One Man Plans To Produce New Playfields, Plastics And Artwork To Bring Old Gottlieb Games Back To Life

By PinballNews.com
The average pinball collector has more than just a smattering of dot matrix games from Williams, Bally and Data East. But what about those earlier solid state games and in particular the many thousands of Gottlieb games coming out of the company's Northlake factory in the late '70s and early '80s?
A large number of them will have been played almost to death with worn out playfields, cracked or flaking backglasses and damaged cabinets. Despite the fact that they are still functioning, devoid of any monetary value, these games are often stored away or broken for parts.
But hope is in sight if one man gets his way.
John Greatwich from Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada has plans to produce replacement kits to rescue these Gottlieb solid state games with replacement playfields, backglasses, playfield plastics and cabinet art.
John told Pinball News about how his idea began. "I always wanted to make a new prototypes from scratch. I contacted people still making games, not interested. Talked with Pat Lawlor who said to keep trying, at least that was positive encouragement, Thanks Pat. I was afraid to contact certain people (does the word lawyer come to mind?). So I contacted Robert Fesjian (at Mondial, the holding company for D. Gottlieb), who would talk with Steve Young (exclusive licensee for Gottlieb products), about the possibilities of making Gottlieb Prototype Games."
John's plan is to use the game's existing playfield parts since these can be difficult to come by, and transfer them onto his new playfield which will use the same layout and rules but a different theme. When the earlier solid state games were originally manufactured it was quite usual for the game layout and design to be completed before a theme was attached, so changing the theme shouldn't detract from the playability of the game.
Now Robert and Steve have given John the go-ahead to produce a sample playfield and artwork package. If they approve it, the product will be given the Gottlieb name and sold as an official Gottlieb kit.
John described the conversion process: "The Gottlieb owner would need to have a working game and have the minimal skills required to change out the playfield. The new backglass, cabinet art & playfield plastics should be easy to install. I will be doing what I believe is more coloured background, simpler designs. Custom work would be possible by using a graphics program."
Right now he need potential purchasers to provide him with playfields he can scan and turn into the necessary files for a playfield router. "The light lenses are here, only best quality plywood will be used with good paint front & back using commercial graphic inkjet work and clearcoating of the finished playfield. I need people to tell me what unpopulated playfields they may have and can send. I'm looking for worn playfields, not NOS, to copy the layout but they should still have the scoring and rules visible."
"I know that it has to be affordable and would think that it has a chance for all the serious collectors out there looking for rare or low number items. Everyone should come out ahead, especially the Gottlieb Pinball community."
John has now announced that the first game to be given new playfields, plastics, backglass and artwork treatment is Devil's Dare and it will be followed by Cleopatra and Count Down.
John also told Pinball News: "The first playfields will be hand routered, since they are prototypes. If the prototypes move towards making conversion kits, they still might be hand routered, unless the demand warrants it."


Incredible Technologies New Video Pinball

Story dated August 10, 2005
Pictures and game details courtesy The Korn and Chicago Pinball Mafia.
After we first reported on Incredible Technologies' Video Pinball System game back in August last year, it looked as though the game was not going to be developed any further.
But twelve months later the new Orange County Choppers has shown up in the Chicago suburbs.
Some immediate changes are clear - the cabinet has been completely redesigned although the control panel is largely unchanged. The lack of an extra ball has been rectified as has the limit of two-ball multiball with a new three ball havoc mode. Unusually for a pinball, you enter your initials at the start of the game and they are shown against your score at the top of the display.
Priced at $1 per play the game is all about building up to eight custom bikes, photographing them and then riding to Las Vegas to show them off. You start out in The Shop and pick a bike to build.
The first bike needs three parts to complete which you collect by shooting various shots around the playfield. Once you've done this, you go into photo shoot mode (which is the top playfield) for 20 seconds. You have to knock down all the targets to complete the photo shoot and go back to The Shop.
You can continue to build more bikes (up to the maximum of eight) or you can take what you've build and head off to Vegas.
Vegas is a completely separate playfield and it's here that one of the problems of the old game resurfaces. It takes something like fifteen seconds to load the Vegas playfield or switch between playfields later in the game.
The main feature of the Vegas playfield is the S-H-O-W bank of standup targets in the middle of the table. Knock these down and you can shoot the scoop behind to get to The Show.
This is another new playfield and the place where you earn your rewards for building and photographing the bikes. Each bike you've built and completed the Photo Shoot for is worth a little over five million points and you have about 30 seconds to collect them and score victory laps. Bikes which are either unbuilt or haven't completed the Photo Shoot aren't worth anything.
The first thing you notice about the game is the step pitch of the tables, equating to something like 10° - 12° compared to a real table's 6° - 7° making this one fast game, probably too fast. But the ball movement and general game physics feel spot on, perhaps even better than the Pro Pinball games so this is clearly an area on which IT have spent some time and effort.
The biggest area of criticism though is the tilt control and how the way in which works completely wrong. This is because when you hit one of the tilt buttons, it feels as though that side of the game has physically sunk into the floor. It produces a kind of twisting motion that is not what you're expecting at all.
Overall though, this is a fun game for fans of the real deal. It's never going to be as good as a genuine game but it's an entertaining alternative and a sign that IT is still serious about video pinball.


Always Beware Of Scams

A reader sent us this article from The South Florida Business Journal. There has been an ongoing crackdown on business opportunity fraud involving an alleged $19.2 million scheme involving DVD vending machines.
Operation Biz Opp Flop has led to eight arrests and one of those arrested couId face up to life in prison if convicted.
Officers and employees of American Entertainment Distributors (AED) used phony references to sell the $28,000 to $40,000 machines, the indictment states.
Consumers who called the company after seeing its TV commercial and Internet advertising were given exaggerated profit projections and were falsely told that the DVD vending machines were reliable, easy to operate, and would be delivered promptly, the indictment states.
Arrested and charged in the indictment unsealed on Aug. 12 were Russell G. MacArthur Jr., James R. MacArthur, Evan J. Feig, Edmond Grigorian, Thomas R. Kling, Cesar Menendez, and Michael H. Menkes, all of South Florida; and Karl Wagner of Michigan.
A task force composed of members of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami, the Department of Justice, Postal inspection Service and the Federal Trade Commission spearheaded the investigation. To date, more than 30 individuals have been charged in Operation Biz Opp Flop. Of those charged, 14 have been convicted and 16 await trial. Miami attorney Gerald Wahl was appointed receiver for AED in September 2004 under an FTC temporary injunction and freeze order.


New Study Finds Video Games And Real World Aggression Not Linked

UPI News Service, 08/11/2005
A U.S. study found that players' "robust exposure" to a highly violent online game did not cause any substantial real-world aggression.

Study leader Dmitri Williams of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says that after an average playtime of 56 hours over the course of a month with "Asheron's Call 2" -- a popular MMRPG, or "massively multi-layer online role-playing game" -- he found "no strong effects associated with aggression caused by this violent game."
Players were not statistically different from the non-playing control group in their beliefs on aggression after playing the game than they were before playing, Williams said. Nor was playing the game a predictor of aggressive behaviors.
"I'm not saying some games don't lead to aggression, but I am saying the data are not there yet," Williams said. "Until we have more long-term studies, I don't think we should make strong predictions about long-term effects, especially given this finding."
The findings appear in the June issue of Communication Monographs.



