Posts Tagged ‘myspace’

IGN acquires UGO; combined, reaching 70+ million

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has had a strong tradition of acquisitions and mergers, save for that minor $580 million MySpace incident. It would appear as though News Corp. is at it again, this time their popular gaming and internet media services provider IGN has successfully acquired UGO’s entire network of owned and affiliated properties. With combined forces, IGN/UGO will now reach a global audience of more than 70 million, across a variety of go-to destinations.

“This instantly catapults us to another level and positions us to serve and entertain tens of millions more fans. We look forward to providing an even richer service for users and advertisers. We are now actively considering a range of options to maximize IGN’s long-term value,” said Roy Bahat, President, IGN Entertainment in a statement.

Pre-acquisition, IGN’s reach covered approximately 40 million monthly visitors from across the globe. From UGO’s side, approximately 30 million monthly visitors crossed paths with one of their various web properties. Two of UGO’s most popular destinations, UGO itself, and 1UP will now find a home amongst IGN’s premium destinations including GameSpy, FilePlanet, Direct2Drive, and TeamXbox. Likewise, UGO now has access to IGN’s retail partner GameStop.com. And while the gaming focused properties are key in this acquisition, IGN has much to offer, as their reach extends beyond gaming, and crosses over into lifestyle offerings including IGN’s AskMen.com. Given the combination of popular male destinations, News Corporation is projecting that they will now reach one in four men online.

IGN currently holds the #1 spot for video game sites (according to IGN), and this acquisition now expands IGN’s media and product offerings lineup, a factor that eager advertisers are sure to take note of, as the coveted 18-34 demographic is IGN’s specialty.

“The combination of IGN and UGO will create the complete ‘go to’ online destination for video game enthusiasts. The breadth, depth and quality of the content available through these sites will be unparalleled. This is a terrific combination for our viewers and our advertisers,” said Ken Bronfin, President of Hearst Interactive Media.

 

Zynga pulls Mafia Wars from MySpace

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

MySpace.  A stellar example of what can go drastically wrong when you’re sitting pretty at the top.  While the flailing social network has seen it’s fair share of blows, it would appear that just another nail in the coffin has recently been stuck.  According to notice posted on the game’s MySpace home, Zynga has pulled the plug on MySpace, and is now sending players to Zynga’s own MafiaWars.com; further evidence that the social games maker would like to become less and less dependent on social networks in general.  With that said, Zynga is still relying on Facebook Connect from their own platform.

Significant in it’s own right, this move has particular meaning, as Mafia Wars had been the second most popular game on MySpace as recently as March, according to an Inside Social Games report, counting a healthy 13 million players of the title on MySpace.  Granted, these figures do not include regularly playing members, but still a grande number.

Zynga’s stand-alone title, Zynga Poker is still available on MySpace, however YoVille and Fashion Wars have already quietly exited the platform, while Zynga’s big guns, CityVille and FarmVille have never been available to MySpace users.

So in addition to Zynga’s push to pull users off the social space and bring them home to their own platform, various sources including TechCrunch are speculating that Zynga is simply beating a dead horse by continuing to put time, money, and effort into a sinking ship, i.e. MySpace.

According to a March ComScore report, MySpace’s numbers are in freefall, dropping from 93 million unique users to 63 million over the course of a year.  It would also appear that the MySpace exodus is accelerating, with 10 million monthly users saying sayonara between January and February.

This move by Zynga flies directly in the face of MySpace’s goals, as just last year, the platform took on a Hi5-esque role, shifting their focus from social network to social gaming destination, with little to no success.  Adding insult to injury, just 5 short months later, Zynga was able to attract and hire MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta.  And then there’s that massive layoff this past January, which saw approximately 600 employees let go.

So with the walls crumbling around them, the question remains; what does the future hold for News Corp. owned MySpace?  Remember, the firm paid a massive $580 million for MySpace back in 2006, but can still be seen as a bargain when compared to AOL’s $850 million purchase of Bebo.  So when seen in this light, perhaps a tax write off would make more sense?

