October 13, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Mega Jump Record Holder Philipp Schneckenburger
The world of mobile gaming is expanding all the time, along with mobile commerce and, well, everything mobile. There are tips and tricks all over for improving your mobile-optimized website and ensuring customer satisfaction and ease of use with your m-commerce platform. Everyone is getting involved, and with good reason–10% of visits to ecommerce websites now take place on mobile devices. New tablets and smartphones are high on everyone’s list for the holidays. And gaming isn’t just for PCs or consoles anymore. The rate of mobile gaming has increased from 8% to 38% of gamers since 2009.
For the first time, mobile gaming is making Guinness World Records history. The first mobile gamer to be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records has been announced. Twenty-one year old Philipp Shneckenburger, an accountant in Switzerland, earned a high score of 6,133,889 playing Mega Jump. In an e-mail exchange with the company, we found he is reportedly not your typical gamer: “It’s funny because I normally don’t play video or mobile games,” he said of the achievement. But that may just go to show that mobile gaming is accessible to everyone.
While visiting the United States about a month ago, Schneckenburger’s American cousin showed him Mega Jump. He took to the game quickly and downloaded it for himself when he returned to Switzerland. Then, between September 28 and October 3, he participated in the Mega Jump high-score competition set up by Kiip (a mobile gaming platform with real-world incentives to win) and Guinness World Records, beating out about 200,000 other players to take the winning title.
Kiip and Guinness plan to team up for similar events in the future, giving all gamers the opportunity to break records and earn a place in history. (Schneckenburger’s achievement will be recognized in the 2012 Gamer’s Edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, which will be coming out in January.) Kiip gamers earn nearly 2 million achievements daily, and players have the opportunity to automatically submit high scores to be pitted against others for a world record.
Kiip CEO Brian Wong is excited about the record and the partnership:
“We’ve truly upped the ante on what players around the world can now strive for; but it’s closer in reach than ever before in history. This truly changes how we perceive the significance of mobile gaming today.”
In other mobile gaming news, Zynga has just announced its next move: a step away from Facebook and toward its own independent platform. Project Z would allow Zynga to get away from Facebook’s rules and form its own, but it also potentially compromises the number of users and the amount of exposure. Many of the new games Zynga has released have been HTML5, which seems to be the wave of the future for mobile gaming. This all comes as Zynga prepares for its IPO.
The release of the iPhone 4S, with graphics comparable to that of the iPad 2, is also good news for mobile gaming. The Gaming Center app now lets users connect with friends and get suggestions on games, as well as offers more achievements. The screen size has remained the same at 3.5 inches, but facial recognition technology may offer some interesting developments in the coming months and years.
Where would we be without the ability to play Zuma on the subway? Scrabble as we cross the street? Mafia Wars in a lunch meeting? (Just kidding about that last one. Sort of.) We’d be bored; that’s where we’d be. As we gear up for the holiday season, keep these mobile developments in mind and consider the gift of game.
September 29, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
“What does ‘high score’ mean? New high score, is that bad? What does that mean? Did I break it?” – Grandma’s Boy
One of the great pinnacles for every gamer out there is to rank the highest score in a video-game, to be the top player in every war-of-angry-worldcraft-super-mario-birds game out there. The notoriety of “still_liveswithmom87” splashed on the virtual walls of every high score page and gaming forum is what geeky dreams are made of. However, dream no more because one mobile game challenge is letting it now become a very happy reality.
San Francisco-based mobile ad start-up Kiip (pronounced keep), which brings real-world rewards for in-game achievements, has partnered up with Guinness World Records to bring the ultimate recognition to the top scoring player in mobile game, Mega Jump.
Starting Wednesday, September 28th and running through Monday, October 3rd, hopeful Mega Jump players will have the chance to earn themselves a place in the annals of gaming history by achieving the highest score. The player with the highest score will become the Highest Score Achieved on Mega Jump title holder, in addition to getting their name published in the next Guinness World Records: Gamers Edition 2012, and an official certificate recognizing his or her achievement.
The partnership with Guinness is a rather smart way for Kiip to introduce its services to developers, brands and gamers. The company stealthily launched this year and is out to change the way brands can connect with consumers by creating ad-incentives on a growing and immensely popular channel, mobile games. According to a study by eMarketer, 65% of smartphone users recall seeing an advertisement while online, and 35% reported actually clicking on an ad. Smartphone ads are becoming the new frontier to reach today’s consumer.
