Friday, May 29, 2009

Palm Pre Demo From D7 Is Better Than Porn

The Pre is looking awesomer and awesomer...and best of all, if all goes well, it will prevent Apple & RIM from falling asleep at the wheel.

Is CBS Outdoor About To Give Shortcodes Their Day In The Sun?

Sometimes it amazes me how long it takes for the most basic technology to achieve any meaningful scale. Such is the curse of the early adopter...such is the curse of the entire mobile content space. It's been 7 years since Labatt's ran the first North American cross-carrier shortcode campaign...but as I've mentioned previously such initiatives have never gotten much love or achieved much scale in the US. During a focus group with 50 college-aged kids 2 summers ago I asked how many had ever entered in a shortcode into their mobile phone in response to a marketing message in another medium...and not one raised their hand. Even text marketing campaigns that are viewed as successful are usually deemed so because of amazing conversion rates...not the raw numbers of responses (which are usually very small). Well, that may be about to change. This week old media goliath CBS Outdoor announced that it's introducing a major SMS initiative dubbed txt2go that will allow its media clients to easily add keywords & shortcodes to out of home campaigns so that they can track their efficacy and extend the marketing relationship with respondents (with additional messaging, coupons, sweepstakes, etc.). It's obviously been possible to add shortcodes to outdoor campaign in the past...but it has always involved totally separate setup process (that is expensive & slow for those brands that don't have established shortcode initiatives) and coordination between a variety of vendors. In this case it's a "tick the box" at a cost of $225 per 500 responses and a 2-3 day setup time (this must be for shared shortcodes)...making it a much simpler proposition for clients. txt2go uses a text marketing platform from a company called Rip Road (must say...had never heard of them). I'm actually surprised that one of the text messaging big boys like mBlox, VeriSign, 2ergo or Singlepoint isn't directly powering this initiative...but whatever, good for Rip Road. It will be really interesting to see how many & how quickly CBS Outdoor clients bolt this functionality onto their campaigns. I'm keeping my eyes open.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Walt & Nokia's "OP" Kallasvuo Chat About Symbian, N97 & US Carrier Relations At D7

  1. Symbian is a great OS and I hope more hardware manufacturers adopt it for more devices...but it has no hotness factor. Android has the OS hotness factor right now.
  2. N97 rocks (I want one)...but it will get no market traction in the US if it costs $700.
  3. There's a lot of blah, blah, blah here about building carrier relations in the US...but, what's actually happening? My feeling is that Nokia needs to re-build the aspirational nature of its brand with US consumers by supplying operators with cool, high-end devices (e.g. N-series, 5800 Xpress Music, E-series). I think many Americans associate Nokia with some of the low-end crap on T-Mo (1680, 2760) and/or their first "Nokia brick" handset.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

So, Whatever Happened to Jamster 2.0?

What has become of Fox Mobile Group's & CEO Mauro Montanaro's big plans to reinvent, reinvigorate & (as we like to say in Hollywood) reimagine their moribund Jamster/Jamba D2C brand? It can't happen soon enough, as the content mix & traffic on, the US version of the subscription/breakage model tones, graphics & games site, seems to have totally stagnated (see chart below).

The company, which was founded in Berlin in 2000 as Jamba!, was once the revenue darling of the off-deck mobile content space...allegedly generating as much as $600mil in the Crazy Frog heyday of 2005. Fox put a major mobile stake in the ground in late 2006 when it bought a majority (51%) share in the company from VeriSign for ~$190mil, to combine it with its own nascent Mobizzo web-to-mobile brand. They bought the rest of it last October for an additional $200mil, announced a restructure of their mobile groups and teased the aforementioned plan to rebrand...which was originally supposed to happen in Q1 2009. Moconews diligently followed up with Montanaro at CES this January where he admitted that the plan was delayed by the economic meltdown, but that the relaunch was definitely slated for the first half of the year. It's been crickets since then...

