EA decided to launch UEFA Euro 2012 as a FIFA 12 expansion rather as a full retail release as a way of offering "loyal" fans of the franchise new content, while also bringing in new players.
Speaking to Gamasutra, comms boss Steve Frost explained that the publisher felt a DLC release was "the best way to extend [the FIFA 12] experience and deliver fresh new content to our fans."
"We expect footy fans will want the opportunity to play UEFA Euro 2012 and experience what it takes to win the tournament under the same conditions their favourite nation will face in the weeks ahead," he continued.
"We expect that some fans who may not have FIFA 12 will want to play Euro 2012 and therefore purchase both, but the bigger opportunity for us is to offer our loyal and passionate FIFA fans new content."
As announced yesterday, the add-on is available from 24th April priced at £15.99 or 1800 Microsoft Points.
EA launched standalone games for both the World Cup in 2010 and the 2008 Euro championships, as well as its regular annual FIFA release.
Supermarket giant has branded itself "The Home of Gaming" in a new advertisement.
As spotted by CVG, the ad boasts that the chain has more gaming stores in the UK than any other retailer, 393 of which open at midnight for new releases.
On top of that, it claims to have over 10,000 titles available online, free UK delivery and day-one pre-order shipping. It also flags up its in-store used game trade-in programme and Clubcard rewards system. See for yourself below.
It's not the first UK supermarket to remind customers of its existence following GAME's well-publicised troubles. Earlier this week, Sainsbury's launched a massive sale and announced it was increasing its stock of new titles.
Swedish racing game boffin SimBin has confirmed work on a free-to-play/free2play game platform.
"SimBin is happy to inform that the company is working on a Free2Play game platform," read a sultry statement sent earlier today.
When pushed by Eurogamer on what this would be, and how it will relate to the affiliated RaceRoom business, a SimBin spokesperson replied: "What I can say is that we among other things are working towards unifying RaceRoom and SimBin."
The RaceRoom business has real-estate shops with fancy virtual simulation racing game hardware and software in. These creations are also sold to businesses and rich gamers. RaceRoom also has an online portal for gaming.
RaceRoom and SimBin have worked very closely together on games before.
The news of a free-to-play platform coincides with a management reshuffle at SimBin. Henrik Roos, one of the studio's three founders, has stepped down and passed leadership to Klaus Wohlfarth, owner of suspension maker KW Automotive. Roos will still consult.
How this affects GTR 3, if at all, we weren't told.
Meanwhile, free-to-play racer Auto Club Revolution has gone into open beta. The start of a trend?
Multiplayer-focussed arena beat 'em up Awesomenauts launches for PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade on 2nd May, developer Ronimo Games has announced.
You'll battle out against opponents in teams of three, either online of via local split-screen. The trailer below should offer some idea of exactly what it's all about.
A price tag has not yet been confirmed.
Dutch developer Ronimo has some pedigree - its side-scrolling RTS Swords & Soldiers won a sturdy 8/10 from Eurogamer in 2009, and its founders were responsible for the initial concept behind fun THQ platformer De Blob.
We know everything and nothing about Dust 514: it's a shooter, it focuses on large-scale multiplayer combat, it'll even be free and - based on our hands-on experience at this year's Eve Fanfest - it plays impressively (even more so when you consider that this is virgin territory in both game style and platform for the developer CCP). But when it launches, it will also be irrevocably intertwined with the history of gaming's most infamous sandbox, and against a backdrop of villainy, greed and controversy.
This is the unknowable. Actions large and small rock idly back and forth like dominoes - when they fall it can mean the last gasp of an Alliance, which causes a shortage of essential goods, which drives a market price up, which scuppers expansion elsewhere. Some may make a louder noise than others when they fall, but the cascade never really ends - from start to finish, the universe of Eve Online is an intricately woven history of kingdoms and nails.
And yet it's this uncertainty, and this melding together of two of gaming's most unlikely bedfellows - the ruthless sandbox PC MMO and the console first-person shooter - that heralds Dust 514 as the first of our Actual New Games of 2012.
It begins - as it did to great fanfare at this year's Eve Fanfest - with orbital bombardments, teased in the Future Vision trailer of last year's community gathering, rapturously received at the time, and widely assumed to lie somewhere off in the next 15-20 years of gaming's future.
