COMMENTARY: Indie Video Games Are More Than Just Minecraft

Video games come in all shapes and sizes, and blockbuster series such as Activision Publishing’s Call of Duty and Rockstar GamesGrand Theft Auto can be fun in their own elaborate ways. But on the flip side is independent, or “indie” video games, in which each title is often the brainchild of one or a few talented persons at most. While these games don’t always provide a high degree of spectacle, all feature interesting ideas or idiosyncratic touches, making them unique and unlike much of what’s available in the mainstream.

Phil.Jan2.MinecraftThis past weekend, I got to immerse myself in indie video games, courtesy of the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, N.Y. Together with IndieCade, an international festival that promotes video games as a vehicle for artistic expression, the museum is hosting an exhibition, Indie Essentials: 25 Must-Play Video Games, that shows off a variety of games that have been developed outside the major publishers. Among those displayed was Mojang’s Minecraft, which began life as a Swedish programmer’s side project, but has since grown into a cultural and commercial juggernaut.

(I could wax poetic all day about Minecraft, which allows users to build and share amazing homemade structures in a geometric sandbox world. But better yet, check out our recent Minecraft commentary, written by our outstanding editorial assistant Kara Faulk, for a more in-depth look at the hit game.)

The Minecraft installation drew its share of spectators, but there were plenty of other cool games on-hand for visitors to both play and experience. Many have been available on home consoles through the PlayStation Network and other download services. Here’s some of my favorites from the exhibition, but please note, this is in no way a comprehensive list, and anyone curious about the full roster of IndieCade games should check out Museum of the Moving Image’s event web site. [Read more...]

New Wii U Bundle Features Skylanders Swap Force, Nintendo Land

SkylandersBundle

A new Wii U bundle featuring Activision Publishing Inc.’s Skylanders Swap Force Starter Pack will launch November 15. The bundle includes everything needed to start the new adventure, including a white Wii U Basic system; Skylanders SWAP Force Starter Pack, which includes Skyalnders Swap Force Wii U software, Portal of Power, three Skylanders figures, two Swap Force characters, a collector poster, trading cards, and sticker sheets;  and a Nintendo Land game disc.

Angry Birds Star Wars Comes to Home, Handheld Gaming Systems

angrybirdsRovio Entertainment Ltd. and Lucasfilm Ltd., in association with Activision Publishing Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard Inc., have launched Angry Birds Star Wars for home and handheld video game systems. Angry Birds Star Wars brings the struggle between the Rebel Birds and Imperial Pigs to new audiences on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Wii and Wii U systems, and the Nintendo 3DSAngry Birds Star Wars will also launch on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Twenty newly created levels join the more than 200 stages already available from the original mobile release of Angry Birds Star Wars. This latest version brings cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes, letting players team up or square off. Moreover, this expansive edition exploits the unique capabilities of each game system to deliver a distinctive experience tailored specifically to each platform, including sharp and colorful, high-definition visuals, achievements and trophies, leaderboards, voice command support through Kinect for Xbox 360, and touch-screen controls on Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, and PlayStation Vita.

The next-generation versions of Angry Birds Star Wars maintain these core features while introducing new play and interface elements exclusive to each system. The PlayStation 4 system’s adaptation makes full use of the DualShock 4 controller’s touchpad to offer precision, touch-screen handling, and full support for PlayStation Move in both single-player and local multiplayer modes. Players can also easily record and share their accomplishments with the world with the PlayStation 4 system’s automatic screenshot and video capture options. [Read more...]

Mega Bloks, Activision Introduce New Call of Duty Collector Construction Sets

MegaBloks.CallofDutyMega Brands Inc. and Activision Publishing Inc. have introduced a new premium line of Mega Bloks Collector Construction Sets, based on the Call of Duty franchise. The new line brings a level of sophistication and detail never before seen in the highly collectible construction category.

Call of Duty Collector Construction Sets are part of a multi-year, global license with Activision that expands upon the two companies’ development of innovative, creative, and entertaining construction collectibles. The sets offer a range that includes buildable vehicles, themed locations, and collectible micro action figures. The action figures feature a level of articulation that includes unique joint design and poseability.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Video Game to Launch Next Spring

Oct14.SpiderManActivision Publishing Inc. and Marvel Entertainment LLC have revealed that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 video game is planned to launch next spring, alongside the Sony Pictures Entertainment feature film of the same name. Developed by Beenox, the action-adventure video game builds on the story of the previous video game, while taking on events of the upcoming movie. Players will also be given a free-roaming experience through an expanded and virtual New York City.

In The Amazing Spider-Man 2 players will assume the role of Spider-Man, but will choose to be a hero or a menace. Super Hero behavior is rewarded in the game and consequential when crime is not taken care of. The narrative will even give Peter Parker a greater role in the spotlight as he investigates the Marvel menaces threatening Manhattan.

The game will be available on Playstation4Playstation3Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo’s Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS.

Skylanders Debuts New Boomcast Webisodes on YouTube

Skylanders.Swap.ForceSkylanders Boomcast, a weekly series of online webisodes for the Skylanders line of toys, debuted on October 4 on the Skylanders YouTube channel.

