Matthew Roszak

In The Press Blog

Claritics raises $1.5M for social analytics apps

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Social analytics firm Claritics has raised a $1.5 million round as it tries to help social game and app developers analyze their data and reap more money from their efforts.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Claritics calls its work “social intelligence.” Claritics has been testing its cloud-based analytics with partners that range from game companies to utilities and media companies. It’s all about getting enough data and organizing it in a way that it becomes “actionable.”

The company raised the round from Cervin Ventures and TiE Angels. Raj Pai is the chief executive. The company will use the money to expand its sales and marketing and to improve its product.

The vision for the company is to leverage the immediacy of the social web and the rich profile and behavioral data available to create automated processes around it. That allows developers to optimize their reach, retain users, and launch revenue campaigns on the fly. The data become useful not just for looking back but for predicting the future, Pai said.

Rivals include Kontagent and Mixpanel in games as well as Omniture and Webtrends in the broader analytics business. Claritics hopes to reach beyond social game companies to the broader market of social commerce, said Neeraj Gupta, managing director of Cervin Ventures. He said that companies have to harness the incredible amount of data available and make immediate changes to their content or marketing campaigns. Claritics is one of 50 companies chosen to present at TiECon, which takes place in Santa Clara on May 13 and May 14.

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Anonymous hackers (appear to) attack each other over Sony attack

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The Anonymous group of activist hackers, which has been blamed for the PlayStation Network outage, appears to have broken into a civil war related to the Sony attack.

The facts about this case are pretty murky, but there is some kind of drama playing out in Internet chat rooms where one set of hackers is at odds with another. Yes, the hackers are getting hacked.

Anonymous is a chaotic and fluid hacker group that has tangled with Sony for months because the Japanese company sued a hacker, George “Geohot” Hotz, for jailbreaking, or circumventing the security system of the PlayStation 3. That lawsuit was settled just before the 77-member PlayStation Network went down.

Presumably, the simple narrative suggests that Anonymous, or some of its rogue members, went on to hack the PSN, causing an outage that angered millions of hardcore gamers and movie watchers. Anonymous’s leadership, such as it is, issued a press release saying the hack wasn’t its work and that Sony’s security team was “incompetent.”

Sony pointed the finger at Anonymous again in its letter to Congress, saying that a file was left on its newly hacked The Station servers. That file was called “Anonymous” and it mentioned part of the group’s slogan, “We are legion.” Anonymous came out again and says it wasn’t them.

That raised the notion of whether a splinter group within Anonymous was responsible for the Sony attacks, and that prospect has now become more plausible, since Anonymous, whose leadership has never been clear, has reportedly erupted into a civil war.

A portion of the Anonymous leadership has broken off and called itself AnonOps. A hacker in that group, going by the hacker code name Ryan, broke off from that group and then he hacked into the web site of AnonOps. He vandalized it pretty thoroughly and then posted the internet protocol addresses of AnonOps leaders and their chat logs. Those addresses might be used by law enforcement to track down the hackers.

The leadership of AnonOps then sent a message about Ryan’s attack and said he had control of a couple of domain names used by AnonOps. But the statement noted that AnonOps still had control of and will continue to publish its news there.

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Live Gamer and Skrill partner to help online games make money worldwide

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Live Gamer has partnered with payment provider Skrill to provide worldwide monetization options for online game publishers. The combined offering makes it easier for game publishers to launch games with Live Gamer’s virtual goods platform and Skrill’s Moneybookers payment system.

The “Live Gamer Payments by Skrill” partnership could remove friction that slows the growth of online games, helping game developers make more money from their games without requiring them to spend a lot of money on international expansions. The service will be especially useful to game companies that find they have users in a bunch of countries that don’t use traditional payment services, said Julian Artope, vice president of marketing for London-based Skrill.

In Poland, for instance, few people have credit cards and most make online purchases through bank accounts. But to accept a payment there, a developer would have to go in person to Poland and open a bank account. They would also have to wait a certain number of days before a payment clears. That doesn’t work when someone is buying something in an online game and wants to have an instant digital download experience. Also, if the publisher sends the virtual good to the gamer before the payment clears, there is a risk of a charge back if the funds aren’t in the gamer’s account.

With Skrill’s Moneybookers, the system can be much easier because the company already has a relationships in place. It has more than 100 payment methods in more than 200 countries. Moneybookers allows someone in Poland to instantly pay for a virtual item, and it offers charge back protection.

