FEBRUARY 2004: Come back and see me in 996 years, then we'll talk about the top games of the Millennium!
After thirty episodes of They Said WHAT?!?, there are a few things you've come to expect. For one thing, you expect EGM's gossip guru to be thrown to the gossip hounds. You expect him to be ripped to spreads for pulling information out of who-knows-where just to get people excited about games that never come out. You expect justice. And, most importantly, you expect to be surprised. In this episode of They Said WHAT?!? we are delivering everything you expect ... well, everything except for the Quartermann.
In most episodes we tear apart a section called Rumor Mill. This is the one-page article that The Q authors in nearly every issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly. In the past we've given the rest of EGM's reporting the benefit
Many of the predictions don't need to be debunked; there will always be another Madden game!
of the doubt, instead focusing on making fun of that single page with all of the nonsense. But after looking over EGM's February 2004 issue, I have decided that we need to expand the coverage to include the editor's crummy predictions.
While promoting their short-lived TV show, Electronic Gaming Monthly write a multi-page cover story called "The Top 15 Games of the Millennium (and Their Sequels for 2004)." As they counted down the list they explained why each game was on the list and when we can expect to see the next installment. For the most part EGM had good information on when the next game would come out, but for about half of the games they ended up guessing. And while some people may like to read a good prediction from time to time, guessing the future is not exactly sound journalism. We thought it would be fun to point out some of the most outrageous predictions and set them right. In other words, it's exactly like a regular episode of They Said WHAT?!? ... only without all of the QUartermann bashing. Enjoy the reprieve, Q-Miester!
Prediction #1 - Grand Theft Auto: Sin City?
Grand Theft Auto has traveled to a lot of different eras, none of them being the 1970s!
"GRAND THEFT AUTO (SERIES): Here's the latest Grand Theft Rumorin'. The next GTA may take place in the '70s. It might be called GTA: Sin City (think Las Vegas). And you may never see a proper GTA4 because Rockstar may be dropping the numbers thing altogether (so Sin City would be GTA5, with Vice City being GTA4). Can we tell you anything useful at all? Nope, 'cept Rockstar has confirmed the next game will be out in 2004. And the only reason we know that is because we've been sifting through the dumpster."
We might as well start out with one of Electronic Gaming Monthly's worst predictions of all time. They couldn't have gotten this more wrong if they tried, and believe me, that's saying something about a magazine that employs Quartermann. It's important to understand the context of this prediction; it came only a few months after the launch of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Certainly that doesn't get them off
Niko is NOT going to be happy when he learns that he was supposed to be in Vice City all this time!
the hook, but it's important to remember how excited everybody was to hear anything about Rockstars' crime simulator.
Let's just start at the top on this one. The first problem with this prediction is that the next Grand Theft Auto was not set in the 1970s. Instead it was set in the 1990s (as demonstrated by the 90s-themed radio stations). Also, the game wasn't called Grand Theft Auto: Sin City and take place in Las Vegas. The game actually took place in a fictional California-like setting called San Andreas and feature three major metropolises - Los Santos (Los Angeles), San Fierro (San Francisco) and Las Venturas (Las Vegas). While a fictional Vegas is part of San Andreas, I wouldn't exactly call this a homerun for Team EGM.
Moving on, the magazine suggests that Grand Theft Auto: Sin City (a name that Dimension Films would have had a problem with) is actually Grand Theft Auto V, since Vice City is now Grand Theft Auto IV. I'll be sure to tell the real Grand Theft Auto IV (released four years later) that Vice City is the real Grand Theft Auto IV, I await its reaction. So, EGM failed on all three predictions. A safer bet would have sounded like this: "The next GTA will be set somewhere and feature a lot of car steeling, hooker fornication and controversy." It's a shame they didn't have the foresight to mention "Hot Coffee."
Prediction #2 - The Gran Turismo 4 Wish List?
"GRAN TURISMO (SERIES): Sony claims that Gran Turismo 4, due in mid-2004, will replicate car racing more
Gran Turismo 4: Now (and always) without online play!
realistically than ever -- in addition to improved handling and more human A.I., long-awaited online play pads out the standard equipment. Vehicle damage and online voice chat remains on the Gran Turismo 5 Wish list."
Even though Sony swore up and down that Gran Turismo 4 would make its release date, the game ended up getting delayed and missing 2004 altogether (unless you live in Japan). Released early 2005, Gran Turismo 4 was met with strong reviews and little fanfare. As Electronic Gaming Monthly alluded, the game offered improved handling and slightly better A.I. Though, fans of the series still complain that Sony hasn't managed to get the computer A.I. right.
However, there's one thing that Electronic Gaming Monthly didn't get right, and that's the online mode. Sony has always talked about incorporating an online mode, but it just didn't happen this version of Gran Turismo 4. The game did go online at one point, as demonstrated by an extremely limited beta disc. Unfortunately the online servers have been down for three years, so at this point there's no way to take your garage online ... unless you own Gran Turismo 5, that is.
Prediction #3 - Grand Theft Auto: Def Jam?
"SMACKDOWN/DEF JAM VENDETTA (SERIES): Smackdown's developers are hard at work makin' the next game playable online - a wrestling
I would pay extra to be able to beat upe Kanye West ... in the game OR out!
first. As for Def Jam Vendetta 2, we've heard it'll take place in a free-roaming, Grand Theft Auto-style setting. Expect it in late 2004/early 2005."
