The Games Journalism Prizes: Recognising Writing Excellence


The Games Journalism Prizes: Recognising Writing Excellence

UK-based games journalists set up an awards process to recognise excellence in the field of games journalism.

The Games Journalism Prizes, an awards initiative set up by a community interest group in the UK, have just announced the final group of nominees for their longlist, with the whittling down process to commence immediately and the winners to be announced some time in February.

On 16 July 2012, at the headquarters of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, a group of journalists gathered to listen to the thoughts of some prominent British writers on the subject of games journalism.

The six luminaries were Helen Lewis (New Statesman Deputy Editor), Kieron Gillen (Rock Paper Shotgun founder/Marvel writer), Naomi Alderman (author/journalist), Keza MacDonald (IGN UK Games Editor), Rob Fahey (journalist/GamesIndustry.biz founder) and Keith Stuart (games correspondent for The Guardian).

The panel discussed the growing pains of the games journalism industry, the lack of recognition from more established quarters of the press and the ethics and integrity of a journalistic discipline so intertwined with corporate interests. It was an informal but informative session.

The discussion was brought to a close with the announcement of a new initiative to bring greater recognition to the efforts of games journalists. They went to some length to explain that the Games Journalism Prizes were in no way linked to BAFTA and were an independent peer recognition award.

“We’re an interest group, incorporating as a Community Interest Group – which means that no-one can ever own these awards, nor can anyone make a profit from them. The members of the advisory committee for the awards are Dave Green, Dan Griliopoulos and Keith Stuart. None of their work will be eligible for the prizes. The prize is not affiliated with BAFTA, The Guardian or UKIE.”

Further information can be found on the Games Journalism Prize website.

 

‘BAFTA Entrance’ Image Credit: Me, hence the terrible blurriness, sorry.

iPhone 5 now available for pre-order in China


iPhone 5 now available for pre-order in China

Taobao, the Chinese equivilant of Amazon, has started to accept pre-orders for the next-generation of iPhone, dubbed the iPhone 5, and is listing the device along with purported mock-up images and technical specifications.

Orders are now being accepting by a variety of different sellers, some charging up to $1,100.

See also: iPhone 5 enginnering sample leaked

Apple has made no official announcement regarding the next-generation iPhone, which is expected to be announced sometime later in the year. We excepct the iPhone 5 to be announed in either September or October, and on sale officially in the UK in October.

iPhone 5 with larger screeniPhone 5 with larger screen

Taobao sellers claim they plan to purhcase the iPhone in Hong Kong or the United States and bring it to mainland China.

See also: Chinese ‘don’t want’ New iPad, report

Although there are no official details regarding the next generation iPhone, it is widely expected to feature a quad-core processor and perhaps a slightly larger screen, there are also rumours of a smaller dock connection, liquidmetal casing, NFC wallet and all kinds of things (see: rumour roundup). The only thing anybody is really sure of is that it will run Apple’s upcoming iOS 6 software. 

Man behind Mario's voice plays Mario Maker; and he's hilarious | Mario Maker


Man behind Mario’s voice plays Mario Maker; and he’s hilarious | Mario Maker

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Charles Martinet (Mario’s voice) sat down and played Mario Maker, sharing his fondness of the little italian plumber.

The voice of Nintendo’s famous Mario, Charles Martinet, sat down and played the new Wii U game Mario Maker, showing his true personality and love of the character. 

Throughout the YouTube video from NintendoLife, you can see Martinet commenting on how Mario would react to the levels and doing his remarkable Mario voice. 

A Child at Heart

Watching Charles Martinet play Mario Maker shows exactly how passionate voice actors are about their characters. Getting extremely into the game, Martinet explains how amazing the level design in Mario Maker is, and how difficult they could be to regular gamers. 

Being part of the Nintendo world behind the scenes, Martinet has grown quite familiar with the Italian plumber, as he’s done all the Mario voices in the Nintendo franchise, plus a few other characters, like:

  • Luigi
  • Wario
  • Waluigi
  • Baby Mario
  • Baby Luigi
  • Toadsworth

Martinet made his first Mario voice debut in 1995 on Interplay’s Mario’s FUNdamentals, but is widely known for his first appearance in Mario 64 in 1996. 

Since the 1990s, Martinet has become a voice all gamers can recognize at an instant – a part of our childhood. 

