Friday, June 30, 2006

Women play mobile games more than men

Statistics from a research group says 59% of mobile game players are women. That means slightly more women play mobile games than men (thank you Captain Obvious). Wait a second. Women play mobile games?!

This is news to me. Maybe I've been stuck under a rock but I've never seen a woman play a mobile game. Granted, the accuracy of my solo poll is questionable but I've talked to at least 2 other people I know and they too have never seen a woman play mobile games. That's data from 3 really observant people; surely we are more accurate than this research group's findings.

Facetiousness aside (Did you know that "facetious" is one of the two words that has all the vowels and is arranged in the culturally accepted order of AEIOU? Thought you should know. Do you know the other?), this is very interesting news. What about mobile gaming makes it of interest to women? Is it that most mobile games are "casual" by nature due to the technology limitations? That seems like too obvious an answer to me.

I'm going to go out on my highfalutin limb (where I can easily be targeted and shot down) and propose another possibility. Perhaps it's not so much the games themselves but rather the way in which women consume these games. I have seen prior research that suggests that casual online games have appeal to women due to their easy "pick it up and lay it down whenever" experience. This is taken to a literal sense in mobile games and totally makes sense.

Now the next obvious question is why would women can't committ to a game relationship. This one is relatively simple, the fairer sex does not want to be caught dead playing video games.

Thinking back, there have been a few occasions when I have come home and heard rapid scuffling noises coming from my living room. As I walk into the room, I inevitably find the girlfriend of the moment (this phrase should in no way make it seem like I am a playboy) sitting there serenely watching some channel I never even knew I had. If I had only known to lay my palm on the Xbox and check for heat.

Now that I think about it, I've also noticed some women rapidly close browser windows when I approach; could that be more of this hidden activity? Yes, I think so.

Though women will remain mysterious in other ways, I believe I have solved why they play mobile games. Via this mental exercise, I have also explained why they don't play more hardcore video games. Ladies, as your comments of support and agreement start coming in, don't hesitate to drop your number. And gentlemen, you can thank me by sending me some good cigars (Romeo & Juliet robustos) and don't flatter yourself thinking that's a double entendre. Pervs!

via MarketingVox

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Canadians play dirty

A Canadian beer company, Kokanee, has put up a competitive website to specifically call to attention the "fact" that Coors for Canada is not brewed in the Rocky Mts. (as the advertising says) but rather in Etobicoke, Ontario. Kokanee's beer, however, is proudly brewed in Creston, British Columbia.

I bring up this little obscure site because of two reasons. First, competitive advertising sites are rare. Almost everyone is busy trying to talk about themselves and mostly in mediocre ways. What is interesting about this site (and campaign) is that they are using a passive aggressive approach to establish their own brand. In a sense, they are hijacking the brand equity of Coors (mountain brewed) in order to establish their own credibility. It's like someone on a stage yelling "Coors Lied!" and then sotto vocce, "Kokanee is better!" In addition, there are very subtle hints of anti-American sentiment, which I assume works in Canada. This whole competitive strategy is risky but I haven't seen anyone else do it so cleverly before; it might just work.

The second reason I bring up this campaign is because the site is fairly well done. I especially enjoy the integration with Google Maps (click on the brewery location names I provided above). What a great way to tell the location story! One look at Google Maps and you can see that they are located in the wilderness while the Coors plant is located in the city. This is brilliance! My only complaint is that they probably didn't need the points of interest markers, they could have let the satellite images speak for themselves.

Overall, this campaign is a good benchmark for competitive advertising online. Make it simple, use your competitor's strength to your advantage and jazz it up with some cool but not distracting technology.

Disclaimer: I do not drink Coors Beer or Canadian Beer. I'm a fan of Guinness.

via Adrants

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Random Idea: Calories on Receipts

This one shouldn't take too long to explain. I recommend that all restaurants should implement a system that prints out the calories of a food item right on the receipt. At the bottom would be a total calorie count for that receipt. So for example:

Welcome to McNewb

Western BBQ Fries - $1.25 - 325cal
Country Fried Salad - $2.56 - 530cal
Quadruple Chocolate Shake - $2.10 - 350cal
Large Diet Coke - $1.99 - 0cal

$ Subtotal: $7.85
$ Tax: $0.65
$ Total: $8.50
Cal Total: 1,205
Have a Nice Day!

You know my philosophy by now: empower consumers. Give consumers more information and let them decide what they should do with it. I'm sure most people will ignore it but I'd like to think that some will be able to use it to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

From a technology standpoint, I don't see this being a very difficult task, just a few database additions. Anyone in the restaurant operations biz listening?

How a Brand Manager Shops for a Game

I'm so over Oblivion. No one will sell me a house and I keep losing the stuff I hide in a barrel. I'm over it I say!

So time for a new game. Hmm, this press release for Titan Quest looks interesting:

"THQ Inc. today announced that Titan Quest(TM), the epic and immersive action Role-Playing Game (RPG) developed by Brian Sullivan's (co-creator of Age of Empires) Iron Lore Entertainment, has shipped to retail outlets worldwide. Lauded for its next-generation graphics and original story penned by Braveheart screenwriter Randall Wallace, Titan Quest is available exclusively for Windows PC at a suggested retail price of $49.99."
RPG game, good graphics, story by Hollywood screenwriter. Ok, let's keep reading:
"As huge fans of the action RPG genre, there was no question as to what Iron Lore's first project as a team would be," said Brian Sullivan, lead designer and president, Iron Lore Entertainment. "We are thrilled that after four years in development, our vision of the ultimate RPG experience is now releasing worldwide."
Wow four years, that's impressive. What does the press say? Quoted in the press release:
    * Game Informer (United States): "Easily the best-looking action/RPG
around." -- Review Score: 8.25 / 10

* (United States): "A propulsive experience that's very easy on
the eyes." -- Review Score: 8.1 / 10
I wasn't born yesterday; not going to believe what they have in a press release. What did they really say?

Game Informer Review: "Overall, Titan Quest gets the job done. It doesn’t really do much to bring the genre forward, but it doesn’t necessarily screw things up either."

Hehe, I can see why they didn't pick that part of the review for the press release. Review: "
If I'm harsh on Titan Quest, perhaps it's because I expected something clearly better than D2 to come out of the subgenre, after several years of opportunity -- and Iron Lore looked like a good fit.... If you find yourself a little disenchanted, though, it's probably not just you. I think it looks impressive and offers a ton of content, and there are certainly worse games with which to spend your summer days (and there are worse games coming out of new development houses)."

Hmm, modified truth in a press release? I'm SHOCKED. So what's the real story here?

GameSpot Review: "It doesn't take action RPGs to a whole new level or anything, but you'll probably have fun with it if you've enjoyed these kinds of games in the past."

GameSpy Review: "Just when you thought that the world had seen the l
ast Diablo clone, along comes what might be one of the best yet."

