Customer looks at the new iPhones on display at the

Apple's latest iPhone 6S is already a bore The days of Apple shares soaring ahead of yet another iPhone unveil seem to be fading. Check out this story on Customer looks at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store on September 19, 2014 in Hong Kong, China.

10 games we’re dying to play on the new Apple TV

Marvel: Future Fight would make for an excellent couch co-op game on Apple TV.

Apple is the company most responsible for ushering in touchscreen gaming, but a rumor now claims the company will reveal a new device tomorrow that will rely heavily on a physical controller.

By this time tomorrow, we’ll know exactly what Apple has planned for the new Apple TV (read everything we know about the device right here). But for now, a report (originally from 9to5 Mac) suggests that the company plans to dive into gaming. This includes bringing the App Store to the device as well as a TV-style remote control with a motion sensor built-in. More important, Apple is also reportedly working to ensure the new gadget supports the latest console-style Bluetooth controllers — and that’s despite other companies, like Nvidia, ditching Bluetooth controllers due to causing a laggy connection.

All of this means that Apple is potentially introducing a new gaming console tomorrow, and we have a list of games that we can’t wait to play on our Apple TVs with a real controller.

Crossy Road

Crossy Road

Tons of games that are popular and lucrative on iPhone and iPad will make no sense at all on a television. Trust me — your family does not want to watch you take over the TV to play Clash of Clans. But Crossy Road is a great example of something that would work with a controller. And it already does!

Crossy Road is the Frogger-style endless hopping game that debuted earlier this year to critical acclaim, huge download numbers, and more than $10 million in revenue. While it’s a good touchscreen app, developer Hipster Whale also incorporated controller support for devices like the Nvidia Shield and Amazon Fire TV. It could find new life on Apple TV, where gamers and families can take turns seeing who can get the farthest.

Pac-Man 256

Pac-Man 256

This is the endless Pac-Man game that just debuted last month on mobile devices (read our review here). It’s about the yellow pellet muncher outracing the glitch that caused colorful numbers and letters to appear on the screen for anyone who got to level 256 in the original arcade release.

Pac-Man 256 is another Hipster Whale production, and it is also ideally suited to both touchscreen and gamepad controls. Once again, it already has support for both, so it’s just a matter of getting the game out on Apple TV.

Minecraft: Pocket Edition


Minecraft doesn’t need any more help. It’s easily one of the most popular games in the world, and it doesn’t matter if you play it with a gamepad, mouse and keyboard, or on a touchscreen. But because we know the game works with a controller thanks to its megasuccesful entries on the consoles, we’d love to see it get full gamepad support on Apple TV. That way, kids who have spent hours building their masterworks on a tiny iPhone can now show it off on a much larger television set.

Marvel: Future Fight

Marvel Future Fight

While Marvel films dominate at the box office, the comic book company hasn’t really made the effort to translate that success to triple-A gaming. Instead, we get neat free-to-play releases like Marvel Heroes 2015 (now 2016) on PC and several mobile games. One of the coolest recent releases is the Diablo-like action role-playing game Marvel: Future Fight. While fans have begged for a port of Marvel Heroes 2015 for consoles — or for controller support on PC — mobile publisher Netmarbe could swoop in and take some of that momentum by releasing Future Fight with controller support for Apple TV. The game already has multiplayer support, and it would make an excellent couch co-op experience for the new iOS set-top box.

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions

Geometry Wars 3

Publisher Activision revived the Sierra Games label last year in an effort to help it produce smaller and mobile games. One of its first releases was Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions for the consoles, which it quickly also put on iOS and Android. While the game works fine with touch controls, the entire dual-stick shooter genre is one that benefits most from controller support, and this game is no exception.

Mortal Kombat X

Mortal Kombat X Goro Hero

Fighting games have found an odd home on mobile. Developer NetherRealm Studios kickstarted this phenomenon with its Mortal Kombat and Injustice superhero fighting games. But these mobile adaptations take the complexity of the genre and boil it down to its simplified essence so that they can work with basic touchscreen controls.

But with Apple TV and controller support, NetherRealm could reintroduce some of the depth these games have lost. It probably won’t happen, but it’s something we’d love to play — especially for something like WWE Immortals, which is a Mortal Kombat-style fighting game that has never had a real arcade or console entry.

Goat Simulator

Goat Simulator

Goat Simulator is one of those games that succeeded because it is so weird and funny. But you lose some of that charm if you’re playing by yourself huddled in front of an iPhone or iPad. Instead, Goat Simulator benefits from plopping a group of people in front of a television and passing around the controller to see who can cause the most mayhem.

