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GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Archive For June, 2007

GameSetLinks: June 27th Edition

June 27, 2007 12:01 PM | Simon Carless

- Uhoh, this whole 'saving up links for big posts' is going well, but possibly a bit too well. There's an absolute mess of ephemera saved up here, and so I'm going to spew them out at you - like I'm Mr. Creosote after a solo trip to Bucca Di Beppo. You don't mind, right?

- IGS PGM - Part Deux!: I've always harbored a secret and unnecessary desire to own an IGS PolyGameMaster arcade system, which is sorta the [EDIT: Taiwanese!] version of the Neo Geo, complete with a few Cave shooters and the Metal Slug-tastic Demon Front. Anyhow, Arcade Renaissance reveals the debut of the PGM2 hardware with Oriental Legends 2, yet another side-scrolling beat-em-up for those Asian countries which think that Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara is the best game ever - which is apparently a lot of them!

- June's Indies Rock: GameTunnel has posted its June Indie Game Review panel, and they continue to do a sterling job of reviewing many of the top indie games, some of which GSW has even mentioned! Top title this month is 'Jets 'N Guns Gold', the Machinae Supremacy-soundtracked Easter European shmup, but also scoring highly is Andy Schatz's Venture Arctic, which is felicitous news - and all of the top games mentioned are worth at least a perusal.

- Tips & Tricks Go Bye-Bye: A bunch of major sites have covered this too, but it's to be lamented that Larry Flynt Publications' Tips & Tricks Magazine, recently on an attempted comeback with veteran editor Bill Kunkel, has closed down editorial - though it will still release code specials, sans editors, for a bit? Anyhow, I'm sure the Magweasel will have something to say about this soon, but in the meantime, I thought the follow-up post was seminal: "Apparently, some websites have picked up my blog rant about T&T and are presenting it as hard news." Oh, you blogs!

- Nifflas, Indie God?: When he's not awesomely baiting PopCap, Derek Yu is pointing out great interviews with Nifflas, the creator of a bunch of dreamy indie games including Knytt and Within A Deep Forest. The English interview is down the bottom of the linked article, and there's some serious Ico love in it: "Ico is not about what the game is, it’s about what the game is not." Zen!

- One Game, MANY Platforms: Sometime Gamasutra and GSW contributor Benj Edwards has posted a fun 1UP feature called 'Platform Agnostics', aka 'The Most Whored-Out Games', and while Ms. Pac-Man may be suing for defamation, it's a fun angle: "Here are eight games that have appeared on the most consoles and computers over the years, on a case-by-case basis, and see what we find. This survey only covers official, authorized game releases billed with the game's title (in whole or part)."

And some bonus links to end up with, lest they get stale and pongy:

- Halo.bungie.org points out the Halo ghostbike at the Red Bull Flugtag in Nashville, presumably about to plunge off the platform in a desperate attempt to soar - fly, ghostbike fly!

- an interesting Muslim Weekly story on a 'balanced' Muslim-themed PC RTS called Al-Quraysh, being released by Syrian company Afkar Media - bears some more investigating.

- J. from Damned Vulpine went to Richard Garriott's 'estate' for an IGDA Austin party, and all he got was a nice write-up and pictures of the lawn - and Garriott hanging with superheroes.

- Jiji reviewed the sequel to D3's The Adventures Of Darwin, and this time the Pikmin-like budget PS2 game "...is set in an Edo-era Japanese village populated not by humans, but by anthropomorphic cats." SOLD!

@ Play: Architecture of the Mystery Dungeon

June 27, 2007 4:00 AM |

Roguelike column thumbnail ['@ Play' is a bi-weekly column by John Harris which discusses the history, present and future of the Roguelike dungeon exploring genre.]

I've mostly been covering the traditional roguelikes of late, which are primarily terminal games with roots back to the very origins of computer gaming, to the neglect of the extensive Japanese console branch of the genre. They’ve had commercial roguelikes all over the place, thanks mostly to a little company called ChunSoft, known for the "Mysterious Dungeon," a.k.a. Fushigi no Dungeon, games.

The first game was a licensed game based off of one of the player characters in Dragon Quest IV, and since then it has crossed over with the Final Fantasy, Tower of Druaga, and even Pokemon franchises, as well as a "default" character, Shiren the Wanderer, whose games are usually the best of the series.

