Friday, March 31, 2006

BOTS has friends in France

BOTS has found friends across the pond and umm over the channel. A French fan site. C'est tres bon!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Pursuit Force, where spikestrips are for wussies.

I'm not going to go into the whole business of reviewing games on this blog. Do not judge lest ye be judged and all that.

I did, however, come across Pursuit Force for the PSP. It's like Need for Speed meets Crazy Taxi meets Matrix chase scene. Haven't actually played the game but the concept is pretty simple. You play a cop that chases people down, using all sorts of silly weaponry and acrobatic skill. How does a concept like this happen... an immediate scene popped in my head.

Somewhere in LA, hours into a brainstorming session, game designers are frustrated and have hit a wall. Someone in the room turns on the TV and another car chase is on. Suddenly, they all look at each other and a collective smile forms.

Let me tell you. We just love our car chases here in LA. We love seeing someone hit that point of no return and simply go for broke. We sit back and secretly enjoy seeing the wolves hunt the silly sheep that strayed. We savor the delicious possibility of total and utter chaos. Finally, more often than not, we feel cheated when nothing happens. This game promises to fulfill all the devious little thoughts we've had while watching that guy fly down the 405.

I'm kind of tickled by the whole thing. Take a cultural element, translate it into a game. Here's some other things I'd like to see turned into a game:

  • Ultimate Thanksgiving - You play a Special Ops agent sent to infiltrate a large Southern family dinner. Your only mission: Don't kill anyone. Warning: The turkey WILL knock you out.
  • Insane Cupid - You're a D-list celebrity. Your job is to climb the ladder of fame by hooking up with other celebrities and then devising spectacular break-ups. Bonus points for converting yourself to another religion.
  • Mattress Mayhem - Shop for a mattress, don't get scammed. Protect your credit card as legions of sales guys, cresting over sales floor samples, hurl offers at you.
Right... I know, I need to get out more. On a serious note. We really are going to have to see some games that are totally out of the box if we want to grow this industry. Katamari Damacy is just a glorified version of what I do when I use my Swiffer. Look how that turned out.

GameTap to add TV element

GameTap by Turner, the leaders in buying old stuff and making it accessible, have added a TV element to the property. The new TV offering consists of 5 original channels and over 250 on demand video clips. My favorite part of the press release: Capcom adds Ghouls and Ghosts to the GameTap lineup.

Other cool nuggets about the channels:

On GameTap Originals channel - A reality show called "Challenged" where friends settle grudges by playing games against each other.

On the Game channel: King's Quest Week, sweet!

Any additional content for our culture is fantastic news. Add in that this is online and taps into the broadband market makes it even more significant as a sign that old media is losing steam.

Unfortunately, it's subscription and ad supported. It really should be either/or.

Press release here. Via Mediaweek

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A dissenting voice on in-game ads, a big booming voice.

(So enough of the visual silliness, back to business with this post)

Nintendo's head honcho, Satoru Iwata's view on in-game ads:

"We do not deny the possibility that Nintendo will be doing something like [in-game advertising] in the future," he said. "Personally, though, I don't really think it's going to be a significant source of revenue to our industry."

You're totally killing my buzz dude. Have you talked to Phil at Playstation? Phil gets it.

Iwata "questioned the effectiveness of in-game ads, and was reportedly confused about how gamers could focus on in-game ads when they're busy with gameplay."

That's your reason? You scared me for a sec. I thought you were going to give me some serious discourse on the economics of ad spend or something on developer artistic integrity. Dude, if that's your reason, don't worry, it's not a deal-breaker. Ads are all about good placement and timing. Location, location, location. You gotta strike a balance between intrusion, attention and value to consumer. It's totally doable.

...Then again, you are head of Nintendo, so you must know what you're talking about. Unless! want to throw everyone off and have the ad world to yourself. Oh, you... you... you're good.

via Next Gen coverage here.

Where do you suppose this piggy went?

Continuing with today's theme of pointless visuals, I captured this on a drive:

You know there's gotta be a good story behind this. Lacking one, I'm going to just throw out a few possible storys.

"The Clayton family of Los Angeles put to rest their beloved family pet, Tulip, this morning. There was a brief moment of distress for family members as a memorial bronze statue of the pig, pictured here, was late to the ceremony."

"LA Gymworks announced today that due to budget restraints, they would no longer offer personal trainers. In lieu of this service, the gym has placed a large bronze pig, pictured above, in its lobby. 'It's angry, it's big. I think it speaks for itself.' says manager Cody Smith."

"In an effort to win back voter trust, Washington politicians have officially acknowledged how things get done. A bronze statue of a pig, nicknamed Dubya, will be placed in front of Congress and inscribed with the words, 'Pork for the people."

Yeah, I'm bored. Can you do better?

Airing out the skeletons in the closet

More deliciousness from YouTube.

"Now watch me waste the Macho Man!" LOL, good times.

Sadly, I think I actually remember that one. Just to make it clear, this was the former brand, we are way more cool now. (Is cool the word kids use nowadays?)

Random interesting commercial

I'm not sure how the ad relates to the product but it's still interesting. More importantly, it puts some perspective into the "getting ready" ritual and psyche.

I once witnessed a girlfriend change 14 times before we could go out. If you're wondering, during that same occasion, I said, "You look great", or variations on that theme, 95 times. =)

Link is here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Job requirements: WoW Guildmaster. Experience & education a plus

A Wired article showcases a guy that got a job partly because of the leadership skills he learned while leading a guild in WoW. And if you're wondering, this job isn't as a GM or game related.

Good for him!

The article talks a lot about the actual skills gained by playing WoW and being a guild leader. I think there's something more they don't mention. It's passion. There's intense passion underlying someone that accomplishes what this guy did. You don't just sign up for the job and sit around doing nothing.

When you're hiring candidates for a job, passion is the one attribute you can never find in a resume. I don't care how qualified or skilled the person is, there is no more important attribute. It can make up for anything else because the person will have the hunger to learn and to innovate. As an employer, the trick is to recognize two things, the passion itself and to see if this person's passion is transferable to the job.

As an applicant, you should ask yourself this question: Is this something I can be passionate about? If the answer is yes, then ask yourself, can I show this to the employer during the interview or any other way?

There's just no replacement for passion.

(By the way, here's my story: In my cover letter to Acclaim, when listing my qualifications, I wrote the following: "A unapologetic, no-holds barred intense love of gaming." I followed it up by being the biggest gaming nerd ever in my interview. Of course, they still wanted to see skills and experience but now that I got their attention, that part was easy.)

Would you buy into a time-share character?

Something to chew on:

Need: I have no time to play all the MMORPG games that interest me. When I do play, more often than not, I never get to any good content, WoW raids for example. However, I'm a professional with disposable income so I'm just waiting for a solution.

Solution?: Someone sets up a service that creates a batch of starter characters, let's say 50. People pay to play these characters (more on that later). Some people will want to start in the beginning to learn the ropes and will progress those characters up. As everyone plays the 50 characters, these characters will advance at different rates. Eventually, characters will span the spectrum of experience and play types.

Time in the game with these characters are sold in a time-share manner. So let's say, you pay $5 for a batch of points. You spend your points on hours that you can play any character you want but it costs more points to play more advanced characters.

That's the basic premise. I know there's a lot of obstacles to consider. Like how to prevent people from just logging into a character and griefing it. The publishers will never support this. There is a bond that people create with their characters that will be missing. There's a community element that you can't just jump into as well. I know; the devil is in the details. But I think there's definitely people that would use and pay for this (I would be one).

