BlackBerry Luring App Makers With Cash

By Meelad Sadat

RIM roared back to life this week after a relatively quiet period, announcing that it adopted its well-known brand BlackBerry as the formal name of the company and lifting the lid on the long-awaited BlackBerry 10. It also touted that the BlackBerry AppWorld store now has 70,000 apps, more than four times what was available when the last BlackBerry launched in 2011. According to a developer who was part of the effort, populating the store before this launch was a big deal, enough so that BlackBerry used upfront payments to enlist an army of app makers in a frantic effort to stock it.

Abhinav Gupta is head of Game Scorpion Inc., a garage developer that says it has more than 25 apps in ten different app stores worldwide. Gupta and his company were among those who joined BlackBerry’s fast track, incentive-driven third-party app development program.

“What they did was something called the ‘port-a-thon’, and they had several of these,” said Gupta.

Starting in November 2012, BlackBerry began contacting developers en masse for virtual code sessions, where any app developed or ported for BlackBerry’s OS before a specified deadline would automatically earn $100. The company organized a total of four, first targeting game makers with the “Got Game Port-a-Thon” and continuing right up to the BlackBerry 10 launch with the “Last Chance Port-a-Thon” in late January.

“Originally it was just a concept,” Gupta said. “They thought that they were only going to get 250 people for this, and that would be maybe 250 more apps. But it just got a huge inflow. So many people from all markets just said, hey you know what, I’m going to port.”

BlackBerry highlighted the franticness of the effort after back-to-back ‘port-a-thons’ in January in a tweet sent out by Alec Saunders, the company’s VP of developer relations.

Saunders tweeted, “Well there you have it. 37.5 hours in, we hit 15,000 apps for this portathon. Feel like I’ve run a marathon. Thanks to all the devs!”

BlackBerry AppWorld

Gupta says that in addition to the $100 guaranteed payment, BlackBerry also gave select developers other incentives. Some like Game Scorpion got to test the new BlackBerry 10 devices before launch. BlackBerry also put a plan in place for premium apps, where they would evaluate if an app could be a big moneymaker and offer its developer significantly more than the $100 ‘entry fee’ to bring it to AppWorld. According to Gupta, that reward could be as high as $10,000.

“They really wanted to do everything they could for developers,” Gupta said. “As a developer, I like the fact that a market is really treating me nicely, and I think that’s kind of what won over to get the developers out there.”

He added, “But at the end of the day, as a developer, and no matter which developer you are, money is king — cash is king. If we don’t see cash coming in from the users at the end of the day, developers are just going to run.”

BlackBerry has hinted that these types of incentive programs are going to continue so that the company can compete with Apple and Android. In an interview with ReadWriteWeb after the BlackBerry 10 launch, Saunders said that the company is announcing more “tangible marketing benefits” for developers at BlackBerry Jam Europe next week.

“When I say tangible marketing benefits, you are going to do better in our store than if you built for Android,” Saunders told ReadWriteWeb. “The porting strategy is there but increasingly we are going to be pushing people to build for BlackBerry to have the native parts of the BlackBerry experience because we think that experience is better.”

Gupta says BlackBerry has seen the writing on the wall based on how the behavior of its own user base changed. BlackBerry remained a popular device for office workers even after the first iPhone launched. Workers had a certain amount of affinity for its click keyboard, which made for faster, more accurate text entry, and the fact that it ran Windows Office applications. But as iPhone and then Android delivered on just about everything a user would want, from productivity to pastime, and did it in sleek forms with user-friendly UI, the allure of touch-enabled, app-a-plenty smartphones proved too hard to avoid.

Gupta put it this way, “Over time a lot of users were like you know what, we don’t want to bring our BlackBerry’s to work. We’re just going to use our iPhone or Android, and apps started taking off. [BlackBerry] realized that apps are a big thing, they really are a big feature. And that’s why they’ve really focused on that, that this time when they launch they’ve got to make sure that apps are a primary area because now that new user base is used to that. They’re used to the Apple side of things. They’re used to the Android side of things. And all of those are app-based markets.”

Gupta points to another testament from BlackBerry, where its server business that was originally geared at businesses using its devices will now support iPhone and Android smartphones.

As for how important apps are to device sales, it’s apparent in how Apple and Android are still fighting the battle over who has the better stocked store. They still frequently release updates about the number of apps available and how many downloads they’ve generated. Last spring, Apple raised hoopla and rewarded $10,000 to a lucky shopper in China who downloaded the 25th billion App Store app. Recently, Android highlighted that it matched Apple iOS with 800,000 apps and is on pace to reach a million first.

That gives credence to BlackBerry’s investment on the app side, which Gupta says could be part of an all or nothing strategy as the company launches its Blackberry 10 line. Another sign of that all-in approach is BlackBerry’s announcement that it bought TV spots during the Super Bowl.