As ChunSoft has found inspiration from the roguelikes, so have other Japanese publishers found inspiration from ChunSoft, and so the Mysterious Dungeon games have quite a lot of imitators. Off the top of my head, there's Azure Dreams, Climax Landers (Time Stalkers in the U.S.) and the Ancient Cave segments of later Estopolis/Lufia games. Lufia: The Legend Returns for the GBC makes that the entire game.

Sega made a rather uninspired roguelike in the form of Fatal Labyrinth for the Genesis. The recent Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja is a fairly close example of the type, and the popular homebrew WonderSwan game Dicing Knight has some roguelike aspects as well. Even Parasite Eve has an optional random section in form of the Chrysler Building.

GameSetNetwork: From Barker To Rockstar Car Smash

June 26, 2007 8:01 PM | Simon Carless

- Time to wander back, a few days later, and see what we've been putting up on Gamasutra, GameCareerGuide.com, GamesOnDeck, and our various other sites, and there's a few interesting things of some relevance to GameSetWatch readers and other freaks alike:

- Barker Gets All Spooky: Oop, this JUST got posted, but our colleagues are running the Hollywood & Games Summit down in L.A. starting today, and we've got coverage of the Clive Barker keynote up now. And he's a very sweet, passionate defender of the whole 'games as art' silliness: "We can debate what art is, we can debate it forever. But if the experience moves you, some way or another, even if it just moves your bowels, I think it’s worthy of some serious study... Games mean something to a lot of people." Mm, bowels!

[UPDATE: Aha, and now we've got a write-up of Heroes & Lost exec. producer Jesse Alexander's session, where he talks about the influence of ARGs like Majestic on the shows (!), and says nice things about Game Developer magazine (!!) Cookies all around, I say.]

- Stop XBLA Lag, Developers!: We posted a gigantic Xbox Live Arcade-related interview on Gamasutra today, quizzing Microsoft's Chris Early on the past, present, and future of the service. My favorite bit, as we extracted in the 'highlights' news story, was his terrifically understated PSN smackdown ("Over time I hope they do discover things that are great that we can appropriate as well") - but he also talks about lag problems and Contra for XBLA, saying, quite correctly, of those Xbox 360 games that do lag out for everyone: "At the end of the day, it is a function of how the developers code the game."

- Cellphone Gamers' Spend?: Last week's BREW Conference in San Diego for mobile developers wasn't a complete blockbuster event, but Jon Jordan did file an interesting story for GamesOnDeck which revealed (via EA Mobile's Travis Boatman) how much each cellphone game player was actually spending for their game or games in today's market: "Labelled 'Average game revenue per unique purchaser', the slide detailed the change of this metric for the top five North America mobile publishers between Q4 2006 to Q1 2007. The figures were: EA went from $8.35 to $8.55 per unique purchaser; Gameloft from $7.36 to $7.83; Glu remained steady at $7.67 for both periods of time; while Namco rose from $7.02 to $7.42; and I-Play from $7.04 to $7.46."

- ESRB's Trailer Crackdown: A brief mention of the ESRB game trailer story, since we at Gamasutra were one of the first to break it in more detail. Though the ESRB essentially ended up claiming it was 'business as usual', and it's true that trailers are _not_ assigned ratings separately to games, it seems likely that the ESRB is actively and even retrospectively cracking down on game video that doesn't meet Advertising Review Council standards. As we noted in a later update: "Following the statement, Ziff Davis's GameVideos.com website has revealed to Gamasutra that it was asked by Microsoft to remove a Gears Of War video from its website last week, apparently also because it violated ESRB standards." And this trailer originally debuted in January.

As GamePolitics points out, the action isn't without precedent, but, as they also ask: "Whether the timing of the ESRB’s move is related to publicity over last week’s Manhunt 2 controversy or represents a more generalized crackdown is not known." There could be a variety of reasons for the ESRB getting more hardline here, but I do believe that they are, and given that the current trailer guideline is the incredibly vague: "No advertisement should contain any content that is likely to cause serious or widespread offense to the average consumer", there's plenty of stick for the ratings body to wield there.

- Game Developer SMASH!: Brandon Sheffield started his San Diego Studio Tour by talking to Rockstar San Diego's Alan Wasserman, a feat in itself, since the lesser spotted Rockstar employee doesn't get to give interviews too often, and though there's plenty of worthy talk in there, my favorite quote is probably a frivolous one: "We spoil our sound guys enough to hear things like 'that explosion is last-gen,' whatever that means. It's right down to where we literally had a recording session where we hired crane operators to drop cars from 25 feet in the air. Then we heard things like, 'Well that's a small car, let's get a big car,' or, 'What happens when we take this car and smash it against a bus?' There's some cool videos of that." And yes, people get paid to do this.

