Monthly Archives:May 2019

A screenshot from Far Cry 3.TRADITIONAL retail video game sales  slumped 23per cent in Australia last year  as consumers  shifted to game apps and digital downloads.

But bricks-and-mortar retailers  say that comparing game apps to full-fledged console titles for the Xbox or PlayStation is like comparing a Happy Meal with a Big Mac.

New data from NPD Group Australia shows  the revenue retailers  made  from console hardware, games software and gaming peripherals was $1.161billion last year.

Ron Curry, the chief executive  of  the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association, said the sector was still ‘‘buoyant’’ despite the 23per cent fall in traditional sales because the figures did not include sales from online retail, downloadable content, digital subscriptions, mobile games and in-game micro-transactions.

The technology analyst company Telsyte predicts Australians will spend more than $730million on digital games this year,  up from $620million last year.

A Telsyte analyst, Sam Yip, told Fairfax Media that with the move to game apps and online subscription games, bricks-and-mortar  games retailers  had to diversify.

“You’ve got online games that are 10 to 20 times cheaper than packaged games and give you the same sort of experience,” he said.

Mr Yip said the quality gap was closing between Xbox and PlayStation games bought on disc and those available online or on devices such as the iPad.

But  the merchandising director at EB Games, Shane Stockwell,  said there was no comparison between game apps and console blockbusters, still mainly sold on disc because of the large file sizes.

“I would consider app gaming more like a $2 Happy Meal at Maccas,” Mr Stockwell said.

“Some people want the  Happy Meal, some people want the Big Mac – they’re not the same  and they have a price difference. I’m playing Far Cry 3  from Ubisoft – there’s no way an app compares to that.”

Mr Stockwell said he had put 30-40 hours into  the game, “and an app doesn’t come close.  But my son, who’s nine, loves playing Minecraft  … so it’s horses for courses.”

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THE Greens have launched a new bid to force the nation’s biggest miners to pay up under the mining tax, raising the pressure on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to admit the deal signed off with the three biggest miners in 2010 was botched.

The minor party, whose support is crucial to the Labor government’s survival, wants to fix the underperforming mining tax in order to fund schools, dental health and disability insurance.

Armed with fresh data from the new Parliamentary Budget Office, it will build on its existing motion to plug the royalties hole with a second amendment limiting the scope of the biggest miners, such as BHP Billiton, Xstrata and Rio Tinto, to deduct asset values from current earnings.

Along with other cross-benchers and the opposition, the Greens believe Ms Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan were outmanoeuvred by the big three when cutting the new deal following the leadership change from Kevin Rudd.

The Greens say closing the loophole that allows state governments to increase royalty charges, which must then be refunded by Canberra, would save more than $2.2 billion.

Its other change would close a loophole that allows the big miners to write-off the market value of existing assets over a number of years, rather than deducting the lower book value over just five years.

It says this would secure more than $4 billion in revenue by 2016-17 and an extra $1.8 billion a year.

”Labor is taking more money off single parents than it has collected from the mining tax,” deputy leader Adam Bandt told Fairfax Media.

Its move comes as the failure of the minerals resource rent tax, which raised just $126 million in its first six months, emerges as a potential flashpoint for the Labor leadership.

MPs loyal to the Prime Minister are fuming at public criticism of the tax this week by Kevin Rudd, chief whip Joel Fitzgibbon and others.

Mr Rudd used a Sky News interview on Tuesday to remind colleagues that his original super profits mining tax had been stronger but was replaced with the watered down version by Ms Gillard and Mr Swan after the leadership coup. He said it was never right for governments to take a backward step when pursuing the national interest.

Amid the tension, an email from an ALP supporter to Mr Rudd on Wednesday was distributed widely among Labor MPs, reviving memories of the bitter personal campaign against the former prime minister’s character last year.

”Mr Rudd, your disloyalty to your leader and party is shameful,” wrote retired school teacher, Sue Martin, of Avalon Beach, New South Wales.

”It appears that childishly, you feel that if you can’t be PM then no other Labor politician should be.”

The 63 year-old said she had always supported Labor, and was tired of Mr Rudd’s approach, which she characterised as delighting in ”half smiles and non-committal responses”.

Ms Gillard has ruled out changes to the mining tax but wants to renegotiate terms with the states to cap royalty rises.

But that appears doomed, with the conservative-run resource states of Queensland, Western Australia and NSW all dismissing any suggestion of placing limits on their own revenue streams.

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Sydney victims had come forward over alleged abuse after publicity in Fairfax Media earlier this month.NSW POLICE are investigating complaints that Jewish children were abused in Sydney.

Fairfax Media understands that complaints have been made against two perpetrators, both associated with the Yeshiva Centre at Bondi, one of whom has more than one alleged victim.

A police spokesman said the allegations dated back to the late 1970s and 1980s, and referred to abuse of children by adults associated with a Jewish school operating at that time.

The spokesman said eastern suburbs detectives began inquiries in February last year after getting information from Victoria Police, and had spoken to people interstate and overseas.

These are the first formal complaints about the Orthodox community in Sydney, but there have been several in Melbourne.

Rabbi Pinchas Feldman, the spiritual leader of Sydney’s Yeshiva Centre, said he was shocked to hear of the allegations, and the call from Fairfax was the first he had heard of it. ”I do not recall anyone ever coming to me with such a problem. I am shocked to hear that anything of this nature has taken place here,” he said, adding the centre would co-operate fully with any inquiry.

Victims advocate Manny Waks, himself abused at Melbourne’s Yeshiva Centre as a boy, said other Sydney victims had come forward after publicity by Fairfax Media about comments by senior Chabad rabbi Manis Friedman minimising the effects of child sex abuse.

