Major League Gaming’s Video Consumption Leap

eSports have come a long way from being just a niche, as Major League Gaming has reported a huge leap in online video consumption and engagement time.

The company has reported that the stats have grown larger than NCAA March Madness Live online, and ad performance has surpassed industry standards through its MLG.TV channel.

Video consumption managed to rise 262 percent over last year’s numbers, and over 1500 percent since 2010. More than 54 million hours of MLG-hosted video have been consumed, compared to 14 million hours from NCAA’s channel. Finally, the channel had a 90.7 percent completion rate, compared to the industry average of 74 percent completion, with a 2.1 percent click-through rate for MLG ads, compared to the general 1.1 percent.

The next year should be even better with more tournaments and events broadcasted through MLG.TV.

Source: MLG.TV

Google Play Holds Players’ Choice Awards

With 2013 drawing to a close, many companies are already gathering their “best of year” lists before the holidays set in. Among them is Google Play, who recently announced its first annual Players’ Choice Awards, highlighting the best in games and applications for Android devices.

The following winners were announced earlier this week:

Most addictive game: Puzzle & Dragons (GREE)

Best franchise game: Bejeweled Blitz (Electronic Arts)

Best game based on a movie: The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-Earth (Kabam)

Best app for enhancing the everyday: Duolingo: Learn Languages Free (Duolingo)

Best app for booking and buying: Flixster (Flixster Inc.)

Best Google app: YouTube (Google)

Other apps earned awards based on most write-in votes, including the following:

Ingress (Google)

Samurai Siege (Space Ape Games)

NewsHog: Google News & Weather (SoLoMob, Inc.)

SwiftKey Keyboard (SwiftKey)

Source: Google Play Awards

What Went Wrong With The King IPO

Swedish game publisher and developer King was poised to become the biggest video game IPO since Zynga. Although the company never publicly confirmed it was going public, King had begun the process behind-the-scenes with a confidential SEC filing. But the IPO has reportedly been put on hold – for now. What went wrong

“Most probably, King’s bankers have been sounding out interest amongst institutional investors for King stock in the last month or so,” said Thijs Hagoort, co-founder and CFO of video game research firm Newzoo. “I expect that the feedback investors gave did not match the value expectations of the company, rumored to be $5 billion. As large amounts of cash keep flowing into the company thanks to a profit margin above 50 percent, shareholders will be reluctant to settle for a lower valuation of the company, and they clearly don’t need to IPO to fund growth.”

According to Wanda Meloni, president of video game research firm M2 Research, what King seems to be saying is that they are delaying the IPO, not that they are cancelling it altogether. They brought in their new CFO, Hope Corcoran back in September. Corcoran previously helped Clearwire raise over $11 billion in funding.

“It might have been more about timing than anything else,” said Meloni. “It is hard to say when they might try again. It depends on market conditions. From an industry perspective, we really need to have the next IPO hit it out of the park. So there is a lot of pressure to do it right. Additionally, the financial markets seem to be a little tenuous at the moment, so they may also be waiting for investment confidence to increase.”

A King spokesperson said, “while there continues to be lots of speculation about what our plans may or may not be, we’ve not commented and won’t be commenting on that speculation.”

King’s flagship game Candy Crush is now bringing in over $1 million dollar a day (even after paying Apple and Google 30 percent). The game’s recent launch on Kakao opens up yet another revenue platform for the puzzle game. Hagoort forecasts that King will generate revenues of around $500 million this year and could well be heading towards $1 billion dollar revenues in the future. The rumored $5 billion IPO value would mean about 10 times 2013 revenues.

“Valuing such a company is very hard: exceptional growth and strong profits margins on the one hand, and a short track record and the perceived risk of being a one-hit wonder on the other,” said Peter Warman, president of Newzoo. “Evidently, Zynga’s performance has not helped in this respect and we believe that the number 1 question institutional investors will be asking is ‘How can I be sure this is not another Zynga ’”

Meloni believes King, which has been around for 10 years, is not another Zynga. She added that for the video game industry at large, Zynga’s problems have had a serious ripple effect for other companies.

“Zynga’s issues have been more about their bloated expansion strategies through acquisition, which generally doesn’t provide long-term growth stability,” said Meloni. “When it came time to cut costs, Zynga had to cut redundancies through headcount and studio closures. Ultimately, it left people feeling very skittish about games and entertainment content as a viable investment strategy.”

Hagoort also said there could be completely different explanations for what went on behind closed doors.

