In the corporate world, even long-awaited good news doesn’t mean there isn’t bad news for some people in the organization.
That was the case for Disney Interactive, which despite turning a profit in the last quarter of 2013 on the strength of Disney Infinity nevertheless laid off 700 employees this week, or just over a quarter of its total workforce. Along with the job cuts, the division is closing several offices in the U.S., plus one each in South Korea and India.
As you might expect with such a drastic reduction in headcount, Disney Interactive will simply develop less games moving forward, relying on partnerships with outside studios instead. It also may avoid big ticket purchases, as many media reports are spinning the company’s latest move as a referendum on its 2010 acquisition of Playdom.
Now that a week has passed since Facebook bought WhatsApp for $ 18 billion, it’s time for our obligatory post about it.
Just to get it out of the way, I have no clue why Facebook bought WhatsApp for this amount. My guess is that Facebook’s social network is dying (especially among teens) but its ad platform is revolutionary. Buying WhatsApp and its 450 million global users enables Facebook to remain on top for mobile and ads, though given WhatsApp owns no real data on its users, that’s in theory. Mark Zuckerberg is far smarter and more successful than I, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
What does WhatsApp have to do with games? Absolutely nothing. But, messaging and chat could be the next big thing in games, Facebook and WhatsApp notwithstanding.
WhatsApp really has nothing to do with games. Just look at the famous handwritten note between WhatsApp founders.
WhatsApp has no interest in games, and the founders believe that this is partly the secret to their success. Given they just sold their company for $ 18 billion, they could be right.
Zynga’s new CEO is confident that he can get the company into the mobile future, or at the very least, to the present. But what mobile gamers can expect first are some offerings very much rooted in past successes.
Former Xbox chief and EA executive Don Mattrick is that CEO, and he’s ready to face Wall Street types today for the first time. He also gave an exclusive interview to the San Francisco Chronicle that detailed what the company has up its sleeve over the next few months as it finally launches a concentrated assault on the mobile market after floundering in its efforts for quite some time.
As I’ve mentioned before, every game developer I know buys ads on Facebook to drive games installs and uses HasOffers to track them. So it was a bit of a shock when Facebook dropped HasOffers as a mobile measurement partner a few weeks back.
We virtually sat down with HasOffers CEO Peter Hamilton to ask him: What happened with the Facebook relationship? Who else is out there to advertise with aside from Facebook? What gives HasOffers the edge over their competition? What to do if you have the aspirations of King.com but not $ 350 million to spend? And what’s going down at the Mobile World Conference that he’s currently attending in Spain? All in 5 questions and in a less than 5 minute read.
Even though February is always the shortest month of the year, this one brought us more amazing new games than we could possibly handle. With Valentine’s Day sitting smack-dab in the middle of it all, we have a lot of love to share for some of the best games to capture our attention in all of their shiny new glory. And could that possibly be another early Game of the Year contender I see sitting at the top of the list?
I know it must seem like I say this every time, but I really feel like February had some of the best new game releases that we’ve seen in quite a while. From a hopelessly addicting and charming number-based puzzler, to the most hilarious game you’ll play in ages, to a breathtaking pop-up book world that you can play in real life, our top picks for the month are not only all innovative in their own unique ways, but they’re all just a breath of fresh air for video games everywhere today (and the ongoing sea of Flappy Bird clones).
So did you happen to fall in love with any of the same games that we did this Valentine’s Day? I know I’ll personally be giving flowers and chocolate to all of our favorites. But be sure to hit the replies and let us know if you agree with our top gaming picks for the month of February, or if there were any other great games that managed to steal your heart away!
The reaction to free-to-play games that monetize by the use of in-app purchases (or IAPs, for short) depends on where you ask about them. They’re a normal part of the gaming culture in Asia and looked upon with skepticism but warily accepted in North America.
In Europe, though, they’re now under the microscope. Eurogamer.net reported this morning that the European Commission is huddling with consumer protection groups in multiple nations to get some clarification on parts of the free-to-play model it finds troubling.