I would think in this era of rapidly propagating App Store clones, fighting for mindshare & consumers, that Fox would be anxious to rapidly leverage their substantial investment in Jamster's infrastructure & customer acquisition through a more contemporary offering, if they ever want a shot at reclaiming a leadership position amongst mobile content retailers. I'm keeping my eyes & ears open over the coming weeks for clues that change is afoot.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ovi Is Too Sexy For Its Site

The moblogosphere has been buzzing all day about myriad difficulties Nokia has been experiencing as they rolled out their online & downloadable on-device Ovi mobile applications stores in over 100 countries starting this weekend. The oft-delayed service, originally announced in the Summer of 2007, has been highly anticipated within the mobile entertainment community. Personally, I haven't had any issues accessing their very on trend looking (Apple/Hulu-esque) website...however, many must have because Nokia has openly acknowledged problems and attributed them to "extraordinarily high spikes of traffic." Gotta love it when a company uses an apology as an opportunity to pay itself a this case, attributing problems to too much success (must be a core tenet of Spin 101 class at Publicity U). That's nice, but to quickly effectively mitigate criticism Nokia must immediately fix site performance issues, continually add cool apps (like daily), demonstrate some early sales success AND get Ovi into & keep it in the public consciousness (unlike BlackBerry App World...which an absolute consumer non-event).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Beware The Inverse Razor Blade In This Apple

Reading Jason Ankeny's excellent piece on FierceMobileContent yesterday about the insignificant direct financial benefit Apple realizes from its App Store (~$20mil to $45mil), relative to its iPhone revenue, made me think more about a cautionary post I made back in January. Is there danger inherent in mobile publishers' collective, ongoing obsession with, and perhaps reliance upon, the iPhone platform?

Almost every major mobile game publisher has announced that the App Store has become a major focus of their initiatives. While many have admitted that the money they are seeing today is still small compared to that from the traditional carrier channel, they are quick to point out that the App Store has been the growth component of their businesses over the last 10 months. There is a lot of optimism that many of the problems currently constraining the revenue potential of the platform...such as too many developers, lack of meaningful quality control and pricing anarchy...will soon be nipped in the bud by Apple. To that end, there's been a long running rumor that Apple is planning a premium games section, with a limited pool of publishers, where games will be priced at $19.99. But this may not be the case...

Publishers need to realize that Apple's interests are not aligned with their own and that the guys from Cupertino may not find the aforementioned problems troubling at all. Apple's interest is in using the lure of a broad selection of inexpensive, if not free, content to drive the sale of devices. In the classic razor blade model Gillette et al gave you a razor in the interest of selling you replacement blades over time. Apple has the inverse model, and in this case the loss-leader is content (Apps, music, digital TV episodes, etc.). By virtue of this (and the low prices it facilitates) Apple is establishing itself as the dominant distribution channel for legitimate digital content. iTunes is becoming the Walmart of digital content retailing, but with a twist...they don't need to make money from any of the content in the store because they're making their money selling you a very sexy shopping cart. The music, TV & film guys are all aware of this and are proceeding with appropriate caution with regard to their digital dependence on game publishers would be wise to do the same.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Biggest In Japan...Panasonic P906i

According to a story from Wireless Watch Japan a new study by research firm GfK, based on POS data, has determined that the Panasonic P906i offered by operator NTT DoCoMo was the top selling handset in Japan during 2008. The report goes on to list the overall market Top 10 devices and Top 10 by operator. As usual, most of these phones have never seen the light of day outside of Japan. Circa 2005 Sprint in the US and Vodafone UK did attempt to offer some Japanese handsets...but they never seemed to get popular traction with consumers. I once heard that some US/Euro operators didn't like Japanese handsets because the manufacturers wouldn't indemnify them against health claims (yikes!)...could be nonsense. On the flip-side western handsets have never done very well in Japan. Global leader Nokia has tried and failed twice to penetrate the market...surrendering last time at the end of 2008. The only non-Japanese handset on this list is the 3G iPhone, which is the #3 handset on the #3 operator (it did not make the overall Top 10).

Here are some key specs for the P906i:
  • 2-way shellcase, opens vertically & horizontally
  • 3.1" widescreen VGA display (854x480)
  • One-Segment Mobile TV Tuner
  • 5.1 megapixel camera
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • 200 hrs continuous talk
  • 58o hrs of standby
  • Micro SD/SDHC
  • 123 gms

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Uh...Duh! Data Confirms Everyone IS Buying a Smartphone

Like a data drug dealer Gartner teased the results of it's $1,300 Q1 2009 WW Mobile Devices survey with some free databytes showing that overall handset sales fell 8.6% in Q1 2009, but that smartphone sales increased 12.7%. Nokia was the leader...though some would argue that many of their Symbian handsets that Gartner characterized as smartphones don't really fit the bill. I think RIM looked pretty impressive from a product portfolio standpoint with over 7mil units sold and, of course, as an individual device the iPhone continued to be the hotness du jour with 4mil units in Q1. Bottom line is that kids, my mom and everyone wants a mobile with a full QWERTY keyboard, that can browse the internet via 3G and/or wifi and handle email.

