Danish sales charts, week 22

Just another sales chart. This one is from Denmark, and tells you which ten games sold the most retail copies during week 22 of 2012. And… wait a second, The Sims 3 is on the list again since a few weeks back? Must have a new expansion out… Enjoy!

Diablo III
Max Payne 3
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure
Battlefield 3
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
The Sims 3
Sniper Elite V2
FIFA Street

D-Day DLC for Iron Front

Koch and Deep Silver just announced a new DLC for the tactical World war II shooter Iron Front – Liberation 1944.

The DLC package is simply called D-Day, and takes the player to the western front during the war. The allied forces invade Normandy and fight the germans, and the player is in the thick of it. New vehicles like the P-47 Thunderbolt fighter-bomber and the Sherman tank provide support, but have to contend with new German equipment such as the legendary, nigh-impenetrable Tiger tank.

Iron Front – Liberation 1944 is a tactical shooter based on the ARMA II engine by Bohemia Interactive. The story takes place in southern Poland during the Soviet Offensive in the summer of 1944. The player takes on the role of a Russian or German infantryman, using teamwork, tactical skill and authentic war machines to battle for victory. The German campaign focuses on slowing the advance of the Soviet troops, while the Soviet campaign is all about breaking through the enemy’s resistance.

For more information, visit the Iron Front website.

Canceled ‘sexy’ Starbreeze campaign backfires

Yesterday, a video of models Sophie Agner and Nina Strauss surfaced on Youtube, dug up by gaming website FZ, seemingly from a Starbreeze marketing campaign for the upcoming Payday 2.

The video features the girls walking around the Overkill Studios offices, playing the game (or at least appearing to) and posing in front of a huge Overkill logo while posing, showing off their, ehm, assets and reading out a strangely stilted script in accented english. The lines are probably meant to be sexy, but the emotionless delivery and the bizarre circumstances makes the whole thing seem very odd and a little disturbing. No, scratch that, it makes it seem like the cynical, sexist crap it really is.

The idea behind the video was apparently to hold a contest where girls could apply for parts in a web series, where scantily clad girl fans did… something. Don’t ask me. But Eurogamer dug up a Linkedin ad, where girls are asked to audition for parts as gangsters, party girls and whores – in their own bikinis.

After this news was published all over the net, Starbreeze issued an official statement, which you can read in this excellent compilation of the facts at Eurogamer Sweden. They apparently do not condone this video, and will find out how it ended up on the web in the first place. “We gathered suggestions for various marketing ideas for the PAYDAY movie project. This film is, for obvious reasons, one of the ones we dismissed right away and turned down,” says Starbreeze CEO Bo Andersson Klint.

Personally, I wonder how the video makers (who are still unknown) got access to the studio in the first place. Starbreeze and Overkill obviously thought that the idea was good enough to make and edit the video in the first place. Although perhaps that counts as ‘dismissed right away’ in their book. I just wonder how this piece of garbage got made, and how the producers got access to the Overkill premises when Starbreeze had shot down the idea. And did they produce it out of the goodness of their hearts, for free?

You can see the video in its moronic entirety on Youtube, unless it’s been taken down again.

C64/Amiga programming meet in Malmö

If you happen to be in the mood for some Amiga or Commodore 64 programming, and in Malmö, Sweden on Ferbuary 26th, there’s an event for you.

Spelprogrammering A-Ö are holding a session on that date, at 18:00, in cooperation with Terebi Ge-mu. The place: Spelens Hus, Ystadsvägen 42 in Malmö. There will be some machines for people to use, and visitors can also bring their own.

More info about this small event can be found on Facebook.

Balder Orik interview: The impossible success is the most entertaining

Danish game developer InventorsOf recently made their debut on App Store with the two-player strategy game Blocker. However, the studio head, 45-year-old Balder Olrik, is not your typical game designer.

