EA and Disney sign exclusive deal for Star Wars games
With the upcoming release of Star Wars Episode VII, EA and Disney have signed a multi-year deal to publish Star Wars games made by DICE, BioWare, and Visceral Games. The agreement covers all “major platforms”. However, Disney still retains the rights to make social and casual games for mobile devices, tablets, and the web.
This is both exciting and horrifying at the same time. Imagine the possibilities of a Frostbite 3-powered game set in the famous universe. Imagine BioWare’s narrative and technical skills in a Star Wars game again. Imagine Visceral making a hack-and-slash or Dead Space-esque game set in this universe. The possibilities are, quite interestingly, endless. What’s horrifying is the fact that EA might put draconian DRM—Simcity, anyone?—in these games. How about endless waves of DLC?
Honestly, I’m excited at the prospect of more Star Wars games. The great thing is that all these studios are great at what they do—making good games. Excellent graphics, engaging gameplay, and good narratives are all that I can hope for at this point. I just hope EA doesn’t screw it up with their underhanded tactics.
LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy is similarly excited, noting that the company chose the publisher which could “consistently deliver great Star Wars games for years to come.” That’s for console platforms though; casual and social titles will be made by Disney Interactive itself.
No specific games were announced, though we can expect some announcements soon.
Tomb Raider writer discusses tackling sexism in the games industry
Rhianna Pratchett has made quite a name for herself writing scripts for top-tier games such as Mirror’s Edge and the recent Tomb Raider reboot. She’s currently supporting the #1ReasontobeMovement, which is a call to support women in the games industry and end the sexism that plagues the industry. She hopes to inspire young women who want to make games but are hesitant in making the jump.
Pratchett told all this in an enlightening interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, adding that although she hasn’t had the “more extreme” experiences her peers have had, the movement has “lit a fire” in her. She added that she has spent the last few months visiting schools and talking to young women about making games and working in the industry.
“I’ve really realized in the last year how much being a visible industry female matters to people,” she said. “Not necessarily as much to myself, or to other female developers already in the industry, but those who are um-ing and err-ing at the sidelines. Hesitant to make the jump, or even try to.”
She noted that raising awareness about how great the industry can be is something that must be tackled. There are lots of opportunities for both men and women, and tackling gender problems is fundamental to grasping these opportunities.
Leaked memo: next Xbox not to require always-on connection and will play Bluray
A leaked internal Microsoft memo is making the rounds claiming that the next Xbox will not require an always-on internet connection and will support Blu-ray discs. The memo, which refers to the console as “Durango”, has been sent to employees who are working on the project.
It was previously reported that the console would be “always on” in that it would be an anti-piracy measure, among other things. The console is also said to feature an HDMI input port so that it can overlay a TV interface on feeds from cable boxes, making it a set-top box.
Microsoft has faced quite a lot of backlash regarding this rumor. It has been especially harsh since the debacle with the new SimCity game, which didn’t properly login players at launch and also had lots of problems in the weeks following its launch.
The next Xbox is going to be officially unveiled on May 21. Call of Duty Ghosts is also due to be revealed during the event.
Facebook reports increased gaming revenues despite Zynga’s going down
Facebook has had a good first quarter when it comes to revenue, especially when it came to games. The company reported a total revenue of $1.458 billion, which indicated a 12% rise over the past year. It attributed the rise to the growth of games released in the past year and also to their increased efforts in game distribution, payments conversion, and usage.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for Zynga, which has reportedly suffered a 37% decline in terms of revenue.
Mark Zuckerberg, the social network’s CEO, addressed the issue, noting that Zynga’s growth “hasn’t been as awesome as everyone had hoped” but that the rest of the developers and studios have been growing quite healthily. He also pointed out that the company is connected to 81 and 70 of the top-grossing iOS and Android apps, respectively.
David Cage: I don’t make games for money
David Cage is known best for making narrative games—Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain are great testaments of what he can do. Having said that, what motivates him to make videogames? Not money, he said in an interview with VG247.
“I don’t do work for hire. I don’t make games to make money. I make games by passion, because I want to share something, because I have something to tell.”
