Data Filter: The News You Need in Easy-to-Swallow Gel Cap Form
Whassup?: British pub GamesRadar.com is reporting that at a Japanese
semiconductor trade event, Sony officials announced that it plans to put its
Cell processor into mass production late in 2005. This seems to indicate that
the PS3, which uses the Cell as its core processor, will not come until
sometime in 2006.
So What?: Despite the possibility that this tidbit is strategic
misinformation on Sony's part, it seems that analyst predictions of a
2005 launch for the next generation of PS3 was wishful thinking. If the
report is true, it opens the door for Microsoft and GameCube to pre-empt
Sony, if only slightly. Given the complexity and high production value
expectations of the next generation of hardware, it still seems unlikely
that compelling showpiece titles would be available for any of the
contenders by Christmas 2005 anyway.
Whassup?: Internet gaming provider Game Universe partners with women's
mega-site iVillage to provide a games channel that includes downloadables,
league play, and pay-to-play action. Both companies will share revenues on
the project, which is aiming to exploit the latest findings from the ESA
showing that more than 26% of gamers are women 18 or older.
So What?: This will be an interesting experiment in directing casual games
to a female audience, which does indeed compose a large share of online
casual players. Still, the oft-quoted ESA figures purporting to show the new
diversity of gaming do not distinguish paying from non-paying players.
Whether women are ready to pay even to enjoy their favorite casual games
online seems unlikely in a medium where wanna-have content just
Whassup?: Midway gets sued by investors. A class action suit by New York
firm Cauley Geller contends that Midway executives issued misleading and
incomplete statements about the health of the company and its ability to
release titles in a timely manner.
So What?: It is tough to see how investors have failed to see in
Midway's quarterly reports that the company is in trouble. It is not
getting product out the door. Roadkill got fairly good reviews recently, but
titles keep getting pushed, leaving Midway with some slight earnings reports.
In its last quarterly report, Midway had $5 million in revenues, down from
$28 million and lowered expectations on sales of several titles.
Whassup?: Nintendo fights back, sort of. Claiming that its new $99 price
point for the GameCube raised orders from some retailers fourfold, the home
of Mario also began a $50 million branding campaign. The "Who Are
You?" ads highlight some of Nintendo's signature character
properties as vehicles for exploring a range of emotions. Investors have
their own question: "Where's the money?"
Nintendo warned it is likely to post its first loss this year...ever.
So What?: The GC price drop and even the ad campaign have the smoky aroma
of a fire sale in advance of new hardware announcements and perhaps early
development of the next-gen Nintendo. By focusing on characters and
generic qualities of the Nintendo ethos, this campaign seems to be laying
groundwork for the next round of consoles and not necessarily pushing the
notoriously shallow GC library.
Whassup?: Game Show Network is revamping its reputation as the land of lost
bad shows (who watches 1975 reruns of Joker's Wild anyway?). A block
of video game programs at 5 pm on Thursdays and weekends will include
Gamer.tv (see Pitch Zone, p. 3) and segments from editors at GameSpy
So What?: With much better household penetration and more of a crossover
audience than the fledgling G4, Game Show Network's game coverage
bears watching. The GSN game show block will be hosted by semi-celeb
boob-fest Carmen Nicole, so don't expect any gamer stereotypes to
be slain here. Positioning it at 5 pm seems to be half-hearted support
for the notion that video game programming will liven up the GSN line-up.
Who is watching anything at 5 pm?
Whassup?: Yahoo! Games is partnering with Microsoft for fee-based digital
delivery of Age of Mythology, Flight Simulator 3 and 2004, and others,
bringing the Yahoo Games on Demand slate to more than 100 titles. Meanwhile,
peer-to-peer digital distributor Trymedia claimed that by the end of the
year, digital distribution of commercial titles will have grown large enough
to have an impact on overall PC sales.
So What?: Research firm IDC estimates that digital downloads will amount
to $760 million in revenues by 2007, which means that in three years the
platform will be as important to publishers as rental revenues are now,
so let's not hold our breath. While Microsoft did give Yahoo a couple
of current titles, for the most part digital is being used as a second
release window for older or underperforming titles. We think this
channel could best be used for expansion and add-on packs, especially
as shelf space for PC titles contracts.
