Japan Video Games Blog


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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sirius-XM merger approval not assured - Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The static may be lifting on the long-pending merger between the nation's only two satellite radio operators after a key regulator backed its approval Monday.

The conditions requested by Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, could lead to lower prices for the next three years for subscribers of Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. Martin said the companies agreed to the conditions, which mirror those requested by some influential lawmakers and public interest groups.

"I am recommending that with the voluntary commitments they've offered, on balance, this transaction would be in the public interest," Martin said in a written statement.

But the signals aren't all clear yet. Two leading consumer advocates blasted the proposed conditions as failing to ensure that satellite radio prices won't eventually rise. And Martin, a Republican, may have trouble pushing his proposal through the FCC.

"As I've said from the beginning, this merger is a steep climb for me. That hasn't changed," said Commissioner Michael J. Copps, a Democrat. He said he would review the plan by Martin with an open mind. The four other commissioners declined to comment, as did Sirius and XM.

The companies announced their merger, now valued at about $3.85 billion, in February 2007. They are desperate for cost savings to offset expensive programming, such as shows featuring the likes of Howard Stern and Oprah Winfrey, as well as pro sports broadcasts.

Despite intense opposition from the National Assn. of Broadcasters, which represents traditional radio stations, the Justice Department approved the merger in March. Antitrust regulators agreed with Sirius and XM executives that their combination would not create a monopoly because iPods and other devices give people growing options for listening to music in their cars and elsewhere.

But Martin had said the merger faced a high hurdle at the FCC, which, to ensure competition, barred any future merger when creating satellite radio in 1997. Martin has pushed Sirius and XM to formalize some pricing promises made to lawmakers and agree to other conditions.

Martin's plan includes commitments by Sirius and XM to: freeze subscription rates for three years; offer smaller, cheaper packages of stations that also allow listeners to pick only the stations they want; within a year of merger approval, sell radios that can receive both services; open their technological standards so anyone can make satellite radios; and set aside 24 channels -- 8% of the total -- for noncommercial and minority programming.

Sirius shares were up 3.2% to $2.62 on the news. XM shares rose 3.7% to $11.27.

Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America said the conditions didn't justify creating a monopoly in satellite radio.

"This is a raw deal for consumers," said Chris Murray, legislative counsel for Consumers Union.

Blair Levin, an analyst with brokerage Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., predicted that the FCC ultimately would approve the merger. But noting how long the deal has been pending, he said, "This is one where Yogi Berra's admonition that, 'It ain't over till it's over,' constitutes wisdom."

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Analyst: 14 million iPhones sold in 2008, 24 million in 2009

Since the WWDC announcement regarding the iPhone 3G's new price and wider availability, various Apple analysts have been weighing in with predictions of just how well the device will sell in the coming months. In general, the analysts believe that iPhone sales are about to take off, and now RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky has given us his set of sales and revenue estimates. iPodNN has the details of Abramsky's most recent research note, which suggests that Apple will sell more than 10 million iPhones this year, and more than 20 million in 2009.

Abramsky believes that the new iPhone will cause Apple to move 5.1 million units between July and September, which would represent a more than 300 percent increase from the third calendar quarter of 2007. Things will get even better during the Christmas quarter, with Apple expected to sell 6.5 million iPhones during that period. If you're doing the math in your head, that's already more than Steve Jobs' 2008 target of 10 million iPhones. Once you add in sales from the first two quarters, Abramsky is predicting a total of 14 million iPhones will be sold.

In 2009, iPhone sales are expected to rise to even higher levels, and in this case Abramsky believes 24 million or so units will be sold. All those iPhones will mean good things for the revenues, of course. The rise in iPhone sales is expected to add between $1.8 and $6.8 billion of revenue to Apple's bottom line during fiscal year 2009 (October 2008 to September 2009), leading to an extra 29 cents to $1.09 of earnings per share.

Buzz up!
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MySpace spammer shrugs off $6 million penalty

MySpace has won yet another victory against a spammer that used the popular social networking service to send out thousands of unsolicited commercial messages to its members. Colorado native Scott Richter and his company, Media Breakaway LLC, have been slapped with $6 million in damages and attorney's fees for violations of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, in addition to the Lanham Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, California's anti-spamming statute, and the California Anti-Phishing Act of 2005.

