Rovio announces layoffs, calls it a ‘simplified organiztion’

angry birds

Rovio, a game studio based in Finland, is known best for its Angry Birds titles. The games have been a runaway success and run on multiple platforms. However the news coming out of the company isn’t all good. The latest news has nothing do with the games, but instead focuses on some bad things.

Rovio plans to streamline the company, which in effect means a dowsizing. The studio will be laying off as many as 130 employees, which it claims is about 16 percent of its workforce.

In a new statement from CEO Mike Hed, it reads that “We are an entrepreneurial company and have been exploring multiple areas. We have been building our team on assumptions of faster growth than have materialized. As a result, we announced today that we plan to simplify our organization around our three key businesses with the highest growth potential: games, media, and consumer products”.

This is never an easy decision to make, and is even worse for those affected by it. Hopefully, while it’s a shame for the folks involved, it will help the company do better.

Angry Birds Stella debuts on Android, iOS, Blackberry, Amazon and Nook

Rovio has become synonymous with mobile gaming, thanks to the wildly popular Angry Birds franchise. The Finnish company has released multiple versions of the title, covering everything from Rio to Space, and even Star Wars. Now the long-awaited new one is here, with Angry Birds Stella debuting across multiple platforms — sorry Windows Phone users, but you were left out.

The new game adds a different dimension to Angry Birds (as each has managed to do). “Angry Birds Stella offers a new take on slingshot action. There are stunning visuals and animations, as well as an all-new flock of feisty characters with amazing superpowers. And they all live a previously unseen corner of the Angry Birds universe: Golden Island”, the studio explains.

The game is free on all of platforms, including Android, iOS, Blackberry and Amazon. It’s a fun little time-waster that will likely get the company even more revenue, but time will tell on that one.

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Will we see a stand-alone Kinect for Xbox One in October?

XBox One Game Console

XBox One Game Console

When the Xbox One debuted in the latter part of last year it came with a Kinect by default. There are many good reasons to have that feature, as well. It brings voice control and facial recognition to the gaming console, not to mention enhanced play on some games.

However, Microsoft relented under the weight of  a ew, but loud, naysayers and released a version of the box that doesn’t include the Kinect. There was a reason — it also saves buyers $100, which isn’t small change when you’re shopping.

Now, for those who chose to spare their wallets and purchase the console without the Kinect, Microsoft may have a solution, just in case you regretted the decision. A stand-alone Xbox One Kinect is rumored to be going up for sale in October of this year. According to CVG the device will be priced at $149, meaning it will set you back a bit more in the long run than if you had just bought the bundle.

The rumor, which is likely a possibility, brings Kinect to those who somehow thought they didn’t need it, only to discover that the device actually makes the console, and the games, more useful.

DDoS Attacks Shut Down Online Gaming Servers

Sony Playstation LogoWas your favorite online video game difficult to access over the weekend? There is a reason for that. A group decided to use a DDoS attack against several of the big gaming companies servers. I’ve no idea what the motivation of this group was, and choose not to speculate as to what they may have been thinking. If you were on Twitter this weekend you may have seen a lot of confused and frustrated tweets from gamers who were just trying to have fun playing some online video games.

The group targeted Blizzard Entertainment’s servers. This caused difficulties for those trying to access Battle Net, World of Warcraft, Diablo III, Hearthstone and other Blizzard games. Riot Games’ League of Legends was attacked and so was Grinding Gear Game’s Path of Exile.

Blizzard was keeping people informed about the outage through their @BlizzardCS account on Twitter. They did not directly mention a DDos attack, and instead tweeted things like “We’re investigating issues where players are unable to connect or log into their characters.” Updates about the situation were provided through that Twitter account.

Sony’s PlayStation Network (PSN) was attacked, too. The PlayStation Blog has a post that gives some details.

The original post started with Like other major networks around the world, the PlayStation Network and Sony Entertainment Network have been impacted by an attempt to overwhelm our network with artificially high traffic. The blog was later updated to say: The PlayStation Network and Sony Entertainment Network are back online and people can now enjoy the services on their PlayStation devices. The networks were taken offline due to a distributed denial of service attack.

Grinding Gear Games sent out a Tweet on their @PathofExile Twitter account about it.

From what I saw via Twitter, it appeared that some of these gaming companies had their servers go down more than once. I am of the impression that stability has been restored to the affected servers now. Hopefully, that is the end of the problem.

Game Over Foursquare

Foursquare logoIt’s game over, Foursquare. After several years of intermittent playing, I’ve decided to pack it all in and delete my account from the site. I’m no longer happy to take a service without questioning the value and cost to me and Foursquare doesn’t break even anymore.

Foursquare may have been at the forefront of gamification and I like games, honing skill and strategy to succeed, but the problem with Foursquare was that the limit of expertise was how much time you can spend in a local hostelry. Yes, there were occasional benefits of being a mayor, but most places that rewarded frequent visitors ran a loyalty programme anyway. Of course, the really good shops and restaurants knew you because they paid attention.

The reviews helped maintain interest for awhile but the puerile (“the waitress is hot”) and trivial (“the drinks were nice”) usually outweighed any valuable critical assessment of places to visit. In the end, I didn’t bother putting the app back on my smartphone after changing devices and that was the end of it all.

