GAMING: MWEB voted top ISP for online gaming

MWEB was recently voted as the most popular primary ADSL ISP amongst South African gamers. Desmond Kurz, MWEB's Online Gaming Manager, offers some insight into South African online gaming trends.

The Latest Online Gaming Trends

“MWEB has seen an increase in first person shooters as well as 'massively multiplayer online only' games”, says Kurz. “More and more offline gamers are migrating to playing online”. This is perhaps due to cheaper ADSL pricing across South Africa's ISPs.

While South African online gaming is still lagging behind when compared to Europe and the U.S., the SA gaming community is still experiencing double digit growth, according to MWEB.

Online Gaming in South Africa - MWEB GameZone

Gaming stats: what games are the majority of South Africans playing?

“From an MWEB perspective, the majority of South African gamers are playing Call of Duty, Team Fortress 2, Battlefield 3, World of Warcraft, Dota 2, League of Legends, Guild Wars 2 and Minecraft", says Kurz. "MWEB already hosts local servers for a number of these titles and is always looking to secure further titles to be hosted locally for South African gamers.”

I asked MWEB's Online Gaming Manager how MWEB plans to broaden their online gaming serivices. I was intrigued to learn that MWEB GameZone has been running a free online training programme for gamers who want to learn how to play online multiplayer games from a beginner level right up to advanced level for competing online.

“To date, this program has run exclusively for Battlefield 3, however, we are proud to announce that this training programme will be extended”, says Kurz. “This will offer players wishing to learn how to play League of Legends and Dota 2. This was in response to a recent poll held on our Facebook page where we asked gamers what games they would like to receive training on.”

According to Kurz, MWEB GameZone is just one of many other initiatives that will be launching in the future in support of the South African online gaming community, particularly competitive eSports. “Its goes without saying that we will continue our efforts to put pressure on distributors and publishers to provide local services to South African gamers, particularly locally-hosted gaming servers”, says Kurz.

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NEWS FLASH: MWEB to host an additional 53 gaming titles locally!

MWEB is continuing to expand its online gaming offering through its existing partnership with Gameservers.com. Riding on the back of the successful launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops, MWEB is looking to expand its platform further to ensure that local Internet users have a superior gaming experience.

To support this, the Interent Service Provider will be hosting a further 53 Gameservers.com titles on its network, including the likes of the popular Counter Strike, Battlefield and Medal of Honour.

“Online gaming is a key focus for us in 2011 and we are excited by the growth that we’re seeing in this space. Our goal is to position MWEB at the forefront of online gaming in South Africa,” says Derek Hershaw, CEO of MWEB ISP.

To further support these additional titles and to ensure a flawless end-user experience, the ISP has deployed its own Steam server allowing South African gamers to get automatic updates on their favourite games. Steam has servers all over the world, which host several major gaming titles.

“The decision to deploy a Steam Server is another value added service to our customers and means that they won’t need to worry about hunting for patches and spending hours downloading updates on unsolicited websites,” explains Hershaw.

The new gaming titles and the Steam servers will be hosted in MWEB’s Cape Town and Johannesburg data centres to ensure that customers have a superior gaming experience.

Both MWEB and non-MWEB customers will see benefits from the local hosting of the games and Steam servers as they will no longer have to connect to international servers.

- Issued on belhalf of MWEB and Greater Than

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NEWS: Facebook and Twitter now available on Xbox LIVE in South Africa

Xbox LIVE logoJUST months after the launch of Xbox LIVE in South Africa, we’re pleased to inform you that Facebook and Twitter will be available on Xbox LIVE from the 26th of January. At the same time, a ‘My Community’ channel will also be added to the LIVE Dash and will launch on both the Standard and Family Dashboards. This is part of our ongoing commitment
to providing quality gaming and entertainment in the living room.

The launch of Facebook and Twitter adds to the depth of experience the Xbox LIVE service has to offer. Xbox LIVE launched less than three months ago in six new EMEA countries, making a total of 35 LIVE enabled countries globally. In this short time, members from the newly added countries have spent over 3.5 million hours using the LIVE service, which is an unprecedented pick up.

  • Over 630 000 hours of multiplayer gameplay have been accumulated across all six launch countries in that time.
  • Xbox LIVE now has over 30 million members across the world, each spending on average 40 hours a month, meaning that in total members are logging over 1 billion hours a month worldwide.

