Entries Tagged 'News analysis and background' ↓

Which is the biggest British developer/publisher?

Pig 512

Firstly an explanation. I am not writing regularly here now because I am concentrating on another blog, Bruce on Politics.

There are two developer/publisher companies which have consistently claimed to be the biggest in Britain. Jagex in Cambridge and Codemasters, outside Leamington Spa. Let’s put this to the test. The best source of figures are their annual accounts, which are available from Company’s House for the cost of £1 a pop. Each of these covers the last year the accounts were filed for and also the previous year for comparison. I have Codemasters Group Holdings Limited accounts for year ended 31 March 2014 and also 30 June 2011, also Jagex accounts for 31 December 2013.

The first measure we can look at is turnover, or sales as it is more commonly known. Jagex has a 2013 turnover of £46,537K down from £53,098K in 2012. Codemaster figures were £51,969K for 2014 and £53,242K for 2013, so there isn’t much in it. But both were down year on year. Interestingly Codemasters turnover was £122,961K in 2010 and £119,182K in 2011. So the company is doing well under half the business it was doing just a very few years ago.

The second measure is number of employees. Jagex had 515 in 2013 and 472 in 2012. Staff costs were £21,699K for 2012 and £22,858K in 2013. Codemasters had 731 staff in 2013 costing £28,202K dropping to 588 staff in 2014 costing £22,063K. So once again there isn’t much in it. Going back to 2010 Codemasters then had 778 staff costing £32,331K and in 2011 814 staff costing £32,782K. So whilst their turnover has more than halved their staff numbers have dropped far less.

The third measure is profitability. Jagex made £9,758K in 2012 and £945K in 2013. A huge drop. The balance sheet for 2013 shows accumulated profit of £7,067K. Codemasters accounts show a LOSS in 2013 0f £12,868K followed by a LOSS of £3,337K in 2014. Accumulated losses in their 2014 balance sheet total £188,957K. So Jagex has Codemasters very comprehensively beaten on this measure but with a worrying trend.

Of interest, considering the above, is the remuneration of their highest paid directors (and we know who these are). At Jagex the highest paid director received £437,166 in 2012 and £381,815 in 2013. At Codemasters the highest paid director received £862,000 in 2013 and £816,000 in 2014. So making losses at Codemasters pays around twice as much as making profits at Jagex!

Overall, on these figures, it is pretty much a draw as to who is biggest. But accounts are always historic, so the current situation might be a lot different.

I have a new job!

Bruce Everiss, Chief Marketing Officer of Kwalee

Industry veteran marketeer joins smartphone app startup Kwalee

From opening one of the world’s first computer stores in 1978 to writing hundreds of articles for his popular Bruce on Games blog Bruce Everiss has spent most of his lifetime looking after the needs of consumers at the very sharp end of home entertainment technology, with many great success stories along the way.

Now Bruce has joined smartphone app startup Kwalee ( http://kwalee.com/ ) in Leamington Spa. With company founder and CEO David Darling he is helping to form the core strategic management team of the business. As Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) he will be responsible for all of Kwalee’s marketing functions and has already had considerable input into defining the brand and the strategic direction of the business.

David Darling is delighted to have Bruce on board: “I have worked with Bruce extensively over many years and we have had a lot of great successes together. Bruce is an original thinker with a long history of achievement. His strategic input is based on unmatched experience and understanding, yet he is equally happy to roll his sleeves up and apply himself to the hands on graft that a start up like Kwalee entails.”

Bruce is ready for the challenge: “This must be the best job in the world for someone with my skillset, the opportunities afforded by the app market and Kwalee’s approach to it are boundless. We are seeking to positively differentiate the company and its products so as to bring our customers very special experiences. Over the coming months I look forward to like minded people joining the team, exciting times lie ahead.”

Bruce’s appointment fills just one of many key positions available as the company grows rapidly to become an interesting and exciting player in the app market.



Goodbye Apple. Goodbye Nokia

As predicted here smartphones have grown exponentially in usage so that they are now the dominant internet device for large swathes of the world’s population. Certainly their arrival has acted as the mechanism that has facilitated the uprisings in the Arab world. And of course mobile phones are the most used video gaming devices on earth by a substantial margin.

Many many years ago (in 1978) I opened one of the first computer stores in the world, Microdigital in Liverpool. I sold Apple computers and even visited the then rather small Apple facility in Cupertino, California where I was offered the UK distributorship. So I have been a follower of Apple since most people didn’t even know that they existed. And I saw them grow to become the dominant supplier of personal computers in the world, until Bill Gates came along and destroyed their party, relegating Apple to the role of bit player.

