Japan: Mobile Gaming Bigger Than Consoles

This past week, Japan’s Computer Entertainment Supplier’s Association (or CESA for short) published a new report, the 2014 CESA Games White Paper, which revealed some interesting facts about Japan’s gaming market over the past year. Mobile gaming in Japan is now the biggest share of game revenue as mobile games contineu to grow strongly, while console game revenues have been shrinking.

Numbers revealed from Famitsu publisher Enterbrain revealed similar results, starting that the market for console gaming (hardware and software together) reached a total of the equivalent of $4 billion in 2013. While that’s by no means small potatoes, the number is a 13 percent drop from 2012, where the equivalent of $4.8 billion was reported.

Breaking each number down separately, console hardware sales reached $1.5 billion compared to $1.9 billion the year before, while console software sales made $2.5 billion, compared to $2.9 billion the year before.

In terms of which console dominated the sales figures, the Nintendo DS led the charge with 46.7 percent of the market, while the PlayStation 3 was second with 21.8 percent, and the PS Vita in third with 11.7 percent.

Meanwhile, smartphone games have managed to reach $3.5 billion in sales for 2013. Even though console numbers are slightly bigger, there has been tremendous growth that shows this particular market is on the rise…especially considering it just made $370 million back in 2011.

CESA, however, reports slightly different numbers, with mobile gaming in general making $5.1 billion – which is more than the $4 billion number for consoles.

Feature phone games by themselves saw a revenue of $1.6 billion in 2013.

It doesn’t appear this trend will change anytime soon, even with the PlayStation 4 making waves in the Japanese market. It looks like now that mobile games have pulled into the lead, console games are never going to quite catch up in revenue. Microsoft is rolling out the Xbox One in Japan this September, but it’s not expected to make big inroads into the Japanese market after the poor showing of the Xbox 360 in Japan.

Source: Serkantoto

‘Sharknado 2: The Second One’ Finds Success With Word Of Mouth

Last Thursday, the Syfy disaster movie Sharknado 2: The Second One, pulled in an impressive 1.6 million demo viewers and 3.9 million viewers total, in addition to an incredible Twitter presence, proving that the best marketing tool is actually word of mouth.

According to Adweek, Dave Howe, president of Syfy, attributed these recent successes to the marketing and PR teams who found innovative ways to talk up the flick, but noted that its stars got into the game in a big way, too.

“[Lead actor Ian Ziering] has been this incredible one-man publicity machine, which has been wonderful to watch. He has a real vision in terms of what is and isn’t going to work,” Howe said. “He’s very articulate about how you have to treat it like it’s Shakespeare. You can’t wink at it or make fun of it, because that won’t be funny.”

In addition to this, the marketing team also decided to not promote or advertise on any straightforward platforms such as subways or billboards.

“We didn’t spend any money on formal marketing for it,” Howe said. “This was driven by PR and marketing and social media fueling the fire. And then an incredible number of brands got caught up in the fun.”

There was an abundance of product placement in the film, however. For example, at one point in the movie Subway spokesman Jared Fogle can be seen sitting on subway platform, eating a Subway sandwich, in front of a Subway billboard. Brands also set out to protect their investment with some well-timed social media.

Howe went on to add that there was a bit of targeted social media and search placement, but the vast majority of the marketing was word of mouth, with “a year’s worth of stoking the fire with news and tidbits and things that kept the Sharknado fire alive.”

As a result, Sharknado made Syfy the top cable network in primetime, as well as giving it the top telecast in all of TV on Thursday.
Source: Adweek

Universal Revives ‘The Mummy’

Universal Studios certainly knows its classic monsters, as demonstrated by its releases from the ’30s through the ’50s, with such hits as The Mummy, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, and dozens of others. In 1999, Universal managed to bring one back to the mainstream with Stephen Sommers’ adventure film The Mummy, featuring Brendan Fraser. The film was a box office success, and two sequels followed before the series was laid to dormant rest. The tone of the movie (and its sequels) was much different than the originals, though. However, it appears that The Mummy is on its way to being resurrected again…and he could bring friends.

