Casual Game News

The House of Mouse just got a whole lot smaller; Disney Interactive lays off 700

Mar 7, 2014

In the corporate world, even long-awaited good news doesn’t mean there isn’t bad news for some people in the organization.

That was the case for Disney Interactive, which despite turning a profit in the last quarter of 2013 on the strength of Disney Infinity nevertheless laid off 700 employees this week, or just over a quarter of its total workforce. Along with the job cuts, the division is closing several offices in the U.S., plus one each in South Korea and India.

As you might expect with such a drastic reduction in headcount, Disney Interactive will simply develop less games moving forward, relying on partnerships with outside studios instead. It also may avoid big ticket purchases, as many media reports are spinning the company’s latest move as a referendum on its 2010 acquisition of Playdom.

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Tiny Car is your next Flappy Bird-style obsession

Mar 7, 2014

Love it or hate it, Flappy Bird managed to touch something very primal in all of us. An urge to triumph over impossible odds; to conquer the unconquerable.

Since its removal from the App Store in January, plenty of “me too” games have flooded the App Store. Shameless clones, however, miss what make Flappy Bird great. We don’t want to play a cookie cutter knock off, we want the next Flappy Bird.

And I think I’ve just found it.

Like Flappy Bird (and Super Hexagon, and a zillion crazy-hard reaction games before it), Tiny Car is a game with a simple premise and immeasurably difficult gameplay. You’ll need to keep the titular tiny car on an ever-winding road, and your only control are left and right. Momentum will make those turns harder and harder to make, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll struggle to even break 10 points.

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OnLive rises from the ashes, but at what cost?

Mar 7, 2014

OnLive, the company that helped spearhead the concept of cloud-based gaming, is back. Alongside it is a new Executive Chairman in the form of Mark Jung – formerly of VUDU and IGN – and a host of new concepts to potentially breathe new life into the old service.

The group, which specializes in allowing players to stream PC games to nontraditional hardware over the internet, laid off all of its employees in August of 2012. A new company, also called OnLive, was started in its place, while all of its assets were sold cheaply to Lauder Partners for $4.8 million. CEO and founder Steve Perlman stepped down from his position and the service has been relatively quiet until now.

A press release sent by the company this week states their plans for a new subscription, called CloudLift. The service is meant to allow players to use supported games they already have installed on their PC across multiple platforms such as tablets, Macs, OnLive’s own streaming device and certain TVs.

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Apparently, any game supported by CloudLift should work despite where it was downloaded from, but purchasing a game from OnLive directly includes a seven day trial. The service normally comes at a cost of $15 a month.

That’s not included with the $10 a month “PlayPack” subscription, which provides access to streaming-only games from the OnLive library.

 

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Outernauts for mobile is not Outernauts

Mar 6, 2014

Outernauts was brilliant. We said as much when it launched back in 2012, and I stand by every single word of praise we’ve heaped upon it. It’s arguably the best Facebook game I’ve played (though Marvel: Avengers Alliance could probably argue just as strongly for that title), and unlike many of you reading this, I’ve played a lot.

Outernauts was Insomniac Games’ first foray into casual gaming, and it proved not only to be a great free-to-play Pokemon clone, but the first Pokemon clone that I found myself enjoying on par with the real thing. And don’t just take my word for it – YouTube’s leading Pokemaniac TheJWittz wrote the Gamezebo review of Outernauts and gave it a perfect score.

They shut the web-based game down earlier this year to focus on a mobile-only relaunch. As a fan of the original, I was more than a little excited.

That excitement was misplaced. 

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Twitch: Soon broadcasting from a mobile phone near you

Mar 6, 2014

The future of mobile gameplay may be broadcasted and recorded, if Twitch has its way.  Today, Twitch announced it is releasing a mobile SDK to enable the live broadcasting, video capture, and archiving of play in mobile games.

So what?  Startups Everyplay and Kamkord have been doing this for years.  The big deal is that Twitch is so ginormous that I’m using the term ginormous instead of big.

