Feature: Ghost Recon Breeches New Online Frontiers

Ghost Recon is one of Ubisoft’s most acclaimed franchises under their Tom Clancy label. However, there hasn’t been a PC or PS3/Xbox 360 release since Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 back in 2007. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier has been through at least one major revision, but while Ubisoft has been searching for the right direction in that game, they’ve been taking a whole new tack with another game in the series;Ghost Recon Online will boldly take the franchise into the realm of free-to-play shooters. We caught up with Thomas Seris, Senior Brand Manager at Ubisoft, who talked about this new direction for both the French publisher and the Ghost Recon franchise.

[a]list: How are you looking to draw in long time fans of Ghost Recon with the promotions for Ghost Recon Online?

Thomas Seris: Simply by communicating on a legitimate, pure and visceral Ghost Recon experience, going back to the tactical and strategic roots of the franchise original PC game.

[a]list: Can you give some examples?

Thomas Seris: From realistic weapon customization, to classes special abilities, the choice of location for the maps or cover mechanics, every feature we highlight, every asset we release is made to get players to feel like soldiers from the ultimate elite military unit.

[a]list: Tell me about how you’re communicating that, even though Ghost Recon Online is free-to-play, it’s a retail quality multiplayer experience?

Thomas Seris: As a player, it’s difficult for me to accept that business models are relevant criteria to judge the quality of a video game.  Some MMOs switched from a subscription to a free-to-play model, so it’s purely a perception issue. Because of this, Free is sometimes synonymous with low quality products, games that publishers cannot charge for.

[a]list: We understand that, but how do you convey that to players who might be less familiar, or are at least wary, of the model?

Thomas Seris: The real question is to understand how the free-to-play model is impacting gameplay. The development philosophy behind Ghost Recon Online is to ensure payers are not given a specific advantage over players. This is great, because the game is all about competition, and it requires fairness. As a consequence, Ubisoft Singapore is focusing on providing players with a great AAA Ghost Recon game, regardless of the way it generates revenue.

[a]list: So what’s the message to players?

Thomas Seris: We simply won’t hide from our free-to-play nature and this message will be prominent in our campaign. We’re also looking forward to leveraging a franchise history made of various memorable extremely well-reviewed games. Ultimately, the promotional support behind the game, the quality of PR and advertising assets, or just simply the type of campaign behind Ghost Recon Online will definitely be on par with a AAA boxed product campaign.

[a]list: What sites and online methods are you looking to use to draw people into the experience?

Thomas Seris: Being a free-to-play game, Ghost Recon Online has very little barriers of entry. So you can expect a mix of different activities all driving trial. Online campaigns are obvious, but we also want to meet our community of players during events and take the game on the road as often as possible!

[a]list: How will the console versions of Ghost Recon Online be marketed differently?

Thomas Seris: I’m assuming you’re talking about the Wii U version. Details regarding this specific SKU will be unveiled at a later time.

[a]list: Why do you feel Ghost Recon Online is the right response for the PC market?

Thomas Seris: The Ghost Recon franchise is currently developed on various platforms from Console to PC, Facebook to Mobile. However, the franchise itself started on PC with the original Ghost Recon and the free-to-play is a popular model and it shines primarily on PC. Competitive multiplayer shooters always make great PC games. These are some of the reasons that make Ghost Recon Online a perfect fit for the PC platform.

[a]list: Thomas, thanks.

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Fan of Ghost Recon? Can’t wait for this free-to-play incarnation? Join the discussion on Facebook.

Zynga Veteran Joins Loot Drop

Loot Drop has announced that it has hired Erin Hoffman to be lead designer on a new social title. Formerly of Zynga, she’s worked on online games for 12 years, including FrontierVille, DragonRealms and Kung Fu Panda World.

“Erin brings a soul to social games, and that’s something I’d say about few game designers in this space,” said Loot Drop COO Brenda Brathwaite. “She genuinely believes in making games fun — first and foremost — and that’s something core at Loot Drop. We are grateful she’s joined us.”

“The opportunity to work with not just one but three legendary game designers in a sustainability- and design-focused social game company was too good to pass up,” said Hoffman. “I’ll be working on amazing properties with some of my heroes.”

