New Windows Mobile Integrates Xbox Live, Zune

Microsoft took the wraps off of Windows Phone 7 series for mobile and said it will start appearing on devices by holiday 2010.  The company highlighted features for the new operating system including integration of Xbox Live, Zune and Bing into the software.  Microsoft outlined Windows Phone 7 features as falling into six categories, listing them as People, Pictures, Games, Music + Video, Marketplace and Office.  The Games category will offer what the company calls an official Xbox Live experience, including merging user data from Xbox 360 and offering Xbox Live games.  The Music + Video category gets Zune branding, while Marketplace acts as a separate category for accessing third-party apps and content.  Microsoft said every Windows Phone 7 series device will also have a fixed button linking to its Bing online search engine.  Read more in the company press release.

Viacom Seeks Refund From Harmonix Buyout

Viacom is looking to get back some of the money it paid out when it acquired Rock Band maker Harmonix, reports Paid Content.  Viacom, parent company of Rock Band publisher MTV Games, bought Harmonix in late 2006.  Paid Content says the acquisition was for $175 million plus earn out payments based on performance of Rock Band products in 2007 and 2008, of which Harmonix shareholders received $150 million in 2007.  The news outlet cites a Viacom 10-K filing stating that the company believes they are entitled to a refund of a substantial portion of earn outs paid to Harmonix founders.  The filing does not specify the total earn outs Viacom paid nor the refund it is seeking.  Paid Content says the company made further statements during its quarterly earnings report that it is looking to reduce costs incurred from its Rock Band business.  Read more at Paid Content {link no longer active}.

Europe Gets Paid PSN Service

Sony has rolled out FirstPlay for PlayStation Network in Europe, bringing to users there a paid episodic content service similar to Quore in North America.  As reported in Kotaku, Sony is partnered with Future Publishing as the content producer for FirstPlay.  UK-based Future is the publisher of Official PlayStation Magazine.  FirstPlay episodes will offer exclusive content in HD for 1 GBP per episode or 9 GBP for a three-month subscription.  Kotaku says the service will include downloadable game content.  Read more at Kotaku.

Promo Awards Call For Submissions

Promo magazine is accepting submissions for the Interactive Marketing Awards 2010.  The awards honor campaigns in more than a dozen categories including internet, mobile, viral, and new media.  Among new categories are interactive games used in marketing and holiday-themed campaigns.  Deadline to enter is on Feb. 19.  Get more information at Promo’s IMA Awards site.

‘Chaos Will Rise’

If you missed Spike’s GameTrailers TV exclusive reveal for Sony s newest God of War III trailer, it s now on  The expectation for this one was lots of game play.  It’s there, but so is a bunch of art treatment eating up the first third of the trailer.  The creative is outstanding, but once the game footage rears its epic head it s a wonder why Sony bothered framing it with all of that styling.  Then again Sony may have just gone for PR mileage out of the game’s TV creative.  The trailer times at exactly a minute minus the front and end logos.

{video link no longer active}
Watch it at GameTrailers.

Ad Age Viral Video Chart For Week Of Feb. 1

Ad Age lists the top 10 viral videos for the week of Feb. 1.

New entries this week are topped by Bud Light’s made-for-viral Clothing Drive, debuting at number one with just under 1.3 million views. The spot was billed as the follow-up to Bud Light’s Swear Jar ad aired during last year s Super Bowl, but the beer brand knew better than to try and get this one past censors.  Ad Age says that Super Bowl buzz likely helped drive its popularity online.  Another high-placing premiere is a Super Bowl ad.  Doritos TV spot about a guy playing dead for corn chips placed number four with about 667,000 views.  Right below it with about 648,000 views is the last new entry for the week, a well-crafted British public service announcement for wearing seatbelts.

Ad Age’s chart includes number of views for the week and percentage change in views for videos that stayed on the chart.  The list is compiled by Visible Measures.

Check out the full list and watch the videos at Ad Age {link no longer active}.

NPD Reports January Game Sales Decline

NPD Group is reporting game sales for January dropped thirteen percent compared to last year, reports Reuters.  Sales fell for both hardware and software.  Hardware sales dropped sharply, down 21 percent from last year to $354 million.  The category was led by Nintendo systems, with Wii selling approximately 466,000 units and DS selling 422,000.  Microsoft’s Xbox 360 followed with about 333,000 units, while Sony trailed among current generation consoles with PlayStation 3 selling only 277,000 units.  Game software sales for January were $598 million, a twelve percent decline in month-over-month comparison.  Game sales were topped by Nintendo s New Super Mario Bros. and EA s Mass Effect 2.   The only category to get a bump was accessories, which rose two percent to $217 million.  Reuters cites an investor note from Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter in advance of NPD’s monthly sales report, where he predicts the hardcore gamer will carry 2010 for game sales.  Read more at Reuters.

Edge-Online also reports on NPD s monthly report for game sales, listing out top ten sellers with units sold.  Check it out at Edge-Online {link no longer active}.

Zynga Buys Fellow Game Maker

Zynga has acquired fellow social game maker Serious Business for an undisclosed sum, reports Reuters.   Serious Business is best known for Facebook game Friends for Sale! said to be played by an estimated 6 million people monthly.  Reuters says the buyout comes as recently venture cash-infused Zynga is looking to expand its slate of social games.  Zynga claims more than 235 million people play its Facebook games every month.  The company pulls in an estimated $300 million a year in revenues from virtual goods sales in games such as “FarmVille” and “FishVille.”  Reuters says analysts have pinpointed Zynga as an IPO candidate that could raise more than $1 billion in a stock offering.  Read more at Reuters.

Activision Studios Hit By Closures, Layoffs

Media reports are saying that as many as five game studios owned by Activision have been hit by closures and layoffs.

Gamasutra reports that Luxoflux, Radical Entertainment and Neversoft have been affected.  The news outlet says LA-based Luxoflux has been shut down.  The studio’s most recent games have been licensed console fare based on Kung-Fu Panda and Transformers.  Radical Entertainment, the Vancouver, Canada based studio behind the open-world game Prototype, is reported to have had as much as 50 percent of its staff laid off.  LA-based Neversoft, developers of Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero games, is said to be affected by an unspecified number of layoffs.  Gamasutra posted a carefully crafted statement from Activision that confirms the layoffs only by saying we are realigning our resources to better reflect our slate and marketing opportunities.   The outlet has been updating its reporting throughout the day.  Read more at Gamasutra.

Elsewhere, Kotaku reports on two additional studios that are affected.  The outlet says Guitar Hero creator Red Octane has had an unspecified number of staff let go, and Bay Area studio Underground Development, makers of Guitar Hero: Van Halen, has been shut down entirely.  Read more at Kotaku.