Greetings, and welcome to Currents. Once again, I must apologize for the lack of Currents last week. However, there was good reason: I was sick as a dog. It was one of those recurring illnesses too; I was better for a day or two, and then it came back with a vengeance, and hung around for a few more days. In all, I was sick for over a week. I don't believe I've ever been sick that long before.
I'm still playing Lost Odyssey, but I'm almost done. If I hadn't been sick for a week, I'd have finished it by now. Furthermore, if I was not experiencing frequent disc read errors, I would likely be further than I am. As those of you who listened to last week's podcast already know, I am entirely disgusted with the 360 right now. Every single game I've played on it has been plagued by disc read errors, which usually (but not always) occur during load times. I've managed to live with it in the past, but it's happened far too many times in Lost Odyssey to be ignored. I have a coffin on the way though, so hopefully Microsoft will be sending me a working unit soon. The problem is that before I ship off my 360, I really want to finish Lost Odyssey, but with these disc read errors occurring so frequently, I'm not sure I'll be able to. ARGH, WHY ME.
News was in rather short supply this week, but I managed to put something decent together. Let's take a look, shall we?
GDC Will Possibly Be Invite Only
Yeah, alienate us further. We don't mind.
GDC 2008 drew in a record number of attendees- somewhere in the neighborhood of 18,000 if reports are to be believed. Apparently, though, there are those who do not enjoy having so many attendees; GDC director Jamil Moledina is one of them. According to him, there are people abusing the free access granted to journalists. Speaking to Kotaku, he said "we don't have it nailed down, but we are looking at moving to an invite model for press access at GDC." Hm. Sounds disturbingly like what happened to the E3 convention. What's his reasoning behind this? "It's meant to be a networking event for people who make games, but more and more we are seeing a lot of individuals who are obtaining press credentials who aren't full-time press. It's kind of open to being spoofed, in a way."
I shake my head at this, just as I did at E3's downsizing last year. I suppose I can understand the reasoning behind this type of downsizing, but at the same time I really don't appreciate how the industry is trying to entirely thumb its nose at the gaming press. The gaming press has always been an integral part of the videogame "universe" if you will, and it always will be. The idea that only certain members of the press can attend, and only by invite, just stinks. That's just my opinion of course, but then, this is my column.
Another PS3 Price Cut Predicted
The cheapest way to get one is for Christmas, like me
According to research company iSupply, Sony will likely be cutting the price of the PS3 yet again. The idea (according to iSupply) is that this Christmas, the type of people who bought the Wii at launch will finally cave and buy a PS3. In the words of analyst Pamela Tufegdzic: "We anticipate Sony will have another price slash on the PS3 this year, and come Christmas, consumers who originally bought the Wii will likely purchase the PS3."
I have to agree; the likelihood of a price cut is actually quite high. If you remember, I reported a month or so ago that Sony had successfully shrunk the Blu-ray laser, which will presumably result in a significant cut to PS3 production costs. (As well as anything else with a Blu-ray drive.) This being the case, I think it's quite likely that Sony will cut the PS3 price this Christmas. And you know what that means, right? Microsoft will have to follow suit with their 360, or risk having a price point that's possibly higher than that of the PS3. And, while slightly less likely, Nintendo may be compelled to shave a few dollars from the Wii's price as well, since the 360 would likely be dangerously close to their touted $250 price range! Wouldn't that be a nice little chain reaction?
Take-Two Snubs EA, Hostile Takeover Possible
Everyone just kneel before EA and be done with it
Perhaps you've heard of the recent offer by Electronic Arts to purchase Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive in a $2 billion, all-cash deal. In a letter to Take-Two's chairman Strauss Zelnick, EA's CEO John Riccitiello explained how the merger could, in particular, benefit Grand Theft Auto IV's launch. Despite Riccitiello attempts at persuasion, Take-Two rejected EA's generous offer, claiming (of course) that EA undervalued them. In fact, they sounded rather miffed at the entire ordeal, particularly at EA's comments concerning GTA IV. From their official statement:
After careful evaluation, the Board has determined that EA's proposal substantially undervalues Take-Two's robust and enviable stable of game franchises, exceptional creative talent and strong consumer loyalty. We believe EA's unsolicited offer is highly opportunistic and is attempting to take advantage of our upcoming release of Grand Theft Auto IV, one of the most valuable and durable franchises in the industry.
