NPD Report Shows 36 Percent of U.S. Plays Digitally Downloaded Games

According to The NPD Group’s Exploring Digital Gaming report, an estimated 36 percent of the U.S. population ages 13 and up are digital gamers, defined as currently playing digitally downloaded games on either a computer, video game console, or portable device. Of that percentage, 16 percent report only playing games downloaded digitally.

The computer is the most popular device for digital gaming, owning 90 percent of digital gamers playing on the device, while 28 percent play digitally downloaded games on a video game console. Although digital play is increasing among console players, only about two-thirds of primary console players—or those who play on consoles most often—purchase digital games more than once per year. Only 14 percent purchase on a regular, monthly basis.

When asked about their purchase preference if both physical and digital formats of a game are being offered at the same price, 44 percent of primary console players are more likely to choose physical in this scenario. Primary computer players do not automatically choose digital, with the group being split between 25 percent for digital, 28 percent for physical, and the remaining gamers being indecisive.

 

Green Gang vs. Gangrene: Plants vs. Zombies Arrives on Xbox Systems

PlantsvsZombies.GardenWarfarePlants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare is now available from PopCap Games for the Xbox One and Xbox 360 in North America. The new multi-player shooter, based on the popular Plants vs. Zombies series, lets players choose a side and wage all-out war on plant or zombie enemies in a variety of gameplay modes.

The game features favorite items from the series, such as the Peashooter and Sunflower, along with a new cast of characters including Ice Cactus, Hot Rod Chomper, and all kinds of zombies. Players can select from two 12 vs. 12 competitive multiplayer modes called Garden & Graveyards and Team Vanquish, or a four-player cooperative mode called Garden Ops. Customization options give players an opportunity to personalize plants and zombies with costumes, items, hats, and more, some of which provide new abilities to characters.

The Xbox One version includes two additional modes, the first of which allows for local cooperative split screen for multiple players. The second is Boss Mode, which allows for a third friend to join via a SmartGlass device, and is also available on Kinect for a full screen experience.

A digital version of Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare can also be downloaded for Xbox One or Xbox 360.

Sonic Boom Video Goes Behind the Scenes of Upcoming Game, TV Show

Sega has released a first Sonic Boom behind-the-scenes video featuring commentary on both the upcoming video game and TV series. The English language voice talent for both the game and TV show includes: Roger Craig Smith as Sonic, Mike Pollock as Dr. Eggman, Colleen Villard as Tails, Travis Willingham as Knuckles, Cindy Robinson as Amy, Kirk Thornton as Orbot, and Wally Wingert as Cubot. Jack Fletcher serves as voice director.

Jazwares to Release Minecraft Series 2 Figures

Minecraft-gamesJazwares is expanding its core Minecraft action figure line to feature core-scale figure packs of Diamond Armor Steve, Iron Golem, Blacksmith Villager, and a deluxe Animal Mobs 6-pack.

The Diamond Armor Steve pack will include Steve with removable helmet, diamond sword, and diamond ore block. The Iron Golem pack will come with accessories including a poppy flower and a block of iron, while the Blacksmith Villager pack includes a removable apron and an anvil accessory. Meanwhile, the Animal Mobs 6-pack will include one of each of the following: Cow, Sheep, Tamed Wolf, Pig, Ocelot, and Chicken. The Series 2 items will all be available at retailers this spring.

Activision Partners with Crayola on New Skylanders Products

The Activision Booth at American International Toy Fair

The Activision Booth at American International Toy Fair was a welcome sight for Skylanders fans.

Activision Publishing Inc. will be collaborating with Crayola on new products for its popular Skylanders franchise. As a result of the new licensing agreement, Activision and Crayola will introduce a Skylanders-branded line featuring Crayola’s signature Color Wonder, Giant Coloring Pages, and Xtreme Coloring formats. These will be available during the upcoming holiday season.

To date, Skylanders’ licensing portfolio features a total of more than 175 licensees. The recent announcement follows a highly successful 2013 for the toy and video game franchise, which outsold all action figure lines worldwide for the second consecutive year.

Activision, Hasbro Igniting Home Gaming with Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark

Transformers.RiseDarkSparkActivision Publishing Inc. and Hasbro Inc. are collaborating on Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark, a video game complement to Paramount PicturesTransformers: Age of Extinction, which arrives in theaters in June. Players get to choose from more than 40 playable characters, derived from both movie director Michael Bay’s Transformers universe as well as the ever-popular Cybertron universe, as they battle over the Dark Spark. [Read more...]

Sega Kicks Off New Era of Toys and Games with a Sonic Boom

SonicBoomlogoSega will launch a new branch of its Sonic the Hedgehog universe entitled Sonic Boom, which will be accompanied by a CG animated TV series, video games for the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS, new toys from Tomy, and more. To date, the character has appeared in more than 70 video game titles across a span of more than 20 years.

During a press event this past Thursday in New York City, the upcoming TV series was introduced as a character-driven comedy featuring lots of action and adventure. It consists of 52 11-minute episodes, and will debut in both the U.S. and France during the 2014 to 2015 season. “What we try to do is take the character and put them in situations where their personalities take center stage, and take us in interesting directions,” said showrunner and executive producer Evan Baily. [Read more...]

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 Fit U Challenges Gamers, Families to Get Active

WiiFitUOn January 10, Nintendo‘s Wii Fit U for Wii U will arrive at retail. With Wii Fit U, users can navigate a luge course, spray a water hose, bounce on a giant trampoline, and grab the new Fit Meter to continue their workouts on the go.

Wii Fit U allows users to get up and moving using both their Wii U console and Wii Balance Board accessory. The game features some of the best activities from the original Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus games, as well as new activities that incorporate the Wii U GamePad controller. Users can create their own personalized workouts or select from multiple recommended ones based on their fitness goals. These workouts can even be tracked using Miiverse (broadband Internet required), and members of Miiverse gym communities can view their favorite workouts, as well as track popular activities and total community calories burned.

Wii Fit U bundles come packaged with a new activity meter called the Fit Meter, which is designed to sync up with the game and track daily routines. People can carry the Fit Meter with them anywhere they go, and then easily sync it to their Wii Fit U profiles to track steps taken, calories burned, and other daily activities. If the user doesn’t reach the calorie target, the game will propose Wii Fit U exercises to bridge the gap. Different family members can each own their own Fit Meter, allowing them to create individual profiles and compare their fitness progress and activities with one another. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Minecraft Brings A Whole New World

CARSONI admittedly didn’t know very much about the Minecraft toy and game selection until Halloween, when my uncle sent a photo of the costume that he had made for his son; who am I kidding—I knew nothing until then! My cousin Carson is a 5 year-old obsessed with the stuff! At the time, all I knew was that Carson could make anything look adorable, and that he had clearly moved on from trains and into this world where players can build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3-D generated world. I can’t even begin to understand all of the insider ins-and-outs of Minecraft, and it seems as though the name represents an entity of games and licensed products. I do, though, like to get as involved as I can with Carson, as I am much more aware of the favorites of his sister, Kennedy, since they were the same as mine: all things pink. Man, girls are simple! In time for the holidays, I took the game home to see what this Minecraft business is all about, so I can get those ever-elusive little kid “brownie points” while I’m home for Christmas. [Read more...]