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Gaming News Round-Up: October 27th, 2004

Today's round-up includes Square Enix's latest in a long line of Final Fantasy VII spin-offs, an unfortunate set of results for movie/game rental chain Blockbuster...
Today's round-up includes Square Enix's latest in a long line of Final Fantasy VII spin-offs, an unfortunate set of results for movie/game rental chain Blockbuster, news of the first slimline PlayStation 2 hardware bundle in Japan, and news of a possible win for HD DVD in its battle against Sony's Blu-ray. - Through a teaser page posted on its website, Japanese-headquartered publisher Square Enix today unveiled plans to develop an all-new Final Fantasy title currently called Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation Portable. The title is the latest game in Square Enix’s Compilation Of Final Fantasy VII set, a collection that includes upcoming titles: Final Fantasy VII: Dirge Of Cerberus (PS2), Final Fantasy: Advent Children (DVD/UMD) and mobile game Final Fantasy VII: Before Crisis. Apparently, Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII will fit into the action role-playing game genre. Although exact gameplay details are somewhat unclear at this time, the game will be produced by original Final Fantasy VII director, Yoshinori Kitase, and will launch during 2006 in Japan. To date, the Final Fantasy series has sold over 60 million units worldwide. - Giant U.S. movie and video game rental store Blockbuster has reported an equally giant third-quarter loss of $1.42 billion, albeit including a $1.50 billion charge relating to its split from parent company Viacom. The company has also seen president and COO Nigel Travis resign, as it struggles with its role in a market where rental-by-mail services such as Netflix are the main growth market. The company is of interest to game professionals through its former role as the leading game rental service, but with similar Netflix-like services such as GameFly also on the rise, Blockbuster is shifting its game focus. It's been adding video game trading and sales elements to its stores, and specifically quotes "strong growth in... games sales" as helping increase worldwide same-store retail revenues by 4.4% over the quarter. However, similarly to rival Hollywood Video and its GameCrazy 'store-within-store' concept, it's unclear whether Blockbuster's strategy will allow it to compete with market game retail leaders such as Electronics Boutique and GameStop, or whether consumers will be unconvinced by the mixed messages emanating from the retail chain. Blockbuster also expects its full-year 2004 profits to "decline significantly." - With the Japanese debut just a few weeks away, Sony Computer Entertainment Japan (SCEJ), today announced plans to release a PlayStation 2 Racing Pack throughout Japan. Launching on December 3rd, 2004, the PlayStation 2 Racing Pack will include the redesigned PlayStation 2, as well as a copy of Polyphony Digital’s fourth installment in the Gran Turismo series, Gran Turismo 4, for 23,800 yen ($222 USD). Designed under the direction of series producer Kazunori Yamauchi, Gran Turismo 4 will feature over 650 vehicles to race with, and the title debuts as a stand-alone software purchase on the same day in Japan, December 3rd, with U.S. release later in December, and the European release unfortunately now due in 2005, due to localization time constraints. - According to technology site Business Week Online, major movie studios including Warner Bros., Universal and Paramount are intending to announce their support for Toshiba's HD DVD format some time in the next week. This is of some interest to those following the games industry, due to Sony's rival Blu-ray disc format, which is currently slated to be the primary storage medium for the PlayStation 3. The availability of movies for the Blu-ray format may be of significant importance to the success of the PlayStation 3 as a multi-use machine, since many analysts argue that the PlayStation 2's success has been helped greatly by its ability to play the latest movie releases out of the box. However, any movie deals involving next-generation disc formats are likely to be non-exclusive at this stage, leaving the door open for Sony's format to receive a similar treatment in the future.

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