So yeah, Take-Two isn't all that interested in a merger with EA. Word on the street, however, is that EA hasn't given up their bid yet. In fact, they've all but confirmed that a hostile takeover is possible. When talking to the New York Post, EA's Chief Financial Officer Warren Jenson said "We're keeping all options open."
Will EA raise their offer? Analysts have mixed opinions on this particular subject. Wedbush Morgan's Michael Pachter claims that it is unlikely EA will pursue Take-Two any further, and if they do, he doesn't anticipate them increasing their offer by more than 1 or 2 USD per share. "In the absence of a hostile bid," he says, "we think that EA will cool its heels and walk." On the other hand, Cowan's Doug Creutz says that, if necessary, EA may raise their offer as high as 32 USD per share. "We think that these [Take-Two] shareholders are likely to view an offer above USD 30 as too compelling to leave on the table," he said.
"We consider the people at Take-Two, and the studios and IPs, as diamonds," said EA's Warren Jenson at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference. "These are very strong creative organizations that have produced some terrific intellectual properties... from our perspective we take the view that this is an opportunity to work with some wonderfully creative people." Obviously, he's trying to play the flattery card. Will it be effective? Probably not, but hey, it's worth a try. I don't care an awful lot about Take-Two or EA, but I do find EA's recent behavior somewhat unsettling. It's certainly well within their rights to make multi billion dollar deals and whatnot, but if they aren't careful they'll come off as a big, mean, rich conglomerate publisher with an insatiable desire to slap an EA symbol on every popular videogame franchise out there. Negotiations between EA and Take-Two are currently set to continue on April 29- the day after GTA IV is released.
As a final note, it seems that EA has at least one supporter in this endeavor. I'm unsure, though, if it's the kind of support they want. Who is this supporter? None other than our favorite Florida attorney, Jack Thompson. He's currently being threatened to have his license revoked by the Florida Supreme Court, but it seems he still has time to engage in nonsense like this. In a letter to John Riccitiello, Thompson says "I am delighted to work with Electronic Arts to evict the Zelnick Trojan Horse from within Take-Two’s corporate walls. In doing so, I can get the new Take-Two into the clear as to the trouble I and others can send its way." Thompson supposedly owns a Take-Two share, and for some reason thinks that his shareholder status gives him some kind of sway in this matter. Delusional man...
Hitachi and Sharp Accused of Price-Fixing
Hey, why should Nintendo be the only ones to get rich?
So, perhaps you've been wondering why the DS hasn't dropped in price in close to two years. I mean, come on; Nintendo released the DS Lite back in June of 2006, and it still costs $129.99. Well, I can't say for sure, but it's possible that Nintendo hasn't dropped the price simply because the price hasn't dropped for them.
You may or may not have known this, but the DS's LCD screens are manufactured by Hitachi and Sharp. Around the end of February, both of these companies were placed under investigation by Japan's Fair Trade Commission, on the suspicion of fixing the prices on the DS's touch screens. If this turns out to be true, then it likely explains why the DS has been priced the same for so long. And, if this alleged problem were to be remedied, then we may just see a DS price drop come down the line soon. But then, it's hard to get all that miffed in this case. First, $129.99 isn't all that bad. Second, the last I looked, Nintendo was selling a DS every five seconds anyways. That being the case, I really doubt that they care. I mean, after all...
Wii Outsells PS3 4-to-1
Well, you cannot play Smash Bros. on the PS3.
I know I've been reporting a great deal of good tidings concerning Sony and their PlayStation 3 of late, but that now comes to an abrupt end. Or at least, it does in Japan, where the Nintendo Wii is once again kicking the crap out of the PS3. How much so? Very much so. According to numbers from Enterbrain, as reported by Reuters, Nintendo sold 331,627 Wiis in the month of February. (Ending February 24.) This is nearly four times the number of PS3's sold, which amounted to 89,131. As always, the Xbox 360 performed the most shamefully, with a mere 14,079 units sold.
