No Love For LARP Across The Pond

UK mobile phone carrier Phones4u is promoting a plan that rewards users of its service who have 50 friends.  As its TV spot suggests, among segments probably not popular enough to qualify for the plan are those who dabble in live-action role-playing games.

Maybe Phones4u recognizes that some of the more talented cosplayers out there are probably pretty popular.  The ad takes on LARPs of the homemade cardboard costume ilk.

Watch it at BrandRepublic {link no longer active}.

Marketing ‘Where The Wild Things Are’

Ad Age says the campaign to promote Warner Brothers and director Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are has been highly anticipated among film marketing insiders.  Jonze and the studio had conflicting views on whether the film should target a family audience or reach out to the director’s aging hipster art house film fans.

Looking at the final components of the campaign, Ad Age points out that the director won.  Everything from a simple behind-the-scenes filmmaker blog web site versus a behemoth viral and online campaign to hand-designed marketing merchandise overseen by Jonze points to a promotion much more based on the director s vision than Warner’s.  The result has been a number one movie, but on a $32.5 million haul that some feel could have been padded with more mainstream marketing targeting families.

Read more at Ad Age {link no longer active}.

The Necessary Evil Of Game Publishers

Brandon Sheffield, editor-in-chief of Game Developer magazine, has written an editorial exploring what benefits game publishers bring to the industry.   His article from the magazine’s October issue is posted on sister site Gamasutra.

Sheffield ponders the roles publishers play, whether as financiers, marketers or project managers, and whether that brings benefit to the industry as a whole.  He shares a great anecdote from former Vivendi game maker Mark Hood, who relays an experience many game industry people have had in dealing with non-endemic executives at game publishers.  One of Sheffield’s conclusions: the publisher-developer relationship is that of controlling parents overseeing rebellious children.

Read more at Gamasutra {link no longer active}.

GameStop Making Moves Into Digital

Writing for Gamasutra, Chris Remo reports that GameStop has made public its plans to increase investment in digital distribution.  The company made statements during an analyst meeting that it is considering making an acquisition or other significant investment in a digital content distribution service.  It will also ramp up its in-store digital point cards program and continue to increase digital content offerings through its web site.

The meeting with analysts comes after a rocky financial week for GameStop.  A flat U.S. game sales report from NPD and an analyst downgrade of its stock caused the retailer’s shares to plunge nearly nine percent early in the week.

Read more at Gamasutra {link no longer active}.

‘Dead Space’ Failing EA’s Test

NPD’s September U.S. game sales report has shed the first light on EA’s test for mature content on Wii with Dead Space Extraction.  With just 9,000 units sold at launch, it doesn t look good.  The publisher released the M-rated title exclusively for Wii in what it called a test.  The game is a follow-up in a franchise that originally appeared on 360 and PS3 last year.  EA wanted to see if Wii players, and especially Wii owners who have a 360 or PS3, would buy a mature game for their Nintendo system.

Extraction only had two days in NPD’s September report, yet the low launch figure speaks to an eventual bust for another mature game on Wii.  Industry Gamers has made the argument for Wii’s inability {link no longer active} to attract a mature audience before, citing misses such as Sega’s efforts with The Conduit and MadWorld.   The outcome of EA’s effort seems to seal the deal for them, and for EEDAR analyst Jesse Divnich.  Divnich tells the outlet that it’s becoming clear that the segment of Wii owners who play mature games probably own another console for their hardcore gaming.

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

As ‘Need For Speed’ Hits A Benchmark, EA Talks Online Plans

EA is publicizing that racing franchise Need For Speed has surpassed 100 million units sold, a feat that took 15 titles and nearly as many years.  If all goes well when the company rolls out Need for Speed World Online next year, it could take a lot less time and packaging to double that figure.

FastCompany talks to EA about plans for NFS and other game brands that it intends to bring online using the free-to-play PC game model.  Even before the racing franchise comes online, the publisher is preparing to release Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online in January.  The title has been in beta since May, and EA claims that 50,000 beta players have put in more than 130,000 rounds.  Among lessons from its golf game beta, EA is finding how online games facilitate studying user behavior and quickly improving on games using player data and community feedback.

Read more at FastCompany {link no longer active}.

Licensing For The Masses

Disney is introducing a plan that lets people purchase content for use on any device, reports The Hollywood Reporter.  The project, called Keychest, is essentially a content licensing model for the everyman.  Users pay a single fee for a piece of content to play it across platforms, from burning DVDs to playing it on PCs and portable devices.

Disney could demonstrate the technology in as little as two months.  The company is currently lining up content partners, competing with a similar initiative from Sony called Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem.  Disney believes Keychest is going to prolong the life of DVD and Blu-ray media, not supplant them.

Read more at The Hollywood Reporter {link no longer active}.

Nickelodeon Picks Up Ninja Turtles

Viacom’s MTV subsidiary Nickelodeon has picked up the license for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, reports Gamasutra.  Nickelodeon acquired the rights for $60 million from Mirage Group, which had owned the franchise since 1984, and its licensing partner 4Kids Entertainment.

The franchise based on a Kung-Fu fighting turtle foursome has had more than 20 games in arcades and on home consoles.  Konami and more recently Ubisoft have been publishers of TMNT licensed games.  Gamasutra’s Chris Remo notes that Nickelodeon s video game licensing agreement with publisher THQ expires next year, setting up the scenario for TMNT titles and other Nickelodeon games being published by MTV.

Read more at Gamasutra {link no longer active}.

‘Civilization’ Comes To Facebook

Sid Meier’s studio Firaxis and publisher 2K Games are making a Facebook version of Civilization, reports Gamasutra.  The long-running strategy game series is among legendary game maker Meier s most revered franchises.  Meier announced the new project on his forum,  His studio has already launched a Facebook page for the game, called “Civilization Network.”  Meier says the social game will incorporate the more casual strategy game play seen in last year’s Civilization Revolution titles for game consoles and Nintendo DS.  It’s slated for release in 2010.

Read more at Gamasutra {link no longer active}.

Focused feature set helped ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’

Batman: Arkham Asylum developer Rocksteady says their critically lauded, two million unit selling game benefited from a focused feature set.  Talking to Kris Graft at Gamasutra, Rocksteady’s Sefton Hill says the team prioritized features by keeping game design centered on what Batman can do.  That meant features that would require design and development efforts outside of the core game concept were out.  That included flying and driving, which the developers discussed but ultimately decided effort spent there would compromise quality elsewhere.

Hill calls the common developer mistake of overshooting as understandable, given that a quantifiable benchmark such as number of features is an easier sell than tightly designed, refined game play.

Read more at Gamasutra {link no longer active}.