Archive for February, 2012

Game shares crash as it misses out on Mass Effect 3 and Mario Party 9

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Shares in Game Group plunge 20% after it confirms it will not stock the potentially best-selling games

Speculation about the future of Game Group was mounting last night after it emerged that the embattled retailer will not stock the potentially best-selling video games Mass Effect 3 and Mario Party 9.

The expected loss of revenues is another severe blow to Game, which is battling for survival.

Shares in the company crashed more than 20% at one stage to just over 5p.

Game blamed a dispute with the publisher of Mass Effect 3, a company called Electronic Arts (EA), for the loss of the product, which is out on 9 March. The company will refund deposits to customers who have pre-ordered as well as giving customers a £5 voucher or reward points.

EA said: “Game’s challenges with several of its suppliers is regrettable, however given the incredibly high demand for Mass Effect 3 we want our consumers to know that the game is available at a wide variety of retailers across the UK and Europe.”

Game also confirmed that it will not be stocking Nintendo’s Mario Party 9, from the best-selling Mario series, which is released this Friday.

“We are in talks with Nintendo to resolve this and we apologise to our customers for this disappointing news,” a Game spokeswoman said. “We’re doing as much as we can to give our customers the widest possible range, but as flagged before, we need our partners’ help in order to do this.”

It was unclear whether future releases from EA and Nintendo would be affected.

A bust-up with EA, one of its main suppliers, could jeopardise Game’s ability to sell other upcoming titles such as The Sims 3 Showtime and the new Tiger Woods golf game.

Game Group renegotiated terms with its suppliers recently, which gave the firm some breathing space while it worked on a refinancing. It was thought to have told suppliers it would only trade on “manageable credit terms”.

Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games at research firm IHS Screen Digest, said: “It’s a big blow that they can’t stock these bigger titles.” But he added that it was in EA’s own interest to sort this out.

“Game is a vitally important partner in terms of their distribution network. They will both be working for a solution that works for both companies.”

Game’s lenders – Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, HSBC, Caixa, Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland – are wielding considerable influence over the business and are pressing for a sale of Game’s overseas stores. It will need more cash to keep it going through to next Christmas.

The longer-term issue for Game, and ailing rival HMV, is that many gamers have stopped going into high street shops and either download games or buy them online. They have lost ground to online retailers such as Amazon.com, Play.com and Blockbuster.

But Harding-Rolls said it was too early to write off Game, with 1,274 stores around the world, including 610 in the UK.

He said that Game had mapped out a strategy to become a market aggregator for these online games services by partnering with them, while GameStop in the US had gone down the acquisition route. Like other specialist game retailers, Game finds itself in uncharted waters.

“The game publishers themselves had to go through a similar transition. It’s obviously more difficult for a highstreet retailer,” he said.

The physical games business is forecast to continue its decline this year, as the much smaller but rapidly growing, and highly profitable digital games market makes further inroads. Instead of splashing out £40 on a video game CD for a £200 console, increasing numbers of consumers opt for 69p smartphone apps such as Angry Birds.

The launch of the new Wii U this year, and the mooted launch of an updated Microsoft Xbox 360 next year, should provide a fillip to the physical video games market.

Games

Game Group

Wii

Nintendo

Julia Kollewe

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Posted on February 29th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

news: Access TV Episode 23

Latest PS3 news:

Download now from PlayStation Store

We’re never happy about the weather in Britain are we? Just as the sun perks up a bit, we’re neglecting the shades and flip-flops in favour of loads of snow thanks to EA’s trick-spinning reboot, SSX; which is Game of the Week on Access TV episode 23. As well as a mountain’s worth of gameplay footage, there’s also an interview with SSX guru Todd Batty, who delves into the all-new online modes.

Elsewhere the show is stuffed full of PS Vita-fuelled excitement, with exclusive coverage from the console’s midnight launch from both London and Birmingham. There are interviews with some truly dedicated fans, who in some instances queued for upwards of 72 hours to be first in line when the clock struck midnight on February 22nd.

