The UpStream

As Pokémon GO Popularity Increases, Companies Capitalize on Trend

posted Saturday Jul 16, 2016 by Scott Ertz

As Pokémon GO Popularity Increases, Companies Capitalize on Trend

When Pokémon GO released last week, it was clear that it was going to be big. Within a few days, the game had more active daily users than Twitter. With successes like that, it was inevitable that companies would figure out a way to take advantage of the popularity of the game. As the first full week of the game progressed, we saw lots of companies find unique ways to get involved.


Though Nintendo is the company behind the game, they certainly know how to use its successes to their advantage. First, they released to pre-order the Pokémon GO Plus, a connected device that allows you to know when a PokéStop, Gym or Pokémon are near, without the need to have your phone in your hand and burning battery. Within hours, the device's entire planned initial production had been pre-ordered, leaving the company with the need to end the pre-orders.

Following their initial success, the company also announced another piece of hardware: The NES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original NES console, complete with 30 NES games pre-installed. The console will release November 11 for $60.


In addition to killing battery, the game also eats up data, though not nearly as quickly. In response, T-Mobile has announced that they will be offering 1 year of free Pokémon GO data, as part of their T-Mobile Tuesdays promotion. Starting July 19 and running through August 9, if you launch the T-Mobile Tuesdays app on your phone, you can sign up for the free year of data. You can also get a $15 Lyft ride during the same period, seemingly to get you to and from a Gym without having to actually walk.


The world's defacto "where should I eat" platform has gotten in on the Pokémon hunting by adding "PokéStop Nearby" to its list of filterable attributes. Obviously this means that people will need to add whether or not there is a PokéStop nearby to a location, but as the desire to find these landmarks increases, people will be more than willing to contribute to the database. As someone who recently ate dinner at a place with a connected PokéStop with someone else who was playing, I can definitely see the allure of knowing before you decide.

Busch Gardens & SeaWorld

These parks have an unbelievable number of PokéStops and Gyms on their properties. Looking at a screenshot of the park maps, you can almost not see the ground in many areas of both parks. On Saturday, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, the parent company for both brands, ran a 4 hour promotion in which the company added lures to their PokéStops every 30 minutes as they expired. It caused the entire park to be overrun with Pokémon for the entirety of the event.

Do you know of other companies taking advantage of the popularity of the game? Tell us about them in the comments!

Nintendo to Release Stand-Alone NES Console

posted Saturday Jul 16, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo to Release Stand-Alone NES Console

Nintendo, either riding high on the release of Pokémon GO or using a well-coordinated strike, made a very surprising announcement this week - the return of the original Nintendo Entertainment system. Kind of. The new, console looks like a miniature replica of the original, but it has a lot of differences from what we know of as the NES.

First, the console will feature 30 built-in titles, which are listed below. Those titles will be the only ones available, as the cartridge lid does not open, the device does not connect to the Internet for updates and there is no external storage. What is on this little guy is all there will ever be without different hardware. This makes the console less like the original NES and more like the DreamGear hardware Nakia Mann discovered at CES 2016.

The controller plugs are different from the original, meaning that you cannot use original NES controllers, but must use the special ones designed for this model. The NES Classic Edition will sell for $60 in the US, and additional controllers will be available for $10.

Nintendo describes the game choices, saying,

The game lineup was chosen to provide a diverse mix of popular and recognizable NES games that appeal to a wide variety of players. Everyone should be able to find multiple games to enjoy.

Many of the games are well-known titles, but are not necessarily the types of replayable games one might expect from a device like this one. It is also disappointing that you cannot play original NES cartridges, something that many people still have, though might not still have a working NES console.

Are the titles below enough to get you to spend the $60 this November 11th when the NES Classic Edition hits stores? Let us know.

  • Balloon Fight
  • Bubble Bobble
  • Castlevania
  • Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
  • Donkey Kong
  • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Double Dragon II: The Revenge
  • Dr. Mario
  • Excitebike
  • Final Fantasy
  • Galaga
  • Ghosts N Goblins
  • Gradius
  • Ice Climber
  • Kid Icarus
  • Kirby's Adventure
  • Mario Bros.
  • Mega Man 2
  • Metroid
  • Ninja Gaiden
  • Pac-Man
  • Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
  • StarTropics
  • Super C
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Super Mario Bros. 2
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Tecmo Bowl
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Another Messaging App, Line, Goes Public Successfully

posted Saturday Jul 16, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Another Messaging App, Line, Goes Public Successfully

Tech Initial Public Offerings are a tricky endeavor, especially lately. They are so difficult that, in 2016, there have only been 5 tech IPOs. The latest is another messaging app, and one you have likely not encountered unless you are communicating often with Asia. The company and messaging product are called Line, and they work just like products like WhatsApp.

Let's start with the IPO. The company, which is a Japanese subsidiary of the South Korean company Naver, offered stock on two exchanges: 22 million shares on the NYSE and 13 million on Tokyo's stock exchange. The stocks opened the day at $42 per share, netting the company about $1.25 billion for Line. Prices rose just about $2.50 per share during the day, and then tumbled, closing at $26.61 per share. At its height, the company was valued at $9.3 billion.

Comparatively, Facebook spent $16 billion for WhatsApp, a nearly identical product that duplicates many of the features of Facebook's own messaging app. Despite the repetition to their existing offerings, Facebook still paid nearly double the valuation that Line received during their IPO.

Speaking of Facebook, their IPO went similarly, opening at $42 and closing at $38.37. They raised $16 billion, however, as they offered many more shares at that price. Twitter ended up with a valuation of $31 billion after their IPO. Despite offering less stock and ending up with a far lower valuation that Facebook or Twitter, and a smaller valuation than rival WhatsApp was sold for, Line still managed to take the top spot as most successful IPO of the year, a mantle that clearly has little value.

