X-Men: First Class trailer released

Here it is, the trailer for “X-Men: First Class”, a reboot of the film franchise that may give Marvel to continue making money from mutant stories while giving X-fans a chance to forget they ever saw “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

Twilight screenwriter to take on Highlander reboot

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From the Hollywood Reporter comes this tidbit about writer, Melissa Rosenberg, taking over the screenwriting duties for the Highlander film reboot. You might know her best for her screenwriting work in bringing the Twilight series to the big screen. Yes, THAT Twilight with the twinkly vampires. It didn’t take long on several forums for fans of the Highlander series to roll their eyes and start worrying that she would somehow write the character as an eighteen year old, conflicted immortal with girl problems.

But hold on. Rosenberg’s obviously got talent to be able to bring enough of the Twilight films to the silver screen to appease its fanbase. She also has quite a bit of history with TV episodes from Dexter to a remake of the Magnificent Seven for the “small” screen. Still, in looking at her history, she’s done a lot of drama-driven material that doesn’t quite exactly mesh with the history-fantasy action adventure that Highlander is.

Well, time will tell whether this is a good move or not, but she wasn’t the first to take a stab at rebooting Highlander as a review or two on a purported leaked version of a previous script have proven. Still, there’s one nice thing that I can take away from all of this: we might be able to finally forget Highlander 2: The Quickening.

HP to introduce new tablet – the TouchPad

Hewlett-Packard will enter the tablet computer market with its new TouchPad product, CNET reports today.

Hewlett-Packard today took the wraps off its long-anticipated tablet, a 9.7-inch device it’s calling the TouchPad, along with the bombshell that its WebOS is headed to PCs.

The TouchPad will run the company’s WebOS, which it acquired along with Palm as part of a $1.2 billion deal in April. Among its list of features are: a 1024×768 pixel display, a weight of 1.5 pounds, 13mm thickness, front-facing cameras for video chat, 16GB or 32GB of built-in memory, support for Adobe’s Flash, Beats by Dre speakers, and a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor.

Initially the TouchPad will be offered as a Wi-Fi only device, though HP said it plans to release a version with 3G/4G mobile connectivity later on down the line.

The Palo Alto-based Hewlett Packard also announced two new smartphones, the HP Pre 3 and smaller HP Veer.

Readers interested in comparison shopping different tablet options may want to check out this PC World article on how the TouchPad, Apple iPad and Motorola Xoom stack up against each other.

Here is the same publication’s review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Am I forgetting anybody?

No more Guitar Hero; Call of Duty still really, really popular

(Updated 2/10)

Activision/Blizzard will stop publishing the once-proud Guitar Hero franchise, a development that led to “RIP Guitar Hero” being one today’s lead topics on Twitter.

The game publisher announced the news today while releasing financial disclosures for 2010. Activision/Blizzard will also cancel development of “True Crime: Hong Kong.”

But Activision/Blizzard is not exactly hurting for business. The Call of Duty and World of Warcraft franchises continue to be big money makers. The company reported 2010 net revenues of $4.45 billion.

Santa Monica-based Activision/Blizzard reported a $418 year-end profit, although the firm experienced a $233 million loss during the Fourth Quarter.

The new figures were better than Activision/Blizzard’s 2009 numbers. In 2009, the firm earned a $113 million profit for the year and endured a $286 million loss in the Fourth Quarter.

How did they get there? In addition to the numbers, Activision/Blizzard also bragged that the firm is the Number One game publisher in North America and Europe. Selling 3.3 million units of “World of Warcraft: Catclysm” since its December didn’t hurt. Neither did selling more than $650 million worth of “Call of Duty: Black Ops” in the game’s first five days of release.

Activision also reports that 27 million players have clocked more than 2
billion hours – more than 229,000 years – playing Call of Duty games. That figure only requires those players to play an average of about 74 hours.

