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Flight Sim enquiry raises terror alert

Troopers thwart ten-year-old.

PS2 nuts play Getaway for real

Sony blockbuster re-enacted.

What's wrong with this pixel shader?

NVIDIA cheats at 3DMark03.

Websense wants to ban online gaming

Killjoy or corporate bandwidth guardian?

GameSpy could be used for DDoS attacks

By enterprising crackers

Flaws within GameSpy, a popular program that allows game clients to find and connect to game servers, might permit crackers to flood systems with useless packets and tie up processors through DDoS attacks. The vulnerability, which affects many games across Windows and *nix server platforms, is based upon spoofed UDP requests, as an advisory by security research outfit PivX Solutions (which made public its research yesterday) explains. Affected applications include Battlefield 1942 Server, Quake, Quake 2, Q3: Arena & Team Arena, Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Unreal Tournament 2003, and Return to Castle Wolfenstein... and more, according to the alert. "As a basic rule of thumb, if it supports GameSpy, it will likely be vulnerable," said Mike Kristovich, a security researcher for PivX Solutions, who first identified the vulnerability. Testing by PivX with Battlefield 1942 Server illustrates the mechanism of the attack and its potential potency, an attacker with a dial up connection might easily disrupt a game servers and prevent access by legitimate gamers (irrespective of whether they use a personal firewall). "The attack does not only affect the bandwidth of the host and the victim, but it also tends to eat up a nice chunk of memory and CPU power on the server. Also, a side effect seems to be the server losing all its players, either by assuming their connection died or the players dropping the connection due to lag," Kristovich explains. PivX has published proof of concept code to back up its warning. Electronic Arts (publisher of many of the games involved) was notified of the problem on November 20, 2002. PivX is yet to receive a response from EA. Although there isn't yet a fix from GameSpy, PivX says a patch is planned. Copyright © 2003, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Intel Masters games tourney is 'shambles'

Gamers chime in with their thoughts

Intel's sponsorship of a games tournament at London's Science Museum last Saturday ended in farce and frustration for participants and spectators alike. From the start the Intel Masters championship was beset with delays and technical cockups. A Reg reader who attended the tournament described it as a "total shambles", a summary shared by contributors to this thread on the game forum, Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Forum member v3n0m writes: "Everything was badly organized. According to what I heard the Science museum just let the IM guys to put all the show up at 06.00 of the same day or something like that. That doesn't explain the bad function of the PCs but it explains the delays." "The delays got worst with the PCs overheating and games not being able to being played. That resulted on Intel having to change the format of the games to a knockout tournament. That resulted on people only playing one game after having waited for like 10 hours." Ten hours? Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but the problems were real enough as documented by Z (another forum member). "[I] Got to the science museum at around 8am. After sitting about for five hours with no information from staff, they told us that the tournament would be single-elimination and we would be playing 4K in the first round," he writes. "Disappointment turned into farce as, after sneaking into the gaming area because security guards refused us entry, technicians and other 'organisers' pressured and pushed us to start the game as soon as possible. "After graphics card problems, sound problems, config problems, PCs crashing problems, servers disconnecting problems, punkbuster-kicking-entire-teams problems, I tried to join my team for the first match of the Intel Masters... only to be told 'The Server is Full'. "For me, unless you had a chance to play for one of the largest prizes, it really wasn't worth going to this tournament," he concludes. Some people reported they enjoyed the opportunity to meet up with friends and see the Science Museum, but for most the day was a washout. You can read their rants on the event via a listing on the numerous threads on the tournament on the Return to Castle Wolfenstein forum. Copyright © 2002, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Telewest seeks Xbox Live volunteers

Step forward one pace

Telewest is looking for volunteers to take part in a trial to test the online gaming service Xbox Live. Those taking part must have been a 512k or 1Mb blueyonder broadband Internet customer for at least six months. They must also own an Xbox console and already applied for an Xbox Live test pack from Microsoft. Telewest's trial is part of a European test drive of Microsoft's online games platform. Thousands of gamers in the UK, France and Germany have already taken part in early beta trials ahead of a full European launch of the service, which is expected to go-ahead in March 2003. Said Telewest's Chad Raube: "We want to find the best way to connect the Xbox with our blueyonder broadband internet service. There are currently a number of options and our trial will help develop a one-stop-shop for gaming hardware and support." People interested in signing up for the trial can register their interest at xbox.blueyonder.co.uk. Those taking part in the trial will be given a hardware pack including a hub and cabling, plus an additional IP address and support information. Copyright © 2002, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Gamers shut out in Asheron's Call 2 billing mess

