Showing posts from 2008

Microsoft is Cable: Part Three Edition

In 2001, at the launch of the first Xbox, Steve Ballmer said:
We know we have to succeed [with a game strategy] but there is a broader concept there that we will pursue at some point. You can say, is it the end of the road or is there a bigger play? And the answer is yeah, there's a bigger play we hope to get over time."
I guess we got to that point. In yesterday's New York Times Bits section, Shane Kim, newly appointed head of strategy and business development for Xbox was quoted as saying:
“We have been very focused on making sure we win in the gaming space,” Mr. Kim said. “Now that we expand and our aspirations broaden, we need to think about which assets of Microsoft fit in.”
Which closes the loop on what I wrote in December 2001:
Microsoft is following a strategy that worked for it before: Get a foothold, and iterate. They want to get a position in your home and continue to expand and improve until they consume more and more of the applications and operability for the…

A Brief Reminder of Gamestop's Addiction: Re-Run Edition

This post is possibly more timely today than when it was originally posted.

I am a bit behind the times, but I just read gamedaily's interview with Gamestop's new CEO and it kind of made me feel icky in my tummy. This guy is in charge of about a third of the video game sales and he is not on our side. His positions on digital distribution and used games make him sound either delusional, or like an ostrich with his head in the sand.

BIZ: What are your thoughts on the digital distribution options that connected consoles are introducing to gamers today? Do you see today's gamers bypassing retail one day, as music consumers currently do with iPods and iTunes?

DD: The first digital distribution was Napster and it was illegal. Let's just start there. The software publishers are afraid to death of piracy. Once a full game is lying on a hard drive, there's the potential for piracy. Aside from the games, the bandwidth, etc., our studies have concluded that the network wo…

Congratulations to the New Secretary of State: Michael Morhaime Edition

In the first chapter of his latest propagandist tome, Hot Flat and Crowded, Thomas Friedman addresses the issues arising from increased security around embassies. He writes about moving the US Embassy in Turkey from the city center, where it existed for over one hundred years, to a remote location, encircled by impenetrable walls. The original embassy was in the crowded town square. The new embassy was far removed from the population and very much resembled a prison. In his words, it could have been used as location for the filming of the Turkish prison film, Midnight Express - you know, the one with the tongue scene. He referenced a number of diplomats who explained how difficult it is to convey anything other than negative thoughts about their country from behind walls. When diplomats are allowed to walk out the door to get a cup of coffee and invite citizens into the building, they get a sense of the culture. When everyone is locked out, they get a sense of the people ru…

Used Games: People Are Waking Up

I hate the used game market. I first wrote about last February, but at the time, no one else seemed to care. The "used games are bad meme" is finally starting to build. Folks from Epic, Atari and others spoke out against the practice in recent weeks, while the Gamestop CEO continues to rationalize the value to the industry with voodoo math (In case you are interested, I addressed the flaws in his argument a few months ago.) I guess caring and speaking publicly are steps in the right direction, but the solutions proposed don't address the issue.

The publishers seem to think episodic installments and downloadable content will help, but if they read the message boards, they will quickly learn it will only exacerbate the content. So long as we have trade in value from Gamestop, games become depreciating assets. Gamers are getting a quick lesson in beginning economics. The game is burning value as it stays on the shelf. Each day they way the value to them of keeping…

Lara's Back But Eidos Fumbled: Honesty is Such a Lonely Word Edition

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.
(Billy Joel)

Lara is back and I am happy. I have been playing Underworld since the release last week and think this is the best Tomb Raider since the first one. The environmental puzzles are great fun and not the too hard ones from later Tomb Raiders, the graphics are updated to exactly where they should be, and Lara's moves are updated and connecting me to Lara the way they did in the first one. She still shakes her head when I ask her to do something she doesn’t want to do, and I am duly impressed by the way she angrily brushes the side of her face when I rudely walk her into the foliage. Apparently, the critics don’t feel the same sense of nostalgia. Sure, bringing the identical Duke Nukem to Live Arcade justifies an 85, but roughly the same amount of time it took to build the Eiffel Tower to improve the experience and restore an icon justifies only the middle…

4000 Miles: Bragging Edition

I passed the 4,000 mile mark today with my trusty Nike +. I knew I was going to do it with this run, and I was excited to plug my iPod in to confirm my achievement. When I passed the last milestone, at 3,000, it was the highest category, I was certain I leveled to the highest class. When I plugged it in, I was taken back 22 years to Mount Fuji.

I spent the summer of my junior year of college on a management study tour of Japan. Six weeks in Tokyo living in a closet sized room, with a very convenient one piece bathroom sized just right to be packed with a twin in a Winnebago and touring factories. I have to admit the invention of the single piece of hardware to serve as a sink faucet and shower head was ingenious. My tour was to be evidenced by a research paper comparing and contrasting unions in Japan and America. I made sure I understood the distinctions in the culture by researching various model bars and all you can drink clubs on a nightly basis, guarantying a very Japanes…

Midway's Problems Are Not Unreal: The Press Creates Another Story Edition

This morning the interwebs lit up with headlines like this: "Unreal Engine 3 Fingered in Midway's Struggles" promoting articles tying Midway's problems to UE3. From the headlines I thought this was a Midway finger pointing article. This would almost seem plausible if Midway had a single profitable year since 1999, a year when UE3 was a but a glimmer in Epic's collective shorts. In reality, Midway was not finger pointing. No one was. Much like Detroit's auto industry, Midway's problems stem not from technology, but pure and simple bad management. In fact, the very article used as a foundation start the kindle the anti UE3 fire says exactly that. The game journalists who picked it up either decided not read the whole thing - maybe a habit they picked up from reviewing games- or they decided flowery prose is more fun than the truth.

