There’s been tons of branding shifts, from Blizzard renaming its multiplayer game service Battle.net; Riot Games’ new title is a board game; and Ubisoft launching its very book publishing house to boost its cross-media brand power — all in this week’s TPOI!
Tag: video game
Oculus Rift has already won the hearts and minds of geeks everywhere, without a finished product on shelves. At trade shows like CES and E3, the chance to get even a brief demo of the virtual reality headset has spawned endless, snaking lines of near-Disneyland proportions. There’s no doubt that the Rift has the potential to change entertainment as we know it, but it’s a step in the wrong direction that will further divide gamers from the mainstream.
Ask any game developer on iOS and Android today about the challenges they face in succeeding (i.e. turning a profit, making a sustainable living), and chances are there will be expressions of frustration and negativity. Save for companies that have already established themselves in the mobile marketplace and can afford to build and sustain a customer base, an overwhelming majority will never see a penny of profit.
At the same time, the mobile game market is at a crossroads. On one hand, you have casual experiences being churned out that can be monetized through growth hacking, a.k.a. the ability to target, but and convert players into paying customers. On the other hand, unique game experiences with deep and engaging levels of gameplay that can appeal to true “gamers” are finding it incredibly challenging to succeed, experiences that might command an upfront payment for a quality experience, one that such gamers are willing to pay.
Yet, the touchscreen experience doesn’t match the deep level of gameplay that sufficiently satisfies the needs of the average gamer. A few hours of playing a serious shooter, and you’re left with finger burn and a crooked wrist. This is why I adamantly support Nintendo’s strategy to continue building out their own platform with dedicated portable consoles, but that’s best left said in another blog post that I previously wrote.
While these challenges will persist in the near future, there is a bright spot in the mobile industry, steadily growing to help push development of high quality, deep gaming experiences that consumers might be willing to pay for – Bluetooth game controllers. Yes, multiple companies exist that provide such solutions, such as Green Throttle, Nyko, MOGA and others, but the tipping point will come with native integration of controller support by Apple and Google.
We already know about Apple’s controller API released with iOS 7, one that any developer can integrate into their game to support any wireless Bluetooth game controller. Google can’t be far behind, and we can be confident that we’ll see the support in the next year, at the most.
Free-to-play games rule the roost, and likely will for some time to come, if not permanently. This has allowed companies with the most capital to execute “growth hacking” techniques weighed heavily on user acquisition to build and sustain a player base. This has unfortunately led to an incredibly difficult marketplace for less capable developers to navigate and get discovered, especially the indie tier where the best ideas are generated and the least analytical capabilities lie. And we certainly can’t count on a quality game to succeed based on a one-time payment model. Free-to-play becomes even more challenging for the serious gamers, an incredibly difficult balance to manage in avoidance of pay-to-win perceptions.
As for “quality” games following the paid download model, $1.99 is unfortunately the maximum a majority of smartphone gamers will pay, with $9.99 and $19.99 being special price points for console ports – generally not optimal experiences built from the ground up for the touchscreen.
With universal game controller support built into iOS and Android, we can count on gamers playing for longer periods of time. With such higher engagements, developers can build deeper experiences with flexible game mechanics and backstories that have gamers investing tens of hours of time. Such game experiences are why 35 million gamers around the globe own a 3DS, and games that sell for $40 each sell in the millions within several days of release. These are the games, like Grand Theft Auto V and Call of Duty, that smash entertainment sales records, surpassing movies and music. Many of these games just wouldn’t work on a free-to-play model.
We’ve witnessed a variety of companies enter the market to disrupt the console business, most of which have been categorized as “microconsoles”, dedicated set-top box hardware usually build on top of Linux/Android. Yet, I can’t help but think that the last thing developers need to worry about right now is another platform, particularly one with little install base to justify the additional resource investment.
Why the need for a microconsole, when we all already own one, sitting right in our pocket? The smartphone and tablet, both iOS and Android, will quickly displace the need for dedicated microconsoles that offer the same value. Connectivity to the TV an issue? Tap and stream, enabled by Apple TV and, soon, the likes of Chromecast, will eliminate this hurdle for mainstream consumers. Don’t worry about the gamers – they’re savvy enough to make it happen now, as long as they have a reason to.
To summarize why I’m optimistic about the smartphone and tablet gaming space for the future of gaming:
1.) Native integration of controllers accelerating developer adoption into games.
2.) Games built from the ground up with controller support can lean on deeper experiences that please core gamers.
3.) High quality game experiences that can be played for hours (and avoid finger burn) can command premium price points and not rely on free-to-play access and conversion.
4.) Smartphone and tablets significantly increasing in power and capabilities can offer an experience that pleases the core gamer.
5.) One-tap streaming from smartphones/tablets to TV will all but eliminate the need for dedicated consoles tethered to the TV.
6.) More freedom and flexibility for gamers – one game file and experience no matter where you are, whether played on the road or on your living room TV.
