Apple Reveals iPhone 3G S

3G S iPhoneTrue to expectation, Apple launched its World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco Monday with bang, or at least, plenty of news.  Two days after Palm rolled out the Pre, a solid Smartphone in its own right, Apple rolled out the latest incarnation of its own category killer, the iPhone 3G S.

Like the second incarnation that came before (iPhone 3G), the news of the phone was anticipated, and largely as forecast:

Behind a lead-in of teasing sales numbers touting 40m iPhone and iPod Touch Units sold, and the 50k applications available in the App Store (compared to less than 5,000 at the closest competitor: Android), the Keynote Speech showcased the phone and the official installment of the 3.0 software package for the platform.

Leading the improvement list, Click to Read More

E3 2009: Controller-Free Gaming? Microsoft Motion Control: Project Natal

3d gesturesIt’s hard to call the Beatles an opening act.  But if the Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr assisted demonstration of the Beatles Rock Band game was the warm up, than Microsoft’s demonstration of new motion control technology was the headlining main event at the company’s E3 Press Briefing. 

Monday morning, Microsoft showcased what it’s calling Project Natal.  The subject of years of rumors, and longstanding speculation, it’s a technology that takes the unfulfilled dream of Sony’s Eye Toy and makes it real.   It’s cameras and computer interaction in ways we’ve only seen in movies.  It’s nothing short (in potential) of spectacular.  (see video embedded below for demonstration)

To quote Steven Spielberg who was on hand to help with the reveal, “This is a pivotal moment that will carry with it a wave of change, the ripples of which will reach far beyond video games”  

To put it to imagery, picture the gaming interface of Nintendo’s Wii, without the need of a controller.  Picture a user interface that recognizes and responds to a person’s movement and environment.  It’s a computer with sight (and ears).

Want to fight Sugar Ray Leonard or Muhammed Ali in a boxing game? Test your mettle against an Ultimate Fighter without the bruising and bone breaks? Make a fist and swing your hands through the air. Click to Read More

E3: Beatles Rock Band Details Out, and GH5 Band List too

DJ Heroes, country tracks, sequels and spinoffs, the fall and winter of 2009 are sure to be a busy season for music-based video games (not to mention a big test of the genre’s staying power in the face of significant brand dilution).  On September 1st, there’s Rock Band 5 (see Artist list below), then there’s DJ Hero, Scratch: The Ultimate DJ, Lego Rock Band and more.  There’s something for different ages, and for fans of different genres, for everyone, maybe.  But far and away, on many lists at least, the most anticipated curiosity to grab the limelight and grace the marquee will be the Beatles: Rock Band.

First announced in November, the game was (in a way) years in the making, decades even, if you truly count the permission challenges necessary to get the Beatles song catalog authorized and approved for digital remastering and release. iTunes didn’t get it nor did Amazon Mp3. The first Beatles tracks to legally cross the digital divide will be in a game that EA, MTV Games and Harmonix managed to tie up.

Little by little details have been trickling out.  The producer’s behind it. Teasers about the concept. Images of instruments and a release date. Today, just before the official kick off of the gaming industries monster trade show, E3, Microsoft pumped up the buzz with the biggest data dump yet.

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Hulu Offers Application Alternative

hulu labsGo back a few years ago and companies pushing net video streams out to proprietary applications were all the rage.  IP TV had the hype of a key convergence technology.  It was the next new thing. With companies like Joost there was massive venture funding, and talk about how their plans would change the face of TV distribution.

That didn’t happen. The buzz faded, staff left  and many of the companies that were yesterday’s darlings have faded from tech culture stardom (at least for now) like the backup singer to a one hit wonder.  Two notes hummed and forgotten.

The problem may have been timing, or programming, but it was also in no small part because the offerings required a change in consumer behavior.  They required applications downloaded to a desktop when consumers were used to (and comfortable) working within their web browser. 

It’s ironic given that, that today’s web video stars, companies like Hulu that have gained audience traction with browser-based video distribution are exploring stand alone players. Click to Read More

Blockbuster Adds Detail to Mail Order Game Rental Plan

In February, Blockbuster announced plans to roll out a pilot program for mail-order video game rentals sometime in the second quarter.   It was confirmed that this would be an add-on to the company’s “Total Access” movie rental program, not a standalone offering, but otherwise details were sparse. Today, Blockbuster provided an update. The company said in a statement that a pilot of the game rental service will begin June 30th in Cleveland. 

Subscribers opting-in to participate will be able to add Wii, PS2, PS3 and Xbox 360 games to their online rental queue for an incremental monthly fee.   The fee, which hasn’t been disclosed, will only be charged for billing cycles in which the customer actually rents games.

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38 Studios Swallows Up THQ’s Big Huge Games

38 studios bhgAs a pro baseball player, Curt Schilling made his mark as a starting pitcher.  Though there were a few transitional years early in his career spent as a reliever, over twenty years, the majority of time he entered a game, it was from the beginning.  Schilling started 436 out of 569 games. In his second career as a gaming entrepreneur, he doesn’t appear to have any qualms about coming in off the bench.

With financial troubles (see sidebar below) pushing THQ to cut more staff and studios, Schilling’s upstart game company 38 Studios was more than happy to acquire THQ’s online role playing studio, Big Huge Games.

Big Huge Games (BHG) was founded in 2000 by a veteran group of PC game developers.  The Maryland based studio’s early works were published by Microsoft Game Studios.

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Venture Roundup: Facebook and OpenX Return to the Well

Confirming rumors that first began to circulate late last week, Facebook announced this morning that it secured a substantial new private equity investment from Russian based investor, Digital Sky Technologies (DST). (release)

DST, whose portfolio companies are estimated to account for more than 70% of all Russian language page views on the Internet, will buy preferred stock equal to a 1.96% stake in the company for $200m.   No details have been disclosed regarding the rights associated with the preferred class. 

The transaction sets Facebook’s valuation at about $10b.

In a teleconference, Facebook characterized the incoming capital as a cushion and not a necessity.  The new money, Facebook suggested, will offer added flexibility. Whether true, or a bit of spin, it is certain Click to Read More

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