ESRB Releases Ratings Guide App For iPhone

The Entertainment Software Rating Board has released an iPhone app designed as a ratings guide on the go for parents buying videogames for their children.  As reported in Edge-Online, the free app lists ratings and rating descriptors for every game rated by ESRB since July 1, 2008, totaling more than 18,000 titles.  The organization says that should cover nearly every game making children’s holiday wish lists this year.  It’s raising visibility for the app with a nationwide TV and radio campaign.

Read more at Edge-Online {link no longer active}.

D.I.C.E. Summit Speakers And Awards Deadline

The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences has announced four new speakers and a new panel for the 2010 D.I.C.E. Summit, taking place Feb. 16-19 at Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas.  The organization has also circulated a reminder that the deadline for submissions for the 13th Annual AIAS Awards held at the event are due this Friday, Dec.4.  Award submission information is at the AIAS web site.

The new speakers announced are David Gallo, director of special projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and member of the team that mapped the Titanic; Richard Lemarchand, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves designer at Naughty Dog; Brian Reynolds, chief creative officer at Zynga; and Mike Yuen, VP content and services at Zeebo.

The panel announced is being moderated by Kill Screen Magazine writer Jamin Brophy-Warren, with panelists Navid Khonsari, film, TV and game writer, Manveer Heir, lead designer at Raven Software and Gamasutra columnist, and Dmitri Williams, assistant professor with courses on virtual community and videogames at University of Southern California.  The panel topic has not been specified.

‘Full Of Sartre’

Belgian brewer Stella Artois is running a viral campaign channeling retro modernism and 1960s chic to communicate current concerns about the environment and promote its use of recycled material.  The campaign is extensive, creating a mock 1960s French TV variety show called “Le Recyclage de Luxe” with an obvious painstaking effort at authenticity.  In-fact remove the currency of the subject matter, subtle Stella branding and recognizable artists such as Florence + The Machine as special guests, and the footage could be exactly the archival material it s pretending to be.  There s even enough material to fill a complete show, with a 15-minute segment launching the concept and a half-dozen shorter clips.  The message is that Stella Artois is using 100 percent recycled paper, 75 percent recycled glass and 50 percent recycled aluminum in packaging its beer.  There is irony in an overproduced campaign promoting recycled material, but given the project’s philosophical depth who is to say that isn’t intentional.

The two-minute short Utopia gets to the core of the concept; watch it at YouTube {link no longer active}.

You can read more about the campaign at Fast Company {link no longer active}.

The campaign has an official Le Recyclage de Luxe Show YouTube channel.

Self-Affirmation With Jack Black

Actor-comedian Jack Black is helping promote online multiplayer in EA’s Brutal Legend in a funny video telling gamers how to overcome online trash talking.  The clip openly channels the Saturday Night Live skit “Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley,” which featured the confidence-challenged character made famous by now U.S. Senator Al Franken.  Black’s version plays on the concept of actually needing ego girding to prepare for the often incomprehensible trash talking one can expect to hear online.  The video has the feel of a production that took all of an hour of the star’s time, but it proves a couple of formulas.  Get a gamer celebrity like Black sold into a project and he can give you mileage.  And with Black specifically, give him a minute or two of screen time and he s bound to make you chuckle.

Watch it at GameTrailers {link no longer active}.

A View On Launching Big Games In Japan

Game blog site SCRAWLfx has pulled together the varied components of Square Enix’s campaign to launch Final Fantasy XIII in Japan.  The result comes across as a veritable case study on launching big game IP in the country.  From street campaigns to product tie-ins, the publisher is peppering the population in an attempt to hype the game.  Some would argue if it’s necessary for anything related to Final Fantasy in Japan, a case supported by one of Square Enix’s own TV spots.  It shows a teacher announcing to his class that he’ll be absent from school when the game launches.  Still, the campaign is by all accounts being expertly executed for its target audience, and the rest of the game publishing world might do well to take note.

Check it out at SCRAWLfx.

