March and April are difficult months for videogamers.
Mainly because of a little thing called 'April Fools'.
Each year gamers have to suffer the joys and subsequent humiliation of seeing a story that's likely to make their heads explode with cries of "teh Megaton!!" only to be utterly deflated by the realisation that said article is nothing more than the fabrication of a devious writer's mind.
It's all in good fun – trust me, no staffer out there wants to cause any deliberate harm and dismay to you. I'm old enough to remember the classic EMAP Magazines ruse that Street Fighter II was coming to Game Boy (brick, no less) complete with joystick and six-button add-on. Ah to be young and naïve (of course, the irony is Street Fighter II eventually came out for Game Boy many years later anyway). And who can forget EGM's legendary 'Sheng Long hoax' that had poor gamers everywhere trying to get the totally fictional character to appear in SFII… some even proclaiming success. Tsk.
Of course, things tend to be a little more amplified with the internet, which makes an April Fools' joke spread the world in a matter of minutes, then creating an equally vocal uproar across forums everywhere when it's discovered to be false. The already spurious nature of the net makes the concept of truth something of an unstable quantity, and when combined with the approaching month of April things can usually get a little crazy as press releases go misinterpreted and people cry "unclean" at the mere whiff of anything which appears even slightly fabricated. Which tends to be, well, everything.
So during this time of dubious scuttlebutt, misinformation and seemingly unsubstantiated stories, let's see what floats and what sinks to the bottom of the pool like the dirty brown rocks they are, thanks to the power of the patented Games Industry Magic 8-Ball; 95.999% accurate… or your money back!
1. Is a sequel to NiGHTS into Dreams coming to Wii?
Fans have been clamouring for a follow-up to their beloved Sega Saturn game for years, only to be disappointed many times by the persistent absence of the cult classic. However, with Nintendo publications teasing them along for future issue information and popular Swedish gaming mag, Gamereactor, confirming it (albeit being forced to change their cover image as requested by Sega), we've been led to believe… well, can it be? Can you dare to dream?
Games Industry Magic 8-Ball says: It is decidedly so.
Proving that the internet makes secrets or even subtle clues impossible to keep, the writing has been on the wall for this as early as 2006 when some curious rumblings were made and then promptly ignored for numerous reasons. Usually when something outrageous hits in the shape of rumour-driven news it can be treated with a pinch of salt, but here's an industry insider nugget to remember. If a rumour persists over a long period of time across a wide range of sources, chances are someone who CAN confirm it is simply waiting for the right time and for things to be 100% certain on a development/business level before making an official announcement. There are a couple more other hot items like this floating around that you would be wise to pay renewed attention to. Trust me, come the end of the year there's going to be things much more surprising than this being announced.
Those wondering if NiGHTS is doomed to limited sales (as its prequel suffered, relatively speaking) should take heed of a few things. First of all, if Wii continues to sell through as it is, the NiGHTS franchise stands as good a chance as it's ever had to reach more people simply through force of Wii's wide audience and demographics. Secondly, not all hits are massive on their first go around. Konami's Metal Gear series wasn’t a comparative sales triumph was until Metal Gear Solid reached the increasingly popular PlayStation. And thirdly, who's to say how many formats NiGHTS is coming to in the first place?
2. So NiGHTS into Dreams is also coming to the Virtual Console?
Given the aforementioned revelation, it would make sense to release the Saturn original on the virtual console…
Games Industry Magic 8-Ball says: Outlook not so good.
Sorry, the 8-Ball is designed for at least some vaguely negative answers. Really, there's a number of factors deciding this, with the storage limit on virtual console titles being the main one. Saturn games are notoriously difficult to emulate, which is a constant problem, but even with the emulation working it would mean Nintendo has to relax its paranoid rules over letting you play software from external memory drives given the size of the games. With NiGHTS coming to Wii it would be a great idea, but there's more obstacles in the way to this than there is getting a sequel out. To be frank, there's a better chance of seeing it on Nintendo's DS, don’t you think?
3. Paper Mario is coming out on Virtual Console around the time of Super Paper Mario on Wii
Super Paper Mario is looking to be the big Wii title for Easter (at least in the U.S. and Japan; everyone else has to wait like saps, as usual). So there's some talk that Nintendo is gearing up to release its Nintendo 64 goodie, Paper Mario, on its download service around the same time to coincide.
Games Industry Magic 8-Ball says: Very doubtful.