Ok, so it's a prettier updated version of Diablo but not from Blizzard. I get it. Let's check out the site. Not bad, it's got all the info and visual assets I'd want from a game site but pretty boring overall. You'd think with 4 years of development, they could have spent some time making a cooler site.

Moving on, let's look at the ad campaign. Looks like TitanQuest has a homepage takeover of GameSpy today (ad may not be there tomorrow). The ad unit has rollover functionality and deep content including videos. Wow! I'm more impressed with the ad unit than the site. When you take over a home page like that, it's important to give consumers the option of clicking to your site right away or playing around within an ad unit for more information. Most consumers hate to click away from what they're doing so an well done immersive ad unit can be incredibly valuable for brand awareness.

In Summary:

The press release was full of "bendy" truth and no good. The game reviews were more truthful but I had to read quite a few to get a good sense of the game's value proposition; it's a pretty Diablo update. Finally, what wrapped it all up nicely for me was the ad unit. It showed me what I needed to know and didn't waste my time clicking all over the Internet.

I think I'm sold. The visuals are very nice and if the gameplay is like Diablo, it should deliver on a few good hours of mindless hack and slash. I'll buy the game this weekend and let you guys know what I think.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Now this is interesting: Massive & WebZen hook up

via Reuters, via MarketingVox

Acclaim's advertising partner, Massive Inc. (part of Microsoft) has inked a deal to provide ads in two of WebZen's new games, Huxley and All Points Bulletin. As far as I know, this is the first major game in Korea and from a Korean publisher that will utilize a revenue-generating ad system. WebZen seems to be making a serious play into the space with the significant showing at E3 this year with Huxley. In addition, several months ago they hired Cindy Armstrong, a high level executive from SOE, makers of Everquest.

What makes this bit of news interesting is that Korean publishers have yet to embrace the ads for their games. The incredibly successful Korean model has been to provide free games and obtain revenue through the sale of game content such as items. This partnership and new strategy could significant usher WebZen (and maybe Korea?) into the tv-like model for games that Acclaim has staked a claim on.

It's an exciting time of experimentation and innovation for publishers and an even more exciting time for consumers. Personally, it's exciting for me to see some other companies moving parallel to Acclaim. Not only does it mean we're on the right track but it also adds some fun competition and ultimately, expansion of the market. Yes, this is all very interesting indeed.

Your world is a myth

Perhaps for you, it began with Santa or the Tooth Fairy. The typical story goes like this:

Someone you trust tells you something interesting. With this first telling, the seeds of belief are sown. And then on occasion, like summer rains, you are showered with evidence in random intervals. In time, your beliefs become more firmly rooted and eventually are so deeply rooted as to become unswayable fact. That is... until a big bad storm of truth pounces onto your neatly planted copse of stability.

Such a storm has raged today on what I thought was practically a universal law: When playing PacMan, the ghosts will get you no matter where you are. I'm afraid, this is just not true! There's a spot you can hide where they can never get to you.

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

Those sneaky game designers! How could they do this to our fragile sense of reality?!

In all seriousness, this reminds me of the old theater device: If you go most of the way there, the audience will go the rest of the way for you. This is incredibly useful in just about everything you do but most especially if you do marketing. Your message only need to suggest/hint and the public will fill in the blanks.

If you need an example, go no further than any late night infomercial. Listen to them and you'll rarely hear them spell out the actual benefits of the product. Rather, they show you things that suggest you'll obtain this value. Its your fault if you do the assuming.

Excuse me while I tie down my valuables, never sure when this gravity thing will turn on me.

via Kotaku

Monday, June 26, 2006

Brand Manager's Log: The ads have landed

[Image to return shortly]
Eventful day today, all things considered. At 2am this morning, we introduced ads into BOTS, its still in invite-only closed testing but I thought I'd sneak an image out for Branded Newb.

As you can see, the ad is in the lower left corner, a dead space for gameplay since the camera always focuses center on the player's character. As you may or may not know, we've been trying to figure out a model to provide full version quality games for free (see last paragraph). Its too early to gauge player response to the system but I'm pretty excited about the potential. I think it's a great compromise for players that want excellent entertainment value at zero cost.

Of special interest to me as a brand manager is what this does to the overall perception of the game. As I think we're really a frontrunner in this space, I wonder if we're in a new category of games or a hybrid of existing offerings. Without a doubt, we are at a level way above that of Flash puzzle games on websites. However, are we perceived to have the same value as a triple-A title but we just happen to have ads? How we are placed in a player's mind is very important to my job as I don't want to offer the game with a cognitive disconnect.

Finally, the word "free" has been driving me batty lately. We are about to launch some advertising and let me tell you, the word "free" is a bag full of nitrogylcerin bouncy balls; you want to be really careful how you release it. For a brand, "free" bestows instant value to the consumer and yet also immediately sucks value from your brand. Somehow, you want the net effect to be positive. I'm going to test some creative copy with the word in it and see how it goes. I'll report back if I find anything interesting.

NY Times quotes me: I'm giddy!

In what is sure to be my strangest morning newspaper moment to date...

I was snacking on my whole-wheat-frosted, sugar-free, gluten-free and unsaturated fat toast this morning when I ran across this article in my NY Times, "A Lesson for Parents on 'MySpace Madness'". June 26, 2006: Page C4 (free reg login required, but you knew that)

An excellent article that got me reading to the very last three paragraphs, at which point I came across the text:

"Ken Chan, a brand manager for the video game company..."
::blink blink... AND blink::

Egads, that's me! You guys better duck, cuz my professionalism is flying out the door:


Ok, I've calmed down.

The ironic thing was that I was reading the article and thinking, oh I should update the blog with this bit of news about the MySpace assault case. Apparently, the predator is now suing MySpace as well because they didn't keep the 13 year old from joining the site in the first place (you have to be 14 to join). In related made-up news, both of these kids were sent to the hospital earlier today with injuries due to spontaneous combustion of their pants. The universe is thus balanced.

By the way, the NY Times quoted me. How wild is that?!

Excuse me a second while I look through the bushes for my professionalism.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Bringing you a little culture...

Thursday 7pm. Downtown Los Angeles- At sundown, as the count of suits and ties per square foot was rapidly dropping by the minute, an opposite effect was occurring for the count of tattoos and witty t-shirts. From West Hollywood, Venice and parts of the Valley, the hipsters were on the move. Towards an ancient temple made to look like a theater (or vice versa), they came.

They had no choice in the matter. For you see, a soft warcry had been echoing in their heads all week long. In a language foreign to most, the cry was insistent, it was dull in the back of their minds as they trudged through their IT jobs and it pounded fiercely on their temples as they found moments of solitude.

"lucha... lucha... lucha. Lucha. LUCHA! LUCHA!"

All answered the call. As they walked into the temple, nary casting a glance towards the safety of the fading sun, the cry was finally, some say mercilessly, answered: "LUCHA.... VaVoom! Lucha VaVoom! Lucha VaVoom!"

The congregated had come for satisfaction of primal needs. For the night to deliver as promised, it would have to be an evening of unapologetic violence and sex; in other words, a display of the world's finest lucha libre and burlesque.

