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October 2012

Who's Mario Gonna Call? Slime Busters!

Mario and Luigi have been dealing with the paranormal for years, but there was one time that everyone's favorite plumber pair met their match and needed a professional consultant.  When a pesky poltergeist moves into the duo's plumbing shop, who are they gonna call?  Ghostbusters Slime Busters!  Consider this artifact from 1989 in which Ernie Hudson comes to the rescue in the live action "Slime Busters" bumper segments of DIC's Legend of Zelda episode "The Ringer" on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show to bust a ghost in an unsaid cross-promotion for Ghostbusters II.  He's not actually there as his Ghostbusters character Winston Zeddemore, but even as kids we all knew what was really going on here.

Annual Castlevania Musical Moment Strikes Again

I have a little rule here at Press The Buttons: Halloween cannot pass without taking a minute to enjoy an annual presentation of interesting lore from Konami's classic Castlevania franchise (typically music, as the music of Castlevania is difficult to surpass for general spookiness).  In past years we've heard remixes and rearrangements, but this year's offering comes from an orchestral performance.  Coming from the talented performers in the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra and Kuehn's Choirbehind for PLAY! A Video Game Symphony is this medley of beloved Castlevania hits featuring "Vampire Killer", "Wicked Child", and "A Tocatta into Blood Soaked Darkness".  It's a spirited and classy rendition of some old favorites and will certainly liven up your Halloween.  Be safe on this horrible night to have a curse.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game Edited Into Feature Movie

GhostbustersMaybe you have a perfectly good reason for not playing 2009's Ghostbusters: The Video Game from Atari and Terminal Reality for the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, and PC, but if you skipped out on the glorious return of the Ghostbusters, then there's still an opportunity for you to enjoy what the game has to offer thanks to this editing job that boils the game down to cut scenes and key scripted dialog.  Featuring a story written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as well as the voice talents of Aykroyd, Ramis, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, William Atherton, Alyssa Milano, and Brian Doyle-Murray, the game's plot could essentially be that mythical third movie that some of the franchise's stakeholders have been trying to make for years.  The difference is that thanks to computer magic, the boys in gray appear as they would have in their prime back in 1991.  When the shadow of Gozer the Gozerian looms over New York once more and the slime starts to rise, who ya gonna call?  I think we all know the answer.

If you'd like to learn more about the making of Ghostbusters: The Video Game, be sure to listen to some classic podcasts from the old Kombo Breaker days in which Glenn Gamble of Terminal Reality joined us for interviews.  You want Episode 19 and E3 Episode 3 from the archive.

Really Big Gaming Sale Today

Buy somethin' will ya!Here we stand on the cusp of the holiday shopping season and has to go and offer another of its all-day Gold Box and Lightning Deal video game sales to entice you to buy one last thing for yourself before you have to worry about possible gift duplication or persuade you to start your holiday gift shopping early.  Today's big sale is FIFA Soccer 13 offered for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 for just $39.99, while other games coming on and off sale throughout the day include The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and its sequel Skyrim, Dead Island, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, several peripherals including steering wheels and speaker solutions, Sleeping Dogs, Kinect products, something from the world of Fallout, and more.  Check out what's available and see if there's anything you like.  Every purchase you make via the green link here goes to help support Press The Buttons which is especially important.

Power Button - Episode 88: Multiple Conflicts Of Interest

Power ButtonAs the business of video game criticism and journalism continues to evolve, the line between honest representation and underhanded shilling often blurs as supposedly trusted names in reporting give in to the marketing machine for personal gain.  On this episode of Power Button, Brad Hilderbrand and I examine just where that line falls and how so-called journalists hop over it so much that they might as well be jumping rope and point out what happens to those who dare call out the problem in a public forum.  Then, after a break, the conversation continues as we wonder just when a conflict of interest occurs when game reviewers donate money to a game project on Kickstarter.  At what point is the press influencing development and is that appropriate?  Join us for an hour of breaking down the big issues.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons, @aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Power Button - Episode 88: Multiple Conflicts Of Interest

