Today we find out how patient you were. Hidden Fronts, the map pack released for the smash hit Xbox 360 game Gears of War, was made free this week. Four months ago, the pack was released on Xbox Live for 800 Microsoft Points, or ten dollars, with the understanding that it would later be free (I blogged, “Don’t Buy It”). So, did you give into temptation and buy it, or did you wait patiently and get it for free? I waited. Who else?
Apparently, 500,000 people did buy it, at a cost of five million dollars. Obviously, this was a good decision by Microsoft, making a lot of extra money while still giving it away eventually.
Microsoft’s E3 briefing is tomorrow night at 9pm Eastern and I plan to be liveblogging it here. What will we see? Well, Microsoft is giving the briefing from the Santa Monica High School Amphitheater, a large outdoor area that is expected to feature good (but not too hot) weather Tuesday night. Holding it outdoors should make for a nice presentation, especially if there is a large crowd that really gets into it.
But that’s not important. What is important are the announcements. Will Microsoft talk about the “Falcon” Xbox 360s? Since they aren’t expected till the Fall, don’t be so sure. If Microsoft is determined to counter Sony’s announced price drop, and the Falcon’s are getting one, then you’ll hear it (one analyst is predicting price drops of $50, $80 for the Elite). If the price drop isn’t for months, Microsoft will almost definitely not announce it now, since pre-announced drops hurt current sales.
Long Zheng shared this video of Mich Mathews talking at Microsoft’s Strategic Account Summit about the Gears of War “Mad World” ad that hit an amazing level of viral success. As she mentions, there were over 700 mashups with over a million views, all created by fans of the ad or the game, all of which helped the game sell an unprecedented number of copies.
Halo 2 for Windows Vista, the PC version of the 30-month old bestselling shooter, was supposed to release yesterday. Didn’t happen. The reason given? Technical and installation issues. Sorry, fellas, but if you’ve been hotly anticipating playing this game on Vista, you’ll have to wait a little longer, til May 22. Bummer.
This just goes to remind you: Don’t wait for a game to make it to PC, just buy the Xbox 360 version. I remember when Halo 2 came out, people talked about waiting for the PC, and they wound up waiting 30 months. SO not worth it. Just buy the damn game now. God only knows how long it could take for Gears to make it to Windows!
A new Gears of War map pack, called “Hidden Fronts”, is hitting Xbox Live this Thursday, with four new multiplayer maps for you to kill your friends on. It’ll cost you 800 Microsoft Points, or ten dollars, but for Gears diehards, that is worth the price of admission. However, if you have patience, and know it won’t kill you to just play the other maps, you can just wait until September 3, when the maps will be rereleased for free, because Microsoft demanded somebody make some money off it. Yeah, it’s annoying.
A 22-page treatment (story to be turned into a screenplay) for the Gears of War movie has leaked to the internet. If you don’t care about spoilers, you can read a look at it at LatinoReview.com. I’m printing a paragraph of it here, and don’t worry, it doesn’t contain any real spoilers, except the shocker that things blow up and people die.
Several choppers go down in flames. Marcus keeps his eyes and his squad on the target. The Ravens touch down and the gears pile out into an insane hail of rocket and gunfire. Most Ravens never even back it back up. This is madness. Bodies are ripped apart. Wounded soldiers scream for their mothers. A grenade annihilates an embedded media crew. Nobody knows where he or she’s supposed to be.
Microsoft has confirmed that an update to the Xbox 360 Dashboard is coming the week of May 7th, and it will bring a lot of cool new features. Included will be Windows Live Messenger support, which will display your Messenger contact list on Xbox Live and allow you to send messages from your game console. As a companion to the new feature, Microsoft will sell the (poorly named) Text Input Device, a little keyboard that attaches to the bottom of the Xbox 360 controller, connecting through the headset port.
Messenger contacts will be able to see your Gamertag and current game status, and you can chat with up to six friends at the same time. Other new features include giving the Xbox Live Marketplace its own blade (in order to improve the interface), achievement updates will now show more information, a new low power mode which auto-shuts down after completeing downloads, watching partially download movies, and many smaller tweaks.
Been gone for two days (if you haven’t noticed), so, instead of letting news pile up and be out of date, here’s a lot of stuff that’s just kind of accumulated (like insects!):
Microsoft is looking at acquiring DoubleClick, reports InfoWorld. DoubleClick, a major internet advertising firm, could go for around $2 billion, all of it well spent, as Microsoft would acquire a big player in web ad sales, and boost its fortunes in taking on Google. DoubleClick’s as good an acquisition as you can make in this market, so I’m hoping they pull it off.
There’s a good lesson in here about investment as well. Take a look at the investors who bought DoubleClick two years ago:
Private equity investors Hellman and Friedman of San Francisco and JMI Equity of San Diego bought DoubleClick for $1.1 billion in 2005, and have since transformed the company, selling off some activities to focus on the core business of advertising.
