Sunday, December 21, 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 platform. MSN, after all, looked a lot scarier before launch than after, but it is still around. Xbox will be around for a long time. This is not a battle that will be won in a single platform cycle. It is a war of attrition. When measuring competitors, Microsoft, with its hubris restored, is poised to win.

and moves us one step closer to Xbox fulfilling the prophecy Bill Gates shared in his 1995 book The Road Ahead:

Companies that hope to participate in the creation of the applications and services and enter the content business through investment and/or influence want to move now, while the opportunities are open. Some of these companies connect up the television set. Part of their strategy could be to offer, for a single monthly fee, the connectivity to the highway, the set-top box and a package of programming, applications and services to go with it…. Although supplying the boxes will increase the up front capital required by the network operator, the outlay will be worth if it helps create a critical mass of users.

By making the Xbox a game platform, Bill got us all to subsidize that nasty up front capital expense. In the 2001 piece, I also detailed how the Xbox allowed Microsoft to avoid legal scrutiny and become the dominant set top box. It was not a case of insightful brilliance on my part, it was merely an exercise of my uncanny grasp of the obvious. After all, Bill Gates laid the whole thing out 6 years earlier.

My premise all along was Microsoft would lay low, until they gained an installed base of 20 million or so (according to I was off by about 5.9 million), and then they would flip the content switch. This would be late enough for the gamers to be entrenched enough not to reject the box as a CDI/3DO everything box. It would also be late enough to have family members who are not game members wondering if there is something they can do with the box. It would also be a large enough base to really excite content folks with the audience size. Microsoft made some smaller deals with content creators and studio deals for film distribution, but the first real step in this direction was Netflix. Mr. Kim outlined the next ones in the article:
He argued that while there might be hundreds of video sites, most of the activity was concentrating on a handful of sites like Hulu and YouTube. So his first instinct is to cut a handful of deals that integrate the Xbox more deeply into such sites.

(If you have not checked out Hulu yet, you should. The the Mac Mini plugged into my television, I was able to do Dick Van Dyke Show marathon at the site, as well as introduce my son to the wonders of Lost in Space.) It's really neat to have all the iTunes stuff on my computer and iPod. If I want to spend more money - I actually did- I can get a Mac Mini, or less money and a get a somewhat anemic Appletv, to move it to my television - or I can use my 360. Before purchasing the Mini I was able to use the 360 to channel media from my Mac, but it was kind of cumbersome and the Rube Goldberg essence of the set up received a very low Wife Acceptance Factor score. Microsoft is fixing this, soon, I won't even need the Mac. In typical Microsoft style, they let others build the content stores while they own the OS and in a very web 2.5 kind of way, the billing system and the community.
While I am gloating about how right I was, I should admit, where I was wrong. I wrote:
I can see the argument and the germ of a massive marketing campaign: "Don't you want to edit your home videos using XP and then watch them in your living room with your Xbox? And of course you want to have access to your Microsoft Passport to make purchases online from your living room. Oh, yeah, and that Windows Media Player thing…" Through services such as Microsoft portfolio company Intertainer, you can access many of the offerings available via cable, right there in your Xbox. Intertainer utilizes Microsoft's Windows Media Player and related billing systems, and offers 65,000 hours of programming from more than 70 content providers including Warner Bros., DreamWorks, Twentieth Century Fox, New Line Cinema, NBC, Discovery, A&E, ESPN, Pearson Television, Warner Music, Sony Music, and others. This does not even address content available on the World Wide Web at large, including first-run pay-per-view movies, which are, or will soon be, available from companies like Moviefly, CinemaNow,, and other online movie services. These have small consumer bases today, but the offerings become significantly more appealing when they come through your television set rather than your PC. If there is a broad installed base of Xbox consoles in use, it will also become among the first viable platforms for interactive television programming.

