Currents Top Ten I Blizzard: 1, Hackers: 0 I HD-DVD Launch Delay Possible I PSP Sales High in Europe, Oceana I Mountain Dew Helps Promote 360 I Former EA Staff Start New Studio I Square Enix Puts Moves on Taito I Stock Ticker
Issue #19 Agnus Dei September 3, 2005

Front Page

Long time, no see folks. After a nearly-month-long hiatus, Currents returns once again. A series of hooks and snags led to the absence of the column, but it's your friendly neighborhood Currents Columnist that's bringing it back. *Pauses for cheers* Thank you, thank you -- you're too kind.

Since we last er... spoke, I've moved back into the dormitories at school in Nebraska and have resumed classes. Those of you who live for reality TV can see my school's beautiful campus on the show "Tommy Lee Goes to College" Tuesdays on NBC. No, I didn't meet Tommy Lee while he was here filming the show, but I did see him and the camera crews several times. In fact, if they didn't cut out the scene, you'll see me on the show having dinner with my girlfriend in the background whilst Mr. Lee has his own dinner -- he lived in the dorm complex that I live in while he was here... before moving into a house. So check it out, it's good fun. Anyway, back to the main event...

 Currents Top Ten

This week is the week of the doubles. Evidently, PS2 and Xbox owners alike enjoy football, ginormous green men, and horror-western shooters a lot. Or at least enough to make the two respective versions of Madden 06, Ultimate Destruction, and Darkwatch land on the top six spots in this week's Top Ten. Despite the last issue being published nearly a month ago, there are a few titles that remain from the previous Top Ten: EA's NCAA 06 and LucasArts' Battlefront. I don't know what has been keeping Battlefront up there for so long, but let's not mess with it. There's no telling what kind of ungodly power that game wields.

In other, more miraculous news, there's a GameCube game on the list. It looks as though nostalgia pays off, or at least it does in the case of Sonic Gems Collection. It always amazes me to see how well ports and rehashes of old games from generations ago can hold their own in this market that's teetering over the edge into the next generation. Good show.

Position Title Publisher Platform
1 Madden NFL 06 EA Sports
2 Madden NFL 06 EA Sports
3 The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction VU Games
4 The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction VU Games
5 Darkwatch Capcom
6 Darkwatch Capcom
7 Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 Summit Strike Ubisoft
8 Star Wars: Battlefront LucasArts
9 Sonic Gems Collection Sega
10 NCAA Football 06 EA Sports

Source: GameSpot

 Blizzard: 1, Hackers: 0


Last October, Blizzard Entertainment was fighting a legal battle against Ross Combs and Rob Crittenden, hackers who reverse-engineered the company's Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft games to play online on non-Blizzard servers. The trial judge who presided over the case ruled in Blizzard's favor, citing that the programmers' "circumvention in this case constitutes infringement." The defendants promptly filed an appeal.

This week, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, in a 3-0 decision, upheld the ruling made last year and stated that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act makes the altering of Blizzard's games to connect to unofficial servers illegal. The Court of Appeals also brought up the user agreement that Combs and Crittenden agreed to when installing Blizzard software, which expressly prohibits reverse-engineering of the company's games.

In order to help prevent piracy of its games, Blizzard requires players of its games to connect through the site, which allows pirated copies to be identified. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act prohibits circumventing antipiracy measures such as these, even though the defendants' main purpose for hacking the game was reportedly to improve playability and online response-times.

Paul Sams, COO of Blizzard said this of the case: "By again ruling in our favor on every count, the court is reiterating the message that creating unauthorized servers which emulate Blizzardís servers is without question illegal... We have worked hard to provide gamers with a free and secure environment on, and this ruling further validates that we are justified in protecting our service and our players. In addition, it represents another major victory against software piracy."

Source: GameSpot

 HD-DVD Launch Delay Possible

The fight between Sony and Toshiba over the next-generation disc medium has been waging behind closed doors for years, Sony's format being the 50-gigabyte Blu-ray disc and Toshiba's being the 30-gigabyte HD-DVD. Up until now it looked as though one of Toshiba's main advantages -- a sooner launch date -- may be at risk for failing.

"We are now in talks with Hollywood studios and large-scale retailers to seek the most effective timing of the launch and best way to launch," said a Toshiba spokeswoman. "We originally aimed for the year-end launch in the United States. But we have not really decided on that."

The next-gen media format war can be felt as far out as the console wars with Sony's PlayStation 3 supporting the Blu-ray disc and Microsoft considering adding an HD-DVD drive to later versions of the Xbox 360. As of now, the 360's game medium is the DVD-ROM. Sony and Toshiba, despite bickering over their proprietary disc formats, are working very closely together on the PS3's Cell processor.