Play time over before it begins

Today's launch of Microsoft's new multiplayer game - Asheron's Call 2 Fallen Kings - in the US and Canada has been mired in controversy after the giant software company admitted that the game is only available to subscribers in nine countries. Thousands of people around the world currently play Asheron's Call 1, an online role-playing game where players inhabit a 3D fantasy world. And many of this hardcore group of gamers have pre-ordered copies of the new game from Web sites outside of their own country. Now, many are up in arms after just 24 hours before the launch of the latest much-anticipated game in North America, the game's producer has admitted that it cocked-up. Microsoft said yesterday that only people who subscribe to the game with billing addresses in one of the nine selected countries would be able to play the online game. Which leaves countless gamers in the rest of the world in possession of a game they cannot play online. In a statement posted yesterday on the Asheron's Call website Ken Karl, Program Manager for the AC2 Live Team at Microsoft Games Studio wrote: "I can not apologize enough for not announcing this sooner. And to those of you who are in this situation, I would like to personally apologize to you as you are the ones most affected by this. We hope to make announcements soon about additional countries. Explaining why this happened Mr Karl said: "As lame as it sounds, we simply did not think of it [announcing the restrictions sooner]. We knew about the situation, but we also knew that in the countries that we were officially shipping into, we fully supported them. "What we did not think of at the time is the "grey" market, or people who would purchase the product from a website since they could not get it locally at the store. "Once we realized this (a few days ago) we wanted to at least post something early enough so that people could see this and send the product back before it was opened," he said. However, this apology doesn't seem to have done the trick and devoted gamers are furious as being shut out in this way. In a statement this afternoon Microsoft confirmed that players in some countries would not be able to subscribe to the service adding that they hoped other countries would come online in the future. The statement reads: "Microsoft is introducing a new billing mechanism for Asheron's Call 2. This system, which allows Microsoft to bill international customers in local currency will be rolled out in several phases. The first phase, to be implemented in December, will enable players in UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands to play AC2 on local European servers and will bill in local currency. "Microsoft is committed to offering Asheron's Call 2 in as many countries as is feasible and is evaluating other markets in which to implement the billing system and sell the game. "Additional countries and specific timing are to be determined and will be announced when plans solidify. Microsoft has no plans to discontinue support for the original Asheron's Call game," it said. Copyright © 2002, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

MS accused of banning mod chips

Xbox Live service unavailable to some

Microsoft's campaign against Xbox mod chips has ratcheted up a notch with the launch of the Xbox Live online gaming service. According to a posting at Got Mod?, (there's a site that's going to be pretty concerned about the issue) the company is attempting to detect mod chips when users connect, then placing them on a banned list - forever. If this really is the case then it means we're already seeing how unique hardware IDs could be used in anger by certain companies. Because it's the unique ID of the Xbox that's claimed to go onto the banned list. The Got Mod? poster says that after persistent connectivity problems (which we hear exist for people who don't have mod chips fitted too) he called up the support line and confessed to a rep that he'd modded his Xbox. The rep seems to have been equally upfront; he said he'd been issued with an 'idiot sheet' (these exist in practically all front line support callcentres) intended to deal with questions in this area. He explained that the mod chip is detected when you connect to Xbox Live, and that your machine's ID is then read, and added to a banned list. Even if you remove the mod chip, he said, your machine cannot be unbanned, as it's Microsoft's belief that it can never be seen as trustworthy again. Which is actually reasonable, if you were to start from Microsoft's premise that banning mod chips is reasonable. An earlier posting at Got Mod? suggests that it's possible to run a mod chip provided it's one that can be switched off, and provided of course that you remember to switch it off before you connect. So if you're the sort of person who mods, then no doubt you'd be the sort of person who'd move to modding with a switch, if you heard that worked. This posting also includes information that can be viewed as a cautionary tale about the evils of automatic online updates. On initial connect to Xbox Live an update is downloaded, and this includes the software that detects the mod chip. Note also that the posting claims frequent connect failures for machines that haven't been chipped as well. It's not at this point clear whether these failures are in any way collateral damage of an anti mod chip campaign. The Microsoft rep, however, said that the company's actions weren't being taken because of piracy; the primary concern is to "sell a 'fair' service to normal people." If people use mod chips to cheat, then ordinary people will be less likely to sign up. Which again is fair enough, although it additionally provides an alibi for control-freakery, and could come in handy for DVD (and other) regionalisation purposes. But, erm, isn't there a problem with systems of this sort? Skipping whether or not Microsoft is really casting Xbox units into outer darkness forever, we'll go hypothetical for the moment. Imagine such a piece of cheap and readily-available consumer hardware exists, and imagine you're an evil modder who's fitted a chip and consequently got it banned forever. Imagine you're a particularly evil modder who then sneakily sells it through the local paper. So what about the sucker who bought it from you? That sucker's comeback is probably against you rather than the original vendor, because you'll have voided the warranty by opening it. You probably don't care because you're particularly evil and he can't find you, but once this gets around it'll sure as hell knock the stuffing out of the second hand market, won't it? Which would probably be convenient for the original vendor. If you broaden this out a tad, more towards Palladium territory, you still have unique IDs on trusted machines, but in this case Microsoft expects that some Palladium machines will be sold on, and therefore there will be a necessity for zeroing trusted status to that which obtained when you first took it out of the box. Why Palladium and not Xbox? Palladium is intended to be fairly proof against hardware attacks, whereas Xbox isn't. Would you want to mod chip a PC anyway? No, because it's a fairly open box. But, erm, if it's got a unique ID maybe it's not open after all, in which case maybe you would want to mod it. Well, yes, but by Palladium time that's going to be a lot harder, for sure. Copyright © 2002, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

