Transforming A Brand Into A Game

Peter Della Penna

When you ask someone who grew up on the action cartoons of the ’80s which was their favorite, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll say Transformers. Iconic as a toy brand, now a mega success as a movie, there are still a number of people who feel the greatest connection to the original cartoon series, (known as Generation One, and abbreviated to G1). High Moon Studios saw an opportunity with the franchise outside of just adapting the movies into video games and have run with it. We talked with High Moon Studios President Peter Della Penna and Marketing Manager Greg Agius about the brand and their latest game Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.

How did you get a chance to do a game based on an original take on Transformers in the first place?

Peter Della Penna: It was pretty obvious to us and Activision, that our studio capabilities and sensibilities were a great fit for the Transformers license. Also, it was perfect timing for us to develop a Transformers game that was not based on the film property and did not interfere with the movie franchise release schedule. The natural place for us to go was back to our childhood roots in G1 and start telling the story of Transformers before they came to earth.

What are ways that you look to bring in fans of the classic cartoon series? Do you try and tap veteran voice actors?

Greg Agius: Authenticity is our biggest strength at High Moon Studios. You walk around the studio and you see G1 fans everywhere. I’d say that bleeds through to the game in every way. The look and the feel all are heavily inspired by G1. But everything is updated so that it feels right and up to date with the look of a modern game. Landing original G1 voices like Peter Cullen to voice Optimus Prime and Gregg Berger to do Grimlock is another key. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron reboots your childhood and makes it cool again!

What games do you try to emulate as far as being successful with a classic brand? Do you try and learn something from the recent Batman and Spider-Man games?

Peter Della Penna: Game wise I would say both Batman and Spider-Man are great references. Especially the Batman Arkham series where everything you do in those games drives the player back to the core of what makes Batman so cool.  For us, it’s about transformation and the variety of awesome characters in the Transformers lore.

Talk to me about the reveal trailer for the game and what you thought the important messages you were trying to convey were (prescience of certain characters, style of the graphics, etc.)

Greg Agius: We wanted Transformers fans and gamers to take a fresh look at our game. For me, we needed to communicate that Fall of Cybertron is an adult oriented game that stands totally apart from anything related to the films. So the team set out to break every rule we could think of for a Transformers trailer: we had zero voiceover, we destroyed main characters, we made the story come to you, and we picked a song that is totally groundbreaking for this franchise. When fans started posting, “attention . . . this is how you do Transformers!” I knew we had done things right. The style and look is all very in line with what gamers are currently playing.

Greg Agius

How do you balance aesthetic considerations for these games? The Transformers are evocative of G1, but they’re not cel-shaded. Was it conscious to make it like the early cartoon but have it be a little grittier?

Peter Della Penna: Visuals are very important to gamers. If it doesn’t look good many won’t even try the gameplay. So, yes, our style is evocative of G1 but not a reproduction of it. By design we intended to have a gritty, nostalgic sensibility.

What went into bringing in the Dinobots for Fall of Cybertron?

Greg Agius: Getting the Dinobots in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron was a labor of love that has paid off handsomely. This game is new canon for Hasbro, and we are working with them to write lore that will stand for future storylines for this multi-billion dollar brand. Our team passionately fought to keep the Dinobots in the lore so that we can have them in our game. And why not You can’t find characters more unique than this! Of course we had to work with them to find a plausible creation story that Transformers fans would accept. We found some inspiration from the old U.K. comics and it provided some excellent ground that players will explore in our story. Playing as Grimlock is fantastic, you just feel super powerful!

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Crowd Funding Gets A Bible, And Its Evangelists Speak Up

Scott Steinberg

The recently published book The Crowdfunding Bible is a reminder of just how much of an impact digital publishing is having on the content business. Seemingly every content business. The timeliness of the book itself is indicative of it.

Authored by Scott Steinberg in collaboration with industry veterans Jon Kimmich and Russel DeMaria, it covers the surge in crowd funded game projects. It’s a topic that, at least to many in the game industry, reached the level of phenomenon just a few short months ago. It was when well-known game maker Tim Schafer turned to Kickstarter for his studio’s next big project, Double Fine Adventure. The campaign closed in March of this year in spectacular fashion, raising eight times more than it had hoped with over $3.3 million in funding.

