Wednesday, May 31, 2006

In defense of the PS3 price

So the gaming public has talked a lot about the price of the PS3 at release, more than $500. Most of the buzz has been overtly negative or apprehensive at best. I can understand the concern of the public, that's not a small figure considering that Nintendo has just announced that the Wii will be $250 and you can buy a decent Xbox 360 for a hundred dollars less than the proposed PS3. Have no doubt, the console wars will be waged on a price-based battlefield, but I don't believe the PS3 is starting off gimpy.

The target markets for the different consoles are (based solely on my own analysis):

  • Wii: Young and families
  • Xbox360: Teens and college crowd
  • PS3: Xbox targets and young professionals
The fact is, gamers have matured and those of us that grew up with the original Nintendo are pulling in quite a bit of disposable income. My guess is that PS3 is banking on the fact that a significant portion of their buyers are never going to utter the words, "Mom, can I have a PS3?" We are the generation that grew up with consoles and having one in the home is not a luxury but a commodity. If you're a young professional, you're not going to buy a child's console (Wii) and given the choice between an Xbox or a PS3, why not shell out an extra $150 and get the best in class?

I have no worries that the PS3 will do just fine (though not as well as they will want). You just won't see the success of the prior Playstation generations because I think the market has grown beyond the ability for a single console taking significant share. What you'll see is the three consoles catering to their respective audiences and fighting viciously where those audiences cross over.

This may be a trend

I'm pretty sure I don't have a thing against Burger King, it just seems like I'm running into some questionable campaigns from them lately.

A German BK campaign revives the old Marlboro man imagery.

It's kinda ironic if you think about the latest "anti" movement. Anti-fast food is almost as enthusiast as anti-smoking nowadays. This ad neatly gives the finger to both movements at once.

Those fast food guys, they're nothing if not efficient.

via Coloribus

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

When marketing is art and art is marketing

via Digg, and Seth's Blog. A guy is stenciling the numbers 1 - 1000 in blue on white canvas and selling them online. So far, he's sold over 100 numbers/pieces. This is stretching the definition of art... but it is artistic marketing.

Basic economics courses could have a field day with this. How does an artificially limited supply affect demand? Where is the tipping point from coaxing a few idiots to buy one to the rest of the population must having one? How does the Internet create value via superficial social ties (hmm, that guy bought one, maybe I should join the club)?

Marketing is all about conveying value. Sometimes that value is genuine and sometimes it's not. Value is a construct of fiscal, psychological and physiological influences. If you think this guy is doing something outrageous, let me remind you that you probably bought bottled water recently. He's a marketing artist and whether or not you agree with his art, he has done a nice job of building something out of nothing.

I would buy one but it just doesn't work with the art I already have.

Stand-up about Nintendo

via Destructoid, via Digg, a standup routine on Nintendo:

At first I laughed, then I wondered why I laughed. To be honest, what this guy is saying isn't really that insightful nor is it witty. I think it's funny because he has good delivery but mostly because my generation has always enjoyed gaming as a closeted pasttime. It's my generation's little inside joke and now we're finally old enough to come out of the closet and laugh a little about it.

I once saw a really insightful photograph that pretty well summed up another earlier generation. It's called "Boys with Their First Car". (By the way, you have no idea how insanely difficult it is to find a photograph without knowing the title, photographer or name. Even with Google, it took a while.)

I think my generation's version of this photograph would be everyone gathered around the Nintendo, its cartridge slot open and the boys taking turn blowing at it. Man, we're dorks. Hey, is there still room in that closet?

Monday, May 29, 2006

With Malice Toward None

With malice toward none; with charity for all;
with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right,
let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds;
to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan...
to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace
among ourselves and with all nations.

Abraham Lincoln, 1864, 2nd inaugural address

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Why 63,400,000 is no big deal

Over this weekend I've heard from friends not once, not twice, but three times that the American Idol finale got 63.4 million votes (LA Times article). This is usually followed up with the "more than any votes for President" and of course, the implication that our society is going to hell.

I'm a numbers guy so I'm automatically skeptical of any number thrown at me (since I've been known to throw a few "well-contexted but not always complete picture" numbers myself). I'm not going to go into the reasons why it's silly to try to measure the American Idol votes against the Presidential election. I'm just going to give the AI votes the benefit of the doubt and pretend they were just as legitimate a gesture of voting as a Presidential vote.

In this Wikipedia entry, we see that in the last Presidential election, Dubya received 62 million votes, 1.4 million short of the American Idol number. So it's true, there were more votes for two American Idol contestants than for the winner of the US President race. But let's even things out...

Kerry received 59 million votes and the other candidates got a handful as well. The total votes cast in the 2004 election was 122.3 million... effectively kicking American Idol's butt. Sleep well my friend, our society is safe, for the time-being.

Why do I bother bringing this up? I am always fascinated by our fascination with statistics. In my experience as an analyst, I was constantly asked for numbers. Unfortunately, what I realized shortly into my career was that I wasn't being asked for the real numbers, I was being asked for sound bites (preferably, positive ones). Real numbers are complex and are usually only relevant in the very specific context that generated those numbers. Translation: Not very useful for marketing and management.

