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Archive for November, 2010

Zynga launches FarmVille in Japan: will the Japanese like purple cows?

November 30th, 2010 No comments

In a bid to find new markets for its blockbuster social game, Zynga is announcing a localized version of its FarmVille game in Japan today.

Called Farm Village, the Japanese version of the world’s largest game — which has 53.7 million monthly active users on Facebook — will be available in early December on Mixi, Japan’s largest social network which runs on feature phones.

Zynga has made global expansion a big priority as it searches for ways to become less dependent on Facebook. The company has to diversify its risks and expand to new markets. Last week, the company announced that it would launch its newest game, CityVille, in five different languages.

Zynga is a privately held San Francisco company with more than 1,300 employees. It has seen extremely fast growth in nearly four years, with more than 215 million monthly active users playing its games. The company has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from major investors such as DST, SoftBank, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Secondary trading on SharesPost (where employees sell their stock to cash out early) pegs Zynga’s value at $5.6 billion. Revenue for 2010 is expected to surpass $500 million, according to Inside Network. Roughly 10 million Americans play FarmVille every day.

But the dependency on Facebook is a big risk for Zynga. In any given week, Zynga can lose 10 million users or gain that many (based on what I’ve seen eyeballing the numbers over time) That’s why the Japanese launch is so important.

Launched in June, 2009, FarmVille itself is a casual game that users play for minutes a day. The players have been fickle; FarmVille’s audience has shrunk from 83 million monthly unique visitors earlier this year to 53.7 million. Along the way, Zynga markets its other games to FarmVille players. So even if those players stop playing FarmVille, they may move on to other Zynga games. The game is available for free, but users pay real money for virtual goods such as tractor fuel.

Victory in Japan isn’t guaranteed. There are a lot of big Japanese mobile social game companies, such as DeNA, which have entrenched positions. U.S. rivals such as CrowdStar are also moving into the Japanese market. To ensure success, Zynga raised money from SoftBank and created a joint venture, Zynga Japan, to accelerate its entry into the market.

Robert Goldberg, chief executive of Zynga Japan (and a VentureBeat veteran), said that Farm Village will focus on social play where users will play with their real friends, not just virtual friends.

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Sega announces Binary Domain

November 30th, 2010 No comments

Sega announces Binary Domain screenshot

Sega has dropped one bombshell of a tease in its announcement of their new squad-based shooter, Binary Domain. There's a whole mess of combat with a group of three humans that's pretty stereotypical for the first two-thirds of this video. But then things take a very sharp, awesome turn. I strongly encourage you to watch it before reading any further, lest your enjoyment be spoiled.

Binary Domain is the creation of Toshihiro Nagoshi, also responsible for the Yakuza series, and is being developed by Sega Japan for worldwide release on PS3 and Xbox 360. The story is set in Tokyo circa 2080, which has been invaded by robots at some point and looks to be toying with some very cool thematic stuff. I'm ready to know more, Sega. Lay it on us.

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Pirates of the Burning Sea completes transition to free-to-play

November 30th, 2010 No comments
Flying Lab Software's piratical MMO Pirates of the Burning Sea has officially made the transition to free-to-play -- you can now download, install and play the client with nothing more than a free Station account. Revenue is generated via an in-game store that sells extra inventory slots, ship insurance and premium missions to play, or players can fish up $14.99 a month out of Davy Jones' locker to join the Captains' Club and get all of the goodies that come with it. Former members of the game are now known as "premium members," with access to some of the premium content.

The free-to-play transition was originally delayed, as Flying Lab did a fair amount of work upgrading the servers and the game's content. But the wide open seas are apparently up and ready for you to set sail, at no cost at all. Competing MMO developer Turbine was able to double the revenues of not one but two MMOs by transitioning them over to a free-to-play system, and so we'll have to see if Flying Lab Software can do the same with PotBS.

