Shacknews - Nikole Zivalich

Minecraft for Xbox 360 continues to rack up the number of copies sold since its release in May, surpassing the 5 million mark on the last day of 2012. Then, those afraid that the recently-confirmed multiplayer mode for Tomb Raider will interfere with development of the single player game can relax. Like many games before it, Square Enix has handed off online duties to another studio so the main game doesn't suffer. Finally, much-beloved spin-o-jump 'em up Fez is shedding its Xbox Live Arcade exclusivity and coming to unspecified "other platforms" in 2013, creator Phil Fish has announced.

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Shacknews - Steve Watts

After a slight delay, Joe Danger Touch is ready to hit this month. The game was built from the ground up for iOS with new stages and characters, and developer Hello Games is keen to point out that it's not just a port of the PSN and XBLA games.

CVG reports that the game will support friend challenges through Game Center, and in-app purchases of new characters. Though, if you'd rather not shell out the real money, you can earn the characters through the game itself too. Hello's Sean Murray says the playtesters compare the game to runners like Rayman Jungle Run and Jetpack Joyride. The developer had previously mentioned an Android version, but no word on when (or if) that's still coming.

"I don't think Joe Danger Touch feels like anything else I've played," Murray said. "I want it to feel like it could only work on iOS, because we've built it specifically for the device. Towards the end of the game, it gets super difficult, probably more so than the console version. I'm amazed what levels I can handle sometimes, and the subtlety possible with just a touch interface."

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Crimson Dragon, the Kinect shooter inspired by Panzer Dragoon, is still without an official release date. But it appears developer Grounding Inc is almost ready to show it off. A demo recently went up on Xbox Live in Japan, but has since been removed. Thankfully, one ardent fan was able to capture footage from the trial, giving us all a look at what to expect.

The video (via Joystiq) shows some tutorial and shooting bits up to the end of a stage, and not much else. The tutorial sections give a slightly better idea of how it controls, and whoever was standing in front of the Kinect was apparently adept enough to make it through the stage, so maybe this game will unlock the puzzle of quality Kinect controls. Maybe.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Luminous Studio surprised many when it made its debut at E3 last year. Developed by Square Enix Japan, the presentation gave us a glimpse at what a next-gen Final Fantasy game could possibly look like. We chatted with Mike Fischer at the trade show, president and CEO of Square Enix, about the company's ambitions with its new engine.

"Every Final Fantasy game is original. We create a new world with every new number. We need to keep pushing the envelope so that every Final Fantasy game creates a new standard," Fischer told us when describing the project's genesis after the engine's unveiling. "Having a custom toolset like this is really helpful, because it makes that process a lot more efficient."

With the addition of Luminous Studio, Square Enix now has multiple in-house engines to choose from, including Glacier from IO Interactive and Crystal Dynamics' in-house engine. Isn't having three proprietary technologies a bit redundant? Not so, Fischer argued. "This is obviously developed by a team that creates these Final Fantasy worlds, that are this amazing blend of technology and magic. It's never a one-size-fits-all solution, and I don't think it ever should be," he said. "You need to have the right engine for the right game. Glacier--one of the key features for that is that it optimizes for these incredible crowd scenes. The Crystal Engine has its own thing going for it."

Unlike Epic with Unreal and Crytek with CryEngine, many third-party publishers are keeping their upcoming engines exclusively in-house. Like EA with Frostbite and Bethesda with idTech, Square Enix is opting to keep Luminous internal as well. "This is an in-house tool. We're not building this around a licensing model," Fischer explained. However, studios that sign publishing deals with the company will be able to get access to the tech, something Fischer hopes will attract new talent. "It's my hope that this makes teams and creative people around the world excited to work for us because they'll get their hands on some of the best technology in the industry."

Given how impressive the real-time Luminous demo was, we asked if Square Enix had any intention of using the tech to revive their non-interactive movie business. Fischer quickly shot down that idea. "Our focus right now is on games. Can it do more? It can definitely do more. But our focus is on games," he said. That doesn't mean it can't happen in the future, though. "There's no Final Fantasy movie in the works that I'm aware of, but the key thing is we're very much a creator-driven company. We want to have the technology to help these creators turn their vision into a reality. And that's why we made this investment."

