Amazon Coins: good idea, awful execution

There is no better sales incentive than free money. It’s just a pity that Amazon’s new virtual currency, Amazon Coins, are not a particularly useful sales incentive.

Amazon Coins -- right, but so wrong

The company unveiled Amazon Coins on Feb. 5, explaining they could be used to purchase apps, games and in-app items on Kindle Fire tablets. Most industry watchers praised the announcement, but more than a few pundits questioned the logic of the coins.

While I’ve already made my opinion fairly clear (skip to 0:34 to get to the relevant part), Amazon’s Coins do deserve more analysis, particularly since so many people are convinced they are brilliant. The real rub is that those people are technically right. Stimulating the Kindle Fire economy is an excellent idea, more so because Amazon desperately needs to do it.

Not long after the Kindle Fire was released, many developers boasted that it monetized far better than other Android based tablets, and that its app store was much more lucrative the official Android market run by Google. As interest in the Kindle Fire has dropped off, however, so have the claims that it was the ultra-profitable Shangri-La Android developers were dreaming of. Competition from the Google’s Nexus-branded Android tablets and Apple’s new iPad Mini have squeezed the Kindle Fire’s share of the mid to low-end tablet market, and the device no longer has the “hot gift” cachet it had when it debuted just before Christmas 2011.

The Kindle Fire app store has always had a much smaller pool of apps and users than Google Play and the iTunes App Store, and as interest wanes in the device, so has the influx of excited new users ready to download apps. Amazon knows this is bad news. After all, developers aren’t interested in making apps for a platform without consumers and consumers don’t want devices with a lousy selection of apps.

Microsoft is in a similar situation; its work-around for the problem has been to incentivize development, assuming the consumers will eventually come for the apps. Meanwhile Amazon is trying the opposite approach, supplying the financial incentives to the consumers and letting developers know there will soon be a lot more liquidity in the Amazon app economy.

It’s a fair tactic that doesn’t penalize the developers that bet on the Amazon Appstore before the company started its stimulus efforts, and it’s technically giving both consumers and developers what they really want — money.

So, why not just supply money? Perhaps credit every Kindle Fire owner’s account with a few dollars via a virtual gift card? Kindle Fire owners already understand how to buy apps with real money and Amazon’s customers are already comfortable with the concept of gift cards. Even if Amazon is planning to roll out some sort of rewards program with Coins (i.e. spend $10 on Kindle Fire apps, games or in-app items and get 100 Amazon Coins), why not just use a cash-back system similar to the one many credit card companies already use?

There is also the matter of what Amazon is looking to gain by creating its own virtual currency.  Microsoft Points were designed specifically to make items look cheaper than they are (an item that costs 79 Microsoft Points actually costs $0.99). Amazon Coins meanwhile, convert one for one to real cents, so Amazon clearly isn’t hoping to target bargain hunters.

Perhaps Amazon is hoping to use Coins to convince people to spend money without having to (technically) open their wallets — after all, when Facebook introduced Credits, the idea was that a universal currency would boost conversion. Again, this is a questionable choice since in the end, Facebook Credits ended up being a mixed bag. While developers saw an increase in conversion, others reported a decrease in average revenue per paying user. In the end, Facebook eliminated Credits less than a year after they were introduced opting to use a local-currency system just like Apple, Android and yes, Amazon were already using.

Millions of people already know and trust Amazon with their credit cards, and Kindle Fire users were already using a standardized payment system with the currency they understood best — dollars. Amazon’s new virtual currency is just complicating the matter with a second payment option.

Please Stop Copying Instagram

NOTinstagram-logoThere are currently almost 1.5 million apps available in the iTunes and Android app stores. The selection means that no matter what your need, there is at least one or — more likely — dozens of apps to meet your needs. Nowhere does this seem to be more apparent than in the fast-growing photography category. Defined by Instagram’s flagship success, the photography app market seems to be at a crossroads. In the quest to become the next Instagram, many developers have instead chosen to make Instagram again, and again, and again.