[Other original articles include a Game Career Guide 'Ask The Experts' post discussing choosing a game-related major, as well as a Washington policy wonk opining on gaming parental controls and a discussion of online PR for games. So there.]

Exclusive: Rubin Talks Naughty Dog's Metallica Game

June 26, 2007 12:01 PM | Simon Carless

- Of course, this is exclusive as in 'only GSW cares', but myself and Brandon Sheffield had a chance to hang out with Naughty Dog co-founder Jason Rubin for a group lunch with various other journos from IGN, 1UP, and other outlets.

Rubin, who left Naughty Dog a few years back, was in town to discuss his recently MySpace-purchased firm Flektor, which "...allows users to create slide shows using video, photos, text and effects/transitions" - and actually, he did mention that using game programmers for their Web 2.0 programming worked out really well. We'll be following up with Rubin and co-conspirator Andy Gavin for longer chats at some point soon.

But here's the real scoop - while discussing metal bands, Rubin revealed that in the early days of their firm, in the mid-'90s, Naughty Dog pitched Metallica on a game [presumably for the PlayStation] using the Crash Bandicoot game engine, with levels and enemies themed around the seminal band's songs.

Examples? Apparently, one of the levels was to be based around classic 'Ride The Lightning' song 'Trapped Under Ice', "...a nightmarish first-person narrative of a person being trapped under ice, both freezing and drowning", and one of the boss characters was to be 'The Thing That Should Not Be', from 'Master Of Puppets'.

Don't know about you guys, but all I can think of is the 'Foreigner' belt from Aqua Teen Hunger Force as a point of reference - power-ups derived from song titles too would have rocked (though now I'm just projecting!)

So what happened? According to Rubin, there was only a basic design doc worked on, and Metallica were potentially interested, but wanted complete creative control on the project. And Naughty Dog wanted a degree of control too, of course - so they decided to go their separate ways. As I recall, Metallica tried again with a vehicle combat game for Vivendi in 2003, but it got cancelled too. Tragedy.

[Oh, you want real game-related news? Rubin also updated us on Iron & The Maiden, his multimedia project which is coming out as a comic first - Newsarama has a recent interview with him that includes lots art for the title, which is debuting via Michael Turner's comic company Aspen. Apparently, Rubin has people working on 3D models of the characters, led by title character Michael Iron, and he's considering pitching it to game publishers, but that's not his top priority right now.]

GameSetPics: Wing Commander Arena's 'StarSoldier' Magazine

June 26, 2007 4:00 AM | Simon Carless

Like us here at GSW, Mr. Crecente over at Kotaku got hold of StarSoldier Magazine, January 2701 issue - apparently beamed from the future by Electronic Arts, who are advertising the upcoming Xbox Live Arcade multiplayer shooter Wing Commander Arena with this promotional device, sent to the press today.

But the swarthy piratical cove ended up scanning in some the instruction and info pages, so I thought I'd go in another direction and feature some of the odder pages in the 60-page mag, which was obviously compiled by someone with a hardcore love for Wing Commander lore - way beyond my limited knowledge. Seriously.

So here goes (click through for bigger scan, and there are lots more neat pages I didn't have time to scan, sorry folks):

The cover of the magazine - this isn't just an instruction manual.

This one I know! Tom 'Biff' Wilson grins from the cover of 'Maniac' Marshall's autobiography.

Douglas Aerospace are important Wing Commander spaceship builders - hence the ad.

Ah, classifieds, and all kinds of insanely obscure Wing Commander references.

The back cover of the mag, and the Privateer protagonist is still in trouble!

While initial buzz on Wing Commander Arena was mixed, partly thanks to it being a reimagining of the series as a 2D multiplayer shooter - when a lot of fans were burning for something in 3D, of course - it's really great to see documents like this going above and beyond in making the world real. Let's hope the game matches the attention to detail shown here!

[UPDATE: The nice folks at Wing Commander News have a massive thread about these scans which explains a lot of the Wing Commander canon references far better than I am able, not having a PhD on the subject. And they're rather excited, yay.]

