Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Slice till mushy

**I'm a Dormant Gamer!**

What kind of gamer are you? Take the quiz now!

Ok fine, there's no quiz. There is, however, a list of gamer segments compiled by the analytical folks over at Park Associates. In the world of business, if you start to settle for the status quo, you might as well leap out the window. The associates at Park looked at the measly way we've defined gamers, as hard-core and casual, and said, "Hell no! We can do better than that!" And with that, they deliver to the world their 6 gamer archetypes:

  • Power Gamers who represent 11 percent of the gamer market, and 30 cents on the dollar on retain and online games.
  • Social Gamers play games as a way to interact with friends.
  • Leisure Gamers spend 58 hours per month playing mainly casual titles.
  • Dormant Gamers have fewer opportunities to game because of scheduling issues with family, work or school.
  • Incidental Gamers lack motivation and play out of boredom but spend 20 hours or more a month playing online games.
  • Occasional Gamers play puzzle, word and board games almost exclusively.
Six segments eh? Not bad. I raise you 5 more:
  • Broke Ass Gamers play 4 hours a day after school at their cousin's house. They exclusively play Madden and never wipe down the sweaty controller after.
  • Daddy Didn't Love Me Gamers play on weekends and at bachelor parties because they need the affirmation.
  • Grrl Gamers may or may not enjoy playing games. No one knows and its rude to speculate.
  • 30 Year Old Gamers own an Xbox & PS2 but never get a chance to play so instead they spend all their time blogging about it. They're also spending an hour crying alone at night.
  • Fanboi Gamers represent 1% of the market but contribute 50% of the badly-drawn art.
via Clickz

Fill'er up

So let's be honest here. Posts have been subpar lately. I'm not making any excuses. Haven't had the time so the blog content suffers. But hey, keep dropping by and things may pick up again soon. In the meantime, enjoy the filler.

Just a friendly note to let you know I haven't thrown in the towel.

Thanks! =)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

At least no inky fingers

Flash back to Los Angeles, 1947: Ahh, the days of innocence. War is over. Men all wear hats without embroidered logos. A young "Hollywoodland" sign sits brazenly atop the hill, unaware of the harsh cosmetic makeover awaiting it in the future. Things are... good. Unless that is, your name is Elizabeth Short, or the Black Dahlia to some. Then, well, 1947 was good for about 15 days. Then you were murdered.

Her death caused quite the media circus back in those days. Strangely, it has also created a perfect storm of media convergence in 2006. Let's start from the beginning:

  • In the days following BD's murder, the Los Angeles Times newspaper covers the story.
  • Exactly 40 years later, James Ellroy writes a novel about BD.
  • About a decade after that, Brian De Palma directs a movie based on the novel.
  • At the same time, a website is created to promote the movie.
  • The Los Angeles Times contributes authentic archival content for the site/movie, thus bringing us back to the beginning.
There's something about this campaign that makes me happy. The resurrection of archival newspapers to create web engagement. The success of the site in bringing me into 1940's LA. Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson.

Yeah, I'm not sure what it is. Excellent campaign though. Worth checking out even if you don't see the movie.

Via MarketingVox

Monday, August 28, 2006

First Amendment Rules

A few days late on this but Wired had an article about a Louisiana law that was struck down by a federal judge citing violations of the First Amendment. In a prior post, I covered the story of Illinois being spanked by a judge and ordered to pay back legal fees for a similar law. Let's hope this sends a message to politicians scrambling for this year's platform fodder: Violence in video games is protected by the Constitution, move on.

What worried me most about the article was this quote from LA Governor Kathleen Blanco:

"I'm calling on all parents to diligently monitor the video games that their children are allowed to play. If the courts can not protect our children, then we need to do it by rejecting the merchant of violence." [emphasis mine]
Dear Ms. Governor Kathleen Blanco: you're a retard. The courts ARE protecting our children. They are reinforcing one of the most sacred laws in our land and by doing so, protecting the very freedoms which define our country. In other words, the courts are protecting our children from YOU!

Don't you dare blame the courts. If you want to lay blame for violent behavior, blame the incompetence of the state in taking care of our children. Violent behavior doesn't occur because of a video game, violent behavior is a product of socio-economic factors, most of which can and should be dealt with by the state. Why don't you, Kathleen Blanco (maybe she'll Google herself), spend more time on addressing education, employment, housing, poverty and health care instead of wasting your time on frivolous litigiousness. The true merchants of violence are politicians like yourself who ignore the real issues in an election year.

By the way, if you don't agree with me, the terrorists win.

We the people... can really screw you.

We're running an interesting campaign for BOTS right now. Basically, it works like this:

  • You're a current player
  • You invite friends to play the game using a unique url
    • Mine looks like this:
    • Note the referral code at the end, this allows Acclaim to track who is driving traffic
  • If you invite the most friends during the campaign, you win an iPod
Pretty simple. Now I know your initial reaction may be: "yeah, been there, done that". But what is interesting about this is we're giving you a unique url. In addition to helping you send the typical email to friends, a savvy player can also start posting this url all over the place. Are we basically giving people incentive to spam the Internet? You bet!

Am I worried this will get out of control? You bet! This is similar to affiliate programs you see e-commerce sites use to generate traffic. Someone posts a url with tracking code, if someone else buys, the poster gets a cut. Inevitably, the url falls into spam or other unsavory places. I'm not sure if our typical player has the resources to do this (yet) but it is a possibility. This is, however, the dilemma facing an Internet marketer today: how much control do I want?

If you market on the Internet, there are certain tools in your toolbox that make you nervous. Search is your hammer and banner ads are a hit or miss wrench (sometimes it fits the bolt, sometimes you have to throw it back). Overall, those are relatively safe and useful. Affiliate or customer driven initiatives are the old powerdrill, you know, the one with the frayed wires and the sparks flying out the middle. You can get things done faster but you risk getting fried in the process.

Marketing online is becoming less and less about what you can do but what others can do for you. MySpace, YouTube, Digg and all those social sites are beyond the reach of marketers, you just can't buy yourself a hit. It's a club for the masses and the only way in is entourage first, not star first. Now you combine this with the fact that people are notoriously difficult to control and you see the problem. I need the help of my customers but I have absolutely no control over them.

