"Virtual On 4" in Development December 19, 2000
Konami, Jaleco Bury Hatchet December 19, 2000
Sega/Namco Joint Distribution December 11, 2000
Namco Mid-Term Poor December 8, 2000
Spikers Battle for Spring December 4, 2000
Konami Lose Baseball December 4, 2000
Konami: Overseas Losses November 29, 2000
New Sega Truck Game November 23, 2000
Dance Upgrade Kits: Konami November 22, 2000
Disney Dancing Game: Konami November 22, 2000
12 Games in "Sports Jam" November 22, 2000
Sega's New Direction November 14, 2000
Sega Games for Rival Systems November 2, 2000
Sega Private Show Nov. 2 November 2, 2000
Virtua Striker 3 Due in Spring November 2, 2000
Sega To Make Full Year Loss October 31, 2000
Sega To Close Arcade Factory October 31, 2000
Konami Get U.S. Casino License October 31, 2000
Jaleco Revise Forecast Down October 26, 2000
75% of Yubis Debt Waived October 26, 2000
Taito to Sell HQ October 26, 2000
Namco's Credibility Problem October 24, 2000
Sega Online Sales to Double October 24, 2000
Indianapolis Put On Hold October 20, 2000
Blockbuster To Rent PS2 October 20, 2000
Capcom Internet Games October 20, 2000
White Water Ride: Sega October 16, 2000
KCEO To Sell Outside Konami October 16, 2000
Indianapolis Law Takes Effect October 16, 2000
Thrill Drive 2 in Development October 13, 2000
Hudson, Infogramme JV October 11, 2000
Dreamcast Sales Surge October 11, 2000
Gameworks U-16 Violence Ban October 7, 2000
Malaysian Arcades to Close October 7, 2000
Top Skater Sequel? October 7, 2000
Sega "Sports Jam" October 5, 2000
Namco To Make Loss October 5, 2000
Sony Hit by Parts Shortage October 4, 2000
Sega Halts Net@ Experiment October 4, 2000
NAOMI 2 Revealed October 4, 2000
Konami Get Tennis Rights October 4, 2000
Konami "i-Mode"games October 4, 2000
Mobile Game Market to Boom October 4, 2000
Sega Go-Kart Game Revealed October 4, 2000
Banpresto to List on TSE October 4, 2000
AMOA Show Report October 2, 2000
JAMMA News October 2, 2000
Future of Sega Operations October 2, 2000
News April - September, 2000 **
News Prior to March 31, 2000 **

(updated December 19, 2000)

"Virtual On 4" 29.6% Complete

Hitmaker, the R&D subsidiary ofSega, has posted photos on its website of its new game "Virtual On 4". It is the latest in the "Virtual On" series which has been a great success in Japan but not so hot overseas. The latest version allows up to four players to play together.

The Hitmaker website said the game is only 29.6% complete (like telling your wife I' m 44.3% there luv, Hang on a bit longer will ya) so it makes you wonder if they have nothing more immediate to bring to the public's attention.

Konami, Jaleco (PCCJ) Bury Hatchet

Konami announced on December 18 that it had come to agreement with Pacific Century Cyberworks Japan (PCCJ) to drop the lawsuit surrounding both companies' arcade dancing games. PCCJ bought out the Japanese company Jaleco earlier this year and found itself with a lawsuit on its hands regarding Jaleco's Stepping Stage and Konami's Dance Dance Revolution.

According to the usual waffley press release in Japan, both companies state that "for the sake of the future development of the next-generation of coin-op games, we decide to amicably drop the suit". Wish they mentioned what next-generation games they were talking about.

(updated December 11, 2000)

Sega & Namco Integrate Coin-Op Distribution

Sega and Namco have announced a coin-op tie-up. Both companies have agreed to amalgamate their logistics and service functions within Sega Logistics Service, a Sega subsidiary. The agreement encompasses physical distribution from the manufacturing plant to the final operator and storage of machines and parts. The first products to use the new system will be redemption prizes.

Both companies are also considering consolidation of all after-sales service functions and are consulting with other Japanese makers about the possibility of joining.

It has been all the rage in Japan recently for manufacturers to cut out the middle-man and try to do everything themselves. This move by Sega and Namco shows that the use of a middle-man in non-core functions where that middle-man can get greater mass and therefore reduce cost is still a viable strategy.

