Social games news roundup: Google game services, EA, Kabam and more

EA

EA inviting Sim City Social refugees to Plants vs. Zombies Adventures – Last month we reported that game developer and publisher Electronic Arts announced that on June 14 it will retire three of its Facebook games: Sim City Social, The Sims Social and Pet Society. Today we’ve learned that EA is inviting Sim City Social players to play the beta for the highly anticipated Plants vs. Zombies Adventures Facebook game via emails. The game will launch publicly on May 20.

pikpok

DreamWorks, PikPok and Verizon promote Turbo with mobile game and $1M in rewards – DreamWorks Animation announced it is promoting its upcoming film Turbo with a mobile game by developer PikPok, which will feature a contest with $1 million in total cash prizes. The Turbo Racing League mobile game is available on iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android handsets and tablets, and Windows Phone 8, but players on Verizon, which is presenting the $1 million Shell-Out contest, will have access to unique content. You can read about the contest rules in detail here.

EA

Former New York Times digital and mobile products manager joins EA’s Board of Directors – Game developer and publisher Electronic Arts has appointed Denise F. Warren to its Board of Directors. Warren is executive vice president of the digital products and services group and former chief advertising officer at The New York Times Company. The announcement comes on the heels of EA’s Q4 2013 earnings report which revealed the company earned $104 million in revenue from mobile, and its increasing focus on mobile and digital products.

startrek

Elephant Mouse launches Star Trek Rivals – Mobile game developer Elephant Mouse announced the launch of a free-to-play card battle game based on the recently released Star Trek Into Darkness feature film. The game will feature more than 100 cards for players to collect, representing characters, starships and technoolgies that appear in the film. The game is avilable to download for free from the iTunes App Store.

sega-logo

Sonic The Hedgehog debuts on Android – Game developer and publisher Sega announced that the 16-bit Genesis classic Sonic The Hedgehog has launched on Android. The game, which was already available on iOS, is now available to download from the iTunes App Store for $2.99.

KAB_Icon_Rnd10

Kabam to implement Google+ Sign-In – Social game developer Kabam announced that it will be the first games company to implement Google+ Sign-In. The new integration will provide users with a simple and secure sign-in process on Kabam.com and the ability to engage users with interactive posts, which allow players to share content and prompt friends to take specific actions in their games.

Corona Labs

Corona Labs announces Dilbert Game Jam — Venture-backed mobile software company Corona Labs has teamed up with the creator of the Dilbert comic strip Venture-backed mobile software company for a mobile game development contest. Developers are invited to create a winning a game with the Corona SDK and Dilbert artwork. The winner will have the opportunity to publish the the game to major app stores. Additional prizes include yearlong subscriptions to Corona SDK Pro, iTunes gift cards and more. The contest runs from May 14 through July 12 with winners to be announced on July 19. You can read more about the Dilbert Game Jam here.

google_logo_33

Google announces game services — During Google’s sixth annual I/O keynote in San Francisco Google’s vice president of Android product management Hugo Barra announced the launch of Google’s equivalent to iOS’ Game Center, Google Play game services. The new feature allows developers to add cloud sync to any game, so users can save their data like player progression and game state across any Android device. Additionally, Google Play game services adds leaderboards and achievements support as well as a new multiplayer feature. Also, game services isn’t limited to Android apps, the service can be integrated into an iOS or web app, allowing cross-platform play.

EA reports $1.04B net revenue in Q4 2013, generates $104M from mobile

EA logoGaming giant Electronic Arts today reported $1.04 billion in non-generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) net revenue for its fourth fiscal quarter of 2013, up 6.4 percent year-over-year from 977 million in non-GAAP net revenue from Q4 2012.

Sales of $1.04 billion were within the company’s guidance of $1.025 billion to $1.125 billion. Non-GAAP diluted earnings per share (EPS) were $0.55, which was slightly below its guidance of $0.57 to $0.72, while non-GAAP loss per share was $($0.17).

EA didn’t report a non-GAAP net loss in this quarter, but expects a non-GAAP net loss of $188 million and a non-GAAP loss per share of $0.62 for Q1 2014. Non-GAAP net income for the quarter was $169 million, up from $56 million from the same quarter a year ago. Non-GAAP digital revenue for the 2013 fiscal year totaled $1.7 billion.

Overall, the company’s non-GAAP digital revenue for Q4 2013 amounted to $618 million, up from $425 million in Q4 2012. Revenue from mobile, including handhelds, contributed approximately $104 million to this total.

“We remained focused on this segment due to the significant growth in the smartphone and tablet market,” says Blake Jorgensen, chief financial officer of EA, in today’s earnings call. (more…)

EA shuts down Sim City Social, The Sims Social and Pet Society June 14

ea-logo-300x145 copy

Game developer and publisher Electronic Arts announced that on June 14 it will retire three of its Facebook games: Sim City Social, The Sims Social and Pet Society.

