Tuesday, September 29, 2009

mSpot Launches Mobile Movies Streaming Service For Smartphones

Palo Alto based music and movie application pioneer mSpot has just launched Mobile Movies, which is a mobile and online browser-based streaming movie rental service for BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android and iPhone that uses native media players of those devices. mSpot has a unique pedigree in this area, having powered Sprint Movies since 2006... which was the world's first legitimate full-length movie streaming service for mobiles. The new service is carrier agnostic and currently features 350 films from Paramount, Universal & The Weinstein Company. I'm sure mSpot is in negotiations for even more content from all the majors. Individual rentals cost $4.99, or you can join their movie club and get up to 8 films for $15.99.

I've been testing the service this morning on my AT&T BlackBerry Bold. I visited mSpot's mobile website, selected "Zack & Miri Make A Porno", put in my credit card, agreed to terms and now have access to the film for 48hrs (windows vary by studio). I'm currently using my home wifi network, and in that environment the film is streaming perfectly, with only one very short buffering hiccup. The image quality is very good, even in full-screen mode (definitely on par with the best streaming video services out there), audio is excellent and audio/video synch is clean even after repeated pausing. I like it... its a very cool, cleanly executed service. My only complaints would be that I'd like the rental windows to be longer and I'd like the option to store the film (even if it's just for the rental window) on my media card, so I could play it back when I'm outside good coverage areas.

Now that the service is launched, the key for mSpot is to market the hell out of it so they can establish a substantial customer base and meaningful mindshare, before the inevitable competition gets its act together.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Does App Store Claim Make Digital Chocolate A $35mil Publisher?

Stuart Dredge posted an interview last Friday on Mobile Entertainment with Trip Hawkins, in which the Digital Chocolate CEO pontificated about the state on the mobile games industry. Great read, but due to my ongoing obsession with valuing the size of this business and that of its individual companies, I must say I fixated on one particular statement. Hawkins said, "suddenly Apple has one handset, we put out a handful of games, and voila – it's suddenly 20-25% of our business.” Wow, that's a pretty big chunk of business and impressive considering Hawkins' own admission earlier this year that they were a latecomer to the platform. So how much money is this and how big is Digital Chocolate?

When I did an analysis of Gameloft's iPhone (inc. iPod touch) business in early September, following their claim to have sold 6mil games on the platform, I estimated that their games had sold at an average price of $3.75... which yields $15.75mil back to Gameloft, or 9% of their revenue for the last 4 quarters. Now Gameloft was not a latecomer to the platform and they have been one of the better publishers at maintaining higher price points for their product, so I think we can comfortably assume that D'Choc's iPhone business is quite a bit smaller than that... right? Currently, Digital Chocolate has 35 paid game titles in the App Store, with an average price of $2.08. Typically their prices have been 20-30% lower than those of Gameloft, which currently has a average App Store price of $3.06. Today Gameloft has 5 titles in Top 100 Paid Apps (out of their 41 Paid Apps), and Digital Chocolate has none, but that's somewhat of an anomaly. Digital Chocolate titles have consistently performed pretty well, and as you can see from my June 29th App Store survey they had 3 in the Top 100 at a time when Gameloft also had 5, with many fewer titles in the store. That said, given the average pricing differential, Top 100 performance and slower ramp-up I think that Digital Chocolate's App Store business over the last year is, being generous, about 50% of Gameloft's... let's call it $8mil in revenue. I can get to the same number if I make some fair assumptions about Hawkins' other claim in the ME interview... that they're "a few weeks away" from 40mil downloads on the platform. If 10% of those downloads are paid and their blended average price is $2.80 (75% of Gameloft's), that's very close to $8mil (after Apple's share). OK, so if that platform represents 22.5% of their overall business, then Digital Chocolate is a $35.5mil publisher. According to my Top 10 Mobile Games Publishers list, that would put them in Capcom territory... and makes them bigger than both I-Play and Artificial Life. Do you guys think that's right? If so, I'll update my list accordingly.

Friday, September 25, 2009

HandyGames: Top 20 iPhone Games Analysis

Here's a couple of nice SlideShare presentations courtesy of our friends at veteran German mobile games publisher HandyGames... enjoy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rotten Fish? GetFugu Not Getting $5mil Funding After All

Last week I wrote a post about a recent flurry of deal and funding activity at enhanced mobile search marketing company GetFugu (GFGU). Well today something clearly went pear-shaped with those investments from SpongeTech ($4mil) and Vanity Events Holding ($1mil). This morning GetFugu issued a press release announcing that it had rescinded the investments... which is odd, since they were the recipient. Basically they were saying they no longer wanted or needed the money (maybe 'rejected' would've been the right word). Then later in the day SpongeTech (who was also planning to be a customer) issued its own release declaring that their "investment arrangement with GetFugu, Inc. has been rescinded"... making it sound like it was their decision not to pursue the investment. To make matters messier, SpongeTech had advanced GetFugu $1.75mil in anticipation that the companies would reach a definitive agreement, and apparently GetFugu has already spent the money (oops!). So, now they need to find alternative financing to pay back those funds. Well inquiring minds definitely want to know much more about what really went down here, right? You gotta figure, either something went very badly between GetFugu and these investors, or that GetFugu found a bigger and/or better investor... or potentially, a buyer. One thing is quite clear, the market thinks this stinks. GetFugu's stock plummeted 37% on heavy volume.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I Wanna Party Like It's 1999: Let's Celebrate i-mode

