Social Casino Game Funded At Bee Cave Games

Bee Cave Games has secured $1.4 million in seed-funding in order to develop Blackjack Casino. The team’s core is made up of three veterans from Zynga Austin, having worked on titles like Mafia Wars and Texas Hold-em Poker in addition to EA’s Madden NFL franchise and Blizzard’s Diablo series.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with such a talented and passionate team, as we begin to deliver on our vision of entertaining the world with the best casino games of all genres, on all platforms,” said Bee Cave CEO Erik Bethke.

Exclusive: Past, Present And Future Of The ECA

By David Radd

Those who follow the video game industry are no doubt familiar with the Entertainment Software Association or ESA. Responsible for maintaining the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and running the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the ESA is also at the forefront of efforts to combat piracy. To many in the general public, they are the face of the gaming industry’s fight against censorship and direct regulation by the government, but they are not the only trade association to do so.

Hal Halpin

ESA is specifically designed to support the top publishers of the video game world, similar to how the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) is designed to support retailers that legally sell and rent video games, movies, and music. Hal Halpin, former president of the organization preceding the EMA, recognized that there was an important part of the loop for the gaming industry that was not being represented: the consumer. Thus, he led the efforts to found the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) designed to protect the rights of consumers against anti-games legislation.

Given Halpin’s background, he’s familiar with the concerns of other entertainment industries, like movies and television. It is important for that the fight for gaming’s rights be put in the context of other creative media which have been persecuted to a greater or lesser degree in their own time. Halpin noted that using examples of the past is important as part of the ongoing discussion with legislators.

“All media – books, comic books, movies, music and video games – have had periods when they have been the prime target for censorship,” said Halpin. “We discuss all media, as we set video games in context.”

Congress is, on the whole, more likely to be over 65 than the general population, and as a byproduct of that advanced age average, they are more than likely unfamiliar with games as a whole. There’s a common misconception that video games are specifically for kids, while studies show that the average game consumer is over the age of 30. It’s small statistical tidbits like this that are part of a campaign of information the ECA runs with legislators to fight back against unfair or untrue stereotypes about games and gamers as a whole.

“We have worked with legislators on all levels of government. Today we are on Capitol Hill in DC, talking to people and discussing the issues,” said Halpin before noting, “The ESA has been wonderful in supplying statistics for community use.”

The discussion about video games is one that time seems to favor. In past instances where an entertainment media comes under scrutiny, it eventually becomes accepted as the generation that grew up with said medium (comics, movies, television) knows that it won’t irreparably harm the psyches of young people the way some sensationalists said during their childhood. Even after the victory of gaming industry in the recent Supreme Court case, Halpin indicates it is no less important to continue dialog with legislators. Indeed, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

“Like in the general population, some are supportive, some are uncertain, and some are opposed,” said Halpin. “It’s our job in part to support the supporters’ stances, and work with those that are uncertain or opposed to show them the facts in these issues.”

Times definitely change, and we are able to change the views of some legislators,” he added. “However, even after the seminal Brown v EMA Supreme Court case, our work continues in discussing the issues with legislators and their staffs, and showing them the fallacy of certain incorrect perceptions.”

The best demonstration of the vigilance gamers and the gaming industry must have is the response some had to the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. There were calls for more studies into the effects of violent games on youth, the head of the NRA outright blamed video games for the shooting and Leland Yee, the California politician who authored the anti-game legislation in California that was ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court said, “Gamers have just got to quiet down. Gamers have no credibility in this argument.”

Hal Halpin has no plans to “quiet down.”

We will run campaigns, have our members and the general public speak out on their own behalf, do trainings so that they will be able to speak face to face with legislators, facilitate those meetings, make our own statements on behalf of our members, and have meetings with legislators and their staffs on behalf of, and with, some of our members,” asserted Halpin.

Super Bowl Kickoff Return Results In Free Furniture

Jacoby Jones of the Baltimore Ravens set an NFL postseason record with a 108-yard kickoff return against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on Sunday night. This had implications for Gardiners Furniture or Baltimore, which promised refunds for customers who bought furniture from the store between Thursday and 3 p.m. Sunday if the Ravens returned a kick for a touchdown.

“That was amazing!” posted the store shortly after the Jones touchdown. “Furniture is FREE! If you made a purchase this weekend, it’s your lucky day. Go Ravens!”

Gardiners advertising and marketing manager Kasee Lehrl indicated that the store had an insurance policy to cover the marketing gimmick and will be giving out $600,000 of free furniture.


