It appears that the Ouya is going to be a bit delayed.
This is good news though, as it is being delayed because the console developers have more cash to spend on it, $15m more to be precise.
Ouya already raised around $7m on Kickstarter, and now, when it should be taking its last steps towards completion, it has had almost twice as much more injected into it by lovely venture capitalists.
We were expecting the console in early June, but that has slid back to 25 June. The time and money will in part be used to solve an issue with sticky buttons, something that usually only happens once consumers have taken some hardware home with them.
The money comes from venture capital firms and other companies including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), Nvidia, Shasta Ventures, and Occam Partners. KPCB’s general partner Bing Gordon will join the Ouya board of directors as a result.
“We want Ouya to be here for a long time to come,” said Julie Uhrman, Ouya founder and CEO.
“The message is clear: people want Ouya. We first heard this from Kickstarter backers who provided more than $8 million to help us build Ouya, then from over 12,000 developers who have registered to make an Ouya game, next from retailers who are carrying Ouya online and soon on store shelves, and now from top pioneering investors.”
Gordon is in charge of digital investments at KPCB and is a veteran of the games industry, having started at Electronic Arts in 1982.
“Ouya’s open source platform creates a new world of opportunity for established and emerging independent game creators and gamers alike,” he said.
“There are some types of games that can only be experienced on a TV, and Ouya is squarely focused on bringing back the living room gaming experience. Ouya will allow game developers to unleash their most creative ideas and satisfy gamers craving a new kind of experience.”
Ouya consoles should start arriving in living rooms on 25 June. If you want one, you are going to have to come up with around $100 dollars, plus another $50 dollars if you want two controllers.
Ouya, the open Android-based console designed by Yves Behar, is being shipped to its Kickstarter backers today, and the company officially announced this week at GDC that it will hit retailers in the US, UK and Canada on June 4. Ouya is promising “hundreds” of titles for the June 4 release and the $99 console will be available at Amazon, Best Buy, GAME, GameStop, Target, and the store on OUYA.tv. Additional controllers will be sold for $49.99. And for digital purchases, consumers will be able to get pre-paid cards with redeemable codes at retail if they wish.
The company said that over 8,000 game developers worldwide are currently developing games, including both up-and-comers and more well known game makers like Square Enix, Double Fine Productions, Tripwire Interactive, Vlambeer, Phil Fish’s Polytron Corporation, and Kim Swift’s Airtight Games. “The majority of devs so far are experienced devs who’ve never built an Android game before. About 1 out of 5 have never even built a game before,” Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman said that at the GDC unveiling. She boasted that Ouya “already has more titles a couple months before launch than any console has ever launched with.”
The Ouya hardware itself is even smaller than we had previously thought (think Rubik’s Cube or smaller), and its sleek design and brushed aluminum is pleasing to the eye. Uhrman, however, stressed the controller more than anything else. “What we spent the most amount of time on is the controller. We really want this to be our love letter to gamers,” she said, adding that Ouya focused on the ergonomics, the weight, the feel, and wanted it to be a precise, accurate controller. “This is one of the pieces of Ouya that evolved a lot based on early supporter feedback,” she continued.
Apparently, the feedback led to numerous changes on the controller in terms of button placement, and the style of d-pad. The team found out that many preferred a cross-style d-pad than a disc because it’s superior for fighting games. Also, the engineers retooled the tension of the analogs and the design of shoulder buttons. And Ouya even made the responsiveness and speed of the center touch pad customizable. In this journalist’s hands, it felt comfortable and familiar while playing a few titles.
After showing off the hardware, Uhrman dived into the user interface of Ouya. The whole UI is incredibly streamlined, with four categories and an apps-like layout. The four categories are Play, Discover, Make, and Manage (which is for settings). Play is simply where anything you’ve downloaded – games or music or video apps – will be placed. Discover is the store, and it’s been designed to encourage people to “find the best games.” For example, sub-selections in Discover include featured channels like Go Retro, Hear Me, Genres, and Sandbox. The plan is to offer more descriptive names for games within genres.
“The way games get exposed in the genre list is based on what we call the O-rank, which is our fun algorithm. It’s how we rank great games. A lot of app platforms today use downloads as a metric or they use revenue as a metric and we don’t think that’s a good way to say if it’s a good game,” Uhrman said. “You could download a game and never play it again. And with the free-to-try model, revenue isn’t necessarily the best model either. What is [a good metric] is what proves that the game is fun, and that’s engagement. So things like how long you have played a game, how many times you’ve played that game over a certain period of time. How quickly from the time you boot up Ouya, which is an always-on device, do you play that game… It’s those types of engagement metrics that we think prove it’s a fun game.”
Another interesting area within Discover is Sandbox, which offers developers an opportunity to put builds up and ask people to thumb it up. The idea is for great games to get out of the Sandbox and be searchable and merchandized. It encourages developers to market their games and promote them to fans. Once you get out of Sandbox you know the people next to you have great quality games, Uhrman explained.
The Make channel is an area that appears to still be in flux. Uhrman said the goal is to serve two audiences, gamers and developers, equally. While Make is a place where a developer can upload early builds, over time it’ll be a place for devs to communicate with fans. “We also can grow it to be, what if you want to make a game, here’s how to market a game, etc. We’ll look to devs and gamers for feedback on how to evolve the section,” Uhrman said.
A console that’s as open as Ouya should have a fairly simple submission process for developers right? Uhrman confirmed that it’s not overly complicated and should be something most can complete within an hour. “It’s something we thought a lot about given that we’re an open platform… but we wanted to make sure that there are good quality games, at least to the extent that it was optimized to the television and for the controller. So the guidelines isn’t necessarily a quality review, but it checks if there’s malware, does it break or freeze often, does it use our controller schema in the right way, we need to make sure there’s no IP infringement, no pornography, does it elicit real-world violence, you are who you say you are kind of thing – that’s the review. We try to keep it under an hour. Developers can choose to go live immediately or they can choose a certain time,” she detailed.
Curiously, there’s been no partnership reached with the ESRB to rate the games in North America. Right now, the games will be self-rated by devs and community reviewed. Given that Ouya is being sold in mainstream retail, however, we do have to wonder if this will pose potential problems for the company in an atmosphere where some people are still pointing fingers at violent video games. “We’ll take it as it comes; right now we want to expose great content from any type of developer and we do have the thumbs-up/like feature or the report if this is abuse on the system,” responded Uhrman, adding that “We basically say that we can change the rules at any time and we can reject the game for any reason that doesn’t fit our content guidelines – we want everybody on Ouya to have a great experience.”
