Aug 31, 2010

Halo: Reach Sneak Peak in Toronto

By Paul Hunter

Xbox Canada have announced on their website that a Halo: Reach sneak peak event will be coming to Toronto on Saturday, September 4th.

Dubbed "Mission: Defend Reach" on the event page, the mission will let you become a new UNSC recruit and battle Covenant troops live using "state-of-the-art weapons technology". Not sure exactly what that entails, but sounds like you'll get to wield over-sized, fake plastic guns. The battle is taking place between 4pm and 10pm at 306 Queen Street West. I did a google street view and it appears to be a parking lot, so yeah, lots of cars to use as cover fire.

For more details on the event, check out the official page on Xbox Canada's website.

Aug 30, 2010

Nintendo DSi and DSi XL Price Drops

By Andrew Shin

Today, Nintendo of Canada officially announced a price drop for both of their highly successful handheld gaming systems - the Nintendo DSi and Nintendo DSi XL. As of September 12th, the Nintendo DSi and DSi XL will have a new retail price of $149.99 and $169.99 respectively.

"We know shoppers want to get the maximum value out of every dollar they spend," said Ron Bertram, Nintendo of Canada’s vice-president and general manager. "Our new Nintendo DSi prices make it easier than ever for consumers to access the tremendous variety of games, applications and social tools on the Nintendo DSi and Nintendo DSi XL systems."

The new price drop will be important in sustaining Nintendo's dominance in the handheld gaming segment against its long time rival the Sony PSP. With the PSP having dropped in price a while back to $169.99, it was only a matter of time that the DSi and DSi XL would see its own drop in price. It could also have a little something to do with that new handheld system that Nintendo announced earlier this year...what was it again? Ahh yes, the 3DS.

Additionally, history has demonstrated that price drops for gaming systems in September translates to successful sales leading up to and during the holiday season - just ask Microsoft and Sony.

Canada Overtakes UK To Become Third Largest Development Community

By Paul Hunter

Canada's robust video game industry is making moves again to further strengthen its position as a world class leader for top development talent and innovation, according to the Ontario Technology Corridor. Leading the charge is the province of Ontario which has committed $130 million to new gaming infrastructure in 2010.

Sony Releasing New PS3 Models in North America

By Paul Hunter

Continuing the trend of roomier hard disk drives, Sony Computer Entertainment of America announced two new, larger capacity PlayStation 3 models that will be available in North America soon. The new SKUs were announced initially for Europe during gamescon, and later confirmed for western markets.

Aug 21, 2010

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock Full Track List Revealed

By Paul Hunter

The publisher behind the sixth main entry to the Guitar Hero franchise has unleashed its full track list today, containing more than 90 songs from rock music's pantheon of legendary guitar shredding bands.

Dates Announced for New Kirby, Donkey Kong and Pokémon Games

By Paul Hunter

Nintendo has put dates to their upcoming holiday Wii line-up, including Kirby's Epic Yarn, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and PokéPark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure. Dates were also given for anticipated Nintendo DS games such as Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs, and Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!

Aug 19, 2010

Welcome, Visitor 250,000

By Paul Hunter

At the NextGen Player HQ we like finding random reasons to party and today is no exception. Looking at our site analytics it looks like we're on the cusp of welcoming our 250,000th visitor, in fact it should be achieved by the time this article is posted.

Nintendo of Canada's Moving In

By Paul Hunter

Nintendo of Canada is taking their hit games and going on tour across Canada, visiting select Real Canadian Superstore and Maxi & Cie stores. Dubbed the "Neighbourhood Tour", the store displays will let you take a stroll down Wii Street, Nintendo DSi Drive, or spend some time in the activity gazebo with Crayola and Kodak.

Aug 18, 2010

A Glimpse of Nintendo's Epic Lineup

By Alice Stancu

A while ago, I got some hands-on time with a few of Nintendo's upcoming games for the fall and holiday season. 2010 is without a doubt the year of the retro franchise revival – about half the games that Nintendo has announced are new entries in long-thought-dead series. Donkey Kong Country? Check. Tron? Check! Kid Icarus? ...Well, we'll have to wait a little longer for that one.

Aug 12, 2010

Chiptune Workshop in Toronto this Sunday

By Alice Stancu

Have you ever wanted to learn how to make music on a gameboy? Well, you're in luck!