Gaming website IGN took part in Activision’s conference call and noted that the publisher now views the games business as “blockbuster or bust.” Within that context, IGN is able to report that last year’s “Transformers: War for Cybertron” was a sales dud for Activision.

Despite positive reviews, the Transformers title missed out on being on of the industry’s Top Ten selling games when it was released in June, IGN reported at the time.

Despite the demise of Guitar Hero, the game was still featured prominently on Activision/Blizzard’s corporate homepage Wednesday. Loading the homepage was more likely to produce an image of digital Slash or another rock star than one of Call of Duty’s many soldiers.

But Call of Duty is the future of Activision. The Los Angeles Times reports company’s plans include “BeachHead,” an online service for the Call of Duty franchise. Activision released few details on what exactly BeachHead will be.

The Times’ report observes that the end of Guitar Hero is a major factor in the ending of some 500 employees’ jobs and Activision/Blizzard’s business reflecting the “hit-driven nature of the video-game industry in which consumers flitter from one fad to another.”

Thus the LAT reports that investors are less excited about Call of Duty than the franchises fans:

Activision said it expected 2011 revenue to hit $3.95 billion,
substantially less than its 2010 revenue of $4.45 billion. The forecast
came in lower than most Wall Street analysts had been expecting,
triggering an 8% slide in the company’s stock price.

Activision’s shares were also depressed by investor concern over the
concentration of the company’s revenue in just two franchises, Call of
Duty and World of Warcraft, said John Taylor, an analyst with Arcadia
Investment Corp. in Portland, Ore.

Nonetheless It was not so long ago when Guitar Hero was practically everywhere, especially displays in stores like Best Buy or the now vanished Circuit City, where customers would take a break from shopping to pretend to be on stage somewhere. It’s now easy to find Guitar Hero and rival Rock Band titles in used bins at low, low prices.

I have no idea if Call of Duty will ever mirror Guitar Hero’s rise and fall or remain a perennial big seller like EA’s Madden NFL series. What I do know is that many real musicians won’t weep for Guitar Hero.

 

Fox News unfactually accuses games of rape training

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That’s not really a surprise given Fox’s record with gamers in terms of misleading their audience with self-styled media pundits and so-called experts who obliquely ignore the ratings on the actual product or who have never played the game in the first place. Facts? What facts?

It wasn’t that long ago that Mass Effect went through the same thing on Fox. In the analysis that followed, the ‘expert’ that Fox had called to the floor – Cooper Lawrence – who made Mass Effect out to be promoting pornography was lambasted by those that had actually played the game. See, she didn’t play it – but felt in her expert opinion that it was primarily what the game was about and ran with it. It’s as if someone had blamed the film, Pirates of the Caribbean, for promoting Somali piracy without even seeing the movie.

She actually apologized, even though Fox never did. But that hasn’t stopped Fox from finding experts that now blame games for the increase in rape statistics across the nation without any real statistics to back up that correlation. Once again, the audience is left to take the word of these ‘experts’ at face value without so much as hard evidence.

Fox went on to draw in Bulletstorm as the perfect example of why the youth of America are falling by the wayside. Now, Bulletstom IS a violent game. That’s why it’s rated M, for Mature, meaning that it should only be played by adults 18 and over. Not by a nine year old that Fox has been quoted in saying will be playing games just like it.

Short of handling game sales like the TSA handles airports, you’re still going to see parents buy kids the games they want because they either don’t care or don’t know any better. In my time in retail, I’ve seen parents do this – we deny the kid the sale, then he/she brings in their grumpy parent to wonder why we did that and use their credit card to get the game anyway. It happens.

EA has hit back with a statement defending Bulletstorm and likening it to similar fare such as Sin City or Kill Bill which is fine since both of those films are rated appropriately and are clearly intended for older audiences. Games for adults should be treated in the same way, but according to Fox, they’re not. Still, I’m not expecting Fox to issue an apology for this, either, or for any of their experts to recant what they’ve said. After all, they’ve got their fifteen minutes of fame.

