Zynga CEO Named Among 2012’s Worst

Dartmouth business professor Sydney Finkelstein has named Zynga CEO Mark Pincus as one of the five worst CEOs. Also an dishonorable mention on the list was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for his company’s stumbles after the initial IPO.

“Mark Pincus, the CEO of Zynga, the mobile gaming company that brought the world Farmville, among other online distractions. Zynga stock is down 75 percent so far this year, and the company is losing top executive talent. Pincus has a fairly illustrious pedigree — he got a bachelor’s degree in economics from Wharton in 1988 and his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1993,” writes Louis Lavelle. “But Finkelstein says he’s made some rookie mistakes, including hitching his company’s wagon much too securely to Facebook, which Zynga relies on for a big chunk of revenue. And he hardly expressed confidence in the company’s prospects with his move to unload 16 million shares after the IPO lockup period ended. Joe Libonati, a spokesperson for Zynga, declined to comment.”

Source: BusinessWeek.com

PS3 Sells 30 Million In Europe

Sony announced that the PS3 has hit 30 million sales in Europe and other PAL territories. The system launched in Europe in March 2007, a few months after the U.S. and Japanese launch.

“This is a major milestone for us and clearly shows just how popular the PlayStation brand and products are within Europe and the PAL territories,” commented Jim Ryan, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. “We are really pleased with the success of the PS3 system over the last six years, and are committed to continuing our support of the platform with high quality products and titles that are of the caliber that PlayStation fans have come to expect.”

Kinect Therapy For Soldiers Being Tested

Microsoft is working with the United States Air Force on using the Kinect as part of a home therapy physical suite program for injured soldiers. Microsoft also is considering ways the Kinect can be used to connect post-traumatic stress disorder sufferers with group therapy sessions.

“Microsoft is committing R&D and marketing resources to ensure that the [Defense Department] community is aware of the capabilities of the product, as well as the breadth of our partner community, which includes the system integrators,” said Microsoft director of public sector solutions Phil West. “The targeted scenarios include therapy-related functions, but they also span training and simulation, interactive user interfaces, and so on.”

“They can use avatars, which allows anonymity, but also allows for representatives who are therapists or licensed psychiatrists to connect with them,” West added. “Therapists can say, ‘I know who you are because I have your case file. No one else in the room has to see in your face.’ It gives a way to engage and talk through problems while preserving anonymity.”

Source: Defense News  {link no longer active]

Samsung Drops Apple Product Injunction In Europe

Samsung revealed that it will drop its requests to have Apple products banned in the U.K., Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands. The company will continue to pursue litigation against Apple, however, and legal solutions are being pursued by both sides on a global scale.

“Samsung has decided to withdraw our injunction requests against Apple on the basis of our standard essential patents pending in European courts, in the interest of protecting consumer choice,” said Samsung in a statement. “We strongly believe it is better when companies compete fairly in the marketplace, rather than in court.”

Apple was recently denied a request to have certain Samsung devices banned from sale in the U.S.

Source: ITproportal.com

BioShock Infinite Will Have Reversible Cover

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the cover design for BioShock Infinite, which was basically decided upon for marketing reasons. However, Irrational is accommodating fans with a reversible cover for the game.

“But that’s not all. We want to hear your voice on what that cover should be,” posted Ken Levine. “To that end, we’ve arranged a poll below that lets you choose from several potential reversible covers. I’ve got my favorite, but I’m not telling which.  We’ve got to do this quickly to meet our print deadlines, so vote soon.”

“But what’s that you say? You want even more choice in covers? We’re also going to be arranging a whole mess of MORE alternate covers which will be available to download and print yourself,” he added. “Of course, these are free and we’d love to hear your thoughts in the forums {link no longer active} as to what you’d like to see.”

Find out more at IrrationalGames.com.

Monkey Island Creator Still Interested In IP

Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert has expressed interest in returning to the adventure game franchise. The Monkey Island franchise is currently owned by Disney, and if they’re going to do a game with a pirate IP it is more likely to be related to Pirates of the Caribbean.

“I would love to contact them at some point,” said Gilbert. “I haven’t done anything yet but I definitely want to. I would love to get the rights back to Monkey Island and be able to really make the game I want to make.”

Pirates of the Caribbean is a rip-off of Monkey Island which is a rip-off of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride [at Disneyland theme parks],” Gilbert noted. “So it’s hard for me to get too mad at Disney when I ripped them off originally.”

Source: Eurogamer.net

Must Tweet TV

Nielsen will factor social conversation from Twitter into its social TV analytics platform. The two companies said the joint venture will create a standard way to measure the social reach of TV shows and help better determine the size of their total audience.

Called the Nielsen Twitter TV Rating, the new ratings service will be part of SocialGuide, a social TV analytics platform that Nielsen and McKinsey & Co. acquired last month through their joint venture NM Incite {link no longer active}. Nielsen said incorporating Twitter makes Social Guide a comprehensive measure of social TV activity, since it can measure both the audience for a televised program and the residual audience exposed to social activity regarding it.

Steve Hasker, Nielsen’s president of global media products and advertiser solutions, said, “The Nielsen Twitter TV is a significant step forward for the industry, particularly as programmers develop increasingly captivating live TV and new second-screen experiences, and advertisers create integrated ad campaigns that combine paid and earned media.”

The service will be available in time for the start of the next TV season in fall 2013.

Source: Nielsen {link no longer active}

Here’s My (Anonymous) Number

Burner is an iOS app that allows for user anonymity when today it seems nearly impossible? Create a temporary telephone number for private or public use through an app. Exclusive to iOS, “Burner” is a privacy layer that can provide alias phone numbers to a user.

This number can be used for SMS or voice calls on both sending and receiving ends, and may be used as long as needed. Once the number is no longer needed or if necessity calls for a new number combination, the user may choose to “burn” it.

