The story, if you want to call it that, started on an average Summer day. A light breeze slinking its way through the city, people bustling about and cars heading off into the LA freeway system like so many meatballs rolling onto a plate of spaghetti. Then, I saw her, gracefully walking past my office window. Cripplingly beautiful in every way, with eyes that could burn through a lead sheet and hair so golden it made you forget about all the other junk on the periodic table. She was also strikingly tall. I knew this because my office was situated on the 12th floor.
"Is this the shrink's office?" she asked provocatively.
"No, that's next door," I flirted right back.
Several hours later, I was visited by a considerably less attractive man. So stunningly devoid of hair was he that I assumed he was going to ask me to track down the suicidal cult his follicles had joined.
"Can I help you, mister?"
"I don't know, can you?"
A sort of jittery, unstable man who spoke too loudly and at the wrong times, as if he was constantly trying to act half his age.
"Well, I can't help you until you let me know what kind of help it is you need."
"If I do that, you can help me, right?"
His posture seemed odd. His right arm pressed on his thigh, as if it was holding an invisible object against his body. Like a snowboard.
"Well, yes, unless ... it can't be helped."
"I hope you can help me. "
Worst of all, he said he worked for Microsoft. I've heard about them before. It seems one of their consoles, the Xbox, had mysteriously vanished without a ray-trace.
"One week, it was sitting happily on the Japanese sales charts. The next, it ... it was gone."
He seemed on the verge of tears, his face crumpling up like a Shar Pei pinned in the doors of an elevator. I tried to be as sympathetic as possible.
"Why should I give two craps about your stinkin' Nintendo?"
"Because I'll pay you handsomely."
"I only take cash, I'm afraid. You can tell handsome Lee to find some other guy to smooch."
After payment was sorted, I began my investigation. I kept reminding myself -- if you can find the reason something goes missing, you can find what you're looking for. Why would the Xbox disappear from the Japanese sales charts? Did the Japanese have some sort of vendetta against the system? Did a rival have it in for the black box? All good questions to ask, but none of them particularly easy to type into a search engine.
I googled "Xbox Japan sales chart." Like a man eating a grenade for breakfast, the charts were all over the damn place. However, one website stood out in particular. "Joystiq.com." Hmph, I had little time for the French.
The website appeared to be run by a bunch of obsessive lunatics. Without fail, they printed the weekly Japanese sales charts ... save for one week. The week of 25 December to 31 December 2006 was mysteriously absent. They claimed that their informant had sent out the information late, but that story was about as bogus as an EA microtransaction. I had to digg deep and rough up some guys on an internet forum, but I found those stinkin' charts.
ATTACHED EVIDENCE: SALES CHARTS DEC. 25 - DEC. 31
- DS Lite: 176,219 309,365 (63.71%)
- Wii: 96,332 182,945 (65.51%)
- PS3: 71,727 5,155 (6.71%)
- PSP: 68,675 69,913 (50.45%)
- PS2: 38,169 8,040 (17.40%)
- Xbox 360: 16,909 304 (1.77%)
- Game Boy Micro: 2,082 312 (13.03%)
- GBA SP: 1,743115 (6.19%)
- Gamecube: 847 403 (32.24%)
- DS Phat: 102 278 (73.16%)
- GBA: 51 6 (10.53%)
- Xbox: 4 7 (63.64%)
I saw nothing but red. And what was that at the bottom? The Xbox. It all made sense to me. I knew where it was and it was time to tell Microsoft Man the news. He wouldn't like it very much.
"In a bargain bin, possibly a trash can. The sales charts tell the story. It's over and it's never going to get better."
"You discovered all this just by looking on the internet? I only got here five minutes ago!"
"Sir, I don't waste time. Especially not my own."
"Oh, I guess ... that's not really what I wanted to hear."
"There's a shrink right next door, actually."
"I already know what he'll say. The truth hurts."
"Not nearly as much as trouble's husband, sir. Not even close."