Zynga reveals mobile MOBA game Solstice Arena

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Zynga today revealed its newest core game title, Solstice Arena, a multiplayer online battle arena game for mobile devices from the A Bit Lucky team.

A Bit Lucky is the developer behind games like Lucky Train and Lucky Space, which were shut down on Facebook in September 2012 while the studio continued to work on Solstice Arena. When Zynga acquired the studio, also in September 2012, A Bit Lucky’s employees became a part of Zynga San Francisco and continued to work on Solstice Arena, though little was known about the game at the time.

Today we finally learned that Solstice Arena is a MOBA game, a genre that originated with the popular mod Defense of the Ancients (DotA) for Blizzard’s PC and Mac strategy game Warcraft 3.

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Inside mobile apps news roundup: GDC 2013, Windows Phone, Uber and more


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PlayJam will begin shipping GameStick dev units next week –
 PlayJam, the creators of the Android-based games console GameStick, showed off the GameStick Storefront, running on a GameStick development unit at the Game Developers Conference this week, and also announced that developers can get their hands on the GameStick dev unit and free GameStick SDK starting next week. The GameStick will be launching with compatibility for 50 games in various genres, with titles like Riptide GP, Shadowgun and Smash Cops, as well as media apps like XBMC and Netflix. GameStick’s business model is revenue share-based, splitting revenues 70-30 from any in-app purchases or upfront premium price of an app. The GameStick plus a controller will run for $79, and $99 for the GameStick, controller and connectivity dock. Look for a full retail launch in a couple of months.

EAEA Mobile shows off upcoming mobile titles – Earlier this week at the Game Developers Conference, Inside Mobile Apps got their hands on three upcoming mobile titles from Electronics Arts, including TMi Trivia, Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar and Tetris Blitz. Trivia game TMi Trivia, which is set to launch in spring for iOS, features asynchronous multiplayer and trivia content that remains fresh, receiving new questions often from sources like Variety, Spin and a user’s own Facebook friends. Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar, a spiritual successor to Ultima 4, is a synchronous co-op RPG for iOS, featuring dungeon crawling and tons of loot collecting. We were told the game is “coming soon.” Puzzle game Tetris Blitz is a new Tetris game that adds a twist to the Tetris formula, altering gameplay into short rounds of Tetris in two-minute bursts, with usable power ups. Look for it in the spring.

Get Set Games logoMega Run launching April 4 for Android – Canadian mobile game developer Get Set Games announced that it will launch auto-running platformer Mega Run for Android on April 4. The game, which first released for iOS, is packed with 80 levels across five worlds. Read our review for the iOS version here.

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Glu Launches Frontline Commando: D-Day — Mobile game developer Glu Mobile celebrated 35 million downloads of Frontline Commando with the launch of a sequel, Frontline Commando: D-Day. The World War II third-person shooter is free to download from Google Play and the iTunes App Store. You can read our full review of the game here.

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Square Enix launches Mini Ninja’s — Game developer Square Enix launched its Mini Ninjas game on iOS. Other games in the Mini Ninjas franchise were previously released on the Nintendo DS, Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. The iOS version is a runner game featuring the cartoon ninja characters and is priced at $0.99.

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Into the Dead rises on Android — PikPok’s first-person zombie-themed endless runner game is now available to download for free on Google Play. You can read our full (and favorable) review of the previously released iOS version of the game game here.

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Windows Store grows its game lineup — Microsoft has announced a list of new games that were released on the Windows Store during GDC or will be released in the upcoming weekend. New titles include PopCap’s Bejeweled, Glu’s Samurai vs. Zombies, Disney’s Temple Run Brave, GameHouse’s Emily’s Wonder Wedding and more.

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Sega announces Puzzle Pirates for tablets – Game developer and publisher Sega announced that it will release developer Three Ring’s Puzzle Pirates on the iPad and Android tablets in the spring and summer of 2013. The tablet version of the game will feature full cross-platform play with the currently available versions of the game for PC, Linux and Mac.

Sherpa logoSherpa raises $1.1M in seed funding – Techcrunch is reporting that predictive intelegence app for iPhone raised $1.1 million in seed funding from Andreesen Horowitz, Google Ventures, InterWest Partners, Merus Capital, Innovation Endeavors and AngelPad. The hasn’t released yet but users can sign up for the beta here.

Uber logoUber launches on BlackBerry, Windows Phone – Uber, the app which lets you order and pay for a personal driver has launched on BlackBerry and Windows Phone. The app was at the same time updated on Android to include Forsquare integration and the latest improvements from the iOS update in December.

