Archive for February 26, 2008

Play-On – arcade development system from Italy (w/ new arcade games)

February 26, 2008


The latest Stinger Report (Issue #618) finishes up coverage on ATEI from last month and with it plenty of great information, including news of a relatively new developer fromplayon-cabinet-web.png Italy that has created a PC-based arcade system that is based on an open source development system known as the ELF Integrated Scripting System which is suppose to facilitate development. I decided to take a look at their site and it appears that they are on track to make an impression on the industry although time will tell whether the platform will acheive substantial market penetration or not. According to the site the platform should be available worldwide but it is unclear as to which channels it will be available. Their site features most information in both English and Italian and according to TSR playonatei2007-005.jpgthey plan on offering 10 games through their PlayON platform by the end of the year. We also get a look at a couple of different cabinet configurations, such as the one pictured above and in the thumbnail to the left (which is from ATEI 2008).

One game, Tunnel Racer(pictured at the top) is already complete and four other games, Metal Daemons (a 1-0n-1 fighter), Lucky Turkey (“a fast paced cartoon style shooter”), SuperBall Soccer Boy (2D sports) and Project Aurelio (unknown) have been announced and are in development. From the hardware specs the platform is capable of producing good graphics on a Linux based platform that currently includes an AMD Athlon 64 3200+ playon-hwbox-web.jpgCPU, 2GB of RAM, an nVidia 7300GT w/ 512MB of RAM and 5.1 surround sound with the promise of upgradeability (not unlike other arcade PC platforms). From the image of the hardware it also appears that the platform also includes a JAMMA connector but that isn’t listed in the specifications. Games are loaded via USB jump drives that require a security SmartCard (that comes with the USB Drive) to install. This combined with the free development kit promises a relatively cheap platform that can bring a wide-variety of games to an arcade environment.

I like the ideathat Play-ON has and it fulfills something that some arcade operators desire – a cheap, easy-to-use platform that offers variety and many new games can be created for the market, almost like XNA with Xbox Live Arcade. The obstacles will be availability of the platform (if they offered it in kit form that would make it even better), overall cost and the quality of the games. Both us and The Stinger Report will be keeping an eye on these guys and their future developments.

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Sega Europe launches Primeval Hunt Mini-Site

February 26, 2008


(Click on the image to enlarge)

For anyone familiar with the Sega Amusements Europe site, you know that the site features a number of ‘mimi-sites’ that cover their current line-up of games with some good detail and at times pictures and videos of said games. In all honesty I wish someone at Sega Europe would get together with Sega Amusements USA and get them to improve their website to a similar fashion similar as the Sega Amusements USA site is lacking a bit when it comes to game information as well as regular updates.

As far as the mini-site, it’s pretty good at describing the game and includes great screenshots of the game as well as 29″ and 62″ cabinets respectively. There are no videos of the game in action although we have posted some in the past. As far as a US release, still no word on when that is coming exactly although I wouldn’t be surprised to see it at ASI next month.
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Battle Lines – Arcade Street Fighter IV Rocks GDC!

February 26, 2008

From Kevin Williams comes this look at trends in the game console industry and certain issues they are facing there and a resurgence in interest in arcades thanks to Street Fighter IV. It also discusses the issues that mainstream gaming media happen to have when it comes to covering amusement. Enjoy!

Battle Lines – Arcade Street Fighter IV Rocks GDC!Consumer game media and publishers have been thrown into consternation by the ground swell of popularity and enthusiasm shown by players and developers into the Capcom USA presented ‘Street Fighter IV’ arcade title.

ryu-zan.jpgFollowing the swamping of the AOU show a few weeks ago, there was a raised speculation that a launch of an amusement title could actually influence Japanese game sale expectations. But it was the appearance of SFIV at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) last week in America that has seen major concerns voiced in the console sector.

It has to be placed into perspective that the modern consumer games industry has plotted in detail their release calendar of major licenses, hoping to generate the biggest interest and also ensure the greatest revenue returns each year. Consumer publishers expecting to face a hard 2008 with strong competition from the movie industry eroding revenue as the public disposable income is split between going to see an avalanche of new mega-releases (new films from James Bond, Indiana Jones, Pixar, etc), competing against mega-releases on the console (new games from Grand Theft, Gran Turismo, Tekken, etc).

This erosion of consumer game sales was first seen after the shake-up in the Next-Gen console states, the surprise win to-date by Nintendo’s Wii was compounded by a slower than expected sales forecast for major brand releases in 2007. Though still phenomenally successful the selling power of Halo 3 was slower than expected, and seemed to chart a decline in a maturing market to buy as many new releases as with previous new consoles.

With a closing window of opportunity for game publishers – looking to release a handful of ‘Big’ releases, rather than lots of wider exposure titles – the possibility that this restricted window of profitability could be affected by a game from the amusement market sent shockwaves through the detailed planning of a number of large publishers. To see the crippled circumstances that Atari Games and Midway have found themselves in recently underlining the difficulties of a changing sector.

Some financial investors in major publishers are looking to secure their investments – forcing publishers to look at new markets – such as Casual Gaming. It was this topic that shaped this years’ GDC – but the opportunity of investment in amusement content was brought into sharp relief with the appearance of arcade cabinets running ‘Street Fighter IV’ in the Capcom suite, and the ground swell of popularity it generated.

Capcom USA (that controls the franchise) unique arcade presentation to trade made a point of avoiding questions about the conversion of the game onto a home system, and focused on the interest in the game in an amusement package. Those console media and publishers that had done their most to deride and debunk the opportunity of casual gaming from an amusement perspective were left badly wrong footed by the GDC appearance.

Some consumer game annalists speculated that if Capcom could find an influential distributor for the arcade game in America; able to feed emerging wide scale player interest to play the game in the arcades – populating cinemas, family entertainment centres, bowling allies and new Out-of-Home entertainment centres with machines. The impact in August’08 of the game could relive the success in amusement last seen with games such as Space Invaders, Asteroids, Sega Rally, Time Crisis or Dance Dance Revolution!

A fundamental element of the concern about the longevity of a rush to install SFIV is that this particular game is not just a common amusement release, but is dependent on its NESYS connected infrastructure with live-online support and IC Smart card capability. Emulating the underground success of the Golden Tee series in the bar and club trade; Street Fighter could totally re-write the perception of amusement as a revenue generator. This news rocking the very foundations of the consumer game trade – literally appearing in their back yard at GDC (and expected at E3).

This shock appearance at GDC comes after the public forums and sites covered amusement in a level of detail unheard of from the conventional consumer games media – again wrong footing those that hoped to shape consumer gamer tastes – interest in amusement topics have even seen a number of prominent consumer game conferences this year adding a sessions discussing the impact of out-of-home entertainment as a serious revenue stream in this rejuvenated sector.

Finally, as has been seen by the Vivendi – Activision, Take Two – Electronic Arts and other high-level merger negotiations; consolidation is hoped to maximise a shrinking profit window for lots of console titles. If this is impeded by outside forces, (cinema, gadget subscription…amusement!!) then real problems will be felt throughout a volatile development sector.

The use of magazines, which these publishers control through their allocation of advertising revenue, to try and shape buyers preferences, be that slating new movie releases, over hyping and manipulating console game reviews – or direct attempts to ignore emerging markets, are all to be expected in this fight for survival.

Author: Kevin Williams, KWP Limited – extensive writer and speaker on the Out-of-Home interactive entertainment market – a consultant in the field – as well as owner of the free leading industry e-News service, The Stinger Report.

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