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  • GameStop Says It Isn't Worried About Digital Distribution

    GameStop Says It Isn't Worried About Digital Distribution

    The classic way is much better

    The game industry is definitely changing as the times move forward. One of the biggest changes in terms of game distribution is the appearance of online stores, owned by game publishers, like Valve, or console producers, like Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo, which offer players the very easy opportunity of downloading their games, without them having to go to the classic stores.

    A lot of critics and analysts say that the future of the whole game distribution industry are these online stores, as all of them have a huge popularity, and people are beginning to realize that going to regular game stores, like GameStop or Target, isn't more advantageous than accessing the online ones. The companies that own these digital stores are really promoting them through special offers or different kinds of services, like preloading, which really attract users.

    Classic store owners haven't really had any reason to worry about these online competitors, and Tony Bartel, the vice president of GameStop, recently declared that his company didn't see these digital stores as rivals. He went on saying that a small part of game sales resulted from online distribution, and that the stores had an ace up their sleeve, as employees could easily explain to customers what a game was about in terms they understood.

    "About 2 percent of the entire console market is downloaded today, and that's growing at a rate that's slightly less than the actual boxed product on video games. There's very little of the full game download that is actually taking place on the console side. What we see is that the games are incredibly complex, and with the complexity—and especially with the investment that they actually have as well both in terms of time and money—we actually see that there is an increased need for someone to explain the game."

    Some very interesting statements, which can surely get a lot of classic game store owners to relax a bit. While online stores are beginning to become more and more popular, there is still a long road ahead until they can become a worthy rival to the classic ones. Let's just hope that it will all be to the customer’s advantage here, as the stores battle for his money through various promotions or bundles.

    via softpedia
  • Kalypso Games Coming to Steam

    Kalypso Games Coming to Steam

    Kalypso Media has announced that some of their back catalog and current titles will soon be arriving on Valve’s Steam platform.

    The first Kalypso title to be released on Steam will be "Imperium Romanum: Gold Edition". New titles, such as "Ceville" and "Grand Ages: Rome," will be coming to Steam in the coming months.

    “We are delighted to be working globally with Valve Corporation as a strategic partner both now and going forward. Kalypso Media view Electronic Software Download as a vital part of our ongoing business strategy and the establishment of this strategic agreement with Valve Corporation is a key step forward. We are looking forward to making our games available to the game playing public on Steam,” said Charlie Barrett, Business Development Director Kalypso Media

    For more information visit www.kalypsomedia.com

    via 2404

  • Retail E-Commerce Rises 1% in October - Least Ever

    Retail E-Commerce Rises 1% in October - Least Ever

    Online retail spending in October 2008 grew only 1% over October 2007, according to comScore’s monthly retail e-commerce sales estimates - marking the lowest monthly growth rate since comScore began tracking e-commerce in 2001 - reports Retailer Daily.

    The overall softness in online retail spending was precipitated by curtailed spending across mid- to lower-income segments, with households earning less than $50K/year exhibiting negative spending growth compared with a year ago.

    Six Consecutive Months of Slowdown

    US retail e-commerce growth rates have fallen from a height of 28% in August 2007 to just 1% in October 2008. October was the sixth consecutive month this year of slowing growth rates.

    Negative Growth among Lowest Income Earners

    click to enlarge

    A three-month trailing average of retail e-commerce spending reveals that the low and middle-income segments are responsible for much of the softness:

    • Overall, online retail spending from August through October grew just 4% versus year ago, with spending declining by 3% among households making less than $50K/year.
    • Households with income between $50K and $100K showed marginally positive spending growth (1%).
    • Households making at least $100K increased their spending at a healthy rate of 14%.

    Shift in Economic Concerns

    comScore also conducted surveys in July and October that reveal a marked shift in consumers’ top economic concerns.

    Specifically, while rising prices remained the top overall economic concern in October, consumers have become increasingly worried about unemployment/job security and the health of the financial markets:

    • Households earning at least $100,000 indicated that the state of the financial markets was their biggest economic concern, with a sharp increase from 14% in July to a 49% in October.
    • Those earning less than $100,000 showed marked increases in concern about unemployment and job security.

    “It’s clear that worry, concern, and even fear are the prevailing consumer sentiments at the moment, and this is causing all income segments to pull back their spending,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.

    “With the financial markets still volatile and more job cuts looming, it would appear the only near-term ray of hope for this year’s holiday shopping season is that the sharp drop in oil prices will cause an easing in inflation and provide a much needed boost in consumers’ spending power.”

    via Seeking Alpha

  • Silicon Knights Releases Too Human Sountrack

    Silicon Knights Releases Too Human Sountrack

    too human soundtrack

    Silicon Knights has announced that the soundtrack for their third-person action game, Too Human, is now available for purchase. The musical CD, which was nominated for “Best Original Video Game Score” by the Hollywood Music Awards, features tracks from the game, such as “Relic”, “Path to Attrition”, “The World Tree” and “Gods and Chaos”, along with 16 other tracks.

    All the music was originally scored by Silicon Knights’ composer, Steve Henifin, and performed by the FILMharmonic Orchestra and Choir Prague. This hour-long soundtrack is mixed in a continuous format with special extras and remixes which is selling for a suggested retail price of $15.98 via Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, iTunes and the CD label’s own site Sumthing Distribution. I found it for $139.98 on Amazon and $9.99 on iTunes, so prices vary.

    Based on Norse mythology, Too Human was retold as a technologically advanced lost civilization and the music, like the game, tries very hard to stick to the old Norse roots while telling a more futuristic tale. The soundtrack feature period instruments, such as the Hardanger, Lyre, Alpenhorn and Langeleik, and Old Norse vocals that are loosely based off of the Norse Eddur (old Norse poems and tales). Kind of like how Oraff based his choral interpretation of Carmina Burana off of poems and drinking songs written by a Goliard monk and two of his students called the Burana Codex.

    The soundtrack runs the gambit of orchestral music, electronic/metal and ambient tracks that are made of layers sample-based sounds and evolving electronic sounding textures making the music Norse in presentation, but not exclusively Norse in sound.

    So while the music and audio is Norse in its presentation, it is not exclusively Norse in its sound. All in all it is a very interesting soundtrack which, if you are a fan of this sort of music genre, you will enjoy it highly. I was honestly never really all that interested in playing the game, but I do like the soundtrack very much.

    As usual, check with the above mentioned retailers to see if the Too Human Soundtrack is available in your region before getting overly excited. via FileFront

  • Gameloft on DSi and Digital Distribution

    Gameloft on DSi and Digital Distribution

    The mobile publisher plans to be "more aggressive" on the DSi Store. Gameloft also talks about digital distribution on PSP, WiiWare, PSN and XBLA.

    by John Gaudiosi on Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Gameloft on DSi and Digital Distribution

    PARIS, FRANCE—French mobile game publisher Gameloft is the leading mobile game publisher in the world today. But with the proliferation of digital distribution channels opening up across Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and WiiWare, as well as the PSP Store and Nintendo DSi Store, the company is bringing many of its franchises to new platforms.

    One new focus for the company, which has released 10 Nintendo DS games over the past three years, will be the Nintendo DSi Store. Gonzague de Vallois, senior vice president of publishing at Gameloft, who recently spoke with GameDaily BIZ about the success the iPhone has brought the company, took some time to talk about Nintendo's new portable, which is out now in Japan and will be released around the globe next year.

    GameDaily BIZ: What are your plans for the Nintendo DSi?

    "...our teams are brainstorming on what they can do with DSi in terms of sound and using the camera to integrate the players into the game."

