News from the virtual world:
— JAM ALERT: Electronic Arts and MTV Games' "Rock Band" isn't even out yet, but its competition with Activision's "Guitar Hero III" is already heating up.
The battleground is the Internet, where you'll be able to buy fresh new songs for either game.
Just a few weeks after the release of "GHIII," Activision has already delivered two extra three-song packs featuring the Foo Fighters and Velvet Revolver.
A few days later, however, we learned that "Rock Band" will be offering downloadable tunes from a much broader range of acts, including the Police, David Bowie and Radiohead.
Still, "Guitar Hero" did earn some serious pop-culture props when it served as the subject of last week's "South Park."
During the course of the episode the boys discovered two inspired "GH" sequels: "Heroin Hero" and "Rehab Hero."
Activision has denied that any such titles are in the works.
— FALLING STAR: It was another tough week for Rockstar Games.
First, Target Corp. pulled the gory "Manhunt 2" from its stores. Then, Rockstar parent company Take-Two Interactive settled a class-action lawsuit brought by players who were offended by a hidden sex scene in "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas."
Trying to stay positive, Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick pointed out that "Grand Theft Auto IV" is still on track for a late winter-early spring 2008 release.
And he pointed out one benefit of "GTAIV" missing its scheduled 2007 due date: It won't compete with other big holiday releases.
Zelnick told the GameSpot Web site that video game companies shouldn't pile up new releases during the Christmas season.
"You can sell music and encourage people to watch movies through the rest of the year," he said. "And I think the same ought to hold true of the interactive entertainment business as it matures."
— SUGAR AND SPIKE: With 2007 hurtling to a close, it's about time for critics to start assembling their best-of-the-year lists.
First up: the goons at Spike TV, who assembled a blue-ribbon panel of gamers to choose the nominees for the network's Video Game Awards. Game of the year candidates are "BioShock," "Halo 3," "Mass Effect" and "The Orange Box."
Let the debates begin! Is "Halo 3" overrated? Should a compilation like "The Orange Box" (two older games packed with three new ones) even be eligible? Where's "Super Mario Galaxy"?
Talk amongst yourselves; the show airs Dec. 9.
— NEW IN STORES: Two ambitious, long-awaited games arrive this week: Nintendo's "Super Mario Galaxy" (for the Wii) and Ubisoft's "Assassin's Creed" (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3). ...
Bullets are flying in Eidos' "Kane & Lynch: Dead Men" (360, PS3) and "BlackSite: Area 51" (Midway, 360). ...
Two cult items get much-deserved sequels, "Rayman Raving Rabbids 2" (Ubisoft, Wii, DS) and "Cooking Mama 2: Dinner With Friends" (Majesco, DS). ...
Electronic Arts' "Need for Speed ProStreet" (EA, Wii, 360, PS3, PlayStation 2, DS, PlayStation Portable) steps on the gas. ...
And EA brings trivia to the Wii with "Smarty Pants."