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Game Crisis
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So I went in to a chain game store tonight wondering if they had Kingdom Hearts 2. There had been conflicting reports as to whether or not it would be out today or tomorrow. Most signs pointed to tomorrow, but at least one lucky gamer managed to score it today. Being the roving reporter that I am, I set out in search of a store that would be carrying the game tonight. I was unable to find what I was searching for, but I found something else interesting.

I asked the girl behind the counter if they had any copies. She said it would be available tomorrow, then added that I wouldn't be able to get a copy unless I had preordered with them. Thinking they had just received enough copies to cover preorders I started to walk for the door. As I turned the girl explained to me that if I preordered the game for $5 I would be guarenteed a copy.

Now, perhaps you are as confused as I was at this point in time. If not, it will become clear in a moment. I turned back and asked her if they already had their copies. She said that yes, they came in today but they weren't giving them out until tomorrow. Confused, I thought to myself: if they had, say, 100 copies, and 90 of them were preordered, then there would be 10 that would be "up for grabs." So if I did not have a preorder and got there early enough I could (theoretically) get one of those up for grabs copies. If they only had enough for the preorders they already had, then why would she offer a preorder to me? The only conclusion that I could think of was that they were not going to give out their extra copies unless people preordered them. At least, that's what they're saying right now.

So was this just some ploy to increase their preorder numbers? When I presented my logic to the employee she didn't have much to say and told me that I could still preorder it and get it tomorrow. Perhaps if I went in tomorrow they'd sell me the game regardless because preordering would then be moot, but the entire ordeal seemed a little shady. Anyone else have similar experiences with [not] preordering?
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Both Xbox.com and Bungie.net are reporting the full, official details on the Halo 2 Expansion Pack. It will be exclusively multiplayer and will include nine new maps.

The maps will be released over Xbox live on a staggered basis and will eventually be released on a disc for $19.99. The first four maps will be released on the same day (in "late April") -- two free and two available for purchase. On the day that the retail package is released the remaining five maps will be available to buy over Live. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit to note is that by "late summer" all nine maps will be available for free.

So for those of you that want to get in on the hot new Halo 2 multiplayer action right away, you'll have to pay. For those of us that can wait they will be rewarded with no cost. But can you really allow yourself to jump in to the new maps with everyone else already knowing every nook and cranny? The retail disc will also come with extras, such as a documentary, every Halo 2 update, and a couple other extra treats. Further incentive to cough up the dough for the new maps.

by Bryce Anderson, Game Crisis
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Recently announced from Autumn Moon Entertainment is A Vampyre Story. The AME website has this to say about its game:

"From a development staff made wholly of former LucasArts adventure gaming gurus comes this frightful and fantastical point-and-click adventure game. Combining 3D animation and 2D designs, the game follows the opera starlett, Mona, a woman kidnapped by Baron Shrowdy Von Kiefer and slowly becoming a creature of the night after coming under the vampire's spell. As she seeks to venture away from his gothic island-set castle, she'll have to learn to control her vampyric powers of turning into a bat, hypnotizing people, turning into vapor, and drinking blood from humans. Her friendly bat acquaintance, Froderick, will join her on her quest." (Source: AME Games)

Now, read that first sentence again. This game is being developed by "a development staff made wholly of former LucasArts adventure gaming gurus." Think the Monkey Island series, Full Throttle, Maniac Mansion and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. A Vampyre Story is being set up as a game that fits in that quailty adventure game vein.

This is, in a word, awesome. It's a shame that Lucas Arts no longer makes adventure games like it used to. It is true that they are not the most popular genre when compared to the likes of Halo or the Grand Theft Auto series, but that's not the point. Even if they are not as profitable, they still can be. Having lower production costs (but not lowering the quality of the game which is what AME Games hopes to do) can still make the games a profitable venture.

Two seperate interviews (linked below) both throw October 2005 out as a potential release date. However, Mike Kirchoff, the Director of Business Development seems less confident of that date. He further states that if October 2005 doesn't work then the following Halloween would be the projected date. Although waiting another full year will be rough, simply having a game that has such great potential makes any waiting worth it.

Related Links:

Interview with Mike Kirchoff at Adventure Games
Interview with Bill Tiller from AME at Xequted
Autumn Moon Entertainment's Vampyre Story Official Page

by Bryce Anderson, Game Crisis
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Well, not exactly.

Reuters is reporting that Eidos Interactive has been bought out by Elevation Partners LP. Elevation is a small buyout company including former Electronic Arts president John Riccitiello and U2's Bono.

An early potential offer was 53 pence per share (as of today about $1 US, source XE.com) but the final agreement was 50 pence per share, making the buyout about 71 million pounds (around $134,736, 000 US).

Eidos has not been doing well lately, hitting a 10 year low on March 10th. The 50 pence per share offer is around 5 pence per share over the Monday closing price. Best known for its Tomb Raider titles, Eidos has had weaker sales in its top market, the United States.

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Hopefully this will mean better business for Eidos, meaning better games for us. I can't think of many memorable games from them since the Tomb Raider series, and even the later incarnations of the busty Lara Croft were more like the beating of a dead horse than quality games.

by Bryce Anderson, Game Crisis
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Gamespot reports that a Microsoft Korean release date page listed "Halo 2 X-Pack" as coming soon. The page in question no longer lists the possible expansion pack, but even when it did it apparently provided no further details. Microsoft may be planning to do something similar to the Ninja Gaiden "Hurricane Pack." For a moderate fee users will be able to download an expansion from the Xbox Live service. This theory has evolved due to Halo 2's lacking, obvious-cliffhanger-for-Halo 3 of an ending. While "Halo 2.5" may be released on the next Microsoft console, perhaps this expansion pack will take the place of Halo 2.5 leaving Halo 3 for the new console.

Not much can be said about this without a string of "if/thens." Assuming the expansion would include a "proper" ending for Halo 2, Microsoft would be able to use this pack to pull extra money out of Halo 2 owners through the purchase of the pack and through the required Xbox Live subscription. Halo 2 did come with a 2 month free subscription trial, as do other games like Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, but if the card has already been used or lost then players who want the pack must pony up some dough. In a perfect world the expansion pack would be free, although even then people like myself who no longer have a free trial card would then either have to find a different trial number or cough up a month's subscription fee to get the new ending. Although, in a perfect world the game would have had an ending that wouldn't require an expansion pack, but that's neither here nor there.

If the expansion pack is multiplayer only then that would be great for online fans but no real difference for everyone else. Single players would still feel cheated about the ending and have to wait until Halo 3. But online players would only have to pay for the expansion pack itself. If Microsoft really wanted to please the fans it could come out for free. But with the map pack for Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow costing $5, this seems unlikely. Chances are the pack, whether it includes a new ending or is just a multiplayer add-on will cost money.

Because of this likely cost, I hope that it does not include any additions to the single player mode. This could set a bad precedent for future games. If Microsoft is able to get away with selling Halo 2 with no real ending, only to later sell a pack that fixes this problem then other companies may follow suit. It would be a sneaky way of increasing the cost of games. Charging players $50 at first and then charging $5-$10 later for the ending will bring in more money for companies without making them seem overtly profit-mongering. Spreading the cost of the game out over time may dupe consumers in to spending more money on games without realizing what's going on. Are consumers really that stupid? It may not be stupidity, but rather apathy that will let this slide. Spending $60 at once is different than spending $50 for the game and $10 for the expansion pack. Consumers may not be as outraged that they're paying more money for the game they expected six months after it came out.

by Bryce Anderson, Game Crisis
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