This is an impossibly arrogant goal, its mere attempt drawing skeptics by the theater-full. But oh, this evening is all about arrogance. It is about showmanship and show-woman-ship taken to professional exquisiteness. It is sweat and sequins and hair and tights bundled into an irresistible package with a foreign label just tempting you to try it once and daring you to stay away after.

It is Lucha VaVoom and it is pure fun.

[My camera phone video. You don't need to see details. Bah, this is not a show about details.]

Thursday, June 22, 2006

MySpace MyScape - goat

Amber posted a few days ago about MySpace being sued for $30M by a 14 year old who was assaulted on a date with an 19 year old pretending to be a high school senior (17 or 18?). So with a nod of thanks to Amber, I'll directly lift my comment to her post:

"MySpace is a free dating site in disguise. Now if you were to go out on a date from a match on a dating site, is the site liable if you, god forbid, get assaulted? Companies should not be that vulnerable to litigation. At some point, human interaction, good or bad, is not the responsibility of anyone other than those involved.

So really the issue here is not what happened outside of MySpace. It’s that MySpace can’t control whether or not minors talk to adults. But then, can anyone control this online? You can age verify till the cows come home but when all the company sees is an ip address, how do you “really” know who’s on the other end?

It’s an unfortunate thing that happens but it also happens at clubs, parties and anywhere else people interact. Taken to an extreme, should the ISP or phone company involved in their interaction be sued? It’s a slippery slope when we start placing blame waaaay upstream."

Today, Fast Company has an article on the same topic. Professional journalist, of course, always say things better than I, so here is their take:
"This MySpace lawsuit is reminiscent of a relatively new and sometimes lucrative form of American justice: the consumer passing blame to a provider. Is it the fault of Philip Morris if people become addicted to "light" cigarettes? (A jury said it is.) Is it the fault of McDonald's if a customer if burned when she spills hot coffee? (Also yes, according to a jury.) And is it MySpace's fault when teenage girls are duped by older men? I guess we'll see what a jury decides."
I normally wouldn't bring this up, however, I started to think that it has relevance to something else I've been saying on this blog all along. Consumers are taking control. Or if you like grandiose terms, the meek are inheriting the Earth. We are seeing the consumer becoming empowered in ways historically reserved for the elite.

You see this in the proliferation of custodian consumers speaking for everyone else (my KFC chicken post). You see this in a very small number of conservative consumers shifting censorship on television (CBS's fine for indecency). You see this in consumers driving brand direction (my myriad of posts about consumer generated media). You see this in consumers turning into interactive vigilantes against corporations (The AOL quitter). And finally as in this MySpace case, you see consumers shifting a gross amount of responsibility onto a company.

Folks, there's a very powerful revolution going on all around us. This should be something to cheer about. Unfortunately, with great power comes great responsibility (Plagiarism spidey-sense tingling). I'm almost afraid that if consumers become too powerful, we'll have anarchy. With all these empowered consumers, can there be any cohesiveness in our society? With everyone saying, "Listen to me!", will anything matter anymore? More than likely, we'll end up with socio-economic fiefdoms based on similar beliefs as people congregate towards like-mindedness.

Woo, overthinking it. Pulling back a bit. I do believe that our society needs balance between the plebes and the powers that be. A couple fanatics should not be allowed to topple a decent system. So viva to the revolution but let's keep the music down and the guillotine-ing to a bare minimum.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"Gramps, what's a download?"

GameDaily has an article on how digital distribution is the next big thing for the game industry with quotes from Bill Gates and Sony's Kutaragi. Meanwhile, Joystiq quotes Activision CEO (from a NY Times article) saying that digital distribution is so far into the future, it's not something to worry about right now.

Cue the dueling banjos... [does a little jig]

I'm going to side with the pro-digi-dist guys on this one. Let's not kid ourselves, we increasingly want immediate gratification and digitally distributed content satisfies the jones better than any retail method. I'm by no means a trend setter but I've enjoyed downloading games from Direct2Drive. The ease of purchase is just too difficult to ignore.

The naysayers point to bandwidth as a roadblock. It's not like the technology isn't out there, it just has to catch up in the US. I've spoken to Korean gamers who download 500MB in less than a minute! As more movie, game and other broadband required content becomes available online, consumers will start demanding faster high-speed. Within 2 years, I predict ISPs will have to offer super-speed access just to stay competitive.

Finally, I'd like to present a tertiary reason why digitally distributed games will be the next big thing: the influx of consumer-generated value. Let's use W. Wright's upcoming game, Spore, as an example. His game is designed as a tool for gamers to create their own content, to be shared with others. So if we monetize the value of the entire experience, perhaps only 20% of it is from the actual retail game. The other 80% is consumer stuff fed into the game from others via digital distribution. This same ratio is probably true of MMORPGs as well. 20% of your enjoyment is from the game itself, 80% from what others brings to the table.

How much of a leap is it to predict that the first 20% will go away within the next couple years? I'm thinking: not much of a hop. Game companies will be facilitators between consumers entertaining themselves. The Korean system feeds off this by offering games digi-disted for free so as to get enough players to make the game interesting. They understand that if you lower the barrier to entry, more players will come in. More players means a more attractive "80%" experience.

The most popular experiences now have no retail in sight and the 80% is everything (which I guess makes it the 100%, heh). Look at the success of NeoPets, MySpace, fantasy sports and online poker; these things are successful partially because there are no initial cost (monetary & effort) to engage with the product. All content is digi-disted and the community is everything. Games are right at the heels of this model.

So in closing, my warmest wishes to the Activision CEO, may his golden parachute be heavily diamond-studded.

Cut the banjos already!

Coming to a tiny screen near you...

In the past few days, if you believe the rumors, Apple and Hollywood movie studios are all oiled up and doing some boardroom greco-roman grappling over a plan to sell movies on iTunes. Businessweek has an excellent article summing up all the points. What? Oh, you want to know the points? Ok, yeah, here they are:

  • Apple wants to sell movies for $9.99, studios want to charge more for recent and hit movies
  • It's still questionable whether anyone is going to watch movies on their iPod
That's about it, everything else is tied into one of those issues. Here's my take on the whole thing. When you try to do something new, it's always a chicken and egg thing. In technology, you frequently have a situation where the chicken is the content and the egg is the device. You with me?

Apple is the master at making eggs. It's pretty much accepted that the iPod started the legitimate music download business. Digital music content had been there forever but nothing significant happened until the iPod hit the market.

Now let's look at movies. Digital movies are around, you can download movies all day long now, illegally and legally. This content is bad chicken, not the chicken we need. What the movie industry needs is for Apple to lay another golden egg. I imagine it to be something like this rumored device. However, I imagine it needs to be more.

