July 2009

Watch the Video


  • RED INK A slew of earnings reports this week showed Microsoft’s console and PC gaming sales DOWN 12 percent, Sony’s gaming and computer sales DOWN 37 percent and Nintendo’s Wii and DS sales DOWN 40%. On the software side, Ubisoft’s first quarter sales were DOWN 51% and Viacom said Rock Band sales were DOWN 41%. The one bright spot: THQ’s earnings were UP 77% on the strength of UFC and Red Faction: Guerrilla, proving once again that the road to riches is paved by hitting stuff.
  • PUBLIC RELATIONS FAIL Electronic Arts courted controversy this week with a Dante’s Inferno “Sin to Win” promotion that asked Comic-Con attendees to post pictures of their “Acts of Lust” with booth babes. EA issued an apology, then picked this picture for a runner up prize, so… um… hmmm… yeah.
  • SILVER SCREEN An updated list of games that may or may not be getting movies. Infamous, YES. Grand Theft Auto: NO! Myst, YES. Halo, NOT ANYMORE! Gears of War, YES! The Rock in Gears of War… apparently not, according to director Len Wiseman!
  • WORKING THE SYSTEM London’s Telegraph newspaper reported this week on plans by psychiatrists to offer in-game counseling to addicted World of Warcraft players. In related news, Alcoholics Anonymous announced this week they’d start holding meetings at bars!
  • POWER TO THE PEOPLE In Germany, an Internet petition protesting a potential violent game ban has garnered 68,000 signatures and forced a public hearing on the matter. Wait, an internet petition actually did something useful? That can’t be right… no apparently that’s right. Wow.
  • FIFTEEN YEARS AGO this week, the newly formed Interactive Digital Software Association proposed a game rating system to Congress. Fifteen years later, nearly one in four parents apparently don’t generally care if little Billy wants to kill a bunch of virtual hookers.
  • AND FINALLY THIS WEEK concept art has leaked out for “Epic Mickey” a secretive Warren Spector project for the Wii set in a post-apocalyptic, Disney-infused steampunk universe. Just like Uncle Walt envisioned decades ago.

In a way, Wii Sports Resort and its included Wii MotionPlus accessory represent an admission of failure on Nintendo’s part.

Since late 2005, Nintendo has been promising that the Wii Remote would change the way we played games by replacing button-presses with real-world motions. The original Wii Sports, packaged with the Wii, single-handedly sold millions of Wii systems at $250 a pop, many to people who had never before considered picking up a game console.

But Wii Sports‘ proof of concept for a marvelous, motion-controlled future was aided by a significant helping of smoke and mirrors. Extended play showed that the Remote wasn’t accurate enough to detect the angle of a tennis racket as it made contact with the ball, or correct swinging form in Baseball or Golf. The cracks in the motion-control scheme really started to show in the Boxing mini-game, with matches that universally devolved into a mess of random Remote- and Nunchuk-swinging that had little to no correlation to the action on-screen.

There was a ray of hope in the original Wii Sports: The bowling mini-game, unlike the others, showed the real promise of motion controls by accurately detecting the angle and power of your Remote swing as you hurled the virtual ball down the lane. Here, finally, was a game where the Wii Remote was used in a way that couldn’t be emulated by a traditional controller — where how you moved the Wii Remote was just as important as the fact that you were moving it at all.

(full article)

