Motivated by a recent blog post on Mobile Inc, I decided to leverage some readily available data from Facebook to get a rough indication of which mobile operating systems were most popular in my social graph. What the chart above represents is a breakdown of the Facebook App installs completed by my Facebook friends, as a percentage, for the various mobile operating systems for which an app is available. The actual number of installs is a bit higher than the number of friends I have because many have multiple handsets... or have recently transitioned handsets (the old install still gets counted). Of course, what this doesn't capture are all those good folks who access the site through the mobile website or the full website (which I often do, frankly) from their phones... which presumably includes all my friends who are Nokia devotees. I'd love to hear some feedback to learn how many of you fall into this category and to learn what your social graph breakdown looks like.
Twas the night before christmas and all through the net People were working on their best product yet It was free to play but cost money for hats A dime got you shoes, and dresses and cats
Game innovators were constantly moaning About how they lost their profits to cloning But if you ran out of energy and were stuck in a pickle You can reload it to fifty percent for a nickel
The mobile game companies watched social game companies with envy While social game companies watched mobile game companies with envy Everyone's grass looked a thousand times greener And the largest litigious corporation grew bigger and meaner
There were lawsuits to file, and patents to issue And offer completion companies needed more tissue There were acquisitions, investments, mergers and dealings And crosspromotional toolbars gave many developers traffic and good feelings
But where was the money? The arpu to climb with the dau? Just buy more traffic and don't have a cow. Just post the achievement, and redirect back to your site. And click here to share a merry christmas with 12 friends tonight!
Update #1 Nov 24 2010 @ 9:45pm: Based on feedback I've added Capcom to the list & moved Digital Chocolate up in the rankings, while moving Namco down a bit. I've elected to remove Artificial Life because only about 50% of their revenue can be attributed to mobile games. Please... I encourage more feedback in the interest of making this the definitive list.
Note that I've added Chinese mobile powerhouse KongZhong to the list... in recent quarters mobile games have become a much more significant portion of the their overall revenue, which is about $145mil over the past 4 quarters.
Purely from a mobile games perspective, it could be argued that both Artificial Life & Digital Chocolate don't belong on this list, but I'm keeping them here for the time being, while their primary businesses are still mobile games. If current trends persist, Digital Chocolate will quickly evolve into a company that primarily derives revenue from social online gaming (Facebook games).
Per a previous suggestion from Jon Jordan over at PocketGamer.biz, I'm considering adding Disney/Tapulous to the Top 10... but I'd need some independent confirmation that their combined worldwide mobile games business yields at least 20 something million dollars.
Overall I'd suggest that the Top 10 are becoming less significant in terms of their contribution to mobile gaming revenue and even in terms of real dollars I've dropped their aggregate revenue to $715mil from $720mil just 3mos ago.
My current basket of stocks includes: net Mobile, Buongiorno, Artificial Life, GetFugu, Gameloft, Mobile Streams, Glu Mobile, Velti, Linktone, Ku6 Media, ROK Entertainment, NeuMedia, 2 Ergo, KongZhong, Amico Games, DeNA, LiveWire Mobile, Motricity, Bango, Acotel Group, Vringo, conVISUAL, Lenco Mobile & Electronic Arts. I'd like to add GAMEVIL & Com2uS, but I haven't found a good way to integrate Kosdaq companies into Google Finance ('cause it still kinda sucks).
Remember a few months ago, during E3, when I got all wound up about a location-based iPhone game called Insurrection that was on the verge of being released by a company called Paranoid Games... all based on a tweet from Mark Cuban? Well that thing obviously didn't happen, and judging from the dire nature of the company's website & Twitter feed, it probably won't. Look at me being all irrationally exuberant like Mark Cuban... can I get rich doing that?
Well now comes word, from a much more reliable source, that Finnish games company Grey Area has actually released a location-based MMORPG for iPhone called Shadow Cities (see trailer below) in that country's App Store. Not only is this game real, but in its first day of release the freemium title (monetized via virtual goods) actually unseated powerhouse Angry Birds, from cross-town rival Rovio, as the Top Grossing game & also grabbed the Top Free App crown. Apparently rapid viral adoption, far exceeding the publisher's expectations, was driven by a slick integration of Facebook Connect... with impressive results!
Ten years after the Swedish games company It's Alive! first tried this (way too early!) with BotFighters, I think these guys have a real chance to create a meaningful consumer event with this game across multiple territories. As services like Foursquare & Gowalla have seeped into the popular consciousness, and with Facebook now encouraging check-ins with benefits, I think the masses might just be comfortable enough with location aware services to embrace this type of gameplay. As Grey Area CEO Ville Vesterinen explains it, their game actually benefits from evolving consumer behavior even beyond the current location based models, enabling them to use real neighborhoods as the context and, almost, as characters within Shadow Cities. "While much of the recent wave of location based games and services has relied on a check-in model we at Grey Area strongly believe that to achieve a lasting engaging experience neighborhoods and their inherent social setting offer much more potential than single venues. By only focusing on venues it is hard, if not impossible, to let the true character of a city shine through. Playing Shadow Cities has showed us a new side of Helsinki and opened a window to see how others navigate the locations beyond single venues," says Vesterinen.
As most of you know I'm a big fan of this stuff, because to my mind this type of product represents a critical evolution in mobile gameplay, as it fundamentally relies on the unique capabilities of a connected, context aware mobile device... much more so than the myriad casual games that really could be enjoyed on any device with a touchscreen & a processor. Therefore, I'm rooting that these guys can maintain their current success, and that it can be replicated in other markets... which we should see in mid-December when they launch in the US & UK App Stores, if all goes as planned. I'll keep a close eye on this one and keep you posted.
The top four US mobile operators currently represent about 92% of the 293mil US wireless subscriber connections.
