The UpStream

Razer Acquires Ouya, Keeps Name but Drops Hardware

posted Sunday Aug 2, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Razer Acquires Ouya, Keeps Name but Drops Hardware

Ouya hasn't been in the news much lately, mostly because the company failed to gain momentum after a less than stellar Kickstarter launch. However, the $99 Android console has made headlines again as gaming company Razer announced that it acquired the console maker.

Rumors were swirling for weeks about a purchase, being confirmed after Ouya's CEO Julie Uhrman sent out a letter stating that she was looking to sell. Though with technical errors and hardware glitches, many thought it would be hard to sell the company. Razer has stepped in, off the success of its CES campaign, and has agreed to purchase the company as a whole. As a result, Uhrman will be stepping down and leaving Ouya once the deal is completed.

For Razer, the company will be taking the some of the hardware and software ideas from the Ouya console and will implement them onto their own hardware. With its latest product, the Forge TV, making its way into consumers' homes, combining the two Android consoles seemed to be the likely result anyway.

Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan said in a statement,

Razer has a long-term vision for Android TV and Android-based TV consoles. This acquisition is envisaged to usher more developers and content to the Android TV platform.

Razer will continue to provide support and service for Ouya for one year. After that, it will be shutting off the platform and during the interim, will be offering incentives for Ouya customers to switch over to the Forge TV. So for the 100 people that purchased an Ouya, all you'll get after a year from now is a slightly cool-looking paperweight.

However, Razer will be keeping the Ouya name, but as the publisher behind its Android TV games. Razer will be looking to expand beyond just its own hardware with the lineup of games offered, and keeping an external name for that project makes sense. This will hold special value for Razer in China, where the country just announced it's lifted bans on video game console sales. Ouya Games may make quite an impact in a fresh market.

Additionally, Razer did also announce that it is going to continue to honor Ouya's Free the Games Fund, which was a lump sum of $1 million set for developers who launched games via Kickstarter before August of last year with an intent of being sold exclusively on Ouya devices. Even though the contract sent to devs said it could be voided after a sale or bankruptcy of the company, Razer has stepped in to say that they will fulfill all of the remaining $620,000 owed to indie developers worldwide. In addition, Razer is lifting the exclusivity clause and will be allowing studios to publish their games on any platform they wish, through the newly-named Ouya game distribution channel.

Comcast Displeased With Sling TV Ads, Won't Air Them

posted Saturday Aug 1, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Comcast Displeased With Sling TV Ads, Won't Air Them

The Best of CES 2014 product was a television industry disrupting product: The Hopper from DISH Network. After awarding the product, CBS demanded that the award be revoked because of ongoing litigation over the product. CBS owns CNET, the company that was, at the time, responsible for the Best of CES awards. In 2015, the awards were transferred to AOL-owned Engadget who, once again, gave the award to a television industry disrupting service: Sling TV.

The service was launched to the public shortly after CES, and was welcomed with both critical and customer appreciation. The question that many of us asked, however, was how will a company like this, who is trying to change the way people interact with live television, going to screw it up. They weren't facing potential legal action like Aereo, but they had the potential to anger cable companies.

This week according to Sling CEO Roger Lynch, the company finally figured out how to accomplish this goal. Their new television ad, which will begin to air soon, shows the traditional cable companies as mean kids, bullying their customers. While this does play into their business model perfectly, it does pose a few pretty obvious problems for getting those ads run on television. The first, most obvious problem is that they will unlikely be able to run these ads on cable networks.

Many of the ads run on cable are injected by the local cable provider, with a revenue share program with the networks themselves. It is unlikely that a company like Comcast, Charter or Time Warner will purposely run an advertisement for a competitor that portrays them as mean kids. That leaves some direct sales opportunities for some of the networks, but does bring their marketing focus down to mostly broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.

As the company submitted their ad to affiliates across the country for the big 4, they were met with what they seem to think was a surprising result. ABC, CBS and Fox affiliates all agreed to run the ads, while NBC affiliates denied the relationship. This is likely because NBC is owned and operated by Comcast, who was still not content with the advertisements.

Sling has taken this as an indication that their marketing is right, and has played up the disruptive angle of the company, citing Comcast's fear of the service and of the marketing. Lynch said of Comcast,

Comcast has a demonstrated history of shutting down ideas it doesn't like or understand, predictably to its benefit and at the expense of consumers. This is why we aggressively fought Comcast's merger with Time Warner Cable. Our argument? That this massive conglomerate would use its incredible market power in broadband to thwart live Internet video services like Sling TV.

The future of television is certainly a different landscape than is currently available, and traditional cable companies like Comcast are understandably concerned. That is mostly because they are unwilling or unable to adjust their own business models to embrace the change, and will continue to fight them instead. In the end, it will likely end companies like Comcast as they are today, as opposed to using their immense resources to lead the shift.

LinkedIn Shows Quarterly Success, Sees Stock Price Raise

posted Saturday Aug 1, 2015 by Scott Ertz

LinkedIn Shows Quarterly Success, Sees Stock Price Raise

When LinkedIn had their initial public offering, they proved social could be successful - something that Facebook and Groupon were not able to do. Since then, however, LinkedIn has never really shined, though they have not failed, either; they have lived right in the middle, uninteresting results. There have been no major gains nor losses in terms of user count, revenue or profit.

This past quarter saw a change for the company, with gains in many of their key metric. Their revenue was up 33%, an incredible feat for a company with total revenue in the $712 million range. They saw a 32% increase in Marketing Solutions revenue, as well as a 22% increase in premium subscription revenue. These numbers were all accomplished on 380 million members. CEO Jeff Weiner said of the quarter,

LinkedIn continued to deliver increased member and customer value in the second quarter while delivering solid financial results. We continued to invest in our long-term strategic roadmap and began integrating the acquisition of that closed during the quarter.

