TV-PGOctober 19, 1999: As we wait for the U.S. sales numbers to start rolling in, the new iMac is selling like hotcakes in Japan. Meanwhile, Valve Software cancels the almost-finished Mac port of their Half-Life game because we Mac gamers "will never be happy," and "Redmond Justice" discovers the key to higher ratings is chronological vagueness...
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Look To The East (10/19/99)

When the iMac first debuted in August of last year, it was a sales sensation. As the numbers because available, the naysayers who had predicted a dismal flop were forced to recant. And the iMac stayed in the top-five list of computers sold in retail for many, many months, showing that it had some serious staying power. Unfortunately, in recent months, the iMac has slipped off that list. Apparently the novelty wore thin, and consumers went with much cheaper systems from the Wintel world instead. That's why we were all so anxious for Apple to release the new "Kihei" iMacs, which promised to revitalize sales by introducing unprecedented value and an even snazzier-looking enclosure. Now that "Kihei" is out (and even sort of available!), we all just have to sit back and wait for the sales numbers to roll in. Will the new iMac be able to break back into the Top Five?

Well, while you're waiting for that little drama to play out, you can certainly feel good about the iMac's performance in Japan. According to MacInTouch, last Sunday it was revealed that iMacs had definitely shown up in Japan's top-ten list of desktop computers. In fact, the iMac pretty much is the top-ten list. That's right; you can look at the data (in Japanese, but understandable nonetheless) from ComputerNews yourself. iMacs of various flavors and speeds account for nine out of ten slots; the only non-iMac on the list is number 5-- the Power Macintosh G4/400. We'll say one thing about the Japanese: they have excellent taste.

So whether or not the iMac manages to claw its cute little way back up the charts here in the U.S., you can rest assured that it's kicking some serious butt in the Land of the Rising Sun. But given that six of the nine iMacs on the Japanese top-ten list are new iMac DV systems, we think this bodes well for the little guy's performance here in the States as well. There's also the little matter of seeing lots and lots of iMac commercials on the tube these days, and as everyone knows, TV is the solution to every problem. So bring it on, PC Data-- we're primed and ready.

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Half-Life? No-Life (10/19/99)

Sigh... Every time we think Apple's managed to get its act together on this whole games issue, something happens to show just how far the Mac has to go before it reaches critical mass as a gaming platform. Last week the controversy surrounded a couple of games developers who had reversed their earlier decision to port to the Mac due to a lack of communication from Apple's end; now that Apple's finally paying them some attention, it may be too little, too late. But the real ickiness just exploded today. Have you heard of Half-Life? It's apparently an excellent game, and one which yours truly was very much looking forward to purchasing once the Macintosh version was released. The last we'd heard, the port was very far along-- almost ready to box up and ship. But then it came to light that some features from the PC version, most notably the "Team Fortress Classic" expansion, wouldn't be included in the Mac version. And when Mac gamers heard that Mac-vs.-PC netplay had been working but was intentionally disabled, things got really ugly. (Just check out last week's messages in if you're running a bit low on bile.)

And yet that's nothing compared to what happened on Tuesday. Suddenly an open letter from Gabe Newell, the CEO of Valve Software (Half-Life's original developers) appeared on the 'net announcing that, since Mac gamers would never be happy, the Mac port of Half-Life has been cancelled. The baffling letter has been plastered all over most games sites, including Inside Mac Games, and it's chock full of delightful non-sequiturs such as, "At this point we've spent a bunch of money on the Mac product and have spent a lot of time thinking about what we need to do to make sure Macintosh users are happy with it when it ships. Which is why we are canceling the Macintosh version of Half-Life." Uh-oh-- looks like Steve unloaded the rest of his bad acid on Gabe Newell.

Apparently, the logic is this: since a vocal minority of Mac gamers complained loudly when they discovered that features were being cut, we're obviously all a mean, spiteful lot who will never be satisfied, and therefore, rather than release a crippled port, everyone will be better off if Valve just flushes its investment down the toilet and scraps the whole project. Huh. Now, maybe it's just the voices in our heads causing trouble again, but does anyone else get the feeling that Valve might be bluffing? After all, those same people who complained about the lack of features might suddenly be very happy to get a limited Mac port after hearing that the entire game had been scrapped. Just another conspiracy theory to throw in the mix.

Anyway, we know that many of you couldn't care less about Mac games in general, much less one specific title, but this is important to the overall health of the platform. Games drive sales of computers; that's a hard fact. Steve Jobs knows that, which is why he's trying to make the Mac a better games platform. Sadly, the Half-Life cancellation shows exactly to what degree Mac gamers are still second-class citizens-- and other developers are going to see how Valve invested money and then lost it all. That's not exactly the kind of story that will encourage future Mac games development. If you're interested in trying to persuade Gabe Newell to rethink his decision, DemandMac has a petition you can "sign" simply by visiting the page. There's no guarantee it'll help, but it definitely won't hurt.

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How To Boost Ratings (10/19/99)

Are you ready for the next big event in the ongoing antitrust saga known as "Redmond Justice"? No, it's not Judge Jackson's ruling on which side wins, but it's almost as good; the judge is slated to issue his "findings of fact" soon, which is basically his view of who did what to whom, when, and to what degree. His ruling, when it finally surfaces next year, will be based on his findings of fact and both sides' following "conclusions of law." So these facts are a big deal.

But as faithful viewer Stefan Kapusniak notes, the show's producers are really pushing maximum suspense on the judge's findings. According to a PC Week article, the court has stated that Judge Jackson's findings of fact will "issue on a Friday evening at 6:30 p.m." Unfortunately, they neglected to mention which Friday, other than to state later that it won't be this Friday. So basically they're going to get people tuning in every Friday at 6:30 just to be sure not to miss this momentous occasion. It's a brilliant programming strategy, and we're surprised more shows don't use it to boost their ratings.

By the way, that reminds us... AtAT will be giving away either a Rolex watch or a free ball-point pen (our choice, please) to a random viewer on a Thursday. As for which Thursday, well, heck, that's a secret. Guess you'll just have to keep tuning in, huh?

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