We here at Something Awful have long considered ourselves sort of a site related to gaming. I mean, sure, on a given week we might only have one or two articles related to video games, but deep down in our hearts we care about the gaming industry. To reinforce this point I have decided to devote today's update to an insider scoop on the next generation of console wars. The battle plans have already been made for 2005 and its looking to be one of the most brutal fights since the Soviet Union invaded Finland in what we now refer to as "The Winter War". Will the Communist juggernaut of Sony roll over wee little Nintendo like it wasn't even there, or will the Nazis at Microsoft slowly feed arms to Nintendo's resistance…well, this analogy isn't really working out like I had hoped.

Regardless of my remarkable failure at drawing a parallel between the Winter War and the upcoming console wars I think you'll be happy to know that we have delved deep into the industry to provide you with a startling look at what each side will be offering.

NintendoI'm sure Panasonic is extremely happy they spent resources designing and manufacturing that!Old fan favorite Nintendo has certainly seen better years. Its waning popularity is reflected in poor sales of all but a few headlining titles and, in its desperation, Nintendo seems to have become a clearinghouse for electronic gimmickry. Everything from Link Cables to E-Cards has been churned out by Nintendo in an effort to use the strength of their handheld unit, the Game Boy Advance, to revitalize the flaccid sales of their Game Cube home console. Cross promotion within the context of their games borders on repugnant and their flagship characters are cheapened by yammering about hooking up Nintendo's latest purple gadget to your console.

The situation isn't hopeless for Nintendo by any means. They still have a few of their franchise characters that remain relatively untarnished despite Nintendo's best efforts to turn them into carnival barkers for their shitty peripherals. "The Legend of Zelda" still has a few miles left in it and "Metroid" proved that backtracking endlessly for a power up can be sort of fun in 3D too.

With this in mind I sat down and talked with some anonymous sources at Nintendo to get the inside scoop on their big 2005 console release and some of the products associated with it.

The name of Nintendo's upcoming console has not been announced but my sources indicate there is a strong possibility Nintendo will be going with "The Nintendo Play Sphere". This owes mainly to the fact that Nintendo's latest console will be completely spherical and roughly the size of a softball only smooth and hot pink. Of all three console manufacturers Nintendo has the best record of thwarting piracy by using a non-standard game media. This pattern will continue with the NPS and its patented Game Crystal technology. The Game Crystals will be cylindrical crystals covered in a micro-mesh of circuitry and tiny memory chips. The downside to this will be that Games will cost between 70-80 dollars a piece and the crystals are prone to shattering if lightly bumped.

Just go away Mario, and take your Yoshis, your Warios, and whatever else Nintendo puked out right along with you.Other touted features of the NPS are a new controller design that promises to be so tiny and non-ergonomic that it will inflict hand cramps on users a split second after they pick up the controller. Nintendo sources reassured me that they will place at least one button on the controller in such a bizarre spot that you will literally have to ask someone to press it for you when you're holding the controller. Nintendo has been pretty tight lipped about plans to bring the console online with either an integrated adapter or an add-on adapter, but my sources have blown the lid off Nintendo's online strategy. They will be releasing a new product called the Link Cable Link Cable that will allow users to connect their Link Cables to other Link Cables. Nintendo has built a room in the basement of their building and if you buy enough Link Cable Link Cables to reach this room you can connect to other users around the world. Unfortunately, Nintendo has also already announced plans to fill this room with concrete less than three days after Link Cable Link Cable Online launches.

The software library for the Play Sphere is expected to be fairly similar to the lineup for the Game Cube, relying mostly on Nintendo's own first party titles to provide anything interesting outside of mediocre cross-platform ports. My sources at Nintendo have told me to expect titles based on all of the good old Nintendo franchise characters we're already fucking sick of including as many as thirty games related to Mario. On top of that we can look forward to a number of obscure and bizarre Japanese niche titles guaranteed to impress a handful of teenage boys who want to be Japanese. Europe, fear not, Nintendo has heard your complaints about lack of European software support and has sworn a solemn oath to release games in Europe no more than eight years after they come out in the United States and Japan. And for all you Pokemon fans out there Nintendo has committed one hundred percent to hinting at a Play Sphere release of a Pokemon RPG that they will never actually release.

