Earlier today my colleague Michele Willson and I ran the ANZCA PreConference Social, Casual, Mobile: Changing Games which went really well, bringing together 17 games scholars from Australia and Canada, including a fantastic keynote by Mia Consalvo and plenary by John Banks.

I also had the opportunity to present today, and the slides and audio from my talk are below:

And here’s the abstract if you’re interested:

The hugely successful franchise Angry Birds by Finnish company Rovio is synonymous with the new and growing market of app-based games played on smartphones and tablets. These are often referred to as ‘casual games’, highlighting their design which rewards short bursts of play, usually on mobile media devices, rather than the sustained attention and dedicated hardware required for larger PC or console games. Significantly, there is enormous competition within the mobile games, while the usually very low cost (free, or just one or two dollars) makes a huge ranges of choices available to the average consumer. Moreover, these choices are usually framed by just one standardised interface, such as the Google Play store for Android powered devices, or the Apple App store for iOS devices. Within this plethora of options, I will argue that in addition to being well designed and enjoyable to play, successful mobile games are consciously situated within a social network market.

The concepts of ‘social network markets’ reframes the creative industries not so much as the generators of intellectual property outputs, but as complex markets in which the circulation and value of media is as much about taste, recommendations and other networked social affordances (Potts, Cunningham, Hartley, & Ormerod, 2008). For mobile games, one of the most effective methods of reaching potential players, then, is through the social attentions and activity of other players. Rovio have been very deliberate in the wide-spread engagement with players across a range of social media platforms, promoting competitive play via Twitter and Facebook, highlighting user engagement such as showcasing Angry Birds themed cakes, and generally promoting fan engagement on many levels, encouraging the ‘spreadability’ of Angry Birds amongst social networks (Jenkins, Ford, & Green, 2013). In line with recognising the importance of engagement with the franchise, Rovio have also taken a very positive approach of unauthorised merchandising and knock-offs, especially in China and South-East Asia. In line with Montgomery and Potts’ (2008) argument that a weaker intellectual property approach will foster a more innovative creative industries in China, rather than attempting to litigate of lock down unauthorised material, Rovio have stated they see this as building awareness of Angry Birds and are working to harness this new, socially-driven market (Dredge, 2012). As Rovio now license everything from Angry Birds plush toys to theme parks, social network markets can be perpetuated even by unauthorised material, which builds awareness and interest in the official games and merchandising in the long run. Far from a standalone example, this paper argues that not only is Rovio consciously situating Angry Birds within a social network market model, but that such a model can drive other mobile games success in the future.

References

Dredge, S. (2012, January 30). Angry Birds boss: “Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business.” The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/appsblog/2012/jan/30/angry-birds-music-midem

Jenkins, H., Ford, S., & Green, J. (2013). Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York and London: New York University Press.

Montgomery, L., & Potts, J. (2008). Does weaker copyright mean stronger creative industries? Some lessons from China. Creative Industries Journal, 1(3), 245–261. doi:10.1386/cij.1.3.245/1

Potts, J., Cunningham, S., Hartley, J., & Ormerod, P. (2008). Social network markets: a new definition of the creative industries. Journal of Cultural Economics, 32(3), 167–185. doi:10.1007/s10824-008-9066-y

Links for through to February 15th:

