Christmas is coming early for video game fans
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 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