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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

E3 download: Six gaming trends to expect over next six months

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E3 download: Six gaming trends to expect over next six months...

Gamers play Alien’s Colonial Marines from Sega on the third day of the E3 video game extravaganza in Los Angeles. Credit: Frederic Brown / Getty Images

It’s game over for this year’s E3 but what’s the final score?

We put the question to Yves Guillemot, the chief executive of Ubisoft Entertainment, a French company he co-founded in 1986 and guided to its current ranking as the world’s third-largest game publisher (after Activision-Blizzard and Electronic Arts) with franchises such as “Assassin’s Creed,” “Rayman Raving Rabbids,” and “Splinter Cell.”

From his perch in Montreuil-sous-Bois, an eastern suburb of Paris, Guillemot has built a reputation as an astute trend-spotter who was nimble in capitalizing on the Wii and DS craze then heard a hit in the dance-game craze and delivered “Just Dance,” a franchise that has sold more than 28 million copies.

Here are six major trends that will affect the games players will see in the coming months.

1) THE SECOND SCREEN: “Video games played on home television sets will increasingly incorporate another mobile screen,” Guillemot said.

Nintendo’s Wii U console, scheduled to launch later this year, will have a tablet controller toward the end of this year. The 6.2-inch touch screen will be used to display game information that’s not on the big TV screen.

A good example is Ubisoft’s “Zombiu,” which uses the Wii U GamePad touch screen as a way for players to access their inventory and pick locks or to use as a motion detector or minimap. A reviewer from Kotaku went so far as to say, “It’s the game that made me finally see the potential of the Wii U’s special second screen.”

Microsoft, with its SmartGlass software, will make use of existing touch screen devices, including iPads and smartphones. Users who download an application on the devices can turn their tablets or cellphones into a game controller or a screen that can display “companion content” for other forms of entertainment. Think team stats during a live sports game, or actor bios during a movie.

Sony has similar plans for its PlayStation Vita handheld game console.

2) NON-STOP GAMING: “The game doesn’t stop,” Guillemot said. “You’ll be able to pick up the game continuously, anytime and on multiple devices.”

Game developers are creating game “experiences” that let players check into their game from their cellphones, tablets, Web browsers or consoles. Players can configure their teams on a tablet, buy new uniforms on a cellphone and play a match on a console or computer. Progress in the game is saved in the “cloud,” so players can pick up where they left off, regardless of which device they last used.

3) SOCIAL GAMING: It’s not just for Facebook anymore. Game developers and console companies are building plenty of social hooks into their products, Guillemot said. Nintendo on Sunday announced Miiverse, a social network for players of its Wii U console. The Sims City, coming out in February 2013, will let players affect the outcome of neighboring cities operated by friends. Cultivating a crime-ridden, smog-filled city, for example, will boost the crime and pollution in their friends’ cities. The franchise, which had always been single player, will let players form alliances and trade resources – much like real cities.

4) ASYNCHRONOUS MULTIPLAYER GAMING: Having a social experience is great. But not everyone has the luxury of being able to play together at the same time – so-called “appointment gaming,” where guilds get together at a specific time, for example, to stage a raid.

So developers are cooking up ways to get players to interact without having to pick up their controllers at the same time, Guillemot said. A player can leave messages or a challenge for another gamer to pick up when they log in. Or, to complete quests, they can send help requests that friends can respond to at a later time.

This is a common staple in Facebook games, where players check in for a few minutes at a time, often not at the same time. Now, that feature will be increasingly built into other types of games, Guillemot said.

5) COMPANION GAMING: No, that doesn’t mean a “Women of Warcraft” dating site. It’s a term that was thrown around in great profusion at E3 this year and it refers to developers creating “side content” for major franchises.

One example is “Ghost Recon: Commander,” a social game released on Facebook at the same time Ubisoft released ”Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.” Progress in the Facebook game helped players unlock new weapons in the main console game, for example.

