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Newsbriefs: Empire Steamed, Pirates CSG Online, MBTA Game Ads

[UPDATED: 3:29pm PST] Today's regularly updated newsbriefs include news of Ubisoft's continuously strong retail performance, three titles from Empire Interactive being released over Steam, and a ban on violent game ads by the Massachusetts Bay Tran
[UPDATED: 3:29pm PST] Today's regularly updated newsbriefs include news of Ubisoft's continuously strong retail performance, three titles from Empire Interactive being released over Steam, and a ban on violent game ads by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. - Officials from Ubisoft have announced that according NPD data, the company's U.S. sales have grown an impressive 41 percent since January 2006. In addition, during November alone the company's sale jumped 74 percent in the U.S. in the face of overall market growth of 15 percent. Company officials also noted that according to Chart Track and GFK, Ubisoft was ranked as the top independent developer in Europe. The Wii-exclusive Red Steel ranked as the second most selling Wii title in the U.K., France and Germany, while Rayman Raving Rabbids followed in the third position. In the U.S., both titles ranked as the second and fourth top selling titles respectively during the Wii's launch according to NPD. - European publisher Empire Interactive PLC (FlatOut 2, Taito Legends), which itself was recently acquired by Silverstar Holdings Ltd., has announced the release of three of its titles over Valve's Steam digital download service. The first three Empire titles made available over Steam include Flatout 2, Vegas Tycoon, and Ghost Master. "It has been less than a month since we closed the Empire acquisition and we are delighted that in this short time the first collaborative effort between Empire and Strategy First has born fruit," commented Clive Kabatznik, chief executive officer of Silverstar. "Strategy First enjoys an excellent relationship with Valve. Building on this relationship and utilizing our proprietary conversion technology, we now have three of Empire’s major titles being released for digital distribution via Steam, just in time for the holiday season. With over millions of targeted users, Steam is one of the premier digital distribution platforms in the world." - Officials from Sony Online Entertainment have announced that the online PC version of Bellevue, WA-based WizKids' popular Pirates constructible strategy game (CSG) is now available for download. SOE announced in August that it had entered into a joint venture with WizKids to develop the game at SOE's recentlyformed Denver studio. Now available, the game includes both sea monsters and the supernatural with elements from the Pirates of Davy Jones Curse expansion, as well as an online version of WizKids' upcoming Pirates board game, The Quest for Davy Jones Gold. The online game alsos features tools to manage offline and online Pirates CSG collections, as well as match-making tools for a variety of two-player and multiplayer game formats and scenarios, a robust fleet-building utility, secure ship trading, league and tournament play, and promotional tie-ins between the offline and online versions of the game. More information about the game, including purchase options and a free trial, can be found on the official website. - A new Associated press report indicates that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has opted to not allow advertisements for video games aimed at adults to be displayed in its subway system following complaints from a local citizens group. Specifically, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood demanded that the MBTA remove ads for Rockstar and Take Two's PSP title Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, which according to the group, encourage players to “steal, murder and have sex with prostitutes.” According to the report, which cited a letter issued by the MBTA's general manager Daniel Grabauskas on Monday, the organization's board has approved a measure to ban video game advertisements for those titles rated as suitable for players 17 and older. "We are thrilled that the MBTA has been so responsive to community concerns," commented Susan Linn, co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. "The children of Boston can now ride the MBTA without being targets for advertising that glorifies violence." - The latest updates on Gamasutra sister alt.gaming weblog GameSetWatch include an interview with Nick Montfort about text adventures, and a continuing look at James Howell's planned English translation of the cult Sega Dreamcast title Segagaga. - The latest updates from Gamasutra sister website Serious Games Source include Champlain College's plans for a center devoted to collaboration and serious game development. - The latest updates from Gamasutra sister website Game Career Guide include a new feature containing advice about working with sound in game industry. - Also updated today: the latest Gamasutra job postings, including openings from Jack of All Games, Radical Entertainment, Rocksteady Studios, Slant Six Games, Spark Unlimited, THQ, and Viewpoint Corporation.

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