Posts tagged Games

Bioshock Maker Irrational Games To Shut Down

Irrational Games, the 17-year-old development arm behind the successful games Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite, will be reshaped into a new team within Take Two Interactive, according to Ken Levine, the company’s creative director and co-founder:

While I’m deeply proud of what we’ve accomplished together, my passion has turned to making a different kind of game than we’ve done before. To meet the challenge ahead, I need to refocus my energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure and a more direct relationship with gamers.  In many ways, it will be a return to how we started: a small team making games for the core gaming audience.

Levine said Irrational Games will release the final downloadable module for Bioshock Infinite, entitled “Burial At Sea,” but Levine will part ways with all of the roughly 15 members of the Irrational Games team. Those laid off from Irrational Games will have a chance to discuss other opportunities within Take-Two Interactive, and Levine will also help departing Irrational staff get jobs at third-party studios and publishers by hosting a formal “recruiting day.”

To learn more about what will happen to Irrational Games and Levine’s next project, check out Levine’s blog post on Irrational Games’ website.

Lead image by nez on Flickr

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SEO Computer Games: Madoogle & Donkey Cutts – Search Engine Roundtable


Search Engine Roundtable
SEO Computer Games: Madoogle & Donkey Cutts
Search Engine Roundtable
(1) Donkey Cutts – a play on Donkey Kong, but the characters switched to be personalities in the SEO space. Including Matt Cutts, Pandas, Penguins, links, social, and much more. (2) Madoogle – a play on Angry Birds, but the birds change to the faces of
Madoogle SEO Game: Angry Birds As SEOsSearch Engine Land

all 2 news articles »

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Google Gay Rights Doodle Kicks Off 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games

Google’s home page today celebrates the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics and also protests Russia’s stance on gay rights in the form of a Doodle. Abandoning its usual primary colors, Google’s logo adopts rainbow colors symbolic of gay pride.

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With NaturalMotion, Zynga Is Ready To Make Real Games Now

Zynga appears to have turned a new leaf. The oft-maligned casual game maker is known more for its skill as a master imitator than for its own games, many of which are ad-stuffed knock-offs of already successful franchises (Scrabble, anyone?).

Zynga announced Thursday that it would pay $527 million to acquire NaturalMotion, a company with a real gaming pedigree—and a harbinger of major change at Zynga, whose biggest innovation to date might be its dogged pursuit of virtual gambling in the U.S.

Along with news of the acquisition, Zynga announced further job cuts, saying it will trim its workforce by 15%—the latest in a series of layoffs and cost reductions that began under former CEO Mark Pincus. With Microsoft’s former head of its Xbox division now at the helm of Zynga, it’s no surprise that the company is looking to improve its gaming portfolio. New CEO Don Mattrick took over at Zynga just months after he personally unveiled the Xbox One at Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters.

Zynga will get a serious boost to its gaming cred thanks to its new half billion dollar baby. NaturalMotion, helmed by motion animation whiz Torsten Reil, might not be an everyday name, but its intelligent graphics engine “Euphoria” has hummed under the hood of the last two Grand Theft Auto games and other hits from Red Dead Redemption to Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

More recently, NaturalMotion has thrown its weight toward mobile with its iOS hit Clumsy Ninja, a charming physics-based game that lets the company’s dynamic graphics engine shine.

Natural Motion and Zynga couldn’t be more complementary—or more opposite. Zynga has honed the formula of casual, social gaming to disturbingly addictive perfection. Meanwhile, NaturalMotion creates games from the bottom up—building out its technology into games that serve as proofs of concept.

I recently spoke to Reil, and he made a great case for why mobile is the most compelling platform for the biomechanical and neuromechanical underpinnings of NaturalMotion’s technology, which I thought seemed more at home on the two powerful new consoles rather than 4” touchscreens.

At Zynga, NaturalMotion will have a big social platform for showing off its deep technology. With NaturalMotion, Zynga will bring true innovation on board—a first for the notorious copycat, and an interesting new shared direction for two companies that couldn’t have less in common.

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Nintendo Says It Loves Mobile—It Just Won’t Release Games For Smartphones

Looks like Nintendo games won’t be showing up on your smartphone anytime soon after all.

Fans and investors have long urged the struggling videogame maker to embrace smartphone and tablet gaming by porting some of its oldest and most beloved games to iOS and Android. And a week ago, Nintendo said it was considering “a big shift” in strategy after forecasting a third straight annual loss, which led many believe that Nintendo’s mobile transition might finally happen. 

But Nintendo now says it has no plans to offer such “mini games” for smartphone platforms. “Nintendo’s intention is not to make Nintendo software available on smart devices and as such, we can confirm that there are no plans to offer mini-games on smartphone devices,” the company said in a statement to Engadget.

