Random News…

My email inbox seems to get all kinds of fancy pieces of news… here’s some picks you might want to check out.

Cliff Harris interview on TB’s Show about Videogames Aug 25th (This is about piracy, and they will have podcast will be available on that site later. Remember to digg the article.)

Acclaim Games as US publisher for The Chronicles of Spellborn (They keep sending me these press releases…)

Multiverse MMO client gets an update (It’s pretty slick tool, I’ve watched their progress. Perhaps you should too…)

I’ll be getting a new computer tomorrow (and hopefully get it working too…)

Sony Drops PlayStation 3 Development Kit Cost

Sony has made a price cut for the Playstation 3 Development kit.

Sony is also rolling out new software development features, debugging tools, and support for applications such as ProDG and its SN tool suite. The pirce cut will see the PlayStation 3 Reference Tool fall in cost to ¥950,000 in Japan, $10,250 in North America and €7,500 for European developers.

The price will keep hobbyists away, yet the price is very low for companies to get into Playstation 3 development. Microsoft is keeping their XNA development kit free (which is nice for indies) – although the AAA dev kit for Xbox still costs much more. It’s quite interesting to see how the developers reacts to this news.

Maybe indies won’t care… but bigger studios might be interested.

Spotted via GameSpot. See also the press release at GamesIndustry.

Update: I was referring to XNA when mentioning that Microsoft dev kit – now updated post

Stamp Out Piracy

StampOutPiracy.com is an attempt to reduce piracy in the net. Indie Developers are often a “one man band” who create fantastic games, but see their work appear on a large number of illegal sites – which means that indies are not getting paid for their hard work. This is where StampOutPiracy steps up – it’s stamping out illegal sites.

I personally don’t know if this type of action brings more publicity to piracy (people who don’t even know that it’s possible to get games illegally, might get interested) or whether it really helps (as illegal sites are taken down). Nevertheless, these guys seem to be on a right matter – piracy doesn’t only harm big studios, but can also be fatal to small indies.

Take a look at the site, and if you see illegal sites – feel free to consider reporting piracy to StampOutPiracy.

PopCap Acquires Casual Game Companies

GamaSutra reported about a recent PopCap company purchase. PopCap acquired Retro64 – an indie/casual game company operated by Mike Boeh. PopCap didn’t stop there: GamesIndustry.biz news item talks about the acquisition of SpinTop by PopCap.

Making company acquisitions isn’t new thing in the world, but there hasn’t been much talk about casual game company acquisitions in the past. Bigger corporations are watching the casual game space closely, so I would think that there will be more this type of shopping in the future. Big portals want to extend (and keep) their market share by purchasing smaller studios. Maybe even bigger fishes will enter the pond.

This sounds good to me. It sounds like there’s growth in the marketplace.

Starcraft II Video

Pretty nice looking CGI trailer of Starcraft 2 (check out more videos and images on their website).

Blizzard announced that Starcraft 2 won’t be published in 2007. It’s nice to see that they still hold the policy they had 10 years ago when first Starcraft was done. A quote from the past:

December 9, 1997 Bob McKenzie, Divisional Merchandise Manager, Babbages Etc., “Missing Christmas will not negatively affect a AAA title like Starcraft. The software industry needs to become a year-round business, instead of only focusing on the holiday-selling season. We are excited about starting off the new year with such an anticipated title on store shelves.”

And a quote from their website FAQ about the release date of Starcraft 2:

May 1, 2007 At this point, it’s too early to provide an initial estimate on the release date. As with all Blizzard games, we will take as much time as needed to ensure the game is as fun, balanced, and polished as possible.

We’ll wait to see when they get the game out, and we wait when they announce the World of Starcraft

Lord of The Rings Online is the Top Selling PC Game Across North America and Europe

I picked this story via GameIndustry.com. Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) is the top selling PC game across North America and Europe. The game has received good ratings from various reviews, and the powerful brand must be one reason for game’s success.

I think this news is a pleasant surprise in the MMO field: it’s good to see that developers come up with new ideas (and aren’t making game “like World of Warcraft, but bit better”). The “monster play” mode sounds like a fun idea in LOTRO, and also the beginning of the game isn’t just about killing rats, but you get on a guest right away.

Now we’ll wait to see when some casual MMO climbs to the top of the charts.

Google Gets Into In-Game Advertising

Google has confirmed it bought in-game advertising company AdScape Media, for an undisclosed sum. I’ve been talking about advertising and looking for opportunities in software piracy, and perhaps these opportunities might suit well for in-game advertising. Google is moving into in-game advertising, and it might be a sign about how the future might look like: more and more companies might be interested about product placement and ads in games. Even though this is a small deal – firecegamebiz.com reported analysts saying $20-30M deal – I still think it means something. I’m sure we will see more companies moving in the in-game ad business. Washington Post mentioned that Microsoft made a $200M in-game ad deal last year.

Some people criticize that in-game ads will make games less immersive. While I agree to some extent (like seeing Nike shoes being advertised in Edoiki is not something I imagine happening) I believe there are room for in-game ads. Sports games for example. I think it would be much more immersive to see players using real energy drinks and see real energy drink logos in the play field, rather than using fake logos and fake names. It is – in my opinion – almost the same as seeing Wayne Gretzky rather than Grayne Wetcky playing in the field. In some games these ads might fit very well – if done properly.

Movaya Launches Mobile Game Distribution Web Service

Via GameRelease.net.

Movaya, a mobile content distribution and services company, announced today the beta launch of Movaya PlugNPlayâ„¢, a mobile video game distribution service that allows any website, ecommerce site or blog to sell mobile games.

“Up until today, one of the biggest barriers holding back the sales of mobile games has been the relative lack of effective distribution channels,” says Scott Meyer, Senior VP, Americas, PlayerX. “Movaya PlugNPlay now makes it easy for anyone to sell mobile games, from major ecommerce sites all the way down to MySpace pages and blogs. That capability will put our products in front of more eyeballs than we can imagine.”

PlugNPlay is a web service that allows any website to set up a turn-key mobile game store in a matter of minutes. The service is an integrated solution that supports all aspects of ecommerce transactions for mobile game sales and distribution. PlugNPlay instantly provides relationships with mobile game publishers and cellular carriers so that anyone can seamlessly sell mobile games from any retail storefront, web site or blog. The new service also handles payment processing, customer care and reporting. Similar to an affiliate program, the website owner only needs to provide the store links; PlugNPlayâ„¢ does the rest.

Sounds pretty darn interesting opportunity for game studios in mobile/casual gaming business. For more information about the PlugNPlay, check out their website.

GDC 2007 Event Coverage

GDC 2007 is over for this year. First place to proceed to is GamaSutra’s own GDC 2007 Live Coverage that lists stories and news about what happened at GDC. There are good notes like Future of Indie Games and others, so browse the list and check if there’s something interesting for you there.

GDC has also been noted in the blogosphere. Various developers, producers, journalists and gamers have mentioned GDC in their blog posts. Here’s some of them: GDC: MMOs, past, present and future – great insight regarding the future of massively multiplayer online games. Raph Koster covered GDC 07: Game Studies Download – definitely worth checking to design better games. GDC: Miyamoto’s keynote – Nintendo talk. Why the GDC sucks – a different take on GDC by Psychochild. While I don’t think GDC is automatically not worth it, I think there’s good thinking in this post. Then there was GDC coverage at Mercurynews that you might find worth checking.

Feel free to throw links to your own blogs (or other people’s blogs) if you have some good ones to share.