In business, real numbers are cherry-picked for sound bites. Kids, never trust numbers.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Martin Burger King Jr? No thanks.

Ok, I'm not trying to pick on Burger King but I can't help it if they do stuff that ticks me off. The latest campaign from BK takes a page from Carl's Jr (Hardees for you in other parts of the country) and attempts to firmly plant burgers as "man food". I'm not sure what's the official name of the campaign but I'll call it the "I am man" campaign. If you must, you can watch the TV spot here, someone YouTubed it.

I have no problems with associating burgers as man food. The problem I have is the imagery within the ad. It's supposed to elicit feelings of revolution. The men in the ad are unapologetic and their manifesto (hehe, MANifesto) is "We're sick of having to hide our burger desires". That's cool, no problems with that.

What bugs me is the "I am man" signs from the TV spot. These are blantant rip-offs of the signs carried during civil rights protests: the "I am a man" signs. Sell burgers any way you want but hijack and, by doing so, demean, a historically significant and emotionally poignant part of the civil rights movement and you've gone too far. I'm disgusted by this. Call me a prude, say that I don't get the joke, or say that "it's just an ad" all you want but this is offensive to the real men that carried the real signs.

I'm a marketer, I know marketers are evil but this goes too far. You don't use imagery from something this noble to sell your stupid burgers. Hey, remember the dude from Tiananmen Square that stopped the tanks? Maybe someone should borrow that to sell deodorant with stinky-tank-stopping power. What about the Vietnamese monk and his act of self-immolation? I'm sure an easy tanning lotion could borrow some imagery. Offended yet? Good, because that's how I feel about this BK campaign.

Dear Burger King Execs: Turn on your famous flame broilers and use it to fire the brand manager in charge, then fire the agency and then put your own hands there for a few seconds; just so you learn never to do it again. Thanks!

[Update: I realize there are feminist issues in the ad that could offend just as much but I thought I'd try to stay focused and let others deal with those topics]

Friday, May 26, 2006

Visual drivel defended by marketing & creative drivel

Ok, help me out here. MSN and agency AKQA launched a new interactive campaign for MSN messenger called "The Way News Spreads".

What is it you ask? A single web page with animated doodles and a single link to MSN. Check out the page here.

I don't get it. To try to find some insight, I re-read the Clickz article about the campaign.

The agency's creative director describes it thusly:

He said the illustration's central theme is interconnectedness, which is the value proposition of instant messaging. He pointed out there are no loose ends on the site.

"There's a snake that jumps into a hole and jumps out of another hole in another place on the page," he said. "We didn't want to picture Messenger as the main part of the story. Messenger is just a way to talk to your friends, exchange ideas, share some thoughts. We wanted to explore, in a visual metaphor, how many ways you can [do that], and how that comes back to you." ...

The site is designed to reward those who look closely. Extremely observant visitors may even notice tiny messages written in Braille and Chinese characters hidden on the page in plain site.

Are you kidding me? This is a joke right? My favorite piece of drivel is the "We didn't want to picture Messenger as the main part of the story". Story? What story?! There is no story here.

Do they honestly think that in the ADD interactive world, someone (other than your ass-kissing jr. copywriter) is going to actually take the time to try to figure this out? No, no one is going to do that. I may buy it if you framed this as an art project but it's so obviously a campaign (banner ads will drive to the page).

Interactive consumers are impatient and a little stupid; trust me on this one, I've stared at reams of data that prove this. They like usability. They need a little hand-holding, because frankly, they don't have time to indulge in your esoteric creative ego-stroking. In my experience, if you don't provide a little guidance and some real story-telling (not the kind that starts with "once upon a time", but at least point to a place to start), users leave within 3 seconds. Three seconds! And that's only because it takes them 2 seconds to find an exit route.

This page is an unnecessary click between consumer and product. It would have been better for MSN's ad units to jump directly to a download page.

Please someone tell me that I'm flat wrong, being unfair, not "getting it" or a pompous arrogant jerk because if I'm right, it's just depressing.

Google + X-Men = Nerdgasm

Excuse me for the crude title but I'm probably not exaggerating. Don't believe me? Check out the X-Planet site.

It's a promotion for the X-Men movie that combines Google Maps with mutant listing and tracking. Site let's you create your own mutant profile and find other persecuted mutants.

A great idea and very well executed, even with the slowness at times. Tie-in with the movie is tight and gives you a great immersive feel (Check out events and watch the integration, brilliant!). I'm surprised at the low number of registered users though (less than 4k at my visit).

That makes me wonder what kind of site drivers are being employed. I have seen so many fantastic marketing sites die a lonely death because the companies behind them couldn't think past the creation part. People! I don't care how good your marketing idea is, it's junk if no one sees or uses it!

[By the way, Coke did something suspiciously similar with World Chill (public site is down, this is agency's mirror). Unfortunately, Coke didn't use Google, stupid stupid Coke. World Chill did let you log your location and your "chill" factor; which was kinda lame because it had nothing to do with anything else. Motorola had a lame attempt too with Pebl Pond. I think I'm going to call this stuff casual social-networking.]

