Sega’s Ancient World Domination

Sega is ready to move into the fall gaming season with a heaping amount of historical force. The company is currently prepping its PC strategic simulation game Total War: Rome II for PC. The new trailer for the game focuses on Hannibal, Rome’s greatest enemy. He’s one of the most devastating minds in history, and the trailer really does a good job showing off just what he can do on the battlefield. Players will be able to think like he did, using their tactics to subdue their opponents and dominate the campaign map.

Total War: Rome II launches on September 3.  Find out more about Sega’s effort to make this the biggest Total War game yet in this exclusive [a]list daily interview.

‘In A World Of Permadeath’

The trailer campaign for The Bureau: XCOM Declassified has been a varied mix.  There are the live action trailers that look like they were pulled right out of a mid-century sci-fi flick, and star Lord of the Rings actor Dominic Monaghan. There are a good crop of how-to videos to show how 2K kept strategy game mechanics (and the difficulty) from the original XCOM games intact in this first-person version.

Then there’s the just-released #YOLO trailer, which highlights how with that blistering difficulty and resulting “permadeath” come perks, like playing a ruthless god with your AI squad mates.

‘Numero Uno Is The New #1’

Univision’s ad (click to enlarge)

Univision made television history in the U.S. last month by taking the number one spot in ratings for viewers aged 18-49, beating out the four majors. In a show of machismo, the Spanish-language network took out full page ads in LA Times, NY Times and Wall Street Journal to tout its accomplishment.

Ratings hawks have pointed out that July is traditionally among the slowest months in TV viewership. With audiences at a low, the major networks aren’t necessarily putting their best foot forward with programming.  Sports are a factor in TV ratings during the summer as well, when football and basketball are on hiatus.  They’re the two most popular sports in the U.S. and their audience is dominated by prime age adults, the same group that made up Univision’s ratings win.

In fact, sports could have played a more direct role in Univision’s victory.  The culprit — soccer.  Univision had exclusive rights among Spanish-language stations in the U.S. to cover the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which ran throughout July. Oddly enough, the U.S. won the tournament, and FOX aired the final where they beat Panama. Before soccer detractors pull out the “see we don’™t like it here” picket signs, the majority of the tournament aired on ESPN in the U.S. and therefore didn’t factor into any of the major networks’ ratings.

Activision Earnings Analyzed

Activision announced its earnings yesterday and mostly met expectations, with a few surprises. As Activision had warned, sales were somewhat below last year’s, but profits beat expectations handily, at least by generally accepted accounting practices (GAAP). Looking at GAAP results, Activision had $1.05 billion in revenue versus $1.075 billion in the same quarter last year, but net income was $324 million versus $185 million.

The non-GAAP numbers don’t look anywhere near as good. Activision’s non-GAAP revenue was $608 million, compared to revenue in the same quarter last year of $1.054 billion. Net income was $119 million, versus $300 million. What’s going on The difference, of course, was Diablo III. There’s just something about releasing new software, especially when it’s a long-awaited title. Blizzard does have some new titles in the works including the free-to-play online game Blizzard All-Stars (its offering in the hot multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) category) and its free-to-play tablet game Hearthstone, as well as a new content update for World of Warcraft, followed by Diablo III for Xbox 360 and PS3.

Morhaime also talked a bit about Blizzard’s Titan project. “I want to say a few words about our unannounced project, codename Titan,” Morhaime said. “We’re in the process of selecting a new direction for the project and re-envisioning what we want the game to be. And while we can’t talk about the details yet, it is unlikely to be a subscription-based MMORPG. I also want to reiterate that there has not been an official announced or projected release date.”

This statement is also a pretty clear indication that World of Warcraft will become a free-to-play game when it becomes expedient to make itso. Morhaime knows that’s inevitable, and that’s why Blizzard is testing and rolling out the ability to make in-game purchases of virtual goods. Once that’s in place game-wide, Blizzard can shift to a fully free-to-play game whenever it seems expedient. At a guess, that’s likely to happen next year sometime.