Call of Duty: Zombies


Like Mortal Kombat X, Call of Duty: Zombies is an attempt to bring a console experience to mobile. But this one tries to fully emulate a gamepad with on-screen controls, which is always miserable. If you had a real gamepad, however — one with sticks and buttons — a first-person horde mode game would work without issue. The Zombies mode in the Call of Duty: Black Ops games are already extremely popular, but a version that worked with a controller and on a television could potentially rival that.

Five Nights at Freddy’s

Five Nights 2

I can’t play scary games alone. I’m a huge coward. But what I can do is put a scary game on the television when I have a crowd of people over. That’s what I want to do with the Five Nights at Freddy’s games. These Chuck E. Cheese’s-restaurant-horror-house simulators have already found success on PC and mobile devices, but the only way I’m going to play them is in a family room when I can have someone sitting next to me that I could grab.

Now, Five Night at Freddy’s doesn’t have controller support on iOS, Android, or PC — but it would make sense to add it for Apple TV.

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$1B in ad spend and 2.1B installs: How Singular helps Supercell, Kabam, Twitter

financial apps

The mobile enablers space is converging rapidly.

Localytics does analytics, sure, but also mobile marketing automation. Tune is known for attribution and owns a mobile ad network, but just added marketing. Tapjoy is an ad network, a mobile user acquisition specialist, does app marketing automation, and more.

Part of the reason?

People don’t want multiple SDKs in their apps, slowing them down.

But some consolidators don’t need their SDKs in your app. One of those is Singular, which bills itself as a unified mobile marketing platform. The goal: combine all the data you need to see from analytics, ad networks, demand-side platforms, business intelligence platforms, Facebook marketing partners, and attribution partners … and then make smart decisions about marketing your app.

Singular's mobile marketing dashboard

Above: Singular’s mobile marketing dashboard

In other words, it’s kind of a mobile version of Domo, or Beckon, or Origami: giving you one single picture of your marketing results.

“Our core vision is to unify mobile marketing in a single platform,” cofounder and COO Susan Kuo told me last week. “Our first step: unify the data in one place.”

Singular was founded by three ex-Onavo executives. Onavo, of course, was a data-saving utility that Facebook bought in 2013, giving it masses of data on mobile apps, data usage, and some cutting-edge data compression capabilities. While building that business, Kuo and the other cofounders worked with performance marketers regularly, and were frustrated by the same problem most mobile marketers face daily: too much data in too many platforms in too many dashboards.

Co-founders: Gadi Elishayov, Eran Friedman, Susan Kuo

Above: Cofounders Gadi Elishayov, Eran Friedman, and Susan Kuo

“It’s extremely frustrating … people are using over a dozen different networks and trying to integrate all their data manually,” said Kuo. “This is not the way.”

To solve that, the company’s first product is an integrated reporting tool that aggregates data from over 200 sources. Integrating the data in real time is critical, as it gives mobile marketers hard real-time data on ROI and effectiveness, allowing them to make much better-informed decisions about spend, priority, ad mix, and opportunities that would otherwise be lost in the weeds of big data.

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Top companies such as Twitter and HotelTonight are using it, as well as massive gaming titans such as Supercell, Glu, Kabam, Storm8, and Big Fish. With partners like that and others — including a company I cannot reveal but can guarantee you use every single day — Singular has managed over $1 billion in ad spend and tracked over 2.1 billion new user installs in just the past year.

But it’s not just the big boys Singular is built for.

“We have people who are spending $50M/month, but also people who are spending $5K/month,” Kuo said. “That’s exciting for me … it works for very early-stage publishers.”

Which is smart, of course.

Supercell once was tiny, as was Twitter and Kabam, and in the mobile space success can come very rapidly indeed. Early customers who are almost insignificant can become huge in months, which is why in the cloud space companies like Amazon and Microsoft offer startup companies huge free packages.

What’s next is under wraps for the moment, but Kuo offers a very big clue when she says that the company wants to unify mobile marketing in a single platform.

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Tracking, seeing, understanding: How top marketers make data-driven decisions (webinar)

data funnel

Join us for this live webinar on Tuesday, September 22 at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern. Register here for free.

The recent avalanche of customer data has created a bounty for marketers. The ability to track every customer interaction across their lifetime has created a way to engage and convert like never before. But it’s also made marketers’ jobs a whole lot harder.

