Posts Tagged ‘iOS’

Is gaming the answer to America’s education woes? The Learning Edge thinks so.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Let’s face it – the American education system is in serious trouble. From slashed budgets and rising college and university tuitions to abysmal test scores when compared to nations from around the world, Americans need help. And while the gaming for good movement is afoot, Hamden, Connecticut based The Learning Edge is putting their own offering forward, seeking to engage teens in a learning activity guised as an iOS app.

As any American high school student will tell you, whether you’re college bound of not, the SAT weighs heavy on their minds. For those seeking a higher education, the mighty hurdle that must be leapt is the SAT, or Standardized Aptitude Test. The Learning Edge is seeking to up the collective SAT scores through their SATLadder app. While current SAT study apps currently exist, the SATLadder app seeks to differentiate itself through anonymous online academic competition. These head-to-head matches based on SAT Standards (Critical Reading, Mathematics, Writing) are then ranked amongst their peers, taking full advantage of all the benefits that arrive through competition. The Learning Edge is banking on an already familiar to many, simple game mechanic and premise, to incite students into a study frenzy.

“This app provides students who like the thrill of competition a more dynamic mode of preparation that will make studying fun. The app is quite versatile: students can use it as a quick study tool when they have a few minutes to do a handful of questions, or they can systematically play the game and review the correct answers via the detailed answer explanations that come with the Ladder Edge package on the website,” comments Learning Edge director and founder, as well as game creator, Mark Anestis.

To keep the playing field level, as well offer users the “try before you buy” option, the SATLadder app is available in a lite mode, which gives users access to the solo mode. The solo mode offers students 5 round matches that draw from over 2,000 SAT based questions, and answers are immediately sent to the Learning Edge’s servers for further review on the student’s personalized profile page.

If the value/desire is there, eager learners can pony up to the full version of the app which offers two varieties of the head-to-head mode, friendly matches and more competitive ladder matches. Friendly matches are just as they state, but the Ladder matches tie into the over all leaderboards.

Sadly, Android owners are on the outs, as the SATLadder app by The Learning Edge is an iOS affair only, but interested students, parents, and teachers can find the SATLadder available from the App Store.

 

DeNA via ngmoco acquires Euro Mobile studio Rough Cookie

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Ngmoco has recently announced their successful acquisition of Dutch mobile game studio Rough Cookie. The acquisition further expands ngmoco’s global presence, as well as falling right in line with DeNA’s previously mentioned European expansion plans. Through the acquisition, Rough Cookie firmly plants an ngmoco/DeNA flag on EU soil, as the company prepares for the global launch of their games focused social network, Mobage.

“Rough Cookie’s values and creative capability are a perfect match for ngmoco,” Neil Young, CEO, ngmoco, said in a statement. “We are delighted to formally bring Rough Cookie into our family of companies. At ngmoco, it’s important for us to anchor the Mobage service with great first-party games and Rough Cookie will be a key studio in achieving that goal.”

And while ngmoco has previously favored iOS devices, the acquisition of Rough Cookie will now bring a number of successful Android based titles into the fold. Rough Cookie, founded in 2008 has produced Star Defense for iOS, as well as We Farm and We City, both for Android. You’ll remember that after presenting Star Defense at the WWDC keynote, the title rocketed to success, making it the top-selling App Store game in the summer of 2009. Likewise, the title brought home a Dutch Game Award, as well as making Pocker Gamers’ Top 50 iPhone Developers of the Year for iOS devices.

Likewise, Rough Cookie is a win for DeNA/ngmoco, as the games house has further expanded it’s development focus to include not only iOS and Android devices, but they’re also working on dark horse Windows Phone 7 based titles.

The Rough Cookie acquisition shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as Young mentions above, as ngmoco and Rough Cookie have a long established track record of collaboration. Rough Cookie was on board for ngmoco’s successful Touch Pets, as well as the music title, Pulse: the Game, and as previously mentioned, We Farm and We City for Android.

“We are very excited to be joining the ngmoco and DeNA family,” says Rouch Cookie co-founder Danny Hoffmann in a statement. “We had great experiences and results on the projects that we have worked on with ngmoco, and we are truly proud to join the leader of mobile entertainment.”

