Feature: Backbreaker: Finger Licking Good


While many core gamers might be familiar with the Backbreaker game for Xbox 360 and PS3, there’s another version for the iPhone. NaturalMotion offers both a free and a paid version of the iPhone app; a recent sponsorship with KFC gives the free version of the game Facebook integration, an email bragging system, dedicated leaderboards . . . and a chicken dance touchdown celebration. We talked with Torsten Reil, NaturalMotion CEO, about this unique partnership.

How did the sponsorship opportunity come up with KFC?

The introduction to KFC was made by Tim and Lou at Butter Inc. They worked closely with KFC and us to generate the campaign, source the required assets and collect all relevant statistics.

Why do you think KFC is a good partner for the Backbreaker product?

Through Backbreaker on iPhone, we are able to reach a large number players that match KFC’s target demographic. And since Backbreaker is a sports game, it was easy to achieve integrated and effective brand exposure through banners and sponsorship messages. On top of that, we were able to integrate a signature ‘chicken dance’ as the touchdown celebration, which was a bit of light-hearted fun, and seemed to go down well with our users.

Tell me about how the community has reacted to have access to the free Backbreaker Lite.

Just don’t call him a ‘chicken’…

We’ve been very happy with the community reaction both in terms of iTunes comments and ratings (which remain as high as ever), as well as download numbers. In fact, downloads for both the light and paid versions went up when we started the campaign.

Is the timing of this during the build up towards the pre-season the perfect timing for this?

Yes, it certainly helps that the season is about to start. Having said that, Backbreaker has sold well throughout the year, so we’re not quite as exposed to the seasonality of the sports as one would think.

Would you look to do more sponsorship opportunities like this in the future?

Definitely. Obviously, it always depends on how we feel we can integrate a sponsor into the game. It doesn’t work if it feels forced, or if the user experience gets compromised. But overall, there are great opportunities for brands in iPhone games.

Tell me about the social media additions to the sponsored app and why you think that’s so key for promoting the product.

We’re supporting Facebook Connect as well as direct email challenges to friends. The latter in particular has proved very effective at creating word of mouth, presumably because it is so targeted and very much controllable by the user. Having said that, we have anecdotal evidence that a lot of word of mouth is non-electronic: people show the game to their friends on the bus or in a bar, and it spreads from there.

Do you think the value offered in the product has attracted new customers to Backbreaker?

Yes, downloads of Backbreaker went up when we introduced the KFC-sponsored version. I think the brand added value to the game, be it in terms of real-world authenticity, or through the additional features we included.

Torsten, thanks.

GTA: Chinatown Wars Rock IPad

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars will be coming to the iPad. It will have much the same content that the iPhone version already has and will retail for $9.99 on September 9.

Rockstar promises the game has intuitive Multi Touch user interface controls, adjusted difficulty levels and iTunes customizable radio station Independence Radio, Chinatown Wars HD comes to the iPad with brand new, updated high definition graphics.

Sony Powers Music Cloud Service For Network Devices

Sony has announced a new cloud-based digital music service called “Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity. It will be available to network enabled Bravia TVs, Blu-ray Disc players, Blu-ray Home Theater systems, Vaio computers and PS3s.

“We are excited to offer our customers high quality, cloud-based entertainment experiences across many of Sony’s network-enabled devices,” said Kazuo Hirai, President of Networked Products & Services Group, Sony Corporation. “Services ‘powered by Qriocity’ will revolutionize the way that users play, listen, watch, share, communicate, learn, discover and create their digital entertainment content.”

Target Locks On Facebook Credits

Target has announced that they will be the first brick-and-mortar retailer to carry Facebook Credits gift cards. Starting September 5, Target stores and Target.com will sell Facebook Credits in increments of $15, $25 and $50.

“At Target we strive to delight our guests with exciting, new products every day, so we’re thrilled to be the first retailer to sell Facebook Credits gift cards,” said Mark Schindele, senior vice president, merchandising, Target. “With social gaming becoming increasingly popular, Facebook Credits gift cards provide an easy and convenient option for Target guests to purchase virtual goods.”

