News from the virtual world:
—WORLD OF GUITARCRAFT: What do you get when you cross "Guitar Hero" and "World of Warcraft"?
I picture something like the "Stonehenge" performance in "This Is Spinal Tap," but the publishers of those two games are hoping their merger will be somewhat less calamitous.
Paris-based Vivendi, which owns "World of Warcraft" developer Blizzard Entertainment as well as "F.E.A.R." publisher Sierra Entertainment, has announced plans to acquire Activision, home of "Guitar Hero," "Call of Duty" and the Tony Hawk skateboarding games.
The new company will be called Activision Blizzard, and Vivendi will own 52 percent of its stock.
The breadth of the combined company — Activision specializes in console action games, while Blizzard is known for more cerebral personal-computer adventures — creates a monster that could compete with industry leader Electronic Arts.
But no one is expecting much cross-pollination between the two units, so you can forget about that massively multiplayer "Guitar Hero" role-playing game — or that Black Sabbath concert on the "Warcraft" planet Azeroth.
— NAUGHTY OR NICE: The National Institute on Media and the Family is out with its annual video-game report card, and it actually praised some retailers — specifically, GameStop and Target — for doing more to keep M-rated (for "mature") games away from minors.
Microsoft also won kudos for introducing a device that lets parents control the amount of time their kids spend playing the Xbox 360.
But the institute was also troubled by reports of churches and libraries hosting tournaments involving violent games like "Halo 3." And the report warned, "Complacency, especially on the part of retailers and parents, appears to have caused a backslide in ratings awareness and enforcement."
As usual, the group named 10 games — like "Manhunt 2" and "Kane & Lynch: Dead Men" — that children and teens shouldn't play.
All 10 are M-rated, so it would seem like the software raters are doing their job. And the list of recommended games has some worthwhile stuff, including "Super Mario Galaxy" and "Guitar Hero III."
Whatever issues we gamers may have with the anti-violence watchdogs, dare I say that these NIMF people actually sound kind of ... reasonable?
— A WINNER IS YOU: It's that magical time of the year in the entertainment industry: Grammy nominations are out, Oscar buzz is building and critics are unveiling their top-10 lists. The video-game world is not immune to awards fever — Spike TV's Video Game Awards.
The big winner was a name you're likely to be hearing a lot over the next few months: 2K Games' "BioShock," which earned prizes for game of the year, best Xbox 360 game and best original score.
Other multiple winners were Electronic Arts and MTV Games' "Rock Band," EA's "The Orange Box," Activision's "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" and Microsoft's "Halo 3."
— REYES' ANATOMY: When the New York Mets endured a historic collapse last fall, fans found a scapegoat in slumping shortstop Jose Reyes.
So the former All-Star must have been awfully surprised — as, I'm sure, will be fans of dozens of more deserving players — when 2K Sports asked him to be on the cover of next year's "Major League Baseball 2K8."
Reyes fits into the 2K tradition of putting a New York shortstop on the cover of "MLB"; the Yankees' Derek Jeter had the spot for the last three years. And the 24-year-old Reyes will surely rebound from his lousy half-season. But isn't it time 2K picked a cover model who's actually won something in the last few years?
— NEW IN STORES: The PlayStation 3 gets a rare third-party exclusive in Midway's "Unreal Tournament 3." ...
It's December, so it must be time for EA Sports' "NCAA March Madness 08" (Xbox 360, PS3, PlayStation 2). ...
EA Sports tries something new with its biggest franchise: "Madden NFL 08 Espanol" (Xbox 360, PS2). ...
And Tecmo returns to the links with "Super Swing Golf Season 2" (Wii).