Column: The RePlay Files: Atari Talks Gauntlet, Paperboy

June 26, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

[New column 'The RePlay Files' will reprint classic features and news stories from seminal arcade/amusement trade journal RePlay Magazine, with the kind permission of the magazine's creators - check out their website for info about subscriptions, news, and the contents of the latest issue. This second of three officially approved extracts is a full-length interview with then Atari coin-op boss Shane Breaks, which was the cover feature for the January 1986 issue of the magazine, just as Atari's coin-op resurgence was hitting with Gauntlet and Paperboy!]

- In his twenty-plus years in the coin machine industry, Shane Breaks has made his name (and the products he’s represented) known in numerous corners of the world. An authentic “globetrotter” who’s crossed the Atlantic 125 times and made numerous visits to Southeast Asia, Japan, Africa, South America and, of course, Europe, this son of England has almost as many miles on his shoes as the space shuttle has on its nose cone.

If there’s a single threadline throughout his glamorous career in the industry, it’s been Atari…as a distributor at the very beginning of that company through to his present position as Senior VP of Atari Games in Milpitas, Calif. Where his duties put him at the top of all coin-op sales domestically and overseas.

A native of West Hartlepool (located in the North of England), Shane elected to take a job with a South African bank after school rather than one in journalism which his “Mum” would have preferred. He had the wanderlust even then. His first job in the industry was with Quick Maid, a subsidiary of England’s Associated Leisure which ran a vending operation (“I had no love for that,” he recalls).

Six months later, he joined Streets Automatic Machine Co. and in his twelve years there, went from sales to Sales Manager to Director to President. Streets not only ran operations but manufactured arcade games and Shane took them worldwide. He actually dealt for five years with Madame Furtsyeva, Russia’s Minister of Culture, selling her games like the ‘Streets Rifle Range’ and other arcade items like coin pushers for use in Russia’s fairgrounds.

He made an important “Atlantic crossing” in 1974 to join Rowe International as their VP of Games Buying. Two years later, he became Sales VP at R.H. Belam, exporters of new and used games who found a perfect rep in the man who had game knowledge, overseas contacts and the wanderlust to bring Belam’s program to the client in person. One of the products represented by Belam was Atari.

As it goes, Shane then moved directly into Atari in 1979 to pilot their international sales program. During this period, he established their factory in Tipperary, Ireland and worked either out of there or London covering foreign markets until the summer of 1984 when he was offered his present position up in Silicon Valley.

Shane remains a British citizen but enjoys permanent resident status from the United States Government. He and wife Linda live within driving distance of the Atari facility. Son Brendan (22) is presently working at Betson Enterprises in San Francisco and daughter Sondra (25) lives and works in Australia. The family also maintains an old Victorian home in Surrey, England and a small vacation cottage in San Remo, Italy near Monte Carlo.

“Home” right now is at Atari’s new administrative and factory facility in Milpitas which the company only recently moved into (they vacated the former Milpitas headquarters some time ago). It’s a comfortable, trimmed down version of the complex the “old” Atari operated, but is nevertheless adequate to meet existing market conditions, although with a hit like ‘Gauntlet,’ the company is a bit pressed to meet market demand.

RePlay visited Shane Breaks at the new place to get his thoughts on today’s Atari Games as well as some personal reflections about where the business has been and where it’s going in 1986. Being machine-oriented, we began our question/answer chat with the obvious:

GameSetLinks: June 25th, 2007

June 25, 2007 4:01 PM | Simon Carless

- So many esoteric weekend links that they're spilling out into the week - but that can only be a good thing, really. And this set even has a little Parappa action in it, to be heartily encouraged - here goes:

- The Chinese Get Civilized: 2K's Jason Bergman has a neat post about the Chinese version of Civilization IV, revealing and showing how they made the official version a bit unique: "For the low, low price of 元139 (that’s about $18), you get the game, a soundtrack CD, a tech tree, manual (slimmed down from the original English version…a fully translated Chinese language manual would probably have been enormous), a t-shirt, and a statue." Actually, even more interesting: "Localizing it brought with it a number of problems…there were several gameplay changes that were necessary to get it past the governmental censors (I won’t go into them here, but if you play Civ, it’s not hard to guess what they might be)." Anyone?

- Parappa Gets Frank: Brandonnn pointed out to me that Sony has a special Paul Frank/Parappa team-up: "To help promote PaRappa the Rapper’s debut on the PlayStation® Portable system, Paul Frank Industries teamed up with PaRappa's "co-creator and artist", Rodney Alan Greenblat, to create a limited edition tee-shirt featuring Paul Frank’s signature character Julius and our very own PaRappa the Rapper." Go Rodney, go Rodney! Not sure if this will be available at retail?

