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Random thoughts and news in the world of video games.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sony's PS Vita has sold 1.2 million units worldwide. Now what?

The wait is over. Sony's PS Vita is finally out. Let the fun begin. And by fun, I mean read a ton of articles on what Sony should and shouldn't do with its new gaming handheld in a smartphone world.

Sony announced the PS Vita has sold 1.2 million units worldwide as of Feb. 26. Software sales, including retail and digital copies, have topped 2 million. The system launched in North America and Europe on Feb. 22 and a day after in Australia. It costs $250 for the WiFi version and $300 for one with 3G capabilities. Let's break down the numbers.

Japan and parts of Asia got the PS Vita first. According to Media Create, sales were around 580,000 in Japan as of Feb. 19, so after adding in Asia, we have to assume over half of the 1.2 million sold were over there. So under 600,000 were sold in the rest of the world in one week. We don't know the exact breakdown, but according to one report for the United Kingdom, sales were "around one quarter" of the 185,000 PSP units sold during its launch week.

No matter what, the launch in North America and Europe doesn't compare well to the Nintendo 3DS launch, which then had a $250 price tag. The 3DS sold 440,000 in its first week in the U.S. and 303,000 in its first two days in Europe. U.K. numbers were at 113,000 in its opening weekend.

Sony says these sales figures have exceeded expectations, but how high were they thinking? This wasn't a mind-blowing launch, or should I say "#gamechanger" in any way. Software sales look mediocre with digital sales counted in. Retailers can't be thrilled.

Of course, you can't jump to conclusions right away on the fate of the PS Vita. You have to wait a month or two after launch to see where a new system steadies sales-wise at. These hardware numbers will go down. How low in North America and Europe we don't know. For Sony's sake, hopefully not like Japan at around 15,000 a week.

If that happens here, there are multiple solutions to increase sales. The easy one is to come up with is a price cut. Nintendo slashed the 3DS price to boost sales and it's worked greatly. But for Sony that's harder to do. They're already taking a hit on each piece of hardware sold, so lowering the price is a big risk. Nintendo could do it because they were initially making a profit on the hardware.

If things became dire I would expect to see some PS Vita game bundles this spring or summer, or maybe Sony cutting down those proprietary memory card prices that are pretty much mandatory for playing games.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 coming to Nintendo DS, and why that's not a bad thing

Everyone knew another Pokemon game was coming, but it may not be what people expected.

On "Pokemon Smash," a popular Japanese television program, Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 were announced to come out in June in Japan and sometime in the United States. These two games are obviously sequels to the popular games that have sold millions of copies worldwide for the Nintendo DS.

Typically each generation of Pokemon games will release in two colors, with an enhanced remake releasing afterward. Pokemon Gold and Silver was remade into Crystal, while Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire was remade into Emerald. The common thought was the next game would be Pokemon Grey, a remake of Black and White. Nope. Not yet anyway.

Here's another twist in this announcement: These sequels will not be released on the Nintendo 3DS. Instead, it will be released on Nintendo's older handheld. Why would Pokemon developer Game Freak and Nintendo opt for the DS? Well, it has sold more than 150 million worldwide, so the opportunity to sell more software is greater there. The 3DS is at 15 million units in its short lifespan.

Yes, Pokemon is a system seller, but so far the 3DS is outperforming the DS in sales without this juggernaut franchise. Heck, Nintendo released Black and White on the DS in the same month the 3DS released in North America. Releasing these sequels on the DS kind of tells me Nintendo's not panicking over lackluster 3DS sales anymore. But I'm sure certain analysts out there will predict this will be a bad, bad, bad move on Nintendo's part.

Besides, it may be wise for Nintendo to not release all their big guns at once this early in the 3DS lifespan. We've already been spoiled with Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land. Kid Icarus: Uprising is coming in March and a 2D side-scrolling Mario game is in the works. Don't forget about Paper Mario and Luigi's Mansion 2 either. You can't eat the whole cake at once; you got to savor it piece by piece.

