Category Archives: 2004-2009 Archives

EverQuest Kicks Off 15th Expansion

Everquest
Sony Online Entertainment officially unveiled its EverQuest Seeds of Destruction expansion today, marking the 15th expansion of the trend-setting game. Initially launched in March 1999, EverQuest raised the bar for MMORPGs and paved the way for other blockbuster games like World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online and Age of Conan.

Seeds of Destruction offers players of this classic title plenty of room to grow and explore. The expansion opens up some 20 new zones, raises the level cap to 85, introduces new spells and raiding content and even builds on the alternative advancement possibilities.

“With EverQuest rapidly approaching its 10th anniversary next March,
the legacy of the franchise continues to grow along with the amount of new
content offered,” Clint Worley, EverQuest senior producer, was quoted as saying. “Seeds of Destruction will take players back in time where they can discover new storylines, adventures and zones.”

The new expansion is available via digital download at Everquest.com and is now in stores. Its suggested retail price commands nearly $40. The price of admission, however, gives new players access to all 14 previous expansions.

As an original player of EverQuest, I have to admit I’m amazed SOE has managed to keep this title going strong for such a long time. It’s hard to conceive the game is on the cusp of its 10th anniversary.

While I’ve moved on to other games and personally can be found slaying mobs in AoC nowadays, I can’t help but remember the wonder of cracking the very first EverQuest box and starting to play. Never before had I seen a game that was so rich in content, engrossing and full of depth. The title remains one of my all-time favorites.

My hat goes off to the folks behind EverQuest for setting the pace and keeping it going.

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Saints Row Gets Platinum Hits Status

Saints Row
Just nine months after its official release, THQ’s Saints Row has been named an Xbox 360 Platinum Hits title.

Players of the game take on the role of a 3rd Street Saints gang member. Living under threat from rival gangs and corrupt officials, the mission is to conquer Stilwater a district at a time.

The title allows players to customize their character and vehicles. The open-world genre title can support up to 12 players on Xbox Live.

As a Platinum Hits title, Saints Row will retail for $29.99. Considering it’s only nine months after its initial release, I can’t quite figure out if this is actually good news for the title or not, but at least it’s good for gamers that want to check it out for less of an investment.

The folks at THQ don’t sound too upset though.

“Achieving Platinum Hits status in just nine months is a tribute to Volition’s talented development team, and we look forward to leveraging their proprietary open-world engine to continue pushing the genre forward,” said Bob Aniello, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, THQ, in a media release.

Related:
Saints Row Tops Xbox Live
Saints Row Beating Out Oblivion
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EVE Online Gets New Packaging Deal

EVE OnlineEVE Online has been taking a band of faithful gamers to a galaxy far, far away for about five years now. This coming spring, the space-based MMORPG is hoped to get an interest jolt thanks to a new deal with Atari.

According to Geek.com, CCP, the creator of EVE, has inked a deal to put the game with a cult following back on retail shelves. A boxed release is said to be coming to stores throughout North America, Europe and the Asian Pacific. The boxed set will include all nine expansion packs, 60 days of free play time and some extras. The targeted release is March 2009.

CCP’s CEO, Hilmar Veigar Petursson, is quoted as saying, “This partnership comes at a great time in the history of EVE where, through a series of technical breakthroughs, we are able to support a vast increase in the number of concurrent players in our single shard persistent world.”

EVE, as Geek.com points out, is a very pretty game. While it hasn’t necessarily taken off like some other MMORPGs (WoW), it does have a loyal following. A few friends of mine have been playing the title since practically its launch and have continued to play despite being involved in other games like AoC, Vanguard and CoV at the same time.

The team up between CCP and Atari sounds like a stroke of brilliance that will potentially breathe some new life into this underestimated title. Now, if someone would step in and save AoC from the incessant PVPing that has turned that beautiful game into a veritable ghost town as far as new blood is concerned!

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StarCraft MMO Coming?

Starcraft
As the May 19 date for a Blizzard Entertainment event in South Korea approaches, speculation is running high about what the company’s newest installment in the StarCraft series will be.

According to CVG, a new MMO will be revealed, following in the footsteps of the company’s incredible success with World of Warcraft.

“Well placed US sources have revealed to us that the StarCraft MMO will be unveiled at an upcoming Blizzard event on May 19 in South Korea – the epicentre of the sci-fi RTS series’ rabid fandom,” CVG says.

With millions and millions of subscribers to WoW found all over the globe, there’s no doubt this company is a master at creating an MMO. A science fiction entry that has the mass appeal of WoW and the popularity of StarCraft would be hard to beat.

