MLG 2012 Season Winter Plans

MLG has announced that their ninth annual Pro Circuit for 2012 which will be divided into four seasons – Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. The Winter season will run January 31-February 8 with some invitation-only StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty tournaments, with the eight finishers from the MLG Pro Circuit 2011 National Championships held last November will be invited to join the top eight finishers from the MLG Winter Regional Online Qualifiers for the first ever MLG Winter Arena in New York City running February 24-26.

“Our 2012 MLG Pro Circuit season is poised to be our most robust to date – with even more competition online and in person, more broadcasts and more of the world’s best players,” said MLG CEO Sundance DiGiovanni. “We listened to our community and players to update our Pro Circuit format and ensure that placement in tournaments was a direct result of player performance. Our new Pro Circuit structure is designed to further the world of e-sports and take competitive gaming to a new level.”

The Winter season will conclude with the MLG Winter Championship, a spectator event in Columbus, Ohio running from March 23-25 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The event will be viewable for local fans in-person and via live streaming.

Yahoo Co-Founder Jerry Yang Departs

Yahoo Inc co-founder Jerry Yang has announced his sudden departure from the company, following the recent appointment of Scott Thompson as Yahoo CEO. Yang is severing all formal ties with the company and resigning all positions in the wake of criticism for his handling of company affairs dating back to an failed sale to Microsoft in 2008.

“Everyone is going to assume this means a deal is more likely with the Asia-counterparts,” said Macquarie analyst Ben Schacter. “The perception among shareholders was Jerry was more focused on trying to rebuild Yahoo than necessarily on maximizing near-term shareholder value. It certainly seems things are coming to a head as far as realizing the value of these assets.”

Source: csmonitor.com

Feature: Ayzenberg Hooks Up With The Social Method

The Ayzenberg Group recently announced that it would be acquiring The Social Method and merging operations. The combination of people and focus is a continuation of a natural relationship between the two companies. We got all the pertinent details on the merger from Keith Pape, VP of Social, Mobile & Emerging Media at Ayzenberg Group, and The Social Method co-founder Rebecca Markarian who is now Director of Social & Emerging Media at Ayzenberg Group.

Why does the Ayzenberg Group feel like now was the right time to acquire The Social Method?

Keith Pape

Keith Pape: We’ve been working with The Social Method for nearly 2 years and our efforts just grew more and more closely aligned as we saw more success together. It just made sense at some point to become one organization, as we were spending all our time together. It made sense to take advantage of what were duplicate systems. The team has amazing synergy.

I’ve known Rebecca (CEO of The Social Method) for years prior to my arrival at Ayzenberg. We were introduced by a mutual friend and we’ve always had a like-minded approach to Social Media.

Give me some background on how you started working with the Ayzenberg Group.

Rebecca Markarian: I met Keith Pape, who heads up social, mobile and emerging media at Ayzenberg, through a mutual contact in the social field and we immediately were on the same page. Keith’s knowledge of creating social engagements and building advanced apps intrigued me and I think my passion for analytics and measurement complemented that nicely. We finally had the opportunity about a year ago to work on a community outreach program where we began experimenting and testing different theories and really digging into the data. From there it just grew.

How will the capabilities of Ayzenberg enhance The Social Method and vice-versa?

Keith Pape: It’s funny that Rebecca and I kind of mimic the benefits of the two companies. We have many similar assets (community managers, project managers, bloggers, strategists, analysts), but, although we have similar strengths that tie us together, we also shore up each other’s weaknesses. One will have a greater strength in analytics, and the other a keen insight into long term strategy. One an in-depth knowledge into entertainment and toys, but the other has a contact into the Mom’s that make the decision on what gets purchased. It’s constantly an Yin and Yang that complete anything we touch and make the two much stronger by working together.

Rebecca Markarian

Rebecca Markarian: Ayzenberg appealed to me immediately because of the talent of the team. They are savvy on all things digital and they don’t just “talk the talk” — they really dig in and work closely with clients to understand how they can help meet not just marketing objectives but business objectives. This concept was at the core of the Social Method. For me it was always about ensuring a brand’s reputation was intact and figuring out how we could help them build awareness and ultimately increase sales.

What are some of the projects that, theoretically, you’ll work with The Social Method?

Keith Pape: Everything is so tightly integrated. We complete each other’s team. Already we have had our project manager who had a particular strength leading the graveyard shift completely made up of ‘Social Method’ Community staff, and the analytics team has already become more efficient combing the writing styles of one analyst with the data manipulation of the other. No client we have on the roster won’t be improved, whether it’s a AAA video game launch, a major toy brand or the leading energy drink brand’s latest crazy stunt.

