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CURRENTS
Issue #89
July 25, 2008
The Rest of the Story
Front Page

7/23 - 12:18 AM CST
Hello everyone, and welcome to Currents #89!

So, I saw The Dark Knight today. Wow. Just wow. Absolutely stunning. Heath Ledger deserves a posthumous Oscar, and I say that with the utmost sincerity. The Dark Knight is possibly the greatest comic-book film ever made, and this is coming from a lifelong Marvel fanboy. You absolutely cannot miss this film; if you haven't seen it yet, make plans to do so with haste. It's not just a good Batman movie - this is a great film on any and every conceivable level.

After the movie, I headed to my local GameStop and picked up FFIV DS! At the time of this writing, all I have done is remove it from the shrinkwrap, and put it in its proper place among my ever-growing game collection. I am unsure if I will start it just yet, because if I do, I will have THREE portable titles in the air. (Final Fantasy Tactics for PSP, Fire Emblem GBA, and FFIV DS.) At the same time, I want to play it SO BADLY! Bah, I'll probably cave and start it tomorrow. Or maybe not. We'll find out soon enough.

It has come to my attention that school starts in about a month. How disgusting. It has further come to my attention that I have little in the way of appropriate clothing for school. I own ONE pair of shoes at the moment, and they are a pair of EXTREMELY crappy work shoes that I wear to... well, to work of course. On the rare occasion that I'm somewhere other than a) work, or b) my home, I wear a pair of semi-decent sandals. Come fall, the sandals will not be ideal. And it's not just the shoes, either... I am lacking in all different manners of attire. This means I'll have to spend money. And I passionately hate spending money on clothing. In fact, I really only enjoy spending money on two things: food and games. (That's a general rule, of course.)

Anyways, enough of THAT. On to the NEWS!

Negative Reactions Abound, E3 2009 Confirmed
Drama!
Title

You know, from where I sat - which was at my computer - E3 2008 didn't seem too much different from previous years. News stories were written, impressions were posted, videos were uploaded, press conferences were liveblogged - all the usual stuff.

While it may have looked the same from a computer screen, things were apparently NOT the same for those who actually attended the show. In fact, many of them seem disappointed in the show's new format.

The first to voice his complaints was EA's CEO, John Riccitiello. "I hate E3 like this," he said, speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle. "Either we need to go back to the old E3, or we'll have to have our own private events."

Then there is Laurent Detoc, president of Ubisoft North America. "E3 this year is terrible," he said. "The world used to come to E3. Now it's like a pipe-fitters show in the basement." (Ouch.)

David Perry, founder of Shiny entertainment and Chief Creative Officer of Acclaim had a lot to say about E3 2008, and none of it was pleasant. "I've got to agree with the comment by John Riccitiello, about E3," Perry said to GamesIndustry.biz. "If there aren't dramatic changes to the format and staff, I'm never going again."

"The concept is broken, it's expensive, messages are diluted, consumers are ignored (remembering that the future of this industry is direct connections with consumers – not retailers), the ticket policies are stupid, and if the entire industry worldwide doesn't participate, it's not real anyway."

"I used to bring major investors to E3 to get them excited about our industry, which worked every time. Now it's just an embarrassment. Thankfully we still have GDC to bring them to, if they want to see the talent, passion, and energy this industry has."

Harsh. But wait, there's more... from respected industry analyst Michael Pachter, no less:

The show was small in scope, and the spectacle of E3 is dead. The Los Angeles Convention Center concourse was as quiet as a college library during summer, with little to attract media attention. The main game display area was similar in size to a school cafeteria (as compared to filling the entire convention center)...

E3 is headed for extinction, unless the publishers and console manufacturers wake up to the fact that nobody cares about the show anymore... [the] show is ill-timed, coming after most major holiday announcements are out, and landing during [SEC-mandated] "quiet period" for most of the companies... The lack of a spectacle will likely keep media away in the future, the lack of surprises will keep retailers away, and the lack of interaction with management will likely keep investors away...

This is the second year of the new, slimmed-down E3 format demanded by the Entertainment Software Association’s membership in order to control the significant costs incurred for prior E3 events. We believe that the smaller scale is a mistake, and believe that the media attention attracted by prior shows had far greater value than most of the ESA's members appreciated.

