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Currents Top Ten I 2005 Breaks Sales Records I Mature Games Bill Comes to Florida I Front Mission Reaches Milestone I Teachers Support Games in Education I Shanda Closes Office I Stock Ticker
CURRENTS
Issue #33 Two-Thousand Six January 14, 2006


Front Page

Boy has it been a long time since I've been back here. Several weeks indeed. I believe the last Currents issue you all saw was done by Billy who filled in for me during my finals. I'd say my semester went fairly well; I finished with a 3.5 GPA (not sure how, but no complaints here), packed my bags, spent three glorious weeks with my family in my home state of Virginia, and did plenty of sleeping. And gaming. What are vacations for if not to sleep and game? In any event, I'm now back at school and RPGamer and ready to get back to business, pun intended.

It'd be an understatement to say a lot happened while Currents was away. From the California game bill being overturned to fellow RPGamer columnists getting married, I feel like that Soviet cosmonaut who went up to the Mir, was stranded in space for a year while the USSR fell apart, and came home to a new world. Well, perhaps my experience wasn't so drastic, but you see what I'm getting at. Hopefully 2006 will be a much better year than the arguably crappy 2005. Too many natural disasters, deaths, and grandparents passing away (mine, my girlfriend's, and two former RPGamer employees included), and too few impeachments marred that year from being good. Of course some decent things happened, like game bills being overturned and record industry sales, but unfortunately those don't hold much weight in the face of death and destruction. So lets get 2006 started off on the right foot, shall we?



 Currents Top Ten

This enthralling new installation of the Top Ten is going to watver a bit from the norm. As you will read in the article below, 2005 was a great year for video games. Among the countless games that were published last year, a few stood out to the crowd and were consequently bought up more often than others. These are the top ten best-selling video game titles of 2005. In lieu of the usual number ranking, I've opted for a count of the total number of units sold in millions.

Though surprisingly an RPG didn't make the number one spot, an RPG took the number two spot! Pokémon Emerald shows the world what RPGs are made of. Naturally, Electronic Arts dominates half of the list with freaking five of their games making the Top Ten of the entire year. The next most-often-occurring name is Star Wars with three games bearing the namesake making the list. So the only non-sports, non-Star Wars games to make the 2005 Top Ten were Gran Turismo 4 and the aforementioned Pokémon Emerald. What's the lesson to be learned in all this? If you're going to make a game, make a Star Wars-themed football game.


Units Sold (millions) Title Publisher Platform
2.9 Madden NFL 06 Electronic Arts
1.7 Pokémon Emerald Nintendo of America
1.5 Gran Turismo 4 Sony Computer Entertainment America
1.2 Madden NFL 06 Electronic Arts
1.1 NCAA Footbal 06 Electronic Arts
1 Star Wars: Battlefront II LucasArts
0.97 MVP Baseball 2005 Electronic Arts
0.93 Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith LucasArts
0.82 NBA Live 06 Electronic Arts
0.8 LEGO Star Wars Eidos


Source: GameSpot



 2005 Breaks Sales Records

Some of you may recall a lot of negative talk floating around the water cooler last fall about the game industry. People were complaining about a slump and they were worried that the industry was beginning to take a down turn. What a lot of these people did realize was that even by November, the gaming industry had already accumulated a net profit of 5 percent over 2004.

By the end of the year, merely a month later, profits increased by yet another percentage point during the holiday shopping season, marking 2005 as the best-selling year in video game history. So much for that slump, huh? According to the NPD group, retailers in the United States sold $10.5 billion in hardware, software, and accessories. This is compared with 2004's $9.9 billion, and the previous record high, 2002's $10.3 billion. Now, these numbers don't include PC software sales, which have yet to be compiled so look for an update possibly by next week.

Anita Frazier, entertainment-industry analyst for the NPD Group, elaborated on how a dismal outlook for the year turned into such an unexpected success.

"Heading into the second week of December, all industry grumblings continued, [indicating] that the industry was very soft and that few, if any, titles were selling at expectations. Combined with the grumbling about the lack of supply of 360's, well, it wasn't pretty...[but] by all accounts, the last two weeks were stellar."

Though console sales did indeed slow as the industry began to wade into the next generation, the handheld market saw a lot of green this year. The PSP's launch and the DS's increasing charm have netted the industry $1.4 billion for the year. Even with the handheld market entering its third year of the new generation (if you count 2004's DS launch as the first year), the Game Boy Advance remains the reigning master of the handheld market. 64 percent of all handheld games sold in 2005 were Game Boy Advance titles.

So which individual games sold the best in 2005? If you have to ask that, then you clearly skipped over the entire Top Ten list and should be ashamed of yourself. The Top Ten this week lists the ten best-selling game titles of 2005, so take a gander back up there if you want to know.


Source: GameSpot



 Mature Games Bill Comes to Florida

Since Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich began his crusade to earn himself family-friendly political points, er, keep mature games out of the hands of minors, several states have followed suit. The latest of these states is Florida, in which a violent games bill has recently passed a Senate committee hearing by a vote of 7-1.

Senate Bill 492 draws much inspiration from Leland Yee's California mature games bill. Sponsored by Florida Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla, Bill 492 would impose fines of up to $1000 on retailers who sell violent games to minors. Also like the California bill, this Florida bill would require each mature game to be adorned with warning stickers on top of the ESRB rating labels that are already printed onto the box art of every game. The exact dimensions of these new government-approved labels were not mentioned, but will likely be roughly equal to that of a size 16 basketball shoe. That's just my take on it, though.

