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TECHNOLOGY

Top PC games can end up in bargain bin

By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service

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"Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay" is an action shooter.

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Sometimes good computer games fall through the cracks because of weak marketing, too many other titles coming out at the same time or lack of consumer interest because the games aren't from a hot genre.

Success means different things to different companies. LucasArts, for example, says a hit computer game sells between 200,000 and 350,000 units. But not all titles cost the same to make; therefore, each has its own break-even point.

DreamCatcher Games says 100,000 units is often an industry success benchmark for PC titles.

But what about great titles that somehow don't reach those numbers? Look for those in the bargain bin at the local video game, electronics or computer store.

(Note: The "life to date" sales stats for the titles below, which end in April 2005, were provided by the NPD Group, a research company that monitors the sale of PC and console games.)

'Chronicles of Riddick'

The "Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay -- Developer's Cut" is a gripping stealth action shooter that takes place in and around the savage Butcher Bay prison. Voice performances include Vin Diesel as Richard Riddick as well as other cast members from "The Chronicles of Riddick" film. This "Developer's Cut" version (based on a previous Xbox release) features new areas, bonus playable characters and enemies and more. The game has sold 32,500 units and retails for $19.99.

'Silent Hunter III'

Become a U-boat commander and experience the thrill of World War II combat on the high seas in "Silent Hunter III." The simulation challenges players to work with their crew to hone submarine tactics as they stalk and outmaneuver enemies on realistic naval missions, all displayed in 3-D and with lots of atmosphere. An online feature lets up to four players tackle missions cooperatively against the game's artificial intelligence. The game has sold 26,600 units and retails for $29.99.

'Nexis: The Jupiter Incident'

This tactical strategy space game "Nexus: The Jupiter Incident" features spectacular battles, each of which is presented in movielike quality. Players must control up to 10 battleships as they soar to new solar systems to take on menacing aliens to save Earth. A full "mod" kit is provided with the game that contains the tools and documentation to create and share custom ship models. The game has sold 11,500 units and retails for $39.99.

'Return to Mysterious Island'

Based on the classic Jules Verne novel "Mysterious Island," this first-person point-and-click adventure game stars Mina, a young sailor who becomes stranded on a small island. She must survive by finding and combining items, but she also soon locates the body of Captain Nemo and vows to give him a proper burial to free his soul. Puzzles, some of which are time-based, are clever and challenging. The game has sold 21,700 units and retails for $19.99.

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