Red Distribution is unarguably the biggest video games distributor in the UAE. It has the likes of Activision Blizzard, EA, Square Enix, 2K Games, etc., in their kitty, and now have even managed to bag Ubisoft in as well.
With a vast portfolio of games showcased at GAMES11, we spoke to Tristan Irons, marketing head at RED, to know more about the Modern Warfare 3 promotion, how Ubisoft deal came to be, the growing potential of the Middle East market, and how it was heading his first ever GAMES event.
MEGamers: Tristan, this is your first GAMES event. What did you think of the event?
Tristan Irons: For me GAMES 11 was great, especially being directly involved. I never imagined it would be so large and exciting. I really enjoyed showcasing the titles by giving consumers the opportunity to try them out before they launch.
RED Distribution, as always, has a massive presence at GAMES11 this year. What was involved with putting all this together?
TI: There was plenty of planning internally; the team pulled up there sock and went for it. When having such a strong portfolio of games, it can be a lot of work to show off the content. Many resource hours and internal experience are some of the elements to contribute to the success of GAMES 11.
RED is now distributing games for Ubisoft now. Tell us how this distribution deal came about?
TI: It is common for publishers to review their support in any international market, choosing Red was a strong strategic choice to get the best representation in the Middle East. We at Red are ecstatic at the chance to promote and distribute titles from the number 3 publisher in the world.
What top titles does RED have in the pipeline for the rest of the year?
TI: With EA’s FIFA 12 coming out on the 29th of September, we expect great success with this title. FIFA 12 is the only fully Arabic football game coming out this year, and having Abdullah Al Harbi from Saudi Arabia and Issam Chaouali from Tunisia as our commentator talent is sure to make this title the top of the charts for a long time. The new impact engine improves an already top notch game, and takes it to the next level.
Another great title from EA is Battlefield 3, slated for launch on November 1st; this is a superb first-person-shooter. Our response for this title was phenomenal. The behind closed door, hands on gameplay really generated some excitement with the gamers. Being the first Marines on the ground, you are challenged with exhilarating missions across the globe surrounded by chaos – watch out for bullets…and falling buildings.
EA was also showing off Need for Speed: The Run, the next chapter in the Need for Speed series where you play as Jack trying to save his life by winning a coast to coast race from San Francisco to New York and taking home the $25 million while avoiding the police as well as the men who want him dead.
Modern Warfare 3 is obviously one of the most anticipated Activision and consumer titles of the year; we are all very pumped up about this one. With the popularity of Black Ops, we expect nothing but sheer excellence from the title on November 8th. Pre-order has begun at Virgin where you can have the chance to win a Jeep® Wrangler Unlimited Edition though the unique dog tags draw (www.cygol.com/mw3). I think we all want to find out what Soap and Price are up to this time…
Activision also showcased the next chapter of the Spiderman series, Edge of Time where Spidey’s future self needs to save Spidey of today. Quality gameplay and story line back this title up along with voice overs from Val Kilmer as Walker Sloan and Smallville’s Laura Vandervoot as Mary Jane.
X-men Destiny allows you to control the fate of one of three mutant characters where players can choose to helping humanity or destroying it. Evolve your mutant through an almost RPG style game-play and choose your own destiny.
Warner Brothers’ long awaited sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum, Arkham City is just around the corner, Oct 21st. This highly polished game has won some top accolades at E3 definitely generated some hype with consumers. At E3 Batman was nominated for, Best Overall Game, Best Xbox, PC and PS3 Game, Best Action Game, Most Anticipated Game.
It’s not hard see why. Many attendees couldn’t stop talking about this game after getting their hands on the controller.
Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is sure to be a hit on November 15th when the game launches. Ezio is back at it again in 1511 AD searching for Altair’s hidden ancient artifact which is said to be a powerful weapon that would end the Assassin and Templar war. There is also the multiplayer aspect returning to the franchise where players can customize characters and weapons.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is another Tom Clancy title published by Ubisoft set to launch in 2012. This heart pounding 3rd person shooter will take you through Norway, the Middle East and Asia. Ghosts will be combating an ultra-nationalist force that has taken over Russia. This game focuses on team play and promotes futuristic warfare like we have never seen before. The new Gunsmith for Kinnect is something that personally blew me away; the features associated with motion and voice technology add a whole new element to the gaming experience in ways we have not seen before.
