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Need For Speed World takes off July 27th

Sports, Launches, Free-to-Play, Need for Speed World

Fast cars. Expensive gas. Gaudy spinners. Fuzzy dice. A lead foot. Radar detectors. EA is set to provide all of these and more when Need for Speed World launches next week. A release date of July 27 has been announced, and will be available via digital download for all hot rod enthusiasts.

Of course, if you can't wait to settle into the driver's seat, you can get into the game today by pre-ordering the Need for Speed World Starter Pack. Apart from the benefit of early access, pre-orders will get their hands on exclusive cars, be fueled with double XP, and have the ever-so-elite "VIP" tag added to their driver profile from now on. The Starter Pack also includes an allowance of NFSW's in-game currency for a shopping trip if one so desires.

A trial of the game will become available next week as well, offering a free sample of NFSW up through level 10 to any and all who mosey by. EA is obviously crossing its fingers that NFSW will go the distance and not break down on the side of the road like Motor City Online, but so far, things are looking up for this title.

Need For Speed World races its last warm-up lap in a stress test

Betas, Sports, Events (In-Game), New Titles, Need for Speed World

Need For Speed World is preparing for starting flag! Today and tomorrow, the developers of this highly anticipated action MMO are rounding the final lap with a stress test. And you are invited! This free-to-play action-racing persistent world closed its beta last week with high marks among fans, and, per the norm, developers need to test the server capacity.

The race to stress EA's servers begins July 13th at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT), and the checkered flag flies on July 14th at 5 p.m. PDT (8 p.m. EDT). To celebrate this special event, all rental restrictions have been lifted. That means even at level 1 you can rent any car you would like. This is your chance to test drive that Porsche that you could only ogle during beta testing. As an added bonus, each player will receive 8000 SpeedBoost power-ups. Also, if you are one of the top five racers in the Community Sprint Race Competition for car tiers 1, 2 and 3, the starter pack is yours for free. This packaged upgrade to your account sells for $19.95 in the EA Store and allows you to progress beyond level 10 and obtain a Toyota Corolla AE86.

Drive on over to world.needforspeed.com now for your last chance to feed your Need For Speed before the game's official launch!

Funcom receives grant to create extreme sports MMO

Sports, New Titles, News Items

In between navigating the sometimes-choppy waters of Age of Conan and working toward the launch of The Secret World, Funcom is having a busy year, but it looks like they are adding one more project to the pile as well.

Funcom has been given a grant worth NOK 1.5 million -- $262,000 US -- in order to create a new extreme sports MMO. Funcom's Director of Communications Erling Ellingsen says "Yes, I can confirm that Funcom is working on a new project called Board with the World. This will be a free-to-play social MMO focusing on the world of extreme sports. [...] First and foremost we will be focusing on snowboarding, with the possibility of adding different sports later. We also want this to be a social world rich with different types of media content and pop-cultural elements such as music, video and even fashion. It is definitely exciting, and we look forward to revealing more on this later."

Work on the project is expected to begin in January 2010, and we can expect more details as it progresses.

Sega open to developing more niche MMOs

Sports, Interviews, MMO Industry, Football Manager Live

With the success of Football Manager Live in the U.K., Sega is open to the possibility of making other niche MMOs in the future.

During a Sega event in New York City last week, I spoke with Sega West president Mike Hayes about the MMO market. He said that the company's subscription-based sports MMO is doing well, and he discussed upcoming plans for the game.

"Football Manager Live was a very U.K.-specific launch, and our next task is localization to take it to other territories," he said. "So whether that be France, Korea, Brazil or wherever there's a good football fanbase. It's certainly a project we're quite pleased with in terms of the progress we've made. As for future projects... we're looking at things."

But if you're a soccer fan in the U.S., don't hold your breath if you're waiting for Football Manager Live to come Stateside.

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News From the Wider MMO World: September 16, 2008

At a glance, Fantasy, Sports, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Free-to-Play, Massively Meta

The MMO genre is more than World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, and Warhammer Online. Here's what's going on in the rest of the world.

World of Kung Fu opens screenshot contest
From September 15th to the 30th, VestGame Entertainment has partnered with zownder.com to create the first World of Kung Fu screenshot contest. "This contest really gives us the chance to showcase the awesome graphics and spectacular artwork that forms such an integral part of the game", says David Clarke, World of Kung Fu's North American Producer. The Grand Prize includes a permanent Xuan Wu mount and over a hundred rare items such as high level Forging Vouchers, Advanced Craftsman Charms, Sky Pearls, and much more. For more information, visit either founder's website.