 

D-day for MySpace: 550-600 employees to be let go

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

According to News Corp. owned All Things Digital, once king-of-the-hill social networking site MySpace will shed anywhere between 550 and 600 employees today. This number represents approximately half of the current MySpace employee roster, with the hardest hit to be international offices and employees.

Apparently, the “restructuring” efforts at MySpace are intended to drop “legacy” business and products, and thus, half the staff is no longer needed. Reports also indicate that News Corp will begin the process of finding a buyer for MySpace. These cuts arrive after a previous round of “restructuring” i.e. layoffs that saw 30% of the workforce cut in June of 2009. You’ll remember News Corp head Rupert Murdoch paid a reported $580 million for the site, a topic that was surrounded by controversy. Given these “toxic assets” attached to the MySpace name, it looks as though even the sale of MySpace will be something less than “regular” or “normal”. With that said, rumors are afloat that News Corp. will try to pawn MySpace off to Yahoo!

While layoffs are never fun, those that are still working with MySpace have clearly been avoiding the writing on the wall. The once great MySpace has dwindled in popularity over the past few years, being overtaken in traffic numbers by Facebook in April of 2008. Since this time, MySpace has attempted to reinvent itself as an entertainment portal, with a particular focus on games. You’ll remember that the Beverly Hills, California based firm brought in Sean Ryan to up the ante in the gaming department, only to see him leave for a similar role at Facebook within the first 6 months of his employment. Un huh. Likewise, when compared to a company roster a few years ago, there are a striking number of former MySpace execs now under the employment of social games maker Zynga.

Regarding the sale of MySpace, while News Corp. may or may not be courting Yahoo!, I hear that MOL Global has a penchant for buying up former social networking sites, provided a few patents are included.

 

Playdom plays on – invests $5m in MetroGames

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Late yesterday afternoon, social games developer Playdom announced that they’re investing $5 million in a Series A funding round for Argentinian social games startup MetroGames. To date, MetroGames has produced approximately 30 games, available to the public both via their own platform, as well as Facebook. The investment is slated to further expand MetroGames’ pipeline of games and development of it’s social gaming platform.

logo_main“We are very confident MetroGames will become one of the world leaders in social gaming during this next wave of explosive growth in the industry. We already have more than 30 games online across Facebook and our own social gaming platform and many more to be released during 2010. We are pleased Playdom has recognized our potential and chosen to invest in us,” said Damian Harburguer, CEO of MetroGames.

As part of the deal, Playdom CEO John Pleasants will join the MetroGames Board of Directors. Pleasants will now sit at the same table with existing board members, CEO & Founder Damian Harburguer and COO & Founder Julian Linsenberg.

“We are really excited to partner with such a promising company,” said Pleasants. “MetroGames has a proven track record for developing very appealing social games, so we are convinced that with Playdom’s help they will become a big player in the social gaming market.”

Playdom is often regarded as the ‘second child’ of Facebook developers. Still in the shadow of giant Zynga, Playdom still has a majority of it’s customers coming in from MySpace gaming (approximately 60 percent). This investment is Playdom’s second within one month on the Facebook side of social gaming. A few weeks back, Playdom announced the acquisition of Offbeat Creations, another strong Facebook social games developer. In fact, since Playdom acquired a massive $43 million in funding last November, they’ve made it very clear that they know they’re lacking in the Facebook department, and are making changes to address the issue.

Now let’s take a step back and look at this picture from 10,000 up. Playdom is a major player on the MySpace gaming portal. They’re working like gangbusters to match that presence on Facebook – through acquisitions and partnerships. Remember, at this year’s GDC, MySpace used the conference to announce their focus on gaming. If Playdom were to continue to expand and increase their MySpace presence, as well as ramp up their Facebook offerings, they could be miles ahead of current social gaming dominator Zynga, by having strong offerings on both platforms. My guess is that this is exactly what the plan is. Let’s stay tuned and see what’s in store for Playdom as it appears as though it’s not just Mafia Wars and Mobsters that Playdom and Zynga could be battling over.

