WEEKLY NEWS UPDATE FOR 27TH JANUARY- 2ND FEBRUARY

Headline Of The Week

The PS Vita Slim is officially on its way to Europe on February 7th 2014, retailing for roughly £180. The slimline version of the Vita, which is lighter than a standard Vita and features a HD 5” LCD display rather than the original OLED screen, had previously only been available in Japan. For its European release, the Slim Vita will include a 1GB internal memory card and offer an additional hour of gameplay time between recharges, although we have been denied the variety of colours that Japan currently receives.

LIMBO and Hotline Miami stand out, but I would have preferred Gravity Rush as a bundle

LIMBO and Hotline Miami stand out, but I would have preferred Gravity Rush as a bundle

In addition Sony have also announced the ‘Indie Mega Game Pack’, which offers a Vita and ten games (Alien Breed, Thomas Was Alone, Velocity Ultra, Men’s Room Mayhem, Coconut Dodge Revitalised, LIMBO, Hotline Miami, Total Recoil, Superfrog HD and Floating Cloud God Saves The Pilgrims HD) for £199. The other option is to get a Vita with a 4GB memory card and a PS Store voucher to download the 10 games for an additional £25.

The announcement is another bid by Sony to try and put a dent in the market share of the Nintendo 3DS, which was the best selling console in several parts of Europe (including the UK) last year. Will the cheaper price and generous range of games on offer tempt you into a purchase now?

In Other News…

Not to be outdone by their great rivals, Microsoft have also been busy this week unveiling details of the future of the Xbox One…or rather, a NEOGaf forum user has spilled the beans on several bits of confidential news. According to the leaked details, a white version of the Xbox One is one its way in October with a 1TB version following the next month, along with possible price cuts and bundle deals with Insomniac’s promising Sunset Overdrive. The anonymous user also claimed that Halo 2: Anniversary was in development alongside Crackdown 3 and a sequel to Forza Horizon.

The particular relevance of this leak is that the rumours have been independently verified by a number of online publishers including The Verge and VG247. Executives at Microsoft are allegedly looking to take legal action against the individual who released the information.

It hasn’t been a complete loss of a week for Microsoft though, as they have acquired the intellectual rights to the Gears Of War franchise from Epic Games. The series (which has been synonymous with the Xbox brand) will be taken over by Black Tusk Studios and the former director of production at Epic, Rod Fergusson, has joined the company to lend his expertise – reportedly the next installment of the game is one week into production.

Even with no new hardware to reveal (rumours of the Fusion put aside), Nintendo remain keenly in the public eye due to the recent financial difficulties. At a Q&A session with stakeholders, President Satoru Iwata announced that he is to take a 50% pay cut, along with other members of the Nintendo board including Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto.

Iwata has also outlined the potential paths that Nintendo will follow in order to regain its composure; Mario Kart 8 is to release for the Wii U in May and should offer some impetus for the console (traditionally, Mario Kart games have always been big sellers – Mario Kart Wii is still selling after 30 million copies), and DS games are also set to come to the Wii U Virtual Console with the expectation that the Gamepad will emulate the touch screen functionality of the handheld behemoth. Perhaps most interestingly, Iwata has also suggested that Nintendo use their well established IP’s outside of video games, as was the case throughout the 90s:

“I think the reason that Nintendo is now considered to have this ‘abundance of character IP’ is perhaps because of our passive approach toward the character IP licensing business, which tends to have a high risk of damaging the value of the character…in other words, we think that spending time to develop our approach of having our characters appear mainly in our carefully selected games has created our current fortunate circumstances. However, we are going to change our policy going forward.

To be more precise, we will actively expand our character licensing business, including proactively finding appropriate partners. In fact, we have been actively selling character merchandise for about a year in the US”

Sly Cooper is getting the movie treatment in 2016. The film will be handled by Rainmaker Entertainment (who are also overseeing the Ratchet & Clank film announced a fair while back now) and will be directed by Kevin Monroe, who directed the CGI Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film in 2007. They have opted for a CG look rather than the cel-shaded visuals of the Sly games but look to have retained the voice actors from the popular platforming series. As opposed to Ratchet, the Sly Cooper film will be an origins story showing how the thieving racoon learns of his family’s legacy and will feature Clockwerk as a villain.

You can watch the official trailer below – now all we need is that Jak & Daxter movie…

Ever since whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the dubious practices of the National Security Agency, people have questioned the extent to which their private dealings online are being monitored. This week it has been suggested that British and US spy agencies have been harvesting data from smartphone apps, including games like Angry Birds, to obtain location information and details of political or sexual orientation from Android operating systems. Quite sinister for a casual game isn’t it?

