Michelle Obama Rouses Social Media With Speech

According to TV viewing figures, Michelle Obama’s address in Charlotte, North Carolina, was watched by about 22 million people, or 1.5 million greater than those who watched Ann Romney, wife of Mitt Romney, a week previous. Mrs. Obama racked up 28,000 tweets per minute at the conclusion of her speech on the opening night of the convention, double the 14,000 that Mitt Romney saw in his convention speech in Tampa, Florida last week and significantly over Ann Romney’s tweets per minute tally of 6,000.

Twitter hashtags #michelleobama and #firstlady were among the top five trending topics on Tuesday night. Mrs. Obama’s Twindex score rose from 71 before the speech to 84 immediately afterward. President Obama got an even bigger boost, from 25 before his wife took to the stage to 54 immediately afterward.

Comedian and actor Chris Rock was among Americans energized by her performance. “I’m ready to vote NOW damnit! Where’s the ballot What day is it Where am I Who am I Michelle OBAMA ladies & gentlemen. Wow,” he wrote on Twitter.

Source: Reuters.com


Xbox Live Indie Games Should Merge With XBLA, Says Robert Boyd

Xbox Live Indie Games have long had discoverability problems, and many complained the problems got worse with the latest dashboard updates. To Robert Boyd of Zeboyd Games, the problem is solveable by merging XBLIG with Xbox Live Arcade.

“I’d like to see [XBLIG] kind of merge into XBLA,” Boyd commented. “Keep Indie Games free to everyone but if you have a really good game, you could submit it to Microsoft for it to be upgraded to an XBLA title. Right now, becoming an XBLA developer is fairly difficult for a small team, so reducing the barrier of entry to XBLA could only help Microsoft, I think.”

Boyd mentioned the Dream Build Play contest to bring indie developers to Xbox Live Arcade. “Early on, several winners and nominees got on, but after Dust won, I can’t think of anything else. Most of the winners ended up just being released on XBLIG,” Boyd noted. “Far more indie games are released on Steam than XBLA, and yet Steam is tremendously successful. I think opening up XBLA a bit – but not completely – would only help.”

Source: Edge


Blizzard Announces Plans For Mists Of Pandaria Launch Events

Blizzard has announced that launch events will be held in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Taiwan on September 24 to celebrate the release of Mists of Pandaria. In particular, there will be a launch event at the Irvine Spectrum Center in Southern California where game developers will show up to meet and greet with fans.

“A lot of hard work and long hours went into making Mists of Pandaria a truly epic expansion, so we’re really looking forward to coming together and having some fun with the community before everyone takes off for the new continent,” said Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime.

The U.S. event will take place at Giant Wheel Court at Irvine Spectrum Mall at 71 Fortune Drive in Irvine, California. Find out more about the expansion’s launch events at Blizzard.com.


Exclusive: Star Trek Online Charting The Free-To-Play Business

Star Trek is perhaps the most enduring franchise in the history of television, having a fandom that spans multiple generations and is spread around the world. The franchise is particularly well suited to an MMO then in Star Trek Online, as consumers can enjoy the series they so love anywhere they have a reasonably recent PC. Now, with the switch over to free-to-play, Star Trek Online has become a vibrant community that’s widely accessible to people who might be interested in the game’s storyline, want to slug it out in the 3D space combat or perhaps just talk about their fandom with others who share their passion.

Cryptic Studios recently launched the largest content addition to Star Trek Online since the game switched over to free-to-play in Season 6, adding a whole slew of new things for the game’s guilds (called fleets) to do. With the shifting nature of the MMO business, it was a perfect time to talk to Star Trek Online executive producer Dan Stahl and Perfect World Entertainment vice president of business development and corporate communications John Young about the game and free-to-play in general.

Was there a feeling when Perfect World was kicking the tires of Cryptic that Star Trek Online could be the company’s crown jewel game for North America and Europe?

John Young: We saw that capability in the team that delivers Star Trek Online. We saw the potential of Star Trek Online to be huge. We come from free-to-play roots; we have 10 games right now, two from Cryptic — both of their titles we thought, “This might be good for free-to-play.”

Talk to me about taking Star Trek Online free-to-play.

Dan Stahl: I’ve been thinking about this a lot because it’s sort of appropriate to the business world. What does it mean to take a game F2P The best analogy is subscription games are like amusement parks where revenue is based on the quality fun of your attractions. STO believes the move to F2P is akin to shifting focus away from charging for admission and instead focusing on the retail business inside the park.

