Rumor: Valve to unveil Steam Box this year, will use Linux

January 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Report Valve to unveil Steam Box this year, will use Linux

Valve’s rumored "Steam Box," a compact PC designed to easily connect to televisions and leverage Steam’s Big Picture Mode, will debut this year according to a report from German site Golem.de. Furthermore, the Steam Box will supposedly run on Linux. That wouldn’t be too surprising given Valve head Gabe Newell’s distaste for Windows 8 and the company’s recent Linux push. The 2013 release also gels with Newell’s recent comments predicting a spate of TV- and Steam-friendly hardware launching in 2013 from various companies, including Valve.

The news was supposedly confirmed by Valve electrical engineer Ben Krasnow during the EHSM conference in Berlin last month. Krasnow, incidentally, was there to show off his homemade X-ray scanner. Given that his personal projects also include, among other things, a DIY rocket engine, we’d say he’s probably qualified to help build a little computer.

Valve has plenty of opportunities to announce the hardware this year, including GDC in March, E3 in June, Gamescom in August, or even CES, which takes place this week. For what it’s worth, Valve chose to announce Big Picture Mode at GDC 2011. Of course, given this is Valve we’re talking about, the company could just hold an event of its own.

Steam

Video Game Publisher THQ Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

December 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

THQ, publisher of much-loved sci-fi games, files for bankruptcy

Video game publisher THQ has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The long troubled firm, publisher of the Saint’s Row, Red Faction and Dawn of War series, is also seeking to sell its assets. The publisher’s current slate of games will continue development through the process.

THQ owns four development studios. Vigil has been the most recently productive, launching Darksiders 2 in August. Relic Entertainment, creators of the famed Homeworld series is set to deliver WWII-set strategy game Company of Heroes II in 2013. Volition, based in Chicago, is working on the next installment of the wacky Saint’s Row series. The fourth studio, recently built in Montreal, has been working on an unannounced project helmed by Patrice Desilets, the Creative Director on the first two Assassin’s Creed games.

THQ is also publishing an unannounced game from the independent Turtle Rock Studios, the creators of Left 4 Dead. Work continues on Metro: Last Light at independent Ukrainian developer 4A Games. Crytek, the developer of the famed Crysis series has been contracted to build a sequel to last year’s disappointing but financially successful Homefront. Finally, THQ is also set to publish Obsidian’s South Park: The Stick of Truth in March.

Happily, there are no expected layoffs as the company’s reorganization begins and completes. Clearlake Capital, a private equity firm, has offered to buy THQ as a ‘stalking horse bidder.’ The style of stalking horse bidding allows THQ to court other bidders besides Clearlake as the bankruptcy process continues. Their bid is approximately $60 million in total. The sale process is expected to complete in thirty days.

Joystiq, via THQ

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‘The Walking Dead Video Game’ Sweeps Spike Awards

December 13, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

At the recent 10th Annual Spike TV Video Game Awards, The Walking Dead video game from Telltale Games took home five major awards including "Game of the Year," "Best Adapted Game," "Studio of the Year" (for Telltale Games), "Downloadable Game of the Year," and "Best Performance By a Human Female" (for Melissa Hutchison, who played the games young protagonist, Clemintine).

The Walking Dead video game also earned "Game of the Year" honors at Cheat Code Central, and is nominated for top honors at IGN’s annual video game awards.

The Walking Dead video game is rated "M" (Mature) for blood, gore, intense violence, sexual themes, and strong language. Previously only available as a download, the retail version of the game (MSRP $29.99) compiles the critically-acclaimed first season of the game, which began in April, and is now available for purchase from North American retailers for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system and PC.

The Walking Dead video game is just the latest example of what a licensing powerhouse this property, which began as an Image comic book series, has become with graphic novel collections of Robert Kirkman’s Image comics topping bookstore and direct market sales (see "Nothing Can Stop ‘The Walking Dead’"), and sales of The Walking Dead Board Game simply boffo (see "100,000 ‘The Walking Dead’ Games").

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Valve’s Gabe Newell talks about Steam hardware

December 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

With the recent launch of Steam Big Picture, it hasn’t taken long for the words "Steam Box" to enter the collective gaming community’s brain space. Valve boss Gabe Newell reignited that discussion when speaking on the red carpet at last night’s Video Game Awards ceremony about the company’s plans to enter the hardware business.