So yeah, I made a mutant profile and I have the very heroic name of "Branded Newb" (ok wiseguy, you try to come up with something that doesn't sound stupid) with enhanced senses (the better to smell you my dear), teleportation (bad guys are coming, see ya!), force field (I get stuff thrown at me a lot) and kinetic charge (because Gambit is awesome!).

Bonus points for the first person who can tell me my specific location from the posted image. And yeah, I'm there because bad guys take vacations too and I'll be ready for em! If you must cheat, here's my profile.

via Random Culture.

[Update: Because I go that extra mile for you: Found out the work was done by Australian agency, Soap Creative. Site was launched 8 days ago on May 18th, which means they only got 4k registered users in 8 days. That's a horrible stat for a movie with this much following. C'mon Fox, spend some money on this, it's a cool execution.]

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lazy Thursday

Taking a break today. Check back tomorrow. In the meantime, check out some of the blogs to the right, always a good read. ~~>


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Google World Domination Watch

In this installment of Google Watch, Google faces off with wikis with the new Google Notebook. Interesting but doesn't seem very useful by itself. I wonder how they'll integrate this one with the rest of the services.

Phrases and such

I jot down random phrases I encounter or write in an offline journal. It's a slow news day so I'll share the last three entries:

"I don't like burning bridges; I just like placing automated guns at one end."

"It was like kissing wet sand, you had to wipe your mouth after."

"Cynics are just romantics with broken hearts." (This last one via IM from my friend JB)

Next Gen talks to Acclaim CEO [update]

Howard Marks, my boss, talks to Next Gen about the company's strategy. I'm embarassed to say that I didn't know he was doing this interview so I read it for the first time like everyone else. A particular bit from Howard that I liked:

"The videogame business is a product business. It's not a medium. Even though some people would like us to believe that it's a medium, it's not. The main reason is that it's a product sold at retail, it's tangible in your hands and has a cost attached to it. You look at other mediums such as TV, radio and cable -- they're a medium because the product is intangible."

To finish his thought, the "intangibility" of mass media creates certain attributes that make them sustainable. They are easily accessible, affordable, amiable to the general population (via variety) and provide an avenue for cultural discourse. Retail products are not any of these as the transactional nature of purchasing limits all of the above (perhaps with the exception of culture shifting products like the iPods). Online games, however, meet these requirements easily. If you look at the statistics from...

Hello? Are you still there? Oh nevermind.

Dude, play BOTS! It's wicked fun!

[Update: Kotaku takes a jab, harsh. Joystiq has a little more faith but barely. Pudding's not ready yet guys, I'll let you know when it is.]

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I just ate 3,000 calories

I've been sick and my fever broke last night. At around 5pm this evening: I felt a hunger that's impossible to describe, something just hit me. My eyes widened, my nostrils flared and I started sniffing the air. For some reason my back hunched, arms dropped and I may or may not have howled a little. It was clear, I was ravenously hungry!

My beloved friend Tania took me to Dinah's Diner, local comfy joint, where I ate the following:

  • 5 slices of bacon
  • 4 waffles
  • 3 biscuits with gravy
  • 2 pieces of fried chicken
  • 1 heaping mound of mashed potatoes
  • 2 packages of saltines
  • 3 bites of cole slaw
  • 4 thingies of strawberry jam
  • 5 glasses of "diet" coke
After only having soup for the past few days, I'm feeling pretty good right now. Why I decided to tell you guys this, I don't know.

Just know that you're a better person now for knowing. =)

Blogher network

Via Adplup. A fantastic commercialization idea for blogs, the Blogher network: a group of blogs written by women (for women). Advertisers buy into the network and reach the select reader audience of these blogs.

  • Great for advertisers because it is narrowly targeted (efficient)
  • Great for bloggers because they get income and recognition into a network
  • Great for readers because it gives them relevant advertising and keeps their favorite writers compensated.
I'm ready to do this for "marketing, online games and geeky dude" blogs. Who's with me?!

Live Green Go Yellow ARG campaign

A buddy of mine pointed me to the recent alternate reality game (ARG) from GM for their "Live Green, Go Yellow" campaign promoting ethanol fuel. The campaign is called, "Who is Benjamin Stove?" and is basically a conspiracy theory about some family's history and crop circles. Overall, I'm not impressed.

I spent the last 30 minutes navigating through various blogs and other destinations and have been... underwhelmed. The initial hook itself never got me excited, some guy finds an old painting of crop circles in his family home.... crop circles, oh boy! There's a hidden note inside the painting?! I didn't see that one coming. It goes downhill from there. The ingredients are all there for a good ARG, they just cooked it badly.

Don't get me wrong, I love ARGs, just not this one. If you want to experience a really cool ARG, check out the Giantology blog. It's the first step in a very elaborate ARG for the Playstation "Shadow of the Colossus" game. (Full disclosure, I used to work for Tequila, the agency that did this campaign. BTW, Congratulations to Nick, Glenn, Mako and team, they won a huge award for this campaign last week!)

If you stumble upon any new ARGs, let me know.

