News

Weekly News Round-Up 8/3/10

The ApocalyPS3


This week much raging did take place, because for an entire day, the Playstation Network became unavailable to users of any PS3 that was not a slim version, due to an internal clock error, aptly dubbed the “apocalyPS3”. Apparently these consoles registered 2010 as a leap year and thus rage quitted on themselves, rendering many PSN trophy-enabled games unplayable. The issue apparently resolved itself, according to the official Playstation blog, without an update needed and it has been reported that some users lost trophies and even saved game files – we feel for you folks! Many cynics and conspiracy theorists were quick to rise up and claim it was a secret plan by Sony, initiated in order to force people to buy the new slim version of the PS3. While this is clearly crazy talk, from malleable metal headwear enthusiasts, there are increasing doubts as to whether Sony can continue to compete with other online gaming services/marketplaces. Either way, Hitler isn’t a fan.

Insanity Ward

On March 1st, after a slew of rumours and reports of security turning up at Infinity Ward and other such things, it was discovered, first via a Facebook update reading “Jason West is drinking. Also, no longer employed.” That the aforementioned co-founder of Infinity Ward was let go by Activision, the parent company, and shortly after Vince Zampella, the CEO suffered the same fate. Activision announced that it was taking the franchise in a new direction. Apparently the two heads were talking to other companies, looking to take their own direction with Call of Duty, as the contract between the two companies is due to expire this autumn. Naturally Activision, and it’s head Bobby Kotick didn’t want them messing around with their gold mine and promptly fired them on grounds of breach of contract due to insurbordination– at least that’s the reason they give. The craziness didn’t stop there however, Zampella and West bit back, filing a lawsuit claiming Activision simply did it in order to avoid paying them the (what clearly must be) substantial royalties from MW2. Since then, it has been reported that Activision are now frantically searching for documents linking the two with EA.

Activision are clearly looking to go the mile with CoD, having already announced a non-FPS version to be released by newly founded Sledgehammer games, the next instalment to be developed by Treyarch and another “unkown” developer to make yet another. Activision Publishing CEO Mike Griffith wrote in an internal memo, which was leaked, that Infinity Ward was still essential to the franchise, so we’re just gonna have to wait and see how this whole thing plays out. Personally I find it hard to believe that the heads of Infinity Ward deserved such a fate; the landscape could have been a whole lot different if they had smoothly transitioned to a company they felt more comfortable with. Unfortunately, it looks as though Activision are going to drive a once great franchise into the ground by overselling and bastardizing it.

Portal 2

Thank the lord, more and more Portal 2 news has been leaked recently; Yes, the eagerly awaited sequel to the genius little 2007 game, is in full swing for a reported Christmas release this year. Amongst a whole host of other tid-bits, it’s been discovered the unique puzzle game will have multiplayer coop which could make for some very complicated and intricate sections, and looks to be a standalone title, meaning an even more fleshed out game hopefully – awesomeness. If you want to read the rest of the spoiler-filled details, look here.

Recently Valve updated the original game, with some audio files, some encoded, some are morse code, which players could listen to via the radios in certain sections through a mini game. These files sent many fans on a treasure hunt ending in a series of images. Along with other confusing information, Valve also updated the ending sequence, you can see that here. Personally, I cannot wait – I’ve found Valve rarely disappoint and you’ve got to give it to them for constructing such complex little games for its hardcore fans. And oh yes, in other Valve news, Steam is officially coming to the Mac, presumably along with TF2, Half Life 2 etc so rejoice!

Tax Breaks

Last week Shadow Arts minister Ed Vaizey MP, restated that the Tories, if elected would seriously look at fiscal support for the UK games industry, stressing the importance of the industry in the current business landscape. He explained that the industry needs the help that any other industry does, and that’s tax and regulation reduction. He went on to say that other countries do indeed receive active support from their governments so much of the UK’s talent is being bled to other countries and thus it’s his “absolutely number one priority” to “level the playing field”. This comes shortly after Brown, the Prime Minister promised to look help support the industry in much the same way, after praising its importance in terms of the global industry. Although this appears to be a case of everyone jumping on the bandwagon prior to an election, it’s still nice to see that this is something they reckon it’s worth lying about; at least it’s a little more of the recognition the industry deserves.