May I present to you, Ken's ultimate Apple movie device:
  • Full iPod functionality
  • Video displayed on face of iPod (as shown)
  • iHub Accessory: "Connect to TV Hub" communicates via bluetooth to iPod and has wires out to TV
    • iPod library can then be streamed straight to TV via iHub
    • iPod has built in remote control features for play, pause, rewind etc.
    • When in this mode, the iPod device itself can provide additional content such as director's VO or showing pop-up bubbles.
Yes, this egg will do nicely.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

More numbers with caveats

You can consider today the day of skeptical statistics. Ran into this, "eMarketer predicts a 14% increase in mothers online for the period from 2005 to 2010."

It's a very short blurb so I'll just paste the rest of it so you don't have to do the jump:

"eMarketer estimates that there were 32 million mothers online in the U.S. in 2005, equivalent to 18.4 percent of the total internet population. The number of mothers online will reach 36.6 million in 2010, an increase of 14 percent from 2005."
Makes me wonder though: Is this because more current moms are going online or is it because more women of child-bearing age, who are already online, will become mothers during this time?

If it's the latter, then this is hardly newsworthy. Just a normal progression of the population from the older non-wired generation to our generation.

If the former, then that's kinda interesting. Will the content and value of the Internet increase in the next few years to provide moms with something they're not getting online now? I can't imagine a significant enough shift in content for this to happen but maybe I'm not thinking outside the box enough.

via iMedia Connection.

Why Yahoo is still not dead

I'm a fan of Google and frankly, I've always wondered why Yahoo is still around. I was given some evidence today of Yahoo's vitality via MarketingVox: "Yahoo Mail, MySpace Garner Half of Online Ad Impressions"

Yahoo Mail actually has 38% share of the ad impressions. What are ad impressions? Each time you see a banner ad online, that's an impression. Now if you think about all the places you see ads, the fact that Yahoo has 38% just in their mail property is amazing. That's like one TV network taking in a third of all the ads on broadcast television.

But being a numbers guy, I was at first impressed but then I tempered my own shock at this figure. Even if Yahoo has 38% of the ad impressions, that may not necessarily mean they are taking in 38% of the revenue. In fact, these impressions are more than likely not even close to premium inventory. How relevant are these ads when someone is just looking to check their email? They are probably selling these impressions at ridiculously low costs per thousand (CPM) rates. They do some behavioral targeting (more on that in another post) but that doesn't make the inventory that much more valuable.

Of course, no matter how low, it'll all add up to some real money. We don't know how much, but my wild guess is that Yahoo's market share for ad placement revenue is somewhere in the high teens.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Another call for episodic games

Similar to my post last month, Wired has an article calling for episodic television-like content for games. Of course, since these guys are professional writers, they do a better job of making the case. Unfortunately, they didn't even give me credit for the idea, how rude.

By the way, Vegas was nice. Need to recoup, probably not going back til '07. I'd tell you more... but do you really need me to say the phrase?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

See you Monday!

I'm off to Vegas tomorrow and will be there over the weekend. I'm bringing the laptop so if I post this weekend, it means that I ran out of funds. So y'all hope for no posts.

Everyone have a great weekend and I'll see you Monday!

Where did my brand go?

In this insightful piece on iMedia Connection, Alan Schulman, a chief creative guy (not that there's anything wrong with that) talks about "Putting Word of Mouth to Work".

It's a very good overview of how brands must be aware of everything that consumers are saying, posting and creating about the brand. His thesis is that brands are increasingly out of the control of the owners so the next big idea (for creatives; he is afterall, a creative) is going to come out of this consumer generated cloud of content rather than from a highfalutin room full of creatives. He didn't say that last part, I added that myself. =)

I would take his argument one step further. Today's brand no longer resides with the company. Today's brand has moved out of the house and on occasion may come back and do laundry but don't expect it to be home for dinner every night.

With this in mind, let me present you "The life of a today's succesful brand".

  • Brand infancy - Complete control by owners. Brand message is predominantly pushed to consumers via traditional broadcast methods. "This is who we are, this is what we do"
  • Brand puberty - Moderate control by owners. As the brand gets traction in the market, the message changes to accomodate learnings from consumers' use of the brand. "This is who we are, this is what we can do for you"
  • Brand maturity - Minor control by owners. The brand has become not only accepted but internalized by the target market. "We are who you say we are, we do what you want us to do."
Note that at maturity, the brand really has lost control over the direction it can take. If it were to move too far away from consumer expectations, it stands a chance of losing its consumers. Therefore, the brand and message, regardless of what the suits think, is under the control of the consumer. You can "suggest" something but ultimately, whether or not it sticks is up to your customers.

I argue that this has always been the case, except that it has been opaque to brands in the past. With the brand conversations allowed by the Internet, that opacity has been significantly reduced. You can now find your brand living on messages boards, blogs, YouTube videos, MySpace profiles, and the myrid of other interactive conversation hubs. If you ignore this fact and pretend like your brand still lives with you, you're talking to yourself.

This is why CGM is such an important vehicle to engage with your consumers. You have to get out there, where your brand is at and empower your customers to talk about/with you. It's not good enough to throw messages out there anymore, you have to throw out topics of discussion and an infrastructure to discuss. That's the best way to maintain some level of control and oversight into the conversation. Continuing my silly analogy, it's like moving next to your mature brand. You won't ever have the same control as when it was young but you'll at least know if the cops do a bust next door.

If you don't, the only sign that something is wrong is when your sales go down. By then, you reach the last part of brand growth:
  • Brand death - No control by owners. Target market has left your brand behind. "This is who we are, where did everyone go?"

Google Virtual World Domination Watch

I've always thought that the innovation behind Google Maps was not the tool itself but that they opened it up for hacking. This might be old news but check out the World of Warcraft world via a Google Map hack.

Yet another example that consumers are frequently better than you are at making content for your brand.

[Update: Just dug around some more and realized I'm 6 months behind on this news. I only "try" to be timely. Oh well, everyone gets their money back on this one.]

The Internet giveth, taketh away, then giveth back.

via Digg, Rob in VA tells us a parable about commerce on the Internet. Let me summarize:

  • Rob bought an Xbox 360 on Ebay.
  • The seller never ships the Xbox.
  • Rob uses Internet tools to track him down. Calls him, gets hung up on.
  • Rob dives back into Internet tools and tracks down seller's mom.
  • Calls seller's mother and gives his story.
  • In minutes, seller calls back and refunds all the money.
Great story. I got nothing to add, just wanted to pass it and its delicious irony along.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The custodians strike again

Warning: The following post is a rant. Some things written in this rant may offend those prone to being offended. Any use or unuse of this rant is strictly the responsibility of the reader.

When I was growing up, there was a fried chicken chain in LA called Pioneer Chicken. I could find the one in my neighborhood with my eyes closed, not because I was very good with directions but because all I needed was my nose. The restaurant was always immaculately clean and the thermostat set at approximately 40 degrees. This made for a very sensual experience when you walked in the door. You're immediately hit with a bone-chilling gust of air. Held within this gust is the most belly-warming aroma of fried chicken that you've ever inhaled. I use the word inhale because you don't just sniff this smell, you invite it in for a nightcap, show it around the place and make sweet sweet love to it before you let it go.