ABIT is making a play for the high performance graphics market with a new cooling system that it claims will allow you to push performance of a GeForce4 Ti4200 chip up to the level of a Ti4600. The company has just completed a European tour extolling the virtues of the Siluro GF4 Ti4200 OTES, which will be available on 23rd September, and expects a UK street price for the card below £150, so you get Ti4600 for about half the price. It works like this. OTES (Outside Thermal Exhaust System) uses some of the ideas from notebook cooling systems, although it clearly doesn't steal them wholesale, because it's patent-pending. It uses a vacuum to seal the Ti4200 on a copper base, then a 7,2000 rpm fan to cool the system. This of course just gives you a cooler card, so in order to actually deliver the extra performance Abit is shipping overclocking tools with it. There's one easy set intended to make it easier for normal people to mess with their settings, and the real stuff for the hard bastards. Which is interesting, because overclocking is generally the province of the latter category, so can it be consumerised? Possibly not on a really widespread basis, but extending it into the class of people who might if they weren't too scared to looks viable to us. Following up on next week's rollout ABIT intends to put out OTES versions of its higher performance cards, which should appeal to the less financially-challenged overclocker. The company currently has some illustrations and explanations of the technology here, but you can take a look at some better pics at All About PC, here. We realise the article's in German, but we were very taken with "OTES? Who the fuxx is OTES?" as an intro line. Copyright © 2002, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Microsoft, NVIDIA at war over Xbox

Price, not patents at issue

Partners Microsoft and Nvidia are at war over the troubled Xbox, for which the latter supplies graphics chipsets. In this SEC filing, NVidia discloses that Microsoft is seeking damages for violation of the deal. Microsoft - and not Nvidia as reported by some wires today - took the case to arbitration a week ago. The tattooed encyclopedia says Microsoft wants to pay less than was agreed in the original deal, which tots up to $13 million as of this January. As part of that deal, The Beast paid NVidia $200 million: money that NVidia says it's now spent. Microsoft cut the price of the console in Europe recently to revive demand, and consequently will face lower margins, or more likely since the box is subsidized, a greater loss than it expected. Copyright © 2002, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Food poisoning a la Xbox

MS mounts massive Xbox kebab wrap ad push

Next time you have a kebab - make sure you check the wrapper. Today's offering from the kebab shop downstairs (small doner, extra chilli sauce and lashings of pickled chillies) came wrapped in paper advertising a certain games console. It read: "Dead or Alive 3. It can be hard to adjust to reality. Xbox. Play more. Play Dead or Alive 3." It also said: "Dispose of after use." We assume that means the paper wrapper - not the game or console. Copyright © 2002, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

GAME over EB

EB UK waves through name change

Electronic Boutique UK shareholders yesterday approved the name change of the company to THE GAME GROUP PLC. The name change takes effect within three working days, and all EBUK stores will get a GAME makeover. Electronics Boutique announced its intention to change its name in January this year. It owns the Game name through acquisition - Game was a rival UK games software chain, acquired in 1999. Last week, EBUK announced its intention to see if it could legally terminate a services agreement with Electronics Boutique Inc., of America, which sees the company pay one per cent of turnover to its US namesake. Copyright © 2002, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