The app is seen best used for dating, job searches, short-term projects, craigslist transactions, and social networking, among many others. Burner is available on iTunes for $1.99 and comes with enough credits to create 1 mini-burner that will expire after 20 minutes of voice time and/or 60 text messages, or after 7 days, whichever comes first.

Exclusive: Ubisoft On Marketing The American Assassin

In part one of our interview with Tony Key, SVP of Sales and Marketing at Ubisoft, we discussed the marketing on Just Dance 4. In this second entry, we shift focus to the company’s other big annual franchise: Assassin’s Creed.

[a]list: Do you feel like one of the elements to longevity in the franchise is offering up an open world experience incomparable in most other annual franchises?

Tony Key: Open world is hard. It’s something, because it’s open, that can continuously be built upon. Between all the Assassin’s Creed games and what we’ve learned about open world games from that, all that expertise helps us realize what’s great in an open world experience. To keep Assassin’s Creed fresh takes an enormous amount of resources. We have to field a top-selling, high-quality game to annualize the brand and I feel one of the primary things that makes it’s appeal so broad is the open world part. There’s never one Assassin’s Creed game being developed at any one time; they’re working on several at the same time and that’s the key to success.

Having those familiar open world elements that you recognize and connect with in a new environment helps you engage with new character and new settling. Building upon your experiences, every one of Ezio’s games were bigger than the last. Now in Assassin’s Creed III it’s on a larger scale than Assassin’s Creed Revelations. Being able to build upon that is fundamental. We hope fans understand that it’s just going to become bigger and better every year… if we don’t do that we put the whole strategy at risk!

[a]list: Do you feel like the timing was right to expand the scope of the world, introducing the new character in Connor and having the new setting in colonial America?

Tony Key: That’s not necessarily true, when you’re going from Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood to Assassin’s Creed Revelations, you’re using the same character in a bigger world. When we created a new continent with Anvil Next, that was a major undertaking, so the amount of resources put into the game is not a gauge of size or quality of the game — it depends on where the game is and what the characters is.

[a]list: I’m sure there’s a conscious effort to avoid the release of the “off year” Assassin’s Creed titles. Without naming names, some franchises have done that and damaged or outright killed themselves because of it. Fans are smart — they recognize when a game is half-hearted effort.

Tony Key: You want to avoid the appearance of a glorified add-on pack and every publisher is guilty of that at one time or another in this day and age. But now, the bar has just gotten too high for that in AAA gaming.

That goes with the marketing too, by the way. The resources to do AAA marketing are bigger than they ever have been. So the top games are selling more and the other games don’t make back their money.

[a]list: Speaking of marketing for the game, was there any concern about introducing a new protagonist and go away from a popular and well known character in Ezio, who had become something of a de facto face of the franchise?

Tony Key: Ezio got pretty old. It was never our intention to focus on one assassin, it’s a plan to have a string of assassins so it’s logical to move to a new character. It happens to be another 200 years later, but the lineage goes horizontally and vertically – we want to explore in all directions. This time was Conner and next time, we’ll see. Ezio was a great character and the world he was in was so rich and was set during a transformative era. Whether that’s true for the American frontier, we’ll see. We’ve explored plenty of different assassins using trans-media. The brand will continue to expand.

I won’t deny that you won’t get a high up mucky-muck saying, “wow no Ezio or Altair in this game” but our executive prouder has a good idea of where the brand is going and we’ve bought into that vision. The way we’ve expanded, Assassin’s Creed III got to be two times bigger than Assassin’s Creed II. So the vision is working for us. Our team in Montreal is motivated, the consumers we’re clamoring for the new assassin and the New World setting gave the brand new vigor and it’s playing well out for us.

[a]list: Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation had a prominent, live action ad for its PS Vita bundle. Was there a feeling at Ubisoft that they could help “lead” on PS Vita with Liberation?

Tony Key: Those ads were made by Sony because they’re advertising the hardware bundle; they loved the game and the bundle is selling very well. It’s an exclusive title for the Vita and it’s something that we believe in. Liberation interacts with the PS3 version of Assassin’s Creed III and they saw it as a prominent selling point and it’s been leading on that platform.


[a]list: What can you tell me about the now award winning “Rise” spot and how that plays into the greater narrative for the game?

Tony Key: Well, that was a European thing and European award, that wasn’t something we technically used. I think the Assassin’s Creed III marketing campaign is raising eyebrows and I would hope that at the Game Marketing Summit that we’ll be recognized.

[a]list: Well, speaking about that, talk to me about the differences between the Assassin’s Creed III marketing in the U.S. and Europe and whether that was planned from the beginning or evolved as a response to fan reactions?

Tony Key: There were definite tonal differences between the ads for Assassin’s Creed 3 in Europe as opposed to America. Ultimately we’re just trying to tell our story that’s relevant to the audience. To people in Europe, you’ll get a different response than in America. Our idea is to act locally and make a relevant message for the consumer; we’re not trying to be mislead and are presenting a message that’s relevant to the audience. I don’t want to shove a Founding Fathers ad in the face of an Italian consumer and that’s the conclusion our Italian counterparts came to.

One of the things to realize is the American Revolution is not something that’s been explored extensively [in games], so there’s a difference between that and World War II. Without all those pop culture references, it gave us a clean slate to not to have to deal with perceptions of what it was. Our goal was to make it cool and part of pop culture. We made people think about a war that’s exploited in the media. Again, we did people see saying, “why is the marketing different here in Europe?” but we need to keep the message simple and relevant you can’t talk to every culture the same way, not in the way that makes them want to play the game. You have to consider a different message for a person in another country and it’s not unique to Ubisoft or even this industry.

Stay tuned for part 3!