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nohighscores.com | Gamers Never Grow Old

LBP on PS Vita

Cool video of LBP for Vita from the PS Blog showing off some features as well as the visuals. What a cool looking device.

Ex-Rockstar North Developer Goes Mobile

Chalk up another developer eschewing AAA development for going it alone to tackle the mobile market. Anthony Gowland, formerly of Rockstar North, and who has senior and lead design roles for games such as GTA and Red Dead Redemption on his resume, has left the company and formed Mainly About Games, a studio that will focus on mobile gaming according to a story on Develop.

“With the varied distribution opportunities now available to developers, it felt like the perfect time to move away from AAA development,” Gowland said. “It’s totally viable for a small team, or even a single dedicated guy, to create and market a successful game independently.”

Thanks Blue!

Call of Duty: Black Ops Annihilation Pack on June 28

So it looks like the latest content pack for BLOPS is going to drop on Xbox 360 June 28th, as many already knew due to “leaks” of box images.

This PR is full of flowery rigmarole and somewhere inside are details on what’s actually in the thing:

Call of Duty: Black Ops, the best selling game ever on the Xbox 360, is ready to blow fans away with the worldwide release of its third content pack on June 28th,: Call of Duty: Black Ops Annihilation. Black Ops continues to draw millions of gamers online globally, logging billions of gameplay hours since its launch in November. Fueled by the breakthrough First Strike and Escalation content packs, The blockbuster title is also already the highest selling add-on content in Xbox LIVE history, according to Microsoft. In fact, more gamers play Call of Duty on Xbox LIVE than on any other platform. The newest offering, Annihilation, will launch first on Xbox LIVE and features four new multiplayer maps and a Zombie experience that’s sure to keep gamers coming back for more.

“With Annihilation, Black Ops fans will get four exciting and unique multiplayer settings with Hangar 18, Drive-In, Silo and Hazard,” said Treyarch Studio Head, Mark Lamia. “Players will also enjoy an all-new Zombies experience, Shangri-La, an exotic and mysterious map filled with deadly traps, dark secrets and innovative gameplay that will challenge even the most daring Zombie hunters.”

(I have decided to not strike quotes in these PRs, I’ll let you wade through the hyperbole.)

Additionally, to celebrate the upcoming release of Call of Duty: Black Ops Annihilation, Treyarch will host a Double XP weekend beginning Friday, July 1st.

Shadows of the Damned Bird Boss Trailer

This drops next week while I will be away at Yellowstone, so Barnes will have a write up as soon as possible.

Game looks insane.

Assassin's Creed Revelations E3 Walkthrough

Here’s a look at the E3 Presentation demo we saw on the show floor. This is much nicer to watch when sitting at your PC in your home office because it’s not ridiculously loud and I’m not hearing Just Dance blaring in the background.

The Critic Proof Game

There are games, much like there are movies, which are 100% bulletproof when it comes to “critical” reviews.

Let’s take Pirates of the Caribbean. What started as a fun romp where Johnny Depp could channel his inner Keith Richards has since turned into a complete farce filled with shockingly poor writing and actors who are at this point phoning it in. This latest film has surpassed 200 million at the box office despite taking a beating in the press. As a surprise to no one, this franchise remains critically bulletproof….

Duke Nukem Forever is such a game. Duke’s not very good, and that’s being polite. It has all of the redeeming qualities of head lice. I feel bad for everyone involved, really. This is also what makes this whole Redner Group fiasco all the more disheartening. No one should ever lose their job over Duke Nukem Forever. If Jim Redner only understood before he tweeted in a bout of anger and frustration — Duke’s immune. Let the press have their say. Allow us to exercise our ability to beat a game up against the ropes until it collapses in a bloody heap.

Let us be Joe Louis to its Max Schmeling because the truth is, we live for that stuff. Writing “good” reviews isn’t nearly as fun as writing a review about Duke Nukem Forever.

A Gamasutra article today discusses how an analyst has predicted that Duke will sell anywhere from 1.5 to 2 million units. You HAVE to assume development costs for this, as far as 2K and Gearbox is concerned, wasn’t high. God I hope not. If Duke sells 2 million units it is a commercial success. Despite being a truly terrible game Duke went in basically immune to criticism.

Perhaps this is in part what Gearbox head man Randy Pitchford meant when he said that those who write poor reviews will have to answer to readers? If Duke’s going to sell like this…maybe he’s right?

