The UpStream (Page 139)

Nintendo Disappoints Zelda Fans Twice

posted Friday Mar 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo Disappoints Zelda Fans Twice

Last week was a good week for Nintendo fans with the announcement of Nintendo-branded games coming to mobile platforms. This week has not been the same shining light for fans of the Zelda franchise, however, as Nintendo has made a few announcements that are disappointing.

Live Action Netflix Series

Several weeks ago, it was reported that Nintendo and Netflix were working to bring a live-action Zelda series to the streaming platform. As it turns out, The Wall Street Journal may have misspoke when they published this report, as Nintendo is now saying that is not true. In fact, Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata said,

As of now, I have nothing new to share with you in regard to the use of our IPs for any TV shows or films, but I can at least confirm that the article in question is not based on correct information.

While this is not an all-out denial, and far from a rejection of the concept or that discussions have begun, it is also far from a positive note. The idea of a live-action series was beginning to grow on fans, and the loss of what apparently never was is a disappointment. However, as I mentioned in the original article, there were a lot of reasons why it could have gone horribly wrong, not the least of which being that none of the characters in the franchise have any depth whatsoever. While it doesn't give show-runners a lot to work with, George Lucas managed to make quite a career out of undeveloped characters.

Legend of Zelda for Wii U

If the Netflix story was a disappointment for you, this one might be a crushing blow. The Legend of Zelda series announced at E3 2014 for the Wii U for a 2015 release will not be a reality. As it turns out, the game is bigger than they had originally estimated and the release has been pushed back past 2015. Producer Eiji Aonuma said,

I must apologize to you that were expecting the game by year's end, but we are no longer making a 2015 release our number one priority. Instead, our priority is to make it the most complete and ultimate Zelda game.

The good news here is that the company is still focusing on producing a game that people will love. During development, the team "discovered several new possibilities" for gameplay, which means the delay is likely because they found a way to make old new again, bringing a new way to enjoy Zelda again.

As I have watched our development progress, I have come top think that rather than work with meeting a specific schedule as our main objective, and releasing a game that reflects only what we can create within that scheduled time, I feel strongly that our focus should be to bring of these ideas to life in a way that will make The Legend of Zelda on Wii U the best game it can possibly be.

Unfortunately this means we won't be seeing the game again this year at E3. It does mean that when the game launches, likely in 2016, Nintendo's bar has been raised higher than before.

BlackBerry Posts Profit for Quarter 4, Still Losing Revenue

posted Friday Mar 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

BlackBerry Posts Profit for Quarter 4, Still Losing Revenue

Wall Street had a pretty realistic expectation for BlackBerry's 2014 quarter 4 report: they expected a loss of 5 cents per share. Based on their past quarters, this expectation was completely reasonable and founded. CEO John Chen had other ideas, however, having slashed costs this past year, he hoped for a profit. Lucky for Chen, his goals were to become reality.

In fact, the company posted profit of 4 cents per share for the 4th quarter. This beat not only Wall Street predictions, but also all sense of reality. In an age where Android and iOS own the mobile landscape, and Windows is a distant third, it is hard to imagine that BlackBerry could have found enough coins in the sofa cushions to have recovered so strongly. The problem for BlackBerry is they might not have.

The company's software revenue was up 24 percent year-over-year, which is definitely a signal of a business category growing. However, the software division accounted for only $67 million of the $660 million total revenue for the company. That accounts for only 10 percent of the overall revenue, and barely enough to swing the whole variance from deficit to profit, assuming all of the revenue was new.

So, how did Chen manage to push the company, which by all accounts should be searching for a buyer, into profitability? A lot of it has to do with massive cuts throughout the corporation. The problem for Chen is that budget cuts are not a long-term solution to a sinking ship. If you need a litmus test, let's look at RadioShack. In 2006, RadioShack hired Julian Day as CEO, who immediately made sweeping budget cuts throughout the company. The stock price jumped above $35 for the first time in several years and Wall Street hailed him a genius.

Flash forward to today, and RadioShack is still in bankruptcy, as their signs are coming off stores worldwide. Why, when it appeared that the company was saved by Day, did the company still go down? Because, while playing a numbers game, Day forgot to actually make people care about the company again. BlackBerry is in the same boat right now - a successful quarter does not indicate a win for BlackBerry.

If Chen would like to keep his job as CEO of BlackBerry, he is going to have to do more than increase software revenues to $67 million - he is going to need to put a spark back into the brand.

Rovio to Produce Angry Birds Movie, TV Show

posted Sunday Mar 22, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Rovio to Produce Angry Birds Movie, TV Show

Ever get so saturated with a brand or a concept that you never want to see it again, and then a movie comes out about it? Good news: this is exactly what's going to happen with Angry Birds as Rovio tries to revive the franchise and bring in more sales with its name.

The Finnish game studio will be heading up a 3D movie to bring more awareness to the Angry Birds brand, as if we don't already know about it. The company did report a 73 percent decline in profits recently though, which make have lead to this decision. Rovio attests this loss to a lack of merchandising sales and a drop in licensing deals.

Total sales this year have been down 9 percent at $169 million, however mobile revenue is up 16 percent to almost $120 million. The company also saw a loss in operating profit of $12 million. With competition in the market from big players like Disney Infinity, Skylanders and Nintendo's amiibo, virtual games have started to win out over quick-hit mobile titles by adding in the physical touch to an otherwise digital product.

