GDC roundup: Total War, NASCAR, Wizard Ops Tactics and more

UntitledGlobal Gaming Initiative aims to get players into the charity game — Today at GDC, we sat down to chat with The Global Gaming Initiative, a for-profit gaming group who makes games to benefit charities. That may sound confusing, but it actually works pretty simply: The GGI partners with a charity it researches (to ensure it’s legitimate) and then creates a premium game where installs and IAP help support said charity. The example we were shown was Sidekick Cycle, a Tiny Wings-like runner on iOS benefitting World Bicycle Relief. We’re told every 387 installs of the $0.99 app will pay for a high-quality bike to be delivered to a child in need in Africa. An interesting element of the game is that there’s a graphic showing how close the game is to delivering its next bike every time an IAP is made. The GGI tells us it’s planning to release games on iOS and Google Play for now, and Sidekick Cycle will be out sometime in the coming months. If you’re interested in checking out the GGI and its message of “change in your pocket”, head over to the company’s website to learn more.

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 8.53.51 PMEutechnyx bringing NASCAR games to mobile — Eutechnyx, the developer behind NASCAR’s various console games, revealed to us that it’s expanding its titles onto iOS and Android. Based on the build we saw, the mobile version of NASCAR The Game: Inside Line has some stunning graphics and will also be able to leverage all the cars and racers from NASCAR itself. According to Eutechnyx VP, Commercial Scott Jones tells us the game will play with CSR-like mechanics, with a cutscene showing how you perform. Meanwhile, the company also is working on NASCAR Draft, which will feature asynchronous strategic multiplayer mechanics. The game gives users ten moves to play each round, like choosing to pass or draft behind other cars, and will again show a cutscene updating one’s standing in the race; Jones tells us the title’s been designed off of board game ideas. These games are coming sometime later this summer, and we’re also told Eutechnyx is currently in the process of considering the possibilities of bringing NASCAR games to social platforms.

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 9.19.17 PMWizard Ops Tactics brings tactical strategy to mobile and web — We spent some time checking out Phyken Media’s Wizard Ops Tactics on the floor of GDC Play today. The game is a fully 3D version of fantasy-themed tactical strategy action, with gameplay reminiscent of classics like Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics (there are definitely some goofy attacks and animations that certainly feel like they’d appear during the former). From what we got to see, the strategic combat — which is online only, there’s no single player mode — was pretty fun and the graphics looked truly gorgeous. The game is due out on web, Android and iOS sometime this Spring and will feature Facebook Connect, as well as other social sharing mechanics.

totalwararena

Creative Assembly announces free-to-play Total War: ARENA – PC strategy game developer and makes of the Total War Franchise today announced Total War: Arena, a free-to-play game mixing elements of real-time strategy and MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) gameplay. Creative Assembly  Lead Designer James Russell announced that the game was under development in the company’s U.K. studio during its GDC 2013 session. Total War: ARENA will be the company’s first free-to-play title. It will allow players to recreate famous battles from history in large scale, team-based matches. Players can sign up for the upcoming closed beta tests here.

playdek

Playdek raises $3.8M in Series A funding – Digital tabletop games publisher Playdek announced it has raised $3.8 million in Series A funding led by Qualcomm Ventures with participation from IDG Ventures, ff Venture Capital and existing investors Deep Fork Capital, Greycroft Partners, Jari Mohn and other angel investors. — The new funds will be used to expand the company’s ability to launch more games such as the upcoming Agricola, as well its online community platform. Launching later this year, the Playdek community platform will encourage digital tabletop players to connect with special events and tournaments.

 

What Kristian Segrestrale’s departure could mean for EA’s social game plan

0f91dc9This week’s departure of Kristian Segrestrale, the last Playfish founding executive at Electronic Arts, marks a turning point for the company that could shift it away from the Facebook platform. Here’s a look back at how the social game ecosystem has changed for Playfish following its 2009 acquisition.

EA at one point was viewed in the industry as the example of how mainstream publishers could successfully straddle the lines between social, mobile and traditional games. This was, in large part, due to EA’s $400 million acquisition of Playfish in 2009. It was a smart investment, as Playfish was one of the major presences in the early days of social games with user numbers on par with Playdom, Crowdstar and Zynga.

