Friday, 31 August 2007

Wii Breaks UK Sales Record

Nintendo’s Wii system has become the fastest-ever selling console in UK history, racking up over 1 million sales in just 38 weeks.

According to figures released Thursday by sales data trackers Chart Track, Nintendo’s Wii passed the 1 million sales mark 11 weeks faster than the previous record holder, Sony’s PlayStation 2, which took 50 weeks to achieve the feat, and 22 weeks earlier than Microsoft's Xbox 360, which took 60 weeks to hit one million UK sales.

The Wii now reportedly claims a 68 percent share of the UK home console market, while Nintendo’s DS system also has an 86 percent share of the UK handheld console market.

"The non-stop demand for Wii even in the traditionally slow sales periods for video games in the UK is clearly behind this record breaking achievement,” said David Yarnton, general manager of Nintendo UK.

“The performance of both systems appears to indicate that unprecedented interactive entertainment experiences, provided by a combination of the revolutionary nature of DS and Wii with the increasing number of unique software titles for the system from Nintendo and third parties, are being enjoyed by both avid and new gamers of all ages.

“With more great games such as Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3 and Endless Ocean launching in 2007, Wii, together with Nintendo DS, will continue to be the main driving forces behind the expansion of the video game market this year."

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Transforming Scribes

Dorling Kindersley (DK) and myself are offering one lucky reader a chance to win a copy of the terrific Transformers: The Movie Guide book, which sports an eye-catching lenticular hologram morphing from Autobot insignia to Optimus Prime.



This hardback book is a backstage pass to the "Transformers" movie. Get under the metal and discover more about the Robots in Disguise in this spectacular guide to the earth-stopping film.

Packed with incredible images, this book enables you to check out transport and locations from the Transformers universe and come face-to-mask with all your favourite characters from Optimus Prime to Megatron. Plus, get a fascinating insight into all the bots and take a serious look at their unstoppable powers (but keep your distance!).

To enter for a chance of winning this prize, please leave a comment. Good luck. Special thanks to DK for supplying the competition prize.

Explore the Star Wars galaxy through DK books.

About DK books
Since 1974, Dorling Kindersley has published an extensive range of internationally acclaimed titles in 51 languages for adults and children. As the UK's market leader in illustrated non-fiction, we pride ourselves on creating books that combine comprehensive information and superb design.

Over the years, as the world's leading family illustrated publisher, we have inspired and informed readers who find DK books to be educational, distinctive and of consistently high quality. We value this reputation and will continue to create reference titles that are, without question, exceptional.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Add Chitika to Facebook

Chitika has launched iBought:

iBought is our newest Facebook application that lets you show off the cool gadgets & items you've bought. Watch out because your friends will rate your purchases by giving you a thumbs up or down. (Don't worry you will get a chance to rate them back!) The best part is you will get $1.00 every single time you get someone to add the Facebook application, whether you use Facebook or not!

Promote this application in your blog or website or add a referral banner. All they have to do is add the application and you get $1.oo:




Don't wait - you could lose your chance to earn!
This promotional offer will be given to the first 10,000 downloads only. That means Chitika is giving away $10,000 in total for referral revenue on Facebook! Example: 20 referrals = $20.00. Grab your code now for your chunk of cash before someone else does and it is gone!

Friday, 24 August 2007

Elite Launch

Xbox 360 Elite launches today! It may lack the razzle-dazzle of a true next generation console release (this is a marketing relaunch). But, is significant in so much as Microsoft can now begin aggressive price reductions, in earnest and much to Sony's chagrin, and introduce the feted Falcon - the internal codename for their updated Xbox 360 motherboard housing smaller, cooler, 65nm Xenos and Xenon chips - and improve product reliability!

The "red ring of death", as it's known to gamers, has fuelled consumer anxiety and resistance since the Xbox 360 debuted, overheating, in holiday 2005. Subsequently the console has attained the brand diluting reputation of an alleged 33% hardware failure rate. With the benefit of hindsight it appears that I was wise to cancel my pre-order!

The Elite includes a 120GB hard drive, a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port, a high-definition cable, and a premium black finish for the console, wireless controller, and Xbox Live headset.

A welcome iterative upgrade, the Elite still falls short compared to the PS3's multimedia credentials! The form factor remains unchanged, the Falcon isn't in mass production yet, and there's no Wi-Fi or HD DVD out-of-the-box. And, perhaps a deal breaker for some, US-based gamers are already reporting that the Xbox 360 Premium console is now sporting HDMI too!

