The Elder Scrolls Universe In One Box

With The Elder Scrolls Online set to release early next year on PC, Mac, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, roleplaying fans are wondering just what they can play in the meantime. Not to worry, as Bethesda Softworks has just the collection for them.

The company has announced that it will release The Elder Scrolls Anthology for PC on September 10. This compilation, which goes for $79.99, contains five epic chapters in the long-running role-playing series, as well as all its respective downloadable content in one hearty package.

Elder Scrolls Anthology includes the following:

The Elder Scrolls Arena

The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

– Tribunal DLC

Bloodmoon DLC

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

– Knights of the Nine DLC

– Shivering Isles DLC

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

– Dawnguard DLC

– Hearthfire DLC

– Dragonborn DLC

In addition, five Physical Maps detailing the lands of Tamriel, Iliac Bay, Morrowind, Cyrodiil, and Skyrim are also included. If that doesn’t make fans shout dragon chants, we’re not sure what will.

Source: Bethesda


‘SkyBalls’ To Fight Testicular Cancer

Talk about a ballsy project. Chris O’Dowd, a balloon expert, has teamed up with the Male Cancer Awareness Campaign, or MCAC for short, on a new project to raise awareness for testicular cancer. His proposal? Make a balloon shaped like a male scrotum.

SkyBalls, which has kicked off over at Indiegogo hopes to create the enormous ball-shaped balloon, with 51 days remaining in the campaign. The final goal is 100,000 pounds, though only just over 5,000 have been raised thus far. You can learn more about the project in the video below. (Slightly NSFW, due to testicular mentions.)

Source: SkyBalls Project

Saving The Wii U

Concerns over the Wii U and Nintendo grew with the latest earnings report from the venerable game company. The results were well below expectations and Nintendo’s original guidance, and analyst Michael Pachter characterized the recent Wii U sales as “abysmal.†Nintendo’s revenue for the quarter was $833 million, well below the estimate of $1.19 billion. Hardware sales were off for the 3DS (only 1.4 million units, below the estimate of 2 million) and the Wii U sold only 160,000 units worldwide over the past three months — 90,000 in Japan, 60,000 in the US and 10,000 in the UK. The Wii U has sold 3.6 million units worldwide since its introduction last year.

In that same time period Microsoft sold well over 400,000 Xbox 360’s in the U.S., between seven and eight times the number of Wii Us sold. And yet Nintendo still seems to believe the Wii U installed base will be 9 million by March 2014. Something will need to change radically if that is to happen. Yes, Nintendo expects strong Wii U sales over the holidays with new games leading the way — but are Pikmin 3, Wii Fit U and Super Mario 3D World really all that’s needed for a great fourth quarter

Certainly the Wii U can turn its fortunes around — that has happened to other consoles in the past, notably the 3DS just a couple of years ago. Given up for dead, the 3DS rallied when Nintendo sharply cut the price and a flood of powerful games started arriving from Nintendo and from third parties.

Those factors are unlikely to help as much in the case of the Wii U for a couple of reasons. First, Nintendo’s CEO Iwata-san has been adamant about not reducing the Wii U price. Sure, that can change, but Iwata will have to eat some crow along with that. Also, will good games be coming out Nintendo has a couple of hits like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze announced, but third party support is rather thin on the ground.

Nintendo can’t depend on robust third-party support. That ship has sailed, propelled by months of low Wii U sales numbers. Publishers have plenty of other places to invest, notably new consoles from Microsoft and Sony. The PS4 and Xbox One share basic architecture with PCs, making cross-development straightforward. The Wii U is harder to develop for due to its peculiar architecture. Note that 3DS titles can be built for a few hundred thousand dollars in the space of months. Wii U titles will have budgets in the millions, and it will take a dedicated team many months to put out a title.

That leaves Nintendo with its own, first-party software titles. Unfortunately, these have been slow to arrive, and many have been delayed more than once. It’s not at all clear that Nintendo could have a steady stream of new releases for the Wii U, given how many delays on titles we’ve already seen. Indie developers aren’t exactly racing to support the platform, either. Still, given enough time Nintendo can probably start shipping Wii U titles more regularly.

In the meantime Nintendo is facing a rough Christmas. Increased marketing efforts, with a broad ad campaign, kiosks in stores, appearances at consumer events and similar standard tools are not going to drive substantial sales against similar, better-funded efforts from Sony and Microsoft. Marketing alone is not going to do much without the right price for the Wii U and some solid, must-have games. Nintendo would be better off putting their money into cutting the Wii U price, rather than ads.