EB UK vs. EB US

Royalty payments at stake

Electronics Boutique UK is going to the High Court to see if it can overturn a royalty agreement with Electronics Boutique. EBUK, the UK's biggest games software retailer, currently pays one per cent of turnover to EB Inc., of America, in accordance with a services agreement struck between the two firms in 1995. This amounted to £4m last year. EBUK has taken legal advice to the effect that the agreement is no longer valid, as the recent fall in the Kim family's EBI shareholding to 46 per cent means an effective change of ownership. It has issued a declaratory action to see if its interpretation is correct. A judgment is expected to take several months. EBUK and EBI were once allies: now they are looking like competitors, with the two companies racing to gobble up games retailers across continental Europe. Copyright © 2002, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Elsa, the German graphics board maker, will decide this week whether or not it files for insolvency, following the withdrawal of credit facilities worth €38m on Friday, February 15. A member of the loan syndicate of eight banks has also told Elsa that it will not extend credit facilities worth €10m when this line expires March 31, 2002. In addition it is expected to make an unspecifed payment to the syndicate by Friday - the sub-text is that it unable to make this payment. Without credit, Elsa looks effectively paralysed. Unless a buyer turns up toute suite, the company has little option but to set the insolvency wheels turning. Under German law, the management board of the company has to resign, making way for a new team. The decision to liquidate, sell assets, or carry on business as usual, is made by this new team. Of course, the latter is contingent on the company's ability to secure fresh debt financing. Elsa last year stopped selling and marketing graphics boards in the US, withdrawing to its European redoubt. As well as graphics boards, the company also produces several connectivity hardware products. Founded in 1980, the company employs 600 people. Copyright © 2002, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Business booming in Europe

PS2 gives Electronics Boutique a happy Christmas

Electronics Boutique claims it is entering a "golden era" following record sales of video games and software in the run up to Christmas. Sales in the UK and Ireland increased by 51 per cent in the five weeks to the end of December helped in part by the popularity and strong performance of PlayStation 2. With more than 1.7 million PS2 users in the UK - more than double the user base of the original PlayStation at the same stage in its lifecycle five years ago - coupled with the impending launch of Microsoft's XBox, EB is confident that the future is looking bright. Sales in EB's stores in Spain, France and Sweden also soared 49 per cent in the five weeks to the end December prompting EB to report that "the potential in all our markets is immense". In a statement, Peter Lewis, non-executive chairman, said: "Our strong year-on-year performance became even better in December. The remarkable sales of PlayStation 2 consoles and the coming launch of Microsoft XBox in March will further stimulate our market in the coming year. Since Christmas, demand for video games to meet the needs of the newly installed console base has continued at record levels. A golden era has begun." Related Feature - No more Electronics Boutique Copyright © 2002, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Microsoft's plan to sell Xbox to Korean gamers next October has driven Sony to bring its own machines to the console-free country (officially, at any rate). Sony has said it will open a Korean office on 10 December which will prepare the ground for the launch of both the PSone and PlayStation 2 next February. By the end of June, the Japanese giant will have released the PlayStation 2 and 60 games. Some 40 more titles will ship during the second half of 2002. Sony's move follows extensive market research carried out a few months back. Console vendors have traditionally been wary of the Korean market, fearing that the levels of the software piracy there may seriously threaten their sales. As a result, the PC has established itself as Korea's main gaming platform, with online games, in particular, strongly appealing to Korean gamers. Korea has the world's highest penetration of broadband Internet access. The dominance of the PC has also further discouraged console vendors from trying to crack the market. Microsoft clearly reckons Xbox is a strong challenger to a cheap gaming PC - in many ways it is a cheap gaming PC, after all. And Sony doesn't want to give up a market to its arch-rival. Copyright © 2001, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Deckhand killed playing PlayStation