This calls into question the Xbox 360 Elite's desirability and value. However, I'll leave that vexing conundrum to you and daydream about playing Virtua Fighter 5 (Xbox 360) on a redesigned machine using 45nm chips. Have a good weekend y'all.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

BioShock Boot Camp

BioShock (Xbox 360) is the "genetically enhanced" first person shooter that lets you do things never before possible in the genre: turn everything into a weapon, biologically mod your body with plasmids, hack devices and systems, upgrade your weapons and craft new ammo variants, and experiment with different battle techniques in an incredible and unique underwater city.

You are a cast-away in Rapture, an underwater Utopia torn apart by civil war. Caught between powerful forces, and hunted down by genetically modified splicers and deadly security systems, you have to come to grips with a deadly, mysterious world filled with powerful technology and fascinating characters. No encounter ever plays out the same, and no two gamers will play the game the same way.

BioShock is loaded with some of the greatest, most modifiable weapons to ever blast their way into a shooter. But guns alone won't be enough to defeat the devious AIs of Rapture. There are literally hundreds of other strategies players can use to take out their enemies.

Here are just a handful of reviews for this landmark video game:

Official Xbox Magazine (UK) 100/100
"Amazingly written and beautifully constructed, it's a complete emotional rollercoaster which we can't draw any parallels with. . . You'll be playing this game for months to come, exchanging story elements to build up the bigger picture, and arguing about what it all means."

Eurogamer Review 10/10
"It takes the tired, worn-out FPS genre by the scruff of the neck, reinvents and bends it out of shape in such a breathtaking fashion that it's going to take something very special to top this in the months and years ahead."

Gameinformer 10/10
"It’s ingenious, enthralling, and a masterpiece of the most epic proportions. In terms of delivering chilling atmosphere, dynamic combat, and startling revelations, games just don’t come any better than BioShock."

Gametap 10/10
"BioShock is one of the few games that I’ve reviewed in my entire career that I feverishly want to go back through and play again."

1up 10/10
". . . . . an experience that's richly and utterly complete, and one that engages the player in a constant dialogue, BioShock is virtually unassailable."

Games Radar 10/10
"A mesmerising masterpiece of horror, the only glaring weakness we can find in BioShock is that it may be too unusual, too original, too artistic and too genius to be embraced by the general public."

GamePro 5/5
"It leaves its mark on a genre that has its fair share of memorable titles and it does it with style and panache. It is easily one of the best games of the year."

Gamespy 5/5
"An unparalleled achievement. No other game comes even remotely close to it in terms of raw emotional connection."

UGO.com A
"There's nothing which will make you ever want to stop playing; you'll simply curse under your breath and get on with killing Splicers and hunting Little Sisters."

IGN 9.7/10
"BioShock stands as a monolithic example of the convergence of entertaining gameplay and an irresistibly sinister, engrossing storyline that encompasses a host of multifaceted characters. This is an essential gaming experience."

Teamxbox 9.5/10
"It's inventive and entertaining, with a number of twists and unexpected situations that'll have you on the edge of your seat. . . It's rare to find a game that has both quality in its engineering and quality in its gameplay."

PC Gamer (UK) 9.5/10
"Succeeds so stunningly on three fronts: narrative, emergence, and a sense of place. If another game did just one of these as well as BioShock, it would immediately qualify as a classic. When a game comes along that does all three, we can only be baffled and thankful."

Xbox World 360 9.4/10
"It's a gruelling game of resource management, and as the ammunition dries up, you end up having to improvise. And more often than not, Bioshock will reward you heavily for thinking outside the box."

Such unanimous praise, from the upper echelons of the gaming press, has convinced me to pre-order BioShock (PC), thus proving the maximum that 'Boot Camp is for Games' too! The more adventurous, amongst you, may even go as far as buying an Xbox 360 Elite to play this on!

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Wii Board

Have you downloaded Wii firmware 3.0E, via software update, yet? If not, you're missing out on the following improvements and today's fix for the Opera browser and Wii LAN Adapter stability!