I suspect that I'm gaining a reputation as a mobile cynic... as a curmudgeon, if you will. But guess what bitches my friends, I love me some mobile and I love me some mobile entertainment even more. OK, I'm a little bitter that it's almost impossible to generate a meaningful profit deploying a content service in mobile. Like, weren't we entitled to make bags of money in this medium post-dotcom? C'mon, with an intrinsic business model and a ubiquitous install-base... we were going to be printing it baby!... *Xanax kicks in*. Well that never happened. Anyway, CTIA is fast approaching and you know what?...it's time to forget about practical concerns and celebrate! Let's celebrate 10 years of mobile entertainment and the service that launched this madness!

In February 1999 our Japanese friends at NTT DoCoMo, after spending half a decade and a shitload of cash ($10bil) on data infrastructure, launched a proprietary mobile internet service called i-mode and (stroke of genius) rapidly enabled all the handsets on its network to access it. It was, and still is, a very closed, controlled ecosystem... the AOL of mobile. But, like AOL did online in the US, i-mode did an amazing job of introducing a lot of Japanese consumers (who typically didn't have connected PCs at home), very rapidly, to the mobile internet. Perhaps, more importantly, it got them comfortable with the concept of paying for digital content like ringtones, emoji (graphics) & DecoMail (email animations). DoCoMo persuaded content owners to jump on board and make the service compelling by promising ubiquity and generously sharing content (not data) revenue (90%) with those IP owners. For those of us outside Japan, who were exposed to this, it seemed like the Holy Grail... and it was.

In six months i-mode had over 1mil subscribers, by August 2000 they had 10mil. Then, to make the service even super-sexier, in 2001 DoCoMo blessed users with the world's first 3G service (FOMA). By 2006 almost 50mil Japanese were using the mobile internet through i-mode and paying $2 or $3 each in monthly subscriptions for access to each of their favorites from a choice of 12k official, or 100k unofficial, sites. With an average i-mode ARPU of around $17 per month (including data fees)... that meant DoCoMo grossed over $10bil in 2006 from the service (it's over $15bil now) and paid content owners almost $2bil. Most of the content being consumed was local, but western companies like Disney, which was already a consumer products powerhouse in Japan, saw the opportunity early (mid-2000) and created a couple of character-based i-mode sites that quickly became very popular and, as mobile legend has it, Disney Mobile Japan was generating $150mil in annual revenue by 2005.

Frankly, it was the story of Disney's mobile success on i-mode, augmented with some European monophonic ringtone hyperbole, that got a cadre of the brightest young minds outside Japan (who'd been tumbling in the whitewash of the dotcom bust) super-excited about the business potential of content services on mobile phones. These individuals would go on to become the pioneers who created many of the companies, or their antecedents, that I write about on this blog. So thank you NTT DoCoMo, thank you i-mode, thank you Mari Matsunaga (inventor), thank you Disney for creating this frenzy and this fine mess. It's the funnest thing I've ever done.

Gameloft Stock vs Glu Mobile Stock 2009

Gameloft (GFT) is on the top in Blue (price in €)
GFT Market Cap = $385mil (€/$=1.4793)

Glu Mobile (GLUU) is on the bottom in Red (price in $)
GLUU Market Cap = $35mil

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

EA Mobile To Handle Namco's Carrier Channel Publishing Outside US & Asia

Following a flurry of reports, rumors and speculation from industry trades and blogs (including this one) yesterday about the future of Namco's mobile games publishing business, EA Mobile issued a press release today announcing that it had signed a distribution deal with the Japanese games titan for Europe, Russia, India, Latin America, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia that begins Nov 1st. For now it looks like Namco will retain control of US/Canada, Asia ex India and Africa ex South Africa. In addition, and very significantly, Namco will continue to control its own distribution Worldwide through smartphone app stores (e.g. iTunes, BB App World, Android, Ovi, etc.). This seems like a very smart move by Namco, as it will allow them to focus their attention on those channels that show the most promise for growth and provide the highest reward for innovation.... and feed those smartphone initiatives with mailbox money from EA. For EA Mobile, this should be a good move, since they'll theoretically be leveraging their existing infrastructure in those territories to push a broader selection of high-quality titles. However, it'll take some creative dancing to keep Namco happy, while making sure that these distributed titles don't cannibalize EA's own in these markets, while ensuring they don't get too distracted from their own smartphone strategy.

