Welcome to the ninety-fourth edition of RPGamer's Currents Column!
I think Yesterday's Tomorrow is quite a fitting title for this week's Currents Column. By the time you all read this, many of you will be playing Fallout 3. I just got my copy and its retro-futuristic setting is very impressive. Oh, and the other reason why I decided to use that title, besides getting inspiration from Fallout, is because I got sick last week. I'm finally over my mild flu, but the column has suffered as a result. It's a little late, and as a result, some of the stories seem like old news. But you know, that is ok. Some of you might have missed these stories, and I always try my best to give you a complete summary and commentary on a story. At the very least, it will get you all thinking about it again.
And now, on to the NEWS!
The Spectacle and Crowds are Back in L.A.
and I'll be there to report on it for you
The details for 2009's Electronic Entertainment Expo have just recently been announced, and it is all generally good news. E3 will be held again at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The show will take place earlier in the year, on June the 2nd to the 4th. Last year's E3 was a remarkably downsized show, with an attendee cap of 5,000 people. That cap has now been lifted and the ESA is expecting more than 40,000 attendees. Expect quite a few of those 40,000 people to be scantally dressed women. That's right, booth babes are welcome to the show once again. Publishers will also be allowed to make their booths more lively and more exciting than the previous two years. The old E3 is back.
Although, despite some earlier rumors, the show will not be open to the public. The President of the ESA commented that E3 was not made for consumers and that it wouldn't be competing with other big gaming events in the United States. The Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX, is one of those events that is geared towards the general public and has grown over the past four years since it first started in 2004. Although E3 is going back to what it used to be, Mike "Gabe" Karhulik believes that the new E3 won't do anything to PAX because both of these events target a different audience.
The ESA has also made a deal with the city of Los Angeles to host E3 for the next three years. The expo is expected to add over 18 million dollars to L.A.'s economy. Mayor Antonio Villaraigos, who was very pleased with the deal, said:
There is much to be said about a convention of this magnitude returning to the entertainment capital of the world. The video game industry is one of the few industries in the nation that continues to show signs of growth, and ESA's three-year commitment to Los Angeles is a testament to our City's formidable hospitality and technology sectors.
It is great to see the spectacle of E3 back. This year's show felt like a shadow of its former self. With the removal of the attendee cap, expect to see a lot of the RPGamer staff at the show, working hard to get you the latest news and impressions.
A Quick Overview of Why You Didn't Get the Game Last Week
I'm still waiting for my copy
So LittleBigPlanet (LPB) is finally available at retail this week after a weeklong delay. The reason for the delay is certainly a very interesting story. Media Molecule delayed the release of LPB one full week because of a song written by Grammy winning artist Toumani Diabate. His song "Tapha Niang" appears as a background track in the game and contains two passages from the Qur'an. Those passages: "Every soul shall have the taste of death" and "All that is on earth will perish..." is based off of a song in the Qur'an about a hippopotamus getting shot by a white hunter and how it's hard to be separated from your loved ones in death. Diabate, who is a devout Muslim, mentions that in his country, Mali, it is quite normal to reference the Qur'an in music. He was inspired by those words to write about his brother who died at a very young age.
Although the song was written with the best of intentions by Diabate, Sony Computer Entertainment America and Europe were concerned that it might prove to be offensive to some within the Muslim community as a whole. Rather than take that chance, Sony opted to recall all copies of LBP from retailers in order to remove the song. Sony may have been correct in that decision since it did offend Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra who is a member of the Muslim Council of Britain. He believes that Qur'an is god's word and it should be viewed with the utmost respect. On the other hand, the president of the non-profit American Islamic Forum for Democracy, M. Zuhdi Jasser, states that it's wrong for Muslims to be able to exercise their rights to freedom of speech and religion, but get offended and limit the freedom of others when they believe someone else has crossed the line.
The move of LBP has upset a lot of gamers, but it is understandable why Sony is playing it safe. They don't want any more religious controversy like the one over the Manchester Cathedral appearing in Resistance: Fall of Man on the PS3. Even Phil Harrison, ex-Sony Worldwide Studios head, believes that this was the best move Sony could have made. He believes that LBP is supposed to be Sony's big game for 2008, and if there were any major problems, LBP would be tainted forever. Those who managed to get early copies of the game prior to the recall will also have the song removed via a day one patch. To help make up for the delay, another day one patch will include a few gameplay fixes and a few new costumes. To be honest, a one week delay to prevent a possible public relations nightmare is more than understandable. I hope those of you with a PS3 enjoy your copy of LBP this week.
Will This Help Obama Next Week?
Some final thoughts before the election
As November fourth creeps even closer, potential voters will be bombarded with political ads. It would seem that even video games are no longer immune. The Obama campaign has begun to advertise in several different EA games such as Burnout Paradise, Madden 09, Nascar 09, Need for Speed Carbon, Guitar Hero 3, and more. There are about 18 different Xbox Live games where you can currently see Obama advertisements, assuming of course that you live in a battleground state for the Obama campaign. If you live in the states of Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Montana, Nevada, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, New Mexico, and Colorado, you probably have already seen Obama banners and billboards.
