RealNetworks’ Game Division Sees Layoffs

According to reports, RealNetworks has all but closed its internal game division. All that is left is the Facebook team and a much reduced casual PC design staff. Real is looking to eliminate 85 jobs just three months after cutting 60 positions.

“Real has completely disbanded its first party studio, [following] a batch of layoffs once every quarter since last August,” said a recently laid off insider.

The source indicates that the company’s game portal GameHouse no longer has internal developers for traditional PC casual games, letting go makers of the Super Collapse and Little Shop franchises. The portal will continue to run, and games will be published on Facebook and with second-parties, possibly leading to a sale of the RealGames name and IP.

Source: Gamasutra

YouTube Vanquishes Viacom Lawsuit

In a legal conflict that has taken over three years, Google has emerged victorious over Viacom. The corporate entity was suing over copyright infringement on YouTube.

“Today, the court granted our motion for summary judgment in Viacom’s lawsuit with YouTube. This means that the court has decided that YouTube is protected by the safe harbor of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) against claims of copyright infringement. The decision follows established judicial consensus that online services like YouTube are protected when they work cooperatively with copyright holders to help them manage their rights online,” said a statement on the YouTube Blog. “This is an important victory not just for us, but also for the billions of people around the world who use the web to communicate and share experiences with each other. We re excited about this decision and look forward to renewing our focus on supporting the incredible variety of ideas and expression that billions of people post and watch on YouTube every day around the world.”

Viacom, not surprisingly, did not agree with the ruling. “We believe that this ruling by the lower court is fundamentally flawed and contrary to the language of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the intent of Congress, and the views of the Supreme Court as expressed in its most recent decisions,” said Viacom in a statement. “We intend to seek to have these issues before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit as soon as possible. After years of delay, this decision gives us the opportunity to have the Appellate Court address these critical issues on an accelerated basis. We look forward to the next stage of the process.”

Source: Forbes

Microsoft Claim Xbox 360 Issues Fixed Prior To New Model

The Xbox 360 has been much maligned over the years for hardware errors that have led to the dreaded Red Ring of Death. While the red light indicator has been removed from the new Xbox 360 units, Microsoft claims that the design issues that led to the errors have been ironed out for a while now.

“Believe me, it’s my least favorite thing to talk about, part of our history. I think most people agree it s become a little bit of an Internet meme now, just a thing to say,” said Albert Penello, senior director of global marketing for Xbox 360. “I feel bad for the customers that have had to go through the experiences that they’ve had, but, fundamentally, almost everybody will tell you that consoles purchased in the last two or three years, that problem doesn’t occur. It’s really people that had launch consoles and some of the early hiccups in getting those repaired and back out to people. But really, our focus over the last few years has been continuous improvement and getting the existing boxes rock steady.”

“For the most part, the overall quality problem has been fixed for a couple of years now,” continued Penello. “This [new hardware model] is an evolution of that work. The decision not to put the three red rings in it was just because it s something I want to put behind us.”

Penello indicates that a lot of time was put into making the new Xbox 360 what it is. “We launched a console in 2005, which means we’d been working on it since 2003,” said Penello. “It takes time to go through, and it s not as simple sometimes as the industry thinks it is to just add WiFi, or make it quieter. You design a box and then that design is sort of what exists. So, we went through [a lot of tests] and the teams spent a lot of time on the acoustics with the DVD drive, and the acoustics with the fan, and thinking through airflow and how to make the fan quieter, and that was really the point was, ‘Let’s just build the box that everyone just wants us to build.’

Source: IndustryGamers {link no longer active}

Feature: Top Gaming Execs Talk Marketing Strategy

Last week in Los Angeles during the E3 Expo, we had the chance to meet with numerous video game executives and decided to ask each about their perspectives on marketing. In Part 1 of this feature we bring you insights from Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime, Microsoft’s Albert Penello, and THQ’s Danny Bilson.

Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America President

[a]list: I know you have a very diverse marketing background. You worked for Guinness; you worked for VH1, correct Now that you’ve been in this video game business for seven, eight years, how do you see sort of the differences in marketing these video game products versus something like beer?

Reggie Fils-Aime: You know, in the end, marketing is about communicating compelling propositions in a way to excite the consumer. From that standpoint, the similarities between my past and what we’re doing here at Nintendo are quite significant, especially when Nintendo is an extremely consumer-oriented company. We always think of the consumer first. What I would say, maybe, is surprisingly refreshing about, at least our business, is just the fantastic age range that we market to. Everything from young children, to their parents, and their grandparents, we’ve been able to effectively message to them in very compelling ways. That is very provocative from a marketer’s standpoint because, typically, the marketer thinks of a narrowly defined demographic target. Marketing textbooks will tell you the better you can define your target, the better you will be. With us that is true, but for every software title, and as you layer all the software titles together, you get this massive addressable market. That is very interesting in my view, at least from Nintendo’s perspective about this gaming market.

Albert Penello, senior director of global marketing for Xbox 360

[a]list: In general, with these triple-A games costing so much money, anywhere from $40 million to $80 million or even $100 million, I’m wondering in order to recoup the costs on the development, if you really want to get huge exposure, almost like Hollywood campaign-type style, exposure for these blockbuster games. Just how crucial is it to have a marketing initiative, sort of that Hollywood style, for these games to actually get that money back and get the people interested in the product and brand?

