Several months later they had a national-wide launch, which allowed every retailer the chance to sell the unit for $300. With the release of the Nintendo 64, Sega felt the pressure to lower the price to $200. Sony did the same thing in response. Sega didn't end up trumping Sony in this department, and the PlayStation went on to a decade of industry dominance (for better or worse).
Two years in both Sega and Sony had significant price drops, but that's what happens when you have a Nintendo system to worry about. What Sony didn't realize at the time was that Nintendo was ready to shoot themselves in the foot every step of the way.
Rumor #2 - Nintendo 64 Delayed ... Again??
"... You may have already heard about the delay of the Nintendo 64 in Japan. Q-Sources suggest Nintendo may be forced to push the release of the system here until at least Thanksgiving (Nov. 28). Why? Same problems -- Nintendo still may have trouble getting enough CPUs built in
Mario 64 is one of two games the Nintendo 64 launched with!
quantities needed to meet the demand for the Nintendo 64's U.S. launch. Another reason for the delay was Nintendo of Japan's worries over software: The N64 wouldn't have had enough quality titles ready for the April 23 launch date ..."
Here's another rumor that Quartermann gets right, but that doesn't stop this rumor from being interesting. Nintendo was forced to move the release date back to September, but I'm not sold on the idea that it had anything to do with software. Even when it launched on September 29th, Nintendo only had two games. In the following months there were two, maybe three games every four weeks. The staggered releases gave off the impression that the software wasn't done, even in late 1996. The delay had more to do with getting enough systems made for launch, something that Microsoft and Sony know only too well.
Quartermann is right about the delay, but wrong about the date. It also seems odd that Q would blame the quality software, since there wasn't much software to speak of early on. But regardless of these small problems, this rumor is essentially right.
Rumor #3 - The N64DD's Main Purpose!
"... After doing some digging, it seems like one of the N64 bulky discs drive's main purposes is to allow you to upgrade your N64 cartridge games. The company envisions enhancement discs that will let you take a game such as Madden and then update the cartridge with new
The "main purpose" of the Nintendo 64DD is to be able to play Doshin the Giant!
team rosters and player stats. Other possibilities include adding new levels for Ultra Doom or introducing original characters and moves to fighting games. Although the original cartridges might cost $70 - $80, update discs would clock in at a more affordable $20 - $25. The possibilities are endless ..."
I have real mixed feelings about this rumor. On one hand it doesn't make much sense to talk about a console that was never released in the U.S. That makes this rumor wrong by default. However, I can't help but be amazed at what Quartermann is suggesting; it's staggering how wrong this rumor ends up being. First and foremost, the Nintendo 64DD (the bulky drive Q is talking about) was never released outside of Japan, and even then it only had a handful of games and died out rather quickly. Most of the games were full length titles; they weren't expansion packs or stat updaters. The prospect of $20 expansions to your favorite games was just wrong; this is something that never happened. It's only recently that we are seeing console expansion packs, something that is even more convenient thanks to the internet.
I think it's safe to say that the Nintendo 64DD's "main purpose" was not to play expansion packs. These $20 expansion packs never materialized. But then again, the system didn't come out over here so why are we even talking about it?
Rumor #4 - Download N64 Games?
Hopefully Blast Corps will be available on the Nintendo Wii's virtual arcade!
"... The Nintendo/Netscape deal that the Q exclusively revealed several months ago may also make software purchases on the N64 easier and cheaper than ever before! Not only would this rumored peripheral enable N64 users to download software demos, but patches and entire games as well via the Internet. Getting the Internet and N64 to co-exist is the current dilemma facing the two companies, but sources indicate that such a device is on the horizon ..."
First the Quartermann suggests that the N64DD would give us expansion packs, and now he's talking about downloadable content? If he didn't say N64 so many times you might think he was talking about Xbox Live. This service that Quartermann talks about did not happen, it's a good idea that never happened. However, ten years later Nintendo has a console that will do just about everything this rumor suggests. You can download entire games and surf the net, it will make the whole process easy and cheap. But this is the Wii we're talking about, not the Nintendo 64. The ideas in this rumor are sound, but this never happened on the Nintendo 64.
