Sony has, finally, gone on the record to explain why some games that launch on the US PlayStation Store don't make it to the EU PlayStation Store.
It is one of the most frequently asked questions by European PlayStation owners - why is there often a huge difference between the content available on the US Store and the EU Store?
Jawad Ashraf, from the PS Store Team, blamed this on licensing and localisation work.
"Licensing, market and a host of other business and non-business decisions all play a part," he said.
"What is often forgotten is the EU consists of not just one or two countries - it includes a variety (36!), meaning a lot more localising must be done. Certain games also retain licenses only in certain territories or have expired rights.
"There's generally so many factors that can often lead to games being delayed or totally cancelled for specific regions, and sometimes this cannot be helped."
The most high-profile recent example of this is Trine 2, which is still absent from the EU PlayStation Store some two months after it launched on the PlayStation Network in the US.
Last month developer Frozenbyte told Eurogamer the PSN version was going through the Sony Computer Entertainment Europe QA process.
Frozenbyte vice president Joel Kinnunen told Eurogamer he was disappointed Trine 2 didn't launch in the US and Europe at the same time because, in his opinion, both versions of the game were the same.
Ashraf said there is often a lot of secrecy around when a game is released on the EU PlayStation Store or if it's passed QA because "QA is highly confidential information and we are not permitted to communicate it".
UPDATE: GAME will offer customers a cash refund for cancelled Mass Effect 3 pre-orders today, tomorrow and afterwards.
However, the promised "goodwill gesture" of £5 worth of Reward Points will only be offered from tomorrow, 1st March, through to 16th March.
To get your refund, bring proof of your pre-order to the store in which you placed it. GAME will then add £5 worth of Reward Card Points to your balance - from 1st March.
ORIGINAL STORY: GAME shop staff have told Eurogamer the chain will offer customers a cash refund for cancelled Mass Effect 3 pre-orders, but today only.
After today the chain will only be able to offer a refund in the form of store credit, Eurogamer was told. This will be given via gift card.
The same policy applies to sister retailer Gamestation.
Confusingly, GAME's head office told us otherwise. They claim that customers will be able to gain a refund in the manner in which they paid today and afterwards. So, if you handed a fiver over in a cash, they should give you a fiver from the till.
Pre-order terms and conditions spotted in GAME stores today claim pre-orders are usually "non-refundable".
GAME's official statement on the matter is unclear. But a recent update on the GAME Facebook page said: "If you put down a deposit, you will be reimbursed your deposit money in the same way in which you paid. i.e. cash, credit card etc."
Have you had your Mass Effect 3 pre-order refunded? Let us know in the comments below.
There's a strange thing in the End of Nations map I'm trying out, and that thing is a suspension railway. How quaint. The global economy has collapsed, the world is at war and all its major cities lie in ruin, yet as I send my troops into battle I can clearly see there's still a suspension railway trundling its way about this town I'm trying to occupy, casually weaving a route through the demolished buildings and over the cratered streets.
If there's anyone in any of its carriages, then they have a superb view of the fighting. Tanks the size of houses cascade down the main road like a tide of liquid metal, armoured infantry bounding along beside them. Low in the sky, a pair of trigger-happy helicopters launch ordinance liberally into the town square. Following the streaks of their missiles, it might just be possible to catch sight of the rocket launchers they fire at.
Then again, this sight might have become all too familiar for any passengers or commuters travelling by. Battles like this are raging across every continent, all day and every day. Generals come and go as they please, territories change hands by the hour and this regional skirmish might well be overshadowed by others nearby, battles where dozens of commanders could be hurling their troops into a massive melee. With all this war going on, it may be a struggle to find anything interesting to read in the morning metro paper.
This is the world of End of Nations, a massively multiplayer RTS where battlefields come under the gaze of dozens of commanders divided into two teams, each individually directing their own detachments while (hopefully) working together to out-think and outmanoeuvre their enemies. Depending upon how intense they want their battles to be, they can opt to join larger conflicts of up to 56 players, or perhaps even dip into a solo game.
