Retail Game Sales Fall Again

Retail video game sales last month in the U.S. sank by 19 percent compared to July 2012, as has been widely expected. The anticipation for new consoles is strongly impacting hardware sales, to the extent that hardware sales dropped 34 percent from last year to total only $99.4 million for the month. Software sales alone dropped 19 percent, while accessories only fell 3 percent.

The only bright spot, such as it was, came with sales of Nintendo 3DS, the only platform to show growth over July of last year. The console was helped by the strong performance of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, which took the overall number five best-selling position among software titles for the period.

“July 2013 was another positive month for 3DS software sales, with strong double-digit growth in both units and dollars,” said NPD’s Liam Callahan. “Besides launches like Shin Megami Tensei IV, growth was driven by continued success from games that have launched over the past few months like Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.”

The top selling game overall for the month was NCAA Football 14, with Minecraft for the Xbox 360 in second place, and The Last of Us in third.

Source: NPD

New iOS App Guidelines

With an influx of kid-related and gambling programs making the round on Apple’s app store, many users have been wondering if there could be a loss of real-time money as a result. Fortunately, that’s not the case, as Apple recently revised its rules for both kinds of apps through a special update.

The following updates apply when it comes to gambling apps, according to the company:

“20.5 Apps that offer real money gaming (e.g. sports betting, poker, casino games, horse racing) must have necessary licensing and permissions in the locations where the App is used, must be restricted to those locations, and must be free on the App Store

20.6 Apps that use IAP to purchase credit or currency to use in conjunction with real money gaming will be rejected”

Meanwhile, when it comes to kids’ apps, these policies were put into effect to coincide with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA for short…

“17.3 Apps may ask for date of birth (or use other age-gating mechanisms) only for the purpose of complying with applicable children’s privacy statutes, but must include some useful functionality or entertainment value regardless of the user’s age

17.4 Apps that collect, transmit, or have the capability to share personal information (e.g. name, address, email, location, photos, videos, drawings, persistent identifiers, the ability to chat, or other personal data) from a minor must comply with applicable children’s privacy statutes.”

Also, all kid’s apps must now restrict behavioral advertising (which is defined as advertising shown that’s based on the user’s activities within an app), and all kid’s apps must explicitly ask for parental permission before the user can make in-app purchases. That last one will certainly affect those games that have sold in-game items to kids too young to understand they were spending money. Apple no doubt hopes to prevent such embarrassing incidents.

Source: TUAW

Xbox One Will Be Region Free

While some people enjoy ordering non-released import games for their game systems, they usually encounter region-locking. Some current-gen systems still have region-locking, including the Wii U and the Xbox 360. Thankfully, Microsoft is loosening up a bit with this next-generation of consoles.

The company announced that the Xbox One, its latest video game console, will in fact be region free, so those who wish to order the system outside of their market will find that it should work without limitations – unless they’re ordering online games and movies, that is.

“First – all games are WW signed. Not all 360 games are. Second – the console will work everywhere (keeping in mind power supplies),” said Microsoft’s Albert Penello, who handles Xbox One planning.

“You can use one of the 13 digital marketplaces corresponding to our launch markets, assuming you have a valid payment instrument for those countries. Lots of people in Europe specifically travel, move, and visit family.”

Penello suggested pre-paid cards could help avoid any problems. He also warned that certain licensed content, including music or video, and Netflix, would only work in certain countries.

Source: GamesIndustry International

‘Disney Infinity’ Gets Free Mobile App

With Disney Infinity now available in stores, the parent company is rolling out the advertising for the Skylanders-like action game. It’s launching a pair of new mobile apps to get players involved with its characters. An app called Disney Infinity: Action! is free and now available for download, and allows you to photograph characters from the game in real-life augmented reality scenarios. The second app, which ties into a Toy Box-like interface with the game, will launch later this year.

Disney Infinity reportedly cost the company more than $100 million in development costs for the game and toys, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. That cost excludes marketing expenses, which are expected to be high. In a meeting with analysts in February, Disney CEO Robert Iger said, “If Infinity does well, it bodes very well for the bottom line of this unit… If it doesn’t do well, the opposite will be the case.” If the game doesn’t do well, Disney may move to a licensing model for future game development, with only online and mobile content produced in-house.