According to a report two days ago in the Nikkei, Japan’s leading financial daily, Nintendo may still try to bolster its presence on today’s mobile devices. Too bad its reported ideas so far mostly consist of an upcoming smartphone app for marketing—one designed to spread news about the company’s other gaming platforms and upcoming releases.

The Nikkei reported that Nintendo might also offer playable demo previews of games for smartphones, although Nintendo might well just have denied that, too. (Depends on whether you consider a playable demo a “mini-game.”) Plus, it’s hard to see a company like Nintendo expending the effort to code playable iOS and Android game demos if it doesn’t ever plan to actually release full games on those platforms.

So Nintendo’s first steps into today’s mobile market—setting aside its own line of DS handhelds—will almost certainly be baby steps. Which is too bad, because the company needs way more of a strategy than a new “marketing app.”

Nintendo’s latest earnings were dismal—its already meager profits dropped another 30%, and the company forecast a third consecutive annual loss for its full fiscal year. (It originally projected $974 million in profit, but now expects an operating loss of about $336 million.) Nintendo’s president has offered to take a drastic pay cut as a result.

Nintendo has always managed to do a lot with just a little—the list of bestselling video games of all-time includes many of Nintendo’s own titles—so there’s still hope for the company. In fact, two new game titles from the company’s biggest franchises—Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros.—will be arriving this spring, which should help Nintendo promote its underselling year-old console, the Wii U.

Lead image via Nintendo

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Why King Wants To Crush Other ‘Candy’ Games

King.com’s Candy Crush Saga was the top free game—and top grossing game—in Apple’s App Store in 2013, so it makes sense for the company to protect its investment. Too bad it’s descended to the legal equivalent of bullying.

King filed a claim to the word “candy” as it pertains to video games and, for some reason, clothing, last February; the U.S. trademark office approved it on January 15. Now developers are coming forward claiming that King has demanded they remove their apps from online app stores because their names include the word “Candy” in the title and thus infringe upon King’s trademark.

When Benny Hsu, maker of All Candy Casino Slots—”Candy Slots” for short—received a letter from King asking him to remove his app, Hsu originally assumed there was some mistake. But when he called King’s IP paralegal Sophie Hallstrom, he was told that:

use of CANDY SLOTS … uses our CANDY trademark exactly, for identical goods, which amounts to trade mark infringement and is likely to lead to consumer confusion and damage to our brand.

Hallstrom even noted that the addition of the word “SLOTS” would do nothing “to lessen the likelihood of confusion.”

It’s Good To Be The King

King.com, which employs more than 550 people and earns more than $700,000 a day, is worth billions of dollars. Furthermore, as Polygon is apt to point out, the company’s claim to the word “candy” has not yet been validated—that only takes place after a 30-day period (which we’re currently in) where any third-party can object to the registration. And even if King wins the trademark for “candy,” not all references would be off-limits for other companies, and there’s no guarantee King would win every court battle under trademark law.

So why is King being so aggressive and threatening towards these tiny startups?

King defended itself on Wednesday after the company took fire on the Internet for claiming that a game called The Banner Saga, developed by a three-man team that successfully Kickstarted itself in 2012, was “confusingly and deceptively similar to [King’s] previously used Saga marks”:

King has not and is not trying to stop Banner Saga from using its name. We do not have any concerns that Banner Saga is trying build on our brand or our content. However, like any prudent company, we need to take all appropriate steps to protect our IP, both now and in the future.

In this case, that means preserving our ability to enforce our rights in cases where other developers may try to use the Saga mark in a way which infringes our IP rights and causes player confusion. If we had not opposed Banner Saga’s trade mark application, it would be much easier for real copy cats to argue that their use of “Saga” was legitimate. This is an important issue for King because we already have a series of games where “Saga” is key to the brand which our players associate with a King game; Candy Crush Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, Farm Heroes Saga and so on. All of these titles have already faced substantive trademark and copyright issues with clones.

Use It Or Lose It

King’s explanation might sound silly at first when you consider how Banner Saga and Candy Crush Saga are simply using a word that already exists in the dictionary (“saga”). But there’s some legitimacy to King’s legal parrying: With trademarks, if you don’t use them, you stand to lose them.

Trademark law says companies’ rights to marks must be maintained through actual lawful use of the trademark, and if it’s not used or enforced in cases of infringement, the owner could be removed from the register on the grounds of “non-use.” Owners like King aren’t required to always take action against all infringement cases if it’s proven to be “minor” or “inconsequential,” but generally trademark owners are compelled to defend their marks, especially when others in the same industry are attempting to capitalize on their popularity.

Jas Purewell, an interactive entertainment lawyer, tried to inject some sense into King’s situation in a Gamasutra blog post by likening King’s position on Candy Crush Saga with that of another popular iOS game, Clash Of Clans:

We’ve all seen games online that like to flirt with, or zoom past, the line between homage and copy…. Five minutes on the iOS App Store or online will show you games like Clash of Zombies, Clash of Factions, Amazing Clan War and so forth. Now, most of these games look very similar to Clash of Clans and have similar gameplay, but my point here is the similarity of the NAME.

