This Week in Games: July 14, 2012

A new console for $99, a ribbed, even-skinnier PS3, Sony turns down a Kama Sutra pitch, League of Legends is the most-played PC game in North America and Europe, Ultima IV gets rebooted as a free-to-play game, and Trent Reznor is writing the Black Ops 2 theme. Also, it's Comic-Con this weekend, so strap in...

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It's Comic-Con this week, so a huge chunk of the GameSpot team is in San Diego for our live coverage of the event and all of the associated costumed shenanigans. We've had lots of guests on our live stage show talking about games coming out later this year, plus we had coverage live from the show floor every day. If you want to catch up on all of the games stuff from the Con, head over to our Comic-Con hub and check out all the goodies. Be sure to browse our growing library of 360 Costume Cam images while you're there. You'll be able to see some of the best 'stumes of the show from every angle.

If you're a pro Starcraft II competitive gaming fan, this weekend is the NASL Season 3 Grand Finals from Toronto. Hit that link to check out our live feed from the event, and watch some of the world's best players compete for $100,000 in prize money.

Ouya: The $99 Console Everyone is Talking About

It seems like so long ago now, but all the fuss about the new Android-based Ouya console only kicked off this week. There's been so much press about the thing since its Kickstarter campaign started at the beginning of the week, that you'd think it had been around for longer. If you've not been following the story at all, here's the short version: New project to build an Android-based HD console, Tegra 3-based guts, completely open and hackable, designed by Jambox and OLPC designer Yves Behar, supported by folks like Xbox alumnus Ed Fries and Interplay founder Brian Fargo, traditional controller with a touchpad for phone and tablet ports, free-to-play business model for game distribution, crowd funded to the tune of $4.6 million as of this writing (on an ask of $950,000.) For an exploration of whether it's a good thing or not, check out this story from earlier this week.

Slimmer PlayStation 3, Ribbed For Your Pleasure

The PlayStation 3 is just big fat fattie, right? Wouldn't you feel so much more comfortable about yourself as a gamer if it was slimmer? And perhaps ribbed? Well, you might be in luck because it looks like there's an even-skinnier box on the way. The evidence is mounting that Sony will soon introduce the second major revision to the PlayStation 3 hardware. How do we know this? A Sony filing with Brazilian telecommunications regulator Anatel includes details and pictures of a new PS3, presumably one intended for manufacture in the country so as to assist the company in establishing the platform while working within the limitations of Brazil's manufacturing and tax rules. The most prominent changes to the hardware are it's ribbed top panel and the fact that it seems to be a top-loading device, just like the original PlayStation. As for the size, it appears modestly smaller than the current box. The Anatel filing notes that Sony sought approval for versions of the hardware with three different-size hard drives: 16GB, 250GB, and 500GB, so it seems we can expect a super-cheap version and a deluxe baller edition to flank the standard machine.

Sticking with the ribbed-for-pleasure theme in the headline for this PlayStation segment, Sony Computer Entertainment's executive producer Pete Smith revealed at the Develop conference this week that the firm had received a pitch for an EyeToy Kama Sutra game, but had swiftly rejected it. "This was a genuine pitch from a developer," Smith said. "Seriously, this was a genuine pitch. So, the guy is going to me, 'it's like, so there's an outline on the screen with the EyeToy…' I'm like, I get it, yeah." Maybe the studio in question can work on something for Ouya, and throw a camera in with the package? There are no pesky prudish first parties to get in the way of the path to enlightened lovemaking with that platform.

