Currents Top Ten I PSP Importers Sued I SAG Backs Out of Voice Acting Agreement I Anti-Piracy Campaign Failing I PSP Production Reduced? I PS3 More Powerful than E3 Demo I Online Entertainment Sees Huge Growth I Stock Ticker
Issue #12 Fly Me to the Moon June 25, 2005

Front Page

"Let me play among the stars. Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars." Good old Frank Sinatra. You just can't go wrong with a voice like that, am I right guys? Ladies? Anyone? Bah. You kids and your rap music and electricity. You wouldn't know a good tune if it were downloaded to your hard drive. The fact that you're reading this column, however, is your only redeeming quality, so be sure to make the most out of it.

For those of you interested in my personal life, I've moved. For the rest of you, here's your bloody column. I say bloody because many people endured many stabbings and/or chewings during the making of this issue, so it is soaked in blood. Please don't let the lost blood go in vain. To help you get a good start on your reading, here's a short preview. Sony is suing U.K. PSP importers, the SAG backs out of the voice acting agreement it recently signed with the video game industry, the anti-piracy campaign isn't working so well, it gets reported that Sony is reducing PSP production and Sony says that the final PS3 will be more powerful than the E3 demo. Furthermore, online entertainment sees some pretty good growth -- thanks, mostly, to our friend Heath Hindman over at the MMORPGamer corner of the site. Ok, I'm done wasting your precious oxygen. Do with this column what you will.

 Currents Top Ten

Ready for the Top Ten? Let's dance. The Xbox version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas retains the number one spot from last week, so congrats to Rockstar. Likewise, EA's new Medal of Honor game retains the number two spot. New to the list, and debuting at number three, is Batman Begins. As a small side note, that movie was freaking awesome. Seriously, in my opinion, it is the best superhero movie to date. Anyway, back to the show. Another new title, THQ's racer, Juiced, is coming in at number five. And Destroy All Humans! enters the fray at number eight.

There are many new titles making their debut this week, which is always exciting. What is less-than-exciting, though, is that there are many instances of the same game for different consoles on the list, not to mention the lack of RPGs. I guess you can't win them all. I wish the same could be said about losing them all, though.

Position Title Publisher Platform
1 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Rockstar Games
2 Medal of Honor: European Assault Electronic Arts
3 Batman Begins EA Games
4 Juiced THQ
5 Batman Begins EA Games
6 Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith LucasArts
7 Medal of Honor: European Assault Electronic Arts
8 Destroy All Humans! THQ
9 Juiced THQ
10 Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Rockstar Games

Source: GameSpot

 PSP Importers Sued


Even after having been issued several Cease and Desist orders by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, independent retailers in Britain continue to sell imported PSP systems to consumers on the European island. As a result, Sony has decided that it's time to back up all its tough talk by taking legal action.

A copy of the legal document that Sony's lawyers created states that "The defendant has infringed each of the claimant's said trade marks by using, without the consent of the claimants, in the course of trade in the United Kingdom, signs identical to the said trade marks." The "said trademarks" being the 'PS', "PLAYSTATION', and the symbols for the PlayStation controllers. The document adds, "By reason of the aforesaid, the claimants have suffered loss and damage."

This legal document also requests an inquiry into possible payable damages and the "confiscation of goods and materials." The document goes on to demand the names and addresses of both the retailers who sold the imported PSPs and the consumers who purchased the product from the retailers.

Also, Sony has made it clear to British retailers that it plans to apply for an interim injunction to stop the sale of imported PSPs during the months leading up the system's European debut, currently slated for September 1. Sony said that if the retailers stop selling the import PSPs, it will cancel the injunction.

Whether these drastic threats by Sony will have any effect remains to be seen. Some retailers, such as ElectricBirdLand, have already announced plans to take Sony on. The date for the court case has not been set.

Source: GamesIndustry

 SAG Backs Out of Voice Acting Agreement

Although it was recently announced that the SAG (Screen Actors Guild), AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), and video game publishers had reached an agreement on their differences regarding pay, residuals and hours worked, members of the SAG's national executive committee have voted to reject the contract. This comes just weeks after the contract was negotiated and accepted by the SAG, though the rejection is against the wishes of SAG members and the negotiating committee. This marks the first time in the 72 years of the SAG's existence that the board members have used a routine approval process to overrule a decision reached by the negotiating committee.

