Zynga’s 2012 Outlook: Traffic, Paying Users, Bookings Are Headed Up |

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Zynga’s first earnings release today makes the social game developer’s business look notably stronger than it had when the company went public in December. Its traffic, paying user base, and projected bookings are all headed into positive territory, whereas these numbers had been flat or falling towards the end of last year.

Bookings, the short-term measure of when the company sells a virtual good or other item, were already up last quarter. But Zynga says in the release that more growth is on the way — a year-over-year increase of between 16% and 25% in 2012, to between $ 1.35 billion and $ 1.45 billion. “We expect that growth will be weighted towards the back-half of the year with slower sequential growth in the first half of the year,” according to the release, although the reasoning isn’t explained.

That’s a bit surprising considering that the company has invested heavily in launching and marketing a string of new titles over the last four months or so — these games should be driving bookings up now, not in half a year. Maybe Zynga knows something about what’s happening on Facebook, Apple’s iTunes App Store and its other platforms, that it’s not talking about? Or maybe it is planning something else that’ll make a big positive difference, like the launch of its long-rumored standalone gaming portal?

[Update: Zynga executives said on the call today that, generally, they see older games make more money over times as serious users get more committed — that is, spending more. Also, like I guessed, they hinted that the “Project Z” platform is still in the works, and will be launching at some point.]

Even if the first and second quarters of this year aren’t as exciting, investors should still look for bookings increases when the numbers come out for those quarters. Zynga says that its paying users grew from 2.6 million to 2.9 million over the fourth quarter, which is part of a long-term trend in the industry — everyone is gradually figuring out how to lure more users to pay, even though only a fraction of them currently do. For Zynga, the growth in paying users was no doubt aided by its launches and traffic growth during the quarter — as I noted earlier today, the company has managed to increase its daily active user count significantly in recent months. As of the end of 2011 it was up from 48 million a year ago to 54 million. As of today, it’s past 58 million, according to AppData. Daily active usage tends to correlate with paying users, because the more often you’re playing a game the more often you’re going to want to pay.

[Top photo via VentureBeat.]


Zynga Accused Of Ripping Off Another Competitor’s Game –

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Last week, the developers at NimbleBit (makers of iOS Game of the Year, Tiny Tower) accused Zynga of copying them with its new game, Dream Heights. Now, it’s happening again. This time, the accusation comes from Buffalo Studios, which says that the gaming giant copied its flagship title Bingo Blitz with its launch of Zynga Bingo.

The news, reported first by VentureBeat, involves accusations from Buffalo Studios that Zynga’s newest title involves “striking similarities” in terms of its graphics, layout and game play with its own Bingo Blitz. The company also released an infographic which (sarcastically) began: ”Hello Zynga. We are moved that your new game was so inspired by our innovative product, BINGO Blitz…,” before continuing on with a serious of screenshots showing examples of the similarities in question.

However, unlike the situation with NimbleBit, it doesn’t appear that Zynga first attempted to acquire Buffalo Studios prior to the launch of the new title.

Bingo Blitz claims to have over one million daily active users, according to the infographic, and has been “liked” nearly 2.5 million times.

While it’s notable that the high-profile Zynga is the company being targeted here in terms of stealing its “inspiration,” (especially since Zynga itself once targeted its own copycats via lawsuits), game developers ripping off each others’ work seems to be the new normal for the industry. Lawyers, start your engines. If a company as large as Zynga is playing dirty, there’s bound to be lawsuits aplenty ahead.

