The man charged with providing the President-Elect with information about the US media regulator spends his spare time fighting monsters and completing quests on the fictional planet of Azeroth. Kevin Werbach, an academic, is a member of two guilds in the world's most popular online game, playing under the name Supernovan Jenkins. He has invested so many hours in the game that his "Tauren Shaman" character has reached Level 70, one of the higher ranks. Mr Werbach, an assistant professor of legal studies and business ethics at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, is to co-author a review of the work of the Federal Communications Commission, to help Mr Obama plan his media policies when he assumes the presidency in January. Bloggers and gamers have already begun speculating about what impact Mr Werbach's Warcraft background might have on his professional outlook, with some suggesting that his appointment indicates that the new administration may be more open to virtual worlds. In a blog post written in 2006 Mr Werbach praised massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) like Warcraft for fostering a sense of community. ( www.telegraph.co.uk )
Sales of the Nintendo Wii have slowed considerably in Japan in the last month – although the popular family console has moved past the 7 million mark in its birthplace. The Wii has been a roaring success for Nintendo but Enterbrain statistics point to a 24 per cent drop in sales as it enters its second year. That is based on figures that show that 5 million consoles had sold by January of this year or around 386,000 average monthly units, but only 2 million since (or 292k a month). ( www.techradar.com )
Microsoft's Xbox 360 hit three years of age this last weekend, following its original release in the US and Canada on 22 November 2005. European gamers were treated to our new toy a couple of weeks later on 2 December 2005 (and our Japanese cousins collectively shrugged when it was launched over there on 10 December 2005). Despite its much-reported problems with overheating (the dreaded 'Red Ring of Death') the machine is still the under-TV box of choice for the hardcore console gamer. TechRadar fondly remembers the Xbox 360's UK launch party in London nearly three years ago, when we were treated to what, at the time, was a massive leap forward in videogames (as well as some lovely free massages and gallons of killer cocktails that took us out of action for around 48-72 hours following the event!). ( www.techradar.com )
Creative has extended its gaming range with three sets of headphones – including the latest in the Fatal1ty range. The Digital Wireless Gaming Headset HS-1200, the Fatal1ty USB Gaming Headset HS-1000, and the USB Gaming Headset HS-950 all boast Creative's X-Fi audio technology and have full EAX support. Creative is one of the powerhouses of audio for PCs and their gaming peripherals are boosted by the Fatal1ty brand – endorsed by probably the western world's most famous gamer Jonathan Fatal1ty Wendell. "We designed these headsets for gamers who want to deploy the best technology for a competitive advantage," explains Mark Grover, European Brand Manager with Creative. "All three models feature our X-Fi technology, which delivers amazing surround sound over headphones. X-Fi gives gamers 3D positional audio that's so precise it helps them pinpoint their enemies and gain a winning edge.
( www.techradar.com )
Feted games designer Will Wright is more widely known these days for his recent hits with The Sims series and this year's mind-bogglingly deep Spore. Yet TechRadar will always hold a special place deep within our geek heart for one of Wright's original 'God simulation' masterpieces, SimCity, a promising-looking version of which is almost ready for launch on the iPhone. VentureBeat over in the US nabbed a Hands-On with EA's iPhone version of Wright's SimCity, already claiming that the experience is pretty much identical to SimCity 3000on PC, with a bit of multi-touch control thrown in for zooming in and out of your bustling metropolis, as you build your own city of dreams (on the bus on your commute into work every morning!).