Channels:
*Digital Clock added to the Wii Menu right under the channel bar
*Forecast Channel now displays the current condition directly in the Wii Menu in the Forecast Channel box
*News Channel can now show 2 scrolling headlines at a time in the Wii Menu, 3 when you click on the button
*Message Board now has the "Today's Accomplishments" message as a white message which allows it to stand out from other messages
*Address Book entries can now be shifted around using A+B but only to empty spaces.
*Calendar in Message Board no longer shows "Today's Accomplishment"
*Scrolling messages in the Message Board now uses a different sound

Wii Shop Channel
*New Welcome screen detailing 4 Recommended Titles and the points they cost. The title bar can be clicked on to bring up a list of 20 recommended games.
*Titles You've Downloaded was moved to the main shop menu
*New ways to browse
*Popular Titles
*Newest Additions remains the same
*Search for a title which can use partial names
*Search by Category
*Search by Publisher
*Search by Genre
*System shows the different systems and how many titles have been released under each

Settings
Pre-system update warning details that technically modified consoles may cease to function upon being updated. Also the only way to not accept an update is to power down the console by holding the button for 4 seconds.

The most exciting unconfirmed development, specifically for peripheral junkies, is purported support for a USB keyboard within the Wii Shop! Time to connect my Apple keyboard to Wii.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Pimp Daddy Destro (PDD)

In the early hours I successfully made an offer on SDCC 2007 Exclusives: Alternator Rodimus and Titanium Menasor! The eBay seller agreed to sell both limited edition Transformers, highly prized by collectors, for £39.99! That's a bargain given that Alternator Rodimus has been fetching over £50 and UK importers are charging £29.99 for Titanium Menasor!

Now I'm on the look out for the SDCC 2007 Exclusive Pimp Daddy Destro or PDD as he's known in the collecting community. Pimp Daddy Destro has been reissued as part of Hasbro's celebration to mark the 25th Anniversary of the G.I. Joe franchise.

Destro (originally known as Red Jackal - a member of The Red Shadows - in the UK) remains one of my all-time favourite action figures. Again, if readers could help me with acquiring either a gold or silver variant, I'd be most grateful. Thank you.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Requesting SDCC Exclusive Alternator Rodimus

This author needs your help!

Can someone please assist me in procuring a Transformers Alternator Rodimus, which was an exclusive at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) 2007 and only sold at HasbroToyShop.com?

Hasbro has sold its entire online consignment and eBay prices are, invariably, too high!

Any tips, suggestions and assists regarding acquiring an Alternator Rodimus, leave a comment.

Thank you in advance.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Michael Jackson's Sonic 3 Album

How on Earth did this slip past my radar? Back in the late '80s Michael Jackson signed an endorsement deal with Sega America, which produced the arcade and Mega Drive smash hit Moonwalker (1990). A fact that I've covered in a previous post.

With the success of Sonic The Hedgehog (1991), Sega's blue mascot, reaching its zenith with the release of Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (1992) (an essential Virtual Console purchase), Michael Jackson approached the Sega Technical Institute (STI), at one time an elite organisation within Sega America that developed acclaimed titles such as Kid Chameleon and Comix Zone, about scoring the soundtrack for the upcoming Sonic 3 (1994)!

Purportedly the completed score, composed, arranged and performed by Michael Jackson and the musicians who worked on the Dangerous (1991) recording sessions, was axed, at a very late stage of Sonic 3's development, due to the first public allegations of child molestation against the singer in 1993.

However, there's compelling evidence that some, if not all, of Michael Jackson's arrangements remained in the original release of Sonic 3 on the Mega Drive! Certainly the 'Dangerous sound' is unmistakeable and there's a hint of future projects HIStory (1995) and HIStory In The Mix (1997). It is worth noting that whilst Michael Jackson's official involvement was removed from all publicity and in-game end credits, his album session musicians, predominantly keyboard programmers, provided the final Sonic 3 score.

Bobby Brooks - engineer for Michael Jackson. Sequenced synthesizers and drums on Blood on the Dance Floor and mixed HIStory.

Darryl Ross
- vague, ill-defined resume credit: "Darryl Ross is an accomplished producer, musician, songwriter, arranger and vocalist. Artists he worked with are Michael Jackson...".

Geoff Grace
- arranger for Michael Jackson. Credited for arranging the music for Jackson's Dangerous tour.

Brad Buxer
- performed arranging, keyboards, sequencing and more for Blood on the Dance Floor and Invincible.

Doug Grigsby
- unknown credit on HIStory.

Of all Michael Jackson's keyboard virtuosos, Greg Phillinganes is notable by his absence! He has toured with Jackson and was a session keyboardist on his Sony solo albums.