Yikes! Artificial Life Creating Robbie Williams iPhone Game

Perhaps I was a little irrationally exuberant when I suggested that Artificial Life (ALIF) might be "the new hotness in mobile games" back in May. The company's latest announcement, that they are producing a Robbie Williams iPhone game as part of the promotional activity around the release of his forthcoming album "Reality Killed The Video Star", is feeling decidedly like the anti-hotness (and that ain't coolness) to me. Apparently Artificial Life is creating a 3D rally driving game (not sure I get the tie-in) that'll release in coordination with Williams' album in Q4.... probably a re-skin of one of its BMW games. Oh I just can't wait! This seems pretty lame on a bunch of levels. Robbie Williams, for one, is hardly the phenom he once was... so the creation of an iPhone game feels like a somewhat desperate attempt by some marketing genius to keep him relevant with "the kids." Also, in the biggest market for iPhone games (the US), Williams never was a phenom... and probably never will be. It's hard to imagine a scenario where this game will get a lot of downloads, even if it's free... so the biggest value for Williams will the publicity (to which I'm contributing, I guess... perhaps genius is at work here). For Artificial Life the value is a pure financial practicality. They did something similar with Tokio Hotel a while back, and the model must have penciled out for them. In this case I presume they're being paid by Williams' label or management to create this game... and I hope it's a lot, because (as I've mentioned recently) they desperately need some cash and because repairing the collateral damage to their reputation as a games publisher on the rise (assuming they had or want that) will be expensive. That said, maybe I just expected/hoped that Artificial Life aspired to be a top-tier, world class mobile games publisher and that was never their intent. Frankly, if they simply want to play in the mobile marketing gun-for-hire app creation space there's probably no harm done, and this may even enhance their profile as a company that can quickly give brands presence in the mobile space.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Is Fox's Brainstorm Minty Fresh or Curiously Wrong?

Fox Mobile Studios (FMS), the creative production arm of Fox Mobile Group, announced today that it has partnered with Wrigley's Altoids brand to create an 8-episode short form scripted comedy for mobile and online platforms entitled "Brainstorm" (check out the site). The show, which was created in collaboration with LA-based cross-media branded entertainment agency Omelet, is about a dysfunctional advertising agency that hires a wacky ad industry guru to help them land the Altoids account. It premieres on September 28th...online at least. The release doesn't mention where or when the show will debut on mobile, but one's gotta presume this will be a major feature on their Fox.mobi WAP site at the very least. The content will be available for free on the web and probably gratis through mobile outlets as well. It's unclear whether this is a standalone revenue generating initiative for Fox Mobile or if it's more of a support function for a 360-degree (cross platform) advertising deal initiated out of the media giant's TV group. Given the heavy brand integration and their own history with "Mobisodes" (the format they invented and trademarked back in 2005) which were far more successful in terms of publicity than profitability, I have to believe that this is primarily an ad-support play. Assuming that's the case, it will be interesting to see if; 1) this works creatively, 2) it gets eyeballs, 3) if (and how) Altoids deems this a success, and 4) if (and how quickly) other brands come aboard. What do you guys think based on the trailer below?

Is Namco About To Abandon Mobile Publishing?

Both Mobile Entertainment and MobileGamesBlog.com are reporting this morning that Namco Bandai has it's mobile games operations in Europe under review, indicated that it may soon be assigning a distribution partner and have confirmed that there will be layoffs. This comes as a bit of surprise considering that Namco just began ramping-up their European operations in January 2008 with the appointment of industry veteran Barry O'Neill as President of Namco Bandai Networks Europe. That said all the major games publishers seem to be struggling to find solid footing in Europe, where alternative distribution channels like the App Store have had less impact than in the US and where the carriers' deck strategies have been in a constant state of upheaval. It's unclear how this might impact mobile operations in the Americas or Asia (if at all), but my guess is that if Namco decides to subcontract distribution, they'll do it everywhere outside of Japan. Also, as I reported here last month, Namco's US VP of Strategy & Planning Jason Ford recently left the company to become the Head of Games for Handmark. Hmmm.... actually Handmark would be an interesting potential distribution partner for Namco's games. Let's see how this plays out.

Friday, September 18, 2009

ME's Top 10 Mobile Entertainment Misconceptions

This post from Wednesday by Stuart Dredge over at Mobile Entertainment is awesomeness... not sure how I missed it until now. Check it out if you haven't already. To whet your appetites here's Stu's list of popular misconceptions, but believe me, the real entertainment value of the piece comes from reading the witty and concise set of words he uses to dispatch each item in this collection of old saws and new myths.

1. "We're going to be big in China / India..."
2. "People are more willing to pay on mobile..."
3. "iPhone is the promised land..."
4. "The problem with 99-cent iPhone apps..."
5. "A mobile phone is such a personal device, it's perfect for targeted marketing..."
6. "Build an app store, and they will come..."
7. "Fragmentation will cease to be an issue in time..."
8. "It's big in Japan..."
9. "Location-based technology is intrinsically exciting for consumers..."
10. "The operators are toast..."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ovi Store US Top 25 Paid Mobile Games

I have to admit something. I ♥ Nokia. I think they make a lot of cool devices (likey N-series a lot), I admire their willingness to experiment and I've met legions of smart, charming people (whose names I can't pronounce) from the company. Now this admission may come as a surprise to y'all given my propensity to regularly take the stuffing out of them in my posts. Well, that's only because I believe that Nokia is failing to live up to its potential in terms of the content services they've created and in terms of their current US marketshare. Let's call it tough love.