The benefits of the acquisition went both ways with EA gaining an experienced Facebook games developer and Playfish gaining access to major brands like MLB, Dragon Age and FIFA. For a short period of time, each of these Playfish-managed titles performed well in MAU and DAU rankings, but they lacked staying power beyond about 12 months. Meanwhile, the Facebook games ecosystem began to change in ways that made it harder for Playfish to maintain their position in the leaderboards. First, the platform cut back dramatically on the viral channels available to social game developers to address quality concerns. Then, the mandatory introduction of Facebook Credits throughout the spring and summer of 2011 made it more confusing for people to purchase virtual goods — because first they had to buy the platform currency and then spend it within specific games. Moreover, a player could spend Credits on any game they wanted instead of just purchasing Playfish currency that could only be spent in Playfish games. Toward the middle of 2011, as Zynga moved closer to its initial public offering, it came to light that Facebook was providing exclusive advantages to the developer (which while Playfish may have known about all along, likely came as a nasty surprise to EA). (more…)

Social games news roundup: Playdek, Zynga’s love survey, SqueeDogs and more

playdek

Playdek launches President’s Day Weekend sale – Mobile game developer Playdek is hosting a sale for the long weekend. iOS players can pick up Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer for $2.99, and the in-app expansions Return of the Fallen and Storm of Souls for $1.99 and $2.99, respectively; Nightfall for $.99; Penny Arcade the Game: Gamers vs Evil for $2.99; and the “Everything Bundle” in-app purchase within Summoner Wars for $4.99.

squeedogs

Mother and son launch Facebook game SqueeDogs – Game developer Pirate Epstein, at the urging of his mother Cerise Jacobs, has launched a 3D Facebook pet sim called SqueeDogs using $10,000 in Kickstarter funds. As Wicked Local’s Brookline blog reports, the project got off the ground because Jacobs wanted a game that starred her rescue dog, Mencius.

Zynga1

Zynga Valentine’s Day poll reveals that With Friends players flirt with chat – An annual Zynga survey of players reveals that people sometimes flirt in social/mobile games. Highlights from the survey include: 30 percent of players flirt with their opponent through the chat feature; 23 percent try to play higher-scoring words against someone to whom they are attracted; 24 percent are more competitive when playing against somebody they have romantic feelings for; 53 percent report being more attracted to players with a good vocabulary; and 26 percent of married players play with their spouse.

pac

Teen creates social network for cancer patients that love video games – Polygon reports that cancer survivor Steven Gonzalez is creating a social network for teens with cancer that want to play video games together. The not-for-profit network, Survivor Games, will function like a virtual arcade where players can chat, game together or spectate other games.

sony

Why Sony couldn’t get PlayStation Portable games to work on smartphones – Two years since launching an unsuccessful campaign to bring PlayStation Portable games to Android devices like the Sony Xperia tablets and phones, Sony’s Chris Mahoney explained to the audience at the Appsworld conference in San Francisco why the company had to rejigger its approach to mobile games: “What people were saying is not that we have to fit these games into the device, but fit these games into how people use it. People are using games during these little bursts of time. So we thought, what is a console game? A console game is ten 30-60-minute levels. Mobile games are like hundreds of levels that are three to six minutes, sometimes even less. What if we take the higher quality graphics, and the narratives that everyone is asking for, and we put it on a mobile phone and fit it into these little bursts of time. We took that back to consumers, and they said ‘Yes, that’s it exactly, that’s what we want.’” Read the rest on GamesIndustry International.

PerBlue-Logo

[Launch] PerBlue brings Boardtastic to Android – Parallel Kingdoms developer PerBlue brings free-to-play 3D skateboarding sim Boardtastic for Android this week. The game offers a competitive multiplayer mode, a set of five tricks to master and new abilities to unlock as the player progresses and clothing customization that offers player bonuses.

appfund

[Press Release] Investment group App Fund seeking mobile game submissions – The App Fund, an investment group dedicated to supporting mobile apps across a broad range of categories is seeking mobile game submissions. Interested parties can apply here and check out the press release detailing the App Fund’s approach here.

EA

[Press Release] EA to launch Tetris Blitz on iPhone, Android – This spring, EA will bring a new flavor of Tetris to mobile devices with Tetris Blitz. The game challenges players to reach a high score in a fixed amount of time and the touch interface offers a new control scheme.

Guest Post: Resurrecting Location-Based Games

geo1Today’s guest post comes to us from David Bisceglia, Founder and CEO of  The Tap Lab, a mobile game studio focusing on location-based titles. His article focuses on what developers of these types of games can learn from previous titles in the genre.

Many of us grew up playing classic backyard games like Capture the Flag, Pickle and Marco Polo. The digital variant of these games are known as location-based games, a genre that has been around for over a decade.