 

Is MySpace going Hi5?

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

When then-at-the-time social network Hi5 announced almost one year ago to date that they’d failed to secure another round of financing, and were forced to dramatically cut staff members, it looked as though the social networking site was on death’s door.

Less than one month later, Hi5 had more or less reinvented itself, titling the platform as a social entertainment site, Hi5 switched from social networking – to social gaming. They brought Bill Gossman on to steer the ship, and in just over 8 months, had reached a visibility level high enough to lure Alex St. John over to the Hi5 side.

Could MySpace now be on a similar trajectory?

Announced at yesterday’s GDC events, MySpace has completely revamped the Games section, allowing both developers and players much easier access to application and analytics tools, and discovery and sharing, respectively.

MySpace_GamesFrom a users’ point of view, the new format should allow them to stay up-to-date with personalized game notifications, as well as discover new games through a system tailored recommendation system – including data from popular games charts and friends’ games. Users’ rating input will also affect future search and recommendations results.

On the developer side of the table, new analytics tools, as well as a new API, will allow devs to review application specific analytics. These tools will allow for invitation conversion, active users, notification responses, and demographic data, as well as tracking of the source of app invites. MySpace is also now utilizing the Unity 3D engine (as is Bigpoint with their Battlestar Galactica MMO), which allows developers to crank out 3D browser based entertainment. MySpace has also implemented Scoreloop technology, which allows games to share leaderboard, achievement, challenge, and buddy lists across different platforms. Rounding out the shiny new toys for developers is GroovyCortex, a cloud-based service that is designed to provide a “low latency push [data] for multiplayer games.” And just for that added extra push – MySpace announced MySpace Neon, a slated iPhone app that will give users mobile access to their MySpace games. While no mention of mobile play is to be heard, MySpace says that users will be able to interact with their games, share notifications, view their game related stream, and allows for remote installation of games.

So while the news that News Corp (MySpace’s parent company) is putting the push on focusing on MySpace as a gaming platform, this is the first solid ‘flag in the ground’ that we’ve seen come out of the games division at MySpace. But the question is…is it enough, and is it in time, to help the once King of the Hill regain it’s place back at the top?

 

DeWolfe eats MindJolt, Playdom welcomes Offbeat Creations

Friday, March 5th, 2010

While not quite the Ides of March, yesterday proved to be an interesting opening to the month. First up – MindJolt. Former MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe announced that he’s acquired social gaming company MindJolt for an undisclosed amount. Not going completely solo on the acquisition, DeWolfe cites “financial support” from Austin Ventures. This acquisition falls in line with DeWolfe’s organization, formerly known as Platform G. Going forward, the company will now assume the name of the recently acquired MindJolt. As part of the deal, Austin Ventures’ Chris Pacitti and Tom Ball will join the board of directors at MindJolt.

header_logo“MindJolt has quickly become an ‘onramp’ to the Internet for the world’s independent game developers,” said DeWolfe, now CEO of MindJolt, in a press statement. “We’re building out the company to become the next generation platform for game developers. Our goal is to make it even easier for developers to get their games noticed and make more money from their work. At the same time we will deliver the most social and viral gaming experiences to our millions of users everywhere.”

Currently, MindJolt aggregates 1300+ casual and social games from over 1000 developers on it’s web platform and Facebook app. Clocking in around 20 million active monthly users, MindJolt currently enjoys a 7 percent growth rate per week.

And in other news….

Social games maker Playdom announced that as of yesterday they’ve acquired Offbeat Creations for, as with the MindJolt deal, an “undisclosed sum.” Playdom has been primarily focusing their efforts on MySpace gaming, while Offbeat Creations currently has 8 titles on Facebook. What better way to enter a competitive market than through an acquisition, eh?

“We have aggressive plans to expand our social gaming footprint in 2010 and the addition of Offbeat Creations will significantly enhance our development throughput and expand Playdom’s game pipeline this year,” said John Pleasants, CEO of Playdom. “social gaming footprint,” sounds a whole lot like “Facebook” when said in the right light.

