BioWare Taking Second Look At Mass Effect 3 Ending

The ending to Mass Effect 3 has been a widespread target of criticism among various fans. While BioWare initially indicated that they would not change the ending BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka issued a statement saying that the company needed “to accept the criticism and feedback with humility.”

“I believe passionately that games are an art form, and that the power of our medium flows from our audience, who are deeply involved in how the story unfolds, and who have the uncontested right to provide constructive criticism,” wrote Muzyka. “At the same time, I also believe in and support the artistic choices made by the development team.  The team and I have been thinking hard about how to best address the comments on ME3’s endings from players, while still maintaining the artistic integrity of the game.”

“Exec Producer Casey Hudson and the team are hard at work on a number of game content initiatives that will help answer the questions, providing more clarity for those seeking further closure to their journey. You’ll hear more on this in April,” he continued. “We’re working hard to maintain the right balance between the artistic integrity of the original story while addressing the fan feedback we’ve received.  This is in addition to our existing plan to continue providing new Mass Effect content and new full games, so rest assured that your journey in the Mass Effect universe can, and will, continue.“

Source: blog.bioware.com

100 Yen: The Story Trailer

100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience will look at not only the evolution of Japanese arcades but also the culture surrounding it. The 75 minute documentary gives insight into an arcade culture that really doesn’t exist outside of Japan.

 

Take The Inaugural Capitol Tour

Lionsgate has gone live today with an immersive site for its movie version of The Hunger Games (which is out on Friday 23rd March). The site, The Capitol Tour, uses HTML5 video to give visitors the experience of ‘arriving’ in the Capitol, the fictional city where the brutal Hunger Games are held. There are hidden features for fans to discover, and visitors can also link via Facebook to bring their friends into the site too.

In a partnership with Microsoft, the site also acts as a promotional tool for Internet Explorer version 9. On arrival, visitors are informed that the site is viewed best in IE9 (although it can be viewed via other browsers). If you’re interested in knowing more about the development of the site, a great video has also been posted.

Mobile Games Being Played At Home: MocoSpace Study

MocoSpace released the results of survey of 15,000 gamers in February 2012 where 96 percent indicated they played mobile games “at home.” 52 percent of respondents said they played over one hour per day, with 32 percent playing over three hours daily, which is similar to console games in engagement.

“This report should make every console gaming company nervous,” said MocoSpace co-founder and CEO Justin Siegel. “Mobile gaming is not a companion to consoles, but rather it’s attacking them on their home turf: the couch, the La-Z-Boy and even the bedroom.”

“It’s interesting to see that mobile games fueled by powerful smartphone and tablets are now competing for gamer time on the same couch where console gaming used to reign supreme,” said Pietro Macchiarella, research analyst at Parks Associates. “The growth in tablet penetration will have an enormous impact on the size of the mobile gaming market.”

Feature: DFC Intelligence Talks Free-To-Play Rise

DFC Intelligence recently predicted that over the next five years, the free-to-play social/browser market will grow from $3.2 billion in 2011 to $7.5 billion in 2016. F2P games on social networks are expected to grow 173 percent from 2011 to 2016, reaching $6 billion. North America has been a leader at providing social network F2P games with 36 percent share of revenue in 2011.

Those are startling numbers are a sign of where the focus of the video gaming industry will be heading over the next decade and beyond. We talked with David Cole, President of DFC Intelligence, to find out what the situation with free-to-play social/browser games is and how it will play out.

What do you see driving the growth for social and browser games over the next five years, will it be what’s elevated it recently or will it be a new trend?

I think what is really driving the growth in U.S. is Facebook and Zynga; in other markets like Europe it is driven outside of Facebook. Bigpoint was able to build their own social network completely independent of Facebook. Granted, they’re targeting very different audiences, with Bigpoint going after traditional gamers that might play World of Warcraft. Zynga hasn’t really driven that in the U.S.; Zynga has targeted the casual game industry, those playing games on Pogo and they really found a new model to attract those type of gamers. There’s an audience of core gamers that play consoles on PC, but for browser games, it’s a click of a button and you’re in. For PS3 and Xbox 360 you have to wait sometimes five minutes to get into the game, between turning it on and waiting for a patch to download – with the social and browser games, they work instantly. They also work on a variety of platforms, and a PC is becoming a global necessity whereas a video game console system is really a luxury. In an emerging market, people might have a low-end PC and these games work on those sorts of systems. Having a common platform that reaches masses is key.

Originally, many of the free-to-play games coming to the U.S. were from Korea and most only managed a modest amount of success. Do you think that games better suited to the Western tastes have helped raise the profile of the free-to-play space?

Really it comes down to the simplicity. The problem with many of those Asian games is that they were targeting the more sophisticated gamers, and you had all the same barriers to access. They were basically like full retail games and they were very complex, so the audience was limited. These browser and social games can reach a huge audience. Nexon is doing very well with their products, but if you look at their audience compared to Zynga, it’s two completely different audiences. These things aren’t mutually exclusive, you have to look at the audiences. Someone’s who’s going to play an Xbox 360 game is different than a CityVille gamer; there’s some cross-over but it’s a diversion. For larger client based games, there’s some hassle in downloading and getting started. Those games are going after the WoW audience whereas the browser games have tapped into a new audience.

