Nexon Organizes BlockParty

Nexon is launching a new portal called BlockParty for people who play its online games, reports Gamasutra.  The new destination replaces, 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Read more at Gamasutra {link no longer active}.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.

‘Splinter Cell: Conviction’ Release Date Trailer

Ubisoft released this video trailer at Tokyo Game Show to announce the release date for the long-anticipated sequel, Splinter Cell: Conviction.   How do you communicate the amped-up combat in store for Sam Fisher?   Repetition; the trailer’s pacing comes from punches and gunshots.  Fans of the stealthier game play that highlighted the early entries in the series take note: the most prominent shadows in the video are the ones cast by muzzle flashes and explosions.

The minute-long trailer just might be one of the game’s TV spot candidates in the way it’s structured, complete with Microsoft’s official 360 tag at the end.  It also advertises an exclusive in-game shotgun available to those who pre-order the game at Gamestop.  The game is due out February 23 of next year.

Watch it at IGN.

Couch Potato Gamers Should Sweat The Future As Seen By Microsoft

Microsoft says motion based interface like that seen in Project Natal will become the norm for games.  In statements made to Kotaku, Microsoft Game Studio’s VP Phil Spencer predicted that much like multiplayer evolved from niche feature to essential game play component, compatibility with motion control will take a similar path.  Spencer expressed amazement at the surge in support for Natal by developers and publishers.  [a]list daily reported the list of publishers currently working on projects for Natal, released by Microsoft at Tokyo Game Show.

Read more at Kotaku.

Indie Studios Sound Alarm Over A Drop In Development Deals

Independent game developers are speaking up about a slump in development deals and how it could affect the game release slate in 2010 and 2011, reports  Based on interviews with international developers, the outlet says there is currently a stall in publishers making game deals with external studios.  While one developer who spoke to Gamesindustry holds out hope that a robust Holidays will spur deal making early next year, there is worry that last minute deals will be laden with pressure based on late starts and tight budgets.


U.S. Gamers Get A Say In How They Want ‘Resident Evil 5: AE’

Capcom has opened up the polls in the U.S. to gauge whether gamers want Resident Evil 5: Alternative Edition sold in a box or pushed to their box, reports Joystiq.  The publisher’s community blog Capcom-Unity has posted a forthright entry portraying a dilemma facing the U.S. team in whether the upcoming tile for PS3 and 360 should be sold at retail or offered as downloadable content.  RE5: AE is a follow-up to last year s mega-hit mainly delivering new playable content, and for PS3 owners the ability to play using the console s upcoming motion controller.

It s a refreshing approach, one that hopefully lives up by ultimately letting gamers truly influence the outcome.

Read more at Joystiq.

Nintendo Is The Best Publisher In The Industry, Says Game Developer

Nintendo sits atop Game Developer magazine’s annual list of top 20 video game publishers for the third year in a row, as reported by Gamasutra today.  The top four publishers maintained their position in the 2009 list with Nintendo again followed by EA, Activision-Blizzard and Ubisoft.  The big shift comes from Take-Two displacing Sony for the number five position.  The list only accounts for software, looking at publishers release slates, revenue and review scores.

New entries in the list are Bethesda and MTV Games.  Sega saw a precipitous five-place drop from last year to place at number twelve.

Read more at Gamasutra {link no longer active}.

Nintendo Is The Best Company In The World, Says BusinessWeek

Nintendo has ranked number one on BusinessWeek’s list of World’s Best Companies for 2009.  According to the business publication, the list evaluates companies worldwide based on innovation, expansion, leadership and a vision for the future.

As reported in Industry Gamers, profit can’t hurt either, with Nintendo pulling in $16.8 billion in 2008 and garnering a reputation in the game industry as company that virtually prints money.  It’s worth noting however that Nintendo beat out more profitable companies with bigger market caps on BusinessWeek’s list, including number two Google and number three Apple.

Overall, the U.S. dominated the list with 14 companies on the list of 40.

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