What do you think of Charles Martinet playing Mario Maker? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

iPod prevails in big brand battle


iPod prevails in big brand battle

Apple’s iPod has gone months without an update. It’s been nearly a year since the portable music player added new capabilities, such as the ability to play video, or appeared in a new form factor, like the slimmed-down nano. In the rapid-fire world of technology toys, that’s usually the sign of a product line that’s grown long in the tooth.”

Despite this, iPods continue to fly off the shelves as fast as Apple and its manufacturing partners can make them.

Analysts and trend watchers say this success reflects that the iPod market isn’t as focused on recent product updates as much as it is on having a product that “just works”.

“The reason people are buying iPods is to play music, and it does that very well,” says Josh Rubin, editor in chief of Cool Hunting, which tracks consumer trends. “The Macworld keynote-watching, blog-reading, Apple obsessed person will watch for the refresh. But the broader consumer base is just interested in having a music player that’s easy to use.”

No updates, no problem

Aside from the updated U2 iPod, which added video-playback capabilities in June, all of the other iPods released since last October have been refreshes to existing lines. The iPod nano got a February update when Apple released a 1GB version. The iPod has been stuck on its fifth-generation incarnation since autumn: 30GB and 60GB models. The iPod shuffle has never seen a refresh since its launch in January of 2005, though Apple has cut the price.

However, the lack of activity hasn’t seemed to affect sales. Earlier this month, Apple reported it had shipped 8.1 million iPods during its fiscal third quarter. That’s a 32 per cent increase over its year-ago quarter, when the company shipped 6.1 million iPods.

The third quarter also saw Apple’s third best quarter ever in terms of iPod sales – topped only by the first quarter of this year when Apple sold 14 million iPods, and the second quarter of 2006 when it sold 8.5 million.

Brand identity

One key to this might be that the iPod has transcended the traditional market that Apple and other technology products typically reach. With nearly 60 million units shipped, the device has crossed over from the technology market into the realm of a general consumer product, analysts say.

“Digital music players are becoming mainstream,” Rubin said. “It’s no longer on the outer edge of the long tail.”

Another key to the continued growth could be the shorter time consumers are waiting to upgrade their music players. A May 2006 report from Robert Semple of Credit Suisse First Boston noted that the lifecycle of an iPod has dropped from two years to 1.5 years. This makes Apple less dependent on finding new consumers to go out and buy iPods, according to Semple.

“The key takeaway is that if any company can accelerate its product replacement cycle, it becomes less dependent on new user penetration for growth,” Semple wrote.

Mike McGuire, research vice president at market-research firm Gartner offers another explanation: many consumers are still making the switch to digital from physical media. And that’s helping fuel strong iPod sales even in the absence of updated models.

“Over the last several versions [Apple] hit some sweet spots in the market, but it’s still a new marketplace,” McGuire said. “I think a big chunk of this is that the online music industry and digital online media is still relatively young in the minds and experience of a lot of consumers I think a lot of people may have had portable CD players, and resisted the first three to four years of the iPod onslaught.”

Meanwhile, analysts say the iPod brand has become so synonymous with the digital music player that when average consumers decide to make the transition to digital music, they look for an iPod rather than consider the iPod product cycle or other MP3 players.

“It’s similar to Band-Aids and Kleenex and Rollerblades, where the brand has become synonymous with digital music players in consumers’ eyes,” Rubin said.

The iPod may be synonymous with portable digital music players in most shoppers’ minds, says Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg, there’s still an important distinction to be made. “Kleenex is a generic brand for all tissues. ‘Tivo’ is a generic term for DVR, any DVR is a ‘Tivo’,” Gartenberg said. “‘iPod’ is not generic for an MP3 player. Woe unto the consumer who bought something else as a gift thinking they were buying an iPod. It has not become a generic product; it’s a very specific product, from a very specific company, with white headphones, and heaven forbid the consumer erred and got that wrong.”

Despite the iPod’s strong continued sales, however, many analysts expect to see an update to the product line this fall in time for holiday shopping. That product, whatever it may be, could well be a complete replacement for one or more products in the iPod line, Gartner’s McGuire said.