Source: GameSpot

 PSP Sales High in Europe, Oceana

Since the last issue of Currents, the PSP was released in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, evidently to some very eager crowds. Mirroring the American launch of the system earlier this year and the Japanese launch last year, this launch was filled with hundreds of gamers waiting in line for hours. According to some retailers, preorders for the PSP were completely sold out weeks before the launch. Some retailers even opened shop at midnight to accomodate the handheld gaming appetites of Europeans and Australians.

According to BBC News, some people waited in line for as long as 12 hours for the PSP. About one million units of the system should be available for the two regions.

"What is very clear is that the [PSP] has had a very strong launch, with virtually no stock," said a representative from European investment banking group Altium. Altium also made some predictions about the PSP's effect on the upcoming Xbox 360 launch, stating that the 360 will have a negative effect on the game market because it's priced too high.

Source: GameSpot

 Mountain Dew Helps Promote 360

Xbox 360

Pepsi and Microsoft have gotten together to offer gamers and Mountain Dew drinkers an opportunity to get a jump on the next generation. The promotion, called Every 10 Minutes, gives away a free Xbox 360 console every 10 minutes. To make the deal even sweeter, winners will receive the system prior to the official launch date as well as their choice of Madden 06 or Need for Speed: Most Wanted. It was not mentioned whether the prize will be the 360 full system or the core system, however.

Source: GameSpot

 Former EA Staff Start New Studio

Electronic Arts

A group of former desigers who once worked for EA Canada founded a new game development studio just one day after quitting their jobs. Phil Weeks, Russell Rice, Steve Tolin, Ryan Bedard, and Brian Tolin created Deep Fried Entertainment officially in June, though the company only just this week made the news public.

Deep Fried will focus its game development on handheld titles and already has a new Nintendo DS concept being pitched at potential publishers. "Some very promising negotiations are in the works," said Deep Fried COO Brenda Bailey. The studio is based in Vancouver.

Source: GameSpot

 Square Enix Puts Moves on Taito

Square Enix

Square Enix announced last week plans to acquire fellow video game company Taito, known best for titles such as Puzzle Bobble and Graffiti Kingdom. The plan right now is for Square Enix to purchase 67% of Taito's stock shares, which comes to about 247,900 shares of the company. There seems to be no particular reason as to why Square Enix chose the ratio 67%, but that's the goal.

If the 67% cannot be attained, then the companies, who are generally in favor of the acquisition, will look for other means to complete the deal. Due to the positive response by both parties, however, it looks as though the deal is all but etched into stone. Once the acquisition is complete, Taito will officially be a subsidiary of Square Enix.


 Stock Ticker

I'm not going to go too deeply into a stock analysis this week since the stock data for the last 3 weeks wasn't published here. Nevertheless, there are still a few interesting things to point out. One is that EA's stocks are down and even lower than they were prior to the release of the juggernaut Madden 06, which opened better than any previous game in the series. It goes to show just how fickle these prices can be. I only wish I had been around to document EA's price jump when the game was released.

As far as the rest of the world, three companies are taking dips, six are going up, and Square Enix is breaking even this week. Sega claims the crown for biggest increase at $0.55, which isn't particularly spectacular -- but it's better than a decrease. On the other end, Ubi Soft gets the duncecap for biggest decrease at $0.59. None of the numbers are straying too far from the break-even point, however, so it's all fairly stable this week.

Parentheses denote negative numbers. Prices as of market closing 09.02.2005

Symbol Company Market Standing Change
SNE Sony NYSE 34.09 0.23
MSFT Microsoft Nasdaq 27.02 (0.18)
NTDOY Nintendo PNK 13.55 0.20
ERTS Electronic Arts Nasdaq 57.42 (0.52)
SQNXF Square Enix PNK 27.71 0.00
KNM Konami NYSE 23.15 0.05
ATVI Activision Nasdaq 22.76 0.06
MWY Midway NYSE 15.19 0.21
SGAMY Sega PNK 19.25 0.55
UBSFF Ubi Soft PNK 52.07 (0.59)

Source: CNN Money

 Back Page

I can't believe summer is already over and I'm back on campus. It all went by so fast. Oh well, life goes on I suppose -- plus I'll be graduating in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in Economics, so that's something to look forward to. I just wish I had more time to focus on things other than school, like RPGs. I'm still haven't beaten Half-Life 2 since moving into the dorms sucked away a week's worth of my free time. I've also got Elder Scrolls 3 and the ever-cute Nintendogs to keep me busy. To top it all off, though, I just started reading The DaVinci Code. I'm nearly half-way through it and it's a really good, hard-to-put-down book. I highly recommend it.

I definitely have my hands full, so I'm going to head out so as to wring out a few more drops of free time for my life. Stay safe and try to see if you can do something to help out Louisiana -- they're in a lot of trouble down there, and every little bit can go a long way. Thanks.

Elliot "Cracking the code" Guisinger

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