Phantom Menace

Star Craft: Ghost has been in production for a very long time. It was originally due out in 2003, and we are now fast approaching 2006. It was originally going to be on the Xbox, PS2 and Gamecube, the last of which was recently dropped. While those of us who are Blizzard fanboys have simply come to expect this of Blizzard's titles, this isn't exactly a good thing.

On the PC, the only thing that changes with time is the average system specs people have. Old computers become obselete, obselete computers become paper weights, and new computers are moved in. If you simply aim ahead sufficiently, you'll be able to make a great looking game that fits most people's specs.

Blizzard has done a very good job on their games thusfar in this way. Warcraft 3 was beautiful when it came out, and to a large extent still is. WoW is definately pretty, and with recent retoolings to allow for better texture loading in graphic intensive areas, I'm looking forwards to tweaking the graphics settings when I get back.

However, the beauty of consoles is that they are all the same, roughly. Minor changes are made over time, but in essence all Gamecubes are created equally. Nailing bugs is easier because you do not need to account for hundreds of different system setups. This does lead to what we call console generations, where one generation's hardware become obselete, and so a new one is made.

Because of this, there is really a very small window for making a game on a particular console. With production times between two and four years, many games simply don't get a sequel until the next generation comes around.

When Blizzard announced Ghost, the consoles were still new. Halo was in its early days, the biggest game on the PS2 was the original GTA, and the Gamecube was chock full of Wind Waker preorders. Now, the Xbox 360 is coming out in the next month, with more consoles on the way in the next year.

Blizzard now faces the problem that if they don't release Ghost at the current release date (early spring), they are going to find themselves in a very tricky predicament. While there will certainly be lots of people who still have PS2s and Xboxes, their thunder will be stolen. They are already in some small measure of trouble in that with the current release date that is already partly true. Pushing it back any further simply means publishing a game which might be overlooked because it isn't in line with the latest generation.

Obviously Blizzard isn't stupid, 4.5 Million WoW subscribers says so. It also says Blizzard has enough money to do whatever is necessary with Ghost.

The Gamecube has been cut because online and LAN play are becoming key components to the game, and the Gamecube doesn't have a good user base for that. A lot of people don't buy this explanation at all. The PS2 is similarly poorly equipped in that field, if only slightly better. The only console that is really good for online and LAN play is the Xbox. Why drop the Gamecube?

Basically, the current theory is that the Xbox is ready for it, the PS2 has a large user base, and the Gamecube has neither. So, it gets dropped.

However, an alternative possibility struck me. There may be the possibility that the Revolution might get a port of Ghost, given that Nintendo is fully committed to online activity with the console. However, I think that until the Xbox and PS2 versions come out, we won't hear about it. The last thing Blizzard would want to do is say, "We've got versions for the old consoles, but you can always wait and get it on this new one!" It would kill the Xbox and PS2 sales of the game.

Given that Blizzard has said they are still interested in making games for Nintendo, I don't think my idea is too far fetched.

In any case, I'm likely to watch the price of Xboxes on ebay closely as the release of the Xbox 360 comes and goes. While not a fan of Microsoft, I like Halo 2, I love Ninja Gaiden (with a cheap special edition out, I'm frothing at the mouth), and adding Ghost to that makes three games, and that's (finally) enough reason to get one. If it's cheap that is.

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