And that’s without even mentioning the final leg of the Access Vita Rooms tour from London, which features performances from rap aces Wiley and Tinchy Strider as well as PS Vita impressions from you lovely lot.

To top it all off there’s the usual flick through the week’s biggest news and PlayStation Store content, including a first look at Spec Ops: The Line and a run through PS Vita’s free-to-play augmented reality titles. Happy viewing!

Access TV is available on the PlayStation Store every Wednesday, free to download for all UK PSN users.

To sign up for future Access events or to hang out and chat with other members of the Access community, then visit us on Facebook at facebook.com/PlaystationAccess, or follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/PSAccess. 

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Posted on February 29th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

The Seed: where theatre, gaming and botany collide

An intriguing interactive theatre project from Goat and Monkey looks set to bring alternate reality gaming to the great gardens of Sussex

Theatre is and always has been interactive, from the city-wide mystery plays of the middle ages, to the modern era’s improvised comedy nights and experimental promenade performances. And though it may seem strange to draw parallels between this ancient artform and the world of video games, it’s the sense of interplay between audience and spectacle that can unite them.

This summer, the young theatre company Goat and Monkey is running a performance and alternate reality gaming (ARG) project named, The Seed. Based around the stories of Victorian botanists who would travel the world seeking rare seeds, the project starts on 28 May at a dedicated website, where viewers will read the blog of a fictitious researcher at the Millennium Seed Bank who is on a quest to find a ‘missing’ seed. As she investigates its whereabouts, she’ll write about the histories of Plant Hunters and also asks players to help, both by answering questions and by deciphering a range of puzzles.

The ARG story then culminates with a series of performances in great gardens around Sussex, including Wakehurst Place, High Beeches Gardens and finally at Borde Hill Gardens. For some of these, audience members are given wireless headsets and must follow instructions and story fragments, through the landscape. The narratives revolve around different tales of Victorian seed hunters and explorers, and participants will be able to pick up clues to the whereabouts of a hidden prize.

“Each of the four performances is a different story and takes a different form,” explains Goat and Monkey spokesman, Martin Shippen. “Two of the four are short promenade pieces where the audience will wear wireless headphones and follow a trail from one scene to the next. The Wakehurst performance takes place in a yurt but will involve problem solving and the final performance is a promenadepageant piece told in the style of traditional Mummers.

“Within each performance there are clues to help the players solve the mystery of the missing seed and find the treasure buried in the real world. Our ARG heroine will be in attendance at several performances allowing the players to talk to her. The final run of performances at Borde Hill Gardens also has more obvious game qualities as it involves audience members hunting for clues/scenes unguided by performers in a dark wood!”

This modern notion of interactive theatre, which combines location, narrative and interaction with actors has been growing in popularity for the last five years. Protoganists such as Punchdrunk and dreamthinkspeak usually take over non-theatrical venues like abandoned industrial units, shops and factories, combining traditional plays with interactive elements. In 2010, Punchdrunk put on The Duchess of Malfi at an old pharmaceutical headquarters in the Docklands, and last year terrified audiences at Salford Quays with its Dr Who-inspired interactive play about a downed alien spacecraft, The Crash of the Elysium.

Other artists and studios such as Blast Theory and Hide&Seek have blurred the boundaries even further, turning installations into ‘urban games’ complete with video game-like plots, characters and objectives. Bristol has an annual festival named IGfest, dedicated to pervasive and social games that take place in various areas of the city, often with narrative and theatrical elements.

The usual response to the concept of interactive theatre tends to be, well, aren’t British audiences too reserved to get involved? “All of our performances require the audience to ‘play along’ to various levels of involvement and they will be unable to be passive onlookers,” says Shippen. “However, we cater for a wide demographic and enable individual players and audiences to engage with the game elements to different degrees.”

