Archive for the ‘game developers’ tag
Amazon has become a force in the distribution of mobile games with the Amazon App Store for Android in the past year or so. Now it is moving deeper into the market with the launch of its own game studio, Amazon Game Studios, and its first social game.
The studio’s Living Classics game has debuted on Facebook today. In a post, the company said, “Why is Amazon making social games, you ask? Good question! We know that many Amazon customers enjoy playing games – including free-to-play social games – and thanks to Amazon’s know-how, we believe we can deliver a great, accessible gaming experience that gamers and our customers can play any time.”
The move is a bit of a risk as the company will no longer be viewed as a neutral party by game developers. Facebook, for instance, maintains its stance as a neutral platform owner because it doesn’t make games. But other platform owners like Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft have long made games through “first party” game studios even while they solicit games from third-party game developers.
Amazon said, “Amazon Game Studios is exactly what it sounds like: a new team at Amazon that’s focused on creating innovative, fun and well-crafted games.” The first game (pictured above), is a “moving object game,” where the user has to click on objects in a scene that are shimmering or moving in some way. In the game, a family of foxes have wandered into “vibrant, animated illustrations from their favorite books including Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and King Arthur.” Players have to reunited the foxes and spot moving objects.
Amazon’s move into games has been long predicted, in part because the company has had lots of job openings for game developers for some time. The company says it is hiring via firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s no surprise that Amazon is moving into games, as they’re a great way to keep users engaged with a platform. And Amazon has big ambitions with platforms such as its App Store and the Kindle tablet.
Filed under: games
Electronic Arts Sues Zynga, Says The Ville Is An “Unmistakable Copy” Of The Sims. Zynga: EA Doesn’t Understand Copyright (Updated)
Zynga has a bit of a reputation for cloning other game developers’ ideas. Now, the company is being sued by gaming giant Electronic Arts on behalf of its Maxis label for “infringing EA’s copyrights to its Facebook game, The Sims Social.”
Lucy Bradshaw, General Manager of EA’s Maxis Label, says Zynga’s The Ville “copied the original and distinctive expressive elements of The Sims Social in a clear violation of U.S. copyright laws.” The degree to which Zynga copied The Sims, says Electronic Arts, “was so comprehensive that the two games are, to an uninitiated observer, largely indistinguishable.”
Update: Zynga’s response to this, which we just received from a company spokesperson, is that TheVille “builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today.” The company’s General Counsel Reggie Davis also says that it’s “ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga’s CityVille game. Nonetheless, we plan to defend our rights to the fullest extent possible and intend to win with players.” We included the full response below.
In her blog post, EA’s Bradshaw notes Zynga’s history of cloning other developer’s work. While other small developers may not have the resources to stand up against the social gaming company, Electronic Arts and Maxis have the resources “to do something about it” and that the company is taking a stand “helps the industry protect the value of original creative works and those that work tirelessly to create them.”
Zynga is obviously going through a rough time already. Earlier this week, the company was sued over allegedly misleading financial statements. Zynga Q2 earnings also fell short of expectations, despite the fact that the number of active daily users was up significantly over the last three months. The company’s shares currently trade at under $3.
When the company launched The Ville in June, virtually every reviewer noted the similarities to The Sims Social and many. The game, however, does add a few new features to the genre, including its own build-in social and other small gameplay tweaks. Electronic Arts assumes that Zynga will use these tweaks as a defense against its lawsuit. Bradshaw, however, says EA is “confident in our position, and that we will prevail.”
Update: Here is Zynga’s full response:
“We are committed to creating the most fun, innovative, social and engaging games in every major genre that our players enjoy. The Ville is the newest game in our ‘ville’ franchise – it builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today. It’s unfortunate that EA thought that this was an appropriate response to our game, and clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of basic copyright principles. It’s also ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga’s CityVille game. Nonetheless, we plan to defend our rights to the fullest extent possible and intend to win with players.” -Reggie Davis, General Counsel, Zynga
Are you a game developer looking for a new job? Well maybe you could apply at the San Francisco online gaming company, KIXEYE. Either way check out this video it takes jabs at rival game developers Zynga (Janka), Kabam (Kerpoop) and Electronic Arts (EAARP). Towards the end the CEO explains why they are a good company to work for. Obviously it’s to be a part of making “kick ass” games.
