Daily News Spin — July 24, 2001 (Tuesday)

CNET announces loss, promises job cuts

CNET, parent company of Gamespot, today announced second quarter results. From MSNBC:

CNET...today reported net revenues for the second quarter of $71.1 million, compared to pro forma net revenues of $104.3 million for the same period of 2000. The company generated an adjusted EBITDA(1) loss of $15.8 million, versus pro forma adjusted EBITDA of $5.1 million in the second quarter of 2000. CNET Networks' adjusted loss, excluding goodwill amortization, business integration expenses, realized gains (losses) on investments, and income taxes, was $23.4 million or $0.17 per share, versus a pro forma loss of $5.0 million or $0.04 per share in the second quarter of 2000. CNET Networks' net loss in the second quarter of 2001 was $218.1 million, or $1.60 per share, versus a pro forma net loss of $168.0 million or $1.24 per share in the same period last year(2).

The company also announced that it plans to lower its cost structure going forward, which will result in a reduction of its workforce by 15 percent during the third quarter.

No word yet on how this affects Gamespot. You may recall that CNET closed Gamecenter earlier in the year to trim expenses, though we don't expect that to happen to Gamespot. CNET's stock dropped nearly 5% today as well and closed at $9.65 a share.

Torturing newbies in Majestic

It's the new game! Dessiminate disinformation about the game to other players. You can download the first episode now, though you have to give EA a credit card for age validation purposes. Joystick 101's got a brief write-up, including this chat transcript (krtsquire is the Joystick writer).

krtsquire:I talked to Lestito -- heard you were a bot
MJLilgui: yeah, I gave him the newbie bit
MJLilgui: If i think someones a newbie, I act vague and suspicious around them
krtsquire: heh

MJLilgui: Hold on anunn is giving me a hard time. -----------------
(New Window)
krtsquire: Anunn...have you talked to MJLilgui? He knows something
anunn12: I know! But he won't tell anyone.
krtsquire: Ask him about the 'dancing skull'
---long pause-----
MJLilgui: whats a dancing skull?
krtsquire: me giving someone a hard time.
MJLilgui: anunn is grilling me for info :-)

anunn12: He says he doesn't know anything about a dancing skull
krtsquire: I knew he'd say that. Keep pressing him. He might be a bot. Jlowe thinks so. he's hiding something
anunn12: he said he didnt know what im talking about
krtsquire: he told me that, too, but he told jlowe that he had some sort of a secret web page...
anunn12: he said he didnt say that
krtsquire: You can't trust anyone in this game.
anunn12: i know

Heh. As Joystick 101 adds, stuff like this could be a problem.

This game desing [sic?] does, however, allow the 5% who are "trouble-makers" (according to Koster) some interesting options for "stirring the pot." It seems to me that newbie torture will be elevated into an artform, as newbies are dropped into a game fundamentally about suspicion and deception -- without much guidance at all. Left with no real gaming goals, you're free to make up your own, which as we all know, often tend to gravitate toward the sadistic.

Torn in trouble?

Blue's News is reporting a rumor that Interplay's Torn has "been put on hold" and most of the team laid off. Yikes. This ain't good. Interplay may have the Dungeons and Dragons license yanked out from under them as well. A competitor, Infogrames, now has the rights to make D&D games.

Analysts worried about Sony's PS2 profits

CNET's got the story about concern in the financial sector over the PS2's ability to boost Sony's profits short-term.

Masahiro Ono, an analyst at UBS Warburg, recently cut his PS2 shipment forecasts for the first quarter from 4.5 million to 3 million units. He also lowered price estimates after the company announced a price cut on PS2 in the domestic market in late June.

"Even for a strong brand like Sony, if the whole market is sinking, those with weak brands will cut prices. And as the spread widens between Sony's premium prices and those of its rivals, it will have to make discounts to keep share," he said.

