Games

Chris Nuttall

John Riccitiello made a final public appearance as chief executive of Electronic Arts at the unveiling of Battlefield 4 at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week.

He steps down on Saturday, resigning, according to the official account, over the company missing its numbers for the current fiscal year ending March 31.

The poor performance of another first-person shooter, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, last autumn contributed to this, but Mr Riccitiello’s green-lighting of Battlefield 4 could give his successor an easier ride this coming year. Read more

Chris Nuttall

King.com’s rebranding of itself this week as just King is hardly innovative, but it does sum up the publisher’s current position in casual games.

Its Candy Crush Saga is the most popular game on Facebook by daily active users – with 14m players, according to Appdata – while also being the top-grossing app on iTunes and the top free app on Google Play. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Angry Birds developer Rovio has already become the first app maker to successfully transfer its brand from digital to physical, with all sorts of merchandising and toys.

Now the Finnish company is making its most ambitious play yet to become – in its words – a “fully fledged entertainment powerhouse” with the launch of a weekly cartoon series this weekend. Read more

A web games company is about to test the appetite for Chinese floats in the US in one of the first such deals since the accounting scandals that rocked many Chinese companies in 2011.

7Road.com is the games subsidiary of Changyou.com, a Chinese online game developer that in turn is majority-owned by Nasdaq-listed Sohu.com.

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Sony teased gamers with details of its next-generation PlayStation 4, expected to launch around Christmas, at an event in New York this week. But with no console to be seen, promises of improved graphics and social gaming features did not appease the concerns of those who worry that the group could be close to losing its last chance at a comeback. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Wooga, the social games developer behind Diamond Dash and Monster World, said it was profitable last year, but indicated that it had no immediate plans to follow rival Zynga onto the public markets.

“We were profitable for the year 2012,” said Jens Begemann, Wooga’s founder and chief executive at a press briefing in San Francisco where he also unveiled four new gamesRead more

Paul Taylor

The speculation will soon be over. After months of waiting, Sony is set to announce details of its next generation PlayStation 4 at an event in New York on Wednesday evening, setting the stage for the next round of the console wars.

The company is likely to emphasise the wrap-around software and overall “consumer experience”, rather than the “speeds and feeds” of the hardware itself – though these will no doubt be impressive. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Even another record-breaking Call of Duty could not rescue the US video game industry from a twelfth consecutive month of declining software sales in November, according to the latest official figures from the NPD research firm.

But the “packaged goods” disc sales are only a part of the picture, now that we have digital and social and mobile games to take into account. Judging by announcements from Facebook and DeNA this week, hard-core gamers seem just as likely nowadays to be competing in these new gaming territories. Read more

Wii Console

Nintendo Wii U
Rating: 4/5

Nintendo has launched the next generation of home video consoles with the debut of the Wii U in the US, and European and Japanese launches to follow on November 30 and December 8. The unique GamePad controller is earning plaudits, but network problems and content delays are a concern.

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Chris Nuttall

In a week of big numbers for a previously slumping video game industry, Activision has come up with the biggest one of all – $500m in sales of Call of Duty: Black Ops II in its first 24 hours.

On Monday, Microsoft announced $220m in first-day sales for Halo 4 and then revealed, on the 10th anniversary of Xbox Live on Thursday, that a record 442m hours were played on it last week. Meanwhile, Sony announced sales of the PlayStation 3 had passed 70m and Nintendo expects the Wii U to sell out when it goes on sale in the US this weekend. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Zynga has announced a management reshuffle following another significant departure from its executive ranks.

The leading social gaming company said Dave Wehner, its chief financial officer, had resigned and was joining Facebook. The company lost John Schappert, its chief operating officer, and Jeff Karp, chief marketing officer, in recent months, among a string of executive departures as Zynga reported disappointing earnings and its share price plummeted. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Zynga has acquired the Silicon Valley game developer A Bit Lucky as it tries to attract players more eager to spend money on its social games.

Rivals such as Kixeye have been monetising at much better rates than Zynga by making games that appeal to hard-core gamers. Zynga has focused on casual players to date, but it described its acquisition as a “mid-core” (whatever that means!), “multi-platform games developer”. No financial details were released, but Zynga described the deal as “small”. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Two more executives have left Zynga, the leading social gaming company whose stock has lost 70 per cent of its value since going public in December.

There has been a string of departures this month after the San Francisco-based company issued disappointing quarterly results and its stock price continued to slide. The latest to leave are vice presidents Bill Mooney and Brian Birtwistle. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Steve Perlman (pictured left), founder and chief executive of OnLive, has left the groundbreaking cloud gaming company following its restructuring this month.

While Mr Perlman was “departing to work on his myriad of other projects”, according to a company statement, OnLive had been the entrepreneur’s main focus for at least the last three years. Read more

Maija Palmer

It has not been a great week for Sony employees, as the Japanese consumer electronics group carries out some late-summer pruning on its businesses. Around 1,000 people at Sony Mobile’s operations are to be let go, with two-thirds of the redundancies falling in Lund, Sweden,  as the headquarters of the mobile phone unit moves to Japan.

This was widely expected after Sony bought out Ericsson from their Sony Ericsson joint venture last year. In April this year, Sony had announced plans to cut 10,000 jobs globally. About half of these would come from the sale and spin-off of two subsidiaries, but detail about the rest is just starting to trickle through. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Zynga has announced the resignation of John Schappert, its Chief Operating Officer (pictured left as his Zynga character), in a sign that the social gaming company is wrestling to recover from its poor financial performance.

Mr Schappert quit on Wednesday, with the company stating in an SEC filing that his resignation was not because of any disagreement over Zynga’s operations, policies or practices. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Electronic Arts says subscriptions for its Star Wars: The Old Republic game have slipped below 1m, forcing it to “pivot” to a free-to-play option for the much vaunted franchise.

Launched in December, Star Wars was supposed to try to supplant Activision’s World of Warcraft (WoW) online role-playing game, but its subscribers now amount to less than 10 per cent of the 10.2m users paying for that world-leading title. Read more

Chris Nuttall

A major investor in Gaikai, the cloud gaming service bought by Sony for $380m last week, has said the console maker could do something revolutionary with its acquisition that would transcend its hardware business.

“I think [Gaikai] will really show its true promise in the hands of Sony,” Mitch Lasky, general partner at the Benchmark Capital VC firm (pictured left), told the GamesBeat 2012 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. “My hope is that we are going to see ‘PlayStation as a Service’,” he said. Read more

Chris Nuttall

At a time when the future of game consoles has never looked less rosy, along comes Ouya, another box for under the TV set with the backing of none of the major publishers.

Unpromising? Certainly. But the price ($99), the design (Yves Behar coolness) and the concept (an open platform for every type of free-to-play game out there) could give the startup a fighting chance of success with consumers. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Persuading players to pay real money for virtual goods represents the biggest challenge for developers and publishers pursuing the “freemium” business model in social gaming.

But introducing real-money gambling would improve the odds dramatically of building a viable business and be a real game-changer for the industry, according to Betable, a real-money gaming platform emerging from stealth mode today with the backing of some of Silicon Valley’s best-known investors. Read more