At the age of 16, he was accepted into The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts as the youngest person ever in a 100 years and had a successful career as an artist, both nationally and internationally. He pioneered internet-based art with the piece called The Incident (http://www.netsummary.dk/incident/) and made an early splash in viral marketing with his company Goviral which he sold a few years ago.

MCV sat down with Balder Olrik to hear his views on game design and the games industry.

MCV: Why start designing games?

BO: Some time ago I got a job offer in the games industry as a business developer and met this big international organization and their AAA titles. It was clear to me that their mindset was very bound by tradition and how things are usually done. Something I felt that I, as an outsider, could not change, and so I declined the job. But it made me want to try out some of my own ideas and thoughts.

MCV: And what where those thoughts?

BO: One of the things that I learned from my former company Goviral is that when two people interact for real, not on Internet boards but from person to person, an explosive force is released. To my mind that is something the games industry has not realized – the people I met came from all over the world, and yet they all seemed to think in ‘man vs. machine’ game mechanics.

Even looking at App Store, I could not find many of these two-player games, and that was interesting to me. Here is an area of gaming that is wide open. Why are there not 5,000 or 10,000 games utilizing the fact that phones are meant to talk together?

MCV: Where did the gameplay design in Blocker originate from?

BO: It is inspired by a game I saw on a computer at my dad’s place of work when I was a kid – he worked for the Danish Space Institute. I was not able to find any information about the game from back then and instead reconstructed it from memory.

It was just one of many game ideas, but we kept coming back to it, as the game has a lot of strategic depth. The problem is of course that the gameplay is unknown, and there are probably some easier fruits for us to pick. But we decided to go for what we believed in.

MCV: A game like Blocker takes some effort to learn, did that worry you?

BO: We can definitely see a lot of complications in teaching players to play Blocker, but we can also see that once players get the hang of the game, they keep playing. It would seem that it takes about five games to grasp the mechanics. The problem with introducing new gameplay mechanics today is that players have gotten used to not having to think too much. But players are different, and if you only follow the majority everything is going to end up looking the same

MCV: So you are looking for originality?

BO: That is actually one of the things that struck me when I entered this world. I come from the world of

art where originality is something everybody strives for. The games industry seems a bit indifferent about originality. That is peculiar to me. It is not even taboo to rip off an existing game mechanic. So I thought it might be funny to do something original or at least to utilize game mechanics that are not seen all the time.

MCV: You went completely away from a design with cute characters and the like?

BO: We actually had such design at one point but with Blocker being a strategy game, the design with small cute sheep on an island did not work. We would rather return to the original gameplay, and we thought that it would be interesting to work with another type of aesthetics. Something that is not part of the usual gamer aesthetics. The games industry might have this perception of what looks cool – a codex that everything exists within. But what if a codex exists outside of this perception that makes it possible to do things in a different way that speaks to another kind of audience who wants a game that they are not embarrassed to play on the bus?

MCV: Have you been surprised by anything on a more technical level when doing game design for iOS?

BO: I was surprised by how hard it has been to find people with iOS programming experience. There is a serious lack of skilled people in Denmark, and the ones that know Objective C (the iOS programming language) are all employed elsewhere at high salaries. But in a few years, when the education system catches up, there is probably no work to be found.

MCV: Can you turn developing games into sound business?

BO: Making games is a high-risk business. I am usually very good at making a business out of something that seems impossible. But this time might be the one where I fail. But getting the impossible to succeed is what drives me. I think it is entertaining.

MCV: When is Blocker a success to you?

BO: To me it was a success from day one. Finding a gap in a business and diving into it is very exciting. I have pinched myself in disbelief many times at how the games industry is so secluded on its own island. I feel like Doctor Livingstone entering the African jungle. I get on my bike every morning and continue the expedition.

MCV: How many games are in the future for InventorsOf?

BO: We hope to publish four games this year. And we realize that some of those will not succeed. That is a part of the business. But you learn from it all.

Blocker is out now, and anyone interested can find more information at blockergame.com.

