Beatles Rock Band: New Information Released

beatles rock band renderingWhen MTV Network’s Harmonix (Viacom) locked up the coveted rights to bring the Beatles to the digital age last fall, only a few details were revealed about the project.  The company said simply that the new game was being developed from the ground up, that it wouldn’t be merely a customized version of the Rock Band franchise, that Electronic Arts would be involved with publishing, and that the game has the full support of the band members (or their heirs).

Today, new details emerged.  Though still entirely new, the game will tie-in to the Rock Band series in name.  It’s title:  “Beatles: Rock Band”

The game will launch in Australia, Europe and North America on September 9th.  It will be released simultaneously for the Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 platforms.

Beatles fans are almost guaranteed to chime in that the scheduling, 09.09.09,  is no accident. It may or may not be coincidental but the number 9 has been connected to the band many times in lore, and urban legend Click to Read More

Jumping to Conclusions? Report Leads to Blockbuster Sell Off

spread-sell-danger.jpgTuesday was a bad day for Blockbuster shareholders.   Open to close, the company’s stock crashed 77%, dropping from 96 cents to 22 cents a share.   The massive sell-off was triggered after reports circulated saying the company hired Chicago law firm Kirkland & Ellis to explore a possible bankruptcy filing. 

In rebuttal, Blockbuster told a different tale about its intentions for the retainer.  The company says it hired counsel to help with restructuring and not to prepare for court protection.    

Did the reports get it wrong? Or did traders rush to action too fast, misinterpreting the news along the way?

Karen Raskopf, Blockbuster’s spokeswoman, said the company hired Kirkland & Ellis “for assistance with our ongoing finance and capital-raising initiative."  Regarding Blockbuster’s plans, she said, “We do not intend to file for bankruptcy."

Blockbuster’s “ongoing financing” issues aren’t anything new.  Click to Read More

Activision Beats Gibson in Court: Patent doesn’t Apply to Guitar Hero

court judgmentThe Gibson Les Paul is an icon. Bob Marley was entombed in a mausoleum with his. Duane Allman used one.  Slash, the Edge, Mick Jones, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Neil Young, Paul McCartney – some of the biggest names in Rock have played it. It’s no surprise, given that, that Activision licensed the guitar’s likeness (and Gibson’s brand) to give game players an axe to shred for the Guitar Hero game franchise.   What was a surprise was that Gibson turned on its partner of three years with patent infringement claim last year

Showing teeth that seemed to come out of nowhere, Gibson said Activision’s Guitar Hero franchise, and eventually,  all things guitar-gaming (Gibson also sued EA, MTV Networks, Harmonix and major retailers selling Guitar Hero or Rock Band games), infringed on its prior invention.  

From the start, Gibson’s claims looked weak

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Midway Bankruptcy: Incentive Plans and Sales Options Up Close

midwayMonday, several stories seizing on a blog post from Gawker Media’s Kotaku suggested struggling Midway Games might be in the process of selling off its Mortal Kombat game franchise.  Several of the articles (on the basis of part of the story, as well) also went so far as to attack the company for pursuing a key-personnel incentive plan at the same time the bankrupt company appears to be cutting back payouts to laid off staff.   

The stories’ paint a grim picture of the company’s practices and it’s easy to jump in the chorus of castigation.  Unfortunately, headlines sometimes oversell their news story and news stories sometimes under emphasize all of the facts.  Here, however questionable some of what’s happening at Midway may (or may not ) be, review of the company’s bankruptcy filings, which are embedded or linked to below, shows the situation is more complicated and far less definitive than many of the reports suggested.

First and most importantly, contrary to suggestion, the Incentive Plan (which provides for $3,775,000 to be set aside to pay incentives to up to 29 employees on the completion of three milestones) is not active.  While endorsed by the company, it has not been approved and set in place.  Money hasn’t been “set aside.” Midway provided the Bankruptcy Court with a copy of the plan as a proposal on February 23rd (see embedded file below) and requested creditors voice their objections (if any) by March 3rd.  A hearing was tentatively scheduled for March 10th.    At this point, there’s no guarantee creditors will agree to the plan as written (or at all), or that the Bankruptcy Court will approve its implementation.    

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Sony Joins Reorganization Parade

sony reorgIn a February 2007 interview for the PBS series CEO Exchange (PDF) Sony’s CEO Sir Howard Stringer said one of the first jobs he had to do at Sony was “reach out and get people to collaborate with each other.”  Sony was too vertically integrated, he said. He had to break up the vertical “silos” to better serve the increasingly digital world.  It’s two years removed from those remarks but Stringer is finally getting some of the changes he sought.

Following Yahoo’s restructuring announcement yesterday, Sony announced a major reorganization of its own today.    Effective April 1st,  there will be two new business groups and a reworked organization chart. 

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Musical Chairs: Bartz Reorganizes Yahoo

yhoo org chairsIncoming CEOs invariably build their own teams, it’s just a matter of time.  John Riccitiello did some housekeeping when he rejoined Electronic Arts, and Carol Bartz was certain to do it at Yahoo.   Thursday, after six weeks of “being in student mode” and “slowly getting smarter about what makes [the] place tick,” she announced her sweeping changes.

CFO Blake Jorgensen is out.  He’s tendered his resignation but will stay on until a replacement is found.    

CTO Ari Balogh will keep his title and also take the added moniker of EVP of Products.  In the combined roll, he will be at the helm of a newly created “Products” group responsible for all of the “vision, strategy, and quality of every product [Yahoo creates] regardless of region, device format or category.” 

yhoo org chart thumbnailProgramming, partnerships and sales will be handled by two groups, distinguished by region.  The North American side will fall to the charge of Hilary Schneider, EVP, North American Region.  Among her tasks, the onetime CEO of Knight Ridder Digital and Red Herring will also oversee Yahoo’s global mobile initiatives. (David Ko, working under Schneider, will be the lead for Yahoo’s mobile business, strategy and monetization teams.  He’ll replace a departing Marco Boerries).   The International Group’s head is yet to be determined.

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How Long is the Blu-ray Runway

bd sales up metueA year removed from vanquishing HD DVD, Blu-ray DVDs are finally getting some retail respect.  At least, so says a forecast from market research firm FutureSource Consulting.  The UK based firm released a prediction (PDF) this week saying consumers will buy more than 100m high definition Blu-ray discs across the U.S., Western Europe and Japan in 2009.  The company expects 80 million units to sell in the U.S. alone.

A large part of the growth is attributed to decreasing prices for both Blu-ray hardware and the discs themselves.  Another lesser reason, FutureSource explains, was preparatory overproduction in 2008.  To “fill the channel” and “enable retailers to build their in-store displays,” the industry produced more than 200m discs in 2008 despite only selling 36m.   Retailers are now ready for a more aggressive sales push.

future source chartBlu-ray “has moved from early adopter phase through to early majority” in the U.S., said Mai Hoang, a sr. analyst at FutureSource.   The company predicts by 2012, 50% of U.S. DVD sales will be Blu-ray.

Some critics are skeptical of these near term numbers. They think the economy – both by pinching consumer spending and by restraining the funds available for big budget movie production – will slow Blu-ray’s adoption.

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