Welcome to the ninety-fifth edition of RPGamer's Currents Column!
It looks like the holiday season is now in full force. November just started, and it is already pretty impressive. The United States just elected a new president, Nintendo just released a brand-new handheld console in Japan, the big holidays are right around the corner, and, of course, that means that the holiday buying season is upon us now. There are already major game releases out, and there are more coming out soon on all platforms. This is not only an exciting time for gamers, but it is also one for the general public. Of course, for me, that means more news than I know what to do with. To be honest, there was just far too much for me to go over in one week, so I tried to pick some interesting and fun stories for you all this week.
And now, on to the NEWS!
Nearly Sold Out in Matter of Days
So much for Japan not caring about the DSi...
The DSi launched in Japan a week ago on November first and has already shipped over 200,000 units to retailers. More impressive still is the fact that it debuted at the top spot of the Japanese hardware charts. Nintendo sold 170,779 DSi units in the first two days alone. Within four days the DSi was completely sold out, vanishing from store shelves. But there's nothing to worry about, since Nintendo announced that it plans to ship another 100,000 units this coming week. Nintendo was very smart to have so many units ready for the Japanese launch. By comparison, Nintendo was only able to sell 68,438 DS Lite units during the first three days of its launch. The launch of the DSi also brought up sales for the DS. It is also interesting to note that last month DS Lite sales dropped off from 40,000 units at the beginning of month to 23,000 units at the end of month. As buzz about the DSi continues to spread, expect consumers to buy the DSi over the DS Lite in the coming months.
It must be said that these impressive sales numbers and the number of people lining up for the system at launch are a bit surpising. Consumer polls in October showed that not many Japanese gamers were interested in the system and many didn't want to buy it right away. A Japanese site called Dengeki surveyed its readers and found that only 3.6% wanted to purchase a DSi "soon." 29.4% said they would wait awhile and 40.7% said they would not buy a DSi.
Still waiting to get a DSi in the U.S.? Well, Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, has recently commented that the DSi would most likely be released worldwide by summer of 2009. His exact quote was:
"Specific plans will be unveiled by our local subsidiaries, but an autumn or year-end launch would probably be too late."
So there you have it, straight from the big man himself. It is only a 6 to 8 month wait 'til summer, right? If you can hold off, you can save yourself a lot of money by not importing.
EA, THQ, and Brash Have Let Several Employees Go
Lots of axes to go around...
I'm sure you all have been hearing about the current economic situation. So it won't surprise you all to learn that it is affecting the game industry as well. So far, three companies, Electronic Arts (EA), THQ, and Brash, are making strategic plans to cut back on costs to offset the current economic climate. This may help the companies, but it spells bad news for some of their employees. They are closing opened positions, decreasing the amount of new hires, and closing some studios.
The first major news of layoffs comes from EA, who laid off 6%, or 600 positions, of its current staff on October 30th in order to continue growing and make more profit. These layoffs and a $310 million loss in Q2 have hit EA hard in the stock market where its stock has decreased by 17.1% and closed at $22.99 per share this past week. EA spokesperson Mariam Sughayer consoled investors by saying that EA is still making good progress and has a strong lineup for the holiday season. EA is also shifting their practices and moving more towards external studios.
The layoffs don't stop there. THQ is not only laying off workers, but it is also closing multiple studios. At UK's Juice Games, THQ is going to cut 30 positions and has cancelled high-risk projects. Rainbow Studios is also being hit with some layoffs, and the four THQ studios closing are Stuntman: Ignition developers Paradigm Entertainment and Mass Media and Destroy All Humans! developers Sandblast Games and Locomotive Games.
Finally, game developer Brash Entertainment plans to start a new "strategic cost reduction plan" that mainly includes cutting 20 positions and closing some opened positions. This comes after the news that the co-founder has left, and CEO Mitch Davis announcing that his company was too ambitious in its first year. Furthermore, the new plan also includes not paying developers and selling off or returning licensed properties like Tale of Desperaux, Night at the Museum 2, 300, Prison Break, Crash of the Titans, and Superman. The current game lineup is Six Flags Fun Park for Wii and a game based on the Saw franchise.
My best goes out to those who have lost their jobs. It seems that even the booming economic giant that is the gaming industry isn't immune to the current economic crisis. Decisions like these are not made lightly and they will undoubtedly help these companies survive the cold, long winter ahead.
Leland Yee is at it again.
It is so nice to see someone who knows nothing about games trying to regulate them.
In 2005, a lower court overturned a ruling on a 2005 California game law that prohibited the sale of violent games to minors and levied $1000 fines to retailers in violation of the law. Now, the law is being reconsidered at the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. One major proponent of the law is California State Senator Leland Yee. In an interview done by Gamespot, he states that he knows that a lot of gamers don't like what he's doing, but he's going through with it anyway because he doesn't want kids to play the same things that armed forces are using to help train soldiers. To him, this is a not a matter of what those people want, but it is a matter of core values and doing what's morally right.
Leland also believes that this will go all the way to the Supreme Court, which will be the first time that a video game issue will reach that high level. Of course, this will only happen if both the Entertainment Software Association and the State of California appeal, but Leland also states in the Gamespot interview that he wants to find a balance between protecting people's rights to the First Amendment and protecting kids and the general public from violent games.
So far, it's looking pretty good for gamers. Most of the Ninth Circuit Court judges, like Judge Consuelo Callahan, seem to believe that the law goes against the First Amendment and are agreeing with the lower court's decision. Furthermore, they believe that the state is taking on a police role by trying to regulate something that parents should already be doing with their chlidren. On the other hand, there are also people like the California Deputy Attorney General Zackery Morazini who states that the U.S. Supreme Court has already limited sexually explicit material from children and that violent video games should be limited as well. He feels that the state has a right to help parents keep their children away from violent video games.
