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Here is what has been making news: New Releases, Halo 4 DLC, Google vs. Microsoft, V.P. Biden’s Look at Games, Planetside 2, Dead Island Riptide, Now TV on Xbox LIVE, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14, New Corporate V.P. For Xbox, New Fallout Game?, Game Destruction Cancelled, BioShock Infinite, Xbox 360 vs. PS3 sales.
January 13th – January 19th
Monday, Jan. 14th
Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse – Peter Griffin’s Man Boob Mega Sweat Pack will be available for the PC.
Crusader Kings II: The Republic will be available for the PC and Mac.
Tuesday, Jan. 15th
Sniper: Ghost Warrior II will be available for the Xbox 360, PS3 and the PC.
Corpse Party: Book of Shadows will be available for the PSP.
DMC Devil May Cry will be available for the Xbox 360 and PS3.
Borderlands 2: Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt will be available for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.
Siren will be available for the PS3.
Thursday, Jan. 17th
Brick Wars will be available for the iPhone.
Release plans revealed
On February 25th, Halo 4 will receive the Majestic Map Pack which will include three new maps, one medium sized and two smaller maps. The Castle map is expected to be released in April.
343 Studios also detailed three Spartan Ops missions they have planned, the first, titled Spartan Ops Episode 6, will come available next week and will have five new missions along with the Pioneer and Pathfinder Specializations.
During the week of Jan. 27th, Spartan Ops Episode 7 will come available along with its five new missions and will unlock the Engineer and Stalker Specializations. During the week of Feb. 3rd Spartan Ops Episode 8, also with five new missions and unlockable Rogue and Tracker Specializations, will come available.
Google drops suite
It’s been some time since we have heard much about this court battle. Originally Motorola Mobility, which is a subsidiary of Google, was looking to ban Microsoft from selling several of its products due to alleged patent infringement. Last May, Google won an injunction against Microsoft in Germany banning the sale of Xbox 360, Windows 7 systems, Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player. This ban was latter blocked by a U.S. court of appeals.
A related court dispute in the United States involving Google and Microsoft sought to decide on a suitable royalty rate for the use of those patents which Google claimed Microsoft had infringed upon. Google wanted an annual fee of $ 4 billion from Microsoft, which naturally Microsoft countered by stating those patents are only worth about one-fourth of that amount. Microsoft also reasoned that the technology Google is squabbling over is essential to the tech industry standards overall so should be licensed in a fair and non-discriminatory manner.
So now, Google has asked the US International Trade Commission to withdraw two of the patent disputes they made against Microsoft. The patents involve video compression technology and wireless networking innovations, both of which are used in the Xbox 360.
According to Microsoft, the two companies are still at odds in their proposals to determine appropriate royalty rates for the patents. This part of the dispute is scheduled to be settled in the U.S. District court. As more information comes available, we will keep you informed.
Part of his gun violence task force
As a result of last month’s mass shooting, and the ongoing mass shootings around our nation, discussions regarding violent video games has made its way into the White House. Vice President Joe Biden is heading a task force looking into a number of different possibilities to help curb gun crime.
Last Friday, representation from the gaming industry came from the Entertainment Software Association, a lobbying group which represents gaming studios such as EA and Microsoft. Industry games such as Halo, Call of Duty, and other first-person-shooters, have been taking a lot of heat since the National Rifle Association blamed such games for the slaughter of innocent children and adults.
The task force wants to up assault rifle and expanded clip bans on the agenda but also wanted to look into the role of violent video games may have played in the uptick of mass gun violence. The interim president of the Entertainment Merchants Association, Mark Fisher, basically dismissed the idea that video games contribute in any way to gun violence, adding that he doubted there really was much that could be done to regulate violent games. Fisher pointed out that the video game industry already voluntarily includes age advisories by way of their “M” ratings for mature, suggesting that the game is not suitable for those under the age of 17, and an “Adult Only” rating suggesting the game should not be played by anyone under the age of 18. He also cited a recent Federal Trade Commission report asserting that video game retailers enforce the ratings “most vigorously.”
President Obama has stated that he would like to see some sort of gun control efforts passed during this first year of his second term. However, gun control is a very divisive issue within the United States given that our Constitution gives us the right to “bear arms.” Biden’s task force is looking at a variety of issues surrounding the control of gun violence, safety, and protecting ownership. He met with the powerful gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association, and will also be meeting with Kathleen Sebelius of Health and Human Services as well as other mental health advocates. He is also including Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education along with other parent, teacher and education groups.
