Monster Hunter Communal Gaming Space Opens



:hi:

The game latest game in the franchise, Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite, is number 25 in the sales charts this week, and the organisers of the event hope it will kick-start the game’s popularity in the UK. The Monster Hunter series is huge in Japan, outselling all other titles by hundreds of thousands of copies. It has a similar premise to Pokemon, with players completing quests to achieve glory, and fashioning armour and weapons from the remains of slain monsters. Gamers play co-operatively on their PSPs, lending the title a social element, and Japanese fans often play together on their morning commute. The event’s organisers are hoping that by opening up a communal gaming space in central London, they’ll foster a similar trend. The Monster Hunter Gathering Hall, which is taking place at the former site of the Lazarides gallery on Charing Cross Road, runs until September 1, and organisers expect hundreds of fans to gather at the gallery each day to play the game. Admission is free to PSP owners who have a copy of the Monster Hunter game. Capcom, the game’s publisher, said: “What makes Monster Hunter unique in that it is best played cooperatively. Players have to be physically close to play together, meaning that there’s a real social element to the game. Players in Japan congregate everywhere, from parks to cafés to amusement arcades to on public transport. It’s not unusual to see large huddles of kids in parks, all sitting together playing the game.”

( www.telegraph.co.uk )


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Sony Beefs Up PSP Themes



:ahaha:Sony plays host Destination Playstation this week where it seems it is relying on the PSP to further grow its burgeoning Playstation Network The firm has taken to packaging PSPs around games and has announced Assassin's Creed and Hannah Montana versions of the game console at a knees-up in Arizona, The Hannah Montana PSP is lilac. Sony said it has already regsistered more that 20 million accounts on its Playstation Network and said it had sold 21.3 million PS3s and 50 million PSPs as of January 2009. ( www.theinquirer.net )

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Microsoft Unveils Universal Deal For Xbox

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Microsoft is making major improvements to its Xbox Live service – including a tie-up with NBC Universal to boost its movie offerings and a raft of new games announcements. The Xbox 360 is battling hard against rival PlayStation 3 in the console market, and after the success of Xbox Live's movie service in the US, the UK will not get a more extensive service of its own. The deal with NBC Universal International Television Distribution means that some of the world's biggest movies will be available to download – many in HD, with the studio joining Warner Bros and Paramount on the Xbox ticket. Microsoft also took the opportunity to talk up its extensive downloadable content including new material for some of the biggest releases of the last year, including GTA IV, and mention the forthcoming MMO quiz 1 vs 100. Commenting on the news, UK & Ireland Head of Xbox, Neil Thompson said: "We are delighted to announce what are perhaps our most exciting content developments to date. "Having an agreement with NBC Universal not only gives our customers even more choice when they use Xbox LIVE but really seals our position as a major player in the mainstream home entertainment space. "Of course, we always want to ensure our core audience have the best possible gaming experiences too, and with the range of new extra content now available they can enjoy some of the biggest blockbuster and social games for longer than ever before. "This also applies to '1 vs. 100', which, whilst still in its infancy, signals the next chapter in the Xbox story which is set to take home entertainment to a whole new level by putting the consumer in the driving seat of their own TV show. Watch this space." ( www.techradar.com )


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Too Much Gaming Gives You PlayStationitis

:ayokona:Over enthusiastic gamers are at risk of contracting Palmare PlayStation Hidradenitis, it seems, after a 12-year-old Swiss girl had the distinction of becoming the first person diagnosed with the affliction. The girl had developed a serious hand infection caused, her doctor said, by excessive gaming. Professor Vincent Piguet from the University Hospital of Geneva, Swiss named the condition Palmare PlayStation Hidradenitis, Swiss news agency ATS reported. Piguet said the girl's hands were covered in lumps. "They were huge red nodes which were very spectacular," he told reporters. Continuous stressed pressing of buttons and waggling of knobs, plus all the sweat and grime were blamed for the condition. Doctors banned the girl from her Playstation for ten days and her condition cleared up. A report appears in the British Journal of Dermatology.
( www.theinquirer.net )

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Video Games Like World of Warcraft And Second Life Could Be Used For Education

