Mortal Kombat and Xbox 360 the Top Sellers

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Games and Players, Popular Games, Xbox

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Update: According to NetherRealm’s Ed Boon, the NPD figures don’t count “special versions” of Mortal Kombat, in which case the game sold over 1 million units in April. Sony also confirmed to 1UP that the 13% increase in PS3 systems sold is year-over-year, in which case that adds up to about 204,304 PS3s. And Nintendo confirmed its systems’ sales figures, according to MarketWatch: 172,000 Wiis (down 38% from April 2010) and 194,000 3DSes.
Original Story: Mortal Kombat was the best selling game in the month of April, according to the latest figures released by the NPD Group. It sold nearly 900,000 units between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. Portal 2 was the next best-selling game, although no specific numbers for Valve’s latest game were cited. That’s just as well, as the game undoubtedly sold a great deal through Steam, the numbers from which would not be included in the NPDs.

Call of Duty: Black Ops, which was the best-selling game from its release until March, managed to still make a very respectable appearance at number four. It was topped by Lego Star Wars III at number three, which shot up several spots from its debut at number six in March. Just Dance 2 and Michael Jackson: The Experience returned to the top ten, and NBA 2K11 continues to sell well, thanks in part to the lack of competition from EA. Homefront and Dragon Age II, two of March’s top games, fell from the list completely. Five games sold over 250,000 units during the month, up from two during April 2010.

SOCOM 4 and Pokemon Black both would have made the top ten if sales across all platforms weren’t combined. SOCOM 4 also would have made the list if the game’s PlayStation Move bundle had its sales combined with those of the standalone game. Keep in mind that the PSN downtime began on April 20, which could have impacted sales of online-focused PS3 games, including SOCOM, although it was thought that it would be back online within a matter of days at the time.

“April 2011 represents the first month that new physical retail sales of content showed growth in both units and dollars since November of last year,” said NPD analyst Anita Frazier. “The Xbox 360 platform generated the greatest unit sales of new physical content at over 3.5 million units for the month, followed by the Nintendo DS platform. The Nintendo DS, PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 platforms all generated greater unit sales of content versus April 2010.”

On the hardware side, specific numbers weren’t shared with the press, as per the usual. However, having sold more consoles than any other platform during the month, Microsoft has opted to announce that it sold 297,000 Xbox 360 systems during April. That’s a 60% increase year-over-year, which Microsoft says is the largest growth for any current-gen console. (It also noted that Dance Central has sold 2.5 million units worldwide, while Kinect Sports has sold 3 million units. It didn’t specify if these figures were the numbers sold to consumers or retailers.)

Sony declined to provide sales figures for any of its platforms, only saying that PS3 hardware sales were up almost 13% and PS3 software sales were up 40% year-over-year. “We continue to see a lot of great momentum at the retail level, and appreciate the support we’ve received from our partners, retailers and customers since the criminal attack on the PlayStation Network,” said Sony’s Patrick Seybold in a statement. “We hope to have services restored as soon as we can.”

Nintendo has yet to release any sort of statement, which is somewhat telling. It’s admitted previously that the 3DS hasn’t sold as well as it anticipated, and the upcoming Wii price cut is clearly in order to prevent a further decline in sales.

The software top ten follows:

1.Mortal Kombat (PS3, 360)**
2.Portal 2 (360, PS3, PC)
3.Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (Wii, NDS, 360, 3DS, PS3, PC)
4.Call of Duty: Black Ops (360, PS3, NDS, Wii, PC)**
5.Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters (360, PS3, Wii)**
6.Crysis 2 (360, PS3, PC)
7.Just Dance 2 (Wii)
8.Michael Jackson The Experience (360, Wii, PS3, NDS, PSP)
9.Pokemon White Version (NDS)
10.NBA 2K11 (360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2, PC)
**(includes CE, GOTY editions, bundles, etc. but not those bundled with hardware)
We’ll update this story if we learn more.

Kinect Bundles Dominate PlayStation Move in February

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Microsoft, Xbox

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Sony wasn’t willing to share hardware numbers with the release of the lightweight NPD figures yesterday. According to Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter, it turns out the PS3 sold 403,000 units in February, trailing behind the Wii’s 454,000 and the Xbox 360’s 535,000. What’s a more striking contrast than that is Pachter’s estimate that 360/Kinect bundles outsold PS3/PlayStation Move bundles by a ratio of 5-to-1 last month.

“Under one-fifth of PS3 sales included bundles with Sony’s Move controller, suggesting another modest month (we have chosen not to subscribe to peripheral data),” Pachter stated. “Over 2/3 of Xbox 360 sales included bundles with Microsoft’s Kinect peripheral, as Xbox 360 Kinect console bundles again outsold PS3 Move console bundles by over 5:1. We note that the top selling Kinect software titles easily outsold their Move counterparts.”