David Balfour is the man at the helm of LightBlue, an experiential agency based in Dubai that organized GAMES11 for the gaming alliance consisting of Sony, Microsoft, RED and Pluto. The three-day gaming event held last week at the Dubai Mall Ice Rink is easily the largest gaming convention the Middle East has seen to date. We caught up with David to talk to him about GAMES11 and what went into organizing such a massive event.
David, how did you get started with events and Light Blue?
David Balfour: Since the age of 19 I’ve been involved in live events. It all started with music events in Scotland such as T in the Park, TripTych moving on to new product lunches and road shows. I then moved to client side when I moved to Dubai to work for Heineken as Brand & Event manager looking after major sporting events in the Region. Four years ago we started Lightblue and PlayStation was one of our first clients and since then we have done hundreds of activations over the years including some of my favorites like our KillZone media event, GT5 digital event, our Uncharted 3 event which Nick (MEGamers’ ace reviewer) did very well in and of course this years PS3 stand at GAMES11
GAMES moved to a new venue this year – The Dubai Mall Ice Rink. Tell us about the choice of venue for this year.
DB: We wanted to changes things around this year and one of the main things we looked at was venues. We searched high and low to find something a little bit different that was big enough and cool (excuse the pun) enough for GAMES11. The team behind The Dubai Ice Rink were excellent and without their co-operation we could not have done this.
This is the first time LightBlue is organizing a GAMES event. What was it like working on the project?
DB: GAMES is a wonderful project and for us to be part of this, for a gamer like me meant we could have some fun with the brand and create new elements which helped grow the brand like our website and social media pages thus giving the audience a real connection with GAMES. It also let us have a conversation with our followers, which is massively important to us.
Can you share with us what was involved with getting this event up and running at the Dubai Mall Ice Rink? And what happened to all the ice?
DB: Lots of sleepless nights and lots of meetings with the world and their granny and approvals from the world [laughs, but to be fair everyone was great all the way from the GAMES committee members to DED to the Dubai Ice Rink. What happened to the Ice, well the DIR have a great system in place so that we didn’t have to move the ice so for the whole time the ice was underneath us keeping us cool!
What were the biggest hurdles you faced organizing this event?
DB: I think the timescale we had to get everyone in and built was by far the biggest hurdle we had– we didn’t want to disturb the Ice Rink too much, so we gave ourselves 60 hours to set everything up and be ready to open to the media.
How many people attended the event compared to last year?
DB: The official number is 82,234 which is massive, last year GAMES10 had a fantastic 50,000 – Just shows how much the brand has grown. I also think the media and consumers have really taken to it this year and now has become part of the Dubai event calendar.
What’s next on the plans for LightBlue?
DB: Well next week we are officially 4 years old but no time to celebrate as, we are straight into a great HP activation for GITEX and actually a worlds first for a FMCG brand down at The Dubai Mall… sadly I cant tell you yet what we are doing but we are very excited and so is HP – I’ll keep you posted.
When we last met Mike Perry at GAMES10, he was representing Ubisoft. One year down the road, we meet Mike again at GAMES11 at the massive GAMES11 exhibition at the Dubai Mall Ice Rink and he has plenty of exciting things to talk about.
For one, he’s with THQ now and THQ is at the VIVA Entertainment stand at GAMES11. It’s easy to see that their new distributors, VIVA, are serious about the gaming business – they’ve got a pretty impressive stand space right at the entrance with F1 racing pods on one side and a long WWE stand with consoles decked on one side and a smoke machine in the far corner, giving fans the chance to create their own WWE entrance, music, steam machine, background video, et al. The most prominent attraction at the stand, however, is a full-sized UFC Octagon ring right smack in the middle of the carpeted Ice Rink filled with rather buff looking mixed martial artists.
We caught up with Mike to talk to him about THQ and what’s in store for the remainder of 2011.
Mike, tell us a bit about UFC Undisputed 3.