In Reykjavik last week, without technical smoke-and-mirrors, we watched as a PlayStation 3 player on the battlefield painted a target on the ground before relaying a launch code to an Eve player hanging in orbit above. With the code entered, the space-weapon fired, its beams appearing with beautiful, destructive force on the console screen, and with only the most realistic of delays. In words, it's simple. In concept, it represents much more, uniting not just different worlds but different platforms entirely.
CCP's woes of last summer have been extensively documented and will be given little space here, although it's an unavoidable topic of conversation when I sit down to interview Hilmar Pétursson, CEO of CCP. The realisation of such an unlikely mechanic seemed like a necessary love-letter to Eve subscribers, the de facto investors who saw little potential return from a console title that would be denied a place on the PC platform - and feared that Dust's microtransaction model would be forced into Eve.
"I think we wouldn't have orbital bombardment because we wouldn't have made the changes at CCP that needed to happen to allow us to pull things like this off," he replies when I ask if the positive reaction to the trailer - followed all too quickly by the player revolt last summer - was a call-to-arms for the developer. "The company had grown very rapidly, we were a little bit all over the place, our structure and processes were not well defined. Our ability to deliver things has just gone up quite a bit, so that's really what we're seeing."
Entertaining though it would be for a PC gamer to sit in orbit above a planet, idly taking pot-shots at the soldiers below, PlayStation 3 owners will be reassured to know that artillery on the ground will be available for capture - and returning fire into space. While we won't find out the specifics of return-fire until E3, a mere tit-for-tat equalisation on the cross-platform battlefield doesn't of course take into account the politics so embedded within the Eve universe.
"Eve is very much about trust, and we'll never put in place mechanics that do away with that, " says CCP's Chief Technical Officer Halldar Fannar. "We want people to have trust - so you can see with the whole co-ordinate exchange thing how somebody could betray your trust. You [the Eve player] could actually still be under the impression that you're about to shoot at the target you guys agreed to. But that guy could easily fake you out and give you another target - at that point of course your relationship is damaged."
Even more meaningful interaction, and the content that will add purpose to this persistent connectivity, will be related to Eve Online's Planetary Interaction system, which allows players to harvest raw materials from planets and transport these resources to the trading hubs of the game. Again, it's at E3 that we'll find out the finer details but longer-term, the developer is ruling nothing out in terms of bringing these two disparate worlds together.
"It's all absolutely possible - they're basically on the same server, so anything you can think of is possible," says Pétursson. "Is it sensible? That's another question, and I hope eventually all of these things will be sensible, but for sure they're not sensible in the beginning. We can't be foolishly risking our core business like last year, just because we're obsessing about the future - or I am obsessing about the future."
Fannar is equally determined to ensure that the games are blended - rather than forced together. "We're not just going to open up the vent, with people drinking from the fire-hose. We would love to reach a state eventually though where we can allow the Dust mercenaries to take the space elevator up to a space-station and actually physically interact with Eve players."
The tough sell in the present of course is in convincing console owners not just to commit to a process of time-absorbing advancement (CCP estimates it will take around seven years to maximise all of the Dust 514 skills), but to be reassured that the pay-off won't disappear with a whimper come the obsolescence of current console hardware.
Pétursson wouldn't comment on any specifics surrounding the PlayStation 3's successor ("I actually know nothing about it - I'm not even just saying that!"), although Eve Online has historically set a precedent with the release of the Trinity expansion which brought a radically-overhauled graphical lick of paint to the universe. For some while, both clients ran side-by-side and CCP is confident that this would be the preferred method for Dust's own evolution onto new hardware. But while Pétursson himself acknowledges this as a problem, it's a problem he's happy to leave for the future.
Right here on the battlefield at Fanfest we're taking part in the capture of a warehouse installation. Spawn points spread as territory is captured and roles can be switched between deaths. Players create and store soldier load-outs and the ones on display today include a heavy infantry (stronger and slower, but armed with a viciously tactile chain-gun), a sniper, a med support engineer or the more lithe, run-and-gun infantry.
