By Alexander Villafania INQUIRER.NET MANILA, Philippines -- New online game publisher Run Up Interactive Inc. is eyeing a bigger share in the casual gaming market, a sector that is seen to be the more appealing and lucrative compared to more serious games. During the launch of its first game in the Philippines, Luna Online, Run Up Operations Manager Kit Chan said the casual gaming market remains to be one of the bigger growth areas in the Philippines, with most online gamers playing casual games. Chan said they are confident enough company also plans to introduce about two more games in the coming months. Luna Online is developed by Korean firm EYA Interactive. Despite its more children’s cartoon graphics, it plays out like a hack-and-slash type massively multiplayer online game. The main focus, however, is more on community building. Players can form up into a “family” composed of a virtual father, mother, and three children. Families can also join up to form larger groups. There is also a farming mini-game in Lune Online wherein families manage a virtual farm to get more powerful rewards or credits. A dating system is also included in the game wherein players can be hooked up with each other based on region, age, likes and dislikes. There are also three character classes, either humans or elves, with different physical attributes. The characters can also show emoticons, some of which can also make characters do certain actions like dancing.
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THE growth of the local online gaming industry will follow the growth of broadband Internet in the country. Amid an ongoing economic recession, industry executives said the local online gaming industry remains to be small because there are still untapped locations where there could be gamers. “Broadband Internet penetration is still small. Majority of players are in the Internet cafes. We're hoping that it becomes affordable for people to play at home when prices of Internet usage go down,” AMDG Vice Chairman Arturo Diago, Jr., said in a recent briefing. Gaming is seen to be one of the cheapest forms of entertainment, according to iAM Interactive President and CEO Fadzly Yusof. The company is seeing more growth in the overall local gaming industry as competition intensifies. In fact, iAM is even looking to launch at least two new games within the year, including a new massively multiplayer online game similar to two of its previously distributed titles, Guild Wars and Lineage II. The company recently launched its first casual racing game GoGo Racer and an anime-styled shooter game called Exteel. Both games are on a free-to-play platform, with an in-game item mall, which charges players for certain items purchased. Yusof said online game publishers are also expanding to other markets. iAM is targeting three countries: the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia. “This allows us to expand our revenue sources.”
MOBIUS Games is adding WolfTeam, its first-person shooter title in its roster of published game titles in the Philippines. This puts to seven the total number of titles that Mobius Games has in the Philippines. WolfTeam plays similar to most first-person shooter games but adds some elements of fantasy and science fiction; instead of ordinary humans soldiers with weapons, players can transform into werewolves that are more resilient against weapons but themselves are unable to carry any while in this state. Characters that transform into werewolves are able to move faster, jump higher and can climb walls. They use their claws instead to attack enemies. Mobius Games said in a statement that the game will be launched on May 7 across Internet cafes in the Philippines. “We are very excited to work together again with mobiusgames and we have no doubt Wolf Team will be successful. Players in the Philippines will love this game,” said WolfTeam Executive Producer Kang Jihun. The story is set in the year 2013 when scientists develop a vaccine called “Epocine” to treat a human genetic disorder caused by a wayward wolf DNA. However, the vaccine developer creates a “Anti-Epocine” that enhances wolf features in humans. The French Army is supplied with the Anti-Epocine and creates a group of mercenaries called WolfTeam. Unfortunately, the WolfTeam disengages from the French Army to become a mercenary group. WolfTeam is developed by Korean firm Softnyx, which was behind the casual game GunBound also published by Mobius Games.
MANILA, Philippines--“DOTA, or any role-playing game for that matter, may be fun, but it won’t be able to teach you the skills you need for your first job, or for higher education.” This was the message of AKYBAYAN Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel during the commencement exercises of the University of the Philippines Cebu College, a copy of which was sent to media. Hontiveros-Baraquel said that online games should be treated as an addictive game and should be played in moderation. “You may protest and extol the virtues of being Mogul the Axe for five hours, but unless you are in the brink of developing gaming software and needs the game to test your theories, then play DOTA or any RPG in moderation,” she said. Hontiveros-Baraquel spoke against online games during a part where she told graduates about the skills necessary to find jobs, as well as the means to survive the current economic situation. Instead, she stressed the need for the graduates to take up a sport to remain physically fit. Nevertheless, Hontiveros-Baraquel praised the availability of online search engine Google.com for being an “oracle” that allows people to search for specific topics. She added that Google is also more efficient than the Philippine government’s own Department of Labor when looking for jobs. “What’s true with Google is somehow true with life. There are certain keywords that we must learn to live by. The more we hone our keywords, the better the search result is,” she said.
