- Created on 05 September 2013
Madden, Electronic Arts' blockbuster NFL video game, turns 25 this year.
A lot has changed since Oakland Raiders Coach John Madden spent time on trains drawing up plays with EA (EA) founder Trip Hawkins in 1988. But one thing has remained consistent: The football franchise is still a perennial bestseller for the game publisher.
EA Sports kicked off the virtual football season last week with the launch of the Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) Xbox 360, Sony (SNE) PlayStation 3 and mobile versions of Madden NFL 25.
Madden plays an important role in EA's library of annual releases. Last year the game was second only to Activision's (ATVI) Call of Duty: Black Ops II with over 5 million copies sold in the United States, according to the NPD Group. Electronic Arts has sold over 100 million copies of Madden games life to date, generating over $4 billion in revenue.
That's not surprising, considering Madden has no real competition and football has become the unofficial American pastime.
"Madden is instrumental for EA in the sense that this is relatively easy money," said Peter Warman, founder of video game research firm Newzoo, who noted that the Madden games sell well on mobile platforms.
But that success does come with a price. EA pays the National Football League and NFL Players Association $50 million to be the exclusive video game licensee, and the company pays John Madden an additional $2 million for the rights to his name, according to Wedbush Securities video game analyst Michael Pachter.
Pachter expects EA will sell 5 million copies of Madden NFL 25 this year, accounting for 6% of EA's overall sales.
Those are high expectations. But the game appears to be off to a slow start this year, according to Stern Agee video game analyst Arvind Bhatia. Video game store checks indicate Madden NFL 25 may currently be under-performing versus last year.
That may be because customers are delaying their purchases until the new Xbox One and PlayStation 4 go on sale in November.
"We expect sales to pick up once the next-gen consoles are launched," said Bhatia.
EA has been facing other off-the-gridiron issues related to Madden.
On July 23, a U.S. District Court jury ruled in favor of Robin Antonick, one of the original designers and developers on Madden, who sued EA for royalties not paid him. That ruling could cost EA $11 million for games made between 1990 and 1996, and it also opens the door for Antonick to pursue the same claims against EA for games released after 1996 -- games with significantly higher revenues surpassing $3 billion.
EA is also paying out $27 million to gamers this year as the result of a class action lawsuit settlement. Gamers sued over the monopoly EA had with the Madden, NCAA Football and Arena Football licenses for games released between 2005 and 2012.
Analysts don't believe the lawsuits will impact sales.
"The lawsuit will hardly affect enthusiasm for the Madden franchise or its sales figures," said Peter Warman, founder of video game research firm Newzoo. "If asked, gamers would stand behind EA I am sure."
Despite the legal distractions, Madden NFL 25 has been receiving glowing reviews from the press with an 81 aggregate score on Metacritic.com. The game introduces a more intuitive running system, which connects nicely with Hall of Fame cover athlete Barry Sanders. It also has a connected online franchise mode and the ability to become an NFL owner and call all the shots in a role-playing game experience.
And although John no longer provides his color commentary for gamers, the NFL Hall of Fame coach is still involved in the game. His name goes a long way with the growing number of NFL fans who are gearing up for the real kickoff of the NFL season, providing EA with an annual "Boom!" in consistent sales.
- Created on 05 September 2013
(CNN) -- In rolling out its Galaxy Gear on Wednesday, Samsung effectively launched the smartwatch wars, becoming the biggest player in an emerging gadget market that could soon see Apple, Google and others join the fray.
"Today, Samsung reinvents a centuries-old product," Samsung research director Pranav Mistry said at a launch event in Berlin. "I can proudly say Galaxy Gear is a design statement, an engineering marvel and something that really redefines tomorrow."
So, no false modesty here. But, what did everyone else have to say?
Tech bloggers' first impressions of the watch, which will go on sale in late September in much of the world and in October in the United States and Japan, were predictably less grandiose than that.
Many complimented the Gear as a significant step forward in mobile technology with a host of interesting features and the potential for even more. But its $299 price tag was a concern for many, as were worries that sluggish responses on some apps will turn out to be a persistent problem, not a case of opening-day jitters.
