Xbox 360 Games On Demand Lineup

Later this year, Xbox 360 is going to have a dashboard upgrade, and in that upgrade will be a Games On Demand service that will have full Xbox 360 games available for download for a lower-than-retail price.

We’re huge proponents of digital distribution and we think Microsoft is taking an assertive, market-leading position.  And we don’t want to be in Gamestop’s position a couple of years from now.

For those of you interested in which games are hitting the virtual store shelves, here you go, courtesy of Joystiq:

–    Assassin’s Creed (Ubisoft)
–    LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga (LucasArts)
–    Rainbow Six Vegas (Ubisoft)
–    BioShock (2K Games)
–    Mass Effect (Microsoft Game Studios)
–    Ridge Racer 6 (Namco)
–    Burnout Paradise (EA)
–    Meet The Robinsons (Disney)
–    Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis (Rockstar Games)
–    Call of Duty® 2 (Activision)
–    MX vs. ATV Untamed (THQ)
–    Sonic the Hedgehog (SEGA)
–    Viva Piñata 2: Trouble in Paradise (Microsoft Game Studios)
–    Need for Speed Carbon (EA)
–    Test Drive: Unlimited (Atari)
–    Fight Night Round 3 (EA)
–    Need for Speed: Most Wanted (EA)
–    The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2K Games/Bethesda Softworks)
–    Prey (2K Games)
–    Viva Piñata (Microsoft Game Studios)
–    Karaoke Revolution American Idol Encore (Konami)
–    Kameo: Elements of Power (Microsoft Game Studios)
–    Perfect Dark Zero (Microsoft Game Studios)
–    Dance Dance Revolution Universe (Konami)

EA Sports Fitness TOO Successful

From Kotaku: {link no longer active}

EA Sports head honcho Peter Moore says that the sports label is focused on getting the already announced expansion pack for EA Sports Active out before the holidays. That means the powers that be are pulling Grand Slam Tennis staff off the PS3 and 360 versions to make sure the fitness game add-on doesn’t slip.

It’s a rare case of a Wii release taking higher priority than the hi-def console versions, part of EA’s new Wii-skewed master plan. Considering EA Sports Active did 1.8 million in sales during the publisher’s last quarter, we’d wager it’s the right move.

When something works, do more of that something.  Those of you concerned that health gaming was but a fad, be thankful one of the world’s largest game publishers has your back.

Braid Developer’s New Game Set For 2011

Jonathan Blow, developer of the critically-acclaimed Xbox Live Arcade game Braid, has let loose a few details of his upcoming game, Witness.

The reason we care is, in addition to being fans of Braid, we were interested in the game’s release date.

Says Blow, he’s looking to release the game in late 2011, when the game will hopefully be finished.

When was the last time a hotly-anticipated game was expected to drop more than a full two years from its announcement?   Usually a big game is announced for the very next year, at the latest…and then delays carry it through the two year mark.

Let’s see how this extremely advanced start on marketing a game works out…in a couple of years.

Wipeout HD Ads Controversy: Gamers Win

Yesterday we reported on the recent addition of in-game advertisements by Sony and Double Fusion in the newest update to Wipeout HD.  A lot can change in twenty-four hours.

The ads were designed to show up in the loading screen of the game, and we actually think that’s a great place for them.  The unfortunate part comes in something we didn’t notice until we perused YouTube and found this video {link no longer active}.

Sony quickly removed the advertising today in response, as the worst fears of many gamers were coming to pass: paying for a game, then waiting through commercials to play the game.

We’ll follow this one as the concept is solid, the execution isn’t.  Any way a short-form video or ad can be used for shorter loading times?

Nintendo CEO: No Wii Price Cut, High Hopes

After a dismal first half of the year, Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata has high hopes for the rest of the year, and downplayed any talk of a Nintendo Wii price cut in the near future.

The Japanese territory will have a black version of the Nintendo Wii soon that Iwata hopes will lift sales, and looks at three key titles to bring in some significant bank by the end of the year.

From {link no longer active}

[Wii Sports Resort, Wii Fit Plus and New Super Mario Bros. Wii] are Nintendo’s main titles for the year, Iwata said. Nintendo believes they easily have the potential to sell 10 million units each worldwide by the end of the fiscal year (March 2010). Iwata said that, due to the lining up of the three releases, “We’d like to work so that people say ‘This was the best Christmas in Nintendo history.'”

Of particular note is how, despite all the press and praise heaped on Nintendo for the past couple of years, Iwata was very critical of the success of their key games last year.

Killer releases may not necessarily mean just games released over the quarter. It appears that Nintendo has come to expect some of its games to have long legs, and Iwata once again expressed disappointment with one title and its lack of extended sales: Wii Music. He also seems disappointed with sales of Animal Crossing City Folk.

