Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Microsoft's Patent Application for Portable Gaming System Hints at Zune Gaming

MIcrosoft, invader of all realms technological, just had a patent application, Number 20070087830 for a "multi-component gaming system" including "handheld devices and console devices," approved by the PTO. The patent appears to pertain to technology that would allow processes from one gaming console, i.e. the XBox 360, to be beamed to another portable device, i.e. the Zune, calling it "variable functionality and processing performance as determined by the number of components in the system. The processing capabilities and functionality of each gaming component in a combination are augmented by the processing capabilities and functionality of other gaming components in the combination. To take advantage of another gaming components processing capabilities and memory capacity, each gaming component is capable of utilizing another gaming component to process gaming applications."

Zune Gaming Soon

Of course, Microsoft had no comment. Sounds cool...but will it be?

Take-Two Finally Gets Thompson Off Back

Jack Thompson, the perennial thorn in the side of Take-Two, has settled his pending suit with the company agreeing to drop the current litigation, not to sue any more on any of the distribution of T2's games, not to contact Take-Two or any of its business partners with allegations of wrongdoing, and not to communicate with T2 through its lawyers. T2 agreed to drop its suit against Thompson.

Thompson Loses...err Settles

I cannot say I am sorry about this outcome: We all know how Thompson has acted, and when you act like he has, you get smacked like he has.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

China Moves on Social Fears About Youth Gaming, Limits Minor's Gameplay

China, the second greatest bastion of freedom and liberty on the planet, has decided to implement anti-addiction software in MMORPGs that will essentially limit the amount of time a minor may play a game each day. As of the now, China wants the software to allow usual "points" for the first three hours, half points for the next two, and after that the player will earn no points. After the five hours, players will receive the following message, ""You have entered unhealthy game time, please go offline immediately to rest. If you do not, your health will be damaged and your points will be cut to zero."

China Limits Minor's Playing Time

Many of the game developers in China say that the measure will not affect their business too much because most gamers in China are adults (about 10% minors). A minor will have to input their government ID number into the game so that it will know if he is a minor or not. If I were a kid, I would get around this so fast. Any kid addicted to an MMORPG is not going to let a little thing like getting an older person's ID number stop him. What are they going to arrest him? The real problem is that all online users will have to register with their real names. Wait, wait...China is not all about autonomy and privacy?

Sony Plays Down Virtual Reality Glove Patent

Keeping their ear to the streets, Unwired View has discovered that Sony has filed a patent for a virtual reality glove system that is meant to be compatible with some unspecified gaming console. The glove would allow the user to control cursors on the screen and having electronic means of applying pressure to the fingers to simulate touch. Sounds pretty badass to me.

Sony's VR Gloves

Of course, Sony had no real comment about the patent, merely reiterating the policy of protecting their IP to absolute fullest whether a product is manufactured or not. Below is a link to the application itself:

US Patent Application 0070075966: Hand-held Computer Interactive Device

Monday, April 16, 2007

US Army Sponsors Online Video Game Network

In an attempt to reach out to their bread-and-butter demographic, the 17-24 year-old male, the US army has begun sponsoring online game tournaments. The Army has partnered with the Global Gaming League, boasting about 9 million competitive gamers on its network, to create the National Gaming Arena which will host tournaments of Army-themed games. The Army will also give prizes to the winners such as a chance to train on a real military games software. The promotion is meant to increase awareness by telling the Army's story to the next generation of potential recruits.

Yeah, I know what is like to serve, I played the video game

I suppose it is the easiest way to select candidates for their war games departments. How about a nice game of chess?

Others are not so happy about the program: Leland Yee, a CA state senator, doesn't like the Army's attempt to lure young children.

Army ads as bad as Cigarette Ads?

Activision Sues Again!

Activision, bringers of many suits, has filed a copyright infringement action against an individual, Maryanne Leach, alleging violation of the distribution rights for Call of Duty: the Big Red One and Tony Hawk: American Wasteland. They seek injunctive relief, damages, and an order that Leach destroy all infringing material.

Activision Stays Litigation Happy

They must have some real go-getter lawyers.

Louisiana Orders Itself to Pay ESA $91,000 in Lawyers' Fees

A district judge in Louisiana ruled that the State must pay the ESA a total of $91,000 for the fees it incurred in getting HB 1381, an anti-video game piece of legislation drafted with the help of Jack Thompson, overturned as unconstitutional. The law mandated fines between $100 and $2,000 and prison sentences of up to one year for selling M or AO games to minors. The judge found the medical evidence of the "reason" supporting the legislation, that video games are promoters of violence, was tenuous and speculative. This is the latest example of video game legislation being ruled unconstitutional, with a similar case being decided in Michigan last December.

Louisiana Ordered to Pay Attorney's Fees to ESA

Personally, I think the judge got this right and shows that the system works...sometimes.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kentucky Library Begins Lending Video Games

Kentucky libraries have decided to begin video game collections available for borrowing. A spokesman said that the library will not carry any games with violence or harsh language. Where was this when I was a kid?

It is not all backwards in Kentucky!

