Saturday, June 19, 2010

Budget publisher picks up Prince of Persia

Budget publisher, Focus Multimedia, will bring two Ubisoft classics to market in the U.K.

Focus will publish Prince of Persia and Far Cry 2 under the deal, which is an extension on a long partnership between the two publishers.

In a release, PR and Marketing Manager for Focus, Alan Wild, said “Ubisoft has a well earned pedigree with some truly exceptional titles, and they are excellent to work with. Focus has an established reputation and a long history of success in the budget sector."

Prince of Persia is available in the U.K for £9.99. Far Cry 2's price is TBA.

Friday, June 18, 2010

E3 numbers

45,600 attendees came to the 2010 E3 - roughly the number that show organisers were expecting.

EA partnership streaming games through the cloud

Online streaming service, Gaikai, has formed a multi-year licensing deal with EA.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain!

It seems an strange event to celebrate with a new game release, but a new download for Flight Simulator X does just that.

London to host social gaming expo

London will play host to a social gaming exhibition, as the industry looks for new ways to capitalise on the lucrative market.

Opinion: Why Nintendo failed at E3

Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way from the start: Nintendo’s presentation blew me away. The 3DS announcement has me more excited about a console than I’ve been for a long time, and the list of games that Nintendo rolled out will keep me occupied for a long, long time.

EA's Mirrors Edge the centre of new lawsuit

EA has found itself at the centre of a lawsuit, with Edge Games filing for trademark infringement.

E3: Troy-inspired action coming to PS3 and Xbox 360

Warriors: Legends of Troy will be coming to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this fall (Spring)

E3: Square Enix to publish online shooter

Square Enix is taking a break from its RPG staple and unveiled a new online shooter called Mindjack.

To be released on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, Mindjack allows players to mentally ‘hack’ into enemies, vehicles or civilians to use them as tools in urban warfare.

The game will offer up a mix of futuristic weaponry and real fighting techniques such as Krav Maga. The game is being developed by Japanese house feelplus, and dure for release in October.

Square Enix moving into Western RPGs

Square Enix is one of the dominant publishers of Japanese RPGs, but it appears that it is also keen on moving into Western RPGs.

Gamasutra reported that Square Enix is not only publishing Dungeon Siege 3, it owns the property outright. In the report, Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhard, said that the previous owners of the IP, Gas Powered Games, was reviewing builds of the game, but not formally involved in the development.

Gas Powered Games and Square Enix has previously collaborated on Supreme Commander 2. Combined with the acquisition of Eidos in 2008 the Japanese publisher appears to be genuinely keen on expanding into more traditional Western gameplay styles.

It is also keen on making acquisitions, as previously reported. I would not be surprised to see some specialist development houses with Western RPG IPs snapped up over the coming years. It will be interesting to see what influence, if any, Square Enix makes on the Western RPG genre, which is traditionally very different from games like Final Fantasy.

Multiplayer mayhem racing coming to all platforms

dtp entertainment and keen games will launch a cross-platform digital download racing game in August.

TNT Racers will be made available on the Xbox LIVE, PlayStation Network and Nintendo Wii. It will feature 18 courses, up to four simultaneous players and a number of different single player modes.

Trailer and videos here:

Disaster game aims to educate and entertain

Funded by a Department of Homeland Security grant, Legacy Interactive is developing a online-based game to teach children and their familities on how to prepare for emergencies.

Developed in contract with the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the game - titled Disaster Hero - will focus on what to do before, during and after a disaster.

The game is being touted to include a variety of game genres, from time management and puzzle gameplay to hidden object and simulation genres.

In a release, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, Dr. Angela Garder, said “ACEP is pleased to partner with many other stakeholders representing teachers, schools, daycare centers and youth organizations in the development of this program.”

Legacy Interactive is a developer and publisher that has been in operation since 1998. Its catalogue of games includes Law & Order, Pet Pals: Animal Doctor and Emergency Room.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Square Enix boosts iPhone catalogue with classics

Square Enix will add two games from its back catalogue to Apple's iPhone/ iPod touch App store.

Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions is a PSP remake of the 1997 Playstation original. It features a number of enhancements to the original, including a new and improved English translation. That game will be made available to a broader audience with both iPhone and iPod Touch platforms.

Additionally, the publisher will bring Super Nintendo classic Secret of Mana to the iPhone - the launching-pad for the much loved Mana action-RPG series.

Square Enix is one of the more prolific iPhone App publishers, amongst the big publishers in the industry. In recent months it has released exclusives to Apple's platform, and confirmed its support to the recent (and popular) iPad gadget.

Square Enix is also a textbook example that there is a genuine iPhone gaming market beyond the cheap and limited $0.99 minigame platform it's often considered to be. Square Enix iPhone releases are typically full-featured game at premium prices in excess of $10. Despite the competition from much cheaper game, releases from the publisher are typically best sellers.

E3: Sony hedging its bets with online gaming

One thing we can all take away from this year's E3 is that Sony is very keen to convince us all its PlayStation Network is something we want.

Arguably the major announcement of interest for Sony's E3 was its premium content service, called PlayStation Plus. Directly from the press release:

"PlayStation Plus provides gamers with more value, access and convenience by offering subscribers features such as frequent discounts on PlayStation Store content, free and exclusive access to select games, full game trials, early invitations to select betas of popular games, and new functionality such as content downloads and updates which will automatically be 'pushed' to the PS3 system even when consumers are not using their system."

For what it promises, the service seems fairly priced - a year will set you back $US49.95, or $US17.99 for three months. For Sony, it's a good deal too. With free games only remaining playable as long as a user is a paying subscriber, there is a degree of lock-in involved with this service, while at the same time not being so stifling as to discourage people from giving the service a go.

Sony will also keep the goodwill of its existing users by maintaining a free service for people who are unwilling to subscribe to PlayStation Plus.

Sony also spent time at E3 touting its PlayStation Home social space, highlighting the continued support the service has, and putting numbers (such as a 70 minute per visit average) to suggest that people who use Home are quite involved with it. There’s nothing more encouraging for remaining committed to a community than knowing your fellows are as involved in it as you are, after all.

It's easy to understand why Sony is so keen to build on its 50 million online install base. The vendor has been experimenting with the digital download medium quite publically with products such as the PSPgo, and, ignoring the existing competition from the Microsoft Xbox online service and (to a much lesser extent) the Nintendo Wii, the industry is about to gain another genuine competitor in OnLive - a cloud-based subscription service. Vendors know they are going to have to fight much harder for those online gamers over the next few years, but the online strategy seems to be that much more important to Sony.

It's clear that Sony believes the download medium to dominate in the future. From a business sense it makes sense to back downloadable media. It allow publishers and developers to bypass some of the expenses involved in producing a retail game, in turn allowing consumers access to less expensive games.

Downloadable games are also the preferred method of delivery for the indie developer/ publisher scene - an important one for finding and exploiting niche markets.

On the other hand, Sony needs to be careful - by definition an online-focused console would require fast broadband speeds. While this might not be such a problem with large market saturation when it comes to broadband, it will make it more difficult for Sony to gain traction in the kinds of emerging markets that its rivals, Microsoft, are chasing.

It will be interesting to see how PlayStation Plus evolves. I expect it to be quite successful; in many ways, Sony's E3 show was subtle and may have lacked the 'wow' factor of Nintendo's show, but it was a significant show in outlining some of the very significant shift in direction the company is taking.

E3: Virgin gaming service offers cash prizes

Virgin Gaming is offering $1 million in cash and prizes over the next 12 months.

Unveilled at E3, the service was devised by competitive gamers and founders of William Levy and Zack Zeldin. The company is promising a secure service supporting a number of major titles and offering prizes as big as £1500.

Launch titles will be revealed at a later date. Confirmed features of Virgin Gaming include automatic results verification, player match-making, skill ratings and a reputation system.

Speaking at the launch, Virgin founder, Richard Branson, refused to confirm or deny whether Virgin would make a return to games publishing.


OnLive launches on Thursday

OnLive, the cloud-based gaming platform, will be launched in America this week.

