Currents Top Ten I BioWare Now Hiring I Xbox 360 = Jukebox? I Atari Takes Hit, Walks it Off I Hasbro Gets Back Old Properties I Square Enix Producer to Join AquaPlus I Namco, Bandai Aim High I Stock Ticker
Issue #11 Calm Before the Storm June 16, 2005

Front Page

Here we are at Currents' final issue from the great state of Illinois. Boy, does time fly. Late next week, my family is finally moving to northern Virginia, meanwhile, I'll instead be going to Omaha to stay with my lovely girlfriend for the remainder of the summer. This way I'm closer to school, which is only an hour away from Omaha, so when classes start in the fall, I won't have to move all of my stuff half way across the country. Not to mention I get to avoid spending the next two months couped up with my entire family in a one-bedroom condominium until a new home is found. Talk about dodging an ebola-soaked, flesh-eating bullet from the fiery depths of hell. What this also means, unfortunately, is that I get to spend the remainder of my time in this house packing up everything. This mad rush will likely begin tomorrow night, so right now is what I like to call the calm before the storm.

I guess you probably also want to read about some RPG industry gobbledy-gook. Well here you are. We've got a little something for everyone in this issue; it's like a smorgasbord of industry developments. For example, for anyone whose life-long dream it is to work at BioWare, opportunity has just knocked, but you weren't home. Fortunately, Currents is here to deliver the message to you. That's right, with Currents, everyone gets two chances at everything. Failed an exam? Currents will let you take it over. Died? Currents will bring you back for another shot at life. Great deal, isn't it? Anyway, getting back on track, we also have some music-related Xbox 360 developments, Atari showing us all that they won't let a bad week get them down, Hasbro getting back what it once lost, a Square Enix producer jumping ship, and Namco and Bandai shooting for world domination--or something like that. It's a good read--all of it. Just be careful not to spill your drink all over it; this is my only copy.

 Currents Top Ten

To steal a line from the great Andrew Long--Weekend Q&A Host, Resource Manager, and Currents-thinker-upper extraordinaire--"le sigh." It really breaks my heart when the Top Ten list lacks RPGs. I mean, this is the last issue that will ever come from the Prairie State again--the least it could do is produce some RPGs for the list. Ah well, I suppose griping about it won't solve anything; however, I do feel better now.

Star Wars III has finally been removed from the all of the top three spots this week. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for Xbox and the PS2 and Xbox versions of Medal of Honor are claiming the newly vacated spots for themselves, respectively. There's nothing really new going on with the rest of the list, though--this is where you'll find Star Wars III hiding out along with Lego Star Wars, Midnight Club 3, Advent Rising, Forza Motorsport, and God of War.

Position Title Publisher Platform
1 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Rockstar Games
2 Medal of Honor: European Assault Electronic Arts
3 Medal of Honor: European Assault Electronic Arts
4 Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith LucasArts
5 Lego Star Wars Eidos Interactive
6 Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Rockstar Games
7 Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith LucasArts
8 Advent Rising Majesco Games
9 Forza Motorsport Microsoft Game Studios
10 God of War SCEA

Source: GameSpot

 BioWare Now Hiring


BioWare, the company behind huge RPG hits such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire, is looking for a little extra help, and is reaching out to you to get it. As of now, positions are open in the company's Art, Animation, Programming, and Design departments. To fill the position, BioWare is looking far and wide for "people who are passionate about the latest gaming and technological innovations, creative developers who are willing to challenge the limits of graphics, gameplay and design."

Some specifically-titled open art positions include technical artists, environment artists, and visual effects artists. If, however, art just isn't your thing, BioWare is also interested in acquiring some fresh new programmers specializing in AI, mathematics and 3D graphics, and engine and tools development. As far as the design department, positions are open for writers, technical designers, and cinematic designers.

If any of this sounds like something you might be interested in, then be sure to check BioWare's official job postings for exact details on required skills and backgrounds for the open positions. There you can also find how to apply for whatever position it is you're interested in. Good luck.

 Xbox 360 = Jukebox?

Xbox 360

In a move that could threaten to derail Apple's massive success with its iPod MP3 player, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is reportedly planning to put Robbie Bach, head of Xbox, in charge of the company's digital music endeavours. Though this new assignment hasn't been officially announced, the Wall Street Journal reported it and said that the move will see Bach, a Microsoft employee for 16 years, put on a "mission to make Microsoft's new Xbox a hub for handling digital music."