If you listened to these people talk, you'd swear violent games are the equal of pornography. One problem in particular is how Yee equates store bought M rated games to the tools the military uses to train soldiers. Both the tools, context, and scenarios are vastly different, and, in general, paint video games in a very negative light. This is a touchy subject I'm sure, but I really do feel that this belongs in a parent's domain. A six to thirteen year old child doesn't have the resoruces to buy a sixty dollar copy of Grand Theft Auto, and at that age, a parent has the right to know what his/her children are doing at a friend's house. What I'm basically saying is this: communicate with and supervise your children. Take note of what games you buy for them, or what they might be playing at a friend's house. That's what my parents did with me, and I turned out alright. How about you all? Did Halo or Medal of Honor turn you into a lean, mean, fighting machine?
Electronic's Giant Hitting Hard Times
Looks like you'll have to buy your games elsewhere...
Layoffs, cancelled games, and the closing of studios are not the only effect that the economic downturn has had on the gaming world. Retail stores like Circuit City are also getting hit hard. On November third, Circuit City announced that it is going to close 155 stores and plans to cut back on opening new stores because of credit problems. Vendors are having a hard time getting credit insurance for Circuit City's purchases and are now requiring that Circuit City pay them before they ship any merchandise.
One major vendor, Sony, also took note of this and has stopped delivering its electronics to Circuit City. What's worse is that Sony stopped one such shipment in transit because it was so worried that Circuit City wouldn't be able to pay for them. This may cause other vendors to stop supplying Circuit City since it only takes one major vendor to cause a chain reaction. Now, it's only a matter of time before Circuit City declares bankruptcy, and according to an analyst at GamePolitics, it could happen as early as Q1 of 2009.
On the bright side, those 155 stores are giving away some nice deals like 5% off systems (360, PS3, Wii, DS, and PSP) and their games, 10% off game accessories, 10% off "Social" games like Rockband and Guitar Hero, 10% off PC games, and 20% off strategy guides and cheat books. These deals may increase as they get closer to their final closing date. It's sad to see Circuit City go since it was a pretty good place to find some cheap deals when they were around. Guess you'll have to buy your games somewhere else.
It Pays to Be a Collector
But still go play your games.
The holiday season is upon us and there is a deluge of Triple-A games out. Way too many amazing games and not enough time. In fact, most gamers find themselves unable to open some of their new games, let alone play them. In a survey done by the NPD Group and commissioned by the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) and the Content Delivery Storage Association (CDSA), 562 gamers and 557 DVD owners that have bought a game or DVD within the past six months were polled. The results showed that 11% of gamers leave their games unopened and have an average of 48 games in their collection. DVD owners are even worse, 26% of their DVDs are unopened and the average collection size is 114 DVDs. As for me, I'm slowly beginning to creep into that category of gamers that leave their games unopened. There are just too many hot new releases. On the bright side, I'll never be at a loss for a game to play.
Just in case you feel bad about not playing those games, at least you can say you are being environmentally friendly. The survey also showed that DVD and gaming packaging is green, interestingly enough, because of consumer habits rather than the manufacturing process. According to Bo Anderson, President and CEO of the EMA, the packaging is an integral part of the product and most consumers usually don't toss it away because it provides protection, identifies the title easily, and carries artwork with it. Gamers and DVD owners rarely throw away or recycle the product after they are done with it. 45% of DVD owners and 24% of gamers give their DVD or video game to someone else, 54% of gamers and 27% of DVD owners traded them in or sold them, 89% of DVD owners and 88% of game owners stored them in their original cases, 5% of DVD owners and 8% of video game owners stored the disc in a plastic sleeve, and 6% of DVD owners and 5% of game owners threw them away or recycled it. With such low percentages for throwing away or recycling DVDs and games, nobody can say that those nice big packages for limited edition games are hurting the environment.
QUICKIES: Some Small, But Inherently Awesome News Stories!
Fun and quick to read!
No 4GB Memory PSP Entertainment Pack For You
So those of you who still want a PSP-3000, especially after my review last week, will be interested to know that the Ratchet & Clank Size Matters PSP Entertainment Pack will be your only option in the very near future. Sony Computer Entertainment America has cancelled its plans to release a 4GB Memory PSP Entertainment Pack, which contained a Piano Black PSP, a 4GB Memory Stick, and a voucher to download Everyday Shooter, due to high demand for the current Ratchet & Clant Entertainment Pack. On the bright side, SCEA has also announced that starting in December, the Ratchet & Clank Entertainment Pack will also be available in Piano Black along with the current Mystic Sliver. To be honest, the Ratchet Pack is a much better value for your money. You're better off buying a cheap 4GB stick elsewhere.
Hey, Obama Won, But Did Those In-Game Ads Help?
Hey, remember those Xbox Live in-game Obama ads I talked about last week? While they probably didn't really help him win the election, you might be interested to know how much he spent on those ads -- a total of $44,465.78. It's a pretty good investment considering how much publicity he got from them, including the New York Times, Associated Press, and me!
So there ya go. Another week, another column. Oh, in case you guys have been wondering why these columns have not been going up on a constant day, all I can say to you is, that's the price I pay for being new. It takes a while to learn the ropes. But hey, at least I have been giving you all one a week. Anyway, I have way too many games to play and a ton of news articles to read, so it's back to work and play for me.
See y'all next week.
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