Ratings aside, one of the big questions surrounding Ouya is whether or not it can truly carve out a market for itself in the console space as industry veterans Sony and Microsoft prepare to launch their respective next-generation systems. The games we saw on Ouya are not graphically intense and are very indie in nature. Can Ouya handle high fidelity triple-A releases? Or does it even need to in order to get noticed?
Ouya does has a partnership with OnLive, so that’s one way to get triple-A games. “That’s one solution. We also support 1080p, hi-def… and we have a USB port so someone can add an external hard drive, so for games that are heavy you could absolutely use that. We have a max download size of 1.2GB for the first download, but as a developer if you want to add and send additional content from your servers you can,” Uhrman said.
“Traditional games take longer to develop, and we have some of those in development that we’re really excited about. Ouya is not about the number of polygons on the screen,” Uhrman acknowledged. “That’s not where we went. We wanted to have innovative and creative exclusive content, and we’re already starting to see that.”
Exclusive content plus a very appealing $99 price point is what could make the system an easy impulse buy for many gamers Uhrman believes. Moreover, Uhrman noted that most core gamers tend to purchase more than one console, so Ouya is likely to be something they’ll want to buy even if they are getting a PS4.
“Ouya offers something different; every gamer has a different expectation depending upon the platform and we believe we’re going to have innovative, creative games and exclusive games to Ouya… And the barrier to entry at just $99 where every game is free-to-try, I think opens up the opportunity for a number of gamers, even core gamers. Core gamers on average own more than one console. We don’t really think it’s an either/or situation. We’re offering something different – I think they’re going to want Ouya too,” she said.
A number of traditional consoles in the past have launched selling at a loss. Since Ouya is built with off the shelf components, it may be easier to contain costs, but Uhrman wouldn’t confirm that each unit is sold at a profit. “We’re really comfortable with our business model,” is all she would say.
That said, if things go the way Uhrman would like, this is only the beginning. Ouya will continue to evolve its software and hardware, and the hardware is likely to get refreshed quickly.
“We’re like any other software platform that iterates and grows over time, and we’ll have a hardware refresh rate more similar to a mobile refresh rate than a console refresh rate because we want to take advantage of the best chips out there and falling commodity prices. We will certainly make sure that there’s enough content that’s optimized for that chip and we don’t push on higher prices to the consumer,” she said.
Does that mean some Ouyas in future will not be compatible with certain games? Uhrman is looking to avoid that scenario. “We have a plan where all content will be compatible with future Ouya systems; we don’t want to fragment our own market for developers, and we always want gamers to have a great experience,” she commented.
Ouya will be interesting to watch. It’s a bold move for the industry and everything we’ve seen so far is completely unconventional. Whether or not that will pay dividends in the long-run is hard to judge at this point in time. “The market is calling us the ‘un-console’ and we like doing things the ‘un-way’,” Uhrman remarked.
Video game research firm EEDAR, which already has a proprietary database of over 100 million internally researched data points from more than 90,000 physical, digital, mobile, and social game products, is gearing up for the launch of a new service to assist mobile and social developers. EEDAR said that its new suite of mobile. Tablet and social products will aim “to improve sales potential and game quality for titles utilizing in-app monetization.”
EEDAR said that one of the most important things a developer can do is to optimize a game before launch. “EEDAR is able to provide an assessment at any point during the development cycle and accurately project key performance measurements of the final product, in addition to a qualitative assessment that provides feedback from the perspective of a professional game critic and consumers,” the company said about its new product suite.
Jesse Divnich, VP of Insights at EEDAR, to get an overview of the key takeaways from the firm’s research on the mobile and social markets. Divnich stressed that developers must be prepared with their in-game monetization strategy for retention and boosting conversion rates before a title is released into an app store.
“When the mobile game market was emerging, developers could optimize key monetization features after a game’s launch. The onboarding acquisition process had a long tail. Today, due to competition and larger consumer awareness, the time to peak engagement is rapidly shortening,” he noted.
“Facebook/Social games are a perfect example. Games like Farmville took nearly a year before they reached their peak users. It gave Zynga ample enough time to adjust game features to increase engagement monetization rates. Now, Social games are peaking within weeks and this idea of always being in ‘beta’ quickly shows its weaknesses when you are onboarding the majority of your lifetime users in only a few weeks,” he continued. “The mobile market is beginning to reach that point. Mobile games are making more headlines, consumers are becoming aware of hit titles faster. Simply put, consumers are engaging mobile games closer to a game’s release date and sleeper hits are becoming less prevalent.”
Even getting highlighted by Apple doesn’t mean what it used to. Developers can squander a great opportunity if they don’t make an effort to optimize. “Being featured by Apple no longer means weeks or months on the top charts. At most you have seven days and if your title is not fully optimized, you will leave money on the table,” Divnich added. “Going forward, developers must ensure they’re launching with maximum optimization, both from an artistic and scientific perspective. This means dedicating more resources to pre-launch analytics and qualitative testing.”
So what are some other notable mistakes developers are making? Well, mimicry certainly isn’t helping. Just because something works in one game doesn’t mean it can be successfully “borrowed” for a different game.
“There are still a large chunk of developers that are still too short-sighted. Clash of Clans has been a top seller for a few months and nearly 50 percent of the concepts and vertical slices that come across my desk in some way or another have an 80 percent overlap of Clash of Clans’ engagement loop. After we perform our assessments, some developers are disappointed to learn their retention, conversion, and monetization rates potential are a fraction of the results Clash of Clans has produced,” observed Divnich.
Even if your game is successful at the start, retention is a real problem, as it’s hard to create a game that has legs. “Competition within the mobile markets is at its fiercest, and every week there are at least seven high-quality releases trying to fight for our attention. The increase in competition, media coverage, and consumer awareness has driven down retention rates, for some genres, to dangerously low levels,” Divnich explained.
The key, he said, is to drive connectivity with a very attractive multiplayer component. “Right now, the tried and true method for improving retention has been multiplayer and social features. The correlation between retention rates and the inclusion of multiplayer and social features is ridiculously high,” Divnich noted. “We do issue caution, however. Just because games with strong multiplayer and social support sell well doesn’t mean slapping on a multiplayer component will automatically make your game a success.”
“We’ve seen this trend occur in the traditional HD gaming space. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare created a multiplayer frenzy and everyone thought by cuffing on a multiplayer component their game, too, would be a success. While it helped for some, those that tacked it on were met with lukewarm or disappointing reception. We still encourage our developers to implement new ways of approaching multiplayer and social features, but how they are implemented is key to improving retention rates,” he continued.
