Macy’s Focuses On Service To Compete With Online Retailers

Macy’s saw a 5.5 percent sales bump during the holiday quarter. This is a payoff for the company’s multiyear investment in physical renovations, integrating mobile technologies, and its “Magic Selling” program involving coaching its employees to be friendlier and to help tailor merchandise to local preferences.

This is impressive, given difficultly with Hurricane Sandy, the fiscal cliff and unseasonably warm winter weather during late 2012. J. C. Penney and Best Buy have tried to emulate this, though for Macy’s, the transformation has engaged and been guided by its employees.

Macy offers turn-by-turn GPS guidance helping customers with mobile phones to self-navigate the massive Herald Square store in New York and an integrated inventory system that lets associates find in-stock products and ship direct to customers. Macy’s investments have improved the customer experience by empowering the salesperson, where they are able to differentiate the in-store experience through their personalities and service while delivering on price, assortment, and convenience that customers get through online shopping.

Service is a key component, as the 2012 Kellogg Shopper Index reported 59 percent of shoppers said they received poor or average service that pushed them to go to competitors. There were 40 percent that reported that they never intended to buy online, but a frustrating in-store experience drove them there.

“If we keep the experience worthwhile, consumers will come back,” said Cheryl Berinato, director of consumer insights and strategy at Macy’s during the National Retail Federation’s annual show in January. “Our associates are our most powerful tool.”

Personalizing the customer experience while forging loyalty is built on having talented, trained, and motivated frontline people actively contributing ideas for how to improve operations.

Source: BusinessWeek.com

G4 Becoming Esquire Network On April 22

NBCUniversal has announced that the G4 Network will become the Esquire Network on April 22.   It will be completely owned by NBC and is described as “an upscale Bravo for men” designed to move away from the game-playing demographic.

“Realistically, guys who are into gaming are not necessarily watching television,” said NBC executive Bonnie Hammer. “If this was going to come under my portfolio, I’m a little brand crazy, so I said, let’s create a real brand, define a space, understand who we are programming for.”

“Much of today’s programming targets men in a one-dimensional way,” said Esquire Network general manager Adam Stotsky, describing the channel focusing on “the modern man.”

Source: New York Times

Ouya CEO Talks About Making New Hardware Every Year

Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman has confirmed that the company plans to release new versions of the Android console based around new and cheaper hardware every year, with each version backwards compatible with what has come before. With the use of standard components and an open philosophy, she thinks this will help the company against its larger, more well funded competition.

“From a hardware perspective, there’s nothing defendable,” Uhrman said. “We didn’t build a custom chip, we took off the shelf components and just combined them in a different way. What’s unique about Ouya is the business model, the fact that every single game is free to try, that it’s open for every single creator, the fact that we’re bringing games back to the television. But most importantly, we will win if we’re able to develop a great relationship with developers and gamers where the best, newest, and most creative games are on Ouya.”

She also talked about the mandatory “free-to-try” option on all Ouya games, saying, “It cleans up the app store. It removes the confusion between a paid app store and a free app store. We also think it cuts down on the copycat games, where you have games that look like each other and one is paid but the other is free and you don’t know what to do. So we thought the easiest way to remove that and create a great experience for gamers and developers that was rewarding in their own right was to adopt this free-to-try model.”

Source: GamesIndustry International

Xbox 360 Install Base At 76 Million

Yusuf Mehdi head of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business, says that the Xbox 360 install base is at 76 million. This is an increase from 70 million at the end of September 2012.

Mehdi also revealed that 38 percent of Xbox users are women, and more than 51 percent have children. 24 million Kinects have been sold, up from 20 million last year, and there are 46 million Xbox Live accounts, up from 40 million.

As far as usage, U.S. Xbox 360 users are on the device for 87 hours per month. Non-gaming applications are becoming more popular, as there is a 57 percent year-over-year growth in entertainment usage.

Source: AllThingsD

GungHo Buyout Of Grasshopper Will Let Suda51 Be More Creative

Grasshopper Manufacture was recently acquired by publisher GungHo, and some worried this move would change the focus of off-beat developer Goichi Suda. However, GungHo president Kazuki Morishita and Suda indicate that this move will give Suda more creative freedom and allow him to potentially explore the online sphere that he’s been looking into.

“I’d like Suda-san to remain focused on Grasshopper rather than GungHo as a whole,” said Moroshita. “Of course now I’ll be involved in Grasshopper’s creative output, but since Suda-san is there, in a lot of ways it actually equates to a taking load off my own work. Basically, I’d like Grasshopper Manufacture to continue to make games in the manner they are accustomed to.”

“Around 2011, I was thinking about what I should do with the company, groping about in the dark to try and figure out the real purpose, the real value of Grasshopper Manufacture,” said Suda. “So, while we were deciding our next project, I was too absorbed in the management side of business to really focus on the creative. Morishita-san said ‘isn’t that my job ‘, and it put me back on the right path.”