While the first Def Jam Vendetta was admittedly fun (though, not good enough to be on a list of the "Top 15 Games of the Millennium"), the less time we spend talking about the sequel, Def Jam: Fight for NY, the better. The game decided to expand the franchise, it added all sorts of different fighting styles (street fighting, kicking boxing, etc.) and introduced a whole new level of zany combat action. Plus more music and rap stars, but you already knew that. I'm not sure what they mean by "Grand Theft Auto-style" setting, but the game isn't open world, if that's what they're going for. The setting is a crime-ridden New York, but GTA certainly doesn't have a lock on that generic setting.
The glaring problem with this prediction is the stuff about playing online. For one thing, this isn't the first online wrestling game. Instead THQ's WWF With Authority is the first online wrestling game, predating this sequel by four years. The next Smackdown game did indeed feature online support ... but it definitely wasn't a wrestling first. It's good to know that the paid EGM staffers don't have enough time to look this stuff up.
Prediction #4 - 100 Marios of Sunshine?
"SUPER MARIO BROS. (SERIES): Nintendo's Japanese designers are working on at least one new GameCube installment, due in the second half of 2004. (After all, a good plumber's never
This obviously fake cover (that I didn't make) will net me dozens of emails from people wanting to buy it. It is written!
out of work for very long.) Rumored to be a more traditional and easier-to-play title than 2002's Sunshine, it currently goes by the code name 100 Marios. Other than that, Mario's entourage of suit-wearing heavies are keeping their lips zipped."
At first I thought to myself that this prediction was just wishful thinking. After all, Mario didn't star in many games between 2002's Super Mario Sunshine and 2007's Super Mario Galaxy. But then I remembered, Mario has headlined dozens of games. Electronic Gaming Monthly wasn't specific about what type of game was coming out, so it could have been Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Mario Party 6, or any of the other Mario games on the GameCube. And don't forget 2005, where he was featured in 8 games. He's all over the place, so maybe EGM was on to something.
However, 100 Marios never materialized. Not only did the next installment not come out on the GameCube, but it completely lacked a number in the title. Instead of being called 100 Marios, Nintendo's Sunshine successor was called Super Mario Galaxy. This game didn't feature a gimmicky water gun, but instead focused its attention on motion control and other weird platforming concepts. I wouldn't call it "easier-to-play," per se. Instead I would say that it's different. I would also say that EGM didn't have a clue what was in store for them.
Prediction #5 - Make My Soul Calibur?
"SOUL CALIBUR (SERIES): We've heard Soul Calibur III may not be out until 2005, and since arcades will be extinct by then, it'll
I'm fine with not having online play in Soul Calibur III, but can somebody PLEASE get this women something more appropriate for a sword fight?
head straight to consoles. Besides the expected new characters and gameplay tweaks, rumor has it SC3 will put a lot of emphasis on new modes (perhaps like Virtua Fighter 4's deep character-building single-player game) and have online play. Hold me!"
Electronic Gaming Monthly was right about this prediction, Soul Calibur III missed 2004 and went straight to 2005 ... late 2005. They are also right that the game would feature a "character-building single-player game," however they didn't know the extent of it. Soul Calibur III allowed you to do more than just change clothing and add earrings, it also allowed you to make your own fighters. As in, shape what they look like, how tall they are, their body weight, and other features. It was really quite impressive.
Unfortunately those are the only things EGM got right about this prediction. The first big problem is the assumption that the game wouldn't hit arcades. While the arcade market is dead in the North American market, they are still alive and kicking in Japan. This game did eventually make it to the arcades, though it was only after the home console game was released. Furthermore, there was no "online play" to speak of. Instead it was Soul Calibur IV that introduced the series to online play.
Prediction #6 - Annual Zelda Sequels?
"THE LEGEND OF ZELDA (SERIES): Expect 2004 to be a monumental year for the pointy-eared lad in green tights. First up, two oddball Zelda spin-offs -- Four Swords and Tetra's Trackers -- land on GameCube in the next few months. They're both GBA-connectivity minigames, of sorts,
Link has a lot of love to give ... but not to EGM's terrible time table!
that Nintendo will probably sell for cheap. A full-fledged sequel to Wind Waker and an all-new Game Boy Advance Zelda title are also en route in 2004; both should debut at May's colossal E3 game expo in Los Angeles."
Talk about wishful thinking. Had Electronic Gaming Monthly said that two Zelda games would be "announced" at E3, then they might have a leg to stand on. However, expecting Nintendo to publish a Wind Waker follow-up AND a Game Boy Advance game is a bridge too far. The good news is that we got one of those things. The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap was release in November of 2004 in Japan and Europe, with an early 2005 launch in the States. This GBA game was close enough to 2004 to be counted, so I'll give EGM the benefit of the doubt on this one.
What I don't understand is how they could possibly think that Nintendo would be ready to launch a new GameCube Zelda game so soon after Wind Waker. When this magazine went to print, Wind Waker wasn't even a year old. Nintendo isn't known for churning out Zelda games, they tend to take their time and advance the franchise slowly (padding out the breaks with spin-offs and re-releases). While the next Zelda game (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess) was announced at E3 that year, it wouldn't see store shelves for close to three years. And for the record, the only "full-fledged" sequel to Wind Waker I've seen so far is Phantom Hourglass, and that's for the Nintendo DS.