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December 30 2011

5 Video Game Moments that Defined 2011

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It seems like every single year is “the year of gaming,” if only because the genre keeps getting bigger and bigger. Everyone thought 2006 was going to be the high water mark with the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii all battling for supremacy. Then 2009 upped the ante with a rush of top-tier, high-selling games.

In all the console-focused frenzy, few people expected mobile and social gaming to be so dominant. The Nintendo DS (and its iterations) is the best selling system of all time and smartphones became tiny-powerhouses thanks to intuitive games such as Angry Birds, Cut the Rope and more.

Well, 2011 was no slouch in terms of gaming. This year we caught a glimpse of the next generation of systems — portable and otherwise. Social networks entered mainstream games, motion gaming promised to further revolutionize how we play, mobile games proved they are here to stay and gamification showed that pretty much anything you do online can be turned into a video game.

Read on for the year in gaming.

1. The Next Generation of Consoles

This year introduced tons of new consoles and systems. Nintendo launched the 3DS, a handheld system that provided glasses-free 3D visuals, as well as the Nintendo Wii U, a console that features a tablet-like controller and asynchronous play. Nintendo has always pushed the boundaries of gaming and is almost always successful (cough, Virtua Boy). The Wii U will let users interact with a screen by using the tablet interface or pair the tablet with Wii controllers. One example had players throwing digital stars from their lap to the screen and another showed a golf game controlled by placing the tablet on the ground like a tee and swinging the Wii controller like a club.

The 3DS was a bit of a bust, sales-wise, for Nintendo. This might be due to the high sales of the DS and the pending launch of Sony’s PlayStation Vita, a powerful handheld with two touchscreens, an array of internal sensors and a graphics engine that can trounce any other mobile device.

2. Mobile Gaming is Here to Stay

Another reason for the 3DS’s poor sales could be that gamers finally got their gaming fixes on their smartphones. Angry Birds continued to dominate the games market, but that bird-flinging addiction also opened the door for a range of innovative mobile games to enter the market. The iPhone and iPad are still considered the premiere gaming mobile devices capable of simple games like Cut the Rope, as well as visual stunners such as Infinity Blade II. Android phones, however, went toe-to-toe with Apple’s mobile darling.

Microsoft is also a force to be reckoned with. While the Windows Phone 7 has received mixed reviews, it comes packaged with Xbox LIVE functionality and will pair up with the recent Xbox 360 interface update, transforming your phone into both a gaming device and multi-purpose controller.

3. Battlefield Takes On Modern Warfare

Let’s not forget about the console games either. This was the year EA’s real-world, first-person shooter Battlefield 3 swore it would finally topple Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, releasing just one month ahead of Modern Warfare 3.

Ultimately, Modern Warfare 3 came out on top in terms of sales, but the real story was how much everyday people and media latched onto the competition. It was more than a moment of competition but an example that video games are moving further into the public consciousness. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that both games spent enormous amounts of money promoting and publicizing before launch.

Both games also introduced social layers to their massive multiplayer experiences. Battlefield 3 launched “Battlelog” and Modern Warfare 3 launched “Elite.” Both services helped players connect and converse with fellow gamers, keep track of their in-game stats, view resources on how to improve their play time and share through social networks. The services integrated social into the multiplayer experience and changed users’ expectations on what games should offer to their fan communities.

4. Motion Gaming

Motion gaming had a big year in 2011, precisely because it wasn’t such a big deal. When the Nintendo Wii came out, gamers were skeptical that gesture-based controls could actually be fun. The PlayStation Move, another handheld gesture controller, was called a technologically advanced copy cat. The Xbox Kinect, Microsoft’s controller-free gesture-based peripheral, was deemed too inaccurate to work in games.

This year saw all of those peripherals and concepts become commonplace. Motion gaming is no longer a novelty but one of the many ways that we now play video games. Nintendo is experimenting further with its tablet-like controller for the Wii U; PlayStation is adding touch and swipe controls to its latest handheld; and Xbox recently released an interface update for the 360 that’s all about gesture controls and voice commands.

5. Gamification

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Gamification, the buzzworthy yet cringe-inducing term, has a much-deserved spot because its so damn omnipresent. Gamification is the process of adding game-like elements to a service or system, such as rewards, leaderboards and points. Everyone from brands to TV shows to musicians to sports teams to media companies have added game elements to their sites and services as a way of further engaging their clients.

If you look close enough, nearly everything you do on the Internet has become some sort of game: Did you earn points for your comment on the Glee website? Did you have more Twitter followers than your best friends?

