Links of the Day, 12/15/2008

Video Games

Time Warner has purchased 10 million more shares of Eidos and now owns about 20% of the company. This looks like a win-win on both sides. Tomb Raider company has been through some bumpy financial times as of late, and this new move should shore them up considerably. Meanwhile, Time Warner gets a big stake in the Lara Croft franchise, a proven cross-media success.

Is Electronic Arts headed in a more highbrow direction to help save itself? The company may have canceled its Need for Speed franchise, which focuses on auto racing, and has announced it is developing a game based on Dante's Inferno. The Dante project could be a game-changer for the company in either direction, and is worth keeping an eye on. 

Activision Blizzard has sold Chilean subsidiary Wanako Games to Montreal-based Artificial Mind and Movement. As Wanako's specialty is the up-and-coming field of downloadable games for consoles, this is definitely a forward-looking move on Artificial Mind's part. (Plus, it may mean more games jobs opening up in the Montreal area!)

Is the industry truly recession-proof? Bloomberg seems to think that Nintendo is, but the rest of the gaming business, not so much. The report especially cited the price of Sony's Playstation 3 as a factor in making the device undesirable in this economic climate. More bad news for Sony, which has fallen twice as far behind the Xbox as it was when the systems launch, according to an analysis by the Gamasutra blog. Furthermore, CNN says the PS3 is dying on the shelves. Sony's story is definitely a cautionary tale of corporate hubris – just because you had one massive success, that doesn't mean people will automatically buy your followup at any price.  

Sports games continue to be among the most popular on all consoles, and 505 games is throwing a new competitive arena in with all the football and baseball titles – swimming. The company is developing multiple titles in conjunction with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, for both console and handheld devices. And in a piece of good news for West Coast game industry types, the British company is opening a new studio in Los Angeles to work on the titles.

Apple is now touting the iPhone as a gaming console, saying it may even be a threat to the DS. This is to be taken with a major grain of salt – in fact, the entire shaker, given that the device has yet to really prove its mettle in the gaming arena (although it did score the latest release in thKatamari Damacy franchise)  - but at least it shows that the company will very much be open to game development for its handheld. 


Google just can't seem to stay out of the news. The company is taking heat from the Wall Street Journal , which is accusing it of abandoning its support of network neutrality by approaching major internet service providers "with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content," making sites like YouTube run faster than their competition. Google is loudly denying this, but the inevitable further investigation of the claims should prove interesting, especially in light of how close they came to antitrust claims in the failed Yahoo ad deal. Meanwhile, it seems to consider its Chrome browser much more of a level playing field, allowing a company outsider to add code to the project.

Palm, which is still trying to stay alive in an iPhone world, is planning a massive product launch next month, featuring a new Linux-based OS called Nova. This is the latest appearance of the suddenly-hot Linux, which is rapidly looking like a must in the toolbox of software developers for all sorts of platforms.

Ways to Monetize Twitter: Industry experts offer suggestions on how the infuentual but unprofitable microblogging tool can be turned into a money-spinner, including merchandising, selling ads within tweets and offering a "Twitter Pro" version. Some of the suggestions are good advice for anyone planning to build a social networking system.

BitTorrent's initial $17 million funding round may have been reduced, which could be very bad news for the file-sharing service, which has had a bumpy ride of it lately. It's interesting that a lot of people perceive BitTorrent to be a massive success (especially considering the extent of its use in the anime community), but this proves a sobering reality – you can have a ton of users for your product, but you can't make a living of it without the funding. 


Investors may be too optimistic about consumer recovery: A caution that even if the holiday shopping season tuns out to be more successful than expected, that doesn't necessarily mean the economy is recovering. 

Week in Review, 11/16/08

The past week’s news,
unfortunately, brought more bad news for the publishing industry. The Kansas
City Star eliminated
about 50 jobsActive Interest Media, the South Bend Tribune and the Omaha World Herald 
also made staff cuts, and
the Raleigh News Observer even
eliminated delivery jobs.

