A Look Back At The Big Stories Of The Week (April 20, 2013)

by Mike Futter on Apr 20, 2013 at 04:00 AM

Did you miss any of the big stories this week? Want to find out how the pieces fit together? You're in the right place. This is the News Informer Recap (back by YOUR demand). Leading the way are two big business-related stories.


Disposition of THQ's remaining IPs to be announced Monday

The next (and possibly final) chapter of THQ's sad tale will play out on Monday. The bidding process for the six lots of titles concluded earlier this month, and we have learned through a disclosure filing that the sales will net between $6 million and $7 million. 17 bids were accepted, and all we can say for sure is that the Homeworld series has a new home. TeamPixel was hoping to acquire the franchise for a new title, but has since revealed that they were outbid.

I suspect that Crytek USA, comprised of many former Vigil team members, made a strong offer for the Darksiders franchise. My hope is that Red Faction goes to a studio with open world experience, as Red Faction: Guerrilla was a much more engaging title than the linear Armageddon. The fifth lot of titles is a grab bag, but there are some winners in there, like Destroy All Humans!, that could be brought back as downloadable games if not full retail products.

I would be very surprised if the sixth lot, which is largely full of licensed games (translation: a re-release minefield), goes for very much at all. Though, there are some important games in there that are of particular interest to some parties. Costume Quest and the Supreme Commander titles come to mind. The other tricky part of that lot is that whomever purchases it is required to pay any cure amounts (owed sums to licensors and developer royalties, if any). Depending on the total cost of the remedies, the lot might have serious barriers for those interested in just one or two of the games included.


EA's shifting mobile and social strategy

As we first reported last week, EA has been cleaning house in their mobile and social divisions. It all started with layoffs at EA Montreal rumored to amount to 160 or so jobs. This week, EA announced the closure of three titles by studio Playfish, including SimCity Social which was just announced last June at E3. On the same day, there were reports of 50 jobs cut at EA's mobile studio in India. The cuts seem to have been exclusively in the mobile and social arena, but EA isn't offering specifics, and it might be because they can't. 

EA typically makes its year-end financial report in early May. Prior to any major reporting, companies enter a quiet period during which they are disallowed by federal securities law from sharing certain information with the public. This includes anything that might cause investors to view the stock differently. I expect that come the first week in May, we'll have a much better understanding of EA's future in the mobile and social spaces.


The Always-On controversy limps onward

After last week, I'm surprised that terms like "always online" and "always connected" weren't scrubbed from the vocabularies of developers and publishers. Clearly those phrases touch a nerve in nearly every gamer's body. That's why we were astonished to read Ubisoft Montreal's CEO Yannis Mallat profess his belief that he thinks gamers are ready for an always online world. In the interview with The Guardian, he equates (falsely) a console reliant on an internet connection with "other devices" that are always connected.

There is an enormous gap between a piece of gaming hardware (even a portable console) and a mobile phone which, by definition, must be online in order to accomplish its core function. Interestingly, I can still use many of my apps even when in "airplane mode," which disables data and voice communication. Put simply, if Mallat is basing his assumptions about consumer preparedness on the mobile phone model, he hasn't really thought out the comparison.


The March 2013 NPD report has been released

Here is the quick rundown of important details:

  • Retail spending in the sector is down 30 percent over last March
  • The Xbox 360 was the top-selling console for the 20th month in a row
  • Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider took the top two spots in retail software sales
  • Take-Two Interactive had its best March on record thanks to Bioshock Infinite, which sold more in its first month than either of the previous two titles.
  • Nintendo sold over 20 million software units in March'
  • Additionally, Microsoft announced that there are now over 46 million Xbox Live subscribers (up 18 percent over last March)


The 3DS is getting a huge amount of attention from Nintendo

In a Nintendo Direct presentation this week, Nintendo dropped a number of big announcements:

Additionally, the Wii U is getting a system update, its own Virtual Console, and Earthbound. Finally, the Circle Pad Pro XL is finally going to be (easily) available to North American gamers.


Quick Hits


Announcements and Release Dates