Trip Hawkins Claims D'Choc Is #1 Games Company on iPhone

According to an interview on CNBC today, Digital Chocolate CEO & games industry legend, Trip Hawkins claims that his company is now the #1 games publisher on the iTunes App Store platform by virtue of its 20mil downloads to date. As a corollary, the company is also claiming to be responsible for a full 2% of all iPhone App downloads (20mil =2% of 1bil). Wow! As I expressed in a post last month about a similar Digital Chocolate claim, I'm kinda skeptical (it's my nature)...unless, the overwhelming majority of downloads are of free versions of their Apps (12 of 25 D'Choc games live in the US App Store are free). Also, I would really be interested to hear what Gameloft, Glu Mobile, et al make of these claims!!! But, perhaps I'm wrong, perhaps they're moving a huge # of paid Apps and Digital Chocolate is poised to burst into the top-tier of mobile game publishers with triple-digit revenue growth in 2009.

Diamond In The Tweetarrhea...iPhone v3 Leak Courtesy of TelecomNZ

Great post on MobileCrunch this morning. More fuel on the fire that Apple is indeed preparing to launch the 3rd version of their rockstar iPhone...this time courtesy of a reference in a "tweet" from Telecom New Zealand's official Twitter account (ooops!). Twitter's kinda like that guy in the office with verbal diarrhea...most of the time it's tedious, but occasionally there's a gem that makes abiding the drivel all worthwhile.
Many (including myself) anticipate that the new device will be announced during Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in SF on June 8th.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

2ergo Zips Up Its Wapfly

According to a story from Mobile Entertainment yesterday Manchester, UK based WAP and SMS platform powerhouse (and Cabana Mobile Entertainment Stock Index component) 2ergo Group Plc. (RGO) has further expanded their global footprint by acquiring Aussie mobile marketing firm Wapfly. This is similar to the way they expanded into the US & LatAm by acquiring US mobile pioneer Proteus back in 2006. Besides the geographical appeal Wapfly comes with some high profile clients (notably giant pubcaster Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Conde Nast & Motorola) and some capability in developing new platform applications...they recently deployed an ad-supported iPhone App for the ABC which had 50k downloads in 3weeks. No one seems to know what they paid (I'll keep digging).

With this acquisition, 2ergo, which generated ~$50mil in revenue & ~$5mil profit last year, is even better positioned to become a global leader in the deployment of scalable, enterprise grade, turnkey mobile solutions for brands seeking a meaningful mobile presence. Strangely this space is still primarily populated with small shops using either licensed or homegrown glue & duct tape to firms who don't know any better. But as brands get more sophisticated about mobile, as they want to run more innovative global campaigns and manage/monetize their traffic, they will realize the value of more robust platforms and migrate to the quality players in the space like 2ergo.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Are These The Top 20 Mobile Entertainment Companies By Revenue?

I think so...but I could be wrong. Who am I missing? Anyone on this list who shouldn't be there? Any issues with the order? I'll adjust and re-post based on feedback.
btw -- this list obviously includes mobile entertainment divisions of companies that are not exclusively involved in mobile or mobile entertainment. Also it does not include the mobile operators or divisions of traditional entertainment companies, such as the studios, networks & music companies.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Uh Oh!, Verizon's Voyager Successor Has No FLO

According to a story on EngadgetMobile, Verizon Wireless's imminent & highly anticipated replacement for the LG Voyager, the LG VX11000 enV Touch, will not support V CAST Mobile TV (Verizon's flavor of Qualcomm's FLO TV mobile broadcast product). Does this mean that the #1 US operator is already phasing-out the product, which launched in Q1 2007, as they get ready to rollout their LTE 4G services later this year? Probably. Frankly I've aways questioned Verizon's commitment to FLO TV...they never marketed it very well (or much) and only ever made it available on a few devices. Other issues that have dogged the service, which does give the user a good viewing experience, are a limited selection of channels (with no time-shifting capability) and very uneven network coverage (doesn't work at my house...doesn't work on road trips). My guess is that Verizon has well under a million V CAST Mobile TV subscribers paying the additional $15/mo (on top of the unlimited data fee) and that the churn rate is pretty the revenue loss would be pretty insignificant in the scheme of Verizon Wireless's overall numbers. Assuming V CAST Mobile TV is indeed going bye-bye, hopefully someone at the carrier will read my post from Wednesday and think twice before replacing the service with another proprietary, subset of real TV service, that is destined to fail. Instead, let apps like SlingPlayer Mobile and (eventually) freeVOD sites like Hulu show subscribers how good TV can be on mobile over a high speed data network.