OMG that sux

From Reuters: Fewer characters being used in written Chinese.

OMG, IMHO this sux.

Future generations ~> SOL.

WYSIWYG-ization > history & culture.

Thx, ttyl!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Crunching numbers

There are 6.5 billion people in the world; walking around and occupying, on average, approximately 2 square feet. In an ascetic extreme, any other space is tertiary. In reality, we all leave an ecological footprint that's measured in acres. In the spaces between, we live our lives.

An artist, Michael Wolf, has photographed 100 homes in Hong Kong. Each home measures 10 feet by 10 feet or 100 square feet. The work is called 100 x 100.

Since I've been sick as a dog for the last two days, I don't have the mental capacity to describe what I'm thinking when I look at the images. They do, however, make me think about a lot of things and isn't that what art is supposed to do?

Random article on in-game ads

Reuters writes about in-game ads. Ho hum, nothing new if you're a regular here. If not, take a look, it's a good summary. The buzz is building....

Voicing a concern

(Warning: This post is probably 10 years late but I decided to post it anyways)

I like animation. As a kid, it was simply because that's what we're expected to watch and it was fun. As an adult, I enjoy the story-telling possibilities of animation. Animation lets the storyteller convey ideas without the constraints of silly things like budgets and physics and provides a cognitive lubricant for the suspension of disbelief. Something has been bugging me lately though:

Can you name the person who voiced Snow White? How about Fievel from American Tail? Don't worry, me neither. No offence to those voices, but it really didn't matter back then. Those were classics and the characters did not stand on the shoulders of the voice actor.

This is not the case now. Since Toy Story, with its all-star cast led by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, the voice of the animated character is gaining in importance. Look at the credits of the animated movies coming out this summer: Over the Hedge, Cars, AntBully, Barnyard, Open Season. I won't list all the familiar names but almost all the main characters in these movies have familiar actors (actresses too, I'm lazy, sue me).

The advertising for these movies tout these actors in the same breath as the movie's plot. Does this really help make these movies more marketable? If anything, it only helps getting parents into the theaters, the young kids have no idea the value that Paul Newman can bring to the voice of a car.... do they? Probably not.

To me, taking away the anonymity of character voices takes away part of the magic of animation. We have so little magic left in this world, can we keep this?

Abrupt transition into relevance for this blog...

Games have used Hollywood actors for years as well. Some examples:

The Bond games use the actual actors to voice the game characters (this makes sense, they're shooting for "reality"). In Oblivion, the emperor is voiced by Patrick Stewart (they don't market the game with this and I love PS but it's shocking the first time you hear him). Ving Rhames has been in 3 games (seems to be harmless). For the younger crowd, Rachel Leigh Cook and Mena Suvari are in Kingdom Hearts II (Nothing to say but wanted to continue the trend of parenthetical statements).

At this time, games are not where animated movies are at in terms of name-dropping. However, it's probably not far over the horizon. I already know I'm not going to like it. Like animated movies, part of the magic of games is the immersion into the story. A familiar voice can pull me out of a game (original story, not movie license like Bond). It may not ruin the experience but more often than not, it doesn't enhance it.

I think I have a valid point so why is this happening? Am I missing something? Am I just an old fogie?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Saturday Fiction Matinee: Overheards

Overheard at Best Buy, customer standing in front of Tivo, to salesperson:

c: "Does it keep track of what it records?"
s: ".... umm..."

Overheard at the Coffee Bean, woman on cell phone:
w: "Hun, he's a nice guy, I really liked him"
w: "Don't do that... You'll regret looking in there..."
w: "...oh that's ok, it's not contagious."

Overheard at the gas station, guy to girlfriend while pumping gas:
g: "This gas is hurting"
gf: "We can drive my car more often"
g: "This IS your car!"
gf: "I luvvv you"

Friday, May 19, 2006

Say "Hello" with Picasa

Second test of "Hello" software. Last night at the Venice Whaler, during Karaoke: Austin does his "sleeping hampster". I'm confused.

[Manual edit: Just used Picasa with Hello to send this post automatically to Blogger. I'm impressed, very user-friendly process. I counted less than 4 clicks from uploaded images to live on blog (after initial set-up, of course).

Ever since I chose to use Blogger for Branded Newb, I've been wondering if I made the right choice. When I decided, it was simply because it was associated with Google so I figured that they would eventually put some resources into it to integrate it with other offerings. Still haven't seen anything mind-blowing yet but this Hello thing is nice.]

[Edit 2: I just noticed, no titles. Hmm, that's not very cool. Added one myself]

Testing the Picasa "Hello" software integration with Blogger....

Last night at the Venice Whaler, during Karaoke: Tarrah's magnetic personality pulls at me. Someone points the way to the bathroom, I think. Posted by Picasa

A Happy Little Post

Do these words ring a bell?

  • Phthalo blue
  • Burnt Umber
  • Titanium White
  • Bristle Filbert Brush
  • "This tree needs a friend here"
  • "Here's a happy little cabin"
If they do, you're probably as excited as I am about this. That's right, the Bob Ross video game is coming out (I'm late to the news but apparently it's pretty official now).

