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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When it was first published in 2005, the book Freakanomics caused quite a stir. Among other things, authors Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner used statistics and economic theory to examine such hot-button topics as the crack epidemic, abortion, and cheating amongst professional Sumo wrestlers.
Now, Freakanomics' authors have turned their attention to something of particular interest to gamers--or their blog has, anyway. This week, guest columnist Paul Kimmelman wrote a detailed breakdown of the causes, effects, and implications of the shortage of Wii consoles, which has been going on since the system was released last year.
"Nintendo clearly made a colossal blunder in setting up their manufacturing," concludes Kimmelman. "Even if they assumed it would not do very well, their inability to ramp up production in four months is pretty unusual in this industry."
Kimmelman sees several groups benefiting from the shortage. First are other console-makers, since frustrated Wii-seekers with excess cash might be inclined to impulse-buy another machine when faced with empty shelves.
Other, equally obvious beneficiaries are Wii resellers. Kimmelman's research finds scalpers are making 150 percent and 180 percent of the console's $249 sticker price on such sites as eBay--with none of the increased profit going to Nintendo or retailers.
However, Kimmelman does believe stores are benefiting from "increased foot traffic" by customers returning repeatedly in search of a Wii and buying other items while on the hunt. He even theorizes that Nintendo might actually be causing the shortage deliberately at the behest of retailers to artificially create return customers.
When contacted by GameSpot, Nintendo reps said they were "reading over" the article. No official response had been sent as of press time.
For many pro athletes, there is nothing like being bestowed the honor of cover athlete for a high-profile sports game. Some fans, however, want their favorite athletes to have nothing to do with box art--particularly that of the popular Madden NFL series. The "Madden curse" is infamous among sports gamers and pro athletes, with several cases of pros having injury-ridden or statistically awful seasons the year they appear on the cover of a Madden NFL game.
Last year's cover athlete, the formerly durable Shaun Alexander, broke his foot and saw his NFL record for rushing touchdowns broken by San Diego's Ladainian Tomlinson after just one year in the record books. The previous year, Donovan McNabb graced the cover of Madden NFL 06 and fought injuries all season long. In the biggest case for the existence of the curse, Falcons quarterback Michael Vick broke his leg in a preseason game shortly after Madden NFL 2004--with Vick on the cover--hit store shelves.
San Diego Chargers fans are now trying to take matters in their own hands. Their cherished runningback, last year's Most Valuable Player Tomlinson, is one of the leading candidates for the cover of Madden NFL 08, and the fans would like nothing more than to see the honor go to someone else.
One man has started the Web site SaveLTFromMadden.com (and an accompanying MySpace page), complete with a crossed-out mock-up of a Madden NFL 08 cover with Tomlinson, in an attempt to keep curses as far away from the athlete as possible. The site's main point is an online petition directed toward Electronic Arts asking the publishing giant to not put Tomlinson on the cover of Madden NFL 08. As of press time, the petition had 606 signatures.
Chargers fans won't have long to wait to see if LT will be tackled with "the curse." EA will unveil the new Madden NFL 08 cover athlete tomorrow night on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
Pokemon addicts have April 22 marked off on their calendars, as that Sunday is the scheduled release day for the DS games Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl. Now, they have another reason to get excited for that day.
Nintendo has announced it is hosting a launch party for the pair of games at the Nintendo World Store in New York City's Rockefeller Plaza. The event will kick off at 1 p.m., local time, and continue through 5 p.m.
Among the activities planed for the day are a Poke Ball scavenger hunt, photo opportunities with Pokemon costume characters, card battling, and interactive gaming stations featuring the new games.
For more information, head over to the Nintendo World Store Web site.
Libraries are taking the first step to becoming cool. A three-branch public library in Kentucky will add games to its stacks of books and microfiches this month, reports Kentucky's Community Recorder.
Each of the Campbell County Public Library's three branches will carry games for different systems within the next few months. The Fort Thomas branch will host Xbox 360 games, the Newport branch will carry Wii games, and the Cold Spring branch will be stocked with PlayStation 2 games, says the newspaper.
The collection will lead off with about 50 family-friendly titles, such as Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007 and Kingdom Hearts II.
However, don't expect to pick up any of the Grand Theft Auto games at the book barns. "We won't be collecting the violent games with the harsh language," said Dave Anderson, manager of the Cold Spring branch.
