By Reuters SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft Corp sold 28 million units worldwide of its Xbox 360 video game console through the end of 2008, expanding the Xbox's lead over rival Sony Corp's PlayStation 3 console in worldwide unit sales, the company said on Monday. Xbox 360 product management director Aaron Greenberg said 2008 "was our biggest year ever in Xbox history" despite a sluggish global economy that's battered US retailers this past holiday season. Rising unemployment and tighter credit have dented US consumers' purchasing power and most retailers have posted dismal sales results in recent months. Despite problems by some publishers, the video game industry overall has bucked the trend as market researcher NPD said video games sales rose 10 percent and totaled $2.91 billion in November, proving consumers were still spending on video games at the beginning of the holiday season despite the sour economy. Microsoft said global unit sales of the Xbox 360, which was launched about a year before the PS3, outpaced its rival by over 8 million units at the close of 2008. Online consumer spending on Microsoft's Xbox Live online service increased 84 percent year-over-year and members of the Xbox Live community rose to over 17 million members at the end of 2008, the company said. Consumers have spent over $1 billion on Microsoft's Xbox Live online service since its launch for the 360 in 2005, according the Microsoft. Greenberg noted "the $199 price point (of the Xbox 360) was really critical to our success this holiday." Microsoft cut the US price of its entry-level console in September to $199, or $50 below Nintendo Co Ltd's Wii console.
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By Agence France-Presse OTTAWA -- A Canadian boy who ran away from home after his father took away his Xbox game console has been found dead in a cornfield, local media said Wednesday. Brandon Crisp, 15, took off on his bicycle from his Barrie, Ontario home on October 13, provoking a massive police search with help from 1,600 volunteers that turned up no clues except for his abandoned bicycle with a flat tire. Xbox-maker Microsoft and others had offered a 50,000-dollar (39,000-dollar US) reward for information on his whereabouts. Wednesday, police said only that hunters had found a body in the search area. The daily Toronto Star said on its website Brandon's parents had been notified it was their son, and students at his school were told the sad news at an afternoon assembly. Brandon's father previously said he had removed Brandon's Xbox after noticing changes in his behavior since Brandon started playing "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" online. The boy started skipping school, stealing money and ignoring his studies, his father said. In an interview with the daily Globe and Mail, the boy's father, Steve Crisp, said he had not known how important the gaming system was to his son and how he would react when it was taken away. Experts commented that gamers may form bonds with fellow online players. "This had become his identity, and I didn't realize how in-depth this was until I took his Xbox away," Steve Crisp told the Globe and Mail. "That's like cutting his legs off." "This is such an issue that hits every parent out there, with video games that are starting to control our kids' lives," he said. "I just took away his identity, so I can understand why he got so mad and took off. Before, I couldn't understand why he was taking off for taking his game away."
By Agence France-Presse OTTAWA -- US software behemoth Microsoft has doubled a cash reward for information on the whereabouts of a Canadian boy who ran away from home after his father took away his Xbox game console, it said Tuesday. Brandon Crisp, 15, took off on his bicycle from his Barrie, Ontario home on October 13 -- Canada's Thanksgiving holiday -- and rode east along an old rail line. He has not been seen since. His father told local media he had removed Brandon's Xbox, built by Microsoft, after noticing changes in behavior since Brandon started playing "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" online. The boy started skipping school, stealing money and ignoring his studies, his father said. A local newspaper, the family's Internet service provider and Child Find offered a 25,000-dollar (19,500-dollar US) reward for information leading to his return. Microsoft topped it up with another 25,000 dollars, the company said Tuesday in an email to AFP, "hoping for his swift return." "Like everyone, we are deeply worried about the disappearance of Brandon Crisp," the company said. Exhaustive searches have not turned up a single clue beyond the boy's bicycle, found last week with a flat tire. Police are said to be examining who Brandon played with online. "Law enforcement has contacted Microsoft about this matter and we are cooperating fully with them," said Microsoft. On Sunday, 1,600 volunteer searchers packed up their reflective vests and ended their efforts to find him, while police stopped their air and water search. In an interview with the daily Globe and Mail, the boy's father, Steve Crisp, said he had not known how important the gaming system was to his son and how he would react when it was taken away. Experts commented that gamers may form bonds with fellow online players. "This had become his identity, and I didn't realize how in-depth this was until I took his Xbox away," Steve Crisp told the Globe and Mail. "That's like cutting his legs off." "This is such an issue that hits every parent out there, with video games that are starting to control our kids' lives," he said. "I just took away his identity, so I can understand why he got so mad and took off. Before, I couldn't understand why he was taking off for taking his game away." Now, Brandon's father says he just wants his son to come home.
