EA Goes Hollywood: Signs with UTA

EA hollywoodGaming’s love of Hollywood and Hollywood’s love of gaming seems to be blossoming into quite an affair.  About a week ago, Ubisoft acquired Hybride Technologies, the Canadian special effects shop behind movies Sin City and 300.  Yesterday, Paramount and Legacy Interactive revealed the first games to come from their partnership will be remakes of past Paramount films.  Now Electronic Arts has signed up an agent.  They’ll look to United Talent Agency (UTA) to help them navigate Hollywood and create movies from games.

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Cash for Casual Games: $29m for Zynga

zynga“Casual Games,” the buzzword and category for titles that are easy to approach, fast to learn, and playable regardless of skill level remains the hot zone for gaming investment.  Today, news broke that San Francisco based Zynga, makers of casual games for social networks, closed a staggering $29m series B financing.

Founded in part by Tribe founder Mark Pincus, Zynga’s  titles include card games like poker and blackjack along with reinterpretations of board and word games.  According to the company, 55million people are registered and growth is estimated as high as 450k new players a day.    On a monthly basis, they say, more than 18million people are playing the titles on social networks including Facebook, Bebo, Friendster and Meebo. 

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Paramount Turning 3 Movies to Games

paramount convergence gamingIn March, Paramount got their game on a continued the trend of movie and gaming convergence. At the time, the Viacom movie studio behind hits as far ranging as Chinatown, Indiana Jones and Cheech and Chong’s Still Smoking, announced a plan to focus on in house game development and publishing (via Variety).  Now the first titles to come from that project have been announced.  They’ll come from familiar territory: Paramount’s own movie catalog.

Three PC based casual games are on track for a Q4 release.  The titles will draw on three different decades of teen film source material and be marketed toward women, who are generally more active players of web based casual games than men.

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Apple Q3: Another Record, More Conservatism Ahead

apple earnsBen Franklin famously said only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. That maxim may be true but in these finicky financial times, another element might fit too:  guidance below expectations sinks stocks.  It doesn’t matter if a company routinely underestimates future performance and then exceeds those expectations.  Conservatism isn’t rewarded.  It doesn’t matter if a company sets new performance records.  The past isn’t rewarded.  What matters, all that seems to matter (at least when it comes to short-term stock performance), is meeting or beating the analyst gold standard and projecting a better than expected future. As Apple proved yet again today, it’s a simple truth: Guide Lower than Analysts and the Stock Price Will Pay.

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Yahoo and Icahn Settle: Questions Linger

settled proxy fightLawyers rarely take tort law cases to trial.  By some measures more than 90% of these cases are settled outside of judge or jury. According to the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, of 98k such cases in 2002 and 2003, only 2% were decided at trial.  The rationale is that it is usually safer and less expensive to settle with a sure thing than risk the uncertainty and cost of trial.   Apparently, proxy fights with activist shareholders share that in common.  Despite increasing momentum, and the recent pledged support of a major shareholder, Yahoo today agreed to settle their proxy fight for board control with Carl Icahn.

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Inside Game Sales: June NPD Data Review

npd reportNo matter where the economy seems to go, no matter how high gas prices, or how poor home sales, no matter how much consumers are watching expenses, there seems to be little to no impact on the video game industry’s continued run.    That was apparent at the E3 conference earlier this week and emphasized even further with the release of June retails sales results from tracking firm NPD.

Overall, gross sales in June topped $1.69b, up from $1.12b in May and a more than 50% gain year over year from last June.   Looking at the first six months of the year, the result was similarly impressive: year over year, the industry is up 36%.  January to June, gross sales were in at $8.27billion. 

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Google Q2 Earnings: A Cloud but No Storm

googIntel kicked off the technology earnings season with positive surprises earlier this week but Thursday, the keg seemed to run dry early at the party and things turned grim.  Google and Microsoft both released earnings and neither company satisfied the appetites of a nervous market.   The initial reaction was to buckle the seat belt and grab on, the ride looked like it was about to get rough; and in fact it did.  Google’s news led to a more than 10% sell off in after-hours trading.  The bright side: Google’s news wasn’t really bad.  The selloff, or at least the rationale for it, appears to have been premature.

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