Forecasting Cross-platform Networks and Mobile Games

Editor’s note: During the upcoming Inside Social Games Conference on June 6-7, Bret Terrill, the Founder of 12gigs.com, will be moderating two panels on the future of social apps, “Gambling Games: The Promise of Real Money,” and “Platform Opportunities for Social Apps.” InsideSocialGames.com had the opportunity to ask Bret two important questions on the future of social and mobile games.

 

bret_200x200InsideSocialGames: Is it possible to build a cross-platform gaming network? Is this something the world wants?

Bret Terrill: A cross-platform gaming network is something that a lot of people were chasing last year as the next big thing. The idea was: Similar to Facebook owning the social graph, a company could own the “gamer graph”, connecting people who liked certain genres across platforms and games. As it stands today, Facebook is really the only company that has been successful in creating a cross-platform (PC and multiple mobile environments) gaming network , one that has largely fed off their immense social network.

Other large games companies, such as DeNA and Gree, have had success in the Japanese market, but they have moved toward a publisher model in the last year. It is an open question on whether Clash of Clans players care about what other games the people they “friend” within the game are playing. I suspect the gameing industry itself cares much more than the players, who are more interested to see what is in the top charts of their phone’s App Store.

(more…)

Fast and Furious 6: The Game review

fastfuriousFast and Furious 6: The Game is an iOS and Android game from Kabam. It is available now for free in the App Store, and coming soon to Google Play. It carries additional in-app purchases.

Fast and Furious 6: The Game is based around the newest installment of the Fast and Furious film series. In the game, players travel around the city, meeting characters from the movie, and drag and drift their way through the ranks with the goal of becoming the city’s top racer. It’s a setting that looks to appeal to fans of the movie series, but the references are light enough to not push away players who aren’t familiar with source material.

The game starts off by dropping players behind the wheel and walks them through the process of a drag race. Since the race is a straight shot from point A to B, there’s no steering wheel, gas pedal, or break system. Instead, each race starts with a countdown at the end of which, the player hits a “launch” button. During a drag race, the only controls are a lever to shift gears and a nitrous oxide boost. There are also drift races, which work identical to drag races, but about halfway through a race, the gear shift lever is replaced with a drift button, and players must hold it as they float along curves. Both race types are simple enough for most players to grasp, but the timing required to compete with high-level opponents may be a bit much for some players.

Winning races and completing challenges earns credits. These credits act as one of the in-game currencies and they can be used to purchase nearly everything in the game. Players are given enough credits for a car at the start, and from there they can purchase more as they progress. There are currently about twenty cars available, and only three are available from the beginning. As players win races and advance to different areas of the city, more expensive cars become available. Fast and Furious 6: The Game isn’t going to draw in car aficionados with its relatively small array of vehicles, but fans of the movies may enjoy the style and speed of the lineup. Players can also use their in-game credits to purchase upgrades to their available cars. These upgrades improve how the car performs, but any purchase made with credits may take a few minutes to arrive.

fastfuriousscreen1Players who don’t want to wait can receive their purchase automatically by using gold, the other form of in-game currency, and how Fast and Furious 6: The Game monetizes. Gold can purchase everything credits can, but can also buy design changes and save time. There are various instances where players need to wait due to an energy mechanic  which limits how long a user game session time. Whether they’ve purchased an upgrade or ran out of fuel, players can continue with the action by spending gold. A little bit of gold can be earned by playing the game but more can be purchased in the shop. Gold pricing ranges from $2.99 to $99.99, although any bundle cheaper than $19.99 won’t likely be enough for serious players.

Fast and Furious 6: The Game is a fun experience. There aren’t many notable drag racing games on the market, so it still feels somewhat rare. Because it’s a licensed title, a lot of players are likely to pass on it before they try, but those who give it a shot are likely to find themselves entertained. It lacks a bit of staying power, partially because it uses a movie license, and partially due to a lack of multiplayer interaction. However, there’s still a fun experience that’s likely to draw in both racing fans and Fast and Furious fans.

You can follow Fast and Furious 6: The Game’s progress on AppData, our tracking tool for mobile and social apps and developers.

New hires is social games: Social Point, SGN and more

Hiring in the social games sector was up this week with 34 new hires across 12 companies. Based on information from LinkedIn and other sources, Social Point reported the most activity with 10 new hires which indicate the company is gearing up for iOS development. Two high profile hires in the social games sector this week are Ruairi McGuckin who joins SGN as VP of Marketing and Jesse Richards who joins Offerpop as Director of Product.