Friendly competition is our natural state of being, and there is undeniable pleasure in winning, even if that “victory” is becoming mayor of your favorite cafe or earning exclusive content for your television viewing habits.

Honorable Game Mentions

A 2011 year in review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some of the games that kept our thumbs busy. These games were news-makers, innovators and just plain fun to play. In no particular order:

Battlefield 3

This first-person shooter is all about fast action and vehicular combat.

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of Flickr, brianjmatis

More About: features, gamification, Gaming, mobile gaming, motion gaming, video games, Year End 2011

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November 26 2010

Why You Need an Xbox 360 With Kinect This Holiday Season

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This post is part of the Mashable 10, Mashable’s gift guide of the 10 hottest gadgets that that our editors think should be on everyone’s wish lists this holiday season. To view all 10 posts, please visit this link.

Recommending a gaming console is about as healthy as walking into a minefield. For such a novel activity, gaming can be as polarizing as politics and religion. Nevertheless, I’m going to take the risk and make this recommendation, because what’s a holiday gift guide that doesn’t have a gaming representative?

The Xbox 360 first hit shelves in November of 2005. The oddity of recommending a five year old console isn’t lost, but the reality is this: the Xbox 360 might be the same platform that it was back in 2005, but it is not in the least bit the same console.

In 2010, the 360 not only made a huge update to its core hardware, it also added a peripheral that has the potential to hugely revolutionize the console gaming industry. For a device that just celebrated its fifth birthday (basically the equivalent of about 50 in electronic years), the Xbox 360 is still clipping through the crowd like it’s the new kid on the block.

Titles and Multiplayer

Both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are hovering around 200 exclusive releases, and while the vast majority of these games aren’t legacy titles, the 360 has Halo, Gears of War, Fable 3 and the entire Mass Effect franchise. (Yes, PlayStation 3 will be getting Mass Effect 2 in January 2011, but it doesn’t have the first game in the series — so unless you’ve played part one elsewhere, you’ll only get the full experience on Xbox 360. The biggest titles going for Sony’s console are arguably, the unquestionably amazing, Uncharted series and, the epically delayed, Gran Turismo.)

Another deciding factor is the multiplayer experience, and Xbox Live wins this category outright. In my almost sad amount of experience, multiplayer gaming on the PlayStation Network has never rivaled that of Xbox Live. Modern Warfare 2 is practically a different game on Xbox Live, and for any gaming experience focused so heavily on multiplayer, that matters a lot.

Motion Gaming Comes to Both

That brings us back to motion gaming. For the time being, PlayStation 3 might have the two best motion titles in The Shoot and The Fight, but, compelling though as they may be, they showcase the entirety of the PlayStation Move experience — i.e., connecting a wand to game movements. It’s fun, but it exists as more of a technological progression from Duck Hunt, which was released for the NES in 1984, than a truly disruptive new gaming technology.

Kinect, on the other hand, is by no means perfect, but it has revolutionized the player-to-controller dynamic, connecting players to game movements, by turning their bodies into controllers. This alone could be the basis of my recommendation. It’s not.

The promise of Kinect along with the excellent franchise titles (which perhaps may include 2010’s Alan Wake?) and a superior multiplayer make the Xbox 360 the best gaming console out this holiday season. Don’t forget that it’s also a highly functional streaming device, with support for Netflix and Pandora now and Hulu Plus coming soon. Taken as a package, the Xbox 360 with Kinect becomes not just a gaming console, but a versatile addition to your home theater system.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, hatman12

More About: hulu plus, mashable 10, motion gaming, netflix, pandora, playstation 3, video games, video streaming, Xbox 360, Xbox Kinect

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September 21 2010

The Hottest Games of the Tokyo Game Show [VIDEOS]

Last week was the 2010 Tokyo Game Show (also called TGS 2010) and the games on display came from some of the brightest minds in the industry. Here you’ll find 12 trailers from the hottest games at the show, including The Last Guardian, Devil May Cry and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

TGS 2010 was the most attended TGS yet, but that didn’t prevent some Japanese developers and pundits from bemoaning the quality of Japanese games as compared to titles produced by Western studios like BioWare, Bungie and Blizzard.

Capcom’s Keiji Inafune, who had a hand in creating both Mega Man and Dead Rising, said at the show that Japanese developers are “at least five years behind.”

The man might have a point. Looking at some of these trailers, the core developers outside the Nintendo world are definitely not making an effort to break barriers or challenge stereotypes about video games and gamer culture.

Nintendo, however, is in another class. That company’s Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS consoles have outsold the competition from Microsoft and Sony at every turn and expanded the audience for video games far beyond the 20-year-old males who traditionally form the core market. But these games and consoles belong in a different world from the industry that makes graphics-intensive and complex games for the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.

