Wednesday, 28 February 2007

'Girlfriend' Gets First Play On PlayStation

Electronic Arts' forthcoming racing game Burnout Dominator (PS2) will be amongst the first to see an established singer use it as a vehicle to debut a new track after rock chick Avril Lavigne signed a deal with the ambitious publisher.

The star will see her new track 'Girlfriend' enjoy its worldwide debut in a game that will include a total of 33 tracks from the likes of Yellowcard, Franz Ferdinand and All-American Rejects.

Steve Schnur, EA's worldwide Executive of Music, said, "The Burnout series is an amazing, proven platform for launching the world’s biggest songs and artists, and we’re thrilled to be working with Avril Lavigne this year to help debut her new song 'Girlfriend'. From pop to rock to metal Burnout Dominator is all about attitude and rebellion, which makes it a perfect fit for the 33 artists.”

Burnout Dominator, which will be released March 23 for PS2 and PSP, is a new installment of the Burnout series and will challenge players' driving skills in a series of manic racers and stunts.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

LEGO Serious Play

It is a pleasure to introduce you to my latest affiliate.

LEGO is, arguably, one of the most recognizable and popular toy brands in the world. LEGO is a line of toys manufactured by LEGO Group, a privately held company based in Denmark. Its flagship product, also commonly referred to as LEGO, consists of colourful interlocking plastic bricks and an accompanying array of gears, minifigures (also called minifigs by LEGO fans), and other pieces which can be assembled and connected in a myriad combinations, including cars, planes, trains, buildings, castles, sculptures, ships, spaceships, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Spider-Man, Batman, SpongeBob SquarePants, Avatar: The Last Airbender and even working robots.

Did you know that The World's Biggest LEGO Shop is at your fingertips? You can purchase direct from The LEGO Group at www.legoshop.com. The online shop is packed with all the newest LEGO sets, exclusive collector's items, LEGO bricks & pieces for individual purchase, PLUS hard-to-find classic LEGO sets!

Monday, 26 February 2007

The Price of PS3 Gaming

European PLAYSTATION 3 First Party Software Pricing Announced

London, 26 February 2007 – Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) today announced pricing details for its first party title launch line-up, to accompany the 23rd March 2007 launch of PLAYSTATION®3.


Providing details of the prices to be charged for first party software available on both disc and through the PLAYSTATION®Network1, SCEE confirmed that its five disc based launch titles, including the highly acclaimed Motorstorm™ and Resistance: Fall of Man™ will be priced at an RRP of €59.99 (£39.99, AUD 99.95, NZ 109.95).

In addition to the disc based games SCEE also announced that exclusive and innovative experiences developed especially for download from the PLAYSTATION®Network such as BlastFactor, flOw and Super Rub a Dub, together with iconic gaming brands such as Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection will be made available for an introductory period at prices which range from €2.99 to €9.99 depending on the specific title.

Other first party content available on the PLAYSTATION®Network such as game items and premium video content will be priced on an easy to understand sliding scale of charges starting as low as €0.99 and increasing depending on the scope of the product. This could range from a new SingStar track to a premium pack for MotorStorm, which would include a new track, additional vehicles, liveries and multiplayer modes.

In announcing these prices, David Reeves, President and CEO of SCEE said, “Not only will it be completely free to register on the PLAYSTATION®Network with no subscription fees and access to many free demos, but with these competitive prices for additional content we are able to offer the consumer both top quality games on Blu-ray discs and a whole range of downloadable content from the PLAYSTATION®Network. With over 30 first and third party disc and network games available at launch, we are confident that this will be one of the most successful launches of all time.”

Friday, 23 February 2007

Paucity of Emotionless Euro PlayStation 3 Pre-orders

This week's posts have been dominated by PlayStation 3 news!

Online rumbles suggest Sony's dominance of the lucrative console market is at end with the launch of PS3 permeate the blogosphere. This is purportedly indicated by low consumer demand due to the availability of the next generation console on Amazon.co.uk, Play.com and Gameplay (the latter two only offer expensive pre-packed bundles). Given the price of the PS3, GBP 425, it's hardly an impulse buy compared against Wii.

Anyway, I'm keen to share the following news directly from SCEE Press Office, which may add further salt to the wound:

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Announces Hardware Specification of PLAYSTATION®3 for Europe

London, 23 February 2007 – Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) today announced that PLAYSTATION®3 (PS3™) to be launched in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Australasia on 23rd March 2007 would utilise a new hardware specification.

