Shacknews - Steve Watts

Microsoft is a heavyweight in game consoles now, but before it made its mark with enormous controllers and Master Chief, the company was looking into ways to get a foothold. One idea was to purchase an existing company like Sega, but then-CEO Bill Gates felt the house that Sonic built lacked the "muscle" to compete with Sony.

Joachim Kempin worked at Microsoft from 1983 to 2003, and had an inside look at the machinations of Microsoft's cracking into the industry. "There were three companies at that point in time, I think this was [Sony,] Sega and Nintendo," he told IGN. "There was always talk maybe we buy Sega or something like that; that never materialized, but we were actually able to license them what they call Windows CE, the younger brother of Windows, to run on their system and make that their platform. But for Bill [Gates] this wasn’t enough, he didn't think that Sega had enough muscle to eventually stop Sony so we did our own Xbox thing."

Kempin says Sega was "a very different bird," and that Nintendo was having financial trouble at the time of the 3D transition, which led Sony to capture the market quickly with its first PlayStation. "They took off, and everyone else was left behind."

While Microsoft never bought Sega, they did eventually get former Sega COO Peter Moore, that handsome tattooed devil.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Infinity Blade: Dungeons, the third game in Epic's popular iOS franchise, is being put "on hold," as its developer--Impossible Studios--is being closed. Impossible was made up of former members of Big Huge Games, which shut down after the collapse of Big Huge Games last year. "Epic Games has truly embraced this stellar collection of developers who were displaced by the closing of Big Huge Games," said Impossible studio director Sean Dunn said in August. "They have looked after us with complete care, giving us all the tools and resources we need to make a lot of gamers happy."

Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney said that their partnership was ultimately not "working out for Epic," and that the studio would be closed. "In addition to providing Impossible Studios employees with 3 months of severance pay, we'll be giving the team the opportunity to form a new company with the Impossible Studios name and the awesome Impossibear logo," Sweeney added.

Shacknews - Jeff Mattas

Garnett Lee is away at DICE this week, but never fear! Jeff Cannata, Jeff Mattas, Andrew Yoon, and Alex Albrecht convene for this week's spirited episode of Weekend Confirmed. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time gets a glowing recommendation from Andrew, Mattas talks about his experience playing through Dead Space 3 twice in one week, and Alex opines about a big crop of past and present MMORPG's. Cannata also shares his very impressive, hands-on experience with Google Fiber, and an extra-strength dose of Finishing Moves puts the wrapping on this week's show.

Weekend Confirmed Ep. 151: 2/8/2013

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Weekend Confirmed comes in four segments to make it easy to listen to in segments or all at once. Here's the timing for this week's episode:

    Show Breakdown:

    Round 1 - 00:00:34 - 00:28:43

    Whatcha' Been Playin Part 1 - 00:30:11 - 00:55:51

    Whatcha Been Playin Part 2 00:56:28 - 01:25:20

    Listener Feedback/Front Page News - 01:26:02 - 02:10:28

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Weekend Confirmed @WeekendConfirmd

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Alex Albrecht @alexalbrecht

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Original music in the show by Del Rio. Get his latest Album, Club Tipsy on iTunes. Check out more, including the Super Mega Worm mix and other mash-ups on his ReverbNation page or Facebook page, and follow him on twitter @delriomusic.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

With five million copies shipped so far, Resident Evil 6 is by no means a failure for Capcom. However, it has repeatedly been called a disappointment by the publisher, who expected the game to ship upwards of seven million units. What could account for such a sharp decline from its initially projected sales?

"We are currently analyzing the causes, which involve our internal development operations and sales operations. We have not yet reached a clear conclusion," Capcom told investors.

"We believe that global sales of 5 million units are proof that this is a popular title. However, we believe that the new challenges we tackled at the development stage were unable to sufficiently appeal to users," the statement continued. Capcom did say that Resident Evil 6 was designed to appeal to a "mass-market" audience--which is reflected on the game's focus on action, and not necessarily traditional horror.

"In addition, we believe there was inadequate organizational collaboration across our entire company with regard to marketing, promotions, the creation of plans and other activities. We will have to examine these results from several perspectives. We will reexamine our internal operating frameworks in order to identify areas that need to be improved concerning development as well as sales and administrative operations," the publisher concluded.

Oddly, there seems to be no mention of the lackluster reception of the game--by both critics and fans.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Did you miss out on the first SimCity beta? No worries, as EA and Maxis will be running another one over Valentine's weekend. Urban planning is so romantic!

The second closed beta test will run from February 16 at 6 AM PST to February 17 at 6 AM PST, according to the announcement. If you've already registered for the previous beta, you're already set. If not, go ahead and register to get yourself squared away. Even if you played the first beta, it's possible to get into the second. E-mails with redemption codes will be sent out on February 16, so watch your inbox.

This round is meant specifically to stress test server capacity, which is why it's only a day long. That way, the studio can pack players in at the same time. It will also implement some feedback from the first beta test, like improved zoning and road tools, and bug fixes.

EA and Maxis also released a new trailer today, promoting the "Heroes and Villains set" available in the game's Limited Edition. The game launches on PC on March 5.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Obsidian Entertainment, the studio behind Knights of the Old Republic 2, still wants to tinker more in the Star Wars universe. Studio CEO Feargus Urquhart says they pitched a new RPG to Lucasarts, before Disney bought it lock, stock, and barrel. Though it hasn't gotten approval from Lucasarts, Obsidian plans to keep pitching once the dust settles on the Disney deal.

