Unity Gets More Social

The partnership of Facebook and Unity became official back in March, and we’re about ready to see the results of it through the release of a new SDK. With this SDK, greater integration with the Unity game engine will allow developers to port their games to the social site with ease, which, in turn, should draw a bigger audience of gamers to the site.

“We want game developers to be able to publish into a large population,” said Facebook Product Manager for Games, George Lee. He stated that Facebook has 260 million monthly active users that take part in games, with numbers growing significantly in demographics.

Developers will also have access to the Parse plug-in, which in turn will help them with infrastructure.

Source: Mashable

Nintendo Holiday Lineup

Nintendo was on a roll with news today, not only announcing the kid-friendly Nintendo 2DS handheld system, but also lowering the price on the Wii U bundle to $299.99. In addition, a special digital version of Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD pack will be released on September 20, allowing players to get their hands on the hit game two weeks before its physical release on October 4.

That’s not all. Nintendo also unveiled a number of release dates for upcoming Wii U games, including the following…

Wii Party U: October 25 with a bonus Wii Remote Plus controller

Super Mario 3D World: November 22

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze: December 6

Wii Fit U: Holiday 2013

Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games: Holiday 2013

Third-party titles for the Wii U this fall include Skylanders SWAP Force, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Just Dance 2014, and Watch_Dogs. That’s a pretty good line-up, especially for Nintendo fans. Expect the Wii U to leave a slightly better sales mark at $50 cheaper – and with Wind Waker HD, to boot.

Source: IGN

Facebook Mobile Ads Gain Share

Facebook has definitely begun bumping up the mobile ad campaigns on its site, and it appears that it’s paid off in more ways than one.

A report from eMarketer indicates that Facebook’s share of global mobile Internet ad revenues will reach a staggering 15.8 percent this year. That’s up 5.35 percent from 2012’s numbers, showing accelerated growth in the program.  eMarketer also noted that the overall mobile ad market will grow 89 percent in 2013, with a total of $16.65 billion racked up thus far.

Source: TechCrunch

Physical Reality Fails ‘Final Fantasy’

Fans of the Final Fantasy franchise have been waiting a good amount of time to check out the latest online chapter in the saga, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Unfortunately, due to server issues, they’re going to be waiting a little bit longer.

Several players who plunked down money for the digital edition of the game found it impossible to log in to their Square Enix accounts in order to play. As a result, the company has yanked the digital version, in an effort to get the servers going to full speed again. Apparently, the demand was rather high for the game – more than Square expected.

In a note on the game’s official Facebook page, Square Enix stated that the response to the game was “overwhelmingly positive,” resulting in “extremely long wait times.”

“As a temporary measure, we will halt sales of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn’s digital download products so we can accommodate all of those wishing to play,” said a Square Enix rep.

Server issues should be fixed within the next few days.

Source: Eurogamer

Second Year Itch: Striving To Make ‘Guild Wars 2’ Number One

Avis set a marketing standard 50 years ago for any product that finds itself with the distinction of being second best.  For the better part of these past 50 years, the company stuck to a single slogan, “We try harder,” as their answer to being the second largest car rental brand behind Hertz. Avis saw a turnaround in its business and became a profitable company in the years immediately following its new campaign, and even though it never caught Hertz it became a much closer competitor.  It wasn’t a slogan that changed its fortunes.  It was the perception it set for Avis and the service it provides.

Marketing strategy for a car rental brand seems like a world away from marketing games.  That is unless you factor in how more and more marketers working on MMO, free-to-play and other persistent games are looking to how traditional service-oriented brands have succeeded.  Therefore it wasn’t the least bit surprising to hear Avis’ philosophy come through when talking to Steve Fowler about Guild Wars 2.  Readers of [a]list daily might recognize Fowler as the author of the “Publisher 2.0″ series of articles looking at the changing face of marketing, where he argued how many digital games resemble a service {link no longer active} rather than a traditional product.  Fowler now heads up global marketing on Guild Wars 2 for ArenaNet.

“We understand that Guild Wars is not the current category leader but as number two, I think we remain humble and extremely persistent. We are striving towards building the most entertaining and fun virtual online word ever,” Fowler told us in our recent interview.  He later added, “We believe that selling games as a service is significantly different than selling games as products.  Our marketing team is more akin to how the marketers at HBO or Netflix operate than the way marketers of games like Halo or Call of Duty work.”

