May Day Indie Cornucopia

The output of great indie games continues, with trailers for Sportsfriends (PS3, PS4), Stick it to the Man! (Wii U, PC, PS3 and Vita), Botanicula (PC, iPad) and Velocity Ultra (PS3, Vita). All of these games but Botanicula are available on PlayStation platforms, demonstrating how PlayStation is becoming a destination platform for indie games.


The Myth Of Mobile Game Brands

It’s tough to remember sometimes that the mobile game market, while it’s been around for more than a decade, is really in its infancy in many ways. We’ve had handheld gaming since the 1970’s (with Mattel and Milton Bradley), though they were primitive single-game devices. Nintendo really popularized portable gaming with the original Game Boy back in the 1980’s, and games were on cell phones since the 1990’s (with Tetris in 1994 and Snake on Nokia phones in 1997). Really, though, the modern era of mobile gaming began in 2008 when Apple introduced the App Store for iPhones. The mobile game industry has since become a $9 billion global market growing at over 32 percent per year, with over 500 million players, according to Newzoo.

Still, there are plenty of critics of mobile gaming, particularly those who have been in the game industry a long time or are hardcore gamers. These mobile games are not sustainable brands like the billion-dollar brands of the console business that have been around for decades, like Call of Duty or Mario or Madden or Halo. There’s some reason to be concerned about the longevity of mobile game brands,as recent news demonstrates. Rovio recently announced that its revenue grew only 2.5 percent in 2013, and profits dropped substantially as the company invested in future growth. The underlying factor, though, was that Angry Birds is no longer the chart-leading juggernaut it once was. Licensed products now make up nearly half the company’s revenues of €156 million.

King has seen a slowing of growth in Candy Crush Saga revenues, and investors have expressed concern over the company’s long-term potential when 80 percent of its revenues come from Candy Crush Saga. Other mobile games that were chart leaders a few years ago are no longer in the top ten or twenty, and sequels to mobile games don’t seem to follow the example of console games or movies where sequels are often bigger than the previous release.

The more ephemeral nature of mobile game brands so far is not inevitable, nor is it a consequence of the platform. Rather, this is to be expected when you see games appearing on a radical new platform. The first games to appear on radically different new platforms are usually simple games, and simple games usually don’t have brand longevity.

First, let’s make it clear what a radically different platform is. That’s not the latest version of a console; the interface and functions of an Xbox One would be perfectly easy to grasp for an Xbox player. The jump to a smartphone or a tablet, with a touch-screen interface and multiple sensors, is radically different.

Faced with a radically different platform, what you get first are versions of games from other platforms, and new games that are usually pretty simple in design and execution. Simple games are easier to design and program, and generally have a broader audience appeal. As we’ve seen, the vast majority of mobile games so far have been casual, from simple action and arcade games to puzzle games.


Simple games tend not to be enduring game brands. Tetris is long-lived, recognizable brand, and so is Pac-Man, But neither of those holds a candle to the biggest brands in video games (and the latest Pac-Man game is hardly recognizable compared to the first one). Mario began as a very simple game, but with dozens of titles based on the character and increasingly complex games and mechanics it has transcended that origin. The latest Mario games are in no way simple or casual games.

Enduring game franchises tend to have greater depth; they aren’t classified as casual games. Minecraft. Halo. Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Madden Football, League of Legends, World of Tanks. These are deep games. The controls may be simple, but the story or the strategy is deep. These a rich, immersive experiences that create great engagement with players. One important thing to note here: Minecraft Pocket Edition has sold over 21 million copies at $6.99 on Android and iOS, so successful mobile games don’t always have to be free-to-play. The right game can command a premium price.

There’s no inherent reason mobile games can’t be deep, and in fact we’re starting to see mobile games with deeper game play and correspondingly deeper engagement. Exhibit A is Clash of Clans, along with other games like Clumsy Ninja, Game of War: Fire Age, The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth, and even games like Blizzard’s Hearthstone. We are seeing deeper games on mobile, and with that we’ll see the emergence of long-term, billion-dollar game brands that will eventually rival or perhaps surpass the biggest console game brands.

More likely, there will be a convergence between the top console game brands and mobile games. Look what’s already happening with FIFA, for instance, or the increasingly popular “companion apps” that are becoming standard for new AAA console games like Watch Dogs. Those tails may be small now, but someday that tail may be wagging the Watch Dog.

