No More Heroes For PS3

Konami announced today that they will be bringing No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise to North America. They will localize the game exclusively for PS3, where it will be playable using either the DualShock 3 or Move controllers.

The game will feature the original story, wherein Travis Touchdown travels around Santa Destroy with his Beam Katana in order to become the top assassin in the world. There will also be new boss characters, a Rebout Mode for fighting old foes, and a Viewer Mode to re-watch the story.

No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise is slated to release in 2011.

Hobbit Confirmed For New Zealand

The controversy over when the two Hobbit films will be filmed has been raging for months as a backdrop between unhappy unions, a stalled production and a skeptical studio culture. However, the issue was important enough to draw a response from New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who confirmed that the New Zealand government had worked out a deal with Warner Bros. to keep the Lord of the Rings prequels in New Zealand.

“I am delighted we have achieved this result,” said Key. “Making the two Hobbit movies here will not only safeguard work for thousands of New Zealanders, but it will also follow the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in once again promoting N.Z. on the world stage.”

The New Zealand government promised to stake Warner Bros. up to $25 million, grant $15 million in expanded rebates and cover $10 million of the studio’s marketing costs. “It’s good to have the uncertainty over, and to have everyone now full steam ahead on this project,” Key said.

Source: MTV

Feature: An MMO Legend In A Pocket

The MMO business has evolved quite a bit over the past decade. What was once the domain of subscription based titles aimed at hardcore players has become mostly free-to-play with larger audiences in mind. With that said, there was an even larger audience waiting to be tapped in the mobile sphere, and with that Spacetime Studios saw an opportunity.

Comprised of experts from the local MMO development community in Texas (including veterans from Sony Online Entertainment), Spacetime Studios was founded in late 2005 by videogame veterans Cinco Barnes, Gary Gattis, Jake Rodgers and Anthony L. Sommers.  In 2009, Spacetime formed a research division (ClockRocket Games) to investigate the development and publishing pipelines for mobile devices. They released seven small titles and after an aborted team-up with NCsoft (canceled when that company withdrew most of its North American initiatives) they took the technology learned from that project and others to create the world’s first 3D real-time mobile MMO. After working determinedly for several months without pay, they produced Pocket Legends.

“It is a 3D mobile MMO with a global server set,” described Spacetime co-founder Gary Gattis. “Most MMOs are 2D and the 3D ones I’ve seen are on localized servers with very poor performance; the server is in Japan or America and everyone has to connect through that. [Pocket Legends] plays over 3G, edge and Wifi on global servers. Android will play on that same server set, and then we’ll play on PC for those users as well.  And is the number one RPG on the iPad.”

Yes, though Pocket Legends is only available right now on iOS platforms like iPhone and iPad, it will be expanding out to Anrdoid and PC, making it the first cross platform MMO to be available on multiple mobile platforms and PC with all versions being playable WITH each other. It wouldn’t have been possible without the strong technology base supporting Pocket Legends, but it also came from user demand – many found themselves playing the game at home on their mobile phone and simply wanted the convenience of using a device that wasn’t running out of charge.

Choose your adventurer.

“Right now, iOS is primary, and Anrdoid is secondary and PC is tertiary. We’re talking to international distributors to get more exposure overseas,” said Gattis. “When asked if Spacetime was expecting that the high penetration of smartphones internationally would help give Pocket Legends exponential growth, Gattis candidly responded, “No idea, but that is certainly our hope!”

“Think, for a moment, about the appeal of having an MMO available anywhere at any time. It feels like a preview from the future, a time when your games will be with you no matter where you are. For now, Spacetime is in the enviable position of being the first-mover in its space, but they know that complacency is death for both MMOs and technologies, and they realize that they’re ahead in a field that will likely have many competitors very soon.”

“It’s always a good idea to innovate. We have a very powerful engine, and we’re in a brand new space, so it makes sense for us to make as much traction as possible before anyone else shows up,” commented Gattis. “We update the game on average every 1.5 days, so it’s a very current application.”

“Amazingly, the userbase for Pocket Legends has been established totally using word of mouth – no significant advertising spend has been made on the game yet. That will likely change soon, especially when they come to new platforms.”

“We’re exploring different marketing channels, all mobile. But most of our exposure has been through PRs, a couple trailers,” explained Gattis, who added about the new platform expansions, “It gives us cause to go back to some of the more traditional marketing channels, but with PC we’re able to do more of a brand marketing approach, with web banners emails, etc.”

