Video Games

Grin and Bear It

smiley%20face.jpg Practice saying it with us, “Our fund lost x% in the month of July/August.” Now, try it in a mirror. Were you smiling? Even though you’ve probably frozen redemption requests, investors see that big ole frown as a sign that something is really awry, opposed to the overwhelming cascade of economic indicators.
Fortunately there’s a new Nintendo DS game on the horizon that is designed to exercise your facial muscles so that you can smile while issuing the most bearish of fund reports.
The game, called “Face Training,” is packaged with a digital camera peripheral. With a little practice, your frown can turn upside down, unlike the market, from amNewYork:

The 16 types of exercises called “facening,” designed by beauty expert Fumiko Inudo, take about two to 10 minutes each to complete. Nintendo Co., the Kyoto-based maker of Pokemon and Super Mario games, recommends playing “Face Training” no longer than 15 minutes at a time to avoid overexerting face muscles or getting them “out of balance.”
Besides the animation that serves as a model for players, an electronic voice resembling an aerobics instructor guides you to twist your mouth, drop your jaw, wink, glare at the ceiling and perform other moves to tighten flabby cheeks and develop that bright-eyed look.
“Open your mouth slightly, one, two, three, four,” the machine says during one exercise.

The game comes with a built-in audience in the financial sector, as the soothing voice of a man counting off while you try and keep an orifice open is the most popular I-banking lullaby.
New Game Exercises Muscles for Smiles [amNewYork]

  • 26 Jul 2007 at 12:44 PM
  • Sony

Sony’s 83-year Plan to Reestablish Console Dominance

sony.jpg Sony is on the cusp (in the glacial sense) of reemerging as the dominant home console maker with a hefty 21% gain in PS3 sales from May to June. It looks like chopping $100 off the staggeringly short-sighted $599 “I can buy two Wiis and two games for this” initial price worked. The Blu-Ray revolution is here, a format so innovative that it can properly eulogize the Mini-Disc and UMD.
The PS2 is famously cited as selling over 100 million units, averaging over 15 million units sold per year. To contrast, Sony sold 98,500 PS3s in June. SeekingAlpha points out (was not too lazy to do the math) that at this pace, it will take 83 years to sell 100 million consoles, a shade off the 5-6 year time frame Sony execs projected. Monthly PS3 sales would have to increase over 1500% to about 1.65 million to hit the century mark by 2013. That 21% sales “surge” looks a little empty in context.
Sony reports that its $100 price cut has shot (unreleased) PS3 sales up 135%, although the slashed $499 console is soon to be phased out, displaced with a “new and improved” $599 version. “New and improved” defined by Sony is 20GB more on a hard drive, boldly charging $100 for about a $10 manufacturing cost difference (got to make up those negative margins somewhere).
Microsoft balked on announcing an Xbox 360 price cut during E3 this year, but there are rumors that Microsoft will slash $50 sometime in August. The Core Xbox 360 costs $299.
The Wii-coup is almost complete, and Nintendo holds almost half the next-gen home console market, completing the first to worst to first circle. The Wii sold more than twice the number of Xbox 360s sold last month, which sold more than twice the number of PS3s.
Game Over For Sony In The Console Wars [SeekingAlpha]
PS3 Price Cut Is Fake [DigitalBattle]
Xbox 360 Price Cut Coming? [SlipperyBrick]

ojsimpsontaketwo.jpgHow do you follow up a 1-2-3 punch of your piece de resistance, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, being pulled by retailers for offensive material, shitty 2007 fiscals, and a duo of guilty pleas by former employees for falsifying business records in connection with improper backdating of employee stock options? With a video game featuring one of America’s most famous and smugly “not-guilty guilty” killers, that’s how!
That’s right, Take-Two, those paragons of decency and good taste, have knocked it out of the park with their latest sports video game, All-Pro Football 2K8, which allows gamers to play as The Assassins’ O.J. Simpson. Oh, and when Juice scores a touchdown, a hooded mascot makes stabbing motions with a large knife, probably suitable for killing an adulterous ex-wife and her lover and then getting away with it. (That’s just a for instance. You could also use it to cut steak). Thestreet.com estimates that Take-Two paid Simpson “anywhere between $50,000 and $125,000,” for his work.
Shares of Take-Two were recently down 0.6% (14 cents), to $20.29.
Take-Two Game Has O.J. Simpson — and a Knife [thestreet.com]

Because most movies now are just bad video games anyway

ET.jpg Brash Entertainment, a start-up focused on movie-based video games, raised $400mm from Abry, New York Life Capital and PPM America. Brash reportedly has 12 games in the pipeline and 40 film licenses to work with, stemming from deals with five film studios. Brash is taking the road less traveled when it comes to adapting a film into a complete clunker of a video game. Activision can have its Spider-man games and EA can have its Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings games (the LoTR online game, currently in beta, is perhaps the only sure-fire upcoming film inspired video game success) and Brash will stick with more counter intuitive adaptations. Adaptations like the Saw horror-flick franchise, because there’s nothing quite like directing your own torture sequences with the Wii-mote.
The “brains” behind Brash Entertainment include a long list of Hollywood veterans. Brash co-founder Thomas Tull is chairman of Legendary Pictures and helped finance a slew of the most video game-esque movies to hit the screen (Superman Returns, Batman Begins, Aqua-man Hesitates, Iron Man Oxidizes Badly, and 300).
Video games based on movies have been almost universally horrid since the ET game for the Atari set the bar with its unplayable interpretation (or Beckett inspired dilemma) of ET as a green blob that aspires to repeatedly fall into holes to find spaceship parts, yet can’t escape the first one.
Although critically panned, video game film adaptations can perform well commercially, as half-billion dollar budgets these days can provide enough marketing muscle to brainwash anyone.
The Brash Entertainment website is brashly underdeveloped, with a lone quote from Mitch Davis, Chairman and CEO, who vows that:

By bringing together Hollywood’s brightest creative talent and the game industry’s most innovative independent game development studios, our experienced production team will realize the full potential of today’s most popular films and television shows.

