Apple has been ordered to refund at least $32.5 million in the next year to parents whose children have made in-app purchases without their consent. The decision, courtesy of the US Federal Trade Commission, also advises that the company alters its procedures (including the App Store’s policy that lets users enter their passwords once for a single purchase then continue to buy things during a fifteen minute period) to make it more difficult for children to engage in micro-transactions.
In-app purchases are (depressingly) big business, contributing heavily to the $10 billion worth of revenue raised for developers via the App Store in 2013. In the most extreme cases a single transaction has cost anywhere up to $70, and some parents complained that their little ones had cleared spent well beyond $2000 on a game. Personally, I feel that a lot of the blame lies with the parents failing to observe the content or practices of the games their children are playing, but there is little doubt that some developers have deliberately cashed in.
The year of 2013 has been a busy one; between balancing the last year of my extended stay at University and finally entering the daily grind of the working world, time has gone by much quicker than I would have perhaps preferred. It’s important then to take the time for a brief retrospective, not only to supplement the lazy journalism that comes with the end of the year but because when I stop and think back, it has been another banner year for videogames. Continue reading Dazcooke’s Video Game Land Review Of 2013→
2012 – a year that promised much, and will no doubt go down in the textbooks as one of the most interesting years of modern times. The Olympics offered a summer of sporting enjoyment in Britain, a Korean man dancing like a horse became the most popular thing the internet has ever churned out, and the world didn’t end as predicted by ancient calendars running out. Each point to their own a notable landmark I guess.
And so what of the world of videogames? It was an enviable task set for this year by the exploits of 2011; a year where games reached levels of exceptional quality in some cases. 2012 was a horrifically clichéd year in that some things were very good, and some things very poor. Below is my run through the year; I’ve broken away from looking specifically at the big three companies in detail to allow some more room for analysis, and to keep the points a bit shorter for reading purposes. Continue reading Dazcooke’s Video Game Land Review Of 2012→
Nintendo have finally revealed the all important pricing and release details for their new console, the Wii U. Announced by company CEO Satoru Iwata on the official Nintendo website last night, the basic Wii U will cost 26,250 yen (£210/$338), while the black Premium model will be slightly pricier at 31,500 yen (£252/$405). The console will be released later than the anticipated November date, on the 8th December.
Both models will come packaged with a Wii U GamePad, a Wii U GamePad stylus, an HDMI cable, and AC adapters for the system and controller, while those who shell out for the Premium model will also nab a Wii U GamePad charging stand, Wii U GamePad playing stand and Wii U stand. The Premium model also has a memory capacity of 32GB compared to 8GB on the standard model. Mr Iwata also revealed some of the system specs which have been kept very secret up to this point. The memory reserved for games is 1GB, the same figure used to run the internal operating system, and game discs can hold up to 25GB of data (roughly the same as an average Blu Ray disc).
Doesn’t sound too bad yet does it? Well here’s the news that will kick your teeth in – the Wii U Gamepad has been priced at 13,340 yen, which at current exchange rates would be nearly £107. The initial prices for two of the launch games don’t appear to be particularly inviting either – New Super Mario Bros U has been priced at 5,985 yen (£48/$77) and NintendoLand (the game which attracted a great deal of derision at E3 this year and many people thought would be a bundle game) is 4,935 yen (£39/$66). Those exchange prices aren’t set in stone, but when you factor in costs such as VAT that will be applied when they go on sale we have to assume that Wii U games will be costing more than PS3 and Xbox 360 games. Also, I pity the poor person who breaks a Gamepad and has to buy a new one; I’m no mystic, but I would have a pop at guessing that the damn expensive controllers may well be the Wii U’s downfall in the future.
So now you know how much it’s going to cost – are you going to buy one?
UPDATE: After posting this article, Nintendo confirmed the details for European customers. Strangely we will be getting the console before its native Japan as it will go on sale on November 30th. NintendoLand has also been confirmed as a bundle game with every console sold.
And so the dust has finally settled on the main conferences at the Electronic Entertainment Expo; over the last two days Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony and Nintendo have all held their annual E3 media pitches. As with last year, I was furiously typing all the way through the conferences making notes, and below is my quick round up of all the relevant stuff from the two days. Continue reading E3 2012: Notes From The Five Conferences And Reaction→
Up until around midday yesterday, E3 was running smooth as you like. As then Nintendo pulled a major cat out of the bag by announcing that they would be showing off a special pre-recorded broadcast by president Satoru Iwata at 11pm GMT, showing us a bit more on the new Wii U console. Around 80,000 people watched the stream live on Nintendo’s website, including myself to see what new tricks the Wii U has to play with. The video has since been re-uploaded for those who missed it, but if you don’t particularly desire watching Iwata talk for half an hour, here’s the main headlines summed up from the video:
The Wii U tablet, the focus of much attention when the console was revealed at last year’s E3, has undergone a slight change in aesthetics. Most importantly, the circle pads have been replaced with two analogue sticks which can be clicked in, a NFS system has been added on the left hand side, some of the menu buttons have been moved to the right hand side for easier access (including one which lets the tablet act as a tv remote), and the back of the tablet has been modified to be more ergonomically friendly. Check out the image below for a before and after screenshot. In homage to the original NES controllers, the tablet has been officially named as the ‘Wii U Gamepad’.