Moving forward, Rough Cookie and ngmoco have stated that the Dutch firm is already hard at work developing an unnamed ngmoco flagship title for the upcoming Mobage global launch. Powered by ngmoco’s ngCore, the upcoming title is slated for both iOS and Android devices at it’s release.

 

Japan’s GREE acquires OpenFeint for $104 million

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Announced late last night, Japanese mobile gaming platform GREE has plunged into the global gaming market with a massive purchase: OpenFeint.  According to the statement, GREE has acquired OpenFeint’s outstanding securities for $104 million.  In addition to the buyout, GREE is pumping the firm full of additional cash to fuel accelerated growth of the already massive platform.  OpenFeint staff members are expected to stay aboard, including CEO and founder Jason Citron, as GREE has also worked long term incentives into the deal.

In combination, GREE/OpenFeint will reach 100 million users worldwide, with a healthy 75 percent arriving from OpenFeint, who’s numbers have grown to include over 19,000 games developers in just two years.  GREE intends to incorporate their own social gaming and platform experience into the OpenFeint model and drive mobile social gaming to new heights.

“At GREE, we are socializing the next evolution of games and, as the best-in-class US-based mobile social network, OpenFeint is the ideal partner for us to offer the best mobile social games to the largest global audience,” said Yoshikazu Tanaka, founder and CEO of GREE in a statement.

The new OpenFeint/GREE program is already off to a head start, as the companies also announced a massive international expansion plan, with offices slated to soon open in Beijing, Singapore, and London.  The company is aggressively seeking top talent, and plans on doubling in size over 2011.

With over 19,000 traditional and free-to-play games developers taking advantage of OpenFeint’s connectivity and other offerings, the firm is the world’s largest cross platform social gaming network for smartphones.  Over 5,000 games incorporate OpenFeint technology, including App Store and Android Marketplace top sellers Fruit Ninja and Tiny Wings.  And one of the most obvious wins for GREE is OpenFeint’s already existing partnerships with leading mobile carriers, resulting in coverage on over half the US market share.

If OpenFeint’s name and Japanese investment rings a bell, you’ll remember that social/mobile gaming competitor DeNA has already provided investment in OpenFeint.  I guess we now know what “outstanding securities,” GREE is speaking to.  So the question remains: what happened with DeNA?  It would have appeared to any outside investor that DeNA was well on their way to an acquisition.  Initial investments to test the technology and relationship waters, and then, bam! the acquisition.  However, DeNA’s offices were raided by the Japanese FTC on antitrust suspicions this past December, possibly presenting a snag in DeNA’s otherwise full steam ahead acquisition aspirations.

 

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 smashes franchises’ first week sales history

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

EA has recently announced that the newest installment of the long-running Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise has shattered all previous first week sales records. Spearheaded by the long awaited arrival of The Masters course in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters, EA’s internal estimates place the title at 225,000 units sold. This figure places 12 firmly atop the pile, exceeding the previous record held by PGA Tour 8 in 2007, by a healthy 17 percent. Looking at the long range picture, EA is reporting the year-over-year, week one console digital revenues for the franchise have increased by a massive 200 percent. Keep in mind, when EA talks about the Tiger Woods franchise, they’re also including properties under the Woods’ umbrella, including the iPhone and iPad offerings. Adding to the “winning” at the EA/Tiger Woods camp, the company also points to strong iTunes sales, with the aforementioned iOS apps garnering the #1 top grossing sports game app position the day it launched and throughout the remainder of that week. Oddly enough, the iOS versions of the title do not include the hallmark Masters Tournament or the Augusta National Golf Club.

“We expected fans to be excited about the Masters and for sales to be up significantly. We’re pleased that they are,” said Peter Moore, President of EA SPORTS in a statement. “Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 12: The Masters has earned rave reviews, and fans have played nearly two million rounds at Augusta National Golf Club during the first two weeks.”

