Welcome To Training Camp

Sony has launched a new contest asking two finalists to compete in challenges to earn a top spot in a multiplayer tournament. The winner of the tournament will win the ultimate prize – a trip to Naughty Dog studios to help design a new multiplayer character. Fans must register at the website and deliver a one liner after choosing an action scene featuring Drake, show off a taunt or take on some Uncharted trivia to win.

Wii U Controller Could Have HD, 3D Output

New details have emerged from patents filed late in 2011 about the potential capabilities of the Wii U’s controller. The mic embedded in the controller could be used for voice recognition software that would allow players could give voice commands in-game and the camera in the controller could be used for facial recognition.

Video phone features are also mentioned and detailed (sounding not unlike Skype) and there is potential for peripherals like a gun or a keyboard. Perhaps most excitingly is the possibility of a touchscreen on the Wii U controller having a HD resolution and outputting 3D images.

Source: Kotaku.com

Valve Tries Not To Disappoint Over Sequel Announcements

Valve is infamous for their long development cycles, and this has prompted protests from fans of certain games (particularly Half-Life) to receive more information. Valve founder Gabe Newell acknowledges these issues, but says that their strategic announcements are on purpose – he realizes how game announcements are part of marketing.

“We’re acutely aware of how much we annoy our fans and it’s pretty frustrating to us when we put them into that situation. We try to go as fast as we can and we try to pick the things that we think are going to be most valuable to our customers and if there’s some magic way we can get more work done in a day then we’d love to hear about it, but we recognize that it’s been a long time whereas we have so many games that people really love–Counterstrike, Half Life, Portal, Left 4 Dead, not a whole lot of Ricochet enthusiasts out there, and at the same time we want to be making sure that those games and those stories and those characters are moving forward while also making sure that we don’t just get into terminal sequelitis.”

“But we’ve always somehow, you know, part of the reason that we backed off talking so much about what was happening in the future is that when we’ve done that in the past, you know, with Half Life 1 it was a year after we originally said it would be, Half Life 2 basically if you go and read the forum posts apparently took us fifty or sixty years to get done so we’re trying to be careful not to get people too excited and then have to go and disappoint them. So we’re sort of reacting in the other direction and saying ‘okay, well let’s have things a little more baked before we start getting people all excited about it’.”

Source: Penny Arcade {link no longer active}

Political Ads Veering More Negative During 2012 Primary

According to a study by Kantar Media/CMAG, 6 percent of campaign advertising in the 2008 Republican primary were attacks on other members of the GOP. That number has shot up to over 50 percent for this election cycle, says the ad-tracking firm.

Additionally, so-called super PACs have spent 72 percent of their ad dollars on negative ads targeting other Republicans. The amount of negative ads from the campaigns themselves is only 27 percent.

Super PACs are forbidden by law from directly communicating with candidates, so negative ads are often their only recourse. “Super PACs are left with no good choices,” said Brad Todd, a veteran GOP ad man unaffiliated in this year’s contest. “if they didn’t run comparison or contrast ads, they would have some very boring television.”

Source: Washington Post

Kixeye Talks Core Social Games, Marketing, And Effective Monetization

Kixeye is a different sort of social gaming company, making titles like Desktop Defender, Backyard Monsters, and Battle Pirates that appeal to core gamers. As Kixeye CEO Will Harbin detailed, however, it pays dividends for the company.

“On average, our games monetize 10x to 20x per user what a Zynga game would do,” said Harbin. “It’s just a natural result of the product and how people love the product. We didn’t start at 2 times what Zynga is doing and say, ‘OK, how do we get up to 10 or 20 times ‘ It started that way without a lot of optimization. We don’t focus on gaming the user, we just focus on adding content and features that people will think are fun. The core mechanics of the game resonate well with people, it’s fully synchronous, it’s fully real-time, there’s action, you customize and build your ships and take them out to battle, and you’re engaging with the other player. It’s not just a battle summary screen that says you won or lost, then go back to your spreadsheet interface and manipulate whatever troops you’re trying to build. It plays and feels like a real game, or what I would consider a real game. We have all those elements in there, then you allow users to invest in the little world that they’re building and their empire. You leave it turned on 24/7 and people tend to come back and really love the experience.”