The original story appeared in Daily Variety from Ben Fritz. He quite accurately wrote:

To find out, I spoke to sev…

Brash, We Hardly Knew You: RIP Edition

This just in, hardcore gaming publication Daily Variety is reporting Brash has shut its doors. While it would be fun to make some "Brash and Burn" quips, if true, the high profile flame out will make it harder on all of us and perhaps set external financing efforts back a bit. It really would have been better for us all if it worked.

Fortunately, even though stock prices for other publishers are down, sales appear strong and the closure, if true, seems to be a reflection of poor execution compounded by bad business decisions, and not the industry.

In other news, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

Hooray for Harmonix: Everyone's Happy Edition

At the top of the last post I said I wanted to write something happy and good. And I do, and now I can. One of the best things I can say is too many great games came out to leave time to write a post. I'm in the business because I love games, and I purchased every major release in the last few months, logging countless hours in everything from Dead Space, to Mirror's Edge yesterday. Many of these games couldn't happen on the last generation of console, but one in particular could, and that's the good thing I am writing about.

Viacom's recent public filings included a statement indicating additional payments would be made to the Harmonix founders. Significant additional payments would be made to Harmonix founders. While admittedly seething with envy, I am truly excited to see the payments being made. Our history is littered with mega payments for "the greatest developer" in the world which later turned out to be overpayments for news events. Th…

Eurogamer has Multiple Personality Disorder: Sybil Edition

I really, really, really want to write something positive. There are a lot of good things about the game business, even in these times of layoffs and economic hardship. But I am more motivated to rant about things that really bug me than things that are going along swimmingly. One of these triggers just occurred in connection with Legendary, which in the interest of full disclosure, I helped to place with publishers . . . twice - that's another story.

A couple weeks ago the folks at Spark Unlimited were happy see their hard work was being recognized in the September 2, 2008 preview on Eurogamer which said:

Instead it focuses all of its resources into doing one thing: providing really good, entertaining, run-and-gun gaming. Stripping away the various complex systems and ideas which have accreted on the FPS genre since the days of Doom, Legendary instead focuses on using the power of modern hardware to increase its scale. In part, this means putting plenty of creatures (dozens, in …

Check it Out: Cliffy B in the New Yorker Edition

In probably the first and last article to mention CliffyB, Jay McInerney and Lorrie Moore in the same paragraph as Gears of War, the New Yorker published a great piece about Cliffy, Epic and Gears. Really solid mainstream coverage without calling them dorks.

Check it out

Take Three?: Third Time Is Not Yet a Charm Edition

[I put this up a few weeks ago, and then took it down. I don't know why, so now I am putting it back up. Enjoy.]

A couple weeks ago Take Two announced the termination of takeover discussions with all parties, but it seems the “victory" over the would be invaders is Pyrrhic at best. While the company will certainly survive, whether the actions were in the best interest of the shareholders is up to debate. With the decision to remain fiercely independent seeming set in stone, maybe Take Two will finally move to more fiscally responsible plan than “Rockstar makes all the money and 2K spends it” If last quarter’s events taught us nothing else, we learned GTA’s value has always been factored into the stock price. After the smoke cleared, we see the company is worth roughly the same thing as it was the day Strauss Zelnick entered the board room.

I know all the game stocks are down now, but the most recent USD 380 million plus decline in market value happened before any of t…

Check it Out: Stuff You Didn't Know About Lego and Gummy Bears Edition

In between posts about the new Macs Gizmodo posted these very cool Jason Freeny posters.

You can buy high quality prints of these and more at this link. (I don't get paid for selling these things, I just think their cool.)

Nothing more to say. . . .

Greenlight Process: Guest Blog Edition

A while back put a sidebar up asking for submissions, here is the first. A developer who, in the interest of protecting future business chooses to remain anonymous, submitted the following report from the front. Enjoy:

Production Green Light Process

A friend at a developer pointed out a recent article titled ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT by Matthew Wasteland in this month's Game Developer Magazine.

In a humorous manner the article details a series of comments made by a Publisher to a Developer through the course of their production. The associated timeline indicates to anyone on this forum the (expected) absurdity of some of the remarks.

However, it did highlight the relative value to production of certain comments and how - as far as successful production is concerned - not all roles should have an equal voice in the oversight or direction of the development process.

For example, at the beginning of game production, the development team is focused on creating R&D based prototypes th…

Did EA Endorse Obama?: In Game Politicizing Edition

According to this post, wholly stolen from Jalopnik, pro Obama ads appeared in Burn Out.

Barack Obama has begun advertising on billboards within the virtual world of an online video game in what appears to be a first for a presidential campaign. Players of the online racing video game Burnout Paradise on the Xbox 360 Live network noticed billboards promoting Barack Obama and the website, which helps people determine how to register to vote and where to vote. This was later confirmed by a representative for the game's publisher, Electronic Arts, who said:

"Like most television, radio and print outlets, we accept advertising from credible political candidates. Like political spots on the television networks, these ads do not reflect the political policies of EA or the opinions of its development teams.”

We Should All Want Brash to Work: They Can't Help Themselves Edition

Writing this blog makes me a nicer person in business meetings. It is cathartic. Before the blog, something like Mitch Davis' interview with Gamedaily would set me off and dominate the first 10 minutes of the next meeting I had. Now, I can write it, get it out, and move on. Thank you dear reader for your help and indulgence. It also explains why the post is a bit on the snarky side. The whole thing could be avoided if Mr. Davis, the CEO of the company, took responsibility for the company's actions rather than shirking responsibility and holding tight to plans the market has already rejected.

I want Brash to work. We should all want Brash to work. With coverage in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, everyone who would ever think about putting significant amounts of money into the game business saw their story. Never has a company name been so appropriate as theirs in describing their securing of capital and approach to the game business. If Brash make it, we …