By 2017, mobile and online games could push worldwide gaming software revenues to $100 billion. That’s according to Digi-Capital’s latest Global Games Investment Review report, which said the mobile/online game market could make up a whopping 60 percent ($60 billion) of that total thanks to a compound annual growth rate of nearly 24 percent since 2011.
The firm found mobile was the main driver of record mergers and acquisitions activity in the last year, accounting for $4.6 billion of a record $12.5 billion in games M&A. The free-to-play MMO market was the next biggest driver with $4 billion in M&A business, followed by tech interests with $2.8 billion.
That total covers the last year, but most of it has come in 2014, with gaming M&A accounting for a record $6.6 billion in the first six months of the year alone. Even if 2014 didn’t see another penny added to that total, it would be a new full-year record as well, having already eclipsed the $5.6 billion in mergers and acquisitions recorded for the entirety of 2013.
Digi-Capital offered a number of reasons for the increase of M&A activity beyond the simple attraction of massive growth in the field. The firm also said some acquirers were interested in “stopping mobile insurgents from eating their lunch,” indicating the Zynga pick-up of Natural Motion would fall under that category. It also said companies established in one region are looking to buy strength in a different part of the world (as with Softbank’s majority stake acquisition of Supercell), and lukewarm or delayed IPOs for a handful of companies in the market have made recent valuations seem like good bargains.
After a test period, Twitter said that it was globally deploying its “mobile app installs” program, which allows companies to promote their mobile apps in users’ feeds.
Twitter began testing the program with a limited number of advertisers in the U.S. in April — tests that the company says went well. Participants in that program included mobile ride-hailing service Lyft and games publisher Electronic Arts.
The program lets companies publish links to download mobile apps. These ads are meant to appear like regular posts in users’ feeds.
Mobile app ads have become very successful for Facebook, helping to drive the download of roughly 60 percent of the top-grossing apps in Apple’s App Store, according to Facebook.
Twitter, for its part, is looking to better monetize its service amid sagging user growth. The company has yet to turn a profit.
Twitter already lets advertisers target their ads by users’ interests, keywords, favorite TV programs, language and other criteria.
Advertisers promoting their mobile apps will be able to leverage those capabilities too, Twitter said.
Sony Corp believes its TV division will swing into the black this financial year after a decade in the red, even if it falls short of its volume sales target, the head of the newly independent division said on Monday.
Masashi Imamura told a media round table that the TV business, which will become a separate subsidiary of Sony Corp on July 1, had reduced fixed costs during the last financial year, and profitability was now in sight.
He said Sony this year would be able to absorb the impact of any fluctuations in emerging market currencies, a factor he blamed for the unit’s failure to make a profit last year.
Sony has forecast an 18.5 percent rise in TV sales to 16 million units this year from 13.5 million units a year ago, an increase that analysts said was well above the industry’s average growth forecasts.
Imamura said the sales target was achievable, but added that the TV business would still turn a profit even if sales fell short of this goal.
Sony’s TV division will be split off from the parent company on Tuesday, a move aimed at boosting transparency and accountability in a bid to achieve and maintain profitability.
Sony Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai said at a corporate strategy meeting last month that the company had not ruled out an equity tie-up for the TV business, which is to be known as Sony Visual Products Inc, although nothing had been decided on the matter.
Sony’s TV business has seen relatively rapid turnover at the top over the past decade with six different chiefs, although Imamura has had the longest tenure, serving since August 2011.
Sony’s shares are down 8 percent so far this year, in line with the benchmark Nikkei average’s 7 percent drop.
YouTube is making a foray into radio with a weekly show on satellite radio service Sirius XM that will feature the online video website’s most popular and emerging artists, the companies said on Thursday.
The show called The YouTube 15 will be hosted by Jenna Marbles, one of YouTube’s most popular stars whose videos on how to talk to your dog and other snippets from her life drew more than 13 million subscribers to her channel.
YouTube’s radio show will debut July 11 on the SiriusXM Hits 1 channel, which plays pop, R&B, rock and hip-hop.
It is the first time YouTube, owned by Google Inc, has partnered with another platform on a show about music.
The show is aimed at exposing listeners to a curated selection from the vast library of YouTube music videos, said Scott Greenstein, president and chief content officer for SiriusXM.
The selection of songs will reflect “what’s trending and very popular” to familiarize listeners with top hits on YouTube, he said. “Equally importantly, you are going to hear new and emerging music that many people for sure will not have heard.”
Google Glass currently comes with 1GB of RAM, but to improve performance Google will begin shipping a new version with 2GB of RAM, it said in a post to Google Plus.
