Microsoft Wins in Multiplayer Gaming Patent Suit

August 3, 2010 -

Bloomberg reports that Microsoft has emerged as the winner in a patent infringement lawsuit involving the Xbox and multiplayer gaming. The court battle, which has dragged on for six years, has been dismissed by a Detroit judge. The case was dismissed on July 20 by U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman (Hochstein v. Microsoft, 04-73071) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Michigan (Detroit).

The lawsuit was filed in 2004 against Microsoft by inventors Peter Hochstein and Jeffrey Tennenbaum and patent holder Harold Milton Jr. It alleged that Microsoft's Xbox 360 device violated a patent filed in 1994 covering "two or more people play video games together without being in the same location." The judge ruled that the patent only covered "game systems that are electrically connected" and that such a connection doesn’t include the type of link among players used by the Xbox.

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Children’s Miracle Network to Benefit from Xbox Live Promo

June 3, 2010 -

Canadian Xbox Live users can now help support the Children’s Miracle Network non-profit by purchasing special items offered through Xbox Live.

The Mission 4 Miracles promotion serves up picture packs, themes, the ability to play games with celebrities—such as professional golfer Stephen Ames—and a game, Avatar Golf. All proceeds from the sales of these items will be converted from points to dollars and donated to the Children’s Miracle Network.

Another cool aspect of the drive, via Market News, will see donations routed by postal code, so a gamer in a specific location of the Great White North can be assured that he or she is helping out a local branch of the charity. The Children’s Miracle Network funds 14 hospitals in Canada.

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Privates Game May Test XBL Policies

May 24, 2010 -

An in-development game that has players exploring vaginas and other orifices of the human body may be a little too hot to handle for Xbox Live Arcade.

Zombie Cow is currently working on Privates for the Xbox and PC platforms and is creating the title with funds from the UK's Channel 4, which plans to market it as an educational title reports Seattle PI. Zombie Cow’s website describes the title as, “a funky little game about tiny little condom-hatted marines going right up peoples’ rude areas and shooting all the nasty chompy things that tend to live there…”

An Xbox spokesperson sent the website a note indicating that the title had not been submitted for review as of yet, but that XBL guidelines “prohibit the publication of strong sexual content.” Zombie Cow’s Dan Marshall indicated that the game is based on the British government’s Personal, Social and Health Education guidelines and is “… essentially aimed at teenage boys.”

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UK XBL Users Select Clegg as New PM

May 5, 2010 -

Results from a political poll of Xbox Live users indicate a preference for the Liberal Democrat party in the UK elections, which kick off across the pond in about 12 hours or so.

Liberal Dem leader Nick Clegg (pictured) garnered over 30.0 percent of the Xbox Live vote reports Edge, easily outdistancing David Cameron and the Conservative Party (20.7 percent) and Gordon Brown’s Labour Party (17.6 percent). 31.3 percent of the XBL users were undecided.

The poll, conducted from April 29 through May 4, ended up with over 416,000 participants.

Microsoft Director of Xbox & Entertainment for the UK Stephen McGill stated, “…we believe our results provide a telling barometer of political attitudes amongst 18–30 year olds nationwide.”

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Man Uses Xbox Live to Threaten Witness

April 14, 2010 -

Taking Xbox Live smack talk to another level, a Hamden, Connecticut man has been arrested for using the online service to threaten a witness.

23-year old Anthony Hayward was arrested in New Haven last year for allegedly having drugs and a stolen gun in his car, reports the Hartford Courant. Freed after posting $75,000 bail, Hayward logged into his Xbox Live account last December in order to type threats to someone that is apparently a witness in Hayward’s drug/gun case.

The witness received a message that said “Rats Die Slow,” and Hayward also referred to the person as a “dead man walking.”

For these threats, Hayward was charged with harassment, intimidating a witness and tampering with a witness. He was arraigned on Tuesday in Milford Superior Court and held on $50,000 bail.

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Pay for Play Female Gaming Service Set to Launch

March 23, 2010 -

Guys looking for a female to game with are in luck, as long as they have a few bucks.

A new service called GameCrush is launching today and boasts a roster of around 1,200 available ladies to game with reports IGN. Guys, called Players, can browse online profiles of the girls, dubbed PlayDates, who can set their moods to “flirty” or dirty.” $8.25 will by you 500 credits, or enough—with tip—for a 10-minute Xbox Live session.

The same fee will buy you six minutes of play in a Flash-based casual game for the PC, which is embedded in the GameCrush website. The price is higher for the PC service because the girls will video chat with a Player while the game goes on, versus the audio only Xbox Live service.