And Finally…

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was released this week, and being a fan of the franchise since Battlefield 2, I’m loving the hell out it – it’s a whole lot more strategic and the environments are beautiful and literally, explosive. Anywho, if you want to pick it up, but are stuck in your stubborn noob-tubing Modern Warfare 2 ways, take a look at this video and get yourself in the right mindset! Oh, and Not-so-weekly picks on Tuesday!


March 7th, 2010
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News

News 20/2/2010

Awards, old games, new games, announcements and speculations!

DICE Awards

The 13th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards were held at the D.I.C.E Summit, which focuses on industry innovation, in the city of sin last Thursday, and appropriately, developer Naughty Dog took home a staggering 10 awards for Uncharted 2, including Game of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction. Batman Arkham Asylum and Modern Warfare 2 also won multiple awards. Naughty Dog’s success is all the more admirable considering the AIAS Awards are generally thought to be the most prestigious and revered accolades in the games industry. Important figures also gained deserved recognition; Doug Lowenstein who virtually created the infrastructure of the industry himself by forming the Entertainment Software Association (the Games industry trade association), spearheading the creation of ESRB, founding E3 and providing council on many legal matters the software industry faced, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Though he had his critics, he has undoubtedly been invaluable to world of gaming and software. Mark Cerny, the man responsible for such classics as Crash Bandicoot, Jack & Daxter and many many others, was awarded the Hall of Fame award, and rightfully so; his dedication to the industry and the experience he has accumulated along with it, has proved extremely useful to individual companies and indeed to the industry as a whole. The usual suspects (Uncharted 2, MW2, Batman and Assassin’s Creed 2) have also all been nominated for the BAFTAs, due to be held next month, so we’ve only to wait and see who comes out top(naughty) dog.

Predictions & Forecasts

Evan Wilson, an analyst working for Pacific Crest Securities, has predicted that digital sales will increase by 34% in 2010, despite debate over this contentious issue, but physical copies will not take a hit as a result, due to industry growth, accounting for the rise in digital sales. He told Gamespot that “obvious factors…such as game delays, the economy, and the fall of the music genre, have simply added to the one main issue that we have faced all cycle: growth of development costs has outstripped sales growth”. He went on to say that large cutbacks in staff and whole studios are a result of this phenomenon. Promising IPs and interesting games were (and are being) ditched due to the lack of profitability, at the expense of innovators and gamers worldwide. Finally Wilson made tangible predictions on sales of hardware, tipping the PS3 to sell 5m, from last year’s 4.3, the 360 to stay stagnant on 4.8m and a decline in sales of the Wii (because just about everyone and his dog..and his cat, has one) to cause total hardware sales to drop.

John Riccitiello, the EA CEO, used the wonder of hindsight to predict state that price cuts for consoles were too late, last year, to effectively combat the recession, with the 360’s and PS3’s coming in August, and Wii’s in September. EA took a number of large financial hits last year, and had to cut staff and studios, so it’s unsurprising some are looking for people to blame, and the hardware companies are an easy if not appropriate target, nevertheless, Riccitiello firmly believes that 2010 is shaping up to be good for EA due to “great quality and improved marketing”. Personally, I believe it’s looking as though a lot hangs on Medal of Honor and Crisis 2, potentially the breakthrough games.

X10

Speaking of predictions and the future, Microsoft naturally had their own, which they gleefully announced at this year’s revived X10 event. The software giant claimed 2010 to be its “biggest and most breakthrough year yet”, with a number of highly anticipated games and useless avatar gear set for release. Aaron Greenberg, Director of Product Management at Microsoft has said Natal will have a lifespan of around 5 years and then proceeded to spout the Molyneux-esque dribble about changing the way we interact with games etc – I’ll try to reserve judgment for now, unless of course they plan to explore Natal’s capabilities in the pr0n market….moving on swiftly. X10 also brought the news that a “big franchise” would be making its way on to Natal, though it was unclear which. All I can say is please please please don’t ruin something good!