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Researchers believe interactive games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life could be adapted so that children learn skills from them that could be transferred to real life. They believe that the "immersive" aspect of the games in which the player suspends his belief means that the brain is particularly engaged and can absorb complex issues. The games real life feel also means that students could effectively carry out "work experience" on the computer learning techniques and skills they can apply back in reality. Researchers believe that the games, which they say are more active than passive traditional learning, could be most useful for science based subjects with students able to carry out imaginary experiments and improve their ability to "learn to learn". "Compared with a similar, paper-based curriculum that included laboratory experiences, students overall were more engaged in the immersive interface and learned as much or more," said Professor Chris Dede, an academic in Learning technologies at Harvard University in the journal Science. Games such as Whyville and the ecology game River City have already been developed specifically to teach children and students but scientists believe established popular video games could be adapted so that players could be "dosed" with knowledge.

Much like "flight simulators" they are so "real" that many life skills can be learned from them. Early tests of these learning games have shown unusual levels of student engagement. Dr Merrilea Mayo, director of Future Learning systems at the Kaufman Foundation, said the games can also help close the gap between under and over-achieving children. "Unlike lectures, games can be adapted to the pace of the user," she said "Games also simultaneously present information in multiple visual and auditory modes, which capitalises on different learning styles.

"Although the field is still in its embryonic stages, game-based learning has the potential to deliver science and maths education to millions of users simultaneously. "Unlike other mass-media experiments in education (e.g., TV), games are a highly interactive." The new research is likely to add to the debate about the pros and cons of video games. Last year the culture minister Margaret Hodge called for a film-style classifications for games such as World of Warcraft which is said to have 10 million users worldwide. There have also been concerns that the games are addictive and that children's education and lives are being disrupted by them.

( www.telegraph.co.uk )


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Video Games Can Save People

:bringiton:

The latest academic research has found that games such as Half Life and Doom could actually be used to train people in fire safety, evacuation procedures and even save lives. Missing a link? Let us explain. By using the engines from games such as these, which involve looking at a scenario from a first-person perspective, the team at the university was able to adapt the environment into a 3D model of a real world building. In just three weeks a single developer was able to programme three fire evacuation procedures complete with smoke and fire which the Durham experts say is significantly quicker and more cost effective than beginning from scratch. The scientists found three main advantages of using this technology. That it can be used to identify problems with the layout of the building, that it can help familiarise people with evacuation procedures and that it can teach good fire safety. Many dangerous situations occur in a fire because people don't know the bits of the building they don't use on a daily basis, like the fire exits and stairwells, well enough and therefore panic due to the unfamiliarity with procedure.

As opposed to starting from scratch this method takes a huge wedge of time off building a virtual reality model. The games are also tested extensively before use in both usability and performance also meaning less work for the team. According to the boffins the code within these games also enables easy programming of features such as wind, smoke, fire and water. Lead author Dr Shamus Smith from Durham University's Computer Science department said, "Although virtual environment toolkits are available, they usually only provide a subset of the tools needed to build complete virtual worlds." Dr Smith explains further that in order to include features such as fire and water the programmer usually requires additional programming skills and a substantial time investment on the part of the developer. "By using readily available computer games, these features can be very easily simulated and are obviously vital in creating a virtual fire evacuation scenario".

Steve Wharton, of Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service agreed that, "Using virtual models such as this one is an excellent way to raise fire safety awareness and test the effectiveness of a building's design. Virtual models also provide an effective way to train fire-fighters in a realistic, yet safe, environment." Further to the theoretic usefulness of this simulation, the team tested it on real people, showing them the difference between the usual simulation and the computer game-based one, those tested agreed unamimously that the latter was the most helpful and realistic, and that they really enjoyed shooting the fire demons in the ladies' loo on level six. ( www.atomicmpc.com.au )


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Violent Video Games 'Could Help Save Lives'



:inis:

