Gaming Steve

Business Archives - Page 2

February 18, 2008

Game Developers Conference Here I Come...

gdc08.jpg

Tomorrow I leave for San Francisco and my 10th Game Developers Conference ... and oh how things have changed.

When I first started to go to GDC it was a small, intimate affair that didn't even register a mention on even the most hardcore gaming sites. Even people within the industry rarely heard of GDC, and you could tell.

Lectures were never crowded, game companies never made major announcements, and you easily walk right up to Will Wright or Warren Spector or anyone at all and have an informal chat about their latest game – GDC was about as low key as you could get.

And it was beautiful thing.

GDC was a hidden oasis in the gaming world, and we liked it that way.

But with the death of E3 and the explosion of gaming in general, the oasis has transformed into an all-night kegger with an endless stream of party-crashers. Somehow GDC became mainstream and now everyone and anyone attends GDC.

But yet I still love it and wouldn't miss it for the world! If you want to learn about videogames, how to make them, market them, sell them, or do anything at all within the industry, GDC is the place to be. And I'll be, right along with the other party-crashers celebrating my love for gaming.

With that being said, tomorrow I am off for GDC 2008 and this year I have a full-schedule. Just a few highlights:

  • Liveblogging of the Spore lectures.
  • Daily podcasts recapping the day's events.
  • Frequent guests and interviews.
  • Lots of news and articles.
  • Pictures, pictures, and more pictures.

In addition, I'm going to be helping out my good friends over at Evil Avatar in covering GDC this year. So look for some of my coverage there as well.

So stick around, hang out in the forums, and check back frequently. It should be a crazy week!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 10:00 PM | Comments (6) | Posted to Business |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 14, 2008

January NPD Results – Shortages Cause Low Numbers

It seems Wired have managed to beat most of the other sites to the punch with the NPD results for January. There was little to separate the main consoles this month, mainly due to the supply constraints of both the Wii and the 360.

Here are the all-important hardware numbers:

  • Wii – 274k
  • PS3 – 269k
  • DS – 251k
  • PSP – 230k
  • 360 – 230k

These numbers are pretty disappointing, but it was just after Christmas and the whole madness of that time has died down somewhat, helped along by all the shortages. However, it does raise the question about what the companies are going to wheel out at GDC next week, as new SKUs by both Sony and Microsoft are rumored to be unveiled, and perhaps this could just be channel clearing on Microsoft’s part.

The total of the video games industry for January 2008 is down by 6% from last year, which may not sound like much, but is a worrying difference. However, software sales are up by 11%, which is pretty good news when you consider we are indulging in a bit of a quiet period in terms of new game releases.

Here is the software top-ten:

  1. Call of Duty 4 on 360 – 330.9k
  2. Wii Play on Wii – 298.1k
  3. Guitar Hero III on Wii – 239.6k
  4. Rock Band Special Edition on 360 – 183.8k
  5. Guitar Hero III on 360 – 182.7k
  6. Super Mario Galaxy on Wii – 172k
  7. Burnout Paradise on 360 – 144.1k
  8. Call of Duty 4 on PS3 – 140k
  9. Mario Party on Wii – 138.5k
  10. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games on Wii – 133k

Nothing really stands out here either, apart from the fact that the Wii version of GH III has outsold the 360 version and Rock Band, which was more unexpected than the PS3 ever beating the 360 on the hardware side.

Overall, it’s a nice quiet month, which should get better within the next few months with the approach of some earth shaking games like GTA IV in April.

Posted by Chris Holmes at 11:00 PM | Comments (5) | Posted to Business |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 25, 2008

Grand Theft Auto Lawsuit Settlement: You Get $35, Lawyers Get "One Million Dollars"

One Million Dollars!

