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CURRENTS
Issue #86
June 26, 2008
A Thousand Curses
Front Page

Curse working all day on Tuesday and Wednesday! It made my column late!

Curse my lack of time to play videogames! Oh, videogames, I miss you so. You're there, and yet... you're just not. It's not like it used to be! I... I want things to be like they once were!

Finally, curse this entirely unorthodox opening paragraph to Currents issue Eighty-Six! For those keeping track, this happens to be the twenty-fifth Currents column that I've written since I began my tenure here. It actually doesn't seem like that big of a number when you consider I've been here over six months, but hey... I'm proud of myself.

Without further ado, and before I am struck with another attack of weirdness, let us move onto the NEWS.

Suggests That Losses May Not be Recovered
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We've known for quite some time now that, in spite of the steep price tag that people STILL bitch about, the PS3 is actually priced quite a bit lower than it costs Sony to make. Numerous different estimates have been thrown around, none of which have been officially confirmed or denied by Sony themselves. Recently, however, Sony finally came forth and announced just how much they'd lost due to the PS3's pricing. And, uh... it ain't pretty.

Three. Billion. Dollars. That's right, Sony lost 2.16 billion in 2007, and has thus far lost 1.16 billion in 2008, due to the PS3 pricing imbalance. That is a truly astonishing figure, and it really makes me want to know exactly how much it costs them to make one of those blasted machines. Sony volunteered this information in their recent FY 2008 report, and warned their investors that these losses may not be recouped. The figures were provided in order to exemplify the "significant negative impact" that can occur when introducing a new console to the market. Sony stated that they had to invest significant sums of money into research and development, to make for a smooth launch. They stated that these losses may not be recovered, especially if the PS3 fails to achieve "favorable market penetration." In fact, even in the event that the PS3 is a "success," Sony stated that it will be difficult to fully recover the amount of money lost on the PS3's introductory period. Sony labeled these potential outcomes as "risk" to the company.

Here I was, thinking the PS3 was gaining some steam and Sony was on the way to restoring some of their former glory. And who comes and shoots me down? SONY THEMSELVES. What a strange, strange thing. Sony is plainly stating that they may never recover the money they've lost on the PS3. It doesn't really get much direr than that, now does it? Of course, this doesn't mean that their games division as a whole is going down the tubes, but it does mean that the PSP has some serious slack to pick up. It also means that Sony is likely praying that they get another year or two of profitability from their 'ol workhorse, the PS2.

Sources: Kotaku | GamesIndustry
"To the best of our knowledge no one at Majestic... knew about this infringement and knowingly played any part in it."
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This just keeps getting better and better.

If you haven't educated yourself on the controversy surrounding the PC adventure title, Limbo of the Lost, then take a look at this link I provided last week. Long story short, it's apparent that the developers of the game basically lifted environments from an array of other titles, (a few of them being very high-profile releases, such as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion) and plunked them down into their game. Click the link, look at the screenshots, and you'll find that there's absolutely no denying it.

But here's the best part! Majestic Studios, the people who bloody DEVELOPED THE GAME, have come forward and claimed that they don't have a damn clue what's going on. And they prepared a nice, lengthy statement just to communicate that:

In response to the shocking notification that some alleged unauthorized copyrighted materials submitted by sources external to the development team have been found within the PC game Limbo of the Lost, we (the development team) have given our consent and full cooperation to both publishers who are recalling all units from all territories immediately. Please be assured that we do not condone in anyway the use of unauthorized copyrighted materials and if we had been made aware earlier, we would of course have ceased development of the product and rectified the issue prior to the publication process. To the best of our knowledge no one at Majestic, [European publisher] G2Games or [North American publisher Tri Synergy, Inc.] knew about this infringement and knowingly played any part in it. We can only apologise to all regarding this issue, as a team we are shocked and mortified regarding these events and we continue to work with said publishers in order to rectify the issue.

It was believable when Tri-Synergy (the game's publisher) claimed innocence, but it's just too much to swallow when the developer itself claims to know nothing about such extensive plagiarism. LoL (such an appropriate acronym) plagiarized no less than twenty games, ladies and gentlemen. In addition to that, they swiped images from at least five movies, including releases such as Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lord of the Rings. This game was BUILT through plagiarism. And yet, Majestic expects us to believe that they know nothing about it. "LOLZ" is hardly enough to describe the situation at this point. We may be forced to break out the dreaded "ROFLMAO."

Sources: GameSpot | Kotaku
Six Games Announced, Six More to Come
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Perhaps you've taken note of the fact that Square Enix is loathe to distribute any of their games digitally. You won't find a terrible amount of Square or Enix games on the Wii's Virtual Console, nor will you find any on Xbox Live or PSN. But now, in a surprising move, Square Enix has announced that they will be releasing no less than twelve of their PlayStation classics on the Japanese PSN. What significance does this hold for us Americans? Not a whole lot, other than the encouraging thought that Squeenix is warming up to the idea of digital distribution.

There are currently six titles available for download in Japan. They are:
* 1. Xenogears
* 2. Einhander
* 3. Astronoka
* 4. Rakugaki Showtime
* 5. Raystorm
* 6. Fighters Impact

The individual price is JPY 600, which is roughly 5.50 USD. In other words, a helluva deal for a game like Xenogears. Not a single Final Fantasy on the list, you may note. Perhaps that will change upon the announcement of the next six games. I suppose we might as well start praying that Square Enix cares enough about us to offer the games on our PSN sometime in the future.

