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CURRENTS
Issue #62
December 5, 2007
Sleep Deprivation
Front Page

In an industry so vast and expansive, with news and announcements being piled up each and every day, how is the average RPGamer to keep up with it all? We all lead busy lives after all, most of us having to deal with such silly things as work and school, and as a result we simply don't have the time to scour the news websites in order to keep ourselves updated. Well, worry not fellow gamers, the answer to your dilemma is here, in the form of RPGamer's Currents column. I'm your host Oliver Motok, and I'll be bringing you news highlights on a weekly basis, presented in one accessible and easy-to-read column!

You wish to know more about me, the new host? I'm honored, and I will oblige. My name is Oliver Motok as I mentioned before, and I live down in middle Tennessee. I've been playing video games for over six years now, and I found out early on that RPGs were the best that the industry had to offer. I've been visiting RPGamer for a little over two years now and always admired its love and devotion to the RPG genre. What I'm hoping for is to someday write about video games and get paid for it (which is why I'm a journalism major), and so naturally I jumped at the chance to write for this place. I may not be getting paid, but hey...this will look good to somebody, somewhere down the line. I assume.

But let us focus on the here and the now. And right now, my friends, I am about to bring you my handpicked news stories of the week, complete with my own unique commentary on each one. And if all goes well, the result should be something that, at the very least, holds your interest. So without further ado, let us venture forth!

Nintendo Flunks Greenpeace Evaluation
Though perhaps indirectly, Mario contributes to the world's imminent demise
Title

Global Warming has come to pass its judgment on the earth, and Nintendo has summoned it. At least in part. In the recently published Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics, Nintendo ranked the lowest among all the electronics companies listed, with a score of exactly 0. Yes, that's right, 0. In other words, As far as protecting the environment goes, Nintendo has failed in every way possible. Such things as chemical management were the greatest offenders, but they managed to score a 0 in every possible category. Sony and Microsoft were also ranked, and Microsoft really didn't do that much better, with a score of 2.7. Sony, on the other hand, led with a 7.3. Somewhat interesting, since this stands in contrast to some other figures that portray Nintendo as the most energy efficient of the three.

To be honest, I'd like to just say "who cares?" at this point, but out of respect for all the tree-hugging whackjobs individuals who are reading, I won't. I recognize that this may actually be quite a sensitive issue for an environmentally-conscious gamer. What exactly is such an individual to do, plagued by such conflicting interests? With your love for Nintendo and their franchises weighed against your personal convictions concerning the environment, I can only imagine a confused you must be.

So what are you to do? Well, there is one obvious course of action. First, you sell every product in your home that bears the Nintendo brand, for possession of such things betrays your beliefs. Sell them on eBay, sell them to GameStop, just get rid of them somehow. For good measure, and additional penitence, you may consider donating the money to Al Gore. Finally, and most importantly, you must never purchase another Nintendo product as long as you live. Ever. If you do, you brand yourself a hypocrite. And don't try anything sly like engaging in a casual round of Super Smash Bros at a buddy's house, because the planet is always watching.

I seriously doubt, however, that any of you will do that-which is quite understandable. I ask you, who honestly considers the environmental ramifications while playing, say, Fire Emblem? Not I, my friends, not I. And I would advise you not to dwell on such things either, because while protecting the environment is well and good, Fire Emblem is better.

Examining a more positive side of the issue, it looks like Sony fanboys finally have something to gloat about. And perhaps this will earn Sony the business of the tree-hugging variety. They could certainly use it.

Sources: GameSpot | 1UP
PS3 Price Cut Proves To Be Effective
Sony humbles themselves, and are thusly blessed
title

Somehow, it has become the rule that $399 is the cutoff on videogame console price points. Any higher than that, and you'll be slammed with bad press and sales alike. It's been over a year now since Sony unwittingly violated this rule by releasing their PlayStation 3 with a price tag of $599. Sales, as we know, were less than satisfactory, and for a long time the question was when, not if, Sony would cut the price. Sony finally answered that question earlier this month with the release of the new 40 gig, $399 PS3, which matches the original price of the premium Xbox 360. Will the price cut be effective? Well, some early sales figures seem to indicate that the answer is yes.