I truly believe that there’s still a bright future ahead for experiences that gamers can enjoy and would be willing to pay a premium price point for on mobile devices. The hurdles that face development and adoption of such titles is a technology challenge already being solved in the form of native controller support and mobile-to-TV streaming. This is an exciting opportunity for developers to harness and create rich game experiences that meets the behaviors and consumption habits of gamers both casual and core. For all the gamers out there, we get to enjoy great games using the hardware that we own coupled with an affordable controller, anytime, anywhere.
Almost exactly ten years ago, I finished for the first time The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was that moment when I first identified as a gamer and felt a devotion to video games that I was at the time too young to understand. But over the next ten years, that devotion grew to become the incorporation of video games into my own being.
For keeping in touch with who I have become and investing in what is important to me, I obviously then felt a yearning to attend PAX and of course Comic-Con, which I knew was not focused on video games, but interested me nonetheless. What video game devotee wouldn’t want to see just how much video game fandom she could soak up at Comic-Con?
We are at a point in time when Comic-Con attendees no longer enter believing the show is about comics. That is not to say comics don’t have a strong presence at the show; one end of the hall was covered in nothing but DC and Marvel merchandise vendors. Attendees costumed as Thor, Spiderman, Superman, and Batman far outnumbered attendees dressed as video game characters (including myself). Still, one cannot ignore that the most crowded parts of the convention hall were around the likes of Fox and Warner Bros, and the most popular panels were any that featured Hollywood celebrities regardless of whether or not the panel was about a comic book movie.
We are also at a point in time where the fandoms of comics, movies about comics, movies and TV shows about fantasy worlds in general, cartoons, anime, manga, and video games have all collided, with the resulting explosion manifesting as the San Diego Comic-Con. But as I took my first steps into the convention center, I asked myself, how many video game companies might I find exhibiting on the show floor? Will they take up as much space as the fabled comics that started the show? Or, will they be shoved off to a corner where only the most hardcore of fans will bother to visit?
After pushing through the crowd surrounding the Fox and Warner Bros booths, I found Ubisoft, Activision, Nintendo, Square Enix, Sony, and Capcom nestled into one end of the convention hall. Each game demo station was populated, each with a player and a crowd of onlookers. I later learned Nintendo and Ubisoft had the rest of their games featured at Nintendo’s game lounge next door, SEGA and Microsoft had set up across the street, and BioWare had their own station at the Hilton two blocks away. After visiting each booth, each game lounge, and finding a wealth of merchandise from my favorite video games from vendors on the show floor, I continued each day satisfied with the presence of video games at the show.
As a gamer and a fan, I believe my trip to Comic-Con was fruitful. I got to demo new games. I bought a wealth of fun merchandise (video game and non-video game alike) and received generous VIP gifts (a Sonic comic from Sonic Boom seemed fitting). I got to reconnect with video game industry people who were equally as enthusiastic about the show. I got to see how video games had joined the cultural lexicon. I got to take a memorable vacation to a consumer show with friends whom I grew closer to. And most of all, I was reminded of how the gamer in me grew into the person I am today. This was not done via the games I demoed, the swag I obtained, the parties I attended, or the characters I dressed up as, but by coming to this realization ten years later.
I have heard the multi-genre fiesta that is Comic-Con described as a “nerd Woodstock.” Unlike trade shows like E3 and video game-focused consumer shows like PAX, Comic-Con encourages people of multiple interests to come together and “celebrate the popular arts,” as proclaimed by the Wreck-It Ralph banners on each San Diego street. As someone whose being lies predominantly in the gaming realm of Comic-Con’s pot of genre stew, I wondered if the video game companies who exhibited off the show floor this year would be inside the convention center next year. And, for video game companies who exhibit on the show floor annually, I wonder if they will build their Comic-Con presence over the years. Will that draw more gamers to the show? Will that raise the interest of non-gamers who might want to learn more about video games and video game culture? Will it tip the balance of Comic-Con as a multi-genre gathering towards a more game-oriented event? Or, will it simply boost the video game industry’s positioning as just that: a popular art?
Though I refuse to make an argument for whether or not video games are art, I want to know how video game companies themselves feel about Comic-Con’s role in the video game industry, whether the industry can be celebrated there like it is at PAX, and whether video games will continue to have as much or more presence as comic books, movies, and the other media at Comic-Con.
Whatever the future holds for the presence of video games at Comic-Con, we can safely assume the next ten years will only keep San Diego as the center of the Aquarian Exposition of Comics, Movies, Anime, Manga, and Video Games. And for now, I can at least say I’m proud to be a part of the video game industry’s involvement in the movement for peace and love across all fandoms.
In the farthest reaches of the Smithsonian, at the end of a dark corridor, was a large screen indicating the entrance to the Art of Video Games exhibit. On the large screen were snippets of video game cut-scenes from various video games, old and new, from Pac-Man to Heavy Rain. What really caught my eye were not the images on the screen but the statement by guest curator, Chris Melissinos.
