News from the virtual world:
— IPHONE FUN: Apple products like the Macintosh and the iPod, for all their appeal and innovation, have never offered much to gamers.
But that could change now that Apple has invited outside companies to develop software for the iPhone. Among the first companies on board: Electronic Arts and Sega.
Both were on hand when Apple unveiled its software development kit. Electronic Arts promised an iPhone version of "Spore," while Sega will be delivering good old "Super Monkey Ball."
Freeverse, which produced "Marathon: Durandel" and "Spyglass Board Games" for Xbox Live Arcade, announced later that it's working on sports and racing titles for the iPhone.
EA chief executive John Riccitiello said: "The animation technology in the iPhone OS enables us to build awesome games. I think iPhone consumers are going to be blown away by the games we create for this platform."
— ROLLING ALONG: Gary Gygax, co-creator of the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, wasn't a big fan of the online games that he inspired.
"There is no intimacy; it's not live," he told The New York Times. "It's being translated through a computer, and your imagination is not there the same way it is when you're actually together with a group of people."
Still, game publishers rushed to acknowledge Gygax's influence after his death last week.
Sony Online Entertainment, publisher of "EverQuest": "Many of our games are a part of the grand legacy of fantasy worlds inspired by our first steps into the lands of Greyhawk, Krynn, Toril and countless others, made possible by Gary's game."
"World of Warcraft" developer Blizzard Entertainment: "Many of us here at Blizzard got our start in gaming with Dungeons & Dragons or one of its computer adaptations and have fond memories of rolling dice, poring over rulebooks, braving dark caverns and castle keeps, battling kobolds and hill giants."
Greg Zeschuk, co-general manager of "Neverwinter Nights" developer BioWare, in an interview with GameSpy: "It's amazing how much of our youth was spent enjoying the worlds that Gary Gygax created, and it is his work that led us, and many of the people at BioWare, to devote our life's work to making games for others to enjoy."
— ATARI RIOT: Over the last few years, as Atari sold off intellectual property and development studios, it was beginning to look like the end of the road for the legendary brand.
But two recent hires — former Sony executive Phil Harrison and former Electronic Arts executive David Gardner — make it look like Atari's really trying to reverse course.
The buzzword for both veterans has been "online."
"As the game business moves rapidly online I believe we have an outstanding opportunity to create amazing network game and community experiences for players the world over," Harrison said.
And in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Gardner said, "The whole way that people are going to want to buy their games, play their games, interface with their games is network-centric."
France-based Infogrames, which now owns a 52 percent stake in Atari, seems to believe in the online vision. Late last week, it offered to buy out the rest of Atari's stock.
— TAKING A BEATING: Gamers who waited a year and a half for the Xbox 360 version of Rockstar's "Bully" got some unpleasant surprises.
Shortly after the release this month of "Bully: Scholarship Edition," online message boards were filled with tales of random freeze-ups, choppy animation and buggy audio.
Rockstar quickly issued a statement saying it was aware of the problems and has been "doing everything within our powers to resolve these issues as quickly as possible."
The company promised an Xbox Live update that will fix the glitches, but that doesn't do much for players who aren't connected to Microsoft's online service.
Let's hope these issues don't arise again when Rockstar's "Grand Theft Auto IV" finally arrives next month.
— NEW IN STORES: The hubbub at your local game store this week is all about Nintendo's "Super Smash Bros. Brawl" (Wii). ... Sega counters with its gory "Condemned 2: Bloodshot" (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3). ... Konami gets its kicks with "Pro Evolution Soccer 2008" (just about every platform). ... Classic role-playing franchises go mobile in Square Enix's "Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates" (DS) and Xseed's "Wild ARMs XF" (PlayStation Portable). ... Sony gets the party started with "Buzz! Junior Robo Jam" and "Buzz! The Hollywood Quiz" (PlayStation 2).