I've highlighted the top performer in each category. Note Sprint's Data ARPU is in italics because they haven't provided an update to that number since Q1 2010... guess they have nothing to brag about.
You can link to my previous carrier metrics spreadsheets here.
Update Nov. 2, 2010: Based on some welcome feedback I've tweaked my model very slightly and added one major title to this list... EA Mobile's The Simpsons Arcade. As a result of this combination of changes, Sony's iZombieland has dropped out of the Top 20. Also, just a quick clarification, since it's come up several times... my model uses the estimated average price over an app's lifetime (not the current price, shown above) to calculate estimated revenue.
It's been about 11 months since I last looked at how movie & television based game titles were faring in the App Store... so I figured it was about time to update my spreadsheet. This time 'round I'm showing my estimate of the Top 20 performing paid iPhone titles currently available in the US instance of the store, sorted by total publisher revenue. I've elected to hide my current title-by-title revenue estimates, but what I will tell you is that I think they range from $600k up to about $3mil, and the average for the lot is about $1.3mil.
One of the most shocking things to note is that 9 out the 10 titles on my December 2009 list are still in this Top 20... and the Top 3 are exactly the same. There are a handful of new strong performers, including, on the film side, Avatar and Iron Man 2, both from Gameloft and Predators from Chillingo. From TV, the new stars are Family Guy and, in the biggest surprise on the list, Dexter from Marc Ecko Entertainment (who knew they made games, right?). But in general my take is that paid movie and TV game titles aren't playing a particularly important role in the App Store, and are certainly not the revenue stars of the show... as is evidenced by not one of them currently appearing in the Top 150 of Top Grossing Games. This clearly presents challenges to studio/network digital & licensing groups, who are undoubtedly saddled with unrealistic expectations about how their properties should be performing in a climate of smartphone exuberance.
As usual please let me know if I've missed any titles, and I'll make the appropriate changes.
I hope you guy are all following & LIKE the Cabana Mobile Facebook Page. For those of you who've been missing the fun 'cause you're snoozing at the keyboard, been too busy raising your next round or are conscientiously objecting to social networks (resistance is futile), that site includes all my blog posts & more quick commentary. It's like super-tweets about articles I find interesting and more brainfarts on the mobile/digital entertainment space in general. Check it out. Meanwhile here's a list of some recent posts...
10/16/2010 Re: Fast Company article Should Albums Cost $1.50?: "Consumer me loves the idea of a $1.50 album & MBA me sees the value of inefficiencies being taken out of the system across media as a result of consumer/OEM-centric digital distribution business models. That said, all of us vested in content should be wary of the rapid race to the bottom in terms of pricing. This will inevitably lead to less content being created, fewer risks being taken and the loss of thousands of jobs. Deflation is a dangerous spiral... once consumers begin to believe that content will be cheaper (or free) in the future, they get really good at keeping their wallets in their pockets."
10/15/2010 Re: Gameloft sizzle reel on YouTube: "Will the Samsung Galaxy Tab & the availability of quality game apps prove that the tablet market isn't only about iPad? What will the paid conversions on these impressive Gameloft's teaser apps look like if they rely on Google Checkout?"
10/15/2010 Re: Tweet from Google exec Mike Steib: "Perfect tweet to sum up Google's mobile business from Mike Steib: "$1B.""
10/15/2010 Re: Mobile Entertainment article Full Angry Birds Android game goes live on GetJar... for free!: "Interesting strategy. When a red-hot developer believes that the best path forward on Android is to give their trophy title away, sell some ads against it and figure out in-app monetization later, it really manifests the dire state of paid app monetization within Android Market. Frankly, I'm worried that this approach will just further contribute to price erosion in the overall mobile content space... but I'll be happy to be proved wrong by some mindblasting freemium success stories (outside Japan/Korea) in coming quarters. Meanwhile I'm getting the app for my Nexus One as soon as GetJar's site is back up."
10/14/2010 Re: Business Insider SAI video interview with Gene Munster: "Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster stands by a 12-month price target of $390 for Apple and tells Business Insider that "Apple is in the best position of any technology company" for the next decade... assuming Jobs is at the helm."
10/14/2010 Re: The Register article When Dilbert came to Nokia: "Apparently the matrix organization structure that Nokia trumpeted for years played a large role in stifling product innovation..."
10/13/2010 Re: Mobile Entertainment article The numbers behind DeNA's ngmoco acquisition: "$403mil buyout on $3.16mil 2009 revenues & net loss of $10.9mil (significantly lower than I had guessed). Am I missing something or this just stupid?"
10/12/2010 "Yahoo! has $1.2bil in the bank, their embattled CEO is due to take a big swing & they haven't done anything crazy in mobile for years... just sayin'"
10/12/2010 "Google has got to fix Android Market if publishers of quality paid apps are going to support (or continue to support) the platform... buzz at CTIA was that despite impressive market penetration Android is still almost meaningless to publishers from a revenue perspective. Anybody experiencing anything different?"
Destination & white-label mobile content shop purveyor, PlayPhone, announced this morning that industry veteran, and all-around great guy, Anders Evju has joined the company to lead its new mobile social gaming platform initiative. Evju is now SVP & General Manager of the PlayPhone Social business unit, which is charged with creating new mobile gaming communities, across mobile operating systems, leveraging the power of gamers' social graphs. PlayPhone Social will allow users to play multi-player games, post scores to leader-boards and earn virtual credit rewards for inviting their Facebook, Twitter, et al friends to join the fun. The platform SDK will give developers the ability to monetize applications using micro-transactions and subscription features. It will also integrate with leading ad networks, and support multiple payment methods, including Premium SMS, Credit Cards and PayPal.