Apple’s weakness then was that they designed and made the computer and they also designed and made the operating system. They lived inside a patent and copyright protected walled garden. Then Microsoft came along with an operating system (which was not as good as the Apple one) that any manufacturer could use on their computers. So suddenly Apple were competing against lots of hardware companies, each of whom was also competing against the others. And Apple lost, principally because they were vastly too expensive compared to the Microsoft based computers which had prices honed in the furnace of competition.

And now we see history repeating itself. But this time they are being destroyed by Brin and Page. Once again Apple has created a walled garden with their iPhone and iPad devices, once again they came to dominate the market and once again competition between lots of manufacturers using an operating system from a third party is destroying their business model. Currently the iPhone is the sixth best selling smartphone in the UK, the top five all use the Android operating system. But the reason they are beating Apple is not because Android is better, it is because Android phones are cheaper, honed in the furnace of competition.

Apple aren’t going to die just yet, the upcoming iPad 2 and the next iPhone will sell well off pure momentum. But the writing is on the wall, unless they radically change their business model Apple will soon fall back to become, at best, a niche player. Exactly as they did with personal computers.

Which brings us neatly to Nokia. Throughout the short history of the mobile phone they have been the number one dominant supplier of handsets by giving the customer what the customer wanted. But when it came to smartphones they lost their way completely. They too went for a walled garden with two different proprietory operating systems (Symbian and Maemo). And they thought that smartphones were for “business” and not for people. So their market share collapsed.

Now they are in crisis mode and with new management in place have made one of the most stupid strategic decisions I have ever seen. Quite simply they have chosen Microsoft as strategic partner for their smartphone operating system. Now I am not saying that there is anything wrong with Windows Phone 7, it is just that it is extremely strange for a hardware manufacturer to lock their future into that of a piece of software from another company. Nokia would be far better off being operating system agnostic. They should offer their customers a choice of operating system, then they would be back at what they used to be good at, giving the customer what the customer wants.

So I can’t see Nokia competing with the likes of HTC, who do as I suggest and back all the main horses, which means they are guaranteed to win. With the Microsoft alliance Nokia are pretty much removing their ability to compete on level terms with other hardware manufacturers. It does not look good.

A bit of news analysis

After nearly 30 years the unholy Wintel alliance is over. Microsoft have finally realised that there are other processors in the world and have embraced the ARM chip. Superficially this is because ARM processors are far better suited to mobile devices than Intel processors, which is why they feature in portable gaming devices. But there is far more to it than that. Vastly more ARM processors are made every day than Intel processors and they are very easily embedded into other chips and into all sorts of devices. With this move we have the possibility of Microsoft software running on anything with a screen, which these days is a lot of things. Initially Microsoft will go for the low hanging fruit but you can see that the potential for mission creep is immense.

There is lots of bad news in video game retail with many shops now closing and the retail companies in big trouble, something predicted a long time ago on here. I really don’t see any future role for a bricks and mortar video game retailer. Currently they are kept afloat by secondhand sales but this has incensed the publishers who are doing everything in their power to destroy this business model. Supermarkets will continue to sell gaming products for far longer because of the impulse purchase of putting a game into your trolley and because their overheads can be amortized across many thousands of product lines.

Android smartphone sales have caught up with iPhone sales. Another inevitability forecast on here. Apple are in trouble, they are a marketing company who sell a customer experience whilst lagging behind on the technology. Their late adoption of OLED displays and the lack of camera in the iPad being just a couple of examples. Now they have lots of manufacturers marketing Android products, which are often better specified, competing against them. The time has come for a massive technical upgrade of their entire mobile product range. And they need to be more price competitive too.

Just 43 file sharing websites have 53 billion visits per year between them in 2010. If people can steal and get away with it then mostly they will. As a result many industries, from music to porn, are in tatters. Now, with eReaders, the book industry is headed the same way. In the games industry we are lucky because consoles are fairly effective anti piracy dongles and because server based games are too complex for the casual thief to copy. But the lesson must be that if you are going to develop any game it is essential that you have the means to prevent it being stolen by the masses, because if you don’t you are wasting your time.

Games in education. I have beaten the drum about this on here. The fundamental gaming model makes video gaming the perfect educational tool, far better than teachers who are flawed as a mechanism in many ways. The classroom  is outdated and at long last more people in key positions are starting to realise it. Expect to hear a lot more about this in the coming year.

