Nothing against the NPD Group, but if it’d like to stare us straight in the eyes (as opposed to peering directly into our upturned nostrils), it might want to consider duct-taping a few new tools onto its measuring stick – at least, as far as PC gaming is concerned.
The NPD Group recently released its 2008 PC game sales totals, wherein it concluded that our favorite platform is barely puttering along behind consoles’ gold-paved success parade, claiming that PC game sales are down 14% from 2008.
However, to be frank, they’re wrong. This is, of course, because NPD doesn’t take into account sales of digitally downloaded games, microtransactions, or the all-important subscription fee – that is to say, the rippling base of PC gaming’s food pyramid. The group has taken a few tentative steps into this arena with a quarterly subscription tracker, but its results are not factored into these 2008 totals.
Hopefully, NPD will continue to build off the base it’s formed with the aforementioned subscription tracker – otherwise, its descent into total obsolescence (even where consoles are concerned) will be less like a rollercoaster and more like Richard Garriott after they turn the gravity back on.
Fortunately, while this first run doesn’t look so hot, next week’s figures will be more in-depth. Here’s hoping this decidedly negative knee-jerk reaction finds itself looking foolish before too long.
Well, select RPGs, anyway. Still though, this weekend’s Good Old Games promotion trims the pointy edges off quite the haul of excellent role-playing games. Standouts include Fallouts 1, 2, and Tactics, Arx Fatalis and Gothic.
In order to reap the sale’s benefits, you need only peruse GOG’s list, drop selected games into your cart, and enter the promo code “PROMO1” for 15% off whichever RPGs you purchase. Or not. Alternatively, you can damn The Man and his Rules by ignoring the list and forcing the promo code to dance its wicked, mostly forbidden mating ritual with random games until you find something that works. It’s your promo code now; use it however you please!
The deal ends at 23:59 EDT on Monday. Follow the link for the full list of applicable games – but only if you’re a total bore and a bit of a killjoy.
Ultima creator and one-time Tabula Rasa big man Richard “Lord British” Garriott may have moonwalked right out of the gaming industry, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be phoning home after his geosynchronous jaunt. In an interview with GameDaily, Garriott spoke of his intention to give game development another shot – but only after raising the bar for mid-life crises a few notches higher.
“Do I have a plan that I can tell you now? No. I'm still finishing my space flight. I am literally still in the middle of NASA and ESA medical experiments. I am literally still in the middle of my earth observation analysis, as well as the particle crystal growth stuff we're wrapping up. And that's going to take me some weeks and months to wrap up,” Garriott said.
“But, some day in the future, it's hard not to assume I will get back into gaming. I still personally believe I have lots of great ideas and desire to build games. It's just today, it's space.”
Garriott also mentioned that he might be interested in developing a new Ultima title – something we’d be mighty okay with.
Here at Maximum PC, our goal is to bring you – our tear-jerkingly loyal readers – the world’s finest technology-based news. As you can imagine, this takes a tremendous amount of concentration and, well, you’ve seen the headline. After all, it’s kind of difficult to concentrate on news stories and other such frippery when – one screen away -- a Tank’s attempting to knock our head’s round peg into our torso’s square hole. Convergence, ain’t it grand?
Along with placing a “Web” tab on Steam’s in-game overlay screen, today’s update gives Steam’s five strings a tightening – the results of which you can see here:
Updated game overlay web browser to support generic web browsing, including web sites that use flash
Fixed games list scrolling behavior with pageup/pagedown and mouse wheel
Fixed GTA4 backups not restoring correctly
Fixed several cases where matchmaking would not work in Left 4 Dead in using Cafe accounts
Changed Friends to be enabled for Cafe accounts
Removed 'view invites' dialog on startup, now clicking on a group/user invite toast will take you directly to the Community control page
Fixed guest passes not showing immediately in games list
Fixed case where a user would be told a guest pass had expired after they had bought the full game
Improved Steam Windows Service restart logic in serveral places
It appears the Blu-ray format may finally be picking up steam. At CES, Andy Parsons, president of the Blu-ray Disc Association, described 2008 as a banner year for Blu-ray sales, and the numbers appear to back his claim. Fourth quarter sales saw 28.6 million Blu-ray sales, up significantly from 9.5 million a year prior. There are now nearly 11 million Blu-ray capable players in the U.S., although 6 million of those are PlayStation 3 consoles.
By comparison, in the same three year time frame after release, DVD players totaled 5.4 million units, not far above all non-PS3 Blu-ray players. And with 40 million homes equipped with HDTVs, there's plenty of room for Blu-ray player sales to grow. Helping to do that, 18 new Blu-ray players were announced at CES, including an HDTV with a built-in player by Sharp.
Despite Blu-ray's recent success, Microsoft reiterated it has no plans to integrate Blu-ray capability with its Xbox 360 console. According to Robbie Bach, Microsoft's president of Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices Division, the decision comes down to a combination of not enough users requesting a Blu-ray player, and because it wouldn't help "in the core of what Xbox does, which is gaming."
