Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Supreme Court Rules Video Games Protected Under Freedom of Speech

video games protected by free speechIt's been a great couple of days for the gaming community as the Supreme Court has just ruled that video games are protected under our First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech! That's right, the United States Supreme Court overturned a California law legislating the sale of violent video games as unconstitutional. However, that isn't dampening the spirits of the law's creator who is vowing to continue his fight.

California State Senator Leland Yee (D - San Francisco) was recently reported as saying that he hopes to "create a pathway for a successful bill that could withstand a challenge" from the Supreme Court. Yee's bill was initially signed into law back in 2005 by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill would have fined retailers of video games up to $1,000 per infraction for selling a violent video game to a minor.

However, we gamers take our gaming seriously and the bill was immediately challenged by a video game industry consortium and United States District Court Judge Ronald Whyte put an injunction in place to prevent the law from being enforced.

The consortium argued on the grounds of our First Amendment Rights. In addition to that, lawyers representing the video game industry noted that all major retailers already abide by the voluntary rating system that the video game industry itself created. The ESRB, otherwise known as the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, rates video games by the content the games contain and also provides an age rating as well as a description of the content in the game. The system is modeled after the same one used by the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA) movie rating system.

The law was ultimately turned over in a 7 to 2 vote which ruled that video games are entitled to the same artistic protection under the First Amendment granted to books, movies, plays and other works of creative expression. While the overturning of the law is a huge step for video games, it goes even further as this is the first time the Supreme Court has heard a case such as this.

President and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association Michael Gallagher called the Supreme Court ruling "a historic and complete win for the First Amendment" and artists and storytellers. Gallagher went on to say, "The Court declared forcefully that content-based restrictions on games are unconstitutional; and that parents, not government bureaucrats, have the right to decide what is appropriate for their children."

Yee, a child psychologist turned politician, stated that, "the evidence is absolutely crystal clear that there are harmful effects on our children" from violent video games. This claim, however, was refuted by the Supreme Court which said the evidence is far from convincing.

Older generations always attack what they do not know and I think that is exactly what Yee is doing. To put a restriction like this on video games would mean that the same restriction would have to be placed on everything, including movies, books, music, television and any other form of media. Video games, compared to all other forms of media, is a relatively new industry that has exploded in the past 10 years which is why it is coming under so much flack.

The Supreme Court made the right decision to overturn Yee's law. Even though Yee is continuing his tirade against video games, I don't think he will ever find enough "evidence" to support his cause and if Yee doesn't like it then he can always move to a place where violent video games are restricted, like Australia.

Source: ZDNet - California's failed video game law sponsor vows to continue fight

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Xbox 360 Selling Like Hotcakes! Nintendo 3DS...Not So Much

According to data released Monday, June 13 by NPD, it seems as though for the month of May, the Xbox 360 has remained the top-selling console, and while the Xbox has flourished, the highly anticipated Nintendo 3DS’s sales are being described as “light.”

In relation to the year-to-date revenues of video game hardware, content and accessory sales, Xbox has grabbed 34 percent so far. The Xbox 360 and the PS3 combined sales are also doing well. They are currently up 28 percent for the month and 21 percent up from last year.

"The PS3, PSP, and the Xbox 360 all experienced unit sales increases over May 2010," NPD analyst Anita Frazier said in a statement. "The top-selling platform for the month was the Xbox 360, which has realized nearly a year and a half of month-over-month unit sales increases."

A little bit earlier this month, Microsoft announced that they have sold more than 55 million Xbox 360 consoles since November 2005, and they claim that “sales are accelerating.”

On the other side of things, as mentioned above, Nintendo’s 3DS is simply generating “light” sales; however, it is expected that those sales will shoot upward. On Sunday, June 19 “Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D” will be released, and Frazier seems positive that the release of the game “should help to significantly boost sales of hardware during the remainder of 2011."

Nintendo also showed off some more games at E3 that could boost the 3DS’s numbers in the next few months. Some of these games include: "Mario Kart," "Starfox 3D," "Super Mario," "Kid Icarus Uprising" and "Luigi's Mansion 2."

