Xbox One Sales Leap Without Kinect

While Microsoft’s Xbox One has been a successful seller since its release on the market last November, the question of whether it could sell even better without the inclusion of the Kinect motion device was definitely making the rounds. Microsoft answered this query last month by releasing a new bundle without the device for $399, and, as a result, sales have picked up tremendously.

“Over the past month, we’ve seen a strong spike in interest in our Xbox One console options, including the new $399 offering, and the amazing lineup of games announced during E3,” said Microsoft.

“Since the new Xbox One offering launched on June 9, we’ve seen sales of Xbox One more than double in the US, compared to sales in May, and solid growth in Xbox 360 sales.”

The statement is based on Microsoft’s “internal data based on retail calendar and sold through numbers,” but crucially didn’t give away any actual numbers.

The decrease in price for the system is no doubt a driving factor, as the bundle previously sold for $499 back in November with the Kinect included – which caused several gamers to turn to the PlayStation 4 instead, which was selling for $100 less at $399.

Now, however, Microsoft has managed to even the playing field, so to speak, by offering a next-gen console for a similar price. For those who prefer the motion device, or want to take advantage of games that support it (such as Kinect Sports Rivals and the forthcoming Fantasia: Music Evolved), the regular $499 bundle is still available, and the company has promised that the Kinect will be available for separate sale as well.

This news is likely to get better for Microsoft leading into this holiday season, especially with big hits like Sunset Overdrive and Halo: The Master Chief Collection set for release later in the year. However, one has to wonder if development on Kinect-oriented games will be affected by the move.

Source: TechCrunch

Nitero’s Speedy New Wi-Fi Service

In the age of Wi-Fi technology, companies are always looking for a way to make things faster and, as a result, more trouble-free for consumers. Texas startup Nitero is the latest company to give it a shot, as it has announced the unveiling of a new chip that will deliver 60 GHz wireless networking to mobile devices. This ultrafast, low-power networking is short range, but that’s perfect for its intended application of enabling high quality video transfers without overly draining the battery of a mobile device. The 60GHz WiFi can handle even the massive data requirements of 4K video with ease.

With this chip, devices can now transfer data 10 times more efficiently than other means, making it a perfect solution for those trying to transfer data from smaller screen devices to larger ones – ideal for presentations, sor instance, but also for playing a video.

Through such technology, users can take video from their smartphones and play it instantaneously across high-definition televisions, without skipping a beat on quality. The NT4600 supports low-latency 4K display data transfers, and not incidentally can easily broadcast games from a small display to a big one. That’s a huge feature for mobile game publishers looking to increase the impact of their games.

Samsung with produce the chip for Nitero as a contract manufacturer, using a 28-nanometer manufacturing process with special radio frequency features. This will allow the chip to meet low-power requirements.

“802.11ad, the next generation of Wi-Fi, is the missing link to allow for the long-awaited convergence of PC, gaming, and entertainment platforms onto a single mobile device. 802.11ad solutions built for the PC and slimmed down for mobile simply can’t meet the power, performance, and form-factor requirements of Tier 1 mobile customers,” said Pat Kelly, CEO of Nitero. “At Nitero, we targeted the smartphone from day one. The result is 60G.”

The technology should begin appearing in products sometime in 2015.

Source: VentureBeat


‘Snowpiercer’ Finding Success On VOD Services

Sometimes, movies just manage to do better on the home video front, either as an on-demand release or through sales in Blu-Ray or DVD formats. One movie that proves this theory is Snowpiercer, the American language debut of Korean director Bong Joon-ho.

The movie got a limited theatrical release a couple of weeks ago, and opened to rave reviews, with many noting the strong performance of such leads as Chris Evans (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and Jaime Bell. However, just two weeks later, the film has been released on the on-demand front, available for download through iTunes, cable providers and a number of other services. And, surprisingly enough, it’s finding more success on that front.