    Gonzague de Vallois: We're preparing for the North American launch. There's nothing official on when this will be. We've heard spring-summer. We've heard Q3. I believe from Nintendo's perspective there's no hurry to release the device in North America because DS is still selling extremely well. If the DSi and DS are close in price, the DSi will kill DS sales.

    BIZ: How will you support Nintendo DSi?

    GdV: We'll support both Nintendo DS and DSi. We're working on some games that we'll release at retail through our distribution partnership with Ubisoft. These games will come in a single package and will work on both DS and DSi, with the DSi version taking advantage of additional options like the cameras and advanced sound capabilities. We'll be much more aggressive with the DSi Store than at retail.

    BIZ: What are your developers' thoughts on what Nintendo DSi will open up in terms of gameplay?

    GdV: We're getting the official SDKs in December so our teams are brainstorming on what they can do with DSi in terms of sound and using the camera to integrate the players into the game.

    BIZ: Who will be your target audience for Nintendo DSi at launch next year?

    GdV: Nintendo's goal with the DSi is to add the new DS to the family. We'll learn who's going to buy it. I think at first it will be Nintendo's hardcore fans, so we'll get titles that appeal to those guys and then we'll extend games based on how it expands to maybe young girls or 30-year-old women over time.

    BIZ: How will you treat different markets with releasing DSi games?

    GdV: We'll be very global. Our strategy on this is to learn on the platform and see who's there. The Japanese market is very specific. We can look at what's worked with Nintendo DS, as well. TV Show King worked in all three territories. There are some universal titles that we'll focus on first and then we'll go to local games. We're also looking at allocating resources to support the Japanese DSi next year to test the system early.

    BIZ: How big a part of your business will Nintendo DS/DSi become?

    GdV: It's not a core platform for us. We know it's a crowded market so we try to come out with titles that can make a difference with value. We work with Ubisoft with distribution; our core business is digital.


  • Will Microsoft Online Store Affect Distributors?

    Will Microsoft Online Store Affect Distributors?

    By Kevin McLaughlin, ChannelWeb
    2:07 PM EST Thu. Nov. 20, 2008
    Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT) last week started selling some of its products to U.S. customers through an online storefront for the first time in its history. While most channel partners don't see this as a threat to their businesses, some speculate that distributors might view things differently.

    The Microsoft Store lets customers buy and download products via Electronic Software Distribution (ESD) and also get direct shipments. Microsoft says the store will help customers save on shipping costs and alleviate their fears of not having the software on physical media to reinstall products at a later time.

    Partners can now buy all server and related licenses from Microsoft directly for customers that already have an existing license and need to move to another SKU, said Mark Crall, president of Charlotte Tech Care Team, a Microsoft partner in Charlotte, N.C.

    Crall doesn't think Microsoft's goal is to cut out distributors or partners, and says the Microsoft Store makes sense if it can simplify the process of choosing and acquiring the right licenses for customers, and deliver them at a lower cost.

    "When Microsoft can provide the value-added service that a distributor -- or even a partner -- uses to justify their margins, then why wouldn't they?" Crall said.

    Chris Rue, CEO of Black Warrior Technology, a Northport, Ala.-based solution provider and Microsoft partner, says any conflict will likely be confined to the big box retail channel and office-supply stores. "All the stuff available on the Microsoft Store right now is the same stuff you see in the aisles of those types of stores," Rue said.

    However, Rue said there are "deep ranging effects" associated with the Microsoft Store, which could potentially reach down to the distributor level. "I'm not sure this is the type of news anyone selling Microsoft products in any quantity wants to see in the current economy," he said.

    Windows Server 2008 and System Center Essentials are the only products currently listed in the Business section of Microsoft's Online Store, but on the purchasing options Web page for Small Business Server, Microsoft indicates that Small Business Server will be available for online purchase sometime in the future.

    But if the Microsoft Store is successful, "there's really no reason for Microsoft not to start offering the higher end products," Rue said.

    Some VARs see the Microsoft store as welcome relief for their licensing complexity woes.

    Jim Liska, sales manager at Orlantech, an Orlando, Fla.-based solution provider and Microsoft Gold partner, says the Microsoft Store will help him save time by eliminating the need to navigate Microsoft's Byzantine licensing programs.

    "After a decade of selling Microsoft products, I still have trouble with licensing issues, and my customers would prefer to leave that to someone else," Liska said.

    "The number of different choices customers have when shopping for software is mind-boggling," agrees Michael Cocanower, president of Phoenix-based solution provider ITSynergy. "I have no doubt that companies like us add value to the transaction by helping the customer navigate that maze."

    But despite Microsoft's channel-friendly track record, some partners see the Microsoft Store as a definitive step on Microsoft's part toward establishing a more direct relationship with consumers.

    "Do you think that bankruptcy of Circuit City (NYSE:CC) and CompUSA had anything to do with the idea that Microsoft needs to go at it alone to reach the end customer?" wrote Vlad Mazek, a Microsoft Exchange MVP and CEO of Own Web Now, an Orlando, Fla.-based solution provider, in a recent blog post.

    "Microsoft has effectively shot the middleman that stood in the way of their direct relationship with the user -- if you were that middleman, your days are unfortunately numbered," Mazek wrote.

    If Microsoft does attempt to fill the shoes of their channel partners, the company had better include potential collateral damage in its ROI calculations, according to Crall.

    "Going down this path, as companies like Dell (NSDQ:Dell) and Symantec (NSDQ:SYMC) have recently proven, is a potentially slippery slope that can cause an irreversible backlash from their channel partners," Crall said.

    via ChannelWeb

  • Games For Windows Execs On Valve, Stardock Competition

    Games For Windows Execs On Valve, Stardock Competition

    Interview: Games For Windows Execs On Valve, Stardock Competition Microsoft points to its just-released Games for Windows Live interface update as the first step in an initiative to bolster its PC gaming support -- but companies like Valve and Stardock are going down similar paths with their Steam and Impulse services.

    Steam started out as digital distribution and has been progressively adding in more community and multiplayer features, and Impulse is following a similar trajectory.

    Meanwhile, Games for Windows Live is just the opposite -- it's starting out by integrating into Xbox Live's successful community and friends features, and taking steps into digital distribution with downloadable content, with full game downloads planned further down the road.

    And because this is the PC, everybody's doing all of this at the same time, with more targeted multiplayer services like Xfire and GameSpy thrown in the mix for good measure.

    "As Microsoft, we're glad you're playing a PC game on Windows," said Games for Windows general manager Chris Early in an interview at Gamasutra's offices.

    "Whether it's GameSpy or Games for Windows Live or Steam, it's a far cry from 'PC gaming is dead,'" he added with a laugh.

    The company knows that, unlike on the Xbox 360 where Microsoft is the only game in town, no Windows developer is obligated to use Microsoft's own community services for its games, leading to inadvertent crossovers.

    For example, a number of games, such as Bethesda Game Studios' recent Fallout 3, can be purchased and launched through Steam, after which players can log into Live and communicate with the Xbox Live and GFW Live friends.

    "We actually worked with those guys at [Stardock] as well to enable Live-enabled games to work through Impulse," Early pointed out.

    He downplayed the potential confusion that might arise among gamers faced with numerous competing services on the market. "Look at how many instant messenger programs you keep and use on a regular basis," he said.

    "At some level, it's the nature of the PC that there is competition, and people are going to have a multitude of systems available out there. It's up to the players to decide what they want, and to the publishers to say, 'What helps us? How are we going to take advantage of this?'"

    Microsoft's answer to that last question seems heavily informed by Xbox Live -- a massive success among gamers by any measure -- which explains why Games for Windows Live integrated with Xbox Live on a community level before any digital distribution was addressed.