The Candy Crush Saga of Korea: SundayToz’s Anipang generating $500,000 a day

Anipang app iconWhile the eyes of the mobile development community at the 2013 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco are set on King’s Candy Crush Saga, SundayToz’s match-3 puzzler Anipang has silently been tearing up the Korean market on mobile for quite some time, the same way Candy Crush Saga is in the U.S. and other parts of the world. We sat down with SundayToz founder and CEO Kevin Lee, who told Inside Mobile Apps that Anipang is generating around $500,000 in revenue a day.

Anipang, which released in July 2012 and has already surpassed 25 million downloads worldwide (mostly from Korea), is a match-3 puzzle game where users play a one-minute round, where the objective is to get the highest score possible.

SundayToz was the first developer to get its game on messaging app KakaoTalk’s game platform. Lee tells us he spoke with the founder of the Korean company Kakao, and proposed the idea to turn the messenger app into a game platform, which led to the launch of Anipang for Kakao, and the rest is history. SundayToz tweaked around the viral mechanic for Anipang to fit with the messaging platform. That viral mechanic created for Anipang for Kakao was called “hearts.” Through a message via KakaoTalk, a user could send a “heart” to another user, if someone clicks the heart and they haven’t downloaded the game, the user will be sent to a page to download the game.

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Blood Brothers’ secret to success: Events

blood-brothers-app-iconJapanese RPG card battler Blood Brothers has been a huge hit both in Japan and in the U.S. At the Game Developers Conference yesterday, DeNA’s Yuji Shimizu, producer of Blood Brothers, revealed to the audience what makes Blood Brothers so successful.

“The secret to Blood Brothers is special events,” Shimizu says.

Shimizu adds that events have essentially doubled the average revenue per user (ARPU). He equates player participation to more sales.

“Players have to participate in the event in order for you to get sales,” he says. “That’s the secret.”

In the free-to-play social game for iOS and Android, the player is put in the shoes of a warrior turned vampire on a journey for revenge. Players progress through the game by completing quests. Users are tasked with building a five character card deck optimally for battle. Characters gain experience in automated battles in which their skill are activated by chance. Characters can increase in skill level through a fusion mechanic, allowing players to combine characters to make new or stronger characters.

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“If you have an event running one week out of the month, a player will get bored,” he says. “This eventually leads to losing players. Also, if you run the same types of events every time, that’s boring too.”

Events in Blood Brothers range from cooperative raid boss battles, special tower dungeons with a different tower for each skill level (beginner, intermediate and advanced), and player versus player (PvP) battles. Shimizu says PvP events are the most popular in the game. Just like in the single player experience, users build a deck with five characters and fight another person’s five-character deck. Players earn event points by participating and also winning during an event. Shimizu described the game of basketball as a metaphor as to how the users earn points to rank higher in events.

“Everyone keeps going for the points until the whistle blows,” Shimizu says.

There’s a few aspects that make events in Blood Brothers successful like running events for just one week (3-4 times per month), different event types (competitive and cooperative), special environments and enemies, limited rare items and rankings and alliances.

Shimizu described five key design points for events in Blood Brothers which were leaderboards, separation into groups, incentivizing effort, one match per day and rewarding effort. First, the game rewards the top echelon of players with special characters and more. For leaderboards, the developers divide users into groups based on skill levels, placing players of a particular skill level in their own leaderboard. The successive wins a player racks up, the more points they receive. Also, players can only play one match per day, and are matched with opponents of the same skill level. Lastly, users are rewarded with a promotion in rank depending on how well they played in a particular event.

Shimizu says Blood Brothers has reached No. 1 on the top grossing Android apps chart in 33 countries, and the game has been downloaded 10 million times to date. Shimizu adds that ARPU has increase every single month since release as well.

According to our traffic tracking service AppData, Blood Brothers is the No. 3 top grossing app on Android in the U.S. and the No. 39 top grossing app for iPhone.

King.com rebrands as King, launches 2 new Facebook games

New King logoIn celebration of its 10 year anniversary, game company King.com tonight announced that it will be rebranding the company to just King as well as launching two new Saga games for Facebook (one of which will be coming to mobile soon).

As we noted yesterday, everyone at the 2013 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco is talking about the success of King’s Candy Crush Saga game on mobile and social.

