Plugged In

EA packaging ‘Madden’, ‘Head Coach’

Gamers considering “NFL Head Coach 09” as an alternative to another year of the same ‘ol “Madden” had better start saving their money.

EA announced earlier this week that “Head Coach” will be available ONLY in the special 20th Anniversary¬†Collector’s Edition of “Madden 09” for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The price tag for the Collector’s Edition? A mere $89.99.

For full versions of both games, that’s a fair price. But for those only interested in “Head Coach,” it’s a sham. “Madden” already sells millions of copies on its own, why force gamers to buy it just to play “Head Coach”? It makes no sense to me. Why not offer standalone versions of both games, in addition to the package deal?

All versions of “Madden 09”, including the 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition which includes “Head Coach 09”, are scheduled to arrive in stores Aug. 12.

“The Madden NFL franchise has a rich history, and we’re proud to be celebrating it with this definitive video game package,” said EA Sports president Peter Moore in a press release. “Featuring two deep and innovative new standalone games, as well as a host of exclusive bonus content, the ‘Madden NFL 09 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition’ is the ultimate interactive offering for both long-time Madden NFL fans and anyone who enjoys football on Sundays. I can’t think of a better way to get your NFL fix than to enjoy everything that’s unique about both ‘Madden NFL 09’ and ‘NFL Head Coach 09’, and then connecting and sharing content from both.”

Take-Two holding firm against EA

Take-Two Interactive’s board of directors continued to urge shareholders to refrain from selling stock to rival publisher Electronic Arts this week, with chairman Strauss Zelnick calling EA’s offer of $26 per share “inadequate” and “contrary to the best interests of Take-Two’s shareholders.”

With the release of Take-Two cash cow “Grand Theft Auto IV” a little over a month away, I wouldn’t be surprised to see EA make one last-ditch effort to acquire Take-Two and reap the benefits of “GTA IV.” As always, we’ll keep you updated on the latest developments.

NCAA tournament sim

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It’s March, which can only mean it’s time for March Madness. And because you just can’t get enough college basketball this time of year, I’ve got a little something special.

I’ve recreated the entire NCAA men’s championship bracket using 2K Sports’ outstanding basketball game, “College Hoops 2K8.” All of the teams and matchups are accurate, even the play-in game between Coppin State and Mount St. Mary’s. I’m using a roster set put together by the fine community at OperationSports.com, which includes all players named and rosters edited to match those of their real-life counterparts. Can West Virginia survive its opening-round matchup with Arizona? Let’s find out.

Continue reading…

‘Mario Kart Wii’ hits track next month

If you own a Wii, chances are you’re waist-deep in Nintendo’s latest masterpiece, “Super Smash Bros. Brawl.” But if “Brawl” isn’t your speed, the next must-have title from The Big N is right around the corner.

“Mario Kart Wii” drives into stores April 27, according to a release earlier this week from Nintendo. “Mario Kart Wii” comes packaged with the Wii Wheel peripheral and features all new drivers, tracks and online play. The game will retail for $49.99 and is rated E for everyone.

EA-Take Two update

Electronic Arts doesn’t appear to be backing down in its attempt to purchase rival publisher Take-Two Interactive.

Weeks after seeing its $2 billion offer rejected by Take-Two, EA has turned its attention to the publisher’s stockholders in an attempt to launch a hostile takeover. According to published reports, EA is offering shareholders the same $26-per-share price that Take-Two turned down in February.

This latest takeover news comes on the heels of Take-Two’s announcement this week of a “BioShock” sequel, tentatively scheduled for release sometime in late 2009.

News and notes from the gaming world

Sorry for the lack of updates, but this is the busiest time of year over at my day job in the Gazette sports department. March madness, indeed. That said, here are a few tidbits from the past few days that may have slid under your gaming radar:

| “Metal Gear Solid 4” finally has a solid release date. The next stealth action-adventure from Kojima Productions will arrive on U.S. shores June 12, both as a standalone game and as part of a new PlayStation 3 bundle complete with an 80 GB console and wireless DualShock 3 controller.

| Nintendo will release the next must-have Wii title May 19. “Wii Fit,” the buzz of last year’s E3, includes the game and the Balance Board peripheral and should retail for under $100.

| EA Sports has announced a follow-up to “NFL Head Coach,” aptly titled “NFL Head Coach 09.” The original “Head Coach,” available for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, was an ambitious project that was hampered by insanely long load times and difficult-to-navigate menus. Hopefully “NFL Head Coach 09” can correct these issues and deliver a solid team management sim.

| And finally, baseball fans rejoice: this is release week for both 2K Sports’ “MLB 2K8” and Sony’s “MLB 08 The Show.” Both look very promising, especially “The Show.” Sony’s latest hardball effort looks so good, in fact, that I picked up an 80 GB PS3 for the sole purpose of playing “The Show.” It’s the first time I’ve ever picked up a console strictly for a sports game, so hopefully “The Show” is a home run.