Via the official MS game marketing blogs...
Microsoft is going to plant a big bus in front of E3. The purpose? To allow game bloggers to upload posts (only bloggers are allowed to visit).
I think this is a brilliant idea. As a public service, it's probably not incredibly valuable, no matter what they say about people not having room to post blogs within the convention center. This is a great idea because it's inevitably going to pull in the most influential voices in the industry and at the very moment these people are posting about E3, they are surrounded by Microsoft-ness.
I don't care who you are, it's going to be a little tough to say that the Xbox 360 sucks while you probably sip on a complimentary cold beverage, are attended to by attractive representatives and buried in swag. Maybe I'm being cynical but I'm a marketer and I don't think I'm that far off from the truth.
And yes, I've asked to be invited. =)
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Via the official MS game marketing blogs...
Due to some coaxing by someone close to me, I went out and bought the book, "Now, Discover Your Strengths" today. The purpose of this book is to discover strengths in yourself and others and thus be able to have more valuable and meaningful professional relationships. It is part management and part self-help (Barnes & Noble had it on the management shelf). You take a little online quiz (only available if you buy the book) and they spit out the top 5 strengths that you have. All 34 strengths are listed in this pdf.
The interesting thing is that it's based on polls done by Gallup, the same name that brings you political and election polling. I'm not exactly sure how that works (haven't read the book all the way through yet) but I find it fascinating that no matter how complex and unique we all think we are, we're really not. We're made up of four DNA base pairs and apparently have 34 possible professional strengths.
Well, in case you're interested. Here are my strengths:
Ideation: People strong in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.
Strategic: People strong in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.
Competition: People strong in the Competition theme measure their progress against the performance of others. They strive to win first place and revel in contests.
Activator: People strong in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.
Communication: People strong in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.
How does this relate to this blog? Well other than being about me, (I'm so vain, I think this blog is about me) I could not help but look at the results of my quiz and feel like I'm looking at a character sheet. It's as if my Creator selected these five strengths for me in some character creation screen and decided, yes, I will make this one a brand manager with these five skills. And hmm, college and this job will give him +1 on strategy. Perhaps I should make him better looking... nah.
Ok ok... maybe I've been playing games too long.
at 12:59 AM
Friday, April 28, 2006
There's a ton of press today about Nintendo's announcement of the Revolution's official name: "Wii"
I'm not going to link to all the stuff, there's just too much. Just Google News it.
Instead of making fun of or supporting the name, I'm going to give you guys something else. What is the origin of a name like this? How does a brand like Nintendo choose a name like this, good or bad? Well, I don't know the exact process they went through but I'll give you a likely scenario:
Launching a product is an incredibly complex process and companies spend a lot of time internally and with their partners (usually ad and PR agencies) to define almost everything about a product. No detail is ever missed (at least not purposely). The name can be decided at the very beginning or at the very end, right before launch (as was the case with the Wii). It is usually one of the most important steps.
But where does the name come from? Well for some companies, they figured out way before the product is finalized. For other companies, they have no idea and use a codename as a temporary proxy (Longhorn for Windows Vista is an example). Either way, some companies don't even come up with the names themselves.
Have you heard of "name consultants"? Yes, there are consulting companies out there that do nothing but create names. Two examples with websites are "Igor International" and "Catchword". Created between them are some familiar names: Pepsi Blue, Petopia, Tickle and Wynn Las Vegas. Pharma companies are huge customers of name consultants; taking a chemical name like Sildenafil and turning it into Viagra. This is a very lucrative and hot industry.
The consultants use a mix of business, liberal arts and creativity in their trade. As far as I know, the process starts with the consultants spending a significant amount of time immersing themselves in the product or product information. They discuss objectives with clients and do research on the market. Finally, a list is created and clients approve or reject options.
With this list, more research is done (such as current trademark conflicts). If you've ever wondered why companies like creating all new words or obscure words, it's not only because they want to be unique but because of trademark conflicts. If you create a whole new word or new application for a word, you don't have any problems: eg. Yahoo!, Google, Starbucks, iPod, DreamWorks, Song, JetBlue.
Finally, a short list is created and market tested with the public. They usually don't outright ask, "Do you like this name?" Instead, they test the exact same product but with different names and ask the usual focus group questions, "How does this product make you feel?"
This entire process could take days, weeks or even several months. At some point, a final name is selected. Sometimes the name consultants even help create the logo treatment or marry the name to a tag line. One thing is certain, they always provide a fluffy description. Here is Nintendo's:
Wii sounds like “we,” which emphasizes this console is for everyone. Wii can easily be remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak. No confusion. No need to abbreviate. Just Wii. Wii has a distinctive “ii” spelling that symbolizes both the unique controllers and the image of people gathering to play. And Wii, as a name and a console, brings something revolutionary to the world of video games that sets it apart from the crowd. So that’s Wii. But now Nintendo needs you. Because, it’s really not about you or me. It’s about Wii. And together, Wii will change everything.
I have no doubt many hours of blood, sweat and tears were shed to create the name "Wii". Again, I'm not going to get into the debate about whether or not this is a good name. I will say that my initial reaction was of shock and I found myself stumbling while trying to use the name. In a few months, after the name enters full circulation and practice, we'll see if these consultants were brilliant or failed miserably.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
So if you're not convinced enough that retro gaming is the hottest quirky obsession right now. Check out this college-staged live action recreation of Super Mario Bros. Oh, you make me giggle you silly silly nerds.
I better stop posting these or the blog will start being a retro blog. I'll talk about more new stuff, I promise.
Via more "digg"ing
Did you know this week is TV-Turnoff Week? No, that doesn't mean watching Dr. Phil as an anti-aphrodisiac. It literally means turning off the tv for a week so your brain doesn't melt. Or something like that. Combine this with the day of silence I wrote about earlier and you'd have a pretty quiet week.
