Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Tagged Published Works

MSNBC: Top 5 best sleeper games of 2008

The big games this year are hard to miss: “Gears of War 2,” “Fallout 3,” “LittleBigPlanet,” “Guitar Hero.” But what about the low-profile ones that are just as good, if not better? The games that come out of nowhere to delight, inspire and surprise us?These are the best Cinderella games of 2008. If it’s the new and innovative you seek, don’t overlook these hidden gems.

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MSNBC: Top 5 most cinematic video games

Unplayable cut scenes, cinemas, or in-game movies have been a part of video games for more than 20 years. They help advance the plot, serve as a rest area for players and produce shock and awe like any good movie.

While the technique is evolving (some developers like Valve shun them altogether in favor of total interaction), cut scenes often make games feel bigger than they really are. And nobody does it better than the following games when it comes to memorable cinematics.

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MSNBC: Top 5 video game ghosts

Ghosts may be the first thing you think of when you hear the word “spooky,” but they make for lousy Halloween costumes. They have a rich history with video games, and for that, I respect them. So in the spirit of disembodied souls and our favorite pagan holiday, I give to you the best video game ghosts of all time.

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MSNBC: New Xbox interface is more about movies

Microsoft says its “New Xbox Experience,” which rolls out Nov. 19, will “change the face of home entertainment for every Xbox 360 owner.” It doesn’t.

In reality, the New Xbox Experience is more appropriately described as a new menu system. It won’t revolutionize your console, but it will improve your experience. Ironically, the most interesting feature about this revamp to a game console’s user interface has nothing to do with games. It’s about movies.

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MSNBC: World Tour is the new Rock Band

Lindsey and I have been playing World Tour all weekend with friends. The game is Guitar Hero’s response to the popular Rock Band. The early verdict: World Tour improves upon Rock Band in almost every way, save for scoring, star power, and when someone fails. Plus, anything that has Van Halen gets bonus points from me. My full review at MSNBC…

MSNBC: Top 5 best Atari games

It’s almost impossible to hear the word “Atari” and not reminisce on joysticks, paddle controllers, stick-men animation, beeps and blips and countless gaming classics. If it weren’t for Atari, there probably wouldn’t be Nintendo, PlayStation, or Xbox – at least as we know them.

While arcade hits make up the lion’s share of popular games found on Atari systems, original favorites also call the platform home. Wooden-panel consoles, we salute you with the best Atari games.

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MSNBC: Top 5 PlayStation 2 games

Developers have made more than 2,400 games for PlayStation 2, Sony says. That’s easily the most of any console, which makes sense, considering that a whopping 140 million of the units have been sold since its debut eight years ago.

With a library and audience that big, there truly is something for everyone on the system, and new games are still being released. The following five are the creme de la creme – and found only on the PS2 system.

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GamePro: Take This Job (and love it!)

In the early 80s, video game programmers did all the work: sprite design, writing, music — you name it. Often times, one or two people was all it took to develop a hit.

But these days, hundreds of programmers, artists, and designers work together to create our favorite games. Here’s a handy explanation of some of the most common jobs held inside a game studio.

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MSNBC: Top 5 best video game quotes

Reducing the most memorable video game quotes to just five is a tough task. From classic “Duke Nukem” one-liners to the inadvertent hilarity of poor Japanese-to-English translations, the options are virtually endless.

And while a mention of “All your base are belong to us” is perhaps more than deserving (the phrase spawned a major Internet meme at the turn of the decade, after all), the following extracts are the ones that truly define the medium – the most choice video game quotes of all time.

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Crispy Gamer: Bang the DRM Slowly

Erich Remarque of Magnolia, Arkansas is pissed. After waiting three years to play Spore, he’s being treated more like a suspect than paying customer.

“[Spore] incorporates a draconian [digital rights management (DRM)] system that requires you to activate over the internet, and limits you to a grand total of 3 activations,” he writes in his glaringly critical review of the game on Amazon.com. “If you reach that limit, then you’ll have to call EA in order to add one extra activation. That’s not as simple as it sounds, since when you reach that point EA will assume that you, the paying customer, are a filthy pirating thief.”

Emotion may have got the best of Remarque, but he has reason to be upset over Spore’s limited use policy, which is extreme. And he’s not the only one who thinks so. At the time of writing, 85 percent of 3,000 user reviews on Amazon.com have given Spore a one-star (out of five) rating, almost all of them slamming the strict digital rights management employed by Electronic Arts.

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MSNBC: Top 5 least embarrassing game-based movies

Later this month, 20th Century Fox will release “Max Payne,” the most recent video game to get a Hollywood makeover. But if history is any indication, the movie will be a critical stinker, as have been the majority of cringe-inducing, game-related feature films.

That’s not to say there haven’t been any good ones (or at least a handful of bearable ones). And from time to time, there have even been some great ones, particularly those that use video games as a backdrop, as opposed to driving the central story. And these are the best – the ones that will leave you minimally embarrassed or even impressed.

