VC Funding Continues Nosedive: May Hit Bottom and Start Digging

Venture firms doled out $3 billion to 549 portfolio companies in the first quarter of the year, a 61 percent drop in total dollars and a 45 percent decrease in deals, according to the latest Money Tree report. That’s the least amount of funding offered since the first quarter of 1997, right before the venture field became utterly inundated with dot-com dollars. It was also the fewest number of deals done in a quarter since 1995, according to the report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association and based on data provided by Thomson Reuters.
The NVCA blames the dive on the economy and expects a steady increase in investment dollars going into companies during the rest of this year, but it’s possible that the economy has exacerbated the cracks that have been weakening the venture model since so much capital poured in during the bubble years. Some have argued that venture firms should be pouring between $10 billion and $15 billion into startups each year, not the annual average of $26.51 billion invested over the last five years, or last year’s total of $28.3 billion. Read More about VC Funding Continues Nosedive: May Hit Bottom and Start Digging

In Europe, VoIP Grows & Grows

Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, once famously said that voice was going to be free. She was wrong in ponying up billions of dollars for Skype, but she was right in her assertion about voice. Thanks to European broadband service providers treating voice as a loss leader to attract triple-play customers, local voice has become almost free in Europe, according to research conducted by Telegeography, a division of market research firm PriMetrica.

In 2008, VoIP represented 26 percent of total fixed lines in Europe but brought in only 10 percent of the total fixed-line revenues. I bet a big chunk of the VoIP-related revenues are coming from VoIP-to-mobile phone calls. Mobile calls are seriously expensive in Europe, and as a result, any attempts by mobile VoIP companies such as Truphone have been met with resistance by the carriers. Read More about In Europe, VoIP Grows & Grows

MWC: Intel Takes on the Mobile Internet Device

After success with its low-power Atom processor in netbooks, Intel (s INTC) is embracing the mobile Internet device, with the chip giant expected to announce at this year’s Mobile World Congress a planned MID with LG Electronics that will include 3G voice capabilities. The MID will run on Intel’s Moorestown chipsets, and debut next year. Also at the show, Intel is announcing a partnership with wireless handset design firm Elektrobit, to offer a generic MID platform that will include some type of Atom chip — although not necessarily voice. Read More about MWC: Intel Takes on the Mobile Internet Device

Stop Looking for a WoW Killer

Ever since World of Warcraft started showing signs of cancer-like growth — ravenously consuming massively multiplayer online game subscribers — video game industry entrepreneurs and investors have hunted for a WoW killer, the next big game capable of toppling the 11.5 million subscribers developer Blizzard has amassed worldwide. They need to stop looking.

One IP to Rule Them All (Or Maybe Not)

Earlier today, Electronic Arts announced that they’ve renewed their license to release games based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novels. EA, having reached an agreement with New Line Cinema and Tolkien Enterprises, plans on continuing to develop and release new games based in Middle Earth through 2008. So what’s coming up for EA other than the release of the new MMO? Oh wait, that’s not EA. What the heck is going on with all these hobbits? Read More about One IP to Rule Them All (Or Maybe Not)

Everything You Wanted to Know About PlayStation Home, But Were Afraid to Ask

home.jpgThose meddling kids at Gameindustry.biz have pulled a Scooby-Doo, admirably snooping around Sony’s corporate site and unearthing more details on the company’s upcoming PlayStation Home social network. A PDF for Sony’s third-party developers reveals tons of details about the potentially industry-shaking service.

According to the document, the closed beta is scheduled to run from April to August, while the open beta will run from August through October. The company is aiming for a 500MB initial download. A Home Platform Group has been established by Sony to provide technology and direction, but third-party relations groups in each region will support the Home efforts of publishers and developers in their respective territories.

Over 70 questions are answered in the document. Here are some of the more pertinent and interesting answers. Read More about Everything You Wanted to Know About PlayStation Home, But Were Afraid to Ask

New Year’s Thoughts on Casual Gaming

Eric Zimmerman, CEO of Gamelab (creator of the million unit-selling Diner Dash and the upcoming titles Work and Out of Your Mind) shares his thoughts on the year that was, and the year to come:

The big casual gaming news for 2006: “PopCap’s announcement of a $700,000 budget for their latest title: Bookworm Adventures. This is triple the cost of a typical downloadable game, and it signals the raising of the bar in what was once a low-budget sector of the industry.”

The big casual gaming forecast for 2007: “The ‘casual game’ space is currently untenable for publishers and developers, with major portals retaining 60-80% of each downloadable game sale. It’s time for Amazon, Google, or other large entity to shake up the space and provide a more fair pricing structure.”

Nintendo Exchanges Broken Wii Straps, DS Power Supplies

On Friday, Nintendo started a drive to replace broken and faulty wrist straps for their new console, the Wii. This replacement plan was prompted by multiple reports of damaged home equipment and personal injuries caused by over-exuberant players. The manufacturing fault in the straps has caused them to break and make the controllers fly out of players’ hands and into the faces of family and friends… if they’re lucky. Otherwise, the “Wiimote” has been known to damage expensive home theater equipment and other household items. Read More about Nintendo Exchanges Broken Wii Straps, DS Power Supplies