In addition to upgrading skills through gameplay, players will - as with Eve Online - accrue skill points passively, allowing them to either specialise deep into advancement trees to become the ultimate sniper, or simply expand their ability to handle varying forms of weaponry. Through Powergrid and CPU caps there'll be limitations on the amount of weaponry and armour that can be equipped at any one time, but these too can be increased through skill training. The thorny issue of microtransactions is being handled with far greater delicacy than in Eve's Incarna expansion last year, with a focus on cosmetic upgrades and so-called 'side-grades' providing an alternative, yet balanced, flavour to weapon traits.
In combat there's nothing revolutionary about the core mechanics of the game as a shooter - although it's remarkable in itself that the developer's first console outing punches at the weight of its established contemporaries. But a moment does arrives that offers up a little bit of magic, and the potential for the same kind of intensity that causes stomachs to drop across Eve's New Eden whenever combat arrives unexpectedly.
With the immediate priority of being the last to die ignominiously on the battlefield safely out of the way, the players - without discussion amongst ourselves - take in more of the battleground, the natural synergy required to take effective advantage of tanks and tools, the cover opportunities and the targets. Maps are more commonly referred to, common sense is applied in group positioning, and an overwhelmingly intuitive strategic game of cat-and-mouse starts to click within each team's mentality.
"We're distributing and strategically placing battle servers around the world which connect into Tranquility [Eve's 'super-computer'] in London," explains Pétursson when asked about the technical challenges of maintaining a fast-moving FPS network in conjunction with the slower-paced gameplay of Eve Online - and tying the two together into a cohesive, communicative whole. As well as enabling a functioning universe, it will also allow for national warfare to evolve from the real world into the game, as it so often has before in Eve Online.
"When you're playing over a particular planet, then it's going to map to a particular battle server in the real world. That means that some geographics will have lower latency for that battle server, and then slowly we'll sort of re-map the political spectrum of Eve onto Earth and the topology of the internet."
Beyond the grandiosity of welding two alien universes together, CCP has first and foremost to deliver their free-to-play first-person shooter into a crowded scene - one that lives up to the expectations of an audience who value their time and experience every bit as much as their money.
The build available at Fanfest was a little old and showed some wear around the frame-rate and graphical polish, but it was more than stable enough to give a strong flavour of the battlefield - and we're assured that significant progress has been made on the game since this build was created late last year.
"It's this crazy system that we built already and now we use for Dust," explains Fannar amongst talk of "spherical harmonics" as I nod in confusion while he explains the algorithms used to generate the Dust maps from Eve's planets. Once generated, they are tweaked and polished to ensure a compelling game experience.
"We have algorithms that generate all of this and now we're making it all match up. It's also important that even as I tell you that where we do the orbital strike that the player sends you coordinates, we still make sure that those coordinates actually map onto the globe in the right region, just so - because we want that verisimilitude, we want that feeling of this just being.
At launch, Dust 514 will concentrate on the temperate planets that populate the Eve Online universe, although nothing has being ruled out for the future. An expansion in 2013 will not only bring less agreeable habitats (lava, ice, gaseous planets, for example) to the game, but also new soldier outfits including the kind of heavy-armour fashion-ware favoured by Ellen Ripley. Further off into the future, the developer plans to allow entirely new gameplay mechanics to be introduced into the world.
"As the game evolves in the market, we will introduce new technology into the Eve universe that allows the Dust mercenaries to actually inhabit those planets, " says Fannar. "Right now, they don't have the technology, there is no infrastructure either on these planets that is of use to them, so they need to develop a tech."
For all the talk of orbital bombardments, cross-platform technology, algorithmic worlds and innovation there's a comment made by Pétursson that resonated far longer after our interview, and it concerned the new CCP - and its new-found ability to deliver on an ambition while staying tempered within the framework of reality.
"We still haven't lost the crazy!" he assured me in the middle of our interview, with the genuinely happy look of a man who's rediscovered the source of his passion, unburdened from the suffocation of an internal business machine that had run out of control.
But that was last year, and CCP cannot stumble in their second attempt at the microtransaction model. The success of Dust 514 depends on so much more than cost however, and while much will depend on the meaningful engagement that forms between the two audiences, the signs and future ambition of CCP are looking good.
As with Eve Online, what is certain is that it will be the players, not the developers, who learn of Dust's triumphs and tribulations first, and it's that interaction of colliding worlds that makes the former more likely. In short, Dust 514 is an Actual New Game - and for all the previews in the world, we won't quite know what that it is until the game has experienced its own genesis within Eve's wider universe.