Pioneer Chicken closed down in sometime in the late 80's. There are still some restaurants in LA but it's not the same. There was something special about that chicken. Simply put, it tasted good. Even in my youth, I recognized that this taste was not without its price. Pioneer Chicken was food you don't have all the time. Perhaps I was tipped off by how it was able to make my napkins transparent. Maybe it was that I could still taste the chicken in my fingertips 3 days later. Or maybe, it was just that I knew things this good would ruin me. Regardless of what it was, my uneducated mind knew this was not something you eat everyday or in excess.

I knew this then and I still know this now. So someone explain to me, why some self-righteous know it alls have appointed themselves custodians of my own freak'n health? In this NY Times article, a group called "The Center for Science in the Public Interest" is suing KFC to make them stop using trans fat in their cooking. I'll summarize this whole silly business for you:

KFC uses trans fat.
Trans fat causes heart disease.
Heart disease is bad.
Therefore, KFC is bad.

In response, KFC said: "We have been reviewing alternative oil options, but there are a number of factors to consider including maintaining KFC's unique taste and flavor of Colonel Sanders' Original Recipe."

The sweet taste of Pioneer is already lost to me, why mess with KFC? Leave my damn chicken alone! Sure, I recognize that there's a certain part of the population who don't know a steady fried chicken diet is bad for them. I feel bad for these people. However, these are probably the same people who don't put on their seatbelts and who suck down endless coffee during the day and Coors at night. So let's be honest with ourselves here. You're not going to save these people. You're just screwing up the chicken for the rest of us.

This is a horrific trend in our society. The labels, the signs, the bans, the censorship, the revisionism, and the litigiousness. I hate the custodians. I hate the liberal custodians and I hate the conservative custodians. I blame the extreme left and right. The middle needs to stand up. Don't you people see?! They're taking away our chicken! Don't write your politicians, they don't care. Stick your head out your window and scream, "I'm mad as hell...

Oh nevermind. Anyone have a good chicken recipe?

More Stats: Yawn

Some day, when I'm doing a report for school, these will come in handy. In the meantime, I'm putting it here so I'm thorough.

In-game advertising this year will bring in $80 million. In 2009, that will be $400 million. That's lower than an earlier estimate of $561 million by another research group. Either way, it's a lot of dough.

In related news: Online advertising spend will reach $20 billion next year or 12% of all media spend. TV's not dead yet but it's starting to cough and wonders if it should go to the doctor.

Cubicle wall fodder

Comment swaparoo

My apologies. I rarely read the comments through the links on this site. Rather, I get email notices and use the tools on Haloscan's site.

I just noticed that the order of messages, with most recent on top, is counterintuitive to normal reading. I changed the settings so that the most recent comment is on the bottom. Thanks and sorry for the confusion.

This post will self-destruct in 2 days. =)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Feel free to call me Pantone 110

If you haven't noticed, I'm Asian, of Chinese descent to be exact. We Chans go way back; cuz you know, you can't spell China without Chan. It's in my genes and without a doubt, I live my life with one foot firmly planted in the Asian culture. For example, I love me some Asian food and I know how to pronounce Nguyen, Ng and Zhang. There's probably more examples but do you really need more?

So I embrace my Asian-ness but at the same time I've been called a twinkie and/or banana (think colors, not shape). That is, I'm not Asian enough. However, on the other extreme, you can get called a fob (fresh off da boat). That is, you are too Asian. Because c'mon, everyone who's anyone has assimilated.

Hey, it's not all straight A's in math and perfect violin concertos for us Asian kids (I'm so going to get in trouble for this). We got tough identity issues too. Which brings me to the point of this post. (I know, it keeps taking me longer to get to my point. I'm working on it. And what is up with my use of parenthetical statements?)

I was scanning my cable channels the other night when I came across the Imaginasian TV network. The first 24/7 Asian American network, eggs welcomed (colors, not shape). Be sure to watch the feel good intro. Anyways, paused on the channel skipping and thought: cool beans!

I sunk down deeper into my comfy chair and prepared to soak in the "relate to me!" goodness of the content. Bring on the soak! ...Except it didn't happen. I felt like one of those KFC napkins, the ones wrapped with the spork, trying to clean up spilled soda (trust me, someone out there is laughing their ass off). I just didn't really feel any relation or special enjoyment of the content.

I sunk deeper into the chair as the weight of my guilt pressed down. Was I unsympathetic to my roots? Have I lost that connection to my fellow Asian-American brothers and sisters? Was I overthinking it?

With some deeper reflection, what I realized was that the channel is inherently flawed. I just don't think you can make an Asian American channel that reflects everyone and also relates to everyone at the same time. It would be like trying to make a European-American channel and expecting the French to feel cozy with the Germans. Nothing wrong with either group but they have different points of reference. On the ImaginAsian channel, I was watching Korean-American, Japanese-American, Indian-American, Chinese-American, etc-American content that was only loosely cohesive, perhaps attached by only a hyphen.

So what it boils down to is that I'm not sure what target market is going to pick up this channel. I'm not interested and yet I think I'm their exact target. So what gives? Am I just not getting it?

Keep your dirty ad hands away from my girls

[Yesterday was a busy post day so I decided to stick this one in the fridge. Though reheated, I promise it's just as good today.]

So I was sipping my non-pretentious green tea at breakfast this morning when I ran across this headline in my NY Times: "Product Placement Deals Make Leap From Film to Books". Those dirty dirty marketers have finally found a way to get their dirty hands into your books.

The particular book in question, is "Cathy's Book: If Found Call (650) 266-8233". A "young adult novel" (read: shrilly tweens) that is part girly stuff and part adventure story. It has multimedia elements such as websites, message boards and an "evidence pack" with all sorts of nifty clues. Oh yeah and you got her phone number. Which by the way, for the sake of journalism, I did call. She's not there, but she's safe, in case you're wondering. (And no, I haven't read the book, though I just might.)

But all the hoopla is not about Cathy and her promiscuity with her mobile number. No, that would be too easy. What everyone is talking about is the passages in the book that are blatantly product placement. According to the article, there is a line about "a killer coat of Lipslicks in 'Daring.'" And then, in what will surely be known as the sell-out of the century, the authors changed the descriptive "gunmetal grey eyeliner" to "eyecolor in 'Midnight Metal'". If you're not a connossieur of tween makeup like I am, then you wouldn't know that those passages described products by Cover Girl, the makeup company owned by Procter and Gamble. (But now you do know and you're a better person for it)

Purists are upset. A watchdog group called "Commercial Alert" has even asked reviewers not to read the marketing trash (via Adrants). The publishers, however, contend that they finished the novel before ever approaching the marketers (and strangely enough, it was they who approached the evil ones). The marketers aren't paying any actual sum of money to the publishers, rather they will help market the game via a P&G site. A back-scratching fest, if I ever did see one.

So in light of all the talking heads with valid points, I did more research for you. Aren't you glad I'm on your side?