Sony Partners With Viacom On Streaming TV

Sony has reached a deal with Viacom Inc., the media giant whose channels include MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, that could give Sony the jump on the streaming TV market. The companies are planning a pay-TV service that is likely to be streamed across Sony devices, which could very well include PlayStation 4 when it launches later this year.

This marks the first time a company has gone specifically after a pay-TV service, though it carries other streaming apps such as Netflix and Amazon, which are available on both PlayStation 3 and PS Vita now.

The parties made no comment, but more may be unveiled this week during the company’s press conference leading into Gamescom in Germany.

Source: Wall Street Journal

‘A Realm Reborn’ In Depth

To get players excited for  Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn game, coming to PlayStation 3 and PC later this month, Square Enix has released a new trailer featuring 13 minutes of gameplay footage and a small explanation of how to use the PC benchmark tool. It is in Japanese, but most of it is easy to understand – and the new footage is certainly a treat for the eyes.

Smartphones Now Dominate In Japan

According to a report from the Mobile Content Forum in Japan (as translated by Dr. Serkan Toto), the market for mobile gaming in that country brought in $5.1 billion in 2012. The Japanese market for mobile games has been largely based on feature phones, but smartphones are rapidly gaining market share.

Feature phones in Japan in 2012 brought in $2.4 billion, which mostly ($2 billion) from ‘social’ games distributed through networks like GREE or DeNA’s Mobage. About $410 million came from other mobile games not through those networks.

Smartphone games all told brought in $2.7 billion, showing over five-fold growth in the last year to surpass feature phone game revenue for the first time. Overall, mobile content in Japan (including games) generated $8.8 billion in 2012.

Source: Serkan Toto

Supercar Dream Collection For $80

Microsoft is building up some serious energy behind its next-gen racing game Forza Motorsport 5, which is set to be a launch title for the Xbox One later this year. Today, the company announced a pair of limited editions shipping around the system’s release, which racing fans won’t want to miss out on.

Both editions, the $79.99 Limited Edition and the $59.99 Day One Edition, will come with a VIP membership with special rewards, exclusive events and in-game player car badges from the Forza team, as well as a car pack that includes the 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C, the 1987 RUF CTR Yellowbird, the 1991 Mazda #55 787B, the 2011 Ford F150 SVT Raptor and the 2011 Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.

Those who invest in the Limited Edition will also get the 2011 Audi RS3 Sportback, 2012 Aston Martin Vanquish, 2013 Ford M Shelby Mustang GT500, 2013 McLaren P1 and 2013 SRT Viper GTS. The Day One car pack comes with the 2010 Audi TT RS Coupe, 2013 Ford Focus ST and 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera, all in Xbox One Day One-themed package.

Both editions are available for pre-order from retailers now. Forza Motorsport 5 will ship later this year for Xbox One.

Source: Polygon

Fashion Designer Michael Kors Launches Game

Though it’s not like the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, Michael Kors’ new Facebook app will have you making some interesting decisions anyway. It’s advertising that’s starting to feel more like a game.

The company launched a new app which shows video from the various fragrance and beauty collections, then lets you make decisions depending what you’re in the mood for – Sporty, Sexy or Glam.

In addition, the app encourages visitors to take pictures to share on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, along with shopping the collections and entering a sweepstakes for various prizes.

Source: Mashable

‘Skylanders’ Still Soaring

When Activision introduced the Skylanders franchise a couple of years ago, no one had any idea that it would grow into such a successful juggernaut. However, between game sales and the number of figures available, it’s become exactly that.

Activision Publishing announced that Skylanders figures have managed to outsell all other action-figure properties in both the U.S. and Europe as of June 2013. How popular is it, you say? The franchise has managed to generate more than $1.5 billion in worldwide sales.

“We began something very special with Skylanders, and the magic of bringing toys to life through a video game,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing. “But it’s not just about the game. We know the toys have to be just as creative and imaginative as the kids that play with them, and that’s why we’re so excited to bring even more innovations to this genre when Skylanders SWAP Force comes out in October.”

Even with Disney Infinity releasing this Sunday, Activision is primed and ready for battle with its latest Skylanders property.