Kinect was recently named by Guinness World Records as the “fastest-selling consumer electronics device.” Microsoft claims it has sold 10 million Kinect devices since November, although that figure refers to units sold to retail, not necessarily the number of Kinects located in people’s homes.

The popularity of Kinect will help to keep demand for the 360 strong, Pachter claims, while sales figures for the PS3 and Wii will decline as we move into the future. “Without further price cuts, we expect hardware sales to be down in 2011, and we think that the console manufacturers will position cuts around the E3 Expo in early June,” he said.

What Happened Between Portal and Portal 2?

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: PS3, Upcoming Games, Xbox

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There’s still a lot of confusion over the details of Portal 2’s plot and how Aperture Science ended up in the condition it’s now in. Valve will be revealing some information soon that explains what happened between the first Portal and its sequel, which is set “further down the line” in the Half-Life universe.

“We’re actually going to release something that we’re not talking about yet that will give a little bit of the story of the interim time,” Valve writer Erik Wolpaw told Kotaku. “We’re doing that before release.” It’s currently unclear how much time has passed since the first game, which took place between the first two Half-Life games.

In Portal 2 players will again play as Chell, who was put in stasis following the events of the first game. (Valve changed the original’s ending post-release so she would be dragged away by something with a robotic voice.) A new character is being revealed at PAX East: The founder of Aperture Science, Cave Johnson. He’s voiced by J.K. Simmons, joining The Office and Extras co-creator and co-writer Stephen Merchant, who will voice the character of Wheatley.

Portal’s connection with the Half-Life games isn’t just the ramblings of message board posters — Valve admits it’s true — but don’t expect it to be especially pronounced. Wolpaw made a comparison with how The X-Files had mythology episodes throughout the series that dealt with an interconnected storyline in addition to standalone episodes that were completely unrelated to the rest.

“We tried to keep as light a touch about it as we did in Portal 1,” Wolpaw said. “Fans of Half-Life will notice some things, but if you haven’t played Half-Life they’ll just kind of pass right by you. You’re not going to see Gordon tromping through the facility.”

Portal 2 hits PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on April 18.

Xbox 360 Records 33 Percent Revenue Increase

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Microsoft, Xbox

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Xbox 360 revenues have risen 33 percent since this time last year, hitting $1.2 billion in the first quarter, Microsoft announced today. Halo Reach represents a significant portion of the proceeds, raking in $350 million on its own (via Gamasutra).

The Xbox 360 helped the company’s Entertainment and Devices Division generate a $382 million profit the quarter, which represents a 46 percent increase from last year. The console was also cited as one of the key reasons Microsoft saw its revenue increase to $16.20 billion.

Microsoft expects further increases going forward, projecting a total year revenue increase of 20 percent and 30 percent year-over-year growth. Major releases will include Kinect and Windows Phone 7.

Kinect will be out next week.

Catherine: The Love Triangle from Hell

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: PS3, Upcoming Games, Xbox

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32-year-old Vincent thinks he’s got it made — a decent job, an equally decent number of friends, and Katherine, a pretty, talented girlfriend. But, of course, that wasn’t good enough for him, was it? He just had to go and have that affair with Catherine, a 22-year-old blonde with an odd hairstyle and an even more mysterious background.

Atlus revealed some more story details behind Catherine (the new action/adventure from the makers of Persona) this week, and they’re pretty…well, alluring. In addition to talking to (and/or fending off) both ladies in real life, Vincent will be asked to trade text messages with Katherine and Catherine throughout the game, even snapping cell-phone pictures and sending them to and fro — a gameplay aspect that Brett Favre ought to go nuts for (allegedly).

This isn’t all just idle flirting, though. In Vincent’s local neighborhood, there’s been a rash of sudden deaths, all apparently related to the nightmares they’ve been having. Vincent, along with his bar buddies, is starting to have those same recurring nightmares — climbing an endless tower, chased by hideous-looking demons, death awaiting him if he falls. The worst part of it all: Catherine, your freaky mistress, is involved somehow. As if trying to wriggle your way out of a long-term relationship wasn’t hard enough!

Catherine, the game, is due out this winter for the PS3 and Xbox 360 in Japan. No US release plans have been announced yet.

Atari Reviving Star Raiders for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: PS3, Popular Games, Xbox

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One of the most ambitious games of the late 1970s is getting new life on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC (via GameSpot).

The Star Raiders brand is being revived by former THQ subsidiary Incinerator Studios, which formerly focused on licensed titles such as Cars. It will include many elements from the original game, including the dogfights and navigation via the galactica chart.

Star Raiders began life on Atari’s 8-bit computers in 1979, and was later ported to various other platforms. It was one of the earliest “space combat simulators,” and helped to inspire Elite, which in turn inspired the seminal Wing Commander: Privateer and other titles.