Gaia Online brings Snoop Dogg and the Incredible Hulk to the virtual mall
Each month, residents of the virtual world Gaia Online have a chance to vote for their favorite real-world celebrities as part of the
Celebrity Snare section of the website. As an example, the latest items to have been made available are Snoop Dogg's hairstyle, and the Hulk's torn-up purple pants. "Gaia Online is truly an extension of our users' real life interests and passions and Celebrity Snare is just another way we're enabling Gaians to customize their online persona and express themselves to the community," said Craig Sherman, CEO of Gaia Online. "The same way fans hang a poster on their bedroom wall or wear a t-shirt with their favorite band on it, we're enabling our users to establish a connection with the celebrities they admire." Further celebrities to go virtual will include Elvis Presley, Justin Timberlake, Tila Tequila, Paris Hilton, Raven Symone and Marvel's She-Hulk.

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Frogster will drown you in new MMOs ... if you live in Europe

Betas, Fantasy, Historical, Real-Life, Sports, Galleries, Expansions, New Titles, News Items, Free-to-Play, Chronicles of Spellborn, Casual, Stone Age 2, Bounty Bay Online, Runes of Magic

Frogster, noted European and Asian MMO publisher, has released a flying voidship-load of information about their upcoming MMOs for the European market.

Long awaited fantasy MMO The Chronicles of Spellborn is still due out late this year, with open beta to begin in October. We've been following this game closely for some time, but it looks like the rumored US publisher (given their prior relationship, perhaps Aeria Games) is not yet ready to announce North American release dates for the game. The World of Warcraft-ish Asian Import Runes of Magic, newly rescored and tuned toward Western tastes, will enter closed beta in September, for a European release about two months later. Isometric pet-raising, caveman-themed MMO StoneAge 2, already in open beta in North America, will be entering European closed beta in August ahead of a fall release. Next week, Frogster will release more information on its latest MMO, soccer-themed Kickster (formerly Kick Off). And they want us to keep an eye out for an expansion to the Bounty Bay Online pirate MMO.

Assuming you live in Europe, which ones should you particularly keep your eye on? If you bought a Gameboy just to play Pokemon, you might really enjoy StoneAge 2. If a subscription fee is keeping you from playing World of Warcraft, Runes of Magic might just be different enough to get you interested, and it will be free to play. If you liked Age of Conan's innovative combat system but couldn't get into the world of Hyboria, Spellborn's unique setting and combat system combined with its lush visuals might sell you.

Check out screenshots from each of these games in the gallery below.

Gaia Online brings home the gold with the Rejected Olympics

Sports, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, News Items, Virtual Worlds, Gaia Online

Players of Gaia Online will get the chance to live out their sublimated fantasies of being Olympians starting July 21st, the start date of the Rejected Olympics. Unlike the traditional games, the Rejected Olympics will feature such whimsical events as Connect the Dots and Watermelon Chopping, competing in teams to win the gold medal. Fourth place players will take home stale bread. Seriously.

The week-long festivities end on July 27th. For more information, go check out Gaia Online's event site.

[Thanks, Kristen!]

Shredding the galaxy in Project Powder

Betas, Sports, Trailers, New Titles, Free-to-Play, Casual

The year is 2146. Global warming has long since made ice and snow only a distant memory, something seen in the history books but not really understood. That all changed with the discovery of the Warp Gate, that opened up the galaxy to exploration. And everywhere we went, there was snow. And where there was snow, there was Project Powder to shred it.

Project Powder, developed by free casual MMO portal Outspark, isn't the first extreme sports MMO we've seen, but it's the coolest. Combat? Duel against other players on the slopes! Crafting? Make snowballs! Exploration? There's a whole world out there ready to be explored -- and shredded. Okay, maybe it's not the deepest MMO out there, but if you just want to get together with your friends, form a team, level up and compete against the top 'boarders in the galaxy, Project Powder may be just the game for you. Closed beta begins June 24th, and you can sign up on the Project Powder home page. Get to level 5 in closed beta, and you get a special hoodie that you can wear in open beta that shows just how cool the open beta newbies will never be.

Check out the video after the break, courtesy of GameTrailers.

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New soccer/football MMO seeks to profit on Brazil's passion

Sports, New Titles, News Items

A Chicago-based company called Interzone Entertainment will be publishing a new soccer MMO in Brazil in the fourth quarter of this year. The game is called Interzone Futebol, and of course it will at first be in Portuguese. Interzone says it will translate the game for other markets shortly, though.

It's actually a pretty cool concept. It's not a team management game like most sports titles. Rather, it's a bit like EA Sports' quasi-recent Superstar mode trend. That it is to say, each player will control one athlete who improves and learns new moves over time. Every athlete on the field in every match will be controlled by a human player, and those players will be able to invite their friends to join them in the middle of any match.

