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CURRENTS
Issue #46
January 05, 2006
Shin Cup
Front Page

Last week was filled to the top with industry frivolity, so I won't waste a single keystroke more than I need to here.

Read on for more sales figures than you can shake a stick+3 at, enough analyst opinions to drive a technology investor to utter insanity, and the skinny on the ESA-blessed industry event intended to replace E3.

Some preliminary NPD holiday sales figures were aired on CNBC this week. They were quickly picked up by news agencies all over the world before NPD disowned the figures on GameDaily BIZ. The real NPD numbers for December are slated for release January 11.

The sales figures, apparently authorless, predict that the Xbox 360 trounced its new-gen competition, with the Wii in very close second and the PS3 a distant third. Here's these December "estimates" with NPD's proper figures for November.

US Sales (hundreds of thousands) [GameDaily BIZ]
Xbox 360 (Nov)
511
Xbox 360 (Dec)
2,000
PS3 (Nov)
197
PS3 (Dec)
750
Wii (Nov)
476
Wii (Dec)
1,800
Sources: GameDaily BIZ (via Joystiq)
Nintendo

The PS2 isn't dead yet. In fact, it's far from singing it's swan song, even as the next generation Sony console hits the market. Standard & Poor is predicting that the PS2 will outsell the PS3 through 2007 to March 2008. Considering the losses that Sony takes on the PS3, the heavy investment they've made on R&D, and the revenue that the PS2 creates ($8 per unit profit, and $1.4 billion this year alone in license revenue according to Goldman, Sachs & Co), they have good reason to continue milking the PS2 for as long as they can. It's price point is below the so-called "family friendly" Wii, and the library of games is unbeatable, and still growing.

I will probably be buying another PS2 this year before I buy a PS3, since my current hardware is starting to run down. My new PS2 will add to the 103 million units already in circulation (as of March) Here's some CRUNCH1NG on S&P's projections for Sony console sales:

Worldwide Sales (million) [Business Week]
PS2 (March 07)
11
PS3 (March 07)
6
PS2 (March 08)
11
PS3 (March 08)
7
TOTAL Worldwide Sales (million) [Business Week]
PS2 (March 06)
103
PS3 (March 06)N/A
PS2 (March 07)
114
PS3 (March 07)
6
PS2 (March 08)
125
PS3 (March 08)
11
Source: Business Week (via: Playfuls.com)

The BBC metered out some judgement on the games of 2006 by going to a panel of experts, asking them to choose their favorite. Two RPGs made the cut, and I've got the "expert opinions" on the cream of the crop.

Margaret Robinson, of Edge Magazine, gave her heart to Final Fantasy XII, praising it as a "masterpiece," even after admitting she disliked the 3D Final Fantasy predecessors:

Despite its inexhaustible beauty and technical ambition, it's an amazingly humble game.
 
It always puts the player first, letting them shape their own experience, but without ever compromising its own ability to tell a story - and, for once, that's a story with a bit of depth and nuance.

Neil McGreevy, one of the BBC's own staffers, lauded Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Wii and it's innovative control schemes:

But by drawing on artistic rather than technical prowess and distilling all that's good about the Zelda franchise, this is arguably the greatest launch title ever created - even trumping the developer's own Super Mario 64.

If you were here before Christmas, you may remember this story, regarding Spike TV's video game awards. Legend of Zelda: Wii walked away with Critic's Choice, and though FFXII failed to win any awards, it was nominated for Best Original Score and Best RPG. Personally, I voted for FFXII with my wallet, but I'm looking forward to playing Zelda with the Wiimote.

Here at RPGamer, FFXII was graced with a 4.25 out of 5 between our two staff reviews, and Legend of Zelda: Wii recieved a 4.0.

Source: BBC News

When you shell out your hard earned dollars for a game, have you ever wondered where the money went? Well Forbes took a pie chart to an average $60 video game, and analyzed who gets the profit. I won't NUMB3R CRUNCH this set of data, since Forbes has already made a snappy slide show about the whole thing, but here's some of the highlights:

Console Owner: On a $60 game, the console owner is paid about $7 in royalty fees. Blades and razors.
Retailer: There's about $12 in markup on an average game.
Design: The artists and designers get about $25 from the sale, which is comforting; nearly half of what you pay goes towards making the game look and feel good.
Engineering: The programming and encoding of the game costs about $12, which includes localization.
Marketing: $7 goes to advertisements and keeping the game "funky fresh" in the eyes of consumers
Corporate Costs: Only about 20 cents goes towards corporate salaries and other executive positions.

