BizSpots: SOE, GDC Austin, Iron Lore

Sony's online-game hub relaunches; online-focused conference keynoted by lead FFXI dev; Titan Quest dev appoints prez, hires designer.

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New look, free games parked in SOE's Station
Sony Online Entertainment announced this week the relaunch of its online game portal Station.com. Aside from a redesigned layout and retooled functionality, the site now hosts free trials for the majority of SOE's massively multiplayer online games. It also now houses demos for casual games such as Bejeweled 2, Jeopardy, and Wheel of Fortune, and for mobile games such as Q*Bert, Snoop Dogg Cruisin', and God of War: Betrayal. Sony's Station Pass, which includes action games Tanarus, Cosmic Rift Online, and Infantry Online, is also now free for all users. Previously, monthly Station Pass access cost users $6.95.

Hiromichi Tanaka opens Austin GDC
Square Enix executive officer Hiromichi Tanaka will deliver the keynote address at this year's Austin Game Developers Conference. Best known as the lead developer on Final Fantasy XI, the massively multiplayer online iteration of Square Enix's long-running fantasy series, Tanaka will address issues arising from developing a multiplatform MMOG. The Austin Game Conference was brought into the Game Developers Conference fold last October, and was subsequently renamed Austin GDC in February. The online-game-focused developer powwow will take place September 5-7 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

Goodsill to rule Iron Lore, Marvin annexed
Iron Lore Entertainment sent word this week that Jeff Goodsill has been promoted to president of the company. In his new role, Goodsill will oversee the studio's day-to-day operations, while also leading strategic planning and improving team management. The developer also announced today that it has enlisted Steve Marvin as design director. Marvin's most recent credits include lead designer on EA Mythic's upcoming massively multiplayer online game Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Established in mid-2005 in part by Age of Empires cocreator Brian Sullivan, Iron Lore has thus far released two games: Titan Quest, and its expansion pack Immortal Throne.

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