Richard Branson gets into gaming

Billionaire business mogul Richard Branson blazed trails in the video game industry in the mid-1990s. Now he’s hoping to do it again.

Virgin Gaming, the new video game unit of Virgin Holdings, begins operations today, acting as a matchmaking and tournament service — s well as a vehicle for people to profit from their gaming skills via cash wagers. The company says it plans to give away $1 million in cash and prizes over the next year.

Read more at Yahoo! Games

EA heads into E3 with guns blazing

Not too many years ago, Electronic Arts was a company that was avoiding the first-person shooter genre. These days, it’s counting heavily on it.

The company showed a lineup that was bullet-heavy at its 2010 E3 press conference, highlighting shooters that will likely cheer action fans and court controversy from game violence opponents. And as if to underscore their commitment to the genre, EA is launching a new customer loyalty program, dubbed “Gun Club,” tailored to appeal to action fans.

Read more at Yahoo! Games

Microsoft dates Kinect – and launches a new console

The rumor mill might have ruined Microsoft’s announcement of a slim Xbox 360– but the company still had a surprise up its sleeve.

The revamped console, which comes equipped with a 250 GB hard drive and built-in 802.11n wireless connectivity, will begin shipping to retail this week – much sooner than anyone was expecting. That will put the system on retail shelves by early next week at latest. It will cost $299 – the same price as the current top end Xbox 360.

Read more at Variety’s The Cut Scene blog

Video Games Under The Gun, as Big Changes Loom

As the video game industry gathers at E3 to look forward to the holiday season and what it hopes are more prosperous times, storm clouds are gathering on the horizon that have the potential to radically change gaming in the months and years to come.

The substantial growth of video games as a financial and pop culture force has put gaming on a number of new radars — both competitive and political. And interested parties are moving in from all sides.

Read more at CNBC.com

Goodbye Natal, hello Kinect

And just like that, Microsoft’s Project Natal has a new name: Kinect

The company unveiled the retail name of its gesture-recognition controller Sunday at an over-the-top event that featured everything from a performance by Cirque du Soliel to an audience full of people wearing choir robes with lit up LED shoulderpads.

Read more at Variety’s The Cut Scene blog

Game industry stressed to impress

The videogame industry has one mission in mind during next week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo: It needs to impress.

Sales are down across the board for hardware and software so far this year, with overall revenue for the games biz down more than $560 million over 2009, or 11%, according to NPD Group. Industry earned $20.2 billion last year.

Read more at Daily Variety

Do ‘Modern Warfare 2’ execs have an E3 surprise coming?

Jason West and Vince Zampella, whose abrupt dismissal from Activision earlier this year shocked the gaming world, are teasing an announcement next week – in the heart of E3 – that has both insiders and gamers buzzing. 

“Big time announcement at E3 next week. stay tuned, kiddies!” the pair said in a Facebook posting.

Read more at Variety’s The Cut Scene blog

This Year’s Video Game Summit: What to Expect

If the video game world were following its normal cycle, console makers would be revealing details of their next generation systems in less than two weeks. This cycle is anything but normal, though – and so at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), game makers will instead chart a new path.

Rather than introducing new systems, Microsoft and Sony will both introduce motion sensor controllers that are intended to both attract a new audience to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 – and extend the lifespan of those systems by at least another three years. Nintendo, which is still seeing great success with the Wii, will focus instead on once again innovating the portable world.

Read more at CNBC.com