This Week in Games: February 18, 2012

Next-generation console news, a spat between Blizzard and Valve over DOTA, more on Double Fine's Kickstarter adventure, and an Angry Birds sequel.

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The PlayStation Vita kinda-sorta launched this week, and in a manner of speaking, it ushered in the next generation of game devices. Coincidentally, there was some news on that general subject this week, so let's start there…

Next Generation, Baby

We're less than a year away from at least one next-generation console launch, and less than six months away from a ton of announcements, so you know what that means, right? It's rumors season! First, on the Xbox front, news started to circulate that the next Xbox is currently going by the code name of Durango. We searched and searched for some kind of secret significance to that name outside of its being a state in Mexico, but failed to come up with anything more interesting than that it's also the name of a class of stealth patrol vessel in the Mexican Navy. Honestly, this news isn't really that exciting, other than for the fact that it stokes the fires of speculation. So there you go. Consider yourself stoked.

In the Nintendo camp, Nintendo's patent filings for the Wii U surfaced online this week, and they reveal the company could, possibly, maybe-if-it-could-be-bothered, develop a 3D-enabled Wii U controller. The filings also indicate that Nintendo considered making the tablet controller capable of running in high definition at 1080p, just like the main console. Will it? Probably not, but we'll find out for sure on June 5.

So, while people were mumbling about all of this, what of Sony and the PlayStation 4? "Right now, we're focused on PlayStation 3, and I've got another platform (PlayStation Vita) to get out the door in seven days, so I don't want to be thinking about trying to launch new technology anytime soon," grumbled SCEA boss Jack Tretton. "I want to focus all our energy on our console business, which is really just hitting its stride, and Vita, which really deserves a dedicated push from us."

For a roundup of all next-generation rumors, check out our feature story on the subject.

Well That's Nice, But Isn't the Vita Doomed?

As part of that "dedicated push," the Vita had its "soft" launch this week where all the hardcore portable Sony gaming enthusiasts took delivery of their prerelease bundle packs, and no doubt shook their fists in silent and unexpressed rage over the system's quirks and eccentricities. To get an idea of how you all feel about it, we asked 2,500 GameSpot readers worldwide if they were thinking of buying a system, and only 12 percent of respondents said they would definitely be picking one up at some point. Given that rather pathetic number, we wondered aloud, Is Handheld Gaming Doomed? The answer, to the chagrin of staunch enthusiasts, was "yes."

To try to further ingratiate the Vita to US gamers, Sony reminded us that it was spending $50 million in marketing the thing at launch and would be doing so with the snappy tagline "Never Stop Playing." Except after three hours when you need to recharge it, obviously.

It certainly didn't help matters when Japanese news service Nikkei reported that major Japanese publishers are moving all their projects from the PS Vita to the 3DS already. The Nikkei nugget was in a quote attributed to an unnamed Japanese game industry source. Sony Worldwide Studios' Scott Rohde dismissed the quote as "extremist" before going on to state, "I mean, obviously, there is no way anyone could stand in front of a camera and say that all developers are changing focus from one platform to another, no matter what it is."

Still, the early Vita games aren't looking too bad compared to those at most system launches, but so far it's by no means a stellar lineup. Rayman and Lumines have been the best-reviewed titles so far, along with Uncharted and the downloadable shooter Super Stardust Delta. To affirm this further, and in a pretty clear effort to diminish the fact that the Vita is flopping like a really floppy thing in Japan, Sony president of worldwide studios Shuhei Yoshida said that the device's launch lineup is "more in line with US gamers' tastes" than those in Japan. This, we think, is probably code for "we need a Monster Hunter game on this thing, stat." To try to further ingratiate the Vita to US gamers, Sony reminded us that it was spending $50 million in marketing the thing at launch and would be doing so with the snappy tagline "Never Stop Playing."

Except after three hours when you need to recharge it, obviously.

Grand Theft Auto and L.A. Noire Rumblings

Rockstar was unusually chatty this week. First, it stated through its blog that we shouldn't expect any GTAV info anytime soon, but then shocked us all and said that we should't count out the possibility of a sequel to L.A. Noire. "We don't always rush to make sequels," it said, "but that does not mean we won't get to them eventually--see Max and Red Dead for evidence of that. We have so many games we want to make and the issue is always one of bandwidth and timing."

