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  • Downloading your games? Get ready for extra fees

    Downloading your games? Get ready for extra fees

    By Michael Thompson | Published: December 30, 2008 - 09:54AM CT

    The business of selling games has rapidly changed over the past few years, mainly because online services have allowed developers to bypass the middleman that is retail stores. There are major advantages to purchasing a game via digital distribution: it's insanely more convenient than driving to a store, customers avoid pushy salespeople, the titles themselves are often cheaper than physical copies, and no one has to keep track of the game disc. As it turns out, though, that last aspect might not be entirely true, because one of the biggest digital distributors requires customers to buy the option to re-download programs for more than a limited amount of time.

    When Spore first came out, I was too preoccupied with other titles to pick it up, but I've found myself intrigued recently when I watched my brother play it over the holidays. Since I'm currently in Tahoe, where there isn't a video game shop or a Best Buy within a 45-minute drive, I checked out EA's online store; downloading the game for $40 sounded more appealing than driving to Reno and spending $50 for a physical copy.

    However, that option quickly became less appealing when I saw something extra sitting in my shopping cart: the "extended download service," which cost an extra $6.99, had automatically been added to my cart. Wondering what this was, I clicked on the helpfully-titled "what is this" link and received the following descriptor:

    My first reaction was to automatically assume that EA was just trying to milk a few extra dollars out of its audience, but it turns out that the publisher isn't to blame for this move; instead, it's the digital distributor, Digital River. As opposed to other download services, such as independently-created systems or major ones like Steam and Greenhouse, Digital River only lets a customer re-download purchased software for a certain amount of time before it's gone. Exactly how long time frame is seems to vary, but the longest free period appears to be six months. If we want to retain the option for two years (not even indefinitely), we have to pay an extra fee.

    This might not seem like a big deal until you realize that you might be getting a new computer sometime in the next two years and might want to install some of your favorite games on the new machine; alternately, the threat of a hard drive crash isn't terribly unlikely, either, and gamers could be up the proverbial creek if they lose their data and didn't pony up an extra seven bucks when they bought the game.

    Electronic Arts claims that, since the downloaded files can't be backed up to a CD or DVD, they can be repeatedly downloaded, which is true until the six-month marker has passed. In the case of EA, the Extended Download Service isn't even all that necessary, as the installer files are stored in the EA Download Manager's folder on users' PC hard drives. But Digital River also handles the downloads for a large number of fairly major clients, such as Capcom, Best Buy, and Microsoft, and recovering files from these companies might not be quite so easy.

    But why, exactly, would something like the Extended Download Service even be in existence? Keeping records of who buys what and when they bought it seems like standard business practice and would appear to be one major advantage to buying digitally. Allowing customers to access these records and re-download what they've already paid for seems like a no-brainer; charging people for that option just seems slimy. Unfortunately, phone calls to Digital River resulted in a thirty minute perma-hold when waiting to talk to customer service, and repeated disconnects when attempting to get in touch with someone in the PR department.

    So what are the options if gamers want to download EA's titles without having to deal with Digital River's distribution methods? Well, PC gamers can now use Steam and, as an added bonus, not deal with any third-party DRM. Mac users, unfortunately, are still stuck with dubious download services, though gamers can exercise a little patience and buy what we want from Amazon.

    In this brave new world, could it be that having to keep track of a physical game disc is actually a better long-term prospect than purchasing something from the cloud? via arstechnica

  • Digital Distribution Accounts for Just 6% of Game Sales – Magid

    Digital Distribution Accounts for Just 6% of Game Sales – Magid

    Our latest exclusive research from Frank N. Magid Associates finds that digital distribution has a long way to go. Retail reigns in the game industry for now.

    by Mike Vorhaus on Thursday, December 18, 2008

    Digital Distribution Accounts for Just 6% of Game Sales – Magid

    Even in these high-tech days of the 21st century, most games are still bought the old fashioned way – by driving (or biking) to the local retail store. Just about 60 percent (or just under two-thirds) of console gamers indicate they buy their games at retail stores. And the core gamer demo, males 12 to 34, are even more likely to buy games at retail locations.

    Over 20 percent of games are bought used [As also reported by Interpret – Ed.] and this behavior is particularly strong among the 12-24 year old male gamers, who are, understandably quite sensitive to cost (or their parents are cost sensitive!).

    Less than 10 percent of games are bought online at a store where the disk is then sent to the consumer offline.

    And only six percent have bought a console game online and downloaded it online. This is even more true for the high-tech, early adopter demographic of males 18 – 24. Though one would expect this to grow over time, right now just more than five percent of games are bought online and downloaded online.

    It may well be that some consumers are even confused with PC and casual game downloads and this number is lower. But it's safe to assume that this will grow as the ultra-high-tech gaming consumer, who is quite young, moves toward this new distribution model. But for now retail reigns!

    — —

    Mike Vorhaus is the President of Magid Advisors, a part of Frank N. Magid Associates, a world leader in research-based consultation that has provided strategic insight and direction for clients in 37 countries around the world.

    via gamedaily

  • Release of E-Commerce-Powered Zip Technology Built On Amazon Web Services Cloud Infrastructure

    Release of E-Commerce-Powered Zip Technology Built On Amazon Web Services Cloud Infrastructure

    (1888PressRelease) December 18, 2008 - Kordor Electronics, a privately owned New York company is giving the popular zip format a Web 3.0 makeover. The company today announced the release of the Retail Zip® Format-as-a-Service (FaaS)™ for Windows and Mac OS X computer systems.

    Retail Zip is a patented container file format that combines the familiar user interface of a zip program with the online power of cloud computing and e-commerce. Unlike other zip formats that archive data on a hard drive inside a compressed container, Retail Zip archives uncompressed data onto secure online servers located in USA or Europe, reducing the zip file size to less than 1 kilobyte per package.

    Until now, setting up a retail website designed to facilitate millions of downloads was an expensive and bandwidth-demanding task for webmasters. By integrating the cloud infrastructure of Amazon Web Services, Kordor has ensured that their e-commerce powered zip format can handle an unlimited amount of simultaneous users with automatic on-demand elastic computing power.

    E-Commerce is embedded for 18 currencies with PayPal, allowing sellers to charge buyers for the privilege to extract digital goods. Extending the power of the payment system is a patented enhancement that can divide the sum of a payment to multiple partners and affiliates at the point-of-sale of a transaction.

    The multi-payment integration of Retail Zip is represented by the trademarks “Split Payments” and “Viral Retail”. The Split Payments trademark is used to identify the overall process of real-time payment division, while Viral Retail represents the feature that can convert any buyer with a PayPal account into a reseller earning a bounty for units they sell. The company suggests that Viral Retail to the Web 3.0 social networks and blogosphere is what brick and mortar retail stores are to wholesalers. With the availability of Viral Retail, the company expects to convert many of today’s casual file traders into Retail Zip resellers.

    To create a bridge between online content delivery and physical retail, the format utilizes the KodeKey Password System. KodeKeys are unique pin codes that can be generated and assigned to Retail Zip packages for digital distribution with Variable Data Print (VDP) media, such as paper inserts, flyers, and plastic gift cards. For diverse business models, such as membership communities and on-going concert tours, similar lists of passwords can be imported and activated for multiple archives.

    Kordor has approved the use of KodeKeys with an advertisement-powered payment solution named Trialpay. Marketed as the alternative to online payment and shopping carts, Trialpay is an online payment option that lets shoppers purchase their product by completing one advertising offer from an accredited blue-chip company. This method of distributing digital products with Trialpay can be compared to advertisements contained in a free magazine or commercials displayed during a public television broadcast of a sporting event.