Kixeye, a fast-growing maker of hardcore social games, has launched a hilarious recruiting video aimed at showing it is the best place to work for budding hardcore game developers who want to tell their grandchildren that they made games that “kicked ass.”
The video shows how competitive the war for talent has become in Silicon Valley, where game developers are a scarce commodity. And it shows Kixeye, which has around 200 employees, is willing to take the gloves off and criticize its larger rivals who pursue safe or copycat strategies. Kixeye, meanwhile, wants to project itself as a place where hardcore game developers can truly be creative.
Kixeye only has around 4.8 million monthly active users on Facebook. But it’s one of the most profitable game companies on the social network because it makes free-to-play hardcore games that monetize exceedingly well.
In a video laced with profanity, San Francisco-based Kixeye pokes fun at rivals named Janka (Zynga?), EARRP (Electronic Arts?) that have no regard for game quality. The Janka chief is a kid behind a desk who jokes that he has each of your balls in his hands. Behind him is a silhouette of a dog being fornicated by another. Does that remind you of a particular company’s logo?
Then the scene switches to an aging video game executive at EARRP. He reminisces about the good old days of gaming. He laughs and his teeth fall out. Then the camera moves to a boring guy showing marketing charts. He works for Kerpoop (Kixeye’s social gaming rival Kabam?). Then the profanity just starts flying out of control.
Then Will Harbin, chief executive of Kixeye, comes on and says his company wants to “make games by gamers for gamers.” You can say to your grandchildren, “I made games that kicked serious ass. Mind-blowing games that left virtual farmers crapping their virtual pants in fear.” Harbin says you will be able to say you made games that “copied no one” and “compromised nothing” and “had a fucking blast doing it.”
The video caption says, “If you’re a rockstar game maker and you don’t want to put your talents towards cow clicking and virtual pet cuddling, we might have a place for you on our team.”
As corporate videos go, this one captures the attitude that Kixeye’s Harbin, who spoke at our recent GamesBeat 2012 conference, wants to project to the world as he tries to disrupt the video game business with free-to-play hardcore games.
No early Google-style growth here.
Facebook’s payments revenues barely budged for a third quarter as gaming activity increasingly moved onto mobile devices. The company also hasn’t really started taking revenue share from apps in other verticals like music and media yet either, so that means there aren’t any new engines for platform revenue growth — yet.
The company’s $192 million in payments revenue is barely an inch above the $186 million it made last quarter or the $188 million it made in the holiday quarter.
On top of slowing advertising revenue growth, this means that the second pillar of Facebook’s monetization strategy isn’t really showing much momentum either. Hence, the more than 10 percent decline in after-hours trading for the company. Facebook shares are now at an all-time low at $23.98 in after market trading.
What led to this? Starting about two and a half years ago, Facebook pulled back on rampant viral growth for casual games. That segment of the platform then matured, with Zynga taking the indisputable lead. They also added a 30 percent effective tax in the form of a revenue share with game developers, which made the social gaming model unviable for some second- and third tier casual game developers. It also crimped Zynga’s revenue growth, and persuaded the company along with other competitors to look for new growth on Apple and Google’s iOS and Android platforms.
As smartphones have taken off (with Facebook now seeing 543 million active users every month), Android and iOS have become lucrative ecosystems for game developers with some titles earning between $3 and 5 million a month. However, Facebook does not earn any revenue from titles on these platforms even if the social network drives user acquisition for these developers. Facebook’s chief financial officer David Ebersman said on today’s earnings call that mobile growth was partially responsible for stagnation in payments revenue.
At the same time, the company hasn’t yet turned on revenue for other kinds of non-gaming apps even though it has driven a significant amount of traffic to apps like Spotify and social news readers. Even if the company did ask for a revenue share from these types of apps, it would probably be lower than the standard 30 percent cut it asks for from game developers, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said on the call today. It’s not clear how much a share of Spotify subscriptions or other types of digital content sales would drive to Facebook.