Halved hard drive and lack of backwards compatibility notwithstanding, Sony has reportedly sold over 320,000 PS3's this November, which accounts for a whopping 298% increase in sales from the previous month. Quite an impressive number, especially considering that the console has never before broken 200,000 in monthly sales. This boost in sales isn't exclusive to America either. According to sales figures from Japan, the PS3 actually surpassed the Wii in November selling 183,200 to the Wii's 159,200. It's worth noting, however, that the DS and the PSP both ranked quite a bit higher, at 358,200 and 266,300 respectively.

You know, just as an aside, I seem to remember a certain former Sony president stating that the PS3 was, in fact, "too cheap" at its $599 price point. If he truly believes that, (we sure didn't) a $399 PS3 would probably be a sin to him. But then, I suppose it really isn't his problem anymore.

This is all good news, of course. A lot of gamers are now the PS3 owners they'd always dreamed of being, and Sony is building up the user base they so desperately need. But amidst all these big numbers, I find myself thinking about how much Sony is losing for each console they sell. After all, I've heard figures as high as this one concerning the manufacture cost of a single PS3. I'm sure the cost of churning out a PS3 has come down since 2006, but certainly not enough to compensate for the rather large deficit, especially with the new price cut. That being the case, well, let's just hope that this expanded user base results in some substantial software sales.

Sources: GameSpot | IGN
Senators Claim That the Wii Trains children to be Killers
You'd think she'd be too busy campaigning

Hillary may be striving to appeal to voters "across the board," and yet she consistently manages to alienate, ignore, and generally just piss off a significant portion of the voting public. Who are these people? The gamers, of course. Somehow, amidst her voracious bid for the presidency, she has found the time to team up with three other politicians and write some hate mail to the ESRB. Specifically, Kansas republican Sam Brownback, Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman, and Indiana democrat Evan Bayh. It is worth noting that all of these people have attacked violent games at some point in the past, and, interestingly enough, all of them either have Presidential aspirations, or had them at some point in the past.

Once again, they are accusing the ESRB of being ineffective. Specifically, they went after the PS2/Wii horror title, Manhunt 2, which has caused more than its share of controversy in the past months. Just to recap, the game was originally rated AO by the ESRB, which effectively banned it in the US due to the fact that neither Nintendo nor Sony permit AO rated games on their systems. Additionally, the game was banned outright in the UK, with the BBFC refusing to rate the game due to its "unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone which constantly encourages visceral killing with exceptionally little alleviation or distancing." Rockstar agreed to make some cuts in order to warrant an "M" rating, and the game has been released in the US. However, and of particular interest to the Senators, the BBFC refused to classify the game even after the cuts were made.

Miffed as they are with the very existence of the game, they take especial offense to the Wii version. Apparently, due to the motion-sensitive nature of the system, the senators want a tighter leash placed upon it. In their own words:

"That system permits children to act out each of the many graphic torture scenes and murders in Manhunt 2 rather than simply manipulating a game pad. This led one clinical psychologist to state that the realistic motions used with the Wii mean that 'You're basically teaching a child the behavioral sequencing of killing.'"

Well, there you have it. Poor Nintendo. I can only imagine how they must feel right now. They strive to be "accessible" and "family friendly," and yet in doing so they inadvertently facilitate the training of deadly assassins. Talk about backfiring. Of course, I'd like to think that there is a big difference between manipulating a Wii-mote and manipulating an instrument of death. The only way this theory could possibly make sense is if the player forced their little brother to act as a target for their Wii-mote while acting out the violent actions on the screen. While they may exist somewhere, people who would go to that extent for the sake of immersion are probably few and far between. And a little brother who would go along with the scheme is probably rarer still.

To be honest, I'm growing rather tired of hearing ignorant politicians squawk about the supposed "ineffectiveness" of the ESRB. I'm not saying I want children playing a game like Manhunt 2, I personally don't think they should. However, using Manhunt 2 as an example, it clearly states on the box that it is rated "M" for: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, and Use of Drugs. To me, it doesn't get much clearer or more effective than that. All a parent has to do is take two seconds and glance at the corner of the box, and they receive more than enough information concerning the game's content. If they can't do that, then it's the parents who are ineffective, not the ESRB.