    As a music business initiative, Kordor is promoting the option for performing artists to distribute music as an accessory to a concert ticket or to establish KodeKey deals with major car dealers that will trade the latest music with potential buyers for a test drive.

    A secondary zip format, without e-commerce, is included for professionals that need to archive and share large amounts of data. While some browser-based services offer free file sharing, downloading files from landing pages can become an offensive experience due to unsolicited adult material used for monetization. By providing a desktop solution to manage data uploads and downloads, Retail Zip allows users to retain the privacy of a data transfer session, while removing the threat of broken downloads due to website failures.

    Optionally, the format can create super strong 1,344,000-bit password certificates called KKEYCERT to add additional access protection for content owners that need to share and sell private data. For users seeking forensic archiving, the format preserves all original date creation time-stamps, which is a feature targeted for the legal, government, and scientific data preservation industry.

    Competing directly with data facilitators WHAM!NET, Savvis, Akamai, and Mainstream Data, Kordor seek to establish a connection with publishers of DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital Cinema. Using the DDP, CMF, and MXF specifications, Retail Zip has been tested and approved for up to 1TB of single file archiving validated by rigorous 12-mode hash string calculation certification.

    “Retail Zip can convert any URL-compatible internet location into a content distribution store”, says inventor and Chairman William G. Blanchard.

    More information about the Retail Zip format can be found at www.retailzip.com
  • Microsoft to digitally distribute PC game titles

    Microsoft to digitally distribute PC game titles

    In addition to new Windows Live social-networking features, Microsoft will soon be offering digital distribution of PC game titles.

    Chris Early, general manager of games for Windows Live, confirmed in an interview with Shacknews that Microsoft has definite plans to distribute full PC titles through its Marketplace application, taking on market leader Steam.

    This is a very smart move by Microsoft, though I would have expected the company to have either bought its way into the market or to have made PC game distribution a bigger part of its online footprint already.

    If you consider the vast number of PCs that run Windows and then look at the number of PC games sold every year, Microsoft already has the dominant platform. This approach will further cement games into the Windows user base.

    Steam and Valve have done a fantastic job at defining the way these distribution services work as well as innovating new ways to store user settings and data in the cloud. These advanced features will be difficult for Microsoft to catch-up to. But considering they own the underlying operating system, they should be able to do so.

    Of course, Microsoft should also be able to fix bugs in less than seven years.

    CrunchGear, however, is underwhelmed:

    It'll be hard for Microsoft: Steam is a much stronger brand than Games for Windows Live, a faceless concept that evokes imperialist Microsoft tendencies and the vast, flaccid tentacles of their Live services. The only way they can make this little adventure work is by shoehorning themselves in, as they have suggested they will do with Fallout 3 DLC, and forcing a market presence. It's a certainty that they can't beat Valve, but with the amount of clout they've got, they're guaranteed at least a spot in the lineup.

    Windows Live remains a bit "spray and pray" as Microsoft tries to make the services relevant and consistent. Gaming is something that Microsoft has gotten good at and the locked-in user base should be an easy target.

    via CNET

  • Joost Grows Indie Music Catalog

    Joost Grows Indie Music Catalog

    Artists From Leading Independent Labels and Aggregators Now Playing on Joost
    Last update: 12:01 p.m. EST Dec. 16, 2008
    NEW YORK, NY and LONDON, Dec 16, 2008 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX) -- Joost today announced it has added nine independent music labels and aggregators to its ever increasing content library. There are now more than 18,000 music assets -- including music videos, interviews and live performances -- available in the Music section of Joost.com.
    "The internet has redefined music and made it possible for a more diverse range of artists -- discovered and fostered by independent labels -- to find commercial success and make it big," said Danny Passman, global head of programming, Joost. "Our goal is to reflect this new musical landscape by bringing the best independent music out there today to our great music offering on Joost."
    Aggregators that have joined Joost include:
    KOCH Entertainment Distribution: Koch Entertainment Distribution is a leading independent aggregator of digital audio and video content. The company operates its own labels and hosts the largest distribution roster of any independent, which includes Koch Records, Suburban Noize, Fat Beats Records, Taang!, Fat Boy Records, and many more.
    [PIAS] DIGITAL: Established in January 2004, [PIAS] Digital provides over 200 leading independent labels with a professionally managed route into the ever-growing number of opportunities for digital distribution. [PIAS] Digital specializes in the supply and sales of audio and audio-visual entertainment content across multiple global services with particular emphasis on Online and Mobile and in-home entertainment platforms. [PIAS] Digital distributed labels include Big Brother, Dirtee Stank, Fabric, Independiente, Ninja Tune, Southern Fried, Union Square and Wall of Sound; artists include Funeral For A Friend, Grace Jones, Mogwai, Neon Neon, Oasis, Soulwax and Travis.
    The new independent music labels that have joined Joost include:
    Defected: For the past 10 years, Defected has been leading the international dance music scene, attracting some of the greatest talents working in the industry, including Banda Sonorra , DJ Chus, Bob Sinclar, DJ Gregory, Junior Jack, Martin Solveig, Dubtribe Sound System and Sandy Rivera. Watch at http://www.joost.com/365lk0x/t/Defected-TV.
    Domino: Fifteen years since its inception, Domino Recording Company is now established as one of the UK's leading independents. Domino has long championed and nurtured the outsider whilst enjoying both critical and commercial success with artists such as Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, The Kills, The Last Shadow Puppets, Animal Collective, Lightspeed Champion, and The Count & Sinden. Watch at http://www.joost.com/35wa879/t/Video-Domino.
    Epitaph: Epitaph Records is one of the most respected independent labels of all time, featuring a diverse roster from punk to post-hardcore, powerpop to hip hop. Started by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz, the Epitaph Records Channel on Joost features music videos from Bad Religion, The Offspring, Story of the Year, Atmosphere and Sage Francis. Watch at http://www.joost.com/082jnao/t/Epitaph-Records-Channel.
    ESL Music: ESL Music is a record label founded by Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, the international DJ and Production duo Thievery Corporation. Originally established to deliver the sounds of Thievery Corporation to the world, ESL Music quickly expanded its artist roster to encompass the duo's globally oriented tastes, with artists such as Ursula 1000, Chris Joss, Thunderball, The Karminsky Experience, Blue States, Sofa Surfers, Federico Aubele, Joe Bataan and Ocote Soul Sounds. ESL Music comes to Joost through a partnership with INgrooves, and can be found at http://www.joost.com/373ehq0/t/ESL-Music.
    Fearless: Fearless Records is an alternative rock-oriented record label best known for their punk, punkpop, ska and post-hardcore acts, including Plain White Ts, The Maine, Funeral Party, Artist Vs. Poet, A Static Lullabuy and The Morning Light. Watch at http://www.joost.com/082l71v/t/Fearless-Records-Channel.
    Hopeless: Hopeless Records' punk rock label features pop punk, emo, alternative rock, and metal performers including All Time Low, There For Tomorrow, Anarbor, Avenged Sevenfold and The Human Abstract. Watch at http://www.joost.com/082kqib/t/Hopeless-&-Sub-City-Records-Channel.
    Sarathan Records: Sarathan is an eclectic label with a roster that demonstrates not only an emphasis on quality regardless of genre, but also a breadth of backgrounds ranging from music industry legends to budding DIY talent. The Sarathan Channel on Joost includes videos from GRAMMY(TM) nominee Abra Moore; the soon-to-explode LA post-punk doom-pop band War Tapes; and the Airpushers, a genre-bending project from GRAMMY-winning Printz Board and Tim Izo Orindgreff of the Black Eyed Peas band; and others! All can be viewed at http://www.joost.com/38ejcii/t/Sarathan-Records.
    Stones Throw: Stones Throw Records is an independent hip hop record label based in California. Stones Throw is home to Madlib and many of his projects: Madvillain, Jaylib, Yesterdays New Quintet, Quasimoto, Sound Directions and Lootpack. Other notable artists on the Stones Throw's past and present roster include James Pants, Gary Wilson, The Turntablist (aka DJ Babu), Rob Swift, Rasco, Breakestra, Oh No, Dudley Perkins, J Dilla (aka Jay Dee), and Koushik. Stones Throw comes to Joost through a partnership with INgrooves, and can be found at http://www.joost.com/373mcq2/t/Stones-Throw-Records.
    Victory Records: Victory Records focuses on the world of independent alternative, metal, hardcore, emo and punk music. The Victory Records channel on Joost features videos from the label's current and former artists, including Aiden, Taking Back Sunday, Hawthorne Heights, Silverstein and Thursday, and can be found at http://www.joost.com/08202ji/t/VictoryV-Channel.
    In addition, Joost features behind-the-scenes interviews, insider access and live concert footage of indie artists courtesy of partnerships with Last.fm ( http://www.joost.com/34w8r6d/t/Last-fm-Presents), 88HIPHOP ( http://www.joost.com/1020001/t/88HIPHOP) and Uncensored Interview ( http://www.joost.com/33571oo/t/Uncensored-Interview).
    Music entertainment from 88HIPHOP, Defected, Domino, ESL, Koch, [PIAS], Sarathan and Uncensored Interview will be available on Joost globally. Epitaph, Fearless, Hopeless, LAST.fm and Victory have music entertainment available on Joost in the U.S.
    Joost launched its Flash-based web video service in October and features a number of social tools that are designed to help people communicate with each other, to navigate through more than 57,000 video assets and to integrate user expression directly into the service. A Joost application is also available for the iPhone and iPod touch.
    About Joost
    Founded by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, Joost brings video and social interaction together online. All of the video on Joost is professionally produced and streams on-demand to people around the world for free in a high-quality format. Today, Joost has more than 57,000 program elements, including more than 400 television series and 1,200 movie and short film titles. For more information, visit www.joost.com.
    via MarketWatch
  • Social networks change the online retail game