Intertainer went out of business before Xbox Live happened, so NBC and Fox content will come in through Hulu, as well as a ton more. Movielink was acquired by Blockbuster and Cinemanow has been ignored in favor of direct distribution deals and Netflix for catalogues. I also though Passport was going to be pulled into the Xbox, when in fact, Live is being pulled into the PC world. Hey, if I am going to toot my own horn when I am right, I do have to point out the mistakes as well.
Mr. Kim says he is now working out a strategy to make money and not simply be a carriage provider. This makes sense, but I believe he is only feigning humility. First of all, carriage providers are subject to considerable regulation, not something Microsoft is about to walk into knowingly. Second, more significantly, as I wrote last April in part two of this seemingly ongoing series, Microsoft enjoys leveragable advantages over cable:
Microsoft's advantage over cable is significant as well. Cable companies must pay for the boxes to be installed in people's homes. We buy 360s and subsidize R&D through game purchases. Cable companies compete each other by using a shotgun approach to broadcast everything under the sun to every subscriber. They must secure a lot of edge case content to broadcast into every micro, nano, niche interest known to man. I have never even surfed through the Golf Channel. Those 30 or so Spanish language channels? Nope, and there are a lot more. My cable service is kind of like British food in the 90's. Sure we give you a lot of uninteresting and possibly overripe content, but just carve off the bad bits and there is still plenty of good stuff underneath. Microsoft is able to narrowcast to a homogenous user base so they can post content and serve on an as needed basis. The audience programs their own channels. Same variety, less bandwidth. Relative to a cable company, they are heavy on storage, low on serving. Oh yeah, and they don't even pay for the pipes. We have to pay for the ISP to connect us to the subscription service for which we pay a monthly fee. That is enough to make and MSO break down in tears.

Finally, and most significantly is cable is weighed down by its legacy. Microsoft launched just a few years ago. So they are able to roll out with IP addressable boxes with powerful processors and built in hard drives. Every time Microsoft identifies a new feature, they are able to download an update to the installed user base. Every time the cable companies realize consumers want things like TiVo, they have to source it, engineer it into the system, and then figure out how to get consumers to accept it. This puts them years behind the market. The more incremental boxes in the field, the larger the variation in the installed base. Stealing a page from Apple - the first 360 dev kits were Macs - Microsoft's installed base is homogenous and the system is closed.

So I guess while we are all trying to figure out whether Microsoft beat Sony yet, or if Nintendo is really ahead of Microsoft, Microsoft is targeting the cable systems and satellite providers. What is the aggregate value of Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Charter, DirecTv, Dish Network and Bskyb again? Games are no longer the driving force of Xbox, they are only division.

As much as I love Apple, and would love to see a company which replaced a blue screen with a red ring not own the set top in my living room, I think they did it. There is no question Microsoft is the hands down leader in set top boxes, they just haven't told anyone yet.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

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 won't be in place to do digital distribution of full games until 2020 to 2025. And that's using today's size, but as consoles get more powerful, games get bigger. Right now, a 30GB game with your best T1 line is about 72 hours to do it.

He is running our biggest retailer, but doesn't understand the market forces operating in his favor. Or maybe he just won't talk about them publicly. This guy is the proverbial little boy with his finger the dike. He is trying to hold his position as toll taker between consumers and publishers, while pressure is building on both sides of the wall. Consumer and publishers both want direct downloads. This model is currently failing Hollywood because, as he correctly points out, technology circumvents distribution chokeholds. The game industry is tracking a few years behind music and television, but there are definitely cracks forming in the dike. Poor Mr. Gamestop CEO does not realize placing his finger in the dike will not stop the leaks. He believes bandwidth the impediment to game downloads, but it’s not. Publishers want to put games on line, but can’t for fear of alienating the retail channel, and hardware manufacturers can’t allow it for fear of losing the opportunity to sell at retail. Once this fear is allayed, the market for game downloads will flood into existence like music and television before it.

Gamestop, Wal-Mart, Target and all the retailers hold shelf space over the heads of the publishers and console manufacturers. If publishers undersell or consoles allow full game downloads, the retailers won't stock them. It's their only weapon. When we look back to the music industry, downloads were initially slow, but a billion downloads starting happening overnight. When Apple made it easy, a billion sales happened over night. The adoption curve was so steep it all but bent over on itself. Television is following the same adoption curve, and there is no reason to believe games won't follow the same curve. The impediment is not technological, and it is not a problem waiting for a breakthrough, it is artificial, and will disappear on its own. Today, publishers and the consoles need retail to get hardware into market, but as we move to the back half of the console cycles and there 50 million plus of each console in the home, expect to see more direct downloads of whole games. Once it happens, Mr. Gamestop CEO is going to get very wet. Like Sony music who kept trying to come up with new CD encryption and NBC who tried to leave iTunes, he will realize, you can't stem the tide. The publishers will go direct, because they can. He tries to make an argument he publishers will make less money direct, but unlike his store, they will get paid for every unit sold on the console.

BIZ: Do you feel threatened by the lower cost digitally distributed games offered to consumers?

