Amazon Testing In-App Purchases

Amazon is reportedly testing a service that lets tablet users make purchases through mobile applications. The service being tested allows both subscriptions and purchases of individual items within apps.

Amazon could use the transactions to get more sales from its Kindle Fire tablet, with in-app purchases expected to generate $5.6 billion in revenue in 2015 up from $970 million last year according to IHS. Amazon plans to charge a 30 percent commission to clients for its in-app purchase service, a similar rate as it charges developers for app sales.

“Amazon needs to be positioned to capitalize on this,” said Brian Blair, an analyst at Wedge Partners Corp. “It’s a smart model. Some of the best new apps in Apple’s app store are free so users can easily download and see the application, but to get any meaningful use, in-app purchases are required.”

Source: Bloomberg

Chinese Gamers Increasingly Willing To Pay Out

Niko Partners recently reported that 64 percent of the 180 million Chinese gamers pay some amount of money every month. The number of gamers aged 40 and up is on the rise, representing over 10 percent of the market, and those defined as hardcore gamers were diversifying their interest into numerous games rather than playing one game exclusively.

“In examining the rapidly evolving Chinese games market, we see that casual, social, and mobile games have all captured the hearts of hardcore and occasional gamers alike,” said Lisa Cosmas Hanson, managing partner of Niko Partners. “Online games revenues are now more distributed among various platforms and genres than they have been in past years, when MMORPGs compiled the vast majority of domestic revenue.”

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EVE Online’s Rising Sun In Japan

CCP Games has announced that they have successfully launched EVE Online in Japan. Localized with the help of Nexon, this grants the game local billing, customer support, an official Japanese EVE site, forums and more much like the game has in English, Chinese, German, and Russian.

EVE Online is a game of epic achievements. Hundreds of thousands of players share a single, beautifully rendered universe. It’s a game about economics, politics, cooperation and strategy, but ultimately it’s about awesome spaceships and explosions,” states Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, CEO of CCP. “The heart of EVE is its emergent sandbox nature, which means that every new player contributes to our infinitely scalable storytelling engine. With tens of thousands of new pilots from Japan, we will see EVE grow in new and unforeseen ways that reverberate for all pilots.”

“Our Japanese players now have an excellent and well developed localized experience,” adds Jon Lander, Senior Producer for EVE Online, “Also during the launch of the Japanese client, we’ve added a multilingual search tool across all game clients that helps weld the disparate language groups present in EVE into a more ‘global’ and unified game experience – truly demonstrating the impact and value of the single shard server model.”

Amazon Instant Video Comes To PSN

Sony announced today that Amazon Instant Video is available now on PlayStation Network. This new app grants access to 120,000 commercial-free movies and TV shows for rental or purchase.

“If you’re an Amazon Prime member (I am!), you’ll also be able to watch as many of the more than 17,000 Prime Instant Videos as you can handle, at no additional cost,” said Jack Buser, Senior Director of PlayStation Digital Platforms. “If you’re not yet an Amazon Prime member, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial right there within the app or just sign up — it’s $79 per year and totally worth it.”

Source: PlayStation Blog

Android Crosses 50 Percent Of U.S. Mobile Market Share

According to ComScore, Android has crossed the 50-percent threshold in February to capture a majority share for the first time in its history. Samsung ranked as the top OEM with 25.6 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers, followed by LG with 19.4 percent share, then Apple with 13.5 percent of mobile subscribers (up 2.3 percentage points), followed by Motorola at 12.8 percent and HTC moving into the fifth position in February at 6.3.

“For the three-month average period ending in February, 234 million Americans age 13 and older used mobile devices,” said ComScore. “More than 104 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones during the three months ending in February, up 14 percent versus November. Google Android’s share of the smartphone market eclipsed 50 percent in February, an increase of 17 percentage points since February 2011. Apple ranked second with 30.2 percent of the smartphone market (up 5 percentage points versus year ago), followed by RIM at 13.4 percent, Microsoft at 3.9 percent and Symbian at 1.5 percent.”

“In February, 74.8 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers used text messaging on their mobile device, up 2.2 percentage points,” ComScore noted. “Downloaded applications were used by 49.5 percent of subscribers (up 4.6 percentage points), while browsers were used by 49.2 percent (up 4.8 percentage points). Accessing of social networking sites or blogs increased 3.1 percentage points to 36.1 percent of mobile subscribers. Game-playing was done by 32.3 percent of the mobile audience (up 2.6 percentage points), while 24.8 percent listened to music on their phones (up 3.1 percentage points).”

Tap Lab Raises Half Million Investment

The Tap Lab has announced that they have raised $550,000 from investors that include Harmonix founders Alex Rigopoulos and Eran Ergozy, and Google developer advocate Don Dodge. The company will create location-based mobile games using the resources, expanding out from its current five employees while working on TapCity 2.