    Social networks change the online retail game

    December 16, 2008, 02:44 PM — Volusion

    The rapid growth of online shopping has drawn many small businesses to create an online platform in the past few years. The amount of revenue for online retail continues to grow, and social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook continue to gain popularity and diversity in their use. Social networks have become more than just social with an increasing amount of revenue potential.

    When shopping online, consumers want products from retail sites they can trust. Social networks bring new elements into the online shopping experience and are potential springboards for lead generation and added revenue, allowing businesses the ability to place products in front of thousands of potential customers in a familiar and easily accessible environment. Social networks have the ability to reach large and targeted audiences, the customizable and user-friendly interface of the social networking platform introduces them as an ideal platform to reach a large audience and expand your business presence in an interactive environment.

    There are several resources that are available for a retail site to create and design its MySpace or Facebook business profile. The page should have a regular flow of current and useful information, with personality that matches the business and its consumers. Posting MySpace bulletins and Facebook notes is an ideal way to spread the message about new product offerings and special deals.

    Music bands have offered up an interesting case study for the opportunities within social networks, marketing their music online and creating groups of interest. It is estimated that more than five million bands are now using Myspace as a tool for exposure. If these bands decide to take the next step to use social networks as a retail platform for their fan base, they can realize significant gains. Fashion sites (like Ed Hardy) are copying this model and beginning to utilize MySpace as a means to market to their target audiences.

    Social platform tools are now available, allowing retail sites to easily add products from their online stores directly onto their social profiles, giving their customers the ability to check out securely from that merchant's online storefront.

    Keep in mind the following items to get your social store going:

    Website design. Site usability and quality of the customer's overall experience are key factors in gaining customer loyalty when online shopping.

    Become active in the space most fitting for your target audience. There are a lot of social networking sites out there, but there is no need to dilute your efforts by attempting to use every single one. Instead, research the user volume and demographics for different social networking sites, and seek out niche sites that appeal to your target audience. Concentrating on the most relevant platforms will enable you to engage with the most targeted group of consumers.

    Utilize the unique features of social networks. 'Email a friend', wish list, comments/customer reviews and affiliate marketing tools can help to socially spread the word about a store's products and services. These features prompt conversations about your business, get the word out about your products and add touchpoints, all of which can help strengthen your brand and enhance loyalty.

    Network on a personal level. Part of the appeal of social networking is that it significantly decreases the disconnect that historically existed between online businesses and online consumers. Whereas consumers used to deal with passive websites when making online purchases, today they can interact with real company representatives, form relationships and, afterward, talk about the business with peers online. The possibility of human interaction makes online shopping attractive to a wider audience than ever. Harness the potential of social networking by revealing the personality behind your company, and consumers will be more at ease with you, your messages and your business.

    Contribute more to the community than product pitches. Focusing too heavily on self-promotion is one way businesses limit the potential of social media involvement. Social networking websites are not intended to be free billboards for corporate advertisements, but rather a means to connect people who have something in common. While social media can certainly be a suitable platform to announce specials and news related to your business, constantly pitching your own products while providing no added value is one way to lose reader interest fast. We are all bombarded with advertising on a daily basis, and consequently many consumers (especially online) are resistant to pay attention to yet another unsolicited message. Instead, keep the members of your target market engaged by sharing resources they want, even if it is a relevant article, video or news piece that is not about your business! Providing resources that are truly valuable to members of your network will keep them coming back to check out your profile. Use this technique to effectively build interest in what you have to say, and your intermittent marketing messages will have a greater impact.

    Listen. All businesses want to get their messages out to consumers, but a one-way avenue of communication is not networking. Businesses which leverage social media to connect with consumers have much to gain from the opportunity to elicit feedback from the most vocal (and therefore influential) members of their target markets. By fostering genuine communication, you can gain valuable insight about what is working well for your business and uncover shortfalls that may be hindering it. Feedback from real customers is invaluable information that gives you the opportunity to continually improve, and that is one benefit of social media that can bring your business immeasurable long term success.

    It is important for merchants to be creative and open to new opportunities when introducing their products to customers. When entering the social networking world, a business is among thousands of potential leads all with the same vehicle for giving and acquiring information. Be honest, be personal, be a friend and in return, your new friends may become your lifelong customers.

    » posted by Volusion via IT World

  • CompUSA integrates online and retail shopping experience

    CompUSA integrates online and retail shopping experience

    CompUSA is making digital data available at the product level in its retail stores to bring more detailed information via CompUSA.com directly to shoppers. Dubbed “Retail 2.0,” the strategy makes more product data accessible, and faster than store sales staff can provide it, Gilbert Fiorentino, chief executive of CompUSA parent Systemax Inc.’s technology products segment, told analysts in a recent earnings call.

    Retail 2.0 has been implemented in the CompUSA Dadeland store in Florida and is slated for the rest of the company’s stores over the next eight to 12 months, Fiorentino says. “Retail 2.0 enhances the customer experience by marrying what they love best about researching our products online with the opportunity to see our products and talk to knowledgeable staff in the store environment,” he says. “While we cannot predict what will happen to consumer and information technology spending in the coming months, we are optimistic about our market position and the opportunities we have created for long-term growth.”