Activision For Sale, Overcharging for Birds, Rocking with Reznor

Remember a couple of weeks ago when we learned that Activision Blizzard might be up for sale? Well, the story picked up a little more this week. The company is for sale, but parent company Vivendi is having a really hard time finding anyone to take the publisher off its hands. According to a Bloomberg report, Vivendi has approached a number of major players, but has found no interested suitors as yet. Citing "people with knowledge of the company's plans," Bloomberg said that both Disney and Microsoft responded coolly to the idea. Disney was "unlikely" to make an offer, while Microsoft was said to not be considering a bid currently, though the news organization's source left open the possibility of that changing. As for international firms, Japan's Nexon and China's Tencent were on the list of approached companies, but neither of the online game giants had the cash on hand to close the deal. If Vivendi has no luck finding suitors for its $8.1 billion stake in Activision Blizzard, the company is likely to try to sell its shares on the open market. Clarification about Vivendi's plans for the sale is expected to come when the company releases its next financial results on August 30. When asked about the company's plans for a sale, Vivendi chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou told a reporter, "It's a possibility." Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick reportedly responded to the same question, saying, "It's great weather."

As you can imagine, this had the collected throngs of the Internet (well, those of a certain age, at least) seriously conflicted as they are as committed to supporting Reznor's work as they are to condemning Call of Duty

While that was going on, Activision itself made some headlines when it announced that it will be releasing the Angry Birds Trilogy compilation retail releases for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and 3DS for preposterous prices. The console versions will set you back…cough…$40, while the 3DS version is $30. Should we give you a second to pick yourself up off the floor before continuing? Combining the original Angry Birds with Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Seasons (but not the recently released Angry Birds Space), the Trilogy will apparently introduce features suited to each of its new platforms. The Xbox 360 edition will support Kinect motion controls, while the PS3 game will incorporate Move functionality and the 3DS version will (predictably) include 3D visuals and StreetPass features. In all three cases, Angry Birds purists will be able to turn off the additional functionality, so you can mimic the experience you previously got for free, or for $0.99 if you went ad-free. This news came hot on the heels of news that Rovio was ready to unleash it's first non-Bird themed game since the release of the original Angry Birds in 2009 in the shape of the Incredible Machine-like Amazing Alex. The game released this Thursday on iOS and Android and is actually a reskinned version of Casey's Contraptions, which Rovio recently acquired.

One last quick piece of Activision-related news, in case you missed it earlier this week; Trent Reznor will be composing the main theme song for Call of Duty: Black Ops II. As you can imagine, this had the collected throngs of the Internet (well, those of a certain age, at least) seriously conflicted as they are as committed to supporting Reznor's work as they are to condemning Call of Duty. Net-net though? More Reznor = good, right? Let us know how you feel about this one in the comments.

Movie News! Deus Ex and Need for Speed

Square Enix's action franchise Deus Ex is heading to Hollywood. GameSpot parent company business unit CBS Films announced earlier this week that it has secured the rights to make a movie based on 2011's well-received Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The untitled Deus Ex film will be produced by Roy Lee (The Departed, The Ring) and Andrian Askarieh (Hitman). John P. Middleton, who is working on a number of upcoming films, including supernatural horror movie 7500, will serve as executive producer. CBS Films is also working with Square Enix and developer Eidos Montreal on the project. "No one knows Human Revolution like the team that created it and we look forward to working with them from day one to make a film adaptation worthy of the Deus Ex name," said CBS Films co-president Terry Press.

Last month, DreamWorks Studios announced it had picked up the film rights to Electronic Arts' flagship racing franchise Need for Speed, revealing that a movie based on the series wouldn't enter production until 2013. Despite that, according to Deadline, DreamWorks has announced a firm release date for the untitled film: February 7, 2014. Disney will distribute the film worldwide upon release. The Need for Speed film is being described by EA as "a fast-paced, high-octane film rooted in the tradition of the great car culture films of the '70s while being extremely faithful to the spirit of the video game franchise." As previously widely ridiculed in forum posts, the project will not be based on any single game in the series.

Halo 2 HD Remake Not Happening

If you were excited by the rumors of an HD remake of Halo 2, we're sorry to tell you that it's not happening. The Halo Council posted the results of a Microsoft ExpertZone QA session with 343 Industries, which dispels the story. Sadface. "We are not working on that at this time. We are kind of busy," the developer wrote. 343 Industries is currently nearing completion on Halo 4, which is due out November 6.