"MySpace has zero tolerance for illegal activity on our site and is committed to bringing to justice those who try to harm our members," MySpace said in a statement. "This award reflects MySpace's continued momentum and holistic approach to ridding the site of spammers and phishers through technological innovation, education, partnerships and enforcement. We will continue to do our part in cleansing the Internet of this invasive onslaught of spam."

According to MySpace, Richter used his account—as well as a number of other people's accounts that he obtained by way of phishing—to fill the inboxes (and bulletin spaces) of MySpace members with spam. MySpace said that this not only diminished the experience of using the site (if such a thing is possible), but was also against its terms of service and, most importantly, against the law. Not only was Richter himself guilty of spamming users, he apparently employed a broad affiliate network to help carry out his misdeeds. Media Breakaway insisted, however, that it was unaware of the activities of its affiliates and shouldn't be held responsible for what a handful of rogue employees had done.

The arbiters in MySpace's case wrote in their decision that they felt a need to award substantial damages, due to Richter's "undisputed admission that he would be willing to pay $1 million in litigation to make $8 million in profit." The total is split into $4,800,000 in damages and $1,200,000 in attorney's fees, and Richter and his company are permanently banned from creating accounts at MySpace or using the service for any reason.

On Media Breakaway's side, the company represented the decision as something akin to a victory. The company claims that the damages awarded were "95 percent less than the amount demanded by MySpace," and that Media Breakaway had long ago changed its policies to ensure that such activities would not occur. "Our goal is to continuously enhance our compliance programs and exceed what is required by law and industry best practices," said Richter in a statement. "[W]e look toward the future to work with online companies to help define and implement advertising best practices for our industry."

This isn't the first time either party—MySpace or Richter—have been in court over spam. Just last month, MySpace won the largest CAN-SPAM-related judgment in US history after the defendants failed to show up in court. The result was $234 million in damages because the two defendants had worked together to create or steal MySpace accounts to send out messages with links to ringtones, porn, and other affiliate sites (sounds familiar?). Richter has also been in trouble with the law—in 2004, he announced a settlement with the New York State Attorney General's Office due to his (comparatively minor) involvement in a different spam lawsuit.

Given the fact that Richter clearly did not cease his activities then, it seems unlikely that he will stop now. After all, a $6 million payout in litigation means $48 million in profits, right?

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Cadence Bids $1.6 Billion For Mentor; Offer Is Rejected -- Cadence Design Systems

BOSTON - Cadence Design Systems said Tuesday it offered to buy smaller rival Mentor Graphics for $1.6 billion, but the bid was rejected.

Cadence, which competes with Mentor in making software that engineers use to design electronic chips, offered $16 cash per share, a 30 percent premium to Mentor's closing stock price on Monday.

Cadence said the offer was made on May 2, when it represented a 59 percent premium to Mentor's stock price. According to a letter published by Cadence, Mentor rejected the bid on May 23.

Mentor spokesman Karel Rasovsky declined comment.

Cadence Chief Executive Michael Fister said in an interview that he wanted to buy Mentor to expand Cadence's product portfolio.

Fister said he would like to sell Cadence's software products for constructing computer chips -- which handle problems such as connecting transistors within a single chip -- alongside Mentor's line of programs. He said many of Mentor's products do not compete with those of Cadence.

"If you could couple those thoughtwise, you could get a better solution," he said.

Cadence said its offer gives Mentor an enterprise value of $1.6 billion on a fully diluted basis, reflecting Mentor's net debt of $69 million.

Mentor shares jumped $3.22, or 26 percent, to $15.55 in morning trade on Nasdaq. Cadence shares fell 5 percent to $11.01, also on Nasdaq.

Through Monday, Mentor shares had risen more than 43 percent over the past three months, compared with a 5.2 percent rise for Cadence.

Deutsche Bank Securities is acting as financial adviser to Cadence; Davis Polk & Wardwell is acting as legal counsel. (Reporting by Franklin Paul, editing by Maureen Bavdek and John Wallace)

Copyright 2008 Reuters. Click for Restrictions

As per UBM LLC's agreement with Reuters, this story will be removed from this site after 30 days.

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As Food Prices Spiral, Farmers, Others Profit - Business - redOrbit

WILLMAR, Minn. - The steepest run-ups in food prices since 1990 are hurting grocery shoppers, restaurants and school cafeterias, but they're making others rich.

