New U.K. Billboard Targets Women Using Facial Recognition

On Oxford Street in London’s West End, a new ad is being shown that will screen for women based upon distinct facial features. While women will be shown the full 40-second video of its “Because I’m a Girl” campaign that promotes sponsoring a girl to receive proper education in a developing country; men on the other hand will be directed to Plan UK’s website instead to demonstrate “what it’s like to have basic choices taken away.”

Source: Mashable.com

Sony Sees Facebook, Smartphones As New Ways To Connect With Customers

Nintendo believes that its games are best experienced on its own platforms and refuses to port them to smartphones, tablets or other formats. Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida, however, says the same does not apply necessarily with his own company.

When asked if bringing Sony IP to Facebook or mobile platforms is a possibility, Yoshida responded, “That’s a really good question, and that I believe is totally possible. We’ve been discussing [that possibility] and if you noticed, we released an inFamous themed Facebook game at the launch of inFamous 2. So we are experimenting, and I don’t necessarily believe we’re competing against cell phones or social networks – because everybody uses Facebook and lots more people have cell phones and smartphones already. With people’s lifestyles, they’re always connected and engaged socially, so why not put our IP on there… or give some small experience [related to our IP] like you said ”

“So we like the idea and will continue to experiment to see how best we can use this new medium to connect to our new IPs,” he concluded.

Source: IndustryGamers.com {link no longer active}

Mass Effect 3: Time To Fight

Mass Effect 3 has already had a great CG trailer, and now it’s turning to using live action for one of its main TV spots. The way it’s presented does not initially make it clear what exactly the ad is for, until Reapers and Commander Shepard show up.

{video link listed as “private”}

 

Itagaki Says THQ’s Development, Promotional Budget Higher Than Eastern Publishers

While THQ isn’t in a good way right now, you wouldn’t know that by the funding of some of their studios. For instance, Tomonobu Itagaki indicates that Valhalla Game Studio has received more money on Devil’s Third than he has on any project previously.

“We’ve been working with THQ for two and a half years, and when I was working in Japan I was at the publisher myself so I can’t really compare because it’s different. The circumstances are very different. I really understand what the publisher thinks because I used to be the publisher myself,” Itagaki began. “The one thing that’s completely different between the Eastern publisher and Western publisher is the budget. I’ve made more than 30 games, and if you put a little bit more [money] into the one I’m making now, Devil’s Third, I could make all of the 30 games I made before. The budget you use for the promotion is completely different too. Those are the biggest differences.”

Just because he’s got plenty of money to throw around does not mean Itagaki is insensitive to the plight of the general consumer and what a new console release might mean for him and them. “If I didn’t have any knowledge of the economy, or if I were young, I’d want to release my game on the new platform. The decision I’m making now is that, if I released my next game on a next-gen console or if someone releases a next gen console, then all the publishers, developers, and players will be so confused and everything will be messed up because of the economical situation,” he said. “The U.S. economy is bad. The EU economy is bad. The Japanese economy is bad. This is not good timing for the release of a next-generation console. This is just not for the game industry. I can say the same for customers.”

Source: Game Informer

The Dictator vs. Ryan Seacrest

Despite earlier indications that the titular character of The Dictator would be barred from the Oscars, he was walking the red carpet. Unfortunately for Ryan Seacrest, he was not observant enough about what would happen to someone standing close to Sacha Baron Cohen when he wants to prank…

 

AT&T Plans Charges For App Developers

According to a story in The Wall Street Journal, AT&T exec John Donovan says the company is looking at an option to charge developers for the data consumers use during app usage. This means that an app developer, say Netflix, might tell customers that they would not be charged by AT&T for any data they consumed while using the Netflix app; instead, Netflix would be paying for that data. Sounds good for the consumer, perhaps, unless it means that the Netflix app or Netflix sub suddenly costs more money. Somebody’s got to pay for that data, somewhere. AT&T is just trying to shift the cost onto the app developer so the consumer doesn’t get mad at AT&T when the bill comes due.

“What they’re saying is, why don’t we go create new revenue streams that don’t exist today and find a way to split them,” Mr. Donovan said. “A customer nearing his data limit for the month could be more likely to download a movie if the content provider covered the price of the data transmission.”

It’s a sneaky end run around piling on extra charges for more bandwidth, which AT&T is loath to do unless other telcos grab some of their customers looking for a better deal. So why not hide the cost by offloading it to app developers? Hmm, well, maybe because app developers wouldn’t be all that keen on putting up an additional barrier to customers. This might not impact game companies as much, but anyone that streams a lot of data (like video services, or game -streaming companies like OnLive or Gaikai) would be deeply affected.

It’s possible this plan runs afoul of the net neutrality concept, except that doesn’t really apply in wireless networks unless a carrier is trying to block a a competitive service. AT&T is certainly going to see if they can move this forward, unless something stops them. They would dearly love to get all the companies that use their network to pay for the privilege, along with the consumers using their network. Getting paid all around probably sounds like a great idea to AT&T, but consumers and app developers probably won’t be as thrilled at the thought.

