- redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Just two years after committing to create content for the Wii U, an Electronic Arts (EA) spokesman has confirmed that the company currently has “no games in development” for Nintendo’s current home video game console.
Those comments were made by EA’s Jeff Brown during an interview with Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo on Wednesday, and represent a drastic change in stance from a company that stood on stage, side-by-side with Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata and promised to deliver “great EA content” for the Wii U during the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).
“EA delivered for Wii U early, releasing Wii U versions of Mass Effect 3, Need For Speed Most Wanted, Madden and FIFA for the new console,” Totilo explained. “Each of those games had been released months earlier on rival Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms. While they ran well, they were, ultimately, late ports.”
Dead Space 3, EA’s top console title of the year thus far, was not released on Wii U, he said.
“The full absence of Wii U games from Nintendo's pipeline seemed increasingly likely as the Wii U remained conspicuously absent from announcements regarding major 2013 EA games such as Battlefield 4 and the new Madden and FIFA,” the Kotaku reporter added. “A lack of EA support will prevent Wii U gamers from having access to an NFL game, for which EA holds the exclusive license.”
Slow sales for the gaming system may have played a role in EA’s decision, according to Matthew Shaer of the Christian Science Monitor. While Nintendo had hoped to sell over four million Wii U systems over the past fiscal year, they came up 0.5 million units short, and some analysts say that the system sold only 55,000 units in April, he added.
Brown has said that the company is not ruling out returning to Wii U development sometime in the future, it comes as little consolation to Nintendo right now, Shear said.
“Nintendo can't be happy,” he explained. “A console is only as good as its games, and if the Wii U is to succeed, it should have a wide variety of titles, including games such as the best-selling Madden franchise, which EA produces.”
In other Nintendo news, Forbes contributor Dave Thier reports that the company will be appealing to the public and not just the gaming media at this year’s E3 conference. While the annual event is typically used by gaming companies to introduce upcoming products to industry journalists, the 3DS and Wii U producers will be allowing regular gamers to play unreleased titles at Best Buy locations during the 2013 event.
“It’s a wonderful service for regular gamers, and a clever subversion of the gaming media as it stands today,” Their said. “Essentially, Nintendo is saying that any customer in the country is just as important as a professional games journalist. When the idea of ‘Public Relations’ can sometimes just mean ‘talking to reporters,’ this is an interesting way for a company to control its own story and interact with customers on its own terms.”
- Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
NASA is looking to connect with actors who have gone where no man has gone before in the next Star Trek film "Into the Darkness."
The space agency said that director J.J. Abrams, screenwriter and producer Damon Lindelof and actors Chris Pine, Alice Eve and John Cho will be joining NASA as it hosts a Google+ Hangout Thursday, May 16. The Star Trek contributors will be participating in the video conversation with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, who currently is living and working aboard the International Space Station (ISS), to talk about how work aboard the orbiting laboratory is turning science fiction into reality.
Cassidy will be providing insights about life aboard the station, along with astronauts Michael Fincke and Kjell Lindgren at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Crew members aboard the ISS conduct experiments every day, as well as perform maintenance during their stay at the outpost. They experience all kinds of challenges that weightlessness has to offer in everyday activities, such as eating, sleeping and exercising.
NASA is inviting people to submit questions for the actors and astronauts to answer during the Google+ Hangout session.
"To be considered, video clips must be no longer than 30 seconds and uploaded to YouTube and tagged with #askNASA," the space agency said. "Submitters should introduce themselves and mention their location before asking their question."
The participants will be asking questions of each other and then take questions from the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City, the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and social media followers.
Abrams' "Star Trek Into the Darkness" will be debuting in theaters this weekend, including sneak peak showings on Wednesday. IMAX theaters announced last week that its special Wednesday showing of Into the Darkness has already sold out in Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Austin, San Francisco, Houston, San Diego and Minneapolis. Viewers going to see the film in the IMAX experience will have the opportunity to see 30 minutes of footage filmed with the extremely high-resolution IMAX cameras. According to IMAX, these scenes will "deliver unprecedented crispness and clarity and a truly immersive experience for moviegoers."
When the last "Star Trek" movie came out in 2009, astronauts aboard the ISS were able to watch the film while flying 220 miles above Earth. Paramount Pictures transferred the film to Mission Control in Houston so astronauts would be able to watch the film the day before it released.