Not ALL reactions to E3 2008 have been negative. (Just most of them.) Notable developer Dennis Dyack had some positive things to say:

I think this has definitely been better for the industry, simply because the amount of cost that was sunk into 2006 was not supportable. It could not have continued much longer. It was funny because I remember 2005 and 2006, and I was talking to people going, "I do not even know why we are doing this stuff anymore, delaying games by like two quarters to do these demos to get "Best in Show for E3" that really does not mean that much." And suddenly it crashed; it was like the Berlin Wall falling in 2006 after they announced it.

And then, right when I was about to take him seriously, Dyack turned around and basically said he wanted E3 to die completely:

I do not really understand at some level why it all needs to be shown all at once. I would rather like to see it more like press junkets when stuff comes out, with a rotation for [press] to cover things in a really thorough and critical way. So I think this is better because it is smaller, but I think it would be better if it was not around at all. Nothing against ESA, but you know, I think, "Oh well, there is another controversial thing I just said."

Yeah, okay dude... just hurry up and finish Too Human, wouldja?

Talking slightly more sense was Sega of America's president, who seemed to have mixed reactions:

E3 was a strange beast this year. We had an extremely strong product showing, had some great meetings, and got our messaging over pretty strongly – all at an event that had all the atmosphere of a large hospital corridor.

We [at Sega] are big supporters of the ESA, and believe in an efficient need to communicate with the trade at all levels, but we’d like to see something that represents the fun, dynamic nature of the industry a little better without going back to the insanity that was E3 of old.

In any case, there will be an E3 2009 - be it for better or worse. "As we do every year, we're beginning the process of surveying exhibitors and attendees to determine potential changes to the summit," an ESA rep told GameSpot. "Once this is completed and shared with the ESA's Board of Directors, we will make an announcement about the specifics of the 2009 E3 Media & Business Summit, which will occur."

I really don't feel that I can offer an informed opinion on this matter, because I've never been to a single E3 show. I can't really compare one format to the other, and so I can't comment on the veracity, or lack thereof, of these people's statements. From what I've gathered, however, I will say this: E3 needs to strike some type of middle ground. It needs to be more than a basement nerdfest, but it doesn't necessarily need to return to the massive extravagance of 2006 and prior. Downsizing was probably a good idea, but they've downsized so much that nobody is taking the event seriously anymore. I certainly hope the ESA recognizes this and makes the appropriate adjustments, because it would be a shame if E3 truly died, in the way that some people are predicting.

Nintendo's President Also Apologizes for Recent E3 Press Conference
Oh, come on... it doesn't get any more hardcore than Wii Music!
Title

Remember Holiday Season 2007? It seemed like every day that we were hearing something about Nintendo's inability to stock North American retail stores with their wildly popular Wii console. In fact, it got so bad that Nintendo stooped so low as to issue "rain checks" to people unable to acquire one of the bloody things before Christmastime. People (such as myself) were miffed enough back then - I mean, after all, the Wii had been out for a year. However, we were all encouraged by the fact that the problem would most assuredly be fixed by Christmas 2008.

Or... maybe we shouldn't be so sure of that after all.

In an interview with Forbes, Nintendo's president, Satoru Iwata, said that he cannot promise that Nintendo will be able to ship enough Wiis to meet demand come this holiday season. "We are really intending to increase the shipments to the US, especially compared to last year," he said. "However, I can't give you a 100 percent commitment [that we'll be able to meet demand this holiday season. What I can commit myself to is that Nintendo is going to do its best to supply as many Wii hardware units as possible in order to meet demand there."

Bah. BAH, I say. If Nintendo can't meet demand after TWO FREAKING YEARS, then they must be a massive group of airheads. There is no excuse at this point. I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but it makes you wonder if there's any truth behind the theory that Nintendo intentionally keeps supplies short, in order to stir up hype.

But that's not all Iwata had to say. Amusingly enough, he touched on Nintendo's widely-reviled E3 2008 press conference - and apologized for it. "If there is any perception that Nintendo is ignoring the core gamers, it's a misunderstanding and we really want to get rid of that misunderstanding by any means," Iwata said. "We are sorry about [the E3] media briefings, specifically for those who were expecting to see Nintendo show something about Super Mario or Legend of Zelda. However, the fact of the matter is the so-called 'big titles' need a long, long development period. ... We really didn't think this year's E3 media briefing was the time to do so."