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MSNBC: What’s behind the add-on phenomenon?

“There is no way we’re putting that there,” my wife tells me.

We’ve just spent 20 minutes surveying our 1,100-square-foot apartment in search of a spot for our new “Dance Dance Revolution” pad. The only place to stash it is under the couch, and my wife knows it.

”OK,” she concedes, allowing the unorthodox storage given our growing game-related gadgetry.

I’m not the only one with an increasing stockpile of video-game peripherals. According to The NPD Group, the official bean-counter of U.S. video game sales, consumers spent a record $1.3 billion so far this year on plastic guitars, steering wheels and other add-ons, the result of games like “Wii Fit,” “Guitar Hero,” “Mario Kart Wii” and “Rock Band.”

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GamePro: The trouble with review scores

Review scores are too complex. What began as a useful tool for players to compare and prioritize games has now become a confusing, lopsided, and political mess.

Consider score explanation guides, which often appear in magazines and review sites to interpret what should be easily understood: is a game any good? Furthermore, “average” games routinely score in the 80th percentile now, and the credibility of ratings are compromised when sly publishers allegedly work the system in exchange for favorable reviews (see also: Jeff Gerstmann).

So what’s a gamer to do? Should scores in reviews be thrown out altogether?

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GamePro: Review, Xbox 360 a good deal at $199

Ever since launch, the Xbox 360 core model without hard drive has largely been written off by gamers — and rightfully so. It lacks many of the attractive advantages of its older brothers, not to mention value for what’s included in the box. (Most core models can’t even save games without separate purchase!)

But all that’s about to change with the upcoming $80 price cut of the latest Arcade bundle (September 7, according to retailers), which includes a matte white system, wireless controller, and a 256 MB memory card for saving games and playing online.

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Crispy Gamer: Some Like It Short (Why Gamers Don’t Finish the Job)

Earth is under attack. Your favorite football team is waiting to win their division. There are more than 60 remaining stars to collect. And yet the gamers charged with overcoming the odds couldn’t care less.

They rarely finish their games, it seems.

According to an investigative Crispy Gamer survey of 2,000 players conducted this month, less than 25 percent of games are played to completion (i.e. the rolling of credits). What’s more, an alarming number of the same percentile say they finish less than 10 percent of their games, purchased, rented, or otherwise.

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GamePro: The 8 Most Powerful Video Game Studios

Most gamers are familiar with big name publishers like Electronic Arts, Activision, and Sega. But what about the development studios themselves? You know, the ones that actually make the games, not just distribute them. Behold! Here are eight of the most important ones, in terms of multiple hits, present impact, and cash money.

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GamePro: The Most Anticipated Games of E3 2008

With only a week to go, we profile the 25 most-promising titles expected this year.

We’ve polled our editorial team, scoured the internet, and given special attention to original efforts to develop the following list of 25 games, all of which has us giddy with the prospects. So with exception to unknown announcements, you can confidently count on these babies to be shown this year… and hopefully playable.

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GamePro: 5 band-centric Guitar Hero games that would rock

Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, launching June 29, isn’t just a collection of songs grouped together by artist for a stand-alone rhythm game. It’s sort of like Behind The Music in interactive form, letting players vicariously relive Aerosmith’s 30 year performance history in near-chronological order, from high school to international stardom.

So based on mega-platinum sales on multiple occasions (read: broad appeal), a storied history, and anthemic riffs, here are the top five bands we’d like to see in their own Guitar Hero games.

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EDGE: Did you hear that? Audio branding in video games

If you’ve never played Xbox 360, you probably missed it.

During the final action sequence of Transformers (2007), at precisely two hours, two minutes, and 25 seconds in, gamers are treated to a recognizable image and sound: a newly purchased Xbox 360 with its accompanying audio logo.

The brief product placement lasts no longer than 1 ½ seconds, as the popular console transforms on-screen into a hostile robot, after its owner becomes entangled with evil forces, while innocently shopping the streets of Las Vegas.

“I think a lot of Xbox fans got a kick out of it,” says Eli Friedman, director of Xbox Global Brand Marketing. “When we learned Transformers was being made into a movie, we jumped at the opportunity to work with Paramount Pictures since much of our core audience also happens to be Transformers fans.”

Continue reading at Edge Online…

EDGE: 5 Ways to Jumpstart Atari

Much like a stolen car, Atari has been gutted and sold for its parts over the years. It has changed ownership numerous times since its formation in 1972 and was recently delisted from the NASDAQ stock exchange amid near-financial ruin. It’s embattled, confused, and has few prospects other than its recognizable name. So how can the world’s first videogame publisher turn itself around? Here are five common sense ways:

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Crispy Gamer: Boom Blox review (Wii)

When I first heard the news that Steven Spielberg was working on an exclusive Wii puzzle game, I was skeptical. What does he know about videogames, especially non-story ones like Boom Blox? On the subject of his pedigree: Sure he directed “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Jaws” and “Saving Private Ryan,” but he also directed “A.I.,” “Temple of Doom” and “War of the Worlds.” I think you can appreciate where I’m coming from.

