Slave to the Game

Filling you in on the oddball gaming news

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A German tech site is reporting that the new 40GB PS3 console will include a 65nm version of the Cell processor, thus reducing the system's power usage.

As previously reported, the new USD 399 model will be available in North America on November 2. It eliminates the PS2's Emotion Engine and graphics synthesizer chips and cuts two of the four USB ports.

The new system should therefore output less heat and noise, according to the tech site's report. The site also claims that the new console features a smaller heat pipe and a new motherboard.

SCEA did not respond to a request for comment prior to press time.

Mike was right, the PSP update itself, no big news. It was a barren, dusty dustbowl of interest. Except that once it hit, the British PlayStation site had to go and let slip that once the PS3's V2.0 firmware arrives, your v3.72 PSP will be able to power it up remotely.

* Support has been added for [Remote Start]* of the PS3 system under [Remote Play].

*To use this feature, the PS3 system software must be version 2.00 or later. For detailed information about [Remote Start], visit the PS3 Help & Support section at and select Connecting to other devices in the General Guides area.

You may have heard that Nintendo is doing alright for themselves lately. They've sold a few Wiis, a handful of Nintendo DS handhelds, given themselves a little walking around money, put a new coat of paint on the headquarters.

The company's good news alert comes today from analyst group iSuppli, via Gamasutra, who add up the software sales revenue numbers, putting third quarter sales at $1.2 billion for Nintendo, some $200 million more than Sony's take.

That change in software sales leadership can be chalked up to stellar Nintendo DS and Wii game sales, combined with a drop in PlayStation 2 software purchases. Unsurprisingly, iSuppli pegs Sony's woes on a lack of PlayStation 3 software and the high price of the console. With no legacy hardware or handheld to help its numbers, Microsoft remains in third place, despite its high software attach rate.

It should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to sales trends, but an official change in the order of things must be at least somewhat troubling to Sony's games division (and inversely thrilling to UK: Resistance).

Sure, Super Mario Galaxy is coming. But even so, gamers feel slighted. Casual players make up a big portion of Nintendo's market, so the company's interests have shifted. Right? Nintendo UK general manager David Yarnton says:

It's important to know that we're not ignoring the hardcore gamer. They're still very important to us... And Christmas alone we have already catered on the Wii with Metroid Prime 3 and Super Mario Galaxy, and on DS with the Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.

Nintendo hasn't forgotten you, Joe Q. Gamer. It just wants patience, because good things come to those who wait. Well, eventually. We hope.

Among the more talked-about but still unconfirmed features is a tool that would allow parents to limit the amount of time their children can play. Another rumor claimed the fall update would finally give the 360s the IPTV functionality Microsoft promised it would have back in January at the Consumer Electronics Show.

On Tuesday, Microsoft confirmed one feature would not be included in the fall update. Following the discovery of some IPTV functionalities in a recently serviced 360 by site Xbox 360 Fanboy, Microsoft said the functionality would be excluded from the console's looming firmware update.

"This was an isolated incident where these features were inadvertently exposed while the customer's console was being serviced and is unrelated to the fall update," the company said in a statement e-mailed to CNET sister site GameSpot.

Microsoft did not comment on the specific functionalities unveiled in the leak, which included onscreen chat while viewing live TV, recorded television, and on-demand movies. However, Microsoft did confirm that the 360's IPTV functionality will be a version of its Microsoft Mediaroom software, which was unveiled in June.

Microsoft's statement also raised the possibility that IPTV won't make it into 360 owners' living rooms this year. At CES, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said his company was planning a holiday 2007 launch for 360 IPTV. Now, Microsoft says the functionality will be in the hands of IPTV service providers by year's end--and not necessarily those of consumers.

"Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) features will only be available from the Xbox 360 through a service provider who has deployed Xbox 360 with Microsoft Mediaroom (IPTV) services," read the Microsoft statement. "Xbox 360 with Microsoft Mediaroom (IPTV) will be available to service providers by the end of the year. Microsoft's IPTV service providers will ultimately determine the timing of Xbox 360 with Microsoft Mediaroom deployments."

Some Ohio parents say they're heeding advice not to buy the new video game "Manhunt 2."

Child advocates have called it senselessly violent. The game features characters who kill and torture using everything from glass and shovels to a fuse box and a toilet.

At a Toledo GameStop location, where one couple said they would never let their children play the game, even store manager Jesse Sine is bothered by Manhunt 2. He says while it cannot be sold to anyone under 17, he still worries about youngsters getting their hands on one.

The game is rated "mature." Take-Two Interactive Software makes it for Nintendo Wii (wee), Sony PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 2.

Defending the game, Take-Two has said it believes in "freedom of creative expression."

In the latest antics of "The Simpsons," Bart chases a giant ape through a video game factory, Lisa destroys a logging camp and Marge storms city hall with an angry mob.

But don't look for those episodes on TV.

They are levels in "The Simpsons Game" that hit stores on Tuesday amid praise from critics for its faithful recreation of the hit TV show's look, feel and humor.

"That was one of the big design challenges on this game, to make each of the levels feel like episodes. We wanted to make the game feel like a fully playable season of the show," said Hans Tencate, lead producer on the game at Electronic Arts Inc.

Several writers from the TV show injected the game with the irreverent wit "The Simpsons" is known for, coming up with some 8,000 lines of dialogue -- enough for a full season.

"Few games embrace their license's soul so well -- 'The Simpsons Game' nails the show's trademark humor, in-jokes, and social satire, plus it features impressive cartoony graphics and the real-deal voice actors. This is total fan service, meaning Simpsons fans -- and apologists -- will be pleased," gaming news site said in its review.

The new game is the latest addition to the already large catalogue of more than 20 "Simpsons" titles, which range from 1991's arcade machine to 2003's "The Simpsons: Hit & Run."

But this appears to adhere most faithfully to the show.

Developers came up with a way that let them create Homer, Bart and other characters in 3D yet retain a look that is remarkably like the cartoony visual style of the show.

"It's actually much harder to do than you would think partly because 'The Simpsons' is hand-drawn. We came up with proprietary technology ... that gives the game a little more of what the TV show would look like," Tencate said.

The game hopes to build on two other milestones this year: the 400th episode of the TV show and the long-awaited movie adaptation that has pulled in more than $500 million at the box office worldwide.

In the game, the Simpsons discover they are living inside a video game and have powers matching their personalities. Bart, for example, can turn into the superhero "Bartman" while Lisa can activate the "Hand of Buddha" to move large objects.

Just as the show used a pop culture medium to skewer pop culture, the game is peppered with parodies of an industry still struggling to shed geeky stereotypes and win mainstream acceptance.

"There are not many video games to my recollection that do full-blown multilayered parodies of the video game industry. We make fun of everything from 'Pong' to 'Tomb Raider'," Tencate said.

While the humor has won praise from critics, some reviewers said they were disappointed with some of the actual gameplay, the lack of online features and for limiting cooperative play to two people.

The game had an average rating of 69 on, which creates a weighted average of reviews from gaming Web sites and publications.

Operating losses in Sony's video game unit for the year ending March 2008 could potentially exceed 100 billion yen ($876 million) -- twice as much as the 50 billion yen ($438 million) originally projected, a Sony spokeswoman told Reuters.

In its recently-announced financial results, Sony posted an operating loss of 96.7 billion yen ($841 million) due to the cost of PS3 hardware, even though sales of the console had reached 1.31 million units.

Despite these losses, the company's second-quarter financial results showed rebounding profits of 73.7 billion yen ($645 million) on the success of its TVs, PCs and cameras.

According to the report, Sony's electronics operations are beating target expectations for the same period, and the spokeswoman said that profits from the company's LCD TV business will help buttress the electronics division's profit margin to 5 percent in the year ending March 2008.

Speaking in an interview with The Guardian, Will Wright has stated that his upcoming and much delayed Spore title will come out on Wii as well as the previously projected PC release. This follows comments made recently by Wright where he said that the Wii is the only truly next-gen console.

Wright said that what makes Nintendo's Wii a truly next-gen machine is its ability to appeal to a previouslty untapped demographic of gamer. This sets it apart from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 which, according to Wright, are merely updates of their previous-gen counterparts.

Spore has seen considerable delays. Originally slated for a 2007 release, the title was then knocked back to an uncertain 2008 ETA. The central principle of Spore has gamers building life from the primordial soup right up to a heaving civilisation. Spore is set to feature a number of unique features, such as the ability to direct the evolutionary path of your budding creatures.

Fresh off bumper earnings, Nintendo Co. ruled out a price cut for its smash-hit Wii video game console Friday and announced the company will begin selling the Wii in China next year.

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata also unveiled a gift-giving feature that will allow users to send each other games over the Internet.

Profits at Nintendo have surged on the runaway success of the Wii and the portable Nintendo DS machine in North America, Europe and Japan, forcing Sony and Microsoft to slash console prices in a desperate catch-up bid ahead of the holiday season.

Iwata said the company was struggling to meet demand of the Wii, and a price cut was out of the question. The Wii sells for $249.99 in North America, 249.00 euros in Europe and 25,000 yen in Japan – all less than Sony’s PlayStation 3 or Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

The qualifying event is over and 10 lucky winners have raced their way to form the Middle East’s first Microsoft Xbox 360 racing team. The team will compete in the upcoming 24 Hour Endurance Challenge Kart Race to be held on October 26 and 27at the Dubai Autodrome. The qualifying event tied up with the recent launch of Project Gotham Racing 4 on the 12th of October, exclusive to Microsoft Xbox 360.

The qualifying challenge was held at the Knowledge Village Food Court where racing enthusiasts gathered to compete on the custom built multiple screen car racing pod running the newly launched ‘PGR 4’. Racers with the top 10 best lap times registered were guaranteed a place on the Microsoft Xbox 360 Team.

The latest installment of the best-selling and award-winning racing franchise is set to redefine the experience “PGR” fans have come to know and love. Featuring a unique, exciting racing experience where dramatic racing action is captured in breathtaking cinematic style, “PGR 4” is capturing the attention of racing fans everywhere. The all new addition of motorcycles adds a new dimension to the “PGR” driving experience by allowing gamers to compete and pull off amazing driving maneuvers not possible on four wheels.