If your mobile game or social app company is hiring new people or making a notable promotion, please get in touch with us. Email us at: mail (at) insidemobileapps (dot) com, and we’ll get your news into an upcoming post.

If you want to know who else is hiring, the Inside Network Job Board showcases current openings with the industry’s leading companies.

East-Side Games

  • Kent Reimer, Flash Artist — Reimer was most recently a concept artist with Microsoft Game Studios.

GameDuell  

  • Céline Navarro, Service client francophone — Navarro was K2 producion, Le Soir, Ambassade d’Autriche `a Bruxelles.

IGG  

  • Maggie Chou, Project Assistant — Chou was formerly in business development for Ray Media Group Limited.

Kabam

  • Jeffrey Bian, Software Engineer — Bian worked as chief technology officer / lead programmer at funton LLC.

Kenshoo Social

  • Todd Herrold, Senior Director, Product Marketing — Herrold was promoted from Local’s director of product strategy & management.
  • Paul Kogan, Director of U.S. East Coast Sales — Kogan was senior vice president, business development at Merchantry, a startup building ecommerce marketplaces for retailers and media companies.
  • Brian Quinn, Director of U.S. West Coast Sales — Quinn was formerly head of business development for Experian Techlightment.

King.com 

  • Emil Besirevic, 3D Game Artist – Besirevic was previously a consultant at Stockholms läns landsting.

Offerpop

  • Jesse Richards, Director of Product – Richards worked as director of product at Proust, an IAC company.
  • Matthew Schmohl, Business Analytics Manager — Schmohl was previously management consultant within Accenture’s Customer Analytics practice.
  • Sean Pietz, Product & Operations Analyst — Pietz was promoted from marketing analytics intern at Offerpop.

PlaySpace  

  • David Pol, iOS Game Developer — Pol was earlier game developer at Tragnarion Studios.
  • Carlos Rueda, iOS Game Developer – Rueda was formerly developer at Spoople.com.
  • Ismael Sanchez, System Administrator – Sanchez worked as system administrator at IActive.

SGN

  • Ruairi McGuckin, VP of Marketing — McGuckin was VP of digital marketing at Jesta Digital. 

Social Point

  • Jordi Pellat Massó, IOS developer – Massó use to be iOS developer at Tactill.
  • Miguel Ibero, iOS Developer — Ibero was previously a desarrollador at Kailab Estudio, SL.
  • Daniel Catalina, Artist – Catalina was formerly storyboard & concept artist at Shortfilm.
  • Sergi Marcet, Artist — Marcet was a diseñador gráfico, ilustrador at Valtap Comunicación.
  • Fernando SerraiOS Developer
  • Roc Espinet, Artist — Espinet worked as animator at Mediapro.
  • Manel WeilongiOS Developer — Weilong previously worked as an iOS development at Witelist (London).
  • José Luis Cabello, Game Developer — Cabello was formerly a senior programmer at Virtual Toys.
  • Isidro Gilabert, Technical Lead — Gilabert previously was the Barcelona Studio manager at Virtual Toys.
  • Rubén Gómez, Executive Producer — Gómez worked as the executive producer at Virtual Toys, Barcelona.

Wooga

  • Mariano Vallés, Backend Engineer — Vallés use to be web developer at Universidad Nacional de Cuyo.
  • Paul Chambers, Artist — Chambers worked as an artist at Outplay Entertainment.

Zynga 

  • Jibin Ashraf, Site Reliability Engineer Ashraf previously was system administrator at QBurst.
  • Vishal Dugar, Associate Software Engineer — Dugar was formerly software development intern at Grey Orange Robotics Pvt. Ltd.
  • Josephine Gavignet, Product Manager – Gavignet was product manager at Everest Gaming.
  • Jason Burton, VFX TD Burton was previously FX artist at Blizzard Entertainment.
  • Jonathan Duty, Principle Engineer Duty worked as software engineer at Yahoo, inc.
  • Curtis DeSantis, Software Engineer DeSantis was lead software engineer at Pixo Entertainment.
  • Cooper Findley, Software Engineer — Findley was promoted from intern at Zynga.