After playing the game, however, I’m happy to report that Boom Blox is not just a marketing ploy or a misguided idea by the venerable movie director. It’s an inspired, console-appropriate and rewarding game — particularly for single-player challenge-seekers — even if it appears to be something that Spielberg wouldn’t be involved with.

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Crispy Gamer: Little Big Planet preview (PS3)

In March 2007, BBC technology editor Darren Waters wrote, “LittleBigPlanet is perhaps one of the most dazzling demos I’ve seen in the last 10 years.” More than a year later, after an extensive hands-on in late April, I can only say the same. LittleBigPlanet looks, plays and feels incredibly fresh — even for an unfinished game. It’s no wonder Nintendo president Reggie Fils-Aime was covetous of developer Media Molecule after the exclusive PlayStation 3 title was revealed last year. Here’s an update on its development.

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Crispy Gamer: Who Spilled Diet on My Instruction Manual?

Crispy Gamer examines the decline of printed videogame manuals.

Instruction manuals are on life support. If you haven’t noticed already, the once-precious and colorful booklets have recently been reduced to a few black and white pages. Call of Duty 4 is a fitting case in point. Despite containing just six paltry pages of printed user instruction (PDF here), the first-person shooter would go on to become the best-selling game of 2007. The undecorated manual obviously wasn’t missed.

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Crispy Gamer: Not Every Politician Hates Videogames

At a VIP game developer event in a secluded upstairs San Francisco lounge, a well-dressed man in his 50s is making the rounds. “Hello, I’m the mayor of Baton Rouge.”

“Do you just walk around calling yourself a mayor?” asks one doubting attendee.

“No, I’m really the mayor of of Baton Rouge.”

And he is. His name is Mayor Melvin “Kip” Holden, and he was attending the Game Developers Conference for the second time in as many years. He wouldn’t be there (or be a sponsor) if he didn’t like videogames — or at least what they’ve already done and potentially will do for his city’s inhabitants.

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GameDaily: Baton Rouge Looks to Video Games for Economic Growth

BATON ROUGE, La. – While most U.S. cities push biotech to drive economic growth, one municipality is using video games to do the same — Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It’s an unlikely match, given the establishment of California as the nation’s video game capital, but one the fast-growing Southern city is convinced will be its future just the same.

The interest in bringing video game developers to Baton Rouge started in 2005, prior to Hurricane Katrina, to complement the area’s strong ties to film production. Louisiana is currently third in U.S. film production after California and New York, says the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, which saw the overlapping opportunity of video games and acted on it.

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Crispy Gamer: On the Bright Side, Better Living Through Videogames

Blake Snow examines gaming benevolence and creative development twice monthly. The color of next-gen is bright.

Mr. Bright Side, here, back with more. This time, I focus on the increasing role of videogames as rehabilitation products, surgical guiding lights, brain developers, an aid to cancer researchers and tools for paramedics training — no, I’m not making this stuff up.

It’s easy to understand how conventional gamers and industry pundits may have grown tired of the positive media coverage enjoyed by Nintendo Wii since first launching more than a year and a half ago. Indeed, Nintendo took press clippings to a whole new level at E3 2007, when it incessantly showed a stream of favorable “we told you so” videos, but if you don’t get warm and fuzzy watching the “Wii Being Used as Therapy” story that was televised on “The Today Show” in March, you have a heart of coal.

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Crispy Gamer: Hot Shots Out of Bounds review (PS3)

Arcade golf games haven’t changed much. You mash a button to start a swing, hit it a second time to mark your power, and press it third time to dictate shot accuracy. The fifth version of the long-running Hot Shots Golf series for PlayStation 3 closely follows this formula, and that’s not a bad thing — after all these years, the simple gameplay continues to satisfy, and a fresh coat of HD paint is just gravy.

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Crispy Gamer: The Excessive Use of Subtitling in Videogames

img5.jpgA closer look at the rise of lengthy videogame names by Blake Snow.

In the second week of November 2007, publishers released an unprecedented number of multiplatform videogames at the height of holiday shopping. Interestingly, more than half of the listed games employed subtitles in their titling, via the use of colons. This represents a far cry from the use of subtitles 10 years ago, which stood at just 30 percent of games.

Continue reading… [Crispy Gamer]

GamePro: The 8 Most Promising Non-Sequels of 2008

2008 may end up being the year of the sequel. Just listen to this lineup of high-profile follow-ups: Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Grand Theft Auto IV, Ninja Gaiden 2, StarCraft 2, Fallout 3, Metal Gear Solid 4, Resident Evil 5, Mario Kart Wii, Guitar Hero 4, Resistance 2, Gears of War 2, and Call of Duty 5. Hopefully these games warrant their existence, and we’re confident many will.