Image credit: Buffalo Studios, via VentureBeat


Wii U have confirmed that there will be 23 games available on launch day, November 18th |

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The official press release from Nintendo:

Nintendo is unleashing the largest launch-day video game lineup in its history for its new Wii U™ home console. When Wii U launches in the Americas on Nov. 18, 23 games from Nintendo and its third-party publishing partners will be ready to play as well. These include Nintendo-published games like Nintendo Land™, New Super Mario Bros.™ U, SiNG PARTY™ and NINJA GAIDEN™ 3: Razor’s Edge, as well as third-party powerhouses likeZombiU™ from Ubisoft, Call of Duty®: Black Ops II from Activision Publishing, Inc., Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two from Disney Interactive, EA SPORTS™ FIFA Soccer 13 from Electronic Arts and Scribblenauts™ Unlimited from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

“We’re making sure that Wii U owners will have great games to play from the moment they open the box, and that a steady stream of fun new games is always on the way,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America’s president and COO. “We have something for everyone, from new franchises to creative new approaches to familiar favorites.”

The high-definition Wii U system is available in two versions in the Americas, and each comes with a touch-screen Wii U GamePad controller. The Basic Set will be offered in white at a suggested retail price of $299.99 in the United States, while the Deluxe Set, which includes higher storage capacity, additional accessories and Nintendo Land, will be offered in black at a suggested retail price of $349.99 in the United States.

Wii U owners who connect their systems to the Internet also unlock a vast array of features to enhance their gaming, social and entertainment experiences. This includes features such as Nintendo eShop, which allows users to buy and download games directly to their systems, and Miiverse™, an online gaming community that lets players interact in new ways and share playing tips. Wii U owners in the United States and Canada will also have access to Nintendo TVii, which lets users access multiple sources of entertainment through a convenient GamePad interface.

Below is a list of upcoming Wii U games for launch day and beyond.

505 Games
Funky Barn – Launch Window*

2K Sports
NBA 2K13 – Launch Window

Activision Publishing, Inc.
Call of Duty®: Black Ops II – Nov. 18
Skylanders Giants™ – Nov. 18
TRANSFORMERS PRIME™ – Nov. 18
Wipeout 3 – Nov. 18
007™ Legends – Launch Window
Cabela’s® Dangerous Hunts 2013 – Launch Window
Rapala® Pro Bass Fishing – Launch Window

Broken Rules
Chasing Aurora – November

Pwnee Studios
Cloudberry Kingdom – November

D3Publisher
Rise of the Guardians: The Video Game – Launch Window
Ben 10 Omniverse™ – Launch Window
Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade – Launch Window

Disney Interactive
Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two – Nov. 18

Electronic Arts
EA SPORTS™ FIFA Soccer 13 – Nov. 18
Madden NFL 13 – November
Mass Effect™ 3 – Launch Window

Frozenbyte
Trine 2™: Director’s Cut – November

Gaijin Games
Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien – January

WayForward
Mighty Switch Force HD – November

NAMCO BANDAI Games America Inc.
TEKKEN TAG TOURNAMENT™ 2 Wii U Edition – Nov. 18
TANK! TANK! TANK!™ – November

Nintendo
New Super Mario Bros. U – Nov. 18
NINJA GAIDEN 3: Razor’s Edge – Nov. 18
Nintendo Land – Nov. 18
SiNG PARTY – Nov. 18
Game & Wario™ – Launch Window
LEGO® City: Undercover – Launch Window
Pikmin™ 3 – Launch Window
Wii Fit™ U – Launch Window
The Wonderful 101™ – Launch Window

SEGA
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed™ – Nov. 18
Aliens: Colonial Marines™ – Launch Window

Shin’en
Nano Assault Neo – November

Tecmo Koei America Corporation
WARRIORS OROCHI® 3 Hyper – Nov. 18

THQ
Darksiders® II – Nov. 18
JEOPARDY! ® – Launch Window
Wheel of Fortune® – Launch Window

Tomorrow Corporation
Little Inferno – November

Two Tribes
Toki Tori 2 – November

Ubisoft
Assassin’s Creed® III – Nov. 18
ESPN Sports Connection™ – Nov. 18
Just Dance® 4 – Nov. 18
Rabbids® Land – Nov. 18
Your Shape®: Fitness Evolved 2013 – Nov. 18
ZombiU™ – Nov. 18
Marvel Avengers™: Battle for Earth – Launch Window
Rayman Legends® – Launch Window

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Scribblenauts™ Unlimited – Nov. 18
Game Party Champions – Nov. 18
Batman: Arkham City™ Armored Edition – Nov. 18

* Launch window is defined as the period beginning Nov. 18, 2012, and ending March 31, 2013.