40 comments | Read more

Sexual Orientation Can Now be Included in Gamertag

March 5, 2010 -

Microsoft has updated its Xbox Live Code of Conduct with terminology that now allows gamers to include their sexual orientation in their Gamertag.

Gamers are now free to label themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender or Straight, in a move GayGamer called “fantastic.”

In a letter announcing the change, Microsoft’s Mark Whitten wrote:

Under our previous policy, some of these expressions of self-identification were not allowed in Gamertags or profiles to prevent the use of these terms as insults or slurs. However we have since heard feedback from our customers that while the spirit of this approach was genuine, it inadvertently excluded a part of our Xbox LIVE community. This update also comes hand-in-hand with increased stringency and enforcement to prevent the misuse of these terms.

More from GayGamer on the change:

This is something we have been fighting for here on GayGamer for a long time and it's gives us a wonderful feeling to finally see it come to fruition.

Congratulations to Microsoft and Xbox Live for stepping up to the plate and listening to the concerns of an important and oft overlooked section of the gaming community. Bravo!


Thanks Andrew!

66 comments

Philly Attorney Sues MS Over Xbox Live Points

January 26, 2010 -

A class action suit filed against Microsoft alleges that the Xbox Live operator engages in point fraud in reference to incomplete or partial downloads from the service.

Plaintiff Samuel Lassoff filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on January 19, which also alleges breach of contract, negligence, unjust enrichment and unfair business practices. The complaint claims that Microsoft “received and retained money paid by the plaintiff in response to incomplete and or partial downloads of digital goods and services.”

Lassoff, upon reviewing invoices of his Microsoft Points purchases, found that he was a “victim of Microsoft Point fraud,” and attempted to contact Xbox Live customer support on the phone, with no response. He also spent time with his credit card company in an attempt to fix his account. In all, Lassoff estimated spending a total of “over 15 attorney hours over several days” to rectify his accounts.

The complaint warns that “unless restrained by this court,” Microsoft will “continue to engage in the unlawful, unfair, and/or fraudulent business acts or practices” alleged within the complaint.

The complaint seeks compensatory damages for plaintiff and other Class members, pre and post judgment interest, punitive and exemplary damages and a reimbursement of costs and expenses incurred by the action.


|Via InformationWeek|

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Microsoft’s Gates Subpoenaed in RROD Suit

November 30, 2009 -

The latest “celebrity” to be subpoenaed by Erik Estavillo? None other than Microsoft Chief Bill Gates.

Estavillo sent us a copy of the subpoena, dated November 30 and filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The subpoena is related to a lawsuit filed by Estavillo earlier this month, in which he targeted Microsoft over the “red ring of death” affecting his Xbox 360.

The subpoena instructs Gates to bring “documents pertaining to the true and relative number of actual Xbox 360 units that have been fixed by Microsoft over the past 3 years.” Estavillo is also seeking statistical data showing the true number of Xbox 360s that experienced the RROD (or other break-downs) and data on the actual number of people banned from Xbox Live for “piracy” over the period of 11/28/2008 through 11/28/2009.

GP queried Estavillo on what might be the basis of his next lawsuit. He responded that he doesn’t plan to sue anymore companies, and that we could “quote him on that.”

For his most recent lawsuit against World of Warcraft maker Activision Blizzard, Estavillo subpoenaed actress Winona Ryder and Depeche Mode member Martin Lee Gore.

32 comments

Console-based Emergency Alert System Testing Underway in NY

November 24, 2009 -

While it might not mean the end of the traditional air raid siren, New York State is currently testing a plan that uses networked videogame machines to send emergency alerts and warnings to the state’s population.

The alert system is just one component of New York State’s Empire 2.0 initiative, which is designed to make the state’s government more “transparent, participatory and collaborative,” reports Information Week.

New York State Deputy Chief Information Officer Rico Singleton thinks the plan to alert the populace via videogame consoles is a natural, “considering the amount of time our youth spend on video games.“

Other Empire 2.0 measures include monitoring Facebook in a bid to spot and stop potential suicidal behavior, using Second Life to train 700,000 Homeland Security first responders and publishing Senate bills online where members of the public can comment on and mark up proposed legislation.

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Law of the Game on Professional Plaintiffs and Class Action Suits

November 24, 2009 -

Joystiq’s latest Law of the Game column takes a look at the intertwinement of professional plaintiffs and class action suits.

The article was written in response to a pair of recent news stories: a possible class action suit against Microsoft over Xbox Live bannings and Erik Estavillo, the banned Resistance: Fall of Man player, whose latest lawsuit targets Microsoft and Nintendo.