In this strange new time-distorted world we live in, however, I could probably do it but then I'd be backlogged on my Tivo and the next week would TV-AlwaysOn Week.
at 10:31 AM
Managing relationships is a tricky task. Coming from the ad world, where our entire business is pivoted on managing the client relationship, you manage everything from complex deliverables to simple expectations of how you dress. Now that I'm a brand manager, I have to manage the customer relationship, something just as pivotal and as nuanced.
The last few days, I've had to put myself to the test using all my experiences and skills to establish my relationship with our customers. First impressions are important and especially so for the new Acclaim since this is our first game. I've reached deep into my own gamer identity but also into my business training to establish the identity of Toggle (the name I'm known as in the community). Overall, I would say that I have been successful in reaching out to our community and have been very warmly received.
Now I realize that as you read this, you will think that I am being very tactical and possibly even manipulative with this relationship. That would be a valid interpretation. However, it is no different than wearing something nice or putting on makeup before a date. We prep ourselves before important social engagements. I did the same but with less lipgloss. I'm not trying to pretend to be someone else, I'm just selectively choosing different parts of my identity to show and hiding others.
I'm happy about the situation but it has not, however, been without anxiety. Let me give you an example:
We are in what we call closed beta. The purpose being to test the game with limited number of customers. It keeps demands on resources checked so we can focus on testing. We decided to invite users by a first-come first-served basis, the earlier you signed up, the more likely you're account is activated first. As the first batch of invitees arrived, the word spread and those that weren't invited also joined the community (we have a very active message board).
The not yet invited customers were, to say it lightly, very aggressive in wanting to be activated (A couple have left messages in the Gabbly Chat on the right). I totally understand their position. They can't play yet and they see everyone else playing so they feel left out. It's really killing me that I can't invite them. There are some very cool members of the community, posting useful messages and getting everyone excited and helping out in general. I really really want to invite these people, they seem to have earned it.
However, to invite people individually, we would have to go into the database and activate them manually. This is fine for one or two. But then we cross into the territory of favoritism and open the floodgates for more requests. Then how do you say no? Inevitably, it would become a drain on resources.
I bring up this situation because I think it's a classic example of how to manage customer expectations. Customers, like everyone else, are self-interested. You must befriend your customers but you also don't want to be taken advantage of by them. For instance, you want to give a wide-open return policy but even the Nordstrom's returned tire story is folklore (Nordstroms is a department store like Macys).
It's killing me that I can't give the productive members of the community an invite but at some point, you have to draw the line. Businesses exist to create value, for customers as well as themselves. They are also usually the ones with the most relevant information to make informed decisions, hopefully in the best long-term interest of everyone involved. Unfortunately, this means that businesses will never be your buddy.
This bothers me. More than I'm actually willing to reveal. I know I'm soft. However, my rational side also weighs in the consequences and realizes that being everyone's friend is a mistake. In the end, rationality wins out. Have I gone to the dark side? Am I turning into the man? I hope not.
(I shamelessly stole the Mickey image from someone's posted travel photos. The kid is hidden at least. I'm pretty sure that's a hug and not an abduction in progress....)
For some reason, I'm stuck on the retro theme lately. Maybe it's because a big birthday is coming up. I hit the big two' oh in August. What? Why are you looking at me like that? =P
Found this while visiting my favorite Digg category: gaming. A quiz on 8 bit characters from old school games.
I got 3 right. Then I cheated and found the answers.
For some reason, I feel sad that I didn't get more of them. Then I realized, wait a sec, you want to be nerdier than you already are?!
Rocket Boom, an always delightfully written and easy on the eyes vlog, had a post (is it called a post?) of profound nothingness today (or yesterday if you're a stickler about time).
Similar to the "time waster of the day" from a couple days ago, I was compelled to keep watching to see if anything would happen. I'll spoil it for you, Ms. Congdon doesn't say a word, the entire time.
I have succumb to the powers of conditioning again! Once something good happens, I always think it'll come back. Must push button, must wait to see something happen, must keep watching Smallville, must wait for N. Kidman to call back, must keep grinding to level up. Help me, I can't stop!
Apparently, Rocket Boom was observing the National Day of Silence, a day where kids at school keep quiet to increase awareness of bigotry against GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transexual). Interesting idea but umm wouldn't it be better to talk about the issues? Maybe this is like one of those negotiation tactics where you stay quiet until the other person caves:
"Ok, I'll sell it to you for $100"
"What? Is that too much?"
"Ok, fine, $75"
Works every time!
at 12:57 AM
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Burn (bûrn) n. - In the game industry, in reference to developers. Describes a period of intense development work hours, usually prior to a milestone or launch. Often this does not include overtime or any additional compensation.
Burned (bûrnd) n. - In the game industry, in reference to publishers. Describes the state upon settling a lawsuit, brought about by over-excessive developer burn, for $15.6 million. First known use to describe Electronic Arts, then applied to SOE.
LA Times article here. (not sure how long link will be valid)
Burns (bûrns) n. - In Delaware, used to describe a duo of nerdy brothers. May also be used to describe itchy sensation after significant exposure to these brothers.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Microsoft acquired Massive, our advertising engine partner, for $200-$400 million. That's pretty big news. Honestly, I wasn't sure if I saw this coming, especially from Microsoft. I can see why they want to do this though, seeing as they are moving the 360 towards online, it makes sense for them to own the number one in-game advertising company.
This worries me slightly since there is a definite conflict of interest now for Massive. How do you deal with non-Microsoft publishers when you yourself are a publisher. I can imagine all sorts of situations but the most simple example I can give you is: An advertiser wants to reach a certain audience, if there are two titles on the market you can advertise to and one is a Microsoft title, how do you objectively spread the money around? It's tricky.
I'm not worried now but I will be in a year or two.
Joystiq article here.
