Industry Update: Gaming and Smartphone Stats in the Middle East

July 10, 2011 by  
Filed under News, PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360

We recently completed the second GamesFest event on the 24th of June, 2011 at the Dubai Festival City. The event was attended by over a thousand gamers from the Middle East and from that, a sample of 118 gamers was selected to get an idea of their gaming and Smartphone preferences. The following graphs show what we found. Each graph is followed by a brief commentary.

1) Results show that the PC is still the primary gaming platform amongst our audience with the Sony PS3 not so far behind. The Microsoft XBOX 360 came in at a distant third with less than half the gamers using it a their primary gaming system as compared to the PS3.

2) This question allowed the users to select more than one answer and not surprisingly, over 73% of our audience games on the PC. What is surprising is the number of people that use portable devices for gaming with the PSP coming in first, closely followed by the iPhone.

3) When we asked our audience on the number of games they buy per month, we were not surprised to find out that over 50% buy at last one game per month. In fact, over 86% buy at least one game every three months which is an extremely healthy sign for the industry.

Following some information on their gaming preferences, we moved on to find out what they prefer when it comes to Smartphones.

4) The iPhone proved to be the most popular Smartphone amongst gamers, however, the lead was not as considerable as we were expecting. BlackBerry and Nokia are currently quite popular with gamers as well. Surprisingly, Android based devices came in very low- lower than people that don’t even own a Smartphone!

5) However, when asked which device might be their next Smartphone, we see Android taking a huge leap with over 30% showing interest- only bested by the iPhone at over 42%. Expectedly, not many people want Nokia as their next device although surprisingly, BlackBerry held up well.

6) Our final question was about Mobile App purchases and thankfully, over 50% of our audience buys apps for their Smartphones- a very healthy sign for the mobile apps industry.

In summary, PCs are still very popular amongst gamers followed by PS3s. As for Smartphones, the iPhone proved to be the device most gamers have or want.

Blog: Gaming 3.0

June 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, PC

If you have been reading my blogs on the tech section of late, you will probably know that I made myself a new PC to enjoy gaming in all it’s glory. The way it happened is that I saw our senior editor Taimoor testing Need for Speed on a triple- monitor setup for GamesFest and I instantly knew that I gotta get me one.

Two weeks and few thousand Dirhams later, I had my rig ready and started installing a few games I’ve been wanting to get back to such as World of Warcraft and StarCraft II as well as some games that I’ve been wanting to try out such as Rift and Civilization 5.

So with my three screens in action and Bose speakers pumping out the sound, I was all prepared to be blown away by the experience. Sadly, the experience was closer to a whimper than a bang. Starcraft II didn’t want to work on three screens and WoW made everything on the two side screens appear stretched and un-natural whic gave me an instant headache. Rift and Civilization 5 looked better but after a nice hour session, my neck felt incredibly sore with the constant turning between the three screens. That was the pretty much the last time I fired up a game on my shiny new setup. I think triple screen gaming is best for arcades where you have short bursts of gameplay in a very controlled environment.

So, are the monitors headed back? Actually no. I really enjoyed Windows desktop spanned across the three screens with my emails and tweets on the left, the browser in the center and widgets and small apps on the right. And productivity apps don’t necessarily require fast and timed actions, allowing me to turn my head at my own pace preventing any cricks. My gaming sessions have gone back to a single screen- the center screen. But now, while gaming, I can continue to check my incoming emails and tweets on the remaining two screens. Simultaneous business and pleasure- that’s what I tell myself to convince me that I’ve made a good investment.

System Specifications:
Core i5 2500K
ECS H67M-2 motherboard
8GB Corsair DDR3-1333
NVIDIA GTX 590
ASUS Xonar Sound Card
Corsair 750W PSU

Does Megan Fox play video games? MEGamers finds out.

June 7, 2011 by  
Filed under News

We were at the launch of LG’s Cinema 3D yesterday where Megan Fox was invited. I asked her if she played video games and here is what she had to say.