    And now that digital distribution options are being added into Games for Windows Live, when the service's standalone client goes live in the next few weeks, it will be in the form of additional downloadable content rather than full games. Bethesda announced its Fallout 3 DLC will be exclusive to Xbox 360 and PC, and on the PC side it will be distributed through GFW Live.

    The developer offered paid downloadable content on PC for its last major title, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but Early strongly implied that it saw much higher conversion rates on the Xbox 360 version, where DLC is tied into the system's interface rather than on a separate website.

    "They see the [DLC] conversion rates on the PC versus the conversion rates on the Xbox 360 with Live, relatively speaking," Early explained. "They look at that and say, 'Wow, the one-button buy-in is essential for this to make money, and now that it's supported on both PC and Xbox, it makes sense to do it.'"

    Microsoft faces significant challenges to its GFW initiatives -- the PC audience tends to be understandably skeptical of overseeing entities that attempt to centralize the platform, especially when they have fees attached. Microsoft later backed down from its initial GFW Live subscription structure, making it free to both developers and players.

    But Steam, which has had a client available for years, is fairly well-entrenched; and Microsoft has yet to offer a broad and compelling slate of partner titles that prove the usefulness of its multiplayer features in the way it has on Xbox 360.

    Relic's upcoming Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II might be a key title in that respect. Rockstar North's PC version of Grand Theft Auto IV is GFW Live-outfitted as well, but the game has been out for months on consoles, and is generally perceived as a single-player game at heart.

    However, real-time strategy games like Dawn of War have been among the few genres on PC that have embraced Xbox Live-style matchmaking -- perhaps one reason Relic went with GFW Live. And the game is a PC exclusive -- a trait that will be invaluable if Microsoft hopes to demonstrate its system's value.

    Early promises more big names are on the way -- but Microsoft has promised that before, and there hasn't exactly been a flood of signups. Still, it only takes a few successes for gamers to see worth.

    "I think we've made it easier to play inside the game for the consumer, easier for the publisher to create engaging and ongoing experiences, and then easier for the consumer at the desktop level and in the marketplace level," said Early.

    "And all that's been based off the Live service, which is where you get your one identity across both services, and one set of friends and one reputation. And I think what we're working on has resonated not only with players, but particularly with publishers. We've seen a number of publishers commit their triple-A titles to Games for Windows Live this fall." via Gamasutra

  • GameStop Sales Climb to Almost $1.7 Billion, But Profit Dips in Q3

    GameStop Sales Climb to Almost $1.7 Billion, But Profit Dips in Q3

    The tough economy and a tough comparison against Halo 3's launch led to a net earnings drop and slightly lowered guidance, but GameStop remains quite strong.

    by James Brightman on Thursday, November 20, 2008

    GameStop Sales Climb to Almost $1.7 Billion, But Profit Dips in Q3

    Video game retailer GameStop announced its third quarter fiscal results for the period ended November 1. Despite a tough comparison with last year when Halo 3 launched, GameStop's sales rose 5.2 percent to $1.695 billion. Net earnings, however, dipped from $52 million to $46.7 million.

    Comparable store sales were also down, falling 1.8 percent (as opposed to a 46 percent increase last Q3). That said, GameStop is optimistic: "Recent trends are encouraging as comparable store sales for October increased by nearly 11%, and increased 20.5% for the first two weeks of November, showing surprising strength given the unprecedented economic and financial crisis."

    Sales of new video game software grew 10 percent for the quarter, driven by titles such as Madden NFL 2009, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Fable 2, Wii Fit, and Guitar Hero World Tour, which were the top five selling games.

    "Despite the dramatic decline of the global economy and its severe impact on the entire retail industry, GameStop had a strong quarter," commented Daniel DeMatteo, Chief Executive Officer. "Sales have been very robust over the last several weeks, driven by strong new title releases such as Activision's Call of Duty: World at War and World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, and Microsoft's Gears of War 2. We believe that video games provide real entertainment value to consumers in these trying economic times and will be sought out gift purchases for the holiday season."

    R. Richard Fontaine, Executive Chairman, added, "While we are operating through what has been the most unpredictable economic environment in my over 40 years in retail, the GameStop business model has proven to be very resilient. New game sales were strong due in part to the values generated by many of our customers trading in products while older products are being sold at value price points.

    "I am pleased to say that during the quarter we negotiated the acquisition of Micromania, France's largest video game retailer. The final purchase price was reduced to approximately $636 million from the announced $700 million due to foreign exchange rate fluctuations and debt procured to fund the acquisition is projected to be paid off by the end of this fiscal year. We remain committed to using our strong cash flow to continue our global strategy for growth through future new store openings and acquisitions."

    For the current fourth quarter, GameStop warned that sales and earnings will be "tempered slightly by the weakness in consumer spending." Earnings per share are expected to be in the range from $1.29 to $1.34, an increase of +13% to +18% over last year. Comparable store sales in the fourth quarter are expected to range from +4% to +5%. For the full year, GameStop is expecting earnings per share to range from $2.35 to $2.40, an increase of +30% to +33% over the prior year. Comparable store sales are projected to increase between +10% and +11% for the full year, and total sales are forecast to grow between +21% and +22%.

    via GameDaily

  • Retailers 'Killing The Longevity' Of Games

    Retailers 'Killing The Longevity' Of Games

    In a Montreal International Game Summit keynote, Frontier Development chairman David Braben spoke on the evolution of game consoles over the last five game generations and speculated on the future, concluding his talk with a reflection on the benefits of rapid development as exemplified by the studio's own LostWinds.

    Calling himself an "old-timer" who got his start in 1982 with Elite, co-authored with Ian Bell, Braben began by identifying some consistent trends over the decades.

    "There's been a very consistent six-year tick throughout the generations," starting in about 1986 up until the present day, according to Braben. He pointed out that performance has increased exponentially since then, while storage capacity and RAM are progressing at a slower rate.

    "When we started in the early 80s, the machines were not leading edge," he pointed out; developers were working on machines that were already dated in some ways. Now, on the other hand, generational shifts constantly push the bleeding edge.

    Looking at that same six-year "tick," the next generation may occur in 2012. But what does this mean? The Wii suggests evolution may come with new input devices rather than purely performance.

    "Nintendo, just by being clever, have bypassed" the traditional generational curve, Braben said.

    "What Nintendo were very, very good to spot is that the reason we're increasing performance dramatically with each generation is so that we can make much better games with that performance," he explained. "Arguably, by the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, the return on that investment was reducing."

    Braben continued, "We still had good animations and recorded voice, but there are other ways we can make better games, and that is what Nintendo have spotted. The lesson I take away from the Wii is not that it has a good controller, but that you can do great things with that controller."

    The Online Myth

    Braben then criticized ongoing comments from WildTangent's Alex St. John, who argues that the current console generation will be the last such generation. "That to me just feels bizarre," said Braben.

    "The more likely scenario is that the next console generation will be sold as media devices," he argued, "but to suggest they don't run games -- I'd be astonished if they don't run games with controllers."

    "If you look at the PC, that's what's problematic," he continued, noting that the success of the PC is online games -- but those games will increasingly not require a PC, as more and more systems gain online capabilities. "We'll see the PC moving away from being a mainstream game platform. We'll see those online games moving to other media devices."

    But Braben says that even in the next generation, online connections will not be ubiquitous -- in 2007, only 53 percent of United States homes have broadband connections, and data suggests a smaller proportion of consoles are ever taken online. Even by 2012, some forecasts suggest that only 70 percent of homes will have broadband.

    "There's a lot of lack of appreciation of the benefits online," he said, adding, "Over in Europe, we're probably slightly ahead of the U.S." when it comes to proliferation of online access.