So the platform’s revenue generating ability is stuck in a lull for the time being until Facebook turns on revenue for other verticals or does more to rekindle growth and monetization for games — something it has always had trouble with in terms of providing users with good, non-spammy experiences. One other possible area of potential support is in hard or midcore games, where developers like Kixeye are seeing success in appealing to smaller audiences of more intense gamers who are more likely to pay.
Today’s payments results were actually foreshadowed by Zynga’s performance in the second quarter, which sent shares of the social gaming company tumbling by about 40 percent today. Zynga missed analysts estimates in its earnings report yesterday, with $332 million in revenue. That company is now worth $2.34 billion, down from the $7 billion its initial public offering valued the company at back in December of last year. As for Facebook itself, the company is now worth about $65 billion, down from the $104 billion it debuted at during its initial public offering in May.
For many readers, the name BitTorrent may be synonymous with online piracy, but there’s plenty of legal file-sharing too — and the company says that it’s actually experimenting with new business models that allow artists to make money.
Today, for example, it’s launching a new bundle created in partnership with digital marketing company Fame House and its client DJ Shadow. The bundle is supposed to include exclusive content from and inspired by DJ Shadows’ archival release Hidden Transmissions From The MPC Era (1992-1996), and yes, it will be available for free.
This isn’t the first time BitTorrent has worked with artists to create free, exclusive bundles. In fact, the company say those kinds of featured content partnerships (which include filmmakers, authors, and game developers, too) have driven tens of millions of downloads. What’s new, however, is the business model attached to the bundle — whenever someone downloads it, they’ll see an offer for free software from one of BitTorrent’s advertisers. And if someone accepts the offer and downloads the software, BitTorrent will pass part of the payment on to DJ Shadow.
“Because the offer will be in every torrent shared, we’re leveraging the BitTorrent ecosystem in a new way,” says Matt Mason, the company’s executive director of marketing. “The more people that share this Bundle, the greater the chances the artist will make money, directly from the BitTorrent Bundle. That’s new, and it’s a model we’re going to keep developing here.”
It sounds like the exact details of how this model works may change over time — in his blog post announcing the Bundle, CEO Eric Klinker describes this as “the first of a number of new advertising experiments we’ll be testing in-client, on our websites and other media properties in the next few months.” But there’s something promising here — as Mason points out, what’s exciting is the fact that it’s a business model that actually benefits from file-sharing, rather than discouraging it.
Ruby Seven Studios, a new social and mobile game developer created by the merger of two teams, is announcing today three new multiplatform titles coming out under the company’s Tiny Pirate Casino brand, which is yet another new entrant in the crowded social casino games market.
Social casino games are hot properties now because they’re becoming more popular on Facebook, and investors are betting that the barriers will come down between the social casino games market and the online gambling market. Whether or not that happens, social casino game companies like San Francisco’s Ruby Seven Studios are getting a lot of attention.
The new games will be available on Facebook and mobile platforms. They include Slots of Plunder, a pirate-themed slot machine game with social features and multiplayer tournaments that will come out in August and debut on Facebook, iPhone, iPad, and Android.
Another is Poker 5-on-5, a strategic, asynchronous multiplayer poker game that lets five friends compete against five others. The title will launch in August on Facebook, iPhone, and iPad.
The last is Poker Best in 60, a fast-action, multiplayer, video draw poker game, where players must post their best hands to beat before a 60-second clock runs down. It is out now on Facebook and will be available on iPhone and iPad in August.
“With our Tiny Pirate Casino launch, we have created fun and enjoyable games using familiar casino mechanics like slots and poker,” said Michael Carpenter, chief executive of Ruby Seven Studios. “But being able to play these familiar games while also competing in multiplayer tournaments and challenging your friends really adds a new dimension of engagement.”
Ruby Seven Studios was founded in 2012 through a combination of a game design team in San Francisco, headed by a former executive from PopCap Games, and ChaYoWo Games, one of the largest casual game developers in India. Other titles developed by ChaYoWo include BackYard Bounce, published by Chillingo, and Dark Hills of Cherai: The Regal Spectre, published by BigFish Games and voted Gamezebo.com’s Best Hidden Object Game of 2011.