Interzone chose to launch in Brazil first because ... well, if you can't answer that, you don't know much about soccer. Or Brazil, for that matter.

The Daily Grind: Are sports MMOs truly massive?

Sports, Game Mechanics, PvP, Grouping, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Academic

When you think of sports games, perhaps you immediately think of football, basketball, baseball, soccer, what have you. Golf might get a nod, as well as the various car-related events. However, at most, these diversions consist of teams with a rather small number of players -- nothing like the thousands to millions of users of your average MMO.

However, when you play solo, those other players might as well be bots for all you care. And if you're in a guild, it can be as small as your average basketball team. Playing against another team is essentially like PvP. And games like Mythos have instanced dungeons (for now, at least), so you never see another player outside of towns. This begs a larger question: if you don't actually see thousands of other players, is it really massively multiplayer? What's the cutoff number?

Get your grind on a different way with Street Gears

At a glance, Sports, Trailers, Culture, New Titles, News Items, Free-to-Play, Races

Gala Networks Europe, holders of Flyff and Rappelz, have announced their third and newest MMO, Street Gears. SG is based around inline skating, with an anime aesthetic and extreme gameplay that combines racing with track skating. It's being developed by NFlavor, who created Rappelz, and who have given it a cel-shaded look that's sure to appeal.

As with the other two titles in their stable, Street Gears will be free-to-play, and will become available in June on the gPotato portal. GameTrailers has the trailer up, so check it out!

World of Kung Fu releases major upgrade to gameplay

Sports, Trailers, Video, Patches, World of Kung Fu, Machinima

On April 30th, Vestgame Entertainment announced a major upgrade to their martial arts MMORPG, World of Kung Fu. Some of the highlights include citizenship to countries, with the ability to hold office, new quests for higher level players, "no kill" zones for the newbies, and more customization options. For a complete list of upgrades in this patch, check out their release notes.

They also hinted at what's coming in future updates. With 25 fairly large items on the to-do list, the WoKF devs will be keeping quite busy. Among the teasers are decreased waiting time on spawn, increased spawn spots, and special "Bruce Lee" events!

Check out the trailer for the upgrade after the jump ...

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First Impressions: Albatross 18

At a glance, Sports, Galleries, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Casual, Humor, First Impressions, Albatross 18

Have you been pining away for a great golf MMO? We have, too! Look, even if you haven't, let's just go along with this, okay? Albatross 18 is an engaging, colorful, whimsical game that doesn't disappoint. When one considers golf, there really isn't too much to it -- hit the ball into the hole, rinse, repeat. The beauty of its simplicity is that a developer can go crazy with that concept and add all sorts of madness to it, and it can only improve the game.

And that's exactly what's going on with Albatross 18: beautiful environments, useful power-ups, crazy caddies, mascots, costumes -- this game is hilarious. Will you like it? Let's find out. As always, we remind you that this is not meant to be a full review of everything in the game; these are the first impressions we got after spending an hour or so playing. Excelsior!

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Ex-Turbine CEO to launch casual sports site

Sports, Business Models, Launches, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Casual

If you've been wondering where Jeffrey Anderson, former CEO of Turbine, has been lately, wonder no more. He's acquired $5 million from New Enterprise Associates, Inc. to fund a new start-up casual sports games site called Play Hard Sports. While it's still unsaid why Anderson left Turbine in the first place, one could hardly think of a more antithetical genre for him to tackle than sports. In addition to casual sports titles, Play Hard Sports will also offer sports-themed MMOs.

In a side note, the referring article mentions that Turbine is expected to announce its future plans in a couple of weeks, and that speculation around what they'll say is based on their job listings, which mention "Experience with UI development on a console platform, e.g. Xbox 360, PS3 or similar", among others. This, of course, is not a smoking gun by any stretch, but as fodder for excited mutterings, it's not bad.

Anderson says the first game to come from PHS will arrive in the Fall.

Tech Deck Live to, as the kids say, 'shred'

At a glance, Sports, Business Models, Culture, Game Mechanics, New Titles, Tips and tricks, News Items, Free-to-Play

Prior to this post, we had never heard of Tech Decks, but apparently they're miniature skateboards you can play with your fingers. Building on this knowledge, then, it makes this announcement more interesting. Tech Deck Live will be an MMO where, one presumes, you'll be able to build, customize, and ride your deck on a number of different platforms and parks.

This will be free-to-play, but also feature ' ... pay-for-it premium content available on a monthly subscription basis.' Wait -- microtransactions AND a monthly? Or is this just oddly-worded? Whichever it is, it's coming soon, so watch your heels, kids!

[Via G4]

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