Instagram Terms Of Service Roils Users

Instagram recently announces changes to their Terms of Use agreement, which will be effective January 16. While many expected more integration between Facebook and Instagram, (and indeed the ToU states that the information that users have shared on Instagram, about favorite places, bands, restaurants or hobbies will be used to target ads) but more eyebrow raising was a clause over the photos themselves.

“To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you,” stated the Instagram Terms of Use agreement.

The lack of any notification is disturbing to Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “Most states have laws that limit the use of a person’s “name or likeness” for commercial purposes without consent,” Rotenberg said. “The legal purpose is to allow people to obtain the commercial value of their images and endorsements, which is a big issue for celebrities and others, but also a reasonable concern for Facebook users whose images are used by Facebook to encourage friends to buy products and services.”

The terms also stated that underage users of Instagram are also essentially agreeing to the same rules and ads may not be labeled as such. “You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such,” the company wrote.

“Our updated privacy policy helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups,” said Instagram in a blog post. “This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used.”

The outrage over the clause was immediate and pushed Instagram to announce that they are taking out the language saying user photos can be used in ads. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom said the company is exploring other forms of advertising to make money.

“Our main goal is to avoid things likes advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience,” said Systrom.


A Care Bear For The Holidays

Ayzenberg has an iOS app that’s sure to help relieve any holiday-related stress.  It’s Punch A Holiday Bear for iPhone and iPad.

The name says it all.  The touch-enabled app is essentially an interactive toy — a big virtual teddy bear that you can beat the fluff out of by tapping on it.

“Just punch me, I am a holiday bear who loves you.  I am made out of stuffing and you can’t hurt me so just go ahead and whale on me in the comfort of your own phone,” says the Bear.

He means it.  He takes a licking and keeps on ticking, just like a tough old mall Santa.

Download it for free on iTunes. {link no longer active}

Valve Games Get Branded Headsets

Valve and Plantronics are rolling out branded headphones that come with virtual goods for popular Valve games.  The new line features game brands as well as visual ID drawn from within game universes, such as Aperture Laboratories from Portal 2 and Mann Co. from Team Fortress 2.  DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike are also part of the line, which includes Plantronics’ GameCom 780 and high-end GameCom Commander headsets.

In making the announcement, Plantronics said the deal will eventually extend to more products and “is the beginning of what is expected to be a long term relationship with Valve.”

The company said the partnership also includes joint marketing efforts through in-game promotions, online tournaments and social media programs aimed at Valve’s player communities.

Separately, Plantronics announced a new head of PR and analyst relations.  Genevieve Haldeman joins the company as VP of global communications.

Source: Plantronics

Rewind YouTube Style 2012

As a tribute to the hottest videos of the year, YouTube got some of their most recognizable stars to appear in this mash-up. In five years, this video will make no sense to anyone, but it certainly is fun now!


The Unmaking Of Carthage – Total War: Rome II Developer Diary

This developer diary by Creative Assembly looks at making Carthage a dynamic place to fight, a first look at the new tactical map, and combined naval and land battle features. The second video has Jack Lusted, Lead Unit Designer on Total War: Rome II, who goes into more detail on the battle of Carthage and discusses some questions that have emerged on the Total War forums.


Escape To An Island Of Happiness

{links shown in this article are no longer active}

Take a trip over to Coca-Cola’s Happiness Islands, a friendly little “sitelets archipelago” in the vast Internet ocean.

Each island leads to its own breezy diversion-like,, and The unassuming sitelets add a little happiness to your day, in support of the marketer’s broader brand promise.


Exclusive: Introducing Top Monthly Players In Mobile

As part of an exclusive series, games market research firm Newzoo and app analytics provider Distimo will be providing [a]list daily their monthly data on the top performing mobile game publishers and titles. For November, the firms have ranked the top ten for each category based on total iOS revenues. Their data is drawn from the nine biggest global markets when it comes to spending on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch games. In the coming months, the rankings will expand outside of iOS to include Google PlayStore revenues and use data from more than 40 countries.

