Social Gaming Roundup: Celestial Steeds, Dungeons, Korea, and More

Blizzard Dives Deeper Into Virtual Goods – With the subscription revenue from World of Warcraft reaching a plateau, Blizzard has been focusing more on virtual goods within the realm of Azeroth, releasing a third set of virtual items. Now, players will be able to purchase a non-combat pet called Lil’ XT for $10 that rolls around, blowing up other robot pets as well as the company’s first buyable mount, the Celestial Steed.

Here’s the kicker: This cosmic mount both runs and flys, is usable on any character, new or old and costs $25. Think that’s too much? Think again. As of last night, at, oh, around 8pm EST (about eight hours after release) there was a queue within the Blizzard online store that was a couple 100,000 people long when we bought one and tried to check out. Assuming that each of those people actually bought one – meaning their internet connection didn’t crash before they reached the end of the queue – that means Blizzard just made a couple million in revenue in less than half a day.

Turbine Introduces and Removes Offer Wall from Dungeons and Dragons Online – MMO developer Turbine added a new way for users to buy virtual goods in its Dungeons and Dragons game this week: an offer wall. It let users take third party offers that could earn anywhere from 15 to 2600 of the game’s virtual currency, Turbine Points.

Despite keeping old methods of getting points (purchase or earning them in-game), the new feature was met with significant negative feedback. Massively notes that the majority of player qualms with the addition were not with the offer wall itself, but “the release of information associated with [it].” That release of information was apparently the result of the game’s virtual economy provider, PlaySpan, accidentally passing along unencrypted usernames and email addresses to the offer provider, Super Rewards. The offer wall is now gone as Turbine begins contemplating its next move.

Zynga Sues PlayerAuctions.com – For most people that have been around online games, specifically massively multiplayer titles, it’s more or less common knowledge that people are going to try and buy and sell the game’s currencies and in-game items. In the past few years or so, however, the problem has spread to social games with the most recent legal case being social developer Zynga’s suit against the third-party virtual goods reseller, PlayerAuctions.com.

The issue is an alleged violation of Zynga’s Terms of Service as well as copyright infringements in allowing players to individually sell Zynga’s virtual goods and currencies for real money. The company has a number of similar suits over the years, and we expect it to win against PlayerAuctions.com.

Absolu Telecom Comes to North America – While mobile payment services such as Zong have been an option for those seeking to make virtual goods and currency purchases for some time now, the European company Absolu Telecom, is adding its name to the mix this week. It’s launching its pay-by-phone service in both the United States and Canada.

TBG Signs Up Playfish – Although many gaming companies have for years been quietly working with third parties to run advertising campaigns on Facebook’s performance ad system, one deal in this area was just publicly announced. EA’s Playfish will be using the services of TBG, one of a number of companies that uses Facebook’s Ads API to run targetd Facebook ad campaigns in bulk for US and European markets.

Facebook Connected iPhone Apps Have Creditials Deleted – A few more iPhone developers whose apps communicate with Facebook had their developer credentials deleted by the social network this past week. Essentially, this means the Facebook API that talks with the iPhone will no longer function, and basically breaks the application for anyone that attempts to use. Evidently, the issue involves copyright infringement on Facebook’s intellectual property, something that Facebook regularly enforces against — in fact, it already did against an unofficial Facebook iPad app.

Among the “victims,” as it were, are Chris Diskin and Ky Vu of the applications Emoti for Facebook and iLoader respectively, CNET reports, with copyright issues stemming from the use of “Facebook” in the former’s title and the “F” in the latter’s icon. Of course, the developers have stated they will make the changes as needed, assuming these are the changes needed (apparently Facebook wasn’t too clear), but feel it would have been more prudent to actually contact them about the specific issue before, basically, breaking their applications.

Mobile Gaming Makes Significant Shift to Smartphones – Okay, yes, they are smartphones, so of course more games would be made for them. However, the latest numbers out of ComScore reports some rather drastic numbers, noting a 35% drop over the past year in games played on less powerful phones. Conversely, smartphone games played increased by 60%. Oh yeah, and this rise was despite a 13% in overall US mobile gamers.

FrontierVille Coming Soon? – Considering the relative size of Zynga, at this point, it certainly isn’t out of the question that yet another game will be coming out, hot on the heels of Poker Blitz and Treasure Isle.  Evidently, the title will be FrontierVille, according to a post from TechCrunch. Of course, the specifics are unknown, but according to the description, players will chop trees, construct buildings, raise livestock, plant crops (of course), and raise a family.

Zynga Gets a New Homepage – In a move that might be interpreted as flattering, the social games developer has revamped its home page in a way that is strikingly similar to Playfish’s site. See, for example, the central multi-game animation on the top part of both sites, or the tick-tocky side animations.

Korea Limits Teen Playtime in Freemium MMOs – It’s no secret that freemium games are huge in Korea. However, they have become so popular that the Korean government fears the rising number of teenagers who it deems “addicted” to video games. To that end, South Korea’s Ministry of Culture have passed a law dubbed the “night-time shutdown” that, according to The Korea Herald, will ban overnight playing of top free-to-play MMOs such as Maple Story. 19 games, in total, have been selected thus far.

Essentially, underage players must select a six-hour, consecutive period between midnight and 8:00 AM in which they will be unable to access the game. Additionally, underage players that are active within an MMO for an extended period of time will experience dramatically slower internet speeds.



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