The Latest News on the Social Games Market in Europe and Emerging Markets


Tencent Partners with EA for Exclusive Version of Plants vs. Zombies 2 in China

By Camilla Noon

If it’s a popular mobile phone game, Tencent wants to be the company selling it in China. And after a series of high-profile partnerships over the last few months (including Fruit Ninja and Temple Run 2), Tencent announced yesterday that it has landed an even bigger fish: Plants vs. Zombies 2. Tencent Games VP Peng Jiaxin announced yesterday that the company has signed an agreement with EA and Popcap Games that will see an exclusive version of the game brought to Tencent’s mobile platforms.

Probably needless to say, there will be other versions of PvZ 2 available in China — the first game, after all, was available on basically any digital device with a screen — but the exclusive version of the game could be a big draw for Tencent depending on what kind of special content it contains. Tencent was also behind the China-focused Plants vs. Zombies: Great Wall Edition, so the company knows how to lure domestic gamers to the apocalypse-and-vegetables-themed game.

And of course, Tencent has so many mobile platforms that if the game ends up on all of them, it will have a pretty impressive reach. In addition to mobile QQ, QQ Zone, and its game platform apps, Tencent also has the super-popular WeChat, which we already know it plans to add a gaming platform on top of. In fact, the company is reportedly looking to integrate that with QQ’s gaming platform. We don’t know yet when that integrated platform is coming, but launching it at the same time as a whole new Plants vs. Zombies game would certainly be a way to get people excited about it!

(via: TechinAsia)


PopCap Games Launches Bookworm™ Heroes for iPad and iPhone

By Camilla Noon

PopCap Games, a worldwide leader in mobile and social games and a division of Electronic Arts Inc., today announced the global launch of Bookworm Heroes for iPad and iPhone. An all-new adaptation of PopCap’s mega-hit word game franchise, Bookworm Heroes offers head-to-head, on-the-go fun with friends, and takes turn-based word battles to heroic new heights. With a host of new features, and taking full advantage of touch screen capabilities, Bookworm Heroes is now available for free download on iTunes on a rolling basis worldwide for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

“We’re ecstatic to introduce the next chapter of Bookworm to iOS users in a new adaptation that brings multiplayer and social gameplay to what’s previously been a solitary player experience,” said Scott Willoughby, Bookworm franchise director at PopCap Games. “Bookworm Heroes adds a new level of fun and challenge among friends, plus a ton of extras that we believe make this the best Bookworm iteration yet.”

In Bookworm Heroes, players face-off with friends as they take turns building words from letter tiles to spell victory! Along the way, they’ll be joined by legendary heroes and magical pets who boost their word power and mess with their opponent’s letter tiles in wild ways. Key features include:

-Play head-to-head against friends via Facebook or challenge random opponents

-Heroes provide unique special abilities and tiles to boost word scores

-Powerful pets will add extra bonuses, damage or health

-Players can purchase coins to rent heroes and pets

-Tap Game Center for leaderboards, including Total # of Wins and Wins per Hero

-Share via Facebook to taunt friends and boast epic word skills to the world

-Push notifications give players a heads-up for challenges and nudges

-Players can earn coins just for inviting more friends to play


Game of the Week – RISK: Factions Occupies Facebook

By Regina Leuwer

Board games are the original social games. Most of us have played them for hours on end with friends and family members. EA’s RISK:Factions is this year’s first promising newcomer and proves that the classic Risk is not a museum piece after all.

Developer: EA
January 17, 2012
Language(s): English
Monthly active users: 740,000 (on Facebook, January 30)
Monetization: Free-to-play with paid premium currency

What’s inside?

A strategic turn-based board game about world domination reinvented for the Facebook platform.

How to play

Just like in the original Risk players place troops on a map and aim to conquer the world. RISK: Factions stays true to its roots by using the most successful game mechanic of all times – a dice.

RISK: Factions lets the dice decide each battle - of course having significantly more troops helps.