We’ve listed some of the exciting new Facebook and Twitter features below. The Xbox LIVE community is expected to grow over the coming months, so look out for more news as we continue to add to the Xbox LIVE experience.

Facebook on Xbox LIVE

Facebook and Xbox LIVE join forces to connect you with your friends as you interact with the largest entertainment and gaming network on TV. Share real-time status updates and photos with your friends, check out photo galleries on the big screen or share your favourite gaming moments on Facebook right from your television. Take bragging rights to a completely new level by sharing updates on your achievements and success in upcoming games available on Xbox 360.

Facebook on Xbox LIVE features:

  • Connect with friends using Facebook.
  • Explore news feeds from friends and family.
  • Update your status with achievements in-game.
  • Post, read, and respond to comments on status updates and photos.
  • View photos using the Xbox 360 built-in scaler for great-looking pictures.
  • With Friend Linker, find friends on Facebook that also have Gamertags and invite them to your Xbox LIVE Friends List.

Twitter

Twitter comes to Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE. Thanks to the app, you can now stay in touch with your friends and family by reading and posting Tweets via your Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE. If you want to let your friends know that you’re firing up a multiplayer match, you can quickly and easily read, reply, and post updates online right from your console.

Twitter features:

  • Link your Gamertag to your Twitter username.
  • Automatically sign into Twitter when you sign into Xbox LIVE.
  • Read Tweets from people you follow, post new messages and reply to others.
  • Connect with Xbox LIVE friends who you follow on Twitter, view user lists and favourite Tweets.

NOTE: Facebook, Twitter, video chat features and Xbox LIVE Party require an Xbox LIVE Gold membership.

Follow South Africa’s local Xbox 360 Twitter page @Xbox360ZA or join their Facebook page Xbox 360 South Africa.

- Published on behalf of Xbox 360 South Africa

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MIND SPORT: Should competitive gaming be considered as an internationally recognised mind sport in South Africa?

THERE was a lot of talk and debate towards the end of last year about 2011 being “the year of eSports”. The central debate in a South African context was whether or not competitive gaming should be recognised and treated as an international mind sport in our country.

Electronic sport, or mind sport, falls into the category of non-physical competition. Competitive gaming is the fastest growing mind sport, and there currently exist several leagues and tournaments word-wide whereby gamers compete at amateur, semi-professional and professional levels.

With a steady increase in the number of competitive gamers across genders and cultures, the mind sport debate revolves around the idea of classifying network gaming as an official national sport and treating and covering it in the same manner as existing sports such as rugby and cricket.

It’s a misnomer that ‘real’ sport is physical and sweaty and demands an impressive display of physical prowess. With most sports being based on warlike principles, it’s often forgotten that quick wit and strategy play an integral part in most of the sports we love. And let’s face it – not everyone is cut out for the gym or has the impressive build of Os du Randt.

Consider chess, poker, pub quizzes, crossword contests and poetry slam as competitive mind sports. These all require quick wit, intellectual talent and creativity without the need to physically tackle opponents to the floor. And if you think that gaming is mindless finger-clicking, competitive gaming demands huge amounts of quick thinking, strategy, and above all, teamwork.

The World Cyber Games

World Cyber Games 2014

The World Cyber Games, which began in 2000, initially consisted of 174 competitors from 17 different countries with a total cash prize of $20 000. In 2006, 700 competitors from 70 different countries fought for the cash prize of $462 000 (Wikipedia. Image: mirrorlock.wordpress.com)

The good news is that African countries are gradually getting on board and gearing up to compete internationally. Mind Sports South Africa (MSSA) is currently driving inter-school gaming leagues and organised the first official gaming test match between South Africa and Namibia last month.

According to an interview with the president of MSSA, Colin Webster, published on ITWeb, “One of the key highlights this year is the fact that MSSA is in talks with local government to organise a national e-sports LAN event that will have the same stature as a national sporting event. Gamers from all over the world will be able to test their skills against South African gamers.”

Unfortunately, for South African gamers to compete on a global scale and participate in the major leagues held in Europe, Korea and the United States, politics need to come into play. In order to compete internationally, gaming (as well as any sport) need to meet a certain set of criteria. There are good reasons for these, but when we consider that hi-tech sports such as gaming are ever-evolving with technology, perhaps we need to consider having such criteria updated as well.