Here is a look at some of the artists writing music for video games:
• BLACK EYED PEAS: The Los Angeles hip-pop group remixed some of their hits for The Urbz: Sims in the City, a life simulation game where characters work at sushi bars and get tattoos to build reputations.
• SNOOP DOGG: The rap star put his twist on The Doors' Riders on the Storm in an exclusive song for the racing game Need for Speed Underground 2 and appears as a playable character in the cop story True Crime: Streets of LA.
• MARK SNOW: Famed for his The X Files TV theme, the composer wrote music for the Sony Playstation 2 anti-terrorist espionage and stealth game Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain.
• DANNY ELFMAN: The Grammy-winning film composer, whose work can be heard in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, wrote the theme for Microsoft Xbox's Fable, an action role-playing game in which player choices determine whether the main character turns good or evil.
• PAUL OAKENFOLD: The dance DJ and remixer contributed tunes to the James Bond game GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. His Beautiful Goal theme for Electronic Arts' FIFA 2005 was licensed to Major League Soccer for use in TV ads.
• GODSMACK: Frontman Sully Erna was ''fanatical'' about writing a song for Madden NFL '06, according to Electronic Arts top music executive Steve Schnur. The group's Bring It On is among the hard rock songs on the game, which also features Hot Hot Heat, The All-American Rejects, Foo Fighters and Disturbed.


Twin Cities Mad For Madden's Video Games

Terry Collins, Star Tribune
August 9, 2005 MADDEN0809

Wanna know how Craig Christianson was planning to spend the wee hours of his 25th birthday today?
By scouring a Twin Cities electronics store, starting at midnight, hoping to shell out $49.99 for "Madden NFL 2006," the football video game bearing the surname of iconic TV football analyst and former coach John Madden. The new version makes its debut today, and several stores were planning midnight rollouts for devotees.
Christianson, of Minneapolis, later planned to stop by his job for "a couple of hours" and then race home to practice for a marathon session against his buddies tonight. "I don't play any other video games, period," he said. "It's a good way to celebrate the b-day. Truly a gift from the Madden gods!"
The 18th version of the millions-selling football game hit stores today amid great expectations by its fans -- many of whom reserved their copy a year in advance.
"I hear it's going to be sweet," said Joe Lindquist, 22, of Brooklyn Park, who will take his chances and hopes to buy an unreserved copy. "Have you seen it yet?"
Madden's creator, Electronic Arts, which makes a number of other games and is the world's biggest video-game maker, also has a big stake. After a rival began selling its own sports titles at cut-rate prices last year, EA signed long-term licensing deals to give it exclusive rights to make NFL games and titles using the ESPN brand and logo.
The deals were reported to be $400 million for the NFL for five years and $800 million for ESPN for 15 years, according to a recent article in the New York Times.
Christianson said he's been playing Madden since he was 13. He's noticed the advances over the years and says that, in a weird way, the game teaches business skills.
"Clearly there's an emphasis on how you set up your franchise," said Christianson, a human resources supervisor for a downtown Minneapolis investment firm. "That forces you to manage, organize and stay within budget. It's the closest thing to owning a team."
Andy McNamara, editor of the Minneapolis-based Game Informer magazine, said the most significant feature in this year's version of Madden is the "QB vision," in which a slice of the field lights up to give the quarterback better vision and throwing precision when making a pass. Players manipulate a white cone representing the quarterback's field of vision, he said.
Andy Reiner, Game Informer's executive editor, said he was impressed with the game's new Superstar mode, which allows players to create an NFLer and even fire his agent. McNamara said he also likes the Superstar mode, which also follows players' off-the-field activities, including landing possible movie roles.
"The riches, the nice cars," Christianson said. "Yeah, I'm ready for that."


In Defense Of Video Games

August 25 '05
By William Hawkins Published: Thursday, August 25, 2005 3:17 PM EDT
The recent uproar over hidden sex scenes in the video game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" has given Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., a chance to attack pop culture in a way that is supposed to appeal to mainstream constituencies. There is no question that Rockstar games made a major blunder by leaving codes in "GTA:SA" that were never supposed to be part of the game, but which could be accessed by an increasingly savvy, global community of high-tech players (the code was initially broken by a Dutch gamer). Yet, the animated acts are far less realistic than what can be seen any night on cable television.The industry's voluntary ratings code did kick in. With its new "adults only" status - "AO" - most retailers (including Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target and Circuit City) pulled the game from their shelves, a decision that could cost Rockstar $40 million in lost sales. The game already had a "mature" - "M" - rating, requiring the buyer to be at least 17 years old, which is only one year younger than the AO rating.Sex may attract attention, but what most critics, particularly liberals, have focused on is violence, which is far more prevalent in these games than soft-core porn. When Sen. Clinton announced she would introduce legislation to regulate the industry, she targeted violent as well as sexual content.
Most "violent" games, however, have the player assuming the role of a hero fighting the forces of evil. This was certainly true of this year's "G-phoria" award winners chosen by the online votes of a million gamers. "Worlds of Warcraft," "Halo 2," "God of War, "Half-Life 2" and "Knights of the Old Republic" took top awards from the G4 cable TV network, which is devoted to gaming. Many other popular titles feature counterterrorism themes, including the "Ghost Recon" and "Splinter Cell" series licensed by techno-thriller master Tom Clancy.These are the types of games that "do-gooders" love to denounce as immoral "war toys" along with military action figures and toy guns. Yet when I was growing up, toy guns and toy soldiers were the favorite playthings of my circle of friends. Our group would spend hours chasing each other around the neighborhood. We also fought major battles with toy soldiers on the living room rug and on the back porch. Later, we graduated to wargames recreating history's great campaigns on a table top. Video games merely represent the latest evolution of these traditional pastimes.
None of my old gang turned out to be public enemies. Instead they became lawyers, engineers and bankers. My best friend in these childhood "wars" grew up to be an Episcopal priest. This is because we lived in an era with strong values. Television was more violent, but less morally ambiguous then than now. Westerns like "Gunsmoke" and "The Rifleman" dominated my viewing. Our idols were the "good guys" who always triumphed in the end. The villains ended up in jail (usually awaiting the hangman) or had already been sent directly to Boot Hill by the hero. And we cheered because we knew that's where the "bad guys" belonged.Today's libertine culture is filled with anti-heroes who sneer at authority and behave in ways that are openly irresponsible - but then prosper as a result. Lust and greed dance in the name of free expression. Fortunately, there still are toys that teach the devotion of strength to good causes. Perhaps the best franchise is the one the "do-gooders" hate most: Hasbro's "G.I. Joe" which has been a favorite for nearly four decades. The Joes are individual "action figures," each with a personal history. Mainframe was a computer genius who quit Silicon Valley to join the Marine Corps. Airborne gave up a successful law practice to become a paratrooper. Ranger Flint was a Rhodes Scholar who became "bored with the groves of academe." In each case, a sector of our materialistic, self-indulgent culture is found shallow and unfulfilling. Only by putting their talents to the defense of their country do the Joes find satisfaction.This is a positive value to inject into a youth culture otherwise obsessed with extreme sports, fast cars, electronic gadgets and rock music. Conservatives should consider any medium that advances patriotic values to be the "next generation" of the boisterous NASCAR nation they have been courting.
The Joes use violence to defeat their archenemy Cobra, "a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world," but can anyone really think the simpleton "caring and sharing" philosophy of Barney is going to make our lives more secure?"Full Spectrum Warrior" was a military training simulation commissioned by the U.S. Army before the game went commercial. The player commands a squad battling through realistic Middle Eastern urban terrain that looks nothing like "Sesame Street." But there are reasons kids outgrow "Sesame Street" at an early age and never look back. It is the critics of video gaming who are trying to create what is an imaginary world.William R. Hawkins is defense analyst and writer working in Washington.