That seemed to wake up the game industry to crowd sourcing as a viable way to raise capital for product development. At least one major publisher, EA, decided to throw its support behind it. And game players quickly caught on to yet another way indie developers empowered by digital distribution could serve their specific tastes. Three months later, there’s a comprehensive book on the topic, available digitally, and free to read. (Just go to

The [a]ilst daily had a chance to sit down with Scott Steinberg and Jon Kimmich to discuss their views on this transformative trend — yet another one — affecting the games business, and highlight major takeaways from their book for game makers, players and major publishers.

Tell me really briefly about the genesis of this book and how it brought the two of you, along with Russel DeMaria, together.

Scott Steinberg: Obviously crowd funding has been exploding in popularity, especially in the last several months with the success of games like Wasteland 2, Double Fine’s Adventure, of course other success like the Pebble E-Paper Watch and Shadowrun Returns returns. It was becoming obvious there was a growing need for more education and best practices surrounding this space. There is perilously little of it available for creators both in gaming and general consumer product spaces. Russel DeMaria and I had been kicking around the idea for a book. He specifically had just completed a successful Kickstarter project himself with [High Score 3rd Edition]. We saw this was a trend that was going to continue to explode in popularity. Jon and I got to talking as well and we said wouldn’t it be great if there were more resources.

What do you think is behind this seemingly sudden surge in interest and support for crowd funding

Scott Steinberg: Media attention. The obvious thing is that the crowd funding movement has been growing and gaining in popularity over the past several years. It wasn’t until you had well known creators and designers like Tim Schafer who were bringing back popular properties that suddenly media attention catalyzed around these breakout success stories. Like any other industry when you start to have a number of breakout hits that you can latch on to, suddenly it consolidates industry attention.

Jon Kimmich: One of the things to keep in mind about crowd funding is that fundamentally the exercise that you’re engaging in is really an exercise in consumer marketing. It took people a while to figure out what this crowd funding thing is, how does it work and what type of skills and knowledge and tools can I take from other, more traditional things that have been done in marketing and utilize them and marshal them. The original inclination was less focus on commercial things and more indie. It’s evolved over time, and along with that the kind of project people can do with it has changed. As soon as it broke the million dollar barrier, I think that also started to get peoples’ attention, thinking wow I can actually get useful money out of this. 

Scott Steinberg: Jon brings up a salient point in that the perceived limit that projects had to be under a hundred thousand dollars and often times in the tens of thousands of dollars was utterly shattered. Obviously the Pebble watch continued that tradition. What’s happened is even major players in the space are now looking at it as a viable alternative to VC.

What’s behind that shattered barrier, as you put it, to what people could suddenly raise through crowd funding?

Scott Steinberg: What I would say is that it’s effectively right moment, right time, where we reached that tipping point in terms of public attention, media awareness, willingness to take a plunge. And of course the tacit endorsement when you have a brand name celebrity, at least in the gaming industry, like Tim Schafer who is willing to turn to it very publicly as a potential source of funding, and not only succeeded but do it spectacularly. Suddenly you have a case study where thousands of developers out there who have their own following, as well as hopefuls looking to launch new IP into the market, waking up and saying, wait a minute, against all odds, here’s a creator making the types of games he loves to make who was suddenly able to defy the odds. Literally it’s the stuff Cinderella stories are made of.

Jon Kimmich: We did an interview with the design director of Obama’s 2008 campaign. When he was done, he decided he wanted to prepare this big, coffee table book. He told us the story of how he went to publisher A and publisher B and publisher C to try and sell his idea. The thing I remember from my interview with him was that after he went to all these publishers, he came to the conclusion that publishers suck! They wanted to take his vision for the book and turn it into this thing that he didn’t want. He talked to one of the Kickstarter guys, and he said why don’t you go and put it up on our site and see if you raise money. He did and it was wildly more successful than he thought it was going to be. I think he raised around $100,000.

Jon Kimmich

Is there a pattern with what sort of game developers are turning to crowd sourced funding, and is it better suited to some products more than others?

