Watch out SingStar, here comes Lips

rAge 2008 Lips main stage demo photo courtesy of DenouncerAt the rAge Expo this earlier this month we had a chance to experience preview code of the new karaoke game for the platform Xbox 360. Its the first game I believe to include wireless microphones never mind motion sensitive ones.

Microsoft South Africa has just announced that the game will be available locally in time for the festive season and at the usual game price. The bonus here is that the game comes bundled with two wireless microphones which is an unbelievable value considering the current exchange fluctuations.

I really like the idea of the jukebox mode were you can literally pickup and play, or should I say sing.

This is surely going to be a hit title for families and company end of year parties, even though a bottle of tequila might be a good idea to lubricate the vocal cords.

The official press release follows:

LipsJOHANNESBURG – 30 October, 2008 – Calling all shower singers, wanna-be rappers, pop princesses and bedroom belters: “Lips”, the highly anticipated singing party game exclusively on Xbox 360, will be hitting stores on 21st November 2008.

Priced at a recommended retail price of R699, 00, “Lips” is the only music video game that comes with two wireless motion-sensitive microphones, allowing you the freedom to put your own spin on a song and not trip over any cumbersome wires as you dance around your living room. You can even get other people involved in your songs by having them playing percussion with your Xbox 360 controllers.

The “Lips” line-up features great songs from a wide range of musical genres that set the stage for evenings of fun. Whether you’re throwing a party for your friends or simply staying at home with your family, “Lips” will have everyone singing and dancing together to party favourites, backed by their ORIGINAL music videos, lyrics and scoring. Plus, you can even plug in your MP3 player and sing along to your OWN music collection while a virtual music video accompanies your performance.

It doesn’t stop there. “Lips” also has exciting features like the ability to compete against your friends or family and a co-operative element that allows you to try and crack the song together.

Accomplished singer/songwriter, Lira, has been playing games on her Xbox 360 ever since she received it at last year’s South African Music Awards. “My boyfriend and I love playing competitive sports games, and I’m very excited about Lips and all of the upcoming Xbox games – they’ll definitely help to entice my girlfriends to play with me – they’ve always seen gaming as a boring “boy thing”.

So if you feel like you want to “Bust A Move” or simply want to “Boogie 2 Nite” then “Lips” is simply “Irreplaceable” for a night of unbelievable entertainment in the comfort of your own home!

More information about “Lips”, the hottest party game this Christmas, can be found at http://www.xbox.com/lips.

Windows Live ID to finally support OpenID

It looks like the Windows Live team is at it again. They’ve taken the plunge at PDC 2008 and committed to supporting the OpenID initiative.

All Windows Live product teams are committed to supporting open standards where such standards are relevant to our work and when they reach a sufficient level of maturity, and the Windows Live ID Team is no exception. We have been tracking the evolution of the OpenID specification, from its birth as just a dream and a vision through its development into a mature, de facto standard with terms that make it viable for us to implement it now.

We look forward to making it easier for our users to access the Web sites they use, by reducing their need to create additional identity accounts. That is the promise of OpenID. We are happy to support that goal by providing OpenID-based sign-in functionality to Windows Live ID account holders.

This may not seem like much but its Microsoft validating an open standard and making every one of their Hotmail and Passport users have ubiquitous access to a growing number of OpenID-enabled websites.

Well done to the Windows Live team.

Call of Duty: World at War beta key winners

Call of Duty World at War screenshot Congratulations to Ivan Daw and PARANOID365 for being randomly selected from the comments, you each should have received and email from me with a redeem code for the Call of Duty: World at War Xbox 360 multiplayer beta.

Sorry Frank, a moving comment, but unfortunately it was a random choice. Congratulations though on your newborn, hopefully he grows up to be a gamer. 🙂

Call of Duty World at War multiplayer beta keys

Call of Duty World at War screenshot I have two Call of Duty World at War multiplayer beta keys to giveaway. Note that these keys are for the Xbox 360 multiplayer beta and you need a hard drive, bandwidth to download the beta (890 MB) and an Xbox LIVE Gold subscription to play. In my experience I would recommend you have at least a 384 kbps ADSL line. For international play I’d recommend unshaped ADSL bandwidth to reduce the latency however shaped bandwidth is just fine for local play. I’m limiting this giveaway to South African Xbox 360 gamers only.

If you meet the requirements above, leave a comment on this post including your email address and I’ll announce the winners on the 23rd of October through random selection. Creative comments might stand out. 🙂

South African Xbox 360 search engine

Thanks to the new Google Custom Search functionality I’ve setup a search engine for South African Xbox 360 sites and blogs. Its currently in testing and will improve in time. If you run a South African Xbox 360 related site, get in touch with me and I’ll add your content into the search engine configuration.

To make it easier to access I’ve created a shortened URL for it http://tinyurl.com/za360search and if it proves popular I’ll register a cool domain name for it.

I welcome the community feedback on the idea.

