Week that was

PG.biz week that was: Apple alters ranking algorithm, blocks app incentivisation, sues Samsung and sells 189m devices, while OpenFeint and SGN buyouts get cash flowing

PG.biz week that was: Apple alters ranking algorithm, blocks app incentivisation, sues Samsung and sells 189m devices, while OpenFeint and SGN buyouts get cash flowing
It has been another busy week in the world of PocketGamer.biz; the world of app stores, smartphone platforms, developments in mobile game making and assorted technology.

Though the release of Apple's Q2 2011 financials meant Jobs and co. were always likely to dominate the last five days, the suggestion that the giant had altered its App Store ranking algorithm threatened to overshadowed any positive press.

Theories as to its new approach ranged from a focus on usage to a bias towards specific categories, with the suggestion that games would now find it harder to chart offset by the news that rankings seemed to remain dominated by big hitters.

All about Apple

Talk about algorithms faded into the background once PocketGamer.biz broke the claim that Apple had taken to clamping down on certain forms of app incentivisation.

With updates to apps employing the system – which rewards players with virtual currency for downloading titles advertised in-app – reportedly blocked, not everyone with displeased, with MdotM's Rodney Witcher describing the move as a "great move for the ecosystem".

In contrast, Tapjoy claimed Apple was being hypocritical. "All of the apps we promote on iOS are Apple-approved," the firm countered in a statement.

But Apple's hold over the headlines this week was multifaceted. The firm decided to sue Samsung for allegedly aping both iPhone's design and iOS's UI across its range of handsets.

 

For what could well be the biggest legal action in mobile history to be overshadowed by App Store shake ups only serves to proves the impact any changes to the iOS ecosystem can have on the businesses that thrive on it – something discussed in not one, but two opinion pieces.

Easter sales

One upside of Apple's legal action against Samsung was the revelation that iPod touch sales currently stand at 60 million, coming in behind cumulative iPhone sales of 108 million.

The release of Apple's latest financials a day earlier had pegged iOS's total userbase at 189 million. iMost attention naturally fell on a 95 percent rise in profits Apple enjoyed, with the company pulling in just shy of $6 billion.

Apple's spirits were no doubt further raised by two comScore reports, detailing the performance of iOS as a whole in both the US and Europe. Taking iPad and iPod touch into account, iOS's userbase is more than double that of Android in the EU5, while Apple's platform outperforms Google's OS by 59 percent in the US.

They're the kind of figures most of Apple's rivals can't currently contend with. RIM's iPad killer PlayBook, for instance, got off to a solid, if tentative, start on the other side of the Atlantic, with day one sales reportedly coming in at the 50,000 mark.

Though a different sector entirely, Nintendo's 3DS has come out of the blocks flying, shifting 400,000 units in its first week in the US – just down on the half a million DS units sold when it launched in 2004.

Nosing in on Nokia

Sales figures and profit and loss accounts are always commonplace in April, of course, and despite continued talk of its demise, Nokia saw sales rise by 9 percent in Q1 2011, coming in at €10.4 billion ($15.2 billion).

That puts Nokia easily ahead of rival Sony Ericsson, which posted respectable profits of €8 million ($11.6 million). In particular, the firm's transition to higher-price smartphones won praise from analysts, who predicted it boded well for the manufacturer's future.

Nokia's market share, however, continues to slide. News that the Finnish firm had finally put pen to paper with Microsoft, committing itself to Windows Phone 7, and all the (literal) riches its partnership with the Redmond giant will bring, will appease many at the company, even if Nokia confirmed that the first handsets aren't due to make an appearance in volume until 2012.

In the meantime, Nokia will continue to push its existing offerings, making news of an exclusive Rovio release – Angry Birds Free with Magic – that requires users to unlock the game together by linking up with Nokia NFC handsets increasingly important.

Buyout bonanza

But the agreement between Nokia and Microsoft wasn't the only accord signed this week. Two big buyouts also made their mark, with GREE's $104 million purchase of gaming network OpenFeint.

Though not as big as DeNA's swoop for ngmoco in October, Gree's move is significant, if only because DeNA acquired a 20 percent share in OpenFeint back in 2009.

Former social gaming giant SGN also fell into new ownership, acquired by MySpace co-founder Chris DeWolfe's MindJolt Games, while Capcom launched its own social wing, Beeline, tasked with serving up a fresh revenue stream for the publisher from the mobile market.

The interest in smartphones is understandable, especially when you consider that even game sales on the oft-maligned Android Market are up 330 percent, with revenues coming in at $8.8 million.

At least, that's according to FADE (Forecasting & Analyzing Digital Entertainment), which proclaimed Lupis Labs' Robo Defense as the top grossing game, pulling in $558,000 in Q1 2011.

Going down

The App Store continues to be the focus for many of the bigger boys, however, with the likes of EA and Sega announcing widescale Easter sales pulling in 27 titles in all.

With many of the games in question dropping to the 59p/99c mark, whether rivals accuse both parties of undermining the value of smartphone games as during Christmas will surely be high on the agenda in the coming days.

If talk of pricing politics on the App Store interests you, or if any of the stories on PocketGamer.biz this week caught your eye, you might be interested in GameHorizon's first Go Go Games mobile event in Gateshead on May 12. Tickets are free, put places have to be registered by May 10.

Until next week...

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

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