The Games

There are some stand-outs. The art-house development studio that made Ico and Shadow of the Colossus for the PlayStation 2 showed a trailer for PlayStation 3 title The Last Guardian, and it looks absolutely beautiful. It turns out the game will be playable in 3D. The studio is also releasing a bundle for PS3 that includes remastered, high-definition versions of the two PS2 classics.

RPG developer Level 5 teamed up with master animator Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli (best known for films such as Princess Mononoke, Sprited Away and Ponyo) to make a PS3 game titled Ni No Kuni. It looks gorgeous and touching, capturing the look and feel of the animated films, but it hasn’t been confirmed for North American or European release yet.

Also notable was the lineup for the Xbox 360’s Kinect motion controller and camera. The games and developers Microsoft featured at the show sought to demonstrate that traditional gamers will enjoy games with the new interface, not just families looking for play-and-forget party experiences.

Here are the trailers. Most are Japanese games, but a few Western games made appearances at TGS — most notably Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

"Deus Ex: Human Revolution"

This sequel to a classic PC gaming franchise promises an involved cyberpunk storyline.

"Ni No Kuni" (Level 5 and Studio Ghibli Project) for PS3

Ni no Kuni is a collaboration between esteemed Japanese RPG developer Level 5 and famous animation director Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli. The game was previously revealed for Nintendo DS, but here's the gorgeous PS3 version.

"The Last Guardian"

Team Ico is best known for the critically acclaimed art-house PS2 games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. This is their latest project, and the first on the PlayStation 3. Oh, and this game will be available in 3D.

"Devil May Cry" ("DMC")

This version of the classic, gothic action fighting game Devil May Cry is actually the fifth game in the series, but it's a reboot with new character designs and more.

"Shadows of the Damned"

Everything about this trailer is indicative of the traditions of Japanese hardcore gaming — whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is up to you. This new game is made by alums from the Resident Evil, Silent Hill and No More Heroes. Consider it a punk rock psychological horror action game.

"Ico" and "Shadow of the Colossus" Collection for PS3

Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are two of the most beloved games of all time — at least for video game critics. The PS2 titles have been remastered in high definition and 3D for the PS3 release.

"Dead Rising 2: Case West"

This Xbox 360-exclusive downloadable expansion for Dead Rising 2 makes a team out of the protagonists of the first two games in the series.

"Tekken Tag Tournament 2"

Arcade fighting games are a dying breed, but Tekken developer Namco will try to revive the market with Tekken Tag Tournament 2. The game will appear in arcades around Japan.

"Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam"

Vietnam is an under-represented war in video games. Maybe it's because gamers prefer the clear moral lines of World War II. The over-the-top Battlefield Bad Company series already blurs the lines, though, so Vietnam seems a suitable setting for this download-only follow up.

"Castlevania: Lords of Shadow"

Another total franchise reboot, this Middle Ages-set action game is part of a series that began way back in 1986.


What if the Cold War continued into our near future? This action game published by Sega depicts that scenario.

Steel Battalion: Heavy Armour for Xbox Kinect

This game is one of several hardcore gamer-friendly Kinect titles that Microsoft unveiled at TGS. Kinect is the motion controller due for release on the Xbox 360 this November.

More About: 3D, action, battlefield bad company 2 vietnam, capcom, castlevania, castlevania lords of shadow, dead rising 2, deus ex, deus ex 3, deus ex human revolution, devil may cry, dmc, Final Fantasy, hayao miyazaki, hd, ico, japan, kinect, level 5, microsoft, miyazaki, motion gaming, ninja gaiden, ninja gaiden 3, nintendo ds, playstation 3, project dark, PSP, role-playing games, rpg, scej, shadow of the colossus, shadows of the damned, sony, sony computer entertainment, studio ghibli, team ico, team ninja, tekken, tekken tag tournament 2, tgs, tgs 2010, the last guardian, tokyo game show, tokyo game show 2010, valkyria chronicles 3, video games, Xbox 360, yakuza of the end, zombies

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August 17 2010

Sony PlayStation Move Bundle Arrives in September

Sony’s PlayStation 3 game console is getting a Wii-like motion controller called PlayStation Move next month, and the company just announced a PS3 bundle that includes both an updated version of the console and the equipment you need to play the motion games.

The box carries a slim PS3 console with 320 GB of storage, plus the camera and controller needed to support one Move player. It also comes with a suite of Move games called PlayStation Move Sports Champions — it’s sort of Sony’s snazzy, HD answer to Wii Sports.