And this newest installment of the Tiger Woods series is worthy of the praise. First and foremost, both real-world and non golfers have been clamoring for an authentic replication of arguably, the world’s most famous golf course since the inception of video game golf. Thanks to remarkable advancements in technology, Augusta, GA’s classic has been fully laser scanned, and it accurate down to six millimeters. External media have taken note, with SI.com commenting, “each hole is rendered perfectly down to the last azalea and the course plays as tough as it looks on TV.” The all-things-sports publication gave Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters a 9.5 out of 10 rating. Likewise, Golfweek ads, “the attention to details and the new features make it tough to imagine it can get much better than here,” and provided a rating of 9 out of 10.

In addition to the ultra-realism of The Masters course, both long-time and new comers to the game are treated to an (almost) completely revamped method of play. The games’ Career Mode and all new Caddie system still have that new-car smell, and an all new broadcast system are sure to delight. Fans can challenge more than 20 professional golfers, including new additions Zach Johnson, Rickie Fowler, and Bubba Watson.

By the numbers, EA is reporting that since it’s March 29th launch, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 has racked up over 7 million games played on all courses, with over 184 million golf shots taken. These drives, pitches, and puts have resulted in 1.5 million achievements and trophies unlocked and 12 million course mastery objectives completed. From the online world, the title has garnered the equivalent of 2,515 PGA Tour seasons in online tournaments.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters is available for $59.99 for Xbox and PlayStation3, $49.99 for Wii, and $69.99 for the PS3 exclusive Collector’s Edition. For some Tiger on the go, fans can find a $4.99 iPhone and $9.99 iPad version of the latest installment available via iTunes, as well as a free version available for iPhone and iPod Touch. This free version allows players full functionality when combined with the “Closest to the Pin” Facebook Challenge.

 

GameSalad raises $6.1 million to advance game creation for all

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Just over a week since the announcement of the appointment of industry vet Steve Felter as CEO, games creation tool for all, GameSalad has received $6.1 million in funding. Game Salad’s mission it to provide an easy-to-use platform whereby aspiring designers can get the ball rolling on that next great app. The next influx of capital was led by Steamboat Ventures, and includes participation from Greycroft Partners, DFJ Mercury, DFJ Frontier, and ff Asset Management. GameSalad says that the new funding will be directed towards expanding it’s technical and product teams, as well as build upon and improve existing technology with the ultimate goal of broadening GameSalad’s impact on web and mobile games.

“We are focused on growing GameSalad into a world-class gaming company,” said Steve Felter, CEO of GameSalad. “By making game creation accessible to anyone with a passion for games, we’ve empowered a new breed of game designers through GameSalad. We’ll continue to build on this momentum in 2011 and unveil some exciting new technologies that will bring people together through the creation, sharing and playing of games.”

As part of this round of funding GameSalad will now see a new face at the board meetings, with Steamboat Ventures managing director Beau Laskey sitting at the table. Likewise, Greycroft Partners’ Dana Settle will join as board observer. The pair will now join DFJ Mercury’s Blair Garrou, who was appointed during the initial seed round of funding.

“We are thrilled to partner with such an exciting company and talented leadership team,” said Laskey. “We believe that GameSalad’s disruptive technology is creating an entirely new set of opportunities for game enthusiasts. By putting powerful creative tools in the hands of anyone who wants to make games, GameSalad is changing the way people interact with entertainment.”

An interesting note on GameSalad; the information that was provided about Felter’s appointment indicated that the company’s tools were responsible for the creations of, “over 4,500 titles,” while the funding round announcement claims, “over 8,500 titles.” I’m hoping that either the first quote was a bit humble and underestimating the actual numbers, as 4,000 titles in 8 days is a massive success story in it’s own. If these figures are accurate, GameSalad is experiencing a growth rate of unprecedented proportions. Either way, it’s clear that there’s a very viable market for drag-and-drop, write no code, app and games creation. With an experienced veteran at the helm and previously demonstrated success, investors have shown their support to the tune of $6.1 million.

 

Apple TV iOS 4.3 beta to get the gaming touch?