“It was a great turn up, with more than a hundred drivers making their way to Knowledge Village to test their driving skills on the PGR 4 racing pod,” said Aman Sangar, Product Marketing Manager, Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division Middle East. “It is a proud moment for Microsoft Xbox 360 to be represented by these young ambitious drivers in the upcoming 24 hour Go-Kart race.”

Driving his way to pole position was Mohammad Zunayed. The rest of team includes James Mummey, Alexander Antoniaiades, McNeil Lopez, Matt Mccluskey, Michael Gilmour, Chris Milbourne, Prateik, Zoheb Somjee, and Eduardo Bauzon.

A Crandall Avenue man told police Saturday morning he shot another man to death after an argument over a video game because he wanted ‘‘to protect me and my family.’’

Allen K. Frost, 37, 1012 Crandall Ave., is in Mahoning County Jail following the shooting death of a man who police would not identify to reporters.

When police arrived at Frost’s home shortly before 10:30 a.m. Saturday, they found Frost on the front porch talking on the telephone and the body of another man in the living room.

The male victim was found lying face up with his legs bent under him, the report states. He had been shot in the head, the report states.

Frost told police he and the man began arguing about losing a video game and according to the report, during the argument Frost shot the man ‘‘to protect me and my family.’’

Police found a .38 caliber revolver in a bedroom, the report states.

The shooting death was the fourth homicide in Youngstown last week and the 28th this year.

Nintendo said Thursday profits more than doubled in the six months to Sept. 30 on the roaring success of its hit Wii and Nintendo DS game consoles.

The Japanese manufacturer of Pokemon and Super Mario games said its group net profit surged to 132.42 billion yen ($1.16 billion) in its fiscal first half from 54.35 billion a year earlier

Group sales also more than doubled to 694.80 billion yen ($6.07 billion) from 298.82 billion yen, with 78% of sales booked overseas.

The strong results spurred Nintendo to raise its profit forecast for the year through March to 275 billion yen ($2.40 billion), up from the 245 billion yen it forecast in July. Sales are forecast to rise 10% to 1.55 trillion ($13.55 billion).

The earnings underline the Kyoto-based company's success in a three-way battle of video game consoles against Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360. Nintendo's U.S. arm is based in Redmond, Wash., as is Microsoft.

With its wandlike remote control for fishing, golfing, tennis and other video games, Nintendo's Wii console has won over fans from young children to elderly rehab patients. Nintendo has announced a further lineup of Wii accessories: a floor pad for exercise and dancing, a steering wheel for driving games and a gun-shaped "zapper" for shooting.

The company shipped about 3.9 million Wii units around the world in the last three months, according to numbers announced Thursday, bringing the total since its launch last year to 13.2 million units — 5.5 million in North America, 3.7 million in Japan and 4.0 million elsewhere. Nintendo said it expects to sell a total of 17.5 million Wiis during the fiscal year.

Nintendo's impressive comeback in recent years is also due to its lineup of low-cost, casual software — the sort of games anyone of any age can quickly learn to play.

Titles like Nintendogs, Brain Age and Nintendo Cooking have propelled sales of the portable DS, which stands for "dual screen," making it the most popular of the current generation of consoles.

Nintendo has already sold 53.6 million DS consoles, and sales are still strong. Unit sales in the last six months — 13.35 million units — rose 32% from the same period last year. The company said it expected to sell 28 million DS units in the year ending March.

Nintendo shares, one of the best performers among major Japanese listings, added 1.3% to 69,800 yen ($610.01) before earnings were announced.

Korn have taken their love of video games one step further by recording an original song inspired by the upcoming Ubisoft game, Haze.

The song, inventively titled "Haze," will be released as a single and video to coincide with the release of the Haze video game. It will also be made available for purchase at online music sites.

"This partnership with Korn is original in the video game industry in that the song will be released and promoted as a full-fledged single, and not just as a download with the video game," says Ubisoft worldwide licensing VP Christian Salomon. "It is a testament to the synergy possibilities between music and video games, which often share the same audience."

"Gaming for me is a religion, and Haze is the shit," says Korn frontman Jonathan Davis. "I had to come up with a track that can hit up that kind of rush I get from the game, and I think we really rocked it."

Korn have sold more than 30 million records worldwide. The Bakersfield, California nu-metal band's untitled album, released in July, continued their streak of strong sellers.

Writing in his games blog, Takahashi states that Sony has abandoned the "arrogance of past years" following weaker than expected sales of its next-gen system. The platform holder has reportedly told developers that the PS3 will be a success, suggesting it's just a slow burner.

One piece of news that came out this week was that Sony pleaded with third-party developers not to abandon its struggling platform... The argument is that the PS3 will show its strength as developers learn how to make games for it.

"But developers know they can staff four or five Wii teams with the same number of people it takes to make one PS3 game. We may have a glut of Wii games soon, but that's not as bad as not having enough games on the PS3."

Takahashi's comments follow the recent release of NPD sales statistics for September. The numbers showed that Sony sold only 119,400 PS3s during the month, in comparison to the Xbox 360 and Wii which both shifted more than 500k units at retail.

While Sony labeled September "a strong month for the PlayStation brand," Takahashi feels that the system's lack of killer software means more hard times lay ahead for the company's games division.

"Sony managed to crack the top ten finally with a PS3 title, Heavenly Sword. But beyond Ratchet & Clank, it's unclear what is going to be a big seller for the company this season."

According to Shacknews, the new PS3 firmware version 1.94 will be adding DualShock3 support. Packaged with Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction before it's available for download, the firmware update will allow DualShock3 owners (which is actually no one at the moment) to toggle rumble. By pressing the middle PS3 button, gamers will be able to access controller options—which we're assuming will be added to the list of other options like shutting down the console, controller, etc.

But it's salt in the wound for those of us who won't see the DualShock3 until Spring or the day we decide to drop too much money for it online. Since Sony didn't release firmware 2.0 along with Home at TGS as some of us expected, they need to be more careful with these firmware updates, lest they be driven to the thousandth.

The Nintendo DS is officially the biggest-selling games platform in Europe after latest figures revealed how far ahead the handheld console is.

For the week ending October 21, the DS sold 171,260 units, which is way in front of all other platforms on the market.

In second place, the Nintendo Wii sold 70,322 units, then came the PlayStation 3 having shifted 64,087 consoles.

The PlayStation 2 managed a very respectable 57,152 consoles sold, while the Portable PlayStation sold 54,449 units.

Most surprising was that Microsoft's Xbox 360 was bottom of the ladder, shifting just 37, 303 consoles in the week.

Its bottom placing is predicted to be short-lived, however, after Microsoft announced the release of the cheaper Arcade bundle, which goes on sale this Friday.

And just when you thought there couldn't possibly be any more different trim lines for the Xbox 360, Microsoft goes and releases the worst kept secret in all of gaming, the Xbox 360 Arcade. While it's essentially just a souped-up version of the Core, the Arcade 360 does come with a few extras that may attract some uninformed buyers. Plus, the $280 price tag is awfully close to the Wii's cost of $250--so in theory, speaking in terms of price, an Xbox 360 Arcade would be the logical alternative to a Wii this holiday season.

So what does it come with? Bundled inside you'll find a wireless controller, unlike the Core's original wired offering, HDMI-out support, a 256MB memory card, and five Xbox Live Arcade games (Pac-Man Championship Edition, Uno, Luxor 2, Boom Boom Rocket, and Feeding Frenzy). All this in an effort to get consumers more familiar with Xbox Live Arcade and what it has to offer.

The price is certainly right, but here's why I don't think you should even bother with it. If you ever plan on gaming beyond a few Xbox Live Arcade titles, you'll most certainly need a hard drive attachment--256MB can only keep you afloat for so long. Think about it: no room for game demos, Marketplace content, or for ripping your music. Hell, you can only fit a limited number of Arcade titles on a 256MB flash card as it is. Upgrading to a 20GB hard drive after the fact will cost you no less than $90, which would bring your Xbox 360 Arcade price up to $370.

My solution is that you take advantage of the excellent value that is the traditional Xbox 360 with the 20GB hard drive available for $350. This will remove the need for adding a larger hard drive in the immediate future, plus it will give you the option of choosing which Xbox Live Arcade games you want to download instead of getting stuck with the five that the 360 Arcade console comes with. Some retailers are even offering an Xbox 360 Pro Bundle for $350 that includes Marvel Alliance and Forza 2 in addition to the Xbox 360 premium--a deal tough to argue with.

I understand that Microsoft is trying to get the word out about Xbox Live Arcade, but they could do so without selling you a debilitated system. At this point in the game, there's no reason any console should have less than ample storage space straight out of the box. If the whole point is to get people to check out Xbox Live Arcade and the Marketplace, why give them a system capable of only delivering a small taste? I'm sure most gamers are wise enough to see the foolishness in purchasing one of these systems, it just upsets me to see that Microsoft is marketing this SKU as a family console. Oh no wait, now I get it.

Players found to have lower levels of stress-hormone, cortisol

Playing a newly developed social-intelligence game reduces stress hormone levels by 17 per cent, researchers reported today.

The video game, designed by McGill University researchers to help train people to change their perception of social threats and boost their self-confidence, has now been shown to reduce the production of the stress-related hormone cortisol.

“We already knew that it was possible to design games to allow people to practice new forms of social perception, but we were surprised by the impact this had when we took the games out of the lab and into the context of people’s stressful lives,” said McGill psychology professor Mark Baldwin.

Baldwin and his team – McGill PhD graduates St├ęphane Dandeneau and Jodene Baccus and graduate student Maya Sakellaropoulo – have been developing a suite of video games that train players in social situations to focus more on positive feedback rather than being distracted and deterred by perceived social slights or criticisms.

The games are based on the emerging science of social intelligence, which has found that a significant part of daily stress comes from our social perceptions of the world, Baldwin explained.