There are elements of these games that a casual player could really enjoy. Right now, there's no way for casual types to experience these games in any meaningful way. You could buy a character from a farmer, but no one likes that. Is this a horrible idea?

Does this font make me look fat?

We're really close to finishing up BOTS. So close I could taste it... but there are still tons of things to finish and decide, like choosing a font. Among all the decisions we have to make, you would think a font would be one of the easiest right? Nope.

Fonts are one of those things that are frequently overlooked but can cause disaster when the wrong fonts are used.

An Amazon search on "font book" yields 281 results. Let's not even talk about Googling "font". There is just an amazing volume of work dedicated to fonts. The art/science behind fonts is known as typography. It has it's own language too with words like:

  • Serif (letters with hooks at each extreme, Times Roman is serif)
  • San-serif (no hooks, Tahoma is san-serif)
  • Ascenders & Descenders (the top of an "h" and the bottom of a "g")
  • Pica (like size points, check out typographic units)
Ok, so back to the topic at hand. We have to choose a font for BOTS and it wasn't easy. There were space limitations, character limitations, visual limitations, operating system limitations. Limitation, limitation, limitation. We went with sans-serif (because it's robots, not Victorian literature) and a fixed width (because games don't give a lot of flexibility for fonts since you need to use them in MANY locations, some with more room than others). Also, we want a font that "feels" like it fits, something simple and not too creative.

Check out some finalist, click to see them.I'm leaning towards #1. Unless I hear an uproar from you guys, that's probably our final choice.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Like a note stapled to my shirt...

Dear Parent/Guardian,

Your child made excellent progress today. He accomplished many tasks:

  • He struggled with some strategic planning, but was able to sound it out.
  • During art, he flowcharted the process for advertising dissemination (this time without licking the markers).
  • Before lunch, he studied the website wireframes project from last week.
  • In math, we went over pivot tables for revenue modeling again. I think you'll need to work on this at home with him.
  • Right before naptime, we wrote stories about media strategy.
  • In music, we listened to Keri Noble. FYI, he seemed to enjoyed it more than the other boys.
Please remember to send along extra money tomorrow, the class is going out to lunch.


Ms. Robinson

Blogging 101

If you blog and want to make money from it, the latest issue of New York has a nice 101 article.

If you blog but don't care about the money, I'm feeling ya. Wanna split some fries at McD's?

If you don't blog, carry on....

(Oh yeah, thanks to Tsuky for the link)

Tastes like fish...

Warning: Off-topic post

According to this NY Times article, researchers have created genetically altered pigs that make Omega-3 fatty acids. That's the good stuff from fish that's suppose to lower heart disease.

I'm not touching this with a ten-foot pool, not my expertise. But, nevertheless, an interesting development.


Oh who am I kidding!

Enough with the damn fatty acids, give them piggy wings! That's what I want to see from all this genetic altera-doohickiness. Do it! Do it!

Coke's Relentless microsite relentlessly... pointless

Dear UK Coke Brand Manager,

"Your microsite for Relentless eats it hard." It has about as much eloquence and meaning as my review you just read. Note the similarities: We both went for the cheap and shallow method of expression. We both borrowed from a sub-culture we may not understand. We both didn't spend a lot of time on it.

Who are you kidding with this site? Slapping together imagery of a sub-culture does not get you acceptance into the group. Using athletes instead of stock photo faces does not make you more credible. Naming a video viral does not make it viral. Creating this site does make you look clueless. And for goodness sakes, learn some new Flash techniques! (As an example of innovation, check out Don't Click, an entire site without having to click)

But hey, it's not all bad. Transposing urban symbology with DaVinci-esque sketching was kinda interesting, but slightly overdone. And I love this: "Health Warning: This product is not suitable for children, pregnant women and those sensitive to caffeine. Consume responsibly." Took me a while there to realize you were not talking about the site. LOL

By the way, where's the real product info? Let's stop kidding ourselves. You want to sell me a can, doesn't matter what's in the can.

I get it, I'll just hold the can and look cool.

Well sorry, I don't buy it. This is an insulting and horrible execution. This is the exact stuff that makes everyone hate corporations that don't get it. Please fire your agency.

(via Random Culture)

(Was I too harsh? Doesn't matter, they'll never read this blog.)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Best entrance by a vixen in a novel

"She looks as if she's just stopping off at Zephyr on the way to an exclusive nightclub opening. Her hair, long, tousled, and honey-brown, bounces off exposed tan shoulders. Two delicate straps appear to play no functional role in suspending a thin, shimmering plum-colored dress, more mysterious forces are at work. She has lips like big sofa cushions, the kind of ancestry that probably includes nationalities Jones has never heard of, and liquid brown eyes that say: Sex? Why, what an intriguing idea. "

From "Company" by Max Barry

(Hmm... with this and the Snakes on a Plane post, I do believe we're officially PG13 now. Heh)

Observations this weekend...

Self-Inflicted Creepyness:

At the Gap, the best looking figures in the store are on the mannequins. However, you are not allowed to notice this.


Seeing a sign on a mortuary company car, "We can afford to wait, drive carefully". New idea for Taco Bell ad: "We can afford to wait. No matter what happened after last time, you'll be back."

Bouncer Existentialism:

There is no list, just a clipboard.

Limits of Artistic Freedom:

Don't sneeze on your hands, put on gloves and then ask me what bread I want. I don't need a Subway sandwich that bad.

The revenge of the coin-op game

Few days ago WildTangent announced a new system to play their online games called WildCoins. Players bank real money and then spend WildCoins to play games ala old school coin-op arcade. A quarter lets you play the game as long as you want.

Not being a fan of WildTangent
, I'm not particularly excited. However, any new innovation in revenue models is kinda interesting. I don't understand how they've gotten consumers to pay $19.95 for a subscription (current model) but I can understand paying a quarter to try a game out.

What's also interesting is that they found a BIG sponsor. Coca Cola will apparently give away WildCoins as part of promotions. I don't get it. Why doesn't Coca Cola just sponsor the content with ads or branding.

MSN article here, WildTangent press release here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Machinima at it's best: FFVI Opera scene, recreated in FFXI

If the word Chocobo means nothing to you, go away now.

If, like me, you secretly wish Big Bird would one day go, "Wark!" and strap on a saddle...

Some talented fans have created quite an impressive piece of machinima. It is a near exact recreation of the opera scene from Final Fantasy 6, using the Final Fantasy 11 game.

Folks, this is fan love at it's finest. To say I am impressed is an understatement. You really do have to be a fan of FF6 to enjoy it and be able to reminisce. That's the main reason why I think this is so fantastic, it's by a hard-core group, for a hard-core group.

Watch the video here.

(Thanks to my FFXI buddy, Fire, for the tip. ::tarutaru panic dance::)

PS3 <3s in-game advertising

I'm just catching up with GDC news right now and the most interesting thing (and probably most relevant to this blog) is from Phil Harrison's keynote. Phil is the EVP of development at Sony. This Next Gen article covers his speech at GDC. Interestingly, Phil talks about everything I've been talking about:

Cash shops:
"He showed how games would become shop windows in and of themselves for new downloaded content paid for by consumers."

Advertising model like TV:
""Games can have the same social currency as a great TV show, like Lost or 24." He also pointed out that in-game advertising will play a significant role in PlayStation 3's future. "This is a tremendous opportunity if handled with sensitivity towards the consumer," Harrison said."

