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CURRENTS
Issue #124
January 10, 2013
Lazarus Rising
Front Page

It's a new year full of fresh starts. With that in mind, RPGamer's Currents publication is making a grand return with yours truly at the helm. I plan on running a tight ship full of interesting gaming industry news, my own particular slant, and the occasional Star Trek reference. Enough pedantic banter though, let's get on to the interesting stuff.

Engage.

While I'm sure everyone's hard up to lose weight and be more active, the new year also brings a set of new resolutions to gamers. I recently asked the staff of RPGamer what gaming resolutions they wanted to accomplish in the year to come. Ask you can imagine, most of us are still crying over our backlogs.

  • Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham:
    To play more games I want to play and less that I feel like I need to play. In past years, I've tried to keep up with what's new to be able to chat about it, but I say "screw that, I'll play what I want when I want." If I want to play Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic instead of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, I'm gonna do it.

  • Alex "Severinmira" Fuller:
    I'd like to try and devote a bit more time to handhelds. I often find that whatever console games I'm playing steal a lot of my gaming time away from the handheld games I'm in the middle of (even when I try and divide time equally), so I'd like to give them a bit more love.

  • Phil "JCServant" Willis:
    Nearly every year, I fire up MMOs that I've quit a half dozen times, including WoW. I pour hours into them, while some very good RPGs sit on my shelf, unplayed. I'm wasting too much time doing the same boring quests, dungeon runs, etc., over and over again, instead of playing new and fresh content in the myriad of single player RPGs and other games sitting in my backlog.

  • Emanuel "Risingsun" Merino:
    I have no resolutions for 2013. I'm happy where I am right now in my gaming life. I'm spending less money on games, playing more indie titles, working my way through my backlog, and am starting some new initiatives at here RPGamer. All those years of writing THIS resolutions feature have finally paid off.

  • Michael "Wheels" Apps:
    (1) Play through the Mass Effect trilogy again as a Renegade, (2) Finish either Etrian Odyssey 3 or 4, and (3) Play Suikoden 3.

  • Becky "Ocelot" Cunningham:
    OK, my resolution this year is *not* to buy Microsoft's next console, even if it hurts my career a bit. I disagree strongly with the direction Microsoft is taking the Xbox line and want to put my money where my mouth is.

  • Sam "Nyxbot" Marchello:
    I have a large backlog of games from the PlayStation 2 era and before. My 2013 resolution is to try and knock a few more of those out so I'll feel less bad for not having played them

  • Nathan "TwinBahamut" Schlothan:
    My big resolution for this year is to complete both Fire Emblem: Awakening and Etrian Odyssey IV. Those are normally the kinds of games that I risk losing focus on, so I'm making this resolution to prevent that.

  • Jonathan "Quin" Yearworth:
    I would like to support more Japanese RPGs on PC. Most of these games are poorly represented. Not really sure how to do that outside of buying stuff like the Dark Souls PC version (Which I did just before the Steam sales ended).

  • Billy "madhtr" Young:
    I really should finish my games before moving on to the next. I never finish my games. I get sidetracked or whatever, and don't beat the final boss. I feel the urge to do everything, and in the end this causes me to never finish.

  • Glenn "SeventhCircle" Wilson:
    Next year I'll ignore people who goad me into buying games at the initial retail price with promises of multiplayer sessions. Maybe if they can show me a receipt and a letter from their boss stating they have time to play with me, I'll plunk down $60 for a game I don't care to solo. Otherwise, NEVER!

  • Trent "InstaTrent" Seely:
    My goals for 2013 are pretty simple, really. I just need to find a working Super NES cartridge of Seiken Densetsu 3 (Secret of Mana 2) and play the hell out of it. Oh, and try to make a dent in my staggering backlog.

2013's Consumer Electronic Show is now here and technology geeks were once again met with a miasma of false promises and products that are far cooler in concept than they would ever be on the shelf of your local Walmart, but one trend was noticeably absent from the main floor: 3D technology.

In the past, attendees would show up and be handed a pair of thick grey glasses at the door of the Sony, Samsung, and LG CES conferences, but this year? No dice. There wasn't a single company attempting to use 3D as the main selling point for their products. Dolby mentioned a 3D 4K HDTV in passing and Samsung quickly referenced 2D-to-3D conversion, but otherwise it would appear that the technology that had once been the catís meow of the past three CES shows is now the dweeby kid in class that no one wants at the party.

People have been saying for years that 3D technology was on its way out, but I would argue that this is the first clear indicator of 3D abandonment. Sony and Nintendo always have had a hard go of trying to push 3D in gaming and LGís 3D HDTV sales are less than impressive, but until now people were at least talking about it. This industry indifference might very well signal that the days of 3D technology are over. Not that it's a huge loss.

Source: The Verge

Nintendo's 3DS has managed to sell more than 10 million systems in Japan, according to Japanese publication Famitsu. The total number units sold, as of January 2, 2013, was 10,068,192 and it took the handheld 98 weeks to reach this milestone. I'll ask Nintendo fanboys to keep their pants on though, as that number is not nearly as impressive as it sounds.