OK, now that that's out of the way... as you've probably noticed I've recently been running a series of surveys of the top mobile games titles in the various app stores. Thursday evening I decided to take a gander at Nokia's Ovi Store. I told the online version of the store that my handset was an N95, figuring I'd go with a top-end handset that's been around for a while (one for which I knew there were lots of available games). Within the store I selected Games > Most Popular > Paid. If I had to use one word to describe the result it would have to be... random! To begin with, how is it possible in the US version of this store that the 7th & 8th most popular titles are cricket games? Also, why are the top-tier publishers so poorly represented (EA...Tetris....Bueller)? These guys have games available on the site (Gameloft has 43), but with a couple of exceptions (notably PopCap's Bejeweled), they're not showing up on the top of the Most Popular list. Three of the most prominently featured companies are names I've literally never come across before, like Kooky Panda (#2 game), Mobi2Fun (5 games!) and ZingMagic (10 games!)... and most of their titles look kinda bootleg (though Omar Sharif Bridge has gotta be the shiznit). I have three theories about what's going on here: 1) The numbers are so small that ranking is meaningless; 2) Everyone who owns an N95 in the US is a cricket-mad expat that wants to play cards with Omar Sharif; 3) Data fail. Any other theories out there?

Anonymous Perspective | The World Series of App Store

A mobile content veteran, who'd prefer to remain anonymous, shared an entertaining and useful analogy with me the other day to describe a personal view of the iTunes App Store ecosystem. I thought you guys would enjoy it...

I've come to think of the iTunes App Store as similar to what the World Series of Poker (WSOP) has become; a great place for hobbyists and one hit wonders, but not a channel (event) that favors professionals. In 2009, the WSOP projected 7,323 entrants into the main event. Of those, only about 100 are professional poker players; Phil Ivey, Gus Hansen, Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, etc. Those are the EAs, Gamelofts, Ngmocos of the iTunes App Store ecosystem. The WSOP treats all event entrants the same (though wisely the media outlets covering the event do not), just as Apple does with content submissions from developers. Back in the 70s, 80s and even 90s, the event was dominated by pros and won by pros. When Chris Moneymaker (an unknown, who had obtained a seat off a promotional online tournament) won in 2003, it set off an explosion in entrants to the tournament, as people thought (correctly) that they had a chance at beating the pros and winning the tournament. And, at 7223 to 100, they do. So, what's the problem?

The problem is one of odds, rational allocation of scarce resources and ecosystem parity.
  • Odds: With over 70K apps in the store, and more than 8,000 being added per week (including updates), the chances that anyone is going to see your app are very slim. But, the overall user base's appetite for content is satiated because there is always something new. Just like the TV audience for WSOP is satiated every year because someone wins, it likely just isn't anybody you care about or know of. But, does anyone notice that quality of play goes down, down, down?
  • Scarce resources: As business managers, we have to evaluate making resource allocation decisions based on metrics, criteria, ROI, NPV, payback periods, etc; just like the pros do. Enthusiasts and hobbyists, with no overhead to support, no investors, mouths to feed, do it for the thrill of it; like entering a poker tournament. Sure they think they're a good card player/game developer, and maybe they are, but if they don't win at cards or on the app store, they still have their day job.
  • Ecosystem parity: There are really three problems here... 1) With so much free and cheap content available, users can hop from free app to free app and consume an almost limitless supply of content for almost no investment. Where do you think that drives product development/innovation/budgets?; 2) The Apple content evaluation process is a black hole; everyone is treated the same. Why is that? In what other business is the #1 provider treated the same as the #11000 provider? It doesn't make any sense; 3) Merchandising: Apple's "drink from the fire hose" approach to spilling apps into its channel makes having merchandising discussions difficult as well as creating an ecosystem of shallow games.
At the WSOP; we don't have to shed too many tears for Phil, Johnny, Doyle, Jen and the gang; they are fortunate to have a bunch of side action tables to hit which are stuffed full of whales and investment banker-wannabe-poker players from whom they can still earn a living. Professional mobile content publishers have no such side table from which they can feed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Top 12 Games Samsung Application Store UK Day 1

Mobile Entertainment did a good job of covering the launch of Samsung's Application Store in the UK, France & Italy today. Their story inspired me to create a small spreadsheet with the Top 12 games as a point of comparison to the Top 25 chart I posted for BlackBerry App World the other day. Clearly the title and publisher mix here will evolve as more companies gear up to support this platform... assuming Samsung leverages its substantial install base well enough to make it worth their while. Out the gate the price points seem high when compared with US versions of the App Store and App World, though this maybe attributable to forex & historically higher prices for mobile games in the UK. Also, Handmark is, it would seem, already making the most of its WinMo & S60 aggregation deal with Samsung.
btw -- would it kill these handset OEMs to come up with more original names for their content retail stores? Could you imagine what a vibrant mall you would have if every boutique was named Clothes World, Clothes Store, Clothing Store, etc.?... kudos to Nokia for breaking the mold. Overall, I think these uninspired names are further evidence that most handset manufacturers don't have the right DNA to be good merchants.

