Casual Game News

Mobile exclusives are the next big thing, says WSJ

Apr 21, 2014

When he’s right, he’s right. Back in January, Gamezebo founder Joel Brodie made a bold prediction: Apple and Google would start pushing companies for exclusives on mobile games, in the same way that Microsoft and Sony do in the console space. This weekend, the Wall Street Journal released a feature that suggests Joel’s assumption is now well underway.

“The two Silicon Valley giants have been wooing game developers to ensure that top-tier game titles arrive first on devices powered by their respective operating system,” WSJ reports, citing sources close to the situation.

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When you have only two big players, though, I suppose a situation like this is an inevitability. Especially when both seem equally matched in appeal for developers. Apple might be less effected by piracy, and developers may see more success with paid games as a result, but the install base of Android dwarfs what Apple is doing on a global scale. If you’re not sure who to develop for first, being courted by either Google or Apple for an exclusive might make that decision a whole lot easier.

"When people love a game, and it's not available on an alternate platform, they'll change platforms," Kogregate’s Emily Greer told WSJ. "The level of attachment a person has to a game can exceed almost anything."

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This Week in China: Candy Crushing the Great Wall

Apr 18, 2014

Back in October I had a chance to visit King’s studio in Stockholm. I was mainly there to check out an upcoming game and absorb the culture, but as is often the case when talking with mobile-minded developers, the conversation eventually moved to Asia: the great white whale of gaming markets. How do you break into it? And how do you get to be #1?

This week King answered that question, at least as far as China is concerned – and based on my chats with the team, the move they’ve made isn’t the least bit surprising (and really, it’s the one any developer looking for success in the Asian market should consider). But what was it? Read on to find out!

As always, thanks to our pals at Laohu.com for providing Gamezebo readers with a roundup of the biggest gaming news to hit China each week.

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An Indie Within an Indie: Woah Dave! Is Gaijin Games next Hit

Apr 18, 2014

Here’s some good news for all the up and coming game designers out there: in case being part of an indie studio isn’t enough creative freedom for you, there’s always the option of being an indie within an indie.

That unique set-up was what Jason Cirillo explained to me as people played his upcoming game Woah Dave! on two stations at the Gaijin Games booth at PAX East. Though he modestly deflects talk of being a solo act, Cirillo is for all intents and purposes the lone member of Robotube Games, a company he started in 2006 that now operates as a sub-label of Gaijin.

“I develop games myself inside of Gaijin as sort of a skunk works or experimental lab,” Cirillo said. “Gaijin is working on bigger projects now which are unannounced, so these are smaller games to kind of fill in the gaps.”

Woah Dave! looks every bit the kind of game that reflects the individual tastes of its creator. It’s a platformer with simple but frantic action that has players chasing high scores by trying to stay alive as long as possible, avoiding aliens and attempting to “pick stuff up and throw it.”

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By Trekkies, for Trekkies: Star Trek Timelines Is in Good Hands

Apr 17, 2014

Star Trek fans are among the most loyal and passionate in the entire spectrum of pop culture aficionados. That makes it all the more shameful that they’ve had their hearts broken by video game adaptations numerous times over the years.

A fan of the property himself, Disruptor Beam CEO Jon Radoff knows that it hasn’t always received the most love and care from game designers.

“Too many games have been made where they take some existing title, re-skin it, add a little Star Trek dust on top to make it look like Star Trek, and they ship it,” Radoff said to Gamezebo at PAX East. “Frankly, I think fans rightfully have some cynicism about these poor licensed products.”

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Awareness of that state of affairs is front and center in Radoff’s mind as his company gets set to boldly go into full scale development of its next game, Star Trek Timelines. The Boston-area studio announced the project recently and has revealed some of the initial details.

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Bridge Constructor gets medieval on May 1st

Apr 17, 2014

Remember how you were nursing a serious Bridge Constructor addiction a few weeks back? Don’t be ashamed – we all were. And if today’s announcement is any indication, you should ready yourself for a relapse: Bridge Constructor Medieval will be available on iOS and Android on May 1st.

Travelling back to the days of yore, amateur bridge builders will need to use their old skills in some new ways. The Middle Ages were rife with war, and as such you’ll need to build bridges sturdy enough to withstand cannon fire and get your troops across, but also weak enough to collapse under the weight of enemy troops, sending them spilling to their deaths below. We’re not quite sure how the yin/yang of bridge design can balance such contrasting goals, but we’re excited to find out.

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New materials, new challenges, and familiar gameplay await ye olde gamers brave enough to take the plunge. Keep an eye out for Bridge Constructor Medieval when it hits your favorite mobile marketplace on May Day.

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CandySwipe and Candy Crush makers settle trademark differences

Apr 16, 2014

Here’s something I bet you weren’t expecting: Albert Ransom’s trademark troubles are officially a thing of the past.

Ransom, whose company Runsome Apps created CandySwipe, has been fighting King’s Candy Crush Saga trademark since long before “candygate” became a buzzword. And when King applied for the US trademark on the word CANDY, Ransom swore he’d fight that too.