Update: GAME has just announced a Star Wars Kinect-themed competition to win a life-sized statue of Starkiller, the hero of the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed games.
This makes it look very likely that GAME will indeed honour pre-orders and sell the Star Wars Kinect Xbox 360 console and game this Tuesday, 4th April.
There's a video of the Starkiller statue on the GAME YouTube page.
Original story: Blockbuster Clapham will hold a midnight launch event for Star Wars Kinect this Monday evening/Tuesday morning.
The first five people in line will get a free Limited Edition Star Wars Xbox 360, worth £340 (from Blockbuster).
The next 45 people who buy Kinect Star Wars will be given Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-ray for free. That costs around £90.
Blockbuster will also offer Kinect Star Wars for 99 pence when you trade Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, FIFA Street, Streetfighter X Tekken, Twisted Metal, Ninja Gaiden 3, Asura's Wrath, Ridge Racer Unbounded or Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13.
With GAME and Gamestation teetering on the edge, it's not been clear which companies - if any - would step in to fill the midnight openings void. Blockbuster now appears to have stated its intent.
The newly reinstated GAME and Gamestation websites currently list the Limited Edition Star Wars Xbox 360 and the Kinect Star Wars game. Shop staff, however, told Eurogamer this afternoon they were unsure whether they will or won't be selling the fancypants console. 'Check back on Monday' was the overriding message from those stores contacted.
Peter Molyneux's departure from Microsoft and Lionhead sent shockwaves throughout the game industry. Not only had one of the most influential developers of all time ditched the company he founded in 1997, but Fable, a series guided by Molyneux's leadership over eight long years and across two generations of home console, was left without its poster boy.
Why? He left to found Guildford-based start-up 22Cans. "I felt the time was right to pursue a new independent venture," he said in a statement provided by Microsoft. He then took to Eurogamer's forum, free from the shackles of a corporate overlord, to explain further. "I just felt compelled to become an indie developer again," he wrote. And it's clear from his Twitter page that he's already enjoying coding like it's 1989.
But Molyneux wasn't the only developer to leave Lionhead recently. Earlier this month, only a couple of weeks before his departure, a new studio made up of some of the best brains behind the Fable series was announced. They're not as high-profile as Molyneux, nor as well-known, but, arguably, their influence over the Xbox RPG series was even more pronounced.
Another Place Productions is Fable franchise art director John McCormack, technical director Guillaume Portes and executive producer Jeremie Texier, all of whom recently departed the Microsoft-owned studio having played a huge part in Fable's success. These three veterans are led by Dene and Simon Carter, the founders of Big Blue Box and the original creators of Fable.
Another Place Productions aims to create "high-quality, meaningful experiences that will inspire audiences worldwide" - a deliberately vague mission statement for a five-man team operating out of Dene's upstairs living room. Here, in their first interview since the formation of the studio, the Carter brothers reveal why they left Lionhead and Fable behind to, like Molyneux, go it alone.
The story of the Carters' exit from Lionhead is the story of Fable's journey from ambitious RPG to blockbuster franchise. In 1998 the pair founded Big Blue Box with a single idea: Fable. But it was Molyneux's Lionhead that took the company on, absorbing it into a collective group of satellite studios to give it the support it needed to blossom - something the Carters did not expect to happen.
It started off as a completely bonkers idea nobody had 100 per cent faith in. We just hoped you weren't smoking too much crack, to use that particular phrase - Dene Carter.
"Our initial aim was to create a massive, very relevant RPG where people who didn't play RPGs would see why this form of gaming was fun, why it could appeal to them despite the fact they maybe never owned a D&D rulebook in their lives," Dene Carter explains.
"Because of the stuff Simon and myself love, John McCormack and most of the other people at Big Blue Box and Lionhead, all of the dark fairy tale stuff was a huge thing. We wanted to get across all of the worlds we loved growing up. The Tim Burton storyteller. That was our initial aim with Fable 1."
Fable 1 launched on Xbox in 2004 and wowed gamers with its reactive world and quintessentially British tone. It went on to sell two million units, success that meant the inevitable: a sequel.
"By Fable 2, it was more about, what can we throw around, what can we move, what can we shake up to make it fresh now we knew this was a successful brand, without breaking it?" Dene explains. "So we played around with the idea of getting rid of death and seeing what that did to gameplay, improving things like the sizes of the landscape, improving the social stuff in the towns, giving you more reasons to own property, all that kind of stuff."