The Seed is part of Ahead of The Game Festival, an arts project organised in West Sussex to mark the run-up to the Olympics. Ticket details can be found at the Chichester Theatre Festival box office.

Games

Theatre

Game culture

Alternate reality games

Keith Stuart

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Posted on February 28th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

UK top 20 video games chart, week ending 25 February

Sony’s new PS Vita console makes its presence felt with the top two places on the chart this week – Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Fifa Football

UKIE Games Charts© compiled by GfK Chart-Track

Games

PS Vita

PlayStation

PS3

Xbox

Handheld

Wii

DS

3DS

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Posted on February 27th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

PS3 news: Watch South Park on PS3, PSP and PS Vita

Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman hit the Video Store of PlayStation Store.

Grab your wireless controller, get yourself to the Video Store of PlayStation Store and prepare to meet four of the craziest, funniest and downright rudest schoolchildren in history – yes, South Park the TV series has arrived on PS3, PSP and PS Vita.

If you head to the Video Store of PlayStation Store right now you’ll find a side-splitting selection of South Park episodes available to download at the push of a button. That means you’ll be able to check out classic and current episodes of the smash hit series that has so far spawned 15 seasons and a blockbuster movie.

South Park is just one of the many great TV series on offer on the Video Store of PlayStation Store, so whether it’s comedy, action or drama you’re looking for, we’ve got it covered.

Visit the Video Store of PlayStation Store and start downloading South Park today.

Our blog is updated several times per day with the latest Free Slim PS3 news.

Posted on February 27th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

Medal of Honor: Warfighter announced for autumn 2012 – Console news

It’s going to be Medal of Honor v Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 this year, then, as the first-person shooter battle between EA and Activision continues

EA has announced through its Medal of Honor website that the next addition to the long-running shooter series will arrive this autumn, subtitled Warfighter. The February US edition of the Official Xbox Magazine apparently has all the exclusive details.

Right now, it seems the game will be developed entirely by Danger Close, previously known as EA LA, the studio responsible for the campaign mode in 2010’s re-boot of the MoH series. The game will use the Frostbite 2.0 engine – the same tech as Battlefield 3.

Once again, it seems the story will involve so-called Tier 1 operators, elite soldiers working on special missions within enemy territory. As with the previous title, which was largely set in Afghanistan, it’s likely the emphasis will be on real-world tactics and conflicts.

This caused some controversy in 2010, when Labour MP Liam Fox complained about the appearance of Taliban fighters in Medal of Honor – however, his comments revealed only a passing knowledge of the game content, and the Labour party distanced itself from his statement. More details on the scenario of the latest title are expected to come to light at the GDC conference in two week’s time.

2010’s instalment of MoH was a critical and commercial success for EA, shifting around 5m copies, despite some criticism of the extremely short single-player mode. However, it failed to make much of a dent on Black Ops, which went on to record-breaking sales of more than 25m.

Rumours circulating at the moment suggest that Treyarch is also preparing a sequel to its own 2010 hit, Call of Duty: Black Ops. It seems the two brands will go head to head again in 2012.

Games

Call of Duty

Shoot ‘em ups

PS3

Xbox

Keith Stuart

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Posted on February 26th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

JRPG legend Hironobu Sakaguchi – interview

The man who defined the Japanese RPG genre describes his latest mould-breaking opus, The Last Story

In the earliest days of games development, there was a Gold Rush vibe – pretty much every game invented a new genre. Then games developed and matured, settling into a fixed set of genres.

In their earliest days, video games were a blank book – pretty much every one that came out was different to what had gone before. But they quickly settled down into a familiar collection of genres (some of which, like point-and-click adventures, fell by the wayside).

One venerable genre which remains hugely popular is the Japanese RPG, characterised by stunning, anime-influenced artwork, strong storylines and turn-based battling, and exemplified by Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy franchise. The man who created the Final Fantasy games, Hironobu Sakaguchi, can claim to be the man who wrote the book on JRPGs, and we caught up with him on a rare visit to London.