Even the largest of these battles are but one part of a global conflict. When players aren't watching their units trundle across the broken cities of the near future, they can browse a metagame map screen to see how their efforts have tilted the balance of world power. From here, there are many more battlefields to choose from, each of them tied to a region that changes hands according to the successes or failures of those who have fought across them.
End of Nations marries the talents of Petroglyph Games and Trion Worlds. The former includes many Westwood Studios veterans, real-time strategy developers who can trace a history all the way back to Dune II: Battle for Arrakis, while Trion's focus is on finely-crafted MMO games, with Rift winning critical acclaim and two awards at GDC last year.
Rift spent over four years in development and Chris Lena, senior producer at Trion, explains how End of Nations is also being very carefully constructed. Even after two years of development, and with the game's RTS engine working very well, a great many specifics are yet to be decided upon. End of Nations will be rolled out in stages to test these, with a closed beta this spring.
"Then in summer we're doing something we call PvP Preview," says Lena. "This is kind of an open beta. We're going to be releasing a bunch of PvP maps, and we'll have a tutorial with pretty much all the classes and units. We're not releasing our co-op campaign until the autumn." This main campaign is more akin to what Lena calls a "boxed RTS game," where you can expect to play through a series of plot-driven battles with your friends if you fancy avoiding the ongoing online conflict. In all these aspects, the game will be free-to-play.
How the metagame will play and, critically, how this will cause the game to balance itself, remains the most crucial development consideration. Balance is the concept that Lena keeps returning to, giving an example of how he doesn't want a team's failure in one battle to further punish them as they start their next. "We always want to make sure it's fair, so we're a little hesitant to include bonuses. We're still playing with the values, even how many wins it will take, the certain number of battles to make that territory neutral again, and then flip." This will prevent a faction from losing ground right away simply because a few players suffered an unlucky defeat, and also prevent runaway victories, where one faction gains too much momentum.
The entire planet will be turned into a gruesome canvas across which players can paint the conflicts they like thanks to many map types. As well as accommodating different numbers of players, these offer different modes of play, such as domination, offensive or defensive scenarios, traditional base-versus-base battles and a survival mode.
Incorporating these more cohesively into the metagame's narrative is one of the current goals of the team. "We have some modes that are attacker or defender," says Lena, "So we might make it so that the winning [holding] faction on a map is always the defender, the other faction is the attacker, as long as it's always an even playing field."
At present, he says, there is also a plan to split End of Nations across many server shards, and for each metagame to have a fixed length. "It'll run in sessions. After two or three months, we're not sure about the time, there'll actually be a winning faction declared and we'll restart it again."
Although Petroglyph's team includes such luminaries as Joe Bostic, the co-designer of Dune II, End of Nations does not want to follow older genre conventions and Lena says that, by and large, "This is not a base-building RTS." Instead, players will gradually purchase, train and customise their own collections of units, deploying some of these whenever they go into combat. Destroyed units are not lost and can be bought back mid-battle as long as the player has enough resources to hand, resources gained by controlling key areas of a map.
It would be well worth players diversifying as soon as possible, as there's a strong emphasis on a rock/paper/scissors style of combat and particular units are shockingly effective (or vulnerable) against certain others. After playing through early builds of both a 1v1 survival map and a 4v4 domination map, I was able to see exactly how weak and how stoic my infantry could be, depending on what they fought.
As polished and entertaining as my experience was, 4v4 is nothing all that remarkable for a modern RTS and it remains to be seen how the much larger maps will work, even if a player can feel they are making much of a difference as just one commander in a battle of over fifty. Of course, End of Nations's success will also be dependent on how well it integrates its already polished RTS maps with its metagame. This will determine whether players can effectively co-ordinate their wider efforts and gain satisfaction from fighting many battles in many regions with many different teammates.