Author Mark Methenitis denotes a professional plaintiff as someone whose livelihood depends on suing people. He adds that plaintiffs who are gamers are more prone to demonstrate similar standing, versus attaching their suit to a statute, making them a perfect entry point to class action litigation.

Of course, class action lawsuits “tend to be larger and thereby more profitable, especially to a law firm on a contingency fee basis.”

Methenitis thinks it “unlikely” that we will see fewer lawsuits as time progresses, but tells us not to worry too much about game industry companies that are targeted, as they “have substantial legal teams to deal with these kinds of suits.”

He finishes:

What should concern consumers would be a series of victories against gaming companies. If plaintiffs are successful, then there are two potentially larger problems facing the industry: are companies becoming more dishonest and predatory, and should we be concerned about the continued viability of those studios with substantial legal settlements against them?

5 comments

Datel Slaps MSFT with Lawsuit Over 360 Accessory Lock Out

November 24, 2009 -

Datel, who expressed disappointment over a recent Xbox 360 firmware upgrade that eliminated the ability to use its third-party memory cards with Microsoft’s console, has responded with a lawsuit.

The complaint, filed in the Northern District of California U.S. District Court, alleges that the October 2009 Xbox 360 update, and subsequent lock out of Datel products, was designed to “to exclude competition from the Xbox 360 aftermarket for controllers, and to force consumers to buy Microsoft's own controllers.”

Datel claims that Microsoft informed them that the lockout of Datel products was an “unintentional effect” of the software update, but notes that Microsoft told G4TV that, “Unauthorized MUs are not tested for compatibility or certified for safety and compliance standards and thus could damage -customer's Xbox 360 consoles.”

Datel also says that Microsoft has changed the 360’s authorization protocols and Security Integrated Circuit process to prevent all Datel accessories, even a currently unreleased 360 wireless controller, from working with the console, stating:

In fact, it is Microsoft's anticompetitive conduct, including tying and predatory design, such as the erection of technological barriers to third party accessories and the disabling of otherwise functional third party accessories, not consumer loyalty or esteem, that primarily drives Microsoft's accessories attach rate.

The lawsuit asks that Microsoft be adjudged to have violated federal anti-trust laws and that the Redmond, Washington company “be preliminarily and permanently enjoined and restrained from disabling or erecting technological barriers to Datel accessories and add-ons for the Xbox 360. Datel is also seeking damages and to have its attorney fees paid.

The full complaint can be viewed here (PDF).


|Via Seattle PI|

72 comments

MSFT Responds to Possible Xbox Live Suit

November 23, 2009 -

Last week we reported on the story that a U.S.  law firm was accepting submissions as part of a precursor to a possible class action lawsuit on behalf of users banned from Microsoft’s Xbox Live service.

AbingtonIP had put up a form on its website asking those affected by the ban for more information. The firm called the timing of Microsoft’s ban “convenient,” as it happened just before the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and may ultimately have resulted in an increase in subscriptions to Xbox Live.

A Microsoft Spokesperson is quoted in the Financial Post reiterating that the company is well within its rights in enacting the ban, “Piracy is illegal and modifying an Xbox 360 is a violation of the Xbox Live Terms of Use. Microsoft is well within its legal rights to ban these users from Xbox Live.”

Marc Whitten, General Manger of Xbox Live, told VentureBeat that the estimated number of Live members banned was way off and defended his company’s actions:

It’s a cat and mouse game. These were people that were pirating software. We try to keep sanctity of life from a safety and anti-cheating perspective and we protect our partners. We didn’t release the number. I cannot explain to you why people would think it was a million people. It wasn’t a million people. Check the veracity of that claim. It was one news source. I think we do a really good job understanding what people are doing on the system. That applies to intellectual property (piracy) and how we treat the community in terms of harassment.

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Law Firm Sniffing Around Xbox Live Class Action Suit

November 19, 2009 -

A law firm that specializes in consumer class action lawsuits is probing the recent purging of Xbox Live accounts in what may be a setup for future litigation.

Inc Gamers noticed that AbingtonIP currently has a form on its website asking those affected by the ban—and who were not refunded a prorated sum for their time remaining on Xbox Live—to send in pertinent information. The law firm writes, “Microsoft has chosen to use one of the most indiscriminate 'weapons' in its arsenal in an effort to combat piracy -- as a result, use of this 'weapon' has resulted in a great deal of collateral damage -- many people were affected who had nothing to do with piracy.”