To a certain extent, the proliferation of photo apps is good business sense. The rise of smartphones and their high-quality, built in cameras means photographers are no longer required to carry expensive, single-purpose equipment with them to take photos. Smartphones also mean the average consumer will always have a camera on hand, making photography an easy hobby to pick up. Since these devices are capable of storing hundreds or even thousands of pictures, it is now possible to take dozens of photos in the pursuit of a perfect image. Even when things don’t turn out as we hoped, we can add filters, effects, frames and artful blurs to hide the flaws in our images. Developers have responded to our sudden interest in photography by providing us with hundreds, if not thousands of new options for altering and sharing them.

Feature comparisonThe first wave of photography apps may have sprung up to serve a brand new, fast-growing market, but now the vast majority of photography apps seem to be more interested in fast follow, not innovation. For every high quality photo app, there are dozens of half-baked copies, and single-featured services with poor implementation.

Near the end of October, Inside Mobile Apps began to shift its reviews focus from games to other app types. Since that change, 18 of those — almost a quarter of all the reviews we have published — have been for photography apps. Ten of the 18 apps reviewed since then included their own social networks. Eleven were designed around sharing content and eight offered Instagram-style filters. Most contained overlapping feature sets.

Compare that to the second most popular review category: productivity. Out of the 16 productivity apps reviewed, four were note taking apps, three were task managers, two each were contact managers and slide presentation managers. There were single occurrences of chore tracking, translation, password management, voice memo and document signing apps. While we reviewed nearly as many productivity apps as photography apps, the productivity apps showed a much wider range of differentiating factors. Even when we reviewed two productivity apps with the same purpose, there was differentiation in the product. Both Wunderlist and Clear are glorified to-do lists, but they have features, use cases and user interfaces to differentiate it from its competitors. Why isn’t this variety found in photography apps?

Most smartphone photographers are not looking for another, more specific iteration of Instagram. Do people really want to load up a separate app just to view a social network filled with panorama photos? Do people really need to download an app so they can link and share a series of photos together? If the performance of Story and PanoPerfect are any indication to go by, probably not.

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 1.22.45 PM

Not exactly burning up the charts.

Of course, a smartphone owner can and will use multiple photography services depending on their needs. There is no reason not post photos to Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, each service filling its own specific niche. There is also the possibility of disruption — a MySpace-like fall from popularity that could see Instagram lose favor and a new photo-based social network take its place. One could also see a Tumblr-like rise, growing quietly and amassing an enormous userbase in the process. There may be dozens of reasons to keep making better photography apps, but there are many more reasons not to keep making the same ones over and over again.

Why game content is more important than quality, style and social features

Editor’s Note: Each week, Inside Mobile Apps’ Kathleen De Vere delves into evolving trends in mobile games and apps. The current topic, games as a service, is part of an ongoing effort on the part of mobile and social game developers to maximize engagement and maintain dominant positions on app rankings charts.

Some of the most profitable mobiles games available today aren’t games at all — they are entertainment services.

If that seems strange, consider the average review of mobile card battle games. The genre seems to defy all the lessons developers have learned about what makes a “good” game: graphics quality is low, the user interfaces are unintuitive or cluttered, and the battles (such as they are) don’t require any user input beyond pushing a button.

Despite all that, these “core games” titles earn incredible amounts of money. At the height of its popularity in Japan, GREE’s card battle game Driland was earning more than $26 million a month through in-app purchases. DeNA’s hit Rage of Bahamut has spent 10 months at the top of the Android top grossing chart, generating average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU) in excess of $1.00. Card battle games like Zynga’s Ayakashi Ghost Guild, ATeam’s Dark Summoner and Applibot’s Legend of the Cryptids are also immensely profitable.

These games are popular and addictive because what they are selling is not the basic gameplay, but an ongoing service that keeps players returning. A game-as-a-service provides endless additional content, a player community and a persistent competitive environment. Financially these titles are supported by microtransactions or monthly subscription fees.

Always something to do.