Jon Kimmich: Initially there was this tendency for some folks to look at Kickstarter as this place where people funding projects were older, middle-aged men with disposable income who wanted to get back the nostalgia of games they played when they were young. And they had more money than common sense. I think that there are a number of projects we’ve seen funded successfully recently argue against that. You have something like The Banner Saga which raised three quarters of a million dollars. The folks behind that game aren’t anybody you’ve ever heard of, and they had no notoriety in games up until this point. Republique is also an original IP and it’s a new team. In terms of what kind of products make sense, I think it comes down to, number one, who’s the target audience you want to pitch the game to, and do you think there’s enough people out there to fund it at the level you’re trying to get funding. And then, how do you reach and target your message to them where they hang out and consume information about the kind of games they want to play, and what’s your plan to go out and deliver that message to them repeatedly so that over time they’ll make a decision that it’s something they want.

Scott Steinberg: The only thing I’d add to that is that the kind of games that most succeed are those that have either a strong existing fan following, that are tremendously unique, and of course that have wide cross-generational and cross-interest appeal that are also fairly reasonable when it comes to funding goals. Ultimately painting a picture in viewers’ minds as to just how unique the product is and what makes it so special and the marketplace, and why this is the right time to make it, and that you’re the right team to do the job.

Jon Kimmich: There was a campaign for a game called Takedown done by a guy named Christian Allen. They had no game to show. There was no game footage for their pitch. What they were really good at, and I think they were really smart about, was to define exactly what kind of game they were making, and if you played previous games of this sort then this was a game you would want to play because nobody’s making that kind of game right now. Their pitch was all about we’re going to make a game that’s very much like the original Rainbow Six, very tactical, thinking man’s shooter. There’s an audience out there for that kind of game that’s underserved.  So they knew what their pitch was and how to target their messaging. They knew where their folks were hanging out on the internet, which web sites, and they raised a quarter of a million dollars. It wasn’t Double Fine level investment but they raised what they needed to make the game.

When it comes to raising awareness for a crowd funded project, what are the most important tactics or assets from a PR-marketing standpoint?

Scott Steinberg: I would argue that you are your greatest asset. Essentially you have to be a spokesperson and face for your movement. You have to have a plan in place before day one that incorporates a running spate and variety of activities that runs through the campaign’s duration. It would be a gross mistake to think that launch was the end for a specific campaign. Really what you need to do is have a game plan in place, have all of your assets in place prior to launch, know who you’re speaking to, who your audience is, how to best reach them, what vehicles and channels you have and what levers you can pull in terms of promotional assets and activities. And then realize that the goal is not to create a massive groundswell at a single point in time, but rather running buzz and constant conversation that keeps you top of mind. Ultimately it’s a mix of elements that are going to help you succeed. It’s not just social media, it’s not just press mentions. Any single activity may cause a spike in awareness and donation but at the end of the day you need to keep your ear to the ground. You need to be in constant contact with backers, you need to constantly be working the channels. Really not a day should pass by when outreach activities aren’t happening, whether you’re posting a bunch of updates or new screenshots or videos of the work in progress.

Jon Kimmich: An interesting thing I’ve heard from almost every team that I’ve talked to was they did not allocate enough of their time to all of this outreach activity. A lot of times it fell to the project lead or somebody who was pretty critical to getting the project done. That meant that when they’re doing outreach, they were getting pulled away from the project. You really need to have somebody who’s sole purpose during the campaign is to manage this outreach, and they should not be critical to the project.

In terms of assets, what’s most important to have, is it the fiction, is it a slick trailer, is it a prototype?

Jon Kimmich: The first thing I would say is that the bar is going to be raised over time. In my experience, generally what we see in terms of what people looked at first, is whatever happens to be on the top of the web page. That means it’s usually a video. You want that video to be compelling, but I’m not sure I’d use the word slick. What you want for people to come to your project and believe is that you’re capable of doing it and it’s going to deliver on what you’re promising. If you come in super slick but there isn’t a believable personality behind this, then I’m not sure that necessarily serves you well. Part of what people are looking at is, who are the people behind this project and do I believe they can actually do what they’re saying they can do.