Sources: GameSpot | IGN
University of Michigan Professor Declares Violent Media A "Public Health Threat"
I'm not sure I appreciate being classified in the same vein as a smoker.

I debated whether or not to bring this up, because how many times have we heard stuff like this before? And, more importantly, how many times have we believed it? Exactly. The truth is that God himself could descend from the heavens and declare that there was a correlation between violent games and violent behavior, and we would stand before him and assert to our dying day that he was wrong. That's just how it is. We're a sensitive lot, after all; we don't want to place any sort of negative connotations on our favorite pastime.

The story here is similar to what we've seen before. Two professors from the University of Michigan, professor of psychology and communication studies Brad Bushman and social psychologist L. Rowell Huesmann, conducted a study on violent media in general, and concluded that exposure to violent media such as television and videogames have a direct correlation to violent and aggressive behavior. In fact, Bushman went so far as to say that that the link is even stronger than that of cigarette smoking and cancer.

Although the study was aimed at all forms of violent media, Bushman had some choice things to say about video games in particular. "Playing videogames," he said "particularly first-person shooter games, may be much more dangerous than watching violent television shows or movies."

Now, what I've always taken issue with is the fact that these studies never consider the fact that certain kids with aggressive tendencies may be drawn to violent games, rather than violent games corrupting an otherwise innocent child. However, this study says that no child is safe from the effects of violent media. According to Huesmann “Media violence can affect any child from any family, not just children who are already violence-prone.” Huesmann went on to say that violent games are, in fact, a serious enough issue to qualify as a "public health threat."

Well, I'm not sure what to say at this point. Even if a study like this was to be proven true, and it became widely accepted that violent media caused violent behavior, what then? Give the government the authority to ban any form of media that they deem "violent" or "inappropriate?" I doubt it. The truth of the matter is that videogames are going through the same kind of scrutiny now that every form of media went through at some point in the past, be it rap music, television, or comic books. Five or ten years down the road, controversy such as this will be a thing of the past.

Source: GamaSutra
Dragon Quest IV DS Sells Over Half A Million In One Week
Hopefully US gamers will follow suit
Title

Japan sure seems to like their portable 3D remakes. But then, Japan seems to like anything that bears the name of the cultural phenomenon that is Dragon Quest. Dragon Quest IV DS sold 608,433 copies in just one week, placing it firmly upon the number one position in the sales charts. Just over a year ago at this time, Final Fantasy III DS was released in Japan and saw first-week sales of 513,433.

I, like any self-respecting RPGamer, am hoping with all my might for a US release, but until I hear a firm release date come from Square Enix, I won't be crossing my fingers. Why, you ask? Well, consider this. Dragon Quest VIII has sold close to four million copies in Japan with opening week sales of 2,267,827. That's a huge number. However, we Americans couldn't even find it within ourselves to purchase half a million copies with the total sales over here coming to about 470,000. What we can infer is that America just doesn't like Dragon Quest for whatever reason. This doesn't eliminate the possibility of our seeing Dragon Quest IV, of course, but it certainly lowers them. But really, who knows? Square Enix has been trying hard to get Americans to care about Dragon Quest lately, and bringing a true Dragon Quest adventure to the massive DS user base might be an excellent way for them to break through.

Source: GamaSutra

Ah, numbers, charts, and sales. How I love them. So naturally, I opted to keep number crunching. I think it's interesting to know what gamers are buying, and what they're not. Today I have the software sales figures for the month of November. In future columns I may include weekly sales charts, in order to have some manner of number crunching in each and every column I turn out. And now, without further ado, I urge you to read on!

Rank Console Title Publisher Month Total
1 Wii Super Mario Galaxy Nintendo 1,106,571 1,106,571
2 X360 Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Activision 986,740 986,740
3 Wii Wii Sports Nintendo 979,387 6,705,602
4 X360 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Activision 872,086 872,086
5 PS2 Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Activision 862,467 862,467
6 X360 Assassin's Creed Ubisoft 747,864 747,864
7 X360 Forza Motorsport 2 Microsoft 653,101 1,367,664
8 X360 Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Activision 634,151 1,261,480
9 Wii Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Activision 549,276 549,276
10 Wii Wii Play Nintendo 406,311 3,037,050

As we can see, Mario sits on the top outselling each of the three versions of Guitar Hero III, including the Xbox 360 version by a fairly slim margin. I'm happy to see that, personally. I know I may be in the minority, but I simply cannot understand the appeal of Guitar Hero, and I probably never will. But then, I guess I don't fall into the "rockstar wannabe" category that seems to account for 90% of the American population.