  • Westpac in Facebook crackdown [The Age] – A case-study in how mis-manage community relations on Facebook: “WESTPAC is censoring criticism on social media sites amid growing public fury over its decision to retrench staff and raise interest rates independently of the Reserve Bank of Australia. Negative comments posted on Westpac’s Facebook page over the past week have been deleted within minutes, which has prompted accusations of a ”propaganda campaign” by the bank. But Westpac has defended the practice, claiming that ”partisan views” could deter customers from researching its financial products on social media sites.”
  • Anger for Path Social Network After Privacy Breach [NYTimes.com] – “Last week, Arun Thampi, a programmer in Singapore, discovered that the mobile social network Path was surreptitiously copying address book information from users’ iPhones without notifying them. David Morin, Path’s voluble chief executive, quickly commented on Mr. Thampi’s blog that Path’s actions were an “industry best practice.” He then became uncharacteristically quiet as the Internet disagreed and erupted in outrage.[…] Mr. Morin eventually did bow to pressure with an earnest apology on the company’s blog. He said that Path would begin asking for permission before grabbing address books and that the company would destroy the data collected. […] At Mr. Morin’s last job at Facebook, his boss Mark Zuckerberg apologized publicly more than 10 times for privacy breaches. It seems the management philosophy of “ask for forgiveness, not permission” is becoming the “industry best practice.” And based on the response to Mr. Morin, tech executives are even lauded for it.”
  • Lessons from Path and Pinterest: Tell users everything [GigaOm] – “Path and Pinterest are probably two of the hottest social services right now, racking up millions of users and generating an ocean of favorable coverage. But both have gotten tripped up by the same thing that has made the social web a minefield for both Facebook and Google: namely, decisions that put their interests ahead of their users and a lack of disclosure about what was going on behind the scenes or under the hood of their services. Will these missteps spell doom for either company? Probably not. But the backlash is a welcome reminder that for social apps, the trust of users is not something to be toyed with. Path, a mobile photo-sharing app that expanded to become a full-fledged mobile social app when it relaunched a couple of months ago, was co-founded and is run by Dave Morin, an early Facebook staffer.”
  • Amazon Publishing bookshop boycott grows [Books | guardian.co.uk] – “The cold war between north American booksellers and Amazon has hotted up this week, with the booksellers joining together to announce that they will not be selling any of the titles published by the online retailer. The opening salvo was fired last week by America’s biggest book chain Barnes & Noble, when it announced that it would not be stocking Amazon Publishing’s books. The website publishes a large range of titles, with imprints covering everything from romance to thrillers, and major authors including Deepak Chopra and self-help guru Timothy Ferriss. “Our decision is based on Amazon’s continued push for exclusivity with publishers, agents and the authors they represent,” said Jaime Carey, chief merchandising officer, in a statement.”
  • Over 3 years later, “deleted” Facebook photos are still online [Ars Technica] – Despite the issue being raised over 3 years ago, Facebook still does not immediately (or even quickly) remove deleted photos from Facebook. While the ability to access these photos is removed, the photo itself can linger on for years, still accessible to anyone who has the direct link. When asked, once again, when this would be fixed, Facebook have commented that they’ve almost moved to a new system that should delete photos within 45 days. That’s still a long time after the remove button is pressed!
  • How Much Can a Celebrity Make for Tweeting? [NY Mag] – “The weirdest thing about the rumor that Kim Kardashian gets paid $10,000 for a Twitter endorsement is that it’s true. (She recently plugged ShoeDazzle.com*, for instance.) The biggest player in the pay-to-tweet market is Ad.ly, a social-media advertorial clearinghouse pairing brands with celebs to inject highly personalized advertising into their Twitter streams.
    The pay rate for endorsing companies like Old Navy, Toyota, Best Buy, and American Airlines is determined by the size of a celeb’s following and how that group responds to his tweets with shares and retweets. On that sliding scale, Snoop Dogg (6.3 million followers) is in the top tier of payments, on the upside of $8,000 apiece, while Paula Abdul (2.2 million followers) falls somewhere in the middle, in the $5,000-each range, and Whitney Port (800,000 followers) falls in the bottom tier, making around $2,500 per tweet.”
