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AAG Feature: The Week That Was #2

Howdy readers, and welcome to another instalment of All Age Gaming’s “The Week That Was”, our weekly review of all things PS3, Wii and Xbox 360.

It was another dry week in game releases this week, but for Wii owners it was a good one. The Conduit, a first-person-shooter built from the ground up specifically for the Wii, was released this week. So far some mixed reviews for this title, but definitely worth checking out for Wii owners looking for a decent FPS. For 360 owners, the baseball game The Bigs 2 was released after a one week delay. A good buy for baseball fans, but for others it might be a rent-first title.

Starting with PS3 news this week, following months of PS3 “slim” rumours, videos and pictures of a supposed slim model out in the wild have surfaced. The credibility of the video is questionable as it has surfaced in an underground market in the Philippines. However, the model shown in the video is similar to previous photos of the “slim” PS3 so there may be some merit to the video.

There have been plenty of announcements and leaks regarding the release schedule of various PS3 games this week. A supposedly leaked schedule of first party PS3 releases has been making the rounds on the net, and among the list is a rumoured release date of September 30 for Uncharted 2. Gran Turismo 5 also appears on the list, without a set date, but listed for 2009. Meanwhile, Heavy Rain will be delayed until 2010. Quantic Dream, creators of the brilliant Fahrenheit game, have decided to post-pone the game’s release to avoid competing with titles such as Assassins Creed 2, Uncharted 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in the holiday season.

In Sony Home news this week, Home’s platform director Peter Edward has revealed that seven million people have signed up for PlayStation Home. Home has gradually developed since its launch, with new rooms regularly added where gamers can meet up with other gamers and also play mini-games and receive goodies. This sounds all well and good, but unfortunately for Sony, only 25-30% of PSN account holders come back to Home. Edward states that the initial problem was the lack of content when first launched. However, with new content being added, visitor numbers are starting to build.

For those who didn’t realise, Sony got into the motion-control act at E3 (Sux-axis doesn’t count!) displaying their motion controller that consists of a couple of “wands”. This week, more details of the controllers were displayed at conference Develop in the UK. Kish Hirani, boss of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe developer services, stated that the device can track “true 3D”, while Colin Hughes added that there was an absence of lag. The wands on display are still prototypes, but if Sony can live up to the hype and developers make the most use out of them, the Wii and Project Natal will have some stiff competition.

Meanwhile, Japan has seen the launch of a pay-to-play system on the PSN. Sony Japan re-released Gomibako (Trash Panic elsewhere) in this new form where gamers can choose to pay ¥100 for three lives. The aim of this system is to recreate an arcade machine feel and it also allows for areas of Home to be unlocked that are unavailable in the normal version. No plans have been announced on a pay-to-play system outside of Japan at this point.

Moving onto Wii news, this week saw confirmation from Nintendo that “Punch-Out!!” will finally launch in Australia next month. Released last month in the UK and US this boxing title will hit Australian shores on August 27. The catch however is that it will only be available at JB Hifi. According to Nintendo Australia managing director Rose Lappin, this is the result of JB being the only retailer that was really chasing this title. I think I just saw competitive pricing go out the window.

Lappin has also talked about other game releases this week, and although no dates have been set in stone, Australia will be seeing Wii Fit Plus and New Super Mario Brothers for the Wii sometime later this year. Wii Fit Plus is due for an October release, while the new Mario game is expected for late November, or early December.

Meanwhile the man behind Mario, Shigeru Miyamoto, has talked about the upcoming Super Mario Galaxy 2 in Nintendo Power. SMG2 looks to be more of a challenge than the first game, being geared towards more experienced players, while still being accessible to new players. Miyamoto stated that they have, “built it with consideration that we believe that people who played through the first Mario Galaxy have become better players.” The game is set for release sometime in 2010.

In a blow to Wii owners and “No More Heroes” fans, the series’ lead designer Goichi Suda believes “No More Heroes 2” will be the last instalment of this franchise on the Wii. Suda states that the “Wii is a great platform, but we’ve done everything we can with it now.” Technically this doesn’t rule out NMH perhaps appearing on a future Nintendo platform, just not the Wii.

