Clock Into The Industrial Revolution

Starting today, fans of Bioshock Infinite can start earning in-game items by playing BioShock Infinite: Industrial Revolution, a puzzle game in which you assume the role of a factory worker within the sky-city of Columbia. Complete increasingly difficult puzzles while learning more about the warring factions in the game and earning in-game rewards. You can only get access to BioShock Infinite: Industrial Revolution by pre-ordering BioShock Infinite at a participating retailer.

The game was made by the creators of Cogs and Lazy 8 and out-thinking the machine will grant you exclusive gear items: “Handyman Nemesis, Sugar Rush, and Fleet Feet” as well as bonus in-game cash, some background on Columbia’s warring factions, and a “Facebook pack” that “pledges your allegiance” for one side or the other publicly. Will you join stompy, top-hatted blue man or wrench-menacing red man

Zynga Loses Chief Financial Officer To Facebook

Zynga announced that David Wehner has left the company for a senior finance position at Facebook, and will be replaced by Mark Vranesh. Other moves in the company include David Ko’s promotion to chief operations officer, Barry Cottle’s appointment to chief revenue officer and Steven Chiang’s promotion to president of games.

“Dave remains a good friend to us all and we wish him success in his next role,” said Mark Pincus, founder and CEO of Zynga. “Mark, David, Barry and Steve are rooted in our culture, committed to our future and part of the talented bench of leadership at Zynga. I’m confident we have the right team to deliver on our mission of connecting the world through games and position us for long-term growth.”

“I have greatly enjoyed working closely with Mark Pincus and the rest of the team,” said Dave Wehner. “The time I spent at Zynga has been an exciting chapter in my career as we led the rapid development of social gaming. Mark Vranesh and I have been close partners during my tenure at Zynga and I wish my colleagues well as the company continues to deliver on its vision.”

StarCraft II: Heart Of The Swarm Gets Digital Deluxe And Collector’s Edition

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm has been confirmed for release on March 12, 2012. There will also be two special editions: a Collector’s Edition available at retail stores for $79.99, and a download-only Digital Deluxe Edition will be purchasable from Blizzard’s own store for $59.99.

The Digital Deluxe version of Heart of the Swarm features the Torrasque skin for Ultralisks, swarm-infested portraits, a Baneling companion pet for World of Warcraft, and zerg-like Blade Wings and a banner sigil for Diablo III. The Collector’s Edition of Heart of the Swarm includes the full version of the game on DVD-ROM, everything in the Digital Deluxe version along with a behind-the-scenes DVD and Blu-ray, a collector’s edition soundtrack CD, a 144-page Heart of the Swarm hardcover art book and a “Zerg Rush” mousepad.


Microsoft CEO Characterizes Early Surface Sales As ‘Modest’

Company CEO Steve Ballmer says that Surface tablet sales have been modest, partially because it’s available through only the Microsoft Store online and a handful of brick-and-mortar retailers in the U.S. The entry level model of the tablet initially sold out online.

As for stock shortages, Ballmer said, “It’s a good sign. [Microsoft will] fix this problem quickly”.

Ballmer also revealed that the high-definition model of Surface, which features a 3rd Gen Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 Processor with Intel HD Graphics 4000, 4GB of memory, and solid-state drives up to 128GB, will be released in the new year.


Exclusive: A Kickstarter’s Final Leg — Part 1

By Jordan Hemenway

Editor’s note: As good fortune would have it for Refract Studios, their Kickstarter drive for “Distance” was successfully funded after the writing of this first of two articles covering their campaign. You can jump to Part 2 here.

At this moment there we’re now 3 days and 16 hours away from the end of our Kickstarter campaign for Distance, with about 10 percent to go of our $125,000 goal. It’s been an intense ride, and as I’m sure almost any Kickstarter veteran will say, our mood and feelings are pretty well tied to the increase or decrease of incoming backers coming in at a given moment.

The campaign has been tracking in the red for 2 weeks now, but with a large spike massively helping us in the past three days. One way or another, the campaign will be done at 7 PM on Friday, and at this point it’s hard to say what it’ll feel like to be done with everything. For us right now, it’s hard to see outside of hitting the goal, and being so close is something we weren’t sure was going to happen.

Our success or failure on Friday isn’t just our team’s, it’s the success or failure of a huge community of backers, supporters, and onlookers, and honestly it’s incredible.

Our team at Refract Studios is formed from recent graduates from DigiPen Institute of Technology. We’re three developers who’ve worked on a really wide variety of indie games as student projects, many of which won awards and allowed us to travel around the world to share them. Our final project at DigiPen was called Nitronic Rush, and it was what we called an experimental survival driving game. It was our most popular game with mainstream gamers, getting downloaded over 700,000 times by a surprisingly widespread international audience.

Distance is the game we’re Kickstarting, and it’s a spiritual successor to Nitronic Rush. It’s a complete re-imagining of that game from the ground up.

At the end of the day, Kickstarter is an incredible avenue for indie game devs. Not only does it have the potential to provide you with the funding you need to build your game completely independently, but it challenges you to wrap your head around the marketing of your game, your team, and your vision for the future. You get to connect with an incredibly passionate group of backers that have a piece of the game as their own, as they truly are the difference between the game getting funded or not. Your win on Kickstarter is just as much their win, and your backers are your biggest supporters because they believe in your team to make this project a reality.

Despite a strong start to campaign (hitting 22,000 in the first couple days), the incoming backers very quickly decreased to the point where we weren’t sure if we were going to make it. Four days in we were pretty confused, trying to figure out why we would have such a strong positive start only to see spreading of the word die off in a couple days. The past three weeks have been an astonishing learning curve, and easily one of the most intense learning experiences we’ve probably ever been through. We quickly realized that we had a lot to learn when making the jump from free to commercial products.