Scott Steinberg: You have to double down on presentation. I don’t care what your budget is, one place you don’t cut is in terms of production value in that presentation. Keep in mind that people are very visual creatures and we tend to accept what we see. Most people are going to assign a worth to your project and a perceived value based on what they interpret from the video or the screen shots. You don’t go into the store looking for the crappy looking game. If you’re going to ask them to dip into their wallets, you need to have something very powerful to show. At the same time you need to tell a compelling story. Perhaps the most effective one I’ve ever seen is not a game. Amanda Palmer, who used to be on a major label, recently did a video for her book, CD and tour. She was asking for $100,000 and raised roughly over $700,000. In her video she appears holding a series of poster boards. She doesn’t speak a single word, effectively tells her story strictly through text. By the end of the video not only have you fallen in love with her, but you’ve fallen in love with the idea of what she’s trying to do. She shows very little actual material. You don’t hear a great deal of the soundtrack that she’s trying to add to the album, but really what you’re buying into is her creative vision.

Also sounds like she took a page out of Dylan, which I’m sure helped. You mentioned rewards and their importance. Is there a right formula or percentage of funding to put towards rewards for backers?

Jon Kimmich: The main thing to keep in mind is what are these rewards are actually going to cost you in terms of fulfillment and in terms of time and how much it takes away from your project. It’s the little things, like the cost of international shipping. Again, doing your homework on what your rewards are going to cost is important. And give yourself a certain amount of flexibility for doing crazy stuff, things that people haven’t done before. Some of them are going to work, some of them are not going to work, and that’s okay. If things aren’t working, you can adjust your campaign.

Scott Steinberg: The rewards are going to be ultimately designed around the type of project you’re offering and what materials are possible and what opportunities and what merchandise you have access to. What you want to do is offer a variety of compelling rewards, and it’s important to keep in mind that every single pricing tier should offer value. It’s not a charity fundraiser. You have to offer something of value in exchange for the pledge. At the same time it’s important to have variety that’s fairly evenly spaced out at all levels, starting at impulse buy and moving on up to special one-of-a-kind opportunities that are offered at a high price point. As Jon pointed out, throughout the campaign you’ll have to monitor which best connect with fans. Actually backers will oftentimes tell you which rewards they prefer. With Brian Fargo and Wasteland 2, the rewards they most expected to monetize were actually not selling that well, and so they went back and revisited them to add new bonuses, add new incentives, or add new rewards at different points of the campaign to find what clicked. It was iterative.

Let’s talk about marketing a finished project. Is that something a developer should be thinking about even as they’re trying to get their game crowd funded?

Jon Kimmich: Keep in mind the people that pledged for your product are in all likelihood going to be your most loyal supporters when it comes time to sell the product more broadly. Part of being successful is maintaining your existing relationship with those backers, and doing it past the point when the product launches.

Scott Steinberg: The consumers who are backers are brand evangelists already. That’s the beauty of crowd funding, it’s that from day not only are you generating awareness and doing promotional activity, you’re actually actively engaging fans and getting them emotionally connected to the project and its eventual outcome. Most of the activity is going to be at the social and grassroots level to make people aware that the product exists. At the same time it also has to be coupled with considerable PR activity, because what happens once the media covers it, they’ll be on to the next big product or project and consider it yesterday’s news. If you’re not shipping until eight months after you’ve raised awareness for your campaign, then you need to undertake activities designed in educating consumers that the product is indeed now available. As far as paid advertising solutions, it may be acquisition-led campaigns that are more effective. Even offering community members affiliate marketing, offering incentive that if you tell your friends about this we’ll give them a free weekend to play it, or we’ll give you ten bucks if they buy in. Because these products already have awareness and advocacy, really what you’re trying to do is tell consumers that they’re available. And a lot of it is an effort to create a sense of prestige around the product as well. Because effectively what you’re saying is that, in most cases creators build projects, they announce it and they hope it finds an audience. In this case, it’s the public who said you’re damn skippy we want this thing, so having a game by gamers for gamers can add cache and get people excited about it.

Jon Kimmich: I’ve occasionally heard folks say I’ve found all these backers for my campaign so I’m not going to do any more marketing on my product. I’ll just rely on them. I don’t think that’s necessarily an accurate view either.

Scott Steinberg: You absolutely have to do PR and marketing. You just have to be selective about your opportunities. What you’re not trying to do at that point is necessarily go broad and generate awareness. Really it’s an education and activation effort.