EA made the announcement on its website and explained that the games were being retired so it can “can reallocate development resources to other titles.” The announcement also encourages players to spend their existing balance of in-game currency as it will become invalid starting June 14.

This is a dramatic but not at all surprising move for EA. EA’s Q2 2013 earnings report was scant on information about the company’s performance and plans for its social games. However, former EA CEO John Riccitiello then revealed the company’s changed its outlook from last quarter as it’s shifted to focusing on mobile development, killing or delaying as many as 10 different social games.

(more…)

Exclusive: PopCap bringing Plants vs. Zombies to Facebook with Plants vs. Zombies Adventures, confirms PvZ 2

PvZ_Adventures_Primary_RGB copyPopCap Games today officially revealed the social adaptation of its incredibly popular game Plants vs. Zombies with Plants vs. Zombies Adventures. At the San Francisco Game Developer Conference, we got to sit down with head of PopCap’s San Francisco studio Curt Bererton and Creative Director Mathilde Pignol to check out what gamers can expect to see. The company also officially confirmed Plants vs. Zombies 2 will release sometime early this summer, though we didn’t get the opportunity to check that game out.

Plants vs. Zombie’s impending arrival on Facebook has pretty much been the worst-kept secret in the games industry for the past year, with PvZ knockoffs regularly appearing on the social network and gaining popularity before getting shut down. Finally, though, PopCap is getting ready to launch a limited regional beta of PvZ Adventures, with a wider launch planned for later this spring. During this time, Bererton and Pignol tell us the studio will take the time to do some A/B testing with certain features before making final game design decisions.

As opposed to the original Plants vs. Zombies, the core gameplay in PvZ Adventures will see players defending a motor home from the cartoonish undead. The storyline takes place during these “Road Trip” missions; which occur in different settings (we saw both a post-apocalypse cityscape and a chasm called “Dire Spires”, though there seemed to be many more) and players can choose the difficulty of the level before they start.

The game is set to feature a number of new zombies and plants, of which we got to see a few examples. The new plants include the Beet, which deals heavy amounts of melee damage, and Aspearagus. Likewise, some of the new zombie types includes one wearing a barrel that then charges at full speed when the plants destroy said barrel and a “Mad Hatter” zombie that appeared to be heavily armored with a variety of headgear.

Zombie battles are presented in a 3D isometric format. Instead of having the zombies progressing in a straight line, there are often multiple winding paths leading to the motor home’s front door. Players choose a limited number of plants before the level begins and then place them along the pathways at strategic points to hold off the walking corpses. Clicking on the plants will provide a temporary range and power boost for a small amount of sunshine (which is normally used to purchase and place plants during battles). (more…)

EA CEO John Riccitiello steps down, Larry Probst appointed Executive Chairman

ricco

Game developer and publisher Electronic Arts today announced John Riccitiello will step down as Chief Executive Officer and as a member of the Board of Directors, effective March 30. Larry Probst, who was CEO prior to Riccitiello, was appointed Executive Chairman while the Board searches for a new, permanent CEO.

EA made the announcement today via an official release, also stating that the company is considering both external and internal candidates to replace Riccitiello.

“My decision to leave EA is really all about my accountability for the shortcomings in our financial results this year,” Riccitiello explained in his letter to EA (published by Kotaku). “It currently looks like we will come in at the low end of, or slightly below, the financial guidance we issued to the Street, and we have fallen short of the internal operating plan we set one year ago. And for that, I am 100 percent accountable.”

Riccitiello also took pride in the strides the company has made in the mobile space, telling his employees: “You are number one in the fastest growing segment, mobile, with incredible games like The Simpsons: Tapped Out, Real Racing 3, Bejeweled, SCRABBLE and Plants v. Zombies.”

EA’s release cited Probst’s accomplishments when he was last CEO, also specifying his contributions to online and mobile. “As CEO, Probst successfully grew the Company’s annual revenues from $175 million to approximately$3 billion, led EA into new platforms such as mobile, online and other emerging markets and expanded its international presence to more than 75 countries.”

EA CEO John Riccitiello steps down, Larry Probst appointed Executive Chairman

ricco

Game developer and publisher Electronic Arts today announced John Riccitiello will step down as Chief Executive Officer and as a member of the Board of Directors, effective March 30. Larry Probst, who was CEO prior to Riccitiello, was appointed Executive Chairman while the Board searches for a new, permanent CEO.

EA made the announcement today via an official release, also stating that the company is considering both external and internal candidates to replace Riccitiello.

