Архив метки: Draw Something

Nokia Grows Something: Zynga Deal Now Includes Draw Something, Poker For 100M Asha Feature Phones


Nokia is getting ready to reveal a new line of devices for its struggling smartphone business but it is also doubling down on its still-strong feature phone line, too. Today the Finnish handset maker announced an extension of a deal with Zynga to add Draw Something and Zynga Poker to Nokia Asha Touch feature phones along with the rest of the Nokia Series 40 range. The games will start rolling out in Q3 (this autumn) and will cover 100m users, Nokia says. The deal is a sign both of how Nokia is working hard to keep users on its devices in the face of strong competition from Samsung and cheap Android handset makers; and how Zynga is looking to grow its user base internationally at a time when the company’s bottom line has faltered (as have plays of recently-buzzy Draw Something).

Both games will be freemium: free to download from Nokia Store with the option of purchasing in-game credits. These are the first Zynga games to make their way to Nokia feature devices.

And just as this will help Nokia potentially drive more people to its Asha devices, it is also a potentially big boost for Zynga to grow its user numbers as well — particularly in developing markets where Nokia still often comes out as the most-popular handset maker — and helps it breathe some new life into one of its older games, Zynga Poker, as well as Draw Something, which Zynga bought for $180 million but has since seen falling user numbers.

It’s unclear how and if Draw Something and Poker will be modified for the non-smartphone range. But you can see how this strategy fits in well with other plans that Zynga has: the international (outside of U.S.) online gambling market is worth some $32 billion annually, according to gambling platform maker Betable (also now working in gambling on iPhones, courtesy of a deal announced yesterday with Big Fish games). Zynga has made no secret of its interest in doing more real-money gambling in its games. Given that the Asha is very popular in emerging markets, where gambling rules may be looser than those in the U.S., this could spell a very lucrative opportunity for Zynga.

The Zynga games will be added to the range of games already on Nokia Asha Touch devices from publishers like EA, Gameloft, Rovio, NAMCO BANDAI.

This is an extension of a deal that Nokia and Zynga announced in June of this year to bring Draw Something, Words with Friends and other games to its Lumia smartphone range.

“It’s great to expand our offering of Zynga games to deliver more blockbuster titles across our portfolio of mobile devices, giving consumers great choice and tremendous value,” Bryan Biniak, VP & GM, Global Partnering & Application Development, Nokia, said in a statement. “With premium design, powerful hardware and outstanding gaming capabilities, we’re redefining what consumers expect from today’s feature phone experience.”

While Nokia has been seeing its market share in smartphones drastically fall, it has managed to stem the tide considerably with its sales of feature devices, which still make up the majority of phones sold worldwide today. In Q2, the company reported feature phone sales, led by the Asha range, of $2.8 billion, down by only one percent on last year. Meanwhile, feature phone volumes grew by two percent to 73.5 billion units.

Nokia most recently reported that some 5 billion apps had been downloaded from the the Nokia Store (formerly known as Ovi). Between January and April 2012, 42% of all of the content in that store was for Series 40 devices. As developers have been flocking to iOS and Android, Nokia has been trying hard to keep them creating for its platform, too. It says that more than 500 Nokia developers have seen downloads of over 1 million for their apps, with India Games, Pico Brothers and Inode have all getting more than 100 million downloads.

Nokia has developed three Asha devices to date, and these are at the top end of feature phones rather than basic models: they include the Nokia Asha 311 with a 1GHz processor and capacitive touchscreen; the Nokia Asha 305 that Nokia bills as “a fun and affordable phone”; and the Nokia Asha 306, a single SIM model with WiFi access.

Nokia Grows Something: Zynga Deal Now Includes Draw Something, Poker For 100M Asha Feature Phones

The 20 Best iOS And Android Apps Of 2012 (So Far)


Editor’s note: Brad Spirrison is the Managing Editor of mobile app discovery services Appolicious, AndroidApps.com (which includes the Appolicious Android App) and AppVee. This is his third year of writing a semi-annual TechCrunch post on top mobile apps. 

