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 MULTIFORMAT FEATURE

PG.biz week that was: the 'gacha gotcha', Storm8's 300 million and Rovio's billion

The past 7 days' news compressed bite-sized
Product: PocketGamer.biz | Publisher: Steel Media
 
PocketGamer.biz Multiformat, thumbnail 1
After spending last week sunning ourselves at the BlackBerry World conference in Florida, this week saw the PocketGamer.biz team's tear-soaked return to Britain.

But we mustn't grumble – it's contractually forbidden – so here's our roundup of the biggest news of the last week.

Most aGREEable

This week saw Japanese social mobile games company GREE announce its financials for Q3 FY2012, reporting that net sales were up 182 percent year-on-year, and net income was up 186 percent to roughly $162 million.

Not bad, considering the company's expenses were up 86 percent year-on-year.

Furthermore, after its $210 million acquisition of US hardcore social publisher Funzio last week, GREE published numbers on Funzio's rapid growth in the period leading up to the acquisition. They're light on detail, but the figures do show that Funzio posted revenues of $5 million in April.

With all of these figures flying about, we thought now would be a fine time to catch up with GREE, and as such we discussed the future of the company in an illuminating chat with CEO Yoshikazu Tanaka.

Part of that future, by the way, is the launch of GREE's new social gaming platform in 153 countries by September.

Gamblin' man

But not everything has been hunky dory for GREE.

At the start of the week came news that Japan's Consumer Affairs Agency would investigate the 'complete gacha' in-app purchasing mechanism used by GREE, DeNA, and others.

The companies involved saw their share prices take a tumble, but GREE was quick to announce its intentions to self-police its social platform, and DeNA – which also announced FY2011 sales of $1.82 billion this week – quickly made similar promises, including in-app spending limits for young gamers.

This was immediately followed by the news that GREE, DeNA, and four other Japanese social gaming firms had taken the decision to ban the 'complete gacha' mechanism in all first and third-party games.

Big bird

It was also a big week for everyone's favourite purveyors of digital animal cruelty, Rovio.

The Angry Birds creator released its financials for the 2011 calender year, posting total revenues of €75.4 million ($106.3 million) and pre-tax earnings of €48 million ($67.6 million).

The company also revealed that the Angry Birds franchise has surpassed one billion downloads, marking the milestone with a celebratory video that included a sneak peek at a character from Rovio's first new IP since Angry Birds.

Only, it isn't a new IP after all. The very next day Rovio confirmed its acquisition of the rights to Casey's Contraptions. Rovio's game based on the IP will be called Amazing Alex, and it's set for a June release.

EArnings

EA Mobile also provided us with some financial news, announcing total sales of $269 million for FY2012, up 17 percent year-on-year.

In fact, the company's Q4 sales set a new record for the company, thanks to the inclusion of Popcap's mobile business.

But while EA is benefiting from big money acquisitions, company CEO John Riccitiello had some choice words concerning the recent spate of multi-million dollar buyouts in the industry.

"I'm pretty anxious about acquiring instant one hit wonders in this space," Riccitiello said, taking care not to mention Zynga or OMGPOP. "There's an awful lot of noise that grows up around an individual franchise as it rises – not so as that individual franchise when it declines."

Riccitiello made the news again only days later, when he argued that 'mobile gaming will not kill the console' during his keynote at CTIA 2012.

Maybe mobile won't kill home consoles, but what about portables?

Sony released sales stats for the PlayStation Vita this week. It pegged its handheld's sales at 1.8 million as of the end of March.

Droid army

This was also the week in which Google announced that its Google Play store had passed the 15 billion app downloads milestone... a few weeks ago!

Elsewhere in the wacky world of Android, rumours have begun to emerge suggesting that Google is working on a native Android app similar to Apple's Game Center.

That could prove to be a canny move, since research hit our desks suggesting that the iOS gaming market is currently worth five times that of Android in the US.

Turning to cast our collective eyes over to the Windows Phone platform, this week saw EA announce its plans to release FIFA, Madden, and other famous franchises on Windows Phone.

Rovio also announced its intention to bring Angry Birds Space and all future Rovio games to Nokia Lumia devices – including the Tango-equipped Lumia 900, which launched in the UK this week – forming a dedicated development team to create games for both Lumia devices, and Windows Phone more generally, too.

The social app network

Facebook has made another acquisition this week, buying up Glancee for an undisclosed sum in an effort to bring its check-in system and location offerings up to scratch.

The very next day saw Facebook launch the Facebook App Center, a user-curated web and smartphone destination for social apps, whether free or premium.

But this run of good tidings was brought to an abrupt end when Orange decided to rain all over Facebook's parade, by claiming the introduction of Facebook Connect as a log-in system deterred 75 percent of users from loading up Orange's TV Check app.

A Business Insider report suggested this week that Facebook and Microsoft could be collaborating on a Windows Phone-powered Facebook phone. It is claimed that a partnership is "plausible, logical, and even likely."

Freemium fad

In an interview that's sure to elicit outrage from some quarters and sage nods from others, Days of Wonder CEO Eric Hautemont branded freemium a 'fad'.

"What I suspect is that a lot of people switched to a freemium model because they could not make money on the paid side," was Hautemont's provocative verdict.

"There are very few games on the F2P side that are really making significant money for their developers," he claimed.

Obviously nobody told Tapjoy, who chose this week to launch a $5 million fund for free-to-play iOS and Android developers in Asia.

Hautemont's comments probably won't give the chaps at Storm8 any sleepless nights, either.

The studio announced this week that its freemium hits have been downloaded more than 300 million times and the studio is therefore looking to double its headcount by yearend.
 

Reviewer photo
James Nouch 12 May 2012
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