Thursday, September 27, 2007

Activision buys UK-based maker of racing games

Activision Inc (ATVI.O: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Wednesday it has bought the Britain-based maker of a popular racing video game, plugging a hole in the video-game publisher's lineup.

Activision did not say how much it had paid for Bizarre Creations, which makes the "Project Gotham Racing" series for Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) Xbox 360 gaming console.

Racing titles accounted for $1.4 billion, or 10 percent, of global video game software sales, Activision said. It is a category dominated by rival Electronic Arts Inc (ERTS.O: Quote, Profile, Research), which sells the popular "Need for Speed" and "Burnout" franchises.

Other top-selling racing titles include Microsoft's "Forza Motorsport" and Sony Corp's (6758.T: Quote, Profile, Research) "Gran Tourismo."

The "Project Gotham Racing" series has sold more than 4.5 million copies since it debuted in 2001. The fourth installment of the franchise is due in October on the Xbox 360. Activision said it would publish a new game from Bizarre in 2009.

"They have a lot of cash and a hole in the portfolio that needed to be filled, said Mike Hickey, an analyst with Janco Partners. "They didn't have a representative racing game and now they do."

Mike Griffith, head of Activision Publishing, said in a statement: "Bizarre Creations will play an important role in our growth strategy as we develop an original new intellectual property for this important racing segment." Activision, the second-biggest U.S. publisher in terms of annual revenue, has a cash pile of nearly $1 billion.

Halo 3 Sales Smash Game Industry Records

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT)'s Halo 3 racked up $170 million in sales on its first day of availability, making it the hottest selling title in video game history.

Microsoft said late Wednesday that the game's sales easily surpassed first day sales for Halo 2, which previously held the record. Halo 2 launched in 2004 and posted $125 million in sales on its first day.

Halo 3, which hit shelved on Tuesday, also broke industry records for pre-sales. Retailers took more than 1.7 million pre-orders for the game, which runs on Microsoft's Xbox 360 console. More than one million gamers played the game online over Microsoft's Xbox Live system on launch day -- another record for the software maker.

Microsoft is hoping that Halo 3 will boost demand for the Xbox 360, sales of which plunged 60% year-over-year in the fiscal fourth quarter. Not only are Xbox sales important to Microsoft in and of themselves, they're also key to the company's goal of becoming a leader in the broader, home entertainment market.

Microsoft envisions the Xbox as a platform through which consumers can play games, watch movies, listen to music and download paid content.

Halo 3 is a so-called first person shooter featuring Master Chief, a biologically enhanced super-soldier who has to blast his way through a futuristic, 3-D landscape to survive and accomplish missions. He's countered at every turn by a shadowy terrorist group called The Covenant.

Despite the sales records, Microsoft's Halo 3 launch was not without problems. The company conceded that the packaging on the $70.00 Limited Edition of the game can scratch the discs inside. Microsoft has added Halo 3 Limited Edition to a disc replacement program it started after some Xbox 360 buyers complained that the units were scratching their game discs.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sci-Fi Scares in EA's Dead Space

The success of games like BioShock and Silent Hill are proof that gamers like to be spooked. Noticing this trend, EA is shuffling into the genre itself, with a new third-person sci-fi horror game called Dead Space. The story in the new Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 survival horror game deals with one Isaac Clarke, a tech support guy sent to fix the communications equipment on a deep space mining ship.

Once there, Isaac realizes that broken motherboards are the least of his worries as he discovers that the crew of the ill-fated mining ship has been killed by aliens.

Though there has been talk of the game for some time now, it's only this month that EA has started to open up about it. There's limited information online right now, thanks to an exclusive cover story given to US magazine Game Informer, which is featuring the game in its latest cover (where the accompanying image comes from).

According to the Game Informer blurb, Dead Space is along the lines of 1997 shockfest horror flick Event Horizon.

Mario and Sonic will sell 4 million - Sega

Sega believes that Mario and Sonic at the Olympics will sell 4 million units, equaling the feat of the original Sonic title released in 1991.

Mario and Sonic at the Olympics, which goes on sale for Nintendo Wii in November, will pit Nintendo and Sega's flagship characters against one another for the first time, and Sega believes it has a sure-fire hit on its hands.

Bloomberg reports that Masanao Maeda, a corporate director at Sega's gaming unit, forecast that the title will sell 4 million units, although he didn't specify a timeframe for achieving the milestone.

The target is equivalent to almost 20 percent of Sega's games sales during the last financial year ended March 31.

PSP has a good week

FOR THE FIRST TIME in, oooh, ages, Sony has actually managed to outdo Nintendo in hardware sales in its native Japan.

Last week, Sony managed to shift over 95,000 PSP consoles, compared to just 79,000 for the Nintendo DS. That's the first time in a long while that Sony's PSP has made any kind of sales movement, and it comes off the back of the release of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, the sequel to the most revered installment in the Final Fantasy saga.

However, Nintendo doesn't need to worry just yet - the PSP has still only sold in the region of six million units in the territory, compared to almost twenty million DS consoles.

Nintendo: Wii News

First images of Link's Crossbow Training - the game that will come packaged with Nintendo's Wii Zapper peripheral - have hit the net.

Scans of the latest issue of the US Nintendo Power magazine show screens of Link taking aim at enemies in the gorgeous Hyrule as seen in Twilight Princess.

The game will consist of three play modes - target shooting, defender and ranger - with a total of 27 levels. Each stage's goal is to earn the highest score possible within the time limit. All rounds can be played with multiple players: Players pass the Wii Zapper around and then play one at a time and compete for the high score.

"Halo 3" wins high marks from reviewers

"Halo 3", the highly anticipated video game from Microsoft, won high praise on Sunday from game reviewers who gushed over the lush settings, cinematic feel and array of multiplayer features.

The game, the final chapter of a trilogy that began in 2001 with the launch of Microsoft's original Xbox, is a key part of the company's strategy to take a bigger share of the console gaming market from Sony.

Gaming news Web site GameSpy gave "Halo 3" five stars, its highest ranking, saying it was so good that it was worth buying an Xbox 360 just to play it. The Xbox 360 costs $280 to $450 (138 pounds to 222 pounds), depending on features.

"Quite simply, 'Halo 3' is the reason the Xbox 360 exists," GameSpy said.

Since "Halo 3" is the game industry equivalent of a new "Harry Potter" book or "Star Wars" movie, few expected it to be a flop. Specialty gaming retail chain GameStop Corp said the title set a record for advance orders while Microsoft has said it expects initial demand to surpass that for 2004's "Halo 2", which racked up $125 million in its first 24 hours.

The game is set to go on sale on September 25.