Guild Wars 2 “Year One” (click to zoom)

As it vies for number one, Guild Wars 2 is facing that behemoth World of Warcraft, a game so massively successful that even two years of steady subscriber churn hasn’t toppled it.  It’s a matter of time for the nearly nine year-old game.  In the meantime, by all accounts ArenaNet is trying harder, and it’s paying off.  The company recently announced that research from analyst firm DFC Intelligence shows that Guild Wars 2 is now the fastest selling MMO RPG in North America and Europe.  It’ll soon be nipping even closer at World of Warcraft’s heels as it pivots to China for growth, a market Blizzard entered more than four years ago.  Earlier this month ArenaNet revealed that it had struck up a relationship with KongZhong Corporation, a major digital services provider in China, to enter the market there.

The fastest-selling MMO announcement was the second time ArenaNet was able to trumpet Guild Wars 2 sales.  In January of this year, the company boasted that the game had sold 3 million units in the first four months after launch.  It did so on the back of a launch campaign centered on billing the game as a “revolutionary” alternative to other MMOs.  Heavily implied in that messaging was that Guild Wars 2 was the timely alternative to the dog-eared World of Worldcraft. ArenaNet enlisted Ayzenberg to work that messaging into an extensive campaign, much of it built on a complex acquisition model to drive digital conversion, while managing campaign dynamics in real-time with ArenaNet to balance performance. A memorable part of the effort from a consumer perspective was deploying the slogan “Our Time is Now” on a global scale at launch, with creative that showed game characters rising in battle juxtaposed against the mobilizing catchline.

ArenaNet even adopted the “revolutionary” message into its communications about how it was developing the game.  Shortly after launch, the game’s brand director Chris Lye described how while ArenaNet wanted provocative messaging aiming at “that combination of provoke, cause some debate,” the notion of being revolutionary went beyond a marketing line.

“The whole revolutionary notion, a lot of people have tried to say ‘yes our studio is revolutionary, or our game is revolutionary,’ we’ve demonstrated it time and time again when it matters,” Lye said at the time.

As Guild Wars 2 enters its second year, ArenaNet is treating the next phase of messaging and marketing very differently.  It’s going to be about striking a balance between paid and earned media, according to Fowler.  It’s also about targeting potential players based less on who they are and more on where they’re at in what ArenaNet labels the “consideration process.”

Fowler explained, “When we consider communication to gamers we think less about demographics or psychographics and more about the different phases of consideration our target audience might be in.  As an example we define seven stages of consideration that we build marketing communications against.  It is our goal that there be constant messaging against all seven segments at all times, with ramp-up or slowdown of pace against each, based on short term goals.”

“In addition, each of these different phases have unique attributes that determine where, when and how we place those messages.  For instance, if a consumer is aware of us, has done their evaluation of our game, and is considering us for purchase, we have better success with conversion in paid media than with owned or earned efforts.  Conversely, if the gamer has not yet made up his mind that they are ready to convert, we lean on owned and earned media efforts more than paid.”

At the same time, ArenaNet is of course continuing to rely on its player base to drive word of mouth and recruit new players by sharing their experience.  Fowler said in the next few months, players will start seeing both loyalty programs that help keep them playing as well as incentives for referrals to get them to go out and recruit.

One thing helping keep players on board and online in Guild Wars 2 is how ArenaNet picked its own path to how it would profit from the game.  Despite launching into the eye of the free-to-play storm last year, neither the developer nor publisher NC SOFT succumbed to the trend. They priced the game like a premium packaged title but once someone purchased it, it essentially behaved like a free-to-play game.  There are no monthly subscriptions to play, and players haven’t paid a penny for the consistent stream of new content ArenaNet has been putting out. But there is an in-game cash shop where they can spend real money.  The model seemed risky, considering ArenaNet’s plan has been to sustain this game for years to come.  Fowler explained why it’s succeeding and was the right choice for the game.

