Microsoft Halts HD-DVD Production

From the no duh pile of information, Microsoft finally released the company’s official response to the end of the HD format war. Not surprisingly, production of the HD-DVD is now officially over. Despite that and thankfully for those of us who have one, support and replacement for the product will continue.

As a result of recent decisions made by Toshiba, Hollywood studios, and retailers, Microsoft plans to withdraw from HD DVD. Xbox will no longer manufacture new HD DVD players for the Xbox 360, but we will continue to provide standard product and warranty support for all Xbox 360 HD DVD Players in the market. As we stated earlier, we do not believe this decision will have any material impact on the Xbox 360 platform or our position in the marketplace. HD DVD is one of the several ways we offer a high definition experience to consumers and we will continue to give consumers the choice to enjoy digital distribution of high definition movies and TV shows directly to their living room, along with playback of the DVD movies they already own.

2Opinionated Episode 12 - The War is Over and Microsoft Falls Short

This week on 2OpGaming’s podcast the HD movie format war is finally over and I talk about Blu-Ray’s victory and how it played into the surprising January NPDs. Sony office party ahead. Plus, just how ridiculous the idea of Netflix on Xbox Live is from a logistics standpoint. Also, listen in for the led pipe GDC locks to look for this week from the Mascone Center in San Fran.

Comments, suggestions, love of the show? Hatred of the show? Send WitchKing9 a voice mail at (206) 337 - 1282 or contact me directly via email at sgd@2opgaming.com

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Microsoft Opens Live Arcade Game of the Year Voting

As a way to recognize the teams of talented developers who have together created over 112 games for Xbox LIVE Arcade, Microsoft will announce awards for the top XBLA games of 2007 later this year, with several award categories decided by the community. Fans of Xbox LIVE Arcade are invited to cast their votes for the first-ever Xbox LIVE Arcade Awards – 2007 by voting at http://www.xbox.com/xblaawards. Voting begins Tuesday, January 22 at 2:00 a.m. PST (10:00 GMT) and runs through Wednesday, January 30 at 11:59 p.m. PST (07:59 GMT).

The finalists in each award category were selected by a panel of consumer and video game industry journalists, and the winners will be determined by popular vote. Microsoft will announce the winners of the inaugural Xbox LIVE Arcade Awards – 2007 at the Game Developer Conference in February.

Below is the list of award categories that will be open for public voting:

· Best Overall Arcade Game

· Best Classic Game

· Best Original Game

· Best Family Friendly Game

· Best Competitive Multiplayer Game

· Best Cooperative Multiplayer Game

Other award categories include the following:

· Best selling game

· Most played game

· Highest rated game

· Staff choice

“Undertow” Free of Charge Download on XBLA this Week

This Xbox LIVE Arcade Wednesday, Xbox LIVE members around the world will be able to download the award-winning “Undertow” free of charge for a limited time. Beginning at 2:00 a.m. PST (10:00 GMT) Wednesday, January 23 and continuing through 11:59 p.m. PST on Sunday, January 27 (07:59 GMT on Monday, January 28), “Undertow” will be available free of charge on Xbox LIVE Arcade.

Developed by Chair Entertainment Group, Undertow redefines aquatic based shooters through a mix of high-definition graphics, intuitive controls and multiple modes of game play action. The game features a full story driven-single player campaign, on and offline co-op, and multiplayer for 2-16 players over Xbox LIVE for Gold subscribers. Players battle for control of the oceans as one of three selectable races, each with four unique, upgradeable units. “Undertow” is available worldwide (normally 800 Microsoft Points) and is rated E10+.

In support of the giveaway, Chair Entertainment Group is offering gamers the opportunity to play alongside the Undertow development team on Thursday, January 24 at 7:00 p.m. PST (03:00 GMT on Friday, January 25). The team will host player matches, provide game play tips and the opportunity for gamers to pick-up Undertow achievements.

• For more details on “Undertow,” please visit:


Finally, don’t forget to check out this week’s new downloadable content for “Mutant Storm Empire.” For more details, please visit www.xbox.com/livearcade.

First Halo 3 DLC is now Live

The international award-winning “Halo 3” gets even better as the “Halo 3” Heroic Map Pack launches today on Xbox 360’s Xbox LIVE Marketplace. After launching to incredible acclaim and fanaticism, more than five million “Halo 3” players worldwide can now enjoy a package of three all new multiplayer maps. The Heroic Map Pack is the first in a series of downloadable content from Bungie Studios.

Available for 800 Microsoft Points exclusively on Xbox LIVE Marketplace, each map offers a unique experience. Standoff’s symmetrical valley, with its entrenched bases and fields of boulders is ideal for mid-sized objective and Slayer game types, while Rat’s Nest’s vast, labyrinthine passages bring something new to the “Halo” multiplayer experience: an indoor vehicle paradise, strongly influenced by the Campaign mode, ideal for big team battles. Finally, Foundry is the ultimate Forge map – players can edit every single object in this voluminous industrial warehouse, place stairways, walls, bridges and tunnels to create an entirely new play space and build almost any kind of map they can think of.

As if the legions of “Halo 3″ players needed more reasons to stay logged on to Xbox LIVE and fragging, Forge also allows players to edit and customize all three maps, keeping “Halo 3’s” multiplayer experience fresh, exciting and evolving. In addition, ongoing updates to “Halo 3’s” matchmaking playlists ensure that ranked and social gameplay remains dynamic and competitive.

