‘StarCraft II’ Out Of Next MLG Event

StarCraft II, Blizzard’s galactic real-time strategy sequel, has been a big hit on the professional gaming front for years. This year, however, Major League Gaming has no plans to revisit this universe.

Sundance DiGiovanni, chief of MLG, stated on Twitter, “Just so folks know – we are currently not planning to run SC2 at Cbus. Should that change we’ll let you know via official channels.”

“Folks who love (Starcraft II) have tons to watch. North American Star League is still there, (and the) WCS isn’t going anywhere,” DiGiovanni continued “(The game) just doesn’t fit into our Columbus plans.”

There’s no official word on why the decision was made, but it sounds like the game will still be part of the program…to some extent, anyway. Blizzard has made no statement on the matter so far.

Source: VentureBeat

A Boy And His Video

DDB has already taken part in a stirring ad campaign this year with the #FirstWorldProblems campaign, teaming up with WATERisLIFE to do so. Now, it has a more motivational story with its latest video, focusing on a 4-year old Maasai boy named Nkaitole who’s completing his “Kenya Bucket List”. It’s an emotional goal that game marketers might strive to reach.


PS3’s Music Visions

Q-Games, the company behind the amazing PixelJunk games on the PlayStation 3/PS Vita platforms, is working on a special new app, set for release early next week. You just need to make sure your music library is up to speed for it…

Called Visualizer, the app reads the library of music that’s on your hard drive, and then generates visuals automatically depending on what’s playing, using a handful of pre-set themes built into the app. The app arrives this Tuesday, August 13, for a discounted price of $2.99. However, that’s only being offered for a limited time, as it’ll go back up to $4.99 on August 27.


New Worlds, New Bosses For ‘Kingdom Hearts’

With Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix set to hit PlayStation 3 next month, the company has begun a major push for the title’s U.S. release. It all begins with this new trailer, which features new worlds for Sora, Goofy and Donald Duck to explore, as well as dangerous new foes that stand in their way. Final Fantasy VII fans won’t want to miss this, as Cloud Strife makes a brief appearance in the trailer.

HD 1.5 Remix includes Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories and cut-scenes from the Nintendo DS game 358/2 Days. The game releases on September 10.


Apple Launches Buyback Campaign In China

Following the death of a Chinese woman from electrocution using a faulty, possibly counterfeit iPhone charger, Apple has launched a new program that will help customers avoid a similar circumstance with their not-so-official equipment. Apple’s Chinese market has launched a “buy-back” initiative, where customers can take their fake chargers into locations and exchange it out for an officially compatible one straight from the company, for just ten dollars.

The program, which runs now through October 18, includes any iPhone, iPod or iPad chargers not made by Apple. Customers will also need to bring in their device with them, complete with serial number, to assure they’re getting the proper equipment at the time of sale.

No word yet if this program will launch in other markets.

Source: Quartz

YouTube Space L.A.

YouTube has managed to carve a niche in the online video business over the past few years, with hundreds of thousands of viewers sharing their two cents and some dedicated business partners, like Freddie Wong and Geek and Sundry, even creating some stellar channels in the process. Now, the company has launched a bold new initiative to help would-be digital pioneers – a creative space in Los Angeles.

YouTube Space L.A. is a 41,000 square foot facility where creators can visit to shoot, edit and screen their videos with other members of the online community. It’s a place where they can get together to discuss the aspects of production, trade business info and just plain get to know each other – which is quite a novel idea. Liam Collins, who heads up the space, explained that YouTube was looking for a place to gain great presence in L.A. years ago, and eventually settled on creating the kind of sound stage base – in a former helicopter factory, no less – to put it together.


‘Secrets Of Raetikon’ Revealed

If you own a Mac or PC, your gaming library is about to get a boost with a colorful new entry. Today, Broken Rules Games revealed a new teaser trailer for its latest project, Secrets of Raetikon. While it doesn’t include too much gameplay, it appears that it’ll focus on certain birds you’ll be able to fly through a lusciously designed world. You can watch the video and look for more information on the official Secrets of Raetikon website.


Instagram 4.1 Means Big Business

It has only been a little over a month since Instagram announced Video, stirring up competition for video app sensation Vine.  Now the Facebook owned company is rolling out another new feature for the app, Instagram 4.1. The update will allow users to upload pre-recorded clips from the smartphone’s gallery, a highly requested feature from marketers and filter-loving users. The revamped video-posting upgrade also expands the Video functionality to Android 4.0 (interestingly named Ice Cream Sandwich) owners – which since the launch of Video has been the Android community’s number-one request.

“Starting today you can upload videos from your phone’s media library and share those moments to Instagram regardless of when they were captured. Once you select the video clip you’d like to import, you can trim it down to the exact part you like best. We’ve also made it so that you can choose how you square-crop your clip so you can keep the action front and center,” said Instagram in its blog.

What does this mean for the platform? Well, aside from letting users post short clips from their past trips or vacations (#TBT will now be filled with Video content) and expanding its users with the Android update, the popular social network also opens the door to brands and marketers who wish to promote their products through professionally-recorded video ads. Prior to this change, this was only possible with images.

Yes, this means users might notice a growth in third-party advertisements in the near future, but this should not negatively impact user-engagement levels, seeing as many brands have already attracted major followings by promoting their products in creative ways. A prime example of this is Nike – the sports shoe brand turned lifestyle brand constantly manages to get a high number of comments and likes for its photos, even though the content is clearly centered on its products.

We’re also curious to see how detrimental of an effect this will be for Vine – who is already nine seconds shorter that Instagram with no option to include video content other than real-time happenings.