Alex Kurtsman, a veteran genre writer/producer, has been hired to direct a new version of The Mummy, which will actually be the first in a new series of films that will serve as canon for the company’s classic monster franchises. Think the Marvel universe, but with Dracula, Frankenstein and company.

Kurtzman, in final negotiations for the film, is said to want to take it in an action/adventure/horror style, similar to what the 1999 film did, but with a unique approach. It won’t be connected with any previous chapters from the series, but instead it will be a fresh start. Universal also has its eye on other revivals of classic monsters, and with the success of Marvel films tying multiple films together, perhaps reviving the heyday of Universal horror with many films sharing monsters.

“Over the course of developing The Mummy, Alex has demonstrated such clarity and passion about this character and mythology,” said Jeff Kirschenbaum, Universal co-president of production. “He knows why The Mummy has fascinated us for so long and how to bring that into an inventive, incredible new adventure. It became obvious that he is the perfect choice to be not only one of the narrative engineers of this new vision, but its director as well.”

Kurtzman will also co-produce the film alongside Fast & Furious veteran Chris Morgan.

The Mummy is set to arrive in theaters in April 2016, barring any delays.

What do you think? Are you ready for a new Mummy, or do you prefer the Nineties version? Are you ready to see a revival of the Universal monsters, and which ones would you like to see most?

Source: Digital Trends

The Console War Status Report

There’s nothing like quarterly earnings reports to get an unvarnished look at just what’s happening with video game console sales. In between financial reports, we have to be content with whatever numbers companies release — which often isn’t anything concrete. Usually it’s a generality like “sales are strong” or “we’re pleased with the progress we are making” instead of “we sold 2.1 million consoles last quarter.” Financial reports, while they may be somewhat opaque, are still the correct numbers — if not, a company has more serious problems than how many consoles it sold.

The latest figures are in from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, so it’s a good moment to compare not only how the companies are doing overall, but just how each company’s latest console is faring saleswise. This will give us an idea of how healthy the console market is at this moment in time, and some indication of how it might fare into next year.

Microsoft had a good quarter and a good year overall, with both revenue and income rising. Microsoft Corp. today announced revenue of $23.38 billion for the quarter ended June 30, 2014. Gross margin, operating income, and diluted earnings per share (“EPS”) for the quarter were $15.79 billion, $6.48 billion, and $0.55 per share, respectively.

When it comes to the Xbox, Microsoft did not release precise information. “Computing and Gaming Hardware revenue increased $274 million or 23 percent, driven by higher Surface and Xbox Platform revenue,” the company noted. “Xbox Platform revenue increased $104 million or 14 percent, driven primarily by increased console revenue. We sold in 1.1 million consoles in the fourth quarter, as we drew down channel inventory, compared to 1.0 million consoles during the prior year.”

Note a couple of important things about that last statement: Microsoft did not break out Xbox One sales from Xbox 360 sales, combining the two into one number; and the sales number is the amount sold in to retailers, not the number purchased by consumers. There’s plenty of Xbox inventory in the channel still, so Microsoft still has some work to do with the Xbox One despite the boost provided by the new $399 version. Still, Microsoft’s game business is doing well, and the Xbox One is selling well — even if it’s not at the level Microsoft would like yet.

Sony had an exceptional quarter, with investors responding to the earnings release by boosting the share price over 5 percent yesterday. Sony’s overall sales grew 5.8 percent, and operating income almost doubled (up 96.7 percent) as sales heated up and operational efficiencies were realized. The big driver of Sony’s sales and profit improvement, though was the fantastic performance of the Games & Network Services division, which saw sales jump 95.7 percent and income turn positive from last year’s loss. The reason is the PlayStation 4’s continued strong sales.