Still the science fiction MMO arena already has some pretty big names that aren’t doing as great as one might expect. EVE is considered on of the best MMOs out there by fans, but its subscription base is miniscule compared to WoW and Sony’s Star Wars Galaxies is continuing to flounder along.

But, with Blizzard behind the wheel of a StarCraft-based game, anything could be possible. It will be interesting to watch this develop, if it does.

Related:
Blizzard Planning Diablo, Starcraft for DS/PSP?
WoW Edging Toward 7 Million Mark
EVE Online Hits 30k Online At Once
Star Wars Galaxies Subscribers Strike Back
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Xbox 360 Price Slash Comes To Australia

Xbox 360Aussies who have been holding out on buying their very own Xbox 360 consoles in hope of a similar price slash like the one that happened in America earlier this year got their wish in time for the holidays. Microsoft has officially dropped the cost of its 360 Down Under to a price that makes it much cheaper than a PlayStation 3.

According to PC World, the new price points for the 360 in Australia are $299 for the arcade version, $399 for the pro and $549 for the Elite. Sweetening the deal, free games will come with the consoles for a limited time. The basic arcade model will offer SEGA Superstars Tennis. The Pro and Elite models will boast Kung-Fu Panda and LEGO Indiana Jones.

The price slash hit American shores in September. Fans of the system within the States can now find 360s at places like Best Buy for $199 for the arcade version. The elite system will still set a gamer back $399. The pricing change, by the way, does officially make the 360 rival the Wii in pricing.

I have to admit, the prices are just low enough now to make me raise an eyebrow and consider adding a new console to my holiday shopping list. We’re on our second 360 right now and it’s seen better days. While the system is functional, it doesn’t take kindly to having disks swapped out any longer. We’re stuck with Halo 3 in the machine as a result. (Not that this is a bad thing entirely!)

I’m just hoping if I do break down and buy my third 360, it will hold up a wee bit better than the other ones. Not that they didn’t get their fair share of use. But, still, in today’s economy it’s hard to justify spending $200 on gaming every year for a replacement machine.

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Far Cry 2 Makes UFC History

Far Cry 2 logo

THQ might have paid for premium octagon placement for its Saints Row 2 ad during last night’s UFC 90 match-ups, but it was Ubisoft that made history with its Far Cry 2 ad. Strategically placed on the rear of middleweight champion Anderson Silva’s trunks, the comparatively smaller Far Cry 2 ad was impossible to miss.

The history-making move by Ubisoft was even noted by the Vancouver Sun.

“Here’s another MMA first: Anderson Silva’s shorts have been sponsored by a video game; Far Cry 2. Gone are the Condom Depot tags, Bob’s Security logos and 38-advertisement montage shorts… the sport has gone mainstream.”

The marriage between video games and UFC action is encouraging to fans – myself included. The UFC has flown under the radar for years, doling out its action-packed and artistic style of fighting without gaining much more than a cult following.

Thanks to the launch of Spike TV’s “The Ultimate Fighter” and the support of some mainstream advertisers this is all changing fast.

The UFC with its legendary mixed martial arts fighting is finally gaining some serious attention. Bud Light, Harley Davidson and others are lining up to buy ad placements. Microsoft and Epic Games have even bought in for major sponsorship of next month’s UFC 91, which features a main event between Randy “The Natural” Couture and Brock Lesnar.

As the UFC continues to gain in popularity, it’s extremely cool to see video game makers helping with the climb. Kudos go to supporters who have realized the potential this incredibly demanding sport has to offer.

Far Cry 2, by the way, not only managed to get excellent placement, it did so in a heartbreaking match that made UFC history all on its own. Patrick Cote was the first ever to take Silva to the third round. The fight ended when Cote blew out his knee.

While Silva was declared the victor, you could see he took no pleasure in the win. It’s that kind of class and the honor displayed by (most) UFC fighters that makes this such an incredible sport to watch.

Now, I wonder just how much the company paid to have Far Cry 2 on Silva’s butt?

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GameStop Gearing Up To Greet Guitar Heroes

Xbox 360
It’s hard to imagine that Activision knew before its initial release of Guitar Hero just how popular this title would become. On the heels of the Guitar Hero World Tour release, however, it is clear that would-be rockers love this game. The proof?

GameStop, the world’s biggest video game retailer, is pulling out all the stops to welcome this title to its shelves.

According to Market Watch – the Wall Street Journal’s site – the retailer plans to throw huge parties at all 1,800 of its stores for the midnight release of the game
Oct. 25. The parties will get under way on Saturday at 10 p.m. Fans of the Activision title are invited to take part in Guitar Hero matches, rock star impersonation contests and even air guitar challenges.

