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Archive For January, 2006

The Saga Of The Brain Trained Older Gamer

January 22, 2006 6:18 PM | Simon Carless

touchg.jpg The UK Times has posted a news story discussing Nintendo's new 'Keep Evolving' ad campaign, which is due to debut in the UK next week, and reveals: "The company is gearing up for a £2 million [$3.6 million] marketing campaign, which will see it take ads in Saga magazine — a title for over 50s — because it has come to the conclusion that targeting young adults is no longer enough."

Those who heard Satoru Iwata's Tokyo Game Show speech last year and have checked out the spectacular performance of the DS in Japan over the holiday season will have no doubt that Nintendo's 'Touch! Generations' strategy is paying off bigtime in the East.

But can the same market broadening happen in the West? Dawn Paine, Nintendo UK's marketing director, is quoted in the article as noting: “The games industry is just going to have to expand the market. Although there has been good growth in terms of units and value over the last 20 years, the proportion of people actually owning games machines has plateaued at around 30 per cent.” In the casual market, companies such as PopCap are exploring the concept of pitching games as both entertaining and mentally beneficial, and it's going to be interesting, given Sudoku's recent world domination drive as a mind sharpening tool, to see whether Nintendo can score the same result for the Brain Training games. [Via Kotaku.]

Devils, Psychos, and Cthulhu, Pinball-ized

January 22, 2006 12:28 PM | Simon Carless

necro.jpg The somewhat mysterious Ancil 'Dessgeega' Anthropy writes for both The Gamer's Quarter and TIGSource, and on her personal site, there are a bunch of eclectic DivX game videos, from video of UPL's Return Of The Invaders to an ever-handy vid of Jeff Minter's Tempest 2000 for Jaguar.

But the latest addition, named 'A Mean Pinball', is a DivX collection of three of the best ever video game pinball titles, and starts by noting: "Video pinball is enticing not only in that it is much more affordable than pinball machine collecting, but also in that it allows the developer to liberate the game from the constraints of real physics while making those physics serve the game."

The titles include Naxat's classic Devil Crash for Turbografx/Genesis, Codemasters' Psycho Pinball for Genesis/Megadrive, and most notably, the revelation that "...the only idea better than pinball with the devil is pinball with Cthulhu, and this was the concept behind Kaze's Saturn video pin Necronomicon... the sound design is particularly notable, and includes a narrator intoning lines like 'far away a temple stands. far away in the dreamlands'."

Rule Of Rose Scares Us Half To Death

January 22, 2006 6:39 AM | Simon Carless

ror.jpg The good folks at import store NCSX have posted detailed impression of new import PlayStation 2 title Rule Of Rose, in which, "...set in 1930 England, players adopt the role of a 19 year old woman named Jennifer who is caught up in a surreal 3D adventure tinged with touches of madness and the preternatural."

The SCEJ-published PS2 game has an official Japanese site where you can learn more, and watch a seriously spooky trailer movie (click left-hand 'yes' link for age approval!), which shows the creators are going for an almost Silent Hill franchise level of extreme unease (talking of which, we're presuming you've seen the new 'Silent Hill' movie trailer from Christophe Gans, which appears to be double plus awesome.)

Of course, it may be that Rule Of Rose, with its young female protagonist and story-heavy attitude, may not be 'kickass' enough for the West, in the same way that the relatively passive Haunting Ground/Demento was received somewhat ambivalently. But, given the level of artistry shown by the trailers, we're hoping the title gets a Western release of some kind, so we can all work it out for ourselves.

Interesting People In Gaming? Show Me

January 22, 2006 12:17 AM | Simon Carless

babiesc.jpg Wandering over to the UK Guardian Gamesblog once more, Aleks Krotoski has scribbled down a list of the 10 'most interesting' people in gaming, following a similar GamerGod piece a few days back.

Krotoski's choices are effectively eclectic, with a particularly interesting choice being Takumi Yoshinaga ("...the creator of the marvellous and surreal grown-up version of WarioWare, Project Rub[/Feel The Magic]. His Where Do Babies Come From? (Rub Rabbits here in the Euro regions) will be out in February and is stylish and silly, and made by a team of mostly female programmers, designers and artists... and implements every gizmo on the innovative Nintendo DS, from the stylus to the microphone. It also does everything in its power to encourage people to play together."

Others standing out include Keita Takahashi, Will Wright, and David Cage, of which it's commented regarding the Omikron/Fahrenheit creator's output: "While both titles are flawed – arguably constricted by technology – they notably pushed the boundaries for gameplay mechanics. In this world of never-ending sequel series, this studio provides a light at the end of the tunnel."

Disposable Media Gets Revolution-ary

January 21, 2006 6:21 PM | Simon Carless

moore.jpg There seems to be a distinct rise, of late, in online game publications that have magazine-like layout. You may well have heard of The Escapist, which does it in a browser, and The Gamer's Quarter, which does it PDF stylee, and now there's also Disposable Media, which is a joint gaming/music free PDF zine.

As an RLLMUK Forum post notes, the third issue is out now, and includes "...an interview with Tsietisin (the man who created the home made Revolution controller), a discussion on the evolution of the Mario Kart series, a look at the role of music in video games."