What does that say about the buying public? What does that say about name branding? What does that say about the role of game criticism? Are we less important than we’d all like to think? (hint: yes)

I’d be lying if I said that to see a game like Duke Nukem Forever sell 2 million units while a game like Metro 2033 sells less than 500,000 didn’t irritate me a little. The fact that 2 million people might actually sit down to play Duke Nukem, I assume merely due to name recognition and curiosity, takes a while for my brain to process.

In the end, I’m thrilled to see Duke hit the stores. It’s out,. It no longer has that vaporware tag attached to it — a game that is still talked about when people wonder what might have been. Duke is real. It’s a physical thing.

And here’s hoping we never have to speak about it ever again.

New Zelda Ad

Damn Robin looks like Father Time.

Dawn of War III Info: The Trickle Stage

Relic has started the slow trickle of details concerning Dawn of War III. Eurogamer spoke with THQ’s Danny Bilson who had a few thoughts on the upcoming (technically, it’s gonna be a while) RTS.

“”When you see it you’re going to go, whoa. I promise. …Dawn of War III, either way, is going to have a much larger strategic component to it, more of a global battle going on with little tactical things, sort of MMO-like.”

Is Nintendo hitting the skids?

Last week’s announcement of the Wii U had most folks playing the “cautiously optimistic” card. I came away impressed by the promise of what the console may be able to do and the suggestion that it will- at very least- bring Nintendo’s console specs more or less in line with this generation’s other consoles. Which are, of course, now approaching five and six years old. Ironically, Nintendo foolishly chose to show footage of games running on those consoles instead of theirs. Along with this ersatz footage came promises of support from third parties just like last year’s 3DS presentation, little of which seems to be materializing. After a week’s cooldown, I’m much less enthusiastic about the Wii U. Particularly in light of all that promise and potential that was squandered (or possibly illusory) in the Wii’s original incarnation.

Then of course there’s the tablet controller and a host of technical and logistical unknowns surrounding it including uncertainties as to how or if game makers will even invest the time and money to develop for a non-standard peripheral for an unestablished platform. When I saw the controller, my first thought was “$500″. Investors also took notice of Nintendo’s presentation and the laundry list of confused points and unestablished facts, and their stocks took a dive. Introducing what appears to be a very expensive (and among mainstream and casual gamers, unasked for) follow-up to the Wii in a declining market environment with fairly bleak forecast feels like a total mistake- particularly when Nintendo is trying to phase out two extremely successful platforms while playing catch-up with the competion and struggling to find a market for the 3DS. Is Nintendo on the ropes?

Eurogamer.net ran an article yesterday detailing Nintendo’s slumping sales in the US based on a report pubilshed by market analysts Wedbush Secuirties, and there are some pretty bleak figures. Wii sales are completely in the dump at this point with only 236,000 units sold in May. That’s still more than the PS3 is moving, but a 30 percent decline for the console. The firm noted that 3DS figures were “well below” an expected 180,000 units. That’s a 50 percent downturn from its second month on the market. Software sales for the new handheld were cited as being an all-time low for a new hardware launch.

It looks grim.

Of course, it isn’t like Nintendo is filing for bankruptcy and we’re not anywhere near reporting that their stock is being delisted. But it does seem that the writing is on the walls that after five years of success, the House that Mario Built needs to take a hard look at its strategies. Mario and Zelda brands no longer sell systems in the long term when the competition is so stiff, and the fad gamers that dropped $250 to play Wii Sports for a month or two are hardly return customers. Gimmicky hardware with built-in novelties does little to encourage reasonable people to drop the same amount of money on a handheld system when there is no software available for it, let alone when the software that is on the shelf is sub-par and anyone can download a better game for a dollar on their cellphone.

More and more, Nintendo is looking like a lumbering, hubristic giant overconfident in their brand identity and almost unresponsive to industry trends and changes. Most DS owners are perfectly content with their portables and aren’t looking to upgrade any time soon, and the vestigal 3D feature is hardly a selling point. Sure, the Wii U looks impressive. But no Blu-Ray or DVD support? Really? As Microsoft and Sony move ever closer to evolving into that mythological set-top box that does it all, how do you justify buying a presumably expensive console that does just one thing anymore? And the company’s insistence on novelty might turn mainstream heads and incite core gamers to speculate on potential, but at the end of the day a gimmick is a gimmick and if it doesn’t change the way we play games, it adds up to zero.