What made things even messier was that AFTRA, the union who cooperated with the SAG in negotiating the deal with the game industry, followed through with its original intentions and accepted the 3.5-year-long contract. Some speculate that because the SAG backed out of the voice acting deal, AFTRA will pretty much have full control in the field of providing contracted, unionized voice actors.

"The bargaining committee and staff of Screen Actors Guild worked extremely hard over the course of many months to negotiate fairer terms and conditions for the actors who do this work," Greg Hessinger, the SAG national executive director, said. "While the tentative agreement they reached included several key gains, the guild's national executive committee has made the final determination that this proposal was not enough. We will now explore our options."

In order for the negotiated deal to be approved by the national executive committee, there needed to be a 60% approval among board members. The vote fell just short of that. Reportedly, the national executive committee was divided between SAG's internal political conflicts. On one hand, there is the more traditional path of the current SAG president, Melissa Gilbert, and on the other, opposing side there is the MembershipFirst group. The Gilbert side supported the deal. A board member of the SAG commented, "MembershipFirst effectively put SAG out of the interactive business completely... They have shown the industry that Screen Actors Guild does not negotiate in good faith. Why would anyone want to sit down with us now?"

Source: Reuters

 Anti-Piracy Campaign Failing

According to the ESA (Entertainment Software Association), global video game piracy is running publishers over $3 billion in lost revenue. The ESA also says that this isn't entirely their fault, because enforcing anti-piracy laws is within the legal powers of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The main idea behind the campaign against piracy is to inform loyal consumers so that at least they may be able to help out by not pirating software and by spreading the word. According to a study by the BBC that will be made public soon, this plan of attack is not working--at least not in Britain.

According to the researchers who conducted the study, Dr. Jo Bryce of the University of Central Lancashire and Dr. Jason Rutter of the University of Manchester, gamers don't really see downloading or copying video games as something wrong. They don't see purchasing illegitimate games from suspect sellers as wrong, either -- in spite of the massive campaign against piracy.

"Consumers have an awareness of the scale of the problem and cost, but don't take onboard industry concerns or government messages," said Bryce. "They just see it as inevitable, particularly as new technologies become available."

The BBC estimated that $7.2 million worth of illegitimate games were seized in Britain alone last year. Law enforcement authorities said that 67 software pirates were either jailed or fined after 538 raids. Law enforcement isn't getting much support from consumers, though.

Though the results of the study in the United Kingdom were less-than-great, the anti-piracy campaign will continue to deliver its message. In fact, this fall the ESA will begin an educational outreach program to raise the awareness of copyright laws for people at a much younger age -- the program will target elementary school students. Bryce summed up one of the biggest problems with people pirating games in one short sentence: "They just don't see it as theft."

Source: GameSpot

 PSP Production Reduced?


A recent report released by Nikkei BP stated that Sony had reduced its PSP production by 33 percent. Initially, companies that provide Sony with PSP components were told by Sony that it needed enough parts to manufacture the 18 million systems that it planned to ship out during the current fiscal year. The story takes an interesting turn when, in April, Sony released an annual financial report stating that the company had plans to ship out only 12 million PSP units, which is the same number of slimline PS2 units it plans to ship out.

Since this report was released, it was vehemently denied by Sony. An SCEA representative said, "I'm not sure where the 18 million claim came from... We announced in the Sony earnings call that the fiscal year 2005 PSP shipment targets were 12 million units worldwide. We are still on target and there has been no reduction in forecast."

The Nikkei BP report also went on to predict that the PlayStation 3 could be out by the end of 2005. But it goes on to say that full-scale production isn't likely to begin until 2006.

Source: GameSpot

 PS3 More Powerful than E3 Demo

PlayStation 3

According to the website ITMedia, the final version of the PS3 that is released next year will be exceedingly more powerful than the current machine that was shown at E3. This should put to rest speculation about whether the system that will be available to the public before long will indeed be capable of running intense programs such as the real-time demonstations Sony showed at E3. According to ITMedia, the answer is yes -- and then some.