Sakaguchi was in London to demo his latest game, The Last Story, to no less an august establishment than Bafta, before fielding a question-and-answer session. In a typically wry manner, he says: “There’s a Japanese saying: I’m a koi carp in the kitchen, waiting to be cooked.”

Why the Wii?

Sakaguchi’s breakthrough game was the first Final Fantasy in 1987, and he explains that it got its name because he had endured two flops and decided that if his third attempt hadn’t been a hit, he would have gone back to university.

Now he can point to a quarter of a century’s-worth of experience at crafting games. So it seems a bit strange that The Last Story should be coming out on the Wii, a console at the end of its life-cycle whose replacement, the Wii U, is already looming.

It’s especially considering that when Sakaguchi split from what was then Square in 2003, and handed over the Final Fantasy reins, he formed his new developer, Mistwalker, with very public backing from Microsoft. His next two games – 2006’s Blue Dragon and 2007’s Lost Odyssey – were Xbox 360 exclusives, and the former was a rare Sakaguchi flop.

Counter-intuitively, Sakaguchi explains that The Last Story is a Wii game because he wanted to step outside of his comfort zone and experiment with it.

“I have a formula from the 25 years experience I have in the industry – an RPG formula,” he says. “Which is a turn-based, orthodox JRPG. But for The Last Story, I wanted to completely change that formula and come up with something new.

“Around that time, Shinji Hatano at Nintendo, who is high up in the ranks there, said: ‘Why don’t we try this new type of RPG together?’ When creating new things, there are always risks – you never know whether it will be accepted by gamers.

“So I was extremely thankful that he offered to collaborate. So the game was born not from the feeling that I wanted to create a game for the Wii, but rather from the trust that I have for Hatano-san.”

Telling The Last Story

So, how does The Last Story differ from the rest of Sakaguchi’s oeuvre? It ditches the turn-based battle system, for a start, in favour of a real-time one which, he explains, is unique: “The battle system is probably the most important aspect of the game. We had an experimental phase of about a year, in which we had so many ideas, and the best have been incorporated in the final game.

“For example, the protagonist uses a move called ‘gathering’. This attracts the enemies’ attention towards the protagonist. So, the concept is that on a chaotic battlefield, by using this move, the player can bring order to the battlefield. Or, conversely, by attracting their attention can cause chaos on the enemy side. So that brings strategic elements.”

In practice, gathering works pretty well making boss-battles, for example, a matter of leading your attackers towards your Mage and archers, before going in close to finish the job yourself.

The Mage is clearly the key member of your party in The Last Story: “When your party’s Mage fires a magic attack, it leaves a magic circle. When the protagonist diffuses this with his move called ‘gale'; this causes a secondary effect.

“So, for example, if the Mage attack is an ice attack, it leaves an ice circle, and when the protagonist diffuses that, it creates an effect called ‘slip’, where the enemies slip over. We experimented with different ideas and, in the end, I believe we’ve been able to create a new type of battle system.”

Sakaguchi is keen to highlight other aspects of the game: “We should give credit to Kimihiko Fujisaka, who was in charge of the character design, as well as the design of the whole environment.

“Of course, in my games, I always place much emphasis on the graphics, so I did ask Fujisaka-san to put a lot of effort into that area.”

And he teamed up once more with Nobuo Uematsu, the composer who is as feted as Sakaguchi and with whom he has collaborated for 25 years – leading them to be likened to a married couple, as Sakaguchi acknowledges.

“When it came to requesting music for the game, due to the change in the battle system, the general flow had changed,” he says. “So I wanted him to change the direction of the music accordingly. But when I passed on the story-plot to him and asked him to compose the music, the three pieces of music I received were all rejected, because they didn’t really match.

“There was no contact from Uematsu for about a month – I was worried that, if we were like a married couple, there was a danger of getting divorced. But after a month, he sent over three new pieces of music, which were used in the game.”