Evju joins PlayPhone after a long, distinguished career with I-play & Oberon Media. He had been at I-play (known then as Digital Bridges) since 2000, where he served as general manager of the Americas. He played a critical role in that company's substantial growth during the middle part of the decade, by fostering powerful relationships with all the major US operators. From personal experience I know that much of the blockbuster success of The Fast & The Furious mobile games franchise, which realized over 15mil paid downloads prior to the iPhone era, was the result of his adept stewardship of the property in the US market. Soon after I-play's sale to Oberon Media in 2007, Evju took over management of that company's global online games operations.
Good thing for PlayPhone that they've got a solid guy in place, because this initiative will not be without its challenges. There are more than a handful of social gaming SDKs currently vying for developers' attentions, including publisher fielded offerings like ngmoco's Plus+, Chillingo's Crystal and AuroraFeint's OpenFeint as well as standalone products like Scoreloop. In addition, for many developers the social features provided by distribution channels, like Apple's Game Center, may be enough... granted those offerings don't work across operating systems. That said, I wish Anders & PlayPhone the very best of luck and look forward to seeing them do some disruptive stuff that will set them apart in this market space.
Yesterday's TechCrunch story about Japanese social mobile gaming powerhouse DeNA making a play for San Francisco smartphone games shop ngmoco, for over 400 milly (!), sent the buzzometer through the roof amongst mobile content peeps at XYZ & the Redwood Room (oh, I mean CTIA). Some were adamant that the deal was done, some were more skeptical, some were hoping the story would goose their stock price (it didn't). If this is true, the valuation is beyond super-frothy! My estimate is that ngmoco probably has revenue of around $10mil & net of around $2mil (maybe), which means DeNA would be paying more than 200x earnings. Why?... this would be like EA/Jamdat all over again. Who's advising these guys?... 'cause I definitely want some of whatever they're smoking & I think I'd be entitled to a few million yen for saving them a fortune with my secret insider brain knowledge that they could buy Glu Mobile (market cap $43mil), Digital Chocolate & the social platform of their choice for a fraction of that price. Oops!... well I guess they can send me one of those bean cake jelly gift boxes as a token of their appreciation.
Motricity's stock has really sailed in the last couple of weeks following positive analyst recommendations from Deutsche Bank, RBC Capital Markets & most recently JP Morgan, which gave it an overweight rating & a $19 price target on bullish growth prospects for the the company's international business, particularly in Southeast Asia. As a result of the recent run-up, Motricity now has a market cap of $522mil and the 2nd highest enterprise value on my list of public mobile entertainment ecosystem companies... blowing past Gameloft to sit (well) below Japan's DeNA. Let's see if they can keep it value up through Q3 earnings season.
On the heels of the massive popularity of the "Name That Balance Sheet!" game a couple of weeks ago, it's time to play everyone's other favorite game, "Name That Claim!" Be the first to correctly identify the mobile entertainment company associated with the claims on the website screen grab above and, if you happen to be at the Redwood Room in SF on the nights of Oct 6th or 7th, 2010 while I'm at that venue, you'll be entitled to one (1) overpriced Vodka Redbull and a few minutes of my blether. No rainchecks, no cash value, no substitutions. Answer must be submitted in comments below before 6PM Pacific Time today (Sept 27, 2010).
As usual, please let me know if I've missed any titles here or if I don't have the most updated figures... obviously these numbers are pretty dynamic and I've noticed that these self-reported downloads don't always get picked up by outlets in a timely manner. I'd be interested to see numbers (broken out for iOS) for titles like Monopoly and Tetris, which I imagine could be in league with these guys. If I can collect enough additional data, I'll re-do this as a Top 10 list. Please note that these are straightforward Paid App downloads and do not take into account freemium, or paid with upsell models, which in the case of franchises like Tap Tap from Tapulous can be significant... allegedly yielding up to $1mil a month at the end of last year.
BTW - do you guys think this means that the most any publisher has ever made from any one title in the App Store, using the paid app model, is $8.4mil ($2.99 x 4mil x 70%)?
This represents a comparison of comScore's MobiLens data for the US market released September 15, 2010 and data for the Japanese market released September 22, 2010. The areas of major difference in behavior are 1) text messaging, which is a relatively recent phenomenon in Japan, where e-mail is the preferred form of mobile-to-mobile communication (54% usage); and 2) browser usage, which has been popular in Japan for over a decade and for a long time was more widely used than the online internet (it may still be). In terms of app usage, the gap is closing very quickly and I suspect we'll see parity sometime next year. One stat from the Japanese market, that's interesting (and not on this spreadsheet, because I don't have an apples to apples comparison) is mobile video consumption. Apparently 22% of Japanese mobile users watched TV and/or video on their mobile phones... which has to be substantially higher than in the US, where I believe usage is under 10% (a little help?).
It's been a year since my last, somewhat snarky, look at the top paid game titles in the US version of Ovi Store. Clearly, during that time Nokia has been able to attract a more robust line-up of publishers to their platform. From what I can tell Gameloft, EA Mobile & Digital Chocolate are now each fielding about 40 paid titles on the service. Meanwhile, Glu Mobile & I-play each have about half that many, with the latter company seeing particularly strong performance in the US Top 25... perhaps a factor of their AppStore-esque pricing strategy. On that note, as we've seen across the spectrum in mobile gaming, price erosion is in full effect... with the average price of the Top 25 having dropped 33% from $4.03 to $2.71 in the last year. I must say, I was happy to see some lingering randomness from publishers I've never heard of, but by virtue of there being less of it, and in light of the myriad head-scratchers that pollute Android Market, this aspect of Ovi is much less amusing than it was a year ago.
Though Nokiarecently touted that they're doing 2mil downloads a day through the Ovi stores worldwide, I feel pretty confident that;
very little of that activity is coming from the US market (I wouldn't fall down if I learned the Ukraine represented more downloads);
most of those downloads are free games (as is true across all smartphone app stores);
considering that no publishers are bragging publicly or privately about Ovi revenues, numbers are still small relative to other channels.