The first new Saga game coming to Facebook is physics-based Papa Pear Saga, which is based off King’s web-based Japanese Pachinko-like title Papa Pear. In the game, players are tasked with making each Papa Pear shot bounce on as many objects as possible before landing in each bucket. The title will be packed with 60 levels at launch as well as with three different game modes and several boosters to help users progress through the game. The game is now on Facebook, but will be “coming soon” to mobile for iOS and Android.Papa Pear Saga screenshot

The second game King announced was Farm Heroes Saga, a match-3 game, with an item collecting aspect. Users are tasked with managing multiple components per level, like collection targets, special missions, boss fights, avoiding blockers and more. The game, which is currently in the soft-launch stage, features 70 levels, three game modes and multiple boosters that help users progress further into the game.Farm Heroes Saga screenshot

King also revealed some data for its games on mobile, social and online. The company says it now sees more than 108 million monthly players (49 million on mobile alone) and 12 billion gameplay sessions a month across its network of games on mobile, social and online.

“We have had lots of fun over the last 10 years making great games and we are honored to have acquired such a loyal fan-base,” said Riccardo Zacconi, co-founder and CEO of King, in a statement. “The exceptional growth of our mobile, Facebook, and cross-platform audience is a testament to the care and craft that goes into our games. We’re pleased to announce two new Saga games on Facebook with Papa Pear Saga and Farm Heroes Saga. These games build upon our Saga portfolio with new concepts that players are sure to enjoy.”

Candy Crush Saga crushing the competition through incremental innovation and cross-platform play

Candy Crush Saga app iconCandy Crush Saga is all the rage at the 2013 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, so much so that we weren’t even able to get into the “Candy Crush Saga postmortem: Luck in the Right Places” session today. The entire development community is interested in learning how Candy Crush Saga became an overnight success on mobile. Unfortunately, we were attending another session, and once we got out of that one, we found ourselves at the back of a line that was hundreds strong. However, at the “Free to Play Game Design: A Year in Review” session, the speakers analyzed trends they saw in the free-to-play space on mobile and social, including the trends they saw from King.com’s Candy Crush Saga and Bubble Witch Saga.

The most notable trend noted by the speakers was the meteoric rise of King.com’s match-3 puzzler Candy Crush Saga, which skyrocketed up the app store charts since releasing for mobile in November 2012. According to past data from our traffic tracking service AppData, The game has been the No. 1 app on the top grossing Android apps chart for weeks as well as in and out of the top spot on the top grossing iOS apps charts for weeks. Candy Crush Saga also became the No. 1 game on the Facebook DAU chart, the first time since mid-2009 that a Zynga game didn’t hold the top spot.

Steve Meretzky, vice president of game design at Palydom, told the audience to stick with it and don’t give up when trying to reach success as a developer since it took a few “Saga” games before King.com struck gold with Bubble Witch Saga followed by Candy Crush Saga. Although both games feature proven gameplay mechanics seen in other games in the casual space, King.com incrementally innovated the formula enough to reach success, Meretzky says.

Another important factor to Bubble Witch Saga’s and Candy Crush Saga’s success was cross-platform gameplay. King.com kept the game near identical across all platforms, with a similar map screen, leaderboard, UI and more as well as letting the player carry their game progress across all platforms.

“It’s a great customer experience,” says Dave Rohrl, vice president of game production at Goko. “You can experience the game when, where and how you want. This lets players interact with your game a lot more, which ultimately increases their engagement and monetization.”

Candy Crush Saga and Bubble Witch Saga aren’t the only games pulling off cross-platform gameplay between Facebook and mobile. Casino games like GSN Casino, DoubleDown Casino and Zynga Poker pull off cross-platform gameplay as well as games like Words With Friends.

And there are plenty of games where games on both Facebook and mobile don’t feature cross-platform gameplay like CityVille Hometown and Kingdoms of Camelot (Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North on mobile). Both make the user restart from zero on mobile and Facebook. Rohrl adds that not delivering on cross-platform gameplay is awful, but hopes the feature will become an industry standard in the future.

“This nut will be cracked in the near future, and this will be an absolute baseline for games in the future,” he says.

Stay tuned! Inside Network’s covering GDC!

Mike_HeadshotSmall copyToday through Friday, Downtown San Francisco will be teeming with game developers for the Game Developers Conference 2013. Inside Network will be present to cover the show.

From left to right: Inside Social Games lead writer Mike Thompson, Inside Network editorial assistant Emanuel Maiberg and Inside Mobile Apps editor Scott Reyburn will be at the Moscone Center and surrounding areas. The three of us will be meeting with developers (and hitting the show floor) to see what’s in the works and to talk about future plans for both social and mobile titles.

Like last year, social and mobile games are going to be a major presence at the conference. This time, however, it won’t just be Zynga who’s talking about publishing social/mobile titles. Groups like Kabam and Rumble Entertainment are also providing developers with other publishing platforms, and everyone (including EA) is getting bullish about pursuing mobile and mid-core audiences.

If you happen to see us on the show floor or at one of the industry parties, don’t hesitate to come up and introduce yourself.

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