Agence France-Presse SAN FRANCISCO--Californian technology firm OnLive is poised to launch a service that streams video games over the Internet, meaning players can avoid buying expensive consoles or packaged software. OnLive ended seven years of "stealth" development late Tuesday by announcing the system should launch in the United States by the end of the year. The firm is building a library of video game software on servers that players reach over broadband Internet by using mini-programs in home computers or OnLive MicroConsoles connected to television sets. "We've cleared the last remaining hurdle for the video games industry: effective online distribution," said OnLive founder and chief executive Steve Perlman. "By putting the value back into the games themselves and removing the reliance on expensive, short-lived hardware, we are dramatically shifting the economics of the industry." Major video game makers Ubisoft, Atari, Warner Brothers, and Electronic Arts are among the studios providing PC versions of hot titles for the OnLive service previewed at a major Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. "We will launch in the United States and move into other countries as fast as we can," OnLive engineer Ronn Brashear said as Carlos Lievano played Ubisoft's 'Prince of Persia' at GDC Wednesday using a MicroConsole. Lievano, a graduate student from Columbia who is studying for a Masters degree in business at a California university, said OnLive promises to be a hit in developing countries. "This will be huge for the distribution of video games," Lievano said. "People that don't have the money for expensive equipment just have to get Internet service set up and can play any game they want." The video game world is currently dominated by consoles made by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. Nintendo's popular Wii is priced at 250 dollars while beefier Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles carry higher price tags. Comparable in size to decks of cards, MicroConsole devices will be provided free with video game services that let people pay monthly subscriptions to play online. Pricing of subscriptions has yet to be finalized. Graphics of game play are streamed to players while the interactive software remains secure on OnLive computers, eliminating piracy concerns, Brashear said.
GAME publisher iAM Interactive unveiled its second casual game for this year, a racing game called GoGoRacer [spelled as is], developed by China-based firm Radiance Digital Entertainment. GoGoRacer would be the third online racing game in the Philippines, after Crazy Kart from Level Up! Philippines and IP e-Games’ Top Speed. The game is similar to the Nintendo Mario Kart series where players try to outrun competitors while using various weapons to overtake them. iAM Product Manager John Paul Pelayo said in an interview that the game would be distributed in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, allowing players from these countries to compete against each other. Pelayo said the game would be targeted at players ages 12 to 30. One of its unique features is having up to 16 players per match. However, Pelayo said they would initially have up to 8 players. He also mentioned that Radiance Digital used an enhanced physics engine to allow for realistic racing. The game also includes nitrous oxide, commonly called "nitros" to boost the speed of the racer. Just like Mario Kart, there would also be items spread in the game that can be picked up by the racer and used to get the upper hand in the game. Pelayo also said the game has a crafting system to allow users to upgrade the karts. Pelayo said that they would be starting their closed beta test in April and would have the commercial in June. “We’re already looking to localize the game for the different countries,” Pelayo said.
LOCAL game publisher Z-Zone believes that casual gaming business is not profitable even as local online game publishers are introducing more casual games these days. Z-Zone, which publishes the online games SkyBlade: Sword of the Heavens and the recently launched Oversoul, is not looking to launch any casual gaming titles anytime soon. It intends to focus on massively-multiplayer online games (MMORPGs). Z-Zone Vice President for Marketing and Operations DJ Reclamado said casual games are less appealing to some gamers because of the current economic situation. Reclamado said gamers would rather play MMORPGs that require less purchases of special items since these can be gathered from playing the game. Casual games usually require players to buy more items to become stronger. He said 2009 is not a good year for casual games, as players are buying less to save up for more important purchases. “Casual games are about simplicity of game play. Players only get satisfied when they play for a while and the result is immediate. MMORPGs provide satisfaction during longer periods and they can think of better strategies,” Reclamado said. For now, the company is focusing on promoting OverSoul, which is also developed by Magics Co., the same Korean developer of SkyBlade. Oversoul started its beta test late last year and has gone commercial in March. The game has been localized to include ancient Filipino names and places to give players a more local feel.