One of the authors of the book is Sean Stewart (a dude, no less). Including Cathy's Book, he has written 7 novels and not just any novels, award winning sci-fi novels. And are you ready for this bit? A connection to gaming: He was part of the team that brought the world the much acclaimed "i love bees" alternate reality game for the Halo launch. Small world isn't it? Now if you know anything about ARG's, especially the "i love bees" one, you'll know that it is a form of entertainment that's really pushing the edge of media consumption, especially interactive.

Shall we piece this all together? Cutting-edge, award-winning and interactive-savvy writers jot down a novel. Instead of pushing it the regular way, they decide to elicit the help of some deeper pockets, the evil marketers. They change a few makeup names, get tons of press coverage and alienate the literary purist. Ok, I get it. But... I'm not that upset. (Like you didn't see that one coming)

Sure, I see the problem with it. I mean, this might be the equivalent to a gateway drug for publishers. They get a taste of the sweet nectar of marketing and they're hooked. Pretty soon, they're rewriting Tolstoy and someone's sipping Ketel One. But honestly, are all books worth the effort?

Look at the trash out there: the movie books, the B-list celebrity autobiography and the pseudo-movie scripts on the best-sellers list, to just name a few. Let's be honest with ourselves and admit it: Just because we call it a book doesn't mean it's sacred.

But even this book, with it's interactivity and ARG-like elements, is not taking it too far. We're not talking about every brand mascot you know gratuitously line dancing within the pages here. We're talking about a couple makeup products being given "real" names AND the marketers behind it actually fessing up to it.

This gets my stamp of approval. Now let me hear you rant!


When I was growing up, Sunday night was laundry night. Every Sunday, without fail: laundry. On one summer night, as the city's asphalt refused to release the day's heat, I was once again at the laundrymat. The amusement of running up and down the aisles was starting to dwindle, so I asked Mom if I could go to 7-Eleven. Without looking up from her magazine, she gave me a nod.

The 7-Eleven was packed; a solid line of people from the door to the coolers and back out. No one was playing the video games. As if even that was an exertion unthinkable in this heat. (They used to have games in there back then; when kids were allowed to loiter and boys could be boys.) I didn't have any money to play the games, quarters were reserved for the machines next door. So I stood there and watched the video games cycle through their pseudo-siren-esque calls.

One of the guys behind the counter noticed me. I didn't notice him noticing, but, in hindsight, I assume that he must have. After a few minutes, in a lull between selling six-packs and ice, he called me over and offered me a roll of quarters. He said, "Here, play some games". Just like that he gave me the roll, nothing more said.

There are heroes that save lives, heroes that change lives. Then there are the heroes that, with a roll of quarters, turns just another Sunday night into a lifelong memory.

Monday, June 12, 2006

News Alert: Rock Paper Scissors Tonight!

As you all know, I'm an aspiring amateur RPS athlete. My stage name is "One-Armed Bandit" or "No Happy Endings", haven't decided yet. Anyways, to my delight, my neighbor Craig tipped me off to a show on tonight that I (and you) must watch:

At 10pm (9 Central; you losers), A&E will air the "Rock Paper Scissors Championship". Oh yeah, this is serious, $50,000 goes to the winner. If you do nothing else today, you must hit that link and watch the video. Serious, serious competition here people. Paramedics are on standby.

I hear your mockery. You think normal RPS is too easy? Think you're better than us mortals? Fine, try RPS 7. It's rock, paper, scissors, fire, water, air and sponge.

Oh yeah, I've been practicing. You throw out Water and I'd be like, "Sponge biyatch!" Booya!

What? Still too easy for you? Fine, why then, let's take it to another level! Try RPS 25! So you throw out Woman, that's all good cuz "Monkey throws poop at woman" my bro'tha and I win again!

Blizzard brings down the hammer

Blizzard, in a recent post (look for 6/9), announced that they had banned 30,000 accounts in May and removed 30 million gold from the economy. Just a casual pruning of gold farmers and all that. No soup for you!

In related news, my total ban count is at 2.

via digg,

Speaking of hammers, read a great quote in "The Week" (Best news magazine ever, highly recommend it):

"If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."
Psychologist Abraham Maslow, quoted in the Philadelphia City Paper.
Now who do we all know needs to embrace that quote? =)

My 20

I've been told that the average person can only maintain 20 online brand relationships at a time (I don't remember who told me this so I got no source for ya). That means that there are only 20 sites that you consistently visit to do the things you do online. Now keep in mind that this is an amorphous number, so things are coming and going.

Which brings me to the real point of this point. One brand that I've always enjoyed online is Converse. I even did a post about their CGM efforts a while back. Needless to say, I was very excited when I received an email that they had redone their site. This was always one of the floaters in my 20, so it was good they called me back.

Once again, they didn't let me down. The new site is a slick blend of branded content and e-commerce. Instead of the consumer generated media of the previous site (where users submitted videos of their interpretation of the brand), the site is profiling worldwide users one location at a time with documentary-styled videos and rounding out the videos with extras. There are, of course, the obligatory shots of the shoes but it seems like the first guy (Bubble boy) was pretty entertaining by himself.

This is a fantastic way to sell your brand, by giving a voice to your coolest customers. In this age of jaded consumerism, this is our version of Michael Jordan selling shoes.

Speaking of shoes, hit the little controller thing on the right (the one that says shop with the cart icon) and you can design your own shoe. Though a little slow, the functionality here is pretty neat. Also, there's something to be said about customization online and the availability of exactly what we want, when we want it. But that's for another post. By the way, here's my beach bum shoe design.

So do you have a 20?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

May 7, 2010: Content agent report

"Audio mode. Good morning Ken. No personal messages. 11 general messages, 2 interest matched. First message, from MetaStates:

MMOrg group, MetaStates, announced their much anticipated summer concert schedule today. Teen music sensation, Dakota Fanning, will be headlining the series with special reunion appearances from the Gorillaz and the Mighty Brooklyns. Ms. Fanning's Malko'View access can be purchased for $230 or 490 G-creds at any Google-secured site or by loading ctp:// at any ATM. All musician MVs are still available for premium accounts, prices vary.

For general admission, fans are encouraged to register early for the best spawn points. Only contemporary avatars please; dress to impress! Absolutely no v-caps allowed, Symantec scans will be mandatory prior to TP.

T-mobile customers can see sneak previews by swiping specially-marked bottles of Coke and Vita-Coke.

To continue receiving announcements, please send an agent scanapse to...

Deleted. Message 2, from NY Times:

Stocks climb 4% after President Clinton announced the first ever...

Deleted. Continue? Messages saved.

Agent returning to standby. Have a good weekend, don't forget Mother's Day.

Standby canceled. Local prices for irises are..."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Apple buys Nintendo? Makes too much sense.

Apple to buy Nintendo?

In this Cnet article, speculation is piled on top of loose stats and squishy hyperbole to create the most exciting prediction I've read in a while. Since none of the game sites have picked up on this yet (probably because it's just guess-work), I thought I'd throw it out there for you.