He also went on to say that he puts a lot of himself in his games. Cage noted that Heavy Rain was partly based on the trials and tribulations he went through with his own fatherhood. Beyond: Two Souls, his upcoming game, is more about death and the afterlife.
“It was really me being confronted with death. I lost someone I felt close to, and I wanted to write something about that,” he said.
On a related topic, he also talked about his relationship with Sony, noting that they never asked or forced him into doing a sequel for Heavy Rain despite it making over $100 million for the company. He also discusses the non-chronological nature of Beyond’s gameplay. It’s a very interesting interview and a fascinating read.
Wii U price cut AGAIN by UK retailer
Highlighting what seems to be a major problem for Nintendo, UK supermarket Asda has cut the price of the Wii U for the second time in two months. Asda is a subsidiary of retail giant Walmart.
Asda, which has stores all over UK, is now selling the basic model of the console for £149; the premium pack is being sold for £199. This comes down from the previously reduced prices of £199 and £249. Interestingly, the device launched in November 2012 for £249 for the basic model, plus £50 more for the premium pack.
Nintendo appears to be having problems shifting the Wii U to customers since they believe that the device isn’t powerful enough. While it’s true that Wii U is faster than PS3 and Xbox 360, it remains to be seen how it’ll compare to PS4 and whatever Microsoft decides to name their new Xbox.
Analyst: GTA 5 to sell 14 million copies, bring in $700 million for publisher
We have seen nothing of GTA 5, bar the announcement trailer, but that hasn’t stopped analysts from predicting the game will sell at least 14 million copies.
This comes from Sterne Agee’s Arvind Bhatia, who also expects the game to debut in the first third of 2013. He noted that it will bring about $700 million revenue for Take-Two.
The above numbers don’t seem too far-fetched once you take into account GTA 4’s sales: 20 million over two years. In fact, it shipped 13 million in its first year alone.
Grand Theft Auto 5 is expected to be unveiled at E3 next month.
Square Enix boss: Activision must have been crazy to let Sleeping Dogs go
Activision’s loss is Square Enix’s gain. The latter picked up True Crime: Hong Kong from the former last summer, and is gearing up to release it later this year as Sleeping Dogs. The game has picked up steam in the past few weeks through good press and a constant supply of hype and media.
“The game was, in a sense, discovered,” said Mike Fischer, Square Enix president. “The minute they showed it to us, we really felt like we had found a diamond in the rough.”
He went on to say that Activision must have been “crazy” to let go of the project, which he believes is “fantastic”.
“There’s clearly a lot of inspiration from The Departed and Infernal Affairs. You play an undercover cop who starts to feel mixed loyalties. But the open world feels like Arkham City, the combat feels as good as a fighting game, the driving is as good as a Need for Speed, and the story is every bit as rich as compelling as a Mass Effect. [It’s an] all in one game.”
Sleeping Dogs is due out in August on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Check out the latest trailer and screenshots.
Origin waives distribution fees for Kickstarter games, gains support from Fargo and Jensen
Riding the Kickstarter wave, EA announced that it is going to waiver distribution fees for crowd-funded games for 90 days on Origin after they launch. This only applies to “fully funded, complete and ready-to-publish games.” It has already got InXile’s Brian Fargo and Pinkerton Road’s Jane Jensen onboard.
Not only does it gain a lot of credibility with the indie crowd, this move may give EA Origin the push it needs to succeed against Steam. Origin SVP David DeMartini noted that the company hopes to give players the chance to check out even more crowd-funded games through this move.
38 Studios pays Rhode Island $1.1 million; governor won’t back them anymore
In further 38 Studios news, Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee has announced that the studio’s $1.125 million check to the state has cleared. This fulfills its first required payment on the loan it received from the state.
Chafee noted that “it’s time for [38 Studios] to go out and get private capital funding… that’s the deal. It’s a generous deal, but stick to it.”
The studio’s next payment is a debt service payment of $2.6 million; it is due in November. It will then owe a further $12.6 million in full annual debt service next year.
The governor appears to have learned his lesson, noting that he is not going to take a gamble of this nature again: “Never, never ever. Not under my watch.”