Jul 31, 2008

Photo Album: Vancouver International Game Summit 2008

Perhaps my favourite part of every high school grade was getting my hands on that ostensible and lamentable yearbook. Now that I'm old, and haven't seen a yearbook in about ten years, I rely on other people to take some good old fashioned mugshots that I can ogle at, and if warranted, pick apart. Good thing the nice folks at the Vancouver International Game Summit just posted 150-some-odd live event pics just for such purposes!

To view the slideshow, check out this website.

I've gone through all the photos and here are my picks of the litter:

Slide 8 - a way too excited Kenton Low, President of New Media BC.

Slide 33 - Greg Spievak, CEO at Reboot Communications, laughs at Allan De Genova's face.

Slide 37 - Shane Kim, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Game Studios, eyes are glued shut.

Slide 43 - Don Mattrick, Senior Vice President of Microsoft's Xbox division & Shane Kim show some teeth.

Slide 49 - Senator Larry Campbell feels for his hair.

Slide 62 - Victor Lewis from The Electric Playground looks very suave.

Slide 73 - Shane Kim gives the thumbs up, man!

Slide 111 - Shane Kim and Victor Lewis are friends, dude!

Slides 128-141 - Rockband time.

Slides 147-151 - multiple people give the finger...the index finger. Among the finger givers is Howard Donaldson, VP Studio Operations, Disney Interactive Studios. Yeah, don't ask me.

Slides 158-275 - One hundred and eighteen completely black photographs.

See, now wasn't that just like the good old days!

Jul 30, 2008

All Right, Who's Up For 'Dinner and Wii'?

Wow, I stumbled upon a gold mine today. It seems Nintendo of Canada has a summer promotional website up right now that slipped under my radar. The promotion began on June 18th and continues until September 1st.

So what's on the website you ask? A whole-lotta-stuff, including:

Wii Party Planning 101
A step-by-step overview describing how one should plan a Wii party. According to the instructions, if you plan a Wii party, don't forget to dress up in costume - bonus points if you dress like a Nintendo character, especially Kirby. Also, no Wii party is complete without goodie bags that include stickers, wrist bands, lip gloss, and a 6-pack of beer. Okay, okay, perhaps just my Wii parties include plenty of Heineken.

Dinner and Wii
This section of the website answers a question that has been looming in the back of my mind - what the hell does one eat when playing Cooking Mama? The answer: Mama's Iced Green Tea! Yes, the website actually gives you real food recipes that mix well with your favourite Wii games. Ever wonder what you should eat with your Brain Age game? Easily a Brainy Temple with Cortex Crudités. Come on, you knew that right?

Family Challenge
This site keeps on getting cooler, trust me on this. In this section, Nintendo will be posting weekly Wii challenges that you can do with your family for fun and prizes. Last week's challenge was "Most points for Crocodile Twist" on Wii Fit. Of course with any challenge, to the winner go the spoils. For winning the Crocodile Twist, someone in your family has to - drum roll please - serve you breakfast in bed. Now that's a reward I wouldn't mind having everyday! Also, there is a printable winner certificate, and trust me you have a look (click here for the certificate - it's a PDF)

So there is all that content, and so much more. I haven't even discussed the contest and tour portion of the website. I think I'll save that lowdown for later in the week (and if you're too excited to wait, visit the contest page here).

Jul 26, 2008

Study: No Connection Between Nightmares And Video Games

Is there a correlation between video game use and nightmares? Pfft, bloody hell no!

According to a German study of 250 students aged nine to 13, no correlation was found between the amount of TV watching and game playing. They did however find a link between reading and nightmares, but Michael Schredl, head researcher for the study, cautioned that the sample size was too small to make definitive conclusions.

Says Schredl: "It might make sense that not only the pictures themselves are of importance, but what children fantasize during the day. They might be more stimulated by reading than by watching TV."

Good thing this survey was conducted before the PS3 remake Siren: Blood Curse was released. I've been playing the game since Friday, and I swear that I'm going to have nightmares for weeks. Let's hope I don't, for Michael's sake. I certainly wouldn't want to prove him wrong.

Source: Canwest News Service

Jul 25, 2008

DEBUT: NHL 2K9 for the Wii this September

Nintendo announces NHL 2K9 for the Wii... With some very cool features:
  • Wii Remote™ Shooting – Execute wrist shots with the flick of the Wii Remote or put some power into shots by holding the B button while flicking the Wii Remote to blast a slapper.

  • Wii Remote™ Fighting – Adding a never-before-seen layer of fun to hockey video games, NHL 2K9 features on-ice showdowns. When two players have raised their aggression enough to fight, pointing the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controller downward drops the gloves.

  • Precision Passing / Chain Passing – Exclusive to Wii, take the guesswork out of which player is going to receive a pass by selecting players with the Wii Remote cursor. One-timers, give-and-go and tic-tac-toe passing are executed by selecting multiple players prior to pressing the pass or A button.

  • Wii Remote Goaltending – Gesture-based goaltending allows fans to get between the pipes and flash the leather. Even take control when it counts the most -- in shootouts!

  • Full Featured Simulation – NHL 2K9 on Wii offers the same full-featured, fun hockey experience as available on other platforms complete with franchise mode, practice mode with a tutorial, pond hockey, and much more!
  • This looks to be one I'll be watching for...

    Jul 24, 2008

    MLG: Canada’s Top Gamers to Battle for More Than $70,000

    NEWS RELEASE (See the Full Release, Schedule and Registration Information)

    Canada’s Top Gamers to Battle for More Than $70,000 at Major League Gaming Pro Circuit Toronto, Presented by Ford

    TORONTO, July 24, 2008 – Ford Major League Gaming Canada and Insight Sports announced today that Canada’s top video gamers will have an opportunity to compete for a total purse of more than $70,000 U.S. during next month’s MLG Pro Circuit Toronto, presented by Ford. A featured event of Fan Expo Canada, this exciting competition is scheduled to take place from August 22-24 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

    An official stop of the six-city 2008 MLG Pro Circuit, MLG Pro Circuit Toronto, presented by Ford, will feature the top professional and amateur video gamers from Canada and the United States.

    The event will feature three main tournaments:
    • Halo 3 – four vs. four
    • Gears of War – four vs. four
    • Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six® Vegas 2 – four vs. four
    The top eight teams in the Halo 3 competition will receive prize money, with the championship squad receiving $20,000 U.S.

    In both the Gears of War and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six® Vegas 2 competitions, the top four teams will receive prize money, with each first-place squad receiving $4,000 U.S. A complete breakdown of the prize money for the 2008 Ford MLG Canadian Open can be found at www.mlgcanada.com .

    Teams can guarantee themselves a spot in one of the three tournaments by qualifying through the MLG Pro Circuit Toronto Online Ladders. The top squads in the online competition will be automatically seeded into the main draw of their event for MLG Pro Circuit Toronto, presented by Ford.