“At GameStop, we are witnessing a new generation of gamers who are interested in casual, more social gaming experiences,” Bob McKenzie, Senior Vice President of Merchandising, GameStop, is quoted as saying. “Partnering with Activision for the launch of Guitar Hero World Tour lets us give power to the players of all skill levels and gaming abilities.”

Although each GameStop store will have a party for the launch, three marquee events are planned – in Dallas, Los Angeles and New York City. These events will feature celebrity guests, games and more.

While I have to admit, I’m not necessarily a Guitar Hero fan, I have seen the pull of this particular title. During a recent gaming event I attended, the “Guitar Hero room” was almost as packed as the “Halo Tournament room.” The players were having a ball and the good-natured competition going on made simply watching the game fun.

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Deadly Creatures Creeps Into Stores This December

Deadly Creatures

If players of the upcoming Wii title release Deadly Creatures respond like people in a new off-color promotional video, there won’t be many winners.

The new game is a third-person action title that puts players in a desert-scape where deadly lizards, black widow spiders, Gila monsters and other venomous and terrifying creatures rule. To survive, players must command an armored scorpion or tarantula with precision skills.

The THQ title has been given an ESRB rating of T due to violence, mild language, blood and some references to alcohol. It’s expected to hit the streets Dec. 15 with a suggested retail price of $49.99.

Now, about that promotional video. The “Spider Prank” answers the question of just what would happen if a tarantula fell off a building onto unsuspecting passersby. It’s a rather amusing exercise in the obvious and worth the watch if you like seeing people practically jump out of their skins. There’s some profanity (which is expected under the circumstance).

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Xbox 360 Stagnates In Japan

Xbox 360It might be one of the best-selling consoles on this side of the globe, but the Japanese have had different opinions since day one. It seems those opinions are holding strong.

According to Punch Jump, the Xbox 360 is still hanging out in the No. 6 position in Japan, falling behind most other gaming machines, handhelds, too, in the country.

Average sales for the console on a weekly basis there fall in between 2,000 and 3,000. Software ranking is also sluggish, but that makes sense with the console’s popularity or lack thereof.

Still, there’s a silver lining in the cloud. Amazon Japan’s video game division has Forza Motorsport 2 and another 360 title on its Top 20 list.

Will they be enough to get the console some attention?

Probably not enough. With the Wii and the PlayStation 3 both trouncing the 360 on weekly sales, a pull out of the figures seems unlikely.

Still, it’s doubtful Microsoft ever bet the farm on winning Japanese gamers over.

Related:
Japan Gives Xbox 360 Tepid Welcome
Will Xbox 360 fail in Japan?
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Forza 2 Races In A Few Weeks

Forza 2
There’s only a short few weeks left to go before Forza Motorsport 2 speeds on to the Xbox 360. To say there’s been a lot of buzz leading up to this release is an understatment.

The highly anticipated game is the subject of many interviews, specs layouts and even has its own Wikipedia entry. It’s available for preorder in a number of locations. Amazon.com is offering a 9 percent discount on the $59.99 sticker price from Turn 10 and Microsoft Game Studios. Amazon also is offering a Nissan Fairlady Z for download to those who preorder.

The updated version of Forza runs at 60 frames per second, allows for a 360 degree view of a car with networked screens and features cars that can be fully customizable. The title supports split-screen and system link and can be played by up to eight people via Xbox Live.

Racing enthusiasts wanting to learn more about the title will find there’s no shortage of information out. TeamXbox has a great rundown on the cars of Forza 2, complete will full driving specs.

CVG has a prerelease interview with Dan Greenawalt, the game’s director, on its site. Greenawalt took the time to answer questions about the title in general, its features and the new decal system, among other things.

The game releases May 29 for the Xbox 360. It’s later than many of us thought it would be last year, but the wait sounds like it will be well worth it.

That day’s already marked on the calendar in my house. It’s a must have.

Related:
Forza 2 Question Answered
Downloadable Project Gotham Racing 3 Demo Available
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Impressions of WoW’s new patch one week on

World of Warcraft map showing Northrend

Echoes of Doom went live on WoW europe servers last week and I’ve had some time to check out all the new features. Basically the patch is a preview of the upcoming expansion pack Wrath of the Lich King, and includes major new gameplay features though no new content. That will all come on Nov 13th when Lich gets released. Echoes of Doom offers tons for players to do in the meantime however.