Fable 2 launched on Xbox 360 in 2008 and sold around 3.5 million copies - another gargantuan hit. With the increased success Microsoft, its new owner, craved, Lionhead was tasked with creating Fable 3 for release in 2010.
No-one at Big Blue Box could have predicted how big Fable would become. "It started off as a completely bonkers idea nobody had 100 per cent faith in," Dene remembers. "We just hoped you weren't smoking too much crack, to use that particular phrase. Then when it was proven to be a viable series, it was more a case of making sure we didn't disappoint people. Once people start saying, 'I love it!' you think, 'Right, I've got to make another one of those and I mustn't mess it up too much.'"
By Christmas 2010, Lionhead had released three major Fable games in six years, not to mention spin-off Fable: The Lost Chapters, Black & White 2 and The Movies. That's a lot of Fable - enough Fable, perhaps, for anybody, and certainly enough Fable for the Carters.
But there's more to their exit than simply fancying doing something different. As Fable grew, the Carters moved up the Lionhead career ladder, moving away from the coalface of game development and closer to management.
"1998 was when Big Blue Box started and we started working on Fable," Dene, who left Lionhead three years ago, says. "I'd worked on the Fable series for quite a long time. Because my background was coding, art, music, level design, the whole kit and caboodle, I grew increasingly frustrated that I wasn't actually doing any of those things myself any more.
"We had at one point on Fable 1 or 2, I can't remember which one it was now, a team of 120 people, all of whom I would know the names of. When I came home I would get to talk about what they did, all of them, to my wife, and then she'd say, 'Oh, well what did you do?' I'd go, 'Well, that's a really good question. Err, I think I told people to do some stuff.' That was valuable, I hear, but it didn't quite feel the same.
"So for me it was a huge drive to get back to my roots of my 8-bit coder days and have a bit more fun and actually do stuff and go, 'I did that! That was awesome! Look at that!' which is what it's all about for me really."
We had plenty of other game ideas we wanted to work on. Fable ended up dominating our life for over a decade. We wanted to get on and do some of those other ideas - Simon Carter.
Dene's brother, Simon, left Lionhead more recently, some nine months ago. "We started Big Blue Box in '98, '99. Fable took however long it took - too long (it launched six years later) - but we didn't actually expect it to be nearly as successful as it was. We had plenty of other game ideas we wanted to work on. Fable ended up dominating our life for over a decade. We wanted to get on and do some of those other ideas."
We often imagine huge development studios as the workhouse in Oliver Twist. Developers are a cog in a huge machine, bashing away at their assigned tasks until they're done. Then, it's onto the next. There is of course an element of this in all big budget game development, and that's fine for many, but when you do this on the same franchise for a number of years, it can start to get a little tedious.
That's exactly how it felt for James Duncan, who worked on the Fable series for four years, helping to make Fable 2 and Fable 3 as an environment artist.
"For me personally I needed a break," he says. "As much as I loved the world of Fable, you can find yourself hating it at the end of projects because you're doing them too much.
"It's great working on million dollar games and spending three years of your life on them if the stars align; if it's a great game, if everybody gets on really well. But, that rarely happens. I've been really lucky, but for the majority it's not like that. You're in a team of a hundred people. Unless you're taking executive level decisions, you're pretty much given stuff to create. If you're an artist, you're just banging stuff out, effectively. It's hard to keep your passion in that case."
Passion is important, here. We hear it often from developers who have left triple-A behind to create smaller games. Passion, it seems, is easy to lose when you're another brick in the wall. But it can be reignited, if the wall you make is your own.
Duncan, currently working on a space combat trading game called Rogue Star, began his game industry career at Probe Entertainment, working on 1996 Psone game Die Hard Trilogy for Sony. Getting back to the experience he had making that game, getting back to the passion that fuelled its creation, helped motivate him to ditch Fable development for the WildWest that is the AppStore.
"Back in the day, something like Die Hard Trilogy, you're talking about a small team of 10, 15 people tops," he says. "We'd have an idea and we'd go, right, well, plonk it in. Have an idea at nine in the morning and by 11 it was in. But those days are gone now.