Professional football players covet two things in each annual installment of Madden NFL--the cherished role of cover athlete and good in-game ratings. There is still a bit of time left until all we find out which player can boast about being on the cover, but we do know one player who is going to be happy with at least one of his ratings.
Devin Hester, the kick returner for the Chicago Bears, is the first player in the series' history to land a perfect rating in speed. An Electronic Arts representative confirmed to GameSpot a report on ESPN.com saying that Hester was given a 100 rating in speed in the upcoming Madden NFL 08, beating the previous mark of 99 set by Deion Sanders, Charles Woodson, Randy Moss, and others.
"That's just about the best thing you could have told me," Hester told ESPN. "It's an honor. I don't know what to say, really."
Hester tore up opposing special teams last year, returning an NFL-record six kicks for touchdowns in his rookie season. For good measure, he returned the first kickoff of this year's Super Bowl for a touchdown, the first time the feat has ever been accomplished.
As for the rest of the speedster's ratings? "My defensive awareness was low--too low," Hester said, "and I definitely need to break more tackles. On a few of my returns last year I feel like I showed what I can do in that category."
Last week, an online petition decrying Capcom's decision to make Devil May Cry 4 a multiplatform game attracted numerous headlines, just as many derisive comments on message boards, and even the attention of the publisher's senior director of strategic planning and research. This week, another petition--one that's actually petitioning a publisher to take specific action--received attention from its target publisher, and might even achieve its goal.
2K's official BioShock site Cult of Rapture was updated earlier today with word of an online petition asking the publisher to put out a collector's edition of Irrational Games' upcoming first-person shooter for both the PC and Xbox 360 worldwide. In the posting, 2K's Elizabeth Tobey informed the masses that if the petition receives 5,000 signatures, she was told the company would indeed make a limited edition of the game. She did not, however, indicate what additional bonuses would be included in the proposed Collector's Edition.
As of press time, the petition had received 2028 signatures.
Bam! Chefs and wannabe chefs alike are invited to the Nintendo World Store in New York's Rockefeller Plaza on March 31 for a gaming event that would make Julia Child proud. That day, Majesco is hosting the Cooking Mama: Cook Off Challenge to celebrate the launch of the first Cooking Mama Wii game.
The event is taking place between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. local time and will feature an on-site chef preparing snacks and a competition featuring in-game Cooking Mama: Cook Off challenges at various stations set up around the store. Winners won't go home on an empty stomach or empty handed--those who prove their culinary prowess will receive a copy of the game. Those in attendance will also be able to take home a limited-edition Cooking Mama apron while supplies last.
Ever since Second Life went online in 2003, more and more reports have surfaced of real-world fortunes being made via virtual property sales in the game. Just last November, a language teacher Ailin Graef became a millionaire by selling land plots in the life-sim game via her Wuhan, China, office.
Now, some real real-estate heavyweights are using Second Life to boost their own bottom line. The latest edition of Fortune reports that Coldwell Banker, one of the biggest real estate companies in the US, has opened an office in Second Life. The opening follows a mass purchase by the company of "extensive tracts" of property on the game's main continent. Coldwell Banker has since subdivided it into 520 parcels and tends to offer it at reasonable rates to frugal gamers.
"A small number of land barons mostly control real estate in Second Life, and we thought we could bring real estate to the masses," is what Coldwell Banker senior vice president of marketing Charlie Young told Fortune.
But while Coldwell Banker intends on gleaning some income from its Second Life realty sales, its primary purpose is publicity. "In the end this is about buying and selling homes in the real world," said Young. "We're trying to figure out how to reach what we call the 'new consumer.'" To that end, all income from Second Life sales will be used to buy more land in the game.
Besides playing PlayStation 3 games and other forms of media, PlayStation 3's powerful Cell processor is currently being used to help cure a variety of diseases. Now, it will also help a variety of heart rates in arcades, according to a Reuters report out of Asia.
The news service says that Namco Bandai has struck a deal with Sony to build arcade devices that use the Cell processor. It will apparently be the first time the powerful chip has been used in a device other than the PS3, even though Sony had planned to release workstations using the device by the end of 2006.