Ruby Seven Studios believes it can take casino games to the next level with multiplayer synchronous draw poker games with an exciting one-minute tournament feature. Most Facebook games are asynchronous, where one player moves at a time.
The company already has 100 employees. That’s a huge number, but the competition is fierce. Rivals include DoubleDown Interactive, Playtika, PopCap, and Zynga — not to mention lots of other social casino game startups. The company isn’t disclosing how much money it has raised or its investors.
Social casino games are hot. Santa Monica, Calif.-based Playsino is taking advantage of that by launching its Playsino Publishing Network which it will aim at helping social casino game developers get new users and monetize them on Facebook and mobile platforms.
Playsino will publish casino games built by other developers and spend a minimum of $100,000 per title to market them. Playsino uses a dedicated media buying team and offers game production support as well.
“Playsino is the only publisher focused exclusively on the hot social casino space. Our focus will give our partners access to gamers who are specifically interested in casino style games and monetize better than all other social gamers,” says John Maffei, head of Playsino Publishing.
In 2012, social casino game players now account for 13 percent of all of the players on Facebook, compared to just 8 percent in 2011 and 6 percent in 2010, according to Kontagent. The analytics firm says that social casino games have higher-than-average revenue per user: at least 40 percent higher than a typical casual social game.
Playsino is headed by chief executive Brock Pierce, who is also a managing director of the Clearstone Global Gaming Fund. He has started, bought or invested in more than 30 game companies and secured more than $200 million on behalf of his companies. He has helped startups pioneer business models built around virtual goods and microtransactions.
Playsino is creating its own free-to-play casino games for mobile and social platforms. Playsino was founded in 2012. The company’s first game is Solitaire and Prizes. Maffei said in an interview with GamesBeat that the company plans to build out a suite of internally produced games, but it will also publish a number of titles from outside developers who create social casino games.
Pierce is also CEO of Titan Gaming. He also founded ZAM Network, a gaming media property with 15 million hardcore PC gamers. He sold that to Tencent in January. And he founded GamesTV, a joint venture with Shanghai Media Group.
Although he has a lot of experience, Pierce has a small company among a lot of big ones. Rivals include Double Down Interactive, owned by slot machine giant WGT, social game giant Zynga, and a number of other social casino game startups.
“The difference is we are 100 percent focused on the social casino game market,” Maffei said.
Maffei said that the company has a good understanding of the ins and outs of user acquisition, and it also has good experience with game production in the social casino genre. The team has 15 employees, most of them developers. Playsino has raised $1.5 million in funding from IDM Venture Capital, a Singapore-based venture capital firm, Pacific Capital Group, Siemer Ventures, and a number of angel investors.
Filed under: games
Applifier made its name as a “rebel alliance” of smaller Facebook developers, using a banner ad to cross-promote the games of developers who make high-quality apps. It created an alternative to spending a lot of money on Facebook ads.
Now the company is launching Impact, a video advertising network designed to help developers acquire high-quality social game players and increase their games’ revenues. It does so by embedding ads within social games. If the gamer clicks on an ad, he or she gets a reward in the form of a virtual good within the game.
But first, the player has to watch a video ad. The ad is targeted toward that gamer, and it shows a game that Applifier believes the player might want to play. At the end of the ad, the user can select a “play” button and move right into the game.
Jussi Laakkonen, chief executive of Applifier in Helsinki, said in an interview with GamesBeat that the video ads are much more effective than banner ads. Banner ads are boring, are often overlooked, and convey very little about a game. But video ads can show off how a game actually plays. They communicate what you get. Starting today, all Facebook game developers can start signing up to become customers.
“We’re doing game trailers for social games so that the user knows exactly what they’re getting before they get in a game,” Laakkonen said. “And by watching, they get a reward.”
The company will show the network off at the Casual Connect conference in Seattle next week; Laakkonen will show off the network in a talk at 2 pm on Tuesday at the IGDA Summit portion of the conference. Game companies testing the video ads include King.com, the second-largest social game publisher on Facebook, 6waves, and Song Pop, maker of a popular app that grew to 2 million daily active users within two months. Laakkonen said the results have been good.
