May 26 - 12:42 PM CST
Let's try a slightly different way of doing things, shall we? I'll write the intro first thing, instead of waiting until all the stories are written, and then writing the intro and outro consecutively. As you can see, the date is Monday, May 26, almost three days before this column is scheduled to go up. Ideally, I would have begun working a little earlier than this. But, as my followers know, Q&A was just indexed late yesterday, so I'm running a tad bit behind schedule.
I believe I mentioned this on our latest RPGcast, but I've yet to state it in either Currents or Q&A: I bought a new TV! It's a Sanyo 42" 1080p LCD. I bought it to replace my 26" Samsung 1080i display, which was a damn fine TV, but simply too dinky to be the centerpiece of my entertainment center. If money were not an impediment, I would likely have purchased a Samsung or Sony display, but as of right now, their prices (especially Sony's) are just too high. And to be frank, this Sanyo display is just as beautiful as my Samsung was, and much bigger to boot. Who knows, maybe I'm just not sharp-eyed enough to tell the difference in quality, but I honestly don't care. BioShock looks amazing on it, as does every other game and movie I've watched on it thus far. Let me hear your opinions, though! Was I a fool to purchase a Sanyo-brand telly? Will I be buying a new HDTV by this time next year due to this regret? Let me know your thoughts, preferably in the form of a Q&A letter. Of course, the boards are fine as well.
And now, let us move on to the NEWS. (Which, of course, I haven't written at this point.)
Large Chunk of Western Market Lost
If you recall, in a Quickie last week, I mentioned that Square Enix's president, Yoichi Wada, had commented on a need to "go beyond traditional Square Enix," and had hinted once again at possible mergers. Soon afterwards, Mr. Wada's company reported on their financial performance over the fiscal year ended March 31, 2008. After reading what they had to report, it's fairly easy to see where he was coming from.
Square Enix is not dead, nor are they on the brink of death. (My apologies, SE haters.) However, both revenues and earnings for fiscal 2007 were down from the year before. Sales fell 9.8 percent to JPY 147.5 billion, (1.4 billion USD) while net income was down 20.9 percent to JPY 9.2 billion (USD 89 million). The drop in sales is particularly painful in light of the fact that the previous fiscal year saw gains of 31.3 percent, accounting for revenue of JPY 163.4 billion (USD 1.6 billion). Overseas performance is what hit Square Enix the hardest, according to the numbers. Year-on-year sales slipped 45.7 percent in North America, 41.1 percent in Asia, and 35.3 percent in Europe. To put the North American numbers in perspective, in FY '06, Square Enix sold 6.1 million games. In FY '07, that number fell to a mere 3.7 million.
The list of titles that performed well in FY 2007 will surprise to no one. Sitting on top with over a million copies sold were Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII and Dragon Quest IV for the DS. Following behind were Final Fantasy IV DS with 590,000 copies sold in Japan, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings with 760,000 copies sold between Japan and North America, and Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors with 490,000 copies sold in Japan, and an additional 110,000 sold in North America. All considered, Square Enix's offline game sales amounted to JPY 41.6 billion (USD 402 million).
Turning to the company's online ventures, Square Enix claimed that Final Fantasy XI had hit 500,000 paid subscribers. However, revenue for online games was down 11.4 percent to JPY 12 billion (USD 116 million). Mobile phone business dropped 15.3 percent to JPY 6.6 billion (USD 64 million). Finally, Japan's declining arcade business caused considerable harm to Square Enix, with revenue from that particular sector falling 8.7 percent to JPY 69.1 billion (USD 668 million). Square Enix's publications did well, with no real drops in business to be spoken of, while miscellaneous products such as the Dragon Quest Monster Battle Road card game contributed to a massive 126 percent increase in sales of sundry products.
Square Enix called 2007 a "period of transition," and had only positive predictions for fiscal year '08. Reportedly, they expect net sales to rise 8.5 percent to JPY 160 billion (USD 1.5 billion), with a 30.5 percent increase in net income. In order to see these ends accomplished, the company said that they would be researching "advanced information technologies, which are crucial to promote network-related businesses."
