Dec 29, 2008

So What Did Ya Get?

So the holidays are almost over and gamers all over the world are busily playing there newly acquired Consoles, Handhelds and Games... But the questions I have is "What did you get?" and "What did you miss out on?".

I'll start...

I finally got a DS Lite for my daily commute. I'm looking forward to training my brain and lowering my brain age ;) already down 9 years since I stared playing. W00t! I'm also looking forward to reliving my NES days with some good old fashion Super Mario Bros. But the Burning question is What are the must pickup games I need to look for?

That sums up the Game gifts this year, but I did manage to get a few good Boxing Day deals, Picking up BF: Bad Company (Xbox 360), Tom Clancy's End War (Xbox 360) and SOCOM Confrontation (PS3).

There are still a number of great deals to be had, at FutureShop, EB Games and BestBuy.

'Come Out And PLAY!' Contest Winner Number Two Is...

Our partner on the PLAY! Contest we have running now, Eh Button, have announced the second contest winner. To find out who the winner is, check out the announcement post here:

http://www.ehbutton.com/profiles/blogs/our-second-winner-in-the-come

Congratulations to our second contest winner who just won tickets for two to see PLAY! A Video Game Symphony performing live on January 9th in Edmonton, Alberta.

If you missed out on the first two rounds don't despair, we are still accepting contest entries until January 4, 2009 at 11:59pm ET. Next week we will be announcing the final winner on NextGen Player. As a quick reminder, this contest is open to all legal residents of Alberta.

What are you doing? Enter now!!

For more information on PLAY! A Video Game Symphony, check out their website at www.play-symphony.com.

Dec 28, 2008

Exclusive Interview with Jason M. Paul, Producer of PLAY!

Well, it's the middle of the holidays and I hope everyone out there is enjoying all their new games.

As a rare holiday present, NextGen Player have been given the exclusive opportunity to interview gaming industry veteran and the Producer of PLAY! A Video Game Symphony, Jason M. Paul. Jason is the creative mind behind the first ever video game music concert series with Dear Friends- Music from FINAL FANTASY, which made it's debut back in 2004. His ground-breaking fusion of video games and full symphony orchestras continues with his newest creation - PLAY! A Video Game Symphony.

NextGen Player: As the producer of PLAY! A Video Game Symphony, can you give us a outline of what you do and what PLAY! is all about?

Jason M. Paul: Technically, I am the producer but I am also the creator of PLAY!. I have been responsible for every aspect of the project overseeing all of the bookings, contracts, licenses, dealing with orchestras and choir, travel, accommodations, merchandise, website, etc. Basically, I am responsible for everything. If something goes wrong you can blame me.

NGP: The Final Fantasy concert tour Dear Friends was the first of its kind for North America and is widely recognized as landmark event in gaming. Did you expect the huge success of Dear Friends?

Jason: When I created Dear Friends a part of me was optimistic. I got the sense that people wanted a VGM concert. It was a fresh and new concept that had never been done in the states. The idea of combining the visuals from the game and the music really had never been done anywhere in the world. I was confident that I was on to something. We had an instant sell out! All we had to do was focus on making the show a great show as selling tickets was not an issue because they were gone. Tickets were going on Ebay for 1200 a pop. The support and timing of the first concert in LA was all in line. It was the first of its kind at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, it was during E3, Uematsu, Sakaguchi, and Amano were all in attendance. It could not have been more perfect. Former employees of the USA offices of Square Enix President Jun Iwasaki and Marketing guru Kyoko Yamashita were very instrumental in making that event a success. Without the two of them VGM would not have got their due in the states. We all made it happen.

NGP: In your opinion, what differentiates PLAY! from other video game symphony productions out there?

Jason: There really is no comparison. We have never performed our show with less than a 66 piece orchestra and 24 voice choir. We feature games that are not featured in any other concert. Games from all over the world are featured as part of our concert. The composers and publishers of the games we know and love help to create PLAY! and make it the success that it is. For instance, Nobuo Uematsu composed the opening fanfare that is heard as the first song at every concert. The show evolves featuring new music as it becomes available. The visuals are now better than ever. The songs feature video throughout the piece. We also have a grammy award winning artist as the music director and principal conductor in Arnie Roth. He lends a tremendous amount of credibility to the show.

NGP: What motivated you to start into video game music?

Jason: As a kid playing mario, zelda, castlevania, shinobi, final fantasy, etc. I always had an appreciation for the music. It came about when I was working with Pavarotti and the Three Tenors that I realized that a video game music concert could be something special. At the same time doing concerts with some of the greatest operatic artists and orchestras all over the world I was still working in the gaming industry with clients Square Enix, SCEA, Midway, etc. The idea came about when I pitched the concept to do a video game music concert to Square Enix during E3. They gave me the opportunity to create the vision I had dreamed up and the rest as they say is history.

NGP: I've heard that a PLAY! Live CD/DVD from a show recorded in Prague, Czech at the Rudolfinum will be made available to the public for the first time at the Edmonton show on January 9th. Can you tell us a little bit about the CD/DVD?

Jason: I am hoping that it will be shipped in time for the concert. The CD/ DVD itself was recorded at on of the most historic venues in the world- the Rudolfinum in Prague with the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra and Kuehne Mixed Choir conducted by Arnie Roth. It includes classics such as WOW, Oblivion, Castlevania, Silent Hill, and many more. In my opinion it is one the greatest recordings in Video Game Music history. I believe it is better than More Friends- Music from FINAL FANTASY which was the first Live CD recorded and produced in the US by myself.

NGP: If you could have your Canadian fans take away one thing from PLAY! Edmonton what would it be?

Jason: It is my hope that fans will want to see the concert again.

NGP: Thanks for your time Jason, and Happy Holidays!

For more information on PLAY! A Video Game Symphony, check out their website at www.play-symphony.com. For tickets to PLAY! Edmonton, there's a special holiday promotion of 10% off any tickets purchased from Ticketmaster. Check out the Ticketmaster event page for more details.