The ads allow the developer who embeds them in a game to make money from ad revenues. Most game makers generate revenues from sales of virtual goods in their free-to-play games. But only a few percent of users usually buy something. Laakkonen said the Impact ads allow a developer to monetize their entire user base.
“We can deliver highly motivated players,” he said. “For monetization, our beta partners are seeing higher per view earnings than from any other video ad network on Facebook.”
Applifier scans its 250 million base of registered users to pre-qualify players. So the ads are shown on a targeted basis to the users who are most likely to act on them. That allows the developers who embed the ads to charge higher rates for the ads, helping them generate more revenue than they otherwise would.
The game trailers are about 30 seconds to 60 seconds and they show actual, fully-animated gameplay. If a player doesn’t want to finish it, they can cancel it and then they will not receive the virtual good reward. Developers who embed the videos earn revenue whenever a users completes watching a video. Developers can reinvest their earnings from displaying game trailers to get a 25 percent boost in new user acquisition.
The developers who place the ads in games only pay for the users they get after the players have watched a game trailer and clicked to install the game. Applifier can make professional-looking trailers itself for game developers who don’t have them.
There are lots of competitors, like Facebook itself, Trail Pay, Wild Tangent, App Savvy or RockYou. They show video ads to Facebook users. But Applifier alone is purely focused on showing ads of social games to the customers of other social games, Laakkonen said.
“By utilizing Impact, we’ve been able to acquire higher quality users. Applifier is driving a new format for acquiring audience through video that is more effective and will be instrumental in helping us achieve our growth goals for 2012,” said Angus Lovitt, director of performance marketing at King.com.
Laakkonen founded Applifier in 2010 and raised money from MHS Capital, PROfounders, Tekes, Lifeline Ventures and angel investors David Gardner, Jyri Engeström and Lars Stenfeldt Hansen. Applifier reaches more than 150 million monthly active users on Facebook.
Disclosure: MHS Capital’s Mark Sugarman is an investor in VentureBeat.
Funding news flooded our wire today with so many announcements and releases, it was like swimming upstream in a hurricane to keep up with it all. We had to include a lightening round just to cover the bases! Grab a life vest, a paddle, and check out what happened today in the maelstrom of the investment world.
Kiip keeps on trucking with $11M in new investment
Rewards network Kiip announced today that it closed $11 million in a second round of investment. The funding will go towards expanding Kiip’s rewards system beyond gaming, infusing ‘moments of happiness’ into everyday life. Kiip works with game developers, brands, and users to reward gaming achievements with tangible products. The money will go towards doubling the team, which currently consists of 30 people. The round was spearheaded by Relay Ventures with participation from previous investors True Ventures and Hummer Winbland. Read more on VentureBeat.
Egnyte gets $16M spark from Google Ventures, KPCB, & Polaris
Enterprise cloud storage startup Egnyte has raised $16 million from Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Polaris Venture Partners in its third round of funding, the company announced today. Egnyte helps businesses with various hybrid cloud storage solutions and competes with Box, Nirvanix, Zetta, and others. Through increased marketing efforts and a smart anti-Box campaign, the company has attracted more attention and now has 1 million users across 30,000 paying companies. Read more on VentureBeat.
Socialcam acquired for $60M…which would have seemed more impressive pre-Instagram
Software company Autodesk acquired quickly growing video app Socialcam for $60 million, the company announced Tuesday. Socialcam is currently the most popular application on Facebook, with about 54.7 million monthly active users. It strives to be the next “Instagram for video” along with rivals Viddy and Klip. While this buy out is shy of Instagram’s $1 billion price tag, it is nothing to sneeze at. The money ought to cover the 4 employees’ needs, at least for awhile. Read more on VentureBeat.
Samsung treats itself to British chip-maker CSR for $310M
Feeling flush from smartphone sales, Samsung did a little shopping and picked up British chip designer CSR’s mobile platform for the price of $310 million. With this cash deal, Samsung gets access to CSR’s mobile connectivity and location technology, along with 310 employees. Samsung is also shelling out $35 million for a 4.9 percent stake in CSR as a whole. The move gives Samsung access to 21 new U.S. mobile technology patents, all of which will be valuable tools in Samsung’s ongoing patent battles. Maybe the next item on Samsung’s shopping list should be a sword. Read more on VentureBeat.