A Brief History of Location-Based Games

In 1999, the first mobile phones with GPS hit the market. This set the course for the pioneers of location-based games. Dodgeball, one of the first location-based social networks, and a GPS-driven scavenger hunt called Geocaching both came to market in 2000. The major map data providers, Google Maps and Open Street Maps, were established by 2005 and the launch of iPhone and Android phones with GPS soon followed. From 2009-2010, venue data providers including Google Places, Foursquare and Factual placed the final piece of the puzzle for the mobile games we see today.

geo2 (more…)

Adam Jaffe opens up about Playtika’s Playground affiliate program

Late last year, Slotomania developer Playtika launched its new affiliate program, Playground. We recently sat down with Playtika’s User Acquisitions Group Leader Adam Jaffe to talk about Playground and how it’s furthering Slotomania’s presence in the social games space.

Playground is Slotomania’s new program allowing affiliates and media partners the ability to pull tracking links and banners, check on campaign results and review status payments. It’s described to us as a “one stop shop” for people looking to make money by sending players over to Slotomania.com.

The program pays out based on two different models: CPA and revenue sharing. A CPA is described as “anyone who makes a first time transaction through Slotomania.com.” For CPAs, Playtika pays on a graduated scale based on each first time deposit (FTD). As FTDs are made, the system keeps track and adjusts the payouts based on volume and time period.

With revenue sharing, every new affiliate who chooses this option receives an increasing portion of revenue. According to Jaffe, “For the first month we are going to give 80 percent rev-share, the second month 60 percent, the third month 40 percent.  Then, depending on the quality of the traffic the fourth month, the rate will be adjusted accordingly.” (more…)

The biggest surprises of 2012 in social and mobile gaming

2012 was a major year for the social and mobile games industries, with huge moments like  the legal battles between Zynga and developers like EA and Kixeye, the shutdown of kompu gacha mechanics in Japan and the expansion of major game brands onto these platforms. As the year comes to a close, each of us here at Inside Social Games and Inside Mobile Apps are looking back and noting what we found to be the biggest surprises.

AJ Glasser

Angry Birds Star Wars was a big surprise. Given all the iterations of Angry Birds out there, it didn’t seem Rovio could come up with a lot of canon-relevant bird powers, but — particularly after the Hoth update added a Leia bird — the game proves itself to be both relevant and entertaining

Pete Davison

My biggest surprise is the success of Rage of Bahamut in the States — the game is still riding high in the Top Grossing charts right now, meaning that people are not only playing it, but they’re spending money on it. This is particularly surprising given Rage’s many glaring flaws: it’s a game with a slow, cumbersome Web-based interface, a complete lack of sound and simplistic, repetitive and frankly rather dull gameplay, yet it resonates with people enough for them to be willing to put money into it. It has also inspired numerous other developers to try and repeat its success to little avail — despite, in many cases, these rival titles providing a vastly superior experience for players.

Kathleen De Vere

The big surprise for me was Japanese hits flopping in the United States. GREE’s Driland was a total flop in North America, but has been the most popular and profitable ard battle game in Japan for a long time. Puzzles and Dragons also seems DOA. Meanwhile Rage of Bahamut is a mega hit here after being only a middling hit in Japan.

Mike Thompson

The biggest — and most disappointing — surprise for me was SimCity Social. This was billed as Electronic Arts’ next big social hit after The Sims Social. After all of EA’s bravado about how the game was going to give players an experience that was “more city, less Ville”, we realized the play experience was certainly polished but pretty much the same as any other citybuilder (and it wasn’t any more impressive six weeks later). I clearly wasn’t the only player who got bored with the game, as it peaked in July with 1.8 million daily active users and quickly started to lose traffic (it’s now at 430,000 DAU). Another disappointing piece of news this year was that EA recently revealed it killed or delayed 10 social games at it switched to mobile; that makes sense following SimCity Social’s high-profile launch and subsequent floundering.

Emanuel Maiberg

The biggest and most pleasant surprise of the year for me was that social and mobile game developers are actually making an effort with bigger, more ambitious projects. Between Zynga publishing Horn and Respawnables, nWay’s ChronoBlade, Rumble Games’ KingsRoad and many more titles of an equally impressive scope, it seems that developers and publishers in the mobile and social space are no longer content with simply rehashing the same word and management sim formulas (which we still have too many of). I’m afraid that, as is the case in the AAA console titles, many of these teams will not find financial success but I am excited to play their games in 2013 and see how they push the whole industry forward.