Aug 11, 2010

GottaCon 2011 Date Confirmed

By Andrew Shin

Victoria, BC's own GottaCon has been confirmed for its 3rd straight year. The 3 day gaming convention will take place from February 4th to 6th at the Pearkes Recreation Centre located at 3100 Tillicum Rd. The unique aspect of the GottaCon gaming convention is that it will be open from 5pm on Friday and straight through to 7pm on Sunday. That accounts for 50 hours...yes, you read that right...of non-stop gaming debauchery. GottaCon promises a bit of everything from video gaming to role playing to collectables.

Aug 5, 2010

Review: Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force: Herbert’s Revenge

By Paul Hunter

Disney's mega franchise Club Penguin returns with Herbert's Revenge, the sequel to 2008's Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force for the Nintendo DS. There's no denying this series's popularity with kids -- the original game has sold over 1.5 million copies to date, a feat that only a handful of third-party Nintendo DS game titles can claim.

Aug 3, 2010

First Annual PlayStation Canada Charity Golf Tournament Raises $50,000 for Children With Cancer

By Paul Hunter

Sony Computer Entertainment Canada (SCEC) held their first annual PlayStation Charity Golf Tournament this past Wednesday, raising $50,000 for children with cancer. More than 130 golfers teed-off at the scenic Wyndance Golf Club located in Uxbridge, Ontario, for the charitable event benefiting Camp Oochigeas. Founded in 1983, Camp Oochigeas gives children united by the common bond of cancer the opportunity to participate in year-round programs at their site in Muskoka, at the Hospital for Sick Children and in the community.

Aug 2, 2010

Researcher Says "violent video game issue is a crusade in search of a crisis"

By Paul Hunter

Video games have long been given a bad rap by the general media which has a tendency to cite, in a rather sensationalized fashion, the supposed negative impact they have on society, and on children and adolescents in particular.  Many of the opponents of video games make claims that video games are linked to a growth in youth violence -- especially school violence -- and that prolonged use of video games not only leads to a decrease in social competency but also lowers creativity.

StarCraft II Contest Winners

By Paul Hunter

Hello NextGen Players!

I'm happy to officially announce the Grand Prize winners of our StarCraft II Giveaway Contest.

Our lucky winners are: Chris Trickey from Newmarket, ON, and Eric Chan from Toronto, ON.

As the Grand Prize winners, they will both receive one copy of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (regular edition) for PC, courtesy of Future Shop.

Congratulations to both winners and a thank you to everyone who entered and made this contest one of our most successful to date. The NextGen Player team appreciates your continued support of the site.

Also a big thanks to Future Shop for supplying the two copies.

Paul and the NextGen Player team

NextGen Player Review: ModNation Racers

By Jeff Alyanak

Back at the end of 2008, the Playstation 3 got a taste of something that the PC gaming world had been enjoying since time immemorial: user generated content. Sure, Playstation gamers had seen their fair share of it in the past - titles like the RPG Maker series for the original Playstation stands among many others - but never in the full, mature way that computer gamers had come to expect. LittleBigPlanet finally brought an in-depth creation system together with the crucial ability to share those creations with the world at large. The response to the game was a resounding “Hell yes!” with reviews consistently in the 90% range and more awards than I have time to list. Sony’s “Play, Create, Share” motto had clearly resonated with the gaming public.

ModNation Racers might be Vancouver-based United Front Games’ first game ever but it’s certainly fielding an all-star team with former member of EA Games, Rockstar Vancouver, and Volition Inc (makers of the Red Faction series, the Saint’s Row series, and my personal favourite Descent). Pedigree aside, ModNation Racers is a game that doesn’t just wear the “Play, Create, Share” jacket to look cool, it’s “Play, Create, Share” to the very core.

The first thing you’ll notice, in both the PS3 and PSP versions, is the incredibly large selection of ‘bits’ with which you can customize your racer and his/her kart. Dozens upon dozens of ears, eyes, shirts and shoes. I’m hesitant to say the sky is the limit because I’m not even sure of that. The reason you’ll be so familiar with the customization is that, even just playing through the game’s short story mode, you’ll be forced to use it (for no real reason except to show it off).

While on the topic of the story mode, I’ll give one warning: if you are looking for a long and satisfying campaign, look elsewhere. While the cutscenes are somewhat amusing, the story just doesn’t work - I’m not sure it would work well in any kart racing game, but that’s another matter - and it ends up consisting of a series of races that feel disjointed from the story. It’s not helped by the fact that the racing mechanics themselves are nothing special and that the tracks are, again, satisfactory at best.

