MediaFile

Penny Arcade Expo East: Nothing small here

256256696Believe it or not, there were crowds gathered on Friday doing something else besides waiting for an iPad 2.  About 60,000 people swarmed Boston for Penny Arcade East, a major  convention for video game fans on the East Coast.

PAX doesn’t garner as much media attention as industry shows like E3 in Los Angeles each summer, where major games companies announce new products. While there aren’t as many reporters or  or executives in attendance, PAX EAST is still a big event for gamers- the hoards of people who help make the $60.4 million video game industry bigger than Hollywood.

It’s for people like Andrew Hydrusko, a 23-year-old student who drove from Delaware with four friends so he could dress as his favorite Mega Man character, Protoman, at the show. He donned a poncho, bullets and a painted motorcycle helmet reminiscent of a power ranger,  as he waited to play Guild Wars 2, an upcoming MMO game from NCsoft.

The publicly-traded Korean company lured people away from the main hall to a neighboring hotel so fans could fully immerse themselves in their game. With a raffle, an open bar and hors d’oeuvres promised, the lines got just as crazy as anything on the show floor next door.

Randall Price, senior vice president of global business at ArenaNet, which develops MMOs for NCsoft, says while PAX East isn’t as high-profile as some other shows, it’s  his chance to interact one-on-one with passionate players of Guild Wars, which has sold 7 million copies since 2005.

GlobalMedia-Gaming giants differ on mobile, social games

kotickMuch of the buzz in gaming these days revolves around two small but fast-growing areas: social games and mobile ones played on smartphones. But two titans of the video game industry have decidedly different takes on those markets.

There are already tens of thousands of game apps available for the iPhone and competing Android smartphones, and tens of millions of people playing free games on Facebook.

Still, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick (pictured) sounded less than enthusiastic about those markets when he spoke to the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York on Tuesday. And that represented a stark contrast from what Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello said just a day earlier

When gamers hit Toys R Us and other tales of Black Friday

Sprinkled among the snaking lines of parents at a Toys R Us in New Jersey on Black Friday were diehard gamers. Many had no children to spoil. Nor were they particularly happy to be in the Toys R Us; but with gaming hardware fast selling out across the region, they followed the scent of the deal.

The Kinect moved especially fast, if early anecdotal evidence is any measure. Brisk sales of  hardware like the PlayStation3, Xbox and Microsoft Kinect on the nation’s biggest annual shopping spree also bode well for software sales, says Mike Hickey, a Janco Partners analyst.

But which games were enticing fans to shell out on Black Friday?

“ We’re seeing strong sales of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Ubisoft), Just Dance 2 (Ubisoft), Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision Blizzard), Red Dead Redemption (Take-Two Interactive), Fallout: New Vegas (Bethesda), Gran Turismo 5 (Polyphony Digital) and Donkey Kong (Nintendo),” Hickey said.

Cloud gaming service OnLive coming to the TV

US-REARDEN-ONLIVEOnLive, the closely-watched startup that is aiming to change the way people buy and play video games, officially launched last June. But the company says that was a mere warmup for the main event, which begins in a few weeks.

OnLive emerged from years of stealth development in 2009 with a somewhat audacious plan to offer so-called “cloud gaming”:  instant, on-demand and lag-free access to video games stored remotely on servers in data centers.

The service started last June but was only accessible through a PC. But starting Thursday, OnLive began taking orders for its $99 “microconsole,” which connects easily to a TV and which will be delivered starting Dec. 2. Using the console, users can access a catalog of games that will grow to 50 by the end of the year, including big-name titles such as “Borderlands” and “NBA 2K11″

E3 gameshow + NBA finals = traffic headache

e31As if the world’s most important video game trade show weren’t enough to snarl the already migraine-inducing traffic conditions that Los Angeles is famous for, the NBA Finals intruded on Tuesday to make things just a little bit more aggravating.

The E3 Expo brings all the leading lights of the gaming world, plus thousands of media types and fanboys, into downtown LA for a week of revelry. The event takes up residence at the LA Convention Center, and the show floor opened to predictable excitement at noon on Tuesday

Right next door to the LACC is the Staples Center, site of Game 6 in the series between the LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics, which drew an additional 19,000 or so purple-and-gold clad fans into the area ahead of the 6 PM start.

E3: Ubisoft teases (again!) with Michael Jackson

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Somebody at Ubisoft must be a big fan of the films “Jaws” or “Predator,” where the title characters do not materialize until late in the movie. Or maybe it’s the play “Waiting for Godot” they admire — Godot never shows at all.