2012′s biggest rumors and controversies in social and mobile games

2012 is coming to a close without any end-of-the-world shenanigans so it’s time for Inside Social Games to look back at the biggest rumors and controversies in the social/mobile games industry.

We realize these aren’t always the most popular things for investors and developers to read, but the stories herein are often repeated within the industry even more than the success stories. Some of the things listed below couldn’t be verified at the time or didn’t have enough substance to warrant a full news post. In some cases, however, we were able to confirm certain details from reliable sources. In keeping with tradition and out of consideration for these sources, we’ve chosen to keep them anonymous. (more…)

Guest Post: Punch Quest – Optimizing UI Flow for IAP

Editors note: The following guest post was written by Ethan Levy, co-founder of Quarter Spiral a new game publishing startup, and uses the game Punch Quest as a case study on how one can streamline a title’s UI in order to make in-app purchases a more common experience. Levy is a 10-year veteran of the video games industry, having recently worked at BioWare’s San Francisco studio as producer for Dragon Age Legends.

I’m a little late to the party, but I recently discovered the exceptional iOS game Punch Quest and was instantly hooked. This beautifully crafted mash up of Jetpack Joyride and Streets of Rage (or Final Fight if you were more SNES than Genesis) transfixed me immediately. I was addicted to the quick rounds of pick up and play simplicity, the explosions of Punchos upon completing a quest and the joy of punching a cyclops right in the eye.


Punch Quest made headlines not only for it’s high Metacritic rating, but unfortunately for its failure with the freemium model and unorthodox switch from free to paid. I only discovered the game after it started charging $0.99 and felt that the purchase was completely justified. I enjoyed playing so much that I spent additional dollars on in-app purchases (IAP). Importantly, Punch Quest fulfilled one of the most important criteria for a successful freemium game: as a player, I had more fun as a result of spending money on IAP. (more…)

Guest Post: Social and mobile convergence will lead to better games

Editor’s Note: Inside Social Games has been quietly expanding its coverage to include mobile games with social features, as the social and mobile sectors are becoming more and more interconnected. As a result, the concept of “social games” is continuing to be redefined. The following guest post was written by Anil Dharni and Ken Chiu of GREE and provides perspective on the convergence of mobile and social games.  Dharni serves as Senior Vice President, Studio Operations and Chiu is the company’s Senior Vice President, Games Studio. Dharni was the President and COO of Funzio, which GREE acquired in May 2012. Chiu left Zynga to co-found and served as Funzio’s CEO.

In today’s world, the words “social” and “mobile” go hand-in-hand. We are seeing social and mobile become more mainstream and are crucial components of any game trying to achieve widespread adoption and success. There is no doubt that mobile games with robust social elements will be leaders in entertaining, engaging, and ultimately retaining loyal users. With users becoming more and more sophisticated, the bar will continue to get raised  in terms of production quality, graphics, and game-play — forcing game-makers to be more innovative in their development. (more…)

In Two Weeks: Inside Network and SmartRecruiters’ Network Get Work happy hour

Come join Inside Network and SmartRecruiters in November for happy hour.

Our “Network, Get Work” event brings together job seekers and companies in the social media and tech industry. Whether you’re interested in joining tech start-ups or global firms in the Bay Area, recruiting for top social media talent, or just someone interested in connecting with like-minded peers, we’ve got drinks for you.

You’ll find us at SmartRecruiter’s San Francisco headquarters on Thursday, November 1. RSVP on Eventbrite and read on for more details:

Inside Network & SmartRecruiters’ Network, Get Work Party

What: Drinks, conversation, networking
Who: Recruiters, job seekers, anyone interested in the social media or technology space
When: Thursday, November 1, 2012 6:00-8:00 pm
Where: The SmartRecruiters Office: 56 Tehama St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Why: To connect great companies with top-notch job candidates, to network, and to have fun!
Complimentary food and drinks

SmartRecruiters is the social recruiting platform that makes hiring easy. Leveraging the latest cloud technologies along with intuitive design, SmartRecruiters gives social enterprises everything they need to post jobs, manage candidates, and make the right hire. The mission of SmartRecruiters is to eradicate unemployment by removing friction in the labor market. Its 20,000+ customers have created over 100,000 jobs.

The Inside Network Job Board, powered by Mediabistro, is the highest-quality recruitment space for positions in social media, gaming, and mobile apps. Leading developers, product managers, marketers, and investors in social and mobile industries rely on Inside Network for expert news, research, and analysis—now they can rely on us for jobs, too! Come discover our hidden pool of top-notch talent at jobs.insidenetwork.com.

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