Microsoft Earnings Not So Hot

Microsoft Earnings Not So Hot

Ballmer, grasping for a lifeline. Xbox may deliver it.

From Gamasutra:

Tech giant and Xbox creator Microsoft’s fourth quarter ended with revenue 17 percent down to $13.10 billion, and profits down 29 percent to $3.05 billion.

The company’s Entertainment and Devices Division, which contains its games business, as well as the Zune and other miscellaneous items, saw a 25 percent year-over-year fourth quarter revenue decrease to $1.19 billion.

But this primarily reflected shrinking Zune and Mediaroom revenue – Xbox 360 platform and PC game revenue decreased $110 million or 12 percent. The company shipped 1.2 million Xbox 360 consoles in the quarter, slightly down compared with 1.3 million Xbox 360 consoles during the same timeframe last year.

The biggest reasons given by Microsoft for the decline in Xbox business is a general decline in hardware sales, in addition to price drops implemented recently.

But hey, at least it’s not Windows.

[Full story at Gamasutra]

Comic-Con 2009 Preview

San Diego Comic Con kicks off July 23

San Diego Comic Con kicks off July 23

Video games have had an increasing presence at the ever-growing San Diego Comic-Con, and 2009 is no different, with several high profile publishers and developers showing their wares to thousands of fans in this three-day event.  A couple of things to keep an eye on:

Pushing Original IP

Video games will continue its push of original IP with the masses, knowing that one great hit (Assassin’s Creed) can make up for a few sales misses (Mirror’s Edge).

Games like Dante’s Inferno (God of War clone) and Brutal Legend (a genuinely funny game by influential developer Tim Schafer) are natural fits for the Comic-Con audience, and you can expect massive crowds around these two new IPs that are scheduled for 2009 release.

Sexy librarian/sex godess Bayonetta is also garnering some pre-show buzz.  Her sultry look combined with the warm place Sega has in many geek hearts (myself included) should make this an easy win.

Hollywood Dominates… Again

Hollywood has seen massive benefit from getting close with comic book fans, and the dividends have paid off with last summer’s huge Iron Man and The Dark Knight box office takes (let’s not talk about Watchmen, okay?).

This year is even more exciting as James Cameron has promised to show the first scenes from Avatar, a movie that has tremendous buzz as much for its 12 years in production as its potential to break new ground in the 3D arena.

And where there is a blockbuster, there is an average video game waiting to take advantage.  Look for Avatar: The Video Game and G.I. Joe to occupy a few minutes time on the show floor.

We’re Jealous

If you’re attending the show, it doesn’t have to be just about watching movie clips, playing video games and, oh yeah, reading comic books.

Publishers have a few choice happenings to indulge your geek appetite, from limited edition lithograph giveways (EA booth, any day, from 11 a.m. to noon) to game-related panels (try the Assassin’s Creed II Hollywood panel on Thursday, 1:45 p.m., Room 6A).

While you do that, don’t mind us – we’ll be ogling the real-life Bayonetta Thursday and Friday and Sega’s booth.  Game of the show!

[More on Comic-Con 2009 Video Game Preview at GameDaily] {link no longer active}

XBLA Prices Rising

XBLA Prices Rising

$15 is fast becoming the rule, not the exception.

We’re all for the digital download movement, and are intrigued by any development happening even at this very early stage. That’s why we love Kotaku’s analysis of the prices of Xbox Live Arcade games and its accompanying chart.

As Microsoft has expanded its Xbox 360 userbase and is throwing more weight behind digital distribution (two straight years of Summer of Arcade sales promotions help), prices have also increased.

The average price of Xbox Live Arcade games on the Xbox 360 has risen by a $1.74 since the Xbox 360 launched in November of 2005, according to Kotaku’s study of prices for more than 200 XBLA games.

One of the most interesting points found is that the $5 price point is no longer popular and may be phased out altogether, while the $15 price point is increasingly popular.

This is almost the reverse of Apple’s App Store, where applications quickly hit 99-cents due to a very open and streamlined approval process. Apple doesn’t have a huge problem to fix there (yet), but it may want to keep an eye on what its old nemesis is doing in the space and how they’ve been able to maintain this kind of price point strength.

[More analysis and chart at Kotaku]

Trouble With Warcraft, China Easing

Never fear, Chinese WoW fans.

The Chinese government put a damper on the over five million Chinese players of World of Warcraft when the game’s publisher switched network providers two months ago.

Due to a licensing snafu and content approval process, the most popular MMO game in the world has been offline for 40 percent of its customers for the past several weeks.

Thankfully for genuine players and gold farmers alike, World of Warcraft has been allowed a partial relaunch on July 30. Yahoo! explains why it’s only partial:

But the government agency in charge of regulating print and online publications found some content during its checks that it will require Blizzard or NetEase to modify. The game will have to be resubmitted for approval after the changes are made, an employee at the agency, the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), said by phone earlier this week. He declined to estimate when the game will receive approval or to say what content must be changed.

Past content changes include having skeletons change into human bodies, and removing bones from the game’s locales.

“It’s to promote a healthy and harmonious on-line environment,” anonymous staff said, according to [Guangzhou-based newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily].