WITH only less than 15 months left before the 2010 presidential elections, some political candidates are now making headway with subtle campaigns on television and other mediums, including the Internet. Filipino online gamers, however, can be assured that their virtual worlds will not have political advertisements even as online game publishers are ramping up their in-game advertising business. "We're not going to allow political ads because it might be construed negatively by our players who may or may not be interested in politics," said IPVG CEO Enrique Gonzalez during a gaming forum. He said IPVG has a policy against political advertisements in online games, which the company publishes through online gaming subsidiary IP e-Games. "We don't deny that there is money to be made in political ads but it might draw some players to think that we're supporting candidates,” Gonzalez said. Gonzalez said that in-game advertising, which is also called as “advergaming,” is a potential revenue source for game publishers. But it remains to be a small and unexplored market. "As a company, we don't promote one political party or another. What we advocate though is for our players to exercise their democratic rights to vote in the elections," the executive said. Rival game publisher Level Up! Philippines has also policies against political advertising, same as it has against tobacco and liquor ads. Carlo Ople, Level Up! Philippines marketing manager, said in a statement that the local game publisher wants to remain impartial during the elections. "We believe that people need to make informed choices, one that goes beyond hype and popularity,” Ople said. Both Level Up! Philippines and IP e-Games have been engaged in advergaming in partnership with companies offering consumer products like clothes, food and beverages. Both game publishers offer virtual versions of these products that players can "consume" to enhance their online characters. Game publishers are now using advergaming to target specific markets, in this case, the young online gamers who are also expected to purchase products and services marketed through these virtual worlds.
THE online racing game is heating up as game publisher IP E-Games announced its own online casual racing game, Top Speed. Top Speed uses similar concepts as the hugely popular Mario Kart racing series, where players can do both offensive and defensive driving techniques. There are also items and weapons in the gameâ€™s tracks that have both offensive and defensive purposes. Other features include customization for playersâ€™ avatars and their karts, upgrade options for the karts, solo and team-based races, as well as a variety of difficulties for the tracks. Top Speed has a minimum computer specification requirement of Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 2000--Intel Pentium III with 800 MHz CPU, 256MB RAM, GeForce2 MX 400 ATI Radeon Gaphics card and DirectX 8.1 or higher. X-Play will activate a website for Top Speed, which will contain more information about the game. However, interested players can already check out the official Southeast Asian website. The company will also include Top Speed in the upcoming Road to Domination III, a series of live tournaments in preparation for the much bigger Domination III gaming celebration.
INTERACTIVE entertainment company, Asian Media has unveiled a new a subsidiary that would serve as the company's online gaming brand. IAM Interactive Inc. intends to focus on the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia, which are the original markets for Asian Media's online gaming business. Asian Media also intends to expand to other businesses, which according to IAM Interactive President and CEO Fadzly Yusof, will be announced later. Yusof said the company aims to build the IAM Interactive brand through investments in promotions and advertising as well as community building for its players. "If there are any more investments for infrastructure, it will be upgrades of our game servers to provide the best experience to our players," Yusof said. He added that they are expecting increased capacity of gamers from the three countries they serve once they have launched their new games. Yusof is also confident that by targeting the three countries, they could extend their revenue stream. "We could be bigger than the big online gaming companies." Part of their operational overhaul is shifting from pay-to-play online gaming services to free-to-play, which they would start with the casual Japanese mecha-styled first person shooter game Exteel. He said the free-to-play model would be applied in the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore. "We've not fully maximized these markets so there's a lot of potential business from them," he added. Two other games are set to launch in the second to third quarter of 2009. Both would also be free-to-play. Incidentally, Yusof said Lineage II, developed by NCsoft, would remain a pay-to-play game. However, there are some plans to turn it into free-to-play in Russia where it is published. "If it works there, we could bring it here," he said. Asian Media signed a US$5.5 million distribution deal with NCsoft in 2007, which gave Asian Media the right to distribute the game in the three countries. Yusof said the free-to-play model is more appealing to gamers. He added that the current US recession would not likely have dire effects on the online gaming industry simply because players would use online gaming as a cheaper form of entertainment.