Whassup?: Publicly-traded small and medium publishers have been treated to
weird stock fluctuations in recent weeks off of investor speculation about
industry consolidation and buy-outs. Acclaim, Bam, and Interplay are among
the companies that have seen their penny stocks spike and often decline
as buyers warmed and then cooled to the idea that they could make a
quick profit off of takeover stock offers.
So What?: Which only goes to show that there's a lot of dumb money
Regardless the Take2 buy-out of TDK, which did reward stockholders with a
premium on their shares, most publishers are just plain bad buys because of
the debt they carry. We won't name names, but among the companies
most likely to buy the farm after Christmas, few have valuable properties
left, or at least brands that they haven't sullied so badly that no
other publisher could revive them.
Video Rental (Week Ending Sept. 28, 2003)
Rank Last Week Title\Publisher\Platform Week's Revenue
1 1 Madden 2004\EA Sports\PS2 $0.29
2 2 Soul Caliber II\Namco\PS2 $0.15
3 3 NCAA Football 2004\EA Sports\PS2 $0.13
4 8 Enter the Matrix\Atari\PS2 $0.09
5 6 Midnight Club II\Take2\PS2 $0.09
6 10 Madden 2004\EA Sports\Xbox $0.09
7 7 ESPN NFL Football 2004\Sega\PS2 $0.08
8 4 Soul Caliber II\Namco\Xbox $0.07
9 11 Deer Hunt 2004\Activision\PS2 $0.07
10 9 Star Wars KOTOR\Lucas\Xbox $0.07
Rank Last Week Title\Publisher\Platform Total Revenue
1 1 Madden 2004\EA Sports\PS2 $2.15
2 2 Soul Caliber II\Namco\PS2 $1.04
3 3 NCAA Football 2004\EA Sports\PS2 $2.61
4 8 Enter the Matrix\Atari\PS2 $9.02
5 6 Midnight Club II\Take2\PS2 $6.77
6 10 Madden 2004\EA Sports\Xbox $0.74
7 7 ESPN NFL Football 2004\Sega\PS2 $0.34
8 4 Soul Caliber II\Namco\Xbox $0.53
9 11 Deer Hunt 2004\Activision\PS2 $0.29
10 9 Star Wars KOTOR\Lucas\Xbox $1.44
Source Video Software Dealers Association/Rentrak
Enter the Matrix bounces back up the rental charts this week, perhaps off the release of the movie trailers for the next movie installment. Interestingly and perhaps foreshadowing September sales figures, Sega manages to chip away just a tad at EA's Madden football dominance. Activision's Deer Hunt is a revealing surprise, an out-of-core title that seems to be grabbing interest in the rental venues. As we have said before, if publishers and rental stores can make the model work for both parties, the video store could and should be an excellent place to grab casual and family audiences for titles that might get lost elsewhere. In fact, video distributor Rentrak announced recently that it singed two small publishers, Encore and Dreamcatcher Interactive into its video game revenue sharing plan, Video Game Essentials. The company claims that about 17 publishers are involved in the plan now.
UK Game Bestsellers
Rank Last Week Title\Publisher % Sales Share by Platform
1 * Soul Caliber II\Namco GC-38;PS2-34;XB-28
2 1 Conflict Desert Storm II\SCI PS2-64;XB-28;PC-8
3 * Tiger Woods 2004\EA PS2-59;XB-29;PC-6;GC-5
4 2 Colin McRae Rally '04\Codemasters PS2-69;XB-31
5 5 Eye Toy: Play\Sony PS2-100
6 4 Rugby 2004\EA PS2-88;PC-12
7 * C&C Generals Zero Hour\EA PC-100
8 * Freedom Fighters\EA PS2-61;XB-27;PC-7;GC-5
9 * MOH: Breakthrough\EA PC-100
10 7 FIFA 2003\EA PS2-58;PS1-13;XB-12
New releases shake up sales considerably in the land where nobody gives a fig about Madden. They do care about Link's presence in Soul Caliber II, however, as the GameCube version of the game with its exclusive tie-in to the Zelda franchise outsells even the PS2 version. In fact, the Namco strategy of making characters exclusive to each platform seems to have paid off big in producing the most even sales shares across platforms we have seen. Otherwise, the platform shares suggest considerable momentum for the Xbox and dwindling interest in GameCube.
[Copyright 2003 PBI Media, LLC. All rights reserved.]
COPYRIGHT 2003 PBI Media, LLC
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group