Let’s remember that we’re still in the early years of the modern mobile game market, and designers are still exploring what’s possible with the platform. Most of the biggest video game brands didn’t emerge until the platforms had been established for a long time, and that’s probably going to be true of mobile game brands as well. There is still plenty of opportunity ahead in the mobile game market, and it’s a great time to begin building those billion-dollar brands of the future.

Sony Goes All In With Indies

Sony assembled dozens of journalists at SCEA’s headquarters in San Mateo to take a look at the indie games lined up for PlayStation. SCEA’s VP of publisher and developer relations Adam Boyes provided some information about the current state of the indie lineup for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, and there are some impressive statistics. Currently, there are 21 self-published titles on the PS4, but there are more than 100 on the way. “We have more developers hitting us up on a weekly basis trying to get registered, and we’re trying to grow our support staff to make sure we can support all the requests,” Boyes told [a]list daily. “Now that they realize how easy it is to get content on PS4 we’re just getting more people that are able to port content over.”

While the most downloaded app on PlayStation 4 is (no surprise) Netflix, the #2 app is the free-to-play game Warframe. Sony’s been having good results with sales on the PS4, as well as with the PlayStation Plus service and the free games it offers every month. Outlast has been downloaded globally over 1.8 million times, getting a big boost from its PlayStation Plus appearance.

Boyes also noted the importance of sharing on the PS4, with over 8 million game sessions being shared so far. The indie game Don’t Starve, which has been downloaded over 1 million times, was watched by over 15 people for each session when livestreamed.

Talking with [a]list daily, Boyes acknowledged that the growing number of indie developers and indie titles on the PlayStation 4 will make discoverability an issue. “The challenge is that there’s a finite amount of real estate,” Boyes said. “But with the Share button and what’s new, the PS4 shows you what your friends are doing. That’s what we’ve focused on for PS4.” Boyes said the social aspects of games and the PS4 will replace the old brick and mortar real estate. Your friend’s recommendations are the best way for you to find new games, Boyes noted. Of course, there are other ways to get noticed, like being featured in the What’s New section or at press events like this one.

Some of the upcoming indie titles to look for include Starwhal, a fun arcade title for from one to four players; Pixeljunk Shooter Ultimate, a sequel to the popular game; Transistor from Supergiant Games; The Witness by Jonathan Blow; Nidhogg from Messhof on the PS4; Joe Danger 1 and 2 on the PS Vita; and many more. Many of the titles had an 8-bit or 16-bit aesthetic, but several utilized the power of the PS4 in interesting ways. Rogue Legacy from Cellar Door blurred the edges of the screen as your nearsighted hero raced through levels, for example. The sheer number and variety of the titles coming means there will be something for everyone on both PS4 and PS Vita.

Indies have a pretty simple process to sign up, and there’s no fee. An indie developer sets their own prices for games, and is full control of whether or not to participate in sales or other promotional opportunities. It’s the antithesis of the old expensive, lengthy and bureaucratic process that used to characterize console game development. As well, Sony is open to all sorts of business models, with a growing free-to-play game section and easy transaction processing for games that want to offer virtual goods for sale. It’s very similar to the mobile game model that you see on iOS and Android, though with more oversight. Still, this provides an interesting market opportunity for indie developers to get their games in front of a different audience.

For gamers, the influx of indie titles means that there will be plenty of games to choose from at all price points, and you don’t just have to wait for the next AAA release to enjoy a new game experience. The indie revolution is in full swing on this new console generation, and it promises to be as important as any of the technological improvements on the new consoles.

‘Defiance’ Goes Free

Publisher Trion Worlds is taking its Defiance MMO shooter into a new realm — free-to-play gaming. The massively multiplayer shooter will become free on PC this June 4, and Trion is targeting July 15 for the PlayStation 3, with the Xbox 360 release being planned. New players will be able jump in to experience the entire Bay Area storyline, original end-game content and future missions completely for free.

Defiance, which was developed jointly with the SyFy television series of the same name, originally launched in a boxed edition for $59.99 last year. There was no subscription fee, but you could buy in-game currency or DLC. There have been five DLC packs for Defiance to date: Castithan Charge, Arkbreaker, 7th Legion, Gunslinger and Arktech Revolution. Packs have added new weapons, progression systems, difficulty levels, co-op maps, missions, arenas, factions, items, etc.

Trick Dempsey

The [a]list daily spoke with Defiance producer Trick Dempsey to get some insights into this change in business model for Trion Worlds.

Do you see the transition to F2P as an opportunity to significantly expand the user base for Defiance?