Brand fanboying aside, I actually think this makes a lot of sense. These are two powerhouses with pure design ethos. Culturally, the organizations would fit perfectly together. Strategically, the merger would bring in much needed clout for Apple in the gaming space and would give Nintendo a revival towards mainstream consumers. Given Steve Jobs' eventual influence on Disney, Apple could be posed to become a multimedia giant, why wouldn't they add games to the mix?

For consumers, the marriage would be a win as well. Think about the wonders of an iPod/DS hybrid. Or maybe the utility of a Mac within a gaming console or vice versa. These guys are the masters of usability and design, I can't help but think they'd make sexy, smart and affordable babies everyone would want to pick up.

[6pm update: Kotaku picked up the story this afternoon.]

Devil is in the details

So yesterday was a big day in the war against terror. I'm not going to bother talking about the actual news story, that's not what I do. In fact, when I was watching the news, the "news" of it wasn't very interesting to me. What really caught my eye was the image to your right (stolen from Reuters).

The picture of the dead guy was a mental speedbump. Ba-dunk! I was trying to pay attention to the story, to be the responsible and educated individual who would listen intently to this kind of stuff. But... I was also struck by something silly. My two sides had a minor discussion:

The Dude: "Dude, check it out, they freak'n framed the picture!"

The Scholar: "What are you talking about?"

D: "The picture man... the dead guy, he's framed"

S: "Look, I'm trying to pay attention to this story... it's important."

D: "This is important too, I mean, why did they frame it? Is Bushie going to put that on his wall?"

S: "Maybe, who cares! ..... Do you think this will impact the elections in November?"

D: "That's a nice frame. I wonder if an intern stood around Aaron Brother's Art Mart and picked it out. 'Well, I like the silver metallic but the wood really brings out the mort-flesh shade. Ok, let's go with that. Does it come with free matteing?' I want that job!"

S: "What... ARE you talking about?!"

D: "Ok dude, let me speak-a your language. They framed the dead guy's picture. That's totally a marketing thing man. It's a classic subtle move to suggest professionalism. If they had put the picture up with thumb tacks, it would have worked but subconsciousousishly, peeps wouldn't be as impressed."

S: "Oh, you're right."

D: "Wicked! Check out that gnarly scar!"

S: "You're a moron."

Blogger's been iffy

Since I seem to be able to post right now. Wanted to let you all know: It's been an iffy few days with Blogger so if nothing shows up for a while, I'm not locked in a room eating 3,000 calories... again.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Absolut absolves my guilt

When I recently wrote about the MSN campaign, "The Way News Spreads", I may have been a bit harsh. When referring to the image on the site and how the creators anticipated users trying to figure it out, I said,

"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?"
That's a little mean and it's been nagging at me how I may have been unfair. Perhaps the campaign wasn't so bad. Perhaps there really isn't a better way to do a single page campaign. Maybe I was... ::gulp:: wrong?

Hehe, 'fraid not MSN.

My redemption comes in the form of a beautifully done campaign for Absolut. Pay attention here MSN. Like yours, this is a campaign based on one page of art. Unlike yours, I actually had fun interacting with it.

What's the difference? Absolut's page gave me instruction and motivation. It held my hand but I enjoyed it every step of the way. Bravo to them.

(And you thought this blog was all about trashing creative)

via Adrants

Obedience training for dogs, the bipedal variety

I love keeping you guys updated on topics of minor consequence I've posted about before. So:

A while ago, I mentioned a campaign from Brawny paper towels that "dealt" with issues of masculinity and roles in the home (I'm overthinking it, it's a fun site).

As an extension of that campaign, they have introduced Brawny Academy: "Watch real husbands like yours learn from the Brawny Man himself".

It's an online reality show that places regular couch kings into the gentle emasculated hands of the new Brawny Man. He'll teach them to be butch but not too butch. Strong but not too strong. In no time, they'll be an oxymoronic metro-chauvinist of the 21st century.

This should be a fun one to watch. First episode (or should I call it webisode?) is June 12.

via Interstractive (who has more insightful things to say)

By the way, if you're into "made for online" reality shows, check out SoCom Hellweek. Take a bunch of dorky gamers and put them through hardcore SEAL training. Sit back, place bets on when each guy will break and watch the snot-laced blabbering commence. Oh yeah, good times.

(Don't you love how I always manage to tie totally off-topic posts back to gaming somehow? I'm so proud of me!)

Some perspective

According to a recent IGN article, covering some research from DFC Intelligence, the online game market is expected to reach $13billion by 2011 (note, that's only "online"). That's a big number, a little difficult to grasp by itself. So here's some perspective:

According to the Toy Industry Association: traditional toy sales in the US reached $21.3billion in 2005.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, $503 million in revenue was attributed to digital music while the music industry as a whole pulled in $12.3 billion. (pdf here)

So not quite as big as toys but bigger than the entire music industry. Though I want to, I'm not sure if I believe it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Wired profiles soldier advocate

Follow up:

About a month ago, I posted about Joseph Delappe, the guy that goes into the game, America's Army, and types in the name of fallen soldiers in Iraq. Wired just dropped a well rounded article about Mr. Delappe.

Of note: a quote from an active duty airman,

"If I were to die in Iraq I would not want my name to be used in this manner at all. A dead soldier is not, and should not, be a political icon used to justify beliefs that they may not have shared."
With all due respect... Are not all the soldiers in Iraq right now, at least partially, being used for a political means meant to justify beliefs not everyone at home shares? Such is the tricky hydra of military use and its justifications.

Write as if no one is reading

I must confess, sometimes I write for myself; quietly stroking my literary ego with cooing vowels and soft consonants. Other times, I write for the reader; visualizing how over-thought words will elicit responses, be it giggles, disgust, or confusion.

And sometimes, it's all about the O... Organizing information that is. A blog is a useful place to archive nuggets of info that are searchable later. This is an archive post.

Keyword: "Gamer demographic info"
Article: via MarketingVox "Online Gaming Growing, Second only to Board Games"
Description: Too dry to really say anything about, except that I too would rather play a board game amongst friends than a video game. We need more Mario Party-like offerings.

Google World Domination Watch, Partial Entry: "Google Introduces Spreadsheets"
Link here, currently signup only
Description: Google tackles Microsoft's masterpiece, Excel. If it doesn't have a pivot table function, I'm not interested.

The more you know...

June 6, 2006
Gaming Public Service Announcement:

Being considerate to others is important in our world and golly, it makes you feel good. When you're entering a building, hold the door for someone, they'll appreciate the gesture. If you're looking at the last donut at the office, why not bring it to someone and say, "Hey, this is the last donut. Here you go." Sometimes, it's even ok to be selfish. If you find a penny, keep it, it's your lucky day.

But if you're the son of a bitch playing DDR at 8am in the morning a floor above someone else, that's not cool. You %$*#@ selfish #@(*&!

Thank you and have a nice day.

[Dedicated to my neighbor with the upstairs neighbor, you know who you are.]