Wikia Rolls Out Big Redesign To Bring Accessibility, Discovery To 20M Pages Of UGC |

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You may not be familiar with Wikia, but the collaborative media company has been quietly growing into a giant, recently passing IGN, for example, as the largest network of gaming sites on the planet. Led by both its gaming and entertainment verticals, Wikia’s content-driven social network is home to one of the largest and most active communities on the Web. For those unfamiliar, building on the popularity of its non-profit predecessor (Wikipedia), the site allows anyone (even you) to create new communities around any subject they’re passionate about — or participate in one of its 200K existing communities — for free.

Wikia now boasts 20 million pages of user generated content, all of which are viewed by 50 million-plus global visitors each month. So, really, if you’ve come across any wiki outside the confines of Wikipedia — be it an article, a video, a review, or a demo — it’s likely that sucker was created by a Wikia user. The open, collaborative nature of Wikia’s content production, minus the hierarchy of a traditional media platform, has proven surprisingly successful in and of itself. Thanks to a simple ad-supported rev model, Wikia CEO Craig Palmer says that the company has managed to remain “profitable for years.”

However, as publishing models change, Wikia is looking to more strategically marry the world of professional content creation with the open, free-for-all of UGC, without fundamentally changing or restricting the formula that got it here. As its communities have been largely disaggregated and separate from one another, Wikia is today officially unveiling its biggest redesign in years, which aims to collect its communities under one, sleek-looking roof while improving both engagement and discovery for a more mainstream audience (i.e. new users).

To do so, the company has launched new category “hub pages” that will curate the site’s content into entertainment, gaming, and lifestyle verticals, which makes it significantly easier for users to interact with pages according to preference and to discover new, previously obscured Wikia content. It’s also a move aimed at more effectively piquing the interest of advertisers, which will be able to expand their footprint beyond individual articles to category verticals and the front page — both of which, as the site’s new entry points, will be likely be seeing increased, and more targeted traffic. After all, Wikia is a for-profit enterprise, and advertisers keep the wheels spinning.

All in all, the site’s new look is far more professional in the way its visually representing its UGC, giving its portals an editorial, magazine-like interface — a change that may seem drastic to core users, but will be far more familiar in terms of navigation and browsing for first-timers.

The content Wikia will be surfacing on its front page and in each hub will continue to be fueled by the community, through promoted submissions and by way of popularity as measured by the amount of traffic. On top of that, probably the coolest feature of the redesign would be its new remix function, which allows users to shuffle top content with the click of a button, introducing new wikis to browse, etc. (not unlike Wikipedia’s “random page” option).

The new home and hub pages now display current wiki stats, not only making it easier to find out how many people are visiting per month, or the number of edits made on the given day, but to discover trending content, including top picks, popular videos, etc.

Without a doubt, Wikia’s new design has created a much softer landing for new visitors, and it will be up to the hardcore users to determine whether or not their voices still jive under the new paradigm. The Wikia CEO tells us that he thinks that the site’s new verticals and filtering, in fact, offer a more effective way to make individual voices heard. And that’s really what has made Wikia great, as diving into the depths of communities and individual pages feels makes one feel as if they’re visiting a meeting of fellow gamers in their basement.

Palmer believes that Wikia’s current trajectory places it in a comparable position to early YouTube. That is to say, the site has a presence, but it really hasn’t established itself as a brand, nor has it created that bullhorn mechanism on behalf of its community. Wikia is sitting on this pandemonium of unique voices, and the CEO thinks that it has become imperative to showcase and share the work of those active, and loyal community members. In the long run, Wikia is looking to find ways to bring these users increased exposure, and a more meaningful voice.