    The Retail Myth

    "As an industry, we're in denial about the problems with retail," Braben argued, citing a common myth that online distribution will become the norm in the coming generation.

    "Retail is killing the longevity of our titles," he said, with the massive used game market contributing to the problem. "The industry sees none of this" when it comes to preowned sales.

    Meanwhile, the retail film industry puts its new films front and center, and the stores in which movies are sold are often more attractive and inviting than game stores.

    "What's worse, if you ask for a new release, they'll offer you a used one, and it's not even much cheaper," said Braben. "What it's doing as an industry, means the long tail, which is what games rely on, is going to go away. And relying on online is killing ourselves."

    Braben suggested selling higher-priced copies of games to rental stores, then lowering the prices of not-for-resale copies -- thus making new games more affordable for players, while introducing additional revenue streams for rentals.

    "We can add value for people who have actually bought the game," he said -- designers should come up with additional content that rewards those who buy games new.

    A Broken Business Model

    Braben pointed out that under the current business model, revenue is shared roughly equally between developer, publisher, distributor, and retail -- but risk is almost entirely shouldered by developer and publisher, making the revenue split uneven.

    "I think there is an inevitability that development costs increase again as capabilities increase," he said, "because as developers, we can't resist" taking advantage of the latest technology.

    "We'll see more in-house development by publishers, and more publishing by developers. Publishers are already saying it now -- 'Let's grab the big slice of the value chain,'" he said. "What does this mean for a pure developer, who doesn't publish or fund their own titles?"

    "The important thing to do is de-risk development wherever we can," Braben continued, suggesting developers look for ways to reuse their own content, keeping hold of their own intellectual property, and sharing technology as much as possible.

    Capturing Design Ideas

    "The upside of this is that it's us in this room who are shaping the sixth generation now," he said. "Customers don't buy machines because of fancy controllers, they buy them for what you can do with those fancy controllers, or the new performance, and it's us who determines that. ... The important thing is, how can we stay fresh as an industry? It's certainly why I'm still in the industry -- to learn new things."

    "Almost everyone I know in the industry has some element of game design in their heart," Braben continued. "What I mean by that is not producing documents -- but you might be in a pub and say, 'Oh I really hated Crackdown, if only they added this, or if only I could do this in another game.' That is essentially game design. Just wacky ideas, and see where it goes. Sadly, this creativity is very rarely captured."

    Several years ago, Frontier introduced a "game of the week" program, where developers pitched ideas for discussion by the team. "Some of these ideas should stay in 'game of the week,' but some are really fantastic," Braben said. "For a long time, nothing came out of this. But the first game to go through the system was LostWinds."

    "We made the game in fifteen weeks," he said, pointing to the rapid development techniques used during production. Once the concept had been developed, six days were given to a programmer and designer to create a prototype -- simply taking the 2D images from the design document and mocking them up as a playable to test the control mechanics.

    "Some of the control mechanisms we tried actually worked very badly, so we learned a lot from this," Braben recalled. "We could do playtesting regularly, every week, with a new group of people, just so we could see their opinions genuinely fresh."

    "Rapid development requires real discipline in the tasks you do and the tasks you don't do," he warned, explaining that it is important keep to the schedule and not let unnecessary features creep in. When a feature starts to go awry, it may be worth simply cutting it.

    "The mantra was really to get the maximum fun from the minimum time," said Braben. The game was completed fifteen weeks after the prototype.

    "It was very exciting for all that worked on it," he added, "and [to have] the feeling of euphoria to have completed a game in this day and age in that [amount of time] instead of two or three years."

    The game ended up topping WiiWare charts in North America and Europe, but Frontier had initial difficulties breaking into the Japanese market. "I'm delighted to announce today that LostWinds will be published in Japan and the rest of Asia by Square Enix," Braben announced.

    The veteran designer concluded his talk by showing brief artwork from Frontier's ambitious upcoming nonlinear game The Outsider, promising more details on the long-in-development title next year. via Gamasutra
  • Take-Two's Zelnick Sees Subscriptions as 'Holy Grail' for Industry

    Take-Two's Zelnick Sees Subscriptions as 'Holy Grail' for Industry

    Can subscriptions for GTA and BioShock content be far off? Take-Two boss Strauss Zelnick is a big believer in the subscription model apparently.

    by James Brightman on Thursday, November 13, 2008

    Take-Two's Zelnick Sees Subscriptions as 'Holy Grail' for Industry

    Speaking at the BMO Capital Markets conference, Take-Two Interactive Chairman Strauss Zelnick outlined what he believes will be big drivers of business for his company and the game industry as a whole going forward. Zelnick noted in particular that microtransactions and downloadable content are the "biggest opportunity."

    "With Grand Theft Auto IV we will be offering downloadable episodes that gamers can buy on Xbox Live after they've purchased the original title. We've also [announced] that next week we will be releasing add-on content worldwide for BioShock. And these are our first offerings for downloadable content. We're excited about the creative opportunity. We are very excited about the profit potential and we'll see how these things roll out. I think the entire industry is focused in this area," he said.

    Beyond downloadable content, Zelnick sees subscriptions as a major focus for the industry. Activision Blizzard has already talked about the possibility of using subscriptions for music in Guitar Hero, and of course subscriptions are huge for Blizzard's World of Warcraft, but we're not sure how Take-Two intends to apply this business model just yet.

    "The holy grail is taking a business, already a very large and successful business that's focused on packaged goods... and turning that into a subscription business or a semi subscription business where we have an ongoing relationship with consumers, giving them products that they want," Zelnick commented. "Who's better positioned to do that than the company that has the top franchises?"

    "It's our view that you won't be able to apply a subscription model to mid-tier titles," he continued. "The AAA titles that people really want to have that are really must have are in the best position for this business model."

    Comments like that would seem to suggest subscriptions for the GTA and BioShock franchises, but for now all we can do is speculate.

    Thanks to Kotaku via GameDaily

  • Microsoft Overhauls Games for Windows – Live

    Microsoft Overhauls Games for Windows – Live

    In an effort to better serve PC gamers, Microsoft has relaunched its Games for Windows - Live client and a special G4W Live Marketplace is on its way as well.

    by James Brightman on Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    Microsoft Overhauls Games for Windows – Live

    Games for Windows – Live wasn't exactly the most warmly received service when it first launched. Perceptions improved, of course, when Microsoft finally decided to make Games for Windows – Live entirely free to use this past July. Now, however, the Games for Windows team is taking it one step further.

    In addition to keeping the standard Achievements, TrueSkill matchmaking, voice and text chat, and single identity (Gamertag) for players that works across both Windows and Xbox 360, Microsoft is enhancing the service with a new user interface designed with PC gamers in mind. The new client is available now, and in the next two to three weeks Microsoft will also launch a special Games for Windows – Live Marketplace (similar to Xbox Live Marketplace), where users can download game trailers, demos and add-on game content.

    "The online space is and will remain the driving force behind Windows gaming, and we're taking steps to ensure that Games for Windows — Live provides a unique online home for PC gamers," said John Schappert, corporate vice president of Live, Software and Studios at Microsoft. "This new release was designed specifically with our community of PC gamers and game developers in mind. It's a natural next step in delivering a world-class online service for Windows gamers."

    In a pre-brief meeting, Marketing Manager Michael Wolf told GameDaily BIZ, "We've revisited the concept [for Games for Windows – Live]. Rather than offer an 'Xbox Live for Windows' type experience, let's optimize the service for PC gamers – let's make a great PC online gaming service. As a result of that, we completely redid the interface."

