Feature: Pocket Legends Heads To Your TV

When we last left Spacetime Studios, we got the low-down on how their 3D mobile MMO Pocket Legends worked. Now the company is celebrating the first year anniversary of Pocket Legends and flush off the success of their new TV advertisements. We talked to Fernando Blanco, Spacetime’s Director of Marketing, about the TV spot and what the future holds for the company.

[a]list: Talk to me about the TV ad for Pocket Legends and what you were looking to get out of it?

Fernando Blanco: For the TV spot, there were a number of questions and risk factors. The biggest thing as an image issue: Pocket Legends as a game looks like it appeals to a younger teen audience and my suspicion is that the youngest people that would have the smartphones would be in their late teens, maybe early 20s. How is this going to be reflected on TV Younger viewers respond differently to TV; they see something and they believe that is the thing they should be doing, but the older teenagers are more cautious in deciding whether to try or buy what it is that’s being offered. [Pocket Legends] might appeal to a younger group, but we need something that reaches across both sides of the fence.

We went through a team at Ayzenberg with documentation and pictures for the demographic. They liked it, they said they usually don’t get that. They even got pictures of fans on Facebook and it was great insight into what they’re like and what their interests are. We established what they’re into, and the next stage was to put together a script for what’s appealing to that age group. Those commercials [for tweens] sound very different than those that target late teens they tend to have more energy, the speed and timing are different and that’s the sort of thing I was concerned about. I had seen Ayzenberg’s other stuff fantastic stuff like with Lord of the Rings Online, but it was mostly for and older audience, so we weren’t sure what they would do with a younger audience. We tossed around some ideas and what we came up with was something tongue-in-cheek and we decided to focus on live action instead of gameplay, and I think that was smart, because this is something that lives and breaths on mobile devices. It’s going to be different than a game on consoles or desktop PC, so the focus was on the audience, the cool factor, and the uniqueness of the technology because it is a MMO across multiple devices, where I can play with someone anywhere, across Android and iOS devices.

[a]list: It sounds like a unique challenge to make an ad for Pocket Legends, since it’s such a unique offering; no TV ads have really been done for a product like it before.

Fernando Blanco: There were a lot of competing ideas, but there are a couple of key factors for why we went the way we did, It was cool for me as a marketer though – I worked for Ogilvy out of L.A. so I was aware of the challenges… but the collaboration and what we did with Ayzenberg, they really hit the mark. Not only is the product and technology in a unique place, and send out a message that is unique and really cool.

[a]list: The only thing I can think of that’s similar to Pocket Legends that got TV ads was MapleStory. Do you remember those ads They were a bit surreal, like with kids slapping each other in the face because it was free, just like MapleStory…

Fernando Blanco: I think there is a little bit of cross over with MapleStory, but we have to think does our audience have a device to play this type of a game and then the typical marketing considerations about a persistent game that a lot of other marketers in the game space don’t have to think about it, because the install base for consoles and PC is very direct.

When I look at our numbers every day, we have crossed the 3 million account market for Pocket Legends, and that just generated a new conversation at the office about reaching that milestone. That’s the a number you see with desktop PC or console blockbusters, you wouldn’t associate it with with a smartphone MMO.

[a]list: It’s also a challenge with Pocket Legends being on smartphones since you have to balance considerations of players spending short periods of time playing it on the go…

Fernando Blanco: That was my supposition early on, coming from the PC desktop realm and moving into the mobile space, I assumed they were playing it for five minutes, but those play times are much longer than I would have expected. They’re playing for hours and hours, and its not a small percentage, it’s a large percentage. It’s corroborated on our forums, us asking how long people play, and just pages of responses for them playing four, five, six hours a day. We had anticipated it would be 15 20 minutes.

[a]list: There’s also the potential for Pocket Legends internationally, where smartphone penetration is higher than PC penetration…

Fernando Blanco: It’s interesting. Right now we’re engaging with a a bunch of manufacturers and carriers – when they talk about install bases and number of people, I’m just floored. I was talking to someone out in China, and discussing Android devices in that country, and we’re talking 100 million from one sort of device and on one carrier in China. It’s a little bit like the wild west right now, but those that get there first will be difficult to uproot.

[a]list: What audience were you targeting with the TV ad was it difficult to nail down what demographic, between pre-teen and late teen?

Fernando Blanco: That’s true, and it’s been a difficult thing to get a handle on. I’ve separated out two groups; the first group was 11 to 14 years-old and that was the younger control group and the commercials was performing very well on shows for that demographic. We have just recently started targeting the older group, with programing for 15 to 19 year-olds, and that’s actually out performing the reception from the younger groups. I was concerned because there’s this disparity between the product and how it looks I get this gut feeling its playing to a younger audience, but I won’t know for certain for some more time.

[a]list: Have you liked the reception that the ad has gotten so far from both new and old fans?

