True Videogame Story: The Press Junket (Mania.com)

By:James Stevenson
Date: Friday, September 19, 2003

The videogame press junket has been long talked about as one of the flashiest occurrences in a rapidly growing industry. Indeed, some of them have involved journalists flying out to Japan to check out Kazunori's collection of cars that are being put into GRAN TURISMO, or being flown the other way to England in order to check out a Castle. Many times junkets are confined in downtown San Francisco, at the swanky W Hotel.


So what's a press junket really like? This past week I was flown out to San Francisco to check out Sony's fall lineup. Arriving in the city, I met up with my good friend from Gaming Nexus, Charlie Sinhaseni and we rode together down to the W. He was meeting his girlfriend in town, so I hung out with another journalist for an hour before the first scheduled event of the night: a game at Pac Bell Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.


While most of the press corps was entertained at the Thirsty Bear, a few select journalists from publications like Game Informer, EGM, and Gamepro were invited to the Giants game. Sony's President and CEO was on hand along with the Executive Vice President of Marketing, the Director of PR, and of course, your humble correspondent. We watched as Bonds blasted a homer in the first inning, and ate the ton of food in the luxury suite. In addition to the game against the Padres, the Monday Night Football game between the Cowboys and the New York Giants was on TV.


The next morning was more business like. A buffet breakfast preceded a morning press conference where Sony talked about its goals for the previous year and how it had accomplished them. Then it went on to discuss the goals for next year. It was interesting, but more interesting was the Gaming Fair at the Museum of Modern Arts. At the fair, we had a chance to have the upcoming lineup demoed to us, and a chance to play the games. I already had a lot of the games back with my debug PS2, but the big opportunity for me was to play a new build of GRAN TURISMO 4. Charlie and I had some fierce races on the networked game with PR folks Ryan Bowling and Ryan Schneider.


The night moved on to a cruise in the San Francisco Bay with a buffet and a fake casino. There were prizes for the top 15 winners and I finished 11th after making $1375 playing blackjack. At one point, the boat docked at McCovey Cove as Barry Bonds blasted a home run. All in all, it wasn't a bad day. The next day, I flew back home.


So does it affect our reviews of titles or coverage? Not really. Sony likes to send journalists out to check things out so they have a better idea of what to cover. It's a way to make sure all of their games get a good 15-minute sales pitch. Some games we'll bite on, others we won't. Mainly, it stirs up interest for stories but doesn't promise that those stories will appear, or will be positive. Regardless, as long as the industry keeps making money hand over fist, the big junkets are still going to happen.


So what do you think? Are gaming journalists tainted by free trips, copies of games and other random toys? Let us know what you think at gamersthumb@cinescape.com. We'll post results next week.


GAMERS ANSWER


Last week we asked about games that we cheap that you thought were good deals. Here's a great response that we got.


I'm always scrounging around in bargain bins for reduced-priced games, and I've come up with a few goodies:


- BLADE OF DARKNESS


An ultra-violent hack and slash action game, with four playable characters, huge levels, a sophisticated fighting system, tons of weapons, over-the-top blood and gore, and some of the best lighting and shadow effects you'll ever see in a computer game, at least until DOOM III comes out.


- DESPERADOS: WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE


COMMANDOS in the Old West. DESPERADOES takes that concept and runs with it, and ends up with a game that is better than COMMANDOES. This is a very difficult game, but it's rewarding and fun, when you're not pulling your hair out. The cinematic sequences are excellent, and DESPERADOES' graphics contain an astonishing amount of detail.


- HIDDEN & DANGEROUS


This one is a few years old, but it's still great. One of the first squad-based action games (this one takes place in WWII), players will be entranced for many hours as they take on the game's 20+ missions, each of which seems better than the last. Lots of different weapons and vehicles means you can finish the missions in a variety of different ways.


- STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE: THE FALLEN


A 3rd-person action game which uses the UNREAL engine. THE FALLEN features a compelling storyline (as seen by three different characters), excellent graphics, and lots of treats for TREK fans.


- COSSACKS: EUROPEAN WARS


Real-time strategy on an epic scale. The game can support thousands of units at one time, instead of the paltry 200 you get in games like AGE OF EMPIRES II and STARCRAFT. There's lots to do, and it's historically accurate as well.


-Gary

Sony's PSX all-in-one entertainment unit was talked about a bit at their recent press junket in San Francisco

McLeon.


Thanks, Gary, for all the great suggestions.


TIDBITS


Sony announced that the Hard Drive for the PlayStation 2 will be released in March and will come with FINAL FANTASY XI pre-installed total cost is $99.99... MARIO KART DOUBLE DASH!! Will support 16-player co-op in the

DDRMAX2

Grand Prix mode...


ON SHELVES


I have to go with DDRMAX2 here. I'm a big fan of the DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION series, and MAX 2 is going to rock your world. Look for our review of it next week.


Gamers' Thumb is our weekly Video Game column.

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