Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ban This!

Via MarketingVox, headline:
"Bill seeks to block access to MySpace at School and Libraries"

"The bill, proposed by Republican Senator Matt Murphy from Illinois, seeks to block access to some social networking sites in schools and libraries in an effort to help protect children from sexual predators"
In related news, lawmakers are also proposing a ban on but not limited to schools, churches, boy/girl scout meetings, malls, playgrounds, parks, organized youth sports events, field trips, open fields of more than 2 acres, campgrounds, camps, and all gyms. It's our responsibility as a society! The safety of our children cannot be compromised. Wherever the predators are, we will keep our children away.

This just in...

Lawmakers have finally emerged from closed-door negotiations with a new law proposed to alleviate all parental responsibility. Branded Newb hasn't had time to read the entire document, however, a quick read reveals the following:
  • National bedtime is now 9:00PM local time, any children found staying up later are subject to fine or imprisonment
  • 30% of meals must consist of vegetables, which have to be completely consumed prior to leaving the table
  • Primetime TV watching is strictly forbidden
  • The buddy system has been banned due to pending sexual harassment litigation
  • Video games that dismember zombies are permitted for 1 hour a day. Playing games with characters that kiss or sleep on the same bed is illegal. Separate beds are ok.
  • Breakfast is mandatory and is now officially sponsored by Kelloggs
  • Kite flying is strictly prohibited in locations where the weather may become inclement
Thank you for your cooperation!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Say Hi to March Will You?

Another travel week again. Should have something new up by Thursday. If I miss it, greet the new month without me k?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tasty Cakes

New to me... diaper cakes. Wow. I'm totally speechless. Buy one now.

Frag That Zombie Donut!!

via Wired, a DVD game teaches kids about obesity (it's a bad thing) and how to avoid it (don't eat like mom and dad). I really really want to be supportive of this. I did a fair amount of teeth gnashing, I sat on my hands while finishing the article and I gave myself the required 10 count. I try to be good, you know, not bash things in every single post. But arrrgh, I can't let this one go!

First of all, a DVD game is hardly an actual game. "Dammit Mom, I wanted a Wii! WTF?! Dubya Frick'n Tee Eff MOM!!"

Secondly, there's this guy:

"Imagine Harry Potter, "Star Wars" and "Lord of the Rings" all mixed up inside the body and that's "Body Mechanics," said Tony Findlay, the game's Australian creator, who is based in Sydney."
Does that mean something in Australian? I'm not sure I follow.

And finally, there's this:
"The fighting takes place inside the body of Jack Decayd. If Obeez City is not contained, "Jack will die soon," says Neuro, the Yoda-like wise one who narrates the game's story line."
Decayd, yeah... ok then.

I'm sure there's a ton of good intention behind this product but frankly, it seems like a bunch of marketers sat around trying to figure out how to make a quick buck off of parents of fat kids.

Hey parents, how'sa 'bout you teach your kids about obesity? Yeah you. No, not behind you... you!

Let's try regurgitating something with less saturated fats into their tiny beaks. You know, as the breadwinner (wheat please) of the relationship, you do have control over what they eat. You could lead by example, you could...

Ahh hell, who am I kidding? You guys taught your kids about music with Baby Mozart videos. Go ahead and buy them the game. At least they won't be eating while they're playing.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cool idea eh?

Canadian gym offers exercise equipment connected to PS2's and Wii's. You cycle on an actual machine to get your on-screen race on. From the press release:

"Members at any of the four locations can get fit while having fun on a video dance machine, cycle live against Bulldog members in other facilities, or race against friends (or the computer) using bikes connected to Sony PlayStation 2 consoles and games: their pedaling activates their virtual car in the game, while the handlebars allow them to steer!"
The gym is targeted towards kids but I've been waiting for something exactly like this! Forget the Wii, let's get serious about combining interactive entertainment and physical activity. "I'll see you later, I gotta level up my pecs."

Too bad it's in Canada. Oh well, back to my Cheetos.