In a 2004 study of 56 students, a standard reaction-time test showed that the game, called The Matrix, helped people shift the way they processed social information. The researchers next conducted several studies to see whether the effects of the game would translate into lower stress levels in a high-pressure context.

In one of their recent studies, they recruited 23 employees of a Montreal-based call centre to play one of their games, which involves clicking on the one smiling face among many frowning faces on a screen as quickly as possible. Through repetitive playing, the game trains the mind to orient more toward positive aspects of social life, said Baldwin.

The call-centre employees did this each workday morning for a week. They filled out daily stress and self-esteem questionnaires and had their cortisol levels tested through saliva analysis on the final day of the experiment. These tests showed an average 17 per cent reduction in cortisol production compared to a control group that played a similar game but without the smiling faces.

“There are many possible applications for this kind of game,” said Baldwin, “from helping people cope with the social anxiety of public speaking or meeting new people, to helping athletes concentrate more on their game rather than worrying about performing poorly.”

Hot Pixel is a collection of more than 100 mostly disconnected mini-games, which adds a casual title to the PSP’s generally core lineup.

The games are kind of spastic and weird, blending arcade-style action with an urban sensibility, with little hint as to what’s coming next. The game is broken into 10+ categories, but the titles bear little to no resemblance to what’s inside. Inquiries with Atari did not shed much more light on the category names.

Graphically, Hot Pixel is nothing special. Some of the games look like they were ripped out of arcades from the 1980s, while the “You Lose” and “You Win” seems to be some mix of real people and 2D movements. I don’t think the graphics take away from the gameplay much.

The games range from incredibly boring to incredibly confusing. But even on the games that I did enjoy, the thrill was momentary, because it was over so quickly. Games where you erase on the screen to reveal a pattern or use a remote control on a TV feel more like chores than fun activities. The well-done games were for the most part modern updates to Atari’s classics.

All told, Hot Pixel is a fish out of water; it’s a game that might fit better on the Wii or DS, but it’s angst-ridden vibe might make it a bit too caustic for Nintendo’s audience. For the people who think nonsensical spitfire gameplay is for them, there are 70 more mini-games to download over at the Hot Pixel website.

10,000 games console mod chips seized in Hong Kong

Nintendo has raided a factory that it claims was making devices used to pirate games for its Wii and DS games consoles. Working with local authorities, Nintendo representatives seized more than 10,000 game copying devices and modification chips from the factory in Hong Kong two weeks ago, Nintendo announced in a press statement.

Mod chips take the form of a small circuit board that connects to a console's electronics and overrides or bypasses software verification functions.

Nintendo describes mod chips solely as allowing "the play of pirated Wii discs or illegal copies of Nintendo games downloaded from the internet".

In reality, the devices have a number of other uses, such as making back-up copies of fragile game discs, and temporarily modifying games to make them easier to play. In theory, they also allow independent software developers to create software for consoles without purchasing an expensive development kit or signing a contract with the console vendor.

"Copying the developers' work and spreading the game files globally is blatant stealing. [Piracy] can destroy years of hard work by a team of very talented software developers," claimed Jodi Daugherty, senior director for anti-piracy at Nintendo of America.

The Hong Kong company that was raided, Supreme Factory Ltd, "has ties to a French company, Divineo SARL, and its principal, Max Louarn, who are also named in the legal action initiated by Nintendo," Ninendo announced.

Supreme Factory Ltd appears to be a source of mod chips for several vendors, including Team Cyclops. Online sources suggest that some or all of these vendors, however, are linked to Divineo. Divineo is also allegedly the operator of online gaming website, Maxconsole.

Last September, Divineo and Louarn were ordered to pay more than $9m by a US court for selling mod chips that violated the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Microsoft said on Monday it is launching a reworked low-end version of its Xbox 360 in a bid to widen the game console's appeal to a broader audience that has flocked to rival Nintendo's Wii.

The new Xbox 360 Arcade costs $280 and comes with five games previously available only for download over the Xbox Live online service. It does not have the hard drive found on more expensive Xbox models, but will have a memory card for saving progress in games.

The Arcade, which goes on sale on Tuesday, replaces the Core model, which carried the same price but didn't include any games or memory storage.

"When we first launched the console, the goal was to initially win the core consumer," Aaron Greenberg, global product manager for Xbox 360, said in an interview.

"As we enter this holiday, it's the right time to shine a spotlight on all the great family games and content we have," Greenberg said.

Microsoft also announced two new games aimed at younger players--one from Activision based on the Shrek animated movies, and one from THQ based on Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon character.

The games will cost about $10 each and be sold through Xbox Live, Microsoft said.

"Xbox Live Arcade already has lots of family-friendly entertainment but now we're seeing our partners developing this kind of content that won't even be available in retail," Greenberg said.

Additionally, Warner Bros. will start selling episodes of its classic "Looney Toons" cartoons over Xbox Live, while Nickelodeon, a unit of Viacom, will sell episodes of several popular shows such as Blue's Clues.

In September, Microsoft sold 528,000 Xbox 360 units, its best month since last December, as it was lifted by the debut of its highly anticipated game Halo 3.

Nintendo also had its best month of the year as it sold 501,000 Wii consoles. The Wii has outsold the Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3 this year due to its low price point and emphasis on simple, easy-to-learn games.

I had written off Sony's PlayStation 3 game console as a flop, but it may be time to reconsider.

One reason is Sony finally brought the price down, with a $400 model announced last week. But what's really interesting, especially here in the hometown of Microsoft, RealNetworks and, is the way Sony is accelerating plans to position the PS3 as a digital media center.

Those companies are all jockeying for position with devices and services as the world moves to high-definition television, digital music and online game and video content.

Will we keep using PCs to download and store this stuff, or will some computerish consumer-electronics gadget emerge as the new home-entertainment hub?

I'm not sure that dream machine will be a PS3, but Sony is pushing it that direction, while simultaneously trying to build the console's stature among gamers.

Clues started trickling out this fall in Europe, where Sony has had more success with the year-old console than in the U.S.

That's where Sony is releasing an add-on TV tuner that turns the PS3 into a TiVo-like video recorder. It's also where Sony is talking up plans for an online video and music store, similar to the ones operated here by Microsoft and Amazon.

"Some of that same functionality are things that we're working on here," Peter Dille, senior vice president of marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment America, told me last week.

Sony will offer different services around the world, he explained. In the U.S., "we're working on a service which would offer video content, movies, TV shows, etcetera, in a downloaded fashion via the PlayStation Network."

The tuner may not come to the U.S. for a while, but Sony's doing other things to sharpen the entertainment focus.

Within a month, a software upgrade will improve the PS3's interface for music stored and played through the system, Dille said.

Sony's also working with retailers to change how the console is sold and displayed. This holiday season it will appear more often in the home-entertainment section, alongside TVs and DVD players, as well as in game sections.

Retailers are also being coached on how to sell the system to "moms" as "a broader entertainment experience," Dille said.

"If she knows the whole family's going to get some lifestyle value out of this and not just the gamer in the house, it becomes a ... better value proposition," he said.

It won't take much to sell lower-priced PS3s to video enthusiasts because it's now the cheapest high-definition Blu-ray disc player.

A lot of people who bought fancy TVs over the past year or two have been looking for ways to get more digital content on their screens. They've been waiting for high-def player prices to fall, and for a resolution to the format war between the Sony-backed Blu-ray and the Microsoft-backed HD-DVD.

The Xbox 360 is a pretty good solution for streaming content from a PC. But it's loud, and you have to buy a $179 external HD-DVD drive if you want to play 1080p discs.

Microsoft is helping partner companies develop "extender" devices that wirelessly play PC-stored content on a TV, but they don't have as many features as the consoles and they cost nearly as much.

Sony's PS3 also streams content from a PC, but its interface isn't as nice as the one the 360 borrows from Windows Media Center. Dille said Sony will be doing more to promote that capability, but it won't use Media Center's interface anytime soon.

Sony seems to have taken the easy way out with its latest PlayStation Portable. You could feel the excitement drain out of last summer's E3 conference after Sony touted TV output atop its amazing new features.

Now we can watch all those games and Universal Media Disc movies scaled onto a giant TV screen.

On the upside, the new PSP comes with double the original 32 megabytes of internal memory, a spacious 1-gigabyte memory card and a slimmer design that shaves off a few ounces.

But it has the same 333 megahertz processor, even tinnier speakers than before. And the continued lack of a right analog control means first-person shooter games are out of the question.

It's not really worth buying the $19.99 cable to hook it up to your TV, unless your set has progressive scan. And I was disappointed with the visuals on my 37-inch HD set, because games weren't in high-def and only filled a small chunk of the screen.

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Imagine a video game in which characters evolve from primordial ooze, acquiring speed, claws, wings or other traits needed to survive.

Picture a "Glass Cutter" murder mystery game in which a hero gleans psychic clues from graffiti etched into subway windows, barroom tumblers, taxi mirrors or other depicted glass surfaces.

Envision defending their "colonies" by spreading or checking weaponized diseases.

Two dozen aspiring game makers hoping for fast lanes to success pitched those ideas and more to a panel of industry experts at the E for All video game exposition in Los Angeles on Friday.

"What is really fun about this stuff is you can never tell what the hell people are going to say," said US video game consulting company chief executive David Perry, who was on the judging panel.

"What I've found is that there is always somebody cool in the room."

Christopher Gough sees a game set in a world in which people are dying from kindness.

People are so generous they give away everything they need to live and an overabundance of goodness has the sun shining 24 hours each day, searing plants to death and causing drought.

The objective of Gough's game is to save with a healing balm of evil and darkness.

"People think it is all about being good but sometimes you flat out have to be evil to survive," Gough told the judges, prompting knowing laughter from the audience in the auditorium.

"It's all about bringing balance to the world."

As players manipulate townspeople into being nasty, daylight hours grow shorter and rain returns to the world, according to Gough.

Another proposed game is set play in a world ruled by China and rife with slaughter. Rebel fighters capable of taking on animal powers fight to liberate the land.