The task force is expected to have some information to give to the President next week regarding possible legislation. We eagerly await their recommendations and hope that they are of a responsible nature, not just put more guns out onto the streets.
Major update coming
Last week Sony Online Entertainment announced a list of fixes to Planetside 2, its free-to-play first-person-shooter. There are several performance tweaks being addressed along with the fixes that will be taking effect on Jan. 30th.
After criticism from the community about the quick death cycles, changes are being made that will help freshly spawned gamers stay alive a bit longer. There will also be a change to how experience points are distributed. The more kills your character has the higher experience it will give when killed, so that a freshly spawned player will give very low experience compared to a player who has been alive and making kills of their own.
Later this year there will be a few bigger changes to Planetside 2, according to John Smedley, SOE’s president. He promises to reveal their “six month plan” soon. Additionally, Matt Higby, SOE’s creative director, stated that “community involvement is going to directly impact our development schedule & priorities”.
Special Edition announced
Deep Silver has confirmed a Special Edition of Dead Island Riptide which will launch for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC alongside the standalone version of the game on April 23rd in North America and April 26th elsewhere in the world.
The Special Edition will include alternate box art, in-game unlockable content, digital strategy map, a zombie hula girl bobble figure, a severed hand bottle opener / fridge magnet, and a bungalow key with wooden tag, all of which will be inside packaging that resembles a suitcase. This has got to be one of the sweetest collector’s editions I’ve yet to see. I may well spring for this edition just to get that bobble figure and bottle opener .. sweet!
Microsoft offers 800 points for trial
You can earn up to 2400 MS Points if you sign up for the free trial and pay for a month of access of Now TV. Signing up for the free 30-day trial via the Now TV’s special Xbox site will earn you 800 MS Points to your Xbox Live Gold account. Should you choose to continue the service, it will cost you £8.99 ($14.50 USD) under their three month introductory price and earn you an additional 1600 MS Points.
After the first three months you will be paying £15 (24.19 USD) a month, more expensive than its competitors such as Netflix and Lovefilm who also offer streaming movies on demand through the Xbox 360. The difference is that Now TV does offer new movies sooner than its competitors.
You must be new to Now TV to take advantage of this offer, so if you have already tried it, you’re out of luck. Additionally, you can’t just sign up for the free trial and cancel after 30 days, you will need to watch at least 90 minutes worth of video in order to complete the offer. As long as you watch 90 minutes of video and remember to cancel at the end of the free trial, it’s worth gaining the 800 MS points.
You can expect a bunch of new features in EA Sports’ new Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 game. Biggest of these new features is a new game mode, Legends of the Majors, where you travel back in time to take on the golfing greats, including Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
You will also be able to play historical events in each of the four majors, the Masters Tournament, the US Open, the Open Championship, and the PGA Championship. EA Sports has also added the Ladies Professional Golf Association, so now you women golfers out there can finally play as a woman!
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is scheduled to release in the U.S. on March 26th and worldwide on March 28th, for the Xbox 360 and PS3. The game will also support Kinect and Move.
Microsoft looks toward the future
Last week Microsoft Corp announced that they had hired Blake Krikorian, a technology entrepreneur, to help fun their Interactive Entertainment Business. Within his new position, Krikorian will be corporate VP for the Interactive Entertainment Business, reporting directly to the chief product officer, Marc Whitten.
Microsoft recently acquired Krikorian’s company, id8 Group R2 Studios, which developed an app that lets you control your home’s lighting and heating systems from your smart phone. Microsoft says they are planning bigger things for the Xbox gaming console. They are trying to transform the Xbox from just a gaming system into a system that with a broader service that can control most aspects of home entertainment such as music, movies, television and sports. Whitten recently stated that “We look forward to his contribution to our team as Xbox continues to evolve and transform the games and entertainment landscape.”
A tease by Three Dog
I love, love, love the Fallout games, so when Three Dog recently hinted that the Fallout series hadn’t seen its last game just yet, I was thrilled.
A few days ago, Eric Todd Dellums, a voice actor in Fallout 3, tweeted “To all my #Fallout3 and #ThreeDog fans: There may be more of the Dog coming! Fingers crossed!” Shortly after he did tweet that he was given permission to offer that tease.
It’s doubtful that he is speaking of a DLC pack given that the release window for such packs for Fallout 3 and New Vegas has long passed. So naturally the hope is that Bethesda is working on, or at least planning toward, Fallout 4. Yet, despite the fact that they have not made any such official announcement, the question now is more about when we will get such news, not if we will.