    The new system mean shoppers can use computer kiosks placed at the end of every store aisle to immediately access detailed information on a particular product and its operations, capabilities, specifications, brand value and customer reviews. All products are listed online, so shoppers can tap into details about the products they are physically touching in the store, Fiorentino told analysts.

    Benefits expected from the Retail 2.0 initiative include some cost savings from time saved on in-store product education, but also in improving shoppers’ buying experience and satisfaction, Fiorentino said. That in turn is expected to generate increased loyalty and lower product returns. The new store/online layout offers the potential for other revenue generating opportunities including advertising and cross-selling of complementary products, he says.

    Fiorentino also noted that traffic on the Systemax e-commerce businesses—CompUSA.com and TigerDirect.com—grew in the third quarter by 9% vs. the third quarter of 2007. CompUSA.com has been upgraded with improved content and a more attractive layout, he said. Visits per week in Q3 topped 926,000, a 17% increase from the second quarter of 2008.

    Systemax purchased CompUSA’s assets in January for a total of $30.6 million. The breakdown was $18.9 million for the e-commerce business and $11.7 million for 16 stores. Systemax operates 29 CompUSA and Tiger Direct stores.

    CompUSA recorded combined web and retail sales of $63 million for the third quarter of 2008, up by 7.7%, or $4.9 million from $58.1 million in the previous quarter. Combined web and retail sales were $139.4 million for the first nine months of 2008.

    Systemax, No. 22 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, reported net sales for the third quarter increased by 7.6%, or $52.2 million, to $739.5 million, compared with $687.3 million in the Q3 of 2007. Third quarter 2008 net income declined 36.1% to $11.3 million, compared with $17.6 million in the same period last year.

    Net sales for the first nine months of 2008 increased 10.4% to $2.2 billion, compared with $2 billion in the same period of 2007. Net income decreased to $42.9 million, compared with $45.3 million in the prior year period.

    Systemax sells personal computers, computer supplies and accessories, consumer electronics and industrial products through branded e-commerce sites, direct mail catalogs, relationship marketers and retail stores in North America and Europe. Other brands include Misco and Global Industrial. It also manufactures and sells PCs under the Systemax and Ultra brands and develops and markets ProfitCenter Software, a web-based, on-demand application for multi-channel direct marketing companies.

    via InternetRetailer

  • EMA Unveils GameSupply Conference

    EMA Unveils GameSupply Conference

    With the video game industry growing by leaps and bounds, it's about time that it get its own supply chain conference. Leading publishers, retailers and distributors will be in attendance.

    by James Brightman on Monday, December 15, 2008

    EMA Unveils GameSupply Conference

    The Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) has revealed exclusively to GameDaily BIZ that it's planning on launching the first ever supply chain conference for the video game industry. The event is appropriately called "GameSupply, the Supply Chain Academy for Interactive Entertainment," and will be held February 11, 2009 at the Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel & Convention Center in Burbank, CA.

    The goal is to bring together video game retailers, distributors, publishers, and their service providers in one spot in order to discuss new developments and technologies in the supply chain. Speakers from major game publishers, retailers and industry consultants will be on-hand; a preliminary list includes senior executives from Activision Blizzard, Best Buy, Hastings Entertainment, Hollywood Video/Game Crazy, Ingram Entertainment, Microsoft, Play N Trade, THQ, and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.

    In collaboration with the EMA, GameSupply is is being produced by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA), which will formally launch in January to focus on "industry-wide issues affecting the production and distribution of both digital and physical media and entertainment in today's changing business and technology climate."

    "The interactive entertainment market has its unique supply chain challenges of integrating the manufacture and distribution of both hardware and software, controlling game development and inventory costs, and the realities of an extremely short product lifecycle," said MESA Chief Strategist and GameSupply Conference Chairman Devendra Mishra. "The purveyors of the newest form of mass-market physical and digital media entertainment are increasingly looking to collaborate with the various stakeholders in the areas of best practices, sales and operations planning, production, sales and marketing, retail execution and loss prevention, B2B connectivity between trading partners, and sustainability of the environment."

    "Supply chain efficiency is vital to maintaining healthy video game sales," added Bo Andersen, President and CEO of EMA. "We anticipate that this conference will stimulate meaningful discussions that will enhance the entire interactive entertainment supply chain and thus improve publishers' and retailers' profitability and their abilities to satisfy growing consumer demand fully."

    EMA also said that its member retailers and distributors will present their choices for the top video games of 2008 at a reception immediately following the conclusion of the GameSupply Academy.

  • Phantom launches as digital distribution

    Phantom launches as digital distribution

    Phantom Entertainment, in partnership with GameStreamer, has launched its online game store, featuring a catalogue of over 2,600 PC titles.

    The store allows for the outright purchasing of games, such as FarCry 2 or Fallout 3, or try before you buy, and uses a content licensing management system to track all games purchased, so the user owns the license forever and can freely return to re-download the game.

    The Phantom was originally announced in 2003 as a disc-less PC to operate as a console by relying entirely on a broadband connection to download and play games, however, years later the PC-console failed to materialise.

    The company has also announced the impending launch of its Phantom Lapboard, a keyboard and mouse peripheral designed to facilitate PC gaming while sitting on a couch, saying that the company now has a contact to mass manufacture the product.via gameindustry.biz

  • Apple's 99-Cent Problem, but a Bi#%@h ain't one

    Apple's 99-Cent Problem, but a Bi#%@h ain't one

    Seems that App Store consumers are somewhat price resistant to anything over $0.99. Developers are flooding the store with 99-cent and free applications, crowding out pricier offerings like games.

    by James Brightman on Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Apple's 99-Cent Problem

    There's no denying that Apple's iPhone and the corresponding App Store have been hugely successful. With more than 10,000 applications (2,000 or more of which are games) and over 300 million downloads so far, the App Store seems like a beast. In fact, Steve Jobs recently boasted that the store was generating a million dollars a day.

    Upon closer inspection, however, it's clear that the App Store is nowhere close to reaching its potential. Why? The data (as cited by Fortune recently) shows that there's an absolute flood of applications over $0.99. The $0.99 category is actually the most popular (with over 3,000 applications) followed by free applications (over 2,000). These two combined are hogging the spotlight on the App Store, making it harder for more expensive applications to get noticed, and thus purchased. Games are typically priced $9.99 on the App Store, and this category has just 300 to 400 applications [Note that the data was compiled just prior to Apple hitting the 10,000 apps mark].

    Pricing may be something that developers have to come to grips with if they want to be successful on the App Store. Veteran programmer Craig Hockenberry wrote a "Dear Steve" letter to Apple's CEO, pointing out, "We have a lot of great ideas for iPhone applications. Unfortunately, we're not working on the cooler (and more complex) ideas. Instead, we're working on 99-cent titles that have a limited lifespan and broad appeal. Market conditions make ringtone apps most appealing."

    More complex applications, like games, need to be priced higher but that also means they're less likely to be seen, so it's a tough spot for developers to be in. "...what happens when we start talking about bigger projects: something that takes 6 or even 9 man months? That's either $150K or $225K in development costs with a break even at 215K or 322K units. Unless you have a white hot title, selling 10-15K units a day for a few weeks isn't going to happen. There's too much risk," Hockenberry explained.

