Do you like pre-order deals? Are you a cynic who believes that such deals are in place only to minimize shipments to brick-and-mortar game stores so that only pre-orders can be filled? Either way, you probably like free money, even if it is virtual. Best Buy is currently running a promotion which promises a gift card charged with 1,600 Microsoft Points ($20 US) for only $4.99 if you preorder Halo 3. Those MS Points are becoming more and more valuable, at least in terms of purchasing variety, as more cool shit goes up on the Live service. You could spend some of those free points on Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and feel all good about yourself.

GameBrink is currently showing off Japanese footage for SimCity DS right here. The clip is kind of like a pill of instant nostalgia, since the game resembles the classic SimCity 2000. From the video, it looks like the game will be a perfect fit for Nintendo’s handheld, with heavy use of the stylus and touchscreen. Throw in a super-deformed Will Wright to serve as tutor and you’ve got yourself a package. Will Wright always has a nice package. It comes out in Japan on February 22; no US release has been set.

Here’s something that sparks my imagination: mtvU has announced a contest for garage game developers with the unquantifiable goal of increasing AIDS/HIV awareness. Last year, they ran a similar contest to bring some attention to the crisis in Darfur, with the winning entry having reached an estimated million-plus players. (You can reach it here if you’re a chipper sort and unlikely to be brung low by mere photons.) Like last year’s contest, this one’s goal is to end up with a viral, web-based piece of entertainment. To dig under the thin strata of altruists, mtvU is also offering a $5,000 prize to the winning developer. I’m always wary of fiction with an agenda; I’m still unsure of where I stand on interactive entertainment with an agenda, but I think it’s fascinating regardless. Contest details are here.

Windows Vista has been released. Whoopee-doo. In a feat worthy of our dear, absent Prognosticator, I predict a service pack in our future. AMD/ATI’s new Vista-specific drivers for their video cards work fine for Direct3D on the new OS, according to Firing Squad, but their OpenGL code, though rewritten, doesn’t perform as well as the company had predicted. Oh well. Getting a new OS is to gamers much like getting a promotion. Thusly:

"Do I get a raise?"
"Do I get more responsibilities?"
"What do I get?"
"You get to call yourself Regional Assistant to the Director."
"Gee whiz, mister!"

How many Sonic the Hedgehog fans have remained undamaged after the nigh-impossible confluence of bad design choices that composed the recent 360 and PS3 game? If you’re out there, your wait for a potential return-to-form for the franchise just shrunk a bit. Sonic and the Secret Rings for the Wii has been pushed up to a February 20 release date. Run, you mad, blue fool. Just run.

The predicted firmware update for the PSP has arrived! Version 3.10 patches, for the time being, the exploits uncovered in all previous firmware versions, rendering homebrew software unavailable. It also contains these vague features:

  • Support for PLAYSTATION Network titles has been expanded
  • Support for the MPEG-4 AVC format has been added under [Location Free Player]
  • [Dynamic Normalizer] has been added as a feature under [Sound Settings] in [Settings]

The recent Yakuza on the PS2 was an interesting exercise in combining repetitive gameplay with a compelling story, and it seems the story half of the mix has inspired an adaptation of the game into a film. Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, Audition) is the most notable name associated with the production. The movie is hitting Japan on March 3, and has a website here with a bit of footage. Oh my god, could this be the best videogame adaptation ever?

Shut up, Ian.