Архив метки: EA

Обзор iOS-игры Dungeon Keeper: жертва freemium

Добро пожаловать в подземелье, Хранитель! EA выпустила мобильную версию мегахита 90-х Dungeon Keeper для iPhone и iPad.
Обзор iOS-игры Dungeon Keeper: жертва freemium

EA Mobile Moves: IronMonkey & Firemint Merge Into “Firemonkeys,” Now Have 50M Players Between

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Electronic Arts announced today that it is merging two top mobile game studios, IronMonkey and Firemint, which will fittingly combine to create a new company, called Firemonkeys. (All parties are awarded 50 points for the awesome portmanteau.)

For those unfamiliar, IronMonkey is probably best known for adapting popular EA titles to mobile, like Mass Effect Infiltrator, Dead Space, and The Sims FreePlay. Freemint, meanwhile, has produced a number of its own popular games, including Flight Control, Real Racing, and SPY Mouse — to name a few. Both studios are currently subsidiaries of the gaming giant, which acquired IronMonkey in early 2010 and Firemint in May 2011.

The rebranded operation will continue to work out of EA’s Australian headquarters in Melbourne, where the teams will be tasked with creating new, original titles, while expanding on their existing catalogs. Going forward, EA has made it clear that it will be pinning much of its hopes on expanding into mobile, with a focus on free-to-play games monetized by in-app purchases.

But, in the long-term, EA can’t just rest on its laurels, squeezing pennies out of its successful franchises, it will have to create engaging, original titles for new generations of gamers. Big ticket acquisitions of PopCap and Playfish have made it clear that the company’s future lies in mobile and social.

As for the new Firemonkeys, IronMonkey General Manager Tony Lay told GameSpot that it wants to “sit shoulder to shoulder with EA studios, like DICE and Criterion,” and he believes that the team will get there by having IP ownership. “I want us to be seen as a creative entity, not simply a porting house,” the GM said.

And, abroad at least, many will be looking to Firemonkeys for leadership. The merger creates the largest game development studio in Australia, EA said today, as the studios’ games have collectively seen 50 million players in 2012 as well as more than two decades of experience between them.

The teams have already basically been working side by side, and the merger really just makes that relationship official, allowing the two teams to pool resources and collaborate on projects when mutual interests and strengths align. Smartphone growth is exploding both in Australia and in neighboring regions and Firemonkeys leadership says that it wants to leverage this adoption to increase brand recognition and become a new center for producing creative IP.

While it already stands as Australia’s largest mobile games studio, EA was quick to point out that it’s looking to expand further and is currently hiring for a number of positions.

EA Mobile Moves: IronMonkey & Firemint Merge Into “Firemonkeys,” Now Have 50M Players Between

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

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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.

EA’s PopCap Heads Into Merchandise With Plants Vs. Zombies Toys, Underwear (!) & More


Want a zombie on your underwear? Good, because soon, you will have that opportunity. Today, there comes more proof that mobile gaming is the entertainment franchise opp of the future as EA-owned PopCap, makers of Plants vs. Zombies and the “Bejeweled” series of games, announced a number of new partnership deals that will see its game brands turned into merchandise – much like Rovio’s Angry Birds has already done to great success. The company has six new partnerships on tap which will see its properties featured as everything from plush toys to branded headphones. And yeah, boxers, too.

According to PopCap, the deals are the first brand licensing partnerships to emerge in the company’s 12-year history, and they’ll kick off with top game Plants vs. Zombies to start. Bejeweled will then follow, followed by other games, and the merchandise will arrive in early 2013.

The partnerships include those with Bioworld Merchandising for apparel, headwear, bags and accessories; Jazwares for plush toys, figures and electronics, like headphones, USBs, speakers and device cases; Walls360 for wall graphics; Funko! will produce Plants vs. Zombies vinyl figurines; MjC will do adult sleepwear and boxers; and Trends International will do calendars and posters.

While Rovio has seen success with its likable (and kid-friendly) Angry Birds series of games, it’s unclear how well that type of success can translate to less huggable brands…like Bejeweled. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve wasted as many brain cells on that game as everyone else has, but Bejeweled hats and bags? I mean, that Tetris bag of mine is kind of old but still…it never really went with my outfits.

PopCap also has Zuma, Peggle and Bookworm to bring into the merchandise play, but again, none are as standout-ish as Angry Birds.