    We asked Wolf if Microsoft felt pressure from other online services such as Valve's popular Steam, but he said that wasn't really the impetus for this relaunch. "We offer things they don't offer; we see our service as being fairly complementary to what they're doing," he asserted. "They've got a great digital distribution story to tell, but we offer things like matchmaking and a singular identity that goes across Windows and Xbox 360."

    We also wondered if Games for Windows – Live would incorporate Avatars given that the New Xbox Experience is launching in about a week. Wolf, however, said that Microsoft was not looking to do "feature for feature parity" with the New Xbox Experience or Xbox Live. "Even though there's a lot of crossover between console players and PC players, it's still kind of a different audience, so we're trying to do things that really optimize the service for PC gamers. So down the line there may be diverging features – stuff you can do on the PC that you can't do on the Xbox 360 and vice versa," Wolf said.

    Microsoft noted that Games for Windows – Live is "an integral part" of many of the top titles for the PC, including GTA IV, Fallout 3, James Bond 007: Quantum of Solace, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, Red Faction: Guerrilla and Battlestations: Pacific. In fact, Fallout 3, which has shipped nearly five million units and generated sales of more than $300 million, will be the first title to offer premium downloadable content directly to gamers via the Games for Windows — Live Marketplace.

    "Games for Windows — Live helps us expand the Fallout 3 universe and bring the full experience directly to gamers," said Pete Hines, vice president of public relations and marketing for Bethesda Softworks. "Through the Marketplace we now have a no-nonsense way to deliver updates and great downloadable content. It's really a complete package, and a great fit for Fallout 3."

    We'll be bringing you more from our interview with Michael Wolf in the very near future. Stay tuned.

    via GameDaily

  • NPD: Wii, Fable II Fuel Sales of $1.31 Billion in October for U.S Game Industry

    NPD: Wii, Fable II Fuel Sales of $1.31 Billion in October for U.S Game Industry

    [UPDATE: Wii Music, Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band 2 sales added!] Following a somewhat reduced September, the U.S. game industry posted another great month, led by a Wii sales spike. NPD's Anita Frazier says the industry could still top $22 billion

    by James Brightman on Thursday, November 13, 2008

    NPD: Wii, Fable II Fuel Sales of $1.31 Billion in October for U.S Game Industry

    GameDaily BIZ has received the NPD video game sales data for the month of October, and the industry continues to march right along, seemingly unaffected by the economic environment plaguing the nation.

    Total sales were up 18 percent to $1.31 billion, as software sales jumped 35 percent to $696.79 million and hardware sales increased five percent to $494.74 million. Sales of accessories did fall eight percent, however, to $120.19 million. Year-to-date, industry sales are still tracking ahead 25 percent at $13.31 billion with software sales up 36 percent and hardware sales up 14 percent.

    "With 10-months under its belt, the video games industry is still poised to top $22B in annual sales in 2008," noted NPD industry analyst Anita Frazier. She added, "The sales results are mixed this month, however. The console portion of the market made significant gains at 26% across hardware, software and accessories, while the portable side of the market stalled, declining 14%. Year-to-date the portable segment of the market is still up 7%."

    As analysts predicted, the Wii's sales did indeed spike (likely due to increased U.S. supply). Nintendo's Wii dominated the hardware scene with 803K units sold, while the DS handheld sold another 491K.

    Microsoft's Xbox 360 also did well following price cuts, selling 371K units, which was nearly double the PS3's 190K. Sony's PS2 and PSP sold 136K and 193K, respectively.

    As for software, Lionhead Studios' RPG for Xbox 360, Fable II, easily took first place with 790K copies sold. Meanwhile, the Wii's hardware resurgence clearly had an impact of sales for Wii Fit (a May release), which took second place with 487K units sold. Interestingly, no Guitar Hero or Rock Band SKUs made the top 10, nor did Nintendo's much talked about Wii Music, which released on October 20.

    [Update: NPD has informed us that Wii Music sold just 81K units - not exactly a huge sales performance given that this was a much hyped title from Nintendo.]

    Here are the top 10 best selling titles (ranked by units):

    1. Fable II - Xbox 360 – Microsoft – 790K
    2. Wii Fit w/ balance board - Wii – Nintendo – 487K
    3. Fallout 3 - Xbox 360 – Bethesda – 375K
    4. Mario Kart w/ wheel - Wii – Nintendo – 290K
    5. Wii Play w/ remote - Wii – Nintendo – 282K
    6. Saints Row 2 - Xbox 360 – THQ – 270K
    7. SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals Confrontation - PS3 – Sony – 231K
    8. LittleBigPlanet - PS3 – Sony – 215K
    9. NBA 2K9 - Xbox 360 – Take-Two – 202K
    10. Dead Space - Xbox 360 – EA – 193K

    *Note: data includes CE, GOTY editions, bundles, etc. but not those bundled with hardware

    Next page: We chat some more with Anita Frazier about October's data and reveal sales for Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band 2.


  • Atari's 'Tremendous Revenue Growth' Boosts Infogrames' First-Half

    Atari's 'Tremendous Revenue Growth' Boosts Infogrames' First-Half

    Atari's turnaround story continues. Sales grew 145% for the first-half, helping to lift parent company Infogrames' sales over 44% for the same period.

    by James Brightman on Friday, November 14, 2008

    Atari's 'Tremendous Revenue Growth' Boosts Infogrames' First-Half

    French publisher Infogrames, which earlier this year completed the full acquisition of Atari, announced its first-half fiscal results, revealing a net revenues increase of 44.5 percent to 131.8 million euros. While the European business still drove the majority of sales with 77.4 million euros, it was the U.S. businesss (Atari) that saw the most growth. Sales jumped 145 percent to 36.3 million euros. The Asian business brought in 18.1 million euros.

    U.S. sales were led by Alone of the Dark, Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit and Backyard Baseball. Infogrames said that Atari's momentum "results from the restructuring initiatives implemented... as well as the recovery plan put into action by the recently appointed management team."

    The majority (63 percent) of Infogrames' sales were generated by consoles (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii), while portables (DS, PSP) contributed 13 percent to sales and other consoles such as PS2 contributed 12 percent. PC game sales also totaled 12 percent.

    "Strong revenues growth for the first half of the fiscal year 2008 / 2009 reflect strong sales and solid distribution. This first half of the year also showed improvement of current operating income resulting from improved cost control, the early results of restructuring plan and profitability measures implemented since the beginning of the fiscal year. I also would like to point out the turn around in the U.S. with tremendous revenue growth of 145% and reduction of losses," said a pleased David Gardner, Infogrames' Chief Executive Officer.

    He continued, "Given current economic situation, we think that holiday period will be very competitive, however we reiterate our full year revenues growth guidance at 12% to 18 % and return to profitability by the second half of 2009 / 2010 on a 12-month basis. We are very confident that this first half is just the beginning of a new positive trend as we are efficiently rolling out our strategy, by strengthening our distribution revenues with new partnerships and improving our 2009 / 2010 products line up with new titles such as the recently announced Ghostbusters and The Chronicles of Riddick."

  • PC is the 'Cradle of Innovation,' says Microsoft

    PC is the 'Cradle of Innovation,' says Microsoft

    Microsoft is a big believer in PC gaming and the company intends for Games for Windows to lead the way. Eventually G4W will launch full digital distribution a la Steam, Microsoft's Michael Wolf tells us.

    by James Brightman on Friday, November 14, 2008

    Interview: PC is the 'Cradle of Innovation,' says Microsoft

    For years now, people have been talking about the "decline" of PC gaming, and while it's true that retail sales have dropped off, the PC gaming market as a whole is quite strong. In fact, U.S. online PC games revenue is expected to grow from $3.5 billion in 2008 to nearly $15 billion by 2012, according to IDC, and PC game sales will likely continue to shift to online channels, including subscriptions and paid downloads.

