Tag Archives | Gaming

4 Questions About Grand Theft Auto V

Rockstar has released the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto V, and as expected of a game with no release date in sight, it doesn’t reveal much. The narrator speaks of returning to southern California–the fictional Los Santos, presumably–to get away from “that line of work” and to start a family, his voice accompanied by establishing shots of the city and of crimes in progress.

With so much information left off the table, here’s what I really want to know about Grand Theft Auto V, the next major sequel to one of the most iconic video games of all time:

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GameStop Starts Selling Android Tablets, But Why?

Earlier this year, GameStop said it would either find some tablets to sell or build its own. Now, the retailer has chosen option A, launching a handful of familiar Android tablets with some free games inside.

So far, the lineup includes the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Asus Eee Pad Transformer and Acer Iconia Tab A100. They’re available online and in 200 U.S. stores, according to Joystiq. The free games are Dead Space, Monster Madness, Riptide HD, Re-Load, Cordy and Sonic CD. GameStop is also pre-loading its Flash game portal Kongregate Arcade, and is selling a Bluetooth game controller for $39 extra.

The strategy seems a bit puzzling to me. When GameStop said it wanted to sell tablets, I assumed the retailer would use them as a foothold for selling downloadable games. GameStop owns its own digital distribution platform, Impulse, and also has some streaming technology from Spawn Labs that could allow tablets to stream high-end video games from consoles or PCs. Neither of those services are present in this first wave of Android tablets, or if they’re on board and in hiding, GameStop’s not saying so.

GameStop isn’t getting onto the tablet business just so it can sell Bluetooth game controllers.  There must be more to the story than this. My guess is that whatever GameStop really has in mind isn’t ready yet, and these tablets are just filler–a way to sell more stuff to holiday shoppers until the real GameStop tablet is ready.


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Sony’s PS Vita Gets a U.S. Release Date: February 22

We already knew Sony’s Playstation Vita was going to miss the holiday shopping season in the United States, but now we know by how far. The handheld, which aims to be portable gaming’s last stand against smartphones and tablets, launches on February 22, 2012.

The post-2011 launch date outside of Japan gives Sony and game publishers more time to finish their launch titles. Sony must have seen how poorly Nintendo’s 3DS fared without a solid game lineup, and wanted to avoid releasing the Vita with a whimper. The company says more than 100 PS Vita games are in development now, but didn’t say how many will be available at launch. (In Japan, where the PS Vita launches in December, 26 games will be available from the beginning.)

Sony’s still planning to sell the PS Vita for $250 in the United States, or $300 with 3G connectivity from AT&T. Nintendo’s decision to slash the 3DS price from $250 to $170 apparently hasn’t changed Sony’s thinking on the matter. The cost of AT&T 3G service is still a mystery.

I’m looking forward to the PS Vita even though I have my doubts about the viability of gaming handhelds in a world of smartphones, tablets and the iPod Touch. The PS Vita acknowledges those threats by including a touch screen, front- and rear-facing cameras and apps like Skype, Facebook, Twitter and a web browser, but it also tries to be a serious gaming handheld with quad-core graphics and dual analog sticks for shooters and other modern games. I hope Sony is giving itself enough time to get the little things right and to have a big launch in four months.


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New Wii Bundle: Same Price, New Game, No Gamecube

Nintendo’s repackaging the Wii once again for U.S. gamers, with a slighly different design that removes Gamecube support.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Nintendo introduced a similar model for Europe a couple months ago, saying at the time that it “does not currently have any plans” to bring the console stateside. (But as I noted back then, “no plans” usually means “we have plans that we’re not telling you.” Nailed it!)

Anyway, the new Wii bundle costs $150 and includes New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a vamp on Nintendo’s classic 2D platformer that supports four players on the screen at once. It also includes the soundtrack to Super Mario Galaxy, which is a puzzling addition, but also kind of cool if you like boppy orchestral music. The console’s physical design isn’t much different from it’s predecessor, but it removes the stand that allows you to prop the Wii up vertically.

In the United States, Nintendo will continue to sell its existing Wii model and bundle, which supports Gamecube games and includes Mario Kart Wii and a Wii steering wheel. At least, that’s the story for now. In time, I expect Nintendo to phase out the backwards-compatible Wii. No one’s developed a Gamecube title in four years, and demand for backwards compatibility is surely dropping among whoever hasn’t bought a Wii yet.

Still, I’d urge anyone who’s interested in a Wii to consider the old model, and the treasure trove of great GameCube games it supports. You might want games like Metroid Prime and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker in case the novelty of motion control wears off.


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Sony Attacked, Not Hacked

Sony has another security headache on its hands, but don’t call it a hack.

