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CURRENTS
Issue #57
July 7, 2007
Post-Celebratory Lucky Sevens
Front Page

Another week passes, another huge American celebration hits the dust. As you've probably figured out by either reading my bio or just about any column, I indeed reside in the good ol' U.S. of A. While I didn't let intense summer heat get me down too much (I can't do much about 111 degree weather), it sure does make you slow down a little bit. I've successfully landed my first summer job and have accordingly started making plans to buy extravagant things, which explains this ridiculous picture. While I sure as hell won't be buying one of these things in the near future, I really can't stress how freakin' awesome they are. That's right baby...

Even children are impressed
My currents column on an iPhone!

With that unnecessary bit of self glorification out of the way, I'll hop right into this weeks wonderful column. Given that it's 7-7-7, I can't help but feel lucky about this one. Remember how I said that summer makes you slow things down a bit? The industry sure seems to agree, and I couldn't find any real pertinent information regarding Nintendo this week. They've always been at the top in the past, so I don't feel too bad about letting them slip off this week. In keeping with the break from tradition, I have not one, but TWO awesome Sony stories to report on this week, along with great news for all of you out there with broken Xbox 360s. Lets get this positive train rolling!

BREAKING NEWS: PlayStation 3 Price Point To Drop Very Soon!
::cue "Hallelujah" in the background::
Title

In some of the best news I've ever had the privilege of passing on to my fellow RPGamers, Sony has apparently decided to do what everyone has been telling them to do for months:DROP THE PRICE OF THE PLAYSTATION 3!.

According to tipsters over at CAG, Sony will be permanently lowering the price of its memory-laden 60GB PlayStation 3 on July 12 to $499 in the U.S., and $549 in Canada (after a much expected proper announcement at this year's E3). The whole hubbub started with an advertisement from Circuit City that was leaked out showing a "$100 price cut" for the PS3, which is rarely (if ever) sanctioned by console makers unless there is an official price cut that applies to all systems.

The tip was further verified by the Circuit City employee that leaked the information, stating that "this will be for all retailers in the US and will be $499 from now on." According to him or her, "no store can sell a console for cheaper without the permission from the console's company so no, Sony did NOT give Circuit City a special deal to [sell] the PS3 at this price."

While Sony is currently denying the price drop (why would they not want to get the extra $100 out of anyone buying it this week?), the story has been verified by various workers in Best Buy, Circuit City, and other retailers alike. This price cut will vastly help the system, which has been doing rather poorly in opposition to its next-gen brethren in most of the world. The only thing that could make this deal any sweeter would be a rerelease of the 20GB PS3 at a $399 price point, but chances are Sony doesn't want to make a Blu-ray player that cheap anytime soon. This information comes as little surprise given the amount of negative press that the ridiculously high price point has received, but the timing is a pleasant surprise to everyone looking for a nice Blu-ray player to pass the time with while waiting for the first "real" PS3 RPG (no, Enchanted Arms and Oblivion don't count!).

Source: Cheap Ass Gamer
Sony Succeeds Down Under
Sony strong sales in Aussie-land a sign of things to come?
Title

Continuing the trend that was reported a few weeks ago, Sony's next-gen heavyweight is doing surprisingly well in most areas that aren't the United States or Japan. Following reports of Sony's success in Europe, sales numbers from Australia are in and are showing surprisingly strong numbers in Sony's favor.

According to sales numbers published by GfK (via GamesIndustry), the PlayStation 3 has sold 50,000 units since march to become the perpetual leader in consoles sold almost every week. While the bulky beast has been sold primarily as a cutting-edge game console, Michael Ephraim, managing director of Sony Computer Entertainment Australia, has noted that the system has been marketed for its "other" merits as well.

We've now sold 50,000 and we're very excited about the fact that it's being sold in retailers that are gaming retailers as a gaming device and other things, but as you'll notice it's now being sold in Harvey Norman consumer electronics stores as a Blu-ray player [as well].

