Xbox LIVE launches in South Africa Summer 2010

Hot off the heels of the E3 game conference in the USA, Microsoft South Africa confirms that Xbox LIVE is heading to South Africa.

South Africa – 14 June, 2010 – Microsoft today announces its commitment to launching Xbox LIVE in nine new countries – Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Russia and South Africa – delivering the core gaming and entertainment features that have made Xbox LIVE the world’s premier online gaming destination.

“Xbox LIVE is about building communities and connecting people to each other and to great content. This expansion is another step toward our vision for LIVE – to deliver the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, wherever you are in the world,” said Marc Whitten, General Manager, Xbox LIVE.

The service will be available this summer and will focus first on delivering the core gaming and community features that have made Xbox LIVE the world’s premier online gaming destination, including matchmaking, friends list, Achievements, Gamerscore, a tailored Games Marketplace and more.

“This is an exciting step forward in the experience we can deliver to our loyal and committed Xbox communities,” states Yvette van Rooyen, Product and Marketing Manager, Xbox 360 South Africa. “Xbox fans in South Africa will now be able play the best games in the industry with the 23 million other Xbox LIVE users across the world who have made this their online gaming destination of choice. “

Naturally this is fabulous news for South African gaming, but we all knew it was coming, just didn’t know when exactly. It makes sense though with the rollout of Windows Phone 7 using Xbox LIVE features. Now all we need to get is a firm date of when and what will happen with Xbox LIVE accounts for early adopters – will we need to/be able to migrate across countries for billing purposes or will the restrictions be lifted entirely.

I told you all Xbox LIVE will be coming to South Africa.

Xbox 360 Announcements from E3

So the Sony boys are excited about Home, well the Xbox 360 fans are now excited about the new look Xbox 360 Dashboard which has just been announced at E3 dubbed The New Xbox Experience. It will be hitting your consoles during the Fall 2008 update, that’s Spring 2008 for all of use southern hemisphere people.

The New Xbox Experience dashboard courtesy of Joystiq

Besides a whole new look, the update will introduce the new party system where you can put your friends into groups. Also included are avatars which was bound to appear after competing consoles added them.

For the Guitar Hero fans that prefer a bit more interaction with their consoles and those that like games like Singstar, the Xbox 360 will be getting Lips. Its a cool new game where you can choose your own music and go karaoke with it. And if using your own tunes wasn’t exciting enough, it will be coming with wireless microphones so no more irritating wires in the way.

For those that like trivia and good family entertainment, SceneIt 2 (Box Office Smash) was announced and I understand that South Africa will be getting it this time around.

A partnership with Netflix was announced where all Xbox LIVE subscribers, I’m assuming in the US only, will have access to over 10,000 movies and TV episodes online at no additional cost, however a Netflix account will be required.

On the community side of things the fall update will include the new community XNA games functionality where the community can easily publish their own creations through Xbox LIVE.

In terms of release dates the following dates were announced:

  • Geometry Wars sequel coming to Xbox LIVE Arcade next month
  • South Park coming to Xbox LIVE Arcade soon
  • Uno Rush coming to Xbox LIVE Arcade before the end of the year
  • Banjo Kazooie coming to Xbox LIVE Arcade this year
  • Fable 2 in October 2008
  • Gears of War 2 on 7th of November 2008
  • Resident Evil 5 in March 2009
  • Fallout 3
  • Final Fantasy XIII to be released the same day on Xbox 360 and PS3

All in all some pretty cool announcements from Microsoft. I was hoping for more hardware and accessory announcements though. One cool fact is that the Xbox 360 coupled with the Xbox LIVE platform is an ideal media platform that publishers and content producers are targetting. Hopefully we’ll be getting some love in this regard sometime soon.

Battlefield: Bad Company – great game, lousy support

Battlefield: Bad Company As much as I like the new Battlefield: Bad Company, I am getting more annoyed by the lack of support from the publisher Electronic Arts (EA).

The game was released locally on the 27th of June 2008 and it seems that despite having a private beta and a public demo, their systems just can’t handle basic things like linking of a Xbox LIVE Gamertag so you can see your stats online. Well not just see your stats, but get weapon unlocks through the Find all Five promotion.

So what exactly is this issue I’m talking about. Well when you log into the Bad Company web site using your EA.com profile you are supposed to be able to access your My Soldier page and upon doing so get sent an unlock code for a weapon. However when I log in I get the following error message:

We're sorry, but it looks like no Xbox Live Gamertag or PlayStation Network name has been linked with your EA Account.

So I logged a support issue on the 30th of June 2008 with the South African EA support office as my EA profile clearly has my Xbox LIVE Gamertag associated with it. You can see that below:

Current Active Profile

Unfortunately its now over two weeks later and my Bad Company profile still reflects the issue above. I tried to make it easier for the South African support person but to date I haven’t found a working solution to the problem. I have been told a few times that the problem should be fixed, but each time I try logon, I get the same error message.

