Welcome to the News Shelf. Thursday’s announcement of the Wii U price, retail packages and launch date dominated the headlines, so that’s where we’re started. But they aren’t the only company who made an announcement about bringing their games to your television. It isn’t even the only major tech hardware announcement to happen this week (three guesses as to what the other one was). Let’s take a look at the rundown.
Nintendo’s Wii U price, release date announced
At a Nintendo Direct press event, Nintendo announced that the Wii U console will launch in North America on November 18, at a price point of $299 USD for the basic model with 8 GB of storage, and $349 for the premium model with 32 GB and Nintendo Land packed in. Europe will get the Wii U on November 30, and Japan will get it on December 8.
Separate pricing for the GamePad in North America, which CNN says “grants the bearer special powers,” hasn’t been released yet. But it’ll cost 13,440 yen in Japan, which translates into $173 USD. But Shack News reports that separate GamePads won’t be sold separately at launch, possibly to avoid confusing many a relative who would otherwise buy just the GamePad without the console for a very unfortunate young ‘un.
Nintendo of America’s COO Reggie Fils-Aime announced several other titles to bolster the console’s pleasing, but incomplete, E3 lineup. Platinum Games’ Project P-100, which resembled a cross between Viewtiful Joe and Pikmin, was formally announced as The Wonderful 101. Hardcore gamers swooned at the announcement of Bayonetta 2 as a Wii U exclusive. Capcom’s superlative Monster Hunter 3 will arrive on both the Wii U and the 3DS as Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, and Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 will include GamePad integration allowing two players to have “full-screen” multiplayer functionality – one on the television, one on the GamePad.
Fils-Aime also introduced the cheekily names Nintendo TVii, an integrated television, sports and entertainment suite not unlike the options provided by Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Its primary hook is using the GamePad as a remote control and second screen, for instance to comment on a television show while watching it, or browsing team scores while watching a football game on the television. Nintendo TVii will reportedly be supported by all major satellite and cable providers in the U.S. and Canada, as well as support Netflix, YouTube and Hulu.
So with the deluge of details and new game announcements, what do we still not know which games will launch on the same day as the Wii U, and which will simply arrive in the launch window of November 18 to March 2013. Gamestop is alrady taking pre-orders in the U.S. though, so if nothing else we know that the new Nintendo console will be the gift to get/rush glass doors/trample other people on Black Friday.
Valve launches Steam’s Big Picture beta
Are you ever upset by the lack of your gigantic, throbbing Steam games library on your living room television? Valve announced a new platform, of sorts, called Big Picture. It essentially makes it easier to connect your PC to your television and use a reworked Steam interface to play your games, integrated with Steam’s store and community just as if you were on your desktop or laptop computer.
The revised interface is very Xbox-y, and that’s mostly a good thing. Designed with the controller in mind, it includes a “first person browser” that navigates web pages with a crosshair rather than a traditional mouse pointer. You can use keyboard and mouse as well, because I don’t think any controller is going to play Civilization V properly. It also has a typing interface called Daisywheel that nests quadruples of letters and numbers along the gamepad button. It looks daft, but intuitive enough to let you type faster than an on-screen keyboard that 360 and PS3 gamers are so used to.
Just don’t call it the Steam console just yet. Valve’s Greg Coomer told Kotaku that a Steam-centred PC isn’t in their plans at the moment. Valve’s commitment to the PC gaming market, including powerful towers with gigantic mamma jamma graphics cards just wouldn’t fit inside something the likes of an Apple Mini or Dell Inspiron Mini. At the moment, Big Picture is a cool idea and a nice alternative for the PC gamer, but it isn’t looking to infiltrate the current console ecosystem.
EVE Online diplomat killed in Libya, eulogized by thousands online
Sean Smith was one of four U.S. State Department employees killed in Benghazi, Libya. In the online world, he was better known as Vile Rat, an interstellar diplomat in the massive online multiplayer game EVE Online. Also a well-known member of the Something Awful forums, where his EVE clan the Goonswarm originated, he was mourned by friends and teammates who also called EVE or SA their virtual home.
Alex Gianturco, a friend of Smith through the Goonswarm, wrote an obituary shortly after news of Smith’s death became public. Both were using the Jabber messaging service when the embassy in Benghazi came under attack. While the two were chatting, Smith posted: “assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures.”
“It seems kind of trivial to praise a husband, father, and overall badass for his skills in an internet spaceship game but that’s how most of us know him, so there you go,” said Gianturco.
Members of the EVE and SA communities mourned Vile Rat, from in-game vigils including thousands of players to setting up a fundraiser to send financial support to his family. You can check out a roundup of the remembrance on Kotaku – or from my colleagues at the CBC Community Team. It’s a powerful reminder of the connections and friendships we make online, even if we may never meet the people on the other side in real life or spend most of our time blasting away at each other with space cruiser broadsides.
Ubisoft Toronto unveils state-of-the-art motion capture studio
Ubisoft has opened a new, state-of-the-art motion capture studio in its Toronto location. The new technology will be used in the upcoming Splinter Cell: Blacklist as well as future projects by the publisher. Spanning 2,000 square feet, lined with padding and metal scaffolding, and containing 80 cameras, Ubisoft said in a press release that it will allow them to “create deeper characters, more immersive storytelling and more filmic, actor-driven games.
According to the Toronto Star’s Raju Madhar, the new technology can capture bodies, faces and sounds all at the same time, when only a few years ago these had to be recorded separately. Because of this new integration of recording technology, Blacklist’s director David Footman called it “performance capture, not motion capture.
“Everything we’ve learned in the last 10 years has gone into this stage. It makes shooting easier than it ever has been before,” continued Footman. “What it’s starting to do is make the technology invisible and allow us to focus on the performance.”
It sounds like exciting tech could be put to use for new levels of fidelity in games development right here in Toronto. Of course, we’re all just waiting for Assassin’s Creed 3 hero Connor to interrogate his captives by judging Templars’ facial expressions, L.A. Noire style.