“Sales increased 95.7 percent year-on-year (an 86 percent increase on a constant currency basis) to 257.5 billion yen ($2.550 billion),” Sony noted. “This increase was primarily due to the contribution from sales of PS4 hardware which was launched in November 2013, as well as a significant increase in network services revenues accompanying the launch of the PS4. Sales to external customers increased 101% year-on-year. Operating income of 4.3 billion yen ($43 million) was recorded, compared to an operating loss of 16.4 billion yen in the same quarter of the previous fiscal year. This significant improvement was primarily due to the above-mentioned increase in sales, partially offset by a decrease in PlayStation3 software sales.”

As Microsoft did, Sony lumps sales of its newest console in with its older one, showing a total of 3.5 million PS4 and PS3 units sold in the quarter — though that number is sell-through, not sell-in. It’s the number customers purchased, not the number sold to retailers (which is what Microsoft reported). Sony’s consoles outsold Microsoft’s by more than three-to-one, in other words. Maybe “PlayStation 4, Xbox One” isn’t just the names of the two consoles, it’s the sales ratio.

Meanwhile, off in Nintendo’s separate corner of the console market, things are not so good. Nintendo’s sales dropped yet again, with the company recording a loss of ¥9.9 billion, or $96 million, compared to last year’s net profit in the same quarter of ¥8.6 billion ($83.8 million). Sales dropped as well, down to ¥74.7 billion ($729 million) from last year’s ¥81.5 billion ($793.3 million). Nintendo blamed the shortfall on a lack of major new releases, even though Mario Kart 8 sold 2.82 million units on the Wii U.

The Wii U sold 500,000 units worldwide in the quarter, well up from last year’s 186,000 units in the same time period, bringing the total sold to date to 6.68 million units. That’s less than the PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One will probably be passing up the Wii U this year as well. While Mario Kart 8 helped, it’s clear most of the title’s sales went to existing Wii U owners rather than generating massive new Wii U sales.

The real disappointment for Nintendo is the drop in 3DS sales, which has been the company’s bright spot while the Wii U has struggled. Nintendo sold 820,000 units of the 3DS line, compared to 1.4 million units in the same quarter last year, a significant drop.

Nintendo left its forecasts for the year unchanged, when it expects to post a ¥20 billion ($195 million) profit after March 30. This is beginning to sound like last year, when Nintendo maintained optimistic year-end forecasts while quarterly numbers looked grim. This is placing even more pressure on the next quarters to do well, which may be hard with new releases only scheduled to hit near the end of next quarter. The slate is thin, meaning each title has to be a massive hit to make up the ground Nintendo needs.

While Nintendo may indeed make its numbers for the year if all goes very well, it’s hard to see any long term return to “Nintendo-like profits” (as CEO Iwata likes to say) without the introduction of new hardware, which probably wouldn’t happen until summer of 2015 at the earliest.

The console business overall, then, looks to be a great market for Sony, a pretty good market for Microsoft, and a very tough market indeed for Nintendo. The basics of the hardware and the price points of the consoles won’t change as we head into the holiday season; what may change is marketing. We may see different software bundles and promotions designed to boost sales, and the important thing to watch will be the overall marketing campaign and the spending for each company this fall.

Microsoft will probably want to spend heavily to catch up to Sony, and the Master Chief Collection will probably get a great deal of attention. Sony may well double down on its successful PS4 business by increasing the marketing spend to stay in the lead. Nintendo’s kept its marketing efforts in check for the last year — will we see Nintendo marketing unleashed this holiday season to effectively re-introduce the Wii U, push the Amiibo products and try for exceptional Super Smash Bros. sales It’s time to crack open that piggy bank, Nintendo, and spend some of the cash you’ve been hoarding on holiday marketing if you want to grab some console market share this Christmas.

What We Learned At [a]list summit: Influencer Marketing

The 9th [a]list summit officially wrapped up Thursday evening and it seems that the summit has given attendees a lot to chew, as evidenced by the sheer number of interesting quotes from our panelists throughout the day. We’ve gone ahead and gathered the best crowd-sourced takeaways from the packed event below.