There are countless other changes that are all documented in the patch notes (for example Northrend is now viewable on the world map, and there are zeppelin towers being built for transport there when the expansion is released), but the major changes players met upon logging into Echoes of Doom were the revamped talent trees, the achievements system and the inscription profession.

When I logged in the first thing I noticed was all of my talent points had been reimbursed and I had access to the new 51 point talents.

After a week of play it’s quite obvious that these talents have made level 70 characters far more powerful than they had been before, and a lot of the end game content is now laughably easy compared to how it had been.

A few days ago I joined a random group and cleared Zul’aman in 75 minutes, including the ‘timed event’ where the raid needs to complete 4 bosses against the clock, whereas my (casual) guild had been struggling to clear Zul’aman for weeks before the patch hit. Other guilds on my server reported 3-hour clears of Black Temple that would have taken a few days beforehand.

The new talents shook up the pvp aspect of the game as well, with previously all-powerful classes like rogues and restoration druids finding themselves at the mercy of hugely buffed paladins and mages. My first encounter into a battleground felt like the first time I’d ever played the game, because I didn’t know the capabilities of my opponents anymore. My character is a restoration druid (a class many thought to be overpowered) but I soon learned the hard way that the new king at the moment is the retribution paladin, and I foresee the top combos on the arena ladders will change radically as time goes on.

World of Warcraft Glyph windowAs I previously mentioned, the inscription profession is also now live in the game, allowing players to upgrade the individual spells of their characters. At the moment players can attach two major “glyphs” and three minor ones to their characters spells, but will have the option of adding more when Lich comes out.

Last but not least, Blizzard introduced the fantastic achievements system in the patch, which rewards players for great feats like completing all quests on each continent in the game, as well as fun ones like re-enacting Leeroy Jenkins infamous raid wipe(this achievement will earn you the title ‘Jenkins‘ to display proudly over your characters head).

World of Warcraft Achievements windowThe achievements system is a clever scheme by Blizzard, as it gets all players regardless of how long they have played back exploring the old content in order to complete their achievements. Dusty old raids like Molten Core, Upper Blackrock Spire and Onyxias Lair are being revisited on a daily basis by players increasing their achievement points, which is impressive considering the content is over four years old at this stage.

There are over 900 listed achievements of all varieties to keep players busy building up points. It’s unspecified what the points will be used for at the moment, though I suspect we will be able to trade them in for weapons and armour in Lich King.

Some other notable features are a new in-game calendar that lets guilds plan and sign up for raids, a threat meter (of sorts), new storage for mounts, pets and currency (battleground marks, heroic badges and such), and a ‘barber shop‘ in each city which lets you customise your character for a fee.

Despite the re-learning curve in pvp and some bugs that need to be ironed out (a particularly annoying one is the eating/drinking bug), I’m enjoying the new features very much as well as the Hallows End event which began at the same time as the patch.

Here’s some more links I’ve collected about the patch:
Official patch notes
Essential addons for Patch 3.0.2
Complete list of achievements
What are Glyphs?
Raiding has never been easier than in 3.0.2
Ret Paladins to be nerfed “to the ground”

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Tron Coming To Xbox Live

Tron
Disney Interactive Studios is celebrating the 25th anniversay of “Tron” the movie with a with a re-release of the classic games on Xbox Live Arcade. Both Tron the game and Discs of Tron will be out this summer.

“The ‘Tron’ film has captured the imaginations of video game players and film fans for generations with its ground-breaking visuals and action-filled story,” said Craig Relyea, vice president of marketing, Disney Interactive Studios, in a media release. “The classic arcade games Tron and Discs of Tron are returning this summer through Xbox LIVE Arcade with new features and options for the film’s 25th anniversary.”

The games include the original versions and also newly enhanced ones, as well. The updated versions include enhanced graphics and audio. There will be four online modes.

There’s no word on when exactly these will arrive on Xbox Live, but they will certainly deliver one heck of a blast from the past when they do.

Related:
Retro Gaming Available Online For Free
Atari: 80 Classic Games in One Free Trial
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Shrek The Third Game Hits The Streets

Puss-in-bootsActivision has released its Shrek the Third video game for fans to enjoy, just days before the huge theatrical release of the third in the series.

The game puts the fate of Far Far Away land into gamers’ hands as they take on the role of one of the movie’s main characters. Featuring the all-star cast of Shrek, Donkey, Fiona, Puss-in-Boots and even Artie and Sleeping Beauty, the game takes players on a quest to stop the ever-evil Prince Charming.