I used to be addicted to watching Bob Ross, stronger than any barbiturate, he could lull me into a stupor in 3 minutes flat. I wouldn't immediately fall asleep though, because I didn't want to miss the ending (and you have to see the ending because you never know if he's going to lose it and paint something really cool. I wanted to see Bob set the forest on fire, but just once.). When he was done, I would sleep so well... dreaming of happy little bunny friends in titanium white.

Ahhh ::happy sigh::

The Wii: precariously close to overhype

If you're a game news junkie, articles about the triumphant showing of the Wii at E3 have been as unavoidable as stains on a brand new shirt (sorry...studies show that Friday analogies are often flat). I would say that 95% of what I've read so far has been extremely positive and double-dipped in hype. During this entire week, however, something has been nagging at me.

Everyone is talking about the system, but is anyone talking about the games?

Cool controllers: Check. First class hardware: Check. Best in class games: Umm, we're going to have to get back to you on that.

I don't mean to burst anyone's bubble but I'm going to reserve my judgment of how successful the Wii will be until I see more info about the games. I am just not in the camp that a system will be a market leader based on hardware alone. Hardware - Games = Junk.

The PS2 released in '00, which is the best selling console of recent history, didn't hit it's stride until 2002, when the games caught up to the hardware. (PS2 sold 10million units from release to about Nov. '01, from then to Jan '03, almost the same time period, it sold 40 million more.)

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the Wii isn't going to be huge. There is the very real potential that some game developers are going to leverage the controllers to create incredible gaming experiences (the novelty of the controllers will quickly wear off if they're the same type of games as everyone else but just controlled differently). Until I see hints of that happening, I'm not going to jump on this bandwagon.

Buy it now!

It's a week after E3 and since I only spent 3 hours on the actual floor, I'm deep in regret for not seeing more games and picking up more schwag. To torment myself further, I made a visit Ebay to check out the gobs of money I could have made if I had filled up with goodie bags.

One man's trash...

Gears of Wars Xbox360 Faceplate - $181.00

Wii T-shirt - $27.50

Set of 6 lanyards (the things you hang your badge on) - $41.00

Metal Gear Solid poster - $4.99

One set of some dude's pictures on CDrom - $10.00

Not making a priceless joke - priceless

Screw it, I'm going to sell all my old E3 badges (going all the way back to 2000). You, yes you, can slip on one of these badges (lanyards not included, but I know where you can find some) and BE Ken Chan. How incredibly mind-blowing a concept is that? Stun your friends at parties by putting on and taking off the badges. "Look, I'm Ken... not Ken... Ken again... not Ken"

As an added bonus, badges where I was an "artist" or "band manager" (no joke) are worth a lot since I was neither at the time. Starting bid for the set: $2.74

Good luck!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Play that funky remix

My first love was King Quest's III, sure I dabbled in casual relationships with some Atari floozies for a while but with KQ3, it was serious. I'm not shy about it either, it's on "professional" profile. That game did something that no other game at the time could do, make me skip a meal. Keep in mind that I was 10 years old at the time... I liked my eat'n time.

Boy was I in love with that game; it was a sweet union of books and games. Interestingly enough, it helped me learn to type too. I remember frantically trying to key in commands before some really unsavory thing happened to my character. But enough about my memories. Apparently, a lot of other people have had fond memories of that game too.

I ran into a group called "Infamous Adventures" who have the very fantastic goal of remaking KQ3 in VGA (that's better graphics (256 colors) than CGA (4 colors) or EGA (16 colors) if you never heard the acronym). They're basically giving the entire game a nice makeover with new images, effects and sounds. A remix if you will. An explanatory trailer is here.

Once I got over my initial fanboy response of "OMG, I MUST PLAY THAT". I started thinking of games as a resource for remixing, like music. It makes me ponder the possibilities of "new" games if some really creative talents out there starting doing this. In the case of KQ3, it's just a makeover, but there's no reason it can't be more funky.

I can imagine blending side scrollers together, Pitfall + Super Mario? Or maybe FPS, Duck Hunt + Doom? Crazy combos, Zelda + Bubble Bobble. Has someone already done this and I missed it? I would love to see this happen.

Brand Manager's Log: The value of community

So we're several weeks into opening up BOTS to the public and a little community is beginning to form. What has amazed me is the tremendous value our community has provided so far. Just to name a few items:

