‘Left 4 Dead 2’ Still Alive In Australia

Valve and EA have secured the release of Left 4 Dead 2 in Australia after removing content deemed too violent by the country s rating board, reports Gamesindustry.biz.  The decision comes after Australia s Office of Film and Literature Classification initially rejected the title as inappropriate for the country s most mature game rating of MA15+.  Australian officials had also rejected the notion that the country should consider introducing a higher mature rating equivalent to 18+ ratings in U.S. and Europe.

Changes for the most part remove mutilations, wound details and effects such as blood splatters and dead bodies remaining on the screen.  Valve has stated that the original ruling is still under appeal with a decision expected later this month, calling the edited version a back up plan.

Read more at Gamesindustry.biz.

A September To Remember For PS3

Two analysts have shared predictions for September game sales as NPD prepares to release hard data next week.  Reported by Industry Gamers, Jesse Divnich of EEDAR and Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan Securities have released statements highlighting expected double-digit growth for software with sales in the $715-750 million range.  Both also expect PS3 hardware sales to make or beat 400,000 units, topping 360 and Wii.

Divnich expects Halo3: ODST to be the top-seller for the month, at around 1.8 million units.  Industry Gamers rounds out the anticipated top five as The Beatles: Rock Band, Need for Speed: Shift, Guitar Hero 5 and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2.

Read more at Industry Gamers {link no longer active}.

Sony Goes Big TV In UK For ‘Uncharted 2’

The UK is prepping for a TV-heavy marketing blitz for Sony’s Uncharted 2: Among Thieves , reports Electronic Theatre.  The campaign kicks off next week with a four-week TV run airing what the media outlet calls a full-length HD trailer.  Spots will air during England World Cup qualifiers.  Sony has also secured ten week sponsorships on UK cable channel programs Sky One’s Friday Night Movie and Discovery Channel’s Adventure & Survival.   A cinema campaign rolls out after the game s release, running a different trailer than the TV run that features all in-game footage.

The game hits shelves in UK on October 16.  Read more at Electronic Theatre.

Data Reveals Gender Balance On Social Media Sites

Online researcher Information Is Beautiful has released data from Google Ad Planner highlighting gender breakdown on popular social media sites.  Reported by FastCompany, the data shows women outnumber men on all web sites where activity is purely social networking, while sites with other purposes such as YouTube and Linked-In are split down the middle.

Women edge out men on some of the most popular sites, for instance on Facebook and Twitter where 57 percent of users are female.  The disparity grows on MySpace, which reported 64 percent female users.  The only site where men outnumber women is Digg.com, at 64 percent male.

Read more and access the full chart at FastCompany {link no longer active}.

Nexon Organizes BlockParty

Nexon is launching a new portal called BlockParty for people who play its online games, reports Gamasutra.  The new destination replaces Nexon.net, the current gathering ground for players of the publisher’s popular free-to-play MMOs such as Maple Story and Combat Arms.

Nexon America marketing VP Min Kim calls the service equal parts games and social networking portal.  The company released an animated preview highlighting the service as well as spiffy new logo and mascots known as Block Heads.

Read more at Gamasutra {link no longer active}.

An Advertiser Discusses In-Game Ads

Applying conventional ad models are the wrong way to approach in-game ads, says a former advertiser turned advergame designer.  In a video interview with Abbey Klaassen of Ad Age, Kevin Slavin, managing director of advergame maker Area/Code, discusses inherent differences between games and other forms of media and how they should affect the way advertisers look at in-game branding.

One of Slavin’s key arguments is how display, perhaps the oldest form of advertising, is completely ineffective in video games.  Display has comfortably transitioned through various ad vehicles.  Draw a fun line from the sandwich board to the billboard to print ads and now online banner ads, and it can be argued that each platform had the same properties facilitating what display ads are designed to do.  The goal is garner attention and leave an impression, and the recipe to get there is good creative and proper placement.

Slavin sees a different reality for brands displayed in games.  He uses an analogy with roadside billboards.  In the real world, he points out, the most effective roadside billboards are the ones placed where drivers are likely to have time to kill.  To reinforce his point, think of how the most mundane ads can become study pieces at long traffic lights and jammed expressways.  Those situations would rarely if ever exist in a game, where he argues gamers are more likely to be racing past that virtual billboard than pausing by it.  The analogy certainly extends beyond roadsides, considering whether ads are displayed in a sports arena, a race track or any other game environment, the person intended to see it is going to be preoccupied even if not on the move.

How does an advertiser get around a game player s preoccupation   Slavin echoes what most in-game ad companies are arguing: become part of the preoccupation.  As a former advertiser, he breaks it down in somewhat scientific terms.  Successful messaging leverages a medium’s mode of communication with its users.  In print, TV and online display, the mode is passive communication, user action is observation, and the key to messaging is to be quick and compact.  Games are completely different in all three areas.  Their system of communication is interactivity, user action is a behavior, and whatever the message is in the game, be it a storyline or a final objective, it is designed to take place over a long period of time.  A successful in-game branding effort needs to incorporate itself into all three.  Slavin doesn’t refer to it, but the game industry has perhaps its earliest standard-setting effort in the way Palm PDAs were incorporated into the original Splinter Cell.

As an aside, Slavin makes an interesting observation extending from his media analysis to pinpoint the difference between communities that form online around viral campaigns versus video games.  He labels the former as simply a crowd, where people are gathering and inviting friends to observe something such as a viral video.  Conversely, a group that forms around a game is sharing an activity, making them a true online community.

Watch the full video interview at Ad Age {link no longer active}.

Top Brands Ranked By Online Social Radar Index

Ad Age released the list of top 200 brands for September 2009 based on online conversations monitored by research firm Infegy.  The firm’s Social Radar Sentiment Index tracks brand mentions and evaluates consumer sentiment based on positive or negative comments on more than 20 million web sites and social media pages.

Apple topped the list based on conversation volume of more than 920,000 mentions in September.  Microsoft placed second with about 40 percent fewer mentions, but beat its rival in the perception category with approximately 79 percent positive conversations compared to Apple’s 75 percent.

The only true video game brand to make the list was Nintendo, which placed in the top 10 with more than 300,000 mentions and 84 percent positive conversations.  Sony was also in the top 10 and nearly neck to neck with Nintendo in volume, of which 86 percent was measured as positive.  Disney edged out both at fourth in volume and 87 percent positive mentions.

In the retail category, Walmart, Target and Best Buy were spread out across the top 50.  Walmart topped the category in volume with about 140,000 mentions but got the lowest percentage of positive conversations with 59 percent.  Target was second in volume with about 107,000 but tops in positive conversation with 83 percent, while Best Buy had nearly 44,000 mentions of which 72 percent were positive.  Netflix also made the list with more than 45,000 mentions and a 76 percent positive rating.

You can access the full list along with charts breaking down the top brands at Ad Age {link no longer active}.

Reality In Isometric Perspective

A photography technique that makes real environments and people look like scenes out of a diorama has found its way into TV spots.  Tilt-shift photography originated in print ads, including a perfect application of it in a Toys ‘R’ Us print campaign called Everything’s Toys where real cityscapes were depicted as miniature toys.  The technique is now being used for TV spots, such as the one for National Australia Bank highlighted by AdFreak.

For the gamer set, the visual result of tilt-shift photography video might be most notable for how much it makes reality look like an isometric video game.

Watch it at AdFreak.