What do you think the future holds for crowd funding for games?

Scott Steinberg: We’re already hearing stories of fatigue because so many great opportunities have been launched back to back to back to back. There’s some attrition there in that, hey look, just because I contributed to one campaign doesn’t mean I want to hear about 15 of them by next Tuesday. Now what’s the maximum limit for that, when do we hit that point of saturation. It’s hard to say because what is technically being done here is, once upon a time you wanted to ship a game you had to go to a small group of very wealthy, influential individuals who decide what the masses want. In this case you’re flipping it out on its head and letting the masses decide what they want for themselves, which doesn’t necessarily align with corporate America’s vision. Crowd funding isn’t going to be right for all types of products or projects. What it is going to do is give birth to thousands of new games and ideas. I really think that people don’t grasp just how big the movement is going to become.

Jon Kimmich: If you look at the world of traditional games publishing, I’m not sure if this is necessarily going to have a huge impact on big budget triple-A console games any time soon. If you added up all of the money that’s been spent on crowd funded games across every crowd funding site in history to-date, it probably still wouldn’t add up to the amount it took to build one Halo or one Call of Duty. But if you’re a publisher who focuses more on digital distribution or smaller titles or indie games, then this can have a very material impact on your business.

Follow the authors for more tidbits from “The Crowdfunding Bible”:

Scott Steinberg

Twitter: @gadgetexpert

Jon Kimmich

Twitter: @jonkimmich

Social/Mobile MMOs Tale Dark Turn

Mobile MMOs and social games are both nascent fields, but the upside for both is very high. Still, both types of games have mostly remained separate, but Spacetime Studios has changed all that with Dark Legends. The game combines MMO trappings with social elements to make for a new breed of game, all in a sexy, more violent package. We talked with Spacetime Studios CEO Gary Gattis about his company’s third mobile MMO.

Give a general overview of the Dark Legends project.

It’s a another evolution in mobile MMOs. With Pocket Legends, we took MMO mechanics and put them into mobiles. With Star Legends, we took environmental gameplay and added cross platform play. With Dark Legends, we took some social mechanics and incorporated them as something that would encourage players to come back and engage beyond merely wanting to play more. There’s energy that recharges over times and there’s also a progress bar; what it does is integrate it with a 3D scene and it shows where you are in the story. Essentially we’ve got a strong string of storytelling in the product. We’ve got a strong story and we’ve got actions where we play a cut scene and players unlock content and are rewarded for reaching those moments. They pace the user through the content.

The thing that struck me the most about this new game was the incorporation of social gaming mechanics.

It was a challenge to work that out, but I think it’s done well. It monetizes and retains better than Pocket Legends or Star Legends and it’s a new way to play mobile MMOs together so we’re happy with it and we’re working on another game and we’re iterating on it.

They can buy energy and when they’re out, we send them back to town where there’s free PvP and that’s also where all the services are and the vendors, so it’s pretty easily paced between spending their energy points and socializing.

Why did you decide to make the move to add more social game mechanics in Dark Legends?

We like to innovate, and we weren’t really content with re-skinning Pocket Legends; we wanted to push the boundaries of what mobile multiplayer is. It’s interesting to consider the retention mechanics of these social games and try to work them in.

There’s almost certainly cross over between the type of people playing social games and playing your games.

That’s exactly right. Our games are mid-core and there are a lot of people playing mid-core games. They can’t play many hours per day, but they’re still passionate and were getting more exposure with them. We got a good promotion with the demographic and it’s an effort on our part to broaden the mobile base. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t exist – things are changing in the mobile sphere.

Dark Legends seems to be a much more mature game in its content than Star Legends and Pocket legends with violence, blood and the like. Was that a purposeful move by SpaceTime?

Yeah, very much. It was a done as much as part of our own desires as to contrast with our other projects. With Pocket Legends, we want to go after the young teen user base. We also noticed a lot of adults played our games and we wanted to appeal to an adult audience and make it sexier than before.

We positioned Pocket Legends with a younger audience and when we came to Dark Legends, we wanted to make it the most violent game we’ve played on mobile. Were’ mid-core hardcore guys so this one really came from our heart.

Stay tuned for part 2 soon!