Innovative revenue models and opening up the system for change:
"Furthermore, he talked about subscription models, merchandising and a "direct connection between consumers and game developers," although he didn't delve too deep into the subjects"

Pssstt Phil, have you been reading Branded Newb? Tsk tsk, you should really credit your muse. =P

Earen: The town dork in Stormreach

So Earen (my favored name in fantasy MMORPGs) has been born again in D&D Online Stormreach (Khyber server). I haven't been able to really spend a lot of time playing but here's a summary of my activities so far:

I arrive at Stormreach. Some trickster makes me run errands for him, I'm such a fool. In time, I get through into the city proper and since I'm thirsty, I tentatively walk into a tavern. Everyone inside is either running somewhere or minding their own business. I notice that some guy's sword is on fire and think to myself, "He should really get that taken care of." I make my way to the bar and decide to talk to a tall Elf.

"Greetings, my name is Earen." I say cheerfully. I even smile nicely.

Silence. Then he runs away. Well, that isn't the first time that's happened in a bar. I try again with a Dwarven lady.

"Hello, my name is Earen." I say; though this time not as cheerfully. Maybe the Elf thought I wanted to sell something.

Silence. She runs away. Hmm, perhaps they don't speak my language.

To another patron, I try, "Hello, have your travels been kind to you?" He turns towards me... Yes! Success! ...and proceeds to run right into me and out the door.

I decide perhaps that the tavern is not the best place to meet people. I venture into the square. For a half hour, I sit in the square and attempt to talk to passerbys. Not a soul responded to me. One person asked me for directions, which I did not know and so I was of no help to this person, she too runs away.

While I was contemplating returning home and leaving this adventuring business altogether, out of the blue, someone invited me to their group. There was no one in front of me so it was most likely through mystical means that this person found me. I said to my group, "Hi, I'm Earen." To which the leader responded, "We're already here, look for us on the map." I am, if nothing else, resourceful, so I found my party just as they were entering a sewer. I rather have followed them into a tavern but if I have to go into a sewer to find someone to befriend, so be it.

I made my way down and when I got to the bottom, I was alone. My group had scattered and I could hear sounds of battle several rooms away. I readjusted my shield in front of me and headed off to find them. Unfortunately, they were always one step ahead of me. "Wait for me!" I said, as I leap over dead kobolds and broken barrels.

I ran into a room and caught up with someone... only to watch him sprint right out behind me. I look around. It was such a lovely room, full of mysterious things. I wanted to stay and look around but it also didn't feel safe so I tried to catch up again.

Panting and gasping for breath, I finally did catch up with my group. I waved to them and in mid-wave in front of my very eyes, all but one person disappeared! Did I do that?! Before I could actually say anything, a Dwarf with a very big axe said, "Recalling" and disappeared as well. I look around the dark cavernous dungeon and let out a sigh, "Oh bother."

Ok, so that was a very long winded way to say two things:

  • No one talked to anyone else in the game.
  • When people did work together, it was entirely focused on grinding exp rather than actually enjoying the content.
Now this is not unique to DDO by any means. I was also in a Newb area too, so I don't expect any real roleplaying. In fact, I don't expect much of anything at all. I was surprised though, by the sheer determination of people to ignore me and get their own stuff done. Even when I got a party invite, it was out of the blue and I was expected to show up and hack away. This happened in 4 different groups that I joined. I felt like the dork at the party not getting it and all the cool kids got it and didn't want to talk to me.

Maybe I'm old-school but I thought the game was pretty cool. There's a DM voice over in every quest and there are actually things and places to explore. I'm not naive enough to think that people are going to consume it the same as the tabletop version but I really didn't expect players to bolt through it quite like what I saw. This game would be incredible if you're lucky enough to find some people that will stop and smell the roses. So far, I haven't found that. I'll keep looking.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

NPR covers Snakes on a Plane... NPR!

Snakes on a Plane!

A movie with Samuel Jackson, snakes and a plane. This has been floating around the Internet for a while but I figured maybe you all are too busy playing games to notice. I really have nothing of value to add. I'm just thoroughly amazed by the whole thing. And now, an NPR story on it. Listen to the piece, too funny!

Also, the statement that I just absolutely love about this is below, from Josh Friedman:
(just this once, I'm going to drop the censorship)

"There are motherfucking snakes on the motherfucking plane. What else do you need to know? How the snakes get on the plane, what the snakes do once they're on the plane, who puts the snakes on the plane, who is trying to get the snakes off the plane...This is not for you to ponder. There are snakes on the plane. End of fucking story."

And the dude that started it all writes at Snakes on a Blog.

(By the way, first stumbled on SoaP via my buddy JB at Tequila. Thanks! Did you notice today's theme for posts is "Things you don't want on a plane"... like ads?)

Even I don't like ads this much!

From Ironic Sans, via Adrants:

By now, you're probably thinking, "That Branded Newb guy is an ad-aholic. He probably loves all ads. " Nope, I don't. This little gem of an idea here made me throw up a little (esoteric Happy Bunny reference!).

Don't get me wrong, I love ads, I think ads can do a lot. But this is too much! Talk about captive audience. The author of the idea says it might help lower fares, which I think is valid. However, for those that don't want to see this stuff, regardless of whether or not they save $10, it's a nightmare.

The only way I think this may be ok is if they split up coach. Coach with ads, coach without ads. You decide what you can tolerate. Ugh... I think I may have thrown up a little more from even suggesting that.

The sad thing is, you probably can't stop something like this. Sad day.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Let me introduce you to a competitor...

So it's commonly accepted in the business world that talking about your competitors is probably a bad idea. First, it's bad because you acknowledge them as a competitor and if your customers didn't know about them, well they do now. Second, you can get into all sorts of legal problems if you don't watch what you say. There are a lot of other reasons too but you know what, I don't care.... Let me introduce you to a competitor.

Lycos, remember Lycos? The search engine that disappeared? Well, they never actually disappeared entirely. They had this thing called Gamesville that was still popular with the casual game crowd. They made a strategic shift recently and now they're totally moving in on my turf.

Lycos is offering Albatross 18, a Korean MMO game that utilizes a cash store system. It's a cute game and potentially very mainstream. Nothing new yet, a lot of US companies have tried to bring Korean games here with no success.

What's interesting is an article on Gamasutra with the COO of Lycos, Brian Kalinowski. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

"Clearly one of our goals was to create a gaming destination to put us not only with other gaming portables, but to first of all differentiate ourselves with introduction of exclusive games, games that we will acquire from US and Asia as well as European markets."

"The plus is that we have four models, subscription, advertising, download, and also through partnerships we can be offering a micropayment system. So we have the revenue models to support any type of gaming platform, including vintage games that may lend themselves to advertising models."

Dang, he's good. Sounds suspiciously like Acclaim's strategy but I'm not worried...

.... well he does have a "C" in his job title.... and he sounds better in an interview.

Look, I'm not like jealous or anything ok? I mean, I totally have a way easier name to spell. And dude, I sometimes use words like vintage: "My pile of laundry is vintage". See, that was almost poetic.

I'm not worried.... Ok, maybe I'm a little worried. But competition is good and if nothing else, it will expand the industry. This is going to be a lot of fun!

Mr. Brian Kalinowski, game on! (thought I'd get the name in here twice for good measure, just in case he Googles himself).

Dell gobbles up Alienware

It's been rumored for several days but officially announced today, Dell acquired privately owned Alienware. (Gamespot article here)

Low cost commodity meets higher-cost customized luxury. I can't wait to see the ugly offspring this union will spawn. Frankly, I think the idea is crazy and bad news for Alienware. It would be like McDonalds acquiring Chipotle...

