Zynga Japan Launches Via Softbank Partnership

Zynga has confirmed that Softbank has invested $150 million in the company. The two companies will launch a joint venture called Zynga Japan to distribute social games in the Japanese market.

Zynga is a leader in social games and I am delighted to partner with them to introduce their social games to Japan, said Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of Softbank. We share the same vision as Zynga in social games and look forward to working together to create a social game powerhouse.

“We’re excited to partner with Softbank to bring Zynga’s social games to Japan and gain insights from the Japanese market,” said Mark Pincus, CEO and Founder of Zynga. “As one of the most innovative technology companies in the world, Softbank is bringing the mobile internet to consumers making the social web more accessible to people everywhere.”

Kindle $189 Sells Out

While Amazon has launched their $139 Wi-fi only versions of the Kindle, they’ve revealed that the $189 version with 3G support has sold out. There’s no word as to when this version of the Kindle will go back in stock.

“We’re seeing very, very strong [Kindle] device growth and we’re seeing very, very strong content growth,” said Thomas Szkutak, chief financial officer of Amazon, during a conference call.

Source: PC World

Rare Rejects Fan Documentary

Many websites start off as fansites and become more professional as time goes on, meaning they become a career for whomever is running them. Some sites make the transition properly, but others don’t make it, like MundoRare.

Early in May, we showed Rare our most ambitious project to date. We planned to film an hour long documentary about their 25 years of history, to be shot on location in England, presented in HD and ready to be distributed freely via Xbox Live and Internet, posted the MundoRare team. The project was formally introduced through a briefing that included a fact sheet, script, interview guidelines, several resumes and a demo reel. The crew behind the movie consisted of none others but us, since we also happen to be a team of filmmaking and journalism graduates with very good knowledge of Rare’s history. And best of all, the project was going to be shot at zero cost, because we had access to all the equipment we needed through a variety of professional sources.

Unfortunately, some days ago, Rare’s PR department finally denied our permission to shoot arguing that the film wasn’t going to be ‘on message,’ they continued. Shutting down the website was an option we were already considering in case we couldn’t make the process of working on it worth the effort. Therefore, we designed a win-win deal that could have resulted in a wonderful project for us and a terrific treat for fans everywhere. Despite its ambitious scope, we felt it was an irresistible offer. In fact, we are still puzzled over their response. It was a risk-free operation to be carried away with all legal safety measures deemed necessary and full of good intentions. It simply makes no sense. It has changed our perception of Rare forever and leaves us with no other option but to end our support for them.

They go on to indicate that the direction towards the uninspired Kinect Sports also pushed them towards this decision. Whatever the case, it’s brought more bad publicity to Rare in a time when they could use all the publicity they could get.

Source: MundoRare.com

Amazon Signs Up For Facebook

Amazon.com this week has announced a program that uses friend’s preferences to give recommendations. This beta program lets Amazon users log in with their Facebook profiles, giving Amazon more information about themselves and what their friends like.

The information only goes one way, and Amazon does not send information back to Facebook without permission and Amazon hasn’t integrated the Like button into its preferences. Customers can disconnect from Facebook and have information sent to Amazon via that method at any time they want.

Iron Man Director Talks Recasting

Recasting can be a tricky thing, as Iron Man director Jon Favreau knows since he replaced Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle as Jim Rhodes for Iron Man 2. While he was promoting Aliens & Cowboys at Comic-Con, he was asked about the decision to cast Mark Ruffalo in place of Edward Norton as Hulk for Avengers.

“It’s tricky,” said Favreau. “I know Edward, and I dig the guy’s talent tremendously. He’s always been a very great guy . . . I’m sure that however this comes out, it’s going to be something that’s amenable to both the filmmaker and the studio. I know that we faced the challenge of recasting with Don Cheadle and Terrence Howard, and although I think breaking continuity is always a challenge and should be avoided whenever possible, it is the reality of the movie business that sometimes things don’t work out.”

While Norton’s absence is sad, the show must go on. Favreau said he’d make himself available to Thor director Kenneth Branagh and The Avengers director Joss Whedon for whatever they might need. “I’m here because of my success with Marvel for the most part,” he said. “I’ve felt tremendous creative support, and as they cut their teeth as a studio, I cut my teeth as a big filmmaker. So we’ve grown a lot together and I am completely invested in the success of that studio. I really want to see the Iron Man stuff play out really well through these other movies and hopefully collaborate in the future.”

Source: IGN

Irrational Teaser Asks ‘What Is Icarus?’

 A new site has gone up at WhatIsIcarus.com. While it currently doesn’t depict very much, it is expected to blossom into a full-fledged promotional site for whatever Irrational Game’s next title is (labeled Project Icarus at the moment).

