Just got the latest monthly report on video-game sales from the NPD Group. Sales were down for the fifth straight month in July, according to the industry tracking firm, off by 14 percent through the same period last year. That puts year-to-date sales at $8.16 billion, NPD says.
“In order for the industry to come in flat or slightly up for the total year, the back five months of the year have to come in 11 percent (or more) higher than the last five months of last year,” NPD analyst Anita Frazier says.
Tonight’s midnight release of Madden NFL 10 could kick-start such a turn-around, followed by big titles such as Rock Band: Beatles, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Halo 3: ODST, she says.
“Of all genres, the music/dance genre has suffered the greatest declines this year, with nearly $390 million less revenues than the same time period last year,” she adds.
That’s probably because, based on feedback from people I know who play games such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero, many gamers never download the hundreds of other songs available online for those titles, so the revenue stream dries up.
I’ll have a preview of big video-game releases for the rest of the year next week.
Tonight’s the night. Madden NFL 10, the latest release in one of the most popular video-game series, comes out at midnight. And it will be hard not to know about it, because an advertising blitz for the game will accompany tonight’s season premiere of Monday Night Football (yes, even though it’s Thursday night).
Really, I don’t get all worked up for the latest Madden games each year. To me, their popularity is due more to updated rosters than anything else. Sure, there are all kinds of bells and whistles added each go-round, such as “the all-new Pro-Tak™ animation technology,” and the Wii version has been “completely redesigned and built from the ground up.” But I think most gamers just want to play using the most current version of their favorite teams. (Update: I haven’t played the game yet, but the Associated Press and Game Informer are calling Madden NFL 10 the franchise’s best entry in years, if not ever, in their early reviews.)
Why do you play the Madden games? Do you buy the newest one each year?
I’ll always love John Madden Football ’92 for the dearly departed Sega Genesis. That was the version in which it was fun to deliberately injure a player, because then an ambulance would race onto the field to retrieve him — running over the other, uninjured players in the process. Hilarious.
Madden NFL 10 will be available at midnight at stores such as Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Gamestop.
I heard from many readers after my recent write-up on the mapping company NAVTEQ, a column that ran while I was on an extended vacation. Based on the many voice mails and e-mails that awaited my return, the readers think I can do something about their street or home being mislocated on a GPS or online map — even ones that don’t use NAVTEQ data. I have no such power.
But NAVTEQ does — for its map databases, at least. If you have an issue, just use the NAVTEQ Map Reporter. The online tool lets you pinpoint exactly where there’s a problem and let’s NAVTEQ know about it. When I interviewed geographic analysts Amy Scherer Honigs and Don Jaenisch (pictured) for my write-up, they noted that many of their mapping missions involve investigating submissions from the Map Reporter. You can also try calling NAVTEQ customer service at 1-866-4NAVTEQ, or 1-866-462-8837.
I will now be contacting all of those off-line readers to share this information.
Previous cases from other makers were a disappointment — too flimsy, not protective enough or a poor fit for my second-generation 32GB Touch.
(Many retailers sell cases designed to fit only 8GB and 16GB models as being fine for the 32GB, which isn’t always true.) (See comments below.) The Defender offers three layers of protection: (1) a thin membrane to protect the touch screen, (2) a hard plastic shell, including protective bumpers on all sides, that completely encases the Touch and (3) a soft silcone skin that feels comfortable to hold but also helps absorb shocks if dropped. All buttons are fully accessible through the case, and there are tight-fitting silcone plugs that offer easy access to the headphone and sync jacks.
Really, the only problem I had was that the protective layer over the touch pad adhered unevenly to the screen, creating random dark splotches that were visible even when the screen was lit. I kept trying to wipe the screen and case clean using the iPod wipe cloth, but it didn’t help. So I contacted Otterbox. “This sounds funny, but before you put your device in the case, rub your palm across the screen,” suggested company exec Kristin Golliher. That not only sounded funny, but completely counter-intuitive. Here I was trying to keep everything as clean and meticulous as possible before putting the Touch inside the protective case, and she was telling me to just smear my greasy hand across its face. It worked.
“It’s the natural oils of the skin that keep the plastic from sticking to the screen,” she explained. “Your hands should be clean but you don’t want to wash your hands just before doing it. You can also try wiping it along your cheek to pick up the oils from your face.”
Well, there you go.
The Defender for 2G iPod Touch retails for $30, but a Google search quickly turns up online retailers selling it for well below $20 — putting it in line with (and making it even cheaper) than the many poor alternatives I’ve tried. The Defender series also is available for other models. Otterbox also sells the vitamin-fortified, higher-priced Armor series — apparently for abusive travelers, construction workers and maybe even demolitions experts. But the Defender met my needs and exceeded my expectations.
How low must Blu-ray disc prices go before you buy in? How about $10 to $13?
Blu-ray deals come and go online. You can track them through sites such as High-Def Digest. But now they’re starting to pop up in brick-and-mortar stores, too — and not just in after-Thanksgiving sales. Best Buy (via Dealnews) has a bunch of catalog Blu-ray titles on sale for as little as $9.99. Some are clunkers, but there are some really fantastic titles in the lot — not just for the movies, but also for AV quality and extras. For example, for $9.99, you can get Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride or V for Vendetta. For $12.99, you can get the new super-duper special edition of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the cult fave Road House, the classic The Graduate, the Oscar-worthy Eastern Promises and The Aviator, the comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the horror masterpieces 28 Days Later and The Descent, and the sonic spectacular U-571. There are more than 50 titles in all. Order online and specify in-store pickup to skirt shipping fees.
And Blu-ray deals are coming on the rental front, too. Rental powerhouse Redbox recently announced that it plans to stock Blu-ray titles soon in its ubiquitous red vending machines. They probably won’t rent for the $1 that its DVDs do, but you can bet the price will be below what others are charging — without memberhip obligations.