Tickets Go on Sale for ``IGN Live'' a Video Games Lifestyle Event From IGN Entertainment

Event to Take Place Oct. 22-23, 2005 at the Anaheim Convention Center BRISBANE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 25, 2005--IGN Live invites video gamers to "Be the Game" at its first annual event at Southern California's Anaheim Convention Center Oct. 22-23. IGN.com, a leading online provider of video game, entertainment and lifestyle content, promises to bring what fans love about IGN.com to life. Tickets go on sale today at www.ignlive.com. Admission is priced at $15 online, $25 at the door. Tickets purchased online include free trial offers to IGN's subscription service IGN Insider and the video game rental service GameFly.
IGN Live will host an event experience inspired by and celebrating different genres of IGN.com's gamer lifestyle content. As the event's title sponsor, Best Buy continues to support the technology that takes the gaming experience to new levels. Participating video game publishers to date include Electronic Arts, Midway Games Inc., THQ, Ubisoft and Vivendi Universal Games.
The event will also feature live panels with game publishers, developers, technologists and entertainment personalities, including a seminar on how to break into the game industry in association with the Game Developers Conference (GDC). In addition, there will be gaming tournaments, exclusive trailers shown at The Dolby HD Theater, live DJs, and the lifestyle interest exhibits around cars and consumer electronics.
For more information, please visit www.ignlive.com.
About IGN Entertainment
IGN Entertainment is the leading community-based Internet media and services company for video gaming. IGN owns and operates a network of branded web sites that provide content and services to consumers, advertisers, and publishers and developers of video games and other forms of digital entertainment. The company's major video game-related properties include IGN.com, GameSpy, FilePlanet, TeamXbox, 3D Gamers, Direct2Drive, GameStats.com and a number of owned and affiliated web sites within the company's Vault and Planet networks. IGN also owns and operates two entertainment web sites focused on movie-related content, IGN FilmForce and Rotten Tomatoes, and a male lifestyle web site, AskMen.com. Collectively, IGN Entertainment's properties attracted an average of approximately 26.8 million users each month in the three-month period ending June 30, 2005, and the company has over 250,000 active paying subscribers to its online program for premium video game content, services and information. IGN also provides technology for online game play in video games. The privately held company has its headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area, with offices throughout the U.S.
IGN Entertainment, IGN.com, GameSpy, AskMen.com, Rotten Tomatoes, FilePlanet, TeamXbox, 3D Gamers, Direct2Drive, GameStats.com and IGN FilmForce are trademarks of IGN Entertainment, Inc. Other trademarks and copyrights mentioned are the properties of their respective


Potential to Pump It Up

by Christian Svensson

Wednesday, 24 August 2005
Upstart publisher, Mastiff has its sites set on the dance game market. CEO Bill Swartz tells Next Generation how Pump It Up came to be and how it's facing up against Konami's DDR.
Mastiff's next major title is a dance game called Pump It Up. The title will be distributed by Mad Catz and packaged with a pad. "That decision came down to something simple. We wanted to be bundled with a pad (and it's a great pad). But it's big. We felt we could get a DVD case onto a shelf pretty well, but we needed someone who has access to the big chunks of peripheral space. Our box is around 18" by 14"."I felt we couldn't walk into Best Buy or Target and say 'we're going to take this much of your shelf space, go ahead and clear it out for us, ok guys?'. We wanted to find a peripheral company and we checked everyone out and Mad Catz was the best one there was. They looked at the game and were impressed by it and we had a deal."Price point for the product has been set at $59.99. "For a product that gives you $39.99 worth of mat and $39.99 worth of software, it's a pretty good bargain," claims Swartz.Arriving at Pump it Up"We could have done a World War II shooter or do a driving/fighting simulation but some other people had those ideas before us. So we settled on music."Let me tell you why we picked Pump it Up," explains Swartz. "We were looking for a big genre that had very little competition. It became very clear that dance games were worth between $50m and $60m a year and there's really only one significant player."But the music game business is not an easy one. A quick glance at the genre's NPD data and it's obvious that most titles fail spectacularly, rarely selling more than 50,000 units even at relatively low average retail price points."Most music games have bombed here. Even with Parappa the Rapper, where Sony put their heart and soul into it and couldn't make it fly," acknowledges Swartz. "So if we were to do this, we had to do it right. We needed a superior product that people were going to notice and an established brand name. We didn't want to have to build brand perception from scratch. It's just beyond our resources to do so.""So looked for titles in the dance field that were good, well established and hadn't been exploited. In about 45 minutes we identified the arcade game, Pump it Up. It's insanely popular in Latin America and Korea. Every year in Mexico City there are tournaments. This year's drew more than 15,000 people and they had to open the doors an hour early to avoid a riot. ""In this country, we have a small but super-dedicated core of "Pumpers". There are clubs of Pumpers in most major cities and they travel around the country to compete. Most of these guys and girls are former DDR players and these people really believe in Pump it Up.""So we have a built in audience, where if we did a good job for us, they'd really support us. They're the kinds of guys who will evangelize the product for us. They'll post on message boards. They're opinion leaders," says Swartz. Arcade to Home IssuesAs Midway, Namco and Sega could attest, arcade to home conversion doesn't always meet the home customers' demands. Swartz agrees that there were some potential issues to be dealt with in its conversion of Pump It Up."So we went to the company that makes [the arcade game], Andamiro, and worked with them to make a home version," Swartz explains. "The process was a learning experience for everyone. Their idea of a home game was a direct conversion of the arcade. That's cool, except arcade games are meant to drive coin-drop and home games are meant to provide extended gameplay experiences. So we struggled a lot with [arcade and home issues] but we think that we have it pretty much right and we're really proud of the product.One way the issue was addressed was to crank up the amount of content."We have 100 songs on PS2 and Xbox, which is 40% to 50% more than most dance games. They're also not crummy songs. Some of the music is original, though more than half of it is licensed (Stereogram, Black-eyed Peas, Earth Wind and Fire, etc.). There's lots of Latin music too. We really wanted to be broader in appeal than any other dance game," Swartz boasts.Differentiating the GameSo how does one attract a DDR player to Pump It Up? Or attract consumers who might be interested in dance games but don't know the difference between DDR and its competitors."There were some challenges in making the game interesting to people. One thing we do to explain the essence of this game is that it is really about dancing, not stomping. DDR at the end of the day is a step game. You have to face forward, you've got beats arbitrarily matched to buttons and you get scored by how accurately you hit. If you want to be a bit bitchy about it, DDR is like playing Whack-A-Mole with your feet," says Swartz."We're not built by arbitrarily matching lights or beats to buttons. We've had choreographers actually dance the song and then storing that for comparison as opposed to just mapping buttons to beats. So it's a fundamentally different approach."Swartz also goes on to explain that the very design of the mat, by having buttons in the corner and a button in the center lends it self to more freeform movements. Unlike DDR, which forces players to face forward pretty much at all times (an issue called "front-lock"), Pump It Up encourages players to turn face sideways or even away from the screen for brief moments."Because there's no button in the middle [for DDR], when you go from button A to button B, the program doesn't know how your foot got there. If you have a button in the middle, then the game can force you to go through a particular arc," explains Swartz."With DDR being laid out the way it is, it's almost impossible to play the game with the screen being to your left side. You have to face forward. Pump it Up is choreographed in ways that enable the player to rotate 360 degrees. With additional buttons in all corners, no matter which direction you face, there's the same symmetry of button arrangements.""So we can provide a much more natural, fluid dancing experience as opposed to a stepping experience. DDR's a fine game, but it's stepping as opposed to dancing. When you see someone dancing on Pump it Up, who knows how to dance, you can immediately see that the product is, at the 1s and 0s level, different in the movement it produces from DDR. It's like getting off crutches."