Having a Heart Increases Your Chance of Heart Disease

via Reuters

Headline: "Surgeons who play video games more skilled: study."

"Playing video games appears to help surgeons with skills that truly count..."

Really, that's all you need to know. The article goes on to talk about what hospital and what surgery technique but we don't really care. Point is, video games make your surgeon better at poking around inside you.

But wait a sec...

"Out of 33 surgeons from Beth Israel Medical Center in New York that participated in the study, the nine doctors who had at some point played video games at least three hours per week made 37 percent fewer errors, performed 27 percent faster, and scored 42 percent better in the test of surgical skills than the 15 surgeons who had never played video games before."
So the ones that played games regularly did better? But did the video games really "cause" the surgeons to be better or is it merely coincidence and we're trying to imply more. This is one of my favorite logical fallacies, correlation does not imply causation. What if these surgeons just happen to already be good at manipulating on-screen objects? If that were the case, then they may naturally gravitate towards games as an entertainment device, since they're good at it.

(By the way, you gotta love this math: "Out of 33 surgeons... the nine doctors who had at some point played games... than the 15 surgeons who had never played games." ::counts on his fingers:: ::squints face, looks up:: ::counts his fingers some more:: ::shrugs::)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Obama MySpace followup

It appears that my post about Obama's MySpace page being a front of a t-shirt business got someone's attention. The owner of the page (though there's really no way for me to confirm this, just that who else would spend the time dealing with this) wrote to me. Here's his email:

Hi Ken,

I am the moderator of myspace.com/barackobama, which is (as you know) the largest Obama fan site on Myspace.

After nearly 3 years, and 40,000 unsolicited friend request, I decided to Google around and see what the press and others are saying about the profile I've created. This is how I came across your blog.

I just want to make clear that I do not use this profile as a front to sell t-shirts. I do not own a t-shirt company, nor do I endorse anyone who sells t-shirts or other political apparel.

"Maya", in the top friends, is a personal friend and a strong advocate of Senator Obama and the Democratic Party. She does make her own t-shirts and other items, and if being in the top friends helps her out, I'm glad. I admire her creativity and support her, but I do not benefit from the sale of her products in any way.

I change the top friends often, and at random. Occasionally people ask to be in the top 8 and I put them in indefinitely.

To maintain the dignity of the profile, I am no longer going to include those who are obviously vendors of any products.

I'd appreciate if you could remove or amend your blog, as it may constitute slander and libel of me personally, and this profile I have created.

I am a sincere supporter of Senator Obama, and have invested a tremendous amount of time into this profile as a service to others, and to the service of Senator Obama and his presidential campaign.

I hope that you will understand. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you for your consideration.


Here's my reply:
Congratulations on the success of your MySpace page. Unfortunately, when I visited, there was indeed a political t-shirt business on your top 8 friends. That business in turn linked prominently to your own page. I do think that removing any endorsement does add to the credibility of your page. As a matter of practice, I don’t change or amend what I’ve already posted. However, I will post our conversation and my reply.

Also, to consider my post libelous or slanderous is overstatement towards the comical. Just wanted to let you know, it’s not the reason I’m following up. You could have gotten a response without trying to go for the heavy hand. For someone so supportive of a leading Democrat, your sensitivity to criticism and free speech is reminiscent of a conservative. That, my friend, is more damaging to your credibility than my post will ever be.

Good luck with the MySpace page and kudos to you for the effort! Let’s both wish for a Dem in 08.



Branded Newb-iversary!

Hi! Welcome to the State of the Blog Address.

Today is a special day at Branded Newb. It's the one year anniversary of the first post! How about that?! Woot!

Honestly, I never knew it would get this far. This blog started out as a way to catalog my experience as a brand manager for Acclaim. As the year went on, the game I managed launched, I personally moved on and became an online marketing consultant and throughout, the blog lived on. I'm not sure what this blog has done for you (hopefully entertain and educate), but for me, it has given so much. I've made new friends through it, I've learned a lot about writing (and as a result, myself), and I totally scored a free PSP game. Not bad at all.