  • Bug reporting - which seems like a no-brainer since we're in testing phase, however, the worse case scenario is that no one tests and everyone just plays. This hasn't happened.
  • Game critique - providing feedback on the game itself; strengths, weaknesses and recommendations
  • Community - a nice warm and welcoming community has been formed with veterans (we already have them) helping out newbies.
  • Moral support - overall, the feedback has been positive which is rewarding for the development team, as well as myself.
  • Ownership of the product - this last one I didn't expect but I have already seen players taking ownership of the product by creating content (guild sites, imagery) of their own and identifying themselves in certain ways via the product.
Now I'm not going to take credit for all this good stuff happening, however, I do believe that certain actions on my part have helped facilitate these things. Here's my list:
  • Create the ability for users to communicate - this was easy, I shopped around for the most accepted message board system out there and implemented it. In addition, the game itself has some features for users to talk to each other and interact.
  • Encourage engagement - my approach to this was to practice what I preach. I have made myself as accessible as possible and frequently communicate via the same channels as the players. I didn't think this was something unique but many players have told me they have played other games where the developer side has never interacted with them or if they did communicate, it was via one-sided announcements. That's unfortunate. I'd like to think that being engaged myself and being open to the community, I'm promoting a certain behavior that gives our players the sense that they can follow suit.
  • Promote fun - Whenever possible, I try to throw fun into the element. We ran a tournament the other day and I created a room and invited players to beat me silly in the game. I know that's a dumb example but it's difficult sometimes to remember that games are about fun.
  • Know when to stay away - Even though I want to be engaged as a player as much as a brand manager, I have to know when to step back. There are certain threads on the message boards that I have been dying to jump in and be vocal, however, I know that due to my position of power (ha ha), it would sway the conversation. The community needs to work out issues on it's own.
So these are a few things I've noticed from our community and a few practices I'm trying to maintain. I'm not sure if this post is a recommendation or more of a mid-term post mortem. Either way, I'm pleased with how it's going. Unfortunately, we have a small group of testers right now, I hope this holds up when the masses join in.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What a difference a quarter column inch makes...

In the previous post, I talk about some recently released stats on gamer attitudes towards in-game ads. Next Generation picked up on the same stats and wrote an article on it. The very last sentence of the article...

"However, other companies' business models, such as the recently re-launched Massive partner Acclaim, will rely primarily on two revenue streams: in-game ads and in-game digital item purchases."

I'm pretty stoked (I grew up in the 80s, I can use this word without shame) that our strategy is being recognized out there. Not necessarily whether or not it's being recognized as good or bad, just that we're doing it. That's a big step towards re-establishing our brand. Excuse me a second while I give myself a proverbial pat on my marketing back. (I seem to be doing that a lot lately, sorry, I'm really not that arrogant, just a little arrogant)

I <3 Statistics

MarketingVox summarizes a Comscore report on gamers and their attitudes toward in-game advertising. If you don't like stats, you might want to back away from this post. If you're like me and your happy place is lighting some candles and relaxing in a tub of stats, take a look at these:

"Only 15% of Heavy Gamers [16+hrs per week] said they would be 'unlikely' to play games that included in-game advertising."

Since these guys are the toughest crowd to please, that's not too bad. Throw in the fact that you can offer games for free (like we're doing) and I'm sure that number will drop even more.

"The typical gamer has been gaming for 9 years and has been online for about 8 years... Gamers also spend more than twice as many hours online per month than the norm."

As suspected, the gaming public are probably also tech savvier than the normal population. Overall, I think the creep of ads into games will definitely cause a stir since those 15% of heavy gamers are pretty vocal. However, I don't think ads will be a deal-breaker, especially if developers know how to show consumers the benefits they are getting as well.

Finally, 100% of the people that have read this far into this post are total geeks. Ha ha, gotcha!

Your word of the day: Commoisseur

commoisseur (kom-me'sur) n. A person with expert knowledge and discriminating taste in MMO games.

Ionicwings is a true commoisseur of games, therefore, I value his reviews.

I couldn't tell you if WoW is great, I'm just a casual player, not a commoisseur.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

And for my next trick, I will guess the color of your underpants

So yesterday, I was in a pondering and apparently prognosticating mode when I posted about the lack of episodic and seasonal type of content in games. Today, I ran into the story on the return of Sam & Max, on both Joystiq and Kotaku. The stories are more about the trailer from E3 (which I didn't see, I swear!).

However, if you go to the game's site, specifically the FAQ. You see this little Q and A:

"So what are you up to?

Telltale Games is working with Sam & Max creator Steve Purcell to create an ongoing series of episodic Sam & Max games. We've partnered with GameTap to distribute the first season of games and share in the general revelry. (Dan Connors also got a nice t-shirt out of the deal!) Season 1 will debut this fall at GameTap and on Telltale's site with short, punchy episodes released in rapid succession, each telling a self-contained story, all the while feeding into a grander season-wide arc.

If this sounds kind of familiar, don't be alarmed. Look over at your television for a second and think about how TV seasons work. (To make the analogy sweeter, try and concentrate on the good shows.) It's kind of like that, but with funny video games."

That's pretty cool beans, especially because I LOVED the old Sam & Max. Oh giant ball of twine, how I miss thee.

Ok, and now I'd just like to take a minute and savor the sweet taste of relevance and timeliness of my earlier post. Mmm... so sweet... just like cinnamon sugar...

By the way, it's purple and what are you doing wearing purple underpants? Eww.

9Dragons videos

We posted up three new videos for 9dragons that show some of the fighting styles. Go to the site and click on the video listings on the right.

Since I recently shaved my head, I'm feeling a certain affinity for the Shao Lin monks. Go Shao Lin!

All wired up and no where to go?

I will give you select quotes from an interesting article and let's compare notes after, k? Here goes:

"Virtual nightclub offers teens alter egos"

" The club is a cross between, the social-networking site, and "World of Warcraft," a multiplayer online game."