The company essentially takes that moment where a gamer is the most excited (e.g. high score, new level, extra points, etc.) and Kiip-enabled games will then flash an ad/reward to follow/associate with their achievement. Rewards have spanned across the board from Sephora, PopChips, Carl’s Jr., and Dr. Pepper. It’s a very strategic form of positive brand association that the company is using to their advantage to attract potential users. Currently, Kiip is enabled in over 20 mobile games and has an active network of over 15 million gamers.
“We’re making achievements more rewarding while building a new ad model. That’s always what Kiip’s been about,” explained Kiip CEO Brian Wong to the press. “We thought to ourselves — how do we differentiate amongst networks and to build our brand beyond any network has ever seen? And so we found the ultimate way, through world records, to recognize our true inventory: the achievement moment. This is also an ongoing network integration that will see all Kiip-enabled games from today onward having the opportunity to contribute to the record books. It is a network enhancer that is super fitting to our moments-based model.”
Looking forward, Kiip will roll out more opportunities to become a Guinness World Record holder for other Kiip-enabled games. The current mobile game challenge is only open to iOS Mega Jump users. To see how you size up to the competition, check out the current leaderboard: https://kiip.me/gwr.
September 20, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Millions of Netflix subscribers received an apologetic email early Monday morning from Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of the company.
The email is a slightly briefer version of a post from Hastings on Netflix’s blog that provides a lengthy apology for the lack of communication to subscribers about changes that the company is making to its services and pricing. Netflix recently made the decision to separate its DVD and streaming services and charge for both, leading to a significant backlash from customers and a fall in subscriptions.
Hastings explained the reasoning behind Netflix’s decisions and describes where the company is headed with its split services. The CEO ensured users that both the DVD-by-mail service and streaming ecommerce software will get better as a result of their separation. Hastings had this to say:
“So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are becoming two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently. It’s hard for me to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary and best: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to ‘Qwikster’.”
The re-named DVD service will remain essentially the same, even down to the red envelope, but will now have its own website. One improvement to Qwikster is that users will have the option of upgrading their subscription to include video games for Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii in their shopping carts, a feature that has been a long time coming. Hastings and Andy Redich, the new Qwikster CEO, made a short YouTube video describing the new service.
There are a couple downsides for customers who want to subscribe to both the DVD and streaming services, the obvious one being that they will have to pay separately for each subscription. The other is that since the services will now have separate websites some things will have to be done twice, such as rating movies. In other words if customers rent a DVD and rate it on Qwikster, their rating will not automatically show up on Netflix. Other minor things like entering payment information or changing contact details will also have to be done twice.
It is evident from comments left on Hastings’ blog post that many subscribers (or former subscribers) still believe that the company’s decision to split its services is greatly misguided. A quick read-through of the first page of comments reveals a varying degree of criticism, from mere disappointment to outright rage directed at the company and its CEO. Many users feel that the whole appeal of Netflix was the convenience of having two integrated services under one roof.
Hastings acknowledges at one point in his post that the DVD-by-mail service may not be around forever and that the streaming market is growing much more rapidly. He writes that Netflix will continue to improve and grow, with the addition of substantial new streaming material in coming months. Netflix is clearly gearing up to expand globally, the service recently launched its ecommerce software in 43 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
September 20, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
In a world wide web far, far away the gaming realm was at odds with the villains and the superheros of the DC Universe battling amongst themselves for something, something about the darkside. Okay, maybe the sci-fi/comic references are a bit crossed here, however game boys and fan boys are seeing these days the collision of two different gaming models battling out for their attention: ‘freemium’ versus premium. As a way to compete, the subscription-based, massively multi-player online role playing game (MMORPG) DC Universe Online (DCUO) will be offered for free-to-play on both the PlayStation 3 and PC versions beginning October, just in time for the holiday season.
Back in January DCUO debuted at a retail price of $59.99 for PlayStation 3 and $49.99 for PC. Every new copy of the game came with a 30-day trial but once the free trial ended, players would have to subscribe to continue gameplay at $14.99 a month. At first, DCUO was welcomed with great fanfare and booming sales, but it seems within the last several months, the hype may have died down and keeping gamers within the DC subscription funnel is not as easy.