Tomorrow, San Francisco hosts AdTech, the conference for the interactive marketing industry. These are the folks that deal with advertising and marketing in just about everything that's wired to the Internet, from PCs to Tivos. This is where you'll see many of the big online properties, such as Google and Yahoo. I should probably be there but since we just launched BOTS, there's no chance of that. Hopefully, some of my old industry buddies will send me good tips. Hint hint nudge nudge.
Anyways, the reason I bring this up is that BOTS, as a game and an advertising medium, straddles both the game industry and the ad industry covered by AdTech. Right now, we're not nearly big enough to draw any attention. However, I wonder when our properties do get some traction, will we be accepted by these two groups?
I'd like to think that we're what you would get if Yahoo and EA merged. Positioning yourself is important, it gives people a frame of reference to more easily understand what you're about. Let's see if anyone buys it.
Last week, I posted that I'll take requests for E3 activities. So far, I've got:
- Hunt down Miyamoto, Iwata and Reggie and ask for autographs
- Hit on booth babes
- Visit Metal Gear Solid booth
- Find biggest surprises of the event, post pictures
- Investigate Hellgate London, do happy dance.
- Head to Blizzard booth. Find nearest developer. Say, "My mount isn't housebroken. It's really causing a big ugly mess. What should I do?"
- Find Nintendo reps, ask, "So Mario and Luigi, anything going on there?"
- Find nearest game, use controller upside down. Say, "What the?! This game sucks!" really loud.
- Always introduce yourself with, "I'm Ken, brand manager for BOTS from Acclaim. Spare a dime?"
- Go to the nearest bathroom, use urinal, turn to neighbor, say, "Is that a +1 or a +2?"
- Go to nearest booth babe, repeat question above.
- Walk up to nearest person, say, "You should have spent more time in character creation mode"
- Creep around the DDO or Oblivion areas in "sneak" mode.
Monday, April 24, 2006
Wired has a nice thought-provoking piece on the attraction of Lara Croft. Finally, something that reassures me that us men are not Neanderthalistic automatons governed by our prurient visual desires. Nope, we're more complicated than that.
We apparently also have an innate desire to flip the knight/damsel complex on it's head. If I'm reading this right, we unconsciously want to see women achieve Chuck Norris-like capabilities and kick our collective butts. (Sorry, had to include a picture of Chuck on the blog. My day is complete.)
Perhaps that's why I got all giddy when Lana learned martial arts and didn't need Clark to save her. You should have seen that episode, she executed a magnificent roundhouse and then a right cross into the baddie's face. I mean, I got all tittery and squealed delightfully. Wheee!
Wait, I've said too much.... err... umm... I love BOTS! ::runs away::
Developing a game is like... really hard.
The public played BOTS for the first time yesterday. I would call it a success. We had a glitch in the beginning and no one could play with anyone else. That's right, we launched an online multiplayer game with no multiplayer functionality. Sweet! Hehe, luckily, we fixed it about an hour.
The problem that bugged me (I'm so punny!) the most was with our profanity filter. I could not type any sentence that had the word "it" in it. Do you know how tough it is to communicate without using the word "it"? You should try it. Dammit, see? IT's nearly impossible. We're getting IT fixed, the downfall of BOTS is not going to be a two letter word!
On the bright side, I am really enjoying interacting with our players. They are so supportive and friendly! I just want to take them all home and hug them and squeeze them and call them George (Yes, Animaniacs reference!). My priority is working with our players so it's good to know they're receptive.
I had a weird personal moment yesterday. It finally dawned on me that I'm the dude on the other side. The dev/admin/game company guy. I think you all know my passion for the industry and I've steered my career towards this goal for years. I guess it just didn't really register that I've made it until yesterday. I'm letting it sink in. Expect to see me jaded and aloof within the week. =)
Not a news piece by any means but then you read the title. Last week, Kotaku covers a Bonk Revival. The game where you play a caveman with a huge head that bonks his enemies, with his huge head. A great game, except it brings back repressed memories. They used to call me Bonk in junior high. I don't want to talk about it.
Further back in time, the 80's have been hot for a few years and by association, so have games during that time. During downtime this weekend, I visited the Twin Galaxies site (thanks Diane). Organizers of tournaments and general enthusiasm for really retro arcade games, think Pac-man & Joust. They even offer bounties on achievements in games, as recent as Xbox.
I'm not a good trendspotter but I have a hunch these guys are going to get a little more activity soon. When a technology or cultural item plateaus after peaking (I believe we have past the peak of traditional "games", we're into something different now, interactive entertainment if you will), certain people usually start longing for the original. An example I can think of is artificially mixed music peaking and the popularity of "unplugged" music in its wake.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
It's almost 4am and I'm posting to let you guys know that we just sent out the first batch of emails inviting our registered testers to download and play the game. That's right, we've just launched Closed Beta! Woot!
This baby took a while to get here and might be strange to look at for a while, but it's here and I'm happy and exhausted. We open up the servers for play today at 4pm. If you got your invite, I'll see you there. If not, I'll see you in a few days. If I made prior arrangements with you because you sent me money or gifts (umm... I'm so kidding! No one sent gifts...), I'll try to pull some strings.
But now, it's time for sleep!
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Friday, April 21, 2006
Some more video related stuff for you guys before the day ends...
American Express is sponsoring a video contest: submit 15 seconds of "film", get judged by Scorsese and M. Night, and win a trip to the Tribeca Film Festival. Sounds simple enough.
Unfortunately, I'm not very impressed by the batch of videos on there now, just seems kinda blah. With only 5 days left to submit, I'm hoping it gets much better. Seems to me they're not screening content either (see first sentence) so at least they're keeping options open.
This is not quite as limited as the Chevy thing where you had to make ads based on a templated set of content. Not quite as brand based as the Converse thing (yes, this is the third time I've linked to this in BN; it's tough to find a new good example!) since AmEx is not asking people to shill the cards in the video. It's more of a lifestyle awareness/association tactic, which is fine but I am not relating to these videos.
