Monthly Archives: February 2014

Flappy Bird Flies High on Apple App Store

Flappy Bird Flies High on Apple App StoreIf you check out the Top Charts on Google Play or Apple’s App Store, you won’t see a familiar name like Snapchat or Candy Crush Saga sitting at the top spot.

Instead, users will find Flappy Bird, a simple game from small developer .GEARS Studios. It’s the top free app on both Google Play and Apple’s App Store. According to its Google Play page, the game has already topped 10 million downloads.

Flappy Bird features a small bird players must fly between a series of Super Mario style pipes. To keep the bird airborne, players must keep tapping the screen. The goal is to fly between as many pipes as you can without hitting one.

It carries the vibe of a classic video game, between its 8-bit visuals and a steep learning curve. Seriously, it’s really difficult. It took several runs where I could only pass 3-4 pipes before figuring out a rhythm and hitting my peak score of 20.

The big question is how did Flappy Bird end up rising in popularity so fast? The Flappy Bird App Store page shows the game was first available on iOS in May, and hasn’t received any promotion from either app store.

In an interview with TechCrunch, developer Dong Nguyen says the app is generating an average of 2 million to 3 million downloads a day, adding the ability to share results may have helped push the rise in popularity.



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Zynga Buys Mobile-game Developer NaturalMotion

Zynga Buys Mobile-game Developer NaturalMotionCould Zynga Inc. be turning the corner?

The online social-gaming company has been in the doghouse for some time, but found investors more friendly on Friday after Zynga  ZNGA -0.66% said it would buy mobile-game developer NaturalMotion for $527 million in cash and stock. The acquisition announcement came late Thursday in conjunction with Zynga reporting a fourth-quarter loss that it trimmed from the same period a year ago, while sales declined by 43%.

Zynga also said it would cut 15% of its workforce in a move that will reduce its headcount by 314 employees.

The combination of all that news helped drive Zynga’s shares up by 20% Friday to $4.29.

So, what is NaturalMotion?

The company is known for mobile titles such as “CSR Racing,” a drag racing game, and “Clumsy Ninja,” a martial arts game. The high point of the deal, however, is the acquisition of a technology called “Euphoria” which NaturalMotion developed and licenses for developers to create more-realistic body movements for game characters.

And the deal is all about Chief Executive Don Mattrick’s goal of pushing Zynga more into mobile gaming. Mattrick, who replaced Zynga founder Mark Pincus as CEO last July after heading up Microsoft Corp’s  MSFT -0.12% Xbox and PC gaming business, had emphasized mobile games as the key to Zynga’s future, while at the same time reducing headcount to cut down on overhead expenses. Zynga said that its new focus will ensure that 75% of its new titles will arrive on mobile platforms, and that mobile games should account for more than half of its revenue bookings this year.

Mattrick’s moves have showed some signs of paying off for Zynga, which is best-known for games suxh as “Farmville” and “Mafia Wars” that people played on their desktop PCs via Facebook  FB +2.88% . However, hit titles have since been scarce and Zynga has suffered as more consumers have used smartphones and tablets to play games away from their PCs.

Zynga reported a fourth-quarter loss of $25.2 million, or 3 cents a share, compared with a loss of $48.6 million, or 6 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. However, Zynga reported sales that dropped to $176.4 million from $311.2 million in the prior-year’s fourth quarter. Bookings, which measure sales including deferred revenue, came in at  $146.7 million. Analysts on average had expected the company to report a loss of four cents per share on bookings of $141 million.



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We are Not Developing “Minigames” for Smartphones, Says Nintendo

We are Not Developing Minigames for Smartphones, Says NintendoMario doesn’t want anything to do with your iPhone.

Despite rumors, Nintendo says it doesn’t plan to make minigames for iOS or Android. Yesterday, the Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported that the struggling Japanese gaming publisher will release free minigames on smartphones in an effort to promote its Wii U (which is a distant third in the home console race) and 3DS. Today, the company responsible for Mario, Donkey Kong, and Zelda is refuting that claim.

Instead, the company is claiming that Nikkei — and those that spread the Nikkei story — misunderstood Nintendo chief executive officer Satoru Iwata‘s statements in a recent press conference. Following a dismal quarterly earnings report two weeks ago, Iwata addressed a question about making games for smartphones. The CEO said that the publisher still doesn’t want to bring franchises like Mario and Pokémon to mobile devices, but he did express interest in leveraging smart handsets to promote Nintendo’s console products in other ways.