One thing to consider is that Nintendo's four-player fighter, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, was released January 31, and no doubt stimulated a great amount of Wii sales in Japan. For those of you who are interested, Brawl sold 800,000 copies in its first week on the shelves, and has sold 1.33 million copies to date. I have little doubt that when it is released in North America on March 9, there will be a similar spike in Wii sales. It's not like it really needs the help, though.
QUICKIES: In Which I Make Passing Mention of Some Relatively Small, But Inherently Awesome News Stories!
Amazon Japan Extorts the Japanese
Guess what's a hot item in Japan these days? Well, yes, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is technically correct, although not the answer I'm looking for. If any of you said "the now-discontinued 20GB PS3 SKU," then you deserve a soft, warm cookie laden with chocolate chips and accompanied by a glass of milk. Anyways, tantalizing mental images aside, might I refer you to a page on Amazon Japan? If you clicky-click on that link, you'll see some interesting numbers. To be specific, you'll see that the old, 20GB PS3 model is being sold for 63,800 yen ($611) - nearly twice the amount of the now-standard 40GB model, which is priced at 37,581 yen. ($360). Weird, huh? Guess people REALLY DO value backwards compatibility! Go figure. Sony MIGHT want to take note of this, but they likely won't.
Blu-ray Disc Too Small for MGS4
I imagine a great deal of you are excited about Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. I probably would be, if I had played any of the previous three games. (I do plan on picking up Metal Gear Essentials and familiarizing myself with the series. I mean heck, for $30, there's hardly a reason not to.) Anyways, according to the game's director, Hideo Kojima, MGS4 is so massively huge that they're having trouble fitting it on a single Blu-ray disc. In a recent interview, Kojima commented on how he had to cut certain features and compress a lot of things to make it fit. Um... holy crap? This means that MGS4 is almost 50GB in size? Color me impressed. Oh, as you may have already noticed, that interview is in Japanese, so good luck comprehending it. BWAHAHAHAHA.
Capcom Looking to Hire
Heck, why not include this. In a recent blog entry, Capcom has made it known that they have fifteen (that's right, FIFTEEN) projects in development. Some of them have been announced, some have not. Apparently they're in search of talent in order to make these games, so if any of you have aspirations to work in the game industry, hey, this might be your chance. You might even get to work on something cool, like Devil May Cry or Okami or Resident Evil. Capcom has a very impressive array of IP's, which is why they've always been one of my favorite developers. Personally, I'm quite interested in knowing what each and every one of these fifteen projects are.
In Which the PSP and PS3 are Bundled
PSP Seeing Red
There's a new PSP coming to town, and this one sports a flashy red hue. Not only that, it'll come bundled with the just-released God of War: Chains of Olympus, a UMD of Superbad, and a voucher to download Syphon Filter: Combat Ops for free. Sweet deal, eh? All that for just $199. Oh, and take a look at the back:
I'd love to buy this, but for some ungodly reason, Sony won't be releasing it until June. Doesn't really work for me, because a certain FFVII spin-off comes out on the 25, and I'll be damned if I wait till June to play it.
Metal Gear Solid 4 Gets Bundled
So yeah, that would be the MGS4 PS3 bundle. For $499, gamers will get an 80GB PS3, (which suggests that they're not quite discontinued... yet) a copy of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, (go figure) and a Sony DualShock 3 controller. The controller is actually one of the sweetest parts of the deal, if you ask me. It's finally coming to North America on April 15, and will cost a whopping $54.99. As for the bundle, well, I assume it will be released on June 12, (that's the game's release date) but Sony hasn't given an official date yet.
Well, that's that. It's all been written. Now I just have to get it proofed and indexed and all that jazz. (Sigh). Spring break is hardly a break. I still have to a) write this column b) Work 40 hours (or thereabouts), and c) work on TWO school projects. So yeah, some break. I should really complain to someone. Actually, I should probably get to work on my projects, but that would go against my usual practice of procrastination.
Hope you enjoyed it, I sure did. This is your host Oliver Motok, and just for the record, I hate the Xbox 360. Laters!