It's not often that People Magazine and video games have a lot in common, but in the February 4th issue (the one with Heath Ledger on the cover ... tragic) if you flip to page 50 there an interesting Legal Notice concerning one Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Just in case you forgot in 2007 Rockstar Games proposed a settlement for a class action lawsuit concerning the infamous Hot Coffee modification. As a result any US citizen who was officially "offended and upset" by the ability to unlock this hidden content can now claim up to $35 in compensation.

The exact amount you may be entitled depends upon directly upon how much documentation you have of your "outrage":

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas First Edition Disc: Replacement Disc
Detailed Store Receipt: Cash payment up to $35.00
General Credit Card Statement or Check: Cash payment up to $17.50
Disc/Purchase Details: Cash payment up to $10.00
No Disc/Purchase Details: Cash payment up to $5.00

Full details on the program can be found at GTASettlement.com and you must submit your claim by May 16, 2008 to be eligible for compensation.

Curious about this lawsuit I actually went through the trouble to download the many long and detailed legal documents when I came across this little gem on page 11 of the Motion for Preliminary Approval document concerning the attorneys' fees:

E. Attorneys’ Fees, Costs and Disbursements. Finally, as mentioned above, only this past Friday, the Parties agreed on an amount to compensate Plaintiffs’ Counsel for attorneys’ fees and costs and disbursements in the amount of One Million Dollars ($1,000,000), the entire amount of which will be paid separate and apart from any amounts made available for payment to the Class and Class Representatives, as set forth above. This agreed upon amount includes approximately Forty-Five Thousands Dollars ($45,000) for costs and disbursements and approximately Nine Hundred Fifty Five Thousand Dollars ($955,000) for attorneys’ fees, a highly reasonable request and well within the range previously approved by this and other courts. A full and formal application for attorneys’ fees and costs and disbursements will be made prior to the proposed final fairness hearing for approval of this Settlement.

So to sum up, you can get a brand-new Hot Coffee-free version of GTA: SA and, at most, $35. While the lawyers who are representing you, me, and all the other "little people" damaged by this outrage on humanity are getting a mere "One Million Dollars ($1,000,000)".

Of course I couldn't help but think about the upcoming class action lawsuit against Microsoft concerning a few days of downtime for Xbox Live in late 2007. In that suit three angry Texans are asking for $5 million dollars from Microsoft ... but it's not really about the money.

As the plaintiffs' lawyer, Jason Gibson, explained to MTV News, "These are not guys looking to get rich". "They are college-educated. These are not young kids who just turned 18 and [want] to sue for the fun of it. This is, to them, a real issue." Gibson went on to explain, "They're not going to get a windfall or anything like that."

No, it seems that "windfall" would be reserved for the lawyers...

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:00 PM | Comments (10) | Posted to Business | PlayStation 2 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 20, 2008

Scandal! Corporate Greed! The Truth Behind The Red Ring of Death?

deepthroat-xbox.jpg

A source deep within Microsoft has given an interview to the website 8bitjoystick.com (who successfully predicted Bungie's departure from Microsoft) about the real story behind the Xbox 360's infamous Red Ring of Death. Reportedly understaffed departments, the need to beat Sony to market, and corporate arrogance led to the Xbox 360's abnormally high failure rate.

The insider reported that the test, quality, manufacturing, and supplier management departments were all understaffed and unable to cope with the problems at hand. He then went on to describe how in their determination to beat Sony to market, Microsoft wasn't willing to stop production and get the problem fixed, rather just continue shipping will also trying to fix the problem. He pointed out that Microsoft saw it as a numbers game, that even the first million or so being defective was worth getting ahead of Sony in the market.

The interview also details a few other interesting aspects of the problem. For instance, the insider states that the failure rate for the Xenon (the first Xbox 360s) was at least 30%. He also details how the repair process works, and that it's very unlikely you will get either a new Xbox 360 or your own repaired. In fact, it's very possible to get your new more "reliable" Xbox 360 exchanged for a repaired Xenon.