In the same way bloggers and YouTube’s videographers have turned passions into careers, Palmer said that the company is set on finding the most effective way to do that for its users. If that means taking a cue from YouTube and creating channels, or offering some sort of hybrid profile, Wikia will likely consider it. But, in the meantime, an aggregated, hub-centered redesign is a good start.

Certainly, the other side of creating a more refined editorial ecosystem is intended to strengthen the site’s appeal to brands and advertisers. With its redesign in place, Wikia will look to expand these relationships, bringing in pre-release content from movie or game studios, for example, to build early, organic excitement for a new title, or increase its reach post-release.

In sum, it provides a telling snapshot of Wikia’s evolution, and it will be interesting to see how the company walks the line between niche and mainstream, and professional content and good, old-fashioned UGC.

For more, check out the new Wikia at home here.


YC-Backed Flypad Wants To Turn Your iPhone Into A Steering Wheel |

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Smartphones have a lot of cool technology built in, from high-res touchscreens to gestural command features, like shaking, rocking, or rolling, and motion sensing via accelerometers. Just as mobile computing is revolutionizing the way we communicate and interact with the world, unsurprisingly smartphone technology is also having its way with gaming.

Since we’re rarely without our mobile devices today, mobile gaming (especially social-mobile) is becoming increasingly popular — but thanks to the wizardry of smartphone tech — a number of intrepid souls are turning back to explore the interactive possibilities between our mobile devices and our hardware — our desktops, etc. The most entertaining example of which would be the ability to transform our smartphones into game controllers.

Joypad, for instance, is transforming iPhones into game controllers for iPads, Macs, and PCs by syncing them over BlueTooth or Wi-Fi, just as Brass Monkey is doing for browser-based games.

Today, a member of the current batch of Y Combinator startups called Flypad joins the group of entrepreneurs looking to game-ify smartphones, albeit with a more specific focus. Flypad transforms the iPhone into a steering wheel for PC racing games, allowing gamers to steer their vehicles of choice in games like Need For Speed: The Run — with their iPhones.

Initially, the team was on a similar trajectory to that of Brass Monkey, in that it offered support for Android and iOS that, through apps and Wi-Fi, linked smartphones to browser-based Flash games. However, the team found that browser-based games attracted a more casual gaming audience that didn’t care quite as much about peripherals (devices connected to a host computer) as more hardcore gamers playing PC racing games. To that point, the newest version of Flypad has seen 7,000 downloads in beta testing and is resonating particularly in international markets, where the cost of buying controllers, steering wheels, and the like, are higher.

Going forward, Flypad has two immediate goals, which are to increase the amount of play-able racing games (and beyond) in its bullpen, as well as rolling out a full set of APIs for game developers, which allow them to easily add the iPhone as an input for their games.

Of course, integrating with existing games is just the beginning, as the team’s eventual plan is to enable a whole new class of games to be developed. Typically, game controllers today are simply just pieces of hardware, but eventually controllers themselves will be running their own complex software, opening up whole new ways of interacting with games.

Some of the other solutions out there today, says Flypad Co-founder Ayo Omojola, tend to have heavy developer focuses up front, but, at the end of the day, gamers don’t play games because of the phone or the novelty of the technology, they play because they love the gameplay or experience of their favorite racing games. So Flypad focused on offering a quick way to preload content into the experience, so that gamers don’t have to worry about the technical side, they can just sit down and play.

So, while they initially offered a browser mechanic that enabled gamers to quickly play on the Web, although HTML5 in progressing rapidly, the gameplay just wasn’t the quality as those Steam games, for example, which is why Flypad is currently offering compatibility with some of the games in the Need For Speed series, DIRT3, Burnout, and Ignite. Certainly, Flypad faces some friction in that it isn’t platform or device agnostic, and the fact that many serious gamers prefer fixed-wheel controllers to something more free-wheeling like a smartphone control; however, at this point Omojola says that the team is focused on killing the experience of PC racing games on the iPhone.

