Showing posts from March, 2008

Friends: The One About Facebook Edition

I joined Facebook. I resisted for a long time. I like to stay off the grid. I got too creeped out about all the tracking going on and Facebook knowing what I am doing. Sure people go even further and install Google desktop, allowing Google to assign metatags to everything on their hard drive and its ok because "Google does no evil." You won't catch me doing that anytime soon, but I signed up for Facebook.

I signed up because I keep hearing about the apps and how they are the future of games. The companies who make these things are achieving ridiculously large valuations. I also signed up because I thought it would be a good way to promote this blog. So far so good with the first one, I haven't really figured out the second. Some other stuff happened along the way though.

Facebook wants me to tell everyone I know, directly and tangentially, what I am doing right now. It is kind of like twittering, but in my head it makes me feel like my broadcast would be …

Weekend Alone: Lots of Games Edition

My wife and son are out of town visiting my in-laws this weekend, so I am playing a lot of games. If the connective tissue of the preceding sentence does not bother you when coming from a 42 year-old man than you have issues as well. It could be stunted emotional development, it could be my tenuous grasp on reality, but when left to my own devices, I will lock myself up in a darkened room, turn on the surround sound and stare into my 55" Hidef window to the world of "not my reality."

I decided to pick my head up from hours and hours of Call of Duty 4 multiplayer and see what else is out there. It could also be the feelings of inadequacy engendered by the sound of pre pubescent voices standing over my dead COD soldier yelling "got you motherfucker" . . . a lot . . . and often. . . while I notice their rank is much higher than mine and time committed is orders of magnitude lower.

I dug into a pile which included Turning Point, Devil May Cry 4, Army of …

Real Transmedia, The Hills, Lauren Conrad Edition

In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium- that is, of any extensions of ourselves - result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by a new technology. . . The electric light escapes attention as a communication medium just because it has no “content.” And this makes it an invaluable instance of how people fail to study media at all. For it is not till the electric light is used to spell out some brand name that it is noticed as a medium. Then it is not the light, but the “content” . . . that is noticed.

Marshall McLuhan

I know who Lauren Conrad is. She was right on the cover of Us Magazine in the airport, and I recognized the name. There is no reason for me to know of her. I have nev…

Flashback: Things I learned in Hollywood Edition

I wrote this article a year or two ago to address a break down in Hollywood's distribution driven financial model.  I read it again recently and realized many of the market forces which are creating tension in the film business today are hovering above the game industry.  I thought it was worth reviving. 
Here it is:
Hollywood started as a creator of content; it ended as a gatekeeper over distribution. While it may feel a bit early to identify the end of a multibillion dollar industry, the dream factory perceived by the outside world is long gone and without significant change, the democratization of distribution and production arising from advances in digital technology will make the US steel industry look like a growth business relative to Hollywood. But what technology takes away with one hand can be restored with the other.

In the early days of filmmaking, the producers, directors, cameramen and even talent were studio employees under contract. Over the years, through studio ac…

Check It Out: Wired Magazine Indie Game Highlight

Chris Kohler wrote a piece over at Wired's blog about an indie game which conveys emotion and has an innovative business model. A lot of good things in a single sentence. Indy, emotion from a game and new business model.

Check it out: Graveyards Story

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: OLPC Negroponte Edition

On September 4, 1995, Larry Ellison introduced the idea of an inexpensive, thin client appliance he called the Network Computer. In 1996 he launched the first Network Computer, with models as low as $300, thus fulfilling his earlier promise. The product was met with a universal, deafening yawn from the buying public and slowly faded from view. Ellison saw the still born product as a success. His idea of a sub thousand dollar computer was so strong, the entire computer industry seized the opportunity and collectively lowered the price of entry level machines, and created dedicated devices like Blackberrys, thereby growing a new market. He was not the one to make the market but the market was made. The statement sounded arrogant and a bit crazy, until it happened again.

Nicholas Negroponte spent the last three years in hell, doing something he really didn't have to do. He is the son of Greek shipping magnate for god's sake. He could just retire as the quirky, genius fou…

Genius: Out Appled? Edition

[DISCLAIMER: This post was written by a dyed in the wool, multi mac owning, even still has two newtons, bordering on stalkerish, Apple fan, on his Macbook Air.]

No one can argue Steve Jobs' position as the greatest showman of our time. In case you want to try, talk to Sky Dayton who launched an amazingly innovative phone against the iPhone. Don't remember, that's the point. Apparently, no one told Lenovo.

They were working on "The Perfect Laptop" for a number of years when the Air beat them to market by a couple of weeks. They did some preliminary PR which did not get Apple-like attention, but now, with the ad posted above, they fired a shot across the bow. They think their features will show their computer is better. They don't know Steve.

As Apple owners our computers contain, and do, only the things Steve says they should. Steve provides for us. Steve did not think our screen should open flat. It opens to an angle which is probably a metaphor for bea…

Gaming Press: Parody Edition

Sometimes these things just write themselves. Check out the cover of the most recent edition of Gamepro. Can you find something that is not a sequel? Did I miss the memo saying no one is originating IP anymore? I get why publishers see sequels as risk mitigation, but game press?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Ubi Edition

According to Stephen Totilo's blog, multiplayerblog , the Gamestop/Ubi Haze promotion has been cancelled. In fact, it was never meant to be. Ubi PR told Stephen the announcement was the result of a miscommunication and it was rectified.

Ubi has among the best, if not the best internal development in the world. They are supplementing it with external developers like Free Radical on games like Haze. They respect their product enough to jump in and rectify a situation like the Gamestop promotion. There are publishers out there who would not have made the correction. Sounds like the product deserves our respect too.