Indeed. Heck, that’s what it’s all about. Traversing the New Frontier in Defiance is always enhanced by the presence of other players. By going free to play, we’re lowering the barriers to entry and welcoming anyone to come play in our world.

Game balance is always an issue in F2P games . . . have you had enough time to work out the design issues?

We’ve known this transition was coming for a long time, and we’ve been changing the game drastically to address these issues prior to launch. Defiance was never a subscription game, so many of the issues endemic to free to play transitions were simply not an issue for us. Instead, we faced issue with gameplay balance and feelings of significant progress throughout the experience of the game. We’ve been tackling these issues for a year now, and it’s ready to make a good first impression on a much wider audience.

Do you feel F2P is the only way to go for MMO’s in the future, or is there still room for a subscription model?

I don’t see a future for the subscription model. Massive games are at their best with other players. That is their appeal. Closing that door to players makes the experience worse both for the person turned away and the paid customers. It’s lose-lose all the way ’round.

Will you be changing or increasing your marketing efforts for the game with this shift? What marketing efforts are planned?

Not only do we have a strong promotion push with outreach to press and with ad purchases, we’re also going to be cross-promoting with the television series on Syfy. We’ve got an incredible season planned with crossovers that will reward people who visit our world through both the show and the game. We’ll be airing time-limited codes on every episode of the show which will provide game players with special bonuses as well as other events which will tie the show and game together.

‘Daylight’ Ready to Scare

Daylight is a welcome addition to the release schedule right now, coming out during a general lull of other major releases. It’s worth noting that the game will allow Twitch users to trigger in-game events in other players’ games using commands in the chat field, a first for a game on the PS4.


The Anthem Of ‘MLB 14 The Show’

Sony is stepping up to the plate with its MLB 14 The Show promotion, talking about why baseball is better than the other sports. As Kenny Powers says, “A game so fine, it’s played on diamonds.”


‘Lego Star Wars’ Gets Micro-Sized

Any parent of a child who played with Lego (or played with Legos themselves) knows the literal pain of finding a Lego piece with their foot in the middle of the night. This video is a self-aware tribute to that, as well as a promotion for the mini-figure fighters they’re selling right now, advertising the whole Force in a small size.


Marvel Super Heroes Join ‘Disney Infinity’

Excelsior! Many of Marvel’s super heroes will soon be making their way to Disney’s popular Disney Infinity game universe.

Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes was officially announced yesterday, with the first Starter Pack coming to stores this fall. As expected, the set revolves around key Marvel characters, including the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America, among others. The game will work the same way as the original Infinity release, with pre-made levels and options for users to create their own in a Toy Box mode.

The key set will revolve around the Avengers, but other characters were hinted at in the trailer, including the villainous MODOK, as well as Groot and Rocket Raccoon, characters that tie in with the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film.

The previously released Infinity figures, portals and Toy Box creations will work in conjunction with the new play set, so those who previously purchased the game won’t have to worry about upgrading.

Disney Infinity 2.0 will release this fall for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii U, and will also debut on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, confirming the system’s move to newer systems.


Xbox One Officially Coming To China

Following the lifting of a 14-year ban on consoles last year, China has huge potential for game companies. Now, one has confirmed that it’s jumping in headfirst.

Microsoft has confirmed that it will bring the Xbox One console to China this September, along with a variety of unnamed games, possibly including popular favorites like Ryse: Son of Rome and Forza Motorsport 5. The launch will be a partnership between Microsoft and BesTV New Media Co., a partner of Shanghai Media Group.

“Launching Xbox One in China is a significant milestone for us and for the industry, and it’s a step forward in our vision to deliver the best games and entertainment experiences to more fans around the world,” said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president, marketing and strategy, Devices and Studios, Microsoft. “BesTV has a rich history of delivering innovative entertainment content. It is the ideal partner with which to bring the Xbox business to China.”

“The launch of Xbox One here will bring distinction as the first-ever game console with OTT functionality in China,” said Dazhong Zhang, senior vice president, Shanghai Media Group, and chairman, E-Home Entertainment Development Company Ltd. “The launch of Xbox is a milestone for our company in the family entertainment market and will create profit growth opportunities. Furthermore, we will continue our investment and support into research and development for gaming content together with Microsoft. Via our cooperation with the world’s leading team, we will continue to develop video games fused with Chinese culture and provide further distribution support for locally produced Chinese video game content to the world.”

Source: Betanews