Activision is expecting a tough fight this holiday for Skylanders and Call of Duty. “We expect that marketing costs might well be up year-over-year,” said Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg. “That said, we do have extremely strong plans already in place. And I think we’ve shown best-in-class marketing efforts in our ability to make our launches into real cultural events and make them unignorable. And that’s what we plan on doing this year.”

As far as Skylanders goes, Activision will be fighting an aggressive ground war of retail shelf space against Disney Infinity. “Just when we thought we couldn’t get any bigger after last year’s retail presence, we’ve increased it by 25% again this year,” said Hirshberg. Of course, the Skylanders product line will be bigger than Disney’s lineup, especially if you include previous Skylanders releases and not just the latest one. Don’t underestimate the value of sheer square footage in retail stores for generating sales. The visual impact of Skylanders when you walk into a Toys R Us should be undeniable.

Activision looks set to finish out the year strongly, though the company is still expecting to end up below last year’s revenue. The outlook for 2014 depends in part on some factors beyond Activision’s control, in particular how well the PS4 and Xbox One sell. Activision Blizzard’s CEO Bobby Kotick expressed guarded optimism. “If you look back in history, what you’ve seen is that every new cycle has been larger than the prior cycle. I don’t know that we’ve had the same number of competing platforms or opportunities to deliver interactive entertainment,” said Kotick. “But I will say this, I think, that most manufacturers are delivering on the promise of excellent hardware. We have much more visibility today than we even did 3 months ago. And I think they both made great progress. I think they’re going to put more marketing money against the launches than ever before.”

More Collectibles For ‘Disney Infinity’

Disney Infinity is just weeks away from release, and the publisher is ramping up by offering a variety of power-ups to eager players in the form of power discs.  The game already features a portal and a variety of toys, much like Skylanders, and now these power discs will add even more variety to the game.

These discs fit underneath your character on the portal offered with Disney Infinity, offering players an array of boosts within the game.  These boosts include additional gadgets, customization elements or the ability to use “chase” figures who aid the player, like Dumbo the Elephant and Buzz’s Astro Blaster vehicle from Toy Story.

Other power disc items include Fix It Felix’s Repair Power, giving the character you’re playing with 20 percent more health, or Marlin’s Reef Texture Set that adds a “Finding Nemo” theme to the Toy Box terrain objects.

Power Discs come in “blind-buy” packs of two for $4.99 apiece, which means consumers won’t know exactly which boosts they’ll receive with their purchase. Over 20 will be introduced in the first wave with the game with more to come in the months ahead.

This looks like a clever way to add the collectability of Magic: The Gathering cards to a video game in order to boost the game’s desirability and its sales. Disney Infinity will release on August 18 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.

Twitter Hotel Takes Your Offline Online

If your idea of a vacation is disconnecting from all things electronic, escaping email inboxes and seeking the solace of remote living, the@SolWaveHouse is not somewhere you want to book this August.

The resort – which opened a year ago on the Magaluf Beach of Majorca, one of Spain’s Mediterranean Islands – has been dubbed the world’s first Twitter hotel, complete with Twitter-themed rooms decked out in blue and white decor to match the social network’s iconic color scheme. It’s a haven for users who wish to take their offline activities online with a lifestyle fully based around hashtags, @mentions and networking.

Visitors can check-in, find out about events, order room service and get exclusive deals using dedicated hashtags. Is your fridge empty? Simply tweet to the hotel using hashtag #FillMyFridge. The social media destination even has Twitter-themed parties and offers Twitter-themed drinks like the blue mojito.

The @SolWaveHouse claims to harness the power of social media’s immediacy as a way to enhance its overall hotel experience, and the real-time factor is completely utilized.

Guests can tweet each other by logging onto Twitter via a special web app available only through the hotel’s Wi-Fi. Once inside their hub, you can share pictures, send private messages, see who’s online, find out where other visitors are staying inside the hotel and send virtual kisses to flirt.