Apparently the EA site runs off Oracle databases and there have been issues in the backend that have required Oracle engineers to sort out. I just personally wish they’d sort it out so I can enjoy playing my copy of the game with the weapons I’m entitled to.

Oh and if you’re trying to gain Veteran status for owning other Battefield titles, you might be out of luck, as their system reports that the keys are invalid. A friend of mine opened a brand new copy of an older Battlefield game and the site reported it was already registered on their system.

While I’m ranting I’d like to point out how unfair it is that the Find all Five promotion doesn’t recognize South Africans that pre-order through the local retail channel. C’mon make it fair EA!

Great game EA, unfortunately I can’t say the same for your support.

Xbox LIVE getting XNA games and more

XNA Finally the marriage between Xbox LIVE and XNA has been announced. Major Nelson live blogged it from GDC (Game Developers Conference) in San Francisco on his twitter feed and promptly posted about it.

It was just announced at GDC that we are introducing a new, open distribution service for games created by the community. Games created with the XNA Game Studio will be available over Xbox LIVE. Later today, seven games created by the community will be available for download over Xbox LIVE.

Up until this announcement community and hobbyist game developers have been rather limited in terms of distribution of their games. XNA games produced using the awesome (and free) XNA Game Studio 2.0 have only been able to distribute XNA games through the paid for XNA Creators Club. An open distribution service sounds like an awesome new facility that could seriously blow open the casual gaming market for hobbyist and community game developers.

Other highlights I happened to notice on Major’s live blogging feed up to this minute include:

  • XNA games are coming to the Zune. This could be a huge leap for the Zune mobile media player that could start to encroach on the iPod’s market share.
  • There will be over 1,000 games on the Xbox 360 by the end of the year.
  • The Halo 3 community is uploading approximately 100,000 pieces of user generated content per day, that is 30% more content than all of the daily uploads on YouTube.
  • As of 2007, gaming is bigger than music on a global basis. Wow, I’m sure the music executives can’t be too happy about that, watch out film industry, you’re next. 😉

Watch this space for more interesting tidbits as they get announced.

[tags]Xbox 360,XNA,Zune[/tags]

Announcing Co-Optimus.com

I just got word about a new site, Co-Optimus.com, which seems to be the first site to focus solely on co-operative gaming on consoles and PCs alike. The official press release follows:

Easton, PA – January 28, 2008 – Nicholas Puleo, current Editor-in-Chief of EvilAvatar.com, has announced a new resource for Cooperative gaming aficionados, Co-Optimus.com.   Co-Optimus.com is your prime source in the co-op gaming world.  Co-op gaming allows 2 or more players to team up against the computer to achieve a goal.  There was almost 100 games released in 2007 with a co-op mode as well as a growing trend continuing into 2008 of developers putting cooperative modes into their games.  In fact, games like Electronic Arts’ Army of Two and Valve’s Left for Dead are being designed from the ground up as a co-op experience.  This has created a need for gamers to find out exactly what games have the co-op features they want, and gamers want to know how those games will play.

With virtually no other websites dedicated to co-op games, gamers are having a hard time finding the information they need for their co-op experience.  Co-Optimus.com fills this void by providing an extensive database of games that feature a co-op mode across nine platforms including the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii.  The site also features user reviews, ratings, and matchmaking as well as discussion forums to help find a buddy for all your co-op needs.

“Since Doom popularized cooperative play on the PC more almost 15 years ago, it’s been the absolute best way to enjoy a gaming experience,” says Puleo.  “Until now it was difficult to find information on cooperative games for any system, Co-optimus.com solves that problem.”
To celebrate the launch of Co-Optimus.com the site is giving away codes and discs for many popular Co-Op titles, including the recently released Burnout Paradise from Electronic Arts and Omega 5 for Xbox Live Arcade.

About Co-Optimus.com
Co-Optimus.com was founded by Nick Puleo, Editor-in-Chief of Evil Avatar.com.  He’s been in that role for four years and has covered the games industry for six.  Puleo also manages TheWeeklyRelease.com, a website dedicated to video game, DVD, HD DVD, Blu-Ray, and movie release dates. 

In theory it is very similar to our very our local site The Xbox Lounge. I encourage you all to go over and take a peek.

[tags]Xbox 360, co-op[/tags]

Free Xbox LIVE Arcade game announced

After the recent service issues that some users experienced with Xbox LIVE over the festive season a free Xbox LIVE Arcade game was announced and now we know what and when. The free game is Undertow worth 800 Microsoft Points and it will be available for FREE to all Xbox LIVE users (yes both silver and gold) from 12h00 on Wednesday the 23rd of January 2007 until 09h59 on Monday the 28th of January 2007.

[tags]Xbox LIVE Arcade,Undertow,Xbox LIVE[/tags]

Free Xbox LIVE Arcade game coming soon

Major Nelson has posted about a free Xbox LIVE Arcade game for all Xbox LIVE members which will be made available in the coming weeks. This freebie seems partly as a result of the recent Xbox LIVE service issues that users have experienced.

