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CURRENTS
Issue #50(!)
May 2, 2007
Rise From Your Grave!
Front Page

Well, if it isn't the long deceased Currents column! My name is Cole, and I will be bringing you all of the current happenings in the video game world that you might not find anywhere else on the site. If you want to know a little more about me, or just want to know what kind of a madman wants to do the one non-RPG part of RPGamer, feel free to take a peek at My Bio. The Currents column is now officially 50 entries strong, and it is now my duty to bring one of my favorite areas of the site...[cue creepy music]...BACK FROM THE DEAD! Theo did a great job keeping the column going strong, and I'm going to do my best to try and build it back up and get things flowing once again.

I know things look a little different around here, but just bear with me while I try and get accustomed to the madness that is RPGamer and reteach myself HTML. Without much further adieu, let's hop right into this mess, shall we? I've got to cover a lot of ground and make up for some lost time, so I'll start with arguably the hottest company around right now: Nintendo.

Nintendo Soars To Victory!
Shouts of "Wii!" heard in distance as Miyamoto & Co. celebrate their aptly titled system
Nintendo

According to NMA, Nintendo has had a ridiculously successful year, with a 75% increase in profits due to the continually successful Nintendo DS and Wii. While the systems were initially seen as direct competition to their more powerful competitors, Nintendo opened up and sought a larger piece of the market by targeting newer audiences (such as women and older people, who are usually more causal gamers) and creating a new niche through marketing itself as a "family console." This seems to have helped it sell an outlandish amount of consoles so far, with almost six million Wiis and over 40 million DSs in the hands and households of gamers worldwide.

Undoubtedly, these profits have helped Nintendo whip up its upcoming fall lineup that includes over 120 new games for its duo of powerhouses. With 45 Wii and 79 brand new DS games set to be released by Nintendo, gamers are sure to find at least one game that will tickle their fancy. This number of course does not count in any of those terrible SpongeBob movies, or equally awful Disney show cash-ins for the Game Boy Advance (since we all know the last game worth buying has been out for two months).

Sources: NMA | GameSpot | CVG
My Pokemans, Can I Sell You Them?
Apparently the answer sounds similar to 1,000,000 people saying "Yes"
My Pokemans!

It's hard to say that Nintendo hasn't been benefiting big time from its first party titles over this past year. With games such as Zelda: Twilight Princess and Wii Play selling tons of copies (and systems), it comes as little surprise that the supposed underdogs of this gaming round are doing as well as they are. Likewise, the amazing sales of the newly released Pokémon Diamond and Pearl surely won't hurt Nintendo either; in just five days the game has already gone Platinum with over one million copies sold. Granted, with twice as many (over 500,000) copies preordered as that of Fire Red and Leaf Green, it was no real secret that the game was going to be a success, but 500,000 more in just five days? That is simply astonishing.

With the new game on a (relatively) new system, many people are trying Pokémon for the first time, while others are returning to it after more than ten years. This is apparently the fastest selling Pokémon game to date, which is impressive considering the sheer amount (over 155 million) of total Pokémon games that have been sold in the world. Diamond and Pearl have sold five million so far in Japan, so it will be very interesting to see how many total copies are sold across the ocean (and eventually over in Europe and Australia) in the near future.

Source: GameSpot
Brand New XBOX For The "1337"
Xbox 360 Elite edition hits store shelves and is promptly dissected!
BlackBox

While I know that I'm rather new around here, I feel pretty guilty that RPGamer hasn't been kept up to speed with the latest in Microsoft happenings. It's true that the Xbox 360's RPG department has been rather scarce (Hey! They're working on it!), but the future is growing increasingly bright for this generation's forerunner. This past Sunday, Microsoft unveiled its newest addition to the 360 family: The Xbox 360 Elite.

The Elite retails for $479, and has both aesthetic and internal bonuses that the other models don't offer. First and foremost: The thing is BLACK. The midnight-themed console comes with a sexy matching controller and headset that gives the 360 a dark aesthetic appeal that even Johnny Cash would approve of. Inside the console various improvements have been made as well, with a huge 120GB hard drive and a HDMI port being arguably the most noticeable. The HDMI finally allows for beautifully clear, true 1080p resolution on your fancy HDTV, which many PS3 users have been bragging about having since launch.