The consumer generated media thing is tough to do. You really have to mobilize your fan based and tap into their skillsets. The Converse thing works because their target audience skews young, hip and tech-savvy. The perfect target to create cool videos. AmEx skews the other way and even if part of their target bleeds into the younger crowd, I just don't know that many young professionals that have the necessary skills or creative talent, myself included (I'm a card holder, twice over).
I'll check back in a few days to see if it's improved.
(Image is from entry: "Having Fun: Skateboarding With My Bulldog... by Darrin Stout". For some reason, I liked this one. Fits the brand and had a simple skateboarding retro-video vibe.)
As a public service and also because I'll have a whole free day, I thought it'd be fun for me to take some requests.
So here's the deal. It's still a couple weeks away, which will give us time to plan and strategize. I'm hoping we can think of something interesting and cool for me to do while I'm there that will benefit Branded Newb readers. I can follow a script or freestyle it. You guys decide. I'll post any relevant results, such as pictures, video or audio transcripts. And yes, I retain veto power. I like my readers but I'm not going to jail.
1:00pm. You just checked in at E3. You make your way up the escalators and see the dazzling display beyond the glass doors. A guard, checking badges, blocks your way.
You open up your brochure and look at the floorplan.
Wallet ($20 in cash)
5mega-pixel digital camera
Cell phone PDA w/camera
What do you do now?
I love the four word film review site so I'm going to shamelessly lift the idea for this post. All videos are about tonight's planned activity, DDO, oh yeah! Come visit Earen in Sarlona server. On to the reviews, well, not so much reviews as four words to go along with the videos: (Just click the big play button, you'll watch them right here)
DDO Ad: The more you know...
Colbert Report on DDO: Truth hurts so good!
Fan Video: Cheap home-made lap dance
And my favorite time-waster of the day...
DDR, Dungeon Dance Revolution: Bring Your Own Beholder
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Look, I'm really tired of men being portrayed as sex symbols, in our industry and everywhere else! We're not objects to stare at and acquire. I am not an arm accessory like your purse nor do I live to open your jars or do your cleaning for you.
Take, for example, this website, called "Cleaning Hunk", for a cleaning product (I'm not even going to give them the benefit of naming them). Shameless!
And for those that haven't seen it yet, this Brawny Man site (Another blog that shall remain nameless dinged me for not covering this earlier... All I got to say is: here it is, so, PpppPpppttt!)
I mean, enough is enough! I am not an object!
(Unless you're hot, then you should really shoot me an email, address on utility bar to the right, can't miss it. Pssst, I'm really good at opening jars. ::wink wink::)
at 2:02 PM
Was having a glass of my lactose-free, low saturated fat, hormone-free, free-range, no-msg milk this morning when I came across a game review in my copy of the NY Times. Well, actually, it's two game reviews, The Godfather and Oblivion. The review itself is pretty good, describing each game accurately by focusing on game play elements and how to spend your time in the massive worlds of each game.
While I was reading the review, I was struck with a sense of overwhelming loneliness (that happens to me a lot). I've played both games (not significantly but few hours of each) and I can tell you that they're fun. However, they are so vast and so complex, that I found myself wishing other people were around, real people. I've played so many MMORPGs now that single player games feel empty.
When I was playing Oblivion, for instance, I ran into a pretty difficult cave that was kicking my butt, over and over again. I realize that I could have just set the difficulty bar lower but what I really needed was a mage to help me out. Look, I wasn't looking for a Sam to my Frodo. Maybe one of those one-dungeon stands, no strings attached deals:
"Hey, want to do this?"
[hack slash loot]
"Wow, that was fun!"
"Want to be friends?"
"No thanks, I uhh, gotta go to town to unload"
I want a single-player experience, casual dungeon romps and sometimes deep meaningful bonding with other players. I want a game that gives me all of this and I'm hoping there's a middle ground somewhere. Has anyone done it well?
Will I stop buying either game types? Probably not, but I think now that MMOs are established, it's too hard not to think of them while single-playing something and vice versa. Choices are a bitch, once you know there's a possible alternative, your first option doesn't look so appealing anymore. (Recommended reading: Paradox of Choice)
BTW, Karl over at GamingVision had a post similar to this train of thought recently.
In a Toronto Subway, there's an interactive billboard advertising the Lord of the Rings musical (oookay) that lets you download a ringtone if you point your bluetooth-enabled phone at a sweetspot on the board.
This piece of news is kinda off topic, more about mobile marketing/advertising but I couldn't help but feel it's very game-like or has the potential to be used for gaming purposes.
This billboard is probably blind to who you are, dispensing it's tones to anyone it wants. However, it won't be too long before location based mobile services take advantage of these random powerup locations. We'll all be wireless soon anyways, so it won't be so much "point your phone here" as "stand in this corner of the street" to pick up something of value.
Think about walking into a Best Buy, standing in front of the games section while you browse the menu (no more product on shelves) and receiving your content on the spot. (Retail packaging will go away but some people still like to shop)
Finally, this kind of stuff is made for a game application. Just daydreaming, I've come up with almost a dozen games you could play in the real-world using this type of technology. Surprisingly, only one of them is an scavenger, collect clues type too.
via Adrants here.
[Edit: Just noticed that Interstractive, an online strategy blog, posted about a McDonalds campaign that uses mobile technology for a scavenger type game.]
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Terra Nova has an excellent post today about the less than socially responsible advertising going on in game magazines. They dissect (and I mean this literally) the type of advertising found in these mags and found, to no one's surprise, a extreme bias towards white male-centric advertising.
Just as interesting as the post are the comments from the community. I'd love to jump in to the fray but I'm afraid this is old news for the ad world. While I was in the ad biz I saw almost EVERY industry, EVERY advertising channel and EVERY big ad agency out there guilty of prurient practices. The simple truth is that it works.
