MediaFile

Microsoft’s Bach jumps around with Natal

Watch Microsoft’s Robbie Bach getting out of breath playing a wall-demolition game using Xbox’s new Natal technology, which works entirely on body gestures rather than a hand-held controller. (Click on the video and scroll onto 23:30)

Bach, head of entertainment and devices, demoed the new system at Microsoft’s annual financial analyst meeting in Redmond, Washington. There is still no date set for its commercial release.

The company hopes the new technology will vault it past Nintendo’s all-conquering Wii and rival Sony’s PlayStation.

No recession for solitaire on PCs

Forget the bells and whistles, realistic graphics, complex story lines and cinematic soundtracks. When it comes to video games, solitaire still rules.

According to Nielsen’s fourth-quarter “State of the Video Gamer” report, the most played PC video game in the United States is solitaire, the free, easily accessible and familiar time-waster adored by cubicle dwellers. The game, which is pre-installed on most Windows PCs, had more than 17 million players in December. Solitaire players aged 25 to 54 are apt to play it five times a week for about 30 minutes at a stretch

Females older than 25 made up the largest chunk of PC gamers in December, accounting for 46.2 percent of all players, Nielsen said.

Twitter invites all shades of green

Twitter is now free for all, but it may not be for much longer. According to co-founder Biz Stone, the micro-blogging site plans to offer commercial accounts for businesses to pay a fee to receive an enhanced version of Twitter starting some time this year.

The move is part of Twitter’s accelerated plan to start seeking revenue in 2009, despite the economic downturn and cutbacks in advertising spending online. The company recently closed a round of venture capital financing pegged at $35 million by media reports, following two earlier funding rounds totaling $20 million. The recent round valued Twitter at $255 million, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Stone says:

We think there will be opportunities to provide services to commercial entities that help them get even more value out of Twitter. If these services are valuable to companies, we think they may want to pay for them.

$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.

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.

Get ready for the battle of the superphones

fencing1.jpgNow this should be one good duel.

The New York Times is reporting that T-Mobile will be the first carrier to offer a mobile phone powered by Google’s Android software. And it will go on sale… soon!

Talk about anticipation. This is right up there with Apple’s introduction of the new iPhone, which, of course, is only appropriate since the two high-end phones will directly compete with one another in an Olympic-worthy battle. 

From the New York Times:

The phone will be made by HTC, one of the largest makers of mobile phones in the world, and is expected to go on sale in the United States before Christmas, perhaps as early as October.

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).

Skaters, time to ride … the Wii

Electronic Arts is taking its popular “Skate” game to another level with the introduction of “Skate It” made exclusively for Nintendo’s Wii and DS.

“Skate It” follows a similar storyline as its predecessor, but it gets players off the couch and onto their Wii Fit Balance Boards. A player’s body weight on the balance board controls their turns and jumps on the skateboard.e3-july-15-038.JPG

If you’re a skateboarder or snowboarder, don’t be too confident. The game’s not as easy as it looks as our reporter Jennifer Martinez (not pictured)  found out when she got off to a rocky (and embarrassing) start to the game.