Tag Archives: March 2007

Oblivion Not Coming To The Wii

Nintendo WiiThe news isn’t surprising, but it’s still kind of a downer for Nintendo fans who thought they might have a chance to get lost in Oblivion.

Bethesda Softworks has officially said creating an Oblivion port on the console is “not possible.”

The word comes from Bethesda’s Peter Hines in an interview with Games Industry.biz. While Hines is enamored with the Wii, he says it just doesn’t have the right stuff for a game as visually demanding as Oblivion.

“It’s something we’d like to do, but unfortunately it’s not a very good fit with Oblivion. Oblivion is a very demanding game hardware-wise and in terms of graphics processing and raw horsepower. It’s not something the Wii was designed to do. They decided not to make the focus on raw horsepower but on interface and so forth. It’s a great console and many of us at Bethesda have one but I know that bringing Oblivion over is not possible – we’d have to do a whole new game.”

While I’m a huge Wii fan, I have to agree with Hines. The console just isn’t made to support games as driven as Oblivion. Still, it would be nice to see what Bethesda could cook up in terms of a different Wii title. It sounds like that’s not out of the question either.

“It’s something we’ve talked about, but I don’t think you could say we’re considering it. It’s not in our immediate future – maybe something we’ll look at somewhere down the road.”

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PlayStation 3 European Launch Draws Near

Playstation 3As Sony gears up to turn its PlayStation 3 loose on the European market this week, months after its planned debut, the question remains as to how well or how poorly the console will do in regard to sales.

With a price tag that comes in higher than the U.S. version, the delay in initial launch and the issues with backwards compatibility, it’s the easy guess that Sony will run number three in Europe, falling behind the Wii and the Xbox 360, as it has in the North American market. However, preorders for the console have been high, despite the pricing and compatibility issues.

With about 220,000 units ready for the UK for Friday, it sounds like Sony’s banking on taking Europe by storm. Indeed, even store executives are talking up the gaming console’s release.

Woolworths’ Jim Batchelor has been quoted as saying the launch “will be biggest video games console launch of all time. It will be bigger than the launch of the Nintendo Wii, the Xbox 360 and the previous Playstation.”

That’s a tall order to fill, but the world will get to see for sure on Friday.

Related:
Europe To Get PS3 Much Later Than U.S.?
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PS3 European Launch Delayed
PS3 Preorders Topping 360, Wii
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PS3 European Launch Reports Are Ho Hum

Playstation 3 The official European launch of the PlayStation 3 has come and gone. The inequity has ended. But, it honestly looks as if Sony’s reception in Europe wasn’t exactly stellar. At the very least, the launch sounds like it was almost boring in comparison to earlier releases in American and Japan.

If the snaking lines, the days of camping and massive amounts of hoopla and even the violence surrounding the North American and Japanese launches are considered, the European debut is downright mild.

For instance, Spong had this to day: “Over a hundred people turned up at HMV to pick up a PS3 with a free copy of the sublime Virtua Tennis 3 from Sega.”

And, this: “One guy had even turned up at midnight last night to be the first in the queue!” Simon Winter, PR manager for HMV.

That’s over a hundred in a line and one guy in an early queue. Remember the campouts in front of stores in America? The ridiculous fan behavior? The store manager that made wannabe buyers play silly games that resulted in injury?

MCV confirms the modest lines, “Queues of around 100 people who had pre-ordered consoles waited patiently outside both retailers’ flagship London Oxford Street stores before doors opened – GAME’s at 7am and HMV’s at 7.30am.”

With consoles reported still available after pre-orders were filled, the launch sounds like it went very smoothly, as compared to elsewhere. Perhaps if gamers had known a free HDTV was in the mix at some locations, the lines would have been more out of control?

While the excitement level doesn’t sound up to snuff with what gamers had in store at earlier launches, it sure sounds like the Europeans did this one right. So far, there are no reports of PS3 thefts or buyers getting robbed or beaten. The crazy antics that made headlines with the North American launch just aren’t there.

Whether this is due to a lack of interest in the console or perhaps that European gamers are more civilized than some Americans, doesn’t matter. The fact is, numbers aside, the launch sounds like it went off without a hitch, or at least a big one.

Congratulations Sony. Congratulations European stores. Congratulations European gamers.

Related:
Londoners Not Lining Up For The PS3
PlayStation 3 European Launch Draws Near
PS3 Delivers Bad News To Europe
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PSP Shrink On The Horizon

White PSPSony is the latest game console maker that thinks portable systems need to go on a diet. Rumors that the PlayStation Portable would soon have a lighter look have been confirmed.