(Another) new Swedish podcast

Remember when we talked about that new Swedish podcast, Svampbob fyrkant? Yeah, five minutes ago. Right on the heels of that announcement, games media veteran Victor Leijonhufvud tweets about yet another.

”Burning, we once again hatch from the egg of ashes. Me, @PapaDrillo and @JohanHallstan are starting a new podcast together! More info to follow later…” the tweet reads. That’s Christer Engström and Johan Hallstan included in the project. This means that three of the big names in Swedish games media are cooperating on this, so far unknown thing. Given their backgrounds, I’m thinking something with a visual component, but we’ll see. You can follow Victor or the others on Twitter, I’m sure we’ll see more info about this soon.

A quickie with Oskar Burman

Easy Studios, who currently develop the ongoing free-to-play game Battlefield Heroes, just released a major expansion that included nazi robots! Well, the equivalent of ‘nazi’ robots, anyway. We wanted to have a chat with Oskar Burman, General Manager at Easy, about how things are going, and what he thinks about the digitally distributed, free-to-playfuture – is it here or not?

MCV: You’ve just released a new expansion for the game, I assume things are going well for BF Heroes?

OB: BFH is doing great, with lots of players – new and old – enjoying the game. A strong contributing factor to this, is the addition of new content. Because we keep improving, keep adding features, keep on expanding the experience, we get our players to stay with us, month after month, year after year. Looking where Battlefield Heroes is today, and compare it to where it was when we started out, it’s a much, much improved game.

MCV: Is Heroes the success you expected it to be, or even better (or worse)?

OB: When we launched the game almost three years ago, we’d never imagined it’d still be as popular as it is, several years down the line. In fact, it’s more popular today, than during launch, and it shows how sticky our gameplay is, and the importance of running games-like-a-service, constantly improving. Of course, part of the success is the instantly recognizable Battlefield gameplay with a mix of vehicles and on-foot combat, combined with the ever present BF Heroes humor. I mean, which other game has fireproof underpants?

MCV: Now that the game has been around for a while, how would you say the reception of the free-to-play concept has been?

OB: We were one of the first core F2P shooters released in the western market, and early on it was a challenge for our consumers to understand this new model. Over time, it feels like players has seen the advantages of Free-2-Play, and with more and more titles adopting it, starting to appreciate it. The barrier to entry is so much lower when all you have to do is hit our web page and immediately start playing.

MCV: How much do people in general spend on their Heroes experience, or perhaps, how many of your players actually buy stuff for the game versus how many just play for free?

OB: I can’t go into details, but generally these kind of games only has a few percent of the playing population paying, with the rest enjoying the game for free, and it’s very similar to what we see in Battlefield Heroes. What’s important to understand is that we embrace all our players, both free and paying. Both of them are necessary in our ecosystem, and we have to keep on building a game that’s fun for both kind of players, or we will fail.

MCV: Where do you think this free-to-play concept is going in the next couple of years? Will it completely take over the online market, or will we see a new kind of business model evolve in parallel?

OB: Over the last years the pricing model for games has gone through a radical change. Nowadays we have everything from free games such as browser games or Facebook games, to 1$-5$ smart phone games, to $5-$20 digitally distributed PC/Mac games, to $60 console/PC package goods games, to subscription based MMOs. There’s room for all these players in the market, and the flexible pricing is definitely here to stay. To be honest I’m surprised the diversification hasn’t happened earlier. Gamers of 2012 have a significantly increased opportunity to find an experience that fits their wallet.

1,400 signatures to save Danish Games Museum

Within a week more than 1,400 people have signed the online petition to save the Danish Games Museum and its collection of more than 10,000 games and several thousand coin-ups and game consoles.

The petition was initiated by Thomas Vigild, chairman of The Danish Game Council, following an analysis on the preservation of video games done by The Department of Culture that made it clear that no public funding would be made available for the museum.

