GAMES ROUNDUP

Games Roundup
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GAMES ROUNDUP



Written by Chris Price
19 Monday 19th July 2010

Money, money, money. It makes the world go around, apparently. Some people have it or don’t. And Activision have a lot of it. But, not as much as CEO Bobby Kotick thinks he should have.
 
Poor old BK, he’s become a bit of a caricature. He’s like a wrestling bad guy. Each week, he comes out, rips on his opponents about how he’s bigger and better and no-one can stop him, everyone boo’s and jeers, yet millions can’t wait until Activision’s next big release. Last week, veteran gaming legend Tim Schaffer (creator of Day of the Tentacle & Brutal Legend, plus sue-ee of Activision) unintentionally displayed a moment of true heroism referring to him as ‘a total prick’in his pursuit of public readies, during an interview with Eurogamer.
 
It all came to a head last year during a Deutsche Bank Securities Technology Conference in September last year, where he said: “The goal that I had in bringing a lot of the packaged goods folks into Activision about 10 years ago was to take all the fun out of making video games.”
 
Fairly incendiary…  but from the CEO of the brand that owns the juggernaut World of Warcraft and Call of Duty franchises, fairly justifiable. With being responsible for multi-million dollar series, it only makes sense that he has to provide grounding to investors present and future; one such way is to lobotomise the industry of the perception of immaturity and lack of business sense.
This week, his next big pop at the industry is to charge for COD’s online play. Having said how a major percentage of online gaming traffic is being generated by his company’s titles, namely Call of Duty, Kotick wants in on the deal. He wants to charge people to play.
 
“We’ve heard that 60 per cent of Microsoft’s subscribers are principally on Live because of Call of Duty,” Kotick told The Financial Times. “We don’t really participate financially in that income stream. We would really like to be able to provide much more value to those millions of players playing on Live, but it’s not our network.
 
“We have always been platform agnostic. Consoles do a very good job of supporting the gamer. If we are going to broaden our audiences, we are going to need to have other devices.”
 
This is hot on the heels of the announcement at last months E3 of Sony Playstation’s premium online subscription service. And with the news of hardware and software declining 16 per cent during the first half of 2010, its true that to make money, developers are going to have to either innovate (see – the Nintendo 3DS) or leverage and protect existing assets.
 
Kotick has already said how the long-game involves establishing a MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) COD. And with MCV reporting that Activision is expected to introduce a paid-for Call of Duty online subscription model by the end of this year. Perhaps to coincide with the release of the rather tasty looking Call of Duty: Black Ops, already on par with pre-orders made for last year’s Modern Warfare 2 according to Activision’s CFO Thomas Tippl.
 
 
It looks like the route that Darth Kotick is expected to navigate, in what I deem a fairly savvy move. Who better to implement a MMO than Blizzard, owners of World of Warcraft – owned by Activision. He’s a savvy businessman. If people can still make money from games, it gives more reason for other to become involved. The mobile and App market is now enjoying a resurgence of home-coding. If the mainstream market also gets a boost, it’ll see things clear into a brave new world of boxless distribution, coded un-resellable content and games by wire. Like Bob Dylan said, times, they are a changing”. And as much of a prick as BK might be, the industry requires people like this to keep it advancing.
 
Anyways, onto more easygoing things. The ever exciting Rockstar games (developers of Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption) are releasing a book to celebrate their twelve years of existence. Published by German art books publisher Steidl, featuring in-depth insight into development and design of their titles from its 12 years in existence. Priced at a pretty hefty £300, it perfect coffee table fodder, with some exquisite finishing. More details at Develop.
 
Out this week are two excellent online releases though. The first of which is the incredible Limbo available on Wednesday, July 21 on Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 Microsoft Points (or £10 of your real-life pounds). 
 
Secondly, the announcement of 8-bit hero Mega Man returning for Mega Man Universe on XBL, WiiWare and PSN. Since their debut in 1987, Mega Man has starred in more than 140 titles over the last 22 years (including some truly awful 3D ones). But since the original first and second were ported to WiiWare in FULL DIGITISED GLORY this could well be an exciting premise. Gamers can apparently “expect Mega Man Universe to bring the core experience fans want while delivering on the promise of innovation that Capcom is known for.  Chances are this means it will be just as bastard hard as all the previous ones.
 
Unfortunate news though is the confirmation that Microsoft’s interactive Xbox Live quiz show 1 vs. 100 will not be returning. The downloadable game was free to play and allowed a handful of real XBLers to compete in real time against others with the chance to grab genuine real-life prizes in the process. At one stage in the beta, 114,000 people were playing online at the same time, scooping a Guinness World Record for most contestants in a game show in the process. My general knowledge is utter pap, but I know many, many people who love a bit of 1 vs 100. It will be sorely missed.

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