The Week in Games: March 9, 2007

News from the virtual world:

— LIVELY ARTS: Electronic Arts (ERTS), the world's largest independent publisher of video games, has a lot of familiar names in its lineup: John Madden, Tiger Woods, Harry Potter and James Bond, to name a few.

But for 16 years, the most important name at EA has been Larry Probst, the company's chief executive officer.

Probst has announced that he'll be leaving the job, turning over the reins to John Riccitiello, a longtime EA executive who had left the firm in 2004.

While Probst has been great for investors, boosting EA's stock price 70 percent since 2002, he hasn't been so popular with gamers.

EA has taken a lot of criticism for relying too much on franchises like "The Sims" and "Need for Speed" while resisting fresher game ideas. But Riccitiello made no promises that EA would begin emphasizing brand-new properties.

"The EA sports franchise is a huge and important business, and as a consumer of these products I can say not many gamers are critical of sports sequels," he said.

He also emphasized that he's not planning any big strategic shifts.

"Larry's by far the most successful executive in the industry," Riccitiello said.

— END OF THE ROAD: This week's release of 2K Sports' "Major League Baseball 2K7" for the Xbox looks like a milestone of sorts.

It appears to be the last major title to be published for Microsoft's first-generation console, which debuted in 2001.

During its six-year life span, the Xbox made Microsoft a major player in console gaming, thanks to innovative titles like "Halo," "Knights of the Old Republic" and "Ninja Gaiden."

But the old warhorse will probably be best remembered for bringing online play to the masses, via Microsoft's smooth, user-friendly Xbox Live service.

While the Xbox's successor, the Xbox 360, is engaged in a healthy three-way sales race with Nintendo's Wii and Sony's PlayStation 3, Xbox Live has set the standard that other online gaming hubs still haven't met.

— READY TO RUMBLE? The Sixaxis controller that comes with the PlayStation 3 is missing one thing: that satisfying "rumble" you'd get when you blew something up using the PS2's DualShock controller.

As it turned out, the technology that made the DualShock vibrate was patented by a company called Immersion, which sued Sony in 2002 for $299 million.

But now the two companies have reached a settlement. Sony will have to fork over at least $150.3 million, but it will be able to use the technology in future PlayStation products — including, presumably, a vibrating "ShockAxis" stick.

— DRIVEN CRAZY: People who don't play video games assume that they make the rest of us dumber, fatter and more violent, so it's no surprise that one more survey would link games to dangerous driving.

According to the BBC, more than a third of motorists under age 24 said they drive faster after playing games like "Gran Turismo" or "Burnout," and nearly one-quarter said they take more risks.

The poll of 1,000 drivers, taken for the British driving school BSM, seems plausible — I know I become a little lead-footed after a few hours of "Forza Motorsport."

But as long as you're not playing while driving, you should be OK.

— NEW IN STORES: The buzz this week is all about "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2" (Ubisoft, for the Xbox 360), the sequel to the 2006 best seller. ...

Electronic Arts continues its hip-hop-flavored fighting series with "Def Jam Icon" (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360). ...

Racing fans can pick up Sony's "MotorStorm" (PS3) or EA's "Burnout Dominator" (PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable). ...

The Nintendo DS welcomes two new adventures, Nintendo's "Wario: Master of Disguise" and Ubisoft's "Rayman Raving Rabbids." ...

And a British TV host comes across the Atlantic to present "Carol Vorderman's Sudoku" (Eidos, for the PS2, PSP).