Aryaka raises $25M to turn surfing the web into Formula 1
Cloud startup Aryaka raised $25 million to help companies operate more efficiently by speeding up internet processes. This service is called WAN Optimization, and enables data exchange, communication, and applications to function harder, better, faster, stronger [cue Kanye].The latest funding round was oversubscribed, and led by InterWest Partners with participation from Presidio Ventures and existing investors Nexus Venture Partners, Trinity Ventures and Mohr Davidow Ventures. It follows two previous funding rounds of $14 million in initial investment and $15 million a second round. Read more on VentureBeat.
TiVO spends $20M to discover why no-one uses TiVO anymore
As part of its struggle to stay relevant amidst the ever-growing number of set-top boxes, smart TVs, and rising streaming video viewership, TiVO bought television analytics platform TRA for $20 million. TRA’s platform essentially matches the purchase activity from households with what those households watch on television. TiVo plans to integrate the TRA platform into a new TiVo Research and Analytics unit, which could offer metrics and insights useful to advertisers that want to get the most for their money. TiVo’s acquisition of TRA is expected to close later this month, according to the company. Read more on VentureBeat.
Eager beaver Loggly rakes in $5.7M for log management
Online log management company Loggly announced today that it’s secured $5.7 million in a second round of investment. Log management is a service that takes large volumes of data from companies and transforms it into interpretable form. Loggly’s cloud-based platform serves major companies like Symantec, AirBnB, Heroku, Intuit, the BBC and Electronic Arts. This impressive client roster probably did less to bring in investment than the adorable company mascot, of Hoover the beaver.
Whatever the motivation, the recent round of funding will go toward expanding the 18 member staff and boosting infrastructure to accommodate ever-growing volumes of data. This money brings Loggly’s total funding to $10.4 million. It is backed by True Ventures, Trinity Ventures, and most recently,Matrix Partners. Read more on VentureBeat.
Totsy puts $18.5M into its kiddie pool (floaties not included)
Totsy, an ecommerce site dedicated to offering deals for parents, babies, and kids raised $18.5 million in its second round of financing. The site features major brand names, like Disney, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Zutano, at a reduced cost. The discounts are available for a limited time, with the average sale lasting around three days.The company is growing and expects to become profitable by the end of the year. It currently has 3 million active users and was featured in Forbes last year as one of the most promising private companies in the US. The recent investment was led by Rho Ventures and DFJ Gotham, both New York based capital firms, and follows a first institutional round of $5 million from 2010. Read more on VentureBeat.
To the Batt Cave! IntelliBatt raises almost as much money as Bruce Wayne
IntelliBatt secured a $22 million equity investment from Columbia Capital, with participation from CBC-Capital, to fuel the company’s growth and expand its product line. IntelliBatt provides a monitoring system for large power supplies and batteries. Data centers and commercial operations use this system to ensure they maintain mission critical power. The technology provides constant monitoring, data analysis and support to predict and pre-empt failure.
Formerly known as Data Power Monitoring Corporation, IntelliBatt has been around since 2006. Some of its major customers include Barclays, Charles Schwab, Qwest Communications and Equinix. It is headquartered in San Rafael, CA. Read the press release.
And now for the lightening round…
RedMere Technology Limited and Fresco Microchip partnered to create Spectra7 Microsystems, backed by $10 million in new equity from Celtic House Venture Partners, EdgeStone Capital Partners, and Ventures West. Read the press release.
Mobile commerce platform provider Tapingo raised $3.5 million in its first round of funding from Carmel Ventures. Tapingo enables students to use their phones to order and pay for food and other goods at college campuses. Read the press release.
Israeli startup Promodity has raised $1.5 million in angel funding to centralize and automate marketing. The company promises to bring the equivalent of Salesforce to marketers, so they can manage online campaigns and increase conversion rates in one place. Read the press release.
Mobile social media innovator Audingo acquired $3M in angel funding to launch its platform nationwide. The platform enables users to hear directly from choice organizations and personalities with personalized audio and video messages in the form of calls, texts or emails. Read the press release.