Tag Archives: December 2008

Xbox 360 Upgrade On The Way

Xbox 360

On the heels of its best Friday ever, Microsoft has confirmed it will upgrade the capacity of its Xbox 360 Arcade model. The new machines will have 256MB of onboard memory. This means consumers won’t have to rely solely on sometimes awkward add on memory cards.

“We are constantly updating the console’s more than 1700 internal components. We can confirm that we are moving to internal memory for the Xbox 360 Arcade. The physical internal memory is the same size as the previous external memory units – 256MB,”

said a spokesperson for Microsoft.

With prices for the Arcade model now highly competitive with the Wii, this move could help Microsoft continue to enjoy brisk console sales – as long as Microsoft doesn’t up the pricing too much to compensate for the built-in memory.

Black Friday sales of the Xbox 360 broke records with U.S. retailers reporting sales that beat the console’s own records in previous years. The numbers have the 360 beating out the PlayStation 3 by a three-to-one ratio. Sales were up an estimated 25 percent over Black Friday 2007.

“We entered into the Black Friday sales period with cautious optimism, knowing that dollar for dollar, Xbox 360 offers more social entertainment value than any other console on the market,” said Don Mattrick, senior vice president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft.

“Record Black Friday sales in the U.S., coupled with our existing global install base of 25 million and an online community of more than 14 million Xbox LIVE members, have laid the groundwork for continued global sales momentum in 2009.”

With prices that now start at $199.99, the Xbox 360 is the most well-rounded console on the market for the price. Offering not only game play ability, but also access to Xbox LIVE and its games, movies and television shows and also high-def DVD play, the console provides serious bang for the buck. If Microsoft does it right and keeps pricing where it is or only asks for a minor increase for the onboard memory, it likely will be a hard machine to beat in sales.

Related links:
Black Friday Video Game Buying Tips For Parents
Xbox 360 Price Slash Comes To Australia
Video Gamers Have A 1 Up On The Economy

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8 Foot Optimus Prime Statue Up For Grabs

Trukz Robot

Virtual trucking game Trukz is running a free competition that will be of interest to Transformers nerds everywhere. The Ireland-based company behind the game is offering a massive 8 foot tall Optimus Prime model made from scrap metal. This thing weighs a quarter of a ton and will be one awesome prize (providing you have room to put it somewhere).

To be in with a chance to win, players need to simply drive 10,000 miles in the game to be put in the draw. Driving 20,000 miles will give a higher chance of winning, 40,000 even more and so on. More info here.

TrukzThe browser-based sim works by creating a driver, then purchasing a truck and joining a haulage company that offer benefits like repairs and fuel. The home destination you choose determines what cargo you can drive to other parts of the world, which have certain demands for products, making some places more worth your while to drive to than others. Upgrades can be bought for your truck such as fog lights which reduce the chance of accidents for your truck in bad weather, a GPS system that allows you to track your current route via a clever use of Google’s Maps feature, among many more.

There are lots of things to consider such as the fatigue level of your driver, the state of repair of your vehicle, the weather conditions and even picking up traffic tickets as your driver makes his way to his destination.

I’ve created a new trucker and currently have him headed to London with a shipment of books which will net me $203.63 if I arrive at the destination in time. The travel time is in real-time so my weary drive will arrive in about 12 hours, though he earns cash for every mile he drives and my on-hand cash is slowly going up all the time he is on the road.

According to the makers the game has thousands of drivers racking up over 1.5 billion in-game miles since the game launched in 2007.

The game is free to play and appears to be supported by donations, which are used to buy in-game cash for your trucking business. To check it out and be in with a chance to win the prize, visit Trukz.com

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Sony Sanctions Cash Sales In EQ, EQII

Station CashIf you can’t beat them, join them. That’s the tactic Sony Online Entertainment has taken when it comes to gold farmers and item traders.

Although it already facilitated trades of virtual items, the company has upped the stakes with Station Cash. This system is now available in both EverQuest and EverQuest II. It allows players to buy virtual items for cold, hard cash.

To use the system, players of both EQ and EQII simply use their credit cards to load up on Station Cash. This, in turn, can be used to purchase things within the game world.

What Station Cash does is cut down on the potential profits gold farmers are making by offering an in-game, sanctioned way to purchase things. Rather than the farmers making the money, SOE does.

Recently launched, Station Cash can be purchased in the Marketplace for use in the game. The Sony-based virtual currency is non-refundable and non-transferrable. SOE is working on options to enable gifting of Station Cash, however.