Why else would they — for the second year in a row — devote a chunk of time at their E3 event to a highly anticipated video game, and not show any footage from the game?

Ubisoft ended its show on Monday with a wonderfully loud, energetic, amped-up dance routine featuring six of the talented performers from Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” concert rehearsal documentary. They were giving us a taste of what we can expect from the game Ubisoft is developing in conjunction with Jackson’s Estate (due later this year on all major platforms.)

Black Friday sprint begins for video game industry

Black Friday marks the beginning of the most critical time of the year for video game makers, as customers jam stores on the day after Thanksgiving to pick up games and consoles as gifts.

As a brutal 2009 winds to a close, the gaming industry is hoping that a strong six weeks of sales in the United States, the largest market, could help them salvage something from the year.

Nintendo said Monday its Wii home console — the long-time U.S. champ that has been struggling lately — sold more than 550,000 units in the U.S. during Thanksgiving week. To put that in perspective, the company sold around 500,000 Wiis in all of October, according to industry tracker NPD.

Activision’s Kotick: Game prices are OK; demand will come

Video game executives are some of the most optimistic you’ll ever meet. But you have to think they dream of the good old days (of only one year ago) when the industry was called “recession resistant”, thanks to the idea that “cocooning” consumers would, ad infinitum, plop down $60 for games.

Those days may be gone — just ask Nintendo. Now game makers are eyeing the holiday shopping season, with a lot on the line. Still, many are upbeat. Activision Blizzard Chief Executive Bobby Kotick, for one, says that at its core, the industry slowdown is about the wicked recession, not a shrinking appeal for games.

Reuters: Has the appetite for games dwindled?
Kotick: I think the reason why the take-up rates over the last 6 or 7 months have been what they have been, as compared with where they were, has much more to do with macroeconomics than fatigue in the category. Once you are getting to that gift giving (season), my sense is that you are going to see a change in consumption.

Sony’s PlayStation chief: We’ll get iPod game dabblers

So what happens when the Apple suggests your handheld game device is sub-par? Out of touch? Passe? ‘Dems fighting words, right?******That’s what I asked Sony’s PlayStation boss Jack Tretton during a recent interview. His response? Keep talking, Apple — you’re only creating more future PlayStation users.******A little background: Earlier this month, Apple’s Phil Schiller said this about Sony’s PlayStations Portable (PSP) and the Nintendo DS, which have together sold more than 150 million units around the globe:***

When these things came out they seemed so cool. But once you play a game on the iPod touch, they don’t really stack up anymore. They don’t have this amazing multi-touch user interface. The game are kind of expensive. they don’t even have anything like the Apps Store to find great games and titles. And they certainly don’t deliver a media experience like the iPod that is built into the iPod touch.******But worst is the buying experience. Having to go to the store and trying to find a hot new title is not a lot of fun.

***Not long after, Apple CEO Steve Jobs piled on to the New York Times, saying that the new lower price for the iPod Touch would draw in gamers.******Tretton, whose full title is CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, counterpunched:***

The gaming heritage and the home of gaming is PlayStation. Dabbling in gaming is nice and ‘thank you’ for getting people interested in gaming — because they are going to end up with us.******Its sort of like saying, I got my drivers license and my first car was a beat up Subaru, but if you are ultimately going to be on the track, you are going to be driving a race car, and not something that’s basic transportation. So if you are going to be seriously interested in gaming you are going to end up a PlayStation consumer.

***Tough talk between two consumer electronics giants.******Personally, I have played games on all three devices — but not the same games — so I can’t testify to an apples-to-apples comparison. But I’ll say this: Poker and Tetris on the iPod Touch? Fun. Super Mario Bros on the DS? Cool. FIFA Soccer on the PSP? Wicked.******(Photo: Sony’s Jack Tretten at E3; Reuters)

Cloud-gaming service OnLive opens up

OnLive, the “cloud-based” gaming service that generated plenty of interest when it was announced in May, is opening itself up.

The company is aiming to challenge game console makers Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony with a bold and ambitious service: on-demand, lag-free access to graphically rich games, which can be played on any TV and nearly any PC, even budget netbooks.

Analysts say such a product could fundamentally change the economics of the multibillion dollar video game industry. The only question is how well OnLive works, and some have expressed skepticism. Since its splashy introduction, little has been heard from the company, which was busy testing its service internally and installing servers in its data centers to handle traffic. OnLive delivers games run on servers in the cloud, rather than locally on a PC or a console.