Is this IPO an indication that tech companies are no longer worth what they once were to investor? Or are messaging apps simply worth more to investors than other tech companies? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

HummingBad Generates Over $300,000 Monthly for Developers

posted Saturday Jul 16, 2016 by Scott Ertz

HummingBad Generates Over $300,000 Monthly for Developers

Last week, security firm Check Point disclosed a lot of information about HummingBad, a widely distributed malware toolkit, affecting over 10 million users. The malware is initially downloaded unknowingly through one of 200 apps available in Google Play. Those apps then root the device and download more of the infected apps, which then generate fake advertising clicks.

Since last week, a couple of questions have arisen. The most common question has been about just how widespread the problem is. Our initial numbers, reported last week, were a misrepresentation of the number of devices infected. We reported that 10 million devices were infected, but as it turns out, that was incorrect. In fact, the report states that 10 million users are affected, with many users having several infected devices. The real count comes in at about 85 million unique Android devices infected by this malware.

The primary count exists within China, where the developer and ad network YingMob exist, with 1.6 million users. India follows with 1.35 million and the Philippines with 520,901. The rest of the countries are spelled out below.

The next question we have heard has been about revenue. How much could YingMob possibly make generating fake advertising clicks on infected devices? According to Check Point, the company generates an average of $10,000 per day, which nets $300,000 per month, and $3.6 million annually. This is a lot of money for any organization, let alone a small Chinese advertising company. Profit, however, leads to a third question.

The third question we've been asked, and we discussed on the show last week, is about what's next for the malware. As of right now, the software, that has root access to 85 million devices, is fairly benign. It generates fake ad clicks and downloads additional apps. It could be a whole lot worse. If revenue is the main drive behind YingMob's actions, the next step could generate a lot more revenue. It involved selling root device access for 85 million devices to others.

Once another organization has root access to that many devices, they could do some real damage and mine some serious data. Root access can allow for data scraping from the device, including contacts, app data, etc. It can also continue to install other software, including screen readers and keyloggers. This could give nefarious groups access to email, banking, tax records, etc. Selling this access could generate FAR more than $3.6 million annually for the group.

Will there be more problems ahead because of HummingBad, or will YingMob be content generating revenue with their current methods? We will keep an eye out for any new developments.

Amazon Grows Prime Instant Video Library With Warner Bros Deal

posted Saturday Jul 9, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Amazon Grows Prime Instant Video Library With Warner Bros Deal

The battle for video streaming dominance is a heated one, and it is set to get worse with time. This week, Amazon announced a new partnership that will add 33 new exclusive titles to Prime Instant Video. The partnership is with Warner Bros. and includes some of their largest titles, including Lethal Weapon and the Matrix franchise.

Amazon has been working hard to raise both the quality and awareness of their service. While it comes included with a Prime subscription, many subscribers do not know that. One way to raise that awareness is to get some high profile titles, which this relationship could certainly do. In addition, they have been ramping up their original content, with a focus on families.

Obviously, Netflix isn't going to allow Amazon to make itself too attractive, or to take away the service's market dominance. They have been strengthening their catalog, as well, with CW shows coming to the service only a week after a season ends. Television alone won't keep them going, though, as Hulu has already proven - Netflix is going to have to ramp up their movie offering if they want to continue their position.

Here are the movies coming as part of Amazon's new deal:

  • The American President
  • Barcelona
  • Good Night, And Good Luck
  • Grumpier Old Men
  • JFK
  • Mystic River
  • Ocean's Eleven
  • See Spot Run
  • Space Jam
  • Storytelling
  • Twister
  • The Wedding Singer
  • Any Given Sunday
  • Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
  • Caddyshack
  • The Candidate
  • The Devil's Advocate
  • Dreamcatcher
  • Final Destination
  • Full Metal Jacket
  • Interview With the Vampire
  • Lethal Weapon
  • Lethal Weapon 2
  • Lethal Weapon 3
  • Lethal Weapon 4
  • The Matrix
  • The Matrix Reloaded
  • The Matrix Revolutions
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3
  • Training Day
  • You've Got Mail

US Justice Department Sues Facebook Over Possible Tax Dodge

posted Saturday Jul 9, 2016 by Scott Ertz

US Justice Department Sues Facebook Over Possible Tax Dodge

The US Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Facebook over their lack of cooperation with an IRS investigation. Facebook transferred some if its intellectual property to a wholly-owned subsidiary located in Ireland. The transfer was made because of more favorable tax rates in Ireland versus the United States. This is a fairly common practice, so why are the IRS and DoJ involved?

The IRS maintains that Facebook transferred its IP overseas at a lower value to avoid paying taxes in the US. The company has not been terribly cooperative with the investigation, which prompted the DoJ to get involved, filing suit to force them to turn over documents related to the inquiry. Detailed in the suit,

The IRS examination team's preliminary positions suggested that the E&Y (Ernst & Young tax adviser) valuations of the transferred intangibles were understated by billions of dollars.

Facebook has denied these accusations, releasing a statement saying,

Facebook complies with all applicable rules and regulations in the countries where we operate.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon scenario, with companies transferring taxable income out of North America and into countries with lower corporate taxes. That will make it more difficult for Facebook to explain away the behavior and the potential of billions of dollars being devalued in the transfer. This scenario has been a major aspect of tax reform conversations, with some suggesting that laws should be created to prevent this behavior, and others recommending that corporate taxes be changed so companies are not in a better situation leaving the country.

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