Saturday, January 31, 2009

New Madden game info debuts at SuperBowl halftime

True story. I'm at home Saturday afternoon, watching Wake Forest get beat by Georgia Tech in ACC Basketball, Tech's first league win of the year, and my phone keeps ringing.

Four readers called me or emailed me to let me know that at halftime of Sunday's Super Bowl game, some EA Sports officials will release official information about the upcoming edition of the best-selling football game, Madden 2010.

Turns out that new Madden developer Ian Cummings has been on a message board conversing with fans, which is pretty cool.

Cummings promises that the 2010 version will be a mimic of what you see on Sunday afternoons.

"Everything you see on Sunday, see it in Madden NFL,” Cummings wrote. "What does that mean?...We have one goal, and that is to make an NFL football game that is as true to life as possible.

"We aren’t about gimmicks; we aren’t about fluff; we aren’t about catering to glitchers or cheaters. We’re focused on emulating what you as an NFL fan are used to seeing on TV, and what many of you players and coaches have seen on the field. For every single update we provide you with throughout this year, feel free to call us out if anything doesn’t stand up to our new mantra."

This sounds promising. So he promises to reveal details at halftime of the Big Game tomorrow. I'm not a Bruce Springsteen fan anyway, so I think I'll go see if he delivers what he's been promising.

Is iPhone the best hand held gaming system?

According to ZDNet, computer giant Apple is working on a very powerful new iPhone that could hit stores later this year.

The new phone, currently about as powerful as Sony's excellent PlayStation Portable, would be more than twice as powerful, capable of rendering graphics – and games – better than anything before it in the portable gaming world.

And unlike the PSP or Nintendo DS, the iPhone allows gamers to download games via Apple's App Store, which users can access wirelessly or on their computer.

Currently, the games on iPhone are pretty good, but not very complex. The phone, in a sense, can act as a joystick. You can tilt it to control on-screen action. Racing games come off especially well – while holding it horizontally, the phone becomes like a steering wheel and creates a very realistic playing experience.

Some games I've seen add a little directional control on the touch-screen pad, similar to the one you would use playing a traditional handheld or console game. So far, I've found those to be rather clunky, and I'm not sure if you could (or would want to) try to play, say, a sports game – or anything that requires a lot of button presses – on the iPhone.

But you can buy mainstream games for the iPhone right now for as little as $9.99, and they can be ready to play within seconds. The delivery is faster and the games cost about three times less than most PSP and DS titles.

It'll be interesting to see where this goes. Apple needs to update the iPhone, adding things like cut-and-paste, multimedia instant messaging, and a QWERTY keyboard that works in landscape mode (to make typing e-mails easier). Battery life is also an issue. But with those fixes and a more-powerful gaming core, many might be willing to make the switch.

‘Guitar Hero: Metallica' arriving soon

Activision's “Guitar Hero: Metallica” hits stores this spring with more than 45 songs from the band's history, including tracks from every studio album it's ever recorded. The game will also feature artists selected by the band to be in the game, like Queen, Foo Fighters, Bob Seger and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Socially conscious video games

Advanced Micro Devices, a next-gen computer company, has created a new suite of socially conscious games about the environment, energy consumption, poverty and health. The free kit is at The company, which is targeting 13- to 18-year-olds, is hoping to inspire young people to do more with video games than destroy monsters or outrace virtual cars.

It's not the blood, it's the challenge

A University of Rochester psychology study shows that it's the challenge games provide, not the carnage, that makes gaming entertaining. The study by Rochester's Immersyve Inc. found that gore detracts from a game's fun factor. More than 2,500 gamers were surveyed.

Get more Games N Gadgets news at

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New iPhone, iPod Touch upgrades; iLife 09 debuts

On the same day that computer giant Apple released its new iLife '09 software, the company dropped an update to the iPhone and iPod touch.

The company, which released the patches Tuesday, says update 2.2.1 improves the stability of the Safari Internet browswer and corrects an issue where photos do not display correctly.

iLife '09 is Apple's photo, movie and Web site creation suite.