So, Square Enix had a rough year. It happens. They're not out of business yet, and they won't be for a very long time. If board reactions here are similar to board reactions across the net, then I expect to see a lot of people claiming that all of SE's woes would be remedied if only they'd stop releasing remakes and spin-offs. If I may, can I point to the two biggest software titles Squeenix released during FY '07? That's right: Crisis Core and Dragon Quest IV DS. A spin-off and a remake, respectively. That's not to say that I support this endless stream of remakes, but please, halting the production of such games is hardly going to "save" SE. Frankly, the only advice I have for them at this point is to hurry up and release FFXIII.
Expresses Desire to Follow Marvel's Footsteps
An Ace Attorney movie would so rock...
Hot on the heels of the BioShock film announcement, respected Japanese publisher Capcom has come forward and expressed a desire to see some of its big-name franchises adapted to film.
Speaking with Bloomberg, Capcom's president Haruhiro Tsujimoto stated that he wanted "to do with games what Marvel did for comics," concerning movie adaptations. "We are in the process of working out contracts for several offers we received at the Cannes Film Festival last week and hope to make an announcement soon," Tsujimoto claimed. "If realized, the projects will have a big impact on the game and movie industries."
Capcom claimed that the popularity of the Resident Evil films played a big part in the sales of Resident Evil 4 for the Wii, which sold over a million copies. Because of this popularity, the company says that they wish to bring franchises such as Devil May Cry to the big screen, along with Onimusha. (An Onimusha film has actually been floating in the netherworld for quite some time now, apparently, but serious production has yet to begin.)
Some of you may be familiar with the Street Fighter film that is currently in production. Unsurprisingly, Tsujimoto stated that the success or failure of the film will determine whether or not future film adaptations are a viable endeavor. If it succeeds, chances are high that we'll see Dante on the big screen. If it flops, we'll just have to wait for the inevitable Devil May Cry 5.
Personally, I think a DMC movie has the potential to be worthwhile. Sure, there's absolutely no plot to draw upon, but if the film took on a decent writer or two who could put together some semblance of a plot while maintaining the spirit of the games, it could turn out well. The odds are stacked against it, but there's potential. Onimusha could work too, and heck, maybe even Ace Attorney could be brought to the big screen in some way. Tsujimoto's thoughts seem to mirror mine, however, when he alludes to the fact that many excellent movies have been made out of Marvel properties. If someone could just emulate what they've done, using videogame franchises, then chances are that we would see some very good films.
Assassin's Creed Performs Well, New IPs on the Way
Nothing is certain, everything is permitted
French publisher Ubisoft had only positive news to report concerning their fiscal year ended March 31. In fact, the results were even better than they expected.
Near the end of march, Ubisoft revised their projected earnings for the third time, to 1.44 billion USD. Strong sales of Assassin's Creed and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2 were cited as primary reasons for the increased forecast. As it turns out, they didn't raise it quite enough; the company recently reported that their earnings reached 1.46 billion USD during fiscal year '07, which accounts for a 36 percent increase over the previous year's earnings of 1.06 billion USD. What's truly impressive, however, is the fact that Ubisoft's profits nearly tripled compared to FY '06, leaping from 63.59 million USD to 172.34 million USD.
These earnings come in spite of the fact that Ubisoft spent roughly 75.37 million USD on acquisitions in FY 2007, obtaining what the company describes as "tangible and intangible assets." Among these "tangible" assets were several new studios that the company established in Pune, India, Singapore, Kiev, and China's city of Chengdu. Additionally, among this $75.37 million are the first four payments to author Tom Clancy for rights to his brand name, which Ubisoft recently purchased. (The exact amount paid to Clancy was not disclosed.)
Ubisoft had much praise for the Tom Clancy name, referring to the Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six franchises as keys to their successful year. As would be expected, they also mentioned Assassin's Creed, and the unexpected sales that the game saw. Reportedly, it has sold over 6 million units across platforms to date.
Projecting for the 2008-09 fiscal year, Ubisoft forecast revenues of 1.57 billion USD, with 241.78 million USD in sales during the current quarter.