Moonbot Goes To Kickstarter For The Golem

Moonbot Studios have announced a 50-day Kickstarter campaign for The Golem. The developers created the Diggs Nightcrawler book for Sony’s Wonderbook platform and also made an Academy Award winning short The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

The Golem is an original take on the Jewish folktale, where an artificially made creature must explore the world to find his own soul while defending Prague against the Papal armies. Moonbot hopes to release The Golem in 2015 for PC.


Ouya Launches At Retail In June

Ouya has revealed that their titular console will be available at retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, Target and GameStop in June. The console is available for pre-order for $99.99 and will include a controller, with additional controllers on sale for $49.99 each.

“We want to support Ouya as best we can, both online and in physical retail, making sure there’s visibility for the product, to see content and demo the box,” said Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman. “Those are all conversations we’re having with retailers. Retail partners of this size don’t just jump into business with every company that has something to sell. We’re providing something that has responded so well to gamers and developers.”

“This announcement…is that we now have more than just dreamers behind us, we have established companies that do their due diligence that believe there’s an opportunity for bringing great content back to the television,” she added.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Sony Computer Entertainment America Hires New Ad Agency

Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) announced that it will be working with Bartle, Bogle, Hegarty (BBH) New York with it’s ad creative going forward. This means the company will be moving on from Deutsch, which provided memorable ads such as the Kevin Butler series after being brought on soon after the launch of the PS3.

“All of the participating agencies, 180LA, Anomaly, BBH New York and Deutsch presented outstanding ideas during the process. But after careful consideration, BBH New York is the best partner for our business,” said Guy Longworth, SVP, PlayStation Brand Marketing at SCEA. “Deutsch has been an incredible partner for PlayStation over the last six years, and has delivered stand-out creative and strategy for the PlayStation brand in the U.S. We would like to thank them for their dedicated service to our business.”


The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Announced

CD Projekt Red has announced that they are working on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, confirming rumors that the game was the next big title to be coming from the Polish developer. The company says this will be their final Witcher game and will combine “CD Projekt Red’s trademark decision-based storytelling flair with a living open world larger than any other in modern RPG history.”

“The captivating and non-linear story of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt takes place in a rich, truly open-world environment,” said Adam Badowski, head of the studio. “A world which is thrilling to explore, full of daring adventures, momentous quests, memorable characters, and unique monsters. Players will freely travel through woods, lakes, mountains, cities and villages. Each region is inhabited by distinct populations with their own customs, legends and problems.  The world of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is 30 times bigger than The Witcher 2.”

“Imagine playing a dark fantasy game with the same great non-linear story as in the previous Witcher titles, but now told in a world you can explore freely with no artificial boundaries. The war-ravaged world is so huge that to reach farther places you will need to ride a horse or sail a boat to get there. A world where your choices have truly epic consequences,” adds Badowski. “From the development side, this goal is extremely demanding. Our team had to make significant design changes and our tech had to be rebuilt. But we believe that this will lead to a completely new level of non-linearity and a whole new, richer gaming experience. As a gamer, I would love to play this kind of RPG, and I think this is what many players are waiting for. This is our dream come true at CD Projekt Red, and we hope it will be the same for you!” {video listed as “private”}

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will be an open world game built using the REDengine 4. It is planned for a 2014 release on “all high-end platforms.”

“People may ask if this is really going to be the last Witcher game. Yes, it is. Why? Because we believe that we should end the series on a high note. Technology has progressed to where we can finally tell the story the way we want, with the visuals we want, in the world we imagined. This will be the ultimate fantasy RPG experience, and while we’re hardly out of stories to tell, we believe it’s time for us to look to new worlds and new horizons to keep pushing the boundaries of what we can create,” Badowski continued. “For all of those who have never experienced the adventures of Geralt before, this will be their last chance. The game will be accessible all players–those who are fans of the series and those who just love RPGs–thanks to availability on all major high-end platforms and an introduction designed to smoothly introduce all those who visit the world of the Witcher for the first time.”


J.J. Abrams Working With Valve On A Movie

During the keynote for the 2013 DICE Summit, Valve president and co-founder Gabe Newell and Bad Robot Productions president and founder J.J. Abrams together delivered a presentation called “Storytelling Across Platforms: Who Benefits Most, the Audience or the Player?” The keynote demonstrated that both had mutual respect for their work in their own respective fields.

Most intriguingly Abrams announced he and Valve are working together to create either a Portal movie or a Half-Life movie. The prolific producer has a lot on his hands right now, with Star Trek Into Darkness coming out May 2013 and a Star Wars movie to concern himself with after that.