For a chance to win tickets to PLAY! Edmonton, don't forget to check out our Come Out And PLAY! contest open now and until January 4. This contest is open for all legal residents of Alberta.

Dec 22, 2008

And The (First) Winner Is...

Well, it's that time. With the holidays fast approaching (or already here for some people) I am very excited to announce the very first winner of NextGen Player's and Eh Button's "Come Out And PLAY!" contest!

And the winner is Stephen Shim - congratulations! Stephen has won himself tickets for two to see PLAY! A Video Game Symphony performing live on January 9th in Edmonton, Alberta.

Of course as per the rules of the contest, all winners must be legal residents of Alberta. I will be emailing Stephen to verify his location tonight.

As a reminder, we are still accepting contest entries until January 4, 2009 at 11:59pm ET. Next week the team at Eh Button will be selecting our second winner.

Congratulations once again to Stephen!

It's Hears(eh): Are These Best Buy's Boxing Day Gaming Deals?

New feature time! If there is one thing we love in the gaming industry, it's an unverified, potentially bogus rumour that sparks our interest and teases our imagination. To satisfy these cravings we've created a new feature on NextGen Player aptly named It's Hears(eh).

So without further delay, I proudly present to you our very first edition:

A poster on the Canadian deal forum Smart Canucks has posted what appears to be a scan of Best Buy Canada's Boxing Day gaming deals. The scanned flyer apparently was posted by a Best Buy employee on the Dealcatch website.

According the flyer, Best Buy will be having deals on Xbox 360 Pro bundles, Playstation 3's bundled with LittleBigPlanet, and plenty of video game price reductions.

For a complete list of the deals and the scanned flyer check out the Smark Canuck's website here.

Dec 20, 2008

Gamer's Voice Begins on Playstation.ca

The teasing is finally over. Playstation Canada has officially launched the online version of Gamer's Voice, allowing impassioned Playstation fans to record and upload game reviews and opinions. Each week, a panel of judges appointed by Playstation will judge all videos submitted and up to ten lucky winners will win themselves a PS3 game selected by Sony.

Videos will be judged on the following criteria:

a) Appropriateness;
b) Technical strength of submission;
c) Quality of review; and
d) Entertainment value of review.

Each video you submit is one entry in the contest. Videos need to be 30 sec. to 3 minutes in length and in English or French. For a list of commonly asked questions, check out the Gamer's Voice FAQ page here.

Here a sample review clip to show you how it's done:



As you can see, this guy's video review is 22 seconds in length; obviously he doesn't like to play by the rules. What a badass!

Source: Gamer's Voice [Playstation.ca]

Dec 19, 2008

Uh Oh















What have I done? What have I doooooooone?

Dec 18, 2008

Canadian Video Game Sales to Reach $2 Billion in 2008?

Earlier this week the NPD Group released Canadian gaming sales figures for the years 2005 - 2007 and YTD for 2008. The totals paint a rosy picture for the gaming industry in Canada, and indicate significant year-over-year growth over the last four years. The revenue numbers for 2005 - 2007 are:

2005 - $765 million
2006 - $933 million
2007 - 1.531 billion

2008 is already shaping up to be an even better year for gaming in Canada, with hardware, software and accessories totalling $1.6 billion through November. According to NPD figures, December 2007 brought in $396 milllion in sales revenue. Assuming sales this December equal or better 2007, gaming revenue in Canada may top $2 billion for the year.

Unsurprisingly, Nintendo's Wii dominated the Canadian market so far this year, with cumulative hardware sales equalling 695,000. Xbox 360 squeaks into second place with 343,000 and PS3 trails the pack at 326,000. That has to be depressing news for Sony as they handily beat the 360 in Q1 and Q2 this year. It looks like the 360 price cuts were effective in boosting sales at the cash register this holiday season.

Overall, it's great to see such momentum here in Canada. Given such prolific growth in the games industry, it's no wonder so many retailers want a larger piece of the pie. It's also no wonder that Hollywood is a little on edge this year.

Source: Wii dominates Canadian video game sales [Metro News]

Dec 16, 2008

GTA Chinatown Wars Launch Date Announced

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown WarsRockstar has recently announced the launch date for Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars exclusively for the Nintendo DS. The newest installment in the Grand Theft Auto series is set for launch on March 17, 2009 in North America and March 20, 2009 in Europe.

Rockstar didn't release anymore info on the game aside from the launch date.

You can visit the Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars site via the link below.

http://www.rockstargames.com/chinatownwars/

Dec 15, 2008

NextGen Player Review: Motorstorm: Pacific Rift

Not having much experience with the MotorStorm franchise, outside of the Gaming for Charity event back in July, I was excited to get my hand on MotorStorm: Pacific Rift and rip up the track at home.

With four killer courses each named after one of the natural elements; Earth, Air, Fire and Water you're not going to be lacking for changes in scenery.

The Earth Zone is made up of muddy streams, and grass filled roadways where each lap brings deeper groves and a torn up track from all the cars ahead of you. Splashing and mud slinging are a major visual component of this track, covering your screen from time to time adding to the visual distractions you need to deal with. The abundance of water on this course is great for extended speed boosts and driving the large tanker truck is just as much fun as the agile buggy.

The Air Zone is another green zone however a dry one - you'll not find any water here to help with extended boosting, but the cliffs are amazing to look at and if you're not careful you'll fly right off of them - giving a fantastic view of your ATV riding driver flying to their impending doom below.

The Fire Zone brings a barren and dark landscape with red hot rivers of lava that set your car on fire as you fly over them... Beware the boost gauge while your on fire or Kablooie! You're toast! And don't think for a second you'll be bouncing of the guard rails to get around these corners - they are as frequently a lava river as not and you'll be stuck sinking to your fiery demise.

Lastly we come to the Water Zone. A place full of cascading waterfalls, plush foliage and turns that will have you skidding and sliding everywhere. By far the hardest of all the tracks (fire being the second hardest), I was defeated many times by the crafty AI bumping me off cliffs into rock outcroppings and squeezing me out over jumps.