The central issue is that for any sport to qualify and be able to compete at an international level, it needs to be accessible to everyone. Every government school has a sports closet full of soccer balls and cricket bats and there are real efforts to offer the same to rural schools around the country.

However, now that we are undoubtedly living in the digital age, it is also becoming compulsory for all schools to have computers and internet access. That’s all it takes to set the stage for competitive gaming tournaments. Learners could even opt to participate in network gaming during their lunch breaks. I’d guarantee that you wouldn’t have to twist any arms to get learners interested.

Mind Sport Growth and Revenue

There is also the opportunity to make a decent living from competitive gaming. The World Cyber Games held in South Korea every year sees a huge flow of revenue from sponsorship and advertising – not to mention the marketing value that top, individual gamers gain by proving their skills. As existing tournaments have shown, large technology and PC corporations are more than willing to play their part and offer sponsorship and support.

To put the growth and interest of competitive gaming into perspective, the World Cyber Games, which began in 2000, initially consisted of 174 competitors from 17 different countries with a total cash prize of $20 000. In 2006, 700 competitors from 70 different countries fought for the cash prize of $462 000 (Wikipedia).

I sincerely hope that competitive gaming gets the attention and coverage it deserves within the realm of mind sport. As an ardent gamer, I believe that having games pushed and played to their limits by professionals will improve the quality of existing and future games as well as associated technologies.

Furthermore, it’s a chance for people to engage with the latest technology, a chance to bring together people with similar interests, to team-build, to profit off all the advertising possibilities, and to show the rest of the world that South Africa has what it takes to compete globally in the realm of quick wit and real time strategy.

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Mind sport links:
2011: The Year of eSports
Africa gears up for e-sports

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WII MUSIC: Musical game launched in South Africa

Wii Music — the latest add-on for the Wii console, was launched on the South Africa market today offering Wii fans the chance to broaden their musical horizons and discover their inner beat.

Wii Music contains the sounds of over 60 instruments and comes with 50 included tracks. It features music of all styles, from the best of the classics to cult pop and even some popular gaming tunes like Super Mario Bros.

Instruments include steel drums, bass guitar, the saxophone and more; and, in keeping in a truly Japanese spirit, even offers the ‘instrumental’ sounds of a barking dog.

Game modes
Jam’ is the main game mode in Wii Music for creating your musical masterpieces. This is split into ‘Improvise’, ‘Quick Play’ and ‘Custom Jam.’ Muso wannabes can play as part of a six-member band, with the remaining instruments being controlled by the Wii as ‘Tute’ characters.

Improvise’ allows one to rehearse and master playing styles, while ‘Quick Play’ creates a totally randomised performance where all aspects of the set are chosen by the Wii.

Custom Play’ gives you full control, from choosing a musical style for the Tute accompaniment, to setting the speed, to choosing the instruments, to deciding where to perform.

Discover your inner beat

Virtual Drum Kit
The ‘Virtual Drum Kit’ is a popular feature which mimics a real set of drums. Using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck as drumsticks and the Wii Balance Board as foot pedals, almost every aspect of a standardised drum kit can be simulated including bass drum, cymbals, snare and hi-hats.

Wii Music offers 15 interactive drumming lessons, free play, and a one-player jam session with any of the 50 featured tracks.

Pitch Perfect
If you know bugger all about the fundamentals of music and sound, are tone deaf when it comes to comparing pitches, constructing basic harmonics or telling the difference between consonance and dissonance, Wii Music offers a Pitch Perfect music quiz.

It has eight difficulty levels which test the contestants on a range of tasks such as choosing or sorting notes by their pitch, identifying matching sounds, and spotting the wrong note in a piece of music.

Starting your own record label
Once a song is mastered into what you see as fit, it can be saved as a video clip, personalised with its own record sleeve, and uploaded and shared with friends and family over WiiConnect24.

In order to help players become more accustomed to certain styles of music, Wii Music offers numerous tutorials for tightening playing techniques, arranging tracks, playing drums and aural training.

The Wii Remote and Nunchuk can also be used to produce remixes.

Conduct an orchestra
Using the Wii Remote like a baton, up to four players are able to conduct a digital orchestra. Players are able to control the speed and volume of the rendition, and conductors need to remain synchronized to ensure a high score is awarded for the performance.

It doesn’t seem to matter what your musical or gaming experience is, Wii Music offers complete musical freedom and is an engaging and fun way for all the family to learn more about musical instruments and styles.

  • Recommended retail price: R549

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