Disney Shuts Down Junction Point

Reports of the closing of Junction Point were confirmed recently by Disney. The developer had appeared to be on hiatus since the release of Epic Mickey 2 in November 2012.

“It was with much sadness that we informed our teams today of changes to our Games organization, which include the closure of Junction Point Studios,” said Disney in a statement. “These changes are part of our ongoing effort to address the fast-evolving gaming platforms and marketplace and to align resources against our key priorities. We’re extremely grateful to Warren Spector and the Junction Point team for their creative contributions to Disney with Disney Epic Mickey and Disney Epic Mickey 2.”

The release of Epic Mickey 2, which is reported to have sold less than half of its predecessor despite releasing on numerous systems, sealed the fate of the studio. While the series had a mixed critical reception, Warren Spector looks back fondly with what his team had done.

“Whatever you think of me, or Junction Point, or Disney or the Disney Epic Mickey games – yes, I know we polarized people! – I’ll always look back on the last eight years with nothing but pride,” wrote Spector. “Rarely have I worked with a team more dedicated or harder working. Never have I been part of a game – of anything, really – that touched people at as deep or personal a level as the Epic Mickey games. That’s priceless.”

“I said to myself as Junction Point embarked on the Epic Mickey journey that, worst case, we’d be ‘a footnote in Disney history.’ Looking back on it, I think we did far better than that,” he added. “With Mickey Mouse as our hero, we introduced a mainstream audience to some cool ‘core game’ concepts . . . and, most especially, we restored Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to a place of prominence.”

“I’ll always be grateful to Disney for that opportunity, to the folks who helped out along the way in Glendale, on the studio lot in Burbank, at the parks in Anaheim and Orlando and Paris, at Disney offices around the world and at Pixar. (You know who you are!) I’m grateful to the Disney fans, bloggers and historians who embraced me, the team and our work – that was huge. And, most especially, I’ll always be grateful to the folks — the family — at Junction Point who did all the real work. I’ll see all of you in the future!” Spector concluded.

Source: Facebook.com

GameStop Says Its Digital Sales Expand The Market

GameStop director of digital content Brad Schliesser asserts that fully half of the customers who purchased digitally distributed games and add-ons from the retailer were buying downloadable content for the first time. This audience is comprised of individuals who lack credit cards or are uneasy using their credit card online.

“I always believed if all we did was take customers who were shopping at the Microsoft storefront or the PlayStation storefront and make them our customers, that doesn’t benefit the whole,” Schliesser said. “If we were going to be a significant player in the content market, we had to widen the pie.”

Schliesser said Xbox 360 digital goods account for two-thirds of GameStop’s DLC revenue. Second place is the PS3, which takes up roughly 30 percent, while the remaining sales is split between other platforms, including Steam.

Source: Gamasutra

MLG Might Develop Its Own FPS

Major League Gaming has been growing rapidly over the past couple of years, built using the most popular multiplayer titles in the world. MLG CEO Sundance DiGiovanni thinks that this experience working with various publishers will help the company when and if it decides to make its own competitive shooter title.

“One day we will,” he said. “We’ve had people approach us about it. Right now we want to focus on partners with games like PlanetSide 2 and help them broaden out and take advantage of what we’ve built. But we can also take advantage of their understanding of the game mechanics. We’ve done this with folks at Bungie, with folks at Activision, we’ve done it with lots of studios. We’ve done that enough times to have the understanding to take to our own title, eventually.”

DiGiovanni seems inclined to make a simple, fast shooter like Quake for MLG. “It’s like basketball: score, score, score, score, where a lot of games we have are really drawn out,” he detailed. “Which is also fun, but I like those quick engagements and being able to have those things exist in our universe. There’s nothing out there right now that does it. A few things that are close.”

Source: Penny Arcade Report

Grasshopper Manufacture Acquired By GungHo

GungHo Online Entertainment has acquired Grasshopper Manufacture. The MMO publisher also has the studios Game Arts, Gravity Co and Acquire under its belt.

“We believe the strength of a publisher lies in its creative talent so with the addition of Grasshopper Manufacture and Suda 51 we are adding some of the most innovative talent in today’s gaming world to our stellar family of independently-operated studios,” said Gungho CEO Kazuki Morishita. “Suda 51 projects are known to put a unique spin on every game so coupled with our proven ability to support development with triple-A resources including a tailored online experience, we believe gamers will benefit from this collaboration.”

“By joining GungHo Online Entertainment, we are aligning ourselves with a strong, established publishing force that will support our vision to further create inspired new games that appeal players across the world,” said Grasshopper’s Goichi Suda. “The Grasshopper team and I have many new ideas to share with our fans as we move forward so this union with GOE will help us realise our future plans.”

Ubisoft Montreal CEO Talks Picking Up THQ Montreal

Ubisoft recently picked up THQ Montreal, extending the company’s reach into Canada even more. This has made the job of Ubisoft Montreal CEO and head of Ubisoft Canada Yannis Mallat a little bit more complicated, though in a good way.