“We believe there is so much more to location-based gaming beyond the check-in. There is an enormous opportunity to create games that invite players to compete and collaborate in the real world,” said founder Dave Bisceglia. “We are diving deeper by categorizing bars, restaurants, clubs and other places. We stylized a virtual venue and give players jobs based on what that place is.”

Source: VentureBeat

GREE Looks To Expand Out Of Japan

The reason why the world should take notice of GREE is the fact that the Japanese company had over $2 billion in revenue last year. The company already has 190 million users globally and is aiming for 1 billion members in 3 to 5 years.

“The GREE Platform is conceptually like OpenFeint, but it’s more of a social experience,” said GREE SVP of marketing and developer relations Eros Resmini. “You could think of OpenFeint as being more like Xbox Live in terms of its focus on competition.”

“There really is no one else in the space that has been operating platforms for as long as GREE has. Clearly, experience counts for a lot in the space, and we’ve got a lot of it,” said Resmini. “We think that over time, mobile will be the dominant place for gamers to go, and we have a tremendous amount of experience on mobile specifically. Brand adoption and brand awareness is gonna be important for us outside of Japan. Fortunately for us, we have a tremendous amount of experience built in from the OpenFeint network alone.”

Despite the success and ambitions, the company does have some hurdles to overcome. “Do you really see millions of users in the US, Europe, and Asia prefer playing games on GREE and Mobage over Facebook and the others ,” asks Serkan Toto, consultant on Japanese social gaming. “GREE and DeNA are poised to fail outside Japan – at least as platform providers.”

Toto notes that carrier billing, a 96 percent penetration of mobile phones in the population, affordable mobile data plans, and reliable 3G networks aren’t a given outside of Japan. Furthermore, Japan’s ARPU (average revenue per user) for social games are higher than other countries.

GREE’s success was also built upon distinctly Japanese titles, like card battle games, dating simulations, and social horse racing games. Moreover, there’s increasing competition from other companies like DeNA, Zynga and Papaya, so despite its large cash excess, there’s no guarantee of worldwide success.

Source: TechCrunch

Xbox 720, PS4 Should Be More ‘Open’ Say Developers

Games that release on the PS3 and Xbox 360 are notoriously laborious to update, with red tape by both Microsoft and Sony holding up any software changes. When asked, developers almost universally said they wanted the next generation of consoles from Sony and Microsoft to be more open.

“It’s sometimes expensive, there’s an awful lot of bureaucracy, even when you want to do quite small things,” said David Polfeldt of Ubisoft Massive, the studio behind Far Cry 3‘s multiplayer component. “If I agree with [a suggested fix], I start to think ‘Oh yeah, to change that I would have to — oh shit, it’s just too much work.’ And I won’t change it even if I think [the feedback] is right.”

“I think that’d be really helpful [if the consoles were more open], because certainly we’re seeing a change in models in games toward more freemium content, and a quicker response to your community,” agreed Crytek’s global business development director Carl Jones. “We’re always going to need quality control. We’re going to need a decent submission process, to get the first version of a game out, and make sure it’s solid and everyone gets a good experience. But during that period, if developers can be generating content that they know they can shoot out really quickly, on demand, well, I think the tail of that game becomes longer, the overall revenue from that game becomes higher, and everybody wins.”

“I’m hoping for a much more fluid means of providing updates to consumers, being able to have a much more rapid turnaround in between when content is submitted and when content goes live to consumers, to provide a higher level of service to them,” commented Capcom senior vice president Christian Svensson. “I’m hoping that the networking and the processes in the future are built with that in mind. I’d like to see more server-based back ends that are more under publisher-developer control, rather than being forced through systems that are bit more pre-defined by the first-party. That would enable experiences online that are not currently available in today’s console marketplace.”

Source: Gamasutra

Kinect Star Wars ‘Not A Game For Core Gamers’

Kinect Star Wars might be the biggest Kinect title so far in 2012 and will feature content as varied as pod racing, lightsaber duels and even dancing. However, senior product manager Glenn Gregory would like everyone to know that this isn’t necessarily a title core gamers have been looking for.

“This is a game for anybody that is a Star Wars fan,” said senior product manager Glenn Gregory. “It’s not The Old Republic, it’s not a game for core gamers that want to experience that kind of thing. It’s a great experience for people who love Star Wars like myself and want to share it with their families.”

“When you look at the Jedi in Episode 1, they are not just waving their wrists around,” he added. “There’s full body combat, lightsabers, Force powers, and they are jumping and being acrobatic. And that is really a fun thing to do with Kinect.”

Source: MCV