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Eyes on holiday season, casual games at Gamescom

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Hackers, holiday season sales and "casual" gaming are expected to be in the spotlight at Gamescom, Europe's biggest video game trade fair, which throws its doors open to visitors this week.

Big players such as Sony Corp <6758.T>, Nintendo <7974.OS> and Microsoft are expected to reveal their sales outlook for the Christmas season, and may give an update on the pricing of game consoles.

Attendees will focus on Sony's press conference on Tuesday to see if the company slashes the price of its PlayStation 3 home gaming console, and whether video game publisher Electronic Arts announces a launch date for its widely anticipated online game "Star Wars: The Old Republic" at its press conference on the same day.

Industry watchers will also focus on how game developers embrace the fast-growing phenomenon of casual gaming -- relatively simple games that are played on smartphones, tablet computers and PCs and do not require a huge time commitment, making them attractive to the mass market.

"Adopting a strategy that includes digital/casual games content is becoming an increasing priority for all games publishers," IHS Screen Digest games analyst Steve Bailey told Reuters.

"With so much content being generated, founded on business models that rarely involve upfront purchase, the non-specialist sector is putting pressure on the time and spend that consumers can dedicate to traditional gaming," he added.

Game developer Richard Garriott said the casual games industry was developing at breakneck speed, adding that "developers must take advantage of this opportunity or risk getting left behind."

For the mobile gaming industry, the issue of free-to-play games and the future of revenue streams are other hot topics likely to be discussed.

Attendees will also be looking out for how companies are positioning themselves in the wake of the Sony hacking scandal, which saw hackers access personal data for more than 100 million users of Sony's online video games in April.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Will Waterman)

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