Senator: Gaming Markets Violence To Kids

Last week’s school shooting in Connecticut has renewed the debate over violent video games. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is leading the charge this time, proposing a bill that would have multiple government agencies research the effects of violent games on young players.

“Major corporations, including the video game industry, make billions on marketing and selling violent content to children,” Rockefeller told Bloomberg news service. “They have a responsibility to protect our children. If they do not, you can count on the Congress to take a more aggressive role.”

If the bill passes, findings from the studies would be presented to Congress within 18 months. An Entertainment Software Association statement on the subject stated that there was no link between violent games and violent actions, adding, “The search for meaningful solutions must consider the broad range of actual factors that may have contributed to this tragedy.”

Source: Bloomberg  {link no longer active}

Instagram Says Sorry

“Thank you, and we’re listening,” tweeted Instagram.  The site was responding to the controversy over privacy changes that would technically allow users to appear in advertisements without their knowledge, a move ready to take effect on January 16.  Faced with a steady stream of disapproval, and plenty of press attention to support the outcry, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom took the lead in communicating how the initiative was being retracted.

“Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010.” Systrom wrote in a blog, pointing readers to the current terms.

The update which stirred up users was an attempt to allow advertisers in Facebook’s ad networks to use data and information shared on Instagram , which Facebook owns, to better target advertising.  Users called it a ploy to sell their content.  Systrom addressed that misunderstanding.

“You also had deep concerns about whether under our new terms, Instagram had any plans to sell your content,” he wrote. “I want to be really clear:  Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did.  We don’t own your photos — you do.”

Still, with the apology to quell a veritable user firestorm out of the way, the photo-sharing platform hinted that moving forward it may not be so transparent.  Systrom added that Instagram will no longer “obtain permission from you” when planning out its advertising, but instead “complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.”

Source: Instagram

Black Isle Crowdfunds New Game

Plenty of studios have asked their fans to fund a game’s development this year, but Interplay’s revamped Black Isle Studios is asking their fans to fund a prototype for its next game, Project V13. The studio today launched a fundraising campaign on its official site with a 30-day time limit and no specific funding goal.


“Our goal at this stage is threefold: 1) prove to management that you want Black Isle Studios resurrected – and all the history and tradition of excellence that goes with it; 2) to continue to staff up BIS and complete our PV13 game design; and 3) to develop a tech demo/proof of concept for our design that will open the doors to additional funding.”

Unlike Kickstarter, those who pledge money will have their credit cards charged immediately. As for what their money will buy, that would be access to special forums for the game’s backers (those are expected to launch in late January) and a certificate of recognition for their contribution.

Source: Black Isle Studios {link no longer active}

A Fitting Tribute To Infocom

This week D.I.C.E. Summit organizer AIAS announced the recipients of their annual Pioneer Award as Dave Lebling and Marc Blank, co-founders of legendary adventure game maker Infocom.  The pair met at MIT in the late 1970’s.  For early gamers who hark back to text-based adventure classics such as Zork and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game, what followed is history.

In perhaps one of the most fitting tributes ever in game journalism, WIRED’s Chris Kohler decided to pay homage to D.I.C.E.’s recognition of Lebling and Blank s by turning his opportunity to interview them into a text-based adventure.

Given the time of year, Kohler’s Pioneers: An Interactive Fiction is essentially a gift to gamers all over the world, especially the ones old enough to remember playing these types of games.  Regardless of whether someone’s played a text adventure before, it has to be experienced to appreciate how WIRED turnd an interview, one they say was exclusive and therefore would have likely drawn plenty of attention from the game industry, into an excercise in pushing the creative boundaries of how online outlets can cover games.

Kohler created his interactive adventure with Playfic, an online platform backed by a supportive community that is helping keep the text-based adventure genre alive.  It lets users play a variety of games from “indie” game makers – that could have meant have meant “independent” or “individual” back in the day.  The more experienced or dedicated can use Playfic’s tools and tutorials to create their own adventure.

AIAS will present Lebling and Blank with the Pioneer Award at the 16th annual D.I.C.E. Awards on February 7 at The Joint in the Hard Rock Resort in Las Vegas.  The awards ceremony is part of the 2013 D.I.C.E. Summit.


Facebook Halts Mobile Ad Network

Facebook only started testing its mobile ad network in September, but has already pulled the plug on it. All Things D reports not only has the social network paused its plans to place its ads in third-party mobile apps, but it has also halted talks with various publishers about putting Facebook ads on their mobile sites.


“We are pausing our mobile ads test off of Facebook,” a representative said. “While the results we have seen and the feedback from partners has been positive, our focus is on scaling ads in mobile news feed before ads off of Facebook. We have learned a lot from this test that will be useful in the future.”

The big hold-up is apparently concern that the ads wouldn’t provide a big enough return for Facebook or its partners to justify the endeavor. Considering ads on Facebook proper don’t command a premium, the rates for third-party sites would be unlikely to generate sufficient revenue. While other ad networks get around such concerns by guaranteeing a minimum amount of revenue for their partners, Facebook has been focusing instead of increasing the partners’ share of revenue derived from the ads.

A Facebook ad network has long been expected as part of the company’s plan to monetize its massive user base and the amount of personal information it collects on them. Recent reports have it in talks to purchase Microsoft’s Atlas ad technology platform to help realize that goal. Media intelligence platform Aggregate Knowledge has also been named as a potential acquisition for the social network.

Source: All Things D

DeNA Sees Huge Opportunities In Emerging Markets

DeNA’s U.S. subsidiary ngmoco is looking to shake up the mobile market in 2013 with a hardcore shooter called The Drowning, but the company isn’t pinning its hopes on North America alone. As digital becomes more and more prominent, it’s opening the doors to markets that used to be overrun with piracy. ngmoco boss Clive Downie sees emerging markets as the next frontier.

“Brazil has 50 million smartphone subscribers already, and it had year-on-year growth of about 35 percent. That’s huge. That’s in the top five, and Russsia’s in the top five too. Exciting times. And then you get into specific content for those markets. It’s something I’m very intrigued by,” he commented.

“Right now we think about genre, but in the future we can think about country and genre. Why not go after the minutes that exist in Brazil, or Russia Mobage’s doing that very successfully; we have Mobage China, Mobage Korea. We have very different offerings to our Chinese consumers and our Korean consumers and our North American consumers and our Japanese consumers. We’re already lined up well for that.”

Downie also talked about the impact that tablets will specifically have on consoles, especially as games on tablets start to rival the visual fidelity and gameplay quality of the consoles.

“I believe their market share will be eroded due to the opportunities that tablets can provide to more consumers all over the world,” Downie said. “I do believe there will always be a console market – my sense is it will become ultracore, almost like hobbyist, in the way that certain genres of entertainment or product become hobbyist over time as people have migrated to other things.”

Source: GamesIndustry International {link no longer active}