In Search Of... Bad Video Game Books

GoombellaDo you know of any poorly written or otherwise terrible books about video games?  My girlfriend Nicole runs Books Without Pity at which she eviscerates badly dated or just plain bad books with snark, cynicism, and sarcasm.  She's covered genres such as cookbooks of questionable taste, books for children that set bad examples, and trashy mainstream literature such as Fifty Shades of Grey, but she wants to turn her attention to published garbage pertaining to gaming.  Can you recommend anything poorly written about the world of video games that deserves some biting analysis?  The more out of touch and out of date the book, the better.  Show us books about how video games run on computers so large that only the richest kings of Europe can play them.  Tell us about volumes of questionable revelations about the secret evil teachings behind The Legend of Zelda.  Anything about gaming that deserves to be taken down a few pegs will be much appreciated.

You Really Can't Own These Gaming Collectibles

Ultra 64 hatIt's time for another entry in the ongoing series of articles from Platypus Comix in which we marvel and gawk and rare and unusual video game collectibles.  Today's piece reveals odd accessories such as a sonar peripheral for the Nintendo Game Boy that aids in the search for fish, a Nintendo DS game card that combines two standalone games into one place (and it's legit!), Kingdom Hearts drinking glasses, a board game based on F-Zero, a red Coca-Cola-branded Sega Game Gear, a prototype version of Final Fantasy II, and other such oddities.  Check out this hat for a Nintendo console that, technically, never existed:


We saw last time how video game companies have a tendency to
jump the gun, hatly speaking

Here's another example

eBay Price: $500

I'm reminded of a t-shirt that I own that Nintendo handed out at E3 2004 as part of the reveal of the Nintendo DS.  The shirt shows off the preliminary design for the handheld that was in the works at the time, and ultimately the product that arrived in stores at the end of that year looked slightly different.  It's still hanging in my closet as a collectable item rather than a part of my wardrobe.  I'd think it would be worth something because of the rarity, but I see that it sells on eBay for a pittance.  I'll continue to hang on to it until it's worth enough to fund my retirement.  I'm patient and this kind of thing is best played as a long game.

Weekly Poll: Game Over For G4

Weekly Poll for 10-22-2012I really appreciate you of all giving some input on the future of the kinds of prizes offered at PTB.  I was especially surprised that most of you want to see PC games as giveaway prizes; in the past, PC games haven't done so well in terms of how many people enter to win.  Twitter followers ask for Microsoft Xbox 360 games in droves, so I'd assumed that would be the dominant platform.  I'll do my best to offer prizes in a variety of formats when I can.  Sometimes publishers offer me a choice and sometimes they don't.  The best way to keep the prizes coming is to enter the contests and help me show that there is a demand for these sorts of things.  There's still time to enter to win NBA 2K13, and then I have one more game to offer up in what's become four straight weeks of giveaways.  Responses have been overwhelming lately, so I'm happy to see so many of you throw your names in the hat each week.

Moving on, it was announced last week that video game cable channel G4 is ending production of its key shows Attack of the Show and X-Play in addition to other game-related programming as the channel moves to rebrand itself (as was rumored a few months ago).  Once this incarnation of G4 is gone, will you miss it?  Let's hear your thoughts.  For more on this issue, be sure to check out Episode 85 of the Power Button podcast in which we discuss the kind of void that G4 will leave in the business once it changes focus to other topics.

Behind The Implosion Of Silicon Knights

Silicon KnightsKotaku has a fascinating article written by Andrew McMillen regarding the development of the underwhelming and underselling X-Men: Destiny for the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii that reveals what happens when management ego gets in the way of developing a video game.  The long saga tells the story of developer Silicon Knights and its owner, Denis Dyack, who allegedly lorded over his employees and stymied their every attempt to create something special with the X-Men license in favor of his own pet projects that never really went anywhere and a desire to consume resources from the game's publisher, Activision.  In my favorite part of the story, Activision turned up the pressure on Dyack by linking him and his studio to the game in the most public way possible in a pre-emptive shaming attempt.  We've all seen angry players shame publishers and developers before, but this is the first time that I've seen a publisher do it to a developer.