The announcement angered some existing Glass owners. Some demanded a free upgrade to the 2GB version in comments on the posting. Others said they would be willing to pay a small fee for an upgrade, while one acknowledged that if further hardware updates were planned, it wouldn’t make sense for Google to upgrade all users each time. “Getting a final consumer version would be swell though,” he added.
Google does not plan to upgrade existing users’ devices, it said.
“Throughout our open beta program, you can expect to see us make changes here and there. We won’t be swapping devices, but you’ll continue to see improvements with our software updates,” a Google representative said in a comment on the posting.
The company does replace broken or defective Google Glass devices, however, prompting Google Plus user Jake Weisz to identify a loophole in the no-upgrades policy. “If defective Glass units get free upgrades to 2GB, you will see a lot of ‘defective’ models this month,” he wrote.
In May, Google broadened its Explorer Program, making Glass available in the U.S. to anyone over 18 years old for $1,500. Before that, users who wanted to buy Glass required an invitation from Google. On Monday it extended the offer to U.K. residents over 18, who can purchase Glass for $1,700.
Google is upgrading the Glass software as well as the hardware. It is adding an easier way to frame shots for photos, with the addition of L-shaped corners bracketing the image in the viewfinder screen, and adding two new Google Now cards, one to remind users where they parked their car and another to let them know when packages are arriving.
The company also announced 12 new Glassware apps from partners, including Shazam, a music recognition app that can be triggered with the words “OK Glass, recognize this song,” and 94Fifty Basketball, a training aid that works with a sensor-equipped basketball to offer feedback after each shot.
Yahoo Aviate is the product of the company’s acquisition of Aviate earlier this year, through which it obtained an app for personalizing the home screen on Android phones based on what users are doing.
Aviate’s app had been in closed beta. The app is available globally for Android phones in English, with some new features.
The app’s developers have been focused on organizing people’s apps based on any number of signals. Walk by a gym and fitness apps might pop up. Driving in your car might bring music apps like Spotify to the fore.
Yahoo’s version of the app has features to make it more useful, including alerts for weather changes, and a way to connect to conference calls with a single tap.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has spoken out on the company’s efforts to offer more in the way of “contextual search,” with Aviate comprising a key element in that pursuit.
But Aviate exists in a crowded field of apps offering personal assistant-like functions, such as EverythingMe and EasilyDo. Plus, trying to predict what people really want is hard, and could be annoying if not done right.
Apps like Aviate also compete to a degree with Google Now, Google’s mobile tool for iOS and Android that provides different information likes sports scores and news headlines based on data signals specific to the person.
The expansion of the free tier, and other changes to OneDrive, will go into effect in July.
Microsoft’s moves come as all the major players are scrambling to offer customers more for less. Earlier this month, Apple said it would cut prices by up to 70% for paid iCloud plans. And last week Amazon said that users of its Fire phone would have an unlimited amount of storage for photos taken with the device’s camera.
Along with the doubling of the free allotment, Microsoft also said that it would hand subscribers of Office 365 Home and Office 365 Personal — the two consumer-grade rent-not-own plans — 1TB (terabyte) per user, up from a comparatively paltry amount of just 27GB. Students who have subscribed to Office 365 University, an $80 four-year program, also will receive 1TB free of charge.
The bump to 1TB per user on the consumer side matched the move Microsoft made in April on Office 365 commercial accounts.
Microsoft will also slash prices for additional storage for those consumers and students who need more than the standard 15GB or 1TB. An extra 100GB will cost $1.99 per month — or $23.88 per year — 52% less than the current $50 annually; the price of 200GB will also drop by 52%, from $100 per year to $3.99 per month ($47.88).
The cuts appear deeper when compared to the monthly payment plan Microsoft offers as an option: Then, the new prices will be 65% to 73% less than the current ones.
On a per-megabyte-per-year basis, the new OneDrive paid-plan prices of about 24 cents will be competitive with Google Drive’s 100GB bump-up (also 24 cents) and Apple’s 200GB offer (24 cents), but will remain twice that of Google’s 1TB deal (12 cents).
Apple has said it will offer a 1TB iCloud plan, but has not revealed what it will charge for that amount.
That could change the business model for the Internet of Things as it applies to home automation. Insurance companies may one day subsidize the cost of installing the technologies, or possibly cover the entire bill.
Just recently American Family Insurance and Microsoft announced their intentions to work together on home automation technologies.
