Issue #41
November 24, 2006
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What would you say your greatest skill as a Currents reader is? What sort of pay are you expecting? What hours were you hoping to work? Are Fridays good for you? We offer a nice benefits package that includes industry, hardware, and political news.

It's Current's second week back, and have I got a ton of stuff for you.
It's a little bit frightening, actually.

I've got good news about the Wii, alternate uses for your PS3, and some NUMB3R CRUNCH1NG on both. On a more controversial note, I have followup to last week's Rule of Rose discussion and some sobering news about a school shooting in Germany. Also, see why Grand Theft Auto is making waves in Boston.

Nintendo Wii

As demonstrated in last week's NUMB3R CRUNCH1NG, the Nintendo Wii is considerably cheaper than it's closest alternatives. Here's something you may not have known: development costs for Nintendo Wii games can run less than half those for games on other next generations consoles (according to THQ CEO Brian Farrell). The implications are worth considering.

Farrel estimates that an XBox 360 or PlayStation 3 game costs between $12 and $20 million USD to develop. Because of the similarities between the Wii and its predecessor, the GameCube, developers already have many of the tools on-hand to make games for Nintendo's newest console. The advanced capabilities of Microsoft and Sony's newest offerings do not come cheap for developers to cater to.

Are those savings passed on to you, the consumer? Well, PS3 games will retail for approximately $60 USD. Games for the Nintendo Wii will retail for $50. Translation: Wii games have a much higher profit margin. What does this mean, really? Development for the Wii will be much more attractive for developers, assuming one crucial caveat: sufficient quantity. Since Nintendo launched with more than twice the consoles as Sony last weekend, they are well on their way to creating a saleable market segment for potential developers.

Let's not forget that Nintendo claims 33 Wii games will be on the marketplace by year end, while Sony's PS3 will feature 20. Scroll down a little ways to see why this is so relevant. Trust me, it is.

The Currents Quote of the Week goes to Nick Earl, for saying what every RPGamer wants to hear so bad,

It's a great marketplace to experiment.
Nick Earl, General Manager EA Games Redwood Studio
Source: Reuters
When Flagpoles Attack

The PS3 release was covered extensively last week. Several notable incidents were recorded for your entertainment. The first is the fallout from the Milwaukeee Wal-Mart story. Craig Wilson claims he was pushed into the flagpole which broke his face during the melee for the 10 available units. Well, he dislocated his jaw, actually. Watching the video is worth the audible CLANG noise of Wilson's face meeting steel (pictured right). To make the story even more interesting, the man who allegedly pushed Craig has contacted a lawyer and is refusing comment.

Police in Fresno got their batons going at that Best Buy. Two people were arrested for battering a police officer after the whole gaggle was labelled an "unlawful gathering."

CNN has the skinny on Country-wide pandemonium, characterized by the:

  • Two shootings
  • Two beatings
  • One stabbing
  • Two armed robberies

Conservative pundit Bill O'Reilly lashed out at gamers everywhere with a rant that denies logic and insults our intelligence. It wouldn't be a week in North America without at least one of these, right? For RPGamers outside of America (myself included), O'Reilly is the host of a news talk show on the Fox News Channel, and according to his website, his show is the highest rated news program on cable TV. His radio show, The Radio Factor on which this rant was featured, was broadcast over 400 stations across the United States.

O'Reilly said a lot of things about gamers and games; I'll post bits and pieces of it here:

American society is changing for the worse because of the machines. In the past to flee the real world people usually chose drugs or alcohol. Now you don't have to do that. Now all you have to do is have enough money to buy a machine.
So they don't know what day it is; they don't know temperature it is; they don't know what their neighbor looks like. They don't know anything because they are constantly diverted by a machine.
The have-nots are growing. Why are they growing? Because the skill set that is necessary to earn a decent living is being deemphasized in a fantasy world of football games and shooting zombies and all that. Now you have the 'knows' and the 'know-nots,' because if you spend all your youth being prisoners of machines, you're not going to know anything. You're gonna fail.
Did you ever talk to these computer geeks? I mean, can you carry on a conversation with them? I really fear for the United States because, believe me, the jihadists? They're not playing the video games. They're killing real people over there.
Source: GamePolitics

It came as a surprise to absolutely nobody that the next-gen consoles sold out staggeringly fast. Fortunately, new shipments should arrive weekly for the rest of the year, as demand for the next generation soars. As supply and demand compete this Christmas, how will the consoles fair? Furthermore, how did launch weekend measure up for Nintendo and Sony? Boy, you came to the right place.