In addition to these two huge bonuses, Microsoft one-ups Sony by bundling it with just about everything you need to get started: a HDMI cable, component cable, RCA audio dongle, unlimited Silver Xbox Live membership, and one month of Xbox Gold Membership. On top of all of this, the 1337-60 comes packed with all kinds of bundled goodies (crap?) on the massive 120GB hard drive, including eight videos, Hexic(!), and demos for Burnout Revenge, Kameo, and Tomb Raider: Legend. While these may not be the most exciting games the system has to offer, it's a nice way for Microsoft to give people something to toy with right out of the box.

If you're the kind of person who likes to take everything apart to see how it works, the fellows over at llamma.com dissected their black boxes so you don't have to risk turning your Xbox into a giant brick! There seem to be many minor upgrades to the system, including a shiny chrome hard drive casing, different fan headers, and possibly even a new 65nm core for lower power consumption. Even though it's a shame that all of these things (especially the HDMI port) didn't come standard, Microsoft has upped the ante with this version of the 360 while still remaining suspiciously under the price of the PS3.

Sources: 1up | GameSpot | Llamma
Kutaragi Says Sayonara!
Sony shuffles about as the "Father of the PlayStation" ends his reign
Ken and Friends

On June 19th, the man who brought the PlayStation to the masses will walk into the proverbial video gaming sunset as Ken Kutaragi plans to step down as Sony Computer Entertainment's Chairman and CEO. Stepping up to fill the big man's shoes will be current SCEI president and COO Kaz Hirai, who is expected to be promoted right around the same time.

According to GameSpot, Kutaragi will continue to "support Sony as a 'Senior Technology Adviser' and will also have board presence as an honorary chairman of SCEI."

But don't count Kutaragi out just yet! According to one of his first farewell statements, Ol' Ken sees this as another step in the right direction for him, and had this to say about the whole ordeal: "I am happy to graduate from Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. after introducing four platforms to the PlayStation family. It has been an exciting experience to change the world of computer entertainment by marrying cutting-edge technologies with creative minds from all over the world. I'm looking forward to building on this vision in my next endeavors."

And change the world of computer entertainment, Kutaragi did. No one could have possibly seen the PlayStation's success two generations ago, nor the overwhelming dominance of the PlayStation 2 last round. While I love Kutaragi's amazing quotes as much as the next person, we here at RPGamer have a special place in our hearts for Kutaragi and all of his systems that have brought us the majority of RPGs in the past 12 years. Hopefully Sony can get their act together after some of the fumbles with the PS3 so far (including their questionable ways of advertising). Regardless, we salute ol' Ken in his final Hadouken and hope that Sony can start tossing some more phenomenal RPGs our way soon.

Sources: Joystiq | GameSpot
Sony Knocks PSP Price Down Everywhere But Down Under
Possibly waiting for the 20 year anniversary UMD of Crocodile Dundee 2?
PSP

Everyone that has been waiting for the PSP to become more affordable to get their hands on some portable RPG action can finally rejoice at Sony's glorious price cut. Everyone but Australians, that is.

Following suit of the drop of the U.S. PSP price drop from $199 to $169 earlier on this month, Sony decided to cut its European gamers some slack and drop the price down to Ł129.99 (from the original Ł149.99) on May 4. However, Sony decided to keep the Australian PSP Base pack, the priciest out of them all currently, at its launch price of A$349.95 ($291 US Dollars). In comparison, the new price drop for the European PSP will bring the Base Pack down to approximately $259 USD, considerably more expensive than the US version, but still cheaper than the Aussies have it.

So Americans, [cue epic music] it is now time again to rejoice at having the cheapest PSP in all the land! Of course, with rapid inflation and increase in cost of living and all that, we may not really have much to celebrate. Hopefully Sony will take back its word and drop the PSP price sometime soon, but at the moment, Sony is standing firm on its PSP prices down under.

Sources: Joystiq | GameSpot
Has Square Enix Created The Ultimate Fantasy?
Square Enix talks Nintendo, the ten year saga, and how its not quite finished making money yet
CHOCOBO!

One of the RPG world's favorite companies has been all over the news lately, with Square Enix announcing that it's not planning to have any big Virtual Console games, talking about its ties with Nintendo, and discussing how the upcoming Final Fantasy XIII will be the series' most lavish and involved so far. The most surprising revelation is how Square Enix plans to have gamers, and I quote, "sucked into the world [of FFXIII] for ten years." Both Square and Enix have been known for making some of the most epic titles that gaming has ever seen (well...save for Mystic Quest and some Chocobo games...). But a ten year project? Square Enix's Shinji Hashimoto says that the games are being designed from the start to be an epic series reminiscent of Star Wars. He further notes that FFXIII is "Different from something like VII, which we expanded upon afterwards, with Fabula Nova Crystallis FFXIII, we've thought about an expansive world setting from the start."

