Monthly Archives: August 2008

Business gaming

Imagine blasting the head of your boss at the same time you deliver the recent positive quarterly report, or slaying a dragon with a new prospect partners while you discuss a possible collaboration. For some people and businesses that’s already reality. A small group have come together and created what they call Nerd Poker, to organize closed online gaming session. Both to have a great time, but also to do business and connect with new partners and prospect.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. The game medium have been used for different business purposes before, like Second Life and business training (strategy games to learn how to administrate big corporations). But in those cased the game medium is transformed to fit a certain function. The communications methods in-games have developed fast and now a day its standard to be able to voice chat while playing. Though, not all parents are in favor for this trend, when the control over what their kids can say is close to null. Still, there are always idiots out there. Its far more interesting to figure out how we can use technology to improve communications. Some big companies leverage this to keep up the communication if they have offices spread out across countries and continents.

The “new” young generation generally have better skills for multitasking than previous, so talking business while blasting away each other into oblivion in the virtual space is no biggie. The online game space is a great way to meet up with new people in a relaxed environment (even if the action sometimes get hectic). The young executives in Hollywood sure have proven this to be a very useful new channel for networking and business communication, internally and externally.

Another aspect is the possibilities to take the pulse on the younger gaming demographics. Just hook up online, join a lot of games and just listen to what the gamers talk about, their interest and conversations. Challenge and play with them and get a sence for who they are and what they like. This might be the new web forums to communicate with your costumers? G-Forum 1.0?

More and more people play games, so its only natural that games become a new reason to get together and meet. I hope this trend continues. Hopefully games will become the 21th century’s platform for relaxed business meeting, and take over from the 20th century’s, Golf. One can only hope!

First read about this story here: E24.se – Hollywoodlöften nätverkar med tv-spel

Become a Friend marketer with Facebook

Facebook have become one of the biggest social networks in recent years. Thanks to word-of-mouth, a good service, easy access for small developers and users to develop their own applications, and lot of press attention its grown tremendously. The platform have attracted users and developers in the masses. But the one thing they still struggle with, the one thing to bring in the cash, advertising!

They tried a new model with its Beacon advertising system, which backfired horribly. It probably hurt their reputation and trust from from the users, but the fact remains, Facebook have problems with its ads system. Well, not the system, just that they don’t convert very well. The CTR are just to low. I’ve seen examples of this when my company in another country tried to generate traffic through advertising on Facebook. And those number were barely worth mentioning. When people visit social network site, their not there to shop, but to socialize.

Yet, Facebook is determent to monetize of its huge user base. The current ad-model works in such a way that ads are targeted depending on your interest and news-feed. But the new model they will incorporate, called Engagement Ads, show ads depending in your friends actions and what they do. The become the sender, turn them into marketers.

Interesting approach, but I’m septic. I wonder how transparent this will be or feel for the users. And it require them to actively take actions for the message to be delivered. And it still about Ads… and maybe to much focus on brands, thereby not suited for everyone.

“Facebook’s strategy is based upon the premise that people come to the site to see what their friends are doing and what they like. By having products presented as endorsements rather than commercial buys, they hope advertisers will reap a positive benefit.”

Wired.com

I havn’t seen this new model in action and I probably don’t know the whole story. It will be interesting and follow and see if they manage to turn their ad revenue around.

Unboxing Viral marketing

I just entered Google Video to find a particular video, but at the first page they “advertised” this video:

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A great example of cleaver and good executed viral marketing. They play on the notion of Unboxing. A web phenomenon growing every year, were regular people document they open the box of… whatever they’ve bought. Gaming consoles, new mobiles, computers, often related to technical gadgets. And now companies, at least Samsung seems to have grasped how they can ride on this new trend and made a really good commercial. I’ve seen unboxing clips before, and when I started watching this I didn’t realize it was professional made. Until the middle.

And they succeed! It feels authentic, funny and deliver the message, without really showing the phones functunallity. But you remember the commercial, and maybe which brand or manufacture.

