Currents Top Ten I Nintendo Makes Wireless a Little Easier I California Gaming Bill Signed into Law I PSP Catches Cold I GameStop-EB Merger Finalized I Sub-Par Holiday Game Sales Predicted I Pokémon Reaches New Heights I Stock Ticker
Issue #23 Torta Di Cioccolato Tedesca October 8, 2005

Front Page

The only thing better than German chocolate cake is German chocolate cake in Italian, if that makes any sense. Either way, it should provide you with enough clues to accurately translate the title of this week's column.

In other news, I don't like cake.

Furthermore, my Geostigma seems to be rapidly clearing up. My wings have shrunken considerably, though they've turned purple and moved to my back. My feathers have been shed, but now I'm growing this strange white fuzz all over my body. Another thing that's got me a bit concerned is this odd little red ball that's somehow been attached to the top of my head with a small, thin wire. Call me crazy, but I think it actually grew out of me. Ah well, I'm sure that this too shall pass. In the meantime, have yourself a column.

 Currents Top Ten

Due to a small mix up and running out of time and options, this week's Top Ten is a blast from the past. Meaning that instead of game sales, as I usually have, I'm having to resort to game rentals like I did for the first few issues of Currents. I apologize for any inconvenience, but it was either this or nothing, so smile and eat your cake.

It's not hard to see that Electronic Arts is dominating console rentals with 60% of the games on this list having been published by the software gaming giant. Way to go, EA.

It's also interesting to see how similar this list is to, say, a Top Ten featuring actual sales a few weeks ago. Evidently, a sales chart is a glimpse into the future for a rental chart. Either that or these games are just so popular that people don't care about the newer games coming out and just want to keep re-renting the same older games. But if you're going to do that, then why not just buy them? I suppose everyone has their reasons, and in this case it's to EA's advantage.

Position Title Publisher Platform
1 Madden NFL 06 EA Sports
2 Madden NFL 06 EA Sports
3 NCAA Football 06 EA Sports
4 Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Lockdown Ubisoft
5 The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction VU Games
6 Burnout Revenge Electronic Arts
7 Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Rockstar Games
8 Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Lockdown Ubisoft
9 NASCAR 06: Total Team Control EA Sports
10 Burnout Revenge Electronic Arts

Source: GameSpot

 Nintendo Makes Wireless a Little Easier


So you have a Nintendo DS, and you're already dreaming of driving around, shooting turtle shells at your friends in Mario Kart DS next month, only there's one little problem. You don't have, nor are anywhere near, a wireless hotspot. No hotspot means no online portable game play -- at least until now. And you can thank Nintendo's recently-revealed Wi-Fi USB dongle for that.

This USB connector is probably just what you're imagining it to be. It's a small device with a USB plug on one end that fits snuggly into any available USB port on your broadband-connected PC (sorry, Mac users -- the connector only supports Windows machines at this time). Once activated, this connector then detects your computer's internet connection and transmits it wirelessly for your DS to connect to. Simple as that.

The Wi-Fi USB connector will be sold individually and is set to hit North American store shelves on November 14, along side the online-enabled Mario Kart DS. Though no pricing details have yet been released for this hemisphere, the connector is expected to sell for roughly $50 in Japan. And if the only games you play online with your DS are first-party Nintendo games, that's all you'll pay for the service; Nintendo mentioned earlier that it had no plans for charging online fees for its own titles. Third-party developers, however, may use their own discretion when deciding whether to charge for online play.

 California Gaming Bill Signed into Law

It's finally happened. Months after being brought to the floor in the California legislature, Leland Yee's bill restricting sales of mature games to minors, after easily passing in both of the state's houses of congress, has been signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger.

The law, which goes into effect on January 1, requires retailers to label all violent games with a two-inch-by-two-inch sticker displaying a "solid white '18' outlined in black" on the front of the game. This is more than twice the size of the ESRB labels currently displayed on video games.

The bill describes a "violent game" as a "game in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being." Retailers who violate this new law will be subject to a $1000 fine.

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) isn't going down quietly, however. They responded to the law in a statement. "We are disappointed that politicians of both parties chose to toss overboard the First Amendment and free artistic and creative expression in favor of political expediency," said ESA president Doug Lowenstein. "[The violent games bill] is punitive against retailers, will waste limited taxpayer dollars, and when it is struck down by the courts, as has been the fate of similar statutes, parents will be no better off for this effort to damage one of the state's fastest growing and most exciting industries that is providing some of the most compelling entertainment in the world today." The ESA is already planning to strike back at the bill to have it deemed unconstitutional, which has happened in the past with other states that passed similar measures.

Those disappointed in this decision may, however, be able to find solace by discussing the irony of how the man who signed this violent games bill into law previously made millions of dollars by starring in violent movies, which by the way, are not restricted from minors by law.

