Game of Thrones Ascent developer Disruptor Beam joins Zynga Partners program

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Social game developer Disrupter Beam, known for its Game of Thrones Ascent title based on the hit HBO TV show, today announced it has joined the Zynga Partners programs.

Game of Thrones Ascent is a city building and management sim adaptation of the TV series of the same name, originally based on George R. R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire.

Game of Thrones Ascent launched on Facebook as an open beta back in February and was recently made available on Kongergate. AppData estimates that the game currently has 295,107 monthly active users, down from its April 26 peak of 397,421 MAU.

The partnership with Zynga is bound to increase the number of players thanks to social gaming giant’s powerful cross-promotion tools. On its recent Q1 2013 earnings call, CEO Mark Pincus revealed that Zynga’s network consists of 253 million MAU across all platforms, 65 million of which are on mobile. The partnership will also bring the game to Zynga.com.

“One thing that I’ve learned in my years of starting and building companies is that gaming companies cannot always be solely responsible for 100 percent of their ‘hits.’” CEO and Founder of Disruptor Beam Jon Radoff said in a statement. “Partnerships are integral to the success of any game company and any game, so we are thrilled to now be working with the amazing team at Zynga to move into the next phase for Game of Thrones Ascent!”

Check in with our weekly posts on the fastest-growing Facebook games by MAU, DAU and top emerging games posts to track the effect of the partnership and see if moves up the charts.

You can also read our full review of Game of Thrones Ascent here.

Draw Something 2 (iOS) review

IMG_2484Draw Something 2 is a new release from Zynga, currently available as both free and paid downloads for iOS and coming soon to Android. The game is featured in the New & Noteworthy section of the App Store front page, but is not an Editor’s Choice app.

OMGPOP’s Draw Something became something of a phenomenon when it was originally released, capturing the public’s imagination with its simple asynchronous gameplay and wide variety of words to guess. The game’s immense success, of course, led Zynga to acquire OMGPOP for an astonishing $180 million, after which the game gradually started to decline in popularity. A number of reasons were cited for this — firstly, people were simply getting bored with it; secondly, Zynga’s involvement had led the game to become very obviously “sponsored,” with a variety of brand names starting to show their faces in the word lists; thirdly, there were players out there who simply disliked Zynga and no longer wanted to support the game now it wasn’t the work of a plucky independent developer.

The original Draw Something’s gameplay had one big flaw in terms of gameplay: it didn’t really have a “point.” It wasn’t competitive at all, unlike many other asynchronous mobile games; there was no way to “win” or “lose” — all you could do was try and get as long a streak of correct guesses as possible when playing with a friend. There was no real reward for getting a long streak, however, just as there was no punishment for breaking one. This lack of tension and competition doubtless also played a role in the game’s gradual decline.

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Social games friday news roundup: Zynga’s new card game, Square Enix’s new crime game and more

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Pangalore announces ZooVale — Social role-playing games developer Pangalore announced ZooVale, a cross-platform HTML5 title featuring animal characters rendered in cartoon-style 2D graphics. The game will allow players to build a village and breed animals to fight an evil witch. The game will be available on desktops and mobile devices via Pangalore’s portal.

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Lorne Abony Joins Glu Mobile – Mobile game developer and publisher Glu Mobile announced that Mood Media Corporation’s CEO and Chairman Lorne Abony has joined the company’s board of directors as its chairman of strategy committee. Glu also announced that Matthew Drapkin of Becker Drapkin Partners has stepped down as an Independent Director.

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Zynga releases War of the Fallen – The social gaming giant has released its latest card battler game War of the Fallen. It follows Zynga’s previous card game, Ayakashi: Ghost Guild, but is developed specifically with western markets in mind. One way in which the game aims to appeal to new players is by better explaining the underlying rules of the genre that are taken for granted in eastern markets, where card battle and collecting games are more popular. The game also encourages social interaction with Guild Force, a mechanic which boosts the player’s abilities when they connect and play with friends.

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TAITO, Square Enix releases Crime Connection — Square Enix subsidiary TAITO announced the release of Crime Connection, a crime-themed city management sim. The game, which will be released worldwide using GREE’s platform, is available to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

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Gemini Rue hits iOS — The award winning indie adventure game developed by Wadjet Eye Games Gemini Rue is now available to download from the Apple App Store for a special price of $3.99 (normally $4.99). Developed by Joshua Nuernberger, Gemini Rue is set in a bleak future dominated by the corrupt Boryokudan crime syndicate. Alternating between ex-assassin Azriel Odin and hospital inmate Delta-Six, players must uncover the secrets both protagonists are guarding and uncover their unlikely bond.

Social games news roundup: Zynga, Disney, Game Insight and more

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Game Insight launches Battle Towers on Android – Russian game developer and publisher Game Insight announced that it has published strategy game Battle Towers on Android devices. The game is available to download for free from Google Play.