This problem is not uncommon in the case of MMORGPs, as most tend to have great sales out the gate but tend to lose its user base over time and can fade out of existence, leaving space for the next and newest game to emerge. However, the landscape of gaming has also changed where the ‘freemium’ model has come to the forefront, as more and more gamers are focusing their spending on in-game goods in free-to-play games rather than paying up front for subscription services. Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) has put in about $50 million (over five and half years) to take DCUO to the public, which makes the uncertain success of the game a big gamble for the company, the free access offering may be the key to redirecting today’s gamer back onto DCUO.
SOE will roll out three tiers of the game: Free, Premium, and Legendary. All three levels will provide access to open world gameplay and missions, general game updates and fixes to the game, with each level offering different game options and benefits (in other words, SOE has covered all its grounds to bring).
The Free tier will give gamers limited features and character slots, Premium is for those who spend a total of $5 or more on in-game goods gaining access to more features, and Legendary is for the gamers willing to shell out the previous $14.99 a month subscription fee to gain access to all the gaming features and benefits.
John Smedley, president of SOE commented, “Our philosophy embraces learning from our experience and as a pioneer in the free-to-play space with proven successful games like Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures, we believe this new model will expand the DCUO experience and offer more options that cater to every type of player so they can play the game in a way that fits them.”
For more information on the DCUO free-to-play access levels can be found on the same DC Universe-time, same DC Universe-channel: dcuniverseonline.com/free
September 15, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Red Robot Labs, creators of the Life is Crime app, is a start-up devoted to developing games that realize the potential of location-based mobile gaming.
Players in “Life is Crime” can fight each other at real locations on their city’s map for control of properties in battles where the winner is determined by weapons and stats. Players can also pick up and drop off virtual “goods” from each other around the city, a mutually beneficial action. The game launched at Seattle’s Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) back in August and quickly gained a following. For the duration of the convention alone there were more than 20,000 virtual “crimes” committed, including 4000 fights for control of the Convention Center and $1 million in contraband trafficked through the Convention Center.
Seattle is one of the first fully developed and mapped cities to be released for the game. Users can add the Life is Crime app to their shopping carts for free but it is currently only available on the Android. An iPhone version is set to be released soon and there is talk of allowing gang fights between iPhone and Android users to battle it out for supremacy of their cities.
Toronto based developers Massive Damage, Inc. created another example of location-based gaming, called Please Stay Calm, in which players battle hordes of flesh eating zombies at locations that they check-in at. Players can earn credits to purchase new weapons in order to better combat the undead. Location-based, or real-world, mobile gaming is still in its early stages but games like Life is Crime and Please Stay Calm provide a glimpse into the future potential of location-based gaming to change how people interact with their Smartphones and with each other at popular locations. Massive Damage’s Garry Seto had this to say:
“Our game is just scratching the surface of the emergent gameplay possible by implementing features like implicit teamplay and ad hoc group missions that occur when multiple players are in the same location.”
Please Stay Calm is currently only available through ecommerce solutions in Canada and only for the iPhone. The game will be released in the United States sometime next month and for the Android later this year.
Red Robot Labs announced Wednesday that it has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding. The funding was led by Benchmark Capital with participation from Shasta Ventures, Playdom co-founder Rick Thompson, and Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive. Red Robot Labs will use the new funding to work on developing its location-based gaming platform, create new games in-studio, as well as forge partnerships with third-party developers. Mike Ouye, CEO and co-founder, had this to say:
“We recognized the enormous opportunity presented by location gameplay on mobile devices — location games are very sticky. We’ve developed a significant game and platform strategy that appeals to both core gamers and casual audiences seeking a high quality social gaming experience built around their daily routines.”
Smartphone users can expect to see more and more location-based mobile gaming apps available for their shopping carts in the near future. Red Robot Labs hopes to have three more games out by then end of the year.
August 17, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
The rise of smartphones (and tablets, sure…) has also meant the rise of mobile gaming. Mobile gaming is this weird avenue of both social and casual games (indeed, most social games would be considered “casual,” by video gaming’s previous ruling class of console and PC gamers). People use their mobile phones for more and more social interaction (Facebook updates, etc.) and many of the games that they play on their phones carry over from social networks. Failing that, they can at least post their scores and benchmarks on their Walls.
