Gaming news summary for August 27, 2015
Welcome to the Game Replay, the thrice-weekly look at the wider world of gaming by the staff of MacNN. In today's edition, CD Projekt managed to achieve over 6 million The Witcher 3 sales in six weeks, Rovio announces more job cuts, AMD reveals details of the Radeon R9 Nano GPU, and the creator of Gears of War unveils his latest project.
Angry Birds gets a proper sequel, but it falls short
At this point, we're sure that almost everyone who owns an iPhone or iPad has at least tried out an Angry Birds game, be it the original or one of the many sequels. It's hard to go a public place without coming across some sort of Angry Birds merchandise. Billionaire developers Rovio have finally made a proper sequel, Angry Birds 2, and we sat down and took a look at it to see how it holds up to the original.
Company faced with declining growth, lack of non-Angry Birds titles
In a blog post pointing out some of the issues surrounding Angry Birds purveyor Rovio, the company's outgoing CEO announced that the game maker will shed 130 people in an effort to reduce costs. The layoffs are all in the company's home country of Finland, and represents 16 percent of the company's total workforce.
'Free' game includes in-app purchases
Rovio has launched Angry Birds Epic, a new side-branch of its popular mobile game series. Instead of a puzzler Epic is a role-playing game in which players lead a party of birds across Piggy Island. Battles are turn-based, and as players progress they can gradually level-up characters, armor, weapons, and potions. A crafting system allows the creation of new weapons.
Suggests third-party app networks may be entry point
Angry Birds developer Rovio has issued a new official statement, denying collaborating with the NSA, GCHQ, or any other government agency It emerged yesterday that the NSA and GCHQ have been using the "leaky" nature of some smartphone apps to collect data about individuals. Rovio suggests that the spy agencies may be gathering data from third-party ad networks without its consent. "If advertising networks are indeed targeted, it would appear that no internet-enabled device that visits ad-enabled web sites or uses ad-enabled applications is immune to such surveillance," the company comments.
App Store gets new Angry Birds racer
Rovio has released the latest addition to its Angry Birds series of Apps on iOS with Angry Birds Go! The new entry in the popular franchise is a Mario Kart-like downhill racer with the eponymous fowls facing off against each other, as well as their ever-present porcine nemeses. The entry also brings into play a number of physical toys that open up new items in the game's virtual world.
Evernote update intros Shortcuts
Evernote has pushed out an update for the iOS version of its popular note-taking app. Version 5.4 introduces Shortcuts, a rebranding of the Favorites feature from the iPhone, which gives users a method to quickly access important notes, notebooks and tags. These Shortcuts can be synced across all versions of Evernote, and can even be made for saved searches. Other changes include support for marking up images, PDFs and notes, the ability to see recently viewed notes along the bottom of any note, and a new Announcements section with the latest news from Evernote.
Rovio's latest game already at number 1 on App Store
Rovio’s eagerly anticipated Angry Birds Star Wars is out now on iOS, Mac and Android. The game is available in a standard version for iPhone and iPod ($0.99, App Store), an HD version for iPad ($2.99, App Store), and for Mac ($4.99, Mac App Store. It is also available as an ad-supported version for Android (Free, Google Play) and as an HD premium version ($2.99, Google Play).
Microsoft reveales list of 40 Xbox games for Windows 8
Microsoft on Friday revealed the list of the first 40 games, some of which will be available on the October 26 launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT. The majority, or 29, of the titles are from Microsoft Studios and some of these are exclusive to the platform. Freshened up classics like Minesweeper, Solitaire, and Mahjong are back, but so are some more advanced games.
Case-Mate partners with Vaja for luxury cases
Case-Mate has announced a partnership with Vaja, Argentinian maker of handcrafted leather products. The electronics accessory maker will now be leading the worldwide marketing, sales, and distribution efforts for Vaja's products.
Original title not available on the iOS store pending rerelease
On Finnish television, Rovio CEO Mikael Hed told presenters that Rovio's next game is titled Amazing Alex. The game will feature educational elements and revolve around the titular Alex, a "curious young boy who loves to build things." No release date has been announced.