    See more at the Full Press Release

    Jul 23, 2008

    Registration Starts For The 2008 Montreal International Game Summit

    The Alliance numérique have announced that registration to the 2008 Montreal International Game Summit is now open. The Summit began in 2004 and is targeted at video game professionals from Quebec, Canada and the US East Coast. As an international forum, the summit also hosts participants from the United States and Europe. This year's Summit will be held at the Palais des congrès de Montréal from November 18 to 19, 2008.

    Last year, MIGS attracted a number of high profile keynote speakers including:

    * Yoshiaki Koizumi - game designer for Zelda and Mario series
    * David Perry - founder of Shiny Entertainment and Earthworm Jim creator
    * Jonathan Blow - designer of the Xbox Live Arcade game Braid

    While keynote speakers for the 2008 Summit have yet to be announced, expect some top industry illuminaries at this year's event. The Summit will feature more than 80 speakers and 50 sessions, seminars, conferences and workshops over the two-day period. Some 1,300 members of the game industry are expected to attend this fifth Edition.

    Other notable event features:

    * Registrants can sign-up for one of five professional steams: Content, Design, Production/Business, Technology, and Serious Games

    * There will be an Exhibition Area where video game companies present their most recent games (2007 exhibitors included Eidos, Nintendo, Ubisoft, EA, and more)

    * A business lounge reserved for developers, suppliers and publishers to meet and discuss opportunities

    For more information and to register for the Summit, check out their website here: 2008 Montreal International Game Summit. Registration is 30% off until September 30th.

    Jul 22, 2008

    And The Average Age Of A Canadian Gamer Is...

    ...40.3 years old. That statistic comes from a new study by Ipsos-Reid commissioned by our good friends at the Entertainment Software Association of Canada.

    Just as interesting, the study found that a majority of Canadian parents (57%) claim they play video games with their kids (Yes, I said majority!) Also, a growing number of parents (41%) actually prefer their kids play video games rather than watch television.

    With stats like these I'm convinced that kids these days have it made, I mean I started playing video games when I was three years old and hell if any adult I knew would play games with me. The closest I ever got was when I played a 30 second match of Pong against my mom, but she quickly gave up after I scored a few easy shots on her. Luckily, this generation the Wii has made it so easy to play games you can literally just wave your Wiimote around wildly and get a strike in Wii bowling.

    Finally, if anyone you know in Canada doubts what a juggernaut of an industry video games have become as of late - tell them that last year Canadian families purchased $1.67 billion worth of entertainment software and hardware. That stat is also courtesy the same Ipsos Reid study.

    Last year I contributed at least a $1,000 towards that figure. Hot damn - pretty soon I'm going to be one of those 40 year old game addicts!

    Source: The Calgary Herald

    Picture courtesy of Andrew. Thanks!

    Jul 20, 2008

    5 Reasons Why Trophies Are Better Than Achievements


    NextGen Player Feature Article - Part 2 of 2
    By Paul Hunter

    With the launch of PS3 firmware update 2.40 on July 2, Sony has officially launched their own gamer reward system to compete with Microsoft's well entrenched Achievement system. Microsoft was the first the out of the gate, and has had two and a half years to refine and improve their product. With this experience under their belt, is Microsoft's Achievement offering better than their rival's Trophy system? Or has the extra time allowed Sony to develop a superior reward system?

    In part 2 of our feature article, I will examine the reasons why Trophies are better than Achievements. To view part 1, where I examined the reasons why Achievements are better to Trophies, please click here.

    --
    Playstation Trophies - A Brief Description

    PlayStation 3 Trophies are a reward system on the PS3, introduced with the PlayStation 3 System Software 2.40 update.

    Game Developers have the option of including pre-defined goals within their games, which when achieved will award the player a related trophy based on the skill required to attain the goal. Trophies can be bronze, silver, gold or platinum; with platinum given to players who collect every trophy in an individual game. Sony has introduced a redesigned PS3 Network Profile which displays a list the player's recently obtained Trophies, as well as the aggregate number of each Trophy type (bronze, silver, gold, platinum) collected.
    --

    5 Reasons Why Trophies Are Better Than Achievements

    Reason #1: Tiered Reward System

    Sure it can be argued that Sony has taken a long time to introduce a reward system for the Playstation 3, but the extra time they have spent has been used very wisely. Instead of copying the Xbox 360 method of assigning arbitrary point values to Achievements, Sony has had plenty of time to create an innovative new way to reward gamers. They have introduced a tiered reward system that assigns gamers one of four Trophies types (bronze, silver, gold and platinum) based on the skill required to unlock. Now gamers have a much more visual and familiar representation of their accomplishments to show off to their friends.

    Even more importantly, the tiered reward system will allow PS3 gamers to immediately identify the type of gamers they encounter. For instance, if you see someone with a handful of bronze Trophies, and no silver or gold, you'll know that the particular gamer is a low-skill or casual player, with little interest in tackling the hardest of challenges to acquire the more prestigious Trophies. On the other hand, if you meet a gamer 50 gold Trophies, and a number of platinum Trophies, you'll instantly know that this particular player is a serious gamer, and someone you'd easily want to be on your side during online play.

    Reason #2: RPG Elements

    A Playstation Trophy feature sure to appeal to stat-building fans is the 'level-up' system that assigns gamers a numerical level (each player starts at level 1), based on the number and quality of the Trophies they have collected. As you collect Trophies, you gain experience towards your next level. As an added incentive to collect the more valuable gold Trophies, more experience is gained per Trophy in comparison to silver or bronze. This will serve to reward power gamers will more experience, and a higher level than their low-skill gamer counterparts. These RPG elements add a whole lot of depth and should serve to create some fun competition with your friends. Your friend has 50 Trophies to your 25? If you have mostly silver and gold Trophies to their vast collect of bronzes - so what? You'll have less Trophies, but more than likely a higher level.

    The PS3 RPG-style leveling system also serves to increase the importance of every single Trophy, making potentially more rewarding to obtain than Achievements. Instead of adding an miniscule 10 points to your ever burgeoning Xbox gamerscore, each Playstation Trophy will add to your collection of bronze, silver and gold Trophies - and any one Trophy could level you up. Suddenly easy-to-grab bronze Trophies have much more appeal. Sony intentionally does not divulge the experience point value of a Trophy, nor do they inform gamers how many points they need to level up. Instead, once you collect a Trophy, a behind-the-scene computation takes place, adding an unknown quantity of experience to your total. I can see Trophy collecting going in waves, as you are approaching your next experience level, the drive to collect increases. Once you obtain your next level, your incentive drops, and it's time to take it easy for a little while. Overall, one can argue the PS3 Trophy level-up is a key differentiating factor that makes Trophies more appealing than Achievements.

