Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Just a little bit more Vanguard

They updated the Vanguard site. More importantly, check out the character pages. Here's Earen's page.

Not only does that page have all my stats, you can even see what I'm wearing... or not wearing. Hmm, is that privacy that just went out the door?! The screenshot of me making level 10 was a nice surprise. Can't say I don't think the whole thing's kinda neat.

Very slick out-of-game connection to in-game. I'm getting more and more impressed. Someone give me a sharp reality slap.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Let's talk Vanguard

Played a few days on Vanguard now and here's a completely unformatted and quick list of the things I've liked so far:

  • OMG, healing is so much easier with defensive and offensive targets
  • Crafting and diplomacy mini-games add a nice level of complexity but not too much. Rewards you for paying attention rather than pure grind, me likey.
  • The fellowship and caravan systems (when they're bug free) are a nice touch, no one plays alone anymore, it's nice to stay with friends
  • The melee and spell chains are reminiscent of Final Fantasy and anytime I say something is reminiscent of Final Fantasy, that's a good thing.
  • The spell awareness and dispelling abilities is yet another example of putting more attention to something and not just grinding
  • Early access to mounts but slow mounts is a nice nod to giving players what they want without sacrificing the feeling of achievement
  • Group harvesting can turn out to be an actual group activity if they work on it just a little more. It's still a good direction since previous group activities were all hunt-related
Vanguard is turning out to be a pleasant experience and gives me a good taste of the next evolution of MMOs. It is not, however, a WoW killer. I just don't think it's polished enough. It doesn't feel like a world to which I could connect. Yes, I read every line of story. I try to figure out the purpose for killing "12 grey wolves". I try to feel the sense of accomplishment for fighting back invaders (even if I know they respawned the moment I left). But overall, things are not tied together very well. Quests are just loosely tied together to bring you to the next area. Exploration is limited to fulfilling quests but there's little sense of any area being "lived in".

I applaud them for taking MMO's to the next level but it feels to me like they nailed the concepts but failed in the execution of fleshing out a truly great game. I'm not going to stop playing though, at least not yet. This is one to experience if for no other reason than it leads us into the next era. The best way I can think to describe it is playing UO before there was EQ. You knew something big was happening but probably not in UO. It doesn't mean you shouldn't play it in the meantime.

By the way, I'm Earen on server Florendyl. Stop by and say hi.

Monday, January 29, 2007

YouTube to Pay Uploaders

Another one from MarketingVox today:

YouTube is going to share revenues with people that upload their videos. Not a novel idea. Revver and Flixya are doing it. But it's YouTube, so it's big. Wonder if the uploader will lose some rights.

Anyways, got me thinking. I may have mentioned this before but I don't see why this model couldn't be translated into games. It may not happen anytime soon but imagine a day when you get paid for playing an MMO. Imagine being rewarded for having the most popular guild on a server. Or getting a paycheck for being top crafter. Now the thing that lets this happen is, of course, advertising.

Yes, I know, I said the A-word. But the fact is, advertising will continue to play a bigger role in games. I would like to see some free games out there (like Acclaim's) that not only lets you play for free but rewards you. Not reward you in some occasionally sweepstakes but rewards you for consistent loyalty. Maybe we'll even start seeing some networks of game publishers that compete for your attention. Trust me, there's a lot of ad money coming and there's enough to spread it around. May not be for everyone but neither is uploading videos to YouTube

Acclaim BOTS Trainer/Hack/Cheats

Hello cheater,

Welcome to my blog. You are number #15,231 to search for BOTS related cheats, hacks and trainers. My name is Ken, also known as BOTS Toggle. I used to be the brand manager of BOTS. Since I helped launch BOTS, I'm very happy to see your interest in the game. Unfortunately, I feel obligated to tell you that cheating is wrong. The only person you're cheating, is you. Besides, you're better than that. You don't need to cheat. I believe in you.

Winners don't have to cheat. Winners network with the right people, who can then contact their own people, who ultimately make things go the way of the winners. It's not cheating, it's friends helping friends (and sometimes some money changes hands but it's all on the up and up). So my friend, you see how cheating, hacking or using trainers is just not the right way to go? I hope you take this message to heart my friend.

Good luck out there! You beat up them viruses real good k?

The Ultimate Virtual World: Google Life

Interesting rumor is surfacing that Google may be in the planning stages of a virtual world, like Second Life. The speculation is that a team from has joined Google and is cranking away.

