Amazon Preparing TV Set-Top Box

Reports are that Amazon is looking to make a a television set-top box. The device will reportedly launch this Fall dedicated to streaming video over the Internet and into its customers’ living rooms.

This box will give users access to Amazon’s expanding video offerings, including the Video on Demand store and the Instant Video service free for subscribers to Amazon Prime. The device will be competing with similar products like Roku, Apple TV, and the Boxee Cloud DVR along with consoles with similar functionality like PS3 and Xbox 360.

“It would certainly make some sense,” says Jason Krikorian, a general partner at DCM and the former co-founder of Sling Media. “They have a ton of content, an existing billing relationship with millions of users, an existing Android app marketplace that could be leveraged on the box, a reputation for solid hardware products, and a terrific channel through which to promote the product.”

Source: BusinessWeek.com

T-Mobile Merger Approved By MetroPCS Shareholders

MetroPCS shareholders have approved the merger with T-Mobile. The deal had been enhanced by T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom, lowering the size and interest rate of a loan to the joint company.

The deal gives Deutsche Telekom a 74 percent stake in the merged entity and MetroPCS shareholders a $1.5 billion cash payment. Meanwhile, this enhanced T-Mobile will be exchange-listed and Deutsche Telekom will be barred from selling shares on the market for 18 months.

The deal cuts the shareholder loan to $11.2 billion from $15 billion and trims the interest rate by half a percentage point. It importantly won the endorsement of MetroPCS’s largest investor, Paulson & Co., as well two shareholder-advisory firms in the run-up to the vote.

Source: Bloomberg.com

Epic Games Head Of Marketing Joins Microsoft

Kendall Boyd has joined Microsoft to head up the marketing of the Halo franchise. Previously serving as director of worldwide marketing at Epic Games, he oversaw the marketing of Unreal Engine, brands like Gears of War and Infinity Blade and managed marketing relationships with partners Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Apple.

“We can confirm that Kendall Boyd has joined Microsoft Studios as Director of Halo Global Marketing,” said a Microsoft representative. “We’re thrilled to welcome him into the Halo fold, but have no other details to share at this time.”

“Yes, Kendall Boyd has left Epic Games to join our long-time partner Microsoft. We wish him well on his new adventure,” an Epic spokesperson added. “We aren’t announcing our plans for the role right now.”

Source: GamesIndustry International

Pain & Gain Wants To Pump You Up

Paramount Pictures Pain & Gain debuted at #1 over the weekend.  Part of the launch strategy included a robust animated GIF creator.  Fans on Facebook and at the official website can upload an image of themselves, crop their face and insert it into a scene from the film.  After selecting a scene, an animated GIF is rendered with the option to share across multiple types of networks.

Smartphones Selling More Than Feature Phones: IDC

International Data Corporation (IDC) reported in their Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker study that mobile phone sales increased to 418.6 million mobile phones in the first quarter of 2013 compared to 402.4 million the same quarter last year. Smartphones sold 216.2 million units during the first quarter, making up 51.6 percent of the market and surpassing the sales of feature phones for the first time in history.

“Phone users want computers in their pockets. The days where phones are used primarily to make phone calls and send text messages are quickly fading away,” said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. “As a result, the balance of smartphone power has shifted to phone makers that are most dependent on smartphones.”

“In addition to smartphones displacing feature phones, the other major trend in the industry is the emergence of Chinese companies among the leading smartphone vendors,” noted Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC’s Mobile Phone team. “A year ago, it was common to see previous market leaders Nokia, BlackBerry (then Research In Motion), and HTC among the top five. While those companies have been in various stages of transformation since, Chinese vendors, including Huawei and ZTE as well as Coolpad and Lenovo, have made significant strides to capture new users with their respective Android smartphones.”

Nokia sold 70 million smartphones, but that represented a drop off of more than a quarter compared to last year. Apple sold 37 million smartphones during the first quarter, and while it’s a record, it was not double-digit growth for the first time since 2009.

Source: IDC.com

Nordic Games Details Its THQ IP Acquisitions

Nordic Games acquired Darksiders, Red Faction, and other THQ IPs for $4.9 million. While the company indicates it would like to do something with the larger properties it picked up, that’s years out and would be predicated on finding the right partner — the real benefit is the sale of the games that already exist that they now own.

“Most of the titles are already available online, but a lot of the assets aren’t available. That’s one of our first goals: to bring these games to online retailers,” said Nordic CEO Lars Wingefors. “I know the millions of gamers that bought them. I know the math of the commercial side of it. Most of the titles that are producing income generate revenue every minute.”

“I wanted the smaller assets,” he added. “Pretty much everything that was left after the February auction. We were part of the auction in December, but we decided not to go for one of the big IPs because it was just too much money. I don’t want to own a studio. I’d rather own the rights to the IP.”

Source: VentureBeat

Microsoft Rolling Out ‘Big Sports Weekend’ On Xbox Live

Microsoft announced that it will be holding a “Big Sports Weekend” event for all Xbox Live members. This will grant access to a number of sports apps during until the end of Sunday, April 28.

The ESPN app will grant full coverage of the NFL draft, the MLB.TV app will offer over 50 free MLB games, and NHL GameCenter will offer highlights, recaps, and clips of the latest hockey action. NBA Game Time will have highlights and recaps of first round coverage of the NBA Playoffs throughout the weekend and the UFC app has seven fight stories for UFC 159 and the matchup of Jones vs. Sonnen for free (though the match itself will not be free).

Telltale Games’ Poker Night 2 — Launch Trailer

Meet the cast from Poker Night 2: Claptrap from Borderlands, Sam from Sam & Max, Ash Williams from the Evil Dead franchise, and Brock Samson from Venture Bros. Compete to win the items like exclusive skins and heads for use in Borderlands 2, character accessories for the Steam version of Team Fortress 2, Xbox 360 Avatar items, and Premium Themes for PS3.