By Alexander Villafania INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippies -- Two members of the Filipino gaming console forum PinoyXbox were named the Philippines’ Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVP). The husband-and-wife moderators of PinoyXbox, Philip and Joanne Ortiz, will join the ranks of 20 other Filipino MVPs, a recognition given to the best Microsoft professionals and advocates. In a letter to the PinoyXbox forum, Microsoft Philippines Technology Specialist Jojo Ayson said the Ortizes were recognized under the Xbox MVP category, which gives recognition to people who made significant contributions in the promotion of the Xbox gaming platform. There are now a total of three gamers from the Philippines who have been awarded with MVP titles, Ayson said. Overall, there are only 42 Xbox MVPs worldwide, excluding the Ortizes, and 16 awardees for the category of “Games for Windows MVPs.” Ayson said MVPs are given certain privileges, including exclusive access to special websites that feature early releases of Microsoft products, and subscription to software support. "In the case of Philip and Joanne, it could be game titles or some products related to the Xbox 360," Ayson said, citing the experience of Rodriguez who gets new Microsoft PC games. The MVP title is refreshed every year, which means all MVPs will have to continuously update their blogs and forum presence. "Remember that this award comes after the fact that the awardees have been advocates of Microsoft products. They have to continue promoting their passion for these products," Ayson said. Philip Ortiz told hackenslash that their MVP status is a rare opportunity that recognizes their efforts in promoting gaming in the country. He added that it could be a step towards the country bring recognized as a potential market for Xbox games. "Perhaps Microsoft would finally bring the Xbox as a product in the Philippines. It may not start with the Xbox 360 but perhaps when the next Xbox comes," Ortiz said. Incidentally, a PC gamer, Adrian Rodirguez (Deadaimgames.spaces.live.com), was awarded as MVP for his PC gaming advocacy.
By Agence France-Presse SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft said Sunday it is cutting the price of its 20-gigabyte Xbox 360 video game consoles and rolling out a model with three times the memory space to take its place. The US technology giant's announcement comes two days before the official start of a major Electronic Entertainment Expo at which video game console makers will be striving to portray their hardware as superior. Microsoft said it will trim $50 from Xbox 360 models with 20 gigabytes in the United States or Canada, cutting prices to $299. An upgraded Xbox 360 Pro model with 60 gigabytes of memory will hit markets in those same two countries in August with $349 price tags, according to the Redmond, Washington-based firm. The reasoning for the boost in memory capacity is people's interest in storing digital photos, video, music and other data on gaming consoles, which are essentially entertainment computers connected to television sets. "We know consumers need more and more space to store the amazing digital content Xbox 360 offers, and we're giving it to them at no extra charge," said Albert Penello, Xbox director of product management. Sony maintains it has no intention of cutting prices on PlayStation 3 models, which sell in the United States for $400 or $500 depending on memory capacity. Nintendo will be defending Wii's crown as the world's most popular video game console, which is priced at $250 and is snatched from shelves as soon as it arrives in stores. The big three console makers along with video game software makers large and small will be showing off their newest creations at the Expo in Los Angeles during the coming week.
By Agence France-Presse SINGAPORE --Sony has no plans to cut the price of its PlayStation 3 game console, the company's chief financial officer Nobuyuki Oneda said Friday. "This year, our strategy is not to sell more quantity for PS3 but to concentrate on profitability," Oneda told a forum in Singapore. "Our plan is not to reduce the price," he added. His comments followed a report in the Wall Street Journal which said Microsoft plans to cut the price on a popular model of its Xbox 360 game console in an effort to boost sales in the face of stronger competition from rival Sony. The Journal report cited people familiar with the matter who said the price cut would come as early as Sunday. Oneda also said he expects Sony's PS3 operations as well as the broader game segment to be profitable for the current year ending March 2009. With a report from Dow Jones Newswires.