Codes used to create virtual worlds for "shoot 'em up" games such as Doom 3 and Half Life 2 could be modified to build 3D fire safety simulators, according to research by Durham University. The games' sophisticated software could be converted to recreate real buildings, then modified to create a number of emergency scenarios, much more easily and cheaply than traditional virtual reality programmes. The study, published today in the Fire Safety Journal, found that games in which the player saw the environment from the first person perspective and normally involved the player using weapons to fight a number of enemies, had the greatest capability to be converted. The scientists said the simulations could identify problems with the layout of a building, help familiarise people with evacuation routines and teach people good practice in fire safety. Lead author Dr Shamus Smith from Durham University's Computer Science department said: "Although virtual environment toolkits are available, they usually only provide a subset of the tools needed to build complete virtual worlds. Although you can create fire and smoke for example, it is not very straightforward.

"In order to include these features using toolkits, it often requires additional programming skills and a substantial time investment on the part of the developer. "By using readily available computer games, these features can be very easily simulated and are obviously vital in creating a virtual fire evacuation scenario." Steve Wharton, deputy community safety manager at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Using virtual models such as this one is an excellent way to raise fire safety awareness and test the effectiveness of a building's design. "Virtual models also provide an effective way to train firefighters in a realistic, yet safe, environment." ( www.telegraph.co.uk )


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Starcraft University Course



:ahaha:The name Starcraft is synonymous with the typical RTS, a name that will burn brightly in the nerdy hearts of gamers and strategists for untold years to come. The very last place you’d expect it to be uttered is the title of a university course, specifically, Berkeley. Held every Thursday at 7pm the lectures cover the strategy of the game, unit makeup and use, how to analyse a replay and many more. We grabbed the course description from their site, just to see what they were really on about:

"UC Berkeley students with an interest in real-time strategy games and the competitive gaming landscape are encouraged to participate in this class.
This course will go in-depth in the theory of how war is conducted within the confines of the game Starcraft. There will be lecture on various aspects of the game, from the viewpoint of pure theory to the more computational aspects of how exactly battles are conducted. Calculus and Differential Equations are highly recommended for full understanding of the course. Furthermore, the class will take the theoretical into the practical world by analyzing games and replays to reinforce decision-making skills and advanced Starcraft theory.
Class will start with lecture and usually include a special discussion topic having to do with the day’s lecture to inspire new and original thought. At the end of lecture, there may be time to analyze student-submitted replays to illustrate a point or to improve analysis. Homework will be assigned at the end of each class and is due at the beginning of each lecture."

Not only do they do all that, but their mark depends 40% on a final project, 20% on attendance, and 40% on replay submissions and homework. Their homework is actually just to play the game using the strategies covered in class! They’ve also got actual questions to answer for homework, just a few examples follow:

•"List possible uses for a Terran Barracks."
•"What is the advantage and drawback of selecting two High Templars and casting overlapping Psionic Storms?"
•"Is it more advantageous to attack in a line or to envelop your opponent’s army? Prove your point using flux calculations."
( www.atomicmpc.com.au )

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Video Games Benefit From The Credit Crunch

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Financial worries are forcing us all to tighten our belts, and encouraging a sort of “make do and mend” culture across the country. Sales of sewing machines are on the up, says Argos, as people take to customising their own clothes rather than splashing out on new threads; bread-making machines, too, are enjoying a surge in popularity, says Comet, with people opting to bake their own loaves to save dough. Despite these straitened times, the video-games industry is enjoying record sales, even as spending on other entertainment declines. According to the latest figures, more video games were bought last year than DVDs. Sales were up 20 per cent, raking in $32 billion (£22 billion), while sales of films on DVD and Blu-ray, by contrast, dropped by 6 per cent, earning just $29 billion worldwide. It seems that consumers are quickly warming to the idea of video games not only as a good-value form of entertainment, but as something that can be enjoyed by all ages and abilities, together, as a social activity.