    Reason #3: Greater Incentive For Completion

    Another key advantage Trophies have over Achievements is the motivation Sony has given us to collect all Trophies in each game. Once a player has collected 100% of the bronze, silver and gold Trophies in a game, the player is rewarded with an additional Trophy - the highly sought after platinum. This special, symbolic Trophy indicates you have achieved the highest level of mastery in the game and are a true completionist gamer. As an additional incentive to achieve 100% completion, the platinum Trophies add a much larger amount of experience points (in comparison to bronze, silver or gold) to your PSN gamer level. This will give serious gamers that added experience boost needed to gain levels fast and really differentiate themselves from low-level gamers.

    Reason #4: Retroactive Trophy Support

    It's no surprise that the Playstation 3 had a rough start with low hardware sales due to it's hefty $599 initial price tag. But in the last nine months the Playstation 3's fortune has reversed, with both console and software sales increasing dramatically year-over-year. To help feed the console's momentum, Sony has announced that a number of previously released first party PS3 games will be retro-fitted with Trophies, including Super Stardust HD, Warhawk, and PAIN. A few other previously released PS3 titles (e.g. Uncharted, Burnout Paradise, and Novastrike) should also be getting Trophy support down the road.

    Since introducing Trophies, Super Stardust HD has enjoyed a massive revival and it's fair to say that following Trophy compatible games will attract a similar buzz. This gives a huge incentive for existing PS3 owners to dust off and replay shelved titles, as well as giving new PS3 owners an added boost to purchase the games. As we move into the busy fall season, Trophies will continue to steal momentum from Achievements as more games are retro-fitted and the hype for Trophies increases.

    Reason #5: Playstation Home Integration

    Sony may offer its most significant answer to the Xbox 360's Achievements once we see the launch of Playstation Home. The world of PlayStation Home will not only consist of players' houses, but reportedly it will also feature a Hall of Fame which will include a Trophy Room where users are able to display their gaming accomplishments. Sony has also announced that they are considering the possibility of only allowing the most prized accomplishments in your Trophy display, increasing the importance of collection those coveted gold and platinum Trophies. Playstation Home will give players a whole new way to interact and show off their prized collection, giving Trophies a much more tangible value than Achievements. Given that Playstation Home is still a work-in-progress (it's in private beta), details are still rolling in. Needless to say, the integration of Home is sure to be a huge differentiating factor a key reason why Trophies are better than Achievements.

    Conclusion

    In one swift move, Sony has set the bar high and now the true competition has begun. The question of whether or not Playstation Trophies will steal the thunder of Xbox 360's remains to be seen. One thing is certain though, with PS3 and Xbox 360 games nearly identical in graphics, control and sound, it's no longer acceptable to say "I'll get the 360 version, so I can get Achievements."

    Jul 16, 2008

    Link Up with PlayStation!

    So I was checking my email this evening and received the following email from PlayStation Underground. It is an advance invitation for me to link up my PlayStation Underground ID to my PlayStation Network ID and also receive a PSN ID card graphic that I can proudly show off...um...once I get some trophies under my belt that is.



    Finally Sony has got with it and realized that PlayStation gamers with both an Underground and PSN account should have a unified account access to all of their PlayStation content online.
    I'm linked up and good to go!

    Jack Tretton Speaks Out Against Microsoft's Third Party 'Currying'

    It seems gamers were not the only ones shocked by Square-Enix's announcement of a multi-platform Final Fantasy XIII release. Speaking at an E3 roundtable Q&A, President of SCEA Jack Tretton has spoken out against Microsoft, implying that the company has spent most of their money "trying to curry favor with third parties".

    Tretton then goes on to contrast this strategy with Sony's, saying that "the decision that we made is that we were going to invest in internal development, the majority of our resources and over half of our employee base all over the world. We've built up our base and that's where we've chosen to spend our dollars."

    Soooo....Sony develops great games internally while Microsoft buys them? Ouch.

    Source: Gamasutra.

    Sorry Canada, The PSN Video Store Is Region Locked

    So as an extremely excited PS3 owner, I rushed home after work today so I could experience the brand spankin' new PSN Video Store. To my surprise, the store (which went live yesterday) was not appearing when I logged into the Playstation Store. After a little investigation, it would seem that the Video Store is region locked, and us Canadians have been locked out. Apparently the litmus test to determine whether you're region locked is to click here. Sony is tracking visitors by IP address, so if you reside in Canada you should be getting the following error message:

    "PLAYSTATION®Store is not available in the selected country or region."

    That's right, it's an iTunes-esque fiasco all over again!

    Well, it would seem that I'm going to have to do my movie renting the old fashion brick and mortar way...for now.

    Jul 15, 2008

    Nintendo E3 Impressions

    Engage, Enrich and Enthuse. That was the overall theme and message that Nintendo delivered during its media conference. The 3Es at E3...ahhh, how clever Nintendo. Did they do a successful job delivering this message? I think so.

    So what's on the horizon for Nintendo Wii and DS gamers?

    Let's begin with the Wii.

    The first upcoming title announced was Shaun White's Snowboarding. Nintendo revealed the game with Shaun himself demonstrating the game using the Wii balance board. While it's no surprise that the Wii balance board would be incorporated into a game of this type, I gotta say that this looks to be a very fun experience. All aspects of motion are utilized via the Wii balance board to affect how you board. Tilt forward to speed up, side to side to steer, etc. The graphics looked fairly good from what the demo showed. All in all, this seems to be promising game for the Wii that will likely have casual and even hardcore gamers carving snow with their balance boards. This is planned for an end of year launch.

    The next game announced was Animal Crossing City Folk. This game incorporates a completely free and open world where there are no real objectives or goals to achieve. Literally, you can do whatever you feel like. Environments are artistically stylized in 3D and life and the world itself runs on a virtual 24h clock. This means that if you decide to sit around and do nothing, the world around you will continue to run and behave in a normal fashion. The really cool aspect of this game is the interactivity it provides. You can personalize your character and world to your unique style. You can also play with friends and interact with the world/environments they've created. To enrich the interactive experience even further, a new peripheral called WiiSpeak (a microphone attachment placed on top of the Wii sensor) will allow players to speak with other players when playing online or locally in the same room. My sense is that this is definitely a game for the casual gamer audience that Nintendo appeals to. Nothing wrong with that as this is Nintendo's focus. As they put it, they work towards breaking the "psychological barrier between gamers and non-gamers". This game has the right combination of gimmicky and innovative features to interest all levels of gamers. This game is set to launch at the end of 2008.

    To wrap up the Wii segment, Nintendo quickly showcase 3 new upcoming games in the form of Star Wars The Clone Wars (sweet), Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party (can be used with Wii balance board) and Call of Duty World at War (in-game graphics look impressive from the video shown). All seem to be strong and solid titles that should make Wii gamers very excited.

    The second half of the conference focused on the DS. But before I get to that, I wanted to spit off some interesting stats that Nintendo shared.

