Racoon City kicks Mass Effect off Swedish charts

This morning, we got the Swedish game sales charts for the past week, and were mildly surprised to see that Mass Effect 3 was no longer at the top.

Sure, the science fiction epic was still at third, at least on Xbox 360, but the two top slots were taken by the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Resident Evil: Operation Racoon City. Best selling PC game of the week was, somewhat less surprisingly, The Sims 3: Superstar. Here’s the entire top 20 for week 12, 2012:

1. Resident Evil Operation Racoon City (PS3)

2. Resident Evil Operation Racoon City (360)

3. Mass Effect 3 (360)

4. Kid Icarus Uprising (3DS)

5. The Sims 3: I Rampjuset (PC)

6. Fifa Street (PS3)

7. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (PS3)

8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (360)

9. Battlefield 3 (PC)

10. Mass Effect 3 (PC)

11. Fifa Street (360)

12. Battlefield 3 (PS3)

13. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (PC)

14. Mass Effect 3 (PS3)

15. Battlefield 3 (360)

16. Star Wars: The Old Republic (PC)

17. Fifa 12 (PS3)

18. Dance Central (Kinect) (360)

19. Halo Reach (360)

20. Mario Party 9 (Wii)

The list is based on sales reported by Swedish retailers, compiled by Media Control GfK.

Ina Bäckström named IT girl of the year

Ina Bäckström, one of the rising young stars in the Swedish gaming industry, was awarded the IT Girl of the year at the Universum Awards last night.

The Awards were held at Berns Salonger in Stockholm, and included presentations of prizes for the most attractive employers for students of economy, technology, computers science/IT, law and realty.

The show also included the presentation of the Microsoft-sponsored IT Girl or the Year award, which includes a trip to a technology show and various invitations to Microsoft events throughout the year.

This year the award went to Bäckström, a student at Futuregames Academy and one of the founders of BarCraft, the first e-sport bar in Sweden, as well as Frizone Gaming Guild that works to get more women into gaming.

“Being named IT Girl of the year gives me a stronger voice to affect people with, and I see it as a great opportunity to get more women interested in games,” Bäckström said. “I think it’s very important to get more girls into the games industry, not least to change how men and women are portrayed in games, which are after all one of the most influential entertainment businesses for young people.”

Per Larsson, Senior HR Manager at Microsoft Sweden, says about the award: ”Microsoft founded the prize for ’IT Girl of the year’ in order to encourage and inspire women to discover the IT business, and all the possibilities that IT offers. The ‘IT Girl of the year’ prize, which was awarded for the ninth time this year, goes to a female student who shows initiative, inspiration and who can become a role model for other girls who apply for an education in a business and an industry with endless possibilities.”

Fundedbyme Equity launches today

Fundedbyme today launches a new initiative, Fundedbyme Equity, in Sweden after overwhelming interest during the pre-rounds.

The idea is to try and take crowdfunding to the next level, allowing private individuals to be part of bit projects, not just huge venture capital companies, by investing comparatively small sums. This also potentially opens up startups to a much larger pool of investors.

“We are launching a model that will change the way that “old financing” used to work to fund companies into a better, leaner and more effective way of raising capital and creating early momentum,” says Daniel Daboczy, CEO and co-founder of Fundedbyme. “We are really aiming at becoming the entrepreneurs best friend.”

You can find more info about the project, that could potentially impact the Nordic indie games market in a big way, much like previous crowdfunding projects have, on the Fundedbyme Equity page.

Funcom: 72% Metacritic score ‘considered low’

On Friday, Funcom published an update on their latest MMO The Secret World, for their investors.

The text talks about the significant decrease in the Funcom share price after the release of the game, on July 3rd, 2012. Funcom would like to attribute this drop to the low metascore the game received at Metacritic and other such public statistics sources. The Secret World has a Metacritic score of 72 our of 100, though the user score is higher and stands at 8.4, with 673 ratings. Still, this puts it just under the ‘mostly positive’ category, even though the game did indeed mostly get positive reviews if you look at the individual texts about it, but the average was pulled down by some scathing reviews with low scores at the bottom end.