Consoles such as the Nintendo Wii, with its clever motion-sensitive controllers, and games such as Rock Star and Guitar Hero, are proving hugely attractive to consumers who may never previously have considered giving gaming a go. Video-games parties are all the rage. Guests are invited to bring a dish and a bottle of wine and the evening is spent in a convivial if competitive atmosphere as people duel against one another on SingStar, a karaoke game, or Guitar Hero, where players must strum a plastic guitar plugged into the games console in time with the on-screen instructions. “Consumers are staying in and spending more money on being entertained at home,” says Aaron Greenberg, head of interactive entertainment product management at Microsoft, which makes the Xbox 360 games console. “The credit crunch is a fact for folks in the US and Europe, so people are being much more cautious.” And it’s women who are largely driving the video-games market, buying 21 per cent more games last year than they did in 2007, according to researchers at TNS. “The Nintendo DS and the Wii have bought a demographic into the market that is not normally associated with gaming,” says Chris Barnes, an account manager with TNS.

“The birth of casual gaming has made gaming more widely acceptable, and console and games publishers are falling over themselves to produce products that don’t target the traditional gamer. Wii Fit and Guitar Hero have proven to be a massive success.” The price of consoles – with a Nintendo Wii costing as little as £179, and an Xbox 360 even less – is seen as crucial to redefining video gaming as an entertainment proposition with mass appeal. Add to that the almost endless replay value of many games, as well as the inherent fun factor of competing with friends and family in singing contests and virtual tennis, and it’s easy to see why video gaming is the perfect antidote to the credit crunch. The nation’s new-found passion is having a positive knock-on effect in other areas. There are numerous studies showing that the rapid-fire imagery in video games is helping us to process everyday images and information with increasing speed and accuracy, and in some cases improves hand-to-eye co-ordination to such an extent that trainee surgeons are using video games to hone their fine motor skills. “Our environment, because of technology, is changing, and therefore the abilities we need in order to navigate these highly information-laden environments are changing,” says Susana Urbina, a professor of psychology at the University of North Florida.

Moreover, rhythm-action video games such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero are encouraging children to pick up musical instruments. About 2.5 million British youngsters have progressed to real music-making after playing console games, according to Youth Music, the UK’s largest music charity. And it’s not just the video-games industry that’s enjoying a boom. Sales of “netbooks” – cheap, ultra-portable laptops that have minimal memory and storage, but are small enough to carry everywhere and capable of connecting to the web – are on the up. Netbooks, such as the Asus Eee PC and Acer Aspire One, now account for 10 per cent of all computers sold in Europe, say analysts at IDC. Many netbooks – some costing less than £200 – also bring a new kind of operating system to consumers. Lots of them run a version of the open-source Linux platform, a competitor to Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s OS X, which is easy to use and economical to run. It seems that is carrying over into people’s regular computer usage too, with consumers seemingly more willing to try out free software, such as Open Office and Google Docs, which are alternatives to Microsoft Office. These programs not only reduce costs, but in many cases are more useful, because documents are stored on the internet rather than on a single-computer hard drive, so they can be accessed from any machine. Tech-savvy Britons are also livening up the long, cash-strapped winter nights by turning to catch-up TV services on the web. It is, after all, much cheaper to watch the first series of Little Dorrit for free on the BBC’s iPlayer service than splash out on cinema tickets. Traffic to the iPlayer service has surged in recent months, with more than 41 million TV show requests from iPlayer last December alone. Channel 4 offers a similar service with 4OD, as does ITV, while Sky’s Sky Player provides access to its recently screened films and television shows. ( www.telegraph.co.uk )

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Sony To Post Huge $1.1Billion Loss

:ayokona:

Sony is set to post an operating loss of a whopping $1.1billion for 2007-2008, according to respected business media outlet Nikkei. The loss is the company's first in the past 14 years, and the second since Sony went public in 1958, reports Edge this week. The original forecast was for a profit of around $2.2billion for the same period. "The reasons behind this anticipated loss are typical of many markets in Japan," adds Edge. "A global recession continues to curb foreign demand for Sony's luxury items, while the strong yen continues to interrupt the company's trade." Shares in Sony plummeted down 8 per cent after the news broke. Sony is scheduled to announce its quarterly earnings results on 29 January. In other news, respected US games industry analysts Michael Pachter is predicting a PS3 price drop in the US this Easter, claiming that the PS3 will drop to an RRP of $299 to maximise sales over the busy Easter hols.