Also on the mag's website, if you haven't spotted it before, there's an Xbox 360 launch special mini-issue, which has some fun stuff on the tumultuous UK launch, alongside a suitably gnomic Peter Moore caricature (pictured above). We always want more Moore, honest.

Neuros Makes PSP Movie Watching A Charm

January 21, 2006 12:42 PM | Simon Carless

neuros.jpg We know that this is a video game weblog, but heck, some people use their PSP for non-interactive stuff too, and ThinkGeek has just got the Neuros PSP/iPod Video Recorder in stock. We haven't tried it out, but it looks like a pretty fun piece of hardware, since "it allows you to create movie files compatible with your iPod or PSP from any video input like your DVD Player, Cable Box or DVR."

Heck, it doesn't even need a PC to work, since it connects directly to your TiVo output (or similar) and encodes to WQVGA (368 x 208) PSP-compatible movies on the fly. Want to watch last night's Colbert Report on the train the next morning without futzing around with BitTorrent and additional transcoding?

This looks like the device to get, though PVRBlog references recent news that TiVo is meant to be expanding TiVoToGo to include the PSP for an extra fee - but this will likely be a dual-step process (TiVo => PC => PSP), so unless it's user-friendly enough to delight, Neuros' option still looks plenty viable. [Via Timothy.]

Ben Heck's Wild School Of Console Shrinkage

January 21, 2006 6:20 AM | Simon Carless

vcsp.jpg The 'RetroGaming with Racketboy' weblog has just posted an interview with console hacker extraordinaire Ben Heckendorn, maker of some of the most wondrous portable console hacks around.

As Ben's Wikipedia entry explains, he "...builds new game systems by taking old video game systems such as the Atari 2600, or the NES and cutting up the internal PCB until he can fit in his hand." Some of his most elegant hacks include the Sega Exodus, the oak mini-Atari 2006 'VCSp', and the not entirely crazy PS2 Portable.

In the interview, Ben reveals which portable version have thus far eluded him: "The Dreamcast was a target for a while. But, like the Gamecube, it's kind of square shaped, so the components are on top of each other (rather than beside), so it's hard making it thin. Another system with this quirk is the Gamecube, which I might be taking a look at soon. " Yes, please! [Via Press The Buttons.]

Game Writing Chugs Into Union Station

January 21, 2006 12:27 AM | Simon Carless

psychon.jpg Over at The Hollywood Reporter, Paul Hyman's latest column discusses the role of writing in video games, and starts with the bold: "When it was announced that the very first Game Writers Conference would take place in Austin last October, it took a lot of people by surprise. You mean video games are actually written?"

Apart from good quotes from Valve's Marc Laidlaw and some nice tips of the hat to the writing in Psychonauts and God Of War, possibly the most newsworthy part of the column is the revelation that unionization may be trying to sneak into games via the writer, as, according to Writers Guild Of America West president Patric Verrone, the WGA "is less than two years away from approaching game publishers to work out overall signatory agreements."

Verrone notes: "I can't say exactly when, because I don't want to give away strategic planning... But I would say that the industry should be on notice that writers want these benefits and this is how they're most likely going to get them. This is absolutely on our radar." Hollywood planning to get a little more union spice into the game gumbo? We'll see how that goes, then.

Hirameki Goes Comicon, Animamundi

January 20, 2006 6:22 PM | Simon Carless

anima.jpg So, having kept a close eye on Hirameki International, the PC visual novel company that was recently mentioned by Brandon here on GameSetWatch, we noted that their latest weblog update includes news that "we'll be conducting advance sales of "Animamundi" (scheduled for sale on March 10) at NY Comicon. Plus, we'll be hosting a panel called 'Visual Novel Games and the Japanese Otaku Market.'"

The panel sounds fascinating (any GSW readers turning up?), but otherwise, Hirameki's 'Anime Play PC' website has more information on Animamundi, which is "...a gothic horror game targeting mainly women that comes alive with decadence and ecstasy from an up and coming team of creators in the novel game industry." And the screenshots certainly look pretty... gothic. Interesting to see Hirameki continuing to do work in this generally English-language neglected 'love story' genre.

Secondhand Games, Secondhand Originality?

January 20, 2006 12:53 PM | Simon Carless

secondh.jpg The UK Guardian, which also runs the excellent Guardian Gamesblog, has posted an article on the boom in secondhand video game sales, subtitled: "The market for 'pre-owned' games is thriving, but publishers warn that cut-price sales put the development of innovative genres at risk."

Particularly interesting is a statement by a Sony spokesperson, commenting: "We recognise the secondhand games market is part of the revenue mix, for retailers at least... However, if it continues to grow, it could potentially starve us of the funds necessary for research and development, and therefore, developers will be less willing to take a risk on new and genre-diversifying titles. It's this creative diversity that makes the games industry so popular, and without sustained funding from new software sales, this could be at risk."

So... should secondhand games be a furtive, underground act instead of the overt profit machine it is for even U.S. outfits like GameStop right now? Why is the secondhand video game market so much bigger than music and movie markets? And will anyone try to crack down, as has happened in Japan - even though secondhand titles are 30% of the market there, according to comments from Capcom's Kenzo Tsujimoto at GDC 2005?

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