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net TO HELP draw more players to the World Cyber Games Philippines tournaments, the local Microsoft Xbox online forum PinoyXbox.com has started a raffle for players of the two Xbox 360 games included in the WCG preliminaries. The PinoyXbox raffle rules state that players who join the tournaments for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and Virtua Fighter 5, which are the official Xbox 360 games for the WCG, will get the chance to win several Xbox 360 titles. These include Virtua Fighter 5, Project Gotham Racing 4, Universe at War, Grand Theft Auto 4, and a Guitar Hero III bundle, among others. The titles are provided by video game sales shop Ysidro's GameCore and online rental company GameHopper.com. The titles cost between P1,500 pesos to P2,500. Incidentally, the raffle is not officially sanctioned by the organizers of the WCG Philippines tournaments. In an interview, PinoyXbox moderator Philip Ortiz said the raffle was started by PinoyXbox and the game providers and is aimed at enticing Xbox 360 players to join the preliminary competitions for the Xbox 360, which start in June. "But we've talked to the organizers of the WCG and they actually liked the idea. This is to draw up support for the Xbox 360 games. This is our own initiative," Ortiz said. In previous years the only Xbox 360 game fully supported by WCG Philippines was Dead or Alive 4. The first placer in Guitar Hero III will join the Philippine delegate to the WCG Grand Final in Germany in November. Likewise, the second placer in Guitar Hero III and the first placer in Virtua Fighter 5 will go to the Asian Cyber Games competition in Singapore.
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net PINOYXBOX is one of the most prominent console-based gaming forums in the Philippines and is also one of the oldest, having been an offshoot of PinoyExchange. It boasts of 4,000 members, the majority of whom are from the Philippines though some based in other countries. It is pretty much a close-knit society, especially with the availability of Xbox Live, which allows Filipinos to play with or against each other and other nationalities. Husband and wife Philip and Joanne Ortiz are among the moderators of PinoyXbox. They regularly check out the online activities of their members and get loads of information themselves from members. In one particular thread, there were members who stumbled upon Xbox 360 titles and equipment in a warehouse in Mandaluyong City. The two accidentally found an entire RockBand set that they bought for less than half the price in regular shops. Normally, a RockBand set, which consists of a guitar controller, drum set, microphone and the RockBand title, would sell at around P13,000. Here's the video I took of Philip and Joanne, who share some of their experiences as PinoyXbox moderators and Xbox 360 players. "You get loads of information from the users and many of them share their own experiences with others. It's a pretty tight group," Philip said. Xbox Live also enjoys a robust community of Filipino members, most of whom are from PinoyXbox. There are Filipino groups for Halo 3, NBA 2K8, and Call of Duty 3. Philip said there is already a group of Filipino "gangsters" playing Grand Theft Auto IV on Xbox Live. Offline, the group has a few eyeball parties where they also compete with each other in certain games. In their last EB in 2007, they were joined by members who lived abroad. Philip also said the group is getting the attention of such companies as Microsoft Philippines and the organizers of the upcoming World Cyber Games Philippines. Joanne for her part said that one of the advocacies of PinoyXbox is to have their members play only original titles. "With the prevalence of pirated discs, there are opportunities for Xbox 360 owners to play pirated discs instead of original. There is little risk there but they don't see the value of the people who work hard in making these games." Incidentally, here's a video I took of Joanne her brother Rafael Formoso playing Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock on the Xbox 360 on its highest difficulty setting. This, along with the interview with Philip and Joanne, was taken during the WCG Philippines press conference. The song title is "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by Steve Ouimette. Editor's note: Videos taken by INQUIRER.net community evangelist Alex Villafania.