There is nothing to prevent someone from promising riches untold if others click on the BOTS url. There is nothing to prevent someone from creating a virus that makes people visit the site. Some hottie (male or female) can post up a very suggestive video on YouTube and coo their way towards making others click. We don't want any of these things associated with our brand but can we stop it?

I don't think someone would go through this trouble for BOTS and a silly iPod. However, it's not impossible to believe. So we're going to have to watch closely, track incoming links to see if anything suspicious is going on and wishfully cross our fingers. If you're going to cook with fire, you better keep your eye on the flames.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

No more Pizza. Pies or Ponies

So perhaps I was a bit premature with my earlier post about new planets. As you may have heard, Pluto got the axe from planet status and is now considered a "dwarf planet".

So now we're left with 8: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.

New mnemonic time!

My Very Eager Mnemonic Just Stopped Under Nine.

It's not personal...

NYTimes covers an interesting story. I'm usually not in the gossip business but I thought this has some interesting marketing relevance. Sumner Redstone, the old dude running Viacom, has fired Tom Cruise from the Paramount roster. The article, in true Hollywood style, covers the back and forth between representatives of these two guys but not from the guys themselves. My favorite quote is from a friend of Redstone:

“Tom Cruise has gone nuts,” Mr. Greenberg said. If Hollywood people believe that Mr. Redstone handled Mr. Cruise badly, he added, “They are entitled to their opinion.’’... “He did the right thing. The guy diminished his drawing power.”
So we've all seen Tom go from superstar to spewing trainwrecks everytime he opens his mouth. What is surprising is that it took so long for someone to respond. But what does this have to do with marketing?

Well, stars are brands. What is most valuable for a brand is a certain level of consistency. You don't mess with the Coke formula nor do you start selling cheeseburgers at Starbucks. A brand loses value when it loses the thing that defines it. By jumping on couches and alienating women with babies, Tom fundamentally shifted his brand.

Let's compare Tom's craziness to other meltdowns of late... like Mel Gibson. I'm going to predict that Mel will bounce back. Mainly because his faux pas was at least on brand. Mel's always had a weird streak regarding religion, so if anything, he's strengthened his brand. In time, we'll just say, "Ok, he screwed up, but that's Mel."

With Tom, he's been so freak'n crazy that you almost wonder if it's the same person. The Tom Cruise we all know, the brand we loved, is gone. Will he still make movies? Sure. Will he still draw audiences? Probably. But he's no longer in the coveted "perfect superstar" position. When you buy a bottle of Heinz, you know what to expect; you don't want to play guessing games each time you open the bottle. Because of this same reason, another brand will take Tom's place, a brand that's more consistent and with less surprises.

Redstone is a smart guy and I'm glad someone had the guts to do what was necessary. Because you know, it's just business.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The real reason girls don't play games

Via Eurogamer, Sony announces the release of a pink PS2. That's right, it's pink. The Sony brand manager said:

"The Pink PlayStation 2 is funky, fresh, and fashionable, and will further broaden the console’s continuing popularity and relevance with a fun new twist."
Damn! He isn't shy with his f-words is he? Did that make you cringe a little? In my world, he continues on to say:

"For a limited time, the Pink Playstation 2 can also be customized with a fabulous set of bejeweled personal statements such as 'Princess', 'Diva' and 'Take a picture, it lasts longer'."

I'm torn between what's more horrifying. Sony actually coming out with a pink PS2 or the fact that some bratty girl will actually buy one because it's pink. Was gender neutral just not good enough?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Like grandma's thong

Some things just don't go together:

  • The Dalai Lama's AK47
  • David Hasselhoff's Cooking Show
  • Jay Leno's Book of Funny Jokes
  • Paris Hilton's channel on YouTube
Thanks for the courtesy chuckle. Unfortunately, the last one is true. In partnership with Prison Break on FOX (an ad will run during the show pointing to her channel), Paris has a YouTube page and isn't afraid to use it. Here it is in all it's "that's hot" glory. Let's see what we can learn from Paris Hilton's page:
  • Paris logged in 5 minutes ago. How cute! Like a brand new blogger, she's checking her stats every few minutes.
  • Paris has favorited one YouTube video, featuring the best of YT geekiness. She's so down to earth and into this "community" thing.
  • Paris has no friends. Like, you wish you could be her friend.
  • Paris has not subscribed anywhere else. "Umm duh, cuz it's always about me."
  • Paris has no comments from others. "Umm gross! I totally don't want you touching my page"
Let's be honest here. Paris is an important person, a V. I. F'ing P. mkay? Paris has like, stuff to do. You don't go and just talk to Paris. She is so far out of your freak'n league dude! But don't worry. She totally wants you to watch her videos. That would make her happy. You want to make her happy don't you?

I snapped on the gloves and brought a sample video over from the channel. As much as you're killing yourself for wanting to click, you know you do. Go ahead. I'll look the other way.


Ok, enough joking around. This is probably one of the worst ideas of the year. The simple fact is that Paris Hilton does not belong on YouTube. Let's put aside Paris Hilton the celebrity, you know, the walking embodiment of a used condom. Let's look at Paris Hilton for what she represents, a product of old media (not 100% true, more on this later). "Paris Hilton" was born from tv and magazine tabloids, a reality show, movies and music. If the old media entertainment industry were a person, Paris would be its Barbie doll. She is important in her own way. So this Paris channel on YouTube is something traditional marketers need to pay attention to, if for no other reason than to avoid doing the same.

Repeat after me: This is not how to make a presence on new media. You don't slap your typical old media crap onto a new media site and really think you're engaging the people there. Paris' channel is (at the time of this post) 5th in the rank of channels. She's beaten out by the #1 channel, geriatric1927, a gentleman who's got more value on his skintags than Paris does with her whole plastic body. The fact is, the marketers behind this Paris Hilton channel just don't get it.