The confirmation comes from Sony’s UK managing director Ray Maguire, as confirmed by Games Industry.biz. According to Maguire, the system will get an updated design that is smaller, but that will also retain the screen size of the PSP.

While there’s no date on when the shrunken console will arrive, it is my hope the PSP’s lighter version will take advantage of the same accessories the original PSP uses.

Making handheld consoles smaller and more portable isn’t uncommon. Nintendo’s done it successfully with its DS Lite. The only problem is not all accessories translate and the older versions are sometimes hard to come by.

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Take Two Takes On Jack Thompson

GTA made me do itWith the release of Manhunt 2 and Grand Theft Auto IV on the horizon, game publisher Take Two has decided not to take the grandstanding of Jack Thompson any more.

The company has filed a federal lawsuit against Thompson in Florida. The suit comes on the heels of Thompson’s statements about his intent to try and get both games blocked from being released. The company has requested that a judge “enjoin him from bringing suit on behalf of the State of Florida to enjoin the sale of GTA IV or Manhunt 2.”

According to Ars Technica, “Take Two claims that Thompson is misusing Florida’s ‘nuisance’ law, and they point out that attempts to regulate the sale of violent video games have repeatedly faltered, including cases in which the law was drafted by Thompson himself.”

Take Two is also saying that Thompson’s actions have violated the company’s First Amendment rights to free expression and that they are “so vague as to be unconstitutional. This unconstitutional vagueness will have a chilling effect on Plaintiff as well as Plaintiff’s customers,” says the company. “Plaintiff’s distributors likely will respond to the uncertainty and fear of penalties by withholding Plaintiff’s video games from the public.”

While Thompson has responded in typical Thompson flaming style, it will be very interesting to see how the court reacts.

In his letter to Ars Technica, Thompson wrote: “This lawsuit, filed in US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, is, without a doubt, the single dumbest thing I have ever seen any lawyers do in my thirty years of practicing law–while in continuous good standing to do so with The Florida Bar, I might add, the shock radio and video game industry’s efforts notwithstanding.”

Just wondering out loud here, but if that’s the single dumbest thing he’s seen a lawyer do, does he call wasting Louisiana taxpayers’ money on a law he knew didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hades smart?

At any rate, it will be up to the courts to decide if Take Two can shut Jack down before he gets started. As a Florida taxpayer, video gamer and a parent who understands the concept of self-censoring, I can only hope.

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PSP Firmware Upgrade 3.30 Announced

White PSPSony’s added some neat perks for PlayStation Portable owners with its announcement of the 3.30 firmware upgrade.

The latest upgrade allows PSP users to play compatible games online, do a bit of web surfing, download podcasts and more. The podcasts will be available at more than 7,000 T-Mobile HotSpot locations, which include some Starbucks, Borders, Hyatt hotels and about 70 U.S. airports.

The promotional offer also includes six months of Wi-Fi access at the T-Mobile spots. When the six-month trial is over, PSP owners will have to pay for the service. To get the deal, PSP owners have to login to the network by March 28, 2008.

“ This new offer enables SCEA to take portable gaming and entertainment to a new level of mobility and convenience for PSP owners,” said Peter Dille, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Sony Computer Entertainment America, in a media release. “With T-Mobile’s service, we’re making it possible for the PSP community to connect in new ways and access the online content they want in more places than ever before. More and more PSP users are going online to challenge each other in multi-player games, and we can now make it more convenient to access online gaming as well as the Internet, showcasing the rich feature set that PSP has to offer.”

The first game on the online list is Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters. More titles are expected soon.

The upgrade sounds like a good one that puts the PSP to greater use.

For a full list of 3.30 details, click here.

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New Mass Effect Screenshots Out

Mass effect
Mass Effect for the Xbox 360 doesn’t have a firm release date yet, but it’s sure looking like a winner if screenshots and trailers can be believed.

BioWare released several new shots during the GDC and this game is just looking spectacular. Offering play for one person, Mass Effect is a space age RPG that look like it blends the fantastic storyline of games like Oblivion with the fast-action shooting of Halo.

The game has players taking on the role of Commander Shepard of the SS Normandy. It is their mission to take an elite recon squad across a galaxy to stop an enemy before it’s too late.