Now if this is true, well then, it's an understatement to say we have ourselves a very interesting new player in the online persistent world space. If I was forced to name only one thing as Google's core competency, I would have to say that it's the ability to simplify complexity to the level of mass usability (e.g. their search, email, desktop search, maps, etc)

Now I'm not sure what they have planned, the rumor is still only lightly seasoned but if anyone can deliver on the hype/promise surrounding Second Life (that is taking the web from 2D to 3D) it would be Google.

On a slightly related note. Just received the most transparent grassroots comment ever. On my post a few months back about MTV's Virtual Laguna Beach (powered by's engine), someone just left the comment:

"Anonymous said:

I'd just like you to know that VLB (based on is more than a chat room. I hardly chat and there's plenty to do "in game." I do hoverboard tricks to gain levels, I play with dogs to gain levels, I ride buggies to gain levels, I change clothes to gain levels and I play Paintball to gain levels. Each level gained gives you virtual money so you can then buy things in game. It's a pretty simple concept but it's kept me busy for months."
Dude. No one who's played that game for months talks LIKE THAT! A 26-year-old advertising assistant at a grassroots buzz agency talks like that. Not the VLB target demo. C'mon now, seriously? You can't truly want me to believe this is really some kid.

Of course, I had to check the ip signature on this comment. Here's what I discovered: The comment was posted from a Safeco Insurance company. Looks legitimately like an insurance company to me but maybe it's just a front for a viral agency... you buying that? Ok fine, maybe it was legit... but Safeco Insurance (and what are you doing reading my blog on Monday morning instead of working on insurancy matters?)?

Ok, commenter, I believe you. You're not trying to shill the product. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to downgrade you from "astroturfing grassroots guy" to "well-articulated, insurance-selling, teen-game-playing pedophile". Nicely done! Thanks for stopping by!

via MarketingVox

Friday, January 26, 2007

Home sweet home

Due to new Blogger functionality, Branded Newb is now officially on The www part is important cuz I can't figure out how to make it redirect without. Old links to will be redirected automatically. This is opposite of what I had set up before, that is, if you typed, you were redirected to the blogspot address. Confused yet? Don't worry, if you can read this, you have the right address.

I'll also take this opportunity to say that I've been pretty happy with Blogger. It doesn't have all the fancy tools that some offerings provide but it's free and more importantly, pain free.

One last thing. I own this domain name until 2009 so I'm not going anywhere. I'm gonna get my money's worth!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Real World Vacation

Six Flags and Nintendo announced a partnership today wherein the Wii will be available at terminals all over your local theme park. Wow, that's a really horrible idea. Not for the brands involved, that's actually genius; the target markets are similar and everyone benefits from the exposure. It's a bad idea for those poor parents that finally got their kids out of the house to experience some real fun.

Not that this is realistic but you can imagine lil' Bryan with a nearly continuous gaming experience from home to TV-enabled SUV to Wii-enabled theme park.

Then again, it may be the only place where you can play Wii Sports in one hand and have a fresh funnel cake in the other. Mmm, excuse me a sec, that's a good happy place. Funnnnnel cake.

via NextGen

Vanguard Update

Vanguard launches early tomorrow for online pre-orderers (that's a word, I think). I'm going to try to create "Earen", a blood mage, on the Florendyl server. Will update if things don't go as planned.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A matter of pride

I don't have many things that I'm particularly proud of owning. Wait, actually, let me clarify. I do have things I like showing off. I call them my man purses, you know, the male equivalent of:

Girlfriend 1 - "Is that a new purse? It's so cute!"
Girlfriend 2 - "Really? I got it for half off, can you believe it?"

Yes, my collection of purses range from my butcher block island in the kitchen to my PS3 expertly hooked up with all the best cables that money can buy. There is a very real pleasure to owning something slightly lavish and totally pretentious. I recognize this pleasure and perhaps indulge in it a little too much. These items are not, however, the things that I'm proud of owning.

In fact, paradoxically, the items I'm most proud of are items about which I'm most humble. When I indulge in some retail therapy, I'll shamelessly drag someone in front of my prizes and say, "Check these out" while I casually lean back and place my hands on my hips (no, I'm not showing them my pants). In contrast, the good stuff, the items of pride, are meant to be found. A discovery is so much more valuable than an introduction. My favorite question to hear when guests are over is, "Oooh, what's this?"

"This, my friend, is a restored 1940's Smith Corona Sterling portable typewriter. Yup, it works. Let me grab some paper"

I'd then roll a crisp piece of cotton paper into place and move away. I can always sense the anticipation mixed with hesitation. It's funny because everyone starts out the same; hitting the space bar. When they realize they haven't broken anything... they tap. tap tap. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap tap tap. Tap tap turp!