But what about new games, the ones that lead not just follow? Marketing types call them “original IPs;” we call them risk-takers. So in an effort to applaud their individuality, we profile the most promising ones for the rest of the year, based on first-impressions, breakout potential, and pedigree. A handful of titles are based on existing themes and ideas, but their creative spirit should not be overlooked.

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Crispy Gamer: On the Bright Side, an introduction

Blake Snow examines gaming benevolence and creative development twice monthly. The color of next-gen is bright.

In 2007, a fictional food critic by the name of Antone Ego aptly described mass media and its audience when he wrote: “We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read.”

Ego’s definition couldn’t have been wiser. Indeed, positive news has long since taken a backseat to negative reporting, with the former often compressed to a 20-second closing spot in a 30-minute telecast.

The same is true of videogames, if not by more, which have long been vilified and blamed for idleness, poor grades, insensitivity and random acts of violence by the mainstream media. Interestingly, even the gaming press has become more grumpy in recent years, adding drama where there is none to be found, discouraging industry growth and change, and forgetting the playful nature of videogames altogether.

Continue reading at Crispy Gamer…

GamePro: Which controller has the best battery life?

Ever wonder which controller has the best battery life? If so, you’re in the right place. Over the last month, we juxtaposed Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3 controllers at GamePro Towers to find out which ones go the distance. Though our research is far from scientific, we isolated all obvious variables, rigorously documented our findings, and worked in an uncontaminated testing environment for optimal significance.

For our tests, we cleaved to the following criteria: We only used out-of-the box hardware — that means no charger packs for 360 and Wii, which must be purchased separately. We played a wide variety of games on each console, including lengthy single-player adventures and shallow downloadable games, both online and off. We played for varying time intervals, from fifteen minutes to upwards of eight hours (Hello weekends!). We used Duracell CopperTops for 360 and Wii testing. And we deemed all battery(s) dead after attempting to reconnect the controller for a third consecutive time. Behold, the results:

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GamePro: The truth behind doctored screenshots

In December of 2007, game developer Guerrilla Games admitted to altering newly released Killzone 2 screenshots in order to make them look more attractive. “There are only the tiniest bit touched up,” said the company’s QA manager, Seb Downie, in a PlayStation.com reply to savvy gamers who noticed discrepancies when compared to actual gameplay footage. “There was a little bit of color-correction done and some minor polish, but nothing major,” he maintained.

Indeed, the advertised screenshot was hardly a radical improvement over its in-game counterpart. But it wasn’t the first time Guerrilla Games had altered the game’s appearance, either. Killzone 2’s debut trailer, shown in 2005, looked a lot more glamorous than it did two years later when proper gameplay was shown at E3. And who can forget EA’s exaggerated 2005 promo for its next-gen Madden? The screenshots looked superb, but the actual gameplay looked glaringly inferior when it was released later that year.
The Proof is in the Pudding

Faked, enhanced, or otherwise augmented screenshots are commonly called “bullshots.” Their intent is to make a game look more appealing than it actually is, and their occurrence has largely existed since video games were first commercialized. So are bullshots misleading or just good marketing?

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GamePro: The best holiday games you’ve never heard of

We’re betting you already have an ample supply of choice games to play this Christmas given the recent glut of releases. But that doesn’t mean the following titles aren’t deserving of your attention. Afflicted by a lack of advertising, an unfamiliar name, or just taking a back seat to Halo and Mario, these unsung holiday games should be on your radar — if not your game shelf.

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GamePro: The Wii won, but for how long?

To fade or not to fade, that is the question.

Fact: Nintendo’s Wii is on track to outsell Sony’s record-setting PS2 at 115 million units sold. That’s according to comparative NPD sales data for both systems. No other console has sold faster in its first eight months of availability than the Wii.

Despite its undisputed initial success, however, several industry pundits remain unconvinced. “The Wii will fade,” they say, suggesting that the machine’s novel motion-controls and antiquated graphics will soon cause the system to wane in popularity.

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GamePro: Are $60 games here to stay?

The conventional “rise in development cost” argument doesn’t always add up — here’s why.

When Microsoft released the Xbox 360 on November 22, 2005, it marked the first time that console gamers would be treated to high-definition graphics in all their detailed glory. It also marked the beginning of an era where major game publishers would impose a $10 next-gen tax — $60 per game instead of the usual $50.

Rumblings of a price increase for video games began in 2004 as publishers non-exclusively decided that a $10 price hike would help offset the rise in production costs as more and more money was being spent on big budget games. The move, in theory, would help mitigate the high risk of releasing video games. Microsoft and Sony obliged with the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), but interestingly not everyone got on board.