EA acquired PopCap back in 2011, and now has a worldwide staff of over 600 with offices in Seattle, San Francisco, Vancouver, B.C., Dublin, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo. Its games have been downloaded over 1.5 billion times, with Bejeweled alone selling over 50 million units.

EA’s PopCap Heads Into Merchandise With Plants Vs. Zombies Toys, Underwear (!) & More

There’s Something About Bango: The Billing Company Behind Facebook, BlackBerry And Soon Amazon


There are a number of companies that offer carrier billing for companies in the mobile space — that is, services that let people buy content on their devices and charge it right to their carrier — but there is only one that has secured deals with Facebook, Amazon and RIM to do it: an unassuming UK billing and analytics company by the name of Bango.

And while you may not know who they are, chances are that the folks at Bango probably know you.

Bango, established in 2002, is providing the back-end billing that Facebook will offer to developers who want to put any kind of premium content around apps that are built for Facebook’s mobile web platform.

That service was announced earlier this week. Before that, Bango was already providing billing in RIM’s Appworld: RIM claims that this easy billing option, combined with considerably fewer apps in its store, has made its developers more money than competing app stores such as the Android Market. Bango also works with Opera on its app storefront; with a number of app publishers including EA, Gameloft and Fox; and operators like AT&T, Sprint and Vodafone.

Bango’s service will also used by Amazon “in due course”, as a result of a deal Amazon and Bango announced in December 2011.

Ray Anderson, CEO of Bango, will not talk about the financial details of any of these services — except to note that while the company publishes a list of rates (first picked up on by Kim-Mai at Inside Mobile Apps), the bigger the customer is, the more favorable the terms.

In the case of Amazon, he will not speak about any details at all: whether it would be used to incorporate carrier billing into its existing Android appstore, or to work with a new product altogether. For example, it is currently running an in-app billing beta for its appstore.

Given that there are a number of ways of charging to a carrier’s bill — there is Boku, and Zong, Netsize and the operators themselves, among others — what is it that has attracted these companies to Bango?

Anderson says it’s a couple of things: there is the fact that billing is automatic and doesn’t require SMS confirmations as some competitors do. But Bango also has possibly one of the most extensive databases of people’s numbers, spanning “forty or fifty countries,” all aggregated into one platform. Anderson says Bango uses this database to help make those transactions, and especially repeat transactions, smoother and easier.

On Bango’s platform, he says, “If we pick up information about a user, we make sure it is used again later.”

(Creepy sidenote: that platform has tagged me, too: we checked and Bango had a record of my very first mobile phone model, who the carrier was, and of course the number. It also had records of whenever that device touched their systems. Ditto for my newer phone. The thing is, that I’m not sure I’ve ever bought anything and charged it to my phone bill.)

Bango has been in operation for the last 10 years, but Anderson says that things have really switched up in the last two to three years, with the rise of smartphones and app usage.

This growth has meant even more data fed into the Bango platform. The Appworld alone he says covers 100 million users; the Opera business brings in another 200 million. And Facebook will add in another 850 million.

Anderson tells me Bango has “a number of other sources” for its data: carriers provide it with that information about who visits its portals; there are others Anderson wouldn’t spell out.

That translates into even more growth. “The reason Bango is seeing a sudden surge of customer interest is because the more information it gets, the more there is for everyone to use,” he says. In that sense, Bango’s customers are happy when would-be competitors join in the billing fun.

While that might sound like a minefield for privacy issues, Anderson claims it’s the opposite because Bango has become a trusted, one-way repository for this information.

“A mobile carrier wouldn’t give the phone numbers of arbitrary people to arbitrary websites for billing,” he says. “But it is happy to provide us as long as we don’t pass on to anyone else, and only use it for billing transactions.”

Why carrier billing? Credit-card based services like Apple’s are catchy for markets where plastic is widely used, but Anderson says that the carrier billing facility really becomes more obvious when you are starting to target people who either don’t have credit cards, or don’t want to use them, especially for small transactions. Anderson cites one customer of theirs in South Africa: when the billing service was credit card based, the conversion was four in 10,000; he said the introduction of carrier billing turn that in 6,000 in 10,000.

“We call Apple the betamax of payments. And Bango is the VHS,” he said. “Both are okay, but it was VHS that became more popular because it was available to everyone.”

Who else might be joining the party? Anderson said the company is talking to everyone, including those who are already offering carrier billing through other routes. “If Google wants the best experience for payment they should probably start working with us,” he joked.

There’s Something About Bango: The Billing Company Behind Facebook, BlackBerry And Soon Amazon