“To stop this enemy, you must act without remorse, without hesitation, and outside the limits of the law,” instructs the game’s official site. “Your only imperative is to preserve the safety of civilized life in the galaxy – at any cost. You must become the tip of the spear of humanity, for you alone know the full extent of what is at stake if you should fail.”

It sounds like Mass Effect has some very good customization features on both the main character and the RPG involved. The screen shots, as I’ve said, look amazing. If the substance matches, this could be a hard game to beat.

There’s no set date on a release, but it looks like BioWare is planning to turn it loose before the end of the year.

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Halo 2 Gets Remake Maps

Halo 2Halo 3 is moving into full gear with a release expected later this year, but that doesn’t mean Bungie’s giving up on giving Halo 2 fans a little love.

The company has announced the creation of two new maps – the last two they’ll do for the old game. Tombstone and Desolation are remakes of the old Halo 1 Hang ‘Em High and Derelict maps and they’re expected to come out later this month.

The folks at Bungie are calling this a “last salute to Halo 2 multiplayer as we move toward Halo 3 in the fall.”

“Lots of folks are asking us in direct terms, ‘why make maps for Halo 2, when Halo 3 is just around the corner?’ Well, because we love Halo 2 and we love our fans. They’ve continued to play Halo 2 solidly for three years, in vast numbers, and we owe them it.”

Of course they won’t be giving it away at no charge, but they are making the new maps available for both the Xbox 360 and the old Xbox.

“It was originally scheduled to be a 360 only game, but it just wasn’t going to work out. Number one, there are a lot of Xbox players out there who can’t afford a 360, or are waiting for a birthday or holiday gift – so they wouldn’t be able to play.

Worse still, we’d have to split the matchmaking playlists differently and that wouldn’t have been fair either. So in the interests of fairness and an easy life, it’s on Xbox and Xbox 360.”

The maps will come in at a cheap $4 and will be available April 17.

For more details, visit Bungie’s official site.

While it’s great to see Bungie give Halo 2 a little more love before it’s pushed aside for Halo 3, it’s my guess fans would be more excited about brand new maps rather than remakes, but maybe that’s just me.

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Xbox 360 Getting Replaced

XBox 360The next-gen era has barely begun and Microsoft is already looking at what will follow.

Microsoft boss Peter Moore has let the cat out of the bag that the company is beginning to eye an Xbox 360 replacement. The target date for a release is 2012, according to Palgn.

The news isn’t really a shocker, but what is in fact is the date. If 2012 is the target, Microsoft’s being much kinder to gamers than tech companies generally are with their planned obsolescence of products. Think of the conga line of iPods that have hit the market in short succession, one better than the other. Or, consider Microsoft’s own XP and Vista versions.

It will be interesting to see what they cook up. With five years to go, it wouldn’t be surprising if Microsoft could get the next-next-gen 360 to play games and movies while doing dishes, too.

One of the last statements out of Sony on a PS4 had that roughly dated at 2010, but who knows what the next few years could bring.

It’s all talk and rumor until the advertisements start rolling out.

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Jack Fights Back Against Take-Two

GTA: San AndreasIt wasn’t really a question of if Jack Thompson would counter sue Take-Two. It was more of a “when” kind of situation.

Well, here it is. The notorious anti-gaming Florida lawyer has officially filed a counter suit against Take-Two’s preemptive legal maneuvering. Take-Two wants a U.S. District Court judge to stop what it deems as frivolous suits from the lawyer who just can’t seem to win an anti-gaming lawsuit. Thompson wants Take-Two brought up on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, charges. He claims Take-Two has tried to violate his Constitutional rights since 2005.

According to GameSpot, Thompson seems to be requesting federal court approval for Take-Two games prior to release. “All Take-Two would have to do is submit each game to a court of law to see if it contains material harmful to minors or if it does in fact constitute a nuisance of any kind under Florida law. The games are finished. There is plenty of time to submit the games, and doing so will not in fact impede their release–unless they are in fact harmful to children.”

This also from GameSpot: “Thompson’s defense also appears to contain a number of factual errors and misrepresentations. He claims the Entertainment Software Rating Board found that Take-Two Interactive failed to disclose objectionable content in its role-playing game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The ESRB said it found developer Bethesda Softworks was at fault in that matter, not Take-Two.

“Thompson also said that Bully was found to have ‘homosexual sex’ hidden in the game, about which Take-Two ‘forgot’ to tell the ESRB and the judge in last year’s suit over the game’s release. The homosexual activity in that game was limited to kissing, and the ESRB said shortly after that game came out that such scenes were considered in issuing it a rating of T for Teen.”