Water and console don't mix

An Australian deckhand was electrocuted while thumbing the controller of a Sony PlayStation when a wave smashed into the boat's wheelhouse. The 19-year old man, Richard Wells, was sitting at a metal table playing with the console when a huge wave broke through the cabin window. The trawler was lying off the southern Queensland coast last week when the incident occurred. Three other crewmembers suffered shocks and burns while trying to rescue Wells from the cabin. Copyright © 2001, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Sony is bringing its PlayStation 2 Linux distro to the US and elsewhere following its release in Japan last June. "We are preparing the finalised Linux kit for the worldwide market," said Shin'ichi Okamoto, Sony Computer Entertainment's senior VP and CTO, speaking at the Rambus Developers Conference yesterday. There's no release date as yet. "We'll announce it soon," said Okamoto. The Linux kit gives the PS2 much of the functionality of a desktop PC. Sony demo'd the open source OS and console running an MP3 player, word processor and spreadsheet, all under the X Window GUI. Copyright © 2001, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

MS confirms Xbox disk downgrade

Spec. trimmed from 10Gb to 8Gb

Microsoft has confirmed that it has shaved a couple of gigabytes off the hard drive built into its Xbox games console. The machine, due to go on sale next month will ship with an 8Gb hard drive, rather than 10Gb. Web site ActiveWin reported yesterday that it had received various reports of the specification change, and subsequently learned from Microsoft that the modification was official. The software giant wouldn't say why the decision had been made, but cost has to be the chief consideration. Microsoft is believed to be subsidising the console's retail price by a fair margin - as all console suppliers do, to a greater or lesser extent - and with a $500 million marketing budget to fund too, we can well see why the company might try and make a few savings here and there. Copyright © 2001, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

NVIDIA bucks trend

Earnings up at NVIDIA despite shrinking market share

Almost all of the world's semiconductor companies may be having a tough year, but NVIDIA seems to be having a fine old time of it, if its second quarter figures are anything to go by. Sales worth $260.3 million made during the three months to July 29th ensured a healthy $50.1 million pre-tax profit. Factor in tax and other expenses and one-off items, and NVIDIA's actual income for the period comes to $33.6 million (39 cents a share). That's an increase of a fraction over 49 per cent on Q2 2000's actual earnings of $22.5 million (28 cents a share). Revenues were up 53 per cent on the year-ago quarter's sales of $170.4 million. Looking ahead it's hard to see much of a change through the rest of 2001, despite NVIDIA's desktop market share falling 13% in the second quarter of the year, according to Mercury Research figures, and the cost of developing its nForce chipset, which isn't expected to sell in large quantities until next year. Still, NVIDIA's own prediction for the full year doesn't include whatever the company may make out of the Xbox (delays notwithstanding), so good sales there will be a bonus. In the meantime, NVIDIA plans to split its stock on a two-for-one basis, the company said yesterday. Copyright © 2001, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

TheGlobe.com spins out of orbit

Games Domain, Happy Puppy and other gaming sites up for sale

Chat and gaming site theglobe.com is to shut most of its Web business and axe half its staff after falling victim to the online ad slump. The New York-based outfit said on Friday it would close its community site theglobe.com on August 15. It also plans to shut its web-hosting business webjump.com on the same date. Meanwhile, the company is "significantly scaling down" its online games operations. Sites up for sale include UK-based Games Domain, as well as Happy Puppy, Kids Domain, and Chips & Bits. It is also to slash another 60 jobs, or 49 per cent of its remaining workforce. At its height, theglobe.com employed around 350 staff. In addition, it will quit its HQ for smaller offices in mid-August. "The decision to discontinue our community operations, which contribute disproportionately to our operating losses, allows our senior management team to focus solely on theglobe.com's core strength - games," said theglobe.com CEO Chuck Peck. Peck added that, while the company had faith in the future of online advertising, it was not in a position to stay in business in the long-term. He described the current spending slump as "a temporary pause in market's overall growth," adding that sales bookings at the dotcom had actually increased in July. Copyright © 2001, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Feel the nForce

