In addition to looking at the lighter and weirder side of the game industry, System Update provides the latest information on weekly console updates, DLC, game-specific updates, and other game-industry flotsam and jetsam.
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Chalk up another change to this year's revamped Electronic Entertainment Expo. In addition to being drastically downscaled in attendance and moved to July, the show will not feature the traditional "State of the Union" style presentation from the president of the Entertainment Software Association.
In previous years, then-ESA president Douglas Lowenstein kicked off the E3 conference program with a speech recapping the game industry's development for the prior year, and looking ahead to what the trade group felt needed to continue that growth. However, this year's show lacks two key parts of that formula: Lowenstein left the organization earlier this year for a position with the Private Equity Council, and the conference program was one of the casualties of the show's streamlining process.
While Lowenstein left the organization in February, his successor, Mike Gallagher, was only named last month. As a result, while Gallagher is filling Lowenstein's shoes at the ESA, he will not be filling his role at the podium come next month's E3 Media & Business Summit.
A representative with the ESA confirmed for GameSpot, "The decision for Mikenot to give a state of the industry speech was based on the extremely tight schedule of the new event, as well as that he so recently joined the ESA."
The representative did say current plans will have Gallagher giving such an address at next year's E3. As for this year, the E3 Media & Business Summit will run July 11-13 in Santa Monica, California.
After years of doling out reviews scored on gameplay, graphics, sound, value, and "tilt"--a summation of the overall game experience--GameSpot is changing its ways. Starting June 25--roughly a month after the site's 11th birthday--GameSpot will overhaul its rating system. "In our quest to make our reviews as straightforward and easy to understand...we've simplified the overall rating process," said editorial director Jeff Gerstmann.
As of next Monday, GameSpot will continue to rate games on a 1-to-10 scale. From then on, though, scores will be awarded solely in half-point increments (i.e. 8.0, 8.5, 9.0, etc.). The five aforementioned review components will be retired, although they will remain with reviews issued prior to June 25. In their place, GameSpot reviewers will award medals and demerits to each game based on said title's high points and shortcomings. The awards will come from a standardized pool akin to GameSpot Emblems, and will not be game-specific a la Xbox 360 Achievements. Examples of demerits include "Slideshow" for poor frame rate and the self-explanatory "Blatant In-Game Advertising."
For more on the new GameSpot review system, check out the Letter from the Editor on Jeff Gerstmann's blog.
Since 2004, Into the Pixel has lent a refreshing breath of authentic creativity to the mind-imploding orgy of obnoxious lights, asinine colors, and loud, unkempt masses that characterized the Electronic Entertainment Expos of yore. Now in its fourth year, the game-related art exhibition's goal is to explore and highlight the accomplishments of published video and computer game artists.Taking E3's new date in stride, ITP organizers today announced the 16 finalists that will appear at this year's show. Spanning a wide range of genres, this year's exhibition features scenes from Valve's first-person shooter Half-Life 2, NCsoft's massively multiplayer online game Guild Wars, and Ubisoft's patently insane minigame compilation Rayman Raving Rabbids.
Also part of the announcement today was a slate of jurors for the show. As in years past, museum and gallery curators compose the vast bulk of this year's lineup, though Chris Taylor, supreme commander of Gas Powered Games, and former Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment head Jason Hall will also lend their opinions to the panel.
For a full look at the collection, head over to Into the Pixel's gallery.
Though Halo 3 won't be out until September 25, Microsoft is already trying to artificially manufacture buzz for the game. However, it's the slow trickle of details which are generating real interest in the pre-anointed blockbuster.
The latest drip from the trickle of information flowing out of Bungie Studios appears to be the unveiling of Halo 3's achievements. Xbox360achievements.org, a fan site dedicated to the acquisition of the so-called "nerd cred," today posted a listing of achievements it claims will be awarded for playing the sci-fi shooter.
Microsoft reps could--or would--not verify the achievements list as of press time, but they seem very similar to the PC Halo 2 achievements. If authentic, the list also appears to reveal some new Halo 3 details. Besides receiving rewards for finishing stages--which the achievements name--players will receive extra points when they replay the game and "find and claim" skulls hidden inside each level. The Halo 3 campaign will also feature a meta-game which will award points for performing an as-yet unknown tasks. The "Marathon Man" achievement also hints at some sort of connection with Bungie's classic Marathon series. Check out the full list for more details.