    He continued, "Raising your price to help cover these costs makes it hard to get to the top of the charts. (You're competing against a lot of other titles in the lower price tier.) You also have to come to terms with the fact that you're only going to be featured for a short time, so you have to make the bulk of your revenue during this period. This is why we're going for simple and cheap instead of complex and expensive. Not our preferred choice, but the one that's fiscally responsible."

    via GameDaily

  • CBS Cutting Back at CNET, Including GameSpot

    CBS Cutting Back at CNET, Including GameSpot

    After the $1.8 billion purchase of CNET earlier this year, they're now looking to centralize their operations.

    by David Radd on Thursday, December 11, 2008

    CBS Cutting Back at CNET, Including GameSpot

    All Things Digital is reporting that CBS is looking to make cutbacks at CNET. Part of this will come from a merger of CBSnews.com and CNET's News.com. Additionally, layoffs are likely at sites like TV.com, MP3.com and GameSpot.

    "CBS Interactive continues its integration process, which now calls for the further combination of several portions of the division into unified groups oriented around similar content," reads a statement to All Things Digital. "This important move allows us to better align our premium content for our audiences and our advertisers, and also results in reduction in certain areas that are now duplicated in the new organization structure. We believe these moves are necessary to continue building CBS Interactive into the most creative, most efficient, most profitable and fastest growing Internet company in the media business."

    It is unclear how these cutbacks will affect GameSpot specifically. Editorially, the game site suffered mightily in the wake of "Gerstmann-gate", with Frank Provo, Alex Navarro and Ryan Davis, Brad Shoemaker and Jason Ocampo all departing.

    via GameDaily

  • Gamasutra Takes a Close Look at Software Piracy

    Gamasutra Takes a Close Look at Software Piracy

    Piracy continues to be one of the top concerns in the PC gaming industry, but steps to address the issue are being taken by a number of leaders within the gaming space. Leigh Alexander, in a two-part feature for Gamasutra, picked the brains of both the PC Gaming Alliance (PCGA) and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) for insight into the way software piracy has affected and will continue to affect PC gaming.

    The first half of the piece, found here, focuses primarily on the current piracy landscape, from online IP protection to anti-plagiarism education. The second half is chiefly concerned with countermeasures like DRM, about which Christian Svensson, PCGA member and senior director of strategic planning and research at Capcom, had this to say:

    We don’t make money by making your lives difficult. If we didn’t feel it was absolutely, positively imperative that we have this for our business, we wouldn’t do it.

    While the PCGA, ESA and many others are working towards finding an ideal solution, everyone wholeheartedly agrees on the challenges of the current situation. Maggie Greene of Kotaku sums it up quite nicely: “[PC gaming companies] don’t like DRM any more than you do.”

    Of course, these companies and organizations won’t make much progress without the support of gamers. Articles like these help to impress upon consumers everywhere the negative impact they could potentially have on developers and publishers each time they’re tempted to find a torrent instead of buying a legitimate copy. Dedicated developers like 2DBoy deserve better than a 90% piracy rate in return for their years of hard work, else labors of love like World of Goo may become a thing of the past.

    via triplepoint

  • GamersGate launches new micro-transaction platform

    GamersGate launches new micro-transaction platform

    There’s a stampede to enable micro-transactions in video games. The latest entrant is GamersGate, which is releasing its GamersGate Microsuite platform today to enable transactions in video games.

    The Microsuite platform will let game companies insert transactions into the lobby of a game as well as in the middle of the action in a game.

    Theodore Bergquist, chief executive of the Stockholm, Sweden-based company, says that if you need a better sword in a game to go up against a monster, you can buy that sword as needed without exiting the world of the game. That’s more useful to the gamer and makes it more likely that the gamer will buy more stuff.

    But it isn’t a unique idea. Rivals such as PlaySpan, which just raised $16.8 million in funding and launched a big site for virtual goods transactions, can also do this. Other competitors in this general arena include Twofish, Live Gamer, Fatfoogoo, Offerpal and Player Auctions.

    Bergquist said the company has invested heavily in its tools for publishers so that they can sell virtual goods, enhancements, add-ons, and other digital content in the lobby of a game where gamers chat as well as inside the game where they play.

    GamersGate is letting the publishers own the transactional elements and relationships with their customers. Other rivals take a slice of each transaction. So does GamersGate, which gives away its software tools for free. Gamers can use a variety of payment systems, including PayPal, to pay for their goods. But GamersGate says it won’t have huge fees, even on the bigger transactions. Moreover, GamersGate plans on allowing gamers to use their virtual currency on any of the games that they support, rather than just one title or the titles owned by one publisher.

    Bergquist said his company is talking to a number of game publishers about the tools, and titles using the system are expected to roll out late in the first quarter of 2009. GamersGate was founded in 2004 as a digital game distribution service. It is part of Paradox Interactive, a game publisher based in Stockholm and spun out of Paradox in 2006 as a separate company with a focus on digital distribution of hardcore PC games.

    To date, it has more than 800 games available for digital distribution. Revenues have been doubling each year for GamersGate’s digital distribution business, which competes with Direct to Drive and Valve’s Steam digital downloading service. So far, the company is self-funded. It has 10 employees, is profitable, and at the moment is not raising a new round of funding. At some point in the future, the company might seek outside funding. via venturebeat

  • A brief tour of the software pirate underground scene

    A brief tour of the software pirate underground scene

    When people think of software pirates, they usually envision college kids downloading games off BitTorrent, or adults getting too-good-to-be-true bargains on eBay, or street stalls lined with DVDs in Third World cities

    The real pirate scene, however, is much larger and hidden, and yet in plain sight, say experts.

    And despite the best efforts of Microsoft Corp. and antipiracy vendors, no one has developed a 100% invulnerable copy-protection scheme.

    "There is always a way to crack something. Mechanisms can always be defeated," said John Frame, senior director of product management for Acresso Software Inc., the longtime antipiracy vendor formerly known as Macrovision.

    The economic downturn could presage an upswing in piracy next year, despite ongoing legal campaigns by the Business Software Alliance, Microsoft and others.

    "We've seen an increase in piracy during past recessions," said Victor DeMarines, vice president at antipiracy software vendor V.i. Laboratories Inc. "It's very cyclical."

    DeMarines recently gave this reporter a brief tour of parts of the software piracy scene that most Internet users don't get to see.

    When piracy first started in America a quarter-century ago, it was mostly teenagers on their Apple II+ machines cracking and trading warez via dial-up bulletin board systems for thrills and bragging rights.

    According to DeMarines, the culture of piracy hasn't changed much over the past 25 years, even if the technology is different.

    Pirates "still want to be the first to get their software released and pushed into the top sites," he said. Pirates will host the cracked software themselves or sell it to someone else. The software then gets cataloged by a warez site such as 0DayKingz. Pronounced "zero-day kings," the name refers to software that is cracked, and the exploit made available, on the day it is released.

    0DayKingz doesn't host any of the software, just the links to them. "All releases are listed here for informative purposes," its FAQ states.

    "Warez sites" can be Googled, and sites such as 0DayKingz will be turn up, though DeMarines warned that some are fakes that will spread spyware or malware to unsuspecting visitors. Software vendors can get a free analysis of where and how their products are pirated at V.i. Labs' Web site.

    Pirates hate spammers and malware distributors, DeMarines said. For one, they are bad for business. The download sites operated by pirates or their cohorts charge subscriptions or charge $50 or $100 for single downloads of high-end applications, such as engineering or CAD software. That's still a bargain compared with the several thousand dollars charged for such software at retail.

    Mainly, pirates, then and now, are in it for the glory. They agonize over making sure that the warez runs smoothly with few problems for users and with all of the promised features. They still create elaborate pages, now .NFO files, out of text or low-resolution graphics.

    A pirated software page
    Software pirates like to make elaborate Web pages with low-resolution graphics such as this one from The Bitter End. (Image courtesy of V.i. Laboratories)

    Pirates "are proud of what comes out of their shop," DeMarines said. "They have a sense of honor."