Others complained the watch must be synced with a Galaxy phone or tablet to get the most out of its functionality.
We've rounded up some thoughts from folks who got an early look at the connected watch, which will compete against rival devices from Pebble, Sony and other makers. Keep in mind that many of them had limited time with the device and some will publish more in-depth reviews later.
"We like what we saw in a brief meeting with Samsung, though the Galaxy Gear had several shortcomings, such as no direct support (yet) for Facebook or Twitter and a display that stays on only briefly with each press of the power button," reviewer Mike Gikas wrote after a short hands-on with the device. The full Consumer Reports review will come later.
"The Galaxy Gear ... appears to be one of the most useful devices to adorn the wrist since the wristwatch. But its expected initial high price could limit its appeal to early adopters with deep pockets."
"The Galaxy Gear, Samsung's latest foray into the smartwatch category, is now official and it's quite unlike anything you've seen before," wrote Vlad Savov. "Yes, it's a smartphone accessory that can pick up notifications, control music playback, and keep time with a rich variety of watch faces, but Samsung takes it a few steps further by integrating a 1.9-megapixel camera, a speaker, and two microphones — allowing you to shoot short 720p movies and even conduct phone calls with the Galaxy Gear ... .
"Most of all, however, I find it hard to justify spending the $299 asking price on an accessory like the Galaxy Gear. It's too dependent on its parent device for functionality — which will cost you a fair amount too — and, like all other smartwatches, fails to truly live up to the ''smart' part of its name."
In a piece titled "Your turn, Apple," Matt Burns wrote he's intrigued, even though Samsung tends to release imperfect products, then improve them.
"The Galaxy Gear watch seems to hit most checkboxes. The watch's design is fashion-forward without being completely nerdy. It's available in a wide range of colors. And it packs a good amount of tech including a camera into a modest-sized frame. The screen is attractive. It's open to applications and there's even a camera in the wrist band, because why not. And you can actually take calls on the thing by holding it up to your ear."
"Should you buy the Galaxy Gear? Nah, wait for the next one. Or Apple's smartwatch. That's what I'm going to do. A Pebble is good enough for me until then. But I still want this one. Well done, Samsung."
"Wrist watches, smart or otherwise, are simply not for everyone -- there are more smartphone users in the world, many times over, than there will ever be smartwatch owners. Despite the limited market for such a device, however, Samsung's decided it's time to join in on the fun.
"The Gear includes ... a BSI sensor and autofocus lens mounted in the wrist strap ... . That camera, designed for on-the-go captures where convenience, not image quality, is a priority, is paired with a pre-installed app called Memographer. That application, and dozens of others that will be available at launch, are key to boosting the Gear's appeal, and setting it apart from the competition."
"On first use, Galaxy Gear seems pretty responsive. It swipes quickly and smoothly between apps," wrote Leslie Horn. "We weren't able to test out texting, but we started a call that popped right up on the screen of the Note 3, more speedily than anticipated.
Overall, Galaxy Gear feels kind of awkward both to wear (it's chunky) and to use (it's unnatural, although that's to be expected since it's a new type of input). All that could be worth it, though, (if) the fitness apps (which we weren't able to test) are killer, and if moving between your Galaxy smartphone and your watch are as seamless as it seemed to be in our test."
- Created on 05 September 2013
A proposed Facebook policy that would allow your picture to be used in a product or store's ad on the site has privacy groups united in opposition.
Executives from six public interest groups on Wednesday signed a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, asking that the agency block the practice.
"Facebook (FB) users who reasonably believed that their images and content would not be used for commercial purposes without their consent will now find their pictures showing up on the pages of their friends endorsing the products of Facebook's advertisers," said the letter. "Remarkably, their images could even be used by Facebook to endorse products that the user does not like or even use."
Facebook reached a $20 million settlement last week in a class action suit brought by those who argued it did not have enough privacy protections.
