Google Announces Plans To Cut 4,000 Employees From Motorola

Motorola Mobility announced plans to reduce its headcount by 4,000 employees. The company is looking to make two-thirds of the staff reductions outside of the U.S. with plans to close or to consolidate about one-third of its 90 facilities.

Google expects to incur a severance-related charge of no greater than $275 million, anticipated to be largely recognized in the third quarter, with the rest recognized by the end of 2012. The company also expects to incur other restructuring charges related to the actions, most of which will be recognized in the third quarter.

Motorola plans to cut the number of devices the company makes from the 27 it introduced last year to just a few. The company plans to shift to more “innovative and profitable” devices, probably like Google’s Nexus 7 tablet.

Source: PCworld.com

Battlefield Developer Says Focus Should Be Games, Not Business

Retail used to be the only model in which games could be sold for a very long time. Things are changing with digital downloads, free-to-play and so on, but DICE general manager Karl Magnus Troedsson doesn’t think that developers should be distracted from what is the primary goal: making good games.

“It’s about the games, about the entertainment and about the fun,” Troedsson said to GDC Europe. “It’s not about the business model, it’s not about the platform we’re building on – it’s about how much fun we the gamers have when playing the game, and that’s been a real thread throughout the company’s history.”

“Business models will come and go, and platforms will be born and they will die,” he said. “Is the future dedicated hardware or is it streaming from the cloud It doesn’t matter – if you have great entertainment and you create great games, this will span all that, and it will survive all the transitions, because one thing’s for sure – things will change.”

Source: Eurogamer

Funcom Regroups After The Secret World Release

Funcom has come out and issued a public statement over the The Secret World, acknowledging that it has not hit the revenue goals that the company set. Reviews in particular were singled out as being damaging for the game, leading to lower than expected audience, monetization and customer retention and dropping Funcom’s share price as a result.

“Following the launch of The Secret World on the 3 of July 2012, Funcom’s share price has decreased significantly,” reads a Funcom note to investors. “The company attributes this mostly to the aggregate review score, the ‘Metascore’, for the game at Metacritic together with other public sources for tracking the performance of games.”

“While there are very positive reviews, there are as well mixed or average reviews from various press outlets, giving an aggregated score for The Secret World of 72 out of 100, which is to be considered low, and not in line with the positive feedback received during the beta phases from both press and players. Funcom is of course disappointed with achieving such a Metascore,” the company noted. “A game like The Secret World, which is not based on a well-known brand, is normally dependent on positive press reviews to achieve successful initial sales, in addition – but not limited – to other factors like word of mouth.”

The Secret World had been in development for several years and was a major investment by Funcom. The developer is now reevaluating its expectations and is looking to push the game onto new distribution channels like Steam.

“The effect of all these initiatives together with other factors impacting sales are difficult to predict, but based on the available early data, one scenario is that sales for the first 12 months following launch will be less than half of what was presented in the ‘Conan-like’ scenario,” the report continues. “It should be noted that the sales amount in the ‘Conan-like’ scenario is significantly higher than for the game Age of Conan, due to the assumption of better retention implemented in the scenario. Also it should be noted that the company has significantly lower operational cost for The Secret World than what was the case for Age of Conan. As less initial sales than expected is considered an indicator of impairment, the company is currently evaluating the need for recognizing an impairment loss for the game in the profit and loss statement.”

Still, Funcom is looking at the bright side for the short term and has plans for the near term. “Funcom is pleased to see that gamer satisfaction is high, with user score of 8.4 out of 10 and higher on www.metacritic.com and other sites like mmorpg.com. This is in line with the beta surveys and beta players’ feedback that the company received prior to launch,” the company noted. “The company considers this a positive indicator of high customer satisfaction, and a solid foundation to build on the positive and engaged community Funcom has established with The Secret World.”

“First indication of churn is more positive than for Age of Conan, and the in-game store is performing as expected. The add-on packs are performing better than expected. Also higher than expected sales are going directly through the online download stores like EA’s Origin and Funcom’s own storefront, generating more profitable sales for the company. A possible scenario going forward is that the game will sell less than both of the two above mentioned scenarios the first 12 months following launch, but with high customer satisfaction, it will generate a more stable subscriber base than the game Age of Conan. Over time, this will enable Funcom to retain more customers and generate higher revenue,” concluded the company’s note.

Source: Funcom.com

Facebook: 235 Million Active Gamers And Counting

Facebook claims that 235 million people are playing games on the social network, up from 205 million at this time last year and an 8.4 percent rise since January. The company also reports that the new App Center has 150 million monthly users with a next-day return rate of 35 percent to installed apps and a 17 percent return rate within seven days.

“We want to drive the same type of traffic we drive to mobile that we drive to web,” said Matt Wyndowe, product manager for apps and games at Facebook. “Many game developers find that people who sign into their mobile apps with Facebook are more engaged and spend more money.”

Source: TechCrunch

BioWare Talks Day One DLC As A Communication Issue

DLC that’s available on day one is a controversial measure for some AAA releases, some of which cost $60 or more already at launch. Fernando Melo, BioWare’s director of online development, pushed back against the notion that players universally don’t like day one DLC.

“Contrary to what you might hear on the internet, fans do want more content. They tend to say, ‘I want it now.’ The problem with day one content and the challenge around it is that the right answer for now is different for every player. There is no single right time, there is no single now. It’s subjective, and it’s unique to every player,” said Melo, adding, “It’s not based on us. It’s not based on some first-party release schedule. It’s there, if they want it they can pick it up day one. If they don’t, they can wait until they’ve finished their game.”

