Verizon Launches New On-Demand Portal

Verizon and Exent today announced a redesign of the Verizon Games service portal and desktop application. It is designed to offer a better gaming experience, along with 1,500 game choices.

“The early positive feedback from our test gamers has been overwhelming, and we’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to open up the new Verizon Games experience to all of our customers,” said Jason Henderson, games product manager at Verizon. “With the new app and website, people will get the same unparalleled customer experience from their PC games service as they do from Verizon’s TV, Internet and phone services.”

“The Verizon Games platform is the result of much end-user research,” said Jason Akel, vice president/general manager of Exent. “We are quite proud of the resulting interface, which is highly accessible to gamers of all types. At the same time, it was important to us that the interface emphasizes function over form so as not to distract from what the users are really there for – the world’s largest catalog of PC downloadable games.”

Mario Kart Bike Lane

Some clever vandal in Portland, Oregon has marked Mario Kart symbols in certain bike lanes. It probably wouldn’t be Nintendo’s style to do something like this, but it’s neat nonetheless.

Microsoft Talks Xbox 360 Life, 3D Technology

The Xbox 360 is approaching five years of age, and in previous eras this would be a signal that its lifetime was coming to a close. However, with the launch of a popular new version of the hardware and the impending release of Kinect, they hope to go for five more years.

“Kinect really gives us, I think, a very genuine additional five years,” said Chris Lewis, vice president for Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business in Europe. “What Kinect does is broaden us out to users that we weren’t addressing in the past.”

Meanwhile, Sony and Nintendo are gearing up their own 3D efforts, but Microsoft is waiting in the wings; Lewis simply thinks it’s too early. “We are two to three years away from that, till the price point comes down, till the experience is sufficiently social, that you don’t sit there with big glasses on and don’t talk to your family,” he said. “That will happen, there’s no doubt.’

Source: Business Week {link no longer active}

Gamescom 2010 Largest Game Event In World

Koelnmesse has revealed that Gamescom was attended by over 254,000 people. This makes the event the biggest gaming event of its sort in the world with over 500 exhibitors from 33 countries around the world.

“Gamescom 2010 surpassed our expectations and provided new momentum for growth,” said Olaf Wolters, head of German trade body, the BIU. “We were especially pleased by the expansion of the international presence: we brought together more international industry representatives in Cologne than ever before, thus anchoring the position of Gamescom as the international industry trade fair. We are already looking forward to a successful continuation next year.”

Gamescom 2011 has been scheduled to take place in Cologne on August 17 to 21.

Atari Returns To Neverwinter

Atari and Cryptic Studios have announced that they are developing Neverwinter for the PC. Continuing the tradition started with Neverwinter Nights on AOL in 1991, the new Neverwinter will be based around the Forgotten Realms city from the Dungeons & Dragons universe.

“We’re beyond thrilled to develop a brand new version of Neverwinter. It’s been years since the original became a gaming icon and we re honored to work with such a great franchise,” said Jack Emmert, COO of Cryptic Studios. “We’ve been working closely with Wizards of the Coast and R.A. Salvatore to create an authentic D&D adventure filled with compelling fiction and exciting gameplay.”

Neverwinter is set in the most recent version of the city from D&D 4th Edition. The Spellplague has devastated the population, and factions battle for control of the city due to the lack of a ruling Lord of Neverwinter, while the undead scourge the surrounding area.

“Wizards of the Coast is excited to invite millions of fans back to Neverwinter with the launch of R.A. Salvatore’s Gauntlgrym,” said Liz Schuh, Brand Director for Dungeons & Dragons at Wizards of the Coast. “And we’re excited about the prospects for great digital gaming experiences based on this epic world.”

Neverwinter will release in Q4 2011 at the same time as R. A. Salvatore’s new Neverwinter trilogy, titled Gauntlgrym that will preview the settings, characters and monsters from the PC game, along with a corresponding tabletop roleplaying game from Wizards of the Coast.

