Karate Chopping Gaming History

Ken Kutaragi received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Game Developers Conference, and also presented this video documenting his early career with the PlayStation. Done by Mega64, this video has all the awesomeness of a straight-to-video ’80s action film like Miami Connection, with tongue firmly in cheek.


New Book Celebrates Vintage Atari Art

Although not many people get to see them these days, the Atari 2600 games had some great package artwork that captured the vivid nature of what the games had to offer. Now, Tim Lapetino wants to celebrate it with a new book called The Art of Atari: From Pixels To Paintbrush.

The goal of the book is to celebrate the 136 different artworks used for such Atari 2600 games as Defender, Warlords and Baseball, among other titles. Atari spent a lot of money attempting to make the artwork stand out from other game designs at the time, a move that paid off for several years.

Lapetino is working closely with various artists from the era, including Steve Hendricks and Cliff Spohn, to gather the art for the book. He currently runs a graphic design agency, but is still fond of the Atari era. “I remember being five or six, when we first would get Atari games at home, I wanted to save all the boxes,” he said. “My dad through that was ridiculous. Why would you save the box that it came in You just want to play the game. But I just loved the look of them.

“When you lined them up on the shelf, they were all these different colors. I didn’t have a word for it, but they had this uniform typography. They all had a similar look. And then the illustrations were just these really amazing worlds.”

Lapetino hopes to release the book by the end of the year.

Source: Polygon

GameStop Sales Up, But Doubts Remain

GameStop reported its fiscal year 2013 financial results, with a ix of good news and bad news. Sales for the company’s fourth quarter (which ended Feb 1, 2014) were $3.68 billion, which was up 3.4 percent compared to last year’s quarter (which was one week longer). This rise was driven by the sales of new consoles, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. While sales were up, earnings were down, dropping to $220.5 million from last year’s $261.1 million. Investors responded by driving GameStop’s share price down by over 7 percent so far today in trading.

For the full year GameStop had sales of $9.04 billion, up 1.7 percent from the previous year. Full-year comparable sales grew 3.8 percent. At the same time, GameStop reported a drop in current-gen software, which they expected as customers transition to new consoles. CFO Rob Lloyd confirmed that “current-gen software sales declined at a faster rate than expected,” but he doesn’t see an increase in the rate of current-gen decline.

GameStop is expecting to have a good fiscal 2014, with total sales up between 12 and 22 percent, with income projected to be around double the amount reported for FY 2013. Earnings per share are expected to be about $3.56 per share for FY 2014. The company expects store count to drop about 2 percent, but they will continue to remodel old stores. GameStop projects next gen consoles at 125 percent of last generation for the next three years, in dollar volume, where prior to launch they had expected next-gen to trail previous gen launch numbers. That’s less impressive when you factor in inflation since the last time consoles were launched.

There are signs of weakness buried in the numbers, though. GameStop’s results were buoyed by hardware, but software sales (both new and used) were down from last year. New software was $1.2 billion compared to $1.6 billion in FY 2012, and pre-owned software was $742 million compared to $752.8 million the previous year. Customers are buying hardware at retail, but not as much software as they used to. This was also true for the full fiscal year.

Part of the change must be due to customers buying digital content directly instead of heading to the retail store. That’s probably more DLC than full titles, but of course it’s hard to track all that. Another factor must be increased diversion of consumer attention and spending to online and mobile games. All of that spending on League of Legends and mobile games has to come from somewhere, and it’s likely that some of that is coming at the expense of retail sales.

GameStop is certainly going to do well to the extent that new consoles sell well. They have already sold more new consoles than they had in the first 15 months of the last console launch. Their attach rate is more than 3.3 for these new consoles, as GameStop does well at adding on software sales to the hardware. GameStop’s market share for next-gen hardware is 47 percent so far this year, according to their comments in the earnings call. GameStop sales associates also work hard at adding DLC on to new software sales, and the company will doubtless continue to push that. Lloyd noted that GameStop expects by late in the year next-gen and current-gen software sales will equalize, with next-gen software then continuing to pull ahead.