Now Hellman & Friedman has put a price tag of around $2 billion on its stake in the company, and has retained investment bank Morgan Stanley to help it find a buyer, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
One company Microsoft did acquire is TeamPlain, makers of a web front end of Visual Studio Team System. Read more here.
The same day Microsoft announced the release of DeepFish, their groundbreaking Windows Mobile web browser, the Mozilla Foundation announced a new release of Minimo, their mobile browser. In all the hoopla around DeepFish, Minimo was kind of ignored, and maybe it should have been: Minimo has been in the “early stages of development” for four years, and has higher system requirements than many popular mobile phones.
Office 2008 for Mac is now in private beta as it moves closer to release, hopefully at the end of the year. No word yet on a public beta, but Microsoft would do well to release one, as the Office 2007 beta convinced a lot of people of the effectiveness of the Ribbon interface.
Major music label EMI announced it will sell music on iTunes without DRM copy protection for $1.29, 30 cents more than protected music. They will be making similar offers with other music stores, none announced yet. This is a major game-changer, if it lasts, as it makes iTunes usable for non-iPods, forces other labels to make similar offers, forces other music stores to offer the same DRM-free tracks, and devalues subscription services significantly. Can’t wait to see some Windows Media-stores offering those DRM-free songs.
Forbes decided to run an interesting article about where costs in video game development come from, an interesting subject as video games become a major industry. Then, they decided to ruin it all by applying their analysis too broadly, and saddling it with a title that makes no sense: “Why Gears Of War Costs $60″. Just trying to grab some readers by putting something popular in the title. Idiots.
Here are just some of the problems:
The article deals with development costs like art and engineering, and final sale costs like retailer markup and console owner fees, as though they were identical. That is absurdity on the highest order.
Development costs are a fixed number, something you pay when making the game and stop paying once the game is done. To express development costs as a percentage of the retain price, you have to divide them by the number of units sold, a number different with every game ever released. Meanwhile, the sale costs are fixed percentages, completely unrelated to the cost of making the game, and costs born directly by the consumer, not the publisher.
The development costs change with every title, and are in some cases absurd when applied to Gears of War. Art/Design and Programming/Engineering come out to 45% of Forbes’ accounting, which is not tied to the actual game mentioned in the story’s title. Are they saying Gears of War’s development costs equal 35% of all retail costs? No, the headline writer is just a dope.
They list licensing costs, giving examples like sports and movie-based games. Problem is, Gears of War is an original IP, with zero licensing costs. So why list it if the article is about Gears of War? Oh, right, it isn’t. Fire your headline writer.
I’m no economist, but I know this: As you sell more units, your R&D costs per unit drop, and your profit increases. This article (by Forbes, a publication that is supposed to know better) actually classifies R&D (game development, in this case) as a constant percentage of sales, rather than a fixed cost that is alleviated by high sales of a game.
Oh, my god, am I going to have to school Forbes in some basic economic theory?
Okay, if the game costs $40 million to make, and you sell $100 million worth, then, yes, development costs 40%, and, based on other costs, publisher profit is the 1.5% quoted in the article. But if the game sells $300 million, development costs are still $40 million! In that case, an extra $80 million goes into the “profit” pile, and the publisher profit is now over 30%!
Seriously, is Forbes just stupid? This is the kind of miscommunicated shoddy journalism I hate. Poor research, generalizations, complete lack of depth, zero context, over-exhuberant headline writers. Yuck. Why do these guys get paid for churning out this crap?
(via GameProducer > Digg)
On the InsideGoogle blog, I did a bit of housecleaning. I’m sick and tired of writing about week-old news, and I think the readers of my blogs deserve up-to-date news and features. As a result, here is every story, leading basically up to today, that has been sitting in close to a hundred browser tabs on my computer.
The New York Times is going to start charging for its Reader application, a Windows Presentation Foundation-powered news reader that brings an incredibly powerful and visually amazing way to read the Times. Dopes. Way to blow a chance to bring the Times to a more tech-savvy generation. They really think people will pay a monthly fee for a newspaper that is available free online?
Todd Bishop has put together an incredible listing of every single major Microsoft blogger he can find, and its so extensive, its scary. I can’t wait for him to finish the OPML, because I am so subscribing. Read his post for links to the Google Co-Op search engines he created for the list.
Microsoft claims it has no plans to buy video game publisher Take 2, but everyone agrees it’d be stupid not to bid. Take 2 makes the Grand Theft Auto series, and if Microsoft bought the company, or at least the GTA franchise, it would have a dramatic effect on Sony’s ability to compete. GTA is one of the biggest system sellers in history, possibly bigger than Microsoft’s own Halo, with more sales than Halo putting a lot of new PS2s in homes.