South African NXE Storage Solution confirmed

The New Xbox Experience (NXE) update which has been confirmed for release worldwide on the 18th of November 2008 has gotten a few of the local South African users a bit concerned. This follows the news last week that the NXE will require about 128 MB of storage on either an Xbox 360 Memory Unit or an Xbox 360 Hard Drive.

Microsoft have since revealed their proposed storage solution whereby qualifying Core and Arcade owners can receive either a free Xbox 360 Memory Unit or Xbox 360 Hard Drive. Unfortunately this seems to only apply to Xbox 360 owners in the US and Europe. More details on the international Xbox 360 Memory Upgrade program can be found on that over here.

I’ve just gotten off the phone and I’d like to let the South African Xbox 360 users know, Microsoft Xbox South Africa is working on a similar program for South African users. So don’t stress you will still be able to get to experience the New Xbox Experience when it releases even though we don’t officially have Xbox LIVE yet. Remember that firmware updates for the Xbox 360 console ship on the retail game discs so even if you aren’t an Xbox LIVE user you will be able to get the update from new game releases as well as through download from the support site.

Microsoft Silverlight 2 released

After many months of beta testing Microsoft Silverlight 2 it has been officially announced that it will release today, the 14th of October 2008.

A release build was expected to emerge sometime in November so it seems the team is very confident with the RC0 developer-only build that emerged recently. Unluckily for my team we just released our new product on Friday based on Silverlight 2 beta 2 under the Go-Live license thinking we had at least a month before Silverlight 2 released to fix up compatibility issues. Looks like this week is going to be a busy one for us.

Here is a snippet from the official press release:

Silverlight 2 will be available for download on Tuesday, Oct. 14, at http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight. Customers already using a previous version of Silverlight will be automatically upgraded to Silverlight 2.

What is awesome though is that Microsoft will soon release an extra set of Open Source controls known as the Silverlight Control Pack including a DockPanel, ViewBox, TreeView, Accordion and AutoComplete control.

The New Xbox Experience due out in November

 New Xbox Experience screenshotYes its official, courtesy of Major Nelson’s blog:

John Schappert, Corporate Vice President of Xbox LIVE, Services and Software, announced today during his Tokyo Game Show keynote that the New Xbox Experience will ship to Xbox 360’s around the world (in 26 countries, localized in 11 languages) on November 19th 2008.

Unfortunately that means that it won’t be on the Gears of War 2 disc that ships about a week earlier.

Personally I can’t wait to get my hands on the new dashboard. It looks so slick and logically organised. Granted a lot of the features like Netflix movies and Video Marketplace will be null and void for South African users, but I believe the remaining features will make it more than worthwhile. And the best part is that you don’t have to buy anything to get it. Yes as always, Dashboard updates are FREE.

Xbox 360 price-cut for South Africa

Awesome news for the local gaming industry. The Xbox 360 was by far the prominent console platform at rAge Expo 2008 once again and it just goes to show how committed Microsoft South Africa are in succeeding in this market.

JOHANNESBURG – 6th October 2008 – Microsoft today announced the new lower ERP for its entire Xbox 360 family of consoles in South Africa. Enjoying evenings of entertainment at home with friends and families has never been more affordable and fun. Everyone has the ability to play high definition games, watch movies and share pictures, live out their musical fantasies and star in their own Hollywood classics — all from one console, starting at an estimated retail price (ERP) of only R 1799.99.

From today, Xbox 360, which includes a 60GB hard drive and one wireless controller, will have an ERP of R 2699.99. The Xbox 360 Elite, which comes with a massive 120GB hard drive enabling consumers to store huge quantities of content, will have an ERP of R 3499.99. The Xbox 360 Arcade console, perfect for those wishing to make their first foray into the gaming and entertainment world of Xbox, will have an ERP of R 1799.99.

The new ERPs are part of Microsoft’s ongoing strategy to open up the ultimate in high-definition gaming and entertainment to an even wider audience, with something for everyone.  To date and testament to this broadening approach, Xbox 360 has broken through the six million mark in Europe since the lower ERP’s were recently announced abroad. Along with the new Xbox experience, the Xbox 360 platform is offering a stunning games portfolio for all ages and interests this Christmas, with new titles for music lovers, family-friendly games, and exciting blockbuster titles for the committed gamer.

“We’re proud to be expanding the reach of Xbox as the first next-generation console to break the R2000 barrier, making the platform significantly more affordable than competitors” said Marc Batten, Head of, Microsoft Interactive Entertainment Business South Africa.  “History shows that the majority of console sales happen after this price point has been breached, and we’re well positioned to take advantage of this mass market pricing.  We’re passing on the benefits of being the first console to sell over 20 million units worldwide, and of the ever-expanding ecosystem of Xbox, to consumers. 