    - Total worldwide sales of Wii is 10MM units and of DS is 20MM
    - Combined total revenues generated from the sales of Wii and DS equals $5 billion
    - This year, DS hardware sales are 12% ahead of last year - DS is still going strong
    - This year, DS software sales are 29% ahead of last year
    - Fast growing segment for DS hardware sales are females (48% of DS sales attributed to females this year)

    These stats really speak to the fact that Nintendo has indeed broken the typical gamer mould and have been able to attract a wide ranging gaming audience.


    Now to the DS.

    Nintendo showcased a handful of upcoming games that look to be promising titles.
    Guitar Hero on Tour Decades. This is the sequel to the current Guitar Hero on Tour game. While the overall game play remains the same, this game will allow gamers to share their music with each other between both versions of the game. This feature should provide more fun and replay value.

    Spore Creatures. The much anticipated nextgen console and PC game makes its way onto the DS with a game that has players creating and customizing creatures with the use of the stylus. Game play is also unique to the DS using the stylus. Once again, interactivity is a key feature that will allow gamers to share creatures with friends and play together.

    Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars. Did I hear this right??? A GTA title for DS? It's been years since the last GTA title for a Nintendo handheld (Gameboy Advance back in 2004). Not much was revealed about the game other than it would be set in current Liberty City and feature the same open world environment with a custom game engine and new characters. I'm definitely looking forward to hearing more about this game!

    Pokemon Rangers Shadows of Alma. Surprise!!! Another Pokemon game for DS...need I say more? Yet another way to keep kids of all ages happy.

    Finally, Nintendo touched on the fact that the DS is more than just a gaming system. It is being used for non-gaming applications as well. Some current and in testing uses include:

    - Accessing flight information when at an airport
    - Getting info on hotels, location of ATMs, etc when travelling
    - In Seattle at Safeco Field, fans can use their DS to access box scores, watch highlights, participate in contests, order food and drinks and more
    - Interactive cook book via the Cooking Navi game (currently only in Japan, but set for a North American release in Nov 2008)

    Strong upcoming title launches and development for non-gaming use will continue to make the Nintendo DS an appealing and versatile gaming system that will likely translate to more and more DS sales in the future.

    To wrap it all up, Nintendo finished with 2 more announcements. The introduction of the Wii MotionPlus peripheral and WiiMusic game.

    The Wii MotionPlus is a small peripheral that attaches to the bottom of the Wii remote. Using the Wii MotionPlus enhances the motion sensitivity of the Wii remote. It renders any slight movements from your wrist and arm to provide a more realistic game play experience. The game that will launch with the Wii MotionPlus is Wii Resort. This is another set of mini-games that include frisbee fetch with a dog, sword duelling and water jet skiing. The demonstration of the frisbee game was cool as the different wrist/arm angles and movements with the Wii remote translated accurately and effectively into the game.

    WiiMusic is - you guessed it - a music based game that uses the Wii remote and Wii balance board to allow you to play 50 different instruments. Some of the ones demonstrated were drums, saxophone, guitar and piano. The co-op option allows 4 gamers to play together and collaboratively create a music video of their performance. Seems like an interesting game, but in all honesty could get boring pretty quickly.

    My final impression is that Nintendo did deliver on their message of Engage, Enrich and Enthuse. None of the announcements were mind-blowing or shocking, but that wasn't necessary. The upcoming titles and advancements in store for both the Wii and DS clearly demonstrate Nintendo's ongoing focus to create a balanced gaming experience that appeals to people from all walks of life. This fact is strongly supported with their impressive stats on worldwide units sold for both Wii and DS. And at the end of the day, who can argue with that.

    Which Square-Enix Betrayal Shocked You More?

    As evident by the huge outcry on gaming websites, blogs and forums - Square-Enix's announcement yesterday that FFXIII will be released simultaneously on the Xbox 360 and the PS3 was a huge megaton surprise. This is undoubtedly one of the most shocking announcements ever at an E3 event. PS3 owners across the globe are still reeling after hearing their long time Sony exclusive Final Fantasy XIII would be making its way to Microsoft's Xbox 360.

    However, let's not forget that this isn't the first time that Square-Enix has been branded a turncoat and a sell out. Back in the Super Nintendo days, Square-Enix announced development of FFVII, an exclusive title for the upcoming Nintendo 64DD. Of course as we all know, Nintendo opted to can the 64DD in favour the traditional low capacity game cartridge. This led to a dispute between Square-Enix (who wanted to introduce rich audio and cinematics into the FF series that would require CD capacity) and Nintendo. Ultimately, this rift between the companies became so wide, Square-Enix decided to jump ship and produced FFVII exclusively on the Sony Playstation.

    Given these two dramatic examples of Square-Enix's willingness to betray their allegiances, the question I have for you is - which one shocked you more?

    Jul 14, 2008

    Microsoft E3 Impressions

    The Microsoft E3 presentation has just concluded, so I figured I'd share my thoughts on the major announcements. I'm sure the other NGP lads will be posting their own impressions later, so if I don't cover something you were interested in, they might! I wasn't able to get the feed working until the Gears of War 2 section, but I saw everything from that point on.

    1. Gears of War 2 looked great, as you would expect. Lots of fun new ways to dispatch the Locusts, with all of the typical firing from cover, roadie running and beefy weapons that makes Gears so great being present in the trailer. I say trailer and not "gameplay session with Cliffy B" because their demo appeared to freeze and restart about 15 seconds into it. Whoops!

    2. The new dashboard interface looks nice. Reminds me a bit of Vista's window shuffling thing. The avatars are obviously a Mii rip-off, but they look like they'll have lots of customization available, and be integrated into a number of titles. Come to think of it, Nintendo has really let a good thing slide with Miis. A lot of folks like them, but they've never put out new clothes or faces or anything since the launch of the console. Seems like a missed opportunity that Microsoft is going to jump on now.

    3. Live Arcade looks like it'll have some fun additions. Geometry Wars sequel looked especially good. I love that game, even though I'm terrible at it. New Portal levels are always welcome too! The three second South Park didn't do much for me, but I've never been wild about the show.

    4. Viva Pinata 2 is a game I never thought would get made. Didn't think the first one sold all that well. It's a fantastic game though, if you don't mind your roommates questioning your sexual orientation the first time they see you playing it. 100 new pinata varieties for the sequel and some sort of card-collection game, I guess using the Vision Cam?

    5. A Scene It sequel! First one was great with 4 players, bringing the avatars into it seems like a natural idea.

    6. The "You're in the Movies" game looked moronic to me. I can see kids liking it though, it had the look of one of those games where the commercial shows a family that's just a little too into the game they're playing? You know the ones I mean, where the bald dad is red-faced and yelling at his sweater-wearing wife to do a better job being Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver? On a side note, I felt really bad for the Microsoft lady they made do the dancing routine to demonstrate this game. The internet is going to eat that poor woman alive.

    7. The guy talking about Guitar Hero: World Tour kept doing pauses for applause that died a horrible death. It became funnier every time he did it! There's something about people giving really awkward presentations that makes me happy on an evil level.

