GamePro Ends Magazine Run

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It’s over. After 22 years, one of the first magazines dedicated to reporting on a young and rapidly growing console market has finally decided to call it quits. According to a report by IndustryGamers, November’s print issue will be GamePro’s last and the website will close on December 5th.

GamePro joins Computer Gaming World as another casualty of a medium under pressure from the digital space. CGW, later known as Games for Windows in 2006, covered the PC gaming industry for over 27 years before shutting down in 2008.

As a kid, GamePro was as good a reason as any to hit up a place like Waldenbooks for the latest gaming gossip. It was different, entertaining, and like many other magazines at the time, trying to find its own voice in an industry where everything was still up for grabs and Vic Tokai had one man on their customer service line.

Its pages reflected the childish excitement of the time – rough, colorful, and illuminated with plenty of art that clearly wasn’t on any of the game boxes. It even had its own comic strip and a spandex hero who showed up at CES before there was an E3.

And this was all before the ‘net became the monster it is today. GamePro, EGM, Gamer’s Republic, and a score of others were only the channels in those heady days through which audiences could tune into whether Zelda was going to have another sequel, see who would stoke the 16-bit fires with more trash talking hardware ads, or share tips and cheat codes.

Unfortunately, changing market conditions in the face of an ever-growing digital world have made it difficult for several print outlets to sustain themselves, especially in recent years.

IndustryGamers reports that GamePro’s editorial team will be folded into PC World and that GamePro’s website will eventually point visitors to PC World’s instead. There is no word yet as to what options will be given to the rest of the staff, or if there will even be positions for them in PC World going forward.

Whatever the case might be, I wish them all the best in landing on their feet along with a sad farewell to another gaming legend. Thanks for many years of thumb blistering memories and excitement.

If you wanted a pink 3DS, Nintendo can sell you one

Nintendo revealed a new pink version of its 3DS handheld today. The pastel-colored hardware comes bundled with one of two different versions of “nintendogs + cats,” and the packaging is predictably adorable.

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Nintendo’s MSRP for the bundle is $169.99, which is the same as the current price for a 3DS all on its own.

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Star Wars: The Old Republic beta weekend

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The Inquisitor looked at me expectantly, hoping to see what nugget of information I would pry loose from the victim strapped to the table. The man coolly went about his business while my prey writhed in fear of what was to come. But after a few words of calm and a promise of help, his will melted before this unexpected kindness. And I kept my word, seeing that he would leave Korriban’s tombs and its Academy politic far behind him.

I was Sith. Sith, with a heart of compassion for those that deserved it…and an unrelenting storm to those that did not.

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Review: Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

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“Ace Combat: Assault Horizon” is an enjoyable title, but one that feels as if it could have been much better.

Project Aces, the development team behind previous Ace Combat titles,
achieved mixed results in their attempt to reinvent the Ace Combat series. At its best, Assault Horizon offers an arcade-style flight game with just enough simulator-esque touches to let aircraft enthusiasts imagine they are piloting one of several military jets.

At its worst, however, Assault Horizon suffers from an all-too-obvious attempt to abandon the franchise’s identity in order to imitate Michael Bay-style movie making. In other words, explosions, flashy visuals and loud noises take too much precedence over suspense, drama and personality.

The upshot is that Assault Horizon may please gamers who are hungry for a flight-themed title, but is unlikely to emerge as a must-have during a highly-competitive holiday release season.

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Happy 10th Anniversary Xbox!

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Today marks the 10th Anniversary of Microsoft’s Xbox, the console that launched a revolution and raised the stakes in the ongoing war between the gaming giants. To many, most especially its biggest fans, the Xbox brand has proven to be a worthwhile gamble on the part of Microsoft and a tremendous success in ousting rival Sony from the top spot and standing firm in its place as a serious challenger for billions of gaming dollars.

Halo became the killer app that would go on to become a multi-billiion dollar franchise. Western developers would make dramatic splashes through its hardware expanding on what players should expect from a console. Titles such as Bethesda’s Morrowind and BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic would help set the kind of foundations that would eventually propel these and other Western developers into superstardom. And when the Xbox 360 hit, fans only wanted more and Microsoft obliged – though RRODs were far less appreciated. Yet that didn’t even slow the Xbox juggernaut from rolling ahead on multiple social fronts.

Business site, Gurufocus, notes that CFO Kevin McCarthy has stated in a recent conference that its Xbox Live service now boasts over thirty million plus subscribers. Xbox Live was introduced in 2002.

In October, Yahoo reported on Microsoft’s quarterly report revealing that over 57.6 million Xbox 360s have been sold worldwide and remained the “top selling” console in the United States, a place it has held for nine months straight.

With Netflix and a host of other social tools introduced to the console since its inception and building on the Live model begun with the first Xbox, Microsoft’s foray into a high-stakes arena strewn with dramatic risks and billions of dollars has evidently paid off.

Helping to celebrate this anniversary, Xbox Live users get a free avatar prop up until this Saturday. Also, Venture Beat’s Dean Takahashi (Opening the Xbox: Inside Microsoft’s Plan to Unleash an Entertainment Revolution) has written up a two part piece on Microsoft’s Xbox journey from the first console and into today’s market with the 360.

It’s a remarkable success story that has propped the software company up as a member of the worldwide console triumvirate alongside Sony and Nintendo. As for what the next ten years will do for gaming, who can say? But one thing’s for certain – Microsoft’s Xbox will do everything it can to be there in making it happen.