Hashimoto went on further to discuss Square Enix's partnership with Nintendo, and how excited he is about the future games on the system, such as FFXII: Revenant Wings, FF Crystal Chronicles, and FF Tactics A2. When asked about seeing future main series Final Fantasy games on the DS (a la Dragon Quest IX), Hashimoto noted curiously that "We have to consider how we can make something that will be easy for casual users to get into."

With all of these newfangled virtual games coming out for various systems (see the Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade, and PlayStation Network), the dearth of big name Square and Enix titles has been very noticeable (one so far: ActRaiser). This doesn't look to be changing anytime soon, with Hashimoto noting that "[Square Enix] feels that the Japanese game market still requires media," and noted the "limitations when you consider the problems that we would have with billing systems." In other words, Squeenix isn't done making money yet. After all, with the amount of money they can make from updating and re-releasing their games on various systems for full price, why settle for only eight dollars on the Virtual Console?

Source: IGN
Jack Thompson:
Let's face it, Currents wouldn't be Currents without him

Ah, ol' JT. He just can't seem to keep his nose out of any sort of fiasco involving video games, regardless of whether or not they have any sort of relevance whatsoever. Since I'm filling in for some lost time, I'll focus on the two most recent Jack Thompson scandals: his snafu with Take Two, and his unjust (surprise!) bandwagoning with the tragic Virginia Tech shootings.

Take Two: So Soon?
Unusually straightforward rumble between Thompson and his favorite punching bag
Xbox 360

In one of the more surprising Jack Thompson takes of late, Take Two Interactive reached a prompt settlement with Thompson after he announced his plans to have two of their "little" games, Grand Theft Auto IV and Manhunt 2, (Made by Rockstar Games, a subsidiary of Take Two) declared "public nuisances."

Fearing that Jack Thompson would stir up his regular cauldron of controversy surrounding the newest Rockstar games (see the past few Currents for a recap), Take Two took a preemptive strike against the attorney in March in hopes of silencing his usual ranting and raving. The two parties agreed to play fair, and actually came to an agreement on April 18 about how to deal with the game's release. According to the official settlement documents (which can be found here), Thompson has agreed to do various things, most notably: to not sue (or threaten to sue) Take Two, to direct correspondence solely to Take Two's lawyers, and to release Take Two from other suits. Likewise, Take Two is agreeing to withdraw its petition to State Action, and the entire case is going to be deemed "dismissed with prejudice."

While this case is great for getting Thompson to stop suing Take Two to restrict the sale of its games, in the end, Thompson still has the one weapon that is far too frequently used: his voice. Given the court's decision, Thompson still retains the right to criticize the content and distribution of Take Two and legally represent third party plaintiffs who allege harm from his "favorite" company (loophole, perhaps?). While this finally seems to put a damper on Thompson's crusades to get Take Two's games off of store shelves, the sad fact is that this does little to stop his false claims and allegations that always seem to get him in the news. Which is a wonderful segue into JT's most recent tirade.

Source: NextGen
Virginia Tech: Too Soon
Opportunistic Jack hops on Virginia Tech's back

Words truly cannot express how tragic the events at Virginia Tech University on April 16 were. Mentally ill student Seung-Hui Cho took out his deranged aggression on almost anyone that he could find, leaving 28 students and five faculty members dead (including himself). However, the horrific nature of this shooting seemed to have no effect on Jack Thompson's humility, as he hopped onto whatever news networks would listen to use this as a soapbox to condemn violent video games.

Within hours of the shooting, Jack Thompson was on Fox News making questionable statements about Cho's motives. According to Thompson, "to be able to pull this off, with this high [of a] body count,...one has to have rehearsed it in able to do it." Thompson proceeded to reinforce AZN stereotypes by making completely false claims of Cho's preparation of the massacre through Counter-Strike (in case you live under a boulder the size of Wisconsin, Counter-Strike is one of them "shooter games!"). According to Thompson, the witnesses saw a "flat affect on his face, as if he were playing a video game," which he was convinced came from his months of preparation of killing people through the interwebs.