Scott Foster, an analyst at Lehman Brothers, noted indications that the original PlayStation was putting in a relatively strong sales performance compared with the PlayStation 2 because of its lower price.

"That is a big surprise to techies but maybe no surprise to parents," he said.

Sure, $99 and a libray of $20 games vs. $299 and premium-priced games. So far no console's ever really taken off until the price has been cut to under $200. That's why the Gamecube looks like a safe bet from where we sit.

Death, taxes, and...

Blizzard has delayed Warcraft III until next year, according to Blizzard's homepage.

Over the past few weeks, it has become apparent that Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos will not be complete for release by the end of 2001. Our development team is hard at work finalizing the product and we look forward to bringing you an outstanding, real-time strategy game in 2002.

We wonder if they're polishing or retooling? We were in the minority, but we weren't impressed with it at E3. The gameplay just wasn't that much fun from the little we sampled. We're not fans of micromanaging RTS combat, which is the whole premise behind Warcraft 3. Maybe people are playing the game at Blizzard and going, "Hmmm...this isn't as much fun as Blizzard games should be."

Thanks Murph and Dave!

Death and well, just death

Fantasy Death Row is a website where you can bet on whether criminals will be executed or have their executions stayed. The Seattle Times has a story about it.

Players can win points and prizes for picking the correct outcome for an inmate. A pardon is worth 50 points, clemency is 25 points. There's a 10-point deduction if the inmate is executed, and a 50-point deduction if he is executed and later proved innocent.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Larry Fitzgerald has witnessed more than 140 executions, spoken with inmates before they died and gotten to know the men and women on death row. His verdict on the site: "It makes me want to throw up."

Can a reality-based TV show be too far off? Running Man, oh Running Man where are you?

More death

Lots of death-related news today, and we even found a unique scythe while playing Diablo II. Now Avault has a story about a new game in development that's also a bit bizarre called The Game of Death. Take it away, Avault!

Add another hopeful contender to the list of upcoming PC games: Game of Death. Hailing from Burns Entertainment Software in Germany, Game of Death is a horror-themed action and adventure offering in which the player battles the most notorious serial killers of the 20th century. The game’s concept and characters will be created by film director Joerg Buttgereit, renown worldwide for delivering cinematic shockfare such as Nekromantik and The Death King.

In one of these twists that sounds good on paper but we're a bit dubious about, the player will have to kill the serial killer using the killer's own preferred method of killing.


Happy birthday to the PC. It turned 20 yesterday. Any of you remember the old IBM Charlie Chaplin commercials? Then the ones with the M.A.S.H. stars? Thanks Jason!

The LA Times ran an article last week about the disappearing comic book shops. Worth a read if you like comics. At the height of the craze, one issue of X-Men sold 7.1 million copies. Now they sell about 150,000 copies in a "good month" according to the article.

Microsoft is saying that the Xbox will launch in Japan "not too far behind the U.S. debut'' in this NY Times story. Analysts seem to think a March 2002 launch in Japan is more likely.

The Internet cafe scene in China is interesting. Tons have sprung up for gaming and email, but the authorites have also closed 8000 of them for allowing access to pornography. Of course the authorities have also suppressed some political discussion groups too. Here's the story.

Adobe is seeking the release of the Russian programmer who was arrested for creating a program that could be used to circumvent copyrighted material, namely e-books. This is an about face for Adobe since the Russian was arrested after they filed a complaint. There's been something of an outcry and Adobe has now asked that he be released. Of course, it's not up to them at this point. Here's a story about it all.

Here's a breezily written piece we found amusing about time management services. The lazy writer even had the time management people write the ending for him, sort of.

Given today's news emphasis, we'll finish off with a quote from George Carlin about death:

The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. What do you get at the end of it? A death. What's that, a bonus? I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should die first, get it out of the way. Then you live in an old age home. You get kicked out when you're too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work forty years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You do drugs, alcohol, you party, and you get ready for high school. You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last nine months floating... you finish off as an orgasm.

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