Last month, Destructoid’s Ryan Perez expressed his disdain for the industry’s need to validate itself by calling video games “art.” Mr. Perez notes at the beginning of his article that he is neither the first nor the only one to be tired of the “games as art” argument. I personally never bothered to validate video games as art or not art as I felt that if a medium—an experience—could mean so much to me and be such an important part of myself, does it really matter if the public believes it to be art or not?
I believe this to be the reason why I was refreshed to see the words written on the wall. In three short paragraphs, Chris Melissinos explains the importance of video games in his life, as some of the deepest personal and globally connecting experiences in human history. More importantly, Mr. Melissinos makes it clear that the exhibit was not created to educate viewers on why video games are art, but for viewers to make that decision for themselves, that video games “may even be” art.
If I had ever argued that games are art, it was because I believed the definition of art was any piece that made a bold statement that resonated with me when I viewed it. I wondered after reading this panel if Mr. Melissinos wished viewers to leave the exhibit believing games to be art, while still allowing them to come to the conclusion themselves.
I believed that to be the case when I saw the next room, which was filled with demos of games from the original Super Mario Bros. to The Secret of Monkey Island to thatgamecompany’s Flower. Visitors were invited to play through a few minutes of each of those games in the hope that it would either bring back fond memories or help non-gamers understand the meaning of video games and the experiences they offer. Though I could not read what each player in the room was thinking when they were playing, I knew this room was intended to complete the equation explained in the gray panel: the conversation among the game, the artist, and the player.
The final room of the exhibit had a timeline of consoles on display, with video clips from games of different generations from the Atari VCS to the PlayStation 3. After getting my dose of knowledge and nostalgia (and an array of new photos in my camera), I wondered if the hundreds of strangers around me actually believed games are art, refused to believe they are, or were indifferent of the answer. Did each visitor fulfill Chris Melissinos’s goal of at least deliberating the question?
I took one last look at the gray panel: Three Voices—Artist, Game, Player. In this instance, the Artist is the game developer, the Game is the physical product created by the developer, and the Player is the consumer; the one experiencing the game. As I read the passage one more time, the definitions of each voice began to blur in my mind. I believed this to be the goal of the exhibit as well: to allow viewers—the players—to insert themselves into the concept art they saw, into the game demos on display, and into the memories that returned when looking at the different generations of consoles and games. Though we will never know what exactly emerges within each visitor, we can safely assume that each is wholly unique.
Personally, I still do not believe there is a universal truth on whether or not games are art. I could write an entirely separate piece arguing for the importance of the medium, but for now, I have at least come to this conclusion:
Each visitor of the exhibit is the creator of what they took away and of what they believe video games are to them. I chose to focus on what video games have made me and why I chose to agree with Chris Melissinos’ beliefs on the sacred bond the player makes with the game. For these reasons, I believe that the conversation between the game, the artist, and the player—and the blurring of the lines separating the three—brings about a fourth voice. And it is for these reasons that the identity of the fourth voice is up to the player to decide.
Back to school already? Here are 25 games that will get your brain in shape before you know it. Even if you’re not headed back to the classroom, we can all use a good mental push up (and a fun distraction) from time to time.
Frisky Mongoose has compiled a list of 25 top titles for “brainstream” gamers both young and old. Did your favorites make the list? poweRBrands and Empire Avenue are 2 of our favorites, simple because they offer something totally unique and relevant for PR and marketing folks like us. Several – if not most – of these social, mobile and casual games are free, so put on your smarty pants and play learn your hearts out!
poweRBrands by Reckitt Benckiser – “The first Facebook game of its kind, designed to test players’ marketing and business abilities, teach strategy and decision-making skills, and introduce users to the culture and challenges that face the company’s marketers every day.
Brain Buddies by wooga – Brain Buddies offers its users a playful way to determine their brain weight. The game is focusing on a contest among friends to find the one with the heaviest brain. A large set of mini games as well as entertaining graphics make the game fun to play for a long time.
Who Has the Biggest Brain by Playfish – A series of mini games test your abilities in 4 brain areas: Calculation, Memory, Logic and Visual. The combined score from each of these categories add up to your overall brain rating. A great opportunity to settle the debate, who really does have the biggest brain? After playing you are awarded a ranking – one of 27 different ‘Brain Types’ used to rank you and your friends.
DumbVille by GSN – Tackle quirky questions and puzzle your way through mindless mini-games to rise through the ranks from Village Idiot to Mayor of Dumbville. Every time you succeed AND every time your friends fail, you’ll win Oodles – redeemable rewards that you can use to purchase sweepstakes entries and prizes on GSN.com.
Scrabble by Electronic Arts – A new version of the original board game includes built-in chat and dictionary, multiple word lists, dynamic animations, and multiple speed settings for public games. An easy-to-use interface lets you play with anyone who loves the game!