    Pirate groups, which sport names such as The Bitter End, DarkL0rd and AGAiN, also compete on volume. The Bitter End, according to DeMarines, has released 2,000 cracked warez in the past three years.

    The warez that show up on these subscription-only sites eventually makes its way to free file-sharing networks such as BitTorrent or LimeWire -- sooner in the case of hot games, later in the case of esoteric apps.

    Surprisingly, today as in years past, pirates still work in the same primitive assembly language or machine code to crack software, DeMarines said. That's despite the proliferation of higher-level languages with natural-language syntaxes that, in comparison, make programming today more like writing an essay.

    Not as surprising is the fact that many vendors aren't interested in making their products completely pirate-proof. For one, implementing tough antipiracy technology can have the side effect of interfering with patch and update installation, leading to more technical support calls from legitimate, paying users, according to Acresso's Frame.

    Also, as even Bill Gates openly admits, piracy can help your product in the long run.

    "You have to ask yourself: If some user in a BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India or China] nation is pirating my $50,000 piece of software, would they actually buy it if they couldn't copy it?" Frame said. "Or would they have just gone to a cheaper or open-source product?" via ComputerWorld

  • Atari: Next gen will eschew physical media

    Atari: Next gen will eschew physical media

    Atari's Phil Harrison is a man with his finger on the pulse and, although his former employer Sony is still pushing Blu-Ray heavily, Harrison thinks that the next generation of consumers will abandon physical media entirely.

    Speaking to Edge Online, Harrison claimed that the future of the industry would lie in digital distribution almost solely.

    "There’s a generation of kids being born today and probably already alive who I’m pretty confident will never buy a physical media product,
  • App Store hits 10,000 apps

    App Store hits 10,000 apps

    Apple's iPhone App Store has broken all expectations, with the news last week that over 10,000 iPhone and iPod Touch applications have been added since its inception.

    Highlighted by fan site 148Apps – so named for the number of applications available on the store when the site was founded – Apple has managed to convince third-party developers to contribute to the store in staggering quantities, with an average of seventy new applications being added per day since the store launched 142 days ago.

    To commemorate the achievement, the site has created a page filled with teeny-tiny icons – each one of which represents a single program available from the App Store. Clicking on an icon will take you directly to the Store, where the software can be purchased and downloaded. It isn't until you actually see what 10,000 applications looks like that you realise just how many developers must be out there looking to capitalise on what is still a niche market compared to existing mobile platforms such as Windows Mobile and Symbian.

    Needless to say, there's a lot of poor quality software taking up a not inconsiderable percentage of the App Store's growth – although some of the more egregious examples are being pruned by Apple's quality control, including the infamous I Am Rich application. That said, the fact that the platform was able to generate this level of interest in such a short time is a testament to Apple's strategy of making the tools required to program for the iPhone easily available – at least, so long as you've got a Mac.

    With many developers looking to make a quick buck on iPhone applications, and the barrier to entry fairly low, I think it's not unreasonable to expect the store to break 20,000 apps within the next hundred days – which will make Apple particularly happy.

    Have you found any must-have packages on the App Store, or is everything you need already available on Cydia? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
    via software news, comments & analysis
  • Valve reports 32.8 million total units sold since Half-Life

    Valve reports 32.8 million total units sold since Half-Life

    For ten years, Valve has produced some of gaming's best titles. Now the independent developer has disclosed the retail sales figures for its biggest games, putting the total number of units sold at 32.8 million.

    The figures, published in a Gamasutra report based on a Game Informer magazine profile, do not include sales from Valve's digital distribution service Steam. When Half-Life 2 was simultaneously released at retail and on Steam in 2004, analysts estimated digital sales to be 25 percent of retail. Valve founder Gabe Newell said he projects digital sales of his company's games will surpass retail sales this year.

    Half-Life - 9.3 million

    Half-Life: Opposing Force - 1.1 million

    Half-Life: Blue Shift - 800,000

    Counter-Strike (PC) - 4.2 million

    Counter-Strike: Condition Zero - 2.9 million

    Counter-Strike: Source - 2.1 million

    Counter-Strike (Xbox) - 1.5 million

    Half-Life 2 - 6.5 million

    Half-Life 2: Episode One - 1.4 million

    The Orange Box (PC and consoles) - 3 million

    Left 4 Dead (PC and consoles) - projected 3.6 to 3.9 million (not included in total figure)

    According to statistics on Wikipedia, Half-Life's sales numbers rank it as the sixth highest-selling PC game of all time, behind StarCraft's 9.5 million units. Half-Life 2 ranks seventh, just above Myst's 6 million units. At number one, The Sims has sold 16 million units.

    Half-Life would rank around number 22 in a list of highest-selling games from all consoles.

    via snackbar-games

  • EA: Account Overdrawn on Development?

    EA: Account Overdrawn on Development?

    According to financial analyst Colin Sebastian of Lazard Capital Markets, Electronic Arts could cut jobs and axe certain franchises in the coming quarter. Slow sales for Mirror’s Edge, Rock Band 2 and Need for Speed: Undercover have also contributed to the cut-back.

    “While the videogame industry continues to show some resilience in the face of a very challenging consumer environment, strength does not appear to be across the board, and we believe that several EA titles are under-performing expectations at retail.

    “Specifically, our checks indicate that sell-through trends of key holiday releases Need for Speed: Undercover, Rock Band 2, and Mirror’s Edge remain mixed, which may reflect some fatigue overall in the music and racing genres.”

    Lazard Capital Markets is a spin-off of global investment bank Lazard, founded in 1848, with 2400 employees across 24 countries. Its revised EA 3rd quarter estimates are $2.07 billion and $1.23 per share, down from $2.14 billion and $1.30 per share. “We believe further cost and franchise reductions are likely,” stated Sebastian.

  • The Most Pirated Games in 2008

    The Most Pirated Games in 2008

    EA’s Spore has been illegally downloaded more times in 2008 than Crysis and Fallout 3 combined, according to estimates provided by TorrentFreak.

    By sourcing download data via the popular peer-to-peer file sharing protocol, BitTorrent, the site has compiled a top-ten list of the most-pirated PC games of 2008. Will Wright’s ambitious evolve ‘em up rests at the summit of that list, having been illegally downloaded over 1,700,000 times.

    By comparison, the most recently published calculation of legitimate Spore sales (made in late October during EA’s second-quarter financial posting) shows the game had sold around 2 million copies. Worse still for Spore developer Maxis is that the studio’s other distinguished piece, The Sims 2, comes second in the list with 1,150,000 copies downloaded.

    Adding salt into EA’s manifestly spacious wound, the editors at TorentFreak claim that the vast number of illegit Spore downloads were “inflated due to the DRM that was put into the game.”

    Meanwhile, following the announcement from Crytek president Cevat Yerli that the studio will no longer make PC-exclusive games due to “huge” levels of piracy, it comes as no surprise that the company’s flagship FPS Crysis makes it fourth onto the list, having been subjected to 940,000 illegal downloads.

    Though perhaps more telling about such a list is what continues to be absent from it. Blizzard’s recent announcement that WoW had hit over 11 million subscribers, along with much theory that the MMO’s latest expansion Wrath of the Lich King will draw in another one million users, may just be enough evidence that a secure future for PC gaming will be an Orwellian one, with consistently-monitored online worlds and ongoing security verification.