The companies announced the creation of a Microsoft Ventures Accelerator that’s focused on home automation. American Family Insurance, the eighth largest homeowners’ insurer in the U.S., will be offering equity investments to startups accepted into the program.
American Family’s interest in funding technology development grows out of its experience from an earlier technology venture, the Teen Safe Driver Program. Launched a few years ago, the program includes installation of an accelerometer and event recorder near a vehicle’s rearview mirror.
The recorder is always on and records the interior of the vehicle and what’s outside. When there is an erratic movement, such as a hard brake or rapid acceleration, the recorder saves the previous 10 seconds and the next 10 seconds of the video clip. The clip is transmitted to Teen Safe program professionals, who evaluate it and make it available to parents via a Website.
The accident risk of 16- and 17-year-olds is about nine times that of parents, said Dan Reed, managing director at American Family Ventures. The information from the video is used by parents to help coach their teen driver.
The economics of the program were compelling, said Reed. It cost the insurance company several hundred dollars to outfit a vehicle with an event recorder, and it paid the cost of doing so. But for teens in the program, it has reduced the risk of a crash by 70%.
“That opened our eyes to proactive protection,” said Reed.
As a result of their experience with Teen Safe, American Family began searching for other opportunities to use technology to reduce risk. The search has led to home automation, said Reed.
The major cause of insurance claims by homeowners is weather, and Reed says little can be done about that. The next big problem is fire, and advance sensors could draw correlations with electrical usage in a way that may predict an appliance fire, or even provide an alert of a burner left on.
Taiwan’s Quanta will begin mass production of Apple’s first smartwatches from July, in time for an October launch, several sources familiar with the matter told Reuters last Thursday.
The Wall Street Journal on Friday also cited sources saying Quanta would manufacture the device.
One of the sources told Reuters on Thursday that Apple expects to ship 50 million units of the so-called iWatch within the first year of the product’s release, although these types of initial estimates can be subject to change.
The smartwatch will come with a slightly rectangular display that likely measures 2.5 inches diagonally, the source added. The watch-face will protrude slightly from the band, creating an arched shape, and feature a touch interface and wireless charging capabilities, according to the source.
Another source told Reuters that LG Display Co Ltd is the exclusive supplier of the screen for the gadget’s initial batch of production.
The iWatch will also contain a sensor that monitors a user’s pulse. Singapore-based imaging and sensor maker Heptagon is on the supplier list for that feature, two sources said on Thursday.
Apple’s smartwatch will follow similar devices by Samsung, Sony Corp, Motorola and LG Electronics Inc – gadgets that tech watchers say have not been appealing or user-friendly enough for mass adoption.
But the market is growing fast. Data firm IDC estimates that worldwide shipments of wearable computing devices, including smartwatches, will triple this year over 2013.
Verizon Communications Inc unit Verizon Wireless is in hot pursuit of satellite-TV operator Dish Network Corp’s spectrum to improve wireless internet speeds, the New York Post reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.
The two companies have held informal, early talks about the spectrum, the report said.
In May, Verizon Communications Chief Executive Lowell McAdam shot down rumors that the company was in potential merger talks with Dish.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed restrictions on how much the biggest wireless carriers can bid for in a major auction of TV spectrum scheduled for mid-2015.
A possible merger between Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US Inc could prompt U.S. regulators to rewrite rules they are now considering for the auction.
German monthly Magazine Manager cited people familiar with the matter as saying the talks were far advanced but no deal had been clinched and that Netflix was also in touch with other German telecoms groups.
Netflix in May unveiled plans to launch in both Germany and France this year, in the biggest test so far of its global expansion strategy.
Manager Magazine said Deutsche Telekom was open to accommodate Netflix’s expansion even though the service would compete with the German company’s own web-based TV offering called “Entertain”.
Deutsche Telekom declined to comment.
Netflix, whose internet-based delivery of movies and TV series such as “House of Cards” has disrupted pay-TV markets in the United States and elsewhere, wants to grow its international business to reach new customers and increase its buying clout with content providers.
It is already in more than 40 countries, mostly in Latin America, and has entered Britain, Ireland, the Nordics and the Netherlands in the past two years.
In Germany, it would compete with Amazon’s Prime Instant Video, ProSiebenSat.1′s Maxdome, Sky Deutschland’s Snap and Vivendi’s Watchever.
Germany has the highest number of broadband households in Europe, with 29.1 million in 2013, according to estimates from SNL Kagan.
The 3DS stumbled at launch, enduring sluggish sales until Nintendo instituted a drastic price cut on the hardware. While Moffitt noted the impact of the price cut, he said a pair of first-party releases was another key driver in reversing the handheld’s fortunes.
