casual connect seattle 2012

It’s a bit late in coming, but at last we have an official wrap-up of our time spent at Casual Connect Seattle this year. Unlike the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), which is a console-focused event, Casual Connect centers around casual games – a ‘genre’ or subset found mostly on smartphones, tablets, and PCs.  As such, we ventured forth in hopes of scoring some juicy Windows Phone games coverage as well as gauging the casual gaming industry’s feelings towards Microsoft’s smartphone platform in general.

Head past the break to see what we learned, plus links to all of our exclusive Casual Connect coverage!

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Microsoft themselves didn’t have as much of a presence at Casual Connect Seattle this year as we would’ve liked, but they did stage a fascinating presentation on the effects that switching to Xbox Live has had on popular free word game Wordament. We all know Xbox Live has helped Wordament become more popular, but the specific benefits and results of the switch are extremely encouraging and could have wide-ranging effects on future Windows Phone games.

Windows Phone Central has the full presentation video to share, plus a detailed summary and anaylsis. Check it out after the break.

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During my recent trip to Casual Connect Seattle, I enjoyed a fantastic visit to Signal Studios, the developer of upcoming Xbox Live title Ascend: New Gods for Windows Phone, Xbox 360, and PC. We’ve already posted a photos and video interview with studio president D.R. Albright III, and now it’s time to share something even more exciting: the first hands-on footage of Ascend: New Gods running on Windows Phone 7!

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After running part one of our interview with Patrick Wylie, the VP of Big Fish Game Studios, your friendly neighborhood gaming journalist got sidetracked a bit with health problems. Don't worry, I seem to have pulled through okay. In case you missed the interview, Big Fish - one of the leaders in casual gaming on PC - has announced both Xbox Live Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 ports of their marquee title Fairway Solitaire. The game is already a huge hit on PC, Mac, and iOS – even people who don’t normally care for Solitaire games (like me) love it.

Check out part two of our exclusive video interview after the break!

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Our recent visit to 17-BIT, Seattle-based makers of upcoming Xbox Live strategy title Skulls of the Shogun included a studio tour and interview with founder Jake Kazdal. As much as I enjoyed those parts of the visit, I was still dying to get my hands on the game itself once again. We had a few minutes with the Windows Phone game at E3, but that wasn’t much time to get a grasp on the story mode. Luckily, this time I got to play through the entire first campaign level as well as set up a Skulls Anywhere online game. See our latest hands-on video after the break!

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Remember that Windows Phone Summit that took place in San Francisco last month? It centered around Windows Phone 8, aka Apollo. Microsoft chose to reveal a new Apollo-specific Xbox Live game on-stage during the event: Fairway Solitaire from Big Fish Games. Big Fish is a major producer of casual games on PC and other mobile platforms, so the developer’s signing on to support Windows Phone is a great thing.

As it happens, Big Fish was on-hand at Casual Connect Seattle last week to reveal their new cloud gaming service, Big Fish Unlimited. Of course we took advantage of their presence to set up an exclusive interview with Patrick Wylie, VP of Big Fish Games Studios. Head past the break to learn just what Patrick’s team has in store for Windows Phone and Windows 8!

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During our recent visit to Microsoft headquarters, we had the pleasure of meeting with Beth Goza, Sr. Community Manager at Microsoft. Beth is one of the people in charge of PR for first-party Xbox Live titles on both Windows Phone and Windows 8, you see. She kindly agreed to an interview in which we discuss her favorite Windows Phone games, the ratio of casual to core games in the mobile lineup, Wordament, and other gaming topics. Check it out after the break!

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Ascend studio visit and interview

Windows Phone Central visits with Signal Studios

One of the more enjoyable Xbox 360 games we played at E3 this year was Ascend: New Gods from Signal Studios. We played through an early part of the XBLA game and discussed the Windows Phone version with one of the developers. Yet many questions about the mobile version remained unanswered. Not for long though…

Signal is located in Kirkland, WA – not too far from where Casual Connect Seattle took place. After the conference wrapped up, we headed over to the studio for a tour. D.R. Albright III, the company president and creative director, also gave us a fantastic interview. View it after the break to learn just what Ascend: New Gods has in store for Windows Phone!

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Paul Acevedo (left) and Ben Ahroni

I made no secret of my love for recent XBLA release Zuma’s Revenge in my review – after all, it’s a PopCap game. Those guys practically always knock it out of the park. As it happens, Casual Connect Seattle featured a panel on the connected experience (gaming on TV, tablet, smartphone: SmartGlass-type stuff).

Who should we find among the panelists but the producer of Zuma’s Revenge, Ben Ahroni. Naturally I snagged him for a video interview. See Ben discuss Zuma, a potential sequel to Plants vs. Zombies, and Windows Phone after the break!

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Lindsay Duffy (left) and Camay Wells

Windows Phone Central exclusively announced Sally’s Spa for Windows Phone a few months ago, and now we’re back with the first footage of the game running on our platform of choice.

“How?” you ask, filled with cat-like curiosity. Well, my inquisitive reader, Sally series publisher Game House had a major presence at Casual Connect Seattle, hosting not just a sizable booth but also a thumping pre-party featuring chicken and waffles, among other fine things. Aren't you dying to be a journalist now?

During the actual conference, Camay Wells, Director of Mobile Games Marketing, graciously demonstrated the game for us and showed off some of its new features. Spa-tastic video after the break! (Video link now fixed)

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Jake Kazdal (left) and Paul Acevedo

At E3 this year we interviewed Ben Vance and Borut Pfeifer, two members of 17-BIT about their upcoming Xbox Live game Skulls of the Shogun. Yet we still had much to learn about the unique multiplatform strategy title, and so 17-BIT kindly invited us to visit their studio during the week of Casual Connect Seattle. One of the highlights of the visit was our interview with Jake Kazdal, studio founder and Skulls’ creative director/lead artist. Check it out after the break!

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Japanese social gaming giant GREE International made a big splash at E3 this year. Nobody expected a massive booth dedicated to mobile gaming at the console centric show, but GREE’s booth outshined many a console publisher’s. And that’s to say nothing of their party at Club Nokia.

GREE had a strong presence at Casual Connect Seattle as well, though their focus as more on developer relations than showing off an arsenal of quality mobile games. Currently GREE’s ‘platform’ extends only to iOS and Android, but we can’t help wishing for some of their games to land on Windows Phone as well. That’s just one of the things we discussed with Eros Resmini, GREE’s SVP of Developer Relations and Marketing. Video interview after the break!

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Among the many developers we’ve spoken with here at Casual Connect is Russia-based Alawar Entertainment. You might remember a little game they published to Xbox Live called Farm Frenzy 2. Well, sadly the Farm Frenzy 4 they’re currently promoting isn’t coming to Windows Phone just yet. But we do have a morsel of good news…

Officially, Alawar doesn’t have any new Windows Phone titles to announce. However, we believe they have a title brewing for both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. Will it be a time management, hidden object, or puzzle game? Maybe they’re working on the country line dancing game the market has craved – nay, demanded for years now.

Windows Phone Central will reveal more details of Alawar’s next game in the months to come. Stay tuned, gamers!

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We're in Washington this week for Casual Connect Seattle, one of the country's largest game developer-centric conferences. As you might know, Redmond is only a stone's throw away from Seattle. As such, we threw our own stones over to Microsoft headquarters (also known as the Microsoft campus) for a little visit. The campus consists of over 40 buildings spread across 300 acres - a lot to take in! In the interest of time, we focused on Studio C (home of the Windows Phone game marketing team) and the Visitor Center. Lots of pictures follow the break!

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