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Huge Zynga Executive Changes Include Former CEO Stepping Down from Operations

posted Sunday Apr 27, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Huge Zynga Executive Changes Include Former CEO Stepping Down from Operations

Last summer, former Xbox exec Don Mattrick took over as new CEO of Zynga and immediately went to work. Through this time, former CEO Mark Pincus has remained on as chief product officer and was still involved in day-to-day management of the company. However, that is about to change as Pincus gave up those roles this week.

While he will no longer be in charge of running the operations of the company, the founder of the once-popular game studio will still remain on as chairman. Pincus is also the largest shareholder of the company and even has a controlling interest, and these two things will not change with him stepping down from his former job.

On top of this, CEO Don Mattrick has added some powerful people to his team to hopefully help lead Zynga back into profitable quarters.

First, founder of Relic Entertainment and previous Xbox Live executive Alex Garden has been signed by Mattrick to become president of Zynga Studios. When with Microsoft, Garden was responsible for Xbox Live, Xbox Music and Xbox Video. He was also played a key part in bringing on the myriad of media partners to the Xbox platform, like ESPN and Netflix.

On the hire, Mattrick said,

Alex Garden is an exciting hire for us as we focus on growing and sustaining our franchises, creating groundbreaking new entertainment experiences, and developing a more creative culture across Zynga. As president of Zynga Studios, Alex will have an integral role on the management team overseeing all of our studios as well as our CTO division. On a personal note, I have known Alex for 25 years and I am confident that he will strengthen our creative and technical capabilities as well as nurture and mentor our existing teams.

Also making his way to the team is Henry LaBounta, who is an Academy Award-nominated visual effects director who will, naturally, be heading up Zynga as chief visual officer. Jennifer Nuckles will take the chief marketing officer role and earlier this month new CFO and chief accounting officer David Lee accepted his position. On departures, Steve Chiang, who was the lead in all things "Ville" for Zynga, has left the company.

What do you think of all these changes? It seems like Mattrick really is trying to turn things around. We'll have to see what happens over the summer to know if Zynga will have fighting power moving into the holiday season.

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Amazon Increases Media Holdings, Buys ComiXology

posted Sunday Apr 13, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Amazon Increases Media Holdings, Buys ComiXology

Just weeks after Marvel spiced up their digital comics offerings, another major change has come to the digital comics world. Amazon has purchased popular digital comic distributor, ComiXology, for an undisclosed figure. ComiXology can be best described as Kindle for comics, allowing people to purchase digital versions of their favorite comic series through the store and app.

David Steinberger, co-founder and chief executive of ComiXology, said,

ComiXology's mission is to spread the love of comics and graphic novels in all forms. There is no better home for ComiXology than Amazon to see this vision through.

The addition of ComiXology to the Amazon family will certainly bolster the growing reach of Amazon's digital distribution. Already including music, audiobooks, video and eBooks, the one major content type missing from their lineup was comics.

It is unclear which ownership model Amazon will take with ComiXology: the fully-integrated Audible style, or the completely unbranded AbeBooks style. Either probably offers Amazon a lot in return, but my guess is that, for now, the team will be left alone to do what they do best, while having the resources of Amazon to help them along their way.

Do you currently use ComiXology? Will this purchase affect that decision, either way? Let us know in the comments.

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Prenda Law Dealt Another Blow in Appeals Court

posted Sunday Apr 13, 2014 by Scott Ertz

The Prenda Law story has been so ridiculous that I am proud to get to cover it. Prenda is, for lack of a better term, a copyright troll, who files lawsuits against individuals for pirating pornography for which they own the rights. Last year The Pirate Bay, the world's largest torrent list, revealed that they had traced the torrents in question in Prenda's largest lawsuit directly to Prenda, suggesting that they planted these torrents to allow them to file this suit.

Shortly after this revelation, Comcast joined the research, confirming the suspicions that the IP addresses used to list the torrents in question were those of Prenda Law's own John Steele. The IP was also linked to forum members on various sites who had shared pro-Prenda sentiments.

During oral arguments in the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, Prenda was dealt a series of blows to their case. The three judges overseeing the case continually interrupted Daniel Voelker, the lawyer for Steele, Hansmeier, and Duffy, challenging his statements. Judge Diane Sykes even asked a fairly simple question that would be essential to the case,

Can you describe to me, in 25 words or less, what the relationship is among these various firms: Steele Hansmeier PLLC, Prenda Law, Alpha Law?

This organization was the one identified by Comcast as the owner of the IP address used to upload the torrents, as well as to access John Steele's personal GoDaddy account. Voelker's response did not help his case,

I can't, Your Honor. I don't know. I don't know what it is today, I don't know what it was a year ago.

Sykes responded saying, "That is shocking."

This relationship has been a large issue in previous appeals courts as well as initial trials. It has, in fact, ended Prenda with sanctions from more than one court, including the lower court, which is the case being appealed in this instance. While Voelker tries to accuse the lower judge of making decisions based on facts not in evidence,

{Murphy} found that the attorneys had a 'relentless willingness to lie,' and there's no support for that in the record. He also found that they're 'starving attorneys with shattered law practices.' Those are basically facts that the district court in California found based upon Internet research.

Judge Diane Wood does not seem to agree, however, saying,

Some of these misrepresentations were in front of him, though. There's an overall concern that this was a proceeding in bad faith. It's kind of an attempt to hold up these 6,600 people (and) see who will settle. It's a troublesome record.

So, while the case is far from over, this is not looking good for Prenda, even after just the first day.