Halfway into 2012, there are now more than 1.2 million mobile applications available to download to iOS and Android devices. With so many options literally at our fingertips – including dozens of worthy titles introduced to us each day – the task of compiling a mid-year “best of” list of new apps is more challenging (and enjoyable) than ever.

Out of the hundreds (if not thousands) of titles worthy of inclusion, our favorite 20 iOS and Android apps released so far in 2012 can do everything from appraise the value of a home merely by taking its picture, to supplying users with loyalty schwag merely for checking-in to their favorite TV shows. We also salute a highly anticipated game sequel that somehow catapulted beyond its otherworldly hype.

A quick primer on our methodology before we get going. All apps picked were either released or significantly updated between January 1 and June 30 of this year. Titles that debuted on iOS or Android in 2012 that were previously available on another platform are eligible for inclusion. All of our selections were sourced, ranked and finalized by Appolicious Advisors and members of our community.  In all, about a dozen members of the Appolicious editorial team offered their favorites. We also surveyed the most active and influential users of Appolicious sites and applications. We did not account for the number of app downloads or overall popularity. Our qualitative assessment is based primarily on the production value, utility and creativity of baked into each cited application.

Let’s get going.

Best iOS apps
Camera Awesome (iPhone, iPod Touch: free)
While Instagram’s sale to Facebook dominated the headlines earlier this year, the best new app of 2012 so far is another photo-sharing service that actually helps you take better pictures. Created by 10-year-old photo-sharing site SmugMug, Camera Awesome is a revelation in iPhoneography and yet another reason why many of us can ditch our digital cameras. Beyond Camera Awesome’s stunning interface, there are several ways this app can “awesomize” your pictures, including automatic levelization and color adjustment. All presets and filters can be purchased in-app for $9.99 (or a la carte at 99 cents a pop). The ability to capture videos up to five seconds before you press record is also a great option. Finally, Camera Awesome makes it dead simple to share photos across your favorite social networks (Instagram included).

Pocket (Formerly Read It Later) (Universal: free, also available for Android)
Independent “read later” apps may become an endangered species this fall when Apple incorporates its Offline Reading List into Safari as part of iOS 6. Until then (and perhaps thereafter), the best bookmarking app for your buck (actually free) is Pocket. Formerly known as Read It Later, the app’s April rebrand involved more than just a name-change and price reduction. Pocket’s new features, which include the ability to seamlessly view videos and images as well as grid-based article lists, do not undermine the app’s simple and elegant interface.

Khan Academy (iPad: free)
The best thing about this app is how it doesn’t clutter or distract from the expert video tutorials that are produced by next-generation educator Salman Khan. The more than 3,200 educational videos that touch on everything from “Getting a seed round from a VC”, to  “Earth Formation” to “The Bay of Pigs Invasion” are categorized within a simple taxonomy. The YouTube-hosted videos that contain subtitles are extensively logged, allowing users to quickly and easily locate a phrase or passage that may have gone over their heads.

TouchTV (iPad: free)
From customized news provider SkyGrid comes TouchTV, which beautifully showcases video clips from broadcast and cable networks onto the iPad. TouchTV runs video clips (typically up to five minutes in length) from 16 official providers including ESPN, Bloomberg Television and Jimmy Kimmel Live. While downloading TouchTV alone is not enough to “cut the cord” from your satellite or cable provider, the app offers a glimpse of what an app-enabled television universe can look like. TouchTV joins video discovery services like Showyou and Squrl (which each received significant updates this year) as among the best iOS apps to currently watch on Apple TV.

Any.Do (iPhone, iPod Touch: free)
Our favorite Android app of 2011 in June finally made its way to iOS devices. And it was worth the wait. Any.Do, which is backed by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, is an uber-productivity app that lets you easily create and complete tasks with the swipe of a finger. The app’s voice-dictation technology reliably records tasks without a user needing to type anything. You can also share your to-do lists with friends in the hopes they might help out with whatever needs to get done.

Highlight (iPhone, iPod Touch: free)
Coming out of the South By Southwest bracket of the 2012 mid-year app tournament is this social mobile local app. Highlight alerts you when a Facebook friend or individual with similar interests is nearby, and lets you learn more about other Highlight users when they are in your vicinity. Like similar services including Sonar, Banjo and Kismet, Highlight is only effective if there is a critical mass of other users in your area. While each service has its strong points, Highlight looks to have the greatest chance of any to crossover to the mainstream.

