If ever there was a case for parental controls, it's this: According to Virtual Worlds Management, there are now over 200 youth-oriented virtual worlds live, planned, or actively being developed. In other words, rather than grab a ball and glove after school, kids left on their own with access to a computer will literally have hundreds of virtual worlds to choose from and plenty of opportunities to spend their allowance.
When broken down into worlds targeting kids (7 and under), tweens (8-12), and teens (13+), VMW says "the kids market is the clear leader," noting 107 worlds are banking on at least part of their audience consisting of kids in the under-7 range. To make money off these markets, 59 of the virtual worlds use micro-transactions, giving users free access to the world but charging for virtual goods. Another 57 worlds follow the subscription based model, and 46 use advertising, VMW says.
“Moving ahead, Microsoft will continue to invest in Windows as a first–class gaming platform through great Windows out of box experiences, our online gaming services including Games for Windows – LIVE, MSN Games, and Messenger games, and through new games for Windows developed by Microsoft Games Studios," a Microsoft spokesperson said.
"Our Windows gaming service efforts will be led by General Manager Ron Pessner, who is joining Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business. He comes from within Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division.” “Beyond these changes, we are not commenting on specific personnel issues at this time.”
But enough talk; outside of an admittedly nice redesign, GFW’s actions haven’t made a peep as of late. So c’mon, guys – give us your best “Have at you!” The world is watching. Now deliver.
We’re not going to lie; relations with our Xbox 360 have been strained as of late. Its once-alluring vanilla sheen has faded to a dull gray. At one time effortlessly slim and sleek, its hard drive has fallen into a self-destructive cycle of binge downloading and purging. The passive-aggressive blog posts aren’t helping. And now, as though a sign from the heavens to ease our conflicted minds, Resident Evil 5 is officially infecting PCs the world over. Or, at the very least, in Poland.
"We know for sure that a PC version RE5 will be released. We don't know when exactly but we expect that it will arrive to shops in second half 2009,” said Jerzy Cichocki of CD Projeckt, the company that publishes Capcom titles in Poland.
However, the Xbox 360 isn’t ready to relinquish its control on our Gamerscores (and consequently, our hearts) just yet. Fable II’s radioactive crumb trail, sadly, has no intention of illuminating a path to the PC – at least, not in the near future.
"We're not working on a PC version of Fable II... If this changes we'll make sure you know about it on our website(s),” said Lionhead community head “Woody” after rumors of a PC port surfaced.
MSI hopes its new GT627 notebook will satiate both gamers and overclockers alike. The GT627 is the first notebook in MSI's lineup to incorporate Nvidia's GeForce 9800M GS graphics processor with a 1GB frame buffer, and the company's Turbo Drive feature allows end users to overclock the CPU when on AC power.
"Whether viewing or editing photos, finding directions, playing a game, or watching a hi-def movie, the MSI GT627 with the NVIDIA® GeForce® 9800M GS GPU runs silky smooth, with amazing visuals," said Rene Haas, General Manager of the notebook business unit at NVIDIA. "With the GeForce 9800M GS handling the graphics, video and physics acceleration, MSI customers will be ready for the visual computing movement."
The 15.4-inch notebook also ships with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor on a 1066MHz frontside bus, up to 4GB of DDR2 memory, a 320GB hard drive, optional Blu-ray drive, a 4-in-1 media card reader, optional 9-cell battery, 802.11a/g/n, HD audio, webcam, HDMI, eSATA, and a touch sensor.
The PC gaming market isn’t exactly known for clear skies and inviting waters, so one can only imagine that attempting to ford the ol’ river during these harsh economic times would likely result in an unceremonious game over. And so, we speculate, went Microsoft’s logic when it quietly told Games for Windows Live general manager Chris Early to take a hike.
When contacted by Venture Beat, Microsoft simply replied that Early’s time at the software company “has come to a close.” Apparently, he fell off the giant's back along with 1,400 other unfortunate employees.
Frankly, no matter how you look at this, things seem dicey for GFWL. If its head was deemed so non-essential as to be lopped off, you have to wonder how much longer its deaf, dumb, and blind stump of a body can continue to stumble through the buzzsaw forest that is Microsoft in its current state.
As always, we wish Early the best of luck (though technically, this is the second time we’ve done it) and hope he lands in a place where he’ll be able to more effectively pick off the buzzards that everyone seems to think are swarming PC gaming these days.
Have the first shots in the long-brewing Digital Distribution vs. Retail Wars been fired? About two weeks ago, GameStop.com abruptly stopped taking pre-orders for THQ’s upcoming Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II, and scrubbed any mention of the game from its site. While no one has been able to get an official reason out of either GameStop or THQ, the speculation is that the conspicuous disappearance is connected to the use of Valve’s Steam service as copy protection—GameStop is probably peeved that in order to install DoW2, gamers will have to install Steam and be presented with an option for fabulous deals on PC games that doesn’t require hauling their asses down to the mall and digging through all the Barbie Horse Adventure games on GameStop’s depressing PC corner shelf.
Further investigation, though, may indicate that this is no coincidence.
Sometimes gamers just have to go back to their roots. It's inevitable. Blazing, next-generation graphics can be a blast to check out, and all the crazy advances in storytelling and immersion have allowed games to penetrate peoples' lives more than ever before. Don't get us wrong, these are all good things for the industry and its many, many fans.
But gamers always get that urge--a tickling--to give their turbocharged video card a break and fire up some titles that have withstood the test of time. Or better yet, modern reinventions of classic gameplay motifs. Some of these titles can be a blast to play, which is exactly why we're jumping into the gaming remake scene with this week's freeware roundup. If you loved the originals that these games are based on, you'll find yourself sinking just as much time into these freeware remixes as before. Don't worry if you've never played some of the genres that these newer titles are based on. Spend a few minutes downloading these titles, fire up a game or two in your spare time, and see what you think!
In our March 2009 issue, we dressed our illustrious Editor-in-Chief up as a one of the ravenous antagonists from our Game of the Year, Valve’s Left 4 Dead.
The transformation from living human to decaying dead took almost two hours, though in the end it made for an amusing, but slightly horrifying, photo shoot. Read on to find out how we managed to turn this famed zombie slayer into one of his victims, or follow along to attempt your own zombie transformation.
Nvidia has officially released its Forceware 181.22 WHQL GeForce driver suite just under a week since making the drivers available as beta downloads. The graphics chip maker recommends upgrading to the latest release "for the best GPU PhysX experience in EA's hot PC title Mirror's Edge." Forceware 181.22 WHQL installs the new PhysX system software, now in version 9.09.0010.
Also included with the new driver release is support for Nvidia's latest GPUs, the GTX 295 and GTX 285. Nvidia also claims modest to significant performance boosts in select titles, such as up to 80 percent in Lost Planet: Colonies, up to 38 percent in Far Cry 2, and up to 25 percent in Devil May Cry 4. Several other titles are said to run anywhere from 10 to 18 percent better with the latest Forceware driver.
It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. We’ve spent a good deal of the last 12 months hunkered down at our PCs playing every game that’s come our way. The very best of them have pulled us into their imaginary, action-packed worlds and stolen hours of our valuable time—and we love ’em for it! Others, not so much. Here forth is our frank assessment of 2008’s most noteworthy games.