DOTA Disagreement

If you're not familiar with the background to DOTA and its associated culture, the news regarding Blizzard and Valve getting into a nasty spat early this week over who actually owns the "DOTA" name must have been particularly confusing. Here's the short(ish) version: DOTA is the acronym for a Warcraft III mod (built with the game's world editor) called "Defense of the Ancients" that was originally built by a mapmaker with the alias Eul in 2003. The mod was loosely based on the Aeon of Strife map from the original Starcraft. After the release of the Warcraft III expansion The Frozen Throne, a number of DOTA variants started to appear from other mapmakers, the most prominent being a great one called DOTA AllStars by Steve Feak, which was later developed further and refined by a fella going by the name of IceFrog. It is this version of the game that is most commonly referred to when people talk about DOTA these days. If you're wondering about the game and how it plays, it's a hero-based thing, and the objective is for teams to try to destroy their opponents' "ancients," which are heavily guarded thingummies at opposing extremities of a map. It's a ton of fun, and it's super-popular.

OK, got all that? Here's what happened next. In 2010, Valve announced that a stand-alone sequel for DOTA was in production at its studio and filed a trademark for "Dota 2" (note: no caps, Dota is the name and not an acronym in Valve's world) and that DOTA AllStars dev IceFrog had been hired to head up the project. Here's where it gets really complicated. Are you still following? While all this was going on, Feak and a guy called Steve Mescon, who created the website that supported AllStars and later went on to head up community relations at Riot Games (who makes League of Legends, the free-to-play game that's a lot like DOTA), filed an opposing trademark for "DOTA" on behalf of DOTA-AllStars LLC, a subsidiary of Riot Games. Complicating things even further, this subsidiary was then acquired by Blizzard in 2011 in an effort to exert some control over the whole thing that started out as a mod to their game in the first place. Just to be sure, the company also announced a new game called Blizzard DOTA, which pits Warcraft and Starcraft characters against each other.

So, the upshot of all this is that Blizzard is now claiming it owns the name, the concept, and everything else, while Valve is countering this with a confident "no you don't." Things should get interesting in the months ahead.

Bored With Starcraft? Try the Board Game

On the subject of Blizzard stuff, haven't you always really, really wished super-duper hard that you could enjoy the company's most famous properties as conventional board games? Not cool and clever specialty game store stuff, but traditional stuff that your mom could enjoy. You have? Well, you're in luck, because Monopoly: World of Warcraft replaces traditional properties with iconic WOW locations like Twilight Highlands, Grizzly Hills, and the Swamp of Sorrows, and includes Alliance- and Horde-themed dice. Meanwhile Risk: Starcraft the board game has players choose from Terran, Protoss, or Zerg factions and six heroes before taking on other players in the famous strategy game. The game boasts three modes and more than 290 pieces and launches this summer for $50.

More Double Fine Stuff

Schafer originally said he needed a "couple million" to make Psychonauts 2, but it turns out that it will actually require a whopping $13 million. Persson said this figure was much higher than his initial impression, and then asked the Internet to "stop hyping over this."

Remember last week when Tim Schafer was our man of the moment for raising a ton of cash on Kickstarter for his point-and-click adventure project? Well, this week the pledges of support showed no signs of slowing down, and the total is now just shy of $2,000,000. To stoke the fires still further, Schafer dropped some knowledge on the game, stating that because "we got a little bit more money than we thought we were gonna get," the game will now feature voice acting. Though the game will ship with only English voices, Schafer also confirmed that in-game text will be translated into French, Italian, German, and Spanish. He also revealed that the game will be released on the PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and "certain" Android devices.

As expected, Schafer's fortunes inspired others to try to replicate the success this week, with Fallout: New Vegas and Alpha Protocol developer Obsidian Entertainment stating that it was "down" with the model, and studio creative director Chris Avellone remarking that "the idea of not having to argue with a publisher is appealing."

Last week there was also some excitement thanks to Minecraft dev Markus "Notch" Persson telling Schafer that he was "serious" about helping put together a sequel to Pyschonauts. This week he backpedaled a little, stating that he was pledging his support only "semi-jokingly." Schafer originally said he needed a "couple million" to make Psychonauts 2, but it turns out that it will actually require a whopping $13 million. Persson said this figure was much higher than his initial impression, and then asked the Internet to "stop hyping over this."