Call me a big kid if you will, but this movie and its memorabilia really has my attention. Perhaps it’s because of my 7-year-old, or maybe it’s just Antonio’s voice, either way, I’ll be there this weekend to see the third installment. It’s also possible, the game will make it’s way home, too.

The game is available on multiple platforms, ranging from the Nintendo DS and the Game Boy Advance. It’s also out for the Xbox 360, the Wii, the PS2 and more. Prices vary depending on the gaming system involved. It starts at $19.99 for the PC version and works its way up to the standard $49.99 fee for the next gen systems.

Related:
Activision Dedicates Studio To DreamWorks
EA’s Loss Is Activision’s Gain On 007
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DS Gets Voice Recognition

Nintendo DSAGI and Sega have a quirky little program coming out for the Nitnendo DS that will have gamers talking – literally.

Kokoro Scan is voice recognition software that is designed to gauge a person’s mood. The program can tell if users are happy, sad, stressed and so on. It can even be used to scan the voices of others in the area.

The software comes with a few games, including Kokoro Age, which will have players trying to control their moods while talking. Mini-games are also included.

It doesn’t sound like much right now, but if Kokoro Scan follows the typical Nintendo pattern, there will be much more there than meets the eye. Quirky + Nintendo tends to equal addictive!

Wii Sports anyone?

Nods to Kotaku

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Nintendo DS Sings Opera In Japan
Warning For Nintendo DS Owners
Nintendogs Dalmatians Out This Summer
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Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta Starting Soon

Halo 3Halo fans that have been waiting patiently – mostly – for word of when the game would go into all out multiplayer beta don’t have to wait any longer. The word has come down from on high.

Bungie has stated that multiplayer beta will open for Halo 3 via Xbox Live May 16 at 5 a.m. PDT and run through June 6.

The beta will be open to those who have picked up special copies of Crackdown and those who won a spot during regional promotions. Gamers with beta access only need to log onto the Xbox Live Gold account and download the title to play the beta.
Fence sitters can still get in on the action, Frankie says.

“You can still enter the Beta by picking up a specially marked copy of Crackdown, which would ordinarily be a chore, but thankfully Crackdown is an awesome action game which might ironically distract you from the Beta I’m pimping here. Bungie is also giving out a few Friends and Family spots to valued community members, but those are few and far between, so it’s safer to assume you’re not getting in that way.”

While beta will be open to only a select few, it is still good news that shows progress is happening with the title. The highly anticipated game is expected to come out later this year.

Master Chief fans will be waiting.

Related:
Halo 3 Logo Is Done
Halo 3 UI To Be More User Friendly
Halo 3 Screenshots Released
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LoTR Online Delayed In Some Areas

LoTRonline
Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar has made its way to the North American market, but it looks like the MMORPG won’t be arriving down under until sometime in May.

According to ITWire, the delay hasn’t been explained by Atari, Codemasters or Turbine as of yet. On the upside, they are extending pre-order keys to automatically set to May 10, which means those who purchased in advance won’t be out of any time on their grace period.

The beta version of LOTR Online was a little chunky, as beta versions are supposed to be. Still, the idea behind the title is more than intriguing and the use of mythos made it fun even with some bugs.

As ITWire is saying, “hopefully this is a delay in order to make sure the game is right from the start and not just ‘shipping down under’ delays.’”

I’m thinking that’s not the case because of the US launch, but who knows, maybe they are fixing some things before releasing in another market.

Related:
Lord of the Rings Beta
The Lord of the Rings Online Screenshots

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Spider-Man 3 Game Springs Into Action

Spider-Man 3 game
Spider-Man fans who can’t get enough of the blockbuster hit in the theaters can bring the action home thanks to Activision’s latest release.

The official Spider-Man 3 Game has made it was to stores. The game is based on the movie and allows players to “experience for the first time Spider-Man’s mysterious black-suited persona, as well as heroic red suit while battling villains in a massive New York City playground teeming with activity,” says Activision’s media release.

The game features scenes from the movie and enables players to choose between the film plot or new storylines as they fight crime and explore the city. The title boasts more than 20 miles of subterranean environment.

Spider-Man 3 is out for a host of gaming devices, from the three next-gens, to handhelds like the Game Boy Advance. It ranges in price from $59.99 to $29.99, depending on platform of play. It’s rated E10+.

Sounds like a great way to bring the action home.

Related:
Marvel MMOG’s Coming To Xbox 360
City Of Heroes Celebrates 2 Years
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Sony Drops PSP Price In Europe

Sony PSPNorth Americans won’t be the only ones enjoying more affordable PlayStation Portables. Sony has announced that a price drop is on the way for Europe, too.

