Thursday, December 31, 2009

10 Most Read Cabana Mobile Posts of 2009

  1. How Much Money Do Mobile Ad Networks Make?
  2. KongZhong Got It Goin' On
  3. Fish Broth: The Plot Thickens In GetFugu Investment Drama
  4. If The Top 10 Generate $700mil Can Mobile Games Really Be A $5.4bil Business?
  5. Palm Pre Demo From D7 Is Better Than Porn
  6. Updated: Top 10 Mobile Games Publishers WW
  7. MOBshop Speculation Is Red Hot
  8. Update: GLUU Volume Stays High As Boards Buzz About Changyou & Other Theories
  9. Will de Masi & Kranzler Finally Get Hands-On To Realize It's Potential?
  10. Report: At AT&T Motricity is Jen & Amdocs is Angelina

Some Predictions For 2010

  • The Nexus One and myriad other Android devices will launch with varying degrees of fanfare, but the Google devices in aggregate and the Android Market will continue to pale in the shadow of iPhone/iTunes as a consumer event due to inconsistent marketing, klugy app billing and OS fragmentation
  • Mobile marketing will graduate from the experimental stage, and become a core strategy component for several enlightened global brands
  • Several established mobile games publishers will either be acquired or file for bankruptcy protection... companies that could be in play during 2010 include: Hands-On Mobile, I-Play, Twistbox, Digital Chocolate and perhaps Glu Mobile
  • Apple will finally strike a deal with Adobe that will allow iPhone users to access content built in Flash through the browser, creating a boon for Hulu, Vevo, YouTube, MovieClips, et al
  • Apple will make eBooks and eMagazines available through iTunes for their upcoming tablet... but they will also be available for iPhone and touch
  • Nokia will scrap it's Comes With Music offering, will continue to struggle to make Ovi a meaningful consumer proposition and will see declining market share as it gets squeezed by Apple, RIM and Android devices on the smartphone front and by low cost Chinese manufacturers in developing markets
  • LTE & WiMax services will continue to roll out slowly, but 4G won't be a significant consumer event during 2010
  • Google Googles will move beyond Android and quickly establish itself as the world's most popular augmented reality application... leaving companies like Layar & GetFugu in its dust
  • The current Top 5 companies in my Cabana Mobile Entertainment Top 20 by Revenue (Zed, Index Mobile, UMG Mobile, MobiTV & Buongiorno) will all see mobile revenues decline during 2010. Smaller App-focused publishers will see the greatest revenue gains
  • Carrier-based App stores will make consumers yawn, but on a positive note they'll benefit the coffers of several advertising and identity/design agencies
  • An application developer, a credit card company and a major retailer will collaborate to launch the first commercial in-store mobile transaction service in the US
More to follow throughout the day...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cabana Has Exclusive Mobile Rights To New Sony Device

Is Each Game App Rating Worth 75 Purchases?

As part of my ongoing (quixotic?) quest to create a correlation between the number of user ratings for a Paid Game App on iTunes and its downloads, I've been doing some concept testing with sources and just spent way too much time building the spreadsheet above to guesstimate the revenue generated by the top 30 best selling games in the US store from iTunes Rewind 2009. I'm beginning to get more comfortable with the idea that in general each rating is worth about 75 downloads (as opposed to 100 that I've posited previously), or in other words, that 1.33% of game App purchasers submit a review. In looking at the spreadsheet you'll notice that I've had to tweak to the download to review ratio in order keep Apple's Rewind ranking intact... and these mostly make sense to me intuitively. Basically, what this shows, is that purchasers of more casual games (e.g. Bookworm, Radgdoll Blaster) are less likely to submit a review and those that buy more gamerly titles (e.g. Zenonia, Myst) are more likely to submit one. There are two anomalies here worth noting... one which I can explain, the other I cannot. You'll notice that the revenue associated with Rock Band seems be out of sequence, however this is an App that allows in-App purchasing, so there's a revenue stream that I'm not capturing. The one I can't figure out is Sally's Spa, which in this analysis has the characteristics of a hard core game title... which doesn't make any sense. There may be a point when titles get over a certain number of ratings (this one has 16,750) that a different paradigm kicks-in. I know some of you'll be thinking that I partied too much in college (and after?) and this is all evidence of some kind of long-lasting impairment... but if that's not the case, and this model can be refined a bit further, it should be a great benchmarking tool. Let me know what you think. I'd especially love to hear feedback from peeps who weren't sleeping during statistics and, of course, from publishers.

btw - I have noticed that in some instances Apps have lost ratings from previous versions despite iTunes claiming to have ratings from all versions of the product. This is the case here with Wheel of Fortune, for which I was able to estimate all ratings from data I had collected for an earlier post.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Will Ovi 2.0 Help Nokia Catch The App Store?