Then you have other games, which might not have such a direct name relationship to other, more successful games, but they use the name of those successful games as part of a discovery optimization strategy (e.g. using “Clash of Clans” or “Candy Crush Saga” as keywords to make their own game appear more highly in searches).

In all these cases, a game which may look like it only has some or a passing resemblance to a trademarked game actually has a lot more in common with it than it might first seem.  They are using the hardwon success of other developers to try to leapfrog ahead.

A King spokesperson told me the company objected to the Candy Slots app for the exact reason Purewell referenced with his Clash Of Clans analogy: King called Benny Hsu’s app “a calculated attempt to use other companies’ IP to enhance its own games, through means such as search rankings.”

But the King spokesperson also clarified that its trademarking of “candy” was in response to infringing and confusing apps, and that the company is not enforcing all uses of the word ‘candy’ or asking app developers that use the term legitimately to stop doing so.

King may be big and rich, but it’s uniquely dependent on Candy Crush—which is not very original in its own right, mind you—for its success. Candy Crush Saga is basically what Angry Birds is to Rovio, but without any memorable characters or defining style; therefore, the only recognizable aspect of Candy Crush is its name.

In this regard, it makes sense King would want to defend its most recognizable title. But that still doesn’t explain why King is handling this trademark situation the way it is, threatening smaller startups with legal action as opposed to a more nuanced and diplomatic strategy.

Lead image via King.com

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Video Games As Spectator Sport: Why Twitch Is Booming

If you aren’t a gamer, it’s wholly possible that either you don’t “get” Twitch or you’ve never even heard of it. But that won’t last for long.

Twitch is a website and community where gamers watch gameplay videos uploaded and streamed by other gamers. It’s kind of like a huge virtual couch—one that can seat a million onlookers at once. On a random friday, a live stream of League of Legends, a cartoony-yet-deep online multiplayer strategy game, boasted a quarter of a million simultaneous viewers.

How fast is Twitch growing? Really fast. According to new statistics from the last year, Twitch users watched 12 billion minutes of gaming on average each month in 2013. Twitch boasted 45 million unique viewers per month, which was more than double number of viewers tuning into Twitch on a monthly basis in the year prior. What’s more impressive: More than half of all users (58%) spend more than 20 hours a week on Twitch, while the average user watches an average of 106 minutes a day.

Twitch.tv is currently dominated by PC gaming, but with Twitch support built into the PlayStation 4 and coming soon to the Xbox One, those numbers won’t be slowing down any time soon. 

Twitch Is Big Business—And Small Business Too

Like YouTube, Twitch offers a partner program that allows popular users to get a cut of the ad revenue they generate. Of its 900,000 monthly broadcasters, 5,100 are partners. 

Like YouTube, Twitch has its rockstars—often legendary, crazy-good gamers who undertake epic challenges or offer a creative twist on the business of playing games. Partners broadcast to Twitch on a regular schedule, some even daily, with several of them raking in enough dough in shared revenue to quit their day jobs. One partner, the father/son pair behind the handle “FatherSonGaming,” broadcasts gameplay from titles like Call of Duty: Ghosts seven days a week to 98,000 followers.

Of course, it’s not all about the little guy. Beyond individual channels, Twitch teams up with companies like Riot Games, publisher of the wildly popular League of Legends, to host epic international gaming championships that feel like a cross between flashy, big-budget boxing matches and the “Magic: The Gathering” tournaments in the back of your local comic book store. These competitions, or “eSports,” have high stakes just like their athletically-inclined peers: The League of Legends tournaments, for instance, dole out $2 million in prizes to its winners.

The explosive growth of gaming videos online is powered by obsessive subcommunities and fascinating viral phenomena. Like anything with a social layer, these videos have their own language and customs. According to Twitch’s new report, “speedruns,” in which the goal is to finish a game as fast as humanly possible (often employing every cheat and workaround in the book) continue to soar in viral popularity and could even evolve into their own live, organized eSport.

Twitch is a platform on which feats of gaming skill and viral oddities flourish in equal parts. Want to watch someone play the entirety of retro classic Super Mario 64 in a breezy five hours? Maybe you’d rather tune in with half a million gamers the world over for a live stream of a StarCraft match, complete with big budget ESPN-style commentary and analysis. All signs suggest that 2014 will be a banner year for Twitch’s massive “niche” gaming community.

Playground mouse image via Flickr user bfishadow, CC 2.0

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Video Games As Spectator Sport: Why Twitch TV Is Booming

If you aren’t a gamer, it’s wholly possible that either you don’t “get” Twitch or you’ve never even heard of it. But that won’t last for long.