(updated December 8, 2000)

Namco Mid-Term Results Poor

Namco's financial results for the mid-term ending September 30, 2000 showed a loss of JPY3,500 million. Two major reasons for the loss were losses on sales of stocks and real estate etc. of JPY3,800 million. Both sales and profits were down with sales standing at JPY63,600 million and losses on sales of JPY1,700 million.

In the amusement arcade operation field, Namco continued its policy of closing unprofitable arcades in Japan. It did however open three new amusement centers, including "Namco Wonder Park" in Fukuoka. It includes a bowling alley and batting center and is Kyushu's largest amusement center. While Namco closed 14 arcades in the USA, it continued to increase the number of its centers in Europe and Asia. In spite of these steps, sales only amounted to JPY36,900 million with a profit of JPY900 million.

In arcade game sales, Namco's efforts in the USA were hit by the backlash against violent games. Sales of the gun game "Crisis Zone" were much lower than expected. In Japan, Namco had no hit game throughout the year. Sales for this business section were JPY8,800 million with a loss of JPY800 million.

In the home games field, Namco pinned their hopes on the puzzle game "Mr. Driller". Versions for various platforms including PlayStation, Dreamcast, Color GameBoy etc. were developed but it did not do well. Results for the home game section were sales of JPY7,000 million and a profit of JPY100 million.

If there is any bright spot on the horizon for Namco, it is the future performance of its arcades in the USA. Namco bought the best-performing arcades of the 3rd largest arcade operator and now has a total of 279 directly owned arcades plus 402 with revenue-sharing arrangements. In Japan, Namco has 425 directly-run arcades and a further 808 under revenue-sharing. While other game developers are reducing fixed assets in an attempt to increase liquidity, Namco is going in the opposite direction and arcade center revenue now accounts for 60% of total revenue.

(updated December 4, 2000)

Konami Lose Japan Baseball Rights

It was good while it lasted for Konami. The company has just lost the exclusive rights to the Japanese professional baseball player trademark. This meant that other video game makers in Japan had to cap in hand to Konami asking for a sub-license, something they were loath to do. The newly-formed Japanese Professional Baseball Player Association announced that it now owns the rights to all the professional baseball player trademarks (portraits and names) in Japan. In the future any firms wishing to get the rights to the names and likenesses of baseball players will have to contact the association.

"Spikers Battle" for Spring 2001

Sega's R&D subsidiary "Amusement Vision" announced that it will release a new sequel to the "Spike Out" series in Spring 2001. The game will be called "Spikers Battle". Cabinets can be linked allowing up to four players to compete against each other. Each cabinet is for one player and runs on one NAOMI board. The game will also feature four new characters.

(updated November 29, 2000)

Konami Results: Domestic Market Covers Overseas Losses

On November 21, Konami announced its results for the half-year ending September 30. Sales for the period were JPY74.4 billion (down 5%) and net profit JPY11.6 billion (down 17%). The good news in the announcement was the superb performance of Konami's Creative Products division. This division is responsible for the "Yugio Duel Monsters" card game that is enjoying a prolonged boom in Japan, thanks to tie-ins with TV programs and boys comics. Sales of the Creative Products division rose 70%. Furthermore, Konami's share of the domestic consumer games market was the largest at 17.3% (5.5 million games sold), thanks to games such as "Yugio Duel Monsters III" for Color Game Boy , "Powerful Baseball" for Nintendo 64 and "Dance Dance Revolution 3" for PlayStation.

On the other hand, the arcade machine division suffered a drop in revenue as the music game boom that Konami pioneered started to slow down and the arcade industry worldwide turned south.

The other dark cloud on the horizon was the poor performance of Konami overseas. In the consumer division, Konami's only big overseas title was "Nightmare Creature 2" based on the license agreement with Universal Interactive Studios. In the USA, sales were JPY1.8 billion and losses JPY2.5 billion. In Europe, sales amounted to JPY2.2 billion and losses totalled JPYPY200 million. In Asia (excl. Japan), sales were JPY800 million with profit of JPY60 million. Konami clearly had a torrid time overseas in the first half, particularly in the USA.

Konami had been hoping for good holiday sales of upcoming titles based on licenses from the sports channel "ESPN" and from Universal such as "Grinch". However, release dates of these games have been put back from end November to December and there are doubts as to whether Konami will gain maximum benefit from the Christmas sales rush.

Konami is forecasting record profits of JPY19 billion for the full fiscal year ending March 31, 2001. In the second half of the year, Konami plans to ship 58 consumer game titles, including sports and music titles where Konami is strong, as well as licensed titles such as "Grinch". The Creative Products division will launch a new card game series as well as mobile phone games and character goods. In the arcade products division, hopes rest on "The Shinjuku Cop 24 Hrs", the gun game using sensors. The game was shown at the JAMMA Show.