The tags show that we've stayed mostly on topic with games and online marketing as the main foci (folksonomy to your right). I'm tempted to link to my favorite posts over the year but I'll refrain. This is a time to look forward, not back. Well ok, let's look back just a little. Some non-linked highlights from the year include:

  • Launching a game. It was amazing to experience the industry from the inside but even more so with a blog that allowed me to have a space to engage with the players.
  • Being quoted in the NY Times. Probably the highlight of my writing career, even if it is just a silly line out of a random post, it felt nice to see my writing in a publication I love.
  • Creating enemies of Second Life fanbois. Perhaps not the first but one of the first to call bullshit on SL, I felt good as everyone else came to realize the sham of SL for PR and marketing.
  • Stirring up trouble. Online marketers are a vain bunch and many have found my blog after I've trashed (or praised) their campaigns. It's a great feeling to not only be able to voice your opinion on something but to have a dialogue with the actual concerned parties.
  • Actual readers. I suppose this is synonymous with thanking the fans but that would be presumptuous of me to assume I have any fans. I just enjoy being read, some of you daily, some of you random off of Google searches. Either way, it's nice to see that my thoughts interest you enough to go to the next word, then line and maybe an entire post. Thanks for that.
Stats time! You are reading post #487 which averages out to more than a post per day; securing my ability to still call this a daily blog. We're closing in on 35,000 total visits for the year, almost 100 a day. By far, the most popular way to get here has been through Google searching Acclaim related keywords (which makes sense, given how the blog started). The most popular exit is immediately (hey, I can handle it). The most popular post was one where I photoshopped a PS3 to show it making toast, so much for writing skills (I linked it in some Digg article, it was my experiment with traffic generation).

Finally, the future. I'd like to continue this blog for another year. I'm pleased with where it's at in terms of content and topic. These are things that I'm truly passionate about and can write about for at least another year. The balance may tip away from games a little (given that I'm no longer a games brand manager) but I can't hide the fact that I'm a gamer for too long.

As far as goals go...
  • I think I'll try to revise the blog to be just slightly more user friendly. I don't think I'll leave Blogger though, as I find I like the support and ease of use. We'll see what third party tools I can add to make things more interesting.
  • I'll try to get more readers. Sure, a part of this is vanity but I think it'll increase the value for everyone else if the blog increases the number of dedicated and extroverted readers. I just think some more discourse would add a nice element to the blog. Mainly, I blame myself as I'm sure my posts aren't exactly begging for conversation. Also, I blame the topics. My hunch is that BN is probably too casual for serious business types and too business for casual gamer types.
  • I'll use fewer parentheses. I know, they can get out of control.
Yeah, nice and safe goals. I'll see you next year and we'll compare notes.

So finally, thanks for being a reader! I would never have gotten to a year without you guys.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

MMO's red herring

There's a new MMO in town and it's based on the Myst series. Blah blah, yadda yadda, new MMO. What's this? Hmm. Check out this snippet from the press release that got my attention:

"For the first time ever in the Myst universe, a player’s choices, actions, and experiences will help drive the ongoing storyline which expands and adapts on a continual basis. "
via VGGen

Really now? An MMO where what we players do actually affects the game world? Why, I've only heard of this like a billion times before. The problem is, I've never actually seen this to be true. Let's not kid ourselves, MMO's are not dynamic: The world never decays. NPCs are always were you last saw them. Storylines stay the same. Why is this lie told and believed over and over again? Two examples below:

"Characters will not only own buildings and vehicles, but they will also whisper into the ears of kings, manipulate the hand of justice, and change the direction of history. They will make their mark on a world we initially create but they ultimately shape and form."
via EBGames product description

City of Heroes
"Live the Story - Become an integral part of twenty different ongoing story arcs as the villain groups menace Paragon City and react to player victories and defeats."
via EBGames product description

Yeah, I'll believe it when I see it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Love Not Me

Love not me for comely grace,
For my pleasing eye or face,

Nor for any outward part:
No, nor for a constant heart!
For these may fail or turn to ill:
Should thou and I sever.