You can't just shove your way into new media. Sure, you can make a good controversial video, "plant" it somewhere online and watch it spread across the world in seconds (The only thing Paris has done correctly in new media) but even that is not truly engaging in the new space. In order to do new media right, you have to commit to playing by the rules. Was it really Paris that logged in 5 minutes ago? If it was, why isn't she saying anything? Why isn't she commenting on other videos or showing us more than one favorite? Compare this to the infamous Brookers or very sincere Lucy and you start to understand why old media ways don't work.

New media is about being genuine, a little goofy, a little vulnerable. It's about showing us your faults and not asking for forgiveness but asking us to laugh along with you. New media is the 8th date, when you forget to have your guard up and let a burp escape but your date laughs and you fall in love. It is about working together to entertain each other and sometimes it doesn't work but it's always fulfilling.

Until traditional marketers are ready to do this, we'll keep seeing stuff like Paris Hilton's channel. And as long as we keep seeing this stuff, we'll keep changing the channel, skipping the ads and generally avoiding this made-up, pushed-up and generally f-ed up stuff we call marketing.

via MarketingVox

Armpits, yoga and phalluses

Seattle is beautiful. My little jaunt up to there this weekend made me realize what an armpit of a city I live in (Los Angeles).

On to the ugly slide show:

First one is from the agency I was at. Very nice place, great people.

It was my first time in Seattle and it's apparently sunny and picturesque like that all the time (at least that's what the very stressed out art director told me).

Back at the airport, it didn't take long before I realized we were in the right place. And no, "Expresso" is not the name of the airport shuttle.

Stayed at The Ace Hotel, very funky place. I woke up and did some yoga. Mind you, I've never done yoga in my life. It just felt right to start there.

In case you're starting to think it was all fun and games. It's 12:42, (approximately the 36th hour of continuous work) yay, it's my birthday and I'm still working!

Finally, here's Seattle's very large phallus. I couldn't very well go there and not show you an image of it.

I'm back! From the traffic numbers, it looks like y'all gave up on me around Sunday night. Don't worry, it's back to blogging goodness, I promise.

Oh yeah, coffee there sucks!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Great Northwest

I'm in Seattle! I'm not sure what I'm doing here exactly but I hopped onto a flight after an all-nighter and here I am.... working. Wheee!

Back in LA late Monday night (aka my birthday; the big three oh).

I'm going to try my bestest to post some pics tonight.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Truth is stretchy II

Back in April, I posted about a Splinter Cell ad that included a blantant lie. The moral of that story: Quotes in ads are not to be trusted.

Today I ran into this ad banner from D&D Online Stormreach.So of course, I had to take a closer look. Here are some screens from the ad unit.
And here's the copy from the ad (in case you don't want to click):

  • Play It Free! 7 Day Free Trial
  • New Solo Play!
  • Quests are "better even than World of Warcraft or Guildwars" - Computer Gaming World
For full disclosure, I played D&D Online. I didn't like it. That's why I was a little skeptical of (the grammatical trainwreck) "better even than" statement. Aren't you curious what CGW actually said? Let's go find out!

CGW online has 4 review/previews of D&D Online.
Four articles and not a single one has that quote. I concede that perhaps they got the quote from another CGW article unavailable online. Or maybe they stretched the truth...

From the most recent article:
"But let's assume the planets more or less align, and you find yourself with a (more or less) decent, responsible, well-rounded group. In that case, you'll probably enjoy the quests. And you better, because there is no free-roaming game world like there is in EverQuest II or World of WarCraft."
That's the only quote that compares DDO quests to those in other games. Even if this isn't the exact quote, it's not a ringing endorsement of the quests. Granted, the article does go on to say something good about the quests:

"Working your way through a quest for the first time is almost always entertaining as you confront its unique challenges and obstacles."

Not so fast...

"The second time, not so much. Same with the third and then the fourth time. And that's unfortunate, because not only can you replay D&D Online's quests, you pretty much have to."

Now everything is clear: "Quests are 'better even than World of Warcraft or Guildwars" if you find a perfect group, do the run only once and never intend to get anywhere in the game. But of course, they wouldn't say all that. It would never fit in the ad unit.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sierra Madre, Hoffa, Spammer Gold

Ready for this one? From the AP:

"AOL believes a renegade Internet spammer buried gold and platinum on his family's property in Massachusetts and wants to bring in bulldozers to search for the treasure and satisfy a $12.8 million judgment it won in federal court."
"Hawke [the spammer] once quipped that people will need to dig up five states to find his money"
There's nothing I could add that could top this news by itself.

via Interstractive

Newb changes

I just moved the "Newb" over to the new Blogger beta.

Biggest improvement: Tags! So here's the million dollar question. Would going back to tag 328 posts be useful to anyone?

Bad news: Haloscan comments are down until they allow html editing. I'm really hoping that they'll transfer over.

Vanity: Tried to maintain the look from yesterday but without html editing, it's not exact. Just squint your eyes k?

McMarketing II

Seth's blog points to this McDonalds "Sign-O-Matic". Considering my post from the other day, I thought I'd give it a shot.

The first one's for Karl:
And then some just for me:

And my favorite:

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The power of suggestion

They put up a new sign in my elevator today. It says:


Well, how often does that happen? I mean, not often right? But it's gotta happen enough to warrant a sign, so maybe I should be worried?


Ok, thanks, I was getting lil' worried.


OMFG! You could run out of air in these things?! What the hell does "little danger" mean? I mean, "little danger" is not the same as "absolutely no chance". Why aren't you more confident dude?!

What if I'm a deep breather, you know, my mom used to tell me I breathed loud. Is it getting hot in here? Oh man oh man...


WTF?! Why would you say that? I wasn't even thinking that! Oh my gawd! Oh my gawd!

You were softening me up with the air thing weren't you? The hell with running out of air, this thing is going to fall way before that happens. This is a steel cage of death, I just stepped into a steel freak'n cage of DEATH! Auuugh!

*Ding* [Door opens]

Whew. I need to take the stairs more.

My very eager matador...

A science committee just announced that they have agreed upon what defines a "planet". As a result, smaller objects that were controversially ambiguous can now hold the cool title of "planet". The first rule of planet club, you do not talk about planet club.