"So a lot of people from that era, people are thinking, with iOS, you know what? I've done the big game thing and giving over years of my life to something. Now there's this outlet where we can all of a sudden do what we want and get that passion back."
The thought occurs: is there no room within Lionhead to create something different, something off the wall, something, that isn't Fable? "Bluntly, I never asked," Dene says. "I'm sure if we'd asked Microsoft, 'Hi, we want to do something completely wacky and outside the realms of Fable,' they probably would have done something. But at the time I just wanted to sit here in my flat by myself for as long as I needed to, to write something all by myself, and I didn't really think anybody else should be paying for that but me."
And, as Simon points out, there is evidence to suggest there is room within Lionhead for experimentation. Fable Heroes, an Xbox Live Arcade spin-off beat 'em up inspired by Castle Crashers, emerged after a small team of Lionhead developers tried something different, pitched it to the powers that be, then got the coveted thumbs up. "Fable Heroes is a surprise," Martin wrote in his preview, "and an utterly charming one at that."
But with the formation of Another Place Productions, made up of five key former Lionhead developers, and Molyneux's exit, all in the last month, you'd be forgiven for thinking there was something a little wrong at Lionhead. It's hardly an exodus, but it's obvious that people are leaving to do their own thing - important people, too.
According to the former staff we spoke to, there is no great drama here. There is no great argument, no great disgust at what Fable has become, or where it is going. There are spin-offs, such as Fable Heroes and Kinect exclusive Fable: The Journey - a game Molyneux continues to work on as a consultant - but there is plenty of room for them within the franchise, former staff say. As Dene puts it: "There's absolutely nothing wrong with Fable."
"When we started there was no such thing as the long franchise, really," he continues. "Dungeon Keeper got a second game and that was amazing. And Magic Carpet got a second game and we though wow, that's amazing! And that was as far as things went, ever. We didn't think this was going to become a huge property and an enormous franchise like Castlevania or Mario. I think for Microsoft it still is to some degree. That's great and we love it. But at the same time, I wanted to do stuff myself and I think Simon wanted to work on something different."
For many developers, leaving a huge studio is only as difficult as the bonds they have with co-workers are strong. But for the Carters this feeling was magnified. Not only did they leave friends behind, but their children too - the Fable games.
In the early days of Fable, it was much easier to have a large impact. Once it's an established franchise, once most of the unknowns have gone, there are only so many ways it can go wrong - Dene Carter.
"There was an emotional wrench in terms of leaving that project behind," Simon admits. "But there was no doubt that the people who are there would make something absolutely awesome next, which made things an awful lot easier from our point of view."
"When you have 120 people plus who you're working with on making a game and you know they're all absolutely fantastic and you absolutely dearly love them - and, frankly, you have to because you get an awful lot of shared body odour in a company like that during crunch months - when you have that kind of relationship, when you do walk away from something like that, you do feel a sense of betrayal, like you're wandering off and leaving something," Dene says.
"But you never think, it's going to get worse from now on, or my brand is going to be somehow diminished. No, you worked with 120 people, all of whom were awesome. One person has left. That may be an important person, but the rest of the people left behind know what you would do under those circumstances. The game has enough impetus in itself. People know what's Fable-ey and what's not.
"In the early days of Fable, it was much easier to have a large impact. Once it's an established franchise, once most of the unknowns have gone, there are only so many ways it can go wrong. As it goes on there are fewer and fewer reasons why something might do badly. So you become increasingly confident that everything will be fantastic once you've left anyway."
In the wake of the formation of Another Place Productions and 22Cans, we asked Microsoft for an update on the Guildford-based developer, which has two games due out this year and another, possibly Fable 4, due out in the future. Here's its response, in full:
"Naturally we're sorry to see talented people leaving Lionhead. However we understand that sometimes people want to move on to new challenges. We want to acknowledge and thank them for their contribution to Lionhead's success over the years and wish them all the very best for the future.
"But as a company of some 150 people we are lucky to have some of the best development talent in the world and are confident that we will continue to release exciting and innovative games. All current Lionhead projects, including the development of Fable the Journey, remain on track and we're excited to share more details in the coming months."
The GAME and Gamestation websites are back online, following a three day outage as GAME Group entered administration.
"GAME is back online!" announced the GAME Twitter account. "Website Reward functionality returning shortly. Watch this space!"
