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Ken Levine Defends Lair's Control Scheme 72

A recent Gamers with Jobs podcast (well worth listening to) features co-hosting duties performed by Ken Levine of Irrational/2K Boston, makers of the title BioShock. During the podcast, Levine comes to the defense of Factor 5's Lair , saying that the folks over there may not have had much choice in how to proceed with their game. "Let me speak in these guys' defense for a minute as a game developer. I'm sure somebody came to them at some point and said, 'We have this motion control controller, and we have to make a go of it. And we really think you should try to make your game exclusively on that.' I think you're seeing a lot of this lately. Aren't there a lot of games where you're just like, 'Dude, can I just use the d-pad or the analog stick?' Ever since the DS came out I feel that there have been a lot of games like that. They've been so impressed by their control mechanic that they just really, really want you to play with that." It's still really, really bad.

Sony Displays New PSP, Polished Games At E3 236

Sony had a lot to prove coming into this event, and kicked off on a high note. The PlayStation 2 is still selling units, and the PSP's numbers are apparently up as well. They followed that with the news of a new version of the PlayStation Portable. It's slimmer, lighter, has a longer battery life, and the ability to connect directly to your television to display video and games. There was a good deal of discussion about upcoming PSP titles, some of which are connected to a PSP bundle. Pushing out the PS3, they show several PlayStation Store titles, included the fascinating-looking Echochrome . Moving onto the Home service they discussed cellphone and website tie-ins to the Home service, as well as the ability to launch games from directly within the Home environment. Referencing the price cut, they reveal sales have already gone up. NCSoft, Epic, and Ubisoft are all referenced as heavy backers of the PlayStation, with a tantalizing statement suggesting that user-created mods for Unreal Tournament will be coming to the console via the Playstation Network. A lengthy Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer and a statement that the game is only for the PS3 (still to be determined), due early in 2008, cap off the third-party section. First-party titles show all of the highlights of Sony's portfolio with the LittleBigPlanet trailer emphasizing creation rather than play, and their Heavenly Sword highlight showcasing the game's story for the first time. A new sandbox title with a morality component was announced, InFamous, as was a new chapter in the Gran Turismo series. The press conference wrapped with a gripping trailer for Killzone 2, completely running in real-time.

Nintendo - "Everyone is a Gamer" 354

There's nothing that excites gamers like statistics; pie charts and graphs dominated the opening of Nintendo's E3 conference. Fortunately, the event had more than just business to discuss. They unveiled a 'Wii Zapper' housing that allows the Wiimote and Nunchuck to combine into a light gun, which will retail for about twenty bucks. They showed off a number of third party titles to prove the outside-the-company commitment, such as a Soul Calbur and Medal of Honor (which will be playable online) designed specifically for the console. Hardcore gamers were the focus of the early portion of the conference: Smash Brothers Brawl has a launch date of December 3rd in the US. They heavily hyped online play, with several EA titles and a Pokemon-like Dragon Quest title. Mario Kart for Wii will be launching early next year, will be playable online, and will have a Wiimote driving wheel housing packaged with the game. With the hardcore discussed, the attention shifted to mass market games. A new channel, 'Check Mii Out' will allow for a HotorNot-style voting mechanism and contests to make the most realistic celebrity Mii. There was much discussion of the Nintendo approach to expanding audience; Super Mario Galaxy was brought up as bridging that gap, as a second player can 'assist' the primary player in various ways. Galaxy will be launching on November 12th. Targetted more directly at this 'outside the norm' group was WiiFit, which uses a dedicated device called the Wii Balance Board. It allows for a daily exercise routine, can track data over time (and compare it to other family members) and includes some simple minigames like a soccer heading game. The press conference ended with Reggie Fils-Aimee revealing Nintendo's goal to make videogaming one of the pre-eminent forms of entertainment, across all age groups.

Microsoft's E3 Conference Displays Company Confidence 147

The tone from Microsoft tonight was one of celebration and anticipation, as they ran down their successes since the 360 launched and hyped their lineup between now and the end of the year. Peter Moore framed the discussing by recalling the blockbuster holiday season of 2004, which was driven by the Grand Theft Auto, Madden, and Halo franchises. Moore stated that 'the only place to play all three games' this year is the 360. In addition to showing off other heavyweight titles like Mass Effect (which is due in November), the company had a few new announcements: They'll be releasing a version of the movie trivia game Scene-It with a quartet of special controllers, for a standard game price. They've partnered with Walt Disney and its associated companies to bring their family of movies to the Xbox Live service, with many titles already available tonight. CliffyB officially revealed Gears of War for the PC; it'll have additional content as well as co-op gaming via Live for Windows. Resident Evil 5 will be coming to the system (the only game from their conference not releasing this year). The event was capped by a live-action short piece meant to show what a Halo movie might look like, the announcement of a Halo 3 special edition 360 sku set to launch alongside the game, and a new trailer showing a bunch of Halo 3 in-game footage. For further details on the event, click below for other sites' liveblog coverage.
PlayStation (Games)