Each course has a limited vehicle selection tied to your current objective; time trials might limit you to a motorcycle or an ATV, while long eliminations matches might give you the choice of a monster truck or pick up. Each vehicle handling completely different and coming with their own from the virtually indestructible slow moving Monster truck to the nimble but unforgiving Motorcycle rider that even the slightest bump or nudge might send your driver flying into a building or off a cliff.

I think the key seller for me on this one was the interest and fun my wife - a non-gamer - had fun while playing a game where cars are flying, crashing in slow motion and blowing up if too much boost is used.

Pluses:
  1. The visuals are amazing and give you a true sense of speed, action and amazing crashes
  2. The music is fast and hard - giving you the rush to put the peddle to the metal and give'r.
  3. Tracks and course objectives provide a wide variety of game play - and a little something for everyone.
  4. Potential appeal to the casual gamer
Negatives:
  1. Hypersensitive vehicles causing repeated falling, crashing and re-spawning
  2. Cop-out option - press 'select' if you get off course to reset your location at any time during the race
  3. Limited options in the Garage; appearance and colour of your vehicles are your only options. Sorry to all you Tuners out there.
  4. All the drivers are the same - no benefit in changing your driver other then clothing option
All in all I give this game a:


NextGen Player & Eh Button Presents: 'Come Out And PLAY!' Contest

Wow, we've sure run a lot of contests on NextGen Player lately. Heck, we even have a Gears of War 2 contest on now and running until January 4. But we're never satisfied with the number of gifts we dole out, no sirree Bob, and we're always looking for that next great thing to give away.

And I think we've just found it:


I'm very pleased to announce tonight the unveiling of our newest contest, in partnership with Eh Button and PLAY! A Video Game Symphony, aptly named 'Come out and PLAY!'.

For this contest, NextGen Player and Eh Button will be awarding three lucky winners with tickets for two to attend PLAY! A Video Game Symphony performing live at the Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton, Alberta on January 9, 2009. One winner will be announced each Monday starting on December 22. This contest is open to all legal residents of Alberta.

Entering is very simple. All you have to do is send an email to contest@nextgenplayer.com with the subject line "Come Out And PLAY!".

Here is a list of the draw dates and website announcement locations:

December 22, 2008 - Round One
- Eligible entries must be received by December 21, 2008 at 11:59pm ET
- One (1) winner will be randomly selected and announced on NextGen Player

December 29, 2008 - Round Two
- Eligible entries must be received by December 28, 2008 at 11:59pm ET
- One (1) winner will be randomly selected and announced on Eh Button

January 5, 2009 - Round Three
- Eligible entries must be received by January 4, 2009 at 11:59pm ET
- One (1) winner will be randomly selected and announced on NextGen Player

Each winner will receive two (2) tickets to see PLAY! A Video Game Symphony live on January 9, 2009 in Edmonton, Alberta.

The contest officially ends on January 4, 2009 at 11:59 pm ET. Winner(s) will be notified by email with details on how to claim their prize.

You must be 18 years or older to enter the contest. Only one entry per email address will be accepted. Non-winning entries carry over to the following Round, where applicable. For more details on our general contest rules, click here.

For those of you who missed our last post about PLAY!, here's a YouTube promo video that gives you a taste of the live symphony experience:



If you're interested in buying tickets for PLAY!, there's a special holiday promotion of 10% off any tickets purchased from Ticketmaster. Check out the Ticketmaster event page for more details.

Good luck to everyone!

Cheers,
NextGen Player & Eh Button Teams

Gears of War 2 Combustible Map Pack Now Available

Today Xbox announced the release of the Combustible Map Pack, a collection of three new maps for Gears of War 2 available for download on Xbox LIVE Marketplace for 800 MS Points.

The Combustible Map Pack unleashes three new multiplayer maps: Flood, Gold Rush and Fuel Station.

Gears 2 Flood Map
Flood is a very tight map that's made extra snug when the environmental hazard of Imulsion begins creeping up around the edges. As the playing field closes in, the firefight will intensify as combat is forced to the center of the map. Teams skilled at flanking their opponents will have a powerful edge.


Gears 2 Gold Rush Map
Gold Rush takes place in an old Imulsion refinery that now serves as a hotly contested battleground. Players must survive heavy crossfire as they infiltrate the factory and navigate multiple tiers. Breakable glass allows for a clean shot at those who make a dash for the Longshot rifle while bolder players make their run for the heavy weapon. In the right hands, the Mortar can be devastating on this map, so keep those smoke grenades armed as the concussive effect comes in very handy.


Gears 2 Fuel Station Map
Fuel Station is situated in a desolate area marked by an abandoned fossil fuel station. The team that secures and controls the station is likely to be the side that wins the match. An especially strategic location on this map is the rooftop, as there are only two points of entry – the main elevator and a staircase on the back side of the building. Heavy weaponry is situated right in front, which presents a high risk to reward ratio in this level. Lugging the Mulcher around, deploying it and revving it up can keep an entire team at bay, and unleashing hell from the rooftops is always an excellent tactic.

All of the multiplayer maps in the Combustible Map Pack are playable in the highly popular, five player co-op Horde mode.

Dec 12, 2008

Far Cry 2 Journal Entry #1

Marty Allencar here. I've arrived at the airport, if you can even call it that. Looked more like a dirt strip to me. Managed to get a cab to the hotel in Pala. The driver talked for most of the ride. I guess he didn't take my silence as a hint. Apparently the country is in the process of being locked down, based on the checkpoints we drove through. We managed to make it through, but shortly after that my vision started to swim and I had difficulty breathing. I'm not really sure what happened after I blacked out, but when I woke up I was in the hotel with with my prime target standing over me. The Jackal (as he's known internationally) seemed calm to be in a room with his would-be assassin. Given my raging malaria, I guess I didn't seem very threatening. He rattled off some vague quotations and left me with a machete buried in the wall next to my head.