“Pirate hunting” season everywhere

Pirates
It seems theres a hunting season for online Pirates going strong right now. First, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) have send a letter to the Swedish government. Pushing them to take action against  Pirate Bay, after finding out they distribute videos from the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing. IOC claim the copy right for the opening ceremony have tremendous value (which I have a hard time understanding), and what the Swedish government to help them getting the videos down from the site. Well, their not the only one who want stuff on Piratebay down.

Next up is an assault against British game pirates. Five game developers have sent out warnings to 25000 people, pay or get sued. The amount they have to pay isn’t huge, just 300 pound (GBP), it seems to be a new tactics. Reach many, and still make their wallets hurt. Usually in media its been the movie and record industry battling the pirates and their download sites. But the gaming industry are starting more raptly to counter the sharing of games illegally, specially in the PC segment. Speculations have indicated this to be one of the reasons why many developers focus on console development. Still, reports show the PC gaming market is stronger than previously believed. Much thanks to “new” online revenue streams. One way to cope with illegal game-sharing have been developing new business-model, especially strong faith in the free-to-play model. Although its important for the Western market to embrace and adapt to a model more built around in-game ads and micro transactions, it may not be the best solution for the industry as a whole.

“We must get away from the idea of new business models as the only solution to the pirate problem. It is misleading. We have to deal with copyright infringement. It is not about protecting an outdated physical distribution, but to protect the new, legal digital alternatives.”

– Per Strömbäck from Dataspelsbranschen. Source DN.se

The only segment that seems happy about PC piracy is the hardware manufactures, but not official that is. People can spend more money on hardware if they don’t pay for games?

[Update]

EA Sports boss Peter Moore raise a warning to the video game companies threating to sue people who file-share. Comparing this with the failure for the record industry’s attempt at the same thing.

“I’m not a huge fan of trying to punish your consumer,” he said. “Albeit these people have clearly stolen intellectual property, I think there are better ways of resolving this within our power as developers and publishers.

Peter Moore at Leipzig Games Convention.

And the last news concerning piracy revolves around the site Mygazines.com. Focused on uploading and sharing physical magazines from allover the world, for everyone to easy and free view and read. Well, it was just meant to steer up some angry magazine publishers! But it seems the publishers of big US magazines have run into trouble. Since the site is hosted outside of the US there will be problem to get to them. For now the site have escaped the long arm of the law.

But for some magazines this could be a great opportunity. Magazines usually make most of its money from advertisement, the more people reading, the better for advertisers. There are many more great advantages with this model. The technology is already developed. The work of scanning and editing the pages are done by fans, not by the publishers. You get a much bigger distributions channel! You can (in theory and if you could like) make the magazine measurable. Imagen be able to track how many read/watch a page, zooming and for how long they watch. And just thing of how much paper we can save by reducing the physical copy of the Ikea catalog in digital format.

New Job: Product Manager at Gamersgate

This week I have been offered and accepted a new job. The role as Product Manager at Gamersgate.com. I will start the 29 of September, and I’m really looking forward to this.

My work task will inlude

  • Driving new web traffic and visitors to the site
  • Follow up the statistic
  • Contact with partners to get new and old titles
  • Make sure the games are online and working
  • Update and maintain the site.

I think this will be great!

Gamersgate.com

Generation Y, Millennial Marketing

Do marketing to the young audience have to be so complex or difficult?

Since I’m born in 1983, I’m proud to call myself a member of the Generation Y population. A generations basically born digitally injected to everything from mobile phones, internet, videogames and all kinds of new digital and electronically devices. And thanks to this we get the feeling having unlimited access to all kinds of information, mostly through the web. Our ability to multitasking far extend previous generations, and nothing seems impossible! We value our individuality, when we at the same time have the means and more options today for finding groups and communities of liked-minded. We collaborate in new ways to gain the bigger mass (society/world), which in turn gain us back.