Sony Considering PlayStation Now Subscription Plan

Ever since its announcement earlier this year, Sony’s streaming PlayStation Now service has seen a number of bumps in the road. The program introduced a private beta a couple of months ago on the PlayStation 4 console, and users were a bit taken aback by the frustratingly high game rental rates ($30 for a 90-day rental of Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a bit much to ask, especially considering its $20 retail price). Now that the program’s gone into a full beta, Sony is working on making it more of a deal for gamers.

“We’ve heard you loud and clear for an update on a PS Now subscription option and want to reassure you that we are working on it,” said PlayStation Now senior director Jack Buser. “We think PS Now represents the next step towards the future of gaming and we’re excited to have the PlayStation Nation come along with us on the beginning of this journey.”

The PlayStation Now service is set to offer a number of classic PlayStation 3 titles for streaming on a multitude of devices, including televisions, tablets and smartphones, as well as Sony game systems like the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita. Currently, it’s only being offered for PlayStation 4, and there’s no word on when it will launch on other devices.

As for fixing the pricing issue on the games, nothing has been marked down as of yet (some games still show rates between $3.99 and $29.99), but Buser promised that some titles will “start seeing reduced pricing on some 4-hour rentals which will appear at $1.99.”

The PlayStation Now service is set to launch with over 100 PS3 titles, but there’s no word as of yet when older titles from the PlayStation/PlayStation 2 era are expected to launch. When asked by Kotaku upon when these games would arrive, Buser simply stated, “We don’t have anything specific to announce at this time.”

Here’s hoping Sony rights the wrongs of the PlayStation Now service before it’s set to go live somewhere near the end of 2014.

Source: Ars Technica

3BlackDot Responds To YouTube Promotion Concerns

3BlackDot has taken a little bit of heat as of late when it came to its decision to hire a number of popular YouTube stars for promotional purposes. It stated that even though it knows the concerns over objective coverage and paid promotion, it doesn’t believe that money has any sort of influence over those who signed up.

The deal brought in a number of groups, including YouTubers Syndicate and SeaNanners, in an effort to produce paid-for promotional work for the new site.

When asked about the dangers of walking that line, a company representative reached out to discuss the matter. “We do not believe authenticity and compensation are mutually exclusive,” they said. “Understanding that there is a fine line, we do not believe that authenticity is inherently jeopardized if people are compensated for their efforts. The promotion, marketing, and distribution we provide is for products we believe in. We would never put our audience at risk by working with products or services we cannot get behind. Authenticity is our absolute guiding principle.”

They were quick to note that YouTubers could still produce their own material, alongside the promotional work that they were doing for the site. “Our belief is that Influencers should have the freedom to work with any client that aligns with their brand,” says 3BlackDot. “Part of the value 3BD brings to the table is being able to help Influencers identify authentic integration opportunities and managing the relationships.”

They continued, “If and when necessary, paid promotions will be labeled as such,” the company statement maintains. “Transparency is key to maintaining an open and clear relationship between Influencers and their communities. We are currently working on how to best denote their relationship with 3BD.”

It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here. What do you think Does 3BlackDot have a point…

Source: GamesIndustry International

Binge Viewers Want Ad-Free TV

Binge viewing, where fans sit down and watch an entire season (or more!) of a hit show in a single sitting, continues to grow, mainly due to the exclusive programming offered by Hulu, Netflix and other streaming networks. And a new study from Annalect shows that it’s definitely on the rise.

The study, held back in May 2014, shows that 63 percent of U.S. TV watchers ages 18 and up feel that binge viewing is the way to go when watching television. However, only 30 percent actually admitted that they actually partake in binge viewing.

Out of those who do admit they take part, 58 percent state that they enjoy binge viewing mainly because they don’t have to put up with annoying ads or commercials. 57 percent, however, was a little more drastic in rely, stating that ads prevented them from enjoying their shows. Closely behind with 53 percent, viewers believe that ads don’t even have a place when it comes to binge viewing.

49 percent of these viewers still believe that ads are a part of TV viewing time, whether engaging in binge viewing or just casually watching. 38 percent of this audience believes that ads are tolerable, provided that there was a lowering in monthly subscription rates. Meanwhile, 35 percent believe that ads actually provide a decent break from binge-viewing, in case someone needs a snack or a bathroom break.