Not just single-player

The other unexpected aspect of The Last Story is that it can be played online – players can take part in free-for-all Deathmatches, collaborative Team Deathmatches or co-operatively take on boss-battles.

Sakaguchi elaborates: “The biggest difference between the online game and single-player is that the player can’t use the Gathering system online. One thing that I personally dislike about online gaming is that there will always be people who use dirty words, and therefore, for Last Story’s online play, I came up with the idea of players communicating with each other using the script that is actually used in the single-player game.

“In the game, a lot of small-talk goes on between the characters. So using these scripts, players can have decent conversations with each other. Also, I felt that gives a different experience from just simple voice-chat. One thing that is fun is attacking with bananas – making the other players slip with banana skins.”

No escape from Final Fantasy

Sakaguchi confesses that he is heartily fed up with people asking him about Final Fantasy – but he did create the franchise, and will forever be identified with it.

Recently, Final Fantasy’s veneer of quality has accumulated some unsightly chips: Final Fantasy XIII was criticised for being too linear and predictable, while the MMO Final Fantasy XIV was hideously unplayable, although Square-Enix has worked hard to fix it.

Sakaguchi, predictably, is diplomatic: “I still go out drinking with Yoshinori Kitase, the current producer of Final Fantasy, once in a while, and on those occasions he does tell me that it’s all fine. Sometimes, I personally complain a little bit about certain things about the franchise.

“But when I left Square, I left the franchise in Kitase’s hands, and he promised me he would protect and progress the Final Fantasy brand. He has been my right-hand man since round about the middle of Final Fantasy III, and therefore I have a lot of trust in him.”

Nor, having made a real-time RPG, will he take the opportunity to declare the anachronistic, at least in Western eyes, turn-based RPG moribund.

“Of course, games are a form of entertainment, so new things will always be more exciting than old things,” he says. “Turn-based RPGs are an established form of entertainment, and just like puzzle games never died out, I believe that turn-based RPGs will continue to exist.”

At Bafta, Sakaguchi’s demo and Q&A session was rapturously received. The Last Story is clearly up there with his best work, so it constitutes something of a last hurrah for the Wii.

He remains tight-lipped about what we can expect from him in the future, beyond three games for Apple’s iOS: “I am a big fan of Apple’s products. They are small projects and fun for me. The first one is a surfing game”.

But, with the benefit of 25 years’ experience in the industry, he offers some advice to aspiring developers: “Looking back, my pre-Final Fantasy games failed because I kept copying what was on the market. So free yourself, and do what is good for the game.”

Games

Role playing games

Wii

Nintendo

Steve Boxer

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Posted on February 25th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

news: Fill out a Rocksmith survey, be entered to win an SG Special guitar

Ubisoft wants to bring you a better product, so the Rocksmith team has set up a survey asking you a bunch of questions about the awesome guitar game. Questions include the standard fare of your gender and other demographic questions, but also include how you got started on Rocksmith, bands and artists youd like to see in the game, and other features that would make the game even better.

After you complete the survey, leave your email address and youll be entered to win one of three Gibson SG Special guitars! Slim PS3 is updated frequently every day with the very latest Slim PS3 news.

Posted on February 23rd, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

PS3 Slim news: PS3 + Vita to Compete with Wii U’s Tech

“The PlayStation Vita is finally available in all three major regions and with hardcore gamers seeking a gaming experience they can take on the go, there is no better device out there.”

-TheGamerAccess.com Slim-PS3.com is updated frequently each day with the latest Free PS3 news.

Posted on February 23rd, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

PS3 news: Jak and Daxter: The story so far

With the brilliant PS3 adventure The Jak and Daxter Trilogy available to buy in shops and on PlayStation Store, it’s time to get up to speed on their escapades…

Every tale has its beginning…

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (PlayStation 2, 2001) is where it all started, where the world was introduced to the plucky young team of Jak and his smiling sidekick Daxter (an ottsel – half otter, half weasel). Daxter didn’t start off as loveably furry as he looks today – his appearance is the result of an accident involving the mysterious substance known as Dark Eco.

