Posts Tagged ‘mini games’

Blizzard takes one step closer to casual gaming?

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

One of the most respected and well know names in casual gaming, Greg Canessa is calling it a day as Vice President of Video Game Platforms with PopCap.  Prior to his current position, Canessa was the man in charge who launched a thousand ships with the business model he rolled out for Microsoft’s XBLA service.  He left this position and joined PopCap in February of 2007, and is now moving on again – this time to the 800-pound gorilla in the room, aka Blizzard.

wow_bejeweledAt this point, I think we’re pretty justified in letting the wild speculation run free.  Granted, Blizzard has been showing more and more interest in casual gaming over the past few months, with not only PopCap’s Bejeweled showing up on gamers’ radar’s back in September, but just a few weeks ago, Blizzard also tossed PopCap’s Peggle into the World of Warcraft mini-games selection.  Three guesses, the first two don’t count on who was spearheading this project?

So what’s really the dilly Blizz?  While Kotaku broke the news, Joystiq raises some very interesting points, and questions whether or not Canessa has nabbed one of the open positions Blizzard is currently advertising in the “Unannounced” section, or perhaps the elusive “Next-Gen MMO” category?  According to Joystiq’s inside source, Canessa will be working on an “unannounced project in the online space”.

wow_peggleAnother point to keep in mind here is that Blizzard’s COO Paul Sams has repeatedly made statements about the company’s interest in starting up an entirely new franchise.  Could Canessa’s appointment be the first signal in Blizzard’s interest in starting up a casual gaming platform?  Maybe browser based gaming?  Maybe social networking based play?  iPhone/mobile gaming?  Again, the speculation doors have been flung wide open by Blizzard’s highest profile move in this direction to date.

If Blizzard has in fact brought in Canessa for the purpose of fleshing out a casual games division, does this mean that they’re also interested in having a look at microtransactions?  While the producer of the #1 game worldwide certainly doesn’t need any more money, they might be foolish to not at least visit and review the concept.  With relative newcomer (in relation to Blizzard) casual game publisher Zynga reportedly pulling down nine figure revenues from microtransactions, just have a think for a moment what Blizzard and their mighty army of employees could tackle?

I’m quite certain Canessa’s departure is a blow for PopCap, but that’s not to say they don’t have a thriving business going as it is, and I’ll be interested to see where they take things from here.  On the flipside, PopCap now has a former high-level executive inside the mighty Blizzard citadel.  More PopCap casual titles to be implemented within WoW?  Plants vs. Orcs?  Zombies vs. Night Elves?  Let’s hold fire and wait and see.


Disney Online launches free-to-play Pixie Hollow

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

Making good on their promise to further develop the Tinkerbell/Fairies line, Disney Online, a part of the Disney Interactive Media Group, has recently announced that the plane to Pixie Hollow is now boarding.  Guests must be under this height to ride this ride.

Disney’s newest Virtual World allows players to create their own Fairy to take flight alongside Tinkerbell and other Fairy friends.  The goal is to help bring about the change of seasons through meeting friends, playing games, and collecting items in nature.

Features include:

  • Play Talent Games — Help fellow Fairies bring about the change of seasons by playing talent mini games; help fish travel upstream with Silvermist and the other water Fairies, or light up fireflies with Iridessa and the light-talent fairies
  • Collect Curious Things — Find and collect useful items like leaves, flowers, and rare mainland trinkets; use them as ingredients for crafting, to shop in the treetops and to earn badges
  • Craft Incredible Creations — Create your own Fairy fashions and accessories by playing crafting games
  • Earn Special Badges — Earn colorful badges that showcase your adventures and accomplishments in your personal Leaf Journal. Plus, when you earn a badge, everyone around you will see your accomplishments

“Pixie Hollow is an online destination where fans of all ages can become a Fairy and go to live in a magical world of Tinker Bell and her friends,” said Steve Parkis, senior vice president, Disney Online. “More than 7 and a half million Fairies have already been created and, until now, have been all dressed up with no place to go. Now, in Pixie Hollow, Fairies can join their friends, take flight and live their very own Fairy adventures.”

Pixie Hallow is a free-to-play title, but players may choose to upgrade their game experience buy purchasing a monthly $5.95 membership fee.  Benefits of membership include being one of the first to preview and play new games when they open in Pixie Hollow.  Members get a sneak peek at all games before non-member players.  Members will be able to craft individual and unique outfits for their character.  Paying members have access to the Fairy fashions and furnishings, allowing them to trade collected items for tops, bottoms, sashes, and shoes.

While Pixie Hollow is a standalone youth game, as with most things Disney, there are a number of real world tie-ins that not only encourage activity on the PixieHollow site, but also release exclusive in-game content.  Disney’s new Clickables™ Fairy collection will unlock special content in PixieHallow allowing players to make online Fairy friendships and add unique virtual clothing, accessories, and decor items to their collections.  Players may also earn in-game achievement points via a separate handheld LCD game that allows them to earn Tink points offline that can be used in-game for butterfly friends that fly with their Fairies in PixieHollow (in game pet).

The new free-to-play virtual world has opened a few days before Disney’s upcoming October 28th DVD and bluray release of Tinker Bell.

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Social Games firm Playfish introduces Micro Transaction model

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

Popular social games producer Playfish has announced today that they are now offering both a free to play and micro transaction based model of their app. ‘Who has the Biggest Brain?’.

‘Who has the Biggest Brain?’ is a wildly successful facebook application that in the past 6 months has had 6 million installs, and over 200 million game plays.  They’ve launched new achievement systems, taunts, new brain types, and a new profile view page.  In addition to the micro transaction model, they also include a ‘Pro Player Club’ that gives players exclusive mini-games, a practice mode, a calendar view of progress, exclusive taunts, and more, for $9.99/month.

