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Casual freemium games utilize a variety of game design techniques to encourage free-to-players to stick around and spend money. While many are gamey artifacts of the medium, there’s nothing more old-school and non-techy than good old . As the original form of entertainment, stories tap into a primal psychological way for human beings to relate to each other and to the world around them. In games, stories provide powerful motivation to keep playing, and therefore the greatest potential for creating long term stickiness and heartfelt virality. With freemium games, the absolutely most important monetization metric is new player retention. You can’t monetize a player who walks through the front door on day one and walks right out again.
Cloud-gaming service OnLive is announcing today that its top-tier online games will be available on new models of Vizio flat-screen televisions, allowing consumers to play high-end PC games on a TV with no additional hardware purchase. Vizio will also make the service available on other gadgets, including tablet computers, Blu-ray players and smartphones. If this kind of on-demand service takes off on the computer, OnLive could make a lot of headway in its plans to disrupt the console video game business, as it will eliminate the need to buy a console. OnLive and Vizio, the nation’s largest liquid-crystal display TV vendor, are making the announcement today at the Consumer Electronics Show, the big tech show in Las Vegas this week.
Most iPhone games don’t require a lot of cool new technology. They just need to be fun. But Fusion Creative Studios has come up with a unique technology stunt that gamers may find amusing: real-time weather.
With Christmas just a few days away, the hype of the holiday is at its peak. Social game developers are making the most of it with a tremendous influx of specially themed goods, décor, and game mechanics. From snowmen to Santa, the Christmas theme is showing itself to be far greater than Halloween and completely dwarfing the holidays from 2009 . From big to small, we take a look below at what Facebook games have done for the holiday.
When Nexon brought its free-to-play MapleStory online game to the U.S. in 2005, everyone shook their heads. Everybody was skeptical that American gamers would pay for virtual goods in online games, a business model that Nexon had pioneered in South Korea. But the skeptics have been proven wrong. Nexon announced today that more than a million players in the U.S. have purchased virtual items via microtransactions in the U.S. version of MapleStory. That’s roughly 14 percent of the total 7 million registered players of the game — a very healthy percentage for a free-to-play game. Years ago, no one had proven that users would bother to pay if they could get a lot of content for free.
Sibblingz , a startup that makes it easy to launch an app across different game platforms, is announcing today it can put social games inside Microsoft’s Bing search engine. The idea is a novel one and it fits with the notion that social games can be played anywhere that users are, whether that’s on Facebook, on the iPhone, or even while searching the internet. With the addition of Bing, Sibblingz becomes more attractive for developers.
Booyah has made a series of changes to its hit Facebook game Nightclub City, with the overall goal of letting users play more and create a wider variety of virtual clubs. The company is removing Energy, a game mechanic it added in late October that, similar to what you’ll see in games like FrontierVille and It Girl, made all activities cost either time or money. Once a player had used up their Energy for the day, they either had to buy more or wait to recoup their virtual strength. The game grew to a peak of more than 8.58 million monthly active users and 1.27 million daily actives by the middle of December, according to our AppData tracking service, but it has since fallen to 4.92 million MAU and 576,000 DAU. The decline happened before Energy was introduced, but the mechanic hasn’t helped boost traffic numbers. As social gamers play longer and longer sessions, we’re interested to see if more developers cut back on energy-type limitations.
The group-buying model that was pioneered by Groupon has entered the world of mobile gaming and apps. A few months ago Y Combinator-backed TapZilla launched to apply the deal of the day model to paid mobile apps. And today, mobile social gaming platform OpenFeint is joining in with the launch of Game Channel, a group-buying site for mobile gaming apps. Game Channel lets developers that build games off of the OpenFeint platform to promote their games with daily and weekly deals on games.
Pocket Gems has raised $5 million in funding from Sequoia Capital and other Silicon Valley luminaries as it competes in the crowded iPhone game market. The small San Francisco company has had five major hits on the iPhone, even though its founders were still in university when they launched their first game a year ago. The funding from venerable venture capital firm Sequoia is a testament to the rapid growth of the iPhone as a viable platform for making money with games. The funding also included Michael Dearing, an eBay veteran and associate professor at the Stanford University Institute of Design, Jeff Fluhr, co-founder and former chief executives of StubHub, and Omar Hamoui, founder of AdMob. Sequoia partner Jim Goetz will join Pocket Gems’ board.
Zynga ‘s CityVille has become the fastest-growing game in history. And based on an interview with a key Zynga executive, that isn’t an accident. The company has all but figured out how to turn its game launches into a science, and that helps them spread to increasingly large audiences on Facebook. The city simulation game has drawn in more than 26 million users since it debuted on Dec. 2. In just 12 days, the Facebook game has broken all previous records, adding 4.5 million users on Tuesday alone.
The ambitions of Rovio , the developer of Angry Birds, know no boundaries. The company’s wildly successful Angry Birds game has been downloaded more than 50 million times. But that’s not enough. The Helsinki-based company wants to make it easier to pay for its mobile apps. So it is launching a new mobile payment system that is in keeping with the theme of Angry Birds, where birds slingshot themselves at green pigs who have stolen the birds’ eggs.
Xfire went through a whole life cycle as a startup: launching a game business, getting acquired, and then getting shut down. Now the company has been acquired again and it is going to try to make a run as a betting service where you can challenge your friends in arcade-style games and win prizes. Today, the reborn Xfire (which was acquired earlier this year by Titan Gaming, which renamed itself Xfire ) is launching Xfire Arcade. Starting with just two games, users will be able to play each other and wager virtual currency.
Social game company MindJolt is expanding its reach to more than 110 million users through a partnership with Broadcast Interactive Media . The deal will give MindJolt the kind of reach it needs to attract better games and become a player in the social game market. MindJolt operates a social game platform for third-party game developers. Under the deal, MindJolt will distribute hundreds of games to the BIM network of 900 web sites, which reach 110 million unique visitors per month.
After more than 2.5 years in the making, Next Island is quietly launching its ambitious virtual world with a time travel theme. The brainchild of serial entrepreneur David Post, the new world is now available for people to visit and is getting a once-over from journalists. By January, Post will trumpet the site to consumers at large. The enterprise is a test of whether virtual worlds have a place in the modern landscape of gaming, where most of the excitement revolves around social games such as FarmVille, mobile games such as Angry Birds, or traditional console games and PC online titles such as World of Warcraft. A handful of virtual worlds that raised tens of millions of dollars have failed this year.
Zynga said today that it had its best social game launch ever with the debut of CityVille last week. In its first 24 hours, more than 290,000 people played the city-building simulation game on Facebook. That’s important to the company, which is the largest app publisher on Facebook, as it constantly needs to add new players in order to make up for those who stop playing its games. Past Zynga games that have had good launches have gone on to having tens of millions of users. Zynga’s previous biggest launch was FrontierVille, which had more than 116,000 players in its first day. Now, more than 6.5 million people play FrontierVille every day.