Rumor: Nokia & Google in Heated Bidding War Over Mobile Translation Technology

...some are calling it the next Shazam...

Have a great weekend ;-)

Twistbox To Help Private Reach "New Penetration Levels" in $2.2bil Mobile Adult Content Market, I didn't make that up, I didn't have to. Tim Clausen, VP of Sales at Private Media Group (PRVT) did in a press release today describing the Spanish adult content company's expanded worldwide mobile distribution relationship with LA-based Twistbox Entertainment. Specifically he said, "We look forward to increasing our mobile revenue through the new penetration levels we will achieve on Twistbox's vast distribution network." Funny. Moving on...this is actually a pretty big deal for Twistbox and their parent company Mandalay Media (MNDL)...a film production company founded by entertainment industry legend Peter Guber, that's morphed into a new media holding company. It reinforces their position as a leader in the on & off deck distribution of adult images, video and mobile TV channels worldwide (the company also has a mobile games division, which they acquired from InfoSpace)....and their stock price is up 77% on the news, in early trading today. Adult content is a pretty substantial business in Europe & Latin America where the carriers are much more liberal about (and not afraid of making money from) such content. Juniper Research estimated the WW mobile adult content market at $2.2bil in 2008 and a former content director at Vodafone famously said a couple of years ago that 70% of downloads on the carrier were of adult content. Shocking (not).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Artificial Life | The New Hotness In Mobile Games?

Artificial Life (ALIF) reported super-strong Q1 2009 earnings yesterday. The LA/HK based mobile games and applications publisher announced that they had ~3.5mil java/BREW + 1.2mil App Store downloads in the quarter...making it their biggest earnings quarter ever (significant since these guys pre-date the Moto StarTAC).

Revs = $7.1mil ^71% from Q1 2008
Net = $2.7mil ^9% from Q1 2008

The company was particularly excited about the iPhone App Store (like everyone else) where they currently have 3 paid and 2 free Apps. 3 titles are promo Apps...2 for Red Bull and 1 for BMW. A mixture of free and paid games/apps tied to major brands is the sweet spot for these guys. My guess is that not all of these titles are licensed in the classic some instances they are probably being paid as a marketing vendor (which isn't a bad model in the current environment).

I've gotta admit that I was (as is my nature) super-skeptical about these guys and some of their licensing/promo relationship choices...Braveheart, Tokio Hotel, Red Bull, etc. They seemed like a fluffy mobile marketing company (the type that approach studios/networks daily). But looking at their numbers (and some of their game reviews) I am happy to concede that I was wrong. These guys are on the fast-track to becoming a revenue leader in the 2nd tier of mobile game publishers, which features companies like I-play, Hands-On Mobile & Digital Chocolate...and to becoming more profitable than any mobile game publisher in the 1st, 2nd or any other tier!!! Sweet! to see some energy/excitement in the mobile games category.

DataByte: VC Funding Down 50% | Startup Funding Down 62%

According to Dow Jones VentureWire VC funding fell through the floor in Q1 2009...dropping to $3.9bil from $7.8bil in the year ago quarter (the lowest quarterly figure since 1998). Perhaps even more relevant and alarming for the mobile entertainment sector is that quarterly seed & first round funding fell even more $682mil from $1.8bil.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sling Almost Has The Video Genie Out of the Bottle

After months of wrangling, rumors and posturing the highly anticipated SlingPlayer for iPhone is finally available for download in the App Store...but not before AT&T Mobility took a hammer to it's knee-cap. For now the $29.99 iPhone version called SlingPlayer Mobile will only work via Wi-Fi and not over AT&T's 3G network. The operator claims that the App would use too much network capacity and potentially prevent other customers from having a good 3G experience.