Disregarding the fact that the system isn't selling nearly as well to Western audiences, it took the Nintendo DS Lite 61 weeks to reach the same milestone. That's right — the updated re-release of the Nintendo DS sold faster than the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo 3DS XL combined. This begs the question, "What is Nintendo doing wrong?"

While I'm sure those of us in the West could complain for hours about localization, a bigger problem worldwide is a shifting focus towards mobile phone platforms. Handhelds have become complicated, expensive, and more intensive to develop for. This leads to fewer game releases and a smaller install base. If Nintendo wants to release another handheld in the future, they need to start working now to make development times and costs easier on developers and the system more attractive to consumers.

Source: Famitsu

Nvidia's new Android-based handheld Project Shield was recently revealed at CES 2013, and reactions to it have been interesting to say the least. Plenty of industry pundits have been quick to cite the portable system as being ill conceived, limited in scope, and more than a little ugly, but Sony CEO Kaz Hirai's response was quite possibly my favourite.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Hirai said that it was too early to tell how well Nvidia will do in the handheld space. However, he noted that the industry's history doesn't lack for examples of companies that tried unsuccessfully to establish themselves in the market, saying, "It's not an easy business to get into." Truer words were never spoken, Mr. Hirai.

Not accounting for the number of handhelds that have been introduced to the market only to subsequently fall off the map, Sony has had its own difficulties staying relevant in the handheld market. When asked about PS Vita sales, Hirai said that they were "on the low end of what we expected." He then went so far as to discredit claims of its failure in 2012, by maintaining that people were saying the same negative things about the PlayStation 3's performance at the start of its lifespan and that itís too early to make judgement calls.

Speaking as someone who collects raw data and draws analysis for a living, I can comfortably state that it's never too early to make judgement calls if the information is there to back them. Does anyone else remember the first couple years of the PlayStation 3's lifecycle? Sales were dismal for reasons that mirror that of the PS Vita's: extremely high system price point, limited library of games, too many unnecessary features, a weak online community, and complex hardware leading challenging game development, to name just a few. The reason the PS Vita isn't selling well is that Sony hasn't learned anything from the rocky start the PlayStation 3 experienced. It's almost frustrating enough to make me want to endorse purchasing Nvidia's fugly Project Shield over a PS Vita.

Source: Wall Street Journal

PC hardware vendor Xi3 has recently announced the development of a system designed to support Valve's Steam service and its newly launched Big Picture mode for HDTVs. This effectively means that you could enjoy your favorite PC games in the comfort of your living room. Valve has invested in Xi3 to complete the grapefruit-sized system and it was recently showcased at both Valve and Xi3's CES booths, leading industry pundits to begin asking whether this is the first, long-rumored Steambox.

Gabe Newell of course says it isn't, but it's hard to take his words seriously considering how long he's been threatening to release Half Life 3. In all fairness, Newell's argument is one of semantics. To him, the Steambox is a brand name and we won't actually see one until Valve releases it themselves. Power to you if you're onboard with that statement, but if something looks, acts, and quacks like a duck — it's probably a duck. Until Valve can clearly point to their Steambox and make distinctions between it and Xi3's Piston, I suggest we just assume it's pretty much the same offering.

Source: PR Newswire

  • Razor's New Gaming Tablet
    People are really trying to make gaming tablets a thing. Razor's new Windows 8 gaming tablet, the Edge, was hot on display at CES this year and is already being marketed as the "most powerful tablet in the world." With Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, Nvidia's GT 640M LE, and up to 8GB of RAM, it certainly impresses from a technical point of view. Considering how smoothly Civilization V and Dishonored runs on medium-to-high settings, I'm inclined to believe them. The tablet has four modes of play: tablet, PC, console (with HDTV connect), and handheld. It's hard to tell at this point whether the Edge will impress upon release, but I'd wager that its $899 starting price point will turn a fair amount of people off.

  • $83 Million Pledged to Kickstarter Games
    How sweet it is to be loved by you. Kickstarter has recently released some stats that are likely to bring a smile to any indie developer's face. In 2012, $83,144,565 was pledged by 561,574 backers to gaming projects. Games and the 2,796 projects submitting in that category saw the most money pledged across the crowdfunding site, beating films, technology, and art. It would appear that modern gamers are just as giving as they are passionate.

  • PS Vita Has Creepy Leg Massage Game, I Feel Dirty
    Interested in wiping the dust off your PS Vita? Why don't you also stroke a virtual woman's leg at the same time! IGN's Greg Miller recently discovered the PSN exclusive creepshow that is Pinky Spots Leg Massage and decided to share it with the rest of us. I really wish he hadn't. The whole point of the game is to rub as many spots on a woman's leg as possible under a time limit. As you rub, her legs buckle and she makes moaning noises. I wouldn't call it a killer app, but if you are going to play this on your PS Vita, I would highly recommend you incorporate disinfectant wipes.

Sources: GamesIndustry, IGN

That's it. The first of many voyages together is complete. I hope you're enjoying the fresh start that the new year brings and are adjusting to your regular schedules again. Let me know if you spot any cool gaming news story out in the wild — I'll be eternally grateful.

Your dork from the Great North,

Trent Seely

Stalk me on Twitter: @InstaTrent

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