“King mayhave found a new large pre-IPO investor, limiting the appeal of an IPO this year, similar to what happened with Facebook in 2009 when Digital Sky Technologies bought a stake,” said Hagoort. “Or perhaps management has become less enthusiastic about a U.S. public listing once they fully became aware about all the hassles it brings in terms of regulatory compliance.”

King has risen to the top of the competitive global casual games market using a simple formula. The company uses its website, King.com, as an incubator where over 150 free game demos are played by consumers around the world. Top games are chosen based on analytics and data and fine-tuned for full-on Facebook gameplay. From there, successful games expand to mobile devices, offering a connected experience that allows players to log in and continue a game across PCs, tablets and smartphones.

“We have a good audience of King fans on our website and as we launch games onto it, we are able to quickly gauge which games are proving most popular,” said Tommy Palm, Games Guru at King. “From there we can evaluate how the added social elements of developing the game for Facebook and for mobile platforms will enhance our players’ experience with the game.”

The formula works. King gets over 1 billion gameplays daily, which is up from 9 billion gameplays per month back in February. It’s most popular game, Candy Crush Saga, has been downloaded over 500 million times since April 2012. Over 150 billion Candy Crush Saga games have been played across Facebook and mobile devices, as consumers ride a virtual sugar high matching three or more candies in progressively more challenging levels. According to AppData, Candy Crush Saga has over 100 million monthly active players, and King reports that one in every 23 Facebook users worldwide is a fan of Candy Crush Saga. The game has even spawned merchandising through four flavors of Candy Crush Candies, which are now sold around the world.

“Candy Crush currently holds the number one grossing position in about two thirds of every country on the planet, iOS and Google Play alike,” said Warman. “On iOS and GooglePlay the game has grossed around $300 million to date. Currently, players worldwide spend about $1.3 million per day playing the never-ending puzzle. The game continues to engage people on Facebook and guides them to the mobile version. To put this success in perspective: Kings’ Candy Crush grosses more money in the U.S. alone than all of Zynga’s mobile titles put together on a global scale.”

It’s these types of numbers, coupled with the strong performances of other titles like Bubble Witch Saga and Pet Rescue Saga (each of which attracts over 10 million monthly plays on Facebook according to AppData); that recently steered the private company toward an IPO.

“What I like about King is that they have been around for 10 years, they are not a start-up,” said Meloni. “They have systematically shifted with the industry. They have also hired Hope Cochran as their new CFO, which for me is an extremely impressive move.

Investors who are hesitant to pull the trigger on another casual games company after the Zynga IPO debacle shouldn’t expect a repeat with King. According to Jesse Divnich, vice president of Insights with EEDAR, where King has succeeded and where Zynga initially failed is the reliance on letting data drive game design.

“Zynga had an over reliance on data, which has arguably been remedied over the years,” said Divnich. “But they let it drive game design far too much. This ultimately hindered innovation.

With King, they still make a great deal of revenue from games that are derivatives of others in the market, but I get the sense that they quickly identify when they have a big market potential on their hand or when they have truly created something innovative the masses will love. King knows when to pull the marketing trigger. The quantity of games they release may seem like they lack a methodical process, but they certainly take a methodical and caring approach before they put their marketing muscle behind a title.”

Ricardo Zacconi, CEO and co-founder of King, said there has been a major shift in how users not only play games, but actually consumes digital content. According to Newzoo, smartphone and tablet gaming will account for 27.8 percent of all gaming revenue by 2016, bringing in over $23.8 billion. That’s a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19 percent for smartphones and 48 percent for tablets. Investment bank Digi-Capital forecasts that global mobile app revenues will reach $70 billion by 2016 (up from $15 billion in 2012) with games currently accounting for 70 percent of worldwide app revenues (up from 40 percent  in 2010).

“Key variables that will define what (app) content will be consumed is how much time you have and what kind of device and screen size you have,” said Zacconi. “Our games are perfectly suited for bite-sized entertainment, since you can play one level of Candy Crush Saga or Bubble Witch Saga in three minutes with one hand.”

Meloni said King has continued to succeed in the overcrowded casual Facebook and mobile game markets because they remain in tune with its customers, maintaining a very loyal fan base for its games with little churn, unlike Zynga. King has shelved games that they didn’t think would do well. Back in June King abandoned in-game advertising because so much of its revenue was coming from micro-transactions and the ads were taking away from the player experience.