AbingtonIP calls the timing of the widespread ban “convenient,” in light of the pending, post-ban release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and thinks the ban may have resulted in a boost to Xbox Live subscription revenues. If the ban had been enacted before the release of MW2 and Halo 3: ODST, the law firm supposes that sales of both games would likely have been “greatly diminished.”

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Police: Yes Kid, Parents Can Take Your Xbox

November 19, 2009 -

A Buffalo Grove, Illinois boy called 911 after his parents took away his Xbox console as punishment.

The boy hung up, reports The Chicago Tribune, but as a matter of routine, an officer was dispatched to the home just in case. The boy apparently admitted to making the call and asked a cop whether his parents were within their rights taking away his game system. A police officer assured him that they were.

A Police Commander told the paper that he did not know why the boy was being punished. Police further advised the boy to listen to his parents.

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Report: 600k Accounts Banned From Xbox Live

November 11, 2009 -

Microsoft has once again taken out its ban stick, this time in an effort to prevent modified Xbox 360s from accessing Xbox Live.

A story on GamesIndustry.biz estimates the total number of banned accounts at around 600,000. Total Xbox Live accounts number over 20 million. Modded console owners will still be able to use their 360s offline.

The BBC (thanks beemoh) has reaction from one of the banned gamers, a 25-year old gamer dubbed “Raz.” Raz had his 360 modded in the back of a shop for £75 (approximately $125.00 U.S.). He estimated that the ability to pirate and copy games “saved” him about £600 (approximately $993.00 U.S.) and that he copied 30 or 40 games in all.

Ironically, Raz then had the temerity to complain about the high price of games:

I still think they should lower the prices. There are 16-year-old kids out there, they don't earn money so they go screaming to their parents saying, 'Can you buy me this game?

So Raz, are you going to buy another Xbox?

To be honest, I've contemplated whether to move to PlayStation 3 or buy another Xbox. I wouldn't do it again [chip the 360] but I really don't know if I'm going to get the Xbox again now."

It's always fun reading the Xbox Forums after such a widespread ban.

43 comments

Datel Responds to 360 Lock Out

October 21, 2009 -

Following up on news earlier in the week regarding the next Xbox Live update locking out unauthorized storage devices, Datel, a manufacturer of such devices, has responded.

A Datel spokesperson told CVG that such a lockout would prevent “customers from exercising their freedom of choice.” It appears that Datel has no more information on the proceedings than anyone else who read Major Nelson’s blog, as they stated “If the Major Nelson blog is to be taken at face value then we're disappointed...”

The Datel mouthpiece added:

We are following this issue and awaiting the outcome like everyone else. Everyone is looking for ways to make their cash go further at the moment and we believe that Max Memory offers a good value, high capacity, alternative to the official Memory Unit.

17 comments

XBL Update to Cripple Unauthorized Storage Devices

October 19, 2009 -

As part of its next Xbox Live Update, Microsoft will cripple the use of any unauthorized, third-party 360 storage and memory devices.

The news was announced on Major Nelson’s blog and has more than a few 360 users upset, as third-party devices are less expensive than Microsoft’s first-party offerings and have worked fine with the 360 up until now. A 4GB Max Memory Card offered from Datel sells for about $49.99, while Microsoft’s official Xbox 360 Memory Unit has 512MB of storage and sells for $29.99.

Some comments on Major Nelson’s blog praise Sony for the open architecture of the PlayStation 3, as any hard drive or USB storage device can be utilized. Xbox Live user Southpaw asked if “Microsoft made cars we could only buy Microsoft gas and drive on Microsoft roads?”

Major Nelson weighed in this morning on the 15th page of comments, saying “It took some time, but I have read all the comments here. Some interesting points that I'll be sharing.”

While this could be a way to affect 360 modders and/or hackers, what are your thoughts? Buyer beware for using a third-party device or a bad move by Microsoft in alienating its fan base?

68 comments

War Game Imagines Obama on the Run

October 16, 2009 -

The year is 2011. President Obama has just outlawed the private ownership of firearms, announced that the Constitution has been dissolved and revealed that the United States is going to be replaced by the North American Union, an amalgamation of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Revolution breaks out. Your part in this is to help capture Obama and the renegade Cong (former Congressional leaders).

This is the premise of a new online community and game calling itself United States of Earth. The extensive site is almost overwhelming in the sheer amount of information it provides, but centers around a browser-based war game in which a player can train and amass troops with the intention of taking over counties in Virginia. Players can also challenge other United States of Earth users in real videogames on Xbox Live or the PlayStation 3 network in order to win points to be used on the site.

