BioWare responds to The Old Republic 360 rumour

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Developer BioWare has insisted hotly anticipated massively multiplayer online role-playing PC game Star Wars: The Old Republic “should not be” on retailer listings for the Xbox 360.

Yesterday VG247 claimed the MMO was on an internal release list from UK retailer GAME as coming out for the 360 at “TBC-2011”.

However, BioWare has moved quickly to respond to the suggestion, saying “we should not be on there”.

In a post on the game’s official forums, community manager Sean Dahlberg said: “I know many of you have heard this before but I’ll go ahead and reiterate it for those of you who may be new:

“Star Wars: The Old Republic is currently being developed for the personal computer (PC) using the Microsoft® Windows® operating system. While we recognize that there are other operating systems and platforms available for Shooting Games today, our development is specific to the personal computer using the Windows operating system at this time.

“As to why The Old Republic is on that list, we have no idea but to allay any confusion, we should not be on there.”

Dahlberg’s comments are interesting, not least because he refrains from outright denying the existence of an Xbox 360 version of the game. However, his post does pour cold water on the rumour, which was getting Xbox 360 owners excited indeed.

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Buy Nintendo DSi Holiday Bundle for $144 or $134 [Gaming Deals]

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Here is another good Shooting Games deal for Nintendo lovers. Toys R Us is offering users a 15% discount on Nintendo DSi Holiday Bundle, which also includes some preinstalled games from Brain Age Collection.

The retail price of Nintendo DSi is $169, however you can apply the coupon code 931072 to get a 15% discount on the bundle, bringing the cost down to $144.

In addition to that, you can also get an additional discount of $10 if you use Google Checkout for the first time, which will bring the total cost down to $134. You will have to pay for shipping and handling though.

As a added deal, if you buy the DSi system, DSi starter kit and a Nintendo T-shirt, you will get an additional $25 discount.

EA’S Battlefield 1943 Sells 1M Units on Xbox LIVE Arcade

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DICE, an Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS) studio, today announced that Battlefield 1943™ is the fastest game to reach 1M units sold on Xbox LIVE® Arcade for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. Battlefield 1943 is a critically acclaimed First-Person Shooter multiplayer game that IGN says “…is an impressive package that sets a new standard for digital titles.”

“The reception of Battlefield 1943 continues to amaze us, even months after the game was released,” says Gordon Van Dyke, Producer on Battlefield 1943. “Being the fastest game to reach this milestone is an incredible achievement. The Shooting Games has set a new standard for what can be done in the downloadable games category. It’s fantastic to see how gamers have recognized the value that the game delivers for just $15. It is another great entry point into the Battlefield franchise.”

Originally released in July 2009, Battlefield 1943 has won over 4 game critic awards and is the most popular download-only multiplayer action game. The Shooting Games brings DICE’s first-class WWII action to gamers where 24 players can compete across four classic WWII Battlefield maps: Wake Island, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and Coral Sea. These maps are inspired by the award winning Battlefield 1942™ game, and have been redesigned and reengineered from the ground up using the DICE Frostbite™ engine allowing players to wreak havoc and destruction via land, sea or air.

Battlefield 1943 is now available on Xbox LIVE Arcade for 1200 MS Points or on PlayStation®Network for $15. The game will soon also be available for PC.

Nintendo Vs. … Apple In Handheld Game Devices

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Nintendo (NTDOY) hopes its new jumbo-sized Nintendo DSi will attract more adults to its portable gaming system, even as it faces increasing competition from Apple’s (AAPL) iPod Touch.

The company’s DSi XL went on sale Sunday in the U.S. The XL stands for “extra large” because its two 4.2-inch screens are 93% larger than the ones on Nintendo’s DS Lite handheld.

The DSi XL is an extension of the current DS platform, named for its dual screens (hence DS), including one touch-screen.

Nintendo of America executive Cammie Dunaway shows off the new Nintendo DSi XL handheld gaming device at a recent media event. The Japan-based… View Enlarged Image

Nintendo is planning a next-generation portable device by spring 2011 called the 3DS, which will feature 3-D game-play without the need for special glasses. The company plans to provide more details in June at the E3 Shooting Games conference in Los Angeles.

XL Costs $20 More

The DSi XL retails for $189. Like the original DSi, the bigger version features two digital cameras — one facing the user when open and the other pointed away from the device. Players can use the cameras to take photos and capture images for games and amusement.

The original DSi sells for $169. The camera-less DS Lite sells for $129.

In addition to the larger screens, other features of Shooting Games DSi XL designed to appeal to older users include a second, larger penlike stylus and brain-fitness software that’s already a hit with baby boomers.

The launch of Nintendo’s DSi XL comes the same week that Apple launches its much-anticipated multimedia tablet computer, the iPad. The iPad goes on sale Saturday, with models starting at $499.

Nintendo has the younger crowd locked up with its popular DS Lite and DSi devices and software titles featuring characters like the Super Mario Bros. and Pokemon. But the adult audience is a harder sell.

