To quell unrest from technical issues, Rockstar launches “stimulus” for GTA Online

While Grand Theft Auto V has broken records in both sales and popularity, its online counterpart, GTA Online, has endured serious growing pains. Rockstar says that technical issues have caused users to lose their game progress, and glitches often left players stuck in missions or tutorials. In order to save its fan base, Rockstar has announced a $500,000 in-game currency “stimulus package” for every player, starting as early as next week. Players will receive the “GTA$” in two installments as long as they play the game at any point in October. Sim City, time to take note.

BlackBerry PlayBook: iPad Rival or Rookie Mistake?

Research in Motion finally unveiled its much-rumored BlackBerry tablet yesterday, and it looks a lot more impressive at first glance than the company’s most recent handset, the Palm Pre-like Torch. But is this a game-changing device, or will it stumble out of the starting gate?

By the Numbers: Running Windows-Based MMOs On the Mac

For 90 percent of my daily toil, OS X is the best platform for me. I use it during my day job, freelance writing, school, graphic design, and the usual goofing off everyone does. However, there is one glaring desire missing: I play Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs), and the Mac-native offerings are slim. I’ve had to result to running games in emulators, virtual disks, and Boot Camp partitions, and after running some numbers I thought I’d share my findings with you.

The Games

I play the following MMOs: World of Warcraft, EverQuest 1 and 2, Warhammer Online, Lord of the Rings Online, and Dungeons and Dragons Online. Of these, only WoW and Warhammer have native clients. Which means I’m forced to use some sort of emulation to play them. A commenter  on Liam’s Windows 7 piece said, “You bought an Apple computer so use the Apple software. If you want it so bad go buy a PC.” For me, Apple and OS X are fantastic for my productivity needs, but when it comes to gaming, sadly, it’s still a Windows world. Read More about By the Numbers: Running Windows-Based MMOs On the Mac

WoW and Second Life Don’t Tell the Whole MMO Story

WoW and SLInvestors poured $237 million into virtual world-related startups and payment systems last quarter alone, according to a report released today by industry trade show producer Engage Digital, signaling venture capitalists’ continued enthusiasm in the market. (Nearly $600 million in funding went into this sector for all of last year.) And ask the average tech-savvy person to name a major virtual world, chances are they’ll mention World of Warcraft or Second Life. Both MMOs certainly get the lion’s share of media attention; according to Nielsen Games, they often generate the most total monthly player minutes among all PC-installed worlds. However, as the recent investment news suggests, WoW and Second Life are only part of the story; neither world is truly representative of the MMO sector, nor reflective of where the larger virtual world industry is growing. Read More about WoW and Second Life Don’t Tell the Whole MMO Story

Will O3D Get Google Back Into Virtual Worlds?

o3d demoWhen Google (s GOOG) launched its O3D browser plug-in for displaying rich 3D graphics last month, I was dubious that the virtual world industry would eagerly embrace it as a platform for future MMOs. Most of the larger casual virtual worlds, like Habbo and Gaia Online, run on Flash; Mozilla and the Khronos Group are already developing their own 3D graphics API for Firefox. There’s also a lot of insider buzz about Unity 3D’s web plug-in, which already has an install base of 10 million, a company representative recently told me, and is the chosen platform for several major MMOs in development. What’s more, the weak launch and hasty execution of Google’s own virtual world, Lively, suggested the company had given up on the space.

After this weekend, however, I think O3D deserves a closer look from MMO makers. Read More about Will O3D Get Google Back Into Virtual Worlds?

Can Sony’s Free Realms Compete With Club Penguin?

free-realmsWhen it comes to MMOs, freemium worlds for kids are enormously popular and lucrative; for the most part, however, the major game publishers have done little to pursue this market. That changes this month with the launch of Free Realms, a colorful virtual world from Sony Online Entertainment (s sne). Since this new franchise is targeted at kids, including girls, Sony changed its approach from the ground up. The developer of the Everquest series and other MMORPGs aimed at the 18-34 gamer dude demographic threw out long-held assumptions about what made online worlds appealing, and used market research to learn what kids actually wanted. Turns out that instead of dramatic backstories and complex gameplay, kids want free-form fun and tools for telling their own stories.

Has Sony’s kid-friendly effort succeeded? Based on my first-hand look at the beta version of Free Realms, I’d say yes — at least enough to prove that the big game developers can play in the space. However, I’m not convinced that Free Realms can capture attention away from Habbo, Club Penguin, and other scrappy pioneers in this field just yet. Here’s my take. Read More about Can Sony’s Free Realms Compete With Club Penguin?

Exclusive: Second Life Starts To Grow Again

They say numbers don’t lie, and in recent months the number of people populating virtual world Second Life has started to rise again. Mark Kingdon, CEO of parent company Linden Lab, has been touting the return to steady user growth; to back up his claims, he shared with us the chart below, which tracks the number of unique repeat logins into Second Life on a month-by-month basis (it doesn’t include new signups during each month.) That number stood at 731,000 as of the end of March, the result of an upward climb that began in August 2008. Read More about Exclusive: Second Life Starts To Grow Again

How Virtual World YoVille Got 5M Facebook Users

yovilleWhile everyone in the game industry was following the latest news from GDC last week, I happened to notice an MMO milestone happening on Facebook: a casual virtual world called YoVille passed 5 million monthly active users.
Launched in May of last year, YoVille’s user growth rate is faster than that of any virtual world I’m aware of, quickly putting it in the upper ranks of other web-based MMOs, such as Gaia Online, launched in 2003, which reported 7 million monthly actives last Winter, and Habbo, launched in 2000, which reported nearly 10 million monthlies last June. Even more surprising to me, YoVille is only accessible as an app on Facebook and MySpace (where it currently counts 2.8 million users.) Read More about How Virtual World YoVille Got 5M Facebook Users

App Review — Watchmen: Justice is Coming (As Long as You Don’t Mind Waiting)

App Quick Stats

Watchmen: Justice is Coming

With Watchmen arriving at movie houses around the globe, the iPhone game attempts to brings the grim world of the costumed hero to you.

There’s a whole heap of Marvel in my comic collection but, I’m afraid, not so much DC. I preferred my heroes to have hyphens and make cheap puns. Plus, Batman just ain’t a superhero, however you cut it: real heroes have powers.

Shielded from the darkness of the DC-universe, I never read Watchmen. Never got to bask in New York’s crime-ridden ’80’s underbelly. Failed to experience a mankind-enveloping conspiracy unfolding, page after page, the distinction between hero and villain smudged like a fresh inkblot test.

And so, in preparation for the iPhone game — a massively multiplayer online adventure — I purchased the Watchmen graphic novel. Now, having read this classic book, I’m ready to shine my healing torch of justice into an ocean of violence and crime, representing all that is good and just. I am The Ambassador. Read More about App Review — Watchmen: Justice is Coming (As Long as You Don’t Mind Waiting)