When addressing the situation where some say that day one DLC should be part of the regular game, Melo said, “You’re not lying to them, but they will take whatever you’re saying as like, ‘you’re lying to us.’ That will always be there. The only way that that’s going to go away is you fast forward a few more years, where this is just normal. Every game is digital from day one. Every game is an ongoing service, almost like an MMO, where on any given day new content shows up. Maybe that’s part of the base package, and maybe it’s a premium feature.”

Source: GamesIndustry.biz

Electronic Arts Pledges Support to Windows Phone 8

Electronic Arts has announced that it will be supporting Windows Phone 8 with various games. While Windows Phone 7 did not receive the level of developer support that Android and iOS did, Microsoft is hopeful that will change with Windows Phone 8, which is closer to Microsoft’s desktop OS.

“We’re working very closely with Microsoft to understand what their views on gaming navigation are,” said Chief Operating Officer Peter Moore. “Anything that allows more platforms to be adopted quickly that have a gaming element is good for Electronic Arts.”

“It is important to attract the gamers and due to Windows Phone 8’s relation to the classical Windows PC programs, it is a good platform for game developers,” said Jyske Bank analyst Robert Jakobsen. “This is clearly a step forward for Microsoft’s mobile operation system.”

Source: Bloomberg

Facebook Avoidance Increasingly Seen As ‘Antisocial’

A new report is saying that psychiatrists and employers are now wary of those who aren’t on Facebook. With 955 million accounts on Facebook, not being on the social network is considered “abnormal.”

“The Internet has become a natural part of life,” psychologist Christopher Moeller told Germany’s Der Taggspiegel. “It’s possible that you get feelings of positive feedback through online friends.”

Both suspected Aurora theater gunman James Holmes and the Norwegian massacre shooter Anders Behring Breivik were not on Facebook, for whatever that’s worth, though Breivik was on MySpace and Holmes on Adult Friend Finder.

Source: Tagesspiegel.de

Double Fine Looks To End Dependence On Traditional Publishers

Double Fine Productions changed the way that indie developers look at funding themselves when they raised $3.3 million via Kickstarter. The company isn’t stopping there in creative ways to raise money while preserving itself as an independent entity.

“We’re making a switch from console work-for-hire and going to direct to consumer and free-to-play projects,” said Justin Bailey, the vice president of business development at Double Fine. “That process has taken place over the last 18 months.”

Kickstarter could be used as an initial round of funding for some titles before Double Fine switches to more formal means of funding. The hope is long term this results in more projects and more platforms for Double Fine products.

“We try to be as creative with our business development as we are with our games,” said Double Fine CEO Tim Schafer. “We are always on the lookout for ways to break the traditional mold for game funding. So when we see new opportunities come up — like Kickstarter, angel investment, or other alternative funding models — even though they might seem new and risky at the time, they are also very attractive to us. Because, let’s face it, anything beats the traditional game funding model. It’s like a loan with a really horrible interest rate. No revenue usually until you’ve not just paid back the development cost, but paid it back many times over. Plus, lots of entanglements with intellectual property usually.”

One example of angel funding that Double Fine received was from Xe.com founder Steve Dengler, who gave the company a million dollars. “I’m a fan with money,” said Dengler. “That pretty much sums it up. I’ve been a fan of Double Fine for years, and now I get to help them make new games on their own terms. Traditionally, a developer needed a publisher to get their work made and out to the fans. And traditionally, that relationship was pretty one-sided. But together, we are changing that.”

“What I do want to do is help them make great games for their fans because I am one of those fans,”said Dengler. “And so far it’s working wonderfully. It’s tremendously satisfying.”

“Steve is great because he is literally an angel investor — he came out of the clear blue sky, has mysterious powers, and he only uses them for good,” Schafer added. “Oh, and he can fly, too… in his Cessna. He loves games, he likes Double Fine, and he wants to remove the money obstacle from our path and help us achieve our creative ambitions. The best thing about a partner like Dracogen is the creative freedom. There’s no bureaucratic overhead like time-wasting green-light committees and milestone acceptance tests. We get to focus on making the game good because we have his trust, and in exchange for that, we offer him complete transparency into the product. Mutual trust and mutual respect is critical in this kind of relationship.”

Double Fine wants to eventually publish titles on its own site and stay independent. Creative financing means their 60 employees are working on five different projects right now.

“It is complicated to keep straight, but we have crowdfunding, self-publishing, the mobile studio, and some legacy business,” said Bailey. “We are now majority-funded by crowdfunding or outside investment. By next year, hopefully that transition will be complete [with almost no traditional publishers or work-for-hire deals funding the games.]”

Source: VentureBeat

Coca-Cola, will.i.am Want To Make Recycling Cool

Musician will.i.am and Coca-Cola are partnering to make a line of clothing and gear called Ekocycle. The idea is to make recycled products cooler and get younger consumers thinking about waste and recycled products in a new light.

“If you think about (recycled) products now, none of them are cool,” said will.i.am, who is best known for his work with The Black-Eyed Peas. “You have to bring some art and fashion sensibility into this technology that turns a bottle into something cool.”

The first Ekocycle product will be a pair of headphones by Beats for $349 with an Ekocycle hat by New Era coming that will cost $32. The plan is to partner with a variety of other big-name designers to sell items including bicycles, shoes, handbags, glasses or even high-end tables and chairs.

Source: AP