Watch the Video


  • THE SKY IS FALLING! NPD announced this week that June game sales suffered their worst year-over-year drop in nine years, with software sales off 29 percent and hardware sales down 38 percent. In happier news, the number of pundits calling gaming “recession-proof” plummeted nearly 100% this week.
  • CROSS-PROMOTION The San Diego Comic-Con brought word of new comics based on God of War, Dead Space Extraction and Free Realms. In exchange, the world of comics is giving gaming a cameo appearance by Stan Lee in the upcoming Marvel Ultimate Alliance game. Uh… is it too late to trade back?
  • YOU’RE THE STAR Harmonix this week announced the Rock Band Network, a new initiative that lets indie bands upload tracks for consideration as Rock Band downloads. So instead of pretending you’re in some of the world’s biggest musical acts, soon you’ll be able to pretend you’re that garage band from down the street that got seven people to show up for its last show. Whoo…?
  • Speaking of USER CREATED CONTENT LittleBigPlanet celebrated the creation of its one millionth user-made level this week. MediaMolecule says it would take over five years to play through all of them… or over five minutes to play through all the good ones. AW SNAP!
  • HOLLYWOODCRAFT Legendary Pictures announced this week that Sam Raimi is directing a film based on the Warcraft universe. Early reports indicate the main characters will spend the first hour of the movie killing small animals and standing in the middle of town, begging passersby to let him join their guild.
  • ALTERNATE HISTORY 10 years ago this week, Steve Jobs introduced the original Halo at Macworld ’99. The game went on to help sell millions of Macintosh computers and cement Apple’s reputation as a company that cares about gamers… IN BIZARRO WORLD!
  • LEGAL EAGLES New York state legislators this week passed a bill that bans playing video games while driving. In other news, apparently before now it was legal to play video games WHILE DRIVING in New York! Who knew?
  • AND FINALLY this week, Activision unveiled the first trailer for Band Hero, which is apparently just like Guitar Hero… only for insanely beautiful people.

I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose… videogame news.

In this issue:

  • Konami announces new line of barely interactive “LetsRelax” games
  • UFC president challenges all EA Sports employees to a fight
  • Sony, Microsoft preparing answers to Wii Vitality Sensor

(full article)

Viral marketing, live role-playing and media ethics come together in a truly puzzling story.

“Frankly … I’m ashamed. I have made myself a Twitter page and officially joined the world of technology. Perhaps Luke may help me update.”

With those words on June 29, 2009, what had been just a fictional character in a Nintendo DS game became a fixture on Twitter. Over the coming days and weeks, the TopHatProfessor account would post dozens of riddles and brainteasers of the type found in 2008’s Professor Layton and the Curious Village and the upcoming Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, soliciting answers from his slowly growing cadre of followers. Along the way, the professor happily answered questions about the upcoming title and shared little slices of life from his day, all without ever breaking character.
Many followers, this reporter included, were bemused and intrigued by what they assumed was a clever new viral marketing campaign put on by Nintendo ahead of Diabolical Box‘s August release. In reality, though, the TopHatProfessor account was the work of a lone college student and amateur game journalist, trying to get attention for a game he felt was being sorely neglected by publisher Nintendo and the media at large. The network of followers and related Twitter accounts that TopHatProfessor eventually attracted highlight the evolving effect that social networks are having on game journalism, PR and even fandom itself.

(full article)

With the global recession showing no signs of slowing down, millions of people are looking to save money any way they can. That doesn’t have to mean giving up the game you love, though. Here are some simple tips for stretching that gaming dollar further.Playing free games

Hey, have you heard of this thing called the Internet? It’s full of games, and a lot of them are absolutely free (legally free, I mean. If you’re looking to pirate games, try another article). The trick, of course, is finding the good ones amid the thousands and thousands of awful ones. Some good resources for picking the wheat from the chaff:

  • 365 Days of Free — GamesRadar’s big list is all over the place re: quality, but should take a while to slog through regardless.
  • Jay is Games — The best of Flash and downloadable casual games. Great time-wasters, all.
  • IndieGames.com, The Weblog — Mostly free, entirely inventive games from small-name creators.

    (full article)

    Don’t pay for play

    The iPhone has brought a lot of unique features to portable gaming — a large, multi-touch screen, a tilt sensor and significant built-in storage among them. But one of the iPhone’s most revolutionary features is its large library of instantly accessible free games. Every previous portable system required at least a little bit of money, effort and forward planning to buy a game and take it along, in anticipation of future gaming on the go. Now, with the iPhone, you can download any one of thousands of free games the moment you find yourself with some free gaming time.