MOBA games like League of Legends, Valve’s Team Fortress 2 and paper-based collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering all have two things in common. They are all extremely popular and are all ongoing entertainment services. Mobile card battle games like Rage of Bahamut offer the same experience on a simplified scale.

The real “gameplay” for many these mobile games today is in the extras: the free bonuses, daily levels, multiplayer raid bosses and limited time special events. For dedicated players, there is always something new to do and it’s easy to become addicted — not to the game, but to the never-ending stream of content and the diversion it provides. Just introducing service components to an existing game can create a huge boost in monetization and retention.

Last summer, Big Fish Games added a Daily Mode to its hit game Fairway Solitaire. Every day, the company puts out two new levels. One is free, the other is bought with in-game currency. On the weekends, the levels that need to be bought might be longer, or offer extra completion bonuses. If a player completes enough of these daily courses, they can use their completion bonuses to unlock even more content.

According to the Fairway Solitaire team, Daily Mode was explicitly created to give players a never-ending feed of new content. Big Fish Games tells us Fairway Solitaire’s engagement and retention are “outstanding.” The game’s daily active user (DAU) count has doubled since Daily Mode was introduced.

Previously, game developers have placed a lot of importance on adding social features to games, but these games aren’t popular because their players can share their high scores on Twitter and invite their Facebook friends to play. Games like Fairway Solitaire inspire great loyalty because their players can always find something to new to do in them.  

The goal of a properly designed game-as-a-service should not be to make the best, or most social game possible, but to create a game where it is nearly impossible for the player to become bored with it. That is the “secret sauce” that makes Magic: The Gathering, League of Legends and Rage of Bahamut so profitable.

PlayHaven gets granular with its new user segmentation tools

PlayHaven’s new User Segmentation tool now allows developers and publishers to show targeted content to their users determined by factors like location, hardware, engagement level and even spending behavior.

The new User Segmentation also works with PlayHaven’s other monetization tools. The company’s senior director of publisher development Zach Phillips says developers using the service now have far more versatility in how they they can advertise and monetize their games.

“The overarching challenge for mobile game developers is they have to take a one-size fits all approach,” says Phillips. “If I want to serve ads, I have to serve them to all my users. If I want to do a discount for the holidays, I generally have to do that for every user. This gives mobile game developers on both iOS and Android the flexibility to address their audience in a unique manner.”

With PlayHaven’s new segmentation tool, developers can divide their audience up based on a series of 10 pre-set dimensions: location by country, device language, network connection, hardware, iOS or Android operating system, game version, total times played, time spent in game and spending behavior.

“I can better monetize my non-paying users, I can better reward my whales or my big spenders, and at the end of the day it maximizes the ROI of the users in my game,” says Phillips.

Of course, PlayHaven is far from the first company to offer user segmentation tools, but PlayHaven’s integrated approach makes it easy for developers to act on the data, Phillips says. The insights a developer gains when dividing up their audience can immediately be translated into actions using PlayHaven’s other services.

“It’s all dynamically configured by the publisher,” he says. “It’s giving them the tools to say specifically ‘these are the users I want to address’ and then giving them the tools to address them.”

Originally a mobile social network, PlayHaven relaunched itself as a monetization platform in 2011. The company now offers everything from cross-promotion and advertising networks to services that manage rewards and virtual goods for developers and even a contact management software (CMS) inspired tool that allows developers to gather contact information like email addresses, phone number and zip codes from their users. It’s an all-in-one strategy that the company uses to help differentiate itself from the many other competitors in the mobile monetization space.

PlayHaven’s monetization tools are now used in over 3000 games, more the double the 1200 the company had in its portfolio in March. Over 500 developers use PlayHaven’s tools to serve 1.4 billion game sessions per month. The company recently closed an $8 million round of Series B funding from GGV Capital, e.ventures and Tandem Entrepreneurs bringing PlayHaven’s total funding to $11 million.

ZeptoLab still sweet on puzzle solving with new IP Pudding Monsters

Cut the Rope maker ZeptoLab has finally taken the wraps of its new game, Pudding Monsters.