The movie of the fighting game series is reported to have taken a measly $260,713 in its opening weekend in North America.
DOA: Dead or Alive the film adaptation of the popular Tecmo series, was shown at 505 movie theatres across North America after its release in the region on June 15. On its debut last weekend, Box Office Guru reporter Gitesh Pandya deduces this adds up to a "pathetic" $516 average per screen. The site adds that the film was released "to little fanfare," and "should see most of its business on DVD."
The movie had an estimated production budget of $21 million; it was directed by Corey Yuen and written by J. F. Lawton and Adam and Seth Gross. It starred Jaime Pressly as Tina Armstrong, Devon Aoki as Kasumi, Sarah Carter as Helena Douglas, and Holly Valance as Christie Allen.
DOA: Dead or Alive tells the story of a group of fighters invited to a martial arts contest, including four women who decide to team up and work together rather than compete as rivals. The movie was filmed during May and July 2005, and has already been released back in September 2006 in the UK (where it took £224,786 on its opening weekend), and in Australia, New Zealand, Russia, and most of Europe.
The American Medical Association will be deciding this month whether or not to recommend that video game and Internet addiction should be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, reports the Wall Street Journal on its Health Blog.
The House of Delegates, the AMA's decision-making body, will vote on the issue later this month. If it decides that excessive gaming constitutes a mental disorder, the decision will then be passed upward to the American Psychiatric Association, which has the final say on these matters.
The decision to vote on the issue comes from a recommendation made by Mohamed K. Khan--chairman of the Council on Science and Public Health--in a 10-page report entitled "Emotional and Behavioural Effects, Including Addictive Potential, of Video Games."
Khan writes that "although video game overuse can be associated with any type of video game," the most common to exhibit signs of addiction were players of massively multiplayer online role-playing games, such as World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XI, or EverQuest. He stated, "Current data suggest these individuals are somewhat marginalised socially, perhaps experiencing high levels of emotional loneliness and/or difficulty with real-life social interactions. Current theory is that these individuals achieve more control of their social relationships and more success in social relationships in the virtual reality realm than in real relationships."
The report states that video game overuse most closely resembles the behaviours associated with pathological gambling. Alongside adults, dependence-like behaviours were also said to be found in children, although it was unclear whether gamers experienced traditional "withdrawal symptoms" when unable to play. The report reads, "Some excessive users do not exhibit any 'cravings' for the games if they are unavailable, while other users insist they cannot reduce the time they spend on the games."
And you thought the meetings in your offices were awkward. GamePolitics.com is reporting that game-industry gadfly and antigame-legislation author Jack Thompson had a secret tete-a-tete with the newly installed chairman of Take-Two Interactive, Strauss Zelnick.
GamePolitics says it confirmed the meeting's occurrence with Thompson himself. However, the Florida attorney, who has accused the site of collusion with the game industry in the past, did not reveal any details of what was discussed to the site. Neither reps for Take-Two nor Thompson had responded to GameSpot's inquiries as of press time.
The meeting is notable because Take-Two owns Rockstar Games, developer and publisher of the Grand Theft Auto series. For years, Thompson has blamed the franchise for inspiring violent--even murderous--behavior. Following his vociferous criticism in the wake of the "Hot Coffee" scandal, Thompson decried the 2006 title Bully as a "Columbine simulator" and took legal action to prevent its release. He has also been involved in several suits against Take-Two, including a class action and a countersuit filed after the publisher sued him earlier this year. The two parties settled out of court in April.
Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old is Your Brain?--known as Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day in the US--has a lot to answer for. Since the runaway success of Nintendo's DS title which put gamers through a series of daily mental and arithmetic tasks in order to keep their 'brain age' young, there have been a number of similar 'non-game games' attempting to jump on the bandwagon.