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GamePro: Top 10 games deserving of a remake

Outdated visuals suck. Enter the high-resolution remake; an effective way to revitalize and modernize classic gameplay for a new generation of gamers or for those wanting to experience a favorite for the second time. For a good example of what we’re talking about, think of Super Contra on Xbox Live Arcade or even New Super Mario Bros. on the DS.

Due to their enduring levels and game design, these are the games that would most benefit from high definition graphics, updated sound, and extra content.

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Business Week: Video game usability 101

Steve Krug argues in his book Don’t Make Me Think! that a good program or product should let users accomplish their intended tasks as easily and directly as possible. The less time it takes a person to complete a desired task (even if only by a few seconds), the more satisfying it becomes. When that happens, people are more likely to use a product in greater frequency and return for more. So in the spirit of improved usability, here are ten standard features every videogame designer should embrace.

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GamePro: Timeline of Japanese contributions to video games

As the Tokyo Game Show comes to a close, we pay homage to the major gaming contributions wrought in Japan with a nifty time line spanning more than a century.

1889 – Nintendo is formed in late September by Fusajiro Yamauchi to produce handmade hanafuda cards which are used for several popular Japanese games. Over the years the company will transform into one of the most powerful and influential video game companies in the world.

1941 – Gunpei Yokoi is born. His ingenuity in creating a mechanical arm for his own enjoyment while on the job would later inspire Nintendo authoritarian president Hiroshi Yamauchi to extend Nintendo’s business beyond that of playing cards. Yokoi would go one to design Metroid and the Game Boy before dying in a car crash in 1997.

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GigaOM: Does online gaming matter to consoles?

Since 1999, major console makers including Microsoft (MSFT), Sony (SNE), Nintendo, and the now-defunct Sega have been touting online gaming as a mainstay of the industry. And though online console use is rising, mainstream apathy means the initiative has never matured.

Of the 172 million systems sold in the last generation of consoles*, an estimated 5 million gamers ventured online — representing just three percent of the market. But wouldn’t you know it, each and every major console circa the early 2000s was capable of online play (some better than others).

By comparison, there are currently 26 million “next-gen” consoles in households (11M Wiis, 11M 360s, 4M PS3s). As of August, Microsoft’s Xbox Live claimed more than 7 million active users, including paying and free silver account users that aren’t privy to online multiplayer.

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NewTeeVee: If Jason Calacanis Built a YouTube Aggregator…

It might look something like this.

Gloob.tv, a phonetic portmanteau of glued and tube, is adding an editorial layer on top of the web’s billion-plus available videos; the idea being that editors know best when it comes to selecting the most desired user-submitted videos.

Published by Future US out of San Francisco, Gloob currently employs 26 editors or “spotters,” as they are called, to organize “the unwieldy world of online streaming video.” Spotters work on a rev-share basis being compensated for the traffic generated to their respective video selections.

And therein lies the difference in how Calacanis would do it; actually paying people to do the nitty-gritty as opposed to the insipid use of rev-share to drive traffic to a site that doesn’t have any revenue to begin with.

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GamePro: Interview, Jaffe to play on Sony team ‘for a long-time’

We sit down with famed God of War creator David Jaffe and Twisted Metal mastermind Scott Campbell at their new Salt Lake City studios to discuss the PS3 (not to mention PS4, and PS5), review scores, God of War sequels, casual games, and the current state of the industry. While Jaffe is now independent, his loyalties still remain with Sony.

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Business Week: Game Mascots We Love

As of September 2006, Nintendo had sold 275 million Mario games worldwide easily making the little Italian plumber the best selling game character of all time. To put that into perspective, imagine all other notable game characters, combine them, and you still won’t account for half of what Mario has sold. Not Halo, not Gran Turismo, not even Nintendo’s own Pokemon or Zelda come close.

And he’s still selling. “Mario is a gaming icon that has had and continues to have a huge impact on the gaming world,” admits once Nintendo rival Takashi Iizuka of Sega. But even though single game sales may never resurface to the level of 1980s gaming, Mario isn’t the only franchise character still thriving. The franchise formula continues to work to this day assuming the playable characters maintain their appeal.

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GamePro: The 10 worst-selling consoles of all time

Be it a lack of games, poor strategy, or inadequate marketing, a majority of video game consoles are commercial failures. Here are the 10 worst selling consoles of all time in terms of high-profile systems that stood a viable chance. Other lesser-known consoles are sure to have sold worse, but the below represent the notable platforms that never met expectations.

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GigaOM: Game Biz Loves Casual Games

Santa Monica, California – If there was one buzzword at this year’s E3, it was “casual gaming” in all its synonymous varieties: family-friendly games, games for everyone, usability, intuitive controls, and accessibility, to name a few. Almost every game maker in attendance had casual gaming on their briefing agenda, even if only name-dropping the idea.