One of the main characteristics of the Xbox 360 advertised by Microsoft is that it can essentially perform all of the major functions of a living room entertainment center. With the ability to display digital photos, play digial music, and show digital video, Microsoft looks to be on the right track. Apple, however, has a significant upper hand when it comes to the digital music realm. Microsoft has made few attempts to reach the digital music market in the Apple has. The new assignment for the Xbox boss is designed to give the company a louder voice in this area and perhaps a good standing with which to potentially shake things up for Apple.

The Wall Street Journal goes on to say that Bach is "expected to be given the authority to push for a range of changes, such as setting up a team focused solely on digital music, reorganizing product groups, or acquiring companies." This new team would certainly have its work cut out for them as the iPod currently dominates 80 percent of the digital music player market.

Source: GameSpot

 Atari Takes Hit, Walks it Off

As if the sudden departure of its CEO wasn't bad enough, Atari has posted a loss of $9.1 million on sales of $62.7 million for the fiscal year ending March 31. Lost profits, though, are something Atari isn't too unfamililar with these days. On the bright side, however, the company is doing much better this year than it was last year at this time. In 2004, Atari posted a loss of $17.31 million on $64.8 million in sales. Although, the company's net revenue is $395.2 million this year, compared with last year's $447.5 million. Atari blamed the closing of studios in Santa Monica, California, and Beverly, Massachusetts, for the bulk of its profit loss. The closing of the studios cost Atari $4.9 million.

The company's executive vice president, Diane Baker, said in an earning call: "If we can ever stop shooting ourselves in the foot...and start doing everything right, Atari will be a fantastic company." Bruno Bonnel, Atari's current interim CEO, said that the search for a person to replace the suddenly-vacated CEO seat is still going on, but he said nothing further on the issue, nor did he provide any guidance to analysts for the upcoming fiscal year.

Bonnell did, however, mention that Atari is planning to divulge itself of Humongous Entertainment, a Washington-based development studio--known for titles such as Backyard Basketball, either through a sale or closure. Bonnell said he expects this is to be completed by the end of March next year.

Source: GameSpot

 Hasbro Gets Back Old Properties

Several years ago, Hasbro Interactive lost some properties when Infogrames, developers of Koudelka, purchased the company. Infogrames has retained rights to the properties since December 2000, when it purchased Hasbro and Last week, however, Hasbro finally purchased back its lost properties and gaming rights from Infogrames to the tune of $65 million. Hasbro has now entered into a new agreement to provide Infogrames with exclusive rights to 10 Hasbro franchises including Dungeons and Dragons and Monopoly. Until the properties officially switch hands, though, Infogrames will have the rights to the sale and distribution of current Hasbro games.

The president and CEO of Hasbro, Inc., Alfred J. Verrecchia, said: "We think this is a great move for both companies... This new agreement allows Hasbro to fully exploit its brands in a wide variety of growth platforms including next generation consoles, around the world, while at the same time giving Infogrames the rights to 10 popular Hasbro brands."

On the other side of the deal, Bruno Bonnel, the current interim CEO of Atari (because Atari owns Infogrames), said: "This agreement is consistent with our objective of providing more resources for the Group's growth, while concentrating on brands with a significant potential, and investing in Atari's new products. By securing a ten-year license to Dungeons and Dragons and obtaining seven-year rights to nine major properties for wireless, Internet (online games) and interactive television formats, we have strengthened our relationship with Hasbro and taken steps in anticipation of technological developments in our industry."

"We are delighted to further continue our partnership with Infogrames." said the oresident of the Hasbro Properties Group, Jane Ritson Parsons. "With a built in revenue stream from this new licensing arrangement with Infogrames and the potential to further develop some of our marquis brands like Transformers, My Little Pony and Magic: the Gathering on all digital gaming formats around the world, we are very excited about the possibilities."

Source: GameSpy

 Square Enix Producer to Join AquaPlus

Square Enix

After 15 years of hard work at Square Enix, Yuusuke Hirata has decided to take a permanent leave. He's going to lend his talents to AquaPlus, the company that developed and published the Xbox RPG Tenerezza, never released in North America. Hirata will assume the helm of AquaPlus's strategy division.