Viggle (iPhone, iPod touch: free, also available for Android)
Receiving discount cards from the likes of Amazon, Starbucks and the Gap just for watching TV for many could be considered the American dream. Viggle makes it a reality by letting users check-in and earn loyalty points for watching their favorite programs. The app performs reliably, while offering additional features including trivia questions, polls and curated tweets as gravy.

LinkedIn Update (Universal iOS: free)
The best thing about LinkedIn’s April iOS update is that the app is now finally compatible and optimized for the iPad. Presumably inspired by Flipboard (where it has a key presence), LinkedIn functions best as a social magazine on the iPad. The magic of LinkedIn on the iPad is how it integrates content shared by your connections with the ability to map common relationships with the sender in ways not possible via any other app or site.

Clear (iPhone, iPod Touch: free)
Clear is the to-do list for those who just want to get their stuff done and move on. While it lacks many of the features of heavy-hitter task-managers like Omnifocus and newer contemporaries like Any.Do, Clear excels in letting users quickly create categories and list the things they need to do that fall under those categories. The app’s beautifully designed interface also lets users sort these listed items by priority and quickly swipe to erase them when they’ve been completed.

HomeSnap (iPhone, iPod Touch: free)
While HomeSnap can’t do much to bring the nation’s housing market back to pre-crash levels, the app – with an assist from augmented reality – can help users determine the value of a home merely by taking its picture. In addition to financials, you can also see school information, historical data and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in a given home. HomeSnap is not 100 percent reliable, but neither is information provided by a seller or broker.

Best iOS and Android games
It’s no accident that most of the top games to come out so far in 2012 are available on both iOS and Android devices. While there are constraints involved in making sure games are compatible across myriad Android form factors and operating systems, developers realize they need to embrace the platform in order to achieve a critical mass of users.

Draw Something by OMGPOP (Universal: $2.99, also available for Android)
While the momentum for this touchscreen-based and unofficial variation of Pictionary slowed down after it was acquired by Zynga in March, there are reasons why Draw Something generated tens of millions of downloads in only its first few weeks (faster than Angry Birds, Instagram, and any other app in history). It’s really fun to play! The premise of the game is simple enough for a five-year-old to pick up. Further, Draw Something’s social integration via Facebook and email makes it easy to play the game with a friend or stranger regardless of what kind of iOS and Android device they own. Don’t own a device on either platform? No worries, you’ll soon be able to watch the upcoming Draw Something primetime game show.

JAZZ: Trump’s journey (Universal: $2.99, also available for Android)
Loosely based on the life of Louis Armstrong, JAZZ: Trump’s journey plays well as a “greatest hits” for platform games. With beautiful graphics that capture 1920’s era New Orleans, great controls, and of course a killer soundtrack, Trump’s journey has enough features and depth to appeal to established gamers while also serving as a spirited and soulful introduction to newbie players.

Angry Birds Space (iPhone and iPod Touch: $0.99, iPad: $2.99, Android smartphones: $0.99, Android tablets: $2.99)
With a launch promotion that was literally out of this world, there was a concern that Angry Birds Space wouldn’t live up to its hype, or just be a slight variation of previous versions of the game. That fear was flung into the stratosphere once we actually began playing it. With new gravity-based mechanics, awesome new birds, a darker color palate and bizarrely amusing space aesthetics, Angry Birds Space is arguably the most refreshing and enjoyable title in the franchise.

N.O.V.A 3 (Universal: $6.99, also for Android)
If you are a fan of first-person shooters, than this is the game for you. Developed by Gameloft, N.O.V.A. 3 more than any other title available on mobile devices moves and feels like a console game. N.O.V.A. 3 has you blasting aliens and enemies through a number of planets (including a war-torn Earth). The multiplayer aspect of the game will have you sharing your battle with as many as 11 other players. Each beautifully animated level takes about 30 minutes to complete, offering a lot of bang for your seven bucks.