First came an avalanche of spinoffs, including MinDStorm on the DS, Big Brain Academy on the DS and Wii, and Mind Quiz and Hot Brain on the PlayStation Portable. In Japan, the craze has gone even further, and a huge variety of non-traditional "training" titles are in the works. Recently discovered projects include DS Therapy, which boasts therapy sessions through your DS, Common Sense Training (Otona No Joushikiryoko), and Duke Sariaie's Healthy Walking Navi, which shows people how to walk properly.
The latest title in the genre, announced by Konami, is called Dream Skincare, and will be coming exclusively to the DS. The game gives beauty tips to users based on their body temperature and hormone balance, reports Reuters. Konami Digital Entertainment corporate officer Naoyuki Notsu told a news conference. "We have developed the software under the concept of getting pretty while having fun," he said.
One of the features of the title is that users can mark a date for a big event, like a wedding, and receive customised daily skincare tips in the run up. Dream Skincare will go on sale in Japan on October 18 for 4,500 yen (approx $37).
Konami will also soon be releasing Doko Demo Yoga on the DS in Japan. The title, aimed at women curious about the meditation art of yoga, illustrates a variety of yoga positions graded by difficulty, for yoga absolute beginners through to experts. Doko Demo Yoga will be released in Japan on July 5, priced at 3,800 yen ($31).
Sony Computer Entertainment America's PlayStation.Blog site is only a few days removed from its official launch, and already the company's mouthpieces are filling it with musings. Today's offerings come in a pair of posts, one from SCEA president and CEO Jack Tretton, and one from corporate communications senior director Dave Karraker.
In a post titled "A Quick Look Back, A Strong Push Forward," Tretton offered a wide view of the PlayStation brand, drawing parallels to complaints levied against each iteration of the system.
"Some of the initial criticism we received was that the hardware was a bit pricey, the system was hard to develop for and the early software line-up needed some work," Tretton said of the original PlayStation launch in 1995. "When we introduced PlayStation 2 in 2000 we received much of the same criticism. ... In 2006 the song remained much the same."
Tretton noted that just a history of success is no assurance for the future. "We have to bring the games to market that will showcase what the PlayStation 3 can do and ultimately entertain you like no other games have," Tretton said. "We need to provide proof of what the PS3 can do for you and work tirelessly to improve the value and justify your investment."
The post also dropped a few more tidbits of information about Sony's efforts. Tretton said the PS3 would have a library of 100 games by the end of the year, more than 15 of which are still in development at Sony's internal studios. He also talked up the forthcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo, saying Sony would be showing more from Heavenly Sword, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, and Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, as well as a few surprises.
Karraker followed up Tretton's post with one touching on the issue of the PS3 being hard to develop for. The frequently outspoken spokesman said that development time and costs for a PS3 would be comparable to a high-end PC game or Xbox 360 title, but added that extra features requiring the use of the PS3's Cell processor would "inevitably" require more resources.
"It's not that PS3 is harder to write for," Karraker said, "it's just that you can do more with it."
Porting a game from the Xbox 360 can also be problematic, he said. "If your game starts on Xbox 360 you will have to re-engineer aspects of the game to run properly on PS3. This means additional effort. Some developers have been complaining about this but I don't believe we can solve that. Xbox 360 is a different machine with good, but lower powered hardware in a different architecture. Developers have to view them as two different machines not as a common platform."
Finally, Karraker acknowledged that the PS3 currently requires more development effort to make games with extensive online components.
"[Xbox Live] provides more and better standard libraries for online gaming to developers," Karraker said. "For the same features on PS3, developers have to do some extra work. We're catching up, but there is a difference."
A teenager in Miami attacked a burglar trying to nab his beloved console from his house by swinging a samurai sword at the terrified robber, reports Local10.com.
Damien Fernandez, a karate brown belt, and his 15-year-old sister Deanne were alone in their Miami-Dade County house on the afternoon of June 8 when two men broke in by prying open the front door.
Deanne heard the thieves break in and hid in her closet while the two men grabbed jewelery from her parents' bedroom. The robbers then found an empty PlayStation 3 box, and started searching the rest of the house for the actual console. But when Damien woke up, the pair had a surprise waiting for them.
The plucky lad says, "Once I saw [one of the robbers] take off running back, I jumped off my bed and I grabbed my sword...and I just waited for him." When the teenager swung at the robber in a ninjalike way with his samurai sword, "he freaked out," and fled the premises sans PS3.
