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Saturday, January 20th 2007

STATE OF THE SITE: WE'RE MOVIN ON UP!

If you use our regular www.nylatenite.com web address, you may have noticed that something has changed... the popups and ads that once infected this site are now gone. Yes, we've changed hosts and moved to a new web provider.

What does this mean to you? Well, for starters, you won't get bothered with thousands of popups anymore. I always hated that part of free-hosting plans and with the site's viewership increasing, I felt it was finally time to get rid of them.

We're also planning on making some changes to the way the site itself works, though those changes won't go into effect right away. Most of the changes will involve making the site more user friendly on both the back-end side as well as the pages you see. The reason behind this is that over time, the site has become a bit of a monster itself, often causing half of the time I spend on it to be lost just dealing with update related issues. I'd much rather spend that time giving you more news or playing games.

There are some things some of our viewers need to be made aware of...

  1. If you visit the site from the www.nylatenite.com address, nothing changes for you. Keep your browser pointed here and we'll be with you daily.
  2. If you visit the older format (the black and blue color scheme) version of the site at http://members.tripod.com/nylatenite/gamersparadise.htm, you will need to change your bookmark. The new link for the old color scheme is www.nylatenite.com/gamersparadise.htm
  3. While we're looking for a way around it, there's a good chance that when the final changes to the site go active in the next few weeks, that old color scheme pages will cease to be updated. Again, I know some of you prefer the dark color scheme, but we may have to pick just one and the lighter, more modern scheme is by far the favorite.
  4. The old web address of http://members.tripod.com/nylatenite/gamersparadise.htm will remain standing, but will no longer be updated with gaming news. The reason we're keeping this page up is because there are a lot of places that still link to the site for the "Build your own arcade cabinet" walkthrough, and while I know the sites I've personally submitted the address to over the years, I've found that many visitors have come from places that I never knew linked back to the site. Eventually the old tripod page will be changed to reflect the cabinet building aspect alone.

Once again, please set your bookmarks to http://www.nylatenite.com (for the modern version) or http://www.nylatenite.com/gamersparadise.htm (for the older version) - and enjoy the lack of popups.

While we're talking about advertisements, at this time we do not plan on soliciting advertising to defray our hosting costs. We're still building an audience, so we're not getting killed with expenses. besides that, the site is not a commercial venture at this time, so we cannot sell advertising space. You may see some ads for some of our friends websites or for products that we really like being posted as tests of the viability of someday accepting advertising. Those ads will not be popups.

Finally, for those wondering, I was fighting the urge to print the lyrics to the theme song from "The Jeffersons" the entire time I was writing this post... and in the end, I lost that battle...

"Well we’re movin' on up, to the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin' on up to the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Fish don’t fry in the kitchen;
Beans don’t burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta tryin’ just to get up that hill.
Now we’re up in the big leagues
Gettin’ our turn at bat.
As long as we live, it’s you and me baby
There ain’t nothin wrong with that.

Well we’re movin' on up, to the East Side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin' on up to the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie." - The Jeffersons theme song

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Friday, January 19th 2007

XBOX 360 BATTLESTATIONS: MIDWAY DEMO NOW AVAILABLE

An multiplayer demo of Eidos Interactive's Battlestations: Midway for the Xbox 360 is now available for download to Xbox Live Gold members in all regions other than Japan. The demo weighs in at 446.43mb and can be obtained via the Xbox Live Marketplace. Here's the dashboard write up on this one;

"Download and play the Battlestations: Midway multiplayer demo and be one of the first to experience a new style of online warfare. Featuring massive Xbox Live battles with over 100 fully controllable warships, aircraft and submarines, each player can take full command of a fleet of units and fight cooperatively with their team-mates in the greatest sea battles of WWII. Prepare for war on a totally new scale!" - Battlestations: Midway demo text

No ETA was given as to when Xbox Live Silver members can expect to see this content.

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XBOX 360 CALL OF DUTY 3 "VALOR" MAP PACK BROKEN

Just a quick note here - apparently the "Valor" map pack for Call of Duty 3 that was released yesterday has some serious bugs in it. At present, the maps simply don't work at all and while both Treyarch and Microsoft are working on correcting the issue, there's currently no ETA for the repairs.

Xbox Live Director of Programming Larry "Major Nelson" Hyrb has directed his readers to this post on the Xbox.com forums where Treyarch will be updating their progress in getting the problem fixed. Here's the latest update as of this posting;

"Well folks... it has been a crazy and hectic day, and we are continuing to work towards a solution through the night.  We've made some progress through cooperation with Microsoft.  We had hoped to resolve the technical issues with the map pack by the end of the day today, but it looks like that will not happen.

We do know that the package posted to Marketplace this morning is not valid and will not work with the game, so deleting the old file through the system blade of the dashboard will at least put users a step ahead when the new package goes live.

I realize that this is disappointing news - I assure you that we are doing everything that we can to resolve this as soon as possible.  Please hang with us as we work through this, and stay tuned for further updates." - Axisof3vil - Treyarch

Remember what I said yesterday about one of the serious issues being a lack of testing and a "We can just patch it later" attitude? Well, I rest my case.

For more information, check out the following links;

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Thursday, January 18th 2007

XBOX 360 OWNERS - MAJOR NELSON WANTS YOU

Yes, he wants you - he wants you bad... but only for your mind. In Microsoft's continuing efforts to keep Xbox Live at the top of the online service food chain, Xbox Live Director of Programming Larry "Major Nelson" Hyrb has put out a call to Xbox 360 owners to write in with suggestions on how the company can improve Xbox Live, Xbox.com and the Xbox 360 itself.

While we can debate whether or not Microsoft actually plans on listening to any of the feedback it gets or if they're just trying to drum up some positive PR, there's no question that this move is going to generate a lot of responses - if there's one thing gamers are, it's opinionated. Personally, I'd like to see the following added to the roster;

So that's my wish list, and I plan on tacking it onto the current thread over at the Major's blog. If you want to make your opinion heard, head over to the post at this link to put your 25 cents worth into the coin box.

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Wednesday, January 17th 2007

XBOX LIVE ARCADE WEDNESDAYS: HEAVY WEAPON: ATOMIC TANK

It's Wednesday, and you know what that means... No wiseass, it's not Prince Spaghetti Day, it's time for a new Xbox Live Arcade title to hit the Marketplace. This week, Microsoft brings us PopCap's Heavy Weapon: Atomic Tank, and I'll be the first one to admit that I don't know much about the game beyond the fact that it's been explained by many as being "like Metal Slug".

While I absolutely love the Metal Slug series, I'm always wary whenever people say something is "like" something else, because that usually means two things;

  1. It's probably a cheap knock-off of whatever it's supposed to be mimicking - and therefore nowhere near as good.
  2. There are enough fundamental differences that separate it from being the title it's apparently based on - probably enough to kill whatever concept makes the inspiration for it so special.

As with all Live Arcade games, this one will have a free demo available, so be sure to try before you buy. Here are the details as per Xbox.com;

Title: Heavy Weapon: Atomic Tank
Developer: PopCap Games
Publisher: PopCap Games
Genre: Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: 1/17/07
Console: Xbox 360
Players: 1-4
Xbox Live: Yes
HDTV Support: 720p
Full Game: 800 points ($10)
ESRB Rating: E10 (Everyone 10+)
Demo?: Yes

From the Xbox.com product description;

"Heavy Weapon: Atomic Tank unleashes adrenaline-soaked side-scrolling shoot-'em-up arcade action. With a blast of retro eighties videogame chic, Heavy Weapon brings classic shooter action and explosive power to Xbox Live® Arcade.

Fight through 19 story-based missions to upgrade six different weapon banks, or jump into instant action with the blazing Survival mode. Grab your friends and storm across enemy lines in co-operative multiplayer modes! Are you ready for the furious fun of Heavy Weapon?

As for last week's release of Ms. Pac-Man, as I predicted, the 360's d-pad is the main detriment to the title and those 4 way control issues that virtually ruined Pac-Man are back in force. You have been warned. Nothing - and I mean NOTHING - is as frustrating as coming close to breaking a friend's high score but failing because you turned the wrong way thanks to poor controls. (Can you tell this happened to me a few times already?)

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Tuesday, January 16th 2007

LAZY DAY TRAILERS: GOD OF WAR II PREVIEW

With tonight's midnight release of World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, it should come as no surprise that instead of a ton of news, you're getting a video. I lost interest with WoW awhile back, and I'm really interested to see if the expansion is going to renew my love of the game. I'm not leaving you in bad hands today though, as I've got a video from IGN's interview with Cory Barlog, director of God of War II, to tide you over while I get reacquainted with Azeroth.

Barlog touches a bit on the story and enhancements behind Kratos' second adventure while showing off some footage of the much anticipated title. Let's take a look;

While we're on the subject of God of War II and Cory Barlog, a recent post by Barlog in his blog (as pointed out by Kikizo Games) indicates that Sony may be getting ready to send out NTSC demo discs of the game. While his comments indicate he collected a list of people to send the demo out to some time ago, it wouldn't surprise me if Sony sent the same demo out to PlayStation Underground members as they did with the first game. As such, you may want to make sure your PlayStation Underground account sees some activity to ensure they know you're still around. (I've found that the more often you update your Underground account, the more often you get stuff from Sony)

God of War II will be released exclusively on the PlayStation 2 on March 13th, 2007 in North America and has not yet been rated by the ESRB.

Here are some links for your surfing enjoyment;

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Monday, January 15th 2007

THIS WEEK'S RELEASES: JANUARY 15TH - JANUARY 21ST

While it's another thin list this week, there are a couple of titles worth pointing out. Let's get the obvious out of the way first - World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade hits retail shelves this week and should be the sales equivalent of a nuclear bomb. While I've listed both the standard edition and the collector's edition of the game, you should be aware that unless you've already pre-ordered the collector's edition, You probably don't even have a snowball's chance in hell of finding it in the stores. Beyond that, Nintendo DS owners get to go back to the courtroom with Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All, while Nintendo Wii owners get to play around with Wario Ware: Smooth Moves. Here's everything you can probably expect to see on store shelves this week;

One other note - those of you who have pre-ordered World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade may want to check with your local store to see if they'll be participating in Monday nights launch event. (Some stores will be allowing pre-orders to be picked up at 12:01am on Tuesday, January 16th)

Please keep in mind these are only estimated release dates and could change at any time.

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THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL 2 MILLION POINT GIVEAWAY ENDS TODAY

Well gang, this is it - the last day of The Discovery Channel's 2 million point giveaway. If you're still looking to play, tonight's game is going to take a little more effort on your part. You'll need to watch the premiere episode of Future Weapons and then head over to the Future Weapons website after 10:01pm EST. Once there in addition to just giving your name and contact information, you'll need to answer a few questions about the episode you just watched. Here are some more specifics as per the Future Weapons website;

"To enter online, visit www.readyaimfuture.com after 10:01 P.M. Eastern Time (“ET”) on 1/15/07 (“Promotion Entry Period 2”) and follow all online entry instructions to complete and submit the online entry. Online entrants will be prompted to answer a question pertaining to the content of the Future Weapons premiere on Discovery Channel 1/15/07 9:00 PM Eastern Time (ET) to qualify for prize.  Online entrants subject to all notices posted online including but not limited to privacy policy." - Future Weapons contest rules

Good luck to all who have entered!

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Sunday, January 14th 2006

THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL 2 MILLION POINT GIVEAWAY CONTINUES

Okay gang, stage two of The Discovery Channel's Xbox Live 2 Million Point Giveaway has begun. If you missed out on signing up yesterday, all you have to do is head over to the Future Weapons website and follow the directions to enter the contest. A total of 500,000 points will be awarded today in 400 point increments. From what I can see, will be assigned randomly to those who signed up for the contest. Winners will be notified of their status in a few days - you will not know instantly if you've been selected. From what I can see, the contest is limited to one entry per person, so if you signed up yesterday, your cannot sign up again today. I could be wrong on that, but that's the way I read the rules.

The second stage of the contest will be open until 11:59pm EST tonight - check the promotional site for the rules and specifics.

So if you still haven't thrown your hat into the ring for your piece of the 2 million point pie, be sure to visit the Future Weapons contest site at this link to play.

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Saturday, January 13th 2007

THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL 2 MILLION POINT GIVEAWAY BEGINS

Okay gang, stage one of The Discovery Channel's Xbox Live 2 Million Point Giveaway has begun. For this stage of the promotion, all you have to do is head over to the Future Weapons website and follow the directions to enter the contest. A total of 500,000 points will be awarded today in 400 point increments. From what I can see, will be assigned randomly to those who signed up for the contest. Winners will be notified of their status in a few days - you will not know instantly if you've been selected.

The first stage of the contest will be open until 11:59pm EST tonight - check the promotional site for the rules and specifics.

So there ya have it, stop reading the news and head on over to the Future Weapons contest site at this link to play.

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INSIDE THE LOST PLANET COLLECTOR'S EDITION BOX

I'll admit it - When it's a game I'm excited about, I'm a total whore for collector's editions and pre-order goodies. Needless to say, I pre-ordered the collector's edition of Capcom's Lost Planet: Extreme Condition from Gamestop and figure I'd share some pictures of what you get for your money. When checking out the pictures below, keep in mind that the PTX-40R Vital Suit action figure does NOT come with the collector's edition of the game, but was offered as a bonus for pre-ordering the game at Gamestop.

The Lost Planet Collector's Edition includes the following;

Click on the thumbnails below to see larger versions of each picture.

While we're on the subject of Lost Planet, am I the only who one finds it utterly hilarious that while everyone else is bundled up against the cold, Luka is walking around with her jacket partially unbuttoned, giving everyone a great view of her cleavage? Hey, I'm a guy - I notice these things.

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XBOX 360 DASHBOARD THEME PREVIEW IMAGES

Have you ever thought about buying one of the Xbox 360 dashboard themes from the Live Marketplace but stopped because there was no way to see what it would look like before you bought it? I have, and I'm glad to see that someone out there has decided to do something about it. Dashboard Themes is collecting images of each set of dashboard themes and making them available for your viewing pleasure - why it had to come down to 360 fans doing it instead of Microsoft I can't tell you, but I'm sure glad someone is making the effort.

Click here to head on over to Dashboard Themes and check out what's available for the 360. Before you run off and spend money over in the Marketplace, just remember that even though you'll be limited to only one image for all the blades, you can make your own Dashboard Theme without spending a penny - click here to head back to our post on how to do it.

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NYKO TO RELEASE GUITAR HERO ADAPTER FOR PLAYSTATION 3

I came across this bit of great news over at Kotaku the other day. If you've been following the news on the PlayStation 3, you've probably heard that because of the unique controller used for the Guitar Hero series, both Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero II do not work with the PlayStation 3's backwards compatibility feature. RedOctane had previously mentioned that they could see no way around the issue and that unfortunately, PS3 owners were just going to have to either miss out on Guitar Hero or play it on the PlayStation 2.

Well, word from Nyko is that they've found a way to get RedOctane's shred-fest running on the PS3, and the answer comes in the form of the Nyko Play Adapter. According to Kotaku's Michael McWhertor, Nyko's sales reps have confirmed that the adapter will allow gamers to use their guitar peripherals with the PlayStation 3. Awesome news indeed.

Click here to head over to Kotaku and get the full head's up on this story.

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GRAN TURISMO HD CONCEPT UPDATED TO VERSION 1.1

While checking my e-mail last night, I got a little note from the PlayStation Underground advising me of the following;

"Our records indicate that you downloaded Gran Turismo HD Concept from the PLAYSTATION(R)Store. Version 1.1 is now available for download, which refines the gameplay experience in Time Trial mode and the accuracy of lap times within the online rankings. Since online ranking results recorded by version 1.1 players will be given priority, it is highly recommended that you download and install it if you are playing the earlier version.
Please note that version 1.1 is compatible with existing game save data, allowing you to race your previously unlocked cars.

We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused and hope you enjoy Gran Turismo HD Concept." - PlayStation Underground e-mail notice

So if you have a PlayStation 3, head on over to the PlayStation Store (I refuse to put it all in caps) and grab the updated version of Gran Turismo HD Concept.

Out of curiosity, does anyone else often catch themselves doing an imitation of StrongBad when they check their e-mail accounts?

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SAINTS ROW COMING TO PLAYSTATION 3?

1UP.com is reporting that Gamestop had added THQ's Saints Row to the list of upcoming PlayStation 3 releases late last week, but quickly took the product page off the site. Is it a case of the game being added in error, or another situation where the retailer listed a title before it was officially announced?

While I would already be inclined to mark this one as "probably true", I decided to check around the 'net to see if anyone had a little more information on this one. In doing so, I came across Kotaku's report on the story and they made an excellent point. If you look at Saints Row's box (and I did) there's no "Only on Xbox 360" graphic up top - so at the very least, THQ has never claimed that Saints Row was going to be an Xbox 360 exclusive. If the screenshot that accompanies the Kotaku story is real, the game will be hitting retail on May 15th, 2007. My guess is even if that date was just a placeholder, we'll be seeing it on the PS3 by summer at the very latest. I'm quite sure THQ doesn't want to get caught anywhere near Grand Theft Auto IV's release window.

Be sure to check out the following two articles for more information on what's going on;

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PANTALONES EN FUEGO: FIRESTORM OVER MOTORSTORM COMMENTS

Sony, Sony, Sony... Why must you treat us so? It looks like the folks at Sony have stepped in it yet again. According to 1UP.com, last week at CES, Sony's Senior VP of Marketing, Peter Dille announced to the Sony faithful that the U.S. version of MotorStorm would be running in 1080p at a whopping 60fps on the PlayStation 3. Normally, that would be something to cheer about, except for the fact that Sony later recanted the statement and instead confirmed that MotorStorm would remain at 720p with a frame rate of 30fps for the U.S. release.

Gotta love that. I always find it interesting when a company throws out fake numbers in front of a huge audience and then later revises them, knowing that everyone is going to file a report on the initial announcement, but that most won't bother mentioning the correction later. While I'm not saying that this is what Sony did this time around, I do wonder about it. I mean, this is Sony's Senior VP of Marketing we're talking about, not the kid down the block who just picked up the latest issue of GamePro. You would think that someone out bother would be fact checking his speeches before he gives them.

As expected, here's the link for the 1UP.com article I'm talking about.

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EVER WONDER WHY YOUR OLD SUPER NINTENDO TURNED YELLOW?