“My decision to leave EA is really all about my accountability for the shortcomings in our financial results this year,” Riccitiello explained in his letter to EA (published by Kotaku). “It currently looks like we will come in at the low end of, or slightly below, the financial guidance we issued to the Street, and we have fallen short of the internal operating plan we set one year ago. And for that, I am 100 percent accountable.”

Riccitiello also took pride in the strides the company has made in the mobile space, telling his employees: “You are number one in the fastest growing segment, mobile, with incredible games like The Simpsons: Tapped Out, Real Racing 3, Bejeweled, SCRABBLE and Plants v. Zombies.”

EA’s release cited Probst’s accomplishments when he was last CEO, also specifying his contributions to online and mobile. “As CEO, Probst successfully grew the Company’s annual revenues from $175 million to approximately$3 billion, led EA into new platforms such as mobile, online and other emerging markets and expanded its international presence to more than 75 countries.”

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…)

Real Racing 3 (iOS) review

Real Racing 3 is a new iOS release from EA and Firemonkeys, a studio born from the merging of original Real Racing developer Firemint and IronMonkey Studios, the latter of which was responsible for some of EA’s better mobile offerings. The new game, unlike its premium-price predecessors, is a free-to-play title with additional in-app purchases of in-game currency. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, weighing in at just under 2GB in size once installed.

Real Racing 3

Like its predecessors, Real Racing 3 is a racing simulation with an eye on realism, particularly on the graphical front. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this is one of the best-looking games on iOS, even on slightly older hardware such as the iPad 2. Car models (including some impressively-rendered interiors) look very much true to life, and the various circuits are recognizable as their real-world counterparts. There is a degree of draw distance pop-in on some objects (at least on iPad 2, the device used to test the game) but in practice during races things are moving around so much that this is barely noticeable. (more…)

Breaking: EA and Zynga reach settlement in lawsuit surrounding The Ville

gavelInside Social Games has learned that Zynga and Electronic Arts have reached a settlement and are moving to dismiss the lawsuit that was filed last summer surrounding The Ville. The decision is now in the court’s hands.

At the moment, details are scarce about the settlement.

Zynga released the following statement this morning: “EA and Zynga have resolved their respective claims and have reached a settlement of their litigation in the Northern District of California.”

The lawsuit was originally filed against Zynga by EA in August 2012. Earlier that summer, Zynga launched its lifestyle sim game, The Ville, and garnered criticism from across the internet over the game’s similarities to EA’s own The Sims Social. At the time, EA claimed it was “standing up for the industry” with its lawsuit. We had a different take on the lawsuit.

Shortly afterward, Zynga countersued EA. The counter-suit alleged EA violated anti-trust laws and claimed the company had copied the visual style of CityVille with SimCity Social and actively tried to prevent Zynga from hiring employees away from EA. EA, for its part, called Zynga’s filing “a subterfuge aimed at diverting attention from Zynga’s persistent plagiarism of other artists and studios.”

Neither The Ville nor SimCity Social really paid off for their developers. Although The Ville saw high traffic levels when it launched, the numbers dropped dramatically in the months following its launch.

The game was no longer appearing on either of our lists of Top 25 Facebook games by December (though it dropped off the Top 25 Facebook games by DAU in October). SimCity Social, meanwhile, only appeared on the Top 25 Facebook games list in August before it also started to lose users, likely due to a lack of content after completing the main chapter-spanning quest surrounding a UFO crash.

The lawsuit has held the attention of both the press and game developers, primarily because it surrounded two of the biggest players in the games industry. Prior to this, there had been a similar lawsuit between SpryFox and 6waves (formerly 6waves Lolapps), where SpryFox accused 6waves of cloning its popular social game Triple Town with its own game, Yeti Town. That suit was settled in October after a judge denied 6waves’ request to dismiss the case, with SpryFox receiving ownership of the Yeti Town IP. Both of these cases would have set precedent when it came to video game law and what it could mean when a developer cloned (or “fast followed”) titles from other companies.

Developing.

Criminal Case solves the mystery of this week’s fastest-growing Facebook games by DAU

infeaturePretty Simple’s crime-themed hidden object game Criminal Case took the top spot this week on our list of fastest-growing Facebook games by daily active user, moving up 13 spots to the No. 85 position among Facebook apps in the 1 million DAU tier.

Also in the 1 million DAU tier: Happy Elements’ Chinese-language aquarium sim 開心水族箱 (“Happy Aquarium”) was up by 6.76 percent, moving up 5 positions to the No. 180 spot. EA’s The Sims Social saw a 5 percent traffic increase, helping it move up four spots to No. 52. MiniClip.com’s 8 Ball pool is continuing to be popular following its appearance on this month’s Top 25 list, bringing in a 5.77 percent gain and moving up 3 spots to No. 48 Playdom’s Marvel: Avengers Alliance saw a 3.53 percent gain, jumping 3 places and taking the No. 94 spot.