A Start-Up’s Risky Niche: Movie-Based Videogames [Wall Street Journal]

Good news for people with orc-ish credit history

elf.jpg First National Bank in conjunction with Blizzard Entertainment, publisher of World of Warcraft (WoW), is set to release a World of Warcraft Rewards Visa. This is the first deal of this kind between a bank and an online computer game. Unfortunately, the “rewards” don’t include a visit from an especially voluptuous Night Elf or a primer on emoticons as aphrodisiacs. Instead you get boringly tangible game-time. You get $0.01 toward your WoW monthly sub fee of $14.99 for every $1 spent on the Visa. WoW players like the option of killing two birds with one stone – you spend $1499 on a real life replica of the vampiric runeblade Frostmourne on QVC and spend another month alone in your basement.
Many companies are trying to take advantage of a unique pool of pre-selected sedentary consumers new advertising opportunities in online gaming, from the variety of sponsored locations in Second Life to perhaps the most famous example in 2005 when Sony Online Entertainment cut a deal with Pizza Hut that let you order pizza in Everquest II.
Bank offering World of Warcraft Visa card – [Gamespot]

A 50k Parking Ticket

Capitol Distributing, a video game distributor, has settled a civil suit with the SEC for a video game “parking” scheme involving Take-Two Interactive, developer of the Grand Theft Auto series. Take-Two would wait until the end of its quarter, ship a bunch of units to Capitol Distributing and then book the shipments as revenue even though Capitol would just hold the games with no intention of selling. Capitol would then return the games to Take-Two with a false invoice labeled ‘purchases’ of ‘assorted products.’ This practice resulted in $15mm in revenue for Take-Two over four separate instances.
In the settlement, Terry Phillips, founder of Capitol, agreed to pay a $50k fine, and the company, “without admitting or denying the SEC allegations,” just had to agree not to violate the law (sounds like a plan).
Coinciding with the release of Bully, Take-Two has been in the principal’s office a lot lately. Last month the SEC started investigating Take-Two’s option grants and in June 2005 four Take-Two execs settled with the SEC over accounting violations.
Take-Two (TTWO: Nasdaq) has been flat in daily trading.
SEC Issues ‘Video Game Parking’ Ticket – [CFO.com]

  • 01 May 2007 at 2:10 PM
  • Sony

If you don’t buy this console, we’ll kill this goat

sonygoatMS2804_468x448.jpg What can save Sony’s console franchise? A bacchanalian festival with decapitated goats and topless women! Unfortunately, not every consumer is on board with the new marketing strategy. Sony has recalled the 80,000 print run of its Playstation Magazine for an article about the “God of War II” European launch party. From Gizmondo:

The article, based on a Sony Press release, shows more vivid pictures from the event under headlines such as Topless Girls! and Flesh Eating? It asks readers how far they would go to get hold of Sony’s next-generation console, the PlayStation 3.
“How about eating still warm intestines uncoiled from the carcass of a freshly slaughtered goat? At the party to celebrate God Of War II’s European release, members of the Press were invited to do just that…”

What a party, although people were overheard saying, “I bet killing this goat would’ve been more fun with the Wii-mote.” Sony’s party defense is two-pronged:
-Sure there’s a decapitated goat – but the goat was already decapitated when the company found it
-Sure you can see a woman’s nipples – but she is wearing a “top” of fresh body paint
Slaughter: Horror at Sony’s depraved promotion stunt with decapitated goat – [Daily Mail]

PlayStation creator retires, frees up time to play Wii

ken kutaragi.jpg Ken Kutaragi, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment and creator of the PlayStation, announced that he is retiring yesterday. He will officially step down in June. This is indicative of just how bad things are at Sony, as Kutaragi is the human face of the PlayStation. This would be like Nintendo distancing itself from Shigeru Miyamoto (designer of Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda) – or at least not letting him give company presentations. More on the story, from CNet:

Kutaragi is one of the most celebrated figures in consumer electronics history, having shipped more than 200 million PlayStation and PlayStation 2 consoles, as well as the PlayStation Portable. Some analysts believe that had the PS3 been perceived as a hit or even a mild hit, there’s a good chance he would be sticking around for the full 10-year lifecycle Sony gives its consoles.
But the PS3 is widely seen as a commercial flop, given its third-place position among next-generation video game consoles, trailing Microsoft’s second-place Xbox 360 and the surprising leader, Nintendo’s genre-busting Wii. The PS3 is even trailing sales of the venerable PlayStation 2 at this point.

Sony says sayonara to father of PlayStation – [CNet]