Microsoft Rolling Out ‘Big Sports Weekend’ On Xbox Live

Microsoft announced that it will be holding a “Big Sports Weekend” event for all Xbox Live members. This will grant access to a number of sports apps during until the end of Sunday, April 28.

The ESPN app will grant full coverage of the NFL draft, the MLB.TV app will offer over 50 free MLB games, and NHL GameCenter will offer highlights, recaps, and clips of the latest hockey action. NBA Game Time will have highlights and recaps of first round coverage of the NBA Playoffs throughout the weekend and the UFC app has seven fight stories for UFC 159 and the matchup of Jones vs. Sonnen for free (though the match itself will not be free).

Barry Sanders Wins Madden Cover Draft

The conclusion of this year’s Madden cover vote was recently covered on SportsNation on ESPN2. In the finale, Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders beat out current NFL MVP Adrian Peterson.

Sanders won by netting 58 percent of the more than 700,000 votes cast on the final matchup. There were 40 million votes tallied throughout the entire competition.

“Congrats to my guy Barry Sanders for winning the 2013 Madden Cover! Any other guy to take me down… it would’ve been a problem! Salute,” tweeted Peterson.

This year marks the 25th edition Madden, so EA wanted users to vote on both legends of the past and current players.  During the voting Sanders had victories over newly retired Ray Lewis and fellow Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.

This marks the second straight year with a Detroit Lion on the cover, after wide receiver Calvin Johnson won last year’s competition. Sanders previously appeared on the Madden NFL 2000 cover.


Xbox 360 Getting CW App

The CW has announced that it is launching an entertainment app for Xbox 360. This will allow users to stream full episodes of shows like Arrow, Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries the day after they air on network TV.

“In addition, The CW is taking advantage of the second-screen opportunities offered by Xbox SmartGlass to create a content-rich, interactive and integrated experience that will bring The Vampire Diaries to fans in an entirely new way,” notes the release. “As viewers tune into The CW app on Xbox this Friday for the latest episode titled ‘The Originals,’ they can access an exclusive Xbox SmartGlass experience that will provide exciting new content via their smartphone or tablet not available to any other viewers.”

Additionally, The CW announced that they are giving away two customized Xbox 360s based on The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural respectively. Find out more at and {links no longer active}.


Grim Reaper Comes For Death Inc. Developer

Ambient Studios has announced that it will be closing its doors. The company had been trying to raise money via a paid alpha for its game Death Inc. after missing its Kickstarter goals.

“Hi all. It’s time for a sad announcement: Ambient is shutting its doors. It’s been an amazing ride and we’ve produced some amazing products like Monster Meltdown and Death Inc,” reads the statement. “We’re super proud of what we achieved, but ultimately we didn’t manage to make enough money to keep the wolves from the door. And so we had to make the difficult decision that it is no longer feasible for Ambient to continue operating. Thank you so much for all your support and encouragement along the way, we’ve got no regrets and have loved every minute of it.”

“Obviously we cannot deliver on the commitments we made in the various Death Inc. alpha tiers. If you’re one of the alpha backers, don’t worry – we will be issuing full refunds so you will not be in any way out of pocket,” the company adds.

Source: {link no longer active}

Zynga COO Contextualizes Game Shut Downs

Zynga recently posted a profit for its 2012 fiscal year, helped by the closure of a number of the company’s less successful games. Zynga COO Dan Ko says that these moves also allow the company to put its best talent in the right places.

“It’s around making sure that we have our best resources and our best leaders on the right teams so that, in essence, we can have the best shot on goal. We’re not saying it’s always going to go in the net, but we are saying that we want to increase our odds and always make sure we have the best shot on goal,” said Ko. “What we’re recognizing is that to do that, you have to make some of these tough calls. While it’s always hard to shut down games that are in progress or games that are live, those calls are made so we can better position ourselves to win in the long term. We’re not playing for the short term right now.”

“In the last few quarters, you’ve seen that we can be more disciplined in how we think about our costs and our expenses,” he added. “I think we’ve shown that. We’re going to make hard decisions because we want to make sure we’re investing our resources and our money in the right areas to create games that we believe will be franchises.”

Source: VentureBeat

Electronic Arts Streamlines Marketing Team

Electronic Arts has announced that they will be streamlining their marketing team. In particular, the core marketing functions have been consolidated under COO Peter Moore.

“The combined group will bring together our Label marketing teams, Global Acquisition Marketing and Marketing Analytics into one multi-talented team under Todd Sitrin’s leadership,” wrote Electronic Arts executive chairman Larry Probst. “The development and marketing teams will continue to work as cohesive units, driving clear and consistent messaging and consumer engagement for each of our franchises.”

Source: TechCrunch

Saints Row 4 Commander In Chief Edition Revealed

Deep Silver has announced that they will be releasing a Commander in Chief Edition for everyone who pre-orders Saints Row 4. Prominent among the bonuses is an in-game Screaming Eagle Jet that “fires rockets out of its talons and can invoke the ‘Sonic Scream’ attack, leaving your enemies dazed, confused and likely scarred for life.”

Also included is a Uncle Sam costume as well as the ‘Merica Weapon, a ridiculous death-dealing machine “full of incredibly astonishing firepower: flamethrowers, ultra-powered dub step guns and rocket launchers.”

Order the Saints Row 4 Commander in Chief Edition today for $59.99 on console and $49.99 on PC before the game’s launch August 20.

PS4 Launch Lineup Strongest In PlayStation’s History, Says Mark Cerny

The PS4 launch will be a huge investment for Sony this year, but the system’s lead architect Mark Cerny thinks that it’s set up to do well. In fact, he asserts that it will launch with a stronger lineup than any PlayStation device previously launched.

“The launch lineup for PlayStation 4–though I unfortunately can’t give the title count–is going to be stronger than any prior PlayStation hardware,” said Cerny.

Cerny says that a key part of that software support is giving the system a simpler hardware architecture, noting that porting PC titles to PS4 will take weeks instead of months. “The biggest thing is we didn’t want the hardware to be a puzzle that programmers would be needing to solve in order to make quality titles,” Cerny explained.

Source: Gamasutra

Playfirst Says App Store Games Must Have ‘Strong, Cute, Compelling Characters’

Playfirst vice president of product management and marketing Becky Ann Hughes says that having recognizable characters is important to success on mobile platforms. A good example of this is the Angry Birds series, where the birds and pigs themselves make up much of the game’s charm.

“We did an analysis of the App Store a while ago and we looked at all the icons in the store, and most of the top games have strong, cute, compelling characters in the icon and screenshots, which really compels people to click and download the app,” said Hughes. “Having a brand and having recognizable characters is going to become more important than less important.”

“The character art in Clash of Clans has some real emotion, and Bookworm Heroes by PopCap is very character-driven,” she noted. “What we’re starting to find is the top apps in the App Store really do have some strong, character-driven brands. Even Candy Crush Saga has a story and a progression model, and it’s probably one of the most successful arcade games on the App Store right now,” said Hughes.

Playfirst is putting the lessons it learned into its latest title Deep Sea Deli for iOS. The game focuses heavily on the distinct character Narly the Narwhal.

“What we find is having those characters integrated into the core of the game mechanic is the first thing needed to be successful,” Hughes added. “The second thing is to make sure the characters are tied to the feedback mechanism in the game so they have some functional benefit to the game instead of just being tacked on.”

Source: Polygon