While the mobile/tablet space is getting all the attention these days, and social gaming on Facebook has seen sharp declines, that doesn’t mean developers should automatically ignore the social space. There can be opportunities there as well, especially if developers optimize their titles.
“The social platform is still viable and profitable for many developers,” Divnich remarked. “Two years ago developers were fanatic about releasing on the social platform, but they oversaturated the market. There was too much choice in a market, there were no switching barriers for consumers, and there existed too many rip-offs of the standard Farmville or Bejeweled engagement loop. Additionally, Facebook couldn’t keep up with the demand for innovation. Being a platform where consumers violently resist change (e.g. Timeline), it’s difficult to support new tools and back-end features for developers without changing the whole experience altogether.”
“Developers can still be profitable on social platforms, but we certainly approach that space more cautiously,” he concluded.
There is no “perfect answer” to doing business with video games. Let’s call a halt to the pointless “zero-sum” debates that blighted 2012
A day in which you learn nothing is a day wasted; by which standard, a year in which we learned nothing would be a pointless waste of time indeed. It’s worth, as 2012 draws to a close (all that’s left now is the few days of indulgence before the year, in harmony with our waistbands, croaks its last), thinking about what we’ve learned. What did 2012 teach us that we did not before? Never mind, for a moment, the money we earned or lost, the games we played or made; did we grow? Did we advance? Did we learn?
From a business standpoint, certainly, we learned a great deal. 2012 cemented the place of mobile in the gaming ecosystem, forcing all but the most ardent refuseniks (so Nintendo and… er… that’s about it) to recognise mobile as an important part of their business – and even those who were slow to react to the rise of mobile gaming seem determined not to be left behind as tablets gain steam, with 2012 having shown us pretty clearly that the iPad and its myriad imitators are on track to become the primary data device of many consumers in the coming years.
We also learned some things – although not enough, I reckon – about where price points are heading. Freed of the artificial barriers to entry which define console platforms and physical retail, the App Store and Google Play have shown us where prices for digital content will inevitably trend towards – zero. In 2012, more entertaining, successful games than ever before launched at the princely price point of absolutely nothing. Plenty of others didn’t debut at far above 99p, and several of my favourite games of the year would have given me change from a £10 note. Free to play, with all that it entails, remains in its infancy, but is clearly going to be with us for the long haul; hopefully 2013 might be the year when the industry stops having ill-tempered hissy fits about this fact, and starts engaging with making F2P work better rather than loudly and pointlessly damning or exalting it at every turn.
That, perhaps, is a reasonable lead-in to something that I don’t think we learned this year, as an industry – we didn’t learn to stop being afraid of zero-sum games that don’t really exist. Discussions about mobile gaming, even among supposed professionals and experts, often descend into abject ridiculousness due to an insistence that mobile games will come to replace all other kinds of games, or that they are doomed to be a cynical, low-quality niche – neither of which position stands up to the slightest moment of intellectual scrutiny. The same applies to the vitriolic arguments about free-to-play which have washed over and back across 2012 like a stinking, polluted tide – when one side insists that everything will eventually be F2P, and the other insists that F2P is intrinsically evil and wrong, you’re no longer dealing with professional debate, but with dumb fanaticism.
I’m not saying, by the way, that we should all be cautious fence-sitters – there’s no virtue to sitting on the fence simply because it’s comfortable. Strong beliefs are good, but meaningless unless tempered by reason and fact. The fact is that cinema did not kill theatre, television did not kill cinema, video games have yet to viciously murder books, home recording did not kill music and video did not kill the radio star. Media and entertainment industries are ecosystems that accommodate an extraordinary range of different kinds of product and different business models – and that is not ever going to change. The idea that one form of entertainment, one form of business model or even one form of distribution will emerge to Rule Them All, is simply an idiot’s fantasy.
I say that with absolute confidence, not just because it is supported by countless years of history and the sheer wealth of culture and entertainment they have bequeathed to us, but because I recognise where the belief springs from. It’s the unique curse and blessing of the games industry that it teems with “left-brained” people – logical, analytical, mathematical, and quite different from the “right-brained” people who often dominate other creative industries. Video games were born with both feet firmly in the sphere of technology, only gradually moving to straddle the worlds of both technology and art – a marriage which is superbly creative but often fraught, as evidenced by the hissing recoil of many gamers and industry types alike when presented with the (stonkingly obvious) fact that games are an artform.
Left-brain people (yes, modern psychology dismisses this terminology, but it’s so much more polite than grouping you all as “geeks” and “arty types”, isn’t it?) love perfect answers. They like problems which have a correct solution, and see the world in those terms. In many industries, they’re perfect business leaders – there absolutely is a single most efficient way to extract oil or metal from the ground, to build an aircraft, to lay out a road or rail network. In entertainment, though, the idea of a “perfect” solution runs into a huge set of problems which utterly stump the left-brained – sentiment. Emotion. Irrationality. Sheer outright bloody-mindedness.
The fact is – nobody needs entertainment. Not really. If video games, films, books, music, plays, TV shows, paintings and sculptures all disappeared tomorrow, we’d be a much diminished species, but nobody would die. People need shelter, food, clothing, transport, protection, fuel – but entertainment is “discretionary”. It says so right there in your accounts. It’s spending at your discretion – and what that means is that it’s spending guided not by optimisation, but by sentiment.
Is free-to-play the most efficient way for money and experiences to change hands between developer and player? Is mobile or tablet gaming the most cost-effective route for consumers to engage with video games? Yeah, maybe – but what so few of us seem to really grasp is that this doesn’t actually matter. Is MP3 music the perfect balance of quality, convenience and file size? Probably – but vinyl shops thrive and specialist services offering “lossless” quality music files are on the rise. Is Kindle the best way to consume books? Yes, undoubtedly – but I don’t think of myself “consuming” books. Some books I just read; some I own; some I treasure. Sentiment; emotion; irrationality. I went to a shop and bought a leather-backed volume of a book I already own in paperback and Kindle alike. I’ll probably never read it. I love it. Am I an idiot, failing to see that this is not the optimal consumption path and bound to realise the error of my ways eventually? No, because this is my discretion; this is how I choose to enjoy and to spend on my pastime.
That’s why the zero-sum game will never come to pass – not as the strident debaters of 2012 believed. A very large number of consumers will still want things like dedicated gaming hardware, expensive full-price releases and physical products, not because this makes “sense” in an economic or logical way, but because they love those things and because, beyond straightforward questions of affordability, “economic sense” isn’t a welcome guest in deliberations about your hobbies and your passions.
