Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Wall Street May Get Bad Chinese Delivery

Reuters reports that Chinese investors are heavily involved and influenced by online chatrooms for their investment decisions. According to the article, the Chinese market is heavy with activity from individual investors rather than brokers (typically more professional of the two). The Chinese are looking to the chatrooms for news, tips and camaraderie and use the info they get to make their investment decisions.

Not to be a doom and gloom predictor but I'm going to watch my investments closely in the near term. Here's why:

  1. The Chinese are notoriously risky gamblers (I can say this because my family is Chinese and because the French already noted the "the casino mentality in Shanghai")
  2. Internet chatter is an unregulated free for all, prone to ignoring facts and moving purely on opinion and the loudest voices (or ideas)
  3. The Chinese market is already inflated (Greenspan's statements)
  4. We live in a global economy, influenced by the shifts of international markets
  5. When the Chinese bubble bursts, it may be the event that causes our market to finally turn around from our record highs.
It seems to me that this is a repeat of our own enthusiasm back in the first dotcom bubble. The Internet is such a powerful medium and it continually amazes me the fiscal, social and political impact it can have in the world. It really makes me wonder what good and evils are in store for us in this fundamentally uncontrollable space.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Headline abuse

In my perpetual mission to uncover horribly inaccurate headlines, I don't think I've run across one so blatantly bad as this: Video games, gas prices cut traffic to US parks: from the Christian Science Monitor. The story is about declining attendance at the country's state and national parks. Although our beloved video games get top mention, that's not the reality. You have to get to the third page of the article before you see the critical line:

"Federal officials, governors, and others around the country have launched programs to fight what they see as "nature deficit disorder" among American couch potato kids spending increasing amounts of time in front of the TV or computer screen, playing video games, or text messaging on their cellphones – 44 hours a week, according to the National Wildlife Federation"
That's right, even in the line games are mentioned, they're not even mentioned first. Here are some other things mentioned in the article that might be contributing to the decline:
  • soccer camps
  • 9/11's chill on the economy and foreign visitation
  • the 1997 flood (of Yosemite)
  • shifting demographics
  • cost of visiting parks (gas excluded)
  • park fee hikes
So what's with picking on video games Ben Arnoldy & Brad Knickbocker (the writers [love the name Brad!]). I mean, seriously, WTF mates?! At best, your headline is a gross exaggeration. At worse, you're simply creating a lie through false pretenses since the National Wildlife Federation quote does not even correlate those activities with anything else let alone nature park visits. Hey guys, your community college called, they want the journalism degrees back.

Fighting a losing war

... against video games that is. It's been revealed that the governor of Illinois blew a $1 million trying to ban violent video games, which (last I checked) were protected by the First Amendment.

"The governor raided funds throughout state government to pay for the litigation. Some of the areas money was taken from included the public health department, the state's welfare agency and even the economic development department."
Well, it appears that public health and support for the poor is just not as important as trying to make a conservative political statement. "Some lawmakers who voted for it called it a bad law, but said they had to go along for political reasons."

That, my friends, is the crux of our problem. This game problem will go away in about 10 to 20 years, when the first gamer generation becomes old enough to yank the political agenda away from the gnarled hands of the boomers. Until that happens, we will continue to be targeted because the video game issue is not a violence issue, it's not a censorship issue nor even a moral content issue. It is a generation issue.

The birth of console games occurred in the 80's, which means that anyone over 40 will not understand growing up with games, violent or not. I'm sure the same thing happened to rock and roll; no one worries about it now because the opinion and policy makers of today grew up on that stuff. This ban/censorship thing won't go away because it's easier to point at issues you don't know rather than deal with the issues you do know.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Search is not everything, says Google

Ok, they didn't really say "Search is not everything" but the implication is there. Why else would I run into a banner ad from Google trying to sell me on Google analytics? In the toolkit of tactics to use in online marketing, search gets a whole lot of attention because it's very effective and efficient. Its most critical weakness is reach.

You just can't run a search campaign if no one knows about your product. Also a serious problem is if people rarely search for related topics to your product. In those situations, you can't rely on search to do much legwork. You need to do stuff like banner advertising.

If Google is doing it, you can bet it's a good idea. And that's been your daily online marketing tip (daily tip does not represent any actual promise of daily deliver of tips, your consumption of the daily tip acknowledges your understanding and waives any rights or expectations)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Who really pays your bills?

via The Consumerist, a study has shown that companies in the top 20% in terms of customer satisfaction also happen to outperform the general market by about 40%. Let's paraphrase that: Companies with great customer satisfaction are richly rewarded.

Now when I first read this article, I thought, "Duh". But then a few days later, I ran into a waiter who responded to my request for a side salad instead of fries (Look, there's a reason why I haven't posted any pictures of myself lately. Can you say Tubby McTubbs?) with the phrase, "We don't do that"... emphasis on the "we" and "that". When struck in the face with such abhorrent behavior, regardless of whether or not it's a customer server to customer servee situation, I get flash frozen by shock and then pathetically crumble. I'm not good with confrontations, especially when spit + food can still be a valid equation.