    8. "Lips" will probably be quite popular, but could they have picked a more bland song to demonstrate the game? A bunch of boring looking people sit around and croon into a flashy mic to a boring song. Woo-ho. Then some girl tries to save the party by busting out a hip-hop song, but the movie ends. Pass. The ability to load tracks from your Zune or iPod looked pretty cool though.

    9. Rock Band 2 mostly told us stuff we already know, but it was still great to hear we're getting 84 new tracks, no covers, and the ability to export our music from RB1 over. Harmonix feels more and more like the company that really tries to make their fans happy. I'll definitely be in line for this one.

    All in all, an entertaining presentation. It would have been nice to have more big announcements, but it would be hard to match 2007. There was no Halo to talk about, and that’s fine. That franchise shouldn’t be the only reason people turn on their 360s anyway. FFXIII was a big deal to those who care about platform exclusivity and such, but I haven’t played a FF since 7, so it’s a bit lost on me. I’ll be eager to see what Sony and Nintendo can counter with as the week goes on!

    Jul 13, 2008

    NextGen Player Featured On The BusinessCast Podcast

    Last week NextGen Player was featured on The Businesscast, a popular iTunes podcast focused on providing useful tips and strategies for all aspects of business entrepreneurship. Matt and I were invited on the show to discuss our experience as bloggers and to provide listeners with our insights into entrepreneurial questions such as:

    - Should I establish a blog?
    - What do I need to know before I establish a blog?
    - How much time, effort and money does it take to blog?
    - How do you measure the success of a blog?

    If you're an entrepreneur, or if you're thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, I recommend having a listen to the podcast. Here's the link:

    Podcast #64 - ‘Blogging For Business’ with Gold ‘n Brown

    Andrew Brown, co-host of The Businesscast, posted a 3-part follow-up article on blogging for business. You can check out the articles on The Businesscast blog:

    BusinessCast - Blogging For Business - Part 1
    BusinessCast - Blogging For Business - Part 2
    BusinessCast - Blogging For Business - Part 3

    Xbox 360 Price Cut Confirmed For Canada, New Model In August

    The rumoured Xbox 360 price drop has finally been announced by Microsoft today, one day before their E3 press conference. As anticipated, the 20GB Xbox 360 will be reduced in price by $50, with a new retail price of $299. The Arcade and Elite models will not be receiving price cuts. Also announced is that the 20GB model is being replaced by a 60GB version, which will go on sale in Canada in early August. The 60GB model will retail for $349, the same price the 20GB model was before the cut.

    Here's the full press release from Microsoft:


    Redmond, Washington—Microsoft is giving consumers more gigabytes for their buck. The company today announced an Xbox 360® console with triple the storage space of the original console, but for the same price of $349 (U.S.) estimated retail price.

    Available in retail stores in the U.S. and Canada starting in early August, the upgraded Xbox 360 will include a 60GB hard drive for storing the growing wealth of digital entertainment available for the console, including music, movies, television shows, and game content. In addition, Microsoft today dropped the price of its 20GB Xbox 360 console in the U.S. and Canada to just $299 (U.S.) (ERP) while supplies last, a savings of $50.

    "We know consumers need more and more space to store the amazing digital content Xbox 360 offers, and we're giving it to them at no extra charge," said Albert Penello, Xbox director of product management at Microsoft. "No one device offers the depth and breadth of entertainment that Xbox 360 can deliver, and now you'll have three times the storage to manage all that great content."

    Xbox 360 is just one of three Xbox 360 gaming and entertainment systems Microsoft offers. Microsoft's Xbox 360 Arcade, which comes with a 256MB memory unit and five Xbox LIVE Arcade games, is a value for the whole family for $279 (U.S.) (ERP), and the premium Xbox 360 Elite console is available with a 120GB hard drive for $449 (U.S.) (ERP).

    Jul 12, 2008

    Major League Gaming Returns To Canada


    Major League Gaming, the largest organized league for professional gaming, has announced they will be returning to Canada as part of their 2008 Pro Circuit season.

    The event will be part of the 2008 Gaming Expo that we wrote about last month being held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from August 22-24. Hobbystar, the organizers of the Gaming Expo, have added a ton of details on the MLG Pro Circuit competition on their website today.

    The games included in the competition include Halo 3, Gears of War and Rainbow Six Vegas 2. The best way to guarantee your team a place in the event, is to qualify through the MLG Pro Circuit Toronto Online Ladders. MLG Pro Circuit Toronto tournament passes will be awarded to the top teams in upcoming online ladder competitions. For information on how the online ladders work, check out the explanation MLG Canada website.

    Gamers interested in competing at the Toronto MLG event should take note of the following registration deadlines:

    Halo 3 - 7pm ET on Tuesday, July 22nd
    Gears of War - 7pm ET on Wednesday, July 23rd
    Rainbow Six Vegas 2 - 7pm ET on Thursday, July 24th

    MLG will be giving away more than $60,000 in cash prize money for the top tournament players, so if you have serious gamer skills you definitely shouldn't miss this opportunity.

    My sources have also hinted that the fourth member of the Amp Energy Pro Team, Canada's first and only sponsored professional gaming team, will be announced at this Toronto event.

    NextGen Player will be on-hand at the MLG Pro Circuit tournament to give you all the highlights of the show. Hope to see you there next month!

    Jul 10, 2008

    World Cyber Games comes to Durham Region

    According to the Pickering News Advertiser, The WCG is hosting a regional qualifier for Halo 3, Counter Strike and Warcraft III Frozen Throne in Brooklin Ontario.

    Running over the next week several qualifying matches will take place in the regional qualifier and a shot to travel to Montreal for nationals. The winning teams will advance to the World final in Cologne Germany, taking place in November 2008.

    Location: (map)
    Game Café
    58 Baldwin Street
    Brooklin, ON Canada L1M 1A3
    905-655-3306
    Schedule:
    • Guitar Hero III - July 2 (Past event)
    • HALO 3 - July 12
    • Counter Strike - July 16
    • Warcraft III Frozen Throne - July 19
    • Project Gotham Racing - N/A
    • Virtua Fighter - N/A
    Cost: 15$ to enter - Cash prizes and gifts to be won.

    To Register: iGames Café or call Game Café.

    Think you got what it takes... maybe I'll see you there.

    Impressions - Battle Field: Bad Company

    Over the last week I have been playing Battlefield: Bad Company (Xbox 306), and I have to say... I loved it. From weapon selection and variation to the interactive environment and the number of gadgets you get to use during the course of the game it was fantastic. The story line; four outcasts banding together to hunt down Mercenary Gold was very Three Kings like.