Net Generation, Millennials, Generation YAnother word for this generation is Millennials. I previous wrote about this after watching CBS 60 minutes talk about the rising changes those will do to the corporate world. One of the things they discussed was how the millennials have been raised believing “they are the most important person in the world”… I consider them half right. Its hard to generalize. People in every generation think to highly of themselves, and other believe in collaboration and helping others first hand. But must those two be total opposites? Just my speculation, but through new ways to communicate, organize and work my generation will be more effective, efficient and united than previous generations. The old folks might not always see or understand how we work, but things definitely are changing. Some critics may even speak up, claiming this change ether is fictions and dreams or how it will lead to a unstructured, inefficient and even breakdown for businesses and society as a whole. Comparison to 70s hippies, and 80s trash style and how its just a phase “we will grow out of”. That eventually we will shape up, and stand in-line in social and corporate bureaucratic hierarchy like our parents and grand parents. Things will be as they always been….

But this is bigger than just us is the change in the work place. Entrance of the Wiki Workplace affect everyone and we, the Net generation have a huge advantage here:

“Competitive pressures, meanwhile, are making organizations leaner and more agile, more focused on consumer, and more attuned to dynamic competitive strategies. This means firms are less hierarchical in structure and decision-making authority than they used to be. But it also means that they will be less likely to provide lifelong careers and job security, and more in need of continuous reorganization to maintain or gain completive advantage.

And the same time, the nature of work itself is changing. Work has become more cognitively complex, more team-based and collaborative, more dependent on social skills, more time pressured, more reliant on technological competence, more mobile, and less dependent on geography.

To add further fuel to the fire, a new demographic is arriving in today’s workplace that cannot imagine a world without Google or mobile phones. The Net Gen has experienced these inventions and breakthroughs as part of their birthright, unlike earlier generations who have had to adapt or acclimatize to instant messaging and the iPod.”

– Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, Wikinomics.

Now lets get to my initial point with this post, marketing to my generation. What inspired me was an article over at Search Engine Watch labelled: Avoiding Online Missteps with Generation Y and Millenniums. The main point to me is simplicity, functionality and skipping all unnecessary shit. Just cause we are young and like new fancy things, we still have priorities on what’s important. Because we have so many sources of input, receiving tons of messages at the same time, our patience and time to process the information is very limited. Things must work for us, or we’ll find another services that does the job. Facebook have become a huge social network (even so big here in Sweden that research suggest employees quit if the company ban access to Facebook at work), not for its flashy fancy design, but functionality and simple interface, among other things. Another great example from the Wiki Workplace is not to try to create a social platform or work tool and then expect us to simply start using it. And that goes not just for our generation, but older as well.

Maybe I just speak for myself when I believe my generations is born critics. The closeness to the web and all information in the world fuel this. Traditional advertising with a push message doesn’t work the same as older generation. We know we have more choices and close at hand too. The same problem for the older generation with changes in corporations structures occur here were we don’t accept things being push to us. WE choose when, how and what! We move, act, develops and live in such a high speed market research becomes old even before its began. What can we gain from buying this service or product? We changes Brands favourites like underwear’s. And patience with corporations and people in power are very thin. If something bother us we speak up, and that is with force and power! We know we can change the world, cause its our world we will eventually take.

We were borned with the web, blogs, search engines, wikis, social communities and instant messaging. And this change in culture, communication and connecting is spreading through the whole society and corporate world. We already live with all the tools that eventually will be standard in businesses. We’re living in tomorrow, which will be jesterday the next day. To start your marketing campaign, understand us, how we live and think. It isn’t as complicated as you might think.

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Record labels want more money from music game developers

In the expanding game industry, music game have been a new big contributor. Not just in terms of revenue, but capturing new audiences, who haven’t played games before. With games like Rock Band, Guitar Hero and Singstar, the convergence between music and games become even more clear. With new versions, add-ons and downloadable content (DLC) in the making, this segment will expand even more. Some inside the industry even believe the publisher and developers of those games will exploit music based games, ending up shooting themselves in the foot.