So instead, I seethe. And seethe I do extremely well. But it brought back to mind this study and how it reveals a truth in business. No matter what you do, if you screw the customer, you're screwing yourself. Which brings me to the purpose of this post: How many MMOs out there are appropriately allocating resources to customer service?

When I was brand managing games, I spent nearly half of my day immersed in the community. This was half because I'm a gamer myself and was power tripping on being on the other side and half because my business training told me that giving a lot of love to the customer pays off. I'd like to think it worked but we never got the sheer volume of people the bigger MMO's can claim. What would a study done in our industry regarding customer satisfaction and success of the game show us?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Brilliant satire = atonement?

Cynical marketers everywhere are rejoicing today at this viral:

Absolutely brilliant! The problem is, making fun of a problem is wholly different than solving the problem. This is, by the way, brought to you by Microsoft, who, reading between the lines, wants you to stop dating losers and go home with them instead. The viral is part of a "discussion" effort regarding marketing relationships.

When the hell did Dr. Phil get all up on our marketing asses? Hmm, anyways, will be interesting to see what they cook up on that site.

Google Wii-der

The Google RSS reader has been tweaked for the Wii, read all about it. More importantly, we now get to come up with a new portmanteau for this relationship (ok, it's not really a relationship, more like a first time "wassup" txt msg between friends of friends.).

Let's see... how about:

  • Wiigle
  • Goo-Wii
  • Gootendo
  • Googlii
  • Giigle
Oh man, they have to do more together just so I can write that something has "sweet Goo-Wii goodness".

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

One is a lonely number

Part 1:
Halo 3 is coming on Sept. 25 (Joystiq). I'm a fan of the first two, like just about everyone else, but I'm not getting a good feel about the third. I think there's an inherent problem with a third installment of any title. The first establishes it as a great game. The second shoulders the responsibility of keeping to the original but adding enough newness to make things interesting. This leaves the third to do what exactly? Add more new stuff and risk moving too far away from the first? Not add enough stuff and get stuck mirroring the experience of the second? Guess we'll find out in a few months.

Part 2:
NextGen covers a single potato chip of a hint on what may be in store with the sequel to LocoRoco, my favorite game of 2006. Also in the story is a snippet on the creator's process to get the original game made. You know, the fact that an innovative game can still be sold gives me decent warm fuzzies. The fact it probably will never be released on the Wii makes me sad. It'll be a PSP and PS3 exclusive with some six-axis goodies. Frankly, I haven't really figured out the six-axis thing. Moving both hands and arms like that is totally unnatural as compared to the very satisfying swashbuckling feeling of using the Wiimote.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday randomness

This banner ad caught my attention today. It says, "Your audience is on our network". Casale, the advertiser, is a media company. What they're trying to say is that you can find who you want to market to on their network of sites. I get that part, that's good to know.

I've been desperately trying to find undersexed soccer moms who run errands around town on mounted young studs. Thank god I know where to go now.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Hack the Universe on YouTube

I was surfing around YouTube today and came across some interesting category of videos: Morally-Hazy How-To's.

Do this search on YouTube and you get about half a dozen videos showing you how to hack BOTS (yeah, that game with which I have some history). Do this search and you get many more on how to hack an Xbox. The list goes on.

This kind of stuff makes me wonder. How much tolerance would we have if someone showed you how to steal something tangible? Apparently, about the same. Search for "hack vending machine" and you get yourself a nice set of tutorials. You know, I'm sure if I sat down and thought of a few more things of an illegal nature, I'd find a video or two on YouTube showing me how to do it.

When we're talking about the threats to society from YouTube, how important is copyright infringement vs. software & hardware hacking vs. real world illegal stealing? Granted, the copyright issue has big pockets and thus a louder voice but clearly there are things we should probably address that is of a much more deviant nature. Scary shit out there folks.

In other news: Baby drivers can't read street signs

A new study making the rounds in the press concludes that iPods could cause pacemakers to malfunction. A very serious concern indeed. But to show you how the perfect headline can get ahead of itself let's take a closer look:

It was "a study presented by a 17-year-old high school student to a meeting of heart specialists Thursday"

My favorite quote: "'Most pacemaker patients are not iPod users,' Jongnarangsin said."

You don't say.

Look, I'm not discounting the kid's study. It's actually an important finding as our populace moves towards a generation where on-person peripherals are as important as clean underwear. The problem is that this is nothing more than an overemphasized headline and it has as much real value as the latest news on Paris (the tramp, not the city). What's wrong with journalists today?!

Hit him in the Cheetos

Next Gen has a great article on marketing and branded games. Cheetos hired a game company to develop a branded paintball game.

The developers had thought it would be a great idea to let the kids shoot the famed mascot. They were right. The kids would have loved that. The marketers didn’t. The game was scrapped.

Personally, this is probably an overreaction on the part of the marketers. It's not like the kids would be able to kill the character, jump up and down on him and chant "Doritos is great!" It's paintball, everyone is fair game. Take the flip side of this and you could see the marketers potentially wanting the Cheetos Tiger to have super powers (of course only after eating Cheetos), flying around and hitting everyone with extreme accuracy.