Monday, March 21st, 2011

For quite a long time now, the missing link in Apple’s consumer driven chain has been gaming. Sure, they’re one of the largest distributors of games, but only in a mobile setting. That’s not to say that Apple hasn’t been keenly watching what’s going on in today’s market, and although mobile OS’s might now outweigh stationary, the success of competitor Microsoft’s Xbox, Xbox Live in particular, is undeniable.

To this end, sources close to Engadget are indicating that a few lines of code in the upcoming iOS 4.3 release (scheduled for Valentine’s day) point towards a gaming initiative coming out of Cupertino. But Apple’s already into gaming (of sorts) with GameCenter right? Correct you would be, however, as noted above – mobile. These lines of “ATVGamesScheduleController” are specific to Apple TV. If you’ve been following Apple’s progression; iTunes Store, App Store, and now…, it would make perfect sense for this anonymous tipster to be spot on. Given the Apple TV’s base storage capacity, 8GB, Apple will clearly have to look to a streaming solution, not unlike that of OnLive or Gaikai, both of which have been gaining significant steam over the past year. The same tipster reports that the OpenGl is, “ mature and thoroughly implemented enough that streaming low bandwidth data and computing locally could happen, but that’s just theoretical with nothing in the code to back it up.”

With all this said, what’s important to keep in mind is the processing power of the Apple TV, basically on par with the iPhone 4 and current generation iPad. In other words, Apple’s not going to hold up against an Xbox, but that’s not exactly the point. Again, the Apple progression, iTunes->App Store, it’s easy to see that Apple is clearly banking on the low-processor, casual, pick-it-up-play-a-few, and move on gaming fan. Not to mention, the similarities between all the iOS devices would mean cross platform development would be relatively pain free. This accomplishes two goals; Developers would then have an even larger marketplace to sell to, and Apple…has an even larger audience to sell to. A win/win.

In addition to the (possible) gaming features in the new iOS, Engadget points out codenames Sedona and Flagstaff. These codenames are most probably related to video merchandising and streaming, Sedona calls director, episode, season, etc. data, while Flagstaff still remains a mystery. In addition to a host of other code land goodies, Engadget’s tipster reports a feature_remote_screensavers element that suggests remote screensaver calls from any other device (read Mac) on your network.

 

Mobile gaming heats up with Exent’s GameTanium service for Android

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

As the gaming industry begins to include more and more mobile devices in the mix, gamers are clamoring for PC and/or console conveniences. One such convenience is gaming on demand, which, until now, most mobile devices have fallen short on. Exent is stepping in to meet this demand with their GameTanium for Android service. GameTanium is the first and only games on demand service offered for Android gamers, giving them unlimited, 24/7 access to over 100 Android games – all at one flat monthly date.

“Gamers can finally feed their APPetites with unlimited play of the world’s best games at their fingertips, no matter where they are,” stated Christina Kuzma, CMO of Exent. “We are excited to introduce the GameTanium service on Android. As we expand multi-platform support, users will be able to enjoy 24/7 gameplay on virtually any device of their choosing.”

The GameTanium for Android provides unlimited access to top shelf Android games, with new titles added on a weekly basis. Exent is promoting their expertise in merchandising and monetizing as a vehicle to help users find the games they want to play. Featured content, ratings, recommendations, and a massive collection of video trailers are amongst the tools employed to deliver gamers’ choices. How this ties into merchandising and monetization…remains to be seen.

Another way to think of GameTanium is via the subscription model. The “Flat monthly fee,” can be re-branded as subscription, thus allowing gamers this unlimited access to top titles. When the service launches this coming February, Exent will offer gamers a seven day free trial, and will employ PayPal for billing. Plans are under way to roll the service out to several other platforms and devices, including tablets (read:iPad) in early 2011. If Android arrives in February, and Exent is promising an “early 2011” delivery for other devices…are they just around the corner?

One of the most promising services offered by Exent’s GameTanium is the seamless, cross device gaming experience. Meaning, if you’re playing a title on your Android device during the commute, once you arrive at home, you can simply swap to your tablet device without losing a moment of gameplay.