But people don’t seem to mind! They enjoy pretending to be rock stars in their home playing on plastic instruments. Which create a constant demand for more songs, artists and albums to be bought or downloaded. And artists with songs in the game feel the effect too. Music games have become a powerful marketing and sales channel for old, new, big and small bands. Boosting sales both through sales of the game (+ DLC) and outside the game medium, more artist and record labels discover the potential. Maybe the record label see to much potential…

One of the biggest worldwide record labels Warner Music Group released their Q3 numbers, showing and increase in digital revenue with 39%. No surprise! It seems they’ve become a bit to greedy however. Warner Music Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman had this to say:

“The amount being paid to the music industry, even though their games are entirely dependent on the content we own and control, is far too small”

– Edgar Bronfman – Reuters

The music industry have had problems for a long time, finding new ways to create revenue. And Edgar believe the licensing feeds for Warner Music songs are to low. He want to charge more for the right to use Warners music in the game, so the songs true value becomes clear. Value in music is a question of interpretation. Can you put a price on music value, when we all as individuals value differently depending on favorit genre and how much we dedicate ourself to our favorit music. Music value will not be determend by the record labels, the market (consumers) will set the overall value!

A interesting reaction have come from Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter, who question whether Bronfman actually understand the game medium:

“The other thing I find interesting is Mr. Bronfman’s distorted view of his leverage in this matter. Activision isn’t operating a music download service where consumers get to choose whatever they want; instead, Activision is selecting which songs will be available, since they require modification (conversion into a game file).

“Thus, Activision can select songs not published by [Warner Music], so Mr. Bronfman should rethink his negotiating leverage.”

– Michael Pachter, Edge-Online

Obviously Mr. Bronfman haven’t fully understand music games. He want just want more money, and probably not to increase the salary for the artist and bands. This statement is probably just a way for him to save and rise the stock value of Warner. I don’t think he actually cares about the artists, just trying to save his own skin.

Warner just provide the music, and that’s only one part of the whole game music infrastructure. Most of the work are being done by the game companies, who have the demanding job of synchronising the beats and the buttons combinations. And they also take care of the marketing and everything else. The record labels get marketing, new revenue streams and artist branding, for free! They only have to provide the music, which they would have to promote anyway.

An increase in revenue for every song provided by the record labels, will affect the whole chain. The game developers have to charge more for the games or don’t afford to include the amount of songs in every new version of the game as the previous one. The retail price will increase or buyers won’t get the same amount of content. And keeping the price to a minimum is very important. In a digital world were cost constantly decrease, it would hurt the music games appeal and brands if the price would go the other way. Consumers pay the price, and if Guitar Hero and Rock Band becomes to expensive, eventually people can’t afford them.

Also think about the fact that songs bought in those games are locked within the game it self! If they would release, say for instance the next Neaera album on Guitar Hero and I download the entire album, I can’t (today) upload the tracks to my iPod to take with me. And lets not forget that the majority of artists and bands represented in the music games owns by the bigger record labels. And many old bands presents as the selling points, band that already have made a ton of money!

It’s a bigger problem for the music industry than just music games. They (the big record labels!) desperately trying to find new revenue streams and sell the same music to us consumers over and over again in new ways. And as long as consumers buy their music over and over again they will continue. But eventually it will all turn around on the record labels, when people stand up and truly demand not to pay for already bought music one more time. And that day may not be so far away.

[Update]

Activision Blizzard’s CEO Robert Kotick have now answered to Mr. Bronfmans statement on the royalties for Warner music in games. At the same time as Music games have been reported to be one of the biggest key drivers this year for the overall increase for the game industry.

Open-up closed gaming platforms!

It might be my current choice of reading, Wikinomics, which spawned the idea for me to write this post. A now “classical” book about the new changes the web have caused and contributed to over the last decade. One of the authors have been famous for been ahead of his time with his ideas, visions and visions [Video]. Now I’ve finally had the time and energy to truly read this great encyclopaedia(wikipdia!) and summary of new and fresh ideas, thoughts and collaborations. Full with great examples and explanations on the behind factors for some of those success. Its really a must read! Today these ideas may not seem so revolutionary. yet many businesses and companies sure could need some help adapting to the new changes, challenges and opportunities waiting. Like the game industry…

At the moment I consider buying a Playstation Portable (PSP). It was used as an example in the book on how users want to modify their technological machines, while the hardware manufacture doesn’t and try to stop them. There are tons of great example on devices the user and fans have improved and developed new software, uses and done truly remarkable things with, some even beyond the creators own fantasy. And yet many manufactures constantly work against those who simply want to improve the product. Their afraid that people will “hack” the product, that could result in companies lose sales beyond the hardware, revenue and control. That’s the general assumption it seems. But as with most things, they should try to see the new positive effects instead of the negative ones.