( www.techradar.com )
PETA or People for the Ethical Treatments of Animals, has brought out a rather more graphic spin-off of Majesco’s game Cooking Mama. PETA’s game, Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals, involves the player plucking feathers and removing guts from a turkey - the main character, Cooking Mama, is also no longer a pleasant looking housewife, but a demonic killer. When we look at the gaming aspect to this ridiculous parody the version is not that bad, with higher than average Flash graphics and decent sound affects. ( www.theinquirer.net )
As the games industry hits its busiest time of the year over the next month, many are wondering if the trade is somehow 'credit crunch proof', with yet more record sales planned for Xmas '08. "Gamers are so cocky," writes Aleks Krotoski in The Guardian this week. "After all, it appears that the only market continuing to rise is theirs." And gamers really do have something to be cocky about, what with a slew of superb titles on the shelves this Christmas including such interactive gems as (in no particular order) Fallout 3, Call of Duty: World at War, Left 4 Dead, Gears of War 2, LittleBigPlanet, Resistance 2 and (*cough* its for the kids *cough*) Animal Crossing on Wii. Both the UK and US markets are predicted to have their busiest financial quarters over the holiday periods, now that the latest generation hardware is well installed. However, glancing over the list above, 'cash rich, time poor' gamers are struggling to get through two or three of the season's big hitters, never mind the ten to fifteen titles they probably would want to play, if they had a spare month or two. ( www.techradar.com )
Owners of Xbox 360 consoles will have access to a new episode, reportedly called The Lost and Damned. It builds on the plots and storylines that emerged in the most recent game, Grand Theft Auto IV, but the game's protagonist, Niko Bellic, has only a bit-part in the new episode. Instead, The Lost and Damned focuses on Johnny Klebitz, a member of a biker gang that roams the mean streets of the fictional Liberty City. "Johnny is a very different character than Niko, with a very different background," Dan Houser, vice president of creative development for Rockstar Games. publishers of the franchise, told USA Today. "I can't go into too much detail on the story, because we try not to give away too much plot before the game is released. But I can say that the story will show you a different side of Liberty City.
"Tons of details and mysteries from the main story get explained, so it will add a lot of colour to the main story." The extra episode will only be available to Xbox 360 users who own a copy of the original GTA IV game and subscribe to Microsoft's online gaming platform, Xbox Live. No official pricing information for the downloadable content has been released, and Rockstar Games refuse to confirm a rumoured February 17 release date. ( www.telegraph.co.uk )
Sony's PS3 wireless keypad, including a laptop-style mini touchpad, is set to launch on the 28November at a cost of £24.99. The device is similar in design to the Xbox 360 controller keyboard add-on, with the key differences being that this touchpad fits above the controller, not below it, so presumably you have to type using your fingers as opposed to your thumbs. The touchpad was first unveiled back in the summer at the Leipzig Games Convention.
( www.techradar.com )
Blizzard has slammed the unhealthy practise of 'poopsocking'- the act of neglecting basic hygiene in favour of remaining at your PC. Following the UK mainstream media's rush to cover the unfortunate story of a young World Of Warcraft gamer collapsing after a lengthy session on Blizzard's massively popular MMO, TechRadar spoke to PC Zone to get their take on the matter. "The problem with World of Warcraft is that its developer, Blizzard, has had four years now to refine and perfect a set of game rules which promotes addiction," said Deputy Editor of PC Zone, Steve Hogarty. Though Hogarty is quick to add the disclaimer,"though it's cynical to think that the creators of WoW are happy with children and adults wasting away in front of their game." "In fact, when PC Zone confronted lead game designer Tom Chilton with the phenomenon of 'poopsocking', he was stunned, saying "no, no... I highly encourage players to use the restroom..."!" ( www.techradar.com )
The 15-year-old is believed to have suffered an epileptic seizure after his marathon session of the fantasy game. Psychiatrists have previously warned that World of Warcraft's addictive qualities could have "serious consequences" on young people. The boy and six friends are understood to have played Wrath of the Lich King, the new extension of the game released last week, for 24 hours straight at his house in Laholm, Sweden this weekend. "They played all day and all night. Maybe they got a few hours of sleep. They ate a little food and breakfast at their computers," his father told a local newspaper. After the teenager collapsed on Sunday afternoon, doctors said that his system had been weakened by lack of sleep, lack of food and over-concentration. He is expected to make a full recovery. The boy's father says he now plans to limit his son's computer time and urged other parents to do the same. World of Warcraft, which creates a vast interactive world for the gamer to explore, has grown into one of the most popular of all online games. More than 11 million people worldwide are registered as players.
( www.telegraph.co.uk )
MMO developer Cryptic Studios is bringing its Star Trek MMO to Sony's PlayStation 3 console, according to latest reports based on job ads from the well-respected studio. An official confirmation of a PS3 version is still to be made, but Kotaku noticed a job ad on Craigslist that pretty much confirms what we already suspected. The Federation-themed MMO Star Trek online will be truly multi-format, appearing on Microsoft's Xbox 360 as well as Sony's PS3 and the good ol' PC.
