Electronic Gaming Monthly

For the most part, buying a video game system over the past three decades has meant tying yourself to games released in your designated region — North America, Europe or Japan, most commonly. But until recently there’s been one important exception to that rule — portable systems from the original Game Boy to the Nintendo DS could play games from any country without a problem (except, perhaps, for the impenetrable Japanese language).

That bit of regional openness is beginning to change, though, with Nintendo recently announcing that its anticipated 3DS system will only play games released in the same territory as the hardware.

(Full article available in the issue #246 (April 2011) of Electronic Gaming Monthly)


To this point in gaming history, gamers who’ve wanted to dance like Michael Jackson have had to settle for mimicking his moves with timed button presses in Space Channel 5 or kicking and jiving their way through generic bad guys in the beat-’em-up classic Moonwalker. But this holiday season, Ubisoft is cashing in on the late king of pop’s name and the resurgent popularity of motion controls to bring us what the game’s International Brand Manager Felicia Williams calls “an authentic dancing experience … you are going to dance like Michael Jackson.”

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Given the PlayStation Move’s visual similarities to a sort of futuristic magic wand, it’s perhaps not that surprising that one of the first Move games Sony showed at its E3 2010 press conference used the device to cast spells. At that first live demo of Sorcery, The Workshop Chief Creative Officer Christian Busic promised the game would provide “the grail of development: a total sense of immersion” with “the kind of fidelity … that isn’t possible with any other kind of motion control.” I’m not sure if I’d go that far, but the Playtation Move controller was definitely integral to my enjoyable time with a short, roughly 20% complete demo of Sorcery shown at Gamescom.

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As usual, there was no shortage of highly anticipated games at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. But amidst all the new game announcements, there were a few games that were conspicuous by their absence — games that had been announced or mentioned at past E3s that were, for one reason or another, relegated to the shadows for this year’s show. Here’s a rundown of some of the games we missed at this year’s show, and the latest on their status.

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At first glance, the set of five independently developed computer games that went on sale as a downloadable bundle on May 4 didn’t seem especially noteworthy. Even the collection’s name reflected its lack of pretension: The Humble Indie Bundle (HIB) — containing PC, Mac and Linux versions of indie favorites World of Goo, Aquaria, Lugaru HD, Gish, and Penumbra (plus late donation Samorost 2) — wasn’t trying to revolutionize the way indie games are sold and distributed. It was simply “a unique kind of bundle that we are trying out,” as the official Web page put it.

But when the bundle was taken off the market 11 days later — after attracting over 138,000 purchases and nearly $1.3 million in donations — that built-in humility started to look a little ridiculous. Sure, those numbers would be a drop in the bucket for a big-budget developer, but for the relatively small world of indie games, the HIB was a veritable blockbuster.

“When you’re an independent game developer, and there’s no publisher or other middle-man, you only need a tiny amount of sales in order for it to be a gigantic success,” said Jeffrey Rosen, co-founder of Penumbra publisher Wolfire Games and one of the men who organized the HIB.

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In the last decade, eight states and two cities have passed laws that try to restrict the sale of violent video games to minors. In each case, federal courts have blocked those laws as unconstitutional restrictions on free speech.

That’s a pretty good track record, as far as the game industry is concerned. But all those successes could be rendered moot when the Supreme Court takes up the case of a California violent game law in its next session, starting this October.

“Frankly [I’m] a little bit nervous, because you just don’t know what the Supreme Court is going to do,” said Sean Bersell, Vice President of Public Affairs for the Entertainment Merchants Association, a party to the Supreme Court case. “They kind of wiped the slate clean and said, ‘We’re going to decide this issue.'”

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On March 23, Nintendo of Japan leaked the existence of a new portable system codenamed the Nintendo 3DS. According to the leak, the new dual screen portable will support “games [that] can be enjoyed with 3D effects without the need for special glasses.” With further details on the system not expected until June’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, we wondered: how would a glasses-free 3D portable work. Here are a few possibilities.

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It was midnight Greenwich Mean Time on Feb. 28 when the errors began showing up. Millions of PlayStation 3 owners the world over tried logging on to Sony’s online service only to be greeted with the now-famous cryptic message: “An error has occurred. You have been signed out of PlayStation Network (8001050F).” Even players that didn’t want to go online were unable to play most of their games, because their systems had reportedly “failed to install trophies.” Debug units — used by developers making PS3 games and journalists trying out early review copies — were reportedly stuck in an endless cycle of reboots. Later in the day, Sony officially suggested to most of its customers “that you do not use your PS3 system, as doing so may result in errors in some functionality…”

Panic ensued. “PlayStation Network down” became the 14th most popular search term on Google.  #Sony and #PS3 became trending topics on Twitter, as did the pithily misspelled #ApocalyPS3. A thread on gaming message board NeoGAF generated nearly 8,000 posts discussing the issue in a single day. Popular gadget blog Engadget labeled it “a full-on PlayStation disaster.”

An then… the problem fixed itself. Exactly 24 hours after the errors first appeared, they disappeared just as suddenly, and PlayStations the world over started working as intended once again.

Looking back, the reaction to this temporary problem — caused by a leap year interpretation error in an internal chip on most older PS3s — seems a bit overblown. But it definitely didn’t seem overblown at the time. “The overall tone of PS3 owners was a frantic one,” said Anthony Severino, owner of community site PlayStation Universe. “The PlayStation Network has been down before, but this bug left users unable to play their games — games they paid hard-earned cash for. … As time went on, panic turned into anger, sending a larger portion of the PlayStation community on a tirade.” Joystiq blogger Griffin McElroy, one of the first to cover the breaking story, said the initial reaction from gamers was “just what you’d expect,  a lot of rage and fear from the PS3-owning community, and a whole bunch of braying and guffawing from the diehard 360 fans.”

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) may be the go-to event for event for upcoming games, but some of us oldsters prefer the simple bleeps and bloops of the past. So we decided to make the ultimate list of old-school gaming hot spots — here’s a sampling of the best retro roadside attractions and classic gaming conventions going on ’round the country.

(See Electronic Gaming Monthly #227 for full article)

Still selling your used video games for cash or store credit? That’s so pre-Internet. Trading used games with gamers from around the world is where it’s at today, and a bevy of sites have popped up to let you do just that. We looked at a few of the biggest game trading sites to see how they stacked up. 

(See Electronic Gaming Monthly #228 for full article)

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