Monday, June 05, 2006

Games teach you to duck too

A Florida murder, involving teens that beat and then shot a man to death for his car, is gaining some gamer buzz. Sheriffs have seized video games from one of the teens as evidence. You can read the news article here. Notable in the story is Jack Thompson, gaming anti-Christ and his very sound bitable statement: "Nobody shoots anybody in the face unless you're a hit man or a video gamer"

I don't have much to add to the discussion but I did notice something else that was slightly troublesome. Doug Lowenstein, the game industry group's president said this:

"“Violent crime involving kids predates video games,”' Lowenstein said. 'Common sense tells us that video games do not create killers and that tragedies like this have to do with far more complex issues, from deep-seated psychological problems to a society in which violence and guns permeate the culture, from TV news to child and spousal abuse to war."
Umm Doug. Aren't games also part of the society? So then, are we not also part of the culture that permeates this environment? Given your logic, we're not exactly without our faults. I think the current political maneuvers are using games as a scapegoat for bigger issues, that's a given. But we also have to own up that we're not helping the overall cultural consciousness here. I suggest we lay low on this one and point a finger at the gun companies.

[btw, insincere apologies to anyone that might be offended by the title of this post.]

Via digg-ing and Joystiq

Once upon a time...

Friday night was a good night in Los Angeles. The air was bathtub-warm and the city lights didn't seem to strain to sparkle, like they usually do. With my picnic basket full of tasty treats and a nice bottle of Mondavi I headed over to the Hollywood Bowl to see a live performance of A Prairie Home Companion.

If you're not familiar with PHC, it's a radio show on National Public Radio. One of the most successful radio shows of our time. You might be thinking, radio show? You mean like Howard Stern? Ha.. ha ha. No. Mr. Stern's show is not a radio show if you ask me. Neither are most of the morning or political talk shows we started calling radio shows. No, PHC is different, it's a true show in the old tradition of radio shows. It has skits, music, jokes and an old guy telling a story.

In 2006, this type of entertainment is not for everyone. Why, there isn't a pretty face or special effect (other than amazing sound effects) in sight. In fact, there is no sight. Unless, that is, you go to a live performance, where they record the show. Though seeing the show isn't required to enjoy it. I love this show and I love it because of one thing: storytelling.

PHC can tell a story like no one else. With a mix of unbelievable writing and witty execution, the show continually amazes me and shows me that entertainment doesn't really need anything else. The show on Friday was great. They had A-list Hollywood guest stars and Shelby Lynne playing some of her amazing music. You can listen to it here.

Don't worry, this blog is still about games. I post this because on occasion, we need to be reminded that content is always and forever king. You can jump head first into the allure of particle effects, frames per second and polygons per hair strand but that is ultimately just candy. No matter how advanced our technologies get, we will always crave the most simple element of entertainment, the story.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Brand Manager's Log: Scratch & Sniff

One of the things I have planned for BOTS is a fun tournament system. So far we've done a few tests to see if the game works for tournaments and the experiences have been positive. The next step is to get serious and figure out how to use tournaments for community and marketing purposes.

The latter is what I'm dealing with at the moment. The first thing I need to figure out is how much intrinsic value does a tournament provide? That is, how much fun is it to just participate and be in the tournament without any extrinsic motivation? If I know that, then I know how often I need to reward extrinsically. For instance, can I get enough interest running non-prize tournaments all day long? If not, how often do I provide an award? Every tournament? A 5 to 1 ratio? Obviously, we don't want to give away prizes all the time. This is an obvious cost issue but it also ends up creating prize fatigue.

The next question is: when we do give out prizes, what should we give out? Cash? iPods? It falls into the same category of personal Xmas shopping; who gets a gift certificate and who gets a real gift. You resort to gift certificate when you have no idea what the giftee would like and get a real gift when you know exactly what that person would like. The issue here is the same, I'm not sure what would motivate the players the most.

Ultimately, the only way to answer these questions is to test out various executions. My gut says that a 3 to 1 ratio with iPods up the wazoo is probably going to work best.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

World Cyber Games: Make your country that doesn't care proud!

If you're like me, you've always wanted to represent your country in a sporting event. Unfortunately, you may also have run into a few obstacles. Not the quickest kid in gym? Can't dunk anything but a donut? Just don't look very good in spandex? Yeah, me too.

But don't despair, there is hope. You and I, my friend, can one day stand on a podium too. With our hand over our heart, we can mouth the words to that song they sing when they raise that flag. Yes, you and I, we will be champions in... e-sports!
Right this moment, the World Cyber Games are conducting qualifiers for the 2006 US team. You only have a few days left to register. From the WCG:

There are eight official WCG game titles: Warcraft III: Frozen Throne (PC); StarCraft: Brood War (PC), Warhammer 40K: Winter Assault (PC); Counter-Strike 1.6 (PC); Need for Speed: Most Wanted (PC); FIFA 06 (PC); Dead or Alive 4 (Xbox 360); and Project Gotham Racing 3 (Xbox 360). The winner for each title at the WCG USA National Final will advance to the WCG Grand Final in Monza, Italy, October 18-22.
The WCG is a product of the Korean fanaticism with games. Participants from around the world gather every year (to get their butts kicked by Koreans). They even have a cute mascot and theme song. This is serious e-sports people.

This year is our year! We will bring home the glory!

U! S! A! U! S! A! U! S! A!

Ok, in all seriousness, this is pretty neat. I'm being sarcastic because I think they could afford to tone down a little of the Olympic overtones. It might get more traction if they just went a different route altogether. Oh yeah, the saddest thing? I'm no where close to being a champion in this type of sport too. Sad day.

How ads are really made

This is probably one of the funniest satires I've seen in a long long time. If you're not from the ad biz, it may still be funny, you'll have to let me know. That brand manager is my hero. I want to BE him!

via Kung Fu Monkey.

Part 2, not as funny, is here.

[Interstractive Andrew shows me that this is a rip-off of an earlier satirical piece, "Truth in Advertising".]

Yeah, like this is new?

In this installment of "Marketers are Evil"

DC Comics announced recently that they are bringing back the Batwoman character, previously killed off in 1979. Not to be confused with Batgirl, a wholly different Bat character. The difference is that Batwoman is umm, not a girl. ::shrug:: Speaking of girls, she also likes girls. Yeah, in that way. Yup, she's batting for the other team (Batting, oh my gosh, I kill me).

According to DC Comics, her sexuality is just part of character building. "We are confident that we are telling a great story with a strong, complex character." Regarding the attention this announcement has received: "It's kind of weird. We had a feeling it would attract some attention, but we're a little surprised it did this much."

I call BS. This is a shameless marketing ploy for a dying medium. There's really no need to bring attention to it if you didn't think it would bring you a whole lot of attention. I prefer the subtle approach; secret identities and all that. For example, we've all known for years there's a bat-shaped bed in the Batcave and that Batman and Robin have unambiguously relaxed there after long hard days. (I couldn't help it, I just had to do a B&R joke, forgive my weakness)

via AP