Rovio’s IPO Ends the Day Flat with Opening Price (Sep 29, 2017)
Rovio, the Finnish company behind the Angry Birds franchise, held its IPO today, just a day after TV box and platform maker Roku, but saw very different results. Whereas Roku saw a massive jump in its stock price in its first day of trading, Rovio’s stock ended the day back where it started, having traded in a pretty narrow range all day. In the context of Roku’s IPO and expectations for Spotify’s, I’ve been asked a lot recently about the prospects for tech IPOs overall, and my response is always the same: it’s not really about the “climate” for tech IPOs (though that clearly matters), but about the performance of each company in its own right. In the case of these two companies, a quick glance might make you think Rovio was actually in better shape, profitable and growing whereas Roku is unprofitable and growing. But it’s all about the trajectory and ultimate potential when it comes to valuations, and while Roku seems to be in the midst of a clear transition which should lead to profits and revenue growth, Rovio continues to be very reliant on a single franchise, Angry Birds, and though it’s expanded the nature of gameplay in games released under that banner considerably, none of its recent game launches have come close to matching the performance of the top games globally over the last couple of years. So Rovio is a mid-tier mobile game maker with some profits and growth but there’s no great success story here, nor any sign of a dramatic positive change in its fortunes. Spotify, on the other hand, is like Roku currently unprofitable, but there is at least a theory as to how it might eventually turn that around with enough growth in paid streaming, off the back of recently renegotiated record deals.
Microsoft Promotes Xbox Head to Senior Leadership Team (Sep 19, 2017)
Satya Nadella has appointed Phil Spencer, who runs the Xbox team at Microsoft, to the company’s Senior Leadership Team, which now comprises 16 individuals. I just spent some time breaking down that SLT and there are 10 individuals in functional roles, from the CEO to the CMO and heads of HR, Legal, Finance, etc.; plus six individuals who run product or customer segment organizations, now including Spencer. Looked at that way, Spencer has been an odd omission from this team, given that gaming has generated 9-12% of Microsoft’s revenue annually for the past ten years, certainly up there with other groups like Windows and Devices (15% this past year), and LinkedIn (3%). But the Xbox has always been a bit of an oddity at Microsoft, a company which has always been much more geared towards business than consumer markets – indeed, Spencer is the first explicitly consumer-focused executive on the current SLT. More broadly, gaming is one of the bigger individual chunks of revenue, and as Mary Jo Foley points out in the piece linked below, even beyond Xbox hardware gaming is an increasingly important part of Microsoft’s strategy to monetize its consumer efforts, many of which today are free to the user. Arguably the next logical person to add to the SLT would be whoever is running Bing today, since advertising contributed 8% of Microsoft’s revenues last year and it’s another important chunk of its consumer business, albeit with a much lower executive profile (despite spending some time searching, I can’t actually figure out who that is, which tells you something).
Angry Birds Maker Rovio Announces Plans to Go Public (Sep 5, 2017)
Amazon’s Twitch Adding New Features on Mobile App (Jun 29, 2017)
Amazon’s Twitch streaming service is adding a bunch of new features to its streaming app in July, something I missed yesterday. The big addition is streaming live video (though not the usual gameplay video) from the mobile app itself, something which will be useful for direct-to-camera or other vlogging-type content which Twitch is trying to push as it expands beyond its core historical gaming video roots. Twitch also touted 83m downloads of its app, though with just under 10m daily active users, that number feels a bit irrelevant, and merely highlights the fairly small percentage of people who’ve tried the app who use it daily. The 9.7m daily active user number is also a great illustration of how niche a video platform Twitch remains, though it’s clearly very important to the users it does have: they spend an average of 106 minutes per day on the site, which is huge. But given YouTube’s recent 1.5 billion monthly user announcement, it’s clear that Twitch is still a marginal player in the overall video space, even if it’s a much more significant one in the gaming segment specifically. Something else I’d never really looked at before but is stark once you do look is the fact that there’s basically no sign anywhere on Twitch that it has anything to do with Amazon, even on the About page. So it’s clear that, though Amazon likely has some integration plans in mind longer term, for now it’s very much running as a separate independent entity, much as Zappos always has in the e-commerce space.
Microsoft Unifies its Minecraft Apps (Jun 12, 2017)
Alongside its Xbox One X announcement, one other big announcement Microsoft made at E3 is a unification of its Minecraft apps, such that several major versions will now be interoperable and available for social play between different platforms. Interestingly, the original PC version of the game is the one that will be left out from all this interoperability, but the mobile, Xbox, and VR, and even Nintendo Switch will all get it as a free upgrade to the current version. And in-game purchases (DLC) will also be available on each version. In many ways, it’s a quirk of the way the Minecraft apps have developed that they haven’t had this compatibility in the past – surely, many kids (and adults) have wanted to play these games on all their devices all along, and have had to make do with different incompatible versions instead. So this is at least a logical step, though the exclusion of the original PC version still feels a little odd.
Sony Announces 1 million Playstation VR Sales (Jun 7, 2017)
Microsoft Xbox Game Pass Will Launch in June (May 24, 2017)
Microsoft first announced the Xbox Game Pass subscription service back in February, but as I don’t seem to have covered it then it’s worth briefly talking about now, as the launch date has been announced today. The subscription is a sort of Netflix for Xbox games, featuring 100 games at any given time, though the specific titles will rotate in and out over time much as movies and TV shows do with Netflix’s library. It costs $9.99 per month and users will be able to download the games and play them as long as they remain available and the user remains a subscriber (Sony’s equivalent service merely streams games, so that’s one competitive differentiator). The service is notable mostly for the fact that it’s yet another example of a content category that’s traditionally been transactional moving to a subscription model, a trend captured in the Subscription Everything narrative here on the site. That’s both a better fit for many consumers who would rather pay a smaller amount monthly than big lump sums infrequently, and a more predictable revenue stream for Microsoft, which has already shifted to annuity models for other aspects of its business. From a consumer perspective, the subscription seems like a good deal – just the eight featured titles Microsoft highlights in the service at present are priced at an average of around $20, versus $10 to play all of them and lots more for a whole month. We’re going to continue to see more and more content consumption move to subscriptions, squeezing out those providers which continue to sell using only by-the-drink models, though there will always be those consumers who prefer to purchase at least some content that way.
via The Verge
Nintendo Sells 2.74m Switch Units in First Month (Apr 27, 2017)
In case there was any doubt, Nintendo has a hit on its hands with the Switch, its hybrid console/portable gaming system. It sold 2.74m units in the first month after launch, which is apparently roughly the same number that the earlier Wii U sold in its first year, and 20% of total sales to date of the Wii U. That’s not hugely surprising – reviews were mostly decent, the device has been out of stock off and on since it debuted, and the company had already upped its production. That was enough to generate almost exactly a billion dollars in revenue, or a little over 20% of the company’s entire revenue for the fiscal year which ended last month. The company’s forecast for the new financial year, which ends next March, is 10 million unit sales. Remarkably, Nintendo has sold ever so slightly more copies of the Zelda game that’s the standout title for the device at launch than of the console itself, which might just be a reflection of those supply constraints. In total, Nintendo appears to have sold around twice as many software units as hardware units in the Switch category, suggesting that people have bought an average of two games from Nintendo for every console. Together with Nintendo’s belated push into mobile gaming, it’s doing pretty well at the moment, though that mobile push is still generating much less revenue – the category which includes smartphone gaming only generated around $200 million in revenue for the year.