  • What if Facebook Timeline was read instead of your CV? [guardian.co.uk] – If the thought irks you, make sure your privacy settings are set appropriately on Facebook as Timeline rolls out: “It’s all change at Facebook in the next few weeks as its timeline feature is rolled out to all users – whether they want it or not. This will make it easier for people to dig into your past from your homepage in an unprecedented manner. Pull up someone’s profile with Timeline enabled and you can scroll back through their entire Facebook history. Click on a year (say, 2008) and you can see everything they did in those 12 months, including status updates, photos, and wall posts.[…] Does this matter from an employment point of view? Well, yes it does. Numerous surveys have shown that employers are using Facebook and other social media sites to vet job applicants. In January 2010, a survey for Careerbuilder.co.uk found that more than half of employers used social networking sites to research job candidates.”
  • Man charged over YouTube driving [News.com.au] – “A P-PLATE driver who posted video of his antics on YouTube faces eight dangerous driving charges and losing his car forever.
    The 22-year-old from Kadina, on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, has had his Holden Commodore impounded for 28 days, police said today. He was nabbed after footage of his alleged driving offences was uploaded to YouTube and police learned about his alleged behaviour on roads near Kadina. “
  • Twitter Is a Critical Tool in Republican Campaigns [NYTimes.com] – “When Newt Gingrich said in a recent debate that he was a man of “grandiose” ideas, Mitt Romney’s campaign pounced. It sent mocking Twitter messages with a hashtag, “#grandiosenewt”, encouraging voters to add their own examples of occasions when they felt Mr. Gingrich had been “grandiose.” Within minutes, the hashtag was trending on Twitter. Reporters picked up on it, sending out their own Twitter posts and writing their own articles. The result: for at least one news cycle, the Romney campaign had stamped a virtual “grandiose” on Mr. Gingrich’s forehead. If the 2008 presidential race embraced a 24/7 news cycle, four years later politicos are finding themselves in the middle of an election most starkly defined by Twitter, complete with 24-second news cycles and pithy bursts. With 100 million active users, more than 10 times as many as in the 2008 election, Twitter has emerged as a critical tool for political campaigns, allowing them to reach voters, gather data and respond …”
  • Google CEO Larry Page: Identity Is A ‘Deep, Deep Part Of What We’re Doing’ [Huffington Post] – “Watch out: Google is getting personal. CEO Larry Page emphasized that Google is determined to deliver online experiences tailored to each individual’s interests and social circles, an ambitious goal that requires the web giant to learn even more about its users’ preferences and personal information. “Engaging with users, really deeply understanding who they are, and delivering things that make sense for them is really, really important. We’re at the early stages of that and Google+ is a big effort,” said Page during an earnings call Thursday. “This notion of identity is a deep, deep part of what we’re doing and an example of how we can make all our products better by understanding people.” Though Google already knows a great deal about the people who use its services, from what YouTube videos they’ve watched to whom they email most on Gmail, the web giant still lusts after the treasure trove of personal data Facebook has accumulated over the past eight years …”
  • Google Will Start Country-Specific Censorship for Blogs – “Google figured out Twitter‘s trick for avoiding universally censoring content weeks ago, but it managed to go unnoticed — for a while. That is, until TechDows wrote about Blogger‘s plan for country-specific URLs Tuesday. At some point “over the coming weeks,” Google’s Blogger will begin redirecting users to country-specific domain names — think Google.fr in France rather than Google.com — to avoid universally removing content that would not be tolerated in specific jurisdictions. A Blogger support post, “Why does my blog redirect to a country-specific URL?,” last updated Jan. 9, explains that Google is using the method to limit the impact of censored content. Readers will be redirected to sites with their own country’s domain name when they try to visit blogs recognized as foreign, as determined by their IP addresses. If you would like to see a non-affected page, you can direct to google.com/ncr (NCR stands for “no country redirect”) …”