The game publisher can get paid instantly in the appropriate currency, such as American dollars or 40 other currencies, and then quickly send the virtual good to the game player. This means a greater percentage of users will buy goods, and the chances of fraud are much lower. The average revenue per paying user — a key measure of an online game’s success — will likely go up.

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Week in review: PlayStation Network outage continues

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Sony in ‘final stages of internal testing’ to bring PlayStation Network back online — Sony said on Thursday that it has entered the final stages of internal testing to bring its beleaguered online gaming network, the PlayStation Network (PSN), back online after a massive hacker intrusion forced the company to take it down. However, the company later said that restoring the network is taking longer than expected.

Osama bin Laden’s death reveals the value of state-of-the-art technology — The attack on Osama bin Laden has revealed a lot of impressive technology used by the U.S. military to circle in on and kill the world’s most wanted terrorist.

Chronology of the attack on Sony’s PlayStation Network — Sony sent a letter to Congress this week that shows how Sony’s information technology team discovered and then responded to the attacks.

So long free Android tethering: carriers crack the whip at Google — Google is disabling access to tethering applications in the Android Market at the request of wireless carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

This computer (yes, computer!) costs $25 — Game developer David Braben has created a computer that’s about the size of a flash drive — and it’ll most likely cost less than your last date.

And here are five more posts that we think are important, thought-provoking, or fun:


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Sony offers $1M insurance policy to protect U.S. PSN users from identity theft

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Sony said in a blog post today that it will offer free enrollment in an identity theft protection program for all U.S. members of the PlayStation Network and Qriocity online services as compensation for the loss of their personal records.

The PSN online game and Qriocity entertainment service have been down for more than two weeks after hackers attacked the networks and stole personal information on more than 77 million users. Sony said it still hasn’t determined if user credit card numbers were stolen or not, but it’s possible as many as 10 million numbers were accessed.

Users haven’t been able to play online games, buy items on Sony’s digital store, or watch movies on its entertainment network. Sony didn’t say how much the program will cost, but it clearly won’t be cheap. Sony chief executive Howard Stringer just apologized to all the users as he announced the insurance protection.

In the U.S., Sony’s game division and Sony Network Entertainment International have arranged to provide identity protection at no cost from Debix, a reputable identity protection firm. Sony said it will make similar programs available in other territories where applicable. The Debix protection, dubbed AllClear ID Plus, will be in effect for 12 months.

Sony will start sending out activation emails for this program in the next few days, and users will have until June 18 to sign up and redeem the code. Users will sign up through AllClear ID, not through Sony web sites. Details will come in an email from Sony soon.

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Anonymous denies involvement in Playstation Network credit card theft

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Hacktivism group Anonymous, which routinely attacks major corporations and takes up political causes, said today it is not responsible for the theft of sensitive information and credit card data from Sony’s Playstation Network (PSN) online gaming network.

Sony laid indirect blame for the intrusion and PSN outage on Anonymous yesterday, saying that its defenses were down while it fended off a denial of service attack by Anonymous, which left the doors open for other hackers to come in and steal sensitive information. Anonymous hit Sony with the denial of service attack after the company went after hacker George Hotz, who reverse engineered the PlayStation 3 to run unauthorized programs.

“If a legitimate and honest investigation into credit card theft is conducted, Anonymous will not be found liable,” the group stated in a press release.

In a letter to Congress earlier today, Sony said that it found a file labeled “anonymous” with a fragment of the hacktivism group’s slogan — “we are legion.” That prompted the company to label Anonymous at least partially responsible for an attack that brought down its online gaming network and resulted in hackers stealing sensitive information about 100 million PSN and users.

“While we are a distributed and decentralized group, our ‘leadership’ does not condone credit card theft,” the group stated in a press release. “We are concerned with the erosion of privacy and fair use, the spread of corporate feudalism, the abuse of power and the justifications of executives and leaders who believe themselves immune personally and financially for the actions they undertake in the name of corporations and public office.”

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Nintendo confirms it will cut Wii price to $149 and reduces some games to $19.99

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In an attempt to revive sales,Nintendo said it will cut the price of its Wii video game console to $149.99 on May 15 and has chopped the prices of some games to $19.99.

The price cut, which was rumored for more than a month, is aimed at reviving sagging Wii sales and making the system affordable to a new level of mass market consumer who is much more price-sensitive than the typical hardcore gamer. It’s one more sign that the Wii, which is almost five years old, is entering a new stage of maturity. Nintendo has announced it will launch a new console next year.