By integrating the strategic and the tactical on this kind of scale, the game is attempting something that's never been tried before. It could feel like a true world war, or it could simply end up about as coherent as gigantic scrum. Right now, it's as if I've only had a glimpse from the suspension railway, but I liked what I saw.
Every so often a game comes along that is a genuine surprise. Pizza vs. Skeletons is one such game, because out of what is surely the most terrible concept in the world some crazed team has crafted an imaginative and fun game with seriously classy production values. I'm as shocked as you.
Tilt controls move a pizza that covers about a third of the screen left and right, and tapping makes it jump. In the first levels there are many skeletons, and your initial task is simply to roll around and crush their bones under a ton of cheesy dough - the skeletons have diddly little spears which they prod in your general direction, but it takes many blows to down the pizza.
This is all accompanied by totally OTT pseudo-organ music that heavily channels Plants vs. Zombies' superb soundtrack, and great bone-cracking effects as legions of the undead are ground into dust. But after a few brief acclimatisers, Pizzas vs. Skeletons takes off, suddenly throwing a barrage of ideas at its rotund hero and seeing what sticks.
Most of these are great, particularly the downhill racing sequences. It's not so much that the ideas are entirely fresh, but the game is smartly redesigned around each one. The camera is zoomed back from the pizza in these downhill chases, for example, and coins are used to mark out a path and warn of upcoming jumps - accompanied by a jangly collection sound that becomes your sole focus.
Other levels have you rolling through platforming sections to rescue puppies and deliver them home, or bouncing back and forth on narrow space trampolines while sending skulls spinning into the void. In the latter you can build up ideal little rhythms while bouncing back and forth, clearing it with full marks no problem, or you can get winged by a fireball and everything starts going wrong.
Eurogamer has been sent the internal memo emailed to GAME and Gamestation staff this morning which broke the news that the company will not be stocking Mass Effect 3 at any of its stores.
The first half of the email is for store managers explaining the situation, while the latter includes a list of instructions for how to break the news to pre-order customers who have already given GAME their money.
GAME will not stock EA titles as the company is "committed to only stocking products on which we could get the right credit terms", something it has apparently failed to do for Mass Effect 3.
As a "gesture of goodwill", customers will be able to claim £5 worth of Reward Points and a full refund.
The memo also states that the company will not take any further deposits or pre-orders for forthcoming EA titles FIFA Street, Tiger Woods 13 and Sims 3 Showtime.
The full memo lies below.
"Last week we held an event for our publishers in the industry and explained the challenges we are facing in the short term - and we asked for their support.
"We asked them to trade with us using manageable credit terms, and for them to continue to do that whilst we work through the strategic review and refinancing of our business.
"We gave the industry commitments - we committed to integrity and openness in our dealings, and working with everyone equally.
"We committed to only stocking products on which we could get the right credit terms, regardless of the title or the supplier. We will not stock products if the terms are not right for our business - a position we believe is critical to our long term health as a business - we have taken the very difficult decision to not stock EA's
March releases, including Mass Effect 3.
"As a specialist retailer dedicated to games and gaming, it is never easy to make a decision not to stock a title, particularly one with such a strong fan base. But it is imperative that we treat every supplier evenly, that we stick to our commitments, and that we don't sign up to payment terms that will hamper us further in the future.
"It is even more critical that we manage this appropriately with our loyal customers. We know that they will be disappointed regarding Mass Effect in particular and in recognition of this, we will be contacting our Mass Effect pre-order customers and as a gesture of goodwill we will be offering them £5 of reward card/ elite points.
"I know that many of your will have to manage customer and supplier feedback directly, and I would like to thank you in advance for your support and am happy to answer any questions you have directly - just grab me as I walk around.
"- Tom Devine
"For Preorder Customers Keep it simple
"Unfortunately we are not in a position to supply you with your copy of Mass Effect 3. As dedicated gamers, we know how disappointing this will be for you, and we apologise sincerely for the inconvenience that this will cause.