Price is the answer to boosting Wii U sales for the short term. Nintendo has to have a good holiday season to save its forecast, and quite probably save Iwata’s job. We know the software lineup; is that enough to sell Wii U’s at the current price against the juggernauts of Microsoft and Sony, hitting them high and low No. The Wii U needs to be $299; $249 would be even better.

Let’s be perfectly clear. Hardware is meaningless because any console is merely a paperweight or a doorstop without some games to play on it. It’s all about the games. People buy consoles based on the games that are available, and the believable promise of future games. Specs don’t matter except as they enable games people want to play. That’s why hardware price is so important — it’s effectively added to the price of that first game you buy for the system, or at least spread over the first several games you buy.

Exclusives are important, but so are top titles that can be found across platforms. Top brands like Madden and Call of Duty attract people, who buy platforms where they can play those games. Right now there’s no reason to believe top-end sports titles will come to the Wii U, which means it misses out on a good segment of the market. Sports fans will get an Xbox One or a PS4, and their Madden fix along with it. What about the top games of E3, like Destiny, Titanfall, Battlefield 4, and Grand Theft Auto V There’s no reason to expect them on a Wii U yet, and that’s going to keep some people from buying into Nintendo’s latest home console.

Some will point to the potential for innovative new games on Wii U’s creative hardware, but Nintendo’s second screen idea is now completely co-opted by the massive availability of tablets and smartphones. Look at Ubisoft, implementing second-screen designs on every title for Xbox and PS4. The compelling new hardware feature of the Wii U, the GamePad, is now readily available on other platforms.

In the longer term, a strong holiday season may bring some third-party developers wandering back to develop Wii U titles. Maybe not. Nintendo must resign itself to, and organize its company around the idea of the Wii U never being a big hit like the Wii. Nintendo can still be profitable at a lower level of revenue if it controls its costs carefully. A regular schedule of one or two must-have titles every quarter should create a sustainable, if low-key, market for the Wii U. At the right price, gamers will adopt a Wii U as a second system just to make sure they can play those key titles. That’s why there are so many Wiis sitting next to a PS3 or Xbox 350, after all.

The Wii U is not likely to become the leader of a console generation the way the Wii did. At this point, Nintendo needs to create a strategy to be profitable when its leading console is not the industry leader. That’s the key to saving the Wii U.

Reeling In The Fans

In a pair of exclusive interviews, Sony’s Aram Jabbari talked to [a]list daily about unprecedented buzz for PlayStation 4, and Young Horses creative director Kevin Zuhn shed light on the inspiration behind the quirky launch title OctoDad: Dadliest Catch.

A big part of Sony’s strategy to continue building interest for its new console revolves around giving people hands-on. The company took the first opportunity to put it under consumers’ thumbs at Comic Con last month.  Jabbari says gamers can rest assured they’ll have plenty of chances to try PS4 before it hits shelves.

“We want to get the Dual Shock 4 in more peoples’ hands,” says Jabbari.  “We want to make sure that people are seeing games like Killzone: Shadow Fall, games like Knack and Drive Club firsthand to witness what the next generation of gaming is going to be all about.”

Sony has already announced that PS4 will be playable at upcoming shows Gamescom and GameStop Expo, both of which will have consumers attending. While it hasn’t confirmed when, it’s only a matter of time before demo stations show up at retailers.

While the great majority of potential PS4 buyers haven’t had a chance to try out the system yet, Jabbari calls fan response since its announcement “overwhelming.”

One of the more unexpected launch titles drawing that buzz is OctoDad, a comedy adventure game from developer Young Horses. The team at Young Horses made the first version of OctoDad as students at Chicago’s DePaul University.  The game, which was originally free-to-play, quickly gained notoriety and became a student finalist at the 2011 Independent Games Festival.  The startup developer is now basking in Sony’s support as their off-the-wall game plays a prominent role in the PS4 hands-on push.

Young Horses’ Zuhn describes the game, which follows an octopus trying to pass off as human, as a “sort of mockery of normal life.”

“We were inspired by old cartoons like the Animaniacs, an old video game called Jurassic Park: Trespasser, and some of David Lynch’s films, oddly enough,” says Zuhn, adding, “I know, it doesn’t make sense.”

Check out the full interviews.

Publicis And Omnicom Become Advertising Juggernaut

Publicis and Omnicom, two of the biggest advertising and marketing agencies in the world, have joined together in a “merger of equals,” working together to create the world’s largest advertising agency. The deal will bring $22.7 billion in annual revenues and $35.1 billion in market capitalization to form an enormous business venture. The company is set to be headquartered in both New York and Paris, with CEO John Wren of Omnicom and CEO Maurice Levy from Publicis running the show.

“For many years, we have had great respect for one another as well as for the companies we each lead. This respect has grown in the past few months as we have worked to make this a combination a reality. We look forward to co-leading the combined company and are excited about what our people can achieve together for our clients and our shareholders,” said the CEO’s in a joint statement.