Amazon launches its first game Living Classics, officially introduces Amazon Game Studios

Amazon today announced that it launched its first ever game called Living Classics, available now on Facebook. The announcement also marks the the first official announcement of Amazon Game Studios, which we’ve known Amazon has been hiring for as early late May 2011.

The statement from Amazon describes Living Classics as a “Moving object game.” Judging by the trailer that was released with the announcement it seems as if the game is a partially animated hidden object game.

In the game a family of foxes wanders into animated illustrations of classic books like Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and King Arthur. Players help the foxes reunite be exploring illustrated scenes and spotting moving objects. The game also allows players to visit friends and share rewards.

Social games news roundup: King.com, Detroit and Jay-Z

King.com launches seventh “Saga” game on Facebook —  King.com is launching yet another game for its “Saga” series on Facebook, Pyramid Solitaire Saga, hot on the heels of Candy Crush Saga. The game follows aviator Helena Lightfoot as she explores the Pyramid Kingdom, clearing decks of cards and collecting scarabs along the way. Pyramid Solitaire Saga is launching with 60 levels.

Detroit using social game to help plan the city’s future — A new social game called Detroit 24-7 launches May 7 to let players decide on city planning priorities. Players are given different missions that award them with flags, which they then plant on a digital map of priorities like public transportation, affordable housing and environmental sustainability. The game is set to last for 21 days and developer Detroit Works will hold a city-wide meeting to let players and discussion participants meet so dialogue can continue.

Jay-Z launches Facebook game — Hip hop mogul Jay-Z just gamified his life on Facebook with a new title, Empire. The game covers the rapper’s early days Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects, with players working to acquire enough wealth and fame to escape.

Sulake launches new social hub for third-party games — Sulake is launching a new platform to expand its offerings to its Habbo Hotel players. The hub will feature content from third party game developers and signed U.K.-based Remode Studios as the first publishing partner. Remode Studios created iOS games like Magic Muddle and its first title for the new platform is expected to debut in July.

CyberAgent acquires Pitapat — Tokyo-based developer CyberAgent just acquired match-making service Pitapat. The service was originally launched by four university students as “Facematch” and lets users communicate with one another using social graphs and event functions on Facebook. CyberAgent is the company responsible for Facebook titles like Animal Land and Magic Saga, and it seems likely that Pitapat will be used to improve in-game communication.

Marvel: Avengers Alliance dresses up for The Avengers — Disney Playdom’s Marvel: Avengers Alliance made it onto our Top 25 Facebook Games list this week, but the game’s continuing to benefit from the film debut of The Avengers this week: special edition uniforms based on the characters from the movie. Any team using a character dressed in one of these outfits receives special abilities like follow-up and counter attacks in both the main game and player versus player matches.

NBCUniversal launches social game platform — NBCUniversal just launched a new platform for social and casual games called Universal Games Network. The platform will take all of NBCU’s various online, mobile and social games and put them on a single platform. Not only can players play games, consume media content and earn and redeem reward points, but they’ll also be able to go against their friends in tournament style games thanks to the integration of Facebook Connect.

I AM PLAYR hits 1 million MAU milestone — We R Interactive’s football game I AM PLAYR has passed the 1 million monthly active user mark and is now the largest Unity-powered game on Facebook. The game’s been growing steadily since it launched in October 2011, and its current traffic numbers also include over 120,000 daily active users.

Correction: It was reported that Remode developed My Star on iOS. This is not the case. My Star was developed by Mobile Pie.

Latest S-1 amendment shows Zynga and Facebook untangling their finances

Facebook’s latest amendment to its S-1 filing reveals Zynga accounted for 4 percent less of the social network’s revenue, showing that both Zynga and Facebook are becoming less financially dependent on one another.

Although Zynga makes up a smaller percentage of revenue during Q1 2012 than it did during the same period in 2011, this quarter saw the developer generate over $20 million more for Facebook. In Q1 2011, Zynga directly contributed about $95.03 million to the social network, while this quarter saw Zynga provide about $116.38 million, not including revenue from ads displayed on app pages.

As to why Zynga makes up slightly less than what it used to of Facebook revenues, there are some obvious explanations. For starters, Zynga doesn’t have a CityVille-sized blockbuster release lined up for the quarter compared to the start of 2011. Another factor may be that the developer is spacing out game releases by quarter. Recall that Zynga didn’t release any new games after CityVille until the summer and despite releasing several games between Q2 and Q3, daily active users sagged.