That said, with new talent at the helm at Nokia (and Ovi), more carrier billing integration and a slew of new games friendly devices on the horizon, we'll all be hearing about some boffo results everywhere, including the US, by September 2011... right?
btw - I put this data together on the web store, prior to selecting a handset... that way I figured I'd get the best result across devices.
It's time to play everyone's favorite game... "Name That Balance Sheet!" Click on the image above, identify the mobile company associated with this balance sheet recently filed with the SEC, and submit your answer as a comment to this post. If you answer correctly by 6pm PDT Friday September 10, 2010 you'll be entered for a chance to win a supermarket sushi lunch with me at the Ralphs of your choice in Glendale, CA (or something nicer if you're paying), at my convenience, sometime in the next 6 months. Travel and accommodations are not included... and no, you can't get the party platter (maximum retail value is $8.99). If history is an indicator, very few will enter, probably no one will win.
Angry Birds is the current reigning champion of iOS Paid Apps. The simple, addictive game from Chillingo & Rovio has sold over 6.5mil copies in 8 months. This eclipses former App Store phenoms like Lima Sky's Doodle Jump, which hit 5mil in June, the Tap Tap franchise from Disney's Tapulous, that was allegedly pulling down between $500k and $1mil a month in late 2009, and Firemint's Flight Control, which realized 2mil downloads within 11 months of launch. No doubt, all amazing feats from great, small companies. Moreover, the impact these companies have had in terms of introducing mobile gaming (and apps in general) to a broad audience, and in perpetuating the cult of iPhone, cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, the economics of the very ecosystem they edify are conspiring to keep them small.
As PocketGamer reported yesterday, the average price of an iPhone game is now $1.24. We can all see that the Top Paid Apps chart is now dominated by 99¢ titles. Increasingly user reviews bash titles that are priced any higher, and perhaps to appease these consumers, publishers now run frequent, often endless price promotions. Let's face it, 99¢ is the price the user community has come to expect for most games. Apple, of course, fosters this scenario, as part of their reverse razorblade model in which they provide budget priced entertainment for their premium priced hardware.
Ironically, back in the much maligned carrier deck era, the economics were actually better for top-tier games. Circa 2006/2007 the average blended global wholesale price (after carrier) for a triple-A Java/BREW title, including monthly re-ups, was about $2.25. That's more than 3X the 70¢ Chillingo, Lima Sky et al are seeing from each of their downloads post Apple. And it's not like hit games weren't doing boffo download numbers back then... in fact less competition, recurring subscriptions (in the US) and some politics conspired to create mega-blockbusters on a scale (considering the addressable user base) we may never see again. Of course, the all time king is Tetris, which has allegedly been sold over 100mil times in its various mobile incarnations... yielding at least $200mil for EA Mobile and its predecessor companies. On the lower end of the Java-era hit spectrum was the Fast & Furious franchise, which I-play openly claimed had sold 13 million units by the dawn of the iPhone era... which meant something like $30mil for the publisher if my math is correct. Then there are franchises like Namco's Pac-Man and PopCap's Bejeweled that sat between these two... closer to the Tetris end. At today's App Store prices, Chillingo would have to sell 40mil copies of Angry Birds to be in the league with these Java/BREW era revenue stars, and over 300mil to be the new Tetris. Even considering the the cost savings afforded by slicker development environments and not having to port, I'm confident that today's hit titles are far less profitable than those of the pre-iPhone era.
So, the consequence of current smartphone platforms being more democratic, and their owners being price agnostic, is that publishers not only have a significantly more difficult time manufacturing hits (in the fog of 10s of thousands of titles), but thanks to price erosion, those hits are less meaningful to their bottom lines. These dynamics, along with the added complexity of the freemium model, will further escalate a frenzied state of competition without price differentiation amongst publishers... virtually ensuring that none will amass enough wealth to aggressively scale their businesses, and that many will be forced to exit altogether. Meanwhile, it's better news for consumers, who continue to get more for less, and the hardware and network guys, who are laughing all the way to the bank.
Thanks to Pekka Parnanen for pointing me to this great video from the beginning of Steve Jobs' reinvention of Apple, soon after regaining control in 1997. I'm not an Apple fanboy (and don't use an iPhone), but I have no end of respect for this company, its products and its market savvy... and I think most of it is attributable to the singular vision of Mr. Jobs. I would go on to propose that Apple has emerged as the most important force in terms "consumerizing" the mobile entertainment products many of us worked on, in relative obscurity, for years (I expect some arguments) and that the mobile revolution they've spawned is a corollary of Think Different. BTW - the ad Jobs introduces in this video still gives me goosebumps.
All numbers are for the most recent 4 quarters for which I have data, at today's exchange rates.
In terms of non-public, guesstimated data, I've moved Chillingo onto this list... due to their boffo performance in the AppStore (see related post)... I'll move them up or down based on community feedback. I've also let Namco slip a bit as the PacMan franchise seems to cooling a bit in the new retail channels. I still have D'Choc hanging on by a thread. Granted, they've rolled a lot of iOS titles, but none appear to be rockstars and their new emphasis on Facebook games is a bit of a tell, right? Do you guys think ngmoco should be on this list? Please, please let me know your thoughts.
Dev Rank = developer's rank in terms of MAU across all Facebook apps. MAU = monthly active users. DAU = daily active users.
In light of all the insanity about Zynga and lots of rhetoric from mobile games publishers about diversifying into social gaming online (er... Facebook games), I decided to take a look at what the mobile guys were actually doing on Facebook. First, let me tell y'all that after spending far too long digging through titles, it's abundantly clear that that platform is jam-packed with even more cr'apps than Android Market. Fortunately, consumers clearly ignore most of this junk... but I'm sure it's damaged overall perception of the product on offer. Many of these are blatant infringements on other folks' IP... which makes me wonder if corporate grown-ups at content owners/creators are really paying enough attention. Also, I've gotta mention that the two sources of Facebook application information, AppData & Facebakers are pretty shoddy (but free). The former seems to have better data, but a super-clunky interface (e.g. search is useless), while the latter is slicker, but with more questionable data. The data here comes from AppData.