The overtly sexed up female ad? Men like to look at pretty women and women like to look at pretty women (I can dig up a TON of research for you). It gets attention, attention equals sales, sales equal more ads. Open up a woman's magazine lately? We're wired this way, it's a fact. The game industry is not more guilty of this than anyone else.
However, (here's where I redeem myself somewhat) just because we're wired this way doesn't mean we have to indulge it, especially to the extreme. The post laments on the lack of unsexed, old and overweight models. I doubt we'll see that anytime soon. That doesn't mean, though, that we should have scantily clad women in "bikini armor". Our industry as a whole can tone it down and still be alright. This is the second time today that I've said this, but let's get out of the frat house and find some maturity.
Less Maxim and more Esquire. Not perfect but it's a step.
Remember, marketers are not good people. And by the way, I'm reviewing ads for BOTS. I'm thinking the one with the twin college cheerleaders draped over a BOT with a big gun will do just fine. ;)
The good people at GameStudy.org (they're naturally good but it doesn't hurt that BN is on their blogroll; I'm sorry, I'm shameless!) link and write about a peculiar Korean news story (Read Korean?).
The article reveals that some parents are so concerned about their kids grinding away in online games that they take over the grinding themselves. Apparently, there is no choice not to play these games as the child loves it and everyone in their social circle plays. So to not play and be good at it is equivalent to being (in my days) the sad kid without the TV . These parents see grades dropping but just can't choose between social acceptance or good grades for their child. The only choice (for these parents) is to grind for their kids. Amazingly, some get hooked themselves.
Wow! I mean, WOW!
I'm shocked, not at the extent of what parents will do for their kids (burnt chicken, live chicks, I know that parable) but the cultural milestones that have to be crossed before this even is an option:
- Gaming has to be multi-generational
- Understanding and achieving within games/game culture are required as social lubricant
- An individual's social capital is intertwined with status in the most popular games
Don't worry, there is no way that gaming will get even remotely close to this level in the US anytime soon.
The most challenging milestone for us is the last one. Gamers today have negative capital in the general society because of their hobby. Could it be because of all the destruction, death, dismemberment, overt sex, sex mods, lubricious gamer girls and the hundreds of other things that are chaining our industry to the frat house? Yeah, probably.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
As I mentioned in a previous post, tonight was the video game art gallery launch, done by "i am 8-bit". It was hands down an amazing success. I think there had to have been about over 1,000 people in the back of the gallery where the party was, in the actual gallery and around the block waiting to get into the gallery. Enough words, here's some pics.
Waiting to get into the gallery, no joke, around the block.
Finally got inside, it was elbow to elbow. Never been to a gallery opening this packed.
From another angle.
Luigi the Con (sorry about the blur, people were bumping me!)
A clay piece, Dig Dug is Dead.
The Game Over Tavern ($8,000)
Mario on Girders
And finally, my favorite. Mario again, almost with a Hildebrandt style
Coin-Op TV was there, so was MTV.com. Overall, not a bad way to spend a Tuesday night. Also ran into some people I knew but no one that reads this. Where were you all? =)
Ay cannot stop thinking about chu. Mon vin et mon baguette, c'est... it is, how you say... no good. I want to write you lettres but they are meaningless! They cannot tell you how I feel! They cannot show you mon coeur, my H'AHT! No, they will not do. I will write you an adventure! Yes, yes, you will be schwept away by the pa'SHON, the bravery, the sac'zee. Oh, it will be very sac'zee. We will rendezvous in the Ryzom Ring, do not be late.
Ok, if you're thinking, what the hell was that? Yeah, me too.
Anyways, there's a French MMORPG that's allowing players to create their own content such as quests. Bout time! The walk-thru on how to create one is here.
More options for consumer generated media; very cool! I'm sure there's going to be really awful content for a while but eventually, some devoted and talented person is probably going to blow everyone's socks off.
Thanks to Ionicwings for the tip!
Monday, April 17, 2006
Look, I'm not going to lie, marketers are not good people. Heck, I'm not a good person. You boil it all down, I try to sell brain candy to children. I'm not trying to get them to exercise or read a book or ponder the cosmos. I barely sleep at night, thanks for asking.
So it should come as no surprise that marketers bend the truth. Sometimes they outright lie. And in some cases, they bend the truth so much, it snaps. It's ugly: when they have truth all broke and stuff in their hands, they panic. They look at each other and, quicker than Billy the Kid can draw, fingers are pointing this way and that. In the end, they're no good with broken truth. So they brush all the pieces together into a manila envelope and defeatedly hand it off to PR..... because PR knows how to put that stuff back together right? Right?!
Oh yes, it's funny when marketers mess up. Via Kotaku, the story about the PSP Splinter Cell ad. The ad says, "One of the best games on PSP - Gamespy".
What Gamespy really said was actually in a preview and it went something like this: "Although Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Essentials doesn’t reinvent the wheel in any way, it’s undoubtedly one of the best games we’ve played on the PSP."
This was before the final review, which was even worse: " Hopefully, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Essentials will go down as the all-time low point for the series."
Medic! I mean, PR!
I can't wait until I mess up this royally. Remember, marketers are evil, I'm a marketer, therefore, I am evil. Never trust the evil. =)
So here's a statistic: 1.2 million new blog posts are created every day.
I receive approximately 30-60 readers a day. Therefore, of the entire blogosphere, the odds are better that someone wins about $1,500 in the lottery than read my blog. But you, my friend, have beaten the odds. Congratulations! Ummm here... you win a vowel: "o"
Some other interesting things:
The blogosphere is 60 times larger than three years ago - When 2 dudes were blogging.
Technorati tracks 35.3 million blogs - I read about 50 a day, tops, I'll catch up eventually.
On average, a new blog is created every second of every day - now, now, now, not now (it's an average), now, now, etc.