Developers can also explore separate story lines, say of a minor character, in mobile versions. Or configure a football team on an iPad app that they can later use to play in the console game. The idea is to have players engage in the game wherever they happen to be.

“We want you to be able to play on any screen that’s nearest to you,” Guillemot said.

Of course, the “companion content” has to be appropriate for the device, he cautioned. It may not be ideal, for example, to be playing a full-featured console game on a cellphone.

6) FREE GAMES: Game publishers are increasingly enamored with so-called “freemium games” that give players a limited version of the game for free, but charge for extras.

For players, that can be both good and bad. The nice thing is that people can get a taste of a game before they decide to spend money on it. How many times have you paid $60 for a game, 0nly to discover that you hate it once you’ve had a chance to play it for 15 minutes?

The downside, of course, is that players can wind up spending a lot more than $60 over time — paying 99 cents for a power-up here, $2 for a weapon there, and so on. For some, the price tag can add up to hundreds of dollars. This is why Nintendo has refused to pursue this model, referring to it as a “gotcha” scheme for players.

That said, if players can exercise some self-restraint in clicking the in-game “buy” button, the good news is that there will be more choices available to players than ever before. (L.A Times)


ION Preps Weekly WWE Wrestling Show...

ION Television has teamed with WWE for a new weekly one-hour original series. WWE Main Event will debut October 3 and air on Wednesday nights at 8 PM. It will feature WWE stars from the rosters of Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown, including in-ring action and storylines.

The new show provides WWE with a show on a broadcast network for the first time since Friday Night SmackDown left MyNetworkTV in September 2010 and gives the wrestling federation weekly programs on Monday (Monday Night Raw on USA), Wednesday (WWE Main Event on ION) and Friday (Friday Night SmackDown on Syfy). “As a general entertainment network with a solid foundation, WWE Main Event is a great addition to our lineup that features something for everyone,” ION Media Networks CEO Brandon Burgess said.


Jobs purge at The Star casino...

The Star casino has shed up to 100 key management staff in the wake of the Sid Vaikunta scandal as it desperately seeks to rebuild its tattered reputation -- and there are threats of more to come.

Rocked by a string of lurid allegations, Echo Entertainment Group, which runs the casino, has shown at least 70 management staff the door in Sydney, along with a number of staff who perform various strategic roles across the gambling group also being made redundant. Former chief financial officer Murray McCall is the biggest head to roll in the mammoth shake-up.

Friends of Mr McCall, who was poached by The Star from New Zealand casino group SkyCity in 2009, said he was stunned by the decision, especially considering he took the reins of the casino as acting managing director following Mr Vaikunta's dismissal.

Mr Vaikunta was sacked on February 2 after allegations of sexual harassment made against him by two staff members. He denies the allegations.

It is understood The Star has reported Mr McCall's departure to the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

Tough rules governing the casino's licence mean the authority must be notified within two weeks if a "special employee" has their position terminated. "Since the departure of the former Managing Director (Mr Vaikunta), there is no suggestion The Star has not been fully compliant with notification requirements in relation to special employees ceasing to have functions," an ILGA spokesman said.

Other staff who have been let go include event manager Alexandra Bull, who had been with the casino since 1997, and events and tournaments manager, Darka de Vries.

Casino insiders have been told the cull, which began with six senior staff removed on the day the failed musical An Officer and a Gentleman premiered in May, has not finished.

One source said the redundancies have been carried out across the board: "No one is safe; whether you are in gaming or marketing, your head is on the chopping block."

The purge comes after months of bad publicity and declining profits at The Star. The casino has issued two profit warnings this month. Turnover for 2012 is expected to be as low as $270 million, down from $347 million in 2011.

Government relations manager Brad Schmitt, who confirmed the bloodletting, said the redundancies were part of a plan to streamline the business by removing the duplication of roles caused by the company's demerger from Tabcorp. He maintained the

redundancies were planned long before the profit warnings with "numbers built up for the relaunch of The Star and busy Christmas period".