Yeah, we all know that Nintendo’s first party development is the best in the business, but what difference does that make when third parties either treat your gimmicky platform as an anathema or as a way to turn a quick buck. Let alone when you invest in a Nintendo console and the generation’s top titles either pass you buy or turn up on your system as shoddy ports or crap spin-offs. With Wii development practically at a full stop, core DS game releases all but dried up, and the 3DS release schedule already looking barren aside from ports and remakes, it’s pretty clear that Nintendo’s slump is tied specifically to software. It strikes me that- once again- Nintendo’s greatest failings are in its third party licensing and software development.

They know this, which is why they bend over backwards to assure everyone that they have the support of firms like EA, Activision, THQ, and Ubisoft. But when you’re releasing behind-the-times hardware that has features and peripherals completely different than competing platforms, it makes the prospect- and return on investment- of developing much riskier. If I were a developer, I’d be thinking twice about putting any money into 3DS titles and I’d be extremely gunshy about the Wii U given the Wii’s notorious history as a shovelware player and Nintendo’s fading stature with core audiences. In other words, the people who actually buy new hardware and the games to go with them over the long term.

Of course, the Wii U is itself an overture to this crowd- even the name suggests “you” instead of “we”- meaning that this isn’t as much a family affair. Yet Nintendo understandably doesn’t want to let the Wii brand or product design go because it was so successful. So they’re at a loggerheads. Make the appeal to the core gamers and alienate the larger mainstream market that they’ve taken to the bank for the past several years, or make it to the casual crowd and continuing losing the bulk of their fanbase to Microsoft and Sony. It’s a can’t win situation, and it’s one that I think is going to spell trouble for the company over the next several years as they struggle to figure out where they can succeed the most in a rapidly changing business.

Nintendo simply has to get with the times. Announcing Arkham Asylum, Colonial Marines, and Darksiders II as “launch titles” was bold. But are these games releasing a year or more after their PS3 and 360 counterparts? And what happens when Microsoft announces its next console- which is likely to be early in the Wii U’s lifespan? Is the 3DS just totally doomed at this point, particularly when the PSVita has been announced at the same price with huge titles already lined up for its launch?

I’m not a financial analyst, I don’t watch stocks, and I don’t have any investment in the games industry other than as a writer and game player. But more and more Nintendo is looking like they’re on the verge of getting left in the dust by companies that weren’t even in the video games racket until 15 and 20 years after Nintendo was practically ruling the market. But it’s not 1985, 1991, or 2006 anymore. Everybody’s got a phone in their pocket that plays games we never imagined possible on any version of a Nintendo handheld. The HD consoles are changing and adapting to mainstream lifestyles, not faddish whims. Nintendo has got to figure out where its place is, who its audience is, and how to compete if it’s going to remain a viable player and avoid slumps like those sales figures becoming a sign of a consistent decline. But this is also a company that’s close to losing ground and losing touch, trotting out beloved mascots and remakes of classic games at industry events to remind people of past glories, fiddling the theme song from Ocarina of Time while Rome might be burning.

Psychonauts in the news

File this under “hope for the eternally hopeful” – yesterday, the flames that keep Psychonauts fans alive were stoked by a very optimistic Gamasutra post that stated that the full publishing rights to 2005 psychedelic adventure/platformer Psychonauts now belong to the developer, meaning that any and all purchases of the game (on Steam, Xbox Live, etc) will now benefit Double Fine, not Majesco.

The few, proud believers in a Psychonauts sequel were pumped – and some fans were ready to go buy a second (or even third) copy of the game, now that the money would be going to the developer itself.

Sadly, the cold, sober reality of morning hit, and DF main man Tim Schafer clarified a few points:

Double Fine head Tim Schafer has clarified this new arrangement to Gamasutra, saying that while rights have reverted, the company is not yet going to receive all the money for the game. Kipnis’ Twitter post was the result of “an excited team member jumping the gun a little bit.” Schafer told us this in an email:

“It’s true the publishing rights have reverted to Double Fine, but there are some more deals that need to be worked out and contracts that need signing before that actually means anything, financially. After that’s all squared away, we will have some fun stuff to announce! (And no, it’s not Psychonauts 2.)”]

Sad trumpet?

Psychonauts is one of my favorite games of all time, and yes, I proudly wear my Double Fine fandom on my sleeve. But I’m totally ok with the game not getting a sequel – I think it stands alone just fine as a unique experience. Hell, I’ll be happy either way, as long as the team keeps making fun, creative, out-there games for me to gush about.

I do want to know more about this “fun stuff to announce” though.