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PlayScreen Poker Doubles Down With Billboards

Online and mobile ads provide a great, frictionless way for people to download and play online and mobile games. However, there’s still something to be said for old fashioned outdoor advertising. PlayScreen thought so, and recently put up some billboards leaving Los Vegas and for those heading back to California and elsewhere. We talked with William Volk CCO PlayScreen about the marketing campaign and so much more.

Give some background on your history in the gaming industry.

In the age of the dinosaurs I worked for Avalon Hill in the Year of Our Lord 1979. The first game I ever wrote was Conflict 2500 that came out for Apple II, Atari 2600 and Commodore 64. Voyager I is a 3D FPS ahead of its time. It had a map that only showed you what you explored, and had randomly generated levels. It used some assembly and some basic. You could make more money in those days per hour than you could now!

William Volk

Then I worked for Rising Star for a few years, then I worked for the Mac and I did Pyramid of Peril. I was at Activision for eight years as Vice President of Technology; I green-lit and produced Manhole, the first CD-ROM game. Bobby Kotick knew me from the Amiga days and I was probably the only senior person to stay on after he bought the company. There’s also Return to Zork and people are still complaining about the puzzles in that to this today. We made an unfair, ridiculous game – we had puzzles that were so crazy, you could break the game without even knowing it. It was literally cracking us up while we were doing it.

Double Fine is trying to bring the genre back with their new Kickstarter.

It warms my heart what Double Fine is working on. My answer on why adventure games went away is that they were too expensive and everyone wanted to do FPS. Anyway, I eventually I did some educational games for Lightspan for educators who wanted to try and have kids learn fractions. The whole project was over a million dollars and it ended up on the PlayStation. That company went public in early 2000 and the stock market crashed, especially for tech companies. Then I started dabbling in mobile. I met Sherri when she was working on a project for James Cameron. We worked on a big social mobile game at Bonus Mobile Entertainment called The Dozens inspired by the Wayans Brothers card game in the middle of the decade that worked on multiple platforms. We worked at mynumo, not a game company at first, but we started getting more mobile games; from 2007 to 2008 we were supported by those games we made.

Now Sherri made a poker game for AOL in the mid 90s and I was made the CCO. First title we did at PlayScreen was with Bocce Ball, and it succeeded because it was simple. If you want to learn why something does well, look at Draw Something compared to Ngmoco’s Doodle This; while ngmoco’s game had more features, OMGPOP made their game more accessible. Poker took a long time to come out but we always had in mind to do that.

Tell me about how PlayScreen Poker differentiates itself in the mobile poker game market.

It’s a beautiful looking product, and it has things like a practice mode even when you don’t have an online connection. But the thing that’s coming out is the ability to connect with people and make the game yours. How do you measure being the best poker player Against your own friends, and that’s what the game will let you do.

What metrics can you talk about with PlayScreen Poker so far?

We’re about the ninth top title in the App Store. In the past we’ve gotten up to the level of Zynga poker but we’re waiting for the revision of our product and then we’re going to push it with more innovative advertising.

We have thousands of players per day and hundreds of thousands of downloads, but that’s not important. We have players that play the most, the whales. These are interesting players and they’re playing for a lot of times and they’re playing long times. Players wagered 18,000 chips apiece on April 9 but generally it’s in the thousands.

Talk to me about the billboard promotion you had recently.

We understand the iPhone marketing channels. We do video ads and incentive ads, but what you want are good users. We were spending all most ten times as much on online advertising as we are now with billboards. There are four full sized billboards – it’s not like it’s driven a huge number of users, but it’s driven people who play a lot. Statistically, we had one of our historic highs recently; the number nine category in poker and eight in free games.

We did on the way back from Vegas because people are going to Los Angeles and San Diego, their minds are on going back to work, and this helps them bring their minds back to Vegas, where they were having fun. We have more people playing the games a lot and Sunday in particular was a large day for wagering. We were driving people that were interested in poker. It’s not so much who you bring in, especially for social games, a lot of it is how players are attached to the game.

Right now we’re close to releasing a new version with PlayScreen Poker 2 and PlayScreen Poker 2 HD for the Retina display, we were trying to be where everyone was and we wanted to figure out what the players wanted to do. We’ve rewarded people who want to play with us. PlayScreen Poker 2 is about people who want to engage with other players . We make it easy to set up games with your friends. We’ve done a lot of engagement and we’ll let people earn chips by watching ads.