King has also successfully targeted both male and female gamers. Female gamers make up half of all gamers today. And the publisher continues to release new games like Papa Pear Saga and Pepper Panic Saga, while expanding their established games. Warman said the success of Pet Rescue Saga, which launched this year and is making over $400,000 a day, proves that Candy Crush Saga is not a one-hit wonder. Now it’s up for investors to feel the same way.

 

 

Facebook Auto-Plays Video On iOS

In a move that appears very similar to Instagram’s auto-play video feature, Facebook has rolled out auto-playing videos for iOS. If you updated the app between Wednesday evening and now, you may have noticed a video in your feed suddenly come to life. The feature was announced in September, so this comes as no surprise, although it will be interesting to see the results of the roll out on other devices in the presumed future.

Auto-playing video is a hallmark of Vine and Facebook’s recently acquired Instagram, so it makes sense that Facebook would give themselves such a feature as well, given the utilities of promoted posts on the social platform. Video ads will be coming to the fore on mobile at a time when Facebook is the most used app in the United States.

Facebook hasn’t been particularly known for video, but this could up the ante for ads on the social network, which has been placing a lot of emphasis on promoting brand pages in recent days.
Source: PC Mag

‘Angry Birds Go’ Revs Up Mobile

After spending months with strategic “knock down” games that included promotional tie-ins with Rio and Star Wars, the Angry Birds are now headed in a new direction – on the road.

Rovio Mobile has launched Angry Birds Go for iOS, Windows Phone 8 and Android devices, and gives players the opportunity to race with Mario Kart style vehicles on a variety of tracks.

 

Xbox One, PS4 Get System Updates

With the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in stores, many users are enjoying their gaming experiences even more than before. Still, they aren’t quite perfect, and this week, both companies confirmed that new system updates would be coming.

On Xbox One, a new update is now available, which improves several issues with the SmartGlass compatibility, as well as multiplayer issues, fixing notifications, dashboard performance, Xbox One TV tweaks and a better wireless networking driver. The update is available free of charge, and should prompt automatically upon start-up.

As for the PlayStation 4 update, it’s currently available in the United Kingdom, and offers a number of improvements to “system software stability,” as well as automatic game downloads. There’s no word yet on when this will be available in the U.S., but it should be in just a few days.

The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are available now.

Source: UK PlayStation, Major Nelson

SuperData: Next-Gen DLC Soars, F2P Drops

The combined digital games market totaled $1,066 million in sales in November, up 25 percent compared to November last year. November sales figures were a testament to the continued importance of retail game sales, as a 31 percent month-over-month spike in the PC and console DLC segment, reaching $325 million in sales, offset a 17 percent decline in free-to-play. A year ago, the combined sales for PC and console DLC totaled $230 million. The social and mobile game categories grew by a few percentage points month-over-month, even as its top earners show no sign of weakness.

Social Games

  • Social games totaled $169 million in November, as the conversion rates across genres improved. This is consistent with our previous anticipation of a slight decline prior to the end of the year. We maintain that, based on seasonal patterns and the recent strengthening of the segment, total spending may break the $200 million threshold in December.
  • Criminal Case (Pretty Simple Games) reached a milestone of 100 million lifetime players, and the success of the overall hidden object genre also persists. Zynga’s Hidden Shadows is currently among the top trending titles in the category, and Game Insight released Hotel Enigma this month, hoping to emulate the success of its predecessor Mystery Manor.
  • By all accounts, Facebook is now a saturated gaming platform. King’s dominance of the top charts in social — with Candy Crush Saga, Pet Rescue Saga and Farm Heroes Saga totaling an estimated 75 million daily actives — other publishers are forced to search for greener pastures. Successful studios like Ironhide Game Studio announced the release of its popular Kingdom Rush: Frontier, a tower defense-style game, on free online game site Armor Games.