As part of RADIUS-TWC’s distribution plan for the film, Snowpiercer managed to make an estimated $1.1 million from video on-demand sales over the weekend, earning nearly twice as much as the $635,000 it cleaned up in theaters. While those numbers pale in comparison to Transformers: Age of Extinction’s $100+ million opening a few weekends ago, it’s still an interesting business statistic.

“From a layman’s perspective, these numbers are possibly not that interesting,” said RADIUS-TWC co-president Tom Quinn. “But from an industry perspective, it’s a game changer.”

VOD works as a cheaper and more profitable alternative to most filmmakers these days, especially “indie” producers. “That $1.1 million gross is actually worth almost double to me in terms of how it nets out in our bottom line,” said Quinn.

Promotion plays a big part in the movie’s success as well. “We are being promoted on TV, but we are being promoted on TV to consume,” continued Quinn. “We have a TV campaign, but it’s in service of actually selling the movie to be purchased. That’s very different.”

Usually, movie-to-home releases span a much larger ratio, around three months or so. But Quinn stands behind the company’s decision to go with VOD instead of theaters. “Should we have opened larger (in theaters) ” he asked. “Possibly. It’s a fair discussion for us to consider, but I also feel like in some respects we absolutely nailed the timing from our original theatrical launch to our debut on VOD.

Don’t be surprised if other studios manage to follow Snowpiercer‘s example.

Source: Entertainment Weekly


‘Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’ Rockets Into Success

Glu Mobile is expecting some record numbers for its 2014 revenue, up to $161.5 million for the year.  Despite a low point in the second quarter, the company looks to be well on pace to beat its expectations for the year, and the reason is simple: The huge success of its recent release, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.

The game has taken off like a rocket since it launched, reaching the top 10 in mere days, and it’s currently sitting ahead of Supercell’s Hay Day and Boom Beach as well as King’s Farm Heroes SagaKim Kardashian: Hollywood is a game that recreates living the lifestyle of a Hollywood actress. Officially endorsed by the mega-star, the game has become a sales juggernaut, and, as a result, has netted both Glu and Kardashian a great deal of money, set to make $200 million this year alone.

So why is this simulation so popular. There are a number of reasons. Besides having Kardashian’s name attached (she continues to be a big draw in the media, especially with her marriage to rapper Kanye West), Hollywood is quite a draw when it comes to the female gaming demographic. That’s not to say only girls play it, but it does draw a large female audience, creating a female to male ratio of 3 to 1, the opposite of something like Supercell’s Clash of Clans.

There’s also no question that Kardashian is an ideal fit for a game of this nature, as players can take part in a number of activities in Hollywood that fit the high-profile lifestyle, whether it’s photo shoots or something along those lines. Kardashian’s dedicated fans follow her every fashion move, and the game is the best way for these extreme fans to closely follow the reality superstar.

Finally, Hollywood does provide a new twist on games, when so many other releases are relying on proven formulas, like Candy Crush Saga and the match-three puzzle scenario. While it does show similarities to Pocket Gems’ Campus Life, which was released back in 2012, it does provide an alternative take on living in Hollywood, providing a fresh approach.

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is available now for iPhone & iPad and Android.

Source: Mobile Dev Memo

SuperData June 2014: ‘New Titles Raise Hell’

SuperData CEO, Joost van Dreunen, analyses the June numbers in this special [a]list daily report:

  • Digital games market totals $774 million in June, as Watch_Dogs drives digital console.
  • Subscription MMO market declines, as spending per player reaches $170 per year.
  • New entrants WildStar and Elder Scrolls Online challenge status quo in $2.9B MMO market.
  • King rolls out more happy fun time; silences critics. Glu rolls out Kardashian bombshell.

In this month’s digital games report, we take a closer look at the subscription-based MMO (pay-to-play) market, following the release of Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Online and NCsoft’s Wildstar. Despite an ongoing decline in both players and total revenues, the average revenue per user continues to rise. The subscription-based MMO market, now a mature market, is expected to stabilize in the next few years, as free-to-play alternatives reach saturation. With the value of an average pay-to-play player going up, we expect more ferocious competition among Western and Eastern publishers, offering higher quality gameplay and new narrative settings.