- Enid Burns for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The much talked about Project SHIELD, a handheld gaming system from Nvidia that runs on the company's Tegra 4 mobile processor, will be available next month. In a recent blog post, the graphics chip maker said the system will ship in June.
The system will sell for $349, and retailers will include Newegg, GameStop, Micro Center and Canada Computers. Initial pre-orders are only available to those who signed up in advance, according to PC Magazine. Pre-orders will begin on May 20 for the general public at shield.NVIDIA.com.
The borderline portable SHIELD runs on the Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean operating system and consists of a controller with a flip screen attached. SHIELD promises better control of Android games, combining analog and digital controls with the standard touchscreen interface used in most Android systems. In addition to the controllers, the 5-inch screen boasts a multi-touch, 720p retinal display.
Nvidia's Tegra 4 chip powers the mobile processor and delivers graphics with 72 cores, four CPU cores and 2GB or RAM. A fast wireless connection is powered by an 802.11n 2.2 MIMO game-speed Wi-Fi standard.
As an Android-based system, SHIELD will run all Android apps as well as apps built for the Tegra 4 processor.
"SHIELD is the one device that taps into the planet's largest ecosystem of games – spanning Nvidia TegraZone, Google Play and Steam. Rediscover your Android games with the mobility, control and performance of SHIELD. Connect to your Google Play account to enjoy your favorite movies, music and apps," Nvidia's Jason Paul said in the blog post.
Project SHIELD was first announced at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show. The move toward an Android system follows the trend of shrinking PC sales and a growing mobile device market. The company already produces its mobile processor for use in smartphones and tablets.
"Building its own game device to showcase its processors goes a step further and underscores the urgency of finding new markets as Nvidia faces tough competition from Qualcomm in smartphones and tablets," wrote Reuters’ Noel Randewich.
While the SHIELD system was originally touted as being able to stream and play PC and console games, the company said the feature is currently being tested and will not be immediately available at the time of SHIELD's launch.
Nvidia may find a sweet spot in the gaming market for this new device. "At $349, the price will be fine for Nvidia's target audiences, Nvidia GTX PC owners, and hard core Android gamers. If it becomes the device every kid wants for the holiday, then it could expand its footprint," analyst Patrick Moorhead, from Moor Insights & Strategy wrote in PC Magazine.
"The two big differentiators for SHIELD are that it's the only device to play Android games with an integrated gamepad and the only device that extends PC gaming into the living room."
Nvidia's TegraZone currently offers 76 games including a number of PC and Console titles adapted for the platform such as Max Payne, Sonic 4, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and NBA 2K13, PC World reports.
- Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
There is the old saying that you can’t go home again, but you can go back to Castle Wolfenstein, it seems. Bethesda Softworks announced Wolfenstein: The New Order is slated for release later this year for the PC, Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, as well as “next generation consoles.”
American spy William “B.J.” Blazkowicz will return to action in the game being developed by MachineGames.
“We are excited to bring a new chapter of Wolfenstein to gamers everywhere,” said Jens Matthies, creative director at MachineGames. “As fans of the series, working on this game is an honor, and our team is driven to create an unforgettable action-adventure experience that will make FPS fans proud.”
MachineGames is comprised of former founding members of Starbreeze Studios, which is known for its first-person shooters including The Darkness and Chronicles of Riddick.
The game is the latest in a series that actually began in 1981 as Castle Wolfenstein from Muse Software, and which was originally developed for the Apple II. It later was ported to the Atari system, the Commodore 64 and MS-DOS. The first game, and its subsequent sequel, Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, featured side-scrolling action that was akin to Donkey Kong or other early 2D games of the era.
Then, in 1992, id Software and Apogee Software released Wolfenstein 3D as a first-person shooter and practically launched the action shooter genre. In that game, players took on the role of Allied spy, William “B.J.” Blazkowicz as he attempted to escape a Nazi prison inside the castle. Nearly a decade later, id Software released Return to Castle Wolfenstein, which offered more over-the-top exploits in the guise of Blazkowicz.
He returned to action again in a 2009 game from Raven Software, id Software and Pi Studios, which was published by Activision, and titled simply Wolfenstein. That game was acclaimed for its single-player campaign, but the science-fiction setting may have turned off some fans, and sales of the game reportedly did not meet expectations, which resulted in layoffs at Raven Software.