    Full list of estimates follow:

    Spore (1,700,000)
    The Sims 2 (1,150,000)
    Assassins Creed (1,070,000)
    Crysis (940,000)
    Command & Conquer 3 (860,000)
    Call of Duty 4 (830,000)
    GTA San Andreas (740,000)
    Fallout 3 (645,000)
    Far Cry 2 (585,000)
    Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 (470,000)

    via EDGE

  • Atari's Harrison: New Generation Will Never Buy Physical Media

    Atari's Harrison: New Generation Will Never Buy Physical Media

    Phil Harrison is convinced that the game industry’s future audience will not be reliant on physical forms of media.

    Speaking to Edge, the Atari company president said that “there’s a generation of kids being born today and probably already alive who I’m pretty confident will never buy a physical media product. They will never buy a DVD, they will never buy a CD, and they will never buy a game in a box.”

    Harrison and Atari CEO David Gardner are already gearing the company towards this perceived trend. Back in September Gardner explained that the future of Atari lies in online play and distribution, with the former EA executive declaring that “within five years 90 per cent of our products will be online.”

    via edge

  • Video Games to Remain Mostly Packaged Goods Until 'At Least' 2015, says EMA

    Video Games to Remain Mostly Packaged Goods Until 'At Least' 2015, says EMA

    Just when exactly will the games industry rely more on digital downloads than retail? According to EMA boss Bo Anderson, it won't happen for at least 6-7 years.

    by James Brightman on Wednesday, December 03, 2008

    Video Games to Remain Mostly Packaged Goods Until 'At Least' 2015, says EMA

    There's no denying that digital distribution has made great strides in the last couple years. With Valve's Steam, Microsoft's Xbox Live, Sony's PlayStation Network and other services grabbing mindshare (and dollars), digital downloads have become a greater part of the game business. That said, the vast majority of video game sales today are still at retail.

    Bo Andersen, President and CEO of the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), doesn't expect that to change anytime soon. "Digital distribution certainly will be a significant part of the entertainment industry in the future, but our predictions are that packaged media will continue to dominate the home video sector until 2015 at least," he said as the EMA was welcome by the Content Delivery and Storage Association (CDSA) and MEDIA-TECH Association (MTA) as a co-producer on "The Future of Packaged Media '09," which will be presented February 3-4, 2009 at the Hilton Los Angeles in Universal City, CA.

    "We are pleased that, as the trade association for the retailing of DVDs and video games, we can help bring the perspectives of the retail sector to this important conversation on how to maximize the sales and profitability of packaged entertainment over the next decade," Anderson added.

    Earlier this fall, GameStop CEO Dan DeMatteo told GameDaily BIZ in an exclusive interview that he doesn't think digital distribution will become a major factor for the next dozen years or more. "...the bandwidth, etc., our studies have concluded that the network won't be in place to do digital distribution of full games until 2020 to 2025. And that's using today's size, but as consoles get more powerful, games get bigger. Right now, a 30GB game with your best T1 line is about 72 hours to do it," he stated.

    via GameDaily

  • New digital product from Marvel

    New digital product from Marvel

    Marvel Universe

    Marvel’s got a new slate of online-first digital comic books being launched on December 17. The second wave of these books, it’s Marvel’s effort to get out ahead of the curve for digital distribution of mainstream comics product. Their Digital Comics Unlimited program, with all its limitations, is really the only game in town as far as most mainstream fans are concerned since neither DC nor Image has anything like it. The thing that’s most interesting to me is that the books themselves still seem to be more “novelties” than anything else, and their connection to current events and continuity are a bit tenuous. Probably a good idea, in the sense that readers who buy only onilne won’t have to wait six months for the new material to hit the Web in order for the books to make sense—but it also means that you’re unlikely to drag any of the paper-and-staples crowd kicking and screaming into the new digital frontier using these books as bait.

    The Wolverine/Punisher story is the only book that could happen easily and fit seamlessly into any of the current monthlies—the Iron Man 2020 story, the Holiday Special and of course Mojoworld are fantasy/what-if/next-generation/bizarre stories that are really only appealing because the creative teams are good, and the Wolverine: Agent of Atlas freebie is a little iffy since the whole Wolverine: Origins thing has gotten a bit tired for me. But take a look for yourselves, ladies and germs, and know that I’m not usually in the business of printing big chunks of solicitations but I really think Marvel’s online-first stuff is a revolutionary piece of comics standard-setting that deserves more attention than it’s getting.

    click here for details on titles to be released

  • Black Friday Traffic to Online-Shopping Sites Up 10%

    Black Friday Traffic to Online-Shopping Sites Up 10%

    Web traffic from home and work to the Nielsen Online Holiday eShopping Index increased 10% year over year on Black Friday, growing from 28.8 million unique visitors in 2007 to 31.7 million unique visitors in 2008, Nielsen Online reported (pdf). The index tracks more than 120 representative online retailers.

    Below, additional findings released by Nielsen Online.

    Category Growth

    Consumer Electronics was the fastest-growing product category on Friday, increasing 219% from the previous Friday, November 21. Shopping Comparison/Portals and Toys/Videogames took the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, with 83% and 73% Web traffic growth, respectively.

    “Even with the weakening economy, an unstable stock market and a rising unemployment rate, Black Friday traffic to online retail sites grew at a double-digit rate this year,” said Ken Cassar, vice-president, industry insights, Nielsen Online.

    “The fact that the Shopping Comparison/Portals category was the second fastest-growing segment indicates that consumers continue to see the Web as the source for determining the best deals and prices of the season, which we expect to be top of mind for holiday shoppers this year.”

    Online Conversations, Consumer Perceptions

    To gauge consumer perceptions about Black Friday, Nielsen Online created a Brand Association Map (BAM), based on online discussions in blogs and online forums between October 1 and November 22, 2008 (click on graph image, above).

    With the keyword “Black Friday” at the center, the BAM reveals words and phrases most frequently used when consumers discussed Black Friday. The closer the words are to the center, the greater the association.

    Key findings:

    • Not surprisingly, shopping incentives were a key part of Black Friday discussions. The terms “deals,” “sales,” and “doorbusters,” referring to deep discounts intended to get shoppers in the door, were all closely associated with Black Friday.
    • Specific retailers were also mentioned in relation to Black Friday, including Sears, CVS, Wal-Mart, JCPenney, Staples, and Circuit City, among others.
    • Consumers discussed specific products and gift ideas, including high-definition televisions, video games, laptops and toys.

    Top 10 Online Retail Destinations

    eBay was the top online retail destination on Black Friday with 9.8 million unique visitors, while Amazon and Wal-Mart followed with 8.4 million and 6.0 million unique visitors, respectively.

    Among the top 10 online retail destinations, Circuit City was the fastest growing on Friday, increasing 352% over the previous Friday. Best Buy ranked No. 2 with a 196% increase in Web traffic, and Target rounded out the top three with a 136% week-over-week growth.

    About the data: The Nielsen Online Holiday eShopping Index comprises over 120 representative online retailers across 12 categories and acts as a barometer to gauge the level of activity at online shopping destinations during the holiday season. The Index illustrates increased shopping activity through category growth.

    via Retailer Daily

  • $534 Million in Black Friday E-Commerce Spending—Up 1%

    $534 Million in Black Friday E-Commerce Spending—Up 1%

    Shoppers spent $534 million online on Black Friday—that’s 1% more than Black Friday last year—according to comScore, which said $10.41 billion has been spent online for the holiday season to date (the first 28 days of the November-December season), or a 4% decline versus the corresponding days last year.

