Parks Associates Blog

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Triple play" is the magic word

Oberon Media, the leading casual game solution provider, today announced a deal to cement its "Triple Play" strategy. The company acquired PixelPlay, one of the few TV STB gaming company in the U.S.. Not too long ago, it also bought iPlay to grow its presence in the mobile gaming market. This is a great decision in our perspective. Oberon is without a question a leading white-label solution provider for Internet portals and broadband service providers. It's behind well-known gaming sites such as MSN games, EA Pogo, Yahoo! games, and AOL games and it also supports BSPs such as Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T in their casual gaming efforts. It has expertise in both digital distribution and content aggregation. PixelPlay's expertise is content aggregation and digital distribution for the TV Set-top box platform. Sounds like a match made in heaven?

As the world's leading service providers look at triple play or quadruple play (in fact, shouldn't Oberon call this "Quadruple Play" since they now serve PC, console, mobile, and TV? That'll be more fashionable, right) as their key efforts for building up customer and revenue base for the next several years, solution providers need to catch up. "Cross-platform" content offerings will be key. TV set-top box is a great platform for casual games. For the past several years, we've been hearing that there will be a breakthrough in this market every single year. It has not happened but now it seems the market is finally on the edge of getting somewhere. Different pieces are coming together, OCAP (Oberon, have fun with it), more competitive offerings from new entrants to the TV market and hence more pressure to differentiate on value added services, and new technology development. Service providers are all paying attention to the Wii and try to learn a lesson from its success. We have seen some really impressive demos, including an NDS demo showing a 3D-like golf game with a club controller. Of course, there are also remaining challenges for the market, including OCAP, which can be both a curse and bless. Another main inhibitor is that service providers have so many things on their laundry list, PVR, HD, VoD, etc., and gaming ranks relatively low. This is another reason that buying into the market is a better solution than building a presence from the groud up. Oberon will need experts like Ron and Jonanthan from PixelPlay to help them quickly move along the learning curve. The TV STB gaming market can be as complex as the mobile gaming market, with so many different systems and configurations out there. In addition, any decisions made by service providers take time.

With this acquisition, it'll be interest to see what happens to the other STB gaming vendors out there like Buzztime, TVHead, NDS, and Zodiac Interactive.

For a more complete analysis of the STB gaming market, you can download a whitepaper I wrote a couple of months ago here . The whitepaper is titled Set-Top-Box Gaming: from Wasteland to Promised Land. Enjoy the Kool Aid. It's on us.

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