I know I have. Late at night, I often look at the shelf my old Super Nintendo sits on and ask myself "Why the hell did the bottom of my SNES turn yellow but not the top - WTF is up with that?" - Yeah, I know, I have too much time on my hands. Anyway, the good folks over at Vintage Computing and Gaming have finally provided the answer - and maybe now I'll be able to get some much needed sleep.

Anyway, the answer is a little complicated, so I'll simplify things and let those of you looking for a more in depth answer to click the link and read the whole article - something I highly recommend as it's not just an interesting topic, but something that could be of great help to console collectors everywhere. In short, the problem lies with the manufacturing process used to make certain plastics, including ABS plastic, which is what the Super Nintendo is made out of.

In the case of the SNES, it would at least appear that in older models too much of a flame retardant chemical was used in the mix, and that causes the plastic to degrade over time - and that degradation is accelerated when the console is exposed to certain conditions. As for cases like my trusty old SNES and it's color issues, it would appear that it was built some time during the period in which those ratios were corrected. In other words, the bottom half of the case was made before the correction, the top half afterwards.

This isn't something that only affects the Super Nintendo though. I'm sure everyone has seen an old computer monitor, computer or the like that has yellowed over time. That's not dirt, folks(well, at least not all of it is) - it's the same degradation process. That said, Vintage Computing and Gaming had some advice on ways to at least slow the degradation process;

"Prevention Methods:

  1. Keep your most prized collector pieces out of rooms with fluorescent lighting.
  2. Keep your units away from windows and sunlight because, like the fluorescent lighting, the UV exposure will drastically hasten their discoloration. Even indirect sunlight can do damage over time.
  3. Avoid placing your unit next to a heat source such as a radiator, air duct, or fireplace. Or in the fire.
  4. Do not keep your machines in a room where people smoke tobacco (wacky or otherwise).
  5. Apply a coat of UV protectant.
  6. Try not to breathe too heavily upon your console’s exterior. Ok — this one’s a joke.
  7. For the ultimate in protection, seal your unit in a lead-lined, temperature-controlled, evacuated vault away from any radiation, visible or otherwise. But hey, what fun is that?" - Vintage Computing and Gaming

Like I said, the article is a must read for anyone who's ever wondered why that yellowing occurs and what they can do about it - check it out at this link.

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MAME32 .111.3 RELEASED

Following in the footsteps of the command line version, MAME32 v.111.3, the Windows GUI port of MAME v.111 is also now available.

Check out the official MAME32 page here for more details and the download links.

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MAME V.111U3 RELEASED

The latest "update" version of the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, version 1.11u3, is now available for download. This time around the update is focusing on some serious background changes and the dev team has advised that unless you're looking to take some risks - or test the latest build - you should probably steer clear of the update for now. If you are interested in testing the build, head on over to MAME Testers to find out how to get started.

The updated emulator files can be found at the official MAME page at Mamedev.org. You can Click here to see the full list of what's new in this update.

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Friday, January 12th 2007

RED OCTANE STILL TRYING TO GO WIRELESS ON THE 360?

Game|Life is reporting that RedOctane is still trying to convince Microsoft to allow them to make the X-Plorer guitar that will be included with the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II wireless, and may even go so far as to release an unlicensed wireless guitar should Microsoft refuse to relent.

I understand Microsoft's hesitance to allow just anyone to make wireless controllers for the 360, as the last thing they want is for people to say the 360's wireless features suck because the only time they used it was with some low budget third party wireless controller. I also understand the fact that by being the only game in town for wireless 360 accessories, Microsoft ensures that their controllers are going to sell better than anyone else's. However, unless Microsoft has some plan on releasing a wireless guitar of their own (which as far as I know, they don't), they really should step up to the plate and let RedOctane take GH2 wireless.

Guitar Hero II is a huge franchise on the PlayStation 2 and is undoubtedly going to be a huge franchise on the Xbox 360 as well. More importantly, in the short term at least, it's going to be the only way to play the game on a next-gen system. That means sales and lots of them. What it also means is that many of the people who are considering purchasing the 360 version of the game will have played it before and may have purchased additional guitars in the past - many of them wireless guitars. While those gamers may be thrilled with the idea of downloadable songs (cha-ching), they may not be too keen on the thought of going back to using a wired controller, or may be fearful that they'll once again have to buy yet another guitar somewhere down the road when a wireless model becomes available.

Rather than risk losing some of those game sales (and whatever cut of the additional songs Microsoft will make via the Marketplace), MS should take full advantage of the the "next-gen exclusivity" factor and do whatever they can to ensure the 360 version of Guitar Hero II will sell like hotcakes. Think about it, if people are willing to buy hundreds of MP3 files at $1.00 per song, I'm quite sure they'd be willing to spend the same (or more) to play their favorites in a game. This one game could theoretically become a cash cow that would make previous downloadable content sales look pathetic by comparison - if Microsoft gets there first.

So Microsoft, if you're listening, pick up the damn phone and call the folks over at RedOctane. Tell them you're willing to help bring the wireless Guitar Hero II experience to the Xbox 360 because it's the right thing to do and it's what your customers want - because if you don't, I'm sure one of your competitors will - and what's a few months additional wait to people who already have another version of the game?

Anyway, enough rambling from me - if you want to check out the Game|Life article that starter this long-winded post, click here.

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CASTLEVANIA: SYMPHONY OF THE NIGHT TO BREAK 50MB XBLA LIMIT

If you ever had the privilege of playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on the original PlayStation, then you understand why so many people consider the game the greatest of the Castlevania series (Sorry Rondo fans, but I'm a SoTN supporter). You may also have been worried that Microsoft was going to force Konami to butcher the title in order for it to bring it within the 50mb Xbox Live Arcade limit - well, worry no more.

Gamespot is reporting that Microsoft has announced that they will be making an exception for Symphony of the Night - and it may not be the only title getting that kind of treatment;

"Even though Symphony of the Night will exceed the size limit, Canessa indicated that there is still a 50MB cap on Live Arcade games, although Microsoft is willing to make exceptions to the rule. "If any games do exceed 50 MB, it's for a very specific reason that would ensure that the gameplay experience is the best it can be," Canessa said.

Microsoft is willing to look the other way on Symphony of the Night, and according to Canessa, it won't be the last of its kind on Live Arcade.

"Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of the most popular games of all time, and you can [bet] that you'll see similar high-quality games come to Xbox Live Arcade in the future," Canessa said. " - Gamespot article summarizing a conversation with Greg Canessa, Microsoft's group manager for Xbox Live Arcade

Seeing how the original PlayStation version of the game was approximately 300mb, this is good news indeed. If you're worried about just how much space Symphony is going to take up, you may want to try seeing if the the "XBLA burn to DVD" method we mentioned a few months back will work with this one.

According to Kotaku, Symphony of the Night will be hitting the Xbox Live Arcade on February 10th, 2007.

Check out the Gamespot article here for more details on Gamespot's conversation with Greg Canessa, here for the Kotaku post indicating the game's release date and here for our earlier post on how to play Xbox Live Arcade titles you've purchased off a CD or DVD.

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FREE XBOX 360 CALL OF DUTY 3 MAP NOW AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD

Major Nelson is reporting that a new bonus map for the Xbox 360 version of Call of Duty 3 is now available free to Xbox Live Gold subscribers via the Xbox Live Marketplace. This time around, the Major gave no ETA as to when Live Silver subscribers can expect to see this bit of content trickle down to them. Here's the dashboard write up for the new map "Champs";

"FREE! “Champs” is an exclusive new multiplayer map that brings CLASSIC Call of Duty infantry-based combat to Port Royal des Champs, a war-torn French farm town. The map’s compact design is perfect for small and medium-sized team games in online, split-screen, and System Link play, or crank up the intensity with 24-player mayhem. A country road snakes across the landscape from a private chateau to a heavily battered cathedral. Vast wheat fields, hidden ravines, and blown-out buildings provide endless tactical opportunities for squads or lone soldiers to flank the enemy with stealth. Experience explosive action like never before in this free Bonus Map!" - MajorNelson.com

Free is always good, so if you've got the game (or plan on picking it up) be sure to download this one.

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Thursday, January 11th 2006

MICROSOFT TALKS IPTV AND HDMI WITH GAMESPOT

Gamespot had a chance to sit down with Chris Satchell, general manager of the game developer group at Microsoft and pick his brain about IPTV, the video marketplace and of course, those pesky HDMI equipped Xbox 360 videos and photos. Let's get the burning question out of the way first - Did Microsoft confirm that a HDMI equipped Xbox 360 exists? The answer, it would seem, is both yes and no.

While never explicitly mentioning the HDMI-equipped 360, Satchell answered that anything we may have seen over the last few days is based on experimentation over at Microsoft's Redmond offices, but that there were no plans to actually release such a machine;

"GS: What can you tell us about the HDMI-enabled Xbox 360 rumors that have been going around?

CS: We're always working on prototypes and new technologies and just playing with stuff in Redmond to see what's interesting. I think at the moment we have the widest available connections on the system. If you want to get great HD, I think we've got a good solution for that. In the future it's interesting to see where standards evolve to. I think one of the problems that the whole industry, us and entertainment, are facing at the moment is we're in this world where standards are evolving very quickly.

We have different high-definition standards for discs that we know are competing at the moment. We think HD-DVD is going to be the right way to go, but really it's all about choice in that system so that's why we're offering these sort of services with downloads--skip that whole "format wars" problem. With other standards, audiovideo standards, they're evolving very quickly as well. We're obviously keeping an eye on that and saying, "What are the future standards and how do we give consumers the right choice for that?"

At the moment, everything you might have seen is just looking at our experimentation back in Redmond, not really a product that we're thinking about announcing." - Chris Satchell, general manager - Microsoft game developer group via Gamespot

So there you have it, odds are what we saw was something Microsoft was playing with, but not something they plan on announcing any time soon. While that's tantamount to saying "Yes, we have it", there's certainly enough wiggle room in that answer for any direction Microsoft may choose to go with it. Bottom line? They have at least one, if not more HDMI equipped Xbox 360 prototypes, so they are at least looking at the possibility of releasing an updated system with the connectors some time down the road.

That wasn't all Satchell had to talk about though. In addition to touting the Xbox 360's graphic capabilities when compared to the PlayStation 3, the Xbox Live Video Marketplace and some of the issues facing it (He states that Microsoft isn't really considering making a larger Xbox 360 hard drive available, but would consider it should 360 owners demand one), Satchell gave Gamespot a little more information on how IPTV will be brought to the 360 and whether the existing console hardware would be able to support it;

"GS: Is the IPTV feature going to be a dashboard update?

CS: How we're doing it at first is we're working with telecommunication partners who are intending to deliver an IPTV service and saying, "Here's a different kind of box you can use. Instead of just having a standard set-top box, use an Xbox 360. It gives you new services to provide your customers, and for gamers it gives them a really cool combination of next-generation television and next-generation gaming."

I think where you'll first see it will be in partnership with these telco partners who are doing IPTV. Now, later on, we're looking at, "Well, should we do an update to allow people who've got just an Xbox 360 to get to some of the same services rather than having to get it from a telco?" We're looking at both, but first you're going to see it from our partners.

GS: If Microsoft chooses to make IPTV available to all Xbox 360 owners, will upgrading be as simple as a dashboard update?

CS: If we do open it up so that our current users can get to the service, we're not quite sure how we'll deliver it. Of course, we have a great system with [Xbox] Live, so it's entirely possible that we could do it as an upgrade. It's entirely possible we could give it to you on a disc and you could just install it. There are all sorts of ways we can give it to you. Obviously our preference normally is to do everything online because that's where people are at." - Chris Satchell, general manager - Microsoft game developer group via Gamespot

On the subject of IPTV pricing, Satchell simply stated that the price plans would be determined by the service providers, not Microsoft.

The interview is definitely something all Xbox 360 owners should take a look at, as it concerns itself with not just some interesting features that Microsoft is looking to bring to the table, but really is a look at where the future of the Xbox 360 could be headed. At the risk of stirring up a hornet's nest again, it raises the question of whether Microsoft will be bringing IPTV home via a HDMI Equipped, larger hard drive bearing, cable ready Xbox 360.

Those interested in finding out more can find the full Gamespot interview at this link.

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FREE GEARS OF WAR THEME ACCOMPANIES NEW MULTIPLAYER MAPS

Xbox 360 owners got a bit of a surprise today when they found that not only were the two new multiplayer maps available as promised, but a free Gears of War dashboard theme was available for download as well. The theme is based on Raven Down and Old Bones, the maps made available by Epic today and is being provided courtesy of The Discovery Channel's new show, Future Weapons. Microsoft hasn't commented on how long the theme will be available, so my advice is to download it fast before it vanishes forever.

In addition, a video introduction to Raven Down and Old Bones, featuring none other than Gears lead designer Cliff "CliffyB" Bleszinski, was made available for download in the marketplace as well. Be sure to check it out.

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January 10th, 2007

XBOX LIVE ARCADE WEDNESDAYS - MS. PAC-MAN

Xbox Live Arcade Wednesdays kicks off 2007 with Namco's 1981 smash-hit Ms. Pac-Man. What is there to say about this title that hasn't been said just about everywhere else. Seriously, just like Pac-Man, I highly doubt there's anyone who needs to have this one explained to them. Perhaps what makes Ms. Pac-Man such a great title isn't just that it made some key changes to the gameplay of the original, but that unlike Pac-Man, the game's random ghost AI made sure that players wouldn't simply be able to learn a set of patterns to beat the game, which makes it a true test of skill rather than just an exercise in memorization. (As a kid, I remember reading about how important that factor was going to be for arcade operators and players in Electronic Games Magazine - why that sticks with me today, I couldn't tell you.)

What most people don't know about Ms. Pac-Man is that the game wasn't created by Namco, but rather by a little company called General Computer Corporation (GCC). The game started off it's life as a hack of the original Pac-Man hardware called "Crazy Otto" that turned out so well, GCC brought it to Midway's attention and offered to sell the rights to them. Midway at the time was still waiting for Nacmo to deliver Super Pac-Man, and decided to buy the game and convert it to the Pac-Man universe. A few changed sprites later, Ms. Pac-Man was born. Needless to say, Namco wasn't too pleased with the situation and eventually made Midway turn over the rights to Ms. Pac-Man under the threat of ending the lucrative licensing agreement the two companies shared. (See Ms. Pac-Man's KLOV or Wikipedia entry for more details)

Okay, the history lesson is over - let's get on with the specifics;

Title: Ms. Pac-Man
Developer: Namco Bandai Games Inc
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games Inc
Genre: Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: 1/10/07
Console: Xbox 360
Players: 1
Xbox Live: Yes
HDTV Support: 720p
Full Game: 400 points ($5)
Demo?: Yes

From the Xbox.com product description;

"Xbox Live brings one of the all time classics from Namco Bandai Games to Xbox Live Marketplace. The sequel to the incredibly popular Pac-Man, his girlfriend Ms. Pac-Man takes a turn through the maze. Ms. Pac-Man attempts to clear various challenging mazes filled with Pac-Dots and moving fruits while avoiding the ghosts.

One collision from any of the ghosts means a loss of life. Survive a few rounds of gameplay, and be treated to humorous intermissions showing the growing romantic relationship between Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, leading all the way up to the arrival of "Junior."

Considering how poorly the Xbox 360 d-pad works, I expect to see the same 4-way stick issues that plagued the Xbox Live Arcade version of Pac-Man showing up in this one as well. Given the popularity of the XBLA, I really don't see why Microsoft won't release some kind of arcade stick for the system. Not only would they be able to reap the rewards of selling another accessory to 360 owners, but it would certainly help the sales of a lot of XBLA games. I know several people who have already said that because of the experiences they had with Pac-Man on the 360, they'll be passing on it's sequel. Before anyone e-mails me on this one, I am aware of the Hori and Mad Catz arcade sticks, but neither really strikes me as an ideal option... which reminds me - I really need to finish building that custom Xbox 360 arcade controller, don't I?

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Tuesday, January 9th 2007

DISCOVERY CHANNEL TO GIVE AWAY 2 MILLION XBOX LIVE MARKETPLACE POINTS

Just in case you weren't paying attention while reading that post about the new Gears of War maps coming on January 10th, the maps are being sponsored by The Discovery Channel (TDC) in honor of their new show Future Weapons. In addition to the maps, the good folks at TDC will be giving away 2 million Microsoft Points as part of the promotion.

Right now it looks like the points will be given away between January 13th and the 15th in one of the following two ways;

For full details and contest rules, head on over to the Future Weapons Contest Page at this link. Don't worry, we'll be sure to remind you about this again the day before the contest.

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GEARS OF WAR UPDATE INCOMING

In a post on the official Gears of War forums, Epic Games vice president Mark Rein announced that Gears of War will be receiving a gameplay update via Xbox Live prior to the launch of the 2 new multiplayer maps on January 10th. I've been in bed sick all day, so odds are the patch is already waiting for you the next time you log into the game. Here's what to expect;

• Fixed aspect ratio distortion when using VGA cable with 4:3 displays at resolutions higher than 640x480
• Fixed voice issue with new players joining Player Match games in progress
• Players can now get the Achievement for "Dish Best Served Cold" when using Troika turret to kill RAAM
• Fixed rare situation where host could loop countdown and never start match
• Fixed rare situation where players could get stuck after chainsawing in multiplayer
• Reduced Grenade Tag melee distance
• Enabled “Strict” NAT check on host to prevent possible connection issues
• Optimized server browser queries to return results more quickly and prevent scroll bars from hiding quality of service icons
• Reduced number of possible revives in Execution to match Warzone
• Removed host name from Ranked match server browser
• Disabled security cameras in Ranked matches
• Ranked matches now require balanced teams (3v3 or 4v4)
• Increased penalty for quitting a Ranked match to -50 points
• Added additional cheat detection code
• Additional housekeeping updates

As you can see, most of the updates are for the multiplayer end of the game and would seem to be aimed at patching some glitches and exploits. If you're interested in seeing the full post over at the official Gears forums, click here.

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TWO NEW GEARS OF WAR MULTIPLAYER MAPS COMING JANUARY 10TH

As promised, the gang over at Epic Games will be making two new Gears of War multiplayer maps available for free via the Xbox Live Marketplace. The maps, "Raven Down" and "Old Bones" will be hitting the marketplace on January 10th and are being sponsored by The Discovery Channel. Let's hear what Gamerscore Blog has to say about them;

"New downloadable content for the Xbox 360 exclusive “Gears of War", is on the way. Sponsored by the Discovery Channel and available for free via Xbox Live Marketplace, the new content will be available for download beginning on Wednesday, Jan. 10. By now most of the current maps have been memorized, analyzed and brutalized, but this map pack will feature two new maps including one where players fight around a downed King Raven helicopter.