Sony's launches in other countries have been continually strong since the US launch, but is the console being sold as a Blu-ray player first and a videogame machine second? With more and more people making the jump to HD and high quality televisions, the appeal of the Blu-ray player has gone up considerably in the past few months. To Sony, it probably doesn't matter either way (since the same thing was happening with the PS2's DVD player at first), but it will be frustrating to see the $600 console playing nothing more than Talladega Nights.

Source: GamesIndustry
Xbox 360 Warranty Extended, Reimbursement Plan Implemented!
Surprising show of compassion from the makers of Windows!
Title Title

Hey there, my little Xbox 360! How's it hanging? Everything still in tip top condition, with all of those bells and whistles still running at top speed (and temperature)? No? What's that, 3-6-Zero? Things a little red around the edges? You...you're not working!? And you're going on your third repair? Help R2! What are we to do?

If your 360 has bit the dust once...twice...heck, even three times, you're far from alone. With failure rates rumored to be as high as 30% according to some retailers, there's a strong chance your Xbox has given your more problems than it was ever supposed to. The problem has become so rampant that UK repair shop Micromart has officially stopped fixing the broken consoles bearing the dreaded "red ring-o-death". This problem has stuck with the console since launch (and through redesigns such as the Xbox 360 Elite), with Microsoft saying very little about the problem...until now.

Earlier this week, Microsoft's Peter Moore finally took on the console's problems headfirst and admitted that Microsoft "has not been doing a good enough job" when it comes to fixing the problem. Microsoft has "identified several factors that can cause a general hardware failure indicated by three flashing red lights on the console" and has extended the warranty of the problematic console from one, to three years if the console has a red-ring error. Even more important to many of you 360 owners was this amazing bit from the Xbox homepage

Microsoft will repair the console free of charge—including shipping—for three years from the console’s purchase date. We will also retroactively reimburse any of you who paid for repairs related to problems indicated by this error message in the past.

That's right: Microsoft will not only pay for any future repairs, but will also retroactively reimburse you for any costs you've incurred in the past few years! This impressive display of personal accountability is going to cost Microsoft somewhere around $1 billion, but hopefully they will regain that through increased console sales from people that may have been hesitant due to all the problems. Either way, Microsoft gets an "A" in my book for actually reaching out to soothe pocketbooks and repair the flailing consoles that should have worked perfectly in the first place.

Source: Xbox.com
Microsoft And Sony: Bringing E3 Home To YOU
Industry-only spectacle can now be viewed from your bedroom, all week!
Title

With all of the retooling and reshaping of E3, many of us will never get to see the inside of an airplane hanger filled with videogames, publishers, and the often elusive "game swag." The new "Min-E3," as many gaming sites have dubbed it, is a complete redesign of the media spectacle that we all once knew and loved. With little-to-no public access, and a severe lack of unnecessary extravagance, the exposition is a completely new beast this year. Last year, Microsoft brought the experience of E3 home to it's Xbox Live members at no additional cost, with free game demos, trailers, and even a free game (Uno!). Now that the (almost) open entrance media spectacle is basically no more, Microsoft's handouts have become more vital than ever.

Luckily for all of us staying home for this year's E3 (:( ), Microsoft and Sony will be bringing the wonderful experience of the event home to all of us. Taking a peek at Xbox.com yields lots of awesome information about the upcoming games and events scheduled for the annual fiesta. While we can expect (and hope for) many surprises to sneak onto Xbox Live, these games have been announced to be shown/playable in some form or another during July 10th through the 13th:

  • Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation
  • Assassin's Creed
  • Bioshock
  • Blue Dragon
  • Burnout Paradise
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
  • FIFA Soccer 08
  • Guitar Hero III
  • Lost Odyssey
  • Madden NFL 08
  • NCAA Football 08
  • Need for Speed: ProStreet
  • Project Gotham Racing 4
  • The Simpsons Game
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08
  • WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2008

Sony has recently hopped on the digital distribution bandwagon itself with their recently announced plans to release content during the week of E3 as well. While the only thing that is confirmed on the PSN so far is the SCEA press conference on the 11th, Sony promises to unveil unspecified "game trailers, videos, and other editorial content from the show." Whether or not their content will rival the free game demos and (possibly) games that Microsoft has offered in the past, Sony fans will be able to feel like a member of an exclusive club as well with their backstage pass via the PSN.