(updated November 23, 2000)

New Truck Game from Sega

On Sega Enterprises' arcade message board recently, Sega's Pete Gustafson posted a few brief details about an upcoming truck driving title: "Be on the look out for another truck driving game from Sega in the not too distant future. While you're waiting for it to appear, you'll want to come up with a "CB" radio handle. You're gonna need one." The game seems set for release before the end of March 2001 and could have a network feature allowing players in different locations to talk to each other over CB radios. Dust off yer rubber ducks and yer 10-4's, good buddy.

(updated November 22, 2000)

Dance Upgrade Kits from Konami

Konami have a slew of dancing game upgrades due out shortly in Japan. First up is Dance Dance Revolution 4th Mix Plus. The game features lots of new music, including dance versions of the theme songs from Japanese "manga" such as Lupin III and Cat's Eye. Also, unlike the previous three DDR versions, the player will be able to select all the songs the game has to offer from the start, without needing to type in any special commands. The game will be released in Japan in late December in time for the New Year school holidays.

The first upgrade for the sensor-based dancing game Para Para Paradise. ParaPara Paradise 1st Mix Plus features ten new tracks, in addition to the thirty in the original version.

Disney Dancing Game from Konami

Konami are due to release "Dancing Stage featuring Disney's RAVE" at the end of November. It features Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck as techno-pop DJ's. The game also features a "Diet Mode" which is apparently popular with Japan's already-anorexic gals. This mode measures the amount of calories burned by the number of movements made. At the end of the game, the player gets a password which she can key into the games home-page to see how much she has lost weight thanks to the game.

12 Mini-Games in "Sports Jam"

Sega's upcoming Naomi arcade game Sports Jam will feature a total of 12 mini-sports games; 3 Points Shoot Out (basketball), Touch Down Derby (American football), Long Shoot (soccer), Pack Rally (hockey), Fastest Sprinter (bike race), The Kicker (American football), The Great Slugger (baseball), Near Pin Contest (golf), Computer Receive (tennis), Direct Ace (soccer), Putter Match (golf) and Hardest Save (hockey).
The player chooses three sport games and if he wins all three matches, he goes on to enter the Final Contest where the aim is for the player to beat his own record on the three sports once again. The player's name enters the Hall of Fame. Sports Jam is scheduled for release this December.

(updated November 16, 2000)

Sega's "New Managerial Direction"

Sega held a press conference on November 15 to explain "Sega's New Managerial Direction". The company's new directors including new vice-president Hideki Sato, outlined the company's new strategy.

Commenting upon recent stories that Sega will supply software to other companies' hardware platforms, the director responsible for contents, Tetsu Kayama, said "At present we are studying the special characteristics and user profiles of each hardware platform". He intimated that Sega were looking more at ways of combining the Dreamcast with other formats, including communication formats, to produce what he called a "Meta Format". This, however, would only start to take shape from 2002 onwards.

(updated November 2, 2000)

Sega Games For Rival Systems

Well, hallelujah. The penny has finally dropped with Sega. At a recent press conference here in Japan, Sega announced a major transformation from its previous hardware-biased outlook to an emphasis on software content, network capabilities and supporting rival game systems.

In other words, the "Dreamcast" shackles are going to be thrown off Sega's game developers and they can now make games for the most popular platforms and game consoles. With Sony's Playstation 1 & 2, Nintendo's new upcoming system, the entry of the Microsoft juggernaut with X-Box, the major new market for software for mobile phones, PDA's, set-top boxes, etc., the huge potential is in software. Look at the success of Konami and Capcom in recent times, two companies unburdened with trying to market hardware and free to develop games for whichever system would give them greatest return on their software assets.

This recognition of the company's core competence is also evident in Sega's decision to outsource all of its arcade game manufacturing and assembly functions. There are many small subcontractor companies in Japan with lower wage structures than Sega and greater concentrated expertize in manufacturing who can do a better job more cheaply. It leaves Sega to do what it does best; conceive game software.

Sega announced plans to increase its market share in software to 25 percent by concentrating resources on network gaming and software development. To that end, Sega aims to shift JPY30 billion in financing from third-party developers working on Dreamcast games to its own in-house software development divisions. Eventually, Sega intends to expand its current 4.2% worldwide market share and surpass the likes of Sony, Konami, and Nintendo.

