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CURRENTS
Issue #79
May 8, 2008
Losers, One and All
Front Page

Greetings, and welcome to the seventy-ninth edition of RPGamer's Currents Column.

School is over, but the fifty hour work week has come. This being the case, I've actually written quite a bit of this column while at work. I'm glad I work at a place that's so lenient! But then, I'm a manager so I can DO WHATEVER THE HECK I WANT. (Not really.) Next week, though, I'll actually be in Florida; I'll have to abuse the Wi-Fi internet service at some coffee joint in order to get this thing done. But it WILL BE DONE, that much I can promise you. Well... I think I can. Who knows, I suppose I shouldn't really PROMISE anything at this point.

I started Persona 3 last weekend, and I have found it to be nothing less than a gem. That's right, a veritable GEM. I've never played a game quite like it. By day you run around managing a virtual social and academic life, and by night, you fight monsters and do all that good stuff you expect from a JRPG. And it has a great story. Or at least, it seems like it does. I haven't really seen much of it. The whole "social" aspect of the game is a little flustering though, because I literally have eight dozen people begging me to spend time with them, and it's rather hard to manage. Especially for someone like me, who happens to be a poster boy for SOCIAL CURMUDGEONISM. Well, okay, maybe I'm not THAT bad, but still... you catch my drift.

That's enough awkward discussion about my friendless, lonely personal life. Let us proceed to what you came here for: NEWS.

Beck: Videogame Bloggers are "Losers"
Um... a bit of a generalization?
Title

Since its release, CNN talking head Glenn Beck has aired two different segments on Rockstar's controversial game, Grand Theft Auto IV. He looked ridiculous enough while spewing his own brand of ignorant nonsense, (more rubbish about how violent videogames are used to desensitize soldiers to killing) but he looked even worse when he brought none other than Jack Thompson onto his show to spew his own well-known brand of nonsense. (Funnily enough, he failed to mention that Mr. Thompson had recently been sanctioned by the Florida Supreme Court, due to rampant misconduct. RAMPANT. There IS something to be said about establishing the credibility of your sources, wouldn't you say?) If you want to watch these videos, GamePolitics has them. They're amusing of course, but nothing more than standard fare. However, Glenn Beck's second GTA segment, which aired a few days later, is worthy of mention. In this particular show, Beck invited Cheryl K. Olsen, author of Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth Behind Violent Videogames to appear. Obviously, he was looking for a balancing opinion, which is respectable. But, as would be expected, he took it as an opportunity to grin and leer, and also to make this particular, insulting comment:

I will tell you that all these video gamers... they're bloggers, as well as video gamers - they’re writing all kinds of stuff about me [that] I'm the enemy now of video gamers. I could care less about video games. Video game bloggers? They're losers...

So, in essence, Mr. Beck called me a loser. So, insulted as I am, I'll go ahead and do exactly what Mr. Beck is accusing me of doing: burn him to a CRISP. Beck is yet another carbon cut-out of a loudmouthed, ignorant luddite. He's jumped onto the pretty little GTA IV bandwagon that's been just a' rollin' down through the mainstream media highway of late, he's strapped a few of his own (mentally retarded) pack-mules to it, and now he's beating them both silly. While bellowing loudly. I mean, is he seriously squawking the long-debunked tale that videogames are used to desensitize soldiers to violence? Sorry, Glen; it's not true. Beck isn't qualified in ANY WAY to speak about the effects of media violence. But does that really come as a surprise to anyone? Oh, and how about the aforementioned comment? So, what you're saying, Glenn, is that we who happen to disagree with you are "losers"? There's nothing stuck-up or generalizing about THAT statement, now is there?

Check out the video here.

Source: GamePolitics
Yahoo Rejects 33 USD Per Share Offer
Such stubbornness
Title

After weeks of pursuit and several different offers, Microsoft has formally ended its bid to acquire Yahoo. Microsoft announced its intentions in February, with an offer of 31 USD per share. Although this represented a sixty-two percent premium over Yahoo's January 31 stock closing price, Yahoo rejected the offer, claiming that it undervalued them. The last offer Microsoft made was 33 USD per share, which translates to the astronomical sum of $47.5 billion. However, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang insisted that his company was worth 38 USD per share. In a letter to Yang, Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer said: "we believe the economics demanded by Yahoo! do not make sense for us, and it is in the best interests of Microsoft stockholders, employees and other stakeholders to withdraw our proposal."