According to the official Playstation blog, some entity was trying to sign in to users’ accounts on the Playstation Network, the Sony Entertainment Network and Sony Online Entertainment, using “a massive set” of login data obtained elsewhere. The attackers likely got a hold of a large username and password database, and were trying to see if any of those logins worked on Sony’s networks.

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Scribblenauts, a Cool Nintendo DS Game, Heads to the iOS App Store

Scribblenauts was one of the most innovative Nintendo DS games. To solve platform-style puzzles, players typed the name of any object they could imagine, and that object would come to life on the screen. Nearly any noun in the dictionary–provided it was appropriate for all ages–was recognized by Scribblenauts and could interact with the game world.

Now, a version of that game, Scribblenauts Remix, is coming to the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Scribblenauts Remix costs $4.99, and includes 20 levels from the original game, 20 levels from Super Scribblenauts and 10 new levels. It also supports iCloud syncing, so players can continue their game across any iOS device.

In 2009, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime brought up Scribblenauts as a defense against supposedly inferior iOS games. Paraphrasing Fils-Aime, the Washington Post’s Mike Musgrove wrote:

“And have you tried Scribblenauts? It’s a cool new game that has received acclaim from all corners. The title’s unique feature, which has players writing words on the screen that the game brings to life, couldn’t be done in an iPod.”

A direct quote from Fils-Aime follows: “That’s a fabulous experience that can only be brought to life on the DS.”

Uh oh.


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Google+ Games Needs New Ideas, Not Facebook’s Leftovers

At first glance, CityVille’s arrival on Google+ seems like good news for the social network. CityVille is Zynga’s most popular game on Facebook, and among the 18 titles currently on Google+ Games, it’s a standout alongside Angry Birds and Bejeweled Blitz.

But with CityVille, Google+ Games is no more exciting than it was last week. The game already launched on Facebook nine months ago, so unless you’ve got some grudge against Facebook and have been holding out all this time, CityVille+ doesn’t offer anything new.

Google may not realize this because it’s new to gaming, but it won’t get anywhere by pursuing Facebook’s leftovers. What it really needs–as any new gaming platform throughout history has needed–is a killer exclusive. Something that everyone wants, but no other platform has. The social network’s equivalent to Super Mario Bros., Halo or Uncharted. A system seller.

I have a feeling this game won’t come from Zynga, a publisher whose biggest innovations in social gaming are behind it, and whose main interest will continue to be in Facebook as long as that’s where the users are. For that matter, no major social game publisher is likely to create the killer exclusive that Google+ Games really needs.

But somewhere, there’s a developer with amazing ideas that could innovate social gaming in unforeseen ways. Maybe it’s an industry veteran-turned-indie game maker, or a small developer that lacks the resources to pursue its vision, or an up-and-coming studio like Mojang. In any case, Google needs to be on the hunt for this developer, and this idea, if the company is at all serious about gaming on Google+. The platform doesn’t need CityVille. It needs the next FarmVille–figuratively, of course.


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The Upside of Qwikster: Video Games

Harry’s already written a bunch about Qwikster,  Netflix’s newly-named business for mail-order DVD rentals. And while I agree that it’s a silly name, and that the announcement was pretty sloppy, I’m still excited about the news simply because Qwikster will rent video games as well as movies.

Netflix–er, Qwikster–hasn’t described its game rental service in detail, but did say that it’ll be an optional upgrade to movie rentals. As someone who subscribes to both Netflix DVDs and to GameFly, that’s an appealing alternative.

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Sony Outlaws Class Action Lawsuits by PSN Users; Thank the Supreme Court

Playstation Network users may no longer file class action lawsuits against Sony, under a new user agreement that players must agree to before signing into the network. Now, PS3 and PSP owners will have to sue individually or seek arbitration for issues like security breaches or the removal of advertised features.

And guess what? The policy change is probably legal thanks to the Supreme Court.

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Fox News Decries Video Games With Eco-Friendly Messages

I should know better than to get riled up by Fox News’ coverage of video games. The network has an awful reputation for sounding the alarm on anything remotely controversial, always with the refrain of how parents should be very, very afraid.

But this time, I can’t resist.

In a recent segment that appeared on Fox & Friends, T.J. McCormack, a conservative talk radio host, decries video games with eco-friendly messages. (The focus is mainly on Sim City Societies, a four year-old title that encourages players to develop green energy sources like wind power and soy farms.) Host Clayton Morris, meanwhile, wonders whether some video games are a form of “liberal fear-mongering” and “indoctrination.”

It’s a maddening television segment for a long list of reasons…

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