Microsoft

This is not actually an Xbox 2. The Xbox 2 will be easily recognizable based on the number of cup holders and the four slice toaster slots.By most estimations the Xbox has been something of a failure. While it managed to edge out Nintendo's number two position in the console wars it remains a distant second behind Sony's Playstation 2. That isn't for a lack of effort on Microsoft's part. The operating system developer has dropped many millions on developing and marketing the Xbox and while the Xbox is a beast of a console in more ways than one, its late entry into the market and lackluster software library has hindered its progress. In fact a large portion of the money Microsoft has spent on pushing the Xbox comes from the huge financial loss Microsoft absorbed by offering the consoles for a price well below manufacturing cost.

That isn't to say that the Xbox is a bad console, in fact quite the contrary, the Xbox is pretty much superior in every way to the competition and includes a number of features not offered by Sony or Nintendo. Personally I applaud Microsoft for finally developing a console with a fucking hard drive. I mean come on Sony and Nintendo, we know you love making money off your shitty memory cards, but their time has come and gone and you need to put them behind you.

Where Microsoft has really suffered is in the software support for their monster console. A few good first party titles and a handful of good third party titles, for many, fail to match up against even the anemic offerings of Nintendo. In 2005 Microsoft hopes to change all that, and a good buddy of mine over at Team Xbox got on the phone with me after a few bribes to answer some questions about their upcoming console.

I'm not even 100% sure what game this is, they all just sort of blur together into a haze of shittiness.The Xbox was a console bristling with features that the competition lacked but the Xbox 2 promises to totally eclipse the Xbox. The new policy at Microsoft is to move away from a dedicated gaming platform and offer a "multi experience center". What this means in practice is that the Xbox 2 will include high-end gaming hardware, a mini-fridge capable of holding an entire case of soda or beer, an air-conditioning unit, a four slice toaster, a TIVO unit, cup holders, a diaper changing table, a trash can, and a refillable toothpaste reservoir. Even the new extra large controllers - designed specifically for use by basketball players - will incorporate heated buttons and miniature LCD screens so you don't miss out on any of the action.

Team Xbox also promises to blow us all away with a supercharged line up of software titles featuring only the best in generic 3rd person action games like "Maximum Explosion", "Strong Arm 2: Arm Stronger", and "Mafia Episode 4: Strafe Right". Where the Xbox definitely beat out the competition was in the online gaming offered through Xbox Live. While the original was impressive, Xbox 2's Live system will offer more than ten times as many voice filters for ten year olds to use as they sustain a three minute shriek during your online football game. My sources promise that you will be called a faggot in a number of voices ranging from "Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch" to "Robotic Voice 5".

Microsoft plans to base the entirety of their marketing on the idea that Halo 3 may eventually appear exclusively on their system. My man on the inside said I can quote him as announcing "you can expect a Halo 3 on Xbox 2 some time before the end of the decade". He asked me to add "it will rock you like a hurricane" but I politely declined.

Sony

A Playstation 3 or a shitty Photoshop of a Super Nintendo? You be the judge!The reigning champion of the Playstation and N64 era continued its domination of the console market through the current generation of consoles with its Playstation 2. While the console was slightly underpowered when pitted against its opponents the Playstation 2's backwards compatibility and early arrival in the marketplace helped boost it to a strong leading position that it has maintained. The strong sales of the PS2 have ensured the console has a massive library of software both good and bad, making it the best bet for anyone just starting out as a gamer.

