With Chart-Track's Annual Report now published and available for sale to publishers, Kristan prepares his own annual Statto impression and wades through the facts and figures to offer an interesting picture of UK retail. In part one, we look at the state of the market and the fate of the current generation of console platforms. (Data from Chart-Track's annual report. Used with permission.)
The backdrop of 2005 was one of doom and gloom, with independent retailers in particular feeling the squeeze as all the major high street firms went to war with each other. After years of tolerating online retailers undercutting them by over £10 on a full price title, the high street was seeing their market share steadily eroded and decided to strike back with full force.
Suddenly, with all the mainstream types forced to price-match, UK retailers were making next to nothing on the games they were selling, and putting pressure on publishers to reduce their selling price - something that many under-pressure publishers were extremely reluctant to do.
Now here's a weird thing. We didn't really rate SmackDown! Versus Raw 2006 on PS2 very highly a few months ago. "More of the same" we moaned endlessly, because we've been reviewing these things for about seven years now, and it was, literally, more of the same with minor tweaks that even its mother would find hard to spot. "Not enough new stuff" we also whined like spoiled babies, thanks to a minimal number of new wrestlers and a tweaked energy bar system that wasn't really as good as the one in the previous year's game. Change for the sake of it, was the harsh summary.
But there's a but! Everything has turned out OK! This is SmackDown! Versus Raw's happy ending! Because on PSP it all seems so much better. Maybe it's due to us having lower expectations of PSP games, what with them often being inferior PS2 conversions. Because the most amazing thing about PSP SmackDown! isn't the play, or the look, or the Wi-Fi local link-up stuff, or the PS2 USB connectivity, it's the way all this comes together to give you an enhanced game for PSP that's markedly better than the PS2 original. This is not some feature-light, stripped down cheapo version for the handheld boshed out by some third-party developer in an Indonesian code shop - there's more in here than there was in the PlayStation2 game.
You can play it in ad-hoc link mode for starters, although 'proper' online play through whatever network you've got is sadly missing. There's also much more 'new stuff' - an Arcade section lets you play bewildering card games between WWE stars, there's a WWE trivia challenge, mini-games and more. They're all a bit on the crap side if we're being our harsh-but-honest selves, but are decent enough diversions for a mobile game that needs lots of short-burst play options.
Reviewing games isnít as rock and roll as it used to be. These annual updates donít need much reviewing, seeing as theyíre too important for any drastic changes to be made. Itís about protecting the franchise, innit? The easiest thing to do would be to sit down with a nice PowerPoint presentation that points out whatís different this year from last year, then make a few notes.
This yearís presentation on the new stuff in SmackDown! Versus Raw 2006 is the shortest yet. Which is good - PowerPoint presentations suck. But SmackDown! doesnít.
The easiest bullet point to pick up on is the way it looks and how the wrestlers carry themselves. Itís obviously better. The ring entrances are now two, three or ten times longer, with presentation copying that of the TV shows well. The Undertaker doesnít just plod to the ring with his music playing. He trots around the walkway, works the crowd, disappears into a haze of smoke and camera flashes (also new and better), taking ages and really milking it.
The latest in the most popular branch of THQ's evergreen wrestling series, WWE Smackdown! Vs. RAW 2006, is to feature full link-up features between the PSP and PS2 versions, the publisher revealed today.
It's been confirmed that Yuke's is currently developing WWE SmackDown! Vs. RAW 2006 for the PSP.