So what did I learn? Well, Zynga is still the undisputed king of gaming on this platform, with 49.5mil daily active users of its titles and 217.5mil monthly active users... and despite all the blah-blah not much is happening with the mobile games guys. The only once pure-play mobile publisher that appears to be creating a meaningful presence on Facebook is Digital Chocolate. EA, GameHouse (RealNetworks), PopCap & I-play are probably running these initiatives more as a function of their established online casual businesses, than what they do in mobile. Glu Mobile, which launched its first Facebook title, Atom Blast, last Fall has now apparently bailed entirely from the platform. Meanwhile Hands-On is leveraging its last piece of premium IP, under a pseudonym no less, to try make of a go of it. Is anyone aware of anything else going on out there with the mobile publishers?... let me know. The next question, of course is how much money D'Choc et al are making from this platform... any thoughts? I'm sure it's billions :-P
The Big 4 carriers represent over 92% of US wireless subscriber connections.
I've highlighted the top performer in each category. Note Sprint's Data ARPU number is in italics because it's from last quarter... for some reason they chose not to break out Data ARPU for Q2 2010 (hmmm).
For fun, take a look at how these numbers compare with Q4 2008.
Japanese powerhouse DeNA reported fiscal Q1/calendar Q2 2010 operating results earlier this month. This company is on a revenue rocket ride... fueled by the home market popularity of its Moba-ge-town mobile social gaming platform. The only mobile entertainment company in the world who purports to be in the same league as DeNA, in terms of revenue, is the private Spanish personalization publisher Zed... who bragged to the press that they'd realized $870mil in turnover during 2008. I must say I was typically skeptical at the time, and Zed has been dead silent on the earnings front for more than a year. I'm confident, based on their current trajectory, that DeNA will have a significantly bigger business than Zed by the end of this year, if they don't already.
Gameloft issued a release last Wednesday outlining their top-line Q2 2010 performance. Revenue was up 14.7% over Q2 2009 to €33.60mil ($44.44mil), and for the first half of the year it was up 11%. That puts their revenues for the last 4 quarters at $169.95mil, at current exchange rates. North America held steady at 34% of revenue or $15mil, while Europe lost some ground to developing markets. Overall this looks like a solid result pending the release of comprehensive financials at the end of August.
The most amazing claim in the release is actually one made in error. The release states that "Gameloft has positioned itself as a leading game publisher on Apple's iPhone and iPad and has seen its sales on the AppStore grow by 113% during the second quarter of 2010." That initially led me (and others) to believe that their iOS revenue had spiked from €6.93mil in Q1 to €14.76mil in Q2... which would represent a whopping 44% of revenue. However, after contacting investor relations it turns out what they meant to say is that their iOS revenue has grown 113% since Q2 2009 and that the figure associated with iPhone, iPad, iPod touch is actually €7mil, or 21% of revenue... which is the same percentage they reported for Q1 2010.
Now that that's straightened out I'd be interested to hear what their revenue looks like on other smartphone platforms. Despite all the hype about Android, publishers keep telling me that paid app sales in that channel are still insignificant (attributable to Google Checkout, poor management of Android Market & OS fragmentation), and that the other smartphone platforms are barely worth mentioning. Meanwhile the carriers, at least in North America & Europe, are becoming less important with each passing quarter. For games publishers, this has got to be troubling... it's never a good thing when one distribution channel dominates the agenda of an industry. Unfortunately, for Gameloft et al, it appears that they're gonna have to be comfortable with a dependency on Apple, and the dangers inherent in that type of relationship, for the foreseeable future.
This is from a Schedule 14A filed with the SEC on Friday July 23rd. I've highlighted some key points.
the fact that the proceeds from the Proposed Issuance will enable us to advance our new strategic direction and the development of persistent-state, freemium products;
our financial condition, results of operations, cash flow and liquidity, including our outstanding debt obligations, which required us to raise additional capital for ongoing cash needs;
our view that the proceeds from the Proposed Issuance will enhance our balance sheet;
current and projected challenging economic and market conditions, and general uncertainty surrounding forecasted economic conditions globally as well as within the mobile gaming industry;
the fact that the Proposed Issuance represented the best of several financing and other strategic transaction alternatives resulting from the extensive process undertaken by the Special Committee, with the assistance of our management and our advisors, in soliciting third party indications of interest in both a financing transaction and a potential sale of the Assets;
the fact that each of our stockholders who hold at least 300,000 shares, or approximately 1% of our outstanding shares of common stock, was given the opportunity to participate in the Private Placement; and
the fact that our stockholders would have an opportunity to approve the Proposed Issuance.
Some key adverse factors to the issuance that the company's board considered were...
the fact that our stockholders who did not participate in the Private Placement will be diluted and the value of our common stock could be diluted;
the fact that the ownership by the Investors of a substantial percentage of our total voting power may make it more difficult and expensive for a third party to pursue a change of control of our company;
the fees and expenses to be incurred by us in connection with the Proposed Issuance; and
the fact that the covenant in the Proposed Issuance prohibiting “variable rate transactions,” as described in further detail in the section entitled “Terms of the Proposed Issuance — Summary of the Terms of the Purchase Agreement” below, may limit our financing flexibility in the future.
------------------------------ I have been an iPod advocate since the very beginning. Since the device launched in 2002, I have lost count at how many iPods I have purchased. I have a shoe box at home that is filled with my old hardware – the original 5GB (engraved, even), an iPod Shuffle; 2 iPod Minis (that I used with my Nike+ system); 2 Nanos, an iPod Touch (can’t remember why I bought that); a 60GB and 80GB iPod; and a few more that I am sure I forgot to mention.
