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Mario Kart 64Nintendo outlined their upcoming releases for the first quarter via press release today. While the first-party Wii-original list is spare, consisting only of Wii Play with a bundled remote launching February 14th, next week will see the release of Mario Kart 64 for the Virtual Console, bringing one of the best entries in that franchise to the Wii. In addition, Nintendo will finally be making the Wii News Channel available on January 27th; hopefully the News Channel will be more fully realized than the Weather Channel. Third-party releases will see SSX Blur coming, which has been getting some decent early buzz. Others include The Godfather: Blackhand Edition and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07; it will be interesting to see how EA handles the Wii remote in its upcoming titles.

The full press release continues after the jump.

Click to continue reading Wii News Channel, Mario Kart 64 Launch Soon


DescriptionEA has announced yet another game in the cash-cow Sims universe… this time it’s a set of standalone “Stories” built around characters in the Sims universe. Unlike previous Sims games, which seemed designed to suck every moment of your real life away so that you could give it to your virtual character, The Sims Stories are self-contained (i.e., they don’t require any previous games or expansion packs) and designed for short, casual play on PC laptops with modest specs. The first in a series, The Sims: Life Stories will be a comedy/romance which you play from the perspective of two different generically-named Sims, “Riley” and “Vince”. The initial story will be followed by The Sims: Pet Stories and The Sims: Castaway Stories.

Maybe it’s just that I never really got into the Sims universe, but this sounds like it has “flop” written all over it. How is EA going to convince gamers to spend their money on generic adventure games about everyday characters? It’s a lot like trying to convince somebody to play Sam and Max, but without any artistic style or wacky characters. I suppose you could make the argument that Sims Stories is to reality TV as Sam and Max is to cartoons (and boy is that there reality TV popular these days), but somehow I don’t see this working in the gaming sphere.

Regardless of its success, these games look like they were rather cheap for EA to produce, and will probably net them a bit of a profit. The game was only announced today, but will be debuting in stores on February 7, 2007, a scant 3 weeks away.

Click the jump for EA’s full press release…

Click to continue reading EA Announces “The Sims Stories” Designed for PC Laptop

Read More | EA.com

EA LogoHoping to clear off shelf space for next year’s iteration of Madden, Fight Night, and Tiger Woods, EA has dropped the price on a few games in their library. Starting tomorrow, you’ll be able to pick up many of EA’s titles for $10-$30 off of their usual price. Of course, with EA’s habit of shutting down servers for unpopular games, you might want to think twice before picking up anything that has a year attached to the title. Still, there are some fairly well reviewed titles to be found, including The Godfather and Need for Speed Carbon, so this might be a good way to get some extra bang out of that gift certificate you got this Christmas.

See the full list of reduced-price titles, after the jump…

Click to continue reading EA Drops Prices for Lots of Soon-to-be-Obsolete Games

Read More | Game Invasion @ Comcast.net

CrysisEA recently released their second quarter financial results and reported record net revenue. EA credited strong sales of Xbox 360 titles and record sales of Madden 07 for their growth, but more interesting news came out of EA’s conference call for investors. According to a report on Gamasutra, titles like Army of Two and Crysis have been moved to fiscal year 2008 from fiscal year 2007. Spore was mentioned, EA did not announce when the title would generally be available. At the same time, EA mentioned that Sims 3 is currently targeted for fiscal year 2009. Other upcoming titles mentioned were Warhammer Online, Road Rash, a new Harry Potter game and The Simpsons, a licensed title tied to the cinematic release.

Read More | Gamasutra

Tiger Woods 07 Next Generation is reporting that EA has expanded its plan to suck every last dime from gamers. Electronic Arts already made the unusual move to charge for game tutorials for Madden 2007 on the Xbox Live Marketplace, but the latest word is that the company will now charge for cheat codes for Tiger Woods 07. According to Next Generation, the cheat codes will range from $2.50 and $3.75; gamers should still be able to unlock everything in the game by playing through normally. However, if EA continues to monetize every extra in the game then gamers may find that unlocking items may become harder and harder in order to justify the cost of the cheat code.

Read More | Next Generation

The Game InitiativeOne of the more exciting panels at the Austin Game Conference was a panel simply called “MMOG Rant” as Gamespot reports. On the panel were representatives from several different MMORPG publishing houses, including NCsoft, Bioware Austin, Sony Online Entertainment, and former employees of Turbine Entertainment and Mythic Entertainment.

While Blizzard wasn’t represented directly, World of Warcraft certainly received a lot of attention from the panel. Complaints ranged from problems with post-sale service to issues with copycats, financing, innovation, and execution. Other than the post-sale service, the issues the MMORPG development community seems to be facing is similar to the game industry as a whole. While venture capital seems to be flowing into genre developers seeking to build the next World of Warcraft, the big problem seems to be that investors are literally looking for the next World of Warcraft. Getting funding for innovative or unique projects seems to be as much of a problem in the MMORPG realm as it is in console or PC gaming. The article offers an unvarnished look into the frustrations of MMORPG developers.