As for the PS3, the finer points depends on which analyst you talk to, but the verdict is undisputed: Sony did not come close to meeting its 400,000-unit target. One analyst, P.J. McNealy with American Technology Research, estimates that Sony moved between 125,000 and 175,000 units over the weekend. As for the year-end targets, Sony was shooting for two million consoles in North America by the New Year. Given the obvious shortage, Sony has decreased their projections to one million. However, SooAnn Roberts of Kaufman Bros. Equity Research predicts that Sony will only sell 200,000 consoles by the end of the year. Anthony Gilkas at Piper Jaffray & Co. prophesies 400,000 units sold by year end, assuming a 200,000 unit launch.

The Nintendo Wii fared somewhat better. McNealy's research suggests that as many as 475,000 Wiis landed in living rooms over the weekend, and he predicts that 1.5 to 2 million Wiis will move before year-end.

Since we can't have too many analyst opinions in one news story, Josh Martin (Yankee Group) is painting a picture of comparative sales for the new consoles. I'm a little skeptical about his five-year projections, but they certainly deserve some quick NUMB3R CRUNCH1NG:

Percentage of New Console Sales in the U.S. by 2007 [Bloomberg]
XBox 360
Percentage of Next-Gen Console Sales in the U.S. by 2011 [Bloomberg]
XBox 360

Economics is often defined as the allocation of finite resources to satisfy infinite consumer demand. In this case, limited consumer incomes being divided among three different consoles.

So which consoles did you buy? Which consoles did you want to buy? Well, a long-standing analyst in the video game business, The NPD Group, issued a report last week entitled Next Generation Purchase Intent. The report outlines what gamers of different demographic and psychographic market segments are looking for in their new consoles. So, where do you fit in?

  • Males under 35 are the most passionate about next-gen consoles. Also, bears have a tendency to defecate in forests.
  • Heavy Gamers, the cash cows of the industry, are concerned with high-quality games, Wi-Fi capability, backwards compatability, and online play. Interestingly enough, they are more likely to buy a Wii (79% of respondants) than a PS3 (70% of respondants).
  • Less frequent gamers, those that NPD classifies as Infrequent, Secondary, and Portable Only, are expressing strong intent both next-gen home consoles. Hear that? That's the sound of market growth.
  • Of those interested in buying only one console, 62 percent are thowing their support behind Sony's PS3.

The data was collected from 16,670 people aged 6 to 44.

Strongest overall factors affecting next-gen console choice [The NPD Group]
Appealing games
Backwards compatability
Source: NPD Group
I loathe people.

In a tragic incident at a German school, an 18-year old former student laid siege to the building with multiple firearms and explosive devices. Since you're reading it here, you can be sure that somebody's blaming video games, somewhere.

The young man, identified only as Bastien B. (pictured left), had a long history of anti-social behaviour. Classmates describe him as a good student until grade eight. He began to play video games all day and listen to death metal music. Eventually, he became violent towards female classmates. Bastien B. wanted to join the army, and his since-removed website featured pictures of him with weapons and camoflauge gear.

The incident took place at the town of Emsdetten, Germany. At about 9:30am, Bastien B. entered the Geschwister-Scholl school and began shooting students and teachers. Amazingly, nobody was killed. Reports are sketchy, but anywhere from six to twenty-seven students were wounded. Bastien B. was armed with more than one rifle (including a non-lethal gas-powered firearm and more than one sawed-off shotgun), a knife, and several explosives. He planted pipe bombs around the school which were disarmed by police before they detonated.

Police tried to negotiate, but eventually stormed the school. Bastien B. was found dead on the second floor. Police are unsure how he died; whether the explosives on his body killed him or a shot from his own weapons. His web site left a macabre farewell, and included the words "I loathe people," and "I am gone."

And, apparently, Bastien B. had a fondness for war games. Feel that? That's spin.

Wolfgang Bosbach of the Christian Democrat Party called for called for measures to "protect children from exposure to different types of media." Volker Beck, of the opposition Green Party, spoke against a potential ban, suggesting that it would be prudent to look into Bastien's case before leaping to conclusions.

Sources: Spiegel Online | Reuters | CNN

If you were here last week, you probably caught the Rule of Rose story. Here's a link for those that missed it. I got a heaping helping of follow up with your names on it, right here.