It's clear as day that Yahoo, for some unknown reason, did not wish to be purchased by Microsoft. Not only did they make the ridiculous claim that Microsoft's offer undervalued them, but they actively sought out interest from other potential buyers in order to stave them off. Why Yahoo was so adamantly against selling themselves to Microsoft is unclear, but Microsoft's motivation to purchase Yahoo is clear indeed: for the sake of acquiring a competent online presence, and one that's already firmly established, at that. It's something that Microsoft really doesn't have, and you can bet that this galls them to no end. Amusingly enough, the most prolific online presence they have is their Xbox Live service, which, as we all know, is very successful indeed. But in truth, that's an entirely different sect of the online world.

Source: GamesIndustry
Publisher Files Suit over Pulled GTA IV Ads
Change of pace
Title

Despite all the accusations and lawsuits that have been thrown in their face over the years, Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two has never really learned to fight back effectively. At least, not in my eyes. They've more or less sat back and taken whatever's been thrown at them, without so much as throwing their hands in front of their faces to block the projectiles. With the recent release of Grand Theft Auto IV, the hits are coming hot and heavy. One example is the Chicago Transit Authorities' decision to yank the massive GTA IV ads off of their buses and facilities. The ads were removed about a week before the game's launch. Now, according to Reuters, Take-Two is striking back, with a lawsuit. They are suing the CTA for both a breach of contract and freedom of speech, and they are seeking at least $300,000 in damages. Fairly conservative actually, since the ruined ad campaign itself was worth $300,000, and was intended to run for six weeks.

It's yet to be seen if Take-Two will take similar action against the Miami-Dade Transit, who yanked GTA IV ads from their vehicles on account of a request from none other than Jack Thompson. MDT made some brief comments to GamePolitics concerning their decision to take down the ads, but it's largely hot air, and would likely not hold up in a courtroom. For example:

GP: Is MDT familiar with Change the Climate vs MBTA, in which the US First Circuit Court ruled that a quasi-governmental transit agency could not restrict ads based on viewpoint?

MDT: Miami-Dade Transit is a department of Miami-Dade County and as such is a unit of County government, not a quasi-governmental transit agency.

Basically, they're a government agency, not a quasi - government agency. They seem to think this excludes them, which makes little sense to me. As a full-fledged government agency, wouldn't they have an even greater responsibility to protect free speech? Sheesh. Here's hoping they get their pants sued off.

Source: GamePolitics
926,000 in One Week
That's like twice their population...
Title

It will likely be a while yet before we get some concrete numbers concerning the North American sales of GTA IV. In the meantime, we can all go "ooh" and "aah" at the numbers being generated in the UK right now, which are very impressive indeed. According to Chart Track, the game sold 631,000 copies on its first day, and a total of 926,000 over the first five days. The Xbox 360 version won out, with 514,000 units sold, compared to 413,000 on the PlayStation 3. Sony's PS3 saw a 127% spike in hardware sales over the previous week, while Microsoft's Xbox 360 experienced a spike of 125%. A small victory for Sony perhaps, but on the other hand, that's certainly within the margin of error. When Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas hit the UK back in 2004, it sold 501,000 copies on the first day and 677,000 copies in its first week. (However, that particular "week" was only two days long.).

Ok, so GTA IV is selling a #u%*-ton of copies. What a SHOCK. Not a whole lot of editorializing that can be done here. All these numbers are little more than a teaser; a harbinger of the DOOM massive figures that the NPD will alert us to in a month or so. Just wait... they're coming. Can you hear them?

Source: GamesIndustry
Smashes Halo 3's Record with $500 Million in One Week
They're here
Title

Many different predictions were made concerning first-week sales of Grand Theft Auto IV. This many million, that many million, et cet, et cet. In any case, we all knew it would be big. In fact, we all knew it would likely break records. I wrote the previous article yesterday, under the impression that it would be a while before we received any hard numbers about the North American sales of GTA IV. I was wrong. The New York Times was first to break the news, and this news was quickly confirmed by Take-Two itself. Grand Theft Auto IV sold 3.6 million copies on opening day, and over 6 million during its first week on the market. In all, this accounted for revenue of $500 million dollars. $310 million was brought in on opening day, which is nearly double the $170 million first-day take of Microsoft's Halo 3 back in November of 2007. Halo 3's one-week take accounted for $300 million; $2 million less than that of GTA IV.