"Young people will be honing their social skills within his virtual nightclub, which features all the trappings of a trendy hotspot: dim lights, Jacuzzi and bouncers."

"Littlefield hired a choreographer who personally approved a range of moves so the alter egos of the Lounge's patrons are sure to look good while they boogie."

"Young men will have a choice of standing erect or slouching in a cool, Brando-kind of way."

""Sure, kids in Los Angeles and New York know what a club experience is like," said Littlefield, who is from London. "But what about teenagers who live in Des Moines, Iowa?"

I'll give you a minute to let that all sink in....

Hey, can you pass the Diet Coke?.... Thanks... Mmm, that's good Diet Coke.... Ok, you ready? Good.

So what do you think, good idea, bad idea?

I can't help but think of those poor Iowa kids, they really do deserve to experience the clubbing scene too. Even better is the fact that they can now do it without the loud music, the booze and most importantly, the temptation of gyrating flesh. Plato's allegory of the cave applies here somehow...

Can't see how this couldn't be a runaway success, just gotta make sure we forget everything we know about human nature and adolescent acculturation.

Original CNET article here. Club site here.

Atari, you must believe!

In in-game advertising news: Atari doesn't think in-game ads are going to bring significant income to their business. This Next Gen article cites the publisher as saying that in-game ads are icing on the proverbial cake (paraphrased).

Ahem, Dear Atari.

Well... duh! You are holding onto the retail model of making games. Ads aren't going to play a big part in your games because you are presenting ads for "realism". It's like product placement in movies aren't going to ever replace ticket sales. But hey, whatever, that's cool if it works for you. Good luck with that, force be with you and all that good stuff.

But it hurts when you say, ""I don't ever envision an in-game ad serving deal having a dramatic impact on the financials of any particular company, Atari included..." Never say "never"... well I guess you said "don't ever"... whatever, same difference. That's quite a blanket statement and I for one, am disappointed at the lack of faith. Repeat after me: I believe!

I have an analogy here somewhere, something about a hot air balloon like our businesses and the ballasts as old ways of thinking and something about cutting dead weight but I can see your eyes glazing over. Let's just agree to disagree.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Season finale umm season

So we're in the middle of season finale season and my favorite shows on TV have gone on to summer bbqs and beach parties. I've always hated seeing these shows gone for months, it ruins my weekly routine and the "hanging", oh the "hanging". It's like being totally parched and then forced to watch your ice cold glass of Coke sweat and melt... totally out of reach.

I used to resent this but then as I "matured", I found that anticipation is as sweet as gratification. We like looking forward to things and consuming things and repeating the process. In life, we need things to begin, to progress and to end. It gives us a sense of being alive and allows us to grasp the immensity of life. Sure, I'm just talking about TV shows but it's appropriate as an analogy.

So this got me thinking: What effect does endless continuity and persistence in virtual worlds have on player psychology and enjoyment?

Let's take for example, World of Warcraft. For a loyal player of that game, there is a beginning, a progression but unforunately, there is no end. The game continues, until the player quits. I, as a player, have to consciously decide to end the relationship. Inevitably, I always feel like I have abandoned something before it has been completed. For me, this leaves me with a feeling of emptiness, an open-endedness that yearns for closure. Am I alone in this?

As virtual worlds (not calling them games on purpose) mature, I would like to see some episodic content. Something that I can join, consume and then watch it conclude. The world itself doesn't have to end but like shows on TV, there should be seasons that end. My belief is that this would improve upon the experience, mostly in terms of storytelling but also for player psychology. Am I insane?


Discovered via FastCompany, a consulting firm named: "Huh?"

It's actually a hilarious parody site that pokes fun at consultants, business speak and over-inflated marketing egos. I wish I was cool enough to join them.

Make sure you go to "Contact" and hit "Send" without adding any info.

The best line on the site:

"Are you confused yet? Of course you are. And that's just how we like it. Our marketing professionals are constantly coming up with new ways to make you feel inferior and stupid. Because you are. And we're not. We're new-age, eMoving, marketing consultants."

Back to work...

Ok, before we leave the E3 thing behind us, I wanted to give you an idea of what else I was doing last week (other than taking those useless photos and putting together silly posts about said photos).

I spent a lot of time looking at the batch of Korean games being promoted at E3 (mostly to US publishers). I can honestly say I was not terribly impressed with the lot. Most of them were just slightly modified clones of better games and the rest were criminally esoteric.

However, there were two games that really stood out. I liked them because they appealed to my American cultural bias, looked like a lot of fun and/or seemed to have tremendous market potential. Since I'm pretty sure these games aren't going to make it in the major press reviews, I wanted to give you a quick profile.

(Note: all links lead to Korean sites & most sites are IE only)
First up is a game called Magumagu from publisher CJ Internet; it's an online multiplayer baseball game with very cute art direction. Characters have huge heads and cute little expressions of joy, anger, frustration, etc.