Empire Avenue – Reap the benefits of expanding your online influence while buying and selling virtual shares in your best friend, your favorite blogger or that pizza joint down the road – anyone, for free. Connect with other people who like the same things as you, find interesting bloggers to follow, or unearth a cool new business in your home town! This Internet thing is pretty useful, you know, and Empire Avenue helps you find the people and businesses that are relevant to you.
Risk: The Game of Global Domination on Pogo.com – Establish your military objectives, take command of your army and begin your campaign to rule the world. Based on the classic board game of strategic conquest from Hasbro, Risk comes to life online where the object of the game is simple: Global Domination! Risk is a turn based game with each player starting with their own controllable army in an attempt to capture territories from opposing players and control the entire map.
Word Whomp on Pogo.com – This freebie challenges you to whomp adorable gophers and spell as many words as you can from a given set of letters before the clock runs out. Gophers will dig up veggies and bonuses as you unscramble words. Reach the carrot to enter the bonus round and score big!
Jeopardy on GSN.com – Test your trivia knowledge, just like the actual game show. Select a question from one of the six game categories by clicking on a dollar value under the category of your choice. When the question appears, you may choose to either “Respond” or “Pass.” If you choose to respond, you will have 15 seconds to answer a multiple-choice question. The game will end when you don’t have enough money to play on.
Wheel of Fortune on GSN.com – You can compete for cash and prizes, just like contestants on the actual game show, with 5 turns to solve the word puzzle. Correctly identify consonants or “buy a vowel.” Each successful guess gives you an additional free spin, but the faster you solve the puzzle, the higher your time bonus! When you choose to solve the puzzle, if your answer is correct, you’ll play in the Bonus Round. If not, you’ll lose a turn.
Tiny Planets – “Targetting kids aged six to 14, this game is based on the Tiny Planets animated TV series, and offers six ‘planets’ for users to visit consisting of simple games, web videos, social networking, a virtual world, goods, and currency, and, of course, learning opportunities. Tiny Planets is rich with entertaining and educational activities that focus on space, conservation, science, creativity, and critical thinking skills.”
FitBrains.com – Provides scientifically developed brain games targeting the five major brain areas: memory, problem solving, concentration, visual spatial, Language. Focus on one brain area or play all the games to give your brain a complete workout. Brain games are a fun way to exercise your brain and an important pillar in living a healthy life. Try your luck and test your skills in games like Travel Quest, Sum Snap and Uber Brain.
Fantage.com, a TriplePoint client – A next-generation destination site for children that offers games and adventures to entertain, delight, and promote positive social interaction in an engaging, exciting, safe environment that both kids and parents love. Fantage also provides an age-appropriate, safe social networking experience within a fun virtual world.
The Oregon Trail by Gameloft – Assume the role of a wagon leader in a side-view journey where your strategic decisions must ensure the safety of your party along the treacherous Oregon Trail. Overcome the perilous journey to Oregon in America’s Wild West. Just like the real pioneers, experience the decision-making, problem-solving, and role-playing fun of this historical event. A unique strategy/educational game relating the first pioneers’ journey to Western American.
THINK by TriplePoint client, Ravensburger Digital – 16 exercises spread across four distinct categories, all designed to give your mind a rigorous workout in different areas of thought. THINK is currently available in English, Spanish and German. Could your brain use a boost?
RedFish Puzzle by Fresh Planet – “Fun games for smart people.” Fresh Planet offers several brain games on various platforms, including the RedFish series of learning apps for young children on the iPad. RedFish Piano 4 Kids is another good one to check out.
Words with Friends by Newtoy Inc. – Turn-based crossword gaming in your pocket! Not much else to say, besides this game is Scrabble in your pocket, with your friends, in real time… and it’s as addictive as they come.
HexaLex by TriplePoint client, Nathan Gray – Takes the classic, easy to learn but hard to master crossword game and adds a new dimension. Hexagonal tiles let you play words in three directions instead of two. Words interact in new and interesting ways. But have no fear, you’ll be up and playing in no time, thanks to the tutorial and detailed, built-in help. If you’ve ever played Scrabble, Lexulous, or Words With Friends you’ll feel right at home!
Word Warp by MobilityWare – Word game fans rejoice! Similar to Text Twist, Word Warp is a challenging anagram type of word game in which you try to form as many words as you can out of the six letters you are given before time runs out. You will receive points for each correct word, but in order to advance to the next level you must come up with at least one word that uses all six letters.
Word Scramble 2 by Zynga – Scramble is the fast fun game of finding words in a jumbled grid. Quickly slide your finder over letters next to each other to make words! Compete with friends and play live with fellow word game fans.
Big Brain Academy (Wii and DS) by Nintendo – Weigh Your Brain! With 15 activities that challenge your brain in single-player Test and Practice modes, Big Brain Academy Wii sees how you measure up in five categories: memory, analysis, number crunching, visual recognition, and quick thinking.