The revival will be a full update with online multiplayer and customizable starships, including competitive team play and online co-op.

Look for it next year.

Microsoft Working on Windows Phone 7 Multiplayer

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Microsoft

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We know Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone 7 will have access to Xbox Live, but it looks like their connectivity ambitions between the Xbox 360 and Phone 7 are even loftier than that, including not just turn-based gameplay but eventually real-time multiplayer between Phone 7 games and Xbox 360 games as well.

“So initially we’re turn by turn-based,” said a Microsoft representative to rgbFilter during the recent X10 event in Toronto (via Joystiq). “We are working on real-time phone-to-console, likely initially through Wi-Fi — again, operator networks are sensitive to that. That’s not on day one; day one will be turn-by-turn as well as companion-type gaming where you play a level on the phone and it may unlock a level or a weapon or some special achievement on the console game.

“But, uh yeah — absolutely working on phone-to-console real-time. That is something we’re working on and expect to have in the near future,” the rep concluded. He also confirmed they’re working on multiplayer connectivity between the PC and Phone 7 as well, referencing — believe it or not — 2007’s Shadowrun as an example (which itself was noteworthy in its time for offering cross-multiplayer between the PC and 360).

The rep didn’t get into much detail about how exactly real-time 360-to-Phone 7 multiplayer would work, what kind of games to expect it in, or when it’ll even be ready, so there’s still much to be revealed. Windows Phone 7 is planned for release in October.

New Xbox 360 S CPU/GPU Chip Detailed

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Xbox

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Not only is the Xbox 360 S obviously physically smaller than the original Xbox 360 model, it also boasts a new combined graphics and processor chip that allows the redesigned system to run more silently, consume less power, and should also make it less prone to hardware malfunctions.

VentureBeat has a full break down of this new “Vejle” chip (named after a city in Denmark, for whatever reason), with its combination of CPU and GPU on the same chip being the key to its boost in performance. Rather than have a separate chip for each function (as all past Xbox 360 models had), the combined chip makes the systems cheaper to produce, as well as significantly less power hungry — the Xbox 360 S uses a whopping 60 percent less power compared to a launch 360 from 2005.

And the benefit isn’t just a small save in your power bill, as the smaller, quieter chip should also — in theory — have eliminated the dreaded “Red Ring of Death” malfunction once and for all. The cause of the RROD was that the graphics chip in earlier Xbox 360 models would eventually run so hot that they would warp the system board. But with the new combined chip, Microsoft says that even in hot conditions the new 360’s fan doesn’t have to top 55 percent of its capability.

The smaller chip (it uses 50 percent less space than the two chips needed in original 360 models) is also what allowed Microsoft to add in extra features like built-in 802.11N Wi-Fi.

VentureBeat’s full story has many more details on just what it took for Microsoft and IBM to actually manufacture the chip, along with a lot of diagrams of the new chip itself. So if you’re a tech-head interested in that kind of stuff, be sure to check it out.

Torchlight “Hopefully” Out on PSN, XBLA

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Popular Games

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Way back in March, Runic Games CEO Max Schaefer revealed that they were putting “serious effort” into trying to get their sleeper hit dungeon crawler Torchlight released on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. There hadn’t been any more news on these efforts since then, but it looks like they are indeed ongoing, and may result in Torchlight release for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this holiday season.

“We’re trying, we’re talking [to Sony and Microsoft] and we hope to get that done quickly,” Schaefer said to Joystiq at GamesCom this week. Schaefer said there’s still no release window set, but “hopefully” they’ll have a deal done to release the game “by the holidays.”

So what if you’re not so interested in the original Torchlight anymore, now that Runic announced Torchlight 2 (complete with online co-op)? Don’t fret, as Schaefer said they’ll “try” to get the sequel released on PSN and XBLA as well, some time after it’s released for the PC and Mac next spring.

Final Fantasy XIV Not Appearing on Xbox 360

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Popular Games, Upcoming Games, Xbox

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Despite persistent rumors the contrary, Final Fantasy XIV won’t be appearing on the Xbox 360.

In a recent interview with Eurogamer, creator Hiromichi Tanaka said that the problem lies with the “closed” nature of Xbox Live.

“[Live is] different to the normal internet environment, so when we wanted to introduce this game in the same environment as Windows PC it had to be PS3, so that was our choice,” he said.

“Microsoft has a different point of view: they want to have a closed environment for Xbox Live. We’re still talking to… We couldn’t come to an agreement on Xbox Live.”

Interestingly, Final Fantasy XI is one of the few MMOs currently available on the Xbox 360. Tanaka didn’t elaborate on the differences between the two.

Final Fantasy XIV will be available on the PS3 and PC later this year.