JoystiqPirates of the Burning Sea completes transition to free-to-play originally appeared on Joystiq on Wed, 01 Dec 2010 01:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Uwe Boll to direct In the Name of the King 2, sequel ditches ‘Dungeon Siege’ name

November 30th, 2010 No comments
Honestly, we'd have loved to have been a fly on the wall when this one was proposed. Sure, it's not the first sequel to one of Boll's movies (and something deep down tells us it won't be the last), but when all the cards were on the table, the one thing everyone felt was the biggest detriment to a potential sequel for In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale was the "Dungeon Siege" subtitle and not, you know, the director. But we digress.

Plans for the sequel, which will be called In the Name of the King 2, move on largely unabated, Bloginity reports. Boll will once again plant his rump in the director's chair and help produce a sequel to the worst movie Jason Statham has ever done in his career -- actually, scratch that. As for who will take over the lead, that distinct honor falls on Dolph Lundgren. According to an interview he did with blogtalk radio (via Bloginity), he'll play a war vet who somehow gets transported back in time and ends up in "some sort of medieval power struggle."

Of course, Lundgren's assessment of the movie's plot is nowhere near as fabulous as Boll's. We've pasted it past the break because it's kinda the best thing we've ever read. It's also probably spoilery.

Continue reading Uwe Boll to direct In the Name of the King 2, sequel ditches 'Dungeon Siege' name

JoystiqUwe Boll to direct In the Name of the King 2, sequel ditches 'Dungeon Siege' name originally appeared on Joystiq on Wed, 01 Dec 2010 00:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Indie Games Winter Uprising kicks off today with ‘Epic Dungeon’

November 30th, 2010 No comments
The Xbox Live Indie Game development community's attempt to separate the platform's wheat from its chaff, aggressively named "Indie Games Winter Uprising," begins today and will run throughout the first week of December. To showcase the 14 titles which will either be released or discounted during the promotion, the official Uprising website has released a trailer showing off a few quick gameplay clips from each.

It seems like the promotion's organizer's couldn't wait to get things off the ground, as the first Winter Uprising title, a roguelike RPG titled Epic Dungeon, is due to arrive on the platform today. Keep an eye on the official Winter Uprising site to stay abreast of the other games' arrivals.

Continue reading Indie Games Winter Uprising kicks off today with 'Epic Dungeon'

JoystiqIndie Games Winter Uprising kicks off today with 'Epic Dungeon' originally appeared on Joystiq on Tue, 30 Nov 2010 23:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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FitnessKeeper scoops up $1.1M to build out fitness app

November 30th, 2010 No comments

Startup FitnessKeeper, the parent company of the RunKeeper smartphone app, has raised $1.11 million and will use the money to build out its nine-person operation and dive into the highly competitive world of now-fashionable mobile fitness applications.

The RunKeeper iPhone app uses GPS locating to track your distance, time, elevation, pace and path on a map and has caught the eye of several major investors since the company was founded two years ago, primarily because it has kept up with rapidly developing technologies.

The app now has features that ­let others watch your progress, live, online, as they trace your mileage and can see varying levels of your workout. In addition, it now offers mobile fitness training and routine plans to help runners train for events.

It also raised eyebrows last year when founder and CEO Jason Jacobs ran the Boston Marathon (pictured) dressed as an iPhone to promote the business.

The Boston-based company has raised $1.51 million thus far, including $400,000 in seed money from LaunchCapital last fall, along with angel investors Viewlogic founder Will Herman, BzzAgent CEO Dave Balter and Compete.com CEO Don McLagan.

Its latest round of funding was led by well-known Silicon Valley VC firm O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, which has poured money into startup darlings Bit.ly and Foursquare, and included several new unnamed angels and all its former investors.

“We liked [OATV managing director and co-founder] Bryce [Roberts] and the OATV gang from the minute we met them,” Jacobs said in a company blog post today. “Bryce (who also invested in our friends at Foursquare) is an avid cyclist, and like us, is a big believer in mobile/social/fitness/quantified self.”

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Stuart Black now at City Interactive, working on a ‘story-driven WWII shooter’

November 30th, 2010 No comments
We're noticing a trend here. Stuart Black comes to a studio, helps to get a shooter off the ground, then silently vanishes into the night as he heads off to help the next studio in need -- at least, that's what we'd like to imagine happens, as the prominent designer of Criterion's Black now has a new gig at City Interactive working on yet another shooter. Evidence points to a game running CryEngine 3, as the company recently licensed the engine for two first-person shooters it's currently developing.