Long story short, we no longer have just 9 planets in the solar system, we now may have up to 12. Washington Post and NYTimes both cover the story. The article in the former was written by one of the committee members. Apparently, there are two shoo-ins for planet status, Ceres (hang a right past Mars) and Xena (way out past the city).

Hmm, we're going to need a bigger planets of the solar system mnemonic.

Let's see here:

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Xena.

What about:

My vicious ex-girlfriend may call; just start unplugging nearest phones xenophobically

Most vegetarians eat meatless calories, juicy steaks unbearably nasty, prefer xylem

My very eager mutant can't jump skyscrapers uneventfully; not powerful X-man

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


You know what gets my appetite going? A good business article. Sometimes my stomach growls so loud, I can barely hear myself sound out the words. I used to think I was crazy but not after seeing this page:

Finally, someone who gets it! Not since beer ads during football games have ads been this relevant and timely. "Get snacking now" No kidding, right now? Awesome! I had to click...

Sweet, another picture of this deliciousness. But at a different angle and reversed... that is amazing, how do they do these crazy visual effect things?! Hey look, those are the ingredients in bold! Chicken... cheese... ranch? I'm loving it!

Who needs to click on anything, get a coupon, watch a commercial or any of those stupid interactive elements. I'm a simple kind of guy, I like clicking ads and getting no surprises whatsoever, nothing but a static image thank you very much. Heck, it's not like I went out of my way or anything, it's just a click. What a great ad campaign!

Hey umm, you got anything to eat, I'm still hungry...

Coke commits grand theft

Clever little ad from Coke that spoofs GTA.

via Random Culture

A second look

About a month ago, I posted about Second Life. For the most part, it was not well-received by the SL fanbase. To summarize, I basically said SL was the equivalent of the latest concept car at a car show; it gets a lot of PR and eyeballs but will never hit the mainstream. My overall opinion hasn't changed but you could say I've been watching closely.

Today on Clickz, an article about SL and the potential for marketers. There are good points in the article, some that made me question my opinion of SL and some that strengthened it. Let's start with the latter:

"The opportunity is real and the audience is growing both, in Second Life and the World of Warcraft, the two largest metaverses. Om Malik, of GigaOm, presented growth figures on his blog for these mediums: "Former Second Life staffer Rueben Steiger crunches the numbers on Second Life's growth, and figures if the current rate of 22 percent monthly growth continues, there will be 3.6 million Second Lifers by July 2007. Slower growth, say 10 percent every month, stills bring the total number to Second Life to about 936,000 residents."
First, Second Life is nowhere in the league of World of Warcraft. According to, in May 2006, Second Life had 65,000 paid users. Warcraft had 6.5 million. That is a thousand fold difference. In between those numbers are about a dozen other metaverses with higher subscriber numbers than SL. In terms of buzz, however, I would agree that SL is a peer of WoW.
But let's look at the quoted growth figures. Hitting the link takes you to the original forecast post. What is tough to swallow about the methodology is the linear compound growth rate. Take a look at this chart from Most MMOs experience tremendous growth at launch. I don't think SL falls into this category given that it's not a retail product. Its growth is different, predicated by a large network effect and increased value of the product from activities of current residents. The more people that play, the more valuable the SL world becomes. I don't disagree that SL is hitting its stride, boosted by the free access and recent change of not requiring a CC for registration. SL will definitely grow in the next year, however, are we going to see 3.6 million SL residents next year? I don't think so.

My main argument for this is a lack of a market. In order for SL to hit that figure, one of two things has to happen. SL has to eat into the market share of current MMO players or SL has to grow the market and pull in entirely new MMO players. Though SL will probably accomplish both of these things, it won't do it at the level forecasted. I can't believe there's any current MMO player that hasn't heard of SL. This audience has already made their decision and I'm not sure anything SL does in the next year will significantly change this. In regards to SL pulling in entirely new MMO players, this is significant challenge as well. SL is not a plug and play product. It is a product for first adopters and actualizers that love surfing on high learning curves. This market too, has already been tapped by SL. It's really difficult for me to believe there are 3 million people in either of these categories that would jump on board.

But does it really need people to be successful?
"there are about $5.3 million in user transactions over the course of a month in Second Life."
$5.3 million. Nice. SL residents are nothing if not hardcore. That comes out to about $81 in transactions per user (Based on 65k users. And I know I'm using data points from two separate sources and probably too different time periods). Even though this is a transaction number (meaning it's duplicated by nature), it got me thinking. Unlike other MMOs, there are no levels or quests in SL. Status in SL (other than social charisma) is achieved through creativity and currency (one leading to the other). All this adds up to making SL an entrepreneurial paradise.

Though I'm still not sure how applicable marketing insights gained from SL can be outside of SL, I'm starting to believe that it may be a legitimate testing ground for virtual marketplaces. I think companies would have to commit to more than one-off PR-generating campaigns (the majority of what I've seen so far) to learn anything but learn something they might. While other MMOs are struggling with the RMT issue, SL laughs and says, "Issue, what issue?" I confess, I'm supportive of RMT and here was this RMT experiment staring me right in my face. So from now on, I'm going to temper my skepticism a little and see if anything interesting pops out of SL.

If you're keeping score, that's minus one and plus one. Par. To be continued...

[By the way, Clickable Culture has an interesting post on SL population stats. Good first comment too]

Monday, August 14, 2006


Did you have a good weekend? Really? Isn't it tough to get them to balance like that? Oh... nevermind, thought you were talking about something else.

Me? I had to work this weekend. Nah, it was ok, just a lot of running around.

Funny thing happens though when you're busy and on the road. On Saturday, I found myself in three unfamiliar parts of LA. This wasn't a conscious decision but in each new area when there was spare time to kill, my travel companions and I found ourselves heading to a Starbucks. I'm not a coffee junkie so it wasn't that I needed a hit of caffeine. I think it was simply because we were familiar with the Starbucks brand.