Domain name registries run back to both Irrational parent company Take-Two and Rockstar Games. It is expected that whatever the game is will be revealed on August 11.

Source: Joystiq

Blizzard Would Consider Console Development

Most people probably think of Blizzard as being a PC developer; after all, for the past decade they’ve been defined by PC only titles like Diablo II, World of Warcraft and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. Still, the company has roots in console development with titles like Blackthorne, The Lost Vikings and Rock n’ Roll Racing, and they aren’t ruling out future console titles.

Our heritage actually goes back to console, said Blizzard Entertainment’s VP and executive MD of internal operations Michael Ryder. In the early years Blizzard made console games. It’s not the heritage, it’s the design decisions and what we think is best for our players.

In the more recent years it has been PC and online orientated. But we play all kinds of games at Blizzard. We try to learn wherever we can. We play console games and we are up-to-speed on the console platforms. And if we see an opportunity where the game design would work well on the console, then maybe we will go that way. We just haven’t announced anything yet.

Source: MCV

Feature: Chevrolet Kinects With Volt

 Kinect is the new motion sensing device for Xbox 360, and many are enthusiastic about its potential for games. However, at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, Microsoft showed off its potential for brands as well. The Chevrolet Volt factored largely into this and we talked with Mary Kubitskey, National Advertising & Sales Promotions Manager for Chevrolet, to get their half of the story.

How did the collaboration with Microsoft for the 2010 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival come about?

We were looking to launch Volt in a unique way; we were looking for different places to go with that because it’s an innovative car so we needed to innovate on the advertising side as well.  We love to talk to companies that do that same thing, and Microsoft really fit the bill.

I saw that the way that the Volt is unlocked in Kinect Joy Ride is by watching a video advertisement in the Xbox Live dash.

See, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Initially, the people who are going to embrace that new Microsoft technology are going to be important early influencers, and they were looking for people who are a good match for that. Volt is also a leading edge technology, so it fit together perfectly.

Tell me about some of your mobile brand experiences you’re considering, like using Bing, reserving to test-drive a Volt and the Windows Phone 7 initiative.

What you saw in Cannes . . . was all preliminary. We’re looking to launch the Volt in September, so what we premiered in France was showing potentially what technology could be used to enhance the brand, so we had a lot of fun with it. Our thoughts were that you could interact with it everywhere, be it mobile, with Kinect, or Microsoft Surface, so we threw a bunch of ideas out there.

However, even if some of the creative you saw ultimately doesn’t end up happening, Volt will still be in Kinect Joy Ride.

The 2011 Volt, on what appears to be a putting green.

Tell me about the ability to examine the Volt exterior and interior and why you think this will be important for automotive purchases going forward.

The technology allows you to interact with whatever medium you’d like for a virtual test world. It’s great for Volt; using it, you could build your own car, try different colors, see how the seats and dash might look different. It’s something that you could do before you go down to the dealership and it’s better than a catalog or a website.

Talk to me about the potential to show off Kinect Joy Ride at Chevrolet’s promotional events and showrooms.

The two opportunities that stick out are with the dealership experience and at autoshows. Kinect technology at the events is great because it lets us get out the experience everywhere. It’s just like with some of the smartphone or PC initiatives; people could interact with a push of a button and get a screensaver or send an image to yourself.

Sounds like you’re bullish on the Volt being the face for the “new” Chevrolet as it were, being the model of the future for the brand.

That’s a big part of what the Volt will be for Chevrolet. The car is the most innovative GM has ever built. Most electric cars have between 80 and 100 miles in range. Volt can generate its own electricity using a gas engine, so it changes the game. It’s huge for the automotive industry. This is the first of probably several things that you’ll see from GM.

On a side note, will we see the Volt in Transformers 3?

The Volt was in Transformers 2, actually! He wasn’t one of the main characters, like Bumblebee as the Camaro. You will definitely see Chevrolet cars in Transformers 3.

Also, was there any truth to the rumors that Chevrolet was looking to abandon the Chevy nickname internally?

There’s no way we could stop Americans from using a beloved nickname like that!

Thanks Mary.

IGN Getting Social With MyIGN

IGN is launching its own social network called MyIGN. This metagame that will reward IGN users in a game-like fashion for being social taps into the 12.7 million gamers that visit their game oriented site every month.

We created it because gamers are not currently served by social networks, said Peer Schneider, senior vice president and publisher at IGN Entertainment. If I post what I really feel about a game on Facebook, I ll get odd comments from non-gaming friends and family. In our setting, you can feel comfortable talking about gaming. No one else has nailed it.

MyIGN allows users to follow editors, game personalities and particular titles. The goals are to help you discover new games through friends and eventually incorporate matchmaking features.

Source: VentureBeat