Nintendo executives will deny it until they’re blue in the face, but Apple’s iPod Touch is serious competition in the handheld gaming space, mostly for older kids and adults, says Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.

Apple’s sleek multifunction portable devices are competition for consumers’ wallets and their time, he says. The iPod Touch starts at $199.

Nintendo needed a larger screen on the DS to appeal to adult gamers, says Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Lazard Capital Markets.

It could do well, but it won’t sell better than the current DS Lite and DSi models, he says.

“The target market for the DSi XL is really everyone,” said Cammie Dunaway, Nintendo of America’s executive vice president for sales and marketing. “We have seen that consumers of all ages, both males and females, all experience levels, have responded to the Nintendo DSi. This is a way to give those consumers even more to enjoy.”

Penny Arcade comes to town

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“My gravy trainnnnnn!” exclaimed Jerry Holkins, co-creator of Penny Arcade after losing an arm-wrestling match to co-creator Mike Krahulik at a Q&A session at the Penny Arcade Exposition last weekend.
“That’s my drawing arm,” Krahulik complained, shaking his arm. Krahulik — known as his cartoon alter ego Gabe online — is responsible for drawing the comic while Holkins, who is known in the strip as Tycho, writes the comic.

Over this past weekend, nearly 60,000 gamers attended PAX East, a huge Shooting Games exposition put on by the writers of the popular web comic Penny Arcade. This convention marked the first time that the Penny Arcade Exposition made it to the East Coast. It is usually held in Seattle during the late summer.

Running from March 26 until March 28 in the Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center, the convention featured plenty of new games and demos, humorous panels, and several concerts. Game developers from all over the country, including MIT’s own GAMBIT lab, had a chance to show off their games to the crowds.

Concerts on Friday and Saturday nights included the Video Game Orchestra, Metroid Metal, MC Frontalot, Paul and Storm, Jonathan Coulton, Protomen, and Anamanaguchi. During the Q&A session with the Penny Arcade creators, fans begged for a CD of the Video Game Orchestra’s performance and a DVD of the entire convention.

“It’d be so awesome to have a DVD of this,” one attendee said.

At the Q&A session, an incredibly dramatic opening sequence of flashing lights and deep bass introduced the two creators, who stood on stage dressed in t-shirts and jeans and opened up the floor for questions.

One attendee remarked on the influence that Mike and Jerry have in the gaming industry, bringing up the Ambassador Award the two recently won at the Game Developers’ Conference.

“Do we have that power?” Holkins asked.

“Is this where I take the sword from the stone? Become king of all kings?” Krahulik said.

Questions ranged from asking if the two creators would ever consider bringing Nathan Fillion as a guest speaker for PAX (they suggested everyone in the room tweet him personally), to what to do if you find your dad playing the sex minigame in God of War 3 (“I’m sorry for your trauma” said Krahulik), to advice on getting married and moving in together.

“We can’t even manage our own lives,” Holkins said.

One woman stood to ask a question and began to cry. “I spent the better part of my childhood in the hospital,” she said, as she began telling the audience about how playing N64 used to take her mind off her pain. A number of people had already thanked Penny Arcade for running Child’s Play, a charity that donates video games and toys to children’s hospitals across the country. When she heard of this charity, she knew how much it meant to those children.

“I just wanted to thank you guys personally,” she said. The entire auditorium rose in applause and Krahulik jumped from the stage to give her a hug.

Other heartwarming moments from the talk included when Holkins tried to give a man an Intel Core i7 processor as a prize. The gift was in return for some custom PAX themed trading cards that man had created and presented to Krahulik and Holkins. The fan shook Holkins’s hand and returned the present.

“I’m just gonna give this right back to Child’s Play,” he said to warm applause.

The entire second floor of the convention center was taken up by the main exposition which featured companies like EA, 2K Games, Rockstar, NVIDIA, Microsoft, AlienWare and Wizards of the Coast. Many people could be found playing Nintendo DS, sitting on the sides of the expo.

The Prince of Persia: the Forgotten Sands booth kept a large crowd around at all times, and crowds flooded to the screening area for Red Dead Redemption, an old Western action-adventure game created by the developers of Grand Theft Auto. Mafia II and Bioshock II were also popular stations, along with Skate 3 and Dante’s Inferno.

The MIT GAMBIT Game lab ran a large booth at PAX displaying two of their games, Dearth and Waker. Stephie Wu ’10, a researcher in the MIT GAMBIT lab, was busy teaching attendees about Dearth, a cooperative game that requires players to coordinate to destroy the monsters chasing them.

“Every Shooting Games we make has a research objective,” she said. “In this case, our objective was to study the way humans played in two player mode to further our computer players’ AI in one player.”

Asked if she had gotten a chance to explore PAX herself, Wu laughed and nodded.

“It’s pretty cool,” she said, “lots of swag, could definitely pick some up.”