The European PS3 will feature the Cell Broadband Engine™, 60 GB hard disc drive, Blu-ray Disc player, built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, SIXAXIS™ wireless controller. It also embodies a new combination of hardware and software emulation which will enable PS3 to be compatible with a broad range of original PlayStation® (PS) titles and a limited range of PlayStation®2 (PS2) titles.

“PS3 is first and foremost a system that excels in playing games specifically designed to exploit the power and potential of the PS3 system,” said David Reeves, President of SCEE. “Games designed for PS3 offer incredible graphics quality, stunning gameplay and massively improved audio and video fidelity that is simply not achievable with PS and PS2 games. Rather than concentrate on PS2 backwards compatibility, in the future, company resources will be increasingly focused on developing new games and entertainment features exclusively for PS3, truly taking advantage of this exciting technology.”

Some additional PS2 titles will become compatible on the PS3 system through regular downloadable firmware updates, which will be made available through the PLAYSTATION®Network, from http://www.playstation.com or via PS3 game discs, with the first update planned for the launch date of the 23rd March 2007.

Users will be able to check whether their titles are compatible with PS3 at http://faq.eu.playstation.com/bc. This site will be available on 23rd March to meet launch day.

1. A device compatible with Linear PCM 7.1 Ch is required to output 7.1 ch audio, supported by Dolby TrueHD or a similar format, from the HDMI OUT connector.

2. This system does not support output from the DTS-HD 7.1 Ch. DTS-HD 7.1 Ch audio is output from a 5.1 or lower channel.

3. Usability of all storage media types is not guaranteed.

4. Certain PlayStation 2 format software titles may not perform properly on this system. Visit faq.eu.playstation.com/bc for the latest information regarding compatible titles

Legal Notes:

l Storage media (“Memory Stick”, SD memory card, and CompactFlash®) are sold separately.

l “Dolby” is a trademark of Dolby Laboratories.

l “DTS” is a trademark of DTS, Inc.

l Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. is an authorized licensee of the CompactFlash® trademark.

l HDMI, the HDMI logo and High-Definition Multimedia Interface are trademarks or registered trademarks of HDMI Licensing LLC.

l “Blu-ray Disc” is a trademark.

l The Bluetooth word mark is owned by the Bluetooth SIG, Inc. and any use of such mark by Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. is under license.

l “Memory Stick” is a trademark of Sony Corporation.

l “Super Audio CD” is a trademark.

l “PlayStation”, “PLAYSTATION” and “PSP” are registered trademarks of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. Also, “Cell Broadband Engine” and “RSX” are trademarks of the same company.

So, is the backwards compatibility 'issue' going to affect your purchasing decision? Limited PS2 gaming is not a "deal breaker" for me as I sold mine to a friend a couple of years ago. And Resistance: Fall of Man (PS3) is no poor man's Gears of War (Xbox 360)!

Please comment and I'll post a follow-up in a few weeks time.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Goodbye Luxo Jr. Hello JLo.

After five years of loyal service, Luxo Jr AKA LCD iMac G4 has retired to a relatives' home in the country. Making way for some serious canoodling with JLo, I mean a brand new 20" widescreen iMac Intel Core 2 Duo!

My eyes are going to need time to readjust to the literal landscape-sized screen! The iMac is screaming out - hang me on a wall as I'm pure Manhattan gallery chic with a dash of Sex in the City by way of 24 and Ugly Betty! Not to overlook Apple's promotional consideration on hit series Heroes.

The proliferation of Universal Binaries and Intel-only applications has considerably eased the transition from PowerPC to Intel chip set. I can't comment on the 'transparency' of the PowerPC migration as my parents bought me a Performa 5200 in 1995. However, I'm seriously impressed with Intel Inside. The responsiveness of this machine affords a glimpse into Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.

There's quite a chorus of Mac Users bemoaning dead pixels and spurious electrical humming artifacts when the LCD display is dimmed on the larger iMac models. Either these are isolated to specific build batches or I've been particularly lucky; there are no screen issues thus far.

Before I head back to the Apple Discussions support forum. I'm pre-ordering Virtua Fighter 5 (PS3) from Sega.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

PS3 Pre-order Tuesday at Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.co.uk is, again, taking PlayStation 3 (60GB Premium Version) pre-orders! As a long time Sony fan (a friend even coined the term Sonyman back in the 1990s when I briefly defected back to Sega Dreamcast), I've decided I'd like one too!

For me the primary reason for purchasing a PS3 from Amazon.co.uk is to take advantage of its Blu-ray credentials and Casino Royale is the perfect inauguration. Generally Blu-ray hardware costs in the region of GBP 1000 and the PS3 GBP 425 is excellent value in comparison.

Don't forget to grab a HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) capable.

