Tim Schafer Talks ‘Brutal Legend’

GamePro’s Dave Rudden has an interview with Tim Schafer, the creative mind behind EA’s Brutal Legend.   The title s blend of open-world action and real-time strategy based on a heavy metal music premise, and girded by celebrity involvement and a massive soundtrack of licensed music, made it somewhat of a marketing enigma.  That distinction has killed many a videogame.  Given that, and not unlike Schafer s previous games, “Brutal Legend” had its share of hardcore fanatics and ho-hum detractors.  Before seeing light of day, Brutal Legend changed hands between publishers when Activision bought the game s original rights owner Vivendi and shelved the project.  That prompted Schafer to sign a deal with EA, and as a result face a breach of contract lawsuit that it eventually settled with Activision.

With the title out, Rudden talks to Schafer about whether the game has met his expectations, both in terms of critical reception and sales.  He also draws a couple of tidbits about the game s marketing, including challenges with positioning its RTS component and foregoing licensed music in the TV spot.

Read the interview at GamePro.

Microsoft Of Mobile

Writing for NY Times, Jenna Wortham says the clearest sign that the iPhone has become a centerpiece for Apple just might be the 24-foot monument of 20,000 LED lights at the company’s headquarters.  Each time someone purchases an app for their iPhone through the App Store, the corresponding icon on the LED wall lights up.  Wortham looks at how Apple s success with the iPhone has changed peoples’ perception of what a smart phone should be.  The tectonic shift hasn t just been to the mobile device landscape, it has taken hold of Apple as it begins to sense an opportunity to become the Microsoft of mobile.  All it has to do is fend off a sudden onslaught by critics of its app approval policies, not to mention fierce competitors geared up to take a bite out of iPhone’s dominance.

Read the article at NY Times.

Shack News Video Game Release List 12/6-12/12

Shack News lists this week s releases for PC, Xbox 360, Sony s PS2, PS3 and PSP, and Nintendo s Wii and DS.

The pickings are bare, as they should be this time of the year.  EA is exposing The Saboteur, coming to PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.  Konami has Silent Hill: Shattered Memories for Wii.  It’s a critically well-received M-rated game based on strong IP, so it could be another performance tracker for publishers wondering about the Wii’s adult audience woes.  Nintendo DS owners should be giddy about Zelda: Spirit Tracks.   Final mention goes to Codemasters Dirt 2 for PC, which had a mysterious delay described as too boring to explain by the game makers.

Check out the full list at Shack News {link no linger active}.

Growth For China Online Game Market

Researcher Analysis International is forecasting significant growth in China s online game market, reports Reuters.  The firm has predicted revenues in the category to reach $10.7 billion over the next three years on growing internet penetration.  Analysys says current internet penetration in the country is at 27 percent, compared to more than 70 percent in South Korea and Japan.  It forecasts expansion of internet service will push the number of online gamers in China from 69 million currently to 230 million people by 2012, growing revenues by an average of 41 percent annually.  Reuters cites growing government oversight as the category grows as a risk to foreign online game operations in China.

Read more at Reuters.

Spike TV Reaches For Halo

Spike TV has managed to firm up yet another high-profile game exclusive for its upcoming 2009 Video Game Awards airing December 12.  As reported in QJ.net, Spike GameTrailers TV host Geoff Keighley has pulled the veil off of a planned exclusive first peek at Bungie s “Halo Reach.”  Keighley dropped the news while speaking on a podcast with Xbox Live personality Major Nelson.  Answering to Twitter rumors that what Spike was going to show would be CG, he promised that the first glimpse is going to be in-game footage.

Read more at QJ.net.

Grand Theft Auto IP Has Peaked, Says Analyst

Broadpoint AmTech analyst Ben Schachter suggests that Take-Two s flagship franchise Grand Theft Auto has reached saturation point with gamers.  As reported in Industry Gamers, Schachter points to the underperformance of GTA titles and downloadable content released this year for Xbox live, Sony PSP and Nintendo DS, despite being quality fare that was well-promoted and competitively priced.  He says that lower than expected performance coupled with the growing competition of open-world action games going forward doesn t bode well for Take-Two.  Schachter also labeled as a “bombshell” guidance by Take-Two that it will not be profitable in 2010 despite high-profile games from key franchise Bioshock, Max Payne, Red Dead and Mafia.

Read more at Industry Gamers {link no longer active}.

Target Opens Holiday Quick Shop Stores

US retail giant Target has opened temporary storefronts in major cities carrying popular items for quick shopping on the go, reports Ad Age.  The stores, called Target-to-Go, are being launched in New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C. from Dec. 11-13.  In stock will be about 50 of the most popular products for holiday shoppers, ranging in price from under a dollar for items such as Christmas ornaments to high-priced electronics.  Ad Age says Sony PSPs are among products being stocked.  Target is using Twitter to promote the stores, with each storefront running its own Twitter feed to inform people about their location and items for sale.

Read more at Ad Age {link no longer active}.

Original WOW Screenwriter Drops Hints

Screenwriter Gary Whitta has hinted to where the upcoming film based on Blizzard s massively profitable game franchise World of Warcraft may not be going.  As reported in 1up, Whitta was brought on board to write the screenplay for the film before Blizzard landed big-name Hollywood talent in Spiderman director Sam Raimi.  Whitta said that he penned three drafts for a script with a story following all of the game s major races and locations, and with plenty of Easter Eggs for fans of the franchise.  He said Raimi s vision differed from his and that the director wanted to tell a completely different story.  Raimi hired Saving Private Ryan screenwriter Robert Rodat once he signed on the project.  Whitta added that he s sure Raimi and Rodat will be true to the IP and still make a film that’s incredible.

Read more at 1up {link no linger active}.

The Beautiful Game In 3D

Sony is using the 2010 FIFA World Cup to kick off its push for 3D HDTV technology.  The company is taping 25 matches using 3D cameras at the international soccer tournament (read: mother of all sports tournaments) taking place this summer in South Africa.  The matches will be televised in 3D at special Sony Fan Fest screenings in seven cities worldwide including London, Paris and Berlin.

Sony has estimated that revenue from 3D related products from its line of HDTVs, computers, Blu-ray players, PS3 consoles and videogames will tally up to one trillion yen, or more than $11 billion, by 2013.  The company s announcement for 3D World Cup games prompted analyst firm Screen Digest to raise its forecast for Europe 3D TV adoption, pegging it at an estimated 13.6 million sets by 2013.

Read more at Brand Republic.

Dark Continent For Games

Australia’s entertainment ratings board has refused to grant rating classification for Sega’s Alien vs. Predator due to violent content, reports Gamespot.  The game has joined a growing list of recent titles rejected for inappropriate content by the country, which has no game rating equivalent to a mature or 18+ rating used in the U.S., UK and other major territories.

In denying the game a rating in its current form and effectively banning it, Australia’s Classification Board cited violence such as decapitation, dismemberment, location-specific damage, and the depiction of human corpses as trophies.   Sega said it will appeal the ruling but made no comment regarding changes to the game to address the board’s objections.  Gamespot suggests Sega’s refusal to censor content in order to release “Alien vs. Predator” in Germany may have set precedence for the same outcome in Australia should the appeal be denied.

Read more at Gamespot {link no longer active}.