Yearly Archives: 2011

The Economist special review: video games (Part 2)

This article was first published in The Economist on 9th December 2011

The business of gaming

Thinking out of the box: consoles are no longer the only game in town

THE IDEA BEHIND video games used to be simple. Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, Sega and others sold consoles at a loss and made their money from the boxed games they produced for them. The punters, mostly young technophile men, bought the games from a shop, played them for a few weeks and then put them away.

Those customers are still around, but they have been joined by a plethora of others. New, more casual sorts of games are being picked up by a mass audience that would previously not have played at all. “In the past few years two things have changed,” says Mr Moore of Electronic Arts. “The first is the proliferation of platforms [on which to play games], and the second is that it’s become so much easier to call yourself a gamer.”

So the industry has branched out into a bewildering variety of sub-sectors and niches. At one extreme, companies in the traditional sector are still charging $50 or $60 for high-end console games with ultra-realistic graphics and cinematic game play. At the other, a shoal of smaller firms is developing simpler, more casual games aimed at a much larger and more diverse group of customers. In between, a mix of established firms and start-ups are testing new ways to develop games and new business models for selling them.

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The Economist special review: video games (Part 1)

This article was first published in The Economist on 9th December 2011.

All the world’s a game

“Video games will be the fastest-growing and most exciting form of mass media over the coming decade.”, says Tim Cross.

IN NOVEMBER 2010 “Call of Duty: Black Ops” was released. Fans in many countries queued round the block to get their hands on a coveted early copy. A lucky few had won tickets to invitation-only release parties which were broadcast live to viewers across the internet. The event had been advertised on billboards, buses and television for weeks. Chrysler even produced a commemorative version of its Jeep. In the event the reviews were mixed, but no matter: the publishers, Activision, notched up worldwide sales of $650m in the first five days. That made it the most successful launch of an entertainment product ever, and people kept buying. A month later the total stood at over $1 billion.

“Black Ops” is not a film or a book: it is a video game. For comparison, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”, the current record-holder for the fastest-selling film at the box office, clocked up just $169m of ticket sales on its first weekend. “Black Ops” stole the crown from its predecessor in 2009, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2”. The latest instalment, “Modern Warfare 3”, released on November 8th, set a record of its own with $750m in its first five days.

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Investors on where the smart money will go in social games

This article, written by AJ Glasser was first published on Inside Network on July 13, 2011.

Late yesterday at GamesBeat in San Francisco, game company accelerator YetiZen led a panel with top social and mobile game investors on the evolving dynamic of funding in the space. Norwest Venture Partners’ Tim Chang, Digi-Capital Managing Director Tim Merel and TinyCo CEO Suli Ali characterize an industry that’s both converging and expanding on a global scale.

“[Developers] need to think globally from day one,” says Merel. As an investor, he looks for developers that either offer a portfolio of existing games or that already have access to various channels in different countries. These companies have proven traction and very likely also have plans for multiple revenue streams beyond in-game virtual goods sales. He describes the potential behind Rovio’s Angry Birds, which now has a line of t-shirts and stuffed animals generating revenues in addition to actual paid downloads of the game. He also describes the nature of game concepts that can succeed in international markets versus those that have limited appeal due to cultural association; like the various Chinese multiplayer games based on the Three Kingdoms historical period that fail to find traction with Western audiences.

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The road ahead in mobile games

This article, written by Dean Takahashi, was first published in VentureBeat on July 13, 2011.

Mobile gaming is the wide-open battleground of the entertainment industry. While Zynga dominates social games and big publishers rule console games, the global smartphone game market is still up for grabs.

Since there are potentially billions of users in this market, mobile gaming could become the largest game market of them all. Who will win it?

Smartphone games have been growing as a market since 2007, when Apple’s iPhone debuted. Tablet games have been growing since the spring of 2010, when Apple launched the iPad. Now the fastest-growing mobile market is based on devices running the Android operating system. With triggering events such as the success of Angry Birds, the hit Rovio game that has been downloaded more than 200 million times, mobile game companies are raising tens of millions of dollars. Mobile game companies have garnered significant valuations, particularly overseas.

Tim Merel, managing director at Digi-Capital, says, “The time to act is now.”

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