This week we talk more about Games on Demand, slim PS3 rumours and the Wii’s software domination. There weren’t any new game releases for the three major consoles this week, so let’s move straight into the news.
After the 360 introduced avatars, many people have been wondering what the whole point was? We’ve now seen them being linked to some party games such as 1 vs. 100, but they may be appearing in their own new game. Xbox Evolved have leaked some footage of a couple of avatars playing a golf game. Whether or not this is a stand-alone title, part of a game package similar to Wii Sports, or a downloadable game from Live is still undetermined. Guitar Hero 5 will also make use of the avatars with full avatar support. Soon your avatar will be able to rock out as the singer, guitarist, bass-player or drummer of your band.
With all the hype surrounding Project Natal, many people are probably itching to find out when it comes out. Microsoft have yet to comment on the release date, but THQ boss Brian Farrell believes it will be “late next year”. What will be coming out this year though, are the Twitter and Facebook applications for the 360. They will not come with the August 11 dashboard update, as originally believed, but should be out before Christmas.
In Xbox Live news, this week saw the official release of the Gears of War All Fronts Collection and Dark Corners map pack. The content was accidentally leaked last week at half price before being yanked off the market place. The All Fronts Collection pack, on sale for 1600 points, includes all 19 downloadable Gears 2 multiplayer maps including the new Dark Corners Multiplayer pack. The Dark Corners pack is available for 1200 points. The packs included seven new multiplayer maps, as well as a deleted scene from the single player campaign.
And despite the economic downturn, paid downloads over Xbox Live has seen a 73% year-over-year increase in the last 6 months. Digital distribution is booming with the Steam service seeing a 97% increase year-over-year. And by launching Games on Demand on the Live service, Microsoft’s Shane Kim believes they can further expand on their market. According to Kim, the strategy behind Games on Demand is to increase the options and choices for consumers. Unfortunately, at this point of time it is not possible for the service to include brand new games for download. However, the medium may prove useful as an advertising tool for game companies to increase hype in anticipation of new titles, e.g. Assassin’s Creed being released on the Games on Demand service in anticipation of the Assassin’s Creed 2 release.
In PS3 news, it looks like Europe may finally be getting pre-paid PlayStation Network cards. A retailer in Europe has listed the cards at 20 and 50 Euro variants, and set for an October 1st release. The Japanese, US and Canadian markets have had the cards for sometime already. Hopefully this means Australia follows suit, allowing non-credit card holders to purchase items over the PSN.
Sony will be releasing some new Dualshock 3 controllers in October. No they won’t operate any differently to the current controllers, but they will be colourful! Estimated to arrive in October in the US, the controllers will be of a “deep red” and metallic blue” colour. Very exciting news for those bored of the black, white or silver colours currently available (only available via importing for us Aussies).
There were more PS3 Slim rumours this week with a PS3 Slim model appearing on the German Amazon site. The listing does not include a price, date or even picture so it is difficult to determine the validity in it. Meanwhile, gadget site electronista is getting in on the rumours. They are suggesting that Sony’s recent hike in parts orders and production could be due to Sony producing large amounts of the Slim model in time for an August ship date (Sony are holding a press conference on August 18th). They also speculate on a price cut that would further increase demand.
The price cut may be coming sooner rather than later as it has been revealed by Noboyuki Oneda, Sony Corp’s CEO and executive vice president, that the PS3 manufacturing costs have been reduced by roughly 70% since first going to production. A price cut can’t come soon enough as Sony’s first-quarter fiscal results have shown that the PS3 only sold 1.1 million units, down from 1.6 million last year. Most surprising though, was the fact that the PS2 sold 1.6 million units which is up from the 1.4 million from the previous quarter. That’s right, the PS2 is outselling the PS3. If the price cuts do come, then expect the PS3 to rebound next quarter.And for the inFamous fans out there, it looks like an inFamous movie may be coming. Sony Pictures have picked up a pitch from screenwriter Sheldon Turner to adapt the game into a feature film. Avi Arad and Ari Arad will produce the movie, and they were responsible for the recent “The Incredible Hulk” and “Ironman” movies. Hopefully they can work their magic to make a good game-to-movie adaptation with not only inFamous, but also the Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune movie.
In Wii news this week, Lionsgate’s digital media president Curt Mavis has suggested that Nintendo might launch a video channel for the Wii worldwide. Japan has had such a channel for a while, whereby Wii points are used to rent television episodes and movies. Lionsgate are currently focusing on digital distribution via videogame consoles, and Mavis believes the Wii would sell to a broader audience than the 360 and PS3.
Meanwhile, Nintendo America vice president Denise Kaigler has spoken about the slowing of Wii sales with Wired. Despite the Wii still dominating the console market, sales have slowed from last year which Kaigler attributes to Nintendo’s release calendar. Last year saw Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart and Wii Fit all launch in the first half of the year. This year has had few blockbuster releases, but with Wii Sports Resort just released, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Wii Fit Plus to come, Kaigler is optimistic. Kaigler also believes there’s still hope for poor selling “core” games such as MadWorld and The Conduit, believing they may build in popularity.
In Australia, Nintendo continues to dominate the software charts. In fact, Nintendo is so dominant that the top 10 games sold were either Wii or DS games. The release of Wii Sports Resort saw it jump straight to number one with Wii Play coming in at second (probably so more people could play Sports Resort multiplayer!). Wii Fit continues to sell well coming in at number 3, but the Conduit is still failing to sell. A lack of blockbuster releases on the PS3 and 360 would explain their absence from the top ten.
And finally, the successful UFC franchise is coming to the Wii. The UFC: Undisputed game has so far sold 3 million units on the 360 and PS3, making it a worthwhile pick-up for THQ. THQ are now considering making yearly instalments of the game, as well as bringing it to the Wii and handhelds. How they implement the motion controls into such a complex fighting game will be interesting and hopefully they can pull it off.
And once again, other news this week in brief:
· A follow up to allegations that Eidos were once again fixing review scores, this time with Batman: Arkham Asylum. Games Master’s “world’s first review” has conveniently awarded the game a score of 96 out of 100. Perhaps it’s best to wait for other reviews before deciding on this one.
· There were a lot of announcements at the San Diego Comic-Con. Luckily Kotaku has a round-up of all things Comic-Con 2009.
· Apparently Peter Jackson’s Halo project has been scrapped for some time already.
· For all you Fresh Prince of Belair fans, DJ Jazzy Jeff is set to feature in the upcoming DJ Hero game.
· Ubisoft hope to have a piracy solution in place by the end of the year. Piracy is a more prevalent issue among PC and DS games, but they plan to slow it down via internal solutions and with the help of Nintendo.
· Gamers in the UK plan on boycotting Activision over their intended price-hike for Modern Warfare 2. The game is set to retail for £55, roughly equating to AU$110 (at time of writing).
· The full Guitar Hero 5 set-list has been revealed.
And that’s the news for this week. What wonderful adventures will we see next week? Stay tuned to find out!
Article Written by Phong Nguyen