Sunday, October 16, 2005

Another round of news ...

It's long past due, but yet again here I am with some recent happening in the video game industry. Check it all out and let me know your thoughts.
  • EA & Spielberg Phone Home

    Electronic Arts announced on Friday that it has signed a new long term development deal with Hollywood mastermind Steven Spielberg. According to EA, the deal calls for Spielberg to collaborate on site with EA's Los Angeles Studio (EALA) to develop three new original franchise properties. Spielberg will work directly with EA's development teams on the concepts, designs, stories, and artistic visions of the new games. Meanwhile, EA will own the intellectual properties, as well as handle the publishing and distribution of the new titles.

    For his part, Spielberg stated:
    "I have been playing EA games for years and have watched them master the interactive format. Having watched the game industry grow from a niche into a major creative force in entertainment, I have a great deal of respect for EA's understanding of the interactive format. I'm looking forward to working closely with the team in Los Angeles."
    The financial details of the deal weren't disclosed, but it's a safe bet that EA shelled out more than a couple of bucks for Spielberg's expertise.

  • Video Killied the iPod Star

    Last week, the Apple sent the press a cryptic email stating "Just one more thing." Well, Steve Jobs finally officially announced one of his company's worst kept secrets, the new iPod Video. The new iPod boasts a 2.5-inch, 320 x 240 pixel TFT display, 20 hour battery life, and up to 150 hours of video storage capability. Apple also took the opportunity to announce a new deal with ABC which will allow iTunes users to buy episodes of hit ABC television series Lost and Desperate Housewives the day after they initially air on the network.

    Now, the announcement of the iPod's new video capability is interesting for a couple of reasons. First off, Apple seems to be shooting itself in the foot by bringing this new iPod to the market hot on the heels of its iPod Nano. The new iPod could seriously cut into the iPod Nano's sales. Of course, it may also help to alleviate some retailer frustration, as the Nano's demand seemed to be severely outweighing its supply.

    Another gaming related spin on the iPod announcement relates to Sony's PSP. iTunes has already established itself as the jukebox software of choice for many MP3 owners, and now Apple will be releasing videos through the service. Meanwhile, over at Sony, the PSP has been seeing more and more success based on its multimedia capabilities. Though the PSP's library of games has been light until recently, sales of UMD movies have been through the roof. In Japan, Sony has started up an online service which allows PSP owners to download videos straight to their PSPs via an online WiFi connection. The service has seen a pretty favorable public response, and is now in the early stages of development here in the States.

    Can Sony's service carve out a niche for itself out of the large iTunes consumer base? Will consumers be content to watch video on the iPod's 2.5-inch, 320 x 240 display? Or would they rather go the route of the PSP's 4.3 inch (16:9 ratio) 480 x 272 display? These questions, and many more, will be answered in the next installment of "As The Video Turns".

  • And Speaking of the PSP

    Sony quietly released the latest firmware update for the PSP this week, bringing the system up to version 2.50. The new update adds a few new features, including the ability to update the time and date via the internet, support for playback of copy-protected video, the ability to save information entered into online forms, and other minor tweaks to the interface. One potentially sizeable update is the addition of Sony's LocationFree Player software to the PSP. This mean that if you own a LocationFree base station, you can use the PSP as a wireless television. Okay, so many of us may not yet own the $200+ base station required to actually USE this feature, it still shows that Sony is really pushing the PSP as true portable entertainment device.

  • "The Beginning Is Nigh"

    Oh look ... yet another cryptic "viral marketing" campaign. *sigh*

    Earlier this week, unusual photos began appearing in various Xbox themed online forums from a mysterious poster under the name "Lutz". These pictures, supposedly taken in various location around the United States, feature a circular design containing the Roman Numerals 1, 6, and 8. Immediately, fans began to wonder if this might mark the first rumblings of Halo 3 for the Xbox 360 ... with some even assuming that the numbers represented a release date of 8/1/06.

    So far, there's no word on what the symbols actually mean, but the website HEX 168 purports to be a tabloid-like "Lutz World Report" written by the mysterious Jason Q. Lutz. In it, Lutz maintains that he "cannot track down and document the mounting evidence of the power of Hex 168" and that soon he "will enlist the help of the truly committed, bring them together to witness the New Beginning before the rest of the world, and reward them with a physical manifistation of the power of Hex 168." The site also features a countdown clock which will run out on Tuesday, November 18th at 3pm EST (12pm Noon PST).

    On an interesting uber-geek note, the hexadecimal code 1-6-8 translates to the binary code of 0001 0110 1000, which (besides being an interesting palindrome) translates from binary code into decimal code as "360". A couple of math savvy posters threw this info out there, and yes ... I DID take the time to double check behind them before reporting it. So, is this a hint at something big coming for the Xbox 360? Who knows? I guess we'll all find out more on Tuesday.

    Here are copies of some of the pictures showing up online:

And on a final note (for now), I usually don't simply post press releases when I get them sent to me, but this is one time I'll make an exception because I think it's a good cause:


Games Needed For Kids Wish Network's Hospital Programs

Donations of Teen Titles Make Big Difference for Kids Suffering from Chronic Illness

OLDSMAR, FL – October 14, 2005 - Kids Wish Network, a nationally recognized charity dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children suffering with life-threatening illnesses, needs video game donations for their in-hospital support programs for kids with chronic illnesses. The charity is currently experiencing a critical shortage of much needed items for their hospital gift-giving programs and is hoping that you can assist them in continuing their mission of bringing joy to children in need.

At this time, Kids Wish Network is seeking games and entertainment items for children ages 3-18, but particularly for those in their teens, more specifically ages 13-18. Unfortunately the needs of older children are often overlooked, and the hospital can be just as frightening and stressful at 18 as it can be at eight! Items for this age group are difficult to secure, and Kids Wish Network's Distribution Center is running seriously low on their teen-oriented inventory. Your generous contribution is desperately needed to help fill our giving event teen gift bags!

In addition to granting the wishes of children suffering with life-threatening illnesses, Kids Wish Network brings gifts, entertainment, special guests, and a much-needed break from medical treatment to hospitalized children all across the country through its Holiday of HopeTM gift-giving program. During these events, Kids Wish Network staff and volunteers also distribute age appropriate gift bags full of toys and other treasures to the young patients and their often-forgotten siblings.

A new toy or game can quickly dry the eyes of a frightened child and distract them from stinging needles, scary machines and the loneliness of being in a strange place. Pediatric doctors and nurses all agree that sometimes a smile can be the very best medicine.

"Most of our patients are medically indigent, with very limited resources," said Martha Benzor, Volunteer Coordinator at LAC+USC Women's & Children's Hospital in Los Angeles of the Kids Wish Network Holiday of HopeTM held at their hospital. "The wonderful toys they received helped enlighten their lives!"

The entertainment items and toys that we receive are never sold or distributed to other organizations. There is no middleman; they are given directly to the children.

Your donation is tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law, and WE PAY THE FREIGHT in the continental U.S. If you would like more information on Kids Wish Network, please visit our website at, or call toll free at (888) 918-9004.

If your company is able to assist Kids Wish Network with any of these items, please contact Barbara Askin at 813-814-0788 or by email at

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