Things got really dicey after that. Apparently the ceasefire between the APR and the UFLL is off in Pala, because the two sides started tearing into each other with the locals caught in the middle. I stumbled out of my hotel room only to catch a bullet in my left arm and hit the ground like a sack of bricks for the second time in one day. Someone must have dragged me to safety. As a result, I'm indebted to the APR. I can't see any way out of helping them for now. Maybe I can get a lead on where the Jackal is. More later, I've got to get back to work.

Dec 10, 2008

First Impressions: Playstation Home

Guest Post - First Impressions by: Josh McPherson

A week ago I got an invite to be part of the Playstation Home Beta. For those of you out of the loop or asking what “Home” is, it’s basically like Second Life and Sony’s answer to the online gaming community (PSN users in particular). You create a digital version of yourself and are immediately immersed into a virtual world where you can interact with other users and make friends.

After I got the invite I raced home after work and immediately started to mess around with it. I initialized the download and was immediately greeted with an error stating that I was low on space and needed to have 2.5GB of storage dedicated to Home. As someone who got screwed by Sony’s lack of inventory and EB Games’ inability to guarantee my console before January, I had to settle for the launch date 20GB console because I wanted my BluRay and PS3 immediately. Begrudgingly I began deleting files of my system to accommodate the space requirements.

The download was quick and smooth and took me no more then 5-10 minutes from start to finish. As soon as it was done I was thrust into an avatar creation utility that was surprisingly deep and detailed at this stage in a Beta form and after some messing around help from my wife I was happy with my results and continued on.

Within moments I found myself in a plain room with a view of the ocean. This was my new Playstation Home and it was pretty sweet looking but lacking something. I ventured forth into the brave new world and found myself in a central meeting locale surrounded by people who were all running around trying to make friends, and playing around with the controls. At one point myself and about twelve other people were just standing in a circle chatting. At first I used the built in keyboard and found it to be quite cumbersome so I suggest getting yourself a BluTooth headset or the Wireless keyboard attachment for the PS3 controller.

Suddenly out of nowhere I heard gunshots and explosions, I turned my Avatar around and saw an ad for FarCry 2 running on what would be a huge virtual TV Screen in the middle on the far side of the plaza. Next I decided to check out the Movie theatre where they had posted “Socom 3” in the now playing marquee. I decided to see what it was all about and was greeted by an error notifying me that I would need to download some files. It gave me the option to download them in the background while I waited so I opted to do that and immediately assumed that Mall and the Bowling Alley would require the same thing which they did.

While I was wandering around and making the virtual me disco dance like a fool to no music a few people came up to me and started chatting and asking me how to do things. When I told them I wasn’t sure we all just hung around for about an hour and figured things out and shared the information with one another. We all decided to go into the Bowling alley to see what was going on there. Once inside we got separated (presumably to different servers) and inside a series of bowling alleys, pool tables and some arcade machines to mess around on. I managed to get in on a few games of everything and had a really good time chatting with other users.

Personally I really hope to see Sony build upon this. The mall was by and large unusable due in part to nothing being available in the stores (Furniture for your Home and new clothing for you Avatar). I know that Sony wants to really drive this home as being a great community to meet new friends and generate revenue through micro-transactions in the stores (and without any doubt on demand movies in the theatre). My only wish is that Sony allows you to trade in “trophies” from various games for some of these little virtual possessions because I can’t see myself spending any of my money for fake furniture or clothing.

My first few experiences have been good and I have since made some new gaming friends which, let’s be honest, is really what Sony was hoping to do. With all do respect to Sony, I don’t think they could have screwed up the Playstation online platform much worse than they already had. Time will tell if this highly touted and much ballyhooed gamble pays off but I think they’re going in the right direction. I for one and optimistic for the future of Home and will no doubt visit often.

Metro News Running a Dark Knight PS3 Contest

Looking to play on a PS3 but don't feel like buying one? You my friend, are in luck.

The Metro newspaper has a Dark Knight contest on right now with the winners taking home one of seven Sony PS3's with a copy of The Dark Knight on Blu-Ray. They're not joking around with this one.

I checked the rules & regulations and it says the contest is only available to residents of Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax and Vancouver. I guess if you want to win a Metro contest you have to live in a ...errr... metropolitan area. Who would have thunk that?

The contest is only open until December 14th, so you'd better get your entering on quick.

The Dark Knight Contest [Metro News]

PLAY! Symphony on Tour, Coming to Edmonton in January

The creative minds behind the first ever gaming concert - Dear Friends - from the Final Fantasy Symphony Tour, are back with an entirely new concert series with PLAY! A Video Game Symphony.

Their new creation, headed by acclaimed music producer Jason M. Paul is a Symphony world-tour celebrating video game music and images from blockbuster video games such as Final Fantasy, Super Mario, Metal Gear Solid, Sonic the Hedgehog, Halo, and many more. The concert tour started off in North America on May 27, 2006 in Chicago, followed by a sold out show in Europe.

PLAY! is currently embarking on a world tour and will be visiting the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton, Alberta on January 9, 2009. The pre-show activities kick off at 5:30pm and include visits by special guests, a cosplay contest, demos & prizes and game competitions. The concert begins at 8:00pm.

If you've never experienced PLAY! live, then check out this promo video I uploaded to our YouTube account:



Tickets for the Edmonton show are available at www.ticketmaster.ca or by calling (780) 451-8000.

Check out the PLAY! website for more details.

Playstation Home Launches December 11

The moment has finally arrived. I just received a press release from Sony that Home will be available for all PS3 users around the world starting tomorrow.

Get ready to create your avatar and dance the robot with all your friends. The party's about to begin.

Here's the full press release:

PLAYSTATION®HOME BETA SERVICE WILL BECOME AVAILABLE TO ALL PLAYSTATION®3 USERS ON DECEMBER 11
Highly Anticipated Service Open For All PLAYSTATION 3 Users


Tokyo, Foster City, London, December 10, 2008 – Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCE) today announced that its highly anticipated PlayStation®Home Beta service for PLAYSTATION®3 (PS3®) will become available for all PS3 users around the world *1 on December 11, 2008. Following the successful completion of the closed beta service, PlayStation Home’s open beta service will continue to evolve with new features and functionality.

