Excited for Nintendo’s new tablet-esque controller? So are the kids in TT Games’ QA department. An over-excited tester tweeted out an image of a slightly different Wii U slab than the one we laid hands on at E3 2011, teasing “look we what we have at work!” Answering the call does indeed reveal something worth looking at — a somewhat wider looking Wii U slate featuring two full-sized analog sticks (as opposed to 3DS-like circle pads), a pair of unmarked button-like squares, and a new starboard home for the controller’s plus and minus buttons.
The tweet was summarily pulled, of course, but not before our friends at Joystiq nabbed a screenshot. Naturally, the rumor mill started right up, churning out speculation of developer specific slabs, early prototypes and late redesigns. The truth? We’ll probably need to wait until E3 to find out, but we reached out to Nintendo for a comment all the same. We’ll let you know if we hear anything more than the usual ”Nintendo doesn’t comment on rumors and speculation” line.
Mario’s latest trip to the Olympics was popular with gamers. As part of Sega Sammy’s latest financial report, the company revealed that Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games has sold 3.28 million copies between the Wii and 3DS versions.
Other million-sellers on Sega’s resume wereSonic Generations at 1.85 million and Virtua Tennis 4, which sold 1.04 million copies. Other titles called out by Sega were Football Manager 2012, which sold 710,000 copies, and Yakuza: Dead Souls, which moved 550,000 units.
The most lucrative platform for Sega software sales during the year was the Wii, which accounted for sales of 3.05 million titles. This is compared to 2.45 million for the PlayStation 3, 1.79 million on the 3DS, 1.54 million on Microsoft’s Xbox 360, and 1.1 million on the PSP.
As for Sega Sammy’s actual earnings, for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2012, the firm’s Consumer Business (which houses its game division) posted revenues of ¥85.6 billion ($1.1 billion), down 3.6 percent from the year prior. The Consumer Business division posted operating losses of ¥15.1 billion ($189 million) for the year, a marked decrease from an operating income of ¥1.9 billion ($24 million) recorded a year ago.
In total, Sega Sammy recorded revenues of ¥395.5 billion ($4.96 billion) for the year, down 3.6 percent year-on-year. Profits came in at ¥21.8 billion ($272.7 million), down a significant 47.4 percent from the ¥41.5 billion ($519.1 million) tallied a year ago this time.
Looking to its current fiscal year, Sega Sammy is predicting net sales to surge 18.8 percent year-on-year to ¥470 billion ($5.88 billion), with net income ballooning some 83.3 percent to ¥40 billion ($500.37 million) for the year ending March 31, 2013.
Sony shares on the Tokyo Stock Exchange have tanked to a 31-year low, dipping as much as 6.7 percent to ¥1,132 ($14.16), reports the BBC. The news comes after Sony this week announced a record annual loss of ¥456.7 billion ($5.71 billion).
Sony and newly appointed president Kaz Hiraihave forecast a return to profit during the fiscal year, but analysts are not betting on the firm being able to turn the ship around.
“Sony is facing a lot of difficulties and the new president has not been able to produce a clear plan as to how he will turn around the company,” Yuuki Sakurai of Fukoku Capital Management told the site. “Even the little that investors have heard, they are not very impressed with.”
Last month, Sony outlined its “One Sony” plan to revitalize the company, which will look to the firm’s gaming business unit to help spur sales. Outside of gaming, the plan aims to bolster sales by restructuring its television sector, creating all-new businesses, realigning its portfolio, and optimizing resources.
Mixing photo-sharing with foodie fanaticism, the Singapore-based social food journal Burpple.com has launched its iPhone app after a few weeks in open beta. The app styles itself as a great way to remember, organize, and explore food moments with your friends, and encourages users to snap images of their ready-to-savor cuisine.
At the centre of the Burpple app is the journal element, for saving your foodie photos into customizable ‘boxes’ that you can assign a theme and name, such as ‘home-cooked.’ In addition, looking back through your archive of images in the app, it can recall where and when you ate that. Plus, the ‘reburp’ feature allows users to share their digital dining experience with friends, or even to sort of retweet what a friend had if you find their photo so amazing. Backing all that up is the more practical aspect of giving you trustworthy eating-out recommendations (or cook-at-home recipes) from your social media circle – making it a lot more direct than digging around inFoursquare or Google Places or something.
Despite mixing that kind of utility with an Instagram-esque funkiness, the startup has a lot of culinary competition to counter, especially from U.S.-based apps like Epicurious or Foodspotting. Perhaps early-stage buzz within smartphone-toting Singaporeans can give an initial boost in user numbers and stickiness to Burpple, allied with local knowledge of the food culture – such as with Burpple’s recent social marketing campaign that was oriented around kopi – aka: coffee – made in the Singapore style. But Burpple’s aim is international, and the startup says that its open beta saw folks in more than 39 countries start using the app.
Elisha Ong, co-founder of Burpple, says that the app is experiencing the kind of growth seen by Instagram and Pinterest shortly after their inceptions, and that the food journal app similarly “transcends cultures and geographical boundaries.”
The other co-founder, Dixon Chan, adds:
One in four smartphone users in the world take pictures of their meals everyday. These photos that would potentially tell great gastronomical adventures are often left dormant in our smartphones or get drowned out on generic social media. Burpple aims to solve that.
