Currents Top Ten I 'Site Down' Arrests Eight I Activision and Marvel to Make Babies I SAG Signs Voice Acting Deal I COLLADA Approved as Standard I Sony Ups PS2/PSP Shipments I Stock Ticker
Issue #17 A Rusty Crowbar to the Loins July 30, 2005

Front Page

Wow. I recently acquired a copy of Half-Life 2 and it's as good as people say, indeed. I know the game is super-old news, but I'm a cheapskate who waits for games to drop in price before I buy them. I did save $25 bucks doing it this way, though. Anyway, if you've played every available RPG on the market, don't know what to do now, and have yet to taste the sweet, sweet nectar that is Half-Life 2, go play it. It's quite a treat.

Oh right, you're probably here for the column. Well read this first, THEN go play Half-Life 2. This is a juicy one that you won't want to miss, and besides, it's free.

 Currents Top Ten

Well this looks familiar. Oh right, I saw it last week -- almost. All of the games that were here last week return this week with the exception of Conker having been traded in for the PS2 version of Flatout. The order is a little mixed up from last week, too. EA's NCAA game continues to claim first and second place for the PS2 and XBox, respectively. The Halo 2 expansion, Destroy All Humans!, and Battlefront also retain their positions from last week.

The biggest change in the order goes to Pirates!, which dropped from fourth to tenth this week. I'm also surprised to see that Battlefront is still even on the list. I suspected this was another fluke similar to what we saw a while ago with Paper Mario 2. I guess not.

Position Title Publisher Platform
1 NCAA Football 06 EA Sports
2 NCAA Football 06 EA Sports
3 Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack Microsoft Game Studios
4 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Rockstar Games
5 FlatOut Empire Interactive / VU Games
6 FlatOut Empire Interactive / VU Games
7 Destroy All Humans! THQ
8 Fantastic 4 Activision
9 Star Wars: Battlefront LucasArts
10 Sid Meier's Pirates! 2K Games

Source: GameSpot

 'Site Down' Arrests Eight

In an effort to nip media piracy in the bud, the FBI launched a campaign called Operation Site Down earlier this year. The operation goes after hackers and pirates who illegally copy and distribute copyrighted music, movies, and games through the internet. The campaign specifically targets the top of the chain by going after the "first providers" who distribute the media that spreads through the world wide web like wildfire.

This week, the FBI arrested eight people after a series of 'Site Down' raids. The alleged offenders were arraigned in a federal court in North Carolina -- each one charged either with criminal copyright infringement or with conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement.

"Today's charges strike at the top of the copyright piracy supply chain -- a technologically sophisticated, highly organized distribution network that provides most of the copyrighted software, movies, games, and music illegally distributed over the Internet," said acting Assistant Attorney General John C. Richter to explain the operation.

"This FBI Charlotte undercover operation was successful in identifying and collecting evidence against those individuals who were the primary source of pirated digital material around the globe," commented a DOJ spokesperson.

Source: GameSpot

 Activision and Marvel to Make Babies


Activision announced this week that it has signed an agreement with Marvel Comics. This agreement allows the X-Men Legends publisher to create a "non-persistent role-playing game" that features feature characters licensed by Marvel. The term 'non-persistent' is important as it distinguishes this deal from the MMORPG agreement that Marvel made with Microsoft Game Studios.

Activision's deal with Marvel allows games to be published for consoles as well as PCs, though no specific consoles were named at the time the deal was signed. The first product of the agreement is expected to hit retail shelves by 2007. "We are proud of the success we have had with games based on the Marvel licenses," commented the chairman of Activision Publishing, Ron Doornink. "This agreement further strengthens and helps to solidify our position as the number one publisher of superhero games."

Source: GameSpot

 SAG Signs Voice Acting Deal

The ongoing drama between the Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) and the video game industry may finally be coming to a close this week. As readers may recall, an agreement among the games industry, the SAG, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) was reached a few months ago that increased the wages of voice actors in video game projects. Shortly thereafter, the SAG's executive committee backed the guild out of the agreement, so that the deal was only made between the industry and AFTRA.

This week, it appears that the SAG has once again changed its embattled mind. GameDailyBiz has reported that the guild has finally reached an agreement with the video game industry. The new contract, to be in effect for 3-and-a-half years, grants voice actors a 36 percent minimum wage increase and better benefits and amenities. Like the deal signed with AFTRA, however, this deal does not grant voice actors residuals based on how well a game sells -- the issue most argued over. Voice actors felt they should be granted residuals on games that sell more than 400,000 units.

Source: Slashdot

 COLLADA Approved as Standard


COLLADA (Collaborative Design Activity) is a data format commonly used by content developers and is heavily endorsed by Sony Computer Entertainment. More importantly, though, the format was approved this week as an open standard by the Khronos Group. Sony is such a fan of the format primarily because it believes that it will make programming for its upcoming PlayStation 3 console more efficient and less expensive.

COLLADA is basically an XML-based file format used for quick exchange of assets among content developers. The format was originally created by SCEI to help content developers work with their products across multiple platforms.

"Approved by the Khronos Group as a complementary and necessary addition to their existing family of open standards, COLLADA will be recognized as common data format not only for games, but also for a wider field of cutting-edge graphics creation, such as movies and computer graphics," said Masami Chatani at last week's PlayStation meeting.

Source: GameSpot

 Sony Ups PS2/PSP Shipments


Though Sony recently had its first consecutive quarterly loss in four years, thanks in large part to its video game division, the company plans to send out relief to retailers prone to experiencing console shortages. This week, Sony altered its shipment plan for both the PSP handheld and the PS2 slimline console.

Effectively, the shipments for both systems will be increased by one million units. This means that the company plans to ship out 13 million units for each system by March 31, 2006.

Source: GameSpot

 Stock Ticker

Things look a little better from last week, but not by much. There are still a lot of negative numbers in the fray. Activision, however, has been having a really good week; it increased its price-per-share by $1.38. Sony is keeping its head above water by little more than a nickel.

Midway and Konami are also still in the green, but other than those, it's been a less-than-awesome week for the industry. It looks as though EA's profit boost from the release of NCAA 06 is beginning to level out, but expect another explosion when Madden 06 hits shelves. Now might be a good time to buy some shares of EA and then sell them off when Madden comes out. I'd do it myself, but at nearly 60 bucks per share, I can hardly afford one. Good luck to you if you chance it, though, and make sure you know what you're getting yourself into.

Parentheses denote negative numbers. Prices as of market closing 07.29.2005

Symbol Company Market Standing Change
SNE Sony NYSE 32.51 0.06
MSFT Microsoft Nasdaq 25.61 (0.14)
NTDOY Nintendo PNK 13.30 (0.25)
ERTS Electronic Arts Nasdaq 57.60 (0.85)
SQNXF Square Enix PNK 28.64 (0.47)
KNM Konami NYSE 21.54 0.30
ATVI Activision Nasdaq 20.35 1.38
MWY Midway NYSE 13.04 0.13
SGAMY Sega PNK 15.25 (0.25)
UBSFF Ubi Soft PNK 55.58 (0.12)

Source: CNN Money

 Back Page

Thus, the seventeenth issue of Currents comes to a close. I'm excited to get some good Half-Life 2 time this week. I never played the original Half-Life, but this game makes me want to. Since it's been out for 7 years or so, I was hoping I could get it in a bargain bin for 5 or 10 bucks. I can only find it for $20, though, which is a little more than I'd like to spend for a really old game that I'm only mildly interested in. Oh well, maybe if I wait a little longer I'll get what I want.

Elliot "Gordon Freeman" Guisinger

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