Real news from the virtual world:
— ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? Internet-connected Xbox 360 owners will see big changes Wednesday, when the new Xbox Experience is downloaded onto their machines.
Gone are the old interface's cramped, text-heavy menus, which have been replaced by eye-catching, 3D displays of all the games and movies that you've stored on your console.
In a nod to Nintendo's beloved Mii characters, you can also create your own personal avatar. Microsoft has made it easier to play with your friends, letting you set up eight-person parties that can move from game to game.
And you'll finally be able to copy entire games onto your hard drive, which will be a relief to players who still haven't gotten used to that whirring from the disk drive.
Finally, Netflix members will be able to choose among 12,000 movies and TV shows, including some high-definition titles, for streaming through Xbox Live. And further offerings, like community-developed games and exclusive downloadable game content, are on the way.
Microsoft's goal was "reinventing the entire product through software," said Xbox 360 director of product management Aaron Greenberg. "It makes it easier for current owners and more accessible to new gamers."
I've been playing around with it for a couple of weeks, and I don't miss the old Xbox experience at all.
— PUMP YOU UP: The success of Nintendo's "Wii Fit" certainly hasn't gone unnoticed by other software publishers. Even Electronic Arts, whose EA Sports titles (like "Madden NFL" and "NBA Live") let couch potatoes pretend they are superstar athletes, is trying to get gamers on their feet.
EA Sports president Peter Moore calls the company's forthcoming fitness title, "EA Sports Active," a "somewhat radical departure from the normal game experiences we provide customers."
It will also take a more Western approach than "Wii Fit," focusing on higher-energy cardiovascular exercises and less on the yoga routines that make up the bulk of Nintendo' product.
EA isn't the only publisher catching the fitness bug. Majesco has brought out "Jillian Michaels' Fitness Ultimatum 2009," while Ubisoft is pumping up "My Fitness Coach."
And if you want a really fun workout, there's always our old favorite, Konami's "Dance Dance Revolution" series.
— GOAL LINE STAND: EA Sports' "Madden NFL" franchise is in the middle of a fight between the NFL Players Association and retired pro football players.
A federal jury in San Francisco ordered the NFLPA to pay $28.1 million to the retirees for failing to include them in marketing deals with EA.
For years, "Madden" has featured classic teams of the past in its annual updates, but the games used look-alike characters in place of the veteran players.
Only active players received a cut of the union's lucrative deal with EA, so the publisher didn't have the rights to the images of the retirees.
Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley, who filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of 2,056 retired players, said after the verdict, "I won three Super Bowls and this feels better than all of them combined."
NFLPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler responded, "It's an unjust verdict and we are confident it will be overturned."
— TROPHY TIME: It's almost winter, which in show biz means: Award Season! The video-game biz gets things rolling Dec. 14, with Spike TV's imaginatively titled Video Game Awards.
"Grand Theft Auto IV" leads the pack with eight nominations; "Metal Gear Solid 4" got seven. Both titles are competing with "Fallout 3," "LittleBigPlanet" and "Gears of War 2" for game of the year honors.
Will Wright, the legendary creator of "The Sims" and "Spore" will receive Spike's first-ever Gamer God award.
— NEW IN STORES: Zombies are on the march in Electronic Arts' EA "Left 4 Dead" (Xbox 360). ... Square Enix's latest role-playing adventure is "The Last Remnant" (360). ... Furries run wild in Nintendo's "Animal Crossing: City Folk" (Wii), Sega's "Sonic Unleashed" (Wii, PlayStation 2), Ubisoft's "Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party" (Wii) and Disney's "Bolt" (360, Wii, PS2, DS). ... More franchise upgrades: EA's "Need for Speed Undercover" (most systems), Midway's "Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe" (360, PlayStation 3) and Eidos' "Tomb Raider Underworld" (360, PS3, Wii, DS). ... Armchair athletes get EA Sports' "NCAA Basketball 09" (360, PS3, PS2) and Ubisoft's "Shaun White Snowboarding" (most systems). ... And wannabe rockers can jam to Activision's "Guitar Hero on Tour: Decades" (DS), Disney's "Ultimate Band" (Wii, DS) and Microsoft's "Lips" (360).