Microsoft have also declared that Perfect Dark is coming to Xbox Live in early March. The classic shooter has been updated to withstand the unsympathetic HD, with far greater polygon numbers for character and weapon models and updated textures. Machinima interviewed Ken Lobb, Creative Director for Microsoft Game Studios about the revamped N64 title, so here it is. In other Microsoft news, the Windows 7 Phone will support Xbox Live and a Zune Music function, but personally, it just screams mediocrity when I hear Zune or a Windows phone, but at least Apple-haters will have salvation. On a less trivial note, market research firm, FADE, have found that Xbox Live Arcade sales are up 34% year-on-year, with Battlefield 1943 out on top, (which by the way, is awesome and on offer on XBLA) showing that the console interfaces are becoming alarmingly important in the major companies’ business model and proving the success of the entertainment interface, with the 360 looking to be topping the bunch currently.

Release Dates/Announcements

With a new year settling in, the major publishers have begun to set out the plans for releases, and it’s shaping up to be one hell of a year or two. THQ are planning to reveal both a new Red Faction title, and a Saints Row sequel; hilarity will inevitably ensue, in the good sense. Activision are lining up a new Call of Duty, though lower profile than the 2009’s mammoth MW2, another Tony Hawk (God help us all), yet another iteration of the inexplicably popular, but irritatingly addictive Guitar Hero, a Spiderman and a James Bond, so originality all round; apparently they plan to trim the music-based titles, probably a good move for everyone. EA have set plans for a slew of big hitters for the opening of next year including Dead Space 2, a new Dragon Age, a new shooter IP from Epic games and yet another tired revamp of the need for speed franchise. One of the company’s key attacks this year is the reboot of Medal of Honor….”Medal of Honor”; It’s due out this fall and promises excessive realism with regards to tasks and objectives, so you can truly simulate squandering tax dollars; additionally dedicated servers have been hinted, but this could be just a cheap ploy to entice the PC fanboys early on. Electronic Arts claim to be focusing on quality as opposed to quantity this year and onward – big words, but figures do demand a new approach.

Recently Peter Molyneux proudly announced to us that at x10, with his revealing of Fable 3, he would “piss off” a lot of people due to some yet to be announced reason (and also briefly claimed Natal to be as revolutionary as the mouse). A clever PR stunt you might be thinking? Nope. It turns out to be that Fable 3 has no Health bar or experience points, but is the same otherwise – apparently hes managed to piss a lot of people off boasting of the innovation of previous incarnations of Fable in the past, but when he’s sure that he’s going to upset people, no one gives a toss; crazy world! Anyways, Fable 3 is set to release in late 2010.

Bethesda also revealed Fallout: New Vegas a couple of weeks ago, to the delight of myself and many other budding wasteland survivors; a trailer, similar that of Fallout 3’s was released and shortly after a collection of information, reportedly from PC Gamer, came out. Some of the most exciting stuff goes as follows: Hoover Dam will supply electricity, the three main factions are Caesar’s Legion, New Vegas Residents and New California Republic (those familiar with Fallout 1 & 2 will I’m sure appreciate the return of the old school factions and location), there’s a reputation system in addition to Karma, presumably distinguishing what people know and don’t know about you and there will be a Hardcore mode where the player will be forced to drink water to survive, sounds lovely! Here’s the rest of the beef.

Sales

Last month, Shepard’s galactic gallantry broke January records, with Mass Effect 2 selling 572,000 copies in just 6 days, and of course, the space opera has gone on to hit the 2 million mark and shows little sign of stopping, coming in at number two overall in the charts, only pipped at the post by Super Mario Bros. Not so brilliant was the news that this January, every part of the industry decreased on last year, overall by 13%, according to the NPD, so rainbows and lollipops all round, however, one must take into account the bumper December beforehand. Perhaps slightly more positively, a selection of new IPs managed to break into the top 20 in terms of sales, also according to the NPD with MAG, the 256 player madness FPS, Darksiders and Bayonetta, the unashamedly idealised ass-kicking, bespectacled girl shooter/slasher coming in at 13, 14 and 17 respectively – maybe there’s hope for originality yet.

Finally, I’ll leave you with news that (news flash!) casual gaming makes money, hence Europeans spending over a billion on it last year and that this trailer is bat-smashingly awesome.

February 21st, 2010
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