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Move over, CityVille. SimCity is coming back to town.
The game franchise that first defined the city-building genre in 1989 will be re-released next year as a multi-player online computer game, developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts Inc.
This time, however, SimCity has an environmental theme, a la “An Inconvenient Truth," the 2006 documentary about Al Gore's campaign to educate the public about global warming. In SimCity, a fetish for coal burning plants in one city can spread smog and sickness in adjacent cities run by other players, for example.
This could prompt players to ask, “What would Al Gore do?” But because it’s a game, Maxis developers know players often prefer to be mischievous. Every toddler who builds towers of wooden blocks knows it’s more fun to knock them down, Godzilla-style.
And so it will be with SimCity.
“For the first time in SimCity, players’ decisions will have consequences that will extend beyond their city limits,” said Lucy Bradshaw, senior vice president of Maxis. “It’s up to the players to decide whether to compete or collaborate to shape the world of tomorrow -- for better or for worse.”
To announce the title, Electronic Arts tapped documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim for a fireside chat at its news conference Monday night at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Guggenheim, who directed "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Waiting for Superman," professed a love of the SimCity franchise as a player.
Guggenheim said documentaries, as with games, are still entertainment -- not a high school science lecture.
Bradshaw, who heads up the Maxis studio in Emeryville, Calif., concurred, promising plenty of fun when the game comes out sometime in 2013.
Photo: Kelly Clarkson. Credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images.
Finding its voice. ABC wants its own hit singing competition show. The network, according to TV Guide, has signed up Kelly Clarkson, Lionel Richie, Robin Thicke and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles for "Duets." The show will be similar to NBC's "The Voice" in that the four singers will mentor wannabe stars.
Daily Dose: Steve McPherson, the former head of ABC Entertainment who left the network almost two years ago in a cloud of controversy and allegations of bad behavior, has kept a low profile since then. But on Friday he is expected to resurface to testify in the wrongful-termination battle between "Desperate Housewives" co-star Nicollette Sheridan and the show's creator, Marc Cherry. McPherson, who has been focusing on his wine and liquor businesses, will be appearing just days after his former nemesis at the network -- Mark Pedowitz -- offered his version of events of what led to Sheridan's being written off the show.
Big night. While Super Tuesday didn't exactly settle the Republican race, it did show the dominance of Fox News. Not only did Fox beat its cable rivals CNN and MSNBC with its poll coverage, it even beat NBC's hourlong special on the results. More on the numbers from the New York Times.
Cloudy cloud. A new iPad wasn't the only thing Apple unveiled on Wednesday. The computer giant also confirmed its plans to allow customers who have bought movies through iTunes to park them in Apple's iCloud service, where they can be accessed anytime via iPhone, iPad or Mac. This being Hollywood, nothing is ever simple. While several studios -- including Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros. -- are on board with the plan, 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures are not. That's because their deals with HBO will need to be renegotiated first. Details on this complex situation from the Los Angeles Times and All Things Digital.
Netflix to the rescue? Deadline Hollywood reports that Netflix has made inquiries about acquiring "Terra Nova," the expensive dinosaur drama that Fox canceled on Monday. While Netflix already has a deal to bring one canceled show back -- Fox's critical darling "Arrested Development" -- trying to save "Terra Nova" may be a reach. The show is very expensive and it is unclear if there is enough demand from viewers for such a move to make much business sense for Netflix. Additionally, actors from "Terra Nova" are already being cast in new pilots. I will agree with one Deadline commenter who responded to the news by saying, "and Peyton Manning will return to the Colts and bring another championship to Indianapolis." Huffington Post has dinosaur video from the premiere episode
Sumner slowing down? On Thursday, Sumner Redstone will be at Viacom's annual meeting. Normally, this is hardly news. But since Redstone, the chairman of the media giant, originally was planning to skip the meeting for undisclosed reasons, speculation about the health of the 88-year-old mogul has heated up. The Wall Street Journal has a curtain raiser on the meeting and the concern about Redstone.
Forbes has come out with its billionaires list and, as usual, lots of media industry kingpins are on it. Here's a look at who went up in the rankings and who went down.