After an unfortunate dip into the Dark Eco, Daxter was transformed into an ottsel, forcing the unlikely duo into a quest to find Gol Acheron, a sage who has the power to return Jak’s buddy back to his original form.

The pair soon find that the sage’s mind has been warped by excessive exposure to Dark Eco, and are forced to turn their attentions to defeating Gol, which leads to rather unexpected consequences…

A dark return

Continuing from where The Precursor Legacy left off, Jak II: Renegade (PlayStation 2, 2003) takes the heroes on a dark turn. In an attempt to escape from a giant rampaging creature, Jak and Daxter are transported 300 years into the future and left in the hostile metropolis, Haven City. Without warning, Jak is swiftly arrested by guards acting under the instruction of the city’s ruler, Baron Praxis. Daxter escapes, vowing to save his friend.

Jailed for two years, Jak becomes a guinea pig for Praxis’ evil experiments, using Dark Eco on the long-eared youth and turning him into an angry and bitter soul, capable of new and frightening powers under the guise of Dark Jak. However, Daxter returns (fresh from his adventures in Daxter on PSP) to help Jak break free, before joining an underground resistance which eventually overthrows the dictatorship of Praxis.

The lost ottsel years

Daxter (PSP, 2006) explores the story of the ottsel’s two year disappearance between Jak’s capture and eventual rescue. Lost and confused in the dangerous Haven City, Daxter is hired to work as an exterminator to stamp out a strange metalbug infestation. The job allows him to access unexplored parts of the city, and discover the means to help Jak escape. Or that’s what Daxter says… he’s a little prone to exaggeration.

Exile

Sadly, even with the evil of Praxis beaten, there’s no happy ending for the heroes in Jak III (PlayStation 2, 2004). Civil war erupts in Haven City, and the metropolis’ new leader banishes Jak and Daxter to the Wasteland in fear of Jak’s dark powers. Close to death in the harsh environment, the pair are saved by a band of outcasts from the Wasteland habitat, Spargus City.

Owing their lives to Damas, the king of Spargus City, Jak and Daxter run errands for the monarch, only to end up returning to Haven City to help the resistance’s war efforts, and discovering the entire planet is under threat by beings called Dark Makers. The Dark Makers were once Precursors (an ancient race of deities), driven mad by the twisted influence of Dark Eco.

After a perilous trip to the Dark Maker’s spacecraft, Jak and Daxter manage to repel the would-be conquerors – as well as mastering the dark power Jak has been cursed with.

A deadly race to the finish

One year after the events of Jak III, even the steady rebuilding of Haven City isn’t enough to stop the rise of a dangerous sport, Combat Racing, in Jak X (PlayStation 2, 2005). Based in the hazardous Kras City, the destructive recreation has become popular despite its less fortunate competitors often ending up utterly destroyed. And guess who has been forced into competing…

The continually ill-fated Jak finds himself summoned to Kras City for the reading of the last will and testament of a deceased enemy from Jak II: Renegade, Krew. But from beyond the grave, Krew exacts his revenge on Jak, Daxter and several other attendees by poisoning them, and the only way of gaining an antidote is by racing for the dead crime lord in the next Kras City Combat Racing Championship.

After a succession of races, a series of double-crosses and a growing rivalry between Jak and a crime syndicate led by the sinister Mizo, the heroes overcome Krew’s evil plot and all is well. Or at least, so everyone thought…

Driven to the Brink

The adventure took a new turn in Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier (PSP and PlayStation 2, 2009) as the daring duo were taken to the Brink in an effort to save the planet once more. A sprawling map and the ability to change Daxter into Dark Daxter gave the story a new edge that made it a memorable addition to the epic saga.

Start the adventure now on PlayStation 3 with The Jak and Daxter Trilogy, available to buy on Blu-ray Disc or on PlayStation Store.

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Posted on February 22nd, 2012 by  |  No Comments »