"You can't go that fast, the letters crash into each other"

Tap.. tap... tap... Tap tap tap tap. DING!

If they weren't smiling yet, this is when they let go. I've even heard a giggle or two. No one ever has a problem finding the carriage return bar and giving it a yank.

Tap tap tap tap. tap tap tap....

Yup. I'm proud of owning an old typewriter. I didn't design it or update it or even do much searching for it. There's no old grandfather attached to a sappy hand-me-down story. In fact, all I did was put up the cash. Kinda boring.

My pride comes from simply owning the experience. I love it and I love sharing it. The physical item itself is tertiary to the experience. When I share it, I begin to understand the passion of conservationists. I begin to think that there is a very real necessity in our world to keep old typewriters alive.

We live in a world of fly by wire, where doing things has been outsourced to devices and digital signals. Our increase in productivity has come at the cost of our feelings, our senses and our connection to the product of our actions. The typewriter neatly encompasses what we've lost. Sure, the feeling of placing pen to paper may be a more pure exercise but I always find it to difficult to get that great scratching sound you hear in commercials. No, that won't do. We need things like the typewriter, with its brash clacks and unabashed rings.

Writing is an intense exercise and I can think of no better way to go headfirst into the liberation of one's thoughts than through the cacophony of typing. As we give birth to our ideas, we should welcome an appropriate amount of noise and the sharp slap of reality. Like the reality of rules. You can't go too fast. You have to respect boundaries. You have to work on things one page at a time. If you make a mistake, you have to watch it stare back at you accusingly.

We need typewriters. Find one, buy it, save it. Be proud of it.

I wish I could be typing this to you on the Smithy but of course that would be ridiculous. You are, however, invited to come over and give it a go. But, you'll have to discover it for yourself.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Wii can power a small city!

Headline grabbing is fun. Come with me for this ride where I find a way to make the Wii power a city:

Average calories burned per hour of Wii Sports: 100
(source: POOMA*)

Total number of Wii's sold worldwide: 3,800,000

Average 1 hour game sessions per week per Wii: 5

TOTAL worldwide calories burned per month: 7,600,000,000 (7.6 billion)

Electricity equivalent of 100 calories burned per hour: 0.1163 kilowatt hours
(Online conversion)

TOTAL electricity equivalent of Wii usage: 8,838,800 kilowatt hours (8.38 GWh)

Average monthly electricity consumption of US household in 2001: 887.833 kilowatt hours

TOTAL households that can be powered in a month via one month of global human Wii-power: 9,955.47

That's a small city like Maryville, TN

*POOMA - Pulled out of my ass. Mostly an exercise in educated guessing but still guessing.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Google Virtual World Domination Watch 1

Google is rumored to be interested in purchasing AdScape, an in-game advertising firm. Well, that's interesting. As far as in-game ad firms go, I would never have guessed AdScape would be a good buy. Haven't heard as much from them as Massive (Microsoft-owned) or IGA. But who am I to second guess Godgle.

This, of course, totally makes sense for Google. We might as well create a new Law, call it the Google Law of Distribution: In any given ad space, if the volume of ads is equal to or greater than 1, an external Google force will be applied to said space until the Google force occupies such space at a rate significantly greater than equilibrium.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Now we're talking

Up until this point, the 2008 Presidential race was just... bleh. With Hillary finally, officially, throwing in her hat, now we got a race. Granted, we don't have any opponents from the dark side yet, but nevertheless, it's still more interesting now.

She also promises a live video chat on her site as early as this Monday.

::dreamy sigh:: She had me at live video...

Yay! Hillary for President!!

(On a side note, the site is kinda boring. I was looking for some imagery to put on Branded Newb, maybe some banners or something. Nada. C'mon Hillary, I need a virtual lawn sign or something.)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Joining the Van-wagon

So I preordered Vanguard and tested it out this evening. So happens they were giving away Griffins to everyone. Well, my brand newb self couldn't resist that offer. I had a jolly good time flying around. Time will tell if the game is any good though.

If you happen to be playing as well, drop me a line before the end of month release date so we can coordinate servers. Don't know my preferred full release name yet, I'll post when I figure it out.

Be Cute Dammit

Deep down, everyone wants to be cute. We let out choice squeals only when others are around. We do that thing with our noses, the wrinkly thing... no not that one... yeah, that one. We sometimes shake our things like we just don't care when really we do. This is human nature, we can't fight it. That's why marketers, myself included, have jobs. You see, we prey on everyone's human nature like lions to baby zebras.

Take, for example, the Mii's for your Wii. Done right, they're cute. Everyone loves em. But hey, not everyone has a Wii (yet) so what are the Wii-less to do? Get a WeeMee.