Ad loss amounts to 'a couple of french fries'. The flight of advertisers from “The Rush Limbaugh Show” continued Wednesday, with a total of 45 national and local companies pulling their spots, according to the liberal activist groups angered by the talk radio host for calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.”
But Limbaugh told his audience that the reports of advertiser defections had been greatly exaggerated by his opponents, and that the companies that pulled ads accounted for a small minority of the overall ad inventory on the 600 affiliates that carry his show.
“That's like losing a couple of French fries in the container when it's delivered to you at the drive-through,” Limbaugh said. “You don’t even notice it.”
OP-ED: Limbaugh and the hypocrisy of the gaffe
An industry expert at the trade magazine “Talkers” said that the system for buying radio advertising is extremely complex and it would be hard to assess Limbaugh’s ad losses in the short run.
The liberal advocacy group Media Matters said it had recorded a list of 45 sponsors — mostly national, but including a dozen that aired spots on WABC in New York, which the group monitors — that had abandoned Limbaugh by Wednesday afternoon. They included big companies like J.C. Penney and Capital One and also local advertisers like Norway Savings Bank.
Several different activist groups chronicled, and encouraged, the advertiser defections, with much of the news about their decisions delivered on Facebook and Twitter. The individual social media missives revealed a complicated situation, including instances in which advertisers said they had maintained a “no run” policy for the Limbaugh show, even before the Fluke controversy.
OBAMA: I thought of my daughters when I called Sandra Fluke
J.C. Penney said via Facebook: “It has come to our attention that a handful of local radio stations may have played jcpenney radio spots adjacent to or during The Rush Limbaugh Show. To be clear, jcpenney is not a national advertiser of this show. We have a strict 'No Run' policy in place specifically regarding The Rush Limbaugh Show. After jcpenney confirms the facts, we will contact any local radio station that is in violation of our radio advertising parameters to ensure that our 'No Run' policy is adhered to regarding this program."
The liberal interest group Think Progress reported that Capital One had dropped its Limbaugh ads. It quoted the bank as saying: “Yes. We have reiterated our advertising choices to our media partners. If an ad did run, it was not authorized by us, and we do not want it to happen again.”
Netflix told the digital culture website Boing Boing: “Spotted your tweets and wanted to let you know that Netflix has not purchased and does not purchase advertising on the Rush Limbaugh show. We do buy network radio advertising and have confirmed that two Netflix spots were picked up in error as part of local news breaks during the Rush Limbaugh show. We have instructed our advertising agency to make sure that this error will not happen again.”
Limbaugh told his audience Wednesday that any defections had been inconsequential. He said some new advertisers already had signed on, following his commentaries on Fluke last week. “Everything is fine on the business side. Everything's cool,” he said. “There is not a thing to worry about. What you're seeing on television about this program and sponsors and advertisers is just incorrect.”
Angelo Carusone, campaign director for Media Matters, suggested that a review of Limbaugh’s website or radio show suggested otherwise. He said that a position on the Limbaugh homepage long occupied by the computer security firm Carbonite had been left blank. And Carusone forwarded his group's log of sponsor time during Limbaugh's show Wednesday as it aired on WABC in New York, showing that many spots were occupied by free public-service ads.
Michael Harrison, publisher of “Talkers,” said he opposes economic campaigns against radio hosts, whether they are liberal or conservative. He argued that such campaigns, if successful, tend to stifle free speech.
But Harrison contended that only a decline in audience would do serious damage to Limbaugh.
“If the listeners are bailing out, then I would say there is a long-term problem,” Harrison said. “Then he would lose sponsors and new ones would be harder to find.” But Harrison said there are not yet indications of a listener exodus from the Limbaugh program.
“His audience is not outraged,” Harrison said, adding that Limbaugh was turning the issue already into a campaign against allegedly untrustworthy mainstream media. “If you listen to his show, he is making it an us-against-them thing. That’s how he built his whole show in the first place.”
Inside the Los Angeles Times: Eddie Murphy's "A Thousand Words" had about that many hurdles to find its way to the box office.
-- Joe Flint
Follow me on Twitter. I'm more valuable than a new iPad. Twitter.com/JBFlint