Friday, June 11, 2010

Nnooo announces new DSiWare downloads

Australian ISV, Nnooo, has announced a number of new products in its myLifeCollected series.

myDiary is a new application for the Nintendo DSi console, available for download through the DSiWare service. It will allow users to keep track of appointments, make journal entries and set alarms.

Nnooo will also offer enhanced versions of its successful myNotebook product - a basic note-taking application, also through DSiWare. The myNotebook products will allow users to create 128 'pages' of content, export their notes as photos to the DSi console's memory, and a number of interface improvements over previous editions of the software. The new range of notebooks will be available in three colours - Tan, Carbon and Pearl.

All four new products have been planned for release between July and September 2010. These kinds of simple applications have proven to be enormously successful on the DSiWare service to date, so it's no surprise to see Nnooo continue to develop products of this kind.

Mad Catz enjoys record year

Peripherals vendor, Mad Catz, has achieved record sales for the year ended March 21, 2010.

The vendor recorded record net sales of $US119.0 million, a 5.7 per cent increase from $112.6 million in the previous yes. Gross profit also increase by 13.7 percent to a record $36.4 million.

Xbox 360 products accounted for the most sales at 31 per cent of total sales for the year, with PC (22 per cent) and PlayStation 3 (17 per cent) following.

In a release, Mad Catz outlined significant developments for the year, including:

Signing a multi-year licensing agreement with Harmonix Music Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Viacom, to serve as the principal peripherals partner for the Rock Band franchise. The agreement gives Mad Catz the international rights to produce and distribute Rock Band music videogame controllers for future iterations of Rock Band;

Acquiring TRITTON Technologies, a provider of gaming audio headsets, high-performance multimedia consumer electronics and computer peripherals, for $US1 million in cash at closing and a maximum earn-out of $US9 million in cash over five years subject to the sales of TRITTON products. TRITTON's core products, its gaming headsets, operate on all major gaming platforms and include a variety of unique features. TRITTON also offers a line of distinctive USB video products;

Signing an extension of the license agreement with Activision whereby the Company will create accessories related to the next iteration of the Call of Duty videogame franchise, Call of Duty: Black Ops, scheduled to be launched in November 2010; and,

Signing a license agreement with Major League Gaming (MLG) whereby the Company will work with MLG professional gamers to create high-end controllers and fight sticks.

On doing business in Latin America

There's a really interesting Q & A interview up at GameSetWatch

In it, Frederico Beyer, director of Mexican publisher Slang, spoke about some of the unique challenges facing the games industry in dealing with the Latin American markets.

It's an interesting potential area of exports for publishers and developers looking to reach into relatively untapped markets. If we just look at Brazil, for instance, it is one of the globe's largest economies, driven by a strong resources sector and recent economic reforms.

It's attempting to play a bigger role on the world stage, too, recently attempting to broker a deal in collaboration with Turkey to help address the Iran nuclear standoff.

But when it comes to videogames, there seems to be less done. The games industry faces a number of challenges in Brazil, well covered by Gamasutra. There are concerns with piracy, expensive games for consumers (a six-month game on a retail shop will cost a Brazilian the equivalent of $140 US), distribution and financing. In short, it's a frontier.

I recently ran a report for ARN, looking at enterprise software vendors and their overseas expansion strategies. Entering into Latin America is on the agenda, but it's a difficult market, requiring the kinds of business partnerships and investments that would be difficult given the disorganised distribution structure that the Gamasutra piece alludes to.

Despite these challenges, there are development houses in Brazil, and the mobile development industry is performing well (likely because it bypasses some of those distribution and pricing issues). It's undoubtedly a geography that holds a wealth of potential - it'll be interesting to see which companies crack the formulae for success in Brazil and its neighbours.

Move and Natal interest remains low

Sony’s PlayStation Move and Microsoft’s Project Natal might not gain the traction both vendors were hoping for, according to a report by OTX.

Just eight per cent of Xbox 360 owners plan on buying Natal, while six per cent of PlayStation 3 owners plan on investing in Move, according to the research.

It will be interesting to see if either vendor is able to get that number up, because at six or eight percent of the install base, not many developers will create games that require the use of either technology – it simply wouldn’t be worth their while, especially when compared to the Nintendo Wii whose owners are 100 per cent guaranteed to be own a Wiimote controller.

An interesting possible point of comparison could be the Wii MotionPlus add-on. Outside of a few high-profile games, there are very few games that effectively use the add-on, and even fewer that demand the player have one. I don't imagine Sony and Microsoft would be looking for such a niche user-base with their own releases.

Source: IGN

THQ merges business units, prepares E3 presentation

THQ has merged its Online Business unit with its Core Games and Kids, Family, Casual Games branches.

The publisher has promoted Martin Good to executive vice president of Kids, Family, Casual Games and Global Online Services to look after the new business unit.

In a release, THQ president and CEO, Brian Farrell, said "Online and digital represents our industry's largest growth opportunity and it is imperative that we integrate digital and online game strategies into all of our key franchise plans.

"Now that we have momentum in our online pipeline, this is a natural evolution of our organizational structure, putting the leaders of our two product-focused business units in charge of development across all platforms. The company will now be organized in two clear business units and we are aggressively creating content to be delivered to gamers in all possible formats."

In other news THQ will host he E3 Investor Meeting. There, Farrell and executive vice president, Core Games, Danny Bilson will make a presentation to the investment community in connection with the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo. The presentation is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Pacific on Tuesday, June 15, 2010.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Majesco scores EA veteran

Chris Gray has been appointed as senior VP of production at publisher, Majesco Entertainment.

Gray was previously the executive producer for the Hasbro business unit at EA. He has also held roles with Artech Studios and run his own business, Gray Matter.

Interesting, in his appointment, Gray has been given 200,000 shares of restricted stock - half of which will vest over a three-year period, and the other half will vest in a three-year period from the completion of a 'certain set of objectives' set down by Majesco - great incentive to keep talent loyal and keen.


Microsoft: Halo 3 has outsold everything PS3

Microsoft's Aaron Greenberg, via Twitter, has made a big claim: Bungie's Halo 3 has outsold the entire catalogue of current PS3 exclusive games.

In the Tweet, Greenberg claimed the combined weight of Resistance 1 and 2, Uncharted 1 and 2, Killzone 2 and God of War 3 was not able to account for the sales of Halo 3.

It's an impressive stat, to be sure - though it does only apply to the North American market.

Namco Bandai disappointed with Nintendo

According to Namco Bandai, the market for software on both Nintendo Wii and DS hardware has 'collapsed.'

In an interview with MCV, the publisher's VP of sales, marketing and publishing, Oliver Comte, claimed that the average quality of games on both hardware platforms was so low that consumers' expectations were very low.

Comte also pointed out that the DS was very easy to develop for, but equally easy to pirate, and piracy was partly to blame for the DS' 'collapse'.

This is a problem that Nintendo itself seems to have acknowledged. Nintendo Europe's managing director, Laurent Fisher, claimed the whole handheld market has shrunk in Europe, with few hit games released recently.

Namco Bandai is not the first publisher to struggle to gain traction on the Wii and DS - for all the hardware sales, often it seems that only Nintendo-published titles sell on the platforms.

Linden Lab loses 30 per cent of staff

Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life, will lay off 30 per cent of its staff.

It would not reveal an exact number of people that would be shed in the layoff, but the US-based company reportedly has more than 300 employees, according to an AFP report.

Linden Lab chief executive, Mark Kingdom, said the plans behind the 'strategic restructuring' also included shifting Second Life into a browser-based virtual world experience and extending into social networks.

To me, the move to take Second Life into social networks is a good one, given the proven popularity of those games on platforms such as Facebook. Whether it's a case of 'too little, too late' for the company remains to be seen, but shedding 30 per cent of around 300 people doesn't bode too well - those kinds of numbers would surely result in some critical talent being put aside.

Zynga chases new frontier of users

Social networking game developers, Zynga, will launch a new IP as it chases new customers.

The new game, Frontierville, follows Zynga's push into the iPhone, Yahoo and MSN gaming markets, away from its traditional Facebook audience.

The vendor, widely considered to be the leader in the casual gaming space with properties such as Farmville, has had a significant retraction in user numbers recently, and is down nearly 40 million from an April high of 252 million to 216 million.

The PSPgo: successful despite poor sales

Despite poor reviews and sales figures, the PSPgo is an important step in Sony's handheld future.

Industry Gamers recently quoted SCEE president Andrew House as claiming the PSPgo was a 'test' for a future handheld strategy.

This makes a lot of sense. Every indication is that the gaming industry is slowly but steadily moving towards digital download platforms - all the major consoles have had some degree of success with download platforms, the iPhone has been a raging success in the gaming market, and there's even examples of cloud computing technology in development for gaming.

Is the market ready for a complete switch to a digital download platform? Not yet, as the sales of the PSPgo indicate, but in stating the obvious, R&D spending is for the future, not now. If you consider the PSPgo as a public test of Sony's R&D, it's actually a smart move. The vendor is preparing itself for the future, and has released a console early to gain solid feedback on what it needs to do next time.

As House said in his Industry Gamers interview, the point of the PSPgo was to understand where consumer behaviour was going. If indeed the time comes where digital downloadable games becomes the default with handhelds, Sony might well be better placed than chief rival, Nintendo.

EA boss dismisses retail data

EA CEO, John Riccitiello, has claimed that retail data is missing a big part of the overall picture.

As reported by, Riccitiello claimed that the overall value of the industry had doubled from the 2003 levels from $20 billion to $40 billion, and although a little less went through the retail stores that usual, the overall strength of the industry is strong.

This makes sense - in the last few years, the number of digital download services has increased, and that will naturally take some spending away from traditional retail.

Riccitiello also pointed out that the data captured doesn't take into account second sale - which is a critical element of a retailer's business.

He also dismissed the supposed decline in the PC gaming industry - citing Zynga and World of Warcraft as examples of highly profitable companies and games operating primarially on PCs.

It seems all you need to do is find a creative way to engage with PC customers, then.

Firemint scoops two Apple awards

Firemint, the Australian development house behind hit iPhone game Flight Control, has picked up two Apple Design Awards.

Flight Control HD on the iPad, and Real Racingon the iPhone were both recognised at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference, held on June 8.

According to the developers, it is the first time in the 14 year history of the awards that a company has received two awards in the one year.

Flight Control has been a breakaway hit for Firemint, and has sold over two million copies since release on the iPhone. Versions of the game has since appeared on the Nintendo DSi and iPad download stores.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

ISV gains cash injection to make playing the stock markets fun

Israel startup, eToro, has been given a cash injection to the tune of $US2.4 million.

This round of investment comes from Social Leverage, an investment organisation founded by Howard Lindzon. It follows previous investments worth more than $US8 million since eToro was founded in 2007.

eToro is responcible for Forex, designed as an streamlined investment portal with the ability to trial with imaginary money first. Headed by CEO Jonathan Assis the company has 120 employees across Israel, the US, Cyprus and Australia. To date $100 billion has been traded through the portal to date, Assis has claimed.

Lord of the Rings Online made free

Turbine, the folks behind Lord of the Rings Online, has dumped its previous paid subscription model for one that initially costs nothing.

Much like World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online was previously incurred a monthly fee to keep an account open. Under the new plan, the game will cost nothing to set up an account.

Turbine will attempt to recover lost subscription fees through an online shop where players can buy 'premium content.'

Whilst a move like this might upset existing subscribers, Turbine has previously moved its Dungeons and Dragons Online IP from a subscription to 'free' model. One would assume that it was a successful transition for the publisher to decide on a similar path here.

In a release, president and CEO of Turbine, Jim Crowley, said: “the popularity of Dungeons and Dragons Online validated the extraordinary demand by gamers for quality entertainment they can experience at their own pace and within their budget. Extending free-to-play to Lord of the Rings Online will offer another premium game to a broad spectrum of fans.”

You only need to look at the staggering success of Farmville to realise that there are plenty of people out there who are willing to pay for premium content on their favourite games.

Lord of the Rings Online will be transition to the free-to-play model in the fall (spring for the southern hemisphere) this year.

Paul Meegan to head up LucasArts

Paul Meegan is to replace Darrell Rodriguez as LucasArts' new general manager.

Meegan was previously CEO of Epic Games China. Before that he had held roles with Ubisoft and Jaleco Entertainment. He is to begin mid-June.

Source: IGN

Red Dead Redemption sells through the roof

Five million copies, to be precise.

In a story posted on, those five million sales have backed up a record $16.9 million quarter for publisher, Take-Two Interactive.

Net revenues were up 54 per cent overall in the quarter. BioShock 2, GTA: Episodes from Liberty City and Major League Baseball 2K10 were the three key games behind those strong sales.

Red Dead's sales will all but guarantee another strong quarter for Take-Two, and upcoming games on the schedule, such as LA Noire, Mafia II and Civilisation V all have potential to continue the momentum further.

Welcome to Games and Business!

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the Games and Business blog! I hope that, over time, it'll prove to be an insightful source of information on the business of video games.

There's a thousand good Websites out there that review games and consoles, but that's not what this one is about. It's about reporting what happens to video game developers, publishers and distributors. It's about analysis and financials. It's about the industry itself - something that's covered with far less regularity on the Internet and elsewhere.

So enjoy! I hope we're useful to you in the long run.