The winners in the new food economy include crop farmers selling corn and wheat for near-record highs after years of crushingly low prices. Ingredient makers such as Cargill and ADM are rife with profits. Fertilizer and tractor companies are cashing in. Hedge funds that made big bets on rising wheat, soy and corn were spectacularly correct. Oil and gas companies, too - it takes natural gas to cook those Wheaties and diesel to haul them around the country.

The nation's farmers saw their average household income climb about 7 percent last year to more than $83,000. But in grain-rich states, the results were dramatically higher. In Minnesota alone, the median income for crop farmers soared 80 percent to $95,000.

Chad Willis raises corn and soybeans on 550 acres near Will-mar, some of the nation's best corn-growing country.

He sells his grain nine miles up the road from an ethanol plant he invested in. His family cars are powered by an 85 percent blend of the corn-based fuel. And he knows that grocery shoppers jolted by higher prices for cereal or eggs or chicken think it's because of ethanol, which consumed 20 percent of last year's corn crop.

Mr. Willis isn't saying how much he made last year. Though he acknowledges these are good times to be a farmer, he says he's not pulling in as much as the median income for crop farmers.

"Most people are excited, yes, but cautious about when things are going to turn around, and how hard it's going to turn around," he said.

Corn, soybean, and wheat prices have been pushed at or near record highs by a combination of high demand and new money from hedge fund traders. Over the past 20 years, Minneapolis Grain Exchange trading volume has risen almost six-fold to a new record last year. The run-up is because, in the frenzied trading, the same commodities are changing hands far more than they used to.

"I got grain farmers ... who are going to improve their net worth this year - net, now - by a half a million bucks minimum. For one year. That's a nice gain. Not to mention their land's worth more," said Peter Georgantones, the president of Investment Trading Services, a commodities brokerage in Bloomington, Minn.

The International Monetary Fund estimates biofuels accounted for almost half the increase in consumption of major food crops in 2006- 07, saying it has propelled prices for corn, grains, meat, poultry and dairy.

But a report last month from the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University said higher corn prices have had little to do with rising food costs because other factors, such as rising energy costs, have been at least as important.

Mr. Willis points out that farmers pay much of those profits right back out to their own suppliers.

The liquid propane that runs his corn drier cost $1.55 per gallon last year. He's been told to expect $2 this year. Fertilizer last year ran $115 per acre. This spring it cost double that. He bought 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel for his tractors last year, at a price that started at $2.50 a gallon and rose to $3.09 by the end of the year.

Originally published by Associated Press.

(c) 2008 Augusta Chronicle, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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Earnings roundup: Goldman Sachs, La-Z-Boy - Forbes.com

Among the earnings stories for Tuesday, June 17, from AP Financial News:

Top stories:

NEW YORK (AP) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (nyse: GS - news - people ), the world's largest investment bank, on Tuesday said second-quarter earnings fell about 10 percent, but still easily beat lowered Wall Street expectations on higher fees from asset management and stock underwriting.

Other stories:

MONROE, Mich. (AP) - Furniture maker La-Z-Boy Inc. (nyse: LZB - news - people ) said it swung to a loss during its fiscal fourth-quarter due to declines in casegoods and retail sales.

FAIRLAWN, Ohio (AP) - Specialty chemicals maker Omnova Solutions Inc. said Tuesday its fiscal second-quarter loss narrowed on contributions from an Asian business plus stronger pricing.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

Among the earnings stories for Tuesday, June 17, from AP Financial News:Top stories:NEW YORK (AP) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (nyse: GS - news - people ), the world's largest investment bank, on Tuesday said second-quarter earnings fell about 10 percent, but still easily beat lowered Wall Street expectations on higher fees from asset management and stock underwriting.Other stories:MONROE, Mich. (AP) - Furniture maker La-Z-Boy Inc. (nyse: LZB - news - people ) said it swung to a loss during its fiscal fourth-quarter due to declines in casegoods and retail sales.FAIRLAWN, Ohio (AP) - Specialty chemicals maker Omnova Solutions Inc. said Tuesday its fiscal second-quarter loss narrowed on contributions from an Asian business plus stronger pricing.Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
Earnings roundup: Goldman Sachs, La-Z-Boy - Forbes.com
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Take-Two yawns as EA extends takeover offer yet again

Once upon a time, industry titan EA wanted to buy its competitor Take-Two Interactive. Alas, it seems that the two just don't want to live together happily ever after. A new development in the on-going takeover war of EA and Take-Two has the latter rejecting the former's  latest bid extension, yet again.