“As they did with the mini to nano, Apple reset the rules, at the height of a product’s popularity,” McGuire added. “And they did that for one very important reason: if the competition gets close, and if you have something to pull out of your pocket that’s as good or better, then you kill it. And you do what a lot of companies haven’t done or can’t do, or are afraid to do, and eat your own young. If you really want to stay ahead and keep your competition one step behind you all the time, then when they start aiming for that famous product, you take it out and replace it with something as good or better.”

OS X G3 class-action suit settled


OS X G3 class-action suit settled

Preliminary approval has been given to a settlement that would allow G3 Power Mac owners who purchased Mac OS X before May 15 to get a refund – as long as they did not regularly use OS X on their G3, and live in California.

The class-action lawsuit claimed that Apple failed to support certain G3 models with the same OS X performance enjoyed by G4s.

A hearing will be held in the Superior Court of California on January 26, 2004 to determine whether the proposed settlement is “fair, reasonable and adequate and should receive final approval”.

Apple has posted details of the settlement on its Web site. The notice reads: “If the settlement is approved, Apple will pay to settlement class members who did not regularly use OS X on their covered products and who meet the requirements described below a refund of the actual retail price they paid for OS X up to a maximum of $129.

“To obtain a refund, settlement class members must declare under penalty of perjury as follows: “I have not regularly used OS X on my covered product. I agree not to use OS X on this computer in the future and am returning the OS X disk containing this version of OS X to the address designated in the claim Form. I agree not to reinstall the returned version of OS X on my covered product in the future.”

Apple has also agreed to pay $350,000 to the law firm who filed the lawsuit, King & Ferlauto.

Apple sci-tech research solution improves


Apple sci-tech research solution improves

Apple has released a new version of its Apple Workgroup Cluster.

“Thanks to qualified, integrated components and easy-to-use management tools, the Apple Workgroup Cluster has everything you need to get up and running quickly. Add cluster-aware commercial applications, such as iNquiry, gridMathematica or the MATLAB Distributed Computing Engine, or develop your own custom applications using Xcode. You’ll soon discover the fastest and most affordable path to cluster computing,” the company reveals.

The upgrade adds third-party applications and a new switch and the cluster now starts with eight processors.

It ships with an Xserve G5, Apple Remote Desktop, Xcode and Mac OS X 10.4 Server.

The research solutions bundle also adds Foundry EdgeIron switches, Xrack PRO2 or APC VX racks, APC Smart-UPS, and power and ethernet cables.

Customer testimonials on Apple’s website point out the simplicity of Apple’s affordably-priced solution.

“The hardest part of the installation was finding a screwdriver,” said Michael Chute of the US Naval Medical Research Center. “Within two or three hours, we had the whole machine up and interconnected,” said Doctor Michael Barmada of the University of Pittsburgh.

Apple believes that because it ships a complete solution at the same time as ensuring it can be easily assembled even by a non-computer technician, it offers researchers an easy route to research.

Apple has case studies and other information on Workgroup Cluster implementations available online.

Price on this solution is unavailable.

Ubisoft: No always-on DRM for Driver San Francisco


Ubisoft: No always-on DRM for Driver San Francisco

Ubisoft has just announced that Driver San Francisco PC gamers will no longer need a persistent internet connection. The publisher however confirmed that the game will still require a single online activation.

Driver San Francisco screenshot

In an interview to Rock Paper Shotgun, Ubisoft said, “We’ve heard your feedback regarding the permanent internet connection requirement for Driver and have made the decision to no longer include it,”

“So this means that Driver PC gamers will only need to sign in at game launch but can subsequently choose to play the game offline.”

Driver San Francisco will launch on September 2 for Xbox 360, PS3. The PC version of the game will launch on September 27.

iPhone for Europe details emerge


iPhone for Europe details emerge

In a blow to Vodafone, Apple has chosen O2, Orange and T-Mobile as its European iPhone launch partners according to the Financial Times.

The latest in a series of often-conflicting reports explains all the mobile networks have agreed to share 10 per cent of all revenue from voice and data services using an iPhone with Apple. The contract was signed “in recent days”, the report explains.

As predicted, the report confirms Apple has adopted a more diverse bring-to-market strategy for the product’s launch in the European market, with Orange securing distribution in France, T-Mobile grabbing Germany and O2 securing UK distribution rights.