Too bad the Playstation 2 is a faulty piece of crap that usually breaks a day after its warranty expires! With the PS2 Sony introduced a new concept to the consumer electronics market; disposable hardware. In essence the idea is to produce hardware as cheaply as possible so that the warranty date amounts to an expiration date on the life of the console. By the time your PS2 goes bad you will have invested so much money in software that you will feel obligated to buy a new console. While I have never personally had a problem with a PS2 the numbers don't lie, unless you're reading "The Phantom Tollbooth", and these numbers say that Sony's console is perishable.

Hopefully Sony will discontinue this unethical practice with their Playstation 3 console. I can't offer any insight on that, but thanks to several PDF files I pulled down from an accidentally shared folder on Kaaza I can shed more than a little light on other aspects of Sony's 2005 release schedule.

In a technical document about the Playstation 3's specifications I discovered that the console supposedly will "push so many polygons per second that it will place users at risk of losing their immortal souls to endless torment in the abyss". What this means exactly I can't be sure, but I think it's safe to say that the PS3 is going to be one powerhouse of the 3D computing. Also featured in this same technical document are references to the new distributed processing technique being developed jointly by Sony and IBM. One technician describes the process as "sort of like when you do a group project in college, where the two stoners just sit in the back and laugh about Gumby, the dumb kid stares intently at his syllabus, and the smart and industrious kid does the entire project and lets everyone sign their name to it."

Keep 'em comin' Japan. Your juvenile cartoon characters, boring combat, carbon copied plots, and pathetically awkward dialogue will NEVER get old!The main unit's hardware isn't the only thing being upgraded with the Playstation 3. You can expect all new controllers that are exactly like the previous controllers only they might have a cord that is six inches longer. Memory cards will be making a come back, but gone are the days when 8 megabits was sufficient, new high-density memory cards for the PS3 will feature almost 20 megabits of blazing flash memory storage! Unfortunately, the cost of manufacturing these high-capacity memory cards will be much higher and the cards may retail for as much as 60 dollars a piece. But hey, who doesn't love expensive and fallible data storage?! I know I love loading my save game only to find that the card has been mysteriously erased because of a magnet on my refrigerator.

You can also expect the same wide range of high quality titles to be appearing in Sony's library of games for the PS3. Look forward to the yearly grind of generic sports games and mediocre action titles from Electronic Arts. Thrill to the release of several dozen shrill and annoying Japanese RPGs that are too unpopular and shitty to ever be ported to another console. Squeal with delight at the idea of playing another ten Dynasty Warriors games that all feature so much slow down that they get frame rates in the negatives. Self-flagellate in ecstasy at the idea of another year overflowing with unbelievably horrible platformers trying to be the next Mario64 when not even Nintendo is up to making another Mario64. Maybe this time Mario - I mean Crash Bandicoot - will have a jet pack and a super soaker that cleans up blood stains at crime scenes that also feature the world's worst jumping puzzles!

All of this may seem like fun and games to you, but just remind yourself that Sony was one of the biggest and most well known electronics manufacturers a decade ago. These days their gaming division accounts for more profit than all of their other divisions combined. Now maybe you understand why Bill Gates has a strong interest in stealing some of the sweet, sweet gaming pie.

All in all I'm excited about the three console that will be arriving on shelves in 2005. It seems like I'm just getting to know the three current consoles I own and I feel guilty for having wandering eyes. Whether or not I really am a philandering spouse to my consoles I intend to kick them to the curb as soon as the latest from the big three hits shelves. That will teach them for getting so fat on all of those demo discs they just lay around eating during the day while I'm out busting my ass at the writing factory.

Ceremonial Phriday Photoshop Time

Howdy gang, it's Livestock here with another Photoshop Phriday fresh from the grocer's freezer that is the Something Awful Forums! This week the goons decided to try their hands at the famous Conan O'Brien "If They Mated" bits, which are generally rather scary. The result is our completely 100% original "Celebrity Mutants" concept, which is secretly 100% the same thing as "If They Mated" but not televised. Can you guess which star couple birthed this monster?

Tune into Photoshop Phriday for the exciting answers, as well as various other disturbing pictures to startle and amaze.

– Zack "Geist Editor" Parsons (@sexyfacts4u)

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