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Zynga appoints John Doerr to Board of Directors – The social gaming giant today announced it has appointed John Doerr to its Board of Directors. Doerr started his career at Intel, and has gone on to back companies like Google, Amazon and Intuit. The news comes on the heels of Zynga’s changes to its executives’ compensation packages.

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Disney launches Mittens for iOS – Disney Mobile Games and Metro Games have launched Mittens, a physics-based puzzle game. It’s available now as a $0.99 download from the App Store for iPhone or a separate “HD” version for iPad for $2.99, and carries additional in-app purchases to unlock later levels early — and also one additional in-app purchase for an extra level pack that is not part of the main game. Read our full review here.

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GSN Digital launches Deal or No Deal Slots on Facebook — The new slots game based on the hit television game show is available through the Games by GSN multi-game portal on Facebook which you can find here.

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NAMCO BANDAI released Tekken Card Tournament — The games publisher and developer announced the release of Tekken Card Tournament, a free-to-play card trading game based on the fighting game franchise. The game is currently available to download from the iTunes App Store, Google Play and Amazon App Store.

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Ludia and King Features launch Popeye Slots – Social and mobile game developer Ludia and Hearst Media subsidiary King Features partnered to launch Popeye Slots. As its title suggests, the game is a Popeye-themed slots app for iOS. You can download it for free here.

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Mode 7 will bring Frozen Synapse to iPad in May – Game developer Mode 7 announced that it will bring its turn-based tactics game Frozen Synapse to iPad in May. The game was originally released on PC and received critical acclaim for its innovative user interface and clever game mechanics. A version for Android tablets will hopefully follow shortly after the iPad release.

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Favourit reveals social sports betting platform for iOS – A new social sports betting platform named Favourit launched on iOS. Favourit also revealed that it secured $3.6 million in funding. Favourit allows users to download the app and place their bets, get live scores, follow unique insights into the game from tipsters as well as peers, and track leaderboard rankings. You can download the app for free here.

Zynga Plus Poker review

Zynga Plus Poker is a new real-money gaming service from the social gaming giant. At present, it is available in the U.K. — its availability in other territories will depend on local laws relating to online gambling. Zynga Plus Poker is one of two real-money gaming services that the company has launched recently — the other being Zynga Plus Casino, which we explored yesterday.

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Like Zynga Plus Casino, Zynga Plus Poker is playable both via a dedicated client app that is available for both Windows and Mac machines, and via the Web in a Java-based “Instant Play” pop-up window. There are currently a few issues when attempting to run the Web-based version of Zynga Plus Poker in certain browsers such as Chrome on the Mac, but Safari and Firefox offer a more reliable experience, and Zynga is aware of the problems. Players are pushed very strongly in the direction of the downloadable client from the service’s front page.

As with Zynga Plus Casino, Zynga Plus Poker requires players to sign up for a proprietary account in order to play — though if they already have an account for Zynga Plus Casino, this may be used for Zynga Plus Poker and vice versa. Any balance that the player has in their account can be shared between the two games, though at the time of writing I encountered some issues where all of my real-money balance was regarded as “restricted” and thus it did not appear to be possible to bring it into real-money games. It’s not clear whether this is a problem with the service or if there are some prerequisites that I have not met, and the help function in the app itself does not do a very good job of explaining what a “restricted” balance is or why it is restricted.

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Zynga Plus Casino review

Zynga Plus Casino is a new real-money gaming service from the social gaming giant. At present, it is available in the U.K. — its availability in other territories will depend on local laws relating to online gambling. Zynga Plus Casino is one of two real-money gaming services that the company has launched recently — the other being Zynga Plus Poker, which we’ll take a closer look at tomorrow.

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Zynga Plus Casino may be accessed either via the Web or a dedicated downloadable piece of client software. The Web version does not work correctly on Mac OS X-based devices, failing to recognize when the user is logged in, and the downloadable client is only available for Windows-based computers at this time — so either way, Mac users are out of luck at present.

A Zynga Plus Casino account may be used in Zynga Plus Poker and vice-versa, so it’s only necessary for the player to create one account. In order to do so, they must provide their personal details, including their name, address and date of birth. There’s no apparent means of identity-checking in place to verify the user’s age aside from the birthdate selector — gamblers in the U.K. must be at least 18 years of age in order to play. There’s also no means of registering for an account with Facebook or other social networks — the Zynga Plus services use their own proprietary accounts.

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Former Zynga Austin employee creates mobile studio Team Chaos

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Former Zynga Austin vice president and general manager Andrew Busey is partnering up with mobile developer Chaotic Moon Studios to create Team Chaos, a new mobile gaming startup. The first game from the freshly minted studio is Elements: Broken Lands, a free-to-play collectible card game (CCG) for iOS.

“The rise of CCGs on mobile has been incredible,” Busey tells GameIndustry.biz. “One of our objectives in crafting Elements has been evolving the ease of use and raising the quality level of this genre on mobile. Our past experience building these types of games combined with the amazing advancement in mobile technology has allowed us to build a visually stunning game that is both accessible and deeply strategic.