A puzzle adventure game, Pudding Monsters challenges players to guide a cute and sticky group of monsters out from the fridge and all the way into the big city as they attempt to rescue a missing friend.

The title will be just the third original game for the studio, which burst onto the scene when it released Cut the Rope in October 2010. One of the first big breakout mobile games, ZeptoLab followed up on the success of the original game with a sequel, Cut the Rope: Experiments in August 2011. Now ZeptoLab UK Limited, the company describes itself as “global gaming and entertainment company” and has signed licensing deals with Hasbro, Mattel and Sony Pictures to capitalize on the appeal of Om Nom, the hungry alien hero of the Cut the Rope franchise.

While ZeptoLab is no doubt hoping its new cast of visually appealing sweet heros will make Pudding Monsters as popular as Cut the Rope has been (both as a game and as a brand) the market has changed significantly in two years. With much more competition and a lot more marketing money being thrown around, even Rovio have struggled to replicate the blockbuster success of the original Angry Birds with new titles like Amazing Alex and Bad Piggies. That said, the first two Cut the Rope games have collectively racked up more than 250 million downloads, giving ZeptoLab a formidable built-in userbase to promote Pudding Monsters to.

Puddling Monsters is set to hit smartphones later in December, in time for the holiday season.

 

Liveblogging from Inside Social Apps, New York: Investing in Social and Mobile Games

Live from New York, we’re at the Inside Social Apps conference at the New Yorker Hotel.  For the last session of the day, Eric Goldberg, managing director of Crossover Technologies lead a panel consisting of Atul Bagga, senior analyst – video games & China internet, Lazard Capital Markets, Mike Foley, SVP of corporate development, Electronic Arts, Eric Tilenius, executive-in-residence, ScaleVP and Rick Thompson, general partner, Signia Venture Partners as they weighed in on what investors and publishers were looking for when they invested in mobile and social games.

The Following is a paraphrased account of what was said on the panel.

Goldberg: I’m going to give you a brief overview of the investing market. This is not a happy story. In February Rick, Atul and I predicted there would be a decline in social gaming. Zynga has gone from $12 to $2 in the stock market. In the secondary market has also seen a sharp retreat. According to Pando Daily, only 20 percent of seeded companies will receive institutional funding. What is going on with the state of investment?

Bagga: There has been a mismatch of expectations in the secondary market. About 12 to 15 months ago, companies like Groupon, Facebook and Zynga were extremely popular. However, when they went public and investors expectations were not met. For Zynga in particular, the expectation was that the company would mitigate some of the risk in the social gaming market when that didn’t happen and then Facebook’s debut was something of a double whammy. Right now Zynga’s value is close to its cash and real estate assets  which means investors are assigning zero value to its business. This will not only affect investors who want to get their investment back, but will affect M&A in the industry because Zynga was such a big buyer.

Goldberg: Rick, you’ve still be investing while most of your peers are retreating from the field. Why?

Thompson: If we do three pure game deals next year we’ll have met our quota. The things that we’re looking for are games with a new angle, and game companies with a new angle. We invest in ideas, so we’re investing before there is a business. We’re looking for passionate people who can execute on an idea.

Goldberg: Eric, Scale Venture partners have had some investments change their business models after the investment has been made. What do you look for?

Tilenius: We’re a later stage company, so we’re looking for metrics that will indicate solid traction. The irony of that is companies that are successful and are seeing things work don’t want to take capital — look at Mojang who make Minecraft. What the market changes imply to me is a much more relentless focus from game companies on growing cash rather than users. Two years ago it was a land grab. That’s no longer the case. I think one of mistakes that companies are making is thinking that assuming previous monetization models will work now. For example, arcade games don’t work with free-to-play. I think the future will be about running games as a service, where you’re running a back-end to help players connect.

Foley: One of the biggest challenge I face is far too many people come to me and say “look at my app.” When you’re building a business, you need more than an app. For me its about the team and the capabilities, not what you have today.

Goldberg: What are you looking for in particular and what’s the hardest thing to find?