Sega further revealed that it expects to post a JPY20 billion group operating profit for the fiscal year ending March 2002. This is in spite of recently announcing that it expects the current fiscal year to be its fourth straight year of operating losses. The company plans to achieve this by reducing its net operating losses on consumer hardware from an expected JPY40 billion to JPY20 billion.

Sega Private Show: "Air Trix", "Ferrari 355 2"

Well, well, looks like the rumours were true. Sega do have a "Top Skater" sequel in the pipeline, as we reported a month ago. Sega showed the skateboard sequel "Air Trix" at their private show today as well as "Ferrari 355 II" and "WWF Royal Rumble".

The star of the show was definitely "Air Trix". Unlike "Top Skater" where the player had to weave his way around the course, "Air Trix" concentrates solely on the halfpipe. The player stamps on the board front/back and left/right to achieve various tricks such as Combo, Spin and Grind. The cabinet also has a woofer installed so even the music grinds.

"WWF Royal Rumble" had its first airing. This wrestling game features famous wrestling characters such as Stone Gold, X-Pac and The Rock. There are two modes. The Exhibition mode is a tag match while the Royal Rumble mode is a free-for-all among 30 wrestlers and the last one left in the ring is the winner.

@"F355 Challenge 2 International Course Edition" features only Ferrari cars and is the follow up to "F355 Challenge". The movement of the cars and the steering is so real that Sega are also promoting it as a training machine for budding race drivers. Hope they didn't make it too tough.

Images from Teleparc Japan.

Virtua Striker 3 Due Next Spring

At its private show today, Sega showed video clips of its new soccer game "Virtua Striker 3". The aim of the R&D staff was to keep the game as simple as possible while making the graphics as real as possible. The game will be based on the new hardware "NAOMI 2" and will use five times the number of polygons of "Virtua Striker 2000". The possible player movements in the game will also be twice the previous version.

The game is due to go on sale next spring and a playable version will be exhibited at the AOU Show. One good reason to make it over to Tokyo early next year.@

Image from Geisen, Japan

(updated October 31, 2000)

Sega To Make Loss For Year

Sega announced that it expects to make an operating loss for the current year. It blamed the Dreamcast price cut, the rollout of its gaming services, and higher than expected manufacturing costs for the expected consolidated net loss of JPY22.1 billion (US$204.2 million) for the year ending March 2000. This will mark the fourth straight year that the company has posted a net loss. The company's earlier projections for the year forecast a JPY1.5 billion profit.

Sega To Close Arcade Production Plant

Sega intends to close down its Yaguchi arcade machine manufacturing facility in Japan by the end of December. Sega pointed out that the smaller production quantities and wider variety of arcade machines, allied with the fact that Sega already outsource most of the manufacturing processs, means that the Yaguchi facility was running at a loss.

It is all part of Sega's efforts to drag the company back to profitability.

Konami Gets Licenses to Enter U.S. Casino Market

Konami has announced that it had received a license from the Mississippi Gaming Commission to manufacture casino machines in Mississippi. This makes Konami the first Japanese company to get such a license in the state. At the same time, Konami's 100% subsidiary Konami Gaming Inc. got a products license for Nevada. Put together with the license the company acquired in January this year for the manufacture and sale of casino machines, it means that Konami has now accumulated all the licenses necessary to enter the Nevada market.

Konami's first product will be"Simply Poker" and the company intends to get licenses for six products for the Nevada market. The company is also applying for product licenses for the states of California and Indiana.

(updated October 26, 2000)

Jaleco Revises Forecast Down

In presumably its last fiscal forecast, Jaleco revised its forecast for the fiscal year downwards on October 20. On November 1, the company name will change to Pacific Century Cyber Works Japan Ltd. and president Kanazawa will be replaced by Pacific Century's Todd Bonner. Jaleco are now forecasting a loss of JPY980 million for the full fiscal year ending March 2001.

Creditors Waive 75% of Yubis Debt

Under a reconstruction plan approved by the Osaka District Court on October 2, creditors of the the major coin-op game distributor Yubis agreed to waive 75% of the company's debts. At the creditors meeting, it was only the support of major manufacturers and Yubis' operator customers that gained the necessary number of votes to approve the plan.