Birds of an Angry Persuasion

Two nuggets of Angry Birds news this week: First, the game launched on Facebook to the collected groans of half the Internet, and then, after saying for the past year that they probably wouldn't ever make a sequel, the guys at Rovio announced just that. Angry Birds Space is the name of the follow-up to the most downloaded video game of all time, and the picture below is all they're saying about it so far. Expect more news on March 22.

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Discussion

103 comments
xolivierx
xolivierx

It doesn't mean to some people the Vita doesn't rock. If you have money to spend and have somewhat of a Attention Deficit Disorder you should buy it by all means. To everybody their own taste. I think the Vita catters for men between 11 to 21. I already see the thumbs down comming. Peace!!!!!!!! =)

xolivierx
xolivierx

I think Sony came up with the Vita because the PSP is an oldie and also to get their share of the handheld market which is expanding a little too fast. Get on the bus, the only thing you see is people with handheld devices ; they can't think for themselves and just ''be'' for 1 minute...but that's my opinion. I just believe it was a tryout to see how well they will compete and they will get their cash back for sure. The only nebulous thing is the whole shebang about the price tag, the memory cards being unique and rather small capacitywise...and the game price tag. I'm a Sony fanboy, but I'm never going to touch a Vita. I'd rather get a Nintendo DS. I personally like my quality games on a big screen and not tied to a tiny screen with 3 hours of battery on a full charge. To me the Vita is like playing cards, solo! I'd just rather do something else if given the choice. The marketing might be a success, but it doesn't change the fact you are not getting your money's worth. Critics do point out the flaws. When I'm thinking about buying a game, the critics I consider the most are the negative ones for they point out the most annoying things that could occur in the game, and then I decide If the positive outweight the negative. To me the Vita'S negative aspects win the race.

banditjingx
banditjingx

btw, what about this amazing looking zelda I saw on the front page link???? no infos??

banditjingx
banditjingx

I think I'd stop with gaming if the handheld market were to be closed........its too good a passtimer and defnetly cheaper than those overpriced tablets and cel-/smartphones.

skateryanboarde
skateryanboarde

As long as handheld gaming has a market, it won't die. It's clear that handheld systems are still selling, and people enjoy portable gaming. Yes, we all like to have a little fun with Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja from time to time. However, using my phone for gaming has some definite down sides. I like to save the battery life on my smartphone for what it was originally intended for, networking and phone calls. As soon as a game is played, the battery life takes a hit. If I play games on my phone like I do on my 3DS, I have to charge it every 3-4 hours. I know that's usually how often I have to charge my 3DS, but my 3DS is a dedicated game system. I can afford to not have it on my person at all times. My phone, on the other hand, is my only source of communication when I'm not at home, and is my only phone. Like many others, I opted out of home phone service, because it no longer makes sense. So, for practicality's sake, I'm going to say that portable gaming should stick to dedicated handheld systems.

CrazyWerewolf
CrazyWerewolf

The moment they put Black Ops 2 on a Wi-Fi/3G enabled dual analog stick Vita, it will be the end of stupid articles bashing handhelds and praising iOS crap like Angry Birds.

Zafrod
Zafrod

Ummm... really? Did no one else notice the Vita bit was rather tongue-in-cheek? Folks need to take a deep breath here. It's all gonna be okay, no matter which side of the fence you fall on. It's gonna be okay. For the record, I tend to buy one of everything, and I got my Vita preorder bundle last week. Battery life is right around 3 hours, which is shortish. Don't love the location of the power input, given that sometimes I play with it plugged in. But it is a stellar piece of machinery, and as far as launch lineups go, this one is great for me. Very happy with it overall, though I can certainly understand those for whom it's not worth the price of admission. To each his own, after all.

sknight175216
sknight175216

@TonyKoeffler I feel you. I didn't care that the 3DS wasn't selling well. I STILL bought it on launch day. The only thing that matters is if YOU, the gamer, are happy. It's not about all this everybody's a critic bs. Forget that. Just play the games you want on the systems you want and f*** everything else. I'm tired of the negativity. I just want to game you know? If I like street cleaning simulator then screw the fact that game journalists don't like it. Dig it? :P P.S. I never have nor will I ever actually play street cleaning simulator. Unless it's free and then maybe. No probably not.

sknight175216
sknight175216

Why can't companies just work together ha ha? It's ALWAYS about the money. What about the experience?

kennyyoung6395
kennyyoung6395

One of the problems by Blizzard and Valve is that Valve took the name Dota itself, why can't they make something more like a spiritual successor from Dota the map? Also, Blizzard Dota is a bad name, should been something else non-dota related.