When fighting over a patch on the map, both the attacker and the defender roll dices which decide the outcome of the battle. The player turn sequence of deploying troops, attacking and defending was also adopted from the board game. Interestingly, RISK: Factions diverges considerably from the typical social game pattern by not including an energy bar, which usually limits players’ actions to entice paying for virtual currency. RISK: Factions however allows users to move their troops on the map and attack as much as they like per turn as long as troops are available. The game’s hard currency Stars is used to purchase advanced weaponry and other useful utilities to provide an edge in combat.

Players aim for world domination by conquering territory on the game's many different maps.

Unlike other social games that often coerce players into adding more Facebook friends to advance,
RISK: Factions can be played entirely in single-player mode. But of course striving for world domination is more fun when competing with real people. The game’s social features include multiplayer against friends or strangers, leaderboards and cooperative interactions such as gifting or visiting allies and assisting them in building their military base with training grounds to generate troops or factories to build weapons.

Players can either fight as the human faction, an army of cats, and a militia of brain-starved Zombies. Each faction comes with unique strengths, strategy, and quirky special weaponry. These whimsical characters are not part of the original board game; they add a little comic relief and characteristic social game style.


PopCap Games Brings Bejeweled, Plants vs. Zombies, and Peggle to new Platforms

By Gary Merrett

PopCap Games has announced the immediate availability of Bejeweled for the Google Chrome Web Store. The game has been customized specifically for the HTML5 browser, with advanced 3d accelerated graphics and effects, and features two dazzling modes: Classic and Speed.

“Everyone is looking to HTML5 these days because it holds the promise of cross-platform development across all browsers and mobile devices,” said Giordano Bruno Contestabile, Bejeweled franchise business director at PopCap Games. “While it’s still early in the technology life cycle, we at PopCap are very interested in the potential of HTML5 gaming, and this game is one of the most advanced and impressive HTML5 games yet implemented.”

PopCap Games also announced today the first ever availability in the Android Market of award-winning game Plants vs. Zombies and Peggle later this week. “Plants vs. Zombies has previously been available to Android consumers via other compatible marketplaces, but this will mark its first appearance in the official Android Market. This is also Peggle’s first venture on Android and we’re thrilled,” said Tony Leamer, Plants vs. Zombies franchise business director at PopCap Games. “With the recent availability of Plants vs. Zombies on Kindle Fire, fans will now have access to the game on multiple devices and from several marketplaces.”


Game of the Week: Six Gun Galaxy – KlickNation’s Wild West RPG Gets Too Ambitious For its Own Good

By Regina Leuwer

This week’s Game of the Week Six Gun Galaxy uses a newly-developed engine to deliver a completely flash-based isometric game. Developer KlickNation made the headlines recently when the company was acquired by EA.

Developer: KlickNation
Genre: Role-Playing-Game
Platform(s): Facebook
Launch: July 2011
Languages: English
Monthly Active Users on Facebook: 40,000 (December 5)
Monetization: Free-to-play with paid premium currency

What’s inside?

An RPG that combines a bleak post-apocalyptic future with wild west. And city building.

The game offers a multitude of places to explore.

What’s it all about?

The game is set in a future when competition for natural resources will have led to ‘The Great War’ that led to devastation, and left most humans mutated. In this Corporations and special interest groups are using military and biochemical weapons to gain power.

How to play

The game offers a multitude of 3D landscapes that players explore in different quests – exploring mainly means clicking on things a lot.  In addition there is a homestead where users place buildings and earn rewards. In-game and premium currency can be used to up

grade weaponry and other equipment. The game’s city-building aspect enables players to earn in-game cash, visit their friends and gain bonuses. However, most of the powerful weapons and player modifications require premium currency. City-building in this wasteland feels a little weird, making the feature a not very compelling.

The viral recommendation functionality is awkward – Facebook friends are displayed as characters who appear to be part of the game, walking around in the scene before they are even invited, which might mislead users to invite/spam their friends. The round-based fights that take place in a different screens are fun though a little repetitive. Players can fight in teams with up to three members. There are many in-game enemies to beat, and also player-versus-player action.

