Rumour mill: New Xbox in 2010?

At this years E3, Microsoft unveiled project Natal; a new interface that makes it possible to play games using your body. While many only saw this as an Eye Toy ripoff, some alleged experts has touted Project Natal as the next big thing in the world of videogames.
Over the last week, gaming sites Kotaku and 1Up have both been analyzing rumours and facts, and now it seems that Microsofts plans for Project Natal is to release it as the next Xbox console.
Project Natal will still be released as addon peripherals for the current X360, but it’ll also be released as its own console, most likely as an X360 1.5 (Think Playstation Slim/ DS Lite).

Here’s a quote from a 1Up  article*:
“On this week’s Listen Up podcast we discussed Natal, and David Ellis and I talked about what we’ve been hearing regarding the new technology — and how it’s actually the cornerstone of Microsoft’s next evolution of the Xbox. Microsoft will not only release Natal as an add-on for the Xbox 360, it will come standard with the next Xbox console.

Yes, there will be a new Xbox console next fall.

However, the new console won’t just be an Xbox 360 with a camera, though — we’ve heard it will be considered a new platform and carry a new name (Xbox Natal?). It’s not clear what sort of upgrades we might see, but some have suggested it will be an slight upgrade of the current Xbox 360 technology. Current Xbox 360 games would be playable on it, but future games would be able to take advantage of the added muscle. Similar to what we see in the PC space, games played on the more advanced Xbox would look or perform better, but publishers will still be able to support owners of both systems. Some developers have complained that they’ve already maxed out the Xbox 360; perhaps this will give them room to expand.”

*Source and full article here

If all these rumours and speculation turns out to be correct, MS will take their 360 on step closer to the Nintendo Wii in terms of play aestethics and focus on the mainstream. Personally, I can’t help but think that releasing a new Xbox is very risky. Had it “only” been a slimmer and more quiet version of the current 360, with a bundled Project Natal pack, I wouldn’t be so suspicious, but when they say that the new console will be more powerful than the current one, alarm bells are ringing.
One thing is to make older games run more smoothly (if patched, most likely), but what happens when developers optimize their games for this new and more powerful console? Will thise leave out those with original hardware?
It’s all meaningless speculation today, so it’ll be interesting to see what will come of this. Stay tuned for more info.


Personal Highlights from E3 2009

This years Electronic Entertainment Expo is over, more or less, and boy was it a good one. This was probably the best E3 this decade, perhaps only overshadowed by the 2005 one, where Nintendo had actually managed to keep the Nintendo Revolution a secret all the way to the unveiling.

E3 2009 was mostly about games. While new hardware was announced, it was in the form of gaming peripherals, ranging from the rather decent looking stuff, through to the down right obscure and “what were they thinking” kind.

Microsoft was first up this year, and finally someone had understood what the gaming public wants from E3. No sooner had they started before we were bombarded with showreel after showreel of impressive looking games. The most we knew about pre-E3, but there were some surprise announcements, like Crackdown 2, which came out of nowhere. If MSs top trump last year was announcing that Final Fantasy 13 was no longer a PS3 exclusive, this years ace up their sleeve was Hideo Kojimas Metal Gear franchise, now headed for the 360. Microsoft didn’t spend time talking about the competition they’re facing from Sony and Nintendo, they didn’t bother with graphs or pie charts and bar putting Peter Molyneux on stage to unveil Milo/Mylo, it was all rather enjoyable.
Overall, an 8/10 from me.

Next up was Nintendo, and as last year they were very boring. Nintendo do know how to put on a show when it counts, but the last few years it seems they’ve been so hung up on the success of the Wii, all they care to talk about is salesfigures and the future of the company. They did announce some of the most exciting games on the entire show, though, but it was done without fanfares, bells or whistles, it was just a lazy “here, this is what you’ll get soon”. Still, Mario Galaxy 2, New Super Mario Wii and Metroid Other M had me drooling like a sedated donkey.
Too much time was spent on talking about success, market position, target audiences etc, and the entire keynote was a trainwreck up  to the point where they announced Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid.
The main keynote gets a weak 5/1o from me, but would’ve been a 1/10 without mentioned game announcements.

Sony was the last one out, and I was really unsure what to expect from them. They ended up being somewhere smack in the middle of Nintendo and Microsoft, but surprisingly closer to Microsoft this time. They had a massive 2 hour conference, and the first hour was more or less dedicated to the PSP, the new PSP Go and loads of “we’re awesome” bullshit. The last hour was no doubt the best, with focus on the PS3 and the software we can expect. Sadly, there was little that seemed to be almost ready, as most titles shown had a 2010 release date. Highlights included team Icos The Last Guardian, which looked unbelievable, Gran Turismo 5 and Mod Nation Racers. Biggest surprises in the software department was a new Rockstar IP called Agent, exclusive to the PS3, but nothing but a logo was shown and Final Fantasy XIV, also a PS3 exclusive (or so they claimed on stage, on further investigation, it’s got a simultaneous PC release, due out in 2010). The latter was probably the biggest surprise, as no one had heard about FF 14. We’re still waiting for FF 13, which will be released in japan late this year and early next year in the western world. FF 14 is a return to Vanadiel, and is a followup to the popular MMO FF 11.  It did smell of  desperation, though, as if Sony had ordered Square Enix to develop an exclusive.
A big letdown was God of War 3, the long awaited flagship title for the PS3. While it looked gorgeous, among the most beautiful games I’ve ever seen, it was simply God of War 2 in HD, nothing new was shown in the gameplay area.
Overall, Sony gets a weak 7/10 from me.