Again... BAH. Nintendo had the absolute crappiest showing at E3 2008. I mean, come on... Wii Music? Wii Sports Resort? Some damn snowboarding game? COME ON, Nintendo! Reggie himself PROMISED that E3 would have something for the core gamers! It didn't have to be Zelda, it didn't have to be Metroid or Mario, but it needed to be SOMETHING MORE than a new Animal Crossing game! Oh, and if we don't have a new Zelda announcement by the time E3 2009 rolls around, I will smash my Wii with a sledgehammer.

Source: GameSpot
More than 65% of Households Play Games, Average Age is 35
LIES! ALL LIES! DIRTY, FILTHY LIES!
Title

You've heard me on many occasions complain about the lack of female gamers in the world. As time goes on, I'm being increasingly more convinced that this issue is limited to Middle TN and its surrounding areas. (Which, of course, is where I live.)

The ESA has completed its annual demographic survey, and according to them, 40% of gamers in North America are, in fact, female. Sure, that's still less than half, but still considerably more than most people would believe if you told them. I have trouble believing it myself, and I am forced to wonder if the ESA conducted any of its surveying here in middle TN. Sure, it's no bustling metropolis, but there are plenty of people here. Had they done so, their results may well have been DRASTICALLY DIFFERENT!

Additionally, the ESA found that 65% of American households play computer and videogames, and the average age of a gamer is now 35 - two years older than the average of 33 back in 2006.

Okay, okay, I know that girls play games. I understand that. I just like to pretend that, since I am not fortunate enough to meet any, then they must not exist anywhere. In a strange way it makes me feel better about myself. Pathetic, wouldn't you say?

Source: 1UP
"PSP-3000" Would Include Microphone, PS Button
They wouldn't... would they?
Title

Like all portables tend to do, the PSP underwent a redesign a few years back, which added some notable improvements to Sony's handheld. Generally speaking, handheld redesigns are fairly well accepted - the first time around. Try to redesign again and you run the risk of failing in the way that Nintendo did with their ill-fated GameBoy Micro.

Rumor has it that Sony is working on a second redesign of the PSP, tentatively titled the PSP-3000. This rumor originates from the message boards on PSPChina.net, and is accompanied by some photos that actually look halfway convincing.

Notice anything about that ring on the back? It's THINNER! Thinner than the current PSP's ring, that is. What significance does this hold? Who knows! Probably none at all.

Notice the difference? Well, first off, the "home" button has been replaced with a PS button, identical to what is found on the PS3's Sixaxis or DualShock 3. Also, to the right of the volume control buttons, do you notice the little hole? Supposedly that's the new built-in microphone that the PSP-3000 will feature. Seems like a bit of weird place for it, though. It's not centered.

Sony has neither confirmed nor denied this rumor, and until they do, you'd best take this with a big barrel of road salt. I'm not necessarily opposed to a PSP redesign, but if this turns out to be real, it had better have more than a thinner ring and a microphone. And, it had better cost less than $170.

Source: Kotaku
Nintendo Found Guilty of Patent Infringement
Glad I have Classic controller already
Title

You know, I enjoy a good lawsuit, but these patent infringement suits are just getting old. They're always so... so cut-and-dried, and BORING. It's always the same thing: 1) some guy comes up with an incredibly broad concept that could likely be applied to 324532 different devices. 2) Guy patents incredibly broad idea. 3) Guy SITS on idea for a very long time; years, possibly. 4) When somebody making money utilizes said idea, guy who's been sitting for years gets up and SUES.

Here's the long and short of it: waaay back in 2006, Texas-based company Anascape filed suit against Nintendo and Microsoft for patent infringement. They claimed that Nintendo's GameCube, Wavebird, and Classic controllers, as well as the Wii's Nunchuck, were unlawfully utilizing their "six degrees of freedom" interface. (Whatever the bloody hell that means.) Microsoft settled out of court, so they're in the clear. However, Nintendo has been found to be in violation of Anascape's patent in the case of their GameCube, Wavebird, and Classic controllers. The Wii Nunchuck was not found to have infringed on the patent. Nintendo has been ordered to pay Anascape a whopping $21 million, and beyond that, they're facing a possible sales ban on the aforementioned controllers. However, even if the ban was issued, it would not go into effect until a Nintendo appeal on the original ruling was resolved. And according to Bloomberg, Nintendo could avoid the ban by posting a bond or putting royalties into an escrow account.