Neither site references GAME Group's current 'looking for a buyer' situation.
Yesterday, RBS and Comet owner OpCapita were reported to have made bids. It was rumoured that administration could end as soon as today.
Epic Mickey 2 will launch on PC and Mac, developer Junction Point has confirmed.
The two versions of the game join Epic Mickey 2's expanding roster of launch platforms, which currently stands at six.
Epic Mickey launched exclusively on Wii. The sequel launches on Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC and Mac. A 3DS game, which works differently than the other versions, is also in the works.
Junction Point boss Warren Spector declined to offer any detail on the PC, Mac or 3DS versions when quizzed by Eurogamer at a preview event in London this morning, but he did say around 800 people were working on the project in a new "virtual team" approach.
"It's pretty crazy," he admitted. "There's a lot of work that goes into it. There are a couple of ways you can approach it. You can either build a studio that has 700 people, which I desperately don't want to do, and didn't and don't and won't, okay? Or you can find partners around the world.
"We've taken a very interesting development approach. My studio director Paul Weaver came up with a way of building a virtual team all around the world. So we have people working in Leamington in the UK, in Bulgaria, China, Canada, California, Utah. We have an enormous virtual team.
"It's not outsourcing. I've got to be clear about that. It's not that we said, okay, there are a bunch of artists in Shanghai, go build us barrels and trees. We have people in the UK actually building levels for us, under our direction. We talk to them every day. We drive all the creative, but we have an enormous virtual team."
Spector's mention of a Shanghai is in reference to a company called Virtuos. The 3DS version, called Power of Illusion, is made by Henry Hatsworth developer Dreamrift. The UK team is Blitz Games, founded and run by the Oliver twins. Blitz is making the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions.
"We had Wii expertise," Spector explained. "Blitz has great next-gen expertise. We've worked with them before. We've known them for years. Their design aesthetic is similar to ours."
Spector expects big things from Blitz, maker of Puss in Boots and Yoostar 2. "Not to put to fine a point on it, I don't know why they don't rule the world," he said. "They're an amazing bunch of talented, experienced developers. I want to see them get out there and do something amazing and original. I'm hoping I can help them do that. They're great to work with.
"We'll see if it works. It's interesting. I've never worked this way before. We're just one big, big team."
The eye-watering 700 figure comes from adding the 160 who work at Junction Point, based in Austin, Texas, and all the other developers around the world, to those in marketing, publishing and support, and testers, voice talent, people at Disney Character Voice, who work with the actors to record voice over, and staff working on cinematics and storyboarding. If you include the 3DS version, it's "probably 800 people".
"We do a lot of phone calls at very odd times, and a lot of Skype-ing, and a lot of email and a lot of transferring of incredibly large files back and forth, that's for sure.
"When I started in this business it was me sitting in front of a screen typing. It's pretty crazy."
The announcement of Epic Mickey 2 comes as no surprise - Epic Mickey was the best-selling single platform release in Disney's history. It's due out this September.
I've found a large and often depressing collection of platformers, puzzlers, clones and scams on the App Store, but this is the first time I've come across a handheld base-jumping game. Even so, it's not the originality of AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! (I'll be kind from here on and refer to it as F=MXA) that I enjoy nearly as much as the fact it doesn't make me hate gyroscopic controls.
Whether or not you agree with the argument that "real" gaming - whatever that means - isn't possible on touch-screen devices, you can probably agree that gyroscopic motion control makes us all look like idiots as we wave our tablets and phones around as though they're possessed by an erratic ghost. Not so here.
Instead, F=MXA neatly sidesteps any issues by encouraging you to peer down at your iOS device and use gentle degrees of tilting motion to move your character around as they fall to ground. At worst you're going to just look like another daytime drinker on the London Underground, head and arms lolling gently between your legs, but at least you won't look like you're wrestling with an angry pigeon that's trying to take flight. You feel like you're manoeuvring rather than rattling.
Meanwhile, the game sets itself up as a sort of cybertech dystopia where the world has been overtaken by idiots jumping off buildings and showing off. Levels are typically introduced with titles such as "This is What a Colonoscopy is Like" and "Focus on Partial Nudity", and each offers varying takes on the basic principle of plummeting down past skyscrapers while picking things up that give you points.