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CURRENTS
Issue #54
May 30, 2007
En Memoriam
Front Page

Another week passes, another chance gone to play more good games. I still haven't had a chance to play Etrian Odyssey, nor have I found time to finish Zelda: Link's Awakening. The closest thing I had this weekend to a gaming adventure was playing "Word Balloon" in Clubhouse Games with my girlfriend. While I enjoyed every second of the balloon popping madness, I think I'm due for a few days of good ol' RPG immersion.

This column is a little short due to Memorial Day (hence the spiffy title), but that doesn't mean it's not chock full of important happenings. Hopefully your Memorial Day was as relaxing as mine, and likewise I hope you weren't up all night last night writing something like myself. Sorry I couldn't find more stuff to write on, but news was a bit slim this week. Make sure to take a peek at the E3 update info so you can get up to speed with what happened/is happening with gaming's favorite expo.

How Nintendo Changed The Game
Other companies can't handle the truth of casual gaming!
Title

With last week's wonderful NPD sales charts fresh on their mind, Nintendo seems to be in as good a position as any to discuss the videogame industry and the ways in which their business plans differ from their competitors. In a recent interview with Wired, Nintendo Senior Vice President George Harrison discussed Nintendo's business plans for this current generation. In the past, the videogame market has relied heavily on large blockbusters (such as God of War, almost any Final Fantasy, Madden, etc.) to have a successful system. Those big games usually garner almost all of their sales within the first 12-16 weeks and proceed to be practically nonexistant on the sales charts after those weeks are up. Now with the advent of perpetual sellers such as Nintendogs and Brain Age, Harrison is quick to point out how Nintendo is changing the market mechanic by continuing to support older titles that still remain relevant and profitable, rather than simply moving on to the next blockbuster. While Harrison is extremely keen to point out the ways in which Nintendo is changing the market, he also notes that Nintendo's ability to appeal to a larger audience and support older titles may not be an option for their two main competitors. As he noted:

So far, [Microsoft and Sony] haven't spent a lot of time focused on us. Now that we're having some success, they probably will. We can already see some of the things that they've tried. For last year's E3, at the last minute, Sony rushed out their Sixaxis controller as an effort to respond to the Wii remote. We saw Microsoft roll out Viva Pińata as their killer app for the Pokémon set. And neither of those worked really well. Part of it is, I think it's not in their DNA. They're really good at reaching a certain customer, and have a real difficulty understanding how we succeed with the customers that we have.

While it seems like Harrison is simply tooting his own horn, sales of the Wii have backed up his claims and have continued to be astronomically high in comparison to the console's next-gen brethren. Sales and demand for the oddly-named console have been so high that industry analyst Colin Sebastian believes that shortages could last all the way until 2008. Nintendo seems to be doing a good job of getting close to their fabled 1.5 million Wiis a month production promise, but the demand for the console is simply too high. Since this would definitely affect the "key holiday period," expect Nintendo to do its best to ramp up production towards the end of the year.

Sources: GameSpot | 1up
More Korean Bonuses For PlayStation Fans
Americans just might get a little something from Sony too
Title

With last week's big announcement of the special PlayStation 3 that will be hitting Korea come June, many of us were left wondering if the 80 gigabyte monstrosity of a system would ever find its way over to other shores. As just about everyone that heard about the revamped console had supposed, Sony is currently considering shipping the memory-enhanced model to other countries. According to Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. spokesman Satoshi Fukuoka, shipping the beefed-up 80GB console to other areas is "one of the options" that Sony is considering at the moment. Fukuoka also pointed out that "(Sony) makes such decisions depending on the needs of the market, and every country is different," which means that the 80GB model could see release in certain areas (such as Australia) and not in others (like...Austria?)

Sony is also in the process of adding new features to the Korean PS3 that are not available anywhere else, such as Video on Demand (VOD) services, that seem to utilize the larger hard drive. Since VOD services, much like Xbox Live's downloadable movie and television content, generally take up a good amount of hard drive space (depending on the quality of the video in question), Sony's plan to include 20GB of extra space makes perfect sense. It's not immediately clear if this deal will give rise to a monthly downloading package (such as Korea's "HanaTV" which charges $10.75 a month for broadband VOD) endorsed by Sony, or a pay-per-item program (a la iTunes or Xbox Live). On top of all this, Next-Generation noted that Korean VOD services will be available to the PS3 and PlayStation Portable through the PlayStation Network by the end of the year. It would seem that it's only a matter of time before a firmware update that allows for PS3 owners outside of Korea to download a plethora of media, but as for right now, Sony remains tight-lipped about the future of the PSN.

Sources: BusinessWeek | NextGen
Mixed Signals: Delays, Earnings, and Games!
Dragon Quest fans, prepare to be...torn between jubilance and sadness?
Title

Well, Squeenix fans, I have some good and bad news. Firstly, and unsurprisingly, Square-Enix CEO Yoichi Wada announced that his company has absolutely no plans to rush either of its two blockbusters out in time for the holiday season. According to the omniscient Wada, "(Final Fantasy XIII) will still take a bit more time. At the very least, (a release in Japan) this fiscal year is definitely out of the question." Given that the fiscal year generally ends at the start of April, and English translation/localization takes a few months, we probably won't be seeing FFXIII until late last year. This really doesn't seem to come as much surprise given the lack of media and information relating to FFXIII, but it's always hard seeing the game so far away.