There’s no need to be coy; Nintendo’s Wii is directly to blame for the recent surge in interest of casual gaming and its much larger audience outside of hardcore gamers. Interestingly, that reality is transcending consoles, something that is sure to excite independent developers looking to avoid unfavorable licensing terms. Highlights from the E3/casual gaming convergence after the break.

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Edge: Activision says Guitar Hero Still Relevant

Next Generation sat down with Activision Senior Vice President of Marketing Will Kassoy on Friday to discuss Guitar Hero, EA’s competing Rock Band, and casual games for Wii.

“There was a lot of unmet demand due to controller shortage with the release of the first Guitar Hero,” Kassoy said when asked about the franchise’s massive success. “As a result, we invested heavily in ramping up production of Guitar Hero II to meet demand.”

Activision, the number two independent game publisher, says the series is one of the fastest growing brands of all time. The company is currently preparing to release the third installment this fall next to EA’s Rock Band, a game that some are calling the “Guitar Hero killer.”

Continue reading at Edge…

GigaOM: Nintendo Wii plays the platform game

Nintendo’s Wii gaming system has been a hit on the marketplace, but to keep the momentum, the company is making a strategic bet, and turning it into a developer platform. With enough developer momentum, iconic products say an iPod or Facebook, can become a mass market phenomenon.

Nintendo today announced a new indie developer platform for its widely successful Wii console, likely to launch in early 2008. Dubbed WiiWare, the service is said to enable developers to create smallish, new games via download on the motion-controlled system.

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GamePro: Video Game Journalism Demystified

Game journalism sometimes gets a bad rap, but many of the worst accusations aren’t based in reality. Here are eight of the most popular myths about game reporting…and what really happens behind the scenes.

8. Video game journalists aren’t as responsible as traditional media.

Conventional wisdom suggests that most gaming journalists are uninspired, inconsistent, overly sensationalistic, or even fail to fact check before running a story. While some outlets are more irresponsible than others, this isn’t the case across the board. Game journalism didn’t get where it is today by being inaccurate and irresponsible. Additionally, widespread video game coverage has existed no longer than 20 years since the late 80s. While the media is anything but nascent, it still has its growing pains. Was the mainstream media as reliable as they are today? Not likely. This same is true of video game journalists.

The Verdict: It depends on the publication and the reporter, but more often than not, game journalists are right up there with most media in terms of credibility.

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GigaOM: Top 10 most popular MMOs

The attention surrounding MMOs (massively multiplayer online worlds) has never been greater. But it’s not just role playing games along for the ride; non-game, avatar-driven virtual communities are just as popular, if not by more, and we’re not just talking Second Life here.

So in an effort to cut through the hype and glean some context, here are the most popular MMOs in terms of active users or subscribers, based on publicly available data. These titles may or may not be games, but the medium has expanded far beyond Tolkienesque fantasy worlds. They all are Mac-friendly/Web-based with exception of Guild Wars.

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GamePro: The Best (and Worst) Video Game Commercials

More than 5,000 video game commercials can be found on Game Ad’s online archive. That’s a lot of ads. Sadly, a majority of them aren’t worth your time, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to hand pick the best using only the finest ingredients; humor, creativity, cachet and a hint of nostalgia. Peep ’em. They’re the best video game commercials of all-time:

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GamePro: The 11 Worst Trends in Video Games

Definition: Trend (n.) – the general course or prevailing tendency. A leaning towards, a fad, a novelty.

So why do trends exist? Because they are familiar, they enable standards, and they just make life easier. In the case of video games, trends help companies maximize sales while reducing costs because gamers will purchase what they are accustomed to. But easier isn’t always better. Here are eleven reasons why:

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Edge: Graphical Improvements Coming to Halo 3

Since Microsoft launched the beta for Halo 3 two weeks ago, some have murmured that the graphics are a bit, well, uninspiring, especially in comparison to Gears of War. Next-Gen spoke to Bungie about this perception.

Bungie’s Frank O’Connor talked about the public’s reception to the beta and any changes in the game in the months between now and launch on September 25. He said, “Well to be honest, we’ve seen them [the graphics] praised too. Multiplayer is by necessity a more sterile iteration of our graphical style and will always be tuned for performance and elegance rather than jamming the screen full of pixels. We think that the final aesthetic look of our game will be judged at launch in September and in part based on the more intense single player spaces. We’re also focused on maintaining the Halo character and atmosphere in our visual design – we’re competing with ourselves, and not simply trying to match the aesthetic of other games. We think that folks will be happy with Halo 3’s graphical polish come September.”

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GamePro: 7 Ways to Turn Around the PlayStation 3

You could view the current situation of the PS3 in one of two ways; either everything is going as planned and the geniuses at Sony are gifted with insane amounts of foresight, or things could be better. Being that Sony appears a little bit, shall we say, defensive about the whole ordeal, we suspect the latter. So assuming Sony still wants to appeal to the mass market, here are seven ways the company can turnaround the PS3 in the shortest amount of time. Behold our armchair quarterback skills!

