Wii Discontinued In Europe

In conjunction with our previous news story on Nintendo of Japan discontinuing the best-selling Wii game console, it appears that Nintendo of Europe is following suit.

The company confirmed this week that the motion-based game console, which sold over 100 million units in its lifespan, has been discontinued.

“Wii imports to Europe have been discontinued,” confirmed a Nintendo rep, speaking with MCV. “However, there are still a variety of options for consumers to enjoy Wii games and the Wii gameplay experience. Wii U, which is Nintendo’s latest home console, is backwards compatible with nearly all existing Wii games and accessories…when you switch to Wii Mode on Wii U.”

However, the production shutdown will not affect the Wii Mini model, which is a smaller system for $99.99 only available in Canada right now, according to Nintendo. The Wii Mini has no Internet connectivity, download capability, SD card capability or backwards compatibility with the GameCube.

Meanwhile, the decision on the U.S. market still stands, as Nintendo of America will continue to stock the Wii throughout the holidays. It’s a not unreasonable speculation that the Wii may cease to be available in the U.S. in the near future, once inventory runs out. The Wii Mini may be tapped to replace the Wii, but Nintendo has yet to make any announcements about that.

Source: Computer and Video Games

OUYA Hitting Shelves At Target

Even though OUYA has had some rough patches in its transition from KickStarter wonder to full retail console, the company is confident that it’ll find new business revenue for it. Today, Julie Uhrman, founder of OUYA, announced that the system has made its way to Target stores nationwide, and that demo units are being planned as well. That way, people can try before they buy.

“What is the most exciting is how we’ve been embraced by retail,” said Uhrman, speaking with Polygon. “When we launched in June, we were live in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.  We launched with GameStop, Target, Best Buy and GAME. This month, we are going full chain with Target.”

The retail chain helped guide the decision to bring the system to all 1,800 of its locations. “That allows us to do national campaigns and have a national footprint,” said Uhrman.

In addition to the system’s rollout in stores and the demo units, OUYA is also planning a box redesign to “highlight and promote more games and new content.” The retailer will also offer a $10 bonus gift card for anyone who purchases the system.

“We have been building out demo stations,” said Uhrman. “The reality is they are incredibly expensive and you have to man them.”

Wal-Mart could be the next interested chain as well. “I would expect something, us to announce something with them soon,” Uhrman concluded

Source: Polygon

Amazon Set-Top Box Delayed

Amazon was hoping to have a set-top box model to compete with the likes of Apple TV and Roku in time for the holiday season. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

The company has recently delayed the release of the device, maybe even outside of the Christmas window. Though a specific reason wasn’t given, it appears more time is being put into its development, just as the Wall Street Journal previously reported.

Sources close to the project stated that the box would be based on an Android-like set-up similar to the Kindle Fire tablets, with the option to let third-party apps provide their own programming for it. The big feature, though, obviously would’ve been the focus on Amazon’s own Prime programming, between both movies and TV shows.

No new release information has been given as of yet — the device’s existence has not even been acknowledged by Amazon so far.

Source: The Verge

PBS Debuts Xbox 360 App

A lot of network and cable-based services provide viewing apps through game consoles as of late, particularly the Xbox 360. Now, public broadcasting has joined the party.

PBS, America’s Public Broadcasting Service, has announced that it has launched an application that allows for viewing of its programming on Microsoft’s game console. These include programs like Frontline, Nova, American Experience and Downton Abbey. Users will be able to identify their local PBS station, which will also give them access to local programming as well.

The catch You need to be an Xbox Live Gold subscriber in order to take part.

“This launch is an important next step in our strategy to make PBS content available through a variety of platforms, while maintaining the connection between the viewer and their local PBS station,” said Jon Brendsel, Vice President of Product Development, PBS Digital. “While PBS member stations will always be the first place to find high-quality PBS programming, the launch of our Xbox 360 offering recognizes that viewers are looking to engage with their local station in the time and manner they choose.”