Taito To Slash Costs: Sell HQ Building, Voluntary Redundancies

Taito's latest forecast for this fiscal year shows a loss of JPY1,750 million. The company blames the loss on dropping arcade income in Japan and poor coin-op and consumer game sales. Together with the announcement of the downward revision, Taito also outlined cost-cutting plans including the sale of its HQ building in central Tokyo and its consumer game R&D building in Yokohama. The consumer R&D staff will now be housed in the same place as the coin-op staff in Kanagawa Prefecture. Taito is looking for 300 of its 1,717 employees to take voluntary retirement before the end of this year and has budgeted JPY1,300 million for this purpose.

(updated October 24, 2000)

Namco Loses Credibility with Analysts

Namco is losing credibility with the financial community. Namco suddenly revised its earnings forecast downward on October 4, a move which sent its share price tumbling and raised doubts about the company's credibility.

On October 4, the company said that it expected to make a loss of JPY2.1 billion yen for the fiscal year ending March 2001. Its previous forecast was for a profit of JPY300 million. Perhaps more importantly, financial analysts who attended meeting with company directors on September 12 say they were given hints that Namco would actually beat its interim earnings projections. Based on this, several analysts recommended Namco stock to clients so they were obviously not amused.

Sega Online Sales To Double

Sega's online sales of game software look set to double in this fiscal year. Sega told the Japanese financial daily Nikkei Keizai Shinbun that it had sold JPY750 million over the net in all of 1999 and had already reached that figure in the first half of this fiscal year. The figure for the full fiscal year is set to be over JPY1.4 billion.

(updated October 20, 2000)

Indianapolis Ordinance Put On Hold

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has agreed with a video game industry request and granted a stay on the Indianapolis ordinance prohibiting children from player violent or sexually explicit video games. This is according to an AP report. For the background, see our report below. The video game industry, represented in part by the American Amusement Machine Association (AAMA) and the Amusement and Music Operators Association (AMOA), had appealed to the Circuit Court after a federal judge last week declared the ban constitutional and told the city to start enforcing it.

The Indianapolis city council initally passed the ordinance on July 10 this year, and it was due to go into effect on September 1. However, AAMA and AMOA, along with a group of Indiana distributors and operators, filed suit against the city in August arguing that the ordinance's restrictions on video machines with "graphic violence" represented a restriction on free speech. This, as we all know, violates the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution.

Blockbuster To Rent PS2 Soft/Hardware

The U.S. video rental chain Blockbuster has announced that it will rent PlayStation 2 hardware and software from October 26. It will also have a special promotion with daily prizes of a PlayStation 2 console. With all the PS2 shortages, one wonders where they're getting them.

Capcom To Support All Home Formats

Capcom is developing network games that are compatible with a variety of consumer game consoles, including PlayStation 2, Dreamcast, Nintendo's GameCube and Microsoft's Xbox. The games will allow players to join multiplayer games through the internet regardless of which video game system they use. Capcom plan to release the first such title in Autumn 2001.

(updated October 16, 2000)

White Water Simulator For Sega Joypolis Arcade

At last some positive news about Sega arcades. On November 3, Sega will bow a new white-water rafting simulator in its Tokyo Joypolis amusement park. It is a 12-player simulation ride with a huge 180 degree wrap-around screen. The ride lasts four minutes and costs JPY600.

KCEO To Sell Outside Konami Group

According to the Nihon Keizai Shinbun, KCEO Inc. (formerly Konami Computer Entertainment Osaka Co. Ltd), which went public last year, is to begin selling game software to companies outside the Konami group from March 31. Up until now, KCEO Inc. has been developing game software for Konami and receiving royalties. The decision to sell games to non-group companies will reduce the company's dependence on Konami.

Law Barring Minors Takes Effect in Indianapolis

A federal judge ruled on October 11 that an Indianapolis city ordinance banning minors from playing violent and sexually explicit videogames without parental permission can take effect immediately.

In the 74-page ruling, US District Judge David Hamilton wrote, "It would be an odd conception of the First Amendment and 'variable obscenity' that would allow a state to prevent a boy from purchasing a magazine containing pictures of topless women in provocative poses, but give that same boy a constitutional right to train to become a sniper at the local arcade without his parent's permission.

The law requires coin-operated games featuring graphic violence or strong sexual content to have warning labels, be kept at least 10 feet from nonviolent game machines and for a wall or screen to be erected to prevent minors from peeking at the offending games. The law bars people under age 18 from such games unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Businesses would be fined $200 per day for a violation; three violations in a year could lead to the revocation of a business's amusement location license. The ruling also affects pizza parlors and other venues that keep a few games on hand.

The city was to send information to all 70 licensed arcades and other affected businesses in the district on October 12 with city inspectors to begin random checks on October 13.