- Cheating Gets Own Tome: The ever-wordy Terra Nova pointed out a new MIT Press book I wasn't aware of - Mia Consalvo's upcoming 'Cheating', which "...provides a cultural history of cheating in videogames, looking at how the packaging and selling of such cheat-enablers as cheat books, GameSharks, and mod chips created a cheat industry." The intro extract [.PDF] gives you a good idea of the tone, which is decidedly academic, but may well be instructive, too - I find MIT Press game books alternately brilliant and impenetrable, so YMMV.

- Elite Beat Invasion!: Nintendo World Report points out a very neat crossover: "For two weeks from June 28th through July 11th, Ouendan 2 owners in Japan will be able to take their DS cards to in-store DS Stations and download new characters into their games. These characters are none other than iNiS's other DS mascots, the Elite Beat Agents." Those guys are really getting around, their game having been re-imported to Japan by a bunch of Tokyo game stores already.

- Japan & Forza 2 Hold Hands: You've probably seen plenty of car customization pics from Microsoft's Forza 2 recently, but Pink Tentacle points out the Japanese efforts in car modding on the Xbox 360 game. As they explain: "Here are links to two enormous online galleries (Gallery 1, Gallery 2) of virtual otaku-mobile paint jobs incorporating loads of Japanese-flavored eye candy, from anime and manga to games, food packaging and more." Oop, I see at least one NSFW Mini roof in the first link, be warned!

As for internal CMP Game Group-related links for today, we don't have anything _just this second_, but there's actually two neat Game Developer Research-related announcements we'll hopefully be making later this week, one with a new report featuring some never-before-calculated stats, and the other involving a whole new blog for you guys to get your hands on - watch at for more info on this soon.

2007 Independent Games Summit: Gastronaut's Small Arms Postmortem

June 25, 2007 8:01 AM | Simon Carless

- We ran the first of these videos last week, but we're continuing to put online key lectures from the Independent Games Summit, the IGF-affiliated event that took place for the first time at Game Developers Conference 2007 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, on March 5th and 6th, 2007. (We'll do it again in 2008.)

We're putting video of the 2007 Independent Games Summit online "for free, in the spirit of sharing, and to help the indie community understand and better itself", and the second IGS 2007 lecture to go up is the 'Small Arms Postmortem' lecture from Gastronaut Studios' Jacob Van Wingen and Don Wurster- here's a direct Google Video link for the lecture, plus a downloadable MP4 file and an embedded version:

It's good to see an XBLA title dissected in this much detail, especially since it shows that a very small team can indeed make a competitive console game. Thanks to Jacob and Don for turning up to the Indie Games Summit with such a thoughtful lecture - which lots more independent game makers can now appreciate online.

Here's the original session description: "The creators of Xbox 360 Live Arcade stand-out title Small Arms, previous veterans of XBLA from their work with Fuzzee Fever on the original Xbox Live Arcade, talk about what went right and what wrong during the development of the frenetic multiplayer shooter, giving plenty of insight into developing indie games on console."

Game Journalists: Not Enough Impartiality... Or Too Much?

June 25, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- So, I'd like to link to a neat little editorial that Dan Amrich of Future's Official Xbox Magazine wrote last week - it's called 'Is this editorial about ethics…ethical?', and it discusses a new EGM editorial by EIC Dan Hsu - which is actually incredibly similar to a similar editorial by Hsu in December 2005.

The crux of Amrich's point is: "Future has the same exact policies about this stuff as Ziff. We’re just not tooting our own horn about it. That doesn’t mean we’re guilty simply because we’re not the first to say “I’m innocent.” But that’s the implication, and that’s quite definitely the message that was taken to heart by the readers who left comments." And I think I agree with Amrich here - the 'den of iniquity' issue for the rest of the game journalism biz is a seedy and unnecessary road to travel down.

My personal belief is that Hsu is getting baited by fanboys - I've seen a couple of downright defensive editorials from him in the pages of EGM of late. I suspect that being constantly told by lots of people that you're a terrible paid shill for X - where X is Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo - is going to make you worried about how people perceive you and others. And really, I don't know anyone significant in game journalism who is affected by press event invites or free review copies of games. Maybe I'm naive?

And actually, this whole issue of impartiality is even more interesting since Ziff's officially Microsoft-sponsored Games For Windows magazine is doing such a good job of being independent that it's rapidly straying away from something that I think Microsoft would be comfortable with in an 'official' publication.