Another obvious explanation is that Zynga is relying less on Facebook now than it did a year ago to drive revenue. Mobile games in particular are an area where Zynga continues to expand, starting 2012 with 15 million DAU and the recent OMGPOP acquisition likely boosting that number. The developer is also pursuing new platforms like Google+, Tencent and its own Zynga.com, although the latter is deeply integrated with Facebook. Despite using Facebook Credits as the sole means of transactions on Zynga.com, it is possible for the platform to cut into Facebook’s advertising revenue from ads viewed on Zynga app pages — assuming Zynga is able to lure users away from the social network to its own platform.

Social games have lower costs per click on Facebook than brands do, analysis shows

On average, brands advertising on Facebook pay more per click than social game companies do, according to data provided to us by third-party vendor AdParlor.

Facebook ad costs continue to rise across a number of industries as competition increases, particularly among consumer brands and the hardcore social game sector. Advertisers can use this information to better understand their own Facebook ad performance.

The social network does not do much to help advertisers interpret the results of their campaigns. CPCs and clickthrough rates mean little without averages to benchmark against, but advertisers must look to third parties for comparison. A recent survey from Social Fresh found advertisers self-reporting an average CPC of $0.80. This latest data from AdParlor, a Facebook Ads API partner, shows daily fluctuations in average CPC but the rate is always below $0.80.

For social games, average CPCs are even lower. AdParlor CEO Hussein Fazal says this is because social game advertisers can define narrow targets that result in higher CTRs and lower CPCs than most brands can achieve. However, there is variation within the social game category. Hardcore games — those designed for longer session times that include more strategy or combat– have higher CPCs than virtual world games, including simulation games, pets and city games. Both of these categories have higher CPCs than casual social games, like puzzles and trivia. This could be related to there being more competition in the hardcore social gaming space, but Fazal also believes that hardcore games are getting better at monetizing and so they are able to pay more to acquire each new user.

AdParlor’s data comes from more than 500 clients across a range of industries. This first graph shows how CPC compares for brands and agencies versus social game developers. It represents a sample size of 100 million clicks between June 23, 2011 and Feb. 27, 2012. The thick blue line represents average CPC rates for agencies and brands. The thick green line represents average CPC rates for social games. The thin lines are the corresponding linear regressions for each category.

This graph takes a deeper dive into the differences among types of social games. Although it covers a shorter period, Jan. 1 through Feb. 17, it represents a sample size of 150 million clicks. The thick blue line represents hardcore social games, red is virtual world games and green is casual games. Again the thin lines are the linear regressions for each category.

This post originally appeared on our sister site, Inside Facebook.

Caesars Interactive Entertainment: ‘We expect to be No. 1 in casino games on social and mobile’

Caesars Interactive Entertainment expects to be number one in the casino genre on Facebook and mobile, CEO Mitch Garber tells Inside Social Games at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week. The online gambling giant hit the ground running on Facebook and mobile with its 2011 Playtika acquisition and a branded Facebook casino game, but it still has a ways to go toward leading the genre.

Currently, all that stands in its way is Zynga Poker — which still leads Playtika’s Slotomania on Facebook, Android and iOS in terms of traffic, according to our AppData tracking service. That might change in 2012, however, as more social and mobile game developers try to cash in on the slots and bingo craze and more land-based casino brands look at social and mobile acquisitions or licenses. Most recently, we’ve seen EA PopCap launch a slots game and IGT acquire Facebook favorite DoubleDown Casino developer DoubleDown Interactive. Meanwhile, Zynga continues to step up its “Casino” franchise of games with Zynga Bingo and is also offering licensed casino classics outside the franchise like Zynga Slingo.

Garber tells us it’s still early days in the casino genre competition. He sees plenty of opportunity to rise to the top of the category as its matures. For reference, Caesars Interactive currently has about 100 employees on the social and mobile team, and it hopes launch two new casino apps in 2012.

“Our key differentiator is that we only do one thing — casino style games,” he told us during a meeting at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week. “We think we will win the casino [genre] war with our competitors because we’re going to focus on what we know. We’re not going to do a ‘Ville game.”

The Caesars casino franchise shows a lot of forward thinking when it comes to getting their brand out to the newer, younger generation of gambler. Many of its customers in the 20 to 30 age range expect to do their gambling online. Social and mobile fit into that plan by delivering the Caesars brand in areas where i-gaming and real gambling perhaps aren’t legal.