The industry evolves and changes – never as rapidly as it did in 2012, though 2013 will probably make our heads spin just as fast – but little is truly lost. We don’t sell petrol, or sliced bread, or concrete, or train tickets. We sell experiences and emotions, and people will choose to consume those in the way that makes them feel best, not the way that is most coldly, mathematically efficient. Nobody fears that releasing Shakespeare adaptations on DVD will shut down theatres, or that allowing buskers onto the streets will eventually lead to concert halls being demolished. It’s time that we, too, learned that the expansion of the games business leads to more opportunities and more diversity, not to an existential threat to things we love – or worse, a chance to gloat over the imagined demise of things we hate. If you’ve got one new years resolution to make for 2013, make it this one – no more zero-sum arguments. Mobile won’t kill console. F2P won’t kill full-price. Cloud won’t kill local. The forest grows ever bigger; the old tree doesn’t block the sunlight from the new trees, the new trees do not strangle the roots of the old.
The studio, which will be run under the Microsoft Studio’s banner, will report into Phil Harrison, corporate VP of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business in the EMEA region, and will have a focus on developing for Windows 8 tablets. Apparently because, well, someone has to.
“I’m hugely excited by this new venture,” said Schuneman. “Adding a fourth UK based studio to the incredible roster of talent already in place across Rare, Soho Productions and Lionhead not only increases our in-region studio presence, but will allow Microsoft Studios to explore the many creative and business opportunities that developing new games and entertainment experiences on Windows 8 tablet devices and platforms will afford.”
Schuneman will not be the only person working there of course, and Microsoft said that it is running a recruitment drive for other staffers. Anyone that is hired will work on “entertainment as a service” releases, which should fun, and focus on the aforementioned Windows 8 on tablets.
Work at the studio is expected to start in November.
The NPD Group has sent its August retail sales report for the US market, and once again it was not a pretty sight, as total industry sales dropped 20 percent to $515.6 million. Total software sales (including PC retail software) dropped 11 percent to $252.8 million while hardware sales declined a sizable 39 percent to $150.6 million. Accessories were also down seven percent to $127.3 million.
“The current hardware systems are showing their age, so it goes without saying that it would be great to have new systems breathe life into traditional retail industry sales,” said NPD industry analyst Anita Frazier. “I am anxious to learn more about the Wii U launch later this month. And with any luck we will hear news about other systems on the horizon.”
While software sales weren’t good, Frazier noted some encouraging news about the market starting to stabilize.
“Within software, the high definition platforms posted only a slight 1 percent decline in dollar sales as compared to last August, pointing to a stabilization in that portion of the retail market for games content,” she said.
“One factor contributing to the softness we have seen in retail content sales so far in 2012 has been the decline in the sheer number of new titles. This, however, was not the case in August because there were more new titles when compared to last year; titles with sales that were significantly better than last year’s launches. So, what we’re seeing impact August results is the domino effect of the light release schedule from earlier in the year. That lack of new releases has had a significant impact on subsequent month’s sales,” she continued.
As NPD now does every month, the firm reminded us that this report is only one piece of the total games industry revenue pie.
“These sales figures represent new physical retail sales of hardware, software and accessories, which account for roughly 50% of the total consumer spend on games,” Frazier noted.
“When you consider our preliminary estimate for other physical format sales in August such as used and rentals at $104MM, and our estimate for digital format sales including full game and add-on content downloads including microtransactions, subscriptions, mobile apps and the consumer spend on social network games at $391MM, we would estimate the total consumer spend in August to be $989MM. Our final assessment of the consumer spend in these areas outside of new physical retail sales will be reported in November in our Q3 Games Market Dynamics: U.S. report.”
“The CPU and GPU capabilities of mobile devices will reach Xbox 360 levels of graphical fidelity and processing power within the next generation,” Canessa said.
“Activision will be creating a mix of casual and immersive gaming experiences on mobile, but as I say smartphones are more and more allowing for us to create those kinds of experiences. The games that Activision publishes on console, the games it publishes on PC, pretty soon we’ll be publishing those kinds of experiences on tablets and smartphones.”
Canessa explained that Activision is all-in when it comes to mobile development and is bringing some of its biggest IP to the table.
“We have about 350 different brands and IPs to work with. That’s legacy IP, that’s triple-A IP and that’s licences with other companies. We want to create mobile games from all of these aspects of the Activision portfolio, and build a variety of experiences,” he said.
“I would definitely say that one of our competitive advantages is the strength of our brands. The creation of new IP is expensive, and when you consider how much money we spend on marketing our IP, we can apply that halo effect to our mobile properties. You are going to continue to see us take advantage of our big marketing campaigns to help our mobile products too.”
Activision is also betting big on mobile development talent in the UK.
“What I will say is that we are in the UK to hire the best talent in the mobile space. If you look at the UK development community, some of the world’s best handheld and mobile game developers are there. That’s the talent we want to hire.”
According to The NPD Group, US games business continued its downward slide for 2012 during the month of July. Total game industry sales diminished 20 percent to $548.4 million and software sales (including PC) were down 23 percent to $278.2 million.
“These sales figures represent new physical retail sales of hardware, software and accessories, which account for roughly 50 percent of the total consumer spend on games. When you consider our preliminary estimate for other physical format sales in July such as used and rentals at $117MM, and our estimate for digital format sales including full game and add-on content downloads including microtransactions, subscriptions, mobile apps and the consumer spend on social network games at $439MM, we would estimate the total consumer spend in July to be $1.1B,” said NPD industry analyst Anita Frazier.
“Our final assessment of the consumer spend in these areas outside of new physical retail sales will be reported in November in our Q3 Games Market Dynamics: U.S. report.”
While July was a down month in what has been a down year, Frazier says there’s reason to be optimistic in the near term.
“Looking forward to August, the launch of the 3DS XL coupled with New Super Mario Bros. 2 should bring a nice boost to the performance of the new physical retail channel. While August is typically ‘Madden Month’, Madden NFL ’13 launches on August 28th which falls into the September reporting period. So, like last year, Madden will impact September results instead of August,” she said.
“New physical retail sales of games hardware, software and accessories traditionally follows a very reliable seasonality pattern. Based on year to date sales, and taking into account the release slate for the back five months of the year as well as the anticipated launch of the Wii U, annual sales for the new physical channel should come in around $14.5B for the year.”
Hardware shrunk 32 percent year-on-year to $150.7 million and Frazier noted that it affected almost every piece of hardware across the board.