Llama345
Llama345

If I had the loot to have both consoles and handhelds i for sure would. I love playing JRPGs on those things, among other games. I loved my PSP but had to sell it in my young days for gas money.

Stonecutters908
Stonecutters908

Please stop claiming some GS bias against the Vita. Every single media outlet has reported on the crappy Vita sales in Japan because it is a major news story in the industry. Every single media outlet also reported how the battery life is short (3 hours) because it is short. Every single media outlet has also given the launch titles average to below average reviews, they all can't be wrong at once. Last summer GS labeled the 3DS as the "3 D.ead S.ystem" and hated all the games as well. If GS is biased, who are they biased for? Who is it they are reserving all their love for? They don't even review mobile games. I will say it right now, as far as fanboys go, Sony die hards are the absolute worst and the most stuck in denial. Sony makes fantastic hardware, they just are poor at business, hence the tanking stock price, the stock downgrade by S&P, and the cynical outlook for their future because the Vita represents another mistake. Incomplete HW (memory cards?!!!) that is overpriced and still has a negative margin and it was designed for an ever shrinking audience. I don't know what they were thinking.

BSEE10
BSEE10

@xavvor1 That is absolutely right. That is what I'm always saying, "Give the damn rights to Blizzard if they want it so badly. DoTA development is on the players' hands anyway so boo-hoo Blizzard." And that actually is the difference of DOTA2 from HoN and LoL; DOTA2 is built by the players for the players, unlike HoN from which it was good but became greedy when Ice left and LoL that is full of imbalances and lacks content.

BSEE10
BSEE10

@megakick "HoN is doing ok now..."? You don't play HoN do you?

megakick
megakick

Its' Blizzard game Dota used Blizzard IP models with different names. It like claiming rights to Night of the Living Dead. Freak made the DotA allstars Icefrog just took over, Freak left for LOL and LOL is huge so who made what happen, Icefrog's project HoN was dying icefrog left for DOTA 2 guess what HoN is doing ok now... So who is the blight?

Ryoushi06
Ryoushi06

@xavvor agree! ,IceFrog is the one who make the game better

xavvor1
xavvor1

The whole Dota mess is ridiculous Blizzard have every chance the last half decade to jump on the DOTA train and now that Valve has Dota 2 they suddenly claim rights? Selfishly money driven bastards trying to copyright something they didn't even create, why won't everyone just come out with a Dota game and let the fans decide who's boss you damn jerk-off corporation.

elverdadero
elverdadero

Game journalism is slowly transforming into celebrity journalism: only negative and shallow stuff. Maybe that sells, I don't know. I don't care a lot about angry birds. I mean, it's fun for about 10 minutes, yeah, but that kind of game doesn't satisfy me, and I don't mind carrying another device to play MUCH more interesting games. Also, I love twin analog sticks, and buttons.

zowbaid
zowbaid

@allan_delacruz You could check out Gameinformer, but they're reviewed can be a bit harsh sometimes. But, the only reason I ever come here is to see whats new, not to hear these guys badmouth the PS3 all day and night.

zowbaid
zowbaid

@TonyKoeffler I love you man. Yes you tell Gameschpot! That's why I hate critics and reviewers, they were just born to be negative. I mean when you guys were reading the review on the Vita, did you guys see even ONE positive comment? NO! That's what the media does to you! They brainwash you with all their crappy useless opinions and bam everyone's listening to that opinion thinking it's a fact. BOO! Just don't EVER listen to Gamespot. I own the vita and yes it has some issues, but nothing that can't be fixes with constant updates and just wait for it, price will drop and great games will come out. Sony has never disappointed me.

grim0187
grim0187

You Vita fans are in serious denial. The vita is going to flop. Its NOT that good of a handheld given its $300 price range. Gamespot is correct. Im a realist. Its not being negative, its the truth. That Sony exec GRUMBLED. Deal with it!

dannyatkinson
dannyatkinson

I was interested in Vita until I found out that it will not be able to play PS2 games. I would love a portable that would play my ps2 games.