Jeff Green and folks are doing admirably in providing fiercely impartial editorial, but Games For Windows Live is (rightly) coming in for a major bashing in the pages of the mag - with Green's latest back-page editorial a tongue-in-cheek screed to Bill Gates, asking him to make the service free. Definitely Bizarro World.

In return, the clearly labeled Microsoft-written advertising pages in GFW are getting a bit closer to 'fake edit', with at least one opinion piece from a non-Microsoft writer in the ad pages this month (Kevin J Baird of VideoGameNews.com, talking about why buying Windows games at retail still rocks - it's not so much fun to read when you have to work out Microsoft's agenda for paying to run it).

It appears that 'edit-like' reviews and interviews about Microsoft games are becoming more prevalent in the special Microsoft advertising section, as opposed to the slightly more 'informational' text we saw earlier in GFW's life in that section. Are we heading for a showdown here? (Obviously, my tongue is in cheek when I'm saying too much impartiality is a hellish thing - but for an officially Microsoft-branded pub, it may actually be a problem in the long run!)

[And while we're on the subject of ethics and journalism, bigger scandals hit the non-game world almost every day - the latest, as blasted by Nick Denton at Valleywag, is a Microsoft campaign running on Federated Media sites that some claim has the bloggers associating themselves too closely with advertising and Microsoft products - FM's boss John Battelle has some interesting comments on the whole furore.]

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': An Express Train to The Past

June 24, 2007 4:01 PM |

['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which covers video game magazines from the late '70s all the way up to right now.]

arcadeexpress01.jpg   arcadeexpress26.jpg

I recently spent a great deal of money (I'm not going to tell you how much, but it was a reasonable percentage of my weekly salary) to buy a stack of Arcade Express issues. These were the first issues of AE I have seen on the marketplace in years, and it's an almost complete run of the newsletter before it changed names to Electronic Games Hotline. The last time I saw AEs for sale, it was 2002 and I was attending the auction at the Classic Gaming Expo. A whole stack of them, which I think Bill Kunkel signed no less, went for around $90 -- a paltry sum -- mainly because I don't think anyone in the room really knew what they were.

Launched by Reese Publishing in 1982 and edited by Joyce Worley, Arcade Express was a sort of supplement to Electronic Games, the first mass-market video game magazine in the United States. It was a typewritten, subscription-only, eight-page newsletter devised to keep readers as up-to-date as possible on game industry news, something difficult to do with the long-lead-time Electronic Games. "There is a vast amount of information crossing our desks everyday at Electronic Games magazine," Worley wrote in the first issue. "Arcade Express will rush this information to you every two weeks, to help you keep aware of what's happening in our favorite hobby."

While AE lacks much in art or purple prose, it's the primary source when it comes to getting a bead on the gestalt of the video-game industry during the age it was published. When it launched in August 1982, everything was roses and honey for consoles. Emerson was announcing a new game system; Coleco had just launched their own; Tiger, Fox and Mattel were becoming 2600 third parties; and Atari was signing a blockbuster deal with Lucasfilm to market and publish the film giant's first video games. The party rolled on through the end of the year, with new game rollouts and arcade license announcements consistently dominating the Arcade Express news pages.

The first piece of negative news doesn't come until issue 9 (December 15, 1982), when 2600 third-party game maker Apollo announced that it had filed for Chapter 11. A more sinister sign of the impending shakeout appears in issue 11, where news arrives that Atari exec Perry Odak has resigned after a report that his company will miss its earnings expectations for the second half of 1982.

As you proceed through 1983, you can't help but notice how much of each issue is filled with (a) price drop announcements (b) early coverage of products that never made it to stores, like Magnavox's Odyssey3 and Mattel's Intellivision III consoles. By issue 26 (July 31, 1983), the newsletter is looking downright gloomy: Atari and Mattel lay off over 1200 workers; Fox Video Games slashes 2600 cartridge prices in response to "the current market glut of VCS-compatible games"; and Atari is resorting to hiring an ex-cigarette company vice president as their new chairman and CEO. I can only imagine how gloomier -- and more interesting -- things get with future issues.

Arcade Express changed its name to Electronic Games Hotline with the August 14, 1983 issue; Reese went on to publish 27 more biweekly newsletters before folding the title with the August 12, 1984 edition. It's my plan to scan in my issues for public consumption (a project I've already received Worley's permission for), as this is a seriously fascinating look into a facet of the video-game industry I never had a chance to experience for myself.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]

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