888 downplays US legal threat as profit surges

- UPDATE 03.16.2006, 06:58 AM

Adds analyst comment, other detail LONDON (AFX) - 888 Holdings PLC, the world's third biggest internet gaming group, posted a 59 pct rise in 2005 profit helped by an ongoing poker boom, and moved to downplay the threat of a fresh legal challenge to online gambling in the United States. A Congressional committee yesterday approved legislation designed to outlaw companies such as 888 from accepting payment via credit cards or electronic funds transfers, hitting shares in the sector. 888 shares fell 2.5 pence, or 1.9 pct, to 177 by 11.25 am, valuing the business at 596 mln stg. Elsewhere in the sector PartyGaming and Sportingbet shares declined by a similar amount. The Gibraltar-based group's chief executive expressed confidence the bill, sponsored by Republican senator Jim Leach, will fail like others before it, pointing out that it still has many obstacles to clear before becoming law. 'I feel quite confident that we'll get the same results as we have for the last six years and that it won't get through to the next stages,' John Anderson told AFX News. A series of previous attempts to stamp out online gambling in a country where the owner of the Pacific Poker and Reef Club Casino websites reaps 55 pct of its revenue have failed to attract sufficient support. Altium Securities analyst Wayne Brown believes shares in the sector may be in for a bumpy ride over the next year or so 'as news on US regulation seeps out.' But he says should Leach's bill be thrown out that would likely sound a death knell for attempts to outlaw the industry. Opponents of online gambling argue that it encourages minors to bet, contributes to addiction, and increases the likelihood of fraud. Some critics also say offshore gambling sites could be used for money laundering and could support terrorists or other criminals. Net profit, before share options charges, rose to 65 mln usd. Anderson described that as a 'cracking' performance and said the company was in prime position to benefit from an inevitable wave of industry consolidation. Despite his confidence over the regulatory outlook, Anderson is scouring the globe for acquisitions as he looks to diversify revenue streams and cut reliance on the United States. He is looking for a non-US sports betting business and is hopeful of announcing a deal within the next six months. He believes such a business would help with the cross-selling of games. 888 is also looking to reduce dependency on its flagship casino unit. Offering games such as blackjack, roulette and slot machines, it has been facing stiffer competition from rivals such as PartyGaming PLC. 888 in January revealed sales had risen 52 pct to 271 mln usd after extra languages and increased marketing expenditure helped spur a 178 pct surge in poker revenues.


Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Arcade Ranked Best in Country

SANTA CRUZ, CA (March 8, 2006) The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Arcade is one of the top video game arcades in the country, according to the March 2006 issue of Giant, a national monthly entertainment magazine. The magazine named the top five arcades in the country, with the Boardwalk Casino Arcade leading the list. The Boardwalk Arcade received top billing for its 300 plus arcade games including Dance Dance Revolution and SkyTarget Flight Simulator. Giant magazine also noted "the Classic Corner is a good place to check out Space Invaders and Centipede while your stomach settles after a ride on the rickety Giant Dipper roller coaster." "We're really pleased to be recognized for providing a great experience for arcade game fans," said Omid Aminifard, director of arcades and attractions. " We work hard to keep up with the latest and most popular arcades games, while also maintaining the older classics." The other arcades on Giant's Top 5 list include Barcade in Brooklyn, NY; Ground Kontrol in Portland, OR; Riptide Arcade on Pier 39 in San Francisco; and Japan Arcade in Los Angeles. One of the Boardwalk Arcades' most popular games, Dance Dance Revolution has recently received national attention because of the potential health benefits of active video games dubbed "exertainment." Dance Dance Revolution requires players to dance in time to the beat of a song, hitting squares on a special floor pad. Earlier this month West Virginia announced that 765 schools in their state will be using Dance Dance Revolution in their middle-school physical education and health class in an effort to fight childhood obesity. Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) is just one of many active video games in the Boardwalk Casino Arcade, others include In the Groove, Percussion Master, Drumscape, Top Skater, Alpine Racer, World Kicks and Pump it Up. Other opportunities to work up a sweat include laser tag, ping-pong, air hockey, foosball, and miniature golf. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Casino Arcade is open every day of the year, except December 25th.
About the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is the most popular seaside amusement park on the west coast. Located at 400 Beach Street in Santa Cruz, the park features rides, games, restaurants, and free summer beach concerts. For further information please visit www.beachboardwalk.com or call 831-426-7433.


