Tag Archives: Microsoft

Tapping into the booming esports market

PCR BLOG

In July 2019, spanning three days, the largest gathering of gamers from around the world – 40 million – took part in the Fortnite World Cup tournament. Hailed as a monumental moment for esports, the winner, a 16-year-old, took home £2.42 million. The prize sum overshadowed the £1.6 million Shane Lowry won at this year’s Golf Open Championship in Portrush. The esports industry is becoming increasingly popular, rivalling many traditional sporting events with the Fortnite tournament watched by 23,000 people in a sold out New York stadium and millions more through live streams.

This highlights how the gaming industry and its place in culture has evolved, with gamers stepping away from their own consoles to watch others play their favourite games. And not surprisingly, this is reflected in the size of the gaming market which continues to grow rapidly. According to Newzoo, there are reportedly 2.3 billion active gamers globally and 46% of those (1.1 billion) spending, the financial impact to the establishment is significant. More so with the forecasted growth of gaming from $137.9 billion in 2018 to more than $180.1 billion by 2021. Looking just at the UK, the gaming market is now worth a record £5.7 billion thanks in part to the strong foundations in place for innovative games and entrepreneurial developers.

The next 12-18 months looks set to be a very interesting for the sector with some of the big names in gaming hardware expected to reveal their next generation platforms. Expectation is that Sony, who have sold 525 million consoles since launching PlayStation in 1994, will start to ship their latest console in the second half of 2020. And of course both Nintendo and Microsoft will be in the mix too. Microsoft officially announced its next generation hardware, codenamed Project Scarlett, during its E3 2019 conference and it’s due for release in time for “Holiday 2020”.

Before that is the exciting debut of Stadia in Q4 this year which may be a potential fly in the ointment for the established gaming brands. Google’s launch of Stadia is a game-changer, and a move that will have Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony quite concerned. No downloads, no patches and no console makes this the cloud gamers dream, and Google is delivering this incredible service without compromising on graphics quality.

As Phil Harrison VP and general manager at Google stated when launching Stadia: “It’s a new generation platform, rather than a next generation platform”. In evolving the concept of platforms, rather than recreating them, Stadia will be a tough act to follow, with sharing options via YouTube, which has 63 million daily viewers worldwide, Google Assistant built in, 4K resolution games at 60 frames per second with HDR (High Dynamic Range), and a plan to support 8K resolution in the future.

The excellent features are great news to those who have grown up used to on-demand web-based entertainment, app-based games and instant updates to technology, but for generations who are familiar with buying physical consoles and games, this could be a transition they may not make because nostalgia can come into play. Owning a console and saving up to buy the latest must have game and completing it before trading it in to buy the next release, has been a pleasure to many.

The generational changes in consumers has seen Millennials identify with nostalgia and they recapture their youth through console gaming just as they have been doing for over 20 years. There is a shared enjoyment amongst social groups in getting together and playing a multiplayer game on Mario Kart on the original Wii. It’s also interesting to see how the retro gaming sector tapping into this and making headlines. Available to buy this Christmas will be a reimagined full-sized reissue of the Commodore 64.

Giving this generation a chance to either buy or play the consoles and games of their youth could open up a new opportunity for gaming retailers, because a streaming service is not great news for those retailing the hardware to eager gamers needing to upgrade to access the dream being sold by the platforms. Indeed, GAME has been battling tough high street conditions and has seen in the past three months a successful take over by Sports Direct. The British sports gear retailer said it did not believe that, as a standalone business, GAME was “able to weather the pressures that it is facing”.

Furthermore, the introduction of streaming could see the resale market suffer too, again a blow to high street stores such as GAME and CEX.

This is an evolving and exciting market with opportunities and pitfalls for the whole supply chain. I started this piece discussing the phenomenon that was the Fortnite World Cup and for retailers, this presents a huge opportunity to tap into this ‘experience’ economy and revive their fortunes by using empty high street spaces to create purpose-built gaming arenas for live gaming where the community can come together. But there’s no doubt that we’re going to see a ferocious battle between Stadia and the console manufacturers – so let the games begin.