EA Games on Sale

Step right up, get your EA Games for $.99 for your iPhone, Ipod touch and the iPad. In time for Valentines Day, EA Games announced that they’ll drop the price of nearly 30 games games for 48 hours, starting on February 7. Now, I know it’s the 8th but hey, you’ve got a 10 hours from the time this goes up. So…..hurry, hurry, hurry!!!

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Game titles are listed after the jump.
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Dude! Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in Los Angeles

If ridiculousness is a virtue, the designers behind “Marvel vs. Capcom 3″ are video game saints.

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The game, its full title is “Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds” appears to be based on the belief that wackier is better. Capcom’s “Super Street Fighter IV” wasn’t exactly an exercise in subtlety, but to play MvC3 is to play an electronic equivalent of a caffeine rush.

Remember Jolt Cola? This game is like a six-pack of the stuff, so this writer is going to crack open an imaginary bottle and get to work.

Details after the jump:


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“Dead Money” gets release date for PC, PS3

“Dead Money,” the first DLC release for “Fallout: New Vegas” is scheduled to be released PC and PlayStation 3 on Feb. 22, Bethesda Softworks announced.

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XBox 360 players got first crack at Dead Money way back on Dec. 22. Bethesda reports that they will release three additional New Vegas expansions within the next few months with simultaneous release dates for all three platforms.

Sony posts new trailer for MLB 11: The Show (Football is over!)

Here’s one for all the video baseball fans out there. The new “Yankee Killer” trailer for “MLB 11: The Show” lets a digital version of Minnesota Twins star Joe Mauer step up to the plate against the New York Yankee’s C.C. Sabathia.

In this writer’s opinion, any scenario in which the Yankees lose is a good one.

The game is set for a March release.

Kim Jong-il doesn’t exist in Japan’s version of Homefront

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He’s gone, really, according to gaming blog Andriasang, because of the rules that CERO has in place for every game. CERO is the Japanese equivalent of the ESRB, the ratings board over here in the States, though their requirements are a bit different from ours. For example, two of the rules they have against “scenes deemed malicious to an existing person/country” have apparently replaced North Korea with “A certain country in the North” and Kim Jong-il with “Northern Leader”.

If you’re not sure what Homefront is, it’s THQ’s new shooter that’s headed to retail in March. It features the somewhat sketchy premise of North Korea’s successful unification of the peninsula and its preparation in the years since for war, culminating in half of the United States falling for a surprise invasion. The story puts players in the shoes of a grassroots resistance movement in occupied America as they take up the fight. With the tensions between Japan and North Korea, it’s probably not too hard to understand why this might be a somewhat sensitive topic.

It’s also not the first time a game coming in from the States has had to go through the wringer in order to enter certain markets. Australia’s somewhat draconian rules have made headlines over the years for their handling of titles such as Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 which only entered the country via a German version that was already edited for content. Typing in “video games banned” in Google brings up “video games banned in australia” as an auto-complete term.

Even the United States has its own funny rules on censorship. One example that jumps out is how the NES’ port of Bionic Commando originally pit the player against Nazis complete with Hitler at the end – until it was whitewashed when it came over here. The Japanese fought a vast, neo-Nazi empire while we got – Badds and Master D. Now, more than twenty years later, it sounds as if they’re getting the Bionic Commando treatment. Of course, the difference is that one game was based on history and sci-fi; the other more on speculation on current events.

Things have somewhat relaxed a bit since then, even for Nintendo, and I’m also sure the Japanese audiences looking at the game know exactly who Homefront’s story is really pointing to. THQ is also apparently okay with it leaving it to Spike in Japan to handle the distribution there. As long as the gameplay itself proves to be just as interesting, a relatively small change like this shouldn’t keep Japan’s gamers from finding the same amount of fun that other gamers elsewhere are hoping to get from Homefront.