No doubt a traditional Pokemon game will be coming to the 3DS but fear not, you will be able to play these sequels - just like all DS games - on Nintendo's new handheld. More details will be released as time goes on.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City coming May 18 to PC

The big release of Resident Evil 6 is coming later this year, but Capcom is giving fans another taste of the zombie franchise. We already got Resident Evil: Revelations for the Nintendo 3DS, and soon we will have Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, on March 20 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and finally confirmed for PC with a May 18 release.

This game is somewhat different from past ones, being a third-person, team-based shooter set in Raccoon City. Don't worry, there are still plenty of zombies, hunters, zombie dogs and lickers to fend off. A triple threat of Umbrella Security Service operatives, the U.S. Government Special Ops, along with zombies and bio-organic weapons are all in play.

The PC version includes everything from the console versions, including 8-player online team versus battles and 4-player campaign mode.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Borderlands 2 releasing Sept. 18 in U.S., Sept. 21 internationally

2K Games' Borderlands 2, the sequel to the multimillion hit Borderlands and developed by Gearbox Software, will release Sept. 18 in the U.S. and internationally on Sept. 21 for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. For those who don't know, this is a hectic, first-person shooting and looting game with RPG elements. Like the prequel, it will be four-player cooperative.

The game will take place in the world of Pandora, and players will have to take down the evil Handsome Jack and his corrupt Hyperion Corporation. Like the first game, 2K Games and Gearbox Software promises a ton of guns, unique missions and lots and lots of loot.

Like every game that comes out these days, for better or worse, Borderlands 2 will have pre-order bonuses. Doing so will give gamers access to the Premiere Club to download the Gearbox Gun Pack, a Golden Key and the Vault Hunter's Relic. The gun pack is a collection of unique guns, the key is used to unlock a rare item in the Golden Sanctuary Loot Chest, and the relic boosts players' gear-hunting fortune.

Although I didn't play any of the DLC, I enjoyed the first Borderlands despite its shortfalls. While the game promises billions and billions of guns, I only used a select few that helped me steamroll through the game. I hope the gun variety is more balanced this time around. Also, the side mission variety bored me after a while, so hopefully there's more fun and unique things to do.

Watch the trailer for Borderlands 2 by clicking here.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Happy birthday: Nintendo 3DS surpasses 5 million sales in Japan in first year

Nintendo has released Japanese sales figures for the 3DS, and they're looking good.

If you can't read Japanese there's a graph that shows it clearly. The 3DS has surpassed 5 million sales in its first year in Japan, barely beating the Gameboy Advance and well ahead of the juggernaut DS.

Not bad after the early struggles. A price drop and big name games like Super Mario 3D Land, Monster Hunter 3G and Mario Kart 7 will usually do the trick. I have faith Nintendo can keep it up in the coming year.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Angry Birds going into space March 22

In what no doubt will be downloaded a few billion times, Rovio has announced Angry Birds Space on their blog, the latest addition to the very, very, very, very, very, very popular game.

According to Rovio, it will be a new game with innovative gameplay, familiar elements and surprises. It will launch March 22. More details will be released prior to release. The teaser trailer doesn't show anything, but it's Angry Birds. Peoples' minds are already made up.

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EA launching 6 copies of Mass Effect 3 into the stratosphere; let the hunt begin

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's a video game!

To celebrate the launch of Mass Effect 3 on March 6, Electronic Arts will literally launch six copies of the game nearly into space, according to reports. Because why not? It's a space game with aliens after all.

In the next week, EA will attach six games to weather balloons and lift them off over New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Berlin, London and Paris. With GPS units attached, gamers will be able to track the balloons' movement from the Mass Effect website and Twitter account. Wherever the games land, the first one at the site is the lucky owner of playing the game early or selling all that loot on eBay for a nice payday.

Theoretically, six people will be lucky, but if you didn't know it already our planet kind of has a lot of water on it. Weather balloons can go tens of thousands of feet in the air, so who knows where these games will land. I wouldn't be shocked if a few end up floating aimlessly in the Atlantic or Pacific. Imagine one landing in the middle of those massive Moscow protests going on now and everyone just stares in silence.