Free-To-Play MMO

  • The free-to-play category showed a significant drop in November, declining 17 percent month-over-month, totaling $217 million in sales. The overall size of the audience remained stable at around 45 million monthly actives, but the average spend per user declined 10percent month-over-month. The release of several big, blockbuster titles at retail succeeded in claiming an above average share of monthly spending among this dedicated gamer audience.
  • Hoping to repeat the success of its World of Tanks, which generated an estimated $1 million in daily revenues in November, Wargaming released World of Warplanes on November 13. The free-to-play flight combat game offers 15 vs 15 player sessions, and its in-game economy connects to World of Tanks via a Unified Account System. On the same day of its release, publisher Gaijin Entertainment announced the December start of closed beta testing of War Thunder: Ground Forces, a direct rival to World of Tanks, and released aerial combat game War Thunder as a free-to-download game on PlayStation 4. World of Tanks, which has been in beta on the Xbox 360 since earlier this year, is part of Wargaming’s effort to penetrate the U.S. market and become the biggest free-to-play title on a console.
  • Other highlights in the free-to-play MMO space include Trion Worlds announcing Trove, a voxel-based procedural world that resembles Minecraft (Mojang), Roblox (Roblox Corporation) and Cube World (Picroma) and a performance patch for PlanetSide 2 (Sony Online Entertainment), which greatly improves the average frame rates. Blizzard offered a slew of announcements including the open beta for online trading card game Hearthstone (Blizzard) starting in December, followed by an iOS version mid-2014. Its Heroes of the Storm will move into beta”soonish…er” and StarCraft 2 Arcade Mode will be available as free-to-play.

Pay-To-Play MMO

  • Overall earnings for subscription-based MMOs declined in November, totaling $81 million in revenues, as the overall user base lost another 400,000 subscribers. For the remainder of the year, we anticipate a further decline during the holiday season with the release of the next console generation and accompanying titles.
  • On a title level, most subscription-based MMOs showed a slight month-over-month decline, and recorded only minor subscriber churn. Big winner in November was Lord of the Rings Online which, after suffering a power outage, released its Helm’s Deep expansion two days late but still managed to add about 80,000 new players to its user base, totaling just under 400,000 subscribers.

Mobile

  • After a slowdown, the mobile games segment regained momentum in November, growing 4percent month-over-month, and reached $274 million in total sales. Compared to the same month last year, total mobile game spending has increased 34 percent.
  • Despite receiving a lot of additional marketing momentum from Apple, Natural Motion’s Clumsy Ninja failed to claim a top tier slot immediately after launch. Instead, incumbents King and Supercell prevailed. According to industry sources, both publishers have been aggressively buying up users, not in an effort to both expand their customer base but rather to shut out any competitors.
  • After we recorded two casino-style games among the top five grossing in October, both DoubleDown Casino (IGT) and BigFish Casino (BigFish) slid down the rankings in November. Machine Zone’s Game of War: Fire Age continues to do well, claiming the number 4 spot among top earners in November with an estimated $460,000 in daily revenues.

Downloadable (PC + console)

  • A host of new releases in November triggered a spike in spending on, especially, console DLC. Combined with PC, the DLC segment totaled $325 million in sales in November, up 41 percent from November last year.
  • Several big franchises released on the same day as the next gen consoles. In particular Call of Duty: Ghosts, which generally launches two months later, was now immediately available via digital download on Xbox Marketplace and PSN. Similarly, Need for Speed Rivals and the late-October release of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and Battlefield 4 drove overall sales. We expect this trend to continue for the remainder of the year.

About this monthly release
In an effort to help create greater transparency in the digital games space, SuperData provides a high-level overview of the U.S. market every month. Our methodology builds on digital point-of-sale data collected directly from publishers and developers.

 

 

 

Japan Outspends U.S. On Mobile Games

Considering the huge economic force that’s been behind it for the past year, it should be no surprise that mobile game spending in Japan is on the rise. What’s startling, however, is that their consumers are putting more money into mobile purchases than ours.

A report from the App Annie Japan Spotlight indicates that Japan has risen significantly over the past year in spending, thanks to certain leading games. Games on iOS earn three times as much in Japan as they do in the US, on average, and six times as much as Android games.

For instance, Line Corp. has made quite a bit with its PokoPang release, and GungHo Online Entertainment has followed suit with approximately $4.1 million earnings per day from its games, including Puzzle & Dragons.

Japanese developers are working to keep gamers engaged with new content and downloadable goods, keeping said updates from slumping. As a result, consumers have gone from spending 30 percent less than U.S. buyers last year to rising over 30 percent this year.

“The download is just the start,” said Jun Otsuka, Line’s global business manager about the application process. “The real grunt work is in running the game.”

Even launching a free-to-play game in the market can be profitable, provided it’s got the right type of addiction behind it. GungHo producer Daisuke Yamamoto stated, “people will eventually pay, if they keep playing.”

It’ll be interesting to see if these numbers continue to rise next year.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Nike’s Winning In A Winter Wonderland

It’s quite cold across the U.S. right now, but that doesn’t mean that athletes are waiting around for the snow to subside. Nike is pushing the idea of winning in winter with their Hyperwarm lineup, emphasized by this ad spot.

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