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Two big gaming content deals to look at today — Sony is shelling out $3.6bn for Bungie Studios, best known for creating the Halo franchise, while the New York Times is paying $3.6mn for Wordle, created by Josh Wardle, a Brooklyn software engineer.
Actually, I made up that $3.6mn figure. The NYT will only say it paid dollars in the “low seven figures” for Wordle, so I’m thereabouts and it serves to emphasise that Sony is risking roughy 1,000 times more on its purchase.
In addition, Wordle is probably more popular right now than anything Bungie produces — you, me and everyone we know are playing at guessing the five-letter word each day (I got it in three attempts today). Casual games can also generate significant revenues — Activision Blizzard paid nearly $6bn for King, publisher of Candy Crush Saga, which has had sales of more than $1bn a year — comparable with a Call of Duty release.
But Wordle is free to play, has no other revenue stream, is easily copied and, as with many casual games, could soon become a passing fad. That may be why Josh sold it now, although his tweet suggested he was a little like the Flappy Bird guy in finding its popularity “a little overwhelming “.
Bungie is anything but a one-man operation — it has more than 900 staff and a huge community of gamers hooked on its Destiny franchise (it no longer owns Halo). Like Activision Blizzard’s reasoning in being bought by Microsoft, Bungie seems bent on transferring its game worlds to the cloud, the metaverse and other media with Sony’s backing. “Game worlds are only the beginning of what our IP will become,” said chief executive Pete Parsons.
While the numbers are worlds apart, the common denominator with both deals is the big media companies scaling even bigger by bulking up on content to increase reach and engagement. As the NYT modestly put it: “The Times remains focused on becoming the essential subscription for every English-speaking person seeking to understand and engage with the world.”
The Internet of (Five) Things
1. GlobalWafers-Siltronic deal fails
The planned €4.35bn acquisition of German chip supplier Siltronic by its bigger Taiwan rival GlobalWafers has collapsed after Berlin failed to approve the deal, highlighting how national security concerns over supply chains are shaping deals in the industry. Lex says a fresh bid from an acquirer closer to home is possible.
2. Big Tech increases funding to US think-tanks
The world’s biggest tech companies are pouring money into US foreign policy think-tanks as they argue that stricter competition rules will benefit China. Total donations to four of the most prestigious research groups have risen from at least $625,000 in 2017-18 to $1.2mn in 2019-20, according to an FT analysis.
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3. Vodafone shareholder signals support for activist campaign
Abrdn, one of Vodafone’s biggest shareholders, has hailed an activist campaign aimed at improving the telecoms company’s performance as “very sensible”, as another investor said the move was “long overdue”. Cevian Capital, Europe’s largest activist investor, will probably push for a shake-up of the FTSE 100 group’s international portfolio, writes Helen Thomas.
4. Tesla in ‘rolling stop’ recall
Tesla is being ordered to fix more than 50,000 cars in the US over a software feature that meant the vehicles failed to stop at some junctions. The fix, which the company will carry out by a remote software update, was agreed by Tesla after meetings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
5. Air taxis: fantasy or realistic promise?
Flying cars are on the ascent, with a fleet of start-ups raising more than double the amount over the previous decade on the promise of making “urban air mobility” a reality. But will the exuberance evaporate?
Tech tools — Sequent’s Elektron smartwatch
About three in 10 smartwatch owners abandon their devices when they tire of having to charge them, writes Jamie Waters. Sequent, a young Swiss brand, has a fix: it makes smartwatches that, like a traditional automatic watch, are fuelled by wrist movement so need never be plugged in. It’s carving out a market niche and the £499 Elektron, its latest electricity-saving design, cuts a dash with a titanium case, glow-in-the-dark hands and a gently curved sapphire-glass case. Its dial displays heart rate and step count and, via an app, provides GPS tracking and data on sleep and blood-oxygen levels.
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