Discovery Channel will be giving away an unprecedented 2 million Microsoft Points for use on Xbox Live Marketplace, in celebration of the Jan. 15 season premier of its popular “Future Weapons” series that explores the latest, most advanced and terrifying weapons technology that will dominate battlefields in the 21st century. Visit www.readyaimfuture.com to learn more about how you can participate" - Gamerscore Blog

While I'll admit I haven't played Gears online anywhere near as much as I'd like to, I'm certainly never one to turn my back on free stuff. For more information on the new maps, click here to head on over to Gamerscore Blog for all the details.

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XBOX 360 BLITZ: THE LEAGUE DEMO NOW AVAILABLE IN MARKETPLACE

Major Nelson is reporting that a demo of Midway's Blitz: The League is now available in the Xbox Live Marketplace. The demo is currently only available to Xbox Live Gold subscribers in the United States and Canada, but should be made available to all Live subscribers in those territories sometime next week. Download size is 1.53gb.

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MAME32 .111.2 RELEASED

Following in the footsteps of the command line version, MAME32 v.111.2, the Windows GUI port of MAME v.111 is also now available.

Check out the official MAME32 page here for more details and the download links.

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MAME V.111U2 RELEASED

The latest "update" version of the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, version 1.11u2, is now available for download. This time around the update is focusing on a lot of behind the scenes changes, so unless you want to test the new version for the dev team, you should probably hold off on getting the update until the next full release .

The updated emulator files can be found at the official MAME page at Mamedev.org. You can Click here to see the full list of what's new in this update.

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Monday, January 8th 2007

MICROSOFT KICKS OFF CES WITH KEYNOTE ADDRESS

Many, including myself, were hoping that Microsoft's keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) would clear up some of the confusion surrounding the whole HDMI equipped Xbox 360 issue. If you would consider the lack of any announcement regarding a new model of the Xbox 360 proof positive that the HDMI pictures are a hoax, then you'd have gotten your wish. If you didn't... well, then you're in the same boat as the rest of us - and it's getting crowded in here.

That's not to say Microsoft didn't have a ton of news to give the gamer crowd - we certainly did find out a lot about what we can expect from Microsoft in the coming months, so without any further delay, let me break down what gaming related news Microsoft dished out;

For more on IPTV's features, check out the following two press releases over at Gamerscore Blog;

Finally, for the more hardcore members of my audience, here's the link for where MS will be posting the full video of the CES keynote address shortly. It's dry viewing for the most part and about an hour and fifteen minutes long, so plan accordingly;

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THIS WEEK'S RELEASES: JANUARY 8TH - JANUARY 14TH

While it's another thin list this week, there is something to get excited about. Capcom's Lost Planet: Extreme Condition for the Xbox 360 should liven things up at retail when it hits towards the end of this week. If you haven't tried the single player and multiplayer demos in the Xbox Live Marketplace, head on over and grab them now so you can join in the excitement. Here's everything you can expect to see on store shelves this week;

Please keep in mind these are only estimated release dates and could change at any time.

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Sunday, January 7th 2006

HDMI EQUIPPED XBOX 360 ON THE WAY?

If you've been surfing the game sites across the 'net in the last few days, no doubt you've heard the rumors that pictures and video of a prototype Xbox 360 with a built in HDMI port have been leaked. We'll go into what I think of those rumors for a moment, but before I do that, I feel the need to state something for the record for those who aren't aware... The Xbox 360 is already capable of displaying games and movies at 1080p. Should this "v2" Xbox 360 be real, the only true difference would come to those who would either like to free up a slot on their TV or receiver by using the HDMI port or those with the add-on HD-DVD player who would be affected by the restrictions in movie resolution should the upcoming HDCP protection scheme be implemented on HD-DVD movies. In other words, if you have no plans on buying the HD-DVD drive, the only thing you would really be losing out on is a connection option.

Let me also take a moment to say that I'm in no way saying this is a hoax or a fake - I don't have enough information to go on - I'm just saying something smells fishy here. If I had to bet on it, I'd bet that this is a modded 360 that's been turned into a hoax. It should also be noted that this isn't the first time a HDMI port has been reported as appearing on a 360 motherboard.

That said, let's take a look at the evidence that's being presented on the internet. From what I've seen, there are two pictures and one video floating around. We'll start with the pictures that have been seen at Xbox-scene and Engadget.

hdmi1 hdmi2

Now then, unless by some coincidence two different prototypes were leaked at the same time, something fishy is going on here. Here are some things to note;

  1. In picture two the supposed prototype has a almost completely smooth back - and while the "I/O" marking is still on the right, the "V/O" marking that’s above the vid ports on a normal 360 are missing - if MS was going to go through the trouble of putting the I/O marking on, why wouldn't the do the same for the video port?
  2. There are other markings on the first picture that don't exist on the second - some lines around the changed port, a few dents and some weird mark to the right of the rear USB port - those suddenly vanish in the second "cleaner pic"
  3. That second picture just looks a little too smooth. If I had to guess, I'd say that's a third party case - it's just a little too barren.
  4. If you look very closely, the HDMI port doesn't seem to sit cleanly in place. (and if you look at the larger picture over at Xbox-Scene, you'll see it's scuffed to all hell too)

Looking at those differences, I can come to only two conclusions;

  1. These are 2 different prototypes. .
  2. Some Photoshop work has been done to combine a picture of an original Xbox 360 case and a modified Xbox 360 case. In other words, the first picture was originally one of the rear of a normal 360 that had parts of the second image (a modded Xbox 360) photoshopped onto it - it would explain why the picture is so dark. (To hide any obvious photoshop marks)

Xbox-Scene also has a few motherboard and chip shots, but I won't go to deep into them as they could easily be just a mock-up or photoshopped.

However, this doesn't explain away the video Xbox-Scene managed to get their hands on. Here's a look at that video;

While I'd be tempted to call the above video proof of something, there are some inconsistencies here too. The video starts off by showing someone inserting a HDMI/DVI adapter into the new HDMI port on the 360. They then connect a DVI cable to that adapter and run it to a DVI port on their TV. They make sure to show you that the cable running from the 360 is connected to the TV and that there are no other video devices connected to the TV. However, when they pan away from the TV, it goes completely off the screen - meaning that anything could have happened to that TV during that time. It should be noted the 360 in the video appears to be the one in image #2. Here are some things to consider;

  1. Some TV's have inputs in different areas, so there's always a chance that there are other inputs on that TV with an Xbox 360 connected to it.
  2. When the TV goes off-screen after the initial "proof" shots, who's to say that another normal Xbox wasn't connected to the television to provide for the 360 boot up images?
  3. They even could have plugged another 360 into the used DVI slot using the 360 VGA cable and a VGA/DVI adapter. I can't make out what video mode comes up on that TV, but using the HDMI to DVI adapter could be an easy way to explain away the fact that the tv was running in DVI mode if that's what the box at the top left indicated. (Which it would do if they used a hidden 360 with a VGA cable and a DVI adapter)
  4. Why doesn't the TV have a HDMI port? Either this is footage taken in a Microsoft lab, in which case I can't believe that they would be testing a HDMI equipped product without a HDMI equipped TV or the prototype is actually out in the "open" - which would lead to a question of why more pictures and videos haven't appeared yet.
  5. The music that's been added to the video could have been done to either cover up whatever was originally said in the video or to cover the sounds made by some of the swaps I mentioned could have happened in filming the video.

The thing that I really wonder on this whole thing, especially given that video, is whether this was just a really great mod job that someone did to add a HDMI port to an existing Xbox 360 that was then changed to become an 360 HDMI version hoax. It would explain the 2 photos being different (pic two being the modded third party case, pic one being a photoshopped pic made for the hoax) and it would explain the music in the video. (Maybe the original video had voice over saying "look, we managed to put a HDMI port on a 360!")

Bottom line? Despite all the inconsistencies I've pointed out, I believe this 360 probably does exist and isn't just a photoshopped hoax. If someone asked me to put money on it, I'd bet this one was a modded 360. Don't take that as gospel though, it's just my guess and I've been proved wrong many times before - this one could easily go either way. If it is a new model of the 360, keep what I said about 1080p at the start of the article in mind before you freak out. Maybe we'll learn a bit more when the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicks off tomorrow.

For more information, check out the following stories;

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Saturday, January 6th 2007

CHILD'S PLAY CHARITY COLLECTS OVER ONE MILLION DOLLARS

The final numbers on the Child's Play 2006 charity drive are in, and I'm proud to say that this year gamers all over the world donated over one million dollars in toys, books and cash. That's a huge number when you stop and think about it - more importantly, those donations are going to bring a whole lot of much needed smiles to the faces of kids who really need something to smile about.

For those of you who want exact numbers, and I know you're out there, the final total was $1,024,400. Keep that number in mind the next time you have to hear some story about how gamers are lazy, unmotivated and anti-social so you can just respond "and how much money did you help raise for charity last year?" and then direct them to Child's Play's website. While that's not the point of why you should support Child's Play, it's certainly a nice side-benefit. If you donated this year, give yourself a pat on the back from me - and if you didn't, well... just keep it in mind for next year - I'm sure there was a solid reason for it.

For those looking for a bit more on the wrap up of the 2006 drive, head on over to the Child's Play website and click around for a bit. If you read some of the letters and e-mails they've received, I think you'll see just how much your help is appreciated.

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Friday, January 5th 2007

GRIPSHIFT NOW AVAILABLE FOR PLAYSTATION 3

Gripshift, Sony's downloadable cart style racer for the PlayStation 3, is now available for purchase via the online PlayStation store. I took a little time out to try this one tonight, and I've got to say I'm not really that impressed. My first impression of the game is that It feels like just about every other generic cart racer you've ever played. Worse still, it's got some unfinished edges to it - specifically in regards to vehicle explosions and the lack of any real kind of graphic for them. Basically, think "Cart Racer X meets Marble Blast Ultra" and you should have an idea of what to expect. Here are the particulars;

Name: Gripshift
System: PlayStation 3
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Release Date: 1/04/07
Size: 121mb
Resolution: 720p
Players: 1-4
Price: $9.99
Demo: Yes

From the PlayStation.com product description page;

"GripShift features totally enhanced HD graphics, refined gameplay and four player online multiplayer. Choose between six different vehicles in this hybrid stunt-driving, platform-action driving experience. Enjoy either single-player racing action or online multiplayer gameplay with up to three of your friends in head-to-head action. Totally re-mixed for the PLAYSTATION®3 system and available for purchase through the PLAYSTATION®Network, GripShift is a ‘MUST HAVE’ game for your PLAYSTATION 3 digital library.

Key Game Features:

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THE WARBEARS ARE BACK!

Last April, I told you about a fun little web-based graphic adventure game called Warbears. The original game was a humorous, yet oh so frustrating game in which you controlled team of four special ops polar bears who were attempting to thwart a bank robbery in their home city of Bedtime City. Because of just how popular the game became, creator Gionatan Iasio took out a website and stated that a sequel was in the works.

Months passed and the Warbears website went silent, other than the occasional note that work was still progressing on the next game in the series. Well, the wait is finally over and not only has a new Warbears mission been released, but Iasio has also created a community system based on Bedtime City along with some Warbears merchandise. It's an interesting concept, but unless he can churn out Warbears episodes at a faster pace, I'd wonder just how well this venture will turn out for him.

As for the new episode, this time around we get to take the Warbears team on a training mission, that while not as complex as the bank heist adventure can be just as frustrating. It seems the one thing that hasn't been updated is how easy it is to lose and find yourself having to start over from scratch. If there's one thing the Warbears franchise needs, it's a "take back last move" option. On the upside, the new mission keeps the same level of humor and spirit of fun as the first game and adds multiple endings to the mix. If you're a fan of graphic adventure games and you can deal with the frustration of how easy it is to lose the game (and thus have to start over), then you owe it to yourself to give the game a try.

Click here to head over to the new and improved Warbears site, pick a mission and get going.

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SAM & MAX EPISODE 2: SITUATION COMEDY NOW AVAILABLE

By the time you're reading this, Situation Comedy, the next installment in Telltale Games episodic Sam & Max series should be available for purchase. Of course, what this also means is that I never managed to put my thoughts down on what I thought of the first episode prior to it's release. I'm going to try and get a full review of both episodes up this weekend.

For those of you who haven't picked up Culture Shock yet and are wondering if the series is worth grabbing, I'll sum up some of my feelings on it like this - I feel that while the writing (and surprisingly the voice acting) of the first episode was dead on, the episodic nature of the game seems to be hurting the gameplay elements of the title. Simply put, because each episode is a small, compartmentalized part of the story, all the puzzles tend to be fairly straight forward and really only involve a few items that are always near at hand. In addition, the number of locations available to the player in Culture Shock was a bit of a letdown as well - it felt more like you were trying to solve a web based puzzle game than playing a full scale graphic adventure game.

I'm hoping that Situation Comedy can reverse that issue and begin moving the game towards puzzles that could begin in one episode but not be solvable until another - or at the very least, will require some long term effort to solve within an individual episode.

For more information on Telltale's Sam & Max series as well as the links required for purchase of the game, check out Telltale's official Sam & Max website at this link.

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KOTAKU SHOWS OFF THE XBOX 360 GUITAR HERO II BUNDLE

It was a hectic day as far as gaming news went today, so I'm going to start off with the stuff you may not be seeing on every gaming blog out there and then try to catch up with the more popular news over the weekend.

We're going to start off with some new information on the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II - Kotaku has managed to get a pic of the retail packaging for the Xbox 360 GH2 Game/Guitar bundle, and I've got to say that while it looks pretty sweet, I'd like the design a bit more if it came in black. I'm also a bit concerned about the placement of the start and back buttons - while I haven't had a chance to hold RedOctane's 360 axe, based on that picture they look like they'll be a bit more difficult to access in the middle of a song when compared with the PlayStation 2's standard SG guitar.

Since by now you're dying to see the packaging, I'll shut up and get with the linking - click here to head over to Kotaku and take a look at what to expect when Guitar Hero II hits the 360 in a few months. In answer to the other questions you're about to ask;

  1. Yes, it's currently slated to be a wired controller. Microsoft is apparently still sticking with their policy of only allowing first party accessories to be wireless.
  2. Yes, the current plan is for additional songs to be made available (for a fee of course) via the Xbox Live Marketplace. My guess is that the first batch of add-ons will see are going to be the tracks from the first Guitar Hero.
  3. No, there isn't an official price on the bundle at this time.

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Thursday, January 4th 2007

MICROSOFT REVEALS THIRD WAY TO GET INTO THE HALO 3 MULTIPLAYER BETA

If you've been following along with the home version of our game, you already know the first two ways to get into the Halo 3 beta, but as of today, Microsoft announced a third way to get a slot in the coveted Halo 3 multiplayer beta test via their in-house employee blog, Gamerscore Blog. Before we get to the new method, we'll cover the first two options - just in case you've been slacking. Here we go;

  1. Have signed up at the Halo 3 beta test signup page - This method is no longer an option if you didn't sign up for it back in early December. This method is now closed and those who applied will find out if they've been selected to get the coveted golden ticket sometime in January. See what happens when you don't check gaming news often enough?
  2. Specially marked copies of Crackdown for the Xbox 360 will also include access to the Halo 3 beta - I've noticed that with today's official announcement, Gamestop has listed it as a feature on their pre-order copies of the game "for a limited time only" - So even if you signed up via the beta test site, you may just want to check with your local store to see if reserving a copy today will guarantee you a Crackdown "beta test" box. After all, if you applied for the beta via option 1 and get selected, you can always cancel your pre-order.

And now we come to the latest option being offered by Microsoft, though this one is going to require a little more work on your part than the others, but if you missed the signup and don't feel like shelling out $60+ for Crackdown, here's what you need to do - take it away, Microsoft;

"Beginning Thursday, Feb. 1, 2007, at 12:01 a.m. EST, all gamers need to do is participate in at least three hours of “Halo 2” multiplayer sessions, via Xbox Live, before Feb. 3, 2007, at 11:59 p.m. EST and then be among the first 13,333 to register at http://www.halo3.com. The “Rule of Three” program is currently planned for gamers in the 50 United States (includes District of Columbia) age 17 years and older who have access to an Xbox 360 Pro console or an Xbox 360 Core console with hard drive, a valid Xbox Live Gold subscription and the “Halo 2” game. Gamers around the world are encouraged to visit http://www.halo3.com in the coming weeks for more information on the “Rule of Three” program in their region." - Gamerscore Blog

If you're trying to get in via one of the non-assured methods, I wish you the best of luck - and if you want to see the full text of Microsoft's announcement, I wish you'd head over to this link and read it.

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Wednesday, January 3rd 2007

STAMPER BROTHERS LEAVE RARE LTD

1UP.com is reporting that Tim and Chris Stamper, founders of Rare Ltd., have left the company effective immediately. While the official word on their departure has all the usual wording about the brothers leaving to pursue other opportunities, there is no actual word on whether they left the company of their own free will or were forced out. Simply put, Rare certainly hasn't performed the way Microsoft hoped it would when they purchased it from Nintendo in 2002 for 377 million dollars.

I don't know about you, but if I were Nintendo, I'd probably be dialing the Stamper's right now to remind them of past successes and offer to help them form a second party development house for the Big N.

For more information on this story, check out the 1UP.com article here. If you're interested in a quick history of Rare Ltd, check out their Wikipedia entry here.

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NPD GROUP RELEASES HOLIDAY 2006 U.S. NEXT-GEN CONSOLE SALES FIGURES

According to an article over at GamesIndustry.biz is reporting that the NPD Group have released their preliminary U.S. console sales figures for the period of November 1st through December 25th. Here's what they've reported so far;

Naturally, those figures don't tell the whole story due to the later start and shortages of the Wii and PS3, but it does at least give an indication of where the big three came out following the holiday rush. Full details on this past holiday season's sales should be available from NPD later this month.

Check out the GamesIndustry.biz article at this link for more details.

UPDATE: 8:15pm 1/3/07 - Gamespot is reporting that the numbers listed above did not come from the NPD Group, but rather from International Data Corporation (IDC), a completely different market analysis firm. Those of you looking for more details should check out the Gamespot article at this link.

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TEKKEN 6 COMING TO PLAYSTATION 3 AND XBOX 360?