“Of the hardware platforms that were on the market last July, only one, the 3DS, realized a unit sales increase over last year. Both the DS and the 3DS, however, realized a month-over-month unit sales increase over June 2012 while the other platforms declined,” she said.
As expected, NCAA Football 13 was the leading seller for the month that saw few new releases. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, The Amazing Spider-Man and Batman: Arkham City were all in the top five, showing the boost the Summer movies The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises are giving to their complementary video games. Just Dance 3 reentered the top five at number four, while Diablo III (a top seller the past two months) fell completely out of the top 10.
“On a SKU ranking, Pokemon Conquest is among the top 10 in sales for the month of July,” noted Frazier. “The top ten games ranking includes several games that launched a number of months ago such as Batman Arkham City and Dead Island, which both received a boost in sales due to the release of Game of the Year editions. Looking forward to August, besides the launch of New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS, it will be interesting to see the performance of Sleeping Dogs which is new IP that has garnered a fair amount of buzz.”
Accessories are bucking the overall trend of the industry, up 8 percent to $136.9 million.
“Accessories was the only category up in both dollars and units for the month, driven by increases in points and subscriptions game cards as well as the Skylanders character packs,” she said. “Between the characters that are packaged with the Skylanders game and the sales of the separate character packs, over 25 million individual Skylanders figures have been sold through at retail in the U.S. since the launch of the game in October 2011.”
Last month, Activision Blizzard unveiled its new Activision Mobile publishing label in partnership with analytics firm Flurry. While that announcement was mainly geared towards third parties, today the publisher announced a new effort to boost its first-party mobile offerings: a partnership with Swrve New Media, which has expertise with in-game behavioral analytics and A/B testing in mobile applications.
Activision will utilize Swrve’s proprietary testing platform in the company’s mobile games in order to test, tune and optimize its games in real-time. The Swrve technology is not new to Activision, as it was integrated into the top-selling iOS title Skylanders Cloud Patrol.
“Using Swrve’s analytics platform we are able to seamlessly balance and optimize our games in real time to offer a better experience to our players,” said Greg Canessa, vice president of Mobile at Activision Publishing, in a press release. “We are also able to offer engaging and personalized experiences to an unlimited range of players. The Swrve platform has been designed by an experienced team with long-standing success in gaming industry and we are very excited to be working with them.”
Canessa and Hugh Reynolds, founder and CEO at Swrve, spoke more about the partnership and Activision’s evolving mobile strategy.
“We’ve got two separate but related efforts going on under the Activision Mobile umbrella,” Canessa explained. “We have our first party offering and we’ve been hard at work building a technology platform and staffing up our core gaming capabilities to pursue a suite of mobile games with a micro-transaction focus around our IP. Whether that’s around Skylanders, Call of Duty: Zombies or some of our other franchises or IP, we are going after the mobile space in the best way we know on the iOS and Android side.”
“Flurry of course is our third-party effort where they act as business analytics partners as well as just publishing partners so we can utilize Flurry analytics to identify indie game developers that could show potential and then provide funding, technology resources, branding and so forth, which we’ve talked about previously.
“Swerve is the partner we’ve selected for our behavioral analytics for the Activate Mobile Platform, which is a platform that will power all of our first party games now and in the future. So these guys are long-time industry veterans who have had a great deal of success in partnership with Activision Blizzard in the past of course from Havok; these guys were the creators of Havok. This new start up that they’ve created, Swerve, is what we believe to be the premier behavioral analytics solution out there. So we are happy to have them and have them power our game design analytics for our micro-transaction games on the first party side.”
Reynolds added, “We are very unique in that we are action oriented first, so we are very much into beta testing and we believe that a key way to continue polishing it is to have the business team involved. We want to push new versions out, run different userbase and then deliver a new app that is optimized for specific users. So it is very test-driven first for analytics. We’re turning the traditional model around and letting it work for business and game designers.”
Activision hasn’t exactly been known for its prowess in the mobile gaming sphere, but the company is looking to change that. Canessa stressed that these moves, like the Flurry and Swrve partnerships, are just the beginning for the company.
“You are seeing this announcement as well as a few others of late really focus on our serious intention to get into mobile in a fairly significant way,” he said. “When you take a look at our Activision Mobile publishing announcements, we look at our first-party stuff and then at our Swerve relationship, you see us taking the steps to bolster our internal platform capabilities around mobile, our data analytics capabilities and of course launching Skylanders Cloud Patrol as our first effort. This is the beginning of a lot more you are going to see from us in the mobile space.”
Canessa was reluctant to discuss what Activision Mobile is working on. The new studio in the UK has been growing and is no doubt working on some top IP in the mobile space for Activision. Don’t assume, however, that just because Call of Duty is Activision’s top property that its mobile efforts will be equally core-focused. If anything, Activision wants to attract as broad an audience as it can on mobile.
“We have a wide variety of IP and the market for iOS and Android is very broad. There is lighter touch and then there are more and more immersive experiences. All of those are interesting to us. Without going into specifics, you can see Skylanders is more light hearted which appeals to a broader audience. I think you are going to see us do more of that. To a point, we have more core games on different platforms and we can go into that as well. I think we’re interested in all sorts of entertainment experiences,” Canessa said.
This time last week, nobody had heard of Ouya; we might have guessed that it was an approximation of the sound of a polite grandmother dropping a hammer on her toe, or the carnal grunt of an Old Etonian. Seven days later, it’s soared past its funding target on Kickstarter and has become one of the hottest topics in the industry. Yet it’s been fascinating to speak to a variety of different people about the proposed console and gauge the reasons for their support, because doing so has revealed vast fractures in terms of what people actually expect from this console.
For most – especially those at the lower end of the pledging scale, I expect – their support is a reflection of pent-up demand for a smart TV device. An all-digital console with the same development philosophy as mobile and tablet games is seen as filling the gap which has been created, conspicuously, by years of talking about a Google, Apple or even Valve led Smart TV revolution which has thus far failed to materialize. Ouya hitches a lift on a variety of related trends in a pretty overt way – the rise of indie (and of the superstar indie developer – witness the quotes from the likes of Mojang and Jenova Chen on the Kickstarter page), the rise of crowdfunding, the sense of inevitability about mobile and tablet gaming making an impact on the TV screen.
Then there’s the controller – a conventional joypad. No touch screen, no movement controls. Among the traditional gamers who have voiced hatred of such things for years, not a dry eye in the house. Could it be? Could this be the device that’s going to reclaim these brave new worlds of gaming – F2P, mobile, tablet, digital – from the hordes of arm-waving, song-singing, touchscreen-molesting not-proper-gamers who have infested them? Shut up and take my money!