( www.techradar.com )


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CES 2009: Video Games 'More Popular' Than Film And Music, Says Studio Boss

:astig:

Mike Griffith, head of Activision studios, told delegates at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that consumers’ interest in video games was increasing all the time. “Movies, recorded music and television – these are all stagnating or contracting entertainment sectors,” he said. “Video games are poised to eclipse all other forms of entertainment in the year ahead.” Mr Griffith said that casual, fun games with a social element were one of the main reasons for this surge in interest. He said that interactive titles, such as Guitar Hero, which is published by Activision, epitomised this trend. “We all have an inner rock star waiting to be unleashed,” said Mr Griffith. “This is the 'Guitar Hero' secret: It’s both a whole new way to play a game, and a whole new way to experience music. The convergence of the action game with the passion of music is changing video games – and bringing games like 'Guitar Hero' to the forefront of entertainment.”

He added that sales of video games in the four years between 2003 to 2007 increased 40 per cent in the US, while over that same period, sales of cinema tickets had fallen six per cent, as did the number of hours of TV watched by the average American, while sales of recorded music dipped 12 per cent. "Games are no longer pre-set trips through linear mazes," he said. "They are becoming a legitimate story-telling medium that rivals feature films. "The moviegoer is passive whereas the gamer is active and part of the game itself." ( www.telegraph.co.uk )


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CES 2009: The World’s Most Accurate Joystick?



:astig:

Thrustmaster says the device boasts surgical accuracy, powered by a patent-pending system called Hall Effect Accurate Technology (Heart). At its launch, the manufacturers said that the joystick’s built in Heart magnetic sensors deliver precision levels over 200 times greater than most current systems. Although the device is not the most expensive on the market, it is being touted as the most accurate. Thrustmaster claims the technology also removes all friction from the device along with any risk of mechanical wear and tear, thus guaranteeing consistent precision after repeated gaming sessions. The T. 16000M’s three sections – including 2 removable parts – can be tailored to suit individual requirements, and it is suitable for both left- and right-handed users. The 16 action buttons can also be configured individually, and the firm has taken advice on ergonomic design to try to allow the device to alleviate game fatigue. The company also claims that the technology’s accuracy is improved by the absence of ‘dead zones’, a feature that allows for smoother actions. The joystick also contains a helical spring, enhancing firm control and allowing for more fluid movements. Finally, the T. 16000M boasts a solid, weighted base to ensure the device remains stable. The Thrustmaster T. 16000M is scheduled for release in the UK in February for £49.99. ( www.telegraph.co.uk )


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Videogame Sales Hit Record High Thanks To Nintendo Wii

:astig:

According to research from Deloitte, the consultancy firm, a quarter of households owned the market-leading Nintendo Wii console. People spent an average 6.6 hours a week playing games on a computer, phone or a console. A further 24 per cent intended to buy a Wii in the next year. Jolyon Barker, head of technology at Deloitte said: "Gaming has been traditionally frowned upon by parents. However it is now considered "family time" for many people aged between 26 and 42. Although interest declines after the age of 40 this could change as a generation of gamers grows up." The research, which surveyed 2,023 people online, highlighted that 39 per cent of that age group had played on a games console in the past six months, compared with 51 per cent of 14-to-25-year-olds.

More than half said their preferred method of gaming was a console, over a computer or mobile device. Separate sales figures from the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) said the fastest-growing sector in 2008 was computer games, which saw unit sales grow 17 per cent to 82.8m units spearheaded by the popularity of console games (up 28 per cent to 74.3m units) which the body attributed to the success of Nintendo's Wii platform. Elspa, the games publishers' association, says the UK gaming market, including hardware and accessories, is now worth £4.03bn. Michael Rawlinson, managing director of Elspa, said: "In the past people played board games and now you have families sitting around their console, creating a community feel. People with no previous experience are playing games like Wii Fit as if were the most natural thing.