Yeah, it's all the goodness of a Mii, without the Wii. It's called a WeeMee. Don't you love coincidences? It's interesting though. Not only does everyone need to be cute, the expression of your personality online has become a connected to your ability to customize better than someone else. In the not too distant future, will we have Customization Specialists just as we have Stylists now?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

That's just not right

Office Depot's new "helping hand" campaign just launched and is about a hand in a box. Oh this is too good. You can pick the response:

  • Hey, Justin Timberlake's people just called. They want to do dinner and a movie.
  • Staple's Easy Button has just filed a restraining order, please stay an arm's length away.
  • The Addams family's "Thing" sells out to the man, proceeds from campaign go to nail salon victims.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hold the Cheese

This guy used the Wii to lose weight and did a nice job documenting it. As far as headline grabbing goes, this is slightly easier to accept since he's not commercial (he does have ads on his blog) and is mildly interesting given the plethora of stats. But in terms of originality, well, we might as well just start calling him Jared.

via Joystiq

Monday, January 15, 2007

Garment of Destiny

"First, we are challenged to develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone, and anyone who feels that he can live alone is sleeping through a revolution. The world in which we live is geographically one. The challenge that we face today is to make it one in terms of brotherhood.

Now it is true that the geographical oneness of this age has come into being to a large extent through modern man’s scientific ingenuity. Modern man through his scientific genius has been able to dwarf distance and place time in chains. And our jet planes have compressed into minutes distances that once took weeks and even months. All of this tells us that our world is a neighborhood.

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured."

Martin Luther King
March 31, 1968
Excerpt from "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution"
Sermon delivered at the National Cathedral

Worth repeating: "I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be."

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Nooo! Kumar can't be a terrorist!

Sorry. Someone needed to say it. That is all. Carry on.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Get Your Hands Off My Wii-mail

8 months.

What? Oh, you want context?

8 months; that's the time we have before the Wii spam begins. What is Wii spam? Well, you know the Wii can connect to the Internet... and every Wii has an email address (It's the letter "w" followed by the system's Wii number and Well, unfortunately, that means we are going to be getting spam. It's inevitable.

"But who is going to know my Wii number? I only give it to my friends." you say. Well, true... for now. But in time, someone will figure out a clever way to connect to people via their Wii's. They'll offer us some wicked cool social network thing or some free game cheats or Wii-related daily haikus. All we have to do is sign up online with our Wii number or Wii-mail address. We'll do it too because we can't help but want to feel connected (love me for who I am) and/or get a freebie (in your face, The Man!). As with most things online, the provider will run out of money, sell their list with your precious Wii-mail address on it and the rest is history.

Or... someone will just hack a Nintendo database.

So hey, if you're Wii-ing, go home and enjoy this moment of spam-free bliss. By the way, can I have your Wii number?

Friday, January 12, 2007

A matter of perspective

Joystiq has a great post showing snippets of press releases from the three console makers. All three appear to have a success story to tell regarding the holiday season. Just goes to show you, you can say anything in a press release without batting an eye.

To the console maker's defense, I have to say that we don't necessarily have to view the console wars as a zero-sum game (that is, for everyone one person that buys an Xbox, someone else is not buying a PS3 or Wii). We haven't reached that point yet in the industry, the non-gamer popularity of the Wii shows us that. It may be zero-sum in the hardcore gamer element but there's still a whole lot of new consumers you can capture. Let me repeat, this is not a zero-sum game. There's plenty of pie around for everyone. Expanding the industry into all corners of the population and to a wide variety of tastes benefits everyone. It's easy to forget but it's important for our overall growth. Goooo team!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Agency Needed, Passion for Games a Plus

via Marketingvox and AdWeek, Activision is shopping for a new ad agency. The number two US publisher, known for titles such as Call of Duty, Star Trek, X-men and other licensed properties, dropped their old agency late last year.

This just in, excerpts from the pitch invitation:

Description: Activision is seeking a new ad agency for it's multi-million dollar international account. Candidates should have experience with traditional as well as interactive and emerging media advertising. Innovative creative and strategy a plus but not required. Must be able to effectively translate prior ad campaigns into new campaign on an near annual basis.

Critical to the business is the ability to increase numbers by one integer, ex: Call of Duty 3 to Call of Duty 4. Creative duties include selecting new integer font style that is consistent with historic integer font style but also introduces forward-thinking elements.

Successful agency must be able to take it from behind as well as all sides, this is due to the unique relationship between Agency, Activision, Licensor Partners, and Console Manufacturers. All party opinions must be incorporated into all external deliverables.