“I don’t have a gaming license in Australia, but I can offer Slotomania on Facebook,” Garber explains. “Brand proliferation and [in-game transactions] are the main parts of our social and mobile strategy.”

I-gaming’s merge with the social and mobile games industry presents investors and developers with a lot of new factors to consider. For one, i-gaming monetizes at a higher conversion rate and volume than anything even the most successful social-mobile game developer has seen to date. Garber declined to break out specific average revenue per user figures, but he was able to tell us that the lifetime value of a user in i-gaming reached $1,000 in 2006.

“We’re still learning how [to interpret] LTV in social games,” Garber says. “Right now we look at the daily ARPU in social.”

This means social-mobile game developers will have to adjust expectations around what their casino titles generate in ARPU. They might also have to drill down into the psychology of the traditional gambler, understanding that there’s a fundamental difference in psychology between those playing for real money and those playing for virtual currency.

A real money slot machine gambler, for example, will have a finer understanding of odds and payouts compared to a social gamer that is motivated more by the concept of achievement and fairness in game-playing. Garber compares Slotomania’s specific appeal to inserting quarters on the classic Pac-Man arcade game; a player does that to keep their score — not because there’s a chance at winning more quarters. The motivation is different, which has an impact on monetization.

Another new area of thought comes from managing the relationships between casino suppliers on and offline. On land, Caesars’ biggest competitor would be MGM. On Facebook, it might appear to be IGT now that it owns DoubleDown Casino — which is very similar to the soft-launched Caesars Casino. Garber says, however, that Caesars does not want to view IGT as a competitor — because the company is a supplier of gaming content to its land-based casinos.

“We will expect to license IGT content online,” he says. “Whatever IGT puts into DoubleDown, we would expect to license in [our Facebook games].”

Brands and licenses are a proven method for user acquisition on social and mobile because people trust names they recognize. Up until now, many license holders have carved up the rights to their properties by platform — for example, licensing Wheel of Fortune for mobile to one game developer and Wheel of Fortune for Facebook to a different developer. Garber says we’ve moved past all of that; but some social-mobile game developers might be slow to catch up, especially if they’re already locked into outdated licensing agreements that prevent them from launching games on new platforms.

As the casino genre expands on social and mobile, and Facebook explores real money gambling, we expect to even more players enter the space with high expectations. Garber says, however, that while there will be thousands of attempts, there will only be a handful of winners — and Caesars expects to be one of them.

Zynga’s New Café World Game Takes on Playfish’s Restaurant City

cafe world logoWith around 16 million monthly active users, Playfish’s Restaurant City has been growing steadily since its launch — monetizing through a variety of virtual goods, it appears to be a solid hit. Well, that popularity has been noted by the competition, and it looks like Zynga is stepping into the restaurant business as well with its newest title, Café World.

As far as basic concepts go, Café World is the same as Restaurant City. Each player creates restaurant, decorates it, hires friends, and basically runs a business. However, both games do feel very different and are likely to appeal to different types of people. Here’s a closer look at the differences:

Cooking – Point: Café World
cookbook

Obviously making food is a huge part of a restaurant game and creating an ample smorgasbord is part of the fun. In order to cook food in Café World, players have to purchase the ingredients to a recipe after clicking on an empty stove. They then have to cut, dice, smash, or whatever else is needed to prepare a myriad of dishes before cooking them. Dishes take anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 days to cook  and then it is placed on a counter for serving with a set number of times it can be served. The more time it takes to cook, and the greater the cost, the more servings available. Customers can feast on already-made food, and can have a very wide selection (even though the customers don’t “order” it themselves); space is only limited by the number of counters and stoves that a player has.

Restaurant City, on the other hand, does cooking passively. Patrons order from your preset menu of limited dishes (thankfully it has been increased, but is still limited to a finite number, regardless of level), but you have to trade for, buy, or earn individual ingredients on a daily basis before you can make a certain dish. Yes, trading the ingredients adds a social element, and yes you can level up dishes, but it just feels less involved than Café World. Point: Café World.

uniformsHiring Friends – Point: Restaurant City

Not only was Playfish the first to introduce friend hires in a major game, but users have a lot of control over it. Granted, you cannot change the look of a friend’s avatar, but you can at least change a uniform and job. As it stands, Café World only allows them to be waiters at the moment, and their clothing seems to be unchangeable. Restaurant City on the other hand… if you want to put a friend in a French maid’s outfit, then by all means, go ahead. Point: Restaurant City.