At this rate of growth, I estimate that within 3 years, there will be so many new blogs and so few readers that everyone will blog but we'll all be talking to ourselves. To anticipate this, I've already created 3 different blogs just to talk to myself.
Marketing Vox article here
On a more serious note and more on topic:. Are there blogs in MMORPGs yet? I mean, the functionality wouldn't seem too difficult to implement. And it would put to use all the useless libraries in those games now. I'd love to read a good writer's account of their quest or siege or anything really. Heck, I'll even volunteer to be an in-game blogger, I'll write about my social shortcomings as a town greeter.
As I mentioned last week, on Saturday night, I headed to the RPS Rumble 4 in LA. It was an incredibly fun event. I now completely understand why all those geeky conferences are so popular. You can't help but feel comfortable in a crowd of others as silly as you. Here's a gallery of some fun going'ons:
The night started with Grizzly Hernandez Jr. (Mexican wrestler) going against The Professor.
Then Comrade Vodka goes up against Mixed Pinatas (what I called him, we never figured out what he was really called)
At one point, Jim Henson was doing well but alas Kermit had the distinct disadvantage of only having one move... paper.
The champion of the night was a very fine lady named Lion Tamer. Here she is about to whip a poor unsuspecting audience member... (check out the response of the girl next to her! Hee hee hee)
And from another angle.... Youch! Yeah, that's me. The reaction says it all. You may have to click on the image to get the full effect.
Not a bad way to enjoy a Saturday night. =)
Captured this weekend:
More stuff on trucks. (Hmm, starting to feel like a standard feature on BN) Not quite as fun as a big bronze pig this time:
Easter Baskets! I know, you can't tell very well from the camera phone pic but you'll have to take my word on it. The truck must have had at least a hundred of these frilly things. Why is it that I want to follow these guys with interesting things in their truck?
And yes, the reflection in the glass is my crotch. Nice to meet you.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Friday, April 14, 2006
What can you do with one red paperclip? Apparently, a lot. If you harness the power of the Internet, you might be able to turn it into a home.
You have to go to this guy's site to see, I can't ruin it for you.
Check it out
I usually don't try to promote silly Internet schemes but this one in particular, I'm all for. Ancient barter system, high tech application. There's just something very warm and fuzzy about it.
Thanks to Brett at Tequila for the link.
The Fourth Annual Rock Paper Scissor Rumble!
Tomorrow at 9pm and you know it's going to be a crazy party with an address like this:
"Under the 1st Street Bridge, Downtown LA"
And no, I'm not kidding. It really is a party/tournament for Jan Ken Pon, or Rock Paper Scissors for you square non-Asianphile types. Check out their silly little training video here.
I'm going to do a little bit of training myself. The wikipedia entry has all the possible 3 move combos, the most popular are:
|Fistful O' Dollars||Rock||Paper||Paper|
I think I'll throw an Avalanche, then follow up with some Paper dolls and finish Fatality style with Fistful O' Dollars. Oh yeah, watch out!
[Post completed, +200 Geek Experience. You leveled up!] Booya!
Thursday, April 13, 2006
So before I scurried off to a HOA meeting tonight, I bought and started the download of the new Tomb Raider game at Direct2Drive. I just got home and the game is already on my computer. How deliciously convenient is that?! I paid, I downloaded, I'm done.
Direct2Drive is an online game store that, as the name implies, only deals with a digital distribution model. This is the fourth time I've purchased from D2D. The first few times, I got some older not quite top ten titles. Now, they not only have Tomb Raider but also Oblivion, probably the top two titles out right now.
I'm going to chalk this up as more evidence that it's only a matter of time before the retail guys have to pack it up. Once all the latest titles become available in this format, there's really no reason to go buy a box, unless you really want that manual you never read anyway. No more fighting for shelf space also means that there's less pressure and costs for publishers. Which then means that more innovative titles might get a chance.
I don't know if you guys have heard about the phenomenon going on with iTunes. Basically, a lot of labels are making a lot of money on the long tail. Imagine a sales chart where your top songs/albums have lots of sales and the line is high up there. Then the line slopes down gradually, creating a long tail. The tail is mostly made up of singles that people buy, still popular but that would never have been sold at retail. It also includes obscure and up and coming songs by new artists.
Once games go digital, we can expect to see the same phenomenon. Titles like Tomb Raider and Oblivion will establish the market but the long tail is going to support a lot of cool content. I can't wait.
Our partners over at Massive have made an interesting prediction. In-game ad spend could be near $2 billion by 2010. That's from CEO Mitch Davis during the keynote speech at the Advertising in Games conference. That figure would make it 3% of all media spend in the US.
By my estimates, 3% is somewhere between what's spent now on outdoor advertising and the Internet. (I'll find my research if you guys press me on it, but take my word on it for now)
I think his prediction is pretty good. In 2005, game sales reached $7 billion and that's just selling games. Given the growth of our industry and that the amount of time people spend playing games is increasing, the ad money will naturally follow. I'm even going to say that Mitch's figure is probably on the low end.
Adweek article here
We're going to start this post off with a little exercise. If you don't have time to play along, you can come back later. Ready?
Think of your favorite brand and product that you enjoy the most. I'll give you a second. Got one? Ok.
Now think about how you engage with it: How you recognize it, consume it, sense it.
How would you describe it to someone or write a profile on it?
If applicable, think about the accessories, the other things you use it with.
Now think about the feelings that you get while using it.
All these things define your relationship with your brand and product. They are uniquely how you experience this item and the value that you get from it. However, not everything is unique right? Others probably feel the same way. You've probably also borrowed ideas or values from other users or marketing.
A really successful brand or product has a sub-culture around it. It has a language, traditions, taboos and history. If this doesn't apply to your brand or product, then you thought of the wrong brand or product. Hehe. Just kidding.