President Obama Approves Just Dance

Just Dance is the number one dance franchise in the world, and it has some fans in the First Family. President Obama was seen buying a copy of Just Dance 3 for his daughters, Malia and Sasha.

“In case you all are wondering, Just Dance for the Wii,” said Obama a crowd of Christmas shoppers. “The girls beat me every time on these various dance games.  And you’ll never get a picture of me [playing] because I get graded F every time.”

Source: Forbes

HTML5 Doubted As Gaming Platform By Crowdstar

HTML5 has taken the lead from Flash as a mobile development platform. Crowdstar CEO Peter Relan, however, has open doubts of Facebook’s HTML5 development platform for game developers.

“We haven’t heard or seen that much traction in terms of gaming, which I attribute to the fact that HTML5 games, which they’re supporting, are relatively immature as a technology,” he said. “You can’t suddenly take people who have learned to build native client games on Objective C and Java and have them go build with fewer options. It just lacks the supply of high-quality games. Changing to focus on HTML5 requires massive tech and workflow adjustments. Facebook is taking a long-term strategic directional initiative, which developers have to compare to the here-and-now money initiative.”

Crowdstar decided to move their Project Trident away from Facebook only to include mobile, and other social networks in Asian markets. “That’s been a change over the past year from our default-Facebook position in 2010,” added Relan. “Zynga is the main other company that has been making this type of move to focus on multiple platforms.”

Relan thinks that mobile-social gaming was worth $500 million during 2011. However, he thinks that only $100 million is being spent through Android devices and that Google needs to enact measures to make payment easier for its customers.

“The thing about Android is obviously monetization,” said Relan. “For example, on the Kindle Fire we’re already seeing much better numbers – average revenue per user, and the rest – even if it’s small. Google checkout and wallet – that’s a very long term strategic initiative, but not likely to take off on a mobile device because they’re just behind. Amazon already has 150 million credit cards on file, Apple has hundreds of millions. Android needs to leverage carrier billing very, very aggressively.”

Source: TechCrunch

Unity 3.5 Gets Flash

Unity Technologies has announced the launch of the Unity 3.5 open beta including a developer preview for the Adobe Flash Player deployment add-on. To celebrate this, they’re launching a Flash platform game development contest where contestants can enter their Unity-based Flash titles for the chance to win the $20,000 Grand Prize.

“Our vision has always been to let developers take their games to as many places as possible — and Flash deployment greatly furthers that,” said Nicholas Francis, Chief Creative Officer at Unity Technologies. “While we normally wait to ship our software until it’s rock solid, the Flash publishing option is just so awesome that we had to do a developer preview. I can’t wait to see where our new and existing users will now take Unity.”

Find all the contest rules and details at unity3d.com/preview/contest {link no longer active}.

Facebook Says Gardens Of Time Is Top Title

Facebook has said that their most popular game of the year was Gardens Of Time by Playdom, followed by EA’s Playfish and Cityville from Zynga. The statistics were not based upon revenue or user numbers, instead using user recommendations for titles with more than 100,000 monthly active users and high user satisfaction ratings.

“The average game player on Facebook played more than three different gaming titles each month and played more than half the days they visited the site,” said the site’s official blog.

Up and coming games with the highest engagement and between 100,000 and 500,000 users saw Battle Pirates by Kixeye in the top spot, followed by Dragons Of Atlantis by Kabam and RockYou’s Gourmet Ranch. The engaging games with 50,000 to 100,000 users were Super Slot Machines, WestWars and MouseHunt.

Star Wars: The Old Republic Directed Away From High Population Servers

BioWare has had to deal with the “first-world problem” of too many people wanting to play their game Star Wars: The Old Republic. This has lead to some problems with certain servers suffering from high lag and queue times, particularly servers like The Harbinger, The Swiftsure and The Fatman in the U.S.

BioWare says that population caps are being raised on all servers to elevate queue problems in the long term, and they advise that players not create characters on those and other high population servers. They note that these servers will not be “locked out” because BioWare wants people to have a chance to play with their friends if they choose.

“Character transfer is a common request for these servers. The ability to transfer your characters is being worked on, but there is no ETA on when it will be available,” read a statement from BioWare. “Finally, we are also aware of the issues some have experienced where they have been disconnected during a queue due to internet issues, and had to restart their queue once more. This is a high priority for our server team and we’ll be deploying a fix as soon as possible.”