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Ryan Payton Leaves Microsoft To Start Own Studio

Source – Kotaku

Ryan Payton was the creative director at 343 Industries, a subsidiary of Microsoft Studio, working on the next Halo game. He left the company altogether citing the lack of passion for the project and the desire to create a game that he wanted to make. In his CEDEC talk he straight out says the reason he is leaving Microsoft is that the direction of Halo 4 was not going the way he idealised (although he still thinks it turn out to be good game). Not a big deal as there are plenty of passionate people at 343 Industries but it is a blow hearing that Microsoft were not willing to make a creative gamble with this pivotal game for the Halo franchise, the first not made by original developers Bungie Studios.

Now this is a guy who started as a former writer at EGM that got a job in Japan working as an assistant producer on MGS 4 at Kojima Productions. Working directly with Kojima he was responsible for introducing western game design sensibilities to the Metal Gear series which made MGS 4 much more accessible to a global audience while keeping the stealth option. I started to follow his work when he did the the Kojima Production Report, a podcast about all things going on at the company.

After reading the article my admiration for the guy has skyrocketed, this is a guy with great integrity. I learned things I never knew about him and all the terrible things that he has gone through in his personal life. You just have to admire a guy who is creatively motivated and wants to make crazy ambitious games that advance the industry. I look forward to what he does at his new company Camouflaj.

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E3 2011 Nintendo – 3DS Games Galore and Wii Successor Revealed (Wii U)

 

 

 

At Nintendo’s E3 2011 press conference today Nintendo made a number of surprising announcements, much of which we already knew due to rumours over the last few weeks. But no one predicted the full scope and innovation of Nintendo’s approach to their next console. Appealing to core and casual consumers while maintaining the Wii brand they seem to have satisfied the skeptics doubting Nintendo’s future.

The biggest surprise to me is the use of the current Wii Remotes, it seems multiplayer games will be designed with one person holding the tablet while others use Wii Remotes. People who have had time to demo the system commented on the surprising comfort (light and easy to hold) of the tablet controller and fun while playing the various tech demos showing off new game play ideas and possibilities. Disappointments are the lack of other Wii game announcements (or English ports of Japanese games such as Last Story) or more  third-party games on the 3DS but the conference isn’t over yet and often more information trickles out over the week. Third party game developer support is not a problem for the Wii U with plenty of developers on board intially bringing out ports of 360/PS3 games such as Batman Arkham City and Assassin’s Creed Revelations.

Zelda Games

  • Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Celebration – Orchestra Worldwide Tour
  • Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures – Free for DSi owners
  • Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening – Out on the Nintendo eShop
  • Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – Out at the end of this year

3DS Games Announced

  • Luigi’s Mansion 2 – Developed by Next Level Games.
  • Super Mario 3D – 3D mario platformer but with 2D gameplay elements.
  • Mario Kart – Underwater and air sequences, Retro Studios helping with development.
  • Kid Icarus Uprising – 3 on 3 multiplayer announced.
  • Star Fox 64 3D
  • Tekken 3D, Animal Crossing 3DS, Super Smash Bros, Lego City Stories.
  • Potential – Kirby, Rhythm Heaven, Paper Mario, Mario Party sequels.

Wii Successor Announced – Wii U

  • SPECS – Touchpad controller 6.2 inch in addition to traditional controls, camera, accelerometer, microphone, speakers, 1080P, HDMI, IBM designed CPU (same architecture as Watson), SD and USB HDD support.
  • Features – Backwards compatible with Wii games and all controllers (Wii Remote, balance board), full HD graphics, video calls, web surfing, stream content to and from tablet controller.
  • Wii U Games Teased – Super Mario Bros Mii, New HD Zelda, Super Smash Brothers, and various tech demos.
  • Third Party Wii U Games – Lego City Stories, Darksiders 2, Batman Arkham City, Tekken, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Ghost Recon Online, DIRT, Alien Colonial Marines, Metro Last Light and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. Various EA Sports games and potentially Battlefield and Army of Two.
  • Onboard Third Party Developers – EA, Ubisoft, Warner Bros Interactive, THQ, Irrational Games, Namco Bandai, Sega and Tecmo Koei.

E3 2011 Sony Press Conference – PS Vita, Bioshock Infinite Move Support and PS Branded TV

Here is a list PS3 games and features announced today at Sony’s Press Conference for E3 2011. After a montage of games and Playstation properties, the event started with Jack Trenton CEO of SCEA first apologizing about the recent PSN outage. 3D, Playstation Move and the PS Vita are all heavily showcased with the big news that the PS Vita will be USD$249/299 for Wi-Fi/3G model.