Now when I say Starbucks brand, I don't simply mean the sign on top of the store. I'm talking about the whole familiar motions from finding a Starbucks, to walking up, to ordering, to sitting down on green chairs outside. You could go through those same exact motions across our entire Starbucks-dotted country and you'd never be surprised. What I began to realize was that when you step into a Starbucks, you don't step into the literal one in front of you, you step into Starbucks Nation.

You know how the embassy system works? Like say you're in France and you've just opened up a huge can of whoop-ass on some Frenchy boy who made fun of baseball. Before you know it, he starts screaming at the top of his lungs like you just stepped on Pepe's tail or something. Next thing you know, torches and pitchforks are handed out and you're running the other way. The only thing on your mind at this point is, "Must find US Embassy!" This is because you know that once you get to the embassy, you're home. Embassy land is US land. Heck, they fly the right flag there and the guy guarding the door knows Topeka from Detroit. What else do you need?

So the same goes with Starbucks. A Starbucks is not an independent store. It is the gateway to Starbucks Nation. Though no one has actually gone to the Starbucks homeland, we can all imagine what it'd be like. Tinker cars running on steamed milk! Whipped cream clouds!

Brands are like little embassies we take with us whenever we travel. You may not know you're bringing all these embassies with you, but like the drug mule busted for possession, when they're found on you, you wonder outloud, "How'd that get in there?"

Here's another example. I read once about a guy who traveled for a living and always had a bottle of Tabasco with him. He liked it at home and he reasoned that no matter how bad the food was while he traveled, he could always rely on the Tabasco to cover things up.

Now I know preferring a brand to something new is not a new insight. This is well-tred territory. What this weekend reaffirmed to me is the notion that brands have a very spatial feel as well. I could be at any Starbucks and feel like I'm at the one at home. It provides a coccoon from everything outside of it and makes me feel comfortable.

Other products do that too. Making a sandwich in Tennessee with Hellman's is not the same as making a sandwich with Best Foods at home (same exact company, different names across the country). If I swapped things up and used some Hellman's at home, I'd probably feel like I was in TN. The where of your brand consumption attaches to you and you carry that with you as you carry your brand loyalties with you.

So all this got me thinking. Do online brands have this sort of spatial effect? The only one I could think of was YouTube. When you run across YouTube videos on other sites, there is a sense of familiarity and safety. You're ok with clicking on it and you know what to expect in terms of performance and content. I embedded a video below and I'm sure you know what to do. I'm also sure that you're not going to worry that this will send you somewhere else or make you download new software. Welcome to the YouTube embassy.

But where else do you get this effect? In regards to games: Can a game title create embassies outside of the game world or are game titles forever trapped in their own medium? I thought about this a lot and I can't come up with any examples of someone that has done this with games.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Brand Manager's Log: Quickie

Rule # 421 for online offerings:

If something goes wrong, immediately run outside. (Twist up the tie and mess up your hair a little) Inform your customers that you know something is wrong and that you're working on it. Then run back inside and fight the fire.

Whatever's happening inside can always wait. The confused mob forming outside is your real problem.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

E3 followup

And so the cheating begins...

As I mentioned in my post about the death of E3, all it's going to take is for some publishers to cheat and go big, thereby gaining a media advantage, before the same big spending of the old E3 returns. Joystiq reports that the CEA, organizers of CES, have already gotten buy-in from some publishers to showcase games at CES.

The prisoner's dilemma, it never fails.

Judge backhands Illinois for messing with gamers

Keeping with today's theme of legal wins for games...

A judge ruled that the State of Illinois has to pay the ESA $510, 528.64 in legal fees pertaining to the defense of a law banning sale of violent video games. The law was found to be unconstitutional; the judge said, "If controlling access to allegedly 'dangerous' speech is important in promoting the positive psychological development of children, in our society that role is properly accorded to parents and families, not the State."

It would have been $510,528.00 but the attorneys had Italian on the third day and sent out a paralegal for some Orbitz.

Anyways, in response to the victory, ESA president Douglas Lowenstein says, "Pwned biyatch!" Followed by jumping on top of the dead law and emoting:

"EsaBigDaddy 's rub'n my @ss on ur face!"

Ok, maybe he didn't. But damn, I wish he had. C'mon Douggy, represent your constituents!

Instead, he said, (in what was no doubt a great impression of Ben Stein):

As we said from the outset of this debacle and repeatedly since then, instead of squandering taxpayers' money on frivolous lawsuits and attempting to enact clearly unconstitutional laws, we encourage policymakers to focus their resources on a cooperative effort with industry, retailers, parent groups and health groups to work together to educate parents about the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings and content descriptors, and the parental controls available in all next-generation consoles to help parents make sound choices about the games their kids play.
Like I said, pwned!!

But let's take a moment here and reflect on the real losers in this case. The children... of the lawyers. How many late nights did lil' Madison try to stay up waiting for the lights of mommy's Porsche to pull up the driveway? What about Tyler, who brought home his shiny new soccer trophy to an empty house? Yes, the children of Illinois are suffering. As mom and dad are fighting for/against the rights of video games, these kids are going without nurture time. Is an hour away from your kid really worth the $750? Will half a million dollars take away the scars of parental neglect? I don't think so. People, let's think about the kids!

via Worthplaying

Strip clubs need to brand too

Top story today on CBS in LA: Judge rules that GTA: San Andreas did not infringe on an LA strip club's trademark by featuring a look-alike club in the game. (No joke, it's categorized under top story. God, I hate local news.)

The LA PlayPen Gentleman's Club (the real club) has their panties in a bunch (they really are in a bunch, over there, in that box at the corner) as they lose out on this brand infringement case. The in-game strip club is named Pig Pen, and frankly that's way too close for comfort for the owners of PlayPen. In addition, the game designers apparently fashioned the interior of the game club to be quite similar as well. Makes you wonder what kind of texture-hunting trip that must have been:

"Dave, get a shot of this floor, high res please"

"Dave, did you get the matted velvet there, that's going to look good."

