By Alexander Villafania
MANILA, Philippines -- A video game convention scheduled this month hopes to encourage growth of the video game industry in Asia, its organizer said.
"We would like to see the competitiveness of video game industry in Asia-Pacific to the level similar to the ones in Europe, Japan and the US. We believe competition would bring positive results to the industry, where everyone would strive to make the best game and provide the best game services," said Leipziger Messe International (LMI) Asia Managing Director Joerg Zeissig about the upcoming Game Convention Asia (GCA), the Asian adaptation of a major European video game conference. LMI is organizing the GCA.
Zeissig said Asia Pacific needed a platform for the industry to grow, which resulted in the creation of the GCA. However, he said that the GCA will not become a copycat of the European Game Convention.
“We would like to see the competitiveness of video game industry in Asia-Pacific to the level similar to the ones in Europe, Japan and the US [and] have GCA [become] the arena where all gaming companies will gather [to] showcase their products and services," he said in a reply to questions from hackenslash.
GCA is set to happen on September 18 to 20, 2008 in Singapore's Suntec Exhibition and Convention Centre. This would be a follow-up to the first GCA event also held in Singapore last year.
Zeissig also acknowledged that Asia's video game industry is far different from the European and American market since it is the online multiplayer games that dominate the Asian region. This obvious difference makes it more challenging for developers to create games that target this specific market.
He added that the LMI aims to "inspire" young gaming companies and publishers from Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.
LMI recently set up an office in Singapore in preparation for the upcoming event, as well as to push through with other projects in the region.
Zeissig said that speakers for the event would include Nexon CEO Joonmo Kwon, Crytek founder Cevat Yerli and renowned video game designer Peter Molyneux. Electronic Arts and Maxsoft Online will showcase new products. Replay Interactive will show off new games from developers THQ and KOEI.
By Jennifer Tan
SINGAPORE -- Jet-powered cars, aliens, moon colonies and robots.
To many, this is the stuff of science fiction. But for Electronic Arts Inc creative guru Will Wright, they represent some of his most obsessive pursuits and the seeds of inspiration for his hotly anticipated video game, Spore.
Launching Sept. 7, Spore allows players to create empires and civilizations across galaxies, populated by creatures, buildings and spaceships.
Atlanta-born Wright, a bespectacled, mop-haired alien obsessive who builds robots for research purposes, said Spore was inspired by the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program.
"I believe there are other intelligences out there, and the closest is several galaxies away," said Wright, 48, who grew up building model cars and dreaming of space travel.
The launch of Spore comes at a critical time for loss-making EA, which is battling Activision Blizzard Inc. for preeminence in the fast-growing $28 billion-a-year video games market.
Evan Wilson, analyst with Pacific Crest Securities, describes 2009 as a "do-or-die year" for EA.
Though the consequences of Spore's failure for EA are uppermost in analysts' minds, Wright is widely seen as up to the task.
A seminal figure in the games industry, observers tend to reach for superlatives when they assess his importance to the company.
"Will is the Albert Einstein of the gaming business -- no one else is pushing boundaries like he is," said Geoff Keighley, the host of GameTrailers TV, a specialist web-based video games review.
"He is right up there with Shigeru Miyamoto in terms of his contributions to the gaming industry," Keighley added, referring to Nintendo Co Ltd's legendary games designer who created many of the firm's smash hits like Donkey Kong.
Wright developed his blockbuster game The Sims while at Maxis, the company he co-founded and sold to EA in 1997.
The Sims, where players create home environments in which characters did mundane tasks like cooking and moving furniture, surpassed expectations and went on to sell over 100 million copies.
Version 3 is in the pipeline and it, along with Spore, is among a raft of new games seen as critical to EA's future as it struggles with tepid sales and flagging interest from gamers.
There are no guarantees, as Wright knows to his cost. His most striking flop was The Sims Online, a multi-player version of The Sims that never caught on and was shut earlier this month.
"He clearly didn't understand what makes those kinds of games work well, so The Sims Online was a pretty serious failure," said Timothy Burke, a cultural historian at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.
Spore itself has not been without its share of challenges. First announced in 2005, it was originally slated for launch in 2007.
Spore's strong pedigree bodes well for sales, says Colin Sebastian, analyst at Lazard Capital Markets in San Francisco, though he acknowledges it is not yet clear if Spore will see Wright reproducing his best form.
"It's too early to say if Wright is a one-hit wonder," he added.
By Alexander Villafania
THE NBA video game series from Electronic Arts Sports may perhaps be the most popular sports title in the Philippines. iPlay, the casual games joint venture of e-Games and TV company GMA, is taking the title even further to the online gaming market.
iPlay invited technology and gaming journalists to attend the launch of NBA Street Online, which is reported to be the first massively-multiplayer online sports game of EA's Canadian development branch.