This is one of the reasons why Funcom just launched the game on Steam, and the report also mentions the similarities and differences from the Age of Conan launch, which was a disaster by any standard – this one is much better and looks like the game might be here in its current form for quite a while.

“First indication of churn is more positive than for Age of Conan, and the in-game store is performing as expected,” Funcom writes. “The add-on packs are performing better than expected. Also higher than expected sales are going directly through the online download stores like EA’s Origin and Funcom’s own storefront, generating more profitable sales for the company.”

“A possible scenario going forward is that the game will sell less than both of the two above mentioned scenarios the first 12 months following launch, but with high customer satisfaction, it will generate a more stable subscriber base than the game Age of Conan. Over time, this will enable Funcom to retain more customers and generate higher revenue.”

Personally, I think that this means that The Secret World has the potential to do ok in the long run. It’s better to have a game with a strong plan for the future and a wobbly launch than to have a game that knocks everyone’s socks off up front but has very little depth or replayability (yes, The Old Republic, I’m looking at you). Unfortunately, Funcom CFO Björn Toften mentioned on StockLink iMarkedet that this means layoffs, so it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Also on a personal note, Funcom has consistently delivered original and fresh content to the massively multiplayer online market, even though their games have not always been bug-free on release, so I really hope that this works out. We need companies that dare to innovate.

Dreamfall Chapters under development

Ragnar Törnquist, Funcom creative director and head of the newly started Red Thread Games, has been very active on Twitter the last few days, in the wake of getting caught in the storm Sandy in New York.

The tweets I’m thinking of were all about the new project that Red Thread is undertaking, Dreamfall Chapters. The game will be a new part in the Dreamfall saga of direct-control adventure games, and should hopefully be released sometime late 2013/early 2014 – but that’s just my guess. Below are some of the more relevant tweets regarding this, that I wanted to share with you, dear reader.

“Yep, it’s finally official. The sequel to Dreamfall is on its way from my new development studio Red Thread Games. More information soon!”

“Nope, I haven’t departed Funcom! I’m just juggling several balls; two companies and two projects. Funsies! Red Thread may be a new studio, but we’re all of us experienced game developers, and I did head up both Dreamfall and The Longest Journey!”

“We’ve also received 1M NOK ($175,000) from the Norwegian Film Institute to help fund the first stages of preproduction. Yay “

“No, Dreamfall Chapters won’t be an online game. It’s going to be a single-player PC/Mac adventure game through and through. We’re not planning on an episodic format. Dreamfall Chapters will be a full game…but not necessarily the final game in the saga.“

“Dreamfall Chapters will initially be developed for PC and Mac. We are looking at PS/Xbox versions as well, but that’s not a priority.
We’re still discussing game mechanics, but it will probably be direct control like Dreamfall — but better. Much better.”

“We are definitely doing a Kickstarter, some time early next year!”

“Hopefully we’ll be able to give you a first glimpse early next year…and we’ll definitely bring some of our favourite actors back. It won’t be out for a while yet, but we will have more information soon, I promise.”

Looks like Funcom (the logical choice to publish Dreamfall Chapters, thought nothing has been announced) and Ragnar Törnquist will continue to give us original, story-driven games like no-one else. Keep an eye on them, and follow Törnquist at @ragnartornquist on Twitter.

Bungie’s Destiny is powered by Umbra

Bungie’s upcoming scifi-shooter Destiny will use Umbra’s Umbra 3 technology, the Finnish software developer has announced.

Umbra 3 is the latest product in a series of visibility solutions. The middleware boosts graphics performance with automatic occluder generation and software-based occlusion culling, and has been used in such titles as Mass Effect 3, Alan Wake and Guild Wars 2.