Titanfall had 4 times the amount of reservations on Xbox One than on the Xbox 360. “Gamers are showing strong demand for games on new consoles,” said GameStop president Tony Bartel. There’s also strong demand for big upcoming titles like Watch Dogs and Destiny, more reasons why GameStop is looking forward to the rest of the year. Launches of next-gen consoles are still continuing internationally as well, with Microsoft launching the Xbox One in 26 more countries. GameStop’s international sales grew 14 percent in the fourth quarter, and 5.6 percent for the full year, so more next-gen interest in other countries will likely help GameStop.

Digital sales grew 4 percent in the fourth quarter. PC digital grew 27 percent, while console digital dropped 6 percent. Steam cards grew over 100 percent. Digital is still only about 2 percent of GameStop’s overall business, though, so even high rates of growth in that segment aren’t going to move the needle much for the company as a whole.

Kongregate grew very well for GameStop, more than doubling sales in the fourth quarter. GameStop did close its Spawn Labs acquisition, “based on lack of demand from customers.” GameStop will focus its effort on selling next-gen streaming services such as PlayStation Now, rather than doing it themselves. Digital receipts grew 15 percent for the full year.

GameStop does project an increase in the pre-owned game business, which is good considering that about half of the company’s profits come from that part of the business. “I would point out it’s a good sign that previous competitors have returned,” said CEO Paul Raines, referring to Walmart getting back into used games. The pre-owned business is a supply-constrained business, so GameStop is cutting deals with publishers to make value-priced software available to fill in that supply for hot titles.

“We believe GameStop has to maintain a higher rate of internal change than the environment around us,” said Raines. That’s a wise viewpoint as rapid change continues in the game industry, with digital games continuing to outpace traditional retail in terms of growth and market share. GameStop is doing well as next-gen consoles continue to revive interest in console games, but it’s not clear how long this will last or how it will change in the future.

MLB.TV Now On Xbox One

Baseball season is almost upon us once more, and MLB.TV is gearing up for some great game coverage. Now, Xbox One subscribers will be able to join the party.

Microsoft has announced that Major League Baseball’s broadcast service is now available through a new application on the Xbox One, providing users with the ability to view live baseball games and replays through the convenience of their console.

In order to take advantage of the app, users need to have an MLB.TV subscription, as well as an Xbox Live Gold subscription. Also, keep in mind that certain blackout rules still apply, in case a game is being broadcast on live television.

Source: GigaOm

It’s a Bad Place

While Irrational Games may be dismantled, the BioShock series continues with BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode Two. The launch trailer lets you know you’re in for some trouble!


Sony May Offer PS4 Pre-Loading

Pre-loading is a good business practice for game buyers, as it allows them to prepare their system for a game, only to get right into playing it once its official release time passes. Steam is quite known for this practice, and soon, Sony could get into the swing of it.

A representative from the company indicated that Sony is “considering” using pre-loading for its digital titles, and the team at Sucker Punch Studios (the makers of Infamous: Second Son) also stated that the company was looking into the practice. Although no date was given, Sony is quite aware of how highly requested pre-loading is.

“We know that it is the feature you’ve been asking for and we are considering it accordingly,” said the company rep. “We do not have any specific details to announced at this point in time, but stay tuned for upcoming announcements about system updates and added features.”

Could Sony be saving the feature for its press conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June Perhaps.

Source: Polygon

Designer Versions Of Google Glass Coming

Not thrilled with Google Glass’ basic design Not to worry, as a pair of glasses manufacturers are looking to make more exotic versions of the technology.

Google has announced a partnership with eyewear manufacturer Luxottica Group that will lead to a redesign of the Glass headwear, specifically being developed under the Ray-Ban and Oakley brands. That should definitely make it more fashionable – and less obvious at looking like Google Glass.

“We live in a world where technological innovation has dramatically changed the way in which we communicate and interact in everything that we do,” said Luxottica CEO Andrew Guerra in a statement. “More importantly, we have come to a point where we now have both a technology push and a consumer pull for wearable technology products and applications.”

More details about the new designs should be revealed at a later date.