Looks like she is a fan of the Xbox. Also interesting were comments by the LG rep on them talking with Microsoft and Blizzard. WoW 3D anyone?

Megan Fox: I play games constantly on my Xbox

iPad 2 Launch – All the juicy details

March 3, 2011 by  
Filed under iPhone, Mobile, News

The guys at Engadget were live at the Apple iPad 2 launch event, and boy was it a biggie. Pictures, specs and features of the new iPad all presented by the man, Steve Jobs himself.

[Warning: This post will be stuffed with pics]

First off, we have the Tech specs. It will feature a Dual core processor, a graphics card that Apple claims will be twice as fast, the same power consumption of the previous A4 Processor (This one Features the A5)

Now on to other features of the iPad 2- It will feature dual cameras both front and rear facing and will have HDMI out at 1080p (Via a separate accessory sold separately for $39). The iPad 2 will also be (wait for it) only 8.8mm thick. To put this in comparison the iPhone 4 was 9.3mm and the old iPad was a whopping 13.4 mm. It will also weigh only 1.3 pounds as opposed to the old 1.5 pounds and have a built in gyroscope. They’ve also managed to keep the same battery life of 10 hours while being used and up to a month on standby. The iPad 2 will also boast the latest iteration of iOS, the iOS 4.3 will be releasing on the 11th or March for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch (3rd and 4th gen).

And here it is:

And a side shot to accentuate its thin-ness

The device will be released initially on the 11th of March (Guessing only in the US- Expect queues of Apple lovers) and will move on to a further 26 countries by the 25th of March. The Price? That’s the kicker- Apple will be sticking with the same price as the current iPad.

Also shown off at the event was the newest version of iMovie which, no doubt, will accompany the built in camera’s quite well and a new version of Garage Band. Also introduced was a new cover for the iPad 2 which will be magnetically attached to the device itself, is quite light and has a micro-fiber lining which cleans the screen when you close it. The iPad will wake on open and close on sleep and consumers have a choice of polyurethane or leather. It could also be used as a stand

And of course, what Apple event would be complete without a bit of competition bashing.

Apple also claimed that Honeycomb only had 100 apps on the market whereas the iPad has a massive 65,000. Other numbers being thrown about were the number paid out to developers from apps sold at the appstore ($2 Billion), The number of iPhones sold (100 Million), Number of iPads sold in 2010 (15 Million) with a 90% market share!

Kalimat Review

February 27, 2011 by  
Filed under iPhone, Mobile, Reviews

Racking brains is always fun for me- whether its a quick challenge in Sudoku or figuring out what component of my computer failed. Yes, I’m a geek. I’m also a dinosaur who used to play board games long before computers became popular. And of of my favorite games used to be scrabble. Sadly I never continued playing scrabble because it involved more time than I could spare in one sitting. So I was pleasantly surprised when I was introduced to Kalimat on the iPhone which can best be described as my favorite word game on the go.

In the interest of full disclosure, Kalimat is published by AppsArabia and their office is located just a couple of doors away from us. Like almost everyone else, we love promoting local talent, however, that does not effect our judgment towards a product.

Traditionally, Scrabble is played with players sitting around a board but with the extremely busy lifestyle of today, that isn’t something that is possible for me. So Kalimat, which means Keywords in Arabic, lets you enjoy the game at your leisure. You start off by choosing an online opponent either randomly or from your list of friends. OpenFeint is integrated for you to track achievements against other players online. Alternatively, you can go offline by passing the iPhone between players.

Kalimat is available in English and Arabic and starts off in either of those depending on which language is set as the default on your iPhone. The developers have used the Apple dictionary to verify your words which gives a fair ground to all players. There are two versions to the game- Normal and Remix. Normal is your average game of scrabble while the remix mode adds some cool features such as rewarding you with more points if you play quickly or swap your tiles without missing a turn (once per session). Also included in the remix version is a secret hidden square called Ali Baba that gives you fifty additional points. The square is randomized for each game.