Twitch is a website and community where gamers watch gameplay videos uploaded and streamed by other gamers. It’s kind of like a huge virtual couch—one that can seat a million onlookers at once. On a random friday, a live stream of League of Legends, a cartoony-yet-deep online multiplayer strategy game, boasted a quarter of a million simultaneous viewers.

How fast is Twitch growing? Really fast. According to new statistics from the last year, Twitch users watched 12 billion minutes of gaming on average each month in 2013. Twitch boasted 45 million unique viewers per month, which was more than double number of viewers tuning into Twitch on a monthly basis in the year prior. What’s more impressive: More than half of all users (58%) spend more than 20 hours a week on Twitch, while the average user watches an average of 106 minutes a day.

Twitch.tv is currently dominated by PC gaming, but with Twitch support built into the PlayStation 4 and coming soon to the Xbox One, those numbers won’t be slowing down any time soon. 

Twitch Is Big Business—And Small Business Too

Like YouTube, Twitch offers a partner program that allows popular users to get a cut of the ad revenue they generate. Of its 900,000 monthly broadcasters, 5,100 are partners. 

Like YouTube, Twitch has its rockstars—often legendary, crazy-good gamers who undertake epic challenges or offer a creative twist on the business of playing games. Partners broadcast to Twitch on a regular schedule, some even daily, with several of them raking in enough dough in shared revenue to quit their day jobs. One partner, the father/son pair behind the handle “FatherSonGaming,” broadcasts gameplay from titles like Call of Duty: Ghosts seven days a week to 98,000 followers.

Of course, it’s not all about the little guy. Beyond individual channels, Twitch teams up with companies like Riot Games, publisher of the wildly popular League of Legends, to host epic international gaming championships that feel like a cross between flashy, big-budget boxing matches and the “Magic: The Gathering” tournaments in the back of your local comic book store. These competitions, or “eSports,” have high stakes just like their athletically-inclined peers: The League of Legends tournaments, for instance, dole out $2 million in prizes to its winners.

The explosive growth of gaming videos online is powered by obsessive subcommunities and fascinating viral phenomena. Like anything with a social layer, these videos have their own language and customs. According to Twitch’s new report, “speedruns,” in which the goal is to finish a game as fast as humanly possible (often employing every cheat and workaround in the book) continue to soar in viral popularity and could even evolve into their own live, organized eSport.

Twitch is a platform on which feats of gaming skill and viral oddities flourish in equal parts. Want to watch someone play the entirety of retro classic Super Mario 64 in a breezy five hours? Maybe you’d rather tune in with half a million gamers the world over for a live stream of a StarCraft match, complete with big budget ESPN-style commentary and analysis. All signs suggest that 2014 will be a banner year for Twitch’s massive “niche” gaming community.

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Sony Cloudifies Games And TV In Its Own Bid For The Living Room

In many ways, Sony is more of a lifestyle brand than a tech brand. It creates products that allow people to have fun—from its flagship PlayStation 4 to televisions and audio gear to cameras and mobile devices. Yet it’s never managed to forge its diverse product lineup into an ecosystem that draws people in and keeps them there—the way, say, Apple has done.

So Sony is turning to the cloud in hopes of making the PlayStation the core of its entertainment universe. At the Consumer Electronics Show today, Sony unveiled its PlayStation Now, a new game-streaming service (based on technology from Gaikai, technology it acquired two years ago) that will let people play their PS games across a variety of Sony devices, starting with the PS4, the PS3 and the PS Vita. The latest models of Sony’s Bravia TV line should also support PlayStation Now.

Ultimately, Sony plans to expand the service to non-Sony tablets and other devices. It will allow users to play full games via Internet streaming, although the company didn’t release any details on pricing. The service will open up for a limited beta test in the U.S. at the end of January first before launching rental and subscription options sometime this summer, only in the U.S.

Sony also announced somewhat vaguer plans for a new cloud-based TV service that it said will offer live television programming and Netflix-style streaming video. Like other streaming services, the Sony offering will apparently work across a variety of connected devices, from game consoles to tablets. Sony executive Andrew House said the service will launch later this year, although he had no details on pricing or programming lineups—both of which will be key to its success.

How Sony will handle the clustered mess of entertainment rights and studio negotiations is anyone’s guess—especially when it comes to live TV. It does, of course, have one major advantage over many of its competitors, in that it owns a Hollywood movie and TV-production studio, and thus can presumably work out rights issues for Sony Pictures programming internally. 

The company wants to offer “a single source of entertainment that’s less complicated and more accessible than ever before,” said CEO Kazuo Hirai. This has big implications for Sony’s business. These services represent a unifying strategy that will bring together many of Sony’s portfolio products.

But consumers won’t care about that. They’ll care about having something useful and convenient that won’t compromise the one thing that should matter most to Sony—people’s lifestyles.

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