News/Features


Stories of Xbox Live users seeing their accounts hacked and used to make unauthorized purchases have continued to come in at a slow trickle since they were first widely reported last October. But one user has taken to the Internet with a highly personal account of her hacking experience, and what she says was, initially, an almost total lack of help from Microsoft on the matter.

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When credible reports about Zynga’s upcoming IPO filing started flying this July, expectations for the social gaming giant’s value were running $15 billion to $20 billion. Now, with Zynga detailing the offering ahead of trading set to start December 15th, the actual offering price could value the company from $5.9 billion to $6.99 billion, or $7.6 billion to $8.9 billion including employee stock options.

With options included, Zynga’s value will be $7.6 billion to $8.9 billion. That’s bigger than Electronic Arts’ $7.7 billion, but far short of just five months ago. One of the consequences is that some of the investors who invested in February are underwater. Those pre-IPO investors such as Fidelity Investments put money in at $14 per share.

What could have caused such a precipitous change in fortunes in just a matter of months? Here are a few possible explanations:

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“I think it’s dangerous to make blanket statements about the effect of a medium on people when we all have different sensibilities on these things,” Jay told Gamasutra. “It depends on the level of literacy of the person playing the game. For some people they’re going to be distracted by it and bothered by it, and other people are going to report that it’s really not that notable. Perceptions are going to be variable.”

While some curse words, especially the “explicit” ones dealing with sexual and excretory function [i.e. “fuck” and “shit” — ed.], have maintained their strong offensive power pretty consistently for hundreds of years, others like “hell” or “goddamn” have gradually lost much of their effect over the years through frequent, everyday use. Jay said he thinks the same process may be happening with the word “bitch” as it has increasingly entered mainstream use through hip hop and rap culture over the past few decades.

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The game I played most on the E3 show floor this year wasn’t featured in any press conference. It wasn’t promoted with gaudy, costumed booth babes or sequestered behind closed doors, to be played by a select few. In fact, it wasn’t highlighted on even one of the hundreds of demo stations publishers set up for the show. Yet I and hundreds of other attendees found themselves sampling the title in a way only a gathering like E3 could make possible.

The game in question was the Nintendo 3DS’ StreetPass Mii Plaza, a title that shows off both Nintendo’s penchant for unique ideas as well as its seemingly utter inability to provide a meaningful online experience.

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I’d always found people who love the Atari 2600 a little bewildering. Sure, I could understand the power of nostalgia, and on a purely intellectual level I could see their rose-tinted love for Atari’s first home console mirrored my equally rose-tinted love of the Nintendo Entertainment System, which I played obsessively while growing up in the late ’80s and early ’90s. But looking at things as objectively as I could, I just couldn’t see what Atari lovers saw in their system. I recognized that genre-spawning games like Pitfall! and Adventure were revolutionary for their time, but their limited, one-button gameplay and blocky graphics seemed decidedly worse than the likes of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, not to mention the countless, fully realized 3D worlds they eventually spawned. Much as the iPhone 4 is better in every way than the original iPhone, I felt that Atari 2600 games had been rendered obsolete by subsequent titles that were strictly superior in every way.

This phenomenon was a bit troublesome to me as a supporter of the inherent, artistic value of games. After all, plenty of people still love classic novels, classic rock, and black-and-white movies made decades before they were born. Shakespeare and opera and Renaissance painting and classical music have all survived as celebrated works that can move people centuries later, so why couldn’t I appreciate the value of a console that died off just a few years before I started playing videogames? Would kids growing up today see my beloved NES as a similar anachronism that can’t hold a candle to the Wii titles they grew up with? Did the force of nostalgia make anything that came before my first videogame experience defunct by definition?

That’s what I wanted to find out. So, with as open a mindset as I could muster, I decided to track down an old Atari 2600 system and some games, hook them up to my old, unused cathode ray tube TV, and immerse myself in a generation of home gaming that I had previously given only the most cursory and dismissive of glances.