I may not be an expert in console hardware, but this is what I'd do if I where Microsoft: release a "new and improved" redesigned Xbox 360, just like Sony did the the PS2 Slimline. A slightly different shape and/or color, quieter DVD drive, and compatibility with the current hard drives ... oh yeah, and no Red Ring of Death. This would help to erase the current perception of the Xbox 360 as a highly fallible console, because this is really going to hurt them in the long term.

Of course Microsoft sort of did this already with their more expensive Xbox 360 Elite, which is supposed to have fixed the Red Ring of Death. So you can either buy an Xbox 360 and wait until dies on you, or you can purchase the more expensive Elite version which works like it's supposed to ... I think it might be time for a lemon law for gaming consoles.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 1:00 AM | Comments (5) | Posted to Business | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 18, 2008

December and 2007 NPD's Released: Everybody Wins!

Today the December video game NPD numbers were released and regardless of what each company says, they were good for the entire industry. With an industry total of 17.94 Billion dollars (not counting PC games or hardware), video games broke their previous sales record. This was a 46% increase over 2006's already high sales.

Microsoft spun the NPDs in their favor by saying that 45% of the money consumer's spent on video games was on the Xbox 360 and its games. Microsoft also rubbed their 3rd party sales in Sony's face: Rockband, Call of Duty 4, and Assassin's Creed all sold at least 2 copies on the Xbox 360 for each copy sold on the PS3. Overall, the Xbox 360 had 11 of the top 20 games sold in 2007, and of course, Halo 3 was sitting at the top of that list.

Nintendo gloated over the continued sell out of the Nintendo Wii and the astonishing 8.5 Million DS's they sold in 2007 (2.5 Million in December alone). Nintendo had 15 of the top 30 games of 2007, withWii Play taking second place at 4.12 Million. Mario Galaxy took second place in December sales at 1.40 Million units sold.

Sony found light at the end of the tunnel because the PlayStation "brand" sold $714 million in December, more than either Nintendo or Microsoft. Sony also pointed out that the PS3 had its best month since its launch in December, with 798K units of hardware sold. Sony was also happy to point out that upcoming Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Devil May Cry 4, Burnout Paradise, and HAZE will continue this momentum.

As for 2008, here's what I see: Sony is going to have a great year because of their exclusives, though I don't think they'll surpass the Xbox 360 just yet because Microsoft is getting the lion share of 3rd party sales (specifically Grand Theft Auto 4 on day one). Home however, could really have an impact considering how popular social networking websites have become.

Microsoft on the other hand should be able to continue sitting atop Sony by just relying on their 3rd party sales, though they'll need to prove why we should buy their consoles instead of Sony's. Being cheaper than the competition is good, but they really need some top notch 1st party titles to stay competitive. They also need to prove their online service is the best there is, considering what Sony plans to do for free and with all the trouble Live has had recently.

And Nintendo can pretty much just ignore the other two companies and continue sinking their teeth into the casual market, though it's pretty safe to say that exclusive 3rd party developers will soon abandon the Wii. Games like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart will still keep them in the eye of the hardcore crowd. Then again, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm completely wrong by the end of the next year, considering how surprising this console war has been so far.

THE NPD GROUP's 2007 US GAME INDUSTRY SALES

Category / Total / Change
Video Games: $17.94 billion +43%
Video Games Hardware: $7.04 billion +54%
Console Hardware: $5.12 billion +73%
Portable Game Hardware: $1.92 billion +19%
Video Games Software: $8.64 billion +34%
Console Software: $6.64 billion +39%
Portable Game Software: $2.00 billion +18%
Video Game Accessories: $2.26 billion +52%

Hardware Sales (in units sold)
Nintendo DS: 8.50 million (17.65 million LTD)
Wii: 6.29 million (7.38 million LTD)
Xbox 360: 4.62 million (9.15 million LTD)
PlayStation 2: 3.97 million (41.12 million LTD)
PlayStation Portable: 3.82 million (10.47 million LTD)
PlayStation 3: 2.56 million (3.25 million LTD)