Additional Requirements: Agency offices must have decorative surfboards and/or employees with ironic t-shirts.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Classic Play

My beloved lil' godsisters came to visit this past weekend. Aside from a fair amount of time spent on the Wii, we also rolled up our sleeves and made some (belated) gingerbread houses. Say what you will, I had fun.

The one of the left was made from scratch, the one on the right made from a kit. Given property values in LA, both are worth approximately $5,000. I'll be taking bids in increments of $250. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Headline grabber of the day

As you know, I really really really hate headline grabbing. You know, those press releases or news stories that cater to the low common denominator of giving you what you want to hear. Ex: "Britney Spears reportedly contracts rare form of venereal disease" or "George Bush visits base, falls on bomb; dies"

It's not that I don't want to hear what I umm want to hear, it's just that these things are usually full of crap. With that in mind, I bring you today's headline grabber:

"Study: Nintendo Wii Style Gaming has Health Benefits" via Nintendo Revolution, via Gamegaiden, via Digg.

You barely need to get to the second paragraph on Nintendo Revolution before it becomes crystal clear this is a headline grabber:

Playing the Wii is a great way to combat childhood obesity, a new study has concluded. It makes perfect sense to us, since it's quite easy to break a sweat (and sometimes, a television) with a Wii.

To be honest, the phrase "Nintendo Wii" was never explicited mentioned in the release, but when we read phrases like "activity-required video games," there's really only one console that comes to mind.
Really? What about DDR? What about Guitar Hero? Good ol'Kong Drumming? EyeToy? Oh no, let's not consider that the study may have looked at those (the latter was the actual study vehicle). Let's go for the sexy headline. You know, the Wii is hawt! Well, at least they're honest about it.

But wait, what about the study itself, how accurate is it?
The study is the first to scientifically measure the energy spent playing video games. While the study's scope is small -- only 25 children -- it was conducted with great accuracy. Fifteen children were of normal weight for their height and frame; 10 were mildly obese. Both groups were tested while sitting and watching television, playing a traditional video game, playing two types of activity-required video games, and watching television while walking on a treadmill. [emphasis mine]
Umm, I'm not like a statistician or something but 25 kids seems like an awfully small sample size. Whatever. I guess I'd be a stickler to argue what appears to be the obvious: physical activity is good for kids. You know, when common sense tells you something should be true, why bother with good methodology.

What irks me even more is that this story will no doubt get perpetuated erroneously. Note that the blog (2nd cited link) mentions the study as if it was done with the Wii. ARGH!!

Actual press release here. (Don't even get me started on the shameless plagiarism of the press release from all these pubs). More bad Wii inferences: Here, here

GameSpot earns my respect with a balanced article and interview (though they can't help but mention the Wii too).

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Duty Calls Twice

I spent Friday and Saturday night this weekend in 1940's Europe. Hey, did you know there was a big war going on back then? Yeah, me neither. Luckily, there's this game called Call of Duty 3 that encapsulates (in interactive entertainment form) that very dark period of history. The game is pretty good.

That's the extent of my review for the game itself. This post is not really about CoD3 but about the hardware that I used to run the game. Friday night was Wii night. Saturday was PS3 night. Two nights, two consoles, one game.

I know there's probably a ton of similar documented experiences out there on more legitimate publications but I really wanted to experience the differences between these two consoles myself. My preconceptions going into it would be that the Wii would provide a unique experience given the innovative controls whereas the PS3 would provide the more exciting sensory experience given the high definition video and better sound. In general, I was right but with a few interesting things to note.

The graphics of the Wii weren't disappointing when compared to the PS3. (In more professional publications, this is where you'd see the screenshots. I tried taking some with my camera but I couldn't sync up right and it all looked similar after the effect from my shaky hands) While playing on the PS3, there were only a few moments when the graphics really stood out. These moments were all when I was flopped on my stomach in the mud behind what little cover I could find. Enemy fire and grenades were exploding around me and yet between trying to reload and not get blown up, I'd notice a lovely patch of grass and sparkling running water. Oooh, how pretty. Wouldn't it be nice to just lay here and enjoy how the grass moves in the wind?

Granted, these little moments added up to some sort of subconscious fulfillment. I liken it to the sort you get from feasting at a buffet; it's not so much that you're getting a main dish that's much better than anywhere else, it's that you're getting a lot of little things that add up. If the PS3 visual experience is a 10, the Wii visual experience is a solid 8. In a world where we want everything, is an 8 enough? Let's talk about the controls.