Senator Diaz de la Portilla told the Miami Herald: "Children don't have the same kind of maturity and experiences as adults do. Left to their own devices, children often do not realise the harm they are causing themselves through the exposure to graphic sexual and violent content found in many of today's video games."

Fortunately, every previously proposed mature games bill thus far has been struck down in the courts and deemed unconstitutional. So I think we can all agree that these bills are getting to be tiresome wastes of time and taxpayer money. If only these politicians could remember that the first amendment hasn't been repealed yet and yes, it still counts even today. A common mistake, apparently.


Source: GamesIndustry



 Front Mission Reaches Milestone
Square Enix

It's a rare event that Currents ever gets to report on actual video games, and this is one of them. Square Enix announced recently that its mech war strategy RPG series, Front Mission, has sold its 3 millionth unit since the first game premiered in 1995. This milestone was reached just shortly after Front Mission 5 was released in Japan for the PlayStation 2. The series so far spans six original titles, including an online game. Three remakes of earlier games in the series have been released only in Japan as well.


Source: GAF



 Teachers Support Games in Education

As part of an ongoing Teaching with Games project, EA and NESTA Futurelabs conducted a poll last November. The poll used a sample of 1000 primary and secondary education teachers in the United Kingdom and asked them whether they support using video games to help educate children in school. The results of the poll were published yesterday and they showed that 59 percent of teachers support the use of video games to help educate children.

This is hugely defiant of the recent attacks on video games by politicians looking for brownie points and parents who can't raise their own children. It makes one question even further the basis of these attacks. In any event, of the nearly 60 percent of teachers who favored video game learning, 53 percent said they would use video games to educate because they're an interactive way of motivating and engaging students.

91 percent of those polled believed that playing video games developed children's motor-cognitive skills. Over 60 percent believed that game players would develop their higher-order thinking skills and could also learn topic-specific knowledge.

EA Europe's market development manager, Claus Due, said: "The Poll confirms what we have long believed at EA - that interactive computer games have the capacity to engage both teachers and learners. In a short space of time, Teaching with Games has already highlighted the importance of collaboration between industry and the education sector, to show how learning can be enhanced through gaming."

Those instructors with dissenting opinions felt that computer games carried the risk of presenting stereotypical views of others and leading children to anti-social behvior. Also, lack of hard evidence about the educational benefits of games was cited as an obstacle that needs to be overcome before video games in classrooms become widespread events.


Source: GamesIndustry



 Shanda Closes Office

Shanda, a company known for being one of China's largest operators of online video games will be closing its office in Beijing. As a result of the closure, 250-300 people will lose their jobs. The remaining staff, who mostly run Shanda's web portal poptang.com and its music-related businesses, will be offered positions in Shanghia, which is where Shanda's main offices are located.

Shanda, traded on the NASDAQ, was named one of "Five Stocks that Tanked" by The Motley Fool, a financial website, in December. Shanda stock lost 64 percent of its value throughout 2005. Most of its losses were due primarily to upstart competing firms, such as the9.com, which runs World of Warcraft in China.


Source: GameSpot



 Stock Ticker

With an exciting new edition of the Top Ten, one might be inclined to expect an exciting new edition of the Stock Ticker as well. Those with such inclinations should expect to be sorely disappointed. The Stock Ticker this week is the same old, tried-and-true ticker that we've all come to know and love. Actually, this week's won't be as informative as most weeks' due to there being no previous issue of Currents with which to compare these numbers.

So what does that leave us with? Why, the highs and lows of the day, of course. The high of the day goes to Sega for its $0.55 gain. The low, on the other hand, goes to Activion for its $0.59 loss. Nothing else too exciting going on this week. 60 percent of the numbers are up, which is nice, but nothing to be proud of. Those that are up aren't up by much. I guess they're all still recovering from the night of partying after hearing about 2005's record sales. Okay, time to sober up and get to making more games!

Parentheses denote negative numbers. Prices as of market closing 01.13.2006


Symbol Company Market Standing Change
SNE Sony NYSE 44.64 (0.06)
MSFT Microsoft Nasdaq 27.19 0.05
NTDOY Nintendo PNK 17.15 0.25
ERTS Electronic Arts Nasdaq 57.19 0.02
SQNXF Square Enix PNK 29.72 (0.07)
KNM Konami NYSE 24.09 0.29
ATVI Activision Nasdaq 14.90 (0.59)
MWY Midway NYSE 15.76 0.15
SGAMY Sega PNK 09.70 0.55
UBSFF Ubi Soft PNK 47.02 (0.11)

Source: CNN Money




 Back Page

I feel as though this issue was a good one to start the new year off with and I hope you do too. I got way too many games for Christmas, and am likely to get another fresh truckload in a couple weeks for my birthday. This backlog is getting so bad that I'm thinking of calling myself a game collector rather than a player. It seems I buy far more than I play, so this would be a good title.

As far as RPGs, I only got two: Radiata Stories and Dragon Quest VIII, but I got several others in different genres. God of War is probably one of the best games I've ever played, and it comes highly recommended. I also got Animal Crossing (3565-4541-3932) if any of you are interested in visiting me. There are a few more, but I'll leave those as fodder for future issues in case I run out of things to talk about in the Back Page. Until then, take it easy.


Elliot "Swimming in games" Guisinger


Carlisle@RPGamer.com

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