As if the factual errors aren’t enough, Thompson has laid out his own version of a conspiracy theory: “According to Thompson, Take-Two had still more help in breaking the law. The countersuit mentions a number of companies and media outlets–including the ESA, Penny Arcade, and GameSpot–as having collaborated and conspired with Take-Two to commit racketeering activities.”

It sounds as if Thompson’s simply up to his old tricks again. This will be one heck of a show to watch. It’s just a shame the court system’s time has to be tied up with such nonsense.

Related:
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Xbox 360, PS3 Upgrades On The Way?

Xbox 360 EliteAs is sometimes the case with video game speculation, the rumors surrounding the Xbox 360 Elite have panned out as accurate. The new version of the 360 will hit North American retailers on April 29.

The new console will sell for $479 and feature a beefed up 120GB hard drive. The new 360 will also have an HDMI output port and will come with a HDMI cable and a component video cable, too.

A data transfer cable will not be included, but a data transfer cable can be purchased with a standalone $179 120GB drive that will provide for the transfer of downloads and saved games from an older 360 to a the new hard drive.

A full comparision of the three 360 systems is available on Yahoo to help potential buyers decide which works best for them.

Meanwhile, speculation is starting to mount about Sony’s plans to upgrade its PlayStation 3. A new 80GB is being rumored, based on a patent application filed by the company. Sony has yet to confirm this, but it’s lashing back at the Elite’s lack of high-def playback built in considering its pricing.

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Nintendo Is Having A Wii Supply Problem

Wii Photo ChannelIt’s the underdog console that’s taking the next-gen race by storm, and it seems the Wii is also starting to give Nintendo a bit of a supply problem. The company can’t keep up with the high demand.

Nintendo Europe’s Laurent Fischer has been quoted as saying the company is working to up its production abilities to keep gamers in Wiis.

“We are still struggling to deliver the right numbers of hardware to cope with demand,” admitted Fischer. “We’re planning to increase the production capacity but it’s not something that can be done in a couple of days. We have to be patient.”

The company is on schedule to meet the 6 million sales mark by the end of March, a figure that even surprises Nintendo. “It’s astonishing to think that with six million we’re not able to fulfil the initial demand,” Fischer said.

Fischer went on to speak of the console’s own recruitment abilities, a concept I can attest to. At a recent party where the Wii was pulled out, two friends caved to the awesome power of Wii Sports and decided they “had to have” a Wii of their own.

I don’t believe they’ve managed to find one yet, so I’m betting news of the increased production plans will be more than welcomed by consumers itching to get a Wii bit of fun for themselves.

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EverQuest Turns 8

Everquest
It’s hard to believe eight years has passed since Sigil and Sony Online Entertainment unleashed EverQuest on the world. The MMORPG took the gaming world by storm, redefining the fantasy genre in a big way.

With multiple expansions and tons of new content added over the years, EverQuest has lived up to its name. Although considered an “old game” by gaming standards, EQ has a strong and loyal following that has stuck with the title from the beginning. It’s even managing to pull in new users as the expansions keep making the world of Norrath fresh and exciting.

While I no longer personally play this title, its expansive world, rich stories and incredible design will long serve as the measuring stick by which I judge other MMORPGs.

To celebrate the milestone anniversary, SOE has kicked off an array of anniversary promotions, including the release of an Anniversary Edition box set. Here is some of what’s going on in Norrath:

In-game events: Fabled Luclin NPCs have been brought back and there’s even a scavenger hunt going on. The promotions run through April 16.

Video contest: Players can have an item named after them if they manage to win The Fabled Adventurer Video Contest.

Festival of Time: This runs through March 26 and has NPCs traveling the world to “spread timeless tales of ancient history.”

For a full run down of the festivities, visit Sony’s site.

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Sony Standing Behind 6 Million PS3 Target

Playstation 3
Despite its third-place rankings in the next-gen battle, Sony is still banking its PS3 will hit the 6 million shipped target by the end of March.

With an estimated 4 million consoles shipped by February, per chairman Ken Kutaragi, the figure seems more than feasible. With the European launch just days away, it’s more than likely 6 million units will ship by March 31 on the worldwide market.

The real question, however, is whether they will sell?

According to GameSpot, Sony had only managed to sell about 1 million consoles in the U.S. since its launch. Elsewhere, figures on the sales front are about as bleak. Only 6,000 consoles sold in total in all of Canada in February.

