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Digital Blend: Wii U includes support for free-to-play games, Babel Rising allows you to punish heathens

Welcome back to Digital Blend, our weekly look at the world of downloadable video gaming that exists at the fringes of the mainstream. That means we look at the hottest new mobile game releases, downloadable content drops on consoles and PCs, indie darlings that deserve your love and attention, and the best gaming values under $20.

Keep your comments and feedback coming. We want to hear from you! Did you try something you read about here and enjoy it? Is there a particular game you think we’ve overlooked or news you want to share? Any questions you are dying to ask? Let us know! Your thoughts, feedback, suggestions and (constructive!) criticism are welcome, either in the comments section below or directed at yours truly on Twitter, @geminibros.

Making headlines…

* Those of you with a keen interest in the rising popularity of mobile gaming and the direction that things might be headed in ought to take a look at an E3 2012 interview that GREE’s U.S. CEO Naoki Aoyagi gave to Joystiq. The company had a major presence at last week’s trade show in Los Angeles, Calif. and Aoyagi spoke at length about GREE presence in the U.S. (the San Francisco office is home to almost 400) and why the company’s future outlook is a bright one. A fascinating read that offers some solid insight into the exponential growth that the mobile corner of the gaming market has been seeing.

* In other mobile news, Capcom continues its campaign to convince fighting game fans that virtual analog controls are A-OK on a touch screen delay. The publisher confirmed this week that Street Fighter X Tekken, recently released for consoles (check out Ryan’s review) and coming soon to PlayStation Vita, will also be making its way to Apple’s iOS platforms. The summer release will come packing new modes as well as “a brand new take on the tag team mechanic.” Only four characters are confirmed so far: Ryu, Chun-Li, Kazuya, and Nina.

* Activision’s expansion into the realm of all things indie took a giant step forward this week when the publisher announced the launch of an initiative designed to promote more publishing partnerships. The publisher has partnered with Flurry Inc., a mobile analytics company that will collaborate on the creation of a mobile game publishing division designed to seek out up-and-coming talents and give them an attractive way to bring their creations to the masses, all while keeping ownership of the IP in the original creator’s hands. There are a lot of factors to be weighed here and not enough space to cover it in Digital Blend. Fortunately, we’ve got Anthony’s razor-sharp analysis of the Activision/Flurry partnership to give you a better picture of the situation.

* The latest Humble Indie Bundle, volume five for those who haven’t been keeping count, concluded its two-week run with a whopping $5.1 million raised, a record-shattering figure that more than doubles the two previous Humble Bundle record holders that brought in just over $2 million apiece. The success of the latest collection is in large part due to the quality of the content being offered. The initial four-pack of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, Limbo, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and Psychonauts would have been enough, but roughly midway through the sales cycle, four more equally fantastic titles were added to the mix: Bastion, Lone Survivor, Braid, and Super Meat Boy. It was certainly Humble Bundle’s most high-profile offering yet, with every one of the available titles critically acclaimed in some form or another.

* Nintendo didn’t really bring its A-game at last week’s E3 2012 trade show, but don’t count the Wii U out yet. A fair few underwhelming facts have come to light about the upcoming console, but Nintendo president Satoru Iwata clarified quite a bit in a post-E3 investors Q&A. One of the big reveals to emerge from the seven-page back-and-forth is the fact that the Wii U’s DRM system has been designed to allow the console to support free-to-play game offerings. That’s a big step forward for a company that has traditionally shied away from popular online features like DLC, online communities, and microtransactions.

Top buys for the week…

Babel RisingBabel Rising :: XBLA / PSN :: 800 MS Points / $9.99
In Babel Rising you get to play as an angry God who is out to smite His heathen creations for daring to attempt building a tower tall enough to reach heaven. Blasphemy has never been so entertaining. It’s a little bit like a tower defense game, only instead of building turrets to do your dirty work you’re rolling up your sleeves and raining down pain and suffering from on high using the four base elements as your weapons.

SpliceSplice :: PC / Mac :: $9.99
Splice is the latest game from Cipher Prime, the musically inclined developer behind the most excellent Auditorium. The game has you looking through a virtual microscope at microbes, with the goal being to complete challenges by mutating, splicing, and re-sequencing. This being a Cipher Prime release, all of your efforts are backed by a hypnotic soundtrack that will keep your head bobbing as you explore a micro-sized world.

Max Payne MobileMax Payne Mobile :: Android :: $2.99
I’ve already covered Max Payne Mobile‘s iOS release. Now that same port has been brought over to Android operating systems. There’s no difference between the two mobile releases, and what’s more, both of those are also identical to the original PC game, the Remedy-developed, Rockstar-published Max Payne. If you like shooting virtual dudes in bullet time and have been jealous of iOS users getting to play this classic on the go, now’s your chance to check it out with your Android device.

Pocket PlanesPocket Planes :: iOS :: FREE
I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about Pocket Planes in a single sentence: the free iOS app from the creators of Tiny Tower has you running and constantly improving your very own airline. Did I mention that it’s free? Or that it features the same sort of business management sim appeal that made Tiny Tower such a success? Just got get it.

Top Gear Stunt School RevolutionTop Gear: Stunt School Revolution :: iOS :: FREE
For those iOS users who would prefer to actually drive a vehicle, this week also brings another new freemium release to the App Store, the BBC-backed Top Gear: Stunt School Revolution. While the game doesn’t really bear any resemblance to the popular car culture-focused TV series, it’s an entertaining, nice-looking game that has you climbing behind the wheel of various rides and completing a series of stunt-style challenges. The freemium hook allows you to avoid putting play hours in for your upgrades by buying them instead. So in other words, you’ve got the full game for free; any money you spend is simply a progression-based timesaver.

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