Chalk this one up as a rumor for now, but word over at news4gamers.com is that the same source that leaked the news that Virtua Fighter 5 was going multiplatform is now saying that Namco's Tekken 6 is about to do the same.

"According to "sources within IGN" (the same source who said VF5 would come to Xbox 360) Namco is currently working on a Xbox 360 version of Tekken 6, that would appear winter 2007, just short after the PS3-version." - News4Gamers.com

There's not much to back that statement up in the article beyond a link to the full story which takes the reader over to a German language Xbox 360 website. If anyone out there can read German, feel free to let me know exactly what that website says about the whole thing, because losing Tekken 6 would be another massive blow to Sony and the PlayStation 3. You know, the thing that totally staggers my mind is that Sony seems content to just sit and do nothing while, at the very least, gamers perceptions of their chances in this round of consoles drops constantly.

Sure, I know that hard-core gamers don't make up a majority of the final console installed base numbers, but you've got to think that Sony at least sees the need to get those early adopters talking favorably about their systems. A prime example would be the people I work with - none of them are gamers, though many have children who play games. While they may not know much about the PlayStation 3's specs and may still consider the PlayStation name a strong sales motivator, they would also all tell you that the PlayStation 3 is overpriced and beyond one or two exclusives, were they to buy a console right now, they'd probably better off buying an Xbox 360 or Wii right now. Why? because they asked me what I thought about the new consoles since they know I play games religiously and have multiple systems, and I told them.

That is why Sony cannot just sit back and expect the PlayStation name to carry them to victory. Yes, if the children of those co-workers are adamant in the fact they want a PS3 somewhere down the road, they may just get one anyway - but if they were on the fence, word of mouth like that can be a killer. Sony, I'll give you a free "starter" tip - how about making that downloadable version Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection available in the U.S. PlayStation store sooner than the rumored January 18th, so people don't have to go through the stupidity of creating a second account to buy it now from the Hong Kong PlayStation store?

Before I ramble on any longer, let's hit the linkage - click here to head over to News4Gamers.com to check out the original article. Oh, and if you're curious as to how you get the Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection Honk Kong download, click here to head over to an article on the process at GamersReports.

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Tuesday, January 2nd 2006

VERY SHORT HALO 3 VIDEOS LEAKED

If it weren't for the fact that it's Halo 3, I probably wouldn't even take the time to post these clips as news, but it is, so I will. It appears that some footage of the game - some very short footage of the game - was taken at Bungie's recent closed beta-test/play session held for American troops in Iraq. The videos don't seem to show much other than the opening title screen and a few seconds of a multiplayer game, but that's better than nothing I guess. Check them out below;

For more information on the event and the full sized versions of the above videos, use the following links;

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Monday, January 1st 2007

THIS WEEK'S RELEASES: JANUARY 1ST - JANUARY 7TH

If you thought the last two week's releases have been bad, you haven't seen anything yet. There is not a single title on this list that I can even find the slightest bit of enthusiasm about, so all I'm going to say is I hope you have some good titles to tide you over until next week.

Out of curiosity, is anyone getting as sick as I am of seeing the same PC titles being listed week after week? Here's the list;

Please keep in mind these are only estimated release dates and could change at any time.

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Sunday, December 31st 2006

STARDOCK SHOWS OFF DARK AVATAR IMPROVEMENTS

While most companies would be satisfied to just tell you about the enhancements they've made to the features and artificial intelligence of their latest game, the folks at Stardock do things a little bit differently. As such, they've posted a walkthrough of a war fought in Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar, which will become a part of the game's official lore. The story follows along with in depth looks into the strategies being used and also serves as a good introduction to the game for those who have never tried any of the titles in the series.

It's a good read, and like I mentioned, really gives you a solid idea of just how deep the game is - if you're on the fence about grabbing the Dark Avatar expansion or Galactic Civilizations II, this article could just make up your mind - check it out here.

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Saturday, December 30th 2006

CHILD'S PLAY CHARITY 2006 DONATIONS APPROACHING ONE MILLION DOLLARS

While checking out Ben Kuchera's "Opposable Thumbs" column over at ArsTechnica this morning, I read that the latest update from the Child's Play charity is that they've almost broken one million dollars in donations for the 2006 drive. There are still a few days left, so if you haven't donated yet, now would be the perfect time. Think of the children and click the banner below to find out how you can help! (You've always wanted to be the hero who rides in at the last moment to save the day, haven't you?)

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MAME32 .111.1 RELEASED

Following in the footsteps of the command line version, MAME32 v.111.1, the Windows GUI port of MAME v.111 is also now available.

Check out the official MAME32 page here for more details and the download links.

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MAME V.111U1 RELEASED

After a bit of a delay for the holidays, the MAME team is back on the job. The latest "update" version of the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, version 1.11u1, is now available. This time around it focuses on a huge amount of behind the scenes changes, so those of you who aren't experiencing any issues with the last full build should probably hold off on getting the update until the next full release.

The only new game supported which is worth mentioning would be the Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga Class of '81 machine, so if you've got one and need to emulate it, knock yourself out. The updated emulator files can be found at the official MAME page at Mamedev.org. You can Click here to see the full list of what's new in this update.

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Friday, December 29th 2006

LAZY DAY TRAILERS: WORLD OF WARCRAFT - THE BURNING CRUSADE

You know, I got the Burning Crusade once after drinking the water in Mexico, and let me tell you, I was crapping thunder for a... oh wait... nevermind. I know, I know, the Burning Crusade jokes are about as stale as can be, but I figured I'd just jump on the bandwagon since I really couldn't think of much else to say about the below trailer that hasn't been said already. It's not in-game footage by any stretch of the imagination, but it's been a slow news week and it's entertaining enough, so here we go - the World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade cinematic trailer;

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BLIZZARD TO ATTEMPT TO END WARCRAFT MAINTENANCE DOWNTIME

In the most recent server downtime announcement over in the World of Warcraft forums, Blizzard employee "Drysc" announced that the company was going to attempt to end most of the much hated downtime that occurs due to server maintenance every tuesday by introducing a new, live-update system;

"Since the game’s release, one of our most important service goals has been to reduce the amount of time realms are down for weekly realm maintenance. The various hardware upgrades and retrofits we’ve done over the past year have put us in a position to begin testing the ability to go longer than a week between maintenance periods.

In the upcoming weeks, we will be testing the effect of a live maintenance, where regular maintenance tasks are run during off-peak with realms live. On Tuesday, December 26 there will be no scheduled downtime for weekly maintenance. We will perform all necessary maintenance tasks while the realms are live. We are anticipating the possibility that we may need to perform rolling restarts off-peak if we find that a realm restart is necessary; however the downtime for each realm would be less than 10 minutes if it was required."
- Drysc, Blizzard employee, World of Warcraft forums

I'm sure this will come as great news to many who don't work a traditional monday to friday, nine to five schedule. I just hope they don't seriously mess things up in trying to accomplish this one. Those of you who want to check out the topic yourselves should click here to head over to the World of Warcraft official forums.

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Thursday, December 28th 2006

CRACKDOWN TO INCLUDE INVITE TO HALO 3 MULTIPLAYER BETA?

A post over at the Cheap Ass Gamer (CAG) forums is stating that the current issue of Gamepro includes an ad for Microsoft's upcoming Xbox 360 title Crackdown that includes the following text;

"Includes invitation to Halo 3 multiplayer beta - limited time offer - look for specially marked boxes" - Crackdown ad

Based on what I've seen of Crackdown, I had little to no interest in this title to begin with, and it just seems more like a marketing ploy for a game that Microsoft doesn't have much faith in than a way to distribute beta codes. I'm quite sure the opportunity to play Halo 3's multiplayer component a little early will be able to move quite a few more copies of Crackdown than the game would on it's own - the question is, just how few of those specially marked boxes will there be?

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XBOX LIVE ARCADE WEDNESDAYS - NEW RALLY-X

Well, yesterday was the day the last Xbox Live Arcade release of 2006 was scheduled to hit, and Microsoft apparently decided to go out with a whimper rather than a bang. Namco's 1981 arcade classic New Rally-X is now available in the Xbox Live Marketplace for 400 points ($5). This is one title that really hasn't held up to the test of time, and while it's usually nice to see it on a Namco "collection" disc, selling it all by it's lonesome was probably a bad idea. To give you an idea, Microsoft hasn't even given the game it's own Xbox Live Arcade product page yet.

In other words, be sure to download the demo before you buy it, as unless you've got some fond memories of this one from back in the day, you're probably going to want to skip it.

Title: New Rally-X
Developer: Namco Bandai Games Inc
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games Inc
Genre: Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: 12/27/06
Console: Xbox 360
Players: 1
Xbox Live: Yes
HDTV Support: 720p
Full Game: 400 points ($5)
Demo?: Yes

In what's quickly becoming a habit, I think I'll start using this space to comment on the previous week's XBLA release. Last week Microsoft released Novadrome on the world, and personally, I found it to be nothing special at all. Download the demo and you'll probably agree - Your 800 points could be spent much more wisely.

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Wednesday, December 27th 2006

MADDEN NFL '07 SELLS MORE THAN 5 MILLION COPIES

Gamasutra is reporting that Electronic Arts has announced that Madden NFL '07 has sold in excess of five million copies across the ten platforms on which the title is available, which according to EA, would make it the best selling game of the year;

"REDWOOD CITY, Calif. - December 26, 2006 - Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: ERTS) announced that Madden NFL 07, the EA SPORTS™ best-selling football franchise with the exclusive videogame license of the NFL and PLAYERS INC, has sold more than five million copies to consumers on a total of ten game platforms. EA believes, based on its own internal data as well as industry sources, that across all game platforms, Madden NFL 07 will finish as North America's most popular game of 2006." -Electronic Arts press release

Isn't it amazing how well you can do with an inferior product when you cut off virtually all avenues of competiton? Save us 2K, save us!

For more information check out the Gamasutra article at this link and a PDF of the press release from Electronic Arts here.

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Tuesday, December 26th 2006

FIRING SQUAD PREVIEWS GALACTIC CIVILIZATIONS II: DARK AVATAR

The folks over at Firing Squad had a chance to go hands on with the latest build of Dark Avatar, Stardock's upcoming expansion for Galactic Civilizations II. While there's not much new to report, it is nice to see that they've included planetary condition as a requisite for building a colony in the current build.

Most importantly, Firing Squad reports that the game is still on schedule for a February 2007 release. I've said it before and I'll say it again - Galactic Civilizations II is the game Master of Orion 3 was supposed to be - and it's made by a company that truly treats it's customers with respect. Check out the full article for more details here.

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Monday, December 25th 2006

THIS WEEK'S RELEASES: DECEMBER 25TH - DECEMBER 31ST

Well, this is it - the last set of releases for 2006. There's really nothing to get excited about again, though it looks like Bubble Bobble Evolution missed it's PSP debut last week and will instead be finding it's way to retail this coming wednesday.

In other words, stay close to friends and family as 2006 wraps up and enjoy the games you already have. Here's Father Time 2006's last gasp of breath;

Please keep in mind these are only estimated release dates and could change at any time.

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Sunday, December 24th 2006

RED OCTANE & T.A.C. SETTLE GUITAR HERO LAWSUITS

Gamespot has reported that the lawsuits flying between Red Octane, the publishers of the Guitar Hero franchise and The Ant Commandos (T.A.C.), makers of third party Guitar Hero controllers have been settled. While no details of the settlement were made public, T.A.C. has confirmed that they will continue to manufacture and distribute their line of Guitar Hero controllers.

For more information, check out the Gamespot articles on the Red Octane filed suit here, the T.A.C. countersuit here and the above article on the resolution of both here.

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Saturday, December 23rd 2006

GRAN TURISMO HD CONCEPT NOW AVAILABLE IN PLAYSTATION STORE

Sony has released the free PlayStation 3 Gran Turismo HD Concept demo a day early, and based on this report over at Kotaku, I'd suggest you download the demo as soon as you possibly can, because come Christmas there are going to be quite a few more people hitting Sony's online service. The demo weighs in at 625mb and should include the following features;

"Upon downloading Gran Turismo HD Concept, PS3 users have access to the Eiger Nordwand course and can compete in Time Trial races to collect and unlock new cars. Upon unlocking the initial 10 cars, the player has access to 10 more "Tuned Cars," as well as access to a new driving mode called "Drift Trial."

In the "Drift Trial" mode, the player can master the art of drifting and achieve ultimate control of their car. Furthermore, when connected to the PLAYSTATION®Network (PS Network), the player can upload their times and view the Top 10 rankings for each car and mode, as well as play and save replays online.

Featured Automobiles in Gran Turismo HD Concept (Year, Manufacturer, Model)
In order of appearance in game (available in stock and "tuned" versions):
1995 Suzuki Cappucino
1989 Mazda Eunos Roadster
2004 Honda Integra TYPE R
1996 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV GSR
2006 Infiniti G35 Coupe
2005 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX GSR
2005 Lotus Elise 111R
1994 Nissan SKYLINE GT-R Vspec II
1995 Toyota Celica GT-FOUR Rally Car
2006 Ferrari 599

Additional Information About The Game Modes in Gran Turismo HD Concept

In "Time Trial" mode, the player selects a car and must complete the Eiger Nordwand course within the target time indicated at the top of the screen. Each time the player beats the target time, a new car is unlocked and made available for selection. As stated, upon unlocking all of the cars, the player can access tuned cars, along with the option to race Eiger Nordwand in the opposite direction.

In "Drift Trial" mode, the players drifting technique is tested, rather than their lap time. The player earns drift points based on their drift angles, racing lines, and speeds within evaluation zones located at various turns on the course. For each evaluation zone, the results are based on the number of flags and a numerical figure. The point total from all zones determines the players drift points for the lap and is counted toward the rankings.

The following settings are available during gameplay: 1) Transmission the player can select either Manual or Automatic. 2) Stability Management (SM) the player can turn this ON or OFF during gameplay. ASM is designed to prevent vehicle skidding by controlling each of the four wheel brakes independently. 3) Traction Control (TC) Level the player can set the TCS level, which senses drive-wheel slip and prevents wheel spin. 4) Tires the player can select front and rear tires from nine types of brands."
- Sony press release

For more information, check out the full text of the Sony press release here, the Kotaku article here and the Sony Store (via the PS3) for the full download.

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PLAYSTATION 3 SYSTEM SOFTWARE UPDATED TO V1.32

Sony has released another firmware update for the PlayStation 3. V1.32 includes both the 1.30 and 1.31 updates and appears to add some new functions for online gaming. Here's the description of the patch as per Sony's network updates page;

"The PLAYSTATION®3 system software version 1.32 update (with 1.30 and 1.31) includes the following:

The update can be obtained via direct download from the PlayStation 3 system update tab or via PC by downloading the update from the PlayStation 3 system software update page, copying it to a supported storage medium and then using that medium to copy the file to the PS3 hard drive and install from there.

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MICROSOFT EXTENDS ALL XBOX 360 SYSTEM WARRANTIES TO 1 YEAR

Yesterday, Microsoft announced that they will be extending the manufacturer's warranty on all Xbox 360 consoles from the current 90 days to one year. This change does apply retroactively, and Microsoft has announced that they will be sending out refund checks to anyone who had to pay for an "out-of-warranty" repair of an Xbox 360 within their first year of ownership. Those checks should be arriving in 8 - 10 weeks, so don't spend the cash on last minute holiday shopping just yet. Take it away Microsoft;

"REDMOND, Wash. — Dec. 22, 2006 — In a move to benefit customers, Microsoft Corp. announced today that it will change the Xbox 360™ warranty from 90 days to one year from the date of purchase in the United States and Canada. Microsoft extended the warranty in these territories to be consistent with the standard one-year Xbox 360 warranty that is available throughout most of the world. The news is reason to celebrate this holiday season; it applies to both would-be purchasers and those who already have Xbox 360 and are still within their first year of ownership.

Effective today, the one-year warranty is now the standard for the Xbox 360 console. Customers who experience hardware issues with their Xbox 360 within one year of purchase can have their consoles repaired at no cost. Moreover, the new warranty policy is retroactive, so consumers who may have already paid for an out-of-warranty Xbox 360 repair within one year of purchase will be eligible for reimbursement of their console repair charges.

“Customer satisfaction is a central focus and priority for the Xbox 360 system,” said Jeff Bell, corporate vice president of Global Marketing for the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “In addition to jaw-dropping features such as high-definition graphics, an amazing variety with a catalog of over 160 games, and social online and entertainment experiences on Xbox Live®, the Xbox 360 system now offers this extended warranty upgrade. It is truly the industry’s most compelling home entertainment offering.”

Customers who have already paid out-of-warranty repair charges within their first year of ownership can expect reimbursement checks for the amount of their console repair in approximately 10 weeks. Reimbursements will be automatically distributed, so customers need not contact Microsoft. Customers who have questions regarding this policy change or experience any hardware issues should visit http://www.xbox.com/en-US/support/contact where they can check their warranty status, find troubleshooting information for common issues and find Xbox support contact information." - Microsoft press release

As the release made no mention of how this will affect those who purchased the 2 year extended warranty directly through Microsoft, I contacted Xbox support and was told that the extension is also being made to the extended warranty program - so if you bought one, add 9 months to it's expiration date. A follow up call to the support line re-confirmed this fact and, after a bit of confusion, confirmed that Microsoft will be sending out updated extended warranty paperwork as well.

For more information, check out the full text of the press release here.

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BETHESDA MAKES XBOX 360 OBLIVION ADD-ON FREE UNTIL 2007

Bethesda has announced that they will be making the Xbox 360 version of "Mehrune's Razor", one of the content packs for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, a free download for Xbox Live users until December 31st 2006. Following that date, the pack will return to it's usual 250 point ($3.13) price, so hop on it now it you're interested. There will be no refunds for those people who previously purchased this expansion.

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Friday, December 22nd 2006

SEGA ANNOUNCES VIRTUA FIGHTER 5 COMING TO XBOX 360

Chalk up another lost exclusive for the PlayStation 3 - Sega has announced that Virtua Fighter 5 will be coming to the Xbox 360 as well as the PlayStation 3. According to the company's press release, the PS3 version of the game will still be hitting retail in North America on February 20th, but will now be followed by an Xbox 360 version sometime late in the summer of 2007;

"SAN FRANCISCO & LONDON (December 21, 2006) - SEGA® of America, Inc. and SEGA Europe Ltd. today announced that the highly anticipated arcade fighting game, Virtua Fighter™ 5, will make its way onto the Xbox 360™ video game and entertainment system. Virtua Fighter 5 is scheduled for release on Xbox 360 in North America and in Europe late summer 2007. The game will also be available for the PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system on February 20, 2007 in North America and will be available in Europe simultaneously with the system's launch in March 2007.