“As one of America’s favorite destinations for high-quality content on television and online, PBS is a great addition to our expansive lineup of entertainment experiences on Xbox 360,” said Kathy Styponias, General Manager, Interactive Entertainment Business. “The addition of PBS is another example of how we’re continuing to expand our catalog of entertainment so that Xbox Live members can find all of their favorite experiences in one place.”

No word yet if the services will come to the Xbox One, but that seems like a logical step.

Source: PBS

Instagram Ads Unveiled

Instagram, in an effort to kick off its sponsored ad campaign, has revealed the first teaser image today. It can be viewed below.

In the ad, “sponsored” by Levis, a couple is riding along in a train, on their way to San Francisco to, as the hashtag puts it, “#maketheirmark.” The ad features a mention of a service called Station To Station, which features a Twitter account of @StnToStn.

This ties in with the company’s previous announcement to feature sponsored photos and videos, which would appear in people’s feeds from brands they normally don’t follow. Users have the option to “hide” the ads with the press of a button, however.

This sample Levis ad is just the first of many to come with the service. Instagram made a note of it recently in its blog…

“Our focus with every product we build is to make Instagram a place where people come to connect and be inspired. Building Instagram as a business will help us better serve the global —and ever growing — Instagram community, while maintaining the simplicity you know and love.”

Source: Instagram



Gaming Insiders Call For Innovation

At the Gaming Insiders Summit last week over 200 senior game industry people gathered to listen to talks about the state of the game industry and it’s future, as well as to network and make important business connections. The insights presented were interesting and sometimes controversial – Oculus is trying to create what it believes will be the next big technology in gaming, and Natural Motion strives for risky innovation. The [a]list daily was there to capture the details of this quest for the future of gaming.

Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus VR, took to the stage to talk about the progression of technology in the game industry and where it’s going next. “If you look at gaming, it’s usually hardware that drives content innovation,” said Iribe. He cited the advance of display hardware over time, from the Atari 2600 to the next-gen consoles coming to market soon, and noted the relentless improvement of game display from text to 2D sprites to 2.5D in Doom and finally full 3D, which has been refined over time with ever-increasing polygon counts and better rendering.

“In my mind we have really maximized what we can do with 3D graphics on today’s hardware,” said Iribe. “Mobile is a new piece of hardware, and it’s something that game developers have been able to jump on and make incredible content,” said Iribe. “But as far as immersion, it’s pretty small. We’re going from screens that are 20 or 30 inches, or TV screens that are 50 or 60 inches, and suddenly the most popular computing device out there is back down to five inches. The immersion level is lost. There’s a new level of content that’s about social, and sharing, and connectivity. It’s all important, but where do we go next with immersion ” As you would expect, he feels that VR is the Next Big Thing.

The challenges facing VR and the Oculus in particular are not trivial, and Iribe noted the obstacles they must overcome. “There are a lot of challenges,” Iribe acknowledged. “There are challenges on the hardware platform side, and there are challenges on the content side.” He noted user interface issues that need to be dealt with in the virtual world. “It has to be much more of a motion-picture style interface than what we’re used to in games,” Iribe said.

He noted that resolution of the screens is improving, as the Oculus VR has gone from 800×600 to 960×1020. “You can’t imagine what it’s gonna look like when it’s 4K resolution, and it’s not far away,” Iribe promised. Latency is now at 50 milliseconds, and he wants to get it down to 10 milliseconds or less.

Iribe did report progress on the important issue of simulator sickness. “I’ve gotten sick every time I’ve ever tried it,” revealed Iribe. “That’s a little challenging” for the CEO of the company. “Every time until recently. In the last couple of weeks I’ve tried a prototype internally where I did not get sick for the first time and I stayed in there for forty-five minutes,” Iribe said.

The CEO of mobile developer Natural Motion, Torsten Reil, talked about his company’s ascent to the top of the mobile game charts with titles like My Horse and CSR Racing. “We believe there’s an incredible opportunity to build the next big entertainment company in this industry,” said Reil. “There’s probably about a billion addressable devices and people that play games on them, and we feel that creates an amazing opportunity.”