Next, the founding team, which also includes Gaurav Namit and Femi Omojola, plans to actually embed themselves in their users’ living rooms, so that they can better observe the habits of gamers, how they play, what their engagement looks like, etc. But for now they know that opening their doors to other game developers represents the best immediate opportunity for increasing the number of games (and features) that they can integrate with their smart, motion-sensing steering wheel. To do so, the team recently released its Flash API, and is looking to launch its Unity API next.

Of course, in the big picture, it might be easy to see Flypad’s technology as an add-on, but in reality, their smart steering solution is meant to get developers excited about creating games for smartphones, and that in turn, hopefully encourage gamers to follow. What’s more, the real nifty bit of the technology Flypad offers is the ability to provide users with dynamic interfaces on their smartphones, which change in realtime, so that, say, if you’re playing Madden, your playbook only shows up on your phone and not that of your opponent.

The technology around mobile device-controlled has so much potential, and although it’s still fairly novel to most gamers, I’m sure we can expect some cool things out of Flypad as they push forward.

For more on Flypad, check them out at home here and in the intro video below:


When You Have To Buy Their Love, You’ve Lost |

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Over at WindowsITPro, Paul Thurott outlines some details of Microsoft/Nokia’s (purported) marketing plans for Windows Phone in 2012. Amongst them: a $ 10 to $ 15 commission for retail sales people who sell Windows Phone handsets over Android or iOS.

In turn, John Gruber asks: “If this strategy was on the table, why didn’t Microsoft start this a year ago?

Here’s why: because it’s an admission of failure.

Microsoft’s obstacle isn’t an easy one. When people walk into a phone store in search of a new smartphone, the sales dude generally offers up two choices: iPhone or Android. Meanwhile, the only people being handed Windows Phones are the ones who asked for them right off the bat.

Now, why is this? Is it because Apple and Google are coughing up piles of cash to get the sales reps to push their phones? Nope — while carriers and specific OEMs might offer spiffs for the sales of certain handsets, I can’t find evidence that Apple or Google themselves ever have. (I’ve been asking sales folks and carrier reps if they ever got a cut from either company all morning, and the only answer I got besides a bunch of “No way”s was a “Hah! If Apple paid me a special commission, I’d be rich.”)

It’s because, for the time being, Windows Phone just isn’t good enough.

That’s not to say that Windows Phone isn’t good, period — it is! But it also came out incredibly late in the game. When you’re the last one off the line, you have to do something so amazing, something so much better than what the folks leading the pack are doing, that you change the race entirely.

iOS did this by making smartphones simple, embracing the concept of “Apps” better than anyone else had before, and by riding that massive wave of momentum that comes from being Apple’s next shiny thing.

Android did it by becoming the anti-iPhone. One handset? “Heck no! Put it on all of them!” said Google. A tightly monitored, “walled garden” for an App Store? “Nope! Do what you want!” Google did everything that Apple would not (for better or worse), for the consumer and everyone else in the industry.

Windows Phone, meanwhile, has very few tricks that anyone could inarguably say that it does better. Oh, it does plenty of things — and it does them all differently. But different isn’t better; it’s just different.

When phone guys sell phones, they’re selling whatever they think will be the easiest sale and make their customer (and their managers) happiest. They do this not necessarily because they’re wonderful people who have deep compassion for everyone who sets foot in their store — but because dealing with angry people (and their returns) sucks. For now, this means iPhone or Android. Both do all of the snazzy things people see in the commercials. Both have a bazillion apps. Both have such massive user bases that few would ever look out into a crowd of people all with smartphones in hand and think “Crap. Did I pick the wrong phone?”

By offering up a chunk of change for each sale — especially when it seems that no one else is — Microsoft is essentially saying “Yeah, we know you don’t really want to sell this. We know that we don’t really have any killer features yet. How about some cash?”

Find your killer feature, Microsoft. Don’t just buy love.


Wii U controller gains early praise |

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Gaming

Wii U controller gains early praise

16 October 2012

The Wii U’s touchscreen controller functions just as it should.

That is according to Ubisoft’s Michel Ancel. Ancel, who created one of the company’s most iconic franchises, Rayman, said in a Nintendo Power interview that with the Wii U, “Nintendo is really out in front of things.”