What's The Most Played PC Game in North America and Europe?

Can you guess? It was League of Legends, according to a report from DFC Intelligence. The study compiled records of social gaming service Xfire's more than 21 million users from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012 to determine the free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena took the top spot, with almost 1.3 billion hours of activity. Diablo III, which was only present for 45 days--a bit more than a tenth--of the studied period, managed to claim fifth place with 172.9 million hours. World of Warcraft saw a decline in user activity but still handily secured second place with 622.4 million user hours, and indie phenomenon Minecraft locked up third place with 371.6 million hours. “The fact that online games such [as] League of Legends eclipsed more than a billion hours of online game time in a year is simply incredible," said DFC Intelligence CEO David Cole. He compared the figures to Bungie's April announcement which revealed that Halo players had surpassed 2 billion hours of online matches since the release of Halo 2 in 2004.

Ultima IV Rebooted as Free-to-Play PC and iPad Game

"It's like reading Chaucer. The controls are deeply inadequate, the graphics are horrible, the input system is byzantine at best." -Paul Barnett, BioWare Mythic

RPG aficionados (particularly older aficionados) will tell you that one of the all time greats is Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, a game released in 1985. If you've never had the opportunity to try it, well…you're in luck, because BioWare Mythic is rebooting the game. According to Paul Barnett from the studio, playing the original game now is "like reading Chaucer. The controls are deeply inadequate, the graphics are horrible, the input system is byzantine at best." That's why his team is remaking it with modern trappings--updated graphics, multiplayer, and action-RPG combat--and they're making it free-to-play. Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar is set to launch on iPad and PC later this year. The game, which Barnett said will be playable "start to finish" for free, is the second major free-to-play project from BioWare, the first being Facebook tie-in Dragon Age Legends. He said the team took several lessons from the EA2D project which was recently discontinued online. "It had a lot of good ideas in it, it struggled to find a long-term audience, and perhaps was too aggressive with its monetization policy," Barnett said. So instead of "glass walls" preventing advancement through the game, Ultima Forever players will be able to buy additional means of transport or the ability to fast travel through the world. So…pay for fast travel. What do you think about that?

Ultima Forever will feature the same set of virtues from its 1985 counterpart, but players will find new choices and consequences reflected in the game's fully integrated multiplayer. Barnett said the game will use Origin's matchmaking services across iPad and PC to facilitate multiplay between small groups of friends. These updates create a delicate balance between adhering to the vision of Ultima creator Richard Garriott, who is not involved in the project, and alterations for BioWare's approach to narrative and usability by a touch-centric generation. Ultimately, he said, the idea is to get back to what has kept Ultima IV a topic of conversation more than 25 years after its release. "The idea that it's finding out who you are, that there's a difference between who you claim you are and who you actually are in the game," Barnett said. "Hopefully, if we've done it right, what it's actually hearkening back to is that good storytelling that we used to do in the past, when the technology was a lot simpler."

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Discussion

93 comments
joedan38
joedan38

I hope the Deus Ex movie is well made unlike that stupid Assassins Creed movie.

ck10304
ck10304

A few thoughts here. $99 android console, intriguing, except having free-to-play as the dominant business model seems iffy in my opinion. Angry Birds for $40, ridiculously retarded, considering it was designed for small screens and is actually worse on the consoles. And, lastly, Deus Ex movie.... HELL YEAHHH

Plataea
Plataea

It would be dishonest for Sony to release a PS3 now with a hard drive with only 16GB.  Practically all PS3 games have a mandatory install, and no more than a small handful of games would fit before there was no space left.  Some of the early PS3s had 20GB hard drives, and it soon became apparent that that was insufficient.  Now games have larger install sizes than ever, and they're thinking of releasing a 16GB model?  Ridiculous!

jcopp72
jcopp72

$40 or angry birds, what a rip off, if anyone actually buys it for that price then  they have more money than brains.