Most surprisingly, Iwata then revealed an entirely new controller in the form of the ‘Wii U Pro Controller’, which closely resembles a hybrid of the current PS3 and Xbox 360 controllers. The idea is that the Pro controller will allow for simultaneous two to four player games to be played on the Wii U, as only one Gamepad can be connected at any one time. All accusations of design stealing aside, this controller will allow the Wii U to function as a games console for those who do not desire the gimmick of the tablet screen, and will probably be the controller of choice for games like Mario Kart and the next Super Smash Bros. Good decision on Nintendo’s behalf
The big change in Nintendo’s strategy for the Wii U however, is connectivity. The Wii was highly effective at getting people together to play in the same living room, but its capacity to connect beyond that was awful (the internet connectivity in particular is woeful compared to PSN and Xbox Live). The Wii U looks to change all that, with the big marquee being the all new ‘Miiverse’. Acting like an enormous forum using Mii’s, gamers can see what other people are playing, share thoughts and offer tips on games by leaving messages (which can be typed on hand drawn using the Gamepad’s screen) and connect in several other ways. Crucially, it will not just be limited to the Wii U, as the service can be accessed also on the 3DS, PC and *gasp* smartphones – for those of you who may be unaware, that is an enormous change in strategy as Nintendo are usually fairly secular in how they operate with other companies. The Miiverse will be at the forefront of Nintendo’s first real push into the online market; Iwata’s concluding note on the subject was that it will be the first thing people see when they switch on the Wii U console.
In other stuff, the Miiverse concept was demonstrated by one of the most poorly acted sequences I have ever seen, notable only for the appearance of a grandad offering help on how to beat a zombie, and the ‘Non Specific Action Figure‘. Within seconds of thier appearance both were trending and will no doubt have turned into a meme in the time I have been asleep overnight. Go to 12:40 in the video link above to watch the segment in full.
It was a crafty move indeed by Nintendo to get this information out ahead of Microsoft and Sony’s conferences (which in case you need reminding start at 5:30pm and 2:30am GMT today), as on Wednesday they can now focus almost exclusively on games that will be available on the Wii U. Expect a new 2D Mario, a new Zelda, a new Metroid and several other surprises. It should be a cracker
We will start with the situation at GAME. Last week, the company filed for administration, and 277 stores around the UK were shut down with immediate effect while over 2,000 people were made redundant. On Sunday, the investment group Opcapita was cleared by several banks in the UK to buy a large portion of the business, thereby removing it from administration and saving 333 stores and roughly 3,000 jobs. The sale gives the struggling business a sense of stability, but now the real test for the GAME group begins – in the next six months, they will need to restore consumer faith in the brand while also fending off against the increased online competition that has arguably led to its initial demise, including Tesco who have now rebranded themselves as ‘the home of gaming in the UK’.
The mystery surrounding Nintendo’s next console, the Wii U, continues to grow this week. First off, it seems we may have a relatively accurate release date, as a internal memo sent by Nintendo to retailers across the world (including Gamestop in America) reveals that the Big N are looking at November 18th 2012 for a release date – which would seem sensible enough considering Nintendo’s affiliation with that time of the year (the last two consoles, the Gamecube and Wii, were released on November 18th 2001 and November 19th 2006 respectively). Perhaps more pressing however is the rumours that the Wii U is not as powerful as the PS3 and Xbox 360 currently are – nevermind the next generation consoles that are invariably in the pipeline for Microsoft and Sony. A spokesman from Nintendo has said:
“We do not focus on technology specs. We understand that people like to dissect graphics and processing power, but the experience of playing will always be more important than raw numbers.”
In no lesser terms, that means Nintendo aren’t denying the claims. So much for the boasts pre-E3 last year that it would be more powerful than the Sun.
In a unprecedented move for football fans, there will not be a standalone Euro Championships game this year – instead, EA (who interestingly enough received an award for ‘Worst Company In America’ this week), announced last week that UEFA Euro 2012 will be a download only expansion pack for FIFA 12. Set for release on April 24th, the expansion will cost £15.99, which is cheaper than the game would have been on disc. In one sense, it’s a very clever move by EA – it means they have to spend less on producing the game, and FIFA 12 has already shifted over 10 million copies so there is a large base to aim at. However, for what is going to essentially be a kit upgrade, £16 is far too much. My advice would be that if you are desperate to replicate the European Championships, simply download the teams that are missing from the Creation Centre in FIFA 12 and just make the tournament on there.