Active Network launches two campsite reservation apps
Outdoor enthusiasts will now be able to make reservations for campsites at national parks, forests and other recreational facilities through the release of two new apps for iOS. The ReserveAmerica camping app (free) lists nearby state campground sites, and provides information on sites, RV restrictions, tent and cabin use and other options.
Angry Birds creator may get $9 billion valuation
Rovio Entertainment, fresh off of announcing phenomenal sales for the latest installment of its Angry Birds series, is reportedly looking to go public. The Finnish video game developer is in the process of preparing for an initial public offering in 2013, Reuters reports. Analysts peg the value of the company at up to $9 billion.
Rovio claims app is 'fastest growing mobile game'
Rovio has announced that Angry Birds Space has reached 50 million downloads in a space of just 35 days. The developer says that the title has broken all of its previous records, and in fact claims that Space is "the fastest growing mobile game yet," though no comparison points are quoted. Mobile versions of Space are available for the iPhone, the iPad, and various Android devices; Windows and Mac editions are also on sale.
App World gets bird-physics-slingshot simulator
The newest installation of Rovio's popular game series, Angry Birds Space ($3, BlackBerry App World) arrived for RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook tablet on Tuesday. Previously, the game was erroneously posted as available on April 10 of this year, though the link was quickly removed. Now, the zero-gravity bird slingshot game is available to all PlayBook owners except those in South Korea and Brazil.
Rovio hits record app milestone
Rovio iPhone; $3, iPad) and the ad-sponsored Android version (Google Play) along with desktop versions. The company didn't give a breakdown of which versions were most popular, although iOS has historically outperformed Android, even with the paid versus free split.
Rovio says Angry Birds Space a no go for WP7
(Update: Rovio CEO denies it) A notable, and somewhat surprising, omission from yesterday’s global launch of Angry Birds Space across multiple platforms was a Windows Phone 7 version. In what may amount to a significant blow to the prestige and perceived value of the Windows Phone 7 platform, Angry Birds Space developer Rovio told Bloomberg that it has no plans at all for a WP7 version. This is despite its original version of Angry Birds remaining one of the top sellers on the WP7 Marketplace.
Angry Birds Space ready for download
[Update: live across platforms] The latest title in the hugely popular Angry Birds franchise, Angry Birds Space is now live on the iTunes App Store. The standard version ($0.99, iTunes) of the app will run on compatible iPhones, iPads and iPod touchs, while Rovio has also released an HD version ($2.99, iTunes) for the iPad only. Highlighting just how big Rovio have made it with its Angry Birds titles, the company teamed up with NASA to promote the launch of the new game.
Apple, Path, Facebook, others in lawsuit sights
A new lawsuit (below) filed last week and uncovered on Friday by CNET could try and take Apple and key iOS app writers to task for alleged unapproved contact access. The potential class action case accuses those who've admitted to any access, such as Path, Twitter, and Instagram, of violating privacy by becoming "mobile radio beacons" that were "broadcasting and publicly exposing" contact lists to everyone. Questionably, however, it also names the developers of numerous other unverified apps of doing the same thing, including Beluga, Burbn, Chillingo, EA, Facebook, Foursquare, Foodspotting, Hipster, Gowalla, Kik, LinkedIn, Rovio (Angry Birds), and ZeptoLab (Cut the Rope).
AT&T releases long-overdue update for Infuse 4G
AT&T has finally released its belated Android 2.3 update to the Samsung Infuse 4G. The handset was long overdue for the update, as it launched last May with Android 2.2 onboard. The new changes include a better copy and paste feature, a redesign for the software keyboard, a download manager for web downloads, and improved power and app management.
PlayBook gaming dilemma shown through Rovio launch
RIM saw its problems in the tablet arena emblematized Wednesday after Rovio released a version of Angry Birds for the BlackBerry PlayBook. The releases of the regular, Rio, and Seasons versions comes two years after the iOS version showed and is significantly more expensive than the iPad app, at $5 versus $2 on Apple's tablet. They have the same features as the earlier releases.
Nielsen says Android led by narrow app range
Android app use is dominated by just a handful of regular apps, Nielsen found on Monday. Regardless of age group, the six most-used apps always include Google's separately upgradeable apps as well as Facebook. Among other apps, the higher-ranked titles included Angry Birds as well as Advanced Task Killer Free, an app meant to cover the inability to truly quit apps not really addressed until Android 4.0.
