By the Numbers: Stats Survey Snapshots

numbers reportThey can be true or corrupted.  You can churn them, burn them or turn them.  You can manipulate them up or down.  Numbers can be twisted to tell any story or support most any bias.   As an old saying goes, “facts are stubborn but statistics are pliable.”  But even that considered, some of the many data points cranked out by research firms can still give an interesting glimpse into the state of things.  

For this edition of the occasional Metue: By the Numbers Report,  we’ve gathered data from across a handful of recent surveys to shed light on media, entertainment and technology.  By the numbers: Click to Read More

April NPD Data Out: Gaming’s Monthly Report Card

You can chalk up April as a poor month in game sales (sort of).  Matching up to prior predictions, NPD reports the US video game industry returned a second month of double digit sales decline in year over year comparisons.  Revenues fell off 17% year over year.  The year over year growth rates don’t quite tell the whole story, however.

As was partly the case in March too, without the breakout success of hits issued during the same period last year (Mario Kart and Grand Theft Auto IV), the growth numbers were doomed to be weaker. 

Explains NPD’s Anita Frazier, “while April sales might appear soft on the surface, it’s important to remember that April is being compared against a month (2008) that realized nearly 50% growth over April 2007.  This year’s performance still represents the second best performance for the industry in the month of April.”   This year beat out the previously second best April, April 2007, by 26% percent.

Setting aside the year over year growth rate, overall, the month’s performance was reasonably sound.   NPD tabulated total sales of $1.03b.

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Real Networks Accuses Big Hollywood of Antitrust Violations

copyright crosshairs metueIt was a case of now you see it, now you don’t.  Last fall, Real Network’s then newly launched DVD copying software platform, RealDVD, went from controversial to contained in the blink of an eye.  Just days following the program’s launch, with litigation already filed by both sides,  U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel issued a temporary restraining order blocking all sales of the program pending a broader review of the software’s legality.  The program has yet to resurface and now the ongoing copyright litigation is poised to expand.

Designed to enable consumers to create digital to digital archival copies of DVDs, the program was intended to allow owners to store DVDs on a computer for viewing, or backup, without the need to have the disc in the drive.

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Creditors Attack Midway’s Board and Redstone in New Litigation

midway debt clamp metueBankruptcies are rarely a lender’s friend. They’re a worst case scenario that often means a best outcome of pennies returned on the dollars of investment.  Midway Games ongoing bankruptcy process has been a demonstration in point.  Triggered by debt covenants and a sketchy transaction, the proceedings have been riddled with confrontational debate.   The rancor’s even spilled over into a counter suit.

Monday, creditors filed suit against the company’s board members, former majority owner, Sumner Redstone, and the buyer of Redstone’s shares, Mark Thomas. The creditors are charging Redstone with fraudulent transfer, and accusing him and others of breaching their fiduciary duties.

Everything stems from Redstone’s firesale giveaway of his Midway holdings in November.  Parting with 87% of the company for merely $100k gave Redstone and his affiliated holdings more than $700m in tax losses which created a massive tax write off.  That write off, Redstone’s gain, creditors argue, helped shore up the finances at Redstone’s National Amusements but put Midway into a tailspin.  

“The transaction caused Midway irretrievably to lose the ability to take advantage of its valuable accumulated net operating losses and other tax assets,” creditors say.

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Kindle Opens Access to Bloggers

kindlesOne of the benefits of Amazon’s Kindle reader is portable access to content. There’s a deep library of books and an increasing pool of subscription content.  One of the detriments singled out by some camps is the Kindle’s closed environment.  Readers looking for blog content, for example, could only select from a predetermined list of high profile publications.  You might find Tech Crunch or the Huffington Post but you wouldn’t necessarily find a smaller site like Metue and probably would have no chance tuning in to the soapbox of your favorite personal pundit.  Amazon chose the stations, not you.  Now that’s changing.

Today, Amazon began allowing any blogger to publish to the Kindle platform.  Through a separate account set up as a Kindle Publishing for Blogs beta, authors can load their blog, identify and describe it and leave it to Amazon to convert from its RSS feed to a Kindle friendly form factor.

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Hollywood Connection: Bruckheimer Games Moves Ahead

You don’t have to look far to see the overlap between Hollywood and the video game industry.  Game companies have bought movie effects shops and traditional movie studios have expanded into game development.  Tomb Raider and Resident Evil started as games and had box office (and DVD) success.  Star Wars and other series started in theaters and found added success in  gaming.    Famed directors from Spielberg and Peter Jackson to up and comers like Zack Snyder have signed game development deals.  Game studios even have Hollywood agents.  These days, whether it’s animated, family friendly, action driven or effects laden – chances are there is crossover or could be.

It’s not exactly a mouth opening surprise.  All the synergy, marketing efficiency and business buzzwords aside there is much common ground. Both mediums share a foundation in their methods of visual story telling.   Both share costly and long development processes.  Both market (often) to similar audiences. Both need blockbusters to offset the lost causes of bombs. In a way, interactive video games are the choose your own adventure equivalent of Hollywood’s visual story telling tradition.

But just in case all the references and obvious points of confluence aren’t enough evidence of the increasing convergence between the two, add Jerry Bruckheimer to the list. The mega producer whose credits include films from Top Gun, to Beverly Hills Cop, and Black Hawk Down or Pirates of the Caribbean announced a partnership with MTV Games in December of 2007.  And now after 18 months of silence, that gaming adventure is officially moving ahead.

Jerry Bruckheimer Games announced Tuesday that it hired two industry veterans to lead its organization and chaperon the company’s entry into the marketplace. 

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Pearl Jam to Get Video Game

pearl jam rock band. metueLast week, Activision Blizzard confirmed several rumors about its planned slate of music-based video games including verification that the next single-band installation of Guitar Hero would revolve around the 80’s superstar rockers, Van Halen. (The band had more Billboard Hot 100 hits than any other rock band in the decade).  Not to be outdone, today rival MTV Games, maker of Rock Band, countered back with news that they’re working on a game built around a band that helped to define the 90’s music scene: Pearl Jam.

Details about the game are scarce.  At this point its even a guess whether the Pearl Jam title will be a full fledged game, or simply a “track pack expansion” for the Rock Band series. All that’s been revealed is the game is scheduled for sometime in 2010.   That, and that fans will have some input on the game’s development. Through a promotion with Rhapsody, the band is asking fans to vote on songs for inclusion at their website.  More details on Rock Band: Pearl Jam are expected to come out at E3, the gaming industry’s big trade show, next month.

Whatever the game turns out to be, one thing to watch: how the marketplace responds to the new titles.  Click to Read More

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