Of course, one could also land in the middle of I-75 and cause a massive pileup. Or a weather balloon fails and the game comes skyrocketing toward earth. That wouldn't be fun to get clonked on the head with.

This is one of those publicity stunts where if nothing goes wrong, it was a cool thing to do, and if something horrible happens, it's the dumbest thing in the world.

Mass Effect 3 will release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

More DLC coming to Final Fantasy XIII-2 including Sazh episode, skimpy clothing for Serah

You can play as Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII-2 DLC already, and soon you'll be able to play as Sazh, another popular character from FFXIII.

The downloadable episode entitled "Sazh: Heads or Tails?" will have players taking control of Sazh in a separate story. Once his is completed, Sazh can be added to the main party. Those like me who were upset about locked content in the casino area of Serendipity will now be able to unlock it as well. Two card games, Chronobind and Serendipity Poker, will be available to play. The cost for this content is 400 Microsoft Points on Xbox Live Marketplace and $4.99 on the PlayStation Network. It releases Feb. 28.

Do you care what main characters Noel and Serah wear? I don't, but if you do new outfits will be available for both on Feb. 28 for 240 MP or $2.99. These are Noel's Spacetime Guardian and Serah's Beachwear outfits. Yes, people out there pay for these. I don't get it either.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Call of Duty game leads to literal call of duty for teenage gamer in the form of a prank

So you're playing a video game and all of a sudden a swat team shows up at your house asking you please step outside. What do you do? Besides freak out.

This is what happened to a teen who was playing Call of Duty: Black Ops on the Xbox 360 with a group of friends online, according to a CBS report. Apparently an unknown person popped into the chatroom and told the boy he was going to hack him and send a swat team over to his house.

Yeah, right, he thought, and continued to playing. Except police actually did show up. Lewisville, Texas, authorities received a phone call that someone was shot inside the boy's house and the culprit was still shooting. Police arrived and surrounded the home, scaring the boy and his family. They brought out a bullhorn and called the boy's name. Eventually, police figured out it was a prank and are investigating the incident.

Reports of video game hacks are nothing new. There was the whole PSN fiasco that put a black eye on Sony, and hacks involving EA and Microsoft have angered gamers. I am curious how the hacker got the boy's address. Was his personal info in his gamer profile? It's incidents like these why I don't put any personal information on my gaming accounts.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Supermodel Kate Upton teaches Justin Verlander and other pitchers how to throw a perfect game in MLB 2K12

In the latest trailer from 2K Sports, MLB 2K12 cover boy and Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander and other players seek help from supermodel Kate Upton on how to pitch a perfect game in MLB 2K12. Needless to say, they are enjoying the lesson. Watch the trailer below.

Review is up of Epic Quest, the latest addition to the Pinball FX 2 platform

Click here to read my review of Zen Studios' latest Pinball FX 2 table, Epic Quest, which is available for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, Android Marketplace and Apple App Store.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Zen Studios releasing Epic Quest for Pinball FX 2

Zen Studios is adding more pinball action to its popular Pinball FX 2 platform, but this time with a twist.

Epic Quest will release this week on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, Android Marketplace and the Apple App Store. This medieval-type table will have players aid Max in battling hordes of monsters, stealing their loot and rescuing a wealthy princess. Unlike past pinball tables, this one features RPG elements where players can gain experience points and level up Max, helping the knight defeat monsters more easily.

“It is our quest to deliver the most entertaining and original pinball tables, and Epic Quest delivers on both fronts,” said Mel Kirk, Zen Studios vice president of marketing and public relations, in a press release. “With a wink and a nudge toward classic RPG tropes, Epic Quest blends frantic pinball action, obsessive character building and liberally applied tongue-in-cheek humor."

When the game ends, the XP and loot received will carry over to the next game.

I am currently playing Epic Quest and you can read my review this week at

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Double Fine smashes fundraising goal to develop point-and-click adventure game

How much would you be willing to donate to a video game developer you love if they would use that money wisely? $5? $10? $1,000?