Monday, 19 February 2007

T2 on iTunes

In 1991 T2 was a sociological and technological touchstone; CGI came of age, morphing became the subject of water-cooler conversations and a generation of aspiring artists (myself included) augmented pencil and paper with a graphics tablet. This breakthrough paved the way for the Jurassic Park franchise and, perhaps controversially, the Star Wars prequels.

Apple iTunes

James Cameron's seminal movie is now available on iTunes.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Pre-order your PlayStation 3

The PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system unleashes a brilliant, high-definition entertainment experience with its Cell Broadband Engine that delivers a gaming experience that is beyond what you know today. Its built-in Blu-ray Disc drive delivers a whole new generation in high-definition gaming and unmatched digital media storage. Whether it’s gaming, Blu-ray movies, music or online services, PlayStation 3 will change your digital life.

Gian Luzio, head of games for Play.com, has revealed that they have taken 6 times more pre-orders for the PlayStation 3 than for the Xbox 360, and 15 times more than the Wii.

Play.com is offering one bundle, including first-party titles MotorStorm, Resistance: Fall of Man and Genji, for GBP 524.99.

Play promised they will deliver all pre-ordered PS3 units on launch day (unlike when the 360 and Wii were launched): "We have taken the necessary steps to ensure that customers will only be able to pre-order the system up until Play's allocation has been reached".

"We will always want more consoles to satisfy customer demand, however, we are satisfied that Sony are doing all they can to fulfil demand," Luzio said.

He added that the inclusion of a Blu-ray player in the PlayStation 3 will have a massive impact on the retailer's business.

"Figures from the United States show that Blu-ray movie sales are outselling HD-DVD by a factor of 2:1 since the launch of PS3 and we have similar sales expectations".

Not only Play.com is having so many pre-orders, according to Sony: "With an unprecedented day one shipment of 1 million machines into Europe and a software catalogue of over 30 titles available at launch, retailer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive".

The PlayStation 3 is due for launch in Europe on March 23, priced at GBP 425 / EUR 599 for the 60GB model.

Amazon UK is now taking PlayStation 3 (60GB Premium Version) pre-orders!

Amazon US now has restocks of PlayStation 3 (60 GB Premium Version).

Grab one whilst stocks last!

Monday, 12 February 2007

Blu-ray Bond

First 500,000 PS3 Registrants on PLAYSTATION®Network to be Rewarded with Casino Royale on Blu-ray

London, 12th February 2007 – Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) announced today that, in addition to the extensive line-up of games, the first 500,000 purchasers of PLAYSTATION®3 who registered on the PLAYSTATION®Network would receive a Blu-ray disc movie of Casino Royale, starring James Bond newcomer Daniel Craig.

Casino Royale, which has already grossed more than $560 million at the box office worldwide, and has established itself as the most successful Bond film of all time will debut on a 50GB dual-layer Blu-ray disc encoded in MPEG-4 AVC. With a ground breaking collection of added-value features in 1080P High Definition visual quality, and with uncompressed audio features for the best possible audio experience, Casino Royale not only demonstrates the exceptional visual quality of Full 1080P High Definition movies on Blu-ray disc, but is the perfect vehicle to highlight the broader entertainment credentials of the PLAYSTATION 3 system.

Explaining the offer, Darren Carter, VP Brand and Consumer Marketing said, “The PLAYSTATION®Network unlocks the broad range of interactive entertainment features of PLAYSTATION 3. It’s easy to set up, offers free online gaming, has great tools for staying in touch with friends and family, and includes a wide variety of content for download through the PLAYSTATION®Store.”

“All this, and more, will enable users to experience a whole new world of interactive entertainment, and that is why we are offering the phenomenal incentive of Casino Royale, on Blu-ray disc, to PS3 owners who register on the PLAYSTATION®Network. Casino Royale not only makes the most of the features and capabilities of the Blu-ray format, but is one of the most exciting and entertaining movies to debut on Blu-ray this year.”

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Star Tunes

I have no qualms about the fact that I am a self-confessed geek!

I'd rather read graphic novels, draw, Photoshop, pour over lines of XML and HTML code, write about Apple Inc, and I adore the genres of science fiction, horror and urban gothic (amongst others). If there was ever a bona fide candidate for that dubious, and exploitative, television series Beauty & the Geek, that would be me (See my photo - aged 11 outside Doctor Who's Tardis at Longleat. Frankly I was in heaven).

The latest (and last for the moment) member of the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek Enterprise, is now available in the iTunes Store (USA). Presently only the first season is available, but further seasons will arrive in due course.