DD: I would argue that the average value of a current generation game is about $20. We will give $1 billion out to consumers this year, who will use that money to buy new -- not used -- games. Consumers have been conditioned that their video games have residual value, just like a car. The real cost of a game today isn't $59 but $39. Nothing that has been digitally distributed retains the same value as a retail version; it's always less. Let's say a retail game is $39. Microsoft and Sony are the gatekeepers for their consoles. And if you're a third party that should scare the hell out of you because that's the only way to get to your customer. They'll take 10 to 15 percent. Video game publishers sell me games today for $48 wholesale. If they go direct to the customer they'll probably get about $30 for them. They'll get less for the game if they bypass retail.

If games are really worth USD 20, why is he paying USD 48 to get them - because he sells them a lot of times. As I addressed in an earlier post, his used game policy drive the value of the game to USD 20. Games do not have a value of USD 20. Games in Gamestop have a value of USD 20. If publishers got paid on each download sale, something which does not happen at Gamestop, not only would they more than make up the difference, they would maintain the higher price. He also tries to argue used games are a sales driver, but the argument just doesn't hold up.

BIZ: What are your thoughts to those in the publishing business who say used game sales are hurting the games industry?

DD: I do talk to many publishers about this. We will give out $1 billion worth of credits that will be used to purchase new video games this year. New games in the U.S. this year will be $10 to $12 billion, so 8 to 10 percent of the total dollars used to buy new games this year will be from currency from GameStop's trade-in program. What we see is that consumers want to buy new games, but they don't have the cash because our trades go up as our new game sales go up. They're using trade-ins to buy games because more money is going into their gas tank. It's a source of currency that helps drive the video game business. I think the argument that it competes with the new games is false. Imagine what new car sales would be like if you couldn't trade in your old car.

Used game credits are stored value held by Gamestop. The contribution of the stored value credit toward the new game puts the new game into the stored value system. The publisher gets paid once on the transformation, but then the game becomes currency in the Gamestop system. Once in the system, the unit is sold an unreported number of times. The total Gamestop currency grows with games in circulation, and each unit of growth removes value from the publishers. Mr. Gamestop CEO assumes used games are only used for acquisition of new games. They are not. One billion dollars worth of credits are used to pull the games off the shelves the first time, but how many times are other used games sold? There answer, is enough to generate about another USD 2 billion in revenue. The publishers don’t get paid on those. Gamestop has a 50% margin on used games, much better than the 21% margin on new games. According to their SEC filing, 44% of their gross profit is attributable to used games and on a unit basis,53% of all game sold are used. If the industry generates USD 12 billion next year, Gamestop’s game sales, based on market share would account for USD 4 of those 12 billion dollars. My math skills aren’t so great, but this would mean USD 2 billion in sales are attributable to used games and publishers are only paid on 2 billion for new games, with an additional billion in stored Gamestop value going toward new games. Consumers are actually subsidizing Gamestop’s inventory with used game returns. Even if we assume every purchase made with credits comes from someone who would otherwise not purchase the game - major leap of logic - game publishers still lose 2 billion dollars a year.

I don’t buy Mr. Gamestop’s residual value argument either. Sure I look at depreciation when I buy a car, but I’m not buying a car from Gamestop. I am buying a game. Moreover, the auto industry makes money from used cars through the sale of parts and dealers make money through service. Game publishers make money once, on the sale - at Wal-Mart and only sometimes at Gamestop. Which brings up a good point. Wal-Mart has roughly the same market share as Gamestop, but there is no game trade in. They do the volume, at full price without the subsidy. Gamestop didn’t create the concept of residual value, they created the concept of the cheap game. When you buy a game at Gamestop, it goes something like this:

“Oh I see you are buying Super Death Ray Auto Blaster 17.” says the counter guy. “You know its an “M” rated game.” Gamestop did have a 94% compliance rate in the most recent FTC study.
“Would you like to buy it used. You can have a [10 to 50%] discount.”
“But it ust came out two days ago.”
“I know, but we got some back, you can get a discount and it’s guaranteed to work.”
The consumer hears “Would you like a kick in the balls or this nice shiny game?” Mr. Consumer, who already decided to purchase the game and not rent, buys the used game. He would be stupid not to.