Offbeat Creations’ largest money-maker is Super Farkle, currently serving up around 1.5 million active month users, with 200k active daily users. Offbeat Creations’ former 12 staff members will now move right on down the road from Bellevue, WA to join Playdom’s headquarters in Seattle.

 

Bigpoint.com tops 100 million registered users

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Hamburg, Germany based free-to-play gaming portal Bigpoint.com has recently announced that they’ve topped over 100 million registered users. The number now places them as the world’s largest online German community. Not just gaming communities, but the largest German online community overall. The 100 millionth user also puts Bigpoint on top in terms of browser-based gaming portals, but also one of the world’s largest online gaming sites.

us.bigpointBigpoint, launched less than 4 years ago claims that they see 250,000 players register every single day. “A few years ago, I never would have dreamed that we would one day reach this crazy goal,” comments Heiko Hubertz, CEO of Bigpoint GmbH. “This is a great achievement for us. But, the approximately 250,000 new daily registrations at Bigpoint.com shows that we have the potential to be even bigger.“

With over 50 different free-to-play titles available, Bigpoint attributes it’s success to the free-to-play model. At Bigpoint, users can test and play every aspect of the game for free, for as long as they want. Should they chose to delve deeper into their favorite Bigpoint game, they can purchase virtual goods with real money to heighten their gaming experience. And as with most other free-to-play online gaming portals, Bigpoint also offers players the opportunity to gain a number of these RMT items, however play time is greatly increased.

And while Bigpoint’s 50 various games is enough to keep almost any gamer happy, in May of last year, Bigpoint opened the doors to third party publishing, as well as making a set of development tools available to independent developers. The advantage here is twofold: Major corporations including Sony have already taken advantage of Bigpoint’s (now) 100 million user database, and the DevLounge tool gives independent developers the tools to stand side by side with giants such as Sony.

Looking forward, 2010 will see attention to license and royalty games from Bigpoint. The company already has a number of quality titles in its arsenal, most notably, Sony’s ‘Free Realms’. The company also has the post-apocalyptic strategy game ‘Nemesis 2030’ waiting for launch, as well as the anime role-playing game ‘Wonder King. In addition to Sony, Bigpoint boasts a media partner list with over 1000 accounts. MTV, NBC, MySpace and Facebook are all associated with Bigpoint.

 

Disney nominates Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to board

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg has just received a last minute holiday gift. However, this is one present that she won’t be unwrapping. Walt Disney Co. announced on Wednesday that they’ve nominated Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg to its board. The act is widely hailed as a move by the 86 year old media company to tap into the younger demographic that spends a large amount of time with online social networks.

disney20logo20colorsg8Over the past 16 months, Facebook’s user population has tripled and grown to more than 350 million users. Adding Sandberg to the Disney board as a director would give Uncle Walt direct access to a highly coveted access. Not to mention, this appointment would facilitate an unprecedented level of cross platform promotion and integration between the worlds largest social network and one of the worlds largest entertainment giants.

“It shows that Disney is committed to taking social networking seriously, integrating social networking into its traditional entertainment content,” said Needham & Co analyst Laura Martin.

Martin also added that this appointment would be a cost-effective way for Disney to acquire web expertise without having to acquire a company. In contrast, News Corp. paid $580 million for social networking platform MySpace in 2005, only to be eclipsed by Facebook.

sheryl_sandberg_lgDisney spokesman Jonathan Friedland comments, “She knows a lot about a lot of the areas of new media and technology growth that we are interested in, so it makes a lot of sense for us to have her.”

While Disney is steeped in big media companies, owning the Walt Disney Pictures film studio, ABC Television networks, ESPN, and a portion of Hulu, Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Jason Helfstein says that Disney’s internet operations are currently immaterial to its earnings.

“None of the big media companies make much money on the Internet,” said Helfstein.  However, with the appointment of Sandberg, this might be the beginning of a major shift.