If you’re detecting a hint of cynicism here – well, I think that’s natural. Here we have a device which clambers atop a rickety tower of trends and waves its arms for attention. Think about it – it’s an open platform, for indie developers, crowdfunded, all-digital, “disruptive” (maybe), hacker-friendly, free-to-play… It’s painfully hip, like a console built after a brainstorming session consisting exclusively of words cut out from the headlines of Boing Boing posts. This console wears heavy non-prescription glasses and patterned cardigans, has a dreadful beard, drinks chai lattes outside pop-up cafes in Shoreditch and listens to the latest unreleased music demos on an old tape walkman “ironically”. It couldn’t have been more guaranteed the Kickstarter success it has ultimately achieved.
I don’t begrudge it that. It has played to a crowd beautifully – perhaps even unconsciously – and indeed, it’s a thing of beauty in many ways. Like the trends which have birthed it, the Ouya is a lovely idea. Cheap, open, hackable, filled with content from talented indie developers. It’s a beautiful idea and in fact, it has the potential to become a beautiful little community – a creative incubator filled with new ideas being tested and trialed, welcoming fledgling developers to dip in and show what they can do, while giving more established developers a platform on which to trial new ideas. (Of course, PC advocates might point out that Windows and indeed OSX have been doing exactly that for years, but while there’s substance to that argument, the point remains that console gaming and hence console development is intrinsically more attractive for some players, so there is theoretically room for an “open console” of sorts.)
The real problem is one of expectation. Ouya’s creators asked for $950,000 and at the time that I’m writing this, they’re hovering around the $4 million mark. Exceeding their target by such a margin has created immense excitement around the platform, and that’s led to a lot of the fractures in terms of expectation that I alluded to earlier. Some people (outspoken Android advocates, mostly, which can’t be an easy position to take and thus deserves our sympathy) view this as a final piece of the puzzle for Android, completing a platform comprising mobile, tablet and now console offerings and thus ushering in an era of dominance for their chosen OS. Others, more sanely but equally questionably, view it as a full-scale introduction of F2P mechanisms to the console space which will prove disruptive to the console business at large.
Those two are marginal viewpoints, certainly – but they can be found easily enough within many discussions around Ouya this week. Much more common is the viewpoint that this has just become a major battleground between “open” and “closed”. Consoles are, unquestionably, “closed” – it’s insanely expensive to develop a title for the Xbox 360 or the PS3 and you need permission from a platform holder, probably via an equally restrictive publisher, to do so. At the other end of the spectrum, Ouya is open; buy one, build something, release it. (In the middle, you get all manner of things being labeled “open” or “closed” based on rhetorical convenience rather than any truly useful definition – witness iOS and WP7 being labeled “closed” despite occupying a space at the “open” end of the spectrum so close to Android’s own policies that most consumers couldn’t make a meaningful distinction between them.)
So poor Ouya, now, is going to be a stalking horse for the hopes and dreams of the “open” crowd. This beautiful, well-intentioned, achingly hip piece of technology is going to go out into the world with the expectation of actually winning over a meaningful audience of consumers who will knowingly choose an “open” platform over the “closed” ones currently on offer – who will buy into the Ouya vision of a future where entertainment exists without gatekeepers or curators.
Let’s put this in a little bit of perspective. First, hard numbers. Ouya, as I write, has raised $4 million from around 31,000 people. That’s a big number of consumers to some people. If I wrote a book on Kindle and sold it to 31,000 people for a fiver each, I’d be very happy. For a console with an F2P business model, though, it’s barely even a test market, let alone a viable consumer base. Remember that even the most successful console games rarely sell to 10% of the console installed base (misfits like Wii Fit aside) – even if we assume that F2P ensures a wider group will sample the game, remember that only around 1 in 20 people who play F2P games actually pay (the figures fluctuate and are tough to pin down, but that’s not a bad ballpark). Now, Ouya will hopefully sell to a lot more than the 31,000 people who backed it, but the point remains – what we’ve seen so far is a sliver of a fraction of a niche, not a workable market and not an indication of guaranteed success.
Secondly, a brief exploration of why consumers buy consoles. One word – games. Consumers buy consoles because those consoles have games they want to play. A handful buy consoles due to platform loyalty, and go on to make a lot of noise about them on the internet, but they’re not an important market overall (even Nintendo’s consoles sell, ultimately, because of Nintendo’s games, not because of the Nintendo name itself). I doubt that any human being in history has ever walked into a games store and bought a console because they like the market philosophy behind it (“an Xbox 360 and a copy of Atlas Shrugged if you would please, shopkeep!”), although if someone has, I’m sure they’ll pop up in the comments below to prove both my wrongness and their own loneliness in the world. On mobile, a handful of noisy Internet types choose Android specifically because of the open/closed debate, but again, they’re not a particularly important market segment – one of Android’s greatest problems is that most people who choose Android phones do so simply because they’re cheap, and go on to spend no money whatsoever in the Google Play store.
This is the reality facing Ouya. You convince consumers to buy a console by having top-flight software available for it. You convince developers to create top-flight software by either paying them (first party), or by convincing them that there are going to be tons of consumers around to buy their software at launch. The way you achieve the latter is by injecting enormous amounts of money into both first party software and launch marketing. Ouya, which is launching a console on a budget less than that of most console software releases, let alone hardware launches, cannot afford to do that – and all the Boing Boing posts and Kickstarter magic dust in the world doesn’t change that.
To me, the saddest thing about this situation is that Ouya is brilliant. It’s a great idea, and I think it’s going to do something really interesting in terms of creating a community that’s very small, very rough and tumble but utterly buzzing with creativity. I’ve backed it (not least because in a week when people seem to have decided that throwing money at an existing, profitable publication through Kickstarter is a reasonable use of the site, giving some money to an actually innovative, creative project seemed like the best riposte) and I’ll buy one, and I’m intrigued to see what comes of it. But it’s sad, because Ouya is going to be judged a failure. Those creating huge expectations for the console are going to be disappointed; the internet opinion machine will take that disappointment and turn it into failure. Ouya will do some great stuff, but it’s not going to disrupt the console business (which is already pretty disrupted already) or initiate a revolution against closed platforms. I fear that the hype will make it impossible to enjoy the platform for what it is – an idea that’s simply too lovely to survive in the real world.
