Showing posts from February, 2008

EA Is Kinder, But Not Gentler: Thrill Kill Edition

(Video from Thrill Kill. Don't watch if you are easily offended.)

Mr. Riccitiello is making it clear that he is not afraid of M rated games. In his recent Gamespot interview addressing the takeover offer made to Take Two, he pointed out that he was the one who greenlit The Godfather, EA's first M rated game since Undying and American McGee's Alice, as well as Def Jam, and is a big fan of M rated titles like Bioshock and GTA. However, when doing his pandering, he may want to do a bit more research before speaking. In response to a question about the infamous Thrill Kill which was in development during EA's acquisition of Virgin, he said:

"I never saw Thrill Kill, and I applaud you for digging up that little piece of history. I'm not sure if I would have liked it or not. I'm guessing I might have liked it, but I have no idea."

Thrill Kill was originally cancelled by EA during Riccitiello 1.0 with a press release stating EA didn't want to publish …

More Kinder, Gentler, EA

I am concerned about John Riccitiello. He gave a very eloquent speech about his great concerns for every company which is smaller than EA and wants to be in the game business. In his mind, and in his life in games, the world order is very simple. There is EA, and there is everyone else. EA was number one when he left, and when he came back. Then he woke up one day and it was not. That must be fixed. Worse than that, the new number one to be will have a game that is vomiting incomprehensible amounts of cash on a monthly basis and EA has nothing of that scale. The whole thing has put John into a bit of a state. His communications are about as internally consistent as those of a two year old on speed. It is clear he really has to work on the filter between the words coming out of the little angel and devil sitting on his shoulders, and the words coming out of his mouth. Unfortunately, much like Ted Knight, he is simply mouthing the things these little guys are speaking into…

The Game Business - A Great MMORPG

I just completed the GDC expansion pack of the The Game Business. Despite being a bit tired from the DICE expansion two weeks ago, my guild was able to repel an attack from a rival guild and build its reputation. I question the release of the two expansions so close to each other but the consumer base seems to accept them both. I don't know if they will do so in the future. DICE, focused in one place, with a single speaking track and high level folks who actually do shit appeals to the hardcore. GDC, with multiple tracks and opportunities for all types of merchants and craftsman can try to sell items to the people who actually do shit hits the core as well as the mass.

DICE worked out well. I took advantage of a speaking quest which leveled me up to a 55 Priest, increasing my healing ability for my guild members. This turned out to be very important when a rival guild leader, a level 40 Rogue, attacked some of my guild members and attempted to cast a spell of confusion. …

It's All About Design

Sony just announced the first of its new Xperia line of phones. It's slick, its functional, it creates a powerful tingling in the pants of any red blooded, gadget phile. . . the first step is admitting you have a problem. Many will run and and buy it, some may have pre ordered. Some of you may pre order it because you saw it here. But it also very vanilla and a bit off. Look at this picture:

When the thing is just sitting there alone in the flesh you are no longer in the Abercrombie world of the video, and its flaws cry out like little beacons. Before you get to the function, just look at the design. It is square. It doesn't scream for me to pick it up. The front is not symmetrically balanced. I have to flip the thing over and open it to use it, and the screen is not glass. Perfect for the business world, not exciting to consumers.

Even if it does more than the iPhone, and it does, it doesn't make a normal human being feel good looking at it. The iPhone is scream…

Console Wars: It's Not Over Yet

The console war continues after three Christmases for Xbox and 2 for Wii and PS3. While Microsoft feigned a a claim of victory as first to 10 million units worldwide, their press conference is starting to look more and more like George Bush in front of a Mission Accomplished poster.

Microsoft has a lot to be proud of, if we focus on the US. In the month of December, Xbox sold 1.26 million units to PS3's 798,000 in the US. They don't like to talk about Wii which sold 1.35 million. For the year, Xbox almost doubled PS3's sale with 4.62 to 2.56 million units. Wii beat them both with 6.29 million. You can see more in real time at the bottom of this blog.

Unfortunately, and it may sound un-American, but we have to consider the rest of the world. Xbox never made it out of the gate in Japan and still fails to sell. In Europe, sales have been trailing PS3 since last summer. According to Sony, the PS3 installed base is already larger in France, Spain, Germany and Italy t…

I Love to Say I Told You So: Xbox Is Cable

I wish I could say I hate to say I told you so, but I really don't. I kind of love it. On December 10, 2001 I published the article posted after the jump in the Gaming Industry News suggesting the Xbox was really a cable box. This was about two weeks after the launch of the Xbox. I thought it was kind of odd that while seriously defending itself against the Department of Justice, Microsoft was well beyond the central issue of that case. Publicly they were arguing over placement of the browser in the OS, in reality, the company was moving its focus to the living room.

Much like cancer, Microsoft grows by metastasizing. If they get a foothold in your life, even if it is vaporware or buggy product, it is enough to iterate and grow. Anyone out like Windows 1x very much? My first Xbox - not so great. But my 360 is my friend. It will take media off my other computers and servers and deliver it to the TV, it will let me talk to others, it will even let me order HD movies at th…

I Need This

Is there anything better than bubblewrap? But you can only use it once. Japanese science fixed that.

Here is a little piece of endless bubblewrap to carry in your pocket. Here it is

An Amazing Read

If you've got some time on your hands, definitely check out The quality of writing makes my site look like it was written by a first grader with boxing gloves. It is thoughtful, articulate and very, often laugh out loud funny. The coverage of trips to Japan will have you rolling on the floor and the position statements about making fun of Scientology or supporting Obama are well presented.