Regardless, the judge cites "artistic" interpretation and rules in favor of Rockstar. It's a damn shame too, because I'm sure the club has suffered serious losses due to the in-game clone. I, for one, have been looking forward to going in there and busting a cap on some asses, maybe slap a few ho's and sucker punch a bouncer or two. Unfortunately, the PlayPen establishment is not that kind of place so don't even think about it. It's a classy joint that I'm sure has a great 3PM buffet, right before the balloon artist stops by for the kids. So don't even try to think "GTA" in a respectable joint like this k?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Might as well face it...

"Expert" (note the quotes, dammit if I didn't already reveal my stance in the first word of this post) psychologist Maressa Orzack says that as much as 40% of WoW players are addicted to the game. TwitchGuru has an interview with the expert. Here are some choice quotes:

Orzack: A lot of people are asking me to get help for their teenaged children, boyfriends, spouses and sometimes themselves.
Q: So more often than not, the addicted person isn't seeking help?
Orzack: That's correct. Usually, some type of intervention is needed.
And who exactly will be doing this intervention? Is it dad on the couch watching football? Or mom out shopping compulsively?
Q: [Are] the issues at home more of a problem than the actual games themselves?
Orzack: No, I disagree. You can't say that about Blizzard, which structures the games like World of Warcraft to be addictive. They design these MMORPGs to keep people in the game.
As opposed to what exactly? Is it really possible to distinguish between designing the game to maximize playability and designing it to be addictive? Are television producers guilty of designing shows to be addictive? I'm guessing 100% of season viewers of Lost are addicted.
Orzack: It's called variable ratio reinforcement, which basically means that you keep playing or gambling and failing until you reach your intended goal, but once you reach that goal, you still keep playing. [emphasis theirs]
Doesn't VRR basically describe everything? I mean, seriously, when has the world given you static ratio reinforcement? And if it did, how quickly did you get bored with that?!
I think there needs to be warning labels on MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, similar to warning labels on cigarettes. People should know that these games are potentially harmful.
It'll look like this: Warning: This game features content that has been found to be highly addictive. In addition, this product causes aggressive behavior, unprotected sex and a penchant for wearing clothes that do not match.

Ok, look. I'm not denying that there's definitely a problem with game (and MMORPG) addiction out there. But to say that 40% of players are addicted and to suggest a warning label is ridiculous. People are going to like doing things that make them feel good. Some people are going to be addicted to things that make them feel good. It can be food, sex, nicotine, working out, dancing, singing, whatever. The fact that things get taken out of control are rarely (nicotine and other brain altering chemicals aside) the fault of the actual thing being consumed. The only way to avoid addiction is to take away everything that makes people feel good.

40% of WoW players are not addicted, they're enjoying themselves and perhaps prefer the game to other things. If 40% were truly addicted, we'd hear about all the jobs being lost, the pawning of personal belongings for the broadband fees and the sex market for heroic armor. We're talking millions of people here. No, these people are not addicted, they're having fun. God forbid we're allowed to do that anymore.

What this is is blatant alarmism. Google the "expert" and you'll find an informative little site on addiction, "computer" addiction that is. The site looks circa 1999 and Warcraft seems to just be the latest vice on the addiction list here. Now this isn't an outright commercial site but one has to question the doctor's objectivity. If you make a living looking for addicts, how long do you think it'll take before everyone starts looking like an addict?

via Digg

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Acclaim announces 2Moons; directed by David Perry

Just a bit of news for you guys:

Acclaim's third game is 2Moons, a violent mmorpg that promises to shake things up in the mowgee world. What's especially exciting is that 2Moons is directed by David Perry, founder of Shiny Entertainment who's past work included Earthworm Jim (such a sweet game) and Enter the Matrix (bullet time!).

What can a player expect from this game? I'm pretty confident that this is the first mmorpg with graphic animated violence. Lots of violence, blood and gore. Yup, clean-up on aisle 2, 5, 8 and 11 please!

My favorite quote:

“Violence in games is just an issue if you’re not being honest about the violence in your games,” added Perry. “I’m doing my best to make this a violent game.”

Hey, we're nothing if not honest around here. You can read more at, the news just dropped earlier this morning.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Voice changer offers new features

Remember that post about the voice changer software that let girls pretend to be guys in games? Well, this release about new features just came across the wire. I'll let the press release speak for itself:

AV Voice Changer Software Diamond is built with 30 stunning audio effects able to color your voice and create more special ambience, such as Radio, Reverberation, Orchestra, Raindrops, Big Hall, Behind the Wall, Cool Stereo, just to name a few. Also, 250 new effects are available in the online library where you can free access and download them to enrich your collection and have more choices of fun. You now have a total control over your voice making it warm, sweet, romantic, gentle, impressive, or even shocking and creepy the way you like. Especially, users will be absolutely contented with the real-time audio effect mixer which can morph your voice in a millisecond allowing them to enjoy the output at once.
OMG! Take a moment to let that sink in. Just brace yourself for the wave of fun coming to online games with these "250 new effects"! Can you imagine?!

Oh, I can't wait! I've always wanted to make my voice "impressive". And let's face it, there's been days when you just can't muster up "sweet". With this, those days are gone! GONE! I can't wait to try all 250 effects. Think I can do it in less than an hour?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

WoW & MySpace share a cup of sugar & more

There is a land far from here where the roads are paved with gold, the trees bear chocolate-covered fruit and money, hmm is that something people worry about? There are no flights to this land, no tall ships accenting the portraitesque harbors and each well-heeled citizen will tell you a different way to get there. Let me introduce you to the land of Popular Culture (Popucu to those in the know). The fabled place where all the rich and famous, be it people or brands or trends, go to mingle and interbreed.

Now that we're all caught up, BN is proud to announce an exciting new segment: the latest news from Popucu!

Just the other day, in an elaborate oceanside ceremony, the two wealthiest families in Popucu got a little bit closer. In what will surely be the first of many unions, the WoW clan delivered a gilt-edged dowry and moved a fair-haired daughter into the friendly house of the MySpace family. There was much rejoicing in Popucu.

In short (hehe, too late right?), WoW has an official MySpace page.

This is a pretty good looking corporate MySpace page. Surprisingly, it satisfies both the brand manager and gamer in me. The former is happy with the abundance of imagery, branding, product info and viral fodder. Throughout the page, there are no wasted areas. Each section is either selling the game to newbs or giving fans the tools to push the game to others. Even the layout of the page is purposeful with the top dedicated to selling and the bottom catering to those more than likely already playing.