Instead of offering an extension, Activision turned up the pressure by publicly announcing the game, and attaching Silicon Knights' name to it prominently. What Went Wrong With Silicon Knights' X-Men: Destiny? The October 7, 2010 release of the game's first trailer , released about a year before the eventual launch date, essentially put Silicon Knights on the hook to turn out a sellable product in a realistic time frame.

"I believe that's the video that Denis did not want released," said one source. "By putting the SK logo on the project for the first time publicly, Activision forced SK to start taking it seriously. But by then, it was pretty much too late."

"This was the first time that a publisher basically said, ‘No, finish the project and get it out the door'," the source said. "Keep in mind that during this time, SK continued to have some pretty senior people staffing [Eternal Darkness 2], and had no intention of moving them back over to XMD to help out the title."

Impossibly tight deadlines and publisher-pushed rush releases are two of the most commonly-cited factors when poor-quality games appear on shelves. Yet none of my eight sources believe that Activision was putting undue pressure on Silicon Knights. "They gave SK enough time; SK just didn't use it wisely at all," says another source. "SK over-promises to get a contract, and then always under-deliver. Activision was just the first publisher to hold their feet to the fire, so to speak."

If you've ever wondered what went wrong at Silicon Knights following its work with Nintendo on GameCube titles such as Eternal Darkness and Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, I believe this article will answer all of your questions.  It's sadly fascinating to see a studio like Silicon Knights meltdown like this (the company is supposedly down to just five employees and one of them is Dyack), but it's not the first time that bad management has sunk a developer and it won't be the last.  Even if you're not a fan of the X-Men brand, read this article.  It's an intense look behind the scenes of the dark side of the development process.

GameStop Opening Stores For Children

Gamestop KidsGameStop stores are strange beasts that must please multiple masters, yet never quite makes everyone happy.  The brand must cater to the core gaming crowd, but also wants to court the casuals.  It wants to be your source for new purchases ordered weeks ahead of release, but also really wants to sell you a used copy of Halo 3.  It wants to bring in older customers, but also appeals to children.  It seems that the company has solved that last quandary, as a new chain of GameStop stores designed for kids are opening in malls across North America.  Don't be surprised if you zip over to your local GameStop to preorder Assassin's Creed III and discover that the store has become a GameStop Kids location that focuses exclusively on E-for-Everyone games targeted at younger players.  The Dallas Business Journal has the news.

The Grapevine-based company will open roughly 80 GameStop Kids stores in malls across the country by Nov. 15. The first store opens Friday at Grapevine Mills Mall, the only Dallas-Fort Worth location.

“All of the stores will be in malls that have a better-than-average GameStop in them, so we know that the stores are high-traffic malls,” CEO Paul Raines said in an interview with the Dallas Business Journal.

GameStop Kids is something the video-game retailer has been planning for about seven to eight months as the company’s global merchandising team identifies products that need exposure, Raines said

The stores will carry E-rated video games, accessories and toys ranging from a 2-foot-tall talking plush Star Wars Chewbacca to a Skylanders backpacks.

If there is success with GameStop Kids, the stores could stay open beyond the holiday season and become another channel for the company, Raines said citing other experimental concepts by the company.

So, basically, GameStop Kids is your Skylanders and licensed junk game superstore.  At first I wondered why this subbrand was even necessary, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  Now parents can take their children to a video game store wiped clean of those awful Medal of Duty and Call of Kombat games that want to poison little Jayden's mind.  Better yet, now little Jayden can run wild in a store designed for his enthusiasm while I shop at a regular GameStop that isn't crawling with hyperactive children who don't watch where they're running.  Everybody wins!  My local mall ended up with two GameStop stores in it following the company's acquisition of its competitors.  It's incredibly redundant, but they stick around because they must both do good business.  Why not turn one of them into a GameStop Kids and fix the overlap?  Best of luck, GameStop Kids.  We're all counting on you.