Real news from the virtual world:
_ TOKYO DRIFT: The Xbox 360 is doing just fine in most of the world, but Japanese gamers _ known to prefer homegrown products _ have remained resistant to Microsoft's machine. "Obviously it's a challenging market with well entrenched competitors," Microsoft vice president Shane Kim told the GamesIndustry.biz Web site.
The company's strategy involves nailing down Xbox exclusives from well-known Japanese developers like Hironobu Sakaguchi ("Lost Odyssey") and Tomonobu Itagaki ("Ninja Gaiden II"). Moreover, Microsoft wants the 360 to become the go-to machine for role-playing adventures, the most popular genre in Japan.
Microsoft mounted an event in Tokyo to demonstrate its commitment to the RPG, focusing on three forthcoming entries from Japan's Square Enix. They include "Infinite Undiscovery" and "The Last Remnant," coming this year, and the newly announced "Star Ocean: The Last Hope," a long-awaited return to a much-loved sci-fi saga. Also due in 2008 is Namco Bandai's "Tales of Vesperia."
"Infinite Undiscovery" and "Tales of Vesperia" are Xbox exclusives, and the others will come to Microsoft's platform first. For a certain breed of gamer _ those of us who like 100-hour-plus epics _ the 360 is dominating the competition.
_ PONG PIC: Hollywood still hasn't figured out the formula for turning popular video games into decent movies. But maybe they've just been taking the wrong approach. Instead of greenlighting another movie based on a video game, how about a movie about video games?
The gaming world certainly has no shortage of colorful characters (see last year's "The King of Kong"), and none is more colorful than Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount Pictures is planning a biopic of Pong's creator, with Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star.
"It's a little bit mind-boggling," Bushnell told MTV.com. As long as Uwe Boll, the auteur behind such game-based fiascos as "Alone in the Dark" and "Postal," isn't involved, DiCaprio's "Atari" could bring in more than a few quarters at the box office.
_ THROWDOWN: Few things in this business are more enjoyable than smack talk between video-game executives. Electronic Arts' efforts to acquire Take Two Interactive have led to some delightful exchanges between the two companies' suits, and we'll miss the competition if their sports divisions (EA Sports and 2K Sports) end up merging.
Here's Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick on EA Sports: "When we go head-to-head with 'Brand X' we out-rate them significantly. We outsell them when we go head-to-head. It's sort of an unheralded achievement. This is a tough business."
Here's EA Sports president Peter Moore: "We're hitting this season in terms of quality and innovation stronger than we ever have at EA Sports. If I'm wrong, you'll see me sporting a new tattoo _ maybe a competitor's logo?"
Now that's how you throw down the gauntlet. And you thought Lakers-Celtics was a great rivalry.
_SEEING RED: Anyone who plays online shooters is always looking for an edge. Next time, try this: Dress your avatar in red.
In an analysis of 1,347 matchups between elite teams playing "Unreal Tournament 2004," researchers at the University of Denmark in Copenhagen found that the red team won 55 percent of the time. In the journal Cyberpsychology & Behavior (what, you don't subscribe?), neuroscientist Mihai Moldovan theorized that the color red may distract men, possibly because men turn red when they're angry.
"While this is really an interesting analysis, the notion of red team versus blue team has been ingrained in the 'Unreal Tournament' series for years," Mark Rein, vice president of "Unreal" developer Epic Games, told The Associated Press. "We don't anticipate any immediate changes to team colors."
_NEW IN STORES: The lovable robot from the "Ratchet & Clank" series goes solo in "Secret Agent Clank" (Sony, for the PlayStation Portable). ... Square Enix upgrades two arcade classics with "Arkanoid DS" (for the Nintendo DS) and "Space Invaders Extreme" (DS, PSP). .. "Imagine Rock Star" (DS) is Ubisoft's latest offering for teenage girls.