Month: January 2010

In celebration of Tetris (and Jamdat)

The mobile version of Tetris, the iconic game published by EA Mobile, has now clocked up in excess of 100m paid downloads, cracking a landmark that is arguably miles ahead of everything else. This in itself is to be lauded.

However, in the press buzz around this incredible achievement, I have not seen anyone reminiscing on what brought this franchise to EA Mobile, and the deals leading up to that are something not to be sniffed at either, so here’s to the people who made an audacious move in 2005 when they bought Blue Lava Wireless, the Hawaiian studio run by Henk Rogers (who is also the CEO of Blue Planet Software, which still controls the rights to the game), together with a 15-year license to the mobile game for a rather breathtaking $145m ($137m + c. $8m non-recoupable license advance to the Tetris Company in which Blue Planet Software holds 50%).

The company at the time was Jamdat who some people described as the only company ever to go public on the back of a bowling game (Jamdat Bowling was one of the first run-away successes in the mobile space). Jamdat had just floated on Nasdaq in a $86m IPO (here’s the original S-1) with its market cap at the end of the first day of trading standing at $439m (up 45% from opening). They had struggled a little outside North America (as per their S-1/A nearly 80% of their revenues were North American) and were hence pondering to leverage Tetris’ global appeal to grow their markets outside the US. And how well they did!

At the time, however, few people thought the transaction would amortize ever. This might have been besides the point since the amortization for the original Jamdat shareholders came soon by the $680m acquisition by EA but few people (me included) had thought that the mobile Tetris property could yield a positive ROI (in isolation) on the back of, effectively, one game. This is naturally grossly simplifying since the lever of Tetris into carriers Jamdat did not reach prior to that provided incremental growth across the portfolio but the fact that it appeared to being an extraordinarily rich deal remained.

I do no longer have my numbers on what was needed to provide a satisfactory return but, over the 15-year license term, I believe it stood somewhere around $225m. With 100m paid downloads, EA may very well be there already – and this after only 5 years or so (this is again a simplification since there were of course sales prior to the acquisition).

I therefore tip my hat to Mitch Lasky, Jamdat’s former CEO and now a General Partner with Benchmark Capital (his very enjoyable personal blog is here), who had the foresight and/or luck to score this deal and I bow before the success of Tetris!

Mobile Premier Awards / Barcelona 2010

On 15 February, one of the most exciting showcases of mobile innovation of the year will be on display in Barcelona: the Mobile Premier Awards in Innovation. The awards are the largest start-up competition in the mobile sector and they are a unique grass-roots discovery tool: each chapter of the global community of Mobile Monday chooses one candidate. 49 candidates have been chosen (have a look further down). An international jury (I am flattered and proud to be a member) selects 20 finalists who will pitch in Barcelona at the Palau de la Musica on the afternoon of the first day of the Mobile World Congress.

It is a wonderful display of the innovation and creative power the mobile industry has to offer and I invite you to have a good look at the candidates.

If you are in Barcelona that week (and who isn’t?), you should make sure to book your ticket for the event here.

I hope to see you in Barcelona to celebrate innovation in mobile!

To stay in touch with everything around the awards, follow them on Twitter (@mobilepremier), become a fan on Facbook,

And, once your in Barcelona, you should not miss Mobile Sunday Barcelona 2010, which has fast become an unofficial kick-off event to MWC for mobile bloggers. It is on on Sunday, 14 Feb, from 7pm CET onwards.

Here’s a list of the 49 candidates (with links here):

Carnival of the Mobilists # 207

A fresh new year with the conference and rumour seasons already in full swing, 2010 promises to becoming an exciting one for all things mobile. So let’s be kicking off another Carnival of the Mobilists (it is carnival season, too, after all). What do we have this week?

Russell Buckley looks at the benefits but also disadvantages of a retail experience online, on mobile and on the high street. He looks at this from the perspective of search vs discovery and, alas, the mobile being, well, mobile, he predicts some impact. Suffice to say, it involves the renaissance of the (much beloved by me) local bookstore! Russell’s post is here.

Mark Jaffe has an almost lyrical contribution musing about “monetizing passion” (and he is quick to point out that, despite the closeness to that other show in Las Vegas last week, he is not talking about adult entertainment). It is an intriguing angle on a well-covered topic: he basically posits that the ability to digitally provide the immediacy of satisfying passion presents one of the greatest marketing opportunities around. I concur! His post is here.

WIP Jam contributes a very insightful guest post by Informa Principal Analyst Malik Saadi who suggests that the fragmented smartphonosphere (great word!) and resultant increasing costs of native development will provide a lever for the mobile web, and he reasons it well! He reckons that the low latency of next-generation networks (LTE et al) will make the web the new ubiquitous platform for app development. If the battery life of the devices holds up, I might add… Malik’s post is here.

The good folks at mobiThinking have a great overview of available mobile metrics reports from the various ad networks, and all of them in one place. A fantastic resource! Their write-up is here.