It must be a challenge to try and go up against the Zynga’s of the world.

I’m quoted as saying that Zynga made the casual game market really work. We think they’re a great company to work against. For us, we’ve unleashed achievements across our titles. We’re improving chats and invites and so that players know when their friends show up. It pushes us to make the best product we can.

Do you feel like advertising can be a differentiator for mobile titles these days?

There’s 22,000 new apps every week. You have to be better than the rest. The quality of games has gotten so high. The NES age, which I remember because I got to work then, during the whole era there was 700 games total and now there’s thousands games every day. It used to be you bid in Kyoto for your cart allocation, but now something like Tiny Wings can come out of nowhere and do great. So any differentiator is key.

Where are you hoping to take PlayScreen Poker in the future?

PlayScreen has a logo with IClops and you should see something with him soon. We have an amazing word game and strategy game coming and the new bocce game that you’ll see more about very soon.

Thanks, William.

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NYT Battle Was A Real Life Game

NYT, a Finnish newspaper, was looking to generate visits to their main website. The idea they had was three teams to try and complete as many of 47 tasks as they could, and ended up garnering 45,000 views and bringing 15,000 new visitors to their site!

Source: Ads of the World

Black Ops II: Activision Defends Oliver North Inclusion

Oliver North is a controversial figure in American history, and his involvement in the Iran Contra affair makes him a patriot to some and a traitor to others. He’s managed to rehabilitate his image and he’s a regular on Fox News, but that doesn’t mean his involvement in the promotional video for Call of Duty: Black Ops II went unnoticed, and Treyarch’s Mark Lamia defended the decision as one of authenticity, not politics.

“When we create the fictions that we create, we do a bunch of research and try to talk to subject matter experts on it,” said Lamia. “Part of that research is reading and watching documentaries and movies and everything else. What can be a part of it is talking to people who’ve been through the experiences, people like Hank [Lt. Col. Keirsey, military adviser], and when you’re talking about doing something in the ’80s, black ops, when we were doing research in the conflicts that we were covering and everything else and some of our conflicts . . . in any event he rises to the top as someone who was probably, obviously the most well-known covert operations [person].”

“So it made sense for us from a game development point of view to spend the time and be able to talk to [him]. One of the things we do is we have these brushes with history in our Black Ops fiction. That’s a signature, I think, to the way we create our historical fiction. We set you up with that,” he added. “We put you in this place where it’s, ‘Ok, I’m in that part of history,’ and we have sort of that fiction we weave right through. Part of doing that has been and is getting a first-hand account whether that was last time in Black Ops, when we were highlighting parts of Vietnam, meeting with someone who was a real S.O.G. who did black operations in Vietnam and in this case with Lt. Col Oliver North.”

North had been involved with wet work operations during the ’80s, so Lamia said that made him a good person to try and go to. “We chose to take on that late ’80s time frame and when you think about that late ’80s time frame . . . you know, we’re not trying to put anyone on a pedestal,” said Lamia. “We’re trying to create our fiction as game developers, as creators. Choosing this person, somebody who has met with leaders, and has run black operations, and understands that was really valuable to have that sort of first-hand account from him… Even down to people who he’s met with in terms of understanding this is somebody who has sat at these tables.”

Source: Kotaku

Castlevania Sequel Teased By Konami

Konami has been teasing a new Castlevania at their Facebook page. They have a gothic looking image with the URL, the Dragon being an ancient nickname for Dracula.

On the website itself, there’s an image of the a doorway with a date right above it for Konami’s pre-E3 press conference. While hints point to a Lords of Shadow sequel, it is also believed tha a 3DS title named Mirror of Fate will also be unveiled.


Exclusive: Seamus Blackley [a]list Summit Keynote Part 2

Here’s part two of Xbox co-creator and digital game company founder Innovative Leisure Seamus Blackley’s closing keynote at Ayzenberg Group’s [a]list summit 2012 Los Angeles. Here, he discusses how lessons from the way game developers learned to deal with their passionate fanbase are now relevant to the way game marketers communicate with their audience.