With a lack of game titles and problems with backwards compatibility, Sony will likely have a difficult time unloading the PS3 for some time to come. But, with millions of consoles waiting in the wings, maybe they’re just planning for the demand that will eventually come when the title choices improve?

Perhaps it’s a case of if we build it, they will come?

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Londoners Not Lining Up For The PS3

Playstation 3As the clock began to tick down on the official launch time for Sony’s PlayStation 3 in Europe, one gaming site was reporting something rather interesting.

While Americans and Japanese lined up in droves, hours and hours in advance for their on-time launch, Londoners don’t seem to be quite as excited. In fact, Tech Digest’s report makes it sound rather bleak for PS3 sales on Friday.

“Even I was surprised by the amount of people gathered in the basement of Virgin’s Megastore on Oxford Street today, I thought there’d be *slightly* more than three people queuing for the PS3 30 hours before the big launch,” the writer scribed.

While it’s highly unlikely the line will only remain three deep as Friday rapidly approaches, perhaps this is London’s way of telling Sony it isn’t thrilled with being snubbed during the failed worldwide launch?

How well or how poorly the console does at release will be interesting to watch as it unfolds.

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PlayStation 3 European Launch Draws Near
PS3 Delivers Bad News To Europe
PS3 Has Backwards Compatibility Problems
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‘Heroes’ Mobile Game Coming

HeroesFans of NBC’s “Heroes” that just can’t get enough will soon be able to get a fix on the go thanks to a deal with Gameloft.

Heroes: The Mobile Game will be created for mobile phones through the agreement that gives Gameloft the exclusive worldwide licensing rights. Full details aren’t yet available, but the game has some serious fun potential.

“Heroes has created a large, die-hard fan culture and we are excited to bring the action and intrigue of NBC’s leading drama series to gamers and Heroes fans alike,” said Gonzague de Vallois, Gameloft’s vice-president of publishing has been quoted as saying. “With an international cast and rapidly growing international level of success, Heroes has achieved a massive global appeal and as such, Gameloft is the perfect publisher to deliver Heroes: The Mobile Game worldwide.”

The game will enable fans to take on the personas of some of the show’s biggest heroes and will center on events based on the first season. Some of the options include Hiro, Niki and even Peter. Sylar doesn’t seem to be an option.

There’s no date for a release, but it sounds like it could be a fun little game.

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Oblivion Expansion Out

OblivionOblivion junkies in North America don’t have to wait any longer for some extra action thanks to today’s release of The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles. The official Windows expansion will arrive in Europe March 30.

With more than 30 hours of new adventures, the expansion is one that’s been long awaited by many fans of the rich, single-person RPG game. The additional content lets fans explore a brand new plane – the realm of Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness.

In true expansion form, Shivering Isles simply adds to the content, so players can continue on with their existing characters.

“The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles features a bizarre landscape split between the two sides – Mania and Dementia – filled with vast, twisting dungeons mirroring the roots of the trees they are buried within. Players will encounter more than a dozen new creatures including hideous insects, Flesh Atronachs, skeletal Shambles, and amphibious Grummites. Throughout the adventure, players will discover all new items, ingredients, spells, and much more. Or, they can have the talented craftsmen of Crucible and Bliss forge new armor and weapons just for them,” says the official media release.

Sounds like a worthy expansion for the game that took the gaming world by storm.

There’s no official word on when an Xbox 360 version of the update will be out.

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Black Xbox 360 Rumors Unconfirmed?

Xbox 360 EliteIt would sure be nice to pick up a brand new Xbox 360 in a slick black case that has all kinds of bells and whistles for $479.

According to reports in Kotaku, Game Informer magazine has confirmed the new 360 will roll out in April. The Elite edition will boast a 120 GB HDD and support HDMI. Some sites are saying the HDMI cable will be included, but an internal HD-DVD drive will not.

CVG has talked with Microsoft. They came back with this quote: “We don’t comment on rumour and speculation.”

Despite the Microsoft response, Game Informer is sticking by its story, even writing in to Kotaku to reiterate its accuracy.

With April just around the corner, it’s a hard call whether this is a joke or not, but the folks at Game Informer sound pretty firm on their stand. A new version of the 360 with more power for less than a PS3 would sure be nice.

Here’s hoping the rumors pan out. It’s not uncommon for companies like Microsoft to refuse to comment on big news, only to turn around with an official press release a few weeks later.

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Wii Putting Mii In The Game

Wii Mii ChannelThere’s more to Mii than meets the eye.