Once logged in, users have access to a series of stories and videos that revolve around the fantasy setting, Stories include: Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck Found Dead in Camp, Barack Obama Retreats to Virginia With Wife, Former V.P. Joe Biden Captured Outside Arlington and The Cong Loses Control, Pelosi Captured!

Obviously setup by a right-wing oriented person or organization, the United States of Earth website domain is registered under contactprivacy.com, a service designed to protect the name of whoever registered the domain. The terms/contact page of the website lists what they call a “virtual office” in Brooklyn, New York.

Also from the terms page:

We take the Constitution of the United States seriously here and apply many if not most of the freedoms contained within to our own United States of Earth. It is a shame that America itself no longer safeguards its citizens freedom as we enter this next glorious age of collectivism and decay promised daily by those in power, Republicans and Democrats. Will America survive? Only time will tell.

Via: Phillip and Fark

146 comments

Xbox 360 Owners to Pay $7 for L4D DLC that PC Gamers Get For Free

September 9, 2009 -

Usually, it's the PC crowd that gets dissed by game publishers. But in the case at hand Valve is doing right by computer gamers while Microsoft seems intent upon squeezing the last nickel out of Xbox 360 owners.

At issue is Crash Course,  a bit of DLC for the popular zombie shooter Left 4 Dead. Valve, which doesn't charge for DLC, plans to give Crash Course away to PC players. Meanwhile MS will be nicking 360 gamers $7 for the download.

Not that he has any explaining to do (although MS does), but Valve's Chet Faliszek told Eurogamer why it's happening this way:

We own our platform, Steam. Microsoft owns their platform. They wanted to make sure there's an economy of value there...

Via: The Consumerist

89 comments

Shadow Complex Boycott a Non-Starter?

August 26, 2009 -

Calls to boycott Xbox Live Arcade offering Shadow Complex because it is based on the works of anti-gay rights author Orson Scott Card may be falling on deaf ears, reports gamezine.co.uk.

Card is part of the National Organisation for Marriage: founded in 2007 to act as an organised opposion against same-sex marriage. Card has personally campaigned against gay marriage, which he believes would mark an end to democracy. He further argues that homosexuality is a dysfunction...

Whatever the case, it looks like the boycott didn't work. Following rave reviews, Shadow Complex has romped to the top of the most played Xbox LIVE Arcade titles, even entering the top ten of all Xbox 360 games played online.

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Gamers Propose Shadow Complex Boycott Over Orson Scott Card's Involvement

August 25, 2009 -

Shadow Complex, an adventure game in the vein of Castlevania or Super Metroid, became available for sale last week on Xbox Live Arcade. While the game has garnered impressive reviews, some are upset by the fact that its plot has been derived from the fiction of Orson Scott Card, a known campaigner against gay rights.  Gamers upset by this news are suggesting a boycott to ensure their dollars don’t end up funding Card's political agenda.

In an opinion piece for Gamasutra, Christian Nutt sees the idea of boycotting a game based on the political views of one of the creative influences as a sign that video games are growing up:

When Shadow Complex was announced, I personally was torn. I'd already long since made the conscious decision to not support Orson Scott Card directly with my money...

 

What bothers me is people who suggest that it's a non-issue because the topic of discussion is a game... "Remember back when we were kids and we just enjoyed games?" asks Wizman23.

Yes, I do. But we are not kids anymore... I was 32 on the day [Shadow Complex] became available for download on Xbox Live... I can't approach things the way I did as a child. That's not me being self-righteous; I mean that I literally cannot do this...

 

And that's why it's acceptable to talk about this... If we can have meaningful political discussion in other media, we can have it in games.

From all accounts, Shadow Complex looks like a very fun game.  For those who are put off by Card’s involvement, Nutt points to a suggestion offered up at GayGamer: buy the game and make a donation to a gay-positive charity to offset any profit Card may see from the sale.
 
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Senior Correspondent Andrew Eisen...

135 comments

Dress Your Xbox Live Avatar for the Recession & Get a Little Poorer in the Process

August 13, 2009 -

Times are tough, so why not blow your last few bucks on virtual threads for your Xbox Live avatar?

Designer Michael Connell spoke to Kotaku about his new line of fashion for XBL. While some of Connell's designs pay homage to the popular Steampunk style, he also gives a nod to the down economy with "Recessionista" clothing:

I was thinking about making a statement, if you will, that even though this time of global recession, everything isn't bad." Connell said. "And in the 30s, in a time that was really bad, much worse than it is today, it wasn't all bad. There was fashion that was quite interesting. And this fashion wasn't the couture that was happening at the time...