Reuters reports that the offer of $25.75 per share is now good until July 18. At present, roughly 7.9 percent of the total controlling interest of Take-Two, or 6.14 million shares, has been tendered. This is a slight decrease from last month's figures, which ended up at 6.21 million shares tendered. Enthusiasm for the take-over among Take-Two shareholders may be waning.

Owen Mahoney, Senior Vice President of EA Corporate Development, offered congratulations to Rockstar for its success before reiterating the offer. "Our offer price remains unchanged at $25.74 per share, which is a substantial premium to where Take-Two's stock was trading prior to our offer," Mahoney said. "We congratulate Rockstar on the successful launch of GTA IV but believe our offer reflects a full and fair price based on the long-term value of Take-Two's entire operation."

Take-Two Chairman Strauss Zelnick responded with a similar sentiment to that uttered during all of the previous extensions, reminding EA that things haven't changed from last time, and taking a dig by referencing the vast number of hold-outs. "The latest extension of EA's unsolicited, highly conditional tender offer does not alter the fact that their proposal still significantly undervalues Take-Two, a fact that is reflected in the overwhelming number of stockholders who still have not tendered their shares."

Last month, EA extended its offer to purchase the remaining shares to give it control of Take-Two. Refusing the offer, CEO Zelnick cited the massive success of Grand Theft Auto IV and future plans for a Bioshock movie, as well as sequels to the game and more.

Take-Two's response continues a string of refusals from the majority of shareholders dating back as far as February of this year. While prior to the release of Grand Theft Auto IV Take-Two looked as though it might fold, the company's shareholders weathered the storm through to April and have been riding high on the wave of GTAIV's success. EA has continued to make stubborn advances without upping the offer, but Take-Two shareholders seem unwilling to budge at this point and the smaller game developer continues to advise shareholders not to tender their shares.

Earlier this month, EA had made a deal with the FTC to hold off on purchasing the company outright as the FTC reviewed the deal worth approximately $2 billion. That review process continues now, following the extension, and there are still many conditions, including regulatory approval, that will need to be satisfied before any deal goes through.

Given EA's track record, it's likely that the company will once again extend its bid in July in the hopes that shareholders will grow tired of waiting for more and finally sell their shares. In the mean time, Take-Two continues to explore different strategies behind the scenes.

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Wii Update 3.3 Kills Freeloader Too? [Update] [Nintendo Wii]

Oh dear. I'm getting reports starting to trickle out of Australia that the latest Wii update (3.3) has done more than block the Twilight Princess save-game exploit. I'm hearing it's killed Datel's Wii Freeloader as well, which if true, will not go down well in Europe and Australia at all. Especially with Smash Bros' imminent - and very late - release in PAL territories in two weeks serving as a poignant reminder of just why so many people own a Freeloader in the first place. I'll update once we get some confirmation either way.

Update: OK, got enough verifications on this to bump it up to "confirmed".

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MGS4 Japanese Sales: 476K Sold (+77K PS3s) [Metal Gear Solid 4]

Some Enterbrain sales data for Metal Gear Solid 4's been published! How'd it do? Just swimmingly. Seems that during its first four days on release in Japan, the game has sold 476,334 copies spread across the various editions, including those bundled with hardware. And speaking of hardware, looks like the game's also given the PS3 a big (if temporary) sales boost, driving sales of the console to 77,208 for the week (the PS3 can normally be relied to move anywhere from 10-12,000 a week in Japan).

『メタルギア ソリッド 4 ガンズ・オブ・ザ・パトリオット』の国内初週販売本数は47万6334本!

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IGA Study Finds People Don't Mind In-Game Ads [Market Research]

A landmark study conducted by Nielsen BASES and Nielsen Games on behalf of in-game advertising giant IGA Worldwide has found that not only is in-game advertising super-effective, most people don't seem to mind it. The study, titled Consumers’ Experience with In-Game Content & Brand Impact of In-Game Advertising Study, found that 82% of consumers exposed to in-game ads felt that the games were just as enjoyable with ads as they were without.

“The growth of in-game advertising, both current and projected, makes it an attractive medium for brands looking to reach hard-to-reach consumers,” said Elizabeth Harz, EA’s Senior Vice President of Global Media Sales. “This study solidifies what many in the industry have known for a long time: in-game ads are effective and well-received by the gaming community.”