It sounds to me like Quartermann is talking about the Nintendo Wii, but he's not, and that's what makes this rumor so painful. These are really good ideas, but this kind of device never showed up for the Nintendo 64. It took Nintendo ten years to give us what Q promised in the 1990s.
Rumor #5 - The PlayStation 2 in 1997?
"... In an exclusive PlayStation 2 update, the Q stumbled upon a mention of the PlayStation 2 in one of Sony's home electronic catalogs. The pub described PlayStation 2 as a 64-Bit machine
Do you think Quartermann had any idea of the heights the PlayStation 2 would reach back in 1996?
with more RAM and a tentative release date of fall 1997. Thanks to some clever foresight on Sony's part, the new machine will play existing PlayStation software and ring up registers to the tune of $299 - $399 ..."
The Quartermann is shameless. The PlayStation 1 was only one year old and already Q is talking about the PlayStation 2. He suggests that the PS2 would come out only two years after the first system ... you heard me right, two years! History has clearly proven this rumor wrong, the PlayStation 2 was released in 2000, giving the original PlayStation a five year lifespan. The system retailed for $299.99, which was in Q's ballpark, but at the low end of the scale. The system was not 64-Bit, it was much more powerful than the Q-mann could realize in 1996. He did get one thing right; the PS2 does play games released for the original PlayStation.
The PlayStation 2 in 1997? I'm sure Quartermann knew he was getting this wrong when he was typing it. Releasing a new console only two years after you release your first system would be suicide, there's no way Sony would release two consoles within two years. Q did get the price right and was the first to suggest that it would be backwards compatible. That doesn't make up for the fact that a 1997 release date is crazy talk.
Rumor #6 - PlayStation on your PC?
"... Sony has made no secret that it's entering the PC hardware market. What officials haven't told you is that Sony PCs may
It's a Sony product that does not support the PlayStation!
allow you to play PlayStation games. Officials haven't decided for sure if they will offer this feature yet, but they are talking about it ..."
Here's another example of how the Quartermann goes a little too far when talking about a rumor. When it comes to Sony's decision to sell PCs, Quartermann got it right. Sony has been in the computer-making business for a number of years now. But none of them play PlayStation games. That is just something that didn't happen. Of course, the Q gives himself an out in this rumor, but I can't help but notice that he brought it up.
Sony released PCs ... but those PCs never played PlayStation games. Unless you're talking about Bleem!, that emulator that allowed you to play PS1 games on your PC. But I'm sure that's not what Quartermann is talking about, right?
Rumor #7 - The PlayStation's Web Broswer!
Not being able to browse the web with your game system keeps you from enjoying the antics of the Tron guy!
"... In Japan, Sony has a Web browser add-on for the PlayStation that, unfortunately, the company currently does not plan to release in the U.S. The Q hears that the company wants to stay focused on its core business and only release peripherals that will gain widespread publisher and consumer support ... Sony does have a proprietary Web browser called the Sony Station coming to the U.S. that will interface with your TV and allow full access to the Internet and special areas accessible exclusively through the device. Viacom is also working on a similar device that will allow you to connect to the Internet from your living room ..."
Web browsers have a checkered history on game consoles. While there have been a few consoles that offered a way to surf the net, most refused to even try. Even now, the biggest consoles, like the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360, offer no way of surfing the net. One could argue that releasing a web browser in the mid 1990s wasn't the wisest decision you could make, the connections were slow and the service was spotty. Quartermann ends up getting this rumor right; this kind of software is never released in the U.S.
The PSP is the only Sony system to feature a web browser, and even that's hard to navigate. With only a few months to go before the PlayStation 3 ships it's anybody's guess whether or not it will have a web browser.