This quarter included the $1.5 billion acquisition of, a launch of new product Elevate, as well as re-launching Pulse, the news app they purchased in 2013. Being able to accomplish all of this and see such growth in revenue shows a company that is quickly becoming capable of juggling multiple business priorities at once, something once unheard of from LinkedIn. As a result, the company's stock price rose an impressive 7%, based entirely on their earnings report. It is a good time for this, as they are recovering from a 12-month low, which was its lowest stock price since their earnings report for this quarter last year.

Hopefully LinkedIn will be able to continue this progress and get their price back to where it was only 5 months ago. Being able to succeed on multiple fronts, such as Pulse and Elevate, as well as integrating the training services of Lydia into their business goals, could be a big part of that growth.

Microsoft Begins to Fulfill Promises of Gaming for Windows 10 at Launch

posted Saturday Aug 1, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Begins to Fulfill Promises of Gaming for Windows 10 at Launch

It might be the game titles that hardcore gamers might be wanting to hear about, but it is an important market to capture: casual, mobile games. It is a market that Windows 8 certainly had trouble wooing toward its platform, with few of the major publishers bringing their games to the platform. Clearly either the marketing from the company, or the one-on-one partnerships they have cultivated, are working.

As Windows 10 officially launched this week, one of the major players in the mobile gaming space has announced 4 titles coming to Windows 10. Game Insight is probably best known for their Paradise Island and The Tribez games, but they offer a full lineup of games on the mobile platforms. Some of those games, including new titles, will be heading their way to Windows 10's gaming section. Those games are Running Shadow, Paradise Island 2, The Tribez & Castlez and Maritime Kingdom.

Running Shadow is the company's take on the classic runner genre, which has become incredibly popular on mobile devices with games from Temple Run to Disney-themed takes. Game Insight adds a bit of RPG to the mix, standing out in an overly crowded space. Paradise Island 2 is a new version of their existing franchise, which is like a Sim City-style travel world simulator. The Tribez & Castlez is a fantasy-set city builder and combat game, and Maritime Kingdom is a sea-based city builder.

These games will be in addition to the existing titles from the company already available on Windows. The difference will be that these games will all be full HD, with Running Shadow being the first 3D title. Anatoly Ropotov, CEO, said,

Our portfolio of games on the Windows platform is expanding quickly, and has already reached over 14 million players. In the coming months we'll be introducing new genres with impressive 3D graphics and gameplay that will help us continue to provide the best possible experience for users on the platform.

Hopefully this is just the beginning of what is to come for gaming on Windows 10.

Uber, In Search of Drivers, Partners with AARP

posted Saturday Aug 1, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Uber, In Search of Drivers, Partners with AARP

Uber may be a company who doesn't know exactly who they are, but they do seem to know what they need: drivers. As the company continues to try and expand the number of markets in which they operate, the only way they can support this is with enough drivers for the demand for rides. The problem they have encountered, however, is a general disinterest in their target demographic for people to use their own vehicles to drive others around.

This week, the company announced that, rather than trying to adjust their marketing toward their target, they have adjusted who their target is. As part of this reconsideration, Uber announced a new relationship with Live Reimagined, a division of AARP. For those who don't know, AARP is an organization that reaches out to the older population. They tend to offer discount on services, events and special incentives to their members.

In this case, the partnership with Uber will provide 2 things: a marketing channel for Uber to reach out to a new crop of potential drivers and a financial incentive to their members to give it a try. If a driver signs up through the AARP partnership and complete 10 trips, they will receive a $35 bonus. This bonus is intended to offset their first tank of gas, which should be about equivalent to the amount used on these 10 trips. Theoretically, then, this should create a zero cost opportunity to try out the service.

David Plouffe, Chief Advisor for Uber, said of the partnership,

Uber and AARP's Life Reimagined working together is a natural fit. Uber is used by many people over 40 to supplement their income, and it's a great way to make money, meet people and serve the community. We are thrilled to work with Life Reimagined to spread the word about this opportunity to their members throughout the US.

It will be interesting to see if the company does anything to try and offset the perceived dangers of driving for the company. Across the world there have been issues with riders, as well as riots by riders and taxi drivers, and it has certainly created a scenario in which drivers' personal and property safety could be in danger. As Uber attempt to woo older drivers with promises of supplemental income, protecting those drivers should become an essential priority.

China Lifts 15 Year Ban on Video Game Consoles

posted Sunday Jul 26, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

China Lifts 15 Year Ban on Video Game Consoles

China has had a ban on video game consoles for 15 years. The government claimed that it could cause "potential harm to the physical and mental development of the young" and have enforced this ban since 2000. This week, the console drought ended as China lifted the ban of video game console sales in the country.

China will effectively relax its guidelines and will allow video game makers to now manufacture and sell their gaming devices anywhere in the country. Before this lift, you were still able to buy video game consoles in China, but only in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan; the ban only applied to mainland China. In 2014, the Chinese government made a slight amendment to the ban, and allowed a "free trade zone" to exist in Shanghai so that the big three could form relationships with Chinese manufacturing plants. That move led to Microsoft and Sony working with Chinese partners to make their consoles available for sale in the country.

The decision this week to lift all restrictions certainly opens up a lot more opportunity for not only Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, but for other console manufacturers to make an impact in a space that's now open for anyone to jump in. Any company, domestic or foreign, will be able to both sell and build their devices in the country of over 1 billion people.

One thing that will not change, though, is the approval process for video games. Drug use, violence, obscenity and "anything that can harm public ethics or China's culture" are still banned in the country. That means games like Halo and GTAV are still not allowed to be sold. Publishers do have the option to sell a censored or altered game, but almost all have chosen to simply not sell the title.

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