According to VB Insight’s recent report, The State of Marketing Analytics, there’s quite a bit of dissatisfaction when it comes to gathering and analyzing data, and turning it into action. While 67 percent of marketers say that big data is “very or critically important to the financial success of their firm“, almost half (46 percent) think their business partners (i.e. cloud-based data platforms) were not at all effective or not very effective at translating their team’s insights into actions or results. And this is based on data across every category of marketers, industry, company size, and budget.

Despite this negative view, 73 percent of brands plan to increase their investment in analytics over the next three years — and that number gets closer to 100 percent for market cap B2C companies.

So what’s a marketer to do? The current state of confusion and frustration is exactly why VB dove into marketing analytics in such detail — and developed a roadmap for change.

In this upcoming webinar, you’ll find there’s actually a lot to be optimistic about. VB Insight analyst Jon Cifuentes will be taking attendees through the most important take-aways of the report, including VB’s best bets from the hundreds of vendors and platforms available.

He’ll be joined by top data experts who will share their inside-track perspective on the best way to leverage analytics to actionable insights. If more data has just created more heartache, grief, or confusion for you, this is one webinar you do not want to miss.

Don’t miss out!

Register here for free.

In this webinar, you’ll learn:

  • The primary objectives for marketing analytics organizations today
  • An overview of the massively complex marketing data ecosystem. We counted 800+ vendors in use across 10 key marketing use cases
  • The top vendors available for every use case, who’s meeting expectations and who’s lagging
  • The types of advanced analysis your marketing organization needs to be investing in now to compete for customer relevance


John Cifuentes, VB Insight Analyst
Mary Clark, CMO, Syniverse
Dmitri Williams, CEO, Ninja Metrics


Slack launches on Windows Phone in beta, but key features like search are missing

At Slack headquarters in San Francisco.

Team communication software startup Slack today announced the availability of a public beta of a version of its app for Windows Phone.

The app is live now in the Microsoft Store. It’s not perfect, though. Slack mentions several known issues in the release notes for the app. Here’s one, for example: “The application may not handle loss of connectivity gracefully in all situations.”

Plus, some major features of Slack are missing. You can’t search, upload files, or use Slack for multiple teams in this version.

Windows Phone isn’t the most popular mobile operating system. Android and iOS are far more widely used, according to data from IDC.

Still, Slack is determined to make its app pervasive across more and more platforms. Slack started taking requests for beta access to a Linux version last month, and earlier in the year Slack arrived on Windows 10. The beta version of Slack for Windows Phone first showed up in the Microsoft Store last month.

San Francisco-based Slack, now worth $2.8 billion, had more than 1.1 million daily active users back in June. The app first became available in February 2014.

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King’s new monetization trend revealed: How some games are giving old selling tricks a new twist

Candy Crush Soda Saga is growing King's player base but not its payer base.

As a user experience designer for games, I keep a close watch on new trends and apps with cutting edge marketing and consumer psychology principles that free-to-play titles employ today for monetization & retention.

Selling match-3 boosters: how it’s done

Boosters are power-ups that most match-3 games sell to help player’s get through a level quickly when they are stuck, boosters can turn failures into victories and quicken player progression, like Jelly Fish and Color Bombs in Candy Crush Saga.

Jelly Fish and Color Bomb

As far as selling them is concerned, most games today use the good old “Try before you buy” approach, by giving free samples.

Standard practices in most games today is to gradually unlock new boosters by offering two to three free samples for players to try out and then start pushing for purchase.


Above: “Try before you buy, by providing free sample is conventional. Question is, can this be improvised?”

In Diamond Digger Saga, King is taking it much further.

Diamond Digger Saga

But this seems quite conventional? So, how is it better?

Giving samplers post-sampling

If players are not buying the boosters when they run out of free samples (post-tutorial), they need a reminder of the power and capability of boosters by whetting their appetite once again!

Diamond Digger Saga 1

Diamond Digger Saga Strategy: Bite-size sampler creation

Diamond Digger Saga

  • SAMPLE: Rocket/bomb: This is on sale for hard currency; it gives two to three free as samples. They deal damage along 4 axis.
  • SAMPLERS: Mini-Rocket/bomb: is free as samplers in certain levels, and it deals damage along only two axes.

In a nutshell, Diamond Digger is routinely integrating powered/buffed down version (samplers) of it’s boosters in specially designed levels, post giving free samples.

What exactly is happening here? Let’s visualize this better!