A suggested game based on swapping societal power roles of blacks and whites in the United States met with a warning from judges that the original idea would be a tough sell because "it would probably offend everyone."

Game ideas involving online group play won praise from judges for tapping into a hot trend in the industry.

"The market for those kinds of games is booming," said GameSpy executive editor David Kosak, who was among the judges.

By the end of 2007, an estimated 14 million gamers in North America will be playing online, according to technology intelligence firm IDC.

"The increase in revenue from the online use of game consoles, including subscriptions, downloadable content, and advertising represents the largest growth in the console software sector," said IDC program manager Billy Pidgeon.

Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii consoles each have online capabilities. IDC projects that the number of Internet-ready gaming consoles in North America will tally 37 million by next year.

In North America online console revenue will triple from 133 million dollars in 2006 to 583 million dollars this year, according to IDC.

While the "console wars" get considerable attention, the market for games on handheld devices is "smoking hot" with Nintendo's DS "ruling the roost," Kosak told aspiring game makers.

Some game ideas were variations on cliched themes such as puzzle solving or humans battling alien races.

In one proposed game a player begins as a speck of dust in outer space and gains mass by eating everything it collides into.

An ethical component to the game would be to have players decide whether to devour peaceful living things for the sake of getting bigger.

The lone woman to pitch an idea pictures a Canoe Trek game letting people use the motion-sensing controllers of Nintendo's Wii to play fishing, hunting and paddling games.

"Originally I was going to pitch a survival horror game but I'm doing a complete 180 and pitching a cartoon game," said Tim Hayes, whose idea included people superimposing their heads on characters.

Sony has finally announced that its PS3 Eye camera will hit European shop shelves next week, bundled with an interactive board game.

The Eye will be sold with game Eye of Judgment for around £65 (€90/$125) in the UK on 26 October, three days after its US release. There it will cost a mere $65 - the equivalent of £32 and €55 at today's exchange rates.

Want to pay only £25 for the Eye? Then wait a few weeks. On 7 November, Sony will sell the camera on its own. The solo pack includes software that lets users take pictures and record video and audio, all of which can be stored on the PS3's hard drive.

As previously reported, the Eye has a manually switched two-mode lens: one for close-ups, the other for "full-body" shots. It also has a 640 x 480 resolution and 60 frames per second (fps), but can reach 120fps if you’re willing to forgo the resolution and drop to 320 x 240.

The Eye of Judgment is a card-based game that uses the Eye to track the movement of interactive cards around spaces on a board, creating various monsters and spells on your telly as a result - think Dungeons and Dragons for the 21st Century.

This certainly isn't the first time we've heard this rumor, but SmartHouse is reporting that Microsoft and Toshiba are working on an updated Xbox 360 with a built-in HD DVD drive. If that were all, we wouldn't bat an eye -- it's gotta happen sometime -- but there are some other, crazier aspects to this version of the rumor that set off some red flags:

SmartHouse also claims that the new box will be Toshiba-branded and have dual HDTV tuners, electronic program guide capabilities, built-in wireless networking, and sport an "MP3 player" dock, which we'd imagine would be for a Zune. That's a hell of a box, right there, and while we've seen similar devices like Sony's PSX, they didn't exactly take the world by storm. Our money is still on a simple bump of the existing 360 to HD DVD, but get ready to hear a lot of about this rumor in the weeks to come.

HPD has issued a crime alert after a rash of burglaries at Game Stop video stores. That's because suspects are breaking into Game Stops all over town, from the southeast side to way out west.

11 News aired some surveillance video of a burglary in progress earlier this year. You could see the crook drop in from the ceiling.

He used a crowbar to open the closet and took off with dozens of games and consoles.

Since we first aired the video, there have been at least 18 more burglaries just like it.

Police strongly believe the same suspects wearing masks are responsible for almost all the burglaries.

Why Game Stops?

Just ask your kids and even some adults.

The games are more popular than ever and they are not cheap. That makes for a prime black market for video games.

Several years ago, 11 News tagged along with police as the busted one suspect who had a room full of stolen video games.

He had more than 5,000 games. All were new and he was allegedly selling wholesale and over the Internet.

But this time Game Stop is not going down with out a fight. Store officials said they have re-enforced all their doors and have updated their cameras.

Like HPD, they are hoping to catch some thieves.

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A US surgeon working on a "tele-health" breakthrough has devised a way for video game warriors to feel shots, stabs, slams, and hits dealt to their on-screen characters.

A vest designed by doctor Mark Ombrellaro uses air pressure and feedback from computer games to deliver pneumatic thumps to the spots on players' torsos where they would have been struck were they actually on the battlefields.

The "3rd Space" vest will make its US debut in November at a price of 189 dollars. It will be launched with the first-person shooter game "Call of Duty" and a custom-made title.

"It was originally designed as a medical device," Ombrellaro told AFP while letting gamers try the vest at the E for All video game exposition in Los Angeles.

"To give medical exams via the Internet to prisoners, the elderly, those in rural communities and other isolated people."

The medical version of the vest is more sophisticated, enabling doctors sitting at their computers to prod, poke and press patients' bodies from afar and get feedback on what they are virtually feeling, according to Ombrellaro.

That model is pending approval by the US Food and Drug Administration, which wants to be assured that diagnosis made using the vests are reliable.

"You can teleconference with patients but you are missing the hands-on," the vascular surgeon said. "Being able to do that is the last step to tele-health."

A 3rd Space vest that mimics the feeling of G-forces and turning pressures for flight and car games is to be launched early next year, after Ombrellaro's company TN Games finds exciting titles to match it with.

TN Games is based in technology giant Microsoft's home town of Redmond, Washington.

"We've had some Microsoft people check it out," Ombrellaro said.

LONDON, England (AP) -- GCHQ, the surveillance arm of British intelligence, said Thursday it hopes to attract computer-savvy young recruits by embedding job ads within video games such as "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent."

GCHQ, which stands for Government Communications Headquarters, said it was looking to reach "an Internet-savvy generation of graduate groups."

In a statement, GCHQ said it hoped the campaign would "capture the imagination of people with a particular interest in IT."

The monthlong ad campaign, which starts at the end of October, is being run by GCHQ, the recruitment firm TMP Worldwide and Microsoft-owned in-game ad agency Massive Inc.

Ads headed "Careers in British Intelligence" will appear as billboards in scenes in "Splinter Cell" and other games including "Need for Speed Carbon" and "Enemy Territory: Quake Wars" when they are played on computers and Microsoft Xbox consoles in Britain.

Kate Clemens, Head of GCHQ's digital strategy at TMP Worldwide, said the campaign would target frequent gamers who "are particularly receptive to innovative forms of advertising."

"The world of online gaming offers GCHQ a further route to target a captive audience," she said.

GCHQ employs about 5,000 people at its high-tech headquarters in Cheltenham, western England.

Britain's shadowy intelligence services have slowly been raising their profile -- and deflating some cherished secret-agent myths -- as they attempt to attract a larger and more diverse pool of recruits.

The foreign intelligence service MI6 launched a Web site in 2005, which cautions that its work is far from the "level of glamour and excitement" of James Bond films. Its domestic counterpart, MI5, has an online section tackling "myths and misconceptions" that stresses "we do not kill people or arrange their assassination."

MI5 has placed job ads on the side of double-decker London buses and tried to attract more female applicants with ads in women's changing rooms at gyms.

A British security official said the locker-room posters had brought a wave of applicants, doubling the number of women employed as surveillance officers.

"The idea is to make people think more broadly about MI5 as a potential employer," she said, demanding anonymity to discuss intelligence work. "We need all kinds of people, not just those who look like they've stepped out an army officer academy."

MI6 -- long the preserve of white, male graduates from Oxford and Cambridge Universities -- now stresses it requires employees from a wide range of backgrounds and with a variety of skills. One recent newspaper ad appealed for administrators under the tag line: "Protect your country. At your desk."

Microsoft bought New York-based Massive last year. The company sells virtual billboard space to advertisers, then -- rather than placing the ads within the games themselves -- delivers them over the Internet to PCs and Xbox 360 game consoles.

In a move that has been rumored since the time of Kutaragi's tenure as CEO, Sony has announced that it will sell a pair of its semiconductor fabrication facilities. These two fabs, one in Oita and another in Nagasaki, make the Cell processor and GPU for the Playstation 3, and their sale marks the end of Sony's days as an integrated device manufacturer (IDM).

Reuters is reporting rumors that the two fabs will go for $858 million, but neither of the parties have yet to announce dollar figures for the sale. The Nagasaki fab will be run by a new business set up jointly by Sony and Toshiba.

Sony has been considering getting out of semiconductor manufacturing for some time now. I personally know an investment banker whose bank was once asked to send representatives to a meeting with then-CEO Ken Kutaragi, in which Kutaragi tried to get a sense from the finance community of what Wall Street's reaction would be to Sony's selling its semi business. Sony's constant mulling of this decision over the years produced a string of rumors that would periodically bubble up in the press, but the company never pulled the trigger on the move until this week.

It's not surprising that Sony would want out of the advanced fabrication business. With fabs at new process nodes getting astronomically more expensive to build, Intel seems to be the only company left that can afford to design and fabricate advanced semiconductor devices all under one roof, without any help from partners. IBM, AMD, Toshiba, and now Sony are all using some combination of fab partnerships and foundries to distribute the cost of fabrication and defray the risks associated with making a huge bet on a next-gen fab.

One could make the argument that what hurt Sony's semiconductor profits the most were the (totally non-semi-related) troubles with getting Blu-Ray drive costs down. In other words, Sony made a huge investment in designing and fabbing a cutting-edge set of microchips for a particular product, and that investment was then held hostage to troubles in an unrelated division by simple virtue of the fact that both devices were destined for the same box (the PS3). From here on out, Sony will take the Microsoft approach and let someone else fab the chips for its consoles.

Sony's decision to finally sell these two fabs to Toshiba is the latest stage of Sir Howard Stringer's "three-year turnaround plan" for the company. Stringer, chief executive of Sony, has been using the plan as a means for "shedding [Sony's] none-core assets aggressively" in order to help clot the bleeding of the company's games division.