I like Ubisoft's Prince of Persia series very much, as many of you likely know. I even loved the second game, (Prince of Persia: Warrior Within) despite the obnoxiously "extreme" overtones that were shoved down my throat. I'm unsure if the trilogy was a very profitable venture for Ubisoft, though, and for a while I was afraid that the superb Prince of Persia: Two Thrones would be the last I'd see of the franchise. Thankfully, we all know that my fears were unbased, since Prince of Persia: Heir Apparent has been officially announced. If you're a PoP fan, I strongly recommend you go check out the new trailer for the game, as well as some coverage from the recent UbiDays '08.
I also loved Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed, as I've mentioned many times. This being the case, I'm somewhat miffed that we've yet to hear any talk of a sequel. Anyone who actually played the game through knows full well that a sequel MUST come, and of course, with over 6 million units sold, it's a bit of a moot point. So... let's have a confirmation already? Ok, so I'm being a bit impatient. We'll be lucky to see a sequel by Q4 09. I just hope that Heir Apparent actually hits its target release of holiday season 08. Otherwise, my Christmas will be that much less merry.
Mistwalker's Tactical RPG for the DS Received E10+ Rating
Hopefully, we'll be nicer to it. (i.e: buy more copies)
Am I the only one here who finds it slightly comedic that www.esrb.org is the best place to find info on videogame release dates these days? The ESRB all but announced Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, confirmed the North American release of Dragon Quest IV DS, and now they've gone and given Mistwalker's DS RPG ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat a rating of E10+ on their official website. Mistwalker fans, (such as myself) rejoice!
From what I've heard, ASH was quite a disappointment on retail in Japan, selling a mere 50,000 units during its first week. It seemed to have critical acclaim, however, with Famitsu magazine awarding it with a collective 33/40 (9/8/8/8). I was afraid that poor sales had all but doomed the possibility of a North American release, so I'm a bit surprised to see this. "But it's not confirmed," you might say. Well, neither were Order of Ecclesia or Dragon Quest IV DS, and they were both officially confirmed a few weeks later. My point is, the ERB's website hasn't failed us yet.
More original DS RPGs = good! Bring them over here!
Files a Bunch of Crap, Tries to Halt Hearing at All Costs
Fear is gripping his heart like an icy clamp...
I reported last week that Dava Tunis, the judge who presided over Jack Thompson's bar trial late last year, had recommended that he be found guilty of 27 out of 31 misconduct charges relating to various court proceedings over the years. (All but one of the proceedings were videogame related.) Soon afterward, a sanctions hearing was scheduled for June 4th in Miami. Since that time, Thompson has devoted himself to raising the biggest stink he possibly can, in hopes of quashing the hearing altogether. SPOILER: none of his various attempts have worked thus far.
First off, Thompson attempted to impugn Judge Tunis herself, raising the case that she wasn't qualified as judge in the first place. The accusation was that she was the "beneficiary" of a forged loyalty oath. Supposedly, a clerk signed the oath without the knowledge of Tunis. I won't get into all the many details here, but in short, it was a big load of hot air, which is what we've come to expect from Thompson. The State Attorney's investigation proved that Tunis had committed no wrongdoing, and was, in fact, qualified to act as a judge in the state of Florida. End of story.
But that's not all. Thompson attempted to subpoena 33 people for his hearing on June 4, with well-known figures such as Take-Two's Strauss Zelnick, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Judge Ronald Friedman (who presided over the 2006 Bully case) among them. However, Judge Tunis quickly denied this motion, citing procedural errors on part of Thompson.
Thompson also issued a federal court filing claiming that the June 4 hearing was an example of a kangaroo court. In short, he calls the entire proceeding a sham, and states that he won't be attending unless the sanctions recently placed upon him (that impede his ability to make filings without another lawyer's approval) are lifted. Somehow, I doubt that will happen.
Lastly, (and this one is pure gold) Thompson issued a filing to the Florida Supreme Court, demanding that they administer him a mental health examination. Why, you ask? Because Jack's tired of being called a nut, that's why, and he wants people to see hard evidence confirming his sanity. The document he wrote is right here, and you owe it to yourself to read it. It's absolutely hilarious, and classic Thompson from beginning to end. What makes it even more hilarious is the fact that, due to the sanctions that are currently upon him, the Florida Supreme Court isn't going to give a twopenny damn about this filing, or any other filing Thompson makes without the approval of another attorney.
