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Mobile gaming outfit GREE has acquired US-based social game developer Funzio for a cool $210 million in a bid to increase their appeal in Western countries, and to produce more of their own titles. The Japanese firm who provides both a mobile social gaming platform and developers titles itself, is looking at the North American market and other new growth opportunities as they've already established themselves quite well in their homeland.
The deal is expected to be done by the end of May, with founder Yoshikazu Tanaka saying that it "means a lot to enhancing our global expansion". The mobile gaming scene is heating up, with just weeks ago Zynga purchasing OMGPOP, the guys and gals behind Draw Something. GREE may be a smaller player, but competition is always a good thing.
GREE isn't new to big acquisitions, where back in 2010 they acquired Openfeint for $109 million. That deal boosted their platform, and the new Funzio deal with strengthen its capability to produce titles, and, appeal more to Western gamers. This isn't the end of the good news for FREE, where they're set to unveil their new global gaming platform, which will integrate Openfeint, all within the next few months.
It's been everywhere, and I was even sitting down this morning playing with my gorgeous 13-month-old daughter this morning when I saw people standing behind the Sunrise crew on Channel 7 here in Australia, with black cardboard signs in their hand stating "WAKE UP".
We've heard it was Samsung behind this, as a campaign for their GALAXY S III possibly... but it's not. Research in Motion (RIM) have admitted that they're the company behind the controversial anti-Apple 'Wake Up' campaign. RIM issued a statement this morning through its PR firm, where they've said:
We can confirm that the Australian 'Wake Up' campaign, which involves a series of experimental activities taking place across Sydney and Melbourne, was created by RIM Australia. A reveal will take place on May 7th that will aim to provoke conversation on what 'being in business' means to Australians.
The campaign caught the eyes and ears of people last week when a flashmob of 'protesters' took to an Australian Apple Store to protest the use of the company's products. The group chanted "wake up", held placards that said the same message, where other protesters dressed as a sheep as another dig at Apple, popular products and cult following. The reason behind the campaign is due to be unveiled at 3:00pm on May 6, but what to expect, we don't know.
Researcher Newzoo has gathered some very specific figures in a new study that included the top 200 grossing mobile games and survey results from 17,000 respondents. The study found that the US mobile gaming market has grown considerably, from 75 million to 101 million mobile gamers. Of these 101 million, 69-percent of them play games on smartphones, with 21-percent gaming on a tablet.
While there are many more players, and increasing amount of them are willing to pay for in-game content. The number of paying players has grown 35-percent to 37 million Americans, or 36-percent of all mobile gamers. Splitting these numbers up, we have 19 million American gamers on an iPhone, 18 million on an iPod touch, and 12.7 million on an iPad, keeping in mind that many people use multiple iOS-based devices.
Nokia currently owns the luxury-focused brand 'Vertu', but with their recent financial troubles are looking to get rid of the brand. Permira, a private equity group who also owns big fashion brands such as New Look, Hugo Boss and Valentino are expected to acquire Vertu, in a deal worth approximately $265 million.
Goldman Sachs have been advising Nokia on how to get out of their current financial problems, where last week Nokia announced a Q1 operating loss of just under $2 billion, which was then followed by credit rating downgrades by both Fitch and Standard & Poor. Nokia are pinning hopes on future with Microsoft and Windows Phone, as well as lowering costs by relocating factories to the Far East.
Vertu is a UK-based company that was set up in 1998 to create prestige phones fit for the super rich who are after top end designer brands. Vertu phones are hand fabricated using precious metals, gems and other artisan materials. Phones can be upward of a quarter million dollars, which is a little out of reach of say an iPhone, or similar.
Not everyone is exactly ecstatic about Blizzard offering real money auctions in the upcoming Diablo III game. I, too, see some issues with it, but that is for another article. Claims that Blizzard is trying to cash in on the game's second hand digital market have run rampant since its announcement of the plan last summer.
Blizzard will charge a flat $1 fee (or a rough local equivalent) for unique equipment like armor, weapons, or accessories. For common "stackable" commodities, Blizzard will charge 15%. This 15% charge even applies for strictly in-game gold transactions. The hope behind that is that it will stem inflation in the in-game economy.
Players will also get hit with another 15% fee when they try to transfer their funds from their Battle.net account to a third party service such as PayPal. The only way to avoid this is to spend the money on other Blizzard items such as a WoW subscription. The move of Blizzard allowing real money trading and taking a part in it will help stem the grey market of other companies doing the exact same thing. It should improve customer service and reduce scams.
Microsoft have just splashed out $300 million on an investment in Barnes & Noble's Nook digital-book business and college-text unit. This investment will see the Redmond-based company take a 17.6-percent stake in a new subsidiary temporarily known as Newco, with Barnes & Noble getting the remaining 82.4-percent while all pending litigation related to Android will be put to rest.