Source: Forbes

Last month, Mary Lou Dickerson, a State Representative from Washington, conducted series of "stings" at retailers across the state, taking a quick acid-test of how many salespersons would sell Mature titles to underage buyers. GamePolitics has the raw data from Dickerson's admittedly non-scientific study. The results are more than depressing; more than half of the 19 kids were able to walk away with titles like Halo 2, God of War, and Mortal Kombat.

I didn't take a statistics class for nothing, so here's some new-style NUMB3R CRUNCH1NG for you.

GenderAgeAllowedDeniedTotal
Male12246
Male15-22
Female15729
Male16112
Total10919

It seems that underage girls were allowed to purchase games more often than underage boys, and it would appear that older teens can buy games easier. With such a small sample size, though, it's hard to draw conclusions, especially considering the variables related to the gender and age of the salesperson, but the overall message is clear: many salespeople aren't following ESRB regulations. Here's a handful of gemstone-quality quotes from some of the delinquent (and not so delinquent) retail workers:

Ready to have a party and shoot some people? [sold her Halo II]
Late 20's Female to Female Shopper
 
Just so you know, this game is M-rated [sold her Devil May Cry 3]
19 year-old Female to Female Shopper
 
You better be 18 years old [after asking for ID from the underage shopper and selling him Rumble Roses anyway]
20 year-old Male to Male Shopper
 
We can't sell to you this time of year. This is the time of year when they try to catch us selling to kids. [after denying the shopper Crusader of Kings]
18 year-old Male to Male Shopper
 
Just don't tell anyone. I know your mom will buy it for you anyway. [my personal favourite; he's referring to Counter Strike]
25 year-old Male to Male Shopper
Source: GamePolitics

After E3 was tossed out the window earlier this year for failing to provide value to exhibitors, it was annouced that the video game industry would have a new forum to throw money at fanboys/girls, courtesy of IDG World Expo. The event, previously known as "GamePro Expo", will now be known as "E for All", thanks to Dante Padre of California. Padre's submission beat out 3,000 other entries to rename the Expo, and has won him a trip to the event when it happens next fall.

The event will take place at the LA Convention Center (where E3 has traditionally been held), but will be different from E3 in a fundamental way: it is not restricted to industry insiders. The mandate of the event is one of inclusiveness, to attract new consumers and to encourage current gamers to experience new technologies. E for All will include video game tournaments, family events, and the Video Games Live concert. Much like pre-07 E3, E for All will also feature networking opportunites for the business-minded.

We’ve witnessed a growing demand for a consumer-focused interactive entertainment show these last few years – both from consumers and from the industry. E for All Expo will offer an unprecedented opportunity for people who share a passion for games to try before they buy – and to interact with the people who created them. For companies that produce and develop games, interactive toys, and all things related, our goal is that E for All will foster promotional and relationship-building opportunities that only face-to-face contact can create.
Mary Dolaher, Executive VP, IDG World Expo.

The line has been drawn between the consumer-based event and the industry event; E3 has been sundered into the smaller, industry-only E3, and the large, consumer-focused E for All. At the very least, it will make both events more maneuverable and focused.

The real question is: will there be booth babes at a family-friendly event?

E for All will take place October 18-20 of this year. If you're going to be in Californa this October and are thinking about attending, check out the E for All website to register for updates.

There's plenty of CRUNCH1NG dispersed throughout Currents this week, but to recap: preliminary December sales, PS2/PS3 Sales Projections, and retailer ESRB compliance.

UPDATE 01/07/06: There was a story here regarding console sales projections, which was found to be a duplicate of a story I ran late November.

Question: We know that November was a good month for overall game sales, but how did game retailers, like GameStop, do this holiday season?
Answer: For the nine-week period prior to New Years, GameStop reported a 29% increase over last year's holiday season ($1.73 million, up from $1.34 million). Industry-wide sales are pegged at about 23.5% up from last year. [GameDaily BIZ]

If you'll excuse me, I have an Esper to subjugate.

Stay classy.

//This column was named after my lunch
END OF LINE
Theo Litowski

 

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