  • Already announced games featured – Uncharted 3 (release date 1st November 2011), Resistance 3, NBA 2K12 (Move Support), Infamous 2, Starhawk, Bioshock Infinite and Star Trek.
  • 3D Game Remasterings – God of War Origins Collections and Ico and Shadow of Colossus Collection.
  • Playstation Branded 3D Monitor announced – 24 Inch screen with unique feature of allowing split screen co-op games to display a full screen for each player. USD $499 for monitor, 3D glasses, HDMI cable and Resistance 3.
  • Bioshock Infinite – Move support and Bioshock 1 pack-in. Also a Bioshock on NGP teased.
  • More Core Games Move Support – Bioshock Infinite, Saint’s Row The Third, Star Trek and better move support for LBP 2.
  • EA’s PS3 Exclusive Game Content – SSX (Mount Fuji exclusive level), Need for Speed on the Run exclusive cars and Battlefield 3 comes with Battlefield 1943 pack-in.
  • New Games Announced – Sly Cooper Thieves in Time, Medieval Moves: Deadman’s Quest from the developer of Sports Champions and  Dust 514 (Playstation exclusive MMO FPS from Eve Online developer CCP Games).
  • NGP Name Announced Playstation Vita – Rumours are true the official name of the NGP is the Playstation Vita. AT&T announced as exclusive 3G partner in the US. More than 80 titles in development. Out this year, wifi model $249 and 3G model for $299.
  • PS Vita Games Shown – Uncharted Golden Abyss, Ruin (action RPG, loot based, social features, PS3 compatibility and cloud saving), ModNation Racers (easy track creation, access to user generated content), Little Big Planet (game changer, easy to create levels or game types utilising all the features of the PS Vita), and Street Fighter X Tekken (Cole from infamous is a playable character).

E3 2011 Microsoft Announcements Round-Up – Halo 4, Ryse and Lots of Kinect Supported Games

Here is a list of notable announcements and details of Xbox 360 games and features announced today at Microsoft’s Press Conference for E3 2011 (plus a couple features revealed later on Major Nelson’s Blog).

  • Already announced games featured Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, Tomb Raider, Mass Effect 3 (Kinect voice support, dialogue and squad commands), Ghost Recon Future Soldier (Kinect support for all future Tom Clancy games), Gears of War 3, Forza 4, Star Wars Kinect
  • EA sports games to get Kinect Support – Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Madden, Fifa and one other.
  • New Game AnnouncementRyse for Crytek, a Kinect game set during the Roman Empire era.
  • New Halo games announcedHalo 1 remake 10 year anniversary and Halo 4.
  • New Game Announcement – Fable: The Journey, on rail magic shooter just for Kinect.
  • Other New Games Announced – Kinect Sports Season 2, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, Disneyland Adventures, and Dance Central 2.
  • New Dashboard with graphical and functional improvements. Search support with universal Bing search capability, youtube, live TV (i.e. UFC) capabilities, more Kinect support, Beacon feature (more streamlined game invite system) and the big one cloud support for game saves and profiles.

Playstation Store Back Up – More Free Games

The PS Store is back up today and immediately when you boot it up you’ll see the free PS+ games for download and the big surprise is Burnout Paradise. Since all PSN member get a free month of PS+ it is available to all members but access to the free games will disappear if you do not choose to renew your PS+ membership. The free games right now are (For EU & AUS regions):

  • Burnout Paradise
  • Magic The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers
  • PAIN
  • Streets of Rage 2
  • And the PS One game James Pond 2
  • And a couple of PS Minis, The 2D Adventure of Rotating Octopus and BABEL The King of Blocks.
It is a nice surprise considering this is in addition to the Welcome Back Program detailed last week.
I have Burnout Paradise on the XBOX360 as well as Streets of Rage 2 but they are such great games that I’m looking forward to playing them again. The Magic game is one that I’ve been wanting to pick up being a Magic CCG player back in the day. PAIN is one that I’ve never considered picking up but what I played in a demo way back was fun enough to warrant trying it out. I know nothing about the James Pond series but I’m curious to see what sort of game it is. And as always there are a bunch of wallpapers and avatars free to download in addition to whatever PS+ offers were up before the PSN downtime.

Cost of PSN Attack to Sony: 14 Billion Yen

Ahead of Sony’s 2011 FY financial results due to be released on the 26th May 2011, revisions have been announced to take into account a number of events have had a significant effect on Sony’s profits. One of the events that Sony details is the cost of the PSN breach that is estimated at 14 billion yen or 170 million USD to consolidated operating income. This is a hefty cost for Sony as 14 billion yen is 7% of their current 200 billion estimate for the operating income for the 2011FY.