Getting attention for Kixeye has actually been easy on Facebook. “We definitely do marketing. We always want more quality users. We do hyper-targeted focused user acquisition. Facebook is a great platform to do that. They’ve got an awesome ad platform where you can really zero in on the demographic that works for your platform,” Harbin said. “We’ve changed our advertising strategy over the last year so it’s very focused and we only purchase quality. There’s some natural rise in costs, but most of it’s just a factor of how thoughtful we are with the kind of user that we want to target.”

When asked about competing with console games, Harbin said, “Competition is a funny thing. Previous businesses would be laser-focused on what the competition is doing because it had a very real cost in terms of your market opportunity. In this case, gamers play lots of games. Some games are going to resonate with some users and some games aren’t. I’m not worried that some competitor is going to come in and put us out of business overnight, the space is just too big and people are always looking for new forms of entertainment. It’d be a little bit different if I were Zynga and my whole business plan was predicated on ‘I need hundreds of millions of players to make this thing work.’ I don’t need hundreds of millions of players, I have just over 4 million a month and we’re running a very successful business. I don’t necessarily need to expand my broader playing base. In terms of competition, what I worry about are the copycats. I worry about companies like Kabam just doing the same thing over and over again, and not adding any innovation into the space. It’s sad, because there are hundreds of resources being sucked into doing that when they could be working on more interesting, creative titles and adding more diversity to the ecosystem. That’s what I worry about in terms of competition.”

Source: IndustryGamers {link no longer active}

Ubisoft, Gameloft Sign Up For Gree’s Platform

Gree announced that it has signed a publishing partnership with Gameloft and Ubisoft to bring titles to its mobile platform after it launches in the middle of 2012. Gameloft will launch its card-battle game code-named Gang Domination, while Ubisoft will be providing a game supplementary to Assassin’s Creed III.

“Social card games are considered the most popular social games in Japan. Gang Domination will be Gameloft’s first social card game, and we’re thrilled to work on this project with a leading player in this market such as Gree,” stated Michel Guillemot, President and founder of Gameloft.

“I am very happy to be able to provide a new Gangs game of Gameloft, which has strong track record with its Gangstar license,” stated Michel Guillemot, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gree. “We hope the game will take full advantage of our 190 million users worldwide on our platform.”

Double Fine Says That Indies Might Depart Consoles

With the rise of iOS, Steam and Facebook as platforms for games, Xbox Live Arcade has become a less popular choice for indie developers. While 2D Boy’s Ron Carmel recently wrote a scathing article with regards to Microsoft’s online platform, Double Fine’s Tim Schafer believes that the warning presented in the op-ed has been totally dismissed.

“I really think it’s something they can’t dismiss and they should really pay a lot more attention to because he’s calling attention to a migration, an exodus of real creative talent away from those platforms to more open platforms, and I think they should do something quick to reverse that,” Schafer commented. “Can you reverse an exodus Is there a term for that A redexus Seriously, I think that that was kind of a warning call. It’s not like ‘it would be nice to do this’ for developers – [if they don’t] they’re going to lose out. Things change every generation and just because you’re on top and the 900 pound gorilla in one generation, as you’ve seen, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t mean it’ll be that way forever. I think that these threats that are possibly being ignored are going to hurt those guys.”

For Schafer, the alternative platforms are simply making themselves more open than Xbox Live or PSN. “We can put something up on the App Store pretty easily. We can put stuff up on Steam really easily. I like the Xbox and the PS3,” explained Schafer. “I like Sony and Microsoft, but those systems are closed and curated very closely and it costs a lot more money to go through that system, to patch a game. It makes me stressed out that if I put a game up there, I might not be able to patch it because it might cost too much money, whereas these more open platforms will let us manage our own price and our own updates. It’s just a lot more appealing right now.”

“There are good games on both platforms. And that’s the thing, is that I really believe in both those platforms, and I want them to succeed. Ever since the first time I played Geometry Wars, I was like, ‘Hey, this XBLA – well, both XBLA and PSN – but I mean the thing that branded Xbox Live Arcade, that is opening up a portal for a certain type of game, a size of game.’ We were used to thinking of these huge triple-A games and all of a sudden when you got your 360, one of the things that felt really next-gen about it was that you could download Geometry Wars for five dollars, and we hadn’t done that before. I hadn’t thought of buying that kind of game on a console before and I’m having tons of fun and I think that leads to a new creative outlet and brought us games like Limbo and Castle Crashers and all the great games that we saw on that platform. I want that to succeed. So when you read an article about that, warning about the migration away from the platform, that’s a shame and we want that not to be the case,” he concluded.

Source: IndustryGamers {link no longer active}