Digital Chocolate Set To Announce Groundbreaking Virtual Goods Platform?

D'Choc CEO Trip Hawkins is delivering the keynote to kickoff Engage! Expo in San Jose next week entitled "A New Approach To Virtual Goods." Organizers promise he will "announce and explain a new game service that gives a virtual item 'platform power' across a variety of games, networks and devices." I'm eager to hear the full details... anyone out there going to this conference?

The idea that one could purchase a virtual item (a weapon or an outfit for your avatar) within one game and use it in a host of other games would be unique in mobile and ostensibly compelling for Hawkins' "omni" gamers (casual, social, time constrained) that he believes dominate the mobile games market. Based on the success with this form of monetization on mobile in certain Asian markets, particularly South Korea (enuring to the benefit of publishers like Gamevil), the financial opportunity of such a platform could be substantial. There's been a lot of industry buzz about this in the Europe/Americas... and microtransactions for virtual goods within Apps was one of the most highly touted features of iPhone OS 3.0... but I still haven't seen any groundbreaking implementations outside of Asia. Perhaps that's about to change.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Is GetFugu Properly Prepared For Human Consumption?

San Francisco based enhanced mobile search marketing company GetFugu (GFGU) has made a lot of noise in the last week. First they announced investments from Vanity Events Holding ($1mil) and cleaning products company SpongeTech ($4mil), Wednesday they presented at GigaOm's Mobilize '09, Thursday they announced a major licensing deal with Health Matrix ($5mil) and then last Friday they launched iPhone & Android Apps. To top it off, this morning they announced a partnership with Majesco. Not bad for a company that's been trying to find it's sea legs (fins?) for a few years, in guises including BlowfishWorks and MediaPower Group. Believe it or not, the company has been publicly traded for over 2 years and has a market cap of $127mil, despite never having reported a dime of revenue (wow!)... which makes it more akin to a biotech startup than a mobile company. Clearly investors have great expectations.

Anyhow, GetFugu's value proposition is a suite of technologies, within an application service, that expedite consumer interaction with brands on mobile devices by way of eliminating the cumbersome process of typing a URL or the back and forth associated with shortcodes. Their 4 key technologies are:
  1. ARLs (Augmented Reality Links): where a user takes a picture of a logo, movie poster etc. using the application and then the application returns links to a mobile website, piece of media or another application of the brand owner's choosing
  2. VRLs (Voice Recognition Links): where a user says "Coca-Cola" into the handset while the application is on and the application returns a links to a mobile website, piece of media or another application of Coca-Cola's choosing
  3. GRLs (Geographical Recognition Links?): where a users with a GPS enabled handsets gets links based upon where they're physically located
  4. Hotspotting: where a user can get information about, and potentially purchase, an item within piece of video by tapping on it on a touch screen handset
Assuming the technology works as advertised, this is all really cool stuff. I've been a fan of enhanced search tools like these ever since I used my first QR code in Japan and, even more so, after I met mobile visual search pioneer NevenVision (which was eventually acquired by Google) while at Universal, back in 2005. Way back then I wanted to use NevenVision's i-Scout technology (their version of the ARL) to allow users to shoot pictures of the movie key art from The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift and get sent back links to purchase the mobile game based on the film. We went a long way down a road, but eventually abandoned the project because the process, in practice, turned out to be too klugy. This is the same reason I'm skeptical about 2D barcodes (see my post from March 16th) and why I'm reserving judgment on whether GetFugu will be successful. The issue is that these tools work great IF the consumer already has the application on the handset... QR codes work in Japan because almost every data oriented device, on every carrier, has the reader application preloaded. Otherwise the brand owner has to educate the consumer that they need to download an application first...which basically eliminates any benefits.

Getting this app ubiquitously preloaded by all the major OEMs is never going to happen. Getting brands to enter into partnership agreements, with no financial committment, will happen, but my guess is that most will use the technology in limited new media marketing "experiments"...not a good way to build scale. That said, I think GetFugu's real opportunities are to...
  • Roll it out in enterprise settings, where IT departments can preload it on the devices. I believe this is what Health Matrix is doing with the technology for health care providers and pharmaceutical companies
  • Eventize the application for consumers by focusing tons of energy on getting one monster national brand to make GetFugu the centerpiece of a sustained media campaign... like, get American Idol to run a weekly contest with viewers who use the application to access sponsors' sites (hell, it worked for SMS).
  • Get bought by, or enter into a major strategic partnership with, either Google, Apple, Nokia or Microsoft so distribution becomes their problem
We'll see how it goes. I'm looking forward to monitoring their quarterly statements, now that they have a product launched.

