Activision Announces: PS3, Revolution Launch Titles[ps2] [xbox360] [xbox] [gamecube] [ds] [psp] [gba]
In its quaterly earnings conference call, Activision announced several upcoming games for 2006.
The first new title announced was Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam, a new spinoff of the Tony Hawk franchise aimed at younger gamers. Other than being an "extension of the Tony Hawk brand," no concrete details were revealed during the game. Activision compares the marketing approach to that of Call of Duty 2: Big Red One (PS2, Xbox, GCN), which ran parallel to the "main" version of Call of Duty 2 (X360, PC) but is a different game targeted at a different market. The Call of Duty approach was described as a great success, so we should see more of this franchise-splitting from Activision in the future.
In addition to noting that the company would be launching additional Xbox 360 and PSP games throughout the year, Activision also expects to be contributing at least one Revolution launch title and three PlayStation 3 launch titles when those consoles ship this year. No details were given in regards to the titles, but given the success Activision had with its licensed titles this past year and the underperformance of new IP like Gun (PS2, Xbox, GCN, X360, PC), it seems likely that the publisher will rely mainly on existing proprties for the console launches. Given Activision's stated goal of one to two new intellectual properties a year, expect to see them on more established systems.
The company plans to support the Xbox 360 version of Call of Duty 2 "as if it were a newly launched title" in Activision's fiscal year 2007 (which begins in April 2006) for the purpose of updates and additions. This is due to the install base of Xbox 360, which is expected to grow significantly as Microsoft gets its supply caught up to demand.
In regards to Neversoft's new franchise Gun and Luxoflux's continuing franchise True Crime, both lines sold under expectations, and future plans for additional sequels are not concrete.
Ryu ga Gotoku May Go to North America?[ps2]
A couple weeks ago, I reported on news from a reliable source that European localizations of Sega's Yakuza epic Ryu ga Gotoku (PS2) are in the works. The game, from producer Toshihiro Nahoshi, was released in Japan to strong critical response but has yet to be announced for release in other territories. My source seemed fairly confident, however, and further evidence has sprung up in support of that rumor. The internet has uncovered a Sega-registered US trademark (#78801116) of the word "Yakuza" for use in "home video game software." If this does refer to Ryu go Gotoku, which seems very likely given the game's Yakuza theme, it implies that the game will be coming not only to Europe but to North America as well. Fingers crossed.
Foundation 9 Founds New Studio[ps2] [ps3] [xbox] [xbox360] [gamecube] [nintendo] [ds] [psp] [gba]
Foundation 9, which bills itself as the "largest independent developer in North America," has announced the opening of a new Canadian development studio. Foundation 9 was formed last year when independents The Collective and Backbone Entertainment merged; and it now also comprises developers Pipeworks Software, ImaginEngine, and Digital Eclipse.
The new studio, based on Charlettetown, Prince Edward Island, will be Backbone-branded and will be equipped to develop for all current- and next-gen consoles. It should begin development by March. Backbone, which already has studios in Emeryville, Vancouver, and Honolulu, was responsible for last year's Death Jr. (PSP) and is currently working on Age of Empires: The Age of Kings (DS).
There are parallels to be drawn between Foundation 9 and Elevation Partners, which last year acquired Pandemic Studios and BioWare and is now rumored to be considering a Take-Two acquisition. Both companies unite multiple developers in an attempt to gain leverage in dealings with publishers and provide security by means of a diversified development portfolio. However, unlike Foundation 9 and most other developers, Elevation may soon be a publicly traded company.
DICE Cancels Part of a Game[ps2] [ps3] [xbox] [xbox360] [psp]
According to a post on developer Digital Illusions CE's official website, the Battlefield developer has cancelled two versions of an unnamed game being produced in conjunction Electronic Arts. Last October, DICE announced that it would be licensing the rights to the PS2, Xbox, and PSP versions of its game out to EA; they would be produced at EA's UK studio. The PSP version is still in the works at EA UK, but the PS2 and Xbox versions have been cancelled entirely.
Apparently, this comes as a result of the strong but disappointing sales of DICE's Battlefield 2: Modern Combat for PS2 and Xbox. Under the royalty system used in DICE's contract with EA, the game would have needed to sell 4 million copies before DICE sees any additional payment beyond the fee for the game's actual development, but only 1 million copies of the game have been sold. DICE does not expect the current gen machines to have enough momentum to result in a different situation the next time around.
The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the mystery game are still in development at DICE's Stockholm studio, and it is set to launch in 2007.
Uwe Boll "Absolutely Not" on MGS[ps2] [ps3]
Despite recent rumors that Uwe Boll has a copy of a script for an upcoming Metal Gear Solid film and is in talks to direct, Metal Gear series creator Hideo Kojima says it's simply not the case. In the second installment of The Kojima Productions Report, an English internet broadcast being hosted from Kojima's personal site, host Ryan Payton denies those rumors with word straight from Kojima himself.
When asked about the possibility of a Boll-directed Metal Gear Solid film, Kojima reportedly replied with a fairly concrete, "Absolutely not. I don't know why Uwe Boll is even talking about this kind of thing. We never talked to him. It's impossible that we'd ever do a movie with him."
In other Uwe Boll news, it appears the good doctor is not too upset about his recent Razzie nod for Worst Director. Speaking to Eurogamer, the filmmaker called it "a great honor." He explained, "I take every prize I get."
Activision Earnings Down[ps2] [xbox360] [xbox] [gamecube] [ds] [psp] [gba]
In addition to the semi-announcements made in its quarterly conference call, Activision of course also announced its earnings for the quarter. The publisher saw a 20% increase in revenue from the same period of the prior fiscal year, up to $816.2M. However, actual earnings were 30% down to $67.9M from $97.3M last year. The increased sales met estimates but earnings were significantly below. Activision cited "weaker than expected market conditions" as a primary factor in the results, which come days after EA announced similar profit drops.
Following the announcements, Activision stock dropped 7% to $13.30.
Steve mentioned Wired's Vaporware Awards in ER, but I'm mentioning them here too because there are a couple console games on there. #6 is Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GCN), which was delayed from a holiday season 2006 release to some time in 2006. Blizzard's Starcraft: Ghost (PS2, Xbox) came in at #5 due to its three years of delays, swapped developers, and dropped Cube version. Infinium Labs' trusty Phantom Gaming Service console made #2, with executives on a revolving door policy and more delays than anyone can count. #1 wasn't a console game, and I don't even think I need to say what it is.
IGN has a video interview with Sony Bend's Chris Reese on Syphon Filter Dark Mirror (PSP).
Screenshots: SingStar Rocks! (PS2).
Movies: Burnout Revenge (X360, also PS2, Xbox).
Screenshots: Yoot Saito's Odama (GCN).