The key variables that will affect the estimate are the severity and number of credit card misuses or identify theft cases. Sony points out that to date there have been no confirmed cases but if this changes the estimated amount will have to be revised. Other that the cost of the protection program for affected users, included in this estimate is the cost of the Welcome Back Program, customer support, security enhancements and legal. They also mention a possible revenue decrease which will affect profits as a result of this breach. Lost revenue can be attributable to the PSN store being down for almost a month as well as the effect on the sale of PS3’s and PS3 games.

This is a major blow for Sony’s gaming division which was on track for a strong year with the PS3 Slim selling well along with many high profile PS3 software releases.

Atari Decides to Sell Cryptic Studios

Cryptic Studios is accounted for as “Discontinued Operations” under IFR 5, as the Company has decided to divest the studio;

Atari the perpetually troubled video game publisher disclosed in their 2011 fiscal year financial results that they are looking to sell off Cryptic Studios, two and half years after the original acquisition. The reasoning as Atari explains, other than it’s large contribution to Atari’s net profit loss, is to focus on external development to give them more flexibility in the “changing marketplace“. Atari also point to the industry buzzwords “casual online and mobile games” as another reason for deciding to divest Cryptic.

Cryptic Studios contributed €15.9m to Atari’s revenue and -€5.3m to their net loss for the 2011 fiscal year. Overall this accounting move has improved Atari’s operating income to positive €0.5m for the year with a net loss at -€6.2m. The expected sale price of Cryptic Studios would be hard to judge but I would be surprised if it was near to Atari’s original purchase price of 26.7m upfront + 20m in performance related bonuses.

Cryptic Studios was bought by Atari on December 8th 2008 and finished developing Champions Online and Star Trek Online for Atari. They got their start by developing City of Heroes and City of Villians both published by NCSoft who bought out the rights for both series in 2007 along with the whole dev team for the games. Currently still in development is Dungeons and Dragons Neverwinter, a co-op multiplayer game (departure from MMOG) based on D&D 4th edition and the Neverwinter franchise.

Warner Bros. Excels Where Disney Fails in Their Foray into Video Games

With the release of Disney’s third quarter 2011 fiscal year results last week we have further insight into Disney Interactive’s failure in the console video games space as they now transition to focus on mobile and casual games. In contrast we have Warner Bros. who like Disney (both starting the strategy around the same time in 2005) have made acquisitions of independent video games developers to build up their presence in the industry but have been doing much better job at it. The difference is with their approach to developing games and how they work with their acquired studios as well as the quality of the studios they are acquiring and building up.

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment with the acquisitions of studios such as Monolith Productions, NetherRealmStudios (formerly Midway Chicago), Traveller’s Tales, and a majority stake in Rocksteady Studios have got it almost perfect in identifying the right studios to boost their video game strategy. With subsidiaries like DC Comics Warner Bros. have the properties and the talent to develop high quality games as well as coming up with original properties. Or like with NetherRealm Studios and the Mortal Kombat series they have successfully rejuvenated popular game properties for critical and commercial success.

Disney on the other hand have laid off a large percentage of staff at their Black Rock Studios and shut down Propaganda Games along with it’s projects. Recent acquisitions of Playdom and Tapulous are aiming to capture the casual and mobile markets but they still have Junction Point Studios who made the game Epic Mickey to mixed reviews. Junction Point is headed by industry veteran Warren Spector and they are still hiring and working on unannounced projects but they look to also be developing more social and mobile games.

Disney’s gaming division incurred a 115m operating income loss last quarter with investors questioning their approach to the video game market. With their focus on the Facebook and iOS gaming markets they are looking for the quick buck which may or may not be sustainable in the long run but at least they are acquiring the right sort of talent for the strategy.

As for Warner Bros. the future looks strong with Mortal Kombat selling well, Rocksteady Studios building a lot of buzz with their next Batman Game, Batman: Arkham City, and whatever MMO project Turbine is doing next. Also Monolith Studios just announced today that they are developing a downloadable XBLA/PSN/PC game in the Batman universe that will be a competitive multiplayer shooter, the next project by the creators of the F.E.A.R. games.

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment is a subsidiary of Time Warner (TWX).

Disney Interactive is a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company (DIS).

Trenched – The next downloadable game from Double Fine

At the Game Developer’s Choice Awards Double Fine Productions announced their next downloadable game showing off an introductory trailer. It is going to be a third person mech action game and described by studio founder Tim Schafer to be a “manly game“. This is a departure from their previous two dl games, Costume Quest and Stacking, which have been primarily cute and charming. It is nice to see Double Fine try different genres with each of these games with this game taking a more combat focus. From the trailer the mechs look highly customisable, a standard feature of any mech game, with a variety of visual modifications and weaponry.

Microsoft Game Studios will publish the game and it will be exclusive on the Xbox Live Arcade. No word on whether it will come out later on the Playstation 3.

See more screenshots on the official site and a handheld video capture of the trailer from GDC (via Joystiq).