The American Amusement Machine Association (AAMA), who sued to declare the law unconstitutional, looks set for a hectic time. Similar regulations have already appeared in Chicago, St. Louis and San Diego. Chicago has even refused permission for the "Mars 2112" them restaurant to included an arcade. GameWorks recently decided to voluntarily restrict access to kids 16 and older.

A lawsuit over the Indianapolis ordinance is still pending in federal court.

(updated October 13, 2000)

Thrill Drive 2 in Development

According to one of our operator sources in Japan, Konami are developing Thrill Drive 2. Its release date is not set and will probably depend on how Konami's business fares in the second half of this fiscal year. If results are poor, then Thrill Drive 2 will probably be released in Spring 2001 to give the figures a boost before the books close. If the figures are good, the game will probably be tweaked more and will not be released until September 2001.

(updated October 11,2000)

Hudson, Infogramme Joint Venture

Japan's Hudson Software and France's Infogramme are to set up a joint venture company "Infogramme Hudson Co., Ltd.". The objective of the new company is to develop and market software for the next generation of home video game consoles, to adapt and market Infogramme's games in Japan and to link both companies' network contents.

The capital of the new company is JPY60 million, with 30% invested by Hudson and 70% by Infogramme. The CEO will be from Hudson.

Price Cut Leads to Surge in Dreamcast Sales

After the price drop to $149 and a $150 Internet Rebate, sales of Sega's Dreamcast have surged in the U.S.. According to PC Data, sales rose by 156.5% between July 23 and September 23. During this period, both Dreamcast and PlayStation increased market and revenue share, while Nintendo 64 fell. Market/Revenue share as of late September is as follows:
Console Market Share Revenue Share
Sega Dreamcast 29.9 39.7
Sony PlayStation 49.0 42.3
Nintendo 64 20.8 17.9

(updated October 7, 2000)

Gameworks Reacts To Anti-Video Politics

The U.S. arcade chain Gameworks has announced its intention to limit the access children under-16 have to violent video games. In this election year in the US, politicians looking for anti-violence votes but scared of alienating the gun lobbyists, are targeting video games. The Gameworks move is in response to this.

Starting this week. Gameworks will start issuing patrons with new debit cards. Those under-16 not accompanied by an adult will receive debit cards that do not work with violent games.

Malaysian Gov't Bans Video Game Arcades

Malaysia's deputy premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi ordered on October 4 that all arcades in the country must close down within two months. According to Jaring, Abdullah said, "Actually, it has turned addicts out of the young ... they need to go there every day or else they cannot sleep. Video games have turned into some kind of gambling activity and will not bring much good.".

While newspapers have highlighted police crackdowns on unlicensed games centres and the seizure and smashing of video gambling machines, the ban covers licensed amusement-only arcades as well as unlicensed locations with gambling machines.

Owners of centres which house the arcades will meet this weekend to consider appealing for an easing of the ban, but according to the report, the government ban has wide public support.

Sega To Release Sequel to "Top Skater"?

Rumours have it that Sega has a sequel to "Top Skater" in development. The machine name is "Air Trix" and features a skateboard mounted on a 360 degree turntable. Unlike "Top Skater" where the player had to manoeuvre through courses, in "Air Trix" all the action takes place on the half-pipe. Each stage lasts 30 seconds with the player passing on to the next stage depending on the number and quality of the tricks he managed. Release not clear yet.

(updated October 5, 2000)

Sega to Release Sports Jam

Sega's R&D subsidiary, WOW Entertainment, has developed a PCB game consisting of a compendium of sports mini-games. The PCB contains around 12 different sports events each with three different stages. Wow Entertainment was responsible for the R&D of House of the Dead 2 and Zombie Revenge.

Namco Forecast Loss For Year

Namco announced that they expect to make a loss for the fiscal year ending March 2001. The company gave various reaons for the downgrade. High on the list were the poor sales of arcade games in the U.S. and Europe and the disappointing performance of the company's chain of amusement arcades in the U.S. In Japan, the company suffered a indirect losses including stock appraisal losses (JPY2 billion), losses on sale of real estate holdings (JPY1.3 billion), staff layoff costs (JPY0.8 billion).

Namco's revised forecast for the fiscal year ending March 2000 now shows sales of JPY146.4 billion (JPY0.5 billion less than originally forecast) and loss of JPY2.1 billion (as against original forecast of a profit of JPY0.3 billion).