On the road to this official launch, the startup has been incubated at the government-backed Plug-in@Blk 71, and then received a S$50,000 grant under the Spring young entrepreneurs scheme. Just last week, it was revealed that Burpple had formed a strategic partnership with its compatriot restaurant reservation service Chope.
Get the sweet-looking Burpple for iPhone app, now updated to v1.1 and ready to hit the streets, from the iTunes Store.
Frenzoo, a startup based out of Hong Kong and San Francisco, is a startup that has been around for a while, specializing in 3D avatars and fashion for girls and women. And the company has announced that it has raised $1 million in new seed funding to create 3D lifestyle and fashion mobile games.
The investors include Hong Kong-based Tytus Michalski, Siemer Ventures, K5 Ventures, and Metaverse Services. This is in addition to existing investor Ambient Sound Investments.
According to the announcement, the new funds will be used to help launch the company’s new Me Girl brand of free lifestyle and fashion games. The company also says that Doug Glen (formerly a chief strategy officer of Mattel, currently an entrepreneur in residence at M-Lab technology incubator) will be joining Frenzoo’s board. He noted that Frenzoo is jumping at the same kind of opportunity that Mattel capitalized on years ago:
In the mid-1990s, Mattel pioneered computer games for girls. […] Games like Barbie Fashion Designer were hugely successful, in part because the market was so underserved. Fifteen years later, the girls’ and women’s market in mobile entertainment is now underserved, and Frenzoo is releasing wonderful games that have raised the bar to an exciting new level.
It will be interesting to see how well Frenzoo takes to the mobile gaming space, as we haven’t really seen any games from them thus far. There’s a trailer below that shows an older beta version of its Dress Me Girl game, but I’m told they’ll have some more current promo material coming soon.
Facebook games star Zynga is launching an old-school, arcade-style title that will be free at its new website or at the world’s biggest social network.
“Bubble Safari” crafted by a Zynga studio in the southern California city of San Diego will be the first title to debut simultaneously at zynga.com and at Facebook on Wednesday.
“This is a new style of game for Zynga in that it is a straight-out arcade game where people are going to lose,” said studio creative director Mark Turmell, who left U.S. videogame titan Electronic Arts last year to join Zynga.
“I’ve been making arcade style games for 20 years… and the learning from old arcade days applies almost 100% to the social market today.”
Unlike hit Zynga games such as “CityVille” and “FarmVille” in which people casually tend virtual crops or construct cartoon urban centers with occasional help of online friends, arcade games move quickly in real time.
“Bubble Safari” has an environmental theme, with players controlling an on-screen monkey out to defeat poachers by firing bubbles into an overhead rack to match colors and clear paths to higher levels, a preview revealed.
“The hero is Bubbles, a space drop-out monkey that has been living the good life in the jungle until poachers come and start taking his friends,” Turmell said. “He has to rescue his friends and stop the poachers.”
Zynga is considering partnering with a group such as the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Uganda in keeping with the game’s nature-defending theme.
“It is always good in a game to have an arch enemy, and the concept of poachers running amok in the jungle is very real,” Turmell said.
“It is something no one is happy with… We have been trying to figure out a way to partner with that community and try to help.”
Zynga Networks posted a “Bubble Safari” video trailer at YouTube for those interested in a peek at the game.
Hazards and challenges heighten as players advance through the faux jungle and the 65 levels in the game. Online friends can pitch in by sending players needed bubbles or “power-ups” such as lightning bolts or bombs.
“For the first time in an arcade game, your friends can help you on a moment-to-moment basis right in the middle of a level,” Turmell said.
“From a social standpoint in an arcade game, it breaks new ground.”
Zynga also gave “Bubbles” a speedy frame rate for fast play.
The game will launch in 14 languages.
Players at zynga.com will be able to take advantage of tools that let them engage in matches with strangers as well as friends.
People can play through the game for free, or pay small amounts along the way for boosts or other benefits to beat levels faster.
“The free-to-play model is almost like the old quarter-to-play arcade model,” Turmell said. “For me, after going through the arcade and console generations, social is like coming home.”
Play with blocks and possiby win a round trip from Tokyo to Boston
To celebrate its new route from Tokyo to Boston, JAL has launched a nifty social media campaign called “JAL Social Block Art.” Also available in English for U.S. residents, those taking part get the chance to win air miles, special key holders and even a pair of tickets between Tokyo and Boston. Only users who register via Facebook or Twitter can qualify to win prizes, potentially making it a great viral campaign.
Once signed in, you’re presented with 3-D blocks to play with; competitors can add colors and remove or add mini blocks. If you hit on the correct combination of blocks, you’re automatically entered into two lotteries. The first lets you know immediately if you’ve won a key holder or air miles. The second is for round trip flights and is drawn at a later date.
10→1 design Works, the firm behind the sites, was also responsible for the award-winning Uniqlo Lucky Line website, which also used social media to allow customers to virtually stand in line at new Uniqlo stores in Tokyo and Taipei for a chance to win prizes.
On March 28, the day the campaign launched, 160,000 blocks were made. However, the Twitter feed suggests that the majority of entrants are Japanese. Granted, the default language of teh site is Japanese and the English button is a little hard to spot. English-language promotion of the site has also been scant. With foreign tourism still flagging after the quake, you’d think JAL would be making a bit more noise.