However, this game is not about the story. It’s not even about gameplay or course design – not in the traditional sense, at least. ModNation Racers is a game about creation, and that is where this game turned my opinion around. The track creator is both powerful and intuitive, allowing for easy control with you PS3 controller or PSP. A little aside here, I was blown away by the PSP version’s creation tools. I expected them to be much less powerful but they allowed for an incredible amount of control over my creations and I was able to make everything I could think of while testing it.

Turn your game into the Super Smash Bros of kart racing! Wait, isn't that called -

After you’ve finished creating, it’s time for the last part of the game’s motto: Share.  Both the PS3 and PSP versions allow a lot of control over uploading your creations for others to greedily lap up. Likewise, you can browse through a veritable smorgasbord of wonderful creations, be they carts, characters or courses. Nothing beats downloading doppelgangers of other famous game characters and pitting them against each other on a course of your design. It turns the game into a sort of Super Smash Brothers kart racing game.

All silliness aside, both the home console and handheld versions of this game impressed me more than I had expected. However, you have to know what you’re getting yourself into: ModNation is, above all else, a game about creating and sharing. It is not a highly finessed kart racing game, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s found its own little home on this big planet (see what I did there). I scored the PSP version a little higher than the PS3 version because I feel it was more impressive given the hardware restrictions and because there are fewer titles with user generated content on the handheld market, but that’s just my opinion. Either game is worth playing, and I recommend you try them out.

For the PS3 version...

For the PSP version...

Discussing Interactive Advertising With Monster Media

By Paul Hunter

Forget everything you know about traditional advertising. There's an emerging channel where, like video games, user interactivity plays a central role in the experience. It's called interactive advertising and I recently had a chance to speak with a company at the forefront of the industry, Monster Media.

Founded in 2004, Monster Media is a full service multimedia company focused on brand interaction through the use of portfolio of products that engage audiences in ways traditional TV, print or display advertising simply can't do. The key difference is Monster Media's ability to capture the attention and imagination of people through advertising that must be experienced, instead of simply watched or read.

Like Microsoft's upcoming Kinect for Xbox 360, much of what Monster Media creates uses player movements and gestures to "control" the interactive advertisement. During a demo by Crystal Koskinen, Director of Sales Canada, I was shown a campaign the company launched last year for ESPN to raise awareness for Monday Night Football's 40th season kickoff. The massive digital football game (see image above) utilized an interactive LCD wall combined with gesture-based technology that challenged players to catch as many footballs as possible, using body movements, and high scores were submitted in real-time to see how they measured up against players in other cities. To begin the game, pedestrians were required to touch a start button and were brought to quarterback selection screen where they could select the quarterback of their choice from a popular Monday Night matchup. A video of this unique interactive advertisement can be viewed here.

Shoppers look on at the Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story motion activated advertisement

Noticing a huge potential market in Canada, the company opened their first office here in March 2010. The first campaign recently kicked off in Toronto for BMO Financial Group outside their corporate headquarters at King and Bay Streets. Hot off the heels of the World Cup, the interactive display is to celebrate the growing excitement around grassroots soccer in Canada. Similar to the EPSN game, eight linked LCD screens utilize a combination of touch activation and motion cameras to transform pedestrians into virtual athletes, only in this case they play the role of a goalkeeper who goes one-on-one with a selection of Canada's future soccer stars. The campaign, including the eight-by-six metre display and interactive custom LCD wall, is the first-of-its-kind in Canada, says Sandy Bourne, Vice-President, Advertising, Sponsorship, Events and Merchandising, BMO Financial Group.

In addition to touch interaction and gestural interaction, Monster Media displays are capable of incorporating many other technologies including augmented reality, which Sony (e.g. EyePet, Invizimals) and Microsoft (e.g. In The Movies, Kinect) are also getting into in a big way, and mobile interaction by dialing an 800 number or sending an SMS text to instantly turn a cell phone into a keypad to control the ad.

A pedestrian stops and goal tends on Verizon's NHL Showdown interactive advertisement in Boston, MA

The company is also no strange to working with game publishers, having worked with Nintendo to promote last year's Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story and with 2K for NBA 2K10.

Last year the company created 245 campaigns, such as a giant pinball machine in Times Square for Zyrtec, and an NHL Showdown competition for Verizon that cast pedestrians in the role of goaltender against some of the NHL's most coveted hockey players.

Monster Media has "big plans" for Canada says Koskinen, and says the BMO Financial Group campaign will be the first of many interactive advertising campaign the company will bring to Canadian consumers.

[This article originally appeared on the Future Shop Tech Blog]