PlayStation Home is a ground-breaking 3D social gaming community available on PS3 that allows users to interact, communicate and share gaming experiences. By leveraging the power of PS3, PlayStation Home delivers overwhelming visual graphics and rich gaming social experiences only possible on the PS3 platform. Within PlayStation Home, users can create and customize their own unique avatars and explore virtual community in real time where they can communicate freely through text or voice chat. PlayStation Home users will not only be able to enjoy variety of entertainment content such as mini-games, videos and special events along with their friends, but will also be able to create their own community by using the “Club*2” feature to create clubs with other PlayStation Home users who share the same interests.

PlayStation Home, available as a free download*3 starting December 11, will launch directly from the PlayStation Home icon on the PlayStation®Network column of XMB™ (XrossMediaBar) on PS3. Users will be able to experience basic features and services of PlayStation Home, free of charge*4. PlayStation Home will allow open interaction among users, business partners and SCE, and will evolve with additional features including dedicated game spaces, special events and exclusive themed items, to further enrich the entertainment experience on the PS3 platform.

“PlayStation Home is truly a promising network community service on the PlayStation platform, made possible with the powerful combination of PS3’s overwhelming computational power and PlayStation Network that covers many countries around the globe,” said Kazuo Hirai, President and Group CEO, SCE. “We are committed to providing PS3 users with exciting gaming experiences with PlayStation Home and together with our partners and users, expand the new world of interactive entertainment as we move forward.”

For users in North America, Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) will launch game themed high-definition virtual environments including the Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune™ and Far Cry 2 spaces and the soon to be released Warhawk™, Resistance, Guitar Hero® and SOCOM spaces. In these environments, users will discuss specific games, plan strategies and access content and clues that will enhance their gaming experience. Through these virtual environments, publishers will be able to increase and extend consumer interest in their game titles via new mediums of game play. SCEA is partnering with Activision, Disney Eidos, Electronic Arts, Lucas Arts, THQ and UBISOFT, to develop virtual environments among other content for PlayStation Home.

“PlayStation Home is a social gaming service unlike anything else on the market and we are excited to be partnering with gaming and non-gaming partners to develop content that connects and entertains today's PS3 users like never before,” said Susan Panico, Senior Director of PlayStation Network, SCEA. “PlayStation Home is a tremendous addition to the growing suite of entertainment services available only through PlayStation Network.”

SCEA is announcing partnerships with some of the world’s most respected lifestyle brands during open beta including Lignet Roset, a contemporary furniture designer, and Diesel, an international fashion design company. These partnerships will allow users to purchase customizable furniture for their personal apartments and designer clothes for their avatars, respectively.

A variety of studio partners including Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Paramount Pictures will bring the PlayStation® community original intellectual property through dedicated spaces, sponsorship of in-world events, virtual items and exclusive media viewings in the PlayStation Home Theater. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will use PlayStation Home to promote its latest films, offering exclusive video content, interviews and appearances from film talent. Paramount Digital Entertainment will bring to PlayStation Home virtual goods and video content based on its most relevant and popular franchises.

As the very first consumer brand space, Red Bull has created the Red Bull Island featuring an airplane racing game modeled after the Red Bull Air Race World Championship. The space is designed to facilitate interaction among the PlayStation community, creating opportunities to interact and take part in various Red Bull events and experiences. Expansion and completion of the island will follow in early 2009.

PlayStation Home is exclusive to PS3, free to download and easy to join. It’s the ultimate online community – a place to meet friends, play the latest games together, dance to new music, watch videos in a social setting, and host parties in their personal apartments. With more spaces being created and partners like Diesel, Electronic Arts, and Red Bull coming on board, the PlayStation Home experience is just getting started.

SCE will vigorously promote the expansion of the world of PS3 by introducing new services that will open up new possibilities and enjoyment in interactive entertainment.

*1 PlayStation Home will not be available in some regions.

*2 To be a “Clubhouse” owner, user will need to buy the entitlement to run the club.

*3 When the service is available, PlayStation Home icon will appear after booting/ re-booting the PS3 system. To enjoy PlayStation Home, users will need broadband network connection and PlayStation Network account in addition to the PS3 system.

*4 Some content and services are charged.

Dec 8, 2008

Nintendo Holiday Tour 2008 in Canada - Still Time To Attend

Nintendo Holiday Tour 2008 in Canada

Nintendo Canada recently launched their 2008 Holiday Tour with various dates across Canada. This tour provides the public with an opportunity to check out and play the Wii and DS along with the most popular and newest games released for both systems.

The tour runs from November 27th to December 24th and so there is still alot of time to check it out. Below are the locations and schedules of the tour.

Dates and Locations:

BRITISH COLUMBIA

November 28 to November 30 - Event now closed
Science World at Telus World of Science, 1455 Quebec Street* - Vancouver

December 3, 6, and 7 - Event now closed
Vancouver Giants, Pacific Coliseum, 100 North Renfrew Street* - Vancouver

December 11 to 24
Richmond Centre, 300 North 5th St - Richmond


ONTARIO

November 27 to November 30 - Event now closed
Hershey Centre, 5500 Rose Cherry Place* - Mississauga

December 4 to 7 - Event now closed
Playdium, 99 Rathburn Road West - Mississauga

December 8 to 24
Vaughan Mills, 1 Bass Pro Mills Drive - Vaughan


ALBERTA

November 27 to November 30 - Event now closed
Talisman Centre, 2225 Macleod Trail South - Calgary

December 4 to 7 - Event now closed
Canada Olympic Park, 88 Canada Olympic Road SW - Calgary

December 11 to 24
Market Mall, 3625 Shaganappi Trail NW - Calgary


QUEBEC

November 27 to November 30 - Event now closed
Aquadome, 1411 Rue Lapierre - LaSalle

December 4 to 7 - Event now closed
Pepsi Forum, 2301-2327, Street Sainte-Catherine West - Montréal

December 11 to 24
Fairview Point Claire, 6801 Trans Canada Highway - Point Claire


*A ticket or general admission fee may be required to gain access to the venue where the Nintendo zone is located.