The bundle will go on sale in the U.S. September 19 for $399, and September 15 in Europe for €349. That’s the same date for the launch of the Move controller sans console, so intrigued, would-be Move gamers who don’t already own PS3s won’t have to wait for this deal.

The price seems appropriate, given the cost of the standalone PS3 systems and Move equipment. The savings aren’t mindblowing, but it’s not a lackluster deal either.

Oh, and in case you’re not interested in this motion gaming thing (maybe you think it’s all a fad?), Sony also revealed a new, 160 GB slim PS3 bundle that doesn’t include any of the Move stuff. That one’s already on sale in the United States for $299, and it will hit Europe at €299 this October.

More About: bundles, controller, games, gaming, motion gaming, move, playstation, playstation 3, playstation move, price, pricing, PS3, release date, sony, video games

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July 20 2010

Kinect for Xbox 360 Will Cost $150, Game Included

Microsoft’s Kinect motion peripheral for Xbox 360 (formerly called Project Natal) will cost $150 at retail on its own, and $300 bundled with a 4 GB Xbox 360 slim console. Both will launch this fall with the Kinect Adventures suite of casual motion games included.

This price is unsurprising since numerous retailers and e-tailers, including Microsoft’s own online store, have listed Kinect for $149 at one time or another. The bundle is no surprise either, and in fact, it’s very good news. The 4 GB Xbox 360 Slim fills in for the hard drive-less Xbox 360 Arcade model, which was never an attractive proposition for gamers.

Kinect and the Xbox 360 Slim were formally announced at the E3 video game conference in Los Angeles last month.

Since Kinect Adventures comes bundled with all Kinect devices just like Wii Sports comes with the Nintendo Wii, families and individuals will be able to pick up and play without investing in new games. Once those consumers start itching for more, though, most of the games for Kinect will cost $50 — $10 less than “core gamer” titles like Halo Reach or Call of Duty: Black Ops. That includes third-party titles like MTV Games’s Dance Central, which we previewed at E3.

EEDAR analyst Jesse Divnich notes that $150 is fair since game-specific peripherals with much more limited uses are already selling like hotcakes at the same price. “Game specific peripherals have a limited shelf-life in terms of appeal; there are only so many sessions of Guitar Hero one can enjoy before game fatigue sets in,” he says. “With the Kinect, however, there is the possibility of a wide array of games across a broad range of genres, potentially giving the Kinect a much longer shelf-life than a typical peripheral.”

Do you agree? Is $150 the right price? Let us know in the comments.

[via Joystiq]

More About: bundle, console, gaming, kinect, microsoft, motion gaming, price, pricing, project natal, video games, xbox, Xbox 360

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June 16 2010

Cirque du Soleil Helps Unveil Kinect for Xbox 360 [PICS]

Last night, hundreds of people entered the University of Southern California’s Galen Center to see the public unveiling of Kinect, the controller-free video game device for the Xbox 360.

They weren’t expecting it, but they entered an Avatar-esque jungle otherworld brought to life by performers from Cirque du Soleil and elaborate technological set pieces. Microsoft unveiled the Kinect to non-press attendees with songs, dances and performances that evoked the discovery of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kinect was portrayed as the next step in human evolution.

Yes, it was hyperbolic, but the spectacle was impressive. We were there, and while nothing about the Xbox 360 was revealed there that we haven’t previously described, we did take several pictures of the elaborate performance. Have a look in the gallery below.

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

The Kinect for Xbox 360 Experience with Cirque de Soleil

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Tags: cirque de soleil, dance, e3, E3 2010, kinect, microsoft, motion gaming, performance, project natal, theater, xbox, Xbox 360

March 18 2010

Playstation Move Promo Mocks Wii and Natal [VIDEO]

PlayStation’s own Kevin Butler, VP of humorous adverts, is coming at you from the future in this latest promo clip for the recently-named Move motion controller.

While demoing the abilities of the Move with a boxing game and an FPS, Butler manages to poke fun at both the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft’s coming-soon Project Natal system for the Xbox 360 that takes motion control a step further by making your body the controller.

“Come on, who wants to pretend their hand is a gun? What is this, third grade?,” Butler asks, while stating that the Move offers “what we in the future call ‘buttons’ which turn out to be pretty important to those handful of millions of people who enjoy playing shooters, or platformers, well, anything that doesn’t involve catching a big, red ball” — the latter in reference to a Natal demo.

Hit play now to see the “now-eristic” Move in action, as well as a baseball tip-off for the coming season:

Tags: advertising, kevin butler, microsoft, motion gaming, Natal, Nintendo, playstation, playstation move, project natal, sony, video, video games, Wii, wiimote

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