Insomniac Talks Bigger Audience in Social Sector

Insomniac recently formed their Click division as an attempt to reach the larger social and mobile audience. Chief creative officer Brian Hastings offered some comments as to why the AAA developer was moving in this direction.

“That core audience isn’t really expanding much and the total dollars each core gamer spends isn’t going up,” said Hastings. “So as triple-A budgets inflate, each developer has to steal players away from other games in order to simply keep their revenues above their costs. The only long term viable solution for all parties would be to expand the audience. I’m not in the doom-and-gloom camp in terms of the health of the console market, but I do think it’s becoming increasingly challenging in that space. It’s getting to the point where only the very best triple-A console games are profitable. And, of course, it’s increasingly expensive to make the very best games. So not every developer can survive.

The main reason I believe it s important – even necessary – to expand into the social sector is that there is simply a bigger audience there, he added. Because triple-A games are necessarily complex they have a fairly predefined audience of core gamers. That core audience isn t really expanding much and the total dollars each core gamer spends isn t going up, so as triple-A budgets inflate, each developer has to steal players away from other games in order to simply keep their revenues above their costs. The only long term viable solution for all parties would be to expand the audience.


Burger King Parts Ways With Agency

Burger King has announced that they are parting ways with their advertising company of seven years. The partnership developed notable campaigns like Subservient Chicken, the Facebook stunt Whopper Sacrifice, and the plastic-faced “King” mascot.

“Burger King Corp. and Crispin Porter & Bogusky have enjoyed a tremendously successful relationship over the past seven and a half years, said a joint statement. During that time, our creative partnership resulted in countless innovative and engaging campaigns for the BK brand. We are incredibly proud of all that we have accomplished together, but have mutually decided that now is the right time to part ways. We are fans of each other’s work and wish each other much success in the future.”

Burger King has been going through some tumultuous changes in the past year and a half, having three different VP-Global Chief Marketing Officer and a change in the marketing department to align the company’s global brand marketing and global operations teams.

Source: Ad Age


Zynga: Xbox Live’s Demographic ‘Too Small’

Zynga has made a fortune by piled by appealing to the masses of Facebook with their titles. As Zynga’s Chief Game Designer Brian Reynolds says, Xbox Live (which is roughly 5 percent the size of Facebook as far as number of users) doesn’t have the reach to make it worth it.

“We’re after a lot of demographic, says Reynolds. If I explain what we think is the core magic of social, I think that will explain the relative attraction, or the lens through which we view the relative attraction of different platforms. The thing that seems to make social gaming and networking magical is the fact that all my friends are potentially there and they might see the things that I’m posting or doing or expressing.

“[Xbox Live’s] too small a demographic, continued Reynolds. Think about, of my friends, how many of them own an Xbox 360 Well, I’m a game developer and I even come from a triple-A space so we might even be in the double digits… Twenty or maybe even thirty percent of my friends might have an Xbox 360, but effectively 100 percent of them have Facebook and effectively 100 percent of them have a mobile phone. Of them, probably 90 percent have a smartphone.

“So when you think about the social potential of a platform . . . if we made a game on Xbox Live, I think – forgetting about the fact that I might have an artificially high percentage of friends that do it because of what my profession is – the number of anyone’s friends that’s going to be able to participate in the social experience is going to be a very small number so the amount of social capital that there is isn’t going to be very high, he detailed. That’s why right now we’re on Facebook for sure, and mobile is the obvious next place for us to go because it is an inherently social platform. I mean, we’ve got to be on several different kinds of platforms, but especially if we can figure out a way to have people socialize cross-platform. Then, hey, we’re helping with the problem. We’re helping people socialize that wouldn’t be able to.”

Source: IndustryGamers

WWE All-Stars Million Dollar Pre-Order

THQ has announced a pre-order bonus for WWE All-Stars on PS3 and Xbox 360. Those that pre-order the game at GameStop will receive a code to download the Million Dollar Pack featuring both WWE Hall of Famer Ted “Million Dollar Man” DiBiase and his son current RAW star, Ted DiBiase Jr.

We really had no choice, reads the release by THQ. When it came to being the only pre-order exclusive for WWE All Stars, ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase reassured us that ‘everybody s got a price!’ Along with his son Ted DiBiase Jr., this duo can make your WWE All Stars experience a priceless one if you pre-order at Gamestop!

Find out more at GameStop online!

Nintendo Draws Line Doing ‘Business With The Garage Developer’

Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata made waves at GDC when he warned the industry against the dangers of low quality social and mobile games. Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime is reinforcing that, saying there’s a definite line they want to draw between who they want to deal with and who they do not.