Finally, surprising news from Harmonix – the music genre in gaming isn’t dead! Yesterday, the developers announced their newest creation, Rock Band Blitz, destined to be release this summer on XBLA and PSN. The game seems to have more in common with Harmonix’s PS2 games Amplitude and Frequency than Rock Band, featuring a multi track system where all the instruments in a song can be played…without the need for instruments. It also promises to utilise all previous Rock Band DLC along its own 25 song soundtrack, offering up a ridiculous amount of playability. Check out this trailer to see the intriguing concept in action
Good morning everyone; I apologise that I haven’t been able to get much out in terms of news recently as I have been beavering away on my dissertation. Consider this a quick round up of news from the past week or so:
Have you been looking at the Wii stashed in the corner of your room recently and thought ‘Man…I wish the Wii U would come out soon’? Well fear no more, because Nintendo President Satoru Iwata confirmed that the console will be released in this calendar year. Speaking at an investor meeting, Mr Iwata claimed that the console will be ready to buy in all regions by the time that 2013 rolls around. This is encouraging news for the Big N, who also had to swallow the bad news at the meeting that they will be making a loss this year…of 65 billion Yen (£535 million).
In other news on the eight generation front, the Marketing Director of Microsoft France has stated in a recent interview not to expect a console reveal from Microsoft this year. He makes the good point that the company has yet to slash the price of a Xbox 360 yet (usually a sure sign that the next gen is on the way), but this is all up against overwhelming feeling that we WILL see a new console at some point this year – possibly with Blu Ray support and ‘six times the power’ of the current console if rumours are to be believed. I maintain my opinion: they have to release at least something in order to not fall behind Nintendo in the race for the next generation of gaming.
The first big console release of the year, Final Fantasy XIII-2 has been getting a mixed reaction across the board. It seems the general consensus is that it’s a better game than Final Fantasy XIII, but in removing the linearity of that game Square Enix have left behind a sub standard story and retained the auto battle system. It’s all a bit disheartening – I played and quite enjoyed the demo (I like the whole idea of recruiting monsters and giving them hats to wear), but in a strange case of déjà vu, just like with XIII I have been put off a day one purchase. No doubt I will get round to playing it eventually.
Happy 10th anniversary to Phoenix Wright – the ace attorney who has made court cases fun and made shouting ‘OBJECTION!!!’ in the middle of a busy street an acceptable thing to do…well I exaggerate but you get the point. And to celebrate the birthday, Capcom are making a fifth game in the series, most likely to be an exclusive on the 3DS. Not only that, but the first three games in the series (Ace Attorney, Justice For All & Trials And Tribulations) will all be getting a HD remake for iOS and Android platforms. Early reports suggest that prices may be as low as 1,200 Yen ($15) for all three, which is a bargain considering the originals are quite rare and can be found going for about £30 apiece online at the moment. And that’s not even mentioning the upcoming Phoenix Wright/Professor Layton crossover being developed by the excellent Level 5 for 3DS.
If ever you needed convincing that Street Fighter X Tekken will be better on the PS3 than the Xbox 360, this week we got news that confirmed it – the PS3 and PS Vita versions of the game will be getting two exclusive characters, in the form of Mega Man and Pac Man.
The Witcher 2, the RPG that got some serious acclaim on the PC last year, has a confirmed release date for Xbox 360 – it will be arriving on April 17th 2012.
Finally, news from the realm of digital downloads – we learnt this week what the most popular titles were on both PSN and Xbox Live for 2012. On PSN, an old favourite took the crown as Tetris was the most downloaded game ahead of the HD remake of Resident Evil 4, while the god simulator From Dust shifted 375,000 units on Xbox Live to be the best selling title ahead of the still very-popular Castle Crashers.
A few shameless plugs to make before I head off – you may have noticed my new feature on the blog showcasing some of my favourite Video Game Music; all the tracks are split into individuals posts if you go to the ‘Best VGM’ link at the top of the page. Finally, I recently did a pilot pod-cast with Callum Loughlin, a good friend of mine from Lincoln University, where we talked about video games for about two hours. If you have time to burn, you can listen to the fruits of our labours for free by downloading the pod-cast from ITunes via this link.
And so finally the dust has settled, and E3 is over for another year. The headline games and consoles have been revealed, speculation and rage/delight has been expressed across the world, and many a new E3 meme have been created. What this article will do is just round up a few interesting stories that occurred from the show floor, and give some exposure to games that were missed off from the main conferences. Continue reading E3 2011: Roundup Of News From The Show Floor→