 

[I hope] to kind of show that there are good things and we've been there and we'll get out. Clearly these are subliminal messages, but this is what I was inspired by. If you design a collection I think the most important thing is there needs to be heart and soul and direction.

23 comments

ECA Urges Gamer Action on Net Neutrality

August 5, 2009 -

The Entertainment Consumers Association is urging gamers to stand up and be counted for Net Neutrality.

In an e-mail circulated yesterday, the ECA issued a call to action:

Now is the time for you to stand up for your rights and join millions of Americans of every political persuasion in the fight for Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is the principle that ensures that gamers are free to go where they want, do what they like, and connect with whom they choose onlin. Congressmen Ed Markey (D-MA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) have introduced H.R. 3458, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009.

Take action now and tell Congress to make Net Neutrality the law of the land. Without Net Neutrality, your Internet Service Provider is free to: charge you extra for playing World of Warcraft, to interfere with Xbox Live, or to completely shut off your ability to access for favorite web sites. Net Neutrality effects your entire online experience...

This is our best chance yet in making sure that Net Neutrality is passed by Congress. The head of the FCC supports it, the President of the United States supports it, and we're asking you to make sure to tell Congress you support it. Take a moment to send them the message to make Net Neutrality the law.

A suggested letter to Congressional representatives is available from the ECA website.

GP: Gamers, this issue may not inflame passions in the same way that the censorship debate does, but it's just as important in the long run.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

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ESRB Wants App Store Rating Content Business... But What About Xbox Indie Games and Other Burning Questions

June 15, 2009 -

The recent discussion concerning the ESA's desire to have its rating organization, the ESRB, evaluate game content for the iTunes App Store brings a number of questions to mind:

1.) Why?

Having watched how corporations, lobbyists and their related entities do business for some time now, I'm too jaded to believe that ESA/ESRB wants to jump into rating App Store games for the good of society or because it's the right thing to do. This would, after all, be a significant commitment of ESRB resources. Generally such things happen because there is revenue to be made or there's power to be grabbed.

Despite its present chaotic nature, the App Store is a rising star in the game space. Getting in on the ground floor would be a coup for the ESRB. Apple has a lot of money, too, and the ESRB is paid a fee by the developer/publisher for each game it rates. Despite my cynicism, ESRB spokesman Eliot Mizrachi told me that it's not about the Benjamins:

ESRB is a non-profit organization funded by the revenue generated from the services we provide the industry.  Given our highly discounted rate for lower-budget games, rating mobile games is not a financially attractive proposition; however we believe making ESRB ratings available for those games would serve consumers well.  Parents are already familiar with ESRB ratings and find them to be extremely helpful in making informed choices for their families.  
 
To be clear, our desire is to see Apple integrate ESRB ratings as an option in its parental controls and display a game’s rating (if it has one, the ratings are voluntary after all) in the App Store or on iTunes prior to purchase, not to require that every game available via an iPhone carry an ESRB rating (just as not every piece of video content available will carry an MPAA or TV rating). 

 

Apple’s integration of ESRB ratings into its parental controls for iPhone games would afford parents the ability to block those video games that carry an ESRB rating utilizing the same tool they are being offered to block video content that has been rated by the MPAA or carries an official TV rating.  It’s about giving parents the same ability to do on the iPhone what they are being offered with other entertainment content and can already do on game consoles and other handheld game devices.     

2.) What would it cost?

I asked the ESRB what it costs a developer/publisher to have a typical console game rated?  Would the cost to rate an iPhone game be less? Mizrachi said:

Our standard fees for getting a game rated cover the costs of providing that service.  However, to make accommodations for lower-budget product like casual and mobile games, several years ago we introduced a highly discounted rate - 80% less - for games that cost under $250,000 to develop.  We believe most iPhone games would likely be eligible for the discounted rate.

3.) Isn't this a lot of extra work for ESRB?

Mizrachi was asked whether the ESRB has the capacity to handle an influx of iPhone games for rating. His response:

ESRB has seen increases in rating submissions each year since its founding and has always been able to keep pace.  We have rated more than 70 mobile games to date and will undoubtedly rate more in the future as the market grows.  Consumers of those mobile games that have been assigned ESRB ratings should have access to rating information, and if parental controls are available, the ESRB rating should ideally be operable within that framework. 

4.) If the ESRB plans to do App Store games, what about Xbox 360 Community Games (soon to be known as Indie Games)? 