New Breed Of Fun Fitness Bike Uses Video Games and Web To Combat Obesity

neXfit ExerGame fitness bikes take the 'work' out of 'workout' with Xbox/PlayStation and Internet connectivity
neXfit Technologies Inc. (www.nexfit.com) today introduced a new breed of home fitness bike, which combines the traditional cardio workout with fun, popular video game and Internet capabilities.Known as an ExerGame fitness bike, the state-of-the-art equipment debuted in conjunction with the Health + Fitness Business Show - demonstrating how the very applications often associated with obesity can be used to get people exercising."Now virtually anyone can get fit while they race cars, combat evil forces or check out the latest deals on eBay," said Geoffrey White, neXfit's vice president of sales and marketing. "neXfit ExerGame fitness bikes take the 'work' out of 'workout' and make exercising fun and dynamic. They're the future of fitness."With upcoming appearances on a growing number of TV shows, such as CSI: Miami, 24, Ultimate Poker Challenge, Celebrity Fit Club 2, The Biggest Loser 2, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Tony Danza Show, neXfit ExerGame fitness bikes are catching the attention of users and personal trainers alike.Discovery Health Channel (www.discoveryhealth.com) selected neXfit to participate in its Total Family Health Tour, which kicked off on August 5 and culminates in New York City on September 28. The eight-week road show provides fun, interactive experiences that help educate and entertain families about their health. At the show, the neXfit ExerGame fitness bikes invite attendees to play Velodrome and race against seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong's time.Uniquely designed, neXfit ExerGame fitness bikes feature swiveling handlebars with built-in joysticks and health monitors, as well as patented force feedback technology that simulates video game crashes through the handlebars and seat - and ultimately provides the user with a very interactive gaming experience and entertaining cardio workout.Each neXfit ExerGame fitness bike comes with the company's exclusive Health Manager software, which automatically tracks average heart rate during the workout, as well as total calories burned and distance traveled. The software also enables personal trainers to organize virtual spinning classes and monitor their clients' workouts easily and more effectively.The estimated retail price of the neXfit ExerGame fitness bike is $2,495. It will be available in mid-October from a growing number of health and fitness specialty retailers across North America.neXfit, North America's newest fitness phenomenon, is developing a revolutionary approach to fitness and is making it fun to get in shape. The neXfit ExerGame fitness bike introduces an "exertainment" concept, enabling users to play video games, access the Internet and easily manage their own exercise regimes. For more information, visit http://www.nexfit.com./


Microsoft Signs Film Deal For "Halo" Video Games

Wed Aug 24, 2005 4:50 PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) has signed a deal with two film studios to make a movie based on its popular space-based video game series "Halo," a spokesman for Universal Pictures said on Wednesday.
Universal and Twentieth Century Fox agreed to pay Microsoft $5 million plus a percentage of ticket sales. The total price being paid is capped at 10 percent of the domestic box office.
The deal ends months of speculation over which studio would win the right to make a "Halo" film, which came to Hollywood last spring highly-touted by Microsoft and its representatives at Creative Artists Agency. Messengers delivered a script to the studios wearing costumes and toting laser guns.
But several studios balked at an initially high asking price, which at the time published reports pegged at $15 million plus 15 percent of the initial gross box office.
Under terms of the final agreement, Universal will oversee the film's production and domestic distribution, while Fox will handle international distribution.
Universal spokesman Paul Pflug said the studios are aiming for a summer 2007 release of a movie based on "Halo" and "Halo 2," a science fiction series about an alien-fighting warrior named Master Chief.
Microsoft spokesman Carlos de Leon declined to comment on the terms of the movie deal as well as on speculation that the software giant would launch its "Halo 3" game title alongside the movie.
"We haven't made any announcement on the launch of 'Halo 3'," he said.


Taito Line Up Announced

Press release supplied by Games Press 12:42 24/08/2005
Taito are the original coin-op arcade masters and have always been at the forefront of arcade gaming, with many of the original and most memorable classics coming from their design stables. The catalogue of games to be included in the retro collection will span from as early as 1979 through to 1997 and include arguably the most famous Coin-Op of all time, Space invaders,
Taito Legends is already a dream come true for retro gamers and with extra features such as video interviews of the original games creators Mr Tomohiro Nishikado (Space Invaders, Space Invaders Part II, Pop 'n' Pop) and Mr Fukio Mitsuji (Bubble Bobble, New Zealand Story, Volfied), this collection will keep fans and gaming enthusiasts on the edge of their seats.
This amazing collection not only contains a staggering 29 titles but all 29 are arcade games from our childhoods, a gaming journey through time ensues as every game brings back memories and remind us all of our youth!
Taito has been at the forefront of gaming since the 70's and Mr Hironori Ishii, General Manager of Overseas Releases for Taito, commented, "There remains an overwhelming interest in the classic games of the 70s and 80s, of which TAITO played a leading role in. This compilation is for all those fans out there, eager to either turn back the clock to those glory days of gaming, or discover altogether why these games are referred to as "classics". We are proud to have a company of such strong repute as Empire representing us, and trust they will do their best with this title."
Over 25 games that defined a generation, Including:
Battle Shark
Bubble Bobble
Colony 7
Continental Circus
Electric Yo-Yo
Elevator Action
Great Swordsman
Jungle Hunt
New Zealand Story
Ninja Kids
Operation Thunderbolt
Operation Wolf
Plump Pop
Rainbow Islands
Return of the Invaders
Space Gun
Space Invaders
Space Invaders part II
Super Qix
Tube It
Zoo Keeper


Double Standard On Video Games

The Virginian-Pilot © August 23, 2005
For as long as they have existed, video games have been the subject of much consternation, mostly among parents and politicians. Beginning with Mortal Kombat, much of the outcry focused solely on violence, but recently attention has turned to sex.
“Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” the latest in the Grand Theft Auto line of violent video games, has sent various organizations into a frenzy, not about the wanton murder, or the prostitution, larceny, theft and drug use rampant in the game. Instead, a short depiction of pixilated sex, only accessible using a geeky modification that is hard to obtain, has sent America’s moralists, including a jockeying Sen. Hillary Clinton, into a tizzy.
The game’s Mature rating was upped to Adults Only, effectively barring it from sale in most mainstream outlets, and forcing the company to edit the game’s code to remove the offending scene.
What is most troublesome about all this is the double standard involved. In the time it takes to download the Grand Theft Auto modification and install it, a 15-year-old can watch any number of characters engage in casual, unprotected sex on afternoon TV. In the time it takes to follow the in-game chain of events that lead to the sex mini-game, a 16-year-old can watch violent depictions of murder and mutilation on “Law & Order” or “CSI.”
-->The energy used to campaign against San Andreas could have been used to make parents aware that the average child is exposed to thousands of video murders every year.
Yes, San Andreas is a violent and offensive video game, but it is clearly marketed to adults. Seriously, do parents think a game named for a felony is going to be appropriate fare for their children?
Unlike many movies and television shows, actions have serious consequences in San Andreas. A player can end up in jail, in the hospital or dead if he gets caught breaking the law.
But video games are marketed to young men who sometimes play them in suspicious groups. That’s a demographic that includes few lawmakers or politicians, who prefer to condemn phenomena they don’t fully understand.
The problem here is not the existence of San Andreas, but rather the refusal of public figures to acknowledge that video games are every bit as legitimate a form of expression and entertainment as the raunchy and violent movies and TV that somehow seem to escape politicians’ pointed outrage.