GLOBAL VR Teams With EA to Put NASCAR at the Starting Line

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GLOBAL VR(R), one of the world's leading manufacturers of coin-operated video games today announced that it has signed an exclusive agreement with Electronic Arts to develop and manufacture a coin-operated video game based on EA's popular NASCAR(R) racing game. The coin-operated video game industry has seen several successful driving games over the years but only now will players be able to enjoy the true NASCAR experience. With the new NASCAR game, players will select from today's most popular drivers, including Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, drive in official cars and select tracks such as Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Daytona. Perhaps the most important new element will be the use of cutting edge technology in the game's development. State-of-the-art graphics, AI and physics engines promise to deliver a racing experience that could only be replicated in the cockpit of an official NASCAR vehicle. "As a multi-platinum hit on the home consoles, this franchise has tremendous significance for EA and now for GLOBAL VR," commented Jim DeRose, GLOBAL VR Chairman and CEO. "We have assembled a team of developers who are avid gamers as well as NASCAR fanatics and we plan to deliver a ground breaking racing experience for fans of racing and driving games." "We believe the coin-op NASCAR game will deliver a unique gaming experience and will bring the excitement of NASCAR gaming to a whole new audience," said Jon Dean, EA's NASCAR Executive Producer, The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc. (NASCAR), which began in 1948, is the sanctioning body for one of America's premier sports. NASCAR is the #1 spectator sport -- holding 17 of the top 20 attended sporting events in the U.S., the #2 rated regular-season sport on television with broadcasts in over 150 countries, and has 75 million fans who purchase over $2 billion in annual licensed product sales. These fans are the most brand loyal in all of sports and as a result, more Fortune 500 companies participate in NASCAR than any other sport.



BAFTA gets serious about video games

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts said Wednesday it has boosted its recognition of the video game sector and plans to champion artistic and creative innovation within video games.
By Stuart KempLONDON -- The British Academy of Film and Television Arts said Wednesday it has boosted its recognition of the video game sector here and plans to champion artistic and creative innovation within video games.The organization said it plans to give video games "equal status with film and television" and will revamp the existing British Academy Video Games Awards ceremony, making it the organization's third major awards event.A newly formed BAFTA games committee made up of representatives from the sector's publishers, developers, middleware companies and trade associations -- including ELSPA, TIGA and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe -- has powered the move.Committee head and Electronic Arts vp and managing director northern region Paul Jackson said in a statement: "BAFTA is perfectly positioned to cross-fertilize opportunities, set benchmarks for measurement and champion creative standards to encourage new and compelling interactive experiences."Sony Computer Entertainment senior vp Ray Maguire also welcomed BAFTA's involvement. "It is great to be associated with a body that has been rewarding creative excellence for decades," he said. "For the creativity and artistry that is so prevalent in our business to be recognized in parity with other more accepted visual arts, says to me that interactivity has finally come of age."BAFTA chairman Duncan Kenworthy described video games as "a hugely significant new moving image art form that sits alongside film and television in its power to entertain and educate," adding that the British Academy wanted to encourage the sector.Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter


ADHD patients play video games as part of treatment

By Susan Jenks , Florida Today
A generation raised on video games is inspiring researchers' efforts to unlock the mysteries of a puzzling learning disorder that afflicts millions of school-age children and even some adults.
Whether speeding down a virtual street in Sony's Gran Turismo or slaying Spyro the Dragon, researchers hope games such as these will improve the lives of those with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD, or cognitive-processing difficulties.
People with these disorders experience "constant frustration," says Henry Owens, a Melbourne, Fla., clinical psychologist who recently began offering a patented video game system, which evolved from NASA technology, to some of his patients.
"If they just play video games on their own, they will zone out," he says. "When they play on this system, if they zone out, the video game doesn't respond any more," acting as an incentive to improve focus and concentration.
That comes through controlling brain-wave activity, which some researchers say is too slow or too fast in certain areas of the brain when patients have ADHD.
Video game play is a form of neuro-feedback, Owens says, which teaches patients to self-regulate brain-wave patterns to improve learning.
But some researchers remain cautious.
"It's still controversial," says Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Schneider Children's Hospital in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
He says studies have yet to show video game play with a neuro-feedback component has either a short-term or long-term benefit, despite parents' desire to explore other options in the wake of recent concerns about Ritalin and other stimulants used to treat ADHD.
They need to ask, "Does it help, and is it the best treatment available?" says Adesman, a spokesman for Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, a non-profit education, advocacy and support group in Maryland.
The concern, he adds, is parents might abandon mainstay treatments — a combination of pharmacological and educational interventions that have been tested and proved over time.
Owens, however, says some patients have been using the video game system, developed by the San Diego company CyberLearning Technology, in combination with medications, while others want to try the non-drug alternative first, before turning to drug therapy.
Owens says he has four patients playing Smart Brain Games (www.smartbraingames.com), as the system is known, at home — a recent alternative to in-office sessions, which began about a year ago.
Of the home training, he says, "Its advantage is intensity," although he advises against playing more than 20 minutes a day for children younger than 10, and no more than a half-hour daily for everyone else.
And while the company makes the system available directly to consumers — and it is compatible with any Sony off-the-shelf video game — Owens says that without an initial evaluation with an electroencephalogram or EEG, to map brain activity, "how would you know what's being treated?"
"Because this is so new and such a commitment," he says, "we don't want parents to do it lightly."
FDA approved
In Florida, Owens is one of only five practitioners authorized by the company to offer its gaming system.
Lindsay Greco, a co-founder of CyberLearning, says the company has 54 providers Nationwide, identified by "licensure and their expertise in neuro-feedback."
She says the system has approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and that by mid-2003 the company had acquired an exclusive license from NASA to take Langley Research Center's technology, enabling researchers to measure the brain waves of pilots during flight simulations, into the gaming arena.
The device works through a specially designed helmet, with built-in sensors that monitor a player's brain waves. Signals from the sensors are fed through a signal-processing unit and then to a video controller as a game is played.
"There are other systems with computer-based technologies where the bar goes up and down," Greco says. "But these are rudimentary. Our games empower you to change your own brain's physiology."
Like Owens, she says the best games are jumping and racing games that provide consistent movement and a better ability to measure feedback response.
Also, where there is a diagnosis of ADHD, she says, patients should seek providers' expertise on how best to use the system.
Of the roughly 700 systems sold, she says, about 70% have gone to patients using them under the supervision of a health care professional, while 30% have been bought by people for entertainment or those "simply wanting to sharpen their attention or memory."
Greco says in-office neuro-feedback programs normally cost from $4,000 to $5,000, while their system costs $584, with in-office network provider supervision running less than $2,000.
Insurance typically does not cover any of these expenses.
"Cost has been a huge challenge for many consumers," she says.
'Quite helpful'
Although he has not worked with the video game system, Thomas Peake, another Melbourne clinical psychologist, supports the concept "in the right hands."
"If it's done right, these things, in and of themselves, can be quite helpful," Peake says. "And kids are used to playing games and like them."
He says he used to do biofeedback to help patients control pain and has seen it used in major medical centers to help speed recovery in stroke patients.
"Most people off the street would not know how to use these devices, however," he cautions. "But, to me, the principle is a good one."


Video Games Can Save Your Life

March 10, 2006: The U.S. Army has discovered a remote control gun turret that works, and cannot get enough of them. The army wants over 9,000 CROWS (common remotely operated weapon stations), but is only getting 15 a month. There should be about a thousand CROWS in service by the end of the year.