Game Software (in units sold)
1) Halo 3 (360, Microsoft) - 4.82 million
2) Wii Play with Wii Remote (Wii, Nintendo) - 4.12 million
3) Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (360, Activision) - 3.04 million
4) Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (PS2, Activision) - 2.72 million
5) Super Mario Galaxy (Wii, Nintendo) - 2.52 million
6) Pokémon Diamond (DS, Nintendo) - 2.48 million
7) Madden NFL 08 (PS2, Electronic Arts) - 1.9 million
8) Guitar Hero II (PS2, Activision) - 1.89 million
9) Assassin's Creed (360, Ubisoft) - 1.87 million
10) Mario Party 8 (Wii, Nintendo) - 1.82 million

THE NPD GROUP's DECEMBER 2007 US GAME INDUSTRY SALES

Category / Total / Change
Video Games: $4.82 billion +28%
Video Games Hardware: $1.83 billion +17%
Console Hardware $1.3 billion: +21%
Portable Game Hardware: $525,700 +7%
Video Games Software: $2.37 billion +36%
Console Software $1.8 billion: +47%
Portable Game Software: $574,900 +11%
Video Game Accessories: $621,600 +37%

Hardware Sales (in units sold)
Nintendo DS: 2.47 million
Wii: 1.35 million
Xbox 360: 1.26 million
PlayStation 2: 1.1 million
PlayStation Portable: 1.06 million
PlayStation 3: 797,600

Game Software (in units sold)
1) Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat (360, Activision) - 1.47 million
2) Super Mario Galaxy (Wii, Nintendo) - 1.40 million
3) Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (PS2, Activision) - 1.25 million
4) Wii Play with Wii Remote (Wii, Nintendo) - 1.08 million
5) Assassin's Creed (360, Ubisoft) - 893,700
6) Halo 3 (360, Microsoft) - 742,700
7) Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day (DS, Nintendo) - 659,500
8) Madden NFL 08 (PS2, Electronic Arts) - 655,200
9) Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (360, Activision) - 624,600
10) Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games (Wii, Sega) - 613,000

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 9:00 AM | Comments (11) | Posted to Business |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 16, 2008

Writers Guild of America to Honor Video Games; Snub Portal, BioShock, and Mass Effect

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The Writers Guild of America has been in the headlines this past few months for their on going strike against their Producers, but even on the picket lines the guild has listed its first winners for their "Videogame Writing Award": Crash of the Titans, Dead Head Fred, The Simpsons Game, The Witcher, and World in Conflict.

What eludes me to no end is how big name releases like BioShock and Mass Effect were kept off the list, despite one having a totally original story, place, and character, and the other containing nearly a full books worth of dialog and back story. And perhaps most grievous is to leave off the critical darling, Portal. Part of the magic experienced the first time you play that game is the darkly hilarious writing spouted from the GlaDOS. The game didn't even require the story to be great, but Valve created one of the most memorable game experiences in years because of it. I suppose Steve was right about it being overlooked.

I am also amazed that Half Life 2: Episode 2 was also left off the list. Perhaps disqualified for being a direct continuation of the story, the latest episode has some of the most emotional scenes in the series, and perhaps in all of gaming. If I could nominate a best female performance in gaming, it would definitely have to go to Merle Dandridge, who performs Alyx's voice in the series.

While I'd agree that The Simpsons Game and The Witcher have great writing, what I can't understand is how the WGA thought Crash of the Titans had better writing than all the other games I mentioned. I mean ... did they play the game?

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 6:00 PM | Comments (7) | Posted to Business |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 13, 2008

The Bleeding Continues, Alex Navarro Leaves GameSpot

Alex Navarro

As reported by Kotaku, Alex Navarro has left GameSpot. He was one of the site's longest tenured review editors and contributed numerous video reviews to the site.