    What I liked about BF:BC
    • I found the NPCs to be great, the witty comments and remarks made during the course of the game are well written, and the voice acting and cut scenes are top notch.
    • The boards are huge and full of great places to hide, for both the player and the Computer AI - this resulted in many deaths however.
    • The scenery and explosive probabilities of the environment are virtually endless. You can really blow up almost everything on the map.
    • The online multi-player systems was also fantastic, Massive maps to play with tons of different equipment to use (Tanks, Helicopters, and Artillery) .
    • Players are quick to respawn in the case of death, and equipment upgrades (earned by gaining rank) and items are easily managed via the game selection screens.
    Now for what I didn't like:
    • NPCs were sometime a little useless - hiding behind buildings of objects and avoiding the gun fight leaving the entire battle up to you.
    • Achievements are not stackable; meaning if you play on Hard you also need to play on Easy to unlock all of the achievements... If you care about achievements that is.

    • Multi-player seamed kind of random for team selection and I didn't really see a noticeable "Party up" option for playing with friends. Note: It is there somewhere, but during the matches I played I didn't see it.
    • The number of maps felt a bit limited; It seemed I was always playing the same three or four maps over and over, and that the variation was mostly determined by your current objective (offence - blow up the gold crates, or defence - protect the crates) and where your "base" was located on each map.
    All in all a very fun game, worth buying and spending the time on. Maybe EA will release a patch that fixes the achievement stacking, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for it. For now I'll settle on taking the easy way to get collect these.

    I haven't finished BF:BC yet, but plan on doing so in the not so distant future, right after I get over playing the newly release Civilization Revolution that I picked up last night.

    Jul 8, 2008

    UPDATE: PS3 firmware 2.41 available for download

    As reported by gaming show X-Play today, Sony has released firmware v2.41 for the PS3. This is the latest firmware version with the fixes to the various issues reported by users who installed v2.40.

    Those of you who've already installed firmware v2.40, will need to update to v2.41.

    Jul 7, 2008

    NextGen Player | Gaming for Charity

    2008-07-03 Amp Your Game - TorontoLast week I had the pleasure of attending the "Amp Your Game" Tour, a Cross Canada event that is looking to fill in the last spot on the Amp Energy Pro Team, North of 49, to compete with existing team members; Nelson Triana (gamer tag: G-SpOt), Leo Vitelli (gamer tag: Alpha XFactor) and Bo Kovacevic (gamer tag: The Bo).

    A special media event, for Video Game media personalities in the Toronto area, was held on Wednesday July 2, 2008. As the night progressed the "Amp Your Game Media Charity Challenge" was held by the tours key, sponsor Amp Energy Drink. As it happens I was able to drive my way to victory (see picture of me playing MotorStorm on the PS3).

    As the winner I received a very cool prize pack and I got to pick the recipient of a charitable donation from Amp Energy for the sum of $500. As it happens I work with a Local Canadian Charity, as their Marketing Director, named COTERC (Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation) so my charity of choice, was an easy one to make.

    On Behalf of NextGen Player and COTERC I'd like to say - Thank you AMP Energy for your generous contribution.

    More pictures from the event.

    Jul 5, 2008

    5 Reasons Why Achievements Are Better Than Trophies


    NextGen Player Feature Article - Part 1 of 2
    By Paul Hunter

    With the launch of PS3 firmware update 2.40 on July 2, Sony has officially launched their own gamer reward system to compete with Microsoft's well entrenched Achievement system. Microsoft was the first the out of the gate, and has had two and a half years to refine and improve their product. With this experience under their belt, is Microsoft's Achievement offering better than their rival's Trophy system? Or has the extra time allowed Sony to develop a superior reward system?

    In part 1 of this feature article, NextGen Player will examine the reasons why Achievements are better to Trophies. Next week, in part 2 we will examine the reasons why Trophies are better than Achievements.

    --
    Xbox Achievements - A Brief Description

    Since the launch of Xbox 360, Microsoft has mandated that retail games offer 1,000 points spread over a variable number of Achievements, while each Xbox Live Arcade title contains 12 achievements totaling 200 points. Developers also now have the option of adding up to 250 points via downloadable content (for a total of 1,250 points), and Xbox Live Arcade titles may add up to 50 points via downloadable content (for a total of 250 points).
    --

    5 Reasons Why Achievements Are Better Than Trophies

    Reason #1: Gamerscore Loyalty

    Having been around for two and a half years now, Xbox 360 gamers have amassed a deep collection of Achievements - many of which have taken hours to acquire. A growing number of Xbox 360 players have surpassed the coveted 10,000+ Achievement mark, a feat that takes patience, perseverance and most importantly - commitment. With so many dedicated hours obtaining Achievements, do Xbox 360 owners really want to begin collecting Sony's Trophy offerings? Every hour spent collecting Trophies is one less spent collecting Achievements, and that means gamerscores will rise more slowly. To some, Achievements are a competition - and for those people, Trophies would be a distraction.

    With such a well established reward system, Achievements are a major advantage for Microsoft. When deciding whether to buy an Xbox 360 or PS3 version of the same game, many gamers will agree that they select Xbox 360 for the Achievements. Until Trophies gain some traction and gamer loyalty, Achievements will be more desired.

    Reason #2: Consumer Affinity

    Being first on the market with a reward system has given Microsoft another significant advantage in the battle for consumer dollars. As many Xbox 360 owners can attest too, obtaining an Achievement is a very gratifying experience. For those used to collecting points, seeing the familiar "Achievement Unlocked" pop-up message and hearing the reward sound can be an exciting moment. Many Xbox 360 players view their gamerscore as part of their online identity, and Achievements create an instantly recognizable symbol of your commitment to hardcore gaming. There are entire communities formed based on the common interest of Achievements (e.g. Xbox360Achievements.org), and it's that strong personal affinity that will keep many gamers playing on Microsoft's platform.

    Reason #3: Full Game Library Compatibility

    Microsoft rolled-out their Achievement reward system for the Xbox 360 at launch, meaning all retail and downloadable games in the Xbox 360 library contain Achievements. The only exception to the rule is original Xbox titles purchased on the Live Marketplace, but that makes sense given these games never had Achievements when originally released. As an Xbox 360 owner, you are empowered with the knowledge that all games for your platform contain Achievements, no matter what the release date, distribution channel (retail vs. DLC), or publisher.

    Conversely, things are much more complicated for the Playstation 3. Since firmware update 2.40 (which includes support for Trophies) was just released a few days ago, to date only Super Stardust HD has been patched for Trophies. Sony has announced a handful of other titles (see the list here) but the reality is that the vast majority of the Playstation library does not support Trophies. To further complicate the situation, a number of developers have stated that they will not be patching previously released titles. High profile games not receiving Trophy patches include: Call of Duty 4, Devil May Cry 4, GRID, Ratchet and Clank Future, Resistance, among others. While it's good to see some previously released PS3 games will receive Trophy patches, when compared to Xbox 360's full library compatibility, Trophies just don't stack up.

    Reason #4: Better Online Integration

    Another significant advantage Achievements have over Trophies is their online integration capabilities. Microsoft has leveraged their existing MSN Live ID infrastructure to allow gamers to login to their Xbox accounts with ease. When logged in, gamers have a full range of options available to them: including viewing their gamercard and comparing Achievements with friends. An additional edge Achievements have over Trophies is the ease in which gamers can display their gamercards online. Widget application provider My Gamer Card allows any Xbox 360 user the ability to display their gamercards on websites and in forum signatures effortlessly - with the gamercard will automatically updating your Achievement list in real-time.