"SEGA delivers the most technical fighting game experience on Xbox 360 with this installment of the award-winning Virtua Fighter series," said Scott A. Steinberg, Vice President Marketing, SEGA of America. "Virtua Fighter 5 takes full advantage of Xbox 360's hardware with action-packed gameplay, customizable characters, stunning graphics and highly detailed 3D fighting environments."" - Sega press release

That's gotta sting. The question here is how much of an effect the extra few months between the two versions will have on sales. I may not have an answer on that, but I do know that someone over at Sony had better start locking up some exclusives asap.

Check out the Sega press release at this link for more details.

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Thursday, December 21st 2006

NEW HALO 3 VIDEO AVAILABLE IN THE XBOX LIVE MARKETPLACE

Major Nelson is reporting that a new video documentary on Halo 3 is now available in the Xbox Live Marketplace. This 7 minute video focuses on the Covenant Brutes and the improvements made to them for the game. Again, I'm feeling under the weather at the moment, so I'll let the dashboard description of the video fill in the details for you;

"In the second Bungie “Vidoc” we take a long hard look at the ferocious new antagonist for Master Chief, the Brute. Now that a tentative alliance has formed between Humans and Elites, the fighting focus of Halo 3 switches to the monstrous Brutes. These tenacious foes have improved graphically with the advent of the Halo 3 engine and the power of the Xbox 360, but more importantly, their tactics, weapons, vehicles and AI have all followed suit, making the Brutes the worthiest opponents the Chief has ever faced. See how the designers, artists and programmers set about the herculean task of replacing a fan favorite – the mighty Elite – with an unforgettably ferocious adversary. See how Brutes behave in packs and as individuals with brilliant new animation and AI. Take a first look at the new Brute graphics, weapon and armor designs and finally, get the first ever public glimpse at Halo’s legendary Campaign." - XBLM Dashboard Text as per Major Nelson

For those of you who don't have an Xbox 360 or access to the Xbox Live Marketplace, the full video has already appeared on YouTube, so you can check it out below! It may not be as pretty as the Xbox Live version, but it'll do in a pinch. Enjoy.

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XBOX LIVE ARCADE WEDNESDAYS - NOVADROME

Yet another original game has come to the Xbox Live Arcade this week in the form of Stainless Software's Novadrome. I'm coming down with some kind of bug at the moment, so I haven't really had a chance to give the game a try, but it appears to be some type of Twisted Metal / Vigilante 8 clone, so expect a lot of car combat. Some early word I've seen on it has been negative, so you may want to download the trial before making any kind of a commitment to the game.

Title: Novadrome
Developer: Stainless Software
Publisher: Buena Vista Games
Genre: Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: 12/20/06
Console: Xbox 360
Players: 1-8
Xbox Live: Yes
HDTV Support: 720p
Full Game: 800 points ($10)
Demo?: Yes
ESRB Rating: E10+

Description as per Xbox.com

"Blast, smash, and crash your way to victory as you fight for survival among friends and foes alike in the arenas of Novadrome. Abducted by robots from the planet Nova, you must stop your captors before they launch a full-scale invasion against Earth.

Use your speed, wit, and determination to defeat robot gladiators and other abductees in a series of combat-driving competitions in high-powered armored vehicles equipped with front-mounted automatic weapons.

Destroy others or be destroyed in the arenas of Novadrome!

  • Action: Get ready for frantic eight-player combat driving action set in a far-out alien world.
  • Vehicles: Choose from more than 20 off-road buggy style vehicles.
  • Arenas: Compete in 15 arenas full of non-stop, furious action. Combat arenas feature upgrades, power-ups, obstacles, and mines.
  • Weapons: Use a wide range of dynamic vehicle-mounted weapons. Destroy your enemies and acquire their weapons as power-ups.
  • Bosses: Experience adrenaline-pumping boss encounters, humans in vehicles versus a variety of gladiatorial robot opponents to battle.
  • Modes: There are multiple gameplay modes and event types to choose from such as Career mode, Arcade Challenge, Free Play, and Multiplayer modes.
  • Leaderboards: Experiment with the various modes and master your gameplay to top the online Novadrome leaderboards.
  • Achievements: Increase your Gamerscore by 200 points with 12 diverse acheivements."- Xbox.com Assault Heroes product page

If you're wondering what I thought of last week's XBLA release, let's just say that Assault Heroes has quickly become one of my favorite Live Arcade games - definitely worth a purchase in my opinion.

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Wednesday, December 20th 2006

ESA PRESIDENT DOUG LOWENSTEIN STEPPING DOWN

The Electronic Software Association (ESA) has announced that after 12 years of service, founding president Douglas Lowenstein will be resigning in early 2007 in order to found a new trade association in the investment industry. The ESA will begin a search for a replacement immediately.

"I have been honored to represent the amazing companies of the ESA, to serve as their advocate and to be part of an industry which is having such a profound and positive effect on our culture and the world of entertainment," Mr. Lowenstein said. "Like our industry, the ESA has grown and matured and is now stronger and more robust than ever before. The future of video games and its trade association is very bright indeed."" - ESA press release

I'd be willing to bet even money that somewhere along the way, Jack Thompson tries to say that he was somehow responsible for Lowenstein resigning.

Click here for the full text of the press release.

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PLAYSTATION 3 VIRTUA FIGHTER 5 DATED, FLOW AND GRIPSHIFT DELAYED?

Just some PlayStation 3 game updates from around the web;

Those of you who are really curious about flOw should head over to the game's original flash site here and see what all the fuss is about.

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SONY APPLIES FOR ANOTHER MOTION CONTROL PATENT

ArsTechinca is reporting that on December 14th, Sony applied for a patent governing a "hand-held controller having detectable elements for tracking purposes." - In short, Sony is applying for a full-ranged motion detecting controller along the lines of the Wii. Here's the general explanation of what it is they're looking to do according to the patent application;

"Some embodiments provide a tracking device for use in obtaining information for controlling an execution of a game program by a processor for enabling an interactive game to be played by a user. The tracking device comprises a body having a section to be oriented towards a screen when a progress of a game provided via execution of the game apparatus is displayed upon the screen; and at least one photonically detectable ("PD") element assembled with the body, a position of the photonically detectable element within an image being recordable by an image capture device when the section is oriented at least partly towards the screen, wherein positions of the PD element at different points in time are quantifiable to quantify movement of the body in space." - Sony U.S. patent application # 20060282873

The patent application goes into greater detail in other sections, but it appears that the device will either be designed as a controller itself, a piggy-back device for existing controllers (#2 in the claims section of the patent application) or as a wearable attachment that would work in conjunction with a controller. The application further states that the device would use LED's and texture scanning for positioning information and would be able to track velocity in addition to movement.

While the application doesn't give any specifics as to how it would all work, at least not in layman's terms, and the application may not be anything more than Sony just thinking out loud, it is something to keep an eye on. The one thing that I'd love to see Sony file a patent application for would be some type of new vibration feedback system. (Sony, just pay Immersion, or whoever holds the "rumble pack" feedback patent already and get the Sixaxis shaking!)

For more details, check out the ArsTechnica article here and U.S. Patent Application 20060282873 here.

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Tuesday, December 19th 2006

KONAMI CONFIRMS METAL GEAR SOLID 4 EXCLUSIVE TO PLAYSTATION 3 - FOR NOW

Computerandvideogames.com (CVG) is reporting that they've received word from Konami that despite the rumors, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, currently remains a PlayStation 3 exclusive;

""Konami has no plans to bring Metal Gear Solid 4 to the Xbox 360 at this time," a Konami representative told CVG, reiterating that the Hideo Kojima stealth-em-up was still "exclusive to PlayStation 3."" - CVG

Now what's interesting to note is the wording - "at this time", which implies that Konami isn't ruling out porting the game over to the Xbox 360 at some point in time. Admittedly, the full statement would also seem to imply that said port isn't currently in the works. My guess is that we'll see something along the lines of Metal Gear Solid 2, where the game debuted on the PlayStation 2 and was later ported over to the Xbox as a special edition.

For more information, check out the CVG article at this link.

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MAJOR NELSON BACK ONLINE

Just a quick note here - Xbox Live Director of Programming, Larry "Major Nelson" Hyrb, is back online following several days of power outages caused by storms in the Seattle area last Thursday. Welcome back Major, we missed you.

So what was the first new post following the Major's "I'm back" announcement? Namely that Xbox Live Gold members can download a free Santa Claus suit for their Saints Row toon. (Xbox Live Silver members will gain access to the download after December 25th)

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Monday, December 18th 2006

MAJOR NELSON OFFLINE FOR A FEW MORE DAYS

For those of you who aren't aware, Xbox Live director of programming Larry "Major Nelson" Hyrb has been offline for a few days now. The Major was able to update his blog Saturday with a quick explanation of his absence. As has happened to many in the Seattle area, following the huge storm that hit the area Thursday night, the Major has been without power at home and at the office and has been advised it may still be a few days before power is restored.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for all in the affected area - here's to hoping that you guys get power back soon and that the damage isn't too bad. (Personal note - this includes the owner of the blasted Pirate Penguins Fantasy Football team - I'm keeping my fingers crossed until you resurface!)

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GEARS OF WAR BREAKS THE 2 MILLION BARRIER

Microsoft and Epic Games have announced that Gears of War has sold more than 2 million copies worldwide during it's first 6 weeks of release. I'd ramble on some more about how great Gears is, but instead I'll be lazy and let the press release do the talking for me;

"REDMOND, Wash. — Dec. 15, 2006 — A video game champion has been crowned; “Gears of War” made history today by becoming the fastest-selling next-generation game of 2006 and the fastest-selling exclusive Xbox® game ever.

Microsoft Game Studios and Epic Games, Inc., today confirmed that “Gears of War,” the Xbox 360™-exclusive title, has sold more than 2 million copies worldwide since its release six weeks ago, with a stunning 1 million copies sold in the U.S. alone.

"“‘Gears of War’ clearly has won the battle for the title of the must-have game of the year,” said Jeff Bell, corporate vice president of global marketing for the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft Corp. “Its phenomenal success is one of many reasons why Xbox 360 is the ultimate place to get together with friends to play this holiday.”

“We’ve always held high hopes for ‘Gears of War,’ but we never expected such an overwhelmingly positive response from critics and gamers all over the world,” said Michael Capps, president, Epic Games. “I can’t describe how stoked our team is right now. Our fans can absolutely count on Epic to keep delivering new gameplay through Xbox Live®.”

In addition to being the must-have video game of the holiday season, “Gears of War” continues to rage on the Xbox Live battlefield as well, with more than 1 million unique gamers engaging in 10 million online gameplay sessions and unlocking an impressive 7 million achievements.* On top of being the No. 1 title on Xbox Live, “Gears of War” has driven new members to the network; paid registrations per day have skyrocketed more than 50 percent since the game’s launch." - Microsoft press release

Well done Gears, well done. Click here for the full text of the press release.

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THIS WEEK'S RELEASES: DECEMBER 18TH - DECEMBER 24TH

We're now two weeks away from the end of 2006, and with most people finishing up their holiday shopping, it appears most publishers have wisely chosen to avoid releasing anything in the middle of the maelstrom. PSP owners are really the only ones with anything worth looking forward to with both Metal Slug Anthology and Bubble Bobble Evolution finding their way to retail.

Still, with all the titles that have been released in the last two months, not to mention all the other great titles of 2006, I'm sure there are at least a few worthy games out there vying for your hard earned cash.

Well, let's get on with it, shall we? Here's what should be hitting store shelves this week;

Please keep in mind these are only estimated release dates and could change at any time.

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Sunday, December 17th 2006

TONIGHT, ON A VERY SPECIAL AMAZON CUSTOMERS VOTE...

Amazon.com has been running a promotion all month long in which four items were listed in limited quantities at a steep discount, and customers were advised to vote on which of those four deals they would like a chance to buy. The winning item would be listed with the promotional discount intact and randomly offered to those that voted for it. The losing items would also be randomly offered to those that voted on it, though at a slightly less spectacular discount;

While the promotion itself is over, Amazon has decided to make one last "special edition" vote as a way of saying thanks to it's existing customers. While there are no discounts to the price involved this time around, they're putting both models of the PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii up for voting. There's no winning or losing item this time around though - you just vote for the system you'd like a chance to buy, and wait until tuesday to find out if you were one of the people randomly selected to get the console. If selected, you'll probably have 24-48 hours to take advantage of the deal before it's rescinded. The voting ends at 11:59pm PST tonight, so be sure to get your vote in if you're still looking to buy one of those consoles immediately. (In other words, if you don't plan on buying one, don't muck up the works by voting, as I doubt Amazon will re-list the unused inventory, and you could very well wind up declining a buy option that someone desperately searching for one of these consoles could have used.)

Click here to head over to the Amazon Customers Vote: Special Edition page to see all the rules and to place your vote.

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Saturday, December 16th 2006

NINTENDO OFFERS TO REPLACE ORIGINAL WIIMOTE STRAPS FOR FREE

In response to the ever growing number of broken Wiimote strap stories popping up everywhere, including the mainstream news, Nintendo has announced that they will be replacing the original Wiimote straps for anyone who wishes the newer, stronger strap being used on newer runs of Wii consoles.

In a story over at Kotaku, it appears that during an interview with the Associated Press regarding the strap issue, Nintendo announced that in response to the growing number of reports, they would be offering stronger replacement straps to any Wii owners that wanted one. Those of you out there with the flimsier strap can head over to this site to fill out the replacement request form.

While we're on the topic of the Wiimote strap, let me say that initially I believed many of the stories about broken tv's, windows and even some of the black-eye stories related to the strap breaking, but after reading today's edition of the NY Daily News, I really am moving more towards the "most of these stories are bullshit" camp. Allow me to elaborate;

This article appeared in the paper, and while the News generally did a decent job of covering the whole thing, there was one image that just stuck out as being a completely staged photograph - here it is;

I tracked the image back to this post over at wiihaveaproblem.com, and the poster claims this damage actually occurred while playing the bowling game included in Wii Sports. Sorry, but I draw the line at this one. Unless a hurricane passed through this guys house while he was playing the game, I defy you to rationally explain how he managed to drive his Wiimote straight through the frame of a standard TV with a near perfect knife throw. I don't buy it, and even if the guy provided video of it with his original post, I still would call shenanigans on this one.

Those of you looking for a little more on the articles mentioned in this post should check out the following sites;

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Friday, December 15th 2006

MICROSOFT UPDATES XBOX 360 BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY LIST

Microsoft has added another batch of original Xbox titles to the Xbox 360 Backwards Compatibility list. Here's the list of what titles have either been added or updated this time around;

While the addition of Psychonauts and Indigo Prophecy are certainly more than welcome, I'm still waiting to see ESPN NFL 2K5 join the ranks of the backwards compatible. Click here to see the full list of Xbox games playable on the Xbox 360.

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Thursday, December 14th 2006

SONY UPDATES PLAYSTATION 3 FIRMWARE TO V1.31

Sony has released another firmware update for the PlayStation 3. V1.31 adds some options as far as video output goes and makes a few changes to how certain PlayStation 2 games function on the system. Here's the text on what's changed with the v1.31 update;

"The PLAYSTATION®3 system software version 1.31 update includes the following:

From what I can see, there's nothing overly harmful there this time around, though I really wish the search site for PlayStation 3 backwards compatibility issues was a bit more concise. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm hoping the parts regarding output resolutions mean you can now select different default resolutions for different system functions.

The update can be obtained via direct download from the PlayStation 3 system update tab or via PC by downloading the update from the PlayStation 3 system software update page, copying it to a supported storage medium and then using that medium to copy the file to the PS3 hard drive and install from there.

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XBOX LIVE ARCADE WEDNESDAYS - ASSAULT HEROES

This week sees yet another original title for the Xbox Live Arcade finding it's way onto the marketplace. Early word on the street is that Wanako Studios Assault Heroes could be the first "must buy" Live Arcade game to hit the Xbox 360 in quite some time.

Title: Assault Heroes
Developer: Wanako Studios
Publisher: Sierra Online
Genre: Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: 12/13/06
Console: Xbox 360
Players: 1-2
Xbox Live: Yes
HDTV Support: 720p
Full Game: 800 points ($10)
Demo?: Yes

Description as per Xbox.com

"In Assault Heroes, take on the role of the only surviving member of an elite special forces unit searching for a secret underground lab. Play the mission alone or fight side-by-side with a friend in the two-player cooperative mode.

Hop into a heavily armed 4x4, maneuverable speed boat, or trusty military-issue footwear, blasting your way through enemy-infested territory while being assaulted by waves of formidable enemies with unrelenting attacks.

  • Multiplayer co-op mode: Two players may play co-operatively online via Xbox Live® or offline (same screen) with enhanced weapons and special attacks to encourage team-based campaigns.
  • Dynamic gameplay: Operate an armed 4x4, speed boat, or simply fight on foot for a quick change of pace.
  • Arsenal of weapons: Equip characters with miniguns, flak cannons, flamethrowers, grenades, and nukes to destroy everything in your path.
  • Realistic special effects: Destructible terrain and advanced physics engine provide a truly engaging Arcade experience.
  • Highly detailed graphics: Vehicles leave tracks in the sand, send parts flying when they explode, and leave smoke trails when taking damage.
  • Action-packed experience: Challenging and graphically compelling levels (including bonus sublevels) for fast-paced and addictive play."- Xbox.com Assault Heroes product page

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Wednesday, December 13th 2006

DO THEY JUST NOT GET IT? PHANTOM ENTERTAINMENT SECURES MORE FUNDING

Seriously, do people in the financial world do any kind of research before they jump into things? It appears that everyone's favorite vaporware producers, Phantom Entertainment, have found yet another patsy to pick up the tab for doing nothing but flushing cash down the toilet - here's a quote from a Phantom Entertainment press release I noticed the other night over at Yahoo Finance;

"The Company has closed a financing with John Fife, the managing partner of the Chicago Venture Partners, L.P. to help fund manufacturing and marketing of the Phantom® Wireless Lapboard and Phantom® Wireless Laser Mouse.

"I am excited about the opportunity to work with Phantom Entertainment and to be a financing resource to help the Company move forward with manufacturing the Phantom Wireless Lapboard," said John Fife, Managing Partner of Chicago Venture Partners. "I intend to consider additional infusions of capital to Phantom Entertainment as the company meets its manufacturing and revenue goals."