The youngster then chased the fleeing robber down the road, where the thief was apprehended by a police dog while attempting to hide underneath a palm tree. The suspect, 21-year-old Javier Cotera, was arrested and is scheduled to appear in court in two weeks. The second man managed to get away.
However, Damian's father, Delio Fernandez, didn't sound too impressed with his son's heroics. He said, "If he would have had a gun, I could have lost one of my children."
Hugh Hefner's adult entertainment empire becomes the latest high-profile company to set up shop in the virtual world.
A variety of businesses have already pitched up virtual offices in Linden Lab's social networking game Second Life, including Reuters, Dell, American Apparel, and Sky News. Recently the Swedish Institute also announced that the country was planning to open the first virtual embassy in Second Life, to raise awareness of Sweden amongst young people.
Now Hugh Hefner's famous playmates are also invading the world, bringing with them the Playboy Island, in the shape of the famous Playboy bunny logo. The island will feature a shop where Second Lifers can buy virtual or real Playboy-branded gear, served of course by virtual avatars in bunny girl outfits. There will also be a video lounge and a hangout area in a virtual Playboy Mansion.
There will be an in-game launch party June 12-13 which will feature concerts from various artists with avatars in Second Life.
Playboy is an adult entertainment magazine founded in 1953 by the now infamous Hugh Hefner. Since then the company has expanded in a number of directions, including Playboy TV, Playboy clubs, and Playboy.com. There has also been a video game, Playboy: The Mansion, released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2, PC, and original Xbox.
Recently, Microsoft-run sites Major Nelson and Gamerscore Blog have successfully put personalities in front of the company's Xbox 360 marketing efforts and offered visitors a steady stream of news on the system. They've also given gamers an open line of communication to complain directly to the company about delayed demos, downloadable-content pricing, and any other problems they have with the system.
It seems Microsoft isn't the only company that believes the benefits of such an operation outweigh the headaches, as Sony Europe started up its own Three Speech community blog in advance of the PlayStation 3 launch last year. Today, Sony Computer Entertainment America finally got on board the blog bus with the official launch of PlayStation.Blog.
"It's with enthusiasm, eagerness and, honestly, a little bit of relief that we lift the cover on our first official Sony Computer Entertainment America company blog," wrote SCEA PR manager Patrick Seybold in today's post, adding "welcome and sorry for the wait."
Seybold calls the site's current form a work in progress, saying he expects it to house news, developer updates, and editorials in the future. A listing of possibletopicsfor the site includes official comments from the company, news about promotional SCEA events, PlayStation Network updates, insight into game development, and discussion of industry trends. While SCEA clearly has ideas of what it wants to put on the blog, Seybold has also invited gamers to add their own suggestions in the comments section of his post.
While gaming may not get a whole lot of respect from mainstream media and politicians, those groups aren't above using games as a means to an end. Two new politically themed games showcase drastically different uses of the medium: one for simple entertainment, and the other for making a point.
Visitors to CNN.com today can play Presidential Pong, which is, predictably enough, a game of Pong using caricatures of prominent 2008 presidential candidates as paddles. Each candidate possesses a power-up move based on some factoid that is explained in varying degrees of coherency. For example, according to the site, "[Barack] Obama's special strength--The Lincoln's Statehouse Power Up--allowed him to hold on to the ball and throw it back whenever he wants, because nothing seems to stick to him unless he wants it to." On the other hand, former prisoner-of-war John McCain has a military veteran power-up, which "made the movement of the ball on his opponent's side of the field unpredictable, like during war."
In a more ambitious exploration of the intersection between games and politics, the University of Southern California today announced the imminent unveiling of The Redestricting Game. A joint project between the university's Annenberg Center for Communication, Annenberg School for Communication, and School of Cinematic Arts, The Redestricting Game deals with the practice of gerrymandering, or redrawing electoral districts with the goal of securing a favorable outcome for one party or another.
"The game exposes how redistricting works, how it is abused, and how it adversely affects our democracy," according to USC. "It provides hands-on understanding of the real redistricting process, including drawing district maps and interacting with party bosses, congresspeople, citizen groups and courts. Players directly experience how crafty manipulation of lines can yield skewed victories for either party--effectively allowing politicians to choose their voters instead of voters choosing their politicians."