You know, it's all about principles...except that BlackBerry Bolds, Palms and N-series Nokia devices can use Sling applications over the network and nevermind that other broadcast Apps like CBS's don't seem to be a problem. Some have suggested that this limitation is a slap in the face to AT&T's U-verse competitor EchoStar, who acquired Sling Media back in 2007. I think it may be more about appeasing FLO TV partner Qualcomm (who must hate this) and some of the IP owners who benefit from that service. As usual, no one seemed to care very much when it was just a few early-adopter types who happened to figure out that there was a Sling application for their Centros...but on the highly visible App Store platform everything changes. Non-mobile people actually talk about iPhone Apps.

I think the real big news here is that SlingMedia is on the verge of catalyzing a movement that will make proprietary mobile streaming & broadcast services to the handset an anachronism. I have no doubt they will soon get access to AT&T's network for this App...and that by virtue of the aforementioned iPhone effect the service will quickly get unprecedented popular/industry mindshare. This will inevitably lead to an explosion of imitators, innovators & Boxees on iPhone/AT&T who will make it easier and easier for consumers to push/pull TV and other rich media content to/from handsets...and demand by consumers on other carriers to get those same services. I see product offerings like V CAST, MobiTV, Sprint TV, GoTV and FLO TV disappearing as consumers opt to watch hundreds of channels of real TV (including recorded TV), wherever/whenever, for the price of a set-top box and a one time app fee. This movement will intensify as the MSOs and Satellite guys get into the mix with their own Sling-type offerings...and as some of these services migrate to the mobile web, once Adobe (or whomever) gets a mobile video browser plug-in working properly and meaningfully deployed. Whew!...can't wait. Ultimately, the effect of Sling on iPhone will be big win for the consumer...more TV, more often, for cheap. The same can't be said for the carriers, who'll soon be wondering where their video subscription revenue went, or for the IP owners, who'll soon be wondering where their mobile licensing window went.

Here's Another Non-Original Idea: Call The "app store" Vodafone live!

BusinessWeek & Electricpig both covered an announcement yesterday from mammoth global carrier group Vodafone that they plan to pile on the industry trend of flattering Apple by creating their own version of an app store (distinguished by being lowercase, dontchasee). Voda, which claims 289mil customers in 27 countries, will begin rolling an SDK to developers/publishers this summer. Their apps will support multiple handsets and geo-targeting using network information (as opposed to GPS)...and feature a 70/30 revenue split (yes, in the developer's favor).

So why is this news? Hasn't Vodafone featured applications on its decks for well over 5 years now? I must say that this only further illustrates the genius of's not that they invented mobile applications, it's just that they actually figured out a way to get consumers excited about them. It's the same thing they did with the MP3 player...Creative & Samsung had tons of models on the market years before the iPod, but you'd think Apple had invented the concept in 2001 because they made the device and the experience sexy. For years the carriers have buried applications (many of them very cool) in their decks and done very little to promote them to their consumers (in my previous role I used to refer the Applications category as "The Dead Zone"). Then, to add insult to injury they would take ~50% of the scant revenue they generated before passing it back to the publishers.

Anyhow, it sounds like those days will soon be history and all the carriers will soon re-brand their content offerings as "app stores" and be giving publishers/developers a better split...which is a good thing. However, these applications aren't going to generate any more revenue (or excitement) unless the carriers commit to merchandising these services and products to their customer base. Being a good merchant of content is a non-trivial task!

One last thought...I am beginning to become a bit concerned about the proliferation of app store SDKs. One of the key contributors to the sick ecosystem of mobile content has been the relatively high cost of development due to the lack of standardization across devices and networks (device porting & testing are costly & time-consuming). Games or applications that are distributed to carriers worldwide can now have well in excess of 1,000 ports. If every carrier in the world and every handset manufacturer creates its own app store with its own distinct SDK matters aren't going to get better anytime soon. What will happen, is that the best developers/publishers will pick and choose which app stores to support based on consumer traction. Apple and....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Can Buongiorno Keep It Up?

Mobile Entertainment reported this morning on Buongiorno's Q1 2009 earnings announcement. The company experienced a 15% decrease in sales over the same period a year ago...which is not entirely surprising given the economy. Probably more troubling for the Italian mobile media & technology company is that they continue to rely upon sales of ringtones & graphics through breakage-model D2C subscription services for the bulk of their revenues. This model has been on a long death spiral with consumers and regulators...and these products are totally commoditized. That said, the company has been able to maintain its position as the #2 mobile entertainment company worldwide by revenue (behind Spain's Zed) and they continue to search for ways to leverage their substantial infrastructure & expertise to create new mobile solutions for consumers & business partners. As I reported earlier I'm skeptical about one of these initiatives in particular (called peoplesound), but it's a move in the right direction. Innovation/diversification are mission critical if Buongiorno wants to stay relevant...and if they ever want to start generating healthier profits for their shareholders.