The gamer in me enjoys the goodies and content interpretations of a game I'm very familiar with. It's a one stop shop for branding myself a WoW fan on MySpace and beyond. It's probably nothing a true fan hasn't seen before but for a casual fan, it's a goldmine. The forum capabilities is a great feature. I got a good laugh that none of the top images in the screenshot competition is an actual screenshot and that the survey stinks of ripe kitschy cheese.

What's probably the most interesting is the bottom of the page where the expected MySpace friends list and comments section make this the unique marriage that it is. There's no doubt that these two titans of Gen Y pop culture have similar demographics. Suddenly, the veil is lifted and you have a real life list of those fuzzy dots in the Venn diagram. This, my friends, is a marketer's wet dream.

As much as I like this convergence, I don't think they went far enough. I wish the MySpace WoW skin tool was a little more robust. Right now, you can generate a generic page based on several templates. What would have been more interesting is if they allowed you to input your own character info or screenshots within that skin. Better yet, tap into the WoW database and update my stats in real time on MySpace. This is a convergence of two Internet-based properties and yet it still somewhat feels like a consumer packaged goods company could have done the same thing.

As far as a first try goes, this is excellent. I'm guessing that WoW didn't pay anything to MySpace for this page. Not that they didn't get the MySpace blessing and did it under the table but that this is most likely a "value add" to a media buy WoW purchased on MySpace. There have been WoW banner ads on MySpace for a while now and MySpace more than likely threw in this page with their blessings as part of the package.

So I wonder, will we be seeing anything happening on the other side? Will this relationship find its way into WoW? I'm trying to imagine something that would be cool and acceptable to the players and can't quite think of anything. In fact, it doesn't appear that MySpace is trying to benefit from this at all. WoW is no doubt driving some traffic from their own site to this page and I'm sure there's at least 5 or 6 people that don't have a MySpace page yet, so how come there isn't a more prominent form of a "Join MySpace" message on this page directed towards WoW players? Oh well, there's always one side giving more into a relationship.

via Joystiq

Friday, August 04, 2006

The plan for the weekend

I'm heading out of town this weekend (starts today) so normal posts may be unpredictable.

Abnormal posts, however, will be the plan.

Stay tuned...

[Sunday evening update: I totally lied, sorry. Would have posted but I got "wired" and then couldn't get "wired". hehe ]

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Is physics that thing nerds study?

NPR's All Things Considered featured a story (hit link and click listen) today on a new device most hard-core gamers are already familiar with: the PhysX physics engine. It does for in-game physics what graphics cards do for in-game visuals. The goal of PhysX is to make games appear more "real". The question is, do we want things to be more real?

NPR's commentator, Jake Halpern, thinks "real" is not why we play games. He can do with less "real".

I agree.

We play games to escape the harsh realities of the world, gravity and all. Reality, we don't need no stink'n reality. I can't really fly a plane or drive a car at 156 mph but I want to think that I can. Reality tells me I can't. If a toss a grenade in the general direction of a zombie, I really don't want to think about velocity or if the "wind" is blowing towards me. Reality says, bad gust and you're dead! If a physics engine forces me to obey laws of nature I've enjoyed ignoring in the past, I'm not sure I'd want one. I'm ok playing forever in "arcade mode", thank you very much.

and... I also disagree.

Physics chip awesome! Me likey things splode pretty. BOOM! Ha ha ha! SPLat! Whee! Dead things fall funny. More more! Wicked blood spurt dude! Dude, check out the bouncy bouncies! Vavavoom! Hehe, physics is schweet.

Hehe, he said bouncy bouncies.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Measuring MMORPG success

Via Clickz, an Universal McCann study shows that by market share, 89.1% of MMORPGs are of the fantasy genre. This is, of course, significantly skewed by WoW and the two Lineages which together account for 72% of that total.

Not a surprise but it does make me wonder. With fantasy playing such a huge role in the market, where are we in the lifecycle of the MMORPG? (Such an ugly acronym, let's just call it mowgee, a term coined by ionicwings of

Is the mowgee game form mature? Perhaps what we're seeing is the best that it'll get and fantasy is the only genre that really work in mowgees. On the other hand, what we're seeing may just be the very beginning of the market and fantasy just happens to work right now. So which is it, mature or immature?

I'm going to lean towards immature. I believe fantasy mowgees are just in the lead and not the only genre that works for mowgees. Fantasy mowgees have been successful because they've been propelled by two major factors. The first is the groundwork laid down by tabletop D&D. You create enough elaborate rules and you liberate fantasy worlds from books. Then, you borrow these rules (and everyone's acceptance of them) and your job of creating a new world online is much more simple. This ties into the second reason: the success of Everquest as the first 3D mowgee. EQ found a secret sauce of visual candy, gameplay and community that pretty much guaranteed we'd see fantasy mowgees for some time to come. Resources always follow a successful proof of concept. Although fantasy has a head start, other genres will eventually catch up once they figure out their respective rules and experience their proof of concepts.

But there's another reason mowgees are still immature. Let's look at revenue. According to the same article, Jupiter Research estimates annual revenue to be $350 billion. What? Billion?! Hold on a sec, this is a bad typo. The ESA estimates the entire video game industry to be approximately $7 billion. So let's ignore the "b" and assume the writer meant $350 million. With that, mowgees roughly account for 5% of the game industry. Not exactly a dramatic percentage. Have we reached the peak? I don't think so. I'm going to justify this opinion on two factors. Mowgees are cheap and a specific demo is playing them.

Let's crunch some numbers. On average, mowgee players play 9 hours a week, that's 36 hours a month or 432 hours annually. I estimate the annual spend is $240 ($60 to purchase game, $15 a month). That comes out to $0.55 per hour of gameplay. You can't beat that kind of entertainment value. People pay lots more for far less valuable entertainment. With that said, there's definitely money left on the table. In other words, with such an attractive value proposition (literally) mowgees should have the potential to extract more dollars from the consumer space, if the right mowgees are available.

