News from the virtual world:
— PUNKED ROCK: Yes, the Nintendo Wii is going to be hard to find before Christmas, but there's another piece of game hardware that's even more elusive: the "Rock Band" drum kit.
For now, the drums are only being sold in a $169 bundle that also includes a guitar, a microphone and the software.
But most retailers have sold out of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 bundles — and many gamers who waited in line the night before "Rock Band" went on sale last week were disappointed when expected deliveries didn't show up.
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There's still hope. Amazon says it's expecting more bundles by Dec. 9, and the PlayStation 2 "Rock Band" bundle arrives Dec. 11. And there's always eBay.
But if you just want to buy the drum kit (or the guitar, or the mic), you'll have to wait until February.
Of course, you could just buy the game itself and use your old "Guitar Hero" controllers to jam. But wait — that only works if you're playing on the Xbox 360, since PS3 "Guitar Hero" controllers won't work with "Rock Band." And, to make everything more confusing, Xbox 360 "Rock Band" controllers won't play "Guitar Hero III."
"Rock Band" publishers Electronic Arts and MTV Games and "Guitar Hero" publisher Activision had promised their controllers would be interchangeable. Now they're blaming each other for compatibility issues. And gamers get the shaft.
— ROMANTIC COMEDY: The power-pop classic "What I Like About You" is a staple at wedding receptions and sporting events, and has been used to sell everything from beer to car insurance.
But I had completely forgotten the band that performed it until "Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the '80s" included a cover version — "as made famous by The Romantics."
Activision properly secured permission to record the song, but the band members are angry that the "GH" cover sounds, well, too good. So they've filed a federal lawsuit against Activision, claiming unspecified damages.
"I was very upset because the band had worked very hard over many years to develop and use its distinctive sound," singer Wally Palmar told the Detroit Free Press.
The Romantics' lawyers said that because the "GH" cover sounded so much like the original, Activision had infringed on the group's rights to its own likeness.
"It's a very good imitation, and that's our objection," said attorney William Horton.
— BLOOD SIMPLE: The fuss over Rockstar Games' ultraviolent "Manhunt 2" was fun for a while. But Rockstar cleverly defused the controversy by releasing a game that was so lousy that there's little danger anyone, child or adult, would want to play it.
So, now that the hubbub has died down, it's time for the politicians to weigh in.
Four senators — Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., Sam Brownback, R-Kan., Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. — sent a letter to the Entertainment Software Rating Board protesting the game's M (for "mature") rating.
The senators were particularly bothered by the Wii version of "Manhunt 2," which requires players to physically act out its torture and murder scenes.
"We ask your consideration of whether it is time to review the robustness, reliability and repeatability of your ratings process, particularly for this genre of 'ultra-violent' video games and the advances in game controllers," they wrote.
— SEE WHAT DEVELOPS: Been thinking about creating your own PlayStation 3 game? Sony has just made it easier, slashing the price of PS3 software development kits in half, to a little more than $10,000.
The PS3 is generally regarded as the most difficult console to design for, and studios have been racing to produce software for the less sophisticated Wii. But the PS3 needs games — and Sony is hoping that lower development costs will bring more creators on board.
— NEW IN STORES: With the holiday shopping season heating up, most of this year's big titles are already on the shelves. But there are a few stragglers coming for the Wii: Ubisoft's "Cranium Kabookii" and Midway's "Cruis'n" and "Game Party." ...
Nintendo shows you how to perform magic tricks on your DS with "Master of Illusion."