In our model, new attractions should not be walled off behind pay gates. This is akin to Disneyland opening up the gates for anyone to enter, but then having a cover charge to enter Tomorrow land, all you’ve done is get people further inside the park, but without a retail business, you are still dependent on the attractions for revenue. STO has focused on retail as the business and made all the attractions free. This means we can focus on building attractions that players enjoy riding over and over again, for free.

If you spend all of your capital on an amusement ride, you’re spending significant resources and limiting profitability. Consider that 67 percent of Disney’s total capital expenditure in 2009 was on new rides and you can see why ticket prices continue to climb. If you’re in a subscription model, you most likely need to sell a game expansion in order to break even or increase revenue. In our model, we can continue to release big Free Updates and avoid the need to charge for the content by capturing the in game retail opportunities in the parts of the game that supplement the big new ride. This keeps money conscious consumers happy while providing the revenue to continually add more content to the game.

Has the duty officer system [assignments for minor crew members akin to a card game] worked out well for you all and what do you say to those who think free-to-play games are really “pay-to-win”?

Dan Stahl: This is why the concept of time versus money is part and parcel to a game like STO. We specifically introduced a feature called the “Dilithium Currency Exchange” so that players with lots of time [for the duty officer system, Red Alerts, timed events and more] and no money can play the game and earn “time currency” which can then be traded to other players for “money”. No one is forced to buy anything in our game, and if you really want something from the retail store, then you can trade some of the time you’ve spent playing the game to another player for the store item you want. We have close to a million trades like this happening every day. It negates the argument that you have to have money. You can obtain nearly everything in the retail store by simply playing the game and using the in game exchange to buy what you want.

Speaking of free-to-play, what would your advice have been to Electronic Arts in the months leading up to the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic? Would you have advised them then to try and launch with free-to-play?

Dan Stahl: Boy, I don’t know if I would have launched SWTOR free-to-play. Since I only know details that are in the public domain, it’s hard to comment. My speculation would be that when you have such a big production, presumably close to a major big budget movie, that’s a lot of money and years of development that needs to be accounted for. For such a quality production, selling a box at retail can net a big return. So should they haven’t launch F2P Hard to say if that would have been better.

Here is the challenge of Free-to-Play — it is a steadily growing business. It’s not the sort of big bang you get from a retail release. If you’ve built your game for subscriptions with those big expensive attractions, you rely on your ticket prices to cover your capital costs. It isn’t easy to retrofit a subscription game into a retail business if it wasn’t in the business plan to begin with. So I can understand why they released SWTOR as a subscription game and why I empathize with the challenge they will face as they convert over to F2P.

John Young: I want to mention with the use of a subscription model, sometimes that decision goes to the marketing department. In free-to-play, it shifts to the designers and the managers and they get to be involved with decisions that will make the game more profitable.

Dan Stahl: In a retail business everything depends on keeping traffic flowing into the game by offering big new free updates at a consistent pace. It also means having a steady pace of new items in the store to capitalize on that traffic. The amount of effort it takes release both types of content at a rapid pace is challenging and something that Star Trek Online is constantly trying to improve. We’ve struggled with this in the past and it is one of our top production goals as we move into the future — lots of new free content and lots of new items in the store at a consistent pace. When you achieve this, you not only begin to increase traffic into the game, but also increase revenue and create a positive snowball effect allowing for more investment in the game. This is how STO is growing from a small team into a much larger one capable of delivering even more content and features in the future.

I’ve heard reports that Cryptic is a very lean company — down to about 20 when Atari was looking to sell you, but you’ve staffed up more recently.

Dan Stahl: Cryptic Studios is an amazing place. Even with a smaller staff, we’ve been able to release some of the top MMOs in the industry. For example, the amount of staff we’ve had on STO has varied down to as few as 21 developers over the last year. One thing to consider is that when we say developers, it is a mix of disciplines including software developers, content designers, systems designers, audio, animators, QA, artists, and production. So when trying to build updates for the game with that size of staff, there are only a few people building the content that players are so eager to have more of.

Luckily we’ve received some great support from Perfect World, and thanks to F2P it has allowed us slow and steady growth to increase our staff to nearly twice what it was last year — and we’re still hiring! Yet, when you compare the STO Dev Team to other teams that might have anywhere from 100-300 people, it is clear that we are much more lean and mean. We control costs and stay focused by staying within budget. We keep our staff sizing directly related to the performance of the game and don’t have to be concerned about losing or laying off the amazing talent we’ve developed over the years. Even now, most of the core team on STO has been with the game since the beginning. We love this game.