D_E_E_G_S
D_E_E_G_S

In situations like the Dota name fight, a judge should just rule "Nobody owns it. Next."

blackman232
blackman232

Getting a Playstation VITA, I could care less if it fails, just makes it more cheaper for me. *Note PS VITA reminds SEGA GAMGEAR, but even that ish was around for a good while, so you can't really say VITA is gonna fail, I even had NOKIA N-gage handheld console and nobody knew wtf the thing was... I even had NEOGEO pocket color and ppl didnt know wtf that was either, but even if sony advertisements on tv fail the fact that it looks PSP still give it a good chance to make it in this market.

TonyKoeffler
TonyKoeffler

What truly angers me about this is articles like this are going to drop Vita sales. Sure, most of us see that this piece of crap article is just a load of garbage, but some people will glance at articles like this or they will look at sales numbers and then decide from that that they won't get the Vita. Some people don't know a lot about the Vita, so when they see articles like this it's enough to change their mind. The Vita isn't doomed, but if it was you guys are sure contributing to it. Nice job Gamespot. Perhaps tomorrow you can release an article about how the fact that the 3G model sold a lot less means that 3G is dead, or that AT&T is going to go out of business. There. I just gave the imbecile monkeys that write your articles another idea.

sakuranoame
sakuranoame

Looks like Gamespot won't stop flaming the Vita.

RPG_Fan_I_Am
RPG_Fan_I_Am

All review sites are biased. GS has a tendency to like xbox more, and FPS/MMORPG. IGN likes Fighters/Platformers/RPG's more, but they don't have much of a care for which systems they are on. But I've found they review things on the PS3 more. Personally I usually like GS because they keep you up to date on things, but I'm finding IGN has been getting more information sooner then GS has been lately. I also like GS because they show a lot of video's. So which site you like is probably more towards what games you play.

InquisitorCrox
InquisitorCrox

OMG, what they have done to this place, GS was a always a bit biased vs Sony, but they have gone really really far this time. Promoting iOS over the actual consoles, the actual game industry is a fatal mistake for a site like GS, how many of the casual gamers who only play mobile games do they actually bother to check dedicated sites like GS? The VITA is a major threat to iOS because it will support Android apps and partially replace the need for the extra gadget ipads as well. But i m shocked to see that Apple's agressive strategy, to defame the opposition, has bothered to reach as far, as here!! Geez, like the patent war was wasnt enough...

Gears_0f_L0ve
Gears_0f_L0ve

Is IGN just as biased? If so, I don't know where to go. Soembody recommend me an alternative to gamespot.

severe_009
severe_009

PSP gamers were just used with the hack/modded PSP, trust me, when Vita is hack/modded sales will boost significantly... So i'll just wait for that or the price to drop.

Gears_0f_L0ve
Gears_0f_L0ve

Using words like "Grumbled" is obvious spin. I'm not stupid.

PeepingTom88
PeepingTom88

"To affirm this further, and in a pretty clear effort to diminish the fact that the Vita is flopping like a really floppy thing in Japan..." This is why I hate reading coverage in most online gaming sites, sloppy, unoriginal monkey text sugarcoated with fancy words like "affirm" or "diminish". Not to mention the bias this article clearly attempts to convey in word choice: "Right now, we're focused on PlayStation 3, and I've got another platform (PlayStation Vita) to get out the door in seven days, so I don't want to be thinking about trying to launch new technology any time soon," grumbled SCEA boss Jack Tretton. Oh, so he didn't just say it but GRUMUBLED? I guess journalistic professionalism is not that big of a priority in Gamespot.

Ometh
Ometh

Maybe Bliz should stop crying and use their resources to, you know, release diablo 3.

IndianaPwns39
IndianaPwns39

"Is Handheld Gaming Doomed? The answer, to the chagrin of staunch enthusiasts, was "yes." Wait, what? I remember that article, and I read most of the comments and I was pretty sure the majority of them were optimistic concerning the future of handheld gaming. Perhaps it was after I had commented on the article there was a wave of cynicism and doom...

sonicare
sonicare

I wonder if durango refers to where it will be made?