The Redestricting Game will be made available to play for free online. It will be formally debuted to politicians and press alike next Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
Grad student working on her master's thesis has specially designed a pair of controllers for couples.
Although they won't be likely to have quite the same wide-ranging family appeal as the Wii Remote, a new pair of game controllers offer a unique way for couples to enjoy video gaming.
"I found out about a phenomenon called 'gamer widowhood' where men essentially abandoned their wives to play video games night and day," said controller creator Jenny L. Chowdhury. "I wanted to create a type of video game play that would centre around a couple's intimacy and where two people would touch each other in order to play the game."
Chowdhury, who started the project as part of her Master's thesis at New York University, describes herself as "artist". She has previously worked on a number of other offbeat projects, including 'The Popularity Dialer'--a web interface which calls people's mobile phones with one half of a pre-recorded conversation so they can appear popular and important. She also designed robots which indulge in celebrity gossip and a cellphone version of the campus game Assassin, where people take photos on their mobiles of people to 'assassinate' them whilst avoiding being photographed themselves.
The controllers work as a pair, and are, as Chowdhury's Web site (WARNING: Semi-adult content) puts it, "built into undergarments." The woman's controller is a bra which features six sensors, and the male counterpart a pair of shorts which boasts another sextet of sensors. The man will then stand behind the woman in front of a screen where the game is displayed, and touch each other's sensors--each of which has a different function--to play the game.
Chowdhury says that she made the gaming undergarments from fSRs, atmel chips, Xbees, and clothing. However, the controllers currently only allow couples to play a flash game made by another NYU student.
It was only a matter of time. Twenty years after the dread "Nintendo thumb" swept through a then-NES-mad nation, a term for a new game-related ailment has been coined. The June 7 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine features an article describing a condition thousands of gamers are likely suffering from.
In a letter to the editor, Dr. Julio Bonis, a self-described "healthy 29-year-old medical resident," outlines how he "awoke one Sunday morning with intense pain in the right shoulder. " The good doctor had engaged in no athletic activity during the days prior, nor had he suffered any injuries or trauma that could cause the pain. However, a rheumatologist diagnosed Bonis with "acute tendonitis isolated to the right infraspinatus."
After picking his brain, Bonis "recalled that he had bought a new Nintendo Wii...and had spent several hours playing the tennis video game." He then diagnosed himself with "acute Wiiitis," a term he coined after hearing similar complains of aches from colleagues who had played Wii Sports.
"It is probably an underdiagnosed condition," Bonis told the Retuers news service. He explained that, unlike real sports, Wii players might not become fatigued before they self-inflict repetitive-motion injuries. Also, due to the fact different Wii games work different muscles, joints, and ligaments, he warned that "physicians should be aware that there may be multiple, possibly puzzling presentations of Wiiitis."
In June 2005, Hiroshi Yamauchi stepped down as chairman of Nintendo's board of directors. The move was an end of an era, since he had been at the top of the Mario Factory's corporate hierarchy since he took over as president of the then-playing-card company in 1949. He approved the creation of the original Famicom, better known as the NES, helping usher in the console era.
Since his retirement, Yamauchi has spent his time funding the construction of a poetry museum. The past two years have also seen the game industry statesman become one of Japan's wealthiest people. According to the latest issue of Forbes Asia, Yamauchi, 79, has holdings worth around 580 billion yen, or $4.8 billion.
Yamauchi is now the third-richest man in Japan, behind Softbank Corp. founder Masayoshi Son (worth $5.45 billion) and Tokyo real estate magnate Akira Mori (worth $5.5 billion). The near-octogenarian rose 11 places in the rankings thanks to Nintendo's stock near-tripling in value over the past year on the success of the Wii and DS.
Earlier this year, Take-Two Interactive filed suit in a Florida court to prevent activist attorney Jack Thompson from disrupting its planned releases of Grand Theft Auto IV and Manhunt 2. Thompson countersued and the pair settled, with one condition being that Thompson could not sue to stop the distribution of its games.
That might not be the end of Take-Two controversy stirred up in The Sunshine State this year, as GamePolitics is reporting that the Wii version of Manhunt 2 has Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum "concerned."