“I would separate out the true independent developer vs. the hobbyist,” says Fils-Aime. “We are absolutely reaching out to the independent developer. Where we’ve drawn the line is we are not looking to do business today with the garage developer. In our view, that s not a business we want to pursue.”

“Look at the music industry,” he noted. “There are certainly highly talented people who work other jobs and have a passion to be in the music industry. They work at it. There are reality TV shows that revolve around this concept. I love it when there’s a game that’s found that captures people’s imagination, just like that singer toiling in a factory.”

The problem, as Fils-Aime sees it, is that current market trends with cheap and free game apps imply that games have little to no worth. “When we talk about the value of software, it could be a great $1 piece of content or a $50 piece of content,” he says. “The point is: Does it maintain its value over time or is it such disposable content that the value quickly goes to zero We want consumers to see value in the software, whatever that appropriate value is. And we want to see that value maintained over time.”

Meanwhile, Fils-Aime denied any plans of Nintendo to replace the Wii. “The Wii has a long life in front of it,” he says. “We’re still sitting at $199. There are a variety of marketing tools at our disposal.”

Source: Gamasutra

Ubisoft Expects 3DS To Be Bigger Than DS

Ubisoft has managed to make the most of the launch of many of the last few major hardware releases, and they plan to do so again with the 3DS with eight different titles in the launch period. While this includes Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars and Splinter Cell 3D, Ubisoft brand manager Jan Sanghera thinks titles like Rabbids: Travel in Time 3D and Rayman 3D will have a great effect long term.

Given the innovation that s inside a 3DS and what it has to offer, it s difficult to imagine a scenario where the 3DS isn t bigger than the original, said Ubisoft brand manager Jan Sanghera. We re expecting the 3DS to have a broad consumer appeal from launch and, as such, have ensured we offer a variety of titles. We ve historically been a leader in games developed for new Nintendo platforms, and with eight games available during launch and more to come, we hope to maintain this position.

Nintendo is offering more than just something that appeals to the core gamer, she said. 3D itself will be a massive draw, but also with its connected digital features that allow not just social gaming gaming experiences, but also the ability to download and consume much more. We d expect 3DS to compete strongly in the broader handheld category, offering a wide range of good reasons for consumers to purchase it. All of which is brilliant news for third party publishers.

Source: MCV

Prey 2 Live Action Debut

Prey was one of those games that came out so long ago, some people might be forgiven if they misremembered it coming to the original Xbox. While the five year-old game is getting a sequel next year, check out this live-action teaser of the title.

Anarchy Reigns With Baron

Sometimes you’ll see game characters that tread the fine line between unnecessary excessive stereotype and cheeky super parody. Considering the level of seriousness surrounding Anarchy Reigns (read: not very) and the exaggerated nature of all the characters so far, we’re willing to go with the latter for Baron.

March Madness Moments Lego-ized

March Madness is officially upon us, so why not reminisce about some of the better moments from championships past Here are Some of the greatest NCAA moments from the past two decades in Lego form.

Feature: TimeGate Gets Sectioned Online

Competing in the console space is tough these days. Studios are announcing layoffs all the time, and market estimates are often bleak. While the situation at retail is not good, the hope for online is growing. With direct access to consumers with fewer middlemen, it provides a new market for titles like Section 8: Prejudice. We talked with Adel Chaveleh, President of TimeGate Studios, about going from a retail product to a digital-only product.

Talk to me what the marketing approach is going to be like for the game. What’s going to be the main focus — online ads?

Given the exclusively of it being online, we feel like the best place to advertise [the game] is online. Obviously there’s going to be a lot of PR and considering our consumers going to have to be online to purchase the game, it seemed like the best idea. So were pretty excited about being able to have “conversion” right from the ad, to sell to someone right there. I wouldn’t say print media is dead, but it’s nice to have it on various platforms and let people play the game within minutes.

Platform specific advertising and promotions will be coming; we’ve already done the taste of that during PAX East. There’s also the more broad editorial outreach, along with contests and a community site to go along with the general web advertising.

Talk to me about the importance of outreach at events like PAX East.

It’s extremely important. Unless you have a marketing budget that can purchase saturation… which we cannot, it’s about evangelizing, whether it’s on press tours explaining the game and helping members of the media understand the vision and that also reigns true for talking straight to consumers. About 70,000 plus were there at PAX East and we were at the XBLA booth with a few stations, the Logitech booth with a few stations, even at the Nvidia booth showing off the 3D so we literally talked to thousands of people and we have at least a small army of people out there interested in the game. It was gratifying ot see people coming in on the second day to see the effect that their friends told them about. We never had any doubts about it, but it completely reinforced where we were going.