Classic Gaming Expo 2005

The biggest retro gaming con in the nation rips it up in the Bay Area.
by Benjamin Turner, 08/22/2005
This past weekend the 8th annual Classic Gaming Expo opened its doors to fans of all games retro. CGE, as it's commonly called, is the largest and longest-running gathering of classic game admirers in the United States, taking place each year around August. Previously held in Las Vegas and San Jose, this year's celebration took place in Burlingame, just south of San Francisco.
CGE attracts more than just fans -- one of its main draws is the chance to get close to actual industry legends. Past years have seen appearances by no less than Ralph Baer (the "father of video games"), Nolan Bushnell (the founder of Atari), and a large number of famous game creators. Guests and speakers this year included Ed Logg (Asteroids, Gauntlet), Al Alcorn (second Atari employee, Pong), David Crane (Pitfall), Howard Scott Warshaw (Yar's Revenge), Bill Kunkel ("Electronic Games" magazine) and Garry Kitchen (Keystone Kapers).
Attendees also have access to dozens of free-play arcade classics (up to and including the first Mortal Kombat), an array of game-stocked consoles, a huge gaming swap meet, an auction of rarities, a "museum" full of priceless gaming treasures, the aforementioned speakers and conferences, and a large floor full of exhibitors and vendors. The exhibitors range from Messiah, a company that's marketing its own NES-like hardware, to Oldergames.com, which is releasing games for classic systems, to private sellers, to Midway, which was promoting its latest Midway Arcade Classics titles.
We caught up with one of CGE's three organizers, Joe Santulli of Digital Press, to get his take on the classic gaming phenomenon that he's currently at the heart of.
You'll get your ass kicked in Robotron long before your butt starts to hurt from sitting down.
For starters, why are old games still so popular? The retro game style, Santulli said, doesn't require you to read through a thick manual, figure out what all the buttons are, or have to play a game 40 or 50 hours to finish it. "You can always sit down for a quick game of Missile Command. You'll get your ass kicked in Robotron long before your butt starts to hurt from sitting down."
"The other thing is there's a certain nostalgia," he continued. "What we remember is this is the stuff we grew up with as kids. It was a brand-new technology. We went from playing boardgames to playing Pong, which today might look like a primitive thing, but that was a major turning point when you were there to see it happen."
One of the hot CGE topics of the moment is the announcement that there won't be a CGE next year -- the organizers feel they're so busy with real-life concerns (such as Santulli's new game store in New Jersey) that an extra year of planning is required to do justice to their plans for the next CGE. What might they be? Santulli gave one hypothetical example: throwing a Special Olympics benefits concert with real-life rock stars from the '80s, such as Thomas Dolby or Quiet Riot. CGE already donates proceeds to the charity, but Santulli and company clearly have their eyes set on even bigger and greater things.
So, classic game fans need not fear, as CGE will be back in 2007, just in time for its tenth anniversary. Said Santulli, "Save your August of 2007, now. Put it on your calendar. Get ready for what is definitely going to be the biggest and best CGE ever." Consider our calendars marked. Well, at least when we buy one for 2007.


Exercise-Based Video Games Combine Fitness And Fun

Tuesday, August 23, 2005
By Melania Zaharopoulos

The testimonials on GetUpMove.com seem like those for any other diet or exercise product:
“I lost 95 pounds!”
“I lost 40 pounds and…”
“I shed 140 pounds.”
But look closer at the site and an interesting pattern emerges. Rather than talking about elliptical machines, powders or pills, the teens and young adults whose before and after pictures populate this site are extolling the virtues of a video game.
Exercise-based video games like Konami’s fanatically popular Dance Dance Revolution are indeed poised to revolutionize the video game industry, according to gaming producers. With an epidemic of obesity and diabetes among American children, they also couldn’t come at a better time.
“Kids today want it now, right now,” said Tim Osbaldeston, vice president of product development for Sportwall, a Carpinteria, Calif.-based producer of game-based exercise equipment. “The whole basis for our company is about getting kids moving, so our game play involves using real balls, (foam) noodles and activities. It’s done in a play atmosphere, though, so it’s got that instant gratification hook that they demand.”
Sportwall, a game that was originally developed to exercise the skills of tennis players, now manufactures games intended for group play in physical education classes, gyms and daycare centers, said Osbaldeston.
Sportwall’s game equipment, asks players to chase and hit lights along a board using either their hands or medicine balls and foam tubes. Timely hits generate point scores, allowing players to compete against one another. Currently in service in 150 schools and 50 health clubs, the company is starting to install its $5,000 to $25,000 systems in YMCAs and Gold’s Gyms around the country, too.
For home use, companies like Red Octane, owner of GetUpMove.com, produce dance pads that function with games like “Dance Dance Revolution” and their own dance game, “In the Groove,” which is produced in conjunction with Rockstar Games. Gaming systems like Sony’s Playstation 2 and Nintendo’s X-Box can run Dance Dance Revolution with the use of a $110 foam mat, a softer replica of the arcade game’s metal play floor that includes two four-button squares controlled by a player’s feet. “In the Groove” is produced only for Playstation.
Dance games ask players follow arrow commands in time with music, offering dances for a variety of skill levels. And unlike conventional sports, which pit players against one another, kids can challenge not only each other, but computer players and their own high scores.
“There’s this really strange phenomenon where some of the kids who are really the hard-core users play for three or four hours a day,” said Tracie Snitker, vice president of public relations for Red Octane. “And right now, the dance pads are the best-selling peripheral on the market.”
Matt Keene, a 21-year-old resident of Charleston, S.C., is just the kind of user Snitker is talking about. At age 18, he topped the scales at 460 pounds. Nine months later, he’d reached his current weight, usually between 210 and 215.
“It was something to make an ass out of myself on at first,” said Keene. “I failed a bunch, but it was really fun.”
Keene kept playing, frequently racking up six games a day at his local arcade before he got the home version of Dance Dance Revolution.
“When I got it at home, I’d play it two to three hours per day,” said Keene. “It was like, ‘Oh, man. ! can’t wait to get home to play!’ I don’t know exactly the day, but I knew I was losing weight when my pants didn’t fit. There were no more holes on the belt.”
Kids aren’t the only ones inspired by video technology, though. Dr. Ken Burres, a sports medicine specialist and CEO of Montclair, Calif.-based FitCentric Technologies Inc., has been a part of the interactive exercise field since 1988. His company produces fitness software and hardware designed to turn stationary bicycles and treadmills into racing games.
With average users in their 30s, FitCentric caters to outdoor enthusiasts who cannot work out in the settings they prefer.
“Say you’re a school kid in Chicago during the winter or a 50-year-old man who’s recently had a heart attack and is now on rehabilitation,” said Burres. “It’s not that easy to get outside sometimes, but we can give you that escape, that feeling of walking or running outside, even if you’re really not.”
Burres’ systems can also provide companionship - the latest version of FitCentric’s virtual training systems, a system being introduced this week that incorporates game-worth graphics of real-world and fantasy-driven simulations, allows users not only to race computerized pace setters and old personal bests, but to compete against fellow users from all over the world via the Internet. The hardware and software, designed for wireless attachment to existing exercise equipment, retail for $169.95
“We’re able to do things like crash sequences, and you can interact with cars, trucks and other bicyclists like you would if you were riding outdoors,” said Burres. “We have stoplights and traffic, and things that would impede the exercise experience in the real world, but you can’t get run over by a car and you can do things that are pure fantasy, like taking a ride on the surface of the moon.”
Active video games may not be mere weight-loss devices, either. They may finally deliver the positive effects that video games promised in their earlier years: improving coordination and even making better athletes, according to Osbaldeston.
“I’ll use the example of a PE instructor who’s had this system for over two years now,” said Osbaldeston. “Karen said that when you teach kids to play baseball, they only want to play it out in the field, but if they haven’t been taught to throw and catch at home, it’s more challenging to teach them that way. This game develops that form and technique. It brings you into the zone of using hands, feet, eyes, ears, sense of balance and an awareness of your surroundings, and when you talk
about getting those better athletes, that’s what you need.”
Later this year, Sportwall will introduce its latest computer-driven activity center, designed to conduct a variety of complete 40-minute training sessions for varying age levels. The system, which offers groups of users audio instruction, will be able to alternate skill and difficulty levels based on age, and provide training sessions centered on strength, cardio and coordination training.
Other businesses are hoping to cash in on the arcade and residential markets, designing peddle, treadmill and live-action games, some of which require players to act out the motions they want their characters to follow, including crouching and turning.