::huh what?... you're kidding... oh really, they did?::

Ok, nevermind to that. Guess it already happened. Let me see, umm, it would be like Ford acquiring Aston Martin...

::what now? Seriously?! Son of a...::

Ok, maybe this kind of thing has happened before and maybe the better product wasn't negatively affected but I still have a bad feeling about this. Ugly Dell'Alien babies! Does anyone remember the TV mini-series V? That's right, alien-hybrid babies = ugly, just you watch!

(On a serious note, I don't think this is such a big deal. If Dell is smart, they won't change a thing and I think Dell is smart.)

Acclaim signs deal with advertising network Massive

Earlier this week, we announced our partnership with the advertising network, Massive Incorporated. (You can read the release at their site here, you can also read's take on it here)

Massive is an interesting company. They're the middlemen between advertisers and game makers. They have technology that allows ads to be placed and tracked in games and they're building up a portfolio of solid games and advertisers that want to be in those games. For example, the Diet Sprite ad you see to your right was in Splinter Cell.

Given that we're going to be providing all our games for free, it makes a lot of sense to partner with Massive for our games that will use advertising. From an advertiser point of view, it's a one stop shop to reach their consumers. From our point of the view, we can reach advertisers that are familiar or at least acceptable to advertising in games.

So far, most in-game advertising can be found in games purchased retail. That is, someone bought the game and if they play online, they see ads. In contrast, we offer our games for free and people see ads. I can't speak for Massive but I think we're a great partner for them because we are exploring new territory here and it might just trickle back up to other publishers if this works. Now that's good and bad since I don't really want more competition for us. However, as a consumer, I like to choose between free by ads or pay.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ad supported mobile service...

An Israel mobile phone startup company is providing content via an ad supported model. Chief among that content are mobile games. Users can choose to watch an ad while the game downloads or pay for the content as normal.

Now I know what the ad naysayers are thinking: Not more ads!? However, giving consumers the ability to choose is a phenomenal idea. Free or pay, you decide. Also, as I've been saying, ad dollars tend to increase content quality. It seems like a win win to me.

via Redherring, here

Monday, March 20, 2006

Oh, I missed Earth Day... or did I?

If you didn't know, Today is Earth Day. By the way, don't forget to celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd. Huh.. what? Yeah, I know, two Earth Days!

Earth Day is a term that cannot be trademarked nor held by any one organization. So unfortunately (or fortunately if you're in the camp that every day is Earth day... only 363 more to claim), both days are valid. You can read up on the history at the Wikipedia entry.

So who cares and why do I bring this up? I thought it would be a good opportunity to discuss the value of brands and specifically, brand identity. We're not talking about a soft drink or a pair of shoes, it's a day, this shouldn't be remotely difficult to figure out. However, holidays are brands too, if you doubt me, I have one word for you "Valentines".

The fact that there are two Earth Days dilutes the value of each day. The goal of branding is to establish your brand and fight to keep it yours as hard as you can. Sometimes, you don't succeed. Look at how Ray's Pizza in New York or Tommy's Burgers in Los Angeles no longer hold any meaning. If this can happen to a Earth Day... well think of the possibilities.

Therefore, I am hereby establishing a second Valentine's Day, on August 11. It is traditional on this day to observe it by throwing rotten fruit at people in love. Let the dilution begin!

While I'm at it, there will be an additional Independence Day on May 5th. This day, however, can only be celebrated by Democrats during a Republican presidency and is observed by dreaming of independence. C'mon, we earned it. Don't worry, no Republicans read my blog or play video games.

Lastly, I declare that August 21st is your Birthday. Because I only want to remember one Birthday for everyone and it just so happens that I remember this one. No no, I don't want to hear it. I thought of the idea first so I get to pick the day.

I think my work is done here. Enjoy your special days!

(On a side note, it's interesting to see what brands do when they merge. Great article on that here, couple months old but still good.)

Let's play D&D Stormreach...

File under: In the interest of more *ahem* market research...

Amazon/UPS was kind enough to deliver my copy of D&D Online: Stormreach today (even though I paid more so I would get it Friday and have the weekend, ::grumble grumble::)

Anyways, I'm going to try it out within the next few days. If anyone has any suggestions/tips/hints to start, it'd be much appreciated. Oh heck, if anyone wants to blatantly give me free platinums or whatever they're called in game, that's fine too. =)

I'm hoping this is more fun than my experience with EVE (this post too)a few weeks ago. The learning curve and feeling of "emptiness" in that game made it tough for me to stick through it, especially given that I can only invest a few hours every week.

If you play, I'd love to meet up with some people, let me know which server (leave a comment here or shoot me an email at ken at acclaim dot com). Do they even have servers?

I'll update this post later with where I end up too and some thoughts.

[Update: Post about my first few experiences here]

Give me my way, get rid of the Burger King

Ok, subservient chicken was ground breaking. I enjoyed Hootie singing quirky toons. Even the chicken band Coq Roq was kinda interesting. And of course, the Whopperettes were a whole lot of retro-fun. But the latest Burger King online campaign is making me think they lost it.

Burger King and their ad agency Crispin Porter seem to be moving the King into the territory already occupied by Carl's Jr (Hardees for you East Coasters), that is, using sex to sell burgers.

Correct me if I'm insinuating something I shouldn't, but they are changing the "Wake up with the King" campaign to mean something entirely different than having an egg and bacon sandwich. On that site you can find blatantly prurient images and not so subtle pics of the King in hotel rooms with empty and not so empty beds. C'mon, are you kidding me?

I have no problem with a brand like BK going quirky but to go down the route of beer ads hints at desperation. I expect this type of behavior from a second tier company, like Del Taco or the aforementioned Carl's Jr. Very little on that site has to do with burgers. This tactic, like caffeine, may give you a temporary boost, but in the end, you pay for it. Maybe I'm being too harsh but I doubt the brand manager knew how much of a world-class brand's equity he/she is squandering.

If this is where BK is heading, I'll take my burger sans onions and the King.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Peculiar situation at Target...

Shuffled over to Target today to get some gifts for a baby shower. I was lost between the various "Designers that have Sold Out" sections when I heard something through an employee's radio (it was turned way up). Here's a rough transcript:

"Attention all sales floor employees. Do not use your cell phone while on the sales floor. This is a verbal warning to all employees. You are not allowed to use your cell phone during work. Any employee caught doing so will be subject to discipline. Please get off your cell phones now. Right now."

The voice of the speaker, obviously a manager, was dripping with so much condescension that I imagined the next announcement would be, "Clean up, aisle 9". Of course, I don't have a complete understanding of the situation but I'm going to fill in the blanks. This was targeted toward a specific employee. The manager was probably staring right at this person while saying all this. The manager probably had no clue that customers, such as myself, could hear him.

As I started thinking about this situation some more, I began to recognize several cultural malignancies coming together in a perfect storm. Let's list them by offender, shall we?

  • Chatty employee
    • Cell phones are blurring the lines of personal/public space.
      • There is also a inverse correlation between how instantly reachable you are with the superficiality of any resulting conversation
    • There is an increasing sense of entitlement - I do what I want, everyone else be damned.
      • Ownership of one's job or loyalty to employees is non-existant, resulting in decreased concern and mutual respect.
  • Drippy Manager
    • A victim of corporate indoctrination - had no choice because you can't confront anyone specifically about their problems anymore.
    • Or, an abuser of broadcast technologies to increase desired effect - (think mass emails)
The feeling that overwhelms me with this situation is one of loneliness. All the malignancies I describe above are pushing us away from interacting with each other in healthy, meaningful and enriching ways. Has our culture of independence and empowerment gone so far as to make us a culture of the lonely? I sure hope not.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

New generation of robots, designed to give the willies.