To find out more, please visit www.PlayNeverwinter.com.

Razer’s Onza Banned From MLG

Major League Gaming has announced that they have banned Razer’s Onza from competitive play. The reason given was that the two buttons on the controller were too easily programmable.

“We spoke to Razer about this and told them that it would be illegal if they kept the extra buttons,” wrote an MLG rep in the official forums. “I guess it wasn’t worth it for them to make a version without the extra buttons. The big issue with extra buttons is how easy it is to mod the controller without us being able to monitor it. Modders will be able to turn the extra buttons into rapid fire buttons or a macro like RRX. We cannot simply check every player’s Onza controller to make sure they have not modded it. Sure, someone could do that now with a Microsoft controller, but by doing that they are removing a default button on their controller. People pay a lot of money now for modded controllers with extra buttons that will rapid fire or macro. The Onza would make it impossible for us to monitor this on the circuit. ”

“Just to make it clear, there is no conspiracy here. I wish Razer would have listened to us and cared enough to make a version without the extra buttons, but they didn’t,” he concluded.

The way we see this, it’s a real marketing opportunity for Razer. Just like how the original Air Jordan was banned from the NBA (which was subsequently mentioned in a commercial, implying their high quality) they could promote the Onza as a controller that grants an unfair competitive advantage.

Source: MLGpro.com {link no longer active}

NPD: 56 Million Americans Play Social Games

The NPD Group today released a report titled Social Network Gaming, noting that 20 percent of the U.S. population ages 6 and older (56.8 million U.S. consumers) report having played a game on a social network in the past three months. The study also found that 35 percent of social gamers are new to gaming, and that the social gaming population was split – 47 percent male and 53 percent female.

“Although 35 percent of social network gamers are new to gaming, it’s clear that a lot of existing gamers have been drawn into the social network gaming arena as well,” said Anita Frazier, Industry Analyst, The NPD Group. “This impacts both the time they spend with other types of gaming, as well as the amount of money they re spending on gaming. As more players are drawn into these games, the entire games industry is going to feel, and have to adjust to, the impact.”

While most social network games are free-to-play, 10 percent of social network gamers have spent money playing these games and 11 percent indicate that they are likely to make a purchase in the future. Social network games are impacting other areas, as gamers say they have spent 20 percent less on gaming overall since they started playing social network games.

“There are many distinctions between the players who spend money and those that don t,” said Frazier. “While social network gaming has caught on with a mass market audience, it s not without its challenges.  Players are frustrated by slow loading and performance issues and report getting bored by the games easily.  Clearly, these types of games will have to continue to evolve if they hope to hold their audiences and incentivize them to spend money playing.”

Wrath Of The Lich King Coming To China

Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase.com today confirmed that World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King is set to release in China on August 31, 2010. The second expansion to the MMORPG has been held up due to content concerns from the Chinese government many of the skeletons and undead enemies have been removed as a result.

“We appreciate the continued passion and support that Chinese players have shown for World of Warcraft, and we’re working hard to ensure that they have a topnotch gaming experience when Wrath of the Lich King is released,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “This expansion contains some of the best content we’ve ever created for the game, and we’re excited that Chinese players will soon have a chance to explore everything it has to offer.”

World of Warcraft is one of the most popular online games among Chinese players, and we believe that the new content in Wrath of the Lich King will generate even more excitement,” said William Ding, CEO of NetEase. “We are fully prepared on all fronts to provide great service and support to all of the new and returning players throughout China, and we look forward to welcoming them to Northrend.”

Dell Aero Lifts Off

Dell today officially launched their Aero smartphone. The first smartphone from the computer maker will come with Android 1.5 and apps that include the Google suite, access to the Android Market, Quick Office, and Facebook.

The Dell Aero is retailing for $99.99 with a two-year AT&T service agreement. Those that buy the phone without a contract commitment will pay $299.99.