Foley: The hardest things to find is a developer who can build a high quality free to play game on mobile who doesn’t want $100 million dollars. For example, our top grossing app The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a huge hit. Both the company that developed the game and the company that powers the back end of the game were very small acquisitions that have already recouped their cost because of how successful the game has been.

Goldberg: Which skills matter the most if you don’t already have Angry Birds or Farmville?

Tilenius: It’s hard to make a successful business. You need to have the game and the back end to enable it. Supercell has done it beautifully — both the game and the back end that powers the social and competitive elements are beautiful. I typically worry the least about distribution, since there are so many services out there to solve that problem. The important thing is seeing a gem of a game. Word of mouth is one of the most important factors. There is a caveat  though — there’s a tremendous problem of discoverability. It’s not enough to say “we have a good game, people will find it.”

Goldberg: Rick, you’ve invested in discoverability companies. What do you look for?

Thompson: It’s a part of the ecosystem and its still under development. If you are willing to pay the price someone will help you with distribution.

Bagga: If you’re talking about games as a service, you’re essentially adding another layer to the game. You need to have a great game, to know how to get users and have a finely tuned system  to make the most of their customers. You can always rent features like analytics.

Tilenius: Being able to calculate the LTV of a user is very important. Buying a mobile user costs between $2 and $3 dollars now. If your LTV per player is $0.35, you’ll only be able to grow virally or by word of mouth. When I worked at Zynga, we used to joke Zynga Poker was our first VC. My advice is to find your poker early.

Goldberg: We’re seeing a shift here. Previously if a person bought your game, you had earned your money. Now you need to get people to play your game and then you need to get them to pay for it. In opposition to that we have Kickstarter, where customers are pre-paying for games and financing their games that way. What are your thoughts on that method of financing.

Tilenius: I think it’s a tough slog unless you’ve got some name brand recognition.

Foley: I’ve never seen so many headlines about something that won’t affect the industry that much. These are games and products that are already popular, but not quite popular enough to have publishers.

Goldberg: Can you talk about being a publisher Mike?

Foley: Ultimately we see a vision where all of our content is connected in the back end. it’s extremely difficult to do, and I think that’s now the barrier to entry in this business. We’re in the investment stage on that right now. Companies like EA have a competitive advantage there.

Goldberg: Mike, if someone comes to you with a great iPad game but its not connected, do you just take the game from them then and apply your back-end expertise?

Foley: We work with them.

Thompson: Publishers bring advice as well as cash.

Tilenius: This is my personal opinion, as someone who used to work at Zynga and pushed us towards publishing, perhaps before we were ready, I can see the model has changed. Earlier, we couldn’t buy studios fast enough. Now many don’t make the cut.

Goldberg: What point do you need to think about getting money by hook or by crook? What are the sure signs you need capital?

Bagga: Many two person teams can make a great game in their garage and make $100,000 and have a great life and career making that game. But you have to think, is it scaleable?

Thompson: Those few companies that are able to operate at scale also need to know how to invest that money — it’s hard. You have to know what to green light and what to spend. I think the future will be many smaller studios that can use the tools already available in order to maximize their resources.

Liveblogging from Inside Social Apps, New York: Monetizing Social and Mobile Games

Live from New York, we’re at the Inside Social Apps conference at the New Yorker Hotel. From freemium to sponsored apps, developers are actively trying to determine how and what users will pay for their goods. Inside Network Managing Editor AJ Glasser talked about the current marketplace with president and chief business development officer of RocketPlay Matthew Cullen, KIXEYE’s VP of product marketing John Getze, Pocket Gems CEO Ben Liu, Happy Elements’ senior director of corporate development Mike Lee and Wilson Kriegel, the former CRO of OMGPOP/Zynga Mobile.

The Following is a paraphrased account of what was said on the panel.

Glasser: Prior to 2012, monetization was limited to Facebook Credits, so now we’re shifting gears to discussing the nature of monetization and also the ecosystem which they monetize. To start, with John, your stuff is free to play. How do you make money?