Interested parties can have a view of Exent’s mobile gaming technologies at the upcoming Mobile World Congress this coming February 14-17 in Barcelona, Spain, or visiting their Play Anywhere demo.

 

Glu hits the mark with Deer Hunter Challenge – 2 million downloads in 20 days

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

San Francisco based social games for mobile and tablet devices, Glu Mobile has recently announced that their Deer Hunter Challenge has blown past the 2 million downloads mark within its first 20 days on the App Store.

Based on Atari’s long running Deer Hunter franchise, Glu’s mobile iteration has received praise across the industry, and apparently 2 million+ gamers agree.

“The Deer Hunter franchise continues to be one of our strongest brands,” said Thom Kozik, executive VP, online & mobile, Atari, Inc. “By offering Deer Hunter Challenge as a free-to-play mobile game we’ve seen continued growth and brand visibility with an all new audience of gamers.”

So what’s in store for would be hunters? In addition to the obligatory trigger squeezing, it’s the details that make up the difference with Deer Hunter Challenge. Players are free to roam and hunt animals in the wild, untamed forests of Alaska, or the rugged Patagonian mountain range. More and more landscapes and hunting grounds are unlocked through various challenges and requirements. The title takes full advantage of today’s modern smartphone, utilizing axis points to bring down deer, black and brown bears, blackbuck, cougars, moose, etc. (just about anything you can imagine to shoot at – save for humans). Naturally, as with any free-to-play title, Glu has packed in the customization options. Players can hand tailor their favorite bolt rifle, single shot rifle, lever rifle, shotgun, crossbow, and pistol. And if tuning your animal slayer isn’t quite your thing, no worries, as hunters can also further customize their look, as boots, gear, and clothing options abound.

Glu promises that plenty of updates are on the way, and that the title, “will be heavily supported,” and that plans are already in the works to connect hunters from around the world to compete in online tournaments.

“With more than ten million downloads and counting, we are proud to work with Atari on making Deer Hunter the most authentic and best-selling hunting franchise on the App Store,” said Giancarlo Mori, chief creative officer at Glu. “This title is a unique, free-to-play game in its genre, offering incredibly detailed 3D environments and very realistic animations.”

Deer Hunter Challenge is currently available for free via the AppStore.

 

iOS devices: Virtual Goods sales overtaking Ad revenues

Friday, October 15th, 2010

According to analytics and monetization firm Flurry, virtual goods sales are rapidly overtaking advertising revenues generated on the iOS devices. The firm conducted a study utilizing data from social networking and social gaming applications with a combined reach of 2.2 million daily active users. Noting that the majority of these applications are free, Flurry points out that the vast assumption would be that these free apps would be solely advertising revenue supported. A fair assumption, but according to their findings, Flurry is quick to point out that microtransaction purchases of virtual goods are quickly eclipsing the aforementioned reasoning.

iOS vg sales

We’re now just one year into Apple’s decision to allow microtransaction purchases to occur in free apps, and the tide is clearly turning. As demonstrated in the graph above, in January of 2010, in-app purchases and advertising revenues were about equal. Moving forward, it’s clear to see that in-app purchases are clearly dominating the revenue streams. Flurry points out that the majority of advertising revenue peaks during the holiday season of 2009, but since then has seen a decline. At it’s peak, September 2010, virtual goods sales dominated revenues, consuming a massive 80 percent of all income.

Citing slow acceptance and adoption of a rapidly changing market, Flurry notes that advertising agencies have been slow to ramp up efforts to put ads onto mobile devices, as the diminished advertising revenues vs. virtual goods drivers indicate that big name brands could be missing out on significant iOS opportunities.

“With these agencies representing and guiding the biggest brands, they appear to be missing a meaningful opportunity to reach a mass market of consumers who have adopted new platforms and forms of content,” says Vice President of Marketing Peter Farago.

Interestingly, Flurry also pointed out that since Android has yet to allow in-app purchases, data could not be collected for this study. Could the Android community be quietly watching and waiting for the optimal time to flip the switch on this model? Given the results of the Flurry study, my guess is that Android might be holding fire to optimize results, aka Q1 2011?