Halo 4 Passes Its First Crucial Test: Metacritic

Standard

Microsoft Corp. has a lot riding on its new alien shooting videogame, Halo 4, which is part of the blockbuster Halo franchise and debuts Nov 6. (read “The Big Game Battle“). But there’s one thing over which Halo 4′s creators can breathe a sigh of relief: the game’s review score from Metacritic.com.

Metacritic, which aggregates videogame reviews from various game publications such as GameStop GME +0.04%’s Game Informer magazine and AOL’s Joystiq, gives videogames an averaged score ranging from 1 to 100. The ranking that a game receives is regarded as a barometer for whether a title will sell well, with many game industry veterans and analysts saying a game needs to score in the mid-80s to be a certified hit.

“I’d be hard pressed to buy a 60-rated game,” said Josh Holmes, “Halo 4′s” creative director. “Anything below 75–that’s the kiss of death.”

The Big Game Battle

Standard

In a slick two-minute trailer from David Fincher, the director of “The Social Network” and “Fight Club,” a young boy is stolen from his home, turned into a surgically enhanced supersoldier known as “Master Chief,” then set loose to battle hordes of evil aliens.

The splashy preview isn’t for Hollywood’s latest major motion picture. It’s part of the elaborate build up to the release of “Halo 4,” the latest installment of Microsoft’s blockbuster videogame for the Xbox 360. When it debuts on Tuesday, the game, in development for four years, could easily end up bigger than most movie releases. Its predecessor, “Halo 3” sold $300 million worth of copies in the first week following its 2007 release.

Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to ensure that every male under 45 in America knows “Halo 4” is on its way. In partnership with PepsiCo, there will be Halo-themed Mountain Dew and Halo Doritos. Boys can wear Halo Axe deodorant while playing a Halo version of Risk.

GameStop Steps into Tablet PC Sales

Standard

Videogame retailer GameStop Corp. plans to begin selling tablet-style computers as part of an effort to expand its gaming device offerings.

The company plans to begin selling tablets based on Google Inc.’s Android mobile operating system during the holiday season at 200 of its U.S. stores on Friday. GameStop’s pilot program will include specialized tablets made by Asustek Computer Inc., Acer Inc. and Samsung Electronics Inc.

The devices, which will sell for their typical sticker prices in competing stores, will come with a set of seven free games, including Electronic Arts Inc.’s “Dead Space” sci-fi shooter and “Madden NFL” football game, as well as links to the GameStop’s mobile application store, called “Kongregate Arcade,” and the Android app marketplace.

“Customers have been telling us that they like to game on multiple devices,” said J. Paul Raines, GameStop’s chief executive. “We believe there is a gaming opportunity on tablets.”

Tablet War Is an Apple Rout

Standard

People don’t have tablet fever; it seems they simply have a mania for iPads.

The latest evidence: Hewlett-Packard Co. is dropping the price of its TouchPad tablet by 20% little more than a month after it hit stores, as the computer giant tries to goose sales of its answer to Apple Inc.’s iPad.

H-P, Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and Research In Motion Ltd. have all jumped into the tablet market this year, trying to close the gap with Apple.

The electronics giant created a multi-billion-dollar business last year when it launched the iPad—and has since seen its profits and market value swell as others have tried to keep pace.

For Cyber Shoppers, Gadgets Look Hot

Standard

The holiday shopping season, which starts online Cyber Monday, promises to be very good for Apple Inc.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based consumer electronics giant will likely take advantage of the gift-giving season to flex its muscles, grabbing market share for its popular iPod, iPhone and iPad products.

In particular, analysts say Apple will lock down its dominance of the touchscreen computer market, moving more of its iPad tablet devices through retail partners, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Verizon Wireless. A recent survey by ChangeWave Research found that 9% of holiday shoppers plan to buy an iPad in the next 90 days. Apple has sold more than seven million iPads since the device went on sale in April.

Of course, Apple won’t be the only beneficiary of the season’s spirit. Smartphones are expected to do well as more utilities and productivity apps become available for phones running Google Inc.’s Android operating system, as well as Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry and Hewlett-Packard Co.’s Palm products. That software, known as apps, gives people a reason—other than making calls—to use their phones.

It may be BYOB as fewer firms plan holiday parties

Standard

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The U.S. economy may have begun to recover in 2009, but holiday office parties are sinking even further into the dumps.

Fewer companies plan to break out the bubbly this season than in 2008, at the height of the global financial crisis, according to a survey from Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Only 62 percent of about 100 companies that responded to the survey were planning holiday parties this year, down from 77 percent a year ago and 90 percent in 2007, as recession-era cuts extended from benefits and profit-sharing to Santa hats and disc jockeys.

“For companies that have recently announced layoffs or other significant cost-cutting measures, such as wage freezes, it would be difficult to justify, let alone get in the mood for a holiday party,” said John Challenger, the firm’s chief executive officer.

Some retailers hope for Christmas magic

Standard

Santa’s not getting any rest this year.

After U.S. retailers posted the longest running decline in same-store sales in nearly a decade, Sears, Kmart and Toys R Us announced Christmas-themed sales for the month of July. While actual sale dates and locations vary among the three chains, the event has drawn a lot of attention from news media, which had the once-in-a-year joy of headlining a story with “Christmas in July.”