Square Enix Bids For Taito

Shares of Space Invaders maker Taito shoot up after $610-million bid by Final Fantasy developer Square Enix.August 23, 2005
Game software developer Square Enix said it plans to acquire Japanese video game maker Taito for ¥181,000 ($1,649.14) per share, or about ¥67 billion ($610 million), sending shares of Taito sharply higher in trading on Tuesday.

Taito shares were up ¥20,000 ($182.12) to ¥181,000 at the close of trading, while shares of Square Enix were up ¥55 ($0.50) to ¥3,050 ($27.78).

Square Enix makes the popular Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games series, while Taito developed the 1980s arcade game classic Space Invaders. Taito also operates 270 arcades across Japan.

Taito’s parent company Kyocera, which controls a 36 percent stake in the company, according to The Japan Times, has agreed to the bid. Shares of Kyocera were up ¥100 ($0.91) to ¥7890 ($71.83).

Taito will hold on to its name and operate independently within Square Enix once the acquisition is finalized.

‘It’s reflecting the cost of competing in the next generation.’
-Michael Pachter, Wedbush, Morgan
Square Enix President Yoichi Wada said the company would continue to make such acquisitions in order to survive in the increasingly competitive and varied video game industry.

“Video game consoles, cell phones, car navigators, and game platforms have become very diversified,” he said.

His company competes with Bandai and Namco, which announced a merger in May. It also competes with Sega Sammy Holdings, which was formed last October after Sammy, a manufacturer of pachinko slot machines, acquired Sega, developer of Sonic the Hedge Hog and other games, for ¥175.3 billion ($1.6 billion).

Square Enix is itself the result of a merger that occurred in 2003. Takara and Tomy are also negotiating a merger of their toy and game companies.

Third-Biggest Game Maker
The deal will make Square Enix the third-biggest game maker in Japan, behind Nintendo and Namco Bandai Holdings, according to the Tokyo market research firm Enterbrain, as reported by Bloomberg. Takara and Tomy would be the fourth largest.

“There’s been quite a few mergers and consolidations in Japan,” said David Cole, interactive entertainment analyst with DFC Intelligence. “A lot of it is Japanese companies trying to become more globally focused and becoming stronger in North America and Europe. They’re looking at where their growth is. That’s one of the things that’s helping drive these mergers.”

He pointed out that Square Enix has done well in North America and Europe, while Taito has tried to bring a few titles to the United States, but is not a well-known name in the U.S. anymore.

One of the goals when Square merged with Enix was to bring their games to more of the worldwide market. Taito is best known for Space Invaders, a game that was popular 25 years ago.

While Taito has introduced many other products since then and managed to distribute many of them abroad and find a limited audience, it has probably achieved more success lately as an arcade company within Japan.

“They’re known as much more of a Japan-based company that hasn’t had much of an impact outside Japan,” said Mr. Cole.

“I don’t think this acquisition is going to have any impact on the U.S. market,” said Michael Pachter, a research analyst who covers games for Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles. “[Taito] hasn’t had any big games in a while.”

He speculated that Square Enix may have acquired Taito to buy its development talent, and agreed the acquisition will enable Square Enix to compete better in the market.

“It’s reflecting the cost of competing in the next generation,” said Mr. Pachter. “Combine the balance sheets and you’re much stronger.”

Square Enix reported sales of ¥73.9 billion ($671.9 million) in the fiscal year ending March 31, according to Bloomberg, while Taito had revenue of ¥84.6 billion ($672.77 million) for an equivalent period.


The Maturation of Video Games

Posted by Zonk on Tuesday August 23, @05:13PM
from the going-places dept.1up.com is running a piece examining how video games have matured since the early days. The article explores what the social context of gaming has been, from Hunt the Wumpus to 'Hot Coffee'. From the article: "The maturation of games might be viewed more accurately as a climb into a unified grace. By the time console gamers were wowed by Sonic The Hedgehog's 64-colour world, computer gamers were already familiar with zooming across galaxies, building cities and landing virtual planes. The 486 ran at 66 mHz and had the capability to create 3D texture maps. 16-bit consoles, which ran at 7 mHz, could not replicate a game as impressive-looking, innovative and as huge as Doom."


65 Girls Pregnant At One High School: Video Games To Blame?

Posted Aug 24, 2005, 9:00 AM ET by Vladimir Cole
65 out of 490 young ladies who attend Timkin High School in Akron, Ohio are preggers, and video games may be to blame, according to a local Ohio newspaper, which had this to say on the subject:
Whose fault is it that more than 13 percent of Timken’s girls are with child? Some would say fault-finding isn’t a fruitful exercise, but in this case, it’s critical. Suspects range from movies, TV and video games to lazy parents and lax discipline. Only one thing is sure: Schools don’t impregnate children.
Hey, I’m just a blogger and not a doctor, but I thought for sure that games can’t impregnate children either. In fact, if my wife’s reaction to my gaming habits are any indication, games are a very effective method of birth control.


3001 AD Creates The Future Of Video Games

DELRAY BEACH, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 23, 2005--
After six years of intensive product development, 3001 AD, LLC, a Florida based company producing augmented and virtual reality applications, has announced that it has bridged the gap between the company's existing virtual reality applications and "DREAM PARK" adventures for gamers. The company has released its Trimersion head mounted display unit, (HMD) for use in virtual reality applications, in arcades and theme parks, and the company has plans to open consumer, educational, medical and military markets over the next few quarters.
Bob Ladrach, President of 3001 AD, describes the "DREAM PARK" campaign by commenting, "DREAM PARK started out as a novel by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes. In their book, guests enter a futuristic theme park where they travel through realistic adventures in a `HOLOGRAPHIC' world."
"This is the future of gaming," says Bob Ladrach, "we sketched out the concept of an augmented reality adventure in our research laboratory over six years ago. It is very exciting to see that the technology will be coming to main stream America soon. I think it's also important to acknowledge that this technology can go so many different directions."
3001 AD manufactures a home Virtual Reality HMD called Trimersion. The company's HMD provides an authentic virtual reality experience in a computer generated 360 degree environment. More can be learned about this product by visiting http://www.trimersion.com. The head mounted display unit is light weight, durable, affordable and compatible with XBOX, PS2 and PC's. This product provides a new dimension that other peripherals can not offer. By integrating this already successful technology into new markets, 3001 AD will be able to stretch the company's band-width for distribution everywhere. "We'll be able to create the `DREAM PARK' in real life, gamers will be more than amazed, they will become `DREAM PARK' addicts," commented Ladrach.
Look for the Trimersion head mounted display units this fall. The fourth quarter campaign will be followed by a roll-out into new markets that include education, military, and medical arenas. 3001 AD has attractions at national theme parks utilizing the Trimersion technology today and gamers can expect to see stand-alone attraction sites at national theme parks as follows:
Orlando Dream Park opens in 2007
Los Angeles Dream Park 2009
3001 AD is looking for partners to participate in this venture. For more information visit: http://www.3001ad.com or call 800-605-6703


Pinball Hall of Fame

One great experience for anyone that likes Pinball!