A sampler is a classic restaurant Promotion 101 tactic, where in small portion of a meal is free to whet a customer’s appetite. It primes them for purchase.

free samples

Above: Restaurants and grocery stories around the world use samplers to lure customers.

Diamond Digger, after giving away free samples (boosters that a player consumes quickly) in tutorials, often reminds players what these boosters can achieve by frequently giving them a taste of these bite-sized samplers (mini-boosters).

Still skeptic about the whole Sample vs. Sampler debate? Let’s see how King is reverse-engineering this in another match-3 game, Pet Rescue Saga.

Pet Rescue Saga: Sampler vs. Sampling

Pet Rescue Saga initially follows the same design as other match-3 games, wherein you can unlock boosters as you progress, you get a few to sample, and once you run out of those prompts, you have to buy them.


Pet Rescue has many boosters, but a few appear frequently in many levels, like the Bomb (it’s not available for purchase in the game) and the Rocket.


In early Pet Rescue levels if I fail, I would see the typical “Out of moves” buy +5 screen.


But this initial behavior changes over time.

As you progress deeper in the game, this failure screen prompts changes to accommodate new kind of boosters, ones that the player cannot equip upfront and are only available at failure screen.


Instead of buying +5 moves, above is what I have been receiving lately. You may ask, “What is the big deal? They just replaced “buy +5 moves” offer with a bunch of random boosters?or “… Are they random? really?”

Look closely! These new boosters are powered-up versions (that players occasionally consume for free!)


Again, what’s happening here? Let’s picture this better!


It’s the same sampler approach as Diamond Digger! But instead of buffing down the booster power, it has been buffed up. I call this Booster Scaling Effect.


Between Diamond Digger Saga and Pet Rescue Saga, King is scaling the perceived value of it’s boosters at both ends, pushing default samplers in player’s path for consumption by designing specific levels that endorse power and abilities of their boosters in scaled sample sizes (up or down) priming them for purchase.

Studies also suggest a lot of match-3 players consider buying boosters cheating, sampler approach via pre-integrating bite sized boosters might make their use feel more natural.

As players get to see and use them more often, their resistance will naturally soften.

“Ask yourself … why scale or buff existing boosters? King could have simply used new boosters like a dynamite stick instead of a mini-bomb but that would break the priming association.”


  • Reason for the above approach is unique because it is differentt from just giving free consumable samples from time to time, which most games do as part of “Try before you Buy” approach.
  • King is consciously tweaking level design to integrate bite size samplers and place them in players’ paths for consumption at a frequency much higher than giving free samples.
  • Unlike free samples, these samplers have a very strongly noticeable scaling effect in terms of buffs and visual design, which resonates with real world mental model of restaurant promotion.

Is it hugely effective? Difficult to comment without conclusive data, but it surely is different from what most developers out there are doing – and King seems to be running with it for now.

“My underlying question is, can this sampler/scaling effect be applied outside the realm of casual match-3 games?”

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Clash of Clans vs. Game of Thrones: Ascent — Two ways app publishers use celebrity brands to drive user acquisition

Liam Neeson in the Clash of Clans commercial.

The point of using celebrity brands to reach mobile app users is straightforward: Your app needs a large, engaged audience to succeed, and celebrity brands have them.

You pay the celeb, or license rights to the brand, to get access to their audience and then leverage the credibility of their name and image to turn their fans into your (hopefully) paying users. As long as the lifetime value of the user is a multiple of your cost of acquisition, you’re winning.

Here’s a look at the two different ways Clash of Clans and Game of Thrones: Ascent — two of today’s most successful massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) — leverage celebrity brands to acquire users and monetize.

Supercell Clash of Clans

Above: Supercell Clash of Clans

Image Credit: Supercell

Clash of Clans

Clash of Clans, developed by Supercell, which is 51 percent owned by SoftBank, pays celebrities to appear in dramatic fictional ads and to endorse the product in social and elsewhere. Liam Neeson is tied to the Clash of Clans brand, his most well-known representation coming in a $9 million Super Bowl commercial in 2015.

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In the case of Clash of Clans, the role of the celebrity is to create awareness of the game for a targeted audience. (Kate Upton’s role with Game of War is similar, though there is also a character in the game built on her likeness.) To quote VB GamesBeat writer Jeff Grubb, “Television campaigns for mobile games are all about brand awareness. The company is expecting that this ad will make you more likely to download Clash of Clans the next time you see an ad for it when you’re using Facebook or Twitter.”