As we’ve covered numerous times, one of the most oft-used revenue streams for mobile, social, and casual games is the “freemium” model. In these settings it’s free to download the game, but once you start playing, you can buy virtual items through an in-game ecommerce solution. This has proven to be much more lucrative than charging up-front for the game itself, then giving everyone who plays basically the same experience.
Maybe that’s the appeal: with freemium games, casual users can just mess around with the basic program, but more ambitious players (or ones with more money to waste) can buy special items to change (improve) their playing experience. Now, when we found out that people were using real world money on in-game ecommerce solutions to buy virtual goods to influence their experience, that wasn’t too surprising. Do you want to grind away hours of your life earning enough points to get the Flame Sword or do you just want to drop a dollar or two and buy it?(it makes defeating the Ice King SO much easier).
What is surprising is that people are spending real world money on disposable virtual items. That’s right: real money + virtual ecommerce solution = disposable items. How does that work? Well, whatever their reasons, according to Flurry (a data tracking service used by a lot of app developers to get info about how people are using their products) almost 70% of purchases are for things that get used up, also called “consumables.” These consumables include things like grenades, fuel (like for your tractor in the uber-game Farmville), and other forms of energy or ammunition.
The rest of purchases made through in-game ecommerce solutions are “durable” items that either confer a long-term benefit or upgrade, or else have only cosmetic value. Apparently some people will pay real money to have their in-game avatar look good.
August 15, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
No, not you, Mario
We love online games here at Zippycart. And while we never (EVER!) play games on company time, we do use company time to research the latest trends in video games of all kinds. One trend we’ve paid especially close attention to has been “freemium,” the practice of selling virtual items via in-game transactions using real money. That’s right, people actually pay hard earned money for digital products put into an electronic shopping cart.
So now Google+ has games. The social network is Google’s latest offering in what can only be described as their attempt to DO EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD. They do phones, email, music, a digital wallet, and they even have a search engine! Their social network, however, has been rolled out slowly and almost cautiously. It was in private, invite-only mode for a while, now it’s opening up some. Adding games is the next step in making it super-social in a more “fun” way that Facebook embraced some time ago.
While games are free to start off with, users will probably waste no time putting in-game items into their online shopping carts. The best part about the way Google+ is set up is that (unlike Facebook), since users manage relationships and information via “circles,” game notifications only show up when you want to see them (in your games circle, etc.). No more endless messages like: “Jimmy put over a million items in his shopping cart in ‘Supermarket Shopping Game!’ He wants you to come join him!”
Sorry Jimmy, you’re on your own.
Another key way that Google+ differs from Facebook is that instead of coming out the gate with a million developers (well, okay, Facebook only has just under 200) writing games for them, Google+ debuted their Games program with only 16 games from 10 developers. Keeping things lean and mean for the debut. It’s possibly an attempt to undercut Facebook in terms of quality over quantity, and definitely a move that enhance’s their desirability in terms of scarcity and exclusivity, which increases demand.
Google is also undercutting Facebook in the price department. While Facebook takes 30% of all in-game transactions of whatever goes into players’ shopping carts, Google is starting out with just 5%. Now, there are many reasons why this could be. For starters, when Facebook started with games, they probably never saw the HUGE growth/money that they would end up producing. Maybe they were also more hard up for money in the earlier days, and needed a bigger slice of the pie for operating/growth costs.
Meanwhile, Google is one of the biggest and most well-funded companies in the world. They don’t “need” the money from their games segment as badly. They’ve also been quick to say that they don’t know if the 5% fee rate will last forever. Odds are that they will stay below Facebook’s rate, though.
Maybe this is just what Google does – hang back and see how the competition does something, then come up with their own version, undercut them, and beat them at their own game. They made their business model for Google Offers almost exactly like Groupon’s, but they took the sketchy/loss-filled business model and tightened it up and made it work a little harder for the business that was running the deal. I don’t know where Google will go next, but the competition always needs to be on guard.
August 12, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Last month EA games, one of the largest video game developers in the US, acquired Popcap games, which Barry Cottle, executive vice president of EA Interactive, referred to in a recent interview as “the Pixar of the social games space.” With praise like that, it’s easy to see why EA would stand by their “hands off” policy when dealing the Popcap. Ever since adding the casual gaming company to their shopping cart (for 1.3 billion dollars), EA hasn’t changed a thing about how the company is run.