Did you notice that I said "two" blockbusters? While you could probably guess the other on your own (hint: it's not 3-D World Runner), Wada also made some comments that certainly made it seem like Dragon Quest IX stands a good chance of being bumped back to 2008. But don't cry tears of sadness yet, Dragon Quest lovers. Wada followed this crushing blow by announcing that they will finally give Dragon Quest the "Final Fantasy treatment" by releasing some new remakes for a (currently unannounced) system! According to Wada's own words, "This summer, we'll release Battle Road in arcades and Sword for the Wii. Following that, we're thinking of a release for 9 once we've released remake versions and so forth." While his words are a bit mysterious at best, Wada's words are extremely good to hear. Very few Dragon Quest games have been remade and released in the US, while two games (namely Dragon Quest V and VI) haven't even been officially translated and released in English. It's evident when looking at the sales of Final Fantasy III that many people want to play the missing links in the games' series. When you add this to the popularity of the Dragon Quest remakes so far in Japan, Squeenix should have no problem profiting off of its rereleases once again.

Source: IGN
E3 Update and Recap
What our favorite expo has become and what you need to know
Title

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) has been a longstanding tradition in videogaming for over ten years. For as long as most of us can remember, E3 has been the focal point for videogame news, announcements, and changes within the industry. All of this seems to have come to a halt, as the E3 as we once knew it, with the 60,000 nerds engulfed in sweat, anticipation, and love for all things videogames, is no longer. The event, which many believed to be incorrectly aimed at boasting and excess, rather than towards demonstration and the industry, is being completely overhauled for this year. Instead of the semi-restricted access (which allowed over 60,000 industry insiders, bloggers, and many friends into the Expo) of the past, the new E3 Expo is extremely exclusive, with only 6,000 people with close industry ties making the cut this year.

Replacing the once massive event that filled the Los Angeles Convention Center is a small scale industry showcase that takes place in two places: the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, C.A., and various hotel rooms in the nearby area. Instead of the hundreds of square foot of exposition space for each company, the new E3 Expo has divided up the Barker Hanger in to a series of ten foot squares for each company (with a small handful of extra special companies getting a 20'x20' area) as can be seen in this image here. As of May 1, only 39 companies had signed up for their little ten foot display cubicle, leaving approximately 60 spots still open. While it's obvious that some of these spots have since been filled, it still shows how reluctant many people are to hop on this new bandwagon.

Many have trumpeted the drastic downsizing of the event as the "death of E3," and have speculated that other gatherings and company showcases will serve to replace the massive industry showcase. While the former can't be proved until mid July (when the new E3 Expo starts), the latter certainly holds some truth. Given the overwhelming success of the Square-Enix party, and the growth of the Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany, alternative showcases seem to becoming more popular. According to IGN, the Leipzig Games Convention has already booked 40% more exhibitors this year, with many international companies coming to the convention in order to capitalize on the many "national and international trade visitors."

The E3 Expo will certainly be an event to keep en eye on in the upcoming weeks. As news details and information trickle down to me, I'll be sure to try and keep this section updated with the latest news about the Expo. So far, only the schedule for the event has leaked out from the E3 website, and it is as follows:



July 10 (Tuesday)
8:30 - 9:30 p.m. - Microsoft

July 11 (Wednesday)
9:00 - 10:00 a.m. - Nintendo
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. - Sony
2:00 - 3:00 p.m. - Electronic Arts
3:15 - 4:15 p.m. - Activision
4:30 - 5:30 p.m. - Midway
5:45 - 6:45 p.m. - Konami

July 12 (Thursday)
8:00 - 9:00 a.m. - Take-Two
9:15 - 10:15 a.m. - THQ
10:30 - 11:30 a.m. - Ubisoft
1:00 - 2:00 p.m. - Namco Bandai
3:30 - 4:30 p.m. - Disney Interactive

Sources: IGN | E3expo.com
RANDOM: Things worthy of a quick mention for their obscurity, or sheer awesomeness
Just a little bit
  • It's firmware update time! Sony's PlayStation 3 has had a continual slew of firmware updates over the past few months, and May is no exception. This week's firmware update bumps the PS3 up to firmware 1.80, and includes great features such as PSP remote control, the ability to stream media from your computer to your PS3 (and onto your television), and even DVD, PS2, and PS1 upscaling, so everything can be played in 1080p if you have the right TV. 1up says that the update makes the DVDs and old PlayStation games look cleaner than ever, so go and fire up FFVII and take a peek.

  • The OC Register reported earlier on this week about a young cancer patient that was given the entire World (of Warcraft). Thanks to Blizzard Entertainment and the Make-A-Wish foundation, 10-year-old Ezra Chatterton was able to get a full tour of the WOW headquarters and even had his own personalized character inserted into the game. With WOW being one of Chatterton's favorite pastimes that he can still enjoy while working through his treatment for brain cancer, the trip to WOW central really made an impact on the little guy, who still hopes of someday being able to beta test future versions of the game. It's always good to see people helping each other and making wishes come true.

Sources: 1up | OC Register

Last week I got a great response from a man named Tyler about those kooky Common Sense Media ratings, and what he takes to be the important factors that go into videogame ratings. I'll try and put it up along with some other answers I get next week, but I wanted to say thanks to everyone for reading and replying. It's good to know someone is seeing this.

As for the question this week, where do you see E3 heading in the future? Will the Expo be usurped its "spiritual successor", the "Entertainment for All" expo that is coming in October? While E3 is only a month and a half away, it's always interesting to hear what people think will happen.

Well, that sums it all up. Sorry for the brevity of this edition, but with holiday apathy and a lack of news, it's hard to make this into too long of a column. I should get some sleep. Go play a RPG for me.

Cole Jones

 

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