Apple First-Time Device Owners Increasing Via iPhone, iPad

An NPD Group study revealed that a quarter of all iPad owners say that the device is their first Apple product. Additionally, 37 million homes in the U.S., roughly a third, own one Apple product – 69 percent of that group own iPods.

“iPad sales are growing much faster than any other Apple product has this soon after launch,” said Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis at NPD. “”In fact, one-in-five Apple owner households has one — nearly equivalent to the number that own an Apple computer. This demonstrates the appeal of both the new form factor and Apple’s app ecosystem.”

The study of 3000 respondents also said that while 82 percent of Apple consumers say the iPod was their first product, more recent consumers say that the iPhone or iPad has been their entry into Apple devices. 70 percent of long-term Apple users said the iPod was their entry device, but that number drops to only 57 percent in the last two years.

“Should more households become multiple Apple product homes, these platforms will become even more important in the acquisition and sharing of content between devices,” added Arnold. “Forty percent of electronics shoppers say owning devices in the same brand family is an important purchase factor. As consumers look for greater interoperability between devices and more brands become aligned with platforms, we could see fewer multi-brand ecosystems in the household.”

Apple households own 2.4 Apple devices on average. Apple owners aren’t exclusive to the company’s devices, as 58 percent of Mac owning homes also have a PC and 30 percent of Apple fans own a non-Apple smartphone.

Skullgirls Hits 50,000 Sold In 10 Days

Reverge Labs has announced that Skullgirls has sold over 50,000 copies in 10 days of availability. The European PSN release is still pending and will come May 2.

“Reverge Labs and Autumn Games would like to sincerely thank everyone for their support,” said the company in a tweet. “We’ve started on the first updates, so stay tuned!”

Source: Twitter

Feature: Brand Opportunies Beyond Publishers

For a long time, there was singular sort of game that brands would have to go publishers to make into a retail. It’s because everything, whether it was a blockbuster movie or a soft-drink mascot, was going to come out in some sort of physical format. Digital has changed many things now, and it’s also opened up different avenues for brands to get messaging out. We talked with Patrick Sweeney, head of Reed Smith’s Video Game Practice and a member of the Video Game Bar Association’s board, about this new trend.

[a]list: Talk to me about this approach by brands to directly produce games and potentially bypass game publishers – should publishers be worried?

Patrick Sweeney: In some cases, yes….These are potential revenue-generating opportunities that publishers may not have a chance to profit from. But, realistically, a lot of publishers would not have wanted to invest in many of these projects anyway. That being said, this is symptomatic of a larger issue that should be concerning to some. Regardless of whether the game is brand-based, the ability to bring a game to market without a publisher ought to be concerning to many publishers.

[a]list: Why bypass publishers?

Patrick Sweeney: I think every brand is going to have a different perspective, but the major factor is the relatively lower production cost and barrier to entry to reach the consumer. Games like these are not $50 million investments and there is not the risk of dealing with a warehouse full of inventory. Independent games have to manage the process with digital platforms, but its a much different level of commitment.

The Sour Patch Kids game split things a little bit – Kraft managed development through a client of mine (Beefy Media), but they didn’t completely bypass the traditional publisher. There was still an important role for Capcom on the marketing side. It’s not accurate to say that a publisher has no value in a situation like this….they just have a different value proposition for this type of opportunity.

[a]list: Why are things like Facebook games increasingly popular in your opinion for brands

Patrick Sweeney: I think it’s a similar thought process. The barrier to entry for Facecbook games is lower – you can get wide exposure to a mainstream audience for a lower production cost. And you don’t NEED a publisher to launch a game on Facebook. Because of the lower amount of development time, it’s easier for the brand to wrap its arms around the development process and the cost associated with it. It appears less daunting and easier to put together for an entity that may not have a lot of game development experience.

[a]list: Social games can also be more directly reactive to consumer reactions and demands. How does that factor into these opportunities?

Patrick Sweeney: You’re exactly right. Social games can iterate quickly based on consumer feedback. It’s not like a traditional boxed product, where that content is static.

