The Surf's Up News
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Games Online:
How are the new
game consoles affecting
the industry?
Volume 1, Issue 6
March 2001

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Games Online:
How are the new
game consoles
the industry?

As the Internet undergoes major changes daily, the one industry that continues to change faster than any other is online gaming. The gaming industry is on the threshold of a redefinition and where it ends is anybody's guess.

With advances to console based systems that hook up to the Internet, such as Dreamcast and Playstation2, the lines between PC games and console based games are becoming blurred.

According to avid gamer and programmer James Dorsey, the gaming industry is segmented into three distinct areas. These areas include open gaming systems, closed controlled systems and console gaming systems.

There is a lot of skepticism by gamers as to whether the new console systems will ever be able to compete with computers for online gaming. He believes that they are just too far behind and won't be able to close the gap.

If recent findings are any indication of how the consoles are doing, he may be right.

Associated Press reported earlier this month that with game machine technology growing so complex, it takes time and money to come up with good games. Since the machines are so expensive to manufacture, companies make their profit from the sale of games.

PlayStation2, which was launched late last year providing three dimensional images with a powerful 128-bit processor, has been a money loser for Sony because of its lack of games, it was reported.

In October, Daniel Sieberg and Richard Stenger of reported that even though Dreamcast, was the first to reach the 128-bit plateau, which Sega launched in the US in September 1999, industry analysts said the Sega console has sold only moderately well in the market and most analysts expected PlayStation2 to eclipse its sales.

Sega said in December that because of losses the plug would be pulled on its Dreamcast game console. The company was plannig to create games for its rival Sony's PlayStation2, in a move to refocus on its software business, it was reported by Reuters in January.

That same month, Daniel Sieberg of said that despite several published reports, Sega downplayed suggestions that it would be ceasing production of its Dreamcast video game console.

Sieberg quoted Charles Bellfield, Sega of America's vice president of marketing and communications, who said Sega, "has not made any statement regarding ceasing manufacturing of Dreamcast or development of other video game platforms... Sega of America stated today that the company globally reaffirms its commitment to Dreamcast...In fact, Sega has more than 100 games worldwide coming out for the platform next year."

In December, GamePro reported that a steady stream of titles, and some impressive games like Resident Evil: Code Veronica and NFL 2K1, had kept Dreamcast owners happy. With the launch of the Dreamcast online gaming network, SegaNet, Dreamcast was looking good in comparison to Playstation2, it was reported.

The article further reported that the game Phantasy Star Online, which launched at the end of January, would deliver on the promise of Sega's SegaNet online gaming service, connecting gamers from around the world using a universal translation system.

However, when last checked the SegaNet site reported that the service was still not available in Alaska, Hawaii, or Canada.

Wizard reported in February that Nintendo's GameCube console would offer "image quality superior to PlayStation2 and Dreamcast.

Associated Press reported earlier this month that GameCube is expected to be released in July in Japan and in October in the United States.

Game Boy Advance by Nintendo, which will be released later this month, will have a game lineup of 25 titles and is expected to be able to hook up to the GameCube, the article said.

In early January ABCNEWS reported that Microsoft's Xbox, which was featured at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and expected to hit shelves this fall, will also rival Playstation2.

Dorsey said that as it is now he doesn't feel that consoles are really significant enough to be included in online gaming. That could change in the future, but as it is now it is really about open and closed gaming systems, he said.

He defines the open gaming system by using examples of games like Unreal Tournament and Quake III, that tend to be the "shoot'em up" types of games that are short, have no main character and don't have continuity from one game to the next. These games tend to be more realistic than other games and have very snazzy graphics, he said.

The games are set up online between individual players with one computer acting as the main server and the others as clients.

The advantage to these types of games is that there isn't any cost to the individual once they have purchased the game. Dorsey said one disadvantage is that you can manipulate the server to give you an advantage in playing the game.

But this can also have an element of fun to it too, he said. For instance you can do things like change the gravity in Quake III so that instead of normal gravity, the game is played in moon gravity.

The creator of Quake III Arena, id Software is considered one of the pioneers in the online gaming industry with the release of Doom in 1994. Human Tornado of IDG reported in January that Doom changed the way computer games were played and designed forever.

He reported that the "bloody battles of a nameless space marine against an invading alien horde were chronicled in what can be considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest PC action game ever... The premise is simple: Shoot everything that moves."

He further reported, "Doom's gameplay has spawned many derivative games(mostly poor imitations) and a host of sequels, as well as provided the basis for modern classics like Unreal Tournament...

In addition, the variety of weapons - from the lowly pistol to the rocket launcher - are all established as standards in first-person shooters these days. And don't forget the chainsaw! .... And who could forget the bunny head on a stake at the end of the game?

Doom also started the multiplayer online craze and is almost single-handedly responsible for coining the term "deathmatch." ... Even on a 14.4 modem, Doom was fast and nimble, and there was hardly anything as bad as the slowdown encountered in today's online multiplayer games."

Computer Gaming World inducted both Wolfenstein 3-D and Doom into their Hall of Fame, recognizing game titles that set the standard for excellence in the gaming industry.

In 1998, C/NET's Gamecenter rated Wolfenstein 3-D, Doom and Quake as the number one "Top 10 Downloads of All Time." Doom was followed by Doom II and then Quake, which was followed by Quake II and Quake III.