Getze: With time! As they progress in the game, we want to get them interested and invested. Then they want to speed up the process.

Glasser: You are monetizing patience! What is the main activity that saves time?

Getze: Probably repairing your base.

Glasser: Mike, how do you monetize?

Lee: Through love. In our main game, we have fish [who can fall in love with each other].

Glasser: And Matthew?

Cullen: We have our users, predominantly men, and we give them more areas to gamble on. Also virtual currency to get a daily bonus.

Glasser: Ben?

Liu: To express themselves. We don’t think too much about monetization, but more fun. Our top seller is more space to show the kind of thing you want to create.

Glasser: For you, Wilson?

Kriegel: Usually have three tier: Free, free to play and premium.

Glasser: Now design philosophy. Before free-to-play hit North America, many companies didn’t know. Others had monetization locked down, but not gameplay.

Liu: For us, it’s about the fun experience players can customize. It starts with that. We think about starting something fun and engaging. Monetization comes with that.

Getze: You can’t monetize fun. If it’s not fun, putting money on it isn’t going to help. KIXEYE started with six of us and there was a vacuum on Facebook about games we wanted to play the core category. If you’re not a recognized entity or brand, you need to get a user involved. If I see Madden on my iPhone, I have an idea of what it will be like.

Kriegel: Fine line, where a money-making game could not be fun, but lots of fun games don’t make any money. It has to be a conscious effort about your target market and so forth. It can’t override the fun factor, but there are lots of pieces that come into play. It is a key variable.

Cullen: We were similar. We wanted to do something that was fun for men in the casino vertical different than cards. Just recently we focused on monetization – once we got the metrics to work, got it sticky, then we focused on money.

Lee: We try to keep things sticky and also try to monetize players, but they are often separate motivations. One game has three million players, so we can crosspromote.

Liu: We created the first isometric battle game and were successful with it. Mobile is still young, so coming out with an innovative or first-time experience will often bring monetization.

Glasser: If you have a great game and you realize it can make money, how do you add monetization to it?

Kriegel: Advertising can often be a part of it. Like Draw Something at OMGPOP, it had a large amount of views, so advertising was coming in.

Glasser: So is there anything you can do on the design side?

Getze: When we did Backyard Monsters, it didn’t monetize much since we were figuring out our audience. Six months in we added monetization for decorations, but it didn’t do well. KIXEYE is more of a service than a product since it gets updated every day.

Liu: We still consider ourselves indie developers, so we work with other indie developers for partnerships and exposure.

Glasser: Each of your companies monetizes at a different rate, so how do you know where to go.

Kriegel: These companies are founded by a group of people with a particular mind set. For us, we were founded in New York City, so lots of Flash developers here, but not on the backend. However many times we tried to do a farm game, we sucked. With Draw Something on the different platforms, we focused on our core skill sets. The monetizations fell in space.  We did half-million plus MAU.

Glasser: How much did Zynga help with that?

Kriegel: By the time Zynga acquired us, we were huge and already sucked out the DAUs. We had 20 million DAUs a month and a half in on a $60,000 budget. We did our best to capitalize, we did monetizations. The free and paid version could play the same app. It was an exciting time where social networks could help you grow without spending money and then get money without spending as much money. Zynga helped, and now there is a TV show coming out. You have to build games that are franchisable, otherwise you can’t have a business.

Cullen: We realized that men were underserved, particularly on Facebook… the challenge is that sports betting is time based, unlike slots, so you have a lot of downtime, so you have a lot of people needing other things to do.

Liu: I think there is something to look at analytics with the two previous examples, but you also need authenticity. Authenticity and building something you love and feel passionate about has to be the roots.

Glasser: How do you decide what platform to focus on?

Liu: We strongly believe the future is mobile. We’re experiencing a huge sea-shift from desktop to mobile computing that will be as strong as the beginning of the Internet. We’ve already seen iOS become a major platform, Android rising and Amazon becoming a major platform.

