ESPN – Born Into It

For those not in the know, Manchester United and Manchester City are two of the biggest teams in professional soccer and have a cross-town rivalry akin to Chicago’s Cubs and White Sox. The fans of both teams are fervent in their support… and more alike than different, as illustrated by this video, featuring the song Beginning of The End by The Cockney Rejects.

{videos no longer active – marked as “private”}


Infernum Productions Sees Koch Media Investment

Koch Media has acquired a majority stake in Infernum Productions AG, makers of the popular Brick Force. This move will allow Infernum to expand in-house productions like Project: Theralon and license MMOs from foreign markets like Dragon’s Prophet.

“We see great opportunities for growth in the area of free-to-play online gaming,” said Koch Media CEO Klemens Kundratitz. “Through our strategic investment, we want to support Infernum on the way to becoming a leading provider in the free-to-play market, and to participate in the enormous business potential.”

“We are very happy to have Koch Media at our side now, a partner that is both experienced and visionary, and who will open up brand new opportunities for us with its distribution know-how, its international positioning, and its powerful brands,”added Infernum CEO Andreas Weidenhaupt. “This cooperation will enable us to take on an even more important role in our rapidly growing market.”

THQ Considers Alternative Operating System Releases

The THQ Humble Bundle saw over $5 million in sales and that has the publisher considering other ways to boost sales. In particular, THQ president Jason Rubin said that he got the message when it came to making Linux versions of the company’s various games.

“The message I took away from a large number of tweets and comments around the THQ Humble Bundle sale is that there are vibrant communities of gamers using other operating systems besides the dominant ones, and a company like THQ should not overlook them,” said Rubin. “Complicating the analysis (in a positive way), gamers have tweeted inventive ideas to me, such as letting the community help in the porting to bring down costs. THQ is committed to look at anything that makes sense. I’m sure we will have more to announce shortly.”

Rubin also announced that Saints Row: The Third had sold 5.5 million copies before the Humble Bundle promotion. More than 885,000 bundles were sold, and those who paid more than the average price ($5.76, by the promotion’s end) were given a copy of Saints Row: The Third.

Source: Polygon

Dead Space 3 Gets Kinect Voice Support

Electronic Arts announced that the Xbox 360 version of Dead Space 3 will have Kinect voice support. Usable in both single-player and co-op, commands include “Find partner”, “Fire stasis”, or “Attack Enemy”.

“The voice commands in Dead Space 3 give players a unique way to take down the terror, whether they choose to face the Necromorphs alone in single-player, or alongside a friend with drop-in / drop-out co-op,” said the game’s exec producer and Visceral VP Steve Papoutsis. “Dead Space 3 delivers the action-horror experience our fans have come to know and love. And with the ability to survive the adventure alone, with a friend, or with Kinect, we’re excited about extending the spine-tingling Dead Space experience to a whole new audience of players.”

MLG Sees Itself Competing With Other Global Sports Media Businesses

Sundance DiGiovanni, CEO of MLG, has seen eSports grow from an esoteric fringe activity into a global industry on the verge of mainstream popularity. In fact, the executive has other “real” sports in his crosshairs.

“We need to make it easier for people to find and become fans of eSports,” said DiGiovanni. “We currently have an amazing community and they live and breathe eSports, but in order for us to get to a point where we are truly realizing our potential we need to create more hooks. Hooks that appeal not only to the current audience, but hooks that will help us draw in new generations of fans. We want the next generation to grow up viewing eSports as a global phenomenon that is on the same level as the NFL, European Football, the NBA and other global sports media businesses.”

“If we continue to execute properly and more structure is introduced to the scene, I see eSports rivaling the UFC within 5 years. There’s no reason that we can’t rival even the NFL eventually, we just need to continue to evolve while growing our scene and focusing on sustainability,” he added.

Source: PC Gamer

Cliff Bleszinski Says New Studio Matter Of When, Not If

Former Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski retired from the company in October in order to take a break. Now, however, he’s eager to “work on something new and fresh and sort of redefine my legacy”.

“I had been working with [Epic] since I was 17-years-old. It’s time for a fresh start,” said Bleszinski. “I’ll start a new studio maybe at some point – it’s not a matter of ‘if’, it’s a matter of when and with who.”

“I started to get a little bit bored and then my phone started ringing a lot. I started meeting with a lot of people, a lot of developers and publishers… just to see what could possibly happen, of which I can tell you nothing right now,” he explained, noting Ubisoft was one of the more interested. “I felt like Liam Neeson in Taken. I called the number, talked to them, and we ended up meeting up and it was cool, but it was like the covert ops moment that was really amazing.”

Bleszinski noted that his goals will be to “pan for gold, while also having faith in the process” while remaining aware of the risks for ‘celebrity’-helmed studios. “I think when you look at Romero and when he did Ion Storm, I think it worked against him as much as for him,” Bleszinski said. “If you look at Curt Schilling and his studio [38 Studios]… You have to be careful when you have a certain amount of cult of personality. You can use it and leverage it to some extent, but you have to be careful not to believe your own crap, honestly.”

“And surrounding yourself with people who will question yourself at the right times… you don’t want to surround yourself with a lot of ‘yes men’ essentially,” he noted.

Source: G4

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!

Activision CEO Has Turned Down Call Of Duty Movie Opportunities

Many people have said that the Call of Duty franchise has turned into something like a blockbuster movie, a sometimes derisive accusation other times a point of fact. As it turns out, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick has fielded offers to make Call of Duty into a movie and has passed on several requests, mainly because he was worried that such a movie would “taint the brand.”

“He’s a very, very careful thinker about how value is created in the business,” said Bruce Hack, who was chief executive of Vivendi Games when it merged with Activision.

Source: New York Times

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}