  • Twitter uncloaks a year’s worth of DMCA takedown notices, 4,410 in all [Ars Technica] – “On almost any given day, Twitter receives a handful of requests to delete tweets that link to pirated versions of copyrighted content—and quickly complies by erasing the offending tweets from its site. That fact itself is probably unsurprising to people familiar with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown process, which gives sites like Twitter a “safe harbor” against lawsuits related to user behavior and uploads—so long as the sites don’t knowingly tolerate pirated material or links to such material. But Twitter has taken the unusual step of making DMCA takedown notices public, in partnership with Chilling Effects, a project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and several universities. […] Scrolling through recent takedown notices, you’ll see names like Magnolia Pictures, Simon and Schuster, Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, among those of many other media companies.”
  • Tweets still must flow [Twitter Blog] – Twitter starts blocking tweets nationally: “As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content. Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why. We haven’t yet used this ability, but if and when we are required to withhold a Tweet in a specific country, we will attempt to let the user know, and we will clearly mark when the content has been withheld.”
  • Google Will Start Country-Specific Censorship for Blogs – “Google figured out Twitter‘s trick for avoiding universally censoring content weeks ago, but it managed to go unnoticed — for a while. That is, until TechDows wrote about Blogger‘s plan for country-specific URLs Tuesday. At some point “over the coming weeks,” Google’s Blogger will begin redirecting users to country-specific domain names — think Google.fr in France rather than Google.com — to avoid universally removing content that would not be tolerated in specific jurisdictions. A Blogger support post, “Why does my blog redirect to a country-specific URL?,” last updated Jan. 9, explains that Google is using the method to limit the impact of censored content. Readers will be redirected to sites with their own country’s domain name when they try to visit blogs recognized as foreign, as determined by their IP addresses. If you would like to see a non-affected page, you can direct to google.com/ncr (NCR stands for “no country redirect”) …”
  • Man charged over YouTube driving [News.com.au] – “A P-PLATE driver who posted video of his antics on YouTube faces eight dangerous driving charges and losing his car forever.
    The 22-year-old from Kadina, on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, has had his Holden Commodore impounded for 28 days, police said today. He was nabbed after footage of his alleged driving offences was uploaded to YouTube and police learned about his alleged behaviour on roads near Kadina. “
  • What if Facebook Timeline was read instead of your CV? [guardian.co.uk] – If the thought irks you, make sure your privacy settings are set appropriately on Facebook as Timeline rolls out: “It’s all change at Facebook in the next few weeks as its timeline feature is rolled out to all users – whether they want it or not. This will make it easier for people to dig into your past from your homepage in an unprecedented manner. Pull up someone’s profile with Timeline enabled and you can scroll back through their entire Facebook history. Click on a year (say, 2008) and you can see everything they did in those 12 months, including status updates, photos, and wall posts.[…] Does this matter from an employment point of view? Well, yes it does. Numerous surveys have shown that employers are using Facebook and other social media sites to vet job applicants. In January 2010, a survey for Careerbuilder.co.uk found that more than half of employers used social networking sites to research job candidates.”
  • Angry Birds boss: ‘Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business’ [Technology | guardian.co.uk] – “Rovio Mobile learned from the music industry’s mistakes when deciding how to deal with piracy of its Angry Birds games and merchandise, chief executive Mikael Hed told the Midem conference in Cannes this morning. “We have some issues with piracy, not only in apps, but also especially in the consumer products. There is tons and tons of merchandise out there, especially in Asia, which is not officially licensed products,” said Hed. “We could learn a lot from the music industry, and the rather terrible ways the music industry has tried to combat piracy.” Hed explained that Rovio sees it as “futile” to pursue pirates through the courts, except in cases where it feels the products they are selling are harmful to the Angry Birds brand, or ripping off its fans. When that’s not the case, Rovio sees it as a way to attract more fans, even if it is not making money from the products. “Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business at the end of the day.””

