MediaFile

Video games defy economic gloom

U.S. shoppers are still spending in a big way — they are just not buying cars, plane tickets, clothing, etc. But they are buying video games.

While most media segments try to maintain stability during today’s economic turmoil, the video game industry keeps on growing, with U.S. video game hardware and software sales up 10 percent last month according to NPD, fueled by record sales of Nintendo’s Wii console and DS hand-held system.

Nintendo’s Wii console sold over 2 million units in November, up from over 800,000 in the previous month.

A separate reports suggests that hard times may favor video games, adults will “turn to
staying in with video games rather than going out on the spend.”

(Reuters)

Keep an eye on:

    DreamWorks Animation launches characters like Shrek and the penguins from “Madagascar” into new lines of business, hoping to grow consistently even during a recession that already is slowing DVD sales. (Los Angeles Times) Time Warner names CEO Jeff Bewkes as chairman; Richard Parsons to step down on Dec. 31 (PaidContent) CBS Interactive reorganization details (PaidContent) Howard Stern contemplates re-signing with Sirius XM (Orbitcast)

(Photo: Reuters)

$60 video games? Do the math, says Zelnick

How do entertainment retailers come up with the prices they charge? Why is a movie theater ticket $10, a music CD $15, a rental DVD $3-$5 and a top video game $60?

We asked Strauss Zelnick, executive chairman of game publisher Take-Two. He says it’s simple math, based upon the value of that experience.

Prices are determined by the marketplace — if folks stopped buying stuff, prices would fall, etc. (Think gasoline). Balance that with cost. A game like Halo or Grand Theft Auto takes years to develop and costs as much to make as a Hollywood film.

from DealZone:

Shane Kim’s crystal ball: videogame deals, new content

Microsoft's videogame chief Shane Kim came by our New York office this morning for the Reuters Media Summit and shared his thoughts on XBox 360 sales ("cautiously optimistic") and the outlook for the gaming industry amid the economic doom-and-gloom ("Who knows, maybe flat performance will be considered a remarkable achievement").

He also gazed into his crystal ball and served up some insights on the trends shaping the gaming business.

Consolidation is going to continue, he thinks, especially among the smaller videogame publishers as they search for hit games while keeping costs in check.

Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime: “Very Optimistic”

Wouldn’t you like to be Reggie Fils-Aime right now. Things probably couldn’t be better for the President of Nintendo of America — largely the face behind the popular “Wii” phenomenon — despite the global economic troubles.

While other executives speaking at the BMO Capital Markets Interactive Entertainment Conference today sprinkled words of concern into their otherwise upbeat addresses, Fils-Aime plainly and confidently said Nintendo is doing just fine, thank you very much.

Reuters talked to Fils-Aime about Wii availability, the DS handheld game, the future of ‘packaged’ games versus online games, and price cuts.

Move over Mom, Lifetime’s got game

When the going gets tough, the tough play dress up.

Women-focused cable channel Lifetime Network on Monday expanded its push into gaming by buying Korean casual gaming site, Roiworld.com, the No. 1 teen dress up site in Korea.

Terms were undisclosed, but the company says its move to tap into the female gaming audience, particularly where they use avatars to dress up,  is paying big and younger dividends.

While Lifetime’s traditional TV audience has tended  to skew to more mature women,  the network is trying to broaden its audience to include more younger viewers and its Web dress-up properties are drawing women, largely aged 30 and below. Roiworld.com will bring more than 1,000 additional fashion and style games to the Lifetime Games portfolio, which it claims is a  top 25 online destination among casual gaming sites.

Madison Avenue feels your pain

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These days, it’s not just Wal-Mart that’s beating the cost savings drum in its marketing. Indeed, in this climate of costly gas and food, job insecurity and falling home prices, you can’t beat cheap on Madison Avenue.

The next to jump on the value bandwagon are McDonald’s and Burger King, according to Adweek.  The trade magazine says that McDonald’s will roll out five new ads starting on September 1. One of them declares, “Fresh flavor with change to spare. I do love the sound of a tasty deal.”

Rival Burger King is also launching a campaign this fall that plays up cost savings. The ads, created by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, are built around “the King putting money back into consumers’ wallets,” Adweek reports.