According to Gamasutra, the price drop will be on par with the $30 drop Sony recently announced for North America. That means the price of the core bundle will fall from €199.99/£149.99 ($271) to €169.99/£129.99 ($230).

It also sounds like gamers will be able to pick up some great titles for less, too. The Platinum titles will drop from £19.99 to £14.99 ($40 to $30). Upcoming titles in this range include Tekken: Dark Resurrection, Killzon: Liberation and Ridge Racer 2.

“PSP is unique and is constantly evolving. It offers the widest palette of mobile entertainment, from gaming to video, music, photos and internet,” SCE UK managing director Ray Maguire has been quoted as saying. “But now the exciting possibility of connecting remotely to PS3 makes PSP more relevant than ever. So what better time to offer a brand new price point, and the launch of five new Platinum titles?”

It sounds like Sony has a winning idea here. But, will it be enough to knock Nintendo out of the lead spot?

Related:
PSP Price Cut Announced
PSP Firmware Upgrade 3.30 Announced
Nintendo Still Tops In Sales
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Xbox 360 To Double As A Chat Box

Xbox 360Xbox 360 gamers that want a break from hard Halo shooting action will soon be able to take some time out to talk. Microsoft is prepared to deliver an IM service to the console.

The Windows Live Messenger software package for the 360 will be delivered with the Spring Update May 7. The new feature will enable users to chat with up to six people at the same time, using the 360 in place of a computer.

The new service will work with the 360’s virtual keyboard, or gamers can plug in a USB keyboard to make it easier. Plus, Playfuls is reporting a new QWERTY text input device is coming this summer that will connect right to a controller to help with text and instant messaging.

Microsoft’s certainly doing its part to make certain the 360 offers a lot of the same perks as a computer, but I have to admit, I’m having a hard time picturing gamers being thrilled with IMs coming in as they fight it out online.

Maybe it’s just me?

Related:
Halo 2 Gets Remake Maps
Xbox 360, PS3 Upgrades On The Way?
Xbox 360 Plotting A Wii Change?
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Second Life Security Reminders Issued

second lifeA recent reminder for Second Life players to make wise choices in creating and protecting their passwords has some wondering if the game is experiencing a problem with hackers, spamers or glitches.

MMORPG.qj reported that Daniel Linden, Linden Lab’s community affairs director, has suggested that residents of Second Life consider May “Strong Password Month.” It seems Linden went on to strongly encourage people to change their passwords right away.

It does sound like a security breach or a suspected one prompted this, but in the gaming world, password security is always a concern. It can’t hurt to play it safe.

In other Second Life news, Linden Labs is getting ready to test an age verification tool that will help ensure residents are 18 or older. Beta testing is set to begin soon and will require residents to input some form of ID to help esnure the population follows the age restriction requirements.

Boy, I wish that rule extended to MMORPGs like EQ and Vanguard!

Related:
Second Life Guide: Part One
Second Life Under U.S. Tax Microscope

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Original TV Coming To Xbox Live

Xbox LiveMicrosoft has announced plans to bring the Xbox Live network to the next level. Like the folks over at CBS, Microsoft wants to have some original content to offer gamers to view over its online platform.

To achieve this, the company has rolled out a content for would be television producers to create a pilot for the network. The winner gets $100,000 budget and a chance to win a six-episode commitment for Xbox Live.

“Not only can aspiring TV producers from across the globe try their hands at creating new TV shows, but because of Xbox Live Marketplace, they can now win a chance to have more than 6 million people worldwide see their work,” Bill Nielsen, senior director of Xbox Live at Microsoft, has been quoted as saying. “This is an incredible opportunity for us to participate in the festival, and we are thrilled to be able to bring community-created TV content to the Xbox community for the first time.”

Entries will be accepted until June 29. The rules can be found here.

According to Punch Jump, Xbox Live is currently the No. 1 platform for distribution of television and movies.

This news is very interesting for online TV fans and want-to-be producers alike. More original content on the net to join the likes of CBS’s shows, such as “InTurn,” come of the cartoon series online and so on is a very good indication of what the future holds for viewer. It just keeps getting better.

Related:
Xbox 360 Elite Mother’s Day Giveaway
Xbox Live Video Downloads Looking Good
Xbox Live Adds Top 10 List For Movies, TV
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Gaming News With Lady Mainframe Back

Lady MainframeShe’s been on hiatus since the holidays last year, but Lady Mainframe is now back with a vengeance. She’s brought lots of gaming news with her.

Not satisfied to deliver the news in video format on a weekly basis, the Lady is now striving to give fans information a bit faster. To achieve this, a new gaming news blog has been created to make sure Lady Mainframe stays on top of it all.