The software can organize your photos based on the actual faces that appear in them, and shares to Facebook with one click. iMovie includes themes to help make movies easily. Apple promises its included GarageBand '09 software will help teach you to play an instrument or create a song, and the Web site creation tool has been refined to be easier to use. Users of Apple's MobileMe service, which pushes e-mail and calendar appointments to a user's mobile phone and computer simultaneously, will have access to 20 gigabytes of storage space online.

Hyundai joins HD Radio movement

Just as satellite radio is becoming more commonplace in new cars, HD radio is gaining some acceptance, too.

Unlike satellite radio, HD radio doesn't require a subscription. And while satellite radio offers strictly national programming, HD Radio is more locally based. For instance, local sports channel WFNZ (610 AM), which has a weak signal over the air, simulcasts on one of the HD channels used by Power 98 (WPEG FM), providing anyone with the HD receiver a clear and strong signal throughout the Charlotte area. Bonus? It's in stereo.

There are more than 1,800 HD radio stations in the U.S.

Wednesday, Hyundai Motor America extended its commitment to HD radio, joining companies like Mercedes, Audi, Volvo, Ford/Lincoln/Mercury, Scion, MINI, Jaguar, Kia and BMW that make it an option on some models.

Hyundai is offering HD radio on its new Genesis sedans equipped with navigation systems. For the 2010 model year, the company will offer on it on non-navi Genesis and in 2011, Hyundai plans to offer it across many other models in its lineup.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Download Bruce Springsteen's new song for free

Bruce Springsteen is coming to Guitar Hero: World Tour.

Coinciding with the release of his new album, "Working on a Dream," two songs by the Boss will be released for "Guitar Hero: World Tour" on Jan 27.

The Bruce Springsteen Track Pack features the classic "Born to Run" and a new track, "My Lucky Day." The tunes will be available to Xbox, PlayStation and Wii owners as a free download between Jan. 27 and Feb. 4. On Feb. 5, it'll cost gamers between $3 and $4, depending on which system they own.

To get the downloads, you'll need access to each system's online store.

Haven't tried the game? "Guitar Hero: World Tour" has a redesigned guitar controller, a drum kit, a microphone and includes a "Music Creator" that lets players record, edit and share their music. Bands can compete head-to-head online.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kids survey: I'll be a pro athlete

Ran across a telling stat in a press release to promote a videogame today.

Seems that Nintendo commissioned Wakefield Research to interview 400 kids via telephone about their feelings about math. The kids were between nine and 14 years old and the survey was conducted Dec. 12-23 of last year, when most were out on holiday break.

The results were disturbing:

One in five kids believed they were more likely to become a pro athlete than get an A or B in math class.

More than one-third said math was their most difficult subject. Nearly one-third had negative feelings about the subject; 18 percent said math was boring and 13 percent called it, ahem, "torture."

Of course, Nintendo wants to "help" all the children of America with its new "Personal Trainer: Math" videogame for the Nintendo DS that it promises will "provide a fun and rewarding way for people to improve their basic math abilities."

Now, my kids are going to play videogames regardless, so maybe it's better they learn a little math rather than trying to kill the zombies in some fictional Texas town.

The game has 40 fast-paced exercises, using basic addition and multiplication and works its way to more more extensive multiplication tables and calculation ladders. There are daily math drills to keep users' skills sharp and attendance records for users to see how they improve week to week and month to month.

I haven't tried this game yet, and I hope to, but it looks promising and here's hoping more game-makers can stop all the bomb-and-gouge games for a second to develop a few games, like this one, that will help develop our kids' minds instead of just their hand-eye coordination.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Grey's Anatomy: The Videogame?

Get ready for "Grey's Anatomy" the game.

Ubisoft has a licensing agreement with ABC Studios to create a video game based on the popular TV series. The game is scheduled to release later this year.

Gamers can play as any of their favorite doctors or trainees -- including Meredith Grey, Derek Shepherd or Miranda Bailey -- in an original storyline.