He said that the controller’s “response time is crazy. In fact, and I think competitors will need some time to [get their solutions] this responsive.”

He measured the latency of the controller and found that it was just 1/60 of one second, which makes it just as fast as any other video game controller on the market.

Getting a Wii U on launch day will involve waiting outside a store for several hours on a cold November night.

Because of problems with the manufacturing of the touchscreen Wii U Gamepad, it’s believed that the stock will be notably low on launch day, which could lead to huge lines and Ebay prices going through the roof.

Nintendo hasn’t announced where the official launch party will take place, which is where one would expect to see the largest quantity of devices. These events usually happen in New York City or southern California.

Regardless, it’s going to be one big rush for the Wii U this holiday season. Be prepared.

Source: TGDaily

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Virtual Currency Is The Next Big Platform |

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Virtual Currency Is The Next Big Platform

09 March 2012

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Editor’s note: Ari Mir is the co-founder and CEO of virtual currency platform Pocket Change. He also co-founded GumGum.com, the world’s largest in-image ad-network. This week, Mir is attending the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

My youth was spent jumping turtles, killing 16-bit Nazis, connecting kickflips with manuals and nube tubing. Haaaaadouken! Like most boys and young men during the ’80s and early ’90s, I loved video games. Our passion for games and our willingness to pay $ 49.99 to purchase the latest Zelda or Mortal Kombat fueled the industry’s growth.

For two decades, selling hard and soft copies of games proved to be a very lucrative business. However, this model is ultimately flawed because the revenue potential per player is capped. In 1998, a game studio by the name of Iron Realms Entertainment became the first to sell virtual goods in their games. A decade later everyone is building virtual economies into their games. Zynga, which recently went public and has a market value of around $ 10 billion, makes the majority of their revenue by selling items like virtual strawberries.

Virtual goods are purchased with virtual currency, a digital medium of exchange similar to dollars and cents. Virtual currency is in a very nascent stage. Most people think of Scamville, but really that was a misguided start to what will ultimately become one of the more powerful platforms we’ve seen. Similar to the offline world, virtual currency will be the underlying glue, allowing for a tremendous amount of value creation. Facebook knows this and is doubling down on its FB Credits system. Imagine a day when there are billions of casual gamers looking to buy a virtual good or to unlock a feature. They will need virtual currency and thus have an incentive to interact with a myriad of options placed in front of them to earn that currency. This will become even more prevalent in countries where there are fewer payment methods. Virtual currency will be a very unique platform—one with a built-in incentive mechanism and a large captive user base.

The advertising industry has already seized the opportunity. Currently, if you’re playing poker on your iPhone you can earn virtual currency to use in the game by installing an advertiser’s mobile app. Advertisers have also begun rewarding consumers with virtual currency if they’re willing to watch a video advertisement. In the future advertisers will be able to create any action however simple or sophisticated and tie it to a virtual currency reward. The action could be as passive as watching a BMW commercial or as active as filling out a fashion survey sponsored by Banana Republic. Incentivized advertising will become the dominant form of mobile advertising (excluding search). It drives higher engagement rates than display advertising and is a much better user experience because it’s opt-in.

Engaging with advertisers won’t be the only way to earn virtual currency. Similar to the real world, gamers will perform jobs to earn currency. Think Mechanical Turk. Someone may want text translated or images of cars identified and they’re willing to pay for the task to be completed. Not a novel concept but if built using virtual currency the marketplace becomes a lot more fluid. Tasks can easily be distributed to millions of users via an interface for earning currency. Also, it is a lot more meaningful to a gamer to reward them with 20 denominations of virtual currency versus twenty cents. This is because virtual currency is primarily used for micro-transactions where the gamer wants to buy a machine gun or unlock a level.