Stringer's ascension to CEO seems to be having a positive effect on the company, at least from a gaming perspective. The PlayStation 3 got off to a rough start, but the changes that have resulted in the wake of Kutaragi's departure have been for the most part positive. The system has benefitted from a price drop, some new options for consumers, and a growing library of worthwhile games—a trend that looks to continue into the new year.

The highly unique PlayStation 2 title Okami will see new life as a title for the Wii console. Boasting a beautiful visual style and a 'drawing' game mechanic that would seem to presage the Wii's motion control, it will almost certainly fit in well with the Wii's existing stable of games. Eurogamer also note that

"the game lends itself rather well to the potential of Nintendo's Wiimote for control. Amaterasu's Celestial Brush - a paintbrush used in combat and for solving puzzles - is a perfect fit for the Wiimote, and so it proves, while combat will also include various "motion-controlled physical attacks"."

During his usual annual forecast for the games industry, Hirokazu Hamamura, president of Japanese publisher Enterbrain, which publishes Famitsu magazine, has cast doubts on the current popularity of Wii.

In his speech, he said that market research figures had found that 67% of Wii owners in Japan had not been using their Nintendo console recently. The reason for the Wii not being used is said to be a lack of game releases to excite the market, with Wii Sports still being the front runner. Hamamura believes this will change with time, as highly anticipated titles such as WiiFit this year and the recently announced Wii-exclusive Monster Hunter 3 should stimulate the market.

He doesn’t see any problems with the Nintendo DS, and highlighted the forthcoming Dragon Quest IX as being a potential record-setter, surpassing 5 million sales, and the DS is expected to ship 30 million units by 2009.

With the recent release of the 40 GB PS3, Hamamura can see the console becoming more accessible to gamers due to the reduced price, but highlighted Sony’s reliance on Gran Turismo 5 due to the uncertainty of Final Fantasy XIII and Metal Gear Solid 4 remaining exclusives on PlayStation hardware.

I agree the Wii is looking a bit boring at the moment, as we desperately wait for the new titles to appear. My wish list is Umbrella Chronicles, Mario Galaxy, and Metroid Prime Corruption 3 (see our review), and it is just a shame there has been a big gap before they have appeared on the radar. Further into the future, Mario Kart is also a very important and popular title.

Sony’s introduction of the 40 GB PS3 has met with mixed responses in the industry, but for the consumer in general, it is the PS3 at a lower price point, and that is good news. Much like Wii, though, more triple-A games are required to keep the user base growing and keep the Xbox 360 in Sony’s sights.

It looks like the new Wii SKU box, and as Maxconsole points out, has no love for the new anti-slip jackets—the whole point for the new SKU in the first place. Why didn't they include the jacket on the cover? Because it's ugly as sin and destroys the understated aesthetic of the Wiimote.

The console has a brilliant design, in that even though it's essentially the shape of an external optical drive, the stand adds an element of individuality and importance. And don't expect marketing to allow some sticky, semi-translucent membrane to go screwing things up.

SAN DIEGO, Oct. 16 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Mad Catz Interactive, Inc. (Amex: MCZ; TSX), a leading third-party interactive entertainment accessory provider announced today a partnership with the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. by which the charity will receive 10% of the net wholesale price from the sale of the Nintendo DS Lite Pink Tech Pack sold within the continental United States of America.

"Mad Catz is proud to offer our support to the National Breast Cancer Foundation," said Darren Richardson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mad Catz. "We are particularly pleased that our recently acquired Joytech brand was able to offer this unique accessory solution to both expand our opportunities within the market while supporting this important foundation."

Speaking for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, President and CEO Janelle Hail commented, "Mad Catz and Joytech are trusted brands that appeal to millions of gamers across America and thus we look forward to working with Mad Catz to raise awareness further through a bespoke product such as this."

The Joytech branded special edition DS Lite Tech Pack contains all pink accessories designed to target the rapidly growing female gamer market, including: Carry Case, In-Car Power Adapter, USB Charge Cable, 2 Game Cases and 2 Stylus Pens. The packaging informs customers of the contribution made to the foundation on their behalf with each purchase.

The Nintendo DS Lite Pink Tech Pack is available now at Circuit City with an MSRP of $19.99.

This is easy. Buy a PSP. Or take your existing PSP, either or. Make sure you're running the latest firmware update. Get yourself to the nearest T-Mobile hotspot. Flick your little WLAN button to "on". Jump online via "Use Wireless HotSpot". And that's it.

You've now got six months of free T-Mobile hotspot use. Easy. Harder part is finding somebody to then play against, and neither myself nor T-Mobile can help you with that one.

Tomorrow sees the release of the PlayStation 3 version of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Game of the Year Edition, which marks the first time that the Shivering Isles expansion will be available to PS3 gamers. While this is excellent news for those who waited to purchase Oblivion on the console, but those of us who already purchased and completed the main quest are still waiting for a solution. According to Bethesda's blog they are very close to a resolution, be it a download from PSN or a standalone disc like the one coming out for the Xbox 360 tomorrow, so keep your eyes open for news. In the meantime you might be able to find a copy of the GOTY Edition for rent to help scratch that crazy itch.

Bethesda Softworks Announces The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion® Game of the Year Edition for PLAYSTATION®3 System and The Elder Scrolls® IV: Shivering Isles™ Xbox 360 Retail Disc Now Shipping
Expanded Version of Award-Winning Role Playing Game and Standalone Retail Expansion Disc Available This Week

October 16, 2007 (Rockville, MD) - Bethesda Softworks®, a ZeniMax Media company, announced today that The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion® Game of the Year Edition (GotY) for the PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system has begun shipping to retail stores throughout North America. Oblivion GotY includes the original version of the award-winning RPG, Oblivion, along with the official expansion, The Elder Scrolls® IV: Shivering Isles™, and the downloadable content, The Elder Scrolls® IV: Knights of the Nine™.

Also available at retail stores as early as today is The Elder Scrolls® IV: Shivering Isles™ for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. This new product allows gamers to play the award-winning expansion to the 2006 Game of the Year, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion®, without accessing Xbox LIVE® online entertainment network. The retail disc also includes the downloadable content, The Elder Scrolls® IV: Knights of the Nine™.

Released in March 2006 for Windows and Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and in March 2007 for the PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system, Oblivion has already earned countless awards from publications around the world and won numerous Game of the Year and RPG of the Year awards. It has also recently achieved the status of both Xbox 360 Platinum Hit (North America) and Xbox 360 Classic (Europe). The Xbox 360 Platinum Hits and Classics programs allow existing gamers and new gamers alike to have access to great games at an amazing price.

Oblivion features a powerful combination of free-form gameplay, unprecedented graphics, cutting edge AI, character voices by acting legends Patrick Stewart, Sean Bean, Terrance Stamp, and Lynda Carter, and an award-winning soundtrack. Gamers can choose to unravel Oblivion's epic narrative at their own pace or explore the vast world in search of their own unique challenges.

With more than 30 hours of new gameplay, Shivering Isles allows you to explore an entirely new plane of Oblivion - the realm of Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness. Shivering Isles features a bizarre landscape split between the two sides - Mania and Dementia -filled with vast, twisting dungeons mirroring the roots of the trees they are buried within. Sheogorath himself looks to you to be his champion and defend his realm and its inhabitants from destruction as you discover all new items, ingredients, spells, and much more.

Knights of the Nine features an all-new faction and quests for noble characters and answers many of the questions surrounding the Ayleid ruins found throughout Oblivion. Players can join a new faction and found their own order of holy knights - leading them into battle against a sorcerer-king and his demonic minions while exploring massive dungeons and searching for legendary relics - the holy armor and weapons of the Divine Crusader.

For more information on Oblivion, Shivering Isles, or The Elder Scrolls, visit

New York, NY - October 16, 2007 - Rockstar Games, a publishing label of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO), is pleased to announce that Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis for the Wii™ home video game system from Nintendo is now available at North American retail stores for the suggested retail price of $39.99.

Developed by Rockstar Leeds in collaboration with Rockstar San Diego, Table Tennis utilizes the Wii's motion-sensitive Wii Remote™ to offer a frenetic and intense experience. GamePro Magazine said, "There is so much depth and skill involved in Table Tennis on the Wii that this version stands up to any tennis game out on any system, period."
Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis for the Wii is rated "E" for Everyone. The title will reach European retail shelves on October 19th, 2007.

After three weeks at the top, the PSP is knocked down by Nintendo's handheld in an almighty tussle.

With the launch of the new PlayStation Portable Slim in Japan, along with the release of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, a PSP-exclusive title, Sony's handheld has been enjoying some time at the top of the Japanese charts.

However, this week it was just pipped to the post by the Nintendo DS Lite, which sold 87,445 units, compared to the PSP's 86,895, according to figures released by Media Create for the week ending October 7.

The other consoles did as follows: the Wii sold 20,704 units, the PlayStation 3 10,822, PlayStation 2 10,446, and the Xbox 360 1,547. Media Create notes that the release of a new DS Lite in red and black likely caused the figures to leap up in this chart.

On the software side, Halo 3 may have debuted at number one in the region, but the game dropped down to number 36 in its second week on sale.

Don’t get too excited just yet, as there still is no date attached to the PSP’s PlayStation Store, which has seemingly been in the works for years. (Next year is about as good as dates go for it.) But it is coming, and with it will be exclusive games that are being designed for the PSP. Sony is currently at work on seven downloadable PSP games which are basically full retail games. These range from action games to music games to music and a shooter, although none of the titles have been announced at this time. These will be playable via memory stick and should take up somewhere in the neighborhood of one-third to one-half the size of a UMD, which can contain 1.8 GB. The store will be PC-based, so you’ll download games through your PSP and then transfer them by USB or memory stick.

I’m certainly happy to hear this is finally coming to fruition – it’s certainly taking Sony long enough. And in case you’re wondering, there will indeed be PSone games on the PSP Store, some of which will be exclusives.