Mr. Gamestop CEO please be straight with us. You figured out a way to make money without paying for inventory. That’s cool, it’s the American way. While its self defeating in the long run, in the short term you will make money in a crack dealer kind of way. Please don’t insult our intelligence though. In reality you are not any different than the dude selling bootleg Batman DVDs on Canal Street in New York, you just have a bigger table. And don’t delude yourself, those publishers and consoles who say they like you, they do, because you are selling 33% of their product. Let’s see who shows up at your birthday party once your market share falls. I have a sense you will lose some support. If you want to take a look at the Ghost of Christmas future, talk to your counter parts at Circuit City and Toys R Us. They used to have your market share too.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

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 running the government. More importantly, they lose the ability to talk to people. As Friedman points out, it is harder to be enemies with someone you know. The walls remove the ability to know.

I was thinking about this on the morning of the announcement of Hillary Clinton as our new Secretary of State and realized how wrong the designation really is. You would think our first cyber President, the guy who is already speaking to us on Youtube, would realize effective diplomacy is already happening. World of Warcraft is played in 119 countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Congo, East Timor, Lebanon, Isreal, Micronesia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, among others. These are countries we don't do a very good job reaching. Contrast this with the 80 countries in which the US has US Commercial Service offices with business and trade specialists, coupled with the easier access to WOW and you can start to imagine the impact. People in those countries learn about us through the media - often state controlled, the Web - often censored, and now WOW. Which provides the most favorable introduction? Trade missions, embassies and even tourism results from discussions, negotiations and least visas with hosts of restrictions. WOW drifts over borders like a fragrant phermone and invites players to join a community. While all of these citizens of the world are not necessarily playing on the same servers, or interacting with other, their interaction with their friends is being facilitated by an American export.

I am not advocating the type of propaganda of not very well hidden messages of war time films, or the insertion of messages to the players. These tactics would be no better than dropping leaflet bombs and would quickly detract from the integrity of the game. Our historical unidirectional messaging through media allowed the world to see what we want, but other than through their dollars, they couldn't tell what they want. With the dissemination of WOW, everyone can hear what everyone else has to see in a manner even more powerful than through web 2.0 tools. We can use this tool not only to talk, but to listen. The lecture turns into a discussion. No special messaging, no government controlled input. Just people, talking to people while they whack at rattle cage skeletons.

Web 2.0 lets people communicate with each other and there is no question it is a revolutionary tool, but WOW let's people play together. To Friedman's point, if you are friends with someone you can't be their enemy. It is tough to be enemies with someone after enjoying a four hour round of golf with them. WOW is the new golf course. People from all around the world are playing with and against people they would otherwise never meet, and in many cases not even speak to. But in the virtual world of WOW, the person's character - maybe the pun was intended - is not determined by where they live by accident of birth. Can you hate the guy who stood by you in battle or hung out with you at a festival? The power has already been recognized by the Chinese government. After realizing the influence Chinese MMOs have over the younger generation, the government, in a very Chinese way, started to regulate not only the number of new MMOs allowed to be released in a year, but the content of the MMOs. They want it to be Chinese.

Friedman points to a time in history where Richard Nixon came to the same conclusion. Not our most popular president, but after you read this you may consider him to be the true first cyber president. In the famous kitchen debates with Nikita Kruschev in 1959, Nixon and Kruschev were arguing about relative technology capabilities. Nixon conceded the Russians were more advanced in harnessing the power of rockets, but the US had better color television technology. It sounds kind of silly on its face, even smacks of American consumerism, but when you dig down, it is very smart. Rockets are used by governments and televisions are used by people. The televisions can connect people. Nixon so much as said this when he invited Kruschev to send more of his content and himself to US citizens through color television and suggested America should do the same into Russia. Of course it never happened, but it makes me wonder whether the cold war would have been so cold if we actually heard directly from each other rather than through the filters of domestic news and governments.

WOW provides the communication platform directly to the generation of people who drive the culture in each nation it touches. We invited the United Nations to America because we wanted to host the platform to facilitation communication among world leaders. Now we are on the cusp of providing a platform for modern communication among the world's citizens. What are we going to do with it?

Admittedly, this post is kind of over the top, but as I've said before, in the words of Peter Parker, "with great power comes great responsibility." WOW didn't set out to be anything more than a game. While relationships and communication are arising on the periphery, they are incidental and not by design and the secret to peace in the mideast has not yet been divined from the game. But when considering the unlimited potential of this platform, we must acknowledge it's not just a game.

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 the game, against Gamestop's posted value for a trade in and the currently available new games. The quicker they turn it in, the more money the get, the more popular game inventory Gamestop has and the less incentive Gamestop has to re order. It is a great cycle . . . for Gamestop. Contrary to Mr. Gamestop CEO's assertion, games do not have an inherent residual value of $20. Gamestop creates a residual value, along with an incentive to return the game as quickly as possible to maximize the value. Downloadable content plays directly into Gamestop's hands.