Facebook said the proposed policy was in response to that settlement. It said it would listen to comments over a 7-day period that ends Thursday, and that it would consider feedback before adopting the changes.
In response to questions about the objections, Facebook said Thursday that it has not changed its ad practices or policies, and that it is only making things clearer for people who use the service. It said it wants to make clear that you are granting Facebook permission for this use when you use its services.
But Jeffrey Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy and one of the signers of the letter, said the new policy opens the door for even greater user of user's data.
"It requires 'Alice in Wonderland' logic to see this as anything but a major setback for the privacy rights of Facebook users," said the group's letter. The group is particularly upset because it said it makes it easier to use the images of minors who use the site.
Chester said Facebook unveiled the new rules on the eve of the Labor Day holiday in hopes it could be put in place before the FTC and public had a chance to object. But the comments from users at the bottom of the page announcing the changes were overwhelmingly negative.
"Send me ads, fine. Use my photos or posts in ads, I'm out of here," wrote Margo Kelly, one of the Facebook users posting a comment.
- Created on 05 September 2013
What would you say about your small business if you had three minutes in front of Warren Buffett?
This is a question frequently posed to participants in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. One of the key tenants of the program is creating an elevator pitch — one good enough to be delivered to one of the program's advisory board members, the Oracle of Omaha.
The goal of an elevator pitch is to cover only essential information about you and your small business. Your speech should be efficient, effective, and compelling. It should explain what your business is, the problem it solves, why it has potential for growth, and why you are the one to lead it. The pitch should be three minutes or less and help a potential investor understand enough about you and your business to recognize the opportunity and want to know more about how they could partner with you to achieve business growth.
Working on perfecting your own elevator pitch? Below are five critical elements you will need to include to get investors excited about your small business opportunity.
1. Hard Numbers
Investors may love your product, your enthusiasm or the potential opportunity, but unless you have the data and hard numbers to back up your projections and needs, they won't be able to commit. Know the percentage of growth you can expect, how much money you need to achieve this growth, and when the investor can begin to expect a return.
Don't Say: "I think I'll need a large amount of capital. People have said they want to do more business with me."
Say: "I need $100,000 because my two largest clients are planning to increase their orders by 25 percent over the next 12 months and I need faster equipment to accept this opportunity."
2. Excellent Research
Explain how you arrived at your numbers, where the research is derived from, and why you believe it to be the best measure or indicator of the current market. Include a few key data points in the pitch and have additional points in your back pocket to use when answering questions.
Don't Say: "I've seen in my restaurant that the market seems to be shifting toward more demand for sandwiches."
Say: "Our analysis of 12 months of customer-spend data shows that people are buying 30 percent more sandwiches than a year ago."
3. Reasons Why YOU Are The Expert
No one knows your business or your industry better than you do, so make sure you establish your credentials and that you understand your clients' needs. Investors need to know they are putting their money behind someone who truly understands the fundamentals of their sector.
Don't Say: "I really like dogs, so I started Paws Grooming from my home office."
Say: "After 10 years of experience in a vet's office, dog walking and looking after foster puppies, I saw a gap in the market I knew I could fill."
4. Passion That Shows
Your business is meaningful to you; let investors know that. They want to see someone who is committed to the success of the business and passionate about what they do. They don't want to support someone who is only after money. Explain why you love your business, why it is important and why you believe in it. Confidence is contagious — so spread the enthusiasm.
Don't Say: "I didn't know what to do after college and a friend needed a business development partner."
Say: "I believe that children should have a healthy meal every day and this is the fundamental driver of my business."
5. A Memorable Closing
When giving an elevator pitch, entrepreneurs are often so focused on delivering the right information with the right data that when it comes to the conclusion they wind up saying, "So, that's my business... any questions?" The closing is the opportunity for you to say where you want to go next and draw the investor into a longer conversation or follow-up. Keep it strong and on point.
Don't Say: "That's about all I have to say. What do you think?"
Say: "To pursue the opportunity I just outlined, I need financial backing. I would love to discuss further how we could work together on this project. Shall we meet next week?"