Initial customers will enjoy the first year of the subscription-based service for free, with the second year costing $US4.95 per month.

Games will need to be purchased separately, and the launch line-up includes Assassin's Creed II, Dragon Age: Origins, NBA 2K10 and Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands.

A cricial message OnLive CEO, Steve Perlman, claimed is that low-spec PCs and Macs will be able to play higher-end titles, as they are streamed from an off-site server, rather than running on the computer itself. High speed broadband is required.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

E3: New free-to-play FPS unveilled

GamersFirst, a publisher of free-to-play MMO titles, has used E3 to unveil its newest project.

MKZ is a massively multiplayer FPSer that will allow players to battle across warzones over the world. Based in modern times, the game promises authentic weaponry, vehicles and aircraft, and players will be able to form corporations - guilds of sorts, and rise through the ranks as their kill count grows.

The game will enter a closed beta in Fall (Spring) 2010. Other published titles from GamersFirst include War Rock, Sword 2, Our World and Gogo Racer.

Microsoft expands online activity into emerging territories

Microsoft will expanded its Xbox Live service into nine new territories this year as it seeks to capitalise on emerging markets.

The service will roll out in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Russia and South Africa this year.

It's no surprise to see Microsoft looking to expand further into some markets. Latin America has become a hot topic for discussion as a future market to tap for the games industry. Three of the nine nations listed above are Latin American.

In other news, more locally, video-on-demand programming from satellite and cable TV provider Foxtel will be made available this year in Australia. The service will not require a set-top box, and will likely be similar to the Sky service offered in the UK.


Why play FarmVille (and other social games?)

Social games, such as the phenomenally popular Farmville, might mystify some, but a new white paper attempts to explain just why so many people get involved.

The white paper, entitled What is the Appeal of Social Games? was written by Ciaran O'Connor and should be read with a grain of salt, as it is sponsored by clubv3, itself a publisher of social network games.

Nonetheless, it has some valuable insights into the industry, and what makes a successful social game. Critically, social games should have a low perceived effort, and of critical importance to any online game - it should be easy to do.

The casual gamer - a category in which most social game players would be, should be more concerned with the 'doing' than the 'getting.' This is not to say that rewards are not important, mind. A low and accessible degree of rewards gives a sense of achievement to the game, and introduces a culture of 'bragging rights' within the social network.

The report also suggests social network game developers pay particular mind to the substantial female audience that engages with those games, and the subtle differences in the way they play games. When it comes to rewards, for instance, male players will evaluate gifts based on practical applications, whereas female players will see it as an avenue to self-expression. Both perspectives should be catered for in a social game.

The report concludes that the social network game is successful on its ability to sell to human emotions.

It's only a seven-page report, and for anyone interested it can be read here.

I certainly agree that a big part of the appeal behind a social game FarmVille is in the gift-giving and in encouraging other people to join in on the fun. Collecting stuff seems to be at the core of any good social game, and by making that stuff appealing enough for someone to shell out real money to access it faster is the key to turning social gaming into a successful business model.

The report mentions the importance of animation and visuals and how it's important to get those right - not necessarily by shooting for the same kind of "good" visuals we would expect from a PlayStation 3 game, but offering an aesthetically pleasing experience where the rewards are justified on a purely visual level, if nothing else.

Which, again, makes perfect sense if you want people to shell out real money for it.

Activision wants to work with retailers on second hand market

Activision CEO, Bobby Kotick, has outlined a vision to become the most profitable entertainment company within 10 years.

That vision includes taking advantage of the lucrative second hand market, which Kotick said could be worth as much as $US500 million. Activision should work with retailers to come up with a new profit model, he said.

According to, Kotick called for better engagement with retailers to come up with a mutually beneficial model.

This will certainly sound more appealing to the retailers than some other recent attempts to cash into the market by charging consumers of second-hand content for online access to material and gameplay, thereby discouraging players to buy second hand at all, but with that market being such a critical component to a retailer's business now, I'm sure they would rather the publishers leave it alone entirely.