Of course, no one wants to mention the elephant in the room, so I will: this has everything to do with the firing of Jeff Gerstmann.

Let's sum up what's happened since that infamous event: Tim Tracy has left; freelancer Frank Provo, who had contributed over 750 reviews to GameSpot (slightly more than Navarro) has left; and now Navarro.

GameSpot is a site that I have been a paid subscriber to in the past. It was one of those gaming sites that I felt I could count on to turn a critical eye on games, as well as the home of one of the best (and funniest) gaming podcasts anywhere.

The site's credibility takes a hit with each departure and the editorial section of the site is losing more and more talent as time goes by, talent not easily replaced. The most telling line of the Kotaku story is Ricardo Torres' repeated statements that GameSpot is trying to "move forward".

But the site seems unable to move forward for now, as each departure reminds readers of the scandal and reminds them that the site might still be getting pressure to soften its tone and become more advertising-friendly.

Is GameSpot destined to die a death by 1,000 cuts? I don't think so but the site clearly has a huge fight on its hands to regain its editorial integrity. It will either take a long time or a complete reinvention of the site's image.

And the worst thing is, it's not GameSpot's blunder, it's CNet's (and possibly Eidos'). But GameSpot is paying the price, again and again.

Posted by cwrice at 10:00 PM | Comments (5) | Posted to Business |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 10, 2008

CES Video Game Announcements in Review

CES

For those not in the know, the Consumer Electronics Show has been taking place over the last few days in Las Vegas. PCs, Consoles, and even portable game machines can easily be brought under the umbrella of consumer electronics, meaning interesting new hardware related announcements have come from the Expo for every major platform, except oddly Nintendo.

The PSP rumors of the addition of Skype have turned out to be true and Sony will be implementing the Voice over IP service to only the new thinner PSP later this month. The US PSP will also be getting the GPS, camera, and keypad accessories. Another interesting addition to the PSP is the ability for PS3 owners to copy a lower resolution version of any Blu-Ray movie to their PSP's memory card, an addition Sony promises to implement in 2008.

Speaking of the PS3, Sony has promised that the most asked for software update will be coming out this year: the ability to use the XMB in game. Taking a page out the Xbox 360's operating system, this Cross Media Bar (XMB) update could potentially allow users to see what their friends are playing and join their online games, all without quitting out of their current game.

Getting the least attention this year, Microsoft announced that the Xbox 360 will finally be getting Internet Protocol Television (which they announced last year), starting out on the European service provider BT Vision. Unfortunately, Xbox 360 users will not be able to use this service to record or pause live TV (which is what I thought IPTV was for). Microsoft did not announce the fabled "Xbox 360 Ultimate" with internal HD DVD drive, which is probably a good thing considering HD DVD's recent loss of Warner Bros. as a content provider. At least there is the potential of a Blu-Ray player for the Xbox 360.

PC games weren't left out, with Microsoft's announcement of many more "Games for Windows" games including: Alone in the Dark, Bionic Commando, Conflict: Denied Ops, Empire: Total War, LEGO Indiana Jones, Microsoft Train Simulator 2, Sins of a Solar Empire, Space Siege, and Tomb Raider: Underworld.

Hardware announced for the PC includes Alienware's awesome looking super wide screen curved display, which is the equivalent of two 24 inch monitors stuck together . iZ3D showed off their innovative 22 inch 3D computer monitor, which unfortunately isn't compatible with SLI or Crossfire, Dual Displays, OpenGL, or 64-bit applications. The idea of truly 3D games is intriguing though.

I'm most excited about the PS3 getting in game XMB, yet another addition that will tempt me into purchasing my own and Alienware's drool worthy curved computer display. Anything catch your interest at CES?