Episodes are priced at the standard $1.99 and you can get the entire season for $48.99, which is quite competitive considering the DVD box set of the first season is going for $112 on Amazon (though, to be fair the DVD set includes some special features, higher quality picture and 5.1 audio).

Here's hoping Deep Space 9, Voyager and The Next Generation show up on iTunes in the near future. Of course none of these shows could hold a candle against Babylon 5!

Monday, 5 February 2007

TiVo for Sky Anytime?

I have a love-hate relationship with Sky Digital, the digital satellite service part-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation! Their customer service has, for the most part, been excellent. However, I've bemoaned the absence of functionality enjoyed by our TiVo-owning cousins across the pond! And have pondered why Sky hasn't either licensed TiVo Suggestions or introduced a similar product feature?

Belatedly, due to increasing competition within the digital broadcasting market, Sky is on the eve of launching Anytime TV, comparable to TiVo Suggestions, and landing a knockout punch in the direction of its video on-demand rival Virgin Media (the new name for NTL and Telewest)!

The question that has been asked for the last year or so by many Sky+ and Sky HD users is, "when will the reserved space on my hard disk be used?" The answer is sometime in March, when users of Sky’s PVR3 and Sky HD boxes will get access to Sky Anytime TV. This will be about 1 million of the 2.1 million Sky+ subscribers.

Once the new software is released there will be a new layout to the EPG. As some users have already seen, the "HD Channels" group will move to option 2 on the EPG and the red button will become "Anytime TV".

On pushing the red button the user will be presented with a list of programmes that have been downloaded via the satellite overnight – there will be about 5 hours of programming a night downloaded for a total of 35 hours total on the box (HD users might have a slightly different set of numbers depending on the quantity of HD material). Content on the service will include Sky Movies (from the movie channels not, at launch, from the Box Office service), programmes from Sky One, Artsworld, Disney, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, The History Channel (and its siblings Biography, Crime and Investigation) and National Geographic (and its siblings).

The programmes that are downloaded will be a "best of" – they have employed an editor to choose what the programmes will be, and the content will be “editorialised” – so the information about the show will be more than in the current "info" offering.

For example, they might download the first episodes of a new show on Sky One so that if you miss it (or forget to record it) you can catch up with it at your leisure. In the case of hit series like 24 or Lost Sky can even download it to your box prior to transmission time and hide it until it is transmitted at which time it would become available.

Similarly the plan is to download the latest premiere movies and some other things you might not have otherwise watched. Part of the remit of the editor is to try to surprise and find interesting programming across the channels that are part of the service to attract new viewers to those programmes and linear channels. For channels lower down the EPG it provides an interesting advertising window for their programming.

At launch, there will be no adverts within the downloaded programmes.

Once on your disk, you will see a preview window in the top right hand side and a description on the top left hand side changing as you cursor down the programmes that are on the hard disk. The layout also has a date at which the programme will be deleted but just hit the record button and the programme will be saved to your planner to keep for the future. Beware: if you then delete it from the planner it will be gone from the Anytime TV list as well.

Overall this seems like it is a potentially excellent addition to Sky’s offerings. The overnight download will happen automatically and if you have recordings running yours will take preference. To deal with the issue of missed recordings Sky will be retransmitting programmes a number of times to ensure that when your box is inactive it will get all the programming.

So roll on March, if you don’t have a PVR3 or Sky HD box then come March there is a plan to send customers what Sky’s marketing people described as an attractive offer (I assume to upgrade).

The unused 80Gb of space had been a point of heated debate and some controversy, since the PVR3 was launched. But this seems to be a good offering that I really welcome. The only caveat is that Sky Anytime TV appears to be a one-way conversation: users can't indicate which shows they love or hate. The rumour mill suggests a further, and more substantial upgrade, will be released in Q4 2007.

On a related note. Sky Digi Online suggests that Sky+ will be free to all users from February 12th! I'll most certainly downgrade my package to Movies, Entertainment and Music mix!

Friday, 2 February 2007

Wii Buy

Supplies of Nintendo Wii remain relatively low in Europe! Certainly there's been no upsurge in inventory and eBay sellers continue to exploit the market. Purportedly more stocks will arrive in March. This coincides with the launch of Sony's PlayStation 3!

For those readers lucky enough to own a Wii. If you haven't already purchased a Secure Digital (SD) memory card, which is required for storing game saves (in addition to the built-in flash memory), photo editing and downloading Virtual Console games. Amazon.co.uk is selling SanDisk's SD 512MB Memory Card, officially licensed by Nintendo, for £8.87. That's a massive 56% reduction on the suggested retail price of £19.99! Mine arrived this morning and it's a bargain.