The Company is continuing to work closely with its contract manufacturer, Itron Technology Inc., to meet manufacturing production schedules for shipping Phantom Lapboards to Alienware for bundling with its PC Media Center, to distributors and to consumers.

The Company is continuing sales planning for distribution of the Phantom Wireless Lapboard and Phantom Wireless Laser Mouse through Global Marketing Partners' distribution channel with Ingram Micro Inc. (NYSE: IM - News), the world's largest technology distributor and a leading technology sales, marketing and logistics company." - Phantom Entertainment Press Release

The first thing that comes to my mind when I read the above statement is "How the hell did Alienware get themselves mixed up with these clowns?" I'm really not sure what I find funnier, that Phantom Entertainment isn't apparently even capable of creating a wireless PC keyboard or that they can somehow still find people willing to actually invest money in them. At some point, the check has to come right?... right?... Bueller?

For those of you just starting to play the home version of the Phantom Entertainment / Infinium Labs game, here are some links to our previous coverage of the situation - it's a lot of reading though, so be sure to grab a snack.

All this leads me to wonder ... should Phantom manage to somehow get the Lapboard to retail this spring, wouldn't it be great if they were to let us all in on their business plan by titling their ad campaign something like "Springtime for Phantom"?

Check out the latest press release from Phantom Entertainment here.

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MICROSOFT ADDRESSES XBOX 360 WIRELESS HEADSET ISSUE

In his blog, Xbox Live Director of Programming, Larry "Major Nelson" Hyrb, addressed the complaints surrounding the Xbox 360 Wireless Headset that have been springing up across the 'net since it's release. For those who aren't aware or haven't encountered the issue on Xbox Live, The major concerns (no pun intended - honest!) center around the headset not properly synchronizing with the console, issues regarding incompatibilities between the headset and older Xbox 360 wireless controllers as well as situations in which the headset's mic transmits a ton of interference over Live in the form of constant static that can be heard by those playing with the user.

While the Major didn't really give any indication of a timeframe regarding a fix, he did note that those experiencing the issues should call Microsoft's 1-800-4MY-XBOX customer support line to see about having the headset repaired or replaced. Certainly not an ideal situation, but at least it's something. It would also tell me that Microsoft may have found a issue with the headset's hardware, as I would assume many of the problems listed above would be replicated if the exact same version of the headset was sent out.

For more information, check out the Major's post at this link - and if you're having any issues with the wireless headset, be sure to call that support number - just don't expect to speak to anyone overly knowledgeable about the hardware - my experiences with 1-800-4MY-XBOX have pretty much been a waste of time in the past, unless you're looking to discuss a billing issue.

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MAME32 .111 RELEASED

Following in the footsteps of the command line version, MAME32 v.111, the Windows GUI port of MAME v.111 is also now available.

Check out the official MAME32 page here for more details and the download links.

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MAME V.111 RELEASED

The latest version of the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator is now available. Version 1.11 incorporates all of the changes made in the last series of interim updates, so if you were having problems with anything in v.110, the new version may be the answer to your problems..

The updated files can be found at the official MAME page at Mamedev.org. You can Click here to see the full list of what's new in this update.

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Tuesday, December 12th 2006

2K SPORTS GETTING READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?

That's the question. If you're Jon Robinson of IGN, it appears the answer you have to that question would be a resounding yes. In an article over at IGN (found by way of Kotaku) , Robinson seems to have information that would confirm that 2K Sports long-rumored Football Legends game is apparently a reality - and is slated for release some time in 2007.

"What I'm here to tell you (actually I broke the 2K Legends story back in 2005, but I'll tell you again) is that this year is going to be different.

Competition is coming back in 2007, and that means two things.

2K fans need to brush up on historical players (how can you play a game with legends if you can't tell Steve Young from Steve Bono?). And EA Sports is going to come out blazing with new features in Madden to try and hold off the throwback phenomenon Visual Concepts will finally announce sometime after the new year.

I have no idea what the 2K game will be called, look like, or feature beyond historical players, but I can tell you this, the surprising (I would even say shocking) sales numbers of Blitz: The League prove that the market is ready for some football outside of Madden."
- Jon Robinson, IGN

Should this turn out to be true, and isn't just another false alarm coming from 2K Sports, I'd have to say that this news makes for one hell of a Christmas gift for sports gamers. Whether you're a fan of the 2K series of football games or a Madden fan, this means that true competition is returning to console football - and that means both sides are going to be trying their damndest to get your gaming dollars by putting out the best product they can - and that's always good for gamers.

So let's all hope that this isn't just another attempt by 2K Sports to "test the waters" and see how the public would react to the Legends concept, but that the game is already in development and just waiting for a chance to take EA's behemoth on. Thank you 2K, thank you.

Those looking for more details about this story should check out the original IGN article here, the Kotaku article here and the 2K Sports football message boards (which seem to be filled with additional links and interviews) here.

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Monday, December 11th 2006

THIS WEEK'S RELEASES: DECEMBER 11TH - DECEMBER 17TH

If you take a look at this week's release list, the first thing you'll notice is that it's very short. Hopefully, the second thing you'll notice is that there are quite a few gems hidden in that small space. While the Wii gets the bulk of this week's goodies with Elebits, FarCry: Vengeance and Metal Slug Anthology and the PC gets Rainbow Six: Vegas, by far the happiest people out there have got to be the Gamecube owners who haven't upgraded to a Wii yet as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess finally makes it's debut on the system.

As one of those people, let me tell you I can't wait to get my hands on Twilight Princess on the 'Cube, especially since many of the comments I've heard regarding the Wii version stated that by design the game may actually play better on the Gamecube than it did on the Wii. It may be that Twilight Princess is going to be the last major release on the Gamecube, so enjoy it while you still can.

Here's what should be hitting store shelves this week;

Please keep in mind these are only estimated release dates and could change at any time.

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Sunday, December 10th 2006

LAZY DAY TRAILERS: LOST PLANET: EXTREME CONDITION

Well gang, the launch of Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is now right around the corner and Capcom has released a great cinematic trailer via the Xbox Live Marketplace. While the trailer doesn't strike me as in-game footage, if Capcom can deliver the same type of huge battleground experience the trailer shows, I think they'll have a sure-fire smash hit on their hands. Since I know many of you either don't have Live or don't use it to download videos, I've attached a YouTubed version of the trailer. Check it out below or via this link;

Those of you looking for more information on Lost Planet should head over to the game's official site and check out the background information and webisodes of the games storyline. After hearing the soundtrack on the site, you too may decide that you really need to get the collector's edition of the game. Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is scheduled for release exclusively for the Xbox 360 on January 13th, 2007.

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Saturday, December 9th 2006

INTERLINK SUES NINTENDO FOR PATENT INFRINGEMENT

ArsTechnica is reporting that Interlink Electronics has filed a patent infringement suit against Nintendo in regards to certain aspects of the Wii control scheme. According to Ars, the dispute arises from U.S. patent #6,850,221 which was granted to Interlink in 1997 covering the following;

"A device particularly for use with a computer comprises a housing for location at least partly between two fingers of a user's hand and an electronic circuit mounted on a board within the housing. The circuit includes a switch responsive to pressure selectively to open and close an electronic circuit, and conductive elements arranged on the board mounting the electronic circuit. A first control element is mounted with the housing and responsive to finger pressure such that pressure applied to the first control element causes the element to operate the switch. The first control element is movable with respect to a hinge such that finger action acts to cause the control element to swivel as a trigger about the hinge and thereby interact with the switch. The second control element includes a flexible material mounted such that pressure applied to the flexible material in different directions and positions acts to change the electrical relationship between the conductive elements on the board and thereby vary an output signal from the electronic circuit. The rear portion of the housing includes a receptacle for receiving removable battery means for powering the electronic circuit. There is an infra-red output signal transmitted to a receiver for operating the computer. The first control element is located substantially below the second control element, and the first control element being in a bottom face of the housing." - U.S. Patent & trademark office

I may be no expert on patent law, but while the ArsTechinca article points out that the Wiimote uses motion sensing and not finger pressure to move objects around the screen, they seem to forget that the Nunchuck is part of the Wii's control scheme and, unlike the Wiimote, would seem to fit that description quite well.

Perhaps the part that leads me to believe that Interlink is serious about the patent infringement (and not just looking for an easy payout) is that they've filed suit in their home state rather than seeking out an area known for excessive judgments in favor of plaintiffs. My guess is that if there's any chance of Interlink having a valid claim, expect Nintendo to attempt to settle the matter as soon as possible - the last thing they would need would be a cease and desist order on the sale of Wii consoles.

One last thing to note here in reference to the ArsTechnica article - ArsTechnica makes a point of highlighting Interlink's statement that the infringement has cost them money in "loss of reasonable royalties, reduced sales and/or lost profits as a result of infringing activities." while mocking the fact that no one most likely skipped the purchase of pointers made by Interlink in order to purchase a Wii. What they seem to have forgotten is that statement also mentions "loss of reasonable royalties" which Interlink would make on the sale of Wii consoles were the technology licensed by Nintendo.

So, who's right and who's wrong? I have no idea. Interlink made no specific explanation of just what part of their patent was infringed by Nintendo in their filing, but I can tell you that given what happened with Sony and Microsoft when they were sued by Immersion, I'm sure Nintendo will take this all quite seriously.

Check out the ArsTechinca article at this link for more details.

UPDATE: 12/09/06 4:30pm - I sent this one over to Kotaku as a tip only to find out that they had broken this story a bit earlier than even Ars had - and theirs was even a bit more balanced than ArsTechnica's was. Check out the original Kotaku article at this link for additional information on the story. That's what I get for missing a few pages of Kotaku yesterday due to work concerns - damn you, damn you all to hell you filthy employers!

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Friday, December 8th 2006

BURNOUT DOMINATOR ANNOUNCED FOR PS2 AND PSP

Electronic Arts has announced that they will be releasing one last Burnout title on the PlayStation 2 in the form of Burnout Dominator. As Burnout 5 will be taking the series in a new direction with a more open road, "sandbox" style of Gameplay, the company decided they wanted to close the series out on the PlayStation 2 with one final "closed track" experience that harkens back to the series' roots. As such, Burnout Dominator will also be taking a step back in the direction of Burnout 3 by removing traffic checking from the mix.

"Burnout Dominator is an all-new installment of the legendary and multi-award winning Burnout™ series, loaded with intense racing action and dozens of retina-searing World Tour events. Burnout Dominator challenges gamers to face off against a series of hot-blooded rivals in brutal tests of aggressive driving techniques where performing burnouts gives you the advantage and multiplies your score potential. For the ultimate nerve-wracking experience, Burnout Dominator takes you to the very edge of control, punishing the smallest mistakes and rewarding drivers for taking outrageous risks.

"The series was born on the PlayStation 2, and Burnout Dominator is about celebrating the essence of Burnout," said Nick Channon, senior producer of Burnout Dominator. "Burnout Dominator focuses on the reckless skill-based racing and fear of crashing that fuelled the first games."
- Electronic Arts press release

That little bit alone is more than enough to make me burst into a chorus of cheers, as I felt traffic checking really took something away from the series when it was introduced in Burnout Revenge - it just took away some of the insanity generated by weaving frantically in and out of traffic.

While I've only mentioned the PlayStation 2 version so far, EA has confirmed that Burnout Dominator will be coming to both the PlayStation 2 and PSP. Those of you looking for a little more on the game should check out the full EA press release here and this article over at Gamespot, as they've posted some nice screenshots of the game.

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MAME32 .110.5 RELEASED

MAME32, the Windows GUI version of MAME, has also been updated to incorporate the u5 changes listed below. As with the regular version of MAME, MAME32 110.5 centers around a lot of background updates, so you may want to hold off on upgrading until the next full release - just to be on the safe side.

Check out the official MAME32 page here for more details and the download links.

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MAME V.110U5 RELEASED

The fifth interim update for MAME v.110 is now available. MAME v.110u5 centers around some behind the scenes fixes, so unless you've been having problems with the most recent build or are into testing the changes in each update, you may want to consider holding off for the next full release. According to the MAME development team, this will most likely be the last update before MAME v.111.

The updated files can be found at the official MAME page at Mamedev.org. You can Click here to see what's new in this update.

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Thursday, December 7th 2006

SONY UPDATES PLAYSTATION 3 FIRMWARE TO V1.30

Sony has issued another firmware update for the PlayStation 3 and according to reaction around the 'net, it would seem they've screwed the pooch yet again. Here's the text on what's changed with the v1.3 update;

"The PLAYSTATION®3 system software version 1.30 update includes the following:

While at first glance, that all seems quite innocuous, it's that "The method of selecting output resolution has been changed" message that has everyone up in arms. If you click the available link what you'll find is that Sony has changed the PlayStation 3's order of preference in regards to available resolutions. Previously, the PS3 would look for 1080p first, and if it were unavailable, check for 720p, then 420p and finally 1080i. Now, 1080i resolution has been moved ahead of 720p in an attempt to fix some of the issues the PS3 has been experiencing. The problem here is that while this may fix the Blu-Ray playback issue for those without 1080p capable televisions, most games run best in 720p.

My guess is I've lost many of you at this point, so I'll try to make this a bit clearer - hell, even I'm not sure if I fully understand what's going on just yet, so cut me some slack if I'm off target on this one...

So while it certainly is a welcome temporary fix for many, the ideal fix would be to either;

  1. Correct the issues regarding 720p Blu-Ray Disc playback, so those who have and/or prefer 720p over 1080i could set their maximum resolution to 720p and still get the best of both worlds.
  2. Make some changes to the PS3's system settings so users could choose one maximum resolution for games and one maximum resolution for movies. While not as ideal as actually fixing all the issues with different resolutions, this would at the very least take the pain in the ass factor created by having to flip between resolutions via the menu for the two out of the equation.

Here's to hoping Sony can get this all straightened out before an angry mob complete with torches start showing up outside Sony's headquarters.

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XBOX 360 COLLEGE HOOPS 2K7 DEMO NOW AVAILABLE

Just a quick note here - a demo of College Hoops 2K7 is now available in the Xbox Live Marketplace for Xbox Live Gold members. The demo weighs in at 961.64mb and should be made available to Silver members within a week or so.

Basketball is not my thing, so I'm really not one to mention else about this one. What are the odds of me posting three stories in a row about titles that really don't suit my tastes? Wow.

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XBOX 360 SPLINTER CELL: DOUBLE AGENT DEMO NOW AVAILABLE

A single player demo of Splinter Cell: Double Agent is now available for download to Xbox Live Gold members via the Xbox Live Marketplace. The demo weighs in at 505.86mb and would appear to be the same demo as the one I tried back at Digital Life '06. What this means is that the demo itself isn't really representative of the main gameplay elements (at least in the earliest missions, as I'll freely admit that I didn't get all that far into Double Agent) of the single player campaign. The demo focuses heavily on the action elements of the title while really downplaying the stealth aspects - so those of you who aren't really fans of sneaking around may find the demo a load of fun to play, but will ultimately find that the full game itself still requires a lot of stealth. (Mind you, that's not a bad thing if you're into stealth action games. Double Agent is certainly a great game - it's simply a case of it not being something that suits my tastes.)

As mentioned above, the demo is currently only available to Xbox Live Gold members - those of you with Silver accounts will have to wait about a week for the demo to trickle down. Unlike the Eragon demo, this one is good enough that I can't see it being removed before then.

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XBOX LIVE ARCADE WEDNESDAYS: ROBOBLITZ

Another original title comes to the Xbox Live Arcade with Naked Sky Entertainment's RoboBlitz. This is another title that hasn't seen much in the way of hype, so I'm really not sure what to expect from the game. Based on it's description and the available screenshots, I'd have to say that the game plays like a cross between an adventure game and a platformer. While the game itself may not be familiar to most, the engine behind it is - RoboBlitz is the first Live Arcade game designed using Unreal Engine 3 - which probably accounts for it's high price.

Is it worth buying? Having tried the demo, I can tell you I'll probably be passing on this one. The controls seemed a little too loose and as I'm already not a fan of platformers, the game just really isn't my thing. I'd strongly advise downloading the trial before you buy it.

Title: RoboBlitz
Developer: Naked Sky Entertainment
Publisher:
Genre: Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: 12/06/06
Console: Xbox 360
Players: 1
Xbox Live: Yes
HDTV Support: 720p
Full Game: 1200 points ($15)
Demo?: Yes

Description as per Xbox.com

"Experience the power of the Unreal Engine 3 for the first time in an Xbox Live® Arcade game with RoboBlitz™. Independent developer Naked Sky Entertainment created RoboBlitz using the latest in game technology to deliver an innovative, high definition experience.

RoboBlitz is a fast-paced, 3-D action game with unique physics, inventive gizmos, creative weapons, and robotic characters. Take on the role of Blitz, a multi-talented robot who must activate an aging space cannon to save his world from a band of maladjusted space pirates. Set in seven distinct environments, RoboBlitz features 19 levels of puzzle-solving and high-intensity action. .

  • Multiple levels: Play 19 levels of puzzle-solving and high intensity action set in seven distinct environments.
  • Interactive demo: The free trial version consists of three engaging levels.
  • Action and puzzles: RoboBlitz is a new breed of game blending fast-paced action, puzzle solving, and a playground of interactive physics.
  • Advanced physics: Advanced physics simulation gives you real freedom to solve problems in creative and unexpected ways.
  • Unique weapons: Use unique weapons including Fire-Cracker Rocket and Point-to-Point Tractor Beam.
  • Changing difficulty: Choose your difficulty level for ease of use and high reparability. The Master Technician mode lets you unlock new achievements and bonus content.
  • Content downloads: Expect premium downloadable content for this title in the future, providing new game play elements and unique challenges for RoboBlitz fans." - Xbox.com RoboBlitz page

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Wednesday, December 6th 2006

SID MEIER TALKS CHRONICLES & NEXT-GEN CONSOLES WITH GAMESPOT

My all time favorite game designer, Sid Meier, took the time to sit down with the folks over at Gamespot and discuss the Civilization Chronicles boxed set, the experience of Firaxis being bought by Take-Two Interactive and the prospects of Civilization making it's way onto next-gen consoles. While the interview doesn't really break any new ground as far as things we know about the man, the myth and the legend that is Sid, it does offer some hope to dedicated console fans during the course of the latest generation of hardware - here's what Meier had to say about he possibility of the Civilization series coming to consoles;

"I think the latest consoles have the processing power to deliver fun experiences with the bigger strategy games. It's definitely something we've been keeping our eyes on, and we'll let you know where we'll go from here." - Sid Meier

While that's by no means a guarantee of any kind, the thought of being able to play Civilization on any console is enough to catch my attention, and as such, you're reading about it now. The one thing I would hope for should Civilization find it's way to consoles would be keyboard and/or mouse support. I just couldn't picture how annoying the later stages of a game like Civilization could get if you were just using a controller.