Two anti-bullying groups in the UK scored critical hits on Rule of Rose this week in The Sun:

The contemptible thing about this game is that you play the role of a teenage girl being abused. Who would want to play such a thing, and who would want to make such a thing?
Niall Cowley,
This isn’t the sort of game that should be released in the UK.
Liz Carnell, Bullying Online

European publisher 505 Games couldn't stand up to the fires of media fearmongering and ignorant babble: Rule of Rose will not see release in the UK at this time. It had been cleared by the PEGI (with a 16+ rating) and the Interactive Software and Video Standards Council. Rule of Rose was released without consequence in North America with an "M" rating from the ESRB in September.

No word yet on every other Mature game that may contain content not suitable for young children.
Which is all of them.

Sources: The Sun | Eurogamer

Grand Theft Auto can't seem to stop causing controversies. Also, it can't seem to stop making money. Anybody who suggests the two are related will be shot on site.

The newest spinoff has nothing to do with the games themselves. The city of Boston has subways, apparently. And on these subways are billboards. On a few of these billboards are advertisements for GTA: Vice City Stories. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MTBA) recieved $114,000 USD in revenue from the ad campaign, which will last until the end of November.

A letter from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood to the MTBA was highly critical of the advertisements for a "violent video game." The content of the ad has not been deemed innapropriate or offensive; purely the game it advertises. The letter was signed by sixty community leaders, including the Mayors of both Boston (Thomas Menino) and Cambridge (Kenneth Reeves). It asked that all GTA billboards be removed, and that no games rated "M" be advertised on MTBA property in the future.

The MTBA countered by saying, "As offensive as anyone may find the product being advertised, it's not the MBTA's role to regulate any products, whether they are movies, music, websites, books, or video games." They claimed they lacked the legal clout to veto advertisements on the trains.

The battle escalated when the police unions and chiefs tore the MTBA a new one with comments like:

These games threaten and risk the lives of police officers. To use a public conveyance in our city to sell a product that condones murdering police officers is complete lunacy.
Thomas Nee, President, Hub Patrolman’s Association

A certain Florida attorney fired a volley at the MTBA (in the form of a letter to Daniel Grabauskas, General Manager) that defies even the most feeble attempts at intelligence:

It is utter nonsense for the MBTA to suggest the First Amendment somehow prohibits it from not participating in a criminal conspiracy. What’s next? Bus ads for crack cocaine?
Jack Thompson

And to make this media circus one ring bigger, the Boston Herald hit the streets by asking local prostitutes what they felt of the game. "Sage" felt that violence among teenagers was horrible and expressed her discontent for the advertisements. "Nikki" apparently owns GTA, and said she enjoyed getting playing it as a respite from the daily grind.

To be fair, Boston is experiencing a crime wave, with 67 murders and 337 non-lethal shootings in the last year, so violence in the media is a hot topic.

In the end, it seems that MTBA is sticking by the First Amendment and letting the ads run. This, despite Mayor Marino's comments to the effect of: "To hide behind the First Amendment is despicable." Look up fundamental rights and freedoms before you start down that rabbit trail.

PlayStation 3

The folks at Stanford University would like your help curing cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases. Actually, they'd like your PlayStation 3's help on this one.

After the European launch of the PS3 in March, Stanford will release special software for the PS3 that connects it to a global network. When it's not in use, the PS3 would remain online, and Stanford would use the high-powered cell processor in the unit to analyze complex gene structures. The combined power of PlayStation 3s worldwide will allow Stanford to calculate high-volume data 20 times faster than conventional methods, according to Sony.

Source: Fox News

If you clicked down here from the top, there's some wonderfully crunchable numbers in the stories about next-gen console supplies and The NPD Group's study. I figured those numbers were better shown in context. Otherwise, a quick set of crunchings for you today, on the cost of production for the next-gen consoles.

Next-Gen Production Costs/Sale Price [GameDaily BIZ]
60GB PS3 Cost
60GB PS3 Retail
20GB PS3 Cost
20GB PS3 Retail
Xbox 360 Cost
Xbox 360 Retail

Well, you've passed the preliminary interview stage. I'll have to review your portfolio and check your references. Call me in a week, and we'll see where we're at.

//You should probably know that reading signature lines causes bleeding ulcers;
Theo Litowski


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