Details have been withheld until the local launch date but from what has been gathered, EA co-developed the game with a Korean firm, Neowiz.
One Taiwanese company, Gigamedia Limited confirmed in July that it will be distributing the game in China. The existence of the game has only been confirmed through press releases though EA's official sites have not disclosed the game.
Nonetheless, the NBA Street franchise is well-known game for the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube, with the latest console version, NBA Street Homecourt, to be released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation3.
The console game versions are all three-on-three multiplayer basketball games that are set in public courts, thus the name.
Not surprisingly, NBA Street Online could compete directly with Freestyle Online, the first online basketball game in the Philippines distributed by e-Games rival Level-Up! which is also a three-on-three game played on public basketballs courts.
SEATTLE -- Sales of video game hardware, software and accessories in the United States rose 28 percent in July from a year earlier, boosted by continued strong demand for Nintendo Co Ltd's Wii console, recent data from research firm NPD showed.
Sony Corp's PlayStation 3 outsold Microsoft Corp's Xbox 360 game console in July, selling 224,900 PS3 versus 204,800 Xbox 360 machines in the United States. The Wii outsold both systems combined, tallying 555,000 units sold during the month.
The top selling game in July was Electronic Arts' "NCAA Football 09," which debuted during the month. It sold nearly 400,000 units in the United States.
By Alexander Villafania
MANILA, Philippines -- Singapore-based video game distributor New Era Digital Interactive Media Inc. is refreshing its business in the Philippines in measured steps, as it prepares to introduce two online games in the coming weeks.
The company is also preparing to launch two "huge titles" that will target gamers in Internet cafes, the company said.
Allan Carbonell, newly appointed New Era Digital Interactive Media country manager, told hackenslash that the company will introduce the virtual social networking game Habbo, owned by Finnish firm Sulake Corporation, soon.
The game, which plays like the first Philippine online game OZWorld, uses configurable avatars to represent account owners. Players can open their own pages called Habbo Homes and customize these with widgets, stickers and backgrounds. They can also form group pages where members can lounge.
Just like any other social networking sites, Habbo has “virtual hotel rooms” where players can communicate with other avatars.
Habbo is touted as one of the most popular social networking sites. It has over 100,000,000 registered users worldwide with 9.5 million unique visits per month. Most users are between 13 and 18 years of age.
Carbonell said New Era will distribute and promote the game in the Philippines but the game will be hosted in Singapore.
"By September we're introducing prepaid cards for players of Habbo. These will be in denominations of P50 and P100. These will allow them to buy items and virtual furniture but the game itself will be free-to-play," he said.
Apart from Habbo, the company will also distribute boxed online game, called "Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures," which is similar to online game "Guild Wars" already distributed in the country.
Carbonell said that the company is in the process of opening up an office in Ortigas Center, Pasig City.
By September, the company will be announcing two "big titles" that will be available through Internet cafes, though these games will be available by the end of the year.
"New era is coming in measured steps. We don't expect our initial games to make a huge impact but before the end of the year, we're introducing these big games," Carbonell said.
By Agence France-Presse
BANGKOK--Copies of the GTA were taken off the shop shelves in Thailand on Tuesday following news about a teenager allegedly killing a taxi driver in a copycat crime.
The New Era Interactive Media company, the only legal distributor of the games and software, expressed regret over the incident on its website.
"We have stopped selling Grand Theft Auto (GTA) and inform all legal vendors to withdraw the game from their shelves," the company said in an online statement.
"The company will not import GTA 4 (the next in the series) to distribute in Thailand," it added.
The company also warned people to be careful about the types of computer games they buy and urged friends and relatives of gamers to watch their behavior closely when playing.
A Thai teenager incensed that he could not afford to play the violent computer game GTA robbed a taxi driver and stabbed him to death in his cab, police said Monday.
The 18-year-old male high-school student whose name was withheld was arrested on Sunday after police found the bloody body of a 50-year-old Bangkok taxi driver slumped in his car.
"He confessed that he committed the crime because he had copied it from the game he played," Bangkok police Captain Veerarit Pipatanasak told Agence France-Presse.
The teenager was charged with robbery and possession of a weapon, and could face the death penalty or life imprisonment if convicted, Veerarit said.
"He wanted money to play the game. His parents, who work as civil servants, did not have enough money to give him," he added.
Instead, the teen spent his 500-baht ($15) allowance on two knives.
The Grand Theft Auto computer game series, which has sold about 70 million copies, has come under fire for its graphic depiction of casual violence, drug dealing and prostitution.