Week that was

PG.biz week that was: Angry Birds does 500m, DeNA's out of beta, GREE's catching it fast, Glu and Tapjoy look to the future, and the Korean App Store gets games

PG.biz week that was: Angry Birds does 500m, DeNA's out of beta, GREE's catching it fast, Glu and Tapjoy look to the future, and the Korean App Store gets games
Prepared thanks to an odd trip to Nottingham's Game City - "Cat, cat, cat, mouse, mouse, mouse... Split Milk..." the PG.biz team was fully primed for another week at the home of news and views on the business of app stores, smartphone platforms, developments in mobile game making and assorted technology.

And what a week it was. Thanks to quarterly financials, not to mention the sizzle of Nokia's Windows Phone, we're been made up, indeed, up to the early hours of the morning...

But let's just kick off with some big numbers. Now that we're given up on a second act in the Rovio story, we're just getting used to the big Angry Birds' number, now up to 500 million downloads, if anyone's actually still counting.

The company also revealed it expects to sign another deal in the US with a large operator for its Bad Piggy Bank IAP carrier billing platform, while it's going to be opening retail locations in various places such as Helsinki and Beijing.

Not quite as big

Another company boasting big installs is Outfit7, which hit the 225 million mark and 60 million DAUs for its Talking Friends apps. Unlike Rovio, which seems to be off-on over launching a publishing business, Outfit7 is already experimenting in the space, with much more news to follow.

Its former CEO looks like he's interested in the same business; Andrej Nabergoj has just raised $3.5 million for new app discovery and promotion tool Iddiction

Japan. Big. Korea. New.

Meanwhile, a company that has demonstrated the valuable of a platform play is Japanese outfit DeNA.

It posted Q2 sales of around $450 million, up 28 percent year-on-year, with net income up 7 percent to $105 million. The company also laid out an ambitious plan for its Mobage Global platform to generate $50 million of quarterly IAP sales within six months.

Neatly, this week, the platform formally launched on Android in the west, with the CEO of US subsidiary Neil Young taking the opportunity to hit out at rivals, notably Chinese Android platform Papaya.

Double neatly, DeNA also launched Mobage for iOS in China with 20 games, as revealed it was setting up a joint venture with edgy Japanese developer Grasshopper Manufacture to make games exclusively for Mobage.

Of course, DeNA isn't the only big mobile games player in Japan. Its rival is GREE, which at one point was only half the size of DeNA. Now, however, its getting very close to parity: posting Q1 sales up 145 percent to $395 million, while re-stating its predicted FY12 sales up a massive 40 percent to $1.7 billion.

More GREE news included its plan to release a best-of-breed mobile social gaming platform for 2012, including smarts from US subsidiary OpenFeint, as well as setting up a $25 million venture fund to invest in SE Asian internet start ups.

Keeping in that region, some surprising news was that Korea finally got a games category on its Apple App Store; with local publisher Com2uS immediately cutting the price on all paid games to 99c.

Stuck in the middle

Glu Mobile isn't operating in the same geographic space, but it's a bellwether company in terms of a US publicly-owned mobile games publishers, so we spent plenty of time picking over its bones.

The headline news was good as it saw Q3 2011 revenues up 9 percent to $16.9 million, also becoming a majority revenue smartphone company in the quarter for the first time.

Other interesting aspects were that its MAUs rose to 22.1 million, while average IAP transactions were up 57 percent to $6.40. Pretty good business, although, this week, Swiss developer Gbanga revealed that users of its niche location-based game spent an average of $14 on in-app purchases.

More subtle was the calculation from CEO Niccolo de Masi that he consider the size of the mobile games market that Glu could address - as a US-based , freemium company - was $2 billion, a much smaller number than analysts typically produce from chicken guts when producing their frankly ridiculous reports.

Lies, obscuration, and ambition

But you want me to show you some money.