A great example is the game console platforms. If you study all the big game consoles on the market (not including the PC platform) they’re all tightly locked systems. Video game consoles have been described to go in “hardware cycles”, were a new generation enters the market about every 5 years. And the industry also talk about the estimated console lifespan, how many years a consoles lives (=how many years new games continue to be released for the platform). According to the CEO and President of THQ Brian Ferrell, the industry have more sub-cycles today. And claim the traditional Hardware-cycle model to be “dead”. Along with the growth and expansion of the game industry, the segmentation have become more diverse (sub-cycles). A good thing, thou not totally without complications. In today’s market this works, but how good is it for the future?

The point I aim for is this, manufactures should open up their platforms and system more! Mass collaboration for a future prof content platform. Some new games/programs touch this concept of user-generated content like Little Big Planet and Xbox XNA offering the users tools to develop their own games. That’s fine for now, the problem I see is those games are still locked within the console-owners (read Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft = the Big Three) controlled platform. I’ve earlier discussed the problem with Locked exclusice online content. This goes beyond just content. It may be good for now to offer easy tools for user to create their own content and share them with others over the closed network. But to truly create a attractive future platform, the Big Three should open up even more. This could allow the users and community to freely develop new applications, features and harness the power of the consoles and networks. Winning with an Open platform!

“Conventional wisdom says that being open is rather like inviting your competitor into your home only to have them steal your lunch. But in an economy where innovation is fast, fluid, and distributed, conventional wisdom is being challenged.

Winning in a world of cocreation and combinatorial innovation is all about building a loyal base of innovators that make your ecosystem stronger, more dynamic, and more expedient than the ecosystems of rivals in creating new value for costumers. To achieve this, your organization-regardless of the sector of live of business-needs to identify and open up platforms to enable mass collaboration.”
– Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, Wikinomics.

To some extent can I understand the dilemma for the Big Three. They want control so their network, hardware and services isn’t abused. At the same time as they have a responsibility for to offer their costumer a reliable and stable service. And of cause, they want to make as much money as possible! But the price they pay is loosing innovative knowledge and possible free work force from the collective intelligence masses. Its also understandable they don’t want to experience the video game crash of 1983 again. We can assume the industry have learned from their past mistakes! Instead it could speed up the overall progress of the harnessing hardware capacity, software innovations and selection of game available. If you make a search on Youtube or Google Video, you’ll find many many videos were people have modified gaming consoles and created new fascinating applications. And that’s probably without access to SDKs from the manufactures! Imagine what people could create if they had better access to system tools and a developer community hosted and encouragement from the console owner. Building new functions and and applications for their machines, creating more new value for the platform. With army’s of fanboys and fangirls out there, and many with good technical experience and knowledge, what are the the Big Three waiting for?

“A key message in this book (Wikinomics) is that the old monolithic multinational that creates value in a closed hierarchical fashion is dead. Winning companies today have open and porous boundaries and compete by reaching outside their walls to harness external knowledge, resources, and capabilities. Even the stodgy, capital-intensive manufacturing industries are no exception to this rule. Indeed, there is no part of the economy where this opening and blurring of corporate boundaries has more revolutionary potential.”

– Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, Wikinomics.

Which bring us to the PC (including Mac and Linux of cause)  platform… Since the beginning the PC have been open for everyone to develop on. No one owns the PC, the open source philosophy is basically built in from scratch. There are no limitations on the PC, if you ignore the hardware side that is. A PC is never finished in the same since as as console, even if there are different SKUEs and new firmware constantly released. The never ending upgrading of PC hardware is both one of its strongest features, and the weakest. One PC are almost never exactly the same as another. This create a endless variety of configurations, all that PC games have to be tested against. Another big factor in the PC community is MODS. Game developers release their code and encourage other to improve, expand or build completely new games! A phenomenon with deep roots in the PC community, and have spawned many big successes and been the breakthrough for many small developers. Microsoft try to work this into the Xbox with their XNA, and it could be fine if it weren’t for the distribution. Developers can’t simply create a game and release it, they have to receive approval from Microsoft and are locked within the Xbox Live network. One area I won’t go into discuss this time is Piracy.