As millions of users begin to build liquidity in a system such as FB Credits or other virtual currency providers it becomes possible to disrupt the trillion dollar mobile payments space. Everyone from Apple to Google is running around trying to get more credit cards on file so they can be your “universal wallet.” Tomorrow’s universal wallet will have credit cards and virtual currency as payment options. Virtual currency offers additional benefits to the wallet provider and the end merchant because there are no inherent fees like credit cards. Consumers will pull out their iPhone or Android one day and buy coffee from Starbucks using virtual currency.

Virtual currency as a mass consumer product may sound far off. But the surge in smartphone use is broadening the player base and everyone from your little sister to your grandfather has a powerful gaming device within reach of them at all times.

As more casual gamers join, gaming becomes less taboo and when this happens the industry will turn into a tsunami. Virtual currency will affect everything from commerce to advertising.

[image via flickr/epSos.de]

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Whale Hunting: Facebook Hooks 1st-Time Buyers With $5 Of Game Credits For $1 –

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Free Facebook Credits

Only about 5% Facebook gamers pay to play freemium games. If Facebook could up this percentage, it and its third-party app developers could make a lot more money. That’s the idea behind a new promotion Facebook announced today where those who’ve never bought Facebook Credits virtual currency before will be offered $ 4 in free Credits when they buy $ 1. This gets users to set up their credit card and experience the rush of paying for an enhanced gaming experience.

Years ago when Facebook first launched its Credits virtual currency, it offered free Credits to some users. While this might have got them hooked on spending virtual currency, it didn’t addict them to paying for it.

Facebook needs credit card numbers badly. Apple has amassed an enormous collection after 10 years of iTunes Mp3 sales, which is now helping it easily sell apps and in-app purchases. If Facebook wants to grow its revenue to satisfy outside investors and be a competitive mobile gaming platform, it needs to get users ready to pay.

But like the street corner pusher says, “this ain’t no charity”. Facebook is only surfacing the promotion in sidebar ads, and TrialPay in-game promotions and offer walls to those who haven’t already bought Credits. User than have to set up a credit card or connect a PayPal account and pay $ 1 to get the extra $ 4, or 40 Credits. And next time, they’ll have to pay full price. Facebook wisely does not provide any way to reach the promotion directly in order to deter users from trying to cheat their way to free currency.

If you want to claim your own free Credits, your best bet is to play games by clients of Facebook’s official offers partner TrialPay, such as those by Playfish, Playdom, Kabam, Crowdstar, and iWin. These include The Sims Social, Gardens of Time, It Girl, and Kingdoms of Camelot. Then visit the offer wall or click through Deal Spot signs within games.

With any luck, Facebook will be able to up the percentage of users who monetize, and thereby discover new whales — gamers who spend orders of magnitude more than the average payer and drive the bottom lines of both indie developers and giants like Zynga. Call him Ishmael…Zuckerberg.


Valve Rumored To Be Working On Steam-Based Console |

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Valve, creators of (among other things) the Half-Life franchise and Steam, the gold standard for digital game distribution, are said to be getting into the hardware game. If The Verge’s tip is to be believed, the company is working with partners to establish a base PC gaming standard to sell as a packaged deal, a sort of set-top box PC that would run Steam or other download services and run most PC games.

If true, it would be a major step for Valve, which has always been a software company. They haven’t ruled out moving into hardware, but their expertise is in software, so they’re more likely to be collaborating with an established gaming PC brand like Alienware. In fact, Alienware’s compact X51 system is said to have been designed with a spec like this “Steam Box” in mind.

It essentially would establish the “PC” as just another console, or at least would allow one to treat PC gaming in that way. As most PC gamers will tell you, however, this isn’t really high on many PC gamers’ lists. The advantages of gaming on a “real” PC are many and various, and the choice not to play certain games in a console environment is a conscious one.

But at the same time, the benefits of a simple system attached to a TV, and sold for a reasonable price, are obvious. They’re the benefits of existing consoles like the PS3 and 360, both of which are, of course, extremely popular.

The system, which is said to have a Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GPU, could be unveiled as soon as GDC, which is to say this week. But they could also wait until E3, when the device might make more of a splash.