June proved a sluggish month for the digital games market, despite the success of Watch Dogs (Ubisoft) and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (Glu Mobile). Overall spending totaled $774 million, up 4.6 percent compared to June last year. Both the digital console and PC downloadable categories were down 11 percent from the high in April, led by Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs, and totaled $240 million in June. As the new console cycle gains momentum, following the announcements of key titles at last month’s E3, we observe a slight year-over-year dip among social, mobile and free-to-play in favor of digital console and PC.

Microtransaction revenue offsets losses in subscription revenue

The pay-to-play MMO market has been shrinking since 2010, dropping from 30.6 million monthly active subscribers worldwide to 23.4 million this year. To offset the loss of revenue, several key titles have incorporated or switched entirely to a microtransaction-based revenue model. In the past five years, the percentage of revenue for subscription-based MMO generated via additional in-game microtransactions has roughly doubled from 14 percent for 27 percent. Furthermore, the average digital spend, in addition to the monthly fee, has tripled from $16 to $46 worldwide. Despite the overall decline, this category has so far managed to maximize their ability to monetize a shrinking yet loyal player base.

Wildstar (NCsoft) and Elder Scrolls Online (Bethesda) challenge status quo

When Bethesda Softworks released Elder Scrolls Online, the industry took notice as the publisher fearlessly announced a subscription model, rather than going free-to-play like its direct competitor Guild Wars 2 (NCsoft). So far, a subscriber base of 772,374 (June) indicates that its strategy is working. And perhaps its because of this that NCsoft released its own subscription-based title, Wildstar, over one month ago. As the initial purchase included a free first month, NCsoft is about to find out how strong the demand for sci-fi action really is. Traditionally, sci-fi styled MMOs tend to generate three times as much in monthly revenue compared to fantasy-based titles. And the early signs are good. According to Carbine, the game has so far seen “four to five times” as many concurrent users than during its open beta stage. Combined with NCsoft’s expertise, having four titles in the worldwide top 10 for subscription-based MMOs last year, Wildstar is a strong contender in the current market.

King silences critics

Despite heavy criticism during the time of its IPO, King has doubled down on developing a stable of fun yet increasingly challenging games for both mobile and social platforms. In June, it released Bubble Witch 2 on Facebook and mobile, which builds on the mechanics of several of its other titles, offering a clever mixture of bubble shooting, puzzling and animal rescue. On the business end, King is also making moves. It announced having entered into an agreement with Tencent to handle its distribution in Asia, and shifting marketing budget away from mobile (due to a lack of inventory) in favor of traditional TV advertising to expand its audience reach.

Glu rolls out Kardashian bombshell

As the mobile games market grows more crowded, the anticipated value of brands is starting to become evident as we observed the explosive success of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (Glu Mobile). The game managed to become the top grossing mobile title in just a few weeks, due to a combination of the high visibility of Kim Kardashian, experienced game design from Glu Mobile and a clear targeting of female mobile gamers. Provided its success persists, the title is currently on track to generate $200 million this year.

Source: SuperData

What Apple Has In Store For Gaming

Apple’s got a number of new product introductions slated for the rest of this year, if the company follows its usual pattern. Nothing’s official yet, but unless something catastrophic happens Apple will be introducing a new iPhone and a new iPad this year, at a minimum. The other thing we can be sure about is that whatever Apple does, it’s going to be important to the gaming industry. The mobile games industry is the fastest growing segment of the overall games business, and iOS games are still the revenue leaders despite the strong growth of Android devices. Billions of dollars in game revenues are affected by what Apple does, and the [a]list daily takes a look at what may be coming for iOS this year.

iPhone 6

Rumors have been flying about Apple’s plans for the newest iPhones, and parts purporting to be from production lines have begun showing up. The core rumors report two new sizes of iPhone in the works, one with a 4.7 inch screen and and one with a 5.5 inch screen. While the 4.7 inch screen seems likely to be announced in mid to late September, the larger iPhone may or may not be announced at that time. The larger iPhone is said to be encountering production difficulties, and may launch later in 2014 or even be delayed to 2015. The mockups in the concept illustration show the iPhone 5S next to the two rumored models of the iPhone 6.

