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ALMANAC 2001 FEATURE - January 2001


Excitement abounds at Sega as the New Year begins. With the Dreamcast having been crippled by a lack of ad funding ever since 1999’s expensive and ill-advised football-team sponsorships, some extremely hard auditing work by the firm’s finance department reveals a dormant holding account containing over 30 million pounds, which is swiftly made available for a long-overdue marketing push for the struggling console. With no time to lose, the company immediately uses the entire sum to buy David Beckham from Manchester United, and swiftly installs the multi-skilled midfielder as Marketing Director on a salary of 200,000 a week (plus win bonuses).


As the huge success of the stupendously terrible Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? finally begins to wane, Eidos rush out a sequel. Millionaire 2 no longer features the voice of Chris Tarrant, with the questions this time being read out by a passing tealady. The "studio" graphics are also dispensed with, and the visuals consist solely of a single column of black text scrolling up a plain white screen. There are just 14 questions included, with the game crashing if the player attempts to progress beyond 500,000, use any of the lifeline options, or answer "D" to any of the questions. The game, priced at 59.99, sells two million copies in the first week of release. Eidos’ share price falls to 47p. David Beckham misses his first Sega marketing meeting to attend a Janet Reger fashion show in Wigan.


Keen to join in the fun, the latest owners of Commodore announce their intention to add another new console to 2001’s growing roster of Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox, Gamecube and Indrema. The new machine, to be called the CD32-2, will offer full backwards compatibility with "At least 20% of existing CD32 titles", be constructed entirely of plasticine, and cost 600. ELSPA’s hardman anti-piracy enforcer Terry Anslow is signed up by the WWF, where he’ll fight in a skull-and-crossbones Lycra singlet and Union Jack boots under the name "The Terryminator".


Despite the fact that Toys’R’Us are offering unlimited supplies of off-the-shelf PS2s for 149, Sony launch a 200 million ad campaign to promote the latest official shipment of the console into the US and Europe. After a fortnight of TV saturation, the press of two continents assemble at Dover at midnight on April 12th, to be met by a staggering floodlit spectacle of huge circus tents, hundred-strong chorus lines, parades of elephants, and a rock concert featuring Madonna, Michael Jackson, U2 and the reformed Beatles (with Noel Gallagher on guitar). At exactly 12 minutes past midnight, a huge freight tanker docks at the terminal. As the 20,000-strong crowd watches with bated breath, massive bow doors creak open with agonising slowness, and a Transit van loaded with exactly 12 PS2s trundles out and heads straight up the A256 without stopping, pursued by crowds of screaming parents waving fat bundles of 50 notes. Several weeping Sega executives attempt to throw themselves under the wheels of the van, but miss. David Beckham is not present, due to "squad rotation".


Elixir Studios announce that their forthcoming PC epic Republic will be delayed until at least 2004, citing "difficulties in agreeing which textures to use for the various characters’ shoelaces". Nintendo surprise pundits by revealing a change of focus for the coming financial year, with a release schedule featuring not only the much-delayed swear-‘em-up Conker’s Bad Fur Day, but also Pokemon Sex Party, Kirby’s Crack Dealership, and Death Wave Race 2001.


With 2000 having started a trend for happy arcade-type games to feature lyrically-inappropriate songs by punk bands on their soundtracks (the notorious Dead Kennedys appearing in Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding, Sega’s dayglo Crazy Taxi including "Way Down The Line", an angry social tale of hereditary child abuse by The Offspring, and even Konami’s ultra-cheesy Dance Dance Revolution inviting gamers to jig along happily to the words of the Special AKA’s vicious, hate-filled diatribe "Little Bitch"), the fashion really takes hold in 2001. A gentle start ("Up Yer Bum" by Peter And The Test Tube Babies unexpectedly showing up in the PS2 Gran Turismo) quickly escalates as Grand Theft Auto 3 courts its usual controversy by using Terrorgruppe’s "All Cops Are Bastards" as its main theme, but the real outcry flares up when the new, "adult" Nintendo choose to launch the Game Boy Advance with a late-night TV ad promoting the little handheld’s go-anywhere portability and long battery life with Hard Skin’s classic Oi anthem "Spent All Day In The Fucking Pub ‘Cos I’m A Cunt". In a press conference, president Hiroshi Yamauchi fails to calm the ensuing storm when he invites a protesting parent to "Piss off, you whinging cow" and then drops his trousers and defecates on the rostrum in front of the horrified and disbelieving crowd.