The lower-priced Wii will include a black or white Wii, a Wii motion-sensing remote, and a copy of the Mario Kart game with a black or white steering wheel. Previously, the Wii cost $199.99 and was bundled with Wii Sports and Wii Sports resort. Nintendo will keep selling that bundle until it runs out by the summer. Some retailers are already selling that bundle for $170.

Although Nintendo has announced a replacement console and will describe it more at this year’s E3 trade show in June, it would be a mistake to assume the Wii is going downhill. In fact, in the previous console generations, the greatest volume of consoles was sold when the price of the machines slid below $100. Since 2006, the Wii has sold more than 86 million consoles. In the past year, Nintendo said it sold 15 million units, down from 20 million in the prior year. Nintendo expects 13 million Wiis to sell in the current fiscal year that ends March 31, 2012.

The timing of the price cut is good in one respect. Sony has suffered a disastrous setback with the PlayStation Network, which was hacked. Sony said hackers got access to the personal records of more than 77 million registered users and that hackers may have stolen more than 10 million credit card numbers.

Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, said to USA Today that the new console won’t go on sale until the second half of 2012 at the earliest. Nintendo said it will sell four games for $19.99: Wii Sports; The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess; Animal Crossing: City Folk; and Mario Super Sluggers. Wii Sports Resort will sell for $39.99 without the Wii remote. Most new Nintendo games sell for $49.99.

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AMD debuts its fastest quad-core processor

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It’s been a while since the last blast in the microprocessor wars. But Advanced Micro Devices took a shot at Intel tonight as it introduced its fastest quad-core desktop microprocessor, which serves as the four-headed brain of a PC.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chip maker — an arch rival to the world’s biggest chip maker, Intel — is introducing its AMD Phenom II 980 Black Edition desktop processor today to target gamers and video freaks who care about high-definition entertainment.

It certainly shows that AMD keeps going after the high-value gamer segment in its unending war with Intel. But Anantech, a tech blog that rates chips, says there are eight Intel chips that are faster than the new AMD chip on various benchmark tests.

The new chip goes with AMD’s 8 series chipset and AMD Radeon HD 6000 series. It represents a bump upward in performance and a pricing cut. The chip runs at 3.7 gigahertz and has 2 megabytes of onboard-L2 cache memory. It sells for $195.

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News Corp.’s IGN acquires UGO as it prepares for spin-off

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News Corp. is acquiring Hearst’s UGO web site as it prepares to spin off its game web site as a separate company.

News Corp. is already planning on selling its MySpace social network. Now it also is preparing to spin out IGN. One of the first steps in that process is buying, which focuses on guys and games, much like IGN.

AllThingsDigital reported that the talks are in the final stages this weekend and a merger will likely be announced within the next few days. Once that deal is completed, will likely spin out in the next few months. Roy Bahat, general manager of IGN since 2007, will likely run the new company.

The point of spinning out — if there is a point to acquiring the game assets some years ago and then spinning them out again — is to create a standalone web business that will focus on video game news, reviews and culture. News Corp. is weighing taking on outside investors for IGN. IGN is said to be growing and profitable. Profits are expected to be $10 million on revenue around $100 million.

In 2005, News Corp. bought IGN for $650 million. Hearst bought UGO for $100 million in 2007. There’s no mention from AllThingsDigital about News Corp.’s major new game start-up, Making Fun, a San Francisco social game start-up that News Corp. acquired recently.


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Sony reassures PlayStation Network customers that their game data isn’t lost

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Sony said today that the malicious attack against the PlayStation Network did not result in the loss of customers’ game data.

While the incident has been deeply embarrassing to Sony and frustrating to its 77 million registered users, it could have been much worse if Sony had actually irretrievably lost the hard-earned custom data of its users. Sony may have lost control of users’ credit card numbers (hackers are saying they have credit card numbers) and other personal data, but it hasn’t yet verified that.

On the PlayStation blog, Sony spokesman Patrick Seybold said that users’ download history, friends list, and console settings will not be affected by the outage. Once the network is brought back online, everything will still be there. Users’ trophies that were earned in single-player offline games will be intact when the service resumes.

Cloud-based game saves will also be retrievable. These are the saved game records that allow a user to return to the spot in a game where they left off. Sony just started storing this data in the cloud to free up hard disk space on the PlayStation 3 consoles.

Some players play the massively multiplayer onilne games DC Universe Online and Free Realms on the PlayStation Network. Those PS 3 gamers have the option of paying subscription fees to Sony. Sony said it will figure out a way to “make good” for the lost paid time. It will also hold special events inside the games once they are back online.

Sony said it is evaluating ways to show its appreciation for the patience of users, but it didn’t go into details.


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