As a long-time player of both EQ and EQII I have mixed feelings on this recent launch. While it’s nice to see Sony taking a bite out of farmers’ action, it feels a little seedy. I’m one of those purist players who has tried to avoid “cheating” in every game I play. Someone else leveled my character in Age of Conan through its final half-level to 80 and I lost all interest in the game. I didn’t do it myself, so the sense of accomplishment was gone.

Evidently, I’m a rarity in the virtual world, however. With a gold farming industry that’s now worth an estimated $1.8 billion a year, the market for gold and trade is strong, according to Live Gamer.
Who knows? Maybe Sony can recoup some of its financial losses that have cost thousands of jobs?

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Will Wright Has Learned His Lesson

Will WrightAfter the success of The Sims, it should have come as no surprise that Will Wright’s Spore would be the stuff legends are made of. Spore, in fact, had more advanced buzz that perhaps any title in the history of video games. It was talked about for years, received honors and even celebrity thumbs up long before it hit the market.

Now that Spore has finally been revealed to the world, its creator is setting his sights on a new project.

So, what is that project?

Will’s not saying, and good for him.

According to Joystiq, the world renowned game designer refuses to do more than admit he has a new iron in the fire.

“I’m working on a big new project that I’m very excited about, but I don’t want to talk about it yet because if it takes three years to come out I don’t want people saying ‘Wow, he’s been talking about that for a loooong time,’” Wright told Joystiq.

With Spore not only a big hit in retail stores, but in the pirating world, as well, there’s little doubt Wright’s next venture will create its own buzz. Spore, in fact, has topped the list of games that have been illegally downloaded in 2008. The word is more than 1.7 million copies have been pirated to date.

Wright’s projects are worthy of buzz, but I can’t blame him for deciding to remain tight-lipped at this point. After all, by mere silence, he’s already generating interest in the title – whatever it might happen to be.

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Wii Fit Sensation Continues To Rock Stores

Wii Fit

There is no denying that Nintendo has done it again. Not only is its console the hottest thing on the market, but the company even has Americans falling all over themselves to get fit – Wii Fit that is.

The shortage of this anti-couch potato “game” was predicted by Nintendo itself prior to the start of the 2008 holiday season and it’s panning out to be quite true. Retailers all over America have been running into shortages of this hot demand item.

Amazon.com, for example, has instituted a Wii Fit purchase limit policy. On the Wii Fit page, Amazon warns customers: “As you may know, the Nintendo ‘Wii Fit’ is in great demand, and there are shortages of this product across the U.S. In an effort to provide as many customers as possible with the opportunity to purchase a ‘Wii Fit,’ we are limiting the total number of ‘Wii Fit’ units that can be purchased. As a result, each household may only purchase two Nintendo ‘Wii Fit’ units within any 30-day period.”

Even in my local Wal-Mart in the Tampa, Fla., area, a limit of one per customer is in effect. A sign hangs ominiously on the Wii display proclaiming this fact. Unfortunately, the store’s been out of Wii Fit boxes for a while.

So, what is it about this particular Nintendo creation that has had shoppers going nuts since its release in May? It all comes down to the sheer brilliance of this title. Not only is Wii Fit fun, it also provides one heck of a workout.

A friend of mine managed to snag one earlier in the holiday shopping season and I’ve been hard-pressed to catch her on the telephone ever since when she’s not Wii Fitting. An avid sports fan and gamer, she said she wanted the Fit just to see if it would work. She was in shock when she realized she had actually broken a sweat following the routines.

While a lot of people will probably go without a coveted Wii Fit this holiday season, there’s no doubt Nintendo has done it again. The company has not only packaged and sold simplicity, it’s got gamers actually on their feet, working out and breaking a sweat in the process.

Now, that’s impressive!

Analysts Expect Wii To Deliver Movie Content Soon
A Return Of Wii Holiday Shortages?

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More Atari Titles Coming To The iPhone?

Apple iPhone

When it comes to creating multitasking devices that are functional and intriguing both, it’s hard to top Apple’s creations. The company’s iPhone is doing more than holding its own in the cellular phone market and it looks like it might get a bigger boost from gaming giant Atari in the near future.

Although the company has already put out a few games for the phone – Missile Command, Super Breakout and most recently Centipede – president Phil Harrison has pledged even more support for the phone, according to Digital Spy. Harrison has called the Apple phone a “game changer.”

He is particularly impressed with Apple’s App Store, which he says will “change the way that certain kinds of devices consume content forever.”

Although iPhone’s sales are down for the quarter, the phone is rising over last year’s figures. PCMag says the sales increase over 2007 is a whopping four times, thanks in part to the increased availability.

