It's been an interesting week for casual gaming. One of the items that got a lot of press was the announcement that a PopCap sponsored add-on for World of Warcraft would allow players to play Bejeweled during their in-game downtime. This was a neat story: A corporation bringing rogue IP back into its fold in a symbiotic manner. A nice alternative to the Scrabalicious route.
It's a fairly well-established trend in the gaming industry that movie tie-in titles tend towards mediocrity. With a few notable exceptions ("Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay," the LotR brawler series, and a few others), most games developed in tandem with movies are half-baked, poorly conceived, and generally pretty bad. But if games made from movies tend towards mediocrity, the reverse -- movies made from games -- often end up as abominations of cinema, enjoyable only to the extent that they're laughable.
The big news this week has been the insanity surrounding EA's recent release "Spore," and the blowback to the included draconian SecuROM DRM protection that shipped with it. There are more than 2,000 one-star reviews on Amazon.com lambasting the game's restrictive protections, and many comments have legitimate points.
In my last column, I mentioned in passing "Sins of a Solar Empire," a title that has become a financial success while selling discs and digital copies without any form of copy protection. This week, publisher Stardock revealed exactly how much of a success -- 500,000 units, with 100,000 of those sales coming from digital distribution. While that's not exactly up to par with "GTA IV'"s 10 million units sold since release, for an independent, non-franchise game with a budget of only $1,000,000, it's practically a runaway hit.