Laying tiles on the board is pretty easy as you can double tap the screen to zoom-in on a section. Even without zooming in, I only had an issue once trying to plug the tile in the right square. Other small touches include a shake to undo tiles you’ve placed on the board or reshuffle your tiles in your tray. You can tell that the developers have certainly put a lot of polish into the game- the graphics are very crisp and the minimal sound lets you concentrate on the game.

Considering the game is fairly new, I had to wait for a while to find an opponent to play online but when you do, you can play the game at your own pace by jumping in the game, forming a word and then getting back out to other tasks. Once your opponent plays their turn, you get a push notification and when you accept that and get back into the game, you timer starts ticking. I did manage to crash the game once randomly but considering that I played it for a couple of hours in multiple sessions, that’s not a bad thing.

Overall, I’m mighty impressed with Kalimat- it offers you an excellent experience of playing scrabble and I’m not just saying that because the game is developed locally. It costs $2.99 on the AppStore which I believe is an awesome price to grab the game, however, I think a free and Lite version will help the game gain more recognition as is the case for most new developers.

Spirits for iPad Review

January 18, 2011 by  
Filed under iPhone, Mobile, Reviews

Playing Spirits on the iPad instantly reminded me of a classic- Lemmings. Some of you might be too old to remember this 1991 game developed by DMA Design (which has now become Rockstar North.) Very much like Lemmings, this new platformer by Spaces of Play has you guiding Spirits to their destination.

Making through the levels obviously requires some kind of strategy and thus, you have four actions at your disposal- Grow to create a plant (staircase) to climb, dig to dig into the ground, blow to add wind and finally block to remove wind. Helpful yet hard to master, the “wind” can be the player’s friend and enemy at the same time. When the spirits reach the edge of a cliff or a leaf, they will jump up in the air and fly with the wind.

Weighing in at roughly 40MB, Spirits crashed the first time I launched it on my iPad, however, it worked every other time. Like Lemmings, you don’t control the movement of the Spirits as they follow a path on their own. However, tapping on a Spirit pauses that particular Spirit and allows you to issue an action which consumes the Spirit but paves the way for the ones following. Besides guiding Spirits to their destination, you can pick up plants along withe way to gain points. Needless to say, there is nothing revolutionary about Spirits as far as the concept is concerned.

As with most games, the first few levels serve as a tutorial to get you comfortable with the different actions. This makes Spirit very easy to get into without making you feel lost. The game becomes progressively challenging and some of the later levels will make you scratch your head. In total, there are 40 levels for you to conquer. Spaces of Play has made controls responsive enough to work exactly the way you want them to making playing the game a fun and not a frustrating experience.

Graphically, the game takes a very minimalist approach that works perfectly. Almost all the levels are a combination of black, orange and blue with the Spirits in white. It kinda reminded me of Limbo on XBox- artistically left bland. The physics of the wind are also beautifully created giving the whole game a very atmospheric effect.

Overall, Spirits is a wonderful title if you like puzzle/platform games. Its available on the iPhone as well as the iPad for $4.99. Currently the game is on sale at $2.99 making it a steal.

Blog: Is gaming for Mac finally here

December 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, PC

I used to be a pretty hard core gamer back in the days but with work and kids, time is a bit scarce now. Also the fact that I use a Mac now contributes to my decline in gaming- Mac users don’t have as much of a choice in gaming as PC users do. So with the limited time that I get for gaming, I tend to check out the “Best of the year” gaming lists that come out at the end of every year and today morning, I saw one such list at CNet called “The top 5 best PC-only games of 2010.”

I knew what some of titles on that list would be- after all, Blizzard came out with a full game and an expansion pack to the most successful PC game ever this year so that was a no brainer. Civilization V was also on that list which didn’t surprise me but the two that did were Dawn of War II and Amnesia. However, what shocked me is that four out of these five games were also available for the Mac.