Latterly Michael Jackson makes a cameo appearance in both Sega's Space Channel 5 and Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Jedi Master of My Domain

We all know that new iMacs are on their way today. Therefore this post will be self-indulgent and focus on the very blog that you are reading!

Blogger introduced custom domain name support in January 2007! This blog has been online for over 3 years and, somewhat belatedly, I've finally registered a domain name:

http://www.generationstarwars.com/

Redirection from http://johnhood.blogspot.com/ is automatic (what's called a 301 permanent redirect). But apologies, in advance, for any technical issues in the short-to-mid term. I've not experienced any issues using the following browsers Opera, Safari, Firefox or IE 7 (in Windows Vista Home Premium).

Subscribers to my RSS feed - powered by FeedBurner - do not have to make any changes to their subscription! Matt Shobe, at FeedBurner, confirmed that my decision to change the source feed from

http://johnhood.blogspot.com/atom.xml

to

http://www.generationstarwars.com/atom.xml

was correct. RSS goodness is uninterrupted.

I'm feverishly working on ways to minimise the impact of a domain name change on my search engine rankings - old Google PageRank was 4 (on the cusp of 5), new PageRank is 0. However, I'd encourage anyone setting up their site, who intends to blog frequently and in the longer term, to register a domain name as soon as possible! Maybe even prior to your blog going live or increased marketing activities.

Lastly, remember to create a new sitemap for your new domain and remove the existing one as Google may remove your site(s) from its search engine - duplicate content is a no, no!

Monday, 6 August 2007

The One

Looks like there's a bug (or three) with the latest Windows Live OneCare 2.0 Beta! OneCare Tune-up appears to run correctly, but upon completion reports innumerable errors! For example an unknown error prevented Disk Fragmentation (perhaps due to Boot Camp disk partitioning). However, when I log back in, it reports that the PC status is good. Initially I assumed that my Windows Vista Home Premium installation was at fault!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this story. My OEM (original equipment manufacturer) copy of Windows Vista Home Premium is installed, via Boot Camp, on Intel-based Mac hardware and presumably is not officially supported (if someone at Microsoft would like to clarify the company's position regarding Intel-based Mac hardware, I'd be happy to post). It is worth pointing out that product activation was successful. Therefore, if you're wondering whether or not to opt for the considerably cheaper OEM edition, I'd suggest that you go ahead, your bank manager will thank you.

I decided to post a query on The Windows Experience Blog. Brandon has kindly confirmed that this issue is affecting some (if not all) PCs too. I'll await the next automated update.

Overall Windows Live OneCare neatly integrates automated anti-virus and malware protection, updates, PC performance and backup services within a single easy-to-use front-end. Think .Mac, albeit splintered, during its infancy.

I doubt if I'll be using Windows Vista Home Premium enough to justify purchasing an annual subscription once the free trial ends. Should .Mac integrate Google goodies sans subscription (as early as tomorrow's new Mac announcements and evinced by current iDisk outages), Microsoft maybe forced to review its subscription-based strategy. This would be a win-win for both Mac and Windows users.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

"Underwater, no one can hear you scream."

Nerd alert!

Spent a pleasant afternoon basking in the sunshine on Exmouth seafront and envisaging Transformers Seacons, an aquatic team of Decepticons that combined to form Piranacon (known as King Poseidon in Japan), harassing swimmers, jet skiers and kite surfers! Old habits die hard, blame Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975) and the recent media moral panic surrounding alleged Great White shark sightings off of the Cornish coast!

A monolithic menace. The diabolical combination of the five Seacons who comprise him. Master at undersea warfare. Few Autobots can outdistance him or escape his evil clutches. Destroys everything in his path with ghoulish glee. A troublemaker and malcontent. Rarely follows orders. Fellow Decepticons are unable to control him. Capable of creating colossal tidal waves over 300 feet high. Because of his incredible size, Piranacon's reflexes are impaired out of water. Armed with the Seacons' entire arsenal of firepower.

This evening I've been analysing site search statistics. And the top two search terms for this blog are:

1). Jennifer Love Hewitt
2). Scarlett Johansson

Hmm...

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Prime Time

I've bitten the bullet! Transformers Movie - Leader Optimus Prime is on order from Amazon.co.uk!

For thousands of years, Optimus Prime and his Autobots have travelled through space in search of the Allspark. For all that time, the Autobot leader has held one goal in mind - to protect the universe from the evil of Megatron. For this massive, metal warrior, nothing is more important than freedom; he will sacrifice all for its preservation. He has fought for centuries, modifying his body into an unstoppable war machine, preparing for that day he knows is coming when he and Megatron meet for one final battle!