Actor Zachary Gordon hosts, bringing fans the latest Skylanders franchise news, gameplay tips and tricks, fan art, character spotlights, exclusive interviews with the Skylanders team, and more. Skylanders Boomcast was created by Activision Publishing Inc. and is a Matter/Edelman production in association with RadNerd Productions.

The show’s launch kicked-off Swaptober, a month of activities celebrating the new Skylanders SWAP Force, which arrives on October 13 in North America, October 16 in Australia, and October 18 in Europe.

Swaptober Kicks into Gear in Anticipation of Skylanders Swap Force

Skylanders-SWAP-Force_NightIn anticipation of the Skylanders Swap Force launch, Activision Publishing Inc. is using the month of October, or “Swaptober” to get gamers ready for the game’s launch on October 13. Lucky Portal Masters will have chances to win copies of the Skylanders Swap Force game, explore the world of Skylanders in Times Square, and more during the month-long activities.

To kick off Swaptober, Activision will be giving away one Skylanders Swap Force Starter Pack per day beginning October 1 and going to October 31 via the official Skylanders Twitter channel (@SkylandersGame). For a chance to win, portal masters can visit Skylanders.com to mix and match their favorite character combination and then tweet it along with a suggested catch phrase using hashtags #SWAPtober and #Skylanders.

There are even more ways to celebrate on  October 10, when Skylanders partners with Toys “R” Us to bring Skylanders to life with “Swaptoberfest”—a celebration in Times Square where fans will have the chance to be among the very first to play the game before it’s available at retail. This Times Square takeover will feature Skylanders Swap Force-themed activities, photos with Skylanders costumed characters, and chances to win Starter Packs and Skylanders-themed merchandise from companies, including Mega Brands, Rubie’s Costume Co., Hybrid Apparel, and Power A. [Read more...]

Skylanders Swap Force Continues the Franchise’s Reputation

This week, The Toy Book got a chance to preview Activision Publishing Inc.’s upcoming Skylanders Swap Force video game and toys at an after-school event in New York City. The original entry in the series, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, pioneered the idea of video games that interact with real-world toys. Now comes Skylanders Swap Force, in which special action figures can be disassembled into top and bottom halves and then reassembled into new characters that are playable within the game.

Skylanders SWAP Force, Stink ChargeThe game itself is as visually rich and immersing as previous entries in the series (although Playstation 4 (PS4) version takes the experience to a whole new level, but more on that later). At the demo, kids and their parents got to preview the levels, “Rampant Ruins,” a creepy jungle graveyard, and, “Winter Keep,” in which the Skylanders heroes have to retrieve a special device called the Illuminator—all while dodging huge flying snowballs. Each level features mini-games that vary in play style, keeping things from ever getting too repetitive. At one point during “Winter Keep,” the game switches from more traditional combat to a race through the sky along “rainbow rails.” [Read more...]

Skylanders Giants Remains Best-Selling Video Game in U.S. and Europe

skylanders

Activision Publishing Inc.’s Skylanders Giants is the No. 1 best-selling console and hand-held video game year-to-date overall in dollars, including toys and accessories, in the U.S. and Europe. In its first two weeks, Skylanders Giants sold more than 500,000 Starter Packs and Portal Owner Packs globally.

Additionally, Skylanders figures are expected to have outsold the top action-figure properties in the U.S. and Europe for the first eight months of the year. The Skylanders franchise has generated more than $1.5 billion in worldwide retail sales.

Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure and Skylanders Giants were developed by Toys For Bob, and Skylanders Swap Force is being developed by Vicarious Visions.

Activision’s Call of Duty and Eminem Come Together for Ultimate Fan Offer

Call-of-DutyActivistion’s most anticipated game, Call of Duty: Ghosts and music icon, Eminem’s new The Marshall Mathers LP 2 will both drop on November 5. In collaboration with GameStop, anyone who pre-orders Call of Duty: Ghosts at GameStop will get his or her copy at the launch, which will include a code to download a special edition of The Marshall Mathers LP 2, featuring the track “Survival” plus a bonus studio track for a discounted price.

The ongoing collaboration between Activision and Eminem will continue later this month with a music video trailer featuring “Survival” and Call of Duty: Ghosts, and will extend throughout the launch of the title. The offer is redeemable through Monday, November 19, 11:59 p.m. EST.

The news of this limited-time offer follows additional pre-order headlines from last week, in which Activision and GameStop revealed that gamers who pre-order Call of Duty: Ghosts at GameStop will receive a pack of content that includes the bonus classic Simon “Ghost” Riley multiplayer character. Made famous in the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the return of one of the most iconic characters in Call of Duty history as a playable multiplayer character is a first for the series and is a pre-order incentive only available at GameStop.

Call of Duty: Ghosts will release on Xbox 360 game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system, PC, and Wii U on November 5. The title will also release on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 later this year. Call of Duty: Ghosts is rated M for Mature by the ESRB.