What’s interesting is that the losses seem to be both among
major city papers and local ones, but local publications are being hit
especially hard. It's probably significant that the API finally, officially declared a crisis in newspapers.

Some media outlets,
however, are taking steps toward survival by branching out into other outlets.
purchased Ripple 6, a social media firm, and the Financial Times
revamped its Web site. . Look for more and more
publishing companies to be pushing people toward their online editions (even
the Old Gray Lady, the New York Times, is running “all the news that’s fit to
click” commercials for its Web site) and go multimedia. This is an industry
that’s getting hard-hit by a perfect storm of emerging technologies and a lousy
economy, but at the same time, it’s heartening to see that it refuses to
completely die.

The economy as a whole
continued to be a not-quite-cheery subject: we found out that unemployment
levels are
the same as after 9/11Foreclosures are up and the bailout isn't going as planned.

However, some industries
continued to boom, and they were all in the high-tech arena. Video-related news
was everywhere. Huge venture capital investments went to online video/video
publishing firms
Mobile Video  and Digitalsmithswhile the leader in online
video, YouTube, got an even bigger boost when it was announced that Obama’s
weekly “fireside chats,” traditionally offered via radio, would be
posted on
the site
. Google, meanwhile, announced it would enter the video chat arenaOld saw Blockbuster made a
move toward futuristic movie delivery with an announcement of a
set-top box for
movies on demand.

Cell phones/mobile devices
continue to expand like crazy, with Verizon Wireless getting ready to strike a
$500 million
deal with Microsoft for search services, Apple announcing better
gaming software
in the future of the iPhone, Electronic Arts
console and phone versions of Tiger Woods Golf and Opera launching a new mobile device browser.

Electronics retailers,
however, are going through a bumpy period, with Circuit City officially
for bankruptcy
  and Best Buy announcing a drop in salesTheir fortunes will
probably reverse themselves when the economy recovers – at least in the case of
Best Buy – but it’s still worth keeping an eye on.

Finally, the gaming industry was in the news as always. The
Blogging Stocks blog
pooh-poohed the idea of an EA/Disney merger, which was
championed by the Wall Street Journal. Sega's A&R content head
Darren Williams
slammed the Wii, comparing it to an expensive board game, strangely disrespectful considering the amount of Sega properties on Wii and DS – and a potential sign of a change of pace for Sega?

The bottom line this week:
Things are still bad, but there’s still pathways to fame and fortune,
especially if one embraces forward-thinking technology. Companies in danger of
becoming dinosaurs – traditional newspapers, Blockbuster – are learning this.
And the right piece of technology at the right time can even made you a
multimillionaire in this climate – just ask Rock Band creators Harmonix, who
will get a bonus of
more than $150 million each for developing their megahit

– Bonnie

Links of the Day, 11/12/08


Geneon, which closed its U.S. division earlier this year, has been sold to Universal Pictures Japan. Will this mean a revival of the label on this side of the Pacific? Stay tuned!

Video Games

Is the iPhone the next hot gaming console? Apple VP Greg Joswiak is promising that future iPhones and iPods will have better gaming software and more games.

A merger between Electronic Arts and Disney, which has been championed by the Wall Street Journal, would be a bad idea, according to Steven Mallas, a financial blogger for Blogging Stocks. He thinks it would open a can of worms ranging from difficulty in integrating the business to abandonment of Disney's own video game efforts (and the latter would definitely be a bad idea if it meant lost jobs!)


Video chat is a technology that is suddenly becoming a hot, competitive arena: Google is launching a Gmail video chat service to go head-to-head with industry segment leader Skype.

USB 3.0 is schedule to be formally unveiled next week. Rumor has it that Windows 7 may not be able to support this new technology natively, so anyone who can figure out how to fix that problem has a career boost on their hands!

Microsoft is said to be close to a search deal with Verizon Wireless for its mobile phones, edging out Google for the honors. The deal is said to be worth more than $500 million.

TypePad parent company Six Apart is laying off eight percent of its work force.Even the very service where this blog resides is subject to tough times nowadays, it seems, but we will carry on undaunted.

– Bonnie