When the iPhone launched in 2007, I was one of the first to own it. Since then, I have replaced or upgraded my iPhone 4 times. When the app store launched in July 2008, I was blown away. It made me realize how powerful mobile and location-based computing could be. It was probably the single most game changing device that I had ever experienced. It tied together entertainment, communications, social media, music and productivity in a simple, easy-to-use and very cool-looking package.
All that said, in early July of this year, I threw away my iPhone, paid my extortion money to AT&T to cancel my account and switched to Sprint and the HTC EVO. Regardless of how cool the iPhone was and how powerful the applications are, I made the decision that the reliability of the phone was more important than the power of the applications.
At the time I switched, I was dropping about 15-20 calls per day. Generally speaking, about every call over 3 minutes would be dropped at some point in the conversation. There was no rhyme or reason to when a call would be dropped. There was no pattern, no dead patch, no spotty reception. One minute you were there, the next minute you were gone. It was driving me insane and I eventually got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore.
What I found when I switched was that I really did not give up as much as I thought I would. Although the Android market didn’t have near as many applications as the iPhone, it had many of the same applications and everything that I consistently use. Some of the native apps (like Google Maps) were actually much better than the apps on the iPhone. Best of all, the phone worked, everywhere and all the time. This may sound absurd to say in 2010, but having a phone that you can rely to simply work as promised changed my life.
Don’t get me wrong, the EVO isn’t perfect. There are a lot of shortcomings that I would love to see fixed in the future, but overall I am very happy with my decision to switch. Here is a quick list of pros and cons I have expected with the device.
Phone: Phone works great. I have had the EVO for over three weeks and have not dropped one call. There are a few “dead” spots that I have noticed in San Francisco and Oakland, but I assume that is expected with any service.
Apps: The Android Market has far more apps than I expected. There isn’t anything that I am “missing” from the iphone.
Mapping: The mapping software and turn-by-turn navigation was seamless, fast and accurate.
Social Integration: Integration with my Google, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr account, etc. worked right out of the box integrates with your address book, mail and SMS features.
Camera: The 8 mega-pixel camera and flash takes incredible pictures.
Sprint HotSpot (i.e. Tethering): By a simple click of a button (and an extra $29.95 per month), you can turn your mobile phone into a sprint mobile hotspot and share internet service to your Mac, PC or other device.
Battery Life: The battery life of the EVO is horrible. The first time I traveled with the device, it fully discharged in about 3 hours. Since then, I purchased a portable charger and reconfigured it to use less power.
Usability: After using as iPhone for so many years, I found the interface clunky and unintuitive. It took me a few weeks to feel “at home” with the device.
Size: The EVO is big. A co-worker of mine calls it the Hummer of smart phones. It doesn’t bother me, but it may be too big for some of you.
Typing: Typing without a physical keyboard is still frustrating. I find myself making many mistakes on the the any virtual keyboard, but the autocorrect on the iPhone worked pretty well. The autocorrect on the EVO doesn’t work near as well.
4G: I am not really sure what this means, as I have never been able to access 4G. I am starting to think it’s like turning your stereo to 11. It doesn’t really exist, but it sounds very powerful.
Daniel Stein is Founder & CEO of the digital advertising & branding agency Evolution Bureau
Silicon Alley Insider picked up an overwhelmingly positive review from a comprehensive Gizmodo story, while PocketGamer.biz covers a decidedly negative take from a reviewer at InfoWorld. I'm sure we're going to be hearing many more opinions on this subject as Microsoft's long-delayed, high-stakes smartphone OS prepares for its October debut.
Sorry about the eye-chart, simply click on the image above to see a bigger version.
I compiled this little spreadsheet for kicks (and 'cause I haven't looked at the AppStore in awhile) based on iTunes data for all the major games publishers I could remember on a random Wednesday morning (let me know who I'm missing). These stats are for iPhone and iPod touch games only, not iPad and are for the US version of the store. BTW, I've heard a lot of folks whine that Apple will occasionally, indiscriminately erase Customer Ratings during version upgrades... making these numbers a poor indicator of App performance. OK, I'm not sure if that's true (and shame on Apple if it is), but if you believe it you can take those numbers with an appropriate grain of salt. That said, here are my initial observations based on this data:
British publisher Chillingo (including its Clickgamer subsidiary) is a friggin' powerhouse!... with a plethora of titles and more than a couple superstars, they might well be generating more topline revenue than any other games publisher on this platform, right?
Digital Chocolate has a large number of titles, but almost 50% are free and it doesn't look like their top paid title is a superstar
The recently combined entity of ngmoco/Freeverse is a major player
I bet Lima Sky is the most profitable iPhone games publisher... Tapulous & Ludia would be contenders but their 3rd party licensing costs have gotta be substantial
At first blush, Disney's recent Tapulous buy looks pretty genius (Tap Tap is a juggernaut), but their success isn't exactly a fresh story and they do have some of the traits of a one (or two) hit wonder... we'll have to see
The distinction between paid and free apps will become less meaningful as freemium products, featuring in-app purchases, become more the norm on the platform... but for now most free apps are simply barkers for their paid compadres
Happy to see that I-play (which has been dead quiet in the press lately) is making a pretty decent go of it relative to some of its mid-tier, old-timer peers and that my favorite film-based license (Fast & Furious) is still their trophy title
Firemint is awesome, but it's definitely time for their next big thing
It turns out that Amico Games Corp. (AMCG), the former Chinese mining company that magically morphed into a public Java & WAP mobile games publisher (that no one has ever heard of), is even too weird for the jaded penny stock set. HotStocked.com, in a post that included the video above, expressed concern about a recent story (that was linked from the company's website) that referred to Amico as the "largest U.S. steel grating producer." What HotStocked probably doesn't realize is that there's a proud tradition of this sort of shape shifting nonsense in the mobile entertainment space, which features other public companies whose SIC codes indicate they're primarily in the auto repair or restaurant business... which, in those particular examples, they probably should be.