Enlil_The_Great
Enlil_The_Great

same crap different toilet...i want a break trough in gaming something that will send me to jaw specialist to fix it....jaw droppin stuff....its all make up, look nice all the same thaang....i want something stunnin...i guess they started to implement same concept as in pharmaceutical industry each year they release same stuff in different package with maybe 0.7% better effectiveness rate....pffff......

Llama345
Llama345

I dont think it is incredible that LoL has logged so many hours.  People play that like they used to play WoW, non stop ALL day.  I'm all for playing a good game but people really over kill it.  

Stabba_The_Kutt
Stabba_The_Kutt

News Flash. You don't need an Ouya to play android games on your TV. I hook my Asus Transformer prime tablet to my TV and my xbox 360 controller to the usb port on the tablet and voila: console. Unfortunately, android games suck. Especially when I already have an actual PC and a game console.

 

On the other hand, the open source nature of the project could lead to some interesting hacks (that would likely never make it to the average consumer). And with its low price point (tegra 3 android tablet: $400+ vs Ouya for $99) you may as well buy a couple of them.

 

Ultimately like most unbridled innovation with no tangibly profitable business model, I believe it will fail.

poopinpat
poopinpat

If they can produce some console quality games on the OUYA I am all for it.  If it is the google play store on my TV I will not even consider it.

Codester_41
Codester_41

I just couldn't stop laughing at the PS3 Sub-heading: "Ribbed for your pleasure". So simple, it's amazing. I pleasure myself with my Playstation enough as it is, but now it's RIBBED!... In a game sense, by the way.

Lhomity
Lhomity

What happened to Quoted for Truth this week?

Rovelius
Rovelius

OUYA is in a league of its own. So all these people saying ''It's gonna change the industry !!'' are just getting carried away. If anything, OUYA is what Nintendo internally wish they could do.

 

I for one can't wait to develop for it and see what kind of crazy awesome games we'll see on it in a few years.

CreMax90
CreMax90

I dont know why people think ouya sucks or will fail. Yes its not powerful, but it is incredibly cheap for a console.Also, its not meant to compete with the big 3, since their goals are different. I will get one for sure and hope they will get more support from game developers and/or publishers.

GaMa__GaMer
GaMa__GaMer

I guess it would release games more on multiplayer, than a good single campaign story :)

billlabowski
billlabowski

The only console I'll ever buy. I don't buy Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo crap. Give me one that I can expand and develop on like my PC then we'll talk. I put $50 towards the Ouya a few days ago, I'm hoping it will launch strong. 

Steba93
Steba93

"Twitch so you can watch Starcraft or League of Legends" Umm, okay. If I want to watch those games, I play them myself. Why would I buy a game console so that I can watch other people play games?

megakick
megakick

LOL the PS3 slim is not slim enough and it looks like a PS2. I hope the OUYA doesn't become vaporware, everybody got robbed D:

Vari3ty
Vari3ty

I seem unable to enjoy LoL, or any MOBA for that matter. But if people enjoy it then more power to them.

Kulcan
Kulcan

By the time this console is released the Tegra 4 will be out. (Q1 2013) mmh...

system3142
system3142

$99 is too good, considering they're really undercutting the competition. However, I'm yet to see some racing games and some fantasy role players before I'm convinced. I'm suspicious of things which are too good to be true, but I suppose that comes with the times.

GodofGods1995
GodofGods1995

Cant believe 5 People pledged 10,000 dollars.

luqmanr
luqmanr

 @Plataea Because they expect people to play from Gaikai now!

luqmanr
luqmanr

@Enlil_The_Great Then buy a PC dude. Neither OUYA or any Consoles for that matter is going to satisfy you.