The exact nature of the celebrity’s fee schedule is usually kept secret, though rumors have swirled of a seven-figure deal for Upton with Game of War. That may seem like a lot of dough, but assuming that the LTV of a committed gamer is upwards of $90 or more, and that Clash of Clans is pulling down perhaps $100 million a month (I’ve seen estimates from $50 million to $100 million), even a few million spent on Liam or Kate is just a drop in the bucket.

So, even at a disproportionately high cost of user acquisition (CoA is about $12 in the MMORPG category versus an average of about $2.91 across all categories, according to a recent VB Insight report), there’s still a ton of margin.

Game of Thrones: Ascent

Above: Game of Thrones Ascent

Image Credit: Disruptor Beam

Game of Thrones Ascent

Game of Thrones Ascent, developed by Disruptor Beam, whose investors include Google Ventures, licenses GoT brand rights from HBO (which is also an operating partner). The key difference with the Clash of Clans model is that, instead of paying celebs to endorse the product, the revenue model is based on leveraging the show’s brand to acquire users and optimize the GoT brand’s broader monetization opportunity. Clash of Clans, on the other hand, is all about in-app sales.

The big difference is that the brand (and the celebrities associated with it) are the core of the GoT offering. The app is just one more branch on the much larger GoT money tree. And every time the GoT brand is noticed (in the show, in social, wherever) the monetization opportunity for the GoT Ascent app benefits as a result.

To quote John Koetsier, author of the VB report Mobile User Acquisition: How top publishers get the best users for less money, “One publisher of a Game of Thrones themed app told me that his user acquisition costs were in the pennies. Not only that, but whenever there’s a new episode, he gets a spike in users. And, his users are long-term, committed, and loyal players with very significant LTV.”

Since HBO plays the hybrid role of Disruptor Beam’s licensor, operating partner, and distribution channel, it’s difficult to work out the deal mechanics. But when you factor Disruptor Beam’s modest $4.8 million in financing (i.e., they’re not burning much), coupled with millions of verified app downloads, the broad reach of HBO, and the value of the GoT brand, it seems likely they’re making some mad stack.

So there you have it. Two different approaches to leveraging celebrity brands.

One builds a unique product and uses celebrities to help acquire and monetize users. The other licenses a brand to create a product that will optimize revenue from its audience.

They’re both solid approaches to acquiring mobile apps users, if you have the money and celebrity brand connections to make it happen.

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10 months in, Android Lollipop passes 20% adoption

Lollipop Forest Google Android

One in five Android devices is now running the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system. The company released its monthly update to the Platform Versions page for Android today, and once again the latest version has increased its adoption share.

Android Lollipop has not only passed the 20 percent mark — it was once again the only Android version to gain adoption share. The “milestone,” if you will, comes 10 months after Google debuted the Nexus 9, the first device to sport Android 5.0.

As with any update courtesy of the Platform Versions tool, we have to point out that the data is gathered from the Google Play Store app, which requires Android 2.2 and above. This means devices running older versions are not included, nor are devices that don’t have Google Play installed (many Android phones and tablets in China, Amazon’s Fire line, and so on).


Here are the changes between August and September:

  • Android 5.0/5.1 Lollipop (November 2014, March 2015): Up 2.9 points to 21.0 percent
  • Android 4.4 KitKat (October 2013): Down 0.1 points to 39.2 percent
  • Android 4.1/4.2/4.3 Jelly Bean (July 2012, November 2012, and July 2013): Down 1.8 points to 33.6 percent
  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (December 2011): Down 0.4 points to 3.7 percent
  • Android 2.3 Gingerbread (February 2011): Down 0.5 points to 4.6 percent
  • Android 2.2 Froyo (May 2010): Down 0.1 points at 0.2 percent

For the sake of comparison, here’s the Android adoption chart for August:


The Android adoption order has remained unchanged. We still have KitKat in first place, Jelly Bean in second, Lollipop in third, Gingerbread in fourth, ICS in fifth, and Froyo in sixth. It will be a long time before Lollipop takes first place, though it’s starting to close in on second place.

In the meantime, Google continues to push ahead with Android Marshmallow development. The latest and greatest version should arrive in a matter of weeks, along with new Nexus devices, and then we’ll watch the Android adoption pie slowly shift all over again.

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Buffett plies volatile waters, digs in on IBM

Investor Warren Buffett says he has been adding to his sizable stake in IBM during the third quarter as shares in the tech company slide, and that his Berkshire Hathaway has been spending about $500 million a week acquiring stock during recent market volatility. Buffett appeared on CNBC Tuesday before dining with the winners of this year's auction of a private lunch.