Lionhead’s Che Guevara Tease

From Joystiq:

Don’t you just hate it when your website gets overthrown by a long-dead South American revolutionary? Happens all the time! Well, okay, we’re embellishing a bit, but it seems as though that’s happened to Fable 2 developer Lionhead Studios’ website. As you can see in the image above, Che Guevara’s questioning gaze posits, “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love,” accompanied by a massive six.

Check out the website here and let us know what you think.  We have no idea what this is for but we do know that our curiosity is piqued.  Lionhead founder Peter Molyneux is slated to speak at next week’s Gamescom conference, by which time everything will be clear (or someone will be overthrown, who knows).

We’ll find out soon, but we love this kind of marketing and, take note, so does the blogosphere). {link no longer active}

Fight Night Plus Five

DLC is the newest buzzword in console games, and EA has been on top of its game when it comes to these microtransactions for retail games.  EA recently announced new DLC for their recently-released Fight Night 4, and it’s notable for one golden reason.

The pack headlines Oscar de la Hoya as one of five new fighters gamers can download for use in their game.  Boxing’s self-proclaimed Golden Boy leads other notables Vitali Klitschko, Wladimir Klitschko and alternate versions of James Toney and George Foreman in the $10 DLC.

De la Hoya is widely regarded as one of the top fighters of recent boxing, so the strategy of holding back one of the most marketable stars in the sport for this DLC release.  Is this a risky strategy, asking users to pay extra for one of the big names in the sport, or is this a smart move by EA to make this particular DLC a must-have for many boxing fans?

Avatar Preview Tickets Start Monday

James Cameron’s Avatar has been at a fever pitch for years now, as the movie is said to contain groundbreaking technology that will usher in a new era of 3D filmmaking.

Now, instead of just reading about the hype, 20th Century Fox will start showing 16-minute previews of the movie in over 100 IMAX screens for free.  The Avatar website will start giving away pairs of tickets to the short screenings starting on Monday at noon PST.  You’ve been warned.

The extended trailer will also feature trailers for the toy series based on the movie as well as Ubisoft’s video game adaptation.  This is the first time a preview of a holiday film was held this early and at this many locations, and we expect tickets to go very quickly.

Take a note of what Fox has done over the past couple of years.  Imagery is next to nil for the film, and reports are scattered at best.  These screenings will be the first of their kind and will directly appeal to fans who have been waiting for the next big thing.  Now the onus is on Fox and Cameron to deliver, but a move this ballsy assumes they have the goods.

We ll be on line seeing if the move pays off or dramatically backfires, and can t wait for a video game to do something similar with a heavily anticipated game several months in advance.

[More at The Hollywood Reporter] {link no longer active}

Need For Speed Collaborates With Underground Artists

Need for Speed Nitro is an upcoming Wii and DS racing game, and zzzzzzz.  I don t mean to be disrespectful, but it s hard to see the potential of another racer that s just another game in the glut of the Wii library.

Thankfully, EA is making a few moves in collaborating with well-known artists (for the demographic) that s making us notice.

From Offworld:

EA Montreal have announced new partnerships for their upcoming Wii and DS-bound racer Need for Speed Nitro, and, having paid almost no mind to the game in previous months, it’s suddenly squarely on my radar.

Why Because those partnerships are with: Italian vinyl toy/design studio Tokidoki (whose car you see above), SF art brand Upper Playground — a collective that includes the respective bunny-skulled and heavy-handed art of Offworld faves Jeremy Fish and Sam Flores – and, finally, all the artists behind the past few years of I-am-8bit shows.

It s tough to differentiate yourself in the ever-growing Wii marketplace, but EA did that with a smart move to engage a hip, young audience that would have never given the game a second glance if not for these partnerships.

Sonic The Hedgehog Fans “Impossible To Please”

From Kotaku:

Sega’s core Sonic target, in fact, isn’t those who grew up with Sonic. It’s those who are growing up now. “It very much is in that under 12 group,” [Sega West head Mike] Hayes said. “And what we have to do is make a Sonic that is of a quality that delights that audience, first and foremost. I’d argue that we very much achieved that with products like Sonic Heroes on PS2, and I think we did that with Mario and Sonic 1 on Wii and DS. I think we did it some ways with Sonic and the Secret Rings on Wii. I think [the Wii’s Sonic and the] Black Knight was a good game.”

Many gamers in the very valuable over 12 market still have fond memories, and Sega has treated that group, mainly owners of the Xbox 360 and PS3, with shoddy product that doesn’t move the needle with the core audience.  But does it matter if it still sells?

Hayes is less satisfied with Sega’s execution of those Sonic games that have been on the more powerful Xbox 360 and PS3 platforms. “I think we’ve had challenges with [the 2006] Sonic the Hedgehog and Unleashed,” he said. “[The 2006 game] Sonic the Hedgehog sells extremely well at a budget price. So clearly it’s very popular with a young audience. But first and foremost is: We’ve got to make a quality game for that audience. […] Then we’ve got our core fans, and what we need to do is now and then produce a Sonic that will appeal to those fans specifically. “

Sega’s lesson is currently meted out by Sonic sales figures; the hardcore doesn t matter much because, no matter what, Sonic still sells.

