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CURRENTS
Issue #108
July 31, 2009
It's Like That
Front Page

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

The Column is back in its usual format. News was slow after Run to the Sun, but things have finally picked up and I have a few interesting stories for all of you. Oh, and now that ComiCon has come and gone, I'd be interested to hear from readers who attended the show this year. How was it? Hopefully, I'll get the chance to go next year.

So now, on to the NEWS!

Feeling the Economic Pinch
I feel their pain...

A lot of big gaming companies have released their 2009 Q1 earnings results, and they don't look good. Sony and Nintendo in particular have had a rough first quarter. Here is a quick rundown of the two companies:

Sony
Sony has sold 1.1 million PlayStation 3 units and 1.3 million PSP units in Q1. This is a 37.4% drop from last year. There was also a drop in Sony's software sales. PlayStation 3 software sold 14.8 million units and PSP software sold only 11.8 million units. This is a drop from Q1 2008 statistics that were 22.8 million and 8.3 million, respectively. On the other hand, PlayStation 2 hardware sales were up from 1.51 million units in Q1 2008 to 8.3 million units in Q1 2009.

Nintendo
For the DS, Nintendo only sold 5.97 million units this year, lower than Q1 2008 when it sold 6.94 million units. Software for the DS was also down Q1 where it only sold 29.09 million units, lower than the 36.69 million units sold last year. For the first time in a long time, Wii sales are also down. Nintendo sold 2.23 million units in Q1 2009, while in Q1 2008, it sold 5.17 million units. Software also dropped with only 31.07 units compared to 40.41 million units. As a result, Nintendo has had a 40% drop in net sales to $2.65 billion and a 60.61% drop in net operating income to $422.5 million.

Game companies aren't the only ones feeling the pinch because of declining game sales. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Amazon has seen a drop in profits by about 10% from $158 million to $142 million. Amazon's Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak states that it's because of a slowdown in selling video games and consoles, but other reasons may also include a slowdown in selling media like books and music and a $51 million legal settlement paid to Toys R' Us.

Those stats pretty much speak for themselves. Things are tough for just about everybody. Thankfully the game industry is resilient. After all, the gigantic holiday rush will soon be upon us.

Steam and Xbox Live are More Profitable Than Ever
Like it or not, DLC is here to stay...

It would seem that the only positive growth in the market nowadays involves digital goods. Valve's, IGN's, and Microsoft's digital distribution platforms have been performing remarkably well over the past twelve months. How well you ask? Well I made a nice little chart showing you just how much sales have increased.

Company Sales Over Last 12 Months
Valve 97% increase for Steam
IGN 57% increase for Direct2Drive
Microsoft 73% increase for Xbox Live (paid downloads)

Collectors, be damned everything is going digital. It looks like those numbers are only going to grow as broadband penetration continues to rise and as Sony expands its digital distribution platform with the PSPGo. Good thing harddrives are dirt cheap!

Source: Kotaku | IGN
Why Game Characters are often not representative of the Player
To those of us in this situation, we notice...

This is sure to be a touchy subject, but all the same, it is an interesting story worth mentioning. Researchers from University of Southern California, Indiana University, Ohio University, and Virginia Polytechnic came together to look at the types of characters created in video games. They found that only 3% of video game characters are Latino (mostly non-playable) and 10% are women. Dmitri Williams of USC states:

Latino children play more video games than white children. And they're really not able to play themselves. For identity formation, that's a problem. And for generating interest in technology, it may place underrepresented groups behind the curve.

Ironically, they may even be less likely to become game makers themselves, helping to perpetuate the cycle. Many have suggested that games function as crucial gatekeepers for interest in science, technology, engineering and math.

It may not seem like a big deal to many, but it is something a lot of minority gamers start to notice after awhile. Personally, after growing up gaming my whole life, I would get really excited to get the chance to play a character that looked anything like me. Whether you are Latino, homosexual, a woman, Middle Eastern, or any numerous other minorities, people actually do notice when 80% of the characters they interact with fit a specific mold. Now that gaming has become more mainstream, playing as characters with more diverse histories, orientations, genders, and skin tones certainly is more appealing than ever to gamers, especially when those minority roles aren't token characters or stereotypes. Hey, if anything, all this means is more games need a character creation system on par with games like Fallout 3. No complaints there right?

At the end of the day, what I really want to get across is that relating to a character is not dependent on where you are from, it's just that over time people begin to notice a lack of diversity here and there. Oh, and that games would be more interesting with a wide range of main character archetypes.

QUICKIES: A few Small, But Awesome News Stories!
Fast Bits of Knowledge
  • WoW Highlights
    I don't usually cover MMOs in my column since there already is an MMO column here on the site. All the same, this was pretty interesting, so I decided to touch upon it quickly. The NPD Group reports that World of Warcraft has sold about 8.6 million copies since its release in November 2004. This amounts to about $258 million total in the U.S. when assuming that the game costs about $19.95 and each expansion pack and compilation costs as much as $39.95. This doesn't even include the amount that people pay for the monthly service.

    That, my friends, is why Blizzard is king. All that aside, Blizzcon is coming up in a few weeks. The event is sure to bring with it a fair bit of exciting news, but most importantly, it will unite a lot of friends and guild mates. I'm curious how many RPGamer readers will be attending the show. If you are going to be there, let us know.


  • Facebook X DSi Now Everywhere but North America
    Nintendo Japan, Europe, and Australia have updated the DSi to firmware v1.4 this week. Why is that newsworthy? Because v1.4 adds a touch of social networking to the DSi. This firmware allows users to directly upload photos taken with the DSi to their Facebook accounts. It also loads images faster on the DSi camera and gets rid of DSi-compatible flashcarts such as Acekard 2i and DSTTi. Some flashcarts don't need to worry about this because they use their own firmware, but it probably won't be long before manufacturers figure out a new way to get around this firmware update, especially since it only took one month for manufacturers to make DSi-compatible flashcarts after it was released in Japan.

    North America can expect this update sometime this fall. If any readers own a non-North American region coded DSi and have the latest firmware, I'd like to hear what you think of it and how well it performs. It might not be the most significant update, but it is certainly a forward thinking one that makes the DSi a bit more fun and social. Now, if I could just use Twitter from my DSi....

Ok, that's it for this weeks column. Next month should be interesting as we approach thefFall gaming rush. Also, Blizzcon is coming at the end of August and that should be a lot of fun. Anyone else looking forward to August?

And that's the way it is. See ya all next week!

Follow me on Twitter: Risingsuntzu

Emanuel Merino
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