Everyone takes some time off to calm down a bit.


The football season kicks off again, but in an unexpected and crushing blow that brings the entire PC games market crashing to its knees, Championship Manager authors the Collyer brothers both get off with girls at a house party in Bootle. The pair immediately announce the cancellation of the forthcoming Championship Manager Beazer Homes League Edition 2001-2002, causing projected total PC software sales for the crucial fourth quarter to fall by 71% overnight. EA swiftly promise a new version of FIFA every month until the end of the current season in an attempt to compensate, but it’s not enough, and every other PC publisher has announced their withdrawal from the format by the end of the month. Everyone is secretly pleased.


After a daring escape from a Kyoto "rest clinic", a glazed and dishevelled Hiroshi Yamauchi appears briefly on Japanese TV, performing an impromptu karaoke rendition of "Wankers" by The Exploited on a cable chat show before embarking on an epic rant straight into camera, reaching the phrase "…and you know why we always release games in Europe a year after everywhere else? It’s BECAUSE WE HATE YOU, YOU STUPID SAUCER-EYED TWATS! HA HA! LONG LIVE THE EMPEROR! WHO WANTS SOME, EH? I’LL TAKE THE LOT OF YOU ON, Y’BASTARDS!" before being bundled away by sinister black-suited security guards in dark shades and red plumber’s caps.


New WWF World Heavyweight Champion Terry "The Terryminator" Anslow ("The Bull-Necked British Boot-Boy") is parachuted into Colombia by the CIA - still in full wrestling costume - in an attempt to put a stop to the worldwide cocaine trade. As PS2 sales continue to disappoint, Sega marketing chief David Beckham belatedly calls a news conference at Wembley Arena to announce the dynamic new DC ad campaign, to be spearheaded by the release of the machine’s brand-new 3D virtual-reality glasses add-on. As he takes the stage, however, instinct takes over and as unfortunate company executives look on in dismay, the close-cropped No.7 ruins their carefully-staged show by bodyswerving past two waiting members of the glasses-team’s technical staff and taking a running kick at the Dreamcast on the pedestal in front of him, sending it curling powerfully over the heads of the assembled line of six official photographers and crashing through the top-left corner of the arena doors. As he leaps into the crowd to celebrate the "goal", he knocks over two attractive PR delegates from Sega’s Slovakian office before adopting David Ginola’s "strongman" pose to receive the audience’s acclaim, then triumphantly gulping down several handfuls of tortilla chips and chili dip from the buffet laid on for press attendees and exiting the arena with arms aloft. CTW covers the incident with the headline "BECKS CHECKS SPECS TECHS, HEXES VEXED EXECS, DECKS SEXY EX-CZECHS, FLEXES PECS AND NECKS TEX-MEX".


Entire CTW staff is fired.


Fresh from his success in Colombia, Terry "The Terryminator" Anslow declares himself Most Exalted Emperor And Viceroy Of The New British Empire and issues an "Imperial decree" in the name of "Britsoftland" declaring war on the entire non-British world. Most countries immediately capitulate in terror, although the USA holds out for an extra 24 hours while someone explains to President Bush where Britain is. And what "capitulate" means. The only exception is Japan, where an enraged Hiroshi Yamauchi breaks free from his confinement in an underground concrete cell and, due to radiation or something, suddenly grows to over 900 feet in height. Stomping his way across several continents shrieking in fury, he eventually encounters "The Terryminator" on the roof of Buckingham Palace. Deadly laser beams shoot from Yamauchi’s eyes, laying waste to the surrounding area, and his fiery breath turns most of St James’ Park into a raging inferno, but the Emperor nimbly dodges the bolts and the flames, leaping ‘twixt the rubble until, grabbing a large bug full of seized pirate software, he uses the mirrored surface of the bootleg CDs to reflect the lethal beams back at the gigantic Yamauchi, whose head immediately explodes. Unluckily for "The Terryminator", Yamauchi’s decapitated 900-foot body topples directly over onto Buck House, crushing the Emperor instantly and restoring peace to the troubled world. Happy New Year, everybody!

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