    The question, of course, is whether any of these free games are worth your time. To find out, I thought I’d put the App Store to the test by downloading the top 25 free titles from the “All Games” category (based on number of recent downloads as of July 17, 2009), and playing each one for as long as it could hold my attention. The only caveat was a 15-minute time limit for each game — because if a free game holds your attention for at least 15 minutes, that’s pretty good!

    With that said, let’s dive right in to the top free games:
    1. Wooden Labyrinth 3D Lite

    I had a love/hate relationship with my old tabletop Labyrinth game as a kid. I loved the concept, but I hated how much I sucked at manipulating those little knobs to guide the ball past the holes. The iPhone version, with its simple tilt controls, makes things more enjoyable. I’m surprised how accurate and realistic the physics are, and I love the way the 3-D perspective shifts as you tilt the unit, making the screen feel like a window into an alternate world. The randomly generated levels in this “Lite” version are hit-or-miss, but the variable difficulty ensures lot of replay value.

    Time wasted: 15 minutes

    (full article)

    Grinches in July, cross-platform madness, and the goggles — they do something

    • PUSH ‘EM BACK PUSH ‘EM BACK WAAAAAY BACK!: A bunch of games are getting pushed back to 2010
    • JAPANESE RPGs: Dragon Quest 9 sells 1 hojillion copies.
    • PLATFORM SHUFFLING: A bunch of games get release for other systems.
    • BORING EXERCISE: Konami announced rhythmic walking simulator “Lets Walk it Out” for the Wii
    • FIGHTING WORDS: UFC president Dana White says he’ll blacklist fighters appearing in EA’s unlicensed Mixed Martial Arts game.
    • RETURN OF THE KING:  MCV reports a new game feature King of Pop Michael Jackson has been in development for months and is due out by Christmas.
    • AND FINALLY this week Activision announced a $150 “prestige edition” of Modern Warfare 2 that includes working night vision goggles.

    (watch video)

    I was bit surprised to see last week that Bitmob’s Dan Hsu had compiled a list of the Top 10 Bad Things the Internet Brought to Gaming Journalism. Sure, the list made some good points, and was generally fair about considering opposing points of view. But overall, focusing a list solely on the problems caused by the Internet presents a pretty skewed picture of how the medium has changed game journalism over the last decade or two.

    The simplest way to correct this skewed picture is obvious: a similar list of the top-10 good things the Internet has brought to game journalism. And here it is:

    10. Community

    While two Electronic Game Monthly readers had very little chance of interacting with each other (unless they happened to meet in real life), two readers of a videogame site can easily connect and share their common interests through comment threads and message boards. Sites like Destructoid and 1UP (and Bitmob itself!) work hard to cultivate this community, and make themselves into places people come not just to get information, but also to share their passion with like-minded people.

    On the other hand: The “communities” surrounding many sites are either eerily silent or filled with trolls and fanboys that seem unable to carry on a serious conversation.

    (full article)

    With Major League Baseball taking a break for the All-Star Game this week, we thought it’d be a good chance to take a look at videogaming’s all-star performers for the first half of 2009. These are the games that brought something new and interesting to the table, the games we keep coming back to when we should be working, the games that we don’t want to forget about when it comes time for the year-end lists.

    Top vote-getters


    1. Plants vs. Zombies

    What we said: “Before you know it, you’re deploying watermelon catapults to drive back rows of Zombonis (those are zombies on zambonis, don’tcha know?) while erecting a protective canopy of palm trees to protect your balloon-zombie-popping cacti from an overhead assault by zombies on bungee cords. The change is so gradual that it barely registers from level to level, but at some point you look up and realize that Plants vs. Zombies has grown from a small, insignificant seed into a complex, chaotic, fast-paced strategy game that’s as addictive as the best in the genre.” — Kyle Orland (Read his review)

    Second-half prospects: The addiction has held on this long, but it may be a faded memory by the time 2010 rolls around. Upcoming versions for non-PC platforms, though, could bring it back — stronger than ever.

    (full article)

    Next Page »