“We’d say that Pocket Legends proves when you offer something good enough it sells itself… except that it’s given away for free. Yes, like most MMOs these days Pocket Legends is supported by micro-transactions and revenue generated from convenience items ensured that Spacetime’s employees don’t have to work for free anymore.”

“Because of the size of the market and the demographic, players are looking for free experiences; it brings in many more players to the U.S. and elsewhere,” said Gattis. “As you’ve seen, subscription based MMOs have been changing rapidly to micro-transaction – it’s just the way the winds are blowing.”

“We’re starting another game very soon. It will be mobile to start out, mobile plus other platforms,” said Gattis, who noted that they won’t wait to release it on Android and PC. “Once our technology is expanded to other platforms, we’ll be able to launch on them pretty much day one. Early next year we’re going to be talking about it more.”

Champions Online Going Free

Atari has announced that they will be making Champions Online free to play starting Q1 2011. Players will be able to purchase Adventure Packs, items, powers and costume pieces inside Cryptic’s C-Store and a $14.99 per month subscription gives Gold members access to most of the game’s content and extra features.

“Transitioning Champions Online to the free-to-play model is a great opportunity to reach a whole new audience of PC gamers that view subscription fees as a barrier to entry,” said John Needham, CEO of Cryptic Studios. “By taking care of our current subscription-based community and welcoming the addition of new players through free-to-play, Champions Online is poised to build upon its success and to establish a new leadership position as the first free-to-play superhero MMO.”

The Champions Online free-to-play closed beta test begins on November 9, 2010. To learn more about Champions Online Free-to-Play, please visit www.champions-online.com/f2p.

WiiWare Developer Laments Lack Of PR

Apple has made a killing off of the downloadable games on their iOS devices. Nintendo has tried to compete with Apple by offering their own downloadable services, but Zoonami founder Martin Hollis doesn’t think they’ve been quite as capable with it.

“Apple have had such massive success in capturing media attention – they’ve sucked all of the air out of it,” he said. “I don’t know that Nintendo’s putting a great deal of energy into trying to generate PR for WiiWare or DSiWare.”

Hollis was still bullish on the WiiWare business model, adding, “My impression is that you can make a game if you’ve got a few thousand Euros, Dollars, Pounds – because you will need a dev kit or two.. [If] you’ve got two really talented guys, you can make a game, and you can sell 200,000 and upwards. Some of the titles are 8 British pounds or 10 British pounds.”

“Our experience was extremely positive, but our title was a second-party title and it did have some TV advertising with a spot inside a larger advert for Wii,” continued Hollis. “We assume that has to have an impact. As for margins, it’s always the case that, if you make a good game you’re selling ten or a hundred times as many units as the guy who made a mediocre game, a game that’s maybe a little bit sub-par. Not much, but just a little bit. So that factor completely overrides any other.”

Source: GamesIndustry.biz

PSN Ad Revenue Up 60 Percent

This past year, ad revenue from PSN has increased by 60 percent. While The Tester has been successful and is entering its second season, Sony admits that a learning curve has been involved.

“We’ve really had to shift our mindset from a gaming company to a media company,” said Susan Panico, senior director of PlayStation Network. “You need more flexibility. Original series are a more passive entertainment. They are a little out of our initial purview. For one thing, we didn t always have the capability to sell this content.”

“Sony has sold more ads for season two of The Tester with companies like Ford, Electronic Arts and The U.S. Air Force. The goal of the show is to reach 3.5 million downloads, but regardless of how it does, Sony isn’t going to rush into lots more programming. There are more things coming, but you won t see a huge rollout,” she said. “We have a small [programming] team so we want to really hone in on franchises. It makes perfect sense for us to create content that keeps people coming back.”

Source: MediaWeek

Zynga Valued At Over $5.5 Billion

SharesPost Inc. recently valued the stock share price of Zynga to be in the range of $5.51 billion. To put that in context, it’s more than the $5.16 billion that Electronic Arts is valued on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

“The valuation is not that crazy, given what s going on in the market”, said Atul Bagga, an analyst at ThinkEquity LLC in San Francisco. “It’s not that terribly expensive seeing the growth prospects.”

Bagga estimates that the virtual goods market may reach $3.6 billion in three years. Zynga has 210 million monthly active users and has recently ballooned to over 1,200 employees.

Zynga has truly seen a meteoric rise since it was first established four years ago, now having six of the top 10 most popular apps on Facebok. Even since March, its value on SharesPost has nearly doubled from $2.61 billion.

Source: Business Week {link no longer active}