Games and gear

Cracking open the iPod Touch and more

News.com has been running hugely cool photo galleries excerpted from sister site TechRepublic--their "Cracking Open" series, where they dissect, gut, and then try to reconstruct your favorite electronics.

Latest entries include the iPod Touch--you won't believe how thin the components are--and the remote-control game, "Shocking Tanks."

Links: Cracking open the iPod touch and Cracking open "Shocking Tanks."

'Guitar Hero Mobile' rocks your cell phone hard

UPDATED! See below for additional comments after hours and hours of more playing time.

Addicts of Activision's Guitar Hero console game will no longer be confined to fretting their faux guitar in the living room, game room, or basement. Soon they'll be able to play from their mobile phone.

Thanks to Hands-On Mobile, a mobile games company from San Diego, I got to test my rhythm-matching mettle with Guitar Hero Mobile on a slick LG VX9400.

The first thing you'll notice about Guitar Hero Mobile is how familiar it feels; just like the console game's little cousin ought. Being able to seamlessly hop into the popular rock-star universe is no coincidence. Hands-On Mobile worked closely with Activision to import songs, graphics, characters, and gameplay from Guitar Hero editions II and III. Players of the mobile version choose from two characters, Axel Steel or Judy Nails, and at first have a nonchoice of a Les Paul guitar. Stellar guitar skills unlock three Gibsons, vetted by Gibson itself.… Read more

It's Dell's world, and it's a 'World of Warcraft'

Hot on heels of Dell's slim-and-snazzy XPS M1530 and the uberpowerful M1730, the company's latest high-end laptop is the XPS M1730 World of Warcraft Edition. Yes, it's basically the same 1730 we liked so much a couple of months ago, but this time it's dressed up in exclusive World of Warcraft designs on the wings, LCD back and hinge cover, with WoW original artwork desktop backgrounds and screensavers.

Naturally, there are Horde and Alliance version, and if you have no idea what we're talking about, that's probably a good thing. For your $4,499, you start with a 2.2GHz T7500 Core 2 Duo, 2GB of RAM, and SLI Nvidia 8700 graphics, and you can upgrade from there.

Also included are the retail versions of World of Warcraft and the Burning Crusades expansion (which you probably already have), a "Making of WoW" DVD, a selection of Warcraft novels (sorry, no Kindleversions), a soundtrack CD, and a package of Blizzard goodies, including an in-game pet and a coupon for a custom action figure based on your WoW character. [More photos after the jump.]… Read more

Wii virtual console releases for this week

Zanac (1987, NES, 500 Wii points)--Vertically scrolling shooting at its finest! Blast your way through 12 areas in one of the first games that changed difficulty based on your skill level. Eternal Champions (1993, Sega Genesis, 800 Wii points)--In this 2-D fighter you'll compete for the chance to battle the Eternal Champion, thus returning to Earth and restoring balance to the universe. The Dynastic Hero (1993, Turbografx16, 800 Wii points)--The Dynastic Hero is an action RPG that involves multiple choice quizzes as well as puzzles for you to conquer as you progress through the story.

The Vivendi-Activision merger is bad for gamers

Now that the deal between Vivendi and Activision has been officially announced, it looks like the former will take two-thirds control in the popular developer and be able to compete more effectively against the video game industry's de facto big shot--EA.

And while the $1.7 billion will allow Vivendi to become a more "complete" organization that can offer a wide array of games for people on all platforms, I just can't see how this will benefit any consumers.

Sure, the merger between Vivendi and Activision will finally create a competitor for the behemoth that is EA and with Activision's current streak of 74 percent growth since 2003 as compared to EA's paltry 25 percent, it's certainly possible that the former could overtake the latter in terms of size within the next decade.

But is an environment where two major video game developers control a significant stake of the market really beneficial to consumers? Unfortunately, the answer is no.… Read more

Attention, holiday procrastinators: Only three weeks left

Some may be thankful there are only three weeks left in the holiday shopping season, but many of you are panicking because there are only three weeks left. For you anxious-ridden procrastinators, we're here to help.

CNET's holiday gift guide is packed with great tech gift ideas, and we're updating it as choice new items hit the shelves. If you just need a little something, check out our stocking stuffers and the tech gifts under $100.

If you're still seeking something perfect for that ubergeek on your list, we've got high-end tech sure to pleaseRead more

Can Activision Blizzard compete with EA for mindshare?

I woke up this morning to news that France's Vivendi has agreed to buy a controlling interest in Activision, perhaps creating the world's-largest independent video game company.

The new entity will be known as Activision Blizzard--a suitable name based on the fact that Activision has the best-known video game brand in the new company, but that Vivendi's Blizzard Entertainment unit also produces World of Warcraft, one of the most successful massively multiplayer online games of all time.

But what is not clear is whether the new company will be able to achieve something that is clearly part … Read more

Report: Hackers say they can steal 'Second Life' currency

Over on Dean Takahashi's San Jose Mercury News blog today, he reported on the discovery by a pair of security researchers that it may be possible to steal Second Life users' in-world currency.

That would be a big problem, of course, because the currency, known as Linden dollars, are directly convertible to U.S. dollars.

According to Takahashi's story, hackers Charles Miller and Dino Dai Zovi told him that they have uncovered an exploit that could allow someone to fleece Second Life residents of their Linden dollars.

The exploit is related to Apple's QuickTime software, which is … Read more

Xbox 360 fall dashboard update details revealed

Starting December 4, Xbox 360 owners will be able to download the latest dashboard update from Microsoft. While we announced earlier in the month that this update would allow users to download original Xbox titles, this update will also add various additional features to the console's interface. Since dashboard updates are only released bi-yearly, they are usually packed with a hefty amount of changes and this fall update is no different:

Xbox LIVE Arcade hits: Best-selling Xbox LIVE Arcade games like Marble Blast Ultra and Lumines LIVE will be available at permanently discounted prices. New video features: Support for full-screen video previews and, more importantly, support for the DivX video codec (version 5.0 and higher). Inside Xbox: A direct newsfeed from Microsoft outlining up-to-the-minute information regarding Xbox LIVE and the Marketplace. Enhanced parental controls: New features include a timer that can limit the amount of time a child can play per day or week.… Read more

The 2007 Jaded Fanboy Awards

It's been a very good year for gamers, with AAA titles hitting nearly every console, and only about half of them were sequels. Crusades-era assassins, art deco genetic misfits, physics-bending lab rats and futuristic soldiers have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the standard plumbers, elves, and bounty hunters we've seen every year, and these fresh faces have kept my consoles warm and spinning. I could just plop all of those games up on an ordered list and call it a day, but I'm taking a different tack in summarizing this year in gaming.

Welcome to the first Jaded Fanboy Awards. The JFAs are completely unofficial awards (read: I am completely making these up without any sort of procedure or votes or other such nonsense) that don't look at the best or worst games of the year, but instead unique or noteworthy in their own ways. These aren't "Best ofs," "Tops," or "Must-buys," but instead games that simply stick out.

And the winners are...… Read more