    Playstation Trophies, while still in their infancy, are still lacking in online integration. Sony has no comparable PSN login website where gamers can review and compare game performance with their friends. And while a company called Playfire has rushed to be the first to create Gamercard service for Trophies, their widget (still in beta) currently does not update Trophies in real-time. In order to display your Trophy list, users need to manually search and select which Trophies they have acquired. This is time consuming and as a gamer, we'd rather be playing then constantly updating some online form.

    Reason #5: Manageability

    Last, but certainly not least, the Xbox 360 interface is cleaner, faster to navigate, and more and intuitive. The easy-to-use dashboard allows gamers to access the information they need, such as browsing Achievements and comparing their performance with friends, in a shorter period of time. The Playstation 3 interface is improving, but is more cumbersome to navigate overall - and you still can't call up the XMB to review your Trophies during playback of PS2 games, Blu-Ray discs, and DVDs. Microsoft has built a more manageable reward system that allows gamers to spend less time flipping through menus and spend more time doing what they do best - game.

    Jul 3, 2008

    HMV Reveals Plan To Sell Used Video Games

    The Canadian used video game market is about to get a little more crowded.

    HMV have revealed in their annual financial report that they intend to enter the used video game market this year at selection locations, with a global roll-out in 2009. HMV has stores in Canada, the UK, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

    The financial report states: "We continued to enhance our credibility with customers and suppliers in the fast-growing games console and software market, and are planning to launch a pre-played games offer in 2008/09."

    HMV will join EB Games and Best Buy Canada as the third major player in the used video game market in Canada. Best Buy Canada have previously announced they plan to undercut EB Games margins, resulting in cheaper used games for Canadian consumers. With HMV now in the mix, expect additional pressure to lower prices.

    Strong video game sales, on both PC and gaming consoles, have helped drive HMV pre-tax profits up by 25.2 per cent. The booming video game retail sales have accelerated the company's plan to convert an additional 10 to 15 stores to it's "next-generation" rennovated format, which includes multi-player games and kiosks, over the next year.

    Sources: Gamespot & The Independent

    Free DLC | Thanks Ubisoft Montreal!

    Found this over on Major Nelson's blog today:
    Content: Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2: Gift Pack DLC
    Price: Free
    Availability: Not available in Germany
    Dash Text: [ESRB: M (Mature) BLOOD,INTENSE VIOLENCE,STRONG LANGUAGE] As a thank you gift to our community, Ubisoft Montreal is pleased to announce free Multiplayer DLC for Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six® Vegas 2. This free map pack includes reworked versions of familiar favorites to storm your way through: Calypso Casino, Murdertown – Dark and CQB Training – Dark. Experience your favorite game modes in a whole new light!
    So for all of you out there (except you readers in Germany) that play RSV2 - Have fun and get playing.

    NextGen Player Games with the Pros

    In a Halo 3 - Lone Wolf game with a few other media members and one member of the Amp Energy Pro Team, I think we held our own... We even scored a great game; with 31 kills each (that's me - AP) and Drew (Anderen playing as Amp 1), with Paul and Andrew (Drumega) coming in with respectable 25 and 22 kills.

    In total the NGP Team scored 109 kills, dying a total of 149 times for a +/- of (-40). In total "The Bo" by himself had 91...

    This just leads me to believe that it's not time for us to quit work and game professionally.

    Gaming Craze Spawns Biggest National Gaming Tour

    GAMING CRAZE SPAWNS BIGGEST NATIONAL GAMING TOUR
    Cross-Canada Search For A Gaming Pro…Yes, it’s true, you CAN get paid to game!

    Mississauga, ON – June 3, 2008 – With almost half of Canadian households owning a video game console or handheld system, it’s no wonder the country’s biggest national video gaming tour is set to roll across Canada this summer – stopping at nine major cities from Halifax to Vancouver and looking for Canada’s best gamer to be the fourth member of the Amp Energy Pro Team along the way.

    At 3,500 square feet, Amp Your Game features 80 gaming stations, all the latest titles and a variety of activities for both casual and serious gamers.

    “If you like to game, no matter what your level of play, this is the can’t-miss event of the summer,” said Dale Hooper, Vice-President of Marketing, Pepsi-QTG Canada. “And, remember, we’re looking for a pro to complete the Amp Energy Pro Team, so head down to your local tour stop, grab an Amp Energy™ Energy Drink, and game your heart out – who knows, you may be the one to get paid to game.”

    Amp Your Game, kicking off in Halifax on June 12, is designed to appeal to the growing number of gaming enthusiasts in Canada and features the most popular games for individual and group play for gamers of all skill levels. It also provides a one-of-a-kind platform to showcase Canada’s top gaming talent with a nationwide search for the next professional gamer.

    In addition to a variety of the most popular video games for Playstation® 3, PSP™, and XBox 360™, the tour will be an entertainment mecca featuring a live DJ, celebrity appearances, lounge areas and organized group tournaments with prizes and giveaways.

    The Amp Energy Pro Team’s Search for the next professional gamer
    The Amp Energy Pro Team, quarterbacked by Canada’s top gamer, Nelson Triana, will audition gaming hopefuls in each city in a search for the team’s fourth member. The Amp Energy Pro Team, North of 49, is currently Canada’s top-ranked, professional gaming team and is the first ever to be sponsored in Canada.

    The three-member team led by Triana (gamer tag: G-SpOt), also includes Leo Vitelli (gamer tag: Alpha XFactor) and Bo Kovacevic (gamer tag: The Bo).

    “We know that Canada has lots of amazing gaming talent and Amp Your Game provides us with the perfect forum to choose the fourth member of the Amp Energy Pro Team,” said team captain, Nelson Triana. “With the growing popularity of gaming, there’s a great opportunity to make a career out of it. I know it’s hard for people to believe, but we actually get paid to play video games, and that’s incredible.”

    Anyone can register for a chance to compete in the Search for the Pro tournaments to be held in each of the nine tour stops. Interested gamers enter online at www.AMPENERGY.ca where they will be asked a series of questions that will help the pro team choose competitors in each city. For Canadian gamers who are not able to compete in-person, Amp Your Game also provides an opportunity to compete against the Amp Energy Pro Team on XBox Live® for a position on the team. Four finalists will be chosen in each city and four from online play with the winner announced after the tour is over.