“This is a make or break in my opinion for them,” said Gupta. “And I’m hoping that it works out. I’m Canadian so I support that company.”

YouTube Fee-Based Channels Will Include Machinima

YouTube announced that it’s planning to experiment with paid subscriptions for some of its channels which already have a large following, such as Machinima, Maker Studios and Fullscreen. According to the site, the move stems from the premium channels themselves.

“There are a lot of our content creators that think they would benefit from subscriptions, so we’re looking at that,” said YouTube in a statement about the program.

Subscription rates are rumored to be in the ballpark of  $1 to $5 a month and would initially launch with 25 channels. YouTube is also considering charging for content libraries and access to live events, a la pay-per-view, as well as self-help or financial advice shows.

YouTube is likely looking to services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video, all of which rely on user fees and have started making original content. YouTube paid subscriptions could benefit the company on two fronts. Looking at Hulu and Netflix, there’s certainly the potential that fees could become a lucrative revenue stream outside of ads. The opportunity to make more money on the channel is also incentive for creators, whether getting more premium content from those already on YouTube or attracting high-profile TV or film talent.

Will viewers pay Outside of price, it will come down to how paid content compares to what everyone was used to getting for free.

Would you pay a small fee to watch your favorite YouTube channel Let us know your thoughts on YouTube ‘experimentation’ in the comments below!

Source: Ad Age

World Of Warcraft Headed Up By Duncan Jones

Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) has been hired to direct the World of Warcraft movie. Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni of Legendary Pictures are producing along with Charles Roven and Alex Gartner of Blizzard and Atlas Entertainment.

Charles Leavitt is writing the script, with Stuart Fenegan executive producing while Chris Metzen will co-produce for Blizzard. Hopes are now for filming to start Fall 2013 for a 2015 release.


iPhone Plastic Edition May Have Surfaced

While Apple has been dismissive of a plastic budget iPhone, reports will not go away. Adding to this is leaked images purported to be of a budget iPhone 5 made of plastic and destined for China.

This alleged budget iPhone is said to be slightly larger than the iPhone 5 by about half a millimeter in height and width. It is apparently an amalgam of a iPhone 5, the classic iPod, and the 5th gen iPod Touch, with a 4-inch display, the bottom like a iPod Touch, with an overall design is said to be close to the iPod classic.


The resolution is said to be 1,136 x 640, with the Gorilla Glass display being elevated slightly from the rest of the face similar to the iPhone 3G and 3GS. The rest of the body is said to be made from plastic.


SimCity Digital Deluxe Edition Has Major Landmarks

SimCity will get three major landmarks and city sets for those that purchase the Digital Deluxe Edition. The expanded version of the game will be available exclusively on Origin from March 8.

The Paris city set includes the Eiffel Tower, Parisian-themed buildings, the Paris police station Ploppable and French Police Cars. The German city set features the Brandenburg Gate, German-themed buildings and the German rail station and German trains and finally, the British city set includes Big Ben, London-themed buildings, London bus station, and Double-Decker Buses.

Nintendo Shoots Down Wii U Price Cut Possibility

Nintendo president and CEO Satoru Iwata has stated flatly that the company will not cut the price of the Wii U, despite having to adjust sales projections for the console downward to 4 million from 5.5 million. While the 3DS did see a price cut a half year after its release, and Iwata acknowledges that reality, he seems disinclined to have the Wii U follow that exact same path.

“With Wii U, we have taken a rather resolute stance in pricing it below its manufacturing cost, so we are not planning to perform a markdown,” said Iwata. “I would like to make this point absolutely clear.”

“We are putting our lessons from Nintendo 3DS to good use, as I have already publicly stated,” he added. “However, given that it has now become clear that we have not yet fully communicated the value of our product, we will try to do so before the software lineup is enhanced and at the same time work to enrich the software lineup which could make consumers understand the appeal of Wii U.”

Source: GamesIndustry International

Facebook Revenue Rises as Profits Dip in 2012

Facebook reported revenues of $5.1 billion for the year ending December 31, 2012 which is up from $3.7 billion one year ago. However, attempts to upgrade the company’s mobile offerings cut into net profits, which dropped from $1 billion the previous fiscal year to just $53 million in 2012.

“In 2012, we connected over a billion people and became a mobile company,” said founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a statement. “We enter 2013 with good momentum and will continue to invest to achieve our mission and become a stronger, more valuable company.”

The company did say that monthly active users (MAU) were up 25 per cent year-on-year to 1.06 billion, and daily active users (DAU) rose 28 per cent to 618 million. Mobile growth was notable, increasing 58 percent to hit 680 million MAU by the end of the year and mobile DAU exceeding its web DAU for the first time ever on the Q4.

Facebook’s core advertising business posted 41 percent higher revenue at $1.33 billion, with mobile taking up a rising 23 percent. This is key, since money generated by advertising represented over 80 percent of all revenue earned.

Source: Wall Street Journal