News from the virtual world:
— DESIGN SCHOOL: Although it's much too early to declare a winner in the current console war, it looks like Sony's pricey PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's flashy Xbox 360 may be duking it out for second place behind Nintendo's humbler Wii.
The difference between place and show will probably come down to which system has the best games. So what do game developers think of the higher-end consoles?
Most designers won't admit to a preference. When the Games Radar Web site asked "Virtua Fighter 5" developer Tohru Murayama whether it was easier to program for the 360 or the PS3, he said, "They were both about equally challenging to develop."
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Similarly, "Devil May Cry 4" producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi told IGN Games that the 360 and PS3 versions of his game would be "pretty much identical."
Dan Houser, vice president of "Grand Theft Auto IV" publisher Rockstar Games, created a bit of a fuss when he told a British magazine that the lack of a hard drive in some 360 models created headaches for his team, although he added that both consoles "have their own particular pleasures and pains."
But Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of the forthcoming Xbox 360 game "Blue Dragon," was blunter about the PS3.
"The machine's architecture is tricky," he told Electronic Gaming Monthly, "and I don't like Ken Kutaragi," the departing chief of Sony's game division.
For the last word, let's turn to Dennis Dyack, whose Silicon Knights studio is developing "Too Human" for Microsoft.
"I love all three home consoles, but as a person who creates games I wish there was just one console," Dyack told GamesIndustry.biz. "When a developer makes a game, he wants everyone to play it."
— WAR PIGS: If our video-game designers have any predictive powers, the next couple of centuries are going to be even more war-torn than the last 100 years have been.
Take LucasArts' just-announced "Fracture," in which cyborgs and mutants battle across a ruined American landscape in 2161. You'll be able to take up arms in 2008.
If you'd like the end of the world to come sooner, "Tom Clancy's EndWar" could get the job done when it's released around the new year. It's a World War III strategy game, and publisher Ubisoft says it's been built from the ground up for the next-generation consoles.
Ubisoft also announced another adventure for superspy Sam Fisher in "Splinter Cell: Conviction," due later this year.
Once everything's been blasted to smithereens, you'll be able to explore the ruins in Bethesda Softworks' long-awaited "Fallout 3"; a big announcement about that game is coming next month.
Meanwhile, Ken Ralston, one of the designers of Bethesda's "The Elder Scrolls" series, has jumped ship to Big Head Games, where he'll be producing a big new role-playing game for THQ.
Ralston wouldn't divulge what it's about, but THQ president Tim Train said it "will knock everyone's socks off."
— MOM KNOWS: The people who evaluate video games for their levels of sex and violence may not be perfect, but their ratings are completely ineffective if parents ignore them. Fortunately, most folks seem to have figured them out.
According to a survey conducted for the Entertainment Software Rating Board by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, 89 percent of parents with kids who play video games know about the ratings, and 85 percent consult the rating before buying a game.
So where are all those "Grand Theft Auto"-playing delinquents coming from?
In the survey, 60 percent of parents with kids under 18 said they never let them play games that are rated M (for mature); 34 percent said they sometimes do so.
— NEW IN STORES: We don't get many real-time strategy games on consoles, so we're psyched about "Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars" (Electronic Arts, Xbox 360). ...
Wacky punctuation is the least of your problems in ".hack//G.U. vol. 2//Reminiscence" (Namco Bandai, PlayStation 2), the latest installment of the stuck-in-cyberspace RPG. ...
Stuck in traffic? Whip out your PlayStation Portable and get a dose of automotive nostalgia from "Driver '76" (Ubisoft) or "Hot Wheels Ultimate Racer" (DSI).