Hirata was the head of Square Enix's fifth production team since the Osaka studio was founded in 1995. He was the producer of such titles as Parasite Eve 2 and some of the company's sports games, notably the All Star Pro Wrestling titles.

Source: RPGFan

 Namco, Bandai Aim High


Namco and Bandai have some big plans to undertake in the years following their recently-announced merger. Mainly, they wans to "grow their non-domestic sales to represent around half of their combined income" along with some major overseas business expansion.

Takeo Takasu said in an interview with Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun the goal is to raise the overseas sales ratio to 50 percent from now to the next 3 to 5 years. At this time, 18 percent of Bandai's sales are made overseas; for Namco, that number is 20 percent. When the two companies merge this September, Namco Bandai Holdings will become the second-largest game and toy firm in Japan, after Sega Sammy Holdings.

"We plan to raise our overseas sales ratio to 50 percent, and we are aiming to become a global enterprise," Takasu said in the interview. "After our merger, we will become a company that the world has never seen before. We will deal with anything from games, toys, [animated] movies, stationery, to amusement facilities... We will offer a wide choice of options for our customers when it comes to video games," he continued, "ranging from the high-tech next-generation game consoles to mobile phones."

Readers of RPGamer's Japandemonium column might recall a recent issue that mentioned small capsule toys sold in vending machines called gashapon. Well, as a first step in its overseas business expansion plans, Bandai has started to sell its gashapon through Namco's distribution network in North America. Bandai is also planning to eventually move gashapon sales into retail stores.

Furthermore, Bandai is looking to apply its toy manufacturing treatment to some of Namco's most-recognizable character franchises. Specifically, Takasu mentioned that Pac-Man will be making his way into the toy industry.

Though Namco is no stranger to publishing in North America, thanks to its Namco Hometek subsidiary, business in Europe continues to prove to be a more difficult task. Even for the merged powers of Namco and Bandai, the European market will be a challenge for the new company. Neither Namco nor Bandai has much of a market presence in the continent; Namco mostly uses local publishing companies to handle the sale of its games.

Source: GamesIndustry

 Stock Ticker

At first glance, the stock prices for the week look fairly stable--and they are for the most part. Most of the companies here only changed a couple dimes from the day before and no more than a couple quarters from last week. I did say most companies, though. Compared to the others, Electronic Arts saw a huge boost from last week; it had a boost of $5.56 to be exact. And even since yesterday, the company has seen a six-cent rise, which isn't a lot, but it indicates that the price is still going up. This is all probably due to the recent release of the new Medal of Honor game and its good sales thus far.

Ubi Soft also had a decent week with a price increase of $1.59. Though nowhere near as nice as EA's increase, it's still one roughly three-times larger than most of the other companies saw during the week. Therefore, it's worth at least noting.

Parentheses denote negative numbers. Prices as of market closing 06.15.2005

Symbol Company Market Standing Change
SNE Sony NYSE 35.96 0.03
MSFT Microsoft Nasdaq 25.26 (0.10)
NTDOY Nintendo PNK 13.05 0.06
ERTS Electronic Arts Nasdaq 59.06 1.12
ENIXF Square Enix PNK 29.54 (0.10)
KNM Konami NYSE 20.21 (0.10)
ATVI Activision Nasdaq 17.35 0.17
MWY Midway NYSE 10.62 (0.16)
SGAMY Sega PNK 14.50 (0.15)
UBSFF Ubi Soft PNK 49.24 0.43

Source: CNN Money

 Back Page

And that'll do it for Illinois. Currents will now head west, across the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and into its new home in the Cornhusker State. Actually, this is where I was when the column started out, so hopefully it'll be able to fit right back in.

I just picked up GoldenEye: Rogue Agent for the DS. I've had this system since Christmas and this is only my third game. I'm pretty much picking up everything that remotely interests me, and an FPS on a handheld is one such thing--especially since I still have a few more months to wait until I get my hands on Metroid Prime: Hunters. So far, I like the game. It's a lot of fun and the visuals are much more impressive than screens and videos let on. One thing about the game that hasn't been over-exaggerated, though, is the crappy, crappy, crappy, crappy audio. It's pretty terrible. I've heard ringtones more fun to listen to than the soundtrack to this game. Either way, I'm getting lost in a tangent that has nothing to do with this column or website, so I think I'll go ahead and sign off.

Elliot "Being bad never felt so good" Guisinger

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