Monday, September 14, 2009

BlackBerry App World Top 25 Games

Here's the latest Top 25 mobile games list from App World in the US. You'll notice that the average price of $5.55 is substantially higher those in the iTunes store, which got as low as $1.47 in my July 24th survey, but have been creeping up a bit according to more recent analysis from PocketGamer. EA Mobile looks really dominant here (as it is in iTunes) with 7 titles, followed by a small smartphone-focused gaming shop from Minneapolis called Concrete Software, with 4 titles (I love that each new platform has it own small publisher success stories). I hear a lot of anecdotal positive buzz from publishers about App World... but, I'm not sure whether they're just talking it up to counter iPhone hype, whether it's wishful thinking that this will be the next big distribution platform or whether they're making real money from RIM. The latter seems hard to believe, because the Canadian OEM has done an abysmal job marketing this service to consumers. Try this experiment...which I have many times...ask any of your non-mobile industry friends with a BlackBerry if they've ever used or even heard of App World. Report back.

btw -- what is it with bubbles and BlackBerry?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Glu Mobile CFO Eric Ludwig Sells 42k Shares

...at an average price of $1.15 according to a post on gurufocus.com. Here's a list of other recent trades

  • Buy: Director Hany Nada bought 412,000 shares of GLUU stock on 08/27/2009 at the average price of $1.04; the price of the stock has increased by 8.65% since.
  • Sell: VP, General Counsel, Secretary Kevin S. Chou sold 15,215 shares of GLUU stock on 08/17/2009 at the average price of $0.84; the price of the stock has increased by 34.52% since.
  • Sell: 10% Owner Investment Management Stephens sold 325,000 shares of GLUU stock on 03/18/2009 at the average price of $0.51; the price of the stock has increased by 121.57% since.
  • Sell: 10% Owner Investment Management Stephens sold 25,900 more shares of GLUU stock on 03/16/2009 at the average price of $0.55; the price of the stock has increased by 105.45% since.

Breaking: net mobile AG Shares Up 30%+ On NTT DoCoMo Bid

NTT DoCoMo today announced it's intention to buy German mobile content platform company net mobile AG (#16 on my Mobile Entertainment Top 20). net mobile AG, which last year bought platform pioneer Minick, provides (among many other things) WAP services for premium content brands like Universal Pictures. More to come...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Moto Cliq Coming Soon T-Mo USA Looks Like An Android N97

IGB: Top 20 Grossing App Store Games

Stuart Dredge wasted no time dissecting the new Top Grossing App section of iTunes 9 to find out how mobile games titles and publishers are stacking up today in the US App Store for his essential new read iPhone Games Bulletin (IGB). Sign up for the newsletter to get the full story.

1. Madden NFL 10 - EA ($7.99)
2. Modern Combat: Sandstorm - Gameloft ($6.99)
3. UNO - Gameloft ($4.99)
4. Scrabble - EA ($4.99)
5. The Game of Life - EA ($4.99)
6. Civilization Revolution - 2K Games ($4.99)
7. Bejeweled 2 - PopCap ($2.99)
8. Tetris - EA ($4.99)
9. Gangstar: West Coast Hustle - Gameloft ($6.99)
10. Blades of Fury - Gameloft ($6.99)
11. The Sims 3 - EA ($6.99)
12. The Oregon Trail - Gameloft ($4.99)
13. Frogger - Konami ($1.99)
14. Monopoly Here & Now: The World - EA ($4.99)
15. Need for Speed Undercover - EA ($4.99)
16. Geared - Bryan Mitchell ($0.99)
17. Battle Bears - SkyVu Pictures ($0.99)
18. NFL 2010 - Gameloft ($4.99)
19. Cooking Dash - PlayFirst ($2.99)
20. Jurassic 3D Rollercoaster Rush - Digital Chocolate ($4.99)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Apple Rock & Roll Media Event...Remote AlmostLive Blogging?