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GamePro: The Toughest Job in Video Games

However justified, Sony has been fiercely criticized for both its approach and management of the PlayStation 3 to this point. The company just posted its biggest quarterly loss in four years shortly after dealing with several public relation mishaps related to the PS3. Just listen to these colorful quotes by former PlayStation boss Ken Kutaragi when describing the PS3: “It’s probably too cheap,” “It’s 4D,” and “[We want] consumers to think… ‘I will work more hours to buy one.'”

Not very endearing, huh? So who’s in charge of helping gamers see beyond such rogue statements? None other than Sony’s senior director of corporate communications, Dave Karraker. Karraker, who is just eight months on the job, has perhaps the toughest job in video games; helping consumers regard the PS3 with as much esteem as the record-setting PS2 despite the former’s high price and somewhat slower start. We sit down with the man to ask how he’s coping with being the public face of Sony.

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Edge: Why are there so many World War II games?

Out of all the period games that could be made, a lopsided majority end up being about World War II. In the 2006 calendar year alone, a whopping 23 World War II-themed games (including special editions) were released at an average of two titles per month. Unthinkable? There’s a reason.

“Throughout history, one of the most incredible tests, is the test of a soldier,” says Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford. “From shield and spear to tanks and battleships, war and soldiering is one of the most interesting human experiences. Thus, it is one of the strongest human fantasies.”

If being a soldier then is what Pitchford calls a “core fantasy” of gamers, what better backdrop for a soldier than World War II?

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You Don’t Know Jack About Viral Marketing

Viral marketing goes by several different names — buzz marketing, disruptive marketing, guerilla marketing, annuity effect, long tail, media leverage and even word-of-mouth marketing. But adding the word “marketing” to viral or any of the aforementioned names is a bit of a misnomer as the act of marketing typically describes a direct and conscious act on the part of companies to pitch their products to consumers. Viral marketing is anything but conscious. It is indirect marketing managed by consumers and consumers alone.

By definition, viral marketing is a phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message, usually — though not exclusively — online. Like a literal virus, the product message gets passed along from one user to the next and is easily shared in rapid fashion. Hotmail’s mandatory “Get your private, free e-mail at Hotmail.com” message on every outgoing e-mail is widely accredited as the first viral marketing campaign. Its strategy included:

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GigaOM: Will Halo 3 help Microsoft secure the Digital Living Room?

The latest skirmish in the console wars took place this weekend, at the Mission District’s ultra-hip Foreign Cinema. That’s where Microsoft offered the gaming media a hands-on media preview of Halo 3, one of gaming’s most anticipated titles— and the company’s bid to expand their broadband audience.

Make no mistake about it, though the PS3 trails far behind and the Wii isn’t a direct competitor, the 360’s position as the HDTV-powered next gen champ is far from assured. The console has sold 10 million units to date since first launching 18 months ago, and claims six million online members to its Live service. It is hard to say how many of those are paying members, and how many are part of trial or some giveaway.

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GamePro: Predicting Next-Gen Console Sales With Last-Gen Numbers

You can learn a lot from the past. Gauging the current state of the console wars is no different; historical context can be enormously helpful. In this article, our goal is simple: to predict the commercial victors of the next-gen console war.

But how? Easy: by comparing the sales of the last-gen consoles — the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube — to the current crop of next-gen consoles using a concept called “sales velocity”. Sales velocity is just a fancy name for how fast (or slow) something sells over a period of time. In this case we’ll examine the launch numbers and examine the complete last-gen sales cycle. And even though the data is U.S. only, what bodes well here generally bodes well globally and vice-versa (with the occasional exception, such as the PC Engine’s monstrous success in Japan).

First up, Last-Gen Sales Velocity in terms of the first five months of launch:

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Why video game dialogue is so cheesy

Those who know me well know I like video games. I don’t get to play them as much as I’d like to, but I do have the opportunity to write about them as a freelancer. So why is video game dialogue so cheesy? Why do I get embarrassed sometimes when my wife comes in the room only to find me suffering garbage line reading and poor scripts to get to the action? This is something of a pet-peeve for me as a hobbyist and something I recently wrote a feature on. From the article:

“The once fledgling video game industry with its minuscule budgets forced early game makers to wear several different hats, including storytelling ones even if they didn’t have prior experience. “When video games began, particularly on the PC, they were made by one, two, and three-person teams,” says Newsweek’s N’Gai Croal, a vocal proponent against amateur game dialogue. “Very few of these people had professional writing experience.”

As gaming grew to more than $14 billion a year, its storytelling failed to grow up with it. You can read the full article on Edge.