In a time when making sure purchases are sound matters, the iPhone’s bells and whistles seem to be giving it a more-bang-for-the-buck appeal. I wasn’t impressed with this particular phone at first glance, but as its features grow, it’s really looking like it offers something savvy consumers crave in this downturned market. That something is nothing more than good, old fashion value.

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Sony Adds More Proof That Gaming Industry Isn’t Immune

Sony Computer EntertainmentAs the economic downturn continues to take its toll worldwide, Sony has joined the list of manufacturers that show the gaming industry isn’t bulletproof. That corporate giant has announced plans to shave its workforce by a whopping 8,000 people. It also intends to close quite a few of its manufacturing facilities to help it save an estimated $1.1 billion at next fiscal year’s end.

As Game Spot points out, the news is just the latest in a series of blows to the industry. Earlier, EA announced the reduction of 600 employees and a loss of $310 million. Other gaming and electronics industry companies have also faced the crunch, including Midway, Eidos and Samsung.

While Sony joins the conga line of companies impacted by the worldwide economic crisis, its news is particularly troublesome. When the giants suffer, you know it’s bad out there.

Although Sony’s announcement does highlight the severity of the global downturn, the entire situation can end up being good news for the industry. As more consumers tighten their wallets and demand quality over quantity, it could force those who want to survive to be even more creative and offer more bang for the buck.

While Sony is crying over sales, Microsoft is cheering its three-to-one sales victory over the PS3 on Black Friday. This, in my opinion, is largely due to the value the $199 Xbox 360 now offers gamers. The Wii also still seems to be more than holding its own.

It seems that sales, although down, are still coming. Consumers are demanding value for their money and they are turning to the products that deliver. The end result could be very troubling times for the industry as a whole, but it might just emerge leaner, meaner and even more intriguing for gamers.

On a side note, my heart goes out to those who have lost their jobs. This is a horrible time to be out of work. The human toll of the downturn should not be discounted, and it’s my fear we are only seeing the beginning.

Video Gamers Have A 1 Up On The Economy
A Return Of Wii Holiday Shortages?
Wal-Mart Helps Gamers Beat The Economy

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Logitech Gaming Keyboard Makes It Simple

Logitech G13 GameboardGamers who find themselves challenged by standard keyboards have reason to rejoice. Logitech has felt their pain and responded with a solution to make their chicken-pecking keyboard strokes seem natural.

The new G13 Gameboard, set to release in January, has all the keys a gamer really needs to get in on the action in most (non-MMORPG) titles without the complication and confusion of unnecessary letters. Rather than operate on a standard qwerty setup, the Gameboard puts the most important keys – S, D, A and W – in an easier to reach position. This means the days of hunting for the right movement keys most first-person shooters could be coming to an end for keyboard challenged gamers.

As impressive as the abbreviated keypad happens to be, Logitech didn’t stop there. The G13 also has 22 programmable keys and a mini-joystick. And, if that weren’t enough, the darn thing enables multiple profile creation so keys can be mapped for different titles and it has an LCD screen that can display messages from friends, system information and game stats.

With an asking price of just under $80, this keyboard would be a dream come true for most of my gaming friends. As an honest-to-goodness, all-fingers-on-the-keyboard and eyes-on-the-screen typist, I have to admit I’m a little baffled by the design, but I can see what an incredible boon this unique design will be for chicken peckers.

It’s a darn shame the release didn’t come before the holidays. I bet this keyboard would have topped some gamers’ wish lists.

Check it out here

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Xbox 360 Disc Replacement Plan Is Weak

Xbox 360

Anyone who owns an Xbox 360 knows these machines can be hungry little devils. Bump, drop or otherwise jostle them while a disk is in the system and the damage that results is permanent. This has been blamed on the console’s incredibly high RPM speed of 7,500 versus the competition’s 4,000 and under.

While a few broken disks might be a small sacrifice to make for the power of the 360, the fact is it can be a costly problem. So costly, in fact, that a lawsuit has already worked its way through the system.

To cover its butt, Microsoft unveiled the Disc Replacement Plan for Xbox 360 owners. The plan basically gives anyone with a damaged Microsoft created game disk and an Xbox 360 the ability to obtain new copies of games damaged by the machines. All told, Microsoft backs 12 different titles with this plan.

It’s nice that Microsoft is owning up to the problem, but it’s a weak solution. With the multitude of titles out there for the console, 12 games just doesn’t cut it. We’ve personally lost at least one game to this issue and know others who have experienced a similar fate.

While it’s great some games can be replaced, the plan is just a little too little and a little too late. I’m all for power in my gaming, but having to walk on eggshells while a disk is in the system is sometimes too much.

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