  • Steve is back...looking skinny and speaking softly, but back.
  • New OS 3.1 for iPod touch & iPhone...free and available today
  • Apple is now # music retailer in the world...
  • 30k ringtones from the major labels
  • 100mil iTunes accounts
  • Introducing iTunes 9 today
  • iTunes 9 features enhanced Genius features...including Genius DJ that creates mixes for you
  • iTunes will now let you copy content (music, movies, etc) on 5 computers in your home
  • iTunes store is being redesigned w/ new artist and TV pages...cleaner layout
  • iTunes LP features classic album art, lyrics, artist chronology, memorabilia...like value added content for DVDs...but for music albums...record companies must love this
  • iTunes 9 does look beautiful...as usual
  • Looks like there's more features to let you save, manage and share Apps on your network and devices
  • FYI Gizmodo having tech difficulties, gdgt doing well
  • iTunes 9 supports sharing on Facebook & Twitter!!!!!!
  • New feature called Extra for iTunes movies...value added content
  • Apple has sold 220mil iPods to date...73.8% MP3 player marketshare
  • Less than 50% of sales are new to iPod
  • 20mil iPod touch devices sold
  • FYI Gizmodo is back up
  • Phil Schiller calls the iPod touch a "pocket computer" (that sounds like Nokia-speak)
  • iPod touch is also a great portable gaming system...PSP and DS just don't stack up (wow...that's bold)...because not multi touch interface, expensive games, no App store, no iPod (he has a point)
  • touch has 21k game titles available compared to 3.6k for DS & 607 for PSP
  • Ubisoft is demo'ing Assassin's Creed on an iPod touch
  • Tapulous founded in 2008 as an iPod/iPhone only developer is now working on new music/racing game called Riddim Ribbon...CEO Bart Decrem showing it off
  • Gameloft is up next...Mark Hickey is showing off a new first person shooter called Nova
  • Gameloft has 20mil downloads in App Store...making them one of the biggest
  • All the blogs are saying it looks like a mobile Halo...will be multiplayer on wifi & Bluetooth
  • Next up Travis Boatman (great guy) from EA to demo Madden 10...you can draw the plays with your finger
  • Demos are over, Schiller reinforces that iPod touch is a great portable computer & gaming device. It's an affordable gateway to the App Store.
  • Now more affordable...iPod touch 8GB dropping to $199
  • 32GB model at $299 and 64GB model at $399
  • Added OpenGL ES 2.0 to touch
  • iPod Classic is now $250 for a 160GB device
  • Schiller showing off headset with voice controls for iPod Shuffle which is now $59 for a 2GB model and special chrome 4GB model for $99
  • Steve's back on stage...oh and "one more thing"...a video camera that's built into the iPod nano with integrated mic and speaker
  • You can playback video on device or synch with computer and upload to YouTube, etc
  • nano gets video camera, 2.2in display, polished anodized alum finish, mic & speaker, VoiceOver, FM radio, more colors
  • 8GB is $149 and 16GB $179 available today
  • FYI Apple stock down slightly...I think many were expecting the rumored/anticipated video camera to be added to the touch...and maybe more dramatic hardware upgrades for that device
This is all great stuff, and for any other company this event would have been a slam dunk. Unfortunately the speculative hype (and I'm guilty) around these Apple events has gotten to the point where they can't possibly exceed expectations. There had been chatter all week about a totally new touch featuring video, new AppleTV, Beatles and/or Stones deals and perhaps a reveal of the tablet. The good news for shareholders is that, according to Jim Cramer on CNBC today, the pattern has been that after post-event "disappointment" (and the associated stock price drop offsetting the pre-event run-up) the stock typically starts rising steadily after 3 days...so keep an eye on it starting Monday. Meanwhile I'm going to check out iTunes 9.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nokia Augmented Reality Tease Video...Cool Tech, Freshmaker Creative

Nokia calls it Mixed Reality Media. I've seen early versions of it demo'd on a handset and it is really cool shit, with huge commercial potential as a context specific advertising play. It's a shame they're promoting it with a Mentos ad featuring a uniquely tedious folk-esque music track (and I like folk). At least they picked an attractive model/actress...kinda like a younger, cuter Elizabeth Mitchell (and I like Elizabeth Mitchell)... dontchathink?

Stories I'm Watching This Tuesday Morning

  • T-Mobile UK & Orange UK announce planned JV to create Britain's largest carrier (mocoNews.net)... the weakest players in the market are combining out of desperation to create a very big (28mil subs) weak player, the short term result could be the loss of lots of subs to hungry competitors, in a very saturated market, if the transition isn't handled deftly.
  • How To Fix The App Store (Business Week)... Wow!...when BW jumps on the criticism bandwagon of Apple's seemingly arbitrary approval process for Apps, it's a clear sign this is no longer just a mobile content industry concern... perhaps Apple is the new Microsoft after all.
  • NTT DoCoMo Considering US MVNO (GigaOm)... This is not a post from The Onion! The idea is to promote iMode to the US consumer... haven't we been there, done that bought the t-shirt, and decided it was lame with mMode? Maybe AOL should try to relaunch as an application...or maybe, like DoCoMo's MVNO plan, that would be one of the stupidest ideas ever.
  • iPhone Is A Loss Leader, So Says Danish Researcher Strand Consult (PocketGamer.biz)... it's becoming generally agreed that the iPhone is expensive for operators to deploy in terms of paying Apple for exclusivity, customer subsidies & network resources, what is less clear is whether the halo effects more than compensate.
  • Mobile and Retail: Calling In Air Support (MediaPost)... great story about how retailers are failing to opportunize the growing propensity of consumers to research purchases while instore via the mobile web and mobile Apps.

Friday, September 4, 2009

MEF Mobile Leadership Summit | Sarkar: Artists Will Define Medium

The Mobile Entertainment Forum held its Mobile Leadership Summit Tuesday at the Writer's Guild of America West headquarters in Los Angeles. The first keynote of the event was delivered by Sam Sarkar, a senior executive for Johnny Depp's production company Infinitum Nihil...a somewhat unexpected and, ultimately, very interesting choice. Sarkar provided some valuable perspective on the rollercoaster ride the mobile entertainment industry has been on over the last 10 years. His thesis was that fits and starts are inherent in emerging businesses, and that in the development of every medium, the business model is what makes it viable, but the artistry is what comes to define it.

Sarkar suggested that television didn't really begin to realize its artistic potential until the late 60s or early 70s, despite having public debuted in the late 1920s. He told an interesting story about how television’s inventor, Philo Farnsworth, was so frustrated by the vacuousness of the medium that he wouldn't permit the device in his home. It wasn't until the broadcast of the moon landing in 1969 that he was able to concede that it was worthwhile invention.