Talk to me about your history of working with brands like Old Spice, Jaguar, Land Rover and Hilton Hotels and how you think your social marketing with them succeeded.

Rebecca Markarian: In leading or being part of the PR and communication efforts for these brands I learned with each that perception was stronger than whatever the latest creative execution said about your brand. Changing perception is an art I learned working with the media and now use in working with consumers and it is a practice of listening more than talking and really trying to understand where consumer perception meets the marketing message and figuring out how to make the two meet so a consumer can understand the value of a product. I also learned that standard messaging rarely works in creating interest among all audiences. It’s much more effective to take the time to understand each person’s wants and needs and then work the messaging to show how your product or service fills that.

Talk to me about how The Social Method’s proprietary toolset enabling real time analytics for social activity monitoring, management and measurement with compliment Ayzenberg’s business.

Keith Pape: Everyone is talking ROI, KPI and every other acronym concerning data and metrics when it comes to Social Media, and what they are talking about is that Social Media lacks hard numbers (real, quantifiable, numbers). We think differently. We’ve found that the problem isn’t the data, as it’s available, it’s the way you think about it. Most technology vendors think of social media data and reporting from a tech perspective, and ultimately, it’s cool, but not useful. The PR folks think of it from a PR perspective or customer service perspective, which doesn’t give the community it’s due in it’s innate ability to generate true viral traffic that can be measured and reported on, and far exceeds the customer service model of; complaint, response, resolution. The community isn’t just open or closed, or happy or unhappy. Or even ‘engaged’ which seems to be the response/phrase of the day. We are pulling data in real time and collecting it. Constantly looking at it, analyzing it, storing the analysis and using it to develop trends, not just on engagement or in number of responses or shares or ‘likes’, but really determining cause and effect, based on that data and in real time making recommendations to the client on what the community is telling us is important to them, and thus, what is important for the brand to accomplish in order to be successful.

Rebecca Markarian: Our toolset takes in all conversations about your brand or product and analyzes them from a consumer perspective. We can look at the conversations on your channels and out in the public social space and understand what people think about your brand right now. What are they concerned about? What do they love? While some argue they know this already, often the data we uncover is different than what is perceived and we’re able to help clients create better products, services and communications using this data.

Why do you feel like social media is going to be “the next big thing” for brand marketing in the future?

Rebecca Markarian: Social media has changed the way consumers think about their relationships with brands. They are gravitating toward brands that listen, respond and consider as well as act on what their community has to say. The new consumer wants to be heard and responded to immediately and their expectation that brands will do this 24/7 is rapidly increasing. I think for brands that make the investment to be there for their community and take into account what they want in the development of the products and services, they’ll see more loyalty from consumers in the long run.

Rebecca, Keith thanks.

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Facebook Getting Streaming Games From Gaikai

David Perry, founder of streaming service Gaikai, talked about the importance of Facebook to his business at Cloud Gaming Europe. He confirmed that a deal is done with Facebook, which will put streaming PC game demos on the social network soon.

“Our next big launch is on Facebook and we’ve been working with them for some time,” confirmed Perry, who demonstrated World of Warcraft running on the service. “Facebook already owns the category of casual gaming, we’re going to help them own core games. A click and boom, you’re playing World of Warcraft.”

Perry noted that friction was a large impediment to consumers online. He gave an example of Steam, where he said that there were several hoops to jump through including answering questions about internet speed, signing terms of service and so on.

“Bring the game to the gamer, don’t move people, move games,” he noted. “Zynga has figured out that you put the customer first, very aggressively. You click once and you get to play for free, you share it with your friends and then you pay Zynga if you love it. It’s a pro-consumer as you can get and that why their valuation has skyrocketed. Some of the traditional publishers who have ignored all of this are falling off a cliff. Look at their stock prices, it’s not good.”

As for games consoles, he thinks that the smarter that TVs get and the more diversified game systems get with their abilities, their downfall may be inevitable. “Consoles are in an interesting place right now. If you look at Sony it has a saying that ‘It Only Does Everything’. I think that one statement says that consoles are going to go away,” said Perry. “This next cycle you’re going to see them turn into media devices, media boxes, I don’t even think they’re going to be called consoles. They won’t want to be associated with that word because it just means games. ”

“Steve Jobs showed that the trick is not to make money of the hardware but to monetize the devices. Everyone that pays for stuff on their iPhone makes more and more money for Apple. Why should I buy a $1000 TV and then a $500 box when all I need is a TV By revealing what their goals are they’re basically setting the end game for consoles as we know it,” he added.