Upstairs, PAX featured several rooms full of computers and consoles for free-play and tournaments. In addition to rooms for the standard Halo, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Counterstrike, and Rock Band games, there was a room setup for Steel Battalion, a fancy mech pilot game with an incredibly detailed control console. Of all of the gaming rooms, this one was among the most quiet: occupying the room were the players with the most intense expressions.

Due to the high attendance this year, when PAX East returns next year it will move to the considerably larger Boston Convention and Exhibition center.

Video game technology extends to heart of Africa

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Through centuries, Africa’s Masai tribesmen have struggled against marauding predators.

Now a virtual version of that struggle may be happening on an iPhone near you. “Defend your village by feeding and driving away the animals before they crash it and feed on your livestock and garden!” explains a summary of the Shooting Games “iWarrior” in Apple’s App Store. Threats include “thundering elephants,” “mighty rhinos,” “swift cheetahs” and “crafty hyenas.”

The game has won praise for its graphics, music and concept. And it illustrates the global influence of Silicon Valley. Technologies like the Internet and companies like Apple are often credited with “flattening” the world economy, giving anyone, anywhere with the requisite skills the opportunity to, say, build a game for the iPhone or create an app on Facebook.

“IWarrior” is “a feed ’em up game, not a shoot ’em up,” as co-creator Eyram Tawiah put it. But what may be most remarkable is that “iWarrior” indeed comes out of Africa, the hinterlands of computer innovation. Tawiah, a Ghanan, and Wesley Kirinya, a Kenyan, overcame considerable obstacles to develop the first product of their startup, Leti Games.

The Shooting Games has been described as Africa’s first commercial contribution to the multibillion-dollar computer gaming industry — certainly the first from “true Africa,” as Kirinya put it, smiling. By that he meant the broad swath of Africa south of the Sahara and north of South Africa, with its
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extended legacy of colonialism and apartheid. Every element of “iWarrior” — the mechanics, the graphics, the music — was created by Leti, which means star in the Ewe language, or outsourced to techies in East Africa or West Africa, Kirinya said.

In Silicon Valley, the collaborations that produced Apple, Yahoo, Google and other companies seem like the natural order of things. For the Leti guys, both 26 years old, the journey has been more of an Odyssey — one that recently led them to attend the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, where they hobnobbed with engineers from Electronic Arts (EA.) and hot startups like Playdom.

Leti has been nurtured by the philanthropic arm of SanFrancisco-based Meltwater Group, an Internet business services company, which in 2008 founded the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) in Accra, Ghana. Leti is one of two startups in MEST’s fledgling incubator; the other, Streamio, makes music streaming technology for mobile devices.

“We believe talent is everywhere,” said Meltwater founder and CEO Jorn Lysegger, a Palo Alto resident whose own biography is a tale of globalization. Korean by ancestry and place of birth, Lysegger was adopted as a small child and was raised by Norwegian parents on a dairy farm. His own talent in math, computing and business led to success in Europe before he decided to move Meltwater’s headquarters to Silicon Valley to compete in the massive American market.

Africa’s talent, Lysegger said, represents an untapped resource that has lacked the opportunity MEST was established to provide. Tawiah was selected for MEST’s first class of 17 fellows from hundreds of applicants, Lysegger said.

The son of an art professor, Tawiah created fanciful comic books called “Sword of Sygos” in junior high and later learned to program on a clunky computer while reading Russ Walters’ “Secret Guide to Computers.” At age 17, partnering with two friends, Tawiah helped create a distance-learning program for Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, which he would later attend. They were paid $700 and promptly bought a better computer.

While his friends pursued studies in medicine — the socially favored course for bright young Africans — Tawiah stuck to computers. He developed software for the radio industry and turned “Sword of Sygos” into a 3-D game for his senior thesis.

Later, he was stunned when the local newspaper reported — wrongly, thought Tawiah — that Africa’s first 3-D computer game, called “Adventures of Nyangi,” had been created 2,600 miles to the east by a Nairobi University student named Wesley Kirinya.

A Kenyan economist, James Shikwati, commented on Kirinya’s achievement to Cox Newspapers at the time: “People will say, ‘Kenyans, computer games? No, we don’t make computer games.’ He has shown that computer games are not a preserve of the Western world.”

Through a tech blogger, Tawiah contacted Kirinya and discovered a kindred spirit.

Kirinya, as a teen, was steeped in console games like “Super Mario,” “Streetfighter” and “Lara Croft,” and augmented his formal education with computer books and manuals. “I knew I wanted to make games,” a pursuit many people considered frivolous, he said. “I felt all alone. There was a lot of alone time.”

A demo of “Nyangi” — which Tawiah describes as “Lara Croft in Africa” — may not impress consumers of EA. titles, but techies would recognize it is an impressive achievement for a single programmer, Lysegger said.

Tawiah and Kirinya would correspond by e-mail for 18 months before meeting in person. Not only did MEST pay for the ticket to bring Kirinya to Ghana, it later awarded Leti $100,000 in seed financing.

The “iWarrior” game, the Leti guys say, is only a start.