In case you doubted that microtransactions are firmly part of the gaming landscape, Valve has jumped into the game with its online, multiplayer, first-person shooter Team Fortress 2. Team Fortress 2 now integrates the "Mann-conomy" allowing players to visit the Mann Co. Store and buy items using cash they've loaded into their (recently launched) Steam Wallet. Such purchased items confer bonuses that advantage the purchaser in online play. It's not that this is a dreadful surprise (although some players are angry about the purchased bonuses), it's that this is another nail in the coffin for the hope of avoiding micropayments everywhere. It's like when your great-grandmother got an e-mail account - you knew internet communication was firmly entrenched.
Czech developer Bohemia Interactive (responsible for games such as Arma 2) has acquired three other Czech developers: Brno-based Altar Games and Prague-based Black Element Software and Centauri Productions. Financial terms were not disclosed, and Bohemia Interactive insists all the studios will continue to operate individually, just as part of Bohemia Interactive.
Korean publisher Gravity Interactive signed an agreement yesterday to acquire 50.8% of Barunson Interactive, a Korean online game developer. The transaction should close on October 25, when Gravity Interactive will pay 11.688 million Korean Won (around $10 million) to acquire a majority stake in and control of Barunson. Barunson was founded in 2003 and is responsible for Dragonica.
This week's Xbox Live Arcade release is Hydrophobia, downloadable to the Xbox 360 for 1,200 points ($15). Developed by Dark Energy Digital, this action game is built around the game's fluid dynamics engine, making water and oil more interesting tools than in standard action games.
According to a survey by market research firm NPD, only 6% of gamers downloaded premium content through their online-connected consoles (compared to 15% of PC and Mac owners). There has been considerable criticism of NPD's methodology of late, but to the extent this survey reflects reality, it suggests both that there is tremendous income potential for game publishers to increase the base of players downloading content, and that the day of converting game content to premium downloads is further off than FI expected.
Sony has released a variety of new, downloadable games for the PlayStation 3 and PSP through the PlayStation Store, including a new Lara Croft Adventure, further DeathSpank adventures and a 2D RTS. Read on for more details...
Frogster Interactive Pictures AG has released its interim financial report for the first half of its fiscal 2010 year. Read on for more details:
NIS America's game Atelier Rorona: The Alchemists of Arland for the PlayStation 3 is now in stores in North America. This Japanese-style role-playing game features turn-based battles and a complex alchemy system for converting found objects and loot into useful items.
505 Games has shipped MorphX for the Xbox 360 to stores in North America. This third-person shooter has players defending the last remnants of humankind from an alien swarm. To do so, players may engineer their own genetic code to gain special abilities.
Frequent Video game players use different parts of their brains to perform "complex visuomotor tasks," meaning that when gamers manipulate images using controls, they process things differently. In an article called "Extensive video-game experience alters cortical networks for complex visuomotor transformations" in the October 2010 issue of Cortex (Volume 46, Issue 9), researchers from the Center for Vision Research at York University in Toronto, Canada (together with York University and the University of Waterloo) subjected a small population of young men to visuomotor tests while examining their brain function using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Non-game-players showed increased activity in the parietal cortex (associated with hand-eye coordination), while experienced gamers showed increased activity in the prefrontal cortex. While this was only a study performed on a small number of young, male individuals, it offers further evidence that gaming (in particular) helps the brain alter the way in which it performs tasks, potentially making it more efficient.
The President of Disney Interactive Media Group, Steve Wadsworth, recently resigned from his post. The Disney Interactive Media Group includes Disney's games business. Wadsworth ran the group since 1999, although video games only became part of his purview in 2008. His next move was not disclosed, but Wadsworth will stay on to help transition to his (unannounced) replacement.
This week sees the release of three more Xbox Live Arcade games that can be downloaded to the Xbox 360. This week's releases allow players to shoot aliens on an injured space hulk, battle in search of magical thongs or shoot whatever the heck it is one shoots in Serious Sam games. Read on for details:
Yet another bowling game has shipped for the PlayStation 3. High Velocity Bowling can now be purchased as a retail disc from stores, and includes PlayStation Move support. If you already owned High Velocity Bowling (previously available as a download from the PlayStation Network), then you can download an update that adds PlayStation Move support... but only if you are a PlayStation Plus member... for now.