He also denied suggestions his position was at risk as The Star looked to mend its fractured relationship with the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, telling The Sunday Telegraph he had just received a pay rise.

Mr O'Farrell's former chief advisor, Peter Grimshaw, was accused of running a personal vendetta against The Star. (The Daily Telegraph)


Russell Crowe to play Rupert Murdoch in film...

Russell Crowe is reportedly in line to play Rupert Murdoch in a film.

The 'Gladiator' star is tipped to take on the role of the media mogul in a movie based on 'Good Times, Bad Times', the memoirs of former Sunday Times editor Sir Harold Evans.

A source told the Daily Star newspaper: ''You have to be brave to play someone like Murdoch. Russell can do it.''

Colin Firth is believed to be up for the role as Harold, but no deals are yet in place.

Leon Lecash, creative director of what's it all about?, which is making the movie said: ''The film will be a drama, either for the big screen or television. It is very early days as the option deal with Harry was only just completed.

''No actors or even writers have been signed up yet.''

The film will focus on then-Prime Minister Lady Margaret Thatcher's dealings with the Australian tycoon.

Evidence is said to suggest she manipulated rules to facilitate the deal for Murdoch to buy The Times newspaper in 1981 in return for favourable publicity for her party.

Leon added to the Evening Standard newspaper: ''Murdoch went to Chequers to talk about the deal, which was never brought to the attention of the Monopolies Commission.

''Harry had suspicions that some intimate contacts were taking place between Murdoch and Thatcher, with late-night whisky drinking in Downing Street when Murdoch was let in by the back door. This type of stuff came to light recently when Sir Bernard Ingham's notes were released under the 30-year rule. Much of what Harry wrote about Murdoch when they fell out in 1983 is so prescient he has said he didn't know whether to laugh or cry.''


Casino Hires Robert De Niro as Celebrity Flack...

You talkin' to me?

A casino in South Korea hopes you'll be listening!

The Paradise Walker-Hill Casino in Seoul, South Korea, has announced that it has hired actor Robert De Niro to serve as a paid celebrity spokesman for the casino.

The casino, which is South Korea's oldest and is open to foreigners only--meaning no South Koreans are allowed in--is located in the Sheraton Walker-Hill Hotel, a luxury hotel in Seoul that is popular with tourists and foreign business people.

Large ads featuring De Niro plugging the casino have already begun appearing at Seoul's airport and other locations frequented by tourists.

In addition, the casino announced, television commercials with De Niro promoting the casino were filmed in New York City last month.

The TV spots will not air in the USA.

One of De Niro's most famous movie roles was in the film "Casino," in which he played Ace Rothstein, a character based on real-life mob associate and Stardust Casino executive Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal.

De Niro, like many other American celebrities, does not appear in any commercials or ads in the USA, but does appear in foreign advertising.

Several celebs in recent years, however, have flacked for casinos that advertised in the USA.

Among them are singer Kenny Rogers, whose hit song "The Gambler" permanently linked him to the pastime in the eyes of the American public.

For years, he has shilled for the Barona Casino, an Indian casino near San Diego.

And former professional wrestler and Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura served as a celebrity spokesman for Bet U.S., an online sportsbook and casino based in Costa Rica.

In addition, baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson once briefly served as a paid celeb shill for an online casino, until Major League Baseball told him to nix the deal or be banned from baseball. (www.gambling911.com)


Marvel Entertainment Movies: Amazing Spider-Man, Thor 2, The Avengers Et Al Boost Popularity Of Marvel Slot Games...

The Media Man agency reports that Marvel themed online slot games across the network, and featured at partner, PartyCasino.com , are boosting the popularity of the superhero themed online slot games. Bwin.Party currently offers The Incredible Hulk, Thor, The Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, with more expected to soon hit the popular gaming and entertainment website destination.

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