It's safe to say there's a lot of love for Double Fine Productions. The San Francisco-based company, who's developed critically-acclaimed games like Pyschonauts, Stacking and more recently Double Fine Happy Action Theater, is opening up its doors to the public as they create a new point-and-click adventure game they hope to finish this year. And the best part? It's all funded by the public.

Yesterday, they released details of the project on Kickstarter, an online pledge system for funding creative projects ranging from indie films to music. Tim Schafer, the founder of Double Fine, decided it was time for gamers to see what it's like to develop a game, with their help, of course. If $400,000 was raised by March 13, the project was a go.

It didn't take long. In a little more than eight hours the $400K mark was hit, and it's still going strong. As I'm writing this, more than $820,000 has been raised to develop this game, from more than 20,000 backers. Every time I hit the refresh button, it keeps going up. And there's still 33 days to go.

"Crowd-sourced fundraising sites like Kickstarter have been an incredible boon to the independent development community. They democratize the process by allowing consumers to support the games they want to see developed and give the developers the freedom to experiment, take risks, and design without anyone else compromising their vision. It's the kind of creative luxury that most major, established studios simply can't afford. At least, not until now," Double Fine posted on their webpage.

Those who pledge $15 or more will receive the finished game, exclusive access to the PC beta on Steam, access to the video series documenting the creative process, and access to a private discussion community. $30 or more gives you all that plus an HD download of the documentary series with extras and a digital game soundtrack.

All the extra money (and there will be a ton of it) will go toward improving the game. "All money raised will go to make the game and documentary better. Additional money means it can appear on more platforms, be translated into more languages, have more music and voice, and an original soundtrack for the documentary, and more!" according to an update posted on the webpage.

Time will tell if this is a game changer in the video game world. I wouldn't be surprised if more developers like Double Fine test the Kickstarter waters to help give gamers what they want. I certainly hope we see more of this.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Laughable Battleship movie gets a video game. Is it the end of the world yet?

Remember in Battleship when you fought off mysterious aliens at sea? Neither do I.

I'm sure we've all had the unfortunate opportunity to watch the movie trailer for Battleship (if not, I'll link it below), a Michael Bay-ish take on the classic game that releases in May. We cringed, we sat in disbelief and we wondered "Why, Liam Neeson, why?" (Three words: money, money, money)

If it's not a sign the end of the world is coming, then this should seal the deal. Activision is publishing a video game based on movie. I'm sure gamers will be lining up for this one. Battleship: The Video Game will release May 15, and like the movie will feature little that resembles the Hasbro classic. Extreme alien attack across land, air and sea. Land? What? Not in my Battleship.

Well, there's this on the website: " 'Spectacle at Sea' Tactical Battle Command: Take real-time control of naval units as you strategize a map-wide plan of attack by directing your fleet to launch air strikes, conduct radar sweeps, and engage in ship-to-ship sea conflict." I guess that's something...

But mainly this video game is a first person shooter. It doesn't look like there's any "B-5, you sunk my battleship" stuff going on here. The game is obviously going after the Call of Duty crowd because, sadly, that's what sells these days.

It's easy to figure out why movie producers partnered with Hasbro. No one would care about this movie if it was called "Battle at Sea" or something cliched like that. Alien invasion movies aren't original any more. The Battleship name gets people to notice.

Now where's my Hungry Hungry Hippos movie at? 

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What took me so long? - Bastion

There are plenty of games out there, so many in fact you just can't play them all right after release. Here is one of these games I finally got around to playing.

Bastion is an action RPG developed by Supergiant Games, released July 20, 2011, on Xbox Live and soon after on Steam. You take the role of The Kid after a catastrophic event called the Calamity brought the world of Caelondia to ruins. Your goal is to bring Cores that powered Caelondia back to Bastion. The game's narrator, an old man named Rucks, instructs you to do this.

The colorful, hand-painted art style of this game is sharp. Each level is packed with detail. There's no choppiness in the framerate as you travel throughout these floating islands. I love how the terrain pops up in front of you as you keep moving, so there's no break in the action.

