22nd August 2009 - Welcome readers to All Age Gaming’s 7th instalment of “The Week That Was”. What was in the news last week? These items was... I mean were....
In game releases this week, we saw the return of Wolfenstein on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. Should keep you entertained, but is it as good as the original Wolfenstein?
This last week was all about Sony. At their Gamescom press conference, Sony finally confirmed the new PS3 Slim as well as a price cut. The slim PS3 is obviously smaller than the current model, will come with a 120 GB Hard Disk Drive (although a 250 GB version may be in the works), use less power and also produce less noise. The initial release dates were set at September 1st in the US and Europe and September 3rd for Australia and Japan. However, these dates aren’t official and the system is likely to be available within the next week. In Australia, it will have a recommended retail price of U$499.95, a $200 reduction on the previous RRP. The new model still comes with 2 USB slots, and an absence of backwards compatibility that many were hoping would be introduced. The slim PS3 has also lost the ability to install other Operating Systems such as Linux. Not a big deal unless you’re into homebrew.
What is to become of the older, fatter PS3 models as a result of the Slim announcement? Well from August 24th in Australia, if you can still find a fat PS3, the RRP will drop to $499.95 as well. I would expect the prices of the older models to drop even further as retailers look to clear out stock for the new model.
In line with the release of the new PS3, Sony will release the newest firmware update, version 3.00. As part of the update, the XMB will receive some cosmetic changes to make it more intuitive to use. Other new features include a “What’s New” section that will replace the “Information Board” section. The “What’s New” section will feature the newest game and video content, PSN news and releases, and information on recently played games. The friends list will be redesigned, PlayStation Store shortcuts have been added and dynamic custom themes and avatars are now available. There will also be an option to modify the display of your trophies for add-on content.
PlayStation Home will also be getting an update in September to version 1.3. New features include new avatar poses/dance moves/emotes, a digital camera for In-Home screenshots, a Home Mall Wardrobe preview screen/area and Universal Game Launching. Universal Game Launching is probably the most exciting addition, and will finally allow players to head straight into a game from Home, instead of having to exit out to the start menu to do so.
The announcements don’t stop there though. Australia is set to get a video on demand service for the PS3. The service will be trialled later this year and will allow users to stream ABC shows such as Good Game straight to their PS3. A downloadable movie service will also be available in early 2010, with 11 film publishers including FOX and Paramount already on board. The movies will be available in both high and standard definition, which is much needed in Australia where our internet is slow and our caps are limited in comparison to the US, Japan and Europe. And Australia will be getting PlayStation Network Cards next month, allowing for those without credit cards to purchase content on the PSN.
Last week saw the release of 1vs100 on Xbox Live over in the US, Canada and parts of Europe. It immediately saw success with over 2.5 million downloads, and as much as 230,000 players in one night. As a result, TV company Endemol have come out saying that they are considering more television-inspired games for the 360. Digital boss at Endemol, Peter Cowley, has mentioned a new service called Primetime where there is a live show and contestants can be picked out of a line-up to play along. It would contain traditional ad breaks and only be available to Gold members. Currently in consideration is a poker game that could fit in with this live TV-like format.
Despite the bold moves by Sony to win over customers this past week, Microsoft appears to be heading in the opposite direction, especially in the UK. Microsoft has issued official notice to UK retailers that the Arcade Bundle has had a price hike. It has gone from £129.99 up to £159.99. However, the documentation outlining the price hike also lists the Arcade bundle as a placeholder for an unannounced SKU – possibly a discounted price for the Elite? Over in the US, this seems like the reality with Wal-Mart joining Meijer with an advertisement for the Elite at US$299. Whether or not the discounts appear worldwide remains to be seen as MCV reports that there are excessive stock levels of the Arcade and Elite bundles in retail.
The Elite discounts may come at a cost though, as GameStop employees have reported that the Elite bundle no longer includes a HDMI cable. The Elite has traditionally been packaged with a HDMI cable, making it HD ready straight out of the box. The new bundles only come with SD composite cables, a huge step backwards. This may not be a big issue considering the price cut, and whilst it may annoy some customers, Sony has always bundled the PS3 with only a standard composite cable as well.