Here’s the best consensus on specs: Both new models will sport an improved A8 processor, a sapphire covering for the screen instead of Gorilla Glass (no more screen protectors needed!), and an improved camera, along with a likely screen resolution of 1704 x 906. The larger iPhone may offer up to 128 GB of memory, and its camera may have optical image stabilization. Pricing will probably be the same as current iPhones for the 4.7 inch version, and perhaps $100 more for the 5.5 inch version.

If history is any guide, Apple will sell tens of millions of these phones in short order. The iPhone 5s is currently the best-selling phone in the world, so expect a warm reception for these new models. Apple has been selling more than 50 million iPhones each quarter, and that will no doubt continue. For gaming, the iPhone 6 will be tremendous by offering a bigger screen and even better CPU and graphics performance.

iPad 6

The changes in the iPad this year look to be fewer in number, primarily the addition of the Touch ID sensor and the faster A8 processor. It’s possible the screen may be improved, and the cameras may well get better. Rumors also indicate an “iPad Pro” is being developed for 2015, with a 4K display, and a 12.9 or 13.3 inch screen; this would no doubt command a higher price point. If Apple follows its usual pattern, the new iPad models will be announced in October in order to be in good supply for Christmas.

The impact on gaming is considerable, as the A8 processor (combined with Apple’s new Metal SDK for improving graphics performance) should propel the iPad into amazing graphics territory. Expect to see graphics that can outdo the best of an Xbox 360 or a PS3 in some ways, and you can be sure that game developers are going to be pushing that envelope hard.

While Apple hasn’t been moving as many tablets as it has smartphones, you can still expect to see over 20 million iPads selling each quarter. In other words, every month Apple sells about as many iPads as the total installed base of the PS4, and more than the Xbox One. That’s one big reason so many publishers are working on tablet games.

Apple TV

This little “hobby” of Apple’s is rumored to get the biggest upgrade in its history this year, as Apple finally allows the device to drive an App Store. A new model of the hardware will also be introduced, probably with several key improvements: An A8 processor for top-notch gaming and media performance is the most important change, along with better WiFi and perhaps more ability to increase storage. The $99 price point should remain the same, and it’s likely to be introduced in October along with new iPads.

While Apple has already sold over 25 million Apple TVs, the sales potential of the newest Apple TV is much greater. Apple may well announce several new streaming video services for the box, and will no doubt arrange to have a killer lineup of apps. Supporting the device should be easy for developers now that controller support is already included in iOS 7, and iOS 8 will have even better support. You’ll be able to use an iPhone or an iPad as a controller, or get a standalone Bluetooth controller that looks like a console controller. (We’ve seen iPhone/iPad controllers announced from Mad Catz, Razer, Logitech and others already.)

The real win for Apple will come with games that already exist being updated to transition seamlessly from mobile to Apple TV. If you’re playing a game on your iPad, you’ll be able to put it up on your TV screen by using an Apple TV. There’s even more possibilities for designers in the interactions between ubiquitous smartphones and tablets along with TV screens.

The market for an Apple TV with games could easily be 3-5 million units per month or even more, dwarfing current console sales. Publishers that already have an iOS portfolio of games will be pleased to see something like this happen; other publishers may have to rethink development plans if this occurs. This isn’t likely to affect next-gen console sales in the near term, but in the long term it could well divert some sales and attention from Sony and Microsoft’s top consoles. It all depends on the games, in the end, and if developers will begin to provide some of the top consoles titles in a very similar form on the new Apple TV. And don’t forget the Amazon Fire TV, and the Android TV models that will be coming out soon. The battle at the low end of the console business is definitely heating up.

Thor Announcement On ‘The View’ Signifies Deeper Disney-Marvel Synergies

Moderator Whoopi Goldberg’s revelation on Tuesday’s edition of The View that Marvel Comics’ Thor God of Thunder is about to become a woman set the fanboy community abuzz, but what is truly interesting are the implications the announcement has at the corporate level.