Thanks to Gigaom.

‘Your Film Festival’ Wants The Best Young Filmmakers

The “Your Film Festival” wants prospective Filmmakers to send in short, story-driven videos before March 31 on YouTube (it recently received front page attention on that site). 10 finalists will be chosen to open the 2012 Venice Film Festival where a Grand Prize Winner will be given a $500,000 grant to create a new work, produced by Ridley Scott and his team.

{video link regionally restricted}

 

Xbox 360 Getting HBO Go

HBO has made itself available on a variety of devices, including Roku boxes and some Samsung connected TVs. Now, however, HBO Go will be coming to Xbox 360.

The announcement was made during an event in San Francisco by HBO Co-President Eric Kessler. The service will notably debut on Xbox 360 on April 1, the same day that the second season of Game of Thrones will premiere.

Source: Engadget.com

Game Insight Opening Office In San Francisco

Game Insight has announced plans to open a new publishing arm in San Francisco. The Russian mobile and social studio publishes the hit titles Sands Of Time, Airport City and Mystery Manor: Hidden Adventure.

“We’re thrilled to announce our capabilities as an international publishing platform for mobile titles,” said CEO Alisa Chumachenko. “Our San Francisco office will serve as a central hub for new development opportunities and partnerships throughout North America starting with GDC next month.”

Feature: [a]list Summit San Francisco Highlights

The [a]list Summit that took place in San Francisco last week brought together marketers from many different game companies to exchange ideas on the state of the industry and how to connect to consumers. Pachter’s keynote address has already been covered in detail here. The subsequent sessions covered social gaming from several angles, including the core game audience, marketing techniques and social analytics.

Kicking off the discussion titled “The Social Core”, Kixeye VP of Marketing John Getze said their games do better than Zynga’s because, “the number of DAU we have as a percentage of MAU is a lot higher than Zynga. We strive to have a game that’s much more like a traditional PC game than an online game, and our level of ARPDAU is much higher.”

John Getze

In discussing the social game market and Zynga’s huge audience compared to the relatively tiny audiences of Kabam and Kixeye, Senior Director of Global Product Marketing Leo Olebe of Kabam put it succinctly: “Why does it matter if you’re talking 250 million over there and 2 million over here? It’s how many people are playing, how many people are staying, and how many people are paying.”

The hardcore gamer is the customer target for both Kixeye and Kabam, but the size of that market is not something they’re entirely sure of. “More than 1 million, less than 300 million,” said Olebe, not narrowing the field very much.

Both Getze and Olebe agreed that user acquisition costs have risen, but they both insisted that cost is only one issue. “The other part of the equation is that you could spend a dollar to acquire someone who’s only going to give you 50 cents over the life of the product, or you could spend a million dollars and if that person winds up giving you 6 million bucks you’re doing all right,” said Olebe.

Getze spelled out how hard it is to get a foothold in the social game market: “When we launched Backyard Monsters we were looking at a 30 day break-even point on all of our spending because we had no money. Once you’ve established a ‘food court’ of different franchises it doesn’t matter if its pizza, or burritos, or burgers, they’re still eating; you’re looking at a network LTV (life time value) and that really helps with user acquisition. But it’s extremely challenging, given the cost of user acquisition, to come onto a platform now. The first game has to be a hit.” Getze noted that their customer acquisition costs are now around $1.50, which is double what it was in June of 2010.

The Ayzenberg Groups’ Keith Pape and EA’s Director of Online Marketing Tabitha Hayes took the stage next for the “Social Marketing” session. Scaling up social marketing efforts is difficult if you want to maintain quality interactions, Pape observed. Many challenges are part of the task facing social marketers, and Tabitha Hayes noted how she prepares for the inevitable bad events.

“Plan for the worst; don’t plan for the best. Seriously, plan for the worst,” said Pape. “S***’s gonna break, people are going to come to your office with guns… Then you’ll have a plan and you can optimize it every time. The good thing is, the worst gets better over time.”

Rebecca Markarian

Hayes advised that beyond those factors, meet things head on, and be authentic. Tell the users what you’re doing about their issue; if you don’t have the answers, tell them that you don’t have the answer right now but you’re working on it.

The final session was “Social Analytics,” with special attention on how to go about gathering and analyzing data. Rebecca Markarian, Executive Director of Social and Emerging Media at the Ayzenberg Group, discussed some best practices.

“Measuring sentiment is not easy; in fact in gaming it’s probably harder than any other space because any automatic sentiment tool that grades automatically will grade something like ‘that’s sick’ as a negative every single time,” Markarain said. “So we hand grade every post that comes in… it’s time-consuming work but the data that comes out of it is valuable.”

The ultimate value of all of these analytics is this: “At the end of the day, being able to go into the C-suite and say ‘We can prove this makes money’ is going to be a huge benefit to getting more budgets for all of us to do social media,” Markarain concluded.

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