EA and Valve Software officially announced the Half-Life 2: Episode Two packages that will be available at retail for the PC, Xbox 360, and the Playstation 3. Gamespot reports that two retail SKUs will be available, the Orange Box, which will include Half-Life 2, Episodes 1 & 2, Team Fortress 2, and Portal. This box will be available on the PC, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360. The Black Box, only available for the PC will include Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Team Fortress 2, and Portal. Pricing was not discussed for either set. Slipped into the announcement was a change in the release date; the game is no longer set for a summer release and is now targeted for the fall or winter quarter. One of the supposed advantages of the episodic release format was a shorter development cycle between releases; now it appears that Episode 2 will hit retail around 18 months after the release of Episode 1. We know Valve likes to release things when they are ready, but the continued delays are getting to be tiresome.
Read More | Gamespot
We caught up with Intel where we got the lowdown on the Viiv platform along with the latest Viiv-based PCs. For a definition on what Viiv is, we go to Wikipedia:
Viiv is a platform marketing initiative from Intel. Like Intel’s Centrino and vPro, Viiv is a computer platform certification for a particular combination of Intel products as its primary components. It is an open specification for an Intel-based Media Center PC. Specifically, Viiv is a particular combination of CPU, mainboard chipset, software, Digital Rights Management and network card. It is intended for primary use as an in-home media and desktop platform with the ability to operate as a normal PC or as a hardware media player/centre - running applications, playing DVDs, CDs, MP3, photographs and games as well as subscription based (partially DRM protected) content such as ILoveFilm, Napster and SKY.
So, if you want to hop on board with the next-generation of computing devices specifically targeted towards multimedia in a living room environment, check the video to get all the details from Intel.
For those gamers who might be trying to avoid the time-sink that is The Burning Crusade, Blizzard just pushed the crack pipe a little closer. Some addicts might try and keep themselves away from retail stores to avoid the temptation; Blizzard has eliminated that excuse by making the new content available for download. Gamers can now simply log into their accounts online and click to download. If there is already a credit card account stored, then a simple click on a link and $39.99 will get the download started.
Read More | World of Warcraft
Blizzard Entertainment has broken PC sales records by selling over 2.4 million copies during the first 24 hours of availability of their expansion World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade. According to their press release, the company sold over 1.2 million copies in North America and 1.1 million copies in Europe, and over 1.7 million users logged in the first day. The press release did not state how many of those people wound up queued for their game servers, or how much productivity is dipping during the week of the game’s release. Blizzard assures gamers that have not yet purchased the expansion that more copies are shipping daily; while GameStop and EBGames made an insightful decision to just order enough copies to cover pre-orders, local Fry’s Electronics stores reportedly have stacks of the game available for purchase.
The full press release continues after the jump.
Dan Snyder from Intel chats with us about their upcoming Core 2 Quadro line, and explains why the move to four cores is an important one. As Intel says, programmers are starting to write for multi-core systems, and if you want the snappiest PC on the market, you will likely want to be looking towards Intel’s quad core chips.
Bethesda Softworks announced that Elder Scrolls: Shivering Isles, an expansion for Elder Scrolls: Oblivion will be coming to the Xbox 360 and the PC this Spring. The expansion should add more than 30 hours of gameplay to the already expansive title, and will be available through retail channels for the PC, and via Xbox Live for the Xbox 360. Given that the expansion will add a completely new realm to the Elder Scrolls universe, one expects that this expansion will be one of the largest Xbox Live add-ons to date, and possibly one of the most expensive. No mention of the add-on was made for the upcoming Playstation 3 version of the game; this could possibly be included on disc, but this doesn’t seem to be a likely option at this time.
The full press release continues below.
Read More | Shivering Isles Screenshots
A week ago, EA was nice enough to give us a review copy of their latest tactical squad-based FPS, Battlefield 2142. Following in the footsteps of Battlefield 2, 2142 features well-balanced strategic combat with a ton of depth and near-infinite replay value. These are the hallmarks we’ve come to expect from the Battlefield series (as well as its competitors, Counterstrike and Team Fortress among them), but does 2142 have the stuff to rise above the rest? Click the jump for our full review!!
Blizzard today announced that gamers looking forward to playing the World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade expansion this year will now have to wait until 2007 for the anticipated add-on. The company currently intends to ship the expansion pack in January of 2007 to allow a few more weeks of development and beta testing to ensure that the content meets Blizzard’s standards. While the announcement is disappointed to those waiting for the expansion, this is one less item that will be competing for gamer’s play time this holiday, with the Wii and Playstation 3 shipping, as well as several other high profile titles for the Xbox 360 and the PC.
Blizzard’s full media alert continues below.
Read More | World Of Warcraft Forums
Xbox 360 users with an Xbox Live Gold account will be able to participate in Sega’s upcoming open beta test for Phantasy Star Universe on October 11. Sega’s official Phantasy Star Universe site has the details of the open beta. The test itself will run from October 11th through October 18th, and will let users experience some of the online multiplayer functionality of the game. According to the site, the beta will be available on the Xbox Live Marketplace sometime between October 11th and October 12th.
The Xbox 360 version of Phantasy Star Universe should hit stores on the same date as the PC and Playstation 2 versions, October 24th. Xbox 360 users will have their own servers; while PC and Playstation 2 users will be able to interact with each other online, Xbox 360 users will only be able to see other players with the Xbox 360 version of the game. For the final version of Phantasy Star Universe, Xbox 360 owners with either a Silver or Gold account will be able to play online. Phantasy Star Universe will cost $9.99 per month to play. Hopefully the online beta will help Sega avoid the server meltdowns that plagued the Japanese launch of the Playstation 2 and PC versions.
Read More | Phantasy Star Universe
According to a report from Dean Takahashi at Mercury News, Hewlett-Packard will be acquiring high-end gaming PC manufacturer VoodooPC for an undisclosed sum. This move clearly seeks to counter Dell’s recent acquisition of enthusiast-PC maker Alienware, but it looks like the integration for Voodoo will be deeper for HP.
The VoodooPC brand will still live on, but it remains to be seen how much of the core company survives integration. The co-founders, Rahul and Ravi Sood will take high profile positions in the company’s new gaming division in the personal technology group, so hopefully a lot of the esthetic of the company will live on. The Voodoo brand will benefit from access to Hewlett-Packard’s leverage in the supply chain, and HP clearly expects this acquisition to give them credibility in the gaming arena for some of their lower-end offerings.
The acquisitions by both Dell and HP seem to be driven by a couple of factors. First, it recognizes the hard-core PC gaming market as a segment with growth potential, but the focus on gaming also seems to be rooted in the need for both companies to differentiate their PC offerings on things other than price. The commoditization of the PC has made profit margins in the low-end PC market almost unsustainable and embracing the high-end may be one way to get away from cost pressures.
Read More | Mercury News