A subsequent report in the Mainichi Daily News says that the first game to use the Cell-based arcade board will be Tekken 6. The game is due out in Japanese arcades and on PS3s on both sides of the Pacific later this year.
SAN FRANCISCO--Shortly before tonight's launch event at the Metreon entertainment complex, God of War II director Cory Barlog conducted a video interview with GameSpot News. During the course of the brief chat, he shed some light on the series spawned by the original God of War, which has sold over 1.67 million copies in the US alone. And even though God of War II isn't on sale until midnight, it is a preordained hit. According to a Sony rep, over 1 million units of the PlayStation 2 game have already been shipped to stores in anticipation of steep demand.
Foremost amongst Barlog's revelations was new information about the God of War PlayStation Portable game, which was initially revealed by a flyer inside boxed retail copies of God of War II. Unlike fellow PSP fantasy-action-adventure Prince of Persia Revelations, which was merely a reworked version of the console title Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, Kratos' first portable adventure will feature an original story.
"We're not gonna do a port," emphasized Barlog. "This isn't gonna be God of War I on the PSP, this is gonna be an all new adventure that ties into the overarching story. So if we go on to make a God of War III, the PSP [version] will tie directly into what we're doing in the overall story. ... My big strategy for this entire franchise is that there's never going to be some solo, separated thing. Everything's going to deal with the overall plot."
Hot on the heels of an Entertainment Weekly story saying the God of War movie script has been finished, Barlog confirmed the film was headed into development. However, he was still cautious.
"It's just like every other Hollywood thing, it can be in development," he warned, "But does it make it out development and actually get made into a film? I hope it does."
Luckily, the chances of God of War avoiding development limbo improved significantly this weekend, when the very of God-of-War-esque 300 made a whopping $70 million in three days.
For more video Q&As with leading game luminaries like Cliff Bleszinski, Ray Muzyka, Goichi Suda, and Peter Molyneux, visit SIDEBAR: The GameSpot News Blog.
Goichi Suda, aka Suda 51, turned heads when Capcom released his rail shooter Killer7 in July of 2005.
Last week at the Game Developers Conference, Suda, the founder of 10-year-old Grasshopper Manufacture, filled in some of the mystery surrounding that title--and talked about a couple of upcoming games--as he delivered a presentation that outlined his creative approach to game design and game direction.
Calling it "Let's Punk," that attitude is part of a three-pronged, spirited approach to design which also includes "Call and Respond," and "Crash and Build"--though attendees may have to wait for subsequent GDCs to hear about those initiatives.
What exactly does "Let's Punk" mean?
"To develop games no one is thinking about...new games to conquer the global market, that's how we keep the punk spirit," Suda said in his presentation.
This video was shot outside Moscone North, just a few minutes after he completed his GDC presentation.For more video Q&As with leading game luminaries like Cliff Bleszinski, Ray Muzyka, Cory Barlog, and Peter Molyneux, visit SIDEBAR: The GameSpot News Blog.
With the Game Developers Conference winding down on Friday, GameSpot News caught up with Sony's Santa Monica studios creative director David Jaffe for a few quick questions.
Jaffe talked about his passion for working on downloadable games, how he handles the drama surrounding the PlayStation 3, and his participation in this year's Game Design Challenge (which was ultimately won by the Russian designer of Tetris and Hexic, Alexey Pajitnov).
In addition to his entry in the Game Design Challenge, Jaffe was in San Francisco to show off his latest project, the downloadable PS3 game Calling All Cars. For more on the upcoming release, check out GameSpot's hands-on impressions from the show.
When Shigeru Miyamoto talks, gamers listen. Today, Nintendo's creative genius spoke to a conference hall full of game developers as part of GDC 2007, and shared some personal thoughts as well as Nintendo's overall vision.
GameSpot News sat front and center (well, almost) for Miyamoto's words of wisdom, and got some shots from within the trenches. Below you'll find video clips of some of the highlights from Miyamoto's speech, including a bit from the new Super Mario Galaxy trailer that was shown for the first time today.
For more on Miyamoto's keynote, including the video in its entirety, head over to the GameSpot live blog of the keynote.
Even before Gears of War cleaned up at the 2007 Game Developers Choice Awards its lead designer, Cliff Bleszinski, was in high demand. On Wednesday afternoon, there was a half-hour wait at the Epic Games to speak with the iconoclastic developer. But while it was a hassle to try and get some face time with "Cliffy B," in person he proved an affable fellow--albeit laser-focused on his message.