My Word Coach (DS) by Ubisoft – Developed in collaboration with linguists, helps players improve their verbal communication and vocabulary in a fun way. Practice need never get boring with six different exercises to choose between. Players can input missing letters from words, spell out the answers to various definitions, choose which word matches a particular definition, form specific words with Scrabble-like tiles, and more. Three levels of difficulty are available, and the game includes a built-in dictionary of over 17,000 words.
Personal Trainer: Math (DS) by Nintendo – Makes learning fun with fast-paced, high-speed arithmetic problems that keep your math basics fresh, from addition to subtraction and multiplication to division. As your calculation speed improves, earn medals in each exercise to prove your mathematical mastery!
My Virtual Tutor: Reading Kindergarten to 1st Grade (DS) by Mentor Interactive – By combining the kid-friendly Nintendo DS with a proven reading curriculum developed and tested at the University of Colorado, My Virtual Tutor: Reading makes learning reading skills fun, affordable and portable. Through interactive books, school age and grade relevant phonics instruction and fun quiz modes, your child will learn the comprehension, phonics, fluency and vocabulary necessary to become an expert reader, all while having fun with their Nintendo DS.
Brain Age (DS) by Nintendo – The title is a series of minigames designed to give your brain a workout. The 17 engaging activities are all designed to help work your brain and increase blood flow to the prefrontal cortex. Whether you’re playing simple songs on a piano keyboard or monitoring the photo finish of a footrace, you’ll love your new mental workout!
This article was originally published by Kate Hancock on Frisky Mongoose.
A recent keynote at the Develop conference by Hello Games’ Sean Murray cast a harsh light on the realities of publishing downloadable games on home consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade, Sony’s PlayStation Network and Nintendo’s WiiWare Channel. He purports that self-published games like his recently-released critical darling Joe Danger (which sold 50,000 units week one on PSN) are both more successful and more profitable than those of major studios.
Arguably the most popular digital download channel, Apple’s App Store offers an extremely low barrier to entry – just $99 for a dev-kit and a revamped review process that sees new apps approved or denied in as little as three days. While a few iPhone gaming giants have emerged, there’s still plenty of room for a basement programmer to strike it rich (or at least make the “What’s Hot” list). In contrast, console gaming depends on the distribution models established decades ago by the book publishing industry. In order to get a disk-based game into players’ living rooms, developers must partner with a publisher who sets up the distribution (including dubious deeds like retailer exclusives). Self-publishing a game with a box and a manual is borderline impossible. But even when it comes to the zeroes and ones that comprise downloadable games, Murray perceives major developers as more of a burden than an asset to young development studios. According to his research, casual card, puzzle and word games make up 31% of the offerings on console download services but less than 5% percent of the sales. This flies in the face of the notion that casual players fuel the download market. In fact, it’s the long-time, hardcore gamers that are driving downloadable game sales, as evidenced by the top three selling XBLA games of 2009 (multiplayer-only FPS Battlefield 1943, oldschool-inspired beat-‘em-up Castle Crashers, and controller-crushingly difficult dirt bike platformer Trials HD). While the EA-published Battlefield may owe part of its success to the series’ long history, the other two titles were created (and published) by tiny development teams.
Murray argues that big publishers offer very little to developers in the downloadable games market, and this stems from both lack of experience and lack of effort or interest. As he puts it, the person in charge of the digital download services at most publishers “is not necessarily the biggest deal for the overall structure of the publisher.” For the time being, Joe Danger is exclusive to PSN – Sony makes their development tools readily accessible, unlike Microsoft and Nintendo. As a passive rebuttal to the PSN Store, Microsoft created the Xbox Live Indie Games channel (née Xbox Live Community Games), and while it’s relatively easy to get a title published there, the games are incredibly difficult to locate, let alone market and promote to fans.
So what’s a developer to do? For PlayStation games like Murray’s Joe Danger, the money saved through self-publishing could be spent on a high-caliber PR agency (ahem) to spread the word and boost downloads. For a game destined for XBLA or WiiWare, write your local congressperson! And be patient. As consumers become more and more comfortable keeping their entertainment in the cloud, the move toward online stores will pressure companies like Microsoft and Nintendo to revise their strategy.
There’s one other major stumbling block – NPD sales data for downloadable games is between difficult and impossible to obtain. As a result, publishers can’t use existing titles as a reference point to gauge the risk and potential profit of developing a new game. If the console giants would relinquish this information and break down other barriers to entry, publishers both great and small could bring more creatively adventurous titles to market. With this capitalistic system, gamers would enjoy all types of new options, from big-screen versions of the $.99 bite-size games that dominate the App Store to $30 small entrées that don’t fit the current pricing/distribution mold. With vibrant, fun-focused games like Joe Danger, the reign of the murky brown über -macho FPS may be coming to a close. It’s simply up to us, as the nerdy masses, to e-vote with our digital wallets.
[UPDATE – IGN’s editors weigh in on the PlayStation Move.]
