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Skype 4.0 beta 2 gives you more say

Skype 4.0 beta 2 (download) has done a lot of growing since the first beta for Windows rolled out this past June. While that release showed some success reorganizing Skype's services, we predicted that folks would protest the gawky layout. We were right.

The ability to switch into the classic compact view is one concession to user demand that shows up in Skype 4.0 beta 2. Now you can toggle between the expanded default view that fuses the contact list and active conversation, and the traditional view, which breaks them into separate windows. This change definitely improves … Read more

The 404 195: Where Jeff isn't really Jewish

Since Jeff is out today, we grab our favorite guest host Clayton Morris from Fox and Friends to help us keep the juices flowing. Wilson hops on the board and, before we have a chance to get into any of the stories in today's rundown, we plummet into Clayton's favorite topic of conversation: SUPERHEROES! We discuss potential Spiderman 4 villains, Batman hype, Iron Man eBay auctions, and before we know it, the show is over. This show is for supergeeks only!

After you listen to today's show, do yourself a favor and listen to Clayton's own … Read more

EA: Piracy didn't hurt 'Spore' sales

There doesn't seem to be much disagreement that Electronic Arts botched the launch of Spore with heavy-handed digital rights management. However, the company reacted quickly and was able to update the game with a less oppressive scheme that calmed most of the masses.

One statistic that repeatedly popped up was the fact that more than 500,000 copies had been downloaded off BitTorrent sites. EA claims to have sold 1 million copies since launch, which would mean that there are potentially 1.5 million Spore instances. The big question is whether EA is losing money from this pirating.

The … Read more

Is Sonic the Hedgehog still relevant?

In the next week, a new Sonic game, called Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood will hit store shelves for the Nintendo DS. Some are anxiously waiting for the title to be released, while many don't care all that much. Why is that? Probably because Silent Hill: Homecoming will be released during the same week and, well, Sonic has lost his stride over the past decade.

Practically any poll you search for on the Web about the most popular video game characters will say that Mario is tops. In fact, a recent survey in Japan [Google translation warning] returned similar results showing Mario as the popular game character in the country, followed closely by other big names like Cloud from the Final Fantasy series and Yoshi.

Other surveys feature Sonic in the Top 10 -- usually around the middle area -- and the vast majority of people I surveyed on my Twitter page agreed with the public: Sonic isn't the best video game character of all-time, but he's certainly up there.

So what happened to Sonic? A decade ago, the blue hedgehog was at the top of his game and battling it out with Mario for the top-spot as the world's most popular video game character. Since then, even though he has been featured in a number of titles, his popularity has dropped significantly and his money-making potential has fallen with it.

All the while, stalwarts like Mario and Link have clung to the top spots with nary a drop in popularity.… Read more

Capitalism still alive: EA on Android games

With the open-source nature of Google's Android platform, there should be no shortage of games available when it goes live in a few weeks. If you're waiting for really high-profile games though, you'll have to keep waiting--for now.

According to a story posted at Pocket Gamer, EA has stated that they're planning to support Android when Android can support them. In other words, when they can make money from Android games, they'll begin developing them.

According to the Pocket Gamer article, EA states, "EA will support the Android platform, as any platform that can … Read more

No violence in holiday's 'most wanted' games by teens, tweens?

Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band II are the two most wanted games for the 2008 holiday season for 8- to 17-year-old boys and girls, according to a holiday gift survey by gaming retailer Game Crazy (conducted by Weekly Reader Research). These are followed closely by Mario Kart and Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party II.

I'm having a hard time swallowing these results, mostly because these all seem too "family friendly." Game Crazy, after all, is owned by Hollywood Entertainment and could lose customers if the results were more "adult." The participants consisted of 965 qualifying respondents (owning at least one video gaming system), made up of 488 boys and 477 girls aged 8-17. The only difference between the genders: the boys want Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, while the girls don't.

With several shooter sequels coming this fall, including Gears of War 2 and Far Cry 2, and the massive global conflict fun of Tom Clancy's EndWar, where's all the blood and guts and destruction in these games? Surely kids still want to shoot and blow stuff up, right?

A more complete breakdown of the survey results are as follows:… Read more

'Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars' to have cocaine dealing

I've written a lot about monetizing video games, but Rockstar is taking it to a whole new level, bringing drug-dealing into the new version of Grand Theft Auto for the Nintendo DS.

Rockstar Vice President Dan Houser explained to Edge magazine why the company included this feature in the game:

"We wanted to have a drug-dealing mini-game in lots of the GTA games," Houser said. "We played with it a little in Vice City Stories, because it worked really well juxtaposed with the main story. It works well with what GTA is, with driving around the … Read more

YouTube streamlines its video uploader, bumps size limits

Over the weekend YouTube quietly began testing a new uploading tool for users to publish their videos. The tool now allows users to begin plugging in information fields about the video while the upload is happening, much like Viddler, Vimeo, and others have offered for years. The company is testing the new player with a small number of its users, although you can access it with a special link.

The company has also increased the size limit of uploaded video files from 100MB to 1GB. This should open things up dramatically for people who are shooting in high-quality VGA video … Read more