nForce to generate 10% of Nvidia's 2002 sales

Nvidia is banking on sales of its nForce AMD Athlon-oriented chipset to provide a significant boost to its bottom line - the company reckons nForce sales will account of ten per cent of its revenues next year. Indeed, Nvidia doesn't appear to believe nForce will really take off until 2002, if comments made by the company's VP of investor relations, Michael Hara, interviewed by EBN, are anything to go by. Certainly Hara notes that full-scale nForce production won't happen until early 2002 - deliveries of the chipset are only just beginning and aren't expected to begin ramping up until mid-August. Such a shallow ramp explains Nvidia's focus on the Athlon. Hara notes that there's no point rushing out Pentium 4 support since "AMD systems will take our full nForce production for the next year". That said, Nvidia is still talking to Intel about licensing the intellectual property it needs to hook up nForce to the P4. The AMD comment is worth a closer look. Either Nvidia is expecting a massive take up of Athlon 4 systems over the next nine months or so - or it's playing it cautious with nForce production. Given the current depressed state of the PC market, the latter makes some sense. It allows Nvidia to gauge the market without over-exposing itself. Suggestions that nForce pricing will be significantly higher than other chipsets with integrated graphics imply Nvidia is simply dipping its toe in the water for now. And don't forget broadly the same parts are going into the Xbox, and that is expected to drive up shipments in the run up to Christmas. Indeed, it will be interesting to learn just how nForce shipments split between Xbox and Athlon-based systems. Copyright © 2001, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Future ditches 140 UK jobs

Publisher behind PC Gamer magazine and Daily Games Radar sheds more staff

Bath-based Internet and computer magazine publisher - the Future Network plc - has axed 140 jobs from its UK operation in a bloody Friday-the-thirteenth cull. The losses are understood to come from across Future's operation in a bid to help save the company around £8.5 million a year. Centralised support staff and workers in Future's Internet division and magazine titles have been hardest hit in the cull, although no specific details have emerged yet. A spokeswoman for the company said none of the company's titles would shut as a result of today's action. Earlier in the year Future closed 20 loss-making titles in the first phase of restructuring and shed some 350 jobs. In a statement, Future's COO, Colin Morrison, said: "This restructuring and decentralisation plan simplifies our business, and will improve our focus, agility and control." Copyright © 2001, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Prince Charles asked to start gaming

ELSPA to send HRH a hamper of games after he suggested kids should read books instead

Prince Charles is being urged to squeeze computer games into his hectic schedule in an effort to combat his loathing of the pastime. The European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) intends to send the Prince a basket of computer games following his speech earlier this week that told youngsters to ditch their computer games for "worthwhile books". Comments from HRH such as: "None of us can underestimate the importance of books in an age dominated by the computer screen and constant wish for immediate gratification" riled ELSPA officials. And they quickly fired off a press release to express their "surprise and disappointment" at the speech. "We could of course excuse his view as simply representative of an age group that did not grow up with computer games and therefore feels alienated from the medium," said ELSPA director Roger Bennett. "However, the Prince is an influential public figure and such statements could be damaging to an industry that in the last twenty years has emerged as one of the fastest growing and most creative in the UK." ELSPA claims that computer games can be "extremely beneficial" for social and educational development in youngsters. It says that only a small percentage of the games market comprises action games such as Tomb Raider, with the majority of kids play educational or sports games. The organisation today said it intended to mail off a selection of such games to Buckingham Palace pronto. When asked if children were better off playing computer games than reading books, an ELSPA representative said the organisation recommended a "healthy balance" of pastimes. "We're not creating a song and dance about this, we just think we need to be heard," she added. Copyright © 2001, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Sony to pull out of Taiwan?

PlayStation 2 production ended due to government pressure?

The US and Japanese governments have demanded that Sony abandon its plan to outsource PlayStation 2 production to Taiwan. The reason? The console could be used for military purposes. So say sources cited by Taiwanese website DigiTimes, which also claims Sony has complied with the requests, halting contracts with local manufacturers Asustek and Acer. DigiTimes' sources are almost certainly from within one or both of those companies. Both manufacturers were due to begin shipping PlayStation 2s to Sony this month, with a plan to ramp up production to 300,000-400,000 consoles per month. The two governments' problem with the PlayStation 2 apparently centres on its DVD functionality. We're not sure how allowing so-called rogue states to watch Little Mermaid 2 will bring down Western Civilisation as we know it, but there you go. Or perhaps the DVD spec's Content Scrambling System provides the bad guys with too much crypto power? That would certainly put an interesting spin on the movie industry's attempt to suppress CSS decoding applications, specifically the open source DeCSS utility. Over to you, conspiracy theory wonks... In any case, some dodgy regimes already have PlayStation 2 technology. Late last year it was reported that Saddam Hussein had already ordered 400 PS2s, though whether for military applications or as gifts for the despot's large family isn't known. Copyright © 2001, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Nintendo US flogs 500,000 GameBoy Advances