Advances in hardware technology are encouraging gamers to get off the couch, but do the games actually warrant the price of admission (and broken lamps)? New gesture-based controls for Microsoft and Sony are novel, but in order to be truly innovative they have to benefit the gameplay. Otherwise these features will quickly be written off as tacky add-ons designed by marketing experts to keep consumers jonesing for the “next big thing.”
A few days ago at GDC I observed/tested a variety of new high-tech gaming devices, but wasn’t bowled over by any of them. Sony’s wand controller, now officially titled Move and set to launch this fall, does not seem to offer much beyond Nintendo’s Wii remote, which debuted three-plus years ago. It’s more responsive and nice-looking, but as with any of these new peripherals, there’s no way to judge the hardware in a vacuum. Rather, the software will determine the Move’s fate, and even if it’s compelling, to me this feels like a “day late, buck short” response from the historically-conservative Sony. Even if EyePet: Move is an amazing experience, the PlayStation does not stand much chance of moving in on the Wii’s immensely diverse userbase. Just because grandma can hold her own in Wii Tennis doesn’t mean that Little Susie is going to take an interest in dad’s Blu-ray playing, manticore-slaying PS Triple.
Generally speaking, hopes are higher for Microsoft’s camera-based Project Natal, but without substantial software demos, skeptics are outnumbering believers five-to-one. With that in mind, E3 2010 aught to be pretty exciting this year. With all three console giants committed to increasing console lifecycles, these unique add-ons allow developers to experiment with new game designs without starting from scratch on a brand new SDK.
While I can’t fault either company for wanting a piece of the motion-control pie, it seems that an entirely new kind of peripheral would garner a great deal more excitement and attention. As Dan Ackerman points out on the CNET Crave blog, the Wii owes a great deal of its success to its affordability and Nintendo’s reliable, family friendly reputation. The Wii-mote/Natal/Move debate will push gaming even further into the mainstream, but isn’t necessarily the be-all-end-all of gaming’s future. The dual analog-stick controller has gone largely unchanged in the last eight years. As opposed to the waggle revolution, I’d much rather see a design overhaul for “normal” controllers wherein each button, stick, d-pad and trigger is put under the microscope and thoroughly tested and refined. Tomorrow’s best console games will be played via a truly innovative controller that will take cues from the most unique and high-end PC gaming peripherals. Its weight and sensitivity will be user-customizable like today’s gaming mice, it’ll have a variety of force-feedback options and triggers will alter their “give” according to the on-screen action. Yes, this technological marvel might cost a hundred bucks a pop, but it’ll be the official controller in the inevitable two-console future – the gamepad of choice for the decidedly hardcore console.
Out in the vast desert of Las Vegas, the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences® (AIAS) hosted the 2010 D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit and the 13th annual Interactive Achievement Awards ceremony, and the TriplePoint team was in attendence. Julia Roether, Joe Ziemer and I joined in the event to learn from video game industry leaders, connect with likeminded individuals…..and enjoy that dry, ultra dehydrating weather that only Las Vegas can provide. Overall, we found that the D.I.C.E. Summit is a can’t miss event with informative and thought-provoking discussions from seasoned industry professionals, and we’ve included some of our key findings from the summit below.
One of the most interesting portions of the summit were a series of “Hot Topics” presented by Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR). Adam Sessler, Host of “X-Play” and Editor-in-Chief for G4tv.com, led debates on a few different themes, including a discussion on casual games with David Jaffe of Eat Sleep Play and David Crane of AppStar Games. Crane weighed in on the casual market saying that it will likely collapse on itself because development studios have to compete not only with the large scale publishers of the world like EA, but also the average teenager who is creating games in their basements without financial risk. Sessler also spoke with Dan Connors of Telltale Games and Richard Garriott of Portalarium about the importance of storytelling. Garriott expressed that most games with storylines have failed to integrate this properly. Additionally, Sessler spoke with Chris Taylor from Gas Powered Games and Mike Capps of Epic Games about the challenges of being an independent studio, and Taylor joked that his kids probably wouldn’t go to college because of the financial risks he’s had to take in order to finance the studio’s games.
You can also view brief video clips from the Hot Topics session here:
The D.I.C.E. Summit also featured a series of informative presentations from industry leaders, including Jesse Schell, a professor of game design at Carnegie Mellon University and head of Schell Games, who clearly gave the favorited talk at D.I.C.E. this year. Schell spoke about the impact of social games on Facebook platform over the last year, as well as the future of games beyond the online platform. He talked about the convergence of game-like interactions happening offline, and being incorporated into everything else that we do. He also projected that in the future, censors will detect everything in your life and will be used to engage people in gameplay. You can view Schell’s full presentation here:
The 13th annual Interactive Achievement Awards ceremony took place on the final evening of the summit to pay tribute and recognize the individuals and products that have contributed to the growth of the video game industry. It was truly a pleasure to watch Jay Mohr host the event as he jabbed at well-known industry executives with his sharp, totally uncensored comedy. In the end, we found the D.I.C.E. Summit to be a must-attend event for video game industry professionals both for its engaging and insightful content, and its focus on fostering relationships and growth in the industry.