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Why Google’s launch of Stadia is a game-changer for the gaming industry

Stadia Blog

Google’s launch of Stadia is a game-changer, and a move that will have Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony quite concerned. No downloads, no patches and no console makes this the cloud gamers dream, and Google is delivering this incredible service without compromising on graphics quality. With 2.3bn active gamers globally and 46 per cent of those (1.1bn) spending, the financial impact to the establishment is significant. More so with the forecasted growth of gaming from $137.9bn (£105.3bn) in 2018 to more than $180.1bn by 2021.

Generational changes in consumers have seen Millennials identify with nostalgia, and they recapture their youth through console gaming, just as they have been doing for over 20 years. Back in 1994 PlayStation appeared on the market and having sold 525m consoles. It’s by far the most successful gaming platform ever.

Sony, together with Nintendo and Microsoft, has attempted to evolve the proposition and gaming to a digital platform with some degree of success. The most successful here is again PlayStation, with 80m active users on its PlayStation Network, up from 70m only a year ago.

However, PlayStation 4 Sony’s most up-to-date platform, is now six years old and accounts for a third of the total Sony turnover and profit. It’s no understatement to describe PlayStation as the jewel in Sony’s portfolio and that may just be about to be disrupted.

“A new generation platform”
Enter Google with its Stadia solution. As Phil Harrison VP and general manager at Google stated when launching Stadia: “It’s a new generation platform, rather than a next generation platform” which is what perhaps Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have failed to achieve. Instead they’re merely evolving the concept of their platforms, rather than recreating them. Stadia will be a tough act to follow, with sharing options via YouTube, which has 63m daily viewers worldwide, Google Assistant built in, 4K resolution games at 60 frames per second with HDR (High Dynamic Range), and a plan to support 8K resolution in the future.

It may be game over for the business of selling hardware and encouraging gamers to ‘upgrade’ to a new console. This is not great for retailers who make a good margin on selling the hardware to eager gamers needing to upgrade to access the dream being sold by the platforms. For the platforms, success relies heavily on the hardware sales as the portal to the business end of the operation, the games themselves. Much like the print industry, brands sell the hardware at little or no margin to acquire users to the platform, tying them in to facilitate access to the gaming titles which deliver the true spoils and profit to the platforms.

Now with Stadia the internet is your store, with the network and data centre as your platform. So perhaps the paradigm is about to shift and the gaming industry will see a new emperor wear the clothes.

Generation Alpha

Consider Generation Alpha, the generation born after 2012, who as future consumers have been born into an era where minimalism in hardware drives digital innovation. This is the generation whom Stadia speaks to in volumes, and it may well turn out to be the only gaming platform this generation ever knows. Given that many 10 year olds become avid gamers, mobile phone, tablet and computer users, with no concept of physical media, this seismic shift could make the gaming establishment obsolete, unless their platforms evolve quickly.

To read the full article please visit Mobile Marketing.

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The Microsoft Surface Book has broken the copycat mold

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Over the past decade, the importance of showcasing innovation in both product and design has become a pain point within the tech industry in which many have not alleviated. In a market where competition is high, but opportunities are slim, brands have struggled to break the copycat mold and come up with something different to set them apart from the rest. Brands are often keen in following the footsteps of Apple’s chief designer Jonathan Ive, such as Huawei’s iPhone 6 look-alike Honour 6 device which unashamedly has no original design features, however, it is refreshing to see Microsoft engage in an original industrial design philosophy with the recent launch of its Surface Book.

Understanding that design along with functionality drives desire, Microsoft has achieved the right equilibrium. The Surface Book’s sleek craftsmanship, accurate and responsive pen and touch support, as well as being twice as powerful as the Macbook Pro, has proved innovation in product and design is not just confined to only one brand. The laptop’s advanced display technology makes it not just attractive to look at, but natural and fluid to write on. Together, Surface’s creative director, Ralf Groene and Windows 10 devices head Panos Panay, have invented something new, desirable, and premium, giving the brand a new lease of life in the laptop category.

Other brands should take a leaf out of Microsoft’s book. Consumers are starting to see through the usual copycat formula as demonstrated when a new iPad launches, sending the rest of the tech world into tablet production overload. If brands want to establish themselves within a competitive market, it is about creating an identity that they can call their own, or risk being overshadowed by competing brands.