"We'd like to offer you the following gesture of goodwill. We value you as a customer very highly and want to demonstrate that to you by adding £5 worth of Reward points to your balance and, of course, if you have placed a deposit with us, you'll receive a full refund."
GAME Group (GAME and Gamestation) will not be stocking Wii game Mario Party 9, Eurogamer has heard.
Nintendo has issued an official statement that points out every destination to buy Mario Party 9. GAME and Gamestation are absent from the comprehensive list.
"Available to buy on the high street via Argos, Asda, Tesco, Dixons Stores Group, GameStop, Sainsburys, Smyths Toys, Toys R Us, HMV, Blockbuster or online at Amazon, The Hut, Play.com, zavvi.co.uk, johnlewis.com and Littlewoods.com, as well as most good games retailers," announced Nintendo.
Mario Party 9 is due out this Friday, 2nd March.
Whether this will extend to all Nintendo and Nintendo-distributed games remains to be seen. However, GAME absentee The Last Story was published by Nintendo, and GAME absentee Tekken 3DS was distributed by Nintendo.
It doesn't bode well for Wii-exclusive JRPG Pandora's Tower, due 13th April.
Coupled with the news that GAME won't stock Mass Effect 3 or any EA games in March past SSX, and the writing appears to be on the wall.
UPDATE: GAME has issued a statement to Eurogamer in response to the retailer's decision not to stock Mass Effect 3, blaming it on a "supply issue".
"We currently have a supply issue with regards to Mass Effect 3, which means that GAME and gamestation will not be able to fulfil orders for Mass Effect 3 at this time. We want to give customers as much notice about this as possible and provide them with a range of options ahead of launch.
"We appreciate that this is disappointing for our customers, and we apologise sincerely for the inconvenience that this will cause. We value the loyalty of our customers very highly and as a gesture of goodwill we are providing the following:
ORIGINAL STORY: GAME Group will not be stocking any EA games past SSX in March, including Mass Effect 3, Eurogamer has discovered. This encompasses all GAME and Gamestation stores.
Various GAME and Gamestation staff alerted Eurogamer to this situation after a company-wide memo was sent out at around 10.30am this morning.
Eurogamer has secured an image of this memo, which also reveals that FIFA Street 3, Tiger Woods 13 and Sims 3 Showtime will also not be stocked by GAME Group.
Eurogamer has corroborated this information with individual GAME Group stores. The last stocked EA game will be SSX, we were told.
EA responded to Eurogamer's request for comment by directing us to a Mass Effect 3 Launch Update website. GAME's absence from the list of retailers speaks volumes.
This worrying text followed: "For customers who have pre-ordered the N7 Collector's Edition please re-order your copies through these retailers."
These are Amazon, Play, Zavvi and ShopTo. Blockbuster phoned Eurogamer to say it's stocking the N7 Collector's Editio,n too.
"For further information regarding the Mass Effect 3 Standard Edition with the N7 Warfare Gear in-game weapons pack, please check this page later today," the blurb continued.
"If you have placed a deposit for a pre-order or are uncertain that your existing pre-order will be guaranteed, please contact your local retailer."
"Your local retailer is doing everything possible to make this process as smooth as possible to ensure you get your copy on launch day."
HMV told Eurogamer it couldn't comment on a competitor's situation, but confirmed it would be stocking Mass Effect 3 and the rest of EA's titles.
GAME Group hasn't responded to Eurogamer's request for comment.
Mojang has hired the server-mod making Bukkit team to help build an official API (application programming interface) for the Minecraft community.
"Today we can announce that the four main developers of Bukkit - a community-based Minecraft server implementation - have joined ranks with Mojang to bring you the same flexibility and versatility to the official Minecraft server." announced lead Minecraft developer and game designer Jens Bergensten on the Mojang website.
"The four - Warren Loo, Erik Broes, Nathan Adams and Nathan Gilbert - will work on improving both the server and the client to offer better official support for larger servers and server modifications.
"The plan is to build a fresh server API, and then extend it to support client-side modding (in one way or another)."