In a yet-to-be-aired interview with Fox News, McCollum reportedly balked at the way the game might utilize the motion-sensing Wii Remote to have players virtually stabbing, clubbing, or strangling opponents. While GamePolitics didn't mention any official action McCollum would take regarding the game, it did cite sources as saying the attorney general was "looking into" the Wii version of the game, but not focusing at all on its PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable counterparts.
A representative of McCollum's responded to the issue by saying that he "is concerned about any games which may instill violence in children, particularly games that encourage children to engage in violent behavior, even in simulation." The rep also said he stressed the importance of the parental role in keeping negative influences away from children.
More bad tidings for gold farmers in the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft--not only is one organisation getting its knuckles rapped by operator Blizzard for spamming, now another is being sued by a player--reports The Escapist.
Gold-farming company IGE, based in Hong Kong, has been targeted by long time WOW player Antonio Hernandez, who has hired a lawyer to go after the company that, he says, "made a calculated decision to reap substantial profits by knowingly interfering with and substantially impairing the intended use and enjoyment [of the game]."
The class-action complaint lists a number of reasons that gold-farming is detrimental to the game, including stripping the world of limited resources and materials so other players find them impossible to get hold of, a devaluation of the game's currency, chat spamming, and junk mail.
IGE sells virtual gold for real world money for a number of online games, including World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XI, EverQuest II, and Lord of the Rings Online. It was founded in 2001 by "consummate gamers" to buy and sell in-game items and gold. On its Web site, it states, "Gamers see the secondary market as yet another exciting dimension of the MMOG experience. It not only gives players the advantage of greater flexibility so they can focus on aspects of the game they most enjoy, but it also allows players to receive real world value for the effort and time they have invested in their games."
The attorney representing Hernandez in the case, Richard Newsome, told The Escapist, "Guys like Tony [Hernandez, the plaintiff] have paid their $15 for some entertainment, and IGE is polluting that entertainment. It's kind of like, if someone pays for a ticket to go see a movie, and if someone else comes in behind them and kicks their seat, you can get them to stop doing that."
Newsome stated that he believes that he can win the case--even though gold farming companies have not so far ended up in court--as the suit was not unlike other consumer protection law cases, which had already been brought to court in a variety of areas successfully.
Escalating feel the burn to a literal level, the latest take on Konami's Dance Dance Revolution has more in common with oil-well inferno than a kid-friendly aerobics routine. Designed by Interpretive Arson, Dance Dance Immolation invites folks to step up to a specially designed DDR machine and mash out the beats being displayed on a 30-foot screen. Equipped to said screen are a trio of flamethrowers, complemented by a couple more aimed at the dance platform.
Work it well, and columns of flame triumphantly spurt skyward to signal one's success. But the price for failure? Immolation of the player's physical person, naturally.
Dangerous as it may seem, the folks at Interpretive Arson go to great lengths to keep the experience safe. Participants are outfitted in an aluminized flame-retardant proximity suit, complete with air respirators and assorted flame-resistant apparel. The whole get-up is likened to what's worn by firefighters, though this suit also comes with built-in sensors that can shut the machine down at the first sign of duress, or panic. A full gallery of photos from the event can be found on GameSpot sister site News.com.
Last month, the United States Post Office raised the price of a stamp by $0.02 to $0.41 a pop. That spike was even worse for the "flat package" rate charged to GameFly, the Netflix-like service which rents games to customers via the mail. The rate increase, combined with the cost of next-generation games, has caused the company to raise all monthly subscriptions will by $1 as of June 18.
"The May 14th postal rate hike on 'flat' mailers, as well as the higher cost of new console games, has significantly increased our cost of doing business," GameFly CEO Dave Hodess said in a statement. In less than two weeks, one game plans will cost $15.95 per month, two game plans will cost $22.95 per month, 3 game plans will cost $29.95 per month, and 4 game plans will cost $36.95 per month. Eligibility in the latter two plans is limited.
GameFly is a partner of GameSpot.com, and its rental links are integrated into the site. Founded in 2002, the Los Angeles-based company recently opened a new Pittsburgh distribution hub.