A Catalog of Lost PS3 Exclusives 95

Game|Life has a breakdown of the numerous PlayStation 3 exclusives that might have been. The high cost of making games and Sony's slow start out of the game means that titles like Assassin's Creed and Devil May Cry IV, which may have been exclusive to a Sony console at one point, will now be leading a double life on Microsoft's Xbox 360. "Grand Theft Auto IV -- Peter Moore shocked the world at E3 last May when he announced that GTAIV would appear day-and-date on Xbox 360 and PS3. Months later, Newsweek reported that Take Two had wanted to continue its long-standing practice of giving Sony a lengthy timed exclusivity on the game, but they didn't want it. Newsweek says that former Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi's 'radio silence' on the issue left Sony's American execs without the authority to make deals, and nothing happened. Same with ... Assassin's Creed -- Again, Newsweek revealed that Ubisoft had actually gone to Sony with an offer to make the game a PlayStation 3 exclusive. Although Sony did go through the trouble of asking Ubisoft to make it seem as if their multiplatform action game Assassin's Creed was indeed PS3 exclusive , it came out shortly after E3 that it would ship simultaneously on both platforms."

Download Services Have Missiles, Dolphins 44

This week both Nintendo and Microsoft's downloadable game services have some great titles to offer. The Wii will soon be playing host to Super Mario Bros. 2, Ecco: Tides of Time, and Dragon Spirit . Xbox Live Arcade, meanwhile, has up an update of Missile Command . This latest follows on the heels of Pac-Man: CE , a worthy and well-received updating of the arcade classic. Ars' comment about Ecco is dead on: "I used to love this game, just swimming around and doing those flips out of the water as Ecco was pretty calming. Then you tried to actually play the game and found out just how excruciatingly difficult it could be. While the Dreamcast update lost some of the magic, the original Ecco is still a neat twist on 2D games. Who knew that taking a platformer and setting it underwater would be so much fun?"

Nintendo's Market Value Briefly Tops Sony's 137

GameDaily reports on news from Reuters; today for the first time Nintendo outpaced Sony's market value. Note that this isn't Sony's games wing, but the entirety of the Sony corporation. Investor confidence spurred by brisk sales of the DS and Wii pushed Nintendo (briefly) into the top ten earners in the nation of Japan, with such rarefied organizations as Honda, Toyota, and Canon. "Nintendo's shares rose to a record high 46,350 yen in the morning, increasing its overall market value to 6.57 trillion yen ($53 billion), which allowed it to surpass Sony's market capitalization for a time. The company's shares, however, finished the day a bit lower putting Nintendo back in 11th place behind Sony, but still ahead of Panasonic maker Matsushita, whose sales are over eight times larger than Nintendo's. Nintendo's market value closed at 6.39 trillion yen on Monday, just below Sony's 6.48 trillion yen."
PlayStation (Games)

Sony Claims One Million PS3s Sold in EU / AU 67 reports that one million PlayStation 3s have been sold in the European and Australian markets. This breaks the record for Sony console sales in those sectors, as they've reached that number in only nine and half weeks. "Although released in Japan in November last year, the console has so far sold just under a million in the region, with 910,737 units sold, according to data from Media Create. The last hardware sales figures released by NPD in April showed that PS3 sales had reached over 1.3 million units in North America. According to Sony, Resistance: Fall of Man has sold 600,000 units in Europe, with MotorStorm reaching just over 500,000 sales."

Virtual Console Offers 100 Games, 4.7 Million Sold 125

GameDaily reports on new numbers from Nintendo, discussing their ongoing success with the Wii's Virtual Console offering. According to the piece, there are now over 100 games available on the service, and some 4.7 Million downloads have been transacted since the system's launch late last year. "Nintendo has been updating the Wii Shop with new Virtual Console games every Monday. The top five downloads worldwide to date have been Super Mario Bros. (NES), Super Mario 64 (N64), Mario Kart 64 (N64), Super Mario World (SNES), and The Legend of Zelda (NES). 'With an Internet connection rate reaching 40 percent, Wii owners have more options than ever to find the kinds of games they love to play,' says George Harrison, Nintendo of America's senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications. 'Beyond the Wii Shop Channel, all types of people are getting connected and checking out the information and entertainment options available on the Wii Menu. Whether voting, creating a Mii or just checking the weather, everyone has a favorite channel.'"

Wii's Longevity, Competition Questioned 277

Gamasutra reports that, despite the Wii's breakaway sales success, some analysts are skeptical of the Wii's staying power. Other analysts are, of course, pointing out that many of the 'hardcore' titles are expected later this year. "[They] not[ed] that 31% of Wii owners surveyed in March said they expected to play the Wii more often a year from now, compared to 21% of Xbox 360 owners." At the same time, Nintendo of America's George Harrison is questioning the staying power of Sony and Microsoft. According to Harrison, the two larger companies 'lack the DNA' to move with the industry, and keep with the the demand for casual, more family-friendly titles. "'They're really good at reaching a certain customer, and have a real difficulty understanding how we succeed with the customers that we have,' said the senior vice president of marketing and communications. With the sales of Wii and DS hardware crushing the competition in the US, Harrison is confident that Nintendo could take up to as much as 50 per cent of the market for this latest 'next-gen' cycle."
Portables (Games)