California joins Illinois and Michigan as states that have successfully passed mature gaming legislation. Oklahoma and Mississippi are now considering joining the fray as well.

Source: GameSpot

 PSP Catches Cold

It was probably inevitable, given the PSP's high capacity for doing all sorts of things, but that doesn't make this story any better. Security experts over at the anti-virus software company, Symantec, have discovered a Trojan virus designed specifically to render useless Sony's PlayStation Portable.

On Symantec's own virus threat scale (1 being the lowest threat; 5, the highest), this PSP Trojan scores a 1. There also have yet to be any confirmed cases of infection.

The virus file, Trojan.PSPBrick, is disguised as a type of PSP hack and must be intentionally downloaded and installed by the user in order to take effect. The program then deletes essential firmware files from the PSP's memory, wiping out the handheld's operating system and all functionality, without hope for repair. Such an occurrence also voids any Sony-sponsored warranties.

Source: The Globe and Mail

 GameStop-EB Merger Finalized

The last step in the merger approval process for game retail giants, EB Games and GameStop has passed successfully. The shareholders of both companies have approved the merger and given it a go. The two companies will officially merge over the weekend and go under the name GameStop Corp. This merger is worth an estimated $1.44 billion and will spawn an additional 4,000 new stores worldwide.

This merger will result in the formation of the nation's largest video game-focused retailer, as the company will command about one-fourth of the entire gaming market. The company will also dominate the used-game market, though competition may begin to stiffen up with Best Buy beginning preliminary tests of its own used-game program.

Source: GameSpot

 Sub-Par Holiday Game Sales Predicted

Market research group, FBR, is foreseeing what many other market analysts have foreseen: a less-than-stellar holiday sales performance -- at least compared with last year's nice pay off.

Evidently, retailers are getting a little about nervous about the fourth quarter and abstaining from huge stock orders to avoid excess post-holiday merchandise. Most likely this is a result of the hurricane disasters and spikes in oil prices. Furthermore, September game sales, which have yet to be released, are expected to be fairly low.

The overall fourth-quarter sales this year are expected to be somewhat lower than last year's (by about 5 percent) also because of a relatively weak holiday line-up. Q4 2004 had monstrous hits such as San Andreas and Halo 2, which this year just can't compete with.

Though the overall industry is expected to lose this season, that doesn't necessarily mean all game publishers will be down for the count. FBR expects Activision and Electronic Arts to see pretty good year-end results this year, thanks to strong holiday line-ups.

Source: GameSpot

 Pokémon Reaches New Heights


With the latest title to bear the Pokémon name, Gale of Darkness, having just hit stores, the franchise is also reaching a new landmark in sales. To date, the series is teetering on the edge of selling its 150 millionth game.

Pokémon games alone have made Nintendo $15 billion richer since the first sale of the first game. And no game in the series has ever sold less than 1 million units. Clearly, gamers all over the world are no strangers to "catching 'em all."

 Stock Ticker

I don't think I'd be totally off base if I said that the market had seen better weeks, but it could always be worse. More companies are in the red than not this week; however, those that made it into the green did so by quite a margin. So congrats to them.

The biggest dip for the week goes to Nintendo, which just lowered its expected operating profits for the year. So I suppose this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Sega, however, is seeing the largest green number at a 60-cent increase, followed closely behind by Midway with a 57-cent increase.

It seems that analysts' predictions about dismal holiday sales are starting to show up in the form of the stock prices here. Overall, we've been seeing a gradual decrease, despite the occasional brighter days, through the last few months. The more I see of this trend, the more appealing investing in a mutual fund sounds. Happy investing.

Parentheses denote negative numbers. Prices as of market closing 10.07.2005

Symbol Company Market Standing Change
SNE Sony NYSE 33.05 (0.11)
MSFT Microsoft Nasdaq 24.59 (0.14)
NTDOY Nintendo PNK 14.25 (0.40)
ERTS Electronic Arts Nasdaq 52.77 (0.31)
SQNXF Square Enix PNK 27.76 (0.09)
KNM Konami NYSE 21.70 0.02
ATVI Activision Nasdaq 19.54 (0.27)
MWY Midway NYSE 15.69 0.57
SGAMY Sega PNK 19.15 0.60
UBSFF Ubi Soft PNK 52.85 (0.16)

Source: CNN Money

 Back Page

Enjoy the cake? Me neither. But at least you got to have it and eat it too.

I think I've managed to squeeze some quality game-playing time into my life, which makes me a happy man. I logged a few solid hours in Final Fantasy XI this week and I hope to do plenty more. If you see me around in the game, shoot me 'wazzup' and I'll sick a mob of goblins on you. We'll laugh, we'll cry; it'll be good fun.

Elliot "Moogle-rific" Guisinger

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