At this week’s American International Toy Fair, the Mattel Corporation announced Barbie’s latest career as a computer engineer. Decked out in a binary-print tshirt, leggings and sensible(ish) shoes, Barbie sports a Bluetooth headset and carries a pink laptop (with “Barbie” written in ASCII on the screen, cleverly enough). The Barbie® I Can Be…™ Computer Engineer Doll was created by Mattel to inspire a new generation of girls to become part of this growing profession. Let’s hope Barbie can use her computer engineering skills to inspire more girls to become part of the video game profession, a subset of the computer industry that currently has women comprising only 5% of its ranks.
Barbie’s inspiration notwithstanding, women have already begun taking a more active role as both developers and consumers of video games. The Guildhall at SMU, a graduate video game education program, has recently announced that 20 percent of their incoming class is female, and the Electronic Software Association’s most recent survey of gamers has asserted that 43 percent of online players are women. (The latter statistic could most likely be attributed to the popularity of casual games, but also may include games such as World of Warcraft, which has a surprisingly high female gamer population.)
For those who are interested in becoming part of the rising tide of women in the video game industry, the Frag Dolls blog has posted a list of 50 games industry women from whom to draw inspiration, including Corrinne Yu, the Principal Engine Programmer for Microsoft’s Halo Franchise Team and the first female Technical Lead for Microsoft Game Studios, as well as noted game designer Jane McGonigal and Fiona Cherbak, current head of the Women in Games Special Interest Group (SIG) for the International Game Developers Association (IGDA).
Fiona and the Women in Games SIG are spearheading initiatives to help inspire girls and women to take a more active role within the video games industry. Most recently, she and the SIG have created GameMentorOnline to “meet the growing need for peer-to-peer mentorship support in games,” as well as the Games2Girls Program Committee, (chaired by gaming industry veteran Margaret Wallace), which is working in conjunction with the Games Research Lab at Columbia in NY to develop course curriculum to help promote video games as a profession to middle school girls. Other important programs include the Indie Women’s Game Design Competition, with winners to be announced at GDC 2010, and the Women in Games Preservation Committee, which showcases important women in games through its database and Wiki.
Join Barbie and the thousands of real-life women who are breaking the mold in the computer engineering and video games industries, one pink high heel at a time. For more information, check out the Women in Games SIG, or attend sessions at the upcoming Game Developer’s Convention in San Francisco.
In terms of wide-sweeping brand recognition, Popcap is to casual gaming what Nintendo is to gaming in general. Your Grandma knows about Nintendo, but your Mom might know a PopCap game or two. Founded a decade ago, the company does a spectacular job of keeping their games in the public eye and maintaining a friendly, unassuming aesthetic. It’s as if making boatloads of money is the pleasant side-effect of cranking out highly addictive puzzlers, and to be clear, casual games are doing big business. Most of their games are available on multiple platforms, with free versions hosted at PopCap.com. Because the games are both robust and replayable, it’s no surprise that their perennial favorite Bejeweled 2 hasn’t left the Top 10 Highest Grossing list on the App Store since that category was unveiled six months ago . Continue reading Social, Casual or Both? PopCap Sells Cows, Gives Away Free Milk
Over the last year, the number of retro and classic console and arcade games on the iPhone has dramatically increased, often providing these much-beloved chestnuts with a new lease on life (and great success for their publishers). Classic characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Earthworm Jim, Guybrush Threepwood and Dirk the Daring are back in full force, with more characters set to make a comeback on the horizon.
How have these once-antiquated characters found new relevancy on a new medium? Beyond the obvious nostalgia factor, it all boils down to gameplay, fun, and interesting game design. The most popular games from the 80s and 90s still resonate with gamers today. In the “golden era” of 16- and 32-bit graphics, game designers couldn’t rely on whiz-bang visuals, environmental physics and detailed rendering to impress gamers. Games were distilled down to their simplest elements: pick-up-and-play ease, addictive fun and compelling gameplay.
Venerable games publisher Sega has recognized the importance of the iPhone to classic games, and is bringing back some of their most successful and celebrated games to the platform. The upcoming Sega Genesis Ultimate Collection, which will enable gamers to purchase classic Sega Genesis titles (such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Golden Axe, Shining Force and more) presents a new opportunity for gamers to relive their favorite gaming experiences, and introduces such franchises to those who may be too young to have ever played them. Sega is not alone. A quick Web search on “retro iPhone games” provides hundreds of options for the classic gaming enthusiast, including arcade superstars Pac-Man and Space Invaders. For those looking for the console classics, Touch Arcade has provided a handy list that includes personal favorites Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins and the PC mega-hit Myst.