The Kid is a silent fellow, but the narrator makes up for it by doing all the talking. Normally I'm not a fan of constant voiceovers, as some games don't do it right. For example, if you're stuck in an area, you might hear someone's thoughts constantly, so much you'd want to shut off the volume. I experienced this in Batman: Arkham City a few times, and I just wanted the Dark Knight to shut up.

Supergiant Games did an excellent job utilizing the narrator. Right from the get-go when The Kid wakes up, the narrator mentions it. It was just neat to play the game while the narrator was explaining everything you were doing dead-on, from the story to just messing around in an area. It wasn't boring either but very emotional. More importantly, it wasn't repetitive.

To take on the variety of enemies, from small ghoul-like monstrosities to evil plants, you're going to need weapons, and Bastion has plenty of them. Maybe too many, in fact. There's a machete, hammer, pistols, a bow and arrow, flame shooter and more. However, you can only hold two at a time, so choose wisely. Each weapon can be leveled up with various perks, and there are so many possibilities. I did find myself going back to the Fang Repeater and flame shooter as time went on.

There's so much to mess around with, it can get pretty overwhelming. As you level up, you can add a perk to The Kid, ranging from bonus health to taking less fall damage. You'll eventually be able to hold up to 10 perks, and there's plenty to choose from.

The music in this game is great, too, and really sets the mood in each level. There's no death metal here like in Final Fantasy XIII-2 to ruin things.

Besides the story, there is a survival-type mode where you can take on waves of enemies. If you want the game harder, you can activate relics that ramp up the difficulty. A New Game+ mode allows you to replay the game with all your experience points and weapons.

Bastion is a unique and fun game that mixes story and gameplay perfectly. With so much to do, you can't go wrong downloading it.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Try out the PS Vita at GameStop

In typical video game fashion, you can now try out the PS Vita at a GameStop near you.

More than 3,000 demo kiosks have been set up at GameStop locations, part of a partnership between the retail juggernaut and Sony. Games available to demo include Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Escape Plan, ModNation Racers: Road Trip, Little Deviants and more.

The wait is almost over as the PS Vita launches in North America on Feb. 22, or Feb. 15 if you want to pay extra for a special bundle. The cost is $250 for the WiFi version and $300 if you want one with 3G capabilities. Remember, having 3G means paying extra per month through AT&T.

The PS Vita has stumbled out of the gate in Japan, but will Sony's fortunes change in North America? Time will tell, but it's not looking good. While it has plenty of quality launch games, it's competing against a much cheaper 3DS with two big Mario titles in Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land. Plus, there's smartphones and tablets that are stealing attention away from dedicated gaming devices. Special PS Vita memory cards also add up, too.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Simpsons Arcade Game coming to Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network

I've wasted so many quarters over the years at arcades (less now since they're pretty much dead), and part of it was because of machines like The Simpsons Arcade Game.

How could any Simpsons fan not play this game? Pick your favorite family member, except Maggie since she was captured by Smithers, and go to town on a bunch of goons. And when you got four people playing at once, it was great times for all.

Now you can relive that nostalgia starting Feb. 3 as The Simpsons Arcade Game from Konami will be ported to Xbox Live Arcade. It will be available Feb. 7 on PlayStation Network.

The game will feature 4-player online cooperative play, and various game modes like Quarters mode, Survival mode (see how far you can get in one life) and Free Play (unlimited continues and no worries).

Unlockable content includes the Japanese version of the game, looking at posters and flyers, and a guide of Simpsons characters in the game.

But nostalgia comes at a price. It costs 800 Microsoft Points on XBLA and $9.99 on PSN. However, PlayStation Plus subscribers will be able to download the game for free. So it's a no-brainer for them.

For those who have to pay, the question becomes will it be worth it? Arcades games like these were pretty short. This game only has eight stages, so it won't last long. Adding the Japanese version helps, but it's pretty much the same game with minor tweaks. But if $10 is too much, you could always wait for a possible XBLA or PSN sale that will knock down the price.

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