Beatles Rock Band: New Information Released

beatles rock band renderingWhen MTV Network’s Harmonix (Viacom) locked up the coveted rights to bring the Beatles to the digital age last fall, only a few details were revealed about the project.  The company said simply that the new game was being developed from the ground up, that it wouldn’t be merely a customized version of the Rock Band franchise, that Electronic Arts would be involved with publishing, and that the game has the full support of the band members (or their heirs).

Today, new details emerged.  Though still entirely new, the game will tie-in to the Rock Band series in name.  It’s title:  “Beatles: Rock Band”

The game will launch in Australia, Europe and North America on September 9th.  It will be released simultaneously for the Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 platforms.

Beatles fans are almost guaranteed to chime in that the scheduling, 09.09.09,  is no accident. It may or may not be coincidental but the number 9 has been connected to the band many times in lore, and urban legend Click to Read More

Activision Beats Gibson in Court: Patent doesn’t Apply to Guitar Hero

court judgmentThe Gibson Les Paul is an icon. Bob Marley was entombed in a mausoleum with his. Duane Allman used one.  Slash, the Edge, Mick Jones, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Neil Young, Paul McCartney – some of the biggest names in Rock have played it. It’s no surprise, given that, that Activision licensed the guitar’s likeness (and Gibson’s brand) to give game players an axe to shred for the Guitar Hero game franchise.   What was a surprise was that Gibson turned on its partner of three years with patent infringement claim last year

Showing teeth that seemed to come out of nowhere, Gibson said Activision’s Guitar Hero franchise, and eventually,  all things guitar-gaming (Gibson also sued EA, MTV Networks, Harmonix and major retailers selling Guitar Hero or Rock Band games), infringed on its prior invention.  

From the start, Gibson’s claims looked weak

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Midway Bankruptcy: Incentive Plans and Sales Options Up Close

midwayMonday, several stories seizing on a blog post from Gawker Media’s Kotaku suggested struggling Midway Games might be in the process of selling off its Mortal Kombat game franchise.  Several of the articles (on the basis of part of the story, as well) also went so far as to attack the company for pursuing a key-personnel incentive plan at the same time the bankrupt company appears to be cutting back payouts to laid off staff.   

The stories’ paint a grim picture of the company’s practices and it’s easy to jump in the chorus of castigation.  Unfortunately, headlines sometimes oversell their news story and news stories sometimes under emphasize all of the facts.  Here, however questionable some of what’s happening at Midway may (or may not ) be, review of the company’s bankruptcy filings, which are embedded or linked to below, shows the situation is more complicated and far less definitive than many of the reports suggested.

First and most importantly, contrary to suggestion, the Incentive Plan (which provides for $3,775,000 to be set aside to pay incentives to up to 29 employees on the completion of three milestones) is not active.  While endorsed by the company, it has not been approved and set in place.  Money hasn’t been “set aside.” Midway provided the Bankruptcy Court with a copy of the plan as a proposal on February 23rd (see embedded file below) and requested creditors voice their objections (if any) by March 3rd.  A hearing was tentatively scheduled for March 10th.    At this point, there’s no guarantee creditors will agree to the plan as written (or at all), or that the Bankruptcy Court will approve its implementation.    

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Sony Joins Reorganization Parade

sony reorgIn a February 2007 interview for the PBS series CEO Exchange (PDF) Sony’s CEO Sir Howard Stringer said one of the first jobs he had to do at Sony was “reach out and get people to collaborate with each other.”  Sony was too vertically integrated, he said. He had to break up the vertical “silos” to better serve the increasingly digital world.  It’s two years removed from those remarks but Stringer is finally getting some of the changes he sought.

Following Yahoo’s restructuring announcement yesterday, Sony announced a major reorganization of its own today.    Effective April 1st,  there will be two new business groups and a reworked organization chart. 

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Nintendo DSi Set for April US Launch

nintendo dsiNot that Nintendo needs any help, the company’s already dominating its competition in the US, but an added boost is due this spring.  Nintendo announced Wednesday that the third generation of their popular Dual Screen (DS) portable will come stateside on April 5th.

Available in Japan Since November, the DSi expands on its predecessor with the addition of two cameras (one outward facing and one facing the user), enhanced audio /MP3 functionality and a dedicated SD Card memory slot to help support WiFi delivered downloadable content or facilitate music and photo storage. The DSi also features upgradeable firmware.

Fitting squarely into Nintendo’s proven strategy of reaching as wide an audience as possible, the DSi is a device tailor made for mass appeal.  The twin cameras  open the door to new types of interactive game play while at the same they time bring photo manipulation tools otherwise unseen in gaming devices.  Photo albums can be created, stored and shared. Images can be stretched, shifted, cut out or colored in.

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Over Creditor Objection Midway Gets Court OK

Over the concerns of some lenders, today Midway Games got a green light from the US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware to continue to run its U.S. operations as usual as it moves forward.

The authorization for the “first day motions” will allow the company to press ahead with the bankruptcy filing Midway completed last week (The complete filing is available here).   Payroll, price protection mechanisms and Market Development Fund obligations will be paid from the company’s cash position.

CEO Matt Booty said the company “remains confident in Midway’s ability to use this proven [bankruptcy] process to address our capital structure and explore our strategic alternatives.” He called the approval an “important first step.”

Not all creditors agree.  In an objection motion filed last Friday (which is embedded below) several voiced concerns suggesting that the bankruptcy, and the situation that created it, could evolve as an end-run around Midway’s debt obligations for the best interest of its majority owner but to the detriment of the creditors themselves. 

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Gaming Short Takes: Microsoft Restructuring Rare. Ensemble Staffers Create New Home

restructuringMicrosoft’s Entertainment and Devices division has taken its share of the hits in the company’s efforts to restructure its costs.   Already, Ensemble Studios (maker of Halo Wars) and ACES (makers of Flight Simulator) have been shuttered while the Zune project group has been subdivided into two teams.

Now it looks like Rare, the UK game developer Microsoft bought for $375m in 2002 is the next to get operated on.  Speaking to,  Mark Betteridge, the studio manager, said that “as the entire industry struggles to address the increasing scale and cost of development, we too have felt a need to restructure our current approach so we can speed development and better manage the scale required to create high quality games.”

Job cuts are expected to be limited but not non-existent.

(Update 2/19: at least 12 positions in art and engineering departments have been reported cut so far. )

As a positive side note: some of the staffers from Ensemble Studios have already built themselves a new home.

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