Unsurprisingly, these claims were completely false, but if Jack Thompson doesn't have something to blame video games for, he probably doesn't see much reason to live. One of the biggest "WTF" moments of this whole ordeal was the appearance of Dr. Phil McGraw (yeah, that balding guy that always is saving drug addicted mothers on his show), who emerged as another "specialist" of the perpetrator's use of video games as a weapon. Thankfully, he just made the rehashed "if you give crazy people video games they will learn how to kill people" speech, which always seems to miss the point that the crazy people should be helped before they get to a point where they might harm others. One solid analysis of this whole ordeal, and the effects that these events have on video gaming in general, came from Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle:

Last week's unfounded attack on gamer culture would be far less frustrating if it weren't something that happens at least once a year. Imagine how ridiculous it would seem if cable news interviewed alarmists who blamed professional wrestling or game shows (two things that Cho reportedly did enjoy in college) for a massacre before a suspect was identified. Yet video games are repeatedly presumed guilty from the start, with no correction or remedy when the facts prove otherwise.

For an interesting step-by-step analysis and refutation of JT's claims, take a peek at this article on Kotaku. It's so easy for someone to confuse so many when media outlets are clamoring for a place to put the blame of tragic events, yet don't have any way to reference unwarranted or outright outlandish claims. Our hearts go out to everyone affected in these tragic events, and we can only hope that the media is finally allowing everyone to heal from an experience that no one should ever have to go through.

Sources: Game Politics | Kotaku | MSNBC

This part of the Currents column was always one of my favorites, and I couldn't help but keep it intact. Feast your eyes on more numbers, in bar form!

March NPD Reports of Consoles Sold in the US
Nintendo DS
508,000
PlayStation 2
280,000
Wii
259,000
Xbox 360
199,000
PlayStation Portable
180,000
Game Boy Advance
148,000
PlayStation 3
130,000


Top 10 Selling Games of March '07
1. God of War II
833,000
2. Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2
394,000
3. Guitar Hero 2
291,000
4. Wii Play with Wii Remote
273,000
5. Motorstorm (PS3)
199,000
6. Diddy King Racing (NDS)
189,000
7. Spectrobes (NDS)
165,000
8. MLB 2K7 (360)
165,000
9. MLB '07: The Show (PS2)
164,000
10. Def Jam Icon (360)
148,000
Sources: GameSpot | GamaSutra
RANDOM: Things worthy of a quick mention for their obscurity, or sheer awesomeness
Pedometers, Handhelds, and Firmware Updates, Oh My!
  • According to GameSpot, Microsoft has patented a "handheld console 'video system'." While Microsoft's not yet talking about whether this will be an "Xbox Portable," or simply an upgraded iPod killer, either way we'll be watching. Hopefully it's less awkward looking than this Origami Thingamabob.

  • PlayStation 3 owners, rejoice! New firmware (V1.7) has just been released that allows for a whole bunch of awesome stuff. Firstly, it finally allows for downloaded PlayStation One games to be played on the PS3! Previously, downloadable PS1 games were only able to be transferred to a PSP to be played, which seemed rather silly since they were downloaded via the PSN. Secondly, it allows for the PS3 to finally be able to connect with any PS1 or PS2 accessory (via a USB accessory). This means you can finally have rumble for old games, and play Guitar Hero on PS3! Does this mean it's finally time to finally retire that PS2?

  • British based Immersive Games is taking steps in new RPG directions with its new pedometer RPG entitled Ambient Quest. According to an interview with GameSpot, creator Mike Eyles plans to have the PedoRPG (oh God that's terrible) controlled through the player's steps in real life. So for every 300 steps taken in real life, a tile will open up on the grid. Pretty spiffy, huh? So for all those people who are still playing with their Pocket Pikachus (or can even remember them to begin with), a new, ambiguously titled adventure awaits!
Sources: GameSpot | 1up

Well, that finally wraps things up! Sorry for the length; as I said, I had a bit of ground to cover and wanted to play catch-up as much as I could. Please feel free to send any comments and suggestions that you want. This is my very first column, so thanks for bearing with me. Extra points to everyone that heard Zeus' voice in their head and envisioned turning into man beasts and punching two-headed wolves in the face when they read the title of this column.

Now if you'll excuse me, a monochrome Zelda adventure awaits!

Cole Jones

 

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