Nintendo claims that Nikkei is misconstruing that statement to imply the publisher will make minigames to promote its retail products.

The idea of Nintendo making games for smartphones is popular among Wall Street analysts who want the company to find new ways to bring in revenue now that its Wii U console performing poorly. Nintendo expects to lose around $250 million in net income for its fiscal year ending March 31.

“Nikkei’s article contains information previously stated by Mr. Iwata during past press conferences, including statements which relate to Nintendo’s willingness to make use of smart devices to promote our products,” a Nintendo spokesperson said in a statement provided to Engadget. “However, during such past announcements, Mr. Iwata has also stated that 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 minigames on smartphone devices.”

Nintendo has repeatedly said it won’t make iOS or Android games. The proposition comes up at almost ever investor meeting the company holds, and it is a popular idea that analysts point to when they explain how they would “save Nintendo.”

Additionally, Nikkei has a strong track record of nailing these kinds of Nintendo rumors. In June 2012, after the newspaper reported that Nintendo was working on a larger 3DS, Nintendo said that Nikkei’s info was false. A month later, the publisher later released the Nintendo 3DS XL, a larger 3DS.



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“Threes” is a Marvelous Mobile Game You Should Play

Threes is a Marvelous Mobile Game You Should PlayThe image of the emblematic smartphone game has not been held in high regard of late. Certainly not with titles like Flappy Bird seemingly taking over the world, earning $50,000 a day off our meaningless compulsions and further cementing the well of condescension “hardcore” gamers have for the mobile platform and its capacity.

That’s where Threes comes in. Released Wednesday as a universal iPhone and iPad app, the $1.99 title — a simple math-based puzzler with gorgeous design and catchy music — is what a overtly refreshing, downright fantastic mobile game should be.

It’s captivating, full of surprises both in design and mechanics, and — most importantly — you actually want to play it more each time without regret. Not because you’re shamefully addicted or intent on wasting free time, but because the creators — Asher Vollmer, who wrote the game, illustrator Greg Wohlwend, and composer Jimmy Hinson — so obviously care deeply about the player experience that they made something overwhelmingly pleasant to spend time within.

The mechanics are simple enough for a puzzle game. Swipe left, right, down, and up to merge cards into multiples of three in an effort to create the highest multiple, which exponentially increases your score when it’s tallied after you hit gridlock and can’t move the board around any longer. Each game starts without clutter: a mix of three’s, two’s, and one’s are pre-placed that you can use to begin building a board of six’s, twelve’s, and twenty-four’s through appropriate addition. But it gets increasingly complicated as the board crowds, and you start to quickly realize the difference between a hapless move and a thoughtful one.

Threes — reminiscent of the beauty of Tetris and the design appeal of the more recent and relevant Dots — is the perfect kind of puzzle game, an experience where the core conceit is the smooth grace with which one can grasp the concept without fully realizing its depth.

Play once and find your score a meager three or four hundred. Play a second time and watch as your brain starts to subconsciously map out a strategy, foresee how each swipe affects the greater board and — seemingly like magic flowing from your firing neurons — your score breaks 1,000. A third time and you’ve managed to manifest a 192 card, but check the high score board and see scores upwards of 20,000. Then try again.

It’s an experience that is both inspiring in its ability to simultaneously make you think and enjoy that act of thinking and aesthetically wonderful in its design. Threes is full of quirky visual and audio elements that make you smile, from the Ben Folds-esque, a cappella music down to the alarming number of neat intricacies you notice on each play through. For instance, each multiple of three has a unique anthropomorphic quality and an accompanying name like “Tristine,” “Torbus,” and “Traven.” And creating higher multiples prompts enthusiastic rejoicing from the numbered characters, phrases like “Hey guys” and “What’s up?” when you swipe and merge them into existence.

Threes is not a total surprise given the combined expertise of the designers behind it. Vollmer is a former designer of indie game studio thatgamecompany, which made the startling successes Flower and Journey, and Wohlwend illustrated the equally satisfying mobile hit Ridiculous Fishing. Hinson has scored titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Mass Effect 2. All three had previously collaborated on Puzzlejuice in 2012, giving them experience in making a finely crafted mobile game.