Whilst innovative design is always important, product functionality is also a game changer. Striking the right balance between the two, Microsoft’s new product launch has hit the ground running. Already running on 110 million devices worldwide and Windows 10 is off to the fastest start in history, could this be Microsoft’s time to shine and set the agenda for the next design-led tech trend? Maybe.

 

Read more at: http://www.brandingmagazine.com/2015/10/27/how-microsoft-has-broken-the-copycat-mold/

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Windows 10: Will Microsoft’s final OS reverse its fortunes?

windows 10 banner

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella has quite confidently said: “Windows 10 is a huge milestone for us as a company, and quite frankly the industry.”

You would expect this from the chief executive of what is still one of the globe’s largest and most influential tech companies, just maybe not as influential as they still perceive themselves to be or as threatening to the big A and G.

Microsoft’s decision to launch its OS for one last time in this manner and seek to upgrade in the same way as competitors do when needed or rather stealthy is a good idea. But financially, it may prove costly to manage when you consider the revenues Windows would generate for the company.

Once upon a time, the company’s OS was on 95% of OEM devices and now on an estimated tiny 14%. That’s a lot of licensing revenue down the tubes and with a mobile platform that is only on 3% of smartphones.

Now with Windows 10, perhaps achieving status as a serious player, offering synergy and a uniformed approach across not just PC’s, tablets and mobile but the Internet of Things will hopefully make Microsoft a more desirable platform to create apps for. The strategy, may just work if marketed and deployed successfully.

What does success look like? Doubling or tripling your share in smartphone penetration to some would be viewed as success but is 6% or 9% penetration even enough? I suspect not.

In order to do so, consumers need freedom of choice and cross-compatibility utilising devices and brands that they chose, with devices and software working in concert serving to enhance, not hinder the user experience. It’s the panacea every tech giant wants to achieve but as humans, we are pre-disposed to never be satisfied.

That’s what makes us unique, which reluctantly keeps tech evolving at a rate that many companies can’t feasibly afford to chase anymore, maybe?

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Can Anything Be Done To Save The Ailing PC Sector?

pcblog
Following what was described as the longest decline in history back in the summer, PC shipments are now at a five year low – and it shows no signs of abating, despite the traditionally fruitful festive period impending.

Steve Jobs, sitting on stage at a conference in 2007 with Gates, first raised the idea of a “post-PC” era, a time when the traditional PC would no longer be the centre of a user’s universe. Instead, more mobile, function-specific devices would come into play, and would make computers much more personal than the PC. The proposal of a post-PC era was certainly in the interests of Apple, but the vision would quickly come to fruition with the iPhone kicking a smartphone revolution; one that would also include such vendors as Samsung and HTC, as well as bringing Google’s Android operating system to the fore.

Flash-forward to Christmas 2013 and fewer consumers have a new PC on their wish-list this year?  Gartner research shows the desktop and laptop market in Western Europe is declining even faster than expected and would likely continue to do so. The UK has been hit especially hard, making for particularly grim reading following a brutal 2012. But should this be a surprise?

Well, we can point to frugality as one reason, with consumers and businesses unwilling to trade in and upgrade their current PCs until absolutely necessary (with Windows 8 no doubt having an impact on this decision), but tablets and smartphones are taking huge chunks out of PC market share.

This is evidenced in no clearer detail than the contrasting fortunes of Lenovo and Acer in recent weeks. Lenovo, the world’s biggest PC maker, has been focusing on mobile devices amid a slowing global PC market. The result? A 36% jump in profits. Meanwhile Acer, the world’s fourth largest computer manufacturer and has been hit by further losses.

Ofcom’s Communications Market Report points to how that is playing out in terms of usage. When consumers are active users of smartphones (now at 51% penetration in the UK) and tablets (now double the penetration of 2012 at 24%, 56% of which is iPad), those consumers are swaying away from using desktop PCs and laptops. Our smaller, less expensive and Internet-friendly alternatives are taking over. It’s perhaps too soon for this Christmas now, but brands in this space need to adapt quickly.