As for viewing favorship, 54 percent of millennials believe streaming is the way to go, compared to 36 percent with Gen X audiences and 16 percent of Baby Boomers. As for what they preferred, boomers feel that broadcast/cable TV is ideal for binge-watching by 46 percent, while just 14 percent of millennials and 19 percent of Gen Xers believe so. DVR was probably the lowest form, with percentages under 20 percent across the board.

What do you think? What do you prefer when it comes to binge viewing?

Source: eMarketer

‘Enemy Front’ To Provide History Lesson

A lot of video games these days like to focus on the war front, particularly Call of Duty, the Battlefield series and Respawn Entertainment’s futuristic Titanfall. However, very few manage to provide a lesson. Not that gamers are asking for one, mind you, as they’re already entertained but what’s happening in their games. That said, CI Games is trying something a little different with its online military-based game, Enemy Front, which is available for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Today, starting at 5:00 p.m., the company will actually provide a “moment of silence” interruption within the game itself. Nothing is actually wrong with the game or the servers itself, but it’s a pre-planned interruption.

Planned as part of a promotion with McCann Worldgroup Poland, the interruption is meant to remind gamers of a particular moment in time. As the game is being interrupted, all players will be directed to a video, where they will observe citizens of Warsaw and other Polish cities as they take a moment of silence to commemorate the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, one of the most significant events in the World War II era. (Enemy Front takes place during World War II.)

It’s here that the Polish army struggled to free the city of Warsaw from Nazi Germany, a significant moment that happened exactly 70 years ago today.

CI Games isn’t looking to inconvenience players, it’s serving a reminder that war is not just a game. There are real casualties that came from World War II, and despite all the running around and taking on friends in online combat, it has a much deeper theme than most people realize.

After the moment takes place, players will be able to get back to their game. It’ll be interesting to see how they react by the stunning “moment of silence.”

The video, and how it will affect gameplay, can be viewed here.

Source: Creativity Online

What Marketers Can Learn From ‘Gen Z’

The American population has seen a huge shift with the growth of Generation Z, with up to 25 percent thus far — and possibly growing further. Even though they can barely speak English, they’re still a massive audience, and yet one that many marketers seem to ignore.

Sparks & Honey has released a new report called Meet Generation Z that explores why this audience should, in fact, be crucial to marketers, since it provides a comprehensive look at the group, aged 0-19, which, again, occupies a huge chunk of the U.S. audience.

The first of the five charts, Generational Population Breakdown, shows just how much of a portion the Generation occupies compared to Millennials (who are second place with 24.5 percent), Baby Boomers (23.6 percent), and Gen X. Swing/Silent are also measured, as you can see below. (Note there’s an error on the chart; Baby Boomer age range should be from 50-68.)

Next up is Daily Device Usage, which measures just how many people are using electronic items on a daily basis. Cell/mobile units continue to lead the pack with 76 percent in the 13-17 year old bracket, while TV is closely behind in second place. The tablet and e-Reader, however, fall to the bottom of the chart.

Then there are Purchase Decisions that are made by a Gen-Z audience, and Toys obviously lead the pack with 84 percent, while Apparel, Dinner Menu and Entertainment are closely behind with 74, 73 and 69 percent. Meanwhile, family cars hold little importance at 29 percent, because kids will be kids.

Next up is annual spending by generation, and this is probably the statistic where most people overlook Gen Z, as they sit at the very bottom with 44 billion, compared to 2,000 billion by Baby Boomers. That said, there’s still a very significant spending number there, and certain marketers can still take advantage of it.

Finally, social media usage over time shows that Facebook led at one point, back in fall 2012, but as of late, it’s nearly running neck and neck with Instagram, while Twitter leads by a small margin. No doubt Gen Z folks are taking advantage of said networks.

In all, marketers may want to pay better attention to the Generation Z audience. It’s small, yes, but making a larger impact than possibly imagined.

Source: Digiday