The Escapist’s Susan Arendt recently wrote about the simple, magical joy she found as a child, learning she could control what happened on her TV for the first time. I was going to find out if a 28-year-old – with a lifetime of gaming experience but without the benefit of such Atari-related childhood memories – could capture that same magic roughly three decades later.

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At least four members of IGN Entertainment’s editorial team have been laid off, according to reports coming out of the company today.

Dana Jongewaard, IGN’s editor-in-chief for “expanded audience,” posted on Facebook today that she has left the company after starting there in 2009. During her tenure, Jongewaard worked on IGN’s female-focused Greenpixels site and Girlfight podcast, among other positions.

Fellow Girlfight host and IGN writer Nicole Tanner also confirmed via Twitter that she has been laid off today. The future status of that podcast is unknown at this time.

Gamasutra has also learned that GameSpy editor-in-chief Will Tuttle and editorial team member Scott Bromley have also been let go.

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For the most part, buying a video game system over the past three decades has meant tying yourself to games released in your designated region — North America, Europe or Japan, most commonly. But until recently there’s been one important exception to that rule — portable systems from the original Game Boy to the Nintendo DS could play games from any country without a problem (except, perhaps, for the impenetrable Japanese language).

That bit of regional openness is beginning to change, though, with Nintendo recently announcing that its anticipated 3DS system will only play games released in the same territory as the hardware.

(Full article available in the issue #246 (April 2011) of Electronic Gaming Monthly)

 


The lead counsel for the video game industry in the upcoming Supreme Court fight against California’s proposed violent video game restrictions outlined the problems with the state’s legal arguments in a recent public appearance.

Speaking at an intellectual property forum at Chicago-Kent University last week, Jenner and Block LLP Partner Paul M. Smith said that no matter how a state defines “extreme” violence in such laws, they will run into constitutional problems with vagueness.

“I’ve litigated nine cases in a row where states have tried to define the category nine different ways – and they always lose when they make this case because violence is considered a perfectly appropriate and normal part of what we give our kids to see starting from a very young age,” he said.

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The lead counsel for the video game industry in the fight against California’s proposed violent video game restrictions gave a preview of the types of arguments he will make when the case is argued before the Supreme Court next month.

Speaking at a Gamasutra-attended intellectual property forum at Chicago-Kent University last week, Jenner and Block LLP Partner Paul M. Smith said that treating violent content like sexual content, as the state wants to, runs up against the current state of American culture.

“Violence is considered a perfectly appropriate and normal part of what we give our kids to see starting from a very young age,” Smith argued. “Star WarsLord of the RingsHarry Potter, there’s lots and lots of violence in all of those things.”

Trying to write a definition of violence that accepts things like Lord of the Rings but restricts more extreme violence for minors causes constitutionally unacceptable vagueness problems, Smith said. “That’s different in a very fundamental way, I think, from sex, where there’s not a lot of sexually explicit things that are targeted at the kid-friendly side of the world that you have to carve out,” he said.

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The recent hard times for the social gaming market have been harder on some games than others. Last week, social-gaming mega-publisher Zynga decided to shut down two well-established parts of its catalog. First, the servers for Roller Coaster Kingdom (RCK) were shut off, then Ponzi Inc., a promising game Zynga got as part of a Challenge Games acquisition less than a month ago, went dark for good.

So, what can we learn from the abrupt termination of these two games? Well, one lesson seems to be that the standards for success in social gaming are going to keep increasing — at least for the big publishers. Despite their declining popularity, both Ponzi Inc. and Roller Coaster Kingdom had a relatively decent number of monthly active users when they were closed — 221,000 players for Ponzi and 1.2 million players for RCK. That might not seem like much compared against Farmville’s industry-leading 62 million monthly players, but it probably doesn’t seem like chump change to many struggling social game makers just getting their start.

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