NY Times writes about the next generation of consumer robots, article here. It's half article, half mega-millionaire's kid's shopping list. One of the new robot toys is a life-like horse

"In a departure from its smaller toys, Hasbro is introducing what it calls a "realistic, life-size" miniature pony, Butterscotch My FurReal Friends Pony, that will be sensitive to light and touch and will embody enough robotics to, among other things, turn its head to see who tickled its ears and shake its head after "eating" its carrot.

It will sniff and whinny and respond to soothing voices when it becomes frightened by the dark or by too much commotion around it, company spokesmen said. And it is made to bear the weight of young children and simulate galloping. Available in the fall, it is expected to cost $300."

I don't know about you, but I tihnk it's cute when a girl hugs her stuffed animal pony and says I love you to it. When the thing has mechanical guts, it gives me the willies. Oh well, maybe I'm getting old.

Add instant chat function to my site? Ok! is my pick for most brilliant web tool of the year! (found via Random Culture).

Add chat functionality to your site in less than a minute (took me about 2 but I'm slow). Check out the right side of Branded Newb, right under the blog links. They're experiencing severe server strain so it might not be working (if you see a big ugly white box, it's not working) but I'm sure they'll find enough bandwidth soon.

Let's chat!

Converse gets consumer generated media

It's St. Patty's Day night and I'm not getting plastered as is the tradition for tonight. By the way kids, don't drink, it's really not that much fun after a while and when I say "after a while", I mean after college.

Ok, so no plastering tonight, however, I did want to show a really awesome example of consumer generated media (CGM). Don't ask me how I'm tying these two trains of thought together, just go with it. Converse has consumer generated commercials on this site. Ok, this is not new by any means, but it's still valid.

The first thing you'll notice is that these are very well done commercials. Probably not mainstream enough to actually air but still high quality. The second thing you'll notice is that these ads "get it". They totally represent the Converse brand and speak volumes about the brand itself. That is the power of CGM. After a while, your most passionate customers know more about your brand than the brand manager. I applaud Converse for giving their fans a chance to express their passion and I envy the benefits they're probably receiving from this content.

Marketers are slowly opening their eyes to this CGM movement. Like the Mastercard campaign I mentioned a week or so ago, you can find more and more CGM all the time. One reason why I think this is happening is because consumers are not content to just consume, they want to engage. It used to be that the only people that could afford to make any content, not just commercials, were those with the professional tools. Now, the playing field has been leveled. Creating video, audio, web or any other content can be easily done at home and doesn't require a team or specialized skill. This content can then be mass distributed digitally with almost no effort. It's the democratization of media. If you don't believe me, look at what is already happening with blogs replacing the old publishing system.

CGM is the first assault in overthrowing the authoritarian marketing system. I hate to beat a dead horse but it's why I'm convinced open source marketing is where we're headed. Viva la revolution!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Catching up with inertia

Game bunny's (adorable lil'rascal, couldn't figure out how to hold the mic) interview with BOTS brand manager. The title of the piece is "Chat with Chan". Hehe.

The bunny asked an interesting question:

"Why do you think they're [Korean game industry] so far ahead of us? Does it all come down to a mass of Internet Cafes and extensive Broadband access? Do you think we’ll ever catch up or even surpass the Asian market when it comes to online gaming?

I have to confess, I wish I knew the Korean secret sauce that has made online games so mainstream there. You’re right though, no doubt Internet Cafes and Broadband played an important part to it. However, we’ve had internet cafes and our broadband numbers are getting up there as well, so why haven’t we gotten there?

I think a large part of it is a supply side issue. The industry went down a slippery slope towards the Hollywood model, that is, big budgets, big splashes and formulaic content. As long as we continue to cater to a narrow demographic (which, don’t get me wrong, is very lucrative), there will always be a lack of supply for a more general audience. Someone has to start taking some risks and create content for the rest of the public. Once that happens, games will be a more acceptable form of entertainment. The stigma will go away; the bad press should decrease (no offense to present company). We’ll definitely get there and we’ll definitely be bigger, more creative and more fun than the Asian market but it’ll take steps.

I know this is going to sound ridiculously self-serving but I believe Acclaim can nudge us toward this goal. We’re bringing some good content over here and eventually, we’re going to figure out the sauce that works for the U.S. market and then we’ll really shake things up."

I also chatted at lunch today with our Korean dev friends. It reminded me what a totally different world it is there. There are so many games and game types available that almost everyone plays something. They have 4 tv stations, 4!, devoted to games. A rough estimate is that from 100-200 people play games professionally, like sports players and earn a decent living.

We're going to get there. We're slow to start because we're so big but once we start catching up... like a sprinting sumo, we'll be hard to stop.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Chinese gold farmers, why not?

Thought I'd post about this before heading off to another long day. Joystiq links to a documentary in the works about Chinese gold farmers in games. Go ahead and watch it, I'll be here when you get back.


This is definitely a hot topic, look at all the comments they've got.

It does warrant our attention though. This is a serious issue for our industry. Not only because of all the typical reasons that everyone talks about, unbalancing games or exploitation by/of the Chinese. To me, this is indicative of the globalization of the game industry and the need for us to be aware that everything we do has global influences and implications.

I honestly think it's a good thing. For instance, look at how we're bringing Korean games to the US market. These games are fun and ultimately, players reap the benefits by an increase in market offerings and ultimately an increase in the market. US games can and already have, found significant audiences abroad. Am I moronic to envision a world of gamers coexisting through some of the best content from the best creative minds alive? It could happen.

Lastly, I know a lot of these Chinese gold farmers are hated because of what they do. However, I think it's indicative of something more to come. If anything, it shows that games and game environments are open to the same market forces as in real life. People go where they can make money and then usually stay and end up making it a better place. So is it too far fetched to think that these are just front-runners to the game utopia I was just talking about? Remember, online games are different than say, exporting movies. We're inviting people in to share an experience with us. Maybe right now it's used to make money off us, but maybe in the long long term, it's a global village.

Just a morning thought.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Say what?!

4 out of the last 5 posts have been hefty and brainy (dang, that kitty was funny). So in an effort to bring a regression toward the mean to this blog, I now present you with... (drumroll)

*Translations I've saved from ever seeing the light of day*

(err... well I guess up until this very moment. Man, I am so going to get fired for this):

My favorite macroed greeting: "Have nice bots!"

Partial list of items I wish I could keep in the game:

Littleroid (Hemma's baby brother)
Chestbuster (redundant?)

Open letter to the great people assisting us with translations: I just want to say that you guys are great. I could not do a better job myself if the roles were reversed. I appreciate you guys, I do. But sometimes things get lost in translation and you know, deliciously funny misnomers occur and it would be selfish of me to keep it locked up. You understand. Don't you? C'mon, crack a smile. Is that a smile? C'mon smile! Here comes the tickle monster! There we go... all better.

I'm so getting fired. =)

Oh the humanity! Why?!

So you work all day and your brain is fried. You decide to wander the Internet and you run into this pic of a really ticked off kitty. At first, you're like, what the?!

Then you chuckle. And then you laugh and laugh and laugh. And you can't stop laughing. Diet Coke with Lime starts shooting out of your nose, which makes you laugh more.

And then you laugh too much, you know, like one or two seconds too much... you know, crazy evil villain too much? You're alone but you look around anyways and no one heard you.... sooooo it's ok.