Stabba_The_Kutt
Stabba_The_Kutt

 @poopinpat

 100% you're right. It is google play store for your tv. but hey, still (slightly) cheaper and (way) better than apple tv!

jwhdavison
jwhdavison

 @Lhomity Unfortunately because many of us were traveling for ComicCon and NASL Finals, we weren't able to record this week. Sorry about that.

Rovelius
Rovelius

 @Lhomity "What happened to Quoted for Truth this week?" Quoted for truth...

poopinpat
poopinpat

 @Rovelius A home for amazing indy games is the best light I can view OUYA in.  When you think about it that way it seems like a really really good idea.  I just dont get that vibe from the snippets of video ive seen which show games like shadowgun touting HD graphics. I would like to see home console quality games on the OUYA rather than ports of existing mobile games that are all graphics with gameplay that wont stand up to physical controls (give me a controller and  i will toast a mobile fps on top difficulty in an afternoon...the AI is always so bad to compensate for crap touch controls). The best experiences I've gotten on the google play store comes from artistic 2D games like Osmos (or super sword brothers on ios).  Those are the kind of games I would like to see developed if they cant get teams of developers together which are able of pulling off full console quality releases.  A $99 console which gets all the indy titles first would be a no brainer purchase for me, just the same as if it support creative console quality games at that price.

 

My essay in a nutshell: if they do one thing really well i would be sold.  But free to play (aka pay to progress) mobile games turn me off something fierce.  There are really good and artistic games on the google play market but they are few and far between imo.

thunderboltx7
thunderboltx7

 @CreMax90 I try to imagine the space in the industry for Ouya like this: if you know how the download chart looks for uTorrent, with the lines randomly filling in as the download completes; I think Ouya will fill the gaps that the big 3 won't be able to fill properly. Specifically, due to limitations in overall console, game, and accessory costs. And new games that are put off by the whole package.

 

I'm thinking of picking one up because of convenience, and that I won't feel tied in to any gimmicks; I can buy games as they come along, and at around $100, I'm perfectly fine with that. (I have SCII and DIII for my hardcore experiences)

 

At my dorm, I don't have enough room for my Ps3 and Xbox (my Wii is totally out of question in a college atmosphere, although I love Zelda, Mario, Metroid, RE4, Mario Kart and SSBB/SSBM).

sirkibble2
sirkibble2

They aren't looking to compete with the big 3 but they are looking to "upend" them. lol

sirkibble2
sirkibble2

You're not going to spend $99 to watch people play a game. It's a perk of the console.

luqmanr
luqmanr

@Steba93 Some people likes watching esport.

poopinpat
poopinpat

 @Kulcan new hardware is always on the horizon (and we are talking about smart technology so it has a super short lifetime in terms of being new tech)...at some point you have to pick a configuration and start developing the damn console.  

poopinpat
poopinpat

 @system3142 first you will see all the crappy google play games ported over (FPS's with AI so bad you will want the touchscreen back just for some challenge lol).  Then with any luck some original IP will be developed on the OUYA.  That's when i will consider buying it.  I get the feeling early adopters wont be impressed but I have high hopes for where this console could end up.

iluvOP
iluvOP

 @GodofGods1995 I can believe that some people gave it more money than it needed. Thinking that they'll support it or something but those pennies went for the devs beers and boats

nate1222
nate1222

 @GodofGods1995

 To create something 'different' that'll allow more flexibility? I can believe it. If you want economic room for mid-tier developers and indies, it's gonna take a new player in the industry with an open-source approach. The "big 3" sure as Hell ain't gonna do that.

anon2k12
anon2k12

 @Stabba_The_Kutt You're wrong, it will most likely have access to the Google play store  since it's on an android platform but the games made for the Ouya will be made FOR the Ouya, they will have there own distro for the games. The fact the console pretty much will be easier to Root than making a bowl of cereal is probably the only negative I can think of.

luqmanr
luqmanr

@poopinpat To all people who hate indie for being "Artsy" it's because it is. Those games reflects and connects the creator of the games much more deeply than most commercial games. It's like those indie devs are story telling right infront of you (on the screen). I thought that's what's art is all about, expressing something.

okassar
okassar

 @poopinpat Ya, indie. Personally, I can't stand indie. No matter what all these new pseudo-hipsters say, you do tend to get much more quality if you put more money and work into a game. "Artsy" does not equal fun and most definitely does not define "real games" ......." cuz all these big studios are sellouts hurp durp."