At least that’s what the folks over at Marketing Vox are saying. It seems Nintendo is far from finished showing off everything Miis can do. Next on tap is the launch of a Mii channel later this year that will give users the ability to chat and rate each other’s Miis. The idea is to create a social network site that could possibly rival MySpace, but in this case it would be just for Wii users.

At least one industry analyst is calling the move a stroke of genius.

“Within a year, the Wii may be the most successful and valuable social-networking community on the Web,” says Richard Doherty of Envisioneering Group. “Nintendo is creating a framework for an open environment that will allow other developers to add value. Interesting third-party solutions could link fans of TV shows, gamers sharing tips, even home-schoolers.”

Doherty may indeed be right. With Sony’s announcement of Home and the unbridled popularity of sites like MySpace and YouTube, why not a place Wii fans can call their own?

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PS3 Fastest Selling Console In UK

Playstation 3Sony’s PlayStation 3 has broken sales records in the UK to become that country’s fastest-selling next-gen console.

According to Pocket-Lint, 165,000 consoles were purchased in the two days after the console’s launch. These numbers put it ahead of the Xbox 360 and the Wii. They note, however, that does not beat the PlayStation Portable.

The Wii might have beaten the PS3 figures, but Nintendo only had 105,000 consoles available for launch weekend.

Interesting to note here is the fact the PS3 broke records, but it didn’t sell out. If Sony delivered the 220,000 consoles it promised, about 55,000 were still without homes.

Meanwhile, Sony is playing third fiddle in sales elsewhere.

The Wii topped both the PS3 and the 360 in February. Wii sold 335,000 unit. The 360 came in with 228,000 and the PS3 trailed with 127,000.

As Newsweek’s N’Gai Croal has been quoted as saying, the performance “is simply abysmal. The PS3 is sucking wind right now. … Price is a factor. Some of the negative buzz is a factor. Some of the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) is a factor. And the lack of a large number of triple-A software titles is a factor.”

Related:
PS3 European Launch Reports Are Ho Hum
Londoners Not Lining Up For The PS3
PS3 Has Backwards Compatibility Problems
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Microsoft Not Beyond Blu-Ray Support

Blu-RayIt seems Microsoft’s not above cutting its losses and running if HD-DVD doesn’t pan out. It might even support Blu-ray with its Xbox 360 if it had to.

That bit of information comes from the mouth of Xbox UK boss Neil Thompson.

“Whatever format wins it is highly likely we will offer a solution,” Thompson is quoted as saying. “The only debate is if you want to watch Blu-ray movies and pay the extra money for that feature. We prefer to offer the consumer choice.”

This, of course, isn’t to say the Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD battle is even close to being over. There’s still lots of time for either format to declare a victory or another one to emerge the winner. It’s still my guess that downloads will be the winner in the long run, rendering actual in-hand disks a thing of the past, but I might be a few years ahead of my time.

At any rate, I have to admit, I remain rather impressed with how Microsoft has handled the 360 to date. The bells and whistles are add ons, not must haves, as is the case with Sony’s PS3. This just puts more power in the hands of consumers, which is a good thing.

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Take-Two Meeting Online

GTA made me do itIf the Take-Two Interactive Software soap opera is one you’d like to tune into tomorrow, you’re in luck.

The NASDAQ company has announced it will offer audio sumulcast of the annual stockholders meetings online. While the simulcast won’t work for stockholders to cast their votes, it’s going to be a great way to tune in to find out what will happen with the software giant that’s been responsible for such games as Bully and Grand Theft Auto.

Will the company go on the auction block? Will other ideas be presented to save it and its board?

The answers could be forthcoming tomorrow starting at 4 p.m. EST. The web cast can be accessed by clicking here.

I’m kind of hoping the current board manages to hang onto the company myself. You’ve got to have a certain level of respect for folks willing to take a pre-emptive strike in court.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like the board will win on this one.

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Eidos, Valve Create Steamy Partnership

Tomb RaiderEidos Interactive and Valve have announced a deal that will add dozens of new PC titles to Steam.

The agreement will roll out with some very big names being available for download. Titles include such big franchise sets as Tomb Raider, Hitman and Commandos.

“For over 10 years, Eidos has been a leading publisher on every major gaming platform,” said Gabe Newell, co-founder and president of Valve in a media release. “Offering legendary action franchises in complete sets and working with Eidos to deliver new releases is a great step forward in our efforts to expand Steam’s offerings, and to do so in ways that provide highest value to customers.”