( www.techradar.com )
The latest World of Warcraft expansion pack, Wrath of the Lich King, hit shops at midnight on Wednesday. Hordes of gamers queued through the night to be the first to get their hands on the latest instalment in the World of Warcraft franchise. But what extra features does Wrath of the Lich King offer Warcraft addicts? Is it worth the money? Here's five reasons you should splash out:
1) New characters
2) New player-vs-player battle modes
3) A whole new world
4) Improved graphics and game engine
5) It's World of Warcraft, just better
( www.telegraph.co.uk )
Xbox Live users were hit with numerous technical problems over the weekend, with hundreds of users being booted off the service. The problems come a few days before the much-touted new Xbox Live Experience launches this coming Wednesday (19 November), featuring cutesy Mii-like avatars. Microsoft's Xbox Live evangelist, Larry 'Major Nelson' Hyrb claims on his blog that over the weekend: "the Xbox Operations Centre noticed that a large number of members were disconnected from Xbox Live, some more than once." ( www.techradar.com )
The 360 should shortly break the 25 million unit mark, beating the original Xbox's top selling point. Microsoft boss Don Mattrick still believes he was the very first person to invent controllable human avatars using the most tenuous argument ever. Don't forget that the 'New Xbox Experience', which is a complete change of the GUI for the Xbox 360, is out this week, on Wednesday the 19th of November. This may give you something to do when you've finished Halo 3 Recon, which Bungie states is only between three and five hours long. ( www.theinquirer.net )
EA Sports Active hopes to encourage players to box, skip and jog their way to fitness in the comfort of their own home with a personalised training programme. The company says it is the first in a line of sports perfomance games designed to improve the well-being of people of all ages. EA said it was aimed primarily at women who are seeking a fun and easy way to achieve a healthy lifestyle. "We have a real opportunity to redefine the home fitness experience with a more Western cardiovascular approach and exercises that will appeal to a diverse audience, getting people off the couch and into shape," said Peter Moore, president of EA Sports. "This game costs less than a gym membership, it provides a variety of exercises unlike a one dimensional in-home fitness contraption, and it delivers an interactive experience that you don't get from a DVD. ( www.telegraph.co.uk )
Second Life is in the news yet again this week, although this time not because of virtual adultery, but because $10,000 is up for grabs for canny developers. Linden Labs is calling on freelance developers to build Second Life's greatest ever application or in-game project that will improve the lives of the virtual world's residents when they are offline, with a $10,000 carrot for the feature that wins out. The Linden prize-winning app needs to help Second Lifers "work, learn and communicate". ( www.techradar.com )
The internet game, "Second Life", sees players create characters for themselves and live in a parallel, virtual universe - including having jobs, relationships and children. But after Amy Pollard, 28, discovered her husband's character having sex with another female player online she filed for divorce citing "unreasonable behaviour". She claimed that David Pollard, 40, committed adultery with the animated woman and said that it is the second time she had caught his character cheating on her. In February last year, she said that he was having sex with an online call girl character and she even hired an online private detective in the game to investigate his adultery.
She has filed for divorce, which is due to be finalised next week. "The solicitor wasn't at all surprised - she said it was her second divorce case involving Second Life that week," Mrs Pollard said More than 10 million people worldwide are active users of the website game. Companies created a virtual presence on the site - the clothing firm American Apparel has a retail outlet there, and Reuters has a news bureau within Second Life to report on events in the virtual universe.The couple, who have been married for three years, had first met in the game, where their alter egos were called 'Dave Barmy' and 'Laura Skye'. They arranged to meet up in real life and moved into a house together in Cornwall. They were married at a registry office in St Austell in July 2005 - and even marked the occasion by holding a virtual wedding in Second Life, modelling it on the "fairytale" ceremony of David and Victoria Beckham.
( www.telegraph.co.uk )
One of the questions frequently asked is which zone will you be leveling in first? A large majority of players will pick Borean Tundra or Howling Fjord. Why not both? Not to worry, there's a far easier way of getting from the Tundra to the Fjord and back again. You don't necessarily have to go back to your capital city zones and then transfer to a different zeppelin or boat. Our new walrusian friends the Tuskarr will be supplying the main modes of transportation with really big turtles. Those Goblin turtle mounts are no match for these behemoths. ( www.wowinsider.com )