Namco is depending heavily on good sales of three Play Station 2 titles due to be released in the second half of the year to even achieve the above figures. Its most recent forecast of results for the first half of the year are sales of JPY61.9 billion and a loss of JPY3.9 billion.

(updated October 4, 2000)

Lack of Parts Hits Sony

It seems highly likely that Sony will downgrade its forecast for the current fiscal year due to a string of problems. First of all, regarding the the launch of the Play Station 2 in the USA, only half the number of machines originally forecast will be shipped due to lack of parts. Initially, the forecast was for the first shipmen to the US to be one million units. This has now been cut to 500,000 units with a subsequent weekly shipment rate of 100,000. This means that only 1.3 million units will be shipped by the all-important Christmas season.

In addition to PS2 problems, Sony's subsidiary Aiwa is having a hard time and has revised its year-end forecast from a profit of JPY1.8 billion to a loss of JPY17 billion. Sony owns 50.6% of Aiwa's shares.

Sega Halts "Net@" Arcade Experiment

Sega have curtly announced that as of October 1, "Net@" is now officially offline with a promise that it will relaunch in Spring next year. The "Net@" experiment was launched in July with a test run in three Tokyo arcades. It was supposed to be the future of arcade gaming with films, TV shows as well as network gaming. The arcades were linked by an optical fiber network.

While the hardware was great, the software was lousy. Players drawn by the huge promotional fanfare must have been decidedly underwhelmed by the 2nd rate TV programs and lack of choice of network games. Sega says on its site that the down-time will be used to build long distance network connections in order to connect more arcades and to upgrade the content. Forget the TV shows, just get players in different locations playing against each other.

Naomi 2 Bows at JAMMA; Games include Virtua Fighter X, Virtua Striker 3

Sega unveiled the new NAOMI 2 arcade board at the recent JAMMA Show in Tokyo. It has 4 times the image processing power of the present Naomi board Show in Japan. The new CG arcade board is capable of displaying up to 10,000,000 polygons per second and supports network and dual monitor functions (display of two separate game screens on two monitors).

The new system can store games on both GD-ROM and ROM. New games under development for NAOMI 2 include Virtua Fighter X, Virtua Striker 3, Club Wagon, and Wild Riders, a motorbike game. New games based on the NAOMI 2 system are due to arrive in arcades from early 2001. It appears that existing Naomi games will also be able to run on the new system.

Given the specifications of NAOMI 2 are so advanced, there has been speculation about what the new system means for the future of Dreamcast. It will be a major job scaling back NAOMI 2 games to fit onto the Dreamcast platform.

For the record, the specifications of the NAOMI 2 are as follows:

Konami Get World Tennis Rights

Konami announced on September 19 that it had entered into a license contract with the women's tennis tour association, WTA, for the rights to use player names and likenesses in its games. According to the release from Konami, the first game will be for the PlayStation 2 and will be released worldwide in Spring 2001. Konami say they will use motion capture technology to ensure player movement is as close as possible to the real tennis stars. If Serena Williams is included in the WTA list, there's going to be a lotta motion to capture.@

Konami Introduce Virtual Stock-Trading Game for "i-Mode"

Konami have introduced a virtual stock-trading game for the "i-mode" mobile phone in Japan. Players can trade on-line 24 hours a day and compete to be the first to amass JPY100 million. Players can choose three courses depending on the starting amount of capital. Information on shares is provided by acutal stockbroker company Max and the information comes from reputable sources such as Nomura Research Institute. It costs JPY300 per month to play the game.

Konami also distributes songs and character images from its "Beat Mania" music game series to "i-Mode" mobile phones via the internet. The company also has an "i-Mode" baseball game.

Japan's Mobile Game Market Set To Boom

Nobody reads books in Japan anymore. In years gone by, one thing that immediately struck foreigners riding Japan's packed trains were the pocket-sized novels that salarymen and O.L ("office ladies") used to get stuck into on the way to and from work. Now, the stampede to get a seat is followed by a symphony of metallic clicks as mobile phones are opened up to check e-mail and surf the web.

According to the Tokyo market research company, Seedplanning Inc., Japan's internet game market was valued JPY3.75 billion in 1999. This is a pittance compared with the worldwide market of JPY750 billion, mostly in the U.S.A. High connection rates in Japan are blamed for this stunted growth.

However, with rates due to come down due to both increased competition and pressure from the U.S. trade authorities, allied with numerous new games appearing for the most popular mobile phone, NTT's "i-mode", and improved image processing in the next generation of mobile phones, the market looks set to take off. The consensus is that it will grow to at least JPY40 billion in 2000, a jump of over 1,000%. Not bad.