A quick deconstruction of the three-minute clip, where the show’s line-up chats over the development reveals an almost chemically tooled shout out from ABC to Marvel Comics, two divisions of The Walt Disney Company. Goldberg opens the segment referencing not the Marvel movies, but the Marvel comic book universe, a rarity in mass media. The June issue of the Thor comic sold less than 37,000 copies, placing 55 on the Diamond Top 300 list.

After some good-natured joking, Jenny McCarthy provides details, and we learn that the Thor we know “messes up” and a woman inherits the mantle and hammer to become the new God of Thunder, and “role model” for young girls. Attitude, unsurprisingly, was overwhelmingly positive, and several audience cheers punctuated the segment.

Superheroes in comic books routinely retire, are (temporarily) killed off, and spawn female versions of themselves (Spider-Woman, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel), so why the big to-do about a fairly routine development in a mid-selling comic book The segment exemplifies how well Disney’s children are playing with one another. Before Disney CEO Bob Iger came to power, the various units of the company were isolated silos, with Michael Eisner’s focus on feature films and home video far and away dominating the conglomerate.

After Iger acquired companies like Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm, declaring that each would continue to run autonomously, but receive the support of the Disney corporate hub, the popular sensibility was that this was hard to believe. After all, most media empires operate in silos. If there were any synergies or multi-platform efforts to be made, they would be in support of the year’s biggest and splashiest events. The View’s Thor segment—with nary a mention of Thor movie star Chris Hemsworth—proves Iger good to his word.

Iger has already proven that a transmedia approach to the expansion of their properties can be monstrously successful. Storylines generated out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars will traverse everything from PlayStations to novels to Netflix originals. Now Disney is traversing media with conversations about the stories, with a focus, it seems, on what might be interesting to certain segments of the audience, rather than necessarily on the bottom line or lowest common denominator.

Jeff Gomez is CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, a New York based production company that consults with Hollywood studios on some of their most popular entertainment franchises. Follow him @Jeff_Gomez.

The Fight Against Mobile Dark Social: The Unquantifiable Platform

Several forward-thinking brands, agency execs, and publishers are pushing to build a presence on platforms that, according to recent data science, are considered “inherently unquantifiable”  — mobile messaging apps.

Mobile messaging apps like Kik, Line, WeChat and WhatsApp are all platforms that possess hundreds of millions of registered users but offer little insight into how media is shared among them.

“There’s just little way to track the traffic acquisition. The systems aren’t in place for them to quantify it,” said Rebecca Watson, vp of business development at ad network RadiumOne. However, she went on to add, “Just because they can’t exactly say how large the importance is, doesn’t mean it’s not important.”

Because sharing on mobile messaging apps generally consist of  users copying and pasting links and then sending them to their contacts, publishers and advertisers alike are unable to track the traffic they deliver. This activity is known as “mobile dark social.” And since sites have no way of telling which specific app a visitor came, publishers and advertisers have a hard time optimizing for these apps. However, the media industry has started experimenting with them nonetheless, hoping that the analytics for these apps will one day catch up with the size of their user bases.

“Users will continue to adopt these systems and have conversations in these platforms, and these apps are not going away,” said Watson. “So we have to get started now with what we have.”

In addition to Watson, everyone from publishers to ad tech companies and media buyers to fast food brands are trying to figure out messaging apps and are excited about their potential.

For example, the publishing company BuzzFeed added, in addition to looking for a full-time employee whose only role will be to determine the publication’s messaging-apps strategy, a WhatsApp sharing button to its iOS site this past October and has seen shares from it steadily increase since, according to BuzzFeed’s spokeswoman Ashley McCollum. However, BuzzFeed still believes some of its sharing might also be occurring in other places like Gchat and Whisper and messaging apps. These efforts are meant to capitalize on BuzzFeed’s growth in “mobile dark social” referral traffic, which has increased fourfold in the past 12 months.