Video games industry appeals to core gamers at Leipzig convention

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    The rise of casual video gaming may have grabbed the headlines over the past couple of years, but the more hardcore end of the market dominated at Europe’s biggest gaming convention in Leipzig last week.
    Apart from new iterations of popular karaoke-style games such as Activision‘s Guitar Hero, Electronic ArtsRockBand and Sony‘s SingStar, which arguably kick-started the trend of easy-to-play casual fare, the world’s biggest games publishers focused on products for their core audience.
    Upcoming release Command and Conquer Red Alert 3 was a case in point. Not only does the game involve sending dozens of types of futuristic military unit across apocalyptic landscapes, but EA was marketing it in part on the basis that one of the
actresses in it, Jenny McCarthy, is a former Playboy playmate of the year.
    Most publishers were playing it safe, focusing on sequels such as a new version of The Sims – the virtual doll’s house franchise which has sold over 100 million copies since launch in 200? — or movie tie-ins such as a game based on new James Bond film Quantum of Solace.
    True innovation was thin on the ground, at least on a whistle-stop tour view of the main publishers’ offerings. Ubisoft demoed a game in the same genre as Command and Conquer which could be fully voice-controlled — apparently a first for consoles — while Sony previewed LittleBigPlanet. This marries the hot theme of user-designed content (think YouTube or MySpace) to an age-old platforming mechanic, the basics of which that would be familiar to anyone who had played Nintendo‘s Mario games.
    Cute sack-doll characters jump over flames and on to rising platforms, but the novelty is that most of the game, from the characters’ outfits and personalities to the landscapes over which they clamber can be modified by players and shared online.
    But for two of the other most hotly awaited games of the season, there was no news, albeit for opposite reasons. EA’s Spore, in which players guide a lifeform in the Darwinian struggle from primaeval soup to interplanetary conflict, is due out on Sept. 4 and had already been presented in near-final form at other events, so did not get a spot in EA’s main presentation.
    World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, the next installment of the online role-playing game that has over 10 million subscribers — was available to play in an early form, but it remained unclear when the final version would be on sale. A spokesman for Activision unit Blizzard could not even confirm it would definitely be out before Christmas.

    * Where do you think gaming is going in the run-up to this year’s holiday season? Were you at the Leipzig Games Convention? Tell us what you think below.

Doesn’t matter what the FCC says Wii love you: Comcast

It’s been a rough few weeks for cable operator Comcast Corp. U.S. regulator FCC is on the verge of punishing it for allegedly fiddling with subscribers’ use of peer-to-peer services like BitTorrent while New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is threatening to sue if Comcast doesn’t agree to join other Internet service providers to block access to child pornography.

But the largest U.S. cable operator is hoping to win over its customers by offering a free Nintendo Wii to new subscribers to its Triple Play package of video, Internet and phone.nintendowii.jpg

The national free Wii offer runs from Monday till August 17th for new subscribers who have to agree to sign up for two years to one of Comcast’s premium Triple Play packages: Preferred Plus (at $129 a month) and Premier Triple Play ($159 a month).

Wii can jam too!

It was Nintendo’s turn to play a little music. Following on the heels of popular music genre games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, Nintendo showed off Wii Music at its E3 press conference.  Here’s a quick video — shot by our video games reporter Kemp Powers — of Nintendo executives, including legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto , playing the Mario theme song. (Hint: Miyamoto is the short Japanese man.)

The reception for the game was mixed.  The game does let you simulate more than 60 different instruments and it does seem easy to use. However, no one keeps score and you can’t play out of tune because the game picks-up motions to play the melody. The complaint seems to be that it is too basic and simple. (To be fair, many people said that about the Wii when it came out.)

One of my colleagues may have said it best. Guitar Hero and Rock Band makes you feel like a rock star. This game makes you look like you are in a high school marching band.

Mii too!

xbox-avatars.pngIf imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Nintendo should feel very flattered by Microsoft’s press conference that kicked off today’s E3 Media & Business Summit in Los Angeles. 

Our video games reporter Kemp Powers points out similarities. 

One of the major announcements at the press conference was a planned overhaul of the Xbox 360 console interface. The new suite of features will include a community games channel to showcase (Warning: media buzzword) user-generated titles.

More interestingly, Microsoft heavily plugged the addition of cartoon-like personalized avatars that can be inserted into a number of upcoming casual and family game titles.