By nightc1

August 23, 2005 - This is pinball at it's finest baby! Not just any made up tables by some game designers either but rather recreations of real Gottlieb pinball tables. The look of each table, each bumper, switch, mini game, and so on has been accurately duplicated in videogame form. While to some this may not be a good thing... if you like classic real pinball machines you'll be right at home. Many people that review games today like to compare an experience with everything else on the market rather than explore a game for it's true experience. I'm not going to stoop to padding this review with such comparisons. This isn't Metroid Prime 2, it's not Halo 2, it's not mario... and so on... thus it shouldn't be compared to em and I hope no one that wants this game is expecting those kind of experiences but instead wants a solid pinball game. Camera work in this game really is beyond excellent. It does a fantastic job of following the action. A dynamic camera done right? Who thought that was possible! Never did I feel like I wish I could be looking at another part of the table. Instead the camera seemed to go where it should in following the ball yet still giving a good overview of the play area. This is definitely one of the few pinball games to get the whole camera thing right rather than forgetting the camera and putting it straight above and either putting the full table on screen (thus making it too small) or scrolling up and down (thus not really showing the area in the best advantage point for that moment and never seeing enough of the table). Something extra fun thrown in are unlockables that are earned if you finish the challenge on each table. For example in "Victory" you have to finish the race (which means going through 7 check points and the finish line) as well as earn 3 credits in one game. It's a good solid challenge that's neither impossible nor too easy. Each table has such a challenge and they are all unique. Nicely for there's basic information about where to score and whatnot so it really helps in getting to know each table. What kind of unlockables are there? Well you get stuff like Tournament Mode, pinball museum pictures, a Zoltan machine (as seen in the classic Tom Hanks movie BIG), and even a Play-Boy pinball machine. Good stuff, and the challenges make you want to play some of the older tables that you otherwise might dismiss due to their simplicity. Make no mistake there are plenty of tables in this game (7 total I think) and atleast 1/2 of them are modern enough that any pinball wizard should have a great time. Pinball Hall of Fame The Gottlieb Collection turned out a heck of a lot better than I ever imagined. Though IGN would compare it and score it according to Halo and other games I'm scoring just for how fun a pinball experience it is. But before I do that one more bit to wrap this review up. Great pinball collections are far and few inbetween. Many forgo giving you "real" tables to play on and instead push the pinball experience to more of a Videogame experience. Don't get me wrong, I tend to like many of those games as well but the ones that try to do realistic pinball often don't try hard enough to give a good camera or good view of the action. Here you get it all. Some classic tables that serve a great history lesson (with actual writen history and fliers for each table) as well as more modern stuff that is as fun to play today as any other pinball machine. So if your on the fense about this game, hopefully I've said enough to give you an idea of what you'll be getting if you hunt this title down. And no, the ball doesn't feel floaty at all. It seems rock solid and near perfect. And to think, this is a budget title too!



Music To A Video Game Player's Ears

Video games with their rising budgets are now attracting serious composing talent, according to a report by the Associated Press. Scoring for traditional television may soon enough be playing second fiddle. Hit singles such as Green Day's "American Idiot" were heard on the hugely popular "Madden NFL Football" games even before they got radio play. In fact, 14 of the 21 songs in the game's latest version, to be released Tuesday, are previously unreleased. The new version features music from Foo Fighters, Rev. Run of Run-DMC fame, and others.
The report continued to say that it's all a sonic leap from the blips and beeps of "Pong" and "Asteroids" -- so memorably annoying they've come to define game audio for decades.
Video game music's growing popularity is being driven by budgets that can now reach hundreds of thousands of dollars, spending that has climbed along with overall industry revenue. In the United States, video game industry sales now exceed movie box office receipts. "Halo 2" generated more than $125 million Music is becoming an interactive part of the story. Games are programmed so scores react to virtual environments and player choices. Multiple sound backdrops shift with scenarios.


2005 Golden Tee World Championship Dates Announced

The 4th annual Golden Tee World Championship - the first major tournament to be held on the new Golden Tee LIVE platform - is scheduled for November 13-15 at Friday's Front Row in Orlando, Florida. The 2005 edition of the most prestigious tournament in on-premise entertainment pits a 16-man U.S. team against a 16-man international team as they compete for the coveted World Championship Cup.
In a stunning upset last year, the international team beat Team USA by the smallest of margins, 24 1/2 to 23 1/2, winning the Cup and shocking the world of video golf.
The international team is composed of players from Canada, the UK, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Each country conducts their own qualifier and sends players to Orlando all expenses paid.
According to Gary Colabuono, Golden Tee maker Incredible Technologies' director of marketing, Team USA online qualifying has already surpassed last year's quick start. The top 72 online qualifiers will be invited to Atlanta for the live Team USA qualifier in October.
Golden Tee operators are getting into the spirit of competition too. Maria Ruth, marketing and promotions director for goldenteecontest.com, a Baltimore/DC-area amusement company with 42 Golden Tee LIVE locations, said that her company is paying the way to Atlanta for any player who qualifies on their machines.
Besides the team competition, all 32 players will vie for the title of World Champion and the $15,000 check that goes with it.
For more information on the 2005 Golden Tee World Championship, and details regarding the online and live qualifying for Team USA, visit the official tournament website at www.goldentee.com.


Square Enix Offers 67 Billion Yen to Acquire Taito

Aug. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Square Enix Co., Japan's top maker of role-playing video games, offered to pay as much as 67 billion yen ($610 million) to buy arcade game maker Taito Corp., becoming the latest games company to merge amid increased competition.
Tokyo-based Square Enix will pay 181,100 yen a share for 67 percent of the 370 million shares outstanding in Taito, and plans to buy the whole company, according to a statement. The offer is at a 12 percent premium to Taito's close today, and will be open from tomorrow to Sept. 21. Kyocera Corp., Taito's largest shareholder, will sell its 36 percent stake to Square Enix.
Square Enix, which makes the ``Final Fantasy'' game series, is seeking ways to increase market share and cut development costs in the $20 billion video games software market. Buying Taito, which created the ``Space Invaders'' arcade game, will allow it to expand beyond its range of role-playing titles to compete against Sega Sammy Holdings Inc. and Nintendo Co.
``We need to expand our product and service line-up in order to respond to the changing environment of the industry,'' according to the Square Enix statement.
Square Enix, itself is a merger between Square Co. and Enix Corp. in 2003, reported sales of 73.9 billion yen in the fiscal year ended March 31. Taito had revenue of 84.6 billion yen on a parent basis for the same period.
The combined sales of 158.5 billion yen would lag Sega Sammy's 515.7 billion yen and Nintendo's 515.3 billion yen in the same period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Japanese games makers are also looking at ways to share costs ahead of the release of new game consoles, whose sales are tied to the number of titles available. Microsoft Corp. is scheduled to release its Xbox 360 console in December, while Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Revolution are expected next year.
Tokyo-based Sega Sammy, the nation's biggest toys and video games maker, was created last October, when pachinko slot machine maker Sammy Corp. bought Sega Corp., maker of the ``Sonic the Hedgehog'' video-game character.
In May, Bandai Co. agreed to buy Namco Ltd. for about 175.3 billion yen to create Japan's second-biggest maker of toys and video game software. Takara Co. and Tomy Co. are in talks to create Japan's fourth-largest toy and game company.
Shares of Square Enix fell 0.5 percent to 2,995 yen at the 3 p.m. close on the Tokyo exchange. Taito shares rose 1.9 percent to 161,000 yen. The announcement was made after equity markets closed.