Some of the titles went live on Steam today, including many of the Hitman games and Commandos. Prices range from $13.95 for Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines to $35.95 for Battlestations: Midway.

The additions are really helping round out Steam, which already boasts games from such developers as Valve (of course), 2K, Activision and more for download.

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PS3 Will Support Some PS2 Titles At Launch

PS3In wake of reports that Sony’s backwards compatibility on the PS3 will be less than desirable on the European launch day, March 23, Phil Harrison is setting the record straight. It seems the console will support more than 100 PS2 titles coming out of the gate.

“The situation is changing everyday, but on March 23, we expect the list to include over 1000 PS2 titles,” Harrison has been quoted as saying.

As the folks at Games Industry point out, Sony has been sending out some mixed reports about backwards compatibility. “While it has noted that consumers expect backwards compatibility as a standard feature, the company has also stated it believes that early adopters will buy the console for the next-gen gaming experience,” they write.

Harrison is now saying Sony is working on firmware upgrades to add to the list and plans on introducing a Web page to detail titles that are backwards compatible, much like the Xbox 360 list.

Whether Sony intends to do something or even can about how bad the PS2 titles look on the PS3 has not been stated. I speak from experience in saying some of the old titles look absolutely horrible with graphics pixilated and distorted.

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Gears Of War Wins Best Game Honors

Gears of WarEpic Games and Microsoft Games Studios are no doubt celebrating their big win today. Their Gears of War title took home three awards during the GDC’s Game Developers Choice Awards.

Gears won in the best game category and also for technology and visual arts. The trio of honors is a very big deal considering the number of new titles that hit the streets last year.

Speaking of recent releases, Nintendo didn’t go home empty handed either. Wii Sports garnered honors in the game design and innovation categories and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was honored for the writing behind the project.

“A Game Developers Choice Award is like no other award presented in our industry, as it is the only prize that gives the community the chance to appreciate and honor individual developers,” Jamil Moledina, executive director of the Game Developers Conference, has been quoted as saying. “By celebrating our visionaries by name, we give the audience and the public at large a chance to give credit where credit is due.”

Indeed, with winners nominated by the creators themselves, this was very likely one difficult group to please.

A full listing of honors can be found by visiting Nintendo Revolution.

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PlayStation 3 Gets Homey

home
Sony Computer Entertainment let the cat out of the bag about its big, free promotion to make the PlayStation 3 a little bit different than anything else out there. Taking tips from the MMORPG Second Life and the Wii with its adorable Miis, Sony plans to make gamers feel right at “Home.”

Home is a new service that will launch sometime this fall that will offer gamers a detailed 3D sort of game within the game.

From Sony’s media release, “Home is a real-time online 3D, networked community available on the PLAYSTATION®Network. It allows PS3 users to interact, communicate, join online games, shop, share private content and even build and show off their own personal spaces to others in real time. Home will be available as a free download from the PLAYSTATION®Store and will launch directly from XMB™ (XrossMediaBar) on PS3.”

Users will get to create their own avatars and customize them to their own liking. They also will have their own in-game apartments where they can have others over to see their gaming trophies, watch videos, show off pictures and so on.

“This is a significant step forward in the area of user community services and emergent entertainment experiences,” said Izumi Kawanishi, Corporate Executive and CTO Software, SCEI. “While the 3D graphics demonstrate the power of PS3 and the PLAYSTATION Network, the most impressive feature in Home is the variety of ways in which multiple consumers, as well as our third-party partners, can experience the next generation of communication by interacting and sharing among each other. I feel strongly that this unique blend of community, user-generated content, collaboration and commerce will expand the future of computer entertainment.”

The new Home project goes into closed beta this spring with the full launch set for sometime this fall.

I’m personally not sure what to think about this. Granted, games like Second Life have an impressive following, but I’m having trouble seeing a hard-cord PS3 gamer that’s been pulled in by the power wanting to sit around and show home movies in a cyber apartment. I’m just not sure this is the kind of PS3-targeted game fans were looking for.

Maybe it’s just me?

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Lord of the Rings Beta

Lord of the RingsIt won’t be long before hobbit fans can try their hands at Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar’s upcoming open beta. The planned date for opening up the trial is April 6, with those having preorders getting a bit of an earlier crack starting March 30.

I recently started checking out the closed trial of the game and have to admit I’m intrigued. The game play style is a bit different than what I’m used to after years of EverQuest and the City of Heroes lines, but it’s fun.