The petition has resonated strongly within the academic community, and as Ph.D. in videogames Jonas Heide Smith told MCV, the point of the petition is not the museum itself but that funds should be made available for the preservation of games and hardware.

“The Danish Games Museum just happens to take a unique initiative that no other institutions, neither public nor private, have matched. Preserving games history is just as important as preserving literature and movies, and if the politicians cannot make even limited funds available for this, then it is a serious lack of consequence on their part,” says Jonas Heide Smith.

Danish game developers also show concern that the museum collection including the largest collection of Danish games anywhere might now be lost to the public due to the lack of government funding.

“The museum is vital because it sustains the story of a media and a culture that has great importance in our daily life today. In a time where games and digital culture in general have a tendency to only look forward and where ‘new’ equals ‘good’, the museum provides a historical bearing that I basically think is healthy,” states game developer Press Play’s Game Director, Ole Teglbjærg

Interested parties can sign the petition here.

Supercell might be worth 600 million

Finnish developer Supercell just can’t stay out of headlines these days it seems. Now the founders of the Helsinki-based studio, which was a relative unknown in the business just six months ago, are rumored to have received offers worth 600 million dollars for the company.

Known for its hugely successful mobile games Clash of Clans and Hay Day, Supercell’s daily revenue is estimated to be around the 750,000 dollar range, though Supercell CEO did not confirm the figure to Pandodaily.

According to Index Ventures partner Ben Holmes, Supercell might overtake the struggling mobile giant Zynga in the near future.

“They are one of the few companies, along with King.com, who are now on a regular and reliable basis producing winning games. Both companies have very good shot at overtaking Zynga in terms of revenue, profits and valuation over the next year,” Holmes told Pandodaily.

Supercell was founded by games industry veterans with venture backing just two years ago, which makes the company’s newfound success sound even more astonishing.

SimCity launch a disaster

Remember how SimCity released in the US on wednesday, and the servers had problems keeping up with the load, so that a lot of customers couldn’t play the game at all? Remember how EA promised to fix that little problem for the European release, yesterday? Well, they apparently lied.

Go check out any gaming site you care to mention, and you’ll find hordes of angry players complaining about the EA servers being unreliable, busy or just plain broken. The European (and thus, of course, Nordic) launch was every bit as bad as the american one, and probably worse, since disgruntled American players resorted to using European servers to get the game started.

So what, exactly, is the problem with SimCity, and why can’t the gamers who bought it play it on release day? The main problem is the game’s always-online-DRM, a form of copy protection that checks that you have a legitimate copy by connecting to a server somewhere every time you start the game. That kind of thing has led to some fairly disastrous launches in the past (Diablo III perhaps being the most memorable). But EA seems to have taken the system one step further, constantly checking what the players are doing in-game against the servers, which not only slowed the game down for people over the last two days, but often resulted in people who just forked over €50 or so being unable to use the software they bought.

Now for the opinion piece of this, um, piece. My own personal experience with the game was much the same as everyone elses: I got a few hours of play, until the servers burped and I was unceremoniously kicked out to the desktop. I managed to reconnect long enough to find out that the game hadn’t synched against the server when it crashed, and that all my saved data was gone. All the servers then showed as ‘busy’, and I called it a night.

I’m preaching to the choir here, I know, but this simply isn’t acceptable. Always-online-DRM is pointless, does nothing to stop piracy, but it does plenty to punish and aggravate the people who actually buy games. You know, the people you might want on your side for future releases. I realize that it’s physicall (or at least fiscally) impossible to provide enough server capacity for everyone to play the game on release day, but the solution is probably not to try and trivialize the problem. I think not using a DRM scheme that locks everyone, except those who pirated it, out of the game might be better.

The frankly ridiculous lengths EA went to with the SimCity DRM turned the launch of an otherwise very good game into an unmitigated disaster. Because it IS a very good game, when it works. Let’s just hope that EA, and other large publishers, take something away from this and realize that the people lining up to hand you wads of cash are NOT the bad guys.