Lack of oversight lets fake Rovio exploit Android
Google's strategy for Android Market may have come to bite it after a scam developer successfully made it to the store. Misleadingly named Rovio [now pulled] instead of the real Rovio Mobile Ltd., the developer published non-functional apps made to look like legitimate games. A large number of these were iPhone games that Rovio didn't make and which other developers so far had no intention of porting to Android, such as Cut the Rope: Holiday Gift and Tiny Wings.
Gamemaker trying to widen appeal as preps for IPO
Game maker Rovio is looking create new nests for its “Angry Birds”. Bloomberg reports that the company is in talks with Starbucks and other retailers in order to to attract new customers and get existing players to venture out of their digital world and buy real-world goods, such as books, stuffed animals, and T-shirts. Rovio is diversifying beyond the virtual realm to make itself more attractive to investors in anticipation of a future IPO.
Lodsys sur-reply to Apple faces poor prospects
Lodsys showed potential strain in its lawsuit after it issued a sur-reply to Apple's own response. Originally submitted earlier in the month but just discovered Monday, the response makes the questionable claim that Apple can't motion because some of the app developers sued challenge the validity of the patents. Similarly, it contends that the license it has with Apple doesn't make it a licensor and makes generic claims towards Apple having not somehow satisfied a "heavy burden."
Google Plus makes game support official
Google ended a string of leaks Thursday afternoon with official game support on Google+. The primarily Flash-based games come from majors in web games and some from Facebook, including Zynga titles like Zynga Poker as well as Rovio's Angry Birds and PopCap's Bejeweled Blitz. In a direct jab at Facebook's tendency to put all updates on the main news feed, Google added that games, their status updates, and their achievements would only show in a Games tab.
Eon-Net loss may hurt Lodsys too
A recent decision in a patent lawsuit from Eon-Net against Flagstar Bancorp might pose trouble for Lodsys in its own attempts to skim royalties. Discovered today, a ruling late last month hit Eon-Net with Rule 11 sanctions for conducting what was cast as "extortion" through its practices. The company had submitted over 100 infringement lawsuits but each time gave the targets a settlement that would be cheaper than defending the case, effectively forcing companies to pay.
Apple counters Lodsys in new intervention call
Apple on Monday countered Lodsys' resistance to intervention with a final argument of its own. A call for a court hearing argued multiple points, focusing most on the importance of the patent license covering in-app purchases. It argued that the license itself was enough interest to require an intervention and that it had a clear business motivation to get involved: developers were considering boycotting "core products" because they didn't want to be sued.
Lodsys tries to stop Apple intervention in case
Lodsys hoped to reduce resistance to its lawsuit on Wednesday and filed an opposition to Apple's motion to intervene. The 22-page reply, some of which is redacted for public viewing to protect confidential info, maintains that Apple's licensing of Lodsys patents would limit its scope for acting on behalf of others. It goes on to claim that Apple's reason to fight back is "purely economic" at most and that the reduced profits or losses for third-party developers didn't meet the legal threshold for stepping into the case.
Distimo study shows freemium dominating games
A new Distimo study on Wednesday showed Apple riding a wave in gaming based on a wider shift to "freemium" games. The pay-for-extras model from games like Smurf's Village now makes up 52 percent of the revenue coming from games. The shift makes it about ten times larger than it was a year ago and saw about 35 percent of games supporting some kind of in-game pay system.
Lodsys expands to target major game developers
Lodsys continued its rapidly widening lawsuit campaign Thursday by trying its hand at attacking major game developers. A larger complaint (below) now adds Atari, EA, Rovio, Square Enix, and Take Two over in-app purchases in their mobile games. The expansion singles out major games and isn't limited to just iPad and iPhone titles, going so far as to target Rovio's versions of Angry Birds for both Android and iOS.
Lenovo intros Android tablets with Netflix
Lenovo on Wednesday formally tipped its hand and unveiled its first pure mobile tablets. The IdeaPad K1 and ThinkPad Tablet together have the familiar NVIDIA Tegra 2 and 10-inch, 1280x800 screens of most challengers but are the first Android 3 tablets anywhere to support Netflix: both add DRM that isn't in Android 3.1 itself and can not only stream the video service but rent movies outright from Google Videos. The Netflix app should be available as an update by the time the tablets ship and will be followed by an upgrade slightly after launch for buying movies.