To conclude this post, here’s my personal top 10 list from this years E3:

  1. The Last Guardian (congrats, Sony)
  2. Crackdown 2
  3. Mario Galaxy 2
  4. Forza 3
  5. Metroid Other M
  6. New Super Mario Bros. Wii
  7. Modnation Racers
  8. Uncharted 2
  9. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  10. Assassins Creed 2

Special mentions to:

  • Project Natal – Interesting idea, and possibly the host for a lot more than games. Minority Report UI, anyone?
  • Milo/Mylo – The creepiest showing on E3, already doing its round on the internet as Paedo Sim 2009. Molyneux went for “Most lies per minute” with this one.
  • The Sony Wand – More or less a ripoff of the Wii Motion Plus, but it was an entertaining showcase. The fact they didn’t have any software was worrying.
  • Gran Turismo 5 – While no one knows when we’ll get it, or if we’ll actually get real physics and car damage this time, it looked really polished and impressive.
  • Nintendos Cammie – Why the hell would Nintendo choose to put Cammie on stage to promote Wii Fit Plus when she’d gained a lot of weight since last years E3?
  • Hideo Kojima – I want to know where he bought the shirt he wore during the Sony keynote.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading, see you again next year!

Pre E3 Expo speculation

Summer is nearly here, and so is the annual E3 Expo. Since the early 90s, I’ve been excited about what the big devcos and publishers would reveal, wether it was new hardware or software.

What I hope to see this year, is a date for the release of Diablo 3 and Star Craft 2, and I’m quite certain we’ll get at least one of those. I also hope, but won’t bet it’ll happen, that Blizzard will reveal what MMO they’ve secretly been working on for years, while millions have been busy playing World of Warcraft.

Furthermore, I hope Realtime Worlds will show their up and coming MMO; APB – All Points Bulletin, in a playable state. Hopefully, it’ll be Crackdown Online.

Will this be the year where one of the major console producers drop the bomb? Will Sony, MS or Nintendo tell us about their plans for the successor for their respective current generation consoles?

Prior to this generation, consoles cycles have lasted approx. 5 years. The Xbox 360 was released back in 2o05, which would mean there’d be a successor some time next year, or early 2011, if the old lifetime cycle still applied. Is the market ready for a new generation of consoles? Can the producers afford to move on already?

With the Wii already established as this generations winner (sales wise), I doubt Nintendo will unveil any form for new hardware this year. Hopefully they’ve rather been working on some proper games, and that we’ll see some exciting anouncements.

Sony still seem to be playing catchup with MS and Nintendo, with a PS3 that haven’t sold as well as Sony predicted/hoped. While it’s still not too late for Sony, I still think they need to focus on a wast range of exclusive games that’ll appeal to the entire spectre of target audience there is within gaming.

Cave Story – The best free game ever?

Cave Story is a cute little game developed and designed by one man, Daisuke Amaya, whose art name is Pixel. The game was released for PC in december 2004, after five years of development, and has since been updated and translated to english by fans.

The game is a 2d adventure game with emphasis on exploring and problem solving, but there’s a lot of action as well, as you find various weapons which you can upgrade to become even more powerful. Several reviewers have compared Cave Story to Nintendos Metroid series as well as Konamis Castlevania series, and agree with these comparisons. The game is essentially a linear 2d Metroid game with the more basic combat of the Castlevania games attached to it. The game is designed around a hub type world, so backtracking is imminent.

The game is available for PC, MAC, Nintendo DS (Only a demo, as of now), Linux, GP2, Xbox 1 and the Sony PSP.  The game is currently being remade by the original creator for the Nintendo Wii, and will appear on the WiiWare channel once it’s done.

Head over to the Cave Story / Pixel fan site for more info and to download the game.

More Blizzcon 08 panels announced

Blizzard has posted a preliminary line-up of the developer panels it will be running at this year’s sold out BlizzCon fan convention in Los Angeles in October.