Source: Edge

Crytek Will Shift Entirely To Free-to-Play

Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli says that he is looking to orient his company towards free-to-play over the next two to five years. While the company’s free-to-play efforts are limited to Warface on PC at this point, Yerli indicates that he’s hoping to bring the same focus to consoles.

“We decided five or six years ago that we want to marry the quality of triple-A games with the business model of free-to-play,” said Yerli. “And at that time, we decided some other games, in some of our other studios, would head in this direction. But we kept pushing the quality bar higher on our console business, which is the main dominating business for the Western world, but we are observing, plainly – and we see this already with Warface – that the free-to-play market is on the rise. I think over the next two to three years, free-to-play is going to rival retail with quality games like Warface.”

“We’re looking at free-to-play as a force that drives our growth and world-domination plans,” said Yerli. “So we have quite a few console titles in our pipeline that are [traditional retail games] while we investigate free-to-play on consoles. But our primary goal is to make triple-A free-to-play games for the world market and transition entirely to that.”

Crytek believes that Gface, the gaming platform launching with Warface, will help them expand into the free-to-play field. “As a company, [we will] transition from a developer to a service company, and we’re going to offer a platform, with G-Face, to any other [developer that needs it],” he said. “If we could launch our games on a platform that already exists today, and we could get the same results, then we wouldn’t build our own platform. But we’re convinced that our platform does some particularly new things that makes our games behave better. That’s why we plan to offer this service to third parties.”

“This doesn’t mean our main business will be driven by our platform business,” added Yerli. “We are just going to open it up and see how it works. We are always going to be a games-first company. We will always have our own development because we are all about making games. We provide technology, but technology is not our main driver. We make technology to make great games.”

Source: VentureBeat

Dell: The Way Forward From Here

Dell was recently purchased for $24 billion by a consortium led by the company’s Michael Dell. This is as good an example of any of the transition the PC industry is going through.

“I think everybody in the PC business has had Apple envy, and I would imagine Michael Dell would be no different,” says Forrester analyst David Johnson.

Making Dell a private entity again will make it easier to cut under-performing businesses, performing layoffs where necessary while allowing them to focus on more profitable software, services, mobile, and cloud services. Eventually, the company will want to make Dell more compatible with the modern age of electronic devices and then do another IPO.

“Michael Dell and the Dell brand are very closely aligned. He’s got a lot of personal equity in that,” says IDC analyst Crawford Del Prete.

PC sales slipped 6.7 percent in the fourth quarter compared with a year ago, according to Gartner. Meanwhile, tablet sales worldwide grew 75 percent in the same period, according to researcher IDC.

“They can start experimenting in mobile products,” says Del Prete. “If they get a winner, they can drive that through Dell’s market.”

Source: USAtoday.com

APB: Reloaded Has 3 Million Registered Users

GamersFirst has confirmed that APB: Reloaded has over 3 million user accounts. The game sees between 25,000 and 30,000 active players every day.

A year out from its relaunch, APB: Reloaded has steadily been in the top five of Steam’s free-to-play chart. To celebrate this news, GamersFirst is launching the “Settle the Score” game update for APB: Reloaded.

Source: VG247.com

Skylanders Reaches $1 Billion In Sales

Activision Publishing has announced that Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure and Skylanders Giants have generated more than $1 billion in retail sales worldwide between the sale of software, toys and accessories. This milestone was reached in just 15 months and is better than other toy brands like Beyblades, Star Wars and Transformers over that time period.

“The Skylanders franchise became the first kids’ videogame IP to cross the $1 billion mark in just 15 months, and I think we are still just starting to realize its potential,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing. “We knew that the simple, but magical idea, of bringing your toys to life in a video game could change both the video game and the toy industries, and more importantly, change the way kids play. And this fall, we’re looking forward to delivering to fans our latest break-through innovation, Skylanders SWAP Force, which lets kids customize their own characters, bringing toys to life to a whole new level.”

Activision also announced the new Skylanders SWAP Force, which lets players reconfigure 16 special SWAP Force characters into over 250 different combinations. Skylanders SWAP Force will be shown off at Toy Fair 2013, February 10-13.

Read more about the Skylanders brand in this exclusive [a]list interview.

Final Fantasy VII Posters Revisit Iconic Locations

GamerPrint announced a new set of limited edition posters inspired by Final Fantasy VII. Based around famous in-game locations like Midgar, Gold Saucer, Cosmo Canyon, Nibelheim and Rocket Town, they have appearances like promotional posters for tourists.

“GamerPrint’s distinctive posters are always about the most iconic games’ says Dean Walton, designer and Creative Director at GamerPrint. “Everyone on the team has huge fondness for the adventures of Cloud Strife and the memorable places he visited. Our fans have been crying out for more Final Fantasy VII designs and we have delivered!”

Source: GamingExaminer.com