With Wolfenstein: The New Order, the game’s story could take a new direction – one to alternative history – as this game is set in 1960 after Nazi Germany won World War II. Players will be playing an apparently middle aged (or older) version of Blazkowicz, as he launches an “impossible counter-offensive” against the Nazis, reported GameSpot, which broke the news of the game’s development.
While a new Wolfenstein game may strike a nerve with fans of the series, not everyone is rejoicing at the news of another Blazkowicz blast-fest. Game developer Warren Spector, creator of Deus Ex and Epic Mickey, is already questioning the need for another title in the series.
“Did the world really need another Wolfenstein game? Did we need a generically dark, monochromatic, FPS, kill-the-Nazi-giant-robot game? Uh. No. The world did not. I am so tired of stuff like this... Oh, and could we all just agree we'll never use the generic gravelly-whisper trailer voice guy ever again? And one more thing: Please stop using Jimi Hendrix to promote your adolescent male power fantasies,” Spector wrote on his Facebook page upon hearing of the announcement Wolfenstein: The New Order was in the works.
The musical reference was apparently a response to the fact Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” plays during a teaser trailer. Perhaps a song from the group New Order would have been more appropriate.
- Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
While Electronic Arts and Maxis returned to SimCity this year with the fifth release in that series, fans of The Sims can now expect a new game next year. On Monday, EA announced a new version of The Sims was in the works for release on the PC and Mac.
“Today we are revealing to our top fans the fact that The Sims 4 is coming to PC and Mac in 2014. The Sims franchise is fueled by the passion and creativity of its millions of fans around the world. Their continued devotion to the franchise ignites the fire of creativity of the team at The Sims Studio, driving them to continually improve and innovate on one of the world’s most successful simulation games that has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide,” the company posted on its website, while promising more information would be revealed.
It is also being reported The Sims 4 might avoid some of the stumbles that greeted the launch of SimCity when it arrived in March. EA’s classic city-building game was met with numerous server issues, which may have been, in part, a result of the company requiring an always-on connection. Following the release of the game in early March, many players could not access the game because the company’s servers were overloaded.
Venture Beat confirmed on Monday The Sims 4 will not require an online connection.
“I can confirm that The Sims 4 is a single-player offline experience,” Maxis spokesperson Charlie Sinhaseni told GamesBeat.
This is the first fully-fledged sequel to the popular life simulation series since the release of The Sims 3 in 2009. There have been nearly a dozen expansions, including The Sims 3: University Life, which also arrived this past March for the PC and Mac.
Even with a new version of The Sims on the way, EA will reportedly continue to support The Sims 3, and is expected to release Island Paradise, Dragon Valley and Movie Stuff expansion packs in the coming months. Island Paradise will allow players to build and manage a tropical resort, live on a houseboat and even go deep sea diving; while a Survival Pack will be provided to pre-order customers and include items to survive on a desert island.
The recently announced Movie Stuff expansion is slated for a September release and will include movie-themed décor, such as furniture and clothing from horror films and westerns.
The cartoon simulation has been one of the biggest hits for Maxis/EA since it arrived in 2000 from SimCity creator Will Wright who has since moved on to other projects. In the game, players create avatars that have realistic needs and desires and it is up to the player to work to meet those needs and keep their “Sims” happy.
Despite the fact The Sims 3 will live on – at least for now – EA did announce it would shutter three of its Facebook games on June 14. These reportedly include: Sim City Social, The Sims Social and Pet Society. Players are being encouraged to spend all their in-game currency in advance of the closure of these games. This announcement comes after EA decided to shut down other Facebook games.
Thus even with Sims there can be the end of the line.
- redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Electronic Arts (EA) is reducing its workforce once again, officials from the Redwood City, California-based video game developer and publisher confirmed on Thursday.
“In recent weeks, EA has aligned all elements of its organizational structure behind priorities in new technologies and mobile,” the company said in a statement posted to its official website. “This has led to some difficult decisions to reduce the workforce in some locations.”
“We are extremely grateful for the contributions made by each of our employees – those that are leaving EA will be missed by their colleagues and friends,” they added. “These are hard but essential changes as we focus on delivering great games and showing players around the world why to spend their time with us.”
According to PCMag.com, EA did not release any details about which teams would be affected, nor did they reveal exactly how many employees would be losing their jobs. However, Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo said sources had told him as much as 10 percent of the company’s total workforce could now be out of a job.