I suppose the libraries have sovereign immunity and cannot be sued for copyright violation, but given that the educational value of most games is marginal at best, is there really a compelling argument for fair use? The effect on the market (harms video game sales), the nature of the work (the copyrighted game itself is being used not a derivative work), and the amount used (the whole game) all weigh in favor of the video game companies. I wonder if the non-financial use of the games is a strong enough reason to find fair use. Then again, I cannot really think of a reason that video games should be banned while books can be lent, since both are supposed to be protected under the same copyright statutes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

US hates on Chinese IP Enforcement, Nintendo Agrees

The US trade representative has filed for formal consultations with the Chinese government over there IP protection policies, or lack thereof. China is one of the worst offenders as far as respecting world IP rights, with little or no punishment for counterfeiters who largely escape punishment or even the closing down of their operations. Nintendo has identified China as the greatest exporter of infringed software and hardware, estimating losses to the industry of $762 million. China claims to be dismayed at this request for formal consultation, but I doubt anybody takes them seriously: they do practically nothing to stop piracy.

China...Piracy...No Way!

Nintendo points out that over 7.7 million infringing products have been seized from 300 factories over the past four years.

Ghost Rider Creator Sues T2, Marvel, Sony

Gary Friedrich, co-creator of Ghost Rider, is suing Take-Two, Marvel, Sony and a host of other for copyright infringement of his Ghost Rider character and his alter ego, Johnny Blaze. Friedrich claims that the copyrights in these characters reverted to him in the 2001, and that the named defendants undertook a long and extensive campaign, including movies, toys and video games that utilize his copyrights.

Ghost Free-Rider

With an estimated Box Office gross of $215 million, Mr. Friedrich stand to gain quite a bit.

Microsoft's 360 Ad Banned in the UK

Microsoft was forced to pull an ad from British TV after there were fears that the ad could encourage illegal street racing behavior. The ad featured two drivers weaving between traffic in pursuit of each other and culminates in one driver crashing. Despite the disclaimer at the bottom of the screen warning viewers not to try this at home and that the ad is a dramatisation, the UK Advertising Standards Agency banned the ad for glorifying street racing. Curiously, the ad is not for a specific game, but just for the Xbox 360.

MS's Street Racing Ad Banned

The ASA ruled that the advertisement breached health and safety and driving standards rules. So if a movie showed a car chase in its preview, would that be unacceptable? It is hard to see how an advertisement for a video game system could encourage driving violations - you'd think if a particular game encouraged this bad behavior then an advertisement could have the same effect, but that is not the case here. I wonder how important it was that the ad related to video games as opposed to some other area of entertainment. I doubt the ads for Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift got pulled.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Piano Hero Maker Sent Cease and Desist from Activision

Nicholas Piedgon, a programmer working for Halite studios, designed an open source software package called Piano Hero, a homage to guitar hero but free. Activision, being the super-cool dudes they are, immediately sent a cease and desist letter alleging trademark infringement and dilution. Mr. Piedgon complied with the letter immediately. The following link leads to the correspondence between the two parties.

Activision sues over Guitar Hero again

Is it just me, or does Activision occupy more than half of my blog entries? Talk about being concerned with the franchise IP. Still though, I want to play some piano hero. I bet it is more productive than guitar hero since it can actually teach useful music skills as opposed to GH's dumbed-down, albeit, more fun almost playing.

Friday, April 6, 2007

FBI to Investigate Second Life Gambling

Following the passage of a bill last year that prohibits online gambling, Linden Labs has invited the FBI into Second Life to figure out the propriety of virtual casinos that have popped up there. LL is unclear whether wagering in a virtual casino with virtual money, which can be converted to real money, is illegal under the new legislation.

FBI Investigates 2nd Life Casinos

I do not see why this would be any different than other online gambling. Usually the whole virtual currency things throws bureaucrats for a loop, but people gamble with virtual money all of the time: they're called chips.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

No Criminal Charges Filed in Hold Your Wee for a Wii Contest Holders

Sacramento County has decided not to sue the radio station that held a water drinking contest for the Nintendo system and resulted in a contestant's, Jennifer Strange, death. The county concluded that the employees actions did not reach a requisite height of criminality; however, the employees did get fired. The family's lawyer said he was still planning to sue for the wrongful death of Mrs. Strange.

No Criminal Charges in Radio Contest

See Hold Your Wee for a Wii for a link to the news story.

Activision settles with former Guitar Hero Producers

Activision has settled its litigation against three former Guitar Hero producers. The suit alleged a whole host of IP infringements by the producers, including copyright infringement, trademark infringement, misappropriating trade secrets, breach of contract, etc.. Activision and the defendants agreed to a temporary injunction effectively prohibiting the producers from working on any rhythm-based video games for the next year.

Guitar Hero Producers suit settles

Given that these producers have teamed up with The Ant Commandoes, also a defendant in litigation involving Guitar Hero, it would seem that while this injunction is helpful, it will not effectively stop the producers from using whatever proprietary knowledge that Activision claims was improperly gained. Perhaps there was no impropriety...

See Guitar Hero Defectors Sued for a recap of the litigation when instituted