There have been rumors floating around that the setting for Fallout 4 will be Massachusetts capital city. Bethesda is said to have a “strong connection” to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and apparently has been “scoping out and researching” the city. There was a reference in Fallout 3 to “The Commonwealth”, there are four real-world states in the U.S. which categorize themselves as Commonwealths, those are Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Massachusetts. Additionally, back in 2009, Emil Pagliarulo, Bethesda’s lead designer, had stated that the Commonwealth reference was speaking of Massachusetts, not any of the other states.
Now add to all of that information the fact that in both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, there is mention of a mysterious “Institute” that is located within the Commonwealth, and, well, the rumors begin to look a bit more plausible.
So let’s keep our fingers crossed Fallout fans, with luck we should be hearing from Bethesda in the near future regarding an addition to the Fallout series.
Community organization says “mission accomplished”
Last week we had told you about a small Connecticut town that had plans to collect and destroy violent video games in exchange for family entertainment vouchers. The game destruction has been called off by the SouthingtonSOS organization which planned the event. They report that their mission has been accomplished without having to go through with the destruction. The mission they speak of involved sparking communication regarding violent games and movies following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in nearby Newtown.
Dick Fortunato, spokesman for the organization, reported “Our mission was to create strong awareness in Southington for parents and families and citizens and children. And we accomplished that. Our other objective was to promote discussion of violent video games and media with children and with the families at the home. And we’ve accomplished that in spades. So we deemed it became unnecessary to have the physical return on Saturday of violent games. Also because it would create an unnecessary amount of logistical details for us.”
One has to wonder if this knee-jerk reaction generated enough negative feedback for the small town to cause them to cancel their plan. Much like how the educators in the state of Connecticut recently stood up and stated that having an armed guard within their schools (as suggested by the NRA) was not what they viewed as a viable solution to future violence. I commend the leaders who came to their senses and realized that neither of these solutions would prevent gun violence and needless loss of life. The nation is discussing a variety of solutions, of which no one solution alone is going to save lives in the future. There are solutions, but it will require a combination of such, as well as a willingness of our nation’s leaders to compromise and work in the best interest of the people, not just for the small percentage that makes up their base of support.
Levine describes creative process
Like a sculptor chiseling away pieces of marble until he finds the statue within, Ken Levine, the creative director of BioShock Infinite, puts as much focus into the creation of his game. Levine states that those blocks of marble just to magically appear in the studio, there are dozens of developers who combine their efforts, chiseling different pieces of the block until the vision begins to appear.
Levine admits that sometimes it just doesn’t happen, such as the colorful shantytown area that ended up being stripped from the game after they had spent months of work on it. In fact, that decision created such a rift between Levine and Nate Wells, long time art director, that Wells left the studio. Levine speaks of Wells’ departure by saying “I’m very friendly with a lot of people from work, but at the end of the day you have to accept the fact that you as a person are sometimes going to be … a person who sometimes disappoints people. If you get really stuck over the fact that they may be upset with you for that, you compromise the game for that, they may like you less as a friend. You have to be very careful about that because you can end up really not fulfilling your responsibilities.”
The game is now in its final stages, getting polished and prepared for its March 26th debut. As early as this past summer the game had undergone several revisions to the main story, which can be an extremely trying time for those unfamiliar with the whole process. According to Levine, “BioShock games are the hardest kind of games to make that I’ve ever worked on. I think sometimes people on the team look at the old timers and wonder, ‘Do these guys have any idea what they’re doing?’ Because we know part of the process is not knowing, but discovering. But that’s hard for people who haven’t been through it before to always understand.”
In lifetime sales, who wins?
Despite the fact that the PS3 launched a year after the Xbox 360, global lifetime shipments of the consoles indicate that the PS3 has surpassed the Xbox 360 according to a report published by International Data Corporation (IDC).
Shipments of the PS3 reached about 77 million worldwide compared to the 76 million Xbox 360 units shipped over the lifetime of both consoles. It’s important to note that this study is only talking about shipments to retailers, not units sold to customers, however, shipment levels do tend to reveal a certain amount of demand.
So in the race between the Xbox 360 and the PS3 over their lifetimes, it does appear that the PS3 wins. And just as a side note, global shipments of the Wii U are expected to hit about 50 million over the next four year, according to the same IDC report.