According to Ubisoft, players will "make important personal and professional decisions, explore the direct relationships with each other, and perform the delicate surgeries the series is known for, all through fun and engaging game play."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

New From Apple: Cheaper iTunes, new laptop and 8-hour batteries

Apple CEO Steve Jobs, suffering with health problems, didn't make an appearance Tuesday morning at the MacWorld show in San Francisco. But the company he founded released a slate of new offerings.

Among them:

-- A 17-inch "environmentally friendly" MacBook Pro that will support up to 8 gigabytes of RAM. The new machine will retail for $2,799 and weighs just 6.6 pounds. It has a high-definition (1920x1200) LED backlit display (and a $50 matte display option). The new machine also has a non-user-removeable battery that Apple promises will deliver up to eight hours on a single charge. The company says the battery is good for 1,000 full charges. There'll be an exchange problem for those needing new batteries. The machine is recycleable, Apple says, and contains no arsenic or mercury.

-- Starting in April, the iTunes store will get an overhaul. There will be three pricing tiers per song: 69 cents, 99 cents, and $1.29. Owners of the Apple iPhone will also be able to download music via the 3G over-the-air network.

Record companies will choose the prices in exchange for Apple getting them to agree to sell all songs free of “digital rights management” (DRM) technology that limits people's ability to copy songs or move them to multiple computers. By the end of this quarter, Apple said, all 10 million songs in its library will be available without DRM.

-- Apple also announced improvements to its movie, music and photo software at the annual gathering of Apple devotees. iPhoto ‘09 can recognize faces and sort photos based on who's in them. GarageBand ‘09 includes videotaped, interactive music lessons given by Sting and other musicians.

Apple's iWork, its version of Microsoft's popular Office software, got a makeover and a web-based application,, though it does not allow users to edit documents in a web browser like Google's online document program.

Internet rumors had been speculating about the possibility of a new smaller iPhone Nano, as well as updates to the iMac and MacMini. But Apple made no such announcements.

Apple unveiling iWork 09, likely today

With the official start of the 2009 MacWorld Expo in San Francisco set for noon Eastern time, Apple has already given at least one clue of what patrons can expect: a new version of its iWork software.

iWork is Apple's answer to Microsoft Office, a software bundle that features word processing and spreadsheet software.

Early Tuesday morning, Apple's downloads page was showing iWork '09 instead of the 2008 version as a clickable link. The link still led to the '08 version, however.

Monday, January 05, 2009

No Steve Jobs at MacWorld

Tuesday's MacWorld convention in San Francisco promises to be exciting. It's the annual conference where all kinds of new Mac computers and peripherals are introduced. Apple, maker of the popular Mac line of computers, is pulling out of MacWorld after this year and Apple CEO Steve Jobs will not appear, after many years of delivering keynote addresses and introducing new products.

Internet speculation has been that Jobs is too ill to attend. Monday morning, Apple released a statement from Jobs saying he had a "hormone imbalance" that was causing him to lose weight. Jobs said in the statement he's begun treatment, expects to recover, and will not attend MacWorld.

The hot rumors for the show consist of a new iMac being released and a new Mac mini computer. There's also speculation about a 17-inch Macbook Pro laptop that has a battery that lasts longer than previous models but cannot be removed; a smaller version of the iPhone that will be cheaper than the current model, which retails for $199 for an 8-gigabyte version or $299 for a 16-GB version; and of Apple introducing its new operating system, Snow Leopard.

Here's a portion of Jobs' note.

"As many of you know, " Jobs wrote, "I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my #1 priority.

"Fortunately, after further testing, my doctors think they have found the cause -- a hormone imbalance that has been 'robbing' me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis.

"The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I've already begun treatment. But, just like I didn’t lose this much weight and body mass in a week or a month, my doctors expect it will take me until late this spring to regain it. I will continue as Apple's CEO during my recovery.

"I have given more than my all to Apple for the past 11 years now. I will be the first one to step up and tell our board of directors if I can no longer continue to fulfill my duties as Apple's CEO. I hope the Apple community will support me in my recovery and know that I will always put what is best for Apple first."