What do you feel was done right for the original Section 8 to lead to the development of this sequel?

Well, this is a true sequel. So if you’ve played the first and enjoyed it, you will enjoy Section 8: Prejudice, because it stays true to what the IP is about. If you didn’t like certain things, we looked to improve it. The constructive criticism was peripheral things, like that there were no unlockables, the campaign was too short, UI wasn’t good . . . that heavily shaped what we did for the sequel. Furthermore, everyone that heard of the first game and can’t find a copy, this one is digital, so copies are always available! The big call to action is the price point. Not only did we make a helluva sequel, we also have a competitive price point.

Will the $14.99 price of Section 8: Prejudice serve as a major differentiators?

I think the industry has never seen anything like it, but just because it’s got a great price point, it still has got to be good! When we were making a sequel to a game for a title that could be four times the price, we ran the numbers on doing digital, and that’s where the ‘aha’ movement came and the floodgates opened up. We’re not counting on the price alone; first and foremost, we have to make a great game.

Talk to me about how peripheral items like the themes and pictures on Xbox Live are good for supplemental income and promoting the game.

A product like ours . . . our strategy is to be in as many places are as possible, there’s a lot of ways to accomplish that. [We’re looking] to seed various audiences with talking points about the game and to get the word out about it and each one of these elements is a way to get the word out about it. The beta on the PC, the social media integration, the price point, they’re catalysts to promote the game. We want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to check it out and by making it digitally exclusive [all the promotions can] come back to the game. That’s key to our overall strategy.

It has jetpacks and space marines, what more could you want!

Cliffy B recently made a comment about how the “middle class of games are dying.” Section 8: Prejudice seems to fit squarely in that category, so how do you survive against games with higher profile campaigns?

I think what he’s saying is that at retail, games with $50 million budgets aren’t working; if you’re not the top echelon you aren’t making money. So yeah, I would agree with that, you can’t stick with that strategy and expect it to work. This is our thirteenth year and we have a philosophy: you have to reinvent yourself at least 2 times a year. To bring this game digital is a reinvention of how we initially saw it coming to market. We had put our publishing pipeline in place to build a $60 sequel, bring it to retail and we saw the opportunity for something that no one in the shooter space really owns. We saw a unique opportunity and we pulled the trigger on that; you can be a big fish in a small pond or a little fish in a big pond. We’re not abandoning retail, though — we have other products that we’re working on. It’s a per product basis and I think the industry is just finding itself.

It’s hard to bring products to retail these days — you have to spend millions in advertising and hope people bite at a $60 price point and not everyone has the resources to throw into that.

That’s a scary proposition even for those guys that have that sort of money to throw around. There’s a lot of trends being chased, and trends being created and a new business model could slap us all across the head a few weeks from now. We can turn on a dime and take calculated risks, we don’t have any shareholders, and we feel we can stand out in this “wild west” environment.

How is Section 8: Prejudice looking to stand out in an increasingly crowded field of shooter games?

First and foremost, I think we have a very competitive package that we’re providing. We have a five hour single-player campaign that we have put a lot of effort into; inserted more backstory and filled in more holes in the universe. Users asked for it and we wanted to tell that story. Secondly, the life of the game is multiplayer, and compared against other digital or online offerings we think it’s second to none. 32 simultaneous players, and we have dedicated servers for all platforms that players can host. We have a clan management system for all platforms, massive DLC support team, a live team that will support all that, events, etc. There’s a huge offering there for a $15 product.

We’re also introducing four player co-op. We’ve all seen the “horde mode” where you fight against enemies over time, but what if you add a component for deploy-able turrets and tanks and do base building What you get when you combine the “tower mode” with “horde mode” is a “swarm mode,” and we’ve gotten a lot of really positive feedback over it. We’re getting full bot support, so if you want to practice things before stepping into the online arena you can. Every one of these points equals something very compelling for $15.

Now that the game has moved from a disc title to an download title, does it change the way you made it?

Dev process, there’s little difference. There’s a lot of multiplayer stuff in there, and one of the cool assumptions we can make that we can’t make in the retail realm is that people have hard-drives, so in doing that your able to change the way the game loads, now that it’s no longer streaming from disc. So you can leverage that, but other than that there’s not a substantial difference.

Anything you would like to add?

There was an article we had written for IndustryGamers, there were a couple of quotes I used that have gotten a lot of play in “content is king” and that’s something that drives us. Every year people will have different business models, but we feel as long as you have good ideas, you can always adapt it to a business model and platform.

Adel, thanks.

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Played Section 8 Looking forward to buying the sequel online Join the discussion on Facebook.