Earlier today I read Stuart Dredge's extensive, candid interview with Nokia's George Linardos about the Ovi store debacle, in which the VP of Product, Media & Games was refreshingly self-deprecating and obviously keenly aware that the store has deeply disappointed consumers and mobile content publishers. “We have screens in the office with the Twitter feeds running all day long, and it’s like constantly getting punched in the face!” he says... I probably threw a few of those punches and I have to admit it's kinda satisfying to know they landed (nothing personal, George). To the extent that awareness of a problem is half the battle to finding a solution, this is good stuff. In addition, the fact Nokia is in the final stages of building an all new infrastructure for Ovi, that will replace the current tape and glue version this Spring, is positively inspiring.

This interview confirms what we've all suspected for many months... that Nokia vastly underestimated Apple's ability to rapidly establish the iTunes App Store as the benchmark of mobile content retailing. But, despite the Finn's efforts to step it up a bit with a technologically enhanced Ovi 2.0, I feel pretty confident that Apple will continue to kick Ovi's ass for the foreseeable future. The "fruit company from Cupertino" accelerated out the gate like a bullet on a rail, and shows no sign of slowing, while Nokia hobbled onto the track and is just beginning to trot. Ovi claims almost 1mil app downloads per day with a 100% monthly growth rate, but as impressive as that sounds it's gonna be a herculean task for them to meaningfully compete with the App Store beast... with its 2bil downloads lifetime and 6.6mil per day, from a catalog of 110k Apps that's getting 10k new submissions per week. And then there's Nokia's crappy (and getting crappier) footprint in the US which, frankly, will make the job so much tougher. I recognize that Nokia has dominant share in much of the world ex US, particularly in some of the fastest growing markets. But, from a practical perspective the US market is really an ideal base from which to build a digital retail empire by virtue of its population, common language, developer community and culture of consumerism. That means Nokia will have to continue to build scale the hard way, from disparate territories with their own language/cultural issues that require multiple marketing and retail strategies, that are expensive and labor intensive to execute. This model creates a negative side-effect for publishers (especially those smaller shops that have benefited Apple)... who'll need to be convinced that it makes sense to deploy apps in 20+ languages before there's any meaningful sales volume. So bonne chance with that Nokia, and if you have the chops to successfully build scale this way you can shift your agida to Apple's other huge advantage... iTunes billing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Apple Finally Cracking Down On Bogus App Reviews

Based on a story on MobileCrunch yesterday, and a follow-up on PocketGamer today, it looks like Apple is beginning to aggressively pursue and punish publishers who engage in App puffery with fake reviews. The new poster child of this nonsense is a company that creates photo Apps called Molinker... who just had all of its 1,000+ titles pulled from the store (ouch!). According to MobileCrunch, this latest action was prompted by sleuths at the iPhoneography blog, who noticed that the vast majority of Molinker Apps reviews were posted by folks who only reviewed that company's products, and who then had the gumption to pass their findings on to Apple SVP of WW product marketing Phil Schiller. The PocketGamer story goes on to pursue a post in touchArcade alleging that Gameloft may have engaged in a similar tactic on its Modern Combat: Sandstorm title.

I presume these allegations are no great revelation to anyone who reads this blog. C'mon, the practice of self-submitted bogus reviews has been epidemic in the App Store for a long time and I think many publishers now look at this as a cost-effective component of the marketing mix (a necessary evil) to help cut through the cluttered chaos of its 110k active Apps. As a result, savvy App shoppers and insiders pride themselves on being able to distinguish between the legit and the crap iTunes reviews... but more often than not, they totally discount this feature, preferring to rely on 3rd party reviews and recommendations from friends. In the meantime, masses of unwitting consumers are getting burned by crApps that they believe have been legitimately lauded by the community... which is bad for the entire business. I'm glad Apple is finally waking up to this, and I hope they continue with aggressive crackdowns, so that the reviews component of iTunes can start to mean something again (or maybe for the first time) and become a useful decision making tool for App consumers.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Recent Mobile Tweets

