Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Week Before E3 Week: Part 2

Next Generation #55
For day two I'm highlighting Next Generation (NG) magazines's coverage of E3 1999. Next Generation is a computer and video game magazine that ran from 1995 to 2002. It was the primary magazine I read in the late '90s/early '00s, which is also the time frame myself and likely many others started using the Internet for video game news. The July 1999 cover features Soul Calibur as this issue released just a few months before the Dreamcast launched in the U.S. Excitement for the PlayStation 2 (PS2) was also building and Nintendo had just unveiled the GameCube, known at the time by the code name Dolphin.

With all of the new consoles just around the corner 1999 made for quite an interesting E3. There was a lot happening as E3 returned to Los Angeles after a two year stint in Atlanta. I'll do a little summarizing and add some of my own thoughts on each of the six scans as there is quite a bit here to take in.

Although Sony was dominating with the PlayStation, it sounds like it felt a little pressure from Nintendo's surprise (intentional) leak of the Dolphin specs. The PS2 was less than a year away from launching in Japan (March 4, 2000) but Next Generation says that a rumor was Sony didn't want to show off PS2 at all at this E3. However, after Nintendo made its last minute move Sony added a demo station showing off some PS2 games. Sega was the star of the show though with the aforementioned Dreamcast releasing exactly three months after E3 week. Three Dreamcast games -- NFL 2000 (NFL 2K), Soul Calibur, and Ready 2 Rumble -- were NG picks for bext in show and we now know two of those games turned out great, especially Soul Calibur. Ready 2 Rumble is a flashy game and being a launch title surely sold well, though it's not one of the games you hear many talk about when they discuss their favorite Dreamcast games (it was multi-platform too, unlike the other two).

NG also selected the Gran Turismo PS2 demo which must have been Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec which wouldn't release until 2001. The first Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (PlayStation) was a hit at the show and would go on to be a very successful video game series. Other PlayStation choices include Dino Crisis, the survival horror hit from the same team as the original Resident Evil, and Crash Team Racing, a kart racer starring characters from the Crash Bandicoot series. Ultima: Ascension (Ultima IX) and Drakan were selected as best in show PC games. The final Ultima released in a buggy state to average reviews while Drakan was loved by some and is considered a good game overall.

NG's choice for best booth was Sierra which had Homeworld, SWAT 3, Orcs (set in Tolkien's Middle-earth universe), Tribes 2, Diablo II, and Team Fortress 2. Both Homeworld and SWAT 3 are great games while Orcs was ultimately cancelled. I'm surprised to see Tribes 2 here since the first game, StarSiege: Tribes, was released in late 1998. Developed by Dynamix, Tribes 2 wouldn't release until 2001 and required many patches but eventually it reached great status in my mind. As the article states, Diablo II isn't a Sierra game, however, Blizzard and Sierra shared the same parent company. Lastly is Team Fortress 2, a sequel to a Quake mod that was aiming to be a realistic military game. That game underwent many delays and changes, eventually being self-published by Valve in 2007 as a rather humorous game far from the original military theme. Interplay may have been NG's surprise of the show but the statement "Interplay may have been down, but it proved it's far from out." didn't hold true for very long. Titus acquired controlling interest in Interplay in 2000, its stock was de-listed by Nasdaq in 2002, and the company went into bankruptcy in 2004 (I should add a version of Interplay is currently in business, though it is far, far from what it once was). Worst of the show choice Daikatana is no surprise as John Romero's game failed miserably. Dreamcast exclusives D2 and Red Dog generally fall into the average range. NG's other choices were more about poor decisions than the games themselves; Shenmue turned out to be quite popular and the PlayStation was nearing its end as the PS2 was looming.


The one title on the "Conspicuously Missing" list that stands out is the infamous Duke Nukem Forever. Little did anyone know at the time that Duke Nukem Forever, which was first announced in 1997, would not be released until 2011! To summarize the first set of booth reports: Sony had a strong, if aging lineup; Sega was all about the Dreamcast of course; Nintendo had games from Rare and the Game Boy Color's Pokémon, plus it took a jab at Sega stating more Game Boys will sell in a month than Dreamcasts will by the end of the year; Ubisoft showed off a few games including Rayman 2 and a kayaking game called Wildwaters that never got released; LucasArts had Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine plus a bunch of Star Wars Episode I games; lastly, Namco's showstopper was Soul Calibur. Continuing to the next page of booth reports: Acclaim focused on the South Park license; Crave Entertainment was banking on the Dreamcast with three launch titles; Konami also had a variety of Dreamcast titles and Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions; The 3DO Company primarily showed Army Men games; Electronic Arts displayed the soon-to-be-huge-hit The Sims, Motor City, and a variety of sports titles (EA had no Dreamcast games since it never did support the console); Midway's booth had Ready 2 Rumble, NFL Blitz 2000, Hydro Thunder, NBA Showtime, and Mortal Kombat Gold; Infogrames was showing a couple of Test Drive games and Slave Zero; Microsoft's big games were Age of Empires II, Motocross Madness 2, and Freelancer; and Eidos' booth featured worst of show game Daikatana which was offset by Deus Ex, Anachronox, and Omikron.

As mentioned at the start of the post, Nintendo chose to reveal the specs for the GameCube, here being referred to by the Dolphin code name. GameCube turned out to be a rather unique console with its small size, featuring a handle to make it somewhat portable, a gamepad that had buttons of different shapes and sizes, and it played small game discs. Although there is no mention of the original Xbox at this E3, it released just three days before the GameCube in November 2001. The PlayStation 2 would be the primary competition as it was already dominating the market following its October 26, 2000 U.S. release. Sadly, despite some great games, we know the Dreamcast didn't last very long as Sega announced in January 2001 that they'd be discontinuing the system at the end of March 2001.

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