Take-Two's chairman, Strauss Zelnick, was quick to comment:

We knew Grand Theft Auto IV would break new ground in terms of the player's experience, with its compelling story line, extraordinary gameplay and action that ranges over a broad urban canvas. Now, it has broken sales and rating records as well. Grand Theft Auto IV's first week performance represents the largest launch in the history of interactive entertainment, and we believe these retail sales levels surpass any movie or music launch to date.

And in all honesty, he's probably right. Compare these numbers to, say, Iron Man's opening weekend in the box office. Its three-day take was just over $100 million, which is less than a third of what GTA IV generated in one day. Granted, a copy of GTA IV costs significantly more than a movie ticket, but it's worth noting nonetheless. I can all but guarantee you that Iron Man won't make $500 million dollars; nor will any movie this year.

Insanity. PURE INSANITY.

Sources: GameSpot | Kotaku
Acknowledges Slim Software Lineup, Competitors' Success
"We're sorry for sucking"
Title

The Sony PlayStation 3 has had a difficult time since its release back in late 2006, and nobody knows this better than Sony themselves. So, it's not too surprising that the president of Sony Computer Entertainment, Kaz Hirai, has offered an apology. Of sorts. Speaking at last Tuesday's PlayStation Day, Hirai admitted that "...the first year of PlayStation 3 was somewhat a difficult one. There were some teething problems, success from our competitors, and our customers were a little underwhelmed by the range of titles that were available. This was something that we were very much aware of, and something that we were confident we could overcome."

Hirai also commented on the continued delays of the PlayStation Home service. Once again, all he had to offer was that the service would not be released until he was "completely happy " with it. "We've been testing Home for some time," he said, "and I simply feel that as great as Home currently is, it needs a little bit more time before it's ready for the wider public - something we firmly believe we can provide in the autumn."

Autumn, eh? That's a bit of a vague release window, and a ways off at that. The delays on Home are rather ridiculous, and while I honestly have little to no interest in the service, (I'm not even clear on what it is, or what it does) I'm sure there are plenty of people out there are looking forward to it, and are being repeatedly pissed off. As for the PS3's fortunes? They'll be looking up. They already have been. Have I been disappointed in them? Yes, very much so. Am I ready to write them off? Absolutely not.

UPDATE: Wouldja believe that Hirai himself commented on PS3's future market fortunes? As would be expected, he had only the most positive of things to say. Speaking to BBC, Kaz said that "The true test of the console, in terms of the install base race, is really when you look back at the end of the life cycle." He went on to say that at the end of this PS3 decade, "we will have the install base that we're looking for and that is to be obviously in the leadership position." Bold words, my friend; bold words indeed. "Obviously" in the leadership position? I do agree with Hirai that you can't really pass full judgment on a videogame console until you reach the end of its lifespan, and then take a long look back. And, as I stated previously, the PS3's fortunes five years from now will be miles better than they are right now. However, I'm not sure if I'm ready to say that the PS3 will be in a "leadership position" when this generation is all said and done. But then, I'm not ready to say that about any of the three consoles on the market right now.

Legislation Would Mandate that Retailers Check ID
VIRTUAL ORGASMIC RAPE! (Such a catchy phrase...)
Title

It's been a while since we've seen any videogame legislation discussed on the federal level, and thank God for that, because we well know that they have plenty of things to worry about that are of INFINITELY GREATER IMPORTANCE. But anyways, and as the title clearly implies, a few of our respected state Reps are discussing a law that would require retail stores to check a customer's ID before selling them a mature-rated game. The proposal was made by Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Lee Terry (R-NE). In a statement from Mr. Lee:

[The bill seeks to ensure that kids] can only access age appropriate content without parental permission... The images and themes in some video games are shocking and troublesome. In some games high scores are often earned by players who commit "virtual" murder, assault and rape.

Many young children are walking into stores and are able to buy or rent these games without their parents even knowing about it. Many retailers have tried to develop voluntary policies to make sure mature games do not end up in the hands of young kids, but we need to do more to protect our children.