Good times... good times.

(For sticklers, I didn't provide a link because the other stuff I found was, shall we say, questionable content.)

An update on BOTS

I've been pretty quiet about BOTS lately and I think I owe you guys an update.

When we opened up the site for closed beta sign ups, we were aiming to open up the game in 2-3 weeks from that date. Let's just say we were optimistic. There are two main issues holding us up right now and I thought I'd share these with you.

#1 "All your base are belong to us"
This classic bad translation in a Japanese game found cult status as probably the first viral humor piece on the Internet. It's an understatement to say we don't want to have a repeat of something like this. I mean, it's funny now but do you even know the name of the publisher, the game, or anything beyond that statement? Didn't think so.

It's no secret that BOTS was BOUT in Korea. It's an incredibly fun game but any hint of a poor transport and the public is going to rip us to shreds. We made a decision that we're not going to release this, even to closed beta participants, until we feel it's top notch. To be perfectly honest, I would love to trust 100% of our closed beta testers, but I'm not stupid, 1% are going to find something bad and then make sure EVERYONE knows about it. We're not going to be able to get the game perfect, that's the whole point of beta testing, but we're going to get it as close to perfect as possible.

#2 Pimp my BOTS

We're setting up some really cool things to happen within and alongside BOTS. For one, the advertising system. As many know, BOTS has a cash store system. We love the idea but it's mostly untested in the US market. You wouldn't base your whole business on an untested model and we wouldn't either. That's why we're adding ads, it protects us if the cash store thing doesn't take off.

Now before you go all negative on me, there another reason. The ad system is a great opportunity for everyone, because this is going to allow us to provide you some great content for free. Like I mentioned in earlier posts, advertising supports incredibly valuable content in almost all other entertainment channels. TV, radio, magazines, etc. If this works, US gamers won't have to pay a ton for great games, they can choose to play games supported by ads. It's not for everyone but it does open a door a little more.

I got off track. So we're getting the ad system set up and everything that will go with it. This, as well, needs to be done right. There's another surprise down the road but I can't tell you yet. Don't you hate that? Me too; but I know and you don't and that makes me feel better. =p Seriously, some surprises are worth waiting for.

The bottom line? We're aiming for as soon as possible. If you don't hold me to it, I think we should have something by the end of the month. I'm sorry for the delay but all the work we're putting in is going to ultimately make this more fun for you. That's all for now.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Innovative instant messaging service, lessons to learn.

Have you heard of IMVU? It's an instant messaging service with a twist. Instead of just text, you can use avatars. Not only that, you can place that avatar in settings like a room. Wait, there's more, you can dress up your avatar. Not good enough? Your avatar can even gesture and interact with someone else's avatar. Still not convinced? They allow consumers to create content of their own and sell that content. Yes, you heard right, they sell content in a cash store, similar to Korean games. That shirt you see there, it costs $.50. That's a hot shirt, worth every penny (Not a FFXI shirt though)

Sounds like an innovative and good idea to me.... so why hasn't it taken off? I heard about it when it launched. That was over a year ago, why haven't I heard anything about it since?

Instant messaging is huge (article on IM and IMVU here). There are so many numbers out there, I don't know which to quote you but for the teen to young adult demographic, IM is always the number one use of the Internet.

IMVU got $8million in funding, (Captain Obvious stepping in) that's a whole lot of money. Maybe I'm being unrealistic but I expected more from them. So what happened?

I think two things. #1 A miscalculation of human behavior. #2 Flawed execution of the cash store revenue model.

#1 Why do you instant message? It is a communication device that is wholly unique to our generation. You can chat with best friends and total strangers at the same time. You can talk about nothing at all or the explore the deepest of emotions. Seems like you can do anything. However, one word defines and confines instant messaging: Casual.

For me, it's a casual conversation, exchanged through a casual channel, at a casual pace. It is as easy for me to jump into a conversation as jump out. I can multi-task, talk to 20 different people at the same time (my record is actually 11). I can take time to respond and be as sage or witty as I want. All of this because I can reside safely behind the text. (By the way, this also applies to text messaging)

When you get imagery involved, a whole other part of our brain kicks in. Once we get visual, we expect responses; smiles, fidgets, nervous ticks, bashful turnaways etc. (PlayOn has a great post about this specific to MMORPGs). Suddenly you are no longer in the safe zone provided by "casual". Silences are no longer as comfortable. The ease of smilies is replaced by awkward animations. This is the same trap that has prevented webcams from taking off. Frankly, I don't think 3d instant messaging works.

#2 The second thing going against IMVU is their revenue model. It's one thing to take an accepted paid service and provide it for free (Acclaim's route). It's a entirely different challenge to take a free service and try to charge something for it. The revenue model they chose, however, probably made it worse. Don't get me wrong, I totally believe in cash stores and I definitely believe in allowing consumers to contribute products. The problem lies in the fact that they are charging for items that are inarguably connected to problem #1.

Don't underestimate the value of a visual, especially a visual used in a communication channel. We're no longer talking about a buddy icon, we're talking about what is supposed to represent you. I know what some of you are going to say, "What about MMORPGs"? In that situation, you're role playing and there's a cognitive disassociation you can achieve. This is not the case with instant messaging, you are representing yourself. That puts a lot of pressure on getting the right visual, the right things to represent you. You have no choice but to go through this with real clothes, but do you really want to do this with virtual clothes and then pay for it?

You add everything together and you have a combined effort of trying to teach the public a whole new way to communicate, charge them for something they had for free and convince them to pay for items.

There are lessons to learn and questions to ask from this that we can apply to online games. As more publishers move towards increasingly innovative entertainment and revenue models, these concerns will become more prominent.

First, be aware of human nature. Visuals have a lot of baggage attached to them. Take a step towards more realism and you better know what you're getting into (this is why I like the art direction WoW took, also check out this Wired article on better graphics creating less realism). Realism triggers instinctual responses that are tough to break.

Speaking of instincts, the human impulse to be social is a powerful tool and ally but are you doing it right? You have to create a social framework and hope expectations don't exceed your framework. I previously posted about feeling something was missing in EVE: the crowds. I was expecting it to be like other MMORPGs and I didn't get that.

Next, understand the value of your content and why someone would pay for this content. What do they gain from it? How does it change their use of your product? What does ownership of this content imply about the owner? Is your product balanced without the paid content? Regardless of whether or not they get a tangible item, people spend money for very specific reasons. Virtual content won't provide shelter or nutrition, so it's all about the social element. How will this increase my social standing, help me reproduce or increase my sense of self? These are the things your players will be asking when they think about spending money on your items and you better have thought through the answers.

Personalizing it a bit, these are the things I'm struggling with now. We have a cash store in BOTS. Is it going to work? I'm trying to make sure it provides value to us as well as to our players. I know I'm not going to be able to think of everything but I hope I thought of all the big issues. Is there something I didn't think about, let me know.

Never too early to plan for E3...

Oh this has nothing to do with the company. I'm talking about what I'll be wearing.

Let's see:

There's "I was young and needed the experience points"

There's "The mechanical squirrels are watching"

There's the WoW quest cap

There's Horde Crossing

Not to forget my FFXI times, there's "Decent Challenge"

I did love being a White Mage

All the above available at Cafe Press, keywords Warcraft and FFXI.