For over three years, only one tablet product has gained traction with the mainstream: Apple’s phenomenal iPad. Niche challengers have come and gone, while heavyweights including RIM, Sony, Samsung and Motorola have all singularly failed to make any kind of impact on Apple’s stranglehold on the market. Now the Cupertino giant’s closest rivals have finally woken up: Microsoft and Google are both rolling out the big guns with the upcoming releases of Surface and the Nexus 7.
There’s little doubt that the iPad has defined the prerequisites of a mainstream-focused tablet, and to a certain extent both of these challengers are “me too” products. Each is based on the notions of a slick, user-friendly interface, capacitive touch-screens, and low-power integrated processors paired with large batteries to provide stamina in the 8-10 hour range – the defining elements of the iPad.
However, the differences between the products are interesting in that they illustrate exactly where Apple’s challengers believe its weaknesses are: the question really is whether these perceived deficiencies are enough to really open up the market.
Google’s approach is intriguing: with the Nexus 7, it has staked a claim to the value end of the market, looking to offer an approximate high-end experience in a package that is a fraction of the cost of the $500 top-end “New iPad” and half the price of the $400 iPad 2. Google’s tablet miniaturises the experience onto a 7-inch, IPS 1280×800 screen that cuts some corners on brightness and colour reproduction but crams a lot of pixels into a small enough area to give something approaching Retina fidelity.
Elsewhere, all the core functionality you would expect from a tablet is present and correct, while more extravagant elements that have somehow become a standard on more expensive tablets have been stripped out – so there is no rear-mounted camera for example, no HDMI output – and only a single microUSB port.
Only 8GB and 16GB SKUs are planned and there is no support at all for cellular connectivity – Google’s strategy seems to be in attracting the value-conscious and tablet newcomers, and perhaps convince them to upgrade when the time is right to another Android tablet. The Nexus 7 is produced by Asus, and the Nexus 7 comes across to a certain extent as a “gateway” product to the firm’s more expensive offerings.
Microsoft’s Surface has no pretensions in masking the “me too” elements of its design. Although it has opted for a widescreen display over the iPad’s 4:3 screen, there’s little doubt that it aims for the premium side of the market in exactly the same way as the Apple tablet, with its high-end magnesium finish and weight/dimension advantages over the current generation iPad. At its presentation for the device, a huge amount of focus was put into the kickstand – curious, as it suggests that Microsoft believes that a great deal of tablet-time is spent near some kind of static, flat surface that it can rest upon.
But the true point of difference that Microsoft is banking on is Windows 8 and everything it represents: specifically functionality, productivity and the ubiquity of the OS on other devices. A fully featured USB port means that virtually any peripheral can be run from the tablet – printers, storage drives – with standard Windows drivers being used to run them. The Touch and Type covers in combination with Microsoft Office potentially offer Surface RT a level of functionality well beyond what the iPad offers, in a pleasingly integrated manner.
Traditional, native x86 Windows programs won’t work on the Surface RT however, and therein lies one of Microsoft’s biggest challenges: building its own version of Apple’s walled garden app store. Having failed comprehensively with Windows Phone 7, Microsoft desperately needs to create transaction infrastructure that rivals Google Play and iTunes. Just a couple of months from launch, there are still some question marks over the Metro marketplace and the level of support it will attract.
Of course, the advantage Microsoft has is the sheer proliferation of Windows on traditional computers and laptops. The next version of the desktop OS features support for Metro apps, along with the compatibility with traditional x86 binaries missing from the RT tablet. The same core kernel is deployed on all devices, be they tablet, smartphone, laptop or desktop – representing an unprecedented level of convergence.
In this respect, Microsoft is well ahead of Apple: there have been rumours for some time that iOS and OSX would merge, or overlap more overtly at some point, but Windows 8 manages to pull that off successfully in the here and now. It’s a state of affairs reflected in the Surface hardware too. While the RT tablet has access to Metro apps only, the Surface Pro – running Intel ultra-low voltage CPUs – is effectively an Ultrabook class PC squeezed down into a tablet form factor just a little heavier and thicker than the New iPad. It supports Metro while running traditional apps and games (albeit less demanding ones owing to the Intel integrated GPU). Most tantalising of all, the integration of powerful x86 hardware into the tablet form factor is hugely compelling – in a stroke, Microsoft not only provides an intriguing alternative to the iPad, but it is also taking on the Macbook Air too.
All of which suggests that maybe – just maybe – Apple will be facing its first serious challenges: Google with its value approach on one side and a direct attack from the full power of the Windows brand on the other. It’ll certainly make life interesting – definitely from a tech writer’s point of view – but it’s difficult to place any kind of bet against the company that has essentially defined this fledgling market. Apple wins not only through its combination of a power brand, product quality and a beautiful user interface, but also in terms of the most crucial factor of all: content.
In this regard, Android still falls short, while Windows 8 – in terms of Metro apps, at least – remains a completely unknown quantity. From a gaming perspective, Apple has invested significantly in creating the most attractive ecosystem for games developers. Market fragmentation is an issue (New iPad is immensely more powerful than the original, 4S vs. 3GS likewise), but it’s nowhere near as bad as Android where virtually every hardware manufacturer rolls their own combination of processor, RAM, GPU and display, and where take-up of the latest version of the OS is minimal, to say the least. Perhaps the Nexus 7 can change that.
Microsoft’s shot at the title is a two-pronged assault not just on the iPad, but on the Macbook Air too. The ARM-based Surface RT features all of the strengths of Windows 8 – aside from native x86 program support – while the Surface Pro is essentially a complete PC housed in iPad-style casing. As this photo amply demonstrates, Microsoft believes that productivity is the key to taking on Apple’s phenomenal tablet.
In terms of our industry, there’s also the small matter of Apple having invested most heavily in the most games-capable hardware. The PowerVR SGX543 in the iPad 2 still comfortably outpaces Tegra 3 in most GPU applications, and when comparing the size of the silicon that’s no real surprise at all. With a 163mm2 die-size, the New iPad’s main processor occupies twice the space of Tegra 3 and even iPad 2′s processor remains a good 50 per cent larger.
The Nexus 7 uses a lower-binned version of the Tegra 3 chip that can’t run quite as quickly as the top-end version found in the Transformer Prime, but Surface appears to be using a revised Tegra 3+ – a more powerful version of the chip that hasn’t been benchmarked as of yet. NVIDIA describes it as a significant bump, but it will take more than that to get anywhere near top-end PowerVR performance. Apple’s investment in this hardware obviously makes iPad more expensive, but it’s a direct investment into the quality of the slick user-interface and the gaming credentials of the platform.
