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     Dec 13, 2008
Crisis time is games time
By Martin J Young

HUA HIN, Thailand - A survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project last year revealed some startling figures about video games. We all know that they're often a little too popular with kids and teens, but the study of just over 2,000 American adults claimed that over half of them also played video games.

The Annual Gadgets Survey was conducted over the telephone towards the end of last year and claimed that 53% of American adults played video games and one in five played daily. The teenage gamer figure was, as expected, much higher at 97%. Men played more than women and urbanites more than rural-dwellers, no surprises with both of those trends.

Of the devices used to play games, computers were the most


popular, followed by gaming consoles, then cell phones and mobile devices and finally portable gaming devices. Older gamers preferred PCs or laptops, while the teens favored the consoles such as the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation, or Microsoft Xbox.

These figures only strengthen the role of video games in the entertainment industry's big picture - some major game releases this year such as Grand Theft Auto IV have surpassed takings by Hollywood blockbusters. As the global financial crisis squeezes wallets, it is likely that more adults will turn to staying in with video games rather than going out on the spend.

"As various people become more accustomed to spending their entertainment time playing games, we will continue to see this spread throughout society," said Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at Pew.

Still on the gaming theme, Sony has announced the launch of its long-delayed online 3D social networking service, Home, for the Playstation 3. The platform is similar to Linden Lab's popular Second Life, which lets people create virtual characters, or avatars, to interact online. According to Sony, there are 15 million subscribers to the PS3 online network, although the company has been behind rival Microsoft in launching online services for its gaming console.

In Sony's virtual social world, gamers can meet in a Central Plaza that includes bowling alleys, arcades, virtual public areas and "private" apartments. Users can create their own unique characters and shop, play games, watch videos and attend online events. They can communicate via instant messaging, voice or video. The service will be free for PS3 owners. Sony hopes to make revenue by charging companies that wish to interact with participants.

Nintendo's revolutionary Wii gaming console, with its motion sensing controller, sold 800,000 units during the Thanksgiving week. The figure is more than double the 350,000 units Nintendo sold for the same week in 2007 and approached the sales figure for the entire month of November. As of September 30, the company had sold more than 35 million consoles worldwide, which makes it the best selling platform for the current generation.
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata claims that his company's latest figures eclipse rival Microsoft's estimated 400,000 Xbox 360 sales for the week and trounced Sony, whose PlayStation 3 only managed sales of an estimated 130,000 consoles. The Wii has outsold the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 almost every month since its release in November 2006.

The figures show, as Iwata told news wires, that when the economy is good people tend to buy three things at the top of their wish list but when times are hard they buy only the top item. Fortunately for Nintendo, the Wii held on to that spot.

A report released this week by a panel of leading US government, military and industry web security experts urges president-elect Barack Obama to establish a new White House office to protect cyberspace from ever-increasing security threats. The 44-page report, "Securing Cyberspace for the 44th Presidency", issued by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, claims that the Department of Homeland Security has failed to stem a rising tide of Internet exploitations.

New measures must be taken and the United States must treat cyber-security as one of the country's most important national security challenges, according to the report, which went on to state "this is a strategic issue on par with weapons of mass destruction and global jihad". The report also urges the new administration and Congress to pass new laws allowing for quicker investigations into cyber-crime and harsher retaliation once intruders such as hackers, thieves and foreign agents are identified.

Obama has already been receptive to the concept, and the employment of a new "national cyber-adviser" who would report directly to the president and have his own staff and access to diplomatic, intelligence and military tools to protect America from attacks in cyberspace.

Patch Tuesday lived up to its name this week as Microsoft rolled out its largest number of patches in one go for five years. A critical security flaw in WordPad file conversion from Word's .doc to .wri could enable hackers to remotely run software via e-mail. The company is advising all Windows users to block any .wri files that come as e-mail attachments.

The big patch batch also included critical fixes for the Windows graphics engine (GDI), Windows Explorer, Visual Basic 6.0, Word, Excel and Windows media components. So make sure your automatic updates are doing their job. The battle against cyber bugs just got bigger!

Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.

(Copyright 2008 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


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(24 hours to 11:59pm ET, Dec 11, 2008)



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