For the record, Sony licensed the patent for use in its products four years ago.

I somehow get the feeling that Nintendo will do whatever it takes to keep their controllers on the shelves, particularly their Classic controller. As for GameCube and Wavebird controllers, I'm not even sure if and where they're being sold anymore.

Source: GameSpot
QUICKIES: In Which I Make Passing Mention of Some Relatively Small, But Inherently Awesome News Stories!
RANDOM SUBTITLE
  • Sony's Peter Dille Talks FFXIII on 360
    Peter Dille is absolutely the worst name you could give anyone, ever. And, judging by this quote, in which he attempts to offer his opinion of FFXIII's migration to the 360, he seems a very confused fellow:

    "Consumers responded to "GTA" on the PS3 just as they did on the 360. And it becomes a bit of a jump ball. But it didn’t rise the tide for them. And I think if you fast forward to when Final Fantasy XIII comes out I think you’re going to have millions of people who grew up playing “Final Fantasy” on the PlayStation playing it on a PlayStation 3. They spent a lot of money, I’m sure, to get “Final Fantasy” onto the 360 but at the end of the day it’s on our platform as well. Which is why we focus on, "Let's look at what happens when you have Metal Gear Solid on your platform... when the NPD numbers come out... I think you’ll see the value of what a real exclusive title does and how it raised the bar for PS3 versus 360"

    Um... huh? FFXIII for 360 doesn't matter, but MGS4 "raises the bar" for the PS3? I'm so confused. When is a Sony rep going to come forward and say what he or she really thinks? You know, something along the lines of "FFXIII was our most prized PS3 exclusive, and now that we don't have it anymore, our system is that much less desirable in the eyes of the already-skeptical gaming public."

  • Third-Party Devs Kept in Dark Over Wii MotionPlus
    Low, Nintendo! LOW! According to GameInformer, Nintendo did not notify any third-party devs concerning their recently-announced Wii MotionPlus accessory. When it was unveiled at E3 2008, they were all just as surprised as we were. (Although I'm not sure "surprise" is a good way to describe it.) According to Game Informer, the developers they spoke to had a general attitude of "annoyance and betrayal." They said that it will be a good 6-9 months before games that support Wii MotionPlus technology are seen, and they doubted that they could implement the technology into games already "deep in development." My assumption is that Nintendo wanted to make very, very sure that MotionPlus was kept under wraps. Who knows why. It's not like we were all just BLOWN AWAY when it finally WAS announced.

  • Itagaki Was Actually Fired
    So, do you remember about a month ago when I reported that Tomonobu Itagaki, the man behind the revitalized Ninja Gaiden series and Dead or Alive, had quit Tecmo and was suing them for unpaid bonuses? Well, during a recent hearing on the case, it was revealed that Itagaki was, in fact, fired from Tecmo on June 18 - two weeks before his scheduled resignation date of July 1st. No reason was given for this, and unsurprisingly, Itagaki is claiming that he was terminated "without reasonable cause." Because of this, he is claiming more damages - YTD 164,000,095, rather than his previous claim of YTD 148,000,000. In American money, that's an increase from $1.38 million to $1.53 million.

  • I am Defaced
    Remember a while back when I, at the behest of many, downloaded Castlevania: Symphony of the Night from PSN and gave it a whirl? Remember what a horrible time I had? Yeah, me too. Well, since the fact that I didn't enjoy SotN obviously makes me a lesser human being, these fools over at Chapel of Resonance, a rathole for Castlevania fanbrats, decided to publicly deface me. I am accused of sucking at games, and of being a kid who can't take a game over screen! Rest assured, each and every one of these people will soon be punished... severely.
Sources: 1UP | Kotaku

7/25 - 11:21 AM CST
(Yawn)... good morning everyone. The column's done!

No, I have still not played any FFIV. I think I shall try to finish my other portable games first. And I'm unsure if I'll be playing any portable games until I beat Persona 3. However, I just reached November in Persona 3, so THE END IS NEAR! I'll probably be playing some as soon as I'm done with this column, so... let's get done with this column!

Q&A will be here late Sunday, with lots of questions and answers for you to read and digest. DO NOT MISS IT!

Oliver Motok
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