Wii ‘Will Continue As A Strong Viable Format’ Says Nintendo

Rumors have been running pretty rampantly of late that Nintendo will be releasing a Wii HD or some other updated version of the console soon. However, U.K. marketing manager James Honeywell thinks the Wii has a long life in Britain and abroad.

“We’ve been really pleased with Wii and how it has performed. It’s the market leader in the UK by some margin. I think it has been proven really that it is Britain’s favorite home console with a huge install base,” said Honeywell. “But obviously as you reach a certain level things perhaps might slow down, but again we’ve got a really strong line-up, we’re really proud with what we’ve achieved in getting it into so many homes, and we’ve have a strong campaign for promotion this year and think it will continue as a strong viable format.”

“I guess we haven’t made any announcements recently because we’ve been concentrating on the 3DS launch, but there are still lots of games to come, he teased. I’m sure you’ll see at this year’s E3. For anybody who has a Wii, they can rest assured that we’ll be bringing some fantastic new experiences to them.

Source: CVG

Virtual Worlds Rebound, Rebrand

Virtual worlds were at one point in time going to be the next big thing but many of them were hit hard by the economic downturn. Doppelganger, There.com and Nickelodeon’s Nicktropolis all folded while Gaia Online has stopped referring to itself as a virtual world.

However, things might be turning around with Sulake announcing that revenue on Habbo Hotel has increased 20 percent over 2009. They’re starting to use labels like social game and community while they’ve been running promotions for teen brands like the Twilight movies.

Meanwhile, tween-girl aimed Stardoll has passed the 100 million member mark. Mattel will be launching a Stardoll-branded product line starting this Fall and JC Penney has committed to an exclusive Stardoll brand of clothing and accessories this fall in 300 stores.

Source: AdWeek {link no longer active}

Zynga Defends Development Style

Zynga’s approach to games mirrors their origin as a web company they rely heavily on user metrics. Zynga’s chief games designer, however, defended Brian Reynolds says that’s a gross simplification.

“Game designers don’t necessarily do a lot with metrics. Zynga does a lot with metrics,” clarified Reynolds. “But that’s a discipline, that’s a craft for us and there are people that do that and they bring that in and add that. And some game designers get interested in that and they want to do some of that themselves, and anybody on my team, I love it when they want to have two specialties and learn more but it’s not actually the thing we’re looking for in a game designer. It is something that’s in our culture, having come out of the web industry. Zynga’s original DNA was more web than game and so that learning is there and we’ve gotten really good at it… and the great thing is, at its best, it adds on to the creative field of game design.”

“To game designers who feel like if they came to Zynga, all they would be doing is massaging numbers and tweaking them, well, no, that’s not even what game designers do,” added Reynolds. “They think of the idea ‘Well let’s have romance in the game’ or ‘Let’s have characters and put them in there and let the player choose who’s going to fall in love with who’ and ‘How many whatevers are you going to have to do to do that’ and ‘What are you going to click on’ and ‘What’s the story and how does this fit into the picture ‘ That’s what the game designers do.”

Source: IndustryGamers {link no longer active}

PS3 More Than A Game Machine, Says SNE Exec

The PS3 was defined at first as a revolutionary entertainment device, and when customer confusion arose, Sony switched over to labeling a gaming console. Now that the It Only Does Everything device is better established, Sony Network Entertainment Chief Operating Officer, Shawn Layden, is saying it’s more than a game console.

“We’re trying to turn the PlayStation 3 into an entertainment media hub where you can not only play your games and get online with your Call of Duty community, but also find movies, find music, and bring that across,” said Layden. “People like to explore. Gamers are explorers. I worked with PlayStation for 14 years before I took on this position with Sony Network Entertainment. I started back in 1996. It was just that grey rectangle with the toaster lid on it. You threw the disc in and brought the waffle iron down, and that’s it, you’re good to go. Game machine is the wrong description these days. Console can mean so many things. It’s a central hub if you will for all kinds of digital content.”

Source: Eurogamer

Google Tackles Social Search With ‘Plus One’

Google has announced that they are adding the plus-one button in an attempt to make web searching more social. This variation on the like button should give Google some ammunition against Facebook.

Users will be able to share their search preference via Gchat, Gmail, Google Reader, Buzz and (in the near future) Twitter. Plus-one will also be integrated into Google’s search algorithm. “When someone recommends something, that’s a pretty good indicator of quality,” said Matt Cutts, Google’s principle engineer for search. “We are strongly looking at using this in our rankings.”

