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    Sunday, March 11, 2012

    Reuter site - Apple's new iPad making waves in video game market

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    Apple's new iPad making waves in video game market

    Fri, Mar 09 21:57 PM EST

    By Liana B. Baker

    (Reuters) - Apple Inc's <AAPL.O> faster and sharper-looking new iPad is drawing the notice of the traditional video game industry, as developers are envisioning games for it that have more in common with the visceral 3D shooter "Call of Duty" than "FarmVille."

    The company is also setting itself up to take on Microsoft <MSFT.O> and Sony <6758.T> on their home turf of game consoles.

    From Electronic Arts to "Crysis" developers Crytek, industry executives are figuring out ways to migrate graphics-intensive so-called hardcore games to the iPad. Epic Games and Namco Bandai <7832.T> took the stage at Apple's iPad unveiling this week to show off what they can do with an iPad that has a faster quad core processor.

    With more than 55 million iPads sold to date, including 15.43 million last quarter, the tablet is quickly catching up to the number of consoles on the market: the PlayStation 3 has sold 62 million units and Xbox 360 has moved more than 65 million units. That growing user base is drawing developers who want to see their games played on as many devices as possible.

    "Apple is definitely building their devices as if they care a lot about 'triple-A' games," said Mike Capps, president of Epic Games, the studio behind "Gears of War" for consoles and "Infinity Blade" for the iPad.

    The "triple-A" moniker is bequeathed to only the highest-quality video games -- those with the best graphics and that cost in the tens of millions of dollars to produce. So far, not many "triple-A" titles appear on mobile devices.

    Capps, who has appeared on stage at all three of Apple's iPad launches, said he is trying to push the console manufacturers, Sony and Microsoft, to come out with more powerful devices so they do not get left behind. On Wednesday, he told the crowd in San Francisco the new iPad has better screen resolution and more memory than Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's PlayStation.

    While gamers today might still prefer to play shooter games at home on big screen TVs with a handheld controller, that could soon change, Capps said, especially if a bluetooth controller is developed for the iPad.

    "It is quite easy to imagine a world where an iPad is more powerful than a home console, where it wirelessly talks to your TV and wirelessly talks to your controller and becomes your new console," Capps said in an interview.

    Meanwhile, the industry is bracing for change. Frank Gibeau, president of Electronic Arts' Labels <EA.O>, who oversees the company's biggest games such as "Battlefield 3" and "Star Wars: The Old Republic," said the company is eyeing Apple's moves closely.

    "When the iPad gets to the processing power that's equal to an Xbox 360 and it connects to a television, that's no big deal to us. We'll put the game through the iPad and have it display through the television." Gibeau said.


    EA has already brought some games from its marquee franchises to the iPad: "Dead Space" and "Mass Effect".

    For publishers, "it used to be, oh hey, it's just the Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft show, but that's not the case anymore," Gibeau said.

    Germany's Crytek, which developed "Crysis 2" for consoles and PCs, is working on its first game for the iPad, due out in the spring. While that game will be puzzle-based -- minus the free-wheeling pyrotechnics -- the company said it could one day bring that genre of hardcore games to the device.

    "As more people come to these platforms, we have to follow our fans," said Kristoffer Waardahl, a Crytek studio manager.

    While speedier iPads will soon be getting into more gamers hands, Jeremy Parish, editor in chief of gaming blog, said it does not necessarily put pressure on console makers to come out with a new product any faster. The Xbox 360 launched in 2005 and the PlayStation 3 came out in 2006.

    "For the console makers, it has got be a little bit of an embarrassment to say that this tablet has more power and better screen resolution. But at the same time, this will not be the motivating factor to get them to jump into a new generation of consoles," Parish said.

    Yet the industry is counting on a new wave of gaming hardware in the near future. Nintendo will release the "Wii U," its first console with high-definition graphics, later this year.

    For now, experts are divided as to whether the new iPad will make a dent on consoles but at least one investor said he does expect sales of rival gaming products to be hurt.

    "While consoles won't cease to exist, it does create pressure on them by hurting their growth and taking away some of their customers," said Michael Yoshikami, CEO of Destination Wealth Management.

    Sony spokesman Dan Race said "the PlayStation 3 business is having its strongest year ever" and the "PlayStation $249 price point is resonating with gamers and families alike."

    Nintendo's U.S. executive vice president of sales and marketing, Scott Moffitt said "Regardless of the device, consumers have repeatedly demonstrated that they care more about the experience than the tech specs."

    Microsoft declined to comment.

    Apart from the iPad, Apple's fledgling TV product is also being watched closely by video game companies. Hudson Square analyst Dan Ernst said he doubts the iPad will affect console sales, but said an Apple TV with an app store could one day pose a viable threat.

    (Reporting By Liana B. Baker, Editing by Edwin Chan and Bernard Orr)

    Reuter site - Japan mourns tsunami dead; grapples with aftermath

    This article was sent to you from, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:

    Japan mourns tsunami dead; grapples with aftermath

    Sun, Mar 11 09:16 AM EDT

    By Yoko Kubota

    OFUNATO, Japan (Reuters) - With a moment of silence, prayers and anti-nuclear rallies, Japan marked on Sunday one year since an earthquake and tsunami killed thousands and set off a radiation crisis that shattered public trust in atomic power and the nation's leaders.