“We had the price cut in August , and then we had Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, which really drove sales that first holiday, and on 3DS we haven’t looked back,” Moffitt said. “So we’ve had momentum ever since that first holiday and we’ve got now 260 some games in the library and some of the best, most highest rated, most highest quality content we’ve ever had on that platform. Everything we launched seems to do above forecast and surprises us on the positive side.”
The situation with the Wii U is similar, Moffitt said, adding that the console is about to reach a very similar tipping point.
“As I look at what we have coming this holiday, now with Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros, plus the innovation of Amiibo, I think we are right at that tipping point where we have a lot of great content that is about to be released for that platform that’s going to tempt gamers into buying the system,” Moffitt said. “From the comments I’m reading online, and following gamers’ comments, I think there are a lot of people that are going to have a hard time resisting buying a Wii U once Smash Bros comes out. I think that’s going to be a major hardware driver for us. So that’s the narrative we hope that plays out and that I think we are starting to see play out.”
One avenue that Nintendo won’t be pursuing to spike Wii U sales is an unbundling of the GamePad, Xbox One Kinect-style. Both companies pitched the peripherals as essential components of their visions, but when Xbox One sales lagged, Microsoft found the demands of potential customers more convincing than their original plans. While Moffitt said Nintendo is still working to create gameplay experiences that demonstrate the true benefits of the Wii U GamePad, he said removing it from the hardware bundle is not in consideration.
“We think GamePad is the only innovation that’s come in this new generation of consoles. So we have the only real point of difference. Certainly graphics are faster, graphics are better. This is not a real innovation for gamers. We are fully committed to leveraging the GamePad, to keeping it bundled with the system.”
As for the problem of third-party support for Wii U, Moffitt namechecked the continued efforts of partners like Sega, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and Activision. While some big companies who have dropped the system, Moffitt understood why that would have happened and acknowledged it was Nintendo’s problem to fix.
“It’s all about driving the install base and so that’s our work to do, right? We need to get to a critical mass where it makes financial sense for them,” he said.
Moffitt added that third-party games don’t all come from the big AAA publishers. He touted the company’s efforts in lowering the barriers to entry for indie developers looking to publish on Nintendo platforms.
“We talked to a lot of them before launching the Wii U and we addressed some of the issues that really were holding some of them back from developing realistic content on our platform,” Moffitt said. “At least for the indie community, we’ve become a lot easier to do business with and we’re seeing a steady flow of content now.”
However, those efforts were largely invisible at E3. Where Microsoft and Sony devoted sections of their booths to indie developers working on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 respectively, there was no such equivalent in Nintendo’s booth.
“With any show, you have choices to make,” Moffitt said. “Every time I go down to our booth floor and see how many people are waiting to play Super Smash Bros, when I look outside at the Best Buys… Last night we had four hours of game play on Super Smash Bros. and we had 1,000 people in line. We had to turn people away. So it’s a tough choice for us as a platform holder. We don’t have enough game stations down there on Smash Bros. We try to feature as much content as we can in the limited space that we have. Right now we just have a lot of demand for Super Smash Bros. We could have used 10 more game stations on that game alone. Choices have to be made.”
Finally, Moffitt weighed in on the VR trend. While Nintendo has a distant history in the field with the Virtual Boy headset, Moffitt suggested Nintendo was taking a wait-and-see approach toward returning to it
“What I’d say is it’s appealing technology,” Moffitt said. “It’s interesting. We’re going to follow it closely to see where it goes. It’s got a lot of advantages. It’s got one disadvantage relative to what we know is often very fun for gamers, which is playing games socially in a living room. This is a very single player solitary gaming experience. Not all of our games are fun to play with multiple people in a living room in front of a game console but it doesn’t lend itself to that kind of an experience as well as what Wii U does now. That would be a disadvantage of going in that direction. Could it be a nice addition to our hardware platform? Sure.”
T-Mobile US Inc said it’s offering at least a million mobile phone users the chance to use an Apple Inc iPhone in a free one-week trial of the No. 4 U.S. wireless carrier’s network with unlimited access.
The announcement is the latest promotion from T-Mobile, which last year shook up the industry by unbundling service fees from device costs, a move other carriers soon followed.
In cooperation with device maker Apple, customers can sign up online, receive a free iPhone 5s in two days and pay no charges unless the phone is broken or not returned at aretail store one week later.