btw -- here's a look at Buongiorno's revs & consolidated net over the last 2 years in millions of US dollars. Note that I calculated the €/$ rate @ 1.3597 & that the jump in 2008 revs is attributable to their acquisition of iTouch at the very end of 2007.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Revenue Last 4 Quarters: EA Mobile, Gameloft & Glu Mobile

$mils, €=$1.333, calendar Qtrs
In light of the recent flood of Q1 earnings announcements I thought you all might find it interesting to see how the Big 3 mobile games publishers have done in terms of revenues over the last 4 quarters. Frankly, I was really shocked by how flat EA Mobile's revenues have been over the last year. Also, it should be noted that Gameloft's numbers have been adversely impacted by the decline in the value of the euro vs. the dollar. I would love to include Namco Mobile, HandsOn, I-Play, etc., but I don't have a lot of reliable financial data on those firms.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

PopCap Data Feast Puts A Rumbly in My Tumbly

The blogosphere is buzzing about the results of a survey that Information Solutions Group conducted for casual games publisher PopCap with ~1.2k randomly selected AT&T Mobility customers: Here are some key stats:
  • 57% of survey participants are mobile gamers (have played a mobile game in the last month)
  • 78% of mobile gamers have been playing for 1+ years, 55% for 3+ years
  • 26% of mobile gamers have paid to download games
  • 33% have downloaded free/demo mobile games
  • 76% of mobile gamers play pre-loaded free games that come with the handset
  • 61% said genre was the #1 factor influencing download of a paid game (followed by price & good free demo)...casual genres such as puzzles & cards dominate
  • 86% of mobile gamers play games on other platforms
  • 62% of gaming sessions are less than 15mins (it's still about snacking)
  • 71% of mobile gamers play on their phones for less than 1hr/week (troubling)
  • Paid game downloaders have purchased an average of 7.2 mobile games lifetime
  • Mobile gamers with 5+ years experience are downloading fewer games than new gamers
  • Mobile gamers most often claim to have played Tetris (20%), Bejeweled (18%) and Solitaire (17%)...after all these years, yikes!
  • Men play games more often, women play for longer (no comment)
  • 50% of mobile gamers played during work hours
  • 32% of mobile gamers said they were “somewhat or very likely” to purchase a mobile game in 2009

It's a veritable data feast, but in the end I feel more queasy than satisfied. If this survey is to be believed (and I'll let someone else weigh in on the statistical viability) seems like consumers still have very little passion for mobile games & continue to view them as casual distractions. More depressing is that the same games that were dominating sales 3years ago are still the most popular titles. It would be really interesting to know what % of the survey participants were iPhone owners, and how their results varied from the group at large.

But I needed just one more wafer-thin data I decided to play with some of these numbers to see what I could deduce about AT&T's overall games business. Assuming gamers buy 1 game per quarter @ an avg price of $5.99 then (if my math is correct) AT&T Mobility is making $23mil per month in games revenue (78mil x 57% x 26% x 0.33 x $5.99) or $276mil per year. Actually, that doesn't seem too far-fetched considering that would be 33% of the $845mil US games market as estimated by Gartner. Better?...well considering that means that mobile games revenue per AT&T subscriber is just 30¢ per month (or just 2% of Data ARPU), maybe not. Better bring me a bucket.

RIM Jobs...BlackBerry Throws iPhone A Curve

The Register is reporting that an NPD survey of the US smartphone market in Q1 2009 has revealed that RIM's workhorse BlackBerry Curve outsold the exalted iPhone. Here's the Top 5 in order:
  1. RIM BlackBerry Curve
  2. Apple iPhone 3G
  3. RIM BlackBerry Storm
  4. RIM BlackBerry Pearl
  5. T-Mobile G1
This specific result & the fact that RIM jumped to ~50% share of the US smartphone market can be attributed to: 1) Verizon Wireless's Buy One, Get One promotion on BlackBerry devices during the Feb & Mar 2009; 2) iPhone sales cooling to 1.6mil units (down from 2.4 in Q4 2008) as the faithful eagerly await the announcement of the next model; 3) RIM's diverse, quality and still aspirational product line.

btw -- Palm has totally dropped off the map...that Pre can't come soon enough.

