The spiky gothic spires of Koln cathedral and the love-locked rail bridge across the Rhine were the signature locations of our week in Germany as we daily passed through the doors of GDC Europe and the Gamescom festival.
Aside from all that jazz - including another successful Pocket Gamer party and the launch of PG Germany - it was a thoroughly busy week in the world of app stores, smartphone platforms, developments in mobile game making and assorted technology.
The biggest news was Google's net $9.5 billion all-cash deal for Motorola (that's the $12.5 billion price minus the $3-odd billion of cash on Motorola's books).
Analysts seem to think it's mainly a patent play, although that's unlikely to reassure Android OEMs such as Sony Ericsson, LG, HTC and Samsung, who are now potentially competing with a company whose devices will be viewed as 'official Android' products.
Yet, as I pointed out in a piece entitled 'Android will eat itself', it's great news for Nokia. Both its CEO Stephen Elop and Microsoft executives have taken a long awaited opportunity to go on the offensive, branding Windows Phone as the only 'equal opportunities' platform.Legal eagles sharpen talons
Another outcome of Google-Motorola deal is likely to be a push from companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft to gain more patents.
Indeed, Samsung managed to get Apple's temporary ban on its European Galaxy Tab 10.1 launch lifted, amidst claims Apple had fabricated some evidence, while HTC has filed a new patent case against Apple.
Analyst Peter Misek suggested Apple might strike back with a deal for the patents of InterDigital (mcap $3 billion), RIM (mcap $14 billion) or even Nokia (mcap $23 billion). The latter seems unlikely, although a survey suggests that more than half of developers believe BlackBerry will be dead in 5 years time.
Of course, the news HP is dropping support for all webOS devices, as well as considering the future of the operating system, (and its entire consumer hardware division), suggests there's a deal to be made for hardware and software IP of the old Palm business.
Ex-Palm veep Michael Mace also argued Android-supporting companies should be snapping up webOS staff to strengthen their business against any Google-Motorola splash damage.Meat on the bone
Aside from such corporate willywaving, plenty was going down at GDC Europe.
Social and mobile games made up a significant part of the program with luminaries such as Richard Garriott (Ultima, Tabula Rasa) talking about his new mobile-social start up Portalarium. Similarly, Epic Game's Mike Capps touched on the reasons the company had made Infinity Blade not Shadow Complex 2.
Digging deeper into core mobile developers, Fishlab spoke about the graphical advantages it experienced launching Galaxy on Fire 2 on Nvidia's Tegra 2 hardware, and then proceeded to castigate Google for Android's many problems; notably piracy, lack of debugging tools, and the 50MB file cap on Android Marketplace.
Google's inhouse ad network AdMob gave a talk about the commercial opportunities available on its network - 85 billion ad requests a month - although the price for straight talking went to Unity's Brian Bruning who told developers he expected those accepted onto its Union program to make at least $20,000 per platform they released on.
Distribution was another topic with Applifier's Jussi Laakkonen talking up its click exchange program, now available on mobile, and PapayaMobile's Oscar Clark sped through 10 Social Design Tips to Level Up Your Mobile Game.Mobile versus portable
Of course, there was also lots going on outside of the conference circuit.
Secret Sauce's Russell Clarke reckoned gaming handhelds have now had their day, but Hogrocket's Ben Ward argued it was lunacy for Nintendo to switch business models. Significantly, both companies are themselves recent mobile-focused start ups out of the console gaming space.
Throwing light on the ongoing debate, PG.biz's Keith Andrew argued Nintendo's clear failing wasn't hardware-specific, but was its ongoing failure to take digital distribution seriously.
Going digital won't "deliver Nintendo the immediate dividends its investors believe are a certainty," he said. "But the knowledge and knowhow that results will give Mario and co. more than a fighting chance when 3DS is but a distant memory."
Still, the news iPad 3 will likely come with a Retina screen (2048 x 1536 pixel resolution) in early 2012 should scare developers, and hardware competitors alike, although clearly good news for consumers.Sign on the dotted line
There was plenty of M&A activity too, with EA buying Canadian mobile studio Bight Games, Digital Chocolate buying PC casual specialist Sandlot (Cake Mania, Super Granny, Tradewinds), and Zynga buying mobile social outfit Astro Ape (now rebranded as Zynga NY). No terms were disclosed for any of the deals.
Atari bolstered its senior management as it shifts focus to casual, social, and mobile gaming, while Japanese mobile social platform DeNA expanded further into Asia, setting up a regional office in Singapore, alongside existing operations in China and Korea.Giving it away
Freemium gaming continues to spew out big numbers, with the latest company to ride the free app promotion being Future Games of London, which generated 250,000 daily downloads and average IAP of $3.26 as it set Hungry Shark Part 3 free.
Similarly, the iOS version of Funzio's Facebook hit Crime City hit 1 million downloads within five days, and we spoke to Chinese publisher SNSGame about its localisation and successful launch of The Playforge's freemium hit Zombie Farm.
If you're running freemium games, you need good advertising. This week female-oriented web outfit Glam Media launched GlamMobile, its premium ad platform, or 'iAd competitor'. German outfit madvertise is taking a similar route, releasing four new rich media ad formats for its iPad clients.
Encouraging distribution news came from white label specialist Appia which claims the crown as fastest growing app store hosting 40 million downloads in July, while mobile portal MocoSpace doubled down adding $1 million to its HTML5 game fund.
And digging into user behaviour, the chaps at Flurry released another of their surveys, pointing out half of all real dollars spent in freemium games go on consumable goods.
But, as Tag Games' Simon Adams pointed out, businesses based on social dynamics can change very quickly, something he fleshed out in his column 'Learning from MySpace's failure: Avoiding freemium apathy'.