The Nintendo 3DS first made its debut in the U.S. in March of this year. It was originally sold for $249.99. By April 15, less than a month after the release of the device, Nintendo said that they had sold just under 400,000 units, but the president of Nintendo Satoru Iwata said, “Nintendo 3DS has not been selling as expected since the second week [of availability], and this is not just in the Japanese market but also in the United States and Europe…therefore, we recognize that we are in a situation where we need to step up our efforts to further promote the spread of Nintendo 3Ds."

Frazier said that the declines in the sales of console hardware are due to the Wii but that the platform "remains the best-selling of this generation at nearly 36 million installed in the U.S." Nintendo is expecting some more success in the form of its new Wii U, which was announced at E3. The next-generation console is scheduled to be released sometime next year.

"At the current rate of growth and decline (on a year-to-date basis) for each of the respective console systems, a year from now the Wii will still enjoy the lead in install base in the U.S., although both the Xbox 360 and PS3 will close the gap," Frazier said. "Of course, new details on hardware introduction could certainly change the picture."

It will be interesting to see how the numbers fluctuate once the Wii U is released. Microsoft is currently in the lead with the Xbox 360, but will Nintendo make up some lost ground with their next-generation console? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Xbox to Debut at E3 2012?

Xbox 720So, this current generation of gaming consoles has been around for quite some time, six years to be exact, and a lot of people are wondering just how much life the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii have left in them. Many gamers are calling for a new wave of consoles and the newest Xbox could be revealed sooner than anyone might have thought.

E3 2011 has come and gone and any announcement of a new console would have been given at the event. Aside from Nintendo's Wii U, which I still can't figure out if it's a new console or a new controller, nothing about the next generation of consoles was talked about. Everything was based in the present and focused mainly around motion controlled gaming with the PlayStation Move and Kinect.

However, it has just been revealed that the highly anticipated successor to the Xbox 360 will be revealed at E3 2012. It has also been revealed that Crytek is making a next-gen Timesplitters 4 game. That is, of course, if the sources speaking on are correct.

According to, a "high-ranking industry source at Crytek" told the site that even though specifications for the next Xbox have not been finalized, Crytek is using Microsoft's DirectX11 for next-gen game development. The "source" also stated that Microsoft will announce the new console next year, most likely at E3.

According to the source, "Crytek believes that Microsoft will announce and launch its new machine ahead of rival Sony, though the developer is also investing resources into next-generation PlayStation development."

In addition to that, the source also claims that Timesplitters 4 is currently in development and using the CryEngine 3. It was also said that the game is already being demoed internally. Timesplitters 4 was also supposedly shown off in private last week at E3 2011. If that is true, then it is the best kept secret from E3.

The source went on to say, "As for the game itself, the new Timesplitters is reported to focus on the series' branching paths and exploratory nature, with sandbox-style gameplay elements a big priority. The current goal is for levels to feature multiple routes that lead to the same overall conclusion."

Naturally, both Microsoft and Crytek declined to comment on this news. While the announcement of a new Timesplitters game isn't too crazy, the thought of a new console at E3 2012 is insane. If this is true, and not some well developed hoax, and Microsoft does manage to pump out a console before both Sony and Nintendo, then Microsoft can easily sweep the competition in the next-generation console wars.

Source: IGN - Report - Next Xbox Debuting in 2012?

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Xbox Live Plans to Go "To the Cloud"

Everyone seems to be wrapped up in “the cloud” right now, and Apple is not the only one who has recently made an announcement regarding the cloud. Microsoft announced on Monday, June 6 that it would be adding cloud storage later this year for its Xbox Live.

"Yes, cloud storage is coming to Xbox LIVE. Your profile and game saves available wherever you are," Larry Hyrb, the director of programming for Xbox Live, tweeted on Monday afternoon.

When this update occurs, it will allow all Xbox Live users to sign into their accounts with the service from any console at any time. This will give them access to all of their game saves and full profile. This includes items like Microsoft Points for purchases, Achievements and friends.

"Cloud storage will allow you to enjoy the same great Xbox Live gaming experience even when you're not in your own living room by giving you the option to store your 'game saves' securely in the Xbox Live cloud instead of on a portable memory unit or your console's hard drive," Microsoft said in a statement. "Gone are the days of 'gamertag recovery.' Now all you need to do is sign in, no matter where you are!"