There are still client conflicts that could come as a result of the merger, as some big-name rivals actually work for these agencies. For instance, Pepsi is an Omnicom account, while Leo Burnett, a Publicis company, holds Coca-Cola. There’s no word yet on how the mega-company intends to iron these out.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of effect this has on the tech industry – and video games – as several clients are likely to be under the Omnicom/Publicis umbrella. We’ll see how it all plays out in the months ahead.

Source: TechCrunch

Thousands Of Players Perish In Epic ‘EVE’ Battle

EVE Online, CCP’s popular science fiction MMO, has always been the place for some epic space battles but players recently staged one of its biggest battles to date – and the world got to watch it happen.

The battle, which rivals the company’s infamous Battle of Asakai that took place beforehand, went under the code name 6VDT-H and drew hundreds of players into action. It was broadcast live over the channel, with various viewpoints showing the in-space action as it happened. The CCP team had to slow the action down to 10 percent of normal to handle to the massive scope of the battle.

Following a huge five-hour struggle the battle came to a close, with the CFC team beating the TEST Alliance. Over 2,900 ships were destroyed in the fight, a loss of over $20,000 in real money considering the value of those vessels. TEST’s loss means they’ll need to withdraw from the Fountain region, ceding that area to CFC.

You can learn more about the battle in the full recap over at the Mittani.

Source: The Verge


Sega Sets Its Sights On Rome

Editor’s note: We are pleased to introduce veteran entertainment journalist John Gaudiosi as a new regular contributor to [a]list daily.

By John Gaudiosi

Sega increased The Creative Assembly’s production budget by 40 percent over Total War: Shogun II to develop Total War: Rome II, which the game maker promises will be its largest real-time strategy (RTS) game ever. Sega has also said that Rome II will have the biggest marketing budget in the history of the Total War franchise.  The game is massive in scale with over 700 battlefield unit types to command and battles that feature 40 versus 40 with destructible environments based on real historical locales and armies.

Click to enlarge

The game begins at a couple hundred B.C. and then can unfold for centuries, depending on how players command their armies, strategize with politicians and build their empire. This process can go on for centuries within the game world, which has been authentically recreated from history books.

“We love the Roman time period,” said Mike Simpson, Studio Director at The Creative Assembly. “When we’re looking for a time period for a new RTS war game we look for technological change. It has to be some kind of technology race and the Roman period was very good for that. The Romans were great engineers and employed all sorts of advanced technologies at the time. We also look for a situation where there are lots of different factions, any of whom could have ended up winning. And the third thing we look for is cool content like the Roman Legion, horses, elephants, barbarians, catapults and all that type of stuff.”

Although the PC RTS field is not as crowded as it once was, in a way Sega will be competing with itself having released Relic’s World War II game, Company of Heroes 2, earlier this year. The Total War franchise has sold more than 3.4 million copies to date in the U.S., according to the NPD Group, and it has a global audience that has followed each new iteration and sequel. According to Sega, Total War: Rome II had over six times the number of pre-orders in its first official week compared ­to Shogun II, making it the fastest selling pre-ordered title in the series. Sega has been marketing the game early through discounts, free downloadable content and a limited edition version of the game that comes with a replica catapult.

“This game sits in its own place in the RTS genre and it’s firmly set in the real world, so you’re not playing against a gaming set of rules where you know that if you build that particular thing it will beat that particular thing,”said Simpson. “Real-world tactics like outflanking, surprising and ambushing actually work. You don’t need to spend time feeling out exactly how to play the game. If you just do things which seem sensible from a military point of view, they’ll work in the game. Our game is unique in that respect.”

Total War has always been rich in history. Back in 2004, the History Channel used the original Total War: Rome game for a 13-part series called Decisive Battles, which used the video game footage to tell the story of real battles during the Roman Empire. With Total War: Rome II, Sega has partnered with MacMillan Publishing and author David Gibbins for Detroy Carthage, the first in a series of historical adventure books based on the new game. The October hardcover is set in Carthage, 146 B.C. and tells the story of Fabius Petronius Secundus, a Roman legionary and centurion who rises to power.

The Creative Assembly, which Sega bought back in 2005, has been pushing new proprietary technology called the Warscape Engine with each new game. Simpson said the team has changed more in Rome II than they did in Shogun II.  For example, the way the campaign strategy is organized is very different. Things like technology trees and the way players build their buildings and recruit their units is all new.

Click to enlarge

“On the battlefield over the years we’ve been gradually improving and refining both our artificial intelligence and our graphics technology, so we’re really pushing the boundaries with the graphics and we get more guys on the screen at a higher detail with more fidelity than anybody else does,” said Simpson.