It’s also difficult to avoid the conclusion that Apple’s competitors are still playing catch-up, and in this regard, while Microsoft is bringing something tangibly new to the table with Windows integration, it still has some clear UI weaknesses. Android 4.1′s “Project Butter” finally sees Google addressing the stuttering interface issues that have plagued its OS, but there are still some serious question marks over just how intuitive Microsoft’s Metro interface actually is – especially so in the desktop iteration. Not only that, but the OS actually seemed to crash during the media playback demo during the Surface keynote, and even the creators of the device appeared to be having issues navigating around the interface – something that doesn’t fill us with confidence.
There’s also the fact that Apple remains the trailblazer in the tablet sector. It has the cash, the will, the infrastructure and the guaranteed launch success – not to mention the software support – to drive the products forward into territory that its competitors fear to tread. Take the New iPad for example – it is defined by its Retina screen, which in turn required enormous battery and processor upgrades. Remarkably, Apple’s latest tablet has battery capacity around 20 per cent higher than that of the 11-inch Macbook Air. In short, the firm targeted the display upgrade as the defining element of its third-gen tablet and moved heaven and earth to make it happen.
In a market sector defined to a great extent by technological advancement, it’s hard to imagine any of Apple’s rivals pushing back new frontiers with anything like the same kind of zeal – and there is perhaps a sense that, as games machines at least, there is some missed potential here. Even though Tegra 3 lacks 3D performance compared to the IMG tech in the iPad, it is clearly capable enough for current mobile gaming – but next year, everything changes. The same 28nm chip production technology that makes the next-gen consoles possible, and that has made NVIDIA’s Kepler GPUs so powerful and efficient, will also reach mainstream mobile production.
Tegra 3 will be superseded by NVIDIA’s Project Wayne – said to offer a whole new level of graphical performance, offering a real challenge to performance leaders IMG. At the higher end of the scale, Intel’s next CPU – which could well end up in a second-gen Surface Pro – is believed to offer a 2x to 3x graphical boost over the current HD4000 tech. Based on our recent integrated graphics testing, conceivably we could see Battlefield 3 and Crysis 2 running at 60 frames per second – on a tablet.
But it’s almost certain that Apple will take point on this new gaming revolution. Next year’s iPad – hotly tipped to incorporate the new ARM Cortex A15 architecture and IMG’s PowerVR Rogue chipset sees a leap in performance that should see the tablet’s raw gaming potential reach and even exceed current-gen console levels, with the added benefit of DirectX 11-level GPU features. At that point, the platform becomes a viable target for AAA games development. Remember the first time you saw Infinity Blade on mobile? That is just a hint of where the platform could be heading – and while Google and Microsoft race to catch up with the current-gen iPad, once again it’ll be Apple that pushes the game to the next level.
Atari has completely dismissed the rumors that it has closed Test Drive Unlimited developer Eden Games. In fact it says that the studio is open and continues its support for all of its titles including Test Drive Unlimited 2.
Atari believes that a statement about the divestment of Eden Studios in its earning statement is what started the rumors that the studio had been or was in the process of being closed. Nothing is further from the truth Atari claims, however we have confirmed that a rather large number of employees of Eden Studios were let go once it completed its last project and the studio did move to a new offices.
It would seem that while significant confusion surrounds the exact status of the studio and what exactly they might be working on, at least our sources are confirming that Atari is accurate when it says that the studio has not closed. Atari had no additional comment on the future of the Test Drive franchise and if any future titles were planned.
Game consoles are coming under fire from a whole host of new platforms and technologies; from smartphones and tablets, to social games and browser titles, to cloud gaming, consoles are competing for entertainment time and dollars. But that doesn’t mean the era of the console is coming to a close, observes gaming legend Will Wright.
The creator of The Sims and Spore observed to that consoles will always have a home for gamers, even if their importance becomes minimized.
“I think there’ll probably still be dedicated game machines going forwards, sitting on a shelf next to your HDTV. I think that they’re going to be catering to a very specific kind of player, which probably isn’t that different from what they were catering to before. It’s just that a lot more people are now playing games, and they’re not playing it on that device.”
For Wright, the biggest change is that games have become much more social and mainstream.
“I think that the social factor has become much larger, and also what I would call the interstitial factor, which is that rather than people doing what you might call session-based gaming, where I’m going to go sit in my room and play Halo for an hour, I have the opportunity to pull out Angry Birds and play for two minutes while waiting in line at Starbucks. I can use games to fill the empty slots in my life, a bit more ubiquitously,” he described.
“I think over the last five years or so it really is the diversification, not just of platform, but alongside of that, of the players, the demographics. Games really used to be something that were targeted to 16-year-old boys. Now we have people of all generations, genders, walks of life, playing games, a lot of them on their cell phones, or on Facebook, or whatever. I think that the explosion in platforms has also driven a very healthy diversification of our audience,” he added.
Warner Bros and developer Rocksteady have to be pretty pleased with the news that despite some negative bumps in the road with the DLC codes, Batman: Arkham City is out of the gate with a bang with 4.6 million copies sold in the first week.
Besides selling 4.6 million copies in the first week, the review numbers have made it one of the highest rated titles released in 2011. All this is good news for Warner Interactive and Rocksteady. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the title are averaging between 95 and 96 on Metacritic, which is excellent, and the sales number are showing that.
While Arkham City is hot out of the gate, a couple of other upcoming releases could match the Metacritic numbers that it was able to put up. Still, the sales numbers are further evidence that the end of the year is going to be big for software sales and the strategy of releasing titles going into the holiday season always helps pump the sales numbers up.
Microsoft is coming closer to finalizing a deal which will see live cable TV services coming to the Xbox 360, speaking to established player Comcast and relative newcomer Verizon in a run-in to a partnership deal, a report has claimed.
Citing sources close to the company, a report by Digiday has claimed that the cable deal which Microsoft announced at E3 could be launching in the Autumn.
Microsoft, sources say, is looking to make allies rather than enemies from existing cable companies by facilitating the spread of their services, offering tightly targeted advertising and an install base of 35 million Xbox Live gold account members.
That install base would mean a raft of potential new customers for cable companies, who wouldn’t need set top boxes or install processes, instead being ready to receive cable on a demostration or permanent basis, with an established billing system already built in to their hardware.
Previewing the forthcoming cable system last week at Microsoft’s investor conference, Steve Balmer said that the offering would be live by the holiday season, with “dozens or hundreds of additional video content suppliers,” providing “news, sports, and your favorite channels.”