Live On Rock Band Network

Macon Telegraph writer Jonathan Heeter penned this article about his experience with the beta for Rock Band Network just before MTV Games and Harmonix took it live late last week. The network is now launched with more than 100 popular and independent artists offering tracks. Heeter’s piece is one of the more comprehensive write-ups covering the range of music users can expect. Read his article at Macon Telegraph.

Big Natal Showing Expected For E3

Microsoft CFO Mindy Mount has hinted to a big reveal at E3 for Xbox 360’s Natal motion controller. IGN reports on comments Mount made at the Jefferies Annual Global Technology Conference taking place this week in New York. Mount told attendees the full lineup of Natal games will be unveiled at this year s E3. She also said Microsoft has put some of its best people on coming up with game ideas for the device.  E3 2010 is scheduled to take place June 15-17 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Read more at IGN.

Microsoft Campaign Seeds FarmVille, Reaps Rewards

Microsoft is benefitting from a campaign on Zynga’s FarmVille where it traded in-game currency for people who opted to become fans of its Facebook page for Bing. Adweek reports that the campaign has more than tripled those who follow Bing on Facebook, adding about 425,000 fans in a single day. As part of the campaign, FarmVille players were prompted with the offer for currency usable towards virtual items by following Bing, and they never had to leave the game to take advantage of the offer. Adweek says Microsoft s social media team then created updates on Bing’s Facebook page catered to FarmVille players, with one such update drawing 585 comments and 20,000 clicks-throughs shortly after being posted. Microsoft said it’s planning more updates geared towards players of the game along with Bing promotions tailored to its audience of older female users. Read more at Adweek.

Panasonic Readies 3DTV Push For US Consumers

Panasonic is pairing up with Best Buy on a major 3DTV push for US consumers, reports FastCompany via Japan news outlet Nikkei. The two companies will promote Panasonic’s line of LCD and plasma 3D HDTVs at Best Buy stores by setting up special showcase areas and giving customers hefty discounts. Panasonic said the discounts will be between 30 to 50 percent compared to what consumers would pay for the same sets in Japan. The move comes as the consumer electronics maker looks to 3D technology to grow HDTV sales overall, as well as give its plasma line a needed boost. According to FastCompany, Panasonic is the fourth largest HDTV maker worldwide but has fallen behind smaller discount brands in the US. As for its plasma sets, Panasonic’s plasma business has fallen well behind LCD in sales but it hopes to see it rebound with 3D. Plasma’s faster refresh rates makes it better suited technology for 3D HDTV. FastCompany says the in-store campaign will start this week in a few hundred of the biggest Best Buy stores and is expected to expand to more than 1,000 stores by year’s end. Read more at FastCompany.

Ad Age Viral Video Chart For Week Of Feb. 22

Ad Age lists the top 10 viral videos for the week of Feb. 22.

It took until the last week of the event, but the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games finally pulled in some viral video love. Both new entries on the chart are related to the games. A TV spot from Visa’s Go World Olympic campaign entered at number six with about 560,000 views.  Three notches below it, a tourism spot for Vancouver province British Columbia entered with about 475,000 views. While Ad Age seemed to write off the viral staying power of Super Bowl related ads last week, they may change their mind after a couple spots kept their top slots. An Old Spice spot that didn’t air during the game but was billed as a Super Bowl campaign is at the top, with views well north of 2 million. Below it is last week s number one, Doritos spot from the game, which managed more than 1.6 million views this week. The only other million-plus viewed video is Evian’s babies, at number three with about 1.1 million views. The remaining videos, which include lingerers and returnees, each pulled in anywhere from 450,000 to 600,000 views.


Ad Age’s chart is compiled by Visible Measures. Check out the full list and watch the videos at Ad Age.

Exclusive Q&A: Wanda Meloni, Founder Of M2 Research

By Meelad Sadat

Wanda Meloni, veteran analyst and founder of M2 Research, grants us this exclusive opportunity to talk about the firm and her outlook on the game industry


Wanda Meloni, M2 ResearchWanda Meloni, M2 Research

M2 Research founder and senior analyst Wanda Meloni brings an interesting perspective to covering the game industry. Meloni’s background is analyzing the graphics software category, and as such her foray into games began with a focus on game technology and development. However, over the past year, Meloni and her firm have broadened their coverage from R&D to looking at all aspects of the game business. That was evident when the firm kicked off its freely-circulated periodic industry briefs in March of last year with Meloni penning an analysis of how box office revenues for 2009’s Best Picture Oscar contenders compared to sales for blockbuster games. Since then the firm has been out front in covering several trends. Meloni dedicated a year-end report to the surge in layoffs in game development in 2008 and 2009, a trend that continues today. M2 has also looked at a growing number of Japan game developers looking abroad for new markets. As the firm found, that effort is getting support from the Japan External Trade Organization, a government entity helping their domestic developers pair up with international partners at this year’s Game Developers Conference. Most recently, M2 shed light on an interesting development for a fast-growing segment of the game industry when analyst Louise Curcio predicted big entertainment and toy companies are increasingly entering the youth-skewed online games market.