Sega Go-Kart Game: Official Website Open

It turns out the rumours about a Sega go-kart game were true after all. The name of the game is "Club Kart" and its official website is already up and running. The site gives information on the different go-karts and courses available. According to the site, there will be eight different go-karts to choose from and three types of courses: Cote D'Azur, Andalucia and Piazza Laziale. A picture of "Club Kart" can be seen on the official website.

Wonder why it wasn't shown at JAMMA and AMOA?

Banpresto To List on Tokyo Stock Exchange Oct. 18

The amusement game machine manufacturer Banpresto Co. will list on the second section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Oct. 18. Banpresto is a subsidiary of Bandai.

The company, which is currently 64% owned by Bandai, will offer 1.8 million shares to the public in its initial public offering. Of those, 1 million are newly issued shares and the remaining 800,000 are privately-held existing shares. Bandai will offer 530,000 shares it currently holds.

(updated October 2, 2000)

AMOA Show Report

The AMOA Show took place in Las Vegas September 21-23. There were some very interesting new games and indeed new companies.

From the majors we have;

Namco-Ridge Racer 5 this is a twin player driving game, also a Pacman classic revisited from 1981.

Sega- Had Nascar as well as Confidential Mission Force an excellent looking shooting game in the Virtua Cop gendre (this will be a big hit for Sega). Sega Strike Fighter a new style air combat game was also on show.Plus other games included their new Royal Rumble Wrestling game and one other prototype based on the Virtualon theme of Tank battle though much better this Alien Front line was fun to play and will be an online game.

Konami showed a new driving game Code One Dispatch and the latest Dance Dance machine, as well as two interesting looking redemption games Big Top Bop and Silent Scope Token Shot. Midway had The Grid a futuristic Gladiator style video linking three games up. Also Cart Fury, which is testing very well. (On private view was their new Snowmobile game that will start testing in a few weeks).
Lazertron were also showing their latest concept that is currently being sited in McDonaldswith great success, which has lead to them now signing a deal with this Blue chip company.

On the Sammy stand they had some cute Pokemon style redemption games but their steady seller seemed to be their Deer Hunter game. New kids on the block included U-Wink the new company from the Nolan Bushnell stable, this company had new internet touch screen machines and tournament ready machines, this is one to watch they have raised loads of money to create and follow through with ingenious games in very creative style cabinets, which will open up new sites for the operator.

Fun E Business had a similar array of product, as did Ecast, although Ecast were also showing their latest Downloadable Juke box that has beenmade in partnership with Rowe.

ICE had two very interesting new games, one called Pixie was a super self vending skill capsule dispenser which is sure to be a big success, plus in private they showed a new title for which they have Exclusive testing rights called Star Treck Voyager, if initial tests hold steady they have a two player shooting mega hit on their hands.

New on the Pinball front was the Illinois Pinball Company with their new Pin Pool Player and Stern pins had their new Tournament pinout.

So in conclusion we would say feedback on Machine of the show was:

Video Sega's Confidential Mission
Redemption Pixie by ICE
And best video not yet released - Star Trek Voyager

The AMOA was well attended this year and with its partnership with Fun Expo this show has guaranteed its place as a must visit show in the World calendar.

(thanks to Steve at www.highwaygames.com for this report)

JAMMA-Related News

The JAMMA Show was held in Tokyo 21-23 September. Here are links for information on the show and games shown there:

a)JAMMA Show Report

b)New Game Catalogues

c)Japan Prices & Release Dates of New Games

Sega Operations Look to IC Cards, Fiber-Optics, Satellites to Revive Fortunes

Sega's five regional operating companies held a joint news conference at Sega HQ on September 26. The aim was to clarify Sega's future arcade operations strategy and speeches were made by each of the five presidents.

Sega director Nagai pointed out that the recent advances in the technology embodied in consumer games means that there is little technical difference between them and arcade games. He said it was necessary to devise forms of amusement that can only be enjoyed in game arcades. There must be this value-added element to the arcade experience and the key to this is contents, he said.

In addition to the closure of 280 arcades and the laying off of over 500 staff, Sega aims to adopt an IC card system to get away from the "JPY100 for 3 minutes play" system. The IC card will also allow the company to collect more data on arcade visitor profiles and playing patterns and should thereby assist in marketing efforts. Longer term, Sega is looking at connecting arcades using high-speed fiber-optic cables and satellites.