Getze: We’re just thinking about mobile. We haven’t seen a good RPG or a FPS. I can’t see playing Call of Duty. You have to be, designwise, cognitive of

Kriegel: We’ve jumped to different platform. We’re all sitting pretty here, as all of our companies are well capitalized. But if you have a half million bucks to do a Facebook game and monetizing it, good luck with that. You can build shitty games at the beginning of a cycle, but later you can’t get away with it, including the cost of the resources, marketing, etc. You have to decide which is best suited and what will execute best.

Cullen: That’s exactly why we did our deal with Zynga for Facebook, probably will do the same with mobile. It’s so fragmented and so tough to get in and build critical mass. Our first slots game will be iPad only in January. We are going the route of publishing as we want to conserve our cash.

Lee: I’m assuming you’re talking about net revenue! One of our games for Japanese feature phones is one of our most profitable.

Glasser: On that note, you can have money coming in, but it could be too cost expensive to be profitable. Should you go to a publisher?

Liu: You need 100 percent focus on making a game and it’s hard to be distracted. It’s hard to get new installs, companies with millions of users. It’s a matter of focus. Make sure you’re using your limited funds in the best way.

Kriegel: If you want to self-publish like KIXEYE, you want to own the data and so on. But for each partner you take on, you’re still shifting cost for engineering and resources. Marketing time for direct users acquisition goes into development, or what have you.

Cullen: I’d agree with that. It really depends on your deal, though. We’ve seen some awful deals. If you think about the acquisition cost to acquire users, I don’t even need a spreadsheet to know those numbers.

Glasser: How open would you be open to partnering for new markets overseas?

Kriegel: Definitely, with Japan, Korea and China. Russia is coming up as far as localization, opinion and style. I think each key market has its own value.

Liu: It depends on what stage you are on as a company. Early on, us taking on a partner was a waste of time. The US market can handle different genres, and its not worth taking on the distraction of traveling to other countries. I think it’s a later age thing.

Lee: We think US developers are very lucky in that they have a large enough market. If you’re not based in China, Japan or US, you may not have a market big enough to grow. For us, we expanded to other parts of Asia.

Getze: Social gaming companies are generally not social. Its asyncronistic, you do your thing and then you spam friends to get power. That’s why Draw Something and others are doing well, as they are actually social. As far as going to a publisher, you’re giving up a lot. They have a lot of developers and they are focused, really, on one, like the music business.

Kriegel: Angry Birds had EA, which they broke away from later, but they had 50 games, no money, and had to develop. And all entertainment is a hit-driven business.

Glassser: Predictions for the next twelve months?

Cullen: For our space, a massive influx of folks in the gambling space. I think there will be some consolidation, a lot of stuff out there.

Getze: Depends on the area, but I think mobile itself will be huge.

Lee: We can bet on the fragmentation of the platforms. We’re glad to see different, non-Facebook platforms come into play. The fragmentation is giving the Asian developer a leg up.

Liu: As I said before, I think mobile is the future. Great time to be a mobile developer. There are all these platforms where you can go directly to the user, no barrier to entry. You also see a more hidden competition with messaging and other types of apps helping people discover apps. As far as genres, it really is the early part of mobile. You’ll see in the upcoming year the shift in new genres and ideas.

Kriegel: Four is core gaming, like KIXEYE, as well as casino gaming. Tablets will be a big part. Communication with gaming will be trends. If you look at the history, though, of gaming in the past 20 years, it is about being AAA brand. If you are the main brand target of a genre, you will make the most money.

News Corp shuttering iPad newspaper The Daily

News Corp announced it will cease publication of its groundbreaking digital newspaper The Daily on Dec. 15.

The iPad-only newspaper launched in February 2011, and although it proved to be popular — the publication was the No. 3 top grossing iPad app last year according to the 2011 iTunes Rewind feature — the paper was unable to run profitably. News Corp reported it expected to lose $30 million on the publication during 2011.

2012 proved to be an even more difficult year for The Daily. The paper slipped down the top grossing iPad app charts (according to our traffic tracking service AppData, The Daily is currently the No. 61 top grossing iPad app) and the publication laid off 50 full-time staff in August.