Keep, therefore, a true woman's eye,
And love me still, but know not why!
So hast thou the same reason still
To dote upon me ever.

John Wilbye

Love thy neighbor

As I traverse game worlds, it has occurred to me that we "reside" in virtualities that are completely devoid of altruistic devices. There are rarely any systems in place that reward doing something for someone else. For instance, take your standard MMO. The advancement path is strictly a route of selfishness. The more you accumulate for yourself, the more you get out of the world. You have no systematic reason to help someone else out.

Wait a second you say, what about...

  • Grouping? Sure, grouping may seem like a way you help others but gameplay mechanics force all of us to eventually group for advancement. You have no choice if you want to advance. Granted, some people group just to help others but there is no reward for that (not the type that I'm talking about at least).
  • Doing X for someone? Again, this is something you can do but the systems in place aren't supportive of this. You can give someone gold/directions/items but the gameplay doesn't recognize that gesture.
  • Guilds? Ok, here's where it can get tricky depending on the MMO in question. Some games do give you benefits for being in a guild such as ranks or unique content (guild items). However, in most games, guilds merely serve as a glorified friends list. Is it really a system that focuses on encouraging you to help others? Not really, it's more like duct tape that keeps like-minded individuals together.
The fact is, games and more specifically, current online gameplay has never left the living room floor. We are still playing by stand alone game rules only now we're doing it across a network. Does it have to be this way?

I don't think so. I think we get boatloads of enjoyment out of helping others. For some strange reason, this hasn't been incorporated into gameplay design. Well, actually, let me take that back... Ironically enough, most in-game quests require us to help an NPC. Our fellow humans, however, have to take care of themselves.

Now here's where I caveat that I'm not a game designer. Perhaps there's some fundamental flaw in my thinking that prevents us from moving away from this type of gameplay. Maybe human nature rallies against this type of gameplay. I'm not trained enough to know these things. However, I'm not suggesting that a game be designed completely on a gift economy system or some pay it forward philosophy. I'm merely saying that online games should open up to the possibility of including content that rewards us for helping others.

What if you could advance via two routes, one selfish and one generous. Healer classes are probably the only example of a system that closely resembles the latter. But what if you're rewarded for crafting and giving things to others. Sure you can grind all day long and advance but if others actually use what you make, then you move along faster. Some wouldn't do it just to help others but for those that do like giving away things, it gives them a nice reward as well.

Yes, I know by now you're thinking, giving is a reward in and of itself. I agree. But in virtual worlds we have an opportunity to institutionalize helping each other out. Wouldn't adding a couple of these elements make the experience all the nicer?

Monday, February 12, 2007

When your editor is a pussy...

This is a fun one. An AP news story on Yahoo! about Anna Nicole (no, I'm not obsessed, people send me things. I swear!) got edited after publishing but left the versions online (links may not work after a while).

Version 4
headline and text:

"Smith spent final day in gaudy hotel: HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - Anna Nicole Smith spent her final hours in a suite in a hotel as gaudy and over-the-top as the pinup herself..."
Version 5 headline and text:
"Smith spent final day in flashy hotel: HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - Anna Nicole Smith spent her final hours in a suite in a hotel as flashy as the pinup herself..."
Apparently calling a dead pinup "gaudy and over-the-top" is unacceptable to someone's editor. Flashy, well ok, we can live with flashy.

via my buddy Matt, who twice in a month has contributed to BN. For the last time dude, you don't get paid for sending me tips.

Obama's MySpace Page Is A Lie

The most popular (and perhaps most misinterpreted as official) Barack Obama MySpace page is a front for a T-shirt business. Yup, t-shirts. Well, at least that's my theory.

There are already dozens of Barack Obama MySpace pages but this one has the prime url: www.myspace.com/barackobama. It's certainly not official, as it plainly states within the page:

(**This profile is intended for informational purposes only. It has not been created and is not managed or endorsed by Senator Barack Obama**)
So this is definitely not official but it has over 35,000 friends and has been quoted in media as the Barack MySpace presence. So is this an innocent fan promoting their favorite candidate?