The idea for CROWS has been around for nearly half a century. Years of tinkering, and better technology, eventually made the remote control gun turret effective and dependable. CROWS us a real life saver, not to mention anxiety reducer, for troops who drive through bandit country a lot, and have a turret mounted gun (usually in a hummer). The guy manning the turret mounted machine-gun is a target up there, and too often, the bad guys get you. Not with CROWS. The gunner is inside the vehicle, checking out the surroundings on a computer monitor (with night vision and telephoto capabilities). CROWS also has a laser rangefinder built in, as well as a stabilizer mechanism to allow more accurate fire while the vehicle is moving. The CROWS systems cost about $260,000 each, and can mount a variety of weapons (M2 .50 caliber machine-gun, MK19 40-mm automatic grenade launcher, M240B 7.62mm machine-gun and M249 5.56mm squad automatic weapon).

But there's another reason, not often talked about, for the success of CROWS. The guys operating these systems grew up playing video games. They developed skills in operating systems (video games) very similar to the CROWS controls. This was important, because viewing the world around the vehicle via a vidcam is not as enlightening (although a lot safer) than having your head and chest exposed to the elements, and any firepower the enemy sends your way. But experienced video gamers are skilled at whipping that screen view around, and picking up any signs of danger. Iraqis are amazed at how observant CROWS is. Iraqis tend to just wrote this off as another example of American "magic." But the troops know better. Video games can save your life.


SXSW panel discusses video games in Austin

KTEN Local News
AUSTIN What started as the "Live Music Capital of the World" is now a movie haven with homegrown talent like director Robert Rodriguez and actor Matthew McConaughey.A group of computer programmers, publishers and others hope Austin can one day be a big player in the ten (b) billion dollar a year video game business, too.
But can Austin really become the Hollywood of video games?
A panel that included some of the area's top video game talent met today at the South By Southwest Interactive conference and discussed just that.
They say the city has a long way to go before that can happen.
Austin has about 50 video game companies which currently employ about 14-hundred people.
According to the Austin Game Initiative, which promotes local game companies, Austin is considered the Number Three location for games development.
Panelists say there are several issues preventing the area from growing in prominence, including a lack of local degree programs to teach video game making skills. They also cited a lack of local organization needed to collectively promote their business.


Video game evolution from Pong to the present

A ping-pong video game is developed using three moving dots on a television screen. Two of the dots are paddles. The third is a ball controlled by a game computer. The concept allows the television to be used for something other than watching network shows.1972The Odyssey home video-game system is launched by Magnavox. Game cartridges include hockey, tennis and roulette. Magnavox later offers an Odyssey 2 and an Odyssey 300.1979Atari 2600, a new platform with a library of nine games is released. The following year, Atari upgrades its platform with the Atari 400/800 Series.1983The Nintendo brand expands beyond arcade games. By 1985, Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt are in American homes on the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES.1987Nintendo releases “The Legend of Zelda,” a franchise that continues to churn out game titles into 2005.1989Game Boy, Nintendo’s hand-held system, hits stores.1990Sega releases the Sega Genesis platform.1995Sony releases PlayStation.1996Nintendo ups the ante on graphics and power with Nintendo 64 in Japan.Sega bridges the gap between home video-game consoles and the Internet with Sega Saturn Net Link. The console offers full Web access and online gaming.2000PlayStation 2 is launched. The Sony platform plays games and DVD movies.2001Nintendo releases its newest platform, GameCube.Xbox by Microsoft makes its debut, featuring a 10-gigabyte hard drive, 733-magahertz processor and the ability to connect players via broadband and the Internet. 2002Sony begins selling modem adaptors that allow PlayStation 2 to play against friends online.2004Nintendo DS, the latest Game Boy upgrade, allows wireless gaming with players up to 150 feet away.2005Sony releases the Sony PlayStation Portable, a hand-held platform that plays video games, movies, MP3s, allows wireless multi-player gaming and eventually Internet browsing.Xbox 360 is launched.2006PlayStation 3 is expected to hit stores.Nintendo Revolution is to go on sale.

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