Let me now take the example of MMORPGs. Not a particular brand or product but a suite of offerings by various companies. The sub-culture of MMORPGs is rich, more so than say toothpaste. This is intrinsic to the nature of the product because it is high-context and engagement.
I like to visit the MMORPG Lexicon, a site that, among other things, has a list of slang words used by gamers. My favorites are Kiting, Ninja looting and Tanks. These words provide definition (look mom, I made a pun) to the experience. They do more than serve as shortcuts between people communicating, they are key to the culture.
Although I have no formal sociology training, I would dare say that language is critical for building culture. I do have enough experience to know for a fact that language is a key tool on a marketer's belt. Helping to establish the language of your brand is critical in how users perceive and experience it.
That's why I've paid special attention to the language of BOTS. There's only so much I can do because you can't control how a culture is created. However, you can provide framework and seed ideas. Here's a few seeds that I've planted:
- BOTS is a word that is always all caps, so as to not confused it with any other game term such as bot programs for MMORPGs.
- Whenever possible, I refer to the game characters as BOTS, you should not see them as "characters" or "robots" or "mechs". This is because I want to instill a uniqueness to the BOTS instead of going generic or borrowing from other cultures.
- To establish the fun and playful nature of the game, there is no mention of killing or death. BOTS are knocked out and battle each other but don't die or destroy each other.
- Giving players a way to communicate PvP tactics by style
- Pushies - BOTS that use the environment to win by causing others to fall.
- Brutes - BOTS that fight head on with others.
- Turtles - BOTS that run away and avoid fighting until the crowd is thinned out.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
I haven't posted about BOTS for a while but I don't want you to think I forgot about my day job.
We're just about ready to take this puppy on the road. The car is packed, the cooler's full, everyone's belted in and the engine is idling.
Expect to hear something within the week.
I'm having a bad hair day (not literally of course, my hair is too short and ego way too inflated to ever notice). Mainly it's due to the fact that I enjoyed a hint of actual sleep last night after a day of multitasking that would put Shiva to shame.
Then I woke up this morning and with my eyes still closed, I reached over for my cell phone. Rolling onto my back, I hover the phone over my face and with muscle memory, tap the button to light it up. At the exact moment I open my eyes, my fingers slip. The first image of the day is my phone plummeting towards my forehead. Yup, it's been downhill since then.
Ahh but misery loves company, it's also been a bad day for:
The game industry -
Analyst: March sales could be down 20%
WoW cheaters -
Blizzard bans 5,400 WoW cheaters, suspends an additional 10,700
Male gamers -
Amber Night snip snips Men in Games, ouch.
Resourceful journalists -
The lawyers swoop on Kotaku's Burger King scoop
The Chinese -
Chief says Google won't fight Chinese censorship
Milk tankers -
Milk tanker accident sends wave of white onto storefront and not connected but ironic: Seven hurt when van slams into [empty] milk tanker.
I really need to get a wall clock...
The Webby Awards (so much fun to say three times fast) nominees were announced yesterday. Among the many many many categories are two related to games, named oddly enough: Games and Games-Related, see it here.
The nominees for Games are:
Star Wars Galaxies
Three casual, two MMO's. Strange choice of MMOs given that SWG has gotten a lot of bad vibes from players for changing the game and that Toontown is kinda mediocre. I'm voting for Protokid, they found a very cool way to do a game portal site, worth checking out.
For Games-Related, it's all good press/review sites.
Consider this the self-indulgent esoteric post of the week:
The movie, "The Wild" is coming out this weekend. You may have seen some trailers or ads about it and thought, oh, Madagascar is coming out with a sequel. Nope, apparently this is another movie about zoo animals in New York, go figure. This seems like one I could have easily skipped. Until I found out...
Eddie Izzard voices Nigel, the British Koala (What? Aren't Koalas' Aussie?).
So ok, I love me some Eddie Izzard. He started his career doing stand-up but has branched to TV and movies. I've never waited in line in my life for a concert or anything like that. However, a few years ago, I waited in line outside the Virgin Megastore on Sunset for 3 hours to get a signed DVD. He's just that good!
So now I'm confronted with a very typical fan dilemma. Am I a big enough fan to really go see this movie just to hear Eddie's voice and no doubt his incredible voice acting? Hmmm...
Can history be an indicator of how I'll decide? Let's see:
Even though it was painful, I watched Star Trek Voyager for a whole season. I still read every Michael Crichton book that comes out hoping for a glimpse of old times. Steve Martin, did you have to turn Shopgirl into a movie?! Dearest Smallville, you've changed, I may need some time alone.
Brand loyalty is a powerful thing, tugging at our emotional binds and screwing around with our rational behaviors. When people think of brands, they mostly think about buying some brand name over another. However, brand loyalty also involves several other elements like forgiving your favorite brand for mistakes, sometimes even big ones. Loyalty also lowers the threshold to try new products. Diet Coke with Salmon? Hmm, it sounds disgusting.... but it's Diet Coke. Oh heck, why not?!
Can I resist the tug of loyalty? How deep is my love?
at 12:54 AM
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Next Tuesday in LA, the launch of an art gallery show inspired by old school video games. Brought to you by "i am 8-bit".
It'll be at "Gallery nineteen eighty eight" - 7020 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles 90038 from 6pm to 11pm.
See you there! (I'll post pics that night)
(Image: Dig Dug by Luke Chueh)
Marketers like talking and sadly we get overzealous sometimes when talking amongst ourselves. We use words/phrases like "drinking the kool-aid", "evangelist" and "brand fanaticism". It's all just fanciful ways to talk about how great your idea/product is and/or how people just love it to death.
It's supposed to be fanciful. That is, until some silly creative type takes it literally and makes an entire ad campaign out of it.
Then... well... then it's just weird.
Orbit's Gum wants you to join the Friends of Bright.
(Cute, creepy, corny)
Axe Deodorant wants guys to join the Order of the Serpentine.