The PSP - Sony's Missed Opportunity 157

C|Net passes on the words of Forrester analyst James McQuivey, who lambasts Sony for failing to live up to the opportunity the PSP presented. Though the handheld has certainly been doing better of late, it's hard not to point out that the PlayStation Portable's sales numbers flag in the face of the DS's incredible popularity. McQuivey also makes a point of stating how well the system could have done at taking a slice of Apple's death-grip on the downloadable media market. "'The thing is, Sony could have been all this,' McQuivey said. 'The Sony PSP is one of the best portable entertainment media devices that anyone has come up with in years. It has a relatively big screen, plays video beautifully, has good storage and audio. It could have been the first big mobile carrier for TV shows and movies.' Instead, the mobile-video play of one of the world's largest electronics companies is straggling behind Apple, has shaken the confidence of supporters--especially in Hollywood--and added to the woes of CEO Howard Stringer."
XBox (Games)

Two 360 Titles Lose Their Exclusivity 77

While for the most part we've been hearing about formerly PS3-exclusive games heading to Microsoft's console, as the PS3 begins to get some momentum up in the marketplace we'll start to see the opposite happening. The first converts are the titles Kane & Lynch (a stealth shooter), and Crossfire (a co-op military shooter). Both are now slated to launch on the PlayStation 3, as well as the Xbox 360. Opposable Thumbs reports: "'[SCi Entertainment's] Board believes that a release of these products simultaneously on all three platforms (PS3, Xbox 360 and PC) including the two next generation platforms will benefit the long term revenue potential for these two strong franchises rather than releasing different versions at different times.' It's hard to say that this move is all that surprising. We've said time and time again the high development costs of current generation software are going to lead to an increase in the number of cross-platform software, as extending the possible player-base for a title is crucial for profit. From the looks of these two games, this is a solid win for the PS3: two more quality games to add to the growing list of the PS3's star software."

How Wii Is Creaming the Competition 377

CNN has a report on the Wii's success in the games marketplace right now, referring to their sales dominance as 'creaming the competition'. The article tries to break down exactly why Nintendo's console has sold so successfully, discussing the system's marketing, engineering, and philosophy. "Next, engineers settled on a new approach for the Wii's looks. Just as the DS shunned the Game Boy name to appeal to a broader audience, the Wii would adopt a sleek white exterior instead of the toylike loud colors used on the GameCube. Even CEO Iwata got involved in the design process; at one point he handed engineers a stack of DVD jewel cases and told them the console should not be much bigger. Why so small? To work with the motion-sensitive wireless controller Nintendo planned, Iwata reasoned, the console would have to sit directly beside the TV. Make it any larger and customers would hesitate to leave it there. " Their sales strategy is working in spades. CVG reports that at least one analyst thinks that Wii demand won't be met until 2009. This past weekend Chris Kohler had an interesting comment on the 'ambassador programs' Nintendo ran in advance of the Wii's launch, and how that might tie in to the system's financial success.

Why the PS3's February Sales May Be Misleading 127

1up's Luke Smith takes a look at February's NPD numbers, and has an observation to make about what they might mean for Sony. Though the company is almost certainly not selling as many PS3s as they'd like, the console still sold more units between November and February than a supply-constrained Xbox 360 did last year ... and despite a $200 more expensive pricetag. Though the console is certainly getting off to a slow start (and really needs great software, fast), it's still keeping pace with Microsoft's console from a year ago. "What does this mean for Sony? Considering the system's higher price point, if the platform can keep pace with the Xbox 360 through the first year (while the software matures), regardless of the installed base, the system has to be considered semi-successful. A concerning statistic between the two platforms' first January and February months is the drop-off in sales for those two months. From January 2006 to February 2006 the Xbox 360 sales trailed off 36% (250K units down to 161k units). At the same point in its lifespan, Sony's PlayStation 3 experienced a drop-off of 48% (244K units down to 127K units). That drop in sales, considering the units are available at retail, is cause for concern. Yet, despite trailing off by 25% more than its supply-constrained predecessor, the system does still cost $200 more."
Portables (Games)

The Future of the PSP 83

IGN has a longish piece up looking at the possible future of Sony's handheld. They examine the upcoming success of Sony's overshadowed creation via several excellent interviews from people with SCEA, first-party developers, third-party studios, and indies. I particularly enjoyed the comments by indie homebrew dev Fanjita, who had a great outsider's view of the little black dynamo. "I suspect there are 2 factors that make them especially resistant to homebrew on the PSP - the first is that point I just made, about not wanting to dent the already shaky platform image. The second is that we already know our way around almost all the PSP internals, and so they probably feel that there's a risk that a publicly endorsed, restricted homebrew platform would soon be cracked wide open, leaving them with an officially endorsed route to piracy. I like to believe that the capable homebrew devs would be respectful of a move from Sony to open up the platform, but it's obviously impossible to have any guarantees."

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