GamePro: 8 reasons the Xbox 360 Elite isn’t “elite”

On April 29, Microsoft will release their third flavor of 360 ice cream — the black Xbox 360 Elite. Let’s not be coy; the reason in adding a third, more expensive 360 is solely due to the existence of the $600 PS3. Since the inception of game consoles, prices have traditionally dropped with age, not increased. But If Sony can sell 3 million “supercomputers” in five months, why can’t Microsoft?

The Elite was largely criticized when it was announced last month and still is today. So at the dawning of its release, GamePro presents eight reasons why the Xbox 360 version 2.0 is anything but elite.

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GigaOM: China Limits Online Gaming Hours

The Chinese government will begin regulating the number of hours that minors spend playing online games starting April 15. The new law requires national game providers to install anti-addiction software that warns under-18 gamers when they have played longer than three hours a day, what the government considers a “healthy” level.

Gamers that continue to play above the three-hour mark will only receive half the normal points up to five hours. After the five-hour mark, players receive zero points in addition to an annoying message every 15 minutes that reads: “You have entered unhealthy game time, please go offline immediately to rest. If you do not, your health will be damaged and your points will be cut to zero.”

Keeping in mind I’m no World Of Warcraft player, the “three hours a day will keep the doctor away” system seems generous, especially for youngsters. My democratic roots from an American upbringing, however, take issue with the whole government mandate thing. It just doesn’t feel right.

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GamePro: The Real Reason Behind Game Delays

Game development, like any software development, is an immensely intricate process. Given its temperamental nature, delays are inevitable — it just comes with the territory. Sometimes, game developers delay a game’s release in order to enhance the gameplay or polish the presentation, frustrating original release dates in the process.

“Typically, development teams delay games because they want to add an extra feature or spend more time on a specific aspect to get it just right,” says Dave Karraker, senior director of communications at Sony Computer Entertainment of America. “You need to remember that at the end of the day, the developer is truly an artist and their name is on that final product,” Karraker continues. “They will take every opportunity to get just a little more time to make the game as great as it possibly can be.”

But even though quality is a major reason for game delays, it’s far from the only reason. “Delays occur for both strategic and quality reasons,” says analyst Michael Pachter. Contrary to what you may think, publishers are just as as likely to delay a game for strategic reasons as they are quality ones.

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GigaOM: 5 Reasons the New Mario and Sonic Partnership Doesn’t Really Matter

Former rivals Nintendo and Sega announced today a mashup title featuring the largest two franchise characters in video game history. Mario and Sonic At the Olympic Games will exclusively ship for Nintendo’s DS and Wii platforms later this year preparatory for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Granted, cross-promotional games like Square/Disney’s Kingdom Hearts and Lego Star Wars have sold well in the past, but here are five reasons why the announcement doesn’t really matter.

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GigaOM: PS3 selling “slightly faster” than 360 during same period

According to Digital Spy, market research firm NPD says the PS3 is selling marginally better in its first four months than the 360 did for the same period. “Figures show that the PS3 is selling slightly faster in the US than the Xbox 360 did at the same stage in its release,” an NPD spokesman told the UK publication. The news comes amid a lackluster PS3 launch across most of Europe last week.

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GigaOM: PlayStation 2 still going the distance

While the PS3 is still learning to crawl, its older brother is running marathons. Like 115 million unit marathons perhaps close to 130 million when it’s all said and done. Despite avoiding specifics, Sony’s Phil Harrison told CNN/Money yesterday that his company would be raising its PS2 sales targets above the already projected 13 million for 2007. If a reality, that means the would-be seven year old console would have sold more in its last year than Microsoft’s 360 did in its first.

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Business Week: You’re Controlling Games, Too

Time magazine’s 2006 Person of the Year was “you.” Not because you’re special, but because of your collective ability to readily produce, publish, and share content with others. It’s called user-generated content, and it’s slowly starting to creep into console video games.

While user-generated game content is no stranger to PCs, it’s clearly in its infancy; especially on consoles.

Wikipedia fittingly describes user-generated content as “various kinds of media content that is produced or primarily influenced by end-users as opposed to traditional media producers, licensed broadcasters, and production companies.”

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Joystiq: TIME magazine deems PS3 a bust

TIME magazine rounds up the five “phenomena” on the year that captivated the media momentarily before ultimately going bust on the hype. The PS3 shares the not-so spotlight next to Bode Miller, Studio 60, Fox TV’s canceled If I Did It program, and Snakes on a Plane as the year’s biggest letdowns according to the magazine.

From the article’s sub-section entitled HOW TO BLOW A HUGE LEAD in video games: “The PS3 is hideously expensive–it goes for up to $600–and Sony manufactured only a piddling few hundred thousand for the U.S., fewer for Japan. Plus it’s hard to write games for; the launch titles were lame. You know you’re in trouble when you get beat by something called a Wii.” Sony would have to try really hard to get anymore negative press for the PS3, not to mention other facets of the company’s endeavors. Can an electronics brotha get a break? Maybe a slight one if we didn’t run this story…

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