This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. If a big company likes your system well enough to invest in it and/or buy it, then hopefully they like and respect what you are doing enough to leave you alone and let you do it. Casual games and social and mobile games require the right mix of ease of use and longterm play rewards. In-game ecommerce solutions that allow users to put game additions into their shopping carts are a proven revenue stream for game companies, so what’s not to love about just letting Popcap do their thing and wait for the money to come rolling in?
Speaking of shopping carts, EA’s other good reason for letting Popcap do their own thing could be their different backgrounds. EA comes from the old school gaming world of what they call “packaged goods.” Back in the dark ages, you nagged your mom to drive you to the local mall, dragged her into Electronics Boutique, and physically put a videogame into a shopping cart, took it to the counter, and paid for it.
Popcap games and many other current generation casual, social, and mobile games are not like that. They are delivered electronically and may take place entirely through web apps, never actually even “living” on the device that they are being played on. Cottle was realistic about the interrelation between packaged video games and the way Popcap and others have been distributing their games:
“I think the boxed method is here for now and is substantial, but will we get to a world without it? Yeah I think that’s feasible, the idea that we get to a world where it’s only about digitally downloaded goods. In the end, for us, it’s kind of irrelevant whether the industry relies on packaged goods or digital downloads. Our franchises will be made available regardless. We’re going to make Need for Speed, Battlefield and Sims available to you regardless of what format you want it in.”
So there you have it: a diverse portfolio of offerings on a variety of platforms, available digitally or in physical form. With acquisitions like this, EA is positioning itself for strong performance on a number of fronts, all without tinkering in the inner workings of its subsidiaries when not totally necessary.
August 2, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
A little while back we discussed Zynga filing for their initial public offering to help raise $1 billion. They were (and still are) in the middle of a lawsuit with Vostu, in which Zynga is the plaintiff. The social gaming ecommerce solution is now in another legal battle, but this time they’re the defendant.
Segan LLC is suing Zynga over patent infringement. We’ll discuss what the patent is in a few because it’s kind of confusing. Segan LLC believes that they have been hurt from this patent infringement (obviously), and believe that Zynga knew they were using it. The company expects a reasonable amount of royalty fees from Zynga for using “their invention.”
The patent in question was made by Marc Segan and Gene Lewin in 2006. The patent is a system and method for viewing content over the Internet wherein a user accesses a service provider server to view a character icon provided by the service provider to a user interface device. Segan says that Zynga uses this technology in many of their freemium, in-game ecommerce solution games like Cityville, Mafia Wars, and Farmville.
Now because patents are always worded so that they are impossible to understand, there is even more confusing language – and it’s just as obtuse:
“The user will select web site addresses of subscriber target sites where the user can access enhancement content for the character icon to provide functionality to the character icon such as for animating the character icon on the user device. Addresses for such web sites may be provided to the user based on a particular character icon selection which may, in and of itself, signify interests and/or demographic information of the user. Access to enhancement content will be provided by accessing authorization codes present at the target sites. In a preferred embodiment, only certain enhancement content will be operable on certain character icons, thus requiring the user to locate enhancement content that is compatible with the user’s character icon.”
As confusing as that paragraph is, the idea is fairly simple: to associate a person with a specific virtual character and how to manage updates through that system.
After stalking Marc Segan on Linkedin (social media is scary huh?) because Segan LLC has zero web-presence, I was able to see that Segan LLC is in the “consumer goods industry.” Try finding something on Google about these guys. They’re definitely not an ecommerce solution, and it’s looking more and more like they only deal with intangibles – such as patents, and making money through litigation and royalties from other companies. It will be interesting to see how this affects Zynga’s IPO in the coming month or so.
July 29, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
How do you say “Cha-ching!” in Chinese (and in which dialect)? Zynga, whose massively popular social games are a hit on Facebook for computers and mobile devices alike, is launching its hottest game – “Cityville” – in China. Who won’t be there? Facebook. The world’s most popular social network is banned in China, a country rife with free speech issues and censorship.
The launch is made possible by cooperation with Tencent, a Chinese Internet portal. The initial launch will be through their “Pengyou” site, which has over 101 million users. This is a great opportunity for Zynga to expand their user base, which already boasts 80 million active monthly users worldwide. Jim Tang, an analyst at Shenyin & Wanguo Securities Co., volunteered this opinion and insight:
“Tencent’s strategy is to offer platforms with a wide variety of games and other services. They have a huge client base. If you cooperate with them, Tencent can guarantee a very large user base.”