A character fights against a creature named Zombie Hulk.
A character fights a Zombie Hulk.

Bottom line

Six Gun Galaxy is a very ambitious game, has nice graphics and a great atmosphere including  a deep background story and a really cool soundtrack – especially for Facebook game standards. Taking this complexity into account, KlickNation even offers it’s own Wiki for more information background story and locations. But overall the game seems and not a great fit for the Facebook platform where the attention span is short and very easy games are succeeding. Six Gun Galaxy has only 40,000 monthly active users and the numbers are declining. It remains to be seen whether KlickNation’s new owner EA will revitalize the game or put it to sleep.


Social Games This Week: Kobojo Sets Shop in Berlin, CrowdStar Chooses Amazon, Facebook Reported to Eye Gambling in UK

By Regina Leuwer

Kobojo, the largest French social game publisher, announced the opening of a new office in Berlin, Germany. After also establishing a Spanish office in Madrid, Kobojo hopes to keep growing and further develop its hyperlocalization strategy.

According to media reports, EA plans to acquire Sacramento-based social game developer KlickNation, founded in 2008 by Ken Walton and Mark Otero. KlickNation has 350,000 monthly active users across several apps on Facebook. Update: EA has confirmed the acquisition.

If a report by eGaming Review is correct, Facebook is in talks with potential partners to open its platform to real-money online gambling in the UK. So far, casino games on Facebook were ‘just for fun’, meaning players are not enabled to win real cash. Recently, Facebook’s Julien Codorniou encouraged developers to start building casino games. However, lately UK-based Yazino has pulled its casino apps from Facebook.

CrowdStar announced the launch of its mobile social game, Top Girl, for Android. Top Girl will be sold exclusively through the Amazon App Store for two weeks after launching.

A new charity social game named WeTopia aims to help underprivileged kids. As players grow their WeTopia villages, they earn Joy currency which they can apply toward real-world projects such as building a school in Haiti. The game was developed by Sojo Studios, and is supported by TV host Ellen DeGeneres, among others.


So Does HTML5 Suck?

By Sebastian Sujka

HTML5 was the hottest topic of 2011. After the technology was simply presented to us as the torch to lead us into a brighter future, hardly anybody dared to criticize it. The gaming industry was expecting a revolution as Facebook announced HTML5 to be one out of two most important topics for 2011. Now after Facebook presented its HTML5 mobile app framework last month critical voices start to emerge.

Todd Hooper, CEO of Zipline Games, lashed out at HTML5 in a recent interview: “HTML5 guys have a lot of conferences, but let’s see some games.” According to Hooper, different companies have pushed HTML5 because it suits their agendas, but game developers are mostly not HTML5 programmers. “In fact,” he added, “most game programmers don’t want to use JavaScript.”

EA’s creative director Richard Hilleman believes that HTML5 offers a great opportunity to provide instant access to games, but the platform needs to overcome some serious issues:  “High performance Javascript is obtuse at best,” Hilleman said in his keynote at New Game Conference in San Francisco. Also, it’s very hard to predict how an app will run on different hardware specifications.

Still not all browsers support HTML5 and, unlike Flash games, the appearance is inconsistent when using different browsers. For developers it becomes a challenge, whether to produce for the widest audience or support only one browser for best quality. This reality is quite the opposite of the vision of HTML5 as the ultimate cross-device solution. Hilleman: “Bad experience on the delivery will kill the platform as fast as anything. Maybe even faster.”

EA is also facing sound problems with HTML5:  “We still tend to falter with sound on HTML5, and we have to resolve that… I have some hopes the next iterations of the browser will address that but it’s another big problem,” said Hilleman. He thinks that HTML5 needs  a killer app that delivers a user experience that would compel players to show a game to their friends.

For Todd Hooper, HTML is lacking the magic: “When I saw the new Facebook app on iPad and saw the HTML games, they would have been state-of-the-art three or four years ago, but they aren’t state-of-the-art now.”