The Commission’s concerns include protecting children from IAPs (and preventing them from bugging parents to buy for them), games that opt-in players for IAPs without their consent, free games that aren’t really free, and companies that don’t provide a way for players to contact them by email for customer service purposes.
You might be able to indirectly learn something about physics by playing Angry Birds, but it’s not exactly a learning game. That doesn’t mean the company behind the unstoppable franchise can’t try something a little more high-minded, which is exactly what Rovio is gearing up to do – with the help of some third-party developers.
Rovio told PocketGamer that it is seeking educational games from other developers to publish as part of its new Rovio Jr line. The intended audience of these games would be kids from pre-school to middle school.
Educational games can be a tricky field, but there’s definite truth in the idea that Rovio can aid developers by promoting their products through its already successful brands. Teaming up would certainly help solve the discovery problem facing smaller studios, particularly since educational titles need to catch the eyes of both children and parents.
In any case, we may not have to wait long to see an announcement about the first fruits of this new program. Rovio and PocketGamer are going to be holding Big Indie Pitch Jr at GDC next month, allowing developers to pitch games they think would be suited for the publishing initiative in person in San Francisco.
From the creators of the captivating and hugely successful Mystery Manor, Game Insight’s Incredible Heist is a brand new hidden object game with a devious twist. Said to usher in the “next generation of hidden object games,” Incredible Heist will have players assuming the role of an amateur con artist, as they travel to gorgeous environments all over the world and do what aspiring con artists do best: pick locks, solve puzzles, and above all else, loot from the most magnificent of treasures!
In fact, there’s so much treasure looting involved that a storyline will begin to unfold involving the retrieval of mysterious artifacts called Cryptexes. When all of these hidden Cryptexes are collected, it is rumored that the secrets of the ancient Thieves Guild will be unearthed once and for all. In addition to the main hidden object gameplay with a side of good thieving fun, players can also form impressive item collections as well as complete a number of mini-games.
While Game Insight hasn’t given out an official release date just yet, Incredible Heist will be coming to iPad in the near future. According to the game’s official website, it also would appear that a Facebook version is in the cards somewhere down the road as well. In either case, there’s one thing that we know for sure right now: this game is gearing up to be quite the steal!
When it comes to video games, AAA console releases have really grown stagnant over the last decade. That’s one of the many reasons I’m so glad to be at Gamezebo, where we focus on the platforms that give developers the freedom to experiment instead of the latest cut-and-paste first person shooter.
As it turns out, Xbox co-creator Ed Fries seems to feel the same way about the current state of AAA games, and he’s ready to explain why, detailing the creativity-stifling environment that led to his 2004 resignation from Microsoft in a recent GamesIndustry interview.
Rather than fostering new ideas, Fries suggests that AAA development is run too much like a business – focusing on quantity of dollars rather than quality of game. Instead of experimenting with little things, which Fries says sows the seeds of successful bigger projects down the road, the focus of the Xbox brand during his time there was to stick to what works and sell it better. “In a sense, I fundamentally didn’t agree with that because I think the big things come from little things,” Fries told GamesIndustry.
Back in September, King was rumored to have taken the first steps towards offering an IPO when by filing an S-1 Form with the SEC (which, it turns out, wasn’t true). Today they’re taking one of the last. The company announced this morning in a press release that they have “filed a Form F-1 with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission relating to a proposed initial public offering of ordinary shares.”
This doesn’t mean those share are for sale quite yet – or that we even know how many of them there will be or their initial price – but we’re closer to finding out. The F-1 provides investors with all of the information they might need before making a decision regarding King stock. You can read the whole thing here.
Once the IPO is live, King plans to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “KING,” and a whole bevvy of business names will be acting as joint book-running managers: J.P. Morgan Securities LLC, Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, MofA Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital Inc., Deitsche Bank Securities Inc., and RBC Captial Markets, LLC. The first three of these will act as representatives of the underwriters in addition to book-running managers.
How the stock will perform once it is live, though, is anybody’s guess. Some might be quick to point to the rise and fall of Zynga (ZNGA) as a cautionary tale for investors, but despite their similar nature in some respects (both are providers of free-to-play games, and both were #1 in that market at the time of their filing), the two are incredibly different companies.