CES there was a new kid on the block by the name of Disney Star Guitarist that was looking to teach you how to play an actual guitar instead of memorizing the five color-coded buttons.
The game works about the same as guitar hero, little gems float down the screen and once they hit a certain spot it’s up to you to place your fingers in the right place and strum (you can find a video here). Only this time, instead of the aforementioned color-coded buttons, you’re using actual strings, on an actual guitar.
Should the game actually be good enough to hold people’s attentions (read: not just Disney songs), there could be some real value here. After all, as a drummer I can see it as a good possibility for someone that plays Rock Band on the harder difficulties to hammer out a beat on a real kit. Perhaps the same rule could apply, once someone’s had enough opportunities to play “Hakuna Matata” on the 5-string?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and when the beholders are judges from Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), Acer's Aspire Predator G7000 series gaming PC has all the right curves. The rig's menacing aesthetics earned Acer WinHEC 2008's Industrial Design award, with one judge saying one look is all that's needed to know that the Predator G7000 is intended for gamers. The judge also noted the PC likely won't win favor among female consumers, but said that wasn't a bad thing, given that Acer's design nails its target audience.
From a hardware standpoint, the Predator G7000 comes with the option of either an overclocked AMD Phenom X4 or Intel Core 2 Quad processor, up to 8GB of DDR2-1066 RAM, and support for either ATI's CrossFire X or Nvidia's SLI dual-videocard technology. But it's the funky orange chassis with a mechanical bezel for easy access to four 3.5-inch HDD bays that ultimately won Acer the award.
Acer also won a Media & Entertainment award for its Aspire 8920G notebook with Blu-ray and full HD, and an Internet award for it's Aspire one Netbook.
“WARNING: Excessive exposure to violent video games and other violent media has been linked to aggressive behavior.”
WARNING: The above label could soon take top billing on all of your favorite game packages – that is, if Congressman Joe Baca has his way. Last week, he introduced the “Video Game Health Labeling Act of 2009.” His reasoning? A masterpiece of misinformation.
“The videogame industry has a responsibility to parents, families and to consumers – to inform them of the potentially damaging content that is often found in their products,” Baca said in a statement.
“They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility. Meanwhile research continues to show a proven link between playing violent games and increased aggression in young people. American families deserve to know the truth about these potentially dangerous products.”
Of course, Baca fails to mention the other, equally valid studies that kind of, you know, “prove” that gamers are, by and large, normal people. We think one of them might’ve been titled “Real Life.”
So yeah, odds are, this bill won’t be sitting on Capitol Hill for long. Sorry, Baca. Same time next week?
PC gaming’s anti-piracy measures seem to be proceeding along a path not unlike the one the games they’re sworn to protect once traveled. First, games (and anti-piracy) were merciless and cruel – prone to punishing players whether they succeeded or tattooed the underside of a tire with their pixilated frog’s surprisingly red guts. But now, times are a changin’. Today’s games are nice and gentle, giving players a gentle pat on the shoulder if they fail, and a big ol’ lie cake if they finish the fight.
Ok, enough with the overwrought metaphor.
See, with companies like Valve – and now Relic – in the picture, anti-piracy measures no longer have to punish gamers. As explained by Dawn of War II lead designer Jonny Ebbert:
“We want to give out steady doses of free downloadable content because we believe in rewarding people who buy the game and the reason we don’t like DRM solutions is because they punish the innocent and they have to jump through all these hoops.”
“We don’t want to do that so we’re going with the approach that Valve pioneered to just reward the people who actually bought the game with cool stuff,” he added. “Free downloadable, regularly accessible stuff that enhances the game and then that’s an incentive for the people who didn’t buy the game to buy it. So we’ve got a really bold, robust strategy for that and we’re going to be revealing more details in about a month, but I think players are going to like it.”
A robust open beta? No DRM? Free goodies on a regular basis? We're only nine days into 2009, and Relic may already have snatched the "Best Developer of 2009" award right out of our hearts. Bravo, guys and gals.
A bit of good news for those forced into a Twilight Zone-esque loop of reliving the Fallout 3 main quest’s final, anticlimactic seconds ad nauseam: the game’s upcoming “Broken Steel” DLC pack will remove its game-halting point-of-no-return.
And, as if the opportunity to spend eternity wandering an irradiated hell weren’t enough, Bethesda also intends to sow some growing room into your character’s jammies. Ten levels of growing room, to be exact.
"We plan on raising [the level cap] to level 30 - but it will be a long, hard climb to get there," Bethesda lead DLC producer Jeff Gardiner told Eurogamer.
The apparent increased leveling time should have many players sighing with relief, as ascending mountains of fallen foes to an absolute peak of level 20 wasn’t exactly difficult in a game of Fallout 3’s scale.
However, we have to ask: Why release the Broken Steel content pack – or at least a few of its features -- in March, after the other two content packs, titled “Operation: Anchorage” and “The Pitt,” have already come and gone? After all, many players have characters mired in save points near the game’s currently inescapable ending, while others hit the level cap long ago. Will they now be forced to resist the DLC’s allure until March if they wish to enjoy it to its fullest?