Traditionally, Mac users are left out in the cold when it comes to gaming save for a title or two. But 2010 has been different. Other than the four games mentioned above, Mac users got to enjoy other gems like Torchlight and a bundle of valve classics like the Half Life series and Left 4 Dead. The arrival of Steam on Mac has done more for the gaming scene on Mac than any effort by Apple.

So for all of us that switched to a Mac but miss gaming from our previous platform- there is hope. Slowly but surely, Mac is making a mark for itself on the computer gaming scene and we no longer have to look at bejewelled to satisfy our gaming needs.

ID Software’s RAGE based iPhone game approved

November 18, 2010 by  
Filed under News

ID Software’s John Carmack has announced on his twitter feed that Apple has approved the RAGE Engine based title that the company were working on: “Mutant Bash TV”. This means that ID can release the game at any point, but rumors suggest that the game will be released tomorrow morning. Expect some fantastic graphics and on-the-rails based gameplay when the iPhone version is released.

My thoughts on PlayStation Move

March 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Gaming Hardware

You might have read our coverage of the Sony PlayStation Move controller event yesterday which brings motion gaming capabilities to the PS3. I saw the unit first-hand and thought I’d share my views with you. Starting off, there is no WOW factor associated with Move. Unlike Nintendo Wii which introduced us to motion controlled gaming or Microsoft’s Project Natal that completely eliminates the need for a controller, PlayStation Move does not show anything that we have not seen before.

Rather, it borrows from both the competitors technologies by utilizing the PlayStation Eye camera as well as a sensor equipped controller for a supposedly more precise and responsive tracking. The Move controller looks like a microphone with a glowing light bulb on top and I can easily see it be the target of bad jokes. Also like Nintendo Wii, you can pair the motion controller with an an analog stick that Sony calls a “sub-controller” which will communicate wireless over BlueTooth.

Weather that translates into a better gaming experience is yet to be seen but from the alpha version I saw yesterday, things are looking good- especially with the Table Tennis game from Sports Champion (yes, its like Wii Sports for PS3) and Move Party both of which feel natural and precise to a point of being spooky! I can also see games like Heavy Rain working in a nice way with PlayStation Move replacing gestures on your gamepad.

Moving out of the casual gaming world could prove to be a hit or miss. I can see games like SOCOM4 providing a more “mouse-like” experience for better aiming but I’m not sure how well a game like Motion Fighter would turn out. The good thing is that Sony has a good line-up for PlayStation Move with 20 titles in development along with three dozen publishers that are ready to support the platform.

Sony has priced PlayStation Move quite appropriately as well- the sub $100 bundle that includes the controller as well as the PlayStation Eye camera and a game is pretty decent. So in short, while I look forward to PlayStation Move, it sadly does not have the same effect that Nintendo Wii and Microsoft’s Project Natal had when showcased the first time.

Sony PlayStation Move Announced

March 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Features, Playstation 3, Spotlight

Motion sensing gaming comes to the PlayStation 3 today with the announcement of Playstation Move during the Game Developers Conference in San Fransisco. Your favorite gaming website MEG was there to cover the event which kicked off with a speech from Mr. Shuhei Yoshido, the President of Worldwide Studios. Mr. Yoshido said that motion gaming on PS3 will be for both causal and hardcore gamers and that the type of games being created for it are extremely diverse. He said that the technology is precise, responsive and ultra sensory that allows breathing new life into many of the existing titles along with providing tools to create new games that were not possible before.

Following Mr. Yoshido, Mr. Peter Dille, Senior VP of Marketing & PSN came up on stage and talked about the momentum that PS3 has going for itself. He mentioned that Playstation was the only console around the world that experienced a 50% growth rate in terms of Software Sales versus 2008 whereas the overall category amongst all consoles was down by 9%. He said they Sony is having a hard time keeping the hardware in stock which is a high-class problem. He moved on to 2010 and said the year started with MAG and 256 players online simultaneously that can only be done on PS3. He followed that up with Heavy Rain, White Night Chronicles, MLB10, God of War III (which clocks it at an unheard of 35Gigs!), ModNation Racers, GT5 (few chuckles heard when he mentioned that) and finally SOCOM4. All in all an extremely impressive year for PlayStation to look forward to. This is not all as he said that, as always, there will be a few surprises at E3.