Mike Perry: his is the third installment of the UFC Undisputed franchise. We’re taking you from ringside to cage side. We’re putting the gamer right inside the game with fighters. We’ve got new camera angles, new playability – it’s a lot easier to play and tutorial system is a lot easier. You can play it with one hand – you can play it with your dad or somebody who might not be a gamer but wants to sit down and play. He can have a completely different control system and you can have your advanced control with special moves. We have a new submission system. Gamers have been a bit frustrated as you’re rolling on the floor in a grapple and you don’t know if you’re winning or losing or how you lost. Now there’s a new submission system that tells you how well you’re doing in the grapple and why you lost or why you won and it’s a lot more satisfying.
The online mode is a big part of UFC. Now you can play the same character online rather than always going for the biggest and hardest character and losing.
What’s new in WWE 12?
MP: The game’s been completely revamped and rebranded. This is the new WWE game. It’s bigger, it’s badder and better than before. The main thing you’ll notice is that Smackdown vs Raw is gone. It’s now WWE 12. It’s a harder attitude to the game. It’s a lot better. The game has been ripped apart and put back together the way it should be – you’ve got all the smoothness of fighting and it’s so much quicker than the previous game. Everything has been revamped – the graphics has been built on new technology and are comparatively better. There’s new dynamics and ring bounces. There’s 25 camera angles, exactly the same as the WWE broadcasts. So, it feels just like watching the program and that’s what we know that the gamers want. You can create your own arena and you’ve got both the regular roster and legends available.
Mike, tell us about GAMES11 and your opinion on the event?
MP: GAMES11 is THE Middle Eastern event to be at. All the big publishers are here and all the first parties are here and it’s great to support the event. As THQ, we want to make sure we’re here, make sure that Middle Eastern gamers know that we care about them and we want to help grow this market.
This is your third or fourth time at GAMES.
MP: It’s grown and grown and grown. The first time I came here, it was press only in a hotel and now we’re in this incredible mall and there’s going to be thousands of gamers here.
Tell us about THQ’s other upcoming releases for the year. I know you’ve got WWE 12 and UFC coming up.
MP: THQ have got a huge lineup this year. Unfortunately, our biggest game of the year Saints Row 3 won’t be releasing here in the Middle East for obvious reasons but I’m sure quite a few gamers will find a way to get their hands on copies and that’s just a game that everyone wants to play. It’s just do whatever you want to do, a crazy outlandish game you’ve ever played in your life. It’s to die for. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
What’s your outlook on the Middle East market?
MP: The Middle East market is very healthy. You can see by this event how much gaming has grown. The amount of money publishers are putting into this region is incredible. Obviously things like Kinect, Move, Wii, it’s all helping grow the market and once WiiU comes out, it will help the market even more.
You’ve changed distributors last year. How’s 2011 been for you?
MP: We’re now working with VIVA and so far so good. They’re doing a great job and are putting together a great show for us here.
Microsoft will be hosting a Cosplay competition at their stand at GAMES 11 on 24th September 2011. Come dressed up as your favorite anime, comic book, video game or movie character and you could win some amazing prizes from Microsoft. Here are the details:
Event: Cosplay at GAMES 11
Venue: Microsoft Stand at GAMES 11, Dubai Mall Ice Rink
Date: 24th September 2011
Time: 3pm to 5.30pm (Cosplay judging at 5pm)
Theme: Anime, Comic Books, Movies or Video Games
The cosplay event starts 3pm and judging will begin at 5pm. Amazing prizes from Microsoft will be on offer for the best Cosplayers.
Update: Separate changing rooms for males and females are available at the Dubai Mall Ice Rink. Please do not walk around in Cosplay outside the Ice Rink area.
Update 2: Prizes announced: Xbox 360 console for first prize and copies of Gears of War 3 for second and third place.
Microsoft is holding a Gears of War Cosplay event at Apres, Mall of the Emirates in Dubai on 19th September 2011.
Here are the details:
Event: Gears of War Cosplay
Venue: Apres, Mall of the Emirates (near the the Ski/Cinemas)
Date: 19th September 2011
Time: 5pm to 8pm (Cosplay judging at 6pm)
Theme: Gears of War costumes
Please note that attendance is by invitation only. If you would like to attend this event, please email Rachel.McArthur@edelman.com.