Frexerik
Frexerik

 @evil_m3nace nope, its too late for that... the money only goes back if the kickstarter dosent get funded, and the ouya has 4 times the funding they need... 

evil_m3nace
evil_m3nace

 @iluvOP So? If the devs do a good job they certainly deserve some beers...

poopinpat
poopinpat

 @evil_m3nace if  i had $10 000 i would pay off student loans lol.  Anyone who donated $10 000 is either a fanatic or incredibly wealthy or both.  Dont kid yourself if you had 10 grand you would find a better use for it than to gamble on something that may or not succeed.  But hey, talking out your ass is free so keep it up!

Frexerik
Frexerik

 @nate1222 i have to disagree with you if you read this quote from the kickstarter page "We get it – smartphones and tablets are getting all the new titles – they're "what's hot.”"

so what they are saying is you are going to pay 100 bucks to play mobile games on your big tv?

 

Also they are aiming for all the games to be free 2 play... unless this means that all games will have a short demo, then i see a couple of problems with it..

 

First off, this potentially means that no established games will be on it because you could in theory either pay for it on a ps3 or get it free on ouya..

 

Secondly most games would have to have in app purchases which in my experience sucks, i personally would much rather pay up front and then be able to enjoy my game  fully, than having to keep purchasing more content to progress through the game..

 

Thirdly would indie developers really want to give out theire games for free??

 

lastly im guessing piracy is going to be a huge issue on the ouya which will scare away a lot of potential devs...

Stabba_The_Kutt
Stabba_The_Kutt

 @anon2k12

 

I don't know if you're being optimistic or just naive, but the games will be made for Tegra 3, not Ouya. Why? Because cross-platform development allows dev's to reach a much larger market than the few thousand people that actually consider this thing anything more than the next Boxee (which, if you recall, failed).

 

Ouya games will simply be an after thought in the late stages of development of Android THD games.

 

And why would the ease of rooting be a negative? That makes no sense.

luqmanr
luqmanr

@bdixon76 Wow, really? That model is old? How was games priced at around $60 again?

bdixon76
bdixon76

 @anon2k12 Great, more .99 cent games that nickel/dime you to spend money. That model is old, and 99% of the games are crap.

 

BlackBaldwin
BlackBaldwin

 @thunderboltx7

 I totally agree..  Indie games can be best described in my view as a side dish enjoyed in consideration to a limit but doesn't have enough beef as the triple a games does to truely hold me over for a vast amount of time.   

thunderboltx7
thunderboltx7

Totally agree. Indie is cool and all for people that put their effort into games, which I have respect for their talent and work, but Indie games in general aren't that great. Some are gems, but they can't compete for my attention, or $$ for that matter. And I also agree with the artsy part; like indie games have to make looks > feel and gameplay. Hipster indie games are just a turnoff.

evil_m3nace
evil_m3nace

 @poopinpat you have no idea what the word 'invests' means do you...I've been supporting kickstarter campaigns for about a year now so I know what I am doing...

luqmanr
luqmanr

 @Frexerik  People seem to be confused. It's up to developers what business model they choose to have. It doesn't have to be F2P, but they have to give out free demos of the game, which I think all developers should do.

 

As for Piracy, Gabe Newell of Valve often says "piracy is not a pricing issue; it's a service issue. Everyone is willing to spend money when it's easier or more beneficial or more rewarding than downloading a game for free." (taken from Kotaku's website)

 

So IMO, if OUYA manages good in their store, it will be beneficial for both gamers and developers. It's daunting task, but OUYA's up to it, and I support them.