This move into TV is definitely placing Rovio into an entertainment empire over just being a game company who licenses merchandise. The film is estimated to cost around $80 million, and part of the marketing costs will be paid by Sony Entertainment. It's said that the marketing budget will exceed the actual production budget for the movie. On top of the 3D movie, a TV series is being worked on simultaneously.

The movie sales may be the jump Rovio needs in order to figure out where the company needs to focus. Looking at the past two years, the studio has failed to quickly adapt to the market, and still charges for some of its Angry Birds titles, where the norm lately has been around free-to-enter games with paid content inside of it (no matter how much I dislike the idea, save for one). If the movie does well, the public will have more demand in games, and in turn, Rovio will have to create something new to satiate the consumers who just left the movie theaters. If they're smart, they launch a game based around the movie and include a free download link with your paid movie ticket. Just so it's on record, if they do this, I expect to see royalties for the idea.

Sony Posts Third Quarter Net Profit

posted Sunday Mar 22, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony Posts Third Quarter Net Profit

For the past few years, we've covered the majority of Sony's downfalls and losses. That's not even counting the massive data breaches and the PSN attack. So it's only appropriate that we also report the good news, like we did last month. This week adds to the rare occurrence of a Sony positive, where the company actually posted a profit.

Sony announced this week that it made $1.5 billion in profit for its third quarter, which is up 2.2 percent from its original estimate and is definitely a sign of the company finally turning the ship in the right direction. The report attributes the success to several heavy cost-cutting measures, as well as strong sales in sensors and in the PlayStation brand. This is also better than the previous year, as Sony doubled its profits this year against last.

For Sony Pictures, the division that was the target of a quarter-billion dollar budget cut that included two movies, as well as the same division that fell victim to the #GOP attack, the studio saw some light at the end of this arduous tunnel. Revenue was up 6.5 percent from last year, which is just slightly over their predictions and estimates for the quarter.

Outlook for the year, however, has not changed, as Sony still predicts an annual loss. The good news is that shares have risen more than 30 percent based off the good news and off the heels on the huge budget cuts the company has done. But despite the cuts to bring profit to the quarter, the story here is that Sony put up a profit for a quarter and is continuing a promising, yet painstakingly slow path to recovery. The PlayStation brand still remains strong and we're seeing changes in divisions that haven't been close to breaking even for some time.

Jay-Z Acquires Controlling Stake in High-Quality Music-Streaming Company

posted Sunday Mar 22, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Hip-hop and business mogul Jay-Z has been known to put his heavily-wealthy hands into a lot of different types of endeavors. He owns clubs, fitness centers, a sports management team and even a basketball team. But now, Mr. Carter had looked towards a music service company that is poised to rival Spotify.

Jay-Z has placed a $56 million bid in order to buy a controlling stake in Swedish technology company Aspiro. Aspiro might be best recognized in the United States for its two streaming companies, WiMP and Tidal. The offer was made in January underneath Project Panther Bidco, a holding entity that he owns. The offer to acquire was made in January, with shareholders having until this week to approve, and over 90 percent approved of the deal.

The important acquisition for Jay-Z is Tidal, which is a high-fidelity music-streaming service. It's not only made for the audiophile, but is made for anyone who has a nice set of headphones or other top audio equipment. Most recently, Jay-Z has been involved in production work for musical scores and soundtracks, so his interest in a platform that can offer higher-quality audio files is certainly justifiable. Not only does Tidal serve up better quality music, but WiMP also offers up a high-definition subscription package. 20,000 of its 512,000 paying customers have signed up for the premium service.

A spokesperson for Project Panther finalized the deal in a statement.

All conditions for completion of the offer have been fulfilled, and the offer is therefore declared unconditional. Accordingly, Panther will complete the acquisition of the shares tendered in the offer.

Aspiro will also be removed from the Nasdaq Stockholm. Jay-Z added to the announcement by saying, "Panther's strategic ambition revolves around global expansion and upscaling of Aspiro's platform, technology and services." Beyond that, Mr. Carter has not mentioned his plans for Aspiro. WiMP and Tidal moving forward.

In the end, more and more consumers are seeking higher-quality audio files for their higher-quality headphones, and many want to take that music on the go. Those files, however, take up a lot more space, allowing less music to be carried with you. Cue the latest entrance of applications like Tidal, Deezer and Pono.

Snoop Dogg and HBO to Produce Family Drama

posted Saturday Mar 21, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Snoop Dogg and HBO to Produce Family Drama

When you hear Snoop Dogg's name, there is never any telling what he might be attached to. While being most famous for his mega career in music, he has worked on a series of children's books, recently appeared on the season finale of Empire and even killed it at Comedy Central Roasts. Coming off his appearance on Fox, Snoop and HBO have announced a partnership to bring a new series to the network.

Little is known about the series, but here is what we do know. It will be a family drama based in 1980s Los Angeles and will follow a family "whose seemingly idyllic life is turned upside down by the collision of their community and American politics." Snoop is currently listed as Executive Producer, but it is unlikely that a series executive produced by Snoop could go on the air without a theme song written and produced by the artist.

The series will be penned by The Boondocks writer Rodney Barnes and directed by The Book of Eli director Allen Hughes. The timing of this announcement seems perfect, with HBO Now set to premiere next month, allowing a new group of consumers to access HBO's content. It is also a perfect pairing, considering Snoop's love for the network's Game of Thrones, even writing a song for a show-inspired mixtape.

We do not currently know a premiere date for Snoop's show, but if it has only just been announced, it is likely we won't see it before 2016.

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