I don't know. Check out the top 8. Number 5 is "Political T-shirts.com". Hmm, interesting. I guess a fan of Barack may want to support the candidate by offering a way for people to get t-shirts. It just seems strangely out of place.

I love the irony of the disclaimer right above the Friend Space. "Please do not spam this profile... All comments which advertise goods or services will be deleted". Well, except for our own?

Click on the PoliticalT-shirts friend image and you get to their MySpace page. Take a wild guess who their first friend is... Yup, Barack. And yup, it's the "barackobama" user.

How convenient is that!? Also, it looks like the T-shirt biz has a few other Barack clone friends. Coincidence? Sure, if you believe in that stuff. I don't.

This may be one of the most clever business ideas I've ever seen. Congrats to you PoliticalT-Shirts.com.

Update: The moderator of the page emails me to explain and threaten.

Mystery Science-ish

Some inline fun, via Reuters.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Google Inc.'s YouTube signed a deal with Digital Music Group Inc. to post more than 4,000 hours of video content such as classic television shows [Knightrider?] to the video-sharing site, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday [So you guys basically sit around the office rewriting what you read from the WSJ? Sweet job!].

Digital Music, an online distributor of independently owned [read: sucky] music, TV shows and films, will receive an undisclosed portion of revenue [10% tops, if they're lucky. But you get some great Google branded mugs and caps.] from ads [ads from a Google owned property? You're shitting me?!] that YouTube shows on the Web pages featuring its programming, the Journal said. The programming, which includes episodes of "I Spy" and "Gumby" [Where's my Knightrider?], will be free to users ["Hey, marketing thinks no one would actually pay for this stuff, what do we do?"] when it becomes available in the coming weeks [No one working at YouTube was actually alive before DVDs... so uploading from tape has been a challenge], the Journal said.

Under the deal, YouTube will also use a filtering technology to identify songs for which Digital Music controls the rights that are being used without authorization in videos on the site [Nazis! Hey, is that numa numa song copyrighted? Crap, I gotta go!], the paper said.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Google for President

If you Google "Hillary Clinton", the first organic result that comes up is her election site. Glance just a bit to the right and you run into an ad from Barack Obama. Hmm, a friendly bit of search keyword conquesting here.

Do the reverse and search for "Barack Obama" and... nothing.

In terms of Internet advertising savvy, this one goes to Obama.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Read this & Bill Gates will give you money

MSN Games is inviting game developers to produce content for their game network. To compensate the developers, they're offering up to 20% of ad revenue. Hmm.

Chalk up another point towards digital content distribution. Sure, you have to work with "the man" but indie developers now have a big name option to distribute content. Yet another sign that the retail model is dead.

But wait a second. Is this worth it? Let's do a little math.


  • Let's say that MSN receives $5 for every 1,000 ad impressions served.
  • To make $50 they have to serve 10,000 impressions.
  • Now MSN only gives 20% to indies, so for an indie to make $50 (average retail price of games)... 50,000 impressions need to be served.
  • They can serve 2 ads every minute.
  • That's 25,000 minutes of exposure (gameplay) required
    • That's 416 hours
    • Or 17.36 full 24 hour days
That's a LOT of game play. With that many hours required to reach the levels of retail revenue, it really only leaves two options on the table: casual games and MMOs. Story genre games rarely are able to contain more than 60 hours of content. MMOs aren't cheap so what does that leave us?

Guess it ultimately makes sense for MSN Games. Hope they weren't looking to expand genre types.

via Joystiq

Matthew 5:4

"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."

The death of anyone we know, even remotely through celebrity, is not a moment to invite cynicism. There's no way to truly understand an individual's response to loss and so I'm going to try to tread lightly here.

Anna Nicole died, you probably heard if you've read or seen any news yesterday. TrimSpa, the diet route she famously supported, shut down their site yesterday. Today, they put up a page in memoriam.

