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GAMESCOM: The Highlights

Ben Parfitt
GAMESCOM: The Highlights

This year’s Gamescom pulled in a record 254,000 visitors – 9,000 more than last year’s show. It also played host to 505 exhibitors attending the event in Cologne, up from 450 last year.

A host of celebrities also appeared including Harry Potter’s Weasley twins Oliver and James Phelps, Formula One driver Adrian Sutil, musician Sammy Deluxe, Germany’s Next Top Model star Gina List Lohfink and Playboy Playmate Bernadette Kaspar.

The date for Gamescom 2011 was also revealed – the trade and consumer affair returns next year from August 17th to August 21st.

SONY

Sony’s Gamescom press conference began on a high note with SCEE president Andrew House announcing that a total of 38m PS3 units have been sold worldwide – with European consumers accounting for 16m.

PS3 hardware sales have jumped 57 per cent year-on-year, while software sales are up 38 per cent.
House said: “No matter what our competitors do, momentum is firmly in our favour.”

The platform holder unveiled two new models of its console: a 320GB version that will launch as part of a special Move bundle on September 15th and a 160GB edition that will follow in October. They are expected to retail at £284.99 and £249.99 respectively.

Sony also announced it would be bringing ITV on demand content to PlayStation Network, and will build on its established PlayTV service by adding social networking functionality.

A new version of the peripheral called PlayTV Chat will introduce Facebook integration and live TV and movie-themed chat with friends.

New games revealed for the PS3 included the multiplayer-focused Ratchet & Crank: All 4 One, the long-rumoured Resistance 3 and Sega’s Virtua Tennis 4, which will support both Move and 3D.

Gran Turismo fans were relieved to hear GT5 will be released in the UK on November 3rd – one day after it hits the US. The game’s creator Kazunori Yamauchi even hinted at Gran Turismo 6 when discussing the recently revealed go-karting mode.

The most notable absence was any word of a successor to the PSP. Speaking to MCV, Sony boss Kaz Hirai ruled out the possibility of a download-only PSP2, despite claiming the firm’s experiment with PSPgo was a success.

MICROSOFT

During its press conference Microsoft announced that Kinect will arrive in European stores on November 10th, and showed off a new football mini-game for launch title Kinect Sports.

The publisher also used Gamescom to talk up its support of the PC platform. It confirmed the return of its well-known ‘90s Flight Simulator series with Microsoft Flight, and revived its popular RTS series with Age of Empires Online. European Xbox boss Chris Lewis told MCV that “PC is a critical platform for Microsoft”.

Other big news at the show from Microsoft included its plans for upcoming mobile operating system Windows Phone 7. Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst, Halo Waypoint and Star Wars: Battle for Hoth are three among 63 confirmed titles for WP7 devices this Christmas.

Finally a limited edition Fable III Xbox 360 controller will be available on October 5th for £39.99 – three weeks before the game hits stores on October 29th.

ELECTRONIC ARTS

David Beckham was revealed as the EA Sports Active 2 brand ambassador, and will feature in advertising for the title across Europe and Australia. The game arrives on November 19th for Xbox 360’s Kinect, PS3’s Move and Wii, as well as iPhone and iPod Touch. It will come packaged with a heart rate monitor.

EA also dated the console version of The Sims 3, Dragon Age 2 and new PC title The Sims: Medieval – with the first title arriving in stores on October 26th and the latter two due March 2011. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will also offer Kinect support on Xbox 360 when it ships this November.

Meanwhile, Mass Effect 2 is heading to PS3 in January next year. The title was previously an Xbox 360 exclusive. Microsoft responded to the news by saying its console remains the best place to experience the Mass Effect franchise, backed up by claims that the original Mass Effect and DLC is only available on the 360.

Three EA Collector’s Editions got the all-clear at Gamescom. Crysis 2 gets two special versions – a Limited Edition and Nano Edition – both of which will feature premium packaging and unlockable multiplayer content – and arrive alongside the standard game next March. A Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Limited Edition will hit shelves on November 19th boasting exclusive in-game cars.

Ex-Infinity Ward bosses Vince Zampella and Jason West haven’t yet begun working on their new EA title, it was revealed.

AND THE REST..

* Ubisoft unveiled a new Kinect beat-’em-up Fighters Uncaged, and the Wii debut of its Combat of Giants series with COG: Dinosaurs Strike.

* THQ’s key products were Dawn of War II: Retribution and the uDraw GameTablet. The former is an expansion for the popular Warhammer game, while the latter is a new peripheral that integrates player scribbles into Wii titles.

* Konami dated two of its key products. PES 2011 will be released in the UK on October 8th – one week after FIFA 11. The Kinect-exclusive DanceEvolution will follow in November.

* 2K Games’ best-selling Carnival Games has launched on iPhone and iPod Touch. MCV reported that behind-closed-doors showings of BioShock: Infinite stole the show for many attendees.

* Valve’s highly anticipated Portal 2 will land on PC and PS3 on February 9th, 2011. The Office writer and comedy actor Stephen Merchant will voice Wheatley, the ‘Buddy Sphere’. EA told MCV that it is hoping to sign the title on its Partners label.

* Tradewest Games has signed a
partnership with casual firm Intenium. The two will publish their first retail and online titles together in the UK and France in October.

* IGN has launched a German edition of its flagship site. IGN Germany will provide readers with content from the new writing team based in Cologne.

* Notable developer Suda 51 has unveiled his latest project: Sine Mora, a 3D shooter for Xbox Live and PSN.

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