Search ads can also receive plus-one votes, which studies show lead to more clicks. This could improve quality scores for some ads and thus lower the pay rate for a given keyword or position. “We will provide reporting in AdWords for plus-ones,” said ads group product manager Christian Oestlien. “Our belief is that advertisers will see increased performance from ads with personalized annotations.”

Of course, the Facebook like system is powerful, but right now Google has no plans to add it to their search algorithm because they have no legal rights to do so. “Its important for Google to bring in social influence into search results to prevent the social web from becoming a parallel universe,” said Bryan Wiener, CEO of 360i, a unit of Dentsu. “I do think they need to have the Facebook ‘likes’ in there because you’re going to have two webs, the social web and the open web.”

The key may be to keep some companies from gaming the system. “The worst case is you just ignore them,” said Cutts. “If you give somebody five signals — and give them five more — it can actually get harder for spammers.”

Source: AdAge

Angry Birds Maker: Pressure Is On Console Developers

Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata recently took a swipe at social and mobile games that did not offer long term value, in his mind. While others in the industry have criticized Iwata’s stance, Rovio CEO Peter Vesterbacka has offered a response of his own.

“It’s interesting to see people like Nintendo saying smartphones are destroying the games industry,” said Vesterbacka. “Of course, if I was trying to sell a $49 pieces [sic] of plastic to people then yes, I’d be worried too. But I think it’s a good sign that people are concerned — because from my point of view we’re doing something right.”

“Games consoles for us are just like launching on a new smartphone platform,” he added. “Look, the console market is important, but it’s also… It’s not dying, but not the fastest growing platform out there. So we don’t see it the way others do. A lot of people in the games industry, they think the ‘real’ games are on consoles. You’re only a ‘real’ games company if you do a big budget game. But we don’t have that inferiority complex.”

While there’s been talks of bringing Angry Birds to the Xbox 360 and DS, Vesterbacka says updating issues have been a hurdle. “There is no reason why, when you do digital distribution on console, you couldn’t do frequent updates,” he explained. “It’s just a legacy way of thinking. And if the consoles want to stay relevant they have to start mimicking what’s going on around them on app stores, smartphones and online. It’s the only way. because people expect games to stay fresh.”

“If you pay $59 or $69 dollars and you get no updates — but you pay 99 cents for a game in the App Store and get updates every month, then it sets the expectations higher. So the pressure is definitely on those guys, he added.

Source: MCV

Kinect Sports Appearing On Sports Show

Sky have announced that they have signed a product placement deal between Microsoft. The British show sports panel show A League of Their Own will have Kinect Sports in the pre-title sequence; the Xbox 360 is already a sponsor of the show.

“Coming hot on the heels of the Xbox sponsorship of Got To Dance 2, this product placement deal with Sky provides yet another highly innovative partnership opportunity,” Microsoft’s retail sales and marketing division boss for Xbox Stephen McGill stated. “Kinect Sports is an ideal fit for A League of Their Own, and I’m sure viewers will be interested to see how the game has been integrated into the show.”

“We’re delighted to be able to build on our broadcast sponsor partnership with Kinect for Xbox 360 and Kinect Sports in this way, especially as it is the first product placement deal we’ve agreed to make it on air,” said head of branded content at Sky, Jason Hughes. “Both Kinect Sports and A League of Their Own are all about people having fun with sport, and we look forward to working with Xbox to innovate and develop our relationship further over time.”

Team Fortress 2 Hat Sales Raise $300,000 For Japan

Valve recently announced three limited edition Team Fortress 2 in-game hats, ranging from $7.99 to $99.99, with proceeds going to Japanese disaster relief efforts. Valve has announced that over $300,000 has been raised from the virtual item sale so far.

“Take a BOW, TF2 community — because that is an incredible, frankly astounding, amount of money from a dedicated number of gamers, to one heck of a lot of people in some real need right now,” reads the Team Fortress 2 blog {link no longer active}. “Anytime someone gives you guff about something negative in gaming, you go ahead and point them to this post, because here’s some late-breaking damn news: they are wrong and gamers are generous and awesome.”

The items will be available until April 6.

THQ Plans New uDraw Titles ‘Every 60 To 90 Days’

THQ has revealed that they plan on releasing new uDraw games every 60 to 90 days, with the next game being SpongeBob SquigglePants. They’re also planning on a ten-week shopping center tour that they hope to reach 30 million consumers with.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with uDraw. We originally tried to get 1 million units out in our fiscal year and we now think we can do 1.7 million units,” said THQ CEO Brian Farrell. “The strategy is to re-promote the hardware along with new software every 60 to 90 days. We have just announced this new SpongeBob SquigglePants product. You will see us back re-promoting the device just before Easter across Europe and the U.S.”

Source: MCV