Talking as part of an in-depth interview published on Gamasutra today, Kojima Productions' Ryan Payton has revealed that there are over 200 developers working to complete Metal Gear Solid 4 for PlayStation 3, also commenting on the game's use of DualShock 3.
Discussing the eagerly awaited Metal Gear Solid franchise continuation, which was one of the most high-profile titles at the recent Tokyo Game Show, Payton noted:

"But the game is definitely under a lot of pressure, because the way things are turning out, this could be the first "must have" PlayStation 3 title on store shelves. Or, if not the first, then the second or the third. So, in that sense, there's a lot relying on it. People at Sony know that, and we've got literally 200 guys working on this title, day and night, making sure that it's perfect."

This means that Metal Gear Solid 4 sports one of the largest teams ever working in the same location on one game title - Payton clarified that these developers are all working on the PlayStation 3 title within the Kojima Productions division of Konami:

"We have that many in our group right now. We have over 200... we've been just beefing up the team as we got deeper and deeper into development. And then maybe after the game is finished, we'll get a little bit leaner and meaner."

Elsewhere in the interview, which also covers many of the design decisions and artistic sensibilities that are feeding into MGS4 as a title, Payton discusses the DualShock 3 feedback for the title, noting:

"This will be the premiere DualShock 3 supporting game coming out within the next six months. Gran Turismo 5 is, I'm sure, going to be impressive, but we've got some things that I can't talk about that people are going to really dig."

He also added, as part of the detailed Gamasutra interview, which was originally conducted at Tokyo Game Show this year:

"What's funny about the DualShock, though, I realized yesterday when some writers came in and I just placed the controller in their hands and had them play MGS4; for some reason it took them like ten or fifteen minutes to realize that the game had rumble. They would stop and say, "Oh! This -- you've got the DualShock 3!" And it's funny because you don't really realize it unless it's not there."

The full Gamasutra interview with Payton, posted on the site today, also includes a number of other notable revelations on the design decisions and artistic sensibilities that are going into the game.

British fans of Nintendo Wii and Star Wars will get a first glimpse of the console’s upcoming Light Sabre peripheral at a gaming festival being held later this month. LucasArts will be exhibiting the peripheral alongside its forthcoming Wii title Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, at the GameCity festival, due to be held between 24 and 28 October. Unfortunately, gamers will only be able to get in touch with their Jedi sides and use the Light Sabre on one day: 26 October.

Although LucasArts didn't say if the peripheral or the game will be available to buy at the festival, the demo should at least gives gamers the chance to wield the Light Sabre ahead of the previously announced Spring 2008 release date.

The peripheral should also help the festival, which is being organised by Nottingham Trent University, fulfil its mantra of “exploring videogames in new ways”.

It's hard to say what exactly Sony's console did to get Valve head honcho Gabe Newell's bad side. Did it lose his dog? Hit on his wife? Get drunk and embarrass itself at a party he hosted? Whatever the reason, Newell does not like the PlayStation 3, and he reaffirmed his feelings in an interview with Next-Gen.
When asked whether he still thought Sony needed to do a "do-over," Newell responded: "Absolutely. I think [PS3 is] a waste of everybody's time. Investing in the Cell, investing in the SPE gives you no long-term benefits. There's nothing there that you're going to apply to anything else. You're not going to gain anything except a hatred of the architecture they've created. I don't think they're going to make money off their box. I don't think it's a good solution."
Well, ouch. But if it sounds like this doesn't bode well for the PS3 version of The Orange Box, which staggers behind the just-released PC and 360 versions, you can rest easy -- Newell assures Sony gamers will won't be disappointed.

"I think the people who have The Orange Box on the PS3 are going to be happy with their game experience," he said. "We've done the PC and 360 versions here and EA has a team doing the PS3 version -- and they'll make the PS3 version a good product; EA got the job done in putting a lot of people with PS3 experience on the project. But I think it's harder to get it to the same standard as the 360 and PC versions."

Newell's never really been a fan of the PS3, comparing Sony's hardware to the Sega Saturn and declaring the machine a "total disaster" back in January.

"The PS3 is a total disaster on so many levels, I think it's really clear that Sony lost track of what customers and what developers wanted," said Newell. "I'd say, even at this late date, they should just cancel it and do a 'do over.' Just say, 'This was a horrible disaster and we're sorry and we're going to stop selling this and stop trying to convince people to develop for it.'"

Nintendo released this week their game line-up for the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS for the Holidays and into Sprint 2008.

By the end of 2007, Nintendo expects the library of Wii games to grow to 140, not counting nearly 200 downloadable Virtual Console titles, while the Nintendo DS library should be nearly 450. It is a pity that Mario Kart for the Wii is so far out (Sprint 2008), I really think that game would be really fun to play on the Wii. On the other hand there are so many other games that there will be something for everyone to play on the Wii this Holidays. The lists below for the Wii and DS are only partial.

Nintendo Wii Game Line-up:

Oct. 1: MLB(R) Power Pros from 2K Sports
Oct. 1: Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fire(TM) from D3Publisher of America(R)
Oct. 2: Crash(R) of the Titans from Sierra Entertainment, Inc.
Oct. 5: Balls of Fury(TM) from DSI Games
Oct. 8: Donkey Kong(R): Barrel Blast from Nintendo
Oct. 9: FIFA 08 from Electronic Arts
Oct. 9: Bleach: Shattered Blade(TM) from SEGA
Oct. 10: Arctic Tale from DSI Games
Oct. 15: Sea Monsters from DSI Games
Oct. 16: Thrillville(R): Off the Rails(TM) from LucasArts
Oct. 22: EA PLAYGROUND from Electronic Arts
Oct. 23: Backyard Football from Atari, Inc.
Oct. 23: The Sims 2(TM) Castaway from Electronic Arts
Oct. 23: Rockstar Games Presents(TM) Table Tennis from Rockstar Games
Oct. 23: The Legend of Spyro(TM): The Eternal Night from Sierra
Entertainment, Inc.
Oct. 23: NARUTO(TM): Clash of Ninja(TM) Revolution from TOMY Corporation
Oct. 25: M&M'S(R) Kart Racing from DSI Games
Oct. 28: Guitar Hero III(TM): Legends of Rock from Activision
Oct. 29: Battalion Wars(TM) 2 from Nintendo
Oct. 30: Ben 10(TM): Protector of Earth from D3Publisher of America(R)
Oct. 30: Showtime(R) Championship Boxing(TM) from DSI Games
Oct. 30: NEED FOR SPEED PROSTREET from Electronic Arts
Oct. 30: THE SIMPSONS from Electronic Arts
Oct. 31: Manhunt 2(TM) from Rockstar Games
October: Spider-Man(TM): Friend or Foe from Activision
October: Bee Movie(TM) Game from Activision
October: Tony Hawk's Proving Ground from Activision
October: Ultimate Duck Hunting(TM) from Detn8 Games Ltd.
October: Mercury Meltdown Revolution from Ignition Entertainment
October: Namco Museum(TM) Remix from NAMCO BANDAI Games America
October: Code Lyoko: Quest for Infinity from The Game Factory
October: Avatar: The Last Airbender(TM) - The Burning Earth from THQ
October: Bratz: The Movie(TM) from THQ
October: Cars: Mater-National from THQ
October: Nicktoons(TM): Attack of the Toybots from THQ
October: SpongeBob's Atlantis SquarePantis(TM) from THQ
Nov. 5: Fire Emblem(R): Radiant Dawn from Nintendo
Nov. 6: DanceDanceRevolution Hottest Party from Konami Digital
Entertainment, Inc.
Nov. 6: LEGO(R) Star Wars(TM): The Complete Saga from LucasArts
Nov. 6: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games(TM) from SEGA
Nov. 12: Super Mario Galaxy(TM) from Nintendo
Nov. 13: Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 3 from Atari, Inc.
Nov. 13: Godzilla Unleashed from Atari, Inc.
Nov. 13: Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary from Eidos, Inc.
Nov. 13: BLOCKS from Electronic Arts
Nov. 13: MEDAL OF HONOR HEROES(TM) 2 from Electronic Arts
Nov. 13: LUXOR: Pharaoh's Challenge from MumboJumbo
Nov. 13: Geometry Wars(TM): Galaxies from Sierra Entertainment, Inc.
Nov. 19: Link's Crossbow Training(TM) (packaged with Wii Zapper(TM)) from
Nov. 19: SMARTY PANTS(TM) from Electronic Arts
Nov. 20: Jenga World Tour from Atari, Inc.
Nov. 20: Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords(TM) from D3Publisher of
November: Trauma Center(TM): New Blood from Atlus USA
November: Star Trek: Conquest from Bethesda Softworks
November: Disney Princess: Enchanted Journey from Disney Interactive
November: Hannah Montana: Spotlight World Tour from Disney Interactive
November: High School Musical: Sing It from Disney Interactive Studios
November: Garfield Gets Real from DSI Games
November: Furu Furu Park from Majesco Entertainment
November: AMF Bowling: Pinbusters! from Mud Duck Games
November: Ghost Squad(TM) from SEGA
November: WWE(R) SmackDown(R) vs. Raw(R) 2008 from THQ
November: Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 from Ubisoft
November: CSI: Hard Evidence from Ubisoft
November: My Word Coach from Ubisoft
November: Petz: Catz 2 (name not final) from Ubisoft
November: Petz: Dogz 2 (name not final) from Ubisoft
November: Petz: Horsez 2 (name not final) from Ubisoft
November: Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 from Ubisoft
Dec. 4: Alvin and the Chipmunks from Brash Entertainment
Dec. 4: The Golden Compass(TM) from SEGA
December: MX vs. ATV(TM) Untamed(TM) from THQ
December: Super Swing Golf(TM) Season 2 from Tecmo, Inc.
December: Rygar(R): The Battle of Argus from Tecmo, Inc.
December: Cranium: Kabookii from Ubisoft
December: Nitrobike from Ubisoft
Holiday 2007: NiGHTS(TM): Journey of Dreams from SEGA
Winter '07: SoulCalibur Legends(TM) from NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Jan. 21: Endless Ocean(TM) from Nintendo
Feb. 10: Super Smash Bros.(R) Brawl from Nintendo
Feb. 15: Yamaha Supercross from DSI Games
Feb. 19: Sonic(TM) Riders: Zero Gravity from SEGA
February: No More Heroes from Ubisoft
February: Wild Petz Tigerz from Ubisoft
March: Obscure: The Aftermath from Ignition Entertainment
Q1: LUXOR 3 from MumboJumbo
Q1: One Piece(TM): Unlimited Adventure(TM) from NAMCO BANDAI Games
Spring '08: Mario Kart(R) Wii (name not final) from Nintendo