So healthy, harmonious environments don’t include walking skeletons? Whatever you say, churchy!

[Yahoo! and PCWorld have the info] {link no longer active}

Ning Valued At $750 Million

This has cost $119 million and counting.

Ning is a pretty innovative company that allows users to create their own social networks and monetize them through a number of ways, including Google ads, microtransactions and premium revenue.

They recently closed an additional $15 million of funding (bringing their total to $119 million) at a valuation that pegs them at $750 million.

That’s money, a social network bought last year by AOL for the same amount.

BoomTown has some details:

Founded in early 2007, it currently has 29.3 million registered users, who are using 1.3 million social networks, and it is adding one million registered users every 15 days, said the company.

Not all the metrics are great, though:

But not all its social networks are active, and Ning’s monthly unique visitors are lower, according to various surveys, at about six million in the U.S.

The additional funding will be used to acquire more social tools for its users, increase its userbase through marketing, and adding new team members to help with its monetization.

We’re not sold on the model; frankly, it seems a little more like GeoCities than anything. But the funding is substantial, and proves the saturation point isn’t quite there for social networks. At least where investors are concerned.

For now.

[BoomTown has the scoop]

VOD: The Daily Show On iPhone Fart App War

Apple should have known this was coming, with its loose standards and the availability of tons of 99-cent apps for the iPhone.  And we ve never seen it put funnier than on last night’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

A little background, courtesy of Business Insider:

“iFart” maker InfoMedia is taking “Pull My Finger” maker Air-O-Matic to court in Colorado, seeking a declaration that it is lawful to use the term “pull my finger” — a common flatulence-related expression — in its marketing materials. It also seeks legal fees and “other relief” as the court deems proper.

Now they’ve taken the fight to the (basic cable) airwaves with an extremely funny segment on The Daily Show.  Without further ado, our video of the day.

{link no longer active}

World Of Warcraft Movie Gets Director

World Of Warcraft Movie Gets Director

Orcs on the big screen In Raimi we trust…

Blizzard Entertainment has teamed up with Legendary Pictures (The Dark Knight, The Hangover) to hire Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Drag Me To Hell) as director of the upcoming Warcraft movie.

“At its core, Warcraft is a fantastic, action-packed story,” said Raimi. “I am thrilled to work with such a dynamite production team to bring this project to the big screen.”

We love Raimi, but we’re definitely skeptical of this one. While the script may be fantastic and action-packed, isn’t World of Warcraft all about hunting demons and fishing for hours on end?

Also, have you ever seen Box Office Mojo’s chart of Video Game Adaptations?  Not a lot of box office smashes there…

The last thing before I take off my cynic hat, but what was the last movie based on a game that you really enjoyed? We’ll give you a few minutes.

Pac-Man Lives

Welcome to the remix.

File this under the “Proof Old IP Still Has Legs” category. Namco recently announced the launch of Pac-Man Remix for the iPhone, a modern take on the arcade classic.

Pac-Man Remix is an all-new game based on the maze action game in which you move a spherical, chomping character down corridors to eat pellets while avoiding ghosts on the chase; you can turn the tables by eating power pellets which enable you to temporarily subdue the ghosts and score bonus points while you’re eating them.

It’s not yet available on iTunes, but it has a $6 price tag attached to it.

It goes to show you, even if your IP is almost 30 years old, there’s still some power pellets to munch on.

[More info at PCWorld]

Halo Turns Ten

Master Chief sure has grown up…

Microsoft Game Studios and Bungie are celebrating a milestone today as Master Chief and his Halo series turn ten years old. If there’s any proof the original IP is still worth an investment, it’s in Halo.

The series was announced in July 1999, and an early E3 2001 demo prior to the Xbox launch was met with some skepticism.

Fast forward a few months later, and Microsoft Game Studios would have its last laugh. Halo: Combat Evolved helped launch the Xbox as a new video game platform to be reckoned with, and created a new franchise star in Master Chief.

Since that time, the trilogy of Halo games have sold 24.8 million units, and has twice broken the record for the biggest entertainment opening of all time with Halo 2 and Halo 3. The latest in the series, also the first on Xbox 360, took in over $170 million in just 24 hours.

And despite rumors that the third game would be its last, the Halo cash cow continues mooing, with Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach expected this and next year.

Ten years later, we have to wonder where the Xbox would be without this landmark series. What do you think?

ESA Versus Chicago: It’s On

ESA Versus Chicago: It's OnWhat’s all the fuss?

Chicago has a problem with violent video games, and has banned the advertising of games like Grand Theft Auto IV on city buses and transit stops. Now, the ESA is hitting back with the good ol’ Constitution.

“The CTA’s ordinance constitutes a clear violation of the constitutional rights of the entertainment software industry” said ESA president Mike Gallagher. “Courts across the United States, including those in the CTA’s own backyard, have ruled consistently that video games are entitled to the same First Amendment protections as other forms of entertainment.”

The Grand Theft Auto series has been Chicago’s main target, with bans leveled on Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Boston, Denver, San Antonio and Portland have also removed similar ads in past years.

In unrelated news, Chicago has had 202 homicides in the first six months of the year. Chicago, it may be time to worry a little less about violent video game ads and more about the city’s actual violence.