New Facebook Terms Affect Social Games

Writing for Business Insider, multiplayer site OMGPOP.COM CEO Dan Porter outlines changes coming to Facebook’s terms of service and how they affect social games.  Porter outlines how social game makers have developed ways to inflate their user base, forcing actions such as inviting friends to keep playing.  Facebook is targeting these practices with new terms of service for app developers coming into effect on December 16.  Porter highlights three big changes and what they mean for developers, specifically how the new terms restrict games from incentivizing forced friend invites and other actions that lead to fake accounts and inflated user bases.

Read more at Business Insider.

Brisk Black Friday Sales For Consoles

Holiday shopping in the U.S. kicked off over Thanksgiving break with brisk sales for Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft game hardware, reports Venture Beat.  Nintendo says it sold 550,000 Wii consoles for the week, in addition to nearly a million Nintendo DS systems.  Sony says it sold about 440,000 PS3 consoles in the same period.  Microsoft hasn’t revealed hard numbers but says that it saw Xbox 360 sales double during Thanksgiving week compared to the week prior.  The companies are crediting their price cuts earlier this fall, bundling of games and peripherals at retail, and key title releases for the surge in sales.

Read more at Venture Beat.

Activision Jumps On Microsoft’s Family Wagon

Following Microsoft’s lead in promoting Xbox 360 as wholesome family entertainment, Activision has launched a UK holiday shopping tour supported by the console maker to push its own family friendly fare.  Reported in MCV, Activision is touring major UK retailers and shopping malls to promote games suitable for young children through game demos and contests to win games as prizes.  The tour setup is divided into one section promoting the publisher s music games DJ Hero and Band Hero, and another for Tony Hawk: Ride and the kid-friendly fighting game Bakugan Battle Brawlers.   Activision says the tour is an integral part of its marketing strategy, one that it intends to continue using for holiday seasons to come.

Read more at MCV.

Survey Finds Factors Other Than Review Scores Drive Game Purchases

Analyst firm Cowen and Company has released more results from its Fall 2009 Video Game Survey, this time to highlight what factors drive game purchase decisions.  The results are reported in Edge-Online.

The firm conducted a survey of 1,312 people in addition to 1,013 individuals specified as game players.  Among other questions, it asked what drives people’s decisions in choosing games to buy.  Doug Creutz of Cowen and Company says despite the focus by publishers and developers on delivering high scores at review, critical reviews and aggregated scores such as those compiled by Metacritic were cited as the two least important factors.  The findings mirror recent analysis by EEDAR that found marketing can have a much bigger impact on game sales than game quality.

In order of priority, respondents to Cowen’s survey listed decision drivers as genre, perception of earlier games in a series, price, word-of-mouth, impressions of the game culled from exposure to editorial or advertising, and perception of the publisher s earlier titles.  Creutz says reviews could play a factor in word of mouth and therefore play a more important role.  However he added that game makers jawboning reviewers for higher scores should instead focus their time on development.

Read more at Edge-Online {link no longer active}.

Natal Is TV’s Biggest Leap Since Remote Control, Says Microsoft

Microsoft says Natal could represent the biggest evolution in television viewing since the remote control.  As reported by PC Magazine, Microsoft’s Xbox Live general manager Marc Whitten made the comment while speaking at the Streaming Media West show.  Whitten spoke about the evolution of Xbox 360 from game console to entertainment and community hub, something he cited as a big surprise during his time at the company.  He pointed to features and services such as Netflix, streaming movies and television programs, and recently added social media features for Facebook and Twitter as part of the evolution.

With Natal, he touched on how the device’s capabilities with recognizing motion and sound inputs are well suited to an essential need.  He says Microsoft is trying to determine ways to organize the growing abundance of entertainment content and facilitate how people access it, similar to how Netflix helps suggest films based on subscriber s viewing tendencies.  He calls Natal as a piece fitting into the puzzle, where audience input such as laughter, gestures and the number of people watching a given program become part of evaluating what content users want and helping them find it.

Read more from PC Magazine {link no longer active}.