It’s also a chance for them to diversify their revenue streams, as critics of their IPO have marked Zynga’s reliability on Facebook for revenue as a liability. That’s definitely a factor, considering that most of their money came in via purchases made through in-game ecommerce solutions. This is a popular monetization technique called “freemium,” where a game is free to play, but users have access to ecommerce solutions within the game where they can trade real world cash for virtual goods to improve gameplay.
A number of ecommerce solutions have sought to make Facebook a reliable source of income – whether they be businesses that exist solely online, brick-and-mortar stores looking to expand their virtual presence, or apps and games that need a revenue stream to continue development. But apparently Zynga feels bold enough to expand into China even without Facebook backing them up. Their Cityville game will be rebranded as “Zynga City,” and revamped to include typically Chinese elements from the nation’s history and present pop culture, all designed to make transition smooth for new users.
The in-game ecommerce solution will stay also, in an effort to draw in more revenue. Mirae Asset Securities Co. estimates that the social/mobile-game market will be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of 27 billion yuan ($4.2 billion) by 2015. Getting in on the ground floor now could mean even bigger bucks for Zynga down the road – on top of the fact that they hope to make about a billion dollars when they go public.
July 21, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Cloud-based services are the big thing right now. Amazon led the race to the market by launching a music storage system without major label support. Their system allows anyone to sign up for five gigs of music storage for free and get an additional fifteen if they buy an album through their mp3 ecommerce solution. Google also has a music service that will allow you to load all of your music onto their cloud system and access it from anywhere. Also add to that list Apple and now even Sony! Everyone wants to get everything possible onto the cloud – before scientists develop something else new and weird to put all of our data (and eventually our entire brains!) onto.
However, in the midst of all this cloud fervour, a streaming game service named Gaikai has been quietly building up their systems and raising money. They just closed a thirty million dollar series C financing round led by venture capital giant NEA (no idea what those initials stand for). Other participants in the funding festivities included Qualcomm, Benchmark Capital, Rustic Canyon and Intel Capital. Total funding for the company is now in the neighborhood of forty million dollars.
But what does Gaikai do? And how will they use all that new money? Gaikai’s current business model involves giving gamers streaming access to videogames over their cloud network. This is part of the massive disruption that videogaming has faced in the last few years, where more and more gaming content is available virtually and the old model of buying physical disks and going to stores is on the way out.
Another service that Gaikai provides is giving game developers a platform where they can sell and distribute their games. Offering both a free sample service and a fully functional ecommerce solution, Gaikai is helping cutting age game developers get their products and ideas out there into the world where they can start making a name for themselves.
They say that they will use the new piles of money to help speed integration and acceptance of their Interactive Cloud Network (the name of their cloud gaming system). With the rate at which tech users are adopting new cloud technologies, their chances of future success are good.
July 13, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Electronic Arts, one of the largest video game producers in the world, has purchased casual game producer PopCap for $650 million in cash and $100 million in stock. PopCap’s portfolio includes mobile games such as Bejeweled, Plants vs Zombies, and Zuma. The purchase will help EA expand into online casual gaming, a market that the company has previously not appealed to.
The purchase comes in at less than the expected $1 billion pricetag that analysts had predicted, but has the potential to net PopCap $1.3 billion in total compensation, based on future performance. PopCap’s games have been installed over 150 million times, on every possible media platform. Bejeweled alone has made it’s way into over 50 million shopping carts. The company, which has been in the gaming market for over 10 years, reported that approximately 80% of PopCap’s revenue last year was generated on online/mobile/social platforms.
EA is the powerhouse behind games such as Medal of Honor, The Sims and the “EA Sports” franchise that have dominated console gaming for years. The company appeals to a more dedicated “hardcore” market than PopCap, and EA hopes that the purchase will reach the more casual gaming market. CEO John Riccitiello announced in an email to employees that EA is shifting its focus towards an online based business model. In 2009, EA added game producer Playfish to its shopping cart for a cool $275 million. The purchase marked EA’s first attempt to break into the social gaming world. Zynga, the company behind Farmville and other popular Facebook games, has proven that social gaming is an avenue worth exploring and exploiting for any game company. Zynga has specialized the “Freemium” approach to gaming, where users can play for free but can unlock new levels and features with a paid account.