The Wii controller is revolutionary and if you don't believe me, ten minutes with Wii Sports will turn you into not only a believer but an advocate. Games such as Monkey Ball and Rayman Rabbids were made for gaming with the controllers and these further prove the point. Unfortunately, not all games have or can have the affinity with the new control system. For a game like CoD3, the various things you can do with the Wii controllers are no more than a simple replacement for button pushes or joystick tugging.

Similar to the graphics situation, I rarely even noticed the differences. Once I rewired my brain, there really isn't any particular benefit from the Wii control system. In fact, for one particular gameplay sequence (where you wrestle with a bad guy for your weapon) the PS3 controller takes advantage of its motion sensing capabilities very much like the Wii. So where does that leave us?

Overall, I would say that if you played the game on only one system, you really aren't missing out on much. That is, the proverbial grass isn't that much greener on the other side.

This presents a problem as these two consoles begin to move away from launch buzz to sustainability. I really think cross-platform titles are going to be a wash in terms of generating excitement for a particular console. It's the exclusive games that will make the most difference.

I think it comes down to this: Can Nintendo sell enough Wii consoles to make it worthwhile for developers to create more exclusive titles for the Wii? If you're a studio about to start on a new project, would you try to make something that could run on all the next-gen systems or would you create something that maximizes the Wii control system? The default for studios and developers is continuing down the volume and technology arms race, favoring PS3.

What this Call of Duty exercise made me realize was that the Wii is still just a piece of hardware. It was the first time I began to think that it might be vulnerable. Nintendo really needs a continuous stream of titles to move the perception of the control system from playful novelty to practical value. I estimate this needs to happen within the year or we'll start to see a fading of interest in the Wii.

BTW, thanks to my buddy Ryan for "lending" me a copy of his Wii CoD3.

Friday, January 05, 2007

E for All Expo? No seriously, what is it called?

IDG announced the official name for their new consumer-focused gaming convention: E for All Expo. No seriously, that's what it's called. Well, the full name is Entertainment for All Expo but the cool kids are going to shorten it to E for All Expo. This is, by the way, the ESA-blessed successor to the extravagance of E3.

Now before I rip into the name to tell you why it's horrible, I want to first say I feel bad about doing so. This is mostly because the name is consumer-generated since IDG held a competition to name the event. After 3,000 entries, they chose the above name (makes you wonder how horrible the other 2,999 were). I love consumer-generated stuff so regardless of the name quality, congrats to the winner. Way to go you! No matter what I say, you're still a winner.

To IDG, the name you picked sucks. I hate it... a lot. First, it's totally unoriginal. E3 was Electronic Entertainment Expo. There are 4 words in the new name and 2 of them you've borrowed from E3. C'mon now, you could have done better.

The name has terrible abbreviation options: EFAE or EAE. The latter makes me and Old McDonald want to sing along ala E I E I O. The former can be pronounced e-fay but that sounds like a cheesy rip-off of e-bay. The only thing I can come up with that's decent is to pronounce it like "Eff'ay", ala latino gangster: "Yo ess'say, you going to eff'ay?"

The name says nothing about games. Granted, neither did E3 but still, we should try to improve things in this world n'est pas? Entertainment for All Expo could very well be a music festival. Where's our identity as gamers showing through?

I take it back, it may obscurely reference games. E for All Expo is homophonically similar to "Free for All Expo". Unfortunately, that then makes it too damn FPS-centric. What about RTS'ers and MMO'ers. We're all gamers!

Can you imagine reading about the E for All Expo in actual news stories? If they don't abbreviate it to EAE (A quack quack here, a quack quack there), it's going to be an literal eyesore when coverage starts coming around. After a few times, I'm not even reading it anymore, just glancing over it.

It's too trendy. Yes, everyone loves the whole kumbaya of consumer participation but slathering it all over your name is just obnoxious obsequiousness. Yes, about as obnoxious as using the word obsequiousness. Can we just cowboy up and name the damn thing something cool rather than give our customers the courtesy reach around?

It's boring. Where's the fun? How is the vitality of our industry showing through here?

Anyways, hate the name. Can't wait to go though!

By the way, I just want to shamelessly bring to your attention that I totally called it back when the announcement of E3's death came around. I said the ESA would have to have strict rules to limit the participation in the new E3 (they did that) and when they do, someone else will come in to replace them as the big spectacle convention (our new beloved Eff'ay).

Counting Counts

A really good article yesterday on CNET regarding Second Life and how to measure its popularity. Some press coverage (with an assist from Linden Labs) has thrown around 2 million "residents" as a figure for Second Life's popularity. Skeptics point to the fact that that figure is inflated, since it counts everyone that's registered, regardless of whether or not they actually ever "play" or if they're alts of current players. They say the figure is more like 200k.