While that comment was certainly the highlight of the interview, Meier also mentioned another project that had somehow completely evaded me - Firaxis is bringing Pirates! to the PSP. You know folks, if Sony would just drop the price of the PSP a bit more and Pirates! was available on the system, I could easily see myself running out and grabbing one.

You know, therein lies the magic of Sid's game design - he creates games that offer such a rich and fun experience that gamers are willing to buy them time and time again, across platforms, as they get updated, etc. I can't begin to even count how many hours I've burned away with just the Civilization and Pirates! series alone. I guess as long as Sid keeps turning them out, I'll keep lining up to get them. He's truly still the one designer who's never sold me up the river on a purchase - and that's saying a lot. (Though I never bought the Civ III online kit, and that Civ III collector's Edition set came close though - where were all the promised goodies?!)

Those of you who want to hear more from Sid should check out the Gamespot interview by clicking on this link.

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Tuesday, December 5th 2006

AMAZING CUSTOM GUITAR HERO CONTROLLER TO BE RAFFLED FOR CHARITY

I saw this over at Kotaku, and I really wish I had known about it earlier, because I would have scheduled a day off from work around this and joined the party. This wednesday, Barcade is holding their second annual Child's Play charity event, Funde Razor II, which includes a raffle for the truly stunning Guitar Hero compatible guitar shown in this Kotaku article. If you're in the New york area and you have a chance, why not head down to Barcade to have a good time in the name of charity? Think of the children!

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HALO 3 COMMERCIAL NOW AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD

The Halo 3 live action/CG teaser video shown during Monday Night Football is now available for download in the Xbox Live Marketplace. As you may well know, I'm usually not a fan of CG rendered trailers, but Bungie has a habit of hiding a lot of information about a game in their ad spots, so this one is more than welcome. By the way, am I the only one who thought that while that shield grenade was nice, it was more thrilling to see further proof that the original battle rifle is making a comeback in the game?

While writing this up, I also just found out that the video is up at YouTube already, so if you don't have Live or can't get to your 360 right now, check it out below.

Let the inevitable countdown to launch begin.

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HALO 3 MULTIPLAYER BETA TEST APPLICATIONS NOW BEING TAKEN

As we reported the other day, Microsoft and Bungie have opened up registration for this spring's beta test of Halo 3's multiplayer mode. Those interested in taking a shot at being selected for what is probably going to be the hottest Xbox 360 title of 2007 should head over to www.halo3.com, read the requirements and then start the process of filling out the application.

As you might well imagine, traffic on that site is extremely high at the moment, so if at first you don't' succeed, try, try again... and again, and again. Rinse, lather, repeat. Remember, signing up is not a guarantee that you'll be selected to participate in the beta, so keep your hopes in check.

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Monday, December 4th 2006

THIS WEEK'S RELEASES: DECEMBER 4TH - DECEMBER 10TH

Wow, if you thought last week's release list was short, you haven't seen anything yet. While the list may be short this week, that doesn't mean that it's empty. Castlevania fans get the latest Nintendo DS installment of the series with Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, PSP owners get Metal Gear: Portable Ops and PlayStation 3 owners get Fight Night: Round 3.

Beyond those titles, there are a few other potential winners in the pile, but nothing that really jumps out as a potential must have. I've got Castlevania on pre-order at Gamestop, but they seem to be waffling on whether or not I'll be getting my pre-order bonus 20th anniversary kit, and let me tell you this - if they don't come through with the shiny baubles, I'm going to be mighty pissed off.

Here's what should be hitting store shelves this week;

Please keep in mind these are only estimated release dates and could change at any time.

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Sunday, December 3rd 2006

SONY COMPUTER ENTERTAINMENT SHUFFLES MANAGEMENT TEAM

I don't know if you've noticed, but Sony did some restructuring this week, where they basically moved Ken Kutaragi up (and somewhat out of the way) and put Kaz Hirai in direct charge of Sony Computer Entertainment. There's a lot of speculation right now about what this move means - If you remember, Microsoft did something similar right after the Xbox 360 launch. Some claim that it's indicative of Sony preparing to move away from manufacturing game consoles and return to being a software developer while others feel that Kutaragi is being groomed to take over for Sir Howard Stringer as head of Sony Corp. at some future date.

My take on it? (none of what follows is official, just my own speculation based on what I've seen and read) - I personally don't buy the "Sony plans on making the PS3 it's last console" speculation, but I do believe that Sony is getting ready to concentrate on software (Hirai's specialty) over the now completed hardware end of the PS3 (Kutaragi's specialty) - Again, this would be very similar to Microsoft moving J Allard out of the way when the 360 launched and moving Peter Moore into the spotlight.

There's been a general sense that while Kutaragi may have pushed the limits on the PS3 hardware, he doesn't grasp just how important the software end of the business is - as indicated by his allowing so many potential exclusives slip away and the generally poor way Sony has been dealing with third party developers.

Hirai supposedly has a much greater understanding of just how important the games are to a system and rumor has it, he plans on trying to repair a lot of the damage that's been done to Sony's rep with third party developers. Only time will tell if it's too late for that.

Again, this is just my twenty-five cents on the situation - your mileage may vary.

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SAturday, December 2nd 2006

MAME32 .110.4 RELEASED

MAME32, the Windows GUI version of MAME, has also been updated to incorporate the u4 changes listed below. As with the regular version of MAME, MAME32 110.4 centers around a lot of background updates, so you may want to hold off on upgrading until the next full release - just to be on the safe side.

Check out the official MAME32 page here for more details and the download links.

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MAME V.110U4 RELEASED

The third interim update for MAME v.110 is now available. MAME v.110u4 centers around some behind the scenes fixes, so unless you've been having problems with the most recent build or are into testing the changes in each update, you may want to consider holding off for the next full release.

The updated files can be found at the official MAME page at Mamedev.org. You can Click here to see what's new in this update.

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Friday, December 1st 2006

HALO 3 MULTIPLAYER BETA SIGN UPS START DECEMBER 4TH

The other day I filled you in on how to sign up for the Xbox 360 Shadowrun beta test... well, today I've got one better than that for you. Microsoft will be opening sign-ups for this Spring's multiplayer beta test of Halo 3 on December 4th. Yes, you read that right, Halo-freaking-3.

Those interested in getting into the beta (and let's be honest, who isn't interested in getting into this beta test) should head over to www.halo3.com on December 4th and fill out all the forms required to put your name into consideration for the test. As with the Shadowrun test, just signing up does not guarantee you'll be selected, so be prepared for the possibility of being rejected. Good luck!

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MICROSOFT FIXES XBOX 360 1080P VIDEO ISSUE WITH DASHBOARD UPDATE

Another quick note. Microsoft has fixed the issues they were having with 1080p video playback on the Xbox 360 via a dashboard update that should be available in all regions at the time of this posting. As per Xbox Live's Larry "Major Nelson" Hyrb, the dashboard update will correct the following issues;

Xbox 360 users should be prompted to download the patch automatically the next time they log onto the Xbox Live service.

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WII COMPONENT CABLES BACK IN STOCK AT NINTENDO ONLINE STORE

Just a quick note here - the much sought after Nintendo Wii Component Cables are back in stock over at the Nintendo Online Store. If you've been looking for them everywhere with no luck, head over there quick and get your order in before they run out! They'll set you back $29.95 + any applicable tax and shipping charges. Here's the linkage - Wii Component Cables

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GEARS OF WAR SELLS OVER 1 MILLION COPIES IN FIRST 8 DAYS

You know, I could have sworn I ran this story last week, but for the life of me I can't find it anywhere on the site - forgive me if this is a repeat. Microsoft has announced that Gears of War broke the million unit mark in only 8 days on the market, making it both the fastest selling game of 2006 and the fastest selling Xbox title of all time. The title has also taken over the overall #1 slot on Xbox Live from Halo 2 and is being credited with a 50 percent increase in Xbox Live Gold sign ups. Not bad for a new IP, not bad at all.

While we're on the subject of Gears of War, over in the official Gears forums, Epic VP Mark Rein disputed Microsoft's earlier statement about Gears being a trilogy by stating that if the demand was still there, they see no reason to stop at three. The way they see it, the world of Sera is a big enough place to tell quite a few stories;

"Gears is a trilogy? If we can keep making quality games that fans obviously love (see announcement) then why would we have to stop at three? I don't see the Metal Gear Solid, Mario, Grand Theft Auto or Final Fantasy series (among others) stopping at three and they're still delivering compelling entertainment content that's easily worth the money (see Unreal Tournament as well). There's definitely, as many of you have pointed out, a lot more to learn about what's really happening on the plant Sera and in the lives of the members of Delta Squad" - Mark Rein, Vice President, Epic Games

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Thursday, November 30th 2006

PLAYSTATION 3 VS XBOX 360 VIDEO COMPARISON

Maybe you've been sitting around wondering if there's a noticeable difference between titles on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Maybe you've been wondering if, as Ken Kutaragi has said, the next-generation of gaming started with the release of the PlayStation 3 and not the launch of the Xbox 360... and maybe, just maybe, you've been wondering if there's an article out there that can help you figure out the answer to those 2 mysteries.

Well, I'm here to tell you there is a place you can go to get those answers. 1UP.com has posted an absolutely great article where they take a look at several multi-platform titles on the 360 and PS3 and then took the time to splice together footage of each title into one video where the left side of the screen is the 360 version and the right side is the PS3. What you'll find is that when the games are put side by side, there really is no difference between the two systems as far as the selected games go.

I'm not trying to push either system here, because I truly do believe that people should play games, not systems - and if you can only afford one, you should pick the system that is going to offer you the most fun for your hard earned cash. All three of the next generation systems have games that I'd love to experience, and I look forward to eventually owning all of them. All I'm saying is that right now, for all of Sony's claims about how far ahead the PlayStation 3 would be compared to it's competition, there really doesn't seem to be much of a jump in quality. My guess is that most multi-platform titles are going to look fairly equivalent this time around, and it's only going to be the first party titles that are going to try and make the systems stand out in the crowd.

So without further delay, click here to head over to the 1UP.com article and see just how similar these games are on both systems.

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Wednesday, November 29th 2006

SONY UPDATES PLAYSTATION 3 SYSTEM SOFTWARE TO VERSION 1.11

Sony has made an update for the PlayStation 3's system software available via the PS3's "System Update" feature or via a web based download that can be loaded onto the PS3 using a supported storage device. Unfortunately, v1.11 does not address any of the major issues with the PlayStation 3, but rather focuses on correcting some apparently minor issues.

If you've been surfing the gaming sites on the net today, you've probably noticed there's a lot of venom being spewed towards Sony regarding this update and the issues it seems to ignore. While I understand that it's better to release small updates frequently rather than wait to get the larger ones done, I do have to say that I really hope Sony plans on getting all the issues with 1080i support for games, 720p support for Blu-Ray movies and the myriad of issues with their online services interface fixed as soon as possible.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - right now it appears that the only exclusive game worth bothering with on the PlayStation 3 is Resistance: Fall of Man, and making matters worse, there really isn't anything else coming to the system worth getting excited about until March '07. Sony really needs to convince the early adopters that they made a wise choice in investing in a PlayStation 3, because early word of mouth can really help make or break a system. The last thing they need right now is people saying that the PS3 is overpriced, hard to find and broken to boot, because that will just further push buyers towards the Xbox 360 or Wii.

If you're wondering just what all the issues I'm talking about are, there's an excellent write up of the system over at ArsTechnica - check it out at this link. Anyway, before I ramble on incoherently for the next few hours, here's the update description as per Sony;

"System Software Update

The PLAYSTATION®3 system software update may include security patches, new or revised settings and features and other items, which will change your current operating system. We encourage you to check this page from time to time for software updates and to always maintain your system to use the latest version of the system software.

An update to the PS3™ system software was released on November 28, 2006. If you update your PS3™ system, the system software will be version 1.11.

Notices The PLAYSTATION®3 system software version 1.11 update includes the following: You can update your system software by any of the following methods:

You can also check out the full text of the update description at Sony's PlayStation 3 Network Update page at this link. Those of you who are planning on downloading the update via your PC and transferring it to your PlayStation 3 can either use the provided link on the network update page or you can just click here.

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Tuesday, November 28th 2006

MICROSOFT NOW TAKING APPLICATIONS FOR XBOX 360 SHADOWRUN BETA

Microsoft needs your help in making sure that it's first cross-platform game is everything they want it to be. As such, they're going to hold a 3 month beta test of the Xbox 360 version of the game, and that's where you come in - Microsoft is currently accepting applications to get in on the Shadowrun beta test and all you have to do to apply is follow the directions posted at this link.

There are a few things you should note though...

  1. This is only for the Xbox 360 version of the game from what I understand. They are not taking PC applications just yet. (I could be wrong though, as the page does ask a few PC oriented questions)
  2. Use Internet Explorer to sign up - I ran into a few problems the first time I tried to register while using Firefox.
  3. Remember that signing up does not guarantee that you'll be selected.
  4. If you read the entire page, you'll also find instructions for how to sign up for Microsoft Game Studios beta test program at the bottom of the page.

Good luck to all those who register, and a big thanks to Kotaku for posting the link in the first place!

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NINTENDO SELLS OVER 600,000 WII IN THE FIRST 8 DAYS

Gamasutra is reporting that Nintendo has announced that in it's first 8 days on the market, the company has sold in excess of 600,000 Wii and over 450,000 copies of The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess while racking up over 190 million dollars in total sales related to the console. In addition, Nintendo has stated that they fully expect to meet their goal of shipping an additional 150,000 - 200,000 consoles to the North American market weekly through the end of the year.

Those numbers aren't shabby by any length of the imagination, especially when you consider the console doesn't go on sale in Japan until December 2nd. I'd expect to see similar numbers coming out of Japan in the Wii's first 8 days there, and I expect to continue to see very strong sales here in North America. In other words, when you consider the fact that Nintendo is selling the Wii at a profit, someone is going to be getting one hell of a year end bonus.

From my perspective, the big question for Nintendo now is no longer if people are willing to try something new, but whether or not they can keep this momentum going and keep the public interested.

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Monday, November 27th 2006

SONY BACKS OFF PLAYSTATION 3 1080I FIX STATEMENT

The other day we reported on a story over at GameDaily BIZ that stated that Sony had acknowledged the PlayStation 3 issues in regards to televisions that don't support 720p or 1080p, and had stated that they were working on a fix that would be made available via a firmware update. Things have apparently changed since then.

Sony is still acknowledging the issue, but it appears that they aren't so sure about their ability to fix the problem. In an update to the original story over at GameDaily BIZ, Sony is now giving a more uncertain response into how they'll deal with the issue;

"Sony has contacted us to let us know that they may have spoken a bit prematurely. SCEA's Dave Karraker, Sr. Director, Corporate Communications, informed GameDaily BIZ that they currently cannot confirm that this 1080i issue will be resolved via a firmware patch. The official line is now that they are "looking into the issue and haven't stated any actions that will be taken regarding it." -GameDaily BIZ

C'mon Sony, give early adopters some reason to smile, will you? It's bad enough that the PlayStation 3 release schedule doesn't have much between now and March 2007, can you at least make sure that people can enjoy what little they do have?

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THIS WEEK'S RELEASES: NOVEMBER 27TH - DECEMBER 3RD

To say this week's release list is weak would be an understatement. It looks like most of the major releases for 2006 are now on the shelves and all that's left are the few titles that got delayed and a lot of filler material. In running today's lists, I noticed that there are very few Gamecube games left on future charts and only one original Xbox game. While I completely expected the Xbox to be dying out now that the 360 has been on retail shelves for over a year, it is surprising to see just how fast the Gamecube release list is emptying out. Twilight Princess will probably be the last major release on the console. It's always kind of sad to see consoles begin they're walk into the sunset, you know?

Anyway, like I was saying, there really isn't much to note on the release schedule this week. Wii owners get a version of Splinter Cell: Double Agent, Nintendo DS owners get Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates and PC owners see the first expansion for Battle for Middle Earth II in The Rise of the Witch King. Like I said, there's not much to get overly thrilled about here, though I am interested to hear about how Splinter Cell turns out on the Wii. Here's what you can expect to see this week;

Please keep in mind these are only estimated release dates and could change at any time.

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Sunday, November 26th 2006

MAME32 .110.3 RELEASED

MAME32, the Windows GUI version of MAME, has also been updated to incorporate the u3 changes listed below. As with the regular version of MAME, MAME32 110.3 centers around driver updates, so you may want to hold off on upgrading until the next full release - just to be on the safe side.

Check out the official MAME32 page here for more details and the download links.

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MAME V.110U3 RELEASED

The third interim update for MAME v.110 is now available. MAME v.110u3 centers around a few driver fixes, so unless you've been having problems with a few games (most specifically Konami titles) or are into testing the changes in each update, you may want to consider holding off for the next full release.

The updated files can be found at the official MAME page at Mamedev.org. You can Click here to see what's new in this update.

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Saturday, November 25th 2006

SONY RESPONDS TO 1080I PLAYSTATION 3 ISSUE

For those unaware of the situation, owners of older model HDTV's that can only display 480p (EDTV) or 1080i (HDTV) signals are finding that the PlayStation 3 is scaling games designed for 720p or 1080p down to 480p rather than displaying the titles at the higher 1080i resolution. GameDaily BIZ is reporting that after a short delay, Sony is now stating that are aware of the problem;

"A small number of older High Definition television sets found in the United States only have 1080i inputs for HD signals. Those televisions will currently only play some PS3 titles at 480p resolution. PS3 games render images at either 720p or 1080p for High Definition, and you need 720p input on the TV to play select games that do not support 1080p. This is an issue on the side of the individual television sets, which do not accept 720p input, so when a game outputs an HD signal only at 720p, these select TVs have to display the game at 480p instead." - GameDaily BIZ

According to GameDaily BIZ, Sony plans on fixing the issue via an as of yet undated PlayStation 3 firmware update. Hopefully they'll soon have something to say about the Blu-Ray playback issues as well. Someone seriously needs to wake up over at Sony, because of late they've seen nothing but bad publicity on top of bad publicity.

