Showing posts from June, 2008

Huh?:Jeetil Patel and Wagner James Au Tribute Edition

I guess doom and gloom stories get more attention than happy stories. From personal experience, I can tell you, it is easier to write an angry rant than a happy smiley one. At least it is more fun. Maybe this is why Jeetil Patel and Wagner James Au decided to predict the end of the game business last week. Mr. Patel chooses not to recognize diversification, so he says game companies must eat each other to survive - "This would imply that publishers need to gain share cycle-to-cycle to achieve similar levels of profitability." Mr. Au's story rose to number 1 on gametab when he chose to compare a month's GTA IV sales to several years of San Andreas sales to tell us the market is just not what it used to be. Mr. Au is right, it was a much better world when Presto made The Journeyman Project for USD 175k and sold it direct for USD 99. It was even better when Jordan Mechner made Karateka for a negligible amount of money in his bedroom and Broderbund sold through 500k. May…

I Leveled Up: Bragging Edition

I've been using Nike + for a couple of years and this morning I ran the last fourteen miles to pass the 3,000 mile mark.

Just a bit after my 40th birthday I started running for the first time in my life. I thought it would be easy. Pick up a pair of shoes, put on a pair of shorts, and go. I was wrong. After the first few steps I was winded, and by the end of the first quarter mile I thought my head was going to explode. I didn't use an MP3 player the first few weeks, and then I realized, they are good for running. I know, it takes me a while to figure things out. Eventually I was able to make it a mile without throwing up and then even further without my chest feeling like an alien was trying to burst free. A little while into the journey, I found podcasts and started listening to a ton of different stuff, ranging from NPR and BBC to Dawn and Drew (I highly recommend Dawn and Drew and The Bugle put out by John Oliver and Andy Saltzman.)  A bit after that, Apple releas…

Morality?: People Who Twist Religion are Scary Edition

I've fallen behind in writing and want to put down some thoughts about the Deutsche Bank report suggesting structural changes in the game industry and some other stuff, but I can't stop thinking about a comment submitted yesterday to an earlier post. It reminded me of the scope of the gap between beliefs in this country, as well as the reasons the industry encounters so much pressure from outside forces. It also showed me why Richard Dawkins is right and people use religion for very bad things.

A while ago, I wrote the post in response to a The Timothy Plan press release I viewed to be issued to ride on the coat tails of GTA IV publicity:
The Timothy Plan, a morally responsible family of mutual funds, refuses to invest in companies like Take-Two Interactive because of their involvement in the anti-family entertainment and pornography industry.This view is consistent with the funds charter, which reads:
The Timothy Plan® avoids investing in companies that are involved in practi…

Fourth Quarter Releases: Stop the Insanity Edition

This morning, I listened to a podcast with a couple of game reviewers arguing about how many games they have to play in the fourth quarter. They argued the stupidity of a release schedule so dense they could not keep up. They are right, but not about the keeping up part. There are too many games released in the fourth quarter. As far as keeping up, treat them like books and hire more reviewers, problem solved - but not for the consumer. We are looking at a cause and effect issue. The publishers put the games in the fourth quarter because it is when all the consumers buy games. Its the holidays and all. But have they ever thought consumers may be buying games in the fourth quarter because it is when all the good ones are the in the stores? I don't think they have.

I went through and pulled fourth quarter release dates from Gamespot. Some of these may have changed, and some might not have been right in the first place. The first thing we notice is the fourth quarter is…

Check it Out: New Legendary Preview Edition

Singularitarily looking like the surprise hit of the fall.

Peter Moore: I'm a Fan Edition

I have been a fan of Peter Moore ever since I saw him get on the stage at the 360 introduction and talk about the future of connected gaming. He ran a demo of Project Gotham and talked about a sponsored event, played by thousands and watched hundreds of thousands. It was really cool and at the time, it was unique. It didn't really play out quite along those lines, and the race never happened, but the seeds were sown. Now as head of EA Sports, arguably the strongest brand in games, he is acknowledging the wonders of market expansion.

This morning I woke up to a gamedaily article quoting Peter's view of Rock Band changing game forever.