Of course, the elephant in the room is whether or not Trimspa killed her. Although I'm sure it would make a juicy story, let's hope not. Unfortunately, if a cause of death is not found, this elephant won't ever leave the room. It's a noteworthy risk when building your brand through a celebrity. That person's individual decisions now have ramifications on your brand. What do you do if they get charged with a crime, say something outrageously racist or unexpectedly die?

You do what TrimSpa did. You forgo the benefits of free PR and put up a touching gesture. They've also linked to messages of support sent by their visitors. As far as corporate response to loss goes, this is well done and earns my respect. Hopefully they'll also do something to take care of that new baby girl.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

You've been granted a new ability!

Playing FPS games can improve your vision. Well, that's according to a new study from the University of Rochester. Now, I'm usually skeptical of all studies because frankly, most studies are to grab headlines and get more fame for the studiers. However, of the information available on this study, which is not a lot, there's not much to doubt or critique. It appears that shooter games do make your vision better.

So let's see... now if we were making a drug ad.

Gamesoxin - If you're suffering from poor vision and overall lack of acuity, relief is in a small box. Gamesoxin, when used as directed, provides a mild boost in vision. Some people taking Gamesoxin have reported an increased ability to spot continuity errors in Star Wars. Please consult your doctor before taking Gamesoxin.

Side effects may include: An unrelenting desire to murder. Weight loss. Weight gain. Diabetes. A schizophrenic fear of an impending zombie invasion. Acne. l33tness. Thumb soreness.

Results may vary.

via Gamasutra

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Parenthetically speaking

[RP is dead]

[Yeah, I know, it's not new news, just a re-confirmation of old news]

((You see, I've been back in the MMO space lately))

((And after a few days, I've come to realize that being on an RP server doesn't mean that you'll actually see people roleplaying))

{it means that when players chat on public channels, they go through the extra effort of signaling that they are OOC}

{that's "out of character" for you non-gamers}

(Usually, this signal is a parenthetical device such as {} or ())

{It says: anything I say inside these lines should not represent as being from my character}

{Because you know, my character has no idea what the Super Bowl is or why Borat should win an Oscar, nor does yours. So just ignore everything in here. I'm speaking to you, the dude at the keyboard.}

((When you think about it, it's an interesting phenomenon. The community has found a way to break character while at least showing that you're giving the whole RP thing an earnest effort. Combine this with an avatar's animated ability to sit down and you've got yourself a truly immersive realm.))


{Damn, these {} things are annoying.}

Monday, February 05, 2007

Ahoy, izt Monday!

Disney plans to release a Pirates of the Caribbean MMO in perfect marketing sync with the new movie coming out this summer. Now this game shouldn't be confused with the earlier game (at least, I don't think) that completely missed the movie date. The MMO is just that, an MMO. Blah blah, yadda yadda, another game based on a movie. But here's the interesting part... well, at least ot me.

The game will be a free online download. That's right, no retail. On top of that, you can play about a third of the game for free. Oh wait, there's more. To unlock more content, you have to pay a monthly fee (boo!). But surely they couldn't have even MORE relevance to your favorite topics on this blog, could they Ken? Yes, yes they can.

The game will be ad supported (though apparently not in the actual game itself, guess the "Ye Rotgut Rum" brand is out of luck).

I do believe this is a first. Well, a first in regards to names as big as Disney and Pirates of the Caribbean. The whole skipping retail part is the most interesting. Like I've said, the retail model is a dinosaur; a big dinosaur that's looking around going, "What are those big shiny balls falling out of the sky?"

via NZHerald, via my friend Matt (who now has to finally shut up about never being mentioned on the blog). Thanks dude! You're the best!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Schedule and stuff

Short-term notice: Heading out of town today, will be back on the weekend.

Long-term notice: Will not be available July 21 from midnight to approximately 3PM, will be reading.

FYI: EA reports earnings this afternoon. My prediction is... not so good and they'll blame Sony.