“We’re still figuring it out, and it’s early days for these messaging apps, but especially as we expand internationally, where many of these messaging apps have high penetration, they’re really top of mind for us,” McCollum said.

The consensus among the industry seems to be that it is only a matter of time before an “agreed-upon analytics” for these platforms emerges. Even without these analytics, a few brands have had the courage to enter the messaging-app competition anyway.

Source: Digiday

Consoles Mulling Over Early Access Programs

Over the past couple of years, Steam has been expanding its line-up with the debut of Early Access games. These games serve as “still in development” versions of upcoming games, providing players the opportunity to try out something before the full version comes out. Although its had its share of issues, a lot of games, such as Rust and Day Z, have managed to rack up impressive sales – and that’s something both Sony and Microsoft have noticed.

Talking with Gamasutra, Sony publisher and developer relations VP Adam Boyes stated that early access games is “one of the massive conversations we have internally.” However, there are certain obstacles in the way, such as clarifying that a game is still in development. “We don’t want somebody to stumble across that title and expect a full product, and have a negative experience.”

He continued, “We obviously have our tech requirement checklist that people have to adhere to. So we’re internally discussing, what does that list look like What are the caveats Stuff like this. So it’s still a project that a lot of minds are considering. No details yet, but it’s something on the top of my mind every day.”

Meanwhile, over at Microsoft, ID@Xbox manager Chris Charla explained that such a program is “something developers have been asking for, and we are listening really closely to developers.” However, he didn’t confirm the program for Xbox One just yet, and also has concerns about putting an unfinished game in front of players. “There’s a lot of heavy deep thinkers, experts, PHDs working on these problems at Xbox every day – not just for the Xbox store, but for Windows Store and Windows Phone. Our goal is to have a rational marketplace, where good games are visible and sell well.”

We may see some sort of early access program on consoles in the near future — do you think that’s a good idea, or one that’s not ready to be released yet

Source: Ars Technica

Best New Game Trailers For The Week

Welcome back to another round of the best new game trailers for the week. We’ve got six fresh new trailers from upcoming games that are sure to get players excited, with a little something for everyone.

First up is Warner Bros.’ Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, the company’s mature-themed action/adventure game, set in the world of The Lord of the Rings. This latest video shows the behind-the-scenes work going into the game, including the cinematic philosophy that the developers at Monolith are putting into it, as well as the motion capture process. The game will arrive on October 7th for various consoles and PC.

Next up is the pre-order trailer for Sega’s forthcoming Alien: Isolation, a survival horror game where the player must scramble for survival to avoid being devoured by nasty creatures. With the DLC pack, players will be able to revisit the Nostromo, the setting for the 1979 film Alien. Various actors from the film will return to voice their respective characters, including Sigourney Weaver as Ripley. The game will arrive this October.

A new beta for Activision’s space epic Destiny is set to kick off for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 this week, as well as Xbox 360 and Xbox One next week. To get players excited for the latest go-around with this title, Activision, alongside the developers at Bungie, have released a new trailer that highlights what players can expect from the new missions and maps. Lock and load, soldier. The game hits retail on September 9th.

In a new trailer for Warner Bros.’ upcoming fighting game Mortal Kombat X, a familiar lightning god makes his return. The powerful Raiden, who’s been a staple in the series since its debut over 20 years ago, returns in this forthcoming sequel, more super-charged than ever before. The game will make its debut on various game consoles in 2015.

Not to be outdone by Mortal Kombat, Nintendo announced some new additions to the Super Smash Bros. roster this week, including the return of Captain Falcon from F-Zero fame, as well as two new faces from Fire Emblem – Lucina and Robin, in both male and female form. The roster continues to grow stronger as the game inches towards its late 2014 release on Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.


Last but certainly not least, Bandai Namco announced a surprise title during the EVO 2K fighting tournament in Las Vegas this weekend – the return of Tekken in a new 7th edition. Tekken 7 will be powered by Unreal Engine 4 technology, making it the best-looking edition in the series to date. No release date was given, but more details will be revealed next week during San Diego Comic-Con.

Source: YouTube