"It really came home for me when we were in Munich for our global marketing meeting and we took over the Hard Rock CafĂ© for the night and had a Rock Band competition. There were a hundred of us and it was like a real rock concert. It was a blast. I stood back and I thought that this was an incredible cultural phenomenon," he said.…

23 and Me is Scary: Privacy Edition

23 and me (23andme) is a relatively new company providing a friendly service. The company describes itself as "focused on helping consumers understand and browse their genome." You spit in a cup and they give you a bunch of services relating to you genotype. You can find out about your ancestry, genes you share with family members and a ton of other stuff based on an analysis of your gene. It costs USD 1000, but you get to find out all this information and if you choose, you can share it with others in a social network and compare characteristics. 
On their side of the equation, they separate your genetic information from any personal identification information, and put it into a database available to research and other institutions. Some may pay a fee. They are creating, with consumer subsidy, what may turn out to be the world's largest database of genetic information. The database will provide the data to cure disease and alleviate untold suffering in the world. …

Why Does the FTC Care Now: Getting Ready for a Democratic FTC Edition

No stranger to investigative pressure from every acronym associated with the US Government, Take Two is once again embroiled in controversy. Only this time, they really, really didn't do it. The FTC is trying to force Take Two to surrender reams of information, some of it confidential business information to determine whether the business combination the company does not want to be a part of will harm consumers. 

The FTC's action is not unprecedented, nor is it unique under the new FTC chairman, but it seems to upset fundamental rules of fairness. We like to think our government acts logically, this would not be the case here. EA instigated a takeover attempt and was rebuffed by Take Two. EA lowered its per share purchase price of its tender offer, which was already lower than the current trading price of the stock.  Now, before the tender offer is accepted, Take Two is being asked to show why it is ok for the merger to proceed.   Personally, if I were Take Two, I would be…

Activision and Vivendi Pending Nuptuals: Merger Watch Edition

The mailman dropped a 500 page gift on my doorstep this afternoon, the Activision proxy statement for the special meeting to approve the Activision/Vivendi merger. From the first press release Activision made it very clear they were merging with Blizzard and they would not let all the other stuff (the thing we call Sierra) get in the way. The prospectus makes it even more clear, retells the already published nice story of the on again off again courtship, brass balls poker play by Bobby and provides some interesting clues about the new company's future.

In typical Activision style, the document does not mince words. Right on the cover it is made clear Activision is merging with Vivdendi Games for its "portfolio of leading franchises, including Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.'s World of Warcraft." No other franchises are mentioned, with good reason. While Vivendi is the owner of some of the most beloved and best known franchises in the game business - Crash Bandi…

Check it out: Jason: Rise of the Argonauts Edition

Here is the first official trailer for Jason: Rise of the Argonauts from Liquid Entertainment. You will want to keep watching for more news on this one.

Why Isn't my [movie, book, star] a Game: Licensing Edition

Several times a week I get calls the help make a game from greatest movie, book, celebrity, song, musician, brand or something else genuinely recognized by millions of people. More often than not, the game business is just not interested. This is because games succeed based on the quality of the game play. Story, art direction, character development can all enhance a game and lead to incremental sales, but when it comes down to it, if it is not fun to play, it won't succeed.  There's not much story in Tetris, and unaltered from the game, Halo's story would not carry a linear narrative.  A license will not make the game mechanic any more fun. It will only assist in marketing. To do so, there must be an event around the time of launch which will let the world know the game is out. "Event" means something big, like a tent pole film which makes the license front of mind for the 120 million plus people who walk through Wal-Mart each week. Short of that, good luc…

Check it Out: Interface Edition

We always talk about the interface, but still find ourselves holding a controller to interact with out games. Gamers are comfortable holding one, but when I put it in my wife's hand it is like a small, stinky, herpetic, alien creature just sprung from her forehead and landed in her hands. So today, I am serving the dual purpose of falling prey to my own sloth and not writing a lot, and sharing some very, very, very cool interface work.

The first is from techno artist, programmer, genius, Golan Levin:

These two videos use voice in more interesting ways than we do in games. Kind of a reverse Patapon:

This one asks the question "What happens when the art looks at you?"

This one is the Digital Wheel Art Project , which melded homebrew inventor Johnny Lee's Wiimote hack and MIT's Todd Machover's creativity tools to enable people without use of their limbs to paint:

Here is the project:

Digital Wheel Art from YoungHyun Chung on Vimeo

Here is Johnny Lee and his Wiim…

New Money: The End of Battered Developer Syndrome Edition

I know this pain
Why do lock yourself up in these chains?
No one can change your life except for you
Dont ever let anyone step all over you
Just open your heart and your mind
Is it really fair to feel this way inside?

You could sustain
Or are you comfortable with the pain?
Youve got no one to blame for your unhappiness
You got yourself into your own mess
Lettin your worries pass you by
Dont you think its worth your time
To change your mind?

Some day somebodys gonna make you want to
Turn around and say goodbye
Until then baby are you going to let them
Hold you down and make you cry
Dont you know?
Dont you know things can change
Thingsll go your way
If you hold on for one more day yeah
If you hold onIt's a tough world out there for independent development. We are going through an attrition. Teams are getting bigger, burn rate is higher and time between deals is longer.  For years and years and years a developer's only choice has been to sell to publishers, and the number of publishers are consoli…