“From its launch, The Daily was a bold experiment in digital publishing and an amazing vehicle for innovation,” said Rupert Murdoch in statement accompanying the news. “Unfortunately, our experience was that we could not find a large enough audience quickly enough to convince us the business model was sustainable in the long-term.”

According to today’s press release, The Daily’s editor-in-chief Jesse Angelo will move to The New York Post to take up the position of publisher. Technology, other assets and some staff from The Daily will also be folded into The Post.

This week’s headlines from across Inside Network

A roundup of all the news Inside Network brought you between Nov. 26 and Dec. 1

Inside Mobile Apps

Tracking the convergence of mobile apps, social platforms and virtual goods.

Monday, Nov. 26

Tuesday, Nov. 27

Wednesday, Nov. 28

Thursday, Nov. 29

Friday, Nov. 30

Saturday, Dec. 1

Inside Social Games

Covering all the latest developments at the intersection of games and social platforms.

Monday, Nov. 26

Tuesday, Nov. 27

Wednesday, Nov. 28

Thursday, Nov. 29

Friday, Nov. 30

Saturday, Dec. 1

Inside Facebook

Tracking Facebook and the Facebook platform for developers and marketers.

Monday, Nov. 26

Tuesday, Nov. 27

Wednesday, Nov. 28

Thursday, Nov. 29

Friday, Nov. 30

Inside Social Commerce

Tracking the convergence of social media and commerce.

Mobile app news roundup: GREE, Red Bull, iTunes gift cards and more

GREE expands platform partnerships with Vostu, Brainz and more — GREE has signed partnership deals with five more international studios. The company announced this week it has signed up Vostu, Brainz, Sun Dried Games, Pangalore and Vast Studios. Our readers may remember in October GREE announced it had signed deals with Enders Fund, Fathom Interactive, Fifth Column and FreezeTag.

Variable rate iTunes gift cards now available — Apple customers can now decide exactly how much their friends and family are worth to them. The company has introduced new gift cards that can come in denominations ranging from $15 to $500 reports 9to5 Mac. The new cards are already rolling out at major U.S. retailers.

SGN teams with Betable — Social and mobile game developer SGN is the latest company to sign a deal with London-headquartered Betable to bring real-money gambling elements to its mobile titles. The features will only be available in markets where mobile gambling is legal, such as the U.K. SGN expects to roll out the features in the first half of 2013.

iPhone 5, iPad Mini finally headed to China — The latest generation of Apple devices will soon be in the hands of Chinese consumers. The company announced today the iPad Mini and the fourth generation iPad will be available in China on Dec. 7. The iPhone 5 will be available on Dec. 14.

LINE integrates with Facebook — NAVER’s ultra-popular Japanese chat app LINE has started integrating with Facebook. Facebook users can now create LINE accounts using their Facebook credentials according to Dr. Serkan Toto. Users can also invite their Facebook friends to the service.

PlayPhone picks up Red Herring Global 100 award — San Francisco based PlayPhone has won the Red Herring Global Top 100 award in the mobile category. The awards are decided by Red Herring editorial team and honor promising private technology ventures.

Gameloft teams with Red Bull — Gameloft has signed a deal with Red Bull that will see the energy drink maker’s branded cars coming to Gameloft’s racing game GT Racing: Motor Academy. The F1 RB8 (driven by F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel) and the Red Bull editions of the Camaro SS and Hyundai Genesis Coupe will all be available in the next update of the game.

GREE picks up Best Social Games Service Provider award — GREE has picked up a Mobile Entertainment award for Best Social Games Service Provider, beating out the likes of DeNA, PapayaMobile and PlayPhone for the honor. Based on London, the Mobile Entertainment Awards honor excellence in publishing, services and operations.

Blackboard Mobile Apps hit 4.5 million downloads — Blackboard Inc’s line of educational and campus life apps have been downloaded more than 4.5 million times on iOS and Android.

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