TOKYO- Japanese game developer CYBIRD Co., Ltd. announced on June 28 that it has concluded a licensing agreement with Liber Entertainment Inc., (hereinafter Liber) concerning the worldwide distribution of the English version of the Liber-developed and operated ikemen actor-training game “A3!”
Ikemen is a Japanese word of recent origin meaning a good-looking man. A3! is an ikemen actor-training game in which the player becomes a theater company president and general manager with the power to cast ikemen troupe members while enjoying a story of youthful adventure. The main story is narrated in full voice by a group of distinguished voice actors.
A3! is very popular as a game in which budding ikemen actors, each belonging to one of four troupes — the Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter Troupes — develop their talent and slowly emerge into full bloom on the stage of a small theater.
Since beginning distribution simultaneously on iOS and Android on January 27, 2017, this title has achieved a steady increase in sales, with total downloads exceeding 5 million in March 2018. Also, A3! has become a hit title in the Japanese iOS game sales rankings, reaching as high as 2nd place in the rankings on two occasions (June 9, 2017, and January 10, 2018).
On Thursday, June 28, 2018, CYBIRD became a wholly owned subsidiary of Japanese online games company Aeria Inc., making it a member of the Aeria Group alongside Liber.
CYBIRD is active as a pioneer of overseas distribution of game content. The company is convinced that it can achieve strong intergroup synergies by handling overseas distribution of A3!, Liber’s top-selling game for women in Japan, utilizing the operation channels CYBIRD has already cultivated overseas for its own Ikemen Series and its multifaceted customer attraction know-how. Now the two companies have signed an agreement to facilitate this development.
In the North American market, the popularity of Japanese animation and content is rapidly gaining momentum, as indicated by the increasing number of visitors to the annual Anime Expo (2017 total turnstile attendance over 350,000). Conversely, for women’s games, the scale of the North American market remains small compared with the Japanese and Asian markets, and it is expected to take some time to expand.
Accordingly, in the promotion and deployment strategy of CYBIRD and Liber for A3! in the North American market, the two companies are initially planning to launch the service after first increasing the game’s recognition level as a first step toward drawing attention to its worldview.
Through the present agreement, the duo will focus on enabling more people to enjoy playing A3! in the English-speaking zone known as the global market, while also achieving synergies by drawing on the respective strengths of the Aeria Group’s various member companies.
As of the date of this press release, the launch date of the A3! English edition service is undecided. CYBIRD will announce the date in a future press release as soon as the decision is finalized.
Sunak to use budget to expand apprenticeships in England
LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak will announce more funding for apprenticeships in England when he unveils his budget next week, the government said on Friday.
Employers taking part in the Apprenticeship Initiative Scheme will from April 1 receive 3,000 pounds ($4,179) for each apprentice hired, regardless of age – an increase on current grants of between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds depending on age.
The scheme will extended by six months until the end of September, the finance ministry said.
Sunak will also announce an extra 126 million pounds for traineeships for up to 43,000 placements.
Sunak’s March 3 budget will likely include a new round of spending to prop up the economy during what he hopes will be the last phase of lockdown, but he will also probably signal tax rises ahead to plug the huge hole in the public finances.
Sunak is also expected to announce a “flexi-job” apprenticeship scheme, whereby apprentices can join an agency and work for multiple employers in one sector, the finance ministry said.
“We know there’s more to do and it’s vital this continues throughout the next stage of our recovery, which is why I’m boosting support for these programmes, helping jobseekers and employers alike,” Sunak said in a statement.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken)
UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is seeking to build a consensus among G7 nations on how to stop large technology companies exploiting their dominance, warning that there can be no repeat of Facebook’s one-week media blackout in Australia.
Facebook’s row with the Australian government over payment for local news, although now resolved, has increased international focus on the power wielded by tech corporations.
“We will hold these companies to account and bridge the gap between what they say they do and what happens in practice,” Britain’s digital minister Oliver Dowden said on Friday.
“We will prevent these firms from exploiting their dominance to the detriment of people and the businesses that rely on them.”
Dowden said recent events had strengthened his view that digital markets did not currently function properly.
He spoke after a meeting with Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister.
“I put these concerns to Facebook and set out our interest in levelling the playing field to enable proper commercial relationships to be formed. We must avoid such nuclear options being taken again,” Dowden said in a statement.
Facebook said in a statement that the call had been constructive, and that it had already struck commercial deals with most major publishers in Britain.
“Nick strongly agreed with the Secretary of Stateâ€™s (Dowden’s) assertion that the governmentâ€™s general preference is for companies to enter freely into proper commercial relationships with each other,” a Facebook spokesman said.
Britain will host a meeting of G7 leaders in June.
It is seeking to build consensus there for coordinated action toward “promoting competitive, innovative digital markets while protecting the free speech and journalism that underpin our democracy and precious liberties,” Dowden said.
The G7 comprises the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada, but Australia has also been invited.
Britain is working on a new competition regime aimed at giving consumers more control over their data, and introducing legislation that could regulate social media platforms to prevent the spread of illegal or extremist content and bullying.
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Gareth Jones and John Stonestreet)
Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit
By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Friday it would offer a fast-track visa scheme for jobs at high-growth companies after a government-backed review warned that financial technology firms will struggle with Brexit and tougher competition for global talent.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak said that now Britain has left the European Union, it wants to make sure its immigration system helps businesses attract the best hires.
“This new fast-track scale-up stream will make it easier for fintech firms to recruit innovators and job creators, who will help them grow,” Sunak said in a statement.
Over 40% of fintech staff in Britain come from overseas, and the new visa scheme, open to migrants with job offers at high-growth firms that are scaling up, will start in March 2022.
Brexit cut fintechs’ access to the EU single market and made it far harder to employ staff from the bloc, leaving Britain less attractive for the industry.
The review published on Friday and headed by Ron Kalifa, former CEO of payments fintech Worldpay, set out a “strategy and delivery model” that also includes a new 1 billion pound ($1.39 billion) start-up fund.
“It’s about underpinning financial services and our place in the world, and bringing innovation into mainstream banking,” Kalifa told Reuters.
Britain has a 10% share of the global fintech market, generating 11 billion pounds ($15.6 billion) in revenue.
The review said Brexit, heavy investment in fintech by Australia, Canada and Singapore, and the need to be nimbler as COVID-19 accelerates digitalisation of finance, all mean the sector’s future in Britain is not assured.
It also recommends more flexible listing rules for fintechs to catch up with New York.
“We recognise the need to make the UK attractive a more attractive location for IPOs,” said Britain’s financial services minister John Glen, adding that a separate review on listings rules would be published shortly.
“Those findings, along with Ron’s report today, should provide an excellent evidence base for further reform.”
Britain pioneered “sandboxes” to allow fintechs to test products on real consumers under supervision, and the review says regulators should move to the next stage and set up “scale-boxes” to help fintechs navigate red tape to grow.
“It’s a question of knowing who to call when there’s a problem,” said Kay Swinburne, vice chair of financial services at consultants KPMG and a contributor to the review.
A UK fintech wanting to serve EU clients would have to open a hub in the bloc, an expensive undertaking for a start-up.
“Leaving the EU and access to the single market going away is a big deal, so the UK has to do something significant to make fintechs stay here,” Swinburne said.
The review seeks to join the dots on fintech policy across government departments and regulators, and marshal private sector efforts under a new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT).
“There is no framework but bits of individual policies, and nowhere does it come together,” said Rachel Kent, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells and contributor to the review.
($1 = 0.7064 pounds)
(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Jane Merriman and John Stonestreet)
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