Specifically, it was released that the PS3 used during the E3 demonstration had a CPU running at only 2.4 GHz, which is quite a bit shy of the projected 3.2 GHz for the final retail machine. It has also been made public that the graphics processor used in the E3 demonstration was not the RSX chip that will be installed in the retail version of the console, but rather some other Nvidia GPU. Though the exact specifications of the GPU have not been publicly released, ITmedia claims that it uses the PCI Express bus instead of the Redwood bus interface planned for use in the final version of the PS3.

Source: GameSpot

 Online Entertainment Sees Huge Growth

The analysts over at PricewaterhouseCoopers have predicted, in the company's Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2005-2009 report, that the global entertainment and media industry will grow at compound growth rate of 7.3 percent. The analysts noted 2004 revenues of $1.3 trillion for the industry and project that the spending will rise as high as $1.8 trillion in the sectors in 2009.

"Online and wireless video games, online film rental subscriptions, licensed digital distribution of music, and the rapid adoption of ring tones and mobile music downloads are becoming critical components of the industry and driving significant revenues across all regions," said Wayne Jackson, a PWC analyst.

As for causes of the growth, the report cited: "The next generation of game consoles should have a major impact on the market in 2006 and 2007. The introduction of handheld game consoles and their associated games will buttress the console game market in 2005. The next generation of consoles, with their embedded online capabilities, will also have a positive effect on the demand for online games."

The gaming software market in the U.S., EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), Asia, Latin America, and Canada will grow from $25.4 billion in 2004 to $54.6 billion in revenues for 2009, according to PWC analysts. Asia/Pacific, the largest of the markets at $10.1 billion revenue during 2004 alone, is "projected to maintain its leadership, growing by 18.0 percent on a compound annual rate through 2009, reaching $23.1 billion." The United States, which raked in $8.2 in revenues during 2004, is expected to experience a growth by more than 12 percent.

Those with an extra thousand bucks to throw around can purchase the complete report. A "top level" summary of sorts is available for roughly 100 dollars from PWC itself.

Source: GameSpot

 Stock Ticker

It looks as though it's been a rougher week for the industry, judging by these numbers. Every company, except for three, went down from last week. Both Square Enix and Konami, however, are up by about a couple quarters. But Sega saw a rise of a $1.25, giving it the biggest raise for the week.

Other than that, there isn't much as far as drastic drops or increases. Everything looks fairly stable, though slightly declining. At least there's no plummeting to be found. Hold on to those shares, though, and wait this out. By the time the next-generation consoles come out, expect some prettier numbers.

Parentheses denote negative numbers. Prices as of market closing 06.24.2005

Symbol Company Market Standing Change
SNE Sony NYSE 35.28 (0.03)
MSFT Microsoft Nasdaq 25.04 (0.27)
NTDOY Nintendo PNK 12.90 0.00
ERTS Electronic Arts Nasdaq 57.93 0.30
ENIXF Square Enix PNK 30.09 0.15
KNM Konami NYSE 20.70 (0.33)
ATVI Activision Nasdaq 16.87 (0.88)
MWY Midway NYSE 10.47 (0.29)
SGAMY Sega PNK 15.75 0.50
UBSFF Ubi Soft PNK 48.96 (0.33)

Source: CNN Money

 Back Page

Alright, that's a wrap. Just to give everyone a heads up, I may or may not be hosting next week's issue. It should be due out sometime Friday or Saturday, but I'll be on vacation. Things are further complicated by the fact that next week is a feature week. I expect to write the feature and hopefully have a fellow staffer help me out with the column. After next week, the following issue, or possibly two issues, will be entirely done by a guest host. I'll still be on vacation, visting my family in their new place in Virginia, so be nice to whomever hosts for me.

I'm at the last level in Rogue Agent -- the game went really fast, but it was thoroughly enjoyable hand-held FPS fun. Yesterday, I started playing the original Legend of Zelda. I played it a bunch when I was a kid, always getting to Ganon, but never beating him. Perhaps with this play-through, I'll finally beat this game.

Elliot "Ganon's arse is mine" Guisinger

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