As games become more and more a legitimate medium on par with TV, radio and the like, marketers are going to have to realize that absolute control is foolish. I frequently run into the same situation when clients want to create a community online but refuse to allow unedited comments from the community. It doesn't make sense just like having a shooting game with your mascot and not allowing someone to frag em doesn't make sense.

Random thought: So if this game had come out, would my fingers get all orange after playing it?

Random image: I wonder what the marketers think about this girl in a Cheetos bath.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Google Worth

The Wall Street Journal covers (might be subscription only) an interesting phenomenon of late. People Googling names before they decide what to name their new baby. If your last name is Smith, probably not a good idea to name your kid John Smith, though Jonas Smith is not too bad. Me, I don't actually show up until page 6. As we move towards completely archiving our lives, from online baby registries and announcements to angsty teenage MySpace profiles to professionally Linked In, we are becoming more and more instantly searchable. What effect might this have on this upcoming generation?

Well, if you take a look at what it's done with brands and marketing online, you might get a taste for what's to come at home. As common word .com urls started to become unavailable, marketers with new companies had to start getting fancy. Hence new product offerings with made-up or loosely spelled names: Flickr, Digg, Zazzle, Meebo, del.icio.us and the like. The wave of Web 2.0 offerings weren't just about social media or new site features, it was also about defining yourself online which meant making yourself searchable online.

Has it worked? That's hard to say. The value of a unique web name is front loaded. That is, you only really need it when no one knows about you. Once you gain some traction online, search engines should gradually increase your rank. When you're a true success, the value of the name is gone since you're playing with the big boys on page 1 now. I'm sure in the very beginning, when someone is trying to find you for the first time, the unique name is critical. But having a weird name isn't that great either, what if no one remembers it in the first place? What was that photo sharing site? It had a weird name like Flash'r or something.

Anyways, you can see the parallel that baby names might take. Will this next generation of kids find themselves at grade school roll call responding to names like, "J'hnny Smith", "Teepo Bryan" or "MySarah Morgan". You know, I used to wonder why all the names in those sci-fi novels were weird. Now I know.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Losing Faith

I normally don't venture into politics so I hope you'll forgive me for this trespass. The House passed a bill yesterday that basically extends the definition of hate crimes to cover sexual orientation.

The major lobbying group opposing the legislation? Conservative religious groups. You see, some people believe that God does not approve of Adam and Steve. They want to be able to freely condemn homosexuality and mark homosexuals as deviants in our society, not a group that should be protected from hate crimes. The unspoken but general idea is: God hates gays so we should be able to say whatever we want. Replace God with Allah, replace gays with infidels and let me know if there's any real difference between any religiously-generated hate. It's dangerous. But you know, let them say whatever they want in Church.

We are a free country. We should be able to say whatever we want. Thank God this proposed law doesn't appear to change that. It only punishes those that act upon or truly incite hate crimes. The fact is, the opposition is targeting something bigger. This is simply a maneuver to further ostracize those that don't fit into the conservative Christian view of America. It's shameful.

By the way, guess who is threatening to veto the bill? Don't get me started on him.

Good coverage here.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Full Mahna, Let's Roll

After 35 years in complete obscurity, the Mahna Mahna song comes to haunt us in commercial form. For those of us neither dexterous nor quick enough to man the DVR fast forward button, we've been subjected to not one, not two but three ad campaigns using the song within the past year (Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper, Saturn and Big Lots). It may come as a surprise to you but apparently, creative guys at ad agencies "borrow" ideas from each other. I know, shocking. Let me be the first to say, stop it. It's embarrassing to the profession that we can't use an original song.

Ok, with that done, let's talk about that DVR thing. This is an open letter to everyone that watches TV with me. No back seat DVRing! You are not allowed to bestow a score at the end of every commercial break. It's my house, therefore, I don't need to hear a single peep if I don't stick the landing. Also, if I feel the need to pause, that's all good too. Got it? Thanks!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Thanks for the "ad"

According to Next-Gen: GameTap, the game network that digitally distributes titles to your PC, is now offering a free to play ad-supported option for select games. Some choice quotes:

About nine months ago Snyder and the GameTap team began to realize that its paid-subscription-only model is counterproductive to expanding the reach of the compelling service.
Also, our demographic was looking for an easy way to play games without making a huge time commitment or financial commitment. So we figured why not have all options for all gamers?
This is pretty cool stuff. Like I've been saying for a while, there's a market out there for ad-supported games. We need to stop thinking about in-game ads as the "product placement" type stuff you see after you shell out $50 for the game itself. Rather, we should think about in-game ads as a new option to consume quality content for free. It just makes so much sense for everyone involved.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Fugliest new word of the day

Exergames, exertainment and exergaming are all words to describe interactive games that get you moving. Just because the words show up in an LA Times article, doesn't mean it's too late to change em right?

Just try to tell me you don't notice the word stand out like a pimp in an opera:

"Mainstream gyms, however, are reluctant to commit to exergames, even though cardio equipment manufacturers and exercisers have embraced integrated televisions and MP3 players."