And, finally, Aviv Revach looks forward to the Mobile World Congress and the second most important thing (after actually finding a place to sit down for your meetings) and is assembling a compilation of networking events (and, well, yes, parties) in Barcelona. Make sure to check in on his post (which he will update) here.

Which concludes this week’s Carnival. Now get back to your work and if you are attending the Mobile Games Forum or the conference that starts the mobile build-up to this summer’s FIFA World Cup, namely M-Football (both in London), make sure to connect; I’ll be at both.

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Conference: M-Football, London

The biggest event in 2010 is, distinct to certain fanboys opinion, the launch of the iSlate or new iPhone or iAnything nor, as Canadians will have us think, the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, but the Football World Cup this summer (and, no, my dear American readers, this is not the Super Bowl). And whereas one could already see mobile rearing its beautiful head at the last World Cup 2006 in Germany, many people think that South Africa 2010 will provide a breakthrough in mobile service provision around this.

Therefore, quite fittingly, the wonderful guys at Camerjam have put together a conference on the topic, and a nice one, too. The speaker line up includes some proper rock stars, such as (in no particular order):

  • Former FIFA Product Director Rupert Daniels
  • Author and Blogger Tomi Ahonen
  • WPP Global Client Leader Matt Linder
  • ITV Media’s Commercial Director Alex Goudsmith
  • Real Madrid’s Head of Mobile Pedro Duarte Gonzalez
  • MMA Managing Director Europe Paul Berney
  • AdMob VP Russel Buckley
  • BBC VP Global Adsales & Strategy Tom Bowman
  • Sky Mobile GM David Gibbs
  • Layar co-founder Claire Boonstra

and many, many more including yours truly (and as a licensee, I will be cheering the reigning World Champions, Italy, on this time, believe it or not!). Besides all that, the venue is the best: Arsenal’s home ground, the Emirates.

If you want to come, it’s on next week (21 January) and you can register here:

Tesco’s best-seller is an £18.99 no-name handset

Retailing giant Tesco (where one in every seven pounds in the UK is being spent) has always been fairly active in mobile: it runs an MVNO (on the O2 network) and stocks lots of phones. It had also recently become a seller of the iPhone, yes, just in time for Christmas.

Alas, what was their bestseller? Not the iPhone but rather its opposite, an unbranded phone, the VX1 Party Phone (sic!), that retails for £18.99 and cannot do anything other than making phone calls and texts. It has a minute form factor though and, at that price, is nothing to collapse over should it get lost in the Christmas/New Year’s Eve party trouble. The phone comes SIM free but is unlocked, so everyone can use as a second one.

This little phone, manufactured by Verixas and distributed in the UK by Bluetooth firm BlueChipWorld (who do not manufacture distinct what we were being told), shifted 10,000 units in the two weeks at the end of December. Impressive stuff!

Besides all of the above, here’s where Tesco believes one of the reasons for its success may lie: it is, I kid you not, skinny jeans! Women (or, apparently, at least 69% of them) don’t like to carry handbags on a night out and cannot jam their normal “big” phones down the trousers of their super-slims. There you have it.

Gemalto takes majority share in Netsize

Gemalto, SIM card maker turned “world leader in digital security” (I wonder how many companies claim that title; it’s like boxing, it seems) announced it would subscribe to a capital increase in Netsize, turning Gemalto’s share (24% pre-money) into a majority position.

This may well signify another move towards a closer tie to highly integrated hardware/software/service solutions on the mobile value chain. Gemalto is one of the leaders on the SIM card side, it manufactures SD cards, USB tokens, smart banking cards, etc. Netsize sits on the service side of things: it provides SMS and MMS delivery, is one of the leading mobile payment providers and provides content management platforms. Glue it together, and it becomes a vertically integrated solution from the same mould. Has someone been reading Apple’s philosophy?

Besides these points, cross-selling opportunities would appear to be fairly obvious, too. The only mismatch could be that Gemalto focuses on digital security (they list mobile connectivity, identity and data protection, credit card safety, health and transportation, e-government and national security). Alas, no messaging and entertainment here, the two main areas of Netsize’s business.

This little mismatch is not unprecedented: does anyone remember the VeriSign acquisition of Jamba? Whilst it seems it may (just) have been paid off, the match between the companies was never really there, it seems. Let’s hope the Gemalto-Netsize story will be a brighter one.

Carnival of the Mobilists # 205

A very happy new year to all of you, and let’s kick this off with a new carnival of the mobilists. This week’s version, the first of the new decade, is hosted by the debutants from Omio. And despite the holidays just being over, there is a wealth of really interesting stuff on there. Posts include:

  • Ajit Jaokar on mobile cloud computing and operators;
  • David Doherty on mobile phones and health care;
  • First-time contributor Alexei Polyakov with a very comprehensive report on the state of mobile social networking in Japan;
  • Antoine Wright with a new take on bookmarks;
  • Chetan Sharma sticks his head out and shares his 2010 predictions; and
  • Steve Smith pleads the cause of comic strips as perfect for mobile.

Go over there now, get yourself a good read to get into the spirit for the wild and exciting ride 2010 promises to be for the space! 🙂

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