Do you think that social game companies will try to diversify away from Facebook if they can afford to?

I think the successful ones have to. And when you’re talking about Facebook, you’re talking about Zynga. There’s been some success stories, and Zynga’s very strong there, but that’s only about 20 percent of the worldwide market and it’s key reaching that other 80 percent that aren’t as active on Facebook as the North American audience. Facebook is going to be really saturated and there’s an opportunity to do what Bigpoint has done. What you want is multiple games, different sorts of games, making what you have its own social network, that is probably the biggest growth opportunity for companies that aren’t Zynga.

Where do you see mobile’s role in the expansion of social/browser games?

Clearly, you look now at what social companies are doing, they are looking to do mobile and smartphones versions of their products. It’s good so that you can keep up with your game on the road; I look at it as an added feature for these games. There’s been a lot of misinformation about the mobile game market and numbers that are flat out wrong, however. The revenue of a mobile game is usually a fraction of a hit free-to-play game on PC. If you’re launching a mobile game you have to think that you’re competing with all these other apps and dedicated mobile games. So I think really it becomes a major issue for anyone developing a mobile application, they’re not just competing against other apps, they’re competing with sophisticated games designed for the platform.

What are the advertising opportunities for marketers with these sorts of games. Your report said Zynga spent about 6 times more in marketing in 2011 than it did in 2010, $234 million versus $38 million.

In terms of advertising, if you look at Zynga, they’ve moved far away from advertising and they’re doing offer-based deals. If you look at their bookings, they’re doing a lot of money on those deals with user payments. I think the opportunities for marketers are, if you create a F2P game and you get people involved and you’re really going with a a pure F2P game, the possibilities exist for you to really build a product that’s fun to play – there’s all sorts of opportunities. That’s where the opportunities are rather than advertising around games. It’s more about taking a strong brand that they want people to engage with and building something from the ground up.

How worrisome is the pernicious trend of game clones?

It’s a big issue. There’s always been cloning in the casual games space. What it results in is you have games more as commodities and you have consumer fatigue. Then you have companies that don’t really care. What it causes is that they increase the development budget to make their products stand out. Really I think the focus in the report was, ‘how do you make money from these products’ but if costs double [to develop] it could mean that profits will go down. You’ll have to spend money on all facets to make money.

That’s a major highlight of the report. It’s no longer just throwing a game up there; if you look at Zynga and Bigpoint they’ve got huge development teams, you look at how Zynga’s marketing budget has increased. Bigpoint is able to use Battlestar Gallactica and that raises the bar for everybody and you have to put in a certain level of effort to compete.

Anything you’d care to conclude with about the report?

The most important thing from the report is that while people define the space as Facebook games, for us we look to it as games that are simple to play without having to install special software. Because of that I think the Zynga/Bigpoint model is the way to go – you try and take that audience and migrate them to a bunch of other gamers. Being able to migrate your audience is how to be successful in this business.

David, thanks.

To find out more about the report, please check out dfcint.com.

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Journey – Triumphant Accolades

Journey has received almost universal praise since releasing on PSN, and it’s easy to even be entranced by its various trailers. The game will raise the question not if it should just be the PSN or downloadable title of the year, but if it is simply the game of the year overall for 2012.

EA Unfazed By Zynga Purchase Of OMGPOP

Zynga has confirmed that they are buying OMGPOP. Despite losing the social game studio and its hit game Draw Something to a competitor, Electronic Arts is happy with what they have in PopCap Games.

“This reinforces the value of PopCap, a studio with multiple proven intellectual properties,” said John Reseburg in EA Corporate Communications.

Panoptic Management Consultants CEO Asif Khan was not impressed, however. “Of course EA would spin it as how good their PopCap deal was, but their stock is down because they didn’t buy OMGPOP,” said Khan. “The question to Electronic Arts should be, ‘Why didn’t you buy OMGPOP ‘”

Source: GI.biz

Mobile Activations Now Led By China

According to a study by Flurry, China has overtaken the U.S. in mobile device activations. From March 2012, China now represents 24 percent of global activations, while the U.S. has 21 percent.

Additionally, China is the fastest growing country in terms of app sessions, showing 1126 percent growth since the first quarter of 2011. Early in 2011, China was the eighth largest country for app sessions; the country has now moved up to second place.

Source: Flurry

NPD Says Non-Retail Sales Drove $3.33 Billion In U.S., Europe

The NPD Group released research on consumer spending in the U.S. and major European markets on sales of used games, rentals, subscriptions and digital products, which they say reached a combined total of $3.33 billion. $2.04 billion of that was generated in the U.S. while the U.K. saw close to $508 million, followed by Germany and France at $461 million and $320 million, respectively.

“It’s fascinating to see the nuances in consumer behavior across geographies,” said Anita Frazier, industry analyst, The NPD Group. “Clearly these other forms of content acquisition do not follow as consistent of a trend as we see with the established box product business in the U.S.”

“Now that we’ve established our Europe based service covering the U.K., France, and Germany, we can begin working directly with clients to help them dissect at deeper levels how the unique market drivers specific to each country can help them understand the increasingly global nature of the games industry,” said Sam Naji, European industry analyst, The NPD Group.