“In addition, with shoppers tightening their belts and feeling the pinch of prices on the rise, staying in is becoming a more viable form of sociable entertainment. In the line up for Christmas, you can expect over 90 new games launching including some really innovative entertainment experiences. Together with these groundbreaking new price points we hope to continue to enjoy fantastic momentum in South Africa.”. Adds Batten

Bringing Music Games to Life

Whether you’re an aspiring groupie, songbird or big-haired rocker, this Christmas Xbox 360 transforms your living room into a thrilling soundstage for you and your friends. No other system connects you with all the music you love:

· “Lips” (iNiS/Microsoft Game Studios). “Lips,” an all-new music franchise exclusively from Xbox 360, is the only singing party game that offers wireless motion-sensitive microphones and a robust and diverse list of songs representing multiple musical genres, ranging from pop, rock and dance to hip-hop, country and R&B.

· “Guitar Hero World Tour (RedOctane/Activision). The latest instalment from the No. 1 best-selling video game franchise of 2007, “Guitar Hero World Tour” will transform music gaming by marrying the exhilarating guitar gameplay of “Guitar Hero” with a cooperative band experience that combines the most advanced wireless instruments with revolutionary new online and offline gameplay modes.

Xbox 360 Is the Life of the Party

Xbox 360 truly gets the party started with a wide-ranging portfolio of exclusive games for the whole family, including:

· “You’re in the Movies” (Codemasters/Microsoft Game Studios). Get ready for your close-up. “You’re in the Movies” brings the cool factor to kitsch as you live out your dreams of becoming a scream queen, zombie or kung fu fighter. Premiering exclusively on Xbox 360 this holiday season, “You’re in the Movies” is the first and only game of its kind to literally transport players into a magical world of cinema mixed with the hilarious world of improvisation.

· “Scene It? Box Office Smash” (Krome Studios and Screenlife/Microsoft Game Studios). “Scene It? Box Office Smash,” the revolutionary movie trivia game on Xbox 360, will ignite your game night this Christmas with totally new questions, movie puzzles and more high-definition (HD) content from real movies including some of Hollywood’s latest blockbusters. With the New Xbox Experience, players can literally put themselves into the game through custom avatars that respond to play and react to one another throughout the course of the game. 

· “Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts” (Rare Ltd./ Microsoft Game Studios). Available exclusively on Xbox 360 in November, from the creative masterminds at Rare, “Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts” is an action-adventure game that breathes new life into a franchise that has entertained people of all ages for a decade. In a platform genre first, players create their own abilities by building vehicles for Banjo to pilot over land, sea and air in a variety of Challenges where their choice of vehicle and tactics determines the course of the adventure.

· “Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise” (Rare Ltd. /Microsoft Game Studios). In this sequel to the colourful sleeper hit “Viva Piñata”, players can venture outside the boundaries of the immersive and ever-changing garden to retrieve exotic piñata species from two new lands, the Dessert Desert and the Piñarctic.

The Biggest Blockbusters of 2008 and Beyond

With the most popular blockbuster games to date and some highly- anticipated titles in 2008 and beyond, Xbox 360 is the pre-eminent place to play all the big titles that gamers thirst for, including the following:

· Fallout 3 (Bethesda Softworks).  Included in “Fallout 3” is an expansive world, unique combat, shockingly realistic visuals, tons of player choice, and an incredible cast of dynamic characters. Every minute is a fight for survival against the terrors of the outside world—radiation, super mutants, and hostile mutated creatures.

· “Fable II” (Lionhead Studios/Microsoft Game Studios). This Xbox 360 exclusive action role-playing game offers players an epic storyline and an unprecedented level of freedom and choice. Every decision defines who the player becomes and influences the evolving world around them.

· “Gears of War 2” (Epic Games/Microsoft Game Studios). “Gears of War 2” is the most anticipated Xbox 360 exclusive title this holiday season and will be released worldwide Nov. 7.

· “Tomb Raider: Underworld” (EIDOS).  “Tomb Raider: Underworld” represents a new advancement in exploration-based gameplay. As fearless adventurer Lara Croft explore exotic locations around the world, each designed with an incredible attention to detail resulting in breathtaking high-definition visual fidelity that creates a truly believable world and delivers a new level of challenge and choice.

· James Bond: Quantum of Solace (Treyarch/Activision Inc.)  James Bond is back to settle the score in Activision Inc.’s Quantum of Solace video game.  Introducing a more lethal and cunningly efficient Bond, the game blends intense first-person action with a unique third-person cover combat system allowing players to truly experience what it is like to be the ultimate secret agent as they use their stealth, precision shooting and lethal combat skills to progress through missions.

· Prince of Persia (Ubisoft).  “Prince of Persia” is set in a land rooted in ancient Persian mythology, with the Prince finding himself caught in an epic battle between the primal forces of light and darkness.  Master the acrobatics, strategy and fighting tactics of the most agile warrior of all time. Grip fall down the face of a building, perform perfectly timed acrobatic combinations, swing over canyons, buildings, and anything that is reachable.