Funcom Announces Layoffs And ‘The Secret World’ Delay

Funcom is laying off 20 percent of their work force. The company operates offices in Norway, Switzerland, China, Canada and the US. Reporting the story, Industry Gamers says that of the more than 300 people employed across those offices, the staff in Norway is expected to take the brunt of the layoffs. As part of cost-cutting moves the company is also seeking to move more staff into its Quebec office, where it even expects to hire 100 to 150 new Canadian employees over the next year and a half.

The force reduction will delay Funcom’s upcoming MMO The Secret World but will not affect the Age of Conan expansion Rise of the Goldslayer.

Sony Shutters Part Of ‘Uncharted 2’ Twitters

Sony has turned off the chapter update Twitter function for its PS3 title, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. 1up reports the move is not surprising given the expectation that the volume of Tweets would be cumbersome for everyone involved once the game hit shelves. Even before it got there, Sony got a taste of just what that volume would be as the game started to reach reviewers in the press. As a result Sony decided to shut down the frequent chapter updates only, leaving the rest of Twitter functionality going for now. Read more at 1up.

The Next Merchandising Frontier, Maybe

HBO seemed to be entering the sugar water category this July when it rolled out Tru Blood, the blood-red drink originally seen on the network s eponymous vampire show. While the drink is available for purchase online, in reality HBO enlisted reverse-branding and defictionalization specialist Omni Consumer Products to create it. Fast Company has gathered a list of recent attempts to market so-called fantasy products. It turns out this variation on merchandising has precedence.

As Fast Company traces it, the practice started with a disastrous Disney and Hasbro partnership to market a real version of the gooey toy Flubber from its 1963 film Son of Flubber. Skin rashes and a small setback for the environment highlight that effort. More recent attempts have been strictly promotional, for instance the Simpsons movie promotion turning 7-11 Slurpees into Apu-endorsed Squishies. Others have taken a crack at creating a niche, such as Jelly Belly s Harry Potter flavor jelly beans. Overall, and Flubber aside, none have come close to being a mass marketed product.

In addition to the Tru Blood drink, Omni has developed products from films Idiocracy and Anchorman. Available at their site: Sex Panther cologne. Just in time for Christmas. Check out the media rich feature at Fast Company.

‘Sentiment Analysis’ Transforming Market Research

Marketers are turning to tools and firms that turn online consumer chatter into actionable data. Last month, NY Times covered the growing field of sentiment analysis, where all manner of online chatter is tracked and turned into hard data for marketers to decipher. In addition to user operated tools, such as Twitter mining apps and Financial Times news topic tracking tool Newssift, research firms are popping up to help marketers track the huge volume of blogs and other online consumer opinions.

Following up the Times piece, Kevin Randall at Fast Company says the field is potential evolution for market research. Randall touches on what most marketers can relate to, the difficulty in garnering objective data with common consumer research methods. Crystallizing what many have thought, he questions how much value to put into data culled from participants gathered by the promise of pocket cash and free food. While he does see the field as still developing, including the language processing algorithms behind automated analysis tools, he argues sentimental analysis could transform market research.

Read Randall’s piece at Fast Company.

Fast Company’s link to the Times article is broken. You can access it at NY Times.

‘Assassin’s Creed II’ Trailer

Ubisoft released this cinematic trailer for the follow-up to its 2007 blockbuster. The publisher has to know there is a lot to communicate to new and old fans alike, with this sequel to Assassin’s Creed delivering a completely new character and premise as well serious enhancements to its stealth-action game play. Imagine it this way. Marketing has bullet points to hit with the trailer to lay the groundwork for its ad blitz. Sales has to take this thing on the road and let it convince retail partners it s a follow-up worthy of its brisk-selling predecessor. Meantime, as much as PR can leverage the AC brand to shoehorn this into sites, they still need to wow media outlets and contacts who are indulging in epic content of all kind in the run-up to the Holidays.

Ubisoft’s trailer nails it on all fronts. From a stylistic standpoint, it s what it needs to be as Hollywood slick and artistically executed. As for covering everything else, watch it and pay attention to how masterfully it moves along and crescendos emotionally while you re getting to know the new character, new premise, game play and new features. What a way to sell the sell-sheet.

 

Watch the trailer at GameTrailers.

A YouTube Channel To Lift All Marketers, Courtesy Of Google

Google worked with Wharton School of Business to create Fast.Forward, a marketing channel on YouTube. As the [a]list daily sees it, the channel delivers content, video and otherwise, that hopes to help marketers catch up to current trends and never get left behind again. It s also designed as a forum of ideas, so the next big trend could be taking shape in discussions there already.

 

Read more, and access the channel, at eMarketing Newsletter.

Could Apple Spoil It For Console Makers?

Mobile games are challenging the console market, agree Japan game executives. Hiroko Tabuchi of NY Times interviewed executives at Tokyo Game Show to get their insight into the growth of mobile gaming. The growing trend, seen as led by Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch, showed up at TGS this year when the number of cell phone games doubled to represent nearly a quarter of all games on exhibit.

Enterbrain’s Hirokazu Hanamura and Square Enix president Yoichi Wada pinpointed the effect as challenging game companies to turn their focus from competing through hardware to software. Others commented on the upside, a potentially huge market poised for agile development of cheap and quick to market products. Still, Namco Bandai chief executive Shin Unozawa’s sentiment could be the one ringing in the ears of most console makers and major publishers, that at $1-2 price points no one has the courage to dive into mobile completely.

 

Read more at NY Times.

Voice Over Acting In ‘Uncharted’ Territory

Naughty Dog tries a novel approach to getting quality VO. The developer of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves incorporated group VO rehearsal and dialogue improvisation during motion capture sessions, gathering its cast of voice actors to essentially play the scenes for the upcoming title as if on a film set. Creative director Amy Henning says the sequel intends to explore more character development than its commercially successful predecessor, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. This includes delving into protagonist Nathan Drake s character and, as Henning hints, delivering a colorful and romantic storyline unlike the usual videogame fare. Nolan North, the voice behind Drake, lauds the practice of allowing actors to suggest improvised dialogue, calling it huge for an actor yet uncommon in film or TV.

 

Read more from the AP.

ITunes App Store Surpasses 2 Billion Downloads

Apple reached the milestone only 6 months after hitting 1 billion. The surge is undoubtedly driven by another astronomical number for Apple, the availability of 85,000 apps for iPhone and iPod Touch. The install base of the two devices is estimated at 50 million units across 77 countries.

Apple rung in 2 billion downloads with much less fanfare than the previous benchmark, when it awarded a 13-year old from Connecticut who downloaded the 1 billionth app a $10,000 iTunes gift certificate and some of its pricey hardware.

 

Read more from Reuters.

Video Servers Under The Gun For Running Ads Below The Fold

Complaints have been filed against video ad networks for automatic video ads. The complaints call out the practice of serving video ads that start automatically when web sites are visited, sometimes launching in video panels below the fold that aren t immediately visible. Adweek reports that industry observers are calling the practice deceptive, used as a way for providers to trump up their ad impressions. Their clients are discovering that they need to monitor their buys manually, an effort they see as an expensive option. One firm named has begun asking its partners to stop the dubious practice.