Sony’s recently announced three-year, $20 million effort to get more exclusive titles on PSN is all about helping to empower indie developers on the platform. But PSN director of marketing Brandon Stander has a little quibble the image such wording might conjure up.

“I wouldn’t even say it’s an indie play per se, because I think indie has connotations of it has to be really wild and different and small and edgy and only for those that understand the nuances of the industry and a little esoteric,” he told Gamasutra in a recent interview. “I don’t think that’s necessarily what we’re going for. I think it’s more along the lines of ‘Hey, we as a company really value imagination in our products and having creatively differentiated experiences to offer our consumers.'”

Stander said Sony is looking for a specific type of innovation for funded projects, titles that “bring something new to the market, whether via a gameplay mechanic or design and aesthetic or storyline. There’s some innovative or interesting thread that continues through all the properties we invest in for the larger portfolio.”

(full article)

Mark Cerny’s nearly 30-year career in video games has covered everything from Marble Madness and Crash Bandicoot to Killzone 2and God of War III. But one of the biggest changes Cerny has seen in all that time hasn’t been in the games themselves, but in the size of the teams making them.

In an interview with Gamasutra earlier this year, Cerny recalled that the arcade games he was designing almost entirely on his own had to live and die 25 cents a go, without help from today’s huge marketing budgets or press coverage, which didn’t exist at the time.

“Consequently that meant you made a game and you were 100 percent responsible for its success,” he recalled. “You couldn’t blame upper management who didn’t understand you, you couldn’t blame the marketing guys who didn’t put together the proper marketing campaign; you put your game directly in front of the consumers at a play test and if it earned enough money that game would sell and if it didn’t earn enough money that game wouldn’t.”

Now, that kind of direct connection with consumers is blocked by layers of marketing, and also by a whole team of people working on the game. Cerny said the increasing size of these teams has made it increasingly difficult for him to make his mark on a project.

(full article)

The late May announcement that Disney was including over 40 of its characters in Disney Universe wasn’t exactly a shock, coming from a company that had licensed its familiar film and TV characters into video games for decades.

But the idea of combining so many characters into a single title does seem a little odd for a company that usually gives each distinct universe a licensed title of its own.

“If you look at the Disney library, it’s so vast, and really we can’t make a game based on every character,” assistant producer Mark Orgel explained to Gamasutra at a recent demo. “These characters are beloved by game fans, and they want to see them star in games. So maybe they’re not stars in their own game, but we can incorporate them in to Disney Universe.”

(full article)

After over seven years as a traditional superhero-themed subscription MMORPG, City of Heroes will transition to a free-to-play model later this year, publisher Paragon Studios announced today.

City of Heroes Freedom, as the initiative is being called, is much more than just an extension of the current 14-day free trial offered to new subscribers, the company says.

In fact, the team at Paragon has been working for about a year to figure out the best way to make the transition in a way that “improves the overall customer experience,” executive producer Brian Clayton told Gamasutra. “Frankly, if the customer experience isn’t substantially better than it is today, I don’t think there’s much of a reason to make the change.”

(full article)

Best Buy senior VP of entertainment Chris Homeister said he’s been pleased with the company’s recent introduction of game trade-ins in 960 of its stores so far.

But as the company prepares to buy and sell used games at all American locations by this fall, he admits there is still work to be done to get consumers to think of the major electronics retailer as a place to go for trade-ins.

“We’re just beginning,” Homeister said in an interview with Gamasutra at E3. “We’ve got work to do from a marketing standpoint for sure, but we’re very pleased with the reception we’re getting to our messaging. [How much] the average consumer knows that we’re in these businesses, it’s still low, no doubt about it. But though it’s low right now, we’re still seeing results that we like a lot.”

(full article)

When Riot Games producer Paul Bellezza left the company roughly a year and a half ago to focus on indie pet project The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, there were about 40 people working on League of Legends. Now, a few months after his return, the company has 220 people devoted to the game, and Bellezza manages a team almost as big as the entire company he had left. To say its been an adjustment would be an understatement.