Again, this is only an appointment to the board, but does open up a highly mutually beneficial relationship for both companies. Disney stands to gain access and industry know-how in a highly competitive market, while Facebook could capitalize on Disney’s 86 year media market experience. Disney shareholders are expected to vote on Sandberg’s nomination, along with the company’s 12 other directors (including Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Sybase Inc. CEO John Chen) at a shareholder meeting in March.

 

Facebook to overtake MySpace marketers spend in 2010

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

A new report published by emarketer.com indicates that 2010 will see Facebook over take MySpace in terms of dollars being spent by marketers and advertisers. Facebook has overtaken MySpace in terms of overall popularity and social networking destination of choice, and is already the premier destination for marketers in the US and a number of worldwide markets.

In 2010, emarketer reports, Facebook advertising spend will be $605 million, versus $385 million on MySpace. “As more marketers incorporate social networks in their business, they will no longer look at them as siloed destinations. Instead, they will look to increase the impact of their social network presence by linking it to other marketing initiatives, both online and offline,” said Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer senior analyst

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The report also states that combined social and mobile, as well as local interactions will yield more advertising opportunities in 2010. The key theme of social network marketing will by earned media. Adding to the advertising opportunities, emarketer predicts that social ad networks will increase in importance.

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To this end, the report states that US online social network ad spending will top over $1.21 billion in 2009. This represents a 3.9 percent increase over 2008, and 2010 is predecited to have a 7.1 percent increase. However, this data flies directly in the face of overall US online ad spending this year.

“When companies budget for social media marketing in 2010 and beyond, a substantial portion of their expenses will go toward creating and maintaining a fan page, managing promotions or public relations outreach within a social network, and measuring the impact of a social network presence on brand health and sales,” noted Ms. Williamson.

The report “Social Network Ad Spending : 2010 Outlook” is now available from emarketer.com and also addresses:

  • How much money are marketers spending for paid advertising in social networks?
  • What percentage of marketers use social network marketing?
  • Why is the concept of earned media important?
  • How will social networks affect local advertising?
  • Where do social and search intersect?
  • Will social ad networks deliver results?
 

Third largest social games maker Playdom will see $50M in revenues this year

Friday, December 18th, 2009

The third largest player in the social games space, Playdom is expecting a profitable year with $50 million in revenues expected. In an interview with ThinkEquity’s Atul Bagga, Playdom CEO John Pleasant confirmed that the company is profitable, and 2009 will see over $50 million in revenues. This statement falls right in line with last October’s leaked data regarding Playdom’s revenue numbers.

The social gaming company of the year award might land with Playfish, as their acquisition by traditional gaming giant logged over $300 million. In second place, at least in the revenues department, Zynga, with their recent $180 million from Russian investor Digital Sky Technologies alone puts them in second place. Not to be outdone, Playdom’s $50 million places them strongly in third place.

And now for the numbers…

Pleasant, who left Playdom his COO position at EA earlier this year to head up Playdom, stated that three-quarters, or $37.5 million, of Playdom’s revenues are generated from virtual goods sales. Given the on going ‘scamville’ fiasco, Playdom treads on some thin ice with 15 percent of it’s revenues being generated from third party advertisers who offer users marketing “offers” in exchange for virtual goods that are rewarded after a users completes a survey or related activity. The remaining 10 percent comes from advertising deals.

Bagga’s report states that Playdom currently cites 28 million monthly active users. In comparison, EA/Playfish has 50 million users on board, and the top dog, Zynga, reports that they have 200 million active monthly users. However, the measure of “monthly active users” does span the gap across multiple titles from the same producer. When seen in this light, Zynga reports 100 million monthly uniques.

But where’s the disconnect here? Both Zynga and Playfish have been making a killing. That’s not to say that Playdom’s $50 million is a paltry figure, but still hovering in the double digit range, while it’s closest competitors are a decent way into the three figure digits. The missing link? Facebook. When looking at Playdom’s platform distribution, 60 percent is played on MySpace, while 40 percent is focused on Facebook. After receiving $43 million last month in a most recent funding round, Playdom execs state that they plan to double the number of it’s current offerings in 2010. The question is – will they ramp up offerings on the much hotter social gaming platform Facebook?