Other than the fun of shopping for tees, I'd like to point out that this is a great example of consumer generated media or CGM (I previously wrote about consumer generated ads here). I really don't understand why marketers (and companies in general) don't engage their consumers that are doing this stuff. If positive content like this isn't getting attention, how the heck are consumers with concerns/gripes going to be heard. If someone makes a cool BOTS shirt, I'm telling you right now, I'm going to buy dozens and make every Acclaim employee wear one. Then I'm going to put it on the site and make that fan some dough. Any takers?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Judging video game online ads, Idol style

So I intended to get all Simon on these ads but then, I chickened out. Paula... nah. So we're left with....

Look dawg, ads are tough. You got to sell but not sell out. Ok, I'm feeling ya, I'm feeling ya. Let's see what you got.

(hehe, enough with that)
I apologize for not being able to show you the actual ads, the best I can do is screen grabs. But if you surf around game sites now, you'll run into these.

Not Going to Hollywood
D&D Online - What exactly are they trying to sell here? The medallion right? Right.

Sour Notes - No info about the game. Logo overload. No copy whatsoever. Excessive use of... medallion.

High Notes - Clean layout

Onimusha - Paula likes this one, but that's not enough.

Sour Notes - A little busy, could use one or two less characters. Too much copy.

High Notes - Good use of color to make name pop.

Elder Scrolls IV - This ad cycles through about 3 reviews then falls flat.

Sour Notes - Logo overload again, why do we need to see everyone's logo? Way too much copy to read, no one will stick around for that.

High Notes - Prominent game title on top.

You're Going to Hollywood Dawg!

Ape Escape 3 - I love monkeys! This ad gets it done.

Sour Notes - I would have loved to see a call to action, like "Click here to find out more"

High Notes - Great attention grabbing intro screens (3 cute monkeys, see, hear, say no evil). Payoff screen shows game footage. Final copy talks about game story. Single PS logo. Game title on top. Art direction and colors pop.

Wendy's Spicy Chicken Sandwich - When I first saw this ad, I said, "Uh duh, of course! How do you know me so well?!" (This is not a game ad but an ad towards gamers, so sue me.)

Sour Notes - What exactly are you trying to sell me? I would have clicked if I had more info.

High Notes - This ad shows that you don't need cool images to grab attention. The art direction, colors and movement was enough to capture the eye. The copy did the rest.

Auto Assault - This ad was a full video with copy overlays and a nerve wracking countdown timer on the bottom.

Sour Notes - Not much, I would have liked to see longer scenes rather than jerky clips.

High Notes - Video works for me. The best part of this ad is the countdown timer. Lets me know the game is in beta, that there's a final event, and that it's about to end soon (which means the game is released soon). Brilliant. Game title is prominent through the whole thing.

I actually don't have anything to say about these but I thought I'd butch up the blog a bit.

In summary:

  • We really don't need to see the logo of every company that has touched the game, just show me the game title and the publisher.
  • Keep it simple and use a clean device to grab my attention.
  • If you're going to show me a lot of visuals, at least show me something about the game.
  • Tell me what to do next, should I click, buy the game, or what?

Blog update: is live

I went ahead and got set up, it redirects here. So if you haven't bookmarked me, are not getting this through a feed and since I'm not showing up on Google... you can type the .com url and get here too. Have a nice day!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Microsoft, Xbox and Online Ads

Reuters reports that Microsoft is trying to get more serious about online advertising. Coming from the ad world myself, I think it's about time. They were way behind the game with search, even now, they're trying to push MSN search but I doubt it'll get any traction.

The silver lining is in games and according to the article. "Microsoft envisions adCenter to one day be a one-stop shop for advertisers to gather information then buy ads on search results, Microsoft-related sites and services, non-Microsoft sites, mobile phone software or even online Xbox video games."

Catch that last part? If Xbox Live starts becoming ad supported, that would be interesting. I'm guessing, at best, it would offset subscription costs to Live. Maybe no one has to pay to play online anymore. Would they go so far as to offer games for free? Somehow, that's tougher for me to believe or maybe I'm just scared that they'll move in on our strategy before we find our own footing.

I just hope they do it right and don't scare everyone off the ad-supported game model before it has a chance to prove itself. Crossing my fingers.

Google World Domination Watch: Breaking News

My friends and colleagues will be familiar with Google World Domination Watch, my periodic update on how Google will take over the world... sans evil.

This latest news is pretty big. Google just bought a startup focused on providing online word processing, the product is called Writely. AHOOGA! Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, klaxons are sounding.

The NYTimes covers it here, via MarketingVOX

Ok, here's my weak attempt to give this relevance to this blog. This is a move towards online content replacing the traditional software distribution and consumption model. Digital distribution is where it's at. Finally, if I know Google, this will be free and supported by Google ads. Doesn't make Acclaim's strategy that far fetched now does it?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Video games to help with ADHD

Finally, some good press for the industry. A clinical psychologist in Florida has patented a game system that helps patients with ADHD increase focus and attention. The system works with off the shelf games and patients put on a big helmet that scans brainwaves. US Today article is here, via Kotaku.

I hope this works and it totally makes sense to me. Very few activities put me in a zone quite like that from games. In fact, I hate to admit this, but I do something I'd like to call the gamer bark. What's that you say? Oh, you know what I'm talking about, you're playing Halo and then...

Sig. Other/Mom/Friend/Roommate walk into the room and says, "Wah waaah, wah, wah wah."

Your brain thinks, * Covenant scum, 6 o'clock... reload, reload! *

"Wah.. waah waah!? Wah!"

* If only I had one of these on the freeway *


* Huh, what, who'zat? *

The surprise of the real world so viciously rips you away from Halo that your brain doesn't have time to pull back the pleasantries and manners you've learned these many years into play and so no real words come out, just a noise, "Rwarrryavant?" That, my friends, is the bark.

The ADHD video game treatment system, side effects may include barking.

People watching in MMORPGs

As I mentioned here a few days ago, I started playing EVE. My initial reactions still apply: The A/V sensory experience is amazing, the gameplay is unique.

Something's been missing though and I couldn't figure out what. That is, until earlier tonight, when I was out at the movies and people watching.

(By the way, do not go watch UltraViolet, you will want to UltraKill yourself from boredom. Hehe, I'm clever.)

EVE, which is all about spaceships flying around doing their things, is so large in scale that players rarely get a chance to clump. I wasn't feeling lonely in the game, in fact, the chat was very lively and everyone was extremely friendly. The problem is, no one was visually around.

Now I had to think back and compare this to WoW, EQ or FFXI. And I realized that the visual cues of other people playing are a very powerful force. When I see a line of people at the bank or a hunting group on an opposite hill or a druid on a mailbox, there must be some lizard brain part of me that nods approvingly. This, the lizard brain concludes, is community. Even if you don't speak to anyone or never dally long enough to listen in, the presence of others going about their business makes your business more tangible, more rewarding.

Someone smarter than I should look into this and explain it to my little lizard brain. ::licks own eyeball::

It's midnight, do you know what your kids are Wooting?

Tonight's soliloquy is about (FAQ) and why they are the geniuses in interactive marketing and online retailing.

In the interest of time, I'm going to rush through the basic 411 about them without taking a breath...

::inhale:: They sell one item a day, just one. It starts at midnight central, and when it's sold out, nothing else gets sold that day. They sell random stuff from toasters to MP3 players, 5 bucks flat shipping on everything. There's a blog, a podcast, very active forums, a ridiculously simple purchase process and an overall silliness in everything they do and say that is unmatched this side of Strongbaaaad. ::gasp::

Whew, ok, got that? Now we move into some more advanced concepts. Here is what I've learned by observing Woot!.