“Last year, Wii Music and Animal Crossing City Folk did not reach our expectations,” said Iwata. “If we had made them into long sellers, the effects of the lack of software in the first half of the year would have been lowered. However, their sales slowed in a relatively short term.”

Left 4 Dead Proves Games Live Forever

Another example of how games are living past their traditional prime.

Left 4 Dead came out late last year and was one of Xbox 360’s big holiday hits, so it came as no shock that Left 4 Dead 2 was announced for release later this year.

What is surprising is the fact that Valve, the game s developer, has just announced an expansion pack for the original game just ahead of the game’s sequel.

The pack, which will be free to PC owners and cost $7 for Xbox 360 players, adds an additional chapter to the zombie-filled adventure.

Take note because, whereas a game’s lifespan would traditionally end shortly after its retail launch, games like Left 4 Dead show increased value as a marketing tool to bolster a brand and even promote and lead into an upcoming sequel, as is the case here.

Fable II Clothes Hit The Virtual World

From Lionhead Studios:

A lot of people have been asking us in recent months about Fable II clothes for their Xbox360 avatar. Well, you’ll be happy to learn that we’ve got something coming your way! It’s not going to be a single shirt but a whole package of clothing! It will be available for a few Microsoft points from Marketplace at some stage this month… We’ve got one teaser image showing you a shirt, but there are boots, shirts and hats! No underwear though…

Fable II came out last October to a solid critical and commercial reception, but this recent post on Lionhead s community forums shows how today’s games have very different opportunities to market to gamers, even if significant amount of time pass.

These virtual goods will be on sale soon on the Xbox 360 avatar marketplace, and Fable II will be one of a few games that have virtual shirts, pants and more for sale.  Other games at launch will include Gears of War and Halo.

This kind of development presents a few clear opportunities for marketers and publishers alike.

Firstly, it s a great source of additional revenue by way of microtransactions with very minimal cost to produce.

Secondly, it bumps up the game in question in the minds of consumers; Fable II came out almost one year ago, but these new threads have the game get into the conciousness of gamers who may have even forgot about the popular game during the busy holiday season in which it was released.

Most importantly, though, it bolsters the Fable name and brand just by being connected to gamers, tugging at their passion points and really engaging fans of the series to promote the brand to the friends they have on Xbox Live.

We look forward to seeing how the avatar marketplace goes when it launches later this year with a new Xbox 360 dashboard update.

Will Retailers Push Back On The Big Box?

IndustryGamers has a fascinating piece on the era of the big box and its impact on retailers.

Of particular note is a table they have on the site looking at the profit certain items have per cubic inch, which is a valuable metric for all retailers.

Looking at the table above, one has to wonder if retailers will start pushing back in favor of products that are smaller and more profitable. Further, with their large size and lack of profitability per cubic inch of space they take up, these products are prime candidates for excessive discounting, which can materially hurt publishers as they must reimburse retailers for these discounts. In one recent case, in order to make room for the slew of peripheral based games this holiday season, a retailer discounted a music peripheral product by $90 – an unheard of amount.

Music-based games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, even Wii Fit, have a much smaller profit per cubic inch than they re regular disc-based brothers.

Is there anything publishers can do to either innovate in the packaging of these games, or to better communicate through marketing the importance of having these first-run instruments make it into gamers homes?

Wii Sports Resort Dominates UK Charts

Wii Sports Resort, the subject of last week s exclusive analysis, is still holding the number one position in the UK for two straight weeks, according to Chart Track {link no longer active}.

This follows first-four-day sales of 350K units in Japan, and what retailers are saying is a blockbuster opening in the U.S. (to be confirmed when NPD releases July data sometime next week).

Nintendo is looking for their first truly big hit of the year in Wii Sports Resort, especially after disappointing revenue numbers and a slowdown in overall Wii hardware sales.

Life Outside Of Games For Sackboy

The adorable star of the PlayStation 3 hit LittleBigPlanet is making his move out of games and into toy shelves with a line of real world products by Impact International.

From ToyNews: {link no longer active}

The deal will see the toy company produce a range of plush items, bean toys, mugs, bobbleheads and bags, all featuring LittleBigPlanet’s iconic character Sackboy.

Brazier and Co have signed up to produce a range of PVC figurines for LittleBigPlanet, including a limited edition themed Sackboy.

In addition, poster company GB Eye Limited will develop a range of posters, 3D posters, postcard packs, badges and stickers for LittleBigPlanet, God of War, InFamous, MotorStorm, WipeOut, Killzone and Resistance.

This news impacts the UK, Ireland and the Middle East, and we’re surprised it s taking Sony this long to get an American production and distribution deal for similar items for the U.S.

Whereas many of today s games focus on upselling consumers on virtual goods and expansion packs, this deal should prove to be very profitable in bringing a great character into the real world.

It’s a wonder we still haven’t seen Nintendo really capitalize in a much bigger way with their IP.