Week in Games - May 27th
E3 is coming soon, so no-one is doing anything in gaming. We've pretty much scraped through the barrel this week and are excavating the floor below. Still, E3's gonna be great!
38 Studios closes down
Last week we reported that Kingdoms of Amalur developer 38 Studios was in some serious trouble, being unable to pay its employees or its debts to the State of Rhode Island. Things have now got worse, with all employees being laid off with immediate effect. The future of Amalur and a future MMO titled only "Project Copernicus" have been taken by the State and it is unclear what will happen to them, though it is likely that the intellectual property will be sold off. As it turns out, Amalur, which sold over a million copies, needed to actually sell over three million just to break even.
Particularly ironic in the whole situation is the founder and owner of the defunct studio, Curt Schilling, is very much a "small government conservative", believing in minimal government intervention in the free market. But apparently taking $75m from said government and then failing to repay it is perfectly fine. To his credit, Schilling invested $30m of his own cash into the venture, but when the state contribution was double that you really have to question where his morals lie.
UK cookie laws come into effect
There are so few video game stories around that we're resorting to tenuous web-based stories which a vague link to gaming. But it's still pretty important, from this weekend all EU sites have to give notice when storing cookies on your computer. You might have noticed that if you visited the BBC News website from Thursday onwards there was a banner at the top asking for your consent. Cookies are small data files which contain information on your browsing session - websites use them to store login data on your computer so you don't have to log in every time.
A lot of online games also use them, which is why the legislation has worried many in the web-based industry as it requires a fair amount of work to implement as well as placing obtrusive messages or pop-ups in customer's ways. On the other hand, it can also in theory prevent the surreptitious planting of cookies which track our history to serve us relevant ads, so there are swings and roundabouts really.
US Judge rules Xbox 360 should be banned in US for patent violations
After being "banned" in Germany after a lawsuit with Motorola (Motorola have been prevented from upholding the ban however due to a separate injunction in Seattle - yes, patent law is confusing and international in scope) a US judge has this week ruled that the Xbox 360 should also be banned in the USA. As usual in the Patent Wars, the point of contention is over a relatively basic technology, in this case the playback of video. Motorola claims to own the necessary patents, but Microsoft argues that their terms of licensing are too expensive.
Aside from this, as another portion of the tit-for-tat combat that we're seeing, Microsoft has shot back by having 18 of Motorola's Android handsets banned. The 360 ban itself though is not in effect, and requires approval from the ITC before it can actually become law. Every day I see another of these patent lawsuits makes me just want to bury my head in my hands, the entire thing is ridiculous.
Sony wants to advertise in your games
Something we've got used to recently is advertising in games, and as long as it's unobtrusive most people don't seem to mind. So what if the billboards in a racing game are advertising a real thing, it doesn't actually affect the game. Some get annoyed that they're being advertised in a product they've paid for, but I'd wager that many of those also pay for a subscription to Sky TV. Anyway, Sony's latest patent isn't related to that, it's far worse, and far more like Sky's offering.
Sony want to actually pause games in order to display adverts to gamers, which is kind of a dick move as it directly interupts the flow of games (and flow is pretty important in interactive media). Under the system users would be warned when an advert was upcoming to allow them to pause or whatever. You'd have to hope it's not online. The whole thing actually seems eerily reminiscent of Charlie Brooker's satire Black Mirror.