Sol Wave House’s social media director Marco Fantón told TIME, “He sees the community as a fun and interactive extension of what guests are already doing on their vacations — showing off their trip using social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.”

To see a full list of Sol Wave’s amenities, be sure to check out the hotel’s website.

Source: TIME

‘Assassin’s Creed’ Heroine In PlayStation Exclusive

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag just got a whole lot deadlier – on Sony consoles, anyway. Ubisoft has announced that Aveline, the heroine who stars in the PS Vita release Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, will be playable in the PlayStation 3/PlayStation 4 versions of Black Flag. She’ll be featured in about one hour of gameplay with three missions to complete. The content is being written by Jill Murray, who wrote Liberation‘s storyline.

Ubisoft stated that Aveline’s tale will “pick up a ways after her story in Liberation ends.”

“It’s a ways forward so Aveline is a bit older,” said lead writer Darby McDevitt. “It’s not directly related to the end of her story. If Assassin’s Creed IV is like a novel, Aveline’s missions are like a short story.”

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag will arrive on October 29 for PlayStation 3, as well as Xbox 360, Wii U and PC. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One editions of the game will arrive later in the year.

Tablets To Outsell PC’s By Next Year

Tablets are on the rise thanks in large part to Apple’s popular iPad models and Samsung’s Galaxy Tabs. In fact, they just might be in a position to overtake the PC market soon. The Next Web’s Emil Protalinski explained in a recent report that tablet sales have risen significantly over the past year, totaling 51.7 million shipped globally compared to 36.1 million from the year before. The same report also indicates that PC shipments reached 76 million units for the second quarter of this year, down 11 percent from previous numbers.

IDC provided its own estimates, stating that all tablet shipments are set to grow as high as 59 percent within the remainder of the calendar year, while PC sales could possibly decrease yet another 11 percent. If that’s the case, by this time in 2014, we could see tablet sales overtake the PC market with ease.

Game publishers are seeing tablets as the next major platform for games, and these numbers reinforce that idea. The game market on tablets will be getting plenty of action next year as the market continues to expand rapidly.

Source: TechCrunch


Ubisoft Going Big For Next Splinter Cell

Over the past few years Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell has easily grown into one of Ubisoft’s most popular game franchises, getting its start on the Xbox before essentially evolving into a fine stealth/action series. We haven’t seen anything new with the series since the release of the gritty Splinter Cell Conviction for Xbox 360 and PC back in 2010, but that all changes this month when a younger Sam Fisher makes his return in the long-awaited Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist.

To help prepare gamers for the follow-up, Ubisoft will be launching a massive marketing campaign that includes public events – where players can try out single player as well as the returning Spies vs. Mercenaries multiplayer mode, posters in Underground stations and a TV campaign with ads galore.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the biggest and most ambitious game in the series. It has been built with player choice at its core. So whether you’re looking for a true stealth game, or a more action-oriented experience, you can approach the game your way,” said Louise Marchant, brand manager for the game franchise. “Blacklist features unrivaled scope and variety for the series, but it’s also a great standalone title for fans of action games who haven’t tried Splinter Cell before.”

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist will be available on August 20 for PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii U.

‘EverQuest Next’ Debuts At SOE Live

Eager to see what the next chapter of the online MMO series EverQuest looks like You won’t have to wait long. This weekend, Sony Online Entertainment will be hosting an SOE Live event from Las Vegas, Nevada where the next game in the series, EverQuest Next, will be shown for the first time. The festivities kick off at 12 p.m. Pacific time this Friday, when SOE president John Smedley, director of development Dave Georgeson and other members of the development team will show off the game to an eager public.

Throughout the weekend, various EverQuest events will take place, including a first look at characters, the world itself, classes and so much more. You can view the full schedule here. Can’t make it out to Vegas? Don’t worry, SOE will be broadcasting live all weekend from the event on its Twitch channel.

EverQuest Next doesn’t have a release date yet, but is expected sometime in 2014 for PC.