Dorsey identifies the second type of gaming system as the closed system. He said is the ultimate example of this type of system. Even though Blizzard Entertainment games can still be played using the open system method, upon purchase of the game, players receive a serial key that allows them to play online for free in the closed arena at the sister site,

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The games created through Blizzard Entertainment include such hits as Starcraft and Diablo II. Starcraft is a Real Time Simulation (RTS) game, which means you fight your opponent in real time. You can control an army, mine resources and build up your army and bases; there is a lot of strategy involved, Dorsey said.

Diablo II, is an RPG (role playing game), where you have one central character who is trying to "save the world". Dorsey said that Diablo II usually has around 500,000 individuals playing online at any given time.

He said the advantage to playing online in a closed system is that it allows you to work with other players which makes it more fun and interesting. You can do things like trade swords, shields, armor and gems with other players.

In Diablo II you can also customize your character and the character is carried on from game to game. That is unless you choose to play in "hardcore" mode, which requires you to start over after each game. "Not for the faint of heart," he adds.

Robert Lemos reported for CNET in early January that hackers had stolen player accounts on Blizzard's multiplayer site

The company, a division of Havas Interactive, promised to turn back time and resurrect any dead characters giving them levels and experience that they had possessed as of Dec. 19, Lemos reported.

He quoted one player's posting on a bulletin board. The player, who used the handle "Unknown Shadow" and claimed to have lost a "level 87" barbarian, wrote, "Blizzard had better be restoring some backups right now or they have one hell of a mess on their hands."

In a Jan. 1 posting, the company admitted that characters and items had disappeared, `"During the past week, some players have experienced character losses," wrote the company. "Instances have ranged from hardcore characters dying to the loss of items, skill points, and experience in normal characters," ' Lemos reported.

He further reported that many high-level items used in the game, such as axes, swords and rings, were being sold on eBay for up to $50, and occasionally more, leaving open the possibility that the accounts had been stolen for cash.

Another type of closed gaming system is a site like EverQuest that charges a monthly access fee. EverQuest's site reports that its games are designed to support well over 1,000 simultaneous players. "You don't start the server program on a local network and invite a few of your friends over to play. Instead, you run the EverQuest client program and use the Internet to connect to our world servers.

Call or email your friends and tell them what city or dungeon to meet you in or, better yet, log on and encounter hundreds of other people from all over the world and make a slew of new acquaintances," the site reports.

Two of its newest games include The Ruins of Kunark expansion, which was released April 24, 2000 and The Scars of Velious, which was released on December 5, 2000.

Another player in the online gaming business is Electronic Arts. Under an agreement with America Online, Inc. (AOL), provides exclusive games programming for the AOLŪ Games channel,,, ICQ, and CompuServe.

In January the company posted a press release saying it had acquired Inc., one of the leading online family games services. has nearly 17 million registered members. It focuses on Internet-based family games, including card, board, word and puzzle games. is also responsible for such unique games as "The Sims Online" and soon to be released Majestic.

The Sims made the news in May when Mark Ward of the BBC reported that the artificial people created by players of The Sims were falling victim to a virtual virus introduced into the game by a computerized guinea pig.

Players who had lavished hours of work on their virtual people were bombarding the game's creators with angry messages because their creations were dying off.

Ward reported that sloppy Sims who didn't clean the cage of the guinea pig and who got bit by the pig, were falling ill and, in some cases, dying.

Game developer Maxis updated the guinea pig code so that the virus that Sims can catch from the new pet is less virulent and leads only to a cold rather than death.

Ward said the game became an instant hit because players could build a house with a pool that they could never afford in the real world, people are always getting promoted and Sim kids do what they are told.

New and exciting gadgets and furniture can be downloaded from game creator Maxis off the Sims site. There is also a Sim City exchange on the site. There are a number of games in the collection including, The Sims, Sim Theme Park, Simsville and Simcoaster.

Earlier this month Dianne Lynch reported for ABCNEWS that's game Majestic, which creates a world in which there is no barrier between your computer and your life, is expected to be released this spring.

The game is an episodic experience that unfolds in real time over months based on the conspiracy theory about Roswell and the Majestic files.

Dan Elektro reported in January for IDG that Electronic Entertainment's Majestic episodic online adventure spills over from the Internet and actually invades your privacy.

Elektro writes, "Named after the alleged government group that covered up the Roswell alien incident, EA's "interactive suspense thriller" borrows from The X-Files, WarGames, and Michael Douglas' The Game as it entwines players in a dark conspiracy on the Web, then tracks them down in real life, outside of the anonymous safety of a Web browser. E-mail, telephone calls, online chats, surreptitiously recorded conversations, and fax transmissions are all fair game, and they can arrive at any time."

To play, you'll log on to the site and pay a fee and before long, your phone will ring. You'll get e-mail. Your fax machine will spit out clues, Lynch said. She criticized the game for its portrayal of women, saying that four of the five characters are men.

If you can't get enough of gaming using your computer then stay tuned because France Motorola and others are launching a range of games for mobile phones. Marsha Walton reported for CNN in February that the mobile phones were featured at the MILIA 2001 technology show in Cannes, France.

Juan Montes, vice president and director of technology for Motorola was quoted as saying, "Whether you are waiting for a bus, or for a friend, we are thinking of those short periods of time."

Walton reported that starting in April, you will be able to play Trivial Pursuit on mobile devices, in cycles of ten questions.

If all of this is just way too much for you, then head over to Yahoo's Game site. There you can indulge in good old fashioned games like go fish, euchre, solitaire and checkers.


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