Guild Wars 2 “Gem Shop” (click to zoom)

“It is an extremely risky proposition to give a game that costs hundreds of millions of dollars [to develop] away for free,” he said.  “The business model choices a studio makes need to be supported by the game itself.  For example, forcing a micro-transaction model on a game that was built around subscription is extremely challenging.  I think we are fortunate to have a business model that supports the way Guild Wars 2 was designed.  In order for us to have success with a ‘buy-to-play’ product we need to deliver an extremely high quality game.  In addition, for us to sustain a service we need to be able to continue to generate revenue post sale without making our fans feel like they need to pay to play.”

All told, ArenaNet didn’t find success on marketing wizardry and business model alone. Sure, persistent games can mimic service-based products when it comes to some of the marketing fundamentals, where perception of the brand or how satisfied its customers are influence purchases.  But the purchase decision with games starts and ends with the product.  This is where Guild Wars 2 has delivered where others who’ve taken on the challenge of unseating World of Warcraft have fallen short.

“It is all about product quality,” Fowler told us. “Guild Wars 2 has an average Metacritic score of 90 percent.  This is truly amazing considering the scope of this game. But what is truly the icing on the cake is that we deliver all of this without a subscription.  Simply, the value of Guild Wars 2 cannot be matched.  It takes all of this together to reach the type of sales milestones we have hit.

Today is a year to the day from when Guild Wars 2 launched.  For ArenaNet, the war to win enough hearts and minds to become the number one MMO on the market seems to have just begun.  To mark the anniversary, ArenaNet president and co-founder Mike O’Brien has written a blog aimed at both his own studio and the player community at large.

“You may have heard it said that ‘building a successful MMO isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon,'” Mike writes. “I think that’s true — you have to adopt the long view — but sometimes the challenges after launch are so varied that it really feels more like a triathlon.”

Let The Siege Begin

The burning desire of World of Warcraft players to kill Garrosh Hellscream has been built up for years by Blizzard. Now with the upcoming Patch 5.4, players finally get their chance to vent their anger upon Garrosh in the Siege of Orgrimmar. The patch is going into open beta, with the release scheduled soon. In the meantime you can get a feeling for why players are looking forward to this challenging new raid in the video below.


Because Pro Hockey Needs Pro Fighting

In its latest video for the upcoming NHL 14, EA Sports revealed a new Enforcer system for the game, one that does away with the problematic first-person view from previous years in favor of a more realistic third-person view, where you can see every blow coming and defend yourself for a strong counter-attack. Hockey fans are sure to love this, especially if they can nail that one “perfect punch” to send their opponents reeling on the ice.

NHL 14 releases on September 10 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

{video link no longer active}

Mini Cooper Thrill Ride

As part of its “Not Normal” campaign, MINI Canada and Anomaly recently teamed up for a new ad for the Cooper S models. In the ad, three cars are transformed to look like a roller coaster, with the roof and rear seats removed and replaced with coaster carts, frames, LED’s, decals and more. The driver then barrels the cars down the streets of Toronto at around 110 miles per hour.

You can see the effects of the transformation below.

{video link marked “private”}

How Paradise Was Lost

Capcom launched its latest big-name sequel Lost Planet 3 this week. Developed by a new team this time around – Spark Unlimited – the third person action/adventure focuses more on story than the previous games, but still delivers plenty of action.

The game focuses on Jim Peyton, a Utility Rig pilot who finds himself torn between the alliances of his human crew and the devastating aliens that are invading the frozen space colony of E.D.N. III. It features plenty of action, including the ability to climb into a giant mech.

You can watch the launch trailer for the game below. Lost Planet 3 is available now for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

EA To Free Things Up

The free-to-play market has picked up quite a bit in games over the years, and now Electronic Arts wants its turn at the market.

Speaking with Engadget at Gamescom, EA COO Peter Moore explained that the company is looking to make free-to-play aspects available for every major franchise it has.

“The ability for you to be able to interact with those franchises on a free-to-play basis is going to be part-and-parcel with every major franchise we do now,” stated Moore.

He also stated the importance of online gaming. “We don’t ship a game at EA that is offline. It just doesn’t happen. And gamers either want to be connected so their stats and achievements reflect who they are, or you want the full multiplayer experience on top of that. We don’t deliver offline experiences anymore.

We’ll see how EA shifts into the next-gen market when its first run of games for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One ship this fall.

Source: GamesIndustry International