Spellsword (Universal: $0.99)
With furious and addicting gameplay, unique mechanics, and retro graphics and music, Spellsword is a fresh new platform game contained within a sword and sorcery kind of environment. Use your single sword to strike down enemies, and launch fireballs along the way. As you proceed through the missions and maps, new spell cards will be introduced along with new enemies. The best thing about Spellsword, at least for more competitive gamers, is that it contains no in-app purchases, and all of the achievements must be earned by the player.

Best Android apps
Many of the best new releases on Android – including three of our five favorites – were originally created for iOS devices. When the best titles are finally available on multiple platforms, we all win.

Flipboard (free)
Our favorite iPhone app of 2011 finally and officially arrived to Android in June. The socially curated magazine – which beautifully presents news, photos and status updates shared by your social graph – included YouTube integration as part of its Android launch (Google+ integration arrived a few days earlier). Flipboard is also the best way to read content from third-party publishers on mobile devices, including the New York Times which on June 28 debuted its NYT Everywhere service to subscribers within the app.

Instagram (free)
Instagram’s arrival to Android was a positive development to say the least for the photo-sharing pioneer. Within one week, Instagram attracted more than 5 million downloads. A few days later, the company was acquired by Facebook for what was at the time a 10-figure valuation. The company’s immediate triumph illustrates how apps need to be available for both iOS and Android devices to emerge as a true pop-culture sensations.

Google Drive (free with subscription, also available on iOS)
In our two months of using the service, we are finding that Google Drive is a superior and more cost-effective solution for storing and sharing documents than Dropbox. For individuals and organizations that already rely on Google Docs, migrating to Google Drive is a no brainer. The app works seamlessly across all of our Android devices.  Now that the service as of June 28 is available to download to iOS devices, there is not much else standing in the way of market domination.

Airbnb (free)
Airbnb’s arrival to Android in January, after previously being available online and via iOS devices, was more than just a copy and paste job from one platform to another. The service, a vacation-rental marketplace, for the first time made it possible for property owners and travelers to quickly instant message each other for questions or go over any issues that arise during a stay. There are more than Airbnb 200,000 listings across the world, as well as curated travel recommendations from the likes of Ashton Kutcher and Jack Dorsey.

Chrome (free on Ice Cream Sandwich devices only, also available on iOS)
If you use the Chrome desktop browser and own an Android smartphone or tablet powered by Ice Cream Sandwich, owning this app is a no-brainer. The Chrome mobile and desktop apps interact seamlessly with one another, meaning you can access your bookmarks and browsing history on the app. The app also lets you swipe between tabs without ever having to go to the tabs menu. The Chrome app also supports voice search, bookmarking and private browsing. Like Google Drive, Chrome launched on iOS devices on June 28 during Google I/O 2012.

The 20 Best iOS And Android Apps Of 2012 (So Far)

Was Zynga’s Deal To Buy OMGPOP That Disastrous? Here’s Some Perspective.

Screen Shot 2012-05-09 at 3.19.48 PM

Draw Something, the game that could do no wrong now seems like it can do little right, at least according to the blogosphere. There’s been a string of stories from virtually everyone saying that the OMGPOP acquisition is “haunting” Zynga because Draw Something’s daily active usage is down to 9.1 million daily active users from its peak of 14.6 million daily active users.

It’s funny how the press turns (and we know this too well). On the day we broke the story that Zynga was about to buy OMGPOP for what turned out to be $180 million, Business Insider said that our rumored price range was way too low. When the company sold, they then wrote a story citing Flurry’s CEO that OMGPOP had left $800 million on the table.

But now, the story is totally opposite! “Interest is fading!” The deal was a debacle! This chart below from AppData is getting rehashed over and over again.

It looks dismal. But while Draw Something’s decline seems a little scary (as it should be), there’s a lot of context to keep in mind –

1) Zynga raised its bookings guidance by around $50 to 75 million for the year, mostly on OMGPOP. Zynga said late last month that bookings for the year would come in at between $1.425 billion to $1.5 billion, up from $1.35 to $1.45 billion. They said on the earnings call that the $50 to 75 million bump was mostly because of Draw Something. While that seems high, it’s not out of line if you look at other comparable company monthly revenues. Funzio was making $5 million a month at the time of its sale to GREE. Glu Mobile, a publicly-traded company, did $17 million in Android and iOS gaming revenues in the first quarter.