There are a lot of familiar titles that sit outside the top 10 as well. The Xbox 360 version of Ubisoft's stealth actioner Assassin's Creed came in at number 7 with over 700,000 copies sold. However, the sales actually surpass 1 million if you take a look at the PS3 version, which sits at the #13 spot with 303,092.

Of special interest to RPGamers would be Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn which came in at the number 33 spot with sales of 138,124 after three weeks of release. Not too shabby I suppose, considering what a targeted audience Fire Emblem appeals to. When I went to grab a copy from GameCrazy, they had ordered eight copies and six were to fulfill preorders. In other words, they had ordered in a grand total of two copies to place on their store shelves. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker sat at the number 39 spot with sales of 122,456 in three weeks. Once again, certainly not terrible, but it tends to disappear when placed next to Bioware's RPG epic Mass Effect, which, though it has only been out for a week, landed at number 20 with sales of 192,993.

Source: VGchartz
RANDOM: Without Which These Relatively Obscure, Yet Inherently Awesome Stories May Not Be Noticed!
And that would just be a shame
  • Honestly, who here doesn't love the Wii's Virtual Console? Even if you don't care for the Wii or its current lineup of games, it's pretty hard to refute the awesomeness of the VC, which allows those of us who appreciate the classics of old to replay them, or perhaps play those we missed for the first time. Well, even you if you don't like the VC, a lot of other people do. According to Nintendo, the service has seen 7.8 million downloads since it became available a year ago, accounting for revenue of 3.5 billion yen ($33 million). Funnily enough, Nintendo Executive Shinjo Hatano doesn't seem sure whether these numbers are "good" or not. Sounds great to me, although he may be referring to the question of how many own a Wii vs. how many use the VC. That's all I can figure.

  • Remember the format wars between Betamax and VHS? Well, they're back. Sort of. This time around it concerns which medium will become the hi-definition entertainment format of choice: Sony's Blu-ray or Toshiba's HD-DVD. Blu ray has a definite edge, with the support of the PS3 and Blockbuster behind it. And now, some figures from Europe solidify its dominance even further, where they reportedly account for 73 percent of hi-def movie discs sold. To be honest, I wish HD-DVD would just give up already. I just read that The Bourne Ultimatum will be only on HD-DVD, which kinda makes me angry, since I plan to adopt Blu-ray as soon as I can. (Read: when I can afford a PS3).

  • I mentioned Manhunt 2 earlier in this column, as I'm sure you remember. (Unless you did something rude, like skipping straight to Random.) Anyways, I mentioned that the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) banned the game outright, even after it was cut in order to garner an "M" from the ESRB. As you can imagine, this did not sit well with Rockstar Studios who are adamant on fighting for their rights to distribute their signature brand of sadist entertainment across the globe. They are taking the BBFC to task, asking why Manhunt 2 has been singled out among all the other violent media that has been allowed in the UK. The BBFC is arguing right back, however, with Representative Andrew Aldecott asking "is there never a point where you can say 'this is unacceptable?' And if there is, where do you draw the line?"
Sources: GameSpot | GamaSutra

Well, that was fun. Took long enough, but it was fun. Writing this lets me take my mind off my finals, which are descending on me like a storm. I also found out that I have to give a ten-minute presentation in my science class tomorrow, for which I am completely unprepared. I'll pull through of course, but chances are that I'll be sleeping dramatically less than usual in this coming week. I finished Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn over the weekend, and I really want to buy Assassin's Creed...but I'm afraid that if I did, I'd never get a lick of work done. That being the case, Assassin's Creed, along with any form of gaming, will have to be put on hold until next week. And, speaking of next week, that's when you'll be seeing me next. I do hope you enjoyed our first outing together, and I promise that it only gets better from here on out.

Oliver Motok (Email Me!)

 

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