“There’s definitely growing pains,” Bellezza told Gamasutra during an E3 interview. “We just moved into our new office a few weeks ago, and that was cool because we were crammed. You could not make a meeting, you’d have to do an interview outside because there was no meeting room. You go from learning how to make a game with small group of people just making decisions to ‘Oh we have to consider the audience here, we have to consider what the community wants’ and gut-checking things.”

That internal growth could have been even more explosive, Bellezza said, if the company didn’t take such pains to screen potential hires to make sure they’ll fit into the tight-knit culture that already exists in the company.

“We really believe you can be super-talented but, at the end of the day you need to be a team player and work with our community and believe in our goals,” he said. “We’d rather train someone who has the potential to be really awesome, and empower them to go forward. Hiring like that takes time and it takes active recruiting and it takes a lot of patience, and ramping up has been good but challenging.”

(full article)

At first glance, the recently announced partnership between Yale University’s Play2Prevent Initiative and Pittsburgh’s Schell Gamesmight seem like just another effort to wrap a healthy educational message — in this case, information about youth HIV risks — in a palatable candy coating of gaming. But the new collaboration is about much more than just throwing information at players and hoping it will stick.

“What we’re really striving to do here is behavior change,” said Play2Prevent director and principal investigator Dr. Lynn E. Fiellin in an interview with Gamasutra. “It’s really not about awareness or education per se. Awareness really doesn’t get at the essence of what we’re trying to do.”

(full article)

Speaking to Gamasutra, Ubisoft president Yves Guillemot says he’s been so impressed with the gaming features brought to the industry by Facebook that he’ll bring a lot of the platform’s best features to the company’s console games.

By next E3, we’ll be seeing many (if not all) Ubisoft console games using features like asynchronous gaming and easy friend-finding to improve the social experience, he said.

“[We’re] taking advantage of all the great ideas that were developed for games on Facebook,” he said. “Social gameplay is something we’ve used in the industry for a while, but now I think it’s something we really can take advantage of [on consoles].”

(full article)

Ubisoft seems eager to extend the Ghost Recon brand as far as it can go. Today’s announcements of Ghost Recon: Commander — a Facebook and mobile title for the franchise — comes on top of the previously announced multi-console release of Future Soldier and the recently announced, free-to-play PC title Ghost Recon Online, all planned for release early next year.

But while all three titles are their own independent games, Ubisoft VP of digital games Chris Early says the coordinated release is defining the future of what he calls “companion gaming” — games that are interlinked so that success in one helps lead to success in the others.

“By playing Commander before Future Soldier comes out, it’s going to let you accumulate a little bit of wealth and some weapons so you have some sort of advantage [in Future Soldier],” Early said. “I know there’s a time when I’m going to sit down in front of my console and play that game, and I know there’s going to be a time when I have a few minutes to spare in between, and if I can use some of that time to generate consumables or generate an advantage in another game, I’m going to do that.”

(full article)

When Lenovo-backed Eedoo first announced a motion-controlled 3D system called the eBox, Microsoft’s Kinect had yet to sell a single unit. Now that Microsoft’s depth-sensing camera has sold upwards of eight figures, Eedoo’s decision to jump on the motion-control bandwagon seems a bit prescient.

But Eedoo’s system — now called the iSec and targeted for a Chinese launch later this year — is using depth-sensing hardware that’s fundamentally different from that powering Microsoft’s Kinect. That hardware comes from SoftKinetic, a Belgian company founded in 2007 that sees depth-sensing camera technology revolutionizing all sorts of computing tasks, from home automation to sports.

“It’s only been a relatively short time since the release of Kinect,” said Virgile Delporte, VP of marketing and business development at SoftKinetic. “3D cameras, combined with color and audio, will become familiar input devices, not only for video games but also for smart TVs, PC and mobile devices.”

(full article)

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