Unfortunately, Microsoft has not given a definite timeline as to when they will be adding cloud storage to their Xbox Live. They simply leave hopeful users hanging with “later this year.”

Think the cloud update sounds like a great addition? Well, that is not even close to the only update that Microsoft will be rolling out in the near future. Microsoft also promises that they will soon be offering a simpler, cleaner, easier-to-use dashboard. "All of your favorite content is categorized in a way that is easy to browse and find what you're looking for, plus you can use voice anywhere in the dashboard to effortlessly navigate and get to what you want," the company said.

On the morning of Monday, June 6 at the E3 Expo, Microsoft unveiled its Live TV, which included the voice component as well. This new experience from Microsoft will allow users to add live television streaming, built-in DVR capabilities and voice-powered Bing searches. "Quite simply we believe TV is more amazing with you as the controller," said Marc Whitten, vice president for Xbox Live.

Microsoft also unveiled a variety of new games that incorporate the voice-control functionality when working in conjunction with Kinect.

"We want Xbox Live members around the globe to experience the magic of Kinect's voice recognition technology so we are committed to bringing voice to eight additional markets by the end of this year with a total of 13 markets that will have Kinect voice," Microsoft said. "We are also exploring some innovative new ways to enable the Live community to help us accelerate the refinement of voice models in new markets and look forward to sharing developments on that front soon."

Xbox will also be adding what they are calling Beacons. These will allow users to notify Xbox and Facebook friends whenever they want to play a game on Xbox Live. All you have to do is set a Beacon and choose which game you want to play. Xbox Live does all the rest. It will let you know when your friends are playing and whether or not they want to play the same game as you.

"With Beacons no matter what you're currently doing on Xbox Live, your friends know that it's ok to ask you to play your Beaconed games," Microsoft said. "Imagine sending out a Beacon to let your friends know you're interested in playing 'Halo' while watching a movie on Netflix."

Sounds pretty cool to me. I just hope that Microsoft gets the updates out soon. I don’t want to sit around thinking about how cool these updates would be. I want to see them in action!

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Most business class projectors will do a good job displaying your PowerPoint presentation. If you have a small presentation group, a 2000 lumen LCD projector will be able to produce a nice and clear picture. For larger audiences you should consider a 5000 lumen LCD projector.

Monday, June 6, 2011

New Updated Nintendo Console Announcement

Gamers around the world are hyped for the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) Conference in Los Angeles this week. There companies will reveal countless new games and Nintendo is expected to unveil an updated console.

So, do gamers even want a new, updated Nintendo console? According to data that was collected from Nielsen, there is almost a completely equal number of gamers that would like to see a console from Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft.

"Beyond expectations, nearly a quarter of gamers say they would buy a new console from Nintendo (27 percent) within six months of release, but a near-equal share say the same for new Sony and Microsoft consoles," Nielsen said in a blog post.

Nintendo has already confirmed that they will be showing off some new hardware at their Tuesday press conference but that won’t be happening during Sony and Microsoft’s press conferences.

Microsoft released some stats on its Xbox 360 on Friday, June 3. It showed that there is plenty of interest still in the Xbox 360, so there really isn’t a need for Microsoft to produce a new console right now; however, some are speculating that Microsoft will be announcing a new Xbox subscription TV service instead.

Sony, on the other hand, will most likely be focusing on its Next Generation Portable (NGP). The company has been posting previews about the device and the games that will be available for it on its Sony PlayStation blog.

So, because Microsoft and Sony are both focusing on things besides a new, updated console, if gamers are looking for a new console, they will either have to turn to Nintendo or simply wait on Microsoft and Sony. Nintendo said that it "will show a playable model of the new system and announce more specifications at the E3 Expo," so it will be very interesting to see what they roll out tomorrow.

Nielsen said that "Nintendo's comparatively larger Wii audience is behind much of the interest in the new Nintendo platform." They did, however, go on to say that the Wii gamers surveyed that also had experience with an Xbox 360 or PS3 "voice greater interest in a new Microsoft or Sony console than in one from Nintendo."