Some gamers are finding these ads intrusive, believing that politics has no place in their games. Others view this as a great way of engaging and reaching young voters in a medium that they care about. I find it a little funny and refreshing to see that the political mainstream is finally embracing games. We in the gaming industry are used to politicians demonizing games and not looking at them as a viable way to reach an important new audiance with their messages. Video games have become an option for advertising in general, so expect to see far more political ads in future campaigns. Assuming, of course, that the ads are not intrusive or distracting, I am all for political ads on billboards in Burnout Paradise. I was getting sick of looking at all of those CompUSA posters anyway.
In other related news, during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University in New York, Obama himself mentioned video games when the topic of education was brought up. He went on to say:
"Parents are going to have to show more responsibility. They've got to turn off the TV set, put away the video games, and, finally, start instilling that thirst for knowledge that our students need."
Interstingly enough, McCain did not take the chance to call out Obama on his in-game advertising, so he let Obama off the hook on that one. Then again, kids aren't old enough anyway.
It Was Almost a Perfect Launch
The PSP-3000 launched two weeks ago and a few consumers are already crying foul. The updated PSP is supposed to have a brighter screen with more vivid colors among other new features, but instead, some consumers have reported noticeably visible scan lines appearing on the new LCD screens. These scan lines tend to appear most often when there is a big change in brightness, but are slightly less noticeable when the new Wide Color Space option is turned off. Sony Computer Entertainment America has stated that the scan lines are appearing because of the new screen installed on the PSP-3000, which was originally installed to reduce ghosting effects and to make the screen more vibrant. Currently, SCEA has said that there are absolutely no plans to fix this problem since it is a hardware problem rather than a firmware problem.
On the bright side, the new PSP-3000 did very well during its launch week, beating Nintendo DS sales in Japan by 5-to-1. In Japan, they sold 141, 270 units in the first four days. When you include the PSP-1000 and the PSP-2000, Sony has sold 10,357,481 PSPs in Japan. Sony also forecasts an increase of an additional 1 million units being sold this year, increasing their estimate from 15 million units to 16 million units. So far, this minor update has been quite the success for Sony.
Now that I have given you the latest PSP news, let me give you some personal impressions of the 3000. I bought the Ratchet and Clank Entertainment Pack before the reports of visible scan lines started appearing all over the news, and to be honest, I found them a little strange. I am enjoying my new PSP very much. I love how bright and vibrant the colors are on the new screen. I also haven't noticed any bad visible scan lines. In fact, it looks much better than my old PSP ever did. I also like the new matte silver body. I have heard some people saying that the new matte plastic makes the PSP feel cheap, but I like that it isn't a fingerprint magnet and that it doesn't get as greasy or sweaty after a few hours of play. The 3000 is also a great value. Inside, you'll find a copy of Ratchet and Clank, Echochrome, a Mark 2 one gigabyte Memory Stick Duo, and a movie. Well, to be honest, I'm not all that excited about owning a copy of National Treasure 2, but hey, it was basically free. Overall, I'm a happy customer. If you already have a PSP-2000, then don't bother upgrading since there isn't enough that is new to warrant the purchase. On the other hand, if you have a 1000 or don't have a PSP at all, then this might be the pack for you. Just don't blame me if some scans lines pop up to bug you.
QUICKIES: Some Relatively Small, But Inherently Awesome News Stories!
You will be richer for having read them...
E for All is Dead
IDG World Expo has announced that the E for ALL Expo is officially dead as the group has now shifted its full attention back to E3. For those unfamiliar with the show, it was a consumer-oriented expo created to fill the void left by the scaled down E3 of the previous two years. The final event was held on October 3-5 in the Los Angeles Convention Center. Since E3 2009 will not be open to the public at large, your best bet for attending a consumer/gamer oriented show is going to be the Penny Arcade Expo.
Legendary Pictures Wants to buy Epic
It has been rumored that Legendary Pictures is going to buy Epic Games, the company that brought you the Gears of War series. Both companies had no comment on the story, but it would make sense since they are both currently working together on the Gears of War movie coming out in 2009. It is particularly interesting to see what this fusion of powerhouse film studio and developer might blossom into in the future if sucessful.
Consoles Soon to Go Green
The next round of consoles will not only be high tech graphics powerhouses, they will also be environmentally friendly. The Enviromental Protection Agency is getting ready to include home consoles in their Energy Star program by introducing new energy requirements for consoles starting July 1, 2010. Expect consoles made after that date to feature things like sleep/auto-off functions, a television/display sleep, power scaling, and more efficient wireless networking. It's nice to know that in the very near future, my compulsive gaming habits will have less of a negative impact on both the Earth and my wallet when the electric bill shows up.
Maple Story Divorce Leads to Mariticide
Yeah, that's right, I said mariticide and Maple Story in the same sentence. Just this past week, a 43-year-old Japanese woman was arrested after killing her 33-year-old husband's in-game avatar in the popular 2-D online MMORPG Maple Story. She did it because her in-game husband suddenly divorced her without a word of warning. In anger, she accessed his account and deleted his character by using his username and password. She is now in jail for suspicion of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data. This is equal to a five-year prison sentence or to a fine of up to $5,000. Divorce sure can get ugly, even in a cute cuddly game like Maple Story. So I guess the lesson here is to never give out your password, even to your virtual mate. That or be a good husband...
Well I thought that was fun. The big news for you RPGamers this week was definitely the story on E3 2009, but my favorite story of the week has to be the Maple Story murder. Who says general news can't be funny. So anyway, see you all next week. Oh, and don't forget to vote! The next Currents Column should be hitting around Election Day. Let me know how your experience went, assuming of course you can vote.
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