    For the combination of Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, online retail sales were up 2%...
    Continue Reading »

    via Retailer Daily

  • call to action: DRM snivelers unite, GTA IV PC Will Have SecuROM DRM

    call to action: DRM snivelers unite, GTA IV PC Will Have SecuROM DRM

    Some users consider installing a game with DRM like having their PC held hostage. "Changes to the game experience" are promised for pirates, however.

    by David Radd on Monday, December 01, 2008

    GTA IV PC Will Have SecuROM DRM

    Speaking to IGN, a Rockstar representative confirmed that Grand Theft Auto IV on PC will indeed ship with DRM. Specifically, the SecuROM copy protection will be used with the title, as it has with many other recent PC games.

    "Creating video game entertainment is our passion and we invest a considerable amount of time and effort to release each title, and employ a large number of people in the process," said Rockstar, explaining the decision. "Having copy protection allows us to protect the integrity or our titles and future investments, but at the same time we have worked very hard to ensure that our solutions do not persecute the legitimate players of our games. Implemented correctly, SecuROM is the most effective form of disc based copy protection and allows us to manage authenticity on a global level for Grand Theft Auto IV."

    In order to play GTA IV on PC, the game must be activated using an Internet connection, and in the case of the retail version, the game disc must be present in the disc drive. Multiplayer modes will require installations of and accounts for both Rockstar Games Social Club and Games for Window-Live. Unlike the DRM for EA's Spore, which generated huge controversy, GTA IV will have not install limits, and can be installed on any number of machines an unlimited number of times and will generally only have to be authenticated once.

    When asked why it would be better for users to buy the game rather than download a pirated version, Rockstar gave an interesting response: "Aside from the fact that warez are a great place to pick up a Trojan or key logger, using a cracked copy of GTA IV PC will result in varying changes to the game experience. These can range from comical to game-progress-halting changes."

    via GameDaily
  • PC version of GTA IV to include SecuROM, no install limit

    PC version of GTA IV to include SecuROM, no install limit


    Don’t go burning your pre-order slips for the PC version of Grand Theft Auto IV in effigy just yet, dear readers yes, according to an unnamed Rockstar staffer, the title will implement the oft-decried SecuROM to prevent piracy, however, its imposed limitations aren’t too severe. Speaking to IGN, the Rockstar rep explained that the GTA IV disc will need to be in the drive in order to play the game, and the title must be registered online upon installation. However, we won’t be seeing a repeat of the drama that recently plagued Spore there’s no limit to the amount of times the game can be installed. Obviously, these rules are different for those who acquire the game via digital distribution, as retail services such as Steam have their own install limits and anti-piracy measures. We suggest checking out the aforementioned IGN interview if you’re currently suffering from a DRM-related panic attack.

    via lastshepard

  • Black Friday Sees $534 Million in E-Commerce Spending, Up 1 Percent Versus Year Ago

    Black Friday Sees $534 Million in E-Commerce Spending, Up 1 Percent Versus Year Ago

    Upcoming 'Cyber Monday' Represents Strong Historical Bellwether for Total Holiday Season E-Commerce Spending

    Last update: 12:20 p.m. EST Nov. 30, 2008
    RESTON, Va., Nov 30, 2008 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ -- comScore (SCOR:
    Sponsored by:
    , , )
    , a leader in measuring the digital world, today reported its tracking of holiday season retail e-commerce spending for the first 28 days of the November - December 2008 holiday season. For the holiday season-to-date, $10.41 billion has been spent online, marking a 4-percent decline versus the corresponding days last year, while Black Friday saw $534 million in online spending, up 1 percent. For the combination of Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, online sales were up 2 percent relative to last year.
        (Logo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080115/COMSCORELOGO )

    2008 Holiday Season To Date vs. Corresponding Days* in 2007
    Non-Travel (Retail) Spending
    Excludes Auctions and Large Corporate Purchases
    Total U.S. - Home/Work/University Locations
    Source: comScore, Inc.
    Millions ($)
    Holiday Season to Date 2007 2008 Pct Change

    November 1 - 28 $10,839 $10,410 -4%
    November 27 (Thanksgiving Day) $272 $288 6%
    November 28 ("Black Friday") $531 $534 1%

    *Corresponding days based on equivalent shopping days relative to
    Thanksgiving (October 27 thru November 23, 2007)

    "Early reports suggest that Black Friday sales in retail stores were slightly better than anticipated in this depressed retail climate, and that performance apparently extended to the online channel, which saw sales on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday combined increase 2 percent versus year ago," said comScore chairman, Gian Fulgoni. "It's probable that on Black Friday consumers responded positively to the very aggressive promotions and discounts being offered in retail stores, so it will be important to see how they respond to similarly attractive deals being offered online on Cyber Monday, the traditional kick-off to the online holiday shopping season."
    Most Online Shoppers Sleep in on Black Friday
    Evidently, one of the benefits of avoiding the Black Friday crush at retail stores and opting to shop online is not having to wake up at the crack of dawn. The early morning rush online - between the hours of 4:00-8:00 AM - accounted for just 11 percent of the day's total online retail sales, while the period after 8:00 AM saw 84 percent of online sales take place. The 12:00- 4:00 PM segment represented the highest share of Black Friday online sales (24 percent), with the hour of 12:00-1:00 PM being the heaviest individual hour of spending with 8 percent of sales.
        Black Friday Online Spending by Time of Day
    Non-Travel (Retail) Spending
    Excludes Auctions and Large Corporate Purchases
    Total U.S. - Home/Work/University Locations
    Source: comScore, Inc.

    Black Friday - Time of Day Share of Dollars Spent
    12-4 AM 5.5%
    4-8 AM 10.9%
    8 AM - 12 PM 23.1%
    12-4 PM 24.2%
    4-8 PM 17.2%
    8 PM - 12 AM 19.1%

    Cyber Monday Historical Bellwether for Overall Holiday Season Performance The Monday after Thanksgiving, popularly known as "Cyber Monday," represents the first significant spike in online spending activity for the holiday season. The phenomenon results from Cyber Monday being the first working day following the Thanksgiving holiday and the fact that purchases from work still account for approximately half of all e-commerce spending.
    Interestingly, Cyber Monday has historically proved to be an accurate bellwether for the overall performance of the online holiday shopping season. While the year-over-year growth rates for individual online spending days vary quite significantly throughout the season, during the past few years Cyber Monday has been within a few percentage points of the final holiday season growth rate.
        Cyber Monday Growth Rates
    Non-Travel (Retail) Spending
    Excludes Auctions and Large Corporate Purchases
    Total U.S. - Home/Work/University Locations
    Source: comScore, Inc.

    Growth Rate vs. Prior Year

    Cyber Monday Full Holiday

    2005 26% 25%
    2006 26% 26%
    2007 21% 19%

    "With so much volatility right now in the variables that influence consumer spending, predicting where this online holiday season will end up has been far more challenging than in previous years," added Fulgoni. "That said, Cyber Monday may well prove to be an important indicator of whether the decline in spending that we've seen during the first few weeks of the online holiday season will continue for the balance of the year."
        comScore 2008 Holiday Online Retail Spending Forecast

    Online Non-Travel (Retail) Holiday Consumer Spending
    Excludes Auctions and Large Corporate Purchases
    Total U.S. - Home/Work/University Locations
    Source: comScore, Inc.

    Billions ($)
    2007 2008 Pct Change

    January - October Actual $93.6 $102.1 9%
    Holiday Season Forecast (Nov-Dec) $29.2* $29.2** 0%**

    * Actual **Forecast

    About comScore
    comScore, Inc. (SCOR:
    Sponsored by:
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    is a global leader in measuring the digital world and preferred source of digital marketing intelligence. For more information, please visit www.comscore.com/boilerplate
    SOURCE comScore

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