Nintendo 3DS launching in North America on March 27 for $249.99

The Nintendo 3DS will hit stores in North America on March 27, at a price point of $249.99, as revealed today in New York City. It’s available in Aqua Blue and Cosmo Black.

The 3DS was first revealed in a cryptic press release in March 2010, shortly before the North American release of the DSi XL. In addition to increased processing power and screen resolution, the system promises adjustable 3D visuals without requiring 3D glasses. It also includes built-in augmented reality games, some using bundled “AR cards.” An “Activity Log” tracks your gameplay as well as your steps, graphing each and dispensing “Game Coins” that can be spent in games. You can make Miis either in a menu interface or automatically from pictures. Other features include a 3DS version of the DSi’s sound app, a web browser, and 3D video capability.

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Microsoft Raises Price For Xbox Live Gold Membership

Microsoft announced on Monday morning that it was increasing the price of an Xbox Live Gold membership by $10, from $49.99 to $59.99 a year, including for existing members in the U.S. starting November 1st. Members in the U.K., Canada and Mexico will also see price increases. The new price, the first time the company has ever raised its rates, represents a 20% increase, which will likely have a significant impact on the revenues of the moneymaking service.

The company is also raising the 3-month price of Gold membership from $19.99 to $24.99 and 1-month price from $7.99 to $9.99. But those who act quickly may be able to get a 1-year lock in price of $39.99, according to a special deal that launched on Monday as well.

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Wii titles drag down July video game sales

Combined sales of video games and consoles fell for the fourth consecutive month in July, slumping 1% as U.S. consumers pulled back on buying new titles, with games for Nintendo Co.’s Wii suffering in particular.

A 12% jump in sales of game consoles last month failed to entirely offset an 8% drop in sales of games to play on the devices. Overall, players spent $846.5 million for consoles, games and game peripherals in July, down slightly from $850.6 million a year earlier, according to NPD Group, a market research firm.

“Hardware sales were impressive, but software sales were still down,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities.

The summer doldrums hit Nintendo software sales for its Wii console especially hard.

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New Cole Out, Old Cole In for InFamous 2

When InFamous 2 was shown off at E3 back in June, it again featured superpower-wielding Cole as the main character, but not as fans remembered him: Whereas the original Cole had a shaved head and sporty yellow jacket, the new Cole had hair and arm tattoos.

But before their Comic-Con panel, developer Sucker Punch confirmed that due to overwhelmingly negative fan reaction, they’ve decided to change Cole’s look back to the original design for InFamous 2. Images of Cole’s new (and by new we mean old) look haven’t been released yet, although IGN describes him as looking “more like the person we played as in the original InFamous.”

It’s not a big surprise to see Sucker Punch revert Cole to his old look, as even back at E3 we got the feeling from game director Nate Fox’s almost apologetic tone that they would consider a redesign if fans weren’t happy. Turns out, fans weren’t happy.

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Microsoft to sell Kinect at $150, also sell bundles

Microsoft Corp will sell its new Kinect motion-sensing gaming system for about $150 and also offer it in a package with the Xbox 360 videogame console when sales of the hands-free device start in November, the company said on Tuesday.

The price, omitted by Microsoft when it introduced Kinect at the E3 videogame conference in June, matches the pre-order price that retailers such as Best Buy, GameStop and Amazon.com posted online weeks ago.

Kinect sales start on November 4, and Microsoft is sure to aim its marketing message at the owners of the more than 40 million Xbox 360 models that have already been sold. The sensor will come with a family game called “Kinect Adventures.”

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PlayStation Plus not a requirement for Hulu Plus – Report

In the past few weeks, Hulu’s incorporation with the PlayStation 3 has traveled from a unconfirmed report to a done deal. Particulars have slowly scampered out from the recesses of the deal, but today, the streaming media giant confirmed that Hulu Plus will not require a subscription to PlayStation Plus to enjoy the smorgasbord of content.

Last week, Hulu’s Web site indicated that a subscription to the PlayStation Network’s new premium service would be required to access Hulu’s $10-a-month on-demand TV show streaming service through the PS3. However, gaming blog Joystiq is reporting that Hulu is sending e-mails to its Hulu Plus constituents saying “the PlayStation Plus service is only a requirement during the service’s preview period.”

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Sony To Upgrade PS3 Slim With New Hard Disk

Japanese electronics giant Sony will release new versions of its flagship gaming console, the PS3, in Japan later this month with a white version and new hard disk capacities making the headlines.

120GB and 250GB models will be discontinued and replaced by 160GB and 320GB models respectively. The smaller model will cost around 30,000 yen while the bigger one adds 5,000 yen.

The console will also come with an optional terrestrial digital recorder pack, which brings PVR capabilities to the gaming console.

Sony has yet to say when the gaming console will be released in other territories. Some observers have expressed concerns over the rise in the suggested retail price of the consoles, which goes up to $341 and $398 respectively.

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Video game sales boosted by Red Dead, Super Mario

Video game sales, which have been anemic in the past year, were partially rescued in May by an Italian plumber and a gunslinger.

The dual debuts of Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Red Dead Redemption in May helped resuscitate game software sales, which rose 4% to $466.3 million from a year earlier, according to the market research firm NPD Group. The uptick was much smaller than many industry watchers predicted.

“The industry grew less than expected,” said Evan Wilson, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities in Portland, Ore., who had predicted game sales would grow 15% in May.

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Dead Rising 2 Delayed, Coming September

Dead Rising 2 has been delayed until September 28. A press release from Capcom mentioned the new date as an announcement, which is normal enough — except that we already had an announced date of August 31 from the company’s X10 event. Treating the new date with no mention of a delay is a bit odd, but September it is.

No reason was given for the delay. Capcom could be giving the team extra time for polish, or the decision could be a strategic one. A late September release puts it in line with the bulk of titles targeting holiday sales, with enough time to drum up excitement and word-of-mouth before shoppers start invading stores. Putting it head-to-head against other autumn heavy-hitters might be showing a lot of faith in the game.

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Analyst: Nintendo ‘stole the show’ at E3

Each year, after E3 comes to a close and financial analysts have a chance to sift through all the news from the gaming industry show, those analysts share their opinions on which companies did well and which left something to be desired. This year, a few analysts, speaking to Gamasutra in an interview, contend that it was Nintendo that did the best job of building hype for its products.

“Nintendo 3DS stole the show,” Panoptic Management Consultants analyst Adam H. Kraus told Gamasutra.

His sentiments were echoed by another Panoptic analyst, Asif A. Khan, who told the gaming publication that “if 3DS is a success, [Nintendo] could see huge sales growth.”

Unfortunately for Microsoft, they didn’t have the same feeling about the company’s Kinect motion-gaming platform. Although the analysts believe Kinect is “compelling,” they’re concerned that it won’t have enough viable games “to make it a success.”

On the Sony front, the analysts said that they don’t have much faith in the company’s Move motion-gaming peripheral. The issue, the analysts said, is that consumers might not believe the Move is “a big enough improvement over the Nintendo Wii motion controller to warrant its purchase.”

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