The cosplay event starts 6pm and the venue will be open from 5pm. Amazing prizes from Microsoft will be on offer for the best Cosplayers.
Please note that changing rooms are available next to Apres. The promoters recommend that you bring your costume and change in the changing rooms. The Cosplay competition will be held within Apres only. You’ll end up dealing with mall security if you walk around the mall dressed in costume.
For more details on this event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. A list of prizes will be posted shortly.
Created by independent developer Thomas Zighem, Genesia has a bit of a history behind it. He first created the game for the Amiga 500, Commodore’s personal computer that was regarded in the late ‘80s as the definitive gaming machine. The turn-based strategy game won the Tilt d’or award in 1993 for best strategy game. Fast forward to 2011 and Zighem has now released a more polished version of the game for the iPad.
The description of the game on Zighem’s website comes with a caveat: Don’t expect easy to follow tutorials or mind blowing special effects. The game sets you off with basic instructions in the very beginning through lengthy bits of text that almost read like a chopped up EULA agreement. However, if you intend on enjoying the game, I’d recommend that you read it – you’ll require every bit of available information on how this game works to truly enjoy it. The problem without having a tutorial mode is that it’s like using a fancy washing machine that comes without a manual – great if you’re used to using washing machines, a bit of a nightmare though if you’ve never used one in your life. Having said that, after you play the game a few times, it’s easy to figure out how things work.
The game sets you off in an isometric world where the land is divided between you and your opponents. You can choose to play against other players by passing around the iPad or play against AI opponents. You start the game with basic building blocks for your town – huts for your workers, a field, a well and barracks. Building your town is where the heart of the gameplay lies. Part of this is making the best use of your workers, utilizing them to cut trees, saw wood, mine ore, etc. The other part is growing your city by adding new buildings and improvements.
The world of Genesia is intricately interwoven and every action has a consequence. For example, if you create too many buildings, you damage the ecosystem. An unhealthy ecosystem leads to diseases and makes your town’s people unhappy. In order to counter that, you have to build gardens to restore the balance of your ecosystem. You have to be careful how many trees you cut down – fell the whole lot and you’ll be out of trees for a while.
Add to all that, the game is turn-based and you go through different seasons. Each season in turn affects the kind of work you can do. For example, in winter, none of your workers can work outside – so no farming, cutting trees or any kind of outdoor work. The rainy monsoons hinder productivity and turn wood soggy. Making the most of your resources means you’ll have to take into account the weather.
Also key to keep your town flourishing is keeping your people happy and welcoming more inhabitants. Certain new buildings will require a certain population as well as a wealth of certain resources. Thankfully, you can conquer another area and create trading posts to help you keep on top of the necessary resources. Keep an eye on your taxes, which can be accessed through the barracks. If you’re inhabitants become unhappy, drop the taxes to increase their satisfaction levels.
Finally, there’s the issue of defending against attacking enemies, going on the offensive and of course, finding the gems (with everything going on in the world of Genesia, it’s easy to forget that’s the primary objective of the game). All this is done through your military. For this, you’ll have to rely on your barracks, stables and workshops. Have a strong enough military force and you can simply set forth to annihilate the rest of your opponents and win the game.
It all might sound a bit daunting but once you’re past a few seasons and you figure out how things work, the game becomes insanely addictive. I’ve clocked over 5 hours straight on the game for a few days, simply because it was all too exciting to put down.
The game’s graphics are pretty plain by iPad standards and the animations are pretty basic. The season effects with rain and snow do make it looks a whole lot prettier though. The sounds in the game work well for it, giving you the feeling of being in a medieval town.
If you’re a fan of strategy games and are happy to forgo fancy graphics for good old fashioned gameplay, then you’ll love Genesia. However, if you’re a casual gamers and we know a lot of you iPad owners are, take note of the caveat – this one’s not for noobs.
