Happy New Year!
Earlier this month I celebrated the 30th anniversary of my first published article - tips for Atari's Pole Position coin-op that I wrote as a teen for Computer and Video Games magazine. I still remember the impact that game had on me the first time I sat inside its cabinet. Today it looks comically blocky, sounds like an angry hornet, and handles like a series of multiple-choice questions - but in 1983, my imagination anti-aliased its chunky pixels, conjured F1 music from its furious buzzing, and fooled me into believing I really was driving a racing car at 200mph. It made my heart pound and I left the machine almost breathless.
Season's greetings all!
What happened in the US this week? Apparently, some new kind of new console surreptitiously slipped into stores with barely a whisper.
It's been feeling like a bit of a slow news week over here in the States, but when I look back at the stories we've posted over the last seven days, quite a lot of stuff did happen. It just wasn't the usual games-focused stuff.
Howdy y'all, as they say in Texas - but not California, where most people opt for hi. Another week goes by, and we're another week closer to the next-generation kick-off. And of course, the big news of the week was the delay of not one, but two headline next-gen launch titles: Ubisoft's Watch_Dogs (yes, that's an underscore - because apparently that's how you're supposed to type it) and Driveclub. Considering I cited both in a recent most anticipated next-gen titles feature, that's a big disappointment for me. It's not the end of the world, sure, but certainly deserves a big raspberry. Why couldn't it be the two NBA titles? Bah.
It's pipe, slippers and rocking chair time this week, as I regale you young 'uns with more tales from the olden days. So if you're sitting comfortably, I'll begin.
This week was all about GTA Online. Or rather, its entertainingly shambolic launch. I haven't been paying too much attention to how the general UK gaming public has reacted to it, but over in the states there's been an endless amount of complaints, many of which are mind-boggling in their vitriol and anger. Of course, this is to be expected, but at the same time, it does throw up an interesting discussion. I made a Twitter quip about GTA Online's issues sorting out the people who've played MMOs and understand server issues from those who have no clue, and that elicited some interesting responses.
For me, the biggest thing happening in gaming this week was actually over on your side of the pond - the Eurogamer Expo. I love this kind of event: it's where gamers can get together, see and play new stuff, and (hopefully) have a great time. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it this year - but I really wish I could have been there. In the US, we have the PAX shows, but there's something special about London-based events. That might sound rather strange, but I've been to many shows in many different countries, and the most memorable ones for me have all been in London. It's a great place, and the crowds are always really positive and enthusiastic. I particularly remember some of the expos of the late 80s and early 90s, which were just brilliant. I'm glad EGX has picked up from where they left off and brought them bang up to date.
With depressing predictability, I thought I might as well bookend last week's pre-GTA5 Letter from America with a post-GTA5 piece. Because let's face it, how could I not talk about the most-talked about game this week? And indeed the most shouted about, complained about, controversed about etc etc etc.
T'was the weekend before the release of GTA5, and all was quiet except for the sound of a few million consoles whirring away, downloading the game so it can be played the moment it goes live.
Back in 2007, oil prices were skyrocketing, and Americans were suffering horrendous sticker shock at the prospect of paying well over $4 a gallon for gasoline. While cheap by European standards, in a country where many use sub 15-miles-per-gallon pickups and SUVs for typically long American commutes, this was not good news. Sales of small cars and hybrids increased massively overnight, and the second-hand market for big-engined cars became completely flooded, causing prices to drop as quickly as their fuel gauges.
Howdy y'all, and welcome to this week's Letter from America, now broadcasting from its new regular slot of noon on Sunday.
Before I kick off proper, one thing I'd like to stress is that I really enjoy conversing with readers, or users as you're now known in these fancy future internet times. It's something I've done for years - as anyone who read my old magazines will attest to - and the wonders of the internet now enables it on a level I'd previously never have dreamed of. So, to get to the point, I read the comments posted here, and am genuinely interested in hearing what you have to say, be it feedback, observations, questions of whatever. Point is - let's talk! Whether it's helping you understand the mysteries of the American market, or just talking about games of yore, I'd love to make this weekly article a bit more of an interactive thing where we can chat and share ideas, and a little less of one-way dialog/promo tool for USgamer.
Hello again from across the pond. If you missed the first one last week, Letter from America is a regular weekly blog written by old gaming geezer Jaz Rignall, an ex-pat who runs Eurogamer's star-spangled American sister site, USgamer.net.