While I don’t have as much time in it as I’d like, I can say it’s definitely different than the other MMORPGs I’ve played to date. The classes aren’t quite what you’d expect them to be, but they do feel like they belong in a LoTR style game.
So far, I’ve been most impressed with the character generator, which in my opinion, is an often overlooked feature that’s just vital to giving players a sense of uniqueness. The options for personalization are pretty extensive, and the characters that result look pretty darn good.

The game itself allows players to try their hand at four different races – man, elves, hobbits and dwarves (male only, mind you) – and has seven different classes. With more than 350 different landmarks to see and more than 50 million square meters of Middle-earth to explore, it looks like there’s going to be a lot for players to do.

Preorders are being taken for the game right now, with those who buy in getting special monthly pricing at $9.99 or a $199 lifetime fee. The lifetime fee is a nice touch, especially for those who think they’ll be hooked for a long time to come exploring the world made so real through the literary works of Tolkien.

Check out the preorders here.

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Xbox 360 Gets Serious About Memory

- Xbox Live ArcadeTwo big announcements came out of the GDC in relation to the Xbox 360’s memory capacity. The first involves a much-needed boost in storage ability. The second centers around an increase in the size of games that can be put on Xbox Live.

A 512MB memory unit for the 360 will be made available on April 3 for a price of about $50. The unit will greatly increase the capacity for storage gamers have at their fingertips right now. To sweeten the deal, Microsoft intends to preload the unit with Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved by Bizarre Creations for a limited time.

This news alone has been long awaited and will no doubt be music to Xbox 360 gamers’ ears.

But, there’s more. The Xbox Live arcade game size limit has been increased from 50MB to 150MB, which gives developers a whole lot more room to play with in creating games.

“The new size limit offers developers increased flexibility and continued opportunities for innovative game development, while also ensuring that the millions of gamers on Xbox LIVE can continue to easily access, download and play all Xbox LIVE Arcade games on Xbox 360,” Chris Early, product unit manager for Xbox LIVE Arcade and Microsoft Casual Games at Microsoft, has been quoted as saying. “If you take a look at current games like ‘Roboblitz’ and ‘Small Arms,’ it’s clear that our developers deliver amazing game experiences within a compact size limit. Our focus is on continuing to provide developers with an environment that allows for the creation of cost-efficient games and that nurtures an artistic and creative approach to game development.”

Both moves are very good ones on the part of Microsfot. The storage capacity boost was absolutely needed and the arcade game size increase will likely result in a lot more games being developed for Live play.

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PS3 Cost Savings Punish Europe

Playstation 3 The folks over in Europe are no doubt not feeling the love today as Sony has made another disappointing announcement in regard to the Euroepean version of the PlayStation 3.

No, there’s no delay this time, but gamers might want to pack away some of their old PlayStation 2 titles.

Sony has announced it will eliminate a microchip from the European PS3. In doing so, it will cut costs of production, but it will also lessen the console’s backward compatibility greatly.

“Unlike the PS3 being sold in the United States and Japan, the upcoming European version will not carry the microchip that offers graphic- and data-processing functions for PS2 games, cutting production costs,” a Sony spokesman has been quoted as saying.

Instead, it will have a different, less expensive chip, that won’t offer the backwards compatibility the other one did (not that it was all that great either). It doesn’t look like the cost-savings will be passed on to gamers either.

With losses in its game unit up to more than $1.71 billion, there’s no doubt Sony needs to do something, but this seems like a slap in the face of European gamers who have already endured a delay.

A big question this brings up is whether Sony will continue to work on the backwards compatibility issues on North American and Japanese consoles, or will try and dust the problems under the carpet?

The consoles rolls out in Europe March 23.

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Microsoft Unveils XNA Design Contest

XNA contestWannabe game designers with a love for Microsoft’s XNA software might just find themselves $10,000 richer thanks to a contest announced at the Game Developer Conference.

Microsoft is rolling out its Dream Build Play contest for amateur game designers. Entrants must use the XNA software (a free version is available online) or Torque X and they must submit their creations by July 2.

The lucky winner will get an invitation to enter into an Xbox Live Arcade publishing contract, the 10 grand, an Alienware Aurora 7500 system, Windows Vista and a whole bunch of other perks, as well.

The winners of the contest will be announced during Seattle Game Fest ’07 in August.

Sounds like a great way for potential game designers to show what they’re made of. With the tools available for free, there’s nothing to lose.

Check out the contest rules here.

Nods to International XboxWay.

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