King fired a returning shot by purchasing the trademark rights to Candy Crusher, a 2004 game, and using those older rights to try and have Ransom’s mark on CandySwipe revoked.

In a word, things were getting ugly.

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But as of today, that ugliness is a thing of the past. Ransom has informed Gamezebo that he and King have “amicably resolved” their dispute. He has withdrawn his opposition against the Candy Crush Saga mark, and in turn King has withdrawn their counterclaim against CandySwipe. “Both our games can continue to coexist without confusing players,” reads an official statement on candyswipe.com.

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Drinkbox Studios' Severed: A little bit Kill Bill, a little bit Fruit Ninja

Apr 14, 2014

The previous game from Drinkbox Studios, Guacamelee! was a wonderful send up of the Metroidvania genre that’s colorful in more ways than one. Its bright Day of the Dead/luchador aesthetic was a cheerful celebration of Mexican culture, while its story and characters were frenetic and entertaining without becoming cloying or clichéd.

Severed looks similarly Central American, but a whole lot more serious. Guacamelee! had its sullen side, but Severed sounds like a tale of revenge. Our warrior protagonist has lost her arm (and possibly more, if I’m interpreting the above trailer correctly) and seeks retribution against supernatural forces.

So far it’s only been announced for mobile platforms, but the devs haven’t ruled out the possibility of bringing Severed to touchsreen devices like Vita, 3DS and even the Wii U. Considering the company’s history with Sony, at least one of those is probably a safe bet.

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UFHO2 dev: Valve doesn't want my game, so torrent it

Apr 14, 2014

Ciro Continisio of Tiny Colossus took to Reddit over the weekend in order to promote his strategy game UFHO2. After nearly two years stagnating on Steam Greenlight, and measly sales through Desura and Humble, Continisio has resigned himself to the fact that "nobody is going to buy it unless it's on Steam" and released a UFHO2 torrent onto The Pirate Bay. The release of the torrent came a little over a week after UFHO2 was released onto the iTunes Appstore where it's available for $3.99.

UFHO2, which stands for Unidentified Flying Hexagonal Object, was posted to Steam Greenlight in August of 2012. Six months prior the game managed to pull in over $10,000 through a successful Kickstarter campaign. However, it is worth noting that about half of those earnings came from just around 10% of the backers. 

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The game is a sequel to the 2007 game, UFHO, also developed by Continisio, which was available to play for free online. The servers for UFHO have since been shut down and the game is no longer playable. 

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Butterscotch Shenanigans and the Art of Speedcrafting

Apr 14, 2014

Butterscotch Shenanigans first appeared on my radar thanks to Gerblins, a cute little puzzle game that was both simple to play and shot through with personality. I liked it quite a bit, but as fun as it was, it didn't inspire me to think of the Butterscotch boys as a potential force in the field of mobile game development. That didn't happen until the March 2013 release of Towelfight 2: The Monocle of Destiny, a game I literally did not stop playing until May of that year, when Quadropus Rampage turned up and sent me on a quest to destroy Pete, the Mad God of the Sea. I'm still playing that one.

I don't want to say that Sam and Seth Coster are a strange pair, but the games they create do make me wonder what's in the water they drink and where I can get some. And now they're in the midst of an even more unusual project: "Speedcrafting," a sort of weekly game jam in which they give themselves ten hours to develop a small but complete game – a "Butterscotch Mini" – from start to finish.

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"Our current plan for production is eight Minis, one every Monday, though that’s only to give us something to shoot toward should things get difficult. It’s much easier to motivate yourself to do another one if there’s an end in sight," Sam Coster recently explained. "However, they’ve been so useful (and fun to make) that we expect we’ll be doing these until our blood runs cold."

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BREAKFINITY's monetization is brilliant

Apr 14, 2014

When developing a free-to-play game, there’s one question every developer faces: how is it going to make money? In-app purchases are one way to go. Ad revenue is another. In many cases, you’ll see a mix of both. Phil Hassey’s BREAKFINITY is no exception – but it’s the way he balances the two that makes it so compelling.

BREAKFINITY is what would happen if Breakout or Arkanoid were an endless runner. Players will clear just enough blocks to see their ball move up to the next stage in a never-ending quest for points. You’ll only get one ball, but – and here’s where things get interesting – you can buy more with premium currency OR get a free ball by watching a video advertisement. You can get two free balls every game in this manner, but since it caps out at two there’s still a sense of competition. Your high score is going to be based on those combined three balls alone, not upsetting the leaderboards (unless you want to buy more with premium currency, of course).

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Plenty of other games provide incentives for watching video advertisements, but the reward usually comes in the form of premium currency, and it’s often balanced in a way that prevents you from exploiting the system and raising an infinite amount of in-game cash by watching an afternoon of commercials. BREAKFINITY goes in the opposite direction – watching a quick 15 second video is BREAKFINITY’s answer to “insert coin to continue.” The more you play, the more ad dollars Phil Hassey gets. It’s a win/win.

But is it working?

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