I also asked Mizrachi about the indie games on XBL. Wouldn’t they seem to be a more natural focus for the ESRB before targeting iTunes? Mizrachi said:

Once XNA games graduate to XBLA they are rated by ESRB... ESRB isn't "targeting" iPhone games.


5.) Who would pay for ESRB to rate App Store games?

Not the creators of $0.99 games, for the most part. They are apparently not making significant revenue. Apple has a deep pocket, of course, although they are not the creator of the games for sale on the App Store. Perhaps the larger industry players such as EA, Namco, etc. would foot the bill for their games. They are already accustomed to dealing with the ESRB.

6.) If only some games are rated, why bother?

But then again, if only the commercial game apps from major publishers are rated, how does that stop your kid from downloading Baby Shaker or Hot Dog Down a Hallway? The foundation for the retail employment of ESRB rating is its ubiquity. Major retailers won't carry non-rated games. Thus, parents have a reasonable expectation that their 12-year-old will be turned down if he tries to buy GTA IV. If not all App Store games are rated, such an expectation is not applicable. So, what's the point?

Hopefully we will learn more about the ESRB's plan as we go forward.

23 comments

XBL Indie Game Turns Obama Into Side-Scrolling Scrapper

June 15, 2009 -

A recently-released Xbox Live Community Game (MS recently announced that these will soon be called Indie Games) features President Obama as a side-scrolling, 2-D brawler.

Angry Barry is available for 400 points on Xbox Live. We didn't spring for the game although we did check out the free demo.

Hillary Clinton makes an appearance in the game and the screen shot at left appears to feature Sarah Palin. From the game's XBL page:

Angry Barry is a sidescrolling, political parody, 1-2 player 2D beat 'em up in the tradition of many classic arcade games. Take control of Barry as he tries to take over the Presidency of the United States!

Xbox Live's Major Nelson Visiting Troops in Baghdad

June 13, 2009 -

Larry Hyrb, aka Major Nelson, is currently in Baghdad.

The Director of Programming for Xbox Live tipped readers to the surprise 10-day trip in a blog post on June 7th:

I am a few hours away from stepping on a plane for the first leg of my journey to Baghdad, Iraq for the Iroq-Band competition taking place next week. I am honored to be asked to support the event, and I am looking forward to meeting many of service men and women that are Xbox LIVE members...

 

With all of the travel and security involved in this trip, my online time... will be extremely limited... I want to warn you that I’ll be unusually quiet (which I am sure won’t bother some of you) during my radio silence. 

Major Nelson arrived in Iraq on Wednesday. Despite the heavy security of a war zone, he has been providing numerous updates via Twitter. Some of his recent tweets give the flavor of the experience:

It takes you back when the staff where we are staying have sidearms and automatic weapons.

 

Taking a scenic tour of downtown Baghdad aboard a Blackhawk heli.

 

Apparently I slept through a mortar attack last night. No one was injured.

 

Seems like Xbox 360 is everywhere on this base. The only thing they don't have is LIVE due to the poor connectivity.

 

Most popular games on the base? Rock Band, Halo, COD (any of 'em) and all sports games.

The pic at left is from the Major's ride-along with a Blackhawk sortie over Baghdad.

7 comments

U.S. VAT Tax Would Affect Games, Systems, Online Fees (and everything else)

May 28, 2009 -

Suddenly, there's a good bit of discussion in Washington, D.C. about the possibility of a value-added tax, or VAT.

For the uninitiated, a VAT is essentially a national sales tax. As the Washington Post points out:

Common around the world, including in Europe, such a tax... has not been seriously considered in the United States. But advocates say few other options can generate the kind of money the nation will need to avert fiscal calamity...

A VAT is a tax on the transfer of goods and services that ultimately is borne by the consumer. Highly visible, it would increase the cost of just about everything... But VAT advocates say those negatives could be offset by using the proceeds to pay for health care for every American...

Should a VAT be enacted, it will tax every type of transaction involving a good or service. For gamers, that means disc-based and downloaded software, consoles, peripherals and even monthly fees for Xbox Live, Second Life and World of Warcraft.

The WaPo posits scenarios involving VATs ranging from 10-25% but concludes that a VAT is unlikely - for now.

84 comments

Politically-Charged Xbox Live Community Game Dinged Over Gameplay

May 15, 2009 -

As GamePolitics mentioned earlier this week, the politically-tinged indy game Clover was released as an XBL Community title.