This brings me to the second factor: Most mowgee players are male, 18 to 34. Again, the question is similar to the fantasy situation above. Are mowgees limited to this demographic because male players are the only ones that would play any mowgee or is it because the currently available mowgees are appealing to male players? I'm going to have to go with the latter. There's a ton of things I could talk about regarding bringing in other demos (females, for instance) but I won't go there. That topic are for another time. Let's just agree there's potential in other mowgee types to bring in new people.

My belief is that the mowgee is a medium rather than today's defined set of products (just as movies should not be defined merely by a summer's list of blockbusters). What we're seeing today is more than likely the beginning of the mowgee as an entertainment medium. The age of the fantasy mowgee played by males will pass but I don't think it'll take the mowgee form with it. When I see the 89.1% figure, it actually makes me excited because I think it signals the top of this trend. At this point, there's no where for fantasy mowgees to go but down.

So to answer the question I posed waaaay up there. Where are we in the lifecycle of the mowgee? We are more than likely very near the inflection point between introduction and growth. I think the first adopters have made it clear that given the right content, it's fun and affordable. Like all things entering the growth stage, the next move is to appeal to the mass consumer. Surely, the fun has just begun. (And stop calling me Shirley)

E3: Stages of Grief

It's been 3 days and as an industry, we've dealt with the loss nobly. In fact, we should probably move on and get back out there, maybe start dating other conventions. You know, just a casual thing, nothing serious.

Business Week - "It's too early to declare E3 officially dead. Pachter says while E3 in its current form is no longer, exhibitors will continue to come out in force."

Engadget - "It's simply not always feasible for hundreds of companies to round up retail professionals and game journalists the world over to show off new product in bits and pieces throughout the year every year -- which is why we have massive shows..."

VGGen - "Surely other parties will return to the table, keeping E3 almost as big an event as it was before, even if the crowds are drastically reduced from previous years."

GameSpot - "At the same time, I've come to recognize that the madness of E3 is something special. I will miss the sheer grandeur of the show, its media-circus atmosphere."

Penny Arcade - "As soon as we engaged our minds it made a lot of sense. It's a big move, but that Goddamn thing essentially arrests the entire industry for months. For that reason alone I'd be glad to see it gone, as much as I've enjoyed the annual bacchanal."

All quotes are shamelessly taken out of context to fit the needs of this post. Have a nice day!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The girl has a great personality

Just surfing around MediaWeek, minding my own bid'nes and ran into this ad. Call me crazy but I do pay attention to online ads. This particular ad is about as attractive as that sorority burping contest years ago. And yet, just like the contest, I couldn't help but be intrigued.

Clicking the ad unit took me to, a game site for those in the industry endearingly referred to as "suits". Not only that, the site leans towards marketing and advertising. How wonderful is this? I think I'm going to cry.

Unfortunately, my initial euphoria was quickly replaced by that awkward feeling you get the morning after a beer-goggle-induced rendezvous (Not that I've ever had one, just channeling my writer's imagination). Like the ad unit, the site is fugly. The navigation is atrocious. The worse part: if you click on an external article, they hijack your window with their own top frame. Web designers need to realize this is about as appealing as grandma chaperoning your prom.

But hey, I'm a team player. Clenching my jaw, I take in the entire experience and find the site to be quite comprehensive and timely. What is most interesting is that the site is an ugly stepchild of Adweek, Billboard, Hollywood Reporter and Nielsen. Although all four of these properties dabble in games, none are what you would call authorities. This makes me wonder what sort of strategy is playing out here?

Is this site merely a merging of separate properties owned by the same media group (VNU) in an attempt to generate extra revenue? Or is this the beginning of something new, a test of a potentially new game marketing/advertising media company?

Prey is fun

After several weeks of intermittent playtime, I finally got through Prey. Now I'm not usually in the business of reviewing games but I really have to make an exception here:

This game is so freak'n fun!!




(What do you mean "Is that it"?)
(You want to know why it's fun? Umm, can't you just take my word for it?)
(Geez, fine, ok, but I'm telling you, I'm not good at this review stuff.)

Ahem ahem. Prey is fun because...

Innovative elements

  • Portals: These are little rips in space that transport you around the game. (Think Rand al Thor... What? You don't read Wheel of Time? Nevermind.)
  • Gravity: It's not a law, it's all relative in Prey. Ceilings are floors are walls are ceilings again.
  • Death: Not a problem, it just slows you down but you're right back at it in a few seconds.
  • Story: Hey, there is one, it's not Shakespeare but it worked.
How it all fits together

I'm not usually a fan of first-person shooters. I find them to be mind-numbing. Most FPS games require me to strap on horse blinders and only pay attention to what's in front of me. In Prey, I was immersed in the environment, all x, y and z of it. I constantly found myself craning my neck over the horizon, trying to get a glimpse of what I'll experience next (I'm being figurative, if I did crane my neck, I'd see the office couch behind my monitor). I credit this immersion to the visuals and game design, which leaned heavily on those innovative elements. The portals threw level predictability out the door, you never knew where you would end up. The casual gravity made you pay attention to everything around you; goodbye FPS blinders.

This analogy is often over-used but I truly found the game to be a roller coaster ride. One of the most interesting design elements is that you never really "die" in the game. Instead, your character is taken to a "time-out" where you gather strength and come back exactly where you fell. In practice, this means that I don't ever have to "redo" any part of the game. Dying is still frustrating in that I'm taken away from the action and feel the sense of failure but I never leave the game world. Let me repeat that, you could play this entire game through without ever seeing a save or rez load screen.

The final element is the story. It's not a award-winning but it's well-seasoned with captivating moments. Two examples of good story experiences: You have full visual control during cut-scenes so you can look wherever you want, thereby making you feel like you're there. In certain areas of the game, you overhear a radio show that talks about the main plotline, although this has no direct impact in the game, the show adds a great sense of realism.

In summary, this is one that will satisfy your urge to frag things while also tickling your sense of wonder and excitement. Definitely worth the money and the time.

For some more professional reviews, hit IGN, FiringSquad, & GameSpot