Review: NBA 2K12

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NBA 2K12 is a testament, in video game form, to America’s love of professional basketball. Perhaps more than any other sports video game*, 2K Sports’ latest offering shows a respect and love for its source material that most other titles do not match.

And given the labor troubles afflicting the NBA this season, NBA 2K12 may be the only way basketball fans will be able to enjoy the professional game for a long time. That makes it a little harder to decide if NBA 2K12 is a “must buy” for the fan and his or her hard-earned $60.

On the “pro” side, NBA 2K12 offers a quality single-player experience and by featuring a dozens of NBA legends in its “NBA’s Greatest” mode, 2K Sports offers a worthy successor to 2K11′s “Jordan Challenge” feature and thus has probably done more than any other developer to make annual sports titles feel like a worthwhile experience.

On the “con” side, real-life business issues mean consumers may not be able to use this year’s game as a mirror for the real-life NBA for several weeks, if at all.

A die-hard NBA fan who is most interested in the opportunity to play as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird or any of the other all-time greats featured in the game will probably get his or her money’s worth from NBA 2K12. But someone who wants to play online matchups with current NBA rosters will be disappointed. It may not be fair that a real-life labor dispute between NBA players and owners may reduce the game’s value, but that’s life.

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Review: Rage (Xbox 360)

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id Software isn’t known for strong, single player storytelling. They usually leave that to others such as Raven Software. Anyone that has played their games knows that they’re more about eye candy and blistered trigger fingers replacing favorite fictional moments with tales of narrowly avoiding your best friend’s missile punch.

But Rage is different. At the very least, it’s very different for id.
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Rant: Playing a video game doesn’t actually mean you’re a soldier

“Modern Warfare 3,”the latest edition of the “Call of Duty” series is in stores today.  That means a few things:

1. Activision, the game’s publisher, is going to make a lot of money.

2. People are going to argue on the Internet over whether the game is any good or not.

3. The game’s advertising campaign will tell potential buyers that “there’s a soldier in all of us,” which is absurd.

The third item – the commercial-  is the only one that I have a problem with. I think the way the advertisement pokes fun at the “noob’s” initial challenge in playing a competitive first-person shooter is actually kind of clever, but the silly tagline needs to go away.

Although I can understand why some people would be offended by the idea of a war-themed game, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with using a game to tell a story about war, which has been a fact of life throughout human history.

For example, I thought “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare,” (2007) generally did a good job of imagining what could happen in a modern conflict in the Middle East and Russia. Although the story was definitely told with Hollywood sensibilities, the concept of U.S. Marines and British commandos fighting against members of revolutionary movements in not-Saudi Arabia and Russia, seemed to be a reasonable reflection of the anxieties of our time.

But the game is still, as the saying goes, only entertainment. I have never served in the military nor reported from a war zone, but I nonetheless think Activision’s “there’s a soldier in all of us,” is ridiculous. The soldiers and Marines who have been to Iraq and Afghanistan, have chosen to do so knowing not only that the United States of America is at war, but that the wars have become decreasingly popular among the general public.

Combat troops also have to meet physical requirements, pass basic training and be strong enough to actually fight. All you need to do to play Call of Duty is pay $60 for a copy.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t play the game if they enjoy doing so. But if the advertising team for Madden claimed that playing that game somehow meant players are NFL-caliber athletes, every one would realize how ridiculous that statement would be.

Given that no one is likely to lose their lives or limbs playing Call of Duty, Activision needs to get a new tagline.

Link goes to the desert in new Zelda footage

Nintendo released a couple new videos today showing Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword hero Link in action in the game’s Lanayru Desert and Lanayru mining facilities.

First impressions: The footage showing how the game will employ motion controls while Link rides a mine cart Indiana Jones-style was an interesting surprise. The sequences showing Link using a leaf-blower like device as weapon were another surprise.

The presence of a Gohma-like boss was not a surprise, however, since a version of the giant arachnid has appeared in many Zelda titles.

Here is the first clip, the second is after the jump:

Skyward Sword is scheduled to be released Nov. 20 for Nintendo Wii.
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Grand Theft Auto V trailer released today

Here it is, Rockstar Games’ first trailer for Grand Theft Auto V:

Thoughts:

1. Rockstar doesn’t seem to able to fail when it comes to recreating cities. Los Santos looks like it will be so close to the real Los Angeles that I will be able to recognize actual neighborhoods and landmarks.

2. The shots of laborers and windmills in places that resemble the real-life Central Valley and Coachella Valley make me wonder if the “state” of San Andreas will be back in some way. If memory serves, Rockstar only introduced San Fierro/San Francisco when first promoting GTA: San Andreas, and then revealed Los Santos and Las Venturas/Las Vegas much later.

3. The recession and foreclosures appear to be a theme in the game. This should be interesting given that GTA, for all its violence, could be interpreted as a moralistic satire of American greed and excess. (Then again, parts of the games just seem to be about ridiculous levels of mayhem.)

4. Recent Rockstar John Marston (Red Dead Redemption) was introduced in the game as a reformed criminal, who despite the events of his storyline, didn’t want to kill anybody. I wonder if GTA V’s lead character will similarly be more sympathetic than past leads.

4.5. I’ve read rumors that GTA V will feature multiple protagonists, which again makes me wonder if more than one city will be featured in the game.