Dungeons & Dragons Online Enters The Underdark

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Wizards of the Coast today announced Dungeons & Dragons Online: Menace of the Underdark. The first expansion to the free-to-play MMORPG it will include a new level cap, be set in the popular Forgotten Realms setting and introduce the Druid character class.

“2011 was a year of growth for Dungeons & Dragons Online as we celebrated our fifth anniversary and completed a successful launch of the game in Europe,” said Fernando Paiz, Executive Producer of Dungeons & Dragons Online. “2012 is going to be our biggest year yet with a wealth of new content throughout the year including the launch of our first expansion pack. We are very excited to expand into the Forgotten Realms setting with a whole new storyline, level cap increase and the new Druid class!”

Facebook Actions Go Beyond ‘Like’

Facebook officially unveiled their Actions feature at at private event. This is of particular import to marketers, since it will put products in the context of how people own and interact with them and provide data that will be invaluable to brands.

More than 60 partners are working with Facebook to create and roll out Actions for this the initial launch, including brands in food, fitness and travel. This also includes to major social developers in Zynga (Words With Friends, CastleVille) and Wooga (Diamond Dash, Bubble Island).

Source: venturebeat.com

Social Gaming Market Could Reach $6.2 billion In 2012

The Casual Games Association released a report saying that the average social game player is a 40-year-old female, and that the number of social gamers in the U.S. is expected to increase from 69.2 million in 2011 to 77.9 million by the end of 2012.

Virtual goods represent 60 percent of the revenue from social games, while advertising accounts for 20 percent, and another 20 percent comes from special offers. The social game market worldwide has grown from $1.84 billion in 2009, to $3.65 billion in 2010, to an estimated $4.94 billion in 2011, with projections that it will be $6.2 billion in 2012, $7.49 billion in 2013, and $8.64 billion in 2014, which would put it ahead of console sales at the current rate of growth.

Interestingly, it is also believed that 2012 will be the zenith of Facebook as a social game platform worldwide, with smaller social networks filling specific niches and social game developers look to diversify their revenue streams.

Source: Casual Games Association

SOPA Protests Draw Major Attention Across The Web

Significant coverage and messaging occurred from the planned blackouts and protests of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) of the Internet on January 18. According to the site Fight for the Future, roughly 75,000 websites took part in the protest.

In particular, Wikipedia says 162 million people viewed the blackout landing page. More substantively, 8 million U.S. visitors looked up Congressional representatives and 12,000 people posted comments on Wikimedia Foundation’s blog post announcing the blackout.

Google confirmed that 4.5 million people signed the company’s petition to protest SOPA and PIPA, while 350,000 emails were sent to representatives using SopaStrike.com and AmericanCensorship.org. While Twitter did not actively participate in the protest, over 2.4 million SOPA-related tweets between 12 AM and 4 PM on January 18, with the top five terms being SOPA, Stop SOPA, PIPA, Tell Congress and #factswithoutwikipedia.

The White House reported that a combined 103,785 signed a petition to permanently table the legislation. All of this pressure has had some effect, as roughly 24 U.S. Senators have now come out against the bills, including former co-sponsors Ben Cardin, Marco Rubio and Roy Blunt.

In November Google, Facebook, eBay and other major tech players took out a full page add in the New York Times to state their opposition to the bills. Link-sharing community Reddit organized a boycott of GoDaddy.com when it was revealed that the site supported SOPA and was instrumental in getting the Internet blackout protest started.

Source: CBSnews.com

Minecraft Pocket Edition Moves 700,000 On IOS

Daniel Kaplan, a designer on Minecraft Pocket Edition, has announced the sales of the iOS version of the mobile title. The Android sales have been obfuscated by a “supersale” of the title.

“We have sold over 700 000 copies. That is quite impressive, since the game was launched almost two months ago,” said Kaplan. “We sell around 5000 copies a day now. Thank you all Minecraft fans all over the world for letting me have the best job in the world!”

The game is available on iOS here and on Android here.

Google+ Now At 90 Million Users

Google+, the social network of the search engine giant, has acquired 90 million users in four months since launch. Unofficial estimates by Paul Allen say that 60 percent of Google+ users are active on a daily basis, and 80 percent active on a weekly basis.

“Google had a really strong quarter ending a great year. Full year revenue was up 29 percent, and our quarterly revenue blew past the $10 billion mark for the first time,” commented Larry Page, Google CEO. “I am super excited about the growth of Android, Gmail, and Google+, which now has 90 million users globally – well over double what I announced just three months ago. By building a meaningful relationship with our users through Google+ we will create amazing experiences across our services.”

Mass Effect 2 Prop Gun Looks Battle Worn

Zander Brandt does prop guns as a hobby and this time he’s out done himself with a gun from Mass Effect 2. He’s recreated a stunning replica of the M-96 Mattock heavy rifle.

“I made this rifle for someone who wanted to start a mass effect prop collection of sorts. As such, they gave me discretion to choose which rifle from the Mass Effect universe that I wanted to do,” wrote Brandt. “I chose the Mattock, and wanted to stay as close to the concept art as possible. I chose it because it is arguably the most complicated rifle in the mass effect universe that still looks like it was made by human hands. I like a challenge. And headaches, apparently.”

Source: zprops.blogspot.com

Yakuza: Dead Souls Pre-Order Items Love America

Sega has announced that Yakuza: Dead Souls will have a special pre-order bonus before the game comes out March 13. Those that pre-order from GameStop will receive the Densetsu DLC pack plus the God Bless America DLC pack.

“[The Densetsu pack] includes 8 unlockable new weapons, 14 new firearms for your favorite lovely ladies, 8 new hostess costumes, and a huge assortment of extra items to help you survive the zombie horde. If you like guns, girls, or the two combined – this pack is for you!” said Sega. “The God Bless America DLC pack features bonus costumes for each of the main characters, including Kazuma Kiryu’s glorious God Bless America shirt. Guaranteed to make you feel manlier just by downloading, this pack also includes bonus Karaoke modes for Majima and Kiryu, new cut scenes, and bonus items to help you hit it big in the casino and upgrade your weapons.”

Telltale Signs Of Success In Revenue, Not Traffic

It’s an increasing trend within the industry to make games available for a small fee or even for free. However, Telltale CEO Dan Connors asserts that the constant banging on about volume for the digital market tends to obfuscate the metric that release matters: revenue.

“Daily average users, monthly average users, number of install, it’s all very sexy,” said Connors, “But the amount of dollars attached to the user is where, from a business standpoint, the rubber meets the road.”

In particular, he called out the tendency to slash prices on the App Store. “There’ll be a giant sale on iOS where a major company may offer up its entire library for 99¢ and some of that includes $59.99 retail products at console,” said Connors. “So someone just sold $600 million dollars worth of content for $7 million, and considers it a success.”

While the so-called episodic model has gone out of fashion, Connors notes that modern digital offerings are an evolution of different “episodes” worth of content. “They’re just calling it different names, there’s a DLC campaign for everything and there’s multiple DLC campaigns for everything so they’re just installing a bigger initial chunk and then building off of it. Free-to-play with microtransactions is in a way episodic as well, it’s just additional content to keep the player engaged,” he said, noting, “We’re the only ones who still call it episodic, but I think it is what everyone’s doing.”

Source: GamesIndustry.biz

Yahtzee Croshaw Teases New Game: Poacher

One of the world’s most popular video reviewers, Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, also likes to make games on occasion and is putting together a freeware title in Game Maker. As something of a send up of trailers in general in games, he made a trailer for it with Virtualdub using the songs Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9  and Lux Aeterna from the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack – check it out!