This new deal gives Barnes & Noble more power to fight off shareholders who have agitated for a sale of the Nook e-book business, or the entire company, in addition to relieving concerts that it doesn't have the capital to compete in the e-book business with heavy weight Amazon.com.
At the moment, Barnes & Nobile relies on a customized version of Google's Android OS for products such as the Nook Color and offers Nook reader apps for Android, iOS, OS X and Windows. The deal doesn't state whether this would change, but one of the first things to change would most likely be a Metro-style Nook e-reader app for Windows 8 available to users across the world. At the moment there's also no suggestion on whether we'll end up seeing a future Nook app on Windows Phone.
Both Apple and Motorola have filed motions with the court in Wisconsin asking for a summary judgement in a Apple's lawsuit against Motorola. Apple accuses Motorola of violating FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) patent licensing. The motions filed Friday would have Apple try to have some of its patent claims validated.
On the other hand, Motorola wants most of Apple's patent arguments ruled invalid. Full details of the lawsuit are unknown as the court documents remain sealed. What we gather is that Apple would like to use a summary judgement to solidify its claims of Motorola breaking the FRAND license agreement.
A summary judgement could either find Motorola mostly innocent, which would leave Apple's claims hard to prove in court, or find Motorola guilty, which would make it harder for Motorola, should the case go to trial. Motorola has based large portions of its lawsuits against Apple on standards based patents. While this has worked at the ITC, it hasn't worked in civil trials. Apple denies this and continues to fight it in court. More as it comes.
Big companies have lots of money to spend on accountants. These accountants, in turn, go through the tax law and find the corporation ways to avoid taxes legally through loopholes present in tax codes around the world. The latest company that has been accused of doing this is none other than Apple, a company with more cash than the government.
Thanks to a new report by the New York Times, a spotlight has been shined upon Apple Inc. and shows how Apple avoids a potentially massive tax bill by using subsidiary companies located around the world. These companies are often located in locations where taxes are low or don't exist. This practice is both legal and employed by many other large corporations around the world.
Take, for instance, Apple's subsidiary based in Reno, NV. This office is just 200 miles away from Apple's headquarters. A small staff located there takes and invests Apple's profits. By placing the company/office in Nevada, they avoid paying California's 8.84% income tax, since Reno has a tax rate of zero.
"Setting up an office in Reno is just one of many legal methods Apple uses to reduce its worldwide tax bill by billions of dollars each year," the report revealed. "As it has in Nevada, Apple has created subsidiaries in low-taxes places like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and the British Virgin Islands - some little more than a letterbox or an anonymous office - that help cut the taxes it pays around the world."
MegaUpload's Kim Dotcom seems to have struck a bit of luck. A High Court lawyer has ruled that a court-ordered seizure issued in January was not valid, even though an interim order has been in effect for two months. Due to this fact, he is receiving many of his seized assets, including money and a car, back from the government.
Dotcom is said to be receiving NZ$750,000 ($614,000) in cash that had been confiscated. He will also continue to receive his NZ$20,000 ($16,000) monthly living allowance off of the interest of government bonds. His wife Mona will also get her living expenses and medical bills paid as she recently gave birth.
Additionally, Dotcom will get his Mercedes-Benz G55AMG worth NZ$250,000 ($204,000) with the license plate "POLICE" returned to him. His wife will also have use of her seized 2010 Toyota Vellfire, worth NZ$60,000 ($49,000). He has also had use of his mansion since early April with its swimming pool for exercise. He has also been able to use the internet.
Dotcom has also found himself at the center of a political scandal. He claims, according to reports, that he donated NZ$50,000 ($41,000) to John Banks,the head of the ACT New Zealand political party and the current minister for Small Business and Regulatory Reform, for his 2010 Mayoral campaign.
This comes at quite a surprise, but daily US iPhone app downloads have dropped, considerably, with a 30-percent month-over-month drop. This is up from the 6.35 million in February to just 4.45 million in March, according to mobile marketing firm Fiksu.
Fiksu also says that it was the second straight month of decline in the course of their tracking, with a drop in January to February, but no where near as severe. January saw downloads topping 6.79 million, so a drop to 6.35 million is less than 10-percent. But a 30-percent drop the month after? That's something worth noting.
Fiksu also states that the drop is most likely due to two trends: first, the iPhone 4S is no longer a new device, so owners may be less concerned with downloading new apps. And secondly, Apple has decided to crack down on third-party marketers using bots to download apps and inflate chart rankings. This would make sense as with fewer bots, app traffic may now be coming down from its inflated numbers, down to reality.