Bergensten outlined that Mojang will try and make it "easy" for Bukkit users to convert, but shared that backwards compatibility "is not guaranteed". Bukkit will be compatible with Minecraft 1.2.
Bukkit team member Warren Loo announced the news on the Bukkit website, in a long post about the open source project's history.
"Thanks to our work with Bukkit, we have a years worth of experience, failures and lessons to help us develop a proper modding API and intend to do whatever it takes to produce one that satisfies the needs of the community. "
Warren Loo, Bukkit team member
"I am extremely pleased and proud to announce that, as of today, the Bukkit team has joined Mojang," a snippet from Loo's post read.
"When discussing the possibility of a modding API publicly, Mojang was concerned it would be unable to provide the community with a suitable and powerful enough solution, and we honestly feel our experience building Bukkit will help them do so.
"Thanks to our work with Bukkit, we have a years worth of experience, failures and lessons to help us develop a proper modding API and intend to do whatever it takes to produce one that satisfies the needs of the community.
"Now that we have an opportunity to design the official Minecraft API, we intend to make it a suitable replacement for Bukkit, if not a significantly better one, while bukkit.org will remain a community for modders for the foreseeable future."
Tomorrow's 3DS eShop update will contain two classic NES titles to download, the original Mario and boxing sim Punch-Out!! Both cost £4.50 or €5 each.
A free demo of Mario & Sonic London 2012 Olympic Games demo and kids "edutainment" title Lola's Alphabet Train will also be available.
And a month of meaty Virtual Console release is scheduled to follow, Nintendo promised. This includes the original NES Metroid game, already released last year for 3DS Ambassadors.
Classic puzzler Dr. Mario and angelic Game Boy title Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters are also on the way. The latter will presumably tie in with new 3DS game Kid Icarus: Uprising - that arrives 23rd March.
Sega Game Gear titles will also finally start to arrive, the first time non-Nintendo games will grace the 3DS Virtual Console service. Dragon Crystal, Shinobi and Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble will spearhead the new range.
March will also bring a number of Virtual Console releases for Wii owners, too. Downloadable versions of Mega Man X, Mega Man 5, Strider and Samurai Shodown IV: Amakusa's Revenge are coming.
Super Street Fighter 2 is also planned for re-release. It will be the first Virtual Console title to feature online play.
Bungie co-founder Alex Seropian is convinced Halo 4 is in good hands.
With Bungie moving on to its new game universe, to be published by Activision, Halo IP owner has charged new studio 343 Industries with continuing the popular Xbox exclusive science fiction shooter series.
Halo 4, due out this Christmas for the Xbox 360, is its first effort.
Some fans are concerned Microsoft will take Master Chief and friends in a direction they're not happy with, but for Seropian, one of the chief architects of Halo's early success, there's nothing to worry about.
"It's so crazy in an interesting way," he told GameSpot. "I've been an observer for a while now. So much has gone on with the franchise. I will say the encouraging thing is that I know a lot of the folks at Microsoft working on it and they are great people. I'm very hopeful that the team there is very fantastic.
"They are certainly treating it with a lot of care and respect. And applying the resources you'd like to see applied to a franchise like that. I'm hopeful that it will continue to bring the high production value and cool experiences it's known for."
When asked if he was nervous about the game, Seropian replied: "Yeah, a little bit, but I don't think I can be anything other than hopeful that it will be great."
He added: "We'll see. Halo is one of the crown jewels in the Microsoft gaming IP, if not the crown jewel, so you would expect nothing less than for them to take the time needed and apply the resources needed to make it great.
"I would be pretty surprised if they wiffed it. Maybe it will bring a fresh perspective, and that's so hard because there's so many fans that are used to a particular thing that bringing something new is often... it's hard to bring something new to a franchise that's so established. I'm looking forward to it."
Seropian recently left Disney's game division to start up his own company, Industrial Toys. He aims to create mobile games for core gamers.