With new brands entering the tablet market all the time, trying to grab a slice of the fortunes (Tesco’s Hudl the latest in a long line), it has driven a tremendous level of choice and value to the consumer; enabling it to become a cost-effective option for the vast majority of consumers.

Moreover, the connectedness provided by our smartphones and tablets also mean that we’re using our PCs significantly less. Whether it be shopping, banking, socialising or e-mail, the strain is now spread across three of four devices and with less functions to be relied upon, the PC upgrade more often than not will be bottom of the priority list. With lower usage means a longer product life too.

However, despite the market shrinkage, I believe there is still a place for PCs in people’s lives. But they have to quickly find and define a new purpose. If e-mail, shopping, banking and even TV-streaming are to be handled by tablets, then in addition to the latter, photography, gaming and design can be the new points of emphasis. Likewise, how can manufacturers tailor their offering to their business audience?

The critical issue when looking at the dip in shipments is that the lost unit sales are largely at the lower end of the PC market. Cheap, commodity-spec, throw-away boxes powered by low-end chips have been made obsolete by tablets. Rather than attempting to be as multi-purpose as possible should PC manufacturers look to consolidate function and emphasise value within USPs.

PCs may never regain the market share they once enjoyed, but there is still plenty of space for them to exist in a complementary role —more portable, more energy-efficient and in a range of new form factors. Whether targeting businesses or the consumer, the PC remains an integrated part of the user’s wider digital consumption habits, becoming the hub of your digital life which tablets and smartphones complement as satellite devices.

By Daniel Todaro, MD, Gekko

read the full article at http://www.techbubbles.co.uk/blog/can-anything-be-done-to-save-the-ailing-pc-sector/

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Why Sony and Microsoft’s head to head may prove self-defeating

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Sony’s PS4 is going head to head with Microsoft’s Xbox OneSony’s PS4 is going head to head with Microsoft’s Xbox One

Wow, like buses you can wait for a considerable amount of time – seven years in the case of Sony – and all of a sudden two will arrive in tandem.

If you’re over 12 years old, you may be one of many people out there who has been waiting with baited breath for the arrival of PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One. Their arrivals are going to be filling up many fans’ time from now through to Christmas and new year. These are two huge brands killing Nintendo as the must have game platform.

Can these brands really attract a willing audience, especially with launches so close? And how do they benefit?

With brand loyalty at an all-time high, won’t those loyal to Sony or Microsoft continue to be loyal without the need for the media hype and PR frenzy, which for one will result in likely negative publicity and a potential drop in share price? Why wait seven years to go head to head with your biggest rival?

These brands invest so heavily in their equity. And in the case of gaming, they have on their hands a fickle audience where the right brand or platform is crucial for them to appeal to their peer groups. They’ve already transformed the functions of their consoles to do more than just provide an outlet for gaming.

With the console industry’s revenue falling, these brands have had to stretch their limbs to provide a kind of living room one-stop set-top box that offer all types of digital entertainment. These devices are now used to watch and control live television as well as streaming video from services such as Netflix and Hulu. No call for living on your sofa could be stronger than these incentives.

Launching deliberately so close together to create a battle may potentially be self-defeating and could have more far-reaching ramifications for the larger brand portfolio. After all, Sony, having just written down its profit forecast by 40 per cent, is taking a huge risk on one platform at the expense of the brand as a whole.

Social criticism is part of the nature of gaming, where violence, gender stereotyping, swearing and not forgetting the health inflicting aspects all have a cross to bear. Is it not time for these brands to consider the wider brand impact? Gaming is one of the most inventive, creative and technologically advanced industries within the developed world, and in the case of the UK, is a considerable contributor to the economy through forward thinking studios supplying Sony and Microsoft. Its social effect is vast and growing and once my generation fades into a distant memory, I imagine it will be hard to find anyone who doesn’t use a console to be socially active.

However, this all hinges on the brands’ survival and the luxury of choice Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony provide, which through self-imposed brand wars could disappear if the brand as whole dies. This could leave us with no choice but to head towards a future of dull conformists with only one platform to play on.

Dan Todaro is managing director of Gekko

read the full article at http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2013/11/29/why-sony-and-microsofts-head-head-may-prove-self-defeating

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