Is HTML5 the ‘new technology to build the next generation apps on the web’, like Facebook wants us to believe? So far, the platform has not delivered on the great expectations.


EA Makes Nanigans Its Exclusive Facebook Advertising Technology Partner

By Sebastian Sujka

Playfish/Electronic Arts has selected Nanigans as its exclusive Facebook advertising technology partner. Playfish has licensed the Nanigans Ad Engine platform to advertise across its entire portfolio of social games. Playfish will have first access to new features on the Ad Engine platform. Playfish has already used the Nanigans Ad Engine platform on games such as Madden NFL Superstars, MONOPOLY  Millionaires and Restaurant City, and will use it on Sims Social, launching today. The Ad Engine is a software platform that integrates with the Facebook Ads API to deliver precise targeting, multivariate testing and improved ROI. Its real-time bidding algorithms optimize for downstream value and actions such as installs, tutorial completions, virality and purchases.


EA Launches Procter and Gamble’s First Social Gaming Campaign

By Gary Merrett

Electronic Arts has announced a collaboration with Procter and Gamble to feature its Bounty products in Playfish’s game Restaurant City. Players will be able to utilize Bounty products in Restaurant City.  The collaboration will feature the integration of Bounty paper towel products and will feature product centric in-game challenges. In Restaurant City, players create and manage virtual restaurants and employ their Facebook friends as waiters and chefs. Players select from a variety of themes, furniture and equipment to customize and personalize their restaurants for a unique social gaming experience. Players can also visit their friends’ restaurants and trade culinary ingredients to create tasty menus which guarantee their restaurant is a virtual foodie favorite. Now Restaurant City players can use special Bounty in-game products just as they would in real-life to make sure their restaurants are in tip-top shape.

As part of the campaign, Restaurant City players that “Like” the Bounty Facebook page are rewarded with a decorative Bounty Tower that when displayed in players’ restaurants adds five popularity points to their restaurants. Players will also be presented with two “Bounty Challenges” that kick-start their cleaning quest and opens the door to earning a special Bounty paper towel roll and a dutiful Bounty Janitor to keep things spotless in their restaurants. In the first Bounty Challenge, players are tasked with getting their restaurants “Bounty Clean” by cleaning five messy spills. Upon completing this task, players are awarded with a Bounty paper towel roll that gives them the ability to clean their entire restaurant with one mouse click. In the second Bounty Challenge, players are asked to use their Bounty paper towel roll to clean their restaurants five times to receive the services of the Bounty Janitor who can clean the restaurant 30% faster than a traditional Restaurant City janitor.


EA Extends a Blockbuster Franchise to Facebook with Dragon Age Legends

By Moritz Hettich

EA has announced that Dragon Age’ Legends is now available on Facebook. Dragon Age Legends, a collaboration between BioWare’ and EA’s Play4Free studio EA2D, expands on the award-winning action RPG franchise and introduces deep, high-quality gaming to Facebook. Dragon Age Legends also ties directly into Dragon Age II, currently available in stores. Players who complete specific quests in Dragon Age Legends can earn up to five exclusive items for use in Dragon Age II.’We built Dragon Age Legends with one goal in mind: to bring the AAA quality gameplay BioWare is famous for to the social space,’ said Mark Spenner, General Manager of EA2D. ‘Dragon Age Legends brings true RPG combat and style to this massive social platform and delivers it at BioWare blockbuster quality, raising the bar for social games.’

Set in the Free Marches, the primary setting of Dragon Age II, Dragon Age Legends combines turn-based tactical combat with gripping co-operative gameplay. By simply logging in Facebook, players can jump in to the online RPG to recruit their friends and embark on a battle-rich journey filled with challenging quests. Like all classic RPGs, players will earn loot and share rewards with their friends to grow their hero’s might and their kingdom’s power. The game includes a character-customization and upgrade system that allows players to tackle demons and darkspawn to become a legendary hero within the Dragon Age universe.