UK May Use Video Games To Test Driver’s Awareness

Posted Aug 21, 2005, 6:15 PM ET
by Ross Miller
Here is another crafty way that video games can be used to benefit society. In a effort to curb drowsy drivers who are not awake enough to stay on the road, police in the United Kingdom may soon be using portable gaming devices (not a Game Boy, something they design themselves) to perform roadside tests on sleep-impaired drivers. The “game” requires players to move a cursor around the screen in response to various road signs flashed on the screen. Which means John Q. Obsessive-Halo-Player could probably pass the test with his eyes closed; obviously, it is a far from perfect system.Be careful out there, though, because the penalty for failing this test will be £2500. So, next time you are driving while tired, be sure get some Pac-Man practice before you hit the road.


Christian Video Games Hard to Find

By Kim Trobee
A lot of Christian parents and teens are wondering what is out there in the video game market for them. The answer is, not much, at least not yet. Video games rake in millions of dollars but many of them are not exactly family fare. Scott Scholler is one of the founders of the Christian Game Developers Foundation. His organization is raising funds to develop new games that would be good alternatives to those already on the market.
“We see that games can have very strong positive themes to them and still be an exciting, good, fun-to-play game.”
Scholler compares the video game industry to where Christian music was 15 years ago. He says the goal of their foundation is to bring together ideas and financial backing to get the Christian video game industry a bigger share of the market. His hope is that within a few years there will be a Christian games section in every retailer around the country. Steven Isaac, editor of Plugged-In online, thinks the jury is still out on the predicted success of Christian video games.
“There are probably more questions than answers right now. What does a Christian video game look like? How much violence can you and should you include in a Christian video game?”He says those and many other difficult questions will have to be answered as this new market begins to gain ground. Two games now in production are “Left Behind: Eternal Forces” a game based on the popular book series and another called “The Bible Game.”


Germany Video Games Fair Opens Amid Image Problems

By Georgina Prodhan
LEIPZIG, Germany (Reuters) - Europe's biggest computer games fair opened its doors to the public on Thursday, with its German hosts expecting more visitors than ever but still fighting an image problem in the country.
As they prepared to welcome at least 110,000 video games enthusiasts in the German city of Leipzig, exhibitors scratched their heads as to why they were still unable to crack the gaming market in Europe's biggest but slowest-growing economy.
"We have some way to catch up, to put it mildly," the fair's director, Josef Rahman, told a news conference. "It's a very important industry and we shouldn't leave it all to our American, Japanese and English friends."
Organizers said Germans had spent 466 million euros on video games last year, 15 percent more than in the previous year but still a tiny proportion of the estimated $25 billion spent globally on games software and hardware each year.
Germany, with a population of more than 80 million, lags far behind not only the United States and Japan but also smaller European neighbors Britain and France in terms of the proportion of households that have games consoles.
Gerhard Florin, European manager of the world's biggest games software publisher, Electronic Arts (ERTS.O: Quote, Profile, Research), said a battle still had to be fought against the perception that computer games made young people stupid.
"I'm often asked when I'm abroad, in connection with our industry: 'What is wrong with the Germans?"' he said in a keynote speech at the fair's opening.
Florin said plain ignorance about the industry was often to blame, and called for a public education campaign, warning that Germany could otherwise find itself in a cultural backwater.
"Germany was definitely a cultural leader in the age of pictures and books in the 19th century -- but already in the 20th century of films, TV or music this wasn't true any more."
"Germany shouldn't allow itself another century of cultural silence," he said, adding that the computer-games industry was already bigger than the film industry and was set to overtake videos, too.
The Games Convention's Organizers are trying to ensure not only that the German market opens up but also that the German economy will benefit. Currently, there is no major games software or hardware company in the country.
By contrast, Canada -- a nation which has less than half of Germany's population -- has the world's biggest video-games studio in Vancouver, and the hit Grand Theft Auto games were developed in Scotland.
Alongside the Leipzig games fair, Organizers are trying to foster a games-creation hothouse with a three-day developer conference, which this year attracted more than 450 participants from 14 countries.
"Our developers don't have the access to the international market that they should, given that we are a major industrial nation," said fair director Rahmen.
The fair's Organizers have enlisted the Federal Association for Interactive Entertainment Software and the Children's Charity of Germany to help with campaigning.
Parents can visit a special family-themed, education-oriented section of the fair and adults accompanying children pay a reduced daily entry fee of 7 euros, compared with the full price of 10 euros.
Dirk Hoeschen, spokesman for the Children's Charity, blamed a lack of computer awareness from an early age, saying that German schoolchildren used computers far less than their counterparts in other European countries.
"It's impossible to understand why computers aren't used in kindergartens," he said, blaming a too-high regard for the book over other media.
Electronic Arts' Florin was diplomatic. "It's not bad to read books but it's just as good to play games."


Space Ball Capcom´s Flipnic Is Like Pinball On Amphetamines -- Which Isn´t A Good Thing

by Chris Harris - August 18, 2005

A great deal of imagination was expended here, but maybe too much. Some should have been saved for

Pixel NationPinball machines litter most bars because pinball's the sort of game anyone can master, even after they've polished off 10 pints. It's simple, effortless, makes a bunch of cool noises, and rewards you with flashes of brilliant light whenever you do something right -- it's cheap recreation for the dulled of reflex, who have a hard enough time keeping that silver ball in play.
When converted into video game form, pinball becomes this highly complicated monster that's difficult to control. And Flipnic , Capcom's space-aged interpretation of the classic arcade favorite, is no different. The game goes well beyond the flippers and bumpers we're used to, by introducing outlandish, narcotics-inspired elements like alligators, butterflies and flying saucers.
Pinball wizards will no doubt love the stylish Flipnic , but for the rest of us casual players, the game might be a bit overwhelming. First of all, there's no plunger to set the ball in motion -- just a touch of the flippers does that. Then, there's also the pinball table itself. Really, what you'll be playing on is more of a surreal pinball universe, with interconnected playable areas that you're transported to at dizzying speed via roller coaster-like rails.
On most levels, you're distracted by a number of annoying game elements that, outside of Flipnic , would have nothing to do with the stand-up pub game. UFOs, for example, coast in, hover above the action, and can blast the ball with lasers. They can even stun the flippers with energy blasts, disabling them for a brief moment -- which almost always leads to your ball flying into oblivion. The ball, itself, moves with such speed that you'll find yourself constantly trying to predict where it might go next, often to discover you couldn't have been more wrong -- which is understandably frustrating.
Then, there's the multi-ball levels, where you're not trying to keep track of just three, four, or five balls -- but a dozen plus, coming at you from all angles at a lightning pace. There are more than 70 areas of play in the game (including several mini games), some involving zero gravity, others, shape-shifting space creatures out to destroy you. You might think a great deal of imagination was expended here, and you'd be right. But it feels like too much. Unfortunately, some of it should have been saved for Flipnic 2 -- should Capcom feel it necessary to release more crap.
This title's just so chaotic and so deep, it sort of spoils the very thing that makes pinball so amusing -- its simplicity. It's also easy to get stuck in certain stages of the game, with nothing interesting to do -- which can give Flipnic a monotonous feel, at times.
The game's soundtrack will drive some of you to suicide; at a certain point, I just muted my television, because I was fresh out of razor blades and a few bottles short of painkillers. The game's graphics are beautifully rendered and the controls are easy to master.
Flipnic has its moments, which trick you into thinking that perhaps things are about to get better, and the game isn't a stinker after all. But then, you're just left feeling cheated, wondering when the last time you'd played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was. So, again, if you're a pinball fanatic, Flipnic might be worth the price -- $20, or, by arcade standards, just 80 quarters. Otherwise, stick to the stand-up game at your local watering hole.

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