Nielsen reported that, despite this, it "will ultimately depend on the actual features, price point, and timing of release for the Nintendo console, versus satisfaction with currently owned platforms and other new system options."

Nielsen went on to report that the online chatter about Nintendo’s new console at the E3 conference is much higher this year than the buzz and hype was last year for the unveiling of Microsoft’s Kinect add-on for the Xbox 360. The talk about Nintendo’s new console has accounted for 22 percent of all of the current E3 talk right now. Last year, the Kinect was only able to grab 4 percent during the same period of time.

"Trended buzz shows a substantial increase in interest generated by rumors and confirmation of the new Nintendo console seven to five weeks pre-E3," Nielsen said. "This is especially so compared to 2010 buzz for Kinect and Nintendo's own 3DS handheld, which was unveiled last year at E3 as well. In the past several weeks the differences in chatter have narrowed, though it remains to be seen if any more key buzz-driving information will be released before the much-anticipated unveiling."

There is definitely a lot of hype surrounding the new Nintendo console unveiling. I personally can’t wait to see it, despite the fact that I am indeed a fan of Sony gaming products. One more day to sit and wait. I think I can make it until then.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

PlayStation Store Back Online

Sony announced on the evening of Wednesday, June 1st that the Sony PlayStation Store is back online! After being down for more than a month, this is big news for PlayStation owners.

According to a blog post, Sony promised that when the store got back online there would be a “huge lineup” of new downloadable games, demos, add-on content, themes, avatars and videos, and they have definitely followed through with their promises. Sony added full game trials, free games and DLC, free avatars and even more discounts.

"The PlayStation Store is back online,” said Sony, “and thank you, everyone, for your patience."

Now unfortunately, Sony’s promised “Welcome Back” package is not live yet. Last month, the company promised all of their users access to free games, movie rentals and virtual items. This was an attempt to make up for the fact that they were without service after the huge Sony PlayStation Network hack. On Wednesday Sony said that the offer "is currently in the final stages of testing and will be available to download soon; we'll be sure to let you know when."

On Thursday, June 2 Sony is releasing the next PlayStation Store and PlayStation Plus updates. Sony also said that they will be releasing some “special” releases right before the start of the E3 gaming conference in L.A.

For users who were PlayStation Plus subscribers, Sony says that they will receive access to full game trials of both “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2” and “Dante’s Inferno.” There will also be almost another dozen featured games and DLC that will be free for PlayStation Plus subscribers and range from $2.99 to $9.99 for all other PlayStation users. For a full list check out Sony’s blog.

Meanwhile, while Sony can celebrate that the PlayStation Store is back online, they still have to deal with discussing the hack with the U.S. Congress. The House Energy and Commerce Committee said on Wednesday that they will be conducting a “thorough review” of the data security and electronic privacy issues that Sony has encountered during this hack.

“In this digital age we must all remain vigilant against the dangers lurking online," said Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI). "Illegal hacking has become one of the fastest growing crimes worldwide. As cyber-attacks become more frequent, our first step must be to strengthen data security to ensure protection of information that consumers choose to have collected and stored. Only when basic data security is addressed can we move forward to address the more complex questions about individual privacy in the digital era."

Most of the criticism that Congress has about the Sony hack is the reaction that the company had. Many members of Congress questioned why Sony took so long to notify its customers about the hack, and of course, Sony defended itself and its actions.

"On Friday, April 22nd we notified PlayStation Network customers via a post on the PlayStation Blog that an intrusion had occurred," Tim Schaaff, president of Sony Network Entertainment International, said. "That blog, by the way, has been rated one of the top-twenty most influential on the Internet, right behind the White House's blog. It has a highly visible and deeply engaging relationship with our customers and is one of the best, fastest and most direct means of communicating with them."

He continued saying that if you issue "vague or speculative statements before you have specific and reliable information—you either confuse and panic people, without giving them useful facts, or you bombard them with so many announcements that they become background noise."