As I've been blabbing about for months, the established publishers in the mid-tier of mobile games are languishing under the new smartphone app store paradigm, as the two biggest players (EA & Gameloft) have consolidated power, and nimble newcomers (Firemint, Lima Sky, Chillingo) have seized marketshare. The competitive advantages these guys once enjoyed (carrier sales teams, the ability to port to a thousand devices, licensing relationships), have become expensive burdens, and most lack the resources to make wholesale changes to their businesses. In light of this, I've often wondered if it would be feasible for a company, with some vision and cash, to roll-up a few of these guys in the interest of unseating the top players and creating a true smartphone games powerhouse. For fun, let's imagine a scenario wherein Japanese social mobile gaming powerhouse DeNA, with its $530mil in revenues, almost $400mil in cash & ambitions to put a stake in the ground outside Japan, considered buying Glu Mobile, Digital Chocolate and Hands-On Mobile (for like $100mil, right?). What would a SWOT analysis for this "Newco" look like?
Combined annual revenue of ~$125mil puts Newco within striking distance of Gameloft
98 Paid iPhone Apps featuring quality franchise titles like Deer Hunter, Glyder, World Poker Tour, Kitten Cannon, Brick Breaker & Tower Bloxx
Interesting leadership potential... The icon: Trip Hawkins & the upstart: Niccolo de Masi
All global HQs are in Northern California
Studios in Finland, China & US
Global distribution capability
Healthy balance of original & licensed IP
Cash... DeNA would have to fix that
Re-branding would be required, none of these brands is perceived as a winner or has meaningful consumer cache... plus there's no combination that doesn't sound X-rated
With over 500 employees... there would need to be some downsizing/consolidation
$20+million in debt
Reconciling investors & boards won't be a job for the faint of heart
Scale sometimes leads to inertia
Unify all games with OpenFeint's social gaming/app discovery platform (in which DeNA has a 20% stake)
Build in-app purchases into as many titles as possible to maximize longterm revenue potential
Historic carrier relationships might become valuable again as Verizon, AT&T, et al take a larger role in managing Android Market
Take all components of Newco private, clean 'em up and then spin it back out as an IPO when market conditions improve
Take cue from Zynga in terms of marketing on social, new & traditional media
Platform consolidation and platform dependency (when Apple changes the rules, it hurts)
Continued price erosion
Competition with other forms of gaming & entertainment for consumer discretionary dollars
New, well financed, market entrants
I'm sure Newco would appreciate your unpaid consulting, in form of comments. I'll add to and adjust this over the next few days based on your input and my own random inspiration (brain farts).
Well it's E3 time again, and while mobile games publishers & industry pundits continue to perseverate about the iPhone, Verizon Wireless took the opportunity to remind the world that they keep on keepin' on. Apparently their deck still has over 350 games, and lest you believe it's still all about Tetris, Bejeweled & PacMan (which it kinda is) they issued a release highlighting their Top 10 NEW titles for the 1st half of 2010. Shout out to 2 of my favorite small publishers, GOSUB 60 & Sonic Boom for making the list... I hope this is translating into decent downloads/revenue. Hey, while most publishers manically pile their games on top the 10s of thousands of others in the App Store or into the difficult to monetize anarchy that's Android Market, I think it's a legit, smart and potentially lucrative counter programming strategy for some to focus on the carrier decks... where the addressable user bases are still substantial, billing mechanisms work, stores are uncluttered/edited, price points are high and recurring subscriptions endure.
Yesterday MobileGamesBlog reported that Trip Hawkins' mobile (and now social network) games publishing company Digital Chocolate had "secured several millions of dollars" in financing from Bridge Capital Holding and had upped their longtime studio chief Ilkka Paananen to President of the company (UPDATE: apparently Trip had announced this promotion back in February on his OMG Blog). The story indicated that this was an equity investment on top of the $43.8mil the company had received previously... which to my mind represented a meaningful market driven endorsement of the viability of the company and its prospects for growth. Big industry news for several reasons: 1) funding has hardly been flowing into the mobile games space; 2) insider buzz (driven in part by the company's recent, atypical, quietness in the press) is that Digital Chocolate has been struggling, like many of their mid-tier peers; 3) folks like and respect Paananen (founder of games studio Sumea in 1999, acquired by D'Choc in 2004) and his elevation seemed like a super-smart move to bolster management ranks and provide counter-balance to the venerable, but notoriously mavericky Hawkins as the company prepared for growth. All good stuff. After reading the story, I asked in a tweet (as I am wont to do),"at what valuation... anybody know?" and sent Paananen a congratulatory IM... to which he didn't respond.
Well the picture painted this morning in Mobile Entertainment's coverage of the story, and MobileGamesBlog's followup, may explain why I didn't hear back. Apparently the funding is actually a "multi-million dollar revolving line of credit" to be used for "general corporate purposes"... which sounds a lot more like a cash lifeline than an endorsement. To make matters worse, it now turns out that Paananen will not be taking a larger roll going forward, but instead will be leaving the company. I don't think either pieces of news, or how the messaging was managed, bodes particularly well for the company... and I suspect industry buzz may turn even more negative.
Of course this situation begs the question, what is the path forward for Digital Chocolate and the other key players in the struggling mid-tier of mobile gaming... specifically Glu Mobile, Hands-On & I-Play? I must say I'm pretty skeptical about them all piling into Facebook gaming... which is the popular strategy du jour. I have an idea that I'll share in an upcoming post.
Mark Cuban just sent an enthusiastic tweet about Paranoid Games' location based iPhone title Insurrection, that's releasing on the App Store July 4th (check out the backstory video). I have to agree this looks pretty interesting, particularly in light of rapid smartphone consumer adoption of services like Foursquare and Gowalla... which are inherently much less fun.