Dec 6, 2008

Killzone 2 Launch Date Announced

Killzone 2The official North American launch date has been announced for Killzone 2. You will be able to purchase the game in stores on February 27, 2009. The announcement was made yesterday on G4's X-Play.

They also showed a video revealing two new weapons. The Bolt Gun and Flamethrower. The video is below courtesy of X-Play.



This looks awesome!

NextGen Player Exclusive: 8 Minutes of WET Gameplay

While the publishing fate of WET (360/PS3) remains in limbo, developer A2M from Montreal is still proceeding with their hot gun-totting action game WET.

The game tells the story of Rubi, an acrobatic, sword-wielding gun-for-hire who agrees to help a wealthy man find and bring back his wayward son. Soon enough all hell breaks loose and the tables are turned, as the man who hired her isn't who he appeared to be. Now Rubi's on the run, needing to find the man who left her for dead and leaving a massive body count in her wake.

A2M Senior Artistic Technical Director, David Lightbown, presented an exclusive 8 minute video of WET gameplay at MIGS 2008 and NextGen Player was given special permission to record the clip.

After watching the video I think you'll agree with me that Activision may have made a poor choice dropping this game. This game looks hot.

NOTE: The video below contains content that is mature (high level of violence). By viewing the video below, you agree that you are at least 18 years old. Viewer discretion is advised.

Dec 5, 2008

LUMINES Supernova Coming to PSN, with LittleBigPlanet Skin

Today Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Executive Producer at Q Entertainment, announced on the Playstation Blog that LUMINES Supernova will soon be coming to the PSN. Having played Lumines since the first release on the PSP (great game), and then the Xbox version (which I didn't like as much), I'm very excited about the new PSN version. I hope it's better than Lumines II - which was a decent game - but it did not have many innovative changes. LUMINES Supernova looks fantastic, coming with full HD, and 5.1 surround sound, providing better visuals and sound.

With HD output and 5.1 sound you may be asking yourself: can it get any better? Well yes it can, as Sony has announced that LUMINES Supernova will feature a LittleBigPlanet skin in the challenge mode. The game will be released on PSN on December 11.

Dec 4, 2008

Toys R Us 'Buy 2 Get 1 Free' Deal is (Not Yet) Available?

Ho Ho Ho, Merrrrry Christmas. Or Happy Holidays. Whatever the correct wording is these days.

Toys R Us has a 'Buy Two Get One Free' on all video games on all consoles deal that was supposed to start on December 6 and end on December 12, but it looks like at least one store in Toronto has broken the start date, with reports that more stores in Canada have "unofficially" started honouring the promotion.

The deal works like this, you buy any two video games, on any console and Toys R Us will give you a third game free (of your choice) of equal or lesser value than the cheapest game. Want Mirror's Edge, Fallout 3, and Prince of Persia for PS3? Gears of War 2, Fable II, and Call of Duty: World of War for Xbox 360? The possibilities are endless.

This a pretty sweet deal, especially for those of you that have gamers on your Holiday shopping list.

If you check your local Toys R Us and they haven't started honouring the promotion yet, don't fret. The deal officially begins this Saturday. Happy Gaming to all, and to all a good night.

Dec. 6 Flyer [Toys R Us]

NextGen Player Review: Banjo-Kazooie HD XBLA


Long before they were tasked with creating avatars for your Xbox 360, a little company called Rare made some fantastic games. If you owned a SNES or N64, odds are you played one of their games, and likely more than just one. The list has so many hits it seems unlikely that they could all come from one company. Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instinct, GoldenEye, Perfect Dark…these are games still revered by many who may have grown out of their Nintendo worship, but look back fondly on these titles.

For some, the pinnacle of these efforts came in 1998 on the N64 with a game called Banjo-Kazooie. A platformer on the style of Mario 64 (with several gameplay improvements), the game was incredibly well received and went on to become one of the best selling titles of that generation for Nintendo. But enough back story, the question for today is how well does the XBLA HD Remix Super Turbo Hyper Fighting remake of Banjo hold up?

Full disclosure: I played Banjo-Kazooie for the first time this week. I don’t have any memories of crazy fun all-night gaming sessions on my N64, collecting musical notes and jigsaw pieces. I didn’t even own a N64. But maybe that’s a good thing, right? Perhaps my judgement of the remake won’t be clouded by loyalty to childhood memories.

What it breaks down to is this; Banjo-Kazooie is a game for two kinds of gamers. Those who love the platforming genre and those who can’t resist collection objectives. The first aspect is done very well; there are several unique levels for the intrepid Bear and Bird combo to explore, and each one has different challenges to take on. Comparisons to Mario 64 are inevitable, as it feels very similar to the N64 launch title, but is such a comparison anything but a compliment? Banjo and Kazooie have a larger variety of moves available to them, and some of the imprecision that was present in Mario 64’s controls seem to have been addressed in BK. This allows for levels with all sorts of things to climb on, jump onto, fly around or swim in.

As for the collection objectives, there is a seemingly endless list of items to find. Some are linked to game progression, others will allow you to change into a different animal for a time, allowing access to new areas and even more hidden goodies. I liked how the game didn’t force me to track down every last musical note or jigsaw piece to complete it, but if I wanted to do that, the option (and accompanying achievement points) was there.

Oddly enough, the variance in your moves and level structure make the game seem competitive even in today’s world of Mario Galaxy and others in the platforming genre. Still, it looks a little dated even with the graphics having been cleaned up, there’s no getting around that. I noticed some severe frame rate drops happening on a fairly regular basis, particularly any time I went near water. This was corrected by a patch released on December 3rd 2008, the day the title became available to anyone who didn’t preorder Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts (and thus got BK XBLA as a free bonus). Since they managed to get this patch out on day 1, I won’t hold it against them when it comes to the final review score.