The popular social network also revealed that the latest Instagram app for iOS adds automatic straightening for photos through the new Straighten button.

To learn more about Instagram 4.1, check out the Instagram Help Center.

Instagram for iOS version 4.1 is currently available for download in Apple’s App Store and Instagram for Android version 4.1 is now available on Google Play {links no longer available}.

Source: Instagram

Activision Teases New ‘Call Of Duty’ Content

Activision has certainly been plentiful with its downloadable content for Call of Duty: Black Ops II, offering a variety of multiplayer maps, along with new areas to battle zombies. However, it could be saving the best for last, as it has just teased a new chapter called Origins, featuring four all-new heroes, as well as a very large robot that prepares to stomp on your player at the end. You can watch the clip below, and check back for more information soon.


‘Strife’ Coming For MOBA Players

Editor’s note: We are pleased to introduce veteran entertainment journalist John Gaudiosi as a new regular contributor to [a]list daily.

By John Gaudiosi

Independent game developer S2 Games currently operates the third most popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game in the world, Heroes of Newerth (HON). The Kalamazoo, Michigan-based studio has spent the past two years creating what it hopes will be the MOBA to change everything — Strife.

For those not familiar with the recently flooded crowd of MOBAs, big publishers like Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (which is launching Infinite Crisis this year and already has Guardians of Middle Earth), Deep Silver (Dead Island: Epidemic) and Zynga (Solstice Arena) are chasing Riot Games. There’s good reason. Riot’s League of Legends has more than 85 million players and is poised to make over $350 million this year, according to Newzoo video game analyst Peter Warman.

Strife screenshot (click to enlarge)

“When we launched Heroes of Newerth, there was really only one other commercial title in the space, League of Legends,”said Marc DeForest, CEO and co-founder of S2 Games. “Shortly thereafter we saw Valve throw their hat into the game with Dota 2. Looking at MOBAs popularity, seeing our play numbers rise, and seeing the massive success of League of Legends,  there are a lot of other people that looked at Defense of the Ancients (Dota) and wanted to get a piece of that pie. Right now, it appears to be a fairly crowded space because a lot of people are trying their hand at it.  I’m not exactly sure they know why they want to be in it, or understand why it is as successful as it is, except that they see the success of other people and they want to get a piece of that too.”

HON has over 15 million installs with 2.5 million active players around the world. One of the advantages S2 Games has with Strife is that they’ve already done this all before. Strife will be the first second generation MOBA to enter the market.

“We consider ourselves to be a pioneer of this genre as one of the first companies to work on a standalone commercial title in the genre,” said DeForest. “We’re going to be the first company that has already released a MOBA and has performed an analysis based upon the entire education process of making and operating Heroes of Newerth.”

Part of that education process was migrating from a pay-to-play business model, then adding a micro-transactions element to the mix, and finally switching to a free-to-play business model to stay competitive in the space.

“With Strife we’re taking a clean sheet design and taking all those lessons learned from HON and bringing a very seamless free-to-play experience to people that we feel we will be able to bring significant monetization for us,” said DeForest. “We make games to have people play them, but we also need to make money. We feel Strife will handle micro-transactions in a very unobtrusive manner and give the best experience to even those people who don’t want to spend a dime on the game.”

Strife screenshot (click to enlarge)

Unlike other MOBAs, Strife is built entirely around the idea of a collective, contributing community. Predicated on creating a more connected multiplayer experience that incentivizes cooperation, Strife streamlines communication between players with innovative, in-client social systems and rewards players for team collaboration, not simply placing highest on a leaderboard. It also employs design elements that instruct and inform, providing immediate feedback for genre newcomers and veterans alike.

S2 Games has also spent time developing a deep storyline for this game, as well as rich characters with backstories. But with all of this work on Strife, HON fans need not worry about that game being shut down. S2 Games will be supporting both MOBAs.

“We feel that both games are positioned in different places in the market,” said DeForest. “We consider HON to be a hardcore game. We’re okay with it having extremely high highs and at some points having extremely low lows. We understand that’s what that game is. When we set out to make Strife, we tried to achieve those same highs, but elevate the lows in a way in that doesn’t feel so punishing if you make a mistake. Through careful analysis and being students of the genre, students of making games, and having the experience of developing and operating HON, we feel that we found a really good middle ground to create a game that is extremely accessible, extremely approachable and yet has that replayability.”

Like it continues to do with HON, eSports, or electronic sports, will be part of the gameplan to introduce the global audience to Strife. Riot Games and Valve have both had success with using big cash prizes and a sports-like season schedule to grow the audiences of League of Legends and Dota 2. With HON Tour Season 2 expanding this year, Strife will also be part of the overall marketing push for the new MOBA.

Although there are a lot of MOBAs out there now, and many more coming into the fray, DeForest believes Strife has been designed to become the most popular game in the most popular genre in the world today. Those are high aspirations for a small studio competing against much bigger companies, but that confidence comes from experience. And the first hands-on with L received positive buzz from the hardcore PC gaming press at S2 Games first-ever press event in Sausalito last week.

About the Author

John Gaudiosi has spent the past 20+ years covering the $70 billion videogame industry for top international print, online and television outlets like The Washington Post, Wired, Playboy, AOL, IGN, Yahoo!, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today Weekend, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Maxim, CBS and NBC. John currently contributes to outlets like American Way Magazine, Geek Magazine, CNN, Reuters and Fortune, focusing on the convergence of Hollywood and games as well as the intersections of technology and the games business. He is a co-founder and Editor in Chief of GamerHub.tv video and editorial syndication, which syndicates editorial content through Tribune/McClatchy and video through Alloy Digital’s Digital Broadcasting Group (DBG).