The reports from the likes of The New York Times and The Guardian have been waived by the NSA who stated that communications of those who weren’t ‘valid foreign intelligence targets’ were not of interest and that ‘any implication that NSA’s foreign intelligence collection is focused on the smartphone or social media communications of everyday Americans is not true’.

As a friend of mine commented, ‘It’s only a matter of time before they come after your Peggle high scores as well’. Stay frosty people.

It’s a shame when people are unable to fully experience the effort that goes into a video game – take Borderlands 2 for example. It’s unique visual style is a selling point for many, and the crazy range of weaponry is designated by rarity via a colour coding system. Which kind of screws over those who are colour-blind.

Fortunately, Gearbox Software has announced a middle ground to be introduced in the next patch. When browsing the video options menu, players will now be able to select ‘colour-blind mode’ which will display the name of each item’s colour on the statistics card.

There will be three settings available to cover those with the most serious colour deficiencies (Deuteranopia, Protanopia, or Tritanopia), or the option to turn the mode off completely. Kudos to Gearbox for making an awesome game more accessible.

Former Chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment and the man dubbed the ‘Father Of The Playstation’, Ken Kutaragi, is to receive the Lifetime  Achievement Award at the Game Developers Choice Awards in March.

Kutaragi’s greatest achievement is developing the original Playstation following the breakdown of a deal between Sony and Nintendo, and helping to make the upstart console the dominant player of the fifth generation of consoles. He was also involved in the development of the PS2 and PS3, and currently serves as a senior technology advisor at Sony following his retirement as Chairman and CEO of SCEI.

Personally, I couldn’t care less for League Of Legends, but I hear its pretty popular on the internet. Indeed, developer Riot Games has reported that it is now played by over 27 million people across the planet, doubling its numbers from 2012. In addition, LOL also generated a whooping $624 million of revenue in micro transactions alone throughout 2013. That’s pretty impressive I guess; although the decision to classify the top players as ‘professional athletes’ baffles me.

Six weeks on and FIFA 14 continues it winning streak at the top of the UK Game Sales Charts with seemingly nothing on the horizon to displace it – unless next gen owners invest heavily in the upcoming Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. One new entry in the charts this week; Dragon Ball Z: Battle For Z crept into tenth spot.

Top Ten For Week Ending 26th January 2014 (from GFK/Chart-Track)

1 – FIFA 14 (EA Canada)

2 – Call Of Duty: Ghosts (Infinity Ward)

3 – Battlefield 4 (DICE)

4 – Lego Marvel Superheroes (Traveller’s Tales)

5 – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft Montreal)

6 – Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition (4J Studios)

7 – Killzone: Shadowfall (Guerrilla Games)

8 – Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar North)

9 –  Need For Speed: Rivals (Ghost Games)

10 – Dragon Ball Z: Battle Of Z (Art Dink)*

(* signifies a new chart entry)

In bonus sales news, Killzone: Shadowfall has sold over 2.1 million copies since the PS4 was released in November, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has now passed the 20,000,000 sales milestone across all platforms; a feat which has pushed it past illustrious company such as Super Mario Bros 3 (18 million copies sold).

And Finally…

In real life, generally if you miss a bill then you’ll receive a passively threatening letter asking you to stump up the cash. Miss a payment in Eve Online, as happened this week, and you trigger the biggest space battle the game has seen in a decade.

To anyone unfamiliar with Eve Online like I am the story is quite confusing, so I’ll attempt to simplify it. Someone forgot to pay rent on ownership of a solar system, meaning it became up for grabs. When people noticed, they swarmed to the area and began a huge space war – in total, 75 Titan ships (the largest spacecraft that Eve Online has to offer) were destroyed. Over 2,200 players took part in the battle for the B-R5RB system and the impact has been so big that the developers are going to make an in-game memorial.

So what’s the big deal I hear you ask? It’s just some nerdy space battle. Well, people use REAL money to contribute to their success in Eve Online; the game has its own economist and a Titan ship takes several weeks to build plus can cost up to $3000 of REAL money to finance if you don’t grind for ISK (in-game currency). All told it has been estimated that the battle caused 11 trillion ISK worth of damage – about £181,000 of REAL MONEY. That is why it is relevant – a video game caused that much financial damage in the space of a few hours.

It’s almost farcical…but on the bright side, it’s a photojournalist’s dream day!

It's like a war...taking place in the stars. There's a joke in the making there somewhere

It’s like a war…taking place in the stars. There’s a joke in the making there somewhere (image courtesy of Eurogamer)

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