The law would also require retailers to post information about the ratings system. Those who violate this law would be hit with a $5,000 fine. However, unlike similar legislation proposed on state levels, the "Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act" differs in this respect:

This bill doesn't involve itself in content or defining the standards for "mature" or "adults only". It simply requires the retailer to post what the industry has defined as "mature" and "adults only" so that parents can know, and requires checking of identification.

Now, you all know that I like nothing more than to berate, belittle, and others deface politicians or lawyers who DARE propose legislation that has anything to do with videogames. However, in this particular case, I have to admit that I'm not as appalled as I generally am, and for one very specific reason: rather than attempting to enact some type of governmental ratings agency, or restructure the ESRB in order to meet the federal government's needs, the Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act seeks only to enforce the ratings system we already have in place. Is this really necessary? No, I don't think so; I think our retail stores are doing a fine job keeping Mature titles out of the hands of minors. Is it, in concept, a ridiculous or immoral piece of legislation? I really don't think so, no. However, I would really like to know what games Rep. Terry has been playing, because I've certainly never heard of one that contains virtual rape. And once again, (for risk of sounding too nicey-nicey towards these guys) let me make it clear that I think that this is entirely unnecessary, as is virtually every piece of videogame legislation ever proposed. It's just not as stupid as some others that have come down the pipe.

Source: GamePolitics
QUICKIES: In Which I Make Passing Mention of Some Relatively Small, But Inherently Awesome News Stories!
  • Sony and Microsoft Squabble Over GTA IV Sales
    Like the game's publisher Rockstar, you can bet that Sony and Microsoft, publisher of the PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles, are breathlessly anticipating the stacks of cash that GTA IV will be raking in. The question, of course, is who will benefit the most? Sony or Microsoft? Which company will push more systems on account of the game's release, and which version of the game will sell better? As of right now, we don't have concrete answers for either one. However, Microsoft's Aaron Greenberg has jumped the gun, stating that, according to "anecdotal" retail sources, the Xbox 360 version of GTA IV has been outselling the PS3 version 2-to-1. Unsurprisingly, Sony has responded by saying that these numbers "don't line up" with what they've heard from their own retail sources. (However, they gave no estimate of their own.) Here's my guess: for many gamers, GTA IV may finally be a reason to pick up a PS3, while most people who want a 360 already have one. On the other hand, there are about twice as many 360s out there as there are PS3s, so my money is on the 360 version selling more copies. But I could be wrong. (Happens every so often. Shocking, I know.)

  • Prototype Delayed to 2009
    I've wanted Prototype ever since I first saw the game announced in an issue of Game Informer. An open-world destruction game made by the guys who brought us Hulk: Ultimate Destruction? Can't ask for much more than that. Anyways, it seems I'll be wanting for a little bit longer, because publisher Sierra Entertainment recently announced that, "in order to deliver the game the team initially set out to create," they'll be delaying the game to "2009." They didn't give a specific quarter, they just said 2009. This bothers me. Oh well, it's not like we're surprised by this kind of thing anymore.

  • Blogger Keith Boesky Talks Activision
    As reported last week, Activision, possibly the largest videogame publisher in North America, will not be attending this year's E3 Convention. In fact, (and I don't believe I touched on this last week) they are defecting from the ESA entirely. Needless to say, this is a massive shock. At this point, it's hard to tell whom it will affect the greatest: the ESA, now that one of their most prolific members has deserted them? Or Activision, now that they no longer have the legal protection that the ESA has provided in the past? Who knows, but for now, let me point you to an insightful article written by Kieth Boesky. Boesky seems to think that the membership fee is a large part of what caused Activision to defect, since it's based on revenue. That may or may not be the case, but he has far more to say than that. Check it out here.
Sources: 1UP | GamePolitics

Hm. What to play tonight? There are so many choices, after all. Shall I try FFXI? Last night I waited around for hours, hoping to pick up a party in the Valkurm Dunes. Yeah, it never happened. Persona 3 calls my name... but I need to level in XI, before I fall too far behind my accomplice. There's also Final Fantasy Tactics, but I'll likely be playing a ton of that in Florida, so I'm not too concerned.

I'll decide later, there's still quite a bit of work to be done on this thing. How'd you like that? Two columns in a row! Haven't seen that in a month or so, now have we? Well, you'd best get used to it. I'm going to be here EVERY WEEK, whether you like it or not.

'Till next week, unless I get eaten by a shark or something.

Oliver Motok
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