Rumors are coming out about Apple’s next generation iMac. The iMac is the centerpiece of Apple’s non-portable computer line, but with a built-in screen, it does not appeal to many typical PC buyers (and the Mac Mini is too limiting in the exact opposite respect). Here’s hoping Apple plans a normal PC; I could just buy it!
It has been virtually confirmed that Microsoft will be selling a $480 limited edition black Xbox 360 called the 360 Elite. It will feature a 120 gigabyte hard drive, an HDMI output, all-black accessories, and probably only run a few hundred thousand units. Once it sells out, it may replace the Xbox 360 Premium at $400, in white plastic.
Microsoft has announced the pricing and details for Games For Windows Live, its Xbox Live companion service for Windows Vista PC gaming, arriving this May 8. The best part: If you have an Xbox Live Gold account, you have a free Games For WIdnows Live account.
Live For Windows costs the same as Xbox Live, $50 per year (or $20 for three months, or $8 for one month). As with Xbox Live, there are Silver (free) accounts and Gold (paid subscription) accounts. Both classes get Gamertags, gamer profiles, gamerscore for playing games and earning achievements, chatting via text and voice, friends list and online presence tracking, and a multiplayer games list.
Gold accounts gets multiplayer matchmaking with friends, “TrueSkill” matchmaking, multiplayer achievements (Silver members get achievements, but only for single player play), and cross-platform gameplay. See, while Microsoft knew it could not charge PC gamers for multiplayer, it does require you to pay for more advanced matchmaking, achievements during online play, and the ability to play games against Xbox gamers.
Halo 2 for Windows Vista has been announced as having a release date of May 8, 2007. It will not have cross-platform gameplay (Xbox 360 vs. PC), but both Shadowrun and UNO, expected later this year, will have that feature.
Also released is Geometry Wars for Windows Vista, the Xbox Live Arcade classic now on PCs, with a free trial. The full game is only eight dollars, which is three dollars more than the Xbox Live version, but cheaper than any average PC game.
Gears of War has received nominations for ten awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences. The game, one of the biggest (if not the biggest) blockbusters of 2006, and an Xbox 360 exclusive, was nominated in these categories:
Overall Game of the Year
Console Game of the Year
Outstanding Innovation in Gaming
Outstanding Achievement in Animation
Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction
Outstanding Character Performance – Male
Outstanding Achievement in Game Play Engineering
Outstanding Achievement in Online Game Play
Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering
Action/Adventure Game of the Year
Pretty sweet honor, but the real honor comes from winning. I’m pretty sure that when the winners are announced February 8, Gears will be walking home with a few statues (assuming they give out statues).
Siliconera has collected some videos of the Japanese version of Gears of War, letting you see what the game looks like with Japanese voices. The funny thing: In most cases, the voice acting is pretty good, so there’s not much to laugh at, although one or two of the voice actors truly suck. If you are obsessed with the game and will recognize the story and situations on sight, this could be pretty cool; otherwise, hopefully you’ll find something worth laughing at.
Some more happy news for Microsoft: Gears of War has now sold an amazing three million copies. Microsoft has completely set the bar for games sold in this video game generation. Also announced: the multiplayer map pack for Gears of War, released about ten days ago, has been downloaded by 750,000 users, showing off well just how many Gears buyers are enjoying the online play of the blockbuster title.
And while Gears of War received plenty of high marks in the U.S., garnering Game of the Year nominations and awards from multiple outlets, it’s also worth noting that the shooter is one of the few Western video games to gain some acclaim among Japanese press. Famitsu has given Gears a Platinum award, making it the second Microsoft Games Studio title to receive that honor in the past two months following Blue Dragon.
Gears of War fans (and there are several million of you), rejoice! Two new maps are coming to the game as a free download this Wednesday, January 10 (Australia and New Zealand get it on the 11th). Kotaku has the details and beautiful pics.
3. “Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” Wii Nintendo
4. “Guitar Hero II” PS2 Activision
5. “WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2007″ PS2 THQ
6. “Call of Duty 3″ 360 Activision
7. “Madden NFL 07″ PS2 Electronic Arts
8. “Need for Speed: Carbon” PS2 EA
9. “Nintendogs – Dalmatian & Friends” Nintendo DS Nintendo
10.”Pokemon Ranger” NDS Nintendo
In addition to being the must-have video game of the holiday season, â€œGears of Warâ€ continues to rage on the Xbox Live battlefield as well, with more than 1 million unique gamers engaging in 10 million online gameplay sessions and unlocking an impressive 7 million achievements.* On top of being the No. 1 title on Xbox Live, â€œGears of Warâ€ has driven new members to the network; paid registrations per day have skyrocketed more than 50 percent since the gameâ€™s launch.
Somebody found out, as you can see in this YouTube video, that if you roll just right, you can fall down the Emergence Holes that some baddies in Gears of War come out of. What do you find when you fall? Well, you’ll have to watch it to find out.