Dear Xbox LIVE Members:                                                                                                    

During this past holiday season you helped us break a number of Xbox LIVE records.  This included our largest sign-up of new members to Xbox LIVE in our 5 year history and just yesterday you broke the record for the single biggest day of concurrent members ever on the service. 

As a result of this massive increase in usage we know that some of you experienced intermittent Xbox LIVE issues over the holiday break.  While the service was not completely offline at any given time, we are disappointed in our performance.  I would like to take this moment to thank each and every one of you for your patience and understanding as our team has worked around the clock to return the service to a stable state. 

At the same time we would like to offer a token of our appreciation to all of you in celebration of record success for the service.  And as a thank you for your loyalty during this holiday period, we will be offering all of our Xbox LIVE members around the world access to a full Xbox LIVE Arcade game that will be available to download free of charge.  In the coming weeks we will be sharing the specific details of this offer with you. 

Thank you again for helping make Xbox LIVE everything that it is today! 

Sincerely,

Marc Whitten

General Manager, Xbox LIVE

Gamertag: Notwen

[tags]Xbox LIVE,XBLA[/tags]

Xbox LIVE Friends of Friends

Xbox 360 Just got word of a new feature that will be included in the Xbox 360 Dashboard update next week. Its called Friends of Friends and it seems to an interesting step from Microsoft into the social networking market. Basically the new setting allows users to take a peek at your friends list so they have done the good thing and exposed a way for you to control who can see your friends list, if at all.

I wonder where Microsoft is going on the social networking front. Could there be a Facebook and Xbox LIVE integration coming along next year perhaps?  Who knows.

Check out the official press release below:

Microsoft is making it even easier to expand your Friends network on Xbox LIVE, starting with the year end Dashboard Update on December 4th. Members will now be able to check out the friends lists of fellow Xbox LIVE members right from the Dashboard. With this new feature, members can find old friends or connect with new ones within the community of more than 8 million people on Xbox LIVE around the globe and send messages and game invites, as well as compare games and Achievements.

With the prevalence of social media websites such as MySpace and FaceBook, this type of capability has largely come to be expected from consumers as a means to relate in an online community.  Xbox LIVE continually seeks new ways to better serve the expectations of its members, which often result in enhancements made available for free through the bi-annual Dashboard updates. 

When the Dashboard update is distributed on December 4th, the new default setting on Xbox LIVE will be active enabling members to see the Friends lists of other Xbox LIVE members. Members who would like to keep their friends list private can take the following steps to change their settings beginning today:

Log in to www.xbox.com/fof and select one of the three options available for your Gamertag:

  • Everyone (only available to members 18 and older)
  • Friends only (available to members 13 and older)           
  • Blocked (available to all members, and automatic for anyone under the age of 13)

Stay tuned for more information about the Xbox 360 Dashboard Update later this month!

[tags]Xbox LIVE,press release[/tags]

Gears of War releases in South Africa

Gears of War for Windows cover art We all knew that Gears of War was coming to the Windows PC gaming platform and now its official. Yes it should be in stores later this week and will run on Windows XP and Windows Vista machines. One thing that is awesome about Games for Windows LIVE (basically Xbox LIVE) is that online multi-player is completely free and only requires a silver account. I understand that if you want to use the advanced TruSkill matchmaking functions you will need a gold account. Anyone care to confirm this?

JOHANNESBURG 6th November, 2007 – Microsoft Game Studios announced today that the eagerly-awaited “Gears of War” for Windows (Windows XP/Windows Vista) has shipped to retailers worldwide and will be in stores later this week. After launching exclusively for the Xbox 360 last November, “Gears of War” is now bringing the fight to Windows, featuring five new campaigns and new multiplayer modes.

With the Xbox 360 version of the game selling more than 4 million copies to date, “Gears of War” has been lauded by critics for its gripping campaign and fast-paced multiplayer action. Windows gamers can look forward to the “Gears of War” experience for the very first time, and will get to choose between doing battle via mouse and keyboard, or using the Windows-enabled Xbox 360 controller. From renowned developer Epic Games, “Gears of War” for Windows will engage gamers in hyper-realistic combat, allowing players to fight for survival against the Locust Horde, a nightmarish race of creatures that surface from the bowels of the planet.

In addition to retaining all of the content from its Xbox 360 counterpart and all previously released downloadable content (seven multiplayer maps and the Annex game mode), “Gears of War” for Windows will feature exciting original content, all-new Achievements to unlock and ultra-high resolution visuals, including support for DirectX 10. Five new campaign chapters expand upon the riveting story (including an epic battle with the fearsome Brumak.) The action-packed multiplayer offering is bolstered with three exclusive multiplayer maps – a “King of the Hill” game type.  A new game editor will allow users to develop an unlimited number of user-created levels with complete access to the Unreal Engine 3 Editor.

Players can get their hands on “Gears of War” for Windows for the estimated retail price of R 319.00, with a rating of 18V. For more information, please visit http://gearsofwar.com/news/.

* Games for Windows LIVE is supported to deliver online matchmaking for LIVE members.

[tags]Gears of War,South Africa[/tags]