To: The Game Industry
From: Gen Katz, Editor
Topic: Bits and Pieces
Date: Dec 2006

It was the year of the machines. After experiencing the Wii – will there be any sports game that doesn't at least make an appearance on that sweet little machine? The Nintendo DS has now become a ”GrayAge" machine with seniors doing mental workouts to keep their brains in shape. The Xbox still keeps it's avid gamers satisfied. The PS3 still has to prove itself worth the bucks. Unfortunately, it is hard to compete with the PS2 – even by making games that are made expressly for the new machines. If Viva Pinata will ever make the charts – it will have to come out on the PS2. And the PC – well it's the best for Adventure games and great graphics. With it's accessable keyboard, it was the vehicle for Edutainment games – but that genre has been leapfrogged by Leapfrogger. Online games are growing, and more women are taking a break with Casual games. What's next? Maybe we just have to think of an activity and make a game for it – like reading books.

I make a suggestion for a new way to play games. Combine one game, one walkthrough and two players. One reads the walkthrough, one manipulates the game. This becomes an experience that is between reading a book and playing a game – actually, more like an interactive book. The walkthrough or whatever hints are included can be ignored at any point the players wish. One advantage of this mode -- the game is more likely to be played to the end. This works well for people who don’t have lots of time to play games -- it will take less than 40 hours. It will however, not work for macho players who will not admit to ever using cheats, hints, or walkthroughs.

I just sent my niece and nephew – two great old kid games, Madeline's European Adventure and Pajama Sam: No Need To Hide When It's Dark Outside. These games came out around 1998, the heyday of kid games. At our office, we keep machines and systems that will play these older games. This year, for the first time, I had to mention in my reviews that the game would not play on Windows 98, some would only play on XP or 2000 and one -- Desperate Housewives had already listed Vista as a platform. Games put out by Microsoft are particularly pushing the latest system. Viva Piñata, a kid's game, is only available on the Xbox 360. Kids who play on older machines, will not be able to play it –– and avid gamers who buy the 360, will not want to play it. A strange marketing decision.

Cross-platform compatibility is important on expansion games. Electronic Arts issued their expansion pack for Sims2 Pets on all platforms from Windows 95 and up, in consideration to those players who have been playing the game for years. On the other hand, Zoo Tycoon 2 Marine Mania, the latest expansion pack, only has XP or Vista as the platform. So, kids who have been playing the game on older machines will have to bug their parents to upgrade. Who ever thought of kids as Microsoft salespeople?