Microsoft Natal Out 2010, Priced For ‘Impulse Buy’

Microsoft’s motion sensing device for Xbox 360 will reportedly be priced around $100 and ship November 2010. MCV UK reports details about Natal emerged from a Microsoft closed-door tour with UK game publishers and developers. The $100 price tag is an estimate based on pricing at below 50 GBP communicated to the UK game companies. One publisher told MCV the pricing is Microsoft’s attempt to get as close as possible to an impulse buy price tag.

MCV says Microsoft is preparing to launch with 5 million units worldwide and fourteen games. Microsoft unveiled a list of major publishers developing for Natal at this year’s Tokyo Game Show. Read more at MCV.

NY Times: ‘Uncharted 2’ Is Unparalleled Cinematic Gaming

Writing for NY Times, Seth Schiesel heaps praise on Uncharted 2: Among Thieves as a step in the right direction for highly polished, cinematic game experiences. Schiesel says no other game has delivered an experience that comes close to Sony s PS3 game, calling it the best-looking game on any system. In an amusing anecdote, he shares how the game forced him to break his personal rule of banishing games from the living room. After starting to play on his HD desktop monitor, he found himself eventually hooking up the game to his 46-inch Sony Bravia.  Read more at NY Times.

Blockbuster To Rent Films On SD Cards

US rental chain Blockbuster is rolling out a program to rent movies loaded onto SD cards, reports Fast Company. The cards can be played back on mobile phones and other SD-capable devices. Blockbuster is charging $1.99 per rental, with customers allowed to keep the SD card while the content becomes unplayable after an expiration date.

FastCompany says the move is in response to the growing popularity of cheap rentals offered through RedBox kiosks, as well as the growing adoption of online movie streaming through services such as Netflix Watch Instantly. Read more at FastCompany.

Analysis: EA’s $400 Million Acquisition Of Playfish

Om Malik of GigaOm looks at EA’s $400 million acquisition of social game maker Playfish. Malik sees the deal as putting a seal of approval on social games, where a traditional game publishing giant has now paid a premium price to bring a developer of such fare in-house. Playfish’s popular games such as Restaurant City and Pet Society attract tens of millions of players through social networks such as Facebook. The company makes revenues through micro-transactions of in-game items.

Malik breaks the deal down into winners and losers. He sees big money winners in Playfish’s management as well as investor Index Ventures, given the sweetness of EA’s deal. On the flip side, he says EA is the loser for paying that hefty price to get into online casual games, an area where the publisher has thus far been flailing. Malik also looks at how the consolidation could affect the other big player in social gaming, Zynga.

Read more at GigaOm.

Windows To The Soulless

The unofficial moniker for Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed II TV spot is the eyes commercial . The reference is to a creepy intro, where the ad cycles through three close-ups of pale faces with lifeless eyes locked in expressions of terror. It cuts to a fourth face, who isn’t dead. It’s our protagonist, the assassin whose recent body of work is presumably what was just on display. The spot then segues from live actor to in-game model, similar to what Sega’s Bayonetta spot in Japan. It works better here, with the transition not going from human face to CG model.  Rather, it creatively uses shadow thanks to our assassin’s hooded outfit to hide the actor’s face as it transitions to a full shot of the in-game model. What follows is impressive game play footage.

The entire ad is set to the sounds of a tolling bell. It’s not only effective for the intro, featuring three victims for whom it tolled, but it also serves as a fitting background audio for both setting and rhythm in the rest of the spot.


Watch it at YouTube.

Swift Transition

Activision is using the Risky Business singing-in-the-living-room theme again in the TV ad for Band Hero. The theme has been a recurring one for the publisher s music franchise, used in several Guitar Hero spots and featuring an array of celebrities.

This time the ad focuses on music celebrity. It features Taylor Swift, who is fully clothed but backed up by pop artists Rivers Cuomo, Pete Wentz and Travis Barker bandying around in their underwear. A noteworthy effect in this spot is how it communicates the Band Hero experience. The ad transitions out of the Risky Business living room setting, whisking Swift and her backup band onto a stage in front of screaming fans.

It seems this spot in particular is benefiting from how popular culture has sucked the meaning out of Bob Seger’s lyrics, with the song now simply equated with the sequence from Paul Brickman’s film.


Watch it at YouTube.

Analysts Watch ‘Modern Warfare 2’ Launch

Industry analysts are forecasting up to 5 million units of Activision’s Modern Warfare 2 will sell at launch. Writing for CNBC, Chris Morris says analyst predictions would have the shooter shattering the launch day record of 3.6 million units sold set by Rockstar’s GTA IV. The forecast would translate to revenues of up to $300 million for Activision.

Senior analyst at MKM Partners Eric Handler expects Modern Warfare 2 to sell up to 19 million copies over the next two years. Colin Sebastian of Lazard Capital Markets says any issues with demand for this title would raise questions about the overall health of the game industry. Read more at CNBC.

Google Buys Mobile Advertiser AdMob For $750 Million

Google has acquired mobile ad tech company AdMob for $750 million, reports Ad Age. The acquisition is seen as Google strengthening its position in mobile advertising as signs point to a surging sector. Google has seen mobile searches surge by 30 percent between its second and third quarters this year. The move is also being called an indication of the complexity of mobile, where tech giant Google opted to buy into the sector. Ad Age says the AdMob acquisition could spark much needed consolidation among other mobile ad companies. Read more at Ad Age.

Drastic Cuts At EA

EA will lay off 1,500 staff by March 2010 and cancel a dozen projects in development in a bid to save money, reports  Talking to investors, EA CEO John Riccitiello revealed details of the publisher s plan to reduce annual operating expenses by $100 million.  Riccitiello referred to the benchmark being used to decide what games and franchises will remain on EA’s slate, saying anything that sold 2 million units or more in recent releases would be in good shape.

The staff cuts were broken down as 900 positions in development, 500 in publishing and 100 at the corporate level. says studios believed to be affected by the cuts include Black Box, Redwood Shores, Tiburon and Mythic, with some facilities expected to be completely closed down. Read more at

Gamers Want New ‘Resident Evil’ Content As DLC

Capcom has wrapped up its voter drive asking whether Western gamers want new content in Resident Evil 5: Alternative Edition as a packaged product or downloadable content. Reported in 1up, the company is following through on fan demand to release the game through Xbox Live and PlayStation Network in US, Europe and Australia. People will need to have purchased the original Resident Evil 5 to access the new content, which includes new missions and compatibility with Sony’s motion controller on PS3. Read more at 1up.