PS2 Price Drops[ps2]
Confirming recent analyst expectations, Sony Computer Entertainment America today announced a $20 price drop for the PlayStation 2, bringing the machine's suggested retail price to $129.99. This is the first drop for the system in almost two years; it last changed to $149.99 in May 2004. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft will answer with an Xbox price cut. Xbox sales have dropped off significantly since the launch of Xbox 360, and the platform has seen little support in recent months.
Sony's press release cited NPD sales figures pegging PlayStation 2 as holding 55.6% of the current home console market share in the United States. The company clearly hopes to grow that number by making the system even more attractive to casual gamers and gamers on a tight budget. Still, the move does not seem out of complete necessity; PS2 has shipped 33 million units in the United States and was the highest selling console in March in the United States (followed, somewhat surprisingly, by the Game Boy Advance), which is typical of its place in the hardware charts.
Representatives from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe stated that there are no plans to follow suit with a price cut in European territories.
Ridge Racer Races to PS3 Launch[ps3]
Japanese publication Famitsu recently revealed the development of Ridge Racer 7 for PlayStation 3. Now, publisher Namco Bandai has announced that the game will be a launch title for Sony's upcoming system, expected to ship this November. Ridge Racer titles are historically known for launching with Sony systems, accompanying the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PSP so far. Interestingly, while the recent Ridge Racer 6 (X360) was among the weakest selling Xbox 360 launch titles in North America, it was the strongest seller for the Japanese market.
Ridge Racer 7's development team will be headed up by Masaya Kobayashi and Hideo Teramoto, both of whom worked on Ridge Racer (PSP) and Ridge Racer 6. The game will feature over 160 races, 200 cars, and will have support for 14-player online racing.
Namco Bandai Announces Legend of Heroes 2: The Hero's Legend[psp]
Okay, so it's not called that, but I wish it was. Namco Bandai Games today announced that The Legend of Heroes II: Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch is in development for PSP. The game is being developed by Nihon Falcom, and is a followup to last year's The Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion (PSP). Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch tells the story of friends Jurio and Chris, who must put a stop to the mysterious Raual Wave and find the equally mysterious Moonlight Witch.
The Legend of Heroes II: Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch will ship this summer.
DS Student Games for Download[ds]
As you may have noticed, wireless download kiosks for Nintendo DS have been popping up at retailers lately, offering various game demoes rotated periodically. In Japan, however, Nintendo has added more than just demos. The company holds an annual 10 month Game Seminar, a training course allowing young aspiring game developers to complete their own game project. This year, four of the top games resulting from Game Seminar will be included into the download kiosk rotation one at a time, allowing DS owners to check out the games for free. The four games are Nekosogi Tornado, a vertical shooter in which the player uses the stylus to fling projectiles at enemies; Rotate and Erase, a puzzle game in which players must match up lines into like-colored triangles; Bioum, in which players draw organisms that come alive, creating a virtual ecosystem; and--you knew something like this had to be coming eventually--Chii and Fuu's Delicious Picturebook, which has the player teaching mice how to make pancakes. As with demos, the games are stored in the DS' RAM and therefore are wiped once the system is turned off; it can be kept in sleep mode to retain the game. Famitsu has some images of the games, going in the order listed in this article.
With the possible exception of that last game, these games seem equally suited to non-Japanese markets. Hopefully Nintendo decides to localize the games and ship them over to foreign shores. One also can't help but notice parallels to Nintendo's upcoming Virtual Console download service, which it promises will help smaller developers avoid costly distribution problems.
PSP Video Service Goes Live (in Japan)[psp]
Speaking of Japanese, portable console download services, Ars Technica reports that Sony's online PSP video store, dubbed Portable TV, has been launched in Japan. According to Ars, there seem to be some rather odd quirks in the service, particularly when it comes to the DRM used. Video files--which range from episodes of TV shows, to trailers, to music videos--each have individual prices, and some are free. However, the odd part is that each video also has a timer ranging from about 5 to 30 days, and when that timer expires, the content must be renewed for an additional fee, even if it has already been purchased. It is unclear how this works in the case of free content, but the timer apparently still applies. This DRM cannot be bypassed by messing with the PSP's internal clock. The Ars writeup only includes two sample prices: $.90 (105 yen) for a Madonna music video with a one week expiration, and $1.80 for a Coldplay music video with an unspecified time period.
Store membership requires a Japanese credit card and mailing address, so PSP owners hailing from other territories will have to wait and see if Sony announces any localized versions of the service.
1UP takes a look back at a classic (depending on who you ask) SNES RPG, Shigesato Itoi's Earthbound. The sequel to that game, Mother 3 (GBA), is about to be released in Japan after a decade of delays and cancellations. However, 1UP's retrospective is also partially in honor of Grasshopper's DS RPG Contact, which was recently released in Japan and will be hitting North America in July, courtesy of publisher Atlus. (Time for a shill here.) Grasshopper is run by Goichi Suda, the oddball director of Killer7 (PS2, GCN), and like most of his games, Contact is looking pretty bizarre. Its visual aesthetic is gorgeous, however, exploiting the two screens of the DS in a unique way that is particularly eye-catching to longtime gamers. The bottom screen is presented in lush, watercolor-esque colors; the top screen is rendered in stark high-contrast 2D pixel art reminiscent, perhaps not coincidentally, of Earthbound. Atlus is a niche publisher, so this game probably won't get a huge marketing blitz, but don't say I didn't tell you about it!
GameSpot chats with Eidos brand manager Matt Gorman about Crystal Dynamics' Tomb Raider: Legend (PS2, Xbox, GCN, X360, PSP, PC).
IGN checks out an import version of Clover Studio's beautiful Okami (PS2).
IGN tries out Q? Entertainment and Phantagram's Ninety-Nine Nights (X360).
Screenshots: Final Fantasy XI (X360, also PS2, PC).
Movies: Hitman: Blood Money (PS2, Xbox, X360, PC).
GameSpot checks out, and Rebellion's PSP version of Miami Vice (PSP, also PS2, Xbox, PC).
Console Game Of The Evening [Submit Yours!]
Mutant League Hockey for the Sega Genesis. "Traps, pits, skeletons throwing off their gloves to get into heated fisticuffs over a black circular diskette? That's got Platinum Hit written all over it." (submitted by mattage)