According to Umbra, the company has been working closely with Bungie, and many of Umbra 3’s features were developed with feedback from Bungie’s engineering team.

The long-rumored Destiny was announced last Sunday. The game is currently in development for PS3 and Xbox 360, though other platforms are also a possibility.

Reto-Moto: Always under development

The online game Heroes & Generals is one of the most ambitious Danish games ever to be developed – and it all started with a bald assassin.

Way back in the nineties, Danish game developer Reto-Moto was part of the foundation that IO Interactive sprung from leveraging the company to international success and fame. A few years ago, a group of game developers decided to reform Reto-Moto and embark on the very ambitious WW2 online shooter/strategy game Heroes & Generals.

We met up with Level Designer and cofounder Peter Fleckenstein to get the inside story on what is happening at Copenhagen based Reto-Moto.

MCV: What were the reasons for reforming Reto-Moto as a game developer?

PF: After some successful years at IO Interactive we felt like getting back to basics. IO was a wonderful place to work – but the dream of creating a new, small studio with focus on online gaming was strong, and we started with 12 guys – former founders of IO and some core employees.

MCV: Who are these 12 guys and how is the ownership of Reto-Moto set up?

PF: The partner group consisted of five former founders of IO Interactive, six key employees and our former executive producer from Eidos. Now four years later, we are still nine partners working full time at Reto-Moto. The partners own approximately half of the shares in the company, and the rest of the shares are owned by private investors.

MCV: What are you capable of doing at Reto-Moto that you could not do at IO Interactive?

PF: The main difference is the way we distribute the game. IO was a classic boxed-game developer, and in that model we did not have any contact with the ones playing the game at all. We wanted to create a company and a game where the community would play a significant part in the development. We listen to them, discuss with them – and we try to involve them as much as possible in the development process.

MCV: How is Reto-Moto financed?

PF: Reto-Moto is financed by both the partners and some strong, private investors. We actually had an almost signed deal with some international investors – but the deal just went down the drain, and we were self-financed for over a year. The interest from investors was good, but the game business is indeed high-risk investment, and the global fiscal crisis decreased the willingness to do high-risk investments for many investors. We were finally approached by some private Danish investors who knew about the company, and they are still on board.

MCV: What would an elevator pitch on Heroes & Generals sound like?

PF: Heroes & Generals is a Free2Play Massive Online FPS with a Strategic Multiplayer Campaign taking place in the European theatre of war during WWII. Players can play both as ‘Heroes’ in the FPS action game or manage battlefield assets, army units and reinforcements as ‘Generals’.The game is fought out continuously across Windows, iOS and Android devices, and the result of every battle alters the scope of the ongoing war campaign and affects the final outcome.

MCV: The game seems very ambitious and something that could easily in up in an eternal beta test?

PF: In my mind the game is always under development – but not just in Beta. When we remove the Beta tag, the mechanics work, the game is balanced, the monetization makes sense etc. But we will continuously deliver both smaller feature packs and larger expansion packs. Second World War was also fought in the Pacific, in the African desert, in Russia, in the North Sea, in Norway etc. and also consisted of several more factions, like the British, Russian, Italian and even partisans and resistance movements. So as you might imagine it is not ideas that we are in lack of.

MCV: What is the business model of Heroes & Generals put together?

PF: Heroes & Generals is, as mentioned, Free2Play so everybody can sign up and just start to play the game without paying a single dime. That would be as a standard Infantry Soldier, and while playing you will earn ‘Credits’. These can be spent on purchasing and upgrading weapons, buying new soldier types or strategic Assault Teams. You can also accelerate the earnings by using real money to buy Gold Coins which can be exchanged to Credits.

Our F2P model has two dimensions, the usual ‘Personal F2P’ where coins are spent on your own character – but in our case we are adding something we call ‘Social F2P’. Players can choose to upgrade their Assault Teams with e.g. thicker armour, more powerful mounted MG’s, better food, etc. so other FPS players benefits from this if they join a battle with an upgraded Assault Team. Stats and Rewards as a ‘General’ will get better according to how you manage your Assault Team and how they are doing in the action game. It is like buying new training suits and boots for your local football team – you get credits in the local community and pats on the shoulder.