The bottom line fact of the matter is, where as Sonic may sell well thanks to the under 12 demographic, Mario is still a blockbuster hit no matter what, for any demographic.  Sonic used to be as big or even bigger than Mario, and Sega has lost track of the magic that would appeal to all types of gamers.  Has Sega given up the broader fight?

Hayes and the rest of Sega want to make the old-time Sonic fans happy. They just need those fans to not expect their Sonic in every Sonic game. So the plan […] is to make core Sonic games pretty much every other year, “character derivative” games between those and, on occasion, off-shoots that involve Sonic doing new physical activities such as playing tennis, skateboarding (as in Sonic Riders), or racing cars, as in the upcoming Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing.

You don’t think the core consumer wants another Sonic tennis game, do they?

[more on Kotaku]

Xbox Avatar Marketplace On PC

If you’re curious about all the hubbub surrounding virtual goods, Microsoft just launched a PC version of their Xbox Avatar Marketplace store on

Here you can take a look at a number of virtual clothing collections from a number of studios, from the game-related Gears of War and Halo lines, to the Adidas and Quiksilver brands.

If you’ve been reading us for awhile, you’ll know we’re bullish on these virtual items adding to the credibility and exposure of these brands to consumers who are ahead of the game and who are, by and large, the ones who start the trends and word of mouth that’s otherwise difficult to get.

In the meantime, can someone buy us one of those funky Fable II top hats?

Crimecraft Pre-Order Bonus Glams It Up

We’re big believers in virtual goods in games as a way to increase brand loyalty and perception, and upcoming game CrimeCraft seems to agree.

Vogster Entertainment is offering incentives {link no longer active} for consumers who pre-order the game either on the game’s official site, through Direct2Drive or through Best Buy’s Digital service.  In addition to in-game power-ups and more are virtual threads designed by, amongst others, Marc Ecko and Atticus.

The reputable fashion designers lend some street cred to the gamer crowd, while Marc Ecko and Atticus get in front of a completely new audience that may dig their stuff IRL (in real life).  We can get behind this, especially if it doesn’t cost us as much as a trip to the mall.

AFK: Street Pong

Photographer Patrick Runte is our AFK moment of the day, and his latest picture has been making the rounds of the blogosphere.

If you’ve ever wondered what it would look like if Pong leaped into the real world, he’s got you covered with a couple of great photographs, including this one right here.

Tetris, Space Invaders and Pac-Man are also caught in the wild and on film, so head over to Runte’s portfolio site for some great photography.

Xbox Live Finally Going Mobile

A recent job listing on Microsoft’s corporate site has the blogosphere buzzing about the reemergence of Xbox’s Live Anywhere plan.

The Live Anywhere plan was first introduced in 2006 as an idea that Xbox Live doesn’t have to live just on the Xbox, but could be available through multiple mediums.  So far, only the PC has had limited Xbox Live integration, and everyone thought the Live Anywhere concept would die on the vine.

The job listing suggests the Live Anywhere approach is going to tackle mobile and social platforms in a big way, something we should see in the next several months.  Zune HD is rumored to work with the Xbox 360 in the near future, but nothing has been announced.

What are marketers to make of this   One thing’s for sure, it s yet another way to engage a very captive audience from day one.  The mobile and social platforms will only be as good as game developers and publishers make them out to be, so getting ahead of the game is step one.

There are only a few chances to be one of the first in front of an emerging market, and this is one of them.

[More at Ars]

New Sega Chief Talks Seganess

The new head of Sega West, the merged group of Sega America and Sega Europe, made the rounds in New York City the other day.  Kotaku had an interesting sit down with him, and we’ve pulled together a few key quotes from the guy in charge of turning around the once-dominant publisher.

On the idea that there’s a unifying feel to Sega’s games:

“In some cases, but not all,” Hayes said, answering this early question with the thoughtfulness and lack of diplomatic self-censorship with which he’d field all of my questions. “When we are trying to do core games like Aliens vs. Predator from Rebellion, I don’t think you’ll find any Seganess in that. However, there are a lot of games that we do do whether it be particularly with our old intellectual property, like Monkey Ball, like with Mario and Sonic and things like Let’s Tap it’s that kind of slight risk-taking that Sega was renowned for as innovators that we still do and we still intend to do.”

On Mature-rated Wii games:

Another hyped grouping of Sega games has been its trio of Wii games targeted to the demographic of gamers that prefers a good headshot or chainsaw kill to an interactive sit-up routine: House of the Dead Overkill, MadWorld and the Conduit. Hayes views their fortunes as mixed. Sales reports don’t show blockbuster numbers for any of the games, but, Hayes said, “I just don’t think, categorically, that you can therefore concludes that mature games won’t work on Wii.”

On MadWorld, the critically-lauded hyperviolent M-rated Wii game:

It is the mostly black-and-white, hyper-violent MadWorld that Hayes dubbed a “disappointment” for reasons he can’t yet nail down. “It could be the consumers didn’t like the art style,” he said. “It could be the consumers had enough Mature-rated games to play on 360 and PS3 and didn’t need a new experience on Wii.”

The publisher famously left the hardware business after the disappointing Dreamcast, though that system still maintains a huge following.  Characters like Sonic the Hedgehog still sell millions of units in critically-panned games on current generation systems, but Sega still has a long way.

Anyone have any suggestions for how to help Sega market itself to that audience that has since left?

[More at Kotaku]