Newell told Kotaku that he sees multiple companies entering the hardware space, and that "most customers and most developers are gonna find that [the PC is] a better environment for them." His reasoning is that consumers "won’t have to split the world into thinking about ‘why are my friends in the living room, why are my video sources in the living room different from everyone else?’ So in a sense we hopefully are gonna unify those environments."

The Valve boss suggested that companies would launch PC bundles in 2013 designed to run Steam in the living room and compete with next gen consoles. Newell added that Valve is one of those companies, and its efforts may not be as open-source as some might expect:

"Well certainly our hardware will be a very controlled environment. If you want more flexibility, you can always buy a more general purpose PC. For people who want a more turnkey solution, that’s what some people are really gonna want for their living room. The nice thing about a PC is a lot of different people can try out different solutions, and customers can find the ones that work best for them."

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Karateka on PC today, alongside Karateka development book

December 3, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Karateka on PC today, alongside Karateka development book

Jordan Mechner’s rhythmic Karateka remake is out on PC today, available through Steam for ten percent off its normal $10 price. The price will flip-kick back up after a week. It’s still listed only as "coming soon" to PSN and iOS.

Coinciding with the release of Karateka on a new platform, creator Jordan Mechner has released an ebook about the development process of the original Apple 2 Karateka. The making of Karateka: Journals 1982-1985 collects Mechner’s private journal entries about the time spent in college creating the martial arts game. It’s on Amazon digitally today, and Mechner plans to release it in print later. Mechner has already released a journal book about Prince of Persia.

Update: Karateka is now available on Steam.

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‘Castle: The Detective Card Game’ Coming Soon

November 29, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Cryptozoic Entertainment will release the Castle: The Detective Card Game in January. Players take the role of their favorite characters from the ABC series (including Richard Castle or Kate Beckett), each of which has a unique ability to use in the game, and try to solve a murder mystery. They do so by collecting a hand of investigation cards, and playing special event cards to change the dynamics of the investigation.

There are two gameplay modes: a single game, simulating a single episode of the show, in which the person that finds the murderer wins; or a season match, which requires three games to win.

The game is for two to five players, ages 15 and up, and plays in 10 to 40 minutes. Components include six oversized Character Cards, 18 Suspect Cards, 90 Investigation Cards, 12 Guilt Tokens, and 12 Scoring Chips. It will retail for $30.

Originally announced as a board game, this is one aspect of Cryptozoic’s Castle licensed product program, which also includes trading cards (see "‘Castle’ Board Game"). The game will be promoted in cross-promotions with ABC, including giveaways, content and announcements on the Castle Facebook page, and at conventions/special events.

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Football Manager 2013 better thanks to anti-piracy measures

November 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Sports Interactive, developers of the Football Manager series of soccer management simulation games, added "17 or 18" people to the team this year. Studio head Miles Jacobson credited the development team’s growth and the heightened expectations for Football Manager 2013 to its anti-piracy measures, in an interview with MCV.

"With the measures that we used last year, the game wasn’t pirated for two weeks. The extra sales that we got in that time has helped us to get the new members of staff this year," Jacobson said. He added that Football Manager 2013‘s new anti-piracy system had yet to be cracked.

"If we can hold another, three, four weeks, as long as we can really, it will benefit the retailers and ourselves and ultimately, the consumer as well. If we do much better this year, we’ll be investing that back into the studio, take on more people to be able to do more features," he said.

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Blizzard faces class action suit over account authenticators

November 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Blizzard Entertainment is facing a class action lawsuit over the sale of its Battle.net authenticators, which are used to provide security for player account information for games such as World of Warcraft and Diablo 3. The suit, filed by the law firm Carney Williams Bates Pulliam & Bowman, PLLC in the Central District of California, alleged that the authenticators were needed by players "in order to have even minimal protection for their sensitive personal, private, and financial data." The lawsuit referred to an August security breach in which no financial user data was reported to be stolen.