As long-time readers know, I'm not a fan of Second Life and said so back in July of last year (with a bit of pride [the bad kind], I'd like to point out that was when everyone was still ga-ga over this thing). My opinion stands and I'm glad to see others catching on. Hopefully, most people will see past the smoke and mirrors this year.

Anyways, enough of the shameless self-indulgence. This article brings up a really serious issue. How do we measure the success of products that don't have a tangible count (such as actual units sold)? Here's an overview of some metrics:

  • Registered Users - Count each time someone registers an account
    • Analysis: Registrations can give you a sense of how popular a game is in the sense of getting people to register. For free games, this number will obviously be inflated. This shows that a game was able to at least entice someone to register but says nothing about stickiness or profitability. In addition, current players almost always register more than once so that has to be factored in as well.
  • Concurrent Users - Any given time, count every account that is actively playing. This is usually a count of the highest or average number of players logged in simultaneously.
    • Analysis: This is a good figure to use since it shows how many people are actively playing at any given time. Unfortunately, most of the time, a concurrent user count represents the high point instead of the average. Maybe there are honest publishers that give high and average CC users but I haven't met one.
  • Average Active Users - For a set period of time such as day, week or month/s, count every unique account that has logged in, average it out over longer period. This figures depends on what time period you select.
    • Analysis: Since this is based on a time period and since there's rarely an agreement on time periods, this also has limitations
  • Paid User - Total count of accounts that have paid for some service.
    • Analysis: This may be a good indicator of how committed the player base is but it does not reflect too many other factors. What about non-paying users? What about games that derive revenue from ads?
Here's my suggestion: Let's set aside periods of time that an account is logged in, say 30 minutes and 2 hours. 30 minutes represent light play and 2 hours represent heavy play. We count users that reach 30 minutes but not 2 hours as light players. We count users that reach 2 hours as heavy players. We then count daily average sessions of light players and heavy players. By themselves, they give us an idea of casual versus hardcore usage. Combined, these two numbers become an Average Daily Engagement Metric.

The ADEM solves several problems. We are only counting real people playing rather than accounts that may not be active. We stop counting logins that don't matter, such as quick log ins on alts for inventory passing. We establish a daily count, which provides more accuracy. We establish an average count, which is more accurate than a high count. Finally, we count players and playtime rather than paid vs unpaid, allowing flexibility across games with different revenue models.

I reserve the right to refine this but I would trust this metric as a measure of success.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wii love on Yahoo

Was just updating my Yahoo! Avatar when I ran across Wii branded gear. As far as promotions go, this is probably microscopic for Nintendo but it's by far one of the more clever ways to promote your fan-crazed product. It also doesn't hurt for Yahoo! to get a little halo effect from all the Wii excitement. This gets my thumbs up.

Just a tad off that's all

Back in July, I made a prediction on the share of console hardware sales for the big three. To save you the click it was:

Wii: 45%
PS3: 30%
360: 25%
Based on reports today quoting from IDC (via, via CNBC) the results from sales in Nov and Dec clock in as:

Wii: 1.8 million units - 40%
PS3: 750 thousand units - 16%
360: 2 million units - 44%

Therefore, I was wrong. SO wrong. Let me quote from the July post:
Last month, I would have put the Wii on top, 360 second and PS3 third in sales coming out of the Xmas season. I'm starting to think it's a good idea to swap the 360 and PS3 positions.
Yup, so very very wrong about the 360 and PS3 swap. By the way, I still think Wii would have won since 360 had the extra two weeks in Nov. (Wii was released late Nov.).

So now that we closed that open post we can move on to making wrong predictions for 07.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bad News for PS3 Owner

The owner, well, that would be me. I opened up my brand new PS3 today. I took about an hour figuring out how to connect the video to my HD TV (via a DVI to HDMI converter cable, had to run to the store to get it) and audio to my receiver (optical cable). Plugged in the ethernet cable and got the sucker online and updated. Ahh yes, success. I leaned back and admired my newly set up PS3. Oh yeah, life is good. Ready to rock and roll, I grabbed my Resistance: FoM disc and slid it into the PS3.

Except there was no sliding. No smooth vrooming sound as the disc disappears into the $600 machine. Nothing. The PS3 wouldn't accept the disc. It hung there like a stale piece of toast; the damn machine unwilling to take a bite.

That's right folks, let me introduce you to my very expensive paperweight, my new Sony Playstation 3.

So I call up customer service. Of course, they make me go through the rounds of turning things on and off and removing things left and right. Finally, they too realize it's broken. While on the phone with them, I Googleshooted my problem and found that this is not the first time this has happened to someone. At least it saves me the trouble of making a video to show you guys what's going on, it's already out there.