It being the Game Developers Conference, Bleszinski's message was lock-step in line with that of his employer, Epic Games. The North Carolina-based developer was there hawking the Unreal Engine 3, the toolset with which it made both Gears of War and the forthcoming Unreal Tournament III.
Even though UE3 is licensed by a host of publishers and developers, including Electronic Arts and THQ, Bleszinski and Epic Vice President of Marketing Mark Rein put on a presentation to help sell it. To impress upon attendees that the toolset can do much more than "first person shooters with a lot of metal and stone," they trotted out Monster Madness, an bright-colored, Smash TV-style top-down , UE3-based shooter for the Xbox 360.
Following the presentation and the aforementioned wait, Bleszinski sat down with GameSpot's Tor Thorsen to talk about Gears updates, UE3, and more.
The canine is out of the bag: Peter Molyneux wants Fable 2 players to feel unconditionally loved, so he's giving them a virtual dog to call their own. In addition to simply loving the player, the quadruped companion will join in the fighting, act as a guide, ask to play fetch, and perform all manner of other doggy doings. Earlier this week, Molyneux took time out of his Game Developers Conference schedule to speak with GameSpot News about the decision to add a dog to the game and a handful of industry trends he has yet to participate in. Check out the video below to hear it from the man himself, then head over to GameSpot's preview for the newly revealed nitty gritty on Fable 2.
There's an Xbox 360 game on the horizon that is about to cripple the workforce of the US. That game is Mass Effect, the latest role-playing game from BioWare.
Due out sometime this year with a main storyline that will eat up about 40 hours of gaming (not to mention the additional time spent on side quests and space exploration), many a gamer will become engrossed in its cinematic presentation and science fiction storyline.
GameSpot News' Tor Thorsen caught up with BioWare co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk to talk about their schedule for GDC as well as the latest on Mass Effect.
Dave Perry, founder of Shiny Entertainment, is one of the iron men of game development. A slew of titles have come from Shiny, as well as the studio prompting one of the highest profile transactions ever in the game industry--the sale of Shiny to Atari during the heady days of The Matrix movie trilogy.
But Dave Perry has moved on from all that. He left Shiny to accelerate Atari's intent to sell the studio and from a distance, saw thattransaction consummated last October, when Foundation 9 acquired Shiny Entertainment.
For Perry, the changes mean opportunity and the ability for him to take risks in new areas of game development. GameSpot caught up with Perry at the buzz-heavy lobby at the W.
If you are a fan of Master Chief, you owe a lot to one Alex Seropian. Seropian co-founded Bungie Software and was instrumental in the creation of Halo: Combat Evolved--a franchise which has gone on to become one of the most successful in game history.
Seropian isn't a one-trick pony, however. The affable game developer has gone on to found a new company, Wideload Games, which released Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse and will release the upcoming Hail to the Chimp with upstart publisher Gamecock.
GameSpot News caught up with Seropian on the eve of the 2007 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and asked him about future Wideload projects, how Halo has helped (or hurt) his career, and why on Earth he would enter the next-generation of consoles with a party game featuring anthropomorphic animals.
In this short video, shot yesterday at the W Hotel just steps away from the GDC home at Moscone Center in San Francisco, GameSpot asked Jason Hall to explain his presence at the show given he is no longer directly aligned with a game industry concern.
The long-time gamer, and former game industry exec, had recently vacated his role as senior vice president at Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. But Hall is far from leaving the game space behind. Hear what he's up to and why the industry hasn't seen the last of Jason Hall.
Late last week, THQ held its annual Gamers' Day in San Francisco to show off its upcoming lineup of games to the media. Among the games on display that night were the recently announced Conan game, MotoGP 07, Frontlines: Fuel of War, Stuntman: Ignition, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, which was formally announced as going gold that night.
Only those with media credentials were allowed inside the club-turned-gaming-expo, but GameSpot got out with some footage from within the walls. Brendan Sinclair and Tim Surette of GameSpot News had a chance to talk to several general managers of the studios making games for THQ to get more insight into the development process and what's going to make their games stand out from the rest.
Check out the video for some footage of Stuntman: Ignition and Frontlines: Fuels of War as the developers themselves describe the games.