Facebook is not the be all of social networking as the success of Quora and Chatroulette have proven. As social networking and games often end up being the same thing this is pretty important. If someone bright was creating a Facebook replacement they could come up with a far better product. Just look at how clunky Facebook is with video, for instance. And how limited the forums are within it for making new friends.

Guy Kewney, a legend

In the early hours of this morning Guy Kewney died, from cancer, at his home in London. I have written about Guy before, as a journalist he was the colossus who oversaw the birth of home computing in Britain. Everything that happened here: Sinclair, Amstrad, Eidos, Rare, ARM, and so much more, only happened because of the foundations laid by Guy.

In the mid to late ’70s at the weekly specialist newspaper, Computing, Guy wrote regular articles about the birth of microcomputers. These inspiring missives told us of an imminent and portentous revolution that would transform everything we did. Many people’s lives were changed by reading these. I was inspired to leave the safe world of accountancy to open one of the first computer stores, Microdigital, in 1978. Many other made similar life changing decisions because of Guy!

As the industry Guy had predicted emerged his influence also increased, initially at Personal Computer World, the first dedicated home computer magazine, then at senior positions in several of the top journals and with a lot of television work. The effect he had was vast and covered a period of over 30 years. He was considered the pre eminent journalist in his field and it is impossible to overstate his influence.

But Guy didn’t just write and broadcast, he did it well. He was clever with an incisive mind, he asked the difficult questions and he analysed the facts in a way that brought so much added value to his output. And of course his experience gave him an unmatched platform with which to work, such as when he predicted greatness when Google first saw the light of day.

And of course there was Guy the person. Always clever, supportive, interesting. I met him at shows and conferences, we had meals and drinks together, he invited me to his home to meet his family. And we chatted on the phone to gossip. Talking to him was always fascinating and educational, he knew far, far more than went into his articles.

To get a better measure of Guy than I could possibly explain you might like to read this blog put together over the last month or so by his friends and colleagues. (Read the comments.)

Also Guy kept a journal of his terminal illness, throughout it you get a real feel for the spirit and the dignity of the man.

It is just so sad that such a vibrant person who was so pivotal to so much is no longer with us. He will be missed.

Dr Henry Edward Roberts

Dr Henry Edward Roberts has died at the age of 68. He was truly the father of home computing, the platform on which video gaming is based. His company was Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) and in January 1975 his $395 kit computer, the Altair 8800, appeared on the front cover of Popular Electronics. And the word exploded. They could not keep up with demand, cloned imitators appeared, new magazines were published and a young man wrote a version of the programming language BASIC to run on it. His name was Bill Gates.

The main feature of the architecture of this machine was a backplane bus that cards carrying components plugged into, called the S-100 bus, this became the standard for microcomputers until Apple came along. When I opened my computer store Microdigital, in 1978, we offered an S-100 machine.

It is now well over 30 years since the revolution that we now take for granted happened. It was created by individual people and it is sad that time is now catching up on them, what was real events is now rapidly becoming history.

Evony Vs Bruce Everiss. The result

Rather than write this myself, it has been written up much better than I could ever do by a professional journalist here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/mar/31/evony-libel-case-bruce-everiss

I have many people to thank.

My legal team in Australia from Marque Lawyers: Damian Sturzaker, Hannah Petrie and Sally Kerridge. They are absolutely brilliant and I unreservedly recommend them to anyone needing legal help in Australia.

My barristers did a fantastic job in court. They are Dr Andrew Bell and Sandy Dawson. A formidable combination.

All this was only possible because of the great friendly advice I received from Danvers Baillieu at Winston & Strawn in London. He has been a pillar throughout these difficult months.

Gillian Phillips, Director of Editorial Legal Services at the Guardian, has been fantastic throughout. Her practical day to day knowledge of being in my position was priceless. She gave me much real world advice.

Mark Gerhard, CEO of Jagex, has been massively supportive throughout. His testimony to the court helped enormously.

The press have been very wary of reporting about anything with pending litigation. However two notable exceptions have been John “wardrox” at Negative Gamer and Michael Thompson at Ars Technica.

Finally I would like to thank the many people who work or who worked on the Evony game who have contacted me, from China and from the West, often at personal risk, to give me the information you have seen reported here.

It has been a very difficult 8 months or so. But all along I could take comfort and strength from the support of those named above and my family. And the knowledge that I had only reported the truth.

My thanks once again.