Finally, he proceeded to talk about PlayStation Move which he said is unlike anything in the market- its fast, precise and accurate. It recognizes everything from the tiniest twitch to the strongest punch. He gave due respect to Nintendo Wii for making motion sensing games mainstream but said that nothing has been as precise and ultra-sensory as PlayStation Move and this is because of the technology Sony has used which is a combination of the Play Station Eye (camera) and a wide range on input sensors found on the Move controller. He said that the controller will be available as a standalone product or as a starter kit with the Playstation Eye and one game for under $100 as well as a full console bundle with the three things just mentioned. This was followed by a video demonstrating Move.

Following the Video, we got to see the controller in real world- enjoy the following videos which showcase what the PlayStation Move is about.

Launching towards the end of the year, Mr. Dille said that outside Sony, there is a long list of 3rd party titles that will support Move from publishers like Activision, Capcom, Square Enix, EA, Sega, Ubisoft, Konami an Disney.

Here’s the official press release from Sony.

PlayStation division Sony Gulf FZE today announced that PlayStation®Move motion controller for PlayStation®3 (PS3™) computer entertainment system, launches worldwide this fall, offering a motion-based, high-definition gaming experience unlike anything on the market. Concurrently with its launch will be also release PlayStation®Move sub-controller to be used along with the motion controller for intuitive navigation of in-game characters and objects. The PlayStation Move platform, including the motion controller, sub-controller, and PlayStation®Eye camera*1, together with a strong line-up of software titles, will deliver an innovative and highly immersive experience on the PS3 system.
The combination of the PS3 system and PlayStation Eye camera detects the precise movement, angle, and absolute position in 3D space of PlayStation Move motion controller, allowing users to intuitively play the game as if they themselves are within the game. PlayStation Move motion controller delivers unmatched accuracy through its advanced motion sensors, including a three-axis gyroscope, a three-axis accelerometer, and a terrestrial magnetic field sensor, as well as a colour-changing sphere that is tracked by PlayStation Eye camera. Through PlayStation Move system, both fast and subtle motion can be detected, whether the user is swinging a tennis racket, or painting with a brush. With PlayStation Move motion controller, users can provide direct input through action buttons and an analog trigger, while receiving physical feedback from rumble functionality and visual feedback from the sphere’s ability to display a variety of different colors. Furthermore, PlayStation Eye camera can capture the player’s voice or image, enabling augmented reality experiences.
The newly announced PlayStation Move sub-controller is a one-handed controller, developed to further expand the game play options that PlayStation Move games can offer*2. PlayStation Move sub-controller features a sleek curved design that pairs with the motion controller and comes with an analog stick and directional buttons that allow users to easily control the game when moving characters or choosing a direction. Like all other Wireless Controllers for the PS3 system, it comes with a built in lithium-ion rechargeable battery as well as Bluetooth® technology, enabling the controller to transfer the input information wirelessly to the PS3 system without a cable. PlayStation Move motion controller and sub-controller will further broaden the gaming experience on the PS3 system for all genres, from games that use one motion controller to games that use both controllers.
The introduction of PlayStation Move controllers has been well received within the industry and now 36 third party developers and publishers*3 have decided to support PlayStation Move platform. In fiscal year 2010, SCE Worldwide Studios will also release more than 20 games that are either dedicated to or supported with the PlayStation Move platform.
SCE, with strong support from software developers and publishers, will deploy various measures to enhance the PlayStation Move software title line-up and vigorously promote the PS3 platform.

*1 Users will need to use the PlayStation Eye camera to enjoy PlayStation Move motion controller on PS3.
*2 DUALSHOCK® or SIXAXIS® Wireless Controller can also be used in place of the sub controller.
*3 Please refer to the attached list below for detail.

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