The real question that I tend to ask when I check out the XBLA titles is “is this worth my money?” Not exactly an original concept, but the amount of games being released on Live lately, combined with a serious Rock Band DLC addiction means that I have to be discriminating in where I spend my money, and consequently, what I recommend to the faithful NGP reader. Banjo-Kazooie is priced at 1200 MS Points, or roughly $15. I might just be a cheap student, but $15 is the price point at which a game transitions between impulse purchase and serious consideration for me. Like I said earlier, I have no special place in my heart for BK. As such, it is hard to reconcile the cost of this game with the actual product. If it had been $10, I would have said dive in. That said; if BK was part of your N64 glory days, then go for it. You’ll probably fall in love with it all over again, regardless of what your wallet thinks. If you’re new to the franchise though, you might want to wait for a sale down the road.

4 out of 5

Dec 3, 2008

NextGen Player In The Raw Podcast Is Here

NextGen Player In The Raw Podcast
Hello NextGen Player Readers.

NextGen Player is continuously looking at ways to bring more value to you, our reader. In addition to all of the great gaming news, exclusive interviews, commentary, industry coverage, contests and reviews - we are now be introducing our In The Raw monthly podcast.

The NextGen Player In The Raw podcast is an unrehearsed and uncut podcast where we will discuss all things gaming. Our goal is to share our thoughts and insights on the gaming industry.

Links to our podcasts are listed below.

Better yet, if you want to listen to us on the go, you can subscribe to our podcast feed through iTunes.

Subscribe to NextGen Player's In The Raw Podcast


NextGen Player In The Raw Podcast Links

NextGen Player In The Raw Podcast - Episode 1

Enjoy!

Eh Button to Host 'Winter WonderLAN 2009' in Calgary

Let me start off by doing an introduction. A few months ago Matt Vernhout and I met (uhh...virtually) the team that runs Eh Button, a social networking website devoted to bringing together Canadian console gamers.

Much like how NextGen Player was formed, Founders Davezorz, Dedbeat5250, and rancorey were out for lunch one day when they started to discuss the clear lack of a strong Canadian gaming presence, and decided to do something about it. The guys were particularly concerned at the lack of Canadian-based console LAN events. So they created Eh Button, a Facebook-esque site that lets you do things like customize your homepage, start your own blog, post photos, videos and even start your own clan.

Speaking to NextGen Player about the burgeoning appeal of console LAN events, Founder rancorey stated: "this console generation has been focused on online gaming more than any generation before it. Many of our members (myself included) are former PC gamers that have moved on to the Xbox 360."

Eh Button launched in August of this year and their first LAN event - Winter WonderLAN 2009 - is is scheduled for February 6th to 8th, 2009. This is the first of what they hope will be many events in the future.

Here are all the deets on Winter WonderLAN 2009:

Location: South Calgary Community Association, 3130 - 16th st. S.W., Calgary AB
Date/Time: February 6, 2009 at 5pm to February 8, 2009 at 2am
Cost: $26.50 per person

Presently the group has 30 seats available but may bump that number to 40 if there's demand. The LAN event will include tournaments, prizes and super cool sponsor involvement.

For more information or to register for the event, check out the info page here: Winter WonderLAN 2009

[UPDATE: Eh Button have just confirmed with us that they have added the 10 extra seats (40 total) for Winter WonderLAN 2009]

Dec 2, 2008

Video Games Live Announces Western Canadian Tour Dates for 2009

Missed the free Video Games Live show in Toronto this past June?

Missed the Vancouver VGL concert this past October?

Miss me? Of course you do - brother!

Well that's okay, because if you want to see Video Games Live (and the Hulkster) than you'll be happy to know that Video Games Live have announced a whopping 15 Canadian tour dates as part of the 2009 World Tour. If you love video games and enjoy music (and honestly, who doesn't?) then you really should not miss this opportunity.

The dates announced thus far include Kitchener, ON, and eight from Western Canada. Eastern Canadian dates will be announced sometime in December. VGL is also looking for suggestions for cities the tour should visit, as well as video game songs you are interested in hearing performed live. You can send all suggestions to info@videogameslive.com.

Here are all the announced dates:

Kitchener, ON
March 13, 2009 - 8pm
Centre in the Square
Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony

Saskatoon, SK
May 10, 2009 - 7:30pm
TCU Place
Saskatoon Symphony

Regina, SK
May 11, 2009 - 8pm
Conexus Arts Center
Regina Symphony Orchestra

Calgary, AB
May 15, 2009 - 8pm
Jack Singer Concert Hall
Calgary Philharmonic

Calgary, AB
May 16, 2009 - 2pm
Jack Singer Concert Hall
Calgary Philharmonic

Edmonton, AB
May 18, 2009 - 8pm
Alberta Jubilee Auditorium

Kelowna, BC
May 20, 2009
Prospera Place

Victoria, BC
May 21, 2009 - 8pm
Royal Theatre

Prince George, BC
May 24, 2009 - 8pm
CN Centre

You can buy tickets to these show here.

Stay tuned to NextGen Player for future date announcements or check out the VGL website.

NCsoft Introduces 2 New NPCs to Guild Wars

To celebrate the release of the 2008 Guild Wars "Game of the Year" Edition and the availability of the Guild Wars trilogy, NCsoft has announced two new NPC Characters are being added in game; M.O.X. the golem hero and the Fire Imp combat ally.

M.O.X. the golem starts out at level 20, meaning he's available for players who have reached level 10 and is intended for PvE adventuring and exploring. To activate M.O.X. one of the following conditions need to be met:

1) An active account in either Guild Wars Trilogy (North America) or Guild Wars Complete Collection (Europe), or
2) All three Guild Wars campaigns active on your account (Guild Wars, Factions, and Nightfall).

The Guild Wars Fire Imp is described as a combat ally that is mainly used as a "leveling buddy" for low level (less than 20) characters and will match the player's level at the time he is activated. Fire Imp is available to all Guild Wars members meeting one of these conditions:

1) An active account in either Guild Wars Trilogy (North America) or Guild Wars Complete Collection (Europe),
2) Buying a new version of any Guild Wars product in North America and Europe that have the Fire Imp image on the box,
3) Purchase the Guild Wars 2008 Upgrade or the Game of the Year Upgrade, and
4) Lastly this character is included in any of the Guild Wars games via the in-game store or PlayNC.com.

