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.

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.

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.



‘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.

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.

Tiny Package, Big Brand Impact

Microsites can pack a big branding wallop in a tight focused package. Fred Brown writes an in-depth article for iMedia Connection on just what makes these small sites great extensions, or even an alternative, to building a big web presence for your brand or product. They have inherent benefits from being such a tightly designed experience, especially in terms of budget and the ability to create them more quickly than a full-fledged web site. Brown also argues that they give marketers a little more room for risk taking, even as a place to experiment.

One of the most interesting points in the piece is out how the compact, tightly designed experience of a microsite mimics the focused communication of a TV spot. Drawing the line from that analogy, a major branded web site could be nothing more than the modern extension of the old sponsored soap opera. There it is, full of half-engaging content trying to keep you around and be clever about the fact that it s just pushing you a product. With a microsite, marketers create a focused experience around their brand that they can roll out much more quickly and cheaply than a big old web page. What’s not to like? One challenge is figuring out what makes an engaging microsite, and Brown’s excellent piece covers that by digging up a list of his top 10.

Read more at iMedia Connection.

Study Argues Game Characters Not Reflecting Diversity

In findings even the study itself calls not surprising, game characters aren t diverse enough. Reported by New Scientist, the study conducted jointly by several universities including University of Southern California says that games are doing a poor job of representing the real population in the US. Using the top 150 console games and 2000 US census population figures, researchers found that male characters outnumber females nearly nine to one. African Americans and Hispanics are underrepresented ethnicities, with the percentage of Hispanics most grossly out of whack. Based on real US population, Hispanics are underrepresented at the rate of 78 percent. Conversely, Asians are overrepresented in games by 25 percent.

The researchers said that most of the games used in the study were produced in the US but that they didn’t take country of origin into account.

Read more at New Scientist.

Europe Gets Wii Price Cut, UK Can Expect PS3 And Wii Bundles

Separate announcements drop Wii price for Europe but not UK, prepare UK shoppers for Wii and PS3 bundles.

Nintendo says the Wii will get a price drop of 50 euro across Europe, retailing for 199 euro. As announced earlier this week, UK remains full price. reports that Nintendo continues to list UK MSRP at 199 GBP yet major retailers have executed their own 20 GBP price cut for the Holidays. Nintendo made another announcement earlier this week that instead of a price cut, the UK will get a holiday bundle with added software and the Wii MotionPlus controller. Read more at

Meanwhile Sony announced a series of PS3 bundles, also reported by The bundles are 250GB PS3s with a variety of packed in hardware and content. The first PS3 bundles are available in the UK on October 1. Read more at

Feature: Top 10 Ways To Succeed In Free To Play

The free-to-play market has grown to epic proportions and the game industry is taking notice. How did games like RuneScape (over 100 million active accounts), MapleStory (over 50 million players worldwide) and Perfect World International (over 50 million players worldwide) do so well Here are 10 keys you should pay close attention to when building your free-to-play strategy compiled by Perfect World Entertainment Director of Operation, Yoon Im, and Product Manager, Jonathan Belliss, reprinted with permission from IndustryGamers.

Game Quality

In the early days of the North American Free to Play Market, several companies released titles that were not of high quality. These companies made a lot of money, and as a result, several other players jumped into the space with the same mentality. Low development cost, low quality, high returns.

Back then the number of Free to Play games in the US could be counted on one hand, but the early days are long past gone. Now with more and more competitors jumping into the pool, quality level is becoming a significant success factor. In fact, a lot of lower quality games that are being published today are not seeing nearly the same return they could have expected to see back in 2005 and 2006.

We all know that Free to Play games have a low barrier to entry, but what people need to realize is that they also have a low barrier to exit. High game quality will help you retain users as well as reduce your churn rate.

Service Driven
A lot of publishers and even developers think that once their product is out the door, they re done. This is definitely not the case in the online gaming industry. Most developers are now on the ball in terms of adopting the service driven mindset, but a lot of publishers are still behind in terms of being service oriented.

Being service oriented means constantly thinking of new and innovative ways for you to provide better service to your users. Create an achievement system to encourage users to complete content and compete against their friends. Introduce a VIP system that rewards veteran players for sticking around and playing your game. Improve and build upon your existing Customer Support System.

Try to adopt the mindset of your users and envision what would make you happier as a customer.

Support Your Publishing Platform

Customer Support is your soldiers on the front line. They interact with your players day in and day out, and will know what issues are bothering players the most.

A lot of people look for a golden rule in terms of how many support team members you should have for every X number of players in your game. The truth of the matter is that it s different from game to game, there is no golden rule.