“I had not planned to do another start-up, but conversations with Chaotic Moon and the pace of mobile gaming advancement got me super excited. This is about passion. We are truly making games that we want to play. And we believe our passion and enthusiasm will result in games that other gamers are going to love playing, too.”

Busey is no stranger to the CCG genre. He was the founder and CEO of social gaming developer Challenge Games, which had previously developed fantasy-themed CCG Duels for Facebook and another game of the same type, Warstorm for Facebook. Zynga acquired Austin-based Challenge Games back in January 2010 for an undisclosed sum of money. Busey and the studio’s 35 employees were the genesis of Zynga’s Austin studio. In October 2012, the Austin studio, which was the studio behind The Ville, saw staff cuts upward of more than 100 employees. Months later, Zynga closed its downtown Austin office, but the remaining employees were relocated to Zynga’s Dallas and North Austin offices.

Chaotic Moon Studios is known for developing apps for clients like Fox, Disney and Marvel. For example, the studio helped Marvel develop its most recent mobile release Marvel Unlimited, a comic subscription service.

Elements: Broken Lands, which features an in-game marketplace for players to buy and sell cards, launched yesterday for iOS, but there’s no mention for release on other platforms yet.

OMGPOP head Dan Porter departs from Zynga, Sean Kelly steps in

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Zynga today announced the departure of Zynga’s New York office general manager Dan Porter, the former CEO and founder of OMGPOP.

Just over a year ago, Zynga acquired New York-based gaming studio OMGPOP for $180 million (with another $30 million earnout), the studio behind hit Pictionary-like mobile title Draw Something.

“Developing and launching games is a team effort, and we’re proud of the great work the Zynga New York team has done with Draw Something 2,,” said Zynga COO David Ko, in a statement. “Our follow up to the original hit is even more social and engaging, and we’re excited to get it into the hands of our players globally. We thank Dan Porter for his efforts in making the Draw Something franchise a success and wish him well in his future endeavors. We’re proud to see talent like Sean Kelly take a bigger leadership role as the Head of our New York studio and lead the team to the global launch of Draw Something 2.”

Sean Kelly, who’s been with the company since 2009, is stepping in for Porter as the head of Zynga’s New York studio. Kelly’s official title is the vice president of mobile and general manager of Zynga New York, reporting to Zynga’s senior vice president of mobile Travis Boatman. Kelly led the launch of CityVille in 2009, which grabbed 100 million players worldwide in less than 30 days, as well as the launch of Running with Friends FarmVille, Dream Zoo, Dream PetHouse, CityVille Hometown and Zynga Poker.

Zynga recently revealed Draw Something 2, the sequel to Draw Something, in a tweet from TV and radio personality Ryan Seacrest. The game has soft-launched in Sweden, but no official worldwide release date has been announced yet.

Ryan Seacrest reveals, Zynga confirms, Draw Something 2

Television personality Ryan Seacrest today revealed the existence of Draw Something 2, the sequel to OMGPOP’s runaway mobile success Draw Something.

Seacrest, best known for hosting Fox’s long-running television show American Idol, Seacrest posted the following image to his Twitter account today.image001

Zynga VP and OMGPOP CEO Dan Porter was quick to confirm Seacret’s claim that the public was checking out some legit Draw Something 2 artwork, responding with the game’s official logo.

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Zynga’s acquisition of OMGPOP made some serious headlines last year, especially since the deal was reportedly worth somewhere around $200 million. Zynga’s staying mum on exactly what kind of new features the game will contain, or even when it will release, but Porter’s comment implies Draw Something 2 will continue to leverage social networks so players have more ways to share their images (something that users have long been clamoring for).

Seacrest and Draw Something have long been associated with one another, especially following the revelation that Seacrest was producing a Draw Something-themed gameshow for CBS.

What will be interesting to see is how Zynga handles Draw Something after its sequel is launched. AppData estimates the game still has over 5 million monthly active users, and those are only the users who connect the game to their Facebook accounts.

Playdemic credits Zynga with Village Life’s success, launching new game features soon

Alex_RigbyPlaydemic’s life management sim Village Life may have just launched a few months ago, but the game’s deep, original gameplay is already proving successful on the platform. Playdemic CCO Alex Rigby sat down to chat with us regarding the game’s initial success, as well as what’s in store for it in the near future.

Our review of Village Life called attention to its unique mechanics, and the game’s continuing to show strong growth. Village Life is still showing up in our weekly gainers lists, with AppData estimating the title has 4.77 million monthly active users on Facebook (showing its broader reach on the social network) and 276,725 daily active users (the best measure of a game’s core audience).

According to Rigby the major source of this success is largely due to Playdemic’s partnership with Zynga, which was announced just over a year ago at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. On Facebook,  the game is benefitting from Zynga’s cross promotion bar, pictured below, and it’s also enjoying prominent promotion on Zynga’s own web portal.

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“We’re one of the top partners with Zynga, and Village Life has been getting a lot of attention through that,” he notes. “They give us different stages of traffic through the different channels they have at their disposal. They’re really pushing our metrics up there.” (more…)

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