The maps of the Heroic Pack are available in matchmaking today to those who have purchased the download. All three maps will become available as a free download via Xbox LIVE Marketplace in Spring 2008, just prior to the next wave of all new “Halo 3” multiplayer maps.

Not bad, may be steep for some with so much other stuff to play. Will be free in the Spring which is nice.

Microsoft Claims Best Release Schedule Ever

2007 will be a year to remember for Xbox 360™ players – a packed release schedule offers a wide range of incredible titles including exclusive, genre-defining games such as Blue Dragon™ (Microsoft Game Studios - MGS), Project Gotham Racing® 4 (MGS), Naruto™ Rise of a Ninja (Ubisoft), Viva Piñata®: Party Animals (MGS), Ace Combat® 6: Fires of Liberation™ (Namco Bandai Games) and Scene It?® Lights, Camera, Action (MGS), not to mention some of the highest scoring games of all time in the form of BioShock (2K Games), Mass Effect (MGS), The Orange Box (EA) and the legendary Halo® 3 (MGS), all of which have already been released or are set to arrive before the end of the year.

From the end of summer to the festive period, Xbox 360 boasts over 60 new releases contributing to a portfolio of over 300 high-definition titles.

Two of the most epic adventures of the year arrived in August in Blue Dragon and BioShock. Role-playing game Blue Dragon casts players as Shu, a young boy, who with a party of four must battle the evil that has invaded their world, controlling phantom shadow creatures ranging from Minotaur, to phoenix and of course, dragon.

BioShock is a “genetically-enhanced” first person shooter that lets players do things never before possible in the genre, in the unique art deco world of Rapture, an underwater utopia torn apart by civil war.

September and October were the hottest months since records began seeing the release of the epic Halo 3 and the turbocharged Project Gotham Racing 4.

Halo 3, the third and final chapter in the “Halo trilogy” smashed day-one entertainment sales records when it launched in September with players finally getting the chance to take Master Chief™ into his most crucial battle yet.

October saw Project Gotham Racing 4 return with another garage-full of the world’s most iconic cars. A brand new dynamic weather system makes for an even more exhilarating experience.

Football fans are enjoying a season of highlights on Xbox 360 with the release of FIFA 08 at the end of September and Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 at the end of October.

FIFA 08 brings you closer to the action than ever before with new Pro Skills moves that increase user-control by enabling you to combine tricks and skill moves together to recreate signature moves from the real-world superstars, the new Be A Pro: Offline Training mode, and even greater depths of authenticity, while Konami’s latest edition to the multi-million-selling Pro Evolution Soccer series returns as PES 2008, boasting a proprietary AI system, all new moves and set pieces - and even more realism than ever. PES 2008’s rosters of licensed players enjoy a wide range of flicks, nutmegs, and set-pieces, while the less savoury elements of the game appear in the form of shirt-pulling, ugly fouls and diving.

November offers something for everyone. Mass Effect, the science-fiction action-role playing game offers a whole galaxy full of difficult decisions to make as players lead an elite team to bring down a rogue agent.

Sociable fun is also on the cards - both Viva Piñata: Party Animals and Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action offer their own unique blend of party play – Viva Piñata: Party Animals putting the colourful piñatas into a succession of addictive mini games and Scene It? offering a host of movie-related trivia to answer.

Naruto Rise of a Ninja kick flips into November featuring the perfect blend of adventure, platforming and fighting and enables fans of the show to challenge fellow gamers on Xbox LIVE®.

Finally, top guns will fulfil their aviation dreams in Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, thrusting players into the heat of realistic air combat.

The review scores garnered by many of these titles have been astounding, confirming the excellence of the Xbox 360 line up. Halo 3’s score of 94 at Metacritic and 93 at Gamerankings makes it the perfect conclusion to the Halo trilogy, arriving just weeks after BioShock which wowed critics, scoring 96 and 95 at Metacritic and Gamerankings respectively.

Just when review scores looked like they couldn’t get any higher The Orange Box arrived - five innovative games from Valve®, creators of the blockbuster Half-Life franchise, in one action-packed box - scoring an astonishing 96 point average at both Metacritic and Gamerankings. Finally, Mass Effect is the most recent Xbox 360 release to garner 90+ review averages claiming 93 at both sites and rounding off simply the greatest portfolio of video games ever seen. *

These unprecedented scores demonstrate exactly why Xbox 360 continues to hold the record for highest games attach rate across the globe, at 6.3 games sold per console. With life-to-date sales of 13.4 million consoles worldwide this represents incredible software sales.

BioShock, Blue Dragon, Project Gotham Racing 4, Naruto Rise of a Ninja, Viva Piñata: Party Animals, Mass Effect, Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action, FIFA 08, PES 2008, Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, The Orange Box and Halo 3 spearhead the unparalleled selection of Xbox 360 titles that players will be able to enjoy this year.

“This year’s line up of titles on Xbox 360 is without doubt the strongest I have seen, offering incredible Microsoft-published titles such as Blue Dragon, PGR 4, Viva Piñata Party Animals, Mass Effect, Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action and Halo 3, and incredible exclusives from our partners such as BioShock, Naruto Rise of a Ninja and Ace Combat 6. It’s an amazing year for Xbox 360 players,” said Michael Newey, Group Product Marketing Manager, Microsoft.

A great year to be sure, but better than 1998? That’s entirely up for debate.

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