The new site, named Gnews for short, adds to the video collection already created by Binary Picture Show.

As always, the site remains on Igniq.com’s friends list. Check out Binary’s latest creation here.

Related:
Lady Mainframe Gets A New Sponsor
Lady Mainframe Delivers Gaming News
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Pogo Bounces Deeper Into Europe

PogoElectronic Arts has expanded its popular casual gaming platform, Pogo.com, in the UK and will also launch a German-language service in Europe.

Fans of mind-numbing, but wonderful, games can log on to the UK site here and the German site here to check out the single and multiplayer games EA has up. The free offerings range from puzzle and word games to casino and board.

Vice president and general manager of Pogo, Karen Schulman said in a media release,
“We are ecstatic to bring the Pogo experience and community to Europe. Whether you speak French, German or English, enjoying and relaxing with games is something that we universally share. Pogo players have created an incredibly tight knit community. We are excited to see Pogo grow past the borders of North America.”

In the U.S., Pogo.com draws in about 11 million gamers a month. The UK site sees about 3.2 million monthly since its launch.

It might not be Vanguard, City of Villains, or even EverQuest, but even I have to admit, Pogo is a fun distraction from everyday life and less casual gaming. I have to warn though, Word Whomp is addictive.

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Wii Creator Honored By Time Magazine

Nintendo WiiAnyone who thinks video games don’t make a difference in the world should check out Time magazine’s voting for the 100 Most Influential People list.

Right there in black and white, online and everything, is Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto – the creator of Super Mario, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda and most recently the Wii. Granted, he hasn’t made it yet, but the mere inclusion on the voting is a fairly big deal.

Time has his pros listed as those creations and his cons being: “His perfectionist tendencies often result in games being significantly delayed and, despite the Wii’s gameplay innovation, its graphics are far behind the competition.”

While I have to agree with the graphics part of the Wii being somewhat of a con, the perfectionism is exactly what makes Miyamoto so “influential.” His games are trendsetters that cut across generational lines. Heck, I grew up playing Donkey Kong and Mario, and now my daughter’s generation is enjoying the same brand of game play.

The Wii itself, poor graphics and all, is defining more casual game play in a way I can’t remember a console ever having done before. With players ranging from small children to retirees in nursing homes, the Wii is absolutely influential.

What Miyamoto has managed to do is create something that appeals to entire families from the youngest member to the oldest, with a style of play that everyone can understand. In essence, he’s given people of all ages a common ground to come together and enjoy a little bit of fun.

I personally think that’s pretty darn influential.

Check out Time’s listing here.

Nods to Gizmo Cafe.

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Xbox 360 Mod No. 2 Looks Even Sweeter

xbox 360 modA while back we reported about the unusual Xbox 360 mod that gaming guru Ben
Heckendorn had managed to create. Looking sweet in an aluminum laptop case, the fully functional design was certainly a wower.

It seems Heckendorn wasn’t satisfied with that version. He’s been at it again. This time the laptop 360 is looking pretty in black and green with, as Heckendorn writes on his site, “60% less aluminum!”

Xbox 360 Elite, bah! Heckendorn’s model might top it!

The fully functional 360 mod No. 2 seems to work in much the same way as the first, as in it is a working 360, with a keyboard built in. Honestly, it looks a whole lot more user friendly for those who like to take their 360s on the go than the actual Microsoft design.

To learn more about its creation, visit Heckendorn’s site.

Engadget has a lot of photos of the new model up, as well, along with some comments from Heckendorn.

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EA Strives To Marry TV, Video Games

Virtual Me
Electronic Arts has announced a rather interesting partnership with the Endemol group that would seek to marry television and video games in a hybrid creation. The Virtual Me, as its being billed, will bridge “the divide between traditional TV and videogames.”

This brand new production is being created to debut during the next “Big Brother” round.

According to the EA media release, “Virtual Me combines cutting edge avatar creation technology from EA with popular TV formats from Endemol to give consumers a breakthrough way to meet, compete and socialize in online digital worlds. Avatar creation takes a leap forward with a high performing, easy-to-use tool that creates astonishingly life-like cyber-clones, with uniquely customized appearances and identities.”

While using the Virtual Me, gamers or viewers, if you will, will be able to participate in virtual versions of hit shows, such as “Deal or No Deal,” “Fame Academy” and more.

The web site, VirtualMe.com, is expected to go live in the coming months.

