Economy Will Impact Holiday Spending, Says NPD

The NPD annual survey of consumer spending for the holidays has found nearly a third plan to button up their budgets this year, reports  The survey found 30 percent of people planning to spend less, a four percent increase over last year.  A half of those surveyed blamed the economy.  NPD also found 20 percent of those surveyed plan to buy video games this year, a two percent decline from last year.

Read more at {link no longer active}.

Beta Launch For 360 Social Media Apps

Elite Xbox blogger Major Nelson has invited Xbox Live users to sign up to test the new 360 dashboard with Twitter and Facebook connections, reports  Nelson is asking thousands to sign up to test the social media apps on XBL in advance of the official launch, rumored to be next month.


VidZone Streaming Videos Will Be On PS3 Only

Digital content company VidZone is bumping up its streamed video offerings for PS3 but sticking to downloadable content on 360, reports  Talking about the company s Europe plans, VidZone’s Michael Russo says its PS3 streaming content service will expand to cover 18 countries by Christmas.  While not providing specifics, he says additional services are planned for the U.S.

As for 360, Russo calls the platform a smaller business , one where VidZone only sells downloadable music videos from independent labels.  He calls their streaming content service on PS Network more of a ‘proper consumer product’ than what they offer through Xbox Live.


PC Shipments Up From Early 2009 Decline

Research firm IDC has found third quarter sales of personal computers jumped 2.3 from the same period last year, reports AP.  The industry had expected sales to continue falling after declines in the first half of 2009.  Computer makers have also been reeling from a tough 2008, when holiday sales fell to their lowest in six years.  IDC partly attributes the third quarter jump to robust back-to-school sales.  It ranked HP as the world s biggest computer maker, with Taiwan’s Acer bumping Dell for the number two spot.

Read more from AP {link no longer active}.

‘Guitar Hero’ In ‘Couples Retreat’

Activision scratched a winner when Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn wrote Guitar Hero 5 into the script for Couples Retreat.   As fans of the game in real life, the famously funny pair wrote a scene into the movie where a Guitar Hero face-off moves the plot forward.

According to Variety, the news had Activision executives in stitches when they heard about the unendorsed placement.  The game publisher quickly joined Universal’s list of product placement licensors for the film ranging from booze brands to apparel.  Activision then launched a nationwide contest supported by radio spots to promote the film and its starring product.

Couples Retreat was the number one movie in the U.S. last weekend, overcoming dismal reviews – 15 percent at Rotten Tomatoes – to pull in $34 million.

Read more at Variety.

Wall Street Journal Is Number One U.S. Paper

The latest report by the Audit Bureau of Circulations shows Wall Street Journal is the number one newspaper in paid circulations in the U.S., reports Ad Age.  The report shows U.S. paid circulation for the Journal climbed to 2.02 million, a slight increase from last year.  Going the other way was USA Today, suffering a big drop to 1.88 million subscribers from 2.3 million last year.

Ad Age says a price hike hurt USA Today, as did fewer copies at hotels seeing fewer guests.  ABC counts hotel freebie papers as paid circulation.  The agency will publish its full round-up of newspaper circulations on October 26.

Read more at Ad Age {link no longer active}.

GameX Industry Summit In Philadelphia

GameX is featuring creative and development leads from major game companies at its expo and industry summit taking place in Philadelphia October 24-25.  The summit will have more than 20 sessions covering creative and business aspects of game development.  Featured speakers include Jason Della Rocca, president of Perimeter Partners, Chris Foster, design director at Harmonix, Clint Hocking, creative director at Ubisoft, and Richard Rouse, lead designer at Kaos Studios.

Find out more at their web site.

Ads Make Games Better, Says Massive

JJ Richards, GM of Massive, breaks down the argument for in-game ads into a patriotic proposition.  If asked if they like taxes, people will say no.  If the question is changed to whether they like living in the U.S., which most know taxes heartily, their answers change.

Talking to Ars Technica, Richards says his company has changed the question when it comes to asking gamers about in-game ads.  Research at Massive focuses less on the broad question and more on discovering where ads would be acceptable.  They put gamers in environments where a lack of ads would shatter the game’s sense of realism, for instance Times Square in New York, and found gamers change their stance quickly.  Richard says the key to successful in-game advertising is managing ad placement so it enhances the experience.  It s something Massive feels so strongly about they ve turned down clients when their brand didn t fit a game.

Read more at Ars Technica.

Happy Ads Are Here Again

After a spate of ads that tried to leverage the doom and gloom of the recent economic downturn, advertisers are changing their tune to optimism.  Reported by NY Times, recent ads are choosing to harvest consumer optimism for an American turnaround over the daily realism that the economy is still in the dumps.  The move is exemplified by spots for GE, Bank of America and Levis, among others.

Read more at NY Times.

Academics Explore Benefit Of Adaptive Games

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark are exploring the effects of games that adapt to players, reports New Scientist.  They believe that adaptive games that recognize a player’s skill level or game play style, then adjust accordingly, will enhance the experience.  To prove their point, the researchers jerry-rigged Super Mario Brothers to vary difficulty such as enemy frequency and length between gap jumps.  They then tested two versions of the game to find user frustration levels with the harder version.

The test as described by New Scientist seems simple, and the results obvious.  The adaptive game concept might be interesting to any game marketer or executive who has argued for better difficulty balancing and some degree of handholding to help sell a game to mainstream players.  This might also sound familiar to said marketer/executive.  As a professor from Georgia Institute of Technology tells New Scientist, there will be resistance to the concept from the artists.

Read more at New Scientist.