Source: GamesIndustry.biz

Katy Perry’s Showtime With The Sims

Electronic Arts has announced today that they have started a collaboration with Katy Perry. The pop superstar will be featured extensively in TV spots, online ads and retail marketing around the world.

“The creative collaboration kicks off with a Katy Perry-themed Collector’s Edition for The Sims 3 Showtime Expansion pack launching n March 2012,” wrote Nicole Morrison PR Specialist for EA. “The Collector’s Edition is available for pre-order today and will feature Katy Perry-themed, iconic content that celebrates the star’s personality, style and humor.”

Max Payne 3 Approved By Remedy, Called ‘Brilliant’

Max Payne 3 was recently delayed by Rockstar Games into May 15, 2012 in order to ensure the game met the company’s high standards. It’s that sort of commitment to quality that has Remedy’s head of franchise development Ozz Hakkinen calling the game “brilliant” despite his team being divested of the Max Payne license.

“We absolutely love what they’ve done and couldn’t be more proud of where the series is headed,” said Hakkinen. “I mean, they don’t really make shitty games, do they It’s as if the Rockstar logo has become this, ‘Seal of quality.’”

Source: Kotaku

The Last Story Gets Collectable

A collector’s edition for The Last Story has been confirmed for Europe. This is notable for the U.S. especially since the game has not been confirmed for North America, the European release is February 24.

This collector’s edition will feature a copy of the game a premium steelbook and a soundtrack CD consisting of 7 tracks. The packaging for this and the regular edition, notably, call out the game’s creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and composer Nobuo Uematsu, both of whom collaborated on the Final Fantasy series as well.

Prototype 2 Comic Series Planned

Radical Entertainment has announced that they have teamed up with Dark Horse Comics to create a new comic set in the Prototype universe. The three part digital comic series will tell original stories furthering the story of Alex Mercer, talking about survivors trying to escape New York, and giving background on Prototype 2‘s new protagonist Sgt. James Heller and will release at Digital.Darkhorse.com every other week beginning February 15, 2012.

“We’re always looking for meaningful ways to expand the Prototype universe, and Dark Horse Comics is an industry-leading creative powerhouse delivering best-in-class graphic storytelling that integrates deeply to the core of our IP,” said Ken Rosman, Studio Head, Radical Entertainment.  “With this partnership, our fans will finally be given answers to some dramatic loose ends from the first Prototype game, as well as the truth behind Alex Mercer’s descent and evolution into a twisted shadow of his former self for Prototype 2.”

“Sgt. James Heller’s heart wrenching backstory meshed with the sheer amount of over-the-top shape-shifting action in Prototype 2 lend themselves perfectly to a comic book series,” said Dave Marshall, Editor, Dark Horse Comics.  “We worked extremely close with Radical Entertainment’s story team for Prototype 2, and can’t wait to visually walk fans through the many dark secrets strewn throughout the tattered world of New York Zero!”

Smartphone In-App Purchases $5.6 Billion Market By 2015, Says ISuppli

According to iSuppli, they believe that in-app purchases will increase from 39 percent of the total app market revenue in 2011 to 64 percent by 2015. Revenue from in-app purchases is expected to reach $5.6 billion in 2015, more than quintupling from $970 million in 2011.

“Smartphone users overwhelmingly prefer free apps to paid apps, as we estimate 96 percent of all smartphone apps were downloaded for free in 2011,” noted Jack Kent, senior analyst, mobile media for iSuppli. “In 2012, it will become increasingly difficult for app stores and developers to justify charging an upfront fee for their products when faced with competition from a plethora of free content. Instead, the apps industry must fully embrace the freemium model and monetize content through in-app purchases.”

“Games pioneered the in-app business model,” Kent noted. “Now the approach has proven so successful, companies building other types of smartphone app must adopt this strategy if they are to maximize their mobile app revenues.”

Source: iSuppli

Ninja Gaiden 3 Collector’s Edition Slices, Dices

The Ninja Gaiden 3 Collector’s Edition has been unveiled. The limited edition version of the game will retail for $99.99 exclusively at GameStop and will ship March 20, 2012.

Ninja Gaiden 3 Collector’s Edition will feature a four-character demo of the anticipated Dead or Alive 5. The physical bonuses in the special edition include an exclusive Ninja Gaiden 3 ‘Unmask’ game art book, a soundtrack CD, and a unique ‘Duel of the Masked’ figure.