Hooray! We're only alienating 18% of the gaming public! Hit the jump for the rest of the numbers, most of which seem to be aimed more at attracting advertisers rather than assuaging consumer concerns.

Landmark IGA-Nielsen Study: 82% of Consumers React Positively to Receiving Contextual In-Game Ads During Game Play

New research data from 1,300+ consumers indicates brands receive measurable lift in perception, awareness when advertised in-game

Tuesday 17th June/...Integrating dynamic advertisements into videogame environments provides brands a measured lift in overall consumer awareness and opinion of the products they are exposed to during game play according to the Consumers’ Experience with In-Game Content & Brand Impact of In-Game Advertising Study, a landmark research study conducted by Nielsen BASES and Nielsen Games on behalf of IGA Worldwide, the leading in-game advertising network.

“With young adults now spending on average 6 hours a week gaming, advertisers should be excited at how well their messages were embraced and the brands positively perceived,” said Justin Townsend, CEO of IGA Worldwide. “The consumer insights we’ve gleaned from this data will help drive the industry’s first research-based in-game advertising measurement standards as well as strengthen IGA’s position as an effective in-game ad network brands can trust to efficiently deliver their message to target audiences.”

One of the most important factors confirmed by the Study is that most consumers reacted positively to in-game ads: 82 percent felt games were just as enjoyable with ads as without. In addition, there was an average 61 percent increase in consumers’ favorable opinions of products advertised in-game post-play.

“The growth of in-game advertising, both current and projected, makes it an attractive medium for brands looking to reach hard-to-reach consumers,” said Elizabeth Harz, EA’s Senior Vice President of Global Media Sales. “This study solidifies what many in the industry have known for a long time: in-game ads are effective and well-received by the gaming community.”

One of the most comprehensive in-game advertising effectiveness research studies completed to-date, Nielsen tested multiple variables with multiple brands across multiple games, as opposed to just a single brand in a single game. The research also showed how IGA’s in-game unique advertising opportunities generate significant advertising value across key ad metrics.

"In-game advertising is an opportunity to present targeted brand messaging to a highly desirable demographic. This new data shows how important it is how the targeted and contextual ads are displayed in videogames. Participating in this study with IGA Worldwide has provided valuable new insights into effectively using the medium." said Chad Stoller, Executive Director, Emerging Platforms Organic, Inc.

Nielsen surveyed over 1,300 PC gaming participants in their homes by linking IGA’s proprietary measurement software with research trackers embedded within sample game disc. This unique methodology allowed for unprecedented in-depth analysis of consumer receptivity to in-game ads. The participating brand advertisers included Taco Bell, Jeep and Wrigley and game titles were provided by Electronic Arts and Activision.

Select Findings from the Study:

• There is an average 44 percent increase in post-game aided recall from pre-awareness;

• Positive brand attribute association increased 33 percent across all brands;

• Over 70 percent of consumers who were most opinionated about in-game ads, felt the ads made them feel better about the brand, feel more favorable toward the brand, make them more interested in the brand, and believe the ads are for innovative/cutting edge brands;

• Over 60 percent of the most opinionated consumers feel the ads catch their attention, make games more realistic, do not interrupt the game experience, and are promoting relevant products;

• In-game ad exposures with a duration over 2 seconds, as they are measured in IGA’s in-game ad methodology, generates on average an almost 30% increase in key ad metrics, including ad noticeability +100%, recall +42%, and fit +27%, vs. ad exposures with a duration of less than 1 second

“This study offers proof that dynamic in-game advertising is an influential digital ad medium,” said Dave Anderson, Senior Director Business Development, Activision. “Just as important to us is how users react to the ads. From the research it is clear that the overwhelming majority of consumers enjoyed the gaming experience just as much, if not more, with dynamic ads present. As game publishers, it is reassuring to know advertisers and consumers both stand to benefit from dynamic ads.”

IGA’s network offers dozens of games across multiple genres and platforms, as well as a range of standardized awareness advertising formats with digital measurability. The Company’s advertising products and metrics are in-line with the ad industry and measure ad exposure during game play, including key metrics like minimum time viewed, size and angle thresholds.

Videogame advertising is poised to grow to a $2B global industry by 2012 according to eMarketer, making games the fastest-growing major advertising medium. As a result, advertisers are making significant investments in the in-game environment as an effective strategy to reach target audiences.

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