“This acquisition means that we are welcoming 170 experienced and talented game makers who will join our creative forces at the Ubisoft family. This is absolutely great news and we are thrilled to welcome those guys,” said Mallat. “I think that over the past few years we have said over and over again we have said that our strategy was all about gathering the best talent, giving those guys the freedom and the environment to express what they have to what they want in order to make great games. We have ambitious plans in terms of growth for our Montreal studio and this is a very welcome addition, so it’s been a pretty tough couple of weeks and months for the THQ creative forces. That time is over. We are welcoming those guys and we are looking forward to working with those people to make the best games in the world for our players.”

“It’s all about talent,” he added. “I think that both good talent combined with the projects that are going on here at THQ are a perfect strategic fit with what we are doing. So again, we are very happy with this acquisition.”

There is, of course, no plans for what exactly many of these employees will be doing — some were involved with projects that are now owned by other publishers. It is planned for the studio to stay in the same location, however

“I think it is fair to say that as with any other industry this is an industry that is maturing and here and there in the development phase of this industry you have times of concentration,” Mallat noted. “Consolidation is happening. We’re probably entering into a phase where more resources, more means, are required to make the big games that the players demand and I think it is normal to say that more consolidation is going to happen. What is very important is that players need quality games and as long as we have talent together to make those games, everyone is going to be happy.”

There is also the matter of Patrice Desilets, who helped create the Assassin’s Creed franchise and relocated to THQ somewhat acrimoniously. When asked about the former creative director at THQ Montreal, Mallat said, “As a matter of fact, I’ve known Patrice for a while. He and I were involved in the making of some great Ubisoft games: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time back in the day in 2002 and 2003 and then together with some core teams we created the Assassin’s Creed franchise. I’ve known Patrice for 13 years and I know him very well, he’s a great talent and I respect him as a creator. We’re very happy to look forward to working with him again. As a matter of fact, he’s actually in France right now because he’s giving a speech at a University. He’s coming back tonight and I’m having dinner with him tonight.”

Source: Business.FinancialPost.com

Splinter Cell Blacklist Collector’s Edition Has An RC Aircraft

Ubisoft announced that there will be a Splinter Cell Blacklist Collector’s Edition. The package will retail for $169.99 when the game releases August 20, 2013.

Included in the Collector’s Edition is the ‘Billionaire’s Yacht’ co-op map and the ‘Upper Echelon’ DLC Pack which includes both the ‘Dead Coast’ co-op and ‘Gold Sonar Goggles’ with the ‘Upper Echelon Suit’. Also included will be a Splinter Cell Echoes graphic novel prequel, a limited edition poster and the highlight of the whole package: a Paladin airplane remote control replica, which Ubisoft says is a $150 value by itself.

City Of Steam Being Published By Reality Squared Games

Mechanist Games announced it will partner with Reality Squared Games to publish an English version of the browser MMORPG City of Steam. Described as a game designed to compete with client-based MMOs, it was developed using the Unity 3D engine and is projected for a beta release later this year.

“It’s going be a challenge, sure, but I see a lot of potential in City of Steam,” says Jared Psigoda, CEO of Reality Squared Games. “Mechanist Games’ approach to making a game is something we’re thrilled to be a part of. We want to make sure City of Steam gets the recognition it deserves for being the innovative game that it is.”

City of Steam is a game founded on community values, market-facing ears, player ideas and input. This is where our development focus needs to be, especially as the momentum snowballs toward release,” adds David Lindsay, CEO and Creative Lead of Mechanist Games. “A partnership with R2Games gives us that extra boost needed to make City of Steam‘s great release, an amazing one. We share a vision that this game can be the very best browser-based MMO out there.”

Facebook Draws The Line At Vine

Shortly after Twitter announced that it acquired Vine, bringing looping videos to tweets, Facebook said it will block users’ ability to search and find friends via the app. Facebook doesn’t specifically spell out Vine in the developer update that affected the change. But it’s hard to read the amendment as anything but a response to Twitter doing the same to Instagram after Facebook picked it up.

In a post about the change, Facebook’s developer blog justified it this way, “You may not use Facebook Platform to promote, or to export user data to, a product or service that replicates a core Facebook product or service without our permission.”

Basically, Facebook isn’t going to see a return on sharing its data with Vine, so why do it even if it makes the video app more difficult to use (and can’t look good for the social platform). Now, users will have to manually seek out friends who are using the app. Regardless, Vine has been getting widespread press and trending positively on Twitter for several days.

It’s worth noting that even though Facebook is not allowing the app to access its data, users will still be able to share their Vine videos on Facebook.

Source: AllThingsD

Columbia: A Modern Day Icarus?

In one of the better marketing videos we’ve seen this year, this “Truth From Legend” segment looks at Columbia from historical perspective, examining the floating city as a documentary from the 1970s might. Alistar Bloom looks at artifacts (actually items available in the collector’s edition of the game) in an attempt to answer lingering questions about Columbia.

Aliens: Colonial Marines — Time To Kick Ass

There are two mindsets when it comes to the Aliens franchise: it should either be about heavy tension in a claustrophobic environment, like the first movie, or be about attempting to fight xenomorphs with futuristic military hardware, like the second movie. Aliens: Colonial Marines definitely subscribes to the latter philosophy, as clearly described in this trailer.