    We recently sat down with Games for Windows - Live Senior Marketing Manager Michael Wolf in advance of the Games for Windows – Live overhaul to get Microsoft's take on how Games for Windows is evolving and impacting the health of the PC gaming market.

    Perhaps the biggest hurdle for the PC gaming market (at least on the retail side) is piracy. Some developers that used to be PC-only have all but abandoned the PC and many have blamed the rampant piracy. Epic Games has already said they won't bring Gears of War 2 to the PC for this very reason. On top of that, consumers are increasingly irritated by DRM solutions that are forced on them (see EA's Spore controversy). So what is Microsoft going to do to alleviate these problems?

    "I believe the PC is the cradle of innovation; there's always new things happening on the PC."

    "We're looking into it and trying to provide the best guidance and technologies as we can," said Wolf. "Specific to Games for Windows – Live, I think for Live enabled titles you're going to see a little bit of a difference with games and piracy because in order to connect to Live – we do validation checks – if you have a pirated version you won't be able to connect to Live and then you can't play multiplayer, can't earn achievements, etc. We know that's something that's incredibly valuable to gamers... So I think people are going to be more likely to go out and buy the game. I don't think it's going to stop it completely because piracy has been around forever, but it's a step in the right direction.

    "As far as Cliff's [Bleszinski] comments [about not bringing Gears 2 to PC], I think that there are certain games that lend themselves to consoles and certain games that lend themselves to PCs, and we're certainly not going to demand that developers do one or the other, but there's just as many games that are PC exclusive that aren't coming to console. So clearly there's money to be had there. The PCGA recently came out with the Horizons report, which showed that the money going into the Windows gaming industry is huge. Windows gaming is making almost as much money as all the consoles combined. It was worth something like $10 billion in 2007. Clearly, there's a very strong market for PC gaming. ... The PC gaming industry is not in decline; it's evolving and it's definitely evolving to a more online market. I believe the PC is the cradle of innovation; there's always new things happening on the PC."

    The PC gaming market may be moving more and more online, but the games industry as a whole is still largely dominated by retail. That said, game companies don't appear to be as concerned with "ruffling the feathers" of their retail partners as they take their products online and distribute digitally. "I think retailers are starting to get it," Wolf said. "Even when we look at what Microsoft has done with digital distribution and how we worked with retailers... it's almost like the same people who said books are going away and magazines are going away because everybody gets stuff online. I think there's still going to be that market where people want to go out and buy hard boxed copies and collector's editions and things like that. Things like that are still going to drive people to retail and even when it comes to digital distribution Microsoft sells points cards at retail, and the retailers love that. So I don't think it's necessarily cutting out retailers or that we're getting a lot of pushback from them."


  • Recession Hits Japan

    Recession Hits Japan

    Japan, the world’s second biggest economy, has officially fallen into an economic recession. The nation’s export business continues to crumble against the rising Yen and analysts predict that the Japanese economy is set for its longest ever contraction.

    The island’s Gross Domestic Product – the entire value of one nation’s products and services – made an unexpected drop of 0.4 percent (economist estimates compiled by a Kyodo news agency predicted a rise), following the previous quarterly drop of a revised 3.7 percent. A recession is defined by two successive quarterly GDP drops for a nation or continent.

    Signs of the nation’s economic decline can be seen in Edge news stories over the past several months, from Sony’s shocking profit outlook cut of 57 percent, to last week’s global market report which showed that the Japanese software market took a 21 percent drop from last year (though Nintendo remains an exception.)

    Perhaps the biggest danger for Japan’s videogame market was the news that the nation saw its volume of business investments drop 1.7 percent from the previous quarter.

    Japan’s economy minister Kaoru Yosano (pictured) said in a news conference that "the downtrend in the economy will continue for the time being as global growth slows.”

    “We need to bear in mind that economic conditions could worsen further as the US and European financial crisis deepens, worries of economic downturn heighten and stock and foreign exchange markets make big swings," Mr Yosano added.

    The last time Japan hit a recession was only seven years ago. The nation now joins a growing list of major countries that have posted successive GDP losses, such as Germany, Italy, Spain and Ireland. A report last week suggested that America are likely to officially enter a recession soon.
    via Edge
  • GameStop may still lower holiday period guidance,

    GameStop may still lower holiday period guidance,

    U.S. videogame retail sales grew in October by 18 percent despite difficult market conditions, but major specialist retailer GameStop may still lower holiday period guidance, one analyst says.

    "Due to the continued deterioration of the consumer retail environment, particularly the uncertainty of the holiday period, as well as the negative impact of foreign exchange, we expect management to reduce Q4, FY08, and FY09 guidance," wrote Stern Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia in a research note on Friday.

    GameStop is scheduled to report Q3 earnings on November 20.

    Currently, GameStop is calling for full-year guidance of $8.7-$8.8 billion, and same store sales of 12-14 percent. Management currently projects earnings per share of $2.45-$2.50.

    GameStop also expects 25 percent earnings growth in fiscal 2009.

    For fiscal Q3 ended in October, the analyst estimates GameStop generated $1.84 billion.

    Bhatia expects the retailer to weather the economic storm nonetheless. "Although we see [GameStop] earnings under pressure in the near term, we believe the company is fundamentally sound."

    via Edge

  • Introducing the Microsoft Store US

    Introducing the Microsoft Store US

    We previously launched Microsologo_msft_store_xlft Store internationally in the UK, Germany and Korea. I’m now happy to announce that we have officially launched Microsoft Store for the U.S!

    With this launch, our customers in the U.S. are able to buy first-party software and hardware directly from Microsoft offered in a comprehensive online catalog. On our store, you’ll find products from many categories, ranging from Office 2007 Home and Student and Zoo Tycoon 2 to Xbox 360 Wireless Controllers and the new Zune with that cool Buy from FM feature.

    Buy and ship … or buy and download!

    In addition to shipping fully packaged products to your doorstep, we offer the additional advantage by making available many Microsoft products to buy and download. This is also commonly referred to as Electronic Software Distribution (ESD).

    You pay for an ESD product just like you would for one that would be physically shipped to you. The big difference is that after your payment is confirmed, you can immediately download the product to your computer and install it right away. There is no longer any need to pay for shipping costs and waiting for the big brown truck to drive across the country. You’ll be able to enjoy your software almost immediately – all it takes is the download time of the product, which will vary depending on the size of the digital download.

    The obvious fear for most users buying ESD products is not having the software on physical media to re-install the product at a later time. Microsoft Store solves this by letting you re-download the product until mainstream support for the product ends. Typically this is 5 years after the product is released. You always have the option of copying the downloaded products to physical media if you want to have it available longer than the mainstream support lifetime. (You can look up the mainstream support lifecycles for all Microsoft products on the main Microsoft Help and Support site.)

    Advantages of buying ESD

    First, buying ESD gives you the advantage of perpetual storage of your product keys. For all ESD purchases on Microsoft Store, there is no longer any need to keep a software box, CD jewel case or obscure email around for future reference. Your product key is stored in your Microsoft Store Account alongside your purchase history so you can use it to re-install your software at any time. Convenience anyone?

    Second, buying ESD is also better for the environment. I’m not going to get all granola on you and try to quote you an exact environmental impact, but think of the savings of gasoline in shipping products, driving back and forth in your car to a retail store, or even the plastic manufactured and used for the CD jewel cases. With everyone getting worried about their “carbon footprint”, every little bit counts, so why not buy ESD if you can?