PC gamers will fight battles across the whole of Europe, not just in historically accurate places. The team has modeled dozens and dozens of cities and created a huge variety of both city and landscape battlefields. If players fight in Germany the landscapes are very different from battles in the North African desert. There is a huge variety of terrain and features for armchair generals to explore.

“Because you’re making your own history, the historical characters that turn up are ones that you create,” said Simpson. ‘There’s an RPG element for building your generals and building your armies. They can gain skills and history as you progress through the game.”

Simpson said the sheer scope of the game, which includes three very different cultural types and a huge list of 117 minor factions and nine playable factions add more variety than the franchise has ever had before. There are a tremendous variety of ways to play the game from different geographical standpoints with very different challenges. The game also offers both the turn-based empire building gameplay and the real-time battles, which can be viewed from high above the ancient landscapes or from an on-the-ground battlefield perspective.

“The sheer horsepower of the PC means you can put more animations into a unit that’s fighting another unit,” said Simpson. “You can do more with a camera. You can zoom. You can go from the macro scale to the micro scale in a blink of an eye. You can go from 20,000 men and dial it down to one man fighting thanks to the software technology that we’ve developed, which is a real leap forward.”

The September 3 release, which won Best Strategy Game by the official E3 Game Critics Awards, marks a continued focus by Sega to the growing PC gaming strategy market. The game franchise has a robust Facebook community of 275,000 fans, which Sega has been using to invite fans to play the game at events like Comic-Con and Gamescom. The Total War franchise sold 2 million copies last year without a new iteration available thanks to its social media presence, and this sequel is already tracking as a hit from early pre-orders.

About the Author

John Gaudiosi has spent the past 20+ years covering the $70 billion videogame industry for top international print, online and television outlets like The Washington Post, Wired, Playboy, AOL, IGN, Yahoo!, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today Weekend, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Maxim, CBS and NBC. John currently contributes to outlets like American Way Magazine, Geek Magazine, CNN, Reuters and Fortune, focusing on the convergence of Hollywood and games as well as the intersections of technology and the games business. He is a co-founder and Editor in Chief of video and editorial syndication, which syndicates editorial content through Tribune/McClatchy and video through Alloy Digital’s Digital Broadcasting Group (DBG).

Facebook Fights For Real-Time Relevance

To help advertisers broaden their exposure beyond the News Feed, Facebook has begun allowing users to embed public posts from Facebook pages on to their own websites and blogs. The rollout of Embedded Posts began with a handful of sites yesterday – Bleacher Report, CNN, Huffington Post, Mashable and People – but will extend to more companies, brands and public figures with Facebook pages soon.

The posts will appear the same as on Facebook, displaying attached media like photos, videos and hashtags, similar to the way Twitter and YouTube ingrain their posts now.

The way it will function is once a user’s account is enabled, they will have the option to “Embed post.” That will produce a code which can be cut and pasted into a blog entry or HTML file.

Though an estimated 72 percent of Facebook users set their posts to private, the company has lately been looking to tap its public posts for added commentary and color on topical issues. With this in mind, Facebook introduced hashtags in June so users and journalists could track conversations on Facebook about various issues. The new embeds can also include hashtags, which readers can click on to see those discussions.

The goal is to provide larger inventory to users looking to reach people during live events, like the Super Bowl or the Oscars. Until now, Twitter has been the only platform which offered the majority of such ad real-time opportunities, but with 1.1 billion users, 28 percent of Facebook audience offers a viable alternative.

Source: ReadWriteWeb


‘Monopoly’ Gets The Brand Treatment

Hasbro is ready to help you take over the world – and that includes the McDonald’s franchise. The company has announced a new version of its classic Monopoly game, titled Monopoly Empire. In it, you’ll have the opportunity to walk along the familiar path to success – or failure – that the game’s become known for over the years.

This time around, you’ll get to deal with various popular brands from today’s business market rather than something emulating the early days of business. These brands include Electronic Arts, Samsung, Coca-Cola, eBay and more.

“With the Monopoly Empire game, you can own some of the biggest brands in the world,” states the game description. “Every space on the board is an iconic brand, including Xbox, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Samsung! Splash your Monopoly cash to build your Empire tower as high as it can go. You’ll need to make tough decisions and smart moves to take down the competition and be the first to reach the top. Hit the big time and own the world’s top brands with the Monopoly Empire game!”

On top of that, the classic character pieces have been replaced by more familiar items, including a Coke bottle, McDonald’s fries (don’t eat them) and an Xbox controller. The game is available now through such retailers as Target and Toys ‘R Us, for $19.99.

Source: Polygon