However, this is hardly an original idea. 10 years ago a Swedish company called It's Alive! created and deployed a location based game called BotFighters in several European countries, that used WAP & SMS. As has been typical in this space, the It's Alive! guys were way, way ahead of their time and their company, which eventually (ironically?) merged into another called Daydream, was soon gone but not entirely forgotten.
I think Paranoid Games has the timing right, so now it comes down to execution and marketing. I wish them luck.
This segment, which covers my current perception of the state of select companies and business sectors in mobile entertainment, will be a recurring feature on Cabana Mobile. You'll notice dynamism in terms of the companies covered and where they fall within these categories, over time, as my inputs change. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my opinion... and tell me what other companies/categories you'd like to see on this list.
DeNA - Japanese powerhouse, fueled by the uber-successful Mobage-town social mobile games portal, has over $500mil in annual revenue, $125mil in profits and over $350mil in cash. These guys could roll-up several major western games publishers in a heartbeat if they were so inclined.
Gameloft - the French publisher, always a high quality player, has been on its iPhone game from the start and now derives a full 21% of their revenues come from the AppStore... which is (for better or worse) the only game in town in terms of paid mobile content. Gameloft is proof that you can turn a super-tanker in rough seas.
GAMEVIL - South Korean game publisher has 2 things going for it... great capabilities with micropayment model games in its home market and a focus on high-quality builds that are conducive to smartphones. These guys regularly deliver solid profits and have a market cap that must make many of their bigger competitors very envious.
Millennial Media - It's no secret that I've always had a healthy level of skepticism about the value of the mobile ad networks. That said, there ain't no denying that the biggest, and one of the best managed, of the independents is in a super-sweet spot in light of Google's $750mil acquisition of AdMob and Apple's $275mil acquisition of much smaller Quattro. Rumors have been swirling for months that Microsoft is in the hunt.
Firemint - smart, lean Australian games developer, turned iPhone publisher, is one of my favorite content success stories of the smartphone revolution. Flight Control and Real Racing have been true phenomena on both the iPhone & iPad. The big question is, of course... what's next?
Glu Mobile - this quality mobile games publisher, that I once called the "barometer of the health of the mobile entertainment space", has been struggling to evolve from a carrier-focused, licensed IP based company, into a smartphone savvy developer of original game franchises. They're currently going through a painful right-sizing process and experiencing declining quarter over quarter revenues. Cash is a severe pain point and their market cap (under $40mil) is currently 11% of rival Gameloft's.
Carrier Decks - remember way back when (2years ago) when Get It Now! and MEdia Mall (and their ilk) used to be like WalMart and Target for mobile content? Well unfortunately the smartphone revolution and Apple's retail smarts have shifted that paradigm... big time. Publishers now routinely report alarming declines in their carrier-based revenue. I doubt the tide will turn back, unless operators focus their efforts on curating and facilitating billing for paid Android apps... 'cause that's a growing mess they're in a position to fix.
Motricity - back in January this veteran, Bellvue, WA based, carrier content platform management company made its intentions known to the SEC that it wanted to go public. Lots of folks in the industry were shocked by the timing, considering the the general state of the IPO market, current conditions in the carrier deck business, the very substantial losses Motricity has racked up over the last few years and the fact that 74% of its revenues come from 2 companies.
GetFugu - when your stock price is under a penny, you have to take a bridge loan for $170k & after 6 months your one app has only 333 mostly poor ratings in the AppStore, that's kinda ugly. Even the micro-cap day trader crowd is way over it. It's hard to believe that this company will survive the summer.
NeuMedia (f/k/a Mandalay Media) - the owner of Twistbox & AMV has always had an identity crisis; is it an adult entertainment or a games company? Recent exec & board defections and a cash-balance triggered notice of default indicate to me that they may not have to struggle with this issue too much longer.
Off-Deck Mobile Portals - before the smartphone revolution this was a red hot space, with power-players like Thumbplay, Flycell & Jamba/Jamster vending recurring ringtone & graphics subscriptions, to under-supervised kids. After paying $120 bucks over a year for those 3 Young Jeezy tones and a blingy pot leaf screensaver, most suckers (or their parents) got a clue.
THE QUESTION MARKS
Zed - the Spanish personalization giant has been like The Borg for the last couple of years, sucking up companies left & right, and diversifying into myriad content plays... including TV production. Though privately held, they used to brag about being the biggest mobile content company in the world, claiming revenues over $800mil!... but I haven't heard a lot of bragging recently.
Buongiorno - this Italian mobile personalization & services goliath still has revenues in the $300mil range, but their revenue has been on a downward trajectory as the company's content offerings get a little long on the tooth and it tries to figure out how to be relevant in a smartphone world.
Index - this longtime Japanese content powerhouse, whose mobile group is perennially in my Top 5 by revenue, seems to be faltering a bit. Their one time bid to be a global player, by virtue of a North American & European buying spree, flamed out and now they're fighting to stay relevant in a home market where the iPhone and Android are gaining traction.
Android Paid Apps - as I alluded to earlier, this is a mess. Considering how quickly Android handsets (and soon to be tablets) are proliferating across carriers, this should be a huge opportunity. However, Google's disinterest in managing their store & consumer resistance to setting up Google Checkout accounts, have really stifled Android's paid app potential. I think it'll be up to the carriers to fix this problem.
Ovi - Considering Nokia's 2.7% marketshare in the US this won't be a factor here for a long time. In the rest of the world there's more hope, especially considering some recently promising download numbers, and the appointment of industry vet Bryan Biniak (a guy who I know understands content) to run Ovi Publish. Frankly I'm more bullish on Ovi now than anytime in the last year.
Augmented Reality - Boy, I was really excited about this space for awhile, particularly apps like Layar... but I'm definitely not feelin' it right now. AR still seems more like a novelty than a necessity.