Get ready to rule the universe with this awesome Optimus Prime figure that features Advanced Automorph Technology! This Transformers technology is designed to enhance vehicle-to-robot conversion with partially animated mechanical triggers that activate the final shift to battle mode. See armor slide to protect vital points! Flip down the Ion Blaster in robot mode to launch the projectile! And press the button in vehicle mode for electronic horn sounds and lights!

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

A World Transformed



It is a world Transformed. Where things are not what they seem. It is the world of The Transformers. A world of Heroic Autobots and Evil Decepticons.

I'll presage this review with the following caveats. Transformers are one of my all-time favourite toy lines (an admission made in many a previous post)! The notion of a live-action movie, directed by Michael Bay, left me apathetic. I really enjoyed The Island (2005)!

Knowing that this movie was going to be big on excess, I hadn't foreseen that the regular Pepsi, I'd purchased in the cinema foyer, would be super-sized too! Fellow Star Wars fans maybe interested to learn that a very cool Nintendo Wii redemption machine spouted sound effects and dialogue from our beloved saga! At first I thought I was hallucinating - RD-D2 beeps and Obi-Wan Kenobi intoned "Trust your feelings!"

Not since Jurassic Park (1993) has an audience (myself included) been so willingly caught up in movie mayhem - like osmosis. This happened during Saturday evening's showing of Transformers at the Odeon, Colchester. Incidentally, I watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and For Your Eyes Only (1981) at this venue.

Unlike Steven Spielberg's deft (if no less commercial) decision to delay the dinosaur reveal in Jurassic Park for up to an hour. Michael Bay, aided and abetted by Spielberg's distrust of a generation exposed to instant gratification, thrusts us, tumbling, into the action!

Blackout, a monstrous Decepticon, and the first Transformer introduced, makes a bombastic entry; heralded by a cacophony of sonic booms that would delight even the most demanding fan of James Cameron tech noir. Keep your ears peeled for the classic Transformers transformation sound, taken from the original Marvel cartoon series, now amped-up to deafening levels and with no signs of distortion. This sent chills of excitement down my spine!

There's much to enjoy not least the attention to detail lavished on the Transformers, themselves, by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). Whether watching charismatic lead Sam Witwicky (played by Shia LaBeouf) whose empathy with Bumblebee, an Autobot scout, recounts Elliot's friendship with E.T. (1982) or an Autobot titan emerge from a suburban swimming pool and step over a young girl carrying a plush My Little Pony (another successful Hasbro franchise, which shared names with Transformers and G.I. Joe. For example, Beachcomber, Cosmos, and Seaspray were both My Little Ponies and Transformers characters, and Firefly was both a My Little Pony and a G.I. Joe character).

There's humour too! And laugh-out-loud you will! Sam Witwicky astride his mother's bicycle and pursued by Bumblebee, brought the house down and could have been taken from any number of popular Spielberg produced movies such as The Goonies (1985) or Explorers (1985). Frenzy (the original toy was an audio tape cassette and one of the earliest Transformers I owned), an impish switchblade endoskeleton of a Decepticon, delights in Gremlins (1984) mayhem, droid-like discourses and an homage to John Carpenter's The Thing (1982). Diagetic and non-diagetic sound is used to underscore the comedy too.

Enter Optimus Prime. Of all the Transformers, Optimus Prime is held in greatest reverence (on a personal note my late mother bought me the original Optimus Prime - as a surprise gift - whilst I was off, sick, from school in 1984). No longer a Freightliner Cab-over-engine. Prime's alternate mode, a Peterbilt 379, replete with stylish flame decals, reminded me of Kenner's M.A.S.K Rhino toy (Kenner merged with Hasbro in the early 90's). When he gracefully transforms into a gleaming god-like mecha I gulped and wiped tears from my eyes!

Advertising aplenty! A movie about toys wouldn't be ironic sans product placements! And Transformers is filled to the max with Hewlett Packard, Apple and endless eBay expositions.

Aside from the usual gripes levelled at Michael Bay - disorientating camera angles propelled by dizzying editing and jarring slow-mo, which culminates in a palpable sense of nausea (taking the roller coaster metaphor too literally). All-in-all Transformers transported me back to a galaxy far, far away and left me smiling from ear-to-ear.