Nintendo DS Game Line-up:

Oct. l: The Legend of Zelda(R): Phantom Hourglass from Nintendo
Oct. 2: Chibi-Robo(TM): Park Patrol from Nintendo
Oct. 2: Backyard Hockey 2008 from Atari, Inc.
Oct. 2: Holly Hobbie(TM) & Friends from Majesco Entertainment
Oct. 2: Crash(R) of the Titans from Sierra Entertainment, Inc.
Oct. 2: The Legend of Spyro(TM): The Eternal Night from Sierra
Entertainment, Inc.
Oct. 9: FIFA 08 from Electronic Arts
Oct. 9: Flipper Critters from Ignition Entertainment
Oct. 9: Bleach: the Blade of Fate(TM) from SEGA
Oct. 15: Flash Focus(TM): Vision Training in Minutes a Day from Nintendo
Oct. 15: The Aly & AJ Adventure from DSI Games
Oct. 16: Cheetah Girls: Pop Star Sensations from Disney Interactive
Oct. 16: Thrillville(R): Off the Rails(TM) from LucasArts
Oct. 16: Fish Tycoon(R) from Majesco Entertainment
Oct. 16: Super Collapse! 3 from MumboJumbo
Oct. 17: Prism(TM) from Secret Stash Games(TM)
Oct. 19: Betty Boop's(TM) "Double Shift" from DSI Games
Oct. 22: EA PLAYGROUND from Electronic Arts
Oct. 23: THE SIMS 2 CASTAWAY from Electronic Arts
Oct. 23: Rhythm 'n Notes: Improve Your Music Skill from AGETEC
Oct. 23: Backyard Football 2008 from Atari, Inc.
Oct. 23: Napoleon Dynamite from Crave Entertainment
Oct. 23: Ed, Edd n Eddy(TM): Scam of the Century from D3Publisher of
Oct. 23: Hannah Montana: Music Jam from Disney Interactive Studios
Oct. 23: Disney Princess: Magical Jewels from Disney Interactive Studios
Oct. 23: Power Rangers: Super Legends from Disney Interactive Studios
Oct. 23: Zoo Hospital(TM) from Majesco Entertainment
Oct. 23: FRONT MISSION(R) from Square Enix, Inc.
Oct. 23: NARUTO(TM): Path of the Ninja(TM) from TOMY Corporation
Oct. 25: Sea Monsters from DSI Games
Oct. 25: Arctic Tale from DSI Games
Oct. 30: Ben 10(TM): Protector of Earth from D3Publisher of America(R)
Oct. 30: Suite Life: Circle of Spies from Disney Interactive Studios
Oct. 30: Dr. Seuss: How the Grinch(TM) Stole Christmas from DSI Games
Oct. 30: NEED FOR SPEED PROSTREET from Electronic Arts
Oct. 30: THE SIMPSONS from Electronic Arts
Oct. 30: Puzzle de Harvest Moon from Natsume Inc.
Oct. 31: Dementium: The Ward from Gamecock Media Group
Oct. 31: Solitaire Overload(TM) from Telegames, Inc.
October: Spider-Man(TM): Friend or Foe from Activision
October: Bee Movie(TM) Game from Activision
October: Shrek(R): Ogres and Dronkeys(TM) from Activision
October: Tony Hawk's Proving Ground from Activision
October: Touch Detective 21/2(TM) from Atlus USA
October: Animal Genius(TM) from Scholastic
October: Build-A-Bear Workshop from The Game Factory
October: Avatar: The Last Airbender(TM) - The Burning Earth from THQ
October: Cars: Mater-National from THQ
October: El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera(TM) from THQ
October: Nicktoons(TM): Attack of the Toybots from THQ
October: Ratatouille(R) Food Frenzy from THQ
October: SpongeBob's Atlantis SquarePantis(TM) from THQ
October: Chessmaster: The Art of Learning from Ubisoft
October: Imagine: Babyz from Ubisoft
October: Imagine: Fashion Designer from Ubisost
October: Imagine: Master Chef from Ubisoft
October: Imagine: Animal Doctor from Ubisoft
October: Wild Petz Dolphinz from Ubisoft
Nov. 6: Dora the Explorer(TM): Dora Saves the Mermaids from 2K Play
Nov. 6: Go Diego Go(TM): Safari Adventure from 2K Play
Nov. 6: Baby Pals from Crave Entertainment
Nov. 6: Horse Life(TM) from D3Publisher of America(R)
Nov. 6: LEGO(R) Star Wars(TM): The Complete Saga from LucasArts
Nov. 6: Chicken Hunter from MumboJumbo
Nov. 6: DRAGON QUEST MONSTERS(TM): Joker from Square Enix, Inc.
Nov. 10: Showtime(R) Championship Boxing(TM) from DSI Games
Nov. 13: Enchanted from Disney Interactive Studios
Nov. 13: BOOGIE from Electronic Arts
Nov. 13: ORCS & ELVES from Electronic Arts
Nov. 13: Cooking Mama 2: Dinner with Friends from Majesco Entertainment
Nov. 13: Geometry Wars(TM): Galaxies from Sierra Entertainment, Inc.
Nov. 19: Mario Party(R) DS from Nintendo
Nov. 20: Godzilla Unleashed Double Smash from Atari, Inc.
Nov. 20: Jenga World Tour from Atari, Inc.
Nov. 20: LUXOR: Pharaoh's Challenge from MumboJumbo
Nov. 20: FINAL FANTASY(R) XII: REVENANT WINGS(TM) from Square Enix, Inc.
Nov. 26: Master of Illusion(TM) from Nintendo
November: Call of Duty(R): Modern Warfare(TM) from Activision
November: Ontamarama(TM) from Atlus USA
November: Draglade(TM) from Atlus USA
November: Elf Bowling(TM) Collector's Edition from Detn8 Games Ltd.
November: Garfield Gets Real from DSI Games
November: Clue(TM)/Mouse Trap(TM)/Perfection(TM)/Aggravation(TM) from DSI
November: Contra 4 from Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc.
November: Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championship 2008 from Konami Digital
Entertainment, Inc.
November: Strawberry Shortcake: The Four Seasons Cake from The Game
November: Bratz Super Babyz(TM) from THQ
November: Bratz: 4 Real(TM) from THQ
November: Warhammer(R) 40,000(TM): Squad Command(TM) from THQ
November: WWE(R) SmackDown(R) vs. Raw(R) 2008 from THQ
November: Ninja Gaiden(R) Dragon Sword from Tecmo, Inc.
November: My French Coach from Ubisoft
November: My Spanish Coach from Ubisoft
November: My Word Coach from Ubisoft
November: Petz: Catz 2 (working title) from Ubisoft
November: Petz: Dogz 2 (working title) from Ubisoft
November: Petz: Hamsterz Life 2 from Ubisoft
November: Petz: Horsez 2 from Ubisoft
November: Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 from Ubisoft
Dec. 4: Alvin and the Chipmunks from Brash Entertainment
Dec. 4: The Golden Compass(TM) from SEGA
Dec. 10: RIP: Death Volunteers(TM) from Telegames, Inc.
December: Diary Girl from Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc.
Jan. 15: Barnyard Blast from DSI Games
Jan. 21: Advance Wars(R): Days of Ruin from Nintendo
Jan. 25: M&M'S(R) Kart Racing from DSI Games
Jan. 31: Command & Destroy from DSI Games
January: Miami Nights from Ubisoft
Feb. 4: Professor Layton and the Curious Village(TM) from Nintendo
Feb. 12: New Zealand Story Revolution from Ignition Entertainment
Feb. 15: Yamaha Supercross from DSI Games
Feb. 19: Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer from SEGA
Feb. 26: Bubble Bobble Double Shot from Ignition Entertainment
February: Imagine: Figure Skater from Ubisoft
February: Wild Petz Tigerz from Ubisoft
February: Assassin's Creed from Ubisoft
March 4: Disney Friends from Disney Interactive Studios
March 29: Ultimate Card Games from Telegames, Inc.
March: Insecticide from Gamecock Media Group
March: My Life Coach from Ubisoft
Q1: Eco Creatures: Save the Forest from Majesco Entertainment
Q1: Polar Bowling from MumboJumbo
Q1: Slingo Quest from MumboJumbo
Q1: Tropix from MumboJumbo
Q1: Polar Golf from MumboJumbo
Q1: River King: Mystic Valley from Natsume Inc.
Q1: Harvest Moon DS Cute from Natsume Inc.
Q1: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games(TM) from SEGA

Those who have noticed their Wii sporting a glowing blue light (or no light at all for a non-Internet connected console) will be pleased to know that a new system firmware has been released.

New in version 3.1 of the firmware is expanded USB keyboard support, improving greatly over keyboard implementation in previous firmware versions. Hyperlinks may now be included in messages, which can be launched directly into a web browser with a Wii Remote click. Users of the Internet Channel will find with the new 3.1 firmware an experience that better matches a full-featured web browser.

Speaking of the Internet Channel, there also appears to be an updated version of the browser software available for download. Also, an improved “Everybody Votes” Wii Channel is also online, allowing users to input questions of their own.

Version 3.1 firmware builds on all the changes introduced in version 3, such as an on-screen digital clock and the ability to rearrange the Wii Friends address book.

Currently, the only way to obtain the new system software is through the Wii's Wi-Fi Internet connection, as games have yet to ship with the firmware update included.