    Lastly, in a world where lighter weight laptops, such as netbooks, are becoming more common, ESD makes things easier when an optical drive isn’t easily accessible. The first thing I do when I setup a new machine at home, is to run Windows update, and download all the freeware I use such as 7-zip. By extending ESD to Microsoft software, we’re able to increase convenience across the board for a variety of customers, regardless of whether they are using a speedy desktop gaming PC, or the latest netbook.

    The Excitement!

    Building and launching Microsoft Store for the company is one of the biggest highlights of my career at Microsoft. It has given me tremendous insight, and respect for the complexities of being a retailer, doing business online, and in particular, venturing into the sale and shipment of physical goods.

    Looking back at time on the Windows Live ID team, this release was actually relatively short. After 5 years driving one of the world’s largest web services, it was refreshing to deal with a completely different set of challenges, such as supply chain, payment processing, taxes and even how to optimize bit delivery for ESD downloads. It truly has been a humbling learning experience.

    Thankfully I work with an incredible team, who not only are as enthusiastic as I am about the product and our customers, but also have the commitment to buckle down and do whatever necessary to ship our product on time.

    Tell us what you think!

    We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time designing the site to be both “pretty” and functional (my designers are going to kill me for using the word “pretty”). We’ve really taken it to heart to make it easy for customers to find products, buy those products and also make the ESD experience as user friendly as possible.

    However, as with any product, there are always improvements that can be made. Take some time to check out the Microsoft Store and let me know what you think.

    Additionally, if you want to follow what’s going on with Microsoft Store or other stuff on my mind, follow me on Twitter.

    via Trevin Chow

  • EA Hit with Two More DRM Lawsuits

    EA Hit with Two More DRM Lawsuits

    A consumer in Pennsylvania and another in Missouri are suing EA for the alleged inclusion of SecuROM in their PC titles.

    by David Radd on Monday, November 10, 2008

    EA Hit with Two More DRM Lawsuits

    GamePolitics is reporting that two more DRM related lawsuits were levied against EA in late October. This is in addition to a class-action lawsuit filed against the company in late September.

    Richard Eldridge of Pennsylvania alleges that the Spore Creature Creator Trial Edition installed SecuROM on his system. "The inclusion of undisclosed, secretly installed DRM protection measures with a program that was freely distributed constitutes a major violation of computer owners' absolute right to control what does and what does not get loaded onto their computers, and how their computers shall be used," reads the suit by Eldridge. "EA's EULA for Spore Creature Creator Free Trial Edition makes utterly no mention of any Technical Protection Measures, DRM technology, or SecuROM whatsoever."

    The second case was filed by Dianna Cortez of Missouri, who is suing EA for "immoral, unethical, [and] oppressive" conduct and "unfair business practices," for the inclusion of SecuROM in The Sims 2: Bon Voyage. "After installing Bon Voyage, Ms. Cortez began having problems with her computer," reads the suit by Cortez. "She had previously made backup Sims 2 game content on CDs, but her computer's disc drive would no longer recognize that content, reporting the CDs as empty. She could not access files that were saved on her USB flash drive or iPod, either."

    via GameDaily

  • Game Industry Fighting Back Against Used Sales, says Epic

    Game Industry Fighting Back Against Used Sales, says Epic

    The Gears of War developer thinks digital downloads and extra content will be key to "make strides against the second-hand market," Epic's Mike Capps said.

    by James Brightman on Monday, November 10, 2008

    Game Industry Fighting Back Against Used Sales, says Epic

    The used game sales market continues to bolster retailers while at the same time irking the gamemakers. Frontier Developments' David Braben recently said that the pre-owned games market is "defrauding the industry." Now, Epic Games president Michael Capps has weighed in, telling GI.biz that this secondary market is definitely a "huge issue" for the industry, but that publishers are starting to take action against it.

    "The secondary market is a huge issue in the United States," he explained to the U.K. website. "Our primary retailer [no doubt a reference to GameStop - Ed.] makes the majority of its money off of secondary sales, and so you're starting to see games taking proactive steps toward that by... if you buy the retail version you get the unlock code."

    He continued, "I've talked to some developers who are saying 'If you want to fight the final boss you go online and pay USD 20, but if you bought the retail version you got it for free'. We don't make any money when someone rents it, and we don't make any money when someone buys it used - way more than twice as many people played Gears than bought it..."

    Of course, gamers who care about the industry don't have to buy used titles, but Capps isn't placing blame on the gaming community. "I'd hate to say my players are my enemies - that doesn't make any sense! But we certainly have a rule at Epic that we don't buy any used games - sure as hell you're not going to be recognized as an Epic artist going in and buying used videogames - because this is how we make our money and how all our friends in the industry make money," he said.

    It seems like digital distribution and extra downloadable content is fast becoming a way to incentivize gamers to pick up new games. Purchasers of Rock Band 2, for example, recently received a code for 20 free downloadable songs. GameDaily BIZ doesn't believe developers should go as far as to make key components of a game – such as a final boss fight, as Capps suggests – something that needs to be downloaded, however.

    Capps is a huge believer in the digital model, though. "We're able to respond immediately. That model's so wonderful from a developer perspective, not just making money, but knowing where my customers are and being able to make them happy," he noted. "With retail, I just don't have that - I get 'Oh Europe came back with this many numbers,' and I get that 60 days after we ship. And I think DLC will be increasing in scope just because in the U.S. we really need to make strides against the second-hand market."

    36 photos
    Gears of War 2 is the highly anticipated sequel to the 4.7 million-selling blockbuster third-person tactical action game, and one of the most popular Xbox 360 games in history. Gears of War 2 picks up six months after the events of Gears of War, and thrusts you back into a deep and harrowing story of humankind's epic battle for survival against a nightmarish force of underground creatures known as the Locust Horde. (Screenshot 1 of 36)
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  • Midway's Q3 Net Loss More Than Doubles to $75.9 Million

    Midway's Q3 Net Loss More Than Doubles to $75.9 Million

    Can it get much worse for Midway? The publisher said it's "addressing critical issues," but in the meantime major losses keep piling up.

    by James Brightman on Monday, November 10, 2008

    Midway's Q3 Net Loss More Than Doubles to $75.9 Million

    Midway Games has announced its third-quarter fiscal results for the period ended September 30, and as has been the pattern for the last four years with Midway, it wasn't very good. The publisher's net loss jumped from $33.5 million to $75.9 million. Net revenues, however, did rise from $36.7 million to $51.4 million.

    "During the third quarter, Midway executed on several operational milestones, including the combination of its Southern California studios, the optimization of its Austin facility and cancellation of an associated unannounced game, and the entrance into a receivables factoring agreement to offset the costs related to manufacturing its fall game releases," the publisher stated. "These operational milestones, combined with the Company's favorable exit from underperforming licenses early in the fourth quarter, are designed to ensure successful launches, minimize costs, and focus resources on Midway's strongest licenses, core game franchises such as Mortal Kombat, TNA iMPACT! and Wheelman, as well as future licenses and new IP."

    "In the second and third quarters of 2008 we have focused on addressing several critical issues that were affecting the ability of our company to achieve success, and the third quarter results and associated non-cash charges reflect that effort," commented Matt Booty, president and CEO. "Our current focus is the upcoming launch of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, which aligns our Company with the exceptional Warner Bros. brand of DC Comics. We expect that the fourth quarter will represent significant progress toward completion of these efforts, and that we will enter 2009 with a renewed focus on Midway's key strengths."

    Midway's fourth quarter will rely largely on the aforementioned Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (hitting stores on November 16 for PS3 and 360) as well as the already released Blitz: The League II. Game Party 2 for Wii and Touchmaster II and Mechanic Master for Nintendo DS are also expected to contribute.

    Midway is expecting revenues of $105 million with a net loss of approximately $0.20 per share for Q4. For the full year ending December 31, the company anticipates sales of $210 million, with a net loss of approximately $1.78 per share.