    The magnitude 9.0 earthquake unleashed a wall of water that hit Japan's northeast coast, killing nearly 16,000 and leaving nearly 3,300 unaccounted for. The country is still grappling with the human, economic and political costs.

    In the port town of Ofunato, hundreds of black-clad residents gathered to lay white chrysanthemums in memory of the town's 420 dead and missing.

    "We can't just stay sad. Our mission is to face reality and move forward step by step," said Kosei Chiba, 46, who lost his mother and wife in the disaster.

    "But the damage the town suffered was too big and our psychological scars are too deep. We need a long time to rebuild."

    The country observed a minute of silence at 2:46 p.m. (0546 GMT), the time the quake struck.

    Residents of Ofunato gathered before a makeshift altar with a calm, sun-flecked sea behind them. Ofunato paused again 33 minutes later -- the time when a year ago a 23-metre (75-foot) tsunami engulfed the town of 41,000.

    Just a kilometer (half a mile) from Tokyo Electric Power Company's (Tepco) wrecked Fukushima plant, where reactor meltdowns triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, residents of the abandoned town of Okuma were allowed back for just a few hours to honor the dead.

    "It was a wonderful place. If it wasn't for all that has happened, I'd be able to come back. But thanks to Tepco, I wasn't even able to search for the bodies of my relatives," said Tomoe Kimura, 93, who lost four members of her family in the tsunami, two of whom were never found.

    Authorities have imposed a 20-km (12 mile) no-go zone around the plant and residents may never be allowed back.

    "My home is in Namie town, so we can't go home," said Katsuko Ishii, who had to flee from the exclusion zone.

    "There are really no words for it," said Ishii, attending a memorial service with her 3-year-old daughter in Iwaki City, Fukushima prefecture.

    Along the northeast coast, police and coastguard officers, urged on by families of the missing, continue their dogged search for remains despite diminishing chances of finding any.


    The prevailing mood in tsunami-hit communities was one of solemn reflection and resolve to move on despite frustration with the confused official response and slow pace of rebuilding.

    In contrast, those who felt betrayed by Japan's "nuclear village" -- the powerful nexus of utilities, politicians and bureaucrats that promoted nuclear power as clean and safe -- were less forgiving.

    "We are angry at Tepco and came here to show our anger," said Tomoe Suzuki, 65, a restaurant owner and chef.

    "The earthquake was something that was unavoidable because it was a natural disaster, but you can't stay quiet about Fukushima because it's a man-made disaster," she said, marching with about 12,000 other protesters to form a "human chain" around the parliament building in the capital city Tokyo.

    The protest was one of several around the country including in Koriyama City, where some 16,000 people gathered to express their pain and anger.

    The Japanese people earned the world's admiration for their composure, discipline and resilience in the face of the disaster, while its companies impressed with the speed with which they bounced back.

    As a result, the $5 trillion economy looks set to return to pre-disaster levels in coming months with the help of about $230 billion earmarked for a decade-long rebuilding effort agreed in rare cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties.

    Emperor Akihito, recovering from coronary bypass surgery last month, attended a memorial service in Tokyo's National Theatre and urged people to work together, echoing his unprecedented televised address five days after the disaster.

    "I hope all the people will keep the victims in their hearts and work so that the situation in the disaster-hit areas improves," the 78-year-old monarch said.

    Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who took over in September from Naoto Kan -- who was premier at the time the disasters struck -- pledged to work for recovery:

    "Our forebears who built this country's prosperity have emerged from each crisis even stronger. We will fulfill our historic mission of realizing the rebirth of this nation."


    Yet many people are increasingly disillusioned about the political establishment's ability to tell the truth and rise to the occasion, a deep lack of trust that one commentator called "the fourth disaster of March 11".

    Politicians and bureaucrats drew fire for the chaotic response to the Fukushima disaster and disappointed many with their failure to seize the moment to tackle the ills which have plagued Japan for over two decades.

    After a brief truce, parliamentary squabbles resumed, giving Japan its sixth leader in five years and now threatening to block an important tax reform and stall other business, including the launch of a more independent nuclear watchdog.

    Tepco, criticized by many for its failure to prepare for the disaster, issued a fresh apology.

    "Each and every member of our company and its group remembers March 11 and will work with our all hearts to solve challenges with safety as our first priority," Tepco President Toshio Nishizawa, who marked the anniversary at the plant, said in a statement.

    Slow progress in drawing up plans for the tsunami-damaged and radiation-contaminated region is deepening the misery of survivors, about 326,000 of whom are still homeless, including 80,000 evacuated from the vicinity of the Fukushima plant.

    While the government declared it had reached "cold shutdown" in December, the nation lives under a cloud of anxiety over the long-term health effects of radiation. It also faces the huge financial burden of dismantling the plant and cleaning up an area the size of Luxembourg -- a task that will take decades and technologies yet to be developed.

    Taxpayers, who face proposed sales tax increases to help fund the country's debt, will also need to pay tens of billions of dollars to prop up the still politically powerful Tepco.

    ($1 = 81.4000 yen)

    (The story corrects the location of demo to Koriyama City from Fukushima City)

    (Additional reporting by Chris Meyers in Okuma, Yuriko Nakao in Koriyama City and Antoni Slodkowski and Taiga Uranaka in Tokyo; Writing by Tomasz Janowski; Editing by Linda Sieg, Robert Birsel, Daniel Magnowski)

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