And finally, although No More Heroes looks to be saying bye to the Wii, a new franchise might be arriving to the system. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 may be coming to the Wii. Although still not confirmed, JB Hifi are currently promoting pre-orders for the title on Wii, with other outlets also taking pre-orders.

It was a busy week in Xbox 360 news this week. First up, Command and Conquer fans will be disappointed to find out that the final instalment to the Tiberium Saga will unlikely be seen on the 360. This comes about due to a poor reception to the previous outing on the system with C&C3.

Not only are 360 owners going to miss out on C&C4, but they may also be missing out on indie-produced games on the Xbox Live Arcade Service. This comes at their own doing, as several anonymous developers claim that Microsoft is reducing the number of independently-developed games for the Arcade service. This is believed to be due to concerns over an overload of content, and perhaps from pressure from major third-party publishers.

In other LIVE news, it looks like Australian LIVE users will finally be getting movies and TV shows on-demand. It will come via a service known as Zune Video, which allows for video content to be streamed at resolutions up to 1080p. However, problems such as Australia’s slow internet speeds and low download caps may hinder the experience. Kotaku’s David Wildgoose’s discussion with Xbox Australia’s marketing manager Jeremy Hinton over these issues can be found here. The service will be available sometime before Christmas.

Microsoft is also set to preview some new features on LIVE starting from Monday (20th July). These features were unveiled at this year’s E3, and include: Netflix updates (not available in Australia), an Avatar Marketplace where your money can be spent to dress up your Avatar, Games on Demand which will allow you to purchase full Xbox 360 games as well as Xbox originals via LIVE, a User Rating system for games so you can see what other people think of games before you try them, and various other updates. The preview will be available to media and select LIVE community members only at this point.

And this week Microsoft regional Xbox director for the UK, Neil Thompson, has urged the video games industry to help educate people about the 360’s parental controls. Thompson still believes that most parents consider game consoles to be a child’s toy, and that the console makers also need to educate on game ratings and their meanings. Hopefully an initiative is put forth in Australia to help local parents, and perhaps *cough* politicians *cough*, understand game ratings and parental controls better which would allow for R18+ rated games. Hopefully.

And now for other news in brief:

· This week saw a leak of the next Tomb Raider game, showing a more mature, darker themed game. Unfortunately lawyers were right on to it, and most sites have removed any stories related to the leak.

· Apple might be moving into gaming. If you thought, “what about the iPhone and iPod?”, I’m talking about a new gaming device.

· What does a Modern Warfare 2 “Prestige Edition” need? If you answered, “night vision goggles” then give yourself medal. This very limited edition will include the MW2 game, a tin case, a token to download the original CoD, an artbook as well as a fully functioning pair of night vision goggles. It won’t come cheap, with an expected retail price of $US149 USD, but even dearer for the UK at £120 ($US195 USD).

· Take-Two have confirmed that BioShock 2, Mafia II, Max Payne 3 and Red Dead Redemption will all see their releases in the first half of 2010.

· A war-of-words is brewing between UFC president Dana White and EA sports. White claims that EA Sports told UFC that they’re “not a real sport”, yet they’ve recently announced a future MMA title.

· A new Grand Theft Auto game looks to be in development, and might even be out by late 2010.

· Activision have revealed 22 more songs included in the Guitar Hero 5 set-list, as well as details of the new drum kit and guitar.

· Harmonix are set to allow bands to prepare and release their own downloadable content for the Rock Band games. Tracks will be uploaded to the Rock Band Network website, where Harmonix-trained freelance game developers will prep the tracks and check for excessive profanity and copyright infringements.

· The recession has continued to impact significantly on game sales in the U.S. with June video game sales down 31% compared with June 2008. A lack of blockbuster titles has also been blamed.

And that’s the news! Thank you, come again.

Article Written by Phong Nguyen

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