In short, Thompson is at the end of his rope, flailing about like a madman in a sad attempt to forestall a hearing that will likely mark the beginning of his end. He knows this just as well as anyone else, it and frightens him. We'd best enjoy performances like this while we can, folks, because this is likely the start of Thompson's great bow-out.
QUICKIES: In Which I Make Passing Mention of Some Relatively Small, But Inherently Awesome News Stories!
Cell phone games need to die ENTIRELY
RUMOR: Final Fantasy Agito XIII Cancelled?
Just because it would give me a warm, pleasurable feeling inside, I hope this turns out to be true. Speaking at the company's shareholders meeting last week, Square Enix's president Yoichi Wada confirmed that development for a "revolutionary mobile development" been given the shaft. "Concerning the title that connects to the home console," Wada said, "development has been ceased as it is unsuitable at the current time." Of course, it's not specified what title this is exactly, but Agito XIII was said to connect to Final Fantasy XIII in some way. SPECULATION RUNS RAMPANT. Note to Square Enix: if you're truly interested in expanding your Western market share, releasing cell phone games that will never see the light of day outside Japan is NOT a good way to do so.
RUMOR: 90-Minute Metal Gear Solid 4 Cutscenes?
HOLY. CRAP. And we had people complaining about Xenosaga Episode I. (Not me, though.) According to Europe's PSW magazine, who have apparently played and finished MGS4, the game features cutscenes that go on for up to ninety minutes. Ninety. Minutes. That's the length of your average feature film. I've never played Metal Gear before, so this is somewhat shocking to me, as I didn't know the series focused so much on storytelling. However, I suggest we all take this with a grain of salt for now. It won't be too long before we have official confirmation.
BioShock Coming to PS3
This would be an example of that 'ol Parker- er, Motok luck kicking in again. The DAY AFTER I purchase BioShock for the Xbox 360, a PlayStation 3 version of the game is confirmed via the July issue of EGM. (The issue hasn't actually hit the newsstands yet, look for it June 3.) In truth, I'm not that disappointed; it's just the principle of the thing that galls me. I buy the 360 version, and the very next day, a new version that will likely feature a ton of new content, (new enemies, areas, weapons, cutscenes, endings, whatever they dream up) is announced. And it's on PS3, which means I could play with my beloved DualShock 3. (To haters of the DualShock: go stuff yourselves.) Anyways, it should be interesting to hear what the PS3 version of 2007's most critically acclaimed title has to offer, and PS3 owners who have yet to play BioShock may consider waiting a little longer now.
iD Software Leaves the ESA
Quick little quickie for you: Doom and Quake developer, iD software, has become the latest company to defect from the Entertainment Software Association. The plot thickens, and it's starting to reach the point of outright FISHINESS. There must be an underlying reason for these departures, and I won't rest until I know, for absolute certain, what it is.
May 28 - 11:33 PM CST
And I've reached the end! I do believe I like this method better, and I'll be using it henceforth. What have I done between the intro and now, you might ask? Not much, unfortunately. I've worked over 20 hours, written all the news stories you just finished reading, and gotten a few hours of sleep. I might be mistaken, but I don't believe I've managed to play any BioShock, or any games at all other than a few quick snatches of Final Fantasy Tactics while at work. (Sigh.)
I have to visit the bloody dentist tommorrow. You might remember the tale of woe I related to you a few months back, in which one of my front teeth snapped in half. Well, after many visits to the dentist's office, I finally got it all fixed, and had a permanent crown put on. Care to guess what happened the very next day? You guessed it, the damnable thing chips. It's a small chip, but it's entirely unnacceptable given the amount of money that was paid for this stupid thing. But UGH, how I hate the dentist. I've always hated dentists, doctors, and the like; however, this ordeal has intensified my hatred for them to a nigh-uncontrollable level.
Just thought I'd share that with you. Have a great day, (or night) and be sure to join me for this week's Q&A column. (Hint: the best way to do that is by clicking the "send me a letter" link located below.)
Send me a letter, and be featured in Q&A!