So are you following me on Twitter? If not, here's a sampling of my recent tweets...
  • Get some Verizagra and trade hairdo for can do Wonder if Apple will think it's funny
  • reports Nokia closing London flagship store Thought that was a brand not profit exercise... guess not
  • likes Twitter's new preview mobile site ( cause you don't need an App for that
  • thinks synergies, more often than not, are illusory
  • 'Twas the night before Christmas and Android was shipping | People's interest in iPhone rejections were slipping...
  • What do you think of my notion that 1 review gets posted per 100 Paid iPhone App downloads?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

James Lipton & LG: Don't Sext Your Junk

Mobile Holiday Cheer From John Szeder

'Twas the night before Christmas and Android was shipping
People's interest in iPhone rejections were slipping

AdMob was bought and Marvel was too
and the execs have finally gotten off of the GLUU

Deck managers everywhere were feeling rejected
And to social games many developers defected

Can you make more from each user? That really depends
If you can convince them to invite 20 new friends

Then post some achievements into their feed
And send gifts to their pals 'til their eyeballs all bleed

But you can play it for free, it doesn't cost money
Unless you don't want your avatar to look funny

We take PayPal and Amex and retail cards at the store
Unlock some premium levels and pay us some more

So I have this to say, in my Free Holiday Poem: Lite
Send me a nickel today, and I'll wish you Merry Christmas tonight!

~John Szeder

Top 10 Movie/TV Games For iPhone By Revenue?

Here's my stab at the Top 10 movie or TV based mobile games for iPhone and iPod touch, ranked by my latest guesstimate of the revenue that they've generated from inception to date... based on my notion that 1% of game downloaders post a review. In the spreadsheet above EAP = Estimated Average Price over the lifetime of the game on the iTunes platform, which I inferred from price movements listed on PubRev? = Publisher Revenue (caveated) which is calculated by multiplying EAP x Rvws/1% x 70% (publisher share of retail). Let me know if you think this is accurate and how well you think this model explains the performance of other iTunes App titles.

Assuming the data above is correct, it points to the value of publishers maintaining a higher price point for Apps. As you can see, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is basically tied for the most revenue with The Price Is Right despite having 43% fewer downloads than the game show title... because it's retail price has been 75% higher on average. Actually, I must say, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much price testing publishers are doing on the platform. With a couple of exceptions, the price of each title on this list has changed (up & down) more than 3 times since launch.

By the way, it looks like Montreal based Ludia, which currently is only publishing 2 Paid Apps on the platform, made a solid bet with Fremantle's The Price Is Right.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Why Can't Glu Mobile Find A CEO?

I just finished reading Stuart Dredge's timely interview, for Mobile Entertainment, with Glu Mobile's freshly appointed interim CEO & President (and current co-chair of the board) Bill Miller... and I must say that I continue to be dumbfounded, and seriously concerned by that company's inability to recruit a new leader. As you'll recall, their venerable CEO Greg Ballard announced his resignation back in July and now he's actually left the building. Miller claims to Dredge that Glu's "search process kicked off in midsummer - not traditionally a fertile period for headhunting." He's gotta be kidding, right? I can't imagine that there's been any period in recent history where there have been more available, eligible candidates on the market! There have been rumors floating around for awhile that the board is specifically looking for someone with the skillset to package the company up for sale... but, there's gotta be swarms of those characters orbiting near San Mateo. Is it simply that they're not offering a reasonable compensation package? Needless to say, Glu's investors should be asking lots of questions about how this search is being conducted and why they "weren't able to close" with the few principal candidates they've identified to date.

Unfortunately the dysfunction of this process has already wounded the company tangibly by contributing to the resignation of Jill Braff, the company's respected head of publishing, and more subtlety (but no less significantly) in terms of industry and investor confidence.... and the hurt is likely to linger in light of Miller's admission to Dredge that the company is just now beginning its 2010 planning process. And, of course, all this chaos will continue to inure to the benefit of Glu's competitors, particularly EA Mobile and Gameloft (but also, nimble smartphone-focused upstarts), that will continue to steal its market share and usurp its market opportunities. Glu Mobile needs strong, visionary and permanent leadership now!