While Paper Mario will eventually make it to the VC (hopefully as will Super Mario RPG), releasing it at the same time as Super Paper Mario would be suicidal to sales which would likely only eat into each other. Good business sense this is not. It would have been great for the company to release it already to help create a build-up effect but that window has gone, so expect it much later on now. Besides, Mario fans are fairly loyal - it's a game critically and commercially big enough to stand on its own without Super Paper Mario's support.
However, if Nintendo has any sense it would release Paper Mario over in PAL territories immediately while the company is still umming and ahhing about when to actually give one of its best titles a non-U.S./Japanese launch. If not, at least throw us a bone and make a damn decision, eh?
4. Sonic and Mario Olympics? Really?
Sonic has been gracing Nintendo formats for years now, although neither him nor Mario have truly appeared in the other's game as of yet to seal what many thought to be impossible barely six years ago. All of a sudden there's news that two of gaming's biggest icons, once rivals, are joining forces. Surely some mistake. It's just too crazy. It's tantamount to fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes... the dead rising from the grave. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria.
Games Industry Magic 8-Ball says: Yes - definitely.
We're all doomed.
Seriously, it's real. 100%. I got the press release in my inbox on March 28th, rubbed my eyes, went to sleep, woke up again, rubbed my eyes and realised it was true. Coming to both Wii and DS late this year and based on the 2008 Olympics, Sonic, Mario and all their friends will be competing against each other in a sports extravaganza to make full use of the unique controls offered by both systems. If you're thinking something along the lines of Wii Sports with Olympic events such as swimming and 100 meter sprint, cutesy mascot characters, power moves, online capabilities and a keen sense of OTT then you're on the right track (pun intended). Shigeru Miyamoto is even supervising the Sega led project. Maybe the press release got it wrong and actually meant "Mario & Sonic at the Apocalyptic Games", because if this can happen we're surely not long for this world.
Ignore the haters who are striking this off as a bad game before they've even seen a single screenshot - this is HUGE on both a perceptional and commercial level, no matter which way you slice it.
5. Does this mean Sonic is appearing in Super Smash Bros. Brawl?
Nintendo's been fishing for third-party characters to use in its massively popular beat 'em up, and with Metal Gear mainstay Solid Snake putting in an appearance it seems no one is safe. As Sega is developing Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, it wouldn’t be too far a leap to suggest Sonic will jump into the Nintendo developed Melee…
Games Industry Magic 8-Ball says: Outlook good.
Neither company is naturally going to admit to this yet. But consider the Olympic team-up a harbinger to something I would personally say is extremely likely when you take into account Sonic was the most requested third-party character to be included to Brawl, and Nintendo and Sega have openly talked about it (Miyamoto stated the hedgehog would be "the perfect addition to Brawl's cast", while Yojiro Ogawa -director and producer of Sonic and the Secret Rings- and former Sonic Team head, Yuji Naka, have both expressed a strong desire to see Sonic in the game). It's purely a management level decision, but the relationship between Nintendo and Sega has never been stronger. The wheels have already been greased; watch the hype train run away with this one. Count on it.
6. Is Nintendo deliberately causing shortages of its Wii shipments?
Anyone wanting to get a Wii these days is often ice skating uphill, given there seems to be a constant lack of units around most territories worldwide. The bones behind this report is that retailer GameStop is accusing Nintendo is trying to create a larger sense of demand than actually exists, given a typically lean sales period for the industry. That way Wii is kept in the public eye and an artificial buzz is created to maintain popularity, not to mention it look damn good to spike sales for the start of its new fiscal year (April).
Games Industry Magic 8-Ball says: Reply hazy, try again.
We'll all find out in due time when the March sales figures come in, as if there's a slightly suspicious drop-off then it'll be much clearer, but this is something neither here nor there at the moment. A couple retail sources are declaring they're certain this is what Nintendo is doing and yes, it makes sense in the short term (it's a tried and tested market strategy that works). But conversely such tactics are damaging in the long term given Nintendo would be better off making sure its userbase is as high as possible while the word of mouth and heat for Wii is still good. Having REAL buyers -instead of prospective ones who want the machine and eventually get fed up of waiting- is probably a safer bet for a long term market. Because even if it IS true, it's a dangerously short sighted move.
7. Mushroom Kingdom Hearts! Exclusively coming to Wii?
EGM has stated… oh. Wait. No. No no no no no.
Games Industry Magic 8-Ball says: My reply is 'no'.
The clue's in the source. But you probably guessed that already. Or at least I hope you did…
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