“One of Facebook’s goals is to create a great place for games — both for people who love to play and the developers that create fun and engaging social experiences,” said Dan Rose, vice president of partnerships and platform marketing at Facebook. “Gift cards are easy to use and very popular. We’re looking forward to launching in Target stores and giving people the ability to purchase Facebook Credits for their own use or to give as gifts to their friends and family.”

StarCraft II Rushes To 3 Million Sales

Blizzard Entertainment has announced that StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty has sold over three million copies since its release. This makes the game both the bestselling PC game of 2010 and the fastest-selling real-time strategy game of all time.

“We appreciate all the enthusiasm that players around the world have shown for StarCraft II,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “It was important to us to deliver an overall gameplay experience that was accessible, balanced, and fun, and it’s been gratifying to see how strongly the global community has already embraced the game.”

Ubisoft: Market Not Supporting The Full Range Of Product Anymore

Something that has caused concerns for publishers this generation is the rising costs of so-called triple-A titles. However, Ubisoft’s European MD Alain Corre contends that focusing on certain franchises is actually for the best.

The games that are not triple-A are not profitable anymore, said Corre. And that’s changed in the last 18 months. When you have a triple-A blockbuster it costs more money to develop, but at the end of the day there s also the chance of a good return on it because there’s a concentration at the top of the charts. To a certain extent it becomes less risky to invest more in a single game or franchise than spreading your investment between three or four games. Because if those three or four games are not at the right quality level, you are sure to lose money

So the business model has changed and we re changing our way of making hardcore games, he added. With hardcore games that we re not sure are reaching the right level, we stop work on them. And that’s why we concentrate more on key franchises, because that’s what the market wants – something new with huge quality production behind it. The market is not supporting the full range of product that it used to anymore.

If more publishers follow this mentality, it’s good news for larger advertising firms that can handle the multiple media touchpoints that games like Assassin’s Creed need.

Source: GI.biz

Mafia II Launch Party Draws Protest

Andrew DiMino, representing UNICO (a group of Italian Americans), claimed a victory against Take-Two with his organization’s protest of a Mafia II Launch Party, at the 92nd Street Y’s Tribeca Center. He said that their involvement made the event a dismal failure.”

DiMino noted that  “the combined result of our activities was that, without acknowledging our efforts, both Take-Two and the 92nd Street Y became very hesitant to heavily promote ethnic bashing in this very public way. The lack of media coverage for the launch party is another indicator that they pulled back on promoting this event.”

“For us, this is one small, satisfying victory in a much longer, more sophisticated campaign within the Italian American community opposed to Mafia II specifically, and the continued misrepresentation of the Italian American community, generally, concluded DiMino. Take-Two and its major investors, and the entertainment industry in general, will be hearing further and forcefully from us.”

Those who attended the party, however, contend the opposite. Some claimed to have not noticed UNICO’s presence and others said that the event run by Gamertag Radio was great, with the tone being unaffected by the protest.

Source: Destructoid


IPod Nano Getting Smaller

It’s hard to keep secrets in today’s connected world. Witness the trouble Apple has had of late, with the most recent example being for the new iPod Nano, which was rumored to have a 1.2-by-1.2-inch touch screen, a 30-pin dock connector, two volume buttons on top, a headphone jack and a lock switch or button.

These functions were proven true during Apple’s recent press conference.  It was also revealed to have a clip on the back, come in seven different colors, come in either 8GB ($149) or 16GB ($179) and have battery life rated at 24 hours.

Source: PC World

Ubisoft Teases With Fake Movie Posters


Ubisoft recently sent out images believed to be for the rumored downloadable title Blood Good Time. The company hasn’t confirmed the game yet, only providing one sentence in the email: “You may not know it . . . but everyone can make it in Hollywood . . . with a glimpse of cruelty.”

Source: Destructoid

Mortal Kombat Gets Disturbed

The newest Mortal Kombat promises to be a return to form for the franchise, with characters and fighting styles returning to basics. Check out this Ayzenberg produced trailer to see Raiden and Scorpion fighting as silhouettes.