Roku 2 media hubs arrive with game remote
Roku late Tuesday claimed a defensive stake in the media hub world through second-generation players. The Roku 2 HD, XD, and XS all have a smaller, nearly Apple TV-like profile and expand beyond just media channels to focus on apps and games. Every model can use a Bluetooth-based Roku Game Remote that provides Nintendo Wii-style motion gaming, such as for special ports of the Angry Birds games and future titles.
Barnes and Noble stores get Angry Birds, Nook link
Barnes & Noble on Tuesday managed to beat Nokia's plans for having a truly active tie-in between Angry Birds and the real world. Those who play the Nook Color version of the game while on the Wi-Fi in a Barnes & Noble store, now considered a "Magic Place" in the game, will get the Mighty Eagle bird for free instead of its usual price. Its developer Rovio is also promising extra in-game rewards and unlockable contnet for those who keep coming back.
Other casual games will follow
Streaming media hub maker Roku and Rovio Mobile announced that the popular Angry Birds games would now be available through Roku's set-top boxes. In addition to Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio video games, Roku will launch an Angry Birds video channel featuring Angry Birds animated shorts. Roku will also sell Angry Birds merchandise on the Roku Channel Store.
Chrome Web Store expands to 41 lanuages, more
During the day two keynote at Google I/O 2011, the company revealed its Chrome Web Store has been launched to 160 million users of the browser and in 41 languages. There is good news for developers too, as Google will only take a five percent cut, with 95 percent of app revenues going to the developer's pocket. Those outside the current markets will only have access to free apps, at least initially, however.
Rovio allegedly third-most copied brand in China
The iPhone "changed everything" for mobile app developers, according to the head of Angry Birds developer Rovio Mobile. "Apple created the distribution for us that we didn't have before. All of a sudden, great games mattered," said Peter Vesterbacka at Wednesday's Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing. "We are seeing smartphone growth explode, and we are riding that wave."
Windows Phone 7 gets Skype and Spotify
Microsoft during its MIX11 event caught up in app development in significant fashion with a handful of major Windows Phone 7 apps that will take advantage of its fall 2011 update, Mango. Skype was unveiled first and will take advantage of Mango's deeper access to hardware like the microphone. The app on demo didn't make any mention of video chat, though Mango so far doesn't have front camera support.
Samsung App store gets 100m downloads
Samsung announced on Thursday that its Samsung Apps mobile and TV application store has seen 100 million downloads since the service launched in June. This milestone was reached in 10 months, and the store now offers more than 13,000 apps for the company's hardware offerings. In comparison, Angry Birds series reached the 100 million mark earlier this month, on the 14th, though the game is offered in many title and across multiple platforms, including Android, BlackBerry, iOS and more.
Joined by Doodle Jump, Plants vs Zombies, others
After originally stating that mobile apps aren’t an important factor in the success of a smartphone platform, Microsoft today announced that several top iPhone games are set to debut on Windows Phone 7. Launching April 6 will by Rovio’s smash hit Angry Birds, which will be joined by Doodle Jump, Plants vs Zombies, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1 and geoDefense. The arrival of Angry Birds comes after some initial controversy which saw Microsoft use the Angry Birds icon amongst its promotional material for the launch of Windows Phone 7 without Rovio’s permission, and well before Rovio had committed to the platform.
MS insists WP7 to have thousands of apps on launch
Microsoft as part of its Windows Phone 7 launch has added that it's expecting "thousands" of submissions for Windows Phone Marketplace by the time the European launch kicks off on October 21. The company is pushing them to submit their apps early to the newly created App Hub and has a special process for those who get in before October 13.
Microsoft falsely says Rovio supporting WP7
Microsoft briefly got into trouble today by showing Angry Birds as an app on its Windows Phone 7 tips page. Rovio, the developer, told fans that the icon was not only posted without its permission but didn't reflect its actual plans. The app writer has "NOT committed to a Windows Phone 7 version" in any way, it said.