MCV: A F2P model like that might take a bit of time to pay off. What are Reto-Moto’s financial horizons?

PF: Right now, we are in Closed Beta, and we are working intensively on our monetization model and assets. Of course, it will take some time, and of course it is still not profitable. But players are actually already using their credit cards and PayPal accounts for purchasing Gold Coins. Every day, our user base grows, and money earned are used for continuous development. We are never going to stop developing content for this game!

Be DICEs BFF – get a unique dogtag

The lastest MP update for Battlefield 3 introduced the DICE Friends dogtag – but how do you get it?

In a clever community building move, DICE introduced a new dogtag to their enormously popular Battlefield 3 – the DICE Friends dogtag. This dogtag is only awarded to selected members of the community who crate outstanding content and who have supported the community and DICE throughout the years. And not just in Battlefield 3, this can be in any Battlefield title.

“These dogtags can only be received through recommendations by other people and/or what we have seen so far from you in the community,” says Daniel Matros, Global Battlefield Community Manager, to MCV Nordic. “If you want to recommend someone, please hit us up on twitter, forums or anywhere you see fit. Of course we will need material in order to decide whether this person is worthy of the tag or not. We are rolling out the first batch of these dogtags later this week for 20 people. After that, we will take a look at more names and successfully add those to our DICE Friends dogtag list.”

Daniel also gave us a short list of things that might net you one of these elusive dogtags:

  • Mods
  • Videos
  • Apps
  • Stats sites
  • Websites
  • Newsposts
  • Forum moderators (Only official channels)
  • Community spokespeople
  • Community organizers

So anyone who really wants to stand out by sporting a super exclusive dogtag in-game had better get cracking on the next ‘guy shooting down a jet with a rocket launcher in mid-air’ video.

Why is Nintendo not at Gamescom?

As most of you know by now, Nintendo is not attending this year’s Gamescom in Köln, Europe’s biggest games show.

We thought this might be related to the rumors surrounding the release of the Wii U, Nintendo’s upcoming new console. The latest buzz seems to be that it will release in November in the USA, though rumors are less specific about when it will hit in Europe. We asked Bergsala, who represent Nintendo in the Nordic region, and they said that they never comment on rumors, as per Nintendo guidelines. We didn’t think they would. Instead we asked why Nintendo, and thus Bergsala, is not present at Gamescom this year.

“Whilst Gamescom is a fantastic show,” Bergsala PR Manager Patrik Johansson tells MCV Nordic, “Nintendo has taken the decision not to attend this year’s event. Instead Nintendo is planning a number of sampling events later this year inline with the European Marketing-, PR- and Event-activities in which Nintendo´s fans will have the opportunity to play upcoming games.  Further details will be announced soon.”

So there you have it. Or rather, there you don’t have it, Nintendo isn’t talking, and we still don’t know when the Wii U will be out. We’ll have to hope that their traditional pre-Tokyo Game Show (another show that Nintendo, in spite of being Japanese, traditionally does not attend) press conference will contain those details.

MineCon 2012 is over

The Minecraft convention, MineCon 2012, was held at Disneyland Paris this year, and is now over.

The convention introduced some new details, and apart from the information on the long-awaited modding API, the most interesting were those about the upcoming update, 1.5, or the ‘Redstone update’ as it’s been called.

The update should be out in January 2013, and includes some weird and wonderful new uses for the Redstone ore, which lets you build various electronic circuits and connections in the game. The redstone signal will now have variable strength, and there will be a capacitor block that lets you build more advanced circuits – you’ll have to mine in the Nether for it, though, if you’re playing in Survival mode.

The update also includes better minecarts, a daylight detector and a whole load of bug fixes. For more info, keep an eye on the official Minecraft page over the next two months.