(Update 2) Emergence Day Hits in October?[xbox360]
Emergence Day, the marketing phrase Microsoft and Epic use to refer to the release date of Epic's upcoming Gears of War (X360), has never been officially nailed down, despite the frequent usage of the words at various industry events and in promotional materials. However, if Xbox.com is to be believed, the game will be shipping October 2, 2006. Gears of War's product page has been updated to reflect this new date, though publisher Microsoft has not issued any statements or press releases on the matter. Still, somebody had to put that date up, and with Gears of War being one of the most anticipated titles on the Xbox 360, it's likely Microsoft would be extra careful with details such as these.
(Update) Shacknews has received a response from a Microsoft representative, who stated, "Microsoft has not yet announced a release date for Gears of War, it still remains only as Emergence Day 2006."
Ubisoft Drives Off with Driver[ps2] [ps3] [xbox] [xbox360] [nintendo]
Ubisoft announced that it has made a deal with Driver series developer Reflections Interactive and publisher Atari to acquire all rights to the Driver franchise as well as "most of the assets and all of the personnel" from Reflections itself. According to Ubisoft, the total price of the acquisition from one French publisher to another is $24M.
While the original Driver (PS1, GBC, PC) as well as Driver 2 (PS1) were fairly well received, the highly hyped DRIV3R (PS2, Xbox, GBA, PC) was largely panned by the gaming press, and upon the game's release allegations were made that certain game review outlets had accepted monetary rewards to artificially inflate review scores. While the latest entry, Driver: Parallel Lines (PS2, Xbox, PSP), fared somewhat better with critics than its predecessor, it failed to return the series to gamers' good graces. Ubisoft hopes to reinvigorate the series and use the Reflections crew to work its way into the driving genre, from which the publisher has been oddly absent in recent years. Anyone remember POD on the PC?
"We are thrilled with this acquisition which will allow us to add a prestigious title to our catalog and to enter into the driving games segment, one of the most important segments in the gaming industry," said Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot. "With more than 14 million units sold throughout the world, Driver is one of the most successful brands in the history of video games. We look forward to leveraging the unique knowledge of the Ubisoft studios to ensure that Driver will be one of the leading brands of the next generation of consoles." The deal is set to close in the second quarter of Ubisoft's fiscal year 2007, which runs from July 1, 2006 to September 30, 2006.
Treyarch Building Bond[ps3] [xbox360] [nintendo]
According to job postings on Activision's official site, Santa Monica-based developer Treyarch is working on Activision's first Bond game. Treyarch is looking for a gameplay designer and lead character artist to fill out its ranks on what it describes as a "next gen title." No specific platforms were mentioned.
Currently, Treyarch is also working on Call of Duty 3 (PS3, X360, Wii, PS2, Xbox).
Wii Controller Specifics Revealed?[nintendo]
IGN Wii claims to have obtained official developer documentation from Nintendo for its upcoming Wii console, containing various details regarding the system's unique controller. Most interestingly, the controller apparently contains 6KB of non-volatile memory. IGN is unsure as to its purpose, though it may be related to the controller's built in speaker, or on the more speculative side it may be able to store some sort of player settings. However, the documentation apparently does not yet contain information on the speaker functionality.
The "SYNCHRO" button located inside the Wii's front flap is apparently used to initially set up the controllers to communicate with the console itself. It also appears that the four LEDs on the controller's face have two functions. In addition to the obvious indication as to which player number to which the controller pertains, they also blink when the console is powered on, indicating the controller's battery level. Apparently, the controllers accept two AA batteries, with 30-60 hours of battery life depending on what functions are being used.
For more details, including how the controller could theoretically be used as a camera, check out the IGN report.
Sony Tries Memory Sticks for PSP Movies[psp]
Sony this week announced a new (legal) way to watch movies on PSP without a UMD. The company will be introducing a Memory Stick Duo Entertainment Pack containing a 1GB or 2GB Memory Stick as well as the choice to load one of four movies onto the Memory Stick: Hitch, S.W.A.T., The Grudge, or XXX: State of the Union. The packages will ship with a DVD containing all four movies, but once the user has selected one movie to be loaded, the other three will remain unavailable. The transferred movie will be watchable only on PSP. According to online reports, the films will play at a resolution of 240x320.
This announcement comes following reports from retailers that UMD movies for PSP Earlier this year, studios such as Universal and Paramount announced plans to drastically scale back their production of UMD films. Now, retailer Target has announced that it has cut all support for UMD movies nationwide. Still, Sony claims that the Memory Stick movie option is unrelated to any ill fortunes befalling UMD. "The UMD was never a factor in the development of this product," said a Sony representative. "We're a universal entertainment company and we're able to offer the consumer more choice."
The Memory Stick Duo Entertainment Packs will be available next month at MSRPs of $60 and $100 for the 1GB and 2GB versions respectively.
DS and 360 Help Boost Industry Sales[ps2] [ps3] [xbox] [xbox360] [gamecube] [nintendo] [ds] [psp] [gba]
NPD Funworld, which tracks sales data in the video game industry, today released its June numbers, and the numbers were far higher than analysts had predicted, which have been largely attributed to very strong DS sales fuelled by DS Lite, as well as an upswing in Xbox 360 sales month to month. DS ended up on top, moving 593,000 units (prompting Nintendo to issue a self-congratulatory press release) in the 19 days DS Lite was on sale in June; this gave the system a staggering 426% increase in sales over the same month in 2005, accompanied by a 264% increase in software sales year over year.
PlayStation 2 performed well as usual, with sales of 311,900 units. Though it beat out Xbox 360 with its sales of 277,000, Microsoft's machine helped boost overall numbers with its June figures representing a 26% increase in monthly sales. PSP was next with 221,000, and Xbox managed to grab 24,000. Sales data for GameCube, which has seen consistently declining sales performance, was not yet available. Nor were figures for Game Boy Advance, which has been consistently outperforming Nintendo DS and PSP in North America, but likely will not have done so this month given the boost conferred to DS by its revised hardware.
On the software front, New Super Mario Bros. (NDS) kept the top slot it grabbed upon its release in May. Rockstar Leeds' PS2 version of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (PS2, PSP) debuted at #2. Nintendo's two brain games, Brain Age (NDS) and Big Brain Academy (NDS) came in at #3 and #8 respectively. Rainbow Studios' adaptation of Pixar's Cars took three spots: #4 for PS2, #6 for Game Boy Advance, and #10 for GameCube. Io Interactive's Hitman: Blood Money (PS2, Xbox, X360, PC), which came out right at the end of May, took two: #5 for Xbox 360 and #9 for PS2. Finally, EA's FIFA World Cup 2006 for PS2 took #7.
Game Informer has a video Q&A on Volition's Saint's Row (X360).
Console Game Of The Evening [Submit Yours!]
Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo. "The game had excellent graphics at the time, and the different physics of playing as donkey or diddy kong, not to mention all the animals/minecarts you could ride, made it a fun platformer." (submitted by belal)