It might be happening soon as Zynga looks like it will IPO before US Thanksgiving.

It updated its S-1 form this week, although there was little of interest with respect to mobile. Even its reveal of 9.9 million DAU was questioned, with the accusation that this amounted to the number of mobile users it sends push notifications to on a daily basis. Frankly, who knows?

We were on more solid ground with Gameloft, if only because it provides as little financial information as it possibly can. Its Q3 sales rose 17 percent to 40.6 million euros. More interesting, was the news that Ubisoft, the console publisher owned by another of the Gulliemot brothers, had bought Finnish developer RedLynx; well known for its Trials HD and DrawRace games.

But still the numbers came. Capcom Mobile revealed it expects to hit $80 million in sales this year; thanks in the main to its freemium games. As part of this bullish statement, it also revealed it was looking to bulk up its mobile staff, also getting Beeline Interactive (effectively Capcom Mobile International) to report direct to Japan.

Round and round the money-a-round

Money was also on the minds - now in the banks - of various other mobile companies.

Dutch web/social publisher Spil Games received an undisclosed investment from North Bridge Growth Equity, mobile tools outfit Appcelerator raised $15 million in a Series C round, educational game developer Mindshapes raised $5 million in its Series A round, while US mobile infrastructure company Urban Airship acquired its former partner SimpleGeo in $3.5 million deal.

Our final financial fact was that US mobile chip company Qualcomm saw its full year FY11 sales up 36 percent to $14.96 billion. It ends the year with $21 billion in cash.

But it wasn't all good news as Nokia has signed a deal with ST-Ericsson to supply chipsets for future Windows Phone handsets; up to this point, all Windows Phone devices used Qualcomm chips, although considering the platform's lowly performance, this was hardly likely to have had much uplift on its sales.

Solid as a brick

So will Window Phone's lack of success change thanks to Nokia?

We asked our Mavens, while also quizzing current Windows Phone developers on their experience so far. No one was particularly happy with the current situation.

CodeGlue's Peter De Jong liked it as an OS, Babaroga's David Bachowski had hope for its cloud-based features, while Revo Solution's Andrei Hanganu reckoned Nokia would build a bridge to feature phone market.

Yet, Xona Games' Jason Doucette complained that Microsoft's power to decide what games sell and what don't was killing Windows Phone for indies, while Critical Thought's David Whatley posited that the lack of UDK and Unity support was a serious handicap.

In other platform news, Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet is raising debate. Apple execs said they were happy it would further fragment the Android market, encouraging iPad sales although with Kindle Fire priced $300 cheaper than an iPad, no one really believed them.

Indeed, Barnes & Noble has announced its new NOOK tablet will have more memory (priced $250), while Glu Mobile said it would support the Kindle Fire launch with "around six games".

Even Motorola is attempting the tablet market again, with the Xoom 2 and its Media Edition version announced to be launching in UK and Ireland in mid-November, priced from £329.99.

Bada-boom. Tapping for joy

What's Samsung been up to this week, you're probably thinking?

According to analysts, its position as the top selling smartphone OEM during Q3 was secured as it shipped 27.3 million devices globally. It also released some information about its bada OS - it's shipped 8 million devices, and over 110 million apps have been downloaded. To encourage developers to support the platform, Samsung announced the $1 million bada 2.0 Power App Race contest.

Yet, when it comes to the most significant news of the week, my bet is on Tapjoy and its new consumer focus.

Launching a cross platform incentivisied app market for Android and iOS, under the meme of Mobile Value Exchange, it could be the first realistic attempt to shift app promotion and discovery from the app store to a third party outlet.

Clearly, there's a very long way to go to get the critical mass for it to function as a social discovery platform, rather than just being a layer on top of Tapjoy's already very successful B2B incentivised business, but as CMO Peter Dille argued, it's visionary and disruptive.

I certainly have no disagreement with the former, even if I'm holding my judgment with respect to the latter.
Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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