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CURRENTS
Issue #104
May 12, 2009
Gaming Hangover
Front Page

Welcome to the one hundred and fourth edition of RPGamer's Currents Column!

Another Monday and it's back to the weekly grind. I hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend. El Cinco De Mayo was last Tuesday, and I'm sure more than a few of you used that as an excuse to cut loose a little, and I don't blame you. My holiday was equally fun, not because of spirited drinking but because I finally picked up an Xbox 360. I actually got that Halo 3/Fable 2 Bundle that I mentioned in last week's column. I have to say so that it's far so good. My first big RPG is definitely going to be Mass Effect. Now is as good a time as any to catch up on a huge 360 backlog.

Well anyway, last week was a little lack luster in terms of news, blame everyone gearing up for the real news at E3 a few weeks away. With that said, I still did manage to find a few interesting stories.

And now, on to the NEWS!

Stringer on PSN and the PS3
Howard Stringer understands where the PS3 and PSN needs to go...
Stringer

In a recent interview with Nikkei Electronics Asia, Sony chairman Howard Stringer discussed the future expansion of the PlayStation Network on the PlayStation 3 and beyond. Concerning the PS3, Stringer says:

"We developed brand new, absolutely incredible technology for the PlayStation 3 (PS3), but the cost was high. We've adopted a slightly different approach now, and are evolving the PS3 into a platform for Web services"
It would seem that Stringer understands the current trends in what internet savvy consumers want and is thankfully shifting Sony's business models to adapt. He even says that:
"Customers today want to be able to freely access content via the Internet, information technology. This requirement represents a threat to our content business, and to existing frameworks for rights management. I don't see that we have any choice, though. We have to create a sanctuary which provides customers an environment for their enjoyment. That is how we can change a threat to the content business into an opportunity. "
As Stringer puts it, this means that Sony is transitioning to a more open system with more possibilities for growth and content.

As for the Playstation Network itself, Stinger goes on to say:

"Next we will be expanding the PlayStation Network to hardware other than the PS3, because the number of PS3 units sold puts a limit on the scale of the network possible. Sony has a vertical structure for each product line, an organizational structure that resists change, so it will take time to achieve this network growth. However, a large number of employees share my opinion on this."

This could mean that future Sony products, like the Walkman and the Sony Erickson phones, may have built in hooks to access music, videos, and small games from the PSN store. This even lends a bit more credibility to PSN-dependent devices actually appearing in the near future like the rumored PSP Go!. This all sounds very reminiscent of Microsoft's Live Anywhere ambitions. With Sony's large breadth of products and its integration of the XcrossMediaBar (XMB) into many of its consumer electronic devices, Sony may be able to out do Microsoft in terms of integration. At the very least, I am happy to continually see the PlayStation Network improving and expanding.

Some Gaming Industry Veterans Have Joined Apple
What exactly are they up to? I wonder...
Apple

It would appear that Apple is preparing a new gaming initiative as it has recently hired several former game industry veterans. One such veteran is Richard Teversham, the former senior director for insights and strategy in the Xbox business in Europe and a 15 year veteran of Microsoft. The company has also recently hired the creator of the Nintendo GameCube's graphic processor, Bob Drebin. These are very interesting people to hire since both men have extensive industry experience in both hardware and marketing.

A lot of tech media is greatly speculating what the defection of Teversham from Microsoft means for Apple. Could the company be designing a new console? Unlikely, but it does point to Apple pushing the iPhone and iPod Touch even further as a gaming platform. Apple is also more likely to seriously take on the kind of casual gaming market that the Nintendo DS thrives on rather than trying to become the next PSP or Xbox. Teversham's experiences and strong relationships with publishers and producers would be a strong asset for whatever Apple decides to do with its platform.

The iPhone has really taken mobile gaming to new heights to Apple's App Store. I often hear friends and gaming journalists rave about the latest hot iPhone game. It only seemed like a matter of time before Apple expanded on it even further. Especially if rumors of a new iPhone and a large touchscreen tablet like device come to fruition some time in June. Now if only I could afford the data plan on one of those things.

QUICKIES: A few Small, But Awesome News Stories!
Tiny Bits of Knowledge
  • Massive Hit With Layoffs as Microsoft Tightens its Belt
    In early January, Microsoft said that it would be letting go 5 percent of its workforce, about 5,000 jobs, over the next 18 months. Massive, Microsoft's in-game Ad business was the latest to be hit with a 28 percent staff reduction. I brought this story up because some earlier reports posted all over the web were claiming that 75 percent of Massive had been let go. Even though 25 percent is much better than 75 percent, it is still sad to see anybody in the game industry lose their jobs.

  • Microsoft Acquires BigPark
    Microsoft has just acquired Vancouver-based studio BigPark. The studio has several industry veterans who have worked on games like Need for speed, SSX, and NBA Street. BigPark is currently focused on social online games and digital distribution. The studio already has a big exclusive planned for debut at E3 in order to expand the Xbox audience beyond the average fan of space marines. I guess a few layoffs aren't enough to stop Microsoft from expanding its business.

  • Publisher AQ Interactive Increases Stake in XSEED
    In a move meant to increase its presence in the North American gaming market, publisher AQ Interactive has increased its stake in XSEED by purchasing 298,000 shares for roughly 50 million yen (or around 514,000 U.S. Dollars). The purchase has increased AQI's stake in the company from 55% to 90%. One of AQI's first moves will be to increase XSEED's staff and show an increased focus on bring AQI's titles to North America. For those unfamiliar with XSEED, they were responsible for Avalon Code and Retro Game Challenge here in North America.

  • Earthbound Worth More than its Weight in Gold on eBay
    It has been said that Earthbound fans are among the most hardcore RPG fans around. A recent eBay auction has proved just that. eBay seller Dave 2236 acquired a boxed copy of Earthbound for the SNES for about $25 dollars and quickly made a hefty profit. His boxed copy, not a factory sealed copy mind you, ended up selling for $1,025.01. I have to say Earthbound was an amazing game, but I probably would have waited for a Virtual Console release. But hey, I'm sure who ever bought the copy is extremely happy right now. I just hope they are not extremely broke too.

That will do it for this week's column. The coming weeks are sure to be interesting as I get ready for E3. I am also excited to see what Apple has to show right after E3 at its own event. Well, both of those events are a few weeks away, so no need to get too excited just yet. Oh, and I hope everyone enjoyed Star Trek on opening weekend. Did everyone like it? I'll be watching it this Friday.

Follow me on Twitter: Risingsuntzu

Emanuel Merino
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