And the bad hardware publicity keeps on rolling in for the 360. This time a survey has surfaced in Game Informer that revolved around gamers’ experiences with broken consoles. The most disturbing figure for Microsoft was the reported failure rate of 54.2% among participants. That’s more than 1 in 2 Xbox 360s! The PS3 had a 10.6% failure rate, whilst the Wii had a 6.8% rate. The 360 also had a 41.2% failure rate for those who already had their consoles repaired. The Wii may have had the lowest failure rate, but this may be attributed to the fact people spent a lot more time on their 360’s or PS3’s. However, in what must be an encouraging sign for Microsoft, only 3.8% of respondents said they’d never buy a 360 again because of the failure rates.
In Wii news this week, the Wii may be joining the price drop party, with Broadpoint Amtech analyst Ben Schachter predicting a price drop following the console’s modest July sales figures. The July figures were the lowest since its November 2006 launch, but don’t expect anything soon as Nintendo’s launch line-up is stronger in the second half of the year. And despite all the price drop talks, the UK are once again being screwed over as the Wii is set for a price hike there. The weak British pound is to blame as the Wii will soon retail for £200, up from £180 (funnily enough, £200 currently equates to around AU$400, the Wii’s RRP in Australia).
Once again Nintendo have gone on the defensive regarding their lack of “hardcore” titles for the Wii. When IGN asked Nintendo’s Denise Kaigler about the lack of hardcore titles in their holiday line-up, Kaigler disagreed, once again pointing to New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Metroid Prime Trilogy as examples of titles that will appeal to the hardcore crowd. Kaigler also mentioned upcoming games such as Dead Space Extraction, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories as third party titles that should appeal to the “core” gamer.
And finally, Miranda Devine from the Sydney Morning Herald has written an interesting article regarding “House of Dead: Overkill”, a “mature” game for the Wii. Despite the MA15+ rating for the game, Devine talks about the “lack of warning of strong sexual themes” present in the game, specifically the incestuous theme between one of the protagonists and his “ancient crone of a mother.” Despite being negative towards House of the Dead, Devine doesn’t blame the game, and instead blames Australia’s poor ratings system. In the US and UK, the game has an R18+ rating making it banned for children under 18. Without the R18+ rating here, it has slipped into a category deemed suitable for 15-year-olds. So whilst this game might receive bad publicity as a result of this article (the game’s producers Sega will still persist with mature games for the Wii), it further highlights the absurdity of game ratings in Australia.
And now for the week's other news in brief:
· Logitech to release their new G27 steering wheel in September. It will provide some updates over the G25 wheel, including RPM/Shift indicator LEDs to let you know when to change gears.
· Fallout 3’s fifth downloadable mission pack will most likely be the last for the game.
· Alan Wake is finished! The game is due for release in Spring 2010 (Autumn for us Aussies), giving Remedy plenty of time to polish the game.
· Video gamers are even older than originally thought. A US study has found the average age of an adult gamer is 35.
· Need for Speed: Shift will be an “authentic” racer.... and apparently that’s not the same as being a simulation racer
· At Gamescom this last week, the king of overhyping Peter Molyneux revealed that Fable 3 is in the works. The game will once again be set in Albion, some 50 years after the events of Fable 2. Surprisingly, it will not include any Natal controls.
· The fastest selling Live Arcade game, Battlefield 1943, has passed 1 million downloads on the 360 and PS3.
· Not a fan of poor movie to game adaptations? Well at least Marvel won’t be making them anymore. That’s poor adaptations, they’re quite happy to still make good games like their recent X-men Origins: Wolverine game.
· Can’t wait to get your hands on The Beatles: Rock Band? Well if you’re after the full bundle, you can only purchase it from JB Hi-Fi, Dick Smith, Gamesmen and GAME.... that’s right, EB Games will not be selling the complete bundle.
· In other Rock Band news, Harmonix expect the overall song catalogue to reach 1000 songs by the end of the year. Rock Band 3 is also in the works, but it’d be nice if Rock Band 2 saw a local release.
· A partial game list for Tokyo Game Show 2009 has been released.
· The Gran Turismo series has often been criticised for not including car damage, something that is present in the Forza series. This time around the series will have car damage, and you can check out a video here.
· Final Fantasy XIII will span 3 DVD’s for the Xbox 360 version.
· And finally, Sony has filed a patent for PS3 Laughter Detection. It won’t have any effect on how games are controlled, as it’s a device to allow analysts and advertisers to discover people’s reactions to content.
Phew! What a week in news. Join me next week for something other than PS3 Slim rumours!
Article written by Phong Nguyen