News from the virtual world:
—LOSING MY RELIGION: A virtual shootout inside a British cathedral led Sony (SNE) to apologize to the Church of England.
The culprit is "Resistance: Fall of Man," the PlayStation 3 best-seller that finds Earthlings fighting aliens in an alternate-timeline Britain. At one point the action spills into a building that resembles Manchester Cathedral in northwest England.
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The cathedral's dean, the Very Rev. Rogers Govender, called the game "highly irresponsible." Prime Minister Tony Blair said companies like Sony should focus on their wider social responsibilities.
After a weeklong ruckus, Sony finally sent a letter of apology to Govender — even though the company said it disagreed with the notion "that there is any connection between contemporary issues of 21st-century Manchester and a work of science fiction in which a fictitious 1950s Britain is under attack by aliens."
—SKINS GAME: Nintendo's bubble doesn't appear likely to burst anytime soon. According to May sales figures from The NPD Group, the company's Nintendo DS and Wii machines continue to lead the hardware race, while "Pokemon Diamond" (for the DS) and "Mario Party 8" (for the Wii) were the month's best-selling games.
One of the not-so-secret secrets of Nintendo's revival has been its effort to appeal to people who don't normally play video games — like, well, women.
A new title from Konami called "Dream Skincare" is aimed squarely at that audience. The "beauty navigation software" asks questions about such matters as body temperature, exposure to sunlight and hours of sleep, then responds with dietary advice and skin-care tips.
"Dream Skincare" goes on sale in Japan in October, but Konami hasn't announced any plans to import it to the U.S.
—TAKE THAT: The last time we checked in with Take-Two Interactive (TTWO), the "Grand Theft Auto" publisher had undergone a shareholder coup that ended with the ousters of most of the company's board of directors, including its chief executive.
Two months later, there's still some upheaval going on, with Take-Two announcing plans to restructure its 2K Games division.
The anticipated layoffs at 2K shouldn't affect the label's two major 2007 releases, "BioShock" and "The Darkness," or the 2K Sports line of NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball games.
There were a few more interesting tidbits in the Take-Two report, particular for fans of "GTA" developer Rockstar Games.
One was an indication that Rockstar's forthcoming "L.A. Noire," a 1940s crime drama, will be exclusive to the PlayStation 3. The other is a 2008 listing for "Grand Theft Auto IV — Episodic Content" for the Xbox 360.
A Take-Two representative confirmed that the bonus material would only be appearing on Xbox Live, which could put a damper on PS3 sales of "GTA IV" when it comes out this October. Reportedly, Microsoft is paying big bucks — $50 million — for the privilege.
—FIGHT CLUB: Namco Bandai is the latest publisher to hold a press gathering during the run-up to next month's Electronic Entertainment Expo, and the company actually wheeled out one of its big guns: "Soul Calibur IV." The next chapter of the popular fighting franchise will be coming to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 next year.
More exciting — to strategy buffs, at least — was the announcement of "Culdcept Saga," the follow-up to the 2003 cult favorite "Culdcept."
It's a nifty, addictive synthesis of a board game with card collecting, and it should be out in the U.S. once Namco finishes translation of its hefty Japanese text.
—NEW IN STORES: The first wave of Activision's (ATVI) "Transformers" tie-ins arrives, with "The Game" for the PlayStation Portable and "Autobots" and "Decepticons" for the Nintendo DS. ... Ubisoft's "Brothers in Arms" and Electronic Arts' (ERTS) "SimCity" get scaled down for the DS, while Capcom has updated its classic "Resident Evil 4" for the Wii. ... Codemasters' "Colin McRae Rally" off-road racing franchise comes to the Xbox 360 with a new title: "Dirt" (not to be confused with the Courteney Cox TV show). ... Xseed invites you to build your own deathtrap in "Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground," for the PSP.