Capcom has a habit of milking their franchises for all their worth, particularly when it comes to the Street Fighter series. Street Fighter 4 already has three iterations with Super Street Fighter 4 and the arcade edition. A bit greedy? Perhaps. But it’s also great for the developers who want to fine tune the gaming experience and come up with superior fighting title. Think of Third Strike as the Arcade Edition of the Street Fighter 3 series with improved gameplay mechanics and a much bigger range of characters.
In addition to a familiar roster of players (Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Akuma), the game features a number of new characters including Makoto – a young Japanese girl trained in Karate, Q –a Rorschach-like character who is being pursued by the CIA , Remy – a long-haired fighter whose looks makes you think he would be better suited in King of Fighters and Twelve – a monsterous shape shifting soldier who looks like he’s borrowed from Resident Evil, and Elena – a capoeira expert. Add to this a few more new characters and some familiar faces from Street Fighter 4 like Dudley and you have a total of 20 playable characters to choose from. The roster has left me with mixed feelings. I like the familiarity of the old characters – the quarter circle moves, the charge back and forward thrusts and the somewhat predictable move set. Street Fighter 3 takes you away from the comfort zone as you now have a large set of new characters not only to try out but compete against. It did put me off a bit at first but over time, I’ve found the experience rewarding.
It’s not just the characters that have changed but the game plays a bit differently as well. For one, the controls are not as forgiving as other Street Fighter offerings. You’ll have to either get it right or keep on trying. Quarter circle front means exactly that – move up by mistake at the end and you’ll most likely not make the move. The offline mode gives you a number of options including a classic arcade mode, time trial mode and a challenge mode. The arcade mode lets you select a character and fight against a range of opponents before reaching Gill, the final boss, who happens to be even more lame than Seth. At every level, Street Fighter 3 gives you a choice of opponents to compete against. They’re generally equally hard to beat, so it doesn’t really matter who you go up against. A scoring system at the end of each battle grades your performance based on offence, defense, techniques and extra points. The game also packs in loads of extras with bonus stages that include the familiar “Crush the car”.
Perhaps the most significant change in the gameplay comes with the new parry system. A parry is performed by either tapping forward for a high attack or down for a low attack. The tricky part though is that this needs to be done at the time of impact – hence getting your timing right is all important. Get it right though and not only will you not receive any damage from the attack, you can even perform a counter. Successful parries are key to winning matches, especially when it comes to skilled online opponents.
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It’s tough to describe Glowfish HD as a genre. If I had to take a stab at it, I’d call it a top-down shooter but that doesn’t quite fully do it justice. This arcade-style underwater game may be confusing to describe but it’s absolutely gorgeous to behold. MumboJumbo creates a beautiful underwater world and as a result one of the most beautiful iOS games we’ve had a chance to play.
The game revolves around the titular Glowfish whose friends have all been captured and turned into bad guys. You set off in this gorgeous underwater world to free your friends and get them to safety. You control the Glowfish with the help of a circular stick on the right hand side which will move Glowfish in the direction you want.
As you swim around and explore the underwater world, you find friends who follow you, forming a centipede-like queue behind you. On the left hand side of the screen, you have three buttons. One button gives you the map – a very handy thing to have when you’re a bit lost. Another button gives you a boost, which will come in handy in later levels where you have to jet through tight spots and the last button is a toggle between shield mode and follow mode.
These two modes are you primary mode of attack. In the shield mode, the friends you have collected circle around you giving you the ability to bump into enemies in order to destroy them. The bigger your enemies are though, the more friends you need to form a more powerful shield to destroy them. In the follow mode, your friends follow you in a chain-like fashion, allowing you to run circles around larger, more powerful enemies. As you circle around your enemy in follow mode, your friends unleash projectiles on the enemy, destroying them bit by bit.
The game is full of little surprises like an instance where you see a big glowing dot on the screen and if you’re curious enough to swim over it to find out what it is, a massive fish plunges out of nowhere to try and eat you. You’ll also collect chums along the way such as a rasping Sea Horse to help you with your quest.
While the gameplay does tend to get a tad bit repetitive sometimes, there’s some amount of relief in the form of special levels where you’re doing something completely different like chasing a new glow chum in order to make him your ally.
The game’s on offer at $2.99 from the App Store and for that price, it’s a great bargain. Definitely worth downloading.