Albert Penello: Part of deciding to go do games that expensive is that you’ve got to decide that you’re going to do a marketing campaign right behind it. The good news is, while I wish it didn’t cost what it cost to produce games, the market is certainly there, much like blockbuster movies, to recoup a ton of money. I think it’s great that we can support things like indie games. I think it’s great that we can do, you know, a little bit more polish, a little bit higher production arcade games and still sort of get some of that core, good, old-fashioned, old-school type of games inexpensively. And then you know what, just like every studio goes and spends $200 million on a summer tentpole movie, we’re going to decide what our big bets are. We just announced Kingdoms; that’s going to be a big initiative for us. And, as part of that, you’ve just got to commit to doing a big marketing campaign. I think it’s great. I think it’s fun. It’s fun to do those types of marketing campaigns. It’s fun to have those types of games get made. And then, you know you offset the business risk by having these smaller indie games and these smaller arcade games, and that’s sort of what keeps everything going.

Danny Bilson, head of core games at THQ

[a]list: I’m curious, just from a marketing viewpoint with the way games are today, costing anywhere between, I don’t know, $40 million and $100 million or something…

Danny Bilson: Well not here, not here.

(Laughter)

[a]list: The average triple-A game costs a hell of a lot to make.

DB: It does.

[a]list: Does that mean, to you, that an equally expensive marketing campaign, sort of Hollywood style, is needed to really back it up and really get the exposure it needs to recoup those costs?

DB: Well… I don’t think it’s about money. I think it’s about smart. I think it’s time to stop marketing games like games. So Homefront is absolutely an example of what I’m talking about. There’s nothing gamey about the marketing of that. We’re not overspending, but we’re certainly exposing it in really interesting ways. I think you can see it all over this show from the crazy parking lot stuff.

You really need to see our trailer, because one of the strategies in marketing, and this is cost saving on a side you might not expect, if the marketing team or PR team is constantly in the studio during development of a game saying, “need assets, need assets, make me a trailer, make me a trailer,” that’s all dev time not being used on the game. And having been a developer myself, when I got some control over marketing, I was like, “How can we market without game assets?” So I really encourage you to look at the Homefront back story trailer. It’s all over the booth or you can see it on the web, and you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about. And, again, we built it, it’s getting great response. It starts to talk about the world, it engages people in the game, but the team didn’t have to do one bit of work on it. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to show assets; of course we are. I just want to reduce it, and when I show them, I want to show it later in the production cycle when they really are real and really polished and the team isn’t making them up.

But as far as bigger cost against bigger game is, I think it’s about smarter. One of the bigger questions we have to ask ourselves is how important is television How important is television to a core gamer on a non-television brand So I think television has some relevance on WWE and UFC because I consider those TV brands. But our other stuff, I question it severely. It’s incredibly expensive, and what I can do with two million dollars, which will buy a few TV spots on a big sporting event, what I can do in outdoor, or on the web, or direct-to-consumer is way more exciting. You know I’ve grown up with television; I stopped watching it years ago, except for sports. I used to make television. I made it for many years. Some people love it, but I know I’m playing games, I’m not watching TV. You know where I want to market I want to market on Xbox Live. I want to market on PSN, because every night that’s the switch I turn on at my house. And that front end comes, and those windows come, and all that marketing’s getting right to me because I’m a core gamer. That’s where I want to invest. Television is a big question mark for me. So those are kind of my points around marketing, but I’d like you to focus some of the examples… Look at the example of Homefront. I feel like it’s a really effective campaign and it’s not a really costly campaign.

iPhone 4 Launch Sees Niggling Issues

There was joy for many tech heads as they unboxed their iPhone 4 on launch day. That happiness turned to frustration when problems popped up, including problems with reception when the metal side was held on to during a call.

“In some places where the signal was relatively weak, the iPhone 4 showed no bars, or fewer bars than its predecessor,” writes Walter S. Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal. “Apple says that this is a bug it plans to fix, and that it has to do with the way the [wireless reception] bars are presented, not the actual ability to make a call. And, in fact, in nearly all of these cases, the iPhone 4 was able to place calls despite the lack of bars.”

“It grips well in your hand. The reception has improved, although it’s slightly weaker than the [iPhone 3GS] when your hand’s wrapped around the phone,” writes Keith Taylor of Sarasota, Florida. “It also affects the Wi-Fi, but only by one bar, so hopefully not a noticeable difference.”

Others have noted the iPhone 4 is easily scratched and some have reported that the “retina display,” has a yellow tint. Still, despite complaints, the newest iPhone is reportedly sold out at numerous locations.

Source: CNN {link no longer active}

Miley Cyrus A Fan Of Rock Band

Miley Cyrus is seeing the release of her first songs for download on Rock Band. Interestingly, the singer who played Hannah Montana is no stranger to Rock Band herself.

“I sat in front of the TV 90 percent of the tour, just playing Rock Band,” Cyrus confessed to MTV News. “It’s pretty cool that now I can warm up playing my own songs on Rock Band and then go do it in real life. So it’s pretty rad. It’s a better warm-up.

Rock Band‘s “Miley Cyrus Pack 01” will have five songs from Cyrus. Songs include Start All Over and See You Again from her debut, “Meet Miley Cyrus”, 7 Things and Fly on the Wall from 2008’s “Breakout” and Can’t Be Tamed from the similarly titled album which released this week.

“I can’t wait for my fans to be able to download and play five of my songs in ‘Rock Band,’ ” said Cyrus back with the original announcement. “I love that people can rock out with me and play my new song, Can’t Be Tamed!”

Source: MTV