    Earlier today, Midway announced that Shari Redstone resigned from the company's board.

    via GameDaily

  • Why Adventure Games Have a Future

    Why Adventure Games Have a Future

    Dena O’Loughlin is Director of Entertainment Marketing at Encore, USA. She was previously Associate Marketing Manager of Hot Wheels at Mattel

    One of the longest running genres in the video game industry is Adventure Games. These games are categorized by the inclusion of investigation, exploration, and puzzle-solving questions, along with game character interaction and a focus on narrative based challenges. Adventure Games dominated 1980’s game sales charts with popular games made by Sierra On-Line (Kings Quest, Leisure Suit Larry), Lucas Arts (Maniac Mansion) and Cyan Worlds (Myst).

    The mid-1990’s action-based first person shooter games became popular resulting in a decline in the Adventure Game genre. As a result, many publishers started to moved away from the Adventure Games genre, making the category more of a niche genre, appealing to a very specific target market.

    Adventure Games rely heavily on stories from literature, film, and historical events and people. An example of this formula is Encore’s Mystery Adventure Game, Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy, which was released in North America on September 23rd. The game is focused around the historical figure Nostradamus and his prophecy that the entire French Royal family would die. When his prophecy starts to become true, the mother of the King pays a visit to Nostradamus and asks for his help investigating the matter. Gameplay takes place from the vantage point of Nostradamus’ daughter Madeleine, and players achieve success by interacting with Nostradamus and following his teachings to solve the mystery.

    Another example of this game methodology is Dracula 3: Path of the Dragon, another game in Encore’s Mystery Adventure game line released in time for the Halloween holiday. This game is based on Dracula, is faithful to the Bram Stoker universe. The game is set in 1920 and will appeal to many Dracula fans. Players assume the identity of Father Arno Moriani, who is sent by the Vatican to Transylvania to investigate a candidate for sainthood. Once there, he discovers Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Count Dracula, and a mystery unfolds. Players must complete the investigation based on clues given in the game reach a decisive conclusion and complete the game.

    This type of story-based game play lends itself towards non-teen; women based audiences, who have an appreciation for the genre and the story. Women tend to appreciate the character development, and interaction along with gripping storylines.

    Encore saw an opportunity to tap into this audience with the Mystery Adventure Games. The release of Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy marks the first video game ever made about the legendary figure, and while the game is a fictional account of Nostradamus, it does use the prophecies and teachings of the legendary visionary. In Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon players will be able to experience true to life environments of Budapest, Turkey, Rome and Transylvania in addition to the ancient cave prisons from which Count Dracula escaped. These true to life environment locales set the tone for adventure and intrigue with in the game play and players and get to experience the look and feel of how the world of Dracula looked.

    Well crafted Adventure Games will sell and what developers and publishers must keep in mind is that the key to making great Adventure Game is to deliver good graphics, game play and gripping story line. A good Adventure Game is as addicting as a good book but with the added bonus of story line interaction and eye catching graphics it is more than a book it is an Adventure Game.
    via Edge
  • Atari to Bring EVE Online to Retail

    Atari to Bring EVE Online to Retail

    Atari has revealed at CCP's EVE Online Fanfest that it is teaming up with the developer to bring the MMO to retail. CCO's VP of Sales talks about the marketing strategy.

    by John Gaudiosi on Monday, November 10, 2008

    Atari to Bring EVE Online to Retail

    Reykjavik, Iceland—At the close of its fifth annual EVE Online Fanfest, CCP Games announced to a crowd of 1,500 players from around the globe that on March 10, 2009 Atari will bring EVE Online to retailers around the globe. The Games for Windows PC DVD-ROM game will sell for between $40 and $50 and include all nine expansions of the science fiction massively multiplayer online (MMO) universe, as well as 60 days of paid subscription Game Time cards (a $30 value).

    "The future of gaming is about network-centric gaming online," said David Gardner, CEO of Atari on a taped video shown at the event. "CCP Games has done a great job of building up a subscription base of gamers around the globe. But most consumers today still get exposed to games through retail."

    This will mark the second time that EVE Online has gone to retail. The game originally launched in 2003 with Simon & Schuster Interactive distributing the sci-fi MMO, but after six months of slow sales, CCP Games bought back the distribution rights and switched to exclusive online distribution. That's when the game really started to take off.

    The game currently has 250,000 paying players around the globe (not including China, which runs on a separate universe and is handled through a partnership with Optic), and over 50,000 players using the free 14-day trial version. The game is currently available through EVEOnline.com and Steam.com.

    The entire MMO game can be purchased and downloaded for $20, which includes 30 days of Game Time play (a $15 value). Every new expansion, including this week's Quantum Rising (out November 11), is delivered to gamers free of charge. Magnus Berggson, vice president of sales, CCP Games, said that the time is now right to partner with Atari and bring EVE Online to retail.

    "The average age of the Eve Online player – 27 years old – is older than most MMO gamers," said Berggson. "Those types of players don't go to the sites we've been advertising on with banner ads. They go to the store, like myself, and see what's new out there. We're predicting that we'll be reaching a new set of players that we're currently not reaching today with our online efforts."

    CCP Games will be working with Microsoft and Nvidia in conjunction with Atari for the retail launch. EVE Online will be certified for Games for Windows by launch. In addition, Berggson said his company will be announcing specific agreements with some of Nvidia's big video card manufacturer partners around launch.

    "We like working with partners like IBM, Nvidia and Steam," said Berggson. "It always proves to be more successful when you work with somebody. Nvidia card manufacturers will have specific partnership arrangement programs that they can step into. This effort strengthens our retail offering because we can cross-promote between the cards and the retail version of the game in stores."

    CCP Games talked with a number of publishers and ultimately found the best fit with Atari in terms of how that publisher views online gaming and the direction they want to take EVE Online.

    "We had the same vision of what we want to do in this online gaming arena," said Bergsson. "As gamers, we love the Atari brand because we grew up with these games. And when we met with the new management, they have a fantastic group of people."

    Bergsson said CCP Games has been doing a lot of online banner advertising this year. Next year with retail, they will work with Atari on specific retail marketing.

    "We did TV advertising this year as a test and we're looking at possibly doing that next year as well with the retail launch," said Bergsson. "The thing with us is that we track everything to death and TV is hard to track. The problem with TV advertising is you don't know who you're reaching and it's very expensive. Normally a game company spends a lot of money for TV with ads at launch; Eve came out in 2003 so we don't have the luxury of a launch."

    Each year, CCP Games releases two major expansions for EVE Online. The fall 2009 expansion will introduce space stations that players will be able to dock their ships at and socialize with other players. As a result, Bergsson said a refresh of the retail copy of EVE Online will be released in time for the 2009 holiday season with this new content on the DVD-ROM.

    CCP Games develops EVE Online in Iceland and has marketing and development studios in Atlanta and Shanghai. A team of 300 are dedicated to creating new technology and game expansions for EVE Online in the Iceland studio.

    EVE Online is the latest game in Atari's 2009 turnaround effort, which includes releasing Ghostbusters: The Videogame across six consoles as well as Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in the spring. via GameDaily

  • Most Gamers Shop Wal-Mart First

    Most Gamers Shop Wal-Mart First

    The world's largest retailer is also the number one game store.

    US, November 3, 2008 - IGN's recent 'Are You Game?' study revealed that Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is also king when it comes to videogame sales. Respondents to the survey picked Wal-Mart as the number one place they shop for games. GameStop and Best Buy share the second place spot, while Target came in third. After that there appears to be a considerable drop off as other retailers fight for the scraps of consumer attention.

    via IGN

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