Welcome to the ninety-eighth edition of RPGamer's Currents Column!
I hope you all enjoyed you Thanksgiving week as much as I did. I was lucky enough to spend my holiday with a lot of family and friends. I also spent a lot of time playing Yakuza 2. What an amazingly fun brawler/RPG hybrid. It also feels like the gaming industry took a bit of a vacation, because I just didn't see a lot of big news this week. Which is fine, a lite week is fun too.
So let's get on with the NEWS!
It has been just one bad thing after another for Midway recently. Let's start at the beginning of this ongoing tragedy for Midway. About two weeks ago Midway received a warning from the New York Stock Exchange concerning a possible delisting of its stock. The company has fallen below the minimum standard for listing stock on the NYSE. The company failed to achieved a minimum closing price of one USD for over thirty consecutive days of trading. Midway was then told that it has six months to improve its stock's standing or it will be delisted completely. A prospect which seems very unlikey considering that Midway has recently laid off 20-30 staff, the company's chairperson has steeped down, it has losses over 74 million USD, and worst yet its largest stock holder has pulled out of the company.
Sumner Redstone and his holding company have sold his 87% controlling stake in Midway to Mark Thomas, a private investor, on December 1st. He sold his shares at a huge loss for only $100,000 USD, or about $0.0012 per share, far below Midway's previous closing price of 38 cents a share. He is also going to get $70 million in receivables. This is money that Midway is owed from customers. So there are no real winners in this deal especially when you consider how the stock market has reacted. Midway's share price has fallen 40% since Monday to 23 cents a share. At this rate it is looking more and more likely that Midway will in fact be delisted from the NYSE.
Now Midway is facing another new problem. Because of the sale of Redstone's shares to Thomas, Midway's creditors, holding $150 million of debt, are now able to demand repayment in January. Midway had publicly admitted that it will default on its debt if forced to pay, meaning Midway could go bankrupt in 50 days. Wedbush-Morgan game analyst Michael Pachter has commented on Midway's current situation, saying:
It's really interesting, because the creditors cannot expect Midway to repay unless the company remains in business. If the creditors compel bankruptcy liquidation, they'll get something, but arguably less than the full $150 million. Midway's assets are worth something, but in this market, it is hard to figure out how much. As a comparison, THQ has an enterprise value of only $80 million, so Midway's assets in liquidation would have to be worth twice as much as THQ's (as a going concern) for the creditors to be repaid.
My guess is that Midway works out a deal with the creditors and remains in business, but they are going to have to start generating sustainable profits soon, or their creditors will become impatient.
This is a steady downward spiral for Midway. While Midway hasn't really made any stellar RPGs that the RPGamer community cares about, it is still important to take note of a once important videogame company now on life support.
This will make it that much easier for Arcade users with out a hard drive to jump right into The New Xbox Experience and start saving games right out of the box.
There have been a lot of rumors floating around recently about a new batch of Xbox 360 Arcade units with a few improvements under the hood. Well it turns out those rumors were right as Microsoft has confirmed that the new "Jasper" arcade units are shipping with 256MB of internal flash memory, replacing the 256MB memory unit that was included in the box. A Microsoft Representative said this about the new arcade units:
"We are constantly updating the console's more than 1700 internal components. We can confirm that we are moving to internal memory for the Xbox 360 Arcade. The physical internal memory is the same size as the previous external memory units -- 256MB."
It is currently unknown if all 360 SKUs will be receiving internal memory as well, but it seems rather unlikely when you consider that the Arcade unit is the only one without a hard drive. On the other hand, all "Jasper" 360s do contain a much needed upgrade to its graphics chip which could potentially put an end to the infamous Red Ring of Death.
Jasper 360s use a smaller 65-nanometer graphics chip that consumes much less power than the graphics chip on previous Xbox 360s. The smaller chip is also fit more securely into its motherboard socket, which means that it is less likely to come loose from the motherboard due to overheating. That alone should help put an end to users having to deal with Red Ring of Death and the accompanying customer service calls for a replacement.
Oh one final change to the new hardware is a move from a 175-watt power supply to a smaller 150-watt power supply. Well, upgrades in general are always fantastic. So if anyone out there has been on the fence about getting an Xbox 360, now seems as good a time as any to jump on the bandwagon. It's an especially good idea if you're going to dive into impressive JRPGs like Tales of Vesperia.
Poor Midway, I should just start a new Midway death march section. Oh well, at least all the other news was full of fun and pep. Well back to play Yakzua 2 for me. Oh and I also just got into the Home Beta, so I'm off to see if Sony's little social experiment was worth the wait.
See ya'll next week
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