“We believe every Verizon, and every AT&T customer should cheat on their carrier and enjoy every minute of it,” said T-Mobile CEO John Legere, speaking at a T-Mobile event in Seattle that was broadcast on the Internet. The carrier’s “seven-night stand” campaign asks consumers to allow the company to “woo you with our powerful data strong network” for the week.
T-Mobile’s aggressive discounting won it more subscribers in the first quarter of 2014 than any of the top wireless carriers combined. But the company’s price slashing cost it $151 million in lost revenue in the first quarter.
The company also said on Wednesday that music streaming from eight major music providers, including Pandora and Spotify, will no longer count against the data allowance included in consumers’ subscriptions.
“Streaming music is a showcase of what makes our network different. We can handle it,” said T-Mobile Chief Marketing Officer Mike Sievert.
T-Mobile customers use 69 percent more data than Verizon, and 100 percent more data than AT&T, according to the company.
The company also launched a music streaming service called ‘unRadio’, in partnership with music provider Rhapsody, which is free of advertising and will be included for customers who have unlimited high speed service. The service will also be available for $4 a month to all other subscribers.
The move follows a January AT&T announcement of a discounted subscription to Beats Music for family plan members, and a similar partnership between Sprint and Spotify in April.
T-Mobile’s massive price discounts have led to a restructuring of pricing plans across the wireless industry, as carriers unbundled service plans from the cost of devices.
U.S. carriers saw 3.2 exabytes of data traffic run across their networks, the CTIA said in its annual report on the U.S. wireless industry. An exabyte is 10×18 bytes or, put another way, a billion gigabytes.
The figure represents a 120 percent increase from the 1.5 exabytes carried in all of 2012, the group said. The CTIA is the Washington, D.C, -based lobbying group that represents the industry and it conducted the survey among its members. The data refers to traffic carried over licensed spectrum.
With 336 million subscriptions in the U.S., that figure works out to an average of 801 megabytes per subscriber line per month.
A large proportion of that data was video. While the CTIA didn’t survey members on video traffic, Cisco recently said its networking data pointed to a total of 2.2 exabytes in video data being carried by mobile networks last year. That’s an average of 563 megabytes per subscriber line per month.
U.S. customers spent 218 billion minutes per month talking on their wireless devices, which works out to an average of 650 minutes per month per line; sent 153 billion text messages per month, or 457 messages per line; and 10 billion multimedia messages, or 30 per line.
On the network side, carrier networks grew slightly as the roll out of 4G services continued apace across the country. At the end of 2013, the entire U.S. wireless network consisted of 304,360 cell sites, a rise of around 2,500 on the year. The CTIA put annual capital expenditure by wireless carriers at $33.1 billion.
Google Inc’s YouTube said that it will begin offering a paid streaming music service, amid criticism that its existing, free video website might block the music videos of labels that do not agree to its terms.
YouTube has partnered with “hundreds of major and independent” music labels for the new service, the company said in a statement, confirming long-running rumors that the world’s most popular online video website will offer a paid music service.
The news comes as some music trade groups have criticized YouTube’s plans to potentially block the content of certain labels from appearing on YouTube’s free, ad-supported Website unless they sign deals to participate in the new, subscription streaming music service. The deals that YouTube is offering are on “highly unfavorable, and non-negotiable terms,” according to a news release issued by the Worldwide Independent Music Industry Network last month.
YouTube declined to comment on the terms of the deals, but said in a statement that the new service would provide new revenue for the music industry.
“We’re adding subscription-based features for music on YouTube with this in mind – to bring our music partners new revenue streams in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars YouTube already generates for them each year,” YouTube said in a statement.
YouTube has already signed deals for the paid service with 95 percent of the music labels that it previously had deals with for its existing, ad-supported music video website, a person familiar with the matter said. Blocking certain music labels’ videos from appearing on YouTube’s free website might be necessary in order to provide a consistent user experience for the paid service, the person said.
The YouTube service is expected to launch at the end of the summer and will allow users to listen to music without any ads, according to a person familiar with the situation. Among the other features expected are the ability to listen to music offline and the ability to listen to an artist’s entire album instead of just individual songs, as is currently the case on YouTube, the person said.
Streaming music services such as Spotify and Pandora are becoming increasingly popular among consumers, as digital music downloads decline. Apple Inc announced plans to acquire streaming music service and premium headphone maker Beats for $3 billion last month.
Google launched the $9.99-per-month Play All Access subscription music service in 2013. The forthcoming YouTube paid music service could potentially work in coordination with the Play service so that consumers aren’t forced to subscribe to two separate services, the person familiar with the situation said.