"Playing video games is no longer a solitary thing. The percentage of games that you play on your own is in decline. Nintendo Wii, PS3, XBox360 all have interconnectivity with the internet so people have the opportunity of playing games with people all over the world," he added. Games sales for the Nintendo Wii sold 20.1m units in 2008, up 153 per cent on 2007. Wii software revenues increased 112 per cent to £481m, while Microsoft's Xbox 360 earned £443m, up 38 per cent. Sony's PlayStation 3 generated £334m in software sales, an increase of 115 per cent, in its first full year on the market, according to Elspa. ( www.telegraph.co.uk )


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Tetris Eases Your Stress Says Report

:inis:

A report from the BBC has suggested that playing puzzle games like Tetris is good for your mental health. A study discovered that the simple puzzle building block game aided people suffering from traumatic stress like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). "We wanted to find a way to dampen down flashbacks - the raw sensory images of trauma that are over-represented in the memories of those with PTSD," Dr Emily Holmes told the BBC. ( www.techradar.com )


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Microsoft Unconvinced By 3D Games

:siga:

UK games developer Blitz Games has admitted that it has an uphill struggle convincing platform holders such as Sony and Microsoft of the value of 'true' 3D gaming. Blitz were showing an Xbox 360 game demo running on 3D-enabled screens to selected developers, platform holders and games publishing execs at the recent 3D Entertainment Summit in Hollywood. In a recent interview with Develop magazine, Andrew Oliver, CTO of Blitz Games, admitted: "Those [platform holders] that have heard about it have been curious but not convinced.

( www.techradar.com )


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Warcraft Nut Threatens Suicide

:ayokona:17-year-old World of Warcraft player told a game moderator that if he didn't get his way he would kill himself. The Ohio teen told the customer services rep that he had nothing else to live for other than his marathon sessions in the fantasy role playing game and that his frustration with the game had become so all-encompassing that he had decided to top himself. The employee, no doubt keen to avoid the kind of headlines that would follow the untimely demise of a pimply social retard blamed on the ridiculously addictive game, called the cops who traced the miscreant through his IP address. They then kicked in his back door and slapped a charge of first degree misdemeanour on him. He, of course, insisted the whole thing was just a joke. ( www.theinquirer.net )

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PS3's Browser Use Is Higher Than Wii

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Sony's PS3 is more popular among gamers for accessing the internet than Nintendo's Wii, despite the Wii user base being almost double that of the PS3. However, to put this in proportion, the PS3's browser has a 0.04 share of the 'internet market' globally compared with the PC's 88.7 per cent majority, according to business research group Market Share. Nintendo Wii's Opera browser has a minuscule 0.01 per cent of the global internet market. Both Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii can access mainstream online entertainment services such as the BBC iPlayer and YouTube. Current estimates put the Wii's global user base at around 44 million, over twice the estimated 19 million PS3s that have been sold around the world to date.

( www.techradar.com )


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Mind Game here Players Use Brainwaves To Float Ball Through Hoops Unveiled W



:bringiton:

The Mind Flex comes with a brain-scanning headset which measures brainwaves and turns them into energy. The aim of the game is to concentrate hard enough to generate enough energy to power a fan which in turn causes a ball to levitate and move through a series of hoops. The toy made by Mattel, the world's largest toy manufacturer and makers of the Barbie doll , has been previewed in the US. The game is expected to cause much discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show 2009 which is currently taking place in Las Vegas. Mattel have remained tight lipped about how the product will work but say it will be released in America, later in the US year for $80. Games like Mind Flex are expected to be very successful in 2009 as the games industry becomes more on making gaming more intuitive. ( www.telegraph.co.uk )


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Nintendo To Launch 'Wii TV'

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The plan is to generate more of its revenues from content - and the advertising that goes with it. The service will be begin in Japan this spring but could be rolled out globally by the end of the year. Some 40 million households throughout the world have a Wii and almost half (18m) are connected to the internet. Broadcasts will be made exclusively for the Nintendo channel and will include cartoons, cookery programmes, brain-training quizzes and lifestyle shows. Most of the content will be free but Nintendo could make some programmes pay-per-view. Customers would be able to pay through the existing Wii Point payment system, that can already be used to pay for access to some games. Japanese television executives are thought to be worried about the possibility of the Wii becoming, as one called it, "the centre-piece of the living room".

( www.telegraph.co.uk )


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