As attendees of previous BlizzCons and June’s Paris Worldwide Invitational will know, the developer panels are when the secretive developer opens up and showers its fans in new information, as well as insights into its game design processes. A panel on Diablo III class design hints that classes beyond the Witch Doctor and Barbarian will be revealed with an invitation to “see if any other champions emerge to defend the mortal world”. Meanwhile, a Diablo III game design panel will look into “new and exciting features” – including, we’ll bet, some of the “really big surprises” lead designer Jay Wilson has been promising to anyone who’ll listen since Paris. There will be a StarCraft II live gameplay demonstration, and, naturally, a whole brace of World of Warcraft discussion sessions, including an opportunity to see unreleased future dungeons in the WOW dungeons and raids panel. Blizzard’s cinematics team will also be hosting a panel, and we’ll bet they’ll be premiering the final Wrath of the Lich King trailer at the event – just you see if they don’t. Here’s the full list revealed so far:

  • Diablo III Class Design
  • Diablo III Game Design
  • Diablo III – Lore and Art
  • StarCraft II Gameplay
  • StarCraft Lore
  • StarCraft II Art
  • World of Warcraft Class Design
  • World of Warcraft PVP
  • World of Warcraft Art
  • World of Warcraft Dungeons & Raids
  • World of Warcraft UI and Mods
  • Blizzard Cinematics
  • Blizzard Sound and Music


Sackboy to become the official PS3 mascot?

Sackboy to become Sonys mascot for the Playstation 3?

Sackboy to become Sonys mascot for the Playstation 3?

Sony plans to groom LittleBigPlanet character Sackboy into “the next emblematic character for the PS3”.

Meaty marketing strategies, such as pre-order downloadable Sackboy designs based on Kratos from God of War or Nariko from Heavenly Sword, are already in place. And Sony plans to put mini-signs with working lights and moving parts all over the US to catch attention.

“We want LittleBigPlanet to lead the charge into a new genre of gaming and turn Sackboy into the next emblematic character for the PS3,” Mark Valledor, marketeer for LBP, told Adage.

“We have coined 2008 ‘the year of the PS3’, and are confident that with the launch of LittleBigPlanet we will continue to see the momentum build throughout the end of this year and on to the next,” said Valledor. “This is a very big title for us.”

Sony has stacked its chips high on LittleBigPlanet, claiming the game will be “a system seller” with a target audience of “everyone”.

Luckily the game, which comes equipped with an inspirational toolset, appears to match the hype, as our E3 hands-on impressions of LittleBigPlanet will convey.

With developer Media Molecule keen on plenty of DLC support and still promising one major final reveal before release in October, the future is bright. And open to the possibility of Sackboy Strikers Charged, Sackboy Power Tennis, or Sackboy Sluggers.


Konami sues Harmonix and MTV

Konami has filed a lawsuit against Harmonix, MTV and Viacom, claiming music game Rock Band infringes on its patents.
As reported by Bloomberg, Konami is referring to patents issued in 2002 and 2003. These refer to a “musical rhythm-matching game” and musical instrument peripherals.
Konami wants cash compensation, plus an order preventing Viacom and Harmonix from “using its inventions”, as the article puts it. The companies named in the suit have yet to comment.
Meanwhile, Konami is working on Rock Revolution – a peripheral-based music game in development for PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and DS

NSFW – Nintendo Wii to get sex peripherals?

oioo wiibratorlink

German company Oioo seems to be on track of releasing one of the most peculiar peripherals for then Nintendo Wii thus far. The full name for the product range, which is for both males and females, will be Wiibratorlink, and according to the companys website, it’ll be released on September 9th. It is yet unknown what kind of software that will ship with the peripherals (if any).

Wiildo logo

As opposed to website , Wiibratorlink seems to be a real product and not just a joke.

For those without a Wii, but have an iPod, you in luck as OhmiBod has a similar product for the iPod (comapatible with any MP3 player according to the site).

Perhaps these sex toys will add another dimension to established software, like this example that’s been around since the Wii was released:

Chrono Trigger headed for Nintendo DS!

I just found out Chrono Trigger is on its way for the Nintendo DS, I got so excited I wanted to share it with the world. I don’t have any info on it, though, so I don’t know wether it’ll be a port from the classic SNES game, or a remake like the recent Final Fantasy III and IV.

Head over to Square Enix for the countdown page

Blizzard announces WOW Authenticator

Today’s Blizzard news is that the company is to put an Authenticator device on sale to help keep World of Warcraft accounts secure.

Described as “lightweight and waterproof” – and attachable to a key chain – the Authenticator generates a unique six-digit security code at the press of a button. The code will only work with the account it’s associated with, and will only work once. The code will be required at every login to the account, whether at the game client or the official website.

The Authenticator will go on sale for EUR 6 (GBP 4.75) at Blizzard’s World Wide Invitational event in Paris this weekend. It will later be made available for purchase at Blizzard’s online store at the same price, plus shipping.

It’s intended to guard against the hacking and strip-mining of accounts that can and does happen, given that players’ in-game currency and items have actual monetary worth – not to mention their worth in countless hours of dedicated play.