Restaurant Expansion – Point: Café World

This is one of the biggest differences between the games. As you level up in Restaurant City, you either earn new employees or a bigger restaurant. However, in Café World, you must manually expand and to do so, you must have “neighbors.” This means you must have friends playing the game in order to have a bigger place. Frankly, the trading of ingredients, working in others’ restaurants, and having your friends all on one street, in Restaurant City, seemed social enough. However, if friends don’t want to play, it won’t affect you too much. For Café World, if you can’t get friends to play, then you seem to be stuck with a tiny little restaurant. Sure you can take the Mafia Wars approach and add random people, but that just sort of looses any personal meaning. Nonetheless, you could have a huge restaurant in a significantly shorter amount of time. With that in mind – Point: Café World.

cafe worldCustomization – Point: Restaurant City

This is the most important part of both of these games, hands down. From oriental, to medieval, to modern, these games provide players with the means to truly create something that is of their own style. However, the Playfish title simply has more options than Zynga’s. Okay, yes, it has been out longer, so the developer have had more time to add new items, but beyond this, the players can only decorate their interiors with Café World. Restaurant City, on the other hand, allows you to customize both the interior and exterior of your restaurant; a feature that has been available since day one. Point: Restaurant City.

Frankly, both games are good, and it really comes down to a play style choice. Café World has more involved cooking and dish selections and potential, rapid expansion, while Restaurant City has more control over hired friends and better customization. Will these features change in the coming months? Probably, as both companies add more content. However, with the massive head start and the tremendously larger selection of items to decorate with that Restaurant City has, it will be a rigorous challenge for Café World to catch up.

Zynga, however, is far larger than Playfish, with 126 million monthly active users total across its games versus Playfish’s 55.3 million. Both companies cross-promote games to users. This means that both companies have far fewer unique users than the above numbers suggest — but the numbers also indicate that Zynga has many more opportunities to cross-promote Café World via massive hits like FarmVille. Zynga has also aggressively bought advertising for games on sites like Facebook. So, Playfish, for all of its success with Restaurant City, appears to have a serious competitor on its hands — even though Café World currently has only around 32 users.

Joy Ride to be First Freemium Game for Xbox Live

Joy Ride ScreenshotDuring the E3 conference this summer, we talked extensively about the increasingly social elements of Microsoft’s Xbox Live and its transformation into a budding social space reminiscent of a PC networks. Back then there was the mention of freemium games on Xbox Live with a game called Joy Ride. Well, it looks like things are becoming official for Joy Ride as Microsoft recently announced the coming launch of the freemium title, slated to appear during the 2009 holiday season.

In interviews with Gamasutra, Shane Kim, Microsoft’s Corporate VP of Strategy and Business Development talked about the possibility of PC-oriented companies developing a freemium market for Xbox Live. However, since the platform is not a completely open-system, like the PC, developers would have to determine if producing games for Live would be “worth the economic trade-off.” Joy Ride developer, Big Park, will be the first to try to test those waters.

Joy Ride Screenshot 2In a nutshell, Joy Ride is a fairly simple racing game where up to eight players will be able to participate in stunt races using their Xbox Live avatars as drivers. Also, since the game is classified as “freemium,” it is, of course, free to play, but will be monetized through the selling of virtual goods, such as cars, custom parts, avatar clothing, and more game content.

As far as social mechanics goes, Big Park has also said that the game will incorporate your standard leaderboard systems as well as the voice chat that Xbox Live utilizes for most of its existing games. Furthermore, they have stated that they will continue to add new content over time such as new game modes, new race tracks and something dubbed “huge community tasks.”

Though all of this is indeed interesting, the biggest point to take home is that this is a test for both Big Park and Microsoft. Of course, it isn’t the first “test” that we have seen involving the marriage of mainstream and social concepts. The most prominent one that comes to mind is The Sims 3 on iPhone. That, too, was considered a “test” by Electronic Arts, and was intended to see if highly polished iPhone games would be worthwhile. Also, let’s not forget other mainstream developers, such as Ubisoft, delving into similar spaces and the handful of others currently dabbling in virtual goods. Nevertheless, and unlike said examples, this “Joy Ride test” is the first one to apply to a traditional, home video game console — a type of platform that has almost always been mainstream and focused around hardcore gamers.

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