Oh yes, and here is some video of Alienware's swanky new curved display ... I want that:

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 1:30 PM | Comments (4) | Posted to Business | PC | PlayStation 3 | PSP | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 8, 2008

Xbox Live Class Action Lawsuit Worth Pennies, Not Millions

Sue Microsoft: Collect $5 million dollars

A few days ago three angry Texas gamers filed a class action lawsuit against Microsoft for holiday Xbox Live outages to the tune of $5 million US Dollars. I was going over the case, examining their potential damages, and determined that this lawsuit makes absolutely no sense to me.

Okay, so maybe Microsoft had unexpected downtime, but demanding 365/24/7 service is expecting God-like powers from Microsoft. If it were quantified into actual lost funds, Microsoft’s announced free game offer is very generous.

When you join Xbox Live, you agree to a contractual Terms of Use that you must agree to in order to join. Those terms include downtimes as necessary and paragraph 16, where you accept limited liability and no warranty. Here is that portion of the document:

16. WE MAKE NO WARRANTY We provide the Service "as-is," "with all faults" and "as available." The Microsoft Parties give no express warranties, guarantees or conditions. You may have additional consumer rights under your local laws that this contract cannot change. To the extent permitted by law, we exclude the implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, workmanlike effort and non-infringement.

Xbox Live users are subject to downtimes, regardless of reasons or causes. Basically, if Microsoft provides the service that you pay for, you have no other say in the matter.

And even if Microsoft is liable for the downtime, the actual refund amount may shock you.

If you are a Silver member, or one on a free trial offer, Microsoft owes you nothing as the service provided is cost you nothing. If you are a Gold member, you can divide up your yearly fee to a daily fee. $50 US Dollars for an annual fee is approximately 13.7 cents a day. The downtime was about 6 days, which ends up being 82 cents.

So as compensation for the downtime Microsoft is offering a free XBLA game to Xbox Live users. This offer will most likely be a game worth $5 USD. Not only do they owe Live users nothing, but this offer is generous! If you accept the game, you cannot participate in the class action and lose your claim of your 82 cents. I advise you to take the game offer.

Lawyers have a bad reputation for frivolous lawsuits. This class action suit is just one of the many reasons for that negative stereotype. It is obvious the lawyers taking on this case have not done their homework and are showing their inexperience in an embarrassingly public way. After all, what do you call a lawyer who graduates last in his class? You call him “attorney.”

Posted by Robert Gauss at 1:15 PM | Comments (17) | Posted to Business | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 5, 2008

Gerstmann-Gate Isn't Over Yet: GameSpot Writer Quits Over the Debacle

All of Gamespot's Men

While GameSpot and Eidos all wish we would just forget, the impact of Jeff Gerstmann's "complicated" firing still lingers over the industry. The latest development of the debacle is Frank Provo's departure from GameSpot. A freelance writer with over 7 years at Gamespot and who wrote 751 reviews, his reasons for departure can hardly be called respectful. From Provo's Gamespot blog:

"I believe CNet management let Jeff go for all the wrong reasons. I believe CNet intends to soften the site's tone and push for higher scores to make advertisers happy.

I won't lie to people and tell them a game is good when it isn't. I won't downplay negatives that readers have a right to know about."

All I can say is ouch. With only unconfirmed rumors that Gerstmann's firing from GamesSot was the result of advertisement pressure over his unflattering Kane & Lynch review, this will only deal another blow to GameSpot's reputation. Provo also directly targeted the management of GameSpot and CNet in order to defend his fellow writers at GameSpot by saying, "The GameSpot staff did not fire Jeff. The GameSpot staff are NOT corrupt. GameSpot itself is NOT the problem. CNet is. CNet's management is."

The video game journalism industry, like any industry that reviews and covers a medium, has only its reputation to rely on. Review readers rely on the integrity and taste of the reviewer, and if you feel you can't trust them, you won't read their reviews. I can easily see why the writers at GameSpot would want to leave, because whether or not Gerstmann was fired for his review GameSpot can not be a pleasant place to work these days.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 1:45 AM | Comments (6) | Posted to Business |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!