Good job Ubi!

Game Objects Are Unregulated Securities

Trading of in game objects is a controversial topic among MMO players. Some feel it degrades the game, others believe it levels the playing field. Regardless of your side of the debate, everyone can agree on the size of the object exchange market. It is massive and growing. It all seems sort of innocent, until you think about the nature of the objects being sold. Some kind of Darwinian aversion to incarceration led me to the conclusion we are trading unregulated securities.

My law degree made me think about it like a lawyer. Law degrees are kind of like herpes that way. I don't practice anymore, but it pops up at the most inconvenient moments and I start thinking like a lawyer. My corporations professor, Hugh Friedman taught us how difficult it is to actually spot a security, but gave us the definition contained in the United States Code. "SECURITIES - An investment in an enterprise with the expectation of profit from the efforts of other people." Here is ano…

EA Take-Two: What About the Citizens?

In a further expression of his city state model, John R. told the BBC Rockstar is a "rockstar." BBC story. This is a nice sound bite, but I think he is taking the whole city state analogy too far, or maybe not far enough. The power of the city state is derived from its citizens. The same can be said of a game developer. Every night the company's assets ride down the elevator, or in the case of a game developer, go to sleep under their desk.

John tells the BBC " What we are attracted to is what we value in our own studios: great developers and great intellectual property." But I don't think he really knows what a developer is. In the same interview he said "If the wrong guy walks out, we have an issue to deal with, But we don't stop making games." He does acknowledge his respect for Sam and Dan Houser and Leslie Benzies, but he also said he had no fear that the value EA placed on Take Two would be damaged if they left. These men are …

More Sequels

I complained about mainstream press coverage of our business. I complained about publishers banking on sequels. Now it is time to bitch about gaming press and their obsession with sequels. You could say they have to because there is nothing else coming out. Thankfully, this is not the case.

I was on my way home from presenting an original IP to a slew of publishers. Some talked about the problems of launching a new IP, but all are interested in following up. As I entered the airport I started to think it may not be as bad as I thought. Maybe the industry was looking for new IP after all. Then I got to the newsstand. I picked up the latest issue of Gamepro. The cover featured all of the great games for "08, every title was followed by a number. Rainbow Six 2, Final Fantasy XIII, Gears of War 2, Bioshock 2, GTA IV, GT 5, God of War 3, Resistance 2 and probably a few others. I bought the magazine, something no one outside the business or not already inclined to buy a g…

Gamestop Needs an Intervention: Part 2

Gamestop's disease is worsening (in rehab parlance we call it a disease, not an addiction.) They started by taking games back in trade, moved to giving higher in store credit and today announced they will be mainlining games. Their balance sheet was fattened selling games multiple times and only paying the publisher for the first sale and they need more. It is a great business model . . . in the short term. I have to think they may be overfishing these waters. As a top retailer, the decreased revenue from this practice eventually hits the publishers and impacts budgets.

Now, Gamestop Canada is offering in store credit of the full purchase amount for return of a pre ordered copy of Haze within the first week of purchase. Is there some way to look at this other than as flipping the bird to Ubisoft and Sony? Gamestop will increase pre orders, but will also guaranty a healthy supply of used games for resale to all but the hardest core of gamers. Even though Haze has mu…

It's Just Not Right: Independent Developer Edition

The numbers are killing the independent game developers.  Not the numbers in the budgets, the numbers in the titles. Take a look at the top selling games for last year, each title ended with a number. This year's most anticipated titles end with 4s and higher. Like the film business, rising costs and expense management mentality moved the game business from one of innovation to one of risk mitigation. The problem is exacerbated by the influx of soda and soap sellers into positions of power.

When presented with a product, the first thing a publisher does is look for a benchmark. What does this product look like? If it looks like something good, we can build a plan around the budget and then give it to the sales guys. The sales guys can go out into the market and ask the buyers if two years from now they would be willing to buy something that looks like the thing that sold really well last christmas. Sounds pretty efficient. . . . if you are selling a new brand of tampon.


TED Conference: If Gamers Ruled the World

I just got back from the TED Conference. I am not going to try to describe the experience, there are tons of articles and posts all around the web that do it much better than I can. All I can say is that it is mental floss. It is an opportunity to hear and think about things I would otherwise not consider, and in many cases have the opportunity to consider. It also provides a new perspective, frankly a kaleidoscope to use when viewing my own little world. Fixated as I am, it always comes back to games.

To most of the world, games are considered to be well below porn when it comes to cultural contribution. They are only played by kids and they are all violent. This was confirmed at the conference. When I raised the subject of games with people like inventor, Dean Kamen; Jeff Skoll (Participant Media, producer of Charlie Wilson's War, An Inconvenient Truth, Murderball and others), Tony Robbins, and many other of the attendees, the unanimous response was "We don't work…

L.A. Marathon

In an act on a level of heretofore incomprehensible hubris, I decided to enter the L.A. Marathon. One of the final speakers at the TED conference said that sports are to war as pornography is to sex. I was never very good at those statements on the SAT, but I figured that one out. Today, 25,000 runners and I, went to war. I made it through to the other side. This places me in a very elite club that is limited to only a five figure number of people that includes kids under 12 and adults over 80. Many of whom finished before me. I am, however, proud to say that if I had entered the 90 and over class, I would have won my class.

Here is a summary of the race:

Start Line: I am crowded into a mass of flesh largely made up of people I would never otherwise see. Some, like the guy with the teardrop tattoos on his face and the elegant script on his neck, would not have crossed my path by conscious choice - on both our parts. But today, these are my comrades. We are staring a common…