How ginormous?  Twitch attracts 45 million viewers per month.  That’s bigger than Hulu.  It’s mobile app has been downloaded 10 million times, with an equal amount between iOS and Android.  It’s game streaming and broadcast service has created the genre of Let’s Play videos on the PC, taken esports mainstream, and made League of Legends a household name. A recent Pokemon game on Twitch attracted hundreds of thousands of players.  

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And now Twitch is coming to the mobile phone.

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WhatsApp with games and chat?

Mar 6, 2014

Now that a week has passed since Facebook bought WhatsApp for $18 billion, it’s time for our obligatory post about it.

Just to get it out of the way, I have no clue why Facebook bought WhatsApp for this amount.  My guess is that Facebook’s social network is dying (especially among teens) but its ad platform is revolutionary.  Buying WhatsApp and its 450 million global users enables Facebook to remain on top for mobile and ads, though given WhatsApp owns no real data on its users, that’s in theory.  Mark Zuckerberg is far smarter and more successful than I, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

What does WhatsApp have to do with games?  Absolutely nothing.  But, messaging and chat could be the next big thing in games, Facebook and WhatsApp notwithstanding.

WhatsApp really has nothing to do with games.  Just look at the famous handwritten note between WhatsApp founders. 

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WhatsApp has no interest in games, and the founders believe that this is partly the secret to their success.  Given they just sold their company for $18 billion, they could be right.



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OUYA's next phase: 'It's ready to be embedded in other people's devices'

Mar 6, 2014

In a blow to the hopes of people who champion the cause of microconsoles, the OUYA hasn’t exactly taken the gaming world by storm since its launch. The Android-based box became a Kickstarter sensation, but some PR missteps hurt its public perception, (though Gamezebo is still pretty smitten with how things turned out).

Ah, but what if OUYA wasn’t just a game machine, but a platform in and of itself? That surprising revelation came from an interview OUYA CEO Julie Uhrman recently gave to [a]listdaily, flat out telling people to look for OUYA on other devices.

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Here’s the money quote:

“We started with a $99 box, but we always wanted to create a console platform that can live on other people's devices. We just knew it was going to take us a little bit of time to get it ready. Now we think the software is good enough, it's ready to be embedded in other people's devices.”

 

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BlackSoul backpedals its way into Steam Early Access (and that’s worrisome)

Mar 5, 2014

PC

BlackSoul: Extended Edition is available on Steam. At first it was labeled as a complete game, but now it’s made the jump – retroactively – to Early Access. What happened?

 According to the developer, as well as the Steam community, the game was released in a rather dire state.

The developer stated in an email that “we are receiving a lot of feedback and we found the game still need some more work to make it more enjoyable, so our decision is to keep supporting it with further updates...”

The email was apparently sent to multiple publications that received review codes for the game. It goes on to say the game “might also switch to Early Access,” although it seems they chose to do so rather quickly, as the game is now listed as such on Steam.

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The Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood Mac Bundle

Mar 5, 2014

Mac

Assassin’s Creed fans with Mac love in your hearts, rejoice! The first two chapters in the saga of Ezio Auditore da Firenze – aka everybody’s favorite 16th century assassin – can be grabbed together in the latest Gamezebo Deals bundle for just $14.99.

Both games, Assassin’s Creed II and Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, are included in their “Deluxe Edition” format, which means more maps, more characters – more everything. You’ll even get the complete movie Assassin’s Creed Lineage.

What are you? A Templar? Quit stalling and click “buy” already!

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Is Xbox Live about to make a big push towards iOS and Android integration?

Mar 5, 2014

Until Sauron devises the One Service to connect all mobile games, we’ve had to make do with a patchwork quilt of systems to serve up achievements, leaderboards, friend notifications and the like. There’s GameCenter for iOS, Google Play Games for Android, and products like OpenKit attempting to cover all the bases.

But a familiar face with plenty of resources at its disposal might be entering the fray. Sources have told The Verge that Microsoft is looking to expand Xbox Live to offer mobile games some of the same features the service has provided to console games, even going so far as to create job posts looking for developers to aid in the initiative.

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