2) Games usually peak and then taper off in usage. But revenue sometimes goes in the opposite direction with optimization and improvement (like with Farmville). Zynga probably knows the natural lifecycle of freemium game better than most other companies. Games peak early and then taper down over long stretches of time.

Even hit games often contribute the majority of their revenue to the company after they peak. Farmville was still Zynga’s top game by revenue last quarter even though it’s several years old. It made up 29 percent of the company’s online game revenue, followed by Cityville which had a 17 percent share, according to an SEC filing today.

Here’s the life cycle of Cityville, Zynga’s top game on the Facebook canvas by monthly active users:

Here’s what Farmville looked like:

If you zoom out, here’s what Draw Something’s life cycle looks like. Kinda familiar?

True, mobile is a little bit different. The titles that were first to market like Angry Birds and Zeptolab’s Cut The Rope, have managed to last longer than your typical social game on the Facebook. There are also exceptions like Words With Friends, which has a very unusual curve and Zynga Poker. But life cycles for mobile games are getting shorter every quarter.

3) OMGPOP’s price may seem high, but the deal was far from the most aggressively priced one in recent social gaming memory.

Remember when Disney paid up to $763.2 million for social gaming startup Playdom in 2010? At Playdom’s peak, the company had 7.3 million daily active users. When the deal finally closed, they had about 5 million. Even if you exclude the $200 million earnout, Disney paid more than three times as much as Zynga did for one-half of the daily active users. And that’s factoring in Draw Something’s recent declines.

Or how about the time when DeNA paid up to $403 million for Ngmoco in 2010?  When DeNA won the bidding war against Zynga for this company led by former EA execs, they got 12 million registered users. That’s registered, as in people who touched Ngmoco’s Plus+ gaming network maybe one or two times (not people who used it every month or every day).

OMGPOP had peak usage of 14.6 million users every day. Up until now, Ngmoco has mostly been a source of costs for its Japanese parent as it only launched its Android-based mobile gaming network last fall. If they start materially adding to revenues, it won’t be until now or later in the year, two years after they were acquired.

Or how about the time when GREE paid $104 million for mobile-social gaming network OpenFeint even though it lost more than $6 million on $282,500 in revenue the year before? OMGPOP made about that much revenue per day when it sold to Zynga.

4) There are a lot of other conflating factors that have driven the stock downward over the past few months:

The lock-up period for Zynga’s employees ended a week ago, so now the company’s rank-and-file can sell their holdings. Pincus himself sold close to $200 million in stock at the beginning of last month through a secondary offering. Both Pandora and LinkedIn, which went public last year, matched or found new lows when they hit their critical lock-up dates.

Maybe there are some underlying concerns about where Zynga will find new growth as the company’s business on Facebook seems mature. Draw Something might tie a little bit into that as it’s part of Zynga’s mobile strategy, but it’s not just the game itself. It’s hard to envision a gaming business on iOS or Android that has the market share that Zynga has on Facebook. Furthermore, many standalone Android or iOS gaming companies trade or have been sold at somewhere between $200 million and 400 million.

At a $5.89 billion market cap, Zynga is aggressively priced for growth and is worth about four times its projected revenues this year. Meanwhile, Electronic Arts trades at not much more than what it will bring in revenue for this year. Zynga is also changing a lot internally as early employees, many of whom didn’t have a genuine gaming background, phase out. The company is now pulling in a lot of EA’s middle management. That could bring some creative firepower but it could also create internal culture clash.

But OMGPOP? That’s just one game. And the title’s decline, while fast, mirrors what you see with other hit games.

Was Zynga’s Deal To Buy OMGPOP That Disastrous? Here’s Some Perspective.

PlaySay: Social Language Learning App Launches With $820k And A HarperCollins Deal In Its Pocket


The education market — as Apple and others have noticed — represents a huge mobile opportunity, and today sees the launch of an app that plays on that potential, with added gamification and social twists. PlaySay, a “social language learning” startup, today debuts a free, new Spanish/English iPhone app — along with a licensing deal with HarperCollins and an additional $250,000 in funding, taking total backing in the company up to $820,000.