Certainly Natural Motion has done well with its previous titles, making $12 million in the first month of CSR Racing, the #1 top-grossing mobile game of 2012. Reil’s company has learned some important lessons from their experiences. “The first thing is to invest in the product,” said Reil. “It’s something that’s really obvious to do but in many ways is non-trivial. We believe that on mobile devices, your product is your distribution strategy. The product is everything, and it drives absolutely everything, because this market is extremely competitive. Particularly with free-to-play, you have very little time to convince your audience that your product is the product they should download and they should keep playing.”

“You want to create an emotional connection between you and the player,” said Reil. “With CSR Racing, what that entails is to create cars that are so beautiful you almost could touch them. We obsessed about this, because we always imagined someone just taking out their phone and looking at their Audi R8. It needed to feel like owning the real thing. CSR Racing is a racing gaming, but actually it’s about car ownership.”

“The other thing that’s important is polish,” said Reil. “We polished the hell out of this game. CSR Racing was done in nine months, and we spent the next four months just polishing.” As an example, Reil described how Natural Motion went through 95 different icons for the game, testing them on millions of people, before settling on one icon that got the most clicks.

Polish is one of Natural Motion’s “guiding lights,” but that’s not all the company uses to chart its course. “The other guiding light is finding blue oceans,” said Reil. “We believe there is a big opportunity right now to find genres that have been under-exploited, or to entirely re-define genres. If you’re first into a market, you have that market to yourself. We felt that was the case with CSR Racing, in the very simple drag-racing genre. We’re now at 70 million downloads, and the large majority of them – about 90 percent – are all organic, and that’s something you have as an advantage as a first mover in a market.”

Reil feels that companies should take risks in innovation. “We really believe in taking risks,” said Reil. “We try and do the really hard stuff, because if you can do the hard stuff that creates real competitive advantage. Because when you take risks and go to blue oceans it creates an opportunity to create brands and franchises.”

Facebook’s New ‘Stories To Share’

Facebook knows that the social networking site isn’t just about connecting with friends and relatives, but also about staying up-to-date on the world around us. They had this in mind when working with 29 media sites to develop “Stories to Share,” a new feature they hope will increase outbound clicks to media sites.

The tool works by recommending articles not yet shared that have the potential to be most engaging. Since only a small percentage of content to drive the most traffic, Facebook’s assistance in picking out what works best on their network will seek to grow that percentage. The “Stories to Share” tool is accessed through the Insight’s dashboard, but is currently available to a limited number of media pages.

A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that 30 percent of adults in the U.S. consume their news via Facebook. It makes sense that when Facebook develops ways to maximize what media outlets receive from them, Facebook will stand to get more ad clicks, too. Already on top of the social game when it comes to driving traffic than any other network, Facebook has increased referral traffic by 170 percent in the past year alone. Some sites have seen much more than that in referral traffic increases over the past year. Traffic to sites like TIME have increased by 208 percent and Buzzfeed has increased by 855 percent. If all goes according to plan, Facebook is currently on a path to drive three-quarters of all social traffic.

“When, people find Facebook more engaging, people spend more time on Facebook and see more ads, so one of our goals is to get people to use Facebook more. It’s important to make Facebook more engaging first and foremost because it creates a great user experience, but that also help our business,” said Facebook’s head of platform Justin Osofsky in a recent chat with Techcrunch.

In order to develop the tool, Facebook worked alongside a small group of  media sites over a seven day period during which Facebook shared best practices and advised media sites to increase the number of posts they put out each day. On average, the sites increased their posts by 57 percent and from which sites saw an increase of outbound clicks by 89 percent. Other Facebook measurements like “Likes” and “Fans” saw double digit increases as well.

Source: Facebook

Thinner Than A Pencil

Apple continues their ad trend of elegant simplicity, this time helped by the most elementary of writing utensils. Narrator Bryan Cranston (of Breaking Bad) talks about the various feats accomplished by both the pencil and iPad Air, and at the end the pencil demonstrates how very thin the new iPad is.


Prepare For Chaos

Half of the fun of Battlefield games is the crazy stuff you can do, and EA is leaning into that hard with this TV spot. On the other hand, the single-player story mode is grounded in the grim reality of a conflict between U.S., Russia and China and that’s equal parts reflected in its own trailer.