Lash540
Lash540

@pinkydre - Why not? What happens to the console games affects the PC games.

devastion913
devastion913

@moviequest14 Survival horror has went off course recently but I like what Alan Wake did, even though it wasen't a survival horror game, it reminded me of my favorite survival horror game in many ways,which was Silent Hill 2. Dead Space, while a great game, didn't creep me out with thier liberal usage of gore and pop up scares, it seemed very combat oriented to me. Where Wake and SH2, and where I hope the genre goes is into the realm of being more of a psychological game, which those 2 titles did so well. The genre could have a breakthrough if they could break out of the "traditional" scare tactics and use more creative solutions where nothing is too controversial (or dare I say too unethical as well) to put the player in very uncomfortable and frightening situations against thier own feelings/beliefs/past experiences/phobias that they will not forget.

devastion913
devastion913

I'd be lying if I said I wasen't nervous about the next Xbox. After the amount of failures my 360's had I'm very wary about buying one, if at all. Might sit this one out till PS4 gets here beause the PS3 I didn't have these problems with.

devastion913
devastion913

@pinkydre And you are reading this why? And commenting about consoles why? Just to be an elitist troll? I thought so.

aralex391
aralex391

@jwhdavison "We have a division at GameSpot called Trax which is a whole team of people dedicated to researching the games market and 'predicting' trends and behaviors.The 'facts' that we're stating come from this group" I like the part where you say that predictions equal fact

TenraiSenshi
TenraiSenshi

@Pinkydre I am a PC gamer, and the future of gaming in general is always of interest to me, so it's a bit prudent of you to speak for "we" PC gamers as if you represent the opinions of all of us. Your tone matches the tone of this article quite comfortably.

painpas
painpas

The love for games in general is going on most sites. No one enjoys gaming anymore. That is why you have to search to find those people who are of the Genesis SNES era or the NES Master System era who know why you should play bad games for the good things about them. We are past the the great demo disc magazine era of the PS1 where gaming really took off. The magic and excitement of giving Bloody Roar a chance or Scars. This era has too many critics and not enough love for gaming. I have to admit this has been the worst generation in gaming on one hand and the best in other. We got Bioshock, Limbo, Flower, Uncharted, Portal, Red Dead, Saints Row, Mass Effect and Bethesdas coming out party. However, we got so many non gamers talking about game design not understanding what it takes to make a game. I miss the Greg Kasavin review where he was critical could have gave the game a low score and still sold you on buying the game because playing bad games is never a bad thing because there are great ideas behind some bad games. I want the excitement back in gaming. Chris Watters you and Sean are the future of this site and McShea too. Dont lose site of the Scars and Loadeds of the past. Mcdonald and Homer.... Really? Take back the site. Not everyone needs to be Van Horn on this site ok. My goodness.

pinkydre
pinkydre

we PC gamers don't care about any thing relating next generation consoles

TenraiSenshi
TenraiSenshi

I have to admit, parts of the article regarding the Vita do sound very antagonistic. The attack on the tagline - ""Never Stop Playing." Except after three hours when you need to recharge it, obviously" - is one of those points that make this article seem biased, because those final words come across as nothing more than a cheap attack and they really don't belong in an article that should be more informational or factual, and less opinionated. In any case, the Vita hasn't even been released internationally yet, so it's far too early to start forecasting whether it is a doomed device or not, based purely on sales in one country alone (i.e. Japan). We've already seen how console sales numbers can differ drastically from one region to the next. Then there's the fact that Gamespot is also basing its evaluation on a poll that only targeted 2500 users, which, in my opinion, is far too small a number to be used to represent such a large consumer base which numbers the millions. Anyway, I'm not just defending the Vita here. Rather, it's just this doom and gloom feeling I get from the article that annoys me. Why do people have to be so negative all the time? I'm tired of reading bad news written purely for the sake of getting the reader's attention. Sure, bold words like "Vita" and "doomed" in the same sentence really get people's attention, but I'm tired of devoting so much of my attention to such a negative atmosphere. Gaming is meant to be about fun, not about doom and gloom.

Blanka13
Blanka13

bring the new sh$$t i cant wait :)

KAM10000
KAM10000

Can't Wait For Next Gen :D

KAM10000
KAM10000

XOBOX 720 News is Great.