[a]list: What else about mobile and social game opportunities are appealing to a brand?

Patrick Sweeney: The shorter development time is attractive. Showtime might say, “The next season of Dexter in 9 months…it would be great if we had a game associated with the launch.” Well, of course, you can’t launch a console game in that time (at least not a good one), but it’s likely that you can do something on Facebook. So if a licensor hasn’t been thinking far enough ahead, there still may be an opportunity for some game based on the brand.

[a]list: It seems like many brands are retreating from the AAA games field. Take something like Hunger Games – a decade ago, that would have gotten a PS2 game, now it’s just on Facebook.

Patrick Sweeney: I don’t think that the brands are retreating. I think the publishers are. The brand likely would welcome a large license fee for a big AAA console release. Publishers are not going to take the risk on just ANY license. But I think the top end licenses will always have an opportunity to partner with publishers. There’s some licenses/brands where a AAA cross-platform commitment is justified, whether it be Spider-Man, Batman or the sports leagues or whatever the next mass-appeal franchise may be. But it’s at this next level of license that I think publishers have retreated from the AAA-level of investment. Not to single out Dexter (it’s one of my favorite shows). But, it’s unlikely that there’s a good console, AAA publishing opportunity out there today. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a different games avenue for that license.

[a]list: It also means more opportunities for independent developers.

Patrick Sweeney: Absolutely…and not just for the developers. I think that new ways to bring games to market (whether branded or otherwise) is great for the industry in general. For example, Beefy Media was helping Kraft to craft the Sour Patch Kids games. Developers like Icarus studios and Three Rings found an opportunity to develop the Dexter and Dr. Who games, respectively. It goes beyond developers. Companies like [a]list games that are working on marketing campaigns for mobile and social games as well as tech/middleware companies like Havok all benefit from having more potential customers. All of a sudden, there’s an ecosystem of marketers.

Independently-funded games might not be good for all companies, but it’s definitely good for the industry as a whole. This goes above and beyond branded games. Traditional Publishers all recognize that things are changing. They all have to adjust and each approach it differently. Some companies will adjust through acquisition of mobile/social companies. Some will phase out of retail console and gradually change their portfolio of release.

The ability to publish and develop games without the traditional publishers is opening up new opportunities for commercializing content. This is not just limited to brands/licenses, but I think that brands are certainly taking advantage of this new world. I expect it to continue.

[a]list: Patrick, thanks.

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DeNA, Gree Limit Spending By Minors

Gree Inc. and DeNA Co. have announced that they are limiting the monthly spending on their game content for young users. There’s been an uproar in Japan (and other places) about the amount of money children and teens can easily spend via microtransactions.

Gree will limit monthly spending at ¥10,000 for users aged between 16 and 19 and at ¥5,000 for those aged 15 or under. Meanwhile, DeNA will introduce a monthly cap of ¥10,000 for users aged 16 and 17 in June, while the limit for users aged 15 or under will be set at ¥5,000.

Gree, DeNA, along with NHN Japan Corp., CyberAgent Inc., Dwango Co. and Mixi Inc. discussed responsible usage of their sites by minors at a joint committee set up in March.

Source: Japan Times

Zwei — A Shinji Mikami Joint

Shinji Mikami has revealed that his first game at Tango Gameworks will be Zwei. Mikami, who helped create Resident Evil, reinvent the franchise in Resident Evil 4 and responsible for more recent titles Shadows of the Damned and Vanquish, will be an executive director on Zwei.

First image of Zwei.


Microsoft Planning Woodstock Music Service: Report

Reports are that Microsoft will show off a new Xbox music service during E3 2012 called Woodstock. The plan is that Woodstock will replace the Zune brand that never quite caught on with consumers.

Woodstock will work with the Xbox 360, along with Windows 8, Android, iOS, and various web browsers. Users will be able to scan their music into the service and also build build playlists with friends on Facebook.

It is expected that Woodstock will launch in Fall 2012, right around the same time as Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.