It’s important to have enough resources to handle sudden influxes of support, while at the same time, not be so stacked that a majority of your staff is twiddling their thumbs when tickets/requests are low in volume.

Managing these resources properly involves a lot of structure, processes, and tools. Make sure that you have all three in place in order to save budget, maintain efficiency, but still be ready to meet the needs of your user base.

Fraud Management
What most publishers don t realize is that billing for micro-transactions is infinitely more complex than that of subscription based games. It’s even more vital to understand that these complexities create hundreds of loopholes that malicious users will exploit.

What do you do when a player charges back and refuses to pay you for items you ve already delivered to them What happens if a player buys an item trades it to someone else, and then charges back These are the kinds of scenarios that your Fraud Team should have already run through logistically and have planned out in terms of processes on your end.

Having a high chargeback rate or fraud rate can, in extreme cases, result in your company being blacklisted from specific credit card companies. I don’t think we need to emphasize how detrimental that can be to your business.

Monetization Strategy

What are you selling Are you selling content, expansions, accessories, customization items, functional items

What 10 items are going to be driving your sales on a daily basis This needs to be decided while your game is in the production cycle. Trying to determine this late in development or changing the direction of your game to accommodate this will often ruin the consistency of your game design. Plan from the start and know the role virtual goods are going to be playing in your game.

How are you going to convince players that they need to purchase your virtual goods/content Will it be via your website or game launcher What messaging will you use Will you offer them sample cash shop items via a quest in-game

There are many potential avenues for monetizing your player base both on the development side and publishing side. The bottom line is that no one is going to buy anything unless they’re convinced of its value, and it’s your job to convince them.

Item Pricing
This at times is thought to go hand in hand with Monetization Strategy, and in some examples is accurate. Item Pricing, however, is a very significant factor in terms of success for a Free to Play game. The pricing of your items is going to determine everything from your ARPU (Average Revenue per User) to your bottom line.

Do you want to price items high and take the higher ARPPU (Average Revenue per Paying User) route Or do you price your items lower and aim for a higher paying user ratio Are your items mostly convenience items that should be priced cheaply, or are they luxury items that you want to price high These are questions you should ask yourself when coming up with your pricing strategy.

When most people hear the word localization , they think about language. When importing a game from overseas to the Western Market, naturally you should pay very close attention to language localization.

What is often overlooked is gameplay localization. There are aspects of gameplay that can be tweaked according to the intrinsic needs of the market you re targeting. For example, many MMORPGs in the Asian Market focus on grinding , killing similar monsters over and over until your character levels up and progresses. The Western Market hates grinding, and is more objective/quest oriented. So adding more quests to ensure there are no gaps in gameplay where a user is forced to grind in order to progress is probably a good move if you re publishing your game in the West.

This is one subtle example that should be replicated across your entire game. Find out who your target is and what they want, then make sure your game can deliver according to what those needs and desires are. That is true localization.

Properly Positioning Your Title

So let’s say you re a manager for an up and coming NBA superstar. He s 7 feet tall, can rebound like nobody s business, but doesn’t have that much speed and can’t shoot. Positioning him as a 3 point guard would be a huge waste of talent. Positioning him as a defensive center is guaranteed to net him more traction and increase the chance that he’ll be picked up by a team.

The same rules apply for your Free to Play game. You need to take the time to fully understand your product from top to bottom. You need to know what games in the market are similar to your title, and what makes your game stand out from the pack. Positioning your title improperly will make media outlets distrust you when you pitch future products to them. More importantly, your audience will feel that their perception of gameplay is not in line with yours, and take their business elsewhere.

Efficient Marketing

Once you’ve figured out how to position your title, you re then ready to market it. It doesn’t matter if you have a mom and pop budget, or a huge corporate wallet, marketing efficiently will both save you money, as well as make you money.

When you set out to initially plan your marketing campaign, you need to identify your core targets. Based on the position of the game, who are you going to broadcast it to What s the target demographic, where does this demographic congregate both online and offline
After your initial campaigns are complete, some will have performed well and some will be flops. It s ok to have campaigns that were complete and utter wastes of money, it s just important that you learn from those mistakes and never make them again.

Business Intelligence
Business Intelligence consists of two primary components: The ability to record, pool, and track data related to your business, and the ability to comprehend that data and produce an action plan from it.

Some basic ways that Business Intelligence can affect other core components of your game include Monetization Strategy (when is your game selling and how can you boost sales at times when it is not), Item Pricing (what type of impact have sales promotions had and how can pricing being adjusted accordingly), and Player Behavior (what quests and activities do players gravitate towards most and how can you maximize these), etc.

Business Intelligence will either confirm or deny your hypothesis about your title and allow you to make more informed decisions about the development of both your game and your publishing platform.