We first heard about PlaySay last year, when it launched at the TC Disrupt conference as a Facebook app that let users learn languages through Facebook’s own content translated into your foreign language of choice: “Your Facebook friends are your new classmates. Check ins, status updates and pictures are your course materials,” founder Ryan Meinzer said at the time. The new iPhone app plays on a similar idea, except that it uses PlaySay’s own platform as the basis of the language learning.

Like runaway sensation Draw Something, PlaySay’s app is a game that lets users connect with a partner elsewhere to progress. In the case of PlaySay, it incorporates real conversations and pronunciation feedback with native speakers into a narrative structure, constructed as “missions,” in the parlance of the app. There’s more detail on how it works in the video below.

And, also like Draw Something, it’s designed to be played in turns, making it a supremely flexible game/learning tool for people on the go.

Looking at the content, it’s more about locking down phrases and practical usage than it is about formal language learning, but as any language student knows, you don’t really learn a language until you start to use it. Not all of the content is serious. (“Mashed potato, please” being one of my random favorites, except that I don’t really like mashed potatoes very much.)

The company says that the app was four years in the making, and originally arose out of Meinzer’s own attempts to learn Japanese. And in fact PlaySay already had a number of other apps in the App Store using its technology to learn languages like Japanese, French and Spanish.

Although this new, gamed-up, social app is launching with only two languages — English and Spanish — you can expect that list to grow.

Meanwhile, the licensing deal with HarperCollins is a big win for PlaySay, in that HC is the biggest foreign-language dictionary publisher in the world. It comes on top of an existing deal with McGraw-Hill, and both publishers will be incorporated into PlaySay’s upcoming premium content model: those who pay up will be able to access “professional publisher content to further enhance their language learning,” the company says.

Backers of PlaySay also speak to how the company is pitching itself in the future as an educational/business force to be reckoned with. They include Kevin Yu, the former director of PayPal Japan; Sean Glass, founder of online educational payment disbursement company Higher One; and Novak Biddle Venture Partners, one of the bigger and more active VCs in the education space.

PlaySay: Social Language Learning App Launches With $820k And A HarperCollins Deal In Its Pocket

Crackdown On Download Bots Meant Installs For Top iOS Apps Took A Dive In March


Downloads for the top 200 free apps in the U.S. iTunes app store took a 30 percent dive in March, according to Fiksu, a Charles River Ventures-backed company that helps mobile developers find users cheaply.

The culprit? Two things. One is that we’re just coming out of the very lucrative holiday season, when downloads spike and people get new phones that they’re eager to experiment with through trying tons of apps. The other may be Apple’s crackdown on download bots, or automated programs that downloads apps tens of thousands of times to help them break into the top of the charts.

Fiksu says that the top 200 free U.S. iPhone apps saw 4.45 million downloads per day in March, down from 6.35 million per day in February. Apple issued a warning to developers during the first week of February, telling them not to use services that explicitly manipulate the charts.

“An unexpected contributing factor could be the decline in the use of robotic install tactics by app marketers responding to Apple’s new policy,” said Fiksu’s chief executive Micah Adler in a statement.

The crackdown has had huge implications for the types of apps that make it to the top of the charts. If you watched the charts like I did for well over a year, it was pretty common to see really strange, esoteric (and frankly, not very well-made) apps pop on the charts every single week. At the same time, very social, more utility-like apps like Instagram or Facebook would hover in the teens or twenties — or between #50 and 100.

The decline of download bots has made room for apps like Viddy, Socialcam, Instagram and Draw Something to move higher on the charts. Plus, because of the way the Apple app store is designed, once an app breaks above #25 or #10, it gets a huge increase in downloads per day.

Even despite the decline, the amount developers have to pay to get a good mobile app user was relatively unchanged at $1.30 from $1.31 in February. By good user, we mean one that opens an app at least three times after they downloaded it.

Crackdown On Download Bots Meant Installs For Top iOS Apps Took A Dive In March