Peter Bazalgette, Chief Creative Officer, Endemol, is quoted as saying, “We’re told that people are starting to spend more time online than they are watching TV. Both markets are now important and this has huge implications for content creators. Our opportunity with Electronic Arts is to develop ideas that fully embrace the way people are consuming entertainment today.”

This does sound a whole lot like the Wii Mii or even MTV’s virtual games on steroids, but with EA behind the wheel the result should be interesting to say the least.

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.Hack//G.U. Vol. 1 Giveaway

Hack gu
We at Igniq.com have been blessed in the past few months with some great games to check out and giveaway. We just wrapped up our Lunar Knights contest and now we’re rolling out a new one courtesy of The EPN and Bandai Namco.

This time around we’ll be giving out a copy of .hack//G.U. Vol. 1 // Rebirth for the PlayStation 2. The brand new copy of the unusual game that has players scrambling to uncover the truth behind strange happenings in the MMO “The World,” is rated T for teen. It features advanced AI and real-time fighting.

So, without further ado, the question to win a copy of this one is: What MMO series is based in the world of Norrath?

Answers should be e-mailed directly to Igniq.com at contest@igniq.com. Eligible contestants must reside within North America. A winner will be chosen from those who answer the question correctly. The deadline to enter is April 17, 2007.

In regards to the Lunar Knight giveaway, the father of The Sims is Will Wright. Our lucky winner, Andrew Brewer, will have his copy on its way to him in Canada shortly.

Congratulations, Andrew, and good luck to everyone on the .Hack//G.U. contest!

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Nintendo Still Tops In Sales

Nintendo WiiWith Sony’s slickness and Microsoft’s early start, few expected Nintendo to actually come out on top in the next-gen battle, but once again, the Wii has taken on all comers. The DS, too, is leading in sales.

According to Game Daily, March was a very good month for the game maker. “Despite widespread shortages for both systems, more than half a million buyers snapped up the portable Nintendo DS, and Wii was once again the top-selling new home video game console… Wii remains the fastest-selling new console in more than a decade, based on NPD sell-through information over the first five months of availability. So far this year, Nintendo has sold more video game systems than all other manufacturers combined.”

“The message delivered by both Wii and Nintendo DS is the same one,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, president, Nintendo of America has been quoted as saying. “Innovation is compelling both current gamers and new gamers to experience a new way to play. Nintendo is bringing gaming back to the masses.”

While shortages of the Wii will likely remain, production has increased.
Although it was the underdog, Nintendo is clearly proving different can be quite good.

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E3 Is A Shadow Of Its Former Self

E3When it came to video game conventions, the E3 used to be considered the Mack Daddy. Somewhat akin to Cannes for the movie industry, this elaborate showcase is now a shadow of its former self.

It was decided last year to shrink the event.

“Over the years, it has become clear that we need a more intimate program, including higher quality, more personal dialogue with the worldwide media, developers, retailers and other key industry audiences,” said Doug Lowenstein, ESA president at the time.

1UP has a full listing of this year’s E3 exhibitors – all 33 of them. Last year’s convention had more than 400, with all the pomp and circumstance of the Academy Awards.

Notables at this year’s event, which has been moved to July from May, include Activision, Atari, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Capcom, Take-Two, Sony Online Entertainment and Vivendi Games. 1UP has a full listing, which is missing big names like NVIDIA and Blizzard along with the usual round up of indie creators, as 1UP points out.

I understand the idea behind the leaner, meaner conference. There’s nothing wrong with getting back to the basics. But, still, it won’t seem the same watching the action unfold without all the pomp, circumstance and unique moments.

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Ms. Pac-Man Makes Her iPod Debut

ms pacmanApple’s still relatively new at offering games for on-the-go players, but it appears as if the company is on the right track. The titles for the iPod aren’t ground breaking, but they are fairly well rounded.

The latest addition to the lineup is a blast from the past, but the emphasis is on “blast,” especially for those of us who grew up playing the title in arcades and burger joints. Ms. Pac-Man officially brings the number of games for the iPod up to a small, but respectable dozen.

In fact, to sweeten the game playing deal, iTunes is offering all 12 games in a package for $59.99. Ms. Pac-Man herself can be purchased for a cool $4.99, which isn’t bad considering. The more “manly” version of the game is also available for iPod play.

Right now the games on the site range from card offerings, such as Texas Hold’em and Royal Solitaire, to puzzle creations such as Suduko and Tetris.

While there is certainly room for improvement as far as iPod games are concerned, the lineup so far isn’t half bad. Considering this format is about as portable as it gets and music can be played at the same time, it’s not a bad deal at all.

Someday, hopefully, the roster will be almost as impressive as iTunes television library.

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