Sources: Kotaku | GamesIndustry
If Signed by Governor, Bill Will Become Law in 2010
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Another story about useless, uninformed legislation! But wait! In this particular case, the useless, uninformed legislation actually PASSED, and is well on its way to becoming New York State Law. Got your attention now, eh? Well, let's take a closer look at this madness.

The bill was passed 61-1 by the New York Senate, and all it requires to become law is the signature of New York's Governor, David Paterson. The main thing this bill provides for is the establishment of a 16-member advisory council, whose job would be to make recommendations regarding ESRB ratings, and to establish "a parent-teacher violence awareness program to identify and appropriately assist students who may have a propensity toward violence." Whatever that means. Additionally, the legislation requires that all gaming consoles come with parental controls, and that ESRB ratings are displayed on the packaging of videogames. Of course, all current-generation consoles HAVE parental controls. Furthermore, when's the last time you saw a videogame without a bloody ESRB rating on it? In fact, have you EVER seen such a thing?

Let's hear what Senator Andrew Lanza, who proposed the bill, has to say in its defense:

If you look closely at this bill, [concerns expressed by Sen. Duane] are not valid. Let's start with speech. There's all kinds of speech. If we take an old-fashioned pinball machine and plunked it down here in the middle of the chamber, no one would call it speech. But when we put that up on a video screen, it does become speech and I acknowledge that. And it deserves protection under the Constitution... There is some confusion with respect to what this bill actually accomplishes... The word prohibition was talked about. I want to be clear. This bill does not prohibit the sale of any video to anyone...

This simply says that every video game sold in the state of New York simply should have a rating consistent with what the ESRB does presently in a voluntary way... it does work. But the problem with "voluntary" is that tomorrow someone can change their mind. Someone could decide tomorrow to no longer place ratings on these games. So this is not about prohibiting the sale, this is simply about providing information to parents...

Last year's version... that included a provision that would have made it an E-felony to sell these games, we all thought it was wrong. And we took that out. We worked with the [video game] industry. We worked with the Assembly and we do have an agreement here on a piece of legislation that I think will go a long way in allowing parents to make good decisions in regard to what is and what isn't appropriate for their chidlren...

I appreciate the fact that Mr. Lanza's intent is not to prohibit the sales of games, but this bill is still superfluous at best. He makes it sound like the reasoning behind it all is to ensure that some future catastrophe, in which the industry suddenly decides to abandon ESRB ratings, never occurs. The likelihood of that happening is practically zero. Yes, it's possible to make a game without an ESRB rating, but retailers won't carry it. Furthermore, Sony and Nintendo would never let an unrated game see the light of day on their consoles.

I dislike the fact that this bill provides for a counsel that is charged with assisting "students who may have a propensity towards violence." It's just the principle of the thing. Given the nature of the bill, it suggests that people have such "propensities" due to videogames, which is, of course, untrue and hypocritical.

In the end, this isn't such a bad bill. It's just unnecessary. Painfully unnecessary. But hey, that's more or less what we've come to expect.

QUICKIES: In Which I Make Passing Mention of Some Relatively Small, But Inherently Awesome News Stories!
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  • WoW Was to be Ad-Supported
    Here's some interesting food for thought: World of Warcraft, the MMO that changed the face of MMOs, was originally intended to be free to play, and supported by ads. Blizzard SVP Rob Pardo revealed this during a Q&A session at the Paris Game Developer's Conference. "We didn't want to charge a subscription," he said, "but as we researched market conditions, we realised that wouldn't support us." An intriguing case of what may have been, wouldn't you say?

  • Nintendo Sued, then Unsued, over Paper Mario Ads
    LAWSUITS! You gotta love 'em. Even this one, which ended up being nothing more than a false alarm triggered by a dunderhead plaintiff. On June 12, Morgan Creek Productions filed suit against Nintendo over the use of a song from the 1993 film, True Romance. The song was used in an advertisement for Nintendo's 2004 GameCube title Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. If you watch the commercial, the song fits pretty well. If you watch the movie it came from, you'll wonder how in the world family-friendly Nintendo could even consider using a piece from its soundtrack. In any case, the advertising agency, Leo Burnett, provided Morgan Creek with a copy of the license agreement soon after the lawsuit was filed, and the suit was quickly dropped. SOMEBODY feels sheepish, and it isn't Nintendo!

  • Xbox 360 DRM Transfer Tool Now Available
    Now THIS should make quite a few people happy. For too long now have people been subject to the woes of Digital Rights Management on the Xbox 360 console. Perhaps you've heard our own Shawn Cooper, AKA Lusipurr, bemoaning his inability to successfully transfer all of his Xbox Live Arcade titles over to his new 360. Well, no longer, as Microsoft has finally gotten up off their proverbial arse and provided a fix for the issue. You can now easily transfer all your games and movies from one console to another. However, you can only use the DRM tool once every twelve months, and rentals are not transferable. I doubt this will pose an issue for most people. For those of you eager to get started, I've taken it upon myself to provide this link to the appropriate portion of Microsoft's support website. Happy transferring!

I love days off, but for some strange reason, they always seem to move at approximately twice the speed of workdays. Why is this?

ARGH. I love Fire Emblem, but it MAKES ME SO ANGRY sometimes. I was just playing through Chapter 18 of the original for the GBA, and I had naught but the boss left to slay. I was unaware that he had a longbow in his possession, and I made the mistake of placing my troubador within his range. With a swift shot, he slew her, and I lost close to an hour of progress. DAMN ALL.

I suppose that's it for today, folks. Hope you enjoyed it, and be sure to catch me in Q&A this Sunday.

Oliver Motok
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