(Salacious, sophomoric, sexist)
I'm officially announcing the Brotherhood of BOTS. Bring your own refreshments.
I was munching on my organic, free-range, sulfer-free cranberry almond clusters this morning when I ran across this article on the front page of the NY Times.
"The Long-Distance Journey of a Fast Food Order"
Now, when you pull up to certain McD's drive thrus, the person taking your order may be hundreds of miles away in a call center. That's right, the person asking "Do you want fries with that?" is nowhere remotely close to your actual fries. Feel free to tick them off.
McD's has set up call centers to take orders from restaurants around the country and then beam the orders back via the Internet. It shaves a few seconds off the process; which, in the long run, means more orders. No doubt, they're also doing it because there's some efficiency in training too.
You getting that icky feeling? I know, me too. However, it does make sense to me. The unfortunate/fortunate (depending on how you view this global marketplace we live in) thing is that the call centers are currently located in the US but have no real obstacle (other than socio-political) for being relocated internationally . The guy taking your order could be across the planet. My vanilla cone flipped in a cup somehow feels a little more important.
Anyways, this has nothing to do with games or marketing but it's related to the previous post. If you're interested in this stuff, read "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman.
at 11:09 AM
Monday, April 10, 2006
I need to set up this idea in two parts. Here's the first:
As you all know, I'm a fan of MMORPGs. Simple fact is, I enjoy playing them. But on a more intellectual level, I think they're the first true medium of entertainment where producers of content can interact with consumers of the content in a way that's never been possible before. (This is actually what I wrote my undergraduate thesis on, it was titled, "Analysis of the Multiplayer Interactive Entertainment Medium". I'm a total dork!)
All other entertainment mediums (tv, radio, print, theater) are all broadcast one way and consumed one way. With MMORPGs, you finally have a great medium for two-way communications. Developers can actually change content on the fly and shift the experience. Think of a great Dungeon Master interacting with players on table top D&D. That's the interaction that's possible but unfortunately, it rarely happens.
So keep that in mind while I move on to my second point:
Gold farmers in MMORPGs are controversial, to say the least. These are gamers, most commonly from China, that play games to grind out content that US gamers purchase for real money. This black market will continue to exist while demand is backed by real money and cost for supply remains cheap. The farming system works because labor is cheap and the value of the virtual content pays for the time. I'm not going to venture into this controversy myself, but this got me thinking.
The worlds of MMORPGs represent a unique environment. As players populate the worlds, the virtual content acquires value. So far, farmers have been able to capitalize on content such as game money and items. What if we took it a step further...?
Finally, here's the idea:
Instead of pushing away what the gold farmers are offering (that is, lots of game time for very low costs), why don't we invite them in? This next statement is going to piss a lot of people off, but here goes:
Let's hire the gold farmers to replace NPCs in games. Real human actors would play out important key roles in MMORPGs. US players will benefit because no programmed AI is going to beat a real person. The actors will benefit because they get a legitimate job. There's definitely a language problem but that can be overcome with scripts or just guided communications.
At first, I thought this might be in bad taste since it reeks of exploitation. But when I gave it some thought, it started to actually make sense. MMORPGs create virtual worlds that defy real world borders. So far, trade within virtual worlds has occured with items but why not with services? This service would create value for everyone involved.
A game like WoW could hire an army of actors for probably a lot less than a $5 bump in monthly fees per player. This could open up an incredible array of experiences in unique game events or even just enhancing day to day dungeon crawls. Don't think of this as just an enhancment of PvP with actors instead of other players. I think of this as enhancing PvE with real people behind the environments.
Games have had GMs play actor roles before but those are one-offs that rarely involve more than a few select players, those that happen to be at the right place at the right time. What do you think, worth a shot?
By the way, if you've read this far: Thanks, this post has no links or pictures. Just a crazy idea. =)
Everyone and their distant uncle Arnold, yeah, the one with the thing in his hip and the lazy eye? yeah that guy... probably knows about this site except me. It's a site that lets you view commercials for games from around the world.
Understandably, a lot of the ads are from Japan. Which makes the experience not so much about ad watching as about cultural nourishment for the soul. Hold my hand, let's watch together!
The image is from a Final Fantasy 4 ad in Japan but could also be for a new perfume. Hmm a game perfume... what would it smell like? Oh god, probably sweat and hot pockets, nevermind.
[sings the jingle... "HOT Pockets!"]
Sunday, April 09, 2006
For the Nintendo Gamecube: The pinball/ warfare/ RTS-esque game called Odama. That's right, I said pinball. How crazy is that?
The site is stellar with simple navigation and great demos. Make sure you check out the location names like Kuruwa Plain or River to see the funky gameplay, I would not be able to explain it even if I tried.
I saw the preview a couple weeks ago here; thought maybe it was a concept or something. Guess it's for real because Kotaku highlighted it today here.
Good to see some innovation out there.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Got an exciting guild event coming up? Want to sell that ridiculously uber set of armor you got? Cool, but how are you going to advertise? Well, up until now, your only options in MMORPGs were to hit the message boards/sales lists or scream yourself hoarse in a town center/chat channel (making a complete dork of yourself in the meantime).
The creators of Entropia have introduced a pretty neat innovation: A system for in-game advertising, used by players to promote game-related events/content. Players create their own ads, pick locations and pay via game money. Details of the system here.
I like this idea and I can imagine the uses for guild recruitment, item sales and just a general boost in economy. Mostly though, I like that it'll probably lessen the incessant LTS messages (lessen, not eliminate, I'm not that naive).
It was a beautiful day today in Santa Monica. (My image)
Went to the Ashes and Snow Exhibit in the Nomadic Museum (Their image)
Visually stunning museum. The exhibit was thought-provoking but aside from the subject matter, the composition of the images and multimedia did not amaze me. (Their images)
No cameras allowed inside. But enjoy the greenery near the exit and the museum at dusk. I'll stick to my day job. (My images)