Real news from the virtual world:
— LOFTY ASPIRATIONS: The most ambitious game developers focus their efforts on the high-end consoles, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. But there's a humbler game machine that just about everyone uses: the ubiquitous cell phone.
Paris-based Gameloft leads the way in mobile gaming, having sold more than 200 million games since 2003. Gameloft president and CEO Michel Guillemot says, "Whatever platform people are using, they will demand a very good game. ... We need to provide games that are as good as on consoles."
The company's irresistible time-killers, like "Uno," "Let's Golf" and "Oregon Trail," are available on practically every cell phone on the market — including, of course, Apple's iPhone. "When we saw the iPhone we thought it had great gaming potential," Guillemot says. "Apple created the perfect device on its first try."
Besides its slick interface, the iPhone promises something other cell phones haven't been able to offer, says Guillemot: very high-end games you can download via computer.
Still, he says, it's a real challenge to get noticed on Apple's crowded App Store. Gameloft is depending on old-fashioned word-of-mouth.
"When you have 7,000 apps, you need consumers to tell friends you have a good game," Guillemot says. "If you do something different, better, more interesting, consumers will take you out of the crowd."
— NINTENDO RELOADED: Another portable gaming device arrived in stores this week: the DSi, the third version of Nintendo's ultra-popular DS. The DSi has brighter screens and adds two cameras, but its primary appeal may be its ability to download software from the Internet.
Gameloft is the first third-party publisher to announce games for Nintendo's DSiWare digital delivery service. Senior vice president Gonzague de Vallois says Gameloft is looking forward to "the chance to see how well Nintendo pushes downloading, and how users react. ... We're eager to support the platform."
Gameloft's first DSi releases were chosen to appeal to opposite ends of the DS fan base: "Real Soccer 2009" aims for the guys, while "American Popstar" is for the ladies. Depending on their sales figures, de Vallois says, "we'll adapt."
— PRICE CLUB: Gamers who have been hoping for a price cut on the $400 PlayStation 3 got faked out last week by Sony, which slashed $30 off the cost of ... a PlayStation 2. At $99, the PS2 may be priced just right for people who have resisted video games until now, or for longtime gamers who might be thinking about getting a second machine.
The PS2, which was introduced in 2000, remains a steady seller, which Sony says proves its "10-year strategy." And that means the 2-1/2-year-old PS3 is just getting started.
— NEW IN STORES: Nintendo's "Rhythm Heaven" rocks the new DSi — and the old DS Lite, too. ... Triple feature at the Bizarro Multiplex: Electronic Arts' "The Godfather II" (for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3), Atari's "The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena" (360, PS3) and Disney's "Hannah Montana: The Movie" (360, PS3, Wii, DS).