So now I wait for a box to ship this paperweight to Sony. Then they ship me back a new PS3 (that we all hope works). The moral of the story? I should have just kept playing with my Wii.

Monday, January 01, 2007

5 things you don't know about me

Tasked by Amber to perpetuate a meme, I have no choice but to obey. I'm a few days late though so I expect the undescript "warning" package she's going to leave at my door to be shocking but not explosive. I thank her for her New Year's kindness. And now on to the task at hand: 5 things you don't know about me and will never be able to unknow:

  1. I go to bed with a pillow over my eyes. It started because I was afraid of the dark as a child but couldn't handle the stuffiness of covering all of me with the sheets. The compromise was to cover most of me with the sheets, my eyes with the pillow and leave my nose and mouth open to breathe. It doesn't make sense but we're only on #1 so you better hang in there.
  2. I have a shy bladder, can't do the urinal troughs. Seriously, stood there once working every mental exercise I could come up with: Niagara Falls, firemen hoses, the Bellagio fountains and that nature video where the elephants pee on trees. Nothing. So yeah, umm what are you doing this weekend?
  3. On a related note, I stare at genitalia in locker rooms. Ok, look, I'm not like staring staring or anything k? It's just that the universe hates me and almost every single time I'm in a locker room, some dude's junk is in my line of sight and the owner (as well as his friends if available) will always notice. Ex: I look for a plug for my shaver, doh, some dude's junk. I try to remember which bottom locker I stored my stuff, doh, some dude's junk. I gesture to a friend across the way, some dude's standing on a bench... junk at eye level. Leaving the gym, looking in the rearview to back the car out and yup, someone's junk in the mirror.
  4. I get split ends on my leg hairs. I suppose it's because I don't moisturize enough but it's challenging to find time to treat my legs right. I barely get enough pumice-time with my heels. Life sucks.
  5. I fantasize about blowing raspberries on the stomach of strangers (mostly women, sometimes men, don't judge me). In general, I think about stuff like: How would she react? Would she giggle, scream or snort? Oh, she's a plump one, I bet it'd be a nice bass note.
Ok, so that was the 5. Let's forget it ever happened and never mention it again ok?

Also, I'm just going to let this be a terminal point for this viral since I don't have the clout of Amber nor do I think anyone I know will actually do it. Besides, I'm like weeks late on this meme. Lastly, this is pretty cool but god forbid we start doing things on blogs we all hated from email spam.

The 2006 posts that never were

Happy New Year Branded Newb Readers! I'm back from the holiday break and now it's time to get back to blogging goodness.

Let me fill you in: During most of the week from Christmas to New Years, I was away from the Internet. No laptop, no cord into walls, no 802.11G waves buzzing around my mutation sensitive brain cells. Basically, it was like 1992 all over again, except without the high school acne and the awkward jokes (ok, just a few awkward jokes). I bet you found out that President Ford died within the day. I didn't find out until the next day, when I saw a flag at half mast and finally found a newspaper. It was definitely a strange feeling, like the scenes in the Matrix when we found ourselves in the "real world". I'm glad to be back.

At almost every turn, I found something I wanted to blog about. Here are some potential posts that never happened:

  • The Crack is Tough to Resist - Cracker Barrel is a retail juggernaut. Not in volume like Walmart or culture like Apple but in the experience you get with one of their restaurants. From the outside look of the building to the porch waiting area rocking chairs to the random country store items you can get inside, everything is strategically placed to make you spend more money. My credit card slip at the store was given to me on top of a glossy card which just so happens to also be a bright menu of pies I could order and bring home, if a last minute urge so happened to overtake me.
  • Unconnected Networks Don't Make Sense - With wi-fi hotspots becoming ubiquitous, why hasn't an offering been successful in networking all these public access points? This is surely an opportunity for a brand to become established as the goto place for public wi-fi. That will take care of consistency, security and availability issues that you run across when traveling from coffee shop to McDonald's for a fix of "fi".
  • Grandma is Hogging the Wii - The Wii is a little box of irresistible gaming candy. It can fit in the corner of a backpack and won't raise any eyebrows at airport security. Like that "just too slick" guy taking your daughter to prom, it will impress everyone in the family but leave you wondering if it's long-term material. Finally, on a personal note, I'm damn good at making Mii's. As a result, I'm quitting my day job and setting up shop at the Promenade. Let me make your Mii: $5 for 1, $8 for 2!
  • Personality Proxy of the Day, 12/31/06 - Korbel Rouge