"There's a lot of different eras in Star Wars, and that's what we would focus on," Urquhart told Rock Paper Shotgun. He hopes that by picking a different era, they might avoid Disney feeling gun-shy after EA's big investment in The Old Republic failed to catch fire.

"We pitched a between-Episode III and Episode IV game [to LucasArts]," he said. "Because we think that timeframe is super interesting. It's the fall of the Republic, the extermination of the Jedi, it's Obi-Wan going off and making sure Luke is okay. You have the Sith, but you have the extermination of all Force users except for very, very few. So it was an interesting time to set a game, and you know, Chris Avellone came up with a really cool story. We also latched onto it because it has elements people remember, but not the stories. It can just completely not involve [the movies]. It can tease them, but nothing else."

Now that Disney has bought up the brand it seems to have ambitious movie plans, including a new trilogy and spin-offs. Its game plans, however, are more nebulous. Urquhart is still hopeful, but is waiting for the right time to pitch again.

"We haven't [talked with Disney yet]," he said. "We're kind of waiting for the smoke to clear. But that’s one of my next big things to do. To kind of go over there and [get the ball rolling again]."

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Playing real-time strategy games competitively online can be downright terrifying, so StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm hopes to ease players in gently. A new video shows off the redesigned multiplayer menu system and various helper systems intended to stop you from swearing off multiplayer forever after two placement matches, not to mention the options and goals for people who already know their micro from their macro and can run through builds in their sleep.

Rather than throw a whole load of options at players, Blizzard's expansion arranges the menus so there's a clear progression from training to ranked matchmaking. Training is a new mode played against AI which offers successive small goals to teach the basics, introducing more and more units and speeding up play as you progress.

Community manager 'Cloaken' also goes into the leveling system, which unlocks portraits, decals, skins and dance animations as you rack up more XP from wins.

Look, rather than recap the entire video, I'll set you loose to see for yourself, and admire Kerrigan's telekinetic powers in the new main menu background:

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Video game awards season isn't truly over until the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) has had its say. This year, the PlayStation 3 title Journey stole the show. The title won eight of its 11 nominations, including Game of the Year, Outstanding Innovation in Gaming, and Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction.

The Walking Dead followed with four wins, including Downloadable Game and Adventure Game of the Year. Other multiple award winners included Halo 4 and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The awards event also inducted Valve president Gabe Newell into the AIAS Hall of Fame, and honored Infocom co-founders Dave Lebling and Marc Blank with the AIAS Pioneer Award.

Check out a full list of the winners below:

  • Game of the Year: Journey

  • Action Game of the Year: Borderlands 2

  • Adventure Game of the Year: The Walking Dead

  • Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year: XCOM: Enemy Unknown

  • Role-Playing/Massively Multiplayer Game of the Year: Mass Effect 3

  • Sports Game of the Year: FIFA Soccer 13

  • Racing Game of the Year: Need for Speed Most Wanted

  • Fighting Game of the Year: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale

  • Downloadable Game of the Year: The Walking Dead

  • Casual Game of the Year: Journey

  • Mobile Game of the Year: Hero Academy

  • Handheld Game of the Year: Paper Mario Sticker Star

  • Web Based Game of the Year: SimCity Social

  • Family Game of the Year: Skylanders Giants

  • Outstanding Character Performance: The Walking Dead: Lee Everett

  • Outstanding Innovation in Gaming: Journey

  • Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition: Journey

  • Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design: Journey

  • Outstanding Achievement in Story: The Walking Dead

  • Outstanding Achievement in Online Gameplay: Journey

  • Outstanding Achievement in Connectivity: Halo 4

  • Outstanding Achievement in Animation: Assassin's Creed 3

  • Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction: Journey

  • Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering: Halo 4

  • Outstanding Achievement in Gameplay Engineering: XCOM: Enemy Unknown

  • Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction: Journey

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Some of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns have been from industry legends, folks whose pockets fans want to stuff full of money so they can make their dream game, such as Tim Schafer, Chris Roberts, Peter Molyneux, David Braben, and Brian Fargo. The Longest Journey creator Ragnar Tørnquist may have that sort of recognition, but the Kickstarter his new studio Red Thread Games launched today to make a third game in the series, Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey, is asking for a hefty chunk of change: $850,000. Get your credit card out, then.

Dreamfall Chapters aims to conclude the adventure game trilogy, which spans three characters and several realities. Tørnquist struck out on his own after Funcom, where he created it, had no interest in making a third game. Red Thread has licensed the property and brought together a load of Funcom talent, including the co-writer and art director of the second game, Dreamfall.

Pledging at least $25 to the Kickstarter campaign will get you a copy of the finished Dreamfall Chapters, though 5,000 people with quick trigger fingers can swoop in and get this perk for only $20. Perks then escalate as you pledge more, including digital art books, early access, boxed copies, creating NPCs, and the like.

Dreamfall Chapters is slated to launch, if it gets funding, on PC in November 2014.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The starter set for Disney Infinity includes characters from The Incredibles, Monsters Inc, and Pirates of the Caribbean. But of course the game will be expanding with new playsets at a fairly regular clip, and we now know of another Disney property coming: Cars.

The latest issue of Game Informer reveals that the Cars set stars Lightning McQueen, as he tries to get racers to come to Radiator Springs to participate in the international grand prix. You'll be tasked with building tracks and expanding the town, and you can take those pieces to build tracks and stunt parks in the Toy Box mode. Characters include Lightning McQueen, Mater, Holley, and Francesco.

The inclusion of Cars shouldn't come as any surprise to those who follow Disney merchandise. While the series hasn't been as much of a hit with critics, it has put a lot of money in Disney's coffers. Before the release of Cars 2, the movie reached $10 billion in global retail sales.

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