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GameSpy Shutting Down, Matchmaking for 70 Titles to End Officially

posted Sunday Apr 13, 2014 by Scott Ertz

GameSpy Shutting Down, Matchmaking for 70 Titles to End Officially

At one point, GameSpy was a large provider of online gaming middle-tier software for matchmaking and other services popular among PC games. With a decline in PC gaming during the height of the last generation of consoles and an increase in home-grown services, the market for this type of service dropped significantly. With that, GameSpy has had trouble remaining alive, and will be shutting down their services entirely at the end of May.

Not since Microsoft finally shut down support for original Xbox games have we seen a blackout of high profile games this large. Reddit has been keeping a list of affected games, and the highlights of the list are intense:

  • Battlefield 2142
  • Battlefield 1942
  • Borderlands
  • Civilization IV
  • Crysis
With so many well-known, high-profile titles, there was little chance the Internet was going to let this happen. As we say often, most recently during our Gulf Coast MakerCon coverage, where something sucks, a product is born. The product born, or in this case spotlighted, of this shutdown is a service called GameRanger.

GameRanger has been around since 1999, but has not had nearly the overall need until now. The service matches the capabilities of GameSpy, though some features, such as voice chat, only exist with a premium account. But, for those who continue to play these games, the capability to continue playing, even if it costs you a little per month, is probably worth it, though you could continue playing without the premium account and get creative to fill-in the missing pieces.

Currently, the GameRanger creator seems confident in his service's capabilities - almost. There are a number of games he has concerns about, including Arma 2 and Crysis, but reminds people that the service supports over 500 titles.

GameRanger isn't the only solution to this newfound problem, as Bohemia is working on an Arma 2 support system to replace GameSpy, and they are not the only developer working to patch games to remove the issue. Do you play any of the games affected by the GameSpy shutdown? Let us know in the comments.

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Final Approval for Microsoft-Nokia Deal Received

posted Sunday Apr 13, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Final Approval for Microsoft-Nokia Deal Received

Since announcing the Nokia devices business acquisition by Microsoft 7 months ago, the two companies have had a number of hurdles to jump over from various governments around the world. Microsoft seemed to think the hardest issue would be an Indian production plant that was behind on taxes. Unfortunately, after solving that issue, the deal was still not final.

This week, the last of around 16 regulatory approvals was received from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), similar to the US Federal Trade Commission. This hold-up delayed the estimated March 23 completion date until this month over anti-trust issues. David Howard, Microsoft corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Litigation and Antitrust, said of the delay,

There was an important principle with which MOFCOM approached these discussions from the beginning: Any commitments should be focused on how our future conduct might change after we own the Nokia Devices and Services business, and should not impact our licenses signed in the past or historical practices.

Clearly, MOFCOM is now satisfied that Microsoft will continue to support all agreements between both companies and the Chinese government. This would include, against some theories, retaining the newly announced Nokia X series, an Android Open Source Project-based handset whose custom interface is a hybrid between Microsoft's Windows Phone and Nokia's Asha. This new system is designed to be the transitional handset between Asha for emerging markets and Windows Phone for established markets, such as the Chinese wireless market.

With all of the regulatory approvals now completed, we can expect to see the Nokia brand officially join the Microsoft family in short order, with Stephen Elop, current Nokia head, taking over the Microsoft devices business, including Lumia, Surface and Xbox.

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PAX Expands South to San Antonio

posted Sunday Apr 13, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

PAX Expands South to San Antonio

With PAX East happening this week, obviously everyone involved in gaming is surrounding the event, either in-person or through coverage. At one of the earlier panels, Penny Arcade founders Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins officially announced plans to expand PAX to the south with PAX South. The convention will take place January 23rd through the 25th in San Antonio, TX.

This will be the fourth annual expo to be held by Penny Arcade since PAX began in 2004. From what started with just over 3,000 congregating in a Seattle convention center expanded in 2010 to PAX East in Boston and PAX Australia last year. Both shows here in the States usually get around 60,000 fans and tickets are sold out minutes after they go on sale.

Penny Arcade Business Manager Robert Khoo said,

Since its launch in 2004, PAX events have doubled in size almost every year, and our Seattle and Boston events represent the two largest gaming festivals in North America. We've been hearing for years that those in the south had a tough time making it to the northern corners of the country; PAX South has always been a matter of 'when' rather than 'if.'

Khoo even tweeted a picture of a wall of clocks, with an unnamed clock set to the Central Time Zone. Many assumed Chicago would be the next choice, but luckily the folks in the south are now able to have PAX in their backyard.

Khoo also took some time to address some of the issues surrounding Penny Arcade in a recent interview with Polygon. On the topics of rape and gender identity, both founders have said some pretty insensitive things. Congoers sometimes feel out of place at the events, leading to a level of segregation between cosplayers and regular fans, with cosplayers even being publically ridiculed and humiliated. Of course, the parties involved have now apologized for their comments and are trying to make the convention a better place for all people who attend. Krahulik made a public New Year's Resolution to change himself and his company. Khoo said in the interview that, "I really do believe we're done with these incidents" and that exhibitors haven't pulled out of the conventions as a result of the remarks, given the apologies.

Are you excited about PAX South? Are you boycotting all PAX events? The events that have transpired to lead up to public outcry could fill an entire day, so we won't get into all of it here. However, we do want to know what you think in the comments below, so feel free to sound off. For me, I know that if the overall sentiment from PAX East is that the founders have actually done a good job improving the atmosphere and their behavior, then I might be more inclined to attend my first PAX event ever in San Antonio.

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