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E3 2010 Day -1: Highlights

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I’ll be doing full day summaries once the event commences tomorrow both here and on Zath.co.uk, but until then, here are some of the most exciting things from today’s keynotes. As we feared, Microsoft, Ubisoft and EA were all too excited to instruct us how to stand up in our living rooms and look like prats, with the horde of new games built for the newly named Kinect, but there was thankfully, some proper E3 goodness. So take heart in these highlights:

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  • First and foremost was a first look at the insanely cool Metal Gear: Rising. Remember how badass Raiden’s entry scene was in MGS4? Imagine yourself doing it for real, slicing limb from limb in cyborg madness. Slicey!

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  • Microsoft’s answer to the PS3 slim: Sleek new design, built in Wifi, 250gb hard drive and quieter running noise, because of course, silence is golden or shiny back. Whatever.
  • Ghost Recon: Future Soldier complete with large explosions and stealth camouflage in order that you might experience the joy of shooting unwitting terrorists point blank in the back of the head.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops still looking awesome.
  • Medal of Honor passing off as Battlefield: Bad Company 2 crossed with the best parts of Modern Warfare 2, with a BETA on the way

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Other noteworthy stuff:

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Catch you tomorrow when the fun begins.

June 14th, 2010
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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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News 21/1/10

DLC! It seems its all the rage this week, and not surprisingly, as companies are beginning to realize the huge benefit of DLC to increase games’ longevity and indeed, profitability. We’ve got Bioshock 2 DLC confirmed, day one, free DLC for Mass Effect 2 and some dodgy leaked info on the Modern Warfare 2 DLC. Along with that we’ve got NPD sales report, predictions and release dates…and some dates that are no longer release dates.

Modern Warfare 2 DLC

So here’s the scoop on the MW2 Map Packs: A hacker on YouTube claims to have found 6 brand new maps, including the white house, and a separate Map Pack with remakes of CoD4 classics – here’s to hoping. You can check out the video here. Also at CES last week, it was indeed confirmed that Xbox Live would be getting the first Map Pack exclusively to begin with, for at least 30 days – sorry PSN Puckers!

Mass Effect 2 DLC

Bioware have announced The Cerberus Network – a system available to Mass Effect 2 owners, that is, brand new copies, which will give updates and news on upcoming DLC and the like for free. They are currently planning two sets of DLC, both free, one which drops on day one and another shortly after. They promise to deliver new vehicles, weapons, missions and even a new alien chum!

NPD Sales Report

Last week the NPD released it’s most recent data report and surprise surprise, Modern Warfare 2 is the best selling game of 2009, totalling over $1 billion in sales so far, topping the Xbox 360 charts and becoming America’s fourth best selling game of all time. The Sims 3 topped out the PC chart, with MW2 coming in at 5th, presumably suffering from the rage over no dedicated server support. The Wii also secured an impressive number of high placings with it’s “games” – curse you Wii Fit!

Release Dates

In terms of release dates, Splinter Cell Conviction has been pushed back…again; but what with the recent CES there’s been quite a few announcements, so here they are:

  • Sony Motion Controller – Fall 2010
  • New Assassin’s Creed Title next year (supposedly with a multiplayer feature)
  • Natal Christmas 2010
  • Nintendo DS2 predicted 2011
  • Fable III 2010

Market News & Predictions

It hasn’t been a great year for EA – Its closed down studios, taken significant losses and as a result, has recently lowered its’ forecast – under the current CEO John Riccitiellio, EA has reportedly destroyed $11bn in market value, according to former EA senior executive, Mitch Lasky, on his blog. Analysts are predicted something falling through sooner or later and an acquisition looks highly possible; certainly Disney seems interested. Last week it was announced they are planning less games at a higher quality, the operative word being “planning”. Things could get interesting here.

January 20th, 2010
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