Even on the internet, which has been a consumer phenomenon for almost 15 years, we've only begun to see traces of its potential as an entertainment medium with stuff like Will Ferrell's "The Landlord" for FunnyorDie.com and LonelyGirl15 on YouTube (which ended up being professionally produced). But these are one-offs and lots of companies have failed trying to recreate their success.

In mobile, the potential of the medium was first teased with the ringtone (a legit consumer phenomenon) and now again with the App Store...but these are still early stages of what Sarkar characterized as Alien (as in the movie) Evolution...I'm still trying to fully decipher this amusing analogy, but I think the gist is that it’s going to be a sometimes painful path, full of surprises, but ultimately the monster potential will be revealed. Sarkar reminded the group that the record companies didn't invent Rock N’Roll…artists did, and similarly, he believes, artists will define the mobile medium.

Sarkar demonstrated several experimental iPhone Apps from Singapore developer Omnitoons, that he thought were interesting and hinted at the creative potential of mobile media. They included a photo essay about refugees in the Swat Valley featuring the work of photo journalist Kevin Coombs, a mobile manga version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and some text-based Asian ghost stories augmented with photos and sound.

In conclusion he asked to audience to think about how to commercially make old stories new again in the medium and to imagine the new ideas and stories that will come to it and from it.

Again, great perspective. I think many of us, who consider ourselves mobile entertainment "veterans", are getting battle weary waiting for this to become a real business or become a truly entertaining medium. But 10 years really isn't that much time in the development cycle of a medium...it just feels that way in our time compressed, muti-tasking, quarterly reporting, 140 character thought-byte world. We need to take comfort/pride/heart in the knowledge that we are, in fits and starts, building the steel structure that will support a giant (and hopefully creatively interesting) business that will be important for generations.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ovi Actually Means Hot Mess In Finnish

MocoNews.net ran a great piece this morning entitled Nokia Only Had 10 Million Ovi Downloads In First Three Months (that's not the store client folks, it's total pieces of content!), which featured several gems from EVP of Services Niklas Savander:

1) Re: Ovi's launch he said, “We totally underestimated demand on the first day. We had an outage on the first day which was not our plan.” Sooo...Nokia didn't plan for the service to be popular? Frankly, I think they should congratulate themselves, because with the exception of those pesky first few days, they clearly planned appropriately.

2) After admitting that the service was clunky & not comparable to the sleek interface of iPhone he suggested that, “When we have 100 countries, that’s when we’ll see the true potential in full swing.” OK...so if you have a non-competitive, crap service the best strategy is to roll it out to every corner of the globe, in a whole bunch of languages, before getting it right in the launch territories? Well, of course it is, if you want to leverage your lack of popularity worldwide.

3) ...and finally, “It looks promising and it is meeting the aggressive plans we have.” Indeed.

Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

App Store Accounts For About 9% of Gameloft's Revenue

Tout le monde covered a press release Gamloft distributed yesterday in which it revealed that it had sold over 6 million games on the iTunes App Store (remember that's iPhones & iPod touch) and that "iPhone OS continues to be Gameloft's number one platform." I'm not exactly sure what that last statement means, because clearly Apple's OS can't be bigger than Java (J2ME)...or even BREW for that matter. I think they mean the iPhone (in all its iterations) is the #1 handset for Gameloft games. 6 million sounds like an impressive number...but what does that really mean to Gameloft in terms of revenue? The company said it sold the games so I assume we're only talking about paid downloads here. The average price of a Gameloft game in the US App Store is $2.61...but the average price of the Top 9 sellers that they mention in the release is $4.88 (I will say that Gameloft has been one of the better publishers in terms of fighting price erosion on the platform). So I'm gonna assume that the average selling price of those 6mil games was $3.75. That's $22.5mil retail...which after Apple's 30% is $15.75mil. As reported here Gameloft's revenue for the last 12mos was $172.56mil, which would mean the App Store accounted for 9.1% of its revenue. Considering that Gameloft is probably the 2nd most successful publisher on the App Store I think there is an important lesson here for all mobile game publishers, which is... Apple is good for mobile games, Apple is important for mobile games, but Apple is not the only game town.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Update: GLUU Volume Stays High As Boards Buzz About Changyou & Other Theories

Here's a summary of some of the latest chatter from trading boards:
  • Glu is about to merge with or be purchased by Chinese online gaming powerhouse Changyou.com Ltd (CYOU)
  • GGV Capital made an aggressive Glu buy (400k+) in anticipation of a big announcement...others followed
  • Substantial insider buying on renewed confidence
  • Conjecture about a management buy-out while the stock is cheap
  • Investors believe the company is well positioned to take advantage of iPhone in China (...but then why wouldn't Gameloft be jumping as well?)
  • Some think technicals support a higher stock price

Cabana Mobile Entertainment Top 20 by Revenue

All numbers are in US$ based on annual reports or last 4 quarters.
As usual, please comment with any suggested changes.