Looking for one million in first month

Nintendo says its GameBoy Advance sold through 500,000 units during its first week on the market in the US, and claims this makes it the US' fastest selling game system ever. It went on sale on 11 June and total shipments are on track to reach more than one million by the end of June. The GameBoy Advance goes on sale in the UK on Friday 22 June priced £89.99 - apparently it's a good time for the launch because kids are looking for something to buy for their summer holidays. And nothing else is happening in the games market. Indies have been selling GameBoy Advance imports for ages. Nintendo says the Advance displays more than 500 times as many on-screen colours, and is several dozen times as powerful, as the GameBoy Color, which has been a steady, though unexciting, performer for retailers. Copyright © 2001, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Trouble in Taiwan

NVIDIA accused of 'heavy handed' tactics

NVIDIA is using Intel-style tactics to help maintain its leadership of the PC graphics market, sources close to Taiwan's graphics card manufacturers have claimed. NVIDIA has apparently been asking board vendors not to produce products based on rival graphics technologies - Imagination Technologies' and STMicroelectronics' Kyro II, in particular. According to sources cited by DigiTimes, one vendor cracked under the pressure and not only pulled its Kyro II-based board but had to write a grovelling apology to NVIDIA. Certainly NVIDIA has been waging what's arguably a dirty war to protect sales of its low-end graphics chip business, primarily to persuade system builders not to adopt Kyro II-based boards in preference to its GeForce 2 MX-based alternatives. An NVIDIA document circulated to system builders and seen by The Register damns the Kyro II as "designed by committee with an unproven record" and concludes: "Buying Kyro 2 is a risk - and when cards and PCs get returned it damages your finances and your reputation." If NVIDIA is getting as "heavy-handed" as the DigiTimes piece suggests, that will be good news not only for STMicroelectronics but for NVIDIA arch-rival ATI, which last week opened up its current line of graphics chips to third-party board makers. Of course, the reason it made such a move is NVIDIA's significant lead in desktop PC graphics marketshare. ATI will still have to win a lot of disgruntled NVIDIA customers over to catch up with its rival. The fact ATI has a long way to go to catch Nvidia up is a sign of just how strong NVIDIA's support among board buyers is, however heavy handed it is with its manufacturers. Well-known names (ahem) Club 3D, Chance-I, Ennyah, InnoVision, Joytech, Kifer,Lung Hwa, MPlusTech, OJU CTN and Suma today all announced Kyro II-based boards. Expect to see them in no-name PCs real soon now. Unless, of course, NVIDIA stick the boot in... Copyright © 2001, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

ATI to license chips to third parties

Follows NVIDIA's lead, but will continue to sell own boards as well

ATI is opening its entire range of graphics chips to third-party add-in card makers, the company has announced. In essence ATI, which has always produced its own boards using its own chip technology, is adopting Nvidia's strategy of selling chips and board reference designs to third-parties. Unlike Nvidia, it will continue to sell boards under its own brand. Nvidia's strategy works because it allows it to focus on what it knows best - graphics chip design - and it doesn't put it in direct competition with its graphics card partners. To avoid such conflict, ATI's approach is to allow its partners only to target system integrators and reseller channels. The company will continue to push its own boards into the retail arena. It will also sell its boards, along with standalone graphics chips, to large OEMs - Apple, for instance. Clearly ATI hopes that its partners will be able to bring down the price of Rage and Radeon-based board, thanks to competition among suppliers and much-reduced cost to market considerations - selling to margin-conscious system integrators is easier than selling to consumers in the advertising-driven retail space. If the plan works, it should broaden ATI's presence in the PC market, simply by getting more 'Powered by ATI' (or however the boards end up being stamped) out into the market. And it presumably hopes that when buyers upgrade their graphics, they'll stick with the ATI brand. The upshot, ATI hopes, will be more ATI-based chips out there with the consequent boost to its finances and marketshare. Success depends on minimising competition between ATI and its third-party board makers. Segmenting the market the way ATI has will help, but what's to stop major OEMs buying the cheapest possible boards from the third-parties and cutting ATI out of the loop? ATI will still make money on the deal, through the chips the board makers will buy, but not as much as it would dealing with the OEM directly. With sufficient numbers of board makers, ATI will make up the loss, and presumably it's confident it can do so. Either that, or desperate times are resulting in desperate methods. ATI is struggling to return to profitability and to regain its marketshare in the face of Nvidia's considerable success. ATI may feel it has nothing to lose if it has to surrender to others markets it has jealously guarded for its own products for so long. Copyright © 2001, Situation Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

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