Links for January 1st through January 12th:

  • Amazon Launches iPad Kindle Store to Dodge Apple’s Restrictions [RWW] – Amazon launches even further into Apple’s regulated home turf: “Amazon has launched a more touch-friendly, Web-based iPad Kindle Store. A tablet-optimized Kindle store was available through the HTML5 Kindle Cloud Reader Amazon launched last August, but the new iPad Kindle Store is a standalone Web app. Upon visiting amazon.com/iPadKindleStore from Safari, a pop-up prompts the user to add it to the home screen. This is the most seamless way for Kindle users to buy books on the iPad. Apple’s in-app purchasing rules prevent e-book sellers from offering stores in their native apps (without giving Apple a 30% cut). The route around that was to include a link to the Web store inside the native reader app. Last July, Apple forced Amazon and other e-reader apps to remove this link, so users of e-book platforms other than Apple’s iBooks must buy their books in the browser, in a separate place from where they read.”
  • Search, plus Your World [Inside Google Search]– Google adds more personalisation with “Search, plus Your World” which heavily (but OPTIONALLY) integrates Google+ and other social search results into the first page results when searching Google (if signed in to Google+).Twitter (and presumably Facebook) are unhappy since this competes with their social search roles, but Google have responded that this seems a bit rich since Twitter refused to let Google pay to index Twitter in realtime.
  • Angry Birds named most downloaded paid app [Think Digit] – “Rovio’s Angry Birds has been named the most downloaded paid app for the smartphones and tablets in 2011. According to research firm Distimo, Angry Birds was downloaded more than any other application across all major operating systems including Android, iOS, Windows Phone and others. The only platform missing out on the list is BlackBerry. However, the game was recently made available on the BlackBerry’s App World. Angry Birds was followed by Fruit Ninja, while another variant of Angry Birds, Angry Birds Season grabbed the third spot on the list of the paid apps for the year 2011. Among the free apps, Facebook grabbed the top spot, while Pandora Radio followed at the second spot. The free versions of Word with Friends and Angry Birds remained on third and fourth position respectively. The Distimo report covers data collected from January to November 2011. The report has various notable findings such as Apple App Store has four times more revenue than Google’s Android Market.”
  • Digital Music Sales Surpass Physical Music Sales For the First Time Ever [Moneyland | TIME.com] – “Last year, for the first time in history, digital music sales exceeded physical sales, according to a newly released Nielsen/Billboard report cited by CNNMoney. In 2011, digital music sales climbed past physical sales to take a 50.3% market share of all music purchases. In a continuation of a multi-year trend, digital sales increased by 8.4% from 2010, while physical sales declined 5%.
    In the decade since Apple launched its iTunes music store, a host of digital music ventures have appeared, with varying degrees of success. iTunes remains the market leader but faces increasing competition from upstarts like Rdio, Spotify and Pandora, which went public earlier this year.”
  • Angry Birds bags 6.5m Christmas Day downloads [guardian.co.uk] – Rovio Mobile says its three Angry Birds games generated 6.5m downloads on Christmas Day alone. The company’s vice president of franchise development Ville Heijari revealed the milestone to All Things Digital, while promising new games in the year ahead. “We’re really excited to have such a massive number of new people get acquainted with Angry Birds over the holidays – we have exciting new releases lined up for 2012, and can’t wait to introduce them to the public,” said Heijari. He did not break down the 6.5m figure by game – Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio are the three available titles – nor did he split them out by platform. While the lion’s share are likely to have come from iOS and Android, Angry Birds is also available on Windows Phone, while all three games are available for Nokia handsets and RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.” Angry Birds was downloaded more than 600 million times in 2011, with over a million branded toy and shirt sales each month.
  • Facebook Blamed For a Third of British Divorces [MediaCity] – “So Facebook is again at the other end of the blame-hammer, this time for precipitating about a third of divorces in Britain. The stats come from a website- the UK’s Divorce-Online, and cull stats from 5,000 divorce petitions. The same stats were pulled in 2009, and at that time, Facebook made an appearance in 20% of the petitions. Infidelity-related complaints were a forerunner, along with using Facebook walls to make nasty comments about soon to be exes.”
  • The PostSecret App is Now Closed [PostSecret] – The PostSecret App (iPhone/iPad) closes after anonymous posts and comments prove unmanageable as part of a confessional community. (The closed app is now dubbed an “experimental community” that failed. Despite being a paid app, there is no mention, or apology, to those who paid for it in good faith.) From the PostSecret blog: “Like the PostSecret Blog, the App was designed so each secret was absolutely anonymous. Unfortunately, that absolute anonymity made it very challenging to permanently remove determined users with malicious intent. 99% of the secrets created were in the spirit of PostSecret. Unfortunately, the scale of secrets was so large that even 1% of bad content was overwhelming for our dedicated team of volunteer moderators who worked 24 hours a day 7 days a week removing content that was not just pornographic but also gruesome and at times threatening.”
  • Year in Review: 2011 in Numbers [Instagram] – “We’ve seen the Instagram community grow from 1 million to over 15 million users in 2011. To celebrate, we’re recapping the year’s activity in our Year in Review series.
    Accounts
    1 million: The number of accounts on Jan 1, 2011.
    15 million (and counting): The number of accounts on Jan 1, 2012.
    Photos
    3: The average number of photos uploaded per second, one year ago.
    60: The average number of photos uploaded per second, today.
    400 million: The total number of photos shared on Instagram so far.”