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Preview of Call of Duty Elite

Call of Duty Elite
While you would think that any news about Call of Duty would be focused on the upcoming Modern Warfare 3, Activision has just released details about something that you probably weren't expecting, Call of Duty Elite. Back in February Activision announced that the company was forming Beachhead Studios, a completely wholly-owned development studio charged with the task of working on Call of Duty products. Many people speculated as to what these products were going to be. Is the team working on DLC, new games or something we haven't thought of yet? Well, it seems that it was the latter with the latter being Call of Duty Elite.

Call of Duty Elite is something that Activision's Bobby Kotick has long hinted at as being the biggest moneymaker, subscription fees. Call of Duty Elite is a subscription program set to take advantage of the success of Call of Duty: Black Ops as well as the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Now before you go getting your panties in a bunch, Chacko Sonny from Beachhead went into great detail in order to point out that Elite is not a way to charge players to play Call of Duty online.

Elite is being touted as a "new connected service that brings together the worldwide Call of Duty community in ways we never could before." The goal of Elite is simple: "to enrich the multiplayer experience." To put it very, very simply, Call of Duty Elite is not a game, it is a service. There are three pillars to the service: Connect, Compete and Improve. Activision fervently believes that Call of Duty Elite will become a huge part of online gaming as well as connected entertainment for the company. The Call of Duty games represent a large majority of online players for both the Xbox 360 and the PS3. These games also represent a ton of gamers that Activision is hoping will sign up and subscribe to the service.

Activision recently held a pre-E3 event where Treyarch's Dan Bunting and David Vonderhaar took the stage to discuss Call of Duty Elite. The two showed off the differences between the Combat record in Call of Duty: Black Ops. The service tracks pretty much every single stat you can possibly think of in the game and pumps it into the Elite service as charts, graphs, heat maps and other stuff. Call of Duty Elite is meant to work as a learning tool in order to help you improve as a player. It is also supposed to be used as a tool to help you meet new players and give you a new way to compete with challenges and actual prizes. It is a completely decked out look at your career with Call of Duty that comes with multiple sets of multiple stats, a new showcase for your game videos, a way to track and compete with others and a lot more.

If you are somebody who loves reviewing your game stats, seeing where you excelled, seeing where you made mistakes and tweaking your game based on that, then Elite is going to blow your mind for the rest of your life. There is also a tutorial service with Elite that breaks down every weapon and piece of equipment in the game. This even comes with video insights on the proper use of certain weapons. There really is a ton of information in Call of Duty Elite. Another good feature about Elite is that you will be able to access it from anywhere. You can get it on your computer, laptop, tablet or even on your smartphone, basically anything with a web browser.

One thing that Elite is doing is allowing you to join groups which can literally be based on anything you can muster up in your mind. Have an obsession with Cthulhu? Type it in and join a group of avid Cthulhu fans. Can't get enough pistachios? I'm sure there is a group for that as well. And if you can't find a group, then make one yourself! Groups in Elite are also tiered just like real army units. Groups of 1 to 10 players are known as a Platoon, 100 is a Regiment, 1,000 is a Battalion, 100,000 is a Brigade and 1,000,000 is an Army.

Groups not enough for you? Then how about you form or join a clan? Elite offers incredible clan support similar to the kind you would see in an MMO. You can organize tournaments between your clan members as well as a lot of other stuff in the clan system. Clans also allow you to take part in all the challenges Elite has to offer. A lot of these challenges offer real-world prizes as well like unique game badges, belt buckles, t-shirts, iPads and even a custom Black Ops Edition Jeep. Challenges range from things like Best Kill screenshot or hitting the top of the leaderboards. New challenges are constantly incoming, more so then the wimpy ones already featured in Black Ops.

You are probably still wondering about the subscription fee I mentioned earlier, aren't you? Well, the good news is that a lot of the stuff in this service will be free for users at home, at least for a little bit. However, Activision is offering a Premium Membership version as well. What exactly the paid subscription grants you has yet to be released and neither has an official price tag. However, Activision has stated that the subscription fee for Call of Duty Elite will be "Less than any other comparable online service for gaming or entertainment." Call of Duty Elite is set to be released this November on the same day as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Check out the video below for a little more information on Call of Duty Elite.

Source: G4TV - Call of Duty Elite Hands-On First Look