Source: PC Mag

Facebook Buys Oculus: ‘Out of Left Field’

No one expected the deal that occurred yesterday, when Facebook announced it is buying Oculus in an estimated $2 billion deal. Well, perhaps The Oatmeal was there first, as the comic below shows. But the very fact that this was chosen as a humorous technology shows the absurdity at the core of this deal. A social network buys a VR company What is going on

Examining the deal from Oculus’ point of view, it’s hard to see why you’d say no. Assuming that Facebook tells Oculus they get to keep doing what they’re doing, full speed ahead but with far more resources, there’s no downside in terms of bringing the technology to market. On the financial side, Oculus gets a huge pot of money now versus an unknown amount of money (and possibly none if something goes wrong) in an unknown future. What’s not to like

The deal is harder to understand from Facebook’s point of view. Maybe virtual reality will be an important technology in the future, but it’s going to be years before it pays out a $2 billion investment — if ever. It’s a long-term bet in a very different direction for Facebook, as much as they try to find connections with their current business. Investors apparently agree, pushing down Facebook stock in after-hours trading. Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter, when queried about the deal by the [a]list daily, responded succinctly: “You and I clearly lack the vision to see what Zuckerberg sees.”

There’s one connection that’s clear enough. An industry veteran suggested it’s always instructive to look at the boards of directors of the companeis involved in a deal, and that’s certainly the case this time. Oculus just received its Series B investment round a few months ago, which was a $75 million investment led by venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz. And, not at all coincidentally, Marc Andreesen is on the board of directors for Facebook. He did recuse himself from the negotiations with Oculus, but obviously Andreesen saw lots of potential in Oculus. And a nice early exit for Andreesen Horowitz, too.

Cartoon courtesy of The Oatmeal

John Taylor, analyst for Arcadia Investments, when asked about the surprising deal said “Yes, it’s out of left field for me too.” He feels that VR “still has a ways to go in terms of tech and mass consumer appeal” despite generating a lot of interest. “Although it is embraced by many gamers, this tech still produces discomfort for many users,” Taylor noted. “If applied to less motion intensive social activities, it may provide an enhanced experience for users. My guess is that Facebook is interested in this technology as a platform for some kind of really new future experience, not as a gateway to get into the games business as we know it today.”

Taylor feels it’s more about communication and virtual interaction than it is about action. “Perhaps it’s a way of changing the visual dimension as handsets and mobile devices get increasingly powerful,” Taylor said. “I’m tempted to compare the move as similar to Microsoft’s purchase of Skype or WebTV, which have had completely different outcomes in terms of commercialization.”

Industry veteran Don Daglow looked at the deal in a different way. “First of all, this deal certainly surprised me,” Daglow admitted. But he focused on what the outcomes of the deal might be. “How the personalities of the vision-drivers on each team interact is vital to the downstream impact of this deal,” Daglow said. “At its best it may create synergies that bridge across the divide that separates Facebook game audiences and console players. It may be the least distracting and most enabling way for Oculus to both lock in its value and gain financial and strategic resources to broaden its audience.”

There is also a dark side to this deal. “At its worst the deal could trigger the downstream post-incentives departure of key Oculus visionaries and rob the system of its true potential,” Daglow warned. “This is a phenomenon we have seen repeatedly in games, starting with Commodore’s acquisition of the Amiga system over a quarter century ago.”

Overall, Daglow looked for the silver lining. “As a designer I always like focusing on the upside, so my hope is that this unlocks the opportunity for creatives to combine tech and different kinds of audiences in new and innovative ways that did not seem as likely or available 24 hours ago. My guess is that the mainstream Facebook audience is going to see VR entertainment — and not just games — a lot sooner because of this deal, and that alone may accelerate adoption.”

Given all of the VR technology that’s been popping up recently (some of it on display at the GDC last week), it certainly seems that Facebook could have acquired VR technology for a lot less than $2 billion. Oculus has momentum, though, and a great team, and clearly Facebook put a lot of weight on to those factors.

Where will this all end up In the near term, Oculus will probably keep doing what it’s been doing and continue to get the Oculus Rift ready for market. In the long term . . .  that’s anybody’s guess right now.

Xbox One Digital Games On Sale

Microsoft continues to provide key bargains for Xbox One owners, as it has announced a new promotion for a pair of its most recent titles.

The Square Enix games Thief and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition are now available for $29.99 apiece, half off their usual $59.99 price. Note that these are for the digital versions only, and that both games require a good chunk of hard drive space to add to your library.

The promotion is good from March 28 through March 31st, after which the prices will go back up to $59.99.

In addition, Call of Duty: Ghosts from Activision is also being offered at a discount, with 33 percent off the regular game and 20 percent for the Hardened Edition. The same dates apply for the discount.

Source: MCV UK