Fernando Blanco: Oh absolutely. When we posted the commercial on our site the response from our own forums has been unbelievably positive and the acquisition level speaks for itself. We have something along the lines of 7 million unique viewers for the ads targeting the 11 to 14 years-olds and that drove about 250,000 traffic to PocketLegends.com, and this is without other sources inflating that. That’s a 3 percent return and that’s unprecedented. With TV, if you have half a percent then you’ve really hit the mark, so it’s a measure of how much we want to ramp up now. But it’s one of those fortunate scenarios that existing players like it.

[a]list: The ad is also humorous, and that’s a great way to reach out to a variety of demographics.

Fernando Blanco: That younger audience is more amenable to things that are humorous and irreverent. They re testing those boundaries at around that age, so something done with a smile and a wink is a good idea for that age group. So usually humor is a home run.

[a]list: It’s been a year now since Pocket Legends launched. Reflecting on that, has the game surpassed the expectations SpaceTime had for it then?

Fernando Blanco: Every single day! And I’m not joking, every single day, when I look at our revenues over that time, it’s sort of redefining the playbook literally weekly. So as I said, to have 3 million accounts is a huge accomplishment. I worked on Wizard 101 for a bit; different sort of game, but it’s got a similar if not slightly younger age group, and these numbers would have been good for that with something benchmarking in the thousands rather than millions.

[a]list: Talk to me about the April Fools day joke {link no longer active} and how fans received that.

Fernando Blanco: It’s funny because a lot of people were talking about how much they wanted to farm! So it kind of bit us a bit because there was a group that gets this and there s a growing audience that wants us to do it.

[a]list: We were just talking about how kids are more likely to believe things they see, so there you go…

Fernando Blanco: Dealing with kids, every day its surprising to me how they deal with things!

[a]list: What do you have in your most recent update and what can fans look forward to in the future?

Fernando Blanco: Our anniversary celebration has been staging out over the month, we re looking forward to some stuff this update laid the foundation for. We have a great deal of new content for free. Tons of goodies, new items, celebration stuff, but I think the things people are most excited about will be available for free. People weren’t able to experience the content because it wasn’t free at first, but part of the celebration is that it goes free.

[a]list: How are you looking to expand and promote the game down the line Angry Birds has a movie tie-in, has plush dolls, and is looking to get an animated series…

Fernando Blanco: The great thing is that all those things become options now. I think in stages, so the first stage is with the TV spot and now that we’ve tested television and its been an absolute success. Benchmarking across other things in the mobile space, from banner ads and other options, it’s outperforming all of them. So we’ll be increasing that with more ad creative or an expansion of the additional commercial, perhaps with one to two new commercials to follow suit and tell a story.That’s not just for advertising, but also for the video and viral content like with Angry Birds; think the UN conference thing by an Israeli humor group! Making some video content is really where it’s at. I think a lot of the static advertising is on its way to going away, exiting forever. People like to see things moving and with video, and video advertising is outpacing almost everything we’re doing on a marketing. And that’s not just us, that’s the advertising trend. We’ve already started considering some new content with new ideas that include a cartoon or live action and we’re looking to see what are options are.

[a]list: Now, a PC version of Pocket Kingdoms is in the cards, right?

Fernando Blanco: PC play is on the road-map for this year and that’s potentially a big big deal. From seeing players playing Wizard 101 personally, so many of them are playing online interconnected games than ever before so once we do that, the potential is huge. The ability to jump from device to device depending on your situation is big and I think the title really lends itself to parents playing with their kids or maybe even grandparents. Working on Wizard 101, I saw a ton of grandparents were playing it and I absolutely see that as having a lot of potential. My mom has the game a she’s one of the power users! More of the people using things like smartphones are going to age – and this is generational and it works in our favorite as time goes on. A number of these devices are finding their way into the hands of kids 12 and below there’s a wide variety of these devices that they have.

[a]list: Anything you would like to add about what SpaceTime Studios has cooking up?

Fernando Blanco: Blackstar is our next project, and it will probably launch in June or maybe later in the summer and its got plenty of technology innovation. The features that we’re lining up for Blackstar are unbelievable and the fact that it’s still an MMO is exciting. We’re getting inquiries from the carriers and they want to do some exclusive stuff for it and there’s a lot of inbound interest. It will further SpaceTime Studios as the premier mobile MMO developer so we’re looking forward to it.

[a]list: Fernando, thanks.

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Nintendo’s Miyamoto Confirms Work On Wii Successor

Rumors have been running rampant for about a week that Nintendo is readying their next home console, code-named Project Cafe. When asked about it directly, Nintendo luminary Shigeru Miyamoto let slip that such a device is, at least, in development.

“Don’t ask!” he said. “Even when the Wii launched we were developing new hardware, work on 3DS had already started. It s a matter of when we announce it.”

When asked whether we can expect an announcement at E3 in June, Miyamoto responded, “Please wait. Be patient until we decide.”

Source: Edge {link no longer active}

Mass Effect 3 Story To Retain ‘Magic’

The Mass Effect series is one composed of moments both large and small that are memorable. With the third and final game of the current Mass Effect story arch coming, executive producer Casey Hudson says that Mass Effect 3 will have its share of special moments as well.

