Once a week I've provided a Stock Report to give you a sense of which games are streaming into the office and how companies are trying to grab our attention. The games arrive at my desk throughout the day, throughout the week, hand-delivered by our men in the mailroom. What I receive and am tallying below are the final store-ready copies of games. If I got it, your local gaming store probably got it this week too. I just don't think the game stores get the swag. That's fair. I don't get the giant cardboard stand-ups of Turok the dinosaur hunter and the dog from "Duck Hunt."
The Stock Report:
Number of games at MTV HQ: 305
Last three games to arrive: "Mario Party 8 " (Wii), "Touch the Dead" (DS). "FreeStyle Street Basketball" (PC)
Last system to arrive: Xbox 360 Elite
Last gaming-related item to arrive: "Alter Ego: Avatars and Their Creators," photojournalist Robbie Cooper's coffee-table book showcasing photos of players of massively multiplayer games and their avatars (see "Role-Playing Gamers Let Photographer Behind Their Online Mask")
Last swag to arrive: A bag of sky-blue cotton candy to help promote "Mario Party 8"
Notes on the games we received this week (and last — because we skipped a week):
"Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam" (PS2 - *SISW)
» This game, like "Rayman Raving Rabbids" from the last Stock Report (see "Multiplayer Stock Report: Lunatic Rabbits And 'Spider-Man 3' "), was originally a Wii launch title. At the time, its developers described it as a project tailor-made for the Wii: a downhill skateboarding title that used the motion-sensitive Wii controller for steering and tricking and — with a shake — speeding up (see "For 'Downhill' Wii Game, Tony Hawk Put Life On Line So You Don't Have To").
» The game joins EA's "Medal of Honor: Vanguard" and Rockstar's upcoming "Manhunt 2" as titles that are appearing on the PS2 and the Wii but not the Xbox 360 and PS3. That marriage of two relatively cheap and similarly powered consoles has the potential to bring new life to Sony's old machine and added support to Nintendo's new one.
"Shrek the Third" (Nintendo DS, Xbox 360 - *SISW)
» These games are based on "Shrek the Third."
"Infernal" (PC - *SISW)
» The box for this M-rated game features a man holding a pistol. His arm is on fire. If that means his arm has special powers, then this game could be grouped with last year's "God Hand" and the upcoming "Devil May Cry 4" and "Dark Sector," which also feature power-limbs.
» The back of the box explains that "Infernal" gamers will play as Ryan Lennox, a renegade angel who is up against "Etherlight, Heaven's own secret agency."
» Players are invited to "unleash Hell on Earth!" Among the enticements of the "Infernal" experience are realistic physics, diabolical powers and "balls-out gunplay."
"Mario Party 8" (Nintendo Wii)
» The eighth "Mario Party" in a little more than eight years, this game was covered earlier this week in Multiplayer (see "Multiplayer: Late To The 'Mario Party' ").
"Touch the Dead" (Nintendo DS)
» The "touch" part of the title refers to the way players shoot zombies in this M-rated game: by tapping them with the DS stylus as they creep forward on the system's touch-screen.
» Will there be a game with better box art this year? That's uncertain. The cover of this game features an encroaching member of the undead. This zombie has a hole in his head just big enough that a bird can be seen though it, flying through the sky beyond.
» Will there be a game with better box copy this year? In an allusion to Nintendo's popular "Brain Training" DS games, the "Touch the Dead" box reads: "Some games want to train your brain. We just want to eat it."
"FreeStyle Street Basketball" (PC)
» This is a three-on-three online basketball game imported from Asia and graphically redone for an American audience.
» The game costs $20 to buy at the store but is free to play online. What publisher Sierra Online is also importing from Asia, though, is a popular practice there to let players buy upgrades for their characters. Some basketball skill improvements and wardrobe changes can be earned through continued and successful play. Other improvements and accessories will cost real money. This model of free basic play and paid enhancements is successful overseas. The American publisher Acclaim is building an entire business around games of this type.
*SISW = still in shrink-wrap (we'll get to them later!)