I’m not going to leave my personal data lying around for the next security breach, so it’s time to delete the account. To its credit, Foursquare make it easy to go.

Delete Foursquare Account

Facebook…you’re next.

Riot Games Announces Queue Dodge

Riot Games LogoRiot Games, maker of League of Legends, is doing something new. It doesn’t take place inside a video game, either. Queue Dodge offers employees “cash to quit”.

New hires at Riot Games will have the ability to quit their jobs and get some money for doing so. They can take advantage of Queue Dodge anytime within their first 60 days. Those that choose to quit will be paid up to 10% of their annual salary (up to $25,000). Right now, this offer is only available for newly hired employees of Riot Games that are in North America.

It seems like a strange move. Why would a company put a potential employee through what they describe as a “rigorous interview process” and pay if they quit within the first 60 days? It sounds counterintuitive. Wouldn’t that encourage people to quit?

The answer appears to be directly connected to “the unique flavor” of their culture. In short, Riot Games wants to ensure that people stay working for them because they are a good fit, and not just for the paycheck. They want to provide a “well-lit, safe exit path” for workers who self-identify as a mismatch. I think it is meant to be an open, positive, way to end an employment situation.

I can see where Queue Dodge would give newly hired employees the financial flexibility to opt-out of working for Riot Games without having to worry about how they will pay their bills while they are looking for another job. It can take some of the stress out of being unemployed.

On the other hand, I cannot help but wonder if the existence of Queue Dodge might influence current employees to be less accepting of new hires who are a little different than themselves. The pessimist in me wonders if Queue Dodge would function as a way to pressure people to quit.

Bespoke Arcades at The Gadget Show

Geeks of a certain age will remember fondly “going to the arcade” where much time and money was spent on video games. This was a time before home consoles, before Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox. An era of Space Invaders, Missile Command, Defender, Pacman and Battlezone that has passed into history. If this all brings a tiny tear to your eye, then you might be interested in Bespoke Arcades, creators of “the world’s finest arcade machines” that will take you back to that mis-spent youth.

Bespoke Arcades will hand-build in the UK arcade machines to specification in a range of styles, from the traditional upright cabinet to table-top machines. Everything is customisable from the cabinet finish to the controls and all come with a huge range of games.

Bespoke Arcades

Bespoke Arcades

Bespoke Arcades

Ben tells me about the history of Bespokes Arcades, some of their famous clients and how these might look like old arcade machines but are actually bang up-to-date PCs under the skin. Prices start at GB£2000.

TP-Link ACes Wi-Fi at The Gadget Show

Like many families now, it’s not unusual for everyone to be using the wi-fi network at home at the same time. Game consoles, tablets, media players and smart TVs all take their share of the data stream, and with the potential for multiple HD streams, the wireless takes a real hammering. In response to this demand, 11ac wireless uses dual frequencies and multiple antennae to get gigabit class data speeds, while still being backwards compatible with the older standards.

TP-Link Stand at GSL14

Under the Archer brand, TP-Link have a range of 11ac routers and modems, starting with twin antennae 750 Mb/s Archer C2 up to the three antennae 1750 Mb/s Archer C7. TP-Link has kindly sent one of the latter to GNC for review, so I’ll be taking a look at that later.

At The Gadget Show, I caught up with Simon from TP-Link who told me a little about their design philosophy and what they’re aiming for with the new 11ac routers.

Safe Games for Kids by Toca Boca at The Gadget Show

Toca BocaAs a a parent with a tablet-loving daughter, I’m always worried that she’s either playing inappropriate games or else building up whopping a credit card bill via in-app purchases. Being tech-savvy, I can easily rectify the latter by controlling the password to my account, but this doesn’t always negate pester-power. The former is still a concern and I’m not alone as these two issues are relevant to parents everywhere.

To help mums and dads, Swedish outfit Toca Boca, “a play studio that makes digital toys for kids” have created a range of open-ended, non-competitive games that appeal to children where the initial purchase cost is the only time you need to flex the credit card. There are over 20 apps available for Apple, Android and Amazon devices, and include games for young hairdressers, chefs, doctors, vets, chemists, scientists and drivers. The themes are very similar to some of the popular “free” games that are out there; the Toca Boca versions usually cost US$2.99 but there are no subsequent in-app purchases.

I chat to Sonia about the Toca Boca apps and how parents can be more confident in what their children playing on their tablets without the worry of an enlarged credit card bill.

Rovio teases upcoming Angry Birds Stella

Rovio, the wildly successful game studio behind Angry Birds, has begun to tease a new offering. With the first Angry Birds Star Wars now complete — yes, there will be no more updates — the company needed a “latest and greatest” to get the attention of the masses again.

Today the company teases “Angry Birds Stella”. “Get ready to meet Stella and her friends! Stella may be pink, but she’s definitely one of the Angry Birds, a fierce and a feisty character with a great group of friends. Of course no story is complete without some interesting (fr)enemies”, Rovio announces today.

The Finnish company give precious little in the way of detail, but did provide a screenshot to get everyone’s imagination working. You’ll have a while to wait, as the game won’t hit app stores until the fall of 2014.

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