Newcomer developer finds publisher

The Games Company (TGC) has secured the worldwide distribution rights for a new horror game, set in the wintery far north.

Alpha Polaris is a point and click mystery game due for release in early 2011, and is set in Greenland. It will be the first release from Finnish developer, Turmoil Games, and has been developed for the Windows PC platform.

TGC itself is a relative newcomer to the industry. The Berlin-based publisher was formed in 2006 and focuses on the PC platform. Its resume includes the PC versions of console download hits Max and the Magic Marker and Greed Corp.

Duke Nukem lawsuit dropped

It looks like Duke Nukem Forever is back on the books.

Take-Two Interactive and developer 3D Realms/ Apogee have arrived at a join decision that will allow the development of Duke Nukem to move ahead.

A court document filed to the United States District Court Southern District of New York states that the actions taken between the two companies have been dismissed in accordance of a Settlement Agreement executed by both on May 14.

Take-Two and 3D Realms/ Apogee will bear its own portion of the costs in the litigation, and agree to not seek any further costs or sanctions on the issue.

It will be interesting to see what happens, if anything, to the development of Duke Nukem Forever going forward, as it is still unclear at this stage what role 3D Realms/ Apogee will have moving forwards.


Assassin's Creed creator departs Ubisoft

Patrice Désilets, the creator of the Assassin's Creed series, has quit Ubisoft after 12 years.

Despite Désilets' departure, the series will continue, with Assassin's Creed Brotherhood due 16th Novemeber, with a full sequel expected at a later date.

Speaking to Eurogamer, Assassin's Creed producer, Vincent Pondbriand said Désilets made the 'right' decision, and his departure would not affect the quality of the series going forward.

The price of Natal (sorry, Kinect)

There's been a number of reports that Microsoft's motion-sensing device, Kinect (previously named Natal) will cost as high as $US200.

According to a number of reports (including Kotaku), Swedish retailers are listing a price of 1,499 SEK, roughly $US200 on exchange.

Given the low apparent interest in Kinect, I would expect such a price to be prohibitive, and dampen interest further.

Will Square Enix make further acquisitions?

An interesting titbit of news came the way of Gamasutra from Square Enix president, Yoichi Wada, courtesy of E3.

In the interview, Wada is quoted as saying: "of course I will always do it [pursue an acquisition] when the right opportunity arises. For example, new culture is needed. There is a need for social networking type services. When it comes to that, maybe the resources we have today may not be enough to address that market."

It's not the most surprising piece of news - last year another publishing giant, EA, also saw the need to capitalise on the massive market being created by vendors such as Zynga. To that end, it acquired Facebook rival, Playfish, for $US275 million.

Between the growing popularity of downloadable games, and the explosion of social networking games, there's entire new markets opening up to publishers, and acquisition is a relatively speedy way to develop competencies in new markets. Square Enix has already shown it's keen on developing its iPhone and download business, so it was only a matter of time before it looked to social networking.

It’s also no stranger to acquisitions. Last year, Square Enix acquired UK-based publisher, Eidos.

In the interview, Wada acknowledges there is a difference in US and Japanese social networking markets and this would be a challenge for the Japanese publisher, but it seems inevitable that we'll soon see some kind of Final Fantasy take on FarmVille.

Call of Duty deal keeps the add-ons flowing for Microsoft

Microsoft has signed a deal with Activision to ensure that the Xbox 360 will receive Call of Duty add-ons first for the next three years.

It's not the first time the vendor has signed this kind of agreement. Microsoft previously signed a rumoured $50 million deal that saw Grand Theft Auto IV downloadable content released exclusively to the Xbox in 2008.

Financials were not announced when Microsoft revealed the deal at its E3 press briefing, however the deal starts with the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops.


E3: Mini Xbox 360 to hit the market

The Xbox 360 Slim has been announced as part of Mircosoft's E3 reveal.

The new Xbox 360 will ship with a 250GB hard drive and includes wireless N built-in. The console should be released to the Australian market at roughly the same time as the UK and Europe editions - July 16 or thereabouts. There has been no official confirmation of release dates, however.