  • Not Woot: Tell your consumers your products can do no wrong 100% of the time. Wonder why they stopped listening.
  • Woot!: Tell them you're selling them crap 5% of the time. They love you and even buy the 5%.
  • Not Woot: Filter all communications through PR, marketing and legal. Don't accomplish any communication.
  • Woot!: Become loved by your customers for having complete transparency into everything you do, such as:
    • Show how much revenue you make, when you make it and reveal KPIs (key performance indicators) to the entire world.
    • Point to posts in your own forums that bad-mouth the product or show Froogle price lists
    • Ask the consumer for advice, listen, then execute
  • Not Woot: Talk incessantly about your own perfect product and how everyone's life should gravitate toward it. Watch stock price gravitate towards earth.
  • Woot!: Write descriptions about products that rarely even mention the products themselves, run silly contests that build community and finally, let the customer know you care... but not that much, so they can get lost if they don't like it.
  • Not Woot: Conventions are practical and should be followed, it helps our stupid customers figure out what to do.
  • Woot!: Customers are people that appreciate simplicity but are not simple. Instead of
    • "Add to Shopping Cart", use "I want one"
    • "Shipping Address", use "Where should we send your stuff?".
    • "Personal Info", use "Who are you?"
I could go on but I'm hoping you see my point here. These guys are the masters are dealing with the empowered consumer. They know what people are sick of seeing out there and they have figured out a better approach.

Let's think about their accomplishment for a second. Think about all the choices we have today, think about the totally empowered consumer.... Woot! is able to take today's consumer and satisfy him/her with only one item a day. Just ONE! No, you don't get to pick a color or a size or anything. Just one. And yet the first-adopters of the Internet are going nuts for these guys.

I recommend following Woot! for a week and I guarantee that if you don't become a Wooter, you'll at least sense something refreshing about what they do. I talk a lot about open source marketing, about being transparent and partnering with consumers, these guys are doing it.

(For full disclosure: I am in no way associated with or know anyone that works there. This is just me really impressed by them. And umm, I bought a breadmaker 3 weeks ago from them. Sweet sweet bread in the morning, how I love thee.)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Video Game Generation interview, I'm so vain.

My interview with VGGen is here. The interview... it's standard stuff, me blabbing on. But let's take a count of the photos here: 3 shots of the game and 2 shots of me. Sing it with me now, "You're so vain, you think this interview is about you."

But but but... Arrrgh! Ok, so here's the story.

I sent two pictures of myself and said, pick the one you think works best. Because you know, some pubs are like serious and some are laid back and you know, I'm Mr. Chan-meleon, whatever color you need me to be.

Seriously, I didn't expect them to put up both. No one needs to see 40% dude in a video game interview. Really, no one wants that. How unfortunate.

(hee hee, VGGen, thanks for the coverage)

Grammar and spelling so bad, it made my eyes water

Now normally, I wouldn't do this and it's probably against at least three ethical codes of conduct but what the heck*, check out what I got in my inbox:

"i have wote a game so wot do i do send it to you by post or by email please write back."

(When I was in the South, I learned a phrase that the ladies use. "Bless his heart". You would use this phrase after saying the meanest things but it would be ok, because the phrase is the salve that makes it all ok. Example: "He's dumb as a rock, bless his heart".)

That is the stupidest email I have ever read, bless his/her heart! Now I can spend time explaining why that's bad and why you should never write to a professional (hehe, I'm professional) in that way or why message board vernacular doesn't cut it in business land... but I won't.

Instead, I'll focus on my own demons. "What if this person actually wote an incredible game; the next Halo? What if the sheer brilliance of this person is hidden behind regretful communication skills?" I thought. You know, I don't want to be the guy that judged Einstein by his hair. So I actually sit down and craft up a response: "Thank you for contacting us, we don't normally solicit games, yadda yadda blah blah". I was this close to hitting send and then I thought, "Are you kidding?"

I'm not a snob, I swear, but I can't condone this type of behavior. I can't do it! I'm sorry Wote, I'm ignoring your email.

(*If you wonder why I keep the words G rated, it's because of the BOTS audience that might one day happen upon this blog.)

If grammar interests you, please read "Eats, Shoots & Leaves"

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Howard talks to about 9Dragons

Whew, cat's out of the bag. I can speak freely now.

Check out the interview here.

Something cool about the game:
"Each clan has its own style but the player is not just going to a trainer and is given a fighting skill, the player must earn the skill through mini games and practice to acquire the full use of the skill. This is definitively different than other games. The game offers over 400 unique martial arts styles and over 500 different items of martial arts weaponry. This kind of depth gives our game a unique differentiation."

I can't wait! The best part, I can totally use my real name. Master Chan, oh yeah!

Speaking of jobs, you think your job is bad...

Wouldn't be a true blog if I didn't tout some of my favorite "this or thats" occasionally, now would it?

One of my favorite TV shows not on Sci-Fi: Dirty Jobs on Discovery Channel

If I was a cheeky TV show critic, I'd call it "A steaming pile of good times". But I'm not, so I'm just going to call it "a great way to feel better about your own job". Ok, fine, I have a slight man-crush on the host, Mike Rowe, he's my hero. What's it to you? Don't judge me!

Interested in a job in interactive media?

Well, I don't have one for you but you can get some very sound advice from industry expert Robbie Whiting.

Robbie is the Interactive Development Director for TBWA Worldwide, the people that bring you all those cool ads for Apple, Playstation, Pepsi, Nissan and Energizer. He's such a great guy he started a site for those trying to break into that industry. If you're at all interested in interactive media (advertising, search, sites, tivo, wireless and all that good stuff), check out his site: The Digital Career. (He literally just started it so bookmark it and check back often)

For full disclosure: I used to work with Robbie and he totally promised he'd sign up for BOTS if I posted about this. One more registration, sweeeeet!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

How much does everyone hate advertising?

Apparently, not that much.

According to a study in this AdAge article (free registration required), 72% of consumers would happily watch a 30 second commercial if they could download, for free, a TV show for their video iPods. Makes sense to me!

Women and the games they play... er, video games I mean.

If you, like I, didn't know: There was an event in San Francisco for our lady gamers out there, the Women in Games International conference. Wired covers the story here.

Two highlights: Microsoft Casual Games says 7 of 10 players are women. No one knows how to attract more women to games. We seem to just know what currently attracts women.

We're still a few years away from figuring out this one and I think it's a supply side problem. You know what I would love to see? An all female-staffed game developer. Does one exist? If not, why not?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

$1million prize x bleh = bleh

I was chatting with a friend from FFXI (ThuggyChan) and he told me about a $1million prize for playing an MMO game, called Risk Your Life. Basically, you get the $1M if you're the last player standing in a very long tournament. Why have I never heard of this game?!

So of course I did my research and wow, I don't know what to say. See a press release here. This story is months old and I wasn't going to write about it but then I thought, wait a sec, this is actually a great time to talk about this.

It's safe to say they took a risk; now I'm not sure if it paid off or not since I don't know their financials. I was, however, able to find that they reached a 100,000 user mark. I'm sure they're not paying the full $1M in cash, (taking out my old finance book) so with a 20 year annuity and a decent inflation rate, they're probably paying $500,000 or $5 a user. With a standard subscription model, that's not a bad price to pay to get a user. In that sense, I like it.

Overall though, it doesn't make sense. Sure, it excites players to have a chance at winning, but at the end of the day, I'm going to be knocked off early and guess what, if the game isn't entertaining, I'm not keeping my subscription. Big splash tactics fall into this short-term gain, long term weakness trap.

I really hope it's a good game.