In the 500,000 DAU tier, Gamegos’ Cafeland was up 15.92 percent, climbing 25 spots to the No. 178 position. SGN’s Panda Jam move up 10 spots to No. 138 with its 8 percent gain. THX Games’ Arabic-language trivia game had a 6.57 percent gain, moving up 9 spots to the No. 129 position. FunPlus Game’s Turkish-language farm sim Bizim Çiftlik (“Our Farm”) increased its traffic by 5.15 percent, moving up 7 spots to No. 208. EA PopCap’s Solitaire Blitz climbed 6 slots to the No. 216 position due to its 4.11 percent gain.

Finally, we look at the 100,000 DAU tier, which saw the largest percent changes and position movement. Broken Bulb Studios’ Bake Shop Drop was up 85.81 percent, moving 274 spots to the No. 1270 position. Playdom had another title on this list with Disney City Girl, taking the No. 202 position after a 38.26 percent gain that allowed it to move up 202 places. Plarium also had two titles on this tier with Total Domination and Pirates: Tides of Fortune. Total Domination moved up 62 spots to No. 329 with its 17.42 percent increase, while Pirates had a 13.35 percent gain allowing it to sail past 61 positions for the No. 475 spot. Lastly, Socialinus’s Chinese-language 無限德州撲克 (“No Limit Hold Em”) had an 18.37 percent gain that allowed it to move up 52 spots to the No. 926 position.

Correction: We originally credited Playdom as the developer for Bake Shop Drop.

1 million DAU tier

Gain
(Week)
Gain %
(Week)
Name
▲13 (85) ▲20.63  Criminal Case
▲5 (180) ▲6.76  開心水族箱
▲4 (52) ▲5.00  The Sims Social
▲3 (48) ▲5.77  8 Ball Pool
▲3 (94) ▲3.53  Marvel: Avengers Alliance
▲2 (20) ▲6.06  ChefVille
▲2 (46) ▲7.69  Top Eleven Be a Football Manager
▲2 (59) ▲3.23  Pyramid Solitaire Saga
▲2 (57) ▲2.99  Buggle
▲2 (24) ▲13.33  Pet Rescue Saga
▲1 (71) ▲1.27  Bubble Blitz
▲1 (50) ▲2.78  المزرعة السعيدة
▲1 (49) ▲1.56  Bubble Island
▲1 (62) ▲1.89  Monster World
▲1 (18) ▲8.33  Dragon City

500,000 DAU tier

Gain
(Week)
Gain %
(Week)
Name
▲25 (178) ▲15.92  Cafeland
▲10 (138) ▲8.00  Panda Jam
▲9 (129) ▲6.57  Saif Almarifa
▲7 (208) ▲5.15  Bizim Çiftlik
▲6 (216) ▲4.11  Solitaire Blitz
▲5 (82) ▲5.26  Lost Bubble
▲4 (293) ▲3.23  Dice with Buddies
▲4 (73) ▲4.12  Social Wars
▲3 (61) ▲3.03  Social Empires
▲2 (96) ▲1.89  Hidden Chronicles
▲1 (131) ▲0.70  Lost Jewels
▲1 (148) ▲1.11  Bingo Bash
▲1 (70) ▲0.76  Stick Run
▲1 (64) ▲1.02  Ruby Blast Adventures

 

100,000 DAU tier

Gain
(Week)
Gain %
(Week)
Name
▲1270 (274) ▲85.81  Bake Shop Drop
▲202 (462) ▲38.26  Disney City Girl
▲62 (329) ▲17.42  Total Domination
▲61 (475) ▲13.35  Pirates: Tides Of Fortune
▲52 (926) ▲18.37  無限德州撲克
▲42 (382) ▲8.32  Candy Dash
▲41 (892) ▲13.58  I❤ Love Calcio
▲29 (396) ▲8.76  Online Football Manager
▲27 (354) ▲5.27  Jewel Kingdom
▲23 (327) ▲5.20  Zombie Lane
▲22 (637) ▲4.64  Puzzle Adventures
▲21 (418) ▲5.40  YoVille
▲21 (520) ▲4.72  Flower Shop
▲21 (184) ▲9.38  Bubble Age
▲20 (335) ▲5.81  myVEGAS
▲20 (352) ▲5.06  Jewel Journey
▲18 (536) ▲3.71  Township
▲18 (416) ▲4.25  Legend Online (Türkçe)
▲14 (440) ▲3.78  Pawn Stars: The Game
▲14 (497) ▲3.83  Barn Buddy

All data in this post comes from our traffic tracking service, AppDataStay tuned for our look at the top emerging apps on Friday.

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