While the game is essentially an allegory about the twisted path that led the United States to invade Iraq in 2003, Fidgit's Tom Chick finds Clover wanting in the fun department:

Entertainment has a long and storied history of commenting on politics. Unfortunately, Clover seems to lost sight of the entertainment part of the equation. Or maybe I'm to blame for not having the patience to play through a crudely drawn and even more crudely built adventure game based on inventory management.

I can eventually get past the look of the game, which might be described as South Park run through a Braid Photoshop filter...  The problem with "message" games is that unless the message is delivered with some sort of nuance or power... the gameplay is going to have to take up the slack...

4 comments

Politically-influenced Clover Launches on XBL

May 11, 2009 -

Clover, an Xbox Live Community Game being developed by Binary Tweed has now launched. As GamePolitics reported recently, the story which unfolds in Clover was heavily influenced by the run-up to the Iraq War.

In fact, Binary Tweed calls the game a "watercolour political platform puzzler," and those are four words you don't hear strung together very often.

From the Clover press release:

Already in the hands of some early-bird gamers, the true nature of Clover's political plot is becoming clear. “It's been great to read emails from gamers who have picked up on the historical and political references - if Clover has one objective, it's to make people think.” commented Binary Tweed's Deejay. Heavily inspired by the events preceding the 2003 Iraq war, the game invites players to draw their own conclusions from unfurling events.

11 comments

 
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Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/nov/25/lee-rigby-report-internet-firms-safe-haven-terrorists-pm wow... come on uk really?11/28/2014 - 2:39pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.nintendolife.com/news/2014/11/two_tetris_downloads_to_be_removed_from_the_3ds_eshop_in_europe Tetris to be removed from the 3DS VC at the end of the year in Europe. Other regions unknown, but will probably all happen too.11/28/2014 - 9:16am
Andrew EisenThe story you just linked to? The story you asked if anyone had seen? Yes, THAT obnoxiousness. I've heard it parroted for nearly two years now.11/27/2014 - 7:57pm
ZippyDSMleeAndrew Eisen: That shes an ex con man?11/27/2014 - 7:54pm
Andrew EisenI've heard the same obnoxious horse poo for years. It's nothing new.11/27/2014 - 7:45pm
ZippyDSMleeAlso anyone see this? http://guardianlv.com/2014/11/anita-sarkeesian-unmasked-feminist-icon-or-con-artist/11/27/2014 - 7:28pm
ZippyDSMleeEvil within is a badly designed game.11/27/2014 - 7:28pm
Andrew EisenSure but you said "widens," hence my confusion. Looking into it, yep, there's a tweak to completely re-frame the image, adding more info at the top and bottom. You apparently need a fairly beefy rig to keep it running smooth when you do that though.11/27/2014 - 6:48pm
Matthew Wilsonthere is vertical fov, not just horizontal fov11/27/2014 - 6:38pm
Andrew EisenWell, you can widen it to 3:1 or even 10:1 but I don't know why you'd want to. From what I understand it's the missing visual info at the top and bottom that some object to, not that there isn't enough on either side.11/27/2014 - 6:36pm
Matthew WilsonI think it widenss the fov, so you get to see more.11/27/2014 - 6:31pm
Andrew EisenI don't see how as doing so would not add any visual information to the top or bottom of the screen.11/27/2014 - 6:04pm
Matthew Wilsonfrom what I read, getting rid of the black bars and stretching it out made for a better play experience.11/27/2014 - 5:59pm
Andrew EisenFrom what I hear, there's a ton of "look up and shoot at the guys above you" stuff in the game that the wider frame doesn't accommodate such actions well.11/27/2014 - 5:55pm
Andrew EisenHaving a game run in scope is not necessarily a bad thing but like any aspect ratio, you have to compose your shots correctly.11/27/2014 - 5:55pm
Neo_DrKefkaThe Evil Within was pretty bad and to make it worse the way the screen size made it hard for you to see even on a big screen it really hurt the game. Being Artistic is great but when you focus on art rather than what sells you run the risk of that happen11/27/2014 - 5:33pm
Matthew WilsonI kinda hope this is not true. http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2014/11/nintendo_might_not_be_making_more_gamecube_controller_adapters_at_the_moment11/27/2014 - 1:34pm
Matthew WilsonI saw that. I wish people would stop preording, but sadly that will never happen.11/27/2014 - 1:26pm
Papa MidnightUbisoft has cancelled the Season Pass for Assassin's Creed: Unity (http://www.reddit.com/r/pcmasterrace/comments/2ni2ac/ubisoft_cancel_season_pass_for_ac_unity/)11/27/2014 - 1:08pm
NeenekoBut now I can use the christmas discount justification too,11/27/2014 - 11:46am
 

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