Right now, your second major faction in the game, the Klingon Empire, aren’t immediately accessible. Is Cryptic seriously considering options to make the Klingons playable for starting players eventually?

Dan Stahl: We have several plans on the table to solve the issue. One of our long term goals is to make the Klingon faction available earlier; right now, a player has to play a Federation character halfway to the level cap. Solving this issue is one of the primary focuses that brought me back to the project as executive producer. It is one of my goals to get both factions on par.

It will eventually happen, but as we’ve discussed, it’s all about development budgets. We do pride ourselves on being a lean studio, but that means we have to prioritize how we spend our time. When we launched F2P, there were many lessons that we learned right out of the gate and it required the business to react quickly in order to capitalize. As we’ve made our plays and improved the game, we now have the resources necessary to move on to bigger challenges and focus on future growth.


Check back soom for the second part of the interview!


Gaikai’s David Perry Talks Cloud Gaming Relevancy to Electronics Companies

The potential for cloud gaming is vast, given the ability to reach out to multiple types of devices. Gaikai CEO David Perry is at the forefront of making that argument, and is doing his best to promote the idea ahead of cloud gaming’s biggest conference.

“When I present Gaikai to consumer electronics companies and cable and satellite companies, they believe they’re in the entertainment business because they’re delivering movies and music, but they didn’t participate in the biggest entertainment launch in history with Call of Duty last year,” said Perry. “Cloud gaming is the only way these companies can participate in these types of big game launches.”

“There’s been a lot of excitement around tablets and people are forecasting that by next year tablet games are going to catch up to Xbox 360 games. But tablets are catching up to six-year-old technology. What I’m excited about is the next generation of hardware showing up on my TV or Blu-ray player through games before they’re available on consoles,” he continued. “Companies are always saying, ‘We just give the gamers what they want, when they want, where they want,’ but then the question is, ‘What are you doing about it ‘ We all agree that cloud gaming is the best thing for the game industry to make that a reality.”

Source: Cloud Gaming USA

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Tim Schafer Talks Poor Messaging With Brutal Legend

Brutal Legend was a game that was advertised mostly as an action game, but in practice was more like a mix of real-time strategy and action. Double Fine founder Tim Schafer attributes this to very poor messaging on the product from its various handlers.

“The part that I felt was most special about the game got unfairly vilified because of poor messaging,” said Schafer. “I think it’s the neatest thing about the game turning into a big negative for people, whereas if we’d brought them in the process early they would have enjoyed those parts about the game a lot more.”

“Vivendi was like ‘No. Absolutely not. We’ll never say RTS, ever. Even if someone asks us if it’s an RTS we’ll say no.’ There was definitely a messaging problem with that game,” he continued. “That’s one example of how the openness would have helped that game a lot. Say we were developing that and sharing our battle system with people before we launched; not only would people have known about it, but people would contribute ideas to it and embrace it, and feel like it was their idea instead of this nasty shock.”

Schafer has had a revelation about game development and messaging now. “We used to have this terror that if I go off-message and say the wrong thing no one will buy my game, which is not true,” he said.

“I’ve had this epiphany about how it doesn’t hurt to be open. Let people see how it progress over time, so they feel the way we feel about the game. So they’re really attached to them. You think people are going to reject you or your ideas about the game because they’ll see something they don’t like, but what actually happens is they embrace them more because they feel more included and more like a part of it,” he concluded.

Source: Eurogamer

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Star Wars: The Old Republic Free-to-Play Plans in the Cards All Along

To some, the announcement that Star Wars: The Old Republic is going free-to-play was a sudden one. However, EA Labels president Frank Gibeau says that free-to-play was planned for Star Wars: The Old Republic before the game even launched.

“We actually thought through how it would work for a very long time,” says Gibeau . “We just felt that we wanted to bring [the transition] forward. All the headwinds that we’re experiencing on the premium subscription model right now go away when you pivot to free-to-play. If you’ve played LOTRO, I think that gives a sense of where we’re going with the design. But it’s rock solid, and when we roll it out in November it’ll become clear. And it won’t be done in November; it’ll be in continuous development, much like every MMO.”

“From my perspective, I don’t see free-to-play slowing down because it works on so many levels,” he added. “Developers can go as wide or as deep as they want, and reach out to new audiences. They can build more of what people are actually consuming, as opposed to having unpopular features and modes that we spent development time on. I actually think that free-to-play is going to be the dominant business model in this industry before the end of the decade. It will be the model that most people are used to.”

Source: GamesIndustry International

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