With the latest Wii firmware update a couple months ago, one little-known feature added support for USB keyboards. The reason most people didn't notice was because it was missing from the spot it would be most useful: the Internet browser.

That changed today, however, as Opera announced a new update of the Internet Channel. The biggest new feature is USB keyboard support, allowing you to write e-mails, blogs or any of the other activities you probably do on the computer you're reading this from. The update also allows you to send links to those on your Wii friends list, along with other incremental upgrades like updating the B button as a "Shift" key on the soft keyboard, a copy and paste function, and more storage for bookmarks.

Unfortunately, the Internet Channel hasn't been free since June 30, so if these features sound like must-haves, you'll have to pony up the necessary 500 Wii points ($5 USD) to access them.

Following the revelation at Nintendo's recent press conference that the Wii will receive the next iteration of Capcom's hit action title Monster Hunter 3, the company's managing corporate officer has been quoted as saying the PS3's high development costs directly influenced the decision.

A report from Thompson Financial News quotes Capcom's Katsuhiko Ichii as saying, "Due to high development cost of titles for PS3, we have decided to switch the platform to which we release our Monster Hunter 3 title."

The game's release for the Wii was the final announcement at Nintendo's recent conference that also saw a number of new first party and WiiWare titles announced.

Although previously announced for the PlayStation 3, no media of the game has previously been shown, and its multiformat status is unclear.

Monster Hunter is one of the most popular franchises currently in Japan, with both PSP iterations having sold over a million units each, although the series has never enjoyed the same success in the West.


Microsoft didn’t want you to know about Falcon, and it certainly doesn’t want you to know about its successor Jasper. But that’s another secret we have to unveil.

Jasper is the code name for the next motherboard for the Xbox 360. It will becoming next August, in time for next year’s holiday season. Jasper is going to have a 65-nanometer graphics chip from ATI Technologies, as well as smaller memory chips. That isn’t much information, but it’s enough to tell us about their cost-reduction plan. If you ask me, it’s a bit of a slow pace.

I don’t know why it will take Microsoft essentially three years to cost reduce the size of the graphics chip through a manufacturing shrink. It doesn’t seem like they’re in a hurry to launch a redesigned Xbox 360 graphics chip, considering that Intel introduced its first 65-nm chips a long time ago. ATI uses TSMC to make its chips out of Taiwan, and TSMC hasn’t been the fastest at moving to 65-nm manufacturing. I understand these tasks are difficult and they take a lot of engineering resources. Microsoft has had to divert a lot of engineers to debugging problems with Xbox 360 reliability. Even so, you would think that they would have moved faster, since the move to 65-nm graphics chip will likely be one of the best things they can do to improve the reliability.

As readers of this blog know, Falcon is being used in Xbox 360s that are currently rolling off the production lines. It has a 65-nm IBM microprocessor on it, instead of the previous 90-nm version. It also has built-in HDMI. It carries lower costs than the previous motherboard, but not dramatically so. And Falcon has a 90-nm graphics chip on it.

Here’s something that Xbox 360 buyers will want to know. Both Falcon and its predecessor Zephyr (used in the Xbox 360 Elite) have different thermal solutions than the original Xbox 360. You’ve seen the heat sinks in the cut-out photos posted elsewhere. The Microsoft engineers believe those heat sinks will be sufficient as a solution for keeping Xbox 360s from overheating. From their point of view, you don’t have to wait until Jasper to get a reliable machine.

From a neutral point of view, I would guess that Jasper would be more reliable than Falcon on heat issues, and Falcon will be more reliable than its predecessors. The Falcon board has the same old 90-nm graphics chip on it. And many have pointed out that the big heat problem in the Xbox 360 is due to the graphics chip. The Falcon board will likely give off less heat. But the real serious heat saver looks like it will come with Jasper.

I’m sure that Jasper will carry lower costs than Falcon. That’s because it will have a smaller graphics chip and smaller memory chips as well. That translates into material savings, which means lower costs. If you’re wondering why you should care? Maybe you don’t need to care. But there are folks on the Falcon thread who want to know this kind of information and here it is. Certainly, Microsoft will be in a position to cut prices again by next August. If you recall, after it got Falcon out the door, Microsoft cut $50 off the price of the Xbox 360.

If I were Microsoft, I would try to pull in the date of Jasper as soon as possible. What they need right now is a lower cost so that they can be more competitive against the Wii and so they leave no openings for Sony. As of now, the 65-nm graphics chip isn’t done. They’re still working on it. Microsoft declined to comment, other than to say that it constantly updates the components in the Xbox 360 but doesn’t comment on them.


MAKUHARI, Japan (AFP) - Couch potatoes beware: Wii owners will be able to get an even more vigorous workout from December when Nintendo launches a new fitness balance board for its hit video game console.

The "Wii Fit" board and software can be used for exercising, sports and games including yoga, virtual snowboarding, ski-jumping and aerobics to help users battle the bulge in their living rooms.

The board, which looks like a set of bathroom scales, is the latest salvo in Nintendo's battle to widen the appeal of video games beyond just teenagers locked away in their bedrooms.

Nintendo announced Wednesday that the package would go on sale in Japan from December 1 for 8,800 yen (75 dollars). Launch dates for other countries were not announced.

Last year's launch of the Wii and its motion-sensitive controller -- which can be used like a tennis racket, golf club or bowling ball -- triggered a slew of reports of aching backs, sore shoulders and what has been dubbed "Wii elbow."

Nintendo said it discouraged players weighing more than 136 kilos (300 pounds) from using the new balance board.

The company also announced its would launch "Wii Ware" -- a new service to download games and other software via the Internet -- from next March.

"We know that any player will get bored with any type of game console," Nintendo president Satoru Iwata told a packed press conference near Tokyo.

"In order not to have the Wii end up as a temporary phenomenon, we need to enlarge the gaming population," he said.

Iwata said he wanted to expand the usage of the Wii beyond the home and into the online world.

Although 51 percent of Japanese households have broadband Internet access, only 40 percent of Wii users go online with their console, he said.

Nintendo is enjoying huge success with the Wii, far outselling rival Sony with its PlayStation 3.

While Sony put the emphasis on chip power and ultra-realistic graphics for the latest addition to the PlayStation series, Nintendo opted to develop an easy-to-use console that would appeal to a wider audience.

Kyoto-based Nintendo announced it would launch a total of 70 brand new software titles in the coming months for the Wii, including "Super Mario Galaxy" and "Mario and Sonic at Beijing Olympics."

But the long-awaited "Smash Brothers X" will be delayed by several months until January 24.

The price of Nintendo shares soared 2,600 yen or 4.1 percent to 65,700 as investors cheered news that the new fitness game would be available in time for the crucial year-end shopping period.

Nintendo, which started out in 1889 making playing cards, overtook Sony earlier this year in market value despite the fact that in terms of revenue it is about eight times smaller than the Japanese consumer electronics icon.

In an effort to catch up with Nintendo's Wii, Sony recently announced it would slash the PlayStation 3's price by 10 percent and launch a slimmed-down version in Japan and Europe this month.

The maker of exploding batteries and expensive entertainment consoles that few wanted, Sony has finally cut the price of its PS3 - sort of.

The firm has released a new version of the PS3 which is only $399 but cannot play PS2 games, lacks a memory card reader and reduces the number of USB ports from four to two. Its hard-drive is shrunk from 60GB to 40GB.

According to Associated Press the machine will still run Blu-ray Disc movies.

It is hoped that the cut down player will attract more attention than the earlier model which was taking a canning from Microsoft's Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii.

However even at that price and spec, the PS3 is still the most expensive console on the market.

Sony thinks the biggest problem it will have is not playing the PS2 games, however its research discovered that PS3 owners were not using the console to play PS2 games anyway


Nintendo will be offering up nothing but disappointment to tens of thousands of kids this holiday season.

The red-hot video game company, whose stock has more than doubled this year on the runaway strength of the Wii game console, said it cannot keep up with demand and that U.S. consumers should expect shortages this holiday season.

Reggie Fils-Aime, the president of Nintendo of America, didn't give any precise reasons for the snafu, and George Harrison, the company's marketing chief, said Nintendo was making the Wii consoles as fast as they can.

"The challenge is in demand, not supply," he told The Post.

The $250 Wii, introduced Nov. 19, 2006, also was in short supply last holiday season.

Since then, U.S. consumers have bought five million of the 11 million Wii consoles sold worldwide.

"I think there is a real possibility [the shortages] started as good marketing but turned into an ugly reality," said Ricardo Torres, editorial director of

That ugly reality could cost the company millions.

The typical Wii user buys about three games at about $40 a pop, according to the statistical site GameMetrics. That means for every 20,000 Wiis not sold because of the shortage, Nintendo is losing about $7.4 million in revenue.

Just last month the Wii became the best-selling console over Microsoft's popular XBox 360 and Sony's ailing PlayStation 3, pulling a virtual hat trick by making the Wii the must-have device in North America, Europe and Japan.

In July, Sony slashed the price of its lower-tier PlayStation 3 to $499 but it wasn't enough to gain ground on the Wii. And Microsoft's XBox 360 is scrambling to have a proper encore to its best-selling "Halo 3." "Microsoft appears to have an edge with 'Halo,' but who's not going to have it by Christmas?" Torres said.


The Xbox 360 DVD-ROM drive has been a big issue for Xbox 360 owners, certain versions of the drives were reportedly making scratches on Xbox 360 discs and Microsoft has admitted that some drives did, but said it was a minor issue.

Lite-On can now make up for it and produce some great drives for the console as it has landed an order from Microsoft to manufacture DVD-ROM drives for the Xbox360. And when Microsoft is ordering, Lite-On threats them well, as it has given top priority to Microsoft's orders in allocating its total production capacity, according to sources from the ODD components industry in Taiwan.

These sources also talk about nearly one million drives that Microsoft has orderded and which it expects to ship due to the coming holiday season when the company will heavily promote the Xbox 360.

And according to Digitimes, the company had to shift capacity which conflicted with Lite-On IT's production of PC-use ODDs