    Amp Your Game Tour Schedule
    The Amp Your Game National Gaming Tour will stop in nine cities this summer. The event will run for four days, from Thursday to Sunday, in each city between 12 noon and 11:00 p.m.* (6 p.m. on Sundays).
    • Halifax, June 12-15, Halifax Commons
    • Montreal, June 19-22, St-Laurent Boulevard
    • Ottawa, June 26-29, Kanata Centrum
    • Toronto, July 3-6, Harbourfront Centre
    • Winnipeg, July 10-13, The Forks
    • Edmonton, July 17-20, West Edmonton Mall
    • Calgary, July 24-27, Eau Claire Market
    • Vancouver, July 31-August 3, Richmond Centre
    • Saskatoon, August 7-10, Saskatoon Ex
    Gaming Popularity in Canada
    • Almost half of Canadian households (43 per cent) own a video game console and/or a handheld system
    • 82 per cent of all Canadian adults have played a video game at least once, while nearly seven out of 10 (67 per cent) have played in the last year
    • The average age of gamers in Canada is 39
    • Almost half of all Canadian adults are recent gamers who have played a video game in the past four weeks (46 per cent)
    • 70 per cent of recent gamers play at least a few days a week
    • Nearly half of recent gamers (45 per cent) have been playing video games consistently for many years
    Source: Entertainment Software Association of Canada, 2007

    About Pepsi-QTG Canada
    Pepsi-QTG Canada, a division of PepsiCo Canada ULC, is a leader in the Canadian beverages industry, and markets a variety of beverages under the following trademarks: PEPSI®, DIET PEPSI®, DIET PEPSI MAX™, 7UP®, MOUNTAIN DEW®, MUG®, AQUAFINA®, SOBE®, LIPTON®, and LIPTON® BRISK® ICED TEAS, STARBUCKS FRAPPUCINO®, GATORADE®, DOLE® AND TROPICANA®.

    Jul 2, 2008

    UPDATE: PS3 Firmware 2.4 issues

    As many PS3 owners waited with much anticipation today to download the latest firmware 2.4, the folks at PlayStation Network have had to take the firmware off line after numerous reports from users citing either installation issues or hardware issues after a successful install.

    According to the PlayStation Blog, they are "working diligently to isolate the problem for those few consumers and to identify a solution before we put the firmware back up."

    Keep it tuned to NextGen Player for the latest update on this story.

    It's almost magic time

    The NextGen Player team is getting organized and getting ready to head on down to the Toronto "Amp your Game" Media event. Watch out for our pictures and round up after the event.

    Also remember this is a free event running from Thursday to Sunday here in Toronto (Full Schedule). Register here for the "Search for The Pro" contest.



    BIGGEST NATIONAL GAMING TOUR ARRIVING IN TORONTO
    Top-ranked gamers seek out local talent to join Pro Team

    MISSISSAUGA, ON (June 25, 2008) – Amp Your Game is Canada’s biggest national video gaming tour, stopping at nine major cities from Halifax to Vancouver and looking for Canada’s best gamer to be the fourth member of the Amp Energy Pro Team, North of 49, along the way.

    At 3,500 square feet, Amp Your Game features 80 gaming stations, hundreds of the latest games, and a variety of activities for both casual and serious gamers. It also provides the ideal platform for the three-member Amp Energy Pro Team, led by Nelson Triana (gamer tag: G-SpOt), to audition gaming hopefuls in a search for its fourth member. The team is the first-ever to be sponsored in Canada and is currently the top-ranked, professional gaming team in the country.

    Toronto is the fourth stop in the national tour and Amp Your Game will be set up at Harbourfront Centre for an action-packed four days of gaming tournaments, open game play, live DJ entertainment, hundreds of games, prizes and giveaways, and the Search for the Pro competition.

    Amp Your Game is designed to appeal to the growing number of gaming enthusiasts across the country. It is free and will be open to the public in Toronto from July 3-6th, beginning at noon each day. Visit www.AMPENERGY.ca for more information.

    Jul 1, 2008

    ESA Canada Endorses Controversial Copyright Bill

    Those of you that follow Canadian politics are probably aware that the federal Conservatives recently tabled a copyright reform Bill that if passed, will have a significant impact on Canadian copyright law - and Canadian gamers.

    Bill C-61 outlines what rights consumers will have to copy intellectual property such as books, newspapers, photographs, music and video games. The new bill would expressly allow buyers of intellectual property to reproduce one copy of each item per device owned, such as a computer or a game console.

    So how will this affect video gaming in Canada?

    On the positive side Bill C-61 will impose harsh monetary penalties for people caught copying video games. Consumers caught copying back-up copies of games for personal use could face up to a $500 fine, but uploading a game to a peer-to-peer network could result in lawsuits of $20,000 per file.

    Many industry groups, including The Entertainment Software Association of Canada, have endorsed this bill. Speaking to CBC, Joan Ramsay, President of the group's board of directors had this to say:

    “It’s simple: Every time someone acquires an illegal copy of a video game, money, in turn, is not going to those Canadians who work so hard to develop and publish games. That’s money that cannot be reinvested in creativity, job growth and industry development. Copyright reform is essential to strengthen our competitiveness as an industry.”
    Hmmmm, sounds about right. I was starting to wonder if ESA Canada was up to anything lately, considering the content on their website hasn't been updated in a year or longer. Good to hear they at least doing something.

    Sadly, while Bill C-61 could help balance the rights of copyright holders and consumers, is could also mean that some every day activities like transferring a CD to your PS3 or Xbox 360 could be considered copyright infringment. Micheal Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and one of the strongest critics of Bill C-61 said this on his personal blog:

    "check the fine print since the rules are subject to a host of strict limitations and, more importantly, undermined by the digital lock provisions. The effect of the digital lock provisions is to render these rights virtually meaningless in the digital environment because anything that is locked down (ie. copy-controlled CD, no-copy mandate on a digital television broadcast) cannot be copied."
    With the much anticipated PS3 2.40 firmware release tomorrow allowing for custom in-game soundtracks, copying music to your video game consoles is about to get a whole lot stickier. Don't worry, you'll still be able to enjoy your custom soundtracks if the CD has no lock down, and if you own the original CD, and if you keep the CD indefinitely. Of course, that's only if this bill passes in the House of Commons.

    Source: CBC.ca - Copyright law could result in police state: critics

    Ipsos Reid Poll Finds That Canadians Love Nude Gaming

    A co-worker of mine once told me a story about her experience playing Uno on Xbox Live. As the story goes, she went online and challenged a random player who, for reasons still unknown, thought it would be a good idea to undress mid-way into the game. He also thought it would be a good idea to have his Xbox camera turned on while doing so. And this was playing Uno no less!

    I always thought that was an isolated incident. Heck, was I wrong! According to an Ipsos Reid poll commissioned by Microsoft, one in five Canadian men (17%) enjoy gaming while completely naked. Absolutely. No. Clothes. Yeah, I can't believe it either. Women also enjoy getting their gaming naked on, but only one in ten women (9%) reported to have done so. The poll also found that the group with the highest propensity to game nude are Canadian men aged 18 to 34 (23%). Holy mankini, that's the group I'm in!

    For a bunch of other interesting Canadian gamer poll findings, check out this article from Digital Home:

    Poll finds number of Canadians playing video games naked