Rabbi Friedman, based in the US, compared abuse with a case of diarrhoea – embarrassing but private – and said victims learnt a valuable lesson from abuse. He later apologised, saying his intention was to help empower victims to move forward.

Mr Waks, founder of the Tzedek advocacy group for Jewish abuse survivors, said there had long been credible reports of child sex abuse victims within the ultra-Orthodox community in Sydney, as well as reports of cover-ups.

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Rio Tinto has confirmed it will keep Gove up and running.THE underperforming Gove alumina refinery – and 1500 jobs at Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory – are saved, but a tussle remains over who will pay for it.

Rio Tinto confirmed on Wednesday that it would keep Gove, operated by its Pacific Aluminium subsidiary, up and running after the NT government said gas would be supplied from Italian major Eni’s offshore fields in the Bonaparte Basin for the next 10 years, via a new 600-kilometre pipeline to Nhulunbuy. The gas will help the loss-making refinery move from expensive fuel oil to gas – an option apparently rejected by former operator Alcan in 2003.

It is understood Pacific Aluminium will buy gas directly from Eni on commercial terms without a direct government subsidy, at a price to be negotiated.

The deal is only possible because in 2005 NT signed a 25-year contract with Eni, at about half the market price, in the vicinity of $6 a gigajoule, and is prepared to make some of that gas available to Gove, by bringing forward production plans and shortening the territory’s period of gas price certainty. There will be no immediate increase in gas prices for territory consumers, however.

NT Chief Minister Terry Mills put the cost of the deal at $1.2 billion. Eni and the APA Group will spend $500 million on a new offshore well and new compression equipment.

Another $500 million will be needed to build a pipeline from Katherine to Nhulunbuy, perhaps owned by APA, and part-funded by the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation.

The Commonwealth is being asked to underwrite the pipeline, but it is not clear whether this will be through guarantee or direct funding.

The total cost will be recovered from gas sales to Pacific Aluminium, which will spend $200 million to convert its generators to gas.

Deutsche Bank’s head of resources, Paul Young, said the Gove refinery had long been the ”problem child” of the Pacific Aluminium portfolio as it had never achieved its nameplate capacity, due to design flaws. But the deal on Gove – which supplies alumina to Rio’s smelters at Bell Bay, Tiwai, and Tomago – would improve Rio’s chances of selling Pacific Aluminium, which Deutsche valued at $US3.5 billion.

Mr Young said, however, that the decision to keep Gove operating was less than optimal and would cost shareholders half a billion dollars, even factoring in closure costs, compared with the option of exporting 100 per cent of the bauxite to China.

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Mobile … new Sydney signing Jarrod Kyle hopes his short spell could turn into something more permanent.HE’S big, he’s tall, and Sydney FC coach Frank Farina reckons 19-year-old Jarrod Kyle might be the secret weapon to unleash on unsuspecting rivals in the race to the finals.

The burly striker has been on trial for the Sky Blues in recent weeks after being released by Sheffield Wednesday last month and impressed enough to win a deal for the rest of the season.

Born and raised on the Gold Coast, Kyle had an impressive time at the Owls academy – winning their player-of-the-year award last season – but asked to be released so he could chase a deal in the A-League.

The Sky Blues waited until the final hours of the transfer window on Monday before adding Kyle to their list. Jason Culina was released on the same day after falling out with Frank Farina but the coach insists he would have signed Kyle regardless.

”We had some information that he was coming back from England and we had a look at him and liked what I saw,” Farina said after training at Macquarie University on Wednesday. ”He’s a young kid, an Aussie, well over six foot. It’s worth having a look until the end of the season and we’ll go from there.”

However, Farina said Kyle wouldn’t be ready to face Adelaide United at Allianz Stadium on Saturday. ”He’s most probably a little bit underdone at this stage,” he said. ”That’s up to him [when he gets an opportunity], how he goes fitness-wise and in the games at training.”

Farina described his new acquisition as ”arguably an old-fashioned centre-forward”. ”He’s very strong, he’s quite mobile and you don’t often see strikers come along at that age of that size and pace,” the coach said.

Farina refused to be drawn on his split with former Socceroo Culina. ”That’s a closed chapter and everyone’s said what needs to be said,” Farina said. ”We’ve moved on and I’m sure Jason has as well.”

Kyle said he was hoping to impress when given a chance and that his short spell could turn into something more permanent. ”I’ve been overseas for 2½ years, so to have the opportunity to come back is brilliant,” he said.

”There was one or two [other A-League clubs interested] but this club appealed to me the most. They’ve won the A-League twice and they’re a massive club. I’m just so enthusiastic to start, so once I get on the pitch and get my opportunity to play, I’ll make it count.”

The forward believes his stint with the Championship side has made him all the more ready to impress at A-League level.

”The amount of experience I picked up while I was over there was invaluable,” Kyle said.

The visit of Adelaide gives Sydney a chance to avenge their two defeats at the hands of the Reds earlier in the season. With the Sky Blues in the top six for the first time since the opening month, confidence is high at Moore Park.

But with Alessandro Del Piero in blistering form, and competition for places heating up, the fans expect the team to keep improving. ”Every game for the club, at the moment, is huge,” Farina said. ”It’s like playing finals football 12 weeks early.”

Adelaide halted their slide last week with a barnstorming win over Melbourne Victory, galvanising the team behind new coach Michael Valkanis – even though he’ll be watching this game from the stands after being sent off.

”They were really up for that game and have been most probably inconsistent due to what’s happening around the club,” Farina said. ”But they’re worthy of being where they are. They’re mobile, have got some dangerous players up front and they’re a compact team. They’ve beaten us twice this year, so they’re a difficult opponent for us.”

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