For November 2012, Electronic Arts was the best performing publisher, scoring with eleven games in the top 200 grossing list, although with twelve fewer titles than last month. Their best performing game remains The Simpsons: Tapped Out, with Need For Speed Most Wanted now starting to contribute significantly.

Supercell remained the second top publisher in the month compared to October, with two games in the top four as their title Hay Day moved up. This inches them closer to EA as the number one iOS game publisher. Zynga slipped to number six, while Kabam moved into the top five. Powered by the force of Angry Birds Star Wars, Rovio blasted into the top ten with both iPhone/iPod Touch (SD) and iPad (HD) versions of the game.

Looking at top games for last month, Clash of Clans was the best performer in terms of revenues for the third month in a row. The highest new entries were Angry Birds Star Wars HD followed by the SD version, showing that the iPad version is pulling in higher revenues. If revenues of both versions are combined, Rovio’s newest hit franchise would be the number two top seller for November. Non-localized Japanese games continue to rise in the iOS charts as well, with Japanese iOS spending closing in on the U.S.

Providing insight on the data, Newzoo CEO Peter Warman said, “Witnessing the monthly dynamics in the mobile game space, I am specifically excited to see the extraordinary growth in Japan and China, confirming the fact that Asia is contributing most to Apple’s revenue growth. I also find it fascinating to see the free-to-play mid-core games, like Kingdoms of Camelot and Clash of Clans, continuing to rake in the money month after month, even when downloads drop significantly. Simply signs of a good game and a well-balanced business model.”

Warman added, “I cant wait to see the data for December as the Christmas season normally gives a 30-50 percent boost to mobile game spending.”

Newzoo has this month’s full top 20 publishers as well as top 20 mobile games on their site. {links no longer active}

Look for the top monthly players in mobile column to continue in mid-January.



SOE President On Why The MMO Future Is Free, Emergent

Since shifting its business over to free-to-play, Sony Online Entertainment has seen stats like DC Universe Online‘s daily revenue increase by 700 percent, EverQuest 2‘s registration numbers more than triple and EverQuest seeing registrations increase by 350 percent and daily logins double. It’s not surprising that the first SOE free-to-play title made from the ground up, Planetside 2, has seen 1.6 million registrants so far, 250,000 of which log in everyday.

“You have to play a lot of these games to figure that out,” Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley said. “Most of us play games non-stop, and most of the games I play now are free-to-play; Dota 2, League of Legends, our stuff. It’s sort of a gut feeling. I’d say it’s more of an art, not a science. Zynga likes to pretend it’s a science, but it’s more of an art.”

“There’s a great quote from The Matrix: ‘That’s the sound of inevitability.’ At some point, when there’s a business model that just works, it’s hard to fight it. Free-to-play is just too good of an idea,” Smedley added. “The idea is just so simple. It democratizes and capitalizes, makes true capitalism out of the MMO gaming space.”

Smedley also sees emergent gameplay as becoming fundamental to MMOs. “Our opinion is that today’s MMOs, and I’d include ours in that mix, are stagnant and stuck in this model that we frankly helped create with EverQuest, where we put new content in the game, and they go through it at an incredibly fast rate because of sites like Thottbot and that kind of stuff,” Smedley said. “We need to change the way we do this. We’re building a sandbox and giving players the tools to help shape the world that they’re in. That’s the direction we’re going we’re going in with EverQuest Next; trying to make a world that players create while being a living, breathing world around them. It’s not just a prop for them to walk around in, which is really what all of today’s MMOs are. Their worlds are nothing more than a movie set.”

The reinvention of the EverQuest franchise in EverQuest Next will heavily incorporate both emergent gameplay and free-to-play. “What we’re doing [with emergent gameplay] is so radically new that we’re not really talking about it,” Smedley said. “What I will say is that what we’re looking at is ways of making players part of the world itself. You’ll understand it when you see it. We’re almost at the point where we want to show the world.”