Furthermore, developers inspired by classic games are bringing new titles to the market that have familiar influences. The upcoming Slug Wars from Republic of Fun draws its inspiration from the Worms series (originally released on the Amiga in the early 80s). iPhone publisher Super Happy Fun Fun’s Mark Pierce, the original designer of 90s arcade hit Klax, incorporated similar game principles on the match-three puzzler Star*Burst.
With a plethora of opportunities for both classic gamers and new gamers alike, the iPhone has resurrected old franchises, as well as inspired new ones. These “snackable nuggets of classic delight” can be devoured by consumers young and old, truly making the platform a gaming haven that anyone can enjoy.
It took less than 24 hours for NaturalMotion to make an impact on the App Store, as Backbreaker Football has already breached the top 50 for all paid games. The first in-house game from the development juggernaut that produces the animation technologies euphoria, morpheme and endorphin (rapidly adopted in both the game and movie industries by companies such as Rockstar Games, LucasArts, Disney, THQ, CCP, Bioware), Backbreaker Football offers a mobile football experience that can be rivaled by none.
The game, which utilizes the iPhone/ iPod touch’s accelerometer controls, presents football in full 3D glory. Backbreaker Football’s amazing replication of bonecrushing tackles is sure to please both pigskin fans and mobile gamers alike. Directly inspired by a mini-game taken from NaturalMotion’s Backbreaker (currently in development for Xbox 360 and PLAYSTATION 3), Backbreaker Football truly brings a console-like experience to the iPhone/ iPod touch.
As a standalone title, the action and gameplay speak for itself. Not only is Backbreaker Football an elite application, but its release marks the unique opportunity to showcase aspects of a future console title on an entirely different platform. The opportunity for NaturalMotion to create both a superior application, as well as officially introduce the world to the powerful gameplay associated with the future Backbreaker console title, serves as a win-win situation for anyone with an iPhone/ iPod touch.
To view the vicious tackles, you can find a link to the trailer after the break..
Last week, the social media world was taken hostage by Kanye West. Yes, the Chicago-native rapper, music producer, and singer managed to not only become the topic of conversation around water coolers everywhere, but more importantly, Mr. West seized complete control over social networks, and in particular, Twitter.
Whether or not you tuned in to the MTV Video Music Awards (we all know he did), many of you are familiar with the media-sensationalized Kanye tirade in which “The College Dropout” interrupted pop singer Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech for “Best Female Video.” What you may not be familiar with is social media explosion that subsequently occurred as a result of Mr. West’s profession of love for Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video.
I, along with the rest of the TriplePoint team, have spent a good deal of time figuring out the best way to utilize social media to spread client and industry news. In order to adapt to the changing landscape of media, we “PR folk” are constantly seeking the best methods for distributing such news and having it reach the masses. Over the last year, Twitter has emerged as a leading source of news information, and the @TriplePoint feed continues to deliver the latest news on not only our clients, but the gaming industry on the whole, as well as other social media trends, insights, etc. From my observations, the opportunity to reach audiences on Twitter was greatly inhibited last week by the eloquent phrase, “I’ma let you finish, but…”
Wow, what a couple of days for David Whatley of Critical Thought Games.
Earlier this year, Whatley launched geoDefense, a retro-styled tower defense game for the iPhone. Due to its brilliantly challenging level design, unassailable game balance, and long-lasting gameplay, geoDefense established a dedicating following and achieved sleeper hit status. His follow-up, geoDefense Swarm, is anything but a sleeper:
As of 11 AM on Thursday the 17th – not three days since it launched – Swarm is sitting pretty at #7 in Top Paid Apps in the US App Store, and #4 in All Games. What does that look like in comparison to the original? Well, here’s a handy chart David just posted on his blog:
Both games are excellent – the early consensus seems to indicate that both Swarm and the original stand on their own as equally excellent titles. So what’s the difference?
It’s critical mass. Swarm had a tidal wave of well-deserved hype and anticipation that created a massive crowd of day-one customers: the engine behind Swarm‘s explosive out-of-the-gate showing.
The original geoDefense launched like most indie games: with little fanfare, few to no previews and a slow trickle of reviews. It was a phenomenal game – it achieved a very respectable level of success entirely on its own merits, and then really took off once a series of glowing reviews gave it a substantial bump.
Swarm, on the other hand, has a built-in audience of dedicated geoDefense fans ready to buy on day one – as long as they knew it was coming. Thanks to an extensive preview campaign, ongoing interaction with the community, and calculated launch publicity, those folks definitely knew it was coming!
This level of success in the App Store depends on hitting the sweet spot ‘above the fold’ – that is, in the Top Paid Apps list. Once you’re there, if you’ve developed a great game, you’re golden. And while there’s no secret formula for getting there, it’s irrefutable that carrying out a deliberate publicity push surrounding your game’s launch – previews shortly before, and reviews immediately at launch – is one of the most important things you can do to prepare that critical mass of buyers to push you above the fold.
Congrats to David on an excellent launch, and an even more excellent game. Go buy it! iTunes Link