There’s also the question of how future prof the current game generation is? One problem with consoles vs. the PC, is that consoles almost never are automatic backwards compatable. Whether I can take a 10+ old PC game and pop it into my new PC system and it still runs (the only bottleneck nowadays is comparability problems with Windows Vista 64-bit, thanks for that Microsoft!). But I can’t play my Nintendo games on Super Nintendo console, unless there is a adapter to fix this. Many of the current generation consoles start to work out ways to revive old games, by releasing them again and therefore charge for them again! Not future prof or backwards compatible in my view.

I thought this through today when I went home from work, how would I build a game console to fit this new paradigm? When it hit me, that the console already exist, the PC. It still have its limits, but its open. A future gaming console that is an empty shell basically and then let the game community develop the software and upgrade the hardware to fit their need, and explore how far they can push the console. Have trust in the community, and let them show the way to the future. With a young industry as the game business is, how it works today is fine, for now. But in the future when hardware power won’t matter as much as today, the real winner will be the one opening their platform and working with a good community. Why not start today!? They have everything to win.

Business for the future? Become more interactive!

Aaahhh! I go crazy when I know I had a video to back up my point, but the memory of were I saw it is completely gone… well well. Any way.

InteractivityThe recent decade must have been a revelation, and probably a real pain in the ass, for many businesses and companies when it comes to developing new ways of communicating with its costumers. The web and is spawning new features and applications have forced companies to really communicate with costumers more activly. Blogs, e-mail, forums, social networks and many other new web applications have eased this process. Even though the net offers endless possibilities to harness the result of GOOD costumer communication, it still resolve around just that, communication. One to one communication in all its glory, but I believe future success will depend on integrating true interactivity into the core bone structure running through the whole organisation.

By gaining knowledge and experience around Interactivity, it will ease developing new products and services to connect with its considered userbase. A great example of good interactivity is video games. Consider this: The game developers have the challenge of creating an interactive experience with the purpose to entertain and enchant the player for (not every game) a good 10 hours +. This task isn’t a walk in the park. Every little detail in the game must have a purpose and/or function. Adding to the overall experience. Interactivity expert also exist in web, hardware and regular software development. But games have the distinction of entertaining. A software program can be easy to use and do the actions you ask it for, but not entertain, to “suck you in”. Not to say interaction design isn’t important here too.

For businesses to really be successful and create good competeive products and services interactivity will be more important. Both intern and extern interactivity. PR and communications students should get more education in interactivity in the future. Maybe every company will have their own game designer as a key role in the business, marketing and development work? :)

A Swedish remix Web success, in Japan

Swedish music export to Japan have a long and successful history. With artists like Pandora and Meja, Sweden concurred the Japanese market. Those artist and many more were active in mostly in the 90s. That was the age of CDs and album. Sure to say the Japanese audience have a thing for Swedish pop and cute girls.

And now a new Swedish song have won the hearts of the youths in Japan. But not through the old fashion way like in the 90s. Through new technology, remix community and the web an old Swedish song taken Japan by surprise. The song is Caramelldansen, originally made by Caramell was released in 2001. It was later remixed and speed-up called Speedycake Remix, which seems to appeal more to the Japanese youth. I don’t think the remixed track is available for retail in Sweden, it is in Japan.

Whats interesting is in which way it became a success. Some one have taken a piece of the remixed song and made a Anime Music Video, synchronised with the beat. Illustrating two girls doing some moves to the beats. Released and distributed on Youtube it have been watched (at the time of writing) about 1,622,739 times. Also, the concept have been cloned into countless video where different anime charaters makes the same move to the song. Its become a phenomenon spreading. Its even branched Japanese kids and youth recording themselves dancing the Caramell-dance to the beats.

A new Swedish music success, thanks to new technology! I sure liked the song before I heard of this. Welcome to the new world of the prosumers!

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