Another interesting data point in this NPD survey highlights a trend I've been tracking for months now...the transition of US consumers from "dumb phones" to smartphones. According to NPD the US handset market for smartphones jumped from 17% in Q1 2008 to 23% in Q1 2009...which is great news for those companies that provide mobile entertainment experiences for consumers. This trend will continue...if not quicken over the next year. Frankly, I think within 5years it's possible that the 12key mobile handset goes the way of the dodo.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Player X, Why Zed?...$15mil is the Answer

Mobile Entertainment is reporting this morning that the giant of all mobile entertainment companies Zed ($545mil 2007 Revs...self reported) is purchasing London-based publisher, distributor and on-carrier hosted portal provider Player X for £10mil ($15mil). Soon after Player X (backed by Arts Alliance & Nordic Venture Partners) emerged back in 2004 I called them "the new cool kid on the block," and they have been able to stay cool/relevant by (as you must do in this space) evolving their business model over time. They initially focused on games, but as that space became more commoditized and the carriers aggressively searched for video services to show-off their 3G networks, they created a groundbreaking made-for-mobile video channel offering called GeekTV or ZapperTV (depending on the market). Later they leveraged excellent distribution relationships with European operators to create a 3rd party distribution business and a hosted games portal called 100% Mobile on O2 & Telefonica. There is no word on how Player X will exist going forward within the growing universe of Zed...whose previously acquisitions include Monstermob, 9Squared, Mobitween, etc...but consensus is (and I agree) the Player X team will play a key role in Zed's continuing diversification away from D2C personalization.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Gizmondo Gets Ready For Its Closeup

Back in 2004 Tiger Telematics, the maker of the upstart GPRS connected handheld gaming console called Gizmondo, was aggressively pursuing the Hollywood studios for portable gaming and VOD licenses. I don't think any of those deals ever happened and the device was a flame-out shortly after launch in late 2005. Well Gizmondo might be ready for its Hollywood sequel...and this time in a starring role. Mobile Entertainment reported on a Hollywood Reporter story from Wednesday that writer/director Craig Zobel & veteran producer Beau Flynn (Requiem for a Dream, Journey to the Center of the Earth, etc.) are developing a film based upon Randall Sullivan's 2006 Wired article "Gizmondo's Spectacular Crack-up". The article focuses on the copious colorful criminal antics of Gizmondo's Swedish co-founder Bo Stefan Eriksson...infamous for, among other things, wrecking a $1mil Ferrari on PCH. I hope the film actually makes it into production and I hereby recommend that either Michael Madsen, Vincent D'Onofrio or Tom Sizemore play Eriksson and that a fattened up 1st gen nGage stars as the Gizmondo. If the film is released, my guess is that most movie-goers will be surprised to learn that the device and Eriksson are not fictional.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Fireminty Fresh App Store Data

Thanks to Calvin Lim for sending me an interesting story on Techcrunch covering a refreshingly candid report from quality Australian developer (turned iPhone publisher) Firemint about their experience to date in the iTunes App Store with their uber-hot "Flight Control" game. The game, which is currently selling for $0.99 in the US App Store, has received overwhelmingly positive user reviews and was parked in the #1 paid Apps spot for weeks Here are some key take-aways:
  • Firemint estimates 700k downloads since 6 March 2009
  • 57% of sales come from the US, followed by UK with 17%...over 80% came from English speaking countries
  • Game sold ~35k units WW on best day, ~20k units in US on best day
  • Techcrunch estimates Firemint's Rev @ ~$485k (700k x $0.99 x 70%)...but could be a bit higher since $0.99 is promoted as a "sale price"
  • Firemint saw sales bumps during Easter and as result of press coverage
  • Sales declined pretty steeply at #1 position, going from ~13.k/day to ~9.5k/day in the US in 2 weeks

Overall these are great numbers. The 2 biggest concerns I have are:

  1. Price erosion on the platform (which I've been harping about for a long time) seems very difficult to get into or stay in the Top Paid Apps at over a $1.99 price point
  2. Short effective shelf life...from this report & other anecdotal evidence, it seems like good titles peak very quickly then drop quite rapidly...eventually to get lost in the increasing clutter of the App Store catalog

This report is a treasure-trove of data and I'm sure it will soon serve as a primer for the entire mobile games developer/publisher community. I hope that Firemint's willingness to share real-world numbers will start a trend in the mobile content space...on this and all other distribution platforms.