The class action suit posited that Blizzard practiced "deceptive upselling," in that it allegedly failed "to disclose to consumers that additional products must be acquired after buying the games in order to ensure the security of information stored in online accounts that are requisites for playing."

A Blizzard representative told Forbes that "this suit is without merit and filled with patently false information, and we will vigorously defend ourselves through the appropriate legal channels." The representative said the use of the authenticator tool was optional for players, and offered players "an added level of security against account-theft attempts that stem from sources such as phishing attacks, viruses packaged with seemingly harmless file downloads, and websites embedded with malicious code."

Blizzard’s statement continued, "the suit’s claim that we didn’t properly notify players regarding the August 2012 security breach is not true. Not only did Blizzard act quickly to provide information to the public about the situation, we explained the actions we were taking and let players know how the incident affected them, including the fact that no names, credit card numbers, or other sensitive financial information was disclosed."

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After Pixar, Marvel and LucasFilm, Is Disney Now Trying To Acquire Hasbro?

November 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

In the latest chapter of “Disney Owns Everything,” rumor has it the company is in talks to acquire Hasbro, the world’s largest toy and game company. Hasbro brings with it a significant amount of licences in addition to the lucrative merchandising, such as Transformers, G.I. Joe, Monopoly, Magic The Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, Tonka, Nerf, Clue, Candyland, My Little Pony and almost everything you can imagine.

According to MTV, who first reported the news, “serious discussions are happening at the highest levels” between the two companies. Not to mention, Hasbro already has a relationship with Disney, developing toys and games based on several of their properties (Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel etc.) and has a long standing, albeit it rocky, relationship with Hollywood (Transformers, Battleship, etc.). Read more after the jump.

MTV Geek wrote about this possible major business acquisition, stressing that it’s still just being talked about, but that it could happen at any time. However, being as this isn’t the Wall Street Journal, I’m gonna keep this a bit more movie focused and hypothetical.

We know that Paramount already controls the rights to the two big male properties, Transformers and G.I. Joe, both with new movies in the works. If the deal follows the LucasFilm model, those rights would likely stay with that company, at least until some kind of contract runs out.

Universal also controlled the rights to a bunch of Hasbro properties, such as Clue, Ouija, Stretch Armstrong and Battleship, but famously dropped most of them and only released Battleship. Since then Hasbro has continued to develop films based on this properties (as well as others) while shopping them around for a new home. It’s totally conceivable that Disney sees the company and those properties/films, etc. as something they can just grab and cherry pick in one fell swoop. Conversely, Hasbro’s problems of trying to get studios to make the movies would be over. Disney would own them all. Problem solved.

Of course, there are surely a few lingering properties out there too. Such as Sony’s deal to make a Tonka based film.

It sounds like a plausible scenario, one that we’ll likely have to wait to see. Can you envision this happening? Are there any Hasbro properties that would make perfect Disney movies?

iPad Mini Could Cause Tablet Gaming to Explode

October 25, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Games like Real Racing 3 could become much more popular thanks to the iPad mini.
Image: Apple

When Apple unveiled its new iPad mini at a San Jose event on Tuesday, the big sales pitch was, “You can hold it in one hand!”

That may sound like an anemic marketing line. But game developers say that the mini’s increased portability could have a huge impact on the mobile game industry and boost the importance of tablet gaming.

“This is going to be the beginning of the truly online tablet,” Gabriel Leydon, CEO of mobile gamemaker Machine Zone, said via phone on Tuesday.

Developers of tablet games, Leydon says, currently cannot expect players to be connected online at all times. That’s distinct from smartphone gaming, where every player has a 3G data connection. The most popular and lucrative multiplayer games on phones, like Words With Friends, rely on the always-on connection to get players hooked, trading moves back and forth no matter where they are.

In other words, Alec Baldwin would never have barricaded himself inside an airplane bathroom with an iPad. But with iPad mini, he just might.

Since the 7-inch device is significantly more portable, consumers will be more likely to take it out of their homes than the full-sized iPad, Leydon said. And being away from their Wi-Fi hotspots, they’ll then be more likely to buy the 3G version of the mini for a reliable connection. Then, he argued, as people get used to being constantly connected on tablets, the demand for that feature will cross over into tablet computers of all sizes. Read more

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