Gam­ing sea­son

Christ­mas is com­ing early for video game fans

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Gadgets -

IT’S a good time to play a game. Christ­mas is just 75 days away and ma­jor games com­pa­nies are pre­par­ing for brisk busi­ness. Games con­sole prices have been slashed to un­prece­dented lows, a new Nin­tendo ma­chine will arrive in Aus­tralia be­fore Christ­mas and some of the big­gest en­ter­tain­ment re­leases of the year are ap­proach­ing their launch dates.

The lat­est in­stal­ment in the multi-bil­lion-dol­lar Call of Duty fran­chise, Black Ops II, is due for re­lease next month, as is the long-an­tic­i­pated new Halo game, while ma­jor ti­tles As­sas­sin’s Creed III and new­comer Dishonored are out even sooner.

In­no­va­tive chil­dren’s games from Sony and Mi­crosoft are also due be­fore Christ­mas, in­clud­ing an in­ter­ac­tive book from JK Rowl­ing.

But not ev­ery­thing will be avail­able for pur­chase this year. De­spite the ru­mours, new PlayS­ta­tion and Xbox con­soles will not ap­pear in stores.

Nin­tendo kicked off the silly sea­son early, an­nounc­ing that its forth­com­ing games ma­chine, Wii U, will arrive in Aus­tralia on Novem­ber 30.

The Wii U will be Nin­tendo’s first high-def­i­ni­tion games con­sole and will come with a touch­screen GamePad that can be used with the set­top ma­chine to give a player a dif­fer­ent view of a game or to play re­motely in an­other room when the TV is in use.

A ba­sic Wii U pack with 8GB mem­ory will cost $349.95, while the top 32GB unit will cost $429.95.

But Nin­tendo will have plenty of com­pe­ti­tion for gam­ing hard­ware pur­chases as both Sony and Mi­crosoft have cut the prices of their con­soles.

Sony re­designed the PlayS­ta­tion 3 be­fore chop­ping its price, more than halv­ing the size of the orig­i­nal. The new PS3 con­soles cost $299.95 (12GB) and $399.95 (500GB).

Mi­crosoft re­sponded with even greater cuts, slash­ing $150 off the price of its 250GB Xbox 360 ma­chine, which now costs $299. The orig­i­nal top Xbox 360 ar­rived with a price tag of $649.95.

But ru­mours that an Xbox 720, code-named Durango, or Out now Out now To­mor­row

Oc­to­ber 17

Oc­to­ber 23 a PlayS­ta­tion 4, would launch this sea­son proved pre­ma­ture.

Sony Com­puter En­ter­tain­ment Aus­tralia manag­ing di­rec­tor Michael Ephraim says the cur­rent PlayS­ta­tion sys­tem has more life in it, as proven by added stream­ing ser­vices, a fresh mem­ory up­grade and Cross­Play fea­tures for use with the PlayS­ta­tion Vita.

‘‘ I can’t com­ment about a new PlayS­ta­tion but if you look at what the PlayS­ta­tion 3 does and com­pare it to what it did at launch, it shows how far we’ve come,’’ he says. But Mr Ephraim ad­mits the gam­ing in­dus­try faces se­ri­ous chal­lenges af­ter NPD mar­ket re­search showed ‘‘ the in­dus­try was down in value for the first half of the year’’. A wave of big-name games is expected to boost those fig­ures.

Big hopes are pinned on Call of Duty: Black Ops II af­ter its pre­de­ces­sor racked up more than $1 bil­lion in sales within a month and last year’s in­stal­ment, Mod­ern War­fare 3, reached the mile­stone in 16 days.

Mi­crosoft’s first-per­son shooter Halo 4 is also expected to reap mil­lions af­ter Halo 3 col­lected $300 mil­lion in its first week on sale.

Other no­table en­trants in­clude two new in­ter­ac­tive chil­dren’s games. Sony will re­lease its first aug­mented re­al­ity Won­der­book ti­tle in Novem­ber, Book of Spells, that uses a cam­era and a seem­ingly blank book to bring sto­ries to life on screen.

Mean­while, Mi­crosoft has launched a new se­ries of ‘‘ Two-Way TV’’ ti­tles that use its Kinect ac­ces­sory to vir­tu­ally put chil­dren into TV shows in­clud­ing Sesame Street and Na­tional Ge­o­graphic. JEN­NIFER DUD­LEY

NI­CHOL­SON

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