Sources: Xbox.com | GamesIndustry

I felt bad for this section being absent the past few weeks, so I wanted to bring it back for a brief stint to show some stories I found this week. Take a look at two of the companies that finally posted their year-end revenues this past week:

Year End Revenues and Net Income (Red = Positive, White = Negative)
THQ
$1 Billion Net Sales
THQ
$68 Million Net Income
Atari
-$71.3 Million Net Income

In a rather tiny-yet-interesting bit of Number Crunching for this week, Atari and THQ both posted their annual reports that detailed their massive gain (and losses) over the past year that ended for the two companies in June. THQ managed to squeeze out it's 12th consecutive year of revenue growth with surprising hits such as Disney-Pixar's Cars, and the annual heavyweight WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007. The titles sold eight and four million copies respectively, and helped the company land firmly in the black for the year.

On the complete other end of the success spectrum lies Atari, who haven't really seen the same level of success since the 2600. The company ended up losing $71.3 million this past fiscal year, which was significantly increased thanks to a "goodwill impairment charge" of over $50 million dollars. As I reported a few months back, Atari has been taking steps to rectify the situation through staff cuts and business readjustments, so hopefully the company will end up on the positive side of things next year.

Source: GamesIndustry
RANDOM: Things worthy of a quick mention for their obscurity, or sheer awesomeness
Bite size portions, since no one really likes those awkwardly sized "big" Mini-Wheats.
  • Those PSP hackers are at it again! Clever homebrewers over at Devsgen have noted that notorious PSP hacker Dark_Alex has uncovered an official ISO loader that is included on the 3.50+ firmware of newly made PSPs. This obviously points to future developments of downloadable games and content, but the most interesting thing is that it's hidden in this current firmware. How far off are Sony's plans to sell PSP games as downloadable content? Only they know for sure, but it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

  • Keeping with the firmware news, a new set of PS3 firmware is on the way with a handful of new features and updates. The new firmware includes high quality video playback features and codecs for AVC High Profile (H.264/MPEG-4) files, which is sure to make many downloaders happy. Eric Lempel (the Director of PSN Operations) notes that this firmware update doesn't fix the audio problems that some users have reported from certain video formats, nor does it update the PS2 compatibility list, so keep your eyes out for further updates.

  • In the "boy I hope someone over there cares" category, Microsoft recently announced that they will be launching the Xbox 360 Elite in Japan on October 11 at a discounted price of 47,800 yen ($390). The big black box includes a massive (120GB) hard drive, a special black edition of the console, extra downloadable content, HD connections, and other added bonuses that help it stand its ground against its expensive rival. To say that Japan has been reluctant to hop on the Xbox bandwagon would be a huge understatement, but maybe this sweet deal (plus a little Blue Dragon for good measure) could help them change their minds.

And so our voyage comes to an end. Next week is the big E3 extravaganza, so I'll be taking the week off from Currents to contribute to other parts of RPGamer and make some sort of massive E3 news recap when all is said and done, and the party is long gone. I wish I could have made it down to E3 this year, but there always is the future, right? Besides, I just started up Zelda: Twilight Princess, so my life has been thoroughly consumed in that since this past Wednesday. Yeah, I know, the game came out in December, but I didn't have any time to start it during the school year so I'm playing it now. I'll see if I can put together a review for your reading pleasure as well. I've always wanted to do game reviews, and I can't really think of a better place to start them.

So for now, I bid thee farewell. Have a wonderful week, and be sure to check the site often for our phenomenal coverage of the Min-E3 extravaganza! I promise great things, or extreme disappointment. Either way, it will be an interesting read, right?

Cole Jones

 

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