A Brief Reminder of Excellence

This timeless piece of art is a Rolls Royce from 1925. It doesn't look like any other Rolls Royce. The designer and builder were obviously not looking to just get it out the door. They weren't shooting for something solidly in the 70s. There is no compromise. It is inspiring.

Should we be Proud?

Every time I got a C, or worse, on a test I would go home and tell my parents that all the other kids got Cs also. It wasn't always true, in fact it was never true, but as a kid, I was able to rationalize that it was ok. Sure I didn't know the material well enough to do well on the test, but neither did anyone else.

So when EA puts the above chart in its analyst presentation, is it saying that they got a C, but it is really ok because most of the others got Ds? Or are they saying "Yeah, we are fourth best"?

Is it the industry's fault or the critic's fault that the best we can do is a C?

Gamestop needs an Intervention

Gamestop continues to engage in self injury and I think we, its friends, should all get together and stage an intervention.

According to the Wikipedia:

Self-injury (SI) or self-harm (SH) is deliberate injury inflicted by a person upon his or her own body without suicidal intent.

This pretty much sums up their used game behavior. They don't want to kill themselves, but they can't stop harming themselves through the sale of used games. Their self injury manifests through the Tourrette's like statement that slips from the lips of every counter person during every game purchase. "Would you like to buy a used version of that game?" As a consumer, you always picked used. It is a DVD for god's sake, it's not like it will be broken or worn out. Moreover, it is guaranteed to work and costs anywhere from 10% to 50% less than the identical, albeit virgin, item sitting on the shelf. No one gets hurt and the consumer benefits. Right? Wrong.

The game publis…

Blockbuster and Gamefly are Enablers . . . and it Kind of Sucks

Blockbuster and Gamefly are enablers with a capital E. Don't even get me started on Gamestop. According to Webster's dictionary:


Main Entry:
\i-ˈnā-blər, -bəl-ər\
: one that enables another to achieve an end; especially : one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior.

Can you name one other industry which distributes first run product in an ancillary channel on the very same day it releases in its primary channel. We put out games and expect consumers to pay $60 on the very same day we allow them to pick it up at Blockbuster for 1/12 the price, or Gamefly by ticking a box. What the fuck is that?

When I was at Eidos, in 1997, Blockbuster was just entering the game business. They called and asked me to supply games to them for rental. I quickly did the math - I have this Tomb Raider game that is …

A Kinder Gentler Electronic Arts

A couple of posts ago I wrote about how inspiring it was to hear EA's CEO talk about respect for creativity and the need to maintain the integrity of team. The part I missed was how EA defines a team. Internally they are developers, outside they are prey.

Recently a developer who finished a product made a responsible business decision and in the interest of ensuring the long term stability of the company let some people go. Not a fun thing to do, but something that has to be done from time to time. The funny thing is that the company will ship two games on six skus this year! I know it will shock those of you familiar with the game business, but word spread quickly. EA responded by sending emails targeted at various company employees. Since I am confident the emails were an expression of EA's altruistic desire to make every one of the developer's still employed team members feel wanted, I thought I would post them here. You can have a look after the jump.

From: Chri…

All We Are Saying, Is Give Games a Chance

Games are a tremendously unifying force, but like angry revolution songs of the sixties or gangster rap today, we make zero sum games that empower through violence. When you look at multiplayer games, you see we are removing countries, religion, language, distance, class, culture and all other divisive forces through games, isn't it time to build one with unifying content on a unifying platform?

Games can destroy, and games can build.
Games can empower and inspire.
Games allow a young generation to rebel and find their own voice.

The establishment is afraid of games because they do not understand. In 1970, the White House was afraid of John Lennon, today it is afraid of Rockstar Games. Lennon disseminated his message through songs because he knew 100 million people would hear what he wrote. 200 million people own a game platform. 3 billion if we count phones. Like music, games move seamlessly across borders and afford total communication

John Lennon and Yoko Ono introduced the…

DICE Summit Takeaway: Activision and Electronic Arts

I attended the DICE Summit last year and it is truly a great event. Great people, great hallway conversation, great talks. The people who actually do shit are there to talk about it without all of the noise and interference of GDC. Heavy gamer concentration. Gore Verbinski encouraged developers to make the suits shit their pants. He's right, we should. It is kind of game of chicken, we have to hope they shit before we get the runs over milestone payments.

The most interesting stuff though came from the talks given by the number one and number two publishers in the world, EA and Activision - the position changes depending on the day of the week. You can read about it after the jump.

Former Hasbro and Pepsi Cola executive and current Head of Worldwide Studios Robin Kaminsky, gave an intimate (one Activision executive told me that it was perhaps too intimate) view of Activision's research and a post mortem of the Call of Duty marketing campaign. Activision has always …

I Announced the Juno Game?

I was invited to speak at the DICE Summit 08. I never spoke at DICE before and I was excited by the invitation. The conference is for game people, and you can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone who invented an amazing game. My panel was a free form, intentionally raucous debate inspired by the movie fight club. The other side of my debate was a really smart guy by the name of Mitch Lasky. Mitch was a very senior guy at both Activision and EA and was the founder and CEO of Jamdat Mobile. In other words, lots of success. We talked about consolidation, the world heard the announcement of the Juno Game.

After the jump is the tragic email chain with Tor Thorsen the writer who wrote the Gamespot piece that started it all, but was not at the talk.

-----Original Message-----
From: Keith Boesky []
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2008 11:21 PM
To: Tor Thorsen
Subject: Juno


I did not say that a Juno game is in development. I have never even seen the movie…