“EA and PopCap are a compelling combination,” says Riccitiello. “PopCap’s great studio talent and powerful IP add to EA’s momentum and accelerate our drive towards a $1 billion digital business. EA’s global studio and publishing network will help PopCap rapidly expand their business to more digital devices, more countries, and more channels.”
PopCap is a Seattle based company with smaller studios throughout the country. They will become a part of EA Interactive when the deal closes in August of this year.
July 11, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
It’s a trend that we here at Zippycart have been following with interest for some time: online social and mobile games that are free to play, but that feature in-game currencies and virtual shopping carts. Players use the features to buy enhancements which alter or improve gameplay. While some gamers (usually little kids) have gotten themselves into some hot water for overuse of connected accounts (usually their parents), the game companies themselves have been seeing nothing but growth.
Initially this might seem a bit counter-intuitive: the game that’s free makes more money than the game you have to pay for to download? Most companies make their money up front: you want the good or service, you pay money for it, then you get to enjoy it. That’s the old model that the “premium” games were (and still are) using. The “freemium” games let you get in the door (and get hooked, probably) and then start charging for those extra add-ons you want to put into your shopping cart.
Looking at it that way, it starts making more sense. With freemium games, you have a larger base to draw from. If a game is free to download and start playing, then more people are likely to get into it. Once they are involved and get to liking it, they become more likely to purchase in-game goods.
A recent survey of male and female online shoppers found that men were much more likely to put in-game goods into their social and mobile gaming shopping carts. It seems that little improvements in gameplay – like an enhancement that lets your character fly or run faster – are worth paying for in the amount of enjoyment that they provide in the long run.
Most of these same freemium games actually have in-game elements that will allow you to earn the same upgrades and add-ons that you could add to your shopping cart by simply logging extra time and working your way up. However, enough people are willing to pay for them instead to the point where revenues for premium vs. freemium games have flip-flopped in the last six months.
In January of 2011, premium games were bringing in 61% of all gaming-related revenue, with 39% going to freemium. Now freemium shows 65% of revenue while premium games are only coming away with 35%. It’s the dawning of a new age. Maybe next the oil companies will start giving cars away, because, you know – you gotta buy that gas from somewhere.
June 28, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Not from the game - just awesome.
If you felt a disturbance in the Force this weekend, like thousands of voices cried out for an instant and were then silenced, it’s because Star Wars Galaxies has been slated for termination. The move comes after rounds of talks between Sony and Lucas Arts, the company that owns and maintains pretty much every element of the Star Wars franchise. It’s not completely out of the blue, by the way, as their contract was slated to end in 2012 anyway. Perhaps there was always a chance that they could come to some kind of agreement and extend the life of the contract, but with a new Star Wars MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game – sometimes called MMOs for short) coming out in 2012 from Lucas Arts, it was decided that the end of 2011 was a good time to wind down the game.
The game is going into “soft shutdown” mode. Starting last week, 3, 6, and 12 month subscriptions were disabled. The game also spawned an associated trading card game, the ecommerce software for which has also been turned off. In an attempt to keep current players inside the Sony family of online entertainment options, Sony is offering users access to a network of other MMOs including DC Universe Online. Maybe these wayward Jedi can find solace keeping the citizens of Gotham safe at night.
Sony has come out as apologetic but pragmatic when unveiling the news:
“The shutdown of SWG is a very difficult decision, but SOE and LucasArts have mutually agreed that the end of 2011 is the appropriate time to end the game. During the last week that SWG is available…we’re going to end with a bang and we want the final chapter of the galaxy to be written in part by the dedicated and passionate SWG community. Details will be announced at a later date.”
Combined with the access to those other MMOs, this could be a great way to turn the shutdown into a win for the company and the users. MMOs like Star Wars Galaxy, World of Warcraft, and everyone else (who secretly or not-so-secretly wants to be WoW) regularly engage in giant world/galaxy/universe-changing events to introduce new features or world alterations and make the players feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. Turning a loss into a gain is a lesson that all online businesses, from Sony to an independent retailer running their own shop with simple ecommerce software can learn from.
Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley reiterated that the closure was a business decision and not driven by any of Sony’s recent hacking problems which may have resulted in a breach of credit card information used on its ecommerce software and other delicate information stored on its servers. Whatever the real reasons, Star Wars fans are getting one last hurrah with their favorite MMO and a few free months at the end there, before going out with a bang.