“There are certain things you want to do when making a game that are part of the ‘magic’ of the experience. Those things aren’t necessarily the big things – they’re often little moments,” said Hudson. “There’s a lot of this in Mass Effect 3. The whole game is filled with really epic moments, but I think the story will really start to hit home when players start realizing things about Shepard’s personal life, through sacrifice on a galactic scale.”

Source: CVG

Splash Damage Wants Shooter MMOs

Multiplayer is a key component in the success of most every shooter everywhere, and increasingly it’s built around leveling a particular character. However, the world itself is usually not persistent and Paul Wedgwood, CEO of Splash Damage, would really like to see that.

“I just want a really good massively multiplayer shooter, thanks,” said the Brink developer. “I’m desperate for it. Why isn’t there I just can’t stand the fact that there isn’t one yet. I’d do it but 140 staff? Managing 140 people It’s just so hard. You know, for a long time it hasn’t been technically feasible because you need super low latency connections for good shooter combat and that’s generally incompatible with 1000 people being on a server at the same time.”

“But there are enough solutions around now so that it’s reasonably feasible. I know that there are some teams on the periphery working on ideas for this,” he continued. “I saw some video footage of something that I quite liked the look of, they deployed some harvester then they were bouncing around shooting aliens that were attacking them.”

“I think there’s definitely going to be some cool stuff that comes around but I think the massively multiplayer shooter, one where we’re all engaged in the same continuous environment is the thing that’s going to truly impress me next,” he added.

Source: CVG

iTrack – Apple Records Movements For iPhone, iPad Users

Researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden indicate that the iPad and iPhone have been storing locations and time stamps. This geographic data has been recorded ever since the iOS 4 update.

“We’re not sure why Apple is gathering this data, but it’s clearly intentional, as the database is being restored across backups, and even device migrations,” the pair wrote. “The presence of this data on your iPhone, your iPad, and your backups has security and privacy implications. We’ve contacted Apple’s Product Security team, but we haven’t heard back.”

Source: O’Reilly Radar Blog

Mario & Sonic Preparing For London 2012 Olympics

Sega has confirmed that they are working on Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games for the Wii and 3DS. New events for the game will include soccer, equestrian and table tennis, with various Dream Events taking place in the worlds of various Nintendo and Sega characters.

Mario and Sonic have had a phenomenally successful partnership and we are extremely proud to be able to recreate this once again with Nintendo and ISM for the London 2012 Olympic Games said Sega’s American and European chairman Naoya Tsurumi. It is truly exciting to be in the position to develop interactive entertainment software titles based on the Olympic Games, and for Sonic and Mario to once again be a part of this historic event.

“These games bring together two of the most beloved characters in the history of the video game industry in Mario and Sonic,” noted Nintendo’s American president Reggie Fils-Aime. “As veterans of both video games and Olympic games, they’ll arrive in London as a formidable team to provide fun, competitive sporting activities that friends and family members can enjoy together.”

RIM PlayBook Tablet Sees Slow Start

Research In Motion’s PlayBook tablet has released but the demand is no where near as high as for iPad 2. Unlike Apple’s device, which saw people queue up at electronic stores and was widely sold out, the PlayBook released to little public clamor or demand.

Despite being priced competitively with the iPad, the lack of built in email and organizer functions the Blackberry is famous for have led to lukewarm reviews by critics. “It’s going to be a tough sell to the consumer,” BGC Partner analyst Colin Gillis said of the PlayBook tablet.

Only 3 million PlayBooks are expected to be sold in 2011, roughly a fifth the number of iPads expected to sell over a similar time span. “It’s not going to be in the same league as the iPad,” said Al Hilwa, analyst at IDC. “The question is will it sell more than the [Motorola] Xoom but less than the [Samsung] Galaxy.

Source: Reuters {link no longer active}

PSPgo Going Gone In Japan

Recently, it was rumored that production of the PSPgo had stopped for good. Now, however, there’s a more solid indication that Sony’s first download-only portable console is being put out to pasture.

According to audio visual information website Phileweb, Sony Computer Entertainment Japan has indicated that stocks will not be replenished for the PSPgo. SCEJ has attached “shipment ended” notices to the PSPgo listings at PlayStation.com; SCEA, however, has sent word that production was ongoing in the U.S. at least for now.

Source: Andriasang {link no longer active}

Zynga Makes It 12 Acquisitions In 12 Months

Zynga has announced that it has acquired FooBrew and absorbed all of the company’s developers. The developer was responsible for JamLegend, a browser-based music game with 2 million users and 110 million plays.

After nearly three years of running JamLegend, we are shutting down the service to move on to new ventures, read a blog post by FooBrew. We will look back fondly on our experiences at JamLegend. JamLegend was the most vibrant music gaming community in the world, where the greatest players and trackers/producers helped evolve online music consumption. We ll always be proud of bringing so much joy to so many.

Source: blog.jamlegend.com {link no longer active}