One example of this was how we initially pitched the game. From our perspective, Nitronic Rush was a student prototype and Distance would be a professional commercial product, with a much higher bar of quality. It seemed unnecessary to make that clear, but one of our most popular questions was simply asking why they need to pay for a new game after enjoying our free one.

We also realized that we were spending too much time preparing high quality updates and not enough time being human and talking through what was happening with our backers. Honestly, a large part of our assumptions were incorrect going in, but we remained excited and positive throughout since we believed in the project and our backers did as well.

We’ve been fortunate to have industry veterans such as Jon Kimmich, Cliff Bleszinski, Aaron Hightower, Ryan Payton, Christian Allen, among others, involved as influencing forces. We love the game industry not only because it’s an incredible collection of brilliant creative minds, but because it’s filled with generous people. We reached out to each person simply saying what drove us to Kickstarter, which was largely creative control and independence from a publisher. From the darkest of times in the Kickstarter, to the past few days of excitement, we’ve received nothing but positive encouragement and support all along the way from all of them.

Over the next few days we have a few more videos coming, a livestream event happening on Friday counting down the final hours of tears or cheers, and some other fun things that we’ll keep under wraps for a bit longer. We won’t feel content and safe until we hit that goal and the funding is confirmed, so we’ll be pushing for more press and social media outreach for every minute until the end.

To me, Kickstarter is an experience that can’t really be understood until you’ve been through it. I hope that some advice can go a long way if you’re passionate about pursing the process.

Tomorrow, I’ll go a bit more in depth into what we’ve learned and how we might have done things differently could we wind back the clock to the beginning.

3DS XL Gets Pikachu For Holiday 2012

Nintendo announced that they are launching variations of the 3DS XL just in time for the holidays in the U.K. There will be two white 3DS models with Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land for 200 British pounds apiece that will launch November 16 and November 30 respectively.

There will also be a yellow 3DS XL featuring an image of Pikachu (though not containing a copy of Pokemon Black/White 2) will launch December 7 for 180 British pounds. Oddly, none of the systems have a an AC power adapter, but they are compatible with DSi, DSi XL or 3DS AC adapters, which can also be purchased separately.

Epic’s Tim Sweeney Talks Free-to-Play’s Inevitable Rise

Epic Games chief technology officer Tim Sweeney indicates that next-generation development costs should only be about twice what current AAA development costs are. After the creation of the Samaritan tech demo took longer and with more people than expected, the company doubled down on content and production tools to improve production efficiency.

“If we extrapolate that into creating an entire game, we were worried that the cost would go up by a factor of three or four or even five in the next generation,” Sweeney said. “And of course, we felt that was not acceptable.”

Sweeney also sees a future where free-to-play cross platform titles are more common as high-resolution displays and multicore CPUs become more widely available. “Free to play gaming is becoming more and more inevitable,” Sweeney said. “If a user has world-class, AAA free-to-play games to choose from side-by-side with $60 games that are available only on a disc in a retail store, free-to-play games are very likely to win. So we need to really be mindful of this trend and start building games that have monetization and are designed to be piracy-proof.”

Source: GamesIndustry International

Zynga Veterans Hired By Rumble Entertainment

Rumble Entertainment has hired Brian Schneider and Steve Desilets to the executive team to focus on retention and monetization and the design team for free-to-play experiences, respectively. Schneider is the former director of design for Zynga for titles like CityVille and Treasure Isle and Desilets was a design director at Zynga.

“At Rumble, we are in pursuit of redefining the games experience on digital platforms,” said Rumble founder Greg Richardson. “Brian’s track record of successfully engaging customers across different types of microtransaction games and Steve’s raw creativity will further our mission of creating the world’s best free to play games.”

Wild Zoo Advertising

Zoos provide ample opportunities for creative advertising because of the dynamic and exotic animals. Here’s a few great examples of ads for zoos around the world.


Consumer Attitudes Reach Five-Year Highs

A recent survey showed that Americans’ perceptions of the outlook for the economy and for employment improved in early November. Consumer sentiment also rose to its highest level in more than five years, marking four straight months of consumer mood improvement.

Wholesale inventories rose in September by the most in nine months as wholesalers sharply boosted stocks of farm goods and oil, a positive sign for economic growth. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment rose to 84.9 from 82.6 in October, topping economists’ expectations for 83.

Consumer sentiment was the highest level since July 2007 and the measure of consumer expectations also hit a more than five-year high, rising to 80.8 from 79.0. Most interviews for the survey were done before the presidential election.

The positive feelings help in part to explain how the recent election went down, though the so-called “fiscal cliff” of impending tax rises and government spending cuts could be a shock to consumers if it is not quickly avoided. “It shows that the U.S. economy is on a decent footing heading into the so-called fiscal cliff,” said Joe Manimbo, market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions. “There’s a lot at stake, and there’s a lot momentum that could be lost if lawmakers don’t get their act together.”

The automatic spending cuts and significant tax increases set to come into effect in January could take an estimated $600 billion out of the economy and push it into recession, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office; many believe that the lame duck congress will attempt to punt on most of the larger parts of the legislation.

“Unless the Congressional Grinch steals Christmas, prospects for the holiday shopping season have improved markedly,” said Survey director Richard Curtin.

Total wholesale inventories gained 1.1 percent to $494.2 billion, beating even the highest estimate in a Reuters poll of analysts. Inventories are a key element in the government’s measure of changes in GDP and can highlight underlying strength in U.S. growth.

Banking group Barclays raised its estimate for third quarter gross domestic product growth to 3.2 percent from 2.8 percent following the report. The first reading of growth for the third quarter showed the economy expanded at a 2.0 percent rate, though other recent economic reports, including data on trade and factory orders, have already suggested a faster pace of growth than first estimated.