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Friday, November 24th 2006

HOW TO SWAP OUT YOUR PLAYSTATION 3 HARD DRIVE

If you remember, back around E3, Sony told us that the PlayStation 3 hard drive would be upgradeable using regular off-the-shelf drives. Well, it looks like they weren't lying on that one, as GamersReports has posted a tutorial on how to swap your 20 or 60 gigabyte hard drive out for a much larger drive. As with anything that involves opening up your console, we'd like to remind you that while it's a fairly simple process, it could void your warranty, it could screw up your PlayStation 3 and if you're not comfortable mucking around with hardware, you probably shouldn't even attempt it. We're pretty sure you'd rather have to transfer files via memory cards rather than have to buy a whole new $500+ system.

For those of you who are determined to try anyway, check out the GamersReports tutorial at this link. Be sure to read everything thoroughly first before you begin (most specifically the parts on drive size and speed)

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Thursday, November 23rd 2006

LOST PLANET: EXTREME CONDITION MULTIPLAYER DEMO NOW AVAILABLE

As promised, a multiplayer demo of Capcom's upcoming Xbox 360 title Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is now available for download in the Xbox Live Marketplace. The demo weighs in at 173.65mb and is currently available for Xbox Live Gold members only. The demo will be made available to Silver members on November 30th.

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REMINDER: AMAZON TO SELL 1,000 XBOX 360 CORE UNITS FOR $100 TODAY

I hope everyone out there is having a great Thanksgiving. This is just a quick note to remind anyone who may have forgotten that Amazon will be selling 1,000 core Xbox 360 units today at 2pm EST/1pm CST/11am PST. If you still haven't experienced Gears of War and need some way to get a 360 cheap, this may be your best chance.

One thing I do need to remind you of is that at the very least you'll probably need to pick up the 360 hard drive for another $99.99 and possibly component or VGA cables if you plan on using anything other than old school, non HD-capable composite cables supplied with the core model. Head over to Amazon.com for all the details - the link to the deal is on the right side of their front page. Good luck!

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Wednesday, November 22nd 2006

THE ELDER SCROLLS IV: OBLIVION - KNIGHTS OF THE NINE NOW AVAILABLE

While there appears to be a delay on the downloadable version of Oblivion: Knights of the Nine for the PC, the expansion is already available (on PC) in a retail boxed set and on the Xbox 360 via the Xbox Live Marketplace. For those who missed the earlier announcement, here's the content description as per the Official Oblivion download store;

"Knights of the Nine- DLC8

The Gods have forsaken Tamriel.

A fallen King has been unchained from the darkness of Oblivion to seek vengeance upon the Gods who banished him. Only a champion pure of heart can vanquish the evil that has been released upon the land. You must heed the call, reclaim the lost relics of the Divine Crusader, and return the Nine to glory. New dungeons, characters, quests, and mysteries await.

Features:

Those of you who've been looking for something new to do in Cyrodill, this one's for you.

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XBOX LIVE ARCADE WEDNESDAYS - SMALL ARMS

Some new blood joins the Xbox Live Arcade as Gastronaut Studios original title Small Arms makes it's debut in the Xbox 360. Truth be told, other than a few screenshots, so I'm really looking forward to trying the demo to see what the game is like and if Microsoft will have another hit on it's hands.

Title: Small Arms
Developer: Gastronaut Studios
Publisher:
Genre: Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: 11/22/06
Console: Xbox 360
Players: 1-4
Xbox Live: Yes
HDTV Support: 720p
Full Game: 800 points ($10)
Demo?: Yes

Description as per Xbox.com

"Easy to pick up but hard to put down, Small Arms™ is a frantic multiplayer action game with the feel of an arcade shooter. Up to four players can join in the fight across many dynamic and richly detailed levels. Choose from a cast of awesome fighters like cyborg tabby cats, assassin truffle pigs, and mutant chimney sweeps! Leap from platform to platform as you shoot targets to pieces with 360° aim! Familiar and original at the same time, Small Arms is an essential Xbox Live® Arcade title for anyone with an itchy trigger finger.

  • Make your choice: 12 different characters, each with a unique weapon. Look for other weapons in the game, each with primary and secondary fire modes! You can also choose between three different single-player game modes: Story, Challenge, and Shooting Range.
  • Go online: Play four-player multiplayer both online and off. You can even switch out a character from a local friend to one on Xbox Live without ever leaving the game! Look for exciting new levels and characters available for download from Xbox Live.
  • Find the dev team: If you're lucky enough to play with the Small Arms development team on Xbox Live, you become part of the Six Degrees of Small Arms viral achievement. Play someone who's played the dev team up to six generations removed for this unique achievement! Small Arms also offers 11 other different achievements.
  • Explore the world: Progress through eight unique levels, each with their own feel. Experience the colorful 3D graphics in this new take on classic side-scrolling run and gun action." - Xbox.com Small Arms page

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Tuesday, November 21st 2006

MICROSOFT NOW SELLING XBOX 360 AT A PROFIT?

For those that don't know, most consoles are at least initially produced at a net loss (The Wii being a notable exception) with the idea being that you'll try to make the money back on software and accessories until production prices drop to a level where the hardware is no longer costing you money for every unit sold. Further, you take the loss in hopes of dominating the market so that you can maximize the profit coming in from your games and accessories. It's the old maxim of selling the razor cheap and then making your money back on razor blades brought into the modern age.

Now then, if ArsTechinca is right and the Xbox 360 has already gotten to a point where Microsoft makes roughly $75 on every console sold, I'm genuinely shocked that it happened so fast. Unlike the PS2 or Gamecube (or Wii for that matter) the original Xbox never turned the corner and was consistently a loss leader for it's entire lifespan - and the Xbox 360 was supposedly going to be much the same story.

"It's a gloomy picture, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. When iSuppli tore down an Xbox 360 around this time last year, the firm estimated that Microsoft was losing $126 on each 360 sold. Microsoft is whistling a much happier tune now. Revised component costs for the Xbox 360 indicate that costs have dropped to the point where each $399 Xbox 360 sold costs $323.30 to make—leaving Microsoft $75.70 in the black on each system, before marketing and other costs are figured into the equation.

The two biggest points of contrast between the PS3 and Xbox 360 in terms of component costs are what iSuppli calls the "motherboard"—CPU, GPU, memory, controllers, etc.—and the optical drive. The PS3's "motherboard" costs $500 for Sony, while the Xbox 360 motherboard is only $200—down from a $370 figure at launch. The Xbox 360's vanilla DVD optical drive is only $19.45, over $100 cheaper than the Blu-ray's price tag.

As we said in May, Sony's decision to use the PS3 to gain a Blu-ray beachhead is an expensive one. If the PS3 sells like gangbusters once the supply constraints evaporate sometime in the first half of 2007 and Blu-ray wins the battle against HD DVD, the decision will have been worth it."
-ArsTechnica

If Microsoft is actually now seeing a profit on every Xbox 360 sold, it makes you wonder whether they'll use the additional funds to further the 360's lead over it's competitors. For more information on both the 360's production costs as well as an estimate on how much Sony is currently spending to produce the PlayStation 3, check out the ArsTechnica article at this link.

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Monday, November 20th 2006

BURGER KING XBOX / XBOX 360 GAMES NOW AVAILABLE

Burger King's Xbox promotion has now kicked off, and all three games should be available for $3.99 each at your local Burger King with the purchase of any value meal - and for those wondering, based on the experiences of myself and a few others, you are allowed to buy all three at once when you purchase one value meal - there's no need to buy 3 meals.

The three games are Sneak King, Pocketbike Racer and Big Bumpin' and each game disc includes both the Xbox and Xbox 360 versions of their indicated games - so there's no need to specify which version you want. I've had a chance to try all three and while they aren't anything special, at $3.99 per game they do offer some level of amusement. If you're interested in grabbing these titles, be sure to stop by a BK soon, as the offer is only good while supplies last.

I guess selling cheap games is the only way BK can get anyone to eat those fries, huh? (Don't tell me I'm the only one out there who usually goes to Burger King for just a hamburger and then stops at McDonalds for the fries) Those of you who want a little more information on the games before you buy anything can check out the BK Gamer website at this link.

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AMAZON TO OFFER CORE XBOX 360 FOR $100 ON THURSDAY?

Gamers may have something else to give thanks for come this thursday, as it's looking like a near certainty that online retailer Amazon.com will be offering 1,000 "Core" Xbox 360's for $100 each. That's not a misprint - we're not talking $100 off, we're talking $100 total. Here's the story - Amazon has started a new promotion where they list four deals each week, and Amazon users vote on which they want the retailer to actually run the next week. The inaugural deal list has 1,000 core Xbox 360's for $100 each as an option, and as you can imagine, it's running away with the competition. I think at this point, it would take some serious work to knock it out of first place.

So here's the deal - on thursday, November 23rd (yes, Thanksgiving Day) at 2pm EST (11am PST), Amazon will put the 1,000 360's up for sale. They have some hints on how to give yourself the best chance of managing to get in on that 1,000, so be sure to check out all the details of the promotion at this link. Good luck to all who try to get in on this one!

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THIS WEEK'S RELEASES: NOVEMBER 20TH - NOVEMBER 26TH

As you can imagine, we've got a relatively small list of titles hitting retail this week - my guess is just about everyone figured that with the PlayStation 3 and Wii having just hit the previous week, there are going to be a lot of broke gamers out there this week. While that may be true, there are a few brave souls who are going to risk the rapids of retail this week, and Rainbow Six: Vegas (360) leads the pack. Following it's lead, the Knights of the Nine expansion pack (360 & PC) for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion will be released via download on both the Xbox 360 and PC as well as in a retail box exclusively for PC's. Beyond that, there's not much to really get excited about in the list this week, but with how many great games there are on the market right now, I'm sure if you need a new fix, there's going to be something in the store to ease the pain.

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Sunday, November 19th 2006

THE WII REVIEW ROUND-UP BEGINS NOW!

As promised, here's the first look at what 5 major outlets are saying about the Nintendo Wii's launch titles - as I did with the PlayStation 3 launch, I'll be updating the list as more information becomes available. Here's what we've got so far;

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THE PLAYSTATION 3 REVIEW ROUND-UP CONTINUES

For those of you too lazy to scroll down a bit, here's the latest look at the PlayStation 3 review round-up chart. I'm considering dumping Gamepro from future updates to all the charts as they seem to lag behind in reviews - probably because they want them to appear in print first. If you have any suggestions for a replacement, let me know!

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THE NINTENDO WII LAUNCHES IN NORTH AMERICA

Well folks, our third guest has now arrived and the table is set. The Nintendo Wii has been made available to the general public, and it's time to how Nintendo's great experiment will go over with the general public. We'll be posting a Wii review round up momentarily, so stay tuned!

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MAME32 .110.2 RELEASED

MAME32, the Windows GUI version of MAME, has also been updated to incorporate the u2 changes listed below. As with the regular version of MAME, MAME32 110.2 centers around fixes to input modes, the debugger and the new games, so you may want to hold off on upgrading until the next full release - just to be on the safe side.

Check out the official MAME32 page here for more details and the download links.

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MAME V.110U2 RELEASED

The first interim update for MAME v.110 is now available. MAME v.110u2 includes changes to the input system for certain joystick types (16 way mainly), some debugger fixes and the promotions of several versions of Fisherman's Bait and Dance Dance Revolution 2nd Mix from the not working list to working. If you have the affected arcade PCB's you may want to consider upgrading, otherwise I'd suggest staying with what you've for now unless you want to test some of the changes.

The updated files can be found at the official MAME page at Mamedev.org. You can Click here to see what's new in this update.

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Saturday, November 18th 2006

XBOX 360 GETS LIVE DEMO FEVER

It looks like Microsoft is countering this weekend's console launches by adding a ton of new Xbox 360 demos to Xbox Live. We saw Superman Returns hit Live a few days back and now a multiplayer demo for Rainbow Six: Vegas (985.07mb) as well as demos for NCAA March Madness '07 (908.67mb) and Cars (453.57mb) are available in the Xbox Live Marketplace.

In regards to Microsoft's new policies regarding Xbox Live Gold membership being required for some downloads, here's the info for the three new additions;

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Friday, November 17th 2006

GAMESTOP TO TAKE A LIMITED NUMBER OF ONLINE 20GB PS3 ORDERS - TONIGHT!

If you missed out on getting a PlayStation 3 this morning and are willing to settle for a 20gig model and whatever stuff Gamestop/EB Games throws into the bundle, you have another chance tonight. I just got an e-mail from Gamestop stating the following;

"Dear GameStop.com/EBgames.com Customer:

We will have an extremely limited supply of 20GB PlayStation 3 console bundles for preorder on our site Friday evening, November 17th.

We expect these bundles to ship on or before December 1st. When the bundle is activated on our site, you can find it here:
http://www.gamestop.com/gs/ps3/ps3_signup.asp
http://www.ebgames.com/gs/ps3/ps3_signup.asp

We will not offer 60GB PlayStation 3 console bundles until our store pre-orders have been filled, but check back soon for future preorder opportunities.

Receipt of this email does not guarantee an opportunity to purchase. Orders will be taken on a first come, first serve basis.

Thank you,
GameStop.com/EBgames.com"
- Gamestop e-mail message

Those of you who are going to give it a shot, I wish you the best of luck!

Update: 11/17/06 - 8:50pm. Gamestop and EB Games online stores have now sold out of said 20GB PlayStation 3 bundles.

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PLAYSTATION 3 REVIEW ROUND UP

I've taken a look around the web at the scores being given to the first batch of PlayStation 3 games and combined them together into one easy to read chart. I'll be updating the image as the day progresses, so be sure to check back and hit refresh if need be to see the latest updates. Here's what we have so far;

Remember gang, we'll be updating the chart throughout the day as we get more information, so stay tuned!

UPDATE: 11/17/06 8:33pm - Corrected the Gamespot score for Call of Duty 3 (Thanks Climax!) and added Gamespot's Madden NFL '07 score.

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PLAYSTATION 3 LAUNCHES IN NORTH AMERICA

Just in case you've been living under a rock and didn't notice, the PlayStation 3 went on sale in North America today, and the nation apparently lost it's collective mind. Stories of week long camp-outs, fights, robberies, near riots and the like related to the PS3 launch have dominated the news over the last week, and for a few, the wait is now over. We'll be getting a "Review round-up" for the launch titles going shortly, and bringing you listings of some of the stories that have been featured over the last 24 hours or so.

If you're one of the lucky ones who came away from the madness with a console in hand, congratulations - enjoy the games. If you have Resistance: Fall of Man, feel free to drop me a line in the comments section letting me know how the final product turned out. Finally, if you didn't get one today, I'll keep my fingers crossed that you manage to get a hold of a system very soon. Stay tuned!

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Thursday, November 16th 2006

HALO 3 MULTIPLAYER BETA & NEW HALO 2 MAPS COMING THIS SPRING

Gamespot is reporting that Microsoft has announced that a public beta test of the multiplayer component of Halo 3 will be made available to Xbox Live subscribers sometime in the spring of 2007.

"Early this morning, Bungie's parent company Microsoft announced that next spring, it will stage an open beta test for the multiplayer aspects of Halo 3. "The Xbox Live multiplayer public beta, which is a prerelease version of the multiplayer experience of Halo 3, is scheduled for availability in spring 2007 exclusively on the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system," - Gamespot

While many people were expecting something more immediate from Microsoft to further dampen the PlayStation 3 launch, I actually think this is a brilliant move. Microsoft knows they really don't have to do much right now to hurt Sony's launch, as Sony has done one hell of a job on that end themselves. The simple fact that anyone looking for a game console in the coming months isn't going to be able to obtain a PS3 is already a huge selling point for Microsoft and the Xbox 360. However, at some point in the spring of 2007, the PlayStation 3 will be readily available to the general public and at that point the battle will truly begin - and I'd be willing to bet that this Halo 3 beta test will begin just as soon as the PS3 supply issues get worked out.

In addition to the beta announcement, Microsoft also stated that next spring the company will also be releasing a new set of multiplayer maps for Halo 2 exclusively for use on the Xbox 360. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for the idea of new content for Halo 2, but it just strikes me as a bit of a smack in the face to those who only have the original Xbox. I guess that's how Microsoft decided to celebrate the original Xbox's 5th birthday (which was yesterday in case you missed it) - I can just see the party now.... "Happy Birthday, Xbox! we bought you a... oh wait, this present isn't for you."

Those looking for more information should check out the Gamespot article at this link.

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XBOX 360 SUPERMAN RETURNS DEMO NOW IN MARKETPLACE

While they may have missed the movie's release by a few months, it looks like Electronic Arts will have Superman Returns: The Videogame ready in time for the film's DVD launch. To back that point up, EA has made a 905.42mb demo of the Xbox 360 version of the game available for download via the Xbox Live Marketplace;

"All of Superman’s powers will be in your hands when Superman Returns: The Videogame hits stores November 22nd. In the meantime, test your skills and experience the ultimate flying fix in a demo of the game, available on Xbox Live Marketplace on November 15.

You’ll be dropped right in the middle of Metropolis’ three Industrial Islands, where you’ll get to experience flying in a way you’ve never seen before in any other videogame. Soaring through the completely open-world environment, you can enjoy interacting directly with the people, traffic, and just about any other object around you, whether it’s on the ground or sitting on a rooftop. Exploration and experimentation are on the immediate agenda until you’re ready for more of a challenge.

The demo features five missions contained in two chapters, which give you a taste of the challenges you’ll face while constantly striving to save Metropolis. Each mission provides a unique challenge for Superman, as Metropolis gets attacked from the ground, from the air, and everywhere in between.

The demo culminates in a classic battle with Superman’s arch-nemesis, Metallo, who sends his robotic minions scurrying throughout the city trying to inflict as much damage as possible before you can put a stop to it.

Whether it’s battling atop the city’s skyline, or protecting individual citizens directly on the streets of Metropolis, Superman has his work cut out for him as he must constantly be in multiple places at the same time to protect the city he loves.

Will you be able to master Superman’s superpowers to save Metropolis from devastation?" - Superman Returns Xbox 360 demo announcement

From what I understand (and I could be wrong), Electronic Arts actually grasped the concept that you can't really hurt Superman and that the true challenge comes from protecting others. If this is in fact true, I applaud EA for finally seeing to it that the average grunt on the street can't beat up the Man of Steel.

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