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net IF there's one thing that Xbox 360 owners don't like to see on their beloved game consoles, it's the dreaded 3RL, the three red lights that indicate there is a major hardware malfunction. The 3RL has been around since the first batch of the Xbox 360 came out. The most common thread with the 3RL is that the unit, particularly its graphics processing unit (GPU), overheats and would not work until repairs are made. The 3RL is such a big issue that it may be the main reason why wannabe buyers of Microsoft's gaming machine are holding on to their money, perhaps until better manufacturing processes are put in place so that new batches of Xbox 360s are less prone to hardware failure. In the Philippines, Xbox 360s outnumbered the PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii but owners often complained about the 3RL. Some early users of the Xbox 360s experienced this mishap with a few sometimes buying a new Xbox 360 just to replace the dead one. However, a few enterprising electricians have learned of a potentially huge market for Xbox 360 repairs and have taken it upon themselves learn the innards of the game console and see if they can resurrect a dead and expensive device. Ronald Caleb San Pedro is but one of them and so far, he's making some positive rounds among the community of Xbox 360 owners, especially with members of the local forum PinoyXbox.com. San Pedro, who is just barely out of his teens, said the Xbox 360 repair business was huge enough to convince him to provide repair services -- even if he has never opened any game console before. A PC building enthusiast, San Pedro already had advanced computer hardware knowledge by the time he opened an Xbox 360. He and his friends have years of experience testing different motherboards, processors, graphic cards and other components. Often, he would overclock computers, which meant pushing a computer's processing limits outside its normal threshold. And so he moved from tweaking and fixing computers to trying to salvage lost Xbox 360s. "I started doing this after seeing that there were people who lost their investment in the hardware. It was scary at first but then I learned a lot from information I gathered from the Internet," San Pedro said. San Pedro said that he repairs an average of three units per day. Once a unit is repaired, which takes only a day, he tests it for another day to make sure it works well. However, the sheer volume of damaged Xbox 360s pouring into his shop pushes back the return of the units by at least two weeks. Of course, as in all first attempts at everything, he experienced false starts. San Pedro said he "ruined" three Xbox 360s. It was on the fourth attempt that he first resurrected an Xbox 360. From there, he tested around a bit to find the optimal operational capacity of the Xbox 360 and then make appropriate changes, particularly to the hardware's cooling system. He notes that the Xbox 360 is an efficient machine on its own, being able to beat the latest PC gaming rig at the time of its launch. It had the latest processor, an integrated graphics that was ahead of its time, and wireless connectivity making it more convenient to play with than using wired peripherals. He likened it to a personal computer but only without a traditional operating system. San Pedro gave hackenslash a glimpse of what he does with an overheated Xbox 360. While he claims his process is a "trade secret," he did say that the main component that burns out is the GPU. By cleaning the GPU, then increasing the revolutions per minute of some of the Xbox 360's fans, the unit comes back to live. "The main enemy of the Xbox 360 is heat. Remove the heat and you reduce the chances of hardware failure." Fixing Xbox 360s is no mean feat, according to San Pedro, though it is somewhat like fiddling around with a computer, as the layout would be familiar to PC builders. With only some knowledge of the hardware, one could start fixing an Xbox 360, though it would come with risks. Because all pertinent components are integrated into a single motherboard, the risk of damaging the entire hardware is much greater. A single mistake could render an Xbox 360 useless. But San Pedro said he is confident that the majority of his repairs were successful and very few have returned for further repairs. "Besides, I give a six-month warranty," he said. For now, San Pedro said he is comfortable with his business fixing Xbox 360s. Even fresh manufacturing processes by Microsoft intended to produce more stable Xbox 360s does not worry him. "I think I have a few more years in this business as long as there are people wanting to repair their consoles."
By Relly Carpio INQUIRER.net HUSBAND and wife gamers and bloggers Philip and Joanne Ortiz recently had their blog Third World Gamer added to the official communities recognized by Xbox.com. Xbox Singapore held a promo last month looking for "Friends of Xbox," bloggers who talk about the Xbox and their experiences with it. Philip Ortiz's blog was one of those chosen by Xbox Singapore, and is now linked within the communities. "I tried it, knowing that there are other blogs out there that are better than mine. So I was pleasantly surprised when mine was one of those chosen," he said. "After that I told them about PinoyXbox.com where I and my wife are moderators. We hope that my blog's inclusion would be the foot in the door for PinoyXbox.com to also be recognized, and eventually our country to become a supported country for Xbox," he added. Not all countries are supported by Microsoft when it comes to their Xbox product. The Philippines is one of them. "It has been suggested that Xbox players [here] should form communities and hold Xbox-related events. This is in the hope that in the future, recognition and eventually support would follow," Ortiz said. Right now, PinoyXbox has an estimated 3, 700 users. PinoyXbox.com was launched in 2002 while the Third World Gamer blog was started in 2005.