At a time when mobile gaming seems to be descending deeper into the dark depths of gambling-style exploitation and mental anguish, Threes is a reminder that something as simple as a puzzler, done smartly and crafted with ingenuity, can not only delight us, but reinvigorate the perceived potential of its platform.

“I’m happy to develop for any platform, but currently I find mobile games the most interesting. They’re so fresh and different and unsolved. Also there’s a lot of crap out there and my goal right now is to prove that quality and mobile are not mutually exclusive,” Vollmer told Joystiq in a recent interview. “I don’t really have a dream game because I just enjoy solving interesting problems. Currently the next big problem I’ve been dwelling on is about the question of how to tell a good story on mobile. So there’s that.”

While a puzzle game you’ll have trouble putting down is certainly an achievement worth celebrating, aspiring to create a mobile game that could captivate, inspire awe, and influence the medium like Journey did is a worthwhile pursuit. While Vollmer chases after that complex creation, I’ll be playing Threes. You should too.



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Sega sells more PC than console games, but pachinko machines eclipse both

segaSega’s latest earnings report reveals the company’s packaged PC sales grew tremendously while packaged console game sales crashed. The company’s digital sales are also almost equal to its packaged sales now, but all of these pale in comparison to Sega Sammy Holdings’ pachinko business.

The company profited almost $50 million from its pachinko business in the nine months period the report covered. By comparison, Sega’s “consumer business,” which includes all console, handheld, and PC sales both digital and retail, made only $27 million.

Pachinko, in case you haven’t heard of it, is a gambling machine akin to a slot machine thinly veiled as an arcade game. It looks like a vertical pinball table without flippers. You fire a ball into the machine and watch as it makes its way down to the bottom. If the ball goes into certain holes, you get more balls, which you can use to keep playing and ultimately trade in for prizes.

Sega’s consumer business seems to be leaning towards digital and PC. It’s revenues from packaged games now has only a slight edge on digital revenues, and packaged PC sales grew from 770,000 units last year to 2.27 million, while packaged console sales dropped from 2.73 million to just 1.2 million.

While Sega is probably best known for iconic characters like Sonic, PC games like Football Manager and the Total War series are becoming increasingly important to its bottom line.


iOS Lovers! Get to Know these Fantastic 3 Upcoming Game Apps

Upcoming iOS Game AppsNew mobile games are released for iOS mobile devices all the time. In fact, if you were to check out Apple’s App Store, you would likely see a variety of new paid and free apps that you can download and enjoy every day.  However, some applications are more popular than others and the anticipation of their release is much higher and generates huge hype.

If you are a developer who hopes to generate as much popularity for your mobile games as the developers of the games listed below, you’ll need to have a smart marketing strategy. Social and mobile ad networks, like appnext, can help you effectively advertise and monetize your game.

That said, the following are three hot upcoming games for iOS mobile devices, in no particular order:

1 – Tales of Phantasia – Developed by Jupiter, this new game is based on the rpg classic “Tales of Phantasia: Full Voice Edition 2006”. According to reports from Joystiq, this new game, that will be available for Apple mobile devices, will feature the same micro-transactions and touch-based controls that are present in the original PSP game on which it is based. In addition, although the full game is free, once available in the Apple App Store, players will be able to purchase extra downloadable content.  So far, the game is only set to be released in the Japan App Store. There is not mention yet if or when it will be released in other countries.

2 – Infinity Blade III – With bigger and superior graphics to its predecessors, this popular, action role playing game from Chair Entertainment will be apparently eight times larger than the original and will have additional downloadable content. This particular version of the Infinity Blade game series has been optimized for Apple’s two latest iPhone devices: iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C. The game has been designed for the A7 processor, however, it can still run off of older iPhones, such as versions 4 and 5.

Mobile gamers can still expect all of the fighting action they love, except this time around players can battle a dragon boss, take on two characters, and even be a female assassin. Furthermore, some of the stages in the game are unique to certain characters. Infinity Blade III is a paid game.

3 – Final Fantasy 14: Libra Eorzea – This is a companion app for the Square Enix rpg “Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn”. This app is free to download and play. According to a report from Eurogamer, players of the mobile rpg game will be able to access this new app offline via various features, such as through the character profile viewer, game database, and others that are set to be released later on down the road. In addition, players can use their FF14 account to check out information about their characters, as well as learn about other characters in the game.

In addition, two other upcoming game releases include Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag and Rayman Fiesta Run.



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