While Playfish believes the future of social games is headed in the free to play but ad supported model, they’ve not ruled out micro transactions, and also support players who want to make a minimal purchase to acquire virtual items and premium features.  Given the DFC Intelligence report on online players spending over $50billion on online video games, Playfish and others headed in the right direction.

About Playfish:

Playfish is a social games company that develops and publishes video games on social networks like Facebook.

Founded in October 2007 by casual and mobile games veterans and backed by Accel Ventures and $4M in funding, they believe games are more fun when played with friends and family. Playfish is working on combining the best elements of casual games, social networks, MMOGs and virtual worlds to create entirely new, more social ways of enjoying great games together.

Playfish is headquartered in London, UK with offices in Beijing, China and Tromsø, Norway.


Gameloft Brings Old School to the New School via Oregon Trail

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Awww yiy boy! Gameloft is kickin’ out the old school jams and serving up the timeless classic ‘Oregon Trail’ to a whole new generation of gamers. Gameloft announced yesterday that they’ve released the award-winning title, The Oregon Trail for mobile handsets. Working closely with The Learning Company, this release marks the first re-release/make of the educational title which until now was only available for PC users.

Gameloft has given the game a complete makeover with modernized graphics and new features, allowing the classic game to feel modern and fresh, all the while staying true to the original storyline. In case you need a refresher, players assume the role of a wagon leader and have to make strategic decisions to safely guide their party along the perils of the Oregon Trail route.

Oregon Trail game features include:

• Select your profession: Banker, Carpenter, Farmer; choose your crew by customizing the names
• Five different mini-games help to break up your long journey and allows you improve your health and safety through hunting, rafting, fishing, crossing the river and repairing your wagon
• Unpredictable occurrences such as hitchhikers, robbers, bandits, increase the challenge along the route; strategy and smart decision-making enables you to minimize the damage

“The Oregon Trail is an iconic game that has been enjoyed by parents and students alike over the decades,” explains Gonzague de Vallois, senior vice president of Publishing, Gameloft. “The Oregon Trail has always provided an ideal way for players to recount an important part of American history, and we are confident that the new mobile version will capture the exciting journey for today’s tech savvy audience.”

The Oregon Trail is available now across most US carriers. To check the game’s availability with your carrier, text “WAGON” to 82174 on your mobile phone.


Apple announces Gaming selections for iPhone

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Steve Jobs and company are having themselves one heck of a party in San Francisco right now. Amongst Jobs’ exciting announcements in his keynote speech yesterday was the unveiling of what we’ve all been waiting for: Hot games on a hot phone!

Developers are free to set their own prices for games, and keep 70% of all revenues generated. You’ll be able to purchase games from the iPhone itself, provided that the file size is less than 10MB (please keep this in mind publishers). If the game file is over the 10MB limit, you’ll have to grab it via wi-fi or iTunes on a PC. This policy falls in line with all other iPhone downloads/installs.

A number of publishers were on stage with Jobs in a horse and pony show, obviously trying to 1-up the other. Without further adieu, fatfoogoo proudly presents:

The holy worldwide developers conference Steve Jobs keynote speech guide to the gaming grail. (Pics courtesy of Engadget’s outstanding coverage of the event).

Sega brought out and old favorite for iPhone: Super Monkey Ball. While initially previewed at the SDK launch, the perennial favorite with those incredibly maddening tilt levels that you had to clear through to get to the mini games. Right. Now just imagine that on the iPhone. The iPhone version of Super Monkey Ball will have more than 100 Levels. Oye vey!

Loopt is a location aware social networking tool. For those that can’t get enough of their 15 minutes of fame, Loopt allows you to broadcast, and likewise see, pinpoint locations of where you and your Loopt friends are on a map. User profiles can show a daily track of where you’ve been. Along with the Big Brother technology, Loopt also makes it very easy to mobile blog, send a photo, text, or make a call to friends, all within the app.

Pangea Games came to town ready to rock. They brought the noise with 2 titles ready to go for iPhone. First up? Enigmo. Enigmo is a pure physics based game (no mom, I’m working on improving my grades) and takes advantage of the use of iPhones touch controls as well as iPhones smokin’ processor power. The concept is simple enough with water droplets bouncing around and successfully porting them to another location.

The second title is Cro-Mag Rally, a caveman racer. Cro-Mag also uses the tilt controls, has nine tracks and ten cars. Racers are certainly not new to handheld gamers, ‘phones’ even, but….have you ever seen graphics like this on your phone?

Digital Legends brought it’s best via a rather complex looking 3D fantasy battle game. Think of it as a mishmash between God of War and Tomb Raider. Word on the street is that it only took them 2 weeks to program it. If the Digital Legends name rings a bell….yes, it’s the same folks that are pushing ONE for N-Gage.

And finally…while technically not a true ‘game’, I personally think this might be the most entertaining t-bone steak on the table: Band. While technically not a full blown version of Apple’s GarageBand, an independent developer, MooCowMusic from the UK has developer an app fro iPhone that has a virtual Piano, Drums, a 12-bar blues (ummm) “Instrument”, and a bass. Band allows you to arrange and rearrange original tunes and record them. I’m waiting for the next Guitar Hero vs. Band live battle contest.

All titles are scheduled to be available for the Apple App Store’s launch in July for $9.99.

All in all a tasty roundup. I’m not sure how many of these titles will actually make it to my iPhone, but I’m certain there’ll be that annoying long wait for the next train where impulse shopping will get the best of me.