According to Gamasutra, Black will head up a studio in London and work on what he calls an "exciting new story-driven WWII shooter" that will "emphasize high adventure in a genre that's become bogged down in reverence and historical accuracy." Hey, you're totally preaching to the choir, bud! Why, if we had a nickel for how many times the facts got in the way, we'd be millionaires right now and not -- uh, well, Dollar Menunaires.

JoystiqStuart Black now at City Interactive, working on a 'story-driven WWII shooter' originally appeared on Joystiq on Tue, 30 Nov 2010 23:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Money pours into the private cloud as Abiquo rakes in $10M

November 30th, 2010 No comments

Enterprise cloud management software company Abiquo has raised around $10 million in a second round of funding. The company is ramping up its global sales and marketing in a bid to compete in an increasingly crowded “private” cloud marketplace.

Cloud computing allows computers and mobile devices to bundle off all their resource-intensive data crunching off site to larger, better-equipped servers. Abiquo creates software that lets companies create and manage private, public and hybrid clouds. This means that instead of relying primarily on an on-premise control policy, like Rackspace and Amazon EC2, Abiquo seeks to give every member of a team, from individual users to entire units of a company, the ability to access the cloud at any given time.

The company terms this a “single-pane of glass” approach because users can manage an entire, globally deployed, computing infrastructure across unlimited physical and cloud resources including private, public and hybrid clouds simultaneously. Each user has a level of access that is then tailored to their various needs at the time.

The Redwood City, Calif.,-based company had long sought to differentiate itself from other internal-cloud vendors such­ as Eucalyptus, VMware, Cloud.com and Nimbula and has racked up some big-name clients such as Telefonica and Ericsson.

Thus far, its approach has netted it almost $15.8 million from a variety of investors, with this round of funding being lead by well-known European venture capital firm Balderton Capital and including existing investors Nauta Capital and Eurecan.

As part of the the deal, Bernard Liautaud, a partner at Balderton Capital, will join Abiquo’s board. Liautaud is best known for being founder and CEO of enterprise software company Business Objects, which SAP acquired in 2007 for $6.8 billion.

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Treat yourself to a Ghost Trick demo

November 30th, 2010 No comments
Back in March, we linked a Japanese-language demo for Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. Now, you can play that Flash demo in English, not only allowing you to experience the introduction to the DS puzzle adventure, but to know what the hell you're experiencing!

Continue reading Treat yourself to a Ghost Trick demo

JoystiqTreat yourself to a Ghost Trick demo originally appeared on Joystiq on Tue, 30 Nov 2010 22:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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How’s your beta test going? Ask users with Prefinery

November 30th, 2010 No comments

surveyA startup called Prefinery launched last year to help other startups manage the beta testing process, where they only let a small number of users play with an early version of the product. A new feature now allows Prefinery customers to find out what their beta users think of the product.

Previously, most Prefinery features were built around the invitation process. You could create invitation forms and invite codes, see how many invitees actually used your site, and then export that data into sales applications like Highrise and Mailchimp.

Founder Justin Britten said the new feedback feature came from his own frustration with UserVoice, a service that asks users to respond via a feedback button that sits at the edge of your site. Britten’s problem was that only 0.5 percent of his users would actually click on the feedback button — which is okay if you’ve got a hugely popular site, but not very useful if there are only a few hundred people in your test. The answer, Britten concluded, is to be a little less subtle and more direct.

With the new feedback feature, that directness can take the form of a pop-up window that Prefinery customers can attach to any link or image, or a widget that can be embedded on any page.

And the feedback can be connected to the data that Prefinery has already collected, including the new option that lets you divide testers into different groups, for example one group for friends and family and another group for investors. Combining the two new features, a company could look specifically at how one group responded to a particular question.

Back when it launched, Prefinery said it planned to expand beyond beta testing into other areas of product development. This feedback widget is certainly something that could be useful beyond Prefinery’s current user base.

The company is self-funded and based in Austin.




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