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Moving your Xbox Live account to a new region can be a pain, but Microsoft is working on a new tool to make the job easier. A web tool slated for a mid-January release will let users migrate accounts quickly and with just a few simple clicks, rather than the current system that can take significantly longer and usually involves a call to tech support.

Neowin (via IGN) reports that testers for the new service have been able to transfer Gamertags, Achievements, Microsoft points, and Gold subscriptions across regions easily. A transfer can be done every three months, for those of you constantly hopping from country to country. Some services that are tied to their respective regions, like Xbox Music passes or certain entertainment applications, won't transfer.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

When you're a sniper, the last thing you want to do is miss your target--much less miss it four times. So the latest release date for Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, set nearly a year after its initial release target and having suffered three separate delays, should hopefully be the last time we write its name and "release date" in the same story.

Eurogamer reports that the game is now set for March 12, 2013. It had initially been set for March 20, then August 21, and finally pushed into January 15, 2013. Obviously, this news means it won't be coming in the middle of this month, but eager snipers can hope that City Interactive sticks to its proverbial guns this time.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Microsoft is continuing to plunge ahead in its attempts to use its Xbox brand as a one-stop entertainment box, and a new acquisition may help it reach that goal. The company has reportedly acquired R2 Studios, a start-up that was previously focused on mobile apps that enable home automation.

The Wall Street Journal (via Gamasutra) reports that the acquisition includes several electronic control patents. The studio was founded by Slingbox creator Blake Krikorian. Slingbox focused on video streaming, and web and mobile apps that could serve as remote controls.

Meanwhile, ZDnet reports that R2 had been working on similar automation apps, placing another potential tool in Microsoft's arsenal of features that began with Kinect controls. As Microsoft prepares to reveal its next console, it seems likely to focus on entertainment as a major pillar.

Shacknews has contacted Microsoft regarding the acquisition, and will update as more information becomes available.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Microsoft has already rolled out a ton of entertainment apps with more on the way, but Sony isn't too far behind with its own set-top box efforts. Epix will be launching its own free video app on PlayStation platforms this year: PS3 sometime in the first quarter, followed by Vita in the spring.

Epix will offer movies like other entertainment apps, but also features concerts, comedy shows, and sporting events. It boasts more than 3,000 choices in all. The ability to stream on the devices will require a premium subscription through your cable or satellite provider.

"Our core audience has demonstrated a tremendous appetite for streaming movies and TV shows through their PS3, and we're excited to bring EPIX into the homes of millions of PS3 owners in the U.S. as well as to PlayStation fans on-the-go through their PS Vita," said SCEA's Phil Rosenberg in the announcement.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Minecraft for Xbox 360 continues to rack up the number of copies sold since its release in May, surpassing the 5 million mark on the last day of 2012. Those numbers were fueled by a 453,000-unit bump on Christmas Day alone.

Daniel Kaplan of Mojang Specifications tweeted the milestone only days after Markus "Notch" Persson revealed the Christmas Day figures. The new numbers show the continued popularity of the game, which became profitable after its first hour on the shelf, and sold 1 million copies within the first five days of its launch on May 9. The game continually gives Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 stiff competition on Xbox Live.

The game is almost a direct port of the PC version, which officially launched in November 2011 and has sold more than 8 million copies. The mobile version hit 5 million copies sold earlier in December.

Shacknews - John Keefer

BioWare's latest State of the Game blog for Star Wars: The Old Republic has revealed a few plans for the year, including more end-game content for level-capped players, and an ongoing effort by the developer to add same gender romance between players, as well as NPCs.

Jeff Hickman, executive producer on the game, said that, although same gender romance has been promised for some time, the team had to put it off as going free-to-play took up quite a bit of time, and adding the same gender option is more work than expected. He said they are committed to adding this content and promised that NPCs on the new planet of Makeb in the Rise of the Hutt Cartel digital expansion will be in on the romance as well.

As for PvP, open world combat is taking a back seat to Warzones, but the upcoming 1.7 update will include an as yet unannounced PvP area involving the Gree Enclave. Hickman also said there should be plenty to keep level 50 players busy in the upcoming expansion, which raises the level cap to 55. He vowed that more end-game content is planned throughout the year, although he offered no specifics.

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