With the exception of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, DLC expansions are delivered no more than quarterly after the release of the game. The value of keeping the burning asset on the shelf is not increased by DLC. It is undermined by the gap in time between initial release, and expansion release. By the time the expansions are released, the value of the game at Gamestop has declined significantly, allowing the gamer to repurchase the game to take advantage of the DLC, and return it to the store for another credit. Chaching, chaching for Gamestop on two sales, nothing for the publisher. In an even uglier scenario, the gamer just throws the game back into their Gamefly cue. Publishers may feel they are making money on the downloads, and they are, but downloads only have value after the significant investment made in the initial release - the one suffering from a lot of lost revenue. Moreover, DLC is selling into less than 50% of the initial purchasers and in most cases less than 20%.

We have to treat the disease, not the symptoms. We cannot accept used games as a fact of life. We must take a stand against it. There are a couple of ways to address the issue.

The obvious answer is to make all games downloadable only. It would be great to be able to convert on an impulse directly from a demo. Technologically, it is more than feasible. Practically, it is just not. The biggest problem is we don't have the technology to download a console. Every time the download issue arises, the retailers threaten to stop selling consoles. The downloads will happen eventually, but, like the music business, it will be in the form of a tidal wave hitting the shore, slightly later than it should. Because we can't flip the switch and go download, we have to look at other options to make sure we still have a business when download time comes.

First, don't sell to Gamestop. I am not talking to consumers, I am talking to publishers. It will hurt in the short run, but not as much as you may think. Gamestop sells a lot of games, but when we factor in the losses from used games and MDF paid for every corner of the store, the margins are lower than other retailers. Gamers go where the games are, and if Gamespot doesn't have the new games at release, they will stop going to Gamestop. Most of the lost sales will be made up by other retailers. You may argue about not being able to hold price at Wal Mart or Best Buy, but the increase volume from consumers who no longer buy at Gamestop will allow you to maintain price longer. It is just supply and demand. The gamers learned about it, publishers should too.

Okay, how about something a little tougher to implement, but a bit more palatable. Make games valuable only to the initial consumer. It is kind of like EMA's proposal for activating games, but uses Gamestop for promotion the same way the MMO companies used Chinese software pirates. What would happen if the first purchaser was able to play the whole game, but any subsequent purchaser could only play as far, or with the assets, the publishers wants them to use? A purchaser of a used game would be able to use console stored value points, or a toll free number if not an on line subscriber to unlock the balance of the game. If this sounds familiar, it should. iD used this model with Doom and it changed the business. Consumers will dictate a reduction in the price of the limited game, making it a more attractive purchase, reaching a larger audience. If the game unlock is set at $26, or about the amount the publisher take to the bottom line for full price unit sold at retail, the publishers will receive the currently lost revenue and the Gamestop price could be reduced to roughly the same amount, and no one would care. Some people won't convert because they won't like the game or they may be sated by the shortened experience. But the revenue received from the conversions which do occur is revenue which would otherwise have never been received. Gamestop becomes a promotional partner rather than black hole of revenue. The reduced price will enable the game to reach more people than even the fully accessible game. Which gets me to the final point.

When you point a finger at someone you are pointing four at yourself and this is no exception. At 59 USD games are the most expensive piece of media sold to consumers. The home video market started with a price point of 99 USD and consumers largely yawned. Sales were in the tens of thousands. When prices were reduced to 19 USD the numbers climbed to the millions. The used game market exists in no small measure because our games are too expensive. People don't like paying so much. I hear the arguments about how expensive production is but movies cost more. We can get rid of institutionalized used games, day and date rentals, explore new windows, release less expensive bits episodically and more. In other words, think of ways to grow the market. When Take Two did it with their Madden killer they made the first in roads against the greenest of EA Sports evergreen franchises.

Again, simple economics - supply and demand - prices go up demand goes down. Some may argue the elasticity of demand is small on something like a game, but I do not believe. Nothing in America is perceived to have a lower elasticity than gasoline, but when we saw a significant rise in price, we saw the first demand reduction in history. We determined the value of a gallon of gas and it was less than the one set by the market. Game sales considered as a function of installed base are stagnant from cycle to cycle and year to year because the price is stagnant. We spur demand by console price reduction, but not front line games.

Not that we've woken up to the disease of used games, let's work on the cure.