The gameplay is classic baseball; it even includes team management. Unlike normal baseball, the twist in the game let's players use "spell cards" to execute special moves at bat or on the field. These cards are, of course, collectibles and can be traded amongst friends. This game was a ton of fun to watch and if a US publisher picks this one up, it might be huge.

The second game which I found amazing (it also had great art direction) was an MMORPG called Maison de Romance. (On the site, mouse over DataRoom and select the second option to see concept artwork. Also, my buddy over at has a post about MdR, you can also see the promo video there.) I got to see some game footage and it was definitely unique, a blend of pure fantasy and mech-gizmo funky (reminded me of Howl's Moving Castle).

The spin on this MMORPG is that it will focus on commerce and industry in addition to the usual fighting. Jobs will include archeology, mining, various crafting and mapmaking. Property ownership seems to be a priority for the developers with players having the ability to create unique content and then sell their creations. Overall, cool beans!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Game Never Over: Chapter 4

Continued from Chapter 3

"Game Never Over"
Chapter 4

After the incident with the contact, the henchman and the pavement, I realized that this mission was more complex and there's a lot more going on here than Q let on. It was time to get serious, time to search for signs of trouble... no matter how subtle.

I soon discovered that speaking to random individuals was getting me everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Even some folks that looked trustworthy brought me no closer to discovering the evil plot brewing within the convention.

Finally, I found a passage that looked out of place, even for Los Angeles.

Within this maw, the signs were so obvious! I was determined not to end up like the other agents. I crept cautiously deeper. The air smelled of sweaty palms and hot dogs with too many condiments. In a word, evil.

In no time at all, I found something most disturbing. Yes, evil definitely lurks in this place. I better hurry!

Right, must hurry. The city's in danger, must...... oh hello! What's this?

You know, it's been long day... Fighting for freedom is killer on the back. I'll just take a little break, surely nothing will happen in the next 10 minutes.

Meanwhile... on the other side of the convention center... a non-descript truck is being loaded with $2 million in cash; the payment for a weapon capable of horrific, terrible, ruthless and generally uncomfortable things. A weapon so big, powerful and shafty, it's mere presence sends a subliminal shiver through civilian spines. A weapon called game marketing.

5 minutes later, as the truck heads towards the desert... but only making it as far as the end of the parking lot, the weapon is triggered. Nothing can stop it.

Innocence is lost, replaced by violence, sex and chaos. It is a sad day in Los Angeles, a sad sad day.

Laid back in a massage chair and with eyes closed, a lone agent of a mysterious agency mutters the last words of the day, "A little lower... yeah, oh that's good"

The End

Game Never Over: Chapter 3

Continued from Chapter 2

"Game Never Over"
Chapter 3

Late into the day and weighed down by large bags of marketing junk, the collection of men with greasy-unkept hair and the scattering of women with fresh career doubts were moving with an infectious sluggishness. Under these conditions, like sitting in a room full of sleeping cats, it was difficult not to succumb to the mass lethargy. But I'm a professional. I kept my wits sharp, otherwise, I would never have spotted her.

Beautiful, blonde and with an impressive set of eyes... I knew at once that she was my designated contact. I've listened in to enough locker room chats back at headquarters to know that she was the mole, the one person that would let me in on the dastardly deeds being planned by our enemies.

I tucked my right hand into my front pocket, stroked my moustache-in-progress with my left hand and made my way towards her. I had been paying attention while walking the floor so I knew exactly what to do and say.

I placed my hand on her hip, leaned into her and whispered, "Hello, I hear you are fond of playing with the Wii. Would you like to play with my Wii... with me?"

Two things happened almost simultaneously: I noticed the sign beside her, which read: "Evil befalls those who touch" and an excruciating pain (greater than when I accidentally dropped my loaded PPK in the bathtub) hit me full force between the legs.

The world went dark.

When I came to, she was gone. I got up, brushed the gravel from the impact side of my face and wiped the wetness from the corner of my mouth... it must have been blood. I then realized quickly that she was not my contact but a decoy, what a fool I was.

I decided that I needed to change my appearance... and also go to the bathroom. I found one nearby but there was a line.

I found another location with a group of stalls. For some reason, I felt self-conscious while using these stalls.

Some guy offered to show me his hot flaming balls. No doubt about it, another henchman.

[Continue to Chapter 4]

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Game Never Over: Chapter 2

Continued from Chapter 1

"Game Never Over"
Chapter 2

I arrived at the Convention Center. No sign of hostiles or any sign of a contact. There was some event going on... clever... a very convenient cover for Russian/Colombian communist drug smuggling terrorist madmen. I secured an entry badge after trading my pager, sunglasses and $34 with a rather large long-haired hippy with a beard.

By the look of the vehicles, another agent was here. Better be careful.

Time to blend in and infilitrate

Military presence confirmed... I may have been spotted...

I retreated back into the crowd. A group of civilians were waiting around a bus stop... inside the building. Must have been some liberal Californian environmental thing, drive less or something like that.

I found more training... a mock-up of a subway car.

No sign of trouble... yet. Spotted a suspicious martial artist practicing some moves on TWO lighted floors at the same time! I kept an eye on him, looks like the henchman type.

I slipped away quickly...

[Continues in Chapter 3]