Macworld has received multiple reports from UK readers who have been in contact with O2 sales teams in recent days. It appears O2 representatives are promising callers that the iPhone will be made available through their network by “the end of the month”.

This lends weight to the Financial Times in its claim that Apple and its European mobile network partners will announce their partnerships by the end of the month.

Negotiations between mobile networks in their scramble for the device appear to have reached the very highest echelons of the boardroom: Deutsche Telekom chairman Hamid Akhavan and O2 chief executive Peter Erskine reportedly “campaigned for personal talks with Apple CEO Steve Jobs about the contract”.

The companies are predicted to make the announcement at the IFA show in Berlin, which runs from Aug 31 to Sep 5, reports the FT. However Apple has never previously exhibited at IFA, is not listed as an exhibitor at the show, and has not confirmed that it will attend this year.

Crystal Dynamics Explains Why Rise of the Tomb Raider is Coming Exclusively on Xbox One


Crystal Dynamics Explains Why Rise of the Tomb Raider is Coming Exclusively on Xbox One

Just a few minutes ago at GamesCom 2014, Microsoft announced that Crystal Dynamics upcoming installment in Tomb Raider video game franchise, Rise of the Tomb Raider will launch exclusively on Xbox One.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

The game will arrive in Holiday 2014. This deal seems to be a full time and not “Timed Exclusive” because Microsoft did not used the term “First On Xbox One”. We finally have received a word from Crystal Dynamics as to why Rise of Tomb Raider is coming exclusively on Xbox One.

In an open letter addressing to fans, Crystal Dynamics said:

As you may have seen, we’ve just announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox. We consider all of you to be the lifeblood of Tomb Raider and the work we do at Crystal. I’d like to give you some insight into this decision, and why we feel this is the very best thing for the Tomb Raider sequel we’re creating at the studio.

Tomb Raider in 2013 was a success due in large part to your continued support. Our goal has always been to deliver something truly special with Rise of the Tomb Raider. Today’s announcement with Microsoft is one step to help us put Tomb Raider on top of action adventure gaming. Our friends at Microsoft have always seen huge potential in Tomb Raider and have believed in our vision since our first unveil with them on their stage at E3 2011. We know they will get behind this game more than any support we have had from them in the past – we believe this will be a step to really forging the Tomb Raider brand as one of the biggest in gaming, with the help, belief and backing of a major partner like Microsoft.

This doesn’t mean that we’re walking away from our fans who only play on PlayStation or on PC. Those are great systems, with great partners, and amazing communities. We have Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris coming to those platforms this December, and Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition is available on PS4.

We know that there are probably many more questions and concerns. Please do send them to us, and we’ll answer to the best of our ability. Meanwhile we’re going all out to try and make something truly special – the most ambitious Tomb Raider game ever built.

Thanks,

Darrell Gallagher
Crystal Dynamics Head of Studios

New iPhone to have 1GB of RAM with ‘A5X-like’ chip


New iPhone to have 1GB of RAM with ‘A5X-like’ chip

Apple has internally seeded a prototype next-generation iPhone to test in an iPhone 4S casing. The seed reveals that a variation of the iPad’s A5X will provide 1GB of RAM to the new iPhone. An iOS 5.1 build also reveals new iPod touch information. The devices could be ready to launch simultaneously this summer.

That’s according to 9to5Mac, which has examined Apple’s internal new iPhone prototype seed. The report suggests that the purpose of testing the next-generation iPhone in an iPhone 4 or 4S casing is to try out a new chip without leaking any information about the new iPhone’s design.

The new iPad has an A5X processor but the chip’s heavy focus on graphics suggests it may not be ideal for smartphone use. 9to5Mac thinks that the iPhone prototypes Apple is testing have a variation of the A5X’s S5L8945X architecture, aiming to give the next iPhone the 1GB of RAM that the new iPad boasts.

9to5Mac claim to have also investigated a file inside of an internal iOS 5.1 build, which has revealed what’s expected to be a new iPod touch, internally labelled iPod 5,1.

The current iPod touch label is 4,1, so 9to5Mac predicts that the fifth-generation iPod touch could have major internal changes. This could include an A5 or A5X-like chip similar to the one being tested for the new iPhone.

9to5Mac estimates that the fifth-generation iPod touch could launch alongside the new iPhone this summer.