Mumbo Jumbo's game Midnight Mysteries: The Edgar Allen Poe Conspiracy for the DS is available in stores. This is a hidden-object-style adventure game in which players are guided by Edgar Allen Poe to solve the mystery surrounding Poe's death.
Not only has Sony released new downloadable games for the PSP and PlayStation 3, Sony has started releasing old Japanese games from the original PlayStation era for North American consumption. Add to that the fact that Sony is launching the PlayStation Store update a day early (in anticipation of network outages tomorrow) and it's a wacky day for the PlayStation Store. Read on for more details on the specific games:
Nintendo of America's Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Cammie Dunaway has resigned from Nintendo of America effective October 1. Nintendo has not named a replacement, but Nintendo reassured everyone that Dunaway is taking a job outside of the game industry (presumably to avoid speculation that Dunaway had jumped ship to another publisher or console manufacturer).
Encore Software, part of Navarre Corporation, has released Who Wants to Be a Millionaire for the PC, in case you haven't had enough of that title on television and in other game formats. So, here's another version that features 3,000 questions and the traditional help options like "Phone a Friend" and "Ask the Audience."
Storm City Games has shipped Alpha and Omega for the DS to stores in North America. The game is based on the film of the same name (also released today) and allows players to take on the roles of the two wolves as they complete four different mini-games.
Encore Software, part of Navarre Corporation, has released Hollywood Squares for the PC. The game can be purchased in retail stores in North America for $20 and is based on the long-running game show (it launched in 1965) of the same name.
1C Company, a Russian publisher, together with Katauri Interactive has released King's Bounty: Crossworlds as a downloadable game for the PC. This is a massive expansion for King's Bounty: Armored Princess that adds a lot of content to the previous game along with two new campaigns. The game can either be purchased as a "stand-alone" expansion for those who don't have Armored Princess or as an addition to a previous purchase of Armored Princess. The game has players exploring a fantasy world in real-time, and unraveling the plot and adventure through a series of turn-based tactical encounters. Our review is in the queue for posting, but it's very positive!
Flying Lab Software announced that it plans to join the crew of former subscription-based massively multiplayer online games that are converting to a free-to-play model. Pirates of the Burning Sea will become a free-to-play game later this fall, supplemented by a cash shop, when it releases its next major content update later this fall. Oh, and, by the way, today the game released a major content update called "Power & Prestige." The update brings new missions and port governance to the piratically-themed game.
This week's downloadable games for Xbox Live Arcade are a remastered and a re-imagined classic. Sonic Adventure updates the classic Dreamcast game for the Xbox 360, while Space Invaders Infinity Gene takes the classic arcade shooter in a warped direction.
Sony has released even more downloadable games for the PlayStation 3 and PSP through the PlayStation Store, including:
Scooby-Doo! and the Spooky Swamp from Warner Bros. is now in stores. Available for the Wii, PlayStation 2 and DS, this game has Mystery Inc. investigating the mystery of a swamp girl by solving a series of puzzles.
The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest is now in stores for the PlayStation 3, with other versions (for the PlayStation 2, PSP, DS and Wii) hitting stores any moment now. The game is based on the recent film trilogy and has players battling through Aragorn's most exciting clashes with Sauron's forces. The PlayStation 3 version of the game supports the PlayStation Move accessory.
Disney's game Phineas and Ferb Ride Again for the DS is now in stores. Based on the animated series, the game has players exploring worlds inspired by the show and participating in a variety of mini-games.
Gladiator Begins for the PSP from Aksys Games is now available. This action game has players customizing their own gladiator and battling through a series of bloody battles for the pleasure of the Romans.
Warner Bros.' game Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii and DS has shipped to stores in North America. Based on the animated film of the same name, the game has players flying as they fight and explore through a variety of levels based on scenes in the film.
This week's downloadable games for Xbox Live Arcade include the ultimate battle between botanical and undead opponents, as well as a dancing game straight out of Germany:
It's Tuesday, so Sony has released a few more downloadable games for the PlayStation 3 and PSP through the PlayStation Store, including:
Warner Bros. has released Batman: The Brave and the Bold for the Wii and the DS to stores. This side-scrolling platformer has players taking on the role of Batman as he teams up with his superhero friends in a game based on the animated television series.
Gamigo, a German-based publisher of massively multiplayer online games, has hired Dilek Ilboga as the company's Vice President of Business Development. Prior to joining Gamigo, Ilboga has worked at True Games and K2 Network, and will work out of Gamigo's New York office where she will focus on growing Gamigo's properties in the United States.