The latest round of job cuts comes at a time when the Madden, Mass Effect, and The Sims publisher “adapts to the popularity of play on smartphones, tablet computers and online social networks,” reports the AFP news agency.
Earlier this month, EA reportedly laid off half of the workforce at their Montreal studio, and announced plans to shut down three Facebook games – The Sims Social, SimCity Social and Pet Society – would be going offline on June 14 of this year.
In March, chief executive John Riccitiello resigned and was replaced on an interim basis by former CEO and Chairman Larry Probst. Furthermore, last year the company’s PopCap division, which is responsible for social and mobile game development, laid off 50 out of 380 employees in its Seattle and Vancouver offices.
“EA has declined to confirm whether its Partners program has… been shut down,” Totilo said. “The Partners program was used to sign top outside studios like Epic, Insomniac and Respawn to make games for EA. The former two made Bulletstorm and the forthcoming Fuse. Respawn, staffed by the people who made Call of Duty great, is at work on what is probably a new shooter and that will be shown at this year's E3 in June.”
“EA is among the longtime videogame industry companies striving to adapt to an industry being transformed by the popularity of free play on smartphones, tablet computers and online social networks,” AFP added. “While announcing Riccitiello's departure, EA warned investors that its earnings for the quarter could be slightly lower than estimates provided at the end of January. EA is to report its quarterly earnings on May 7.”
- redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Microsoft sent out invitations to members of the media on Wednesday for a May 21st unveiling of its next-generation Xbox console, confirming long-standing rumors about the launch of a new console.
"A New Generation Revealed," the invitation reads according to Kotaku.com.
“On Tuesday May 21st, we’ll mark the beginning of a new generation of games, TV and entertainment.”
"Don Mattrick and the Xbox team invite you to the Xbox campus for a special unveiling."
Mattrick is president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business division, which includes the Xbox.
Microsoft also plans to broadcast the live event at 10am PST on Xbox.com, Xbox LIVE and Spike TV for viewers in the US and Canada.
The Xbox 360 has been the top-selling US console for more than two years, surpassing Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PlayStation 3.
The success of the Xbox 360 is largely due to its ability to function as a home entertainment device with apps such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video, as well as streaming cable channels from compatible cable companies.
The new Xbox is rumored to include similar entertainment features, including the ability to connect to a cable box through HDMI and serve as a TV interface.
The confirmation of an Xbox 360 successor will likely come as good news to the broader video game industry, which saw its sales slump 22 percent last year according to figures from NPD.
Microsoft is expected during its May 21st event to reveal the technical specifications of the new Xbox, and elaborate on its entertainment focus. The event comes just three weeks before the big E3 gaming tradeshow in Los Angeles, where the company may showcase new gaming titles for the device.
- redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
EA Maxis has announced that the first “major” update for their city-building and urban-planning simulation game SimCity will be released Monday at 4:00pm Eastern (1:00pm Pacific), various media outlets have reported.
According to Engadget’s Joe Pollicino, the SimCity 2.0 update will include 26 bug fixes, new data map color filters, a specialized heads-up display for the colorblind setting, and the action of mayors traveling from their mansions to their workplaces.
Furthermore, the update will address “a laundry list of issues… including the oddities of the game's tourism feature, the lackluster cash-generating capabilities of its Casino specialization, and some of the jacked-up traffic issues that plague a typical city's service vehicle-stuffed roads,” added David Murphy of PCMag.com.
What the update will not include, according to Pollicino, is an offline mode.
“Because this is our first significant Update, we wanted to inform you in advance that we’ll be taking down all servers for a few hours while these changes are being issued,” the game’s developers said in their online forums, according to IGN writer Andrew Goldfarb.
The company added that the update time was chosen because they decided that it was “the best window for us to make these improvements” based on an analysis of their “peak player time.” They said that SimCity’s servers would be going offline for several hours while the updates are made, but that the wait would “be worth it.”
“Some forum posters don't quite share Electronic Arts' enthusiasm,” Murphy said. “Common complaints mentioned in responses to Electronic Arts' post include demands that gamers be allowed to increase the limited physical dimensions of their cities… and that cities be allowed to have more than one single road-based entrance point – in effect, a little more customization for those who want to treat their Sims to some style.”
SimCity was released for Microsoft Windows in North America, Europe, Australia and Japan in March 2013. An OS X version of the virtual city-building game is currently scheduled to be released on June 11.