Read More | Gamespot

Unlike most of the other titles for the Wii, opinions on whether Nintendo’s innovative controller improved on the Madden franchise were somewhat divided. Some bloggers on joystiq.com absolutely hated the new control scheme and criticized the graphics of the game, while others like IGN thought that the control was “where the game shines”. While the above video may not give a final verdict on whether or not the Madden 2007 Wii control scheme is an improvement, it certainly gives a lot of tasty tidbits.

Until we start seeing Wii demo kiosks with Madden built in, this may be the closest we’ll get to playing the game. The 9 minute 10 second video recently posted on YouTube appears to be an EA representative showing off most of the features of the control scheme, and from the looks of it the title at least appears to recognize the gestures very well. Another interesting thing in this video is just how quickly the rep is able to blaze through the menu screens - thanks to using the Wiimote like a mouse, it looks like selecting and planning out plays will be a breeze.

Read More | YouTube.com

Madden Commodore 64 1989

It’s that time of year again! Time to go out, be a good little drone, and pick up a copy or three of this year’s Madden iteration. This year you’ll be able to pick up the ubiquitous franchise on PC (Windows), Playstation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360, Gamecube, DS, PSP, GBA, and yes, even your mobile phone (hey, where’s my BeOS version??!?). And of course, when the Wii and PS3 launch in a few months, you can get your Madden on with them too.

The good news is the console versions at least seem to be garnering fairly respectable reviews across the board - IGN.com, Gamespot, and 1up.com all give the franchise fairly high marks (7.7 - 8.5) for its notably improved graphics, online play and added features like Create-A-Player. The bad news, of course, is that you probably won’t be able to play the game online for more than about a year and will have to fork out another $60-$70 next year to keep playing.

Still, the popularity of Madden is absolutely staggering - analysts predict that the title could become a million-seller within as little as 5 days, and could earn EA about $210 million in revenue for the year (about 7% of its total annual revenue of $3 billion). Click below for the Reuters news brief.

Read More | Reuters

Xbox 360 Sales ChartTodd Bishop at the Seattle Post Intelligencer has pulled together some interesting data about how the Xbox 360 has impacted video game console sales. By pulling together publicly available data for a few of the largest game publishers, one can get an idea of how the Xbox 360 market is shaping up. This isn’t going to be perfect because first party sales figures aren’t going to be reported and there are many other game publishers that aren’t represented on the list. Also, because not every title released on the Xbox is available on the Xbox 360 and vice versa, there are going to be some gaps in reporting in this area as well. But this does give a really high level view of the console market, and how marketshare is shaping up.

Over the first nine months, it appears that most of the Xbox 360 marketshare is coming at the expense of owners of the original Xbox. A small percentage of Playstation 2 sales appear to have shifted to the Xbox 360, but overall, the console still remains the dominant force on the market. Gamecube sales dropped off, but this may have had more to with the fact that fewer titles are being released on the Gamecube than on the other platforms. Total sales of game titles released for either the Xbox or the Xbox 360 grew year over year, but this may be in part to the 20% premium that Xbox 360 titles claim over their counterparts.

Despite all of the limitations of the data pulled, this gives a really interesting look into which consumers are pursuing platforms. With the Playstation 3 and the Wii releases coming up, one wonders how much brand loyalty is going to play into the success of the next generation.

Read More | Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Madden 07 Xbox 360As the official release of Madden 2007 nears, a couple of online sites have been able to get their hands on the final code for their perusal. Two sites, Operation Sports and Madden Nation, uncovered what they felt were a couple of glitches in the gameplay. The first involved the presence of “Hall of Fame” players on the rosters of teams in franchise mode. The second involved a problem with the fatigue in game. Players noticed that the fatigue bars for players never seemed to go down while playing, regardless of whether or not the feature was toggled. 1up followed up with David Ortiz, who led the team for the Xbox 360 version to investigate the problem.

Ortiz’s response seemed to downplay the concerns of the hardcore fans of the game. For the first problem EA was able to offer a workaround, so that players could eliminate spurious “Hall of Fame” players from their roster. That this behavior seemed to contradict the feature as outlined during EA’s Community Day was not addressed.

The response to the second issue was less inspiring. Ortiz believed that the issue was with the UI, and not the actual fatigue algorithms, which he said was set “at a lower pace than in the past… we’re addressing and fixing [it] right now.” Any fix would be addressed via online patch.

This isn’t the first time that a Madden game has had problems with fatigue. Gamers were able to abuse the fatigue function in Madden NFL 2005 so badly in online play that EA’s only suggestion was to turn off the feature entirely. Now, a new type of fatigue bug is present and EA’s response is that there will be a patch provided online. Bugs of this nature should be caught before release, but basically EA can slack off for their releases.

Because the Xbox 360 has access to live updates, games can be patched after release; Many Xbox 360 games have already been patched, and EA is not proving to be any different. EA also has no competition in the football realm, so either gamers buy EA’s offering or they don’t play. This basically allows EA to be arrogant and minimize the concerns of what could be EA’s strongest boosters. Last year, EA was able to release an Xbox 360 version that looked good, but was missing a number of features. As the only game in town, there’s not a lot of incentive to treat their fans right.

Read More | 1up