To activate the Fire Imp, type "/bonus" in the chat window to have the Igneous Summoning Stone added to your inventory.

M.O.X. and the Fire Imp are both available now to all players meeting one these conditions.

Forget WoW, I'm going back to Guild Wars (I've been away far too long). I just picked up the expansion "Eye of the North". Tyria I'm coming back - I hope you haven't forgotten me.

NextGen Player Reader Review: Fallout 3

Fallout 3 @ NextGen PlayerGuest Review: Josh McPherson

Many moons ago a friend introduced me to the world of Fallout and the “Vault Dweller”. Instantly I fell in love with the game. Then Fallout 2 came out and I loved it even more… Fallout Tactics arrived on shelves in 2001 and after some good reviews I ran to the store to get it only to be completely disappointed. 2004 Brotherhood of Steel was released. I rented it not knowing what to expect. I took it hope prepared for the worst and hoping for the best only to turn around and take it back the same afternoon.

I began to think that this series would never actually see a proper and deserving sequel. Bethesda Softworks announced they would be taking over the license from the now defunct Interplay and I my interest was piqued knowing that they had a rich and successful background with the Elder Scrolls series on the PC. I hoped that they could restore the series to its former glory but wasn’t sure if they’d be able to resurrect it after the stream of crap that followed Fallout 2. Not to mention that I hated almost everything about Elder Scrolls 3 and 4 (with the exception to the size of the world in Elder Scrolls 4).

As time went on, I found myself more and more intrigued and genuinely excited for the new Fallout 3 and in October when it came out I took the day off work to pick it up. Don't worry, there are no plot points revealed in this review so no spoiler warning is required.

In the game you take on the roll of a Vault Dweller and start off literally as a newborn where you get to decide what your characters name is and his look. Here you pick from a variety of attributes which help to shape who you become. The game teaches you the basic mechanics of movement and shooting and thrusts you right into the action.

As you level up you get to add points to your various attributes such as your ability to use big guns or even lock pick (a must have). After you achieve a new level, you’ll be faced with choosing Perks. Perks are little attributes that can give you a bonus to certain things such as radiation resistance or my personal favorite - “The Bloody Mess” Perk - which basically is what it sounds like. How messy your kills are.

The graphics and size of the world are truly something to behold. For about an hour I found myself wandering around in awe much like the Vault Dweller would have been when he first set his gaze upon the Wastelands. After I ran into some random raiders and died I remembered the task at hand and I set about. Soon after I came to the realization how epic this game was truly going to be. You’re constantly faced with a variety of challenges of the moral kind and side quests that shape how people do or don’t react with you.

I chose to be good at the beginning but for me it became increasingly harder to resist temptation to take a shotgun to the back of some poor unsuspecting merchants head, and eventually I caved. In the end I was labeled as the 'Harbinger of War' which restricted the conversations and quests that came later in the game.

The look and feel is rather different from the ¾ overhead of the previous games for a first-person shooter look. They also changed the combat system. Not enough to say that they overhauled it so much as they tweaked it. Previous games had you in a turn based style combat with AP (Action Points) to move your player, reload guns and shoot. The AP system is back and integrated with the first-person shooter genre nicely in that you have AP for aimed hits (called VATS) or you can just go guns a blazing like the other cookie cutter shooter games.
I recently finished the game and it only took me about 42hrs. I say only because I had a glance at the full game map and realized I miss out on quite a bit of the game. I immediately thought “damn. I’m gonna have to take another crack at this and see if I can get it done in less than 60hrs”.

Allow me a moment here to say something personal to anyone at Bethesda who may be reading.

“Thank-You, Thank-You, Thank-You. Nuclear Holocaust was never so fun or looked so good. Now get back to work and get that sequel done.”

I give "Fallout 3":

NextGen Player

Dec 1, 2008

NextGen Player Gears of War Contest

Ok folks. The time has come for NextGen Player's much anticipated Gears of War Contest.

There is one (1) Grand Prize consisting of the following (pictured below):

NextGen Player Gears of War Contest
- The very limited edition Gears of War Locust Drone Headshot Figure with Metal COG Tags
- Exclusive download code for the Gold Hammerburst Assault Rifle for online use
- Gears of War 2 t-shirt (L size)

So what are the deets you say?

Very simple. All you have to do is send an email to contest@nextgenplayer.com between now and January 4th with the subject line "NGP Gears of War Contest".

And to give you an additional chance to win, we will give you one extra entry into the contest if you sign up for our FeedBurner email updates between now and January 4th. Our FeedBurner sign up is located on the right column of our website (near the top).

The contest officially ends on January 4, 2009 at 11:59 pm ET. NextGen Player will randomly select a grand prize winner from all of the eligible entries. The Grand Prize winner will be notified by email on January 5, 2009 with details on how they will receive their prize.

This contest is open to all legal residents of Canada and the United States. You must be 18 years or older to enter the contest. Only one entry per email address will be accepted (the exception is the additional entry you will receive by signing up to our FeedBurner email updates). For more details on our general contest rules, click here.

Good luck to everyone.

Cheers,
NextGen Player Team

And The God of Skipping Is...

Everyone wants to be a winner.

But let's face it, not many people are. Me included. I've entered so many contests and lost that I've wondered at times if real people actually win prizes.

But then I created NextGen Player and everything changed. Now instead of entering contests, I create contests. And instead of losing contests, I actually award contest prizes. For the selfish type, this would be a highly undesirable position to be in. Lucky, I am like Santa Claus and get fat on milk and cookies and enjoy the gift of giving.

So who was the lucky LittleBigPlanet contest winner?

The congratulations go to Antoni Ruizh with the amazing Tie Skipping high score of 1,083. That's a full 399 points above my low, low score of 684.



I'll be emailing Antoni soon to let him know he won.

The runner-up was Joseph Martinez with the very respectable score of 940.



So what about December? Considering it's the season of giving, we might as well give out some more goodies. Some Gears of War goodies.