Another area where M2 has established itself as a firm to watch is coverage of GDC and E3, dedicating thorough reports to both last year.  With these events now on the horizon, the[a]listdaily caught up with Meloni for a brief Q&A.

Tell us about M2 Research and its areas of specialty.

M2 Research provides market intelligence for the entertainment and gaming industry. We are unique in that we look at the market from a demographic perspective, addressing gaming genres by the various demographic segments. We have a group of analysts who each brings extensive expertise, covering everything from: consoles, PCs, MMOs, virtual worlds, casual/social gaming, as well as development trends in 3D technology, middleware usage and development costs for the various gaming platforms.

Our primary goal is to help companies make the best business decisions they can by providing them with the information, tools and support they need. And as part of that goal we are currently working on a number of upcoming reports and resources that will be announced over the next several months.

Your firm just put out a report on the growing market for online games targeted at young children. How do you see the surge in online MMO and casual/social games affecting the game market in terms of size and segmentation

The online gaming market provides an exciting opportunity for companies. Online gaming enables game companies to have direct access to their customers, that itself is a huge shift compared to the traditional retail models where developers/publishers were one level removed from their customers. Online games have been responsible for the growth in many of the emerging demographics we are seeing now enter the space, such as kids and female gaming. That itself has had a huge impact on shifting development cycles, business models, and marketing strategies.

Speaking of Nintendo consoles and young gamers, what are your thoughts on the Wii’s position in the console market, is there still Wii business to tap for third-party publishers?

That is a good question. I think we are starting to see where different platforms target different demographics, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Ultimately it will be Nintendo who has to decide what their growth strategy will be as we start to move into a maturation cycle for this generation.

M2 dedicated two reports to E3 last year, where you pinpointed some of the trends for 2009-2010 as motion controllers, 3D games and cloud computing. What are your expectations for these trends this year?

I personally love all the technology trends announced in 2009. I believe things like cloud computing will have a major impact on the industry over the next five years, as well the advances in motion controllers and 3D. Ultimately though, it will come down to the “perceived value” consumers place on these advances. Technology itself is the aid to some perceived need or want, so if consumers have a truly better entertainment experience then it will be successful.

Nintendo’s Outlook For 2010

VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi has this interview with Nintendo’s US sales and marketing head Cammie Dunaway. The pair discuss Nintendo’s position in the console market, competition from casual game platforms such as iPhone and Facebook, and the outlook for highly anticipated Wii and DS titles slated for this year. Read the interview at VentureBeat.

Sony Developing PSP Phone, IPad Clone

Sony has two products in development positioned to take on Apple devices. Barron’s cites a report in sister publication Wall Street Journal that insiders familiar with the matter have revealed two projects in development at Sony that are a direct response to Apple’s iPhone and iPad. One is said to be a smart phone that can download and play PlayStation games. The other is described as a project that blurs distinctions among a netbook, an e-reader and a PlayStation Portable. Barron’s says both devices are expected to work with what it describes as a new Sony online platform launching later this month, a possible reference to PlayStation Network’s planned rollout to other networked Sony devices. Read more at Barron’s.

Sony Patent Points To New Game Demo Tech

Siliconera has uncovered a Sony patent filing that points to the development of game demos